December 10, 2017

Blogging and social media updates: Mosul Eye blogger comes in open, Mother Mushroom gets jail, AIM goes down...

Blogger Omar's sustained blog posts open Mosul to the world in the face of death


Omar Mohammed, 31, is no longer the anonymous blogger who ran Mosul Eye for over three years, exposing IS atrocities in this historical city to the outside world.

Mosul Eye blog
Omar began his blogging journey with a Facebook page and then started a regular blog, MosulEye, on Wordpress in June 2014. He was one of the most credible voices reporting on ISIS atrocities in Mosul, and to escape IS wrath he had to remain anonymous. He has chosen to come in the open, now that Mosul has been salvaged from IS.

Assoiated Press reports this on his blogging adventure: He would wander the streets of occupied Mosul by day, chatting with shopkeepers and Islamic State fighters, visiting friends who worked at the hospital, swapping scraps of information. He grew out his hair and his beard and wore the shortened trousers required by the extremists. He forced himself to witness the beheadings and stonings, so he could hear killers call out the names of the condemned and their supposed crimes... By night, anonymously from his darkened room, Mosul Eye told the world what was happening. If caught, he too would be killed.
   

Vietnamese blogger sentenced to 10 year imprisonment

One year back, we carried this story on how 'Mother Mushroom', a popular blogger was booked in Vietnam for being vocal on the issue of corruption.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, 37, now gets a 10-year jail term for propaganda against the state, after an appeal court upheld the sentence by a lower court.
  

Tumblr founder leaves the blogging platform

Tumblr founder, David Karp, is leaving his platform. He founded this very simple blogging platform in 2007, which was taken over by Yahoo! in 2013 for $1.1 billion. Karp was retained as CEO at a reported sum of $81 million for four years.

Now that Verizone has acquired Yahoo! and is streamlining its working in its own corporate way, Karp has announced that he'd leave the company soon.
 

AIM to shut down next week!

AOL Instant Messaging (AIM) is shutting down this 15th, after serving for 20 years as a chat application. In the 90's it was a rage in the US in the 90's and everybody would use it for communication with 'buddies'. Due to competition from other contemporary chat apps, then SMSs and finally the modern chat apps, its base had shrunk to a few millions and not being a mobile application it would die in any case even if AOL didn't close it.

Many in the US and elsewhere would say Adieu to AIM with a sad heart, but let the best technology prevail!
  

Netflix leaves pay channels behind in the US

Data provided by Statista on cable television and Netfix streaming videos shows that in terms of number of subscribers per quarter, the latter has surpassed cable TV first time in 2017. The trend shows that Netflix would keep the pace in fututure. Major cable TV providers did not lose much in terms of lost connections, which means people with cable TV are subscribing to Netflix more and more.

Of course, with higher viewing time per visit, users still are consuming more content on pay TV than Netflix.

With Netflix expanding its wings to many countries worldwide (220 by the latest count), and many social media platforms promoting video streaming, television viewing seems to be undergoing a big change.

Footprint of Netflix
   

Is the Russian 'disinformation' on US politics more subtle than thought earlier?

If you believe this article on Wired, Russians were active in quite subtle ways to influence US public opinion during the last elections. Taking a close look at three Twitter accounts and associated blogs, the article comes to the conclusion that though Russian state might not be involved, there is more to the language and content of political articles on these social media spaces. It says, "Russia's disinformation campaign around the US election spread well beyond Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. They were also blogging."

December 6, 2017

Why canonicalization is good SEO and how to implement it?

     

What does "canonical" mean?

   
In simple English, canonical means what is according to canon or rule. That means what is authoritative.

Canonical URL is more equal among equals.
In website/ search engine optimization terms, canonical has a similar connotation: the URL that you take as most authoritative out of many that point to the same web page.For example, the following URLs may refer to the same website: www.xyz.com, xyz.com, xyz.com/index.html, xyz.com/home.asp, xyz.com/index.htm, www.xyz.com/, https://www.xyz.com. In addition, one could be maintaining two websites with similar content but differing in some respects; in this case there would be two distinct URLs but with same content. Modern websites that are dynamic/ code-driven create a variety of URL paths, all referring to the same webpage, that result in dozens of URLs. 


Why is canonicalization necessary?

   
When the same website can be reached in different ways, it is not an issue as far as visitors are concerned. But that creates an issue with search engines. When a search engine finds same type of content in two or more webpages, it gets alerted that the content has been copy-pasted at two places (duplicate content alert) and thus sees it as an undesirable activity. Search engines also scoff at multiple URLs for the same page because this artificially bloats web-links and other references arising out of that page. As website owner, you lose in terms of poor SEO due to penalties from search engines.

In addition, when you have two websites with same content (arising dynamically or manually),  people visiting site 'A' might link or bookmark site 'A' while others visiting site 'B' might link site 'B'. Only part of the links are thus counted by Google or other search engines, depending upon which site is indexed by their bots.

The coding that is done to tell search engines about the canonical (=authoritative, preferred) URL out of more than one URLs is called canonicalization


How to implement canonicalization?

  
This is damn simple! You need to put this HTML element to all your websites that should redirect to your canonical URL: rel=canonical

1.  Decide which one of the alternate URLs suits you the best (e.g. which one is likely to be used most by visitors).

2. Go to <head> section of the homepage of each website and add this code, including on the canonical site:
<link rel="canonical" href="http://xyz.com"> 

(There used to be different opinions about using the HTML element given above on the canonical site itself also; it is now settled that this is rather useful than bad.)

3. Go to your Google Search Console (earlier 'Webmaster Tools') account if you have one; tell which is the canonical URL for a particular website.


Canonicalization on Wordpress and Blogger platforms

  
At present, blogs on Blogger platform are automatically given a canonical URL out of www and without www versions of the site URL. This applies to independent domains mapped to Blogger blogs also. For other versions, you can put the above given HTML expression in the code of the website(s).

In the case of Wordpress free blogs, canonicalization is not automatic. You have to implement that with the help of a SEO plugin. If you do not want to invest in that, the least you can do is to open a Google Search Console account, and canonicalize the website URL.

December 1, 2017

India's best fashion and beauty blogs in 2017

fashion-and-beauty-blogs

Fashion and beauty blogs have been popular in the western countries for some years and they earn good money through affiliate and display ads, guest posts, product reviews etc. India has lagged behind, not primarily because of lethargy or lack of imagination on the part of bloggers but primarily due to lack of market. Things are changing, and they are changing fast, and a number of good blogs in this niche have come up and some of them are reported to be flourishing.

ITB has a detailed post on beauty and fashion blogging, which looks relevant when you look at these blogs for information, tip or just inspiration.

This list is culled out from the Directory of Best Indian Blogs and has further been updated. This list may have omitted some 'lifestyle' blogs that have fashion or beauty as one of many sections but not enough resources on beauty and fashion niches.

akanksharedhu - Akanksha Redhu
bbeautilicious - Be Beautilicious
beautyandfashionfreaks - Beauty and Fashion Freaks
bhushavali - Fashion Panache
cherryontopblog - Cherry On Top
corallista - Corallista
cosmetopiadigest - Cosmetopia Digest
cosmochics - Cosmochic
curiouscomponents.in/ - Curious Components
fashion-bombay - Fashion Bombay
ftlofaot - for the love of fashion and other things
giasaysthat - Gia says that
guiltybytes - Guilty Bytes
highheelconfidential - High Heel Confidential
jhallidiva - Jhalli Diva
missstylefiesta - Miss Style Fiesta
newlove-makeup - New Love - Makeup
peachesandblush - Peaches & Blush
pinkandpink - Pink and Pink
purushu - Purushu Arie
stylishbynature - Stylish by Nature
tanvii - tanvii
thatbohogirlindex - That Boho Girl
thefashionflite - The Fashion Flite
thegirlatfirstavenue - The Girl At First Avenue
theindianbeauty - the Indian Beauty blog
thesnobjournal - The Snob Journal
vanitynoapologies - vna


November 29, 2017

India's TRAI backs open internet rules, US's FCC to repeal existing rules too!

Indian Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRAI) has come out with strict recommendations on net neutrality. In short, any internet service provider in India will not be able to carve slow and fast lanes and discriminate the former with selective content. These recommendations are required to be adopted by the government before they come into force.

TRAI has recommended that Internet of Things (IoT) services should also come under the non-discriminatory clause. A multi-stakeholder body for monitoring and enforcement is also recommended.

With that, Indian policy makers have completely rejected free offers such as those from Facebook.com and Airtel.com in the name of serving the poor who otherwise cannot have net facilities. The issue is using discriminatory practices in providing net and content; specialized services are excluded from net neutrality provisions. (You can see a detailed discussion on this matter in this article: Net Neutrality: what lies ahead...)

Net neutrality activists have applauded this move, seen to be way ahead of US stand on net neutrality. In fact, the Federal Communications Commissions is having a vote on repealing the existing net neutrality rules soon.

You can visit the recommendations here:   TRAI recommendations on Net Neutrality; November 2018

There are a good number of critics of net neutrality too, especially in India's context. Facebook chief, Mark Zuckerberg pitched for its 'Free Basics' fervently on his visit to India last year, promising to connect the huge number of un-connected Indians in one go and without their need to pay a penny. This editorial of Financial Express concludes that net neutrality is not an issue and TRAI is fussing over it for nothing:
Nor has Trai been able to justify its opposition to Facebook’s Free Basics – free access to a stripped-down version of various sites for people that did not have internet access. Net neutrality activists and some politicians argued India was for the “full internet” and did not want “walled gardens”. It was argued that only a few companies would be able to meet Facebook’s specifications and so they would benefit unduly – it didn’t seem to matter than at least people were getting some version of the internet and that they could graduate to the “full internet” when they had the money. When a telco offered a plan that gave free access to the website of a particular company, this was said to be anti-net-neutrality since only a handful of firms could afford to subsidize users on their sites – since a Flipkart, say, can afford to give free data to users to access its site while a Gokart can’t, this was said to be against the principle of a level playing field. That nowhere in the world do all companies have the same access to capital or talent or raw materials was something that neither Trai nor the activists/politicians even considered. At the end of the long – and not yet complete – exercise, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that what Trai has offered is a solution looking for a problem.

In the US, FCC seems to be leading the charge on behalf of telecom operators!


Interestingly, the FCC head, Ajit Pai, has taken on votaries of net neutrality in the US. In his speech yesterday, he called celebrity tweets in support of net neutrality as 'utterly absurd'. He also was critical of Twitter, a votary of net neutrality, of filtering content on its platform which, he says, goes against the concept of free internet. FCC is actively considering to repeal the 2015 Open Internet Order, and Pai is confident to do so with the help of Republican commissioners in FCC on 14th December. 

In the US, the fight of net neutrality is being fought fiercely between tech companies on one hand (Twitter, Google, Reditt...) and telecom providers (AT&T, Verizone). This round seems to have gone to the telecom companies. You can have your own arguments based on which way you look at things.

November 25, 2017

Don't let your blog suffer when you apply new Wordpress or Blogger theme

This post comes in the wake of two bad experiences shared by bloggers with me and my colleagues in the last six months.

The bloggers had gone for blog themes available on the web. In both cases, the themes had very good reviews and in one case it was from one of the most popular web theme developers who comes on top of search results when you search for 'blogger themes' on Google.

One friend created his blog on Blogger but did not like the available templates on Blogger. He looked for good themes and found one with so many good features: a nice two-column layout with modern title area, a fine looking menu bar, good fonts, nice looking social bookmarking and social media buttons, rich cards implemented, SEO optimized and good speed. It worked that way for three months but then the blogger found something fishy as his Google AdSense did not work the way he wanted, his titles of feeds would sometimes appear and sometimes not, and the 'related posts' widget worked erratically. He shared the theme with me and I applied the trial version of the theme on a free blog and then checked its source over time.

The problem with this theme was that the coder had hard-coded some features that should not have been, and had disabled/ modified some generic Blogger codes and widgets. Then I looked at the code minutely and found clever codes and links.

This happened with a paid theme!

In the second case, it was a free theme and it had links to the coder's proxy sites and scripts which won't work when modified, without damaging some of the features. Even when the blogger removed the theme and installed a native theme of Blogger, it kept on creating issues till each one was manually resolved.

A small disclaimer: Since we mostly deal with Blogger blogs, these examples are of Blogger themes. I reckon that the same might be the case with Wordpress themes.

Blog theme sites should be transparent about their codes, links and third-party resources, but that unfortunately is not the case. So, my advice to dear bloggers is that they must be careful in installing themes on their blogs other than those available with the blogging/ website creation platform.


apply new theme on Wordpress Blogger blog
Do not buy cheap themes from sites such as Fiverr. Buy themes only from reputed  vendors and go for them even if their themes are a bit expensive.

One way to check the quality of themes is to check some good websites/ blogs for the theme they have applied. (In case of free themes, the imprint will be somewhere on the blog's homepage itself, perhaps at the bottom; in paid themes, it might be available when you see the 'page source' of the web page.)

Though reviews can be manipulated, they still help in taking a decision. But the final decision must come after considering all aspects. In fact, in ITB we believe that content matters much more than looks.

November 23, 2017

moviessansfrontiers

Movies that make you think
http://moviessansfrontiers.blogspot.in/

film-blogA selection of intelligent cinema from around the world that entertains and provokes a mature viewer to reflect on what the viewer saw, long after the film ends - extending the entertainment value.

-Jugu Abraham

November 18, 2017

Blogging report 2017: better content, well promoted, more professional...

This post is on a study by Orbit Media on the state of blogosphere in 2017 in terms of use of blogging. They have based their findings on the basis of responses from 1377 blogger to 11 questions. Summary of findings:

1. Bloggers now take more time in composing blog posts than before.

The time spent on creating a blog post has been found to be increasing over years since 2014. Now a blogger spends 3 hours 20 minutes on an average in creating a post. In addition, the number of bloggers who spend over 6 hours in composing a post has more than trebled over the last four years and they have said, they get 'strong results' by posting big!

2.  Most bloggers post weekly or around that, and the overall frequency has gone down.

But it is not that the drop in frequency gets good results even when the content is big. Frequency matters in getting good results, bloggers report.

3. More bloggers are using editing support than before.

4. The size of blog posts now averages 1142 words as compared to 808 in 2014. 

Moreover, the number of bloggers writing more than 2000 words has risen very sharply though half still write below 500 words, and those who write big posts say, they get 'strong results'.

5. Bloggers are now using more visual content. 

Those using multiple images per post and using audio have reported to be getting 'strong results'!

6. Guest posting is still popular.

7. Most bloggers (over half of those surveyed) update their old posts, at least some times.

8. Bloggers are more into promotion, especially paid promotions.

Use of social media comes on top when it comes to promoting blogs. Bloggers' attention is rising to use of SEO, paid promotions and reaching out to influencers.

It is found that the less popular ways of promotion, which also need hard work, give the best results (other than paid services). In decreasing levels of effectiveness, these are: influencer outreach > paid promotions > email marketing > SEO > social media.

9. Most bloggers use analytics and refer to it regularly.

10. Blogging is giving results, and better!

One in three responders says, 'the blog delivers strong marketing results' and another half of those surveyed say, 'blog delivers positive results'.

ITB view:
Blogging has become much more professional!

We have been observing, and we've shared it many times before, that the face of blogging has changed greatly from maintaining a web diary and social networking to professional blogging. More and more bloggers are now taking blogging as part-time or full-time vocation. They write more wholesome content and use media to aid it. They use professional tools such as analytics and SEO techniques. They are making investments into it when required, for example hiring content editors, buying themes, optimizing blog for search and paying for promotions. This study once again proves our point.

You can visit here the Orbit Media blog post.

November 13, 2017

Social media, blogging updates: double tweet size, WhatsApp delete, security lapses and vulnerabilities

Tweets finally are double their earlier character length


After a pilot run with 280 character limit for tweets, Twitter has finally implemented it. It shares the behavior of Twitter users during the experiment: people were initially excited and did silly things to bloat their tweets beyond 140 characters, but not many were found using space much beyond this earlier limits. However, it has led to ease in writing tweets and users are likely to spend less time in editing tweets to squeeze them into the tight character limit.  

You can now delete your messages on WhatsApp from others' phones too!


WhatsApp has introduced this long-awaited feature now. You can delete a message sent to an individual or a group within seven minutes of sending it. But for this to work, you and message recipient must have latest version of WhatsApp on their Android, iPhone or Windows Phone.

Hope, this helps reduce the embarrassment or damage that is caused by sending a wrongly worded message, a wrong photo or a message to a wrong recipient. But no luck if the recipient(s) have already seen it before you could delete it, isn't it?

Of course you can delete a message from your own device.

Both these features work when you press and hold the message and get options to delete the message for everyone or only yourself.

 

How safe are your social media accounts in the hands of the giants?


We generally feel safe when their accounts are with tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Twitter. The thought that comes to mind is that at least for their business and reputation, these biggies would take all cautions so that public information is safe and there is no risk that their information is leaked except legally.

Ok, there are numerous cases, when governments have asked these biggies to pull down an account or share information in that account often with the excuse of an investigation into cases of hate crimes, pornography, drug pedaling, terrorism etc. (One news report later in this very post!)

However, I am talking even of that. What comes as a shock is that Donald Trump's account on Twitter was taken down INTENTIONALLY by a Twitter customer support employee on her last day in that company! It remained unavailable for about 11 minutes on November 2 before being restored. Consider what would happen to our accounts with these giants if a low-level employee could play with the account of someone who is not only the present US President, he is also one of the top Twitter personalities in the world. 

That raises a biggg question: Are internal controls good enough in internet giants, especially Twitter?

Afghanistan bans chat sites, revokes ban after protest


Afghanistan's move to block popular messaging platforms, WhatsApp and Telegram, seems to have backfired.

The ban was enforced early November, for 20 days. First it was said to be for security reasons, and then the concerned ministry explained that the closure 'request' was to improve their services. But in the wake of widespread protests, the government had to take back the ban within four days. Sigh!


Lurking outlaws and social media use by teens


The Australian Psychological Society has found that around 15% of teens are contacted by strangers on a daily basis, on Facebook alone. Ten percent are reported to be 'actively communicating' with strangers. Please remember that friendly-looking strangers can be bad guys out there to goad innocent victims into crimes!

bad guys are lurking in social media
What is equally worrisome is that 60% parents among the 1000 people interviewed said, they never monitored their child's social media accounts.

Shows, once again, the type of threat is lurking on social media and how careless and indifferent the society is towards it.

Source: ABC News
 

Wordpress plugins can be a big security hazard


Wordpress is so poor without plugins. And there are thousands of plugins available free and on payment, for almost everything that a website or blog can do: SEO, listings, polls, security, displaying images, editing, even e-commerce. However, not all plugins are of high quality, and the issues range from a bloated code to poor execution of code to serious security issues.

In the face of reports of even erstwhile good plugins getting vulnerable to new forms of web attacks, it is recommended that bloggers with plugins on their Wordpress blogs/ websites should apply only reputed plugins and then keep updating them.

November 9, 2017

30 very useful blogging apps, tools and websites: updated list for 2017

We bring you the updated list of 30 very useful websites, apps and tools for bloggers. Each of these have been used by us and our blogger friends and we have found them stable, safe and really useful. Some of these have already been reviewed in detail by us, and we have linked them to the review pages. There are some freemium or paid tools that open a free account but after giving very limited results, ask you to go for paid version; we have rejected such tools outright. The tools that do not install well or are reported to install junk on your computer have also been rejected.

And all these great tools/ sites are FREE!

Writing

  • CoSchedule Headline analyzer 
Helps you create and test headlines that attract attention.
A magnificent spelling and grammar checker for English, which checks passages online, integrates with MS Word and has browser extensions too.  (Premium, paid, version has many more features.)
A fantastic free online grammar and readability checker, Hemingway app tells you how good or bad your writing it, suggesting ways to improve it. (It also has a paid desktop version.)
These alternatives to MS Office and other office suites are a workhorse. These have been included in this list because of their versatility for web use. You can make available on your website a document or spreadsheet or a presentation prepared with Google Docs, through a link. There are many more ways you can share your skills through this set of tools besides doing the job that paid office suites do. 
A very comprehensive dictionary cum thesaurus that is available offline and also online. Offline app integrates well with all Windows programs. It is free if you declare that you are not rich enough to buy it!
If your blog needs typing in languages other than English, this tool (has web and app versions) is a must for you. With intuitive word formation, it can type in 121 languages instantly as you type in English. 
Has online 'plagiarism checker' tool and a tool for comparing two articles.

Graphics and videos

The great free alternative to Photoshop. It has almost all that Photoshop has, maybe something more. And this helps to make all types of graphics for blogs and websites. But the learning curve is steep.

A dependable storehouse of mostly license-free images. 
Earlier called Picasaweb, this Google entity is free storage space for images. You can decide to share images stored on it through link on any webpage as each image has a unique web address. If you are on Blogger blogging platform, all your images are saved here automatically.
A great software for editing almost all types (some with the help of plugins) of audio files. Great if you are a podcaster or have a music blog. You can also use it for preparing audio lectures to go with screen captured video (e.g. for tutorials).
Needs no introduction. For blogs with videos or vblogs, it can be used as free storage space which not only allows linking but also embedding the video on the website. You can visit this article on why YouTube is so great as a secondary web host for videos.
Free, simple, online tool from Buffer with numerous free templates for making quick graphics for social media, especially with embedded text.
Another website that allows creation of beautiful graphics in a jiffy, using available free (and paid) photos and design elements, for all types of web media and other formats.
A marvelous infographic generator, it has free version that is good enough for most bloggers. 
A feature-rich screen-capture software that can easily make videos for tutorials.

Social networking

  • Facebook groups 

Some of these groups can be great for promoting your blog. However, if you discover that members are interested in promoting their content only, without much interaction or discussion, don't go for such groups.
  • Google Plus communities
Bloggers discard G+ in favor of Facebook, Instagram  and Twitter. However, we have found that Google Plus communities are more focused, encourage good participation and are liked by Google search engine.
Twitter's own scheduling and management tool. Has multi-column layout that makes it easier to deal with tweets.
A good scheduler for Tweets (and other social content). Unlike other paid schedulers, it has a good free version if you want to use it for only one service and limited number of social accounts.

SEO and search

Previously called Webmaster Tools, this gives you deep knowledge about search on your website, including what might be wrong and how to fix that.
Gives great insight into traffic on your website. A must for serious blogging.  The daddy of keyword research, this is part of tools available under Google AdWords - the advertising platform of the search giant.
Another useful free tool for keyword research.
Reported to be the most popular SEO plugin for Wordpress, with a useful set of features in its free version too.

Productivity, misc 

An offline and online blogging software that can be great for formatting and other frills (e.g. tables) not available on editors of Wordpress, Blogger and other blogging platforms. OpenLiveWriter integrates well with blogging on various platforms. 
A great website that teaches you bits of HTML in very simple ways and explains why a code on your website/ blog is working the way it is. You can test sample code then and there.
Bloggers need to look for updates in their area of specialization, and nothing beats Google Alerts in giving alerts on any number of topics.
Not to forget this most popular cost per click (CPC) program from Google, which allows bloggers to make money by placing AdSense advertisements on their blogs/ websites.
A fine automatic email sender and opt-in form generator, with enough resources in free account.

November 5, 2017

Carelessly removing custom domain from Wordpress or Blogger blog or website may hurt much

Users of Blogger and Wordpress free blogging platforms sometimes want to give up the independent domain they had mapped with the blog/ website. It mostly happens when they do not make good money from the blog. If you are one of them and have decided to junk the custom domain, you need to take some small but important actions so that the damage is minimal and your free blog regains life. Read on...

Removing the custom domain


This is the simplest task. When you stop paying for renewal of the custom domain, it will automatically be inactive. Full stop. 

But just letting the custom URL vanish might create an issue for some days: when the visitor types the free URL, the browser might still try to take him automatically to the custom domain and when the browser does not find the custom URL, it might give 'Site does not exist' or 404 Error. To avoid this, 
  • on Blogger, go to 'Settings', 'Publishing' and then click on 'x' next to the custom domain;
  • on Wordpress, go to 'Manage Purchases' and delete the custom domain.

Please remember, you MUST NOT DELETE the website/ blog created on Blogger/ Wordpress, but only remove the custom domain.

Making the original blogspot / wordpress URL live


When you remove the custom domain, the original free Blogger/ Wordpress blog will no longer take you to the custom domain. So, visitors using the xyz.wordpress.com or xyz.blogspot.com address will be able to see your website/ blog as it is.

However, whosoever types your earlier domain (xyz.com) will get the error message. You will have to live with it until this domain is wiped from everybody's memory and bookmarks.

Taking care of manually added links


This is the most time-consuming action of all. When you created a new domain, xyz.com, you must have put a number of internal links on posts and pages under the custom domain, e.g. xyz.com/2017/how-to-use-picasa or picasa.xyx.com or xyz.com/search/label/picasa Over time, these could be in thousands. All such links will go dead if you do not manually re-link each anchor text or image or audio or video to new pages under the free sub-domain, xyz.blogspot.com or xyz.wordpress.com.

Dealing with third party permissions, codes given to others, social accounts


You will need to check what URL has been given on various widgets, badges given to others, rich cards, analytics/ webmaster IDs, affiliate properties and AdSense, social media buttons, etc and take action in each case.

Unless you do that, links given on badges and other codes that you offer to others will go dead, many codes with the custom domain will give blank results, some linked third-party codes will not work at all, leading to huge loss of functionality and traffic coming from badges, backlinks and web references.
Links given on social media posts/ comments will be lost for ever because you have no control over them, but you can save links on social media profiles by manually changing them.

Look and feel too might change when you change domain 


If you had applied a third-party theme on the blog/ website, the blog/ website will revert to a default theme. This might lead to things getting haywire, especially on Wordpress, which does not accept such themes on free blogs. 

Similarly if you had made some manual changes to the underlying code, or installed a security certificate, that might get impacted with change when the theme and code change.

To avoid things getting messy, take steps given in the section below.

The last point on domain change


This should have come the first but then it would have relegated the main point down, so it comes here. 

Why at all should you remove the custom domain? Though you might already have made up your mind to remove it for some valid reason, but I am asking this question  because this action will lead to a lot of loss and inconvenience as mentioned above. In short, you'd lose most of branding, SEO reputation, search position, search traffic, referral traffic and social media traffic - much of it irreversibly.

If you have no option but to remove the custom domain, make preparations before the day comes for transition; look closely at your website/ blog for all those links that refer to the custom domain and take the following actions:
  • Make a copy of the website's code. Blogger and Wordpress both allow that. 
  • Open a new free blog on the same platform. Import from the website/ blog with custom domain and check how it functions. Experiment with themes in case you had changed the theme of website/ blog with custom domain.
  • On the imported blog, change all links to refer to the free domain - on posts, profile pages, widgets, social accounts, etc.
  • Once satisfied, export the content of this new experimental blog to the earlier blog. 
  • However, if you are not comfortable with import-export between blogs, and if your blog does not have many resources, quickly make all changes in the last few days before removing the custom domain.
  • Change off-page identities (e.g. that given on your visiting card, email signature, etc.)
  • Write an email to email subscribers telling about the change. Similarly, write to all others who are likely to visit your blog.

October 30, 2017

20 best practices for effective business blogging

WHAT IS A BUSINESS BLOG


Simply speaking, a business blog is one that promotes a business. It can be part of the main website, or it can be a standalone blog.

I assume that you already have a website, because no business - except perhaps nomadic or hyper-local trade - can survive without a website these days.

Normal websites are static in the sense that their content does not change too frequently. Even if some part of it is dynamic [e.g. share quotes in an equity investment website] or a part is updated fast [e.g. websites introducing or reviewing new products], the updation is part of the core of website. On the other hand, the blog is there for updating on matters that the website may not do routinely (We'd come to that in the third section).

Business blogging
photo courtesy: Pixabay
The blog is not only an extension of the website but also a platform to engage existing and potential customers. But unlike Facebook and Twitter,  the blog is not a 'quickie' social networking platform. It is of a more permanent value and so it needs a special treatment from the business owner/ firm.
  

WHY MUST BUSINESSES BLOG


Businesses big and small must blog. If you, as a businessman, are not convinced, do read this section. Otherwise jump to the next section.

Without taking time, let me tell the main advantages of a business blog:
  • By its very nature, i.e. because of its fresh content, the blog is better search engine optimized and so can quickly climb to the top of search engine pages.
  • It drives relevant traffic to landing pages. It has been found through studies that websites get significant traffic when they are linked with a well-maintained blog.
  • It is also an additional channel for suggestions and feedback.
  • The bonds built on the blog are of much higher value than those through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
  • As the blog grows older, its value increases because of growing resources and reputation. You can also re-purpose its content for giveaways.
   

HOW BEST TO DO EFFECTIVE BLOGGING FOR BUSINESS


Let me present a list of 20 best practices for using blog for business functions: engagement and feedback, promotion, brand building and sale.
  1. Give the blog an identity that will enhance the your brand's recall.
  2. Host the blog on a paid host (Don't open the blog on a free website builder/ blogging platform).
  3. Invest a bit of money in buying a professional theme for the blog.
  4. Write information beyond what is given on your main website. Think of having blog pages on the range of products you offer even if these are on the main website; just write these in a more informal style. Give a page on FAQs on your product, use blog to give updates on your new products, and so on.
  5. Give a variety of useful information: on your product, on industry, on how to solve problems or create things by using your product, other useful information that is not directly related to your product. Sometimes even give away your secrets. Well, these won't be your business secrets or patented tech, just helpful bits of info deep into your area.
  6. Have the content tagged to different categories and link each category with a menu on a well-laced menu bar on the blog.
  7. Announce new products, talk about discounts and seasonal sale, share if you have opened a new branch office... but do not indulge in vulgar promotion. Try to give detailed information rather than asking for a buy. People don't like to be fooled; so, if you are itching to promote your product on the blog, be open about it. A good practice is to write an informative article and at its bottom give links to other relevant content, including a promotional/ landing page.
  8. Whenever you write a post on the blog and whenever you want to refer to a blog post for detailed information, don't forget to give a link on your social networking entities. Link relevant posts, but avoid too much internal linking, especially deliberate and artificial looking links with the landing page.
  9. Write posts regularly on the blog. It has been found that the traffic on business blogs grows proportional to frequency of posting up to 2-3 posts a week.  
  10. Make a regular schedule of posting. Reinforce the regularity with subtle sign-off announcements such as this: We will meet next Sunday with discussion on... 
  11. Have a comment box at the end of posts, and respond to each comment. Thank people who give useful information/ feedback or endorse your product.
  12. When you get an angry response, ask publicly how you could help and what might have gone wrong. Offer help, e.g. by giving phone number, and suggesting other ways of grievance redressal. When you get an abusive comment, write back politely, but don't engage in abuses. If needed, remove the comment and make public that you removed the comment as it could not be shared publicly. Do not malign, threaten or expose the abuser, unless required for legal or such other reasons.
  13. Think of using the blog to seek experiences. When you get personal stories from users, share them on the blog.
  14. It helps if you have a public face to write on the blog, rather than the firm's name or your designation.
  15. Use in first and second person ('I' and 'You'), to make a bond with the visitors.
  16. Have an opt-in form to get subscription to the blog. E-mail subscribers are a very prized audience for any blog.
  17. Don't think of the blog as a social networking platform. Write much more valuable content on the blog than what you'd write on Facebook, Instagram, Google Plus or Twitter. Reserve Twitter etc for networking, quick updates and answering queries.
  18. If you are a medium or big sized firm, you can use the blog as house magazine. Encourage staff to write on the blog, and reward them for it.
  19. Once the blog has enough resources, you can bind them into e-books and offer them as free giveaways for subscribing to the blog.
  20. Do a bit of ethical SEO so that your blog comes on top of search results for your type of products or services. 
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