Blogger's special features: updates

I often advise bloggers to create their blog on Blogger as It has numerous features, that too completely free. I had published a series on the often ignored but very useful features of the Blogger platform.

All the features given there are still available on Blogger; just the links to use them appear in new places. So, I won’t repeat the content again but add to our earlier suggestions. I have avoided tweaks and tools that need caution and technical knowledge.

There are a few new widgets that Blogger has added, and these relate to Google+ integration. Adding Google+ button / Google+ badge / Google+ followers’ thumbnails on the blog is likely to improve your social networking. But I am not sure of it unless you use Google+ as your main social networking platform.

When I talked about Dynamic Views in an earlier post, I had advised that bloggers should refrain from using this option as the blog lost more value than it gained by using it. I am still not convinced  about that, but I also agree that Blogger has been working hard to restore functionalities of the standard blog in dynamic views. It has restored some widgets in the sidebar and now displays Adsense ads too in dynamic views. You can also customize a blog’s appearance to some extent within a dynamic view.

Settings menu [Settings> Search Preferences> Meta Tags] allows you to put a description meta tag. This is a useful SEO tool. You should write a description of your blog in the given text-box in such a way that it clearly tells search engines about the key content of your blog.

In the Post menu [Post>Edit], Search Description tab in the right-hand column gives you additional facility to tell search engines about your post. You should post relevant keywords here. This function is also available on Pages.

Within the settings menu, you also have the facility to put the Google Analytics ID [Settings> Other> Google Analytics]. Google Analytics is a very powerful tool provide by Google for site analysis. When you sign up for this [Google Analytics link here], you get an ID that you need to paste in the box provided under the Settings menu.

Google Analytics tells in detail how, from where and when people visit your blog, what search terms they use and so on – in a much more detailed way than the Stats menu of Blogger. This information can be used to improve search and Adsense performance of the blog.

Blogger also gives you the facility to give your posts a more meaningful URL. For example, if I wrote a post in March, 2012 on ITB with the title ‘Mentionable items on a photo blog’, it would automatically name the post something like this:
http://indiantopblogs.com/2012/03/Mentionable-items

Look at the last part of the URL; it does not tell what the post talks about unless you see the full title of the post. Here comes the customizable URL option of Blogger: In the Post menu [Post>Edit], on the right column, there is a section named ‘Permalink’ and under it, there are two options: the automatic option is the default option and the other one is ‘Custom Permalink’. If you want to customize the post URL, type the desired URL here and click on ‘Done’ button. 

In the present example, if I wrote the following URL in the given box, it will reflect the content of the post much better – more so, to search engines:
http://indiantopblogs.com/2012/03/photo-blog-mentionable-items 

Note that you have the liberty to change the last part of the URL only. You can use only dash, underscore or dot in addition to alphabets and numbers in the URL.

For bloggers using the Blogger platform in the US and the UK [not in India and other countries yet] and interested in earning through blogging, there is more good news. You can allow Blogger to give affiliate ads with your posts. For this, you need to have an Adsense account where you are given choice for affiliate ads. Select the types of ads relevant to your post and there you are: earning a few bucks if someone makes a purchase through your post’s affiliate ad link.

Blogger allows transliteration. As of now, our experience with computer-based automatic translation / transliteration has been awful, and so I do not recommend bloggers using translation widget on the blogs except when the blogger is convinced that the blog really needs translation facility, however rudimentary it may be.

mydreamcanvas

MY DREAM Canvas
A design blog by  Anu Varma. Anu likes to call it a lifestyle blog and global marketplace.

design-blog-India


"
A lifestyle blog, it chronicles my everyday thoughts on design and decor. I like to think of my home as a canvas bringing my thoughts to life.
"

A blog can convert stress into happiness, believe it!

When one is excited, sad or depressed...
  • How do you come to terms with yourself after your boss has badly scolded you for a big blunder that occurred in company accounts, even though you had hardly a role in it?
  • What do you do when you feel bored of everything in life, and you feel like breaking your head against a wall?
  • You are extremely happy with your performance and there is nobody with whom you can share the best aspects of that success.
Happy, unhappy and uninteresting moments in our life come again and again: some pass by and some leave you either hyper-excited or frustrated. In either case, you need to give vent to your feelings so that you do not end up doing something injurious or stupid but return to your normal self.

Blogging is a great way out for immediate calming or nerves as well as long-term emotional well-being!  Personal blogging we mean, not the professional or corporate one.

How about making the blog the 'virus vault' of your life's anti-virus program?

Use your personal blog as your punching bag. Make it the place where you spit out hatred, greed and guilt so that they don’t damage your pancreas, liver and kidney. Make it your secret vault where to give vent to your nastiest feelings so that they don’t come in the way of your experiencing the beautiful aspects of life.

In times of stress, even if it is over-excitement due to a great achievement, write down whatever comes to your mind. Abuses and expletives, threats and submissions, curses, painful details, unspeakable acts, bitter feelings about the relationship that the other person didn’t value, ambitions that you can’t share even with your husband/ parents/ girlfriend, confession, a plan of action,... If that does not satisfy you, put ugly photos and videos. Morph your boss's photos to look like a moron, put a shoe over it and animate the shoe to hit the boss's head. After putting the photo or sketch on the blog, remove it from elsewhere; give it a befitting caption full of slangs. Make the font extra-large and ugly. Record an abuse [or a song in your broken and shrill voice] and put it on the blog...

Save the post. If composing the post has made you even more excited, write another post. At the end, when you have had sort of orgasm, leave the keypad. Don’t publish the post(s) yet. Don’t be in a hurry to put in action if your post has a plan of action. Don't email the video or audio to your friends or enemies. Not yet.

If you have a deep-seated sense of emptiness or depression / remorse / anger or hatred / excitement, keep writing such posts till you can no longer write them.

Look at these posts when the excitement has subsided. Not necessary on the same day: it can wait a week or a month. Tell yourself before opening the post(s) that these were written when you were disturbed and you will use the post(s) only if they are harmless to publish. Ask yourself this question again and again, till you are convinced that you are making a sensible choice.  

In ten out of ten cases, you will have dealt with the emotional event moresensibly than you could do so otherwise; in eight cases, you would know how much poison [or over-estimation, ego etc] your mind had accumulated and needed to be washed away; in five cases, you would get valuable insight about how to deal with such situations in future or not to repeat the mistakes that led to that situation; in two cases, you would have written some of the best writings in your life – maybe with some editing.

Is it not a win-win situation? Don't blame us if it works wonders for you; we didn't discover blogging.

In this earlier post, you can see our take on blogging and living happily ever after.

Hindi best blogs directory: what's there in it? हिंदी के सर्वश्रेष्ठ ब्लॉगों की डायरेक्टरी में है क्या?

A short take on how we are compiling the Directory of Best Hindi Blogs


We started with collecting as many Hindi blog links as possible and in about six months ended up with around 4000 blogs in our database. We shortlisted the blogs, based on a simple algorithm that gives values to a number of parameters. We subjected these blogs to detailed filtering for content, design and regularity, and simultaneously kept looking at the links on the blogs that we were surveying: blogrolls, entries in aggregators, comment links, multiple blogs, community blogs… This exercise landed another 3000 blogs. We left it at that since it bloated our database with hardly any good blogs showing up.

Left with around 1800 blogs, we scrutinized them all for many parameters, sometimes visiting a blog twenty times over. We are now left with around 600 blogs; most of these blogs, except the top 50, suffer from many infirmities [given in the second section, below]. We have tried to find blogs that have high quality in terms of content, design, navigation, regularity and interactivity, with as few infirmities as possible. At the end of this effort, likely by 29th evening, we’d have included all such blogs about which we have a consensus in our team that they are among the best blogs in Hindi.

Forgive us, friends, for not being ruthless in this first edition of the  Directory of Best Hindi Blogs [out on 30th November, 2012] and do tell us if you find some undeserving blogs in the Directory. You can do so by making a comment on this or any subsequent post if you have a view on the Directory or its entries; but if you want to be abusive, do use this email link because on ITB we won’t be able to publish comments with too hard-hitting a language: kp.nd.2008@gmail.com. We’ll have one or two minor updations based on your feedback, before we update the directory thoroughly around May 2013.

Kindly forgive us also for being judgmental and immodest about our views on what constitutes ‘the best blog’. We feel humble looking at some top quality blogs in the Directory – blogs that do not need our certification. 


best Hindi blogging image


What we included and what not, in compiling the Hindi blog directory

 

  • We have not included blogs that have not been updated since 15th August 2012. Blogs that have no updates in any 3 months out of the first 10 months of 2012 have also been rejected.
  • Blogs with obviously poor content, inappropriate content and abusive language have not been taken.
  • Blogs with amateurish experimentation with design, too many pop-ups, too many widgets that don’t open, and no consideration for blog’s length and width have been demoted.
  • The number of comments on a post has not been considered for the purpose of inclusion in the Directory.
  • We must admit that we tend to overlook other issues when we spot a blog with high quality of content. Examples of what types of blogs we have taken because we found that these blogs excel despite these issues: one top blog has a label list of over 500, another one has home page with only one small post but a hundred links in the sidebar, a blog has font in myriad hard-hitting colors. A blog analyzing current social issues with elan has a few matra problems. Some otherwise good blogs have too much of ‘I’ and ‘me’ content.This being the first edition, we have ignored all such issues.
  • Blogs have not been demoted for very long blogrolls and blogrolls with sleeping / dead entries unless this badly affects the blog’s overall appeal.
  • We have ignored non-attribution of graphic and audio-material, but we had to reject blogs in which copied matter constituted the core content and the matter seemed to be used without permission.
  • Blogs in which others’ matter has been copy-pasted for the purpose of review/ critique are not rejected.
  • We have also compared individual blogs against standards expected within a particular category, so that we don’t end up comparing apples with oranges. Due to this, many poetry-alone blogs have lost to blogs of the same genre that had superior design, navigation, variety, regularity, etc.
  • When a blogger has many excellent blogs, we have accommodated more than one blog. In future, we intend to include only one blog of a blogger.
  • We have taken blogs on Hindi blogging platforms [e.g. jagranjunction] only when individual blogs have been given a sensible name and not a numerical ID. In the case of blogs on such platforms, we have not judged individual blogs for design and navigation.
  • We have taken multiple-author-blogs [ marked in the directory as community blogs], but not e-magazines. Blog aggregating websites, blogging platforms and blogs that primarily discuss other blogs’ content have been categorized separately.

This article has been retained as it gives historical perspective on blogging in Hindi, and how the compilation of the directory of top Hindi blogs was started by TopBlogs. For the latest listing of best Hindi blogs, kindly visit the link.

The world of Hindi blogging: our detailed observations हिंदी ब्लॉगिंग के संसार में हमने क्या पाया?

ITB’s is perhaps the only team that has manually checked over 35,000 blogs, examined a quarter of them for specific attributes and reviewed nearly 600 blogs in fine detail. Therefore, we can say with some authority that our observations are not sweeping statements on Hindi blogging but considered statements. Moreover, we keep editing this post year after year to made modifications as required. The latest edition is as of October 2018.  

Over the years, we have seen appreciable expansion of blogging in Hindi (and other Indian languages). But just rise in numbers does not tell the true story, so we have analyzed the Hindi blogosphere from many points of view - quantitative as well qualitative. Like they say in journalistic parlance, we can get major details on a news event by asking 5 W’s and 1 H [what, who, why, when, where and how], we shall try to share our findings in that manner.

What types of blogs are there in the Hindi blog world? What is written on Hindi blogs?


In blogging, Hindi-speaking people seem to have found a revolutionary medium of self expression. Since blogging is free, simple, unfettered and almost limit-less, the author within a guy can express himself the way he likes, without an editor looking down upon him with professional arrogance and dumping his creation in the slush-pile. This perhaps explains why a significantly large proportion of blogs in Hindi are on poetry and free-style discussions on myriad themes in one’s surroundings – the physical world, the society, the chaos, the issues of mis-governance. Out of the over 4,000 active Hindi blogs in our database now, nearly 3,000 relate to creative self-expression and free-style commentary. 

There are, understandably, not many blogs on technical matters, photography, stock market and western music. But for some reason there are very few blogs on beauty and fashion, DIY & craft, food, art and culture and social cause while in English, a large number of women bloggers have blogs on these subjects, also in India. One another big miss is quality children blogs. We had expected many blogs helping Hindi speakers with English, but found only a few. 

There are far too many blogs on literary discussion, compilation of classic poetry and ghazals, and religion. Though every other person seems to be writing, there are not many book-review blogs in Hindi. 

A good number of bloggers indulge in spreading ancient wisdom - and self-righteously add to it their own - and preach ad nauseum on worldly as well as ethereal matters.
Hindi blogging

Anything special about the content in Hindi blogs? – you might ask. Yes, quite a few.

One, the ubiquitous blogroll. Eight out of ten Hindi blogs have a blogroll on the blog. Many bloggers who themselves are very regular and popular, and also write good content, have put long blogrolls with links to blogs that have not been updated for many years, have been taken off or have died over time. One regularly updated blog has a blogroll in which there are two blogs with no post at all! Do pick up a popular Hindi blog and check the entries of its blogroll; chances are that you will find many irrelevant and sleeping blogs in it.

Two, unattributed graphics and video. We found a large number of Hindi blogs with photographs taken straight from the web without even an attribution to the source. Even audio and video [especially ghazals and movie songs] are copy-pasted with no regard for copyright issues.

Three, great commenting culture. The trend of commenting on blogs is going down as social networks have taken over this activity. Yet, Hindi bloggers comment a lot. As is universal in blogging, this gets bloggers a lot of return comments. A number of blogs generate good, sometimes amazing, discussion on current topics. Many regular and popular blogs have threads of discussion that run into over a dozen responses.

Four, matra and other spelling blunders. Hindi bloggers have to grope with matras - little ligatures - which go crazy if one is not careful. Some bloggers also make grammatical and spelling mistakes, but such mistakes are fewer than those in English blogs by Indians.

Five, different shades of Hindi, and regional flavor. Hindi being the spoken language of a significant part of population in nearly 15 states of India, people write different shades of Hindi [It’s no brainer that khari boli happens to be the most prevalent]. Hindi is also spoken, with local variations, in some other countries including Nepal, Pakistan (Its main language Urdu is similar to Hindi, though written in Arabic script), Bangladesh, Fiji, Trinidad & Tobago, Mauritius and Singapore.

Together with local variations come the local icons: Kanha in Braj, Ganga in eastern UP and Bihar, hills in Uttarakhand… Some bloggers have passionately been writing about their local icons as well as their region, city, caste and other identities.

Six, blog-design aspects. Hindi bloggers are as good or bad in blog design as their English counterparts, e.g. matters relating to readability, navigation, placing of widgets and page-length. When it comes to experimenting with colors, fonts etc, Hindi bloggers seem to be more experimental than their English counterparts, generally speaking. Many Hindi bloggers use very intense colors.       

Who blogs in Hindi?


Hindi bloggers, as bloggers in other languages, represent the population to which they belong. So, they are mostly north-Indian, of different ages and backgrounds, speak different dialects, have different customs... 

Both the sexes are represented almost equally, and we didn’t come across even one blog on/from the third sex.

Children have their first tryst with blogging when they are in post-primary school, but not many children take up blogging in Hindi. In a few blogs on/ by children that are available, we found parents doing blogging rather than the child.

By education and profession, the majority of Hindi bloggers seem to have studied humanities [as against technical or science subjects]. Similarly, while many working and retired Hindi literary teachers/ practitioners have adopted blogging, not many scientists, technical professionals, experts and medicos have got attracted to blogging in Hindi.

There are numerous housewives adorning blogging in Hindi language. Indian housewives are amazing cooks and have also mastered folk art and craft, but that is hardly reflected in Hindi blogs. Most blogs by women bloggers in Hindi are on poetry or life in general.

Besides mainstream bloggers, Hindi bloggers come in some very striking shades: a lonely lovelorn soul, a village girl trying to adjust in a metropolis, a father  passionately blogging on behalf of his her kid, a grandpa narrating his lifelong experiences, a retired professor and a judge trying to help the society by sharing their worldly wisdom, an expatriate emotionally connecting herself to her ‘maati’.

We can group majority of Hindi bloggers into these four overlapping categories: i- grown up males, ii- housewives, iii- retired and aged persons, and iv- young adults.

Why does the Hindi blogger crate a blog?


Blogging is the universal new platform for self-expression, and Hindi bloggers are no exception in lapping it up. However, unlike English bloggers, their main muse seem to be love [real or imagined], morals, religion and nostalgia about the small-town/ village life that has changed fast.


Blogging in Hindi


In Hindi, blogging with literary tinge gets appreciation and encouragement. Many bloggers get awarded in public functions, quite a number get kudos on other blogs, and some get mention in the print medium. This seems to encourage others to join ‘blogger associations’, write about other bloggers, participate in blogger meets, besides maintaining the blog.

Thinkers, dreamers and shouters are not expected to think of money, so there is hardly any effort to earn money through blogging in Hindi. Most Hindi bloggers also do not think much of popularity beyond the word-of-mouth type, perhaps because it involves a bit of mundane technical tweaking. This trend, however, is changing. Many young bloggers are now experimenting with monetization.

What is the Hindi blogging platform of choice?


A significant proportion of Hindi bloggers run their blogs on Blogger - the free platform from Google stable. Only a handful bloggers choose WordPress, and hardly anyone goes to Live Journal, Typepad, etc or have a self-hosted blog.

A few blogging platforms – mostly provided by newspapers – used to exist in Hindi. A couple of them were very popular, both in terms of the number of people blogging on them and the number of comments received by such blogs, when Hindi blogging was at its peak around 2010. Of late, most of them have stopped patronizing bloggers - even their own columnists.

There are a number of community blogs and multi-author blogs in Hindi. Contributors to these blogs have their own blogs too; hardly anybody seems to write exclusively for community blogs. 

Where do Hindi bloggers live?


Hindi bloggers come from not only the ‘Hindi belt’ but all around the world. In India, they are distributed across different sized cities of northern India.

How do Hindi bloggers blog? How much do Hindi bloggers blog?


Most Hindi bloggers leave blogging after an initial burst [It is universal: You can see this post on Indian English bloggers’ behavior], but some who do not fall into this state of inaction are very disciplined. Not only that, a number of bloggers have been maintaining a good frequency of blogging for years, without any effort to earn from the blog.

As we shared earlier, the the world of Hindi blogging has a large number of blog aggregators, community blogs, multi-author blogs and web-magazines. The last genre is often a mix of blog, curator and portal  formats.

Many bloggers have made their own little communities of bloggers who support one another’s blogs by way of friendly follow up, links, excerpts, blogroll, etc. It sometimes goes to the extent of formation of coteries and ugly fights between them. Some of them also run various types of ‘associations’.

Quite a number of Hindi bloggers have many blogs. Some of them are able to somehow maintain all  their blogs, but others squander away their energy in more blogs than they can handle. In some cases, they have linked their sleeping/ dead blogs on their main blog(s). A couple of bloggers have tried to promote their multiple blogs awkwardly, by listing all of them on top of each blog and repeating the same content in different blogs.

In brief, a large number of active bloggers write [or are seen even without writing] on other web spaces in addition to their own blogs due to aggregation and cross-linking.

New bloggers seem to be eager to get a pat from the active few who have become sort of patrons of newbie Hindi bloggers.

When does the average Hindi blogger start blogging?


Blogging being a rather new platform, almost every blogger in the adult population has taken to blogging almost simultaneously. As such, it is difficult to say when people start blogging in Hindi. Yet, because blogging is more serious an activity than being active on Facebook and other social networks or chatting platforms, those who feel settled [even if in particular phase of life, e.g. getting employed] tend to take blogging seriously. 

The charm of technology, instantly seeing one's own words published, and easy typing in Unicode make people – especially students – experiment with blogging. The charm fades away when they realize that sustaining the craft needs hard work. This results in one obvious trend: blogging is the first casualty when the blogger gets disturbed or occupied, whether physically or emotionally. We have seen that young ones seldom pick up the thread again once they lose it, while old ones often come back. 

Many youth are attracted to the earning potential of blogs, usually due to [often inflated] claims of  having made big money through blogging, either by their colleagues or on videos posted on the web. Since 'professional blogging' in Hindi is yet nascent, it is ignored by brands and advertisers.

How big is the Hindi blogosphere?


There are likely between 3 and 4 lakh [400,000] Hindi blogs, out of them, 1 - 1.5 lakh blogs have maintained varying degrees of blogging activity in the last two years. Both these numbers are our guess, based on a number of postulates. There may not be more than 10,000 active Hindi blogs as of today - blogs on which there was at least one update in the last 12 months.

We'd conclude this discussion by saying that Hindi blogging mirrors the population of Hindi speakers like none other platform can. Look at them: not as rich, tech-savvy or liberal as English speakers. Among old men and women, not many exposed to metropolitan or foreign culture. Among youth, many unemployed or in lower level posts. Among students, not many with big ambitions. Ridden with strong notions of community, faith and caste. At the same time rooted to the culture in which they grew - rich in its own way. When these Hindi speakers have found a way of expressing their traditions, colors, local idiom and realities of life, they seem to be pouring their hearts out. 

Besides these broad trends and features of Hindi  bloggers and blogs, we keep sharing our impressions about Hindi blogs in posts related to release of new editions of the Hindi blog directory that we bring out every year since 2011. If you are interested, please visit these posts too. 

apotpourriofvestiges


apotpourriofvestiges
http://www.apotpourriofvestiges.com/
a-pot-pourri-of-vestigesA blog by Murtaza Ali, a film critic, for whom cinema is a passion, even an obsession.

"
A Potpourri of Vestiges is a movie blog dedicated to cinema, in particular its Art form. 
The blog aims at acquainting viewers worldwide with the true purpose and potential 
of cinema, especially as a great source of learning and enlightenment, by trying to keep 
alive the cinematic gems that are rapidly fading into obscurity owing to commercialization. 
"

Common blogging mistakes: the topic re-visited

A blog is a diary, fine; but a blog is also a public space [except for private blogs] on the www. In the latter sense, blogs are a form of media, like newspapers. Therefore, blogs are expected to maintain minimum standards in terms of web ethics, design, content and updation.

We have numerous posts on how IndianTopBlogs scrutinises blogs for putting them in directories and ranks them as ‘Platinum Blogs’, so we won’t repeat the process here. We have also a number of posts on various quality aspects; in fact our ‘blogging tips’ section is full of tips on maintaining quality in different aspects of blogging. 

In this post, we give a list of practices / features that spoil the quality of a blog,  and we add to that our experience with Indian blogs that we've checked for the last nearly two years of blog ranking, reviews, showcase, etc.  

Major blogging mistakes

  • Poor navigability
  • Too many - and useless - widgets
  • Too long pages
  • Pages wider than about 1200 pixels
  • Blog’s top portion [=opening screen] full of links, advertisements and other stuff that is not the core content of the blog
  • No effort towards making the blog appealing [Does not apply to individual blogs on standard platforms provided by newspapers, community blogging platforms, etc.]
  • Experimentation that has badly hurt the blog’s looks, readability, navigation, etc
  • Too long lists of any type such as label list, blogroll, latest posts and popular posts
  • Not caring for checking entries in lists for their current status, and thus having lists with dead / sleeping  entries
  • Not having a link for comments or having a link that is difficult to find
  • Not responding to comments
  • Blogger fighting with commenters about critical comments
  • Copy-and-paste content presented as original analysis [Copy-and-paste is accepted within limits for critiquing or for illustration of a point  or as a listing.]
  • Many spelling mistakes; in the case of Hindi, too many matra problems
  • Writing long passages in Roman script when writing in a language that does not use Roman script
  • Too long paragraphs
  • Content that makes the website / blog slow [e.g. big photos and heavy video]
  • Unreadable text due to colour, font, size and contrast issues
  • Widgets bleeding out of columns; columns overlapping
  • Pop-ups [unless they carry a very important notice] and self-playing music [unless very much relevant to the theme, e.g. on a music or movie site]
  • Promotion of obscurantist thoughts
  • Inappropriate content [as defined by us in a post on selction criteria for blog directory updation]
  • Too much commercial content
  • Biased product reviews, that too without disclosure
  • Too many, too flashy advertisements; advertisements seeking unusual, unreasonable favours
  • Static websites and archival content sites in the garb of blogs
  • Not updating the blog for a long time [For ITB listings, not writing for two consecutive months in a span of a year  and being quiet for any three full months amounts to too infrequent blogging.]
  • Giving links that do not open
  • Too much bragging; I, I, I… and again I
  • Too many promotional badges or too many certificates from run-of-the-mill certifiers

 Relatively minor blogging issues

  • Not showing archives of old posts
  • Not giving contact email on the blog or keeping it too much hidden
  • Not using graphics and text-variation to break monotony of long text matter

Why do we like or dislike some aspects

During directory compilation and ranking of blogs, we do consider some other aspects. We reproduce them below as they might help bloggers analyse their blogs from some new angles.
  •  Too narrow a subject of the blog. It makes regular posting difficult as you will run out of matter and original thoughts. On the other hand, appropriately ‘niche’ subjects lend themselves to detailed analysis and also focused monetization. So, choosing subject with care helps, unless yours is a personal / all-encompassing blog.
  •  ITB has no issues with blogs that are not very popular. If they maintain quality, they rank higher than very popular blogs of poorer quality. Quality should rank higher than quantity, no?
  • We don’t give weightage to the number of comments received. However, we have problem when a blogger doesn’t acknowledge comments even once in many months. If you can’t respond to each and every comment, respond to them collectively.
  • ITB does not go by others’ ranking of blogs. Not to speak of certifications and accolades by other directories and critics, we are not swayed by Google PageRank, Alexa Rank, dmoz listing etc. At the same time, we advise that you submit your blog to dmoz, a free directory of good websites.
  • We don’t care whether a blog is over 5 years old or is there for only a year. [However, just to see that the blog is stable over a  reasonable period, we shortlist blogs that are at least six months old.] Many search engines do feel that your blog / website has a higher standing if it is running for a long time.
  • ITB doesn't hold very frequent blogs in higher esteem than those less frequent. So, a blog that comes out with 1-2 quality posts every month is better in our eyes than (i) a blog that updates once a day with copy-pasted content, (ii) a blog with mostly auto-updated content, and (iii) a blog that updated 30 times three months back and is not updating any more.
You may also like to visit these posts on IndianTopBlogs and of course all blogging tips if you have more time:
  
5 things most Indian bloggers tend to ignore
Ignore these 5 blogging basics at your peril
10 deadly flaws in blog posts: blogger's sins!
Review your website or blog yourself in a few minutes!

A blogroll on your blog

We are prompted to write this post on maintaining a blogroll on the blog as we’ve  found that quite a number of blogs carry a blogroll without applying their mind to its utility. (We are presently scrutinizing Hindi blogs for compiling the Directory of Best Hindi Blogs. We find that this tendency to have a blogroll at all costs is quite prevalent among Indian bloggers and even more among Hindi bloggers.)
 

Why a blogroll?


Blogroll is just a list of blogs (and other websites) that you display on your blog. A good blogroll should serve one or more of these purposes-
indian-top-blogs-post-on-blogrolls
  • First and foremost, it should enrich your blog’s content by providing additional resources.
  • It should link your blog to good and relevant blogs over the www.
  • It should help build a community. If you put someone’s blog on your blogroll, he /she would put your blog too on their blog unless there is a reason for their not doing so.
  • It should get relevant back-links to your blog. When those in your blogroll link your blog on their blogs, your blog gets those many back-links. Back-links are a prized asset for a blog’s listing on search-pages.

 

How to put a good blogroll on the blog?


The blogroll can be placed in a sidebar, at the bottom of the blog or as a separate page that is linked from a tab anywhere on the blog (preferably on the menu-bar). You can also put a blogroll in your profile page.

The placing of the blogroll should go with the basic design of the blog. In a typical 2-column blog, a small blogroll fits very well in the sidebar. However, if the blogroll grows long, it is better placed in a separate page.

Blogroll can be put using a widget (in-built in the case of major platforms such as Blogger) or can be created manually by typing each entry individually. You can put just the URL or title of the linked blogs or can give some details about them; it depends upon the space available vis-à-vis size of the blogroll, and your personal preferences. 

Though manual lists need labor, and sometimes re-arranging entries, they give you the liberty to arrange entries according to their importance or relevance, put blogs into various categories, and even put them arbitrarily. You can also play with color and font size of individual or group entries.

 

Do’s and don’ts

  • Not all blogs require a blogroll, so don’t force yourself to have one only because a blog that you like has a blogroll.
  • When compiling a blogroll, do ask yourself whether it will serve a good purpose. Even if so, a blogroll should not spoil the design of the blog.

In our blogosphere surveys of Indian blogs, we have often come across many blogs with very long blogrolls, as if the blogger wanted to show off his / her range of links. Instead of serving the intended purpose, a poor-quality blogroll looks like a burden on the blog. It also shows the blogger in poor light, as an un-focused, scatter-brained , unprofessional person.
  • Keep only the blogs you really want to keep there. The criterion of selection of entries could be any: your friends’ / relatives’ blogs; blogs on related subjects; blogs by blogger friends; blogs and websites that you like your visitors to read because of their very high quality or because they complement your own content…
  • Check each entry for its link to the correct resource. Re-check links when you re-arrange entries later.
  • Remove ‘%20’ and such other html codes for special characters, which are not part of the URL but sometimes come in when you paste a link.
  • Keep only blogs that are regularly updated. Check the blogs every 3-4 months to see that they are not only alive but also are updated and have not become restricted to registered visitors.
  • Keep the blogroll small. In case you want to have a longer list, give it a separate name and put it separately (e.g. a small blogroll on the blog’s main page and a ‘list of blogs that I often visit’ on the profile page). 

How big is too big, you may ask. Depending on the subject and the space available (see the next point), we would recommend that the list is no bigger than 10-15 lines if it is in a sidebar. On a separate page or on the profile page too, 50 should be the extreme upper limit. Bigger than that would deserve to be called a directory, no?
  • Keep uniform the number of lines each entry takes. It should ideally be only one line or two [e.g first line gives URL and the second line a brief caption]. Shorten the expression in the link to fit in the width of the column where the blogroll is placed.
  • Arrange entries with some logic, even if you want to look random. The most popular way of listing blogs and websites in the blogroll is alphabetical. You can also list blogs / websites according to their importance or relevance – starting with the strongest. You can group them in sub-categories if you find a widget that has this feature; otherwise you will have to do that manually.
  • The blogroll should not pull the entire blog or the sidebar down the screen. For this reason, avoid putting a blogroll bigger than 5-7 lines or any other long list at the bottom of the blog.
  • Give each link in the list an expression that the viewers can easily associate with the linked blog or website (e.g. URL of the blog / title of the blog – but it’s likely to change over time / a relevant caption such as ‘Rita’s blog on her child’).

How big companies deal with social media

An article in the Economic Times of today gives instances of big companies flunking in dealing with negative social media response. It does not come as a surprise to us.

The lack of professionalism with which nost companies run their media affairs is amazing. The CEOs and CMDs - and people aspiring to reach these positions someday – ignore communication, be it with their employees, business partners or consumers. The most ignored and misunderstood among them are the end-uses of their products. Bosses carry out their operational and financial communication with key stakeholders through visits, telephonic talks and mails, formal meetings, parties and so on, but they hardly talk to their consumers, especially when the consumer happens to be ‘the common man’. We are not making this observation on the fly; we are saying this with authority and seriousness.

Look at some of the big ad campaigns running right now. Do you notice the Photoshopped photographs of models with unearthly smooth skins and queen-like attitude, and the self-congratulatory copy? Ads in wrong places? Unrelated / quirky / suggestive / hyperbolic content? Such ads can pass only when the big boss is either dis-interested or ignorant to the level of being stupid.

For most companies, communication with remote stakeholders ends with issuing ads. For an understanding corporation, ads should only be a very small part of the overall communication strategy. But do the top guys bother?

Come social media and the consumer suddenly has got a voice that is heard far and wide. Not only that, the voice gets relayed again and again as i- social media often goes ‘viral’, and ii- social media is open 24x7. Add to it the consumer behavior: in most situations, he sits quite when happy but cries horse when he’s been wronged.

Can you expect a genuine and professional communication from the top corporate brass as demanded by the social media? Social media demands that you talk to your publics the way Dale Carnegie wanted: listen more and talk less. And what companies do: They give this avoidable additional / marginal / secondary responsibility of dealing with social media to juniors who hire some self-proclaimed expert agency whose reps in turn fool the bosses with technicalities and jargons. So a flash-heavy but annoyingly uncaring website is created, a blog is associated with it, an account is opened on Facebook and a Twitter account is also sometimes added as top dressing. if some new fashionable platform opens up tomorrow, the agency will put that too and take credit for being up-to-date with the latest tech. What about content - is it written with the end user in mind? What about response to queries? What systems are in place to instantly respond in an understanding and helpful manner to every grievance? Has the company the humility and courage to say sorry if something did go wrong? The answer to such questions is seldom ‘yes’.

The Economic Times article lists a few ads that were seen as inappropriate. Till now there was hardly a forum available to the common viewer / listener / reader to protest against these, but social media has put the loudspeaker before him. The damage an angry consumer can do should be obvious, but even the big multi-nationals don’t care. Isn’t it because [as we said earlier] they are either dis-interested or ignorant to the level of being stupid?

For more social media discussions, do click here.

Cartoonist hanged: Aseem's blog

Aseem Trivedi is a dear blogger from India who has been sent to jail for sedition as he has drawn cartoon lampooning Indian politicians and the political and bureaucratic systems as well as showing deep contempt towards institutions such as parliament and national symbols.

It is ironical that his cartoon 'Cartoonist hanged: India 2050' has proved so prophetic though he himself might escape gallows. He had thought that in India ruled by some despot in 2050 might think it proper to hang a cartoonist - and he must have thought it too a rare possibility, that's why it became the subject of cartoon - but little did he realise that the governments of federal India and its States in 2012 have somehow turned as intolerant as the rulers of erstwhile USSR. Their frustration with public criticism emanates from the proverbial pigeons [of mis-governance] that have come to roost. So go against CAG, even Supreme Court, political opposition, authors, cartoonists, civil society activists, protesters...

It is not a stray case where a cranky fellow complained against a cartoonist and the police arrested him and the judge found merit in jailing him. It is a deep-rooted malaise that is only growing. In talking of national security yesterday in the DGPs' conference, honorable PM talked of the danger from social media and suffixed it with a customary 'all social media is not bad' statement. A sensible statesman, however big the provocation, should have said that all freedom of speech and expression is fine, and suffixed it with 'there are some black-sheep'.

We have checked the blog of Aseem, [forgive us if the link goes off, if the blog is blocked] but find that though his extreme contempt for parliament et al may offend some, what he is depicting is irreverence within 'reasonable' limits. Take irreverence out of creative arts and they lose much of their worth. Sad that India is not only making a laughing stock of itself, it is losing creativity, humour, tolerance and all the good that comes out of sharp criticism.

Update of March 2015: 
The Bombay High Court has, after hearing a Public Interest Litigation in Aseem's case, held that citizens have the right to criticize the government as long as it does not incite violence or public disorder. The government, it said, cannot slap sedition charges on citizens for making fair criticism. The court did not find wit, humour or sarcasm in Aseem's cartoons but said, that was no reason for curtailing his freedom of speech and expression.  

Search engine optimisation for blogs: html tweaking needed?

We conclude the series on SEO with this post. This post is written with those bloggers in mind who are not technology-minded and have been brainwashed into believing that SEO needs big-time html tweaking. So, before we go further, let’s debunk one big myth: that you should know html to optimise your blog fairly for search engines. The reality is that YOU NEED NOT KNOW ANY HTML FOR FAIRLY GOOD SEO! In fact, playing with html without knowing how various codes behave might make your blog non-functional. Btw, bloggers with a free blog on wordpress.com do not have the liberty to play with the html beyond a pale unless they upgrade their account. Blogger allows you to dissect the html the way you want, but cautions you to save a copy of the html of the blog before you touch it.

We at ITB do not do html tweaking beyond bare basics. It keeps us on high moral ground and we are sure search engines would not suspect us for undesirable or even unnatural SEO. It saves us from future algorithm changes to be made by search engines that might despise the present-day SEO practices. It also gives us time to devote on posts.
Fine. Lets’ move on.

Give the blog a fine title. The title appears on top of your blog and, depending upon your browser settings, as a line on top of the browser. Usually, it should not be longer than 60 characters. It MUST have one or more keywords but not in a way that they look spammy.
On WordPress, go to Settings>General>Site title
On Blogger, go to Settings>Basic>Title>Edit

Give the blog a relevant description. It will appear below the title and will guide the visitors more than the search engines more about your blog. Keep it relevant and let it have one or more keywords suitable to your blog.
On WordPress, go to Settings>General>Tagline
On Blogger, go to Settings>Basic>Description>Edit

Put proper anchor text. For linking, select the entire expression that you want to be the anchor text. If you need to change it later, Go to the editing window, re-select the text and re-link rather than playing with editing the earlier link.

Give sub-headings additional value in terms of SEO and also for guiding the reader.
For this, you can make the sub-heading bold, in a different color and or bigger size [not all three together]. You can also choose to use the inbuilt heading / sub-heading style from the editing menubar in Blogger.

Give a good alt tag and description to the image. These help the search engines. 
On WordPress, when you click on a ‘media’ [which includes images, pdf, MSoffice file types, etc], you get an editing popup screen that has boxes for inputting title, alternate text, description and caption.
On Blogger, click on the image on the blog-post, then click on ‘properties’ to enter alt-text and description.

Besides, give a suitable caption to associate the image with the accompanying text. The alt text and description will not interfere with the caption. 

Give links rel=“nofollow” feature if you don’t want to associate with such links.
On Blogger, open the post editing window. Click on the link anchor text, then click on ‘Link’ in the editing menubar. This will open a popup in which you will fill up the linked URL.  Under it, you have the ‘Add rel=“nofollow” attribute’ button. Click on it and then on ‘OK’.

Want to see how the html of your blog looks?

In layman’s terms, HTML is the base language in which all web-pages are composed. To see the way a page of your blog reads in html, right click anywhere on the blog. Choose ‘View Page Source’/ ‘View source’/ ‘Source’. To see how some of the actions you took on the blog’s editor affect the html, search for these expressions [to search something on a web-page, you just have to press control and F1 keys together.], starting with the top end:
title, meta, href, alt

The expression next to ‘title’, in quotes [=“ ”] will show the title of your blog.

On searching ‘meta’, you might get various expressions. Go to the one with ‘description’ written alongside. The expression within quotes is the meta description of the blog. Don’t worry if it is not there.

There will be as many ‘href’ expressions as there are links on the page. Look for links with this structure: <a href="...html">abcd</a> This entire expression is for linking something to something else. The URL within quotes is the destination URL and the text after it within > and < is the anchor text.

Have you been told, meta tags are necessary for improving search popularity?

You might have been advised to put meta tags in the html of your blog. We don’t recommend that unless you are quite familiar with html.

A meta tag is a hidden tag that occurs in the <HEAD> portion of an html document. It gives additional information about the html document. You need not give any meta tags other than those inbuilt in the blogging platform [WordPress, Blogger,...]. You might need a few of them if your blog is being run by a technical guy independent of a blogging platform. 

Need you bother about robots.txt and sitemap.xml?

No, unless your blog is being maintained as a site independent of a blogging platform such as WordPress and Blogger.

Measuring search engine and blog popularity stats

Blogger and WordPress both give stats in the blogging dashboard but their functionality is rather limited. In addition, if you are not on these platforms, you’ll need reliable tools from an authentic supplier for doing detailed analysis of visitors and search preferences relevant to your blog / website.  

Let us introduce you to two good companions of a long-term blogger, especially those interested in making money from blogging. These deal with (i)  the way your blog is surfed and (ii) the way the web is searched for topics related to your blog. Both are provided by Google and have free versions with enough arsenals.

Open a Google account if you don’t have one yet. Now log in and go to this site: Google AdWords. This has many free tools, and a very useful tool for finding relevant keywords for your blog is the keyword tool.  Go to ‘Tools and Analysis’, and then to ‘Keyword tool’ and put the keywords you feel are good for your blog. It will come out with interesting and useful keywords for you!

The second one is Google analytics. You can visit it by clicking here: Google analytics. You need to put an analytics code in the html of your blog as per instructions given on this site and it will track the visitors, country-, language-, technology- wise and in many other ways. In Worpress, there is a plugin available for this, under Settings menu.


Articles in this series:

Blogging tips on ethical SEO

What search engines love and what they hate

Use strong name n keywords to guide visitors, search engines to your blog

Use links and backlinks for blog value and SEO

Search engine optimisation for blogs: html tweaking needed? (present one)