May 29, 2012

Search engines optimization (SEO), the fake expert brigade and outright cheats

In your journey of blogging, you might have been tempted to ask friends and experts, and research the web about how to popularize your blog. If you are not a very established blogger, the question might still be in your mind.
Chances are that you heard almost the same advice on improving blog / website traffic from your friends and experts and read the same advice on the web. We won’t comment on friends and other real-life experts – you have to base your judgement on their expertise and sincerity on your and others’ experiences. As of the web, as we have cautioned earlier too, if it is full of helpful souls and experts, it also harbors thousands of cut-and-paste experts and people out to cheat you. In search of a money-making formula for themselves, they come across areas in which web-surfers are interested, and dish out useless, untrustworthy stuff. 

In some cases, fake SEO sites evolve a community around them. They support one another and bait gullible visitors with unrealistic claims and offers. They put guest posts and reviews on one another’s sites in which they cross-promote themselves. They also promote each other through laudatory comments, fake success stories, social networking... This trend has, of late, become rule rather than exception.

We will hasten to repeat that there are many genuine, well-meaning advisors on SEO and other website matters who are experts too. You should be able to differentiate between them and the fake ones if you are alert. The fake expert ones will usually have these characteristics: 
  • They make very tall claims. [e.g. I advised this to a friend who started getting a thousand visitors a day and earning a thousand dollars a month.] 
  • They look unprofessional by their website’s look, Google PR, visitor counts etc. The fake ones often have cut-and-paste advice; so, their text is likely to have variation in writing styles because they have cut and pasted matter from different sites. Some of them don’t even have the skills to keep their website professional in looks and free of language errors. 
  • They spread myths and pseudo-scientific arguments to make the visitor worry about his blog / website and feel that only by following their advice can he save it from failure. [e.g. Why do you fail to make money while John makes a thousand dollars  with a similar website?] 
  • They speak in generalities without telling you the logic behind the advice [because they don’t have the required expertise on the matter].
In addition, do remember these points:
  • Search engines keep changing their algorithms, and the specific advice given in even genuine websites would be outdated within a few months if it were not kept up-to-date.
  • Search engines work hard to make their searches more relevant; they are not bothered whether your site did something special by way of SEO. In fact, they are more likely to frown upon excessive and unnatural SEO practices and people trying to fool them. 
  • Link exchanges, cross-comments on one another’s blogs, submitting to directories, putting badges, etc are fine as long as they do not result in spamming and link-‘farming’. But be wary of people who offer thousands of ‘high PR links’ for a few dollars or link exchanges that promise thousands of genuine back-links to your blog: chances are that they will make Google penalize you for inappropriate ways of link-building.
So, what is the takeaway from this short discussion? 
Go for traffic building and monetization if you want to be popular and earn money, by applying sound principles. Quality matters a great deal in the long run in giving your blog popularity – so, concentrate on the quality of blog content. Then, be patient; don’t rush to make money at the cost of quality and visitors’ trust.

May 21, 2012


A multi-dimensional blog by Usha Srikumar

Usha Srikumar's Musings

In this blog of mine,I showcase all my passions and talents- in traditional and contemporary arts and crafts like Tanjore paintings, Kerala murals, Madhubani paintings, oil paintings, 3-d murals, glass paintings and more...

In this blog I also showcase my other passion – cookery.

Moreover, I sound off my thoughts, feelings and ideas through MY MUSINGS on various subjects that touch my heart everyday.

May 11, 2012

June 2012 blog ranking parameters

It is mid-May already and we are in the midst of ranking Indian blogs for our second Ranking of Best Indian Blogs due end of June. Thought, let’s clear the rules of the game before the results are out. We feel even more accountable this year as a large number of visitors have reposed their faith on us by visiting us and sending emails with appreciation, submissions and suggestions.

We are going to be much more strict this time than we were while compiling last year’s blog rankings  because despite the much bigger Directory [from which we select the blogs for ranking] we’d like to restrict the total number of blogs selected in Platinum, Gold and Excellent categories to 100.

We find that some types of blogs tend to dominate the blogosphere in quality, display, regularity and other parameters, and if we apply uniform criteria, we’d have a large number of blogs from these niches only. So we are restricting the number of blogs in each of the following categories to 5:
•    Blogs  by columnists
•    Blogs by celebrities
•    Blogs on cooking
•    Information Technology blogs
•    Travel blogs

The following are the criteria we are applying:

The blog should have high quality content. We are conscious that content would have different standards in the case of different categories of blogs, and therefore we check blogs again and again to ensure that blogs with overall high quality of content and the best quality of content in their category get a rank. Content quality includes the quality of information and thought, readability, correctness of language and proper treatment of non-English content, but is not limited to these parameters.

The blog should be maintained regularly. We have filtered out blogs that have not been updated every month in the last twelve months [May 2011-April 2012]. We'd give a concession of one month if a blog is very regular but for some reason could not be updated in one month out of the twelve mentioned above. It should have at least 5 postings in the immediately preceding and following months.

Though we have a milder criterion for inclusion in the Directory of Best Indian Blogs, we believe that a blog – however good it may be in presentation and content – does not deserve to get a rank if it is not updated even once in a month.

The blog should have a good quantum of original resources. What we look for is the number of original content in the form of posts, photographs [photblogs, travel blogs, blogs showing a process, etc], other graphics [arts, cartoons] and so on. We’d also appreciate content – even if not always original - presented in a thoughtful way.

The blog should have a minimum standard of navigational ease. We are looking at each blog for ease of navigation, by way of use of menu bars, labels, widgets, etc. For example, if a blog’s opening screen / ‘ top 10” / ‘above the fold’ is confusing / cluttered and does not guide the viewer well about the blog, we downgrade the blog on this parameter.

The blog should have a minimum Google Page Rank of 2. We are using Google PR for filtering blogs because Google is known to be applying a number of criteria for calculating the PR. Two is not too demanding a value but it takes care of blogs that look good and have good content but have issues relating to age, relevance, community appreciation, etc.

The blogger should have taken care of the blog’s upkeep. We are not downgrading a blog for its simple, no-nonsense, approach to layout and design; however, we intend rewarding bloggers who maintain their blog with as much consideration as a good house-keeper has for her drawing room.

In addition, we’ll use the following for last-leg filtering of blogs to further lift the standards of blog ranking:
•    The blog should have a pleasing display.
•    It should not take too much time to load.
•    It should have at least some interactivity in the form of comments. We’d be happy with 12 comments, excluding the blogger’s responses, in the last 12 months.
•    It should not be too cluttered, especially with irrelevant widgets and advertisements.
•    It should maintain decency in text as well as various forms of display and audio.

We are currently not in a position to include blogs other than Indian blogs for our blog rankings. 
UPDATE: The Indian blog rankings came out in June 2012 as scheduled.

May 2, 2012

Review your website or blog in a few minutes!

Though we continue to review blogs in detail, our limitation of time makes the queue very long. So we are giving a small check-list below, which you can use to analyse your blog for key factors.

If you like, you can play an interesting scoring game: Give your website marks on each question given below:  the marks should be between the numbers given against the question [e.g. -2 to 8]. Give yourself a pat on the cheek if you score more than 80 out of 100. There might be something horrible with the website / blog if you score less than 50. You can have a score of -68 too if you really try hard.

The 26 rapidfire blogging questions

  1. Is your website / blog pleasing and soothing?  0 to 10
  2. Does your content communicate well with the reader? Do you care to write original content? Is your writing style appropriate for the subject? [Corresponding questions in the case of photos.] 0 to 10
  3. Does the opening screen show up the best content in the blog / website [i.e. the visitor does not have to scroll down to find things he’s looking for]? 0 to 9
  4. Are your posts relevant to the main theme of the website / blog? -2 to 8
  5. Do you proof-read posts and check them for grammar before pressing the ‘publish’ button?  -3 to 6
  6. Do you post at a frequency adequate for your type of blog? [Say, daily for a news blog and once a fortnight for a food blog.] 0 to 7
  7. Is your title catchy, and has a crisp and relevant description under it? 0 to 7
  8. Have you put labels on posts and used categorization / labeling properly? Have you made the best use of menu-bar and archives? 0 to 7
  9. Is your text properly readable to a person with slightly poor eyesight and on a bit bright/ dull screen? [Do look at color, contrast, font type and size.] 0 to 7
  10. Are your posts of adequate size? Have you shortened long posts with ‘jump break’? 0 to 6
  11. Is the page length not too long, and width no bigger than about 1200 pixels? 0 to 5
  12. Do you care to respond to comments? -3 to 5
  13. Have you used proper script for long passages of non-English text? -5 to 3
  14. Do you use images in posts [for blogs other than photoblogs] / you give relevant text alongside images [photoblogs]? 0 to 5
  15. Have you put a favicon on the website? 0 to 3
  16. Does your website have a moving element [e.g. video, slide-show, flash animation] that does not allow the visitor to move forward till it has played out? -8 to 0
  17. Does your website play music without user’s permission? [And there is no prominent button to stop it?] -8 to 0
  18. Is your website free from irritants such as distracting animations and pop-ups? -5 to 0
  19. Have you stuffed the blog with irritating SEO tricks? -5 to 0
  20. Does the site have widgets that, when clicked, lead to subscription sites? -5 to 0
  21. Have you kept too many and too bulky images and videos on the site? -5 to 0
  22. Have you stuffed the website / blog with too many and irrelevant widgets and social media icons? -5 to 0
  23. Do you brag too much in ‘about me’, by sermonizing, by egotistical writing? Are you too self-centred? -4 to 2
  24. Does the website have too many advertisements? -4 to 0
  25. Are there too many jerky and contrasting shifts in text coloration and size, images, etc on the site? -3 to 0
  26. Do you ask for registration without much reason or make commenting too much difficult? -3 to 0
Be experimental, but be sensible

These are general points to check, and some types of websites and blogs will do good if they experiment with chaos while keeping the basics in mind. Why not have loud music at the very instant the website opens if the site is one on rock music? Who says there won’t be technical terms on a website / blog on a medical condition? Only a mad guy will say that a kid’s blog should look as serious as a grandpa’s.

You must experiment, show your bubbling side on your personal blog, break rules, declare rebellion. What we humbly  advocate is common-sense approach towards a website / blog -  to use various elements, tools and information sensibly, and not abuse or misuse them.

The final test of a website / blog is: whether your visitors will like it and will the site serve the purpose for which they visit it. If you score 100 here, you have the liberty to ignore the score you’ve obtained by answering the questions above.