Tumblr is banning porn on 17 December. That is good for the blogging world, but is that good for Tumblr?

Tumblr has announced that it is going to ban adult content on the platform that has millions of visitors thronging to it for adult content. It already seems to have filtered quite a few, and on 17th December 2018 it would take down all adult content and will not allow any further posting of such content.

Tumblr CEO Jeff says, the action would  lead to "a better, more positive Tumblr".

The ban or filtering out will impact images and videos while written content is likely to survive. On its site, it advises: Adult Content. Don't upload images, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples —this includes content that is so photorealistic that it could be mistaken for featuring real-life humans (nice try, though). Certain types of artistic, educational, newsworthy, or political content featuring nudity are fine. Don’t upload any content, including images, videos, GIFs, or illustrations, that depicts sex acts.

It is not that Tumblr does not have other types of blogs. In fact, the blogging platform buzzes with blogs of celebrities and serious bloggers. There is a lot of fun and creative content that is not of 'adult' type. However, due to its lax policies towards porn and other explicit content, the platform made it easy for bloggers to anonymously share such content. That suited children who could avoid their parents' prying eyes.

It is reported that many private, public or limited-access websites have started getting more attention since the news about Tumblr's impending action was announced last week. Especially the creators of erotica are supposed to be keen on finding other platforms for their business.

It is also being argued whether Tumblr's action will deprive it of the huge traffic it had been getting due to prepalence of explicit content. If that happens, the platform might not sustain as bloggers would then choose more feature-rich platforms such as Blogger and Wordpress or go staight to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

It is notable that Tumblr had so far evaded demands for making the platform more strict on adult content. Even when Indonesian government asked it to remove such content or close shop in Indonesia, 9 motnhs back, Tumblr did not agree to remove the content.

What are Google Penalties and how to avoid them in SEO?

What exactly constitutes undesirable actions in the eyes of different search engines is not fully documented. Yet, search engine optimization (SEO) experts have found out what is considered unethical/ undesirable. Some insights have also come also from people within Google, particularly Matt Cutts, the head of Google's Webspam unit. 

By common sense, the SEO actions that are deceitful and excessive are not liked by search engines because these go against search engines' aim of serving the most appropriate results in response to search queries.

We had earlier posted a summary of Google's website rating guidelines (discussed below in brief). These guidelines indirectly - but clearly - tell us what are good and bad actions relating to search optimization of websites.  

We have talked of good SEO actions numerous times. In the present post, let us talk about the bad SEO actions - the ones known to invite penalties from search engines. Some of these actions look innocuous  and harmless, but search engines tend to penalize websites for such actions because unethical SEO guys use and abuse these actions. That's why it is important for bloggers and other website owners to be aware of such actions and avoid them.


Google penalty is downgrading of a website or webpage on Google search. It can be in the form of de-indexing of a page or less importance being given to the page so that it goes down in search results. 

Google penalizes websites when its algorithm finds something fishy about the website/ webpage. Google also regularly carries out manual review of websites and imposes strict penalties when it discovers wrong actions.

In most cases, Google penalties occur due to black-hat (=wrong) SEO actions taken by the blogger/ website-owner. So, if you do not take any such action, the chances of your getting a penalty are low. 

However, sometimes competitors can take such actions anonymously so as to pull down your blog/ website. For example, the competitor may post comments on shady sites on your behalf.  

It may also happen that if you kept sending emails to recipients who do not want your email, they may report negatively about it in thier social circles or to search engines. That would raise a red flag about your actions.

Sometimes, a Google penalty can occur due to Google changing its policies about what is an undesirable SEO action. In this case, innocent and well-meaning websites/ blogs too suffer. That is unfortunate but a part of one's web life. 


Let's quickly see what actions (deliberate or by mistake, it doesn't matter) are likely to get a slap from search engines:

When links come from shady sites. Shady sites may link to you by posting comments on your site or send backlinks to your site. The shady websites can be spamming sites, useless sites linking to good sites for improving their credibility, sites promoting unacceptable content (e.g. porn) etc. Such links are not liked by search engines because these sites have very low reputation.

When cross-linking gets excessive. Search engines do not like multiple sites being opened to promote one another. 

Excessive and unnatural cross-linking also happens when you participate in link exchanges or link farms: a platform registers a number of bloggers/ website owners and rewards them when they send link to or comment on other sites on the platform. This way, hundreds of sites get links and comments from hundreds of other sites. 

Private blog networks or PBNs. In these cases, a network of websites is created by a SEO operator by buying websites and blogs that are no longer updated but have their reputation intact because of earlier postings. These are then used as link exchanges. The PBN operator sells membership to new website owners and promises links from such old blogs/ websites. 

Since PBN websites are kept alive with new content and are carefully chosen for sending links to related websites/ blogs, it is difficult for search engines to discover them through automation. However, when PBNs are discovered, they are likely to get severe penalty. 

Deceptive links. Links made just for search engines and not to help visitors in getting good references come in this category. Some people think that hiding links by making the text very small or in background color would get them 'link juice' without irritating visitors. But this is highly despised by search engines. 

Similarly, linking without relevance (as is mostly seen with text links), links pointing to advertisements, too many links, anchor text that are unnatural and do not flow with the rest of the content, etc are recipes for getting penalties from Google and other search engines. 

Links meant to manipulate. When links are given so as to seek favor or when links are solicited, that also raises eyebrows of search engines because that such linking is also artificial and undesirable.

Bad external links. This might not be too much a bother when there is a genuine purpose, but are likely to incur Google penalty when they are meant to impress search engines. For example, if you maintain a directory on your blog, there might be all types of links on the directory page; perhaps Google will understand that. However if you have a blog on which you have numerous links to all types of unrelated sites, that raises suspicion - especially if the links are to shady sites. 

What you can do when you need to give links to bad sites (e.g. when you want to caution your visitors against such sites) is to no-follow such links. If this concept is new to  you, it works like this: When you give a link to another webpage, it means that you endorse that link or webpage. Such links are called dofollow links. On the other hand, when you add rel=“nofollow” attribute in the HTML of the link, it becomes nofollow link (e.g. <a href=abc.com rel="nofollow">) and search engines do not consider it as an endorsement.

google penalty
Google is watching yourbad SEO actions!


Surprising as it might look, Google loves search engine optimization! It likes people taking such actions on their websites that would make the websites relevant to search queries - and ethical SEO actions come handy for that.

Google keeps giving guidance on search engine optimization, and its latest SEO guidelines are linked here. The linked article also guides how and when to hire an SEO expert. Coming directly from Google, these are the most authentic set of guidelines and you should go no further if you are seeking information and actionable points on SEO.

Another epic set of guidelines from Google are its 'search quality rating guidelines'. These are meant for quality rating carried out internally by Google and are not directly SEO guidelines. Yet, they provide a minefull of insight into how Google thinks about SEO. In the post linked here, Top Blogs has made a focused and actionable summary of these excellent search guidelines.

These linked articles explain what to DO - and we need not repeat that here. They also gives best practices to specific aspects and also what to avoid. However, they do not talk about penalties that might arise due to wrong use of SEO actions and how to avoid these penalties. These are nothing but the opposite of what constitutes penalties. Let's quickly visit them:
  • Do not put external links of this type on a web page: 1. links that are unrelated to the subject; 2. links to shady sites.
  • Do not put links that are unnatural: 1. hidden links; 2. links that point to unrelated pages; 3. links that take visitor to advertisements.
  • Do not go for this type of linking: 1. when links from first site promote a second  site and the other way round; 2. circular or complicated routing of links among different sites; 3. many sites promoting one site (including PBN networks); 4. many sites promoting each other as part of a link exchange or link farm.
  • Take care to: 1. not have too many links on webpages; 2. not repeat exact anchor text within the same webpage; 3. not get backlinks from shady sites.
  • Audit your site once in a while for link reputation, and remove bad links. A simple way to audit links is to register your website with Google Search Console, copy links and manually check them for being genuine and relevant. Remove all suspicious or irrelevant links.
  • Finally, detox your website or blog by continuously writing good, useful content. This will help Google or other search engines to not penalize your site when others hurt it by way of black-hat SEO on your behalf.

Get free web hosting, yet run your blog with independent domain name!

How much do you need to maintain a good website or blog?

Thanks to Google, which runs the Blogger blogging platform, very little.

Please note that we are not talking about a huge website with ecommerce or huge data sharing. We are also not talking about a blog like the Huffington Post, which employs hundreds of employees to maintain it. We are talking about a nice looking website or blog, which is regularly updated and has hundreds of posts with photos and occasional videos too.

Blogger provides free web hosting to even blogs with an independent domain name!

When you open a blog on Blogger, it gives you a blog address (e.g. example.blogspot.com) and hosts it free for you. There are limits to how much you can post and store on Blogger, but these are big enough for a blogger not into blogging for business. For example, you can post as many posts as you like but not more than 50 a day (most good blogger publish 2-4 posts a week); and your photo storage is limited to 15 GB. With the photos getting compressed in Google Photos, this is quite good space. Besides, small photos do not count towards your space limit.

What you need to do is to buy a relevant and good domain name. You can choose any (e.g. GoDaddy). But Google can help you choose one (on the blog, go to Dashboard> Settings> Blog Address>Set up a third party URL for your blog). In both cases, you have to BUY the domain name (=your website/ blog address) and keep renewing it year after year. This is the only expenditure you incur and your blog remains hosted on Blogger servers, and you continue to use all Blogger tools.

When you go to the given link on Blogger (Blog Dashboard> Settings> Blog Address>Set up a third party URL for your blog), it asks you for the new domain name or offers to get one on payment. You choose the option, give it an independent name and that's it. Now your blog example.blogspot.com becomes example.com. You have got free web hosting while having an independent domain name: great, isn't it?

Free web hosting for Blogger blogs

There are numerous advantages of letting Google host your blog, and these include: no botheration of the blog's security, very small chance of it getting hacked, free HTTPS security, and use of the latest web technology. In addition, you can earn from the blog by publishing different types of ads.

The other big free blogging platform, Wordpress, also allows you this facility of mapping your example.wordpress.com blog with an independent domain name, but charges you for that!

Do you earn well from blogging? If not, you may be ignoring something so simple!

When people starts blogging with a view to earn from the blog, they feel that it should be very easy. After all, if one puts a large number of ads on the blog and does search engine optimization, there should be no reason that many people would visit his blogs, click on the ads and the blogger would earn handsomely.

When after a long period of toil, such bloggers do not earn enough, the hard reality dons on them. Experts who have analyzed why some bloggers earn big and some don't have found that the basic formula remains the same. It is that only a few bloggers apply the formula correctly. 

The earning formula for bloggers is not that difficult

In one sentence, the formula is just this: the total earning is the multiplication of the number of visitors and actions taken by them! It is so simple, and yet let's see how it works - or why it does not work. 

For example, take two numbers, X and Y whose values can be from 0 to 10. Thus, their multiplication can result a maximum of 100. Now suppose you cannot raise the value of Y beyond 3, their product can be now cannot be more than 30. So, you can get only 30% of the potential if you do not allow one of the numbers to go all up to 10. This is what happens in most cases of blogging. The blogger works hard in one area but ignores the other - the end result is much less than 100%.

In the graphic given here, we have broken the basic formula into two. This results in three sets of actions you need to take. If any of them is weak, the product or the total earnings will be badly affected. You need to see see which of the areas you are ignoring and take the required action. In each set, we have also given actions that you can take but the lists are not exhaustive. 

You got the point? You might be creating awesome content, but not promoting enough... or writing and promoting enough but working in a poorly paying niche... or working hard to optimize and promote but creating very ordinary content. 

In essence, if your blog is not earning good for you, you need to check which area of activity you have been ignoring. Improve that by 50% and your results will be double. Isn't the formula so simple and yet so much ignores?

Here you go!

make money from blogging

India's best literary blogs in 2018

We issued the list of best literary blogs in India last year and received good response from readers. The following list is that of best Indian English literary blogs in 2018.

We have discussed our observations of Indian literary blogging scene in the last post linked here. They still hold good. In the present one, we just update the list. Hope you find the blogs rich in content.

Blogs are arranged according to the operative part of their URL, in alphabetical order. Each entry contains the URL with link - blog title - short description.


abhijitbhaduri - Abhijit Bhaduri - author of leadership books
abhinavagarwal - Abhinav Agarwal - musings, book reviews
akswrites - The Untold Stories - musings, short fiction
anieshabrahma - Aniesha's Musings - musings, fiction, book reviews
anureviews - Anu Reviews
- big collection of book reviews
artofleo - I Rhyme Without Reason - musings, book reviews
bookgeeks - bookGeeks - book reviews, author interviews

cynthology - A few drops of ink - book reviews
ddsreviews - b00k r3vi3ws - a large collection of book reviews

devikafernando - Devika Fernando - author blog of the romance fiction writer
geetaavij - Fabric of Life - book reviews
inderpreetuppal - Inderpreet's Eloquent Articulation - musings, fiction, book reviews

jaiarjun - Jabberwock - book reviews
kaapitimes - Hot Cup of Kaapi - musings, book reviews

knownturf - Known Turf - author blog of the literary writer, some book reviews
literarism - Literarism - curation of literary articles in English
maniparna - Scattered Thoughts - some book reviews (besides other things)
meotherwise - Me Otherwise - musings, book reviews
nishitak - Nishita's Rants and Raves - lifestyle blog with many book reviews too
privytrifles - The Book Elf - a large collection of book reviews

readingonarainyday - Reading on a Rainy Day - musings, good collection of book reviews
saffrontree - Saffron Tree - a massive collection of children's book reviews
saurabhchawla - Saurabh's Lounge - stories, book reviews
shanayatales - Shanaya Tales - lifestyle blog with book reviews
soumya-hintofme - LOL: Life Of Leo - musings, book reviews
sundarivenkatraman - Flaming Sun - author's book blog of romance fiction writer
tabularasabookblog - Tabula Rasa - book reviews
thereaderscosmos - The Readers Cosmos - book reviews, author interviews

thisislitblog - This is Lit - good collection of book reviews
uspandey - One Grain Amongst the Storm - fiction, poetry, musings

vishytheknight - Vishy's Blog - good collection of book reviews

How to make money by putting Adsense ads on your blog

When you start a blog, you do so either as a hobby - just to put your thoughts into it OR you make the blog to earn money out of it. Earlier, most people created blogs for the first reason, but now the trend is towards trying to make money out of blogging. 

AdSense becomes very important for bloggers who want to earn from blogging, because it is one of the easiest ways to monetize one's blog - even with a free blog and without spending a penny on hosting, web designing etc.

There are thousands of posts on the web on AdSense. In this post, we have tried to answer most questions that bloggers face, and the tips given here will work well in 2018 and next few years. Because the post is an all-in-one post on AdSense, it has become quite big. So, we have divided it into two parts. If you are new to AdSense, you would want to learn as much as you can: if so, continue reading the rest of the post. If you already have AdSense on your blog or are interested  only in tips on maximizing your blog's Adsense income, jump to this  section:
What must be done so that AdSense really earns dollars for you.

What is AdSense

AdSense is an advertisement network run by Google, through which advertisers can place their ads on websites. In November 2018, it is reported to be serving nearly two million websites, including blogs!

The process of putting AdSense and earning from it can be summarized like this: Advertisers register on AdSense site and tell it to serve their ads on different websites. They also set their budget for the ad campaign and tell AdSense how much it should pay to the website owner/ blogger when someone sees or clicks on the ad. On the other side, bloggers and website owners register on the same AdSense site for placing advertisements on their blogs/ websites. Once AdSense approves his application, the blogger specifies what type of advertisements he want on webpages (advertisements are available in different shapes, sizes, colors, choice of picture, etc) and in which places (top, bottom, sidebars). When the ads are published on webpages and visitors click on them, Google pays to the blogger/ website owner at a rate that is determined based on many factors - the most important being how much cost the advertiser has fixed for one click. 

Let's talk more on these one by one, but before that: does your blog qualify for AdSense?

Does my blog qualify for AdSense? If not, why?

When you apply for AdSense, it is usually approved by Google within a day or week. But a number of bloggers see their applications rejected. Some reasons for rejection of AdSense application are given below:

  • technical reasons (e.g. not filling the application form properly or not putting the AdSense code on the blog)
  • very new blog
  • not enough content
  • content of very poor quality

Even when the blog is initially approved for AdSense, Google can reject the blog later if it finds that the blog is not following Google's policies. The common actions disliked by Google on AdSense are:

  • using improper means to bring traffic to the blog
  • clicking on own ads
  • soliciting clicks
  • using copy-pasted content from others' websites/ blogs
  • putting inappropriate content, e.g. pornographic material

Don't worry. If your blog is not getting approval or has been rejected later on, you can take corrective actions to get your blog approved. Please visit this Top Blogs link for more details:    How to overcome AdSense rejection

Please note that you can use AdSense only when you have the permission to alter the HTML code of your blog. Blogger platform allows that very easily. You can also put AdSense ads on Tumblr blog too. Wordpress, Medium and LiveJournal free blogs do not have this facility. Paid blogging platforms such as Ghost allow AdSense because you can modify your blog's HTML. You can put AdSense ads on any blog or website that is self-hosted (= created through any content management system (CMS) such as wordpress.org, Joomla, Drupal; or through website builders; or through HTML tools and then hosted on a web host).

Steps for opening AdSense account and putting ads on your blog

  • Go to this site: AdSense: start
  • Open your account; signup by filling all the required details. Copy the code offered. [If you already have a Google account, you can use that for AdSense also.]
  • Copy code and paste it in the <head> section of your website/ blog. Follow these steps for this:
  • On Blogger blogs, it is very simple: on the dashboard, go to Theme, then open theme editor. Look for </head> in the HTML. Just before this tag, paste the code. After that, go to Layout and put the desired ad either between blog posts or as a gadget (=widget) anywhere on the blog.
  • On other websites/ blogs, after you have placed the code before </head> tag, you need to go to your AdSense account, to to 'Ad units' and create new ad units of whatever size, shape and color you want. Then you copy the given code and past it on the HTML of the website/ blog at the location you want.
  • If your blog is not on Blogger platform and you do not have the confidence to manipulate the blog's HTML, look for a plugin that might be there for placement of AdSense or HTML or Javascript on the blog. Most website builders, CMSs and premium Wordpress plans have plugins for this purpose.

In 2018, Google has come out with a system of automatic placement of advertisements using the Auto ads facility: if you opt for this, you do not have to bother where the ads will appear on the blog because using its artificial intelligence tools, Google will decide the best placement for AdSense ads on your blog. This option is available in the AdSense account: 'Auto Ads' is just below 'Ads' on the dashboard.  

adsense on blog
Ads can be posted at different places on the blog.


AdSense advertisements are everywhere, but not many people earn handsomely from their blogs by using AdSense. There are many reasons for that, and if you are an established blogger and still not earning good from AdSense, you must pay attention to the minutest detail of your blog and the way ads have been placed on your blog and take necessary corrective actions.

How to make the best use of AdSense

For great AdSense earnings, you need good traffic and also people clicking on the ads. If you can crack both, you have the key to success. But if you lack in one, the other one cannot compensate for that. Mind it, the second one is more important than the first!

Good traffic would mean that a large number of people who are interested in the blog's content visit the blog. There are a dozen ways to get good traffic. You need to:

  • Have the blog in the right niche, i.e. talking about the subject that gets good traffic. If your blog talks about a very narrow subject, not many people would come there naturally. So, a niche with good to high traffic is the first requirement.
  • Write quality content. If  you have a photoblog, have your best photos there. If your blog is a curation of others' content or is a news blog, showcase the most interesting things on top of the blog. This may not help too much in getting traffic directly, but it gets indirect traffic as visitors bookmark and share the blog/ post and refer it to others. It also makes people stay on the blog longer.
  • Optimize the blog for search engines, i.e. SEO. For better search traffic, each post has to be optimized for keywords that get good traffic but do not face too much competition. A bit of research is required here because high-traffic keywords have already been optimized to the hilt by others. Many SEO experts suggest that if you are not getting much search traffic, you should go for extra long keywords and target small audiences - this way, you come on top of at least some search pages and get traffic from them. In addition, getting good references from others (e.g. back links on other blogs, sharing on social media) is necessary for a blog for its moving up on the search pages.
  • Cross-post on social media. You must re-purpose your posts' content on social media. Do not copy-paste but make 2-3 tweets out of each post, make a short post for Facebook, one for LinkedIn (or whichever social platform suits your type of blog) and give links back to the main post. However, do not expect enough traffic from social media unless you are quite active there or have many followers. Social platforms often try to serve promoted (=paid for) posts more than organic ones and Facebook does not even serve your page's posts to all your followers if you do not promote the post.
  • Offer feed or subscription so that people regularly read your blog. Send regular emails to people who subscribe to your blog. Promote the blog's individual posts among your acquaintances who would be interested in that content.
  • Go for paid promotion. If nothing else works, advertise your blog on social media and websites. Ads served by Google, Facebook and Twitter are among the easiest methods to publicize the blog on the web.

There also are many ways to make people click on the ads. Consider these:

  • Make visitors stay longer on the blog. For this, your headlines need to catch attention and the content needs to be engaging.  As said earlier, good content not only attracts traffic, it makes people read it and thus stay longer on the blog. You can increase the time of stay also by putting images, videos and infographics.
  • Induce people to click on ads. While soliciting clicks is not allowed, you can induce visitors to click on ads by putting focused content ( to increase the probability that visitors are served relevant ads) and then suggesting action that would make them feel like checking out the ads. (e.g. on a post on cameras, visitors can be told to check the latest offers from different brands and compare them according to the sensor size. There is a good probability that the post would get AdSense ads on cameras... and the visitor might feel that he should check the sensor size of the cameras being advertised.) 
  • Don't go overboard with advertisements. Placing too many ads and from many advertisers may invite AdSense penalty. Even if that does not happen, visitors might get irritated and may decide not to stay longer on the blog.
  • Optimize ads. AdSense itself has many options (Go to dashboard and click on 'My ads'). You may want to avoid ads of certain types. You can think of placing large ads at prominent locations on the blog. You could also think of running A/B test [You let AdSense serve different ads at different places on your blog to different visitors and after some days, it would tell you which ones were clicked more.] There are other options worth looking and optimizing the blog for AdSense.
  • Go for Auto ads. This new feature does the work of proper sizing and placement of ads on your blog. So, if you do not want to experiment with size and placement of ads, this option would suit you.

How much can I earn from AdSense on my blog

If you have your blog in the right niche and you take right actions for traffic, optimization, content etc as well as proper placement of AdSense ads on your blog, you can earn handsomely from the blog. Google does not allow sharing earning data, so we cannot share our data. But if you search for AdSense income on Google, you will find some reports of bloggers earning over $10,000 a month from their blogs! Even if you discount exaggerated claims, there seems to be good scope of earning if you take the right actions. You can safely fix the target of a few thousand dollars a year. 

Is AdSense enough for earning from the blog?

Depends. If the blog is only a supplementary source of income, AdSense alone may do the job. However, many successful bloggers who earn their livelihood from blogging have reported that they do not depend entirely on AdSense, because it cannot earn you beyond a point however much you optimize your blog for it. So, if you want the blog to earn enough like a full-time enterprise, you must also think of other streams of earning, e.g. affiliate advertisements, product reviews, etc. In fact, the top bloggers do not depend upon the blog fully for earning. They make the blog the center of all their earning activities and add non-blogging activities such as selling courses to supplement blogging income.

    We cleaned 'Top Blogs'. Will it boost SEO and relevant traffic?

    When we blog for a long time, the blog amasses huge amount of resources. Like we keep buying furniture, furnishings and other products, and after some years the house is full of them. 

    One thing that not all families do, or have the courage to do, is cleaning the house of old items that have outlived their utility. Only savvy people do that, and their houses are less cluttered,  more efficiently arranged, more livable and better looking. 

    Recently we realized that over years we at Top Blogs have created massive content - over 720 posts and a dozen pages. Some posts were important at the time they were written but have lost relevance now. We have showcased a hundred blogs and have now found that many of them are no longer updated. So, we thought we'd clean Top Blogs of old baggage.

    What we are doing to make the website lean and more focused on content


    cleaning blogs improves SEO

    • Removed all comments. We found that in some pages (especially the blog directories), we have over a thousand comments. Only a few of them are spam but we think that keeping comments of 2011 vintage and in such large numbers do not serve any purpose. 
    • No more comments under the posts. But there is a comment form now. We would still love to engage with visitors and friends with whom we have long relationship. Such blogger friends and casual visitors can comment through the form or write to us at kp.nd.2008@gmail.com.
    • Removing showcased blog that have gone bad. 
    • Updating old posts that are still relevant but some information has become obsolete or new technological developments have taken place in the mean time.
    • Removing old posts that were transitional, like calling for entries for the next edition of blog directory. But we are retaining those which have good information that gives perspective of old times (e.g. how has Hindi blogosphere grown over the years).
    • Merging posts when similar content has been posted year after year on a sub-topic, and then updating the merged post with the latest information.
    • We are continuing with badges for directories on demand from bloggers but we are not too keen to continue them in future.


    Lessons learnt: cleaning helps improve search optimization

    • Though SEO experts would have different opinions, we believe that a too heavy blog becomes thin in focused content and therefore becomes less search optimized. There may be some loss in terms of number of indexed pages on Google and Bing, and some backlinks going waste, but that would be compensated by density of good content. This is because when there is more valuable content in a blog, there is likelihood of better click through rate (CTR) and a lower bounce rate - both good from the point of SEO as well visitors' satisfaction.
    • When the blog has numerous posts, the fresh content can be lost in the crowd. Old pages might compete with new pages in the indexes of search engines. If old ones come high on search result pages, the searcher may be put off because he is served old pages with information/ advice that is no longer useful.
    • Navigation of the blog improves when the number of posts on various sub-topics are not too many.
    • In fact, we have seen good improvement in search ranking of Top Blogs and even in AdSense earnings within a few weeks. 
    • However, be careful in removing old content. A sample study revealed that many of our old posts have been linked on the homepage of many bloggers; thus, if we remove them, those bloggers will have a 'broken link' which will look bad. Moreover, many times some old posts have been linked on new posts. If we decide to remove these old posts, we must also remove links to them.
    • Comments are good for engagement. However, when they become too many - and when most of them are of  'nice information' or 'thanks for including my blog in the directory' type - they lose value. If some people put valuable comments, they also are lost in the crowd.
    • Badges and cross links are not good for SEO. Bloggers should issue badges only to help others in getting value for their blogs. As a blogger who wants to put others' badges on his/ her blog, you must avoid placing badges from shady sites or blogs with very low value. 

    This process is likely to go on for a few months. We would share actual gain or loss in terms of relevant traffic, domain authority, position in search pages etc sometime in early 2019. In the meanwhile we won't publish social media updates except when something too big happens.

    How to earn money from blog by reviewing products and services

    We see reviews of products and services on a very large number of blogs. However, for earning from the blog using reviews, this task is to be done professionally. Let's see how. 

    If you are a blogger who has already been doing reviews but his/ her reviews are not getting good results in terms of engagement, traffic or earning, please jump to this section: Why is my review blog not earning traffic and money?

    We would start with a bit of theory for new bloggers because a strong conceptual base helps in taking right decisions. However, if you are in a hurry, browse headings and move on to the actionable points that suit you.

    What are reviews on blogs and what products are best suited for reviews?

    Product reviews are nothing but articles about products (or services) produced and offered by others. You can review on your blog anything that people sell and buy.

    Reviewing of products is one of the best earning streams for bloggers. As we have said earlier, reviewing of products and services is easier than many other ways of earning from blogging, but needs a professional approach. 

    The following are most obvious products and services that are amenable to reviews on blogs:

    • food products
    • restaurants and hotels
    • travel packages
    • beauty and health products
    • gadgetry and equipment
    • books
    • movies
    • website hosting services 
    • online services
    This list is far from exhaustive. In fact, there are numerous narrow niches (e.g. 'ethnic jewellery' or 'musical instruments') in which reviews could be more rewarding because (i) there is less competition from advertisers and bloggers, and (ii) people interested in such specific items are likely to be real buyers. 

    What must a product/ service review contain? 

    A well-rounded review should have these elements:

    • general description of the product/ service and its utility
    • photographs
    • technical details/ chemical composition/ dimensions
    • availability and price: how to purchase/ obtain; if discounts etc available 
    • unique selling points: why should one buy this product/ service
    • references: expert views of others/ preface in case of book reviews/ quotes from the book
    • negative points: high price (it can be turned into a positive point in sponsored reviews)/ something that could have been better
    • comparison with similar products/ services
    • precautions in use
    • disclaimer: your relationship with the seller/ whether you were paid for the review
    You can review a particular product or a set of related products. You can also compare competing products one by one or side by side (as in a table) and also give them ranking. Many review bloggers also bring out lists of best products (e.g. 5 best digital photo frames) and explain why the selected products are the best.

    When the blogger is paid for writing a review, the review is called 'sponsored review'. Sometimes the blogger hides this fact, and writes a very salutary review - this is dishonesty and it is found that readers are savvy enough to sense that the review has been sponsored.The ethical and desirable way is to declare that the review is paid for (e.g. I was part of the press team that was recently taken to the resort... I received the dress as a gift from the brand...).  


    What constitutes a good product/ service review on the blog?

    In technical terms, the review should have

    • lucid language, mostly in first person voice (i.e. 'I used it and found...' rather than 'People who use it say that..."
    • readable font size, color; wide enough column; overall neat looks of the site/ blog
    • text broken into sections that deal with different aspects (e.g. where to buy, different shades available, price) 
    • links to relevant places (e.g. product site, a page describing the chemistry of the product, a wiki-how page on using such products)
    • photo(s) that help in seeing the product from different angles (e.g. different colors available, photos showing how to use it, packaging, trailer in case of film, jacket in case of book)

    In terms of content, the blog should give

    • honest opinion, without hiding obvious negatives and telling half-truths
    • useful insights for taking a decision and not 'balanced' or wishy-washy and confusing ideas
    • detailed information so that the buyer does not run away to other sites
    • to the extent possible, personal experience gained after using the product
    • proper conclusion at the end of the review.

    I sometime review products that I use. How do I go forward?

    As a blogger, you might sometimes review a few products after using them, but that is not what we are aiming at. Such reviews do not come high on search pages and are not taken seriously by selling firms. We are talking about product/ service reviews that the blogger can use to earn money.
    review products on blog to earn money
    As a 'professional' review blogger, it is necessary that people start knowing you for your excellent product reviews. So, you will devote the blog fully (or its significant part) to reviews.  It also helps to keep sections in the blog that give additional information on the subjects of review. For example, you can have a blog on make up on which you regularly review beauty products, and sections that contain a lot of additional information about chemical composition of beauty products and their health effects, what type of products are suited to different skin types, what products work best in some climates, and so on.  

    There are so many product review sites; why would firms and buyers care for a small blog? 


    WWW is so big, but there are so many more people surfing it that there is still space left for savvy bloggers to make their blogs shine and earn. You have small shops along side huge brand outlets even in the most famous shopping malls, isn't it?

    You can sure have your place, and your blog would make money for you in a crowded marketplace too, if
    • Your reviews are exceptionally good so that people visit your blog again and refer it to others;
    • You promote the reviews through social media, so that people know where your blog is and come to you for more;
    • You optimize the blog for search so that more people visit your blog while looking for that product;
    • You monetize the blog by having a paying arrangement with brands/ sellers so that you earn good money out of your hard work.
    Yes, there are big review sites and blogs, but many people want to research beyond the opinion given there. People want specific information given without hiding facts. People also want a variety of opinion to arrive at a right buying decision. So, a blog that gains authority because of honest and informative reviews becomes more and more sought after. Another points to note is that most big businesses of today started small. Most big travel bloggers (some with travel agencies, portals and many employees working for them now) have confided in us that they started as individuals wanting to travel a lot and writing about it. Some didn't know a bit about blogging! So, be sincere in your effort, work in the right direction and work a bit hard - and success will be yours - despite competition.

    Should I review a range of products or go for a narrow niche?

    That depends on a dozen factors, and so you should do research beforehand. Don't go for a broad niche if you are a newbie blogger. When you have established the blog, you can expand the horizon.  If you ask how narrow the range should be for the blogger who has created his blog only recently, we'd say, go for a narrow niche but not too narrow. It will mainly depend on how many people are looking for that product.   If you think, going narrow beyond a point will not get you any visitors, go for the broad niche but go local if you can. Let us take an example: As an individual budding blogger, you can't compete with huge review and comparison sites if you have a review blog on digital cameras. Going for reviews of camera bags, stands or flash lights would not take you anywhere. So, why not review the camera shops in your city? Or which packages being sold by local camera shops are best buys? As another example, you cannot compete with huge sites and apps that compare restaurants whichever corner of the world you go. But if you regularly review restaurants in your city, your blog could be a big hit among people. You can review them in a number of ways, and can add hotels, bars etc as you go along. While studying products that can make money by review, and competition at global and local levels, also study the audience well. Who will come to your blog and go by your advice? Where does the audience live? What are the likely lifestyle and search habits of the target audience? And so on. It will also help you in deciding whether you should go for elite products or mass-use products. 

    Is it OK to approach brands/ sellers directly, offering reviews on payment?

    You can have AdSense and affiliate ads (e.g. Amazon, CJ) from the very beginning, but wait before approaching sellers directly. If you are a new blogger or you have reviewed very few products so far, it is necessary that you build up a solid portfolio before approaching sellers one-to-one .  And yes, once you have a good number of reviews to show, it is not only OK to approach them, it must be your regular drill.  Make a directory of firms that sell your type of product, and approach them by whatever means you feel as the best way - by email, phone or meeting in person - depends on your own circumstances. In whatever way you contact them, these are the best practices you should follow:
    • Choose the seller with care. You should not be desperate to get any seller. There is a big probability that a shady seller (as compared to an established and reputed one) will agree to your offer or give you a good deal. But it might hurt badly in long run.
    • Be ready with your terms. Don't sell yourself cheap even in early days of blogging. At the same time, don't show attitude. Be the real you. Offer short as well as long term deals, and make the long-term deals more attractive. 
    • Be ready with your arguments. Have convincing arguments - backed by facts - and at the end the product seller should feel that a review on your site will help him.
    • Showcase your assets. Make a one-page flyer about the blog, which should describe the blog, its target audience, any good comments you have received, any deals you have made, and its traffic stats. Give one or two lines about yourself. Send it electronically as part of your email. Keep its print ready if you intend to meet sellers in person. 
    • Be polite and accommodative but slightly persistent. If the other guy wants to test your standing, he might  initially be cold to your offer. If any amount of convincing does not help, walk out but leave the door open by suggesting that if they wish to still consider your offer in future, they could call you at ... number OR they should not mind if you ring them after a week just to see if they had a change of mind.


    Why it is often wiser to buy the product than ask for sample

    You will learn the tricks of the trade as you go, and you will get plenty of free products, as some beauty, fashion and travel bloggers have shared with us. We also know that books keep pouring to bloggers who regularly publish good book reviews and have a following. But one thing is sure; don't wait for the thing to come to you if you feel you have a duty to review that product. For example, highly reputed reviewers get smartphones free when these are launched, but even mid-level bloggers are not likely to get them free for a review. As a blogger reviewing mobile phones, you need to review the mobile early. In such a case, you will need to read all the information available on the web and based on your understanding of the features, you will present your views on that smartphone. You must, in such case, tell beforehand that your opinion/ advice about the set is based on ... (links) and you have not used the set yourself so far.  We have seen many bloggers of beauty products reviewing products after buying and using them. Such bloggers get a fan following because the reviewer is under no obligation from the brand to project only good aspects of the item.  But there is no harm asking for the product or service, and it would come free especially when the seller is desperate or it won't cost him much to gift it to you (e.g. a book, an e-book, a software, a free stay before tourism season).

    How do product reviews go with affiliate marketing and AdSense?

    There is no harm having any type of ad on the blog along with reviews. However, sometimes a seller who gives you good money for his reviews might put the condition that you will not serve his competitor's ads. But don't worry; such situations can come when you are an expert - and in that case you will have all the wisdom to take the right decision.  

    What if seller demands only praise, no honest review?

    Yes, you will have to deal with such situations. That's why we said above, choose the sellers discreetly and be ready with your terms.  You have opened the blog for making money from reviewing, not for fighting with sellers or teaching the bad ones a lesson. So, avoid bad sellers from the beginning. After that, you will be left with good sellers whose products and services will be genuinely good. If you find a product bad after using it for free, you can tell the seller, your review will have those bad points or at least the review will not be all positive. So, either he improves the product (e.g. customer service in a hotel or a bug in software), takes it back from you (e.g. key for a software), agrees for the review, or you don't carry the review. You can have your say only when you had made these terms clear before you used the product - that's what makes it even more important to make your terms clear in advance.

    Why should a reviewer put disclosure; does it not sound apologetic? 

    Disclosing your affiliation with the product or service under review is not only an industry requirement, it is also a good business practice. Instead of weakening you in any way, it gives you great advantage in terms of credibility. It also gives you higher marks in internal rating done by search engines. Moreover, if someone gets hurt because of your recommendation, your disclosure would save you from any legal action by the users.   Take a few examples. You would caution that the face cream you have reviewed has a high concentration of aldehydes and products with extra aldehydes can cause rashes. Or, this particular yoga should not be done by people with a history of bone fractures. Now if a lady gets allergy after using that face cream or a guy breaks his bone after doing that tough yoga asana, they won't be able to sue you. Similarly, if you mentioned that your views about that food supplement are based on your experience and you are in no way connected with the brand, people would take you at face value (But it must be true too). If you review a restaurant after a press trip or a paid dinner and mention about this fact, people would trust you more and will take it in the right spirit if they find that you have praised the restaurant slightly more than it deserves. Got the point? By the way, the US FTC has detailed guidelines on what should be taken in mind when endorsing a product. [Link is given here to FTC main page as the links to the specific documents sometimes do not open. Go to the website, search for 'endorsement guides'.]

    Is it ethical to be critical just for the blogger's credibility?

    Criticism meant to gain points is not good at all; similarly, unnecessary praise to get reward from the seller is too bad. The review blogger must be a fair person, and his/ her aim should be to give the most honest and expert opinion about the product/ service to the visitors. This applies even when the seller has refused to give you a free sample and also when he has sponsored the review. The reviewer should also be tactful while criticizing the product or service. As mentioned earlier, the best way to come out of the dilemma when the product is very bad but you don't want to be too critical is - don't review that product. When there are minor blemishes in the product or it is very steeply priced, t is better to use expressions that make the criticism look graceful, e.g. "it would have been better if the makers put the cutout button on the right side", "The camera is superb in the quality of sensor and optics, and the only sore point is the small size of LED display."

    Why is my review blog not making enough money?

    (This section is for review bloggers who find that for some strange reason, their blog is not getting traffic or earning money.)
    Instead of our answering your questions, let's pose questions that will help you get your own answers.

    Do you review products related to your blog?  

    It is obvious that the product or service that you review must belong to your niche, and yet a good number of bloggers are seen reviewing products that do not fit well with the subject of the blog.  Just so that you must publish a big number of reviews or some offer has come your way, you should not post reviews on unrelated products. We have seen occasional book/ beauty-product reviews on personal blogs and are acceptable as these are hobby posts to be shared with known people. But a fiction review on a fashion blog: NO, if you want to make money by reviewing products/ services.

     Are you well qualified to review the product/ service?  

    If you are not expert in the field to which the product/ service belongs, your review will not have the required depth and people will find out that you have made the review with a shallow understanding. Some type of products need more specialization than others. For example, if you are a voracious reader, your review of books may pass but if you do not have good medical knowledge and you review medical products, that won't work.  

    Do you do enough research before writing the review?  

    Review, whether of a nail polish, a web-hosting service or yoga mats, needs proper understanding of the product - and this comes from not only expertise but also long use/ experience, keen observation and study of others' articles. This all comes under background research. Some things, especially services and gadgets, may need deeper research.  

    Do you use personal voice?  

    You should talk straight and not in third person. Tell about your experience with the product, so that it is believable and convincing. That also helps you connect with the visitor, who might get encouraged to ask you further questions through comment box/ contact form/ email.  

    Do you look reasoned, and not superficial, emotional, unsure?  

    The review should be well-reasoned and not based on emotions. Don't ever get influenced by a free offer or the sales pitch on the product site or what you were briefed during a press trip to a new hotel. Never publish a review in a huff, e.g. you bought a new kitchen gadget and it worked fantastic. You can share the joy on your personal blog/ FB page or WhatsApp chat, but not on your professional review blog. What if the product fails in a few days? What if much better products are available in the market? What if you bought it at an exorbitant price but as you are a rich lady it looked cheap to you? At the same time, do not publish a review if you are fed up with a product because it didn't work well and you did not get the customer service immediately. When in anger, you might miss some fine qualities of the product or a key step you yourself did not take while using the product.  

    Is your presentation appealing  

    You might write an outstanding review but if it is not packaged well, people will not read it or stay on the blog long enough to finish it. Be sure that the review meets the quality parameters given in the section above, 'What constitutes a good product review'.  

    Do you disclose your link with the product?  

    Disclosure is a must in case of all reviews, especially when you have benefited in any way by publishing that review. As already emphasized above, disclosing your relationship with the brand/ product that you are promoting is not only ethical, it increases visitors' trust in you.  

    Do you promote your reviews well? 

    Finally, if you do not promote your reviews, it is likely that people will not know about them. If people do not know of  your excellent reviews, they won't get you popularity and money. So, promote them well. Use social media, WhatsApp or other chat groups, email lists and other tools to let people know about your latest review. Be part of forums and social media groups active in your niche. Tweet the post, cross-link with other similar posts, tell your friends or clients or colleagues about the post. Write on product evaluation and comparing sites.  Don't fritter away your energy in many promotional efforts but focus on what suits your type of product.