Yay! Effective Blogging Strategies

JJ’s Top Tips For Blogging

With what seems to be about a gazillion blogs in internet land, how do you ever wonder how they started?  Or how each blogger developed a blogging strategy? It can be a bit overwhelming to think about, especially to someone new to the blog world and may be looking for advice.

Schipul’s own JJ Lassberg knows that effective blogging takes strategy, focus and a fundamental knowledge of blogging basics. She has even composed a presentation on “Effective Blogging” for rookies that include her “Lucky 13” blogging tips, blog basics and methods.   Check out the entire Slide Show for a really terrific “How-to” on Blogging!

Boss Blog of the Month: Orange Juice & Biscuits

Boss [baw, bos]

-adjective
1. exemplifies a unique quality; awesome; incredible
2. An expression from the mid 1950s, which fell from favor by early 1960s…until now.
Used in a sentence: Orange Juice is great, but Orange Juice and Biscuits is boss.

Jonathan Valdez - blogger of Orange Juice & Biscuits

What is the most important meal of the day? Some classic folk might say Cocoa Puffs, a few dieters will admit to cold pizza, but pop culture, fashion fanatics will declare in unison, Orange Juice & Biscuits is where it’s at.

No, this does not mean there is a new organic orange that will guarantee weight loss nor does it anticipate an advanced biscuit that will combat frizz. It means that if you love a humorous take on front row fashion, “Livin’ La Vida Lohan” and all things sexy in the NYC, then you must suppress your appetite with Decemeber’s Boss Blog of the Month, Orange Juice & Biscuits.

I believe any successful blog tells a story, and OJ&B does just that through the eyes of Jonathan Valdez – a hilarious, dapper young fellow who writes with such enthusiasm, he could make a 76 yr. old nun pumped about Gaga’s latest music video. In 2009, Jonathan was named Mashable’s Top 5 Best Bloggers to Follow and for good reason; it’s not just about writing for him, it’s about sharing an amazing experience with amazing people.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with creator of OJ&B, and close friend, Jonathan Valdez about the incredible growth of OJ&B and what sets it apart from all the other fashion and celebrity blogs.

“I believe OJ&B is funny without being snarky or mean. Yes, it’s fashion, yes, it’s celebrities but it’s also about supporting the great people I have met in New York. You never know who you are going to meet and where they are going…OJ&B has enabled me to show how much I value these relationships and I believe people respect that.”

Jonathan doesn’t just sit and watch from afar, he writes about Whitney Port’s new fashion line because he was there. He gives shout outs to Models of the Runway Winner, Kalyn Hemphill because they truly are friends. He provides live media coverage of events, like Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week because, well…they thought OJ&B was awesome too. People enjoy Jonathan as a person because he genuinely enjoys them, the difference is he writes about it. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t like to see their name in print? Guilty.

There is just not enough great things to say about OJ&B. I love this blog, I love the guy behind the blog and I love that we can agree on one thing…

“Everyone loves a good Lohan mention.” – Jonathan Valdez

Want more Orange Juice & Biscuits?

Fan OJ&B on Facebook

Follow OJ&B on Twitter and be apart of OJ&B’s 2,011 followers by 2011!

Trend Tuesday: Comment SPAM gets Tricky

We’ve all come across email SPAM, but that is only where the annoyance begins. If you have a blog, a website that takes comments, or even a contact form, then you have probably seen some SPAM there, too. It used to be easy to identify, but  spammers  are becoming craftier at their game. Learn how you can fight back.

SPAM stacks up
SPAM can pile up in your blog. Learn how to get rid of it.

Why people Spam

Before diving into the problem of comment SPAM, I’d like to answer this question: Why do people SPAM? The biggest purpose of comment SPAM is SEO-related. One of the things Google and the others factor into their algorithms is linkbacks. A linkback is any link from an external site back to your website. In many comment forms on blogging platforms there is an option to include a website, which is then linked to your name when you leave a comment. This is a way of telling people who it is that is leaving the comment. Spammers use this opportunity to link to trashy SPAM websites that make pennies per visitor. If they rank higher in the search engines for keywords like “free viagra”, they can drive more traffic and make more pennies. Pennies turn into dollars which turn into Benjamins, and you get the picture. However, this doesn’t work very well for the spammers.

While most of the blogging platforms include comments and do send links, they include a little piece of code that prevents linkbacks. It’s called a “nofollow” link. It tells Google not to count a link as a linkback. Google doesn’t follow the link, so that website isn’t given any benefit. It’s an optional setting, but it is turned on for professional blogs as well as Blogger.com and WordPress.com hosted blogs. We don’t use nofollow links on this blog so that we can pass along benefits to our commenters. However, spammers don’t know that we do this, and they don’t seem to care much either way. Even with nofollow links, the spammers will still attack your site. Now that we know the why, lets look into the “what” of comment SPAM.

What Comment SPAM looks like

Most people can identify the obvious SPAM very quickly. It is riddled with links to ED drugs or other  pharmaceuticals, or in some cases it is written in Russian. This kind of SPAM is automated by the spammers and can be caught by filters. The other types of SPAM are much harder to identify. They look more like real comments. Here is an example (the link doesn’t work):

From Investment Ideas: Great Post! I stumble by this blog from Google and your content really speaks to me. You are an expert in your field and this post is proof. I am now subscribing to read more.

At first glance this looks like a very nice comment. It is probably one you would be proud to have at the bottom of your posts. Unfortunately, it is SPAM. The “name” of the commenter is used as a keyword to create a linkback to the URL, which in this case is also about investment ideas. The text sounds very nice, but it would probably sound very nice on any of your posts. These types of comments have a few things in common, and you can become a pro at identifying it and removing it.

How to Identify and Stop SPAM

Unfortunately, this kind of SPAM is not caught by the filters because it looks genuine. In many cases it is even entered by a real person (often overseas). They copy/paste a snippet on many sites as fast as possible. But, you can spot it when moderating your comments. Here is three-item test to identify the tricky SPAM:

  1. The name looks like a description and not really a person’s name. In the example, it is Investment Ideas.
  2. The link goes to a site very similar to the name. It may also include several hyphens, which are sometimes used in spam URLs.
  3. The text of the comment is very generic. It doesn’t reference anything in the post and can probably apply to almost any of your posts.

Those three quick tests can help you to identify most comment SPAM. After reviewing the fake comment above, you will see that it includes all three of the regular pieces of SPAM comments. You may come across some comments that just say “Great Post!”. To determine if these are SPAM you should pay close attention to the name and link. If it is a person’s name and goes to a personal site or blog (like JMO), then it is probably not SPAM.

You will have to use your own discretion when deciding which comments are SPAM on your blog. Comments are great places to have a bit of further discussion about posts. They can add to the “conversation” in many cases, so blocking SPAM is even more important to keep the conversation fluid. While comment SPAM can’t hurt you directly, it can look ugly on your blog.

While some sites have turned off comments all together to prevent this, you may still want to keep comments on your site. Using nofollow links can help prevent the spammers from gaining anything with their garbage, but it will still pile up in the back and can clutter your real comments. Moderating your comments regularly and having a keen eye for SPAM can protect your site from the evils of comment SPAM.

UPDATE:

I have decided it to let the SPAM comments show up on this post so you can see some examples of what we get. I will neuter them by removing the link, but the text and name of the commenter will be left alone (unless it’s profane). Our first winner is “Affiliate Network”.

UPDATE 2:

Many more SPAM comments have rolled in to the mix. I’ve removed links on all of them, but the text gives you an idea of what they may look like on your site.

Awesome SPAM creative commons image thanks to freezelight.

Trend Tuesday: Still Waiting til the Last Minute?

(I realize this was published later than normal.   It is part of the story.   Welcome again to another crazy JMO post.)

In the blogging world, many people teach that having posts on a regular schedule is the way to create a readership.   But this is only half of the message.   It leaves out the ‘quality’ part.   To have a successful blog, there should be a regular stream of quality posts to feed a readership.   Here is a quick list on how to have a great blog.

  1. Make a blog. (wordpress is good)
  2. Set a regular schedule you can maintain.
  3. Write a QUALITY Post.
  4. Click Publish.
  5. Repeat 3 and 4 based on 2.

Ok, so that probably isn’t the Top 5 list you were hoping to see.   Too bad, because that’s really all there is to it.

In writing this post I was almost guilty of overlooking Step 3.   When you title your blog post Trend Tuesday, you are setting yourself up for a pretty hard deadline.   And Tuesday is almost gone.   Should I just hit Publish now?   Probably not, as I haven’t finished my story yet.   So, why am I not done yet?   I’ve got some great excuses.

  1. I haven’t reached the deadline yet
  2. I work better at the last minute
  3. It wasn’t a high priority

I haven’t hit the deadline.   For this excuse, I am really blaming the deadline.   Unfortunately, deadlines have a tendency to backfire.   A week ago we set a deadline to have a new Trend Tuesday blog post done by Tuesday.   I had a whole week to get it done.   But really, by giving myself a deadline of Tuesday, I committed to doing it on Tuesday.   Because this is due in a week, it ranks behind other tasks, until Tuesday that is.   Now it is on top of the heap, but it is almost too late.   Way to avoid this: set earlier deadlines, or, if you can, do things immediately. Think of the deadline as less of a due date and more of a time to actually do it.

And anyways, I work better at the last minute.   Because at the last minute, there is added stress and pressure.   And I work great under pressure.   NOT.   At the last minute, I am forced to get things done.   Not to make them right, or even above average. And certainly not to make them spectacular.   But they do get done.   Had I made my deadline, you would have stopped reading after the Top 4 list.   That is what is produced by someone who works better at the last minute.   Way to avoid this: set standards for quality. For this post, it could be the words, time spent on it, or links.   Or it could be that I got 5 other people excited after they read it.

But the real reason I didn’t finish on time is that this wasn’t a high priority.   Unfortunately, task managers and to-do lists have this annoying priority system built in with 1-5’s and stars and red flags, etc.   I think priority is really a boolean, or an on/off switch.   Something is a priority, or it isn’t. Merlin Mann agrees, or really, I agree with him.   But when I first learned of this task, I said this wasn’t a high priority. But if this isn’t a high priority, then why am I not done yet?   It is superseded by a real priority.

The real priority is that when I publish something with my name on it, it has to be my best effort. This is the priority.   This is Step 3 above.   And this is what makes great bloggers, writers, designers, and all creators.   When I first started this, under the deadline, rushing it out, it was about 200 words of garbage.   I’ve since deleted all of that, and written all of this.   While some may argue that I was just lazy and procrastinated and that’s why this wasn’t finished, I’d have to disagree.   I set myself up for failure when I did the following:

  1. I   made a deadline that was the absolute last minute I needed to finish.
  2. I did not make this a priority.
  3. I did not start until close the deadline because this wasn’t a priority.
  4. I lied to myself about my abilities to do quality work quickly.

All of these things caused me to miss the all important Step 3.   Fortunately, the place I work is smart enough to recognize that a quality post that is late is much better than a weak post on time.   Hopefully the readers if this blog and yours are also flexible.

Recap:

  1. Set deadlines before things are really due, or just do them immediately.
  2. Don’t wait til the last minute.   Your work is not better when you do.
  3. Make quality stuff (which should be on time if you follow the first two).

Hopefully the trend of waiting til the last minute will fade like Will Smith’s hair on Fresh Prince.

Why Dale Carnegie Would Be an Awesome Blogger…

“Did you ever stop to think that a dog is the only animal that doesn’t have to work for a living? A hen has to lay eggs, a cow has to give milk, and a canary has to sing. But a dog makes his living by giving you nothing but love.” ‘Dale Carnegie

A few full moons and a gibbous ago, my boss Aaron Long handed me a book to read, How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. My first thought was, “Does this silly elf think I have no friends? The nerve!”

On that note, name-calling does not get you friends. Instead, it will give you a cafeteria table all to yourself, unlimited movie nights alone, and ample time to catch up with your imaginary friends named Toffice and Skidmore. Livin’ the dream right? But I digress….

Come to find out, elves have terrific taste, and I haven’t put the book down since the waning gibbous moon.

So who is Dale Carnegie and why do I believe that if he was still alive and kickin’, he would be one of the greatest bloggers of our time? Dale Carnegie is your classic rags to riches tale. Grew up on a farm in Missouri, walked uphill to and from school, became a public speaking teacher, wrote a book blah blah blah. Don’t get me wrong, the man’s life is one to be marveled at. But more importantly, he lived his life with a genuine interest in other people. He realized the value in this notion and put it on paper to benefit humanity. I kid you not, after reading his book I answered all my phone calls with a huge smile, listened attentively during conversations and proceeded to rescue every stray dog that came in my path. No cats though. I have built up animosity towards them due to all the “deposits” they leave in my backyard on a daily basis. I didn’t say Carnegie’s book made me perfect ok?

What I am saying is if Carnegie was still around, I would invite him to come have a beer, watch a Dallas Cowboys football game, and discuss his latest blog on why “a man without a smiling face must not open a shop.” So without further a due, here are the top 5 reasons why Dale Carnegie would be an awesome blogger:

  1. Even in 1936, Carnegie’s network of friends was unparalleled. Imagine discussing Pearl Harbor while sipping tea with Franklin D. Roosevelt, running lines with Clark Gable, sailing the Pacific with Martin Johnson or debating the manufacture of steel with Charles Schwab. Granted the locations are questionable due to my vivid imagination, but Carnegie’s connection with these prominent figures were real. A successful blog has an immense following…Carnegie had this following without [gasp] the internet.   Carnegie discovered from personal experience that “one can win the attention and time and cooperation of even the most sought after people by becoming genuinely interested in them.”
  2. Carnegie wrote stories…excellent stories. He knew how to “bait the hook to suit the fish” if you will. Aren’t blogs essentially a compilation of news, recent happenings, daily occurrences, and stories? Alright then, I rest my case.
  3. Remembering people’s names was of utmost priority for Carnegie. This leads me to believe that he would have done quite well on a network such as Twitter; @dcarnGmoney perhaps? Responding to people by their name, replying on Twitter, and commenting on blog posts once again reinforces Carnegie’s idea that if you take interest in someone they will take interest in you. Why not give a little smile and a wink while you’re at it, even if it’s only an emoticon. We all know Carnegie would have ;-).
  4. Dale Carnegie “hustled.” To put it simply, he worked his derrière off. Carnegie started with a set of rules on a note-card; evolving fifteen years later into a best-selling book and continues to influence people decades later. Over 15 million copies of his book have been sold and if there was a way to configure that into number of followers on a blog I would. I’m no scientist but I’m sure the data would be staggering. Modernly speaking, “…you too can have 70,000+ readers and write your own ticket to internet fame’ but it won’t happen by playing World of Warcraft every night.” Chris Guillebeau, “How to Be Awesome”
  5. In the words of someone who truly understood the art of human relations, Carnegie said“…the royal road to a person’s heart is to talk about the things that he or she treasures most.” I don’t think I need to thump you on the head to understand this one. Carnegie would have been an awesome blogger.

*I also feel he had excellent music taste but I will leave that for another day.

Thanks Mexicanwave for the cool flickr pic!