18 articles Tag Blogging

BritMums Blogging Carnival – Current Affairs

Today, I have the esteemed honour of hosting the BritMums Blogging Carnival, a round up of all of the posts that fit my chosen theme, which is ‘Current Affairs’. If you’re a regular reader of Mum’s the Word, you’ll know that I love nothing more than to ride the highest of horses, sharing my opinions on just about everything in the loudest of voices, so I thought it was probably time to turn the tables and see what everyone else has to say about what’s going on in the world at the moment.

So, to kick off, ‘Orli, Just Breathe‘ tells us all about what it’s like to live in Gibraltar. The British Overseas Territory has been in the news a lot of late, owing to the dispute over the British Government attempting to create an artificial reef just offshore, while the Spanish government claim that it’s actually an attempt to thwart Spanish fishing efforts, but Orli gives an insight into what real life in Gib is actually like, behind the headlines.

If you watched this BritMums Hangout before the birth of the Royal Baby, you’ll know that I’m not exactly a Royalist, and this post from ‘Over There to Here‘ is a brilliant example of how the Royal Family is still stuck in the dark ages, with its attempt at placation when it comes to sexism.

Back on a more family-oriented note, Bod for Tea wondered last week if children of these modern times are losing their imaginations, and whether outdoor play would encourage them to use their creativity a bit more. It’s an interesting point that I’ve talked about myself in the past, and it’s good to know it’s an issue that’s being considered on a wider scale.

This next post by Single Mother Ahoy! is one that I absolutely loved when I read it. I must confess to having been guilty of tweeting the odd picture of unusual names that featured on a Coke bottle, but only because my awkward spelling of ‘Jayne’ means that I never get my name on anything and am insanely jealous! This post exposes the kind of parochial, sanctioned racism in the best way possible.

One recurring current affairs hot-button is social media and technology, especially children’s usage of either, and Emma and Three is questioning “how much is too much?”. In a refreshing twist, she acknowledges that social media and technology are as much of an addiction for her as they are for kids.

Jenny is tackling health issues, over on Cheetahs in their Shoes, specifically how difficult it can be to get a diagnosis for a rare condition, and how that process can be made even more difficult when the NHS is stretched almost to breaking point because of budget cuts and staffing issues.

Ellen at In a Bun Dance is entertaining with a humorous post about David Cameron and his waxed chest, which may be funny but makes a very serious point with which I wholly agree. Should the private lives of public figures be aired for all to see? You may say a strident ‘NO!’ but as Ellen so eloquently demonstrates, it’s not always that simple.

Domestic abuse has been all over the news recently, after the whole world saw Charles Saatchi’s very public assault on his wife, Nigella Lawson, but perhaps the scariest thing has been the public reaction to the incident, which ranged from the right and proper ‘outrage’ to downright flakiness. Lexicon Lane puts an excellent perspective on it all.

There’s been an influx of ‘shock’ journalism lately, mostly by women associated with the Daily Fail who don’t care who they hurt as long as they make headlines, and Autism Mumma tells us why Liz Jones’ latest fountain of bile is a step too far.

Finally, Five’s a Fellowship has been giving an honest and insightful update on her anxiety and depression and showing how, while there can be down-sides to anti-depressants, it is sometimes possible for people to regain balance when opting to go down the medicinal route. Given that it’s estimated that one in 4 Britons sufferes from some form of depression, I hope this post can help a lot of people.

So there you have it, my pick of the bunch! If you know of any other posts that you’d like to share, on a Current Affairs theme, do leave a link in the comments below.

BritMums - Leading the Conversation

S.E.O – O.M.G!

I started blogging in 2010, a Golden Age of not long ago when bloggers could make money from their sites in a number of ways. Sponsored posts, sidebar adverts, paid-for links, it was all gravy. Then belts got tightened, laws were passed and it got harder for us to make a buck from our sites.

Google got wise to companies who were buying their way up the search results and decided to crack down on it – you all know about the Interflora scandal right? And I bet you all know a blogger who’s had their page rank stripped because of these types of links?

The rules are simple:

1. Paid for links MUST be no-follow

2. Advertising of ALL FORMS (so, if anyone has paid you to add a link in any form) must be declared as such and explicitly so.

The first rule is decreed by Google. Kings of T’Interwebs. It’s not ‘The Law’, but it’s their way of saying “If you value your site, don’t fuck with our algorithms”. I get it, I mean it’s not fair to consumers who are innocently Googling something and the first link they find is not the most popular, just the one that’s splashed the most cash about (a bit like Google’s own sponsored links at the top of any search…*ahem*).

The second rule was decreed by the Advertising Standards Agency and as such IS THE LAW. You can be penalised with fines or prosecution and call me a harbinger of doom if you like, but these guys have already started to make examples of people so no-one is immune.

The problem is this – SEO companies don’t like these rules. People who ‘do’ SEO have an agenda and that’s to get their client to the top of those search results. Don’t confuse them with PR people – these guys tend to use their noggin a bit more and come up with creative ways to get bloggers writing about stuff.

I get a lot of emails from SEO companies, some of whom are happy with full disclosure and no-follow links as they just want their client’s name in as many posts as possible. Many, however, are trying to baffle bloggers with bullshit to get their way. This is a snippet of an email I received from an undisclosed source, after I informed them that I would have to disclose the post as paid-for:

“Thanks for letting me know. Unfortunately I cannot allow this, as paying for links is actually against googles terms, therefore if google came across a post on your site marked in this way, then your site could get penalised, as would the brand.

I could allow this to be marked as ‘guest’ ‘feature’ or an ‘associated’ post, but ‘sponsored’ is something that google has picked up on, therefore risks you losing your page rank.
Let me know whether this would be possible at all, as I couldn’t agree to it otherwise.”
My response:
That’s not quite accurate –  It is not Google that stipulate whether something can be labelled, they only give guidelines on follow and no follow. In terms of labeling, the law states that all paid-for content must be labelled or I could be prosecuted.
If you need any further info, I’ve found this very useful: GO HERE
Let me know how you wish to proceed.
Their response back to me:
Would it be possible for you to label this as featured or guest post? It isn’t actually advertising that we are looking for – it is SEO. This is why we request that the links are very subtle and discreet, as if not, google can penalize blogs, in a similar way to what happened with the Interflora situation. This may be helpful to you – http://www.linkresearchtools.com/case-studies/interflora-penalty/

I just want to let you know that what we require is for a link to look natural, as if you have placed it without being asked, as I wouldn’t ever want your website to get penalised.

My last email:

The whole point is that Google require paid-for links to be explicitly labelled and no-follow, otherwise I stand to lose my page rank so I’m not quite sure how you’re trying to help me to not get into trouble.
The other, bigger issue (because although I love my blog, I value my freedom and finances more highly) is that the ASA could prosecute me for placing PAID FOR links, which are advertising regardless of how you gussy-up the language, without letting my readers know that I am endorsing a product or site for money.
The ‘natural’ links you talk about are exactly the problem and while I don’t want to be personal, this is exactly the problem that bloggers are facing when dealing with SEO companies at the moment because you dangle cash in the hope that it’ll blind us to the jargon you use.
I’m not a millionaire, I could use an extra few quid here and there like the best of us, but I’m not willing to lose my blog or get into serious trouble for the sake of cash.
Thanks again.
Do you know what I think gets me the most? The fact that these people are willing to lie to us to get their way and the assumption that I’m stupid enough to go along with it. I think I was very patient to begin with but how can I go on communication with someone who clearly lacks scruples?
Enough is enough.
(As a footnote, I want to add that I make no judgement of people who accept posts containing follow-links etc., I know that times are hard and people want to make some extra money and that’s the personal decision of each individual to make, so please don’t think I’m attacking other bloggers for their choices.)

Blogging When You’re Time-Poor

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that things have changed a lot over the last few months in the Mum’s the Word household and for me personally, the biggest change has been going back to work full-time. The way in which this has impacted me the most is that my time is a lot more scarce that it used to be.

A typical day goes: Get up at 6.45 am, jump in the shower, get out, iron my work clothes (yes, I know doing this in the morning isn’t the most practical solution), get Sausage up, make her breakfast, get myself ready, get Sausage ready, gather bags/flasks/keys etc, say goodbye to Husband, take Sausage to school, go to work, get home from work, do dinner or eat dinner that Husband has made, watch The Simpsons, get Sausage ready for bed, snuggle, invariably fall asleep in front of the telly, drag self to bed and get up at 6.45am, ad infinitum.

As you can see, there’s not much wiggle room in there and one thing that struggles to get a look in is blogging. Now, I may not be winning any awards for my site (but if you want me to, you can nominate me here <—- SEAMLESS PIMPAGE), but I adore blogging and am not in a hurry to give it up, so I’ve had to make a real effort to fit it in where I can. I know that a few of my blogging buddies have also faced a struggle in terms of where blogging actually fits into their lives, so I thought I’d give you all some tips and share how I’ve been coping.

1. Technology is Your Friend

I realise that many bloggers are super tech-savvy, but there are plenty out there who aren’t and the best advice I can give them is to get to grips with mobile blogging. The WordPress app for Android and iOS is really rather good and if you spend some time getting used to it, you can get a lot out of it. I’ve composed whole posts, including pictures, in my lunch hour at work. Sure, typing on a touchscreen can be frustrating, but if you take the time to get used to it, it really can be a great tool. I have a photo editing app which I can use on the go too, which can enhance any mobileography you do. Also, if you’re an old-fashioned type and still like pen and paper, check out the Livescribe 2GB Echo Smartpen,

2. Make Notes

I have several ways of making notes, from a permanent file on my iPhone with ideas for posts, to writing on scraps of paper or even the back of my hand. I think most bloggers would agree that there’s nothing more frustrating than having an idea for a post and then forgetting it before you get a chance to write it out. I know of other bloggers who actually use their blogging platform to store ideas too, giving a new post a title and possibly some bullets before saving it as a draft and coming back to it at a later date which, if you take note of tip one, could be a great solution if you use a blogging app.

3. See Time Differently

If you’re poor on time, you often find you can scrape some seconds back if you start to see time differently. Don’t see your commute as a wasted half an hour, see it as time in which to think or even write. Use your lunch hour to start posts and if you don’t finish them, get them polished off while daddy reads the bedtime story. So often, people get stuck in a blogging rut and do things almost formulaically including when they choose to write. Shake things up a bit and you may find you have plenty of time to write (like now, for instance, Sausage is in bed and Husband is having a pre-bedtime session on Far Cry. Also, I started this post on Saturday night, finished it on Sunday morning and have scheduled it to publish now!).

4. Think Ahead

This one depends on your blog, but I tend to find that if I publish a post at a certain time, it just doesn’t get read. I’ve spent a fairly extensive amount of time looking at my stats and other info and know roughly when a post gets the most hits, so scheduling is a good way to get around this. If you take the advice of tip number one and think about using a third party app for posting to social networks (like Hootsuite) you can also schedule your social media posts too, so even if you’re busy, your posts will still be publicised. I know some bloggers also keep a blogging diary or calendar where you can plan posts as far ahead as you need to and this would work especially well if you’re a craft blogger or regularly write themed posts, i.e. for Christmas, etc.

5. Go Easy on Yourself

If you’re blogging for the sake of blogging, it’ll show in your posts. If you’re mega busy, super tired and barely have time to think, give yourself a break. Your blog isn’t going to die on its arse because you miss a Silent Sunday and your readers will forgive you for taking some time to refresh and ultimately, you’ll be doing them a favour as when you do have something to write about, it’ll really be worth reading.

Going Public

A couple of things have happened this week that have made me think about the way I feel about my blog. Firstly, a new work colleague suggested that I add her on Facebook. I post all of my new posts onto both my personal timeline and my blogs page, so if I were to add her on there, she’d become aware of Mum’s the Word fairly quickly. Secondly, I was talking to one of the mums of a girl in Edith’s class and she mentioned that she was friends on Facebook with some of the other mums. Although I was already friends with two other school mums on there, I realised that I was cagey about who I added because of them seeing my blog.

The thing with blogging is, although I’ve now met several other bloggers in real life and consider a few of them to be very good friends, I mostly forget that real people read what I write!

I had a message the other day from some who was in my class at school. She got in touch to let me know that she really enjoys reading my posts and that she felt like she knew me even though we’d not spoken in over ten years. I was so touched that she took the time to make contact and it really made me think about the fact that, even though I’ve been pouring my heart onto a computer screen for the last two and a half years, the thought of people reading your thoughts is quite an abstract concept – until they tell you!

I like to think that this blog is a pretty good representation of me. I’m brutally honest about my thoughts and feelings, probably to my detriment at times, but I find it hard to censor myself for the most part. What’s the point of writing if you’re not being honest? If my writing wasn’t authentic I’d be better off writing fiction, surely? But, when you put your heart on a page, you leave yourself open to a lot of stick.

I think it’s mostly paranoia. I reckon other bloggers would agree that writing a blog is brilliant when people comment on your posts or engage you via social media about something you’ve written. I’ve had debates in my comments that I’ve been thrilled about, even when people are being negative about my opinion on something, but by contrast I have this overwhelming fear that I’ll write a post and then walk into the playground or my office and see people whispering about me or judging me in some way. The stupid thing is, they probably do that anyway, everyone gets judged by their peers, but it’s one thing being judged and it’s quite another to serve up a WEALTH of material for people to judge you on.

I asked in my fave parent blogging group on Facebook whether I should say “screw it” and go public and I had a mixed response. Some said that they have hundreds of co-workers who read their blog and they love it, others blog completely anonymously and wouldn’t have it any other way. Someone also made the VERY cogent point that basically anyone who knows how to Google could find my blog anyway, without very much effort at all.

Basically, I’m in blogging limbo.

Am I right to be scared? What would you do? Perhaps I’m missing a trick and I should be littering my every path with my blogging business cards?! Who knows.

10% Inspiration, 90% Application…

It’s a funny old thing, writing a blog. I’m not sure if it’s just me or if it’s something that all bloggers go through but I seem to have three zones that I fall into; times when I have plenty to write about and blog often, times when I have no inspiration and blog posts are few and far between and my current zone, which is fairly new and unprecedented, where I have plenty of things to write about and simply not enough OOMPH to get on and do it.

I recently made a document on my phone to write blogging ideas on, possibly as a response to NaBloPoMo (thanks for not mentioning my immense failure on that front, by the way) as I often have ideas for posts which them fall out of my sieve-like skull only to never be remembered again. So I have a list of ideas on me at the moment, there’s about ten things on there, as well as review posts that I need to write, memes I could join in with, a veritable feast of inspiration in front of me but I just can’t seem to do any of it.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been ill on and off for the past month, between a viral, sinus type thingy that just won’t bugger off and my blood-vomiting incident, I’ve not been 100% for a while and I suspect my thyroid levels need testing too as I’m tired an unnatural amount recently.

The thing is, I love my blog. It’s probably the first time I’ve ever had an interest that I’ve invested this much time and effort into in my entire life, so having a page of ideas and no inclination to turn them into content is disconcerting. I want to write but my brain just isn’t letting me. Even this post right here, it’s at just over 300 words at this point and the effort I’m having to put in to actually finish and not just sigh a very loud “UUGHGHG” before clicking ‘Move to Trash’ is huge, it really is. I don’t know what’s the matter with me!

If anyone fancies guest posting for me, I’d love to hear from you. On a base, selfish level it’d be nice to keep the blog ticking over while my brain goes on holiday but I’d also love to host some new and fresh content and zhuzh things up a bit too! If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that most things go on Mum’s the Word and we love anything a bit subversive, so if you have a burning issue you want to shout about, let me know, even if you aren’t a blogger but just want a chance to blog. You never know, you might like it…*

*I don’t mean to sound quite so much like a drug dealer there…

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Cybher – The Mum’s the Word Run Down Pt. 2

So, this is the second part of my Cybher debrief and the last post ended just before lunch…

Sian To, interviewing Zoe Margolis.

Lunch was…well, how do I put this? I found the food to be pretty mediocre. Some bland sandwiches, crisps in jars and not much else. The sandwiches were okay but  they didn’t seem all that fresh and I was all that keen on eating crisps out of a jar that literally hundreds of other people had put their hand in. I know it’s not about the food, but I had hoped for better, given the price of the ticket. 

During lunch, I had a mill about, got myself measured by the ladies at Freya and spoke to some people, as well as getting a sneaky peek at the rooms of the hotel, thanks to the lovely Laura (The Mummy Life), who let me use her loo and charge my phone! We were late down to the next sessions, which wasn’t too much of a problem as I wasn’t that into any of the sessions on offer straight after lunch. We went back into the main room and did a bit more milling (as well as me, furiously picking the brain of Jax, who is my new guru, about homeschooling!

I noticed, at various points throughout the day that the atmosphere at Cybher seemed very subdued compared to the atmosphere at last years Cybermummy and I do have a theory about why this was. Last year, from the moment we arrived, we had dozens of brands, vying for our attention, giving away freebies. People (myself included, to an extent) seemed to go into a bit of a frenzy for seeing how much loot they could collect, most of us had to decant things into smaller bags or leave things with the coat check to enable us to carry on. I also know several people who went to barely any sessions because they were too busy being courted by PRs.

This is by no means a criticism of either CybHer or the attendees, I would hazard a guess that Sian’s exact intention was to strip away the commercial maelstrom of last year and focus on content, which I admire greatly, but it did seem to affect the atmosphere. The content of the sessions was a vast improvement over last year but people didn’t seem as excited as they did at Cybermummy. Everyone loves a freebie, I guess.

As I said, I managed to miss the session straight after lunch, but for session 4 I attended ‘Is There a Book in Your Blog?’, which I found really informative, I love hearing about Violet Fenn’s site and thinking about niche writing. The final session was ‘Revamp Your Blog for Under £50’ with Peggy Poyser, which I think was my favourite session of all (did anyone else find it really cute they way she said about three sentences then said “Oh, I’m French, by the way. That’s what the accent is”!). Peggy gave us some brilliant tips and I think I’ve thought about the content of her session the most since the day, spending ages looking at complimentary colour swatches and background patterns!

All in all, I’m glad I went to Cybher, it was a great day which had far more positives than negatives and the whole Cybher team did an amazing job. When I got home, I told Husband that I probably wouldn’t be going to any more blogging conferences, as I didn’t think I had anything more that I could get from them…until I got my hands on a ticket for BlogCamp London that is!

(Technorati claim code 6ETC6N6E7UUR)

Blogging – Where I’m Going Wrong.

Since this month’s Tots100 ranks were updated, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my blog. There are a lot of people out there who say “I blog for myself, not anybody else” and I agree that there is an element of personal space about it, which is great. But I also think that at least half of the people who say they’re doing it are bare-faced liars. I blog because I like to write and I like people to read what I write. Everyone likes affirmation, surely?

I’ve been taking a look at what I can do to improve my blog, my stats and my rank in the world of blogging and I’ve come to a few conclusions (with the help of some friends):

  1. I’m not quite a ‘Mummy Blogger’. I don’t blog only about Sausage or our lives and I probably use profanity far too much for Mum’s the Word to really be considered a family blog. In fact, I can’t think of a single other blog where I’ve read profanity. Maybe I need to cut back on that…
  2. The numbers speak for themselves. I have a fair few regular views on a daily basis and some days not one single comment. This means that I’m either writing a load of rubbish that people just click past or I’m not writing anything that warrants comment. This was brought to my attention by the lovely Kathryn over at Crystal Jigsaw, who currently sits at the heady heights of number 9 on Tots100, so she knows of what she speaks!
  3. Becca of Beckicklesie fame, who sadly doesn’t blog anymore, reckons I’m probably not ‘in’ with the community enough. I don’t spend a huge amount of time on Twitter and I probably don’t promote my posts enough or with enough consistency.

I’m sure there’s a lot more I could change and if you have any constructive criticism, I’d love to hear it. I started blogging in October of 2010 and I don’t feel like I’ve made nearly as much progress as I should have done, but maybe I’m just not putting in the effort. Who knows?

P.S. If you know, TELL ME!

UPDATED: How to Make a Blog Badge and Code Grab Box

I know there are a fair few of these tutorials kicking around on other blogs, but after Not Just a Mummy’s  post asking for help, I thought I’d show you how I make mine. All you need is a picture or design you want to use, a Photobucket account and your PC’s notepad. If you don’t have a Photobucket account, go and get one now!

1. First things first, open notepad and copy and past this in:

<a href=”PASTE YOUR PAGE URL IN HERE”_blank”>
<img src=”PASTE YOUR IMAGE CODE IN HERE” /></a>

go to the page of your blog that you want the button to point to, copy the URL from the address bar and paste it onto Notepad where it says PASTE YOUR PAGE URL IN HERE, ensuring you keep the speech marks either side.

2. Upload the photo you want to use to Photobucket (I’m using the badge for my new fortnightly fiction meme <—- cheeky plug) Once it’s uploaded, click View Album.

3. Find the picture you want in your Photobucket album and hover over it with your mouse so that the code options appear. You want IMG code, so click on it once and it’ll copy it for you automatically. Go onto your notepad file and paste the image code directly over where it says PASTE YOUR IMAGE CODE IN HERE. Once you’ve pasted it, go in and remove the highlighted bits below:

You want to delete the square brackets and everything within, making sure you don’t delete anything else around them.

4. Hey presto! This should be your completed code, I suggest pasting it into a widget and briefly publishing it to check that it’s worked.

If anyone has any questions or needs any help, just let me know, I’m more than happy to.

 

UPDATE!

If you want to add a badge in your sidebar with a box for others to be able to grab your code (like my Closer to Nature one in the sidebar ——>) use the following code, obviously replacing the image URL and page URL with your info:

 

<a href=”PAGE URL HERE”><img src=”IMAGE URL HERE” border=”0″ alt=”NAME OF BADGE HERE” /></a><br />
<textarea cols=”20″ rows=”10″><a href=”PAGE URL HERE” target=”_blank”><img src=”IMAGE URL HERE” border=”0″ alt=”NAME OF BADGE HERE” /></a></textarea>

 

This should give you the perfect button and grab box to place in a sidebar 🙂