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Dealing with Spam Comments

I know I’m not alone in this one – spam comments. They try and appear on every blog, thankfully if you set up your commenting system “correctly” then they don’t appear to everyone else.

Top Rated Lad!

is one comment that amused me particularly. If the person had taken 2 seconds to glance at my sidebar then they would have seen my photo. I’m a gal, not a lad!

So, how do you prevent them?
With WordPress.com Akismet is pre-installed and activated, it’s an anti-spam plugin that automatically filters comments and decides the obvious spam links for you. On Self-Hosted WordPress/Wordpress.org the plugin comes pre-installed, you just have to activate it and get your API Key (check out your dashboard > Plugins for more information – it tells you what to do with it).
Blogger has its own system built-in.

The other thing to do is to make sure that every commenter has to be approved the first time they comment. Yes this will eat some of your time, but it means that anything that comes through Akismet will be vetted by you first.
In WordPress (hosted and self-hosted) you can set this by going to Settings > Discussion And then under Before a comment appears: tick the second box that says “Comment author must have a previously approved comment”. I wouldn’t tick the first box that says “An administrator must always approve the comment.” as this makes a lot of extra work for you, however if you’re finding a lot of comments “slip through” the process and look like spam then by all means turn it on.

How do you decide what is a spam comment?
This is a hard one, sometimes your gut will just tell you that it’s not “real”, other times there are obvious clues – company or website names instead of human ones, including unrelated links to websites in the comment – this means you should check the links out. If they’ve linked to a post they’ve written on the subject then definitely leave it in. Sometimes your gut instinct might be wrong (it seems fake because their level of English is poor – but in fact they just struggle with the language), but in general go with it.

Should you edit a comment?
This is quite controversial, and as a general rule I would say not to edit comments, however there are always exceptions. For example, someone leaves a great comment, and then at the end chucks in a link to their website – not a specific post, but the homepage, and moreover it’s not related to your blog in any way. Here you could edit the comment to remove the link, and then simply put a link in such as “Unrelated link removed by administrator.”. Be wary of doing this, and perhaps send a quick email to the comment author letting them know you’ve done it – and that if they wish to link to their website there is a link above the box of the comment itself.

What are your favorite spam comments you’ve received?

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Definition: Favicon

Yesterday I mentioned a favicon was one thing you could use to customize your WordPress template. But what exactly is it?

Favicon is actually short for Favourites Icon – meaning the icon/picture you see next to a bookmark in your bookmarks bar or menu. It is also usually displayed in the address bar and on the tab.

Favicons are usually 16x16px (pretty small) so any design has to be quite simple. I would recommend that you change your site Favicon to something other than the default (as this is usually the logo of your blog platform – why promote them when you could promote yourself?).

What “blogging terms” would you like to be defined?


What Do You Need to Start a Blog? The Bare Necessities…

You’ve decided you want to start a blog, only you’re a bit lost on where you go after making this decision. What do you need? As in, really need?

  1. A reason to blog. This is perhaps the most obvious place to start. What do you want to write about? Why? I want to write about blogging because I enjoy blogging, you might want to write about your family so you have a record everyone can look at, any reason you choose is a reason to blog.
  2. An email address. You’ll need this to sign up to whatever host and/or platform/software you want to use. It might be a good idea to get a specific email address for your blog and any services you might choose to use with it. I would personally recommend Google, they’re free and you can set up some good security on there.
  3. A blog host. Depending on your blog software you might need to choose a separate blog host, I would recommend BlueHost as they’ve been brilliant with my other blog. Decide what software you want to use and look at what they recommend to host them.
  4. Blog software. If you are choosing a hosted blog software/platform such as Blogger or WordPress.com then this will be pre-installed. If you are choosing self-hosted then you need to choose your software and install it.
  5. A domain. With any form of blog you should get a free subdomain  (such as rosemaryjayne.wordpress.com). If you are paying for a host you might well get a domain for free (such as RosemaryJayne.com), or blog platforms may offer you the option to purchase one.
  6. A theme. This is how your blog looks. Every blog platform will come with a theme installed by default, you can choose among the various themes offered or create your own depending on what hosting option and/or platform you chose. I would recommend picking something other than the default theme as a lot of people don’t – and looking exactly the same as everyone else makes you blend in.
  7. Content. This is the big, must have, part. You need to actually put something on your blog – what that is, is entirely up to you. You can use photos, videos, writing, anything you can upload can be put on your blog.

Optional Extras:

  • A Facebook Page. If you’re intending to monetize your blog at some point, or want to give fans more possibilities to interact with you then you might want a Facebook page. They’re free and easy to set up – just upload an image and remember to update the page regularly.
  • A Twitter Account. You may already have one for yourself, you might want to have a separate one for your blog, but Twitter is a great way of communicating with people, and as a side effect you can promote your blog as well.
  • A Google+ Page. This is somewhere between a Facebook Page and a Twitter Account/Profile. You can use it the same way as you can Facebook and Twitter.
  • Analytics. If you want to track how many people are visiting your blog, which days they come on, which posts are better than others then you want Analytics. Depending on your platform you will probably end up using either Google Analytics, or Jetpack.
  • Promotion. This is more if you want to become well-known within your niche, and/or monetize your blog – but promoting your blog can be done in many ways, from Social Media, to Guest Posting.
  • A goal. Why are you blogging? This really ties back into the first “necessity” for starting a blog, but do you want to make enough money to quit your current job and just work on your blog? How about promote your offline business? Make new friends around the world? Keep a journal or diary of some kind that you can show to your family in the future?

What would you say are the necessities for starting a blog?


Do You Need More Than One Blog?

A blog should be about one topic. I’m not sure I’ve read that exact phrase anywhere before, but it’s certainly been implied. In Darren Rowse’s “Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six Figure Income” he acknowledges that one of the reasons his first blog wasn’t so successful is that it had too many topics and very few readers were interested in all of them.

This is tied into how often you post – if you think you can post at least weekly on each subject then I would say have a blog per subject, but it entirely depends on you. For example you might have a blog who’s aim is just to keep your family informed of the day-to-day goings on in your life, in which case you should keep everything together. On the other hand my favorite hobbies are music (making of), photography (learning from an absolute beginner), knitting (pretty proficient & creative), and reading as well as writing romance novels. I can’t think of many people who would happily read a blog every day knowing that the subject might be any of them – but I might have a chance of being “successful” if I split them up and blog weekly or so.

Of course, if you’re just blogging for the sheer love of it and don’t care if people read your blog or not then do whatever you like – it is your blog!

What do you folks think? Should your blog stick to one main theme, or are you OK with several themes?


Do You Need to be Techy to Blog?

By the word “techy” I mean understand terms such as HTML, CSS, CMS, SEO, SEM, etc. (Please, don’t panic! They’re not that hard to learn about.)

So, do you need to be techy?
I think it honestly depends on how far you want to go and how much money you have. If you want to have a full time career blogging then I think you should at least understand the terms – even if you couldn’t edit CSS to save your life, if you know what it is then you’re good. Let’s look at what you can do:

Learn everything yourself and do everything yourself. This is the option I’ve chosen as I have very little spare cash available plus I studied coding (specifically for game building) on a short course when I was still at school – after learning one language I found the rest relatively simple to pick up – and when I get stuck Google is a great resource.

Outsource everything. You can pay other folks to do everything for you. There are some great places to outsource things – you can buy custom blog themes from lots of places, get avatars made at fiverr.com and so on.

Not care. I would advise this only if you’re not a “serious blogger” meaning you don’t mind if you aren’t particularly successful, or don’t (want to) make a lot of money, or actually don’t care. Of course, you can always take this route at the beginning while you’re getting yourself started and then learn/outsource later.

So, are you techy? Would you like to be?


Definition: Blog Platform, Blogging Software, Blogware, Content Management System (CMS)

This is part of a series called “The Blogger’s Dictionary”, we’ll be defining everything to do with blogging every Wednesday and Friday for the time being!

We know they can be hosted, or self-hosted, but what actually is a blogging platform?

Blogger, WordPress, Moveable Type, Tumblr, are all examples of blogging platforms, and that is they are the core of your blog. They are what makes your blog actually work – allow you to create posts without hand-coding HTML and CSS to create a website. Essentially they are a form of software on the internet which were created to make the process of blogging itself and blog maintenance easier.

This is the last blog post before Christmas, I will be back on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday next week and then posting daily after the new year!


Why I’m Using WordPress.com

First I’d like to apologise for the lack of post yesterday. You might have heard about the general strike in Belgium today – I was due to travel via Eurostar from Brussels today and had to change my travel plans at the last minute. Anyway, onto today’s post!

Anyone out there who “knows about blogging” is probably thinking something along the lines of:

“This lady is crazy, every serious blogger knows you use self-hosted WordPress to blog properly.

And the truth is I do use self-hosted WordPress, over at College Student Magazine. So why on earth am I not using it here then?

Money.
I don’t have a huge amount of money, it’s enough to live on – but I managed to get the hosting for College Student Magazine at a special offer ($3.95/month for two years). I decided that for at least the first year I would be better off using WordPress.com for this blog for several reasons.

Ease of use.
Everything is integrated here. I don’t need to install any plugins, find API keys, or do anything except the writing and comment moderating side of things, that for me is great, I don’t even have to update!

Social features.
Wordpress.com is almost like a social network within itself – you can follow each other’s blogs, like posts and so on. The biggest thing is it notifies the blog owner who has done what – whenever someone likes a post, follows my site or leaves a comment I always check out their blog and if I like it then follow it, comment on it, or like a post too.

You can make money here too.
You can sell things you’ve made yourself – so no Adsense or Amazon Affiliates, but if/when I create eBooks or tools I would like to sell then I will be able to as I’ve created them myself. (Sidenote: It’s advisable to contact the team directly to double check that what you want to do will be fine.)

Simple.
This probably goes hand in hand with ease of use, but I like not having so many themes to choose from, not being able to play with the HTML, etc. It saves so much time. I think this blog looks professional enough for now – and if/when I move to a self-hosted Wirdpres blog then I will redesign the theme myself. But I’ve spent a lot of time working on the theme for College Student Magazine, and unfortunately it wore me out a little bit so I was fed up with the blog for a while.

So that’s why I chose WordPress.com for this blog. What do you use and why?