Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Blog Subscriptions by Email - It Works!

My blogs have been a source of satisfaction and frustration to me.

They are satisfying in that, as blogger says, push-button publishing is possible.
They are frustrating in that, in the fine print, we learn: some assembly is required.

They are satisfying in that templates and more templates are only a mouse click away.
They are frustrating in that some template don't support some features.

Frustrating: I couldn't figure out how to let people subscribe by email.
Satisfying. I posted the email subscription to blogger question to the forum yesterday, and implemented the subscribe-by-email today (on my 2nd try but that's more satisfaction than frustration). THANK YOU FEEDBURNER / BLOGGER / GOOGLE :->

Satisfying. I can tell my story my way on my blog
Frustrating: I'm not that good at crafting stories.
Satisfying: I am going to take a course in story-telling focused on writing for blogs. I'm going to get a Black Belt in Blogging!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Blogging Software - Todays problems

I have a few problems with the current generation of blogging software. I wonder if my list is very different than most others.

1. Sticky. Most forums allow the moderator to mark a comment or thread "sticky". This means that this posting, even when it's not the most recent, stays at the top. I can't seem to find this feature in the blogger or wordpress, the two blogging systems that I use. I'm about to try Typepad so stay tuned..

2. Subscribe to updates by email. This elusive feature is one that I would really like. The comments section allows users (including the moderator) to get emails about new comments but I'm talking about having a simple subscription method to get emails about all updates to the blog. I gather that RSS would be better system but I don't seem to understand RSS and I'd really like it to be a simple email system. Even the feedburner addition to wordpress and blogger is lacking this.

3. More HTML functionality such as tables in blog posts. While it's cool to be able to post videos and images, I sometimes try to put some info on a blog post that is best done as a table. While I succeeded after laborious efforts, it should be simplified (by the way, I did figure out some of the bugs and workarounds in blogger for tables but I can't seem to find my write-up here. Maybe it's on another blog, maybe it's on a forum. Ask if you want to see it)

4. Integrated trackbacks, stats, and subscriptions. Basically, I like that google bought feedburner and is integrating them. I just want it done already plus, I'd like them to remember us mortal non-techie users and provide us simple emails subscriptions and de-emphasize the glitzy rss feeds that handle everything including podcasts (another technology that I've not yet gotten involved with).

5. Promotion. It would be nice if there was more automated pinging built into the blogs. Or, if there is more than I am aware of, more documentation on them. I tend to update my content and then to manually use:
But I can't tell if my efforts are useful or wasted. I do know that if I correctly join and participate in the blog communities, I do well.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Blogging Software - Incomplete out of the box

You would think that the leading blog software would be click and publish. But, it's not. Some of the basic features need to be added in by the users.

With blogger, the google-owned software for making blogs, you don't get trackbacks or subscriptions or any statistics. To get a subscription capability, you need to separately sign up for and install Feedburner. Feedburner also supplies visitor and subscription stats. If you want trackbacks, you can add halo but that seems to invite comment spam. BTW - Google bought Feedburner and I assume is trying to integrate it.

With WordPess, you also need to add Feedburner for subscriptions and stats. And halo for trackbacks.

Of course, with some templates and other modifications, Feedburner is incompatible.

And while Feedburner talks alot about chicklets and convenient RSS feeds, I'm having trouble finding out about the basic ability to subscribe to blog updates by email. I know it's a little simple but still, that's how most of us operate. I don't know what an RSS reader is and, just like news and other readers, I don't really have the time or energy to figure them out.

I'm about to try Typepad which I'm hoping, has some of these features integrated. Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Google Page rank - a contrarian view

Most SEO experts agree that:

The visible google page rank is a misleading short cut which we all use but which we shouldn't. It's a bad habit even glancing at that yellow bar.

I've said as much myself. But recently, I've developed a new view starting with the fact that page rank has recently been used by google is a novel way.

Google has dramatically dropped a number of people's page rank as a way of telling them that their site is breaking rules of conduct that google considers important. As Loren Baker explained:

In my opinion, by flipping the switch on changing the PageRank of some sites, Google is trying to send a message....

I think Google is trying to discourage sites from having an unfocused set of links on their site.

I've looked at a few of the sites that were penalized (admittedly, not as many as I would like) and surprisingly, I found them to be high quality sites. Where these sites seem to have run afoul of Google's sensitivities is by having links to sites in which Google could not find the relevance, the "common thread".

Google seems to want us to use text links to other sites only as natural links which is a component of content, not in any commercial sense. Google wants text links to be "natural" content links (around which they can build their search engine). Google seems to be saying that unlike banner ads which is an acceptable form (for google) of paid advertising, text links should only be used as part of "natural" content so they should be in paragraphs and only go to sites with relevant content. If they aren't, they should be run by java script (like adsense) or have "no follow" tags.

Returning to my original point. All the SEO pundits have been saying that although this time the page rank is actually a communication tool for google, it is generally a misleading and useless indicator. I'd like to disagree and submit a contrarian view: the google PR number is a useful measure of what it measures.

The fact is that I've seen a very strong correlation over the last four years between my viewable page rank and my position in the search engines.

I know that the page rank is easily manipulated. As far as I can tell, Google Page Rank is a simple time-delayed count of incoming links and a summary of their page rank without any dampening effect due to numbers of outgoing links or relevance. So, in my case where I am terribly white hat and spend my efforts generating original content and genuine links, my rise in page rank and in the search engines has been synchronous. For me, the Google PR is useful as a judge of my progress.

Blogging, SEO, Adsense, Traffic, ROI

The site pulls an enormous amount of traffic. Alot is repeat traffic, alot is from links from sites that recommend it, and some is from search engines. The good news is that the site does very well for terms such as vocabulary (#2 on the BigG), build vocabulary, and building vocabulary for standardized tests.

We are making an effort broaden the terms for which the site pulls traffic. We are doing this by providing a blog full of interesting relevant original articles such as:

Teaching With
Crossword Puzzles

What's New? 25 New Topics

Learning by Categories

Word Retrieval Therapy

Vocabulary Instruction in Early Learning

Reading Comprehension


Of course, I'm also very interested in providing grade by grade information to potential online students for what they can learn from Time4Learning. Check it out:

First Grade
Second Grade
Third Grade
Fourth Grade
Fifth Grade
Sixth Grade
Seventh Grade
Eighth Grade