Savvy bloggers advise, don't be afraid to show your imperfections

In a recent Twitter chat among bloggers, chatters were asked whether it is OK to share one's imperfections on one's blog. One thing that almost all agreed, including some very well established bloggers, that it helps to be frank about one's failures and weak points.

Think over it, and you will see here a sane piece of blogging advice. It helps improve one's credibility and makes a bond with people: key ingredients for success in blogging.

The idea is not to bare one's weaknesses and make a show of them. The purpose of showing one's imperfections is to create a bond with readers who themselves might be dealing with similar problems. For example, if a dance teacher shares how she tipped over while doing a difficult twist even when she had practiced it a thousand times, it would give confidence to those learners who visit her blog and goad them into practicing even harder.
blogging tip: be honest about your strengths and weaknesses
Not only one's past deficiencies that one has overcome, the present ones can in most situations get an appreciative nod from readers if frankly shared. It removes the veil of distance between the speaker/ writer and his audience. Many standup comic artists make good use of this, but it does not hurt in other situations too. An expert in maths or coding can tell his visitors how difficult he finds to get to the logical end in some situations. It only shows, the teacher/ speaker/ blogger is a human being  - and an honest human being.

It is seen that some bloggers, especially those making video tutorials, claim to be experts in their field while many times their expertise is limited to the script of the video. Such faking of expertise does not take one too far. In reality, it is extremely difficult to be perfect even in a narrow field. There may not be a hundred people in the entire world who can honestly claim they know everything and their knowledge covers all the numerous possibilities that are available on even one of the most popular computer programs, the MS Word. It does not lower my stature if I say, somewhere in my video tutorial on MS Word, that after a lifetime working with this program, I still have problem in properly sizing long tables.

Agreeing with the concept of being honest about one's imperfections, Darren Rowse of Problogger fame tweeted this during the chat: 

👉 Transparency in blogging is really about trust. 👉 Sharing your mistakes makes you relatable. 👉 Showing your imperfections shows you are human. 👉 Being real makes you believable.

Some types of posts (for example, serious discussions on political and economic issues) may not be amenable to such treatment. But, showing the human side whenever suitable helps in building rapport with the readers; hope, you agree.

5 simple SEO actions that are evergreen and give results

The term SEO or search engine optimization refers to actions taken to get a website a higher placement on search pages of Google, Bing, Yahoo! etc. A discovery by search engines and high placement on search pages leads to higher amount of traffic and consequent benefits. SEO is not strange to most bloggers' ears. However, it has been so jargonized and made to look difficult by the so-called SEO experts that the common blogger feels overwhelmed and feels that SEO is not his or her cup of tea.

Only those earning out of the blog or wanting a lot of traffic to the blog need to carry out high degree of SEO for their site - on their own or through SEO experts. Others need not go for an SEO service or be worried about SEO except to take some search optimization actions so that their blog/ website is not ignored by search engines despite good content.

In fact, the best SEO practices are usually those that are simple, natural and ethical. It is reported that many of the 'experts' are not real experts and have learnt a few tricks of the trade. They use these tricks to get short-term gains to the website/ web page. In the long term, the website/ blog does not gain much and is sometimes even hurt beyond repair. If you are interested in what Google says about the importance of right and natural search engine optimization, please visit the link given at the bottom of this article.

best SEO techniques are simple and natural

How to improve SEO in an ethical, natural way

The idea of ethical search optimization is to give signals to the search engines that your website/ blog and its individual posts have high value. Google says, when more people talk about it on their websites or social media, that is a good signal. People staying on the web page, clicking on the page link on search results and visiting other pages of the same website are some other strong signals. On the other hand, people quickly leaving the website and not visiting more than one page are weak search signals.

I am giving here five common-sense actions that non-techie bloggers can take and improve their blog's search rankings on Google (and on Bing and Yahoo!).

Is good content enough for search engine optimization?

No, it is not; but the quality of content is of prime importance. Write like an expert. Sometimes write big, well-researched, articles. Write such content regularly. That is a sure-shot guarantee that other SEO efforts will be more effective.

Give each post a relevant, catchy headline so that it is read when it comes in search results. 

You can make the headline provocative, seek action, show urgency or offer help so that people are pulled towards it. However, do not hoodwink; if your headline promises something, the body of the post must deliver that.

Be focused on the subject, so that search engines discover your authority over it. 

If you write on Himalayan glaciers, write many post on it, link with authoritative websites on the subject, interact on other blogs on the same subject. Focusing on the subject also helps in not straying too far from the main subject of the blog and thus developing the blog as a useful resource on the subject.

Socialize on the social media to be popular and also give positive signals for web search. 

It leads to natural link building and sends positive vibes to search engines.

Don't forget to optimize content for search, but do it in a natural way. 

Think of some terms that searchers in your area of activity use while searching on the web. For example, on the subject of digital art, people could be typing such keywords on their search box: digital art museum, digital art gallery, digital art wallpapers, digital art courses, what software is available for making digital art, digital art prices. If you have a blog on digital art, you would catch attention of searchers (and therefore of search engines) if your posts cater to these search intentions. To optimize your blog for these search terms (= keywords), you should ensure that the text and headline strongly relate to at least one of the search terms you identified.

There are many ways - that are ethical, useful but not natural - for improving SEO. Then there are actions that are disliked by search engines. Here is a list of SEO actions you should take and not take. If you are interested in knowing what Google itself tells about SEO, visit this link. Mind it, it is rather longish.

Making a million dollars by blogging while feasting around the globe!

Let me introduce Mark Weins, the gourmet blogger originally from Arizona, the USA, and now settled in Bangkok.

Mark is a travel blogger of a different type - he focuses on food, not travel. He says, "I believe when you travel, there’s no better way to connect with people, than through food." His blog, Migrationology, proves that. Perhaps that also is the key to his success in travel blogging, which is otherwise very crowded.

What makes his blog tick is its resourcefulness and a straight communication with the visitor. He is honest about his exploits and shows them in detail in his posts. The clean design supplements the blog well. The same goes for his YouTube channel - call it a video blog if you like. As on date, he has nearly 2.3 million YouTube subscribers!

make money from travel blogging with focus on food
As any blogger should do, Mark has chosen the topic of his liking, so he enjoys blogging while he gets to enjoy the best food in the places he visits.

While he enjoys food, Weins is [perhaps] conscious that blogging alone cannot get him much beyond good food (and a bulging belly!) So, he has made his blog the hub of different activities, which include posting YouTube videos (It now precedes all other activities), publishing ebooks and selling/ giving away sundry merchandise (caps, t-shirts).

Mantras for success in blogging

On his blog, Mark has shares his blogging growth, and how his focus and hard work are now paying him well as a blogger:
At the beginning, when I made the decision to earn a living online, I'll admit that I had to live on the cheap (really cheap)...
One of the biggest turning points for me was when I published my first eBook, the Eating Thai Food Guide. I finally had my very first product to sell on my website...
It took about 3 years of online work and experimenting before I really started making enough to live fully and support anyone other than myself...
But when you have a goal you're working towards, you'll do what it takes to get there.
There are two very useful takeaways from Weins experience for those who want to succeed as a blogger:
  1. Within a broad blogging niche, think of a narrow one that is not crowded and yet is attractive.
  2. Choose the subject that interests you and on which you will always enjoy blogging.

How to make a social post with text in 5 minutes, for free?

Why post pictures with text in it?

We see posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social platforms in which an important statement is laid over a picture. They make an impression on our minds, and when they do so, we 'like' or share them instantly. 

Quotes are one of the most popular types of posts on Facebook and Twitter. They are also seen in good numbers on Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and WhatsApp. Such type of images have a quote from a great person or a celebrity.

Sometimes text on images is used to broadcast an event or a big news story, show support to a social cause, highlight something of great concern or other important message. Brands also use them for advertisements. Text with an underlying image also suits invitations.

How to easily create pictures with text?

Look at the 'picture with text' given below. It took me just 5 minutes to create this image. For this, I did not require any knowledge of picture editing and it was all free!

picture with text for blogs and social media

Let me guide you.
  • Go to Canva at this link. Signup with any of your social media accounts. 
  • There are various presets, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram posts and so on. (Btw, you can use this tool for creating book covers and infographics also).
  • Select whatever platform for which you want the picture. You have the canvas ready. From the 'layout' tab on the left, select any of the free layout options given there. 
  • The template that you click opens in the main area. Click on the text already written there. Replace with your own text. 
  • The picture is ready! You can directly share it from here itself, but it is better to download it on your computer. The 'share' and 'download' buttons are at the top of the screen.
Wait. If you are not fully satisfied with the picture, play with the text editing and placement options, backgrounds, and so on. On the left pane, there is 'elements' button. It lets you choose from thousands of free background images and shapes. You can put more than one image and any number of shapes, color them differently and move individual elements up or down.

Learning is so simple. Initially you might take 15 minutes but with a bit of experimentation, you will be able to make fantastic banners with embedded text within 5 minutes. Of course, you might still like to take some more time to spruce up the image.

Image editing with professional picture editors

If you are interested in creating sophisticated images with text on them, there are many free tools for that. (Please allow me a bit of self-promotion: I have given a full list of useful tools for various blogging purposes in 'The Manual of Blogging'.)

Gimp and are two free tools that I would recommend. Gimp is offline picture creation and editing suite while is online. They are difficult to learn if you have not worked on such tools earlier. However, with some experimentation (or using guides freely available on the web), you can learn them. Once you are comfortable with them, you can not only create pictures with text, but create all types of images, improve photographs and apply effects on them. On smart phones, there are a number of free image editing tools; I like Snapseed for its numerous options.

Disclosure: I have no commercial dealings with Canva.

Be realistic if thinking of travel blogging as a career

There are many reports, mostly on travel blogs themselves, of travel bloggers making huge money and living life like a king (or queen) while traveling around the world.

The reality may not always be that rosy. As the linked article shows, the blogger has to care for many things including health, holidays, family responsibilities and taxes in addition to the routine travel expenses. The travel has to be planned much in advance so as to save on travel and hotel bookings. If the earnings are not as expected, one has to live in cheap hotels or take circuitous connecting flights instead of direct ones.

In addition, travel cannot happen all the time, and a very hectic life cannot be sustained after a certain age. So, one needs to keep investing in side activities and make travel into a business before one slows down. Only those travel bloggers have been successful who have taken it as a business rather than a hobby that also earns. The business part of blogging involves investing time and energy (and sometimes money) on creating and nurturing one's brand, contacting and pitching ideas with prospective clients (hotels, restaurants, airways, magazines etc), regularly writing high quality articles, photography, working on SEO and monetization, creating ebooks and guides, and so on. 

In fact, some bloggers have opened firms on advice and agency work related to travel and tourism. My take is that such bloggers had the business in mind the day they started their travel blog.

The advice for bloggers planning to take travel blogging as career is: think seriously beforehand whether you have the instinct to take up blogging as a business. If not, you can still think of it as a hobby or a part-time activity but not as a full-time avocation.

travel blogging as career

This article in the Insider reveals why quitting a job to travel the world is not always a great idea.

Indian women are living their dreams through food blogging

In the US, Europe and Australia, almost all adult women are employed. Against this, in India, even well-educated women till a generation back did not seek employment so have remained housewives in their adult and old age. Even now, not all educated women - especially in non-metro locations - look for jobs. For various reasons, even among those seeking jobs, many remain unemployed. Some employed women also give up their jobs when they turn moms. In all, India has a big population of middle-class educated women living their life as housewives.

A typical housewife, beyond her household chores, spends her free daytime in watching television, chatting on social networks and instant messaging sites and indulging herself in gossips and kitty-parties. In many urban localities, religious congregations are common and a middle-class woman is a likely participant. If not of religious and spiritual bend, she may have a worldly hobby such as gardening, reading or writing or having kitty parties. In rare cases, she could also be a member of a social or cooperative group.

In a rather recent trend, many unemployed women have taken to blogging, and food blogging is on top among women-dominated niches. Food bloggers from India range from just amateurs occasionally posting their home-made stuff on the blog or posting a recipe video on YouTube to highly professional bloggers. In addition, there are many working women, even holding high positions, who nurture their cooking hobby through blogging.

What makes Indian housewives good food bloggers is their resourcefulness in preparation of food, starting from raw material to finished product. The variety of Indian regional cuisine, use of myriad ingredients and as many methods of cooking makes India a culinary museum, and women have been its primary contributors as well as custodians.

Food blogging, however, is not limited to housewives. There are some renowned chefs who have opened blogs, and many of them are women. On the other hand, many professional cooks/ dieticians/ culinary experts who were not earlier well-known have established themselves and gained prominence through food blogging.

Top women food bloggers in India

Some of the prominent Indian food blogs by women (not necessarily housewives; some professional chefs) include:

Mala's Kitchen
Bong Mom's Cookbook
Chitra's Food Book
Holy Cow
Edible Garden
My Food Story
Vegan Richa
My Tasty Curry
Cooking Diva Manjusha

best food bloggers in India

Instagram vertical long form IGTV video, have you tried it?

Till now Instagram was known for its short videos but now it has rolled out IGTV or a new video format that can run for an hour!

vertical video from Instagram - IGTV

Instagram has launched a separate app for IGTV but the feature is available on its own app too. What is more interesting than the length of the video is that the videos on IGTV are vertical, not in 'landscape' layout. This format suits mobile phones because the user does not have to turn the phone to a side to watch the video.
Instagram bloggers have cheered the move and so have social media marketers. Some social media watchers are already predicting that it would give a serious challenge to YouTube, till now the undisputed master of online video universe.