(Don’t Be) Blogging for the Sake of It

When I set up this blog over five years ago, my personal goal was to aim to publish at least one post per month. With the exception of one month early on (February 2012, when I took a brief hiatus), I have met that goal. But a few days ago, while combating a busy workload and a sort of form of writer’s block, I found myself clambering around, trying desperately to think of something to blog about.

Which is why I typed (and have published) this.

In the end, I came up with goods, and it’s a semi-decent post by all accounts (or at least I like to think so!), but otherwise I was thinking of publishing this post – in order to ‘fill the gap.’

But you know what? Aside from the fact that there would’ve been a month missing if someone looks at my blog’s Archives, it really doesn’t matter. It’s much more important to write something of quality rather than to write because you have a quota to meet / a box to tick.

I mean just look at this post. Look at it. It’s looking so sorry for itself. It’s barely a couple of hundred words. It doesn’t even have an image to go with it. Pah. It’s certainly not my best, but by publishing it, I would’ve been able to say that I’d published a post during the month of August 2016. Huzzah…? No. No huzzah.

But you could argue that this post shouldn’t – or doesn’t need to – exist at all… Although I decided to publish it anyway, to make a point.

Don’t get me wrong… Deadlines are a good thing. Since I started writing for State of Digital, my writing style and overall blogging game has increased significantly: I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to meet the deadline of providing a post every five weeks – in addition to doing one once a month for SEOno – but I have done, and it’s been going well. Really well.

But at the end of the day, I have a new rule: from now on, when it comes to SEOno at least, I will write new posts when I damn well please, not necessarily once a month. I’d much rather publish a killer post after a three-month gap rather than publish three smaller, underwhelming posts each a month apart.

Would you agree? Yes? Good. Thanks for reading.

Using Prisma App to ‘Spice Up’ your Blog’s Images

A few days ago I caught a tweet by @tombeardshaw showing a painting-style image of his usual avatar head-shot:

I was really impressed, so I asked him who painted it for him, because I was convinced that he’d commissioned someone to do it for him especially.

But I was wrong – it was made via an iPhone app.

Introducing Prisma

Simply put, Prisma is a modern art filter app, overlaying your photos with different artistic styles. In addition to making photos look like paintings (like the example above), you can make them look like sketches, mosaics and even cubist. There’s about two dozen different filters that you can apply.

Here’s what the interface looks like:

Prisma interface - before & after screenshots
Before on the left / After on the right

I’ve slowly become obsessed with it since discovering it, as have many of the people I’ve seen using it. @cardiffisyours is now using Prisma’ed images for its Twitter profile pic and cover pic:

Prisma on @cardiffisyours screenshot
The Guardian recently published an article showing loads of great examples of recent famous photos that have had the Prisma treatment.

The other day, I realised that it had another really good application: photos for blog posts.

Alternative images for your blog posts

I spend a lot of time finding good accompanying images for blog posts, usually hitting up Flickr’s Creative Commons search. I hate stock photos (as I feel that they’re often very generic and ‘forced’-looking), but finding a good, natural, free-to-use image can really take some time. Ironically I often feel that it takes me longer to find a good image for a post than it does to write the damn thing in the first place…!

For a recent post on SEOno – 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Operate a ‘Minimum DA’ Rule When Building Links – I really struggled to find a good image. I tried Flickr’s CC search for keywords around “authority”, “minimum”, etc. but couldn’t find anything appropriate at all. I realised that all I really wanted was a screenshot of Moz’s Open Site Explorer, the tool that displays the metric that was the primary focus of the post. I tried a screenshot at first, but it looked… boring.

Then I had an idea…

Click to read more!

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Operate a ‘Minimum DA’ Rule When Building Links

Rogerbot Dali imageIn the fight for SEO, the juicier the links, the better. We all want to get the best links for ourselves and for our clients – which is why we aim high and identify opportunities with high PA (Page Authority) and high DA (Domain Authority) scores. But sometimes we can get carried away and can take it a bit too far…

A while back I worked on an outreach project for a client, trying to help them get links for some pretty cool resources that they’d created. However, after accepting the work, they dropped the bombshell that they only wanted to get links from sources with a DA score of at least 30 out of 100. I pleaded with them to reconsider (making some of the points below) but they wouldn’t budge. Now I’m grateful for the work, and I adore the person who passed the project my way (he might even end up reading this), so I don’t want this to sound like I’m bitching and moaning. But I genuinely think that they shot themselves in the foot by making that decision. Allow me to explain why…

…But before I do:

First off… What is DA?

Domain Authority (DA) is a logarithmic score out of 100. Developed by Moz, it assesses a website’s SEO ‘strength’ from a purely linking point of view. The higher the better, so getting a link from a DA 30 site is good; a link from a DA 50 site is great; and a link from a DA 70+ site is bloody brilliant.

I completely understand why brands only want to get links from the biggest and best sources – those with the highest DA scores. But ironically, when conducting manual link building and outreach, only targeting the biggest sites can actually be counterproductive. Here are five reasons why:

1) “Little acorns”

Every website starts somewhere – usually with a DA 1 (the lowest possible DA score).

When I created and launched CR 25 18 months ago, it too started at DA 1. It was on DA 1 for a while, even post-launch – simply because DA can take a while to update. It got quite a few links from a few different domains (not tons, but a fair few), and despite getting little attention this past year (as it was a one-off project), it’s now sitting at DA 19. That’s not too bad.

Tech Dragons – a brand new news site documenting Welsh tech startups – already has 44 linking root domains pointing to it according to Majestic, and yet it’s DA 1, simply because it’s new. I bet it’s going to jump to DA 20-30 very soon, if not higher.

Heck, even businesswales.gov.wales – the new domain for Business Wales, a Welsh Government-led initiative – is currently DA 1. But I guarantee that getting a link from a site like that is not something that Google’s going to ignore in a hurry.

Business Wales DA check screenshot
“Mighty oaks from little acorns grow,” as the saying goes. Just because a site isn’t DA 30 now, it doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future.

2) It’s harder, as you’re restricting opportunities

On the project I mentioned above, we had a particular niche that we were targeting. What was weird (and frustrating) was that I found lots and lots of easy-to-grab opportunities in the DA 20-30 range – but obviously this didn’t fit the criteria, as we were only targeting opportunities of DA 30 and upwards. This almost felt like a shame, as we were missing out on quite a few that could’ve been worthwhile – especially if we’d gotten a fair few of them sorted.

Click to read more!

Quick Twitter Bio Tip: Utilise Returns for a Better Layout

Twitter bird imageTwitter addict? Personal branding important to you? Then this might be of interest…

I made a cool discovery the other day. You can use returns in your Twitter bio, which some third-party apps will honour. While it’ll look exactly the same in Twitter itself (as if it’s ignored it) and therefore seem like a completely pointless exercise, other apps show them, which means that you can spread out your Twitter bio across multiple separate lines.

This is especially handy for me as my Twitter bio looks a little messy because it contains a lot of brief one-liners with @mentions:

Twitter profile with no returns screenshot
In its default form it looks a little higgledy-piggledy, especially on Tweetbot for iPhone:

Tweetbot (iPhone) bio, no returns screenshot
As you can see, it looks like I talk about being a freelance SEO consultant, then something about MOM and Welsh ICE, and then I’m a member of something, and then State of Digital… You get the idea. It feels a little disjointed and hard to read, as the parts that are connected are on separate lines from one another.

Enter the ‘Enter’ key

But fear not, my friend, for you can add enters/returns to the bio of Twitter. Go to your Twitter profile, hit ‘Edit profile’ on the right, make your edits in the box on the left, hit the ‘Save changes’ button on the right, and you’re done. Nice n’ easy, no?

(Pro tip: I suggest using an enter and a space each time, just in case places that don’t honour it don’t show a space after the full-stops, therefore looking like this: “@Welsh_ICE member.@stateofdigital…”)

Click to read more!