Blogging With Photos

A photo I took, cropped and resized for my post, January in Vermont.

A photo I took, cropped and resized for my post, January in Vermont.

These last few months have been an education in blogging with photos, starting with learning about the fair use of others’ images, sourcing free photos, and now taking my own photos and posting them on Living In Place and The Middle Ages.
Wordpress makes uploading media easy, and I thought I was doing a fine job until Codewryter, my web-designer, taught me a few tricks.
1. Keep images under 100kb, so that your webpage loads quickly.
Big files take a long time to load, and we all know our own impatience when we have to wait more than two blinks of an eye for anything online. Our readers have tremendous curiosity and dozens of interesting posts to choose from; having to wait for our page to load could cause a reader to click away.
2. Resize large photos.
There are lots of big programs for sale to help photographers manipulate images, but they’re costly and complicated for a shutterbug like me. I’ve been using http://www.picmonkey.com to resize my files from Megabytes to Kilobytes. It’s a free program that allows you to edit your photos, including cropping, resizing, enhancing, and otherwise making your image look better. And it’s easy to use.
3. Identify your photos for ownership, for SEO and for the visually impaired.
Wordpress offers several fields to fill in whenever you add a photo to a post. For years, I just left the ones that didn’t auto-fill blank, but now I know better. Now, I always add at least a title and a description, and sometimes a caption as well. Not only do these make it easy for your readers to identify your images, they also help with Search Engine Optimization, which is how your readers find your work in the first place.
I’m sure there are more tricks, other programs, and new skills to learn about blogging with photos. What tricks, programs and skills can you share?

Cropped & resized photo using www.picmonkey.com

Cropped & resized photo using http://www.picmonkey.com

Deborah Lee Luskin writes to advance issues through narrative, telling stories to create change. She’s an award-winning novelist, a seasoned educator, a commentator on Vermont Public Radio, and a pen-for-hire.

What’s the deal with that hashtag thing?

Last weekend, at the blogging panel (which, by the way, was a blast) during the question and answer period, a woman asked about hashtags – “what are they?”

facebook-hashtagIf she asked that, then I figured someone else in our audience might have the same question. Here is the scoop about hashtags.

A hashtag is just that little crossed symbol on your keypad that used to be called the number sign (#).

It’s used on social media (mostly Twitter but it’s on other sites, like Facebook, as well) as a way to do searches. Hashtagged words act as keywords in a search. Think about it, how many words do you know in the English language that start with #? I’m guessing that you can’t come up with many. Because of this, hashtags are used on the internet as a way to easily do searches.

Finding information with Hashtags

Let’s say I’m on Twitter and I want to join in the conversation around the recent World Cup event. I would enter #worldcup in the Twitter search box and the result would show me all the tweets that have this tag (and that theoretically have to do with the World Cup.) This is a great way to find out what is going on during a current news event (and which is why some countries are limiting Twitter during protests.)

On a more personal level, if I want to see recent tweets on chickens, I’m not going to just enter the word “chicken” because then I’ll see tweets on chicken nuggets, chicken recipes, and possibly tweets on frightened people.

However, if I search for #chicken then I’ll get only the tweets with that hashtag in them. This will narrow my search to that information that has been tagged (by the user) as having a “chicken” interest. (This, of course assumes that the original tweeter is using hashtags correctly.) This technique makes it easier to sift through the information and to make connections with people who have the same interests.

Sending information with Hashtags

Just as important as finding information is making sure that *your* information can be found. You do this by adding hashtags to the end of your tweet or social media message. Think of the keywords or important topics or themes that your tweet is talking about and then add them as hashtags.

For my personal blog, I might typically add some tags like, #chickens, #parenting, #roosters, #tinyhouses and #backyardpoultry. When I recently posted a tweet about a series I’m writing on Living Tiny in a Big House, I was prompted by Twitter to consider the hashtag #tinyhousenation. I figured if the prompt is there, then there is probably enough interest to consider it. I now add that hashtag to my tiny living tweets.

If I am tweeting about a post that I’ve written on this blog, I typically include hashtags like #writers and #authors or I might consider a hashtag specific to the topic. The hashtag for this post will be #hashtag.

Be careful not to get too detailed or too grand in your hashtags, don’t use things like #politics when you are talking about something specific in your state or town, in that case I’d use something like #NHpolitics. And likewise don’t talk about #beesinthebackyard when you really just mean #bees.

Other uses for Hashtags

Some people (and I have to admit that I’m guilty of this) use Hashtags as a way to make a snarky or humorous statement about something. For example, there might be a tweet about someone who has done something dumb with the hashtag #seewhatImean? I’ve also seen hashtags like #amIright? and funny joke statements like #firstbornproblems.

Be careful when using hashtags like this, as we all know, people do not share the same sense of humor and what may be funny to you may come across as offensive to someone else.

In summary, hashtags are a handy way to both find information and to send information on the internet. If you are sending information that you want people to read (as opposed to simply replying to an individual) make it a habit to routinely include at least one hashtag.

The easier you make it to find your information, the more likely it will get found.

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

 

A classic will always be a classic

I recently picked up a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo at a local book sale on the second day where a bag of books cost $2. I figured, I’d never read it and it was one of those things that I *should* read in my lifetime.

IMG_20140304_105932161I mean a classic is called a classic for a reason, right?

I slipped it into my bag with the personal promise that if I hadn’t touched it by the next book sale, I would donate it back.

But then a funny thing happened. It was a cold New Hampshire night, I was sitting by the heater covered up in a wool blanket and I wanted to read something but didn’t want to get up (and risk losing all my heat.) So I looked around and the closest book happened to be that very same copy of The Count.

Why not? I opened to page one and started reading. A few hours later I was still reading.

“Griffin,” I called out to my son, “you are not going to believe this story. It’s got justice and injustice, deceit and naivety, good guys and bad guys, and a hero who shows incredible patience and grace under the most incredible conditions. It’s a story where good behavior is rewarded (finally) and bad behavior is, well dealt with. In short, it’s amazing. Absolutely amazing. I can’t put this book down!”

“I know,” Griffin replied to me when I was done gushing over the story,” We had to read it in high school. It’s one of my favorite stories.”

“You do know that classics are called classics for a reason, right?” He then asked me.

What I want to know is just when did my kid get to be so smart?

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com)

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

5 Things to Consider When Writing Webcopy

When I write for someone else’s website, the first thing I do is hold a face-to-face meeting. I want to be able to hear the owner’s actual voice and figure out what it is about their business that makes them stand out from the competition. Some of the information I’m specifically looking for is:

What is the voice? I talk about voice a lot in my marketing writing. It’s something you hear about all the time with regard to internet writing. People want to hear your voice. But what does that mean? You, as the writer, need to gauge whether the client’s voice is friendly, authoritative, funny, or motherly to name just a few examples.

A company that offers services to declutter someone’s house is going to have a far different voice than a company that offers international shipping options. When I sit down with the client, I listen to their physical voice when they explain what it is their company does, and that gives me an idea of how they want themselves represented on the internet.

What benefits do they offer the customer? I recently saw a client who showed me his introductory slide presentation for prospective customers. It started with how his company got started (30 years ago) and continued until today. That’s clearly a presentation that was designed for a person who is very proud of his company. It was not designed for someone who wants to know what it is you can do for them. Find out what the benefits and then use that information in every piece of writing you create.

What are the Keywords? I always ask my clients, what words would I use to describe your business? Those will often be the SEO words you’ll use for much of the documentation. I then ask, what words would I use to describe you? Those are often the words by which the company wants to be known  – trustworthy, intelligent, competent, etc. It will be those attributes that you’ll  be showcasing in your writing.

What’s the best way to present the information? Is what the company does visual? If so, like in the case of a decluttering service, perhaps before and after photos would be effective. Is the company more results oriented, as in, they save the customer money? Then charts and graphs might be effective. . Does the company showcase or teach skills? Well now, there’s a case for video clips.

Figure out, based on the product and services, how best to represent that information on the web.

To whom are we targeting the information? In almost all cases, it starts with a blog. That part is easy, what becomes a bit trickier is figuring out how then to broadcast that blog material.

Figure out who the company typically sells to? Is it the CFO? If so, then don’t spend a lot of effort on Facebook and instead concentrate on sending articles and blog posts to LinkedIn groups and out on Twitter. Does the company have a more “friendly” community? If so then go guns blazing to Facebook. Get those blog posts up and invite discussion in a community format.

Not all web promotion is created equal. It’s up to you to match what you hear and understand from your discussions with the client to what is available out there and that would bring the most bang from their investment dollars.

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com)

An important part of being a good writer is being a good listener.

Events for Writers – SEMNE – Content Writing for SEO Professionals

How did we live BG? Seriously, how did we live Before Google? How did we ever get anything done?

Search engines have attained ubiquity in our society, yet many businesses struggle with how to increase and maximize their search engine exposure. For so long, many have thought it was about the right tags in the right place or tricking the search engines. That strategy foolishly overlooks the ultimate beneficiary of the search engine. The human user. The user doesn’t want tricks or tags, the user wants information, accurate, timely, easy to locate, information. Information is conveyed via the content (web pages, blog posts, Tweets, Facebook updates, etc.) that a company makes available on the Internet.

On her blog, Conversation Agent, Valeria Maltoni says “Content is your digital body language. Good content is a way for your business to be useful and become attractive through search (digital media) and sharing (social media)” **

That my friends is where you come in. You, are a writer. You, are a content creator. YOU ARE ALL POWERFULL *ahem* Sorry, got a little carried away there. How do you know what kind of content your target audience is looking for?. Should you draft articles? Can content be repurposed? How can you learn what your audience wants to read? Dianna Huff knows.

Dianna started out as a copywriter. After the dot com bubble burst, she realized to succeed, she had to be able offer her clients more, so she taught her self the art and science of SEO. She is elated that the industry is finally coming to realize what she’s known all along; it is the content that matters most. Dianna is the featured speaker at next week’s SEMNE (Search Engine Marketing New England) meeting. SEMNE is “a regional association of search marketers who gather six times per year to learn, exchange information and network with other search marketers.” The organization was founded by Jill Whalen and Pauline Jakober The group is now managed by Jonathan Hochman of Hochman Consultants. According to Jonathan, “ SEO should not be a job, is it should be a skill used by all web professionals.”

Where: The Crowne Plaza Natick (Rte, 9 across from the Natick Mall).

When: Wednesday September 15, 2010 6:30pm-9pm.

Cost: $49 for non-members, free for members

Details: semne.org

If you make it be sure and say hi, my very blonde hair makes me easy to spot.

**Hat tip to Lee Odden for the link to the blog post via Linked In

Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com and Thisnhlife.com. Her words have appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe.

Are You Saying What You Think You’re Saying? Find Out with Wordle?

More on SEO. Even though I am not a fan of three and for letter acronyms, last week I wrote about SEO (Search Engine Optimization). SEO is about getting found on the web. It is one piece to having an effective marketing strategy and measures in place.

There are hundreds of millions of websites and blogs out there. Few, it any, of us are lucky enough to gain instant traffic to our sites. If you are going to invest time on a website, blog, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, you might as well be effective.

First things first. Whether you consider yourself a grown up or not, decide who you are or who you want to be. In other words, you need to understand your personal brand. Do you write about fashion or politics; sports or living green; Motown music or the automobile industry? Are you local, regional or national? Are you funny, trendy, deadly serious, academic or homespun and friendly? Once you’ve figured out your brand, you can begin to figure out how to publicize it or promote it, develop a following and get more work.

Use your Words. SEO is the process of improving a web site’s, web page’s or blog’s visibility. For a writer, understanding SEO can help you design content to increase traffic to your site. Figure out the key words a reader, an editor or a client might type into Google, Bing or Yahoo! to find you and what you do. Make sure those words appear on your site. In my case it meant calling myself a Food Writer & More instead of simply a Writer. I still mention the other areas I cover but highlight the topic for which I am best known. Continue reading

Improve your Visibility with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Part I

Do you keep running into terms like Web 2.0, tag clouds and SEO and wonder what it’s all about? (And if not, why not?) For the uninformed, which included me until a few months ago, SEO is all about getting your blog or website to pop to the top of a Google, Yahoo! or Bing search.

I avoided SEO for awhile. In my defense, for many years I worked in high tech sales and marketing where three and four letter acronyms are king. Now I have a tendency to avoid, ignore or at least cringe at anything with an acronym instead of a name. Particularly if the real name behind the three or four letters is filled with terribly important words. Names like Mission Critical this, Business Continuity that or Something Something Optimization. To get my drift, say these names out loud with your most important announcer’s voice … MISSION CRITICAL SERVICES. BUSINESS CONTINUITY SOLUTIONS. SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION. In spite of my aversion to acronyms and services names that sound like they should be delivered by super heroes, SEO finally managed to get my attention. 

Since I consider myself an on-going student of social media, it was a natural step. Certainly, I understand the power of the internet. I know that there are hundreds of millions of websites and blogs out there. I have my own website, three blogs  and participate on a fourth. I’ve made an effort to figure out Facebook and Twitter. I have videos and my own channel on YouTube. With all the time I invest on the web, I decided I might as well be effective. Or maybe jealousy got the better of me.

I experimented with a few web searches. It was easy to find me by name but Google “food writer” and I was nowhere or so deep in the 134,000,000 results that even a kind and loving friend couldn’t me. Try “food writer” NH and I was still nowhere. Since everything is relative I tried a new search: thrifty writer NH. Up popped my friend Wendy with her press release for her $729.94 egg, an NHPR interview and a couple of “Simple Thrift” columns from the Nashua Telegraph. I saw a notice for a Search Engine Optimization workshop, decided I could learn something and headed down to Concord.

Search Engine Optimization or SEO is the process of improving a web site’s, web page’s or blog’s visibility. For a writer, understanding SEO can help you design your web or blog content to increase traffic to your site. SEO is particularly important for writers because it is our job to craft stories that engage people not algorithms. However, if we fail to pay attention or at least respect the algorithms we can get lost in 134,000,000 Google results.

You don’t have to sell your soul to the techno devil to do it. You just need to make a few changes. Based on your personal brand or platform, change a few words and phrases on your website or blog to raise your visibility. First, I changed Writer to Food Writer & More. Although the bulk of my portfolio is food writing, I have resisted calling myself a food writer. I cover other topics and worry about getting typecast. However, invisibility was too steep a price to pay for the more flexible title.

Create an active site. Active sites are more visible on the web. You can keep you blog or website active by updating regularly and linking to other sites. I was already updating my blogs and website weekly but needed to do a better job with links. Many of the magazines I write for put some articles on-line. My next step was to track down as many as I could find and link my blogs and website to my articles. This step created an added bonus, my editors are very happy to see me market their magazines.

The results? Search “food writer” NH on Google today and I occupy the first two spots. First is a quote I gave to a writer friend at the Hippo in Manchester and the second is my website. I don’t do quite as well on Bing.com where my YouTube channel comes in the number four slot and my Hippo quote is at number eight. A Yahoo! search yields my website at numbers two and three.

Next Steps. I still have lots of work to do to help interested readers, editors and publishers find my blogs. In addition, I’m nowhere when it comes to a search for “food writer” “New England”. But at least I know that I have lots more to learn and for now, I am happy to see progress.

Susan Nye is a corporate dropout turned freelance writer. Her favorite topics are food, small business and green living. Feel free to visit her website, food blog Susan Nye – Around the Table, photoblog or the cleverly named Susan Nye’s Other Blog where she writes about other stuff. © Susan W. Nye, 2010