The A-Z of SEO for Bloggers

So, you've got a website. You've heard the term SEO flung about a bit and you want to know how to get started. First things first there are some words that you need to learn to make sense of the complicated field of digital content marketing. Don't worry, I got you covered. Here are the ABCs of SEO.

#

301 Redirect  

If you permanently change the location of a post or page then you'll want to apply a 301 redirect. This means that, if people try to visit that page at the old location, they will end up at the new URL. This is particularly useful if other sites have linked to the original post, because you won't lose the traffic from those links. Also you can be penalised by search engines for having broken links out there, so a 301 redirect helps to avoid that.

404 Error

This is what happens if you don't pop a 301 redirect on your dead links; they end up 404ing. You've seen these before when you've tried to access a deleted webpage. You don't want any of these.

A

ALT Text/Tag or Attribute

Regardless of which platform you use, when you upload images to your posts you should have the option to add a text description to the image. It won't be visible in your post, but the search engines will see this description in the HTML of the post. This means, if you use descriptions relevant to your keywords/content, that when the search engines crawl (i.e. look through) your site they'll see that you have relevant images in your post. This gives you SEO brownie points.

Anchor Text

I did a post a while back about hyperlinks and how the hell to use them, which will tell you a lot more about this nifty bit of code. Anyway, "anchor text" is the words displaying in the post which you can click to visit the URL in the hyperlink. So, for example, "hyperlinks and how the hell to use them" is anchor text for the link to my post about hyperlinks. See what I did there? 

B

Blog

I know, I know, it seems obvious, but actually "blog" doesn't technically refer to your website as a whole. Sorry to be confusing. Strictly speaking your blog is the part of your website where you regularly publish content as posts (which are different to pages, but we'll get to that). Yes, for some people that resides on their homepage, but for other sites that can be on a separate section of the site, for instance for shops or personal websites.

Bookmark

A bookmark can refer to saving a link to a website within your browser, but there are also bookmarking sites like Pinterest. You want your content to appear on these sites because it indicates to search engines that your content is interesting and relevant.

C

Crawl Bot

Also known as "spiders" sometimes, these are computer programs which browse the internet looking for websites and using the information they find to rank the pages.

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)

CSS is the huge lump of code which determines how your website looks. You can program this yourself in a programming language (typically HTML), you can buy them from web designers or you can use themes within your chosen platform. Search engines can read this code, so you want it to be clean and uncluttered (in other words not have bits that contradict each other). Ideally you also want it to be unique, so your site doesn't appear to be identical to other sites. The best way to avoid this is to customise your themes to suit you, and to use a reputable web designer if you want one made. 

D

Domain

This is the main web address of your site, so mine is www.elenabjxrn.com. This is important when it comes to buying and setting up your domain, because having your own is an indicator that you're serious, as well as giving you ownership of your content in the eyes of the search engines. If you're still blogging under the domain of your provider (i.e. .blogger.com or .wordpress.com) the search engines attribute your content to Blogger or Wordpress. This also means that any DA score you have, if you're still using their domain, is totally meaningless. In simple terms, if you're even remotely serious about blogging, you need a domain.

F

The Fold

The Fold is the line above which your browser cuts off. In other words, anything you can see on a page without scrolling is "above the fold". Anything underneath is "below the fold". Search engines do give higher ranking to stuff that appears above the fold, and you also want to appear above the fold on search engines. Having lots of ads above the fold can harm your ranking because it's seen as spammy.

H

Headings

Headings are bits of text on your website which are emboldened or larger to show importance. This may be pre-programmed into your platform, so if you're using the "compose" window on Blogger, for instance, you can highlight the chosen text and select the heading type you want to use and it'll be automatically applied. The way this looks in situ will depend on your CSS. If you want to do this in HTML you use H tags, for instance: <h1>YOUR TEXT HERE</h1>. Typically you'll have a range of available headings from 1 to 4 (biggest to smallest). Use these wisely, as they'll not only make your post look a bit smarter, it'll also signpost your key topics to the search engines.

HTML

HTML is a language that most of us will have picked up bits of in our Myspace days. It's what we use to make our website look a certain way. Most of this will be squirreled away in your CSS, allowing you to keep your posts nice and clean. Modern blogging means you don't necessarily need to know a lot of HTML in order to keep a good-looking, functional site, because you can buy templates and there are lots of pre-programmed widgets at your disposal. Despite this I'd really recommend learning the basics so you can play about with your site if/when you need to.

I

Inbound Link

When talking about your own site, and inbound link is a site on another site which leads to yours. These will improve your page rank, especially if the referring site (i.e. site where the link is) has a high page rank itself. This is why you want to make buddies with other bloggers, form brand partnerships etc.

Internal Link

This is a link that takes you from one page on your own website to another page within the same domain. A good internal linking structure can be a handy way to improve your ranking by showing the search engines that your site is consistently relevant. There's more info about this in my hyperlinks post though, so read more there!

Indexed Pages

These are versions of pages of your website that the search engines have already seen and stored. You want these to stay active, of the search engine might penalise you if they go looking for them later.

J

Javascript

Chances are if you know what it is then you don't need me to tell you about it. If you don't know what it is then you're probably never going to use it. Basically leave it to the professionals. You're probably not going to use it for a blog anyway, and search engines aren't great at crawling it, so for the purposes of our SEO efforts all we really need to know is that it's a language which can be used to create effects within a website.

K

Keyword

You should, in theory, be able to narrow any piece of content down to a keyword (ideally just the one, but often there will be a couple.) For instance, if you've written a piece about shopping for skinny jeans then your keyword would be "skinny jeans". If you've got a post about how to put together a capsule wardrobe for a holiday you could use "holiday wardrobe". Basically your keyword is your post in as condensed a form as possible.

L

Link Building

This refers to efforts towards getting links to your sites on other websites. This could for traffic purposes, SEO reasons or both. Do bear in mind that any links that you pay for shouldn't actually give you any SEO benefit, so it's best to do this organically, so guest posting etc.

Long Tail Search

This is a long search which will hopefully include your keyword to lead people to your site via search engines. Traditionally these were considered quite uncommon, but with the rise of voice-activated search these are becoming more important; long tail search terms include actual questions, so for instance if someone asks Siri/Alexa/Cortana/Google "What should I pack for my holiday" rather than just "holiday packing". It's helpful to keep these queries in mind.

M

Metadata

These are bits of data that tell the search engine what your site/content is about. Crucially you'll see this with meta descriptions, which not only tell the search engine what your page is about in 160 characters or less, it's also the shortened description of your page that will actually display on search engines and social media. This is an easy way to entice readers and shouldn't be neglected!

N

Nofollow

Again, there's loads about these in my post on hyperlinks, but in short it's a bit of code you add to hyperlinks so that search engines ignore the link. There's a few reasons to do this, look at my hyperlinks post to learn about that, if you haven't already!

P

Page/Post Title

This is the name you give to your content, and it's important that this is relevant to the piece at hand and contain your keyword. There's some science around which words are better or worse for titles, but in short, words nearer the beginning of the title are considered slightly more important, and the totle shouldn't be very long or very short.

Page Rank

This refers to how high you appear on Google. Basically the whole point of SEO.

PPC (Pay-Per-Click) 

This could be a whole post on its own, but ultimately it refers to forms of advertising where an advertiser pays their venue per click to their site, for example Google Adwords. Different venues have different methods for this.

R

Ranking Factor

When we talk about actions or attributes that can affect your page rank, these things are ranking factors. e.g. inbound links, alt tags.

Referrer String

This is a piece of information that's collected when you hop from site to site. through analytics you can see how people are reaching your site and use that to your advantage.

RSS Feed (Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication)

RSS feeds are how sites like Bloglovin' pick up your new posts. It's a kind of subscription feed situation.

S

SERP (Search Engine Ranking Page)

So you know when you type something into a search engine and press enter? Well the page you see next is the SERP.

Sitemap

A special document created by a webmaster or a piece of software that provides a map of all the pages on a website to make it easier for a search engine to index that website.

Social Media

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, all that jazz. Putting your links on social media is a crucial source of traffic for most bloggers, and some search engines rank these links too so it could be a quick win!

T

Traffic

Readers! Basically clicks through to your site.

U

URL

The web address of a page on your site.

Z

Zebra

Um... they're like stripey horses.

So now if I write more posts about SEO you'll know what I'm talking about! If you have any questions then go be my friend on Twitter and I'll see what I can do! 

How Not to Be a Dick: Blogger Edition

Welcome to the first instalment in my "How Not to Be a Dick" series. I'll be doing a few of these, but today's is about responsible blogging. Enjoy!


Yeah, this picture is pretty much irrelevant. I'm writing in it, what more do you want?
For most of us, blogging is a hobby. We do it because we want to share about products we love and hate, to talk about moments that mean something to us, or to discuss causes close to our hearts. We find our little place in this community which comes with a readership, supporters and, for some of us, detractors.

I try to stay encouraging as far as I can, and I am always open for discussion and debate. However, today I saw a post about veganism that was so terrible that I couldn't find anything positive to say about it. As well as being poorly researched (i.e. barely researched at all) and misleadingly-worded, it was just really badly written. Not only that, but when challenged on this, the original author was defensive and played the victim online, rather than engaging in a discussion or allowing people to educate her on her dangerous levels of ignorance. To add insult to injury, she's deleting comments on the original post by more informed individuals attempting to set the record straight.

I can't sit this girl down and tell her to stop being so wilfully irresponsible, but what I can do is try and turn it into a more general learning opportunity. So, without further ado, here are some tips for being a responsible blogger.

Don't State Opinions as Facts

Having an opinion is fine. After all, putting opinions in writing for mass consumption is basically the definition of blogging, right? However there a world of difference between fact and opinion. I thought this was obvious, but I've seen numerous instances of people making inaccurate statements (i.e. flat-out lying) and defending their bullshit as "a matter of opinion". In case you need a lesson, here's the difference:

Opinion:
I think that the way slaughterhouses operate is acceptable.

Opinion masquerading as a fact: 
I believe that 90% of slaughter houses are killing humanely.

Fact:
According to HSA information, 2.6 million cattle, 10 million pigs, 14.5 million sheep and lambs, 80 million fish and 950 million birds are slaughtered for human consumption. EU guidelines dictate the minimum measures that should be taken to avoid unnecessary suffering, however whether there is any way to humanely slaughter an animal is a matter of opinion.

If you're unsure whether you're voicing an opinion, stating a fact or spouting shit, take a look and see whether you're making claims that you can substantiate. If there are studies, reports or other reliable resources you can use to back you up, then cite them. If not, make sure it's clear that what you're saying is genuinely an expression of opinion and not a poorly-worded, unreliable pseudo-fact.

Be Discerning

Some bloggers thrive on drama. Some people just like attention. Fine, you crack on with flapping your fingers at the keyboard until someone throws you a cookie. However, if you don't want people thinking you're a moron and a dickhead, then be honest with yourself and have a think about why you want to put out a post before you click the "publish" button. Is it informative? Is it balanced? Is it accurate? If you can't tick all these boxes maybe it's time to look at it again. If you can't find a way to rewrite it that fulfils those rather generous criteria then the delete button is your best buddy.

Ignorance Isn't Bliss, It's Just Ignorance

If you have the wherewithal to set up a blog and social media, we can assume that you're able to read. This means that you are also able to research. With this in mind, I am allowed to call you out if you haven't bothered to look into a topic you're discussing. Unless you're already an expert in the subject, have the decency to read up on the thing. You never know; what you discover might surprise you. 

You can bury your head in the sand if you so choose, but be aware that people who do know a lot about the subject you've chosen to discuss will point out the holes in your argument. 

Be Receptive

When you put a blog out there, you do it to be read. It's completely delusional to believe that everyone who reads it will be congratulatory/complimentary/in agreement. When you create content it is for consumption, and the consumer is just as entitled to hold an opinion as you are. The only way you can hope to avoid the "haters" is by writing well, having popular opinions and crossing your fingers that those who disagree with you don't see it. If however, you write like a toddler, tell bald-faced lies and have shit opinions then you're basically throwing a manure grenade at the internet.

It's all well and good to drop the blogging equivalent of a stink bomb, but you can't then wonder why everything suddenly smells bad. If you throw horseshit at the internet, the internet is going to throw shit right back at you.

If, however, someone approaches you with a metaphorical can of Oust, you should probably let 'em spray you. Even if you don't love the scent they've chosen, it's got to smell better than the hot guano you just littered about the place like an angry hippopotamus.

That figure of speech got away from me a bit there... Basically, if you blog then people have a right to respond. Listen to what they have to say, be respectful and be kind. Don't be an arsehole, or people will tell you that you're an arsehole, and nobody likes to be told that they're an arsehole.

Have Grace In Defeat

Believe it or not, I haven't always been a particularly well-rounded or open-minded human. I would even go so far as to say in my younger days I was actually a racist bigot. I wasn't a nice person. 

I have a long way to go, and I know damn well I don't get it right 100% of the time, but one of the most important steps to becoming a better person was to learn how to admit when I'm wrong, and to grow from it. You can't do that if  you respond to criticism or discussion by being a petulant child. If someone has an opposing view to you, you should have a listen and ask questions (politely!) You might still disagree with them at the end of it, but at least nobody can accuse you of being an immature ignoramus. 

Be Honest

Integrity is pretty crucial to blogging, and forgetting about it can alienate your readers. Whether it's "forgetting" to declare a sponsorship, endorsing an irrelevant product just for the cash or just making shit up, you will piss people off. We're all guilty of stretching the truth a tad to make a story more interesting or impressive, or maybe omitting unflattering details. What's a different matter is full-on lying.

Only make claims you can back up if challenged, and don't resort to name calling and aggression if you get caught in a lie. Don't contradict yourself on your own blog/social media just to attract attention. Don't be the Donald Trump of blogging.

Ultimately...

If you don't want anyone to ever criticise, argue or find fault in your blog then make it private. If, however, you want to make a worthwhile and responsible contribution to this ever-growing pool of content then try not to be a twat. 

Why Your DA Dropped - And Why It Doesn't Matter

It was impossible to find an interesting image to illustrate this post. So here's a dinosaur.

This weekend bloggers all over the world had their fingers on their "refresh" keys, pressing feverishly as they waited for the all-important Moz update. For the weeks preceding people had been asking for help on how to improve their scores, and the best quick fixes, hoping to increase their numbers.

Unfortunately, it seems that for a lot of people the results weren't quite what they hoped. In fact, I've found that a lot of the people who put in the most work have actually seen drops in their scores, which is obviously super disappointing. But before you fling your laptop across the room in rage, let's take a look at the reason it may have taken a hit, despite your best efforts, and what you can do to prep yourself for the next update?

You recently learned about "No Follow" links

If you read my post on hyperlinks you'll have learned all about this nifty and important piece of code. Long story short, this type of link can't be seen by crawl bots that score your site for Google and Moz, and they should be used to stop your site looking spammy and whenever you've been paid to include a link (Google's rules to avoid black hat SEO techniques).

Lots of people have only learned about No Follow quite recently, and have updated their existing blog content accordingly. In the long run this is absolutely a good thing, and for Google's purposes it is far better to follow their rules. However, Moz could very well have interpreted this differently. 

Everyone knows that people linking to your blog is helpful (and we'll come to that later), but what you might not realise is that having links within your OWN blog to other good-quality, well-ranking sites is good for your DA and SEO scores. So, understandably, if you've changed a lot of links to No Follow, you'll have taken a bit of a loss. 

Why doesn't this matter? How can I fix it? 

This isn't too much of a drama, because you will be in Google's good books for following their rules. The penalties for linking incorrectly are worse than the sharp, temporary drop you'll experience for correcting them. 

Over time, you will rebuild this range of links. The best way to do this is to link to other blogs, products, and websites. Just remember: if you link to the same site often, or you've been paid to include the link you MUST use a No Follow. You'll make life much easier for yourself if you do that from day one.

Broken links

If you've ever mentioned a product, you'll probably have left a link to places people can buy that product. That's obviously a good thing to do. However, when a page on a website is deleted, moved or deactivated the link on your page doesn't disappear, it will sit there being broken. Whenever bots crawl your site, they find these broken links and they will affect your score.

This means that the last Moz crawl might have spotted lots of lovely live, relevant links, and this time around it found the same links are busted. You got doubly penalised for the loss of a relevant link and for the fact that you've got a broken link on your page. Nightmare! 

Even if you've found and resolved all of your broken links in the run-up to the Moz update (and I know some people who dealt with thousands of them), if you removed them, rather than replacing them with equally relevant live links, you'll have still lost points for losing appropriate external links. Sorry. 

Why doesn't this matter? How can I fix it? 

Similar to the No Follow issue, you're better off finding and fixing these than leaving them where they are. Just keep posting and you'll build up your links again, and subsequently improve your score.

To find and fix existing broken links, use a scanner like Broken Link check to help you spot them all. Where possible, replace any broken links with another one rather than simply deleting it. For example, if you've linked to a product that's no longer available, change your content to reflect this and put in a link to the retailer's homepage.

To make sure you don't end up with a bunch of broken links in the future, try to only link to permanent pages, like homepages. If you regularly link to products then that's not a bad thing, but consider using a No Follow link so you can protect yourself if/when the page is deactivated, and run regular broken link checks so you can stay on top of them.

You've got lots of comments... but it's quantity, not quality

You can gain a lot of SEO/DA brownie points by having comments on your posts. It makes crawl bots think that you have engaging and popular content. If you'd already figured that out, you might have been pushing to get more comments, and you may well have succeeded! You might have joined comment trains, or you might simply have readers who like to tell you what a good job you're doing. 

However, some comments are causing you more harm than good. Very short comments (fewer than 10 words) are just seen as spam by crawl bots. Also, a lot of bloggers try to use little hyperlinks as a signature in their comment, which turns out to be broken! This is a surprisingly common problem; I've reached out to at least five bloggers to tell them that they've left tons of comments on lots and lots of blogs with broken links in them. These all work against you, and the more "bad" comments you get, the worse it will be.

Why doesn't it matter? How do I fix it? 

This is probably the easiest fix, unless your blog is obscenely famous and you get hundreds of comments a day (in which case I doubt you're too worried about your DA anyway). It's worth taking some time to go through your blog and just delete any spammy-looking comments, and checking any hyperlinks left behind.

Going forward, be careful which comments you allow to stay on your blog, and which comment trains you join, if that's your thing. Some specify that you need to leave comments over eight words long - stick to these.

You've lost backlinks

There's a bunch of ways this could have happened. Sites or blogs which referenced you at some point might have become inactive. You might have paid for advertising a while back, and the person you paid realised that they should have used No Follow links to your blog, and has subsequently fixed them. They might have linked to a post that you've binned or changed the location of. They might have just got rid of the post where they mentioned you. LOADS of possible reasons.

Why doesn't it matter? How can I fix it? 

This is sucky, and really there's not a whole lot you can do about any specific backlink you might have lost. If it's because it was a paid link that's been corrected, it's definitely better for you, in the long run, that it's been corrected. 

The only way forward is to build up your backlinks. You can do this by joining Linkys, getting involved in tags and campaigns and taking on unpaid work for exposure, where they agree to link to you (remember, if you've been paid then No Follow links should be used and it won't count.)

You've recently changed URL/hosts

If you've changed your domain from a .wordpress.com or a .blogger.com you'll have seen a colossal drop because previously your site wouldn't have been considered a site on its own, rather it would have been seen as a page on wordpress/google. Basically, if you don't have a custom domain your DA doesn't really count. Also, if you've just changed your hosts for whatever reason, you might have seen a bit of a loss. This is because the crawl bots will go looking for it in the old location on the old servers and will get confused when it finds it somewhere else. It's also possible that, in changing hosts, you've broken some bits of code, like images and internal/external hyperlinks which might have needed fixing and will have had their own effects.

Why doesn't it matter? How can I fix it? 

The bot will eventually realise where you blog actually is, so this drop will eventually resolve itself. If it's because you've moved to a custom domain, I'm afraid you're going to have to start from the bottom and work your way up. This is one of MANY reasons I advocate getting a custom domain from day one. Try and find a host you like and stick with it.

You've dramatically changed your theme

A theme might look cosmetic to you, but when you change the appearance of your site you change an awful lot of stuff under the hood. Again, the bots are going to visit your site expecting to see one thing, and when it finds something unexpected it gets confused and just takes points off. This is a real bugger, and is likely to be much worse if you change lots of things all at once rather than making gradual "soft" changes.

Why doesn't it matter? How can I fix it? 

People don't visit or follow your blog based on your DA score, they visit it because it looks cracking and has quality content. Or because you're famous. Or running a giveaway... but the point still stands. If you want to tart your blog up, go for it. If you're worried about any effect it could have on your scores, try to do it gradually rather than all at once.

You've deleted old posts

If you've been running our blog a while you might have looked back on some of your old contents, cringed, then decided to have a bit of a deleting spree. Losing page volume on your site will unfortunately give you a bit of a battering, especially if you delete lots at once.

Why doesn't it matter? How can I fix it?

Deleting old poor-quality content is no bad thing, and for user experience it's probably a positive. Just keep writing brilliant new posts and you'll soon build up your catalogue again. 

Your posting patterns have changed

If you've changed your posting habits or structure you may have seen a drop. It's not so much the fact that you're posting in a different way, it's how you've changed it. If you're not posting as often, you'll lose points. If you're posting more frequently but your posts are very short, you'll get penalised.

Why doesn't it matter? How can I fix it?

In my experience, the golden number for post length are 300-700 words. Any shorter and it looks spammy to the bots. Any longer and people get bored (though admittedly most of my posts are much longer - oops). Try and post as often as you can at regular intervals, and make sure posts are a decent length.

A final note about DA...

DA is not that important. I know, I've written a whacking great big post about it, but I promise you it's not the be all and end all. Some brands and PRs will use it as a benchmark for choosing people to approach for campaigns, but real talk, this is because DA is a lazy way to assign an easily- comparable value to a website. I've seen beautiful, interesting blogs with relatively low scores, and trashy sites with inexplicably huge ones. Ok, so a low score might exclude you from certain campaigns but as you'll have seen from above, you could negatively affect your scores by doing all the right things! My honest advice is to concentrate on producing awesome content and building relationships with readers and PRs over social media. Do you think PRs ask Zoella for her DA before they pitch to her? Of course not. Because, ultimately, when your reputation is good enough, nobody will care about the numbers.

Bratty Bloggers: What I Hate About Blogging

I've been blogging for about 10 years. Initially I had blogs that were cryptic streams of consciousness and random poems that I never expected anybody to read. They were like typed-up diaries for public consumption, and I had a pretty free-form approach to writing. I wrote when I needed to, because I needed to.

Fast-forward to 2016 and blogging is a colossal industry, with some bloggers making their entire livelihoods through their websites. This is a great and wonderful thing, and I'm absolutely not knocking the idea of making money from your blog. Whether you place ads, take on sponsored work or accept gifts for review, that's totally cool. If I had exciting brands offering me money to get stuff and write about it then I'd be totally on board. I'm the first to openly admit that I'm pretty jealous of any bloggers who get offers to promote products I love - and for a fee.

What I really, really, really can't stand is the number of bloggers who bitch and whinge all over social media about brands who dare to approach them without a metaphorical fistful of cash. I can't count the number of times I've seen tweets saying things like, "A brand approached me to tell me about their competition, but they aren't willing to pay. #nothanks". I even saw a girl asking how much she should demand from a PR company who sent her a press release. Then, on a blogger Facebook group, a girl asked: 

Advice: me again. Sorry to pester! 😁 I had an email off a company to do a post with clothing ideas from their site which enters me into a competition to win a voucher to spend on their site.

Am I right in thinking this is just a fancy way of getting backlinks?

In case you've ever wondered the same thing, brands do competitions like this for a number of reasons. 

Firstly because they want a more interesting/engaging/competitive post type than a simple sponsored post. A lot of people switch off or stop reading the minute they see the words "ad" or "sponsored", and this can help to circumnavigate that. 

Also, as you'll know from reading my post about hyperlinks, when a brand pays you to write a post, you MUST use a no-follow link. In other words, if a brand pays you to mention them, they get no SEO benefit from it. By doing it in the form of a competition like this, it allows them AND you to use regular links. Not only does this give them backlinks, but having links in your own blog to well-rated websites actually improves YOUR SEO score/DA as well, where no-follow links have no effect.

For small brands, it could be that they simply don't have the budget to pay you as well as giving you free stuff. Simple as that.

I explained this (not very well admittedly) in the comments, and the original poster was grateful for the info.  However, a little while later, another girl posted this:

it's a cost effective way for them to get links basically without doing much.

Now, in case you've forgotten or you're new here, I actually work in marketing. My day job includes doing things like running competitions (though ours are aimed at customers and the general public, not bloggers). Let me burst your bubble, random Facebook girl: competitions are a LOT of work. They take time, prizes cost money and creating all of the imagery, promotion and all that jazz all takes man power. It's a pain in the butt, frankly.

I guess what this boils down to is that I'm getting really, really tired of cynical bloggers trying to wring cash out of nothing, and publicly trying to "shame" brands for having the sheer brass balls to approach them if they aren't going to stump up wads of wonga. I completely believe in people being paid for their skills and their time, but if you're so inexperienced that you think you should be getting paid to receive press releases like someone I saw on a group the other day, honey, you don't deserve to be paid to blog.

If you have your email address public on your blog for brands and PR companies to approach you, then guess what? THEY MIGHT APPROACH YOU. Stop making yourself look like a dick by tweeting every time you get an email about a campaign you're not interested in. If you're not a massive, well-known blogger then you're probably getting a generic email that's being sent out to hundreds, even thousands, of other bloggers. Your blog might be your baby, but to big PR companies you are not a special unique snowflake, so don't expect to be treated like one. I work for a multi-million pound company, and we get these "Dear blogger" emails on a daily basis. Our blog is one of the top 100 pet blogs in the world. You don't see us whingeing.

I totally support people demanding to be recognised for what they're worth, but part of that is actually knowing what you're worth. If you have a tiny DA, a very young blog and you take your photos on an old Nokia brick phone, then don't expect to be paid top dollar to feature brands. Don't be a dick about it. Keep working at it, and maybe you'll be the next Zoella. Just be mindful that brands remember, and some marketing companies work for multiple brands. The PR you slag off on Twitter and chew out over email will remember your name, so if you treat people like dirt when you're small fry, they'll do the same to you when you've made it big.

Using Hyperlinks: How, What, Where, When and Why?

As a community, we bloggers are getting a lot more switched on when it comes to the techie stuff. DAs, PAs, SEO scores and at least basic code are becoming a regular part of our language. This is brilliant, especially as, for most of us, this is something we’ve had to learn on our own. For my part, I picked up odds and sods of HTML when I was a teenager playing with Myspace templates, and the rest I’ve learned on the job as a content writer and working alongside SEO companies.

I think it‘s fantastic that bloggers are taking it upon themselves to learn basic coding and web design skills. I’m absolutely not disregarding the value of a professional web designer, but for bloggers just starting out, or running routine maintenance, it’s really helpful to understand at least basic bits and bobs of HTML. However, recently I’ve spotted a slew of similar errors, and noticed some general confusion surrounding one of the most commonly-used pieces of code: hyperlinks.

What’s a Hyperlink?

Starting at the beginning, a hyperlink is a handy little function where, instead of having a full URL displayed in a piece of text, you display a piece of text which, when clicked, takes you to a target URL. You’ve probably used them a billion times before, whether or not you knew what they were called or how to make them. There are basically four types of Hyperlink we’re going to talk about here: Basic, No Follow, New Window, and Image.

A Basic Hyperlink operates exactly how you’d expect: you click on it and you are directed to the target webpage, within the same window or tab where the hyperlink was. These basic hyperlinks can be seen by Google and other SEO ranking programs called “bots” which crawl your site looking through your content at code level. It’s these bots which determine your SEO scores, DA, PA etc. Having relevant, authoritative links on your own site, and having hyperlinks to your site elsewhere on the internet, can improve these rankings. This is why doing guest posts, getting involved in other bloggers’ projects or appearing on the websites of brands you’ve worked with can be beneficial for you.

A No Follow Hyperlink works in the same way, and you won’t notice a difference in how they function. However, under the hood there is some extra stuff going on in the code, which is quite important. The No Follow attribute means that, when the crawl bots find these links, they are told not to count it. Based on what I’ve told you so far this might seem like a terrible idea, but bear with me. Yes, having relevant, appropriate, authoritative links on your page is good. But the links have to be valuable. Linking to the same thing too many times in the same blog can be interpreted as spamming by the crawl bots, and you could be penalised. So, there are some occasions where you’ll want to include a link for reasons like user experience or for driving traffic to your blog from other sites where a No Follow link is your best bet. Basically, sometime you need readers to have access to a link, but you don’t want Google seeing it. More on this later. Also, and this is very important, you should always use a No Follow link if you’re linking to something you were paid to mention. So, if you’re doing a sponsored post on a product you must use a No Follow link. These are not my rules, they are Google’s rules. If a brand tells you to use a Basic link you have to refuse or you will be penalised.

New Window Hyperlinks, as the name suggests, opens the link you clicked (you guessed it) in a new window. This requires an added bit of code, and can be applied to Basic and No Follow links. Within my own blog I always pop this into my code. Again, you’ll find out why later.

Finally, Image Hyperlinks are used so you can click an image and be taken to another webpage. This image takes the place of the text in any other kind of Hyperlink, and can be used with Basic, No Follow and New Window links.

Phew. Next up…

When can I use Hyperlinks?

Hyperlinks are useful in so many contexts. You can use them within your own blog to link to relevant external content, such as sources, products or to your social media. These are called external links.

You can also use hyperlinks to send your readers to other posts, relevant to the one you’re writing, for instance if you’re writing a series or if you are following some kind of theme. For example, if you posted about being sent a skirt for review, and then you wear the same skirt later in an OOTD post, you could link to the review within the new piece. These are known as internal links.

You can also apply the same logic to images to turn them into “buttons” (like the ones you usually see in footers and sidebars, for instance my social media interaction buttons on the right). The code for this is slightly different, but I’ll touch on this later. You can use these images in your own site as part of the design, or you can create a button that advertises your blog, and place them on other sites.

And, finally, it’s becoming quite common for bloggers to whip up a nifty little hyperlink to leave in comments on other people’s blogs by way of a signature.

Why should I use Hyperlinks? And which ones should I use?

In your own blog, external links enhance user experience by putting all of the information readers want at their fingertips; you wouldn’t want to read a blog all about a product and then have to trawl the web to find it, would you? You want to be able to click once and find it immediately, and Hyperlinks make this possible without cluttering your post up with full web addresses. If you are linking to a specific page within a website (i.e. anything other than the homepage) you will usually want to use a No Follow link. If you are linking to a homepage (i.e. another blog, but not a single post) then it’s up to you, but I would use a Basic Hyperlink. Whether or not you want to enable the New Window part of the code is up to you, but I usually do. This way you reduce your bounce rate (i.e. people who view one page and then exit your blog altogether) and make it easier for people to read your blog while still open links as they go along. In fact, as a general rule, I like to add the New Window function to any links I leave.

By using internal links, you keep your audience engaged by presenting your blog as an unfolding narrative and helps you to make all of your content continually relevant. Internal links help to reduce your bounce rate, and when used sparingly and appropriately, they can help to improve your SEO rating. For internal links, you want to use Basic Hyperlinks, and it’s your call whether to use the New Window attribute, but I would. For the most part, for internal linking, you want to use Basic Hyperlinks for SEO improvement, however if you’re linking to the same piece a lot, or finding that you need to use a lot of internal links in one piece, use a No Follow one. Balance and moderation are important.

The logic behind using buttons over plain text URLs should be obvious: my sidebar would look horrible with a list of web addresses in it. The little buttons just look tidier, as well as making it clear which pages you’ll be linked to by using the relevant logos. You also need to know how to do this if you want a button to put on other websites: it’s all well and good to visually advertise yourself and your blog, but if people can’t click through to it they probably won’t bother. In your blog, for social media, use No Follows. Social media sites don’t need better SEO. They’re fine. When making your buttons you must add the No Follow attribute, because the same principal applies as is does to sponsored posts. If it’s been paid for, it must be No Follow, or both you and the person displaying your ad can be penalised.

When it comes to leaving hyperlinks in comments, I just think this looks a bit neater and more professional than leaving your full blog URL in a comment, and it can drive traffic to your blog. In this instance you can get away with using a Basic hyperlink now and again to help improve your backlinks and, by extension, your SEO score (especially on prominent blogs with good DA scores). However, if you comment a lot, you should tend towards using No Follow links. This is polite to the blog owner as it stops Google from thinking they have lots of spammy links, and it’s better for you because Google doesn’t think that you are a spammer while still driving traffic to your site. It’s a win-win.

How do I make a Hyperlink?

Finally, the important bit.

Within most word processing programs, and the posting features of most blogging platforms, there is usually a feature that allows you to create links automatically, without ever even having to think about code. On Blogger, for instance, you highlight the text you want to use, click the little picture of a chain link, and insert your destination URL. It even gives you the option to add the No Follow and/or New Window attributes for you. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

But hold up, amigos. Just because the computer CAN do the work for you, doesn’t mean it should. You’ll never learn if you let robots do all your hard graft. That’s how the androids will eventually take over the world. Ok, sorry, I’ll take my tinfoil hat off, but the point still stands. Knowing how to make these codes from scratch, whether or not you’ll regularly NEED to, can help you when I comes to bits of basic web design, not to mention troubleshooting if your automatic code isn’t functioning the way it should. It also means that if, and when, people are leaving busted code in your site you can get in touch with them and let them know how to fix it. That way you don’t end up with SEO-negative broken links on your site, and they will be happy with their sparkly, new, functional code.

So, how do you write a Basic Hyperlink?

<a href="http://www.elenabjxrn.com/">Elena Bjørn</a>

That is a basic Hyperlink for my blog, which would display like this: Elena Bjørn. The highlighted text on the right can be edited to say whatever you like, while the URL on the left can be swapped out for the relevant target URL. So, say you wanted to link to a friend’s blog. You’d put their URL on the left and their name on the right, like I did in one of the above paragraphs for Holly.

If you want to make a No Follow link, you do exactly the same, except you add rel=”no follow” between the a and the href parts. In other words:

<a rel=”no follow” href="http://www.elenabjxrn.com/">Elena Bjørn</a>

This will display like any other link. To make either of these link types open in a new window, you add target="_blank" after the URL but before the text. So, for a Basic link:

<a href="http://www.elenabjxrn.com/"target="_blank">Elena Bjørn</a>

And for a No Follow link:

<a rel=”no follow” href="http://www.elenabjxrn.com/"target="_blank">Elena Bjørn</a>

And, finally, if you want to do any of these types of link, but have a photo instead of text, you pop your image onto an image hosting site, or host it on your own servers if you’re that way inclined (though if you are you’re probably too advanced to need this post) and grab the image code. This includes the image’s URL and any borders or dimensions. Then, paste that into the place where the text would ordinarily be (in my examples that’s the highlighted text that says Brave Mermaid.) Don’t just plop in the URL of your image or it’ll display the URL of your image as a hyperlink to your target URL and that’s just too noggin-boggling to cope with. Your image code should look something like this:

<img src="http://i1308.photobucket.com/albums/s602/BraveMermaid/button_zpsdunykv8s.jpg" border="0" alt=" photo button_zpsdunykv8s.jpg"/>

So, all together, it's going to look something like this:

<a rel=”no follow” href="http://www.elenabjxrn.com/"target="_blank"><img src="http://i1308.photobucket.com/albums/s602/BraveMermaid/button_zpsdunykv8s.jpg" border="0" alt=" photo button_zpsdunykv8s.jpg"/></a>

If you've been paying attention, you’ll notice that I’ve included the No Follow and New Window attributes here, because that’s how you’re usually going to use these kinds of links. In situ, this just so happens to be my blog button.

Things to remember!

  • If it links to something you were paid for, always use No Follow.

  • If you’re worried you’re linking too much in comments on other blogs, be selective. Use Basic links on bigger blogs, and No Follows on smaller ones, or ones you comment on frequently. Don’t be spammy. Nobody likes a spammer.

  • Check your code works, especially if you’re using it in comments.

  • If it doesn’t display look at it. Have you made sure the full URL is in the code? Excluding the http://www. will stop it from working. If you’re sure all your code is correct and it still doesn’t display properly in a comment, chances are HTML commenting is disabled on that blog.

  • Ask someone if you’re not sure. A second pair of eyes is sometimes all it takes. Proof reading is tricky enough, let alone in a second language. Because, really, that’s what code is: a whole new robot language.

So, I hope this has helped make sense of this common, but deceptively tricky, little chunk of code. If you have any questions please feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to help!

If you think you've nailed the code, why not leave me a nice hyperlink to your blog in the comments? Remember to make sure it works!

My Favourite YouTubers

If you followed my old blog, you may have seen that I posted a few videos on a little website called YouTube - perhaps you've heard of it? Unfortunately, a full-time job, winter darkness, pets and mental health dramas meant I couldn't really keep much of a regular posting schedule, and when I rebranded I left all of my videos on my old channel, where they belong. I'm still proud of the content, and you're more than welcome to give any of them a watch, but any YouTube stuff I do from now on is going to be more about my poetry, art and music.

However, I still watch a LOT of videos. My Saturday mornings are spent lying in bed, checking my subscriptions and catching up with this wonderful variety of interesting internet strangers. I thought I'd share with you some of my feed favourites.


I love this girl. She is the first YouTuber I developed a low-key obsession with, when I watched the video below. I know, I know, the video I'm using to showcase her is super-old, but it's the one I first clicked with and it's a great place to start if you've never watched any of her videos before. She's an animal lover and posts about all sorts from Lush hauls to rat habitat tours.



JacksFilms

The only man on this list - sorry to the dudes of YouTube for the lack of representation. Jack is a little silly, very funny, and always makes me giggle when I need it. He's largely known for his "Your Grammar Sucks" series where he reads and ridicules terrible comments from various corners of the internet, but he also does parodies of pop culture and technology. My favourite series of his is called "YIAY", which stands for "Yesterday, I asked you..." This is an audience participation show and has been known to make me laugh so hard I cry. This episode is one of my favourites.



Katy and Sam

These girls are responsible for keeping my faith in love alive. They're such a cute couple and their videos are just hilarious. They're a pair of sweetpeas, and are also two of my favourite Twitter friends.



Maeve of Thrift O'Clock

This girl is adorable, and her voice puts the biggest smile on my face. Her videos include hauls, monthly favourites and beauty challenges. Maeve is incredibly relatable, and the products and stores she buys from are a little more budget-friendly than some of the big-name vloggers, which makes her one of my favourites.



Zoe London

On of the more famous vloggers on this list, Zoe does fashion hauls, beauty videos and Q&As. I LOVE her "Bands do my makeup" videos, and her sense of style is quite similar to my own. Here she is, trying out one of 2015's more contentious beauty trends: glitter roots.



The Sorry Girls

These girls make me want to move to Canada and go thrift shopping, buy every colour of spray paint and live in my craft room. Their DIYs are accessible, original and budget-friendly. Not only that, but their no-nonsense, calm approach has helped me get over my fear of power tools! Becky and Kelsey are awesome, and definitely worth a follow if you want to stretch your creative muscles in 2016!



Rosie Spaughton/TheRoxetera

One half of my favourite YouTube couple, and another YouTube bisexual, Rosie Spaughton is a great addition to any subscription feed. She mostly posts with her wife, Rose (who I'll chat about later) and they post really regularly about their home life, their pets, sexuality and love. What's not to like about that?



LikeWowLala

I started following Lala after I watched her tattoo videos (I love me some tattoos), and I loved watching her journey this year as she got married and had her first baby. The video of her labour and the birth of her son, Kaleb, is incredibly touching. She also posts about budget-friendly hair and beauty products, and every year she does tutorials for some brilliant Halloween looks, using products most people would already have at home.



Emily Boo

Another blue-haired beauty (apparently there are quite a few of us!) who I stumbled across after watching the episode of Snog, Marry, Avoid that she was on! She's the coolest mum out there, and her sense of style is so fun and original. She's also one of the chattiest vloggers when it comes to the comments section, which makes watching her videos doubly rewarding! It doesn't hurt that she's searingly funny.



Rose Ellen Dix

The other half of Rose and Rosie, Rose Ellen Dix is side-splittingly hilarious and her marriage to Rosie is just so inspiring. Seeing two femmes in love is obviously great for me as a bisexual who is largely attracted to femme women. Also their wedding was absolutely stunning (and led to a huge Twitter backlash against Taylor Swift after her team got their wedding video muted for using mere seconds of one of her songs!)



Annika Victoria

Another brilliant YouTube DIY girl, Annika does sewing tutorials for sewers of all ages and abilities, from phone cases to dresses, and even a make-your-own onesie! She's committed to promoting sustainable fashion and she has her own clothing range with prints she designed herself. I love the fact that she even posts her attempts that go wrong, which makes her a little more human to someone like me, whose DIY failures are far more numerous than my successes!



These aren't all the YouTubers I subscribe to, but they're definitely some of my all-time favourites. Who do you like to watch? Are any of your favourites on this list?