London Bloggers Tech Update

Speakers at London Bloggers Tech Edition

Speakers at the London Bloggers Tech Edition, from left to right: Andy Bargery (host and event organiser), John Read (Sesquey), Judith Lewis (Search Engine Chicks), Matt Russell (WebHostingBuzz) and Yiannis Pelekanos (freelance developer and guru).

This month’s London Bloggers Meetup was all about the technology behind blogging. Over the course of a fun-filled 90 minutes, discussions and insights touched on the relative merits of various blogging platforms (WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr and Joomla); optimisation tricks for WordPress; how to find a good hosting solution; SEO (search engine optimisation) basics; plugin options, and much more.

Alan Reynolds , corporate photographer and blogger.

It’s not just about the presenters: I sat next to Alan Tucker, corporate photographer and blogger, and he introduced me to the Galaxy Note, History Pins, and the AMPt community. Thank you Alan!

But before the talks there is much to learn from the person sitting next to you. Alan Tucker (http://www.atphoto.biz) introduced me to the wonders of the Galaxy Note camera with its lovely HD screen and easy to use photo-editing software. He pointed me in the direction of the AMPt Community where mobile photographers, artists and videographers can share work. And there was History Pin at http://www.historypin.com, a global community collaborating around history pins of old pictures to their location so that you can begin to see how an area has changed over the years. I checked out  Tooting Bec Lido in South London and lo and behold a picture of the diving boards from 1906. Thank you Alan.

Notes from the London Bloggers Tech Update

And so to some slightly random notes from the evenings speakers.

John Read from Sesquey.com – WordPress ninja and trainer

Top tips before the Q&A were make sure you update your WordPress site to the latest 3.5.2 version to ensure that it is secure. New WordPress features that are worth checking out included: multiauthor blogging; new posting format like tumblr; easy to use importing to WordPress. John also recommended the 13-14 July WordCamp for those with a WordPress site.

Judith Lewis from SEO Chicks – a chocolate loving SEO guru

Judith’s stream of no bullshit tips for optimising your blog included:

  • Key words are vital … (don’t forget to use the one or two words that actually describe what you are talking about … some people do!)
  • Never forget that links will improve your Google rating
  • Don’t spam
  • Write well and don’t steal work from other sites because Google sees most things and it will downgrade you if it suspects malpractice
  • Use Yoast SEO for WordPress analytics
  • Move from Blogger to WordPress
  • Ignore SEO blogs and just go back to the fundamentals of search optimisation by reading SEO.book com
  • Google+ is important for your blog authorship. WordPress is now integrated with Google+
  • In terms of authorship, Google gives this to the site where the article first appears. This can raise the ranking of that site and if duplicated in another site, lower its rating.
  • Copy can be overoptimised; focus on titles and content but not so much on anchor text.
  • Top tip: put citations next to URLS.
  • Comments on your blog are good for people but worthless in terms of SEO. Not a lot of people know that!

In an effort to push back the tide of Googlism, she also suggested a couple of alternative search engines:

  • Yandex.com is the leading internet company in Russia, operating the most popular search engine and the most visited website.
  • Duck Duck Go: https://duckduckgo.com/ describes itself as a search engine that does not track you and, has more instant answers and less spam/clutter.

Matt Russell from WebHostingBuzz – hosting expert

Matt gave some great advice on web hosting and also treated us to beer so a big thank you goes out to him and his company. Matt reiterated the importance of keeping WordPress up to date to avoid it being hacked. His other tips for choosing and using a hosting service were to find a provider that provided fast support.

He recommended CloudFlare to load-balance your traffic and provide extra safety.Other recommendations to do the same job were Incapsula and Modsecurity. And remember to back-up your website regularly.

Yiannis Pelekanos – freelance  web developer and tech extraordinaire

Looking at the options for blogging, the advice was tumblr for someone who wants to keep it simple and WordPress for someone with a bit more techie know-how and patience.

Joomla versus WordPress: Joomla has a good content management system but is not widely used. Very good for levels of granularity in managing multi-authoring but WordPress gets the vote because with 40 million users you can for the most part put a question into Google and someone out there will have an answer.

Another platform that got a mention was Ghost. According to John Read, ‘ this is a proposed alternative of WordPress with the mission to redefine blogging software.’ You can see more info here: http://www.kickstarte…

Assorted tips

Other topics covered included ‘domain mapping’. The favoured providers were Low Cost NamesNameCheap and Hover. Arvid Lind from Buzzkeep  reckons that GoDaddy provides better long-term savings especially on ‘.coms’. Chocablog was mentioned as an example of how to do the right stuff on Facebook.

 

Blogging for Good

A fine sketch by Taragh, one of those attending the London Bloggers Meet up. You can see more of her work at http://www.taragh.co.uk

London Bloggers Meet-up on Tuesday May 14 was Blogging for Good. It looked at how non-profit organisations use blogging and social media to engage with their communities, build fans and followers and ultimately drive donations.

The three special guest speakers were: Eve Critchley from mental health charity  Mind, Amy Agnew from Save the Children, and Eva Keogan a blogger from the Save the Children Blogladesh campaign. And what follows is the gist of what I was able to decipher from my scribbled notes on the night.

The big takeaways were: writing about real life can be therapeutic for yourself and others; bloggers can and do change the world for the better; and to know a blogger you need to woo and understand them.

Eve and the Real Mind

Talking about blogging at, and about, the mental health charity Mind, Eve Critchley highlighted the importance of real stories in getting across messages around crisis care for those in hospital as a result of being suicidal. She also noted the therapeutic benefits of ‘being heard’.

Mind provides ‘static’ advice on the website so the charity’s blog posts and podcasts are important in providing something dynamic and of the moment. The blog also enables greater transparency and provides a vital channel for communicating with key stakeholders such as fundraisers and supporters.

What are they looking for when it comes to blogging? Eve says they are always on the look-out for first person, direct experiences, and they monitor Twitter for people who have something relevant to say.

Eve shared the positive impact of a new online community called Elefriends, managed by Mind and supported by the Cabinet Office’s Social Action Fund.  This has grown organically and is in the words of one user ‘a bit like facebook for beautiful people whose brains are wired differently’.

Amy and Blog Campaigns

Amy identified two priorities for the social media team at Save the Children: exerting pressure for political change and fundraising for programmes.

Charities struggle to get issues into the mainstream media even with lots of statistics and the support of celebrities. Bloggers use the stories, the media follows the bloggers, and politicians follow the media, so blogs exert influence: ‘Politicians really care about what people are saying and what they care about’.

Amy valued bloggers for being ‘amazing storytellers’ and ‘they know their audience and how to speak to them’. Illustrating this she cited the impact that bloggers had in the charity’s 2011 campaign ‘No Child Born to Die’.

This was the first time a UK charity hosted a conference to inspire bloggers across all disciplines to write about the campaign and raise awareness of the millions of children who die from preventable diseases each year.

A key objective was to pressure breast milk substitute companies Nestle and Danone to stop any conduct that undermined breastfeeding – a powerful, natural antidote to hunger and disease. If all babies were breastfed within the first hour of life, 830,000 children’s lives would be saved every year.

It worked and today Danone is committed to publishing its practices online. Save the Children now hosts an annual bloggers conference in the autumn to brief the blogging community and engage them in campaigns such as the current IF: Enough Food for Everyone.

Eva Been to Blogladesh

Eva related her experiences of blogging for Save the Children while maintaining independence and credibility. You can see her blogs here under the name of NIXDMINX.  Eva had some tips for PRs looking to engage with and ‘woo’ bloggers:

  1. Follow on twitter and retweet the good stuff
  2. Read the blogs and comment where appropriate
  3. Allow one month to get to know the blogger and their audience
  4. When you make contact, make it personal

And you can find out about the campaign she is involved in Save the Children Blogladesh.

And …

I missed lots … so if you have anything to add, please add in the comments section. And when it came to communicating with a younger audience then you need to be looking for innovative YouTube bloggers like Charlie McConnell.