Posts Tagged ‘Meta-Blogging’

June 22, 2018

No Partner Requests

Guys, things are getting a little ridiculous. Today I received a request to pitch a fashion line on my blog. I think I have been pretty candid in the past about my wardrobe basically consisting of free conference t-shirts, and wearing maternity pants with the legs rolled up rather than bothering to hem them. I will be the first to admit I have no fashion sense, nor any meaningful blog readership to speak of. Even a cursory glance at my blog should have revealed this ad would have had terrible ROI (Return on Investment.)

Unless…. Unless the advertiser was less interested in using my blog as an advertising medium and more interested in me as a customer. I’ve had a theory about advertisers who pitch on small to medium blogs.

Often social media product pitches include free merchandise without, or with very little, monetary compensation in exchange for a “candid” reviews from “influences”. Psychology tells us that it isn’t truly candid, though, even if the advertiser doesn’t dictate any of the terms of the review. In fact, it may be more advantageous to the advertiser to dictate as little about the review as possible.

Cognitive dissonance, the mental discomfort that occurs when one has two different points of view, works in the advertiser’s favor. When we agree to review a product we’re agreeing to spend mental effort. Subconsciously we want that mental effort to pay off. We want to like the the product. Not only are we less likely to be critical, but since this is happening on a subconscious level we’re less likely to even be aware we’re not being critical. Additionally, advertisers often include a list of positive product features in their pitch, which can prime our opinions prior to even receiving the product. Cognitive dissonance won’t make you love a product you’d otherwise loath, but it can tip the scale in the advertiser’s favor. For little more than a free sample, you may have created a customer – out of the blogger him/herself!

Had I agreed to the “partnership” and liked the free sample, I may have decided to fill out the rest of my missing wardrobe.

To be fair, I doubt the advertiser knew this when I was sent the request. I don’t think I was being targeted because of how badly I need new clothes. The request was generic, only including easily scrap-able pieces of information like my name and blog title. It was the email equivalent of a cold call.

I’ve been getting more and more cold calls lately. I used to respond, but I’m oversubscribed and something’s gotta give. I’m adopting a similar email policy to my comment policy: if I can’t tell if you’re human, I’m ignoring you.

(And for the record, no, I’m not open to any advertising partnerships on my blog.)

February 5, 2016

A New Look

It finally happened. I got bored with my blog layout. I have never really liked the narrow format, but stuck with it because I enjoyed the header photo. Nearly two years have passed since I had taken that photo and it was filling me with more guilt than joy. I felt guilty that I was using one child’s photo and not the other, even though the time stamp of the image was the only way anyone would ever know which child the photo was of. It felt beyond time for a change.

The new layout isn’t much different from the old. I traded in the blue theme for a mostly black and white one, and adapted my blog tag line to reflect changes in lifestyle. For now I’m header photo-less, but I intend to change that with a self portrait as soon as I’m able to find the time to play with my camera and get a halfway decent photo I don’t hate.

I’ve been experimenting more and more with my camera phone. The end goal for my business is to move beyond webapps and into photography apps for the phone. I’m sure that when that happens I’ll want to share photos more publicly than I’ve been doing. At the same time it didn’t really feel right to open up my personal Instagram account, with all those kid photos, to the public. I post kid photos publicly here, sure, but there far more selective and curated. And small. I never upload anything beyond a 400px dimension photo. No accidentally readable street signs in my photos! I decided to create a second instagram account.

Since I don’t have a business identity yet, the new account is sarahktyler. I pledge that all photos uploaded on that account will be taken from my phone. Hopefully some time in the not too terribly distant future they’ll have been taken from my app, rather than the native camera app.

Egads, I missed my blogversary again. Time is just racing by these days.

My metrics this year are basically flat, or down slightly. Not too terribly surprising since I’ve been either working or on maternity leave with less time to blog these days. I didn’t even write as much about my Ziggy Pregnancy as I did with Zippy. I’ve also been mostly sticking to my promise to blog less about Nicole, although I clearly miss it.

My most popular post by such a big a factor of 18x is my statistical model for labor. I really must follow it up with some more geeky posts. I’m kind of surprised the baby name uniqueness post isn’t more popular, but there’s also not a fun tool accompanying it. I am thinking about changing that! Stay tuned.

March 24, 2014

Bot or Not?

The past two weeks I received 1113 comments flagged by my spam filter. To put that in perspective, my blog has been live for a little over three years, and I’ve received 28 actual comments.

The bots clearly love me. So do bot-like people. And sometimes it’s surprisingly difficult to tell the difference.

Here’s a comment posted to “Getting Over Photo Envy

So I’ve been doing paid photography work for about 3 years now and it’s been a joy… [personal antidote cut for bravery.] Anyway, I don’t envy you school photographers one bit. I’d rather shoot a full-day wedding than a full-day of school photos. Keep up the good work!

It appears that someone issued a key word searches for certain topics (e.g. school photography). When they came across my post, they left this prefab comment along with a link to the comment author’s photography business. Since the comment is partially related to the topic of the blog post, it has a better chance of getting through spam filters and thus generating traffic for the business. It got through mine.

Quasi on topic spam comments seems to be a trend these days like this one on my post “Stollen Baby Photos“. Here’s another:

With havin (sic) so much written content do you ever run into any issues of plagorism (sic) or copyright infringement? [cut for brevity]

The dead give away for identifying this comment as spam was the author/website link. The link was not to a blog, but to a specific article. The commentor used a (presumably) fake email address and (obviously) fake name. Someone was likely trying to drum up page views and potentially click revenue for their article.

Protip: setting your name to “what is the best flea treatment for dogs” is a probably not going to fool many.

The author of the plagiarism comment may have never even visited my blog! Google analytics shows no activity on that page the day the comment was posted. Either the comment appears to was posted remotely, i.e. from another website using a cross site $_POST request, or Google analytics thought it was a bot and removed it from my daily totals.

With so few comments I haven’t really given much thought to a comment policy. My intention was to allow any comments from a human, and disallow those from a bot. But these days the line is getting blurrier. There was this comment:

Hi! Stopping by from Mom Bloggers Club. Great blog!
Have a nice day!

I could see from my analytic traffic that this was a real, honest to goodness, human leaving the comment. But it was left on the “Duplicate Image Search” blog post, which was my response to the fact that someone had been passing of my photos of Nicki as their photos of their child. The comment seemed misplaced. I could also tell from Analytics that the author spent almost no time on my blog, and certainly not enough time to read any posts. The comment was left within seconds of her arrival, on the most recent post. I suspect she left the comment in hopes of gaining traffic from the comment website link. I doubt she even skimmed the content of the post she commented on. Because it didn’t seem like a “real” comment, I opted to spam it.

So for now, I guess my comment policy is “if it could be mistaken for a bot, it’s marked as spam.” If there are any humans out there reading this, whose comments have been spammed, forgive me, I’m only human.

February 24, 2014

Happy 3rd Blogiversary, Blog!

Happy Three Years, blog!

Three years feels like a blink of an eye, but then I look back on my life (and my writing!) and I realize how much has changed. My blog is still a hodgepodge of topics that interest me, and I think it always will be. I’m happy to see it’s still of interest to a few of you out there, even without a central focus.

Monthly Visits to my Blog over from Mar 1 2014 – Jan 31st 2014

My blog has had a pretty linear growth with two exceptions.

The big bump at time A is for the Stolen Baby Photos post. That day got three times more traffic than usual. Seeing that spike makes me cringe a little. I wrote the blog post hastily. The forum post that referenced my newborn photography page had just been deleted and I was hoping one of those forum goers might still be visiting my blog, might see the new post, and might possibly be able to fill me in. At the same time, my parents read my blog and I didn’t want to be too alarmist.

The bump in traffic came when I shared the post on my personal facebook page, and was reshared by a friend and college who was concerned how often this kind of thing happens without anyone noticing. While I appreciated the reshare, I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty that the post was undeserving since there wasn’t actually any useful information for others in that post. I followed it up with the Duplicate Image Search, which I’m happy to report has seen some adoption.

I assume the dip at B is because of the slightly different direction I decided to take my blog by keeping more of Nicki’s life private. Although the dip in traffic was not unexpected, I was sad to see it bare out, especially since the decision was based more on instinct than on science. To my surprise my numbers look to be recovering rather quickly.

My favorite topic to write on these days is photography. I had so much fun playing with my makeshift spotlight a few days ago. The topic I really want to get back to, the Doing the Math posts. The Uniqueness of Babynames post continues to be my favorite of all time.

February 7, 2014

Are You Reading This?

If you’re using bloglovin’ the answer is probably “no”. Only 3 of my last 7 posts have appeared on my blog’s bloglovin page. Looks like I’m not the only one with this problem.

I have a couple theories as to why my posts are missing. My server is running a little slow, possibly too slow for Bloglovin. My second theory is that bloglovin’s RSS parser may be having an issue when injesting my feed. I noticed that at least two of the posts that never arrived to bloglovin were written in word, where the last post that did arrive was written directly in my web browser. Word generates curly or “smart” quotes, whereas most quotes on the web are straight or “dumb”. Some parsers choke on quotation marks if they’re expecting one type, but encounter the second.

At least feedly (the reader most of you seem to use) can still read my blog!

The blog has been tweaked and should be running a touch faster now. I’ve also made a handful of other minor, but needed modifications. I believe I’ve fixed all potential problems. In fact the primary point of this blog post is to check just that, hence the title. Apologies for boring you if you’re still actually reading this.

In other website news, I finally updated our family website,, and my resume website, That just leaves my photography site, Incidental Light. That will be a much bigger undertaking. I’m thinking of switching from Flash to HTML 5 as an excuse to learn HTML 5.

Edited to add: This post showed up in my bloglovin’ feed!

September 2, 2013

Back to Blogging Basics

my baby you'll be
“I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be.”
– Robert Munsch

When I was pregnant with Nicki, and she was a tiny embryo without a nervous system or brain capable of cognitive thought, I felt like I was sharing my story. Even when she a newborn in the “fourth trimester”, crying was her only means of interacting with the world and was completely dependent on Domingo and I. Her story was still our story. Then she learned to hold and manipulate objects. She learned to crawl, and walk and run. She’s talking. She has opinions, and gets frustrated when we don’t understand. Her personality is shining through in spades. While our stories are still intertwined, I’m becoming more and more weary of accidentally stepping my bounds and sharing her story.

I blog under my real name, without a pseudonym to offer at least a layer of indirection. By extension Domingo and Nicki are being blogged about in their real names as well. While I can ask Domingo what level of sharing he’s comfortable with, Nicki will not understand the possible ramifications for quite some time yet. I have so far used myself as a guideline (“Would I be comfortable if my parents posted this story about me?”), but I tend to be more open than the average person. I’m certainty more open than Domingo, and Nicki may take after her daddy.

I’m also concerned that what I might blog about would negatively impact her later in life. Stories of baby antics are a potential source of embarrassment but are unlikely to do real harm, especially since they’re pretty universal. Yet what if I accidentally hint at a health issue or a learning delay? Could that impact a potential future employers hiring decision, even subconsciously? I am dyslexic. It’s something I’m comfortable about enough to share openly, but there have been people (a high school teacher and an ex-supervise come to mind) who mocked me for it. If Nicki should find herself in a similar situation, it should be her choice to share it, not mine. Delays and health issues are pretty obvious topics to steer away from, but blogging is still relatively new, we don’t necessarily know the ramifications discussing seemingly innocent topics may have on our children.

A few years ago Kanses state published a study on societies impressions of working moms. In the study researchers showed a video of a mother and child interacting to two groups of people. In the first they described the mother as a stay at home mother. In the second she was a working mom. There were no other differences in the descriptions and the same video was shown to both groups. Not only did participants judge the “working mother” more harshly, but they had a more negative view of the child. On the one hand this study’s findings aren’t terribly surprising. It’s a form of confirmation bias called biased interpretation. We interpret our surroundings to fit our beliefs. If we believe the working outside the home damages the mother-child relationship, we are more likely to view those around us who work as having impacted relationships with their children because it fits our world view. Still, this study has been haunting me lately, particularly because the results extend to the child. I’m a working mom. I’ve formula feed (I’ve breast fed beyond a year as well, but that’s usually viewed as a positive by society). I’ve employed cry-it-out. I’ve even admitted to breaking the no media before two rule. I’ve admitted all these things here and while I absolutely think these were the right things to do for Nicki, I know they are somewhat controversial. Could you, anonymous reader, be subconsciously viewing Nicki more harshly because I blogged about those things openly?

So I’ve been making an effort to share less about Nicki since she turned one. I’m posting less candids, I’m sharing less antics. There is no way to completely disentangle Nicki’s story from my story, Nicki will be less of the focus. I’ll be returning to my original intention of blogging – a place to practice writing and maybe even growing my professional brand.

While I think this is the right decision, it wasn’t an easy one. I have a fear that Nicki will one day grow up, read my blog and wonder why I talk about her less. Will she think I loved her less as a toddler than an infant? Domingo and I will likely have at least one more child. Will the next child (and by induction nth child </math joke>) think I love them less if I don’t share as much about their first years? And if I share their first year as much as I shared Nicki’s, will Nicki feel less loved that I am discussing her less at the same time?

Domingo and I have a running joke that he knew I loved him when I was willing to accept the marriage tax penalty. Hopefully, one day Nicki and I will have a similar joke, that she knew I loved her because I was willing to blog about her less.

February 28, 2013

2nd Year Blogiversary

I’m not sure how I missed it, but my 2nd year Blogiversary was 4 days ago! You’d think with all my posts on meta-blogging I would have noticed it coming. I blame my distracted state on prepping for upcoming interviews.

So how’s my fledgling little blog doing?

* In terms of traffic sources, I had five times as many visitors from Pinterest last year than the year before!
* I have ten new pins, bringing my total to fourteen pins!
* Overall, page views is up 139% from the same time last year!

I noticed the newborn photography was the third most profitable page. I admit when I saw that I envisioned a random surfer thinking “I’ll try this do-it-yourself stuff”, stumbled onto my blog, and think “no way! I’m hiring a professional.”

The most popular page is my Labor Predictor. On any given day about 40-50% of the page views to my blog are on the labor predictor. I’m glad it’s so popular, it was fun writing it! I love my math-y posts.

My goal for the coming year: increase the number of non-mommy related posts. I was talking to someone the other day and it was clear that he thought of my blog as a “mommy blog”. Obviously being a new mom is a major part of my identity right now, but it’s not the only piece. While I’ll never shed the mom title, Nicki will grow older and more independent. I plan on keeping my blog for a while, not just while I have young kids!

With that said, I’m off to go take more photos of Nicki. Because I’m an obsessive momtographer like that.

In my seemingly never ending quest to learn more about the business of blogging, I’m constantly diving back into the numbers. Of late I’ve be curious about the stickiness factor of blogs. What makes one blog memorable while another one with similar content is just so-so? And (since my blog is the only blog I have data for) how ‘sticky’ is my blog?

Bounce Rate

I started with the most basic of statistics, the bounce rate for last year. Overall I had a 78% bounce rate, meaning 78% of my visitors do not read a second page (at least during that visit) within my blog. Breaking it down further I see that Craft Projects and Photography had the lowest bounce rates (68% and 69% respectively), where Shopping and Family Life have the highest. This isn’t really surprising. Most visitors to my blog appear to be looking for answers to questions or general information, and not specifically for me. A random surfer to my blog will likely care more about my general info posts than the personal life.

I also have a bit of a keyword/query mismatch problem it looks like. Looking at my traffic data, I see the two most popular ‘Family Life’ posts are List Overload and Still a girl. Most visitors to ‘List Overload’ are looking for the city mini 2013 which the post mentions I was interested in buying, but isn’t what the post is about. For ‘Still a Girl’, visitors are interested in 4d ultrasound pictures. Since that’s not what either post is about, I certainly can’t fault visitors for leaving!

In terms of tags, the Maternity Photography had the lowest bounce rate at 40%! Alas, Newborn Photography’s bounce rate was pathetic at 96%. So I guess maybe you, anonymous reader, don’t like all of my photography? I was surprised to see that Consumer Research and Baby Gear also do well (bounce rates of 57% and 65% respectively) despite shopping being one of the worst categories.

The bigger killer of my bounce rate in the shopping category posts is Hallmark on a budget, a post on my Hallmark shopping strategies. It’s one of my most popular shopping posts. I got a huge bump in traffic for it on Christmas day with people looking for after Christmas sales. The problem? The post was written in August 2011 with no details on where to find this years sales. The key-word mismatch problem strikes again.

New vs Repeat Visitors

Bounce rate can be a little misleading. When I visit a blog I follow I will read the top one or two posts on the main page that I haven’t seen before. Once I see a post I’ve read before, I stop and go elsewhere. If the blog displays the full content for those few posts on the index page, I’ve effectively bounced. But the bounce doesn’t mean I’m not a loyal reader. I keep coming back, I keep reading the latest posts and bouncing. Thus, to explore my blog’s stickiness, I also looked at new vs repeat visitors, not just the bounce rates.

Overall, only 11% of my hits are from repeat visitors. Bummer. But here’s where I start to get good news: for my blog’s main page 37% of all visitations are from repeat visitors! Maybe I do have some readers after all?

But wait, there’s more interesting news! Posts with the Doing the Math tag, (which I’ve always thought of as my most favorite to write for, and least popular), had the best percentage of repeat visitors for any tag, at 10%! And, ironically, when I noticed that I immediately thought ‘must be a math mistake’. More likely, though, it has to do with how I handle those posts. Since those are the posts I love, they’re also the ones I tend to tweet to my friends on twitter.

Becoming Sticky

As a scientist it’s really tempting to tweak the variables and see what happens. If I post more maternity photos (Hah, I wish!) how will that affect my traffic?

I’ve always been a firm believer that the only real Search Engine Optimization strategy is to have good content. I have a similar philosophy with blogging. I should stick to the content I enjoy writing about, and not worry about tailoring it to the queries that bring visitors to my blog. When a visitor stumbles on to my blog by means of a query that doesn’t really match the blog content, he or she tends to bounce. There’s nothing I can do about the query mismatch, but I can strive for better content.

October was a better than expected month for me. Remember how it took a full year for me to make my first dollar? And then six months to make my next? In October I earned a full dollar. Updating my blogging revenue probability model with October data also shows me it will only take me 573 years to reach $1,000,000 in revenue instead of 615! Wahoo! Kidding aside, the increase in traffic has me wondering if maybe my blog could become something. In the last four months the number of visitors to my blog has doubled. (It’s the newborn photography. Too bad I have to wait for the next baby to expand on those. Maybe you’ll find non-newborn baby photography interesting in the mean time?)

I’ve been thinking a lot about what direction to take my blog, what type of blogger I am and what type of blogger I’d like to be.

Professionally, I’m a data scientist. My blog gives me an opportunity to make an internet name for myself. On the other hand, I’m fairly new to the domestic thing, and I’m still figuring things out. Blogging helps me put my skills to the test. Sometimes people like me, and I get pinned on pintrest. Other times they offer handy suggestions and ideas that help me grow.

I love to shop (especially bargain hunting around Black Friday), and I love to give my opinions on purchases. I don’t think I’m cut out to be a blogger who does those reviews and giveaways. For one, at less than a dollar revenue per month on average, I won’t be funding any giveaways any time soon. While I would love to get products for free to review, (at least in theory, ‘free’ is my favorite price tag), I’m way too small a blog for that. Besides, I’m still a novice blogger finding my voice and I wouldn’t want to come across as promoting a product because it was free to me. For now my plan is to stick to discussing only products I bought myself.

I have gotten a few requests for guest posts, but I’m even less reluctant to go this route. I blog for me first and foremost. I’m so completely forgetful and writing things down is an easy way to remember how I feel, like how much I loved being pregnant. I also blog because I’m dyslexic, and I blogging is an easy way to practice writing.

Still, I do like the idea of small businessafying (yes, I’m pretending that’s a word) my blog some day. I’ve spent the last few months reading about what that will entail, and how to grow my blog/brand. It would be nice to defray some of the costs of blogging, small as they might be. Yet, I’m not sure I’m ready to make the kind of time commitment that will require. Aside from actually blogging, I’d have to work on building an audience. Most of my visitors are still one-time visits searching via keywords.

At the current rate of growth, my model predicts it will be another 4 and a half years before I get my first check (and owe taxes) from blogging. Here’s hoping I figure it all out by then.

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