DeSmogBlog Named One of Time Magazine’s Best Blogs of 2011

DeSmogBlog was honored by TIME magazine as one of theThe Best Blogs of 2011. The list compiles the top 25 blogs from across the internet. DeSmogBlog.com is the only Canadian blog on the list.

TIME's yearly list includes the most relevant and innovative blogs on the Internet. This year's trendsetting blogs include the NY Times Economix, the Wall-Street Journal tech blog AllThingsD and the math-based dating website OkTrends, among others.

DeSmogBlog is the only blog with an environmental focus to make the list. TIME has previously recognized Huffington Post, Daily KOS, and Mashable on past Top Blog lists.

TIME reporter Bryan Walsh calls DeSmogBlog a "necessary corrective" and "the antidote" to the corporate smoke screen surrounding news coverage of climate change and energy issues.

According to Walsh, "A corporate smoke screen surrounds much of the coverage of climate-change and energy issues. Fossil-fuel companies have spent millions funding anti-global-warming think tanks, purposely creating a climate of doubt around the science. DeSmogBlog is the antidote to that obfuscation."

DeSmogBlog is celebrating its 5th anniversary of clearing the PR pollution that clouds climate science, and this nod by TIME is an honor for all the hard work of DeSmog's contributors over the years, especially their current line-up of writers and researchers whose investigations earned the award on this year's Top 25.

I want to thank you all for your loyalty and welcome new readers to the blog.

Head over to TIME.com to see the full list of The Best Blogs of 2011.

– Jim Hoggan

Blog tip #13: watch your bounce rate

Bounce rate is a measurement that is used to see how many people come to your site and “bounce” off of it before going to any other page on your site.

A high bounce rate usually means one of two things:

1. People are visiting your blog looking for information and they are not finding it.

2. People are visiting your blog, finding the information they need, but do not feel compelled to look any further into what your blog has to offer.

Using Google Analytics you can see the bounce rate depicted as a percentage – the higher the percentage of the bounce rate, the more people that are visiting your site but leaving before clicking through to other pages. So a bounce rate of 90% is a bad thing, while a bounce rate of 25% is a very good thing.

A general rule of thumb is that a bounce rate of around 70% for a blog that is putting out daily news content is pretty good, while a site offering a deeper level of information should be aiming for a bounce rate of around 40 to 50%.

One of the best and easiest to lower your bounce rate is to add a plug in to your blog called “related articles” – a function that will add content to the sidebar that is related the blog currently up on the screen.

The best example of this design is the BBC website (see my red arrows):

So when people come to the BBC to see the latest news on Wimbledon, down the right side column is a whole list of links to other news related to Wimbledon and interesting related information.

There are other ways to reduce bounce rate and many of the tactics will be outlined throughout my 50 Simple Tips to Better Blogging series.

Blogging tip #11: Take a Stand

Like in traditional media formats, controversy sells and you need to look know further than someone like  shock jock radio host Rush Limbaugh who has built an empire on this idea.

While you don’t have to be nearly as over-the-top as someone like Limbaugh, you can attract new traffic by blogging about your position on an issue related to your business.

You will also see a lot of return visits because when you take a position in a blog post, you increase the liklihood that others will add their own two cents in the comment section and check back to see if you or others have responded. On that note, I recommend that if comments do begin to appear that you engage with the commenters – especially if you are just starting out as a blogger.

All over the internet there are these longstanding epic “flame wars” or heated comment section arguments that have been going on for years logging thousands of comments still to this day. All because the writer took a stand like, “Why I love my Blackberry and hate the iPhone” or ‘Why the Washington Redskins Stink.”

Taking a stand can be tricky though and it is important that you remain respectful and get your facts right. Past that, go for it.

Taking a stand is a great way to show your thought leadership and expertise and it can also engage a very large audience in an interesting conversation.

Written by Kevin Grandia

[This is part of an ongoing series of articles on 50 Simple Tips to Better Blogging and you can check out all the previous tips there]

Blogging tip #8: Paragraph Breaks

As one of the biggest grammar geeks on the planet (my 3rd favorite book is Eats, Shoots & Leaves), this next tip was actually really hard to follow when I first started writing on blogs, but it is an important one and I have seen very interesting blog posts completely fail because the author ignored this tip.

The internet is a fast-paced place where people will hit Google in one second, type a search phrase and then bounce from search result to search result in a matter of seconds, doing a lightening quick eye scan to see if the article is useful or interesting.

While there is no hard rule for where a paragraph should break, the most common definition is that a paragraph break comes after you have completed a single thought. That could take one sentence or it could take ten, but typically it will take at least three or four sentences.  The problem is that three or four sentences can create a very large and imposing block of text that is not well suited to the quick to come, quick to scan and quick to leave web user. As you can see in this paragraph I have written right now, a few sentences can quickly become a large blob of text.

So the tip is simple: throw out the idea of a paragraph when writing a blog post and shape your writing in a way that makes it easy to scan and see what the main points of your blog post are.

Forget the idea that you must break the paragraph at the end of a complete thought and write for usability and visibility.

Written by Kevin Grandia

[This is part of an ongoing series of articles on 50 Simple Tips to Better Blogging and you can check out all the previous tips there]

Blogging Tip # 12: Use Google Analytics

This one might seem like a no-brainer to many readers, but time and time again I ask bloggers what their traffic analytics look like and they ask me how they would go about seeing something like that – making it obvious that they are not using any kind of web traffic analysis software.

Analyzing your traffic is an absolutely essential to building a successful blog. After all, how else are you going to know if you are building a solid targeted audience of readers?

The good thing is that the solution to this problem is free and really easy to use. The best analytics package on the market is by far Google Analytics and all you need to do is set up a free account, walk through the easy steps, embed a bit of code in your blog and you are off to the races.

If you are using WordPress it is even easier because you can just load a Google Analytics plug-in.

With Google Analytics, you will be able to track how many unique visitors are coming to your blog, where they are coming from, where they live, how long they stay on your site and on and on and on – it is a very deep program for those who want to really get into it.

You can also see what content is most read on your blog,  which is important because a lot of the time we are so caught up in our own worlds that what we think is important and interesting is not necessarily what others may find of interest.  This can help shape future blog post content.

The best way to learn more about how to use Google Analytics and how it can help you blog better and gain a more targeted readership is to check out Google’s Analytic Video Channel tutorials. I took an afternoon and watched all of them and it was time very well spent.

Written by Kevin Grandia

[This is part of an ongoing series of articles on 50 Simple Tips to Better Blogging and you can check out all the previous tips there]

How to Post a Youtube Video on Your Blog

I get this question a lot and in light of my latest blogging tip on producing your own online video, I thought I would do a simple walk-through of how to post a Youtube video on your blog. While this tutorial uses a WordPress blog and Youtube, it’s the same process for pretty much every type of blog software and embeddable videos.

It’s really simple to embed Youtube video on your blog.

1. You need to copy the “embed code” from the Youtube video you want to post. Here’s where you find that:

2. Copy the code you see there (make sure you copy ALL of it or the video will not work when you embed it on your blog).

The embed code will look something like this:

<object width=”480″ height=”385″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/gFEB1VyvZEA&hl=en_US&fs=1&”></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param><embed src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/gFEB1VyvZEA&hl=en_US&fs=1&” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”480″ height=”385″></embed></object>

3. Now start a new blog entry. You want to switch to HTML editing before you paste the embed code. You switch to HTML on a WordPress blog by clicking on the HMTL tab in the top right corner of the blog editing area here:

4. Once you’ve switched to HTML go ahead and paste the embed code into your blog post. Try and paste it where you want it to appear in the post. If it’s too confusing because of all the other coding, don’t worry, just paste it wherever and you can move the video when you switch back to “visual” mode.

5. Switch back to “visual” mode and you should now see a yellow box with a “f” in the middle that looks like this:

6. You can now align the video to the left, right, center or whatever else you want to do using the editing menu on your WordPress blog post editing dashboard. You can also re-size the video to fit your blog – to do that click on the yellow video box and holding the small squares that appear in the corners of the video you can make it bigger or smaller:



7. That’s it! Hit publish and your video should be viewable on your blog post.

If you’re having problems still, leave your question or comment in the forum section below.

And here’s the Baby Kangaroo video just in case you want to watch it:

Blogging tip #10: Hyperlinking on Keywords

This is one of the most important tips I can give you for better blogging. So put down your iPhone for a minute and pay attention!

A Google search for the phrase “click here” reports back a whopping 1.2 BILLION results. Quite the popularity for an almost completely useless search term.

The thing about Google (and I will write about this a lot more in this blog tips series) is that Google has a lot of trouble understanding meaning of words and instead relies a lot more on the code you use around the words you write in a blog post. Through this code analysis Google can figure out what your blog post is all about.

One of the most important pieces of code Google looks for is the words and phrases that contain a hyperlink.

Hyperlink  code looks like this: <a href=”www.thewebsite.com”>The words you are hyperlinking to</a> and Google makes the assumption that the words and phrases you put hyperlinks on are more important and relevant to the article than other words.

So this tip is a simple one: put your hyperlinks over words and phrases related to your blog post instead of phrases like “click here” or “read more here” etc. So for instance, if you have a report you want to highlight and people to download, put the link to the report over the title instead of over a phrase like “download the report here.” It would look something like this instead:

Download a copy of the entire report here: The Most Interesting Thing You Will Ever Read in Your Life

Written by Kevin Grandia

[This is part of an ongoing series of articles on 50 Simple Tips to Better Blogging]

Previous tips in this series:

Blogging Tip #1: Write a ongoing blog series

Blogging Tip #2: Cross-Posting

Blogging Tip #3: When you get it wrong, eat big and fast

Blogging Tip #4:  Write like you have a million readers

Blogging Tip #5: Try Video, it’s King

Blogging Tip #6: Beware of Epic Server Fail

Blogging Tip #7: Link karma

Blogging tip #8: Paragraph Breaks

Blogging tip #9: Meme tracking

Blogging tip #9: Meme tracking

An “internet meme” is defined as something that spreads quickly on the internet.

Normally a meme will take the form of celebrity gossip, a funny new video/image, big sports news, tech news or a breaking disaster story. With social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, Digg and Reddit, the speed with which these memes are shared is greatly enhanced.

These memes come and go in a matter of hours on the internet, with millions of people paying attention one minute, then quickly moving on to the next meme.

So while the world of internet memes is full of bald Britney Spears, Justin Bieber news and the lastest iPhone gossip, there is also a lot of opportunity to try and jump on a meme and write a blog post that relates in some way to it. The best way to do this is to find a meme that you think you can add further information or context to.

So if you’re a hair product company and Justin Bieber’s new hairstyle is going nuts on Twitter, do a post on the “ten things you can do to make your hair Bieber-licious.”

It takes a bit of creativity to jump on these memes, but if it is done right and you are in fact adding to the conversation the pay-off in additional targeted traffic to your website can be huge.

Here’s a few ways you can track internet memes:

Google Trends Hot Searches – updated every hour this site shows you the 20 hottest searches currently on Google.

Tweetmeme – following the most recent “retweeted” posts on Twitter.

Yahoo Buzz – ranks what the world is searching for on Yahoo at any given time.

Written by Kevin Grandia

[This is part of an ongoing series of articles on 50 Simple Tips to Better Blogging and you can check out all the previous tips there]

Blogging Tip #7: Link Karma

Links are the commerce of the blog-o-sphere.

Links are important if you want your blog to gain higher prominence in search engine rankings, which will in turn drive more targeted traffic to your website.

And links from very high-trafficked blogs, like the Huffington Post or Boing Boing, have the potential to send a crushing amount of traffic to your site in a short time and also help establish your reputation as a legitimate source of information. Links from big sites like this are also seen very favorably in search engine algorithms.

One of the best ways I have found to gain links is to be very giving when it comes to the links you put on your own blog to other blogs and websites. I (and many others) call it “link karma” in that the more links you give, the more you are likely to get links in return. I come across blogs all the time that only link back to their own previous posts, which tells me a few things about the blogger, namely that they are not likely to link to me if I link to them and that they really think their blog is the only source of information worthy of referring to on the entire internet.

Remember, a blog is a social media outlet and whether its in real-life or online, being social means referring to the work of others in conversation, not just talking constantly about yourself.

Written by Kevin Grandia

[This is part of an ongoing series of articles on 50 Simple Tips to Better Blogging and you can check out all the previous tips there]

Blogging Tip #6: Beware of Epic Server Fail

Written by Kevin Grandia

Did your mom ever warn you to “watch out what you wish for, because you might just get it”?

If she did, she was unknowingly a social media marketing genius, because your mom’s warning speaks to a big issue that I see time and time again. To see it in action go to the homepage of Digg.com right now,  click on any of the stories in the “popular” section and see what happens.  When I did, a couple of the stories kicked back and error code or a “this server has timed out” message.

The reas0n these webpages are not going to the story is because being on the front page of Digg.com and many of the other social media news sites, blogs and forums can send a crushing amount of traffic in a very short amount of time. Here’s what that can look like, I took this from a recent traffic spike we had on one of the sites we manage, EnergyBoom. com when a story went on the homepage of Reddit.com:

If we were not prepared, that spike (sending about 100 pageviews a second at one point) would have completely crashed our servers and all that work that had gone into writing a compelling story would have been a complete waste of time.

A lot of hours can go into creating that perfect “viral” video or blog post and when it pops you want to be sure your servers have the capability to handle the surge in traffic.

Here’s a couple of tips that should take care of this issue:

1. I would suggest that if you are building out a project that could result in a crush of traffic that you ask your web designers if they have hosting capabilities as well as the capacity to handle a large surge in traffic – nowadays with the cost of storage and broadband being so cheap, many web designers do have this capacity. It is better to have your own web team handle your server needs because they are very accessible and you can phone them (if they are good at what they do) anytime you want when you have server capacity issues. You can also discuss with them ahead of time when you think they need to prepare for a ton of traffic.

2. If you do not have a designer that offers this, then I would look for a third-party service provider that offers server space on the “Amazon Cloud.” You don’t need to know much about the cloud other than that it is a service that can host your website and as your traffic grows (i.e. when your site is going viral on Twitter), your capacity to handle that traffic grows with it – this is why the Amazon cloud is also called the “elastic cloud.”

[This is part of an ongoing series of articles on 50 Simple Tips to Better Blogging and you can check out all the previous tips there]