After telling you that Mrs C was going to BlogCamp I guess it would only be polite for me to tell you how I got on there. I will warn you now that I make no apologies for this post entering into the technical SEO territory as for me that was one of the highlights of the trip! Yes, I know I'm a geek, but still…
For those of you that have not heard of BlogCamp then let me tell you that if you're a blogger here in the UK then you should make it your business to know about BlogCamp and get yourself on their mailing list so that you can attend a future one. Run by the lovely people behind the Tots 100 it's fair to say that the majority of people there are parent bloggers, and spotting only four men in the room the majority of those were female parent bloggers, but that's where any similarities between delegates ends. I have never had the pleasure of being in a room with such a mix of people. Whilst everyone had blogging in common that was it. Some people blog about family life and their children, some about technology, others about food, but what was clear is that they all have a passion about what they did and all wanted to learn more in order to do it better.
How to build a brand
The day kicked off fantastically with a very motivating talk from Bangs and a Bun on how to build a brand. What was fascinating for me with this talk was the concept of Bangs building herself as a brand as I hadn't really considered bloggers being a brand in their own right before. Once you think about it though it makes complete sense and I can now see how other bloggers have down exactly that with great success, both here and in the US. "Mrs C The Brand" is still very much a work in progress, but watch this space…
How to be a snark
Stu Heritage's talk on How to be a Snark was absolutely hilarious. When he said that he's been rehersing in his bedroom the day before I'm pretty sure he didn't expect the audience reaction that he got. He hadn't even got past the title slide before some lively audience discussion started on exactly what a Snark was and why anyone would want to be one. Stu managed to handle the audience heckling amazingly well and some of the stories he came out with were priceless. He gave us all some excellent bullet point tips on what to do and not do and I'm pretty sure that numbers 1 and 8 will not be forgotten by anyone who was in the audience.
After lunch we got into the real knitty-gritty part of the agenda for me – SEO techniques and the follow/nofollow debate. (Feel free to stop reading now if you're not into blogging technicalities!)
Anyone who publishes on the Internet will tell you that one of the most important things is for people to be able to find you. There are millions of blogs published daily so how do you make sure that people go and read yours? How do they find out about it in the first place?
One of the most obvious ways is via search engines and within the hits they get from search engines I'm pretty sure that the majority of those will be from Google. No matter how much you might not want it to be the case there's no doubting that Google is the search engine king and as a result if you want to be high up in google's search rankings they do (unfortunately) have the power to dictate what they want you to do. Much of Lee Smallwood's talk was focussed around how google works and how to play their game! I won't give away all Lee's trade secrets, but it's fair to say that I'd expect most of the audience will now be writing longer posts (at least 500 words), including keywords at the start of their posts, linking to more of their own posts and creating circles over on Google+.
All this of course brings up moral questions about whether or not we should all be doing exactly what google say we should and is making some people ask why they started blogging in the first place. There's no simple answer to these questions, but these are the facts about how the Internet works and that's what SEO is all about.
The Follow/Nofollow question
If you have never accepted money or goods for any blog post that you written and never plan to then you don't need to worry about this question at all. Google's rules say that if you accept anything in return for a blog post then you must declare that you have done so and also make any links to the people giving you the payment "nofollow". This means that the links are tagged so that Google (and other search engines) know that this link has been placed there as the result of a payment and therefore it ignores these when counting how many links sites have to them (backlinks) which then determine rankings in search results.
So, if a blogger writes a sponsored post or reviews a product all links in those posts should be "nofollow" links. If a blog does not do this (and Google finds out) then the blog can lose its "page rank" which means that it will not appear in Google's search rankings. So, if you currently receive a lot of traffic from Google there is a chance that you could lose all that traffic.
Not using "nofollow" links when you should is not illegal in anyway but the thought of losing your pagerank is a frightening thought for many bloggers. Once again, Google demonstrating their power across the Internet. Of course there are other search engines out there, but this is the way that they work now, and chances are that may others may adopt similar practices further down the line.
Some bloggers have recetly lost their Page Rank and this session was the first time that many UK have come together since that happened, so it provided a fantastic opportunity for questions about how we should all work going forwards.
In addition to the sessions I attended there were other parallel sessions and to be honest I would have happily gone to anything on the schedule. I've not heard a bad word about any of the sessions and I just wish I'd had the ability to be in three places at once. Between all the sessions there were some great networking opportunities, plenty of tea, coffee and cake too!
The best bit though – all this was FREE. That's right free – it didn't cost a penny to attend thanks to the hard work of the organisers and their wonderful sponsors. The quality of the sessions was such that I wouldn't have been at all upset if I had paid to attend and I'm actually quite blown away with the amount I learnt on the day.
So, what are you waiting for? If you're a blogger get yourself on the mailing list for the next BlogCamp!
A big thank you to the Tots100 team and Sally Whittle for organising such a fantastic day.
Apologies for the lack of photos – I was too busy being a swot and taking notes to get my camera out!