Category Archives: Blogosphere

The lesson of a Dakota Pinnacle Birch: Why blogs, tags, and linking continue to rule for search engine results

I became a member of the Board of Minnesota Offroad Cyclists (MORC) back in January. At a meeting last weekend, a couple of board members who are avid mountain bikers told me that whenever they Google themselves, the search results return blog posts and photos from my blog, Mountain Bike Geezer

A few days later, I got an email from a Northfield area webmaster wondering what my secret was here on Locally Grown Northfield, as he noticed that search results for Northfield-related issues and people seemed to frequently link to blog posts and images here.

I told them that it’s partly because I use lots of relevant tag word and phrases in my blog posts, including first and last names. And I also take the time to label/tag photos.  But I also include a lot of links in my blog posts. Not only do Google and other search engines love links, but so do the people I link to — and they increases the likelihood that others will at some point link back to something here on LoGro. Search results are still largely dependent on having other sites link to you.  The more the better. And the higher the PageRank of those who link to you, the better. PageRank is partly why Google’s Larry Page is a billionaire.

Knecht's Nurseries and LandscapingI was explaining this to Deb Knecht this weekend, since Knecht’s Nurseries and Landscaping has been a longtime client and I’ve been helping them revamp their WordPress-based site to make it Responsive, something that all websites these days need to be since so much web traffic comes from a variety of mobile devices (tablets, smartphones, etc).

I’m also working with Deb to spruce up (heh) their archive of nearly 1,000 blog posts dating back to Feb. of 2004. While most of their blog posts have been assigned Categories, most need the addition of Tag words and phrases. Categories help when browsing a blog; Tags help with both browsing and searching. Here on LoGro we have a few dozen Categories but over 3,000 Tag words and phrases.

wordpress permalinksWhile reading up about search engine optimization (SEO) strategies recently, I learned that permalinks (the URL of a blog post) are more search engine friendly if they use words from the title of the blog post rather than a number with a generic term like ‘post’ or ‘article.’

So I’ve been converting a few of my own blogs over to this permalink naming convention.  A blog post I authored yesterday is titled Mountain biking’s sweet spot for seniors: high impact for bone density, low impact for joints and if you hover your cursor over that link, you’ll see the permalink is a long URL: http://mountainbikegeezer.com/mountain-bikings-sweet-spot-for-seniors-high-impact-bone-density-low-impact-joints/. Previously, the URL might have been http://mountainbikegeezer.com/?p=4821 or other variation using ‘blog’ or ‘archives’ or ‘post’ with a number like I’ve been using here on LoGro for years.

Dakota Pinnacle Birch

At Knecht’s, we’ve been using permalinks with the naming convention /weblog/post/# which is an indication of how old their blog is. Back in 2004, ‘weblog’ was a commonly used term.  Not any more. So when I was revamping their site a month or so ago, I changed the permalink names to search engine friendly names, assuming the WordPress database would automatically redirect anyone who tried to link to a old permalink URL to the updated one. Doing this on my mountain bike blog worked, so full steam ahead! Wrong. It only works for the default permalink, not others.  I should have used a special plugin. Ouch.  The bounce rate has skyrocketed and search engine results for popular trees and plants have plummeted.

But rather than going back to the old permalink style, we’re sticking with the change, and updating the blog posts with tags.  So for example, back in October of 2010, Leif Knecht blogged about a popular shade tree called a Dakota Pinnacle Birch.  There’ve been other posts about the tree, too, so we’ve tagged them all, which means all the posts can be retrieved with the URL http://knechts.net/tag/dakota-pinnacle-birch/ and from there, you can click on the blog post headlines or titles of each for more.

My upcoming task for LoGro will be to convert all 4,000+ blog posts to a new permalink structure. Gulp. In the meantime, however, Google will have to live with http://locallygrownnorthfield.org/post/29632.

Anne Sabo, a mama- and sex blogger right here in River City

Anne Sabo, Griff WigleyA couple of weeks ago, I noticed a blog entry in the citizens widget on the right sidebar of Northfield.org‘s home page aggregator by someone named Quizzical mama.

A few clicks later led me to Northfielder Anne Sabo who, it turns out, is a former St. Olaf prof who now maintains three active blogs.

Northfield has a lot of bloggers but not many with more than one so I knew I needed to know more.  We had coffee yesterday morning at GBM and we’re now exploring ways to collaborate.

Anne’s sites:

Home page of Anne Sabo
Anne Sabo home page

Quizzical mama
Quizzical mama

Love, Sex, and Family
Love, Sex, and Family

NPnewheader
New porn by women

Northfielder Brenton Balvin: rink rat, preacher, and opinionated blogger

Brenton Balvin, Griff WigleyBrenton Balvin's blog: Living in the Pace of Grace
I had coffee this morning with Northfielder Brenton Balvin, a blogger since 2005 (Living in the Pace of Grace), and someone I’ve followed on Twitter for many months.  We chatted about our lives, past and present, for over an hour and half. 

Brenton’s tweets and blog posts are personable, often opinionated, and cover many different topics but nearly always linked somehow to Northfield and his life as a husband, dad, rink rat, store manager, part-time preacher, kids baseball coach, and many other roles. He’s an occasional commenter here on LoGro and his blog posts often appear on Northfield Patch.

I like it that Brenton isn’t shy about his opinions.  A recent favorite: What is More Offensive: Pornography or A Woman Breastfeeding in Public?

WCCO News recently aired a Good Question segment about breastfeeding in public as a result of a Texas woman’s nationwide call to for a "nurse-in" at Target stores after she said she was humiliated by Target employees.

The segment reminded me of a blog post I wrote in July 2006 (Pornography yes – Breastfeeding no – Are We Serious?) on the hypocrisy and idiocy of the fact that our nation accepts and promotes the normalcy and legitimacy of pornography, and yet demands nursing mothers sit in dirty bathrooms and closet spaces to feed their infants just so passerby’s aren’t exposed to the slightest embarrassment of having to see a sliver of a breast performing its most natural function.

Northfield Patch, hyperlocal news, and the future of journalism

Jane McWilliamsI normally prefer more narrowly focused blog posts. And any one of the three subjects in the blog post title would typically suffice.

But Jane McWilliams is teaching a Cannon Valley Elder Collegium course this spring titled The Future of Journalism (4 slots left as I write this) and local media moguls from KYMN, the Northfield News, Northfield Patch, Northfield.org, and yes, even Locally Grown are among the guests she’s having attend various class sessions.

  1. Since Northfield Patch is the new kid on the block here in town, its time to scrutinize their effort, both locally and nationally.  What has been their impact on Northfield thus far? What do you like about what they’re doing? What’s disappointing or problematic?
  2. PatchPatch is a national chain of hyperlocal news sites owned by AOL. There have been many other high profile hyperlocal news projects launched, with many failures already. What’s being learned out there?
  3. Journalism (local, state, national, international) continues to be in a state of extreme flux.  What do you like and not like about what you’re seeing?

If you come across interesting resources related to these issues, be sure to post them in a comment with a link and, if you’re up for it, an excerpt.

Recalling the 1985 Demolition of St. Dominic Church

This spring, St. Dominic parish will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of their church. Nearly forgotten is the old church and the tumultuous debate that preceded its ultimate demolition in the Fall of 1985.  Tradition-minded parishioners joined with preservationists in the community to try to save the old church building. The contest attracted letters to the editor of the Northfield News from around the country, and newspaper articles in the Faribault Daily News and the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

With the help of Hayes Scriven and the Northfield Historical Society, I have assembled a handful of photos that perhaps explain why so many were so attached to the lovely old red-brick building. More photos and analysis of the episode available on my blog.

[All photos courtesy of The Northfield Historical Society]

See the large slideshow or this small slideshow:

A new blog: Northfield Artists

Northfield Artists blog

A couple of people have alerted me to an attractive new blog in town called Northfield Artists

This blog is dedicated to artists who are residents of Northfield, Minnesota and/or graduates of Northfield High School.

The blog doesn’t have an About page, the blog posts don’t have a person’s name attached, it’s not aggregated by the Northfield.org, and they don’t have a Facebook page. They are on Twitter, however.

Who’s doing this?

Community news site coming to Northfield: AOL’s Patch

Corey Butler Patch

AOL has hired former Northfield News reporter Corey Butler Jr. to be its new editor of Northfield Patch (not yet open). The corporate Patch About page says that it’s "a community-specific news and information platform dedicated to providing comprehensive and trusted local coverage for individual towns and communities."

Patch is also soon launching in Eagan, Edina, Golden Valley, Richfield, and St. Louis Park. I was to meet with Minnesota Patch regional editor Don Wyatt today in Apple Valley but he had to cancel.

MinnPost’s David Brauer has blogged about Patch’s arrival in MN (see his posts: July, Aug, Sept, and Oct). There’s plenty more to read online about Patch, as it’s commonly seen as the most well-funded of the national hyperlocal community news ventures. AOL has deep pockets.

Since Patch goes after local advertising dollars, I see them as a competitor to the Northfield News, KYMN, and the Northfield Entertainment Guide.  Since Patch does community event info and seeks content from citizens, they’re also a competitor to Northfield.org.  Some of their sites have discussion threads on their stories so in that sense, they’re a competitor to Locally Grown.

Competition is good though, right?

Carlson SEEDS interns Chelsea and Natasha: planting, growing, selling, blogging

It’s not often that someone beats me to a blog post after a community event. But it happened this week.

SEEDS interns - L: Chelsea Wagner; R: Natasha Hegmann; C: housemate Julia ? Basil from the Carlson SEEDS field Thunderhead over the Carlson SEEDS field 
At last Saturday’s Riverwalk Market Fair, I took the photo on the left of Carlson SEEDS interns Chelsea Wagner and Natasha Hegmann (housemate Julia in the center) selling their wares, including the fantastic basil (center) that Robbie purchased from them. What’s SEEDS about?  The St. Olaf Center for Experiential Learning has a page on it:

The Carlson SEEDS (Social Entrepreneurship, Environmental Design, & Stewardship) internship program, founded by Greg and Nancy Carlson ’82, is designed to engage students in experiential learning and discovery that fosters a deeper understanding and appreciation for environmental stewardship and sustainable agriculture.

Natasha’s July 19 blog post, Produce for Sale, chronicles their Saturday, including the game of "How many farmers does it take to set up a tent?" and a visit from a “professional blogging consultant.” Heh.

Chelsea and Natasha are natural born bloggers, telling interesting stories with fun photos on their Carlson SEEDS blog.

Carlson SEEDS blog

Using blogs and Twitter to leverage your influence as a Northfield community leader

Northfield civic leader blogging class, 2005 Northfield civic leader blogging class, 2005 Northfield civic leader blogging class, 2005 Northfield civic leader blogging class, 2005
Way back in 2004-05 when I was still at NCO/Northfield.org, we encouraged local civic leaders (including members of the city council, school board and county board) to start blogging. I taught a civic leader blogging class and even coached some local ministers.  It was all part of the civic blogosphere project with an emphasis on including leaders.

So as A) we head into the 2010 election season; and B) begin looking for a new Northfield City Administrator, I thought it might be helpful to point out some very important reasons on WHY someone in a leadership position should consider using social media tools like a blog and Twitter.

Michael Hyatt is CEO of the Christian publishing company Thomas Nelson Publishers and recently gave a speech titled “Social Media and Your Ministry.” A preview of that speech was captured in this video of an interview, blogged at How Can Christian Leaders Get Started with Social Media?

Hyatt says in the video that “Twitter may be greatest leadership tool ever invented” in part because it’s “a marvelous way to leverage your influence as a leader.”

(The title of the video makes one think it’s all about ‘how to get started’ but the most important pieces are related to why.)

The only other person I know of who’s written about blogs (and now Twitter which, after all, is a microblogging service) as tools for leveraging one’s influence as a leader is Seth Godin in his book, Small is the New Big: and 183 Other Riffs, Rants, and Remarkable Business Ideas. (I blogged about this back in 2006, Leadership blogging and the leveraged effort curve.)

Godin originally wrote about this for his blog back in March of 2005: Godin’s Leveraged Effort Curve:

Seth Godin's BlogKnowledge workers get paid extra when they show insight or daring or do what others can’t. But packaging the knowledge is expensive, time consuming and not particularly enjoyable for most people. As you get better at what you do, it seems as though you spend more and more time on the packaging and less on the doing.

… The exception?

The intense conversations you can have with your customers and prospects, especially via a blog. Once you get the system and the structure set up, five minutes of effort can give you four minutes of high-leverage idea time in front of the people you’re trying to influence.

The book adds this to that last sentence: “This is pure, unadulterated leverage. The stuff you actually get paid for, with no overhead.”

Godin’s insight — “among highly-compensated workers, the percentage of the [knowledge] work you get paid to do goes down as you get paid more” and that “packaging the knowledge is expensive, time consuming and not particularly enjoyable” — was stunning to me and still is.

In the Why keep a blog? section of my 2005 Leadership Blogging Guide (currently under revision as a White Paper), my #1 reason to blog is to “Leverage your leadership interactions that otherwise disappear:

In the course of any leader’s week, there are literally hundreds of interactions with colleagues, constituents, staff, media and other members of community. Whether these interactions are face-to-face, phone, electronic or paper-based, they comprise the bulk of how leaders exhibit their day-to-day influence. A phone call from a constituent, a conversation with a staff member at lunch, an email exchange with a colleague, an off-topic discussion at a team meeting – all likely evaporate into thin air, for all intents and purposes, as soon as they’re concluded. Even most paper documents such as memos and reports are quickly relegated to the trash, the shredder, or the filing cabinet, never to be seen again.

With a blog, leaders can select from among this never-ending parade of interactions the ones that they deem strategically significant, and give them a longer “shelf-life.” With a posting to their blog, the story of the interaction gains immediate wider audience while making it significantly easier for that audience to pass the story around to others who they think should know about it.

Prospective civic leader bloggers frequently ask, "How much time is blogging going to require?" It’s a fair question. Blogging feels like just another task when you first start out, and it does require some time commitment to work it into your week.

But once you experience feedback from your blogging, that not only are others reading your blog but that it’s starting to have influence, your attitude towards the task of blogging changes because it becomes strategic.

"I’m going to blog this because I know that she’ll read it and pass it on to…"

"When this group of people sees what I’ve blogged about this, then they’re more likely to…"

You start to realize that your blog leverages your leadership strategies in time-effective ways.

Among other reasons why a leader should blog/tweet is that the tools allow you to:

  • Use a voice of authenticity to have a one-to-one conversation with an audience
  • Extend your presence with a selective window into your day
  • Provide another way for people to interact with you
  • Convey your message directly to your audience instead depending on media institutions

More to come.