Alt Tag? and 2 More Stupid Questions That Will Make Your Blogging Great

Don’t you know what an alt text is?

Don’t you hate asking stupid questions? Even if it will help your blogging? Let me do it for you. I mean everyone knows about alt text by now, don’t they? Do you even know where to find alt text? I did not. And who thinks up keywords and hashtags anyway?

Understanding and applying blogging tips is hard work! I’m proud of my blog, but out of 17 tips that make a blog great, I am was missing three or four simple ones and I’ve been blogging almost five years!

I hate to admit this, but I did not know what they were!

#1 What’s an alt. tag or text?

The article asked, “Do your images have descriptive alt. tags?”

Before I wrote this article, I did not even know where to find an alt. tag, let alone know if my images had one. After Google searching two or three articles about alt text, I wanted to slap myself in the head.

It’s an image process. Here’s my image I checked. Oh yeah, on the image uploading form it’s called alt text, not tag. Oops, no alt text on my Manny the Teddy Bear Blogger picture.

screenshot, alt tags
Screenshot with no alt text See the blank box in the sidebar

Who knew? I was not just ignorant, I was rude!

I saw that blank space there that said “alt text”, but I guess I thought it wasn’t for me to fill in, so I didn’t.

Once you stop being rude and lazy, some writers have called those of us who ignore this step, there’s more! You need to go beyond knowing what an alt text is to understanding why you need to fill in the form as you upload your photos.

Three Reasons to Fill in Alt Text Information

  1.  According to Joost de Valk in his article, Image SEO: alt tag and title tag, the reason you use an alt. tags or text or alternative text is so that an image reader can tell a blind person what’s in the picture. “So if you have an image that’s used as a button to buy product X, the alt text would say: “button to buy product X”. You fill this out when you fill out your photo info as you add the photo “alternative text.” Sadly, most of the photos I’ve inserted over the last five years do not have alternative texts.

2.  The alt. text also defines your picture for Google. Joost cautions us, “If an image does not have a purpose those images should be in your CSS and not in your HTML.” Web designers know what this means. If you want to know check HTML & CSS. I think this means, “Don’t worry about CSS, Marsha.”

Joost also reminds us that “You need a good, high quality, related image for your posts in which it makes sense to have the focus keyword in the alt text.”

Keywords are magical and should be in the alt text.

The picture I inserted at the time without an alt text was my blogging teddy bear, Manny. He was pretending to type his blog post. So that was what I wrote to show that I understand WHERE the box is. But wait…

Blogging, teddy bear
Some improvement maybe. I like “Manny Blogging” better for an alt text.

Unfortunately, very few people know who Manny is. The revised alt text in the sample, “Blogging teddy bear” has a keyword in it AND tells what the picture is.

3. Other media use this alt text for other purposes. Yoast refers us to another article of his, Optimizing Images for SEO  which gives us one last quote  to provide a couple more stupid questions I’ll save for later. “These images are used in OpenGraph tags and Twitter Cards, which will add the image to our social shares.” I haven’t used either OpenGraph or Twitter Cards. Have you? Put your link in the comment section.

#2 What Is a Two-Word Tag?

You’ve seen this, too. I guarantee you’ve probably used a two, three or 10-word tag. You fill in keyword tags in the box under categories. Look over there on the right side of your screen. It says “Tags.”

Way back in 2012 Tom Ewer wrote  for Manage WP, WordPress Tags: Everything You Need to Know  “probably more due to the shockingly poor usage of tags amongst the vast majority of blogs than anything else).”

Oh no! Finding the box isn’t good enough!

Tag sparingly and efficiently. By this I mean that each tag you use must be highly relevant to the content in the post you are tagging, and the tag in question should be short (ideally no more than two words) and specific.”

Further in the article, Tom dropped another bomb. “You will need to set aside a few minutes perhaps every month or so to manage your tags.”

Oh no! I don’t do that either!

Did you know you need a Plugin to do that? That means that if you use WordPress.com, you probably don’t use plugins. I’m trying to find a way to tag more easily in WordPress.com without buying an expensive professional package. If you know how that’s done, please leave a comment.

Here’s another quick trick. Tags are separated by commas but you can also separate two or three-word tags them with an underscore, then separate them from other tags with a comma. And example would be bird_dog, terrier

The topic of tags brings up a subject I’ve avoided for the nearly five years I’ve been blogging. Did I ever tell you that I’m hard to teach because I sometimes think things don’t apply to me? Here is the subject SEO!

There Are Tags and Hashtags – Both Important

And both rely on keywords and (Search Engine Optimization) – the dreaded – SEO.

Tags can also refer to hashtags. All social media use hashtags. Choosing tags and hashtags is more complicated than I have made it. – EVER! The reason this is so complicated is that choosing the right hashtag involves knowing about and taking into consideration SEO. If you have a self-hosted blog, you can buy tools so you do not have to fully understand SEO.

Denis Duvauchelle recommends the Moz keyword difficulty calculator, but there is a cost, and I struggle to know what is worth the money for a hobby blogger and what is essential.

According to Denis, in his article, Tags and hashtags: The ultimate guide to using them effectively words are important. “The process of researching keywords and hashtags is not so different. You need to find out the terms that people are using for the product or service that you are offering.”

“Hashtags become very useful when you want to remarket old content. I’m a strong believer in maximizing the use of the content you produce.”

I agree with Denis. This article highlights seven essentials of #hashtagging. For example, I knew that you leave out spaces in a hashtag, but I did not know that plurals matter. Did you know you should not start a hashtag with a number?

Ultimately, if you have a version of WordPress or use WordPress.org, you can buy a plugin Yoast SEO to help you deal with your SEO headaches. I tried it when Always Write was self-hosted for four years.

#3 Is your blog fast loading?

screenshot, optimize photos

What do you think fast loading is? Not only that, how can you make your blog load faster.

Ankit Singla in his post 17 Effective Tips To Reduce Blog Page Load Time tells bloggers “Research also has it that 47% of the readers expect that the websites should load within 2 seconds while a delay of more than 3 seconds can make 40% of your readers to abandon your site.”

How fast does yours load?

When I had a self-hosted blog, I knew, now I don’t, but when I open my blog as an outsider, it loads quickly. I reduce the photo size in Photoshop when I process multiple files. That is a quick process. There are many ways of optimizing your photos. In Canva, you press a button that does the work for you.

However, if you make it the wrong size, there’s an easy fix in Photoshop. I imported both of my screenshots into Canva to reduce the size and to add text, but I made them the size of my Featured Photo. The were optimized, but too big for my screen. I imported them into Photoshop and in the file menu processed them using the process multiple file button and it was done.

He recommends bloggers to limit their plugins if they want their website to speed load. Most bloggers I know use WordPress.com and for them, this is not an issue. YEAH!

No wonder I put aside SEO issues. They have to be done by hand on my personal blog. It does take time, but each day I learn easier ways to improve my blog.

Conclusion & Summary

If you blog as a hobby using WordPress.com, like I have since 2012, try these tips.

  • Label your images with an alt text and fill in all the blanks for each picture.
  • Cut back on pictures to load your website faster. One or two per 500-word post is plenty. (I don’t do this.)
  • Search google for a few of your keywords to see how many posts come up.
  • Read them, and if you like them, link them to your article in Related Posts. Or better yet, ask your friends for links to their posts. You can always update your post later.
  • Use the words you used to search in your keyword tags.

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Relax the Old Fashioned Way with Musical Chairs

prescott-musical-chairs167

#NaBloPoMo Day 29 Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Musical Chairs

Did you wrack your brain to find musical chairs? A couple of antique stores in Prescott, AZ had some. Have you ever ridden on a merry-go-round?

You sit in a seat, go up and down, and giggle to the sound of music.
You sit in a seat, go up and down, and giggle as the music plays and the platform turns.

Friends, Darlene, Jean and Mary Lou and I headed to Prescott to check out the antique stores. Musical chairs stumped me, so I scoured the stores for signs of them. See if you agree that these could be musical.

prescott-musical-chairs164

Don’t you love the old-fashioned figures riding this merry-go-round?

prescott-musical-chairs168

He looks like he’s having fun. the horse may be even singing to him.

prescott-musical-chairs167

The horses wore bright-colored outfits befitting their parts in the musical performances. Of course, the in first carousels, appearing in the early 1700s “the animals would hang from chains and fly out from the centrifugal force of the spinning mechanism. They were often powered by animals walking in a circle or people pulling a rope or cranking.” Wikipedia  Germany has the oldest existing carousel made in 1779.

Platforms appeared in the 1850s, and by 1870 steam engines and organs adorned the amusement ride. The engineer Frederick Savage attached gears to the horses allowing them to glide up and down on the polls, and hoped to make the benches pitch and toss as if they were on the ocean.

prescott-musical-chairs160

This teddy bear picture reminded me of a Victorian poem, “The Swing,” that my grandmother used to recite to me.

The Swing
How do you like to go up in a swing,
   Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
   Ever a child can do!
 
Up in the air and over the wall,
   Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
   Over the countryside—
 
Till I look down on the garden green,
   Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
   Up in the air and down!
 
The poem has been set to music. Here is one rendition.

For more musical chairs check out Cee’s Fun Fotos.
CFFC runs weekly challenge starting every Tuesday.
CFFC runs weekly challenge starting every Tuesday.

7 Steps to a Successful Brand for Your Personal Blog

Isn’t An Image a Successful Brand?

According to pro bloggers an image might not be enough to make a successful brand for even a personal blog.

brand-voice“Seriously, Peter Problogger? I used Canva and designed a great image. That’s enough, right?”

“You talked to your husband about your blog, didn’t you, Amy Amateur. What did you two talk about?”

Oh yeah, hehe. You want to know about that?”

“Well, maybe not everything, Amy, but the key ideas.”

“He DID help me figure out WHY I blog.”

Why Just Write has a New Name, ALWAYS WRITE.

You go through the many of the same steps to come up with YOUR Brand as a high-powered company would. As I work at this, I’m learning that creating a brand means more than creating an image.

To unify writers’ and advertisers’ messages, a company like Apple might have their content writers brainstorm adjectives about their company. Then they would sort and discuss them. When they finished, employees would have a consistent understanding of the company image and values they should all portray as they write for the company.

First Impressions Matter

  1.  What expertise do you have that an audience needs? Brainstorm with your friends and family. My husband, Vince, and I chatted about my personal brand. “I am a teacher who loves to write,” I said. Even though I could write mostly about writing, my life takes me many directions. I could not reconcile the many facets in one blog. Janice Wald, who writes Mostly Blogging, handed me a get out of jail free card.  Since bloggers cover all topics, so could Mostly Blogging.
  2. As you brainstorm adjectives for your blog, write down snippets of the conversation. The next morning after our blog image chat, Vince stumbled out of bed, “You ARE always writing. It’s 4:39 am. What are you doing?” A light bulb went on. “I’m Always Write,” I told him. Vince broke out in his happy grin. “That’s the truth,” he said. I admit that I MAY BE a little argumentative, doggy at a bone, at times. I’m saying that is a POSSIBILITY. I prefer to think of myself as CONFIDENT, KNOWLEDGEABLE,  & WELL-RESEARCHED.

aw-do-what-you-love

Now the subtext – what values do you portray?

  1. Gather your best articles or posts. Analyze them. What makes your content unique? Do you love something enough that you exude enthusiasm? My best articles were not only about writing. One post about a business in our little town of 7,000 had 10,000 views on Facebook, and 800 on my personal blog! It was fun to interview the owner and write the post. It had nothing to do with “how to write.” A local magazine republished it. My range of topics expanded, yet I focused on my values!
  2. Find a commonality between your posts. Come up with adjectives to describe them. Marcia Riefer Johnston suggests making a chart using three adjectives based on the values you want your audience to see in your blog. Write sentence descriptions under them explaining what you mean.

How do you do that?

Use the quotes or snippets to write a tag line.

ALWAYS WRITE at home and abroad, Experiment with me – enthusiastic – persistent – encouraging

“Always Write” defines the purpose of my blog.

Writing at “home and abroad” extends my world.

“Experiment with me,” indicating my love of learning and acceptance of imperfection, defines my goal to reach an audience of like-minded new or hobby bloggers, writers, and photographers.

The Guide Chart below is how I started to define my values – confident, enthusiastic, “persistent.”

my-branding-grid2

Then what?

[ctt link=”66R2s” template=”3″]Focus on your values, not only on your topics!! http://ctt.ec/7X6m8+%5B/ctt%5D

  1. Align all your content to your guide. Weed out old content. Revamp your good content. Deactivate or privatize old posts rather than deleting them. You may have overlooked some gems.
  2. Stay consistent and true to the values in your guide as you write new content. Print out your guide and tagline as a reference. Like posts in Mostly Blogging, your topics may vary, but now you can be consistent in what matters to your audience – Values. With every post I want my readers to experience child-like enthusiasm about learning. Because of my brand, I now have a roadmap to remind me about what and why I ALWAYS WRITE. Focus on your values, not only your topics!
  3. As you develop your blog, strengthen your value statements to update and polish them. Vary these statements in your social media forwards when you publicize your content. If you use Buffer, you can’t copy and paste the hook phrases from one slot to the next.

Summary

Consistency makes your blog shine. Establishing your personal brand makes it easier to stay on track and to weave in loose threads. Your blog can look professional even if it is not.

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How to Bury Your Head in the Sand

#NaBloPoMo Day 27, Cee’s Oddball Challenge

Ignore the Nagging Question, “Why Bury Your Head in the Sand!”

At first, I couldn’t believe my eyes, she actually dug a hole and thrust her head inside and stayed there.

Her mom said, “Oh, she does this ALL the time!”

OK, but isn’t that unhealthy. I’ve heard of not breathing bad air, but bad sand?

But the reality is…

Avial Beach beckoned
Avial Beach beckoned

Kalev was disturbed by the digging.

“She looks like me, Dad. I don’t want sand in my nose! Do I HAVE to do that, too?”

head-in-sand101

Nonetheless, the digging continued.

Hard at work
Hard at work

Sandy Nose did not seem to mind that I took her picture.

The disturbing task finished.
The disturbing task finished.

It must smell fishy, clammy, or something delicious.

Did you catch that?
Did you catch that? Should I take a bow?

Yep, she really did it, and she wanted to know that we were watching her.

The final pose
The final pose

Sandy Nose looked at me for one final pose before she moved on to her next antic.

Dogs may be off leash at Avila Beach before 10:00 am and after 5:00 pm daily.

To make these pictures and my two short video clips into a video I used iMovie and Free Music Archive.

My friend Darlene and I walked the main street in Sedona this morning on our girl’s week out vacation. OH NO!

sculpture-in-sedona-130

For more Oddball pictures, See Cee’s Oddball Challenge.

Cee's OddBall

Did You Know Some National Parks Open Every Day Except Christmas?

Montezuma Castle National Monument for One

#NaBloPoMo Cee’s Which Way Challenge, #Sedona trip#1,

Maybe it’s because the National Parks are 100 years old this year. Happy birthday, NPS.

Montezuma Castle National Monument, a thirty-minute drive in light traffic, south from Sedona, AZ surprised many tourists looking which way to go on Thanksgiving besides the dinner table.

Trail at the foot of Montezuma Castle National Monument off US Interstate 17
Trail at the foot of Montezuma Castle National Monument off US Interstate 17 in Verde Valley, AZ

Looking at the dry red rocks and desert landscape along the path at the foot of Montezuma Castle, it was hard to imagine anyone farming the area.

Darlene stops to read each informative sign along the path.
My friend Darlene stops to read each informative sign along the path.

Yet productive Hohokam and Sinagua native settlers grew corn, beans, squash and cotton from about 1125 AD to 1425 when they disappeared.

The hole in the side of the limestone cliff  was one of many openings or alcoves into which the Southern Sinagua carved  pueblos into the cliff about 10 feet. Each of these open rooms housed a small family.

Darlene and I walked the short trail admiring these open houses and chatting with visitors we met on the path with us.

Visitors from China and Porterville, CA shared the path with us on Thanksgiving morning.
Visitors from China and Porterville, CA shared the path with us on Thanksgiving morning.

These early tribes used willow trees for implements and supports in their pueblos. In spite of being built in crumbling limestone cliffs, these homes held up for 800 years.

Will ours?

For more Which Way entries, find your way to Cee Neuner’s blog. This is an easy one to enter. There’s no weekly theme. Keep a lookout for any path or road, sign, bridge, stairs. See her site for details

cees-which-way-1

Do you ever pick up and head out with old friends or family, and not know where you might end up? For the next few posts, I’ll share how my friends and I spent the week in Sedona, AZ.

Share this article if you know someone who wants to spend an hour exploring an 800-year-old settlement near Sedona, AZ.

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