Blogging the Journey, Damsel with a Drill, You are Awesome – The Star Blogger Award nominations

It seems this series of mine is starting to get real traction. How do I know? Well – I am receiving lots of emails through my Contact page. Majority is, of course, inquires on when I can feature certain blog (which I encourage). Then, there are compliments for what I am doing – I immensely enjoy reading those. Seems that people especially like the fact there is a prize for winning The Star Blogger Award.

Now, surprisingly, I’ve also started receiving hate mail. The first one was a real stunner… left me wondering – how do you find material to hate on blog roundups? But now that I’ve received second hate mail it seems reasonable to expect this. One negative email for every few positive ones. So, if it makes you happy to criticize – here is my Contact page again. Give it your best shot… and at least try to make it constructive. I really can’t do much with one liners that just say I’m terrible πŸ˜‰

With that out of the way – let’s go to this week’s nominees.

Blogging the Journey by Ben Garow

I’ve met Ben few months back when I was restarting my own blogging efforts. He was doing the extreme version of that with establishing bloggingthejourney.com. Through his second blog he wanted to fix what he perceived as mistakes made on the first one.

Honestly, after following his writing over last few months I don’t see that Ben is making mistakes. It’s only that standard problem of not getting enough traffic. And thus your work is not properly recognized. Kinda like title of Ben’s post – Everything is Amazing and Nobody is Happy – referencing rant by Louis CK. Blogging is amazing in a sense that so many people invest so much energy into it. But, in the end, one lifeless article buried deep on page 42 of Β Washington Post will get more attention.

It’s good question if that will ever change. Regardless of answer, for me it’s clear that blogs like Ben’s are superior choice. Much better to read something someone invested his heart into; than to spend time on article that exists only because there was a deadline and free space.

Damsel with a Drill by Laura

First blog post I wrote was on how to buy a house that’s right for you. There is definitely something majestic about your first home purchase. And it better be that way considering the amount of money you are commiting to spend. One of the categories I wanted to blog about was home improvement. But 3 years later, and 10+ repairs after, I am still to muster inspiration to do so.

Looking at the great work Laura is doing, I doubt I’ll ever get into DIY blogging. It just makes more sense to link her articles and awesome photos than do those on my own. So, Laura, if you ever do a post on deck staining or water heater maintenance – count me in as collaborator! In the meantime I’ll highly recommend visiting what you write both as source of knowledge and inspiration.

You are Awesome by Angela Noel

Angela is a blogger that helps a lot in the community. She does exactly what header on her blog reads: “Celebrating Inspiring People and Interesting Ideas”.

Also, quality of Angela’s writing really stands out. With my blog – pick any post, start reading it and you’ll quickly deduce that I am not a writer. I obviously do something else for a living… and use blogging as a tool to communicate ideas and express myself.

With Angela – you can tell right away that she is aspiring author. Regardless of whether she is blogging about parenting, inspiration, society… her posts always have great titles, strong intros, with right amount intriguing questions.

Honestly, I can’t wait for her to start publishing books and travel the country on signing tours. Then I’ll get to hang on her blog and comment “I told you so” all the time. It’ll be marvelous.

Pass on nominations and vote

Please note that voting for The Star Blogger Award will likely open next week. I’ll reach out to all nominees ahead of time so everyone has time to prepare and invite supporters to vote.

Also, some of the past nominees started nominating blogs they like. This is exactly how I want this award to work. While ability to pick whoever I like is nice, it’s also quite lonely. So, I would definitely prefer to collaborate on nominations. There is much more weight in two people nominating.

Until next week!

Fiverr for bloggers – impressions after spending money on 10+ various services

Fiverr is one of those services that increases the lure of blogging. Looking at Fiverr’s front page it seems like writing is all you need in order to start and maintain successful blog. You can hire $5 providers for everything else. Whether you need advertising, social media management, guest blog posts, traffic, likes, shares, comments – it’s all there. Just give the service providers $5 and that’s it – you’ll be taken care off.

Now, everyone heard that saying: some things are too good to be true. If guys behind Fiverr didn’t mind joke at their expense they could try adopting “Too good to be true” as motto. It would be both funny & great move. And that motto would definitely describe what they offer more accurately then current (“Freelance services for the lean entrepreneur”).

What complicates situation is that you there are definitely some gems on Fiverr. But it’s like 10% / 90% – out of 10 services you buy 2 will truly help you. Other 8 will fall somewhere between “this service produced negative net result” and “seller didn’t bother to deliver anything, cancel and ask for refund”.

The biggest surprise for me was that ratings system doesn’t matter much. You have 5 star, Top Rated sellers that will do things which fall under Black Hat SEO. Things like spamming links to your website with automatically registered accounts on major domains. Now, don’t get me wrong – this technique when properly executed can do wonders for your SEO ranking. Just when you are ordering you aren’t told that this is what you will get.

But, let’s start with more positive experiences I had – I’ll review several services: 2 good, 2 bad and then 1 ugly. If there is interest in this post I can even link directly to providers I review here. Let’s go.

Guest blog posting

I loved this gig because seller threw in bunch of tips as free extra. So on top publishing my post and linking back to the site, I got some advice. Blogging is one of the latest in series of crafts humans have been perfecting. The best way to learn craft is to work with someone who is already great at it.

So, this type of service is definitely something very valuable on Fiverr. You can explore who offers this service, look at the Alexa stats of their blogs and decide who you want to work with. Then for $5 you get to interact with someone who you can emulate.

The downsides of this approach are obvious – writing 1000 words is not easy and there is no instant result. Words per minute is one of those metrics that you need to focus on as a blogger. I would say that on average you are looking at typing 500 words per hour if you want to keep quality at decent level. Sure, you can type 80 WPM but good luck producing original content at that speed. So, it’s up to you to see whether investing 2 hours + paying $5 on top of that is good use of your time.

Yes, I've blogged about Kirby and I'm proud of it! I love little pink blob and his heroics!

Yes, I’ve blogged about Kirby and I’m proud of it! I love little pink blob and his heroics!

Facebook page followers building

This definitely doesn’t fall in White Hat SEO… but building following on Facebook Fan page in era of $0.8 per US Like is hard. So, if you can hire someone who builds following by manually linking to your fan page – it’s all good right? You save time by having someone else join various interest groups and post your link in relevant discussions. You then use that time to produce content. Win-win, right?

The obvious problem here is – how to hunt down provider who genuinely works? I.e. someone who doesn’t have 10000 bots that he is reusing over and over on different gigs? Well, unfortunately there is no silver bullet here. You need to hire over and over until you find someone reliable. Or go with recommendation of someone you trust.

Let’s buy traffic on Fiverr

To start of “bad” gigs – let’s go with the most attractive offering on Fiverr – traffic. Basically all traffic gigs on Fiverr are not what you expect. Most $5 gigs that you are buying are software generated – you get bunch HTTP requests through VPNs from different IPs. These show up in Google Analytics as hits. This can be part of SEO strategy, but as all Black Hat SEO practices it is frowned upon and not sustainable long term.

Then you have premium gigs which are either popunders or traffic from traffic exchanges. Both can be genuine human traffic, but it’s highly unlikely you’ll get much traction. Maybe if you are having truly “attractive” blog (wink ;)… but again you won’t have much luck with these traffic types either.

Now, you may say – for $5 I don’t expect much and if I can get 1000 people on my blog for that money it’s worth it. Well it would be worth it – if it didn’t impact your bounce rates.

First of all, *most* of traffic sellers on Fiverr simply lie. They tell you it’s human traffic exchange – you pay and then get 1000s of visits that last 10 seconds each. So, you got synthetic traffic. Not only you got synthetic traffic – but you now have terrible activity and bounce rate on your site measured by Google Analytics. Your content is now likely marked as terrible (considering activity time and bounce rates).

If you just want to pump up your Gstats and ego, Fiverr traffic buying gigs can be pretty useful

If you just want to pump up your GA stats and your ego, then yes, you’ll get something out of buying Fiverr traffic gig

SEO authority links

Oh, how happy I was when I found this gig. Top rated guy, Fiverr ambassador, 1000s of 5 stars – and he is willing to provide 10 links from his “high authority domains” to my site for only $5! Joy!

After paying and waiting several days you get professional looking report saying that you got 20 links instead. Disappointment creeps in when you see that like 18 links are nofollow… while provider claims in report that he “aims for 70% follow / 30% nofollow mix because thats _optimal_”. Even bigger disappointment is seeing that links are created by spam accounts on domains like ted.com. Not only you got low value links, but now you’ll forever be marked as spammer = will never have opportunity to do a TED talk. T_T

Again, I understand that there can be value in this if you are doing Black Hat SEO. Like, create conversion page for some product, aim to improve your ranking on Google for certain keywords, end up making boatload of $$$. So, sure you can do tons of stuff with these spam links. But if you are trying to establish online presence, build long term value and share knowledge – gigs like this are pretty much pointless for you. In the end you’ll have bunch of links to your site marking you as spammer.

Buy promoted Reddit post through Fiverr

I love Reddit. Look at my post history and it’s pretty much obvious – I spend tons of time here interacting on various topics. I talk on /r/bitcoin, read books and discuss on /r/BettermentBookClub, moderate /r/BloggersHelp – you name it. So, when I saw a gig that advertises Reddit promotion for $5 I simply had to try it. They describe the process as finding great, relevant subreddit, crafting post and then adding bunch of upvotes and relevant comments so that your content gets promoted.

Sounds terrific, right? All they want for you is URL, keywords and optionally script or text to post on Reddit. I went with it and provided:

  1. http://howtoaddict.com/review-summary-subtle-art-not-giving-fck-mark-manson/
  2. book review, book summary, mark manson
  3. You go with whatever script you deem best – and be sure NOT TO POST IN SUBREDDIT I mention in my review… go with some that is popular enough and with lots of people who are looking for book reviews / summaries.

Here comes the funny part – the result:

You go with whatever script you deem best – and be sure NOT TO POST IN SUBREDDIT I mention in my review… go with some that is popular enough and with lots of people who are looking for book reviews / summaries. from Reviews

Yeah, you don’t expect much for $5 but come on – you need to try in order to mess up that badly. Obviously I couldn’t be upset after witnessing result that was this funny. So I sent back something in line of “Come on guys, seriously?”. After a while response came back: “We sincerely regret for this situation, our associate made a mistake and he will be punished for this situation. We will redo the post and will get back to you in nearest time.” T_T for “punished associate”. “Redo” wasn’t as funny as original, but still funny:

Summary of "The subtle art of not giving a f***" by Mark Manson – How To Addict.Reading this book got me to finally produce detailed overview that I am using now as review of the book. from bookquotes

Kill it with downvotes. I mean what else would you expect when you post what they posted in /r/bookquotes. Sorry to mods over there – but please do keep it up for lolz.

Conclusion

The biggest problem of Fiverr is that you practically need to pay for 10 gigs to find 1 that is good. Descriptions of gigs and star ratings mean almost nothing. So if you are trying to establish quality blog, you pretty much have two choices:

  1. Completely avoid Fiverr
  2. Pay for premium services that someone you personally trust recommended

This way $40 out $50 you spend will go toward marking your site as spammy. $5 will go toward gig that is OK but doesn’t truly improve your blog traffic. And finally $5 will truly benefit you.

At that rate you are better off hiring someone to post links to your site on social media for $50. Or buy Fiverr gig for $50 that truly improves your blog.

Whatever you do – keep blogging, keep rocking and if you ever need a blogger friend – reach out. I’m not sending nudes or anything, but I’ll gladly send comment, like, share or hug. :*

TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music, GPS Fitness Watch Review

01-compassBefore reviewing any product I try to use it extensively for at least a month. Being a long time user of original TomTom Spark I was excited to take new Spark 3 for a ride. On one hand, I am extremely disappointed because most of the changes TomTom promised during last year are still missing. On the other hand, launch of this new device resulted in price slash of old model, which is great opportunity for those in market to buy fitness tracking watch.

Right now the old version of TomTom Spark Cardio+Music is selling for $139 while new version is $249. Looking at the price difference you are probably asking – what is the difference between the two? Actually not much, version 3 has:

  1. Slightly redesigned wristband – subjectively I would say it is a bit better, but not really a difference maker
  2. Bluetooth headphones – included with new version, again not a big deal
  3. Compass – sounds great out of box, haven’t used it once during my month long testing
  4. Breadcrumbs support in software – watch can show you the path you’ve ran so you can backtrack. It’s useful if you are long distance runner in unknown terrain; see picture attached to review
  5. Support for uploading GPX files – another feature for advanced runners; you can upload running route to your watch before race and then track the path on your wrist during the race

And that’s it. Although all features are improvements, none of them is truly a difference maker. Especially when you take price into consideration, buying old version of TomTom Spark from this link is no-brainer.

Now, is TomTom Spark Cario+Music 2 or 3 a watch for you? Well, that depends on what you will use watch for… here is the list of things that I find problematic after long use:02-breadcrumbs

  • Long time to get GPS signal – if you are in a new area it may take up 10 minutes to get GPS signal. So, yeah, if this upsets you – definitely skip this product. If you are often running in the same area GPS caching will do the trick and in most cases TomTom Spark will pinpoint your location 10 seconds.
  • Heart rate tracking only truly works for running – for all other activities HR is definitely off. For example, when you are tracking heart rate during weightlifting you’ll quite likely experience this. Also, I’ve read a review where customer was complaining that HR tracking is off for swimming. I mean, I understand that some people have high expectations, but be realistic ;). In a nutshell expect that HR monitor on this watch will give you pretty accurate reading whenever your wrist is in “I’m running” position; for all other positions it’ll be off.
  • Activity tracking is not top notch – sleep tracking and calorie counts are definitely little bit off. Tracking steps on the other hand is OK.
  • Proprietary USB charger with awkward connection to watch – I seriously have no idea why they made it this complicated to connect watch for charging / USB data transfer. For all practical purposes you’ll need to eject watch from wristband EVERY time you want to connect it to your PC / Mac. After a while you may get hang of it and through practice make whole process a bit faster. Water resistance may have played a part in design, but there was truly no need to make it this complicated
  • Music is not that useful – while prospect of not carrying phone with you sounds great (and was one of the main reasons why I purchased this watch), I actually never used it after first week. First, you need to transfer music (or in my case audio books) through mentioned USB cable. Second, only MP3&AAC are supported. Third, controlling playback is done through buttons on the watch – not really that user friendly. So, in the end, if I was buying TomTom Spark I would definitely go with Cardio only to save money. I currently use Moko adjustable belt to carry my phone – it’s simple, it works and is only $7.99.

Conclusion: if you are able to get TomTom Spark for $139 – get it. I do like it and use it every day. It’s pretty stylish, works well and battery life is pretty good. Too bad TomTom is selling it for $250; at that price point you may as well look at other high end watches. In the end, it’s your decision.