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travel-blog-business-technicalIt is that time again. Every so often we like to give our readers an update on what we have been up to behind the scenes of theplanetd.

This summer has been light on travel but very heavy on travel blogging and business.

It was a little over a month ago that we started our changes with the blog and wrote about what we did in the post The Business of Travel Blogging, Week 1 Change we definitely made a lot of tweaks to change the look of the blog by widening it, changing the colours and cleaning up our side bar.

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So have the changes made any difference?

We have certainly noticed a lot of things happening over this past month.

Since changing our RSS Subscriber feed to full feed, we have noticed our subscribers increasing steadily.  We are going to be adding a Subscribe to updates by email under our RSS Subscribe icon because many people don’t know what RSS is, but everyone understands subscribe to email updates.

We have been working on retagging photos thanks to Gary Arndt’s talk at The Travel Blog Exchange. He explained the importance of tagging, and after working diligently for the past month we have noticed a large increase in daily views. We haven’t even scratched the surface of cleaning up our SEO (search engine optimization) But what work we have done so far is making a difference, so we are going to continue.

We were inspired by Globetrooper and the success that they have had on facebook.  After chatting with them in Montreal, we decided to work on building our facebook fanpage.  We held a travel song contest and gave away a $25 iTunes gift certificate.  To enter the contest, we had everyone give our facebook fanpage a like and leave a comment stating what their favourite travel song was.  It worked very well in a little over a week, we gained over 100 fans.  We now have some interaction and discussion on our fan page and we are enjoying the commaraderie and support on the social networking site.

photography-blog-picture-the-planet

Dave's Photography Website

Dave has been working on his Photography Site Picture the Planet. It has been a gigantic task moving his photos over to SmugMug, (Another piece of advice by Gary) but he is slowly getting all his travel photos into their galleries.  Once he has everything organized, he is going to start posting photography tips and advice pieces.  For now he has been posting a photo of the day just to get some content going and it has gone over very well.

We have started editing our vides and will be posting travel videos more often in the coming weeks.  We found that we have been neglecting the video aspect of the blog and we feel that our readers will get more of a feel of our personalities if they can see us on camera every so often.  This has been a challenge as there is so much to do on the technical side of blogging that we don’t really have the time for editing, but we are making the sacrifice to add another layer to theplanetd.   Besides, we have months of footage to capitalize on and it is time to have some fun and play around with our footage.

We have created a new logo and will be putting that up soon replacing our avatar in the top left corner of the page.

Headings and Links

We have been working on keeping people on our site for longer and creating more page views as well.  The best piece of advice that we got from Globetrooper was that our links were the same colour as our headings.  Now we have changed our text links to related blog posts to the colour green and we have underlined them. Our Headings are red  We are also making sure to do more internal linking to our own site.  We have neglected this in the past, but we are slowly working on building those links. It is working…we are seeing our bounce rate go down and people are spending more time on the site.

We took off most of our award badges to speed up the site a bit.  We love to have the “brag badges” but we prefer to have a fast website instead.

We also took off all the the blog ranking widgets.  These things….

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Blog Directory & Search engine blog search directory Business Directory for Toronto, Ontario Travel Blogs
TopOfBlogsCanada’s Adventure Couple…Dave and Deb    - BloggedTravel Blogs - Blog Rankings

We aren’t sure if this is a good thing or not.  We aren’t even sure why we joined all of these things in the first place.  I know that we submitted our blog about a year ago, downloaded the badge widget to put on the site and then watched the rankings change daily at the bottom.  Since taking them off the home page we have dropped like a stone on all of them. Does anyone know if this is useful to blogs?  Does it matter if we are indexed with them or not? We ended up moving them to the bottom of our travel blogs page. That way we are still linking to them and hopefully they are still indexing our site. But we are not sure.

And we areen’t even sure if the link from them is useful or not. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

So there you have it, we are plugging away for hours every day at the moment while we are at home. We want our site to be in tip top shape before we set out on the road again. There is still a lot to do. We have tagging and optimizing, editing hours of video, retooling the look of the blog, and a thousand other little things to fix in the next 2 months, but we are slowly making progress and seeing results.  We will keep you posted on how it goes.

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44 Comments

    1. davendeb

      Thanks Andy. Yes, we never got any traffic from the directories. I always wondered what they were for. We had this idea that they were a search engine thing. We submit our blog to all these directories and they help us get found in search engine. We applied to a lot of them when we first started, and never really thought about them again. I am glad that Globetrooper suggested taking them off to speed the site up. It seems like they were a waste of space and speed.

  1. Anil

    I think you’re better off without the widgets. Typically they only give you a non-indexed or low PR link in exchange for a site-wide link back from you. They also tend to slow down the loading of your page and that’s not good for readers, Alexa, or Google rankings. Having a separate page for the widgets, in my opinion, was a good call.
    .-= Anil´s last blog ..Why Ataturk’s Image Is Everywhere In Turkey =-.

    1. davendeb

      Thanks Anil. It is a relief to hear that everyone is in agreement about the widgets. They will stay off. We have noticed that a lot of blogs have them and a lot don’t, so I am happy to see the discussion from all of you (the cream of the crop) agreeing that they aren’t necessary. Thanks!

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  3. Shawn

    Good call on the widgets.

    You should really need to speed up the site. On firebug you only rate 69/100 and through Yslow as a blog a low E.

    A few reasons why: 22 CSS stylesheets and and 44 whopping Java scripts will load a site like a turtle.

    However using a CDN along with W3 Total Cache plugin will boost up the speed on firebug to over 90 and produce an A on Yslow. But the set-up an configuration can be difficult. I found MaxCDN to be great.

    Wow, I just checked you are using W3 Total Cache according to your Source. You need to minify and combined the scripts through the Minify tab, just use the wizard, but keep in mind some Java scripts you want to exclude such as tracking URL scripts. For the JS choose non-blocking and after body.

    Plus you want to optimize all your images through Smush.it, and use the Smush.it plugin it will optimize your images upon upload. Also Specify your image dimensions will help.

    Hope this helps
    .-= Shawn´s last blog ..A Travelers Reality of Cuisine and Disagreeable Emotions During Travel =-.

    1. davendeb

      Wow! Thanks Shawn, WE will look into all the suggestions. We don’t want to change the slide show (as we like the look of it) but we will definitely look into Smush.it to speed up the image loading. We didn’t know about half the stuff you mentioned, we will check out the Minify tab as well. Whew, we have a big project next week when we get back from St. Kitts. But hopefully it will all help a lot. Cheers!

  4. Dave

    First off, I love updates like these! It’s a great way to take stock of your blog from a design perspective (vs content).

    I agree with Andy and Anil’s comments too. Most of us add our new blogs to directories when we’re getting started, before anyone else will link to us. A few of them can be good for passing Page Rank, but once you’ve been around a few months, and people start linking to you organically, they’re less relevant.

    And I like the wider format — it’ll be perfect for sharing larger-width photos and video.
    .-= Dave´s last blog ..Video- Mt Everest Base Camp- Tibet =-.

    1. davendeb

      Thanks Dave. We have been wondering about the wider format, so that puts our worries to rest.

  5. Audrey

    I’m much less of an expert on blogging stuff than Andy, Anil and Dave but I agree that you probably weren’t benefiting much by having those widgets on your website.

    We’re also looking at redesign and reworking a few things on our website as well. It’s amazing the possibilities these days; it’s sometimes hard figure out where to focus energy and time first.

    Thanks for the update – I’m glad everything is falling into place for you two and the website.
    .-= Audrey´s last blog ..Argentine Food-  Steak- Empanadas- Pizza- Pasta- Repeat =-.

    1. davendeb

      Thanks Audrey, it is good to hear that everyone agrees on the widgits. We didn’t know much about them and signed up for them all last year. We were worried that they helped us get found or something, so I am relieved that they aren’t important. Good luck with your changes and design. I know you two were going to spend a couple of months working as well. I look forward to seeing what amazing ideas you come up with!

  6. Bessie

    Hey you two! Really liking the changes, and it’s cool to see a number of us bloggers doing homework and stepping it up after TBEX. I can’t imagine all the work moving the photos and retagging them was – but great that you’ve got a fresh, organized start and can move forward with new systems in place.

    Nice work!
    .-= Bessie´s last blog ..A Place to Call Home =-.

    1. davendeb

      Thanks Bessie. It sure is a lot of work, but we just try to do a bit of the SEO stuff each day. It is great to talk to other Bloggers and know that we are not alone. It seems that everyone we are talking to lately is overwhelmed with the work load.

  7. Shannon OD

    Great update – concur with everyone of the little widgets – your blog is big enough now that there isn’t a chance Google will miss crawling you, so those are not needed :-) Love that you guys update on your progress like that – spurs new ideas for me too (have pondered going wider because I love how it looks here)!

    1. davendeb

      Thanks Shannon. We love posting these too because we learn so much from people. As we leave our thoughts on the post as to what we have been up to, people leave theirs in the comments and then we all learn together.

  8. Darren Cronian

    While you will have an increase in RSS subscribers since you went full feed, bear in mind that a big percentage could also be scrappers. If you haven’t already download the RSS footer plugin, which will create a link back to your post to show Google yours is the original post and help a tiny bit with SEO.

  9. Maria Staal

    Love all the updates that you have done on your site! Great job, it’s looking fantastic.
    I was wondering if you guys could give me the link to Gary Arndt’s article about retagging photo’s. I remember reading it somewhere, but I can’t find it anymore. I need to retag my photo’s as well. Thanks! :)

    1. davendeb

      Ooh, I don’t know that article. He talked about retagging the photos at TBEX, I didn’t know that he wrote an article about it. I will try to find out for you.

      1. Maria Staal

        Thanks! :) I could have sworn it was him, talking about it in some post, possibly on the Travel Writers Exchange website. But I couldn’t find it on there, so maybe I read it somewhere else…

    2. davendeb

      Hi Maria,
      We explain how to tag the photos on the post http://theplanetd.com/the-business-of-travel-blogging-1-week-in I don’t know where it is on Gary’s site, but I took notes during TBEX and here is what we took away.
      Here is how photos should be tagged.
      1. The file name of the photo should be relevant to the content and in the file name key words should be separated by dashes.
      2. Should also have a title tag which can be the same as the file name.
      3. Have the alt tag include some of key words within the description.
      Hope this helps!

  10. Corinne @ Gourmantic

    I recently installed a few of those widgets to see if they’re worthwhile. They do send the odd bit of traffic but nothing major. They need to be active on every page as they monitor the number of page loads so putting them on a separate page won’t give the same stats. At least that’s been my observation so far.

    A blog is like your home. You need to be comfortable in it and feel good when you’re there. Sometimes we like a bit of clutter, other times it’s a major spring clean!
    .-= Corinne @ Gourmantic´s last blog ..Jumeirah Mosque Tour- Dubai =-.

    1. davendeb

      Thanks for the tip Corinne, I think that I will take them off my Travel Blogs page rather than put them back up. That is good to know, cheers.

    2. davendeb

      Thanks for the comment Corinne. I definitely don’t like clutter in my home, so I guess I feel the same way about the blog. That is a good way of thinking about blogging vs life:-)

  11. Earl

    I’ve been wondering the same thing about those blog directories and starting taking them off one by one to see if there is a difference. I haven’t noticed any changes so far and it’s good to hear the more experienced bloggers opinions as well.

    And I’ve always found your site to be a great, user-friendly place to visit, and I’ll be looking forward to more positive changes as you continue expanding and growing. It provides some inspiration for me as I begin to make some major changes as well!
    .-= Earl´s last blog ..How To Travel When It’s Ridiculously Hot Outside =-.

    1. davendeb

      Thanks Earl. It is always good to know if the site is user friendly. We know it so well but we sometimes wonder if people can find their way around OK. Good luck with your changes. It is an overwhelming undertaking.

  12. Todd

    Hey Guys,great job with the changes. I really like the wide format and use it on mine as well. I was concerned at first about some people not having wide enough screens but Analytics has shown that the majority of my visitors do.

    Also great about the photo’s. Dave is really talented and I’m sure you will see more traffic from google image searches. I have been keeping up with my atl tags but it seems i need to be careful about the title and file names as well. Great tip.

    It’s nice to hear about getting rid of the blog directory widgets. I have never liked the look of them and now feel more comfortable getting rid of them. The only directory that gives me constent traffic is Blogpedia and I don’t even have a widget for it.

    I’m going through some major site changes at the moment too so I know how much time it takes. I wish I had as much time as you guys do. I bit the bullet and hired a coder to change things for me. The changes are based on a web designer’s suggestions. One interestign thing he said was that navigation bars should not have more than 5 options otherwise it overwhelms the visitor. I have kept mine to six and will most likely move one to the sidebar in the future.

    Keep up the good work and the updates.
    .-= Todd´s last blog ..Use Travel to Make You Happy =-.

    1. davendeb

      Great suggestions Todd, I never thought of the navigation bar being too long. I will have to look into how we can change it.

  13. Emily

    Yep, I also agree that those rank widgets are practically useless!

    You’re very smart to widen the screen. I should really do that on my blog–I’ve been doing more photo essays lately, but you can’t really get the full effect when the column is so narrow. I just had a photo essay guest post of mine go live on GoBackpacking.com, and his screen is a lot wider, and my photos looked SO much better since they were a lot bigger. My tech skills are really limited, so I need to ask my web guy to look into this…

    Happy to hear about these updates–you’re inspiring me to think about these things on my own blog!
    .-= Emily´s last blog ..Check Out My Guest Post at GoBackpackingcom =-.

  14. Appu

    I am very poor with technical aspect of internet or you can say blogging but one subject I am sure is if a traveler/writer travel/write/travel Google itself is good to index what we write. All a person need is original writings – Thats it.
    What say?
    .-= Appu´s last blog ..Chapora Fort- Vagator- Bardez =-.

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  16. Croatia Expert

    Great travel blog you have here

    To your question in relation to the blog directories, I run quite a few travel blogs all related to Croatia, my experience till now was that the blog directories was quite helpful when I initially started a page (as they bring a bit of traffic), so I actually kept them there. Recently some blog experts asked me why I gave away front page links to these directories, which made me reconsider their value; result was I moved them to subpages, several of them did not like that, so basically what I have left is only the blog catalog.

    I will be setting up some new blogs later this year, I have decided I don’t need these directories anymore, as there is better ways to increase traffic

    Keep up the good work

    Morten

    1. davendeb

      Thanks for your advice. It is good to hear that other people have decided to take them off as well. We are trying to speed up our site and I know that all the external links are killing us. Eventually we will get it. Cheers!

  17. Bethany

    Wow, thanks for all of the info. It is so hard to find the time to do this type of stuff. Honestly we are traveling now and I just turned to Randy and said “I have no idea how PlanetD managed to post every day”. I’m seriously struggling in this regard – balancing blog work w/ travel and camping has not helped matters. In Paris it felt like I would spend hours just trying to find a working wifi connection and an outlet. Any tips you have in the mean time would be so helpful. Plus I need to get going with a lot of SEO changes on my site to boost my readership. What do you mean by Full feed Vs. the RSS feed? At one time my RSS #’s were going up steadily then something happened and they’ve never gone back up. It doesn’t make any sense because I have been getting more emails from people, etc. so I know someone is paying attention.
    .-= Bethany´s last blog ..Camping in Iceland =-.

    1. davendeb

      Hey Bethany, where are you now? In most of Europe wifi is free and fast in McDonalds. When it came to posting every day, we posted 1 to 2 weeks in advance. We would travel and not worry about even getting to an internet and then spend an entire day catching up. It worked very well. We could immerse ourselves in the experience of travelling and then when we settled for a day or two somewhere we would get down to business. Part way through our trip we were posting 2 weeks in advance. We were ahead of our blog while we were travelling. eg. We were climbing Everest, but our blog was still in India.
      The only problem with that was we missed out on some free opportunities. Tour companies and tourist boards would write us to invite us somewhere, but we were long gone. We are going to try to balance better when we go to China next month.
      Re: RSS. We used to set our RSS feed to only a partial feed. People would get a blurb in their inbox and then have to click through to our site to read the rest. Now they have the entire feed and they don’t have to come to the site. You can easily check your feed settiings to see which way you have it. We have read that people don’t necessarily like a partial feed because they don’t like to click through to anything.
      I wouldn’t worry about your numbers, there always seems to be a push and numbers go up quickly and then they stay still. We have been sitting at the mid 300′s for about a month. Don’t know when it will pick up but we are assuming it will when we get travelling again.
      Good luck with the SEO, we still have so much to do. We are thinking we may spend a month sitting on a beach somewhere between China and India to catch up on fixing our site. WE have barely scratched the surface, but it is worth it. We have seen a huge difference in the posts that we have SEO’d properly.

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