The Truth about Cookie Consent

Head ups! Google wants you to comply with their cookie consent policy by 30th September 2015. There isn’t any mention of a direct penalty from Google if you don’t comply, but if you’re using a Google product such as Adsense and don’t comply, you’ll be violating Google terms of service and may even find yourself in a spot of bother with the European data protection authorities.

Cookie consent is the way you notify your readers that you collect, share or use their data via cookies. In most cases you need your reader to consent to use of a cookie, usually via a notification bar or pop-up overlay. If you use Google products on your blog such as Adsense, it’s now compulsory you do this.

What is a cookie?

For those new to this game, a cookie isn’t just a type of biscuit but also a small piece of data in a text file. Websites that use cookies send and store data in the reader’s browser for use the next time they return to the site.

Don’t worry, it’s common practice and they only contain useful info such as pages visited or items in a shopping cart. It’s good to know they can’t carry viruses or malware, so really cannot harm a readers site.

WordPress uses cookies for logged-in users and for commenters. Plug-ins also tend to set their own cookies to store preferences.

Cookie Consent

Regardless of the mass debates and compliance vs. usability arguments, Google recently announced a new policy regarding web cookies that affects any blog or website that has readers or users visiting from the European Union.

Cookie consent has been best practice for a while, with guidelines and policies jumping around like a cat on a hot tin roof . But you must now tell your readers if you use cookies. Full stop. There’s no movement on that point any longer now Google has waded in.

Do I need consent from every reader?

Not in all cases. It depends on the readers country’s policy on cookies.

For example: In the UK (at time of writing), you must get the readers consent to use a cookie, but it’s acceptable for that consent to be implied. So, if your notification tells the reader that by continuing to use your site they are giving consent to cookie use, that’s ok.

To make sure you cover all policies, it’s a good idea to have the reader click a button to ‘opt-in’ to cookie use. If the reader isn’t happy with that, it’s helpful to provide a link to more info on cookies and how to turn them off in your web browser.

Uk Cookie Consent WordPress Plugin on website

In my opinion, unless you are collecting sensitive personal information on your blog, then implied consent is enough to comply. It’s what I use on my own and client websites in the UK.

However, as there can be financial penalties enforced, I’m not a legal expert so if you are in any doubt about how best to comply, I would speak to a solicitor.

The EU’s legal requirements for cookies can be found here.

Why is there such a cookie kerfuffle?

There’s really no reason to be concerned if a website is using cookies. After all, it just means the website can deliver the reader a better user experience.

That being said, you are storing and accessing a small amount of data on your reader’s computer or device. So, it’s rightly now policy to let your readers know you’re doing this and that cookies are not being used to gather information unnecessarily.

So, how do you know if your blog is using cookies?

If you let readers make comment s on your posts, or you’re using products like Google AdSense, DoubleClick for Publishers, and DoubleClick Ad Exchange, you’ll be using cookies.

To make sure you comply with the EU user consent policy, you must:

  • Tell readers you use cookies,
  • Explain what the cookies do and why,
  • Get consent to store a cookie in their browser.

As long as you do this once for each reader, you don’t have to repeat it every time they visit your blog.

If you’re really not sure if your blog uses cookies, carry out this simple cookie audit using Google Chrome.

How to put cookie consent on your blog

There are many ways to include cookie consent on your blog or website.

WordPress Self Hosted Blogs:

WordPress users have got it covered with a number of specialist plugins that will do most of the hard work for you.

I’ve personally used on my WordPress sites:

UK Cookie Consent
A simple, lightweight plugin that shows an unobtrusive yet clear message to users that your site uses cookies. Uses implied method with opt-in option. wordpress.org/plugins/uk-cookie-consent/

Cookie Law Info
Allows you to easily customise your cookie consent banner from your WordPress dashboard. Uses the implied method with opt-in option. wordpress.org/plugins/cookie-law-info/

Shareaholic
A lot of WordPress users like to use the Shareaholic plugin for displaying share buttons, but are unaware that the plugin also gives the option to display a cookie consent banner. Uses implied method with opt-in option. blog.shareaholic.com/cookie-consent-banner-app/

WordPress.com Blogs

As I write this, WordPress.com don’t offer an integrated plugin to enable cookie consent on your blog. I’m sure this will change shortly as Google now enforce compliance by 30/09/15.

The best way to comply in the meantime is to add a text widget and let your readers know that way.

Otherwise, maybe now is a good time to migrate to a self-hosted blog ☺

Other Blogging Platforms

If you blog on other platforms, Google have put together a great resource to help you: www.cookiechoices.org

As the 30th September deadline approaches, I’ll do my best to keep this post up to date and add in the best ways to comply for each blogging platform now that Google has set a deadline for compliance.

For now, I wonder how many of you currently comply with ‘cookie consent law’ out of choice?
Let me know below if you do or not and your opinion on the new policy:

The Truth about Duplicate Content

I’m going to set the record straight on a topic that seems to puzzle a lot of bloggers – the truth about duplicate content.

Chances are that you are reading this because you’re just curious, or:

A. Someone has nicked your blog content and has published it elsewhere

B. You saw some great content and copied a part of it to use in your own blog post and now you’re worried the big G (Google, not God) is on to you

C. You heard that the post you published and gave permission for another site to use could cause the Internet to implode

Well, to all those panicking bloggers: Take a chill pill.

It’s going to be S-E-Ok.

In general there’s a lot of mixed feelings and advice regarding duplicate content knocking around online. I see fellow bloggers ask questions on forums and in Facebook groups about this topic quite a bit.

Their questions are usually met with answers that are not totally wrong, but are way wide of the truth. It’s usually a guess or what they’ve heard, rather than an answer backed up by the facts.

What is duplicate content?

According to Google:

Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin. – Google

In a nutshell: duplicate content on your blog won’t get it slapped with a penalty, and will only hurt your ability to rank in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

However, unlike your neighbour’s old rusty garden gate that blows about in the wind, there is a catch.

Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results. – Google

Even if the duplication is innocent, if the search engine thinks your blog content is duplicated in an attempt to manipulate search results to gain more traffic, it’ll make you pay for it.

And I don’t mean they’ll invoice you 20 quid (or dollars if you’re across the pond).

It’s possible they might just devalue your blog post containing duplicate content and make it harder for your fresh content to rank in the future. Or worse; in extreme cases your website will get hit by Google’s Panda Algorithm and drop off the face of the planet.

But don’t go and purchase your Panda whacking stick just yet.

How to fix duplicate content on your blog

Over time you will naturally have posts containing similar content, especially if your niche is very narrow. In these instances, search engines might have trouble choosing the page you want to rank.

To make sure search engines know which of your posts to reward for it’s unique and relevant content, make sure you follow these duplicate content SEO best practices:

Provide unique content in each post:

As a blogger or writer, this should be something we strive to do anyway. If you’re stuck for new post ideas, check this out.

Use a Redirect:

This is called a ‘301 redirect’ and is the best way to help Google find the right post to rank.
Identify the original post you want Google to use and redirect the traffic from the duplicate posts to it. The 301 permanently redirects traffic, so in essence you’re getting rid of the duplicate posts.
You can easily apply a 301 redirect in WordPress using Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin. Go to the post you wish to redirect and click on the ‘Advanced’ tab.

Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin for 301 redirect or canonical URL

Use a Canonical tag:

If you don’t want to get rid of the duplicate content but want to comply with best practices, then use a Canonical link to your duplicate content.
This doesn’t redirect traffic like a 301 does, so the post is still viewable. Instead it just tells Google that it should index the post the Canonical link points to, and not this version. Sort of a soft 301 redirect.
You can easily apply a Canonical link in WordPress using Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin. Go to the post you wish to link from and click on the ‘Advanced’ tab.
To do this manually, add a <link> element with the attribute rel="canonical" to the <head> section of the post:

<link rel="canonical" href="https://blog.example.com/example/example-post" />

Consolidate posts:

Say you have two posts talking about a yearly event and a lot of the info is the same. You could combine the content from both posts to create one post about the event, and then 301 redirect the posts to your new consolidated post. You could also try expanding each post, making them more unique.

How to deal with duplicate content across multiple sites

Duplicate content from guest posting:

Google is quite clear on this topic.

If you syndicate your content on other sites, Google will always show the version we think is most appropriate for users in each given search, which may or may not be the version you’d prefer. However, it is helpful to ensure that each site on which your content is syndicated includes a link back to your original article. You can also ask those who use your syndicated material to use the noindex meta tag to prevent search engines from indexing their version of the content. – Google

So basically if the post appears on your blog first, make sure you get a link back from the republished post.

In my opinion asking the site owner or editor to noindex their version of your content isn’t going to go down well. A good compromise is asking them to add a Canonical tag to the post, with a link back to your original post.

Republishing your guest posts on your own site:

Sometimes you’ll want to republish a guest post in part or in full on your own site. I’d prefer to let that guest post be unique to the host blog, or totally rewrite it for my own site.

If you really do want to repost it, then let Google know where the original was published and use a Canonical tag on your own version of the post.

Duplicate content from post scraping:

I see bloggers concerned about this all the time, and I get why. You spend ages writing an amazing blog post, only to see it reproduced without your permission on another site, images, links and all.

This is one of the annoying aspects of blogging. Usually, the larger the blog, the more it’s bound to get scraped.

But the good news is that content scraping won’t hurt your blog. It won’t help you either, but the main thing is it won’t affect your online efforts.

Nine times out of ten they will take your post exactly, word-for-word. If your internal linking is good, the links in the scraped article will all point back to your site. While these links won’t pass on any authority, you could see a trickle of traffic from the offending site.

Usually the site that has scraped and republished your content will be a small blog or website in the far-east with no rank or authority.

If you find that a scraper site has managed to outrank your own site with your post content, then let Google know about it! Use their scraper report tool to report the issue.

How to identify duplicate content

You may not know if you’ve got a duplicate content issue. The good news is there are many other methods and tools for finding and dealing with duplicate content. I’ve covered these in a post over on Peter Rhys Design, where I talk about these in detail.

For this post, I’ll mention my go-to-tool:
Siteliner: It’s great for quickly finding out any posts or pages on your blog with a high number of matching words to other existing posts. The free version allows the search of up to 250 pages, which is usually more than enough for the average blogger. www.siteliner.com

It’s also good for identifying posts with ‘thin content’ that you could beef up and republish.

So, you now know the truth about duplicate content and how to deal with it!

Do you have any duplicate content issues to iron out?
Let me know about it in the comments and how you plan on dealing with it:

Is duplicate content hurting your website SEO?

Is duplicate content hurting your website SEO?

Duplicate content is an issue for many websites, and a lot of site or business owners don’t realise this.

It’s especially a concern for ecommerce websites with product descriptions that may be found on multiple pages, with little or no difference at all. It’s more than likely holding your website’s true potential back, so what can you or I do about it?

Let me take you on a journey back to 24th February 2011.

This was the day Google rolled out it’s first Panda algorithm update, forcing low-quality websites with ‘thin’ content to the foot of the SEO ladder. Meanwhile Google rewarded websites with rich, relevant content and pushed those that were providing great value to their users to the top spots of the search engine results pages (SERPs).

While it really affected spam sites, link farms and affiliate sites (rightly so), it also had a negative affect on innocent sites such as eCommerce stores with short ‘thin’ product descriptions and bad site structures.

Continue reading “Is duplicate content hurting your website SEO?”

Top 5 Reasons You’re Not Getting More Subscribers

Whenever I come into contact with bloggers there is always one common question:

How can I get more readers and subscribers on my blog?

Blogger, WordPress, Wix, Squarespace users – they all want to know the answer to this question. I’d even bet all of the life-savings in my teenage mutant ninja turtles piggy-bank (I’m 30, don’t judge) that you would like an answer to this same question too. It even got mentioned in the comments on my initial post.

more-subscribers-comment

In my experience, it’s not for the want of trying that you might be struggling to gain more followers. You might be posting regularly to your blog but not seeing the traffic you think you should be getting.

A friend of mine recently asked me this exact question.

On the face of things their crafting blog looked great (after all, I had designed the site 😉 ). The blog had decent graphics and images. They were posting regularly. They had links to their social accounts and ways for readers to share their content.

So why were they struggling to draw in more crafty readers and get them to subscribe?

Unlike a good friend, I hadn’t visited their blog for a while. In my defence, if they wrote about drums or photography I’d have no doubt been a regular reader. But I’m not really handy with a glue gun and until recently thought decoupage was a form of martial art.

I pulled up their site in my browser and after clicking through a couple of posts, I started to get an idea of what might be stopping this crafty martial arts blog from reaching it’s full potential.

Here’s an insight in to my answer and the advice (plus a few bonus bits I’ve thought of since) I gave to help them gain more readers and blog subscribers:

1. You’re writing for the wrong audience

Who is your ideal reader? It’s almost vital that you know who you are writing for. Not on a personal level but it’s beneficial to have their general persona in mind. Age range, gender and profession are all things to consider when writing your post. Make a note of these reader aspects as a reminder.

Audience over peers: Make sure you’re writing with your target audience in mind. It sounds like a given but it’s crazy the amount of posts I come across where a blogger is blatantly trying to impress other bloggers or influencers in their niche. If it leaves a bad taste in my mouth then it certain will for your peers. Instead, concentrate on writing for and helping your audience. That will speak much louder than a look-at-me or brown-nosing post and your audience will reward you for it by coming back for more.

Comments from fellow bloggers & peers can be an ego boost, but interaction with your target audience can have a huge impact, on you and on them.

2. You’re taking the publish and pray approach

There’s life after clicking publish: You can spend so long crafting the perfect post that after hitting publish you breathe a big sigh of relief, then go and make a cup of tea and take a nap. You’ve nailed it and your new blog post is out there! But wait, you can’t just sit around waiting for it to be discovered.

Actively promote your blog: Don’t just broadcast it, you need to share it around and engage with the people that would be potentially interested in it. Go beyond your social account pages and post the link in related Facebook groups and share in G+ circles. Don’t forget to email your subscribers to let them know about your new post. These are tried and tested ways to get your content out there.

Follow the 80-20 rule: It’s based on the Pareto principle that’s used a lot in business. It’s basically is a great formula to blog by. For the best use of your blogging time for actual results, spend around 20% of the time writing your blog post. Then spend the other 80% of your time promoting it.

I also try and apply this rule to my social sharing. As a general rule, 1 in 5 posts will be self-promoting. The other 4 posts will be statuses, images or links to other people’s high quality content.

Engage with the popular bloggers: A good way to create a buzz about your own blog is to respond to a post published by a leading blogger in your niche. (Known as Contextual blogging). Get your post up on your own blog and make sure you link to the original article you’re responding to. Then let the popular blogger know you’ve written this awesome response post via a friendly comment or tweet.

be-unique

3. You’re not being you-nique

Realise what you can offer your readers: As a blogger you’ll be interested in reading other writers blogs. I do, and it’s sometimes hard to not get lost in their style of writing or experiences, especially if they are in your niche.

For that reason it’s good to realise your unique selling point and find your style early on in your blogging career. What can you offer your readers that no one else can? Use your individual experiences or point of view to make your blog posts unique. I do believe it develops naturally over time, but it doesn’t hurt to have it in your mind from the start.

Dare to be different: There’s nothing worse than being boring. And sitting on the fence is very boring. There are times when you need to be diplomatic and PC, but always try to offer your own opinion. Don’t jump on the bandwagon of what everyone else is saying if you feel differently. If you want to write about a taboo subject, just go for it! Readers will appreciate the honesty that much more and you’ll usually generate far more comments, shares and subscribers.

4. You’re writing too broadly

Don’t limit your potential: There’s nothing wrong with writing about a variety of subjects and topics, but 9 times out of 10 you’ll be limiting yourself and your blogs potential reach.

A lot of blogs start out like this and it can be a great way to find your writing style and figure out your target audience. But I’d encourage you to find your niche and where you fit in.

Do limit the fluff: Make sure your content is decent quality. If you fill your posts with fluff your readers are not likely to come back. Make sure you’re giving them some food for thought, solve their problems, help them out and they’ll keep on coming back for more.

Optimise your posts: I’m trying to keep this post practical and not technical, but I’m gonna let this one slip through the net.
You’ll usually find that if you keep your blog covering a broad range of topics and subjects, it’ll be harder to really drive high volumes of traffic through your site using social sharing and relationship building alone. You’ll need to utilise some of your promotional time to optimise your posts for search engines, as you’ll need to harness search traffic to keep building your blog traffic and readership.

5. You’re chasing the numbers

Quality over quantity: It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game. We all do at some point. It’s not all about how quickly you can get to that Facebook ‘like‘ milestone or achieving the magic number of twitter followers. Paying for a boosted/sponsored post on Facebook may seem like a good idea. But you’ll soon find that 10 genuine followers gained naturally are worth far more than 1k fake profiles or paid-for likes.

Be patient: Remember why you’re writing and who you are writing for. Keep at it and keep improving. It takes time to grow a blog naturally but you will get the readers and subscribers you want and deserve.

Have you been doing any of these things? Is there anything you would add? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments:

Who on earth am I to offer blogging tips, tricks and truths, huh?

It’s an extremely good question! After all, every Tom, Dick and Harry is offering this kind of help and advice. It’s everywhere you turn on the Internet and social media sites.

I’ll get to who I am next, but first let me answer this:

Why would I bother diving head first in to this already saturated blogging niche that appears filled with gurus and know-it-alls left right and centre?

Great question, I’m glad you asked. Well I’ll tell you…

Some of the blogging and SEO articles on other sites are very good. Some are amazingly good.

I’ve been able to drive new strategies and achieve great results through advice and teaching from these types of sites, from top, current SEOs and marketers such as Brian Dean & Neil Patel. These guys really know their shiz. And I mean REALLY!

But then there are other sites. These sites look like they’ve got it all going on. They’ve got a self-hosted WordPress blog with a premium theme whacked on top. Their graphics and logo look great. They lure you in with click-bait, false-promise-titles. They’ve already got you subscribed to their mailing list after 3 seconds of being on their site; It appears to be just that good.

But here’s the deal-breaker: Their content is borderline fiction.

I’m talking complete and utter nonsense that creates myths – especially about the dark art of SEO – and never actually helps anybody. It’s all just words. Fabricated words, and actually never helps – all it does is make you have unrealistic expectations.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I’m the don of the SEO world or I know all the blogging jedi mind-tricks in the book.

What I will do, though, is tell you about my hands-on experiences with blogging, SEO, branding, blog design etc. Things you can relate to with actionable tips that you can actually take away and use in your own blog or on your own website with ease.

Google analytics example stats

I’ll also back up everything I’m telling you with facts. Cold, hard, shiny facts. There will of none of this second guessing mumbo-jumbo you see elsewhere. None of this put-yourself-on-a-pedestal rubbish. Just solid blogging tips, tricks and truths! Genuine ones. Steady progress ones. 

So, back to the initial question at the top of the post:

Who on earth am I to offer blogging tips, tricks and truths, huh?!

Well, as much as I’ve tried to come up with a super geeky pseudonym, (including SEO Wolf, Bloggernator, Chad Superhawk, and Norris) I’m going to use my real name: Peter.

By day I wear many hats. Not physical hats but… you get what I’m trying to say.

I’m a marketer by trade with a passion for great design, branding, digital marketing & SEO. Plus I’ve got the skillz to go along with these claims and make a living by doing these things professionally every day.

I really enjoy what I do. It’s the main reason I’m more than happy to write about the things that work (and don’t work) and hopefully help you, friendly blog or website person, out in the process with your own online ventures, whether it’s blogging or an online business or something else.

I’m not going to pretend to have everything down at first, but I will try my very best and use my neatest handwriting to make it engaging and entertaining. If not, I’ll leave the comments open on each post so you can slaughter me 😉

new-blogglebox-post

So, starting Tuesday 14th July 2015 and at least once a week, every week from then on, I’ll be posting here on Blogglebox.

Looking forward to sharing my tips, tricks and truths with you all.

I’ve got a list of items I’m going to cover in coming posts but for now I’d like to hear what you are having blogging problems with or would like to read advice on. Let me know in the comments below: