On Saturday I attended BlogCampUK, a free workshop for bloggers. Organised by Tots100 it was, understandably, full of “mummy bloggers”. Indeed, of the 120 bloggers there, I suspect about 4 were men (when assembled in a single room it was like playing “Where’s Wally” when looking for the male contingent). All of this meant that there was a lot of cake. However, none of that (why would it?) detracted from what a great day it was.
There were a number of workshops throughout the day – often 3 at the same time, so you’d have to carefully pick which you wished to attend. I can only really speak for those I attended, so here’s a quick breakdown of what I attended, what I thought of each and the odd assortment of embedded presentations and some photos from the day…
Session 1 – Get Inspired
Okay, for the first session there was only one choice and it was how to get inspired, a brilliant talk with Muireann from Bangs and a Bun. There were some excellent suggestions on how to create a better blog and the talk, although 45 minutes long, never dragged. Certainly a good start to the day.
Session 2 – How to Be a Snark
Possibly the reason I went in the 1st place and it really hadn’t mattered what other workshops were being run at the same time – this was the one I was always going to attend. This was presented by Stuart Heritage, a writer from the Guardian. I’ve followed him for some time on Twitter and are a big fan. Indeed, I only knew about BlogCampUK after Stuart mentioned it on Twitter last year.
And, I have to say, he got a rough ride. “Mummy bloggers” they may be, but they took no prisoners, and it was all the more funny for it. My favourite was the person who wasn’t sure what a “snark” was and, after it was explained to her, stated “well, why would you want to be like that? It’s not nice.”
This workshop, if you can’t guess, it how to sarcy and snide but not be nasty. As another attendee has said, it wasn’t the most beneficial workshop as far as content was concerned, but it certainly amusing and gave some pause for thought.
One of the other session 2 workshops was hosted by Phil Szomszor, advising bloggers on self-hosting. I spoke with him beforehand, suggesting that if anybody has any WordPress technical questions that they direct them to me. He was more than happy to and, indeed, I was questioned later by one of the attendees.
After this session we had lunch, during which I chatted to Stuart, who appreciated some male company!
Session 3 – Making the most of your camera
An excellent workshop by John Arnold on how to take better photos. Although I have a DSLR, I always use it on the “auto” setting. I want to do more but find manuals a little dry – John cut through this to better explain what a lot of the technical terms actually mean (not in words, but in a practical sense) so I can now more confidentially switch off that auto selection and try things a little more advanced.
An alternative workshop was taking place during this on “Beginning SEO” with Lee Smallwood, an online marketing consultant.
Session 4 – “No Follow”
This was a workshop about recent Google changes and use of the “nofollow” flag, presented by Ruth Arnold from geekmummy and Lee Smallwood. I didn’t know much about it and wasn’t expecting a huge amount but this was the one that had me thinking the most.
In a nutshell, Google are clamping down on sites (including blog sites) that contain sponsored links that don’t use the “nofollow” tag. This tag tells the search engines that the link isn’t worth pursuing and it doesn’t affect your PageRank as a result. If Google catch you they will often strip you of your essential PageRank.
If you’re a WordPress user, then adding a “nofollow” is relatively easy. When editing a post, click on the “HTML” tab and find the link in question. It will probably be something like this…
<a href="example.com">click here</a>
rel="nofollow after the link, as follows…
<a href="example.com" rel="nofollow">click here</a>
Now Google (and others) will be instructed not to follow the link. Alternatively, there are many plugins available from WordPress.org that will make the above easier or even “blanket” your external links with “nofollow” by default. Personally, I’m avoiding the latter as the majority of my external links are genuine and are of genuine interest.
To read more, I’d recommend an excellent post by Sally Whittle from Tots100.
However, I’m *very* guilty of adding sponsored links and not having used this tag. I’ve therefore got quite a bit of work to do, including going back over agreements to see what I can and can’t do (I suspect some sponsors have insisted that I don’t use “nofollow”, in which case I have a difficult decision to make). I’m in the middle of defining rules for advertising on my site and this will give me the opportunity to set this for future – i.e. clearly defined sponsorship disclosers and “nofollow” on sponsored links. I’m also going to have to review guest posts as well.
Session 5 – PR Q&A
Although there was no set agenda it was initially taken over by queries coming from Session 4 – in particular the naughty agencies that have insisted on bloggers not using “nofollow” (since attending BlogCamp I’ve started adding “nofollow” to my advertising links and have already had an issue with one company insist that I don’t do it). It soon settled back to some rather excellent suggestions on getting in touch with the agencies, best approaches, etc. Again, I will be working on this in the coming weeks and, more importantly, now have some good PR contacts as well as ways of contacting others too.
Stephen wrote a great blog article about this before BlogCamp and it’s well worth reading.
The day wrapped up and I trudged (definitely the word) in the pouring rain to my hotel for the night. I spent that night and the morning kicking off changes based on what I’d learnt that day. Unfortunately, I was also wrestling with a WordPress plugin issue too and that ended up consuming most of my time. However, the view out of the large, wide windows from my 10th floor room made it a lot more worthwhile.
I hope I get the opportunity to attend next year – it really was excellent, the day whizzed by and I learnt a lot. In fact, I’ve already mentioned to the organiser, Sally, that I’d be happy to run a workshop next year.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a LOT of work to do!
Update: Now is DEFINITELY the time to sort out sponsored links!