Thursday, 11 February 2016

Reasons I Have Cried

In case you're new here, I have bipolar disorder. One thing I've noticed is that when I'm in "neutral" I barely cry at all. I don't really laugh either, but my eyes don't leak. When I'm depressed I'll laugh for no reason until my whole body cramps up. When I'm either astronomically high or devastatingly low, I cry. A lot. For really ridiculous reasons. I thought I'd clue you in on some of the reasons I've cried in the last two months.

1. Because Sebastian the crab said "You could go home with all the normal fish and just be... just be... just be miserable for the rest of your life." And because Ariel looked sad. By the way, I watched The Little Mermaid for my Zusterschap series "Feminist Film School"!

2. Because I remembered the Center Parcs advert with the morose mummy bear.

3. Because my rabbit died. This is admittedly a rational reason to cry, but I cried so hard I made myself ill, which is less rational.

4. Because I re-read the synopsis of the Oscar Wilde story "The Nightingale and the Rose". Do not read it if you're feeling fragile, okay?

5. Because I started writing a song and I could hear it in my head and it sounded good.

6. Because I heard that J.K. Rowling is releasing The Cursed Child's script as a book.

7. Because I met a really great dog.

8. Because I saw my friend Claire and we shared a long-overdue, very long hug.

9. Because the new Army recruitment advert made me so angry.

10. Because C3-P0 showed up in The Force Awakens. I should point out, I cried five times during The Force Awakens.

11. Because I was still awake at 5am on a Sunday night.

12. Because it was light outside when I left work.

13. Because someone left a comment on my Zusterschap piece about tropes in film which complimented my writing.

14. Because the clouds were really pretty.

15. Because my dad sent an uncharacteristically sweet and gentle message to me after my rabbit Dexter died.

16. Because I told my mum how much I wanted to die last year, but how grateful I am to be alive now.

17. Because the boys in my band said very, very nice things to me and made me feel like I matter. This has happened more than once.

18. Because I sneezed.

19. Because I wrote a little post about how much I love my friends, and how much I value them.

20. Because sometimes my brain tells me everything is hopeless, and I am too tired to argue.

That's not even all of the reasons I've cried so far this year, but it's a pretty decent selection. If you, or someone you know is crying more often, or you're in any way worried about your mental health, please talk to someone. Don't suffer in silence. You deserve better.

If you liked this post, check out my health blog, GREEN ABOUT THE GILLS, for mental health and more!


Monday, 8 February 2016

Saying Goodbye to my Dexter

This weekend I lost two of my rabbits. It's never easy to have a pet die, and I love, and have loved, all of my pets. I've cried when my goldfish and shrimps died, and just thinking about the fact that my dog is getting old cuts me up. Losing two rabbits in one weekend has been horrible enough, but one of the two was my boy Dexter.

All of my adult rabbits have been rescues, and I feel very strongly about the ethics surrounding animal adoption. But, part of the problem behind adopting is that you can't guarantee that the animal had been raised in a wholesome, healthy environment. I know for a fact that Dexter (along with Teddy and Oliver, who I rescued from the same woman) were all kept in terrible conditions and given an appalling diet of white bread and breakfast cereals. Oliver died from kidney problems associated with this upbringing last year, and Dexter had ongoing digestive issues. That said, Teddy is in the peak of health, despite some initial behavioural issues that look a good nine months to resolve.

I love all my animals, from the littlest minnow to my big soppy labrador. But Dexter really was my baby. He was the first rabbit to ever actively seek contact and affection from me. He was the first bunny to fall asleep on my lap, or snuggle into my neck for security.

He needed me for more than just food, water and shelter; Dexter made it clear that he needed my love in a way no other rabbit ever has. Losing him has left a weird hollow feeling in my chest, and I've been crying so hard over the last few days I've actually made myself ill.

I know part of the grieving process is trying to make some sense and meaning out of the lost life, especially when the death was so sudden and unexpected. This is definitely the case here. I want to do something to remember my tiny boy, something good and important. And, after a little thought, I think I know what it is.

I've been toying with going cruelty free with my choice of hair/beauty products and cosmetics for a long time. I've been vegan and vegetarian previously, though I'm currently omnivorous, and I plan to spend this year re-aligning my life to a fully vegetarian diet, if not completely vegan.

While Dexter was never a lab-rabbit, he did experience a lot of suffering in his early life, and if my actions can go even a small way to help prevent animals going through unnecessary pain then it's something I have to do. So, I'm going to start eliminating all non cruelty-free products from my life. So, if anyone had a dupe for MAC's "Men Love Mystery" I'm all ears.

So, in a few months' time if someone asks why I only shop cruelty-free, I'll tell them I'm doing it for Dexter.

If you're thinking of getting a pet, please consider animal adoption first. Contact your local shelter for more information.


Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Penny Saving Challenge | February

Last month I talked about how a popular online savings challenge wasn't all it was cracked up to be, and how you could save over £600 with a slight variation. I thought I'd check in with how I got on in January, and what you'll have to save in February! If you're not sure how this all works, head over to my original post here.

In January, I'll be honest, I wasn't putting the actual sum away each and every day. I didn't always have exactly the right change on me, and sometimes I genuinely just forgot. Thankfully, being the first month, the total for January adds up to less than a fiver, so it wasn't too difficult to catch up with myself! In fact, if you'd like to start trying this challenge, then just start with January's total of £4.96 and go from there.

Generally, January was a tough month financially. After being paid early in December, and having Christmas and my birthday in that time, I was feeling seriously skint by the time we got to January payday. However, I did get a little payrise in January, some birthday money, AND a little tax rebate, so hopefully February will be a little less tight. As I've mentioned before, my parents really helped me out financially while I was at uni, and on Monday I made my last repayment. So, while I still have student loan to slowly work off (possibly until the day I retire) I have now cleared my biggest debt, and I'll be honest, I feel quite proud.

That said, I've already spent my tax rebate in my head on some craft supplies, but more on that later, I promise.

So, I have succeeded so far in the Penny Saving Challenge, and I'm still hoping to put away enough dollar this year to go on a holiday with some of my best blogger buddies. Have you been trying this little plan? How are you getting on? Let me know!

Monday, 1 February 2016

Why Your DA Dropped - And Why It Doesn't Matter

It was impossible to find an interesting image to illustrate this post. So here's a dinosaur.
This weekend bloggers all over the world had their fingers on their "refresh" keys, pressing feverishly as they waited for the all-important Moz update. For the weeks preceding people had been asking for help on how to improve their scores, and the best quick fixes, hoping to increase their numbers.

Unfortunately, it seems that for a lot of people the results weren't quite what they hoped. In fact, I've found that a lot of the people who put in the most work have actually seen drops in their scores, which is obviously super disappointing. But before you fling your laptop across the room in rage, let's take a look at the reason it may have taken a hit, despite your best efforts, and what you can do to prep yourself for the next update?

You recently learned about "No Follow" links

If you read my post on Hyperlinks you'll have learned all about this nifty and important piece of code. Long story short, this type of link can't be seen by crawl bots that score your site for Google and Moz, and they should be used to stop your site looking spammy and whenever you've been paid to include a link (Google's rules to avoid black hat SEO techniques).

Lots of people have only learned about No Follow quite recently, and have updated their existing blog content accordingly. In the long run this is absolutely a good thing, and for Google's purposes it is far better to follow their rules. However, Moz could very well have interpreted this differently. 

Everyone knows that people linking to your blog is helpful (and we'll come to that later), but what you might not realise is that having links within your OWN blog to other good-quality, well-ranking sites is good for your DA and SEO scores. So, understandably, if you've changed a lot of links to No Follow, you'll have taken a bit of a loss. 

Why doesn't this matter? How can I fix it? 
This isn't too much of a drama, because you will be in Google's good books for following their rules. The penalties for linking incorrectly are worse than the sharp, temporary drop you'll experience for correcting them. 

Over time, you will rebuild this range of links. The best way to do this is to link to other blogs, products, and websites. Just remember: if you link to the same site often, or you've been paid to include the link you MUST use a No Follow. You'll make life much easier for yourself if you do that from day one.

Broken links

If you've ever mentioned a product, you'll probably have left a link to places people can but that product. That's obviously a good thing to do. However, when a page on a website is deleted, moved or deactivated the link on your page doesn't disappear, it will sit there being broken. Whenever bots crawl your site, they find these broken links and they will affect your score.

This means that the last Moz crawl might have spotted lots of lovely live, relevant links, and this time around it found the same links are busted. You got doubly penalised for the loss of a relevant link and for the fact that you've got a broken link on your page. Nightmare! 

Even if you've found and resolved all of your broken links in the run-up to the Moz update (and I know some people who dealt with thousands of them), if you removed them, rather than replacing them with equally relevant live links, you'll have still lost points for losing appropriate external links. Sorry. 

Why doesn't this matter? How can I fix it? 

Similar to the No Follow issue, you're better off finding and fixing these than leaving them where they are. Just keep posting and you'll build up your links again, and subsequently improve your score.

To find and fix existing broken links, use a scanner like Broken Link check to help you spot them all. Where possible, replace any broken links with another one rather than simply deleting it. For example, if you've linked to a product that's no longer available, change your content to reflect this and put in a link to the retailer's homepage.

To make sure you don't end up with a bunch of broken links in the future, try to only link to permanent pages, like homepages. If you regularly link to products then that's not a bad thing, but consider using a No Follow link so you can protect yourself if/when the page is deactivated, and run regular broken link checks so you can stay on top of them.

You've got lots of comments... but it's quantity, not quality

You can gain a lot of SEO/DA brownie points by having comments on your posts. It makes crawl bots think that you have engaging and popular content. If you'd already figured that out, you might have been pushing to get more comments, and you may well have succeeded! You might have joined comment trains, or you might simply have readers who like to tell you what a good job you're doing. 

However, some comments are causing you more harm than good. Very short comments (fewer than 10 words) are just seen as spam by crawl bots. Also, a lot of bloggers try to use little hyperlinks as a signature in their comment, which turns out to be broken! This is a surprisingly common problem; I've reached out to at least five bloggers to tell them that they've left tons of comments on lots and lots of blogs with broken links in them. These all work against you, and the more "bad" comments you get, the worse it will be.

Why doesn't it matter? How do I fix it? 

This is probably the easiest fix, unless your blog is obscenely famous and you get hundreds of comments a day (in which case I doubt you're too worried about your DA anyway). It's worth taking some time to go through your blog and just delete any spammy-looking comments, and checking any hyperlinks left behind.

Going forward, be careful which comments you allow to stay on your blog, and which comment trains you join, if that's your thing. Some specify that you need to leave comments over eight words long - stick to these.

You've lost backlinks

There's a bunch of ways this could have happened. Sites or blogs which referenced you at some point might have become inactive. You might have paid for advertising a while back, and the person you paid realised that they should have used No Follow links to your blog, and has subsequently fixed them. They might have linked to a post that you've binned or changed the location of. They might have just got rid of the post where they mentioned you. LOADS of possible reasons.

Why doesn't it matter? How can I fix it? 

This is sucky, and really there's not a whole lot you can do about any specific backlink you might have lost. If it's because it was a paid link that's been corrected, it's definitely better for you, in the long run, that it's been corrected. 

The only way forward is to build up your backlinks. You can do this by joining Linkys, getting involved in tags and campaigns and taking on unpaid work for exposure, where they agree to link to you (remember, if you've been paid then No Follow links should be used and it won't count.)

You've recently changed URL/hosts

If you've changed your domain from a or a you'll ave seen a colossal drop because previously your site wouldn't have been considered a site on its own, rather it would have been seen as a page on wordpress/google. Basically, if you don't have a custom domain your DA doesn't really count. Also, if you've just changed your hosts for whatever reason, you might have seen a bit of a loss. This is because the crawl bots will go looking for it in the old location on the old servers and will get confused when it finds it somewhere else. It's also possible that, in changing hosts, you've broken some bits of code, like images and internal/external hyperlinks which might have needed fixing and will have had their own effects.

Why doesn't it matter? How can I fix it? 

The bot will eventually realise where you blog actually is, so this drop will eventually resolve itself. If it's because you've moved to a custom domain, I'm afraid you're going to have to start from the bottom and work your way up. This is one of MANY reasons I advocate getting a custom domain from day one. Try and find a host you like and stick with it.

You've dramatically changed your theme

A theme might look cosmetic to you, but when you change the appearance of your site you change an awful lot of stuff under the hood. Again, the bots are going to visit your site expecting to see one thing, and when it finds something unexpected it gets confused and just takes points off. This is a real bugger, and is likely to be much worse if you change lots of things all at once rather than making gradual "soft" changes.

Why doesn't it matter? How can I fix it? 

People don't visit or follow your blog based on your DA score, they visit it because it looks cracking and has quality content. Or because you're famous. Or running a giveaway... but the point still stands. If you want to tart your blog up, go for it. If you're worried about any effect it could have on your scores, try to do it gradually rather than all at once.

You've deleted old posts

If you've been running our blog a while you might have looked back on some of your old contents, cringed, then decided to have a bit of a deleting spree. Losing page volume on your site will unfortunately give you a bit of a battering, especially if you delete lots at once.

Why doesn't it matter? How can I fix it?

Deleting old poor-quality content is no bad thing, and for user experience it's probably a positive. Just keep writing brilliant new posts and you'll soon build up your catalogue again. 

Your posting patterns have changed

If you've changed your posting habits or structure you may have seen a drop. It's not so much the fact that you're posting in a different way, it's how you've changed it. If you're not posting as often, you'll lose points. If you're posting more frequently but your posts are very short, you'll get penalised.

Why doesn't it matter? How can I fix it?

In my experience, the golden number for post length are 300-700 words. Any shorter and it looks spammy to the bots. Any longer and people get bored (though admittedly most of my posts are much longer - oops). Try and post as often as you can at regular intervals, and make sure posts are a decent length.

A final note about DA...

DA is not that important. I know, I've written a whacking great big post about it, but I promise you it's not the be all and end all. Some brands and PRs will use it as a benchmark for choosing people to approach for campaigns, but real talk, this is because DA is a lazy way to assign an easily- comparable value to a website. I've seen beautiful, interesting blogs with relatively low scores, and trashy sites with inexplicably huge ones. Ok, so a low score might exclude you from certain campaigns but as you'll have seen from above, you could negatively affect your scores by doing all the right things! My honest advice is to concentrate on producing awesome content and building relationships with readers and PRs over social media. Do you think PRs ask Zoella for her DA before they pitch to her? Of course not. Because, ultimately, when your reputation is good enough, nobody will care about the numbers.

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