Creating A Blog With A Global Presence

SEO has developed monumentally over the past few years. It is no longer considered to be merely a beneficial practice but more of a necessity for businesses who want to excel in the modern day, and there are lots of different SEO strategies available.

A good SEO plan is one that incorporates an array of different methods. The method you choose depends on the goals you aim to achieve. If you want to attain an international web presence and grow your blog business on a worldwide scale then you need to use global SEO strategies.

Read on to discover SEO methods catered towards creating an international web presence.

Extensive research

Before you begin to implement your SEO methods you need to partake in a huge amount of research. You cannot achieve your worldwide goals without doing the groundwork. After all, every country is different.

The products that appeal the most in the UK won’t necessarily be the most popular products in Australia, for example. You need to unearth the different consumer trends for each country. You need to predict what countries are most likely to provide you with the highest level of traffic and sales. And don’t forget to do research regarding the search engines in different countries. When you think about a search engine your mind instantly casts to Google, however, in other, countries they may be more popular search engines. You need to consider this and divulge as much information as possible about the relevant search engines.

Language

You are probably thinking: “Language? That’s what online translation services are for!” That may be true if you want to find out what a certain phrase means, but when it comes to SEO you need to divert a lot of your attention to language. If you want to embark your brand on an international stage then you will obviously need to advertise yourself and use SEO through using different languages. You need to speak the language of the locals on your blog.

For example, ‘chips’ and ‘fries’ – they both mean the same thing to someone living in the UK. However, in one country they may only use the term ‘fries’ and therefore if you translate ‘chips’ you are not going to get the true local word. This is relevant to a monumental number of words, such as; ‘vacation’ or ‘holiday’, ‘living room’ or ‘lounge’, and ‘couch’ or ‘sofa’. It is imperative you use the words of the locals because these are the words they are going to be using when they search on a search engine. And, if your words are incorrect then no one will see your webpage.

Let people have a choice

And finally, when people enter your website they should be presented with a drop-down menu whereby they can select the language they wish to view the website in. You should never merely assume.

There are lots of blogs where they use technology in order to decipher where the person viewing the website is situated. They then use that knowledge and present the website in the relevant language. For instance, they detect someone is in France and, therefore, the language is automatically French. But there are lots of people who live in different countries and do not use the language of the locals. What happens if the person viewing is an Italian person simply living in France for a year?

You can also use these tools to adjust your adverts accordingly. InboxDollars is a great example of this – advertising this to people in the US is great, but InboxPounds is better for those in the UK.

If you research extensively, use the proper language, and think about the customers’ wants then you can use SEO effectively to reach a global presence.


Studio Notes: Casting A Giant Pewter Coin

Although I haven’t posted any news in a long time, it’s not for lack of news to share; in fact, I’ve been busier than ever in the studio. This project has been fascinating me and making me want to share, but at the same time making me want to hide away until it’s all done and perfect.

Unfortunately, perfection is still quite far off and I’m trying hard to embrace that. So here’s the story of casting a giant pewter coin when you’ve never done any pewter casting before.

Moving from aluminium to pewter

My initial idea was to make an aluminium coin using the lost foam process, as we’d been casting aluminium with our newly made bucket furnace. The problem was getting the foam coin ready in time for when we decided to fire up the foundry… firing it up was time-consuming and required more than one person as well as decent weather, which was definitely a problem.

In short, I got a suggestion from a friend to try pewter instead, and that freed me up to do lots more experiments and work in my kitchen instead of outside.

Making the wax positives

Foam was nowhere near good enough for the level of detail I wanted, and anyway, I was moving to a lower-melt metal, so I started to work with wax to make the initial prototypes that I would then make casts from.

Beeswax was so foreign and fiddly that I just couldn’t stand it. I started experimenting with adding hot melt glue sticks to the mixture, which gave me a more plastic, flexible material. The problem with this was that it was harder to join pieces together.

It feels like a serious injustice to condense it so much here, because I feel as though I spent so much of my life over the last few months fiddling with wax, trying to sculpt the perfect coin.

Silicone casting

One thing I knew I had to do before going all-in with lost wax casting was to get some silicone to make a master mould of my coin. My first problem was that I knew next to nothing about silicone casting.

Cheapo, diy silicone casting – yes, I knew about that – but as I proved in some kitchen experiments, silicone sealant moulds don’t hold up against pewter. On top of that, I broke my first wax coin by pressing the silicone sealant mould onto it. 

I had to get a reliable silicone that could be poured, not pressed. After a bit of research I bought a 1.1kg kit of M4512 RTV shore A 20 condensation cure silicone. And… I had no idea what any of that actually meant.

That silicone was fine for creating the wax versions of my coin, but it was so soft (hence shore A20, the lower number on a hardness scale ending at 100) that it was tough to cast it without the wax deforming the mould. I had to build a case to hold it and stop it bulging in the middle.

Casting a wax coin in shore A20 silicone.
The portrait on this was terrible! But the silicone was so soft that it could easily be pressed in, making the wax too thin.

Lost wax failures

My first attempts were with lost wax casting using plaster of paris as an investment material. This was ok to a certain extent, but I got loads of bubbling and pitting. Whilst it was definitely recognisable as a coin, it wasn’t exactly good enough.

This was why I didn’t want to start the process without having a way to replicate my wax coin. I had to start over with more sprues in my plaster and more ways for my pewter to vent steam without pitting, but it had taken so much time to cast the investment blocks and dry them that I decided I needed to get some high-temperature silicone that I could just cast the metal directly into.

First semi-successful pewter casting, obverse side.

One advantage of not getting a perfect result at this point was that it made me stop and go back to the drawing board and redesign the coin and the way I made the positive. Instead of just using wax, I made my positive up from foamboard for the base and rim and wax for sculpted elements.

This stage – redesigning – did take more time than I wanted it to, but the result was a much better looking coin than I’d started with. If I hadn’t failed at first then I’d have come out with an uglier version, so some comfort there.

High temperature silicone casting

Figuring that I knew a fair bit more about condensation cure silicones and all that, I was a bit more confident about making my second purchase. Unfortunately I couldn’t find MoldMax 60 in the UK and nothing else that I liked at a decent price, but I did find an alternative on eBay – a 1kg kit that mixed at a 50:50 ratio and cost only £26.

1kg sounds like a lot, but… well… it’s not. Fortunately this stuff does the job and copes well with the high temperatures, so I was happy with that.

Although I was on the home straight I still had problems. I was pouring the pewter directly down into my mould, and I was constantly finding surface pitting and burn marks where the pewter had poured in.

Pewter coin cast in high temperature  silicone.

Enlarging the pour spout helped with getting rid of bubbles at the very top, and lots of new, large vents along the sides did help somewhat, but nothing got me the perfect copy of my wax coin. I still had a sculpture that needed lots of grinding, sanding and scraping.

Finishing the sculpture

At this point, a couple of months in, I decided to get some more high temperature silicone and redesign the gate system to minimise burning and pitting when I poured the metal. Before that, though, I wanted to finish the coin as much as I could, and yet again rework the initial wax sculpture to refine elements that still didn’t work.

So here’s the prototype, which features a few elements that weren’t included in the original design, but will be integrated into the final run.

Pewter coin by Lee Devonish. Artist's Proof obverse

Casting a giant pewter coin was definitely more of a challenge than a smaller coin, but because of this project, smaller coins are currently in production as well.

Pewter coin by Lee Devonish. Artist's Proof reverse.

The Moneytree Exhibition

The Moneytree Exhibition

I’ve been so pleased to have been included in The Moneytree exhibition at Hamilton House Gallery in Bristol

The exhibition was brought together by Lara Luna Bartley in collaboration with the CoResist Collective, and features artwork about the financial and banking system.

The Moneytree Exhibition, Hamilton House, September 13th -19th 2018

Lara was kind enough to share some pictures of the exhibition space. Other artists featured are Jane Lawson, Darren Cullen & Mary Millner.

The Moneytree Exhibition, Hamilton House, September 13th -19th 2018

Lara Luna Bartley was the teller at the ‘Bank of CoResist’, printing banknotes which audiences could ‘borrow’ at 0% on a very long term basis, provided they would become a member of the bank for a small fee.

This concept resonates strongly with me, as I consider my money works to be ‘lent’ on a (very) long term basis as well, with the option to exchange.

The Moneytree Exhibition, Hamilton House, September 13th -19th 2018

Mary Millner’s House of (Post)Cards featured postcards of the Shard and other centres of financial power balanced like a house of cards.

The Moneytree Exhibition, Hamilton House, September 13th -19th 2018

Jane Lawson’s 4 metre long digital print How We Got To Where We Are shows the timeline of the global financial system.

The Moneytree Exhibition, Hamilton House, September 13th -19th 2018

Darren Cullen’s Pocket Money Loan Posters are spot on… prompting that uneasy double-take. The state of dysfunction that we’re in when it comes to our use and abuse of credit means that we’re never quite sure what next, new low is possible.

The Moneytree Exhibition, Hamilton House, September 13th -19th 2018

The exhibition marks 10 years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and featured a discussion with economist Tony Greenham entitled “Money, Trust and the Art of Local Banking”.

Promise 12/25. Screen print on Lloyds Bank cheque, 2017. | Screen printed cheque
I’ve decided to make my own money. I’m asking you to trust in me.
For money to exist, there must first be trust.
Money requires relationships, because since money is a measure of exchange, there must be someone else to exchange with. When we hand over money in exchange for something else, we don’t necessarily have to trust the person we’re buying from; instead, the trust lies in the institution behind the money. The more of us who put faith in the institution, the more value the money has.
What if we were to ask others to put their trust directly in us instead? As human beings, our trustworthiness only runs so far… but maybe being honest about that makes us more reliable than banks and governments, that present themselves as being strong and permanent, but still regularly let us down.
My currency art isn’t offered for sale as much as for exchange, if you trust me.
The Moneytree Exhibition, Hamilton House, September 13th -19th 2018

Studio Notes – Acrylic & Charcoal On Canvas

This is a story of experiment and of failure. Oh well!

I don’t paint on canvas. I haven’t done in a long time. The texture of the weave just gets in my way and interrupts the fine detail that I’m trying to achieve. I prefer my surfaces to be smooth and to have texture develop only where I place it, unless I’m painting on a minimally textured watercolour paper – it’s usually the kind of surface that contributes to the feel of the work without sticking its nose in where it isn’t wanted. 

Another material I don’t use much is acrylic paint – it’s never tempted me across from oils or watercolour. However, I have used it in sculpture recently, because of its quick-drying nature and the chance to use it as a 3d material.

Experimenting and letting go

As I had a few pre-stretched canvases that had been given to me years ago, I thought I might as well have a go at using them for experimenting with different media as well as for filling space on my own walls at home. 

Drawing with charcoal on canvas came to mind as progression towards some monochrome paintings I’m thinking of doing.

Body 1 - Charcoal and graphite pencil drawing on canvas

It’s not the first time I’ve used primed canvas as a ground for drawing, as I’d already done a graphite piece.

The weave of the canvas seemed to be an inviting surface for charcoal drawing, so I started by scaling up a smaller sketch by gridding, and then losing patience and jumping straight in. Pushing charcoal and graphite around the canvas with my hands was fun enough, but I just wasn’t feeling happy with the resulting image.

Drawing with charcoal on canvas.

The problem was, once my family had seen it, they loved it. Fair enough – we’re allowed to like different things and different kinds of art; they enjoy stuff that looks like stuff, and that’s mostly what I do, but I need a few more layers that this piece just didn’t have. There just wasn’t enough tonal variety and not enough subtlety.

Just to see what would happen, I worked in some golden-yellow acrylic paint to frame my subject. It was better, but not convincing me that it was good. It had gone towards those ubiquitous superhero canvas pictures – a really dangerous spot to end up in.

Still, it ended up on the wall in our living room, gnawing at my insides.

I left it for a month and eventually tried to bring it back around, but couldn’t.  I just didn’t like it, and I had to start negotiating with the family to replace it with something else.

What was wrong with it?

  • The drawing was off.
  • The composition was poor.
  • The subject’s pose was wrong – not engaging enough.
  • The rendition of the form was too flat.

Basically, it was a rushed experiment and no more.

What it’s taught me is that it’s great to play around and do different things, and it can be very enlightening, but you don’t have to commit to everything you produce. If the work isn’t up to scratch, it’s not up to scratch, and it can exist as an opportunity to learn. I think that I will keep some things in mind, like drawing on canvas and incorporating controlled bursts of colour, but there will also have to be more of my usual, more careful process to make me happy enough to release something into the world.

The experience won’t go to waste – I’ve learned that I love these colours together as well as the nature of the marks.

I’ll keep this canvas and rework it to give back as a finished piece, with the slight trace of the original drawing adding to the story. Once I’m happy with it then I’ll share it here.


How Bloggers Fake Popularity (And How You Can Do It Too)

How bloggers fake popularity

(and how you can do it too – although you might not want to)

Are those influencers as influential as they seem?

Once you’ve been around the online publishing world for a while, you’ll realise that not everything is as it seems.

Brands want to work with popular bloggers, and bloggers want to work to pay their bills, so there’s bound to be a bit of fiddling behind the scenes.

If you’re just starting out, or have been plugging away at your blog for a while with little success, you might be wondering what everyone else is doing that you’re not. Well, here goes: you might already be doing some of these yourself, in which case, I’d love to hear your take on it.

Boosting popularity.

There are a couple of ways that bloggers give themselves the appearance of being popular:

  1. Buying followers
  2. Followbaiting
  3. Facebook reciprocation groups
  4. Instagram pods

1 – Buying followers.

Buying followers is the bottom of the barrel approach to boosting stats.

In my opinion, it’s dishonest. Why does anyone do it? Well, if you want to make a living from your blog, you’ll find that brands will have a set of requirements for the bloggers that they want to work with. They’ll have a minimum number of social media followers as well as a minimum DA (domain authority) requirement, but they don’t have a metric for measuring genuine quality of engagement.

That’s why many bloggers are tempted to buy fake followers on Instagram and Twitter, and fake likes on Facebook, in order to look more attractive to brands.

Is buying followers actually cheating?

Of course buying followers is cheating!

Interestingly though, when you do this you often end up cheating yourself – your fake followers won’t actually engage with your material, and this can actually damage your reach on some social media platforms.

Imagine if you keep putting posts out to 100 followers, but only get 1 person responding. Sucks, right? Now imagine that you keep putting posts out to 10,000 followers but still, only one person responds. Do you feel better, or worse?

If Facebook decides that 0.01% of people think your content is good, they probably won’t be pushing it out to more eyes. Backfired.

2 – Buying engagement.

Well, buying engagement is just about the same as buying followers, but it might not be as easy to spot.

On Fiverr, you can buy Instagram commentsblog commentsretweets… I won’t bother carrying on, as you’ve got the picture.

I’ve never done this myself, as I can’t imagine that the return on investment would be good for me. Actually, more importantly, I wouldn’t want to wade through the fake engagement to get to the real stuff from my real followers, which I want to respond to. You know, to actually engage with.

3 – Followbaiting, or follow-unfollow

If you’ve been on Twitter or Instagram for any time at all, you’ve seen it: someone with 25,000 followers chooses to follow little old you, with your 50 followers made up mostly of your mates and your mum, who you forced to join Instagram for the follow and has no idea how to actually use it.

Wow, you think, they like my stuff! You follow them back, happy to make the connection.

Then in a day, they’ve unfollowed you – but you probably don’t know this, because there’s no notification for when someone unfollows. They then repeat, stealthily picking up reciprocating followers and dropping them.

Now, this shiftiness is going on all the time, but don’t go around accusing people of doing this just because they have a few more followers than they are following. Be cool. There’s a middle ground to find.

You can’t possibly be expected to follow everyone on every social media platform forever, but you can decide not to be a jerk. Don’t follow-unfollow. Use an app – there are lots of options out there – to keep an eye on the folks who do this, and just drop them like a hot rock when they do it to you.

4 – Facebook reciprocation groups

There must be thousands of Facebook blogger support groups, all providing some way or other to boost your blog stats.

The most regimented (and useful) ones are strictly for providing reciprocal services for your blog. For example, you’ll have threads dedicated to:

  • Retweeting
  • Instagram likes
  • Instagram comments
  • Facebook page likes
  • Stumbleupon
  • Pinterest
  • Blog visits
  • Blog comments
  • Blog link clicking
  • Google +
  • YouTube likes

Plus, every variation you can think of.

Wondering how come that other blogger has had so many shares for that boring post? Now you know. How did they get so many comments for it? Read them and see if they appear half-hearted or forced, or if they’re coming from the same group of bloggers each time. Now you know.

You could spend a lifetime working away at reciprocal threads, but are they worth it? Yes and no – you may not find a loyal group of fans in the people who are taking part in these threads, but you will probably boost your stats. You’ll still need to find real readers who aren’t in it for what they can get out of it as well.

I won’t condemn these groups as I was a member of several when first starting out (although I don’t participate any more), but it pays to point out that this blogging thing is a business, and you can’t judge a book by its cover.

5 – Instagram Pods

Instagram pods exist to provide guaranteed likes and comments for pod members.

If you join a pod, you’re expected to like and comment within a certain time frame of a member’s post going live, in order to provide the most benefit and boost their post.

This works in the same way as some of the Facebook group threads, but notifications are sent through messages in the Instagram app. There’s some discussion over whether Instagram is about to pull the plug on pods, and start penalising influencers who use this tactic.

I dabbled in pods before but they really weren’t for me. I found the Facebook reciprocation groups hard as you’re expected to share posts you really might not like; it’s even harder for Instagram pictures that you’re expected to like and comment on, but that you secretly hate.

Still, join the Instagram Mafia if you like… you can always leave!

Sounds like hard work, right?

That’s because it is. There are plenty of good reasons not to start a blog and get yourself into all this madness. Still, you’re here because you’re already in it, right?

If you’re just about to start and are still weighing up your options, check out this post on how to name your blog without sounding like a fool.

​Now, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my observations. Am I too harsh? Give me an earful!


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