Category Archives: Structure

Platform, domain, hosting

More monetisation tips from the professionals

I finished my previous post with the promise to elaborate a bit more on the information Darren Rowse of Problogger disclosed during his webinar on ‘Monetisation of a blog’. I had the chance to be part of this last week and there was a lot of information that was worthwhile to pass on.

I really urge anyone who is interested to make money from their blog to subscribe to his site ‘Problogger’.  Darren Rowse has been very successful in making money out of his blogs about ‘blogging’ and ‘photography’ and has first-hand experience to support his tips. There were dozens of questions at the end of the webinar and I like to share some of his countless tips.

Timing of monetisation?

Several people were asking when to introduce monetisation in to your blog. This can be regarded in several ways.

  • Wait with monetisation until ………

Some people may start a blog and will not consider making money out of their blog until the blog is popular. There is something to say for this way of thinking however there are some disadvantages with this approach. Your readers and subscribers are following your blog as it is and they may not appreciate the commercialisation of your blog.

  • Monetisation from day 1

By doing this you set the right expectations for your readers and you create awareness that you see your blog as a business. You can start with subtle advertising or create your page in such a way that the ads integrate well in your pages.

Number of monetisation streams?

Darren Rowse recommended considering 1-3 different streams. The first step is to identify your readers and their ‘needs’, find out what they are asking for and then match this with the promotion of a product or service. The type of monetisation depends therefore on the type of audience and their needs rather than choosing a random way of making money. Again just as with a ‘normal’ business, creating an income with your blog requires business planning and taking all factors into consideration.

Amazon affiliate programs?

Affiliate programs offer a way of making money online by promoting some one else’s product or service. Rowse has been using the Amazon Affiliate Program in his blogs for a number of years and supports this method of creating an income. First of all, Amazon is a trusted brand and it is a familiar site to many readers. The good thing about Amazon is that people may browse and buy more products when they are on the website. All the sales based on your link will give you a commission.

WordPress.com versus WordPress.org?

WordPress.com offers a full package including blog name and hosting. It is possible to start a blog within 5 minutes and have a reasonable amount of freedom regarding the appearance and the functions of the blog. There are restrictions though and one of them is that you can’t monetise your blog. They don’t allow any form of advertising. The only thing you can do is publish an e-book that you have written yourself.

WordPress.org on the other hand allows you to monetise your blog in any way you want. In order to set up a blog within this website you will have to buy a domain and hosting. Furthermore you may need some technical skills as it is not as easy to start up a blog through WordPress.org as with the hosted variety. However if you do have intention to make money from your blog you should consider this option.

More than one blog?

Another popular question was about the amount of blogs you can have. In principle you can have as many as you like but the danger is that you run out of time to write good quality posts. The trick is to get a good balance, not to spread yourself too thin and rather than maintaining several blogs about different topics Rowse recommended to diversify your niche.

Hopefully this will give you something to ponder!


Advertisements

The road to SEO perfection

Looking at the type of comments I got on past posts about ranking and Search Engine Optimisation, I have to draw the conclusion that I do not know much about these topics. To be honest, so far I have written all my posts out of interest and I have never thought much about how to increase my traffic and readership. It is not that I am not interested; it is more the result of a lack of time. Furthermore so far it hasn’t really mattered that much to me.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy writing about my chosen topics and I am really flattered when people read my posts. However I don’t expect it as I have not yet committed to wanting to improve my ranking. I don’t know what to make out of it to be honest. First of all I am not sure whether it is possible to climb the ‘ranking ladder’ without paying for it.  I really know too little about it to have an educated opinion about it. If, and that is – if at all, I am interested in paying to get my blog higher in the rankings I feel I will have to educate myself first.

So far I have had a variety of comments about SEO. Some were helpful, informative and thought provoking while others were awkward, intrusive, belittling or condescending. I still have all of them and I like to evaluate them a little more to see which one could hold value for me and which ones are ready for dismissal.

So maybe in a month or so I know exactly what needs to be done, what keywords to use and whether they are supposed to be bold, Italics or a different colour. Interesting challenge… Some comments I received were about things I never heard of such as ‘H tags’. What on earth are they? I have read quite a bit about blogging, may not understand all of it, and there are obvious words and terms out here that are totally new to me.

Specialist or novice?

That makes it even more challenging. One thing I have noticed – it seems that many people who have a website or blog seem to know about SEO or ‘pretend’ to do so. When I get a comment with a link to a site that supposedly can assist me, it would be interesting to see where these sites are actually ranking. Their credibility would increase enormously if they have been able to reach the first page.

For now I accept defeat that I am a novice when it comes to SEO. Fortunately I have never pretended to be an expert on the topic and I won’t advice others until I am. Unless I manage to find my way to the top I keep on searching, filtering and sifting through the countless sites full of well-meant advice. Only then when I have mastered the art of successful SEO I will start telling others what may help.

Hope you stay with me!

Too busy to blog

Another month has gone by and I feel busy – almost too busy to write regular for my blog. I have a number of projects on the go and feel slightly pressured. Fortunately I am a faithtful person and once I have committed to something I stick at it. So my blog won’t stop or be neglected but I may have to moderate the amount of postings.

I wonder why it is so hard to continue things that we start or to prioritise in the most effective way. Like everybody else I live in a house that needs maintaining, cleaning and organising, meals need to be cooked and shopping has to be done. Whether I like it or not these things do seem to demand more priority. Otherwise things get out of order, become unorganised or just don’t function. One of my daughters does not agree with this point of view and does not understand why I feel the need to attend to above chores. Could she have a point?

Priorities, duties – do we have a choice?

Unfortunately I have standards and our life would fall to bits if I would not see to them – something my daughter does not realise although she thinks she does. She may need a reality check and share a house with a very neat and organised person! Because of these rather demanding chores though, things I like to do are under pressure. And one of these things happens to be blogging.

Last night I read an article about the world’s most famous blogger. It is not only the most famous, but also the most successful and very likely the most popular blogger – Perez Hilton. He must have been one of the first professional bloggers around. He chose a topic that most people are intrigued by whether they like to admit it or not. The topic is celebrities and all their where-a-bouts.

Some make it happen

Perez Hilton makes it his job to find every newsworthy piece of information about famous people and blog about it. One thing in this article struck with me and that is that he spends almost 16 hours per day on his blog. He has to force himself to sleep for more than 4-5 hours. I immediately felt a whinger as I certainly don’t spend 16 hours per day on my blog. I don’t even spend 16 hours per day working at least not in an earned capacity.

Even with that amount of hours spent on the blog it still took him more than a year before he started earning money from his blog. And that was with the help of mainstream media who helped him promoting his blog as they were intrigued by this new way of distributing information.

Perez Hilton was lucky to be one of the first ones to blog about celebrities and it attracted a lot of media attention. He is aware that he had a ‘bit of luck’ but he reckons that the key to his success is sheer hard work. And to be honest the 16 hours and the nine million views per day speak for themselves! He loves what he does and he loves working for himself.

Slightly frustrating because it makes me wonder how long it will take me to get my blog from the ground. I will be able to spend a substantial amount of hours less than him and the time of ‘luck’ has been and gone. It has all been done before and most blogs get ‘lost’ in the enormous amount of blogging activity out there. It takes a serious ‘thinking out of the square’ to get your blog up to the top. I believe that it is possible though and what matters most is the belief that you can create great content. Then you may have to put in the hard yards.

A great challenge but I do wonder who does Perez Hilton’s cleaning, sorting and organising.

Claiming your blog on Technorati

A while back I wrote an article about some numbers and statistics related to blogging. If you are interested look up my post ‘Number Crunching’ from 28th Feb this year. In that post I wrote about Technorati, an internet search engine for searching blogs. It focuses primarily on blogs and it will pick up anything with an RSS feed that has been claimed by Technorati.

Apparently you can ‘claim’ your blog on Technorati. By doing this you will add your blog to the so-called Technorati ‘blog directory’. Claiming your blog allows you to attach your Technorati profile to your blog to give yourself more online promotion And it allows you to add keywords and descriptions to your blog to make it easier for other people to find your blog. In other words if you like others to find your blog, this is an excellent way to get more traffic.

How to sign up for Technorati?

Technorati says the following: ‘Claiming your blog establishes that you are its author and enables Technorati services that will increase your blog’s visibility’.

First of all you need to create an account with Technorati. This is easy and should not take more than 5 minutes. After signing up you will receive an email to activate your account. It really is as simple as I say as I have just done it while I am writing this article!

My next step will be to claim ‘Blogexercise’. This will take a little more time as apart from answering the usual questions I will have to write a small ‘bio’ and add a picture. Furthermore I have to come up with a site description and choose categories in which Blogexercise will be listed in the blog directory.

All done! Although I did not add a picture yet. They have given me a claim status number and there is a waiting period for them to verify everything I have filled in and if I am really the author of Blogexercise. I suppose that is all I can do so far. I am not sure how long it will take for them to finalise my claim.

The next step is also easy. It does not require any effort on your behalf. If you’ve claimed your blog and it is accepted, it should automatically update to Technorati.

So what’s next?

What I do have to learn is how to tag my posts. I have been receiving some comments regarding that – mainly that I was doing it wrong. My next step is therefore to check out what this tagging is all about.

During the sign up process I had to fill in a section that was asking for tags and I have filled in the words that I feel are the most relevant to finding my blog. Hey but who knows whether that is the way to go. I’ll keep you posted.

If you have not claimed your blog on Technorati but would like to do so, follow the link and have a go! http://technorati.com/

When is selling acceptable?

Offcourse there is a fine line between creating awareness for a certain service or product and hard sell. I have not really figured out what I find appropriate myself.

When you post something on your blog it is out there for everyone to read. In principle anyone can comment on what I write, express their opinion and I suppose flog their wares. One could even debate that – when I am publishing the message, I may need some help regarding the topic I am writing about.

That is where the crucial point is to my opinion. I am not inquiring to get advice – I am only elaborating about something on my own blog. Maybe it is the nature of the game. After all when I am watching a film on TV I am not asking for dozens of ad breaks and yet I get them presented on a platter, over and over again. It doesn’t stop me from watching the film. Although I hate the ads and will very likely utilise the breaks to get a drink or have a toilet stop.

Another one is going to the cinema where you are the target of its sponsors. The other day I discovered that you even get bombarded with messages enticing you to come to the cinema – while you are already sitting there waiting to watch a film. Now that is what I call wasting resources! What about promoting refreshments after the program has started? Do they really want people to get up, go and buy popcorn and disturb fellow film lovers?  I don’t get that!

Advertising and blogging

For some they go together and for many others it may raise their hairs. The general consensus seems to be that bloggers need to take care not to alienate followers by suddenly adding ads to their blogs. It is recommended starting with advertising if that is what you have in mind. You can debate this and as the blogger you could have the attitude – you lose some, you gain some! After all when your blog is popular, it would be silly not to benefit from sponsors and AdSense.

I am planning to use various types of advertising on my blog in the making ‘EasyDone Gourmet & Style’. I am not making a secret of that as my aim is to make it a source of income. But as the type of person I am, I want to make sure that the blog looks attractive even with ads. That is one of the reasons that I start a blog with my own domain and hosting. You have more control over what the end product looks like.

At the time being I am consulting a techie to build my blog and a designer to make it look nice because I can’t do that myself. It is an investment as one has to do when starting a business. I find it very important that I have input where the ads are being placed and even what they look like. I certainly don’t want flashing ads and pop-up boxes which are hard to close. My blog is partly about style and that includes the advertising. It all needs to be attractive – it’s the whole package!

The preparation process may take a bit more time than I intended to but when the blog finally looks the way I want it, it will be out there. And I will have a beautiful, stylish office to go every day!

Help, my ranking is low!

Obviously my ranking is low because I get targeted by all kind of miracle workers who are willing to boost my popularity for a price. It is interesting and intriguing as I really do not know much about it – the so-called SEO or Search Engine Optimisation.

It must be every site owner’s worst nightmare – this phenomenon of ranking. How does one go about it and what makes your page go to the top? To be realistic there is only one space at the top and there is only one first page. Usually the sites that are at the top of page 1 ‘buy’ their space. At the moment I am not interested in that so I’ll leave that option.

What is SEO?

Let’s step back and explore SEO a bit further. “The process of improving webpages so they rank higher in search engines for your targeted key words”, are the words Shimon Chandler uses when he introduces his PowerPoint about SEO. He is one of the many links to SEO on the first page. It is hard for novices to know which one to read, believe and try. As with many sources of information nowadays, it is not easy to educate yourself – there is just too much information available.

Another specialist on the first page presented his daughter who, after hearing about monetisation of blogs, decided to create her own blog, put AdSense on it and managed to make $1000 per month in no time. When you are 16 this is no doubt a much better income earner than dog walking, babysitting or selling fast food. But I don’t believe it is that easy, although for her it might have been as her father is a SEO specialist.

Unfortunately I do not have SEO gurus in my circle of friends so I have to figure it out myself or pay for it. “Pay for what?” I say immediately as I don’t know what needs to be done. I heard that the majority of people who browse the web do not go past the first page. That is tough, the first page! To be one of the ‘chosen’ ones on page one of all those ‘wannabees’ must come with a huge price – excuse me for being cynical!

SEO marketing…..

I bet this article will attract a large number of SEO specialists which may be good for me. I will be able to have a look at their offerings before I decide what it is that I need to do to get to that coveted number 1 spot. The unfortunate thing is though that I do not really understand their technical jargon, too specialised for me. As always the same issue – unless you are computer savvy it is beyond my ‘technical’ comprehension!

In one of my previous post I wrote about ‘simplifying’ information. That is my aim with this blog – to simplify the blogging phenomenon for the less technical savvy user. I am one of them myself but I take the effort to learn, sift through the available material and act somehow as a filter. Regarding SEO I need to find someone who can be the filter I need. All these sites about SEO offer the best results and claim that your blog can’t exist without their latest Plug-in or Widget.

Unfortunately I don’t know what they are talking about and I never spend money on something I do not understand. It’s a vicious circle, I am afraid!

Time for a summary

If you like to become a blogebrity, a problogger or a blogstar and aspire to be on the A-list of bloggers you will have to enter the blogosphere and start blogging yourself.

Before you start…

You start with creating a blog. You need to choose a hosting service and decide whether you like to get a hosted platform or use a multi-user platform and self-host. Beginners usually start with a hosted service such as WordPress, Blogger and TypePadall examples of hosted platforms. Just go into any of them, create an account and follow their instructions.

If you like to self-host, you need to register a domain and buy a hosting service. The next step is to point your registered domain name to your blog, a process called domain mapping. Unless you are a bit of a computer whizz you may need help with this!

Start blogging…

A blog usually has a main column where you write your story and sidebar(s) where you can put links and ads, also called blog verts or blogvertising. Apart from the page where your blog will appear there is usually a profile page that tells something about yourself and your reasons for blogging. Your readers like to know who you are so don’t under-estimate this.

Once you have decided on your topic you can post content on your site. Most bloggers publish posts on a regular base, ideally 3 times per week or more. Many bloggers are niche bloggers and they focus on a specialised topic. When giving your blog a name, keep it simple and broad enough to expand your topic!

When blogging you have to make sure you abide by copyright rules and give credit to other blogger or websites when you refer to them. Someone who plagiarises the content of another blogger is sometimes called a doppelblogger. If you like to uses pictures in your blog you can subscribe to sites such as Flickr where you can find countless pictures that are free to use. Alternatively you can take them yourself if you want to stay clear of copyright.

Posts are added in chronological order and stored in archives on the side bar of your blog. You can allocate categories and tags to your blog. This makes it easier for your readers to find posts written on specific topics. As a blogger you have access to the dash board or admin side of your blog. This is where you find all the controls and functions to manage your blog.

Your readers..

People who read your blog are your audience. They can leave comments on what you have posted. Unfortunately they can also leave comment spam but there are ways to minimise this evil. You can add filtering software and verification images such as CAPTCHA that pick up spamming comments and stop them from being published. Hosted services do this for you but when you choose to self host, you will have to install this yourself.

Your readers can follow or subscribe to your blog. By clicking on the RSS feed link, usually on the side bar, they can get automated notification from additional posts. You can create reciprocal links to other bloggers and ways to get notification are link backs such as refbacks, trackbacks and pingbacks all with their own specific functions. Don’t worry too much about this as you can blog without knowing what they are. They can be helpful once you get more serious and you’ll learn to use them when you are ready!

How to find you…

A search engine allows people to find information on the web. Popular search engines are Google and Yahoo and you may find web pages, blogs, images and other types of files on there. If you like people to find your blog you have to make sure that you optimise it with SEO or Search Engine optimisation. Your content ideally contains keywords that are relevant to search engines and the HTML code of your site should be optimised for that purpose as well. Savvy IT friends or in general young people seem to understand this innately!

A blog can consist of text but also of a mixture of pictures, videos, music, pod casts and many other things. Such media files are accessible through web feeds and can make you blog more interesting and interactive.

If you manage to read through the above and I haven’t lost you, you will have all the ingredients to successfully start up a blog.

Have fun blogging! 

Who likes SPAM?

Just as you receive spam in your email account you also will get it as comments on your blog. Such comments can come from bloggers who have nothing better to do than leaving nasty remarks on your work or it can be generated by software programs known as ‘spambots’.

What on earth is a ‘spambot’ – you may ask! To be honest that was my reaction as well. Wikipedia defines a spambot as the following:

“A spambot is an automated computer program designed to assist in the sending of spam”.

A spambot should not be confused with a so-called regular robot or a web crawler. Web crawling or spidering is used by search engines and many other websites to obtain up-to-date information. A spambot can be considered a web crawler ‘gone wrong’ that surfs the net looking for blogs and forums to submit spam to the comment fields of those sites.

How to reduce spam!

Very irritating but apparently reasonable harmless apart from the fact that spam comments can affect your appeal to search engines. It is quite simple to prevent such comments on your blog and blogging package such as WordPress and TypePad offer a good screening solution.

        CAPTCHA

You all have seen or used the ‘letters and numbers’ you may have to copy before being taking serious when you order something, leave a comment or subscribe to website. This is called CAPTCHA verification and it works because it lets humans pass a test that computers can’t!  It may be a bit frustrating but it does reduce spam.

        Signing in

Although this is an option to help preventing spam it is to my opinion also a way to get fewer comments. I usually leave as soon as I see that I have to sign on because I always get the feeling that I am subscribing to the site. It is too much trouble for the spammer but also for the genuine blog reader!

        Filtering Software

Software that can be installed easily and that will run all the time. Hosted blog sites such as WordPress, TypePad and BlogSpot offer such a program. It filters all comments and grades them before they are visible. You as a blogger have the opportunity to allow a comment or not. If your blog provider does not offer this service you can download a package quite easily. Akismet  is free to download and will do the job.

Spammers use many different tactics to get their ‘message’ across and the more methods you as a blogger use to prevent spamming comments the better. Sometimes a spammer can be compared to a bacteria or a virus – you may stop them in one way but they have the ability to come back in a mutated form for the next attack.

How to deal with unwanted comments

It is interesting to get comments, it is even better to get nice comments but it is a thrill to get a comment that shows that someone just ‘got’ your post the way you meant it. It gives you the feeling you are on the right track and it reinforces what you have to say.

There are occasions though that you get comments that are not nice. They can be negative, putting you down and even be insulting. Then there are comments that should not be allowed to be called ‘comments’ as they are reactions to your post to promote something.

I have had a couple of such comments lately. Some were actually quite nice or full of praise and they left a link to their website. I explored their link only to find out that they were on a mission to market their products – some were the kind of products I might not want to be associated with!

I have had others that did not have the courtesy to actually comment on my blog post. They just left a link hoping that I would explore that link. And just yesterday I had a comment with an invite to check out their link.

Quite often these comments are worded in such a way to lure you in as they offer a service that you may benefit off. My daughter told me that companies hire people who do nothing else than targeting blogs and websites to promote services and products and plants links. What a job to have I can only say!

What to do with a negative comment?

You are in control! So what do you do when you get negative comments? Many hosted websites make it easy for you because they act as a filter for all comments. Most of my comments actually end up in spam. When that happens I have various options of dealing with the comment before I allow it to be visible to all. Usually there is an email address and if you feel you need to react the option is there.

In principle you want people to comment on your blog as they give you the opportunity to engage in discussions. Not everyone will agree with what you say but that’s life and it makes it more interesting.

Get a thicker skin! When the comments are negative or insulting one way of dealing with it is to get a ‘thicker skin’! Not everyone will agree with what you write but disagreement does not mean that you are disliked. As adults we should be able to deal with the difference between ‘disliking you’ and ‘disliking your behaviour’. Two completely different although related things. In generally it is children who don’t understand the difference but by the age of 10 they should have sussed it out. Some adults will never learn it though!

Use them to your advantage! If you do allow comments no matter of what nature, you can make sure they are legitimate by checking out whether their email address is a real one. If they are real but disagree with you, then it is up to you whether you like to include the comment in your blog. You could use the comments as inspiration to write new blog posts or alternatively invite more readers to comment to promote a discussion. One way to increase your traffic – a tip I should use more myself!

Ready to put your ‘technical hat’ on?

I think it is time to get a little more technical. I have been avoiding it for a while but I feel I can hold off no longer. I will do an attempt to get a good grip on the basic technical attributes of a blog. By the way we are still talking about a hosted blog – a turn-key blog.

Blogging sites such as WordPress, BlogSpot and TypePad have made it very easy for the less technical equipped and in less than 5 minutes you can register and create a blog, choose your favourite template and off you go. It is user friendly and I am sure that most bloggers will be perfectly happy to have a long relationship with their ‘hosted blog’.

They are easy to set up, easy to run and their features are easy to use. In case you do get stuck they offer tutorials that cover everything you need to know about your blog’s features.  They also have automatic updates that happen behind the scenes without you realising it.

Using a ‘hosted blog’ has some disadvantages such as lack of control and limitations in designs and templates. Also your URL is not unique and it will contain the name of the blog host – in my case ‘blogexercise@wordpress.com’. This may not bother you at all but it could become an issue when your blog gets very popular and you would like to create a more professional look with your own domain. The good news is that it is possible to transfer the content of a hosted blog to a self hosted blog. It just may require some technical help!

The basic anatomy of a blog

Whatever blog you choose they all have a couple of things in common. It will have a banner, a profile and there is usually an email address so your readers can get in touch with you.

Banner or header image

The face of your blog and it contains the blog’s name, an illustration or a picture. You can find it at the top of the blog and it ideally represents your style and you as a writer.

One of the reasons that I would like to change to a self hosted blog is that I could not find a template and banner that really is ‘me’ or more importantly what I would like the blog to look like. My problem is that so far I only have vague ideas about the ‘looks’ of my blog so for the time being I am kind of happy with the face of ‘Blogexercise’. It’s simple, fresh and stylish.

Profile

A bit about youwho you are, your name, where you are from and what your blog is about. Could be a craft, a picture blog, cooking or whatever drives you to write your blog. You can reveal as much or a little about yourself as you wish but your readers will be interested in learning a bit about you.

Columns

Your blog consists of a main column where your blog posts appear and there usually one or more of sidebars where links are being displayed. You will find things there such as archives, categories, photo galleries, ads and more. In ‘Blogexercise’ you can see a list of recent posts, archives, categories and various links.

Basic so far but more to come!