Quick Summary Of What’s Happening Now On Social Sharing Platforms

monet garden

I came across a video that was posted to Facebook, but from the style of it seems like it might have been filmed on Periscope (that was my guess from the numerous “shoutouts” to viewers).

Anyway, it is a quick and easy way to assess whether the time you are spending on your fav social media platform is helping your online goals or not.

BTW, I came across Britt Seva through watching a James Wedmore video. He is the youtube guru who is branching out into business entrepreneurial training.

The Video

 

Understanding the difference between FB, IG, YouTube, Periscope and Snapchat as a hairstylist and where to spend your time

Posted by Britt Seva-Social Media & Marketing Strategist For Hairstylists on Friday, August 5, 2016

She talks fast, so be ready to pick up the tidbits of tips that you need.

I spent some time on Periscope, but dropped it after awhile… in fact I completely re-calibrated what I wanted to do with video and haven’t made any new ones since last year. I cocooned so I could emerge as a better creator.

In the meantime I invested time in tutorials and bought some new equipment.

One tip that I had read elsewhere,but that she underlined quite well is that you should spend time where your readers and target audience spend their time. It underlines that I should use instagram far, far more than I do and update what I’m doing on youtube.

Which social media efforts does this video address for you?

Blogging Resources and Advice

Starting Your Blog

In updating my Blog Resource Page, all the information written moved here. It is still current and helpful, but things I recommend and why need revision. This post has more explanation of the why and wherefore for using certain choices than I think is best for a no-frills resource list.

If you are new to blogging, sort through the following advice for timesavers and tips.

Free Themes

I recommend the default WordPress themes to start out with, unless you are sure you know what you want. There are free child themes available for them. Between the choices that all have the name “Twentysomething” ( series starting with ten, you should be able to find a theme that suits your blogging needs.

History of the default themes

The Swift theme was one that I used on this site for awhile and warmed up to it.

Update I had to change the Swift theme to the PageLines since the hackers kept getting into the Swift theme, which shows that security is a big deal in choosing a theme.

I have always liked the typography of PageLines, though I did miss the bright colors of Swift. Plus, I don’t think there should be a free theme that only gets updated to work well, forcing you to buy the premium version. That is something to watch out for, although it is much less likely to happen now. Not a problem with the bigger theme developers who have a reputation to stake.

I did a test-drive of the default free themes on this site before deciding to use Divi.

 

Paid Themes

I use Elegant themes (Divi) in my garden sites, and one of the earlier ones on TrueGrit, a religion blog.

I switched from experimenting with their new themes to using mainly their pride production: the Divi theme.
It has pros and cons. Although as time goes on the improvements are wiping out the negative opinions.

Pros

Divi is highly customizable and can do about anything you want it to.

It is responsive (extremely important, now).

Easy to work with.

Cons

The main thing I don’t like is one of the things I also do like: the pagebuilder.

The pagebuilder uses shortcode components that helps you build a page the way you want it. Making landing pages, etc is simple. But if you change from the Divi to another theme like the WordPress default, all the pages which you built show only the shortcode blocks .

This is highly inconvenient, to be locked into one theme.

Solution?

A plugin that helps to sort out the shortcodes coding on the site, or changes made by the ET developers to make all of the shortcode reside within a plugin that remains no matter what theme is chosen.

 

Looking For A Theme

  • Find features you need.
  • Pleasing layout and typography for readability.
  • Responsiveness now tops the list of needed features.
  • Support might be important for you, and regular updating certainly will be.

Now Using Fourteen Sixteen Theme

 

Further Update: WordPress made the good looking magazine theme for 2014 and I switched to it.  I am very happy with so many of its features that I imagine staying with it for quite awhile.

Further, Further Update: I kept updating until the twentysixteen theme. It doesn’t have the customizing plugins, nor is it easy to change the look. I love it for its functionality, though.

It is a good beginning theme. However I will say that for a complex site like my Garden site, the Divi pro theme from Elegant Themes is better suited to what I ask from WordPress.

  1. It supports a large number of post formats
  2. Good looking with cool feature image looks
  3. Showcases content well
  4. Safe and well updated
  5. Plugins made to provide extended control

Plugins

  • Color plugin for the fourteen theme
  • Fourteen extended plugin for the fourteen theme
  • Editorial Calendar is truly useful for anyone. I just started using one for my garden site and wished I had discovered it years ago.
  • SEO is super important and I like Yoast’s plugin the best.
  • There are several good social sharing helps, right now I use Shareaholic, which includes related posts.  I used  YARPP for years, and that worked well,  too -especially with new improvements it has now.
  • Akismet to deal with Spam. Bruteprotect to deter hackers. These are in the Jetpack. Yes, I use it.

There is controversy about the Jetpack, but I used enough of its features to make it worthwhile. It disturbs me to know that some feel it bloats and greatly increases loadtime for the site.

I switched back to YARPP after Shareaholic made changes that I really didn’t like. I no longer recommend it and deleted the plugin from all my sites.

I wrote about some of my favorite plugins, here.

Disclosure: I use affiliate links for some of the resources. This in no way influences the opinions I post. Everything written is transparent and based on my experience.

Domain Name Specifics

You will find lots of advice telling you to buy a domain name, but where and how to do that?

Picking Your Name Is Easy

  • Generally, shorter is better -without hyphens-
  • Remember to make it easy to remember, no matter what the length. Numbers aren’t a good idea.
  • Be careful of copyright and don’t borrow someone else’s name for your site.
  • There are many TLDs (top level domain extensions). It is still best to get a (dot)com ending since it is easy to remember.

Buy From Registrars

Going to a domain name registrar or buying through your webhosting company (many hosting companies sell domain names) are two ways to get a domain name.

My daughter bought hers from “Namecheap.com”, and then purchased her hosting with another company. When I started out at Netfirms, I bought my domain name through them.

Wherever you register your domain name, there is one thing you might keep in mind: privacy. If you would like to keep your personal information private, some do provide that service with the purchase, but more likely it is an add-on service. Check.

You are also likely to see offers that are deeply discounted, even free. If you look at the fine print, it is usually only for the first year; renewing the domain is at the usual going price.

Time periods of one year, two, three, etc are available. If you know this is a business or blog you want for a long period of time, it would be economical and less troublesome to sign up for a longer amount of time. It is normally less expensive.

I have renewed my most important domains for ten years. Those I wasn’t sure I would develop into a site or business were for one to two years at a time.

There will be some variation for fees depending on the company you go with- investigate.

Is the dashboard user friendly and the company reputable for support, etc? You will likely have to do a few things to point your domain to your web hosting.

After my initial purchases at Netfirms (which later put all their domain name business in Tucows hands), I had purchased a couple names from GoDaddy.

GoDaddy is one of the most popular, but I found it confusing to manage. It is somewhat better today, but I still like Netfirms/Tucows better, and privacy features were included in the cost.

 
It has been recommended to buy and manage the domain name separately from your hosting. I have never had problems, but I do follow that advice.
 

 

The Blog Peripherals

What I’ve Learned from 1 Year of Blogging

A new blogger reflects on what it takes to make a go of blogging on her one year anniversary.

It’s not that the writing takes up all your time, it’s all the little things you do in the background. Time spent building your website, replying to emails, researching future posts, being active on social media. It all adds up!

Become A Garden Writer

writing for your blog

Improve or Begin to Write About Your Garden Experience

The world of garden writing is a varied one. Most of us think of it as pure nonfictional writing that covers the how-to of gardening, making a garden, and growing plants, but the best garden writing incorporates more, and there are pockets of garden writing that soar with inspirational prose and are hybridized with spiritual and motivational writing.

Write What You Know

  • …And write what you love, but that is not all.
  • Spelling is important.
  • Punctuation is important.
  • Work on improving your writing skills, consistently.
  • I want to write things for which my only explanation for writing is not, “I needed the money.”

Improve Your Writing Skills – Keep writing inspiration and tips handy

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – Anton Chekhov.

Poetic and rhetorical devices to enhance your writing. Work on improving the beauty and magic of your words.
Cultivating Words: The Guide to Writing about the Plants and Gardens You Love

Get to the gist of your goal to become a garden writer. Covering such topics as the “how-to” article and giving guidance on writing well, the will help you interest your reader and organize your outlines. The all important story telling gets a chapter, along with the nuts and bolts you will need for your blog or book.

Different Styles

…of writing are good to know and practice.

Garden Writing is Technical Writing

Though it may be primarily dressed in another form

In a sense all garden writing is technical writing. When the subject includes so much of science, such as horticulture and botany, a certain amount of precision and accuracy is needed. It is necessary to both identify the plants properly and to discuss the matter of designing and growing a garden well.

Even in a romantic fictional piece of garden-focused writing, it is important to get plant nomenclature and description correct for the reader to fully appreciate the thought and emotion being conveyed. To use some wordplay, it roots the imagination into the the fertile, substantive source of the writing.

How will the transport of the scent of lilacs be truly understood if the writing isn’t clear about the context of place, and the nature of the plant? Lilacs, for instance, are known to survive for a long time, surviving the ruin of a house or the disappearance of the other original signs of human habitation. The scent is a musky, heady sweet fragrance, and the shrub was once planted in almost every dooryard of old farmhouses. It is a plant that connects generations, and their memories of their own old homesteads…sometimes miles from where the family would finally settle. Understanding a plants persistence or ephemeral nature, its scent or unpleasant smell, where one might have happened upon it, or who was likely to grow it may make a world of difference in how to incorporate the response to a characteristic, the gardens, and the plantings into a story.

How-To Writing

In writing “how-to” information the technical aspects are easy to see. For success on the part of the reader, they need all the accurate information necessary to accomplish their desired task. Use expert information, and if anecdotal information is included, please label that so the reader can take that point into consideration in their own set of conditions.

Plants have many romantic common names, and there are enough duplicates which refer to very different plants to create some confusion, so the use of Latin names ( as frustrating as that can sometimes be…see the case of the aster or the autumn clematis…)

More Reading

Why Latin?

Be Accurate

  • Check your facts.
  • Check plant names.
  • Make it a rule to use Latin plant names, whenever possible.
  • Record up to date information on hardiness, etc.

How to Write About Gardening: Get a Camera, Open a Blog, Start Writing

writing rules

Most garden writing is “how-to” essay writing. It is largely non-fiction, although some of the best writers do use a story telling style as they describe their activities or what impressions nature makes on their lives. The format of “How to Grow” or “5 Tips to…” “10 Plants…” etc. also work well.

Try to visualize your audience. Is it a new gardener, or someone who is experienced and wants something new?

I personally do not like highly hyped garden writing, which is common in the genre. Not everything is easy, beautiful, or must-have in gardening. In fact, gardening is a highly individual occupation, with a range of tastes in what is considered ideal both in in style and method. Hype sells more, but restraint and valuable information educates leading to the success of the reader and the future cultivation of the hobby.

Anyone can have a beautiful garden that functions well for their family with all the planning helps and online tutorials that are available. I really believe that. It only requires taking the time to watch some videos and read some articles before you are ready to face the challenges and choices of making a garden.

Now, mind you, I;m not saying it is easy… or even simple, but it is easy and simple to start. And those first steps are supported with expert advice that is as close as your iPhone or PC to support you along the way.

The great thing about nature is that it wants to grow and thrive. So you are bound to have a number of successes. Failures are just learning opportunities, anyway. Write about both your successes and your failures; they both make interesting reading material.

Keep It Conversational

Writing in a conversationally is a style that mimics the way we communicate verbally. Almost all my online writing is done in this manner, which means I play fast and loose with numerous ellipses, sentence fragments, and such devices.

Common Writing Tips To Review – Do you have these skills under your belt?

 

“Read a lot and write a lot.” – Stephen King

  1. Be clear, and edit, edit, edit.
  2. Avoid cliches.
  3. Use, but don’t overuse, adjectives and adverbs.
  4. Try to use as many of the five senses as possible.
  5. Research and validate your facts.

Who’s Who in Garden Writing – A sampling of those authors I like, and why

Gertrude Jekyll, famous garden author
Gertrude Jekyll, famous garden author
On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

Helen Van Pelt Wilson

You may not be familiar with her name, as she was an American garden writer more popular in the past generation, but Helen Van Pelt Wilson was a writer whose warmth and love of garden plants sparked enthusiasm for creating gardens and growing things for many, including me. I recently purchased two of her out-of-print books through Amazon, so I could have copies on my bookshelf, since I had borrowed the library’s copies so many times.

His writing is clear, fascinating, and expert. John Brookes tackles the difficult task of covering a wide range of topic and does so with seeming ease. I love his books, filled with the best of illustrations to inspire and informative in the way only an excellent teacher can match. I own many of his books, and would gladly own them all.

Penelope Hobhouse

I love English Garden Writers in general, but Penelope Hobhouse has been the one to mark my sense of garden color and fired up my imagination more than any other. She, too, tackles very broad garden subjects, but it is her intimate garden experiences which I love to hear about and the illustrations of her matchless garden plant combinations which inform my own gardening.

Tracy Disabato-Aust

This is a garden writer from my own native Ohio. That is not why she is one of the best garden book authors, though. She creates garden books which are practical, inspiring, and ultimately the best for American gardeners. She manages to provide expert information that almost any gardener in the USA can use. That is a tall order for so vast and varied a country, but perhaps that accomplishment is due to her great design sense and the fact that she concentrates on the plants. You learn much about gardening by reading her books and they point to straight to the garden to put the head knowledge into experience. She is my favorite contemporary author, at this time.

Gertrude Jekyll

Gertrude Jekyll is an example of how a garden writer may be an arbiter of taste and change the landscape of how we make our gardens. Influenced herself by William Robinson, her writing grew from her landscape design prowess and reputation. She is still influential today and her ideas are the foundation of creating perennial borders and monochromatic gardens. Her most famous books have reappeared in reprints that are revised for plants name accuracy ( since many of the names have changed over the years) and with colored illustrations.

 

 

Penelope Hobhouse – Expert and Enjoyable Garden Writer

Penelope Hobhouse is an example of fine garden writing at its best, from her expertise on plants to her accurate and enjoyable prose.

In Search of Paradise: Great Gardens of the World

Start your own collection of her fine tomes.Her expert guidance through some of the great gardens makes for an excellent tour.

Garden Writing

 

Ilona’s Garden is a Website…. and my garden

I write about what I know – a key to better writing

Some websites are impersonal things. They are a company or about a product, or general information or lots and lots of information and writers. That is great- sometimes it is just what you need and want. But sometimes someone has decided to share a bit of their life and the wisdom garnered from their own experiences. That is what my garden website consists of, in Ilona’s Garden. Come visit with me and read about the plants I love or what I know about garden design. Or you can visit the blog on my new domain: Ilona’s Garden Journal for conversation and whatever is going on in the garden and during the season….

 

If you would like to know more about gardening my website holds the keys of my experience of many years in my central Ohio yard. It is always growing! I like to blog, play around with trying new stuff, garden (of course).

Designing for Zazzle and Cafepress are two new avenues I’m taking. Mainly on Zazzle, to help supplement income for online costs and to use my graphics and photos in an alternative way.

Little Known Secret About Garden Information Online

writing secrets
writing secrets

Maybe it is better known than I think, but the web is flooded by poor or just plain wrong garden information. It is true… and garden writers, in the confines of their hangouts sometimes will bemoan the fact. It isn’t a matter of a gateway, or a degree, or anything like that. It is a matter of experience with plants and gardens.

I noticed this when I was first writing my beginning pages on Geocities. There were garden websites that were getting quite popular, even though their creators knew little about gardening…. they were quite good at marketing and at making community. That is an expertise in itself, but it doesn’t help people garden successfully, except when they share their own hard won advice. And that is the secret sauce: real gardeners who like to talk “over the fence” about what is working for them and the basic how-to science and art of making a garden ( things like propagating plants, and building soil….etc,etc.).

Right now, there are a flood of garden writers coming online and making blogs from mainline media, like magazines and newspapers. It raises the quality of the writing, and sometimes of the information, but it also seems to bring the system of inbred networking and impersonal disconnect from that industry. That is just my opinion, you may think differently, but I still hold out for the individual voice of the everyday gardener who will tell you the truth when something won’t work for you. Or is just as glad at a small vegetable patch as at a magazine ready potager layout. Because it is all just as good, when it comes to people loving their little plot or -if they have it- spacious stretch of landscape, whatever makes it yours. Size doesn’t matter; well, it kind of does, but not in the way we think (mostly in how much work is involved).

Anyway, I want you to know why I keep laboring on creating a website for gardeners. I have LOTS of information and links going out to other great sources . It isn’t always easy to find my sites in the flood of new websites and blogs! But that is OK, once you find it I hope you will bookmark and then offer your suggestions on how it can be better for you. I invite you to do that by commenting on this lens, or joining the Ilona’s Garden Facebook page, which has discussion and comment opportunities and you can upload pictures of your own gardens,etc. That is an idea! I love other people’s gardens.

The marketing and writing lesson which I could away from the Squidoo community and others that count in creating truly helpful information is “to focus in”. That was something that was starting to get obvious as early as a couple years into writing about gardening. It is a huge topic when all the variables are factored in: climate,soil, plants,environments, animals,even fashions…. So my focus is not just Ohio, but on the groundfloor of “Central Ohio”. And from there everyone who has similar circumstances or similar needs for plants can benefit.

The little known secret for everyone is to find quality sources for your garden information. Sometimes hooking in with someone who gives you leads and links. That is why I started The Garden Librarian, too – to wade through the many garden books and find the best.

A comprehensive guide to garden writing.
The Penguin Book of Garden Writing

The Modern Writing Tool – A Mac Pro Computer

I switched to the Mac when I had to replace my laptop. There is so much going for the design and capability of this tool that you will be happy you made the decision to buy it.

A Place To Write – A Beautiful Inspiration To Write Daily

Can you imagine yourself sitting at a lovely writing desk, before a large window looking out into a blooming garden? can you picture yourself inspired to write all about the effects of the garden on your life, on your thoughts, and how you created the gardens with love? Can you convey the emotion of your heart when you peer into the face of your favorite flower? If you are not a garden writer yet, you may have all the makings of one. Give it a try.

a pleasant place to write
a pleasant place to write

Let Grammar Girl Help You – Improve your writing

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (Quick & Dirty Tips)

Everyone can use some help on their grammar, and good grammar is a must in good writing.

Blog Well – No matter what your topic niche may be

ConcreteLoop.com Presents: Angel’s Laws of Blogging: What You Need to Know if You Want to Have a Successful and Profitable Blog

 

Better Writing Links

 

  • 34 Writing Tips That Will Make You a Better Writer
    A couple of weeks ago we asked our readers to share their writing tips. The response was far beyond the initial expectations, and the quality of the tips included was amazing. Thanks for everyone who contributed. Now, without further delay…
  • 9 Expert Tips For Better Writing
    One of the things I like best about social media is the way it helps me discover talented writers. They remind me a lot of distance athletes with their…

About Niche, Evergreen, And Seasonal Writing

It is all old news now: blogging is /and has been/ changing.

If you are new to creating a blog and writing online, maybe these terms are new to you. Or maybe you are like me, and never really “got it”, needing to bone up on these pillars of blog success and learn some new “tricks” at the same time.

With the tsunami of internet blogs comes a necessity to keep your head above water just to get an average number of readers. But fear not, there is still opportunity and with good old grit and determination online writers can still craft a following while pursuing their dream of creating a body of work.

First Some Definition

What is a niche?

It is a specialized subject area. Preferably your niche is narrowed down to the point where you have appeal to a loyal tribe of people who share your interest.

The alternative is to have a broader area of interest, but create a prolific amount of articles which have good authority.

My own example is that my sites mainly revolved around the topic of gardening. Since that was such a broad topic, I further reduced the scope to  Central Ohio Gardening , with an emphasis on home landscaping design.

Even there, I am finding that I must greatly increase the output of articles to improve my online standing.

The point of having a niche topic is to build authority and gain readership by reducing your competition for keywords and interest. It is a combination of catering to Google for search engine results and catering to those who wish to find authoritative information on their favorite subject.

What are some other popular niches?

laptop lady

DIY Home Decor
DIY Crafts
DIY Interior decorating
Selling Homemade Items
Self-sustaining lifestyle
Grow your own food
Use alternative energy
Preserving Foods
Simpler Living
Green living
Organizational Skills
Lifehacks

Actually, these are all highly saturated topics now, but by studying “long tail keywordsA long-tail keyword is a keyword phrase that contains two to three words” you can successfully choose a good niche topic for your blogging.

I have seen advice consisting of writing on a certain long tail keyword for a few key posts, and then branch out to adding posts on other related keywords for your chosen subject matter. I tend to write as the muse hits me, but this tip strikes me as a more organized and targeted approach. Even though my blogs are established, I think that is good advice to round out my own content.

What Is An Evergreen Post?

scotch pine evergreen
As may be surmised, no matter what the season year, in and year out, something that attracts reader’s interest  is called “evergreen content”.

Posts that have no expiration because they hold long term interest.

What type of topics might qualify for this type of article?

    • Instructional “How To” Tutorials
    • Product Reviews
    • Top Tips
    • Lists

What do people love to read about? Food, romance, money, weight loss, their pets …you know, the usual. It’s the usual because we are perennially interested in these topics as humans.

And that… is Evergreen.

Seasonal Writing

The seasons give rise to traditions in food, holidays, activities, and many other types of subjects that perennially pop up and create interest in our writing.

Here is a list of common topic examples by month:

January: 

  • dieting
  • depression
  • taxes
  • money, budgeting, earning extra income
  • New Year’s resolutions
  • weather
  • baking, recipes

February:

  • Valentine’s Day
  • football
  • income tax, spring,
  • Chinese New Year
  • love, romance, dating.

March:

  • Daylight savings time
  • St. Patrick’s Day
  • Spring
  • Easter, Palm Sunday, Passover
  • diet, exercise

April:

  • April Fools Day
  • fashion, shoes
  • Crocus, Tulips
  • spring birds
  • relationships
May:

  • Spring break
  • Mother’s Day
  • spring flowers
  • babies, children
  • gardening
  • travel
  • graduation, prom,
  • summer employment
  • weddings

June:

  • Weddings, graduation
  • summer, summer break
  • children, games
  • travel
  • outdoor activities
  • Father’s Day
  • summer employment

July:

  • Fourth of July
  • cameras
  • Independence Day
  • Warm weather foods (barbecue, ice cream, salads).

August:

  • summer activities
  • back to school
  • computers
  • college, dorm
  • students
September:

  • Labor day
  • Clothing
  • Canning
  • Fruit
  • Health
  • Harvest

October:

  • Crafts
  • Autumn
  • Halloween costumes
  • Baking
  • Fashions for fall and winter

November:

  • Remembrance Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Turkey, holiday recipes
  • Gifts
  • Baking
  • Black Friday

December:

  • Christmas, holidays
  •  Ornaments, Christmas trees
  • Winter, cold, ice, snow, snowflakes
  • Winter sports
Writing Schedule
To take advantage of seasonal searches, write your articles 3 months in advance of the expected interest dates.

Generally Speaking

Building a solid base of evergreen content within a niche is a good way to start out with your blogging. It is also a great way to view where an established blog might flesh out their appeal.

If you are interested at all in making income from your writing, I’d say these concerns should rise to the top of your writing “to-do” list. You are much more likely to hit your target when focused, then using hit or miss style of building your blog.

Myself? When free to experiment with writing topics, as in my time on Squidoo, I found that evergreen content and creating a niche were best combined for success in drawing readers and earning money.

Today, one of the fastest ways to get these articles seen and grow in traffic has been through the use of Pinterest. Utilizing social media is the next step, after writing a foundation of solid content.


iPad Owner Adventures In Blogging

I originally bought my iPad to be a simpler way to blog while traveling. So how has that worked out for me? And what might my experiences mean for you?

What are the features of an iPad?

  • Small slimline profile means it easily goes into a large purse. It can function as a phone, though I don’t use it that way.
  • Loads of apps, many of them free.
  • Accessories can expand usefulness (I have a keyboard cover).
  • Bigger screen than a phone, while remaining compact.
  • Portable
  • Battery has longlasting properties (compared with a laptop)
  • Works well for reading eBooks and PDFs

I ended up buying an iPad Air 2.

ipad controls

-click home button to awake, twice to bring up app screen.

-screen adjusts to landscape or portrait mode.

It has a camera, but so far I found that a bit awkward to use. Better sound when not encased in the Belkin cover, but still good. Clear, beautiful display.

The Adventures: Traveling with an iPad

I found some things I genuinely liked, but the entire experience didn’t quite work out as seamlessly as I’d hoped. Still, I am not ready to say I have fully mastered bringing this portable device into its full potential.

Things I had to get used to:

  • Apps are not full programs, so graphics may need to be done elsewhere. Luckily there are easy online programs like Picmonkey and Canva. Only Canva has an actual IOS app.
  • Passwords. Setting up the device is just like setting up a new computer, so sometimes I have to go looking for passwords. There might be an easier way, but I didn’t know about it.
  • Can’t get used to using it as a phone… at least not yet.

 

I liked the portability and accessibility of the iPad, loved the long battery life, and the Belkin cover lights up and makes typing easy.

That said, the keyboard features are smaller and more awkward than a full laptop keyboard. I found it harder to feel at home on the tablet and that interfered with my inspiration to write- but that is just me. I feel that as I get used to it, it will be as natural and I’ll stop thinking about it so much.

One app that makes a tablet highly functional is Evernote. When I put something into it, it transfers it to all my devices that have the app- including my phone and laptop. That solves issues with the need to have good photos/graphics for a post.

My eyesight isn’t very good, so the smaller screen is not always best for me. I enlarge, but I tend to like a larger screen. Huge imporvement on a phone, however.

Am I happy?  Yes. Happy enough that I want to further explore which apps are best for me and to get greater skill and comfort in using tablets rather than laptops.

What Apps For Me?

I use many that are on my iPhone:

  • Waterlogue for fun
  • Camera +
  • Pronto for graphics (this is a new one for me)
  • Evernote
  • Weather
  • and 22 other apps, including  basics like camera, mail, etc

Other Opinions about Traveling With An iPad

Gizmodo had a post that sings the praises of using an iPad. Joel Johnson also cited the light weight, small size, and the great battery life. This is essentially the same experience as mine.

While written in 2010, I think the plus and minus of the iPads are the same today, six years later.
I do use mine differently since blogging is my main activity on any computer.

Useful Accessories For Tablets

From experience texting, I knew I couldn’t get very far with writing posts, or even social commenting  without  a keyboard. I just can’t. But I found a Belkin QODE Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad Air 2, after much searching through reviews. I have to say it was a great purchase which I am very happy to use most of the time I am on the

Device Warnings -be sure to keep your OS up to date.

Summed up

I like this device more as I learn to use it. It is very user friendly with apps like imovie along with a decent camera, its size, and its good battery life. The screen makes watching video a great experience and Siri is there to help, too. I think it was worth the money invested.

Need To Make Banners Or Headers For Your Collections, Stores, Or Posts?

If you need to make a professional looking graphic for your headers or banners it is no secret that Picmonkey and Canva are free, easy, and accessible.

However, maybe you didn’t know about that, yet.

It is easy to sign up for free access to most of the features and use the online editor. However I use the premium, for the extra features. Want to access those? Use my handy affiliate link for Picmonkey, and support me while you do yourself a favor and gain some really useful apps for graphics.

Picmonkey

Here is a link for Canva:

Canva for Web

Canva is very clear that their graphics are for personal use only. So nothing made on their site should be sold, although I am sure that you can make personal headers for your store or collections on this site.

Picmonkey has no dire warnings, so I am not sure about the use of your graphics, although they will be perfectly fine for anything personal, as well. Personal use is posting on your social media, blogs, etc. as well as making products for yourself, like cards you want to send.

Commercial would include POD products like those sold on Zazzle, etc.

Right now the only things I am recommending these sites for is the personal usage. Making Facebook headers, headers for your store, or profile pics. Collection and category graphics which can all be branded with your particular style.

 

Advice For Zazzle Newbies

Zazzle Designs from My Store

I just finished giving my artist daughter some advice about Zazzle, and as it kept building into almost a “mini-course” I thought maybe it would be a good idea to write some of that advice down in one place.

Start with this Post

(UPDATED Jan. 12, 2018)

Zazzle has much improved their setup. The design tools are quite robust and I rarely have any troubles with “hang-ups” or freezing, now. The auto-save features on the site are reliable.

The questions started with… What can I do about my created product “hanging up” when I try to post it for sale?

To this, and other difficulties like it, the answer is save your design and write down the title, description, and tags in a text file to copy-paste. Once saved, the design will show up in your “saved file” and you can usually proceed without a problem. The short answer is that sometimes the javascripts get jammed. It might be your browser, Zazzle’s site, or a slow internet connection. Who knows? Just save whereever the hangup is and then go from there.

This happens to me most often when I am trying to post for sale. That is why I use a text file to keep from losing the description and tags. It is useful as a temporary file for making more products with that same design. Copy and paste the description and tags saves time and typing, while tweaking them for individuality makes them a bit unique.

Designer Editor Improvements

  • Select images and text in a design you’ve made, look for the “edit” dropdown, and chose “copy”; then paste the creation onto another surface, even a whole new product design.
  • “Filters” can change colors of an image into several types of styles; “Patterns” create a number of repeat styles.
  • Many fonts are available, once text is typed the spacing can be tweaked via the “AV” dropdown.  A few text warps are available: arc, inverted arc, vertical.
  • Infinite color choices for background and for text.

Example

I used a filter setting to make the background look more like I wanted. On the reverse side of the design I used the arc and the character spacing tweaks for some of the text.

Making Multiple Products with a Design
You can still “Quick Create”, but it is no longer recommended, and takes a long time to “post”. With the copy and paste powers of whole designs including their text and settings, it is easy to make multiple products with your favorite creation.

Keep Track of Colors Via HexFiles

My next suggestion is to keep a copy-paste file of color hex file codes for certain designs along with description and tag words so that when making more products from that design these are accessible. Call it “Zazzlecode” or something similar.

My Best Choices for Hex Color Codes

The Zazzle color chooser itself gives you the hex codes for the color you have chosen- write it down to use again ( that source file, you are keeping).

Want to know the trendiest Pantone colors? This w3schools site is a great resource.

Or go directly to the Pantone site, but to the insider area where you type in a color name and the info (including hex number) comes up on its own page.

Pantone Color Finder

SEO

The next bit of advice is how important it is to use some basic SEO, since an artist has to do her own marketing. Use descriptive relevant terms when titling both the design and product, when writing the descriptions, and especially when choosing tag words and phrases.

If you don’t know very much about SEO, there are scads of articles and sites online which explain this to bloggers. Artists can use that same information when working to get Google to find their products, too.

  • Zazzle prefers that you use around 10 important keywords, although you can use more.
  • Describe your design in terms you think people will search for.
  • Don’t inflate with irrelevant terms, there is a No-Spam policy in place.
  • Use places that can help your SEO, like descriptions and titles for images, as well as design descriptions and tags. Collections also have tags and descriptions.

Collections

These area ways to curate your designs, introducing less popular ones in ways that organize your site. They are useful for social media sharing, so learn how to make them (quite easy), then display in your store. It’s been recommended to have your collections near the top.

The New Title

Duplicates are a problem in SEO results, so while it used to be okay to have multiple products that use a design titled and described all the same, this is now a problem. Customize the written labels and descriptions for each product.

Views

Products views are important. Even your own view of one of your designed products counts, but if you have created something that no one views over a certain length of time, it gets hidden from the general marketplace.

So include your creations in the collections, share them, and go to their pages if necessary, to increase the possibility of sales.

 

That sums up the latest of gleaned tips for gaining a foothold in Zazzle success. If you have tips add them, please.

Zazzle Success Tips and Pointers

Share Your Best Stuff

Now there are “collections, products that you can curate any way you wish. These are shareable ways to make your store more attractive and help customers find related designs.

  • Share with your friends and followers on Twitter, Facebook, G+, and your own website.
  • Group product designs by theme or occasion
  • Relate by product type (iphone cases, postcards, etc.), event ( birthday, retirement, et al), theme (vintage, cats, fractals), or occasion (Christmas, Mother’s Day, 4th of July).
  • Don’t create huge Collections. I made this mistake at first. Since then I have pared down those very large unrelated ones to help me better serve customers in finding what they want.

Examples of Two of Mine

How to make and add to your collections.

directions for making Zazzle collection
Making a new collection on Zazzle
  1. Each profile has a “Collection” button in the navigation bar. Click on that and there is an intuitive box with the plus sign that you click to make your group, which you name and tag.
  2. Make a banner which is  1140 x 315 pixels. Upload to the banner space in the collection ( in the same manner that Facebook banners are uploaded and changed).
  3. Next: Go to a product that you wish to add. Find the “add to” button.
    add to collection button
    addto button

     

  4. Click on the down arrow and it will open up a list of your collections. Simply check the box next to the one you wish to add the product to.
  5. Go to your collection after you have added 3 to 10 items and share it with all your friends and followers.

Promote Yourself

It is really important to do your own marketing when you have a Zazzle store now.  Learn how to tag your designs and products without spamming (Zazzle has a strict no spam policy).

Share and encourage your friends to do so. If you have products that you think are poorly done (usually in retrospect), hide them.

If you have some that haven’t gotten any views, give them a few yourself (just by going to the page) to keep that product in the Marketplace until the public discovers it.

Remember to attach your associate number to the things you share,  of your own design or others in case it makes a referral sale.

Referrals

Share, but don’t overshare referral links on social media.

Consider using a free blog to show off your designs and those of others. Include pertinent designs in your blogposts.

While it is possible to make income from this form of sharing, I have made very little from it. For me, referral traffic is more important to create some buzz about the product items in my stores.

 

Helpful Sizes to Know For Your Store

It can be a nuisance to try to guess which size graphics to make for the various parts of this POD.

I seem to always have to look up some of the other graphics dimensions, and to save time collected a few here:

  • Collection banner: 1140 x 315 pixels
  • Store banner: 2369 x 400 pixels
  • Category picture: 640 x 640 pixel square

Official Zazzle site advice

Helpful Design Tools

There is a page of guides. Although somewhat outdated, the ones available do help with designing cards or mugs, etc.

Zazzle is no longer making official product guides, but still have the tried and true older ones:

Make sure the “dpi” or resolution of your graphics are high enough. I think 300-350 dpi is a good range. Lesser is acceptable, but not the 72 that is common for most web pictures.

DPI Is Important
High enough resolution is important for printing. “Dots Per Inch” makes a difference in sharpness of the image.

Official Image Recommendations

Advice from the Forum on making your own:

1. Go to create your chosen product (but don’t add an image)
2. Change to ‘Design’ view and ensure the guides are switched on
3. Click the ‘Zoom’ button and take your screenshot
4. Trim the image down to the red rectangle (the bleed area), I also make the white part transparent
5. Now the image needs to be enlarged to the size you will be using for the product – in the case of the iPad Mini you could base the measurements on measurements of the device itself (given above) – I tend to make my graphics a little larger than necessary to allow for effectively ‘zooming in’ when making the product (or to give a customer the option of doing the ‘zooming’)

Of course, you can always use your Instagram pictures or simply upload a large enough design to give a good print for the product. Not exact, but this can work.

Trying To Do The One Thing That Leads To Better Blog Success

Write

That is the one regret for my blogging in the past ten years. I should have developed the habit of writing … more … longer posts… greater frequency.

I am convinced that today’s blogosphere requires a regular writing schedule. And the more we write the better we become. The only caveat is that when we speed up our output, our writing will deteriorate.

So, a balance of well-written articles that are posted with regular frequency is key to growing a blog.

My main advice on posting frequency is to be consistent and keep the quality of your posts as high as possible.Problogger Darren Rowse

See, Darren said it long before I realized, the hard way, how important this is to blogging.

Will It Translate To Dollars?

source: Ilona Erwin
source: Ilona Erwin

I don’t believe it will translate to very much of an increase of income on its own, no.

Growing a business online is a changing proposition, and I don’t claim to be an expert on what creates success in earning an income from a blog.  Just reporting on what I and others are experiencing.

I will say that even very successful bloggers are struggling with blogs alone. It is becoming harder.

Factors in the changes:

  • Google has changed what it demands for good search engine placement and ranking
  • Readers are more sophisticated in what they do and what they desire.
  • Competition has gone through the roof! There is an explosion of blogs in every conceivable subject.

Hard Work Is Key

This has always been true in every endeavor, especially when competition picks up, the way it has on the web.

Observations And Advice Out There

More traffic, more clicks but each click was worth less. Hey Google, I held up my end of the bargain – made my websites better. You screwed up yours. Work harder, work smarter, still make less money.Doug Green

A garden writer I like and who has been thriving in the past with his blogging and writing has revealed some of his present disappointment and struggle with trying to make an online business and living income.

What are some observations?

  • Google adsense income is a small fraction of what it was… sometimes only pennies, literally. I have noticed this in my own sites. but not just Google, other sources of ad income are also smaller and more difficult to earn.
  • It is hard to capture peoples interest and loyalty. a lot of work on social media is a necessity.
  • Peripheral efforts are a must: a newsletter, at the most basic, podcasts, youtube video, e-books. These are all part of the package. Each having its own learning curve and work to produce.

Don’t Get Discouraged

This is meant to give a realistic view, not to discourage anyone.

There are lots of varying factors, including the niche you choose to write within, your ability to catch opportunity and see trends (or fall into them!), and many others.

But if you are going to blog, commit yourself to writing frequently and as well as possible.

I do have to say that I have always put real life first, and that meant blogging had to take a back seat. I also spent lots of time learning things, and not always “producing”.

The lesson there? Do what is best in your own life, and don’t apologize for it or waste time regretting the trade-offs.

There are lots of gains that aren’t quantified by dollars and cents in these blogging efforts of ours.

Keep at it. Keep improving and make your mark on the world- your own way.

Where Did I Go On Periscope?

After an initial blitz of Periscope videotaping, I left it except for a few scattered attempts that didn’t last very long. Will I return? Maybe. Here is what happened; what I think of Periscope, then and now; and whether and when I will return.

First, watch this, a Periscope, WordPress, related review that I posted on Youtube:

That was one of my last major “broadcasts”.

I got a bit bored with Periscope, and found it less useful for Youtube than I’d hoped. To be fair, I haven’t done any Youtube uploads for a long time either.

Here are some quick downsides which lead to my hiatus:

Periscope

  • I just didn’t know what to do with it. Tried thinking about making a loose script, topics, times to broadcast, and making graphics for the background ( when using for Youtube). It all seemed too hard, complex, and I went on to other stuff in life.
  • This reason will arise in the Youtube video, too: I feel self-conscious about how I look on tape. The work involved in makeup, hairstyling, lighting, and clothes just is more than I can manage much of the time.
  • Lest you think that is vain of me, it also has to do with the fact that I am a low energy person and feel I should be “up” and energetic to make the best video for my audience. I think you deserve my best and when I can’t give it I stop writing, making video or broadcasting. Who wants to see someone depressed or complaining? I don’t, and I don’t want to dump that on the public. This is different than being real. Real is good, but just being blah and bummed, uh, no.
  • I get bored with Periscope. And sometimes annoyed.
  • Still on the upward trek of the learning curve makes it a lot of effort for me and I wanted to write and garden more, and get my life a little more together.

OK- that was all the downside… I am going to write an upside later, after I rework my plan for how I want to divide my time making content. I also have considered podcasting which would take a couple of my barriers out of the way. Undecided at this point.

YOUTUBE

Yes. I basically really love Youtube. I want to do more and have unedited video in the wings. Here are the reasons I haven’t put anything new on my channels:

  • Getting ready for a video: hair, makeup, energy, mood, script ( which I have avoided thus far, but feel is needed)
  • Editing and learning new software. I have some super duper things to work with but I am UNLEARN-ED. My learning curve is presently tripping me up. I hope the new year allows me to master my video making skills.
  • Garden video requires the above plus the outdoors. I had some problems with the fact that I bought things with WIRES. Why? I need wireless mics etc for outdoors.
  • And I am lazy. I am lazy with cameras. I like to think about a picture or video, but not actually go and get a camera. I like to live my life and not record it. That prevents me from making Youtube uploads.
  • I have little confidence in this medium. I feel like an idiot. Most of the time I manage to overcome this when making something to post, but it hits harder in video.

These weren’t excuses, though it might come off that way. These are the reasons I have been slow to produce new stuff. But I wanted to give something of a review/ slash explanation that I fully intend to come back strong this year. Unless I die or something like that.

Predicted dates for new content:

I will make several Youtube videos over the next couple months, for both my channels. February for sure, later this month is a maybe.

I may return before then, but I like to Periscope outdoors, and that means I won’t resume until spring unless I change my mind. If you follow me on social media channels, a real return to Periscope, with intention, will be trumpeted before I broadcast next time.

That is what is happening in the filming side of my creative endeavors… what’s new with you?