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?

Site Themes And Plugins

monet garden

What Do They Do?

Why should you care about your website theme or plugins? And I’m not just talking about WordPress, but those for any platform, including Joomla. At any point when a plugin or a new theme is called for, they all do just one thing:

They Solve A Problem

The gist of it is that when you want a type of layout, or certain functions in your website, or ease of custom features, you will (eventually)  look for a theme that will give you what you are looking for…

Some of these themes will include the plugins built-in (sliders, anyone?) More and more, these problem solvers will simply be plugins.

Do you wish to have a recipe that can be indexed and printed? There are plugins for that,

Would you like to reduce the size of your photos automatically? Plugins will accomplish that task.

Need help with the mysteries of SEO? Plugins can solve this problem.

In fact, this is why there are so very many of them available, and they are both free and premium in just about every blogging platform: they do all sorts of coding and create answers to your need for everything from an ecommerce site to adding easy ways to post to social media.

Just.About. Everything.

The difficulty is choosing the best ones to add style or function to your own blog.

Quickly, what to look for?

  • Ratings.  See what users think about the themes and plugins you are considering.
  • Updates. Plugins can have vulnerabilities, and need to be kept updated if at all possible.
  • Support. If there is good support from a community or developer, it can help trouble shoot when not working right with your site. What good is a plugin that doesn’t work or causes problems… or becomes unusable after platform updates?
  • Function. It does what you need without unnecessary bloat. Plugins, too big or too many, can slow your site.

So basically that is what your theme, with its built-in plugins and setup, and the plugins themselves will do… they are meant to solve your problems and meet your needs. Blogwise, anyway.

 

Setting Up Your Blog

For those who have already:

  • Purchased their hosting
  • Purchased and set up their domain name
  • Installed their WordPress installation

This is a checklist of sorts for setting up a blog that will work well in the longrun.

Permalinks

First, change the permalinks from the default setup.

At first the blog will have a permalink address based on numbers. It looks like this:

http://www.yourdomain.com/?p=123

The permalinks left like that will not be good for SEO, since urls are important keys in determining what the page is about.
Yoast, a well known WordPress expert who develops very useful plugins (a word about those later in the post), recommends simply using the

 /%postname%/

He also has a tool and instructions for those of us who set up their blog long ago. Change Your Permalinks Structure in WordPress. which I followed, just today, in fact.

Mine involved adding a line of code to my htaccess file (which is a little scary for non-coders like me).

So my best advice for you, if setting up your blog for the first time is to make sure your permalinks use the post name choice unless you are a news magazine of some sort.

Themes For Your Second Setup Task

Pick a theme. This could be harder than it seems, due in part to the sheer number of them, and the fact that a good theme for you is one that caters to the way you will use WordPress.

I think one way to save time is to sign up with a major theme developer. One of the best is Studiopress, with their Genesis framework. I used them in the beginning and sometime’s wish I had stayed with them, although I am also happy with my present Elegant themes choice.

Of course there are good ones that are completely free, and I tend to use the ones that ship with the new updates for the WP.

After choosing which one, follow these steps to install it.

The Old Way
  1. Download and unzip the theme.
  2. Use a ftp client (Filezilla is free) or your file manager to upload the theme files to the wp-content/themes
  3. Login to the admin section. Click on “Appearance” then click on “Themes”.
  4. Look for the name and picture of your theme. You can either preview the theme or activate it from there.
  5. Customize it if you wish by choosing the “Customize” link.

You can also search for and upload new themes directly on the Appearance/ Themes page. I prefer this way:

Now, The Recommended Way

Go to the “Appearance” tab in the admin sidebar. Choose the “Themes” tab, choose “Add New”, then,

  1. Choose a zipped theme file from your computer and upload it.
  2. Customize. That’s it!

 

If you want a template that goes the distance, use one of the fine professional ones listed here (affilate link).

Foodie Pro
Thesis Theme for WordPress

Adding Plugins

Plugins vastly expand the things your blog can do. They add function without the need to know code, and go digging around in Php pages. From free to premium, these plugins can do many things from creating an ecommerce store to sitemaps. I use many plugins, including those which serve up recipes, protect my blog, and the jetpack group.

The one caution is to not install too many or untrusted ones. They can slow down your site, unnecessarily or open vulnerabilities.

My report on the ones I use, WP Plugins.

These are the basic things you will need to setup, after which it is time to write, write, write, and join social media.

But those are topics for another time.

Can you earn income with Zazzle?

Zazzle Income For Beginners

Zazzle is set up to share profits, through royalties and referrals with their members.

Whether you can earn income is a mixed bag of answers. Many people do earn well, and it must be stated that they probably work very hard at it.

I have read many statements in the forums and elsewhere that provide insights into their process. Most devote several hours each day to making their stores successful.

It is not easy money, but it can be part of a business.

I have done better when I invested more time into improving my store with keywords, designing products, and paying attention to examples from the top trending products.

I make less now than a couple years ago, which may be due to a number of changes that the site has made. My own intention is to work on my brand, improve my techniques and designs, and make more products.

That is also the advice I give you.

It remains to be seen whether the referrals will produce any income, as of now, it doesn’t. (For me, I can’t speak for everyone). It could be that there is too much competition for the casual presentation of products.

Collections

A recent way of showcasing products is the set of collections. Curated by you, these are a way to promote either your own or fellow Zazzler’s work. To complete your profile you make a certain number of collections which are then shown on the stores you own. You can choose which stores a collection appears within.

They work very much like a Pinterest board, just on a smaller scale.

Tips For The Zazzle Entrepreneur

Zazzle Income How-To

Here are the tips I have gathered and learned through my own experience.

  • It is a numbers game- make lots and lots of designs and products for Zazzle income results.
  • Pay close attention to keywords and learning about SEO for Zazzle as well as for your blog.
  • Use your social media to gain interest in your stores and designs.
  • Investigate the idea of designing around a niche. The fact that you can have multiple (free) stores encourages and facilitates this.
  • The forums are very informative, visit there for the new products, helpful tips, and troubleshooting.
  • Set up a blog for showcasing your work. Write posts about the designs or the products. Or related topics such as baby shower parties, wedding invitation tips, birthday party themes, etc.

 


I am beginning to try to use more posts to showcase great products and designs… a type of “curation post”. I will report on whether this has any effect on referral income for me, and let you know what the practices are that result in income from Zazzle.

I tried to sign up as an affiliate for them, but that didn’t work out. The affiliate process from the site itself is what I must use.

Build Your WordPress Blog: Plugins

Beginning or advanced bloggers who are building their WordPress site rely on plugins to make their blog do what they want it to. How do you find the best ones and what are the potential problems?

Plugins Grow Powerful

It used to be that the theme brought special functions to a WordPress platform, but increasingly the power has shifted from both the core installation of the WordPress software and from the theme to an array of plugins.

Plugins are the preferred way to expand function. This pullquote is by way of a shortcode plugin.
A plugin makes it easy to add the code necessary to do something either very simple like make a list of recent posts, to something very complex like adding a community system (i.e. “Buddypress”).

The WP team has increasingly decided to make features reside in something outside the core.

Remember

Too many plugins can cause “bloat” and slow down your site. Try to limit to your “most needed and wanted”.

Almost everything needed to find the best plugins are right within the dashboard of the latest version of WordPress. Simply find the button for “Plugins”, Go to “add new”, and search. Helpful categories such as “popular” and ratings will guide you to beginning the addition of plugins which expand the power of your blog.

Problems With Plugins

Most of the problems that arise with plugins revolve around “conflicts” with other functions or plugins, and “vulnerabilities”, or ways that hackers can get into your site through the code of the plugin.

With all problems from this source it is important that the plugins be updated. If you have updates in your wordpress installation, don’t delay implementing them. WordPress platform has made that easy.

What is more difficult is when you don’t know something is vulnerable or it needs updating when bundled into a theme.

Best practices that are now advocated by developers is that plugins handle many functions and that they “stand alone” instead of being introduced on the inside of a theme.

Recently, a well known, much used photo slider had been compromised in a very dangerous way. It was inside many themes, and alerts were put out, but there are many, many sites that probably go on without correction of the problem. Read about this here.

This isn’t to strike fear into your heart, but to educate you. Be aware of what to watch out for in a WordPress installation.

Things To Watch

Watch for conflicts between plugins or with your theme. If something isn’t working turn off all and then turn on one at a time to see if that is the problem.

How To Add A WordPress Plugin To Your Blog

 

Which Choices Out Of Thousands?

There are the basics, the features, and those for specific tasks.

Akismet is one of the basics. It prevents spam.

Although I changed around a bit, I use Yarpp (Yet Another Related Post Plugin) which brings up related posts for further discovery of your posts. This is an example of a feature: something your blog will really benefit from, but not a basic concern.

The third example of plugins that I like are those which add a function or feature that I need for a specific purpose. an example of that is one for recipes, or reviews. Adding social icons, or my favorite, an editorial organizer like “WordPress Editorial Calendar”.

Specialty Purposes

For recipes I like “Easy Recipe“, although there are others that probably would work as well. If I were a food blogger, I would want to research what worked best for my needs, and possibly buy a premium version.

Book blogging also has a choice of a number of special plugins for reviews. I like “Book Review Library” by Chris Reynolds the best.

Book Review Library
New Plugin for Adsense
Adsense Publisher Plugin has worked well for me.

I’ve tried a number of Adsense ones, but they had issues, so I’m now using Google Publisher for Adsense. It sometimes has problems with my theme, but is better than other ones I used previously.

The amount of this type is huge, and the best way to find what you want is to read reviews and find the recommendations of the users who test them. I like reading WPTavern blog for ideas about new ones.

 

Plugin
Feature
Price
YARPP
adds a group of related posts to keep readers interested in your content
free
Yoasts SEO
Powerful functions to help your SEO
free
BruteProtect
Secures against security attack
free

Dealing With HTML And CSS

I know how to use these, but many don’t. But despite the fact that I can customize my site and add tables to pages does not mean I want to have the headache of doing all the work ( espeically when it comes to building tables.

Never mind, Beginner and Expert alike! There are plugins that prove very handy for these chores.

TABLES

WordPress posts benefit form visual aids like tables. They are an easy way to organize information. The trouble is that a complex table can be hard to get set up. “Tablepress” is the plugin I use, it is an improvement on an older plugin that I have used on my garden site , and it works like a dream.

Tablepress

HTML ELEMENTS

Shortcode is the name for easy additions of blocks of code that do specific things. It used to be mainly built into themes, but now you can have numerous plugins that create boxes, insert Facebook like buttons, make image sliders- all sorts of things.

There is no single plugin that does this, but I like Elegant Themes shortcode plugin, not the least because I use their themes.

My Experience

I’ve had some trouble with plugins over the years. Some cause conflicted- even breaking my theme. If you have trouble with your theme or even your whole site breaks after updates, go through your plugins to see if that is the culprit.

METHOD:

Turn off (deactivate) all the plugins. Turn each one back on,, individually and check to see if one was causing the problem. Unfortunately, you will probably have to delete that one until the developer fixes it.

Many developers provide support and answer questions or run a forum where problems acan be addressed and fixed.

SOMETIMES IT WORKS UNTIL IT DOESN’T

If it worked and then suddenly doesn’t do what it used to, it maybe that you will have to find a similar plugin to do that feature. Authors don’t always keep them updated.

Or sometimes you find the occasional one that does something (secretly) that you don’t like, monetizers that take some of your income without your permission. Though usually it is through defaults you were not aware that you needed to change. This happens less with the newer plugins, which tend to cost something upfront.

Be aware is all I can say about that.

Can You Make Money On Hubpages?

My Hubpages Review 2015

The answer to that question is increasingly “no”, but until very recently it had been a “yes”, and I think it might resume the affirmative.  Right now it depends on how the transition is made as Hubpages continues to try to please Google.

For those unaware of what Hubpages is, here is a short summary:

It is a community of online writers using a module based writing platform.

The income of ads and Amazon products are shared between the writer and Hubpages.

A Bit Of Background On Squidoo Turning Into Hubpages

If you have read some of my reports in the past you know that I started out on Squidoo, which was a writing platform with some similarities. While writing there I did quite well, getting some rewards and earning enough income to help support some of my other web writing – selfhosting and domains for my blogs (including this one).

Squidoo was bought out by Hubpages and merged, after which all the articles (christened “lenses”) became “hubs”.

Squidoo struggled with the same issues that are a trouble to Hubpages, now: penalties from Google for poor content, spamminess, and just because they consider them to be “content farms”.

Hubs Get Hit

The fact that Hubpages pay compensation means they have tended to draw some very questionable authors along with the worthwhile, talented, and honest ones. After Google Panda slapdowns (where the traffic was severely impacted), the struggle was on to try to eradicate the source of the problem. This included little to no links to one’s own blogs, or affiliates, and much fewer Amazon modules.

This has resulted in dropping income for many writers on the site (which explains my initial “no”, it is very difficult now to make any money on the site).

Compensation is still paid, but it is much more difficult and greatly reduced at this time (in my own experience).

What Has Changed In Earning Income?

For the things that created income, the ad income is less, the Amazon modules are restricted and discouraged. Also, an arbitrary system of relegating articles to “unfeatured status”, wherein HP tells search engines not to index the hubs, results in  less visitors for that “hub”. Ebay has not figured into my own earnings, or much for most others from what I have read.

One thing that has changed is the clarity by which a person may judge whether their writing is meeting standards on the site. Unfeatured for quality can mean almost anything for having outgoing links, to too many, to unrelated Amazon products, etc. It could also have to do with the writing… it is a mixed bag and changes often.

A portion of my dashboard
Are We Having Fun Yet?

Yes, sometimes. However it is a lot of work keeping up with many changes, and the compensation is steadily dropping. What tends to work?

  • Having a large number of articles still seems to matter. Part of the reason my income dropped is that I took a number of my articles down when they seemed unresponsive to improvements (I couldn’t get them out of unfeatured no matter what I tried).
  • Writing long articles of 700+ words.
  • Writing along a very tight topic focus (unlike Squidoo which seemed to reward ranging widely across the topic and covering everything).
  • Having few or no outgoing links, restricting them to one per  text module.
  • Having very few Amazon products and keeping them to those mentioned in the article.
  • A number of strong pictures/photos, but not too many.

 

Another change is the scoring of articles based more on visitor interaction, and less on raw traffic.

A robot editor now corrects grammar and spelling.

Start Doing This

If earning some revenue from your writing online is a goal, try some of these suggestions.

  • Build up your own sites if you wish to try your hand at making an income writing.
  • Diversify among different streams of income: sites like Hubpages, your own blogs, social media, Amazon, Zazzle.
  • Find your niche
  • Work hard
  • Network

For now, that is my report on the everchanging landscape of creating a business and income online.

So many writers are complaining in the Hubpages forums and many are leaving or threatening to do so. I take that to mean that there is a sitewide drop in income. Mine is about a third of what it was last year, but I don’t know if that is the common experience or not.

The benefits remain for those who simply wish to have experience writing and possibly getting feedback on their efforts. The community there is also a way to keep a touch on the pulse of the web as it impacts this type of writing (mostly informational articles).

This is simply information given to the reader to help you decide for yourself if you think joining and writing for Hubpages is a promising endeavor for your efforts.

Better Late Than Never – Redirecting Old Blog To New

I had an old blog (from 2003) that had lots of good rep and some google rank just on the fact that it was OLD. I waited for years to move it from Blogger to WordPress on the basis that I really didn’t want to lose the ranking that it still held onto.

Well, due to the fact that I am a total amateur, I went through some very damaging steps because I simply didn’t know what to do. First I used a v-e-r-y slow meta-refresh to transfer people from the old Ilona’s Garden Journal to the new Home Garden Companion site.

Not a good idea. Besides being slow, it is seen as a malicious script.

I tried turning all 1000+ posts into drafts and taking the blog private. I felt like that was shooting myself in the foot!

So, finally I got serious, looked up how to make a proper 301 redirect and bit the bullet.

For those of you who don’t want to do all the really messy, bad stuff that I did…here is the really useful, clear page of instructions complete with the code you will need to make these happen.

How To Switch Using 301 Redirects

~From WP Beginner, great info for anyone trying to work on a wp blog.

The redirects appear to work well. I don’t know if I will recover the Google ranking after all my shenanigans, but it was Bing Webmaster tools and Google info that helped me realize the importance of creating proper redirects when moving a site.

Be sure to use Bing and Google webmaster tools (both of them). They are free, don’t take much of your time, and prove extremely useful when you need to know insights about your blogs.

Hope this helps someone else trying to move their large site from Blogger to WordPress.

This is the step, AFTER migrating the posts over to the new blog.

I found that step to be pretty easy because I used the included import plugin in the WordPress installation. It worked extremely well and I only had to upload some missing pictures. Which was relatively easy.

 

Online Income, The One Rule

There is only one rule and this post will outline how that rule worked for me as I’ve been working to turn my blogging hobby into an income.

The only rule about online income:

It constantly changes.

Yes, that is it. Simple, isn’t it? And yet, that is what can make it incredibly challenging.

There may have been a time when millionaires were made overnight, but if they are still looking for their online business to provide income revenues they are working hard and still hustling.

In that sense, it is the same story as with any business. Success depends on hard work, and wild success is engined by people who love the process.

…Like gazillionaire Les Wexnerexample of someone who loved the process, who built his Limited empire less for the money and more for his drive to make his business grow and succeed ( I heard him on an interview given to a PBS show).

That seems to be the factor that almost all wildly successful business people have: they are driven to compete, most of all with themselves.

You may disagree with me… if you think it is something else I would love to read your opinion in the comments.

But Back To My Story

This is about how to make money, but mostly about not worrying if you don’t (yet)
source: Ilona Erwin
source: Ilona Erwin

Right. I was going to sum up my online pathway in generating income and how that looks:

  • At first I wrote entirely as a free service to others. I benefitted the “free” hosting, and in return I didn’t have to pay money for hosting. We weren’t allowed to have competing ads on our sites.
  • Then I discovered AmazonTheir rules have changed since my early days. You will need to make a sale or two to stay in the program. For years I made $0.00 -and was doubtful that anyone could make enough to qualify for the minimum for a payout.
  • Soon after I was able to sign up for Google Adsense. That also made me nothing, and with a higher qualifying payout. At least it kept whatever pennies were earned in an accumulating amount. Eventually, years later I did get that first payment.

Alrighty- the story here is that there is a learning curve to understanding what it means to monetize blogging.

Initially I was handicapped by the idea that it was crass to have ads on a blog. Yet, my html website was given ads that weren’t even my own while at Geocities. My idea translated into:

“I can’t make money with integrity on my own writing, but it is okay for others to reap income from all my hard work”

It was hard work I most willingly gave because I loved having readers enjoy and benefit from what I was offering. I wanted them to see beauty, to be inspired, to learn from me.

I can’t emphasize enough what hard work it was. But it was fun, stimulating, and gave me creative outlet. I also cannot emphasize enough how much I needed that as a stay at home wife with ten kids.

But I was using my life to give the blogs so much time and effort, and at the same time my husband and I were struggling financially.

I needed to improve the blog, and I needed for it to pay for itself. It wasn’t until much much later that I felt it should become a business (or even had the idea that it could)

Keys To Adsense and Amazon

The keys are placement and traffic.

key
source: tawheed manzoor on flickr

Now more than ever, there must be enough eyeballs visiting a page to create income from these two sources. That is traffic.

For you this means that you should not give up if you don’t see results. Keep writing. Keep building your blog

Along with those two keys, which are particularly important for Amazon affiliates, is that you must have enough places where products are included included within the posts and pages of the blog. One on the front page or a few in the sidebar won’t do it, for most of us.

That was always so hard for me because I am primarily a writer. Photos were a challenge, graphics were a challenge, and now including relevant items from Amazon? Yes, it seemed to be one more hurdle to writing a good post.

For years I didn’t even try. And I made so little income I privately thought it might be a scam. But it wasn’t, I just didn’t know how it worked.

So for Adsense there are two main things- having plenty of traffic to the blog and lots of content.

For Amazon, take the time to include links to the products you are advocating anyway. I always like the magazine resource pages that told me where I could get featured items, and that is what Amazon links on a blog can do.

I usually qualify for the minimum payout for Amazon now.

That isn’t something to boast about exactly… it is small potatoes, but at least it is potatoes on the plate.

Amazon Learning Center

lensThat is what I would call my time on Squidoo. Before I participated in that writing community (which is what it was for me), I had no idea how to include products within my writing. Not really incorporate them, or write income producing pages. I just wrote.

Squidoo (It is no more, it was sold and closed) had so many tutorials and tips from many writers. It had traffic. And it shared income.

Google Adsense is very up and down for me. My sites were google slappeddrops in search engine placement due to changes in how google gives results, like their Panda update so many times, that if I depended on that to pay the hosting bills, this story would be over.

Squidoo articles added up in small increments. The more I wrote the more I was making, sometimes it would surprise me which topics and pages could give me support.

Eventually, it paid the way for my other sites, including my garden site, Ilona’s Garden. I was able to buy Premium themes, which was necessary as WordPress had become more and more complex, and my sites were hacked. (Hacking meant I had to keep everything updated, and have reliably secure themes).

There is so much more to these stories that can only hinted at here … but it shows that income switched from Google ads to Squidoo ad-sharing community.

And a side effect of those pages was that my own Amazon affiliate earnings were finally increasing. They sent me traffic, due to their liberal policies on linking and adding your own affiliate products.

Squidoo became Hubpages, and for me, the adjustment is only in format. The income levels are about on par. I have no idea how long that will last.

But that could change at any time.

And that is the point of my story, online success depends on making the changes, and keeping abreast of what works and what doesn’t.

Secondly, but Importantly

Always, for me, everything is servant to the writing. I am one of those people who likes to craft, who wants to provide my readers with something worthwhile. Something that means something to me.

Making money from this is always secondary and I have had issues and difficulties because of that.

Other Things I Won’t Compromise

  • My family comes before the blog
  • I write from my inner muse, not in response to whether it makes money
  • I must be honest as possible.

Sure I make mistakes and sometimes deviate from the path, but those are my guiding principles in what I do, to create the blogs and to build income.

More Changes That Challenge

Blogging today is so different than when I started, although I saw many of these things coming.

What I didn’t foresee is how important the visuals would become. And how it would be a more proprietary environment.

We now need to have our own professional photos. Our own professional looking graphics. Participation on many social platforms ( which means lots of writing that never finds its way to the blog.

This makes a difference in income. Presently I have plough more than I make back into this blogging adventure.

Your Takeaways From My Experience

To sum up

  • Have diverse sources of income for your blogging/writing
  • SEO and traffic building are important
  • Each manner of generating income has its own rules and learning curve. They change.
  • Implicit, but previously unsaid, is the fact that you should concentrate on growing your own blogs and creating your own products.
  • Don’t give up too soon. The one thing it all takes is patience, work, and time. If it changes, change with it.

And it ought to be fun. You ought to enjoy creating and giving, or it just isn’t worthwhile.

Evernote Helps Organize

I’ve been organizing my life. It is a twofold process, one with decluttering and getting rid of distractions; and two, organizing resources to best access what I need to keep and use.

In my online/computer work, Evernote is proving invaluable.

I started using it ever so slowly, but now that I realize how important it is to seamlessly go from the iPhone to desktop to iPad and back, this is proving such a mind and time saver!

I am using it for blogging ideas, random notes, saved links, and clips of information. I also created a file to keep track of my blog business expenses, which are piling up as I buy hosting, domain names, graphic files, premium themes, premium access to Picmonkey and apps like that.

Evernote organizes me. I am always losing paper scraps and making notes in whatever notebook was at hand was a losing proposition! This way I put everything in one place and can find it by just logging in, or through the program on my computer. It is super easy.

Some useful ways to people use this program/app:

  1. Cooks use it for recipes, making their shopping lists, and clipping directly from a cooking webpage.
  2. Homeschoolers could gather unit study materials, teaching tips, fieldtrip ideas, lists of curriculum or materials, science experiment info, just about anything! List of addresses and phone numbers, useful videos, urls of best resources, special graphics… I wish I had this in the years I was schooling my kids. I would have made a separate notebook for each subject, and one for each child. Keeping track of goals I had set would be smooth sailing with the many ways to search and access notes.
  3. Bloggers and writers can have a field day collecting and recalling all the places they find their research. The spurts of inspiration jotted down, the bits of finely tuned prose that swirls in our heads ; all now have a safe place where we can find them .

 

What are the features?

  • I use it on my PC, my iPad, iPhone, and Mac Laptop. I understand it can be used also on the Blackberry and other devices.
  • Most used? Type a note, clip from webpages (or the whole thing), screenshots, photos… lots of ways to gather info and data.
  • Everything can be searched. That is a huge help when you have collated lots of things that you want to use for a topic, especially over time.
  • Making a swipe file for things you need often: blog descriptions, social urls, etc. and it become so easy to find, on any of your devices that has the app.

Need more ideas?

 

workchat

Almost forgot! a new feature lately is the Workchat. You can share with team members or whoever you wish, the notes and the what you are working on. Cool. You just click the button and a window pops up for collaboration.

And that graphic? I made it with Skitch which can be synced to share directly into your Evernote file.

Making Graphics The Simple Way

Since making my own graphics became really important to blogging, I used to spend large blocks of time with photoshop or paint shop pro trying to get something that looked professional.

I didn’t always succeed.

Today there are so many fabulous apps for turning your photos and graphics into something spectacular in almost no time at all.

Picmonkey Graphics

The one I have been using lately is PicMonkey and I upgraded to their premium “Royale” membership, although it is very economical and gives good results to use their site for free, too. Especially good if you want to test it out before investing your money.

I signed up for $33.00 a year, which I think is a great value. They have so many elements, fonts, and papers that it saves loads of time look or trying to make them for your pictures.
PicMonkey Photo editing made of win
I have only made a few so far, but I think the Picmonkey graphics are really an asset to my pages. View one here, my Urban Gardening page. It is grungy, and has a cool font for the text that is one of many in the editing program. The overlay makes it look like those vintage, upscale photo effects that professional photographers sometimes use.

 

All graphics editors have a learning curve, but this program makes it fun and easy, and there are plenty of tutorial on their blog and from users on youtube.

While I’ve used other programs, this one is something I will be spending time mastering so I can quickly create updated feature photos for my blog (one of the things that most needs improvement on my garden blog. Blurry enlarged pictures just won’t do!

That reminds me of another feature I like in the Picmonkey program: the three easy sizing options. I used the smallest file size, resolution option for my web use. Next I plant to try out bigger files saved for printing purposes and see how that works. That means I can make a printable or my own Christmas cards. ( Without having to open a whole new program).

 

That is the latest and greatest from my experimentations… view the video to see how easy this is to use.

 

 

 

 

How To Use Picmonkey

Try it out and come back to tell me how you have been making graphics, or if this is your first effort.

Was it easy for you? did you get the result you were hoping for? How do you use this program… to make a card? for twitter or facebook? On your own blog? Let me know.

OOOO, I Love The New Twenty Fifteen Theme!

I decided to change this blog to the new Twelve Fifteen Theme that came out with the WordPress update. It is big and clear and very user friendly.

I like everything about it so far, and it was so cool to have that social sharing menu. The links are added and the icons automatically appear on the navigation menu. So convenient!

The large size font is very readable and obviously this theme has been made to give mobile viewers pride of place. Those are features for now, and I am thrilled with the way it looks and works.

I have paid for themes to use on my site, but I love this one so well, I will look to use it elsewhere, maybe in the Advent Blog. No changes while the main Christmas season advances, but look for this to happen in 2015.

WordPress Just Gets Better

The whole platform of WordPress just gets better and better in my opinion. It becomes ever easier to use and less buggy. Features are geared towards how I actually use it, and the writing part of blogging is facilitated.

That last asset is the one that is impacting me the most. It isn’t just the core, but the whole WP community. Discovering new plugins that are gamechangers and expecting the whole package to really create more writing time. The recipe plugins I’ve been looking at, a premium plugin for adding Amazon products, reading lists, review plugins… they all combine to make my writing easier by formatting things to automatically serve the content to my readers , in ways they can find and use it.

And that is what it is all about. I think as I use them, I will be reviewing the plugins on my Hubpages and on this site.

While I wouldn’t qualify as a fangirl, and I am always trying to find whatever is best for the job, WP has become increasingly what I like to use and gives me the best results in my blogs. This new update for 2015 has caused it to leap forward, IMO.

Deciding On A Theme

updates:

While this “WebHelp” blog has stayed with the Twelve Fifteen Theme, I switched the main site, Ilona’s Reflecting Pool to the Divi theme that I use on my Gardening site.

To help with design I use the plugins that expand the editing choices :

  • Styles by Paul Clark …and
  • Styles: TwentyFifteen by Dimitris33

I also use this on my “Old House blog“, which will most likely stick with that look even after reviving the writing on it (it is on hiatus). so for a number of years I have liked this particular theme.

Do you like the way this blog looks, now? Is it too vanilla, or do you like the minimalistic, clean design?

Assorted Tips To Help You Blog

  • People love  “how-to” posts, illustrated with photos; they love lists “10 Ways To…” and reviews.
  • Make your titles interesting, clearly related to the post topic.
  • Fill in the “alt” tags on images with descriptive keyword that identifies the subject.
  • Link to your own content within your posts.
  • Create a Newsletter and publish it with interesting things to reward your loyal fans.
  • Add at least one picture to each standard post (this is an “aside” post type).

Continue reading “Assorted Tips To Help You Blog”

Blogging: Tend Your Vineyard

Blogging Tips

I’ve been blogging for more than a decade. That seems hard to believe, but it is true. During that time I’ve cycled through a number of trends and “pro” advice, and one thing about internet writing that is ALWAYS true is that it will constantly change.

So how do we find “evergreenContent that keeps having value over time” advice?

Quality

Like any business certain things don’t change very much and one of those is quality. Quality lasts, and that is true of writing and photos.

This is a variation on the oft-repeated “Content is King”.  Besure you putting up content, because the online reader is voracious. I used to joke that that blog always wanted to be fed more content, “Feed me!”, but it isn’t a joke, so pace yourself. And post the best, constantly improving, content. that you can.

Consistency

This was my hardest lesson; and the most important.

You must develop consistency as a blogger.

It doesn’t have to be every day, or even week, but it must be regular and something your readers can count on.

Since it was always my biggest challenge in life to be regular about anything… I have suffered most in building my blog from shortcomings in this department. So here are some motivators for you:

  • Being a consistent writer will improve your writing.
  • It will help build your loyal “tribe” of fans.
  • It will keep the search engines happy with your blog, if you continually add content that is original and of good quality.
  • It will help you to develop good business work habits.

Writing with consistency helps you develop a rhythm that also creates something of a flow and is a generator of inspiration.

 

Pick Up The Pace

Aim for two posts a week if you can. I have several different blogs, and some of them only recently have congealed into their topic focus. They started as experiments or I had some loose idea of what I wanted to write, but now they are gelling into a true fix on subject and intent.

Now that I know what I want to focus writing about, I am posting. Choosing a subject that is large enough, but that I’m interested in, has helped to give me motivation to write.

Take this blog for example, it began as a revival of one single page that I had originally developed long ago in my first website. I remembered how I needed to compile my most helpful tips and links in making my website at that time. All the things that I was learning, although I was a newbie, could be helpful for other newbies!

Now that blogging has changed so much and the learning curve is steeper before we see results, I know these articles will serve a need.

Writing more often has become one of my main goals for these newly minted blogs.

Tend Your Own Vineyard

I spent a lot of time writing on free sites, most recently writing for Squidoo, and now Hubpages.

There were several reasons for this:

  • Squidoo ( now defunct) was promoted as a way to increase links to my website.
  • It was fun with an active community of new acquaintances. It taught me a great deal about marketing.
  • It earned me money.
  • Hubpages continues in the vein of earning money online, but all sources nowadays are diminishing.

Tending ones own vineyard is advice from the Bible. It means taking care of what you own and can harvest from. Everyone wants you to jump onto their wagon and work in their field of dreams. We do that for the kinds of reasons that I listed, but we ought to, first, grow and maintain our own blog.

Write for your own domain and sites, first. Be very judicious about the time you invest in others blogs and sites.

Why?

  • They own it, run it, and make decisions about it without you. Your interests come very low on the totem pole.
  • They can change it, close it ( witness Squidoo, and Geocities before that) and there is little you can do, but be ready to change gears.
  • You may lose work.
  • You will keep increasing your time and effort investment.

And those are not even all the possible “cons” in the equation.

So while I like to keep my hand in writing for such places, and they do pay me (which is often reinvested in these self-hosted blogs), my best advice is to mainly work on your own blog. Build it, improve it, keep consistently adding articles and creating a masterpiece of work.

 

In Sum

You know the drill by now:

Write.

Produce quality and keep adding to quantity.

Be a consistent writer and post regular articles.

Add to this (very important today):

Participation and growth of your social media.

You don’t have to be in everything, but you should be growing a presence in the communities that bring value to your blogs. Google Plus 1, Twitter, Facebook Pages, Pinterest (this one is huge for me), Instagram, and many others including their byways that help to collate the many social media avenues (Rebelmouse is one).

Write for yourself, your own domain and sites, first, and in a regular way.

Go ahead and participate as a content writer elsewhere, but remember your priorities.

Tend Your Vineyard