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Essential Books for Bloggers – Version II

As submission to this week’s Writing Project I’ve just updated a list that I first posted a few days ago – my Essential Books for Bloggers list.

The list is now categorized and has the additional books that readers have submitted. There are a total of 65 books in the list. I’ve not read them all but respect those that suggested them and have just ordered a few of the newer ones to me.

I hope you find the list of books for bloggers helpful.

Lists – Group Writing Project

200608141910-1Update: Submissions are now closed on this project. See the full list of submissions here.

It’s time for another ProBlogger Group Writing Project – and this time we’ve got prizes worth around $1250 USD (see below for details)!

The Topic

This week’s topic is ‘LISTS’ – something regular readers will know that I’m rather fond of.

Your task is to write a ‘list post’ (new posts please, not previously posted ones if possible) – or a post that is largely some type of list. It might be a ‘top ten’ type list, a ‘how to’ type list, a ‘my favorite…’ type list – whatever you like. I’ve chosen this topic because it’s adaptable to most topics (I’m looking forward to seeing the variety of types of lists that are submitted).

Once you’ve written your list simply follow the process for participating that I’ve outlined below.

The Prizes

This week’s group writing project is proudly sponsored by the following companies and individuals. Five random participants (it’s not a competition) in this week’s project will receive one of the following gifts (‘listed’ here in no particular order):

  • Earners Forum have kindly donated a new Dell PC and LCD monitor – to the value of $500. Earners Forum is a great place for discussions around all kinds of topics of earning money online. Thanks to Lee Dodd for this donation.
  • URLTrends have kindly donated a Premium upgraded account worth $90 that will help them track their search engine ranking over time. Thanks to Joel Strellner for this donation.
  • The Gold Pages Directory has donated $500 in digital cash that can be spent on products and services or withdrawn to a prepaid ATM card and used as cash. The Gold Pages Directory is the largest online currency/digital gold directory on the web and is now three years old. Thanks to Mark Herpel for this donation.
  • The Umdum.com Web Directory have donated a Sinic Eye and Brain Massager (just what every ProBlogger needs). They’ve also kindly offered every participant in this week’s group writing project a free listing in their directory. Thanks to Loren Baker for this donation.
  • Blake Schwendiman has donated a $100 gift voucher from Amazon to be used in any way that they see fit. Thanks Blake!

Thanks also to those others who offered to sponsor this week. Hopefully if this week goes well we’ll be able to do this again.

How To Participate

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New Blog – LifeDev

Today I came across a new blog (new to me) that caught my attention – LifeDev. I thought I’d share a few of their latest posts which got my attention and could be helpful for bloggers:

All in all – useful posts, nice design, intriguing titles and a blog to add to the RSS feed.

Windows Live Writer – Have your Say

Microsoft has just announced Windows Live Writer today (downloadable from here if you’re a PC user).

I’m a Mac guy so it’s not something I can give you any recommendations on but it’s a blogging tool (in a similar class to other desktop blog editors) with most of the features that I’ve seen in other editor including WYSIWYG authoring, photo publishing, map publishing etc. It’s compatible with most main blogging platforms. Keep in mind it’s still in beta.

I’m hearing from a number of people that it’s quite good but until they cater for Mac users I’ll have to take others word for it.

If you’ve tried it – I’d love you to give us a mini review in comments below.

Read more about Live Writer at:

  • Liveside – a podcast interview with J.J. Alaire about Live Writer
  • Techcrunch – announcement post with a few first impression reviews from commenters
  • GigaOm – Om’s a fan
  • Rick Segal – first impressions
  • Paul Kedrosky – calls it eye candy
  • Mark Evans - first impressions are positive and says Qumana should be concerned
  • Duncan Riley – at it’s beta stage it’s not going to kill other blog editors but it does have potential.
  • Elliot Back - says it works and looks pretty good (although has ‘lots of strange bugs, some editor weirdness, no copy paste, unpolished interface etc and each blog post opens in a new window).
  • Dave Winer – thinks its great that Microsoft is making it – but points out it’s taken a long time.

Chitika Shoplinc Review

Shoplinc
Chitika have just gone public with a new feature – Shoplincs – a CPC (cost per click) branded shop that you can host on your own domain and attatch to your blog/site.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of a small (very small from what I can tell) beta test of ShopLinc and now that it’s public can tell you a little about it.

In effect what ShopLinc gives you is a shop for your blog where you are paid on a CPC basis (the same as eMiniMalls). Take a tour of shoplinc here.

The shop I’ve been testing is a Digital Camera Shop attached to my digital camera blog. You’ll see when going to it that it is customizable so as to integrate it to the rest of your blog (I’ve not done a brilliant job of this yet due to lack of time) and that you can have it on your own domain to further integrate it.

The four products featured on the front page of a shoplinc blog (in a multi-product eMiniMall and as separate products) are directly tied to the products you are writing about on your blog as they are driven via your RSS feed. This is a new approach that I’ve not seen anyone else doing to this point and ensures that people heading over to your shoplinc shop are seeing products that relate directly to the content you’re writing about (of course this assumes that your RSS feed is product specific).

Also on the front page of your shop are the last three recent posts from your RSS feed as well as a categories section that has links into other sections of the shoplinc. Categories include gadgets like Camcorders, Cell phones, digital cameras, MP3 Players and Printers but also include other products including Health and Beauty, Home and Garden and Clothing and Accessories).

Topping and tailing the central ‘shop section’ are customizable areas (a header and footer) in which you can put anything you like including banners back to your blog (as I currently have), other advertising (you can run chitika eMiniMalls here, AdSense ads etc) or you can leave them blank.

There is also a ‘search’ tool that lets visitors to your shoplinc search for products (from my initial analysis this seems to be being used quite a bit).

When visitors click on a product they are taken to a product page (here’s one for the new Sony Alpha A100 DSLR) which contains a number of elements. Firstly there is an eMiniMall unit, under that are a number of offers from different dealers offering the camera (a click on these is what earns you money) and to the left of this shopping area is a section for ‘research’ – firstly any related items on the product from your own blog (driving traffic back to your blog) and secondly any other research from other parts of the web.

To this point Shoplincs are not available to everyone – but there is talk on their blog of them opening up applications wider.

First Impressions

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Essential Books for Bloggers

The following post is a list of books that would be helpful for bloggers – particularly those wishing to make a business from their blogging activities. It has been compiled both from my own suggestions as well as those of a number of other bloggers (see the bottom of the list for those who helped).

When I called for suggestions for books I said that they don’t have to be blogging specific (although they can be) but rather they should be books that help bloggers to improve any aspect of their blogging. As a result the topics in the list are quite wide and cover a range of topics including marketing, creative thinking, web development, other business topics as well as a few blog specific books. I’ve tried to put them in some sort of categories – however I don’t know all of them so please forgive me if my categories are not quite right. All books are linked to Amazon with affiliate links

Blogging

Copy Writing

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AdSense Explain A/B Testing

The Official AdSense blog has posted a short tutorial on how to implement an A/B Test with your AdSense ads.

An A/B test sets up two different types of AdSense ads that rotate on your page in different configurations so that you can test which one works best for your site.

For example you could set it to track how two different color schemes perform in the one ad position or how different sized ad units do.

The first thing to do when setting up such a test is to set up two channels to track your results. Then use the javascript code below to rotate the ads.

Here’s the javascript code that they suggest you can use to run an A/B Test with your AdSense:

<script type=”text/javascript”>
var random_number = Math.random();
if (random_number < .5){
//your first ad unit code goes here
} else {
//your second ad unit code goes here
}
</script>
<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js”></script>

Replace “//your first ad unit goes here” with your ad code inside the first set of <script></script> tags.

It’s an experiment that is well worthwhile and it’s nice to see AdSense are making it possible. I’m sure however that there would be a more automated way to do it. For example they do allow publishers to rotate up to four color schemes in their ads at present – it’d be great if we could assign a different channel code to each color scheme to track it – in effect this could be a similar test.

Get a Real Blog – Instructional Videos Review

Get-A-Real-Blog-VideosI get a lot of emails from PreBloggers and NewBloggers who want to set up a WordPress Blog on their own domain and hosting but don’t know how to do it. It’s a common question and one I’ve been looking for resources on to point people to.

Over the last few days I’ve been watching a series of blogs by Jon Symons called RealBlogVideos (aff) that he’s put together to help new WordPress.org users set up their blogs – I suspect quite a few readers will find them useful (note: not everyone will – so read on and I’ll tell you who they’re for and who they are not for).

Jon makes his living from blogging on blogs like Art of Money and is a regular here at ProBlogger.

The videos cost $15 (US) to buy but for that you get 5 main videos and 3 bonus ones (a total of 162 minutes of instruction).

The main videos are on :

  • Find Keywords for Your Topic & Domain Name Research
  • Register a Domain Name
  • Sign up for and Configure a Hosting Account
  • Install a WordPress Blog, Add a Theme and Do the First Post
  • Configure Your Blog for Security & Do a Backup

Bonus Videos

  • Blogging Copy & Paste Tip
  • How To Install WordPress Manually
  • How To Install WordPress On Dreamhost

What are the videos like?

You can see from Jon’s sales page a sample of one of the videos that will give you an idea of what you’ll be buying. Here’s a few comments:

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Challenges Facing Young and Older Blogs

It struck me today as I sifted through a variety of questions from readers that the age of a blog brings with it a different set of challenges to their bloggers.

Bloggers with young blogs tends to ask one set of questions and bloggers with older blogs have their own set of ‘issues’ that they are tackling.

So what are the challenges that old and young blogs face? Here’s a few that come to mind – feel free to add your own in comments:

Challenges facing Younger Blogs

  • Lack of Readers – one of the main reasons why so many new blogs fail is that no one seems to be reading. Developing a loyal readership and establishing a search engine presence takes a longer amount of time than many bloggers are willing to wait.
  • Establishing a Reputation - some blogging niches can be quite snobbish and hard to break into. Becoming a respected and valued part of a niche (and getting linked to by others) can take time as you prove your worth.
  • Time Management – many bloggers underestimate how much time and energy getting a new blog up off the ground can take.
  • Defining a Topic or Niche – it can take months to get a feel for a niche and to find your place within it.
  • Finding Post Ideas - after a few weeks (or months) of blogging many bloggers hit a brick wall with how to sustain it because they run out of ideas. Building up a good list of sources for stories and a way of creating fresh stories can take time.
  • Blog Addiction – many new bloggers become quite obsessed with blogging and struggle with it becoming a little addicting (to the point where the rest of life suffers).
  • Establishing a Posting Rhythm – finding an appropriate posting frequency and rhythm for a blog can take time as you work out you blogging style and how your readers are interacting with what you do.
  • SEO and Getting Indexed by Search Engines – there is a perception among many new bloggers that all you have to do is write a post and you’ll be picked up and ranked highly in Google and other search engines. The reality is that it can take months and can be a very frustrating process.

Challenges facing Older Blogs

  • Managing Large Archives – the challenge of helping people to find the Gold in your Archives is one that becomes more difficult as your archives become bigger.
  • Staying Motivated - blogging daily about a topic for a long period of time can be hard to maintain.
  • Battling Bloggers Block – a challenge for young and old blogs but especially hard after longer periods of time.
  • Finding Fresh Post topics to Blog About - getting over the fact that you’ve written about an aspect of your niche before can be difficult however it’s something you’ll have to do in most niches.
  • Managing Trolls and Disillusioned Readers – the longer you blog the more chance there will be that you’ve peeved someone off. This will result in more trolls in your comments, increasing amounts of other bloggers having a go at you etc.
  • Comment Management - comment moderation, spam, interacting with readers – all this takes time and the older your blog is the more posts you’ve got to manage.
  • Dealing with Copycat Blogs – ranging from competitors through to plagiarists – it can be quite tiring to deal with.
  • Setting Priorities – some bloggers find that the longer they blog in a niche, the more opportunities open up for them to do other things. Offers might come in for taking on other projects and partnerships, new ideas for extensions to blogs might emerge etc. Discerning which opportunities to take and which to leave can be a real challenge and the whole process can be quite distracting.
  • Disillusionment with a Niche - I’ve noticed a number of longer term bloggers in different niches becoming quite disillusioned with the niche itself. Perhaps it’s partly blogger burnout (I know I get cranky just before a holiday) or perhaps its an inability to adapt with the changes happening in a niche as it develops.