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How to turn a normal WordPress installation into a working online shop

Ever thought of adding a shop to your blog? I know some of you have as you’ve asked me how to do it. There are a few options emerging for bloggers. We’ve seen Chitika launch Shoplinc and Amazon launch aStores – but both don’t really give you a heap of control over how your shop runs and looks.

Another option that does give you more control is to make your own store. There are lots of ways to do this. I’m not expert enough to really outline them all (if there is anyone who is that would like to do a guest post on the options please let me know) however I came across a post today that could be useful for some looking at these options.

It appealed to me because it uses a tool that many of us know and love – WordPress.

Serial Deviant is the one who wrote the post and you can read it at How to turn a normal WordPress installation into a working online shop.

It does assume some knowledge of HTML and CMS but as many of you are more than proficient with them I though I’d share it. Give it a go and let us know what your results are like!

found via Andy

Blogging for Chickens Ends – 110 Pairs of Chickens Donated

images.jpegJust a short note to let people know that the Blogging for Chickens project is officially over.

Thanks to all who have made donations. The total raised was $1100 (AU) (around $830US) – that is 110 pairs of chickens going to families living in poverty.

Having travelled through and lived for short periods of time in a number of slums in SE Asian countries I know what an impact even a small donation like this can have upon the life of a family – thank you all for your generosity.

In the next day or two (once a couple of paypal e-checks have cleared) I’ll make a payment to Oxfam on behalf of those who took the option to donate via my paypal (most of those who participated took this option).

How to Be Curious

This post builds on yesterday’s post on the Curious Blogger.

Is curiosity a personality trait or can it be learned?

I suspect that personality type does come into being curious. Some people seem to be naturally wired in a way where they’re doing the above things – however I also think that it is something that can be learned to some extent. Here are 12 starting points for becoming ‘more curious’:

1. Don’t accept Spin

Keep an eye on the ‘official word’ and press releases that you see – but don’t accept that they are the final word. Get in the habit of asking ‘what isn’t being said?’ Allow yourself to be a little critical – (but balance it with optimism).

2. Ask Questions

Curious people are always asking questions of others around them (and themselves). Be careful that you don’t do this to the point where you become known as a gossip or in a way that people feel ‘used’ – but get in the habit of asking the questions that might normally go unasked. It’s amazing what people will tell you when you do ask the question.

3. Ask ‘What if…’

One of the key questions you should get in the habit of asking is ‘what if’? Curious people don’t just ask but they come up with solutions – they dream up ways of solving problems. Many of the solutions will end up being thrown away but if you ask ‘what if’ enough times you’re bound to make progress eventually.

4. ‘Turn Questions into Quests’

An old teacher once used this phrase with me and it’s stuck in my mind ever since.asking ‘what if…’ (and other questions) is not enough. Keep a record of the questions that you ask yourself (and that your readers ask you) and revisit them from time to time to attempt to find a solution to the problems behind the questions. Taking your questions to the next level like this may not always be fruitful but at times it’ll lead you on journeys of discovery to unexpected places.

5. Dig deeper than the RSS feed

Keep in mind that you’ll not be the only person in your niche using the tools mentioned above. As a result if all you ever do is regurgitate what you find in them the result will be a blog that is very similar to what others are writing in your niche. Develop a network of contacts, make your own news, dig around other information sources and at times you’ll get lucky and find news that is unique.

6. Use available Tools

Familiarize yourself with tools that will help you gather and filter information. Tools like Technorati, news aggregators, blog pulse, Topix, Google News etc are all tools that help you keep your finger on the pulse of your niche.

7. Put disconnected ideas together

Edward De Bono has a lot of different exercises that help people develop lateral thinking skills. I’ve read a number of his books that give suggestions on putting random ideas together to find new solutions and find that using them is great and will help you come up with ideas that you’d never dreamt of previously.

8. Play

Perhaps the most curious of ‘creatures’ are children who do a lot of what we’re writing about here (especially asking questions). Another thing that children do is ‘play’. With no other agenda than having fun and seeing what happens next children will play with the things around them, experiment and push the boundaries of their environment. In doing so they learn about life, themselves and their world. I find that it’s often when I take this ‘playful’ approach to life that I’m at my most creative and make all kinds of discoveries.

9. Get Proactive

One of the main things that I notice about curious people are that they rarely sit still and are always pushing forward and taking initiative. They don’t expect stories or ideas to just come to them (although they do at times) but actively search for ideas to write about and people to connect with. They have a mindset where it almost becomes natural to ask, seek and find the things that the rest of us hope that will one day fall in our laps.

10. Network

A lot of what I covered in my last post on the characteristics of curious bloggers related to their ability to connect with others. Reach out to other bloggers in your niche (email them, comment on their blogs, help them improve their blogs etc) but also your readers (as you’ll find all kinds of interesting contacts among them).

11. Find a ‘Curiosity Buddy’

As you network – keep your eyes open for other curious people to spend time with. I have a number of other curious and creative bloggers who I naturally am drawn to that from time to time I spend a little time with to do some blue sky thinking with. I find that the ideas often flow through such collaboration.

12. Slow Down

Blogging is an immediate and at times fast paced medium. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the possibilities and feel under pressure to have to produce high quantities of content day in day out – however if you don’t stop occasionally to reflect upon and make space for the above things you’ll be unlike to actually benefit from them.

Google PageRank Frequently Asked Questions

Matt Cutts (Google Engineer) has a useful post on Google PageRank which answers some of the frequently asked questions about PR and PR updates which comes on the heals of the latest PR update.

Here are a few key comments to the questions I get asked a lot:

“PageRank is computed continuously; there are machines that take inputs to the PageRank algorithm at Google and compute the resulting PageRanks. So at any given time, a url in Google’s system has up-to-date PageRank as a result of running the computation with the inputs to the algorithm. From time-to-time, that internal PageRank value is exported so that it’s visible to Google Toolbar users.”

So – when you see your PR go up or down keep in mind that the new PR that you see is the PR that Google has been using for your site for some time already.

“By the time you see newer PageRanks in the toolbar, those values have already been incorporated in how we score/rank our search results. So while you may be happy to see that the Google Toolbar shows a little more PageRank for a given page, it’s not as if that causes a change in search results at that point. So you won’t see any search engine result page (SERP) changes as a result of this PageRank export–those changes have been gradually baking in since the last PageRank export.”

As above – Google’s been using your PR previously and so when you see a new one you shouldn’t expect any corresponding change in actual search engine rankings or traffic from Google.

This is all information we’ve talked about previously here at ProBlogger but it is worth saying again as the questions continue to get asked on these issues. It’s nice to see Matt talking about it also and confirming that there actually was a PR update (the first time I’ve seen anyone from Google confirm it as it’s happening).

Chitika Publishers Report Increases in Earnings for October

I’ve had emails from 5 different Chitika (aff) publishers this morning all asking me if Chitika have made some sort of change to their system because yesterday’s (1 October) earnings were significantly up.

Publishers are reporting 20-40% jumps in earnings for the first day of October. The increase seems to be coming from higher click values (Avg Cpc) with CTR much the same as usual.

I noticed the increase also (my increase was around a 25% jump) and thought it was just one of those freak things but as 5 others have independently contacted me I am wondering if there’s something bigger going on.

The other reason that i suspect that this is wider than just me is that my unaudited referral revenue went up by 26% on 1 October. This indicates that publishers I’ve referred to Chitika had higher earnings on that day than normal.

Ultimately time will tell whether this was just a one day glitch for some reason or whether Chitika have made some sort of change to how much they’re sharing with publishers. Lets hope it’s an ongoing increase because it’s not everyday that you get a 25% increase in earnings.

Did anyone else notice a bump in their earnings on 1 October?

I’ve sent an email to Chitika asking for more information/explanation on the bump and will report back on anything that I find.

Update: Since publishing this a number of people have contacted me hypothesising that this could be linked to Shopping.com (one of the advertisers on Chitika) increasing the amount that they are paying per click for the last quarter of the year in the lead up to the holidays (something I wasn’t aware that they did). No word from Chitika as to whether this is the case.

Also – I note that the figures for the 2 October (which just came in) were back down to a normal CPC level for me and were only up by 15% or so in my referral payments. Maybe it was just a one day thing after all. What were your first two days like? Up, down or normal?

AdSense, YPN and Chitika Preview Tool

Have you ever wondered what ads are showing in your AdSense, Chitika and YPN units around the world in different locations?

These advertising systems are all geographically targeted advertising systems (Chitika less so but they do to some extent). The ads you see in your part of the world can be quite different to those you see in mine.

AdSense does offer a preview tool but it only works in windows versions of IE. Chitika and YPN don’t offer such tools.

Digital Inspiration has a cool tool that might be useful for you.

The sandbox tool shows you what type of ads your site is likely to show in different geographic locations. It will also give you a comparison between the ads that the three different systems will serve to your sites in different color schemes to help you to choose what ad system might serve the most relevant ads to your blog.

I can’t vouch for the accuracy of it but it seems to work and might be useful for some. Let me know what you think.

The Curious Blogger

Curiosity-2

Curiosity might kill cats but it can bring life to a blog.

One of the characteristics that I’ve observed many successful bloggers having is ‘curiosity’.

Wikipedia defines curiosity as:

“any natural inquisitive behaviour, evident by observation in many animal species, and is the emotional aspect of living beings that engenders exploration, investigation, and learning.”

Good bloggers are often curious about one or more of the following things:

  • How things work in their field - curious bloggers are the type of people who don’t want to just know the news but want to work out how it applies to their lives (and the lives of their readers). They test new products. They try things in ways they were intended to be used but also in ways that they were not. They don’t just want to know that things work but why and how they work.
  • Finding solutions for problems - they are not satisfied to let problems remain unsolved but are always looking for solutions to outstanding issues.
  • How others in their niche do things – they are not only interested in things, products or news but are interested in people. They seek people in their niche out, they network, they share information, they observe other and they ask lots of questions about what others know and how they do things.
  • Their niche - they keep a finger on the pulse of their niche and watch what other key figures are saying (and not saying). They gather information, analyse trends and take pride in being in the know.
  • How to present things differently – curious bloggers are not satisfied with regurgitating news or having a blog that is like every other blog in their niche. They actively look for ways to present their content in interesting and creative ways. They are often innovative both in the features of their blog but in their writing.
  • How principles in other fields might apply to theirs – curious bloggers often have a wide array of interests in different fields and are always looking to learn about how they can learn something from one that applies to another. Bringing together disconnected ideas and learning something new from them is a natural practice for curious bloggers.
  • Digging beneath the surface to find the ‘real’ story - curious bloggers won’t accept ‘spin’ and are always digging deeper to get the real story or a scoop. They go beyond following RSS feeds and look for the inside word. These are the type of bloggers who dig around on manufacturers websites or forums looking for unannounced products. The result is that occasionally they get lucky and break big stories.

Tomorrow I’m going to take this idea of the ‘curious blogger’ into a ‘how to’ realm and will ask (and attempt to answer) the question of whether curiosity is a personality thing or whether it can be learned in How to be Curious.

Expertise, Knowledge and Intuition in Blogging

Do you post out of what you know or do you blog intuitively?

On the recommendation of Brian I’ve started reading Ogilvy on Advertising (aff) over the last couple of weeks. It’s a fairly dated book in some respects but it’s fascinating to see how many of the principles have application for blog writing.

Today I read a small section written for advertisers on ‘pursuit of knowledge’ that I thought might be relevant for bloggers writing on specialized niches.

“I asked an indifferent copywriter what books he had read about advertising. He told me that he had not read any; he preferred to rely on his own intuition. ‘Suppose’, I asked, ‘your gall-bladder has to be removed this evening. Will you choose a surgeon who has read some books on anatomy and knows where to find your gall-bladder, or a surgeon who relies on his intuition? Why should our clients be expected to bet millions of dollars on your intuition?’

This quote got me wondering how many bloggers blog on topics more on intuition than on actual knowledge on the topic they’re blogging on.

Don’t hear me as saying intuition is all bad (one of the beauties of blogging is that you don’t have to be an expert to have a voice) but having a deeper knowledge of your niche is important if you want to communicate with authority and credibility.

Of course reading books is not the only way of gaining knowledge on your topic but I’m interested to hear people reflect on these questions:

How much knowledge do you have on the topics that you write on? Where does your knowledge on your topic come from?

How would I answer the question?

The depth of my own knowledge on the blogs that I’ve written on over the years has varied a fair bit. On some blogs I blogged out of years of experience and quite a bit of knowledge while on others I’ve had a real interest without much actual expertise (and on a few blogs that I’ve let die I’ll admit that I had little interest or knowledge – they were more about trying to make money – the result was that I lost interest very quickly and they died).

In terms of inspiration it again varies from blog to blog but includes:

  • other blogs (tracked via RSS largely)
  • newspapers (online versions usually although we do have one delivered on the weekends)
  • other ‘sites’ (when I write a post on a topic I generally will do a search on Google for the keywords I’m writing about to see what others have written outside of the blogosphere)
  • books (I’m increasingly reading a lot more books and using them as inspiration for posts – this post for example)
  • magazines (I know they’re supposed to be losing ground to online publications but in recent months I’ve been drawn back to them for some reason)
  • personal experience (this is a significant factor in most of my blogs – I like to share what I’m learning and discovering)

Of course when I use a source I give credit back to it (although it can sometimes be a challenge to remember where you learnt something when you’re writing on the topic a few weeks or months later).

PS: I”ll say it one more time – I’m not against the idea of blogging intuitively. I think that most good bloggers blog with a blend of expertise and intuition. Sometimes the best posts come from a hunch instead of deep knowledge of your topic. Knowing when to go with a hunch is a real gift and can be what sets great bloggers apart from ‘good’ knowledgeable bloggers.

How much knowledge do you have on your topics? Where does your inspiration and knowledge come from? How much do you rely upon intuition?