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How Would You Monetize this Food Blog

I recently received the email below from a reader asking me for advice on her blog. As I responded to them I realized that it might make an interesting discussion starter and that perhaps the ProBlogger community might together have some good advice to give – so lets do tackle it together.

What I’m going to do is to share the email below (the blogger has given me permission to do this) and share the link to the blog and then open things up to discussion for readers to share their advice.

First the blogger’s name is Veron and the blog is Sparklette – a Singaporean Food Blog.

Screen shot 2009-10-12 at 11.15.24 AM.pngI am from Singapore and I have been following your blogging tips for 2 years now. It was through your blog that I first learned the concept of SEO. Because of what I learned from Problogger, I managed to improve the web traffic of my food blog tremendously to the present 10,000 pageviews a day.

Early this year, I attempted monetising my blog. Through your recommendations I have tried Google Ads, Chitika and Amazon Associates, but only succeeded in making dozens of dollars a month from Google, and zilch from the others. I’m thinking it has something to do with the fact that food blogs are, by default, hard to monetise. I might be wrong though.

Still, I would like to try harder. I really hope that this blog can one day replace my present day job as my primary source of income.

Are there any tips which you can recommend to someone like me – a passionate blogger who is willing to work hard and already sees substantial web traffic but somehow isn’t able to properly monetise it?

I’m no food blogger so am unfamiliar with the niche and how it monetizes best – so while I did give a few words of advice I wondered if others with experience in that niche might have some advice to share with Veron.

Do keep in mind that Veron is asking for advice on monetization – so lets keep the focus upon that aspect of the blog and lets try to keep things constructive.

PS: the main advice I shared with Veron was pretty simple but revolved around the possibility of producing her own product to sell (perhaps an ebook/cookbook) and perhaps also to do some looking around at other blogs in that niche.

The other suggestion that I’d probably be doing is identifying advertisers to approach directly. Are there food stores, publishers of cookbooks or even restaurants in Singapore that might be willing to sponsor the blog.

OK – over to you – what advice would you give?

5 Plugins To Make Your WordPress Blog Blazing Fast

This is a guest post by Sid Savara, whose main passion is personal development and personal productivity. Follow Sid on twitter @sidsavara for motivation, inspiration and just chatting

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If a tree falls in a forest, I don’t know if anyone hears it – but when your blog crashes or takes forever to load, I guarantee you nobody is reading.

When you work hard on your content, but aren’t able to capitalize on the attention because your blog takes too long to load you are throwing away hours of hard work and thousands of visitors. I know because I’ve been there. I’ve had multiple performance issues over the past year where SidSavara.com was unable to handle some of the traffic spikes that came my way – and believe me, it is soul-crushing to see your site doing well on social media sites, and knowing that many of those readers will leave before your article loads. It’s not every day you get 250,000 visitors to your blog.

Optimizing WordPress is a thankless, but necessary job. When your site is running quickly people don’t notice – but if your blog is down or slow, visitors will complain or worse (and much more frequently) just leave. In fact, if the very first page a visitor sees takes even a second too long to load, they are likely to leave instantly without reading anything – on to the next shiny thing that has caught their interest, and on to someone’s blog that is optimized.

I recently decided to dedicate some time to deal with this. After trying out many plugins, crashing my website a few times due to plugin incompatibilities and reviewing my results here are my recommendations – and it’s easier than you think.

5 Plugins To Make Your WordPress Blog Blazing Fast

  • WP Super Cache by Donncha O Caoimh- A very fast caching plugin for WordPress. This is what has been saving me from traffic spikes. In a normal WordPress install, every time a visitor comes to your site WordPress builds the webpage for them from scratch by pulling information out of the database and processing a variety of things in the software. The bottom line is, this is time consuming – and usually after you’ve published a blog post, it doesn’t change very much except when people comment. When a page is loaded, WP Super Cache caches a static (one time generated) copy of that webpage, and then every time a new visitor comes, it preferentially gives them the cached version of the page. This is much faster, and has totally saved me when a rush of people come from one of my posts going viral.
  • GZIP Output by Austin Matzko- This plugin automatically compresses CSS, Javascript and HTML output, allowing it to travel faster from your blog to a visitor’s browser. According to Best Practices On Yahoo! Developer Network: “Gzipping generally reduces the response size by about 70%. Approximately 90% of today’s Internet traffic travels through browsers that claim to support gzip.” This is a simple change that will not affect what your readers see at all – except that it will load in their browser faster.
  • WP Minify by Thaya Kareeson- This plugin uses the Minify engine to combine and compress JS and CSS files to improve page load time. Like the previous plugin, it also automatically shrinks the size of your files without you having to do anything.
  • W3 Total Cache by Frederick Townes- If I was starting a brand new blog today, this is what I would use on day one – and then go with a more complicated set up (like I have currently) after it grows. This plugin is amazing. It includes minify capabilities, caching (but less aggressive than WP Super Cache) and GZip compression.
  • Free CDN by Phoenixheart- If you have static files (images, javascript, css) taking a long time to load and slowing your site down, you may benefit by installing Free CDN – especially if you have large images. Briefly, a CDN is a content delivery network. Static files are cached on the CDN and pulled from their servers instead of your own – which means that your server has to do less work, and potentially can serve more people at once, faster.
  • Bonus: Upgrade WordPress! This isn’t a plugin, but every time a new version of WordPress there’s a good chance they’ve optimized the software so it runs faster than before. Be sure to test your blog after you upgrade to make sure everything still runs smoothly.

Firefox Plugins To Test WordPress Performance

You can check for yourself how fast your WordPress blog is and instantly get recommendations on what you can do to improve it with some free software. I use Firefox with the Firebug and YSlow plugins installed. The YSlow user guide is excellent and will give you all the tools you need to see where your site is slow, and what can be done to improve it. Darren has also previously written about 5 Methods to Enhancing Page Load with some best practices for ensuring your blog loads quickly for visitors.

This is a guest post by Sid Savara, whose main passion is personal development and personal productivity. For new email subscribers, he is offering a free copy of his new ebook The Little Book of Big Motivational Quotes.

Learn How to Create Your Own Membership Site – Free Report

msm_logo.pngIf there was one emerging trend spoken about more than anything else in the Make Money Blogging track at Blog World Expo it was ‘membership sites’. A number of sessions were directly on the topic while quite a few others touched on the topic (including the ones I spoke on).

It seems more and more bloggers are looking to expand in this way – whether it be by setting up teaching courses, starting paid forums or setting up areas where they offer subscribers exclusive content to paying subscribers.

By no means is it the only model to make money online – but it is one that more and more bloggers are looking towards and one that we’re even seeing more mainstream media doing also.

Yaro has this week relaunched a free report on the topic of Membership Sites – The Membership Site Mastermind Report.

The reports shares how Yaro uses membership sites to make a six figure income, how he runs the technology side of things, gives insights on how he gets members to stick on his sites and more. It’s a free report to anyone who gives an email address.

Yaro will be relaunching his Membership Site Mastermind course in the next week or so – but this report is free and contains useful information even if you go no further than downloading it and not going on with the full course.

PS: Get more free teaching on Membership Sites from Yaro in these two videos here and here. Also check out an interview Yaro did with Daniel Scocco on his $10,000 a month membership site.

Community – Principles of Successful Blogging #4

communityToday’s principle in our series on successful blogging is all about building community on your blog. Let me share how I discovered that community was possible in the online space with a story:

I discovered the power of online community on the very first day that I went online (I think it was in 1996).

Up until that point I’d always been quite sceptical of people who talked about ‘relationships’, ‘friendships’ and ‘community’ when they talked about their online experience.

I just couldn’t see how people could ever call online interaction any kind of community – but I quickly discovered how wrong my assumptions were.

I still remember the moment – the guy who’d come to install my new computer and modem (dial up) gave me a quick tour of how to access the web – Netscape, hotmail and then he opened up a little program called Comic Chat and told me it was for chatting to people online using a system called IRC.

I promptly told him that I wouldn’t be wasting my time with that and closed it down.

Later that day on a whim I opened it up and joined the first ‘room’ that I came across – an Aussie chat room. I used the handle of ‘oziii’ on a whim and entered the room. Within seconds I’d been noticed, welcomed and drawn into the conversation.

3 hours later my view of how community could be developed online was completely changed. 3 months later I’d spent an hour a day (minimum) in this room since that first day. Over the year or two that followed I’d personally met 20 or so other members, had attended one wedding from group members, had helped conduct an online memorial service for another who’d passed away and had become close friends with a number of others.

Was it true community? I’m not sure – perhaps a sociologist out there can fill us in on that – but what I am sure of is that people found a sense of belonging in that simple IRC chat room.

Of course we’ve come a long way on the internet since those days. The mediums have evolved (although I have to say that some of what I see on Twitter reminds me a lot of IRC) but one thing has not changed – people are still going online to connect and find community. In fact with the explosion of social media the web has only grown in the way that people are using it to connect, relate and find belonging.

My own story of learning about building communities online continued to grow with my own stepping into the blogging game – in fact it was one of two things that attracted me to blogging the most (the other one was the way blogs amplify a person’s voice).

I still remember the experience of reading my first ever blog and marvelling at the way that this medium not only gave an individual the ability to communicate with thousands of people around the world but the way that it enabled those same people to add to the conversation. I was amazed by the sense of belonging I saw among readers on the site, the way that they improved the site with their ideas and the way that around the blog was a community of other bloggers engaging with one another’s ideas.

As I began to develop my own blogs I saw this community first hand for myself and discovered that one of the secrets behind growing the readership of a blog is to give people ways to participate in it, ways to belong to it and ways to make it their own.

Over the last 7 years I’ve started over 30 blogs – the three that became most successful for me were the three that became communities rather than just information portals.

Yes some of the ‘information’ sites did get some search engine traffic and made a little money – but they never built a brand, they were never recommended by one person to another, they rarely generated comments and they never opened up opportunities to create indirect income streams like writing a book, selling an ebook or doing consulting or speaking.

I put down the failure of these 27 or so blogs down to numerous reasons – but the main one was that they failed to grow a community around them.

So how does one grow build a community around a blog?

This is an important topic and one that I really do recommend bloggers grapple with because it’s so important in a blog hitting the tipping point of becoming successful.

I’ve written numerous posts previously on the topic so won’t rehash them all here but do recommend that you read at least one of them – 8 Tips for Building Community on Your Blog – a post in which I attempted to summarise my own experience and advice in building online communities around my blogs.

Tip #9 – Play Match Maker with Your Readers

There’s one tip that I want to add to the 8 tips in the previous post and that is to work at helping readers to connect outside your community. This can seem a little counter-intuitive for a web publisher because we often feel like we want to keep people on our site and get them interacting more and more on our turf – however what I’ve begun to discover in my blogging on Digital Photography School and even here at ProBlogger and in the ProBlogger Forums is that when you give people a secondary connecting point with one another that it deepens their connections (and therefore the community) that happens on your own blog.

A quick example of this: earlier this year on DPS I asked readers to list their Twitter accounts. To this day over 630 readers have listed their accounts. Many have also gone through the list and added every other account.

What happened in the weeks that followed this post was that I noticed more and more of our readers getting to know each other on Twitter. While it’s difficult to measure the anecdotal evidence that I’m seeing is that it’s improving the quality of comments being left on DPS. I’ve also had numerous thank you emails from readers who tell me that they’ve met great new friends as a result of that post. There have even been a few readers who’ve started working together as a result of these connections.

As I say – it’s difficult to measure the impact but from what I’m seeing the community on my site has improved because I’ve played match maker with our readers and helped them to get to know each other.

While it’s still early days on the ProBlogger.com forums a similar thing has happened there with a thread asking members to share their Twitter accounts. I figure the more connected people are with one another the more likely they are to stay connected with the community.

More Suggested Reading

Check out Dan Blank’s post – Group Hug: How to Build Community Using Forums and Social Media -while not blog specific it contains a lot of Gold on building community online.

More Advice from YOU

I’d love to hear your advice on how to build community on a blog. I’d also like to highlight some advice from my Twitter Followers who answered this question on building community on Twitter last week. You can see a collection of their suggestions here.

Over to you – how do you build community on your blog? What’s worked for you and what hasn’t? Looking forward to seeing your ideas and experiences!

Read the full series on how to build a successful blog.

5 Ways to Know if Your Blog is on the Right Track

In this post David Wright and Sean Platt from direct response copywriters share some suggestions on indicators of when your blog might be on the road to success.

Starting a blog was one of the most exciting things we have ever done. Building a loyal audience, gathering intelligent subscribers with insightful comments, and making plans for the future were all part of a wonderful first year blogging. The problem for us was that reading about blogging and actually blogging are two entirely different things.

Blogging is hard work. Much like becoming a parent, all the warnings in the world do little to prepare you for the reality.

No blog becomes famous overnight unless its author happened to be famous a couple nights before. Blogging requires hard work and diligent effort for a sustained period of time. Many bloggers give up in the first few months and the majority never see their sixth. I can sympathize. With all the blogs screaming for attention, how are you supposed to know if your work is going to pay off or if you‘re wasting your time?

Outside of tons of visitors, or lots of ad revenue, success is defined differently by different people. Some bloggers are seeking a path to money while others are more interested in simply connecting or sharing their voice. The list below is simply a way of gauging whether or not people are connecting to your blog.

Five ways to tell if your blog has what it takes:

1) Comments

Comments can be both an empty measurement and a solid indicator that things are going well. If your blog is receiving a lot of comments, that’s probably a terrific sign. However, if the majority of those comments ring to the tune of “great post!” then even 100 are rather meaningless. A couple of valuable comments that provoke discussion are far better than double digit comments that are only there for the benefit of a link. It means that people are finding value in your content and interested in engaging you and other readers regarding that content.

Darren previously wrote on 11 ways to get your comments noticed on a popular blog. Use this information to help you determine the value of the comments you’re receiving, while helping you to learn to make your best comments.

2) Subscribers

All growth is progress. If your subscriber count is growing, then you can consider yourself on the right track. Slow and steady wins the race and it can take months blogging to break into the triple digits. Many people, ourselves included, set unrealistic goals for their subscriber counts. This only leads to disappointment and frustration. Be realistic and remember, blogging is a process, not an event. If your numbers show steady growth, then you’re doing something right. If not, then you need to reevaluate your content, posting frequency or perhaps your social media strategy.

Darren has written many times on getting more RSS subscribers. This post has 9 tips to help you find more with a nice video and link roundup.

3) Links

Links are the currency of the net and help to pay for whatever it is your blog needs: traffic, social proof and search engine rankings; all are the direct result of high quality links. And one of the best ways to generate quality links is to produce quality content (and make sure that content is seen). The more recognized you are, the more links you will receive. The beauty of incoming links is that they carry a cumulative effect. After a while, people will start linking to you simply because others are.

Getting links is important. Here are 11 ways to increase your chances of being linked to by a blogger, as previously written by Darren.

4) Friends

With blogging, an ever expanding web of friends and blogging buddies is essential to long term success. You could even make the case that who you know is sometimes more important than what you create, though I do believe the quality of your work must always stand on its own. Strive to meet new people and widen your network as best you can. I’m not saying to strike up phony friendships with people you’d otherwise have no interest in. Rather, find people you are genuinely interested in and can learn from. You will have created a network of mentors that can teach you a lot more than a dozen courses. If there is a natural complimenting of each other‘s strengths and weaknesses, all the better.

As part of Darren’s excellent 31 Days to Build a Better Blog series, he ran a post on Day 15 about finding a blogging buddy.

5) Niche

Many bloggers make the mistake of not clearly defining their niche. I know I’ve made the same mistake several times myself. If you are blogging as a hobby, it is unnecessary to build a fence around your ideas. If you are looking to turn your blogging into profit, or a full-time living, it is essential that you understand the audience you are targeting and how best to market to them.

In this previous ProBlogger post, Glen Allsop talks about how to find your passion and know what you should be blogging about.

Remember, we all define success differently. However, paying attention to the above list and the advice linked within can help ensure your blog lives up to its fullest potential.

Question: How do you define blogging success? How have your opinions of success changed since you first started blogging?

David Wright and Sean Platt are the team of direct response copywriters behind GhostwriterDad.com.

Stop Scrapers and Spammers Fast

One of the challenges that bloggers face is what to do when others want to use your blog for their own gain by either taking your content or spamming your comments section. The more I talk to bloggers about how they deal with these issues the more I realize how many different approaches there are to the problems. Today Seth Waite from Blogussion shares his approach. I’d love to hear your approach (whether it be different or the same in comments below).

Every blogger quickly learns the reality of hard work in blogging. After the “make money fast” hype has wore off and the reality that blogging is a great way to earn an income if you work for it has set in, you are left with a choice?

The choice is whether to stay in blogging or not. Many bloggers decide to stay but are again left with another extremely important decision. Should I put the effort into become a great blogger or just try to still do things the easy way and hope things will be different for me?

Those choosing to work hard begin the process of learning and eventually find success by learning, networking and earning their way to better blogging. Bloggers who are unwilling to face reality either quite or eventually become spammers, scrapers, or beggars.

I am not going to address the problem of bloggers who beg for help without working for it, but I do want to talk about spammers and scrapers. Most importantly, I want every hard working blogger to know how to stop selfish bloggers trying to use your work disrespectfully to help them.

Stopping Spam

The easiest way to stop spammers who are trying to get you to link to their blog/site is by controlling your comments and trackbacks. Although essential to building a great blog community, comments must be moderated to ensure your actual readers feel comfortable with the discussions on your blog.

Captcha

Commenting at first was easily controlled by forcing commentators to put their email address into the comment form. Spammers quickly got around this and now a very easy way to stop spammers is by adding a captcha feature to your blog comments.

Captcha is already used by Blogger and easily adds to WordPress and other blogging platforms with plugins. The way it works is that you put in a series of numbers or letters from a visual image in order to post your comment. Other systems require you to add the numbers or fill in the form based on another easy question. Using captcha is a quick and easy way to minimize your blog’s spam, but it may also be annoying to regular readers.

Plug-ins

For many blog platforms, like WordPress, a simple plug-in will solve many of the spam problems. The most common spam blocker is Akismet, which is now available for over 20 other blogging platforms besides WordPress. Using this plug-in on your blog is simple and requires you to only check to make sure occasional comments are not being counted as spam. In addition to the normal comment protection it provides, it goes above and beyond captchas by protecting your blog against unwanted trackbacks.

Stopping Scrappers

Scrapers are bloggers who steal content you produced and put the entire work on their own blogs and websites. The practice sadly is common and creates reproductions of your content around the web. Luckily most search engines are good at recognizing the original content, but scrapping is illegal and damaging to the blogger and blogging.

  1. Identify: The first step to stopping scrappers is by identifying your content and checking for copies. An easy way to do this is by using the sites CopyGator or Copyscape to check for the originality of your content and any potential duplicates.
  2. Ask: Once you have found scrappers who have copied your material [note: the content duplication should be significant and their reasons should be to represent your content as their own, not to promote yours] email the owner or comment on the blog/site where the duplicate is found. In most cases the scraper will take it down and apologize for misrepresenting the work. Always try this first so that the blogosphere can stay friendly and young bloggers who might be making an innocent mistake will learn without being accosted.
  3. Block: The next step if they are unresponsive or belligerent to your requests is to use .htaccess to block the scrappers from your blog. This can be a little bit tricky for anyone who has never done this before, but here is a great link to learn how to stop scrapers [item #9]. Basically you are blocking the access of the scrappers from receiving your blog and rss feed.
  4. Take Action: At this point you have been nice, notified them of their misdeed, blocked their access and still the content is ripped off and on their site. The next way to get your content off of their site is by contacting the site’s ISP or hosting. The easiest way to find that out is by using Who.is and just inputting the site’s web address into their search bar. The hosting information will then show up with the rest of the site’s information. Once you have the host information contact them with a formal letter or email specifically claiming what and where the content originated and where it has been reproduced. The host will then quickly take down the content and offer the site owner a chance to explain themselves. Warning, this is serious for everyone involved so do not use this lightly. If this does not work there is yet one more option. This is legal action. Filed suits can be taken up depending on the scrapper’s home country and legal system.

Stopping scrapers and spammers will not only protect your work but also encourage the internet to be a better place. Every time a spammer is thwarted, other bloggers win too. So be an internet community builder by taking the proper steps to stop content thieves.

Seth Waite is Editor at Blogussion.com and enjoys helping every blogger reach their blogging goals. to contact Seth directly, just find him on Twitter @Seth1492

What’s Your Approach

From Darren: as mentioned in the introduction to this post – there are many stances that bloggers take on these issues, particularly when it comes to scrapers. Many take a similar line to Seth while others are more lenient and take the approach that as long as someone’s reading their content somewhere that it doesn’t worry them. What do you do? What tools do you use?

How to Use Apture

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By Mary Jaksch of Goodlife Zen.

Do you want to create posts that sparkle, dance, enthral, touch the heart, and inform? Do you want your blog to stand out, and subscribers to scramble in at the door? Then I suggest you check out what the New York Times, Reuters, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the World Wildlife Fund, the blog of Tim Ferris, and Goodlife ZEN all have got in common: they use Apture.

Apture is a plugin that transforms an ordinary blog posts into an extraordinary media experience.

Here’s what Jim Brady, the Executive Editor of the Washington Post says about Apture:

Apture adds a new dimension – a web of information – inside washingtonpost.com stories, and continues our mission of bringing readers the most comprehensive and in-depth news coverage.

The most important feature of this award-winning plugin is that readers can access additional information – without having to leave your page. Whether it’s a Wikipedia article, a related blog post, or a video – all can be integrated seamlessly into a post. And Apture is free for blogs with less than 5 million visitors per month.

So are bloggers thronging to use Apture?

No – not yet. Typical responses I get are “It seems like advertising and it makes a site look too busy.” I don’t agree. I think Apture rocks!

10 reasons why I love Apture:
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  1. It’s free.
  2. It saves time.
  3. It keeps my readers onsite for longer.
  4. I can create a multimedia experience for my readers.
  5. I can offer a greater depth of content through layers of information.
  6. I can shape and control the ambience of my blog.
  7. I can use high resolution images and videos without bandwidth headaches.
  8. I can draw readers deep into my blog through using attractive links to related posts.
  9. Apture is stylish.
  10. It’s creative, and it’s fun.

I think there are two reasons why bloggers are slow to embrace Apture. Firstly, bloggers don’t know how to use Apture. Which is hardly surprising, seeing that Apture lacks a user guide and tutorials. Not only does Apture lack information on how to use it, the team manages to hide some of the best features – which is an interesting kind of reverse-marketing. Secondly, Apture works with popups, and popups are seen as spammy advertising gadgets.

Are all pop-ups spammy?

A criticism frequently leveled at Apture is that it ‘looks like ads’. That’s because we associate pop-ups with nasty advertising. ‘In-text advertising’ or ‘contextual advertising’ means that links in the text lead to adverts, and not to further information. Some of the worst offenders are Vibrant Media, and Kontera. Personally, I hate contextual ads. They seem to me a betrayal of our readers. After all, readers come to a blog for information or entertainment – and not because they want to be shopped by the blogger.

Contextual advertising has created enhanced hyperlinks, called ‘blooms’. This means that a link can ‘bloom up’ into an image, a video, an article, a flash advert, and so on. There are other products on the market that are easily confused with Apture, for example Snap – which also ‘blooms up’ contextual links. Snap is primarily an advertising tool and gives bloggers and readers little or no control over their online experience. Snap uses pesky auto links, i.e., it automatically creates links in a post.

In contrast, Apture places control firmly in the hands of the blogger and the reader. A blogger can choose what she or he would like to link to, and the reader can determine how they want to use Apture. And they can even disable it. A new player on the market is Zemanta. You can read a review of Apture vs. Zemanta.

I’m sure you can see why Apture is treated with suspicion by many bloggers. I mean, who wants a spammy gadget on their blog!

But forget about ads for a moment. You see, the Apture guys had a brilliant idea: they decided to use the latest in-text advertising technology in order to create layers of information, so that the reader can understand the wider context of a particular topic, or drill down into more detail.

Apture is the art of adding layers of information to your blog posts, and wrapping multimedia around your readers.

You can see why the big newspapers have rushed to embrace Apture for their online resources. After all, their mission is to drive more and better information to the readers. Bloggers have yet to discover how Apture can transform their work. In this post you can learn how to use Apture, and get a taste of what it can do.

First up are step by step instructions on how to use Apture (including links to 5 training videos), followed by a section on Apture for minimalists. Next, I confront the Apture team with some challenging questions. And finally, you can find out how to wow your readers with Apture. In this section I discuss a post by blogger Arvind Devalia whose inspired use of Apture demonstrates that this plugin can transform a good post into a brilliant one. (If you’re short on time, head directly to Arvind’s 6 Key Lessons in Life From a 140 Year Old Man in order to get a sense of what Apture can accomplish. Make sure you click on all the links to get the full juice. There are some surprises…)

1. How to download Apture

Apture is configured for a variety of different blogging platforms, such as WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, Movable Type, Ning, Tumblr, and Drupal. You can can download Apture here. (If you use Blogger, Typepad, of Tumblr, you’ll need the Apture Firefox plugin.) In this post with its accompanying training videos, the focus is on using Apture in WordPress. If you’re not familiar with how to upload a WP plugin, watch Episode 1 of my screencast series Apture Made Easy.

2. How to install Apture

Installing a plugin is normally an easy process, but Apture is a little different, because there is an additional activation process. You can watch Episode 2 of my Apture Made Easy series.

Here is a short summary of action for more experienced bloggers: Once you’ve uploaded the plugin, activate it like any other plugin. When you then write a new post for the first time, a popup offers to install a short piece of code automatically into your site. You will also need to register with Apture at this point. If the code hasn’t installed, copy it and paste it before the last body tag in the footer code.

Apture has two widgets, the Link Widget and the Embed Widget. Together they make up the Media Hub. The Link Widget creates an in-text link – whether it’s an internal link which opens directly on your page, or an external link which transports the reader to another website. The Embed Widget takes objects, such as images, videos, etc, and embeds then into the post.

3. How to use the Apture Link Widget.

Apture links work just like plain links. For example the blog you link to gets ‘link juice’ – even through your readers dodn’t need to leave your page in order to follow the link. Watch Apture Made Easy Episode 3 for detailed information on how to use the Link Widget.

In brief, when you highlight words and click on the Link Widget ( the one of the right-hand side), a window opens that allows you to choose what to link to.Here is what you can do with the Link Widget:

  • Link to Wikipedia or other information sources. Scroll bars in the popups allow the readers to read a complete Wikipedia article. You can also choose Wikipedia articles different languages. You can also link to a particular section in Wikipedia.
  • Link to other websites. The links function like plain links,i.e. the blog you link to with Apture gets link juice – without the reader having to leave your site. You can also find links you previously made with Apture.
  • Internal links Apture links are a great way to entice readers deep into your blog. I use the Embed Widget in order to link to previous posts. Each Apture popups contain a post image and a snippet of text and looks very attractive. Here’s how to link to a previous post: click on the Embed Widget, and then choose ‘Enter a Specific URL’ . The Preview will show you what the link will look like. If you have more than one image in your post, you can select which one – if any – should appear with your post.
  • External links: You can choose to use Apture for plain external links that open in a separate window.
  • Customizing your sources: you add additional sources from Apture to pull from.
  • How to add links: check out the short article from the Apture team that explains how to add multiple links.
  • Twitter links: The Apture team has come up with some great options for embedding Twitter. You can link to a single Tweet, or show Twitter search trends. You can even embed your Friendfeed in your blog. Check out a YouTube video that shows some of the cool Apture tricks for Twitter. I think that Twitter fans will be all aflutter over these options.

4. How to use the Apture Embed Widget

Sourcing and embedding media is a snap with Apture. You can find step-by-step intructions in Episode 4 of my Apture Made Easy video series. Here is what you can do with the Embed Widget:

  • Embed images: Using Apture saves me a lot of time. For example when I use an image from Flickr, the shortest time it takes me to source, resize, embed, and credit an image is 06:48 minutes. The same process with Apture takes me just 44 seconds. Check out how to use Creative Commons images in Apture. If you use stock images, you can upload the images from your computer quickly resize them with Apture, using the ‘Upload File’ function. Check out how to resize images.
  • Embed audio: Apture embeds an elegant audio player. At present, music can only be sourced from Imeem and NPR. It would be good to see greater range audio sources, including radio stations outside of the US, such as BBC, etc. In order to upload audio podcasts, I suggest you upload the audio to Amazon S3, and then link to the file using the Apture Embed Widget.
  • Embed video: At present Apture supports videos by YouTube, Reuters, Truveo, Dailymotion, Imeem Video. If you want to embed your own flash videos, you may run into problems. Apture works with a fixed size of 320px wide and 250px high. In other words, Apture only supports videos that have the Standard Definition aspect ratio of 4:3 , and not ones with the High Definition aspect ratio of 10:9. (I have been assured by the Apture team that this flaw will be fixed very soon.)
  • Embed YouTube. With Apture you can control start and stop times of YouTube videos. This means that you can choose a clip from a YouTube video to support your post.
  • Use captions: You can use captions on all your embeds.
  • Add Additional content: You can add up to 6 pieces of additional content to your main link. The additional content is visible in thumbnails beneath the main embedded item. Watch this excellent video by the Apture team on the effect of adding additional content to one link: Why Include 1 Piece of Content When You Can Include 7

5. How to update a published post with one click

Let’s say you’ve published a post and some new information has come to light. Maybe a commenter has suggested a link, or you’ve found a new image that you want to include in your post. The old way of updating your post is laborious: you need to go into your WP dashboard, bring up the post, make changes, and save them.

With Apture, all you need is to go to your published post and bring up your Apture Dashboard by clicking ‘e’. (This is a widget that hovers on top of your published post. Then you can make changes to the published post by highlighting text and adding new links or images. Watch Episode 5 of my series Apture Made Easy for step by step instructions on how to use the Apture Dashboard.

6. Reader control

The reader is in control of her or his reading experience. A small question-mark in the bottom right-hand corner of each Apture ‘bloom’ leads to a popup where readers can customize their Apture experience. They can disable Apture completely, or choose whether Apture links open through a hover, or through a click.

7. Apture for minimalists

Hard-core minimalists may think that Apture look too busy on a page. I think it depends very much on how you use it. I recently ran a Virtual Zen Retreat and used Apture in order to create the daily retreat posts. I used images that supported the calm retreat ambience. I also embedded a couple of videos in order to sharpen the focus of particular posts. My aim was to create a calm retreat ambience that allows participants to deepen their experience. The feedback showed that it worked: most participants mentioned how much they loved the calming images and inspiring videos.

My suggestion to minimalists is to use Apture in a – well – minimal way. For example minimalists could use Apture just for fast selection of images, or for attractive internal links.

8. Apture secrets revealed

Apture hides many of its top features. (Note to the Apture team: how about installing a search function on your site?). Here are some features even die-hard users may not know about:

9. How to monetize your blog with Apture

As you can imagine, Apture has great potential for monetization, especially for blogs selling products. I use Amazon Affiliate links on Goodlife Zen and I’ve notice that since using Apture, my Amazon affiliate income has increased by 28%.

I am sure that there are many ways to monetize your blog with Apture. Here are two tips: if your blog is focused on Real Estate, read how Apture can help the Real Estate community make more sales.If you write about the Stock Marked try embedding real-time stock charts on their site.

10. Confronting the Apture team: questions and answers

Transparency is important. If we as bloggers want to engage with Apture and learn to use it, we need to be able to trust the company and know that it isn’t going to change the rules on us. So I asked Andrew Machado

When we invest our energy into learning how to use a major plugin, such as Apture, it’s important to be sure that we’re not going to encounter problems further down the track. So I asked Andrew Machado from the Apture team some searching questions (Andrew is the Community Manager at Apture and runs the Apture Blog.)

Question #1 Is Apture safe?
Answer: Apture was vetted by the technical and security diligence of the New York Times, BBC, Washington Post, and Reuters tech teams. We’ve also tested to make sure Apture is compatible with other WordPress plugins.

Question: If I decided to deactivate the plugin, would I lose all the images, videos and links created with Apture?
Answer: All baked Apture links will turn into regular hyperlinks pointing to their primary destination (Reference, Maps, Videos, Images, ….). All embedded images will remain while Videos turn into screenshots of the video which link to the video when clicked. Documents and Reference Viewers will turn into an image representing document or reference content that links to the document in question.

Question: When a new version of WordPress appears, how fast can you update the plugin? Will there be down times until you’ve adapted the plugin to a new WP version?
Answer: The plugin code responsible for inserting our JavaScript (which enables the viewing experience) is extremely small (10-20 lines) and interacts with a part of WordPress that is extremely stable over time. Very major changes to WordPress might cause problems with the editing aspect of Apture. Because of this (and for general compatibility) we test with pre-release versions of WordPress so the update is always ready in time for new WordPress releases.

Question: Can you confirm that for bloggers (below 5 mill visitors a month) Apture will remain free?
Answer: Yes, we will not be charging for the (current) basic version of Apture.

Question: What’s the long-term viability of the Apture project?
Answer: We raised our Series A round about a year ago and are very happy with our current financial situation and are very actively hiring and growing the team. We are absolutely in it for the long haul and all believe in the vision behind the company. The company was incorporated in July of 2007, we received our Angel financing at the same time, launched a beta in April of 2008, launched fully in July of 2008, and raised our Series A in the fourth quarter of 2008. We have, however, been working on Apture in some form since January of 2006.

11. How to wow your readers with Apture

So far we’ve looked at Apture as a tool for adding levels of information. But for bloggers, the secret of creating outstanding posts is to turn turn a read into an experience. I asked one of the new breed of up-and-thriving bloggers -Avind Devalia of Make it Happen – to test Apture. He was reluctant and wrote: “I’ve previously tried Snap on my blog but found it distracting and irritating as the boxes seemed to open up all too frequently by just hovering over a linked phrase.”

Finally Arvind decided to rework one of his popular posts with the help of Apture! The post is about Gandhi’s enduring legacy. Against this serious background, Arvind created a counterpoint with Apture links that are playful, emotional, rousing, fascinating, and surprising. Arvind’s post leaves the reader inspired, smiling, and with a tear or two. Check out 6 Lessons in Life from a 140 year Old Man. (Make sure you click on all the links to get the full experience!)

I think Arvind’s inspired use of Apture has turned what was a good post – into a brilliant one.

12. Conclusion

I think blogging is at at crossroads between old-style blogging, and new-style blogging. Old-style blogging replicates print media. In other words, the reader’s experience is focused on a page of text, which may contain images. In this scenario, the reader follows outward-bound links in order to access more information. New-style blogging creates a multimedia experience for the reader. Bloggers are waking up to the fact that Broadband allows us to deliver not only text, but simultaneously images, videos, music, and other media to our readers. Apture is a perfect tool for new-style blogging because we can add depth and focus to a post, as well as enhance mood and message – all by using easy one-click actions.

Quite simply – if you’re not using Apture yet, you’re missing out on the hottest tool for bloggers.

You can read more by Mary Jaksch on her blog GoodlifeZen or on Write to Done where she is the Editor. Join Mary on Twitter.

The Holy Grail to Writing Great Content – Rhetoric

A Guest Post by Patrick Riddel from Must Know Investing.

Darren has debunked the myth that great content markets itself. There are countless blogs that produce quality content that don’t get read. Why is that? Because no one knows about them.

He followed up with a post on 9 things you can do so that your next blog post is read by more than your mom. In other words, 9 things you can do to promote your content … or as he says, “seed” rather than “force” your content.

But, what if you’re stuck at square one … writing great content.

You hear it all the time …

“Content is king! If you want to attract a massive loyal following to your blog, there is no substitute for great content.”

Well, if that’s the case, what makes certain content great? How does one go about writing great content?

This may surprise you but it’s not as much about what you write but how it’s written. Sooooo, it’s the context of your content that makes the difference. Forget “content is king” … “context is king!”

To illustrate this point, let’s take a look at one of Leo Babauta’s recent guest posts here at Problogger.

You see, Leo’s someone who can teach us a thing or two about writing great content … the kind of content that piques a readers interest quickly and effectively, the kind of content that becomes like a virus and spreads over the Internet like wildfire, the kind of content that inspires a reader to take action, the kind of content that creates a loyal following. That’s what great content is all about!

Leo wrote his first blog post in February of 2007. And today, his blog, Zen Habits, has over 130,000 subscribers and is ranked 66 in Technorati’s top 100 blogs. AND he’s in an extremely competitive niche … personal development.

So what is it that makes Leo’s content so great?

Just a few months ago, I wouldn’t have even noticed … but my quest to become a better blogger led me to the seemingly forgotten lost art of rhetoric. And rhetoric is, simply put, the effective use of language … the art of writing or speaking persuasively.

It’s obvious Leo knows about rhetoric … as you’ll see in a moment.

There are many rhetoric techniques, or rhetorical devices, that can be used to make your reader pay more attention, give a greater understanding, make your content more memorable, in an interesting and entertaining way. These techniques, these rhetorical devices are the context of your content. That’s what turns “average run of the mill content” into “exceptional I can’t put this down content”!

Let’s analyze Leo’s most recent guest post, How Passion Can Transform Your Blog, to see how he uses rhetorical devices to make his content irresistible …

“Many of the problems that many bloggers face — not drawing enough readers, not knowing what to write about, not writing well enough, not finding the time to blog — can all be solved with one solution.”

Here, Leo uses anaphora, a rhetorical device, which is the repetition of the same word(s) … as in “not drawing”, “not knowing”, “not writing”, “not finding”.

“Passion is the exact opposite: it will infuse your writing with excitement, make it more interesting, compel people to read.”

Asyndeton, or what I like to call “don’t-use-a-conjunction-ton”, he omits the use of conjunctions.

“It’s not the answer to all problems — you still need to be a decent writer, and share really useful information, and help people solve problems, and write great headlines.”

Leo uses the opposite of asyndeton … polysyndeton, or what I call “over-use-of-conjunction-ton”. He says, “and share”, “and help”, “and write”.

How does Leo write such great content?

One major reason is because he uses simple rhetorical devices to enhance and improve the effectiveness of his writing. The same rhetorical devices that you can use to write great content.

Here’s a killer free resource that lists 60 rhetorical devices. Check it out at http://www.virtualsalt.com/rhetoric.htm

Now for your homework: Commit to studying rhetoric and making it a part of your writing. Pick 3 rhetorical devices that you WILL use in your next blog post and put them in the comment area below.

Cheers to Writing Great Content!

Learn From My Mistake – Don’t Leave Money on the Table!

Have you ever found that you’ve been leaving money on the table? It’s a frustrating feeling and one that many of us can relate to. I discovered that I’ve been doing it for the last few months – here’s my story.

I run Chitika Premium ad units on some parts of my blogs – particularly at my photography site on single pages. One ad unit that I’d had running for a while now was one that appeared above posts whenever anyone from the US arrives at my site from a search engine.

I like these ads because they don’t appear to regular readers arriving from RSS feeds, newsletters or other sites – just those people coming in from Google – PLUS the ads that show are contextual ads to the search that the person has just performed.

I’ve always found that the ads convert pretty well – but this week I realised that for months now they could have been converted ALOT better.

I made this realisation by making one simple change to one ad unit – here’s what happened to my earnings on that ad unit when I made the change.

chitika-ad-1-earnings.png

Yep – the ad unit had been averaging around $37 a day – but in the few since making the change it’s earned around $108 a day on average – around 3 times as much!

Considering I’ve had the ad running for quite a few months now – I’ve been leaving money on the table.

OK before I tell you what change I made (and it’s so simple that I’ve been kicking myself for a week now) I want to really emphasise the take home message here – even though it is so very obviously – test your ad units!

Here’s the thing – the chitika ad that I did have in this ad position used to perform to the best of its ability. I’d previously tested it and made sure it was working well. However Chitika added a new option to their premium ads – an option that I ignored. In actual fact someone from Chitika told me to make this change months back – I got distracted (life’s busy) and never got around to doing it.

While I feel pretty stupid and am completely aware that I’ve cost myself thousands by not making this change earlier – I know I’m not alone.

Many bloggers are in the same boat. We put ads on our blogs, get them to a point where we think they’re well optimised and then move on to work on other aspects of our blog without ever coming back to make sure things are still performing at their highest potential. Ad networks change their offerings, add features and sometimes blogs just change and things that used to work well no longer do.

The lesson here is to revisit your ad units and to test if there might be someway to increase their performance. You might not see the tweaks you make bring in $70 a day like my one did – but over time the small tweaks add up!

What was the change I made?

The change was so simple – I just made the Chitika ad unit bigger. The ad unit I used to have on there was a 468×180 pixel sized ad. The new one is a 550×250 pixel ad unit. It’s considerably wider (it now takes up almost the whole width of my content area) and a little deeper.

It does push the content down the page a little but as it’s only impacting search refferal traffic and the content is still above the fold user experience isn’t impacted that much – but the ad performance is so much better (with 3-4 times the click through rate depending upon the day).