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Blogging Without a Computer

This guest post is by Janek Makulec of paylane.

Blogging is actually a set of activities, but writing is always fundamental. Promoting your blog or presenting an outstanding layout is one thing, but you always have to offer good content first. Otherwise, the best you can achieve is being “the master of the form.”

What’s wrong with a computer?

Nothing, of course. People are the problem here, computers are just tools. It’s our psychology, the human nature.

So what should we use, if not a computer? There’s no good general answer. It depends on what you prefer. My choices are: pens and pencils, paper, a typewriter, and brains.

Whoa! Is it 1940 or something? Where do you even get a typewriter from?

Okay, such reaction is surely understandable, but let me explain how I find such “oldschool writing methods” more effective and easier to use.

Improving your style

There’s a well-known story about F. Nietzsche. It’s said that when he got himself a new typewriter and learned to use it, his writing style changed. It became more concise.

Of course typewriters or pens (like computers, text editors, etc.) are just tools, but it’s not like they’re not altering our writing style. When you can add, delete, or copy and paste every sentence or paragraph with pretty much no effort whatsoever, you stop concentrating. You lose your self-discipline.

Having the comfort of going back any time, repairing something, and keeping such corrections untraceable makes your mind more likely to lose focus. Less concentration means less creativity, and worse writing. And you’re done, thank you very much—there’s the door.

Furthermore, it’s more likely you’re going to write longer pieces, which are usually … well, boring. People would rather scan web articles than read them—a long text might scare them away. Mark Twain once said “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” He was talking about the very same thing. Writing short pieces is more difficult, but the effects are better. You have to tell the same thing in fewer words, but this way you’ll keep your reader’s attention.

Of course, it’s just a psychological trick. We somehow feel more responsible for what we write directly on paper—there’s physical evidence of what we’ve written. But if it works, why not use such a fact?

Getting rid of distractions

A computer is the greatest digital distraction center, especially when connected to the Internet (which is every computer nowadays). And I’m sure that’s obvious.

Of course you can turn off all notifications, and even disconnect, but be honest (not to me—to yourself): will you really be able not to think about checking your email or Twitter until you finish your work? You’re always one click away from doing this. Why keep being tempted or get distracted and waste time?

There’s no minesweeper or Facebook on a piece of paper! Turn off your computer and just write. Do you even remember what your handwriting looks like? I mean apart from your signature on the credit card!

The worst thing that may happen to you here is that you either have a pen that shows a lady getting undressed when it’s turned upside down, or you start drawing silly stuff. If you do, get a typewriter—there’s no drawing there. And it requires you to concentrate more on the writing itself, which is another advantage.

Of course there are fullscreen text editors that turn off all notifications and are supposed to keep you concentrated on your writing. There are even ones that simulate a typewriter. If this works for you, great! You’re one of the lucky ones. But if you have to use your will and fight not to use Alt+Tab, try a pen instead of a keyboard.

Fewer mistakes, better quality

I assume you’ve read some articles on proofing and correcting—you can find such posts right here on problogger.net. It’s very important to reread your texts—you always find something to correct.

But it’s even better to rewrite it. Even a few times, if it helps. Leo Tolstoj rewrote War and Peace seven times (my edition of this book is ~1600 pages). But it was simply worth it.

So here’s the trick—if you write the first version on paper, you’ll be forced to rewrite it. And that’s it. Nothing fancy, but honestly, how often do you rewrite a blog post? You probably read it once or twice, edit it, and hit Publish. Maybe you even wait a day or two before that. That’s good, but I’m saying there’s a good chance to make it even better. If you won’t rewrite your text strictly mechanically, you’ll probably have better results.

Creativity and motivation

Yes, you can even affect your thinking with the tools you use—not any particular ones, but with a variety.

Whenever you create a habit, you lose a part of your creative thinking. Or you show your brain how to do so—just work out a rule that works, and repeat it. This way, nothing new will ever happen, only a routine will be born.

Try to write with a pen in a red notepad, another time use a typewriter, later make notes with a 2B pencil on a lined (or maybe plain) piece of paper, then make an exception and use a computer…

This way, each time you write something, it’s different, and it makes you feel like you’re attempting something new. It doesn’t matter how silly all this may sound, the important thing is whether it works for you.

There’s one last advantage of writing with your computer turned off. Eyes. If you’re blogging (which means doing research, commenting, using social media, etc.) and spending much time in front of the monitor, you should use every opportunity to take a break from the screen.

What tricks do you use to mix up your blogging? Share them with us in the comments.

Janek works as a copywriter in the online payments industry, but writes also on many other topics on Across the Board.

10 Blogosphere Trends + 34 Handy Grammar Tips

Online retailer Zappos has recently seen a “substantial” increase in revenue after correcting the grammar and spelling of reviews on its site. The sentiment of the reviews was not changed, but New York University research has shown that well-written reviews—even negative ones—inspire confidence. Why does that matter? Because the same principles hold true on your blog. Good grammar can do more than just help you avoid admonishment in the comments; it can also help your blog build trust and authority.

Take our grammar quiz to see whether you’re guilty of some of the most common blogging errors. Here’s how: Take a look at the sentences below about the most blogged-about stories of July (according to Regator, those stories were: Rupert Murdoch, Debt Ceiling, House Speaker John Boehner, Harry Potter, Comic-Con, Amy Winehouse, Anders Behring Breivik, Casey Anthony, World Cup, and Space Shuttle), then determine how many grammar and spelling errors are in each. Try to find them all before you peek at the answers…

As the founder of News Corp, Amanda could care less how many pies Rupert Murdoch has thrown at him.

Problem 1: “The founder of News Corp” refers to Rupert Murdoch, but because of its location, it seems to be referring to Amanda. Tip: Put modifiers next to the noun they are modifying to avoid confusion.
Problem 2:
“Could care less” means that it would, in fact, be possible to care less and that the speaker does care to some degree. Tip: Use “could not care less” to indicate a total lack of concern.
Problem 3:
Passive voice, while not strictly incorrect, is often less direct and concise than active voice. Tip: Use active voice whenever possible. It conveys more information about who is performing the action.
Corrected:
Amanda could not care less how many pies protesters throw at Rupert Murdoch, the founder of News Corp.

The Republican’s believe the Democrat’s should of handled the debt ceiling crisis different then they did.

Problem 1: “Republican’s” and “Democrat’s” should not have apostrophes. Tip: Use apostrophes to create possessive forms, but never to create plurals. Check out the Apostrophe Abuse blog for grammar-nerd amusement.
Problem 2:
“Should of” is incorrect. Tip: Use “should have” rather than “should of.” The same goes for “would have” and “could have.”
Problem 3 (?):
This is murky water, but it could be argued that “debt ceiling crisis” should be hyphenated. Tip: When two or more words work together to modify another word, you have what’s called a compound modifier. Some stylebooks will tell you to hyphenate all compound modifiers, others tell you to refer to the dictionary for individual terms, and still others will tell you to use a hyphen only when it is needed to avoid confusion (for example, hyphenate “man-eating shark” to indicate that it’s a shark that eats guys as opposed to “man eating shark,” which could be interpreted as a guy who is eating a shark). Be consistent and hyphenate when not doing so would cause confusion. Oh, and there’s never a need to hyphenate when using an adverb ending in “ly” and an adjective (“extremely confused blogger,” for example).
Problem 4:
“Then” should be “than.” Tip: Use “then” when you are placing something after something else in time (I wrote this post then went to a party). Use “than” when you are comparing things (in this case, how the Democrats handled the crisis compared to how they should have).
Problem 5:
“Different” should be “differently.” Tip: Pay attention to whether you’re modifying a noun or verb to make sure you’re using the right modifier. In this case, we’re modifying a verb (“handled”), so we need the adverb rather than the adjective.
Corrected:
The Republicans believe that Democrats should have handled the debt-ceiling crisis differently.

House Speaker John Boehner’s Budget Control Act that aimed to raise the debt ceiling was put to a vote, for all intensive purposes the vote was successful.

Problem 1: The phrase “that aimed to raise the debt ceiling” should be enclosed in commas and “that” should be “which.” Tip: The phrase is what’s called a nonrestrictive clause, meaning that it could be removed from the sentence and the sentence would still make sense. Any time you have additional, non-essential information like this, use “which” rather than “that.” In these cases, enclose the phrase with commas.
Problem 2:
Instead of a comma, the two sentences should be separated by a period/full stop. Tip: When two or more sentences run together with commas in between them, the resulting monstrosity is known as a comma splice and is to be avoided at all costs. Commas are good at lots of things, but stringing sentences together isn’t one of them. (Note, in that last sentence, that the comma works with a preposition—“but”—to put two sentences together. Commas can work with their preposition pals to do this, but can’t do it on their own.)
Problem 3:
“All intensive purposes” is incorrect. Tip: The correct phrase is “all intents and purposes.”
Corrected:
The House of Representatives voted on House Speaker John Boehner’s Budget Control Act, which aimed to raise the debt ceiling. For all intents and purposes, the vote was successful.

Its hard to except that they’re will be no more Harry Potter movies. Fans literally cried their eyes out when they found out this film would be the last.

Problem 1: “Its” should be “It’s.” Tip: Remember that apostrophes stand for letters that are missing, so “it’s” means “it is” or “it has.” See the letters the apostrophe is replacing? Without the apostrophe, “its” is possessive and means “belonging to it.”
Problem 2:
“Except” should be “accept.” Tip: “Accept” is a verb that generally means to “to willingly receive, agree to, or hold something as true.”  “Except” is usually a preposition and means “excluding.” Imagine that the “A” in “accept” stands for “agree” and the “x” in “except” draws a big “X” over something that is not included.
Problem 3:
“They’re” should be “there.” Tip: Go back to the tip about apostrophes standing in for missing letters. “They’re” actually means “they are” or “they were.” You can see the letters that the apostrophe is replacing. “There” refers to a location. It has the word “here” inside of it, which might help you remember the difference between it and “their,” which is a possessive pronoun meaning “something that belongs to them.” “Their” also contains a word holds is a clue to its meaning: “heir,” which implies ownership.
Problem 4:
Fans did not literally cry their eyes out (I hope). Tip: Don’t say “literally” unless you actually truly mean exactly what you are saying. There is an entire blog devoted to the misuse of this word.
Corrected:
It’s hard to accept that there will be no more Harry Potter movies. Fans cried when they found out this film would be the last.

Comic-con is a place where a fan can get autographs from their favorite stars. The autograph sessions feature stars like the Green Lantern cast, including Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, and Ryan Reynolds, the Terra Nova cast, including Stephen Lang and Alex Graves, and the Immortals cast.

Problem 1: There’s a noun/pronoun agreement problem. “A fan” is singular but the pronoun “their” is plural. Tip: Things can get awkward when a writer is trying to use “their” rather than “his or her” to avoid gender bias. It does manage to avoid gender-specific language such as, “a place where a fan can get autographs from his favorite stars,” but it also makes a grammatical mess. In many cases, the best choice is to make the noun plural to match the plural pronoun. You could also eliminate the pronoun (“…a fan can get autographs from stars…”).
Problem 2:
“Like” should be “such as.” Tip: This is a nitpicky one, and few would be bothered if you used “like” in this situation. But technically, “like” means that there will be stars similar to the stars listed, whereas “such as” means that those exact stars will be in attendance.
Problem 3:
The commas after “Reynolds” and “Graves” should be semicolons. Tip: When you have a list of items with commas, separate those items with a semicolon for clarity. The Oatmeal calls this use the “super-comma.”
Problem 4:
The titles of movies and television shows should be italicized. Tip: Use italics for longer works such as novels, television series, albums, blogs, etc. Use quotation marks around the smaller works that make up those longer works, so things such as chapter titles, episode titles, song titles, blog posts, etc.
Corrected:
Comic-con is a place where fans can get autographs from their favorite stars. The autograph sessions feature stars such as the Green Lantern cast, including Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, and Ryan Reynolds; the Terra Nova cast, including Stephen Lang and Alex Graves; and the Immortals cast.

Irregardless of your opinion of her music we can all agree that Amy Winehouse, 27, died far to young.

Problem 1: “Irregardless” should be “regardless.” Tip: “Irregardless” is not a word—or at least not a standard word that is widely accepted and doesn’t make you sound silly.
Problem 2:
A comma is needed after “music.” Tip: Introductory phrases or words that come before the main clause, are separated from the main clause by commas. That’s a bit of an oversimplification. Purdue OWL has a fantastic and extensive page on comma rules if you want to geek out.
Problem 3:
“To” should be “too.” Tip: “Two” is the number after three. It’s the only one of the three homophones with a W, which, when flipped onto its side, looks a bit like a 3. “Too” means “also” or “excessively.” Let the extra O remind you that you’re adding onto something. “To” is the correct spelling for all other uses.
Corrected:
Regardless of your opinion of her music, we can all agree that Amy Winehouse, 27, died far too young.

Anders Behring Breivik says he will identify the terror cells he was working with if his “demands” are met. His demands include getting cigarettes, wearing civilian clothing, and the resignation of the entire Norwegian government.

Problem 1: The quotation marks around “demand” are not needed. Tip: Putting something that is not a title or direct quote in quotation marks implies that the term is false. With that in mind, check out the well-maintained Unnecessary Quotes blog for a laugh.
Problem 2:
The list’s structure is not parallel. Tip: When you make a list of items, they should all be the same part of speech.
Corrected:
Anders Behring Breivik says he will identify the terror cells he was working with if his demands are met. His demands include cigarettes, civilian clothing, and the resignation of the entire Norwegian government. (Second sentence could also be corrected as: “His demands include getting cigarettes, wearing civilian clothing, and seeing the resignation of the entire Norwegian government.” Either option fixes the parallel structure problem.)

The jurors in the Casey Anthony trial use to be frightened for their safety but the judge decided not allow the juror’s names to be released. Some are nervous anyways.

Problem 1: “Use to” should be “used to.” Tip: “Use to” is never correct. When said aloud, “used to” can sound a bit like “use to,” but remember that when you use this phrase, you’re talking about something in the past tense, which is why it ends in “ed.”
Problem 2:
There should be a comma after “safety.” Tip: As mentioned earlier, commas can’t put two sentences together on their own, but they can work with prepositions such as “but,” “and,” and “or” to join two sentences.
Problem 3:
The apostrophe in “juror’s” should come after the S rather than before it. Tip: If a word is both plural and possessive, put the apostrophe after the S unless the word is plural without an S (“children” for example).
Problem 4:
“Anyways” should be “anyway.” Tip: Banish “anyways” from your blog. It’s not a word.
Corrected:
The jurors in the Casey Anthony trial used to be frightened for their safety, but the judge decided not to allow jurors’ names to be released. Some are nervous anyway.

I wish I was better at betting on soccer. I layed money on the U.S. womens’ team, so I had to go to the ATM machine.

Problem 1: “Was” should be “were.” Tip: The term for this grammatical mood is the subjunctive, and it’s like the fairy-tale of grammar. You’ll find it where you’re talking about something wishful that has not yet happened, and in those cases, you’ll use “were” rather than “was.” Another example would be something like “If I were in charge, I’d do away with all these rules.” Though the second example doesn’t explicitly convey a wish, it is wishful thinking in action.
Problem 2:
“Layed” should be “laid.” Tip: “Layed” is not a word, so that makes this particular instance easy, but let’s not lie: The “lay” vs. “lie” thing isn’t simple. It’s a bit more problematic than some of the other easily confused words because the past tense of one is actually the same word as the present tense of the other. Confused? Me too. It’s my grammatical Achilles’ heel. The always-brilliant Grammar Girl wrote nearly 600 words on the topic, and her charts and examples will do a far better job of explaining than I can do in a brief space.
Problem 3:
The apostrophe in “women’s’” should go before the S rather than after it. Tip: We said above that if a word is both plural and possessive, the apostrophe goes after the S unless the world is plural without the S. In this case, the word “women” is plural without an S, so the apostrophe goes before the S.
Problem 4:
“ATM machine” should be “ATM.” Tip: The M in “ATM” stands for “machine,” so “ATM machine” is redundant. The same goes for “PIN number,” “HIV virus,” and “please RSVP.”
Corrected:
I wish I were better at betting on soccer. I laid money on the U.S. women’s team, so I had to go to the ATM.

The fumes, which were left from the Kennedy Center’s 135 space shuttle launches, will take thirty years and $96 million dollars to clean.

Problem 1: “Which” should be “that” and the commas should be removed from the first sentence. Tip: Without the clause explaining that the fumes were left over from the shuttle launches, we don’t know which fumes the sentence refers to; that means it is a necessary or restrictive clause. As you might recall from above, if you cannot remove the clause without losing the meaning of the sentence, the clause should be introduced with “that” rather than “which” and does not need to be set off by commas.
Problem 2:
The word “dollars” is unnecessary. Tip: Like “ATM machine” above, “$96 million dollars” is redundant because “dollars” is represented by the dollar sign.
Corrected:
The fumes that were left from the Kennedy Center’s 135 space shuttle launches will take thirty years and $96 million to clean.

Well, how’d you do? Were you able to find all 34 errors? Are there other common grammar errors that plague you? Share them in the comments!

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator.com, Regator for iPhone and the brand-new Regator Breaking News service for journalists and bloggers. She is also an award-winning print journalist. You can find her on Twitter @kimber_regator.

The Five Worst Ways to Title a Blog Post

Post titling seems to be something of sacred territory for many bloggers. We feel that the title contains the essence of our post, and therefore, it’s the essence of ourselves—our personalities, our messages, our brands.

On the other hand, we see a lot of post titles on the Web, and there appears to be endless variation available to us. Many factors play into a title: the post’s topic, the angle we’ve taken, SEO and keywords, and so on. Even if you’re a my-titles-are-my-brand type of blogger, it’s not impossible to be stumped when it comes to titling a blog post.

A lot has been said about how to address titling from different perspectives, and each of us needs to find our own titling “groove.” Here I thought I’d give you five no-nos for post titling, and explain why they’re less than ideal.

1. Always follow a formula

Many writers use formulae to come up with post titles—Aman Basanti explained one such approach here at ProBlogger.

These titling formulae can be fun and give you extra impact if they’re used astutely, but you probably don’t want to fall back on formulae every time you write a title. If you do, your titles may all end up sounding similar. Readers may well get bored.

A better approach is to look to the content of your post to indicate a few suitable titling approaches. Start there, and you’ll soon have some strong starting points for developing a title.

2. Make a title that follows a fad

Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of writers finishing titles with the words “Oh My.” Usually, the titles contain a list of items and the “Oh My” is used to imply that the author, and perhaps the reader, will be overwhelmed by this plethora of options.

The problem is that by hitching your wagon to a titling fad like this, your title just sounds like every other fad title on the Web at the same time. If you title sounds like everyone else’s, what does that say about your content? And how will it ever stand out from the crowd?

Instead, why not say something specific and relevant about your post, formulating a unique title that communicates the problem your article solves, or the help it provides? The article’s title is, after all, its hook or selling point. Make it unique—don’t take a me-too approach.

3. Write a really long title

We tend to stray into really-long-title territory when we’re trying to apply humor, or colloquial speech, to an article title. Neither of these reasons justifies a title that goes on forever.

Your title is a bit like your article’s USP or elevator pitch: it needs to speak plainly, clearly, and quickly. Make readers struggle through your title, and you’ll likely lose them. Even if you don’t, long titles tend to lack punch, direction, and focus, so readers are more likely to wind up confused or underwhelmed at the title’s end. And they’re a nightmare for mobile-device users.

Try to keep titles to the point, out of respect for your time-poor, weary-eyed readers.

4. Create a title that’s misleading

In an effort to hook readers, some bloggers create titles that mislead. Often, this happens unintentionally. Look very closely at the title you’ve given your post and consider whether the post delivers on the promise that title makes.

Look very closely.

Delivering on your titles’ promises is critical for your credibility, and for reader satisfaction. If you’re even remotely concerned that a title might be a bit over the top, rethink it. Try other ideas and approaches. Run it past a friend. Ask your Twitter followers what they’d expect to get from an article with that title—you’ll soon know if your title overpromises.

5. Focus on the cool, not the content

A couple of the points I’ve already mentioned reflect this approach, but it deserves separate treatment. Don’t become so wrapped up in writing a title that’s retweetable, link-baity, or trendy that you lose the sense of your article, or—worse still—damage your brand.

This is often how controversial or slightly offensive titles come into being. The author thinks, “I have a great post here—a post that could go viral! I need a viral-ish title to get it there!” And suddenly, stars in their eyes, they’re pulling out all stops to make that “viral” title.

Don’t apply a whatever-it-takes attitude to titling. It’s true that a title can make or break a post’s success. But it can also make or break your reputation, your brand consistency, and your readership. Don’t try to be cool with your titles—just be yourself, connecting with your readers.

The ideal title

There is no “ideal” title. But there are good and bad titles. To me, as both a reader and a blogger, a good title is one that communicates clearly and succinctly what the article delivers in a way that compels the reader.

Can you suggest any titles that you think are excellent—or terrible? I’d love to hear how you title your posts in the comments.

How My Family and Friends Help Me Blog Better

This guest post is by Jonathan Dunsky of WorldofDiets.com.

A lot of bloggers work alone. I started out the same way. I hardly talked about what I was doing and never got into details with the people closest to me.

Today, however, I feel that this approach can limit the success of your blog and that you must reach out to those closest to you to help you build your blog to its fullest potential.

helping friends

Copyright Yuri Arcurs - Fotolia.com

The people around you can help you in a variety of ways: giving you ideas for content creation, providing usability tips, design ideas, and general constructive criticism. You can use all this to make your blog more appealing, interesting, and popular.

In the two years in which I’ve been writing my health and fitness blog, I received tremendous help from the people in my life. I want to share some of those things with you to give you some ideas on how the people around you can help you become a more successful blogger.

Pushing me to make difficult changes

I have to admit that I love my blog. I’ve put a lot of work into it and I find it hard to make changes to it.

Fortunately for me, my wife, Karen, is not as sentimental and kept pushing me to invest in a better design for the site. She didn’t like the plain look of the free theme I used whereas I didn’t want to touch it.

In the end, as is usually the case in our marriage, I capitulated and bought a premium theme, tweaked it a bit to look just right, had a designer create a logo for the blog, and implemented a magazine style home page instead of a regular blog format.

The result was a decrease in bounce rate, general approval from readers, and I am even more in love with my blog today than I used to be in the past. I guess I’m just a shallow guy and looks do matter to me.

The point is that making this kind of change would have taken me a lot more time if no one was there to push me to do it.

Creating better content

There are a number people in my life that have helped me create better content.

The first is my wife, who is a physical therapist. I often consult her about correct exercise techniques and how to craft effective workouts for my readers.

The second is my friend, Dorothy, who has struggled with her weight for years. She represents the average visitor to my site—a person who wishes to lose weight in a healthy and gimmick-free way.

Just by speaking with her about the methods she tries and the process she’s going through reminds me to create content with my readers’ problems in mind.

Following trends from afar

I live in Europe so it’s harder for me to keep up with trends in the US and Canada, where most of my readers are. Fortunately for me, one of my childhood friends lives in New York and I can ask him whether a certain fitness product or diet plan is getting a lot of attention and media coverage in the US.

In this way I can create content which people are more interested in at that time.

For instance, my review of the Shake Weight might have never been written if I didn’t know how big that product was in late 2009. Up to this day, that blog post received nearly 300 comments.

Design improvements

My sister-in-law, Sharon, is a graphic designer so I consulted her about the color scheme and design of the blog and logo. Whenever I want to make design changes I know I can count on her professional opinion to steer me in the right direction.

How to enlist your friends and family to help you blog better

First, you have to be open about what you do and what your goals are. If you’re blogging about some shady topic and you can’t even talk about it with your friends, you will have to do things on your own.

Second, accept criticism. If people are afraid to tell you what they really think about your blog, you will miss out on crucial tips that can make it much better. From now on, any criticism should be viewed as constructive.

Third, your blog is written for people. Unless you write about internet marketing, you should seek the advice of people who are not marketers. Get the viewpoints of people who are similar to your readers.

Finally, don’t disregard anyone’s opinion. Don’t be quick to reject proposals. You don’t have to accept or implement every suggestion you get, but you should take the time to consider it.

If you have other stories about how those closest to you have helped you become a better blogger, or some tips to add, please share them in the comments below.

Jonathan Dunsky is a writer, husband, and fitness enthusiast. You can check out his fitness and nutrition tips at WorldofDiets.com.

Being Relevant and Reputable—Google’s Sweet Spot

This guest post is by John Hoff of Blog Training Classroom.

I’ve written many articles online over the years. Many deal with WordPress, blogging, and making money online; however, there’s one subject I’ve noticed which consistently takes the “most popular” topic award … search engine optimization.

The concept of search engine optimization at times can really make your head spin. In one respect, it seems like a concept which is extremely complicated to understand and implement because there can be a ton of moving parts which you have to consider, like:

  • keywords
  • keyword density
  • attaining backlinks
  • who you link to
  • duplicate content
  • how to structure your link text
  • heading tags
  • meta tags.

And now with terms like Panda and Google +1 getting tossed into the mix, I feel like grabbing our buddy Googlebot by the shirt and saying, “Really? I mean, come on. I’ve got way more important things to do online then trying to understand how your Google brain works!”

But then there’s the simplicity of search engine optimization.

The simplicity part comes when you start thinking about Google as if it were a human. By thinking of it like a human, we can better understand what it wants in terms of concepts we understand and use in our everyday lives.

The human side of Google

The above list shows all the mechanics of SEO. Google is not a human, it’s an algorithm.

Now to throw you for even more of a loop: it’s an algorithm which is trying to act like a human. You ask it something and it wants to be the smartest guy on the block.

How does it get to be the smartest guy on the block?

By giving you the best answer to your question.

And that, my friends, is what Google wants.

While Yahoo! and Bing give “okay” answers, Google wants to give you the best answer, just like your most trusted friend would, because if it can do that, you’ll keep asking it questions.

So what is the human side of SEO?

It’s the concept of helping Google get what it wants in terms of how we humans think. And by giving it what it wants, it will reward you.

How to give Google what it wants

Here’s where all those mechanics of SEO come into play. They are the way in which Google tries to determine two very simple concepts. Is a site or article:

  • relevant
  • reputable?

Now those are concepts we humans can understand a little more easily.

The relevant part is the easy part—all you have to do is stay on topic. It’s the reputable part which takes a little more work, but we’ll talk about that in just a moment.

Case study: Problogger.net

Let’s take a look at how Darren Rowse and his site are giving Google what it wants.

As of the date this article was written, Problogger.net has a PageRank of 6. Not too shabby. This tells us that Google thinks this site is important.

How then would Google see that Darren and his site are both relevant and reputable?

The “relevant” part

When you arrive on Darren’s blog, it’s obvious his site is all about the concept of blogging. Here’s a quick list of how he shows Google his site is relevant to blogging:

  • He offers products on the subject.
  • He’s got an incredible number of articles written which relate to blogging.
  • The word “blogger” is in his URL.
  • The word “blog” is sprinkled throughout his website.
  • His site’s home page title clearly tells people what they will find here (blogging tips).

And the list goes on.

Okay, so that was the easy part: just stay on topic and show Google what your site is all about. But what about being reputable?

The “reputable” part

Back in the day (years ago), simply being relevant was good enough—remember those keyword meta tags?

But being only relevant these days just doesn’t cut it and the reason is because the Internet has grown from a few thousand websites to millions of websites, with many talking about exactly the same thing.

So tell me then, who’s article would you rather read and trust?

Someone who knows nothing about blogging but wrote a “how to make money blogging” article, or an article Darren wrote which was about “how to make money blogging?”

Both articles are relevant to making money through blogging, but whose article would you trust is more correct?

Take that evaluation you just did in your head, and that’s exactly what Google is doing.

It sees that both articles are relevant to the topic but then, just like you, it makes a decision at who is more trustworthy.

And that’s where the reputable part comes into play.

Darren and his site Problogger.net are reputable for these reasons:

  • People (a lot of people) link to his site.
  • People mention his name and site even when they don’t link to him.
  • He’s like seriously everywhere: Twitter, Facebook, Google+ (how do you do it, man?).
  • His articles get retweeted, Liked, Stumbled, appear on Digg, etc.

In other words, he’s mentioned everywhere online … and in a good way.

So Darren has shown Google, just as he has to you and me, that his site is both relevant to blogging and a reputable resource people can use. By showing this to Google, he has attained decent search rank.

That’s the simple side of search engine optimization. It’s not about the mechanics, it’s about the human side of SEO.

How to get into Google’s good graces

In my opinion, the way to achieve the best search engine success is by concentrating the majority of your time on the human aspect of SEO.

Don’t get me wrong—if you’re really wanting to dive into search engine optimization, then you’re going to have to learn the mechanics. There’s no way around that. You can think of the mechanics (keywords density, header tags, etc.) like tools.

But tools don’t build buildings, people do.

Chances are that many of you want to rank your articles in Google, but have better things to do with your time than become SEO experts.

If that’s you and the idea of studying search engine optimization is as appealing as watching reruns of Rocky III all day long, then I’d suggest at the very least familiarizing yourself with a few of the more important mechanics of SEO, and then focusing the rest of your time on just building epic stuff.

Concentrate on people, and do what entrepreneurs did back in the day before the Internet.

Create that epic stuff—articles, blogs, ebooks, tweets, etc.—and then get out there and hit the digital pavement. Share your epic stuff with other people and they will like you.

And when other people like you, Google will like you. Hence Google +1.

By the way, what the heck do we call Google +1? Twitter has “tweets” and Facebook has “Likes”, but what do you say when you +1 something?

And how important do you think this tool will be after reading this post?

John Hoff the blog training instructor at Blog Training Classroom and is an Internet Marketer. If you’d like to learn more about SEO and how he ranks sites and articles in Google, he’s got a free SEO brain dump download – no email address required.

How to Use Blogging to Get Clients Flocking after You

This guest post is by Onibalusi from YoungPrePro.com.

I have been writing for others as a freelancer for over seven months now and within that period I have made over $20,000 just by writing for others. I keep on getting new client requests every month and due to an agreement with my current and main clients, I have rejected almost ten clients in the past six months.

I have also noticed that in the blogosphere and in the freelancing world, less than 20% of the people get 99% of the results, so I decided to write an article on how to use blogging to get more clients to your business.

Before I continue I’d like you to know that the tips in this article won’t help you get “cheap clients” who really don’t care about the quality of your work. I’ll be giving you tips that can help you get high paying, recurring clients that you can choose from.

I’d also like you to know that every aspect of this article is essential. Don’t think you can skip my first point to go to the next and then expect the results to come. This is definitely not the ultimate guide on getting clients—I’m far from someone to write an ultimate guide on the subject. The tips in this article can also be modified to give you better results than I’m getting, but some people like to skip the main parts and try to rush into it for the money, then expect the results to come. That just won’t happen!

Okay, let’s get to the tips.

Focus on what you’re best at

Try to put yourself into the shoes of your client first. Let’s say you’re a small business with a tight budget and you want to get the word out about your business. You think the best thing to do is to hire a marketing consultant to give you advice based on your business model and you decide to go out in search for one.

You came across two people—the first is someone who is really desperate to make money and is therefore claiming the title of a “marketing consultant” because he hears that others with that name are making it big. The other, however, is a dedicated marketing consultant who lives, eats, and breathes marketing and who has helped several people with marketing their business. Which of the two will you go with?

You might try to play smart and think clients won’t be able to see through you but as someone who hardly advertises my service but keeps on getting client requests regularly, I will tell you that the best thing to do is to focus on what you’re best at. Doing so won’t only increase your chances of getting a lot of clients, it will ensure you’re paid double what you’re worth, and it will also ensure your clients stick with you for a very long time.

After all, the only thing your clients want is results, and once you can give them a lot of those, they will happily stay with you forever.

Know which kinds of clients you want and tailor your blog posts to them

I’m not trying to tell you to start writing blog posts every day inviting clients, or to be writing aggressive blog posts with the sole aim of getting clients. I’m taking about being specific about what you talk about, and letting potential clients see you as an expert on your subject.

Take a look at Darren Rowse, for example. If a big client is looking for someone to give the best advice about building successful blogs, you can be sure they will hire Darren. Not only does Darren have three very popular blogs in different niches, he also has the most successful blog in the blogging niche (which has been the most successful for several years now). That alone speaks a great deal to show that this guy knows what he’s talking about.

If you want clients to hire you to do their website design work for them, you need to be blogging about web design, and doing case studies that help analyze other people’s blog designs for better results. The more you can show someone that you know your stuff, the higher their chances of hiring you will be.

I try to know how my clients have found me, and I have noticed that every single one of them discovered me through my blog posts about guest blogging, which assures them that I know my stuff as far as writing is concerned.

Be a living example of what you have to offer

If you’re a web designer who wants to have clients flocking after you, having a very poor website design won’t help you go far. The best way to get clients is by letting them know that you know your stuff—and what better way to do this than to be using your services yourself?

Why will people ever hire you to write for them when you don’t even have a blog? Why will people hire you to help design their websites when you have never designed for someone else and the website template you use is one of the worst they’ve ever seen? Why will people hire you for SEO when you hardly get any visits to your blogs from the search engines? Why will people hire you to write their copy when you can’t even convince them to use your service?

Since I’m human, just like you, I’d like to tell you that my number one concern isn’t my mother, it isn’t my siblings, it isn’t you either. It is me, and since every human thinks alike, I’d like to believe this is the same for everybody. Our major concerns are ourselves, and we think about ourselves before others. No one will hire you if you can’t prove to them that you’re an example of what you have to offer and that hiring you will be their wisest decision.

Market yourself

You will notice here that I’m not actually saying you should market your service.

I’m not against marketing your service altogether, but my point is that being a living example of what you have to offer is enough marketing of your service in itself. So spreading the word about yourself will let a lot of people see you, and will result in them asking to buy your services.

Look for the best tactics that those who are getting results in your industry are using, and start making use of them yourself. Don’t just rush after guest blogging because people in the IM niche says it is working for them. Facebook might be what’s working in your niche. Search engines might be the best friend of those getting the most results in your niche.

So instead of following the general approach to marketing, try to take a look at how some of the people getting the most results in your field are marketing themselves. Then, start marketing yourself using the same approach.

Use your blog

Getting clients flocking after you isn’t as difficult as most people think. It isn’t about joining one freelancing site or the other. Blogging is the most powerful tool at the disposal of everybody, and you can easily make the best use of it to your own advantage. Utilize the tips above to get clients flocking after you—and let us know how you go in the comments.

Onibalusi Bamidele is the founder of YoungPrePro.com, a blog where he teaches people how to write for traffic and money. Get his free 7 series eCourse on How to Build a Successful Online Writing Business

Take 5 Minutes to Make WordPress 10 Times More Secure

This guest post is by David Wang of The ClickStarter.

Hacktivist groups Lulzsec and Anonymous are on the prowl again. Their actions have generated lots of attention for hacking, and you can be sure that many bored kids and shady characters are interested to start hacking too.

What if your blog was the target of a rookie hacker, honing his skills to make it to the big leagues? All of your hard work building a better blog, growing traffic and readership, and making money with your blog would be jeopardized—or, worse, lost forever.

Thankfully, WordPress is pretty secure out of the box and they provide frequent security updates. Even better are the following super-simple actions that you can take to make WordPress ten times more secure. (Not scientifically verified! Your mileage may vary.)

Move wp-config.php up one level

The wp-config.php file contains all of your WordPress configuration information and settings. It’s game over if hackers gain access to this file—they would be able to inject malware into your blog pages, or *gulp* delete all of your blog content.

A little-known feature of WordPress is that you can move the wp-config.php file one level above the WordPress root. On most Linux servers, wp-config.php would be located in:

~/home/user/public_html/wp-config.php

Simply FTP into your server, and then move wp-config.php above the public_html directory so that it is located in:

~/home/user/wp-config.php

This way, wp-config.php is outside of the public-facing web root, and no longer accessible to scripts and bots that hackers may employ over the Web.

There are no other settings to configure—WordPress will automatically know to look for wp-config.php one level above. Easy, right?

Caveat: This tip will not work if you install your blog in a subdirectory (e.g. public_html/blog) or as an add-on domain in cPanel (e.g. public_html/yourblog.com).

Time required: 1 minute

Delete the ‘admin’ account

The default Administrator account on WordPress has a username of ‘admin’. Every n00b hacker would know that, so using ‘admin’ as the username is like having a back door to your house that every thief knows about. Do not ever use this as the main account. Choose a different username when installing WordPress.

If you have been using the ‘admin’ username, go into the Dashboard » Users » Add New User screen. Create a new user with the role of Administrator. Now log out, and log back in as the new user.

Go to the Users screen again and delete ‘admin’. You can transfer all of the content created by ‘admin’ to your new user account before confirming deletion.

Time required: 1 minute

Update WordPress, plugins, and themes

WordPress makes it so easy to update itself, plus plugins, and themes, to the latest version. It’s so easy that you (almost) deserve to get hacked if you don’t stay updated. Spending one minute installing updates will save you hours or days of frustration and headaches if you ever do get hacked.

Plugins and themes should also be updated regularly. All plugins and themes from the WordPress directory integrate with the automatic update feature. Many premium plugins and themes also have automatic updates, which is another great reason to invest in a high-quality theme framework for your blog.

Time required: 1 minute

Install WP Security Scan and Secure WordPress

Finally, plugins that deal with security are another great way of reducing the likelihood of your blog getting hacked. Two really good plugins that do this are WP Security Scan and Secure WordPress by WebsiteDefender.

WP Security Scan comes with several tools to help make your blog more secure:

  • The Scanner checks the permissions of the WordPress files and highlights any with the wrong permissions. FTP into your server and change the permissions accordingly.
  • The Password Tool tells you the strength of your password, and also generates random and super-strong passwords that you can use.
  • The Database tool allows you to backup the WordPress database and change the database prefix. Use it to change your database prefix to something like ‘7yhj2_‘. This makes it difficult for hackers to guess your database table names when trying to perform SQL injections.

Secure WordPress takes a different approach and helps improve security by removing clues that can help hackers detect vulnerabilities in your system. The plugin’s settings screen is a simple list of checkboxes that do everything from removing login error messages, removing WordPress version numbers and even blocking malicious URL requests. I recommend activating all the checkboxes, unless you have a specific need for one of the features that it blocks.

Time required: 2 minutes

Stay vigilant

The steps above will drastically improve your blog security and prevent it from becoming a target of opportunity for rookie hackers. However security is an ongoing process, and also involves practicing security as a habit.

Stay vigilant and make it a point to keep up with the latest security news for WordPress, especially if you use it to run your business. You should also learn as much about security as you can. The ProBlogger archives are full of great posts that contain much more information on keeping your blog hacker, spammer and spyware-free and even planning for a blog disaster!

Now, please take five minutes and perform all of the steps above. I wish you good luck and hope your blog stays hacker-free!

David Wang blogs about his journey to generate the majority of his revenue online at The ClickStarter. He is also a WordPress evangelist and recently launched a free online course called Getting Started with WordPress. Follow David on Twitter – @blogjunkie

The 5 Must-read Books for Bloggers in 2011

I’ve read dozens of marketing books in the past six months, and these are the titles that really stood out. Reading these will dramatically help you improve your blog. I promise!

Launch

I used to work for a launch coach so assumed I knew everything about product launches. Until I read this book. This is the best business book I have read in the past year.

The author, Michael Stelnzer, focuses on the “Elevation Principle.” He talks about how to give away digestible how-to content that creates a loyal, well-fed business community.

He applied these concepts to Social Media Examiner which was started at a time when he had little industry experience. Within two weeks of its launch, Social Media Examiner joined the ranks of Technorati’s Top 100 Small Business Blogs and remains in the Top 10.

This book will resonate with bloggers who are struggling to launch products from their blogs, or who are shying away from aggressive launch tactics. You can also use the book as a case study on how to create a popular, profitable blog.

The last chapter focuses on the “momentum launch,” which is the concept most Internet marketers are interested in. If that is your main interest, I’d recommend getting Ebook Evolution or How To Launch The **** Out Of Your Ebook instead.

Learn more.

Curation Nation

Many bloggers are embracing the concept of the human curator. There is too much information to filter, and aggregation tools aren’t as good as a real person. We’ve developed a need to go beyond aggregation to break through the digital noise. Learning about curation will become increasingly important for bloggers who want a competitive edge due to their knowledge about content marketing.

In Curation Nation, Steven Rosenbaum “curates the curators”. He does the homework by interviewing collection of thinkers from the fields of media, advertising, publishing, commerce, and web technology.

This book is essential reading for those who want to stand out. It’s not a “how-to;” instead, Steven takes you on a journey that shows you how curation is relevant to your business. I believe that all micro-publishers should read this.

Learn more.

The Accidental Creative

A lot of demands are made on a blogger’s creativity. It goes beyond content creation. We have to be creative when it comes toother parts of our online presence, like marketing and monetization.

It’s hard to separate yourself from your blog. A lot of us use the Internet for fun and it’s easy to allow work to creep into our recreation time.

The Accidental Creative taught me that a lot of the activities I’d been doing were contributing to the exhaustion I’ve been feeling. This book taught me about managing my energy, fostering the kinds of relationships that aid creativity, and how to create a rhythm that supports my creative process. Since reading this book, I’ve had so many creative ideas that I can’t keep up. I also feel a lot happier and more engaged with my work.

If your blog or client work involves a lot of creative energy, then this book will really help.

Learn more.

Clout

Creating compelling content isn’t easy, but it’s the only way to influence online. This book will guide you through planning, creating, and evaluating your content.

The information would be familiar for many bloggers, however Clout gives you an insight into how content marketing can support businesses. You’ll learn:

  • how to increase the influence of your blog content
  • how to measure the effectiveness of your content
  • how to develop and implement content strategies.

Clout helped me realize that my haphazard approach to blogging was causing issues which resulted in a large drop in income. Since then, I’ve adopted many of the ideas and am enjoying a lot of success with my latest blogging venture.

I would recommend this title if content marketing forms a major part of your blogging income.

Learn more.

Real Time Marketing and PR

Real Time Marketing and PR is primarily written for businesses, but a lot of the information still applies to bloggers. Social media is real time, and you will have times where people rally against you. Writing a blog post may take too long and allow a negative situation to get worse.

This book will teach you how to respond in real time. You’ll learn the tools and strategies that will help calm angry community members and foster positive discussion. If your blog is a part of a larger community, this book is a must-read.

Learn more.

Over to you

A number of good books have been released in the past year, but these were the ones that helped me improve my blog. What books have helped you in the past year? Are there any upcoming releases you’re looking forward to?

This post was written by Jade Craven. She used the information in these books to create Launch Watch—a site that covers the latest information products for bloggers and online marketers.

How to Make Getting Sidetracked Work for You as a Blogger

201106242208.jpgIf you’re ever stuck for ideas to write about on your blog, here’s a little discipline that I’ve gotten myself into over the years that helps me a lot.

It’s all about capturing those moments when you get sidetracked while writing blog posts.

Make getting sidetracked work for you

I doubt I’m the only one who gets sidetracked while writing.

It happens for me with almost every post I write. I start out writing about one topic and at some point through the post I find that I’ve gone off on some tangent. The tangent starts off relating to the main topic that I’m writing about, but quickly takes me away from what the post is really about.

When the realization dawns on me that I’m off on a tangent there are a few choices that can be made:

  • Leave the tangent in: Sometimes. getting a little sidetracked in a post actually works. It can add a bit of interest, serve as an example, and make your post better.
  • Delete the tangent: This is what I used to do most often. I’d sigh to myself about my rambling, highlight the offending paragraphs, and hit Delete.
  • Use the tangent as the basis for a new post: One day as I was about to delete a tangential paragraph, it struck me that while it didn’t belong in the post I’d been writing, it still contained value and could probably be used elsewhere. Instead of deleting it, I copied and pasted it into a new text document, which I returned to later to turn into a new post.

These days, I do it all the time (in fact this post started as a tangent in another). I’ve now extended the idea, and almost every time I finish writing a post I take a moment or two to re-read the post and look for places where I could have gone off on a tangent.

Look for those parts of the post where you could have said more, where ideas weren’t completely finished, or where you think the reader might be left asking questions and wanting to know more about something that you’ve said. It’s those parts with which you could start your next post.

The beauty of building this discipline—of making tangents and getting sidetracked work for you—is that you not only come up with new things to write about, you also build momentum on your blog. One post leads you to another one, and you’re able to take your readers on a journey with you by linking the posts together.