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4 WordPress Alternatives: the What, Where, and Why

This guest post is by Matt Setter of MaltBlue.com.

As bloggers, we’re all familiar with WordPress, whether as a self-hosted setup, or via WordPress.com. I think that, if you’re a blogger and you’ve not used it, then you’re likely in an odd minority.

If you do a Google search for “blogging software,” WordPress will likely be among the first results you’ll see. But is it necessarily the best choice?

Yes, “everybody’s doing it,” but does that make it the right choice? Just like in the 90’s when Microsoft seemed like the only choice, but then we found alternatives like Mac or Linux, there are alternatives to WordPress too.

Now maybe you’re quite happy with your WordPress installation, it meets your needs, and your site’s humming along nicely. Well, that’s perfectly fine. But what if you’re not? What if you want to change, or have the opportunity to change?

What if you’re:

  • just starting out
  • about to rebuild or redesign your blog
  • moving hosts
  • concerned WordPress is not meeting your needs
  • contrarian in your thinking?

Well if you’re any one of these, you’ll love this post. Today I present to you four alternatives you may never have heard of, showing you the pros and cons of each, how much they cost, and where you can get them from. Ready? Great! Let’s begin.

Habari

habariHabari is a secure blogging platform designed from the ground up with the current and future needs of the blogging community firmly in mind. It’s also designed to be open and transparent, using modern software development techniques in its design.

Some examples of blogs run on this platform include:

The Habari project screencast linked below gives a great introduction to the CMS.

Features

  • Support for a wide variety of plugins and extensions, including:
    • contact forms
    • Last.FM
    • spam management
    • Amazon
    • Google Maps, AdSense, and Analytics
    • star ratings
    • members-only access
    • LinkedIn
    • Twitter
  • modern theme support
  • support for multiple users and multiple sites in one installation
  • support for tagging
  • support for a wide variety of media, including Viddler and Flickr
  • custom RSS feeds and statistics
  • Feedburner integration
  • modern spam filtering techniques
  • automatic Twitter updates
  • Disqus integration for commenting.

Cost and availability

Habari is available as a free download from the project home page. You can even try out a demo version without needing to install it.

Support options

Habari support is available via:

  • FAQ
  • users group
  • IRC (internet chat, similar to ICQ, MSN, Google Chat etc).

Is it for you?

If you’re keen to roll up your sleeves and manage things yourself, or you have great tech support, try out Habari. However, if your host doesn’t support it or you’re not able to do it yourself, then this may not be the best option for you.

CushyCMS

cushycmsCushyCMS is, as the home page says, “A Truly Simple CMS.” It was designed to be implemented with as little effort as possible; to be “Super Easy To Use!”

Where Habari is more like WordPress in that you can download, install, and configure it yourself, CushyCMS is a fully hosted solution.

Minimal manual effort is required on your part, other than the work required to implement modest customisations. Have a look at the introductory video below to see just how easy it is.

Blogs that use CushyCMS include:

Features

Depending on the package that you choose, different features will be available to you. In the free package, you get:

  • five sites
  • unlimited site editors
  • availability in 20 languages.

If you take the pro package, you can:

  • brand your installation
  • customise the interface via a wysiwig editor
  • remove all ads from the site
  • use your own domain name and logo
  • configure access rights for each user
  • customise the CSS classes.

Cost and availability

CushyCMS is available from Stateless Systems and comes in two forms:

  • free
  • pro, for US$28 per month.

Support options

This depends on the package that you’ve chosen. If you’ve chosen the free package, you get:

  • videos
  • documentation
  • package FAQ
  • access to the Google user group.

If you upgrade to the pro package, you get all that, plus direct email support from Stateless Systems.

Is it for you?

Depending on your needs and requirements, CushyCMS could be just what you’re looking for. You can sign up and get started in minutes. There’s no need to worry about what your current provider does or doesn’t support, as this system is fully hosted. You can get started with the free version, but you’ll have limited branding and domain control privileges.

You can upgrade to the pro version, but unless you’re making regular money with your blog, you might not want to pay the monthly fee for it. However, you do get a company backing the product with 24/7 support, should you have any questions or queries.

concrete5

concrete5Just like WordPress and Habari, concrete5 is available to be downloaded, configured, and installed at your web host and is a blogging platform built from the ground up to satisfy the needs of website editors, designers, and developers alike on a foundation of proven open source technologies.

The underlying philosophy of concrete5 is to make running a website easy. As you can see from the demo video below, in just about all aspects of site administration, you can simply click on a region of the page and edit it to your heart’s content.

A couple of blogs that run on concrete5 are:

Features

Concrete5:

  • is easy to theme yourself, or you can choose from a wide variety of pre-made themes
  • supports a wide variety of plugins and extensions including:
    • digital download support
    • discussion forums
    • ecommerce
    • ad servers
    • configurable menu navigation
    • star reviews
    • scrolling ticker
    • image gallery
    • traffic and statistics management
    • Google Maps
    • user chat
    • country-based redirect
    • Vimeo and YouTube support.
  • easy to configure, whether by hand or via the wysiwig editor
  • easy to update, right from your browser
  • open source and completely free to use
  • easy to install and configure.

Cost and availability

Concrete5 is available from the concrete5 website and is open source, so it’s free.

Support options

Similar to Habari, concrete5 doesn’t have a paid support option, however it does have:

If you are a developer, or have access to development support, training and integration packages are also available.

Is it for you?

Concrete5 is a good mixture of the best parts of the two previous packages. You can install it yourself, but training and custom build support are also available. So, depending on your needs and your available budget, concrete5 may be the right option for you. Why not give a trial version a go today to see?

TomatoCMS

tomatocmsLast, but by no means least, is TomatoCMS. Like Habari and Concrete5, TomatoCMS is an open source, modern blogging and CMS platform designed from the ground up to meet today’s needs and demands.

Examples of blogs that run on this platform include:

Two key aspects set TomatoCMS apart: Widgets and the Layout Editor. Let’s look at its feature list.

Features

Among a vast array of compelling features are:

  • a variety of built-in modules (extension) including:
    • banner advertising support
    • category management
    • comment management
    • simple menu management
    • multimedia management
    • in-built news system
    • tag support
    • poll support
  • built on the Zend Framework, jQuery, and 960grid, making it fast, light and flexible.

In addition to this it’s also:

  • SEO friendly
  • secure
  • highly themable
  • packaged with a simple visual editor allowing you to drag, drop, and resize almost any interface element.

Cost and availability

As with Habari and Concrete5, TomatoCMS is also a free download available to be installed and configured on your host as your needs demand.

Support options

Also like Habari and Concrete5, TomatoCMS doesn’t offer a commercial support package. However it does have a solid project wiki and a thriving forum. If you have troubles with it, then you’re likely to find the solution there without too much hassle.

Is it for you?

If you’re keen to control most, if not all, of the aspects of the system on your own host, then this is the option for you. However, if you need support then this option may not be the best choice.

Choices, choices

So there you have it. If you want to change from WordPress, have an opportunity to change, or are just starting out, now you have four additional options to WordPress to choose from.

Take a closer look and evaluate them. When you find the one that ticks all your boxes, give it a try and let me know how it goes for you.

Do you run your blog on an alternative to WordPress? Why is it your platform of choice? What makes it the best one for your blog and your business? Let us know in the comments.

Matthew Setter is a freelance writer, technical editor and proofreader. His mission is to help businesses present their online message in an engaging and compelling way so they’re noticed and remembered.

How Panda Changed My Strategy and Brought Success [Case Study]

This is a guest post from Eric at Narrow Bridge Finance.

I can’t tell you how many times I have read the phrase “content is king.” According to Google, it has been mentioned 170 times on this site alone. As much as you might think that SEO is king, marketing is queen, and everything else in the middle might take priority. I recently learned that the old adage is true.

A growing blog

My personal finance blog started as a hobby on Blogger almost four years ago, and it has come quite a long way since then. In fact, it has turned into a profitable business. I get more comments per day than I used to get visitors per day. It took a lot of persistence and hard work, as it does to grow any blog.

For years I saw slow and steady growth. I was never a guest posting superstar or mega-networker, so much of the growth came from building a strong history of quality posts and building up steam from search engines.

I did see a large jump in growth after joining a blog network with other like-minded bloggers in my niche, but most of my traffic growth over time came from Google. I was happy to see organic traffic grow, as I know that is one of the most valuable types of visitors from a revenue growth perspective.

Panda hits

When I got smacked with the Panda update, I lost about 50% of my traffic overnight. The thing that got me is that I’m not a re-poster. I’m not a spammer. I write original content on a regular schedule.

I read things all over the web and even considered giving up on the blog altogether.

Instead, I did a complete blog redesign. I moved ads below the fold and removed advertisements that I didn’t consider as savory as others. I redesigned my homepage, made some changes to my category structure, took down everything from the sidebars that did not give each visitor value, and re-focused my writing toward what I believe is a better content.

As those changes were made, I continued to shed traffic. It was frustrating, but I didn’t give up. I continued to change my revenue stream from ad sales to affiliate programs. From August, 2011 to December, 2011, I lost 51% of my traffic.

I kept on with the strong content and regular writing schedule. And, slowly, things started to turn around. From December to March, my traffic started to come back. As I wrote more consistently (I finally started to hold to a M-W-F schedule—Darren’s advice really works!) and planning my posting, I saw my traffic start to grow again.

In that time period, traffic grew 59%—not quite back to where it had been, but I was on the right track.

It worked. For a while…

Then Penguin hits

I really started to worry that Google was out to get me. I saw a slip in traffic when Penguin was released, but nothing as bad as the Panda hit. I knew that I could survive the wrath of Google at this point, so I was not quite as discouraged this time around.

The biggest change was that Penguin impacted my top ranked posts. Before Penguin, the bulk of my search engine traffic came to about five of my 700+ posts. After Penguin, traffic started to go more into the long tail of posts.

Referral traffic

Being a member of an amazing blog network known as the Yakezie, I have a strong community of friends and supporters. We often host link roundups and carnivals to support each other’s top content.

Looking back, I believe that this may be part of what hurt my site. When Google penalized blog networks, we might have been caught up in it. We interlink strongly between our sites and often work together to share contests, carnivals, and other relevant information in the personal finance niche.

The biggest upside, though, is that we share visitors. Because we all write about the same topics, we often send referral traffic to each other. We also help each other get attention to top posts, which leads to inclusions by even bigger websites and roundups.

A great post gets what it deserves

Last weekend, my sister graduated from college. While sitting on her couch the next morning, I wrote a post with her in mind. Thinking about what a pre-med graduate probably knows about personal finance, I wrote her a letter with my top money tips for new grads. I wrote from the heart and shared what I hoped would help her lay a foundation for a great financial future.

Of course, I didn’t just send her an email. I turned it into a blog post. They say that the key ingredient when cooking is love. It turns out the same goes for blogging.

It started like any other post. I had an average number of visitors the first few days after it was published. Four days later, however, it was picked up by a top personal finance website, Wise Bread, and included in their daily roundup. It was nice to see the extra traffic, but I have been included there before, and it wasn’t life changing.

Then, this morning, I logged into WordPress. I was almost above my entire previous day’s traffic by 9:00am. Something was obviously going on. That king content, that pillar post written with a touch of love, was linked to by a top blog in the personal finance niche. Trent at the Simple Dollar gave my post a little link love and sent me enough visitors to give me an all-time record number of visitors for a day.

What I learned

First and foremost, don’t give up on your blog when something bad happens. If you get a Google penalty or have to recover from any number of problems, use it as a learning experience. Any challenge can be overcome.

I bought and read the first edition of the Problogger book and have been following this site for years. It is filled with amazing tips that really do work. I have attended a niche blogging conference, and built up a network of friends and supporters. I participate in a local blogger meetup group where we discuss ideas for improving our online business strategy.

I always knew what to do; I just needed motivation to do it.

Panda was that motivation, and record traffic was the reward for following blogging best practices.

You really never know which post is going to take off and send you a record number of visitors. That is why it’s important to treat each post like an opportunity to show off to the world.

Who knows? One of these days the world might show up on your blog’s front door. Make sure you’re ready.

This is a post from Eric Rosenberg, who blogs at both Narrow Bridge Finance, a personal finance and lifestyle blog, and The Israel Situation, a blog about politics, culture, and life in the Israel and the Middle East.

Six People Who Can Ease the Blogger’s Burden

This guest post is by John Preston of My Family Finances.

Have you ever tried to explain to someone how to blog successfully? I have yet to find a satisfactory synopsis of the complicated juggling act that fellow bloggers have trained themselves to perform. I do know that somewhere in the nexus of critical roles bloggers navigate, there is networking.

Some bloggers have no trouble contacting others and reaching out. For many others, networking doesn’t come easy. It’s like a chore that we know must be completed, but we never really feel comfortable performing. Regardless of skill, talent or effort, even the most outgoing bloggers can make mistakes in social networking if they aren’t careful.

Successfully leveraging a network actually requires a little strategy and understanding of how others can impact our own success. That’s why there are six bloggers that everyone should get to know.

How many blogging friends is too many?

19! No, seriously. That’s according to the findings of research on social networks from the Harvard School of Business. The optimal number of contacts in your social web is between 12 and 18. If you have more, you are likely to spend too much time managing friends. If you have a smaller number, you are likely to be missing contacts that play critical roles in an effective network.

Take the study with a grain of salt, of course. Don’t de-friend someone because you list 19 people. However, be cognizant that too many contacts is self-defeating, while having too little is an indication that your network could improve.

The quality of our social networks isn’t only affected by the size of the group, but by the roles people play within the network. Think about your own network; there are those with whom we are willing to share our secrets, but we’d never want to team up on a project with them. Then there are others we’d never confide in, even though we work well together with them.

Over the last three years I’ve found six types of bloggers that have positively impacted my social network. Perhaps you can see similarities between these and your own connections.

Development contacts: coaches and disciples

Coaches

Finding a coach is a key network accomplishment for new bloggers. Coaches know and understand the blogging basics. They’ll help you navigate your first few months and direct you to smart decisions that will grow your site much faster than if you were on your own. You feel comfortable acting on their queues and trust their advice. Best of all, you get expert advice for free.

Take care with coaches: Make sure that you are learning from your coaches and not just mimicking them. It’s easy to get into a situation where you make yourself a follower instead of a disciple. Embrace the coaches philosophies when they are winners, but look for areas to improve on, and don’t box yourself into a rigid formula.

Disciples

You aren’t a master if you lack an apprentice. If you are good enough, bloggers will gravitate to you and want to learn how you achieved what you’ve achieved. Sure the flattery is motivating, but disciples also play a key role in the development of blogging coaches. Disciples force coaches to reconnect with the basics. They’ll have to simplify and prioritize the knowledge they’ve learned over the years. As a result, coaches find themselves rethinking and refining their own strategies that have become mundane or overused.

Take care with disciples: In general, a disciple is worth the investment, but you can’t let them dominate and stagnate your own progress. You are in an unhealthy partnership if your blog-fu lessons impede your own development.

Teamwork contacts: collaborators and confidants

Collaborators

If Forest Gump was your collaborator, you’d be Bubba.

It’s lonely in the blogosphere if you don’t have a fellow blogger in the trenches with you. You need someone to share your current experiences, and relate with your immediate situation—whether it’s newer writers finding the time to write posts, or veterans griping about seasonally slow traffic. Collaborators are your sounding board for your innovative ideas, offering encouragement and constructive criticism. They cover for you when you go on vacation. When they have a project, you’re first on the list for help.

Take care with collaborators: You need trustworthy collaborators that won’t use your confidences for personal gain. It’s also helpful to find a few collaborators, because blog friends can easily fill their schedule and become unavailable.

Confidants

The best part about confidants? They don’t have to be bloggers. They can be your spouse, child, or co-worker. These folks don’t always have to know what you are talking about. SEO could be a band name for all they know. However, they are detached and impartial and that’s why they are so helpful. You feel like you can be honest with them about the good and the bad that comes with blogging. Overall, they are great sounding boards for your blogging ambitions.

These contacts are people from outside your usual blog network, who anchor you to life or other spheres. They provide you an outlet to unload, but may also inspire you to think out of the box.

Take care with confidants: This is a potentially dangerous category, and you need to be careful that you are finding the right people to fill this role. Focus on finding people who leave you feeling positive. The wrong confidant is someone who engages you in constant gossip and backbiting. The occasional gripe is healthy, but avoid those who are trying to continue their teenage vices.

Inspirational contacts: heroes and fans

Heroes

They probably don’t know that you exist, but your insignificance isn’t a requirement for the role. Heroes are low-contact resources, who are masters of blogging. They are everything that you wish you could be, and you read everything they write. One reason is because you enjoy them, but you also are searching for the knack—the formula of success that they have and you want.

Take care with heroes: Trying to match their success often leads us to failure and disappointment. Sometimes our heroes fall from grace and we are left repenting over our past adulation. Heroes have as much capability to discourage you as they do to inspire.

Fans

If you’ve been writing for a long time and have yet to find a fan, this may be an indication that you need to rethink your blog. Fans are the people who follow your writing and comment on every post. Sometimes, you don’t know where they came from or why they come back, but the fact that they are there motivates you. They can keep you posting regularly and influence your content, because you know that you don’t want to let them down.

Take care with fans: Sometimes you have to change things up, and even though it might be the right move, you may risk losing your fan. Often it is wise to let your readership dictate your writing topics, but writing to please a limited few can leave you stagnating in your development.

You’ll find that some people in your network fill multiple roles. You’ll also discover that people might trade or jump into new roles. The important thing is that you are diversified and the people who are assigned to these six roles have a positive effect on your writing.

Are these six people part of your life?

I’m fortunate to have people in each of these six categories within my network. But what about you? Does your network represent all six categories, or do you need to diversify?

John Preston runs the My Family Finances blog at http://myfamilyfinances.net/. You can follow his latest writing by subscribing to his blog feed at http://feeds.feedburner.com/myfamilyfinances/rgbo. He is also a weekly contributor for US News & World Reports’ My Money blog.

7 Powerful Ways to Promote Your Blog Offline

This guest post is by Jennifer Michelle of Jennifer Michelle Communications.

Online marketing is a great way to grow your blog—but it’s not the only way. Traditional marketing methods can also be used to promote your blog and develop your readership. Here are seven ideas to get you started.

1. Get in the press

In the world of professional blogging, so much emphasis is placed on guest posting that it can be easy to overlook its predecessor—traditional media.

Yes, you can reach a large audience with a well-placed guest post, but you can do the same with an article in your local newspaper. Call the editor and offer to write an article for them, in exchange for a mention of your website in your byline.

“But wait,” I can hear you saying, “if they read me in the paper they won’t be able to click and visit my site.” That’s right, but they can type it into their smartphone or look you up when they get to the office.

Instant clickability isn’t always the goal—strive for memorability, instead.

When you write a solid piece for the press, you are instantly perceived as an expert. If your article is any good (and your blogging experience gives you the writing ability to ensure that it will be), people will remember it—and they’ll keep you in mind.

Media isn’t just print, though. Not by a long shot. Try radio. There are thousands of talk shows out there in the offline world. Research them. Search on talk radio shows in your topic area and pitch yourself as a guest. Do the same with magazines and television—offer your services as a source, an author, or a guest to be interviewed.

This is, in fact, the tactic I employed when starting my latest blog, Jennifer Michelle Communications. I contacted my state newspaper to pitch the topic, “Websites on a Shoestring,” and spoke with the business editor. He suggested I send him an article to review. That piece will be appearing in print next month.

I had similar success with talk radio. Using my years of blogging to craft a great headline, I made a quick ad on my topic and emailed it to several talk radio show producers. The ad consisted of a headline, a bulleted list of tantalizingly-written talking points, my credentials, and contact information.

The result? Biz Talk with Josh, a CBS station in the Washington, DC region, contacted me to have me as back up for a guest that seemed poised to do a no-show. When, as it turned out, they didn’t need me, they rescheduled me for July.

That kind of thing happens a lot when you’re working with the media, so always tell producers and reporters that they can call you at the last minute.

2. Teach a class

I know you’re used to thinking in terms of webinars, but I mean an actual class.

Take a minute to review your most popular posts. The odds are they could convert easily into intriguing class topics. Or consider your subject as a whole and teach a class relating to that. Sensual University does this with yoga and dance classes. Her message is all about the beauty and sensuality of life (a huge and varied subject in itself), but it’s through her yoga and dance classes that she pulls in new readers. When her students discover her unique, sensual approach to movement, they are eager to find out more.

The trick is to find the right venue for your topic—and your schedule. Ask yourself, are you able to teach a ten-week course or are you looking to do a one-off? Do you want to give a half-day seminar or are you thinking you’ll only need an hour? Community colleges are frequently looking for new classes, so if you’re up for a longer time commitment, give them a call.

Just want to teach for an hour or two? Then see who offers workshops in your area. Libraries are a great place to start, as they often have lecture series. Or try the Rotary club and get on their calendar.

Depending on your niche, there may be quite a lot of possibilities. For instance, if you blog on cooking, you may be able to teach a class at the local health food store.

Whatever you do, give your students print-outs of one or two of your most relevant posts—and be sure it gives your website and contact information.

3. Give an award

There’s nothing like staging an event to attract attention. Better still, when the event is an award that you are presenting, you are instantly considered an authority in your field.

There are lots of ways to go about this. You can take nominations or simply name a winner. You can announce it with a press release, or throw a big bash.

You want the award to represent your brand—ideally, it will become an annual event—so choose wisely. Make it something with broad appeal in your niche, yet something that’s intriguing enough to attract some attention.

Cupcakes Take the Cake has launched a new award this year honoring the best professional and amateur cupcake bakers. They even have a category for best cupcake video! What could be more fun than that?

The press possibilities are endless—just think of how many local newspapers will be thrilled to print that one of their local bakers won Best Cupcake Baker in their city! Every time they mention the award, they’ll mention who presented it—and that spreads the word about your blog.

4. Hand out your business card

It’s amazing how often bloggers will overlook the need for business cards, especially if their topic has limited relevance in their locale.

The thing to remember, though, is that you never know who you are going to meet—and you never know who they will know.

There’s also just something about having your business card in hand that makes you suddenly see thousands of opportunities for telling people about your blog.

When you design your card, be sure to include your logo, tagline, and all your contact information. For more, see this article about what to put on a blogger business card.

And if you want some great examples, check out MomComm’s blogger business card showcase.

Attend a conference for pro bloggers

Sometimes your online and offline worlds converge beautifully—and never moreso than at a conference dedicated to the needs of professional bloggers.

Email isn’t the only way to get a gig guest posting on your favorite blog. How about raising the possibility over drinks at a cocktail party? Or what about going out to lunch with your favorite bloggers and brainstorming ways you could work together?

Just because the end goal is an online event doesn’t mean offline marketing strategies aren’t the best way to get you there.

That’s what blogger conventions are all about—forging networks and creating partnerships (not to mention making some great friends).

Your goal offline should be the same as your goal online: to be as helpful and useful as possible in whatever partnership idea you propose. Help your fellow bloggers get where they want to go and they’ll be sure to remember you—and want to work with you again.

While you’re networking, be careful not to focus too heavily on the most famous bloggers in your niche. Partnering with mid-level bloggers is not to be ignored—they have devoted subscriber lists, too.

SXSW and Blog World Expo are two of the biggest blog events, and of course there’s also the Melbourne ProBlogger Event.

General blogging events aren’t the only way to go, either, so spend some time searching for events targeting bloggers in your niche, like this Wine Bloggers Conference.

6. Attend a conference that’s not targeted to bloggers

If you want to find your readers, niche conferences are the place to look.

They are also an amazing source for new ideas. A couple of days talking with your target demographic and you’ll walk away with a list of new blog posts you can’t wait t to write and a bunch of new product ideas you want to get cracking on. You’ll also be exposed to the latest trends in your field—and get to see firsthand people’s responses to them.

These conferences are filled with workshops and speakers, all of whom are potential partners. There is also, needless to say, the possibility of you being one of the presenters. That’s what Jesse Friedman of Beer & Nosh did at the Craft Brewers Conference.

Since organizers need months to pull these events together, make a point of meeting with them and get on their radar for next year.

7. Donate prizes

People who put on events are always on the hunt for door prizes, enclosures for gift bags, and donations for silent auctions.
When targeted to the right event, these contributions have great marketing reach. Every person at the event will see the door prize and receive the gift bag. If it’s a silent auction, everyone there will walk by each item on display.

Moreover, as a prize contributor, you will be listed in the program and the website, and may even be mentioned in event press releases.

This is a technique I’ve used numerous times to promote PoleSkivvies, the niche sports apparel brand I launched with only a blog and a newsletter. I’ve donated prizes to pole fitness championships from New York to New Zealand and I’ve even donated beyond my immediate niche, giving prizes to silent auctions that were fundraising for other dance styles.

One word of caution: I wouldn’t count on the prize winner becoming a devoted reader or customer. They will surely enjoy their prize, but the impact from this marketing tactic has more to do with brand recognition. You want people to know you’re out there.

That means it’s important to put some thought into what you donate. A copy of your ebook, a consulting package, or a video course are all possibilities. Look over your product list and see what would be the most intriguing.

However, don’t donate something you give away free on your website. Event organizers like to list the value of prizes to increase people’s excitement about winning, so get in the spirit and donate something meaningful.

If you can, attend the event. There’s nothing like mentioning you donated the door prize to strike up a conversation and get people talking about you and your blog.

Bonus tip

An easy way to get people you meet in the offline world to visit your blog is to put a QR code on everything you pass out. From copies of your blog posts to business cards, include a QR code to some of your most popular posts or product pages, as well as your URL.

Smartphones are everywhere these days, and most of them have apps for reading QR codes—make use of them.

Have you tried offline promotions?

Running a professional blog doesn’t mean you should forget about time-honored methods of traditional marketing. Incorporate them into your overall strategy and your blog will be the stronger for it.

Have you promoted your blog offline? Tell us how it went in the comments!

Jennifer Michelle built a niche sportswear company from the ground up using just a blog and a newsletter. She now helps small business owners bridge the gap between their own online and offline marketing. Check out her tips on 21 Ways to Market Your Blog Offline.

The Blogger’s Essential WordPress Guide: 13 Top Tutorials

Over the last couple of months, we’ve taken a close look at WordPress here on ProBlogger.

WordPressI know that many readers do use WordPress—either the free or paid version—and it’s the content management system of choice for many high-profile sites. I’ve been using it for years, and I’d have to say that it’s served me really well over that time.

The articles we’ve published have covered many of the essential aspects of blogging using WordPress, from choosing the service that’ll suit you and weighing up different themes, to securing, posting to, and making money from your WordPress blog.

In case you’ve missed any of these great posts, I thought I’d compile them all here for easy reference.

Getting started

  1. WordPress.com or WordPress.org? Which one’s right for you?
  2. What you need to know before you start a WordPress blog
    Security
  3. Set safe, secure user roles on your WordPress blog
  4. Secure your WordPress blog without touching any code
    SEO
  5. Essential SEO settings for every new WordPress blog
    Themes
  6. How to select your first WordPress theme
  7. Install your first WordPress theme
    Plugins
  8. Install your first WordPress plugin
  9. 19 Essential WordPress plugins for your blog
  10. 5 WordPress plugins to help you make money from your blog
    Posting
  11. Use email to post to your WordPress blog
    Making money
  12. 9 Ways to make money from WordPress … without having a blog
  13. Premise 2.0 released: complete digital sales and lead generation engine for WordPress

Thanks to all the contributors who put in the work to help us get our heads around these finer points of WordPress, including Matt Hooper, Karol K of ThemeFuse, Anurag Bansal of Techacker, Eric Siu of Evergreen Search, Louise of MoneySupermarket.com, and Sean Platt of outstandingSETUP.

Of course, while this CMS dominates the blogosphere, there are many solid alternatives to WordPress (and no, I’m not talking about Blogger!). If you’re looking for a change for some reason, give them your consideration.

Do you have a favourite WordPress tutorial or resource that you can add to this list? Share it with us in the comments.

8 Killer Tactics to Grow Your Blog with LinkedIn

This guest post is by Josh Turner of LinkedSelling.

Is your blog a business, or do you hope that it someday will be?

If you answered yes, then you should consider refocusing some of your social media activities toward the world’s largest social network for business.

That’s right, LinkedIn isn’t just for big companies or finding a job. There are a ton of practical tactics and strategies that you can engage in to build your blog on LinkedIn. Here are eight of my absolute favorites.

1. Join groups where other bloggers hang out

It’s surprising how few bloggers take advantage of the free communities available on LinkedIn. While paid membership sites flourish, completely free membership groups exist within LinkedIn that offer many of the same benefits.

LinkedIn groups

Consider getting involved with groups such as Professional Bloggers or Small Biz Forum.

These types of groups are full of people just like you: they’re eager to build relationships with other bloggers, looking for guest posting opportunities, and engaged in daily conversations about being a small business owner.

2. Use the LinkedIn Share button to promote content

ou likely have Twitter, Facebook, and maybe a couple other social sharing buttons on your blog. If you don’t have a LinkedIn share button, you may be really missing out.

The Share buttonY

Using the LinkedIn share button, you can quickly post and promote your content in every group that you are a member of.

If your content is relevant to your target audience, and the LinkedIn groups that you belong to are relevant, you’ll see an immediate and sustainable spike in traffic by consistently utilizing the LinkedIn share button. The key to growing that audience, as with almost anything, is that you provide great value through the network, and deliver it consistently.

3. Use premium features to discover new influencers

Would you be interested to find out any time somebody added “Community Manager” or “Blogger” to their LinkedIn profile?

With a premium LinkedIn account (about $30 per month) you can save searches such as these, and receive a weekly digest including every person in the world that recently added these words to their profile.

The LinkedIn people search

As somebody who is looking to build a real business with your blog, connecting with these people could be HUGE for your business. Consider that people new to the game are eager to build relationships, for one.

But the real power play here is the ability to identify new managers of larger sites. By approaching them when they are new to the position, you’re going to be one of the first. Tons of value here.

4. Find Strategic Groups to Explore Partnerships

If you’re like most people, you might not have much of a plan for how you’re going to leverage LinkedIn to build your business/blog. This presents a great opportunity for you if you’re willing to utilize LinkedIn to its potential.

One thing you can do to advance your business is to build strategic relationships on LinkedIn. Here’s how you could do this:

  1. Identify 10-20 sites or blogs that could really help to position your blog in the spotlight.
  2. Research who the players are, find them on LinkedIn, and join the groups that they are active in.
  3. Stay on top of their activity within groups.
  4. Engage with them in their conversations.
  5. Build a relationship.
  6. Take it to the next level.

Darren Rowse is probably not reachable through this method, but the people that run his operation likely are. You have to do your homework, but spending some time on the front end could really open some doors for you.

Darren on LinkedIn

5. Demonstrate your expertise to land gigs

There are a number of ways you can demonstrate your expertise on LinkedIn to generate real, paying gigs.

For most of us, it is consulting income or our “real job” that feeds the family.

The wrong way

Consistently sharing your content and engaging people within groups are two of the best ways to do this. Don’t forget, I said consistently. Dabbling won’t get the results you’re after.

Be sure, if this is the type of work you’re after, that your profile clearly states that you are “for hire.”

From there, demonstrate your professionalism and skills, over and over. Be a good person. Build quality relationships. The rest will take care of itself.

6. Use LinkedIn Ads to promote your products or list

If you sell products on your blog, or you have a budget to work with for building your list, consider exploring LinkedIn ads.

LinkedIn advertising

LinkedIn’s advertising platform can be accessed with as little as a $10 per day budget. The beauty of the system is that you can target your ads to an exact type of person. Want to position your ad in front of managers, at Los Angeles businesses, with between 10-100 people, and over 35 years old? LinkedIn can take care of that for you.

Whether your offerings have a broad appeal or are more niche oriented, the LinkedIn ad platform could be a great way to get the word out.

7. Use LinkedIn Signal for competitive analysis

LinkedIn Signal is essentially LinkedIn’s search function for the entire network. Enter a phrase that you’re interested in, and you will see every related bit of activity from within every nook and cranny on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn Signal

The power of Signal is that it exposes you to people outside of your first-degree connections. You can see status updates for every person on LinkedIn, and group posts for every group on LinkedIn. Powerful stuff.

Signal is a great way to stay up to date on competing blogs, to research new content ideas, and to find new people who are worth following and connecting to.

8. Follow companies that are in your space

If you’re operating within a specific industry, there are certainly hundreds, if not thousands of companies represented on LinkedIn. There are nearly 2.5 million businesses with registered company pages on LinkedIn. Clearly the actual number of business owners with a presence on LinkedIn is much higher.

Consider following the companies that matter to you. This gives you the ability to receive updates from them, stay current with their news, and it creates visibility for you within the company’s network.

Following a company

You should also consider researching their employees listed on LinkedIn. This can be a great way to get in with the people that matter, providing a channel for interview requests, and positioning your site as a leader in the space.

Are you building a business?

If the answer is yes, you need to be on LinkedIn.

Whether you are writing about dog bones, margaritas or minor league badminton, there are some serious tactics at your disposal within LinkedIn. If you’re interested in building relationships, building your list and building your income, LinkedIn should be a major part of your business strategy.

So how about you? Are you using LinkedIn to build your blog?

Josh Turner is the founder of LinkedSelling, a LinkedIn marketing firm that offers training and outsourced LinkedIn campaigns. Get his free 10-part video training series, How to Convert Your LinkedIn Profile Into a Lead Generation Tool.

How to Use Google+ to Update All Major Social Networks

This is a guest post by Alan Cairns of bozboz.co.uk.

We tend to use social networks as channels that feed into each other, with certain channels for posting content and others for re-publishing it. Widgets and apps can help pull a Twitter feed to a website, or a blog RSS feed to a LinkedIn profile or Facebook profile.

The hub and spoke distribution model represents this system, with a structure that resembles wheels on a bike. The hub is at the centre of the model, connected to each spoke. The hub is the source of the data, and the spokes are the individual channels where that data is published. The hub might represent a blog or Twitter feed, and all the spokes separate social media channels.

It’s important to think strategically about how these channels work together, which channel is going to function as the “hub,” and which as the “spokes.” Obviously, creating bespoke content for each social network is the ideal, but bloggers need to be efficient, and using the hub-and-spoke approach is an efficient way of reaching a large audience through multiple platforms.

Social networks are usually happy for users to integrate feeds and streams into their profiles, making import features available or apps for importing content from elsewhere.

Google+, however, does not allow Twitter feeds, Facebook activity streams or RSS feeds to be imported. This reflects Google’s effort to ensure that the content on Google+ is always unique.

This means that managing a Google+ profile or page can require a lot of work, as updates need to be done manually. This is likely to increase the quality of posts on Google’s social network, but for marketers it creates additional work. Why post bespoke messages on each social media platform if the content and its message is the same?

Considering that feeds are a no-no with Google, using G+ as the “hub” makes a lot of sense, with other social networks being updated from a G+ feed. Unfortunately, Google doesn’t even provide the functionality to export a Google+ activity stream as an RSS feed.

Thankfully, several people have found ways to create a feed from a Google+ profile.

Working with Google+

Several services emerged last year which offered to turn a Google+ profile into an RSS feed that can be imported to other social networks. But most of the hacks that were blogged about last year don’t work any more—Google seem to be discouraging users from importing feeds to Google+.

Fortunately, Rob McGee created an easy-to-use service which can feed your Google+ posts directly to Facebook and Twitter.

All you need to do is sign in with your Twitter and Facebook logins, post a validation code on Google+, and then any posts shared with Rob McGee on Google+ will automatically be posted to your Facebook or Twitter accounts.

Something tells me Rob is being added to quite a few circles as a result of developing this handy service!

How does it look? Here’s a Google+ post of mine.
My Google+ Update

Here’s how it looks on Twitter.
Google+ feeds to Twitter

And this is the post on Facebook.
Google+ feeds to Facebook

Remember that Twitter can only re-post updates of 140 characters or less.

Facebook and Twitter will create shortened links to Google+ posts that include videos, but posts with images will not be shared automatically. The only way to share images is to put the URL of the image into the status update, which automatically becomes a hyperlink on Twitter and Facebook.

It’s also important to remember that follow-up comments will only be visible on the social network on which they were posted.

Once Google+ is the “hub” rather than the “spoke,” your Twitter and Facebook statuses can be updated centrally from your Google+ account. You might still need to check both networks, respond to comments, and so on, but Google+ now sits at the centre of your social media presence.

While it could be considered duplication of content to feed updates between social networks, this is an efficient way to communicate with followers, friends, and fans—and to roll out your content strategy across several social media profiles simultaneously.

Alan Cairns is a Search and Social Marketing Analyst at BozBoz, a Brighton-based Digital Agency.

The Only Blog Post Idea List You’ll Ever Need

This guest post is by Stephen Pepper of Youth Workin’ It.

There are so many articles out there on how you can come up with new blog post ideas, but do any of the suggestions actually work?

We started our youth work blog in September 2011 and have posted six days a week ever since, so we’ve had to come up with over 200 posts related to youth work so far. Needless to say, it’s been tricky coming up with this many ideas.

I’ve read all kinds of different suggestions on how to overcome blogger’s block, but each person’s experience is different. Here are 20 techniques we’ve used to help counter blogger’s block.

  1. Embarrassing stories: Think back to moments of your life when you were really embarrassed. Use that situation to craft a post relating to your niche—there’s a good chance it’ll entertain readers (as did our post on how being asked to rate the first time with your wife out of 10 on a BBC gameshow watched by millions can relate to youth work).
  2. Choose subjects for each day of the week: This has probably been my single most helpful way of deciding what to write. Each day from Monday to Saturday has its own category—Mondays are for posts on youth work activities, Tuesdays are youth work Q&A, Wednesdays are program administration, and so on. This means our focus can be more defined each day, rather than having to come up with a random topic every time we write. You can do this even if you only blog once a week—the first week of the month could always be based on one subject, the second week on another, and so on.
  3. Use special days as inspiration: Use special days and public holidays as post idea prompts. For example, we have a Spotlight on Youth series where we focus on a certain young person based on certain public holidays. For example, we wrote about the former child soldier Ishmael Beah on Veteran’s Day. On National Pirate Day, write your post in Pirate language. National Pancake Day? Work your post around that.
  4. Cell posts: Can you divide your posts into two, like a cell divides? You might start writing a post and realize that you’re starting to talk about two different things. For example, we recently started wrote a series about parents’ involvement in your youth work. When working on a post about unsupportive parents, we realized there were actually two types of unsupportive parents—one who’s unsupportive of their child, and one who’s unsupportive of the work you’re doing with their child. These are completely different issues, so we were able to get two days’ worth of posts out of one original idea.
  5. Change of scenery: Changing your location can have a big impact on your creativity. We’d started getting stale with our idea creation recently, so we went and sat on Virginia Beach for an hour to come up with future topics. After an hour, we had over 100 new blog posts ideas.
  6. Write for sub-niches: Youth work has a number of specialized areas—urban, rural, faith-based, LGBT, gangs, foster care, mental health, sexual health, young offenders, etc. There’s a good chance that whatever niche you’re in has many similar sub-niches. Make a list and use it to inspire further ideas.
  7. Use Google Analytics: Take a look at the keyword searches that are bringing people to your site, as this will give you a great idea of what information people are looking for. You may think that the fact that they’ve arrived at your site means you’ve already written about what they’re searching for, but that’s not always the case. We did a series on preparing young people for job interviews (including what they should wear), but we’ve had many people arrive at that post having searched for what youth workers should wear to job interviews. It’s a completely different topic, but we can now create a number of posts about youth worker interviews.
  8. Likes: What do you love in your niche? Why are you blogging about it? What was your favorite moment relating to your niche? These questions can all be turned into posts for your blog.
  9. Dislikes: Similarly, what do you hate about your niche? What practices wind you up? Let these frustrations become passionate posts.
  10. Consider opposites: By looking at an issue from opposite directions, you can get two new blog post ideas. For example, we recently gave advice on how to come up with good youth group names, but also wrote a subsequent post on how to avoid a lame youth group name.
  11. Be inspired by social media: On Twitter, are there any hashtags specific to your niche? Keep an eye on these as they’ll give you a good idea of questions people may want answered. On Facebook, are people leaving comments on your page that you could address in a blog post?
  12. Solicit guest posts: Try to build up a bank of guest post submissions from other bloggers. These can then be used when you’re feeling dry of ideas.
  13. Search research: Use Google’s keyword tool to discover what people are looking for, as opposed to what you think they’re looking for. This is also where your sub-niches can also come into play. For us, instead of searching for “youth work,” researching a sub-niche like “youth retreat” uncovered a number of keyword searches like “youth retreat themes,” “youth retreat ideas,” “youth retreat games,” etc.
  14. Compilations of your own posts: Introduce your readers to some of your most popular posts by making a compilation list. If you’ve covered a number of sub-niches, you could even have a series of compilations based on each of those sub-niches.
  15. Compilations of other bloggers’ posts: If you want to become an authority in your niche, you’ll need to read other blogs relating to the same niche. Show them some love by creating a compilation of the best posts you’ve read recently and linking to them.
  16. Take training … and share it: Have you had specific training relating to your niche? My wife (the better half of Youth Workin’ It) has an MA in youth work and community development. She’s therefore able to share her learning from her Master’s to youth workers who don’t have that qualification.
  17. Consider current affairs: Are there any popular news stories not directly related to your niche that you could write about by giving your niche’s take? For example, after watching the Stop Kony video, we provided a youth work session plan idea based on the Stop Kony campaign, as well as an opinion piece on whether youth groups should support the campaign.
  18. Use other people’s ideas: Don’t plagiarize other people’s blog posts. Yet there’s nothing wrong with taking their idea and improving on it, or offering a different opinion.
  19. Explain jargon: Are there phrases in your niche that wouldn’t make sense to an outsider—or even an insider? Write a series of posts explaining words or phrases that would be jargon for most of the population.
  20. Run competitions: Are you selling ebooks or any other resources? Hold a competition where readers get the opportunity to win a copy of one of your books. This is not only an easy post idea, but also provides another opportunity to promote your resources.

There are 20 items in this list. What tips can you add to build on these? We’d love to hear them in the comments!

Stephen Pepper is insurance administrator by day, youth worker & blogger by night. He and his wife run Youth Workin’ It, which includes a youth work blog and have started producing their own youth work resources to help youth workers worldwide.

3 Quick Tips to Get Your Next Post Out On Time

This guest post is by Tor Constantino of Thedailyretort.com.

The old cliché, “time is money” is particularly true for any professional writer—especially when you’re on deadline. The consequences of missing deadlines are lost money, work, and credibility.

As a former journalist (a.k.a hourly deadline writer) for more than a decade, I know that deadline writing is a skill that can be enhanced. Here are three unconventional tips I learned from the newsroom, which might just help you meet your next post deadline.

1. Treat every writing assignment as a project

Most of my journalism career was as a radio news anchor and TV reporter in Rochester, NY—the home city of five different Fortune 500 companies.

Most of the news in that market had a business focus, and I enrolled in business courses to help sharpen those skills. The course that most improved my ability to write to deadline was not a writing course at all—it was a Project Management class.

Every writing assignment should be viewed as a project with actionable tasks, milestones, resource needs, time management requirements, and a final deadline.

While each writing project plan will vary based on its specific needs, they all have some common steps to help organize your writing.

Steps such as developing timelines, identifying content experts, listing story dependencies, and task prioritization dramatically helped me become a more disciplined and deadline-driven writer.

2. Create an interview log

Eventually, every writer talks to another person or expert to gain information regarding a writing project. A digital recorder is a very useful time-saving tool in this regard.

The time-saving trick occurs when you jot down the time code, listed on the device’s display, each time your expert gives a great answer. That written interview log will save tons of time as you select quotes for the writing project.

Another tip is that, since every state has different wiretapping and recording laws, it’s useful to have your expert acknowledge the fact they’re being recorded on the actual recording itself before you start asking questions.

Also, when you’re up against a deadline, it’s useful to capture your own thoughts on the recorder since the average person can talk nearly three times as fast as they can type. Dictation while driving or standing in line helps transform “dead time” into “deadline-driven” time. You can then transcribe your recorded thoughts later, and create that post much more quickly.

3. Enhance your ability to focus

Your ability to focus is the single most important aspect of writing to deadline.

Every newsroom I’ve every worked in has a large bank of Bearcat-type scanners monitoring hundreds of specialized frequencies for police, fire, ambulance and rescue activity to track breaking-news emergencies. On top of that is the auditory barrage from the block of elevated TV screens to keep an eye on competing news outlets. Plus, there’s the obligatory newsroom noise from 20-30 reporters, editors and producers clattering on keyboards or chattering on phones working toward their respective deadlines.

The ability to focus and write meaningful content in that cacophony was a necessary skill for deadline writing that extends beyond the newsroom.

Even if you never set foot in a newsroom, you can practice your ability to focus.

Start by turning up the volume on your television to a distracting decibel, as well as a nearby radio, while someone is simultaneously vacuuming the living room. Do it, really.

Then give yourself 30 minutes or so—in the midst of that noise—to write a blog post that you fully intend to use, or some other writing project you’re working on.

If you do this focus-challenging exercise once a week your ability to focus, think, and write under extreme circumstances will improve—as will your ability to write to deadline.

Bottom-line: deadline

These deadline-driven tactics can result in real time-saving benefits for virtually any writing project or writing ability.

If you practice them, they could be the difference between making or missing your next deadline‚ and when it comes to blogging deadlines, the time and money you save is most often your own.

Tor Constantino is a former journalist, bestselling author and current PR guy from Washington, DC with 23+ years experience as a professional writer. He writes regularly at his blog, http://www.thedailyretort.com. You can connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook