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How to Protect Your WordPress Site Before the Hackers Lock You Out!

This is a guest contribution from Caleb Lane, WordPress security expert.

Fool proof lock and chain

I am sure you already have on your to do list that you need to respond to emails, return phone calls, show up for meetings, write more content, and a whole lot more.

But, what if I told you that the effects of being hacked could cause all of your work to be destroyed and you would have to start over?  I bet your to do list would change a little bit if all of the work you have done on your website was gone forever.

That is why WordPress security is very important and you need to add it to the top of your to do list.

For those who use WordPress there are some things that you can do to make sure your site is as secure as possible. Here are 11 things that you should do to help ensure your site is as safe and secure as possible:

1. Create Strong Passwords

This is one of the easiest things to do to ensure your website is secure. Many people make excuses due to it taking too much time, but should be taken very seriously. Each of your sites should have a different password.

  • Every password should be at least 15 characters long, and it’s best if your password does not contain a real word.
  • You should use capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters such as a question mark.
  • Your password is your first form of protection against hackers, so make sure you come up with a strong one.

Once you have secure passwords for all of your sites, you should never just write them down.

The only two places your passwords should be are in your head or within a password manager with a strong master password.

If you are going to use a password manager, LastPass or KeePass should do the job for you. LastPass offers a free version and a premium version for $12 a year, while KeePass is open-source and completely free. If you decide to use KeePass, make sure you keep a backup of the password database file in case the file becomes corrupted or your hard drive fails.

2. Keep Your Site Updated

When it comes to WordPress, many people do not want to take the time to make sure they have all of the current updates.

Remember WordPress is not releasing these updates just so they can get media attention. The updates are released to fix bugs, patch security holes, and to introduce new features.

Will any solution always remain a step ahead of the hackers? No, but when there are security holes that are known and there are patches available, you need to implement them on your site. There are no excuses for not keeping up with the updates.

You should also make sure to keep your plug-ins and themes up-to-date.  Also, if you have a VPS or dedicated server, keep all of the things associated with the server up-to-date as well.

Now you may be thinking, how do I do this with all my websites?  Thankfully Infinite WP and Manage WP allow you to manage and update all of your sites from within one dashboard.

3. Changing the WordPress Login Username 

Change the username that is provided as the default admin user when you first set up your account.

Since most brute force attacks on your website are automated, they most likely will either use “admin”, “administrator”, “manager”, or your domain name to try to hack into your account, so use a random username instead. Of course the username should be backed by a strong user password using the guidelines that were covered earlier.

4. Guarding Against Brute Force Attacks

Many people do not realise that most sites have at least a few hundred unauthorised login attempts each day.

In addition to the possibility of successfully hacking into your blog, these attacks can also put a strain on your server resources. To guard against these brute force attacks, make sure you have taken the steps listed above. You can install a plug-in such as Limit Login Attempts that will lock out the hacker after a certain number of failed login attempts.

5. Malware Monitoring

You need to have a solution in place that will constantly monitor your site for malware.

A perfect free solution for this is WordFence which will scan your WordPress core, plug-ins, and themes for changes against the files in the WordPress repository. If there are changes to the files it will send you an email notification if you provide an email address within the plug-in options page.

Another malware monitoring solution that includes server side scanning as well as a variety of other features is Sucuri. Although it costs some money, it is well worth it for the additional features it provides.

6. Fix Malware Issues

In addition to your efforts to prevent malware from infecting your blog, it is always a good idea to find a way to clean up any malware issues that are detected. One of the costs that many blog and website owners tend to overlook is the cost of downtime that is associated with security problems and the time it takes to clean up those issues.

A good solution that will remove malware in the event that you are hacked is Sucuri. If you have been hacked already, you can sign up for their service and they will remove the malware even if you were hacked before signing up.

7. Choosing a Hosting Provider 

A substantial security risk comes from having your blog on a server that is shared. Consider the risks of your single blog and then multiply it by the number of blogs and websites on the same server.

If you choose shared hosting, it is likely that you are going to be lumped in with hundreds of other sites. The reason shared hosting is a big risk is because if another website on the same server as you gets hacked, your website can possibly be hacked as well.

While your own VPS or dedicated server may not be the right choice for you due to the knowledge to manage it and the cost, managed WordPress hosting may be a good alternative. They offer hosting that is more expensive, but well worth it considering the risks that comes with generic shared hosting.

With managed WordPress hosting you get better security, a faster site, better support, and full backups done automatically for you. The 3 managed WordPress hosts that stand out are WP Engine, Pagely, and Synthesis.  All of them are slightly different and have different benefits, so look into each one and pick the one that fits you best.

8. Clean Up Your Site

As well as protecting your blog you need to make sure you keep your blog tidy. Get rid of any old plugins and themes that you are not using anymore.

This also includes separating websites that are in production and still being developed by having them on separate servers.  Often times you will be working on a new website, but then forget about it for a few months. This causes the website to become out of date and vulnerable to being hacked. For this reason, it is always a good idea to separate websites on different servers that you are still working on from live websites in production.

9. Control Sensitive Information 

When you are cleaning up your blog files make sure that you are not leaving any important information available for the world to access. Check your phpinfo.php and i.php files. These are like roadmaps to your set up and a hacker will be able to use this information to break in.

Another area of caution: don’t store backups of your site directly on your website’s server.  This is just inviting potential hackers to download the backups and hack into your website without any work!

Disabling directory browsing is a good idea to prevent a hacker from browsing your blog site’s folders and files for information that could lead to them finding a way to exploit you.

You can disable directory browsing by adding (without the quotes), “Options –Indexes,” to your .htaccess file.

The last thing you have to be careful with is using the file manager within CPanel and having it save temporary copies of important files such as wp-config.php. That is why it is always better to use secure file transfer protocol (SFTP) with a program such as FileZilla.

Bonus Tip: Never store your passwords within FileZilla because they are not encrypted. If you were ever to get malware on that computer, it is very common for malware to search for passwords stored within FileZilla and use them for malicious intent.

10. Backup Your Site 

It is always a good idea to backup your blog site in case your site gets hacked or even if you made the wrong change to a file and want to restore a prior version.

The two best solutions for backing up your site are BackupBuddy and VaultPress. If you are using another backup solution already that is fine just make sure it isn’t overwriting the previous backup and that you have backups going at least a few weeks back. It’s also very important to test the backup to make sure it works even if you don’t need it.

11. Be Vigilant 

This is fairly simple to explain. You need to stay on top of everything that is going on in the WordPress security world.

Remember, preventing issues in the first place is better than detecting and fixing them later. While a managed WordPress host will have your back, it is also important that you have your own back as well.

Take the steps that are listed above to help make your WordPress site as secure as possible and keep an eye on stories about website security as well. Never think that the security issues are only affecting other sites… they can just as easily affect yours.

Caleb Lane is the WordPress security expert for Lockdown 2013, where you can learn how to secure your WordPress website.  He spends his time consulting with companies about their website security and keeping his clients updated about the latest changes and news in website security.

Nine Tips to Create Banners for Profitable Advertising

This a guest contribution from full time affiliate marketer, Nrupen Masram.

Some people think that banner ads are coming to an end. The problem is most of us use banners in way as they were used in 1994-2003.

As time passes, the industry changes and so does the use of banners in marketing plans. However, banner advertising is a flourishing billion dollar industry that pervades advertising, teaching, publishing and every other information marketing industry you could name.

The end of banner advertising is a fallacy.

If you’re planning to spend money on banner ads, here are a few tips to think about before you get inside and play dirty:

1. Size does matter

Three shapes dominate. Boxes, stripes and skyscrapers and they vary in size.

Banners with long height and small width are known as skyscraper banners while stripe banners are small in height with a relatively large width. Box banners were named because they were traditionally placed inside software and CD boxes, and because of their square shape.

However, not all sizes offer the same conversion rates.

Since most screens are limited to 600px in height, banners with more than 600px height will make people scroll, reducing the likelihood of conversion. Banners with width lesser than 120px will hardly appear and banners with more width than 160px might overtake your sidebar’s most important task of navigation.

2. Banner Placement

It is generally understood that if your banner is placed in a visible section of a site such as a side bar or above the fold, it will be clicked more often.

If you use a skyscraper banner, place it in your sidebar for better conversions. Striped banners are better placed above content, below a video product review or on the side of the site header.

The key is to put your banner where people will see it and feel motivated to act.

3. Woman Power

Marketing experiments firms and labs have proven that using a beautiful woman on any banner attracts much more attention than using a man. Some tests show a man’s image might be more relevant but when woman was also introduced in same banner along with man provided much better results.

Sometimes you don’t even need female images. Wording also works well. For example, “Mom of Four Earns $7,438.12 in One Week” is likely to do better than “Broke Dad made $12,976.45 in 7 days.”

 

The example image is from Mike Geary’s product Truth About Abs. After testing banners Mike found a banner with a female torso performed much better than other banners. In current set of affiliate tools of TAA, most banners features female torso in front of a man.

Coincidence? I don’t think so. Mike is one of the best when it comes to provide highly tested affiliate tools, that’s the reason why he runs a multimillion dollar info-product business.

4. Authority Works Even Better Than Woman Power

Have you seen the banners on the sidebar of the Problogger.net? There isn’t a lot of emotional pull. Nor is there a call to action. However, I am sure they might be the most successful banners on ProBlogger.

The reason is obvious. This is the most popular blogging for income blog in the world. Darren’s blog has set a benchmark in blogging industry and these same types of banners will work equally well when used the right way on other sites.

The reason is that every one of them have the ProBlogger logo which tells you that ProBlogger either owns the product or certifies it. A site logo will grant instant authority and credibility for people wanting to build a successful blogging business.

Authority works well for these banners. The name instils trust and a proven track record for success.

5. Copy is King

No banner is finished without the copy. Copy is, and always will be, the king of conversions. You can’t change that indisputable fact.

Copywriters rule the roost in email, video and content marketing, the creation of sales pages and other forms of paid advertising and traffic strategies. While it may sound harsh, it’s a fact you can’t alter.

Unless you have powerful click-triggering copy, any trick you might consider using, including the authority one, simply won’t work. The sample banner is among the best dating niche banners in terms of performance. It’s intelligent copywriting because it makes you click without resorting to a call to action.

6. An Obvious Call To Action (CTA)

Use of “Click Here” might work well if your copy have curiosity element but if not, you can definitely come up with a most motivating reason to act. If you have hired a copywriter to do a banner copy, ask them what they can recommend as your CTA.

7. The CTA Color.

Crazy Egg has done considerable research into this topic. If your CTA buttons use red, green, orange, blue or yellow, they’ll have far greater success than other colors.

There’s a scientific reason for this. These colors have the longest wavelengths, which means they attract more attention, thereby leading to extra sales. So it’s not coincidental that most CTA buttons you see anywhere use one or more of these influential colors.

Following are some really good performing banners of different products from ClickBank. Have a close look on their size, copy, CTA and color.

8. What is Traffic Monetization?

Traffic Monetization says, “the nature of traffic is always dependent on the sources of traffic.”

You can’t use the same landing pages to convert all types of traffic. Why? Because just as traffic sources are all different, so are their responses. This same rule applies to all banner ad traffic.

Your marketing can be divided into two sections; Front End and Back End Marketing. The Front End aims to put your offer in front of your client and to get them inside your sales funnel. Once they are there, the Back End makes the actual sale.

The majority of landing pages are only optimized for affiliate sales but not for traffic from banner ads. If you get traffic through from your banner ad, use product specific squeeze page to nudge them into your sales funnel and then make the sale.

9. Rules that Apply to Paid Traffic also Apply to Banner Ads

Paid traffic source should be constantly split tested, customized and optimized. You also have to use specific methods to work out on your metrics and your return on investment (ROI).

There are free and paid tools that you can use for testing and they can also reveal what banner was loaded, the page that a click triggered and the different traffic paths that people took to get to the conversion page.

Kiss Metrics is a high-end tool used by the marketers to find every minute detail to enable them to improve their traffic monetization strategies.

Example Of Sites That Are Successfully Using Banner Ads

IncomeDiary.com is one of the most successful site with banner ads. They spend lot of time optimizing and tweaking banners for max performance because almost all products that they promote on their website belong to them. Stripe Banner is placed above content; one 250 x 250 banner is placed on sidebar above fold. Rest banners are also 250 x 250 banner.

JohnChow.com and ZacJohnson.com also place stripe ads above blog content. ZacJohnson.com uses 250 x 250 flash banner on sidebar above fold whereas JohnChow.com uses 250 x 250 banner in content.

Other Things To Consider

The first time ads were used, people used to just click them because they assumed the ads were a part of the website. Now people know the truth.

People don’t visit your website to see ads. They want to see the real information on your site, not ads that are dumped there. So you need to put a lot of thought into the design, look, color, feel, size and copy of your banner ads… if you want results of course!

Nrupen Masram has been a full time affiliate marketer since 2010. He isn’t a millionaire marketer but he earns his full time income online. He write about affiliate marketing on his blog http://NrupenMasram.com.

6 Reasons to Link Away from your Blog

This is a guest contribution from Adam Grunwerg.

The world of SEO and blogging is kind of limited in that most people will tell you the same things: “build high quality content and do personal outreach in order to receive natural authority backlinks”.

For example, this awesome resource from PointBlankSEO.com is genuinely one of the best articles and tools I’ve ever read for link building strategies in 2013.  It offers hundreds of tips for building white hat links such as PR, competitions, tools, interviews and tests.

However, I still feel this misses the point.

It focuses entirely on link building tactics, rather than how you can increase the perceived value of your content to users – namely by linking away from your blog.

Why? Well here are 6 great reasons to link out.

1. Useful Resource for Readers

The best bloggers will routinely link out to content on a regular basis because it provides readers with more information about a particular subject. For instance, if someone is looking for charts or tools not hosted on your site then it makes sense to link out for your reader’s benefit.

You can even include a cloaked affiliate link if you’re interested in getting credit for the referral (although transparency about affiliate links is always recommended)

2. Creating a “Top List” of the Best Resources or Products

Creating lists such as “13 Tools and Services that I use Everyday” or the “Top 5 Affiliate Blogs” are extremely popular among readers. By linking out to the best resources, you can improve your relationships with other bloggers and websites. It’s a bit like re-tweeting some else’s status – it’s a way of supporting great content and becoming known to the author.

3. Give Credit to External Research and Statistics

Backing up your articles with research and statistics from external resources helps add credibility and value to your content. If you use someone else’s statistic or surveys in a piece then you should also ensure you quote or link to the original source.

4. Interviews and Quotes with Experts in the Industry

Many bloggers and newspapers will routinely look to interview industry experts in order to get better insight and quotes for their story. If you want to add value to your website this way then you need to build some solid contacts, engage in B2B relationships and use PR enquiry services such as HARO and Response Source (both of these services are free to use).

5. Publish Charts, Infographics and Aggregate Data on your Site

Using visual chart and infographics can make it much easier to get a point across to your readers. If you publish someone else’s infographic, you should give credit to the original source as they’ve taken the time and cost to research, produce and distribute it.

6. Improving your SEO, Usability and Panda Score

The best websites will link out to high quality sources for their articles and it’s great for SEO and website rankings. While incoming links are more important (from a ranking point of view) outbound links, to valuable content, is good for your readers and that’s what gets rewarded long term. Too many blogs are scared of linking out in order to preserve their own Page Rank but they’re actually missing out on the other rewards.

Remember…

Linking away from your blog can increase the value of your own content; help build real relationships with other bloggers; and in many cases it’s just the right thing to do (a bit like when you use someone else’s images).

If you’re scared of losing traffic to other websites through external links then you can always use the target=”_blank” HTML tag in order to force open the link in a new window, or you can use cloaked affiliate links to be compensated for the referral.

whiteboard

Image by Jeff Kubina, licensed under Creative Commons

Now it’s over to you. How much link love do you send away from your blog?

Adam Grunwerg is an Internet marketing specialist who runs his own consultancy at http://www.searchable.co.uk.  He writes extensively about marketing, PR, blogging and affiliate marketing.

6 Essential Twitter Tools to Find and Connect With Influencers

This is a guest contribution from Adam Connell, blogger at Bloggingwizard.com.

In the following post you’re going to discover a wide range of powerful and useful tools that will help you find and connect with the influencers on Twitter.

There have been a lot of great posts here on ProBlogger, a few of the best ones can be found here, here and here.

I’m going to be taking a different look at what is possible on Twitter.

This isn’t going to be just another list of tools that you can use to manage your Twitter profile – we are going to be talking about how to identify and connect with influencers in within your niche.

Before I dive in, I want to give you some background information on why you need to find and connect with influencers within your niche.

Influence Marketing

Influence marketing is all about identifying who has influence within your industry or niche and market directly to them.

Think about it like this, there are influencers within most niches or industries on the web and they have an existing audience so the ultimate aim of using these tools is that you will be able to tap into that audience and use it to market your blog.

You can use other platforms to find and connect with influencers, but ultimately Twitter influencer marketing is much more straight forward and there are enough tools on the market to help you.

Please note that there are an enormous number of tools available that can be used for influencer research and an even larger number of tools for Twitter in general – this is not an exhaustive list by any means.

Twitter Influencer Research Tools

1. Simply Measured

Simply Measured influencer tool

Simply Measured is a social analytics tool that will give you access to an incredible range of reporting and data collection tools.

At first glance, their subscriber toolset is quite expensive, but they do have an impressive range of free reports that you can have access too. They’re not just limited to Twitter either. Some of them include LinkedIn, Facebook, Vine, Google Analytics and more.

There is even a report that gives you a detailed combination of analytics that incorporates both Twitter and Klout data.

Simply Measured’s reporting tools will allow you to identify exactly who has the most influence among your network of followers.

This will tell you who you need to connect with and build relationships with.

2. Twtrland

Twitterland influencer tool Twtrland is an incredible social intelligence research tool that works with Twitter and Instagram. It excels at allowing you to easily find influencers and find market insights.

There is a free option and premium option ($19.99 per month), even the free account is still incredible powerful but you just won’t be able to export reports and lists.

There are a few other restrictions but one of the reasons why I like this is that you can still actually use the free account, most free accounts are restricted to the point where it is pointless even using (and then you subscribe of course).

You will get some interesting data about your Twitter account, but what you’re looking for here is to look at the follower’s analysis.

There is an immediate breakdown of the demographics of your Twitter followers – top followers, countries, cities and skills of your followers but the real fun stuff happens when you click ‘browse all’.

Twitter Land influencer tool

Next, tick the ‘power user’ option under Typecast, select your metrics, skills and other demographics – this will show you an incredible list of all of the people that you need to reach out to and connect with.

3. InkyBee

Inky Bee influencer tool

InkyBee is positioned as a blogger outreach tool but it also excels at finding market influencers.

Whether you’re doing blogger outreach or influencer research, the process is the same.

Add a ‘list’ and name it as the market you’re searching for influencers in then add a discovery job by inputting 3 different terms that you would imagine influencers to talk about in a single blog post.

InkyBee will go out and find blogs from all over the web that fit your search terms and pull in some really useful data that is outlined in the image above.

You can order them by different metrics and then export to PDF or Excel documents too.

The way I usually use InkyBee is to find influencers but also gather data of other influencers that I have discovered using different tools because you can manually add lists of blogs.

5. Commun.it

Commun.it influencer tool

Commun.it is a great tool that can separate out your followers and people you follow into a number of different categories while giving you the tools you need to help build and maintain valuable relationships.

The influencer research is essentially done for you because one of the categories just so happens to be influencers; along with supporters and engaged members.

You can use this to follow and continue to connect with these users and continue to build powerful relationships.

One of the difficulties that people sometimes have is what to do next, who do you respond to? Who do you follow? Who do you engage with?

Commun.it actually lists these all out in a straight forward dashboard so you don’t need to leave the page and go into another Twitter management tool.

5. Followerwonk

Followwonk influencer tool

Followerwonk is bundled in with Moz Pro so it does mean that is a paid tool starting at $99 per month but it also means access to some really helpful tools that go beyond Twitter and even social media.

You can do a bunch of different things like compare users, track who is following you, analyse and sort followers but where this really helps with influencer research is the search function.

Just search for a phrase that is particular to your market and you’ll get a huge list of Twitter users that you can export to Excel and then filter by social authority and the number of followers they have (along with a bunch of other helpful data).

6. Twellow

Twellow influencer tool Twellow is essentially a database of Twitter users arranged by a variety of categories and then by the number of followers a user has.

You can then dive deeper and view a user’s profile which pulls in social profiles along with their website.

There is a search function too so you can find users that talk about the exact topic that you’re looking for.

This platform does revolve mostly around the number of followers a user has, the metrics aren’t much more complex than that but it’s still a huge database that makes users easy to find in various niches.

The important thing to remember is that just because someone has a lot of followers, doesn’t mean they get a lot of engagement; this is why I like to search Twellow for users with websites and add them to InkyBee to get some more comprehensive data.

Summary

You may have noticed that I haven’t listed Klout or Kred as one of the Twitter influencer research tools, and I have my reasons for that.

I have found that these tools are better at monitoring my own influence within particular verticals, rather than finding other influencers. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but as bloggers we only have a finite amount of time to spend on certain tasks so we need to focus on using the right tools for the job at hand.

There are a lot more tools that you could use for this too, but the idea of this post is to make things easier for you, and I haven’t found every tool on the market yet.

So I’ll put the question to you – which influencer tools are you using right now?

I’d love to hear more in the comments below, whether you use them for Twitter or any other social platform.

Adam Connell is the operations manager at UK Linkology. He can be found blogging over at Bloggingwizard.com, where he talks about marketing, social media, SEO and a few other topics. Follow him on Twitter @adamjayc.

Increase your SEO with Team Content Marketing!

This is a guest blog contribution from Matt Ganzak, founder of EliteGurus.com and BuildNetworkPlus.com.

Content marketing and SEO is getting more difficult. Each day, there are thousands of new domains purchased and thousands of new websites going online.

Most new bloggers and content writers will get started with their site, staying active for a couple months, and then reality hits them. No traffic to their articles. The time does not seem worth the effort.

Content Marketing can be FRUSTRATING!

Frustration on a keyboard

In an effort to remove outdated and irrelevant search results, Google has been updating their systems over the years with a series of updates. The latest Google update, Penguin, was said to lower the ranks for websites that have poor quality links and also took into consideration the relevancy.

This was the push some businesses and bloggers needed to find a better way to build quality SEO.

Today’s Content Marketing Strategy for SEO

According to Google, the best way to get quality rankings is to follow this guide:

1)     Post quality content that gets shared

2)     Have social widgets easy to access

3)     Use Google Plus profiles for authors

4)     Use Google Plus Pages for sites

5)     Guest blog on other sites to earn link backs

6)     Do not buy links

7)     Setup your web pages targeting keywords

8)     But do not over optimize

In a nutshell, there is no shortcut to boosting your organic traffic, so just put out the quality content and they will come. Well, this strategy is causing newbie bloggers to get frustrated.

So what is the solution?

I have been teaching my clients to build networks within their niche industry, and share each other’s articles. This is a strategy that will build your organic SEO naturally as all the sites work together to grow traffic. Many bloggers choose to be loners and just focus on “their audience” but realistically, today’s Google Algorithm stacks the cards against these loners.

Fact is, you need to reach out and make new friends. Connect on the social networks, and reshare each other’s content. Then also guest blog on each other’s sites and even send newsletter’s to each other’s lists. If you build small niche teams and work together, Google will build your PageRank and Domain Authority as your sites grow together.

Focus group

Copyright Yuri Arcurs – Fotolia.com

This strategy does not create overnight success, and can be rather time consuming. But Google will index their community with excellent authority and continue to do so as her network grows.

Steps to creating your Network

The first step is to decide on your niche market, and do not stray from it! If you confuse Google by having so many different industries, Google will not index you with high relevance for your target industry. Choose and stay the course.

Next, determine who your competitors are in your vertical. You can do this with a Google search for your keywords. And I always like to check Alexa.com rankings to get a look at their traffic score.

After that, choose relevant keywords with high search volume but low competition. I suggest picking 4-7 keywords to target. If you choose more, you can spread your site too thin which will lower your keyword density for your target keywords.

Lastly, find out where your niche industry peers hang out. This can literally mean go to networking events in person, or meetup groups. Take business cards! But you will also want to find online communities dedicated to your niche. Get in, get involved and start networking together.

Personally, I have been doing this sort of networking for the past year and my group has been growing. If you would like to join, I would be more than happy to chat and put up guest posts on any of my websites.

So let’s all work together to improve our PageRank and Domain Authority to grow our readership together. Content Marketing and SEO has become a team effort. I look forward to meeting each and everyone one of you.

Matt has been working in marketing for the past 12 years. He is an innovator of new ideas and has been training businesses on building their online presence. He specializes in Website Development, SEO, blogging, PPC, media buying and monetization strategy. Connect with Matt on EliteGurus.com, and be sure to check out his WordPress hosting (DollarWebsiteClub.com). 

Your Ultimate Guide to Creating Amazing Content that Draws Readers Into Your Blog

This is a guest contribution from Ali Luke.

Does your blog lack something?

Maybe you post regularly, but your posts aren’t getting many comments or shares. It feels like no-one’s reading.

What you need is pillar content. (Also known as “cornerstone content” and “evergreen content”.) These posts get links, shares, and comments. They’re posts that you’re proud to have written; ones that readers can return to again and again.

They’ll often be longer than your usual posts.

They may well be more carefully structured, and more carefully edited.

And you might well be thinking…

Where Do I Find the Time?!

Frustrated blogger

Image copyright Renee Jansoa – Fotolia.com

There’s a very, very simple way to make enough time to create really good posts:

Cut down on the number of posts you currently write.

You don’t have to publish every day. In fact, you probably shouldn’t.

(And just in case you’re not convinced … Michael Hyatt agrees, and even Daily Blog Tips no longer publishes content daily.)

Think about it. Have you ever unsubscribed from a blog that provided amazingly valuable content … just because they didn’t post every day?

I haven’t. But I have unsubscribed from blogs that kept putting out content day after day after day – even if it was good stuff. I just couldn’t keep up.

(If you’re writing in a fast-moving newsy niche, it might be harder to cut back. You could narrow your focus a little, or you could pick a particular day of the week to focus on longer-lasting content.)

Your Objectives and Your Post Ideas

Before you write any pillar post, think hard about what you want to accomplish with it. Don’t just write a post for the sake of it.

Depending on your broader blogging objective, the aim of your post could be one or more of these:

  • Create a portfolio piece that you can use to impress potential clients / employers.
  • Impress first-time readers to your blog and encourage them to subscribe.
  • Prompt readers to buy one of your products.
  • Get lots of shares on social media.
  • Receive more enquires from prospective clients.

By having a clear aim in mind before you start writing, you can tailor your post toward it.

For instance, let’s say you blog about parenting, and your goal is to encourage readers to buy your ebook Help Your Teen Pass Any Exam.

You could simply tack on a paragraph about your ebook at the end of a post on any topic – but ideally, you want the post to get the reader into the right frame of mind to buy it.

In this case, posts like these will probably work well for you:

  • Why Our Schools Are Failing Students
  • Ten Tips for Parenting Teens
  • How to Help Your Teen Study for an Exam

Posts on other aspects of parenting won’t bring in the right readers, or get readers thinking about the right things. You might want to rethink topics like:

  • Five Tips for Getting Your Baby to Sleep
  • How to Prepare Your Pre-Schooler for Starting School
  • Ten Moms Confess Their Guilty Parenting Secrets

Those might well be great, valuable posts – but they’re not ones that will help you sell your ebook.

It’s often useful to come up with a whole bunch of ideas at once. If you can, set aside at least 20 minutes to brainstorm – often, once you get past the first 10 or so ideas, you get into some really interesting and valuable ones.

Keep your ideas somewhere safe, and turn to your list whenever you start a new post. Think about what goal you’d like to meet – and choose a topic that fits well with that.

Crafting Your Title

Although many bloggers write their title after writing their post, it’s a good idea to come up with a “nearly-there” title before starting on your post. If you just have a topic in mind, it can be tough to figure out how best to structure your post, or what to include it in.

Your title should:

  • Be clear. Get keywords in there – don’t try to be too clever. Both readers and search engines need to know what your post is actually about.
  • Be specific. “Five tips” is better than “tips”, because readers get a better sense of what your post involves. (Copywriter Steven Slaunwhite has a great, short video on this technique here.)
  • Create interest. Adjectives are great for this – “five powerful tips” or “five simple tips” rather than just “five tips”. You can also  try words like “secrets” or “little-known”.
  • Avoid excessive hype. If your post title is “Ten Insider Secrets the Experts Don’t Want You to Know” then you’d better have something impressive to share! A hyped up title might get clicks, but readers won’t stick around long (and you’ll lose their trust).

For more tips – including advice on personalising titles, using keywords, using power words, and much more – see How to Craft Post Titles that Draw Readers Into Your Blog.

Jon Morrow Headline Hacks

Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks is a great resource, if you want some ready-made ones for inspiration. You could also look at any popular blog or magazine and borrow from them – take a title you like and switch around a few words so that it works for your blog.

Structuring the Main Body of Your Post

One key aspect of writing that many bloggers struggle with (or don’t understand the importance of) is structure.

If your posts are poorly structured, they’ll not only be hard to write, they’ll be hard to read. You’ll spend too much time staring at the screen, wondering what to write next … and your readers will often click away after a few paragraphs because they’re struggling to find the value in your post.

One basic structure that you’re almost certainly familiar with is the list post. Even if you think these are overdone, get to grips with this structure, because it can be used as a basis for many others.

Here’s how a basic list post might look:

Introduction

#1: Subheading

Paragraph

#2: Subheading

Paragraph.

… and so on until …

Conclusion / call to action

A how-to post looks almost identical in structure. In fact, the only real difference between list posts and how-to posts is this:

  • Readers can use one or several of the points in a list post and still get something valuable.
  • Readers need to follow the points in a how-to post step-by-step.

It’s a really good idea to number your points, because it helps readers orientate themselves – they know how far they’ve got through the post and how far they still have to go.

Using Subheadings

One of the best ways to structure your post, whether or not it’s a list, is to use subheadings. This is especially crucial in longer posts, where readers might be dipping in and out, or skimming for information. (You can see plenty of them at work in this post!)

Some bloggers simply use bold text for their subheadings, but it’s better to use the Heading formats built into your blogging software. This makes the text larger so it stands out more – and you can also use different levels of subheading to split long sections into several parts.

If you want to try something a little different from a standard list post or how-to post, use one of the fool-proof forumlas below.

Three Fool-Proof Post Formulas (Plus Examples)

Fool proof lock and chain

Start with one of these formats, and you’ll find it easy to come up with a great post. These ideas will all produce a post that’s great for linking to in your guest post bios, highlighting on your About page, including in your sidebar, and sharing on your social media accounts.

Idea #1: An A-Z Guide

Example: 26 Essentials for Blogging Success: What You Need to Know, Social Media Examiner

These types of post are fun to write, they suit almost any topic, and they have a ready-made structure. They’re also a really good way to tackle a big topic that might normally be too much for a single blog post.

Creating an A-Z post is simple. Just come up with a topic (like “the A-Z of vegan cooking” or “the A-Z of board games). List the letters A to Z on a sheet of paper, and think of a word or phrase that goes with each. Then all you need to do is write a sentence or paragraph for each item.

Idea #2: A “Why and How” Post

Example: Why You Need to Create and Sell A Product Now (And How To Do It)

Going beyond a simple “how to”, these posts work brilliantly because they help readers understand why something is important. It won’t necessarily be obvious to readers why they’d want to do something unless you spell this out.

You’ll structure your post like this – make the subheadings specific to your topic:

  • Introduction
  • Why This Matters
  • How to Do It (with numbered steps)

Idea #3: Top Experts Answer…

Example: The Experts’ Views on Content Marketing

Even if you don’t have a lot of experience in your topic area, you can produce a great, in-depth post that readers will want to share and link to … by using experts in your niche.

The key to doing this is to choose one question that you want lots of people to answer. Most experts are really busy, and they’re much more likely to get back to you if you ask one question instead of ten. (This is sometimes called a “one-question interview”.)

You don’t even have to approach experts directly. Instead, you could write a post that collates lots of ideas on a particular topic, quoting from and linking to posts that these experts have published.

These three ideas aren’t the only possibilities, of course: there are dozens of other post formulas that you can use too. (Whenever you come across a great post, see if you can break it down and figure out how it’s structured.)

How Long Should Your Post Be?

Some bloggers will say “how long is a piece of string?” – but I’ll give you a proper answer.

Aim to make your posts between 600 and 1,500 words.

If they’re under 600 words, it’ll be tough for you to deliver something really valuable.

If they’re over 1,500 words, you’ll struggle to keep the post structured and coherent.

Of course you can write shorter posts and longer ones – but stick to a standard post length until you’re comfortable there.

Writing Your First Draft

Some bloggers love coming up with ideas and planning posts – but they struggle when it comes to getting words onto the page.

Here’s how to get your first draft written:

  • Plan first. Make sure you have a clear structure in place. That could mean getting all your list points written down, or using one of the ready-made ideas below.
  • Avoid distractions. Yes, you’ve heard this one before – but are you doing it? Writing takes a lot of focus and energy, so try using the Pomodoro technique or similar to write in short bursts … and don’t check Twitter / Facebook / your email until the time is up.
  • Don’t try to make it perfect. You’ll have as much time as you need to edit, so don’t worry if a sentence has come out a little weird, or you’re missing a piece of crucial information. Keep moving forward in your post.
  • Jump straight in with your first major point or section, rather than starting at the introduction. Once you’ve written the post, it’ll be easier to create an introduction that fits.
  • Imagine you’re writing an email to a friend. What advice would you give? How would you write it? Use this as the basis of your blog post. (A great way to go further with this is to do a “Q&A” post where you answer questions from your readers – you may well find your writing flows more smoothly than ever.)

Great Beginnings…

Your introduction has to do a lot of work – almost as much as the title. It needs to hook the reader, making them want to read on. It also needs to pave the way for what’s to come – you could write an amazing, attention-grabbing introduction that falls flat if it doesn’t really have anything to do with the rest of your post.

Some easy but powerful ways to begin your post are:

  • With a question. These help the reader to engage by getting them thinking (or at least agreeing!) For instance, “How do you keep yourself fresh, inspired and creative as a blogger?
  • With a quotation. This can be a great way to begin if your post is building on something that another blogger’s written. Some bloggers use motivational or inspirational quotations at the start of all their posts – Alex Blackwell from The Bridgemaker is a good example.
  • With an anecdote – a mini story from your life. If this is relevant to your post, and if you keep it fairly short, it can help your readers feel connected to you.

For lots more ideas for your post introduction, check out Darren’s in-depth post 11 Ways to Open a Post and Get Reader Engagement.

…And Great Endings

Although it’s clear that introductions are important, endings might seem less so. However, they have a crucial role to play. In fact, if you end too abruptly, you’re missing out on a great opportunity.

As Darren writes in Calls to Action – 12 Tips To SNAP Readers Out of Passivity:

The vast majority of visitors to your blog are paralyzed by passivity. They never comment, they don’t vote in polls, they won’t subscribe to your feed or newsletters, they won’t buy the affiliate products that you recommend, they won’t email a friend about your blog, they won’t vote for you in social bookmarking sites and most of them will never come back.

Let’s say you’ve written a ten-point list post. Don’t just stop at the end of item ten – add a couple of sentences beneath the list to round off the post. A list post is a great one to use to get comments, because you can ask something like:

Do you have a tip to add to this list? Share it in the comments below (or let us know which of the existing tips you liked best).

A “call to action” simply means asking (or telling) the reader to do something. It might look like one of these:

  • What do you think? Leave a comment below.
  • If you enjoyed this post, please hit the “Tweet” button to share it with others.
  • Want to know more about [topic]? Click here to read my post [title].
  • To learn more, check out my ebook [Title and link].

Some bloggers worry that calls to action sound pushy or even desperate. The truth is, readers are used to them – and will often welcome them. After all, if you visited a new blog for the first time and read a great post, wouldn’t you appreciate a link to another relevant post?

It might seem a little silly to ask directly for comments – surely readers know the comment box is there! – but some readers, especially shyer ones, will be much more likely to comment if you specifically invite them to do so.

Editing Your Post

It’s often a relief to get to the end of your post … but don’t hit publish just yet.

Your first draft probably needs a bit of tidying up before it’s ready for the world. In fact, you’ll probably want to run through two separate edits – a “big picture” overview and a “zoomed in” look at the details.

Editing the Big Picture

Before you get too caught up in changing words or checking your use of commas, focus on the bigger picture. Read through your post and look for:

  • Anything superfluous that you can cut. Save what you remove, in case it can be used in a future post.
  • Anything missing that you need to add in. You might need a better transition between your introduction and first section, for instance.
  • Anything that’s not in the right order. Perhaps it would make better sense to start your list with the current item five, for instance.

You might also want to show your draft post to a friend or trusted reader – ask them if there are any major changes they think you should make.

Editing the Details

Once you’re happy that your post contains the right information in the right order, it’s time to make every sentence pull its weight.

At this level of editing, you’re looking out for:

  • Words or phrases that you’ve overused. If you use the phrase “content marketing” five times in a paragraph, it’s going to look like you’re blindly following some outdated SEO keyword-stuffing practice (even if you didn’t mean to and just ended up writing it that way).
  • Sentences that read oddly. Perhaps it sounded right in your head, but looks a bit weird on the page. It’s a great idea to read your post out loud – this will really help you spot any awkward bits.
  • Spelling mistakes and typos. Double-check anything your spell-checker flags up (you do run your posts through a spell-checker, right?) but also look out for common spelling mistakes.

Most writers find it really hard to edit their own work – so even if other people’s typos jump right out at you, go slowly and carefully when editing your own work, or ask a friend to help you.

Don’t get too anxious or caught-up here, though. Yes, spelling and grammar matter – but readers will forgive the occasional slip. If you do spot an error after hitting publish (or if a reader points one out to you), it’s easy to update your post.

Formatting Your Post

Looks are important. You could write a brilliant, useful, entertaining post that doesn’t get readers simply because it looks hard to read.

If you have long paragraphs in a small font, readers may well not bother making the effort to read your post at all. In case you’re not convinced, take a look at these screenshots. They show an identical post, formatted in two different ways:

Post formatting example 1

Post formatting example 2

The second version instantly looks more interesting and attractive.

It’s easy and straightforward to add formatting in your blog editor. Some great ones to use are:

  • Subheadings. These split your post into easy-to-read chunks, and help readers find information that they’re skimming for.
  • Bold text. This is a great way to highlight key points. Don’t overdo it, or it can start to look choppy and distracting. Aim to put whole sentences (or at least long phrases) in bold, rather than individual words.
  • Italics. These are useful for foreign words, individual words you want to emphasise, or “asides” that you want in a different font. (For instance, I use italics at the start of guest posts, where I’m introducing the guest blogger to my readers.)
  • Bullet points. Lists are easy to take in, and they also have extra white space around them – making for easy readability. You can use either unnumbered (usually round, black) bullet points or numbered ones.
  • Short paragraphs. One of the simplest ways to make your posts more readable is to split up any long paragraphs. If you’ve gone over four lines, then think about splitting part-way.

Some bloggers add formatting as they’re writing, others add it at the end. Whichever you choose to do, always have a quick look at your post in “preview” mode and check that everything looks OK. (For instance, make sure all your subheadings are the right size – it’s easy to muddle up H2s and H3s.)

Adding Images

Although it’s not a hard-and-fast rule, you’ll find that most major blogs include a large image at the top of their posts … and there’s a good reason why.

Images grab our attention. They draw our eyes, and ease us into the post. Usually, they help create a professional, polished feel on your blog. In some blog themes, they also get picked up as thumbnails on the front page, alongside the excerpt – and they appear on Facebook if you link to your blog post.

There’s really no reason not to enhance your post with an image. You have plenty of sources, like:

  • Your own photography. This works really well for bloggers like Benny Lewis (who uses photos of himself) and Farnoosh Brock (who uses photos she’s taken, sometimes overlaid with text). If you have a strong blogging voice or if you want to build a deeper connection with readers, try this out.
  • Stock images that you’ve bought. There are plenty of sites like iStockPhoto which will sell you images you can use on your blog. This isn’t a cheap option, but if you’re writing a post that needs to look great, it could be worth doing.
  • Free images from Flickr. Lots of kind artists put their creations (photos, illustrations, etc) onto Flickr, where you can browse for images licensed under “Creative Commons.” Make sure you find images that are marked for “commercial use” if your blog makes any money or might do so in the future – e.g. you’re running ads.

Even if you use other people’s images rather than your own, you might want to come up with some simple guidelines for choosing them perhaps you always use black and white shots, or always use colourful, fairly abstract ones, or use illustrations rather than photos.

An important “don’t”: it’s not OK to use images that you’ve found from a simple Google search. Unless they’re licensed under Creative Commons, you need to get permission from their creator.

Getting and Using Feedback

You can easily strengthen your blog posts if you get feedback and use it. A good way to do this is to ask someone to read your draft post, and get them to tell you how they think you could improve it. You might not be able to do this for every single post – but doing it even occasionally can help give you a new perspective on your blogging.

The best people to ask are:

  • Fellow bloggers who understand the medium. Sure, your old high school buddy might have been brilliant at turning out A grade essays – but he may not have a clue about what works in the blogging world.
  • Thoughtful readers who’ve been following your blog for some time. Maybe you’ve exchanged comments or emails with a reader and built up a great rapport: they might be delighted to have the opportunity to review one of your draft posts.

Don’t approach top bloggers in your niche and ask for feedback on your draft posts. Yes, they might well have great advice to share – but they’re unlikely to have the time to do so, and attempting to begin a relationship by asking for a favour isn’t a great idea.

You don’t have to use all the suggestions you get, but pay particular attention to anything that didn’t come across clearly, or that your reader misunderstood. Even if it seems obvious to you, rewrite it.

If you’re not sure about a particular suggestion, get a second opinion. It’s also a good idea to wait overnight before implementing (or rejecting) feedback – you may find that a break from your post helps you see it in a more objective light.

After You Hit Publish…

Your post is out there for the world – but your job isn’t done.

Unless you have a huge audience, hitting “publish” almost certainly isn’t enough to draw lots of readers to your post. Although some bloggers like to believe that truly great content will be found and shared, the truth is that you’ll almost certainly need to give it a helping hand.

(Of course, it’s crucial to write great content in the first place: aim to find a balance between creating content and promoting it.)

Promoting Your Pillar Post

There are plenty of ways to promote your post. These are some basics that you can do for every post:

  • Link to your post on Twitter. Although there are plugins that auto-tweet your posts, I prefer to craft an individual, custom tweet each time.
  • Link to your post on Facebook. You may want to add a brief blurb about the post, or ask a question to encourage comments on your Facebook page.
  • Include your post in your newsletter. Not all of my newsletter readers subscribe to my blog, so I put links to my posts in monthly roundups.

For really good pillar posts, you might go further, and:

  • Email a blogging buddy and ask them to consider linking to your post. Don’t email the top five bloggers in your niche for this – choose people who you already have a relationship with (perhaps through Twitter or commenting on one another’s blogs).
  • Link to your post from your sidebar. Many bloggers have a widget of “Recommended Posts” or “Popular Posts” to highlight their best content. Some even create eye-catching image banners to link to their best posts.
  • Go back to old posts and link to the new one. If you have an older post on a similar topic, why not link forward? Check in Google Analytics to see which of your older pieces are getting the most search engine traffic.
  • Link to your post from a guest piece on another blog. Be cautious with this, as if you write a guest post just for the sake of links, it may well not be accepted. Only put a link in the body of your post if it’s truly relevant – otherwise, use your bio. Joseph has some good tips on guest posting for backlinks here.

Answering Comments

Once your post is live, set aside time to answer comments. Lots of readers who don’t leave a comment will still scroll down and take a look at the comments section, so this counts as an important part of your post.

You’ll ideally want to:

  • Respond to all your comments (unless they’re very short ones like “Thanks, great post!”) You don’t have to reply to every single comment instantly, but if you let comments remain unanswered for days, it doesn’t create a great impression for new readers.
  • Remove any spam comments. Plugins like Akismet do much of the hard work for you, but it’s still a good idea to act promptly in removing any spam that does get through. You may also want to remove any offensive comments (e.g. ones including racist or sexist language).

If you’re struggling to get comments, you might email a blogger friend (or a loyal reader) and ask them to start the ball rolling. There are plenty of other great tips on getting more comments in Want More Comments? Let ProBlogger Help!

Your Action Plan

I’m aware there’s a fair bit of reading here!

What matters is that you have a go at creating pillar content for your blog – and here’s a simple action plan to help you do that this week, in just 30 minutes per day.

During those 30 minutes, turn off distractions and set a timer. Tell yourself you’ll concentrate until the time is up – so if you get the sudden urge to check Facebook, ignore it!

Day 1: Come up with several ideas and choose the strongest one. Plan out your post (you might want to scroll up a bit and check the advice on structuring).

Days 2, 3 and 4: Write your post. Get as far as you can in 30 minutes each day. If you get stuck at any point, imagine you’re replying to a comment or sending an email to one of your readers – write as though you’re talking directly to them.

Day 5: Edit your post, focusing on the big picture. Cut any tangents, rearrange paragraphs and add in new sections if necessary.

Day 6: Edit your post again, this time focusing on the details. Watch out for typos, grammatical mistakes, and other slips.

Day 7: Add formatting, including an image, check your post in preview mode, and hit publish.

Of course, some pillar posts will need a bit more time for some of these stages. An A-Z post, for instance, might well take an hour or two to plan, and a post that rounds up lots of expert views could involve a lot of emailing and waiting for responses. But this plan should get you up and running with a great post quickly – and hopefully you’ll find the results well worth the time you spent.

I’d love to hear how you get on with writing pillar posts: share your experiences and tips in the comments below. If you have any questions, I’ll be glad to answer them too.

Ali Luke runs Writers’ Huddle, a community / teaching site for writers and bloggers who want to take their craft further. Along with lots of seminars and other resources, Writers’ Huddle includes her Blog On e-course, which takes you step-by-step through the process of creating great posts and pages for your blog. Find out all about Writers’ Huddle, and read what members say about it, here.

The Truth about Food Blogging

This is a guest contribution by Amy Murnan, writer of TheFreshFresher. 

It is slim pickings in the world of food blogging.

I know this because, about a year ago, I had a bright idea. I said to myself – hey, don’t worry about your lack of job prospects after graduating University! You like writing and you like cooking, so start a food blog – you’re bound to get a book deal!

Needless to say, I was a tad naïve. In reality, the truth about food blogging is tougher than any other blogging niche. You may not want to believe it, but food blogging is no picnic.

I didn’t want to believe it either, but the fact is that anyone who has ever tried food blogging knows that it is near impossible to get noticed. And why?

Because, these days, anyone can do it.

With the dawning of sites like Instagram, anyone can be a flash-food-blogger. We all know at least one foodie updating the world on every morsel they chew. So why would anyone want to see yet more food on the Internet when so many people are writing about it? And it isn’t just the technology that has changed.

Simply being a good cook won’t get you noticed.

Being (or knowing) a good photographer with a good camera is a standard requirement. You have to be able to transfer that taste – that smell – through the screen. You have to provide something enticing. After all, nobody is going to find my recipe for profiteroles when Good Housekeeping’s looks tastier.

But the fact remains that it is only near impossible. So, how to make food blogging work? I am by no means an expert, but I have learned a few lessons on the subject and mainly from other food bloggers:

Go Niche

And I mean really niche. Diet blogs are slightly more viable, although even gluten-free and vegan sites are becoming more competitive.

Find a gap in the market (easier said than done, I know, but that’s blogging for you) and fill it.

Go Luxurious

Live a jet-set lifestyle? Luckily for you, people love to read about glamorous lives, and glamorous food. Just take a look at The Londoner’s blog. Unfortunately this option doesn’t apply to many.

Go Somewhere

Travel-on-a-shoestring, travel around one city, travel to the middle of nowhere – as long as your posts are good, you’ll have a chance. Food lovers love food culture, and if your blog reveals cultures and dishes they’ve never seen before, they’ll like it. Take a look at The Road Forks.

Go Expert

If you work in catering, food prep or some other food-related profession and have other knowledge to pass on – industry insights, career tips and advice – you will gain an advantage. SugarHero is a great example – it is written by an ex-pastry chef with a book deal.

For me, food blogging was a huge learning curve, and still is. If you are ready to take on the blogosphere and make mouths water, be prepared to think, plan and work hard. But most importantly, be prepared to learn.

Amy Murnan is the writer of TheFreshFresher, a food blog aimed at students and young people craving fresh and flavourful food. 

5 Intellectual Property Laws about the Internet Bloggers Need to Know

This is a guest contribution from  JT Ripton, a Freelance writer from Tampa.

An image depicting IP Law

Image via Flickr by auggie tolosa

Intellectual property law protects much of the content that you enjoy on the internet. Though you aren’t always required to pay to enjoy this content, that doesn’t make it free for all types of use. Since many intellectual property laws haven’t yet been adapted specifically for the Internet, here’s a rundown of the basics you can use to safely guide your decisions.

Photos and Images are Not Free for Use

Quick and simple searches like Google Images make it seem like the Internet is overflowing with free photos and images. However, copyright law protects most of these photos. If you’re looking for images you can post on your blog, you need to look for those with a Creative Commons license. You can also pay for rights to use certain images.

Creative Commons Licenses Come in Different Forms

Creative Common licenses give you access to various forms of intellectual property. There are many different types of Creative Commons licenses. Before using something that’s protected under this type of license, you must carefully look at it to decide exactly how you can use the image. Some licenses allow commercial use while others do not. Some allow you to alter an image while others stipulate that it must stay in its original form. Attribution is typically required.

Most Movies, Music, and Television are Protected

Although there are many sites where you can get access to movies, television shows, and music for free, these downloads are typically illegal. Though the sites themselves are not violating any laws, you are if you share or download copyrighted material. You can legally view some movies and shows online, but you cannot download them. Network sites often show recent episodes of popular shows and sites like Netflix and Hulu offer access to movies and shows with a paid subscription.

Plagiarism Isn’t Just for School Papers

You undoubtedly learned about the dangers of plagiarism in high school and college, but these laws’ importance doesn’t end when you’re finished writing term papers and dissertations. Whether you have a blog yourself or you write for others, you cannot reproduce another’s intellectual property and take credit for it as your own. Cite your sources, use quotation marks when needed, and try to limit your works to your own unique ideas as much as possible. Referencing another article and quoting from a book are fine. Reposting an entire article or chapter of a published piece are not.

Permission Trumps All

When in doubt about a work, simply ask for permission to use it. Just as the Internet make it easy to find works, so too does it make it easy to contact creators. Many will gladly give you the necessary permissions when requested.

The Internet is a great forum for sharing everything from thoughts and ideas to your original photos, films, and musical works. However, it’s essential that you always think about who has the rights to the content in question and act so that you do not violate them.

JT Ripton is a Freelance writer from Tampa, FL, he’s been using the internet before most people even knew what it was.  JT writes about several of his interests including, blogging, all things tech, and useful tips and idea’s for a myriad of things. He likes to write to inform and intrigue.

Blog like Hemingway: 5 Writing Tips to Improve Your Blog

This is a guest contribution from Victoria Elizabeth, writer for the Ometria Blog.

Type writer - in the beginning

If Ernest Hemingway were around today, he would have made an excellent blogger. From online news sites to individual industry experts and straightforward enthusiasts, people are using blogs as a way to attract consumers to their goods, services and information. With all the blogs out there on the internet, it can be difficult to weed out the good from the bad.

Although what makes a good blog post can differ with context, you should keep in mind that bloggers and content marketers are always pressed for time. So making your blog posts as digestible as possible will ensure that you keep them interested and engaged with your writing.

Hemingway’s short, snappy prose delivers a clear message and his writing scarcely strays into flowery descriptions. Online content writers in-the-know understand why his style is worth emulating, and so should you.

Here are 5 blog writing tips that Hemingway would have definitely approved of:

1. Short Sentences are KeyScissors with letters

This tip seems obvious but if writing isn’t a regular habit for you, then it’s easy to fall into writing longer run-on sentences. Hemingway was fond of short clear sentences and thought little of elaborate language.

You belong to me and all Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and this pencil.” Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast.

Your writing should be similarly straight to the point as an online audience won’t hesitate to leave your webpage with a click once they get bored or confused by your language.

2. Research the Truth

Hemingway wanted to find the truth within stories, and his research heavily drove his writing pursuits. Research is vital to writing truthfully, and this should always be your priority as a blogger.

If you want to move people with your message, then you must convince your audience of the truth in your writing. Hemingway also wasn’t a fan of adjectives, and bloggers who use words like ‘great, exciting, amazing, etc.’ tend to betray their creative insecurities. These words detract from your message instead of adding value so beware the verbose adjectival pitfall (See what I did there?)

A laptop with books - Internet research

3. Brief Clear Introductions

Not only do short clear introductions allow your readers to gauge whether they will read on, it is also the best opportunity to hook them in. No one likes to read four paragraphs if they can read four sentences instead. In marketing, time is money, and reading time is something that people are less likely to extend solely for your long elaborate blog post.

4. A Specific Beat or Topic of Specialty

You can’t write about all of your knowledge in one blog post. Your purpose should be to educate and convince people, and you should always have material left for another time. Never give away all your secrets as this will shorten the lifespan of your blog, and leave you with no material to keep writing about. The trouble is figuring out what the right balance should be. How much is too little, or too much? Evaluate your topic to see how much information should be included in one post and try to stick to a consistent word count as well.

5. Writing HabituallyNotepad and coffee - a writing habit

Writing effectively means that you form a habit of doing it everyday. This is difficult for most people, but if you train yourself it will undoubtedly become easier. Hemingway typically wrote about 500 words a day from daybreak till noon, and tried not to think about his writing until the next day.

Hemingway’s habit had a twofold benefit. First, the morning is a good time to write because your mind is fresh and the day’s distractions are limited. Second, leaving your writing aside for the afternoon allows you to digest and process what you write, while you focus on other important things. You will find your afternoon workload lighter because you already accomplished so much, and may get more ideas from subconsciously digesting what you wrote earlier.

Stick to these simple little tips and you will ensure that your writing style stays clear and concise for your readers to enjoy.

Victoria Elizabeth writes for the Ometria Blog. See her recent article on the Wild West of Big Data.