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WordPress.com or WordPress.org? Which One’s Right for You?

This guest post is by Matt Hooper.

When you first start looking at building your own blog, you are going to be inundated by the different options that are out there. After considering all your options, hopefully you’ll come to your senses and realize that WordPress is your best option.

As a reward for all this deliberating you are now presented with one more decision. Do you choose .org or .com? And we’re not talking about your domain name. You, along with many others, might be surprised to find out that there are actually two different kinds of WordPress.

WordPress.com is a version of WordPress that is hosted by Automattic, the development team behind WordPress. WordPress.org is often referred to the self-hosted version of WordPress. The two are very similar but there are a few differences that you need to be aware of before you finally get down to work on your blog.

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the safest way to go, as there are a lot of mechanisms in place to make sure that you don’t accidentally break it or prevent it from working the way it was intended to.

This means that it is nearly impossible for a beginner to render their site unusable. It also means that you are unable to really make use of some of the more advanced, and fun, features of WordPress. I’ll get to those below, but let’s take a closer look at what WordPress.com has to offer first.

The biggest selling feature of WordPress.com is the fact that everything is free and easy to use. You can head over there right now, sign up for a free account, and be blogging before you know it. You won’t even need to invest in a domain name if you don’t want to. Without any expense, you are able to have a website of your own at a domain like yourname.wordpress.com.

That’s right: you don’t even have to purchase a domain name to get started. However, going from a yourname.wordpress.com domain to yourname.com in the future is going to hurt your search engine rankings. This is something that you might want to consider before going the totally free route.

In the event that you are even remotely serious about creating a blog, you’re best to start off with your own domain. You can have your own domain name at WordPress.com for an extra $12 per year plus the cost of the domain itself.

On November 29, 2011 WordPress announced WordAds. Only WordPress.com hosted sites with custom domains and “moderate to high traffic and appropriate content” are eligible to apply for the WordAds program. WordAds appears to be a viable monetizing option for WordPress hosted sites that have established audiences. This does not appear to be an option for new WordPress.com sites.

The barrier to entry is extremely low here so it can be very appealing to the less technically inclined. For hobbyists or people interested in just kicking the tires, WordPress.com is a good starting point. However, if you are at all serious about moving forward with your blog, you’re going to quickly run into the limitations of WordPress.com.

WordPress.org

WordPress.org is the version of WordPress that you have to host yourself. This means that if you use wordpress.org, you have to go out and find a web hosting company to host your blog. This may result in you having to paying for services before you even hit Publish on your fist post.

The good thing is that some hosting companies may give you a short grace period to try out their service before you get your first bill. Then, after you get going, you’ll be looking at a cost of anywhere from a $5 to $10 per month for a shared host.

You’ll also have to buy your own domain to use with your blog—you won’t even have the option not to. Again, some hosts will give you one domain for free when you signup. This also means that you can add additional domains for just the cost of the domain, since you already have the host.

After you have decided on a shared host of your choice, you are going to have to install WordPress in your hosting account. Don’t fret: most shared hosts worth using will have a “one-click install” for WordPress, so it’s not too complicated to get WordPress installed. In the event that you do have any problems, most good shared hosts will help you out.

Once this has been completed, you will have free rein to do whatever you wish with your shiny new WordPress installation. This also means that you get access to two of the best features of WordPress that I alluded to above: plugins and custom themes.

Themes are what control the look and feel of your blog, colours, layouts, fonts, etc. Yes, it’s true that you are able to pick a theme while using WordPress.com but there is a limited selection and you are not able to do much customization to the theme itself. If you know your way around CSS, you can pay an additional $30 per year to have the ability to modify the CSS.

Even if you get to the CSS of your WordPress.com site, you still have a limited selection of themes to choose from. At least with WordPress.org, you have the choice of using the same out-of-the-box free themes as on WordPress.com or to pay a bit extra for a premium or custom theme.

But the killer feature of WordPress.org has got to be the ability to add plugins, which are not available with WordPress.com. Plugins are add-ons that expand the core functionality of WordPress. As an example, if you want to be able to scan your entire site to make sure there are no broken links, there is a plugin for that. There are countless other plugins for WordPress that will:

  • compress images
  • enhance SEO
  • create contact forms
  • lightbox images
  • and much, much more!

Initially, having FTP access to your blog might not matter to you, but as you grow into your blog, you might want to have the ability to modify and move files around on your web host’s server. This is something that you get with a self-hosted site running WordPress, that you can’t ever get with a WordPress.com blog.

Probably the most important feature of using WordPress.org is you get to make money with your blog. You’re free to use anything from Adsense to affiliate promotions. You’ll even have the option of creating and selling your own products through your site. And if the need arises, you can turn a WordPress.org site into a full-blown ecommerce solution.

That said, it’s not all roses with a self-hosted blog. There are two major things missing with WordPress.org that you get with WordPress.com: backups and protection from extreme traffic spikes.

There aren’t many safety nets with a self-hosted site, so make sure you back it up often. WordPress.com takes care of this for you. A good web host usually performs regular backups, but most will tell you that they don’t guarantee anything. So whatever you do, make sure that you perform your own WordPress backups frequently.

In the event that your blog does get popular overnight, it could buckle under the added traffic. Don’t worry: the stability of your site can be beefed up through the use of a good caching plugin, like W3 total cache. Also, it isn’t too difficult to upgrade your hosting at some point in the future when your site starts getting massive traffic. This would be a good problem to have!

Wrapping it up

I have to admit that after being so accustomed to the flexibility of WordPress.org, I would have a hard time being happy with a WordPress.com blog. If you have any aspirations of taking your blog past the hobby stage, you should just start out with a self-hosted site.

It is possible to move a WordPress.com hosted site to a self-hosted site later on. However, presuming that you might consider starting with a WordPress.com site and moving to a self-hosted site later on, you’re best to just start out with a self-hosted site.

That said, if you are comfortable living within the limitations of WordPress.com, and you want to never have to deal with the technical details of a blog, then a WordPress.com hosted blog might be all that you need.

WordPress.com is great if you are looking to keep an online journal or for small clubs and the like. Due to the fact that you are reading this site, I expect you’re interested in making a business out of your blog. On that note, at some point in the future you will end up with a WordPress.org website. Save yourself the fuss and the hassle of trying to transition your site later on. You’ll be happy you did.

The initially-free option of WordPress.com could actually result in higher costs down the road. After you start piling on extra fees for a custom domain, ad removal, extra storage space (you only get 3GBs to start), plus the ability to use custom CSS in your blog design, you really aren’t saving much, if any, money on WordPress.com, and you have to deal with its limitations.

Finally, and this is a big “finally”, you don’t own a WordPress.com website. After you’ve spent all that time to build a blog and an audience, do you really want to wake up one morning and find out that WordPress.com didn’t like your site so they deleted it? There isn’t a strong chance of this happening, but you should be aware that it could.

Have you been trying to decide between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? What challenges are you facing?

Matthew Hooper helps individuals, small businesses and organizations build an internet presence. You can get his free guide on building an internet presence or check out his online WordPress course full of step-by-step videos so that you can learn WordPress in a single weekend.

Blogging Business Plans 101

This guest post is by Adarsh Thampy of ConversionChamp.com.

Do you know what the biggest mistake is when starting your own blog?

I’d argue that it’s probably lack of proper planning. At the starting point, you should consider writing a business plan for your blog.

“A business plan?” you might ask. “A blog is not necessarily a business!” I have guest posted over at branding personality about this topic. Blogging is a tool to promote your business or brand. So it’s essential that bloggers too have a business plan.

One of the successful entrepreneurs I respect the most, Neil Patel, is not a big fan of business plans, and he’s written about why you shouldn’t write a business plan in the first place. However, the plan I am talking about in this article is not based on any traditional models. Most people search the Internet to create a business plan and finally give up. It’s probably because they find it too difficult. I have to agree with this feeling: writing a business plan is no walk in the park.

But there is good news for people looking to start a blog, who want a plan that’ll help.

Unlike traditional business plans, the one you need to create for your blog is fairly simple. You don’t have to worry about structure, wording, or content. Your business plan will be short and easy to prepare.

Why do I even need a business plan?

All entrepreneurs know they need a business plan. But not many know why they actually need one. If I am talking on a high level, I can say that it is needed to acquire venture capital, optimize business operations, and so on, though I bet most bloggers never even remotely think of such things before they start a blog.

In layman’s terms, here’s why you need business plan:

  • It can give you an overall idea about your business (even before you start one). This makes sure that you approach blogging from a business perspective, and not just the mindset of content creation alone.
  • You will have a better understanding of the requirements of your business. (Can you provide consulting through your blog? Or how is it that you are going to make money from it?)
  • You’ll have a better overview about cash flow in your business. (Cashflow is nothing but how and when money comes in and goes out). How much are you going to invest in your blog, and how much do you expect it to make over a given period of time?
  • It encourages you to take a more realistic approach towards your business.
  • It helps you discover the challenges that lie ahead for your blog and the business associated with it.

How to prepare a business plan for your blog

Here comes the good part, and I must say that it’s actually fun too.

To create a blog, you’ll have to do research on your target market, figure out the operational and start-up costs, and so on. So why not document those things along the way, in a business plan that guides you, and provides a reference for the future?

Step 1: Business idea

In this section, you will have to note down what your business idea is. To make it more fun, write down how you actually zeroed down on your business idea. Make it short: don’t go over one page. In fact, try not to go over half a page.

Example: “My business idea is to start an online store which will sell superman merchandise to kids. I wanted to do this since my children love Superman toys and there isn’t any store that exclusively sells them online. I can entertain my kids as well as make some profit. I’ll use my blog to engage my customers and build a loyal following.”

Step 2: Business requirements

What does your business or blog require to get started? What is the timeframe in which you expect each task to be completed? It’s good to make an Excel spreadsheet and paste it into your business plan so you have all the information in the same document.

Don’t include costs here. When it comes to the timeframes you’ll need to factor in, be realistic. Optimism is good, but your business decisions needs to be based on facts.

Example for small blog business: “My online store will be ready in approximately three months’ time. I’ll also need the help of some web designers and developers to build my online store. Then I need to get a decent hosting for my business website.

“I will spend three hours a day on this project, as I have a full-time job as well. For my blog, I’ll write the contents. I’ll also hire an editor to manage the content of this site (and occasionally contribute to it while I am busy with my main business).”

  • “Designing the site: 15 days (I am smart so I’ll use the StudioPress theme for my blog—the one that powers problogger.net)
  • Coding for the site: 45 days
  • Tweaks: 5 days
  • Setting up merchant account with Google Checkout: 5 days
  • Getting necessary stock: 10 days
  • Planning for the launch: 1 day
  • Hiring people to maintain my business: 10 days”

“So that makes it a total of around three months for the site to go live. I’ll also need to put some money aside for this. I think I have it in my savings account. If not, maybe I’ll ask my wife really nicely.”

See how I broke down the requirements into smaller requirements? This makes it easier to adjust your plan if something goes off track. Also, don’t try to be formal in the way you phrase things. Your business plan is for your reference, not for someone else.

Step 3: Business model

There are many business models you can choose from. Normally for ecommerce stores, the business model is kind of traditional: you make a product, then customers pay for items they want. But in certain businesses, the model may be different. For your blog, your business model might be selling services, selling other peoples products for commission (affiliate marketing), or something else.

Whatever it is, make sure you have a very clear idea about how you are going to make money from your business. This is very important.

Example 1: “I’m going to use my online store to sell products. I will get product from <insert your vendor here> for a nice discount if I buy in bulk. Then I will sell it for a slightly higher price.

“My payment processor will be Google checkout. I have set to receive weekly payments and they will pay straight to my bank account. I will also sell customized services through my blog.”

Example 2: “I have a blog on health and wellness where I post articles on health-related issues. So, my main income source would be Google AdSense. Whenever user clicks on an advertisement on my site, I will get paid. The payment threshold is $100 and I will receive checks via mail when I reach that threshold.”

You need to document this business model very clearly. This will ensure that you do not lose focus on your end goal.

Step 4: Finance

In this section, you need to focus on the start-up costs as well as the running costs of your blog, and your business. Do some research and find out how much it will cost you to keep your online business going.

Again, this is very important as it will help you get an overview about business cash flow and profitability.

Example: “My online store will require the following to get started.

  • Domain: $30 (Registered for three years with Namecheap. Billing is every three years.)
  • Hosting: $85 (Registered with Hostgator for a year. They will bill me yearly.)
  • Design: $250 (Paid a freelancer for the excellent design. Was delivered in PSD format as well as JPEG.)
  • Coding: $3000 (Will pay another freelancer with good reputation on Odesk. Work will be completed in 45 days from start of payment.)
  • Miscellaneous costs: $250 (Includes a launch party for my friends.)

Total: $3615

Operational costs

  • Domain: $40 (Every three years)
  • Hosting: $85 (Every year) [Note: I may need to upgrade to a more expensive plan as my site grows]
  • Shipping costs: $5 (per shipment)
  • Promotions and discounts: Vary from 2% to 10% discount depending on the market conditions”

This is just a small example. In some cases the finance required might be very small; in some cases it’ll be huge. If you want to factor in your time as well, then you can come up with an hourly rate that reflects your work, and put it in the operational cost section.

Also note that the running costs will vary over time. When your blog starts getting popular, you might need to move to better hosting, or you might need to develop more features, which will require a larger investment of money.

Step 5: Business goals

In this section, you need to set business goals. Make sure they are achievable. Relax your goals a bit. It’s better to achieve a small goal rather than fail to achieve a big goal.

Example 1:  “I need to break even in one years’ time. In another year, I will expand my collection to include more toys. After three years, I will launch my own brand of toys. My goal for profits is 0% the first year (that is, I’ll break even), another 5% the second year, and increase by 2% in the coming years.”

Example 2: “Right now I am going to start with just my blog and offer consultation services. Later on I will be adding informational products. So I expect to break even in one year, get a minimum of 1000 subscribers and land two or three consulting gigs. I also want to set a monthly traffic goal of 25,000 site visitors by the end of year one.”

You need to constantly refer to your business goals so that you do not lose focus.

Step 6: Operational model

You need to figure out how you’re going to run your business. Is it a one-man show? Are you going to hire employees to manage certain tasks?

Example:  “Here is how I plan to operate my blog and the business associated with it:

  • Work part-time for three hours a day during the first six months.
  • Write content myself. My blogging schedule will be to post three articles each week.
  • Quit my full-time job and work 12 hours a day for my site for the next six months.
  • Allow guest posts from the sixth month onwards. Hire an editor to take care of managing the guest posts.
  • Hire an accountant to maintain records so that I can easily file my tax returns.
  • Hire marketing people to take care of site promotion, or do site promotion myself.
  • Teach my wife how I run this business and ask her to take on some of the roles.”

Step 7: Marketing strategy

Here you will define how you’ll market your business. Don’t go into depth while laying out your marketing strategy. Marketing strategies vary greatly over time. In the early 1900’s no one would have thought about marketing online. Yet, now online marketing is one of the best ways to get customers for your business.

Put in the main points and leave it at that—you can always revise the plans in more detail as you come to put them into practice. This will also help you evaluate how your previous marketing strategy helped you, and how the new one is doing.

Example:  “I am going to promote my online store in the following ways:

  • Use blogging as a powerful content marketing tool. Create awesome content and post it on my blog. This will attract a loyal audience.
  • Hire a good SEO consultant/learn SEO myself.
  • Ask friends to recommend my site to others.
  • Buy a small ad in my local newspaper about my online store.
  • Write articles on related sites for free, in exchange for a link to my site (guest posts).”

Step 8: Exit strategy

This is something not many entrepreneurs want to think about. An exit strategy is something you use when you want to close your business.

People don’t want to think about it because it spreads a negative vibe, and you don’t want anything negative in your business. However, you certainly need an exit plan.

Most entrepreneurs never make an exit strategy the first time, so if their business or blog isn’t as successfully as they’d hoped, they get disheartened and quit. If you have an exit strategy, you can save all the stress and exit gracefully. I have personally started around ten blogs and only few of them were successful. I lost several thousand dollars initially because I did not plan on a proper exit strategy.

Example:  “In the rare case that my business fails or I decide to quit my business, here is my plan:

  • I will try to sell my business online for what it is worth at the time.
  • I will cancel all services associated with my business.
  • Customers will be informed of the business’s sale well in advance.
  • I have kept a reserve amount in my bank account should anything bad happen.
  • I will take a break for one month before I venture into another business again.”

A blog business plan in 8 steps

So there you have it: eight steps and you’re done. Now you have a well thought out, personal business plans for your internet business.

I highly recommend that each year you review your business plan and create a new, more specific one for the coming 12 months. The old one should be kept to provide a yardstick against which you can manage your business growth, chart the change in strategies, and so on over time.

Have you created a business plan for your blog? Let us know how it’s helped you in the comments.

Adarsh Thampy is a blogger, inbound marketing consultant for small business and a SEO guy. He writes about getting more customers for your business over at ConversionChamp.com. You can add conversionchamp to the Google plus circle.

Understanding the Hype Cycle of a Blog

This guest post is by Nischala Murthy Kaushik.

It’s the start of a new year—the time when organizations work on their business strategies. And when you work on strategy, the one thing you definitely do is get a perspective of two facets of your operation:

  1. internal aspects of your organization
  2. what the external world is saying: your customers, your competitors, your partners, and of course independent analysts.

One thing that I definitely read this time of the year are analysts’ reports by (Gartner, Forrester, IDC, and so on.

I’m always looking for ways to learn, apply, adapt, and leverage new ideas, thoughts, and insights into my blogs. During one such pensive moment, I was mulling over whether there was any evidence of Gatner’s Hype Cycle on blogs. And yes, I believe there is!

What is the Hype Cycle?

The Gartner Hype Cycle is a methodology that’s been used effectively by Gartner since 1995. The Hype Cycle provides a graphic representation of the maturity and adoption of technologies and applications, and how they are potentially relevant to solving real business problems and exploiting new opportunities.

The Gartner Hype Cycle methodology gives you a view of how a technology or application will evolve over time, providing insight into managing its deployment within the context of your specific business goals.

The key phases in Gartner’s Hype Cycle

Each Hype Cycle drills down into the five key phases of a technology’s life cycle.

  1. Technology trigger: A potential technology breakthrough kicks things off. Early proof-of-concept stories and media interest trigger significant publicity. Often no usable products exist and commercial viability is unproven.
  2. Peak of inflated expectations: Early publicity produces a number of success stories—often accompanied by scores of failures. Some companies take action; many do not.
  3. Trough of disillusionment: Interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver. Producers of the technology shake out or fail. Investments continue only if the surviving providers improve their products to the satisfaction of early adopters.
  4. Slope of enlightenment: More instances of how the technology can benefit the enterprise start to crystallize and become more widely understood. Second- and third-generation products appear from technology providers. More enterprises fund pilots; conservative companies remain cautious.
  5. Plateau of productivity: Mainstream adoption starts to take off. Criteria for assessing provider viability are more clearly defined. The technology’s broad market applicability and relevance are clearly paying off.

(Check the source of this information for more details.)

The hype cycle of a blog

If you’ve been blogging, or watching the blogosphere for any length of time, you can likely see how the hype cycle applies to blogging. Let’s step through it in detail.

The trigger of a blog

Every blog is triggered by something. Technology may not always be the trigger, but it is a definite enabler. Had technology not evolved to where it is, blogging may not have existed as it does today. The trigger for a blog could be:

  • a personal need to express, to capture, to consolidate, to be heard, to create a brand, to share, to learn, to connect, to belong to a community, to leave a legacy
  • a business need for new customer acquisition, marketing, branding, customer servicing, customer engagement, or revenue generation.

The key questions you need to answer when you start a blog are:

  • Why I am starting this blog?
  • Who are my target readers?
  • What do I really want to achieve by blogging?

It’s good to have some degree of clarity on these issues at the outset. Of course, they will change and evolve with time, but you need to have baseline answers in place if you are to move forward and start your blog.

In this phase, the blogger is usually unsure about many things:

  • Will there be any reader interest in my blog?
  • How do I reach my potential readers?
  • Will I be able to generate meaningful content over a period of time?

The best piece of advice for this phase of the Hype Cycle of a Blog is to test the waters by creating a blog. Keep at blogging, read about blogging, experiment, learn, and evolve. Along the way, you will discover your own commitment and interest towards blogging.

The peak of inflated expectations for a blog

This is the phase in which one of the following happens to your blog:

  • One or more of your blog posts generates interest, a good amount of readers, shares, and comments. You almost feel like a mini-celebrity in select circles and begin to enjoy the elevated status you’ve achieved.
  • One of more of your blogs is criticized, and you receive negative feedback and comments on your thoughts, and hence the content itself, or the way you’ve presented or written the information.
  • Hardly anyone reads your blogs or ever leaves a comment.

The best piece of advice for bloggers experiencing this phase of the Hype Cycle of a Blog is:

  • Study, observe, and analyze the blogs you wish your blog was more like.
  • Re-think these questions:
    1. Why I am starting this blog?
    2. Who are my target readers?
    3. What do I really want to achieve by blogging?
    4. How should I market my blog to ensure that I reach the right audience?
  • Don’t assume that the past precedents are indications of how the future will pan out in your journey as a blogger.
  • Keep a check on your future expectations of the blog.

The trough of disillusionment of a blog

This next phase in the Hype Cycle of a Blog is probably the most crucial as it will determine how long you will continue blogging. This is the phase when most bloggers are somewhat disenchanted with the results of their blogging efforts, either due to their own lack of interest in blogging, lack of a reader base, lack of interest from the blogosphere, limited shares and comments…

The best piece of advice for this phase of the hype cycle of a blog is:

  • Don’t let one or two highs or lows determine the future of your blog. Blogging is here to stay, and the way you leverage the power of this medium in your personal or professional context is completely your choice.
  • Re-visit your own reasons for starting your blog and make any course corrections that are required. Following are the key areas that you need to critically evaluate and plan:
    • quality of content
    • frequency of posting
    • identification of your target readers
    • blog marketing.

The reality is that many bloggers quit at this stage, disillusioned by their own capabilities at blogging as well as all the hype that surrounds blogging.

Slope of enlightenment of a blog

This is the best phase in the Hype Cycle of a Blog—it’s at this point that a blogger has his or her “Eureka” moment and feels that:

  • they have found their niche in the blogosphere
  • their creative juices flow incessantly—there’s no dearth of ideas and, most importantly, they can convert anything and everything they see, hear, think, and feel into blog content
  • they have found target readers
  • most importantly, they begin to enjoy blogging.

If you have reached this point, consider yourself lucky. Many congratulations to you!

The sky is the limit for what you can achieve here. You can sell products (like books), personal services (like consulting and advisory services), your own ideas, and other’s products services and ideas. You have the potential to become a cyber-celebrity and most importantly you have the opportunity to create an impact on those who read your blogs.

The only advice for this phase of the hype cycle of a blog is this:

  • Keep a self-check on your intent for blogging. It may have evolved along the way, but don’t lose sight of your answer to the question, “Why are you blogging?”
  • Value your readers as they complete your blog. Any creative piece of work has a creator and a consumer and their mutual to co-existence is a necessity and reality. A movie has limited value till it is viewed by an audience. In the same light, the blogs you create have limited value till they are consumed by readers.

The plateau of productivity of a blog

This is the phase when you mature as a blogger, and your blog matures too—both go to a new elevated level. Your blog has a brand of its own and you have a presence in the blogosphere. Not many bloggers get here simply because they don’t spend enough time asking and answering the key questions from the start of their blogging journey.

If you’re in this phase, you don’t need any advice: you know where to go and how to get there!

Which phase of the hype cycle is your blog in? Leave a comment to let me know.

Nischala currently works at Wipro. She blogs at Nischala’s Space, Thoughts & Expressions and VERVE: The Quintessence of my Life – both of which have been added to the List of Best Indian Blogs @ http://indianbloggers.org/. In addition, she writes guest posts at sites like Problogger, FamousBloggers, The Change Blog and 12Most.com. For the full list of her guest posts, refer to the My Guest Posts Section on her blog. Nischala has completed her MBA from Indian Institute Management Bangalore [IIMB] ,one of the premier Business schools in India. She takes pride in being a Mother, Philosopher, Writer, Scholar & Guru of Life for Life and most importantly, the Chief Happiness Officer (CHO) of her LIFE J. You can follow her on Twitter @ nimu9

Looking Good: Simple Ways to Create Sensational Blog Images

This guest post is by Jo Gifford of Cherry Sorbet Creative.

Blogs that look great attract the attention of the reader, it’s as easy as that. Your content might be amazing but if your blog has a terrible aesthetic you are missing out on a slice of magic to make people enjoy their stay.

In 2011 visual social media platforms like Pinterest and insta.gram exploded in use, signalling a trend towards lifecasting in a more visual way, which applies to the blogosphere too; readers want your pages to look interesting. The more they stay on your site and engage, the prettier those stats look too.

This post gives some simple and easy ways to create and generate original and eyecatching imagery for blogs, without needing to be a designer. So, let’s get looking good:

1. instagr.am

Love it or hate it, instagr.am is a fantastic way to create eyecatching imagery for use on a blog, all from your mobile. I use inkstagram, which uses my instagram sign in to produce an easily scrollable stream (instagram itself is a little limited in image access). From there, I click on an image and copy the URL to add into the blog post. At this stage, the SEO savvy among you will want to make sure your image title and alternative text is changed to something relevant.

2. Screen grabs

Screen grabs of images or text can make an easy collage tool. If your screen is full of images, text, maybe a mindmap of work in progress, consider capturing the screen and taking it into an image editor for a vibrant and personal illustration for your blog.

3. Picnik

I love to use Picnik, an online image editor which is currently free in premium form until April when it is fully taken over by Google Creative kit. Both Picnik and the new Creative Kit in Google + allow images to be re-sized, effects added (including saturated and lomo effects), the inclusion of frames such as polaroids, and the addition of text too. This makes them great alternatives to Photoshop and are free resources online, so are easily accessible.

By editing and creating your own images you can have a fabulous looking blog post without worrying about Creative Commons licences or the dreaded copyright, and you needn’t be a designer!

4. Polyvore

Polyvore is a website used mainly by the fashion blogging world, but has useful features for all bloggers. Simply create an account, and go to “create a set”. You can then literally drag and drop a multitude of images including useful things like notebooks, post it notes, coffee stain and paint splash effects, alongside all sorts of images. Add text in some great fonts too by dragging and dropping text.

Once the set is finished you can click the “publish to WordPress” section; before you go ahead with it, simply copy and paste the code and add to your html section in your post.  Polyvore automatically includes links to the products in the set, but you can deselect the check boxes to have code without the links. Voilà, original, fabulous imagery with a footprint on another site to boot!

5. Collages

There are some great apps available to help you make collages for post inclusion. I currently use Picframe for iPhone and iPad which allows photos from your library to be added into collages. You can drag and drop, re-size and alter frame edges and effects, and also export to instagr.am to add a filter and share in your stream or on Flikr.

I also use a desktop application collage maker for larger and more complex collages—there are myriad options available and a quick google search will provide some free collage resources for you. I happen to use an Apple App store called Collage Maker, and I find it to be really handy and effective.

6. Camera

It’s great to take a camera put and about with you if you have one. I use a Nikon D40 to snap away at places, signs, buildings and all sorts of interest. You never know what might appear that has relevance to a blog post you are writing, and you can always crop in, edit the images and form as part of a collage. Using a digital SLR allows a igher resolution to zoom in and crops parts of images not so easily done with iPhonography.

7. Creative Commons search

Creative commons images are images licensed by the creators to be used with a attribution link. You can search for images using the Creative Commons search tool, which may produce some exciting work you have permission to include on your site. Remember to attribute where necessary though.

8. iStock

iStock is a fantastic and inexpensive library of images that are perfect for bloggers. Images and illustrations are purchased in block of credits, and web friendly images can be very cost effective indeed for the odd post here and there.

So, go forth and get creative! Your readers will love you, I promise.

Jo Gifford is a designer, writer, blogger and founder of Cherry Sorbet Creative. Working primarily in the beauty, fashion and lifestyle industries her work spans graphic design for print and web, social media management and training, copywriting and editorial for on and offline publications. You will find her blogging as Dexterous Diva, on Twitter both as Dexterous Diva and Cherry Sorbet, and on Linked In.

Infographic: The Brain of the Beginning Blogger

This guest post is by Infolinks.com.

Nowadays, it seems like everyone has a blog. But creating a successful and popular blog isn’t as easy as simply getting a domain name and ranting away on whatever comes to mind on a given day.

Here, we take a look at some of the common misconceptions that beginner bloggers have on issues ranging from content and SEO to graphics and URLs. For instance, have you ever done a double-take when a URL can be read two different ways (one being not so favorable)? Or have you been completely turned off by someone’s “About Me” page?

By debunking some popular myths, we hope to enlighten the burgeoning bloggers out there and help them avoid these potential pitfalls.

Infolinks is the fastest growing In-Text advertising network, providing monetizing solutions for bloggers of all levels.

The Essential Ingredients for Building a Blog That Ranks in Alexa’s Top 10,000

This guest post is by Neil Patel of Quick Sprout.

Would you like to know how I grew Quick Sprout to have an Alexa ranking of 10,000 in under four years?

That’s not an easy feat. But the cool thing is I didn’t do anything that you can’t do now. My tactics will work for you, too.

Fortunately, late last year I did an interview with Michael Alexis over at WriterReviews about how I grew Quick Sprout. It’s a great interview to listen to. In the meantime I’ve summarized the content in this post.

Endure and sacrifice to get great content out

At this moment my ranking on Alexa stands at 10,060:

Let me tell you, I’ve had to sacrifice a lot to get there.

Because I’m so busy with KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg I have to use my holidays and weekends to write posts. When people think of Christmas Day or New Year’s Day and time spent with family, I look forward to a peaceful day of writing posts.

Saturdays and Sundays? Because the flow of work-related stuff is slow on these days I use these days to knock out four or five posts.

But listen: I don’t say this to brag or to make you feel guilty. I’m simply pointing out that you have to sacrifice if you want a great blog. You might have a family that will not appreciate you writing blog posts on holidays and weekends.

I totally understand that.

So ask yourself, where are there hours that you could better use your time? And here’s a hint: When you sit down to write during that time, give yourself a two-hour deadline. I’ve found if I focus intensely on a blog post like a surgeon at the operating table I can knock posts out quicker than if I allow myself to get distracted.

Use Digg

This is not the greatest tactic now, but I share it since it has been part of my success with Quick Sprout.

In the early days of Quick Sprout I worked hard to become a top user on Digg. I added lots of friends who had similar interests, submitted their content, commented and even gave them tons of diggs.

Eventually those influential people would friend me back and start to digg my stuff. And so the way it works…the more friends you have the more chances you have of getting stories to the homepage.

It really wasn’t very hard to become a top 100 Digg user as long as you added friends and submitted good stories from BBC, Forbes, Yahoo News, PCWorld, CNN, and the Washington Post. The quality of the posts is what really mattered, and you’ll eventually get in close with the top digg users.

The unfortunate part of being a great digg user is that it can take up a lot of time! It doesn’t have the same sort of impact as it did in the early days of Quick Sprout, but there might be some value if you can invest a minimal amount of time.

Build real relationships with people over time

Another part of my success in building up Quick Sprout is that I systematically built relationship with power bloggers over the years. That’s right: I said years.

See, you can’t expect to get any favors like free traffic from big players unless you invest the time in them. You have to always ask, “How can I help you?”

The way I would do it is travel to conferences and run into these bloggers. I would talk to them, ask them questions and invite them out for a drink or dinner, and always pick up the tab.

Some guys who have been instrumental in helping me grow Quick Sprout include:

I met these guys face to face and over time built a relationship with them. The conference that I recommend you definitely attend is Blog World.

But you should also attend other conferences that are related to your industry. The point is to meet people who share similar interests like you, then go out of your way to see how you can help them.

After a few months, you then have enough emotional equity built up with them to be able to email them and say, “Hey, would you mind blogging about me?”

Of course you need to offer something in return—that you’ll blog about them or something else. Ask them how you can help. Whatever it is, make sure you reciprocate.

The two sides to responding to comments that grow a blog

There are two parts to commenting that will drive traffic to your site—responding to comments on your blog and responding to comments on other blogs. Let’s deal with responding to comments on your blog first.

For me, responding to comments is one of the things that I enjoy the most. It is the time that I get to engage and learn about you, and how I can help.

This is not easy.

It takes time, but it’s worth the effort, even though it takes me anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes a day. But this is not me saying “Thank you.” It’s got to be more than that. Your comments must seem like they really care about the person who wrote the comment, and that you are listening to the questions they ask.

For example, you should acknowledge what they’ve said, point out an interesting point they made and then ask them a question. It could be as easy as “I’m curious, how did you come to that conclusion?”

Equally important about driving free traffic to your blog is commenting on other blogs. As I grew Quick Sprout I would try to be the first person to respond to an article on Mashable or TechCrunch. That first comment gets the most exposure, but you have to be quick on the draw.

How?

Set up an account with an RSS reader that sends you desktop notifications when a blog publishes new content. You can use an iPhone app like Push for these notifications. When you do comment never write “First comment” or “Thanks for this awesome post.” Those are useless comments, and might even get deleted.

Instead, you need to write a detailed comment—one that demonstrates you understand what the blogger wrote about. And you need to ask questions, too, that compel the author to engage and shows that you are interested in learning more.

And don’t be afraid to critique what the blogger wrote about. If you see a flaw in something they wrote, first tell them something you appreciate about the article, and then transition to the point you disagree with. Be kind. Respect goes a long way.

Keep in mind, you don’t have to comment on every single article. Select articles that are relevant to your blog and what you do and that will drive traffic to your site.

Write content people want to read

Finally, when it comes to building free traffic to your blog, you cannot get any better than providing great content. I’ve blogged about this extensively on my guide to blogging. You should read those posts again if you haven’t already and apply the principles behind each.

But perhaps you’re wondering how you find out what readers want. Here are the ways I would go about it:

  • Read hundreds of blogs and figure out three things: who are the top bloggers, what are the top posts, and why?
  • Next, try to put your finger on a topic that is not getting a lot of attention. You are looking for a need in the space that you can fill.
  • Crawl through the comments on busy blogger sites and see what people are saying. You’ll often find a person or two who are asking for something specific. Collect these ideas as possible blog topics.
  • Build your blog and start asking your readers and visitors what kind of content they would like to read. Use survey tools or devote entire posts to asking for topic ideas.

Don’t forget that when you write detailed, long-form posts, you will get better comments. And as the content grows, promote it across the social web.

Grow your Twitter account first

Another free strategy that you can use to build traffic to your blog is to build up your Twitter account before launching your blog. We did this with our KISSmetrics blog.

We invested a whole lot of time in building up our Twitter following by sharing great content across the web, responding to tweets, following influential Tweeters and thanking people for retweeting. When we reached a point where we felt was critical mass, we finally launched the blog.

The Twitter handle had paved the way for creating hard traffic to the blog, allowing us to grow the blog very quickly in a very short period of time.

Check out the 10 Ways to Get More ReTweets and How to Create a Jaw-Dropping Social Media Strategy in 5 Steps posts for more information on this topic.

Invest in ReTargeter

All of the tips I gave you above are based on free traffic. This last one is a paid traffic source, but it’s worth it!

With ReTargeter, you can serve up ads to people who’ve visited your site to encourage them to come back. This is great for first time visitors who may not have subscribed. I pay $500 a month for ads to be served up on various networks. Some of the networks that ReTargeter access include:

  • Audience Network
  • Right Media
  • Double Click
  • PubMatic
  • Glam Media
  • OpenX

As you can imagine, that huge network spreads a very big net. This means my ads are more likely to appear in front of a visitor, and drive them back to my site to sign up.

Two things you have to keep in mind when you create your ad:

  1. Rotate your ads: Create three or four different ads that appeal to the viewer. Tests have shown that you’ll get a higher click-through . Most people will see about three ads before they click.
  2. Create a compelling message: Cute or clever messages will not work nearly as well as a compelling message. Appeal to their pride, vanity, greed, or fear—some emotion that reflects your content but will get them to click.

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, growing a blog to be in the Alexa top 10,000 is really all about doing old-school stuff: writing great content, commenting, promoting and trying to help as many people as you can.

There are no shortcuts. No sensational ways that will get you tons of steady, quality traffic to your site. You can’t have a great blog if you’re not willing to work. So … are you?

What other questions do you have about creating a great blog that I didn’t answer in this post?

Neil Patel is an online marketing consultant and the co-founder of KISSmetrics. He also blogs at Quick Sprout.

Blog Smarter: Invest in Your Own Success

This guest post is by Jeff Nickles of MySuperChargedLife.com.

My blog grew by leaps and bounds in 2011.  It was exciting! But it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t made a few smart investments in my blog—investments, you could say, in my success.

I’m a regular guy and a part-time blogger just like many of you.  I’ve learned how to grow my site through trial and error.  Over the last four years, I have probably made more mistakes than the average joe.  I’ve done a lot of the wrong things, but occasionally I get it right. I’ve benefited tremendously from the experience of others since I started, so I want to share with you the tactics behind my success, hoping they will help you.

The results I achieved

First, let’s look at the results I achieved. My blog’s experienced what I’d call explosive growth in the last year:

  • 353% increase in number of email subscribers.
  • 103% growth in number of pageviews (doubled in one year!).
  • 141% increase in AdSense earnings.

I want to assure you that these numbers are a reflection of consistent increases over the course of many months.  I’m not just comparing a freakishly bad month from a year ago to a freakishly good month now.

The investments I made

As you can see, I saw big boosts in the number of subscribers, pageviews, and earnings on my site.  These are the key measures of success that I’m always looking to improve.  I attribute the growth of my blog to some important investments that I made about a year ago.

1. I changed my WordPress theme

Not all themes are created equal.  This is especially true when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO).  I’ll admit that I don’t understand all the minutiae behind this art, but I don’t have to, and neither do you—assuming you’re running a self-hosted WordPress blog.

You can significantly increase your site’s ranking with search engines by using a theme that optimizes this for you.

A little knowledge of SEO will certainly help, but the more you get out of the box with your theme, the better.  Just over a year ago, I invested in a premium WordPress theme that had a strong commitment to search engine optimization.  Yes, I had to pay a little money for my theme, but boy has it been worth it.

Before I made this purchase, I ran a different premium theme and used a popular WordPress plugin to supposedly optimize my SEO.  I’m sure the plugin helped, but I can tell you that changing to a different theme—one that was already optimized—helped a lot more.

My traffic has doubled in the past year, and all of the extra traffic has come from search engines.  On top of that, my AdSense earnings have gone up almost 1.5 times on what they were just one short year ago, all because of this increase in traffic.  That’s a nice return on investment—and a clear justification for investing in a good theme.

Investment #1: Catalyst Theme
Cost: US$77.00.

2. I moved to a better email subscription management service

Previously, I used Feedburner to manage my email subscribers.  The thing I liked best about Feedburner was that it was free, but it lacked some key features.  As I learned more about blogging, I discovered what Darren and others say about the importance of building an email list.  Therefore, after three years of puny email subscriber growth, I decided it was time to get serious about how I handled this aspect of my blog.

I want all the new search engine visitors coming to my site to become email subscribers.  One powerful way to encourage this is to offer a first-time visitor an incentive to subscribe.  In my case, I put together a free ebook called The Super-Charged Guide to Smart Living.

The new email subscriber service gives me the ability to use autoresponders.  When someone subscribes, the service automatically sends them a specific Welcome email that I have set up.  I can include links in these emails.  Therefore, I can offer all these new search engine visitors a free copy of my ebook as an incentive to subscribe. This definitely works.

Furthermore, once they become subscribers, I can send them a series of auto-responder emails walking them through a complete sequence of strategic interactions with my blog.  By the way, I got this idea from Darren in What Process Do You Want to Lead Repeat Readers Through?  Excellent advice!

Again, I have to invest a little each month to get these features, but after just one year, I certainly see the advantages.   This new service allows me to engage strategically and proactively with my email subscribers.  It also gives me the ability to brand the emails so I look more professional, credible and consistent.  I believe all of this has contributed to my site’s growth.

Investment #2: FeedBlitz
Cost: US$13.95/month (when I signed up).

3. I implemented a pop-up lightbox

In my first three years of blogging, I had only accumulated about 800 email subscribers.  This is very puny, I know.  I now have over 3,600 valid email addresses on my opt-in list.  Here’s a chart that shows the phenomenal growth I’ve experienced.

Isn’t this amazing?!?  It is to me!

How did I achieve this kind of growth?  Well, I implemented a pop-up lightbox that offers visitors my free ebook in exchange for their subscription. That lightbox looks like this:

I configured this pop-up to appear to first-time visitors.  This really seems to work.  I’ve been averaging around 250 new email subscribers per month since I turned it on about a year ago; before I used this, I averaged around 20 per month.

Originally, I was hesitant to put something like this in place because I knew it could be a minor irritant to some.  However, the results speak for themselves.  I’m definitely glad that I did it.

I had to make a small investment in a premium plugin for WordPress to get the professional look I wanted, but this has more than paid off.  I’ve recouped this expense many times over already.

Investment #3: Popup Domination
Cost: US$77.00.

Make an investment to grow your blog

The growth I’ve seen in the last year has been awesome, although I haven’t had to work a whole lot harder to achieve these explosive results.

It just goes to show you that by investing in the right aspects of your blog, you can really make a big difference.  My total investment for my new theme and for Popup Domination was just a little over $150.  I would spend that money again in a heartbeat.

I started out only paying $13.95 per month for my FeedBlitz subscription, but now, because of my phenomenal email subscriber growth, I pay $49.95 per month.  I don’t mind it a bit—I can assure you that it has been well worth it.

Here’s my advice if you want to grow your blog: educate yourself on what works, and then don’t be afraid to make a few investments.  Not all of them will turn out exactly as you desire, but you’ve got to be willing to take the risk if you want the big payoff.  It worked for me.

Jeff Nickles is a regular guy on a quest to live life to its fullest. He began MySuperChargedLife.com in December of 2007 as a way to share his experiences and to learn more about life.  You can reach him by visiting his blog.

Blog Smarter: 5 WordPress Plugins to Help You Make Money From Your Blog

This guest post is by Louise of MoneySupermarket.com.

Why do we blog? Perhaps you feel you have things to say which the world would be interested in, or maybe you’re very passionate about a topic and your friends are sick of hearing you talk about it! I have a blog like that; it’s simply a sounding board for me to jabber on about a particular hobby of mine which none of my friends take part in.

But the main reason for blogging, I think, is to make some money out of it. Let’s face it, we all enjoy blogging and we all enjoy making money, so why not combine the two? But as we all know, it’s not that easy to make money from blogging, at least at first. So I did some research and found some plugins which could make monetising a blog just that bit easier. Please note that I haven’t used every one myself yet, so I’d welcome your feedback in the comments if they’ve worked (or not) for you!

Amazon Associate

I use this one myself and it’s invaluable if you have an Amazon affiliate account. Once the plugin is installed and set up with your access keys (found on your Amazon affiliates profile) it’s really simple to add in affiliate links to your posts by way of a simple search box on the New Post screen.

Simply highlight the text you want as the link, enter the search term relevant to the post in the side widget, select the category and hit search. It will bring up a list of products from Amazon and you just click on one of the insert buttons to put it straight into the post you’re writing.

You can also enter sidebar widgets as easily as setting up any other widget; on your widget page you’ll see several available widgets that just need to be dragged and dropped into the relevant sidebar panel. You can set up product carousels, favourites, product clouds, MP3 clips and there’s also a search widget. Each one can be customised to match your site and is linked to your affiliate ID, generating revenue each time a user clicks and purchases.

The money you earn from this plugin can be sent to a bank account or as an Amazon gift certificate. Sadly there’s no PayPal support yet but this will hopefully be implemented in the future.

Ad Rotator

This is one I’ve recently been trialling and so far it’s working well. Once installed (in the usual way) it gives you a widget which looks like the default text widget box. You put your ad codes in here and use <!–more–> to separate each block. Each time your site is refreshed the ad will change.

You can have more than one Ad Rotator block in your sidebars so you could have static ads too. The widgets can go in sidebars and footers and work with any ad size.

As there’s no CPM system with this plugin you can charge for ads in whatever method you like. I personally charge more for a static placement than a rotating one but it’s whatever works for you. The best thing about this plugin in the flexibility it offers you.

Kontera

I installed this on a site I run which doesn’t use sidebars. As Kontera places contextual ads within the text of a page, the absence of sidebars didn’t matter. You need to register for a Kontera account first but that is quick and easy, and gives you your published ID which is then entered in the plugin setup. From there it’s simply a matter of choosing the colour of the links you want and adding the generated code into all the pages you want the ads to appear on.

It can take up to 24 hours for ads to appear within your site text, so don’t do what I did at first and deactivate in frustration because it didn’t appear to have worked!

Kontera works in multiple blog platforms, so if you’re a fan of Blogger or Drupal you can also use this nifty plugin. Payments can be made via PayPal for best security.

MediaPass

If you have content on your website which you’d rather keep behind a pay wall, then this plugin would seem to be an easy answer. I say “seem” only because I haven’t used it myself.

Once you’ve registered for a MediaPass account and the plugin is installed, it’s as simple as highlighting the content that you want to put behind the pay wall and choosing the subscription option to apply.

MediaPass take 35% of the revenue the plugin generates, which sounds like a lot, but you do get a lot of support and behind-the-scenes processes for that commission. Their technicians handle all the merchant fees, database management and all the other techy stuff so the blogger can just concentrate on the actual content.

Skimlinks

If you want to earn your money through affiliate marketing, Skimlinks looks to be the tool to go for. The plugin will convert any product links and references in your posts into affiliate links, which can be from any one of over 17,000 merchants on the Skimlinks database.

The advantage of using Skimlinks is that it allows the busy blogger to free up the time otherwise spent seeking out affiliate schemes, setting up tracking codes and maintaining the accounts. Skimlinks does all this for you, and you only need the one account with them to get access to all those different merchant programs.

Skimlinks takes a 25% commission from the merchant, but because of their standing with the merchants they can often negotiate a better rate so overall, you’d probably end up getting more money than if you’d set up all the links yourself. Plus, all the time it saves you means you have more time to write great content!.

Again, I haven’t yet used this one but I am thinking of trying it; has anyone has experience with this?

I’d love to hear feedback about all of these plugins, and if there are any which work especially well for you that you feel should be included. Please let me know your opinions in the comments!

All images taken at the WordPress Plugin Directory.

Louise is a financial writer for MoneySupermarket.com and a freelance copywriter/web designer. In her spare time she runs her wrestler husband’s website and blog. You can find her on Twitter: @louisetillotson.

Blog Smarter: 9 Ways to Make Money from WordPress … Without Having a Blog

This guest post is by Sean Platt of outstandingSETUP.

The Internet is flooded with too many blogs. It probably doesn’t need yours.

It’s not that you don’t have anything to say—you probably do. And it’s not that you couldn’t develop an audience, or eventually monetize that audience—you probably could. It’s definitely not that you’re not smart enough. There are plenty of people less intelligent than you already killing it online.

Unfortunately, it’s no longer 2007. There are now millions of blogs. Most of them fail, and few make any money.

Advertising rates are scraping so low, they’re now digging beneath the bottom. Monetizing your traffic is ridiculously hard, which is why you want to monetize your audience instead. Yet using a blog to monetize your audience through quality content marketing, audience engagement, and relationship building is a slow burn at best.

The market is saturated, and competition is fierce. Sure, the gurus know what they are talking about, but what worked for them probably won’t work for you.

The environment has changed and the strategies that helped the A-listers climb to the peak of the pyramid once upon a yesterday won’t be a fraction as effective for you.

But that doesn’t matter. You can still make a great living with WordPress. And the best part is, you don’t even have to have a blog. There are smarter ways to do it.

1. Themes

Every blog needs a theme—no exceptions!

Sure, WordPress comes with a couple of stock themes, but they are so basic, few bloggers choose to use them, and the number of serious bloggers or entrepreneurs who use them is approximately zero.

Even in a time when everyone is counting pennies, most serious bloggers don’t question the value of a quality theme. If you have the coding knowledge and drive to create a theme, along with the willingness to support it, a single theme could provide a full-time living, like it does for Eric Hamm from Catalyst themes.

Best of all, there are already marketplaces filled with buyers, meaning you have a place to sell your wares just seconds after they’re finished. ThemeForest and MojoThemes are just two examples.

2. Child themes

If you don’t want to get cracking on your own theme with crazy amounts of code, then you could take the lighter approach while still capitalizing on the massive customer bases (buyers) for existing themes.

Genesis has over 50,000 active users. Thesis has over 40,000. Other themes such as Catalyst and Headway have fiercely loyal audiences. Many talented designers and smart entrepreneurs have leveraged these large audiences to generate impressive profits.

A child theme is easier to build than a full theme because it piggybacks on the existing layout, options, and code from a parent theme. Relatively speaking, a child theme can be built in far less time, while still providing more profit to the designer.

In the time it takes to create a single fully developed theme, designers could create a handful of child themes instead. And while the profit is larger per individual purchase for a premium theme, child themes allow you to leverage an existing community, meaning you can easily make up the difference in volume.

3. Hosting services

This isn’t for everyone in the WordPress community, and may not be for you. But if it is, reselling hosting can be extremely lucrative.

WordPress users need support. Online entrepreneurs who are serious about their success, and are using blogs as one of the most powerful tools in their box, are smart enough to know they shouldn’t waste their time lost in the back end of their blog.

Servicing this community could be your fast track to success. WPEngine, ZippyKid and Page.ly are all examples of startups that have been extremely successful in this market.

Yes, you’re reselling hosting, putting your hosting on someone else’s servers and managing the network, but that’s not what you’re really selling at all.

Hosting is the steak, but you’re selling the sizzle. The sizzle in this instance is the safety, security, and comfort your potential customer will have knowing that someone highly qualified to work within the WordPress framework is there for them when they need it most.

Again, this isn’t for everyone. If you don’t have the technical knowledge to pull it off, you will be wasting your time, crash into a wall of certain frustration, and possibly irreparably damage your reputation if you leave behind scores of unhappy customers.

Yet there is a huge demand for this type of service. If you specialize—meaning aiming your services towards professionals who need hosting for their businesses (restaurants, realtors, dentists, lawyers, or any other market in need of hosting—that’s pretty much all of them!)—then reselling hosting might be one of the best ways for you to leverage WordPress for your personal profit.

4. Plugins

Most WordPress users would agree that plugins are a large part of the pixie dust behind the world’s best CMS. With a few clicks, plugins can change the behavior of your entire website.

A well-designed plugin can put money in your pocket. And the market is exploding. This makes sense, since a well-designed plugin can help your blog make money faster, which is appealing to anyone who’s using their blog to turn a dollar.

Plugins must do something specific, and do it especially well, if you expect to charge for them—especially considering there are already countless quality plugins available for free. Scribe and Gravity Forms are two excellent plugins that make their customers happy and developers rich.

Plugins can generate revenue through upfront purchases, or through donations and premium upgrades that improve upon the user experience from the base plugin. There are also plugins such as Wishlist (a plug-in that turns your WordPress blog into a membership site) that have added monthly continuity programs to their offerings.

5. Content creation services

You already know content is king or you wouldn’t be here. But what if you were the one supplying the crowns?

Populating a blog with quality content is the hardest part of growing a blog. Video, text, audio—everything adds to a blog’s growth, yet content creation is time-consuming, and one of the biggest reasons to find ways to make money from WordPress without having to run a blog.

There are countless online entrepreneurs and full-time bloggers knee-deep in their operations’ growth: they can’t afford to step away. They require content to fuel their continued growth, and you can be the provider to give it to them.

You have a specialty. Whether that’s video, copy, or voice, your specialty is what would have fueled the growth of your blog. Rather than creating that content and publishing it to your own site and waiting for it to quickly wither upon the WordPress vine, you could create the same content and sell it for top dollar to those who need it most.

6. Blog creation services

Professional blogs are started every day, and many of the professionals starting those blogs would be happy to pay someone else to put the pieces together for them.

Some bloggers like to tinker, but others see their blog as a serious tool in a serious business and don’t want to spend the time it takes to learn WordPress inside-out. Most online entrepreneurs would rather outsource the setup, paying someone else to install the framework, upload the themes and plugins, and get the blog otherwise ready for business.

The person they pay could, and perhaps should, be you.

You can make a blog setup service especially lucrative by making it your specialty. Whenever you do the same thing over and over, you can continuously improve the quality of your work while shaving minutes from your time. And whenever you can produce higher quality work in a shorter period of time, your growth and profits will both soar.

You can also sell content creation services as suggested in the tip above. This is a perfect upsell since a buyer who just paid to have a blog created will often be happy to pay an additional fee to populate that blog with content as well.

Of course, you must be comfortable creating content, and the decision to add the service to your business must be personally scalable for you. outstandingSETUP does an remarkable job with design, installation, setup and security, but we don’t offer content creation services since it doesn’t fit the model.

Your model must always fit your goals.

7. Support services

You know all those online entrepreneurs and bloggers who are paying for blog creation or content creation services? Well, most would be perfectly happy to pay for quality support as well. And if you’re already offering creation services, continual support is an easy add-on, as long as time and strategy allow.

There are two primary monetization models for this sort of service. The first is to charge by the hour. And while hourly rates for tech support are often high, hourly service isn’t scaleable unless your outsourcing the work, which is why you may want to go with the second monetization model—charging a monthly subscription for support.

8. Build an ad network

This is the most difficult one on the list, but if it matches your personal skill set, it can be extremely lucrative, much like the reselling hosting suggestion up above.

An ad network connects publishers and advertisers, in exchange for a cut of the money changing hands. There are countless blog owners with decent traffic who would be happy to sell ad space, and countless of advertisers looking for places to place their banners. If you can effectively put the two and two together, it could equal a whole lot more than four for the time that you spend online.

Building an ad network can be an especially good idea for entrepreneurs with existing, sizable networks with both publishers and advertisers. This usually means someone who’s been online for a while and dabbled in a lot of different enterprises.

But this isn’t the type of business you want to start from the ground up. You will be most successful if it naturally fits your existing skill set. If it does, you may want to give it a try. It might just be the best way for you to make money from WordPress websites.

9. Offer website reviews

Every author needs an editor. Every website should have one, too. It’s hard to see the forest through the trees, and you never know what other people are thinking when they land on your website.

All the traffic in the world means nothing if a website isn’t optimized to convert visitors into leads, fans, or paying customers. If an online business owner doesn’t know how to organize their site for maximum conversion, you can be the one to show them (so long as that is your specialty).

MenWithPens and Derek Halpern have both done this extremely well. It’s a win-win for the provider since they are advertising their skill set and steadily increasing their authority, while helping business owners maximize the value of their visitors.

Because you are directly helping a website owner generate a higher average profit per visitor, they will be willing to pay you well for your time. The more sites you optimize, the better your reputation will be, and the more you can charge per optimized site.

The above list is by no means exhaustive. There are countless ways to make money with WordPress, and they’re limited only by your imagination. But the message is indisputable.

There is a lot of money to be made in the world of WordPress, but due to massive competition, and depending on your skill set, running a blog might just be the worst way to try to get your share.

Sean Platt is a content marketer and cofounder of outstandingSETUP. Get his FREE report “9 Website Building Mistakes You Should Avoid”.