Close
Close

Take 5 Minutes to Make WordPress 10 Times More Secure

This guest post is by David Wang of The ClickStarter.

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

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

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

Move wp-config.php up one level

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

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

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

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

~/home/user/wp-config.php

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

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

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

Time required: 1 minute

Delete the ‘admin’ account

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

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

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

Time required: 1 minute

Update WordPress, plugins, and themes

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

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

Time required: 1 minute

Install WP Security Scan and Secure WordPress

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

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

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

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

Time required: 2 minutes

Stay vigilant

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

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

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

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

How to Build Community for Niche Site Success

This is a guest post by Jim Nelson of Tripawds.com.

Talk about a niche market!

When I first started blogging about my three legged dog Jerry back in 2006, never in my wildest dreams did I think helping those facing amputation for their dogs would be my full time job five years later. But then again, I never expected the little website I created to keep friends and family informed about Jerry’s progress to become the largest online community for canine amputees and their people either.

Jerry was the Chief Fun Officer of the design firm my wife Rene and I grew for nearly ten years. After his amputation we sold the business—and our home, along with most of our belongings—and bought an RV to travel the country making the most of our remaining time with Jerry, and searching for the next big thing. We considered a number of different ventures during our three years on the road, but that thing turned out to be right under our noses, and the Tripawds Blogs community was born.

We had been building Jerry’s dog blog all along, with lots of helpful canine cancer resources and loads of information about amputation for dogs. And we were doing our best to monetize the site with your typical affiliate programs, text link ads and PPC campaigns. For details about the fledgling Tripawds site, don’t miss my submission for the 2008 ProBlogger Video Mashup. My movie is the only one featuring a talking dog.

Canine Amputees Sprite, Wyatt, and Calpurnia, By Jim Nelson of Tripawds.com

Tripawds has come a long way since then. Jerry is no longer with us, but his legacy lives on at tripawds.com which now hosts 650+ three legged dog blogs with more than 2,600 registerred members and more joining every day. It’s the club nobody ever wants to join; but a fun one nonetheless, where members commisserate, share their treatment plans and help each other cope with difficult decisions. And its success would not be possible without a few things that make the community what it has become: WordPress Multisite, discussion forums, and social networking.

Forums create discussion

In the early days of the Tripawds blog, we started to receive frequent requests from people for advice about their dogs. As much as we wanted to help, replying individually to all these emails got old, fast. We decided to create discussion forums so members could answer each other’s questions directly. This allowed people seeking advice to get more than just one opinion, increased traffic and user registrations, and added valuable content to the site.

Shortly after installing the Simple:Press Forums plugin for WordPress, our membership quickly grew from a handful of followers to hundreds of devoted individuals actively participating by welcoming new members, sharing advice and directing others to informative content. Now with more than 4,400 topics and 59,500 posts the Tripawds forums not only provide a helpful resource—and valuable search bot fodder—but they keep visitors on the site longer; as long as ten minutes per visit on average.

Tripawds provides dedicated forums for canine cancer care, nutritional advice, coping with loss and much more. And when the community demanded an “Anything Goes” forum we obliged, creating a place for members to discuss whatever they wanted. To boost sales through certain affiliate partners, and help our members save on pet supplies or supplements for their dogs, we started specific Anything Goes forum topics where we frequently post coupon codes, sale notices and other promotions we find through our affiliate advertisers.

The network creates community

In late 2009, with a discussion forum and live chat room, the next logical step for growing the Tripawds community was to offer members their own blogs. That’s when I discovered WordPress MU; now an optional core function of WordPress known as Multisite. Migrating from our plain vanilla WordPress installation to the multi-user blog network was no easy task, but now it is as easy as clicking Create a Network. Well almost, there are a few extra steps but not many. With a basic understanding WordPress, you too can make your own blog network.

We chose to use our Multisite network to offer free blogs to members, following the freemium model. We give users 25MB of upload space for their free blogs which display banner ads. For a nominal fee—payable by monthly, quarterly or annual PayPal subscriptions—these ads are automatically removed. Upgrading to a Tripawds Supporter Blog also automatically increases the user’s upload quota to 1GB and gives them access to additional premium themes and plugins.

With network-wide user avatars, searchable blog/user directories, and widgets throughout the main Tripawds site that display most recent blog posts and comments, a true sense of community has developed among our members. It is heartwarming to watch friendships develop, and recurring payments from auto-renewing Supporter subscriptions are nice too. We use various WordPress Multisite plugins from WPMU Dev to make this all possible.

You don’t have to host user’s blogs, however, to take advantage of the power WordPress Multisite offers, especially if you don’t want to deal with the demands a growing network will put on your server. Hint: shared hosting won’t cut it! You can use Multisite to host a number of your own sites from one WordPress installation. Using a Domain Mapping plugin, each site can even have its own URL. The first thing we did after creating our network was set up a number of Tripawds Featured Blogs. These are dedicated sites where we review various products ranging from the best gear for three legged dogs and recommended nutritional supplements, to books, downloads and Tripawds t-shirts.

Everyone is on Facebook

Jerry’s fan base first started to grow on the Tripawds YouTube channel, where one of his movies is quickly approaching 1.5 million views. We use Twitter to announce all new featured blogs posts, as well as for celebrating the triumphs of some amputee dogs and mourning the loss of others. As for Facebook, I was a holdout. I refused to be assimilated. Then I finally realized how many people were sharing news about their three0legged dogs, or asking for advice, and the Tripawds Facebook page was born. Jerry now has more than 2000 fans.

Facebook adds a whole new sense of community, with friends, photo sharing, and instant gratification. That’s why we use it primarily to drive traffic to Tripawds where people usually register right away to see if anyone is in the chat room, where we are usually waiting to welcome them to the community.

Realizing that most visitors on Facebook are seeking fast answers, we created a custom landing page to help them out. The tab anyone sees before “liking” the Tripawds page includes links to our most helpful resources and RSS feeds from the blogs and forums.

Ebooks, podcasts, and more

Social networking for three-legged dogs doesn’t end on Facebook. I frequently participate in various dog-centric group discussions on LinkedIn. And our latest endeavor is Tripawd Talk Radio using the free BlogTalkRadio broadcast tools. Rene and I co-host this program periodically to profile amazing survival stories or interview veterinary oncologists and rehab specialists. We use the Tripawds discussion forums to announce shows and solicit questions for guests. Then we make the podcasts available in our Downloads blog after each show.

Another download we now offer was more than three years in the making. For those who don’t care to spend time searching the vast amount of content in our blogs and forums, we published Three Legs and a Spare, the first in a series of canine amputation handbooks. This 108 page PDF includes hundreds of direct links to the most helpful blog posts, videos and forum topics Tripawds has to offer. While the majority of content in this ebook is available for free on our site, the primary value is in its consolidation and organization of information.

The last suggestion I have for anyone creating a community is t-shirts. Members like to feel like they belong, and they love to show their pride. Cafe Press makes that simple. We had a basic CP Shop for years, with limited product availability, and even fewer purchases. Not until we upgraded Jerry’s store to a Premium Shop did we start to see regular revenue from the vast selection of three legged dog t-shirts and gifts we now offer.

Building a community of support

Finally, if you have a cause website don’t be afraid to ask for money. We held a community support ChipIn campaign to compensate for our additional hosting costs the first year after outgrowing the capacity of our old shared account—a clear case of too much traffic and bandwidth usage being a good thing.

Running our own server isn’t cheap, but active community members understand that. Others wanted to know how they could help after the campaign so we created different PayPal subscription levels for ongoing contributions. We also created a Support page that lists the various ways members can help, from naming their own price for a dog bandanna to clicking numerous different affiliate banners for shopping online.

With an audience that is often distraught over caring for their dog, however, we do our best to steer clear of any blatant promotion. Instead, we only provide links to products we believe in and always provide full disclosure about affiliate partnerships.

So if you’re interested in building a community for something you’re passionate about, consider using WordPress Multisite, discussion forums, and social networking to build a following. And if you think your cause isn’t grand enough to make it worthwhile, think again. Did you ever think there was such a site for three legged dogs?

Do you have a niche blog? How has community-building helped your blog succeed?

Jim Nelson is co-founder and chief administrator of the Tripawds Blogs community and discussion forums. Together with his wife Rene, Jim published Three Legs and a Spare - A Canine Amputation Handbook, the first in a series of helpful ebooks from Tripawds.com.

Inside the Compendium Blogging Platform

This guest post is by Jenny Dean of Business Blog Writers.

If you run a business that sells a product or a service, you need a strong online presence. If you’re considering blogging, or if you are blogging and it’s not doing what you want it to do, then you might look into a different blogging platform to help you achieve your online goals—Compendium.

Seeing that the distinction between blogs and websites has become blurred in recent years, many online visitors don’t even realize whether they have landed on a blog or a website. In fact, static websites are becoming less desirable, since a blog has a fluid ability to target specific visitors with the most up-to-date and relevant information.

Email and searches continue to dominate the online market, so you have to be equipped with the best ROI-producing tool available. Compendium’s blogging platform targets organic keywords in search engines, helps businesses acquire new customers, and serves as a hub for your social media strategy.

Compendium’s platform involves a SEO strategy approach that targets the organic side of the search engine results page (SERP), and is designed to win keyword searches.

If your business has these three qualities, then Compendium may be a great fit:

  • a business domain with some age/authority
  • an understanding of analytics and how you make money online
  • an understanding of what types of key phrases blogs are best suited to win vs. PPC or traditional SEO tactics.

As of March 2011, Compendium’s pricing ranges from $3,500 to upwards of $50,000 a year, based on the needs of the client. Their packages are scalable based on keyword selection and services, as well as any upgrades that you might request.

Why would you want a blog as a business?

  1. To increase search engine traffic
  2. To create an online community of fans of your product or service
  3. To increase awareness of your  product or service
  4. All of the above.

No matter what your company’s blogging goals are, Compendium’s platform is set up to make them happen.  Of course, Compendium’s approach to Third Generation blogging has to do with more qualified search traffic and lead generation online. There are millions of searches around almost every business, topic, industry, etc. every day, week, and month. If your business has a product or service, then someone is out there searching for you.

In my business, we write content for a number of blogs, but our favorite platform to write on is Compendium and here’s why.

Please note: I mentioned in my ProBlogger post, How to Brand Your Blog’s YouTube Channel that I have another website called Floppycats.com, and I purchased the Compendium platform for that site. All the photos and examples below are taken from Floppycats.com’s Compendium blog).

Strategy

  • Compendium has nearly 500 relationships with savvy marketers and business leaders all over the country. These leaders are just like you—they want to increase their ROI without a lot of effort.  So when you have a platform through Compendium, you are set up with an Account Manager who can share tips and ideas among clients, allowing you to save time and money.  It’s like having a marketing firm behind your blog that is also well-versed in SEO.
  • Compendium helps you offer a conversion point or a call-to-action (CTA) to your blog These CTAs can include requesting more information, signing up for a free demo, downloading a document, or even a “buy now” option.
  • Compendium helps to create a blog that has strong key SEO elements like informative page titles, consumer-focused keywords, recent and frequent updates, strong inbound links, and relevant content.  Their platform allows your blog to target thousands of organic keywords in a search.  It automatically organizes your blog’s keyword-rich content into lots of unique landing pages that are found in an organic search.

Monetization

  • Many of Compendium’s clients are generating 400% marketing ROI with only minutes of effort each day.
  • Compendium’s easy-to-use blogging and search engine optimization (SEO) tools help you achieve aggressive lead generation and revenue goals with less time and money than other marketing activities.
  • Compendium llows you to make a true investment in your marketing dollars. The more content you create, the deeper and richer your search results become. In other words, the blog data never goes away; rather, it gets compounded and enhanced with new content.  It’s not like PPC marketing that you pay for, where it’s up and then it’s gone forever.  What’s more, 80-90% of all clicks happen in the organic section of a results page.

Optimization

  • Compendium can be set up on any domain, even WordPress.
  • You won’t find an easier or more efficient way to target a huge search market and get the highest return on their marketing efforts.
  • Search engines look for the following when determining the rank of organic search results:
    1. titles
    2. keywords
    3. recency/frequency of content creation
    4. links
    5. volume
    6. relevance
  • Compendium partnered with two industry-leading SEO companies (Distilled and SEOmoz) to make changes to their platform to enhance organic search benefits.  You may have read a recent article about the Google Algorithm change that affected many blogs and many companies’ efforts to bring in search engine traffic.  Search engine algorithms love Compendium’s system, and Compendium clients are unscathed by such search engine modifications.

Social Networking

  • Compendium’s platform includes social media integration that allows you to push content to your company’s accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin, all from within the platform.
  • There are upgrades available with the system that allow for your blog to be built entirely on user-generated content.  It’s one of the most incredible marketing strategies I have seen to date.  To explain it would require a whole other blog post, so here’s a link to one I wrote a few months back explaining it.

Analytics

  • Compendium’s platform allows you to log in at any time, track how the platform is driving traffic to your website, and see how your different calls to action are converting.
  • The Account Manager who is set up for your account also integrates your blog with Google Analytics, so you will benefit from Compendium’s own internal tracking system, as well as an external tracking system.

Content report

Link activity report

Link activity chart

Ease of Use

  • You do not have to be technically savvy to use Compendium.  If you can login into an email account, you can login into Compendium and create a post.
  • The Compendium gods were on our side when they delivered the Keyword Strength Meter! It’s one of my favorite things about Compendium (see image below).  The Keyword Strength Meter is a bar that appears at the top of every post as you’re composing it, and goes from red to green, helping you know when you have used the optimal number of keywords for a specific post.  In other words, you don’t have to worry about whether or not you have used the proper number of keywords, or guess what the search engines will like.

    The keyword strength meter in action

  • You can schedule your posts to release on the blog on different days and times. In other words, you could write five posts on Monday and schedule them to post on every day that week without having to sign into the system again (WordPress has this capability as well).

Protection

  • Compendium is backed by SaaS security.  There’s no IT or plug-ins necessary.  Compendium is a fully hosted SaaS company, so Compendium hosts all of its clients’ blog pages.  Compendium is built on an enterprise-level structure with all the security necessary to work with even the largest corporations.
  • One of the clients that we write for mentioned to me that they chose Compendium because of the security measures involved—they knew their content would be protected on Compendium, whereas they couldn’t obtain a similar level of protection on other blogging platforms.
  • Compendium is not an open-source platform (on an open-source program anyone can develop plug-ins or add-ons to the platform). Compendium is specifically built for enterprise and the security that they require.  This includes features like SSL (for users signing in—think of a bank-like sign in), backups, redundancy, 24-hour monitoring, SLA (service level agreements), and more.  All of these features, and the architecture on which Compendium is built, are far easier to control and monitor than freeware, giving an added level of security to this platform.
  • Compendium allows for unlimited users that are all attached to an administrator.  When a user submits a post it doesn’t go directly onto the company’s blog. Rather, the admin of the blog gets an email notification letting them know there is a new post ready to go. The administrator can then go in and read, edit, or decline the post, and offer feedback to the author without leaving the system.  If your company has a PR department that would like to review the posts before they go live, then Compendium is a great option because it allows the user to input the posts and the PR department to edit and approve them as needed, without excessive back-and-forth comments with the writers.

Customization

The platform can look however you want it to—and you can have it easily match your website.  I use my Compendium blog as a way to find potential subscribers for my main site, which is on WordPress.  That may seem funky, but it has allowed more people to find me.  It also allows me to post things with which I wouldn’t want to bug subscribers to my main site, but that I still think are worthwhile to have on my site in some manner.  Below is a screen shot of the home page of my Floppycats.com website and a screen shot of my Compendium blog site.

The site on WordPress

The site on Compendium

Updates

Compendium is constantly improving the product, making enhancements every week to service the needs of clients.

The main reason I like Compendium is because with any business, it is important to get referrals as well as retain clients you already have.  It has been my experience that when Business Blog Writers write on the Compendium platform, we are more likely to retain the client, because the content we provide on that platform actually works, delivering the results the client was looking for. Therefore they find the value in continuing their content creation agreement with us.

If you are interested in checking out Compendium, you can request a demo through the website. One of their fantastic sales representatives will schedule a time to show you a demo of their software.

Does your company use Compendium?  How do you like it?  What advantages have you seen from it?

Jenny Dean is a 31-year-old-business owner and entrepreneur from Kansas City. Jenny is currently working on Business Blog Writers, a company that supplies blog content specifically for company’s blogs, Floppycats.com, an informational website about Ragdoll cats and Antioxidant-fruits.com, an informational website about the antioxidant powers of fruit. Follow Business Blog Writers on Twitter or on Facebook.

Interview with Blogs.mu founder James Farmer

blogs.mu.pngEarlier today I posted about a fantastic new service by the name of Blogs.mu – a service that enables you to set up your own blog network. Now I’d like to post a quick interview with James Farmer – co founder of Incsub, the team behind Blogs.mu and the company that runs the WordPress MU hub WPMU DEV and the industry news blog WPMU.org. He’s also the founder of Edublogs.org. He (like me) is based in Melbourne, Australia.

He caught up with me over email last week to talk about Incsub’s brand new offering: Blogs.mu.

So what’s the difference between, say, Blogs.mu and WordPress.com?

jamesfarmer.jpg

Well, the main difference is that at Blogs.mu you become the blog provider, and you have a huge amount of flexibility and functionality that you just won’t get anywhere else.

It’s like WordPress.com in a box really, only better! Once you’re up and running you can create and host as many blogs as you want, at your own domain.

You’ve been able to do this for a while using WordPress MU but that’s been pretty hard as you need to setup hosting, run installation, download and configure themes and plugins etc.

Now though, we do that all for you… and you are free to grow your blog network or community in whatever niche you like – and, of course, run your own advertising!

It’s white label blog networks if you will… kinda like Ning.com for blogging.

So, you say users can run their own advertising, how does that work?

Blogs.mu Supporters (starting from 5 cents per blog per month) can run their own advertising across the entire network just by dropping in any ad code – it’s simple and very effective (or at least we like to think that!)

Every blog theme has 4 ad ‘spots’: under the post title and above the content, under the content and above the comments and at the top of each sidebar – as well as across a footer slot, for running JS contextual ads like Kontera or similar.

And you can set display rules for your ads too – like ‘only show them to IE browsers’ or ‘only show them to search engine visitors’ so you can make money like WordPress.com too… without annoying your users.

So what’s with the MU, are you big in Mauritius?

Heh, very funny, the MU actually stands for MultiUser – as in WordPress MU – also known as WPMU. We love the platform and have been on it from the start – one our WPMU Sites (Edublogs) is older than WordPress.com by 3 weeks… so we know what we’re doing.

And yeh, we did the obvious as well and setup WP.MU too – it’s an installation service for people who do want to get down and dirty with the guts of it all.

So we hope we’re covering every base!

And how do you think Problogger readers could best use Blogs.mu?

Well, I’m hoping there are a heap of ways that established and aspiring probloggers could use Blogs.mu. First up, if you’ve got an active community then this is a great way to get them writing in your space (you could even configure your site to a subdomain of your existing site!)

Another way would be that it’s a really affordable and powerful way to run your own 10 or so blog network.

Either way there are tons of advertising opportunities – and we’re looking into incorporating eCommerce, membership subscriptions, ‘pay to blog’ features and more pretty shortly.

Also, we’ve got some forums up and running for existing and prospective users (it’s completely free to join) at forums.blogs.mu so if any of your readers would like us to consider or build in specific features – we’d love to hear from them!

Check out Blogs.mu for yourself.

Start Your Own Blog Network or Community with Blogs.mu

blogs.mu.pngIf you’ve ever dreamed of running your own blog network but have been put off by the idea of setting it up and managing it you you’re not alone. As someone who has co-founded blog networks I understand the challenges.

It is for that reason that I’m really excited about a brand new service that has just launched – Blogs.mu.

Blogs.mu is essentially your own blog network in a box. It allows you to set up your own WordPress.com type community using the powerful WordPress Multi User platform – this opens up many possibilities both for existing and new bloggers.

There’s a lot to be said about Blogs.mu so I’ll let you peruse their site to learn whether it fits with your needs but a few highlights include:

  • Let your readers start blogs or just limit it to starting your own on sub domains
  • Run advertising on it
  • Using it on your own domain
  • Lots of Themes built in
  • Plugins pre installed
  • Import previous blogs into Blogs.mu
  • Support forums

The service is free with loads of features but you get extra capabilities and unlock some of the above features (and others) by becoming a Blogs.mu supporter. Support packs start out at $9 a month for a 10 blog pack.

Blogs.mu has been developed by Inscub – a team with a heap of experience using WordPress MU who have helped set up and run some massive WPMU blog networks. I’ll have an interview with James Farmer from Inscub later today to talk more about Blogs.mu – but in the mean time it might be well worth your time to sign up and reserve your Blogs.mu community name and preferred url before someone else does.


400x80-banner.png

How to NOT get Hired for a Blogging Job

Looking for a Blogging Job? Today Lynn Truong (co-founder of Personal Finance blog Wise Bread) gives some tips on how to apply for one.

I’ve read thousands of blogging applications over the last few years. And while explaining what I look for in a blogger is pretty much like trying to pinpoint what one looks for in a mate – generic and unhelpful for any prospects – I can very clearly describe what prompts me to put an application in the “no” pile before I even finish reading it. Unfortunately, these are the applications I get more than any others. Eight out of ten applications inevitably go into the trash because of the following.

1. Write in no caps.

Yes, you’re only applying to a blog, but we still publish all our posts with capital letters and proper grammar. Hit that shift key when you start a sentence, and refer to yourself as I, not i. This is a real, paying gig, so be professional.

2. Use the word blog incorrectly.

A blogger is so much more than a writer, so if you don’t understand this, at least don’t announce it. You can use blog as a verb. I blog frequently is fine. You can also refer to our site as a blog. After all, we are looking for a blogger. But never call a post or an article, a blog. Don’t tell me you can write several blogs for us per day. Don’t say you’ve attached sample blogs. When in doubt, just use write or articles or site instead.

3. Provide one link to your blog as writing samples.

It is human nature to be proud of every post on your blog. Selecting just a few for sampling purposes might feel like I’m asking you to pick a favorite child. However, it is not possible for me to look through your entire repertoire. By selecting two or three of your best posts, you are showing me that you know how to identify great content, and that you’ve put some thought and effort into the application. I also use the samples to determine how well you understand the type of posts that fit well on our site.

4. Let me know I can request writing samples.

Nothing tells me that you’re sending out mass emails to any publisher around like an email that says “writing samples can be provided by request.” My job posting only asks for two things: topic ideas and writing samples. Don’t write me a long cover letter explaining why you’re perfect for the job, attach your resume (which I didn’t ask for), and then say that I can request writing samples. Why would I bother hiring anybody I already know I’ll need to ask twice for anything?

5. Spell our site name incorrectly.

If the job description says Wise Bread, please don’t write Wisebread.

6. Ask me the next day whether I’ve gotten your application.

My autoreply message specifically says that we can’t respond to every single applicant, but that we appreciate every application and will consider each one carefully. During a recruiting round, I get hundreds of applications a day, on top of the daily load of regular emails. I honestly don’t know if I’ve gotten your application. Most likely I haven’t even read it yet. All I can do is tell you the exact thing my autoreply already did: “We’ll let you know if we find a good fit.” I know you want to show that you are a person who takes the initiative, but what you’re actually doing is slowing down the process for everyone.

7. Give me a 31 page writing sample.

Don’t send me your college thesis. I won’t have time to read it and your application won’t be considered.

8. Be a mercenary.

I know serious freelancers write for multiple sites. But if you tell me you write for 20 different sites, and can do 10 articles a day for us, you’re telling me that you’re just a content machine who’s only concerned about your ROI.

9. Give me irrelevant writing samples.

You might not have any samples that fit our site’s topic, but at least pick samples that have the proper tone, length, and style. I don’t want a press release, letter of recommendation, or book report you thought was fantastic (although these can be included as extra samples to show your range).

10. Tell me your life story.

Getting to know bloggers and connecting with them on a personal level is my favorite part of the job. The cover letter is a way to let your personality shine through, as well as make you stand out in the sea of generic cover letters. However, your cover letter is not the appropriate place to talk about your personal problems or struggles that are not related to the position. Please only give me relevant experiences and tell me how you feel about our site. Keep it professional, please.

11. Ask for more information without including an application.

Sometimes I get an email that says “I’d like to apply, but would like to get more information first.” I understand that some writers are wary about sending writing samples, because some unscrupulous site burned you before and published your samples without your permission. But you have to tell me what additional information you are looking for, so I can properly respond.

Concluding Thoughts

Many bloggers miss out on great gigs because they simply don’t take the application process seriously. Sure, blogs generally aren’t as corporate and stuffy. I might be in my PJs reading your application in bed, but that doesn’t mean I’m still not looking for bloggers who show professionalism.

Keep in mind that writing for a quality blog can really raise your profile. Many of the great bloggers we have hired from the Problogger Job Board get frequent mentions and interviews from major news outlets like the New York Times, ABC, FOX, CNBC, and Self Magazine. Many of our bloggers also contributed to our upcoming book, 100,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget, which will allow them to put the coveted “published author” designation on their resumes. It is therefore worth your effort to complete a professional and compelling application.

My biggest tip for anyone applying for a blogging job (any job, really) is to read the job posting carefully. All the information and instructions you need is there, so just pay attention. It’s fine to send extra information and materials, but make sure to include everything that is asked for.

I hope these tips can prevent otherwise talented bloggers from missing out on great blogging opportunities!

Lynn Truong is co-founder of Wise Bread, a top Personal Finance site that helps readers live large on a small budget.

Talking Blog Networks

There has been ALOT of talk around the blogosphere about blog networks lately – ALOT!

Some of it is as a result of the closing of the Know More Media blog network, some of it as a result of AOL and Gawker making changes to the way their networks pay bloggers and some of it is…. well…. just because every six or so months there seems to be talk about blog networks.

Today one of my co-founders in b5media (and our CEO) Jeremy Wright put together a post that I think picks up a lot of the themes and casts some light on what it’s like to run a blog network. Effectively Jeremy has written 6 posts in one (I really have to teach this guy about writing a series of posts :-) )and covers:

  1. A summary of some of the talk going on around the blogosphere on the topic with some great links
  2. 10 Reasons Managing Bloggers (and Blog Ads) Is Harder Than Your Grandma’s Corns
  3. 3 Simple Tips for Starting a Blog Network
  4. Thoughts on Starting a Blog Alliance
  5. 3 Tips for Starting a Blog Ad Network
  6. Final Tip(s) for Success for Everyone

Depending upon where you’re at in your own development of blogging I think there’s something in this post for everyone. Read it here.

Jeremy’s reasons why managing bloggers and blog ads is hard will be particularly insightful for those starting out with networks because I often come across bloggers who think blog networks an easy way to make money – you simply just hire extra writers and slap more ads on the blogs right? Ummm…. time for a reality check – my experience of blog networks is that while you can potentially multiple your income with more blogs you also multiple the headaches, challenges, problems and risks.

Jeremy’s tips for those starting out are also useful.

Further Reading

A few posts from my archives that might be useful for bloggers wanting to start or join blog networks:

b5media Blogathon – Now On!

I’m a little behind in this one – I’ve had one other little thing on my mind distracting me – but wanted to give a shout out to a group of b5media bloggers who are currently doing a 24 hour blogathon – the Great Blog Off. Bloggers in our Entertainment, Business and Lifestyles Channels are blogging every hour for 24 hours to support charitable causes.

Having done a couple of blog-a-thons myself I know how much work is involved – so do drop by some of the blogs in those channels and give their bloggers some support and donations.

10 Network Blogging Survival Tips

Do you blog at a blog network? If so this post from Deborah Ng from Freelance Writing Jobs might be worthwhile checking out.

While the income from blogs I own is rising steadily, the bulk of the money I earn blogging comes from maintaining blogs for other networks and individuals. It’s the network blogging thing I’d like to talk to you about today.

Many people balk at the idea of writing for a network because they feel there are too many rules or the pay is too low. I’m here to tell you this doesn’t have to be the case. Network blogging can be a great career boost – and very lucrative if you give it your all.

What follows are a few network survival tips.

1. Don’t balk at the base – Don’t let a low base pay keep you from blogging for a network. For most networks that’s just a starting point. The key to making money for a network are the traffic bonuses. With blogging, you get what you give. If you work hard to promote your blog and bring in traffic, those bonus bucks will add up. Trust me, I know. I’ve made four figures a month with my network blogs – mostly due to good traffic.

2. Don’t Choose a Topic You Know Nothing About – Because you’ll be blogging every day, you really do need to be passionate about your topic. If you choose a topic you don’t really know or enjoy it will soon be clear to you – and your readers. The most unhappy bloggers are the ones who aren’t blogging their passion. People who enjoy their topics never run out of things to write about.

3. Be a team player – When I worked in a corporate office I hated all mentions of teamwork. With network blogging it’s a different story. When I worked with a team in an office, someone else took credit for my work and very rarely was I rewarded for my efforts. With blogging, you want to work with other bloggers to promote each other and raise awareness and bring traffic to your blogs. Do take advantage of channel wide promotions and be free with your link love. Other bloggers will appreciate your efforts and do the same. You’ll also find yourself making some wonderful friends.

4. Stick to a schedule – The best way to meet your monthly quotas is to create a schedule and stick to it as best your can. When you’re blogging for a network it’s all about meeting your monthly quota. If you’re juggling multiple blogs, this isn’t so easy. I had a couple of bad months when I strayed from my routine. When you don’t post on a regular basis, and meet your weekly or monthly obligations, your pay and traffic suffers.

5. Establish a relationship with other network bloggers – With blogging, it’s definitely who you know. As mentioned above, successful bloggers scratch each others’ backs. If you find yourself unable to meet your obligations due to illness or emergency, your fellow network bloggers are always happy to help out.

6. Take advantage of channel and network-wide promotions – Many networks or channels have particular theme days or promotions. Do take part. They’re a lot of fun and can be a great way to introduce others to your blog. Usually those participating in the promotion will post links to all participating blogs.

7. Don’t be afraid to take on a co blogger – If you constantly find yourself behind but don’t want to give up your blog(s) consider taking on a co-blogger. I recently did so and found it to be a very positive experience. It brings a new voice to the blog and relieves some of the pressure of posting daily.

8. Take advantage of network training sessions and chats – If your network has regular chats or training sessions do yourself a favor and attend. They’re a goldmine of information! You’ll learn traffic tips, SEO tips, tips for writing content and more. Attendance isn’t usually mandatory, but where else can you get free training from experts in the field?

9. Don’t be afraid to have fun and inject a little personality – Many times bloggers feel that because they’re an authority, they should sound…well…clinical. This is fine if you want to put your readers to sleep. By all means, be factual, but use your real voice to keep people interested. And don’t be afraid to use humor, videos, cartoons, polls and quizzes to make things a little more interesting.

10. Speaking of video – Use it! I recently invested in a little Flip camera and use it to show product reviews and DIY updates. My readers respond to this because they get to hear my voice and also, I get to show them as well as tell them. I especially like video for product reviews as the reader can see what the product looks like, judge its size and also have a more honest review.

Are you a network blogger? If so, what survival tips would you like to add? If you’re not a network blogger, are there any questions you’d like to ask regarding blogging for a network?

You might know Deborah Ng from her blogs Freelance Writing Jobs, which is the number one freelance writing community online, and Network Blogging Tips . For a peek at jus a few of her network blogs visit Deb at Simply Thrifty, The List Maven and News from the Glamorati.