Close
Close

Optin Skin Plugin Review

In June, Darren shared 3 Ways to Get More Subscribers for Your Blog. In that post, he identified the area under the blog post as being one of the ‘hot zones’ for calls to subscribe.

This area is a solid location to place a call to action, but it can require some effort to style a subscribe form that fits with your theme. In this post, I will be reviewing a plugin that helps you easily create appealing opt-in forms and social share boxes to your blog.

It’s called Optin Skin (aff) and it’s pretty swanky.

I bought this product in 2011 and definitely believe that it’s worth the money. It was really easy to figure out and use. I have no statistics about whether or not it increased the size of my list as I stopped blogging shortly after I installed it. This review is primarily based on ease of use.

The features

Skin Design:

Creating a skin is simple. You simply click ‘Add New’ after hovering over the text for Optin Skin in the sidebar. This will take you to a page where you get to customize the design and skin placement.

You have the choice of about 18 skins, which may be limiting if you don’t like any of the existing options. Customizing the design elements – font, text, size – are easy. You may need to consult design palettes to find colours that complement your theme. The designs are split between being perfect for the sidebar and perfect for below a post.

There are four options for skin placement:

  • Below a post
  • Below the first paragraph
  • At the top of posts
  • Floated right of second paragraph

Once the skin is created, a widget with the skin will be available for sidebar use. You will also receive a shortcode to insert the skin. This makes it so easy for you to put the form (or forms) wherever you like.

You also have the option to redirect people to another page after they sign up, which is perfect for a thank you page.

Split Testing

Split testing is one of the features that really excited me. I’m not technical at all, so will often resort to the default opt in form. I don’t have the resources to get two forms designed to do testing and am not comfortable with the HTML.

This plugin makes split testing easy but you are limited to testing designs rather then locations. You have the options to split test a plugin in the sidebar, or within content, but the optin form has to be in the same area.

I recommend that you test this out. It is so much easier then other form of split testing and can give you lots of useful information.

Statistics

The interface allows you to easily visualize data about sign up, impressions and conversion rates. This is a really nice touch as it gives you more data points to base decisions on and means you don’t have to leave your blog.

Usability

It was pretty easy to figure out what to do – it was really user friendly. I’ve purchased a lot of products that are promoted as being easy to customize, but require a lot of HTML knowledge. The only HTML knowledge you really need is knowing where to put the shortcode if you choose custom positioning.

I really appreciated how easy it was to set up.

My recommendation:

I believe Optin Skin is great value for money. It has given me the incentive to actually test things with my mailing list rather then relying on “hope marketing”.

It removes a lot of the scary-factor that prevents people, like me, getting off their butt to implement new designs and split testing. I just don’t have the time or mental energy to add something else to my to-do list. This takes about half an hour to set up and then you can tweak as required based on the data.

Editorial Note: ProBlogger is an affiliate for this product but this review is a genuine recommendation by someone who uses the product.

13 Tools and Services I Use Every Day to Build a Profitable Blogging Business

Yesterday, during our Q&A webinar, we received a lot of questions about the tools and services we recommend for different aspects of blogging. While we touched on a few, there are quite a few more that I wanted to touch on.

Not all are strictly ‘blogging tools’ but all are things we regularly use as a team.

Note: I am an affiliate for some of the following tools and services but am also a daily user of all of them and have been for a minimum of 12 months.

Note 2: I’ve updated this list with 6 more tools that I use!

Of course there’s plenty more but they are the main things that come to mind!

What tools and services would you add to the list that make up part of your core online business toolbox?

How to Use Multivariate Testing to Build the Ultimate Opt-in Form

This guest post is by Adam Connell of Bloggingwizard.com.

There’s a testing technique out there that’s not being used to its full potential—or even used at all by most website owners.

Today I want to show you how you can use it to create the ultimate high-converting opt-in form.

So what is multivariate testing? It’s essentially very similar to split testing. The difference is that it takes into account a lot more variables.

Many site owners avoid multivariate testing as it seems overly complex, and most of the services on the market that provide multivariate testing are paid services, which leaves bloggers unsure of the potential ROI.

In this post you will learn how you can use Google Analytics content experiments to conduct multivariate testing on your own opt-in forms in an easy and controlled way that will allow you to maximise your conversions.

Why multivariate testing?

In early 2012 Econsultancy.com and Redeye conducted a survey http://econsultancy.com/uk/reports/conversion-rate-optimization-report that yielded some interesting results.

Multivariate testing came out as the most valuable testing method for improving conversions, despite only 17% of companies stating that they used it.

According to the same report, taking the leap from A/B split testing to multivariate testing can help you improve conversions by an extra 15%.

This shows a huge opportunity for those site owners and businesses that come on board and start using this testing method.

So let’s see how it’s done.

Step 1. Break down your opt-in form

In order to conduct any worthwhile experiment you need a plan and identify all of the different variables; but in order to come up with a complete list of variables you need to break your opt-in form into its various elements.

Here is a combination of the typical elements you may find in an opt-in form:

  • headline
  • subheadline
  • additional text
  • image/video
  • name capture field
  • email capture field
  • buttons
  • background.

Step 2. Define your variables

Now that we have all of the elements of your opt-in form mapped out, we need to break each element down further and plan out how we might want to vary each one.

Please note, the list below is not exhaustive, nor do you have to vary all of these when you come to experiment. The point is to show you all of the possibilities.

You may think some of these are minor changes, and they are. But the impact of some of these changes can be enormous.

For example, some marketers have tested opt-ins with name capture and email fields against forms with just an email capture field, and have managed to increase conversions by 20%. So it all makes a difference!

  • Headline: font, text size, text colour, capitalisation, alignment
  • Sub-headline: font, text size, text colour, capitalisation, alignment
  • Additional text: yes/no, font, text size, text colour, capitalisation, alignment, bullet points
  • Image/video: yes/no, image size, image content, video size, video content, video audio, video type
  • Name capture: yes/no, text in field, icon to the left
  • Email capture: icon to the left, text in field
  • Button: size, shape, text colour, text font, text size, background colour, rounded edges
  • Background: border, image, drop shadow, border.

Step 3. Plan the test

This is where it starts to get a little bit more complex: you need to come up with the original control version of the form for your test, and as large a number of variations as possible.

The downside to Google Analytics content experiments is that you’re limited to nine variations plus the original (or control) version.

You also need to be able to keep track of the variations and changes that you’re making; you can’t just throw something in and hope for the best.

To make this easy for you, we’ve put together a Google docs spreadsheet that will allow you to keep track of all your elements and variations.

Click here to access the spreadsheet

Please note: you must make a copy of this spreadsheet before altering it, otherwise everyone who visits will be able to see your testing plan!

testing-tracker

Due to the number of variations that may be needed in the future we’ve broken the document down into controlled groups.

Now just add the variations, which may look something like this:

testing-tracker-filled-in

At this stage it’s important that you only fill in the variations for group A as you need to use the results of each group’s test to inform the variations you select for the next group.

Step 4. Gear up to test group A

Now that you have planned out your variations for group A, you’re ready to get the test underway.

The test

The setup process here is fairly straightforward:

    1. Set up a new page for each variation.
    2. Add the pages to Google analytics content experiments. Log in to your account, then navigate to standard reporting > content > experiments.
    3. Set your goals. Note: the easiest way to do this is to ensure your opt-in form directs users to a thank you page, then find the URL and add this as the goal URL.
    4. Add the content experiments code to your pages.
    5. Let the experiment run.

It’s important to let your experiments run for as long as possible, so you can get data from the largest possible amount of traffic.

The more traffic you run this experiment on, the better, but if your blog doesn’t have as much traffic, then you will need to run it for even longer.

You are just looking for conversion rate here so, strictly speaking, you can run each test on different numbers of traffic. You need a statistically significant result for each test; you don’t need every test to involve the same amount of traffic.

Step 5. Review results and prepare to test group B

By now you will have had the results from group A, which means you can start thinking about the group B tests.

The first thing to do is to take the best performing variation from group A and add it as the original for group B (don’t forget to update your main page on your website at this point).

Now it’s just a case of rinsing and repeating the process above, tweaking and coming up with new variations to test each time.

A potential 15% conversion boost

Using this guide you will be able to create additional experiments for other parts of your sites, not just opt-in forms. You can easily tweak this method to use on sales pages, product reviews, squeeze pages, ad layouts or anything else you can think of.

The important thing is laying out your variations and keeping track of them. Then, just rinse and repeat.

Are you using any form of testing at the moment? We would love to hear about which methods you’re using and how much you’ve managed to increase your conversions in the comments.

Adam Connell is an internet marketing and SEO nut from the UK. He can be found blogging over at Bloggingwizard.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamjayc.

10 Essential WordPress Security Plugins For 2013

This guest post is by of The WordPress Security Checklist.

Now that we have left 2012 behind, we can start planning 2013. And there is no better time to review the security plugins you use on your WordPress site.

Last year important new security plugins were released, and some of the existing plugins were updated.

The great challenge when it comes to WordPress Security Plugins is to find the magic combination which gives you optimal cover without conflicts or overlapping functionality.

Here we bring you the winning combination for a prosperous (and safe) 2013.

Let the party begin!

Make sure only invited guests pop in

When you throw a big party, you’d best think about who you let in. Otherwise the party might get out of hand.

These clever little plugins are your broad-shouldered bouncers. And they mean business!

WP Login Security 2

This is a personal favorite of mine. It’s very clever.

If an unknown guest arrives at your party your bouncer will ask for ID, but you can walk straight in.

Similarly, the plugin will send a verification email to the registered email address of the user if he tries to log in from an unknown IP address. Only if he validates the IP address by clicking on a link in the email will he be allowed in.

This is a very effective way of stopping brute force attacks. Even if someone does guess your userid and password, they still can’t get in.

If, on the other hand, you log in from a known IP address, you are let in straight away.

Resources:

Semisecure Login Reimagined

At your party, the bouncer will make sure no one eavesdrops when you whisper the secret password in his ear.

Ideally you would want to send your login information over SSL when you access your WordPress administration panel. However, there is a cost involved in obtaining a SSL certificate and if you are on a shared server you would also need a dedicated IP address.

This plugin is the next best thing for those of us who’d rather spend our money on party hats.

It will automatically encrypt your login information so it is much more difficult for an outsider to steal your credentials.

Resources:

Login Security Solution

This is the mother of all bouncers. He will only accept photo ID, he can check the expiry date and you can tell him that library cards are no longer accepted. He can even throw out people who fall asleep on the premises.

Or, in technical terms: with this plugin, password strength is enforced, password aging is an option, and password resets for all users can be forced. And you can even log out idle sessions automatically.

Another clever feature of this plugin: instead of locking out IP addresses of brute force attackers it will slow down the response times gradually. This means that you can get your own password wrong without being locked out, and it will still make brute force attacks almost impossible.

Resources:

WordPress Firewall 2

This is the wall around your house that makes sure no one sneaks in through your backdoor or a window, bypassing your bouncers. It’s very important.

Windows Firewall 2 inspects all incoming traffic to identify if anyone sends you malicious requests or tries to inject data into your database.

Resources:

Block Bad Queries

This plugin is like the barbed wire or the broken glass on top of the wall. Yes, the internet is really a bad neighborhood!

BBQ extends your firewall and helps filter incoming traffic to stop known bad guys.

Resources:

Keeping tabs on what goes on in your house

Once your party is going you want to keep an eye on what is happening. If someone breaks your TV you’d like to know who’s responsible and how much damage was caused.

These plugins are your eyes and your ears. And they are awake!

WordPress File Monitor Plus

This is like having surveillance cameras in every room of your house and taping all the action. If anything goes down you can see exactly what happened.

WordPress File Monitor Plus tracks changes to your file system. If any files are added, removed, or changed you will be notified by email. Neat. Could be an invaluable help in cleaning up after you have had visitors!

Resources:

WP Security Scan

Although you love opening up your house for the big party, there are still some rooms you do want to keep away from your guests. Locking a few doors will make sure the cats can only play where you want them to.

WP Security Scan checks your file and folder permissions and a few other things to make sure everything that should be locked down is locked down.

Resources:

Curing the hangover

Depending on the success of your party you might end up with a bit of a hangover the day after. But we’ve got the cure for you.

Update Notifications

This good old trick could save you from getting a hangover in the first place: take a couple of headache tablets before you go to bed.

By using Update Notifications you’re stopping the headaches before they begin. Keep your WordPress site updated at all times and you won’t see the bulk part of the threats circulating the net. This plugin automatically sends you an email when there is an update for your plugins, themes, or core WordPress files.

Resources:

Wordfence

If you are not feeling well, knowing why can make the difference between recovering quickly or suffering for a long time. If you know you are dehydrated you can drink some water. If you know you have got an infection, penicillin might be the remedy you need.

Wordfence is one of the newer security plugins. However it has matured very quickly. One of the great features of Wordfence is that it will compare the plugin, theme, and WordPress core files on your installation with the official version in the WordPress repository. If there are any discrepancies, the plugin will send you an email.

It will also scan your site for known malware, phishing, backdoors, and virus infections.

Resources:

Sucuri WordPress Security Plugin

If you are really out of luck, you might pick up some kind of disease at your party. This is the risk of mingling with many people. In this case, you might have to go to the doctor.

Sucuri is more than just a security plugin. In fact, their WordPress plugin is probably one of their least-known products.

Sucuri is a company that specializes in cleaning up infected websites. If your luck is out and your site is infected, they will clean it for less than it would cost you in coffee if you wanted to figure it out on your own—provided you know what you are doing. And they will keep your site clean for a year after that.

The WordPress plugin adds a web application firewall and malware file scanning. The web application firewall will communicate with Sucuri servers, so if one site is under attack from certain IP addresses they can be blocked across the network immediately.

Resources:

Enjoy 2013!

With a little bit of preparation, you will be able to throw fantastic parties in 2013, and you and your guests can amuse themselves without worrying about accidents or bad guys ruining everything.

Make sure your WordPress site is in good shape and ready to bring you a very prosperous 2013!

Check out ’s free WordPress Security Checklist, which is all about protecting your WordPress assets properly and sleeping well at night.

WordPress Backups: Don’t Make These 9 Mistakes on Your Blog

This guest post is by of The WordPress Security Checklist.

Do you have insurance on your car? And on your house? Of course you do.

Do you have insurance on your WordPress site?

What? Insurance?!

A good backup plan is your insurance policy on your WordPress site!

You might be a serious blogger who is already aware of the value represented by your WordPress site. The time and money you have invested in building it. The income stream it provides. The audience you have attracted. The traffic you get.

Or maybe you are a hobby blogger, and over time you have, little by little, built significant value on your site, be that emotional or monetary value.

Your web presence is like your real life presence. You buy your first house, move in, and get your first home and contents insurance based on the value of your possessions at the time. And ten years later you are still only insured for that initial value.

As with your real house, your WordPress site could disappear in an instant.

It does not matter if the reason is criminal intent, a natural catastrophe, or an accident. If you do not have good insurance, you have to start again from scratch.

So just how good is your WordPress insurance?

Here I’ve compiled a list of the most common WordPress backup mistakes, and added a few tips on how to avoid them.

In no particular order, these are the mistakes:

  • not making a backup at all
  • not making a complete backup
  • relying on manual backups
  • not getting the backup frequency right
  • relying on your hosting company’s backup
  • only storing your backup on your hosting account
  • not storing your backups securely
  • not testing your backup
  • not storing your backups long enough.

Not making a backup at all

Yes, it’s sad, but it happens more often than you would think! Some people don’t take out insurance either. Don’t be one of them.

Tip: Do make backups!

Not making a complete backup

Some WordPress plugins only back up your WordPress database. WordPress consists of a database and a number of files. Unless you have a good backup of everything you probably don’t have anything!

A backup of your database will take you some of the way to a working site, but without images, plugins and themes (some of which might have been customized), you are a long way away from a fully functional site. And if you only have a backup of your files you have lost all your settings, posts and comments.

Tip: Make sure you back everything up!

Relying on manual backups

When the topic of WordPress backups comes up on discussion forums, there is almost always someone who swears by manual backups.

Why is that a problem?

Computers are excellent at performing routine tasks at scheduled intervals. Human beings, not so much. We tend to forget. And go on holidays. Before we know it it’s been six months since we last made a backup. All of a sudden we desperately need that backup. That’s when grown men start crying.

Tip: Let the computers do what they do best: automate your backups!

Not getting the backup frequency right

If your WordPress site changes daily, a monthly backup schedule could cost you up to a months work.

If your site changes monthly and you make daily backups storing only 30 backup archives you could be left without a usable backup archive. This could happen if you discover that you were infected with malware three months ago, for instance.

Different parts of your WordPress site change at different frequencies.

If you have a large site, you might want to split up your backup based on the update frequency:

  • Themes and plugins rarely change.
  • Backups of the uploads directory can be split by year, or even by month if necessary. Under normal circumstances, only the directory for the current month changes.
  • The database might change daily if you get many comments or release new posts.
    • Tip: Understand your site and adopt a backup schedule that fits!

      Relying on your hosting company’s backup

      Many hosting companies back up their customer’s accounts on their behalf.

      While this is a very good service, you need to ask yourself some questions about it:

      • What will you do if your hosting company cannot give you your backup archives?
      • If they go bankrupt and everything is shut down from one day to another.
      • If they are hacked and all their data disappears (see 4800 Aussie Sites Evaporate After Hack).
      • If they can only go back one month and you need to go further back.
      • If the backup you need did not complete successfully for whatever reason.
      • What do they back up?
      • How often do they back up?
      • For how long to do they keep the backup files?
      • Can they restore single files or tables in the database selectively?
      • Have you tested that they can restore your data?

      While relying on your hosting provider to back up your data can be a very convenient solution to an unwanted technical challenge, it is most likely not the right solution for you.

      You need control.

      Consider that it is quite simple to implement a good backup strategy of your own. If you use the right WordPress plugin, you can customize your backup jobs to match the needs of your WordPress site. And your backup archives can be stored in an offsite location that’s completely under your control.

      Best of all the solution does not have to cost you a thing if you know how to do it right.

      Fortunately the strategy is laid out in my article WordPress Backup – The Plugin and The Plan, which has easy-to-follow instructions.

      Tip: While your hosting company’s backups can be a good complement to your own, don’t let them be the only backups you have!

      Only storing your backup on your hosting account

      Your hosting provider might offer you daily backups of your account. And most WordPress backup plugins allow you to store backups on your hosting account.

      But your hosting account might be compromised and all data erased, or the server might crash, losing all your data. You get the picture.

      That is why we recommend that you have at least two separate backup locations: your hosting account could be one, but make sure at least one of them is off site. Even if you lose one backup location, you’ll still have your backup archives.

      If you’re paranoid, you can also store a backup on a USB drive in your bank vault. You need to ask yourself: how much is your business (web site) worth?

      Tip: Make sure you have complete control over at least one copy of your backup archive and store it outside of your hosting account.

      Not storing your backups securely

      Your backups contain sensitive data. For example, your database userid and password, and the names of your administrative users are stored in your backup archives. If your backup falls into the wrong hands, this makes it too easy for malicious parties to break into your site.

      Some backup plugins allow you to email a backup to yourself. Email is inherently insecure. You have no control over the path an email follows on the way to your inbox, for example. And it gets even worse if you create a webmail account with an easy to remember (and to guess) password.

      Imagine what happens if a hacker takes over control of your webmail account: you have not only left the doors to your WordPress site wide open, but also lost your offsite backup! Ouch!

      It is much safer to upload your backup archives via Secure FTP to an offsite location, or store them on a Dropbox, Amazon S3, or Google Drive account which only you have access to.

      Tip: Make sure you store your backups in a safe location.

      For more information on this topic see the post Are WordPress Backups On Dropbox Safe?

      Not testing your backup

      An essential part of backing up your WordPress site is to test that the backup can be restored. This is a step that many people miss. But it is a crucial step.

      Testing that you can restore your backup serves two purposes:

      1. It ensures that your backup software has created a useful backup archive.
      2. It forces you to learn and practice the procedure for restoring your WordPress site.

      Would you rather discover that the restore process is broken or the backup archive is unusable while you are testing, or while you are trying to restore your live site after a breakdown?

      Ideally you need to test your backup every time the backup software is updated. But at a minimum you should do this once per year. At the same time, you can review your backup plan to determine if you need to change the frequency of your backups.

      Tip: Make sure you can successfully restore your WordPress site from your backup!

      For more information, see How To Test Your WordPress Backup and Have You Tested Your Backup Solution Lately?

      Not storing your backups long enough

      One of the great reasons why you need a good backup is to make your blog easier to recover if someone breaks into your site.

      Cyber criminals who compromise WordPress sites for financial gain (stealing traffic, boosting their own SEO rankings, posting ads etc.) do not want you to find out that your site has been compromised.

      This means it could be months before you realize that you have been hacked.

      If you do daily backups and only store them for 30 days, you could easily be out of luck when it comes to restoring your site.

      I recommend that you use a mix of different backup types:

      • a daily backup that you store for two weeks
      • a weekly backup that you store for three months
      • a monthly backup that you store for two years.

      This allows you to go up to two years back in time if needed.

      Of course, you can adjust the retention period of each type of backup to suit your needs.

      With the right choice of backup software this can all be run on auto-pilot with automatic purging of old backup archives to manage your space requirements.

      Tip: Make sure your backup strategy allows you go to far enough back in time!

      Don’t get caught out!

      As the old saying goes, “Real men don’t make backups, but they cry a lot”.

      With these tips, you can avoid the common pitfalls and sleep well at night knowing that no matter what happens, you’ll be able to recover your blog.

      It doesn’t have to cost you anything to have a good backup plan, but it could cost you the world if you don’t!

      Check out ’s free WordPress Security Checklist, which is all about protecting your WordPress assets properly and sleeping well at night.

Blogging On the Go: Are Mobile Apps Up To It?

This guest post is by Barry Cooke of QDOS.

With the rise of mobile technology and citizen journalism, being able to blog while on the move is increasingly important.

Unfortunately, many blogging apps are limited, clunky, and make updating from your mobile smartphone or tablet inefficient.

Here we take a look at the main direct blogging apps, as well as a few additional ones that can improve the process, to see if they’re up to the challenge.

Blogging software

Blogger

The interface and functionality of this app is very stripped down. Your main and most important features are still intact—you can upload photos and videos into your post, but they have to be saved on to your device prior to posting, which means you can’t upload from YouTube, Vimeo, or any other video hosting site.

blogger1blogger

Typing into this app is cramped but bearable, similar to sending a text or an email from your phone. If you’re using a tablet, then there’s obviously a lot more room for manoeuvre.

So, if your aim is just a simple, predominantly text-based post possibly involving a picture or linked video, then Blogger’s mobile app is perfectly adequate, however it’s not capable of posts that are much more complicated than that.

WordPress

One of the most proficient mobile blogging apps is available from one of the most proficient blogging platforms available.

The WordPress app is detailed, with a multitude of features including the accessible dashboard user interface, which gives you one-tap access to every blogging feature you need, from posting and creating new pages, to comments and checking statistics.

The quick action bar makes it easy to switch between which of your blogs you want to update, refresh the content, or return to the dashboard. Posting is a joy, with the formatting toolbar allowing you to perfect your text, post links, and embed photos and video. With the latter two, you can also change alignments and alter their sizes quickly and easily.

Tumblr

This micro-blogging site lends itself well to remote blogging on smaller handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets by its very nature. It’s fast and simple to post to, with a clean, minimal mobile interface, making it potentially the most attractive out of the major three blog platofrms.

The recently updated user interface makes it easy to check the other blogs you follow, update your own, and manage multiple posts on a range of blogs. The new and improved navigation bar is more intuitive than the 1.0 version, so bloggers can do more than just post from the dashboard—we can now reply to messages, switch between posts and imbed photos, videos and links with just a few taps.

Other helpful apps

There are also some fantastic third-party apps available that integrate with all the above platforms, as well as photo and video editing software. So if you’re often including rich media in your posts, these are essential additions.

Blogsy

This is, by far, one of the most capable blogging applications on the market. It integrates excellently with other third-party apps like YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, and Picasa, meaning embedding photos and videos into your post is as easy as drag and drop.

It also supports Blogger, WordPress and Tumblr, so if you’ve got several blogs on different platforms, you can use Blogsy to update all of them, and switch between each with just a few taps of your touchscreen.

The integrated browser means linking out is also a seamless affair. The unfortunate thing is it’s only available on the iPad, so those with smartphones won’t be able to take advantage of its myriad features for blogging on the go.

However, if you’re frequently uploading videos, photos and other sticky media to your blog, then investing in an iPad should be considered as it makes the whole process and far enjoyable and rewarding experience. And at just £2.99, Blogsy is well worth the pennies.

Snapseed

Of the numerous photo editing apps available, Snapseed is the most capable and most user-friendly, with an accessible interface that’s easily navigable even for first timers.

It offers good colour control, allowing you to alter the hue and saturation of your photographs, as well as the standard cropping, image enhancement, and scaling options you would expect.

There are a variety of filters you can apply, with very similar aesthetic choices to Instagram, including vintage and black-and-white effects. It’s also possible to integrate it with Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr so sharing your perfected photos is easy. Priced at £2.99, it won’t break the bank.

Pinnacle Studio

For video editing, this app is your best bet. Its clean navigation and easy drag-and-drop interaction makes splicing your video clips uncomplicated and a lot of fun. There are options to add text and titles to your finished videos if you want to give a little contextual explanation. And uploading it to YouTube can be done with a couple of taps.

Unfortunately the controls are quite small, so this application isn’t compatible with smartphones and even if it was, it would be impossible to use. If you’ve got an iPad then the interface isn’t so bad, but many bloggers recommend getting a touch pen or stylus if you do a lot of video editing on the move as it makes the process considerably easier.

Your picks

Which mobile blogging application you choose will largely depend on the nature of your blogging, how advanced your posts are, and which media you will be uploading.

What is undeniable is the fact that if you’re embedding a lot of photographic and video content, and you’re doing it frequently while on the move, then it’s well worth investing in a tablet. The simple fact that it’s bigger makes the blogging process more efficient and far more enjoyable.

What mobile blogging apps do you use? Share them with us in the comments.

This article was written by Barry Cooke. Barry is a respected mobile usability consultant who has been working in the mobile market for over 15 years in a number of different sectors from online dating apps to finance and travel.

How to Publish Your Blog on Amazon Kindle

This guest post is by Ali Abbas of thenextgenwriter.com.

Have you published your blog on Kindle?

If not, you should do it, pronto! It’s easy, it’s productive and it’s free.

We’re not talking about publishing ebooks or PDFs, but your dynamic and regularly updated blog.

Rather surprisingly, not a lot of bloggers have considered this option hitherto, but some big guns, including The New York Times, PC Magazine, Amazon Daily, Huffington Post, and others—that realize the potential—are already there.

On a positive note, that means less competition for you.

Is it really worth the effort?

Kindle publishing for blogs has already opened the doors to myriad opportunities for many businesses that have a blog.

Amazingly, all you need to do is invest just five minutes of your precious time. Here’s what you get in return:

New readers

Millions of people use Amazon Kindle as their ereader.

So, by publishing on Kindle you’ll pull in people who might never hear about your business otherwise.

As per the International Data Corporation report, Worldwide and U.S. eReader 2012–2016 Forecast, new models of Kindle Fire are more than likely to disrupt the market once again.

So, will people really pay to read your content?

Yes!

There are several reasons, but the main ones are that it costs only 99 cents to subscribe to a blog on Kindle, and it offers added handiness. Obviously, not all the Kindle owners want to be reading ebooks all the time when they can access more vibrant and au fait weblogs.

SEO

How on earth can kindle publishing help your SEO? It does not. Apparently, it doesn’t improve your blog’s ranking in SERPs.

But it can raise your profile.

Amazon is an authority even in the eyes of Google, and having your blog there gives you more exposure.

So even if nobody subscribes to your blog via Kindle, you’re getting free publicity and people searching for relevant keywords will surely be tempted to take a look at your blog after seeing it listed on the largest online retailer.

Added income

It’s free money. You get 30% of the total price, which is set by Amazon and can be anything between $0.99 and $1.99. So if you get, say, 1000 people to subscribe to your blog via Kindle, and the price is $0.99, you’ll make $297.

It may not be that lucrative for large publications, but it’s still a decent choice for solopreneurs and bloggers who don’t want to clutter their blogs with ads.

Higher conversion rate

Kindle readers are paying to read your content and conversion rates are always higher for paid subscribers.

Unfortunately, the JavaScript and ads are stripped off Kindle-displayed blogs, and only text content, links and images are displayed. So if your Call to Action involves more than just clicking a plain link, make sure you encourage your Kindle subscribers to view the page on another device.

Feedback

If your blog’s available for Kindle, people will be able to rate it, just like they rate any other product on Amazon.

If your blog features high-quality content (which I am sure it does), this is the easiest, and arguably the most efficient way to get endorsement and feedback.

3 steps to publishing your blog on Kindle

Ready to get your blog onto the Kindle platform? Great!

Note that this functionality is currently available to the residents of the USA and the UK only.

1. Create your Kindle Publishing Account

The standard Amazon account won’t work, so you’ll need to sign up for the Kindle Publishing Account if you don’t already have one.

2. Add and publish

When you log into your Kindle publishing account, click Add Blog, and fill in the signup form.

Once you’re done adding all the info, hit Generate Blog Preview.

  1. If you get the blog preview, cool. Go to step three!
  2. If you get an error as shown in the image below, don’t get teary. Just click the Save button and then hit Return to Dashboard. Here, you’ll see your blog has been saved as a draft. Open it and try again, and this time there will be no error.

Error

Now go ahead and click the Publish button.

Don’t forget to add a screenshot (choose the most appealing page on your blog), as it will be displayed on the Amazon sales page.

At the end of the day, it should look something like this:

Published

3. Choose payment options

You’ll be redirected to a page where you can enter your address, business type etc. and choose the desired payment option. After that, your blog may take 48 to 72 hours to appear on Amazon.

How it works

To make a long story short, this is a quick self-publishing tool to help you sell your blog on the Kindle store.

Its working is similar to RSS: your updates are auto-delivered wirelessly to the Kindle and updated throughout the day.

How it looks

The only difference is that instead of just the headline, your readers can access the full text content plus most images on your blog. Moreover, the updates are downloaded to the Kindle and can be read even when the device is not connected to the internet.

A couple of moans

On a 70-30 revenue share, the bossy retailer walks away with the lion’s share and the publisher gets the smaller piece for all his hard work. That sounds cruel, but your blog is available freely on the internet … remember?

The more annoying aspect is that you can neither regulate the price, nor give away your blog subscription for free.

And in addition to the advertising, the useful social networking links for Twitter, Digg, Reddit, and Facebook are also removed> I don’t have much respect for that!

Is it really the Next Big Thing?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Yes, you can reach out to a sizeable readership through the Amazon Kindle, but don’t expect to make big bucks out of it. However it goes along, it’s a fascinating idea and part of the constant move to mobility.

Do you have any questions or suggestions about Kindle publishing for blogs? Let’s discuss them in the comments.

This guest post is by Ali Abbas. Check out his Blog if you want to: improve your writing skills, land better-paying writing gigs or learn some ‘kinky’ ways to drive traffic to your website. Ali is a young, enthusiastic freelance writer and blogger. Click here to learn more about him.

5 Goals Every Blogger Should Set Up in Google Analytics

This guest post is by Eugen Oprea of EugenOprea.com.

Do you want to build a successful business online?

I bet you do. Now that I have your attention, what is the first and most important step that will help you achieve that?

It’s important to know your audience and to build an awesome website that is fast and secure. It’s also important to have a social media presence and to write engaging articles.

But all of these come after you set up your business objectives and goals.

Setting up your business objectives and goals is the first and most important step towards your success online. Without them, you might as well not start it at all.

Set up goals for your blog

Like business goals, you also need to have goals for your website.

Whether they are simple goals like attracting readers and engaging visitors, or bigger goals, like increasing conversion rate, you need to have them on paper.

Then, once you are aware of what you want to achieve with your website, it’s time to start measuring those goals.

The simplest way to do this is by using Google Analytics. Google Analytics helps you not only see stats about your visitors, but also lets you create and measure your website goals and objectives.

Getting started

If you are just getting started with Google Analytics, you may want to read more about reviewing your offer, revisiting your conversion funnel, and revamping your communications, or get a handle on the basics of Google Analytics.

But, you likely already have a Google Analytics account, so let’s just dive in to creating the first goals for your website.

For starters, I would recommend you measure:

  • Engaged visitors: visitors who stay on your website longer than the average
  • Readers: visitors who read more pages on your website that the average
  • Email subscribers: visitors who sign up for your newsletters or freebies
  • Customers: visitors who purchase a product
  • Ad performance: clicks on ads to see which one is performing best, and who sent the traffic that clicks on your ads.

Before diving into each of these stats, let’s see how you can create a Google Analytics goal.

Log into Google Analytics and from your Account Home select the website for which you want to set up goals.

On the next screen you should see the Visitors Overview—this is a good opportunity to check your Pages/Visit and Avg. Visit Duration stats. You will use them later.

google-analytics-overview

Then, select[Admin from the top-right menu, select your website profile, and click the Goals tab.

google-analytics-goals

Now, here’s how you can create the goals outlined above:

1. Measure your engaged visitors

Start with the Goals set 1, and click on the +1 Goal. You will be directed to a window that will help you set up your first goal.

First, type in a name for your goal and make it active.

The you will see a list of Goal Type options. You will learn about all of them in this article, but select Visit Duration for this goal. This will help you measure how engaged your visitors are, and who is sending you those engaged visitors, among other things.

Next, on Goal Details, select visits with Visit Duration greater than your Avg. Visit Duration. For my websites, I use one minute as the duration.

Additionally, you can add a value for your goal, but if you are not sure about this, add 1.

google-analytics-engaged-visitors

2. Measure your readers

Now, it’s time to set up the next goal and see who are the readers of our website, and which visitors read more articles.

Just like for the first goal, you need to give this one a name and make it active.

Then, select Pages/Visit as a Goal Type, and enter as the Goal Details visits with Pages/Visit greater than your average Pages/Visit.

I use 2 for my websites. Add a value for your goal and you are done with this.

google-analytics-readers

3. Measure your email subscribers

Next, we get to the exciting part: measuring your email subscribers.

Even though it’s fairly easy to set this goal up, it will give you so many insights that can help you increase your conversion rates.

First, though, you will need to have a Thank you page set up to send visitors to after they confirm their email address for you. You are going to use this page when setting up your goal so set it up on your website first. Once that’s done, set up your email marketing provider to direct visitors there after they confirm their email address.

Now, you can create the goal. This time you need to select URL Destination as the goal type and on the Goal Details, you need to set these options:

  • The Goal URL: If your thank you page is http://www.yourwebsite.com/thank-you/ then type in /thank-you/.
  • Match Type: select Exact Match.
  • If your URL is case-sensitive then select the Case Sensitive option.
  • Add a goal value.

Additionally, you can set up a Goal Funnel, which is essentially a series of pages that lead to your conversion or thank you page. You can use this option if, for example, you have a landing page for your newsletter.

In this case you can select / as the URL, name it Index and /your-landing-page/, and add a name for it.

This will let you see where your visitors dropped out on their way to subscribe for your newsletter.

google-analytics-email-subscribers

4. Measure your customers

Setting up a goal to measure your customers is essentially the same as for your subscribers. All you have to do is create a conversion page where you can send people after they purchase your product.

Then, you need to set up a goal for it in Google Analytics in exactly the same way you did for subscribers.

5. Measure your ads’ performance

Before setting up a goal for measuring your ads’ performance, you need to have a good idea about what event tracking means and how you can implement it.

So, first learn about how you can use event tracking and what it means for measuring your ads’ effectiveness.

Now, once you setup event tracking on your website, you can go and create a goal for each event you’ve set up. To do that select Event as the Goal Type and fill in the Category, Action, Label, and Value for your goal. These values are the same ones you used when you set up event tracking for your calls to action.

You can set up goals for all your events, your most important events or none of them. It’s your choice if you want to see them only in the Events section, or get more insights about how different traffic sources are sending you visitors that complete actions differently.

google-analytics-ads-performance

How to measure your Google Analytics goals

Here comes the most interesting part of this article: measuring the outcomes for the goals you set up.

After you se tup these goals, you will be able to see your engaged visitors, your most loyal readers, your subscribers, your customers or how your ads are performing.

But what do you do if you want to discover who is sending you traffic that converts? And by “converts,” I mean simple visitors becoming engaged visitors, loyal readers, subscribers, customers, or people who click on you ads.

To do that, you need to navigate to Standard Reporting > Traffic Sources > Sources > All Traffic. Then click on Goal Set 1, just above the graphic, and you will see conversion data about your traffic sources.

This will tell you which websites are sending you visitors that convert, and you will know where you need to leverage your presence. For example, you can learn:

  • what kind of traffic you receive from a guest post
  • which social media outlet sends you quality traffic
  • if your press release did a good job
  • if the ad you’re paying for is worth it
  • and much more…

Finally, you can apply this technique to check most of the reports in Google Analytics. Go ahead and discover more about how your visitors convert.

Back to you

Now that you finished reading, it’s time to take action. Go and set up the goals you learned about and then come back and share with us:

  1. how much time it took you to complete this
  2. other goals that you want to measure, or already measuring, in Google Analytics
  3. what else you want to learn about this tool.

Eugen Oprea helps people convert more traffic into loyal customers using proven techniques that grow your business. Get his Google Analytics course for free to learn more and check his new WordPress plugin Elevatr.

8 Non-writing Apps for Writers

This guest post is by Ben Ellis of www.b3n3llis.com.

A lot of “app talk” in the world of writing revolves around the main applications used to compose your piece of writing, such as Scrivener, iA Writer, and my weapon of choice, MOApps’ Write, plus a whole load of others too.

I use a few additional apps to help me research and record things when I’m out and my notebook or laptop are at home. These assistant apps are ones you can fire up on your phone or tablet when a moment of inspiration hits you or you need to double-check something. Now you don’t need to worry about always remembering a pen and paper … just keep your battery charged.

Dictionary & Thesaurus

My poor spelling of words longer than five letters demands I use this app on a very regular basis. It’s easy to use, very well designed and the Thesaurus is great too. Although I only use it to find words that have slipped my memory—it’s no good filling your MS with a myriad of grandiloquent words you, your peers, or characters would never use in normal everyday life. This app’s free with ads and paid without.

Rhyme Source

The basic design means it’s not the most attractive app on your device, but it is one of the easiest to use. For someone who doesn’t write poetry I use this surprsingly often. It comes at a small cost.

Dropbox

Everyone should have a backup in the Cloud. This is the Big Daddy of the services available out there, but there are others. The main, fundamental point is: back up your stuff. Also, handy if you’re out and about and you want to review or add to a document of yours—you can access it and make an amendment to the live document from anywhere at anytime. Free for a basic account.

Nebulous

Now, you could use Mac’s native Notes app to record your story ideas, but that would be boring, right? So check out Nebulous. It’s especially built for writers, coders, and others to record ideas.

I only use it to note down ideas but it’s better than Notes, allowing a better filing system, plus it’s integrated with Dropbox so once you enter an idea, it automatically creates a backup in the cloud via your Dropbox account. Free and paid versions are available.

Discover

I’m glad I started writing during the Age of Wikipedia because I can’t imagine it any other way! This app gives you an intuitive way to navigate Wikipedia along with some added features such as a search history and related articles. It’s an effective and enjoyable research tool. Free but you’ll have to switch to the US store to get it (if you’re not already there).

MacFreedom and TV Guide

TV, along with the internet, is probably the worst enemy of a writer’s productivity. Vegging in front of a reality show or scrolling aimlessly through Twitter or an exe’s Facebook profile doesn’t get the next great novel of a generation written!

MacFreedom (for Mac and PC) blocks all internet activity on a laptop or desktop for a set amount of time, whilst the TV Guide app lets you see what’s on TV before you actually switch it on. MacFreedom is only $10 and the TV Guide is free. Your writing time is precious, protect it!

The National Geographic HD Atlas

Yes, you could use Google Maps or Google Earth, but for a small cost you could immerse yourself into a beautifully rendered HD atlas and let your imagination travel the seven seas!

Baby Names

Gives you ideas and inspiration for names and the meanings and origins behind them. Anyone seeing you use it may have some questions for you, especially your other half. Free.

You can probably achieve the same results with most of these apps by just using a web browser on your phone, but where’s the fun in that?! Also, if you really like an app then go ahead and pay for the full version to encourage the developer to spend time on updating and improving it for you.

Do you use any of these apps? Or others we should know about? Share them in the comments.

Ben Ellis has completed his second novel, ‘Broken Branches’ a dystopian tale of controlled procreation, and is currently looking for an agent or publisher.  You can find him online at http://www.b3n3llis.com and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/b3n3llis.