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What You Need to Know Before You Start a WordPress Blog

This guest post is by Matt Hooper.

After reading through Darren’s census of ProBlogger results, a couple of numbers stood out to me.

  • 8.7% of ProBlogger readers haven’t started a blog of your own yet.
  • Only just over half of the respondants are on the WordPress.org platform.

The latter caught my attention since you will find a lot of tips and tricks for the WordPress.org platform here on ProBlogger. From looking at these two numbers, you could make a relatively educated guess that there are still a lot of people out there looking to start a WordPress blog.

Finding a home: web hosting

Before you can even start writing your first post, you need to figure out where your online home is going to be. This will be the place that all of your files will live online.

There are different kinds of hosting but they can essentially be classified into three types.

  • shared hosting
  • virtual private server (VPS)
  • dedicated server.

Shared hosting is where most people start out and it is usually adequate for new site owners. Shared hosting is where different users are all on the same physical hardware. This can be compared to roommates. Everyone has their own room but there could be times when someone has a party and nobody gets up early. Like I said, this is good in most cases but if you or one of your roommates gets too much traffic, then the whole server could become slow.

A VPS is the next stage. You are still on a shared machine, but you are more isolated from your neighbours. This usually gives you more processing power and more RAM so that when your traffic spikes, your site isn’t likely to go down. Think of this as having your own apartment where there is a shared building but you can lock the door, and your noisy neighbours really need to have a shaker of a party to disturb you.

Finally, when your traffic is at massive levels, you might consider moving to a dedicated server. As the name implies, this is a dedicated piece of hardware that is entirely yours. All the RAM, the processing power and disk space is yours to do as you wish. This is your own house on acreage and you have no neighbours to worry about. However, the mortgage can start to put a dent in your finances. If you’re at this point, the rest of this post probably isn’t for you.

There are many hosts online, and I’m sure that someone will recommend a good host if you ask nicely. Make sure that you do your research and know what you’re getting into, though. Some shared hosts are crippled in their abilities and will only let you have one domain hosted with them, for example. Or, once you sign up, you discover that “unlimited” isn’t really unlimited.

Moving in: installing WordPress

After you’ve found a place for your blog to live, you’ll need to install the software that will be managing your posts and pages. If you’ve gotten to this point in the post, I’ll hazard the guess that you are probably going with WordPress.

Most shared hosts that are worth their weight will have something called “one-click” installs (it’s actually more than one click, but not much more) or something similar. The “one-click” software varies a bit depending on hosting provider, but they all do the same thing.

This gives you the ability to install WordPress with a few clicks of the mouse. You’ll still need to fill out a username for your site, passwords, site name, etc., but it’s a relatively painless process. The one-click software will set up the database for you, so you don’t need to worry about messing around with that. If you do encounter any problems, the support team at your host should be able to help you out.

Painting the walls: installing a theme

It’s not difficult to find WordPress themes on the internet these days, but you do need to be a little cautious. It’s widely know that the number one result in Google for free themes are full of malware and other nastiness that you’ll want to stay away from.

If you are interested in a free theme then you’re best to look in the WordPress theme repository. The people over at WordPress do their best to vet the themes before they make them available in the repository.

You may not be interested in any of the free themes; instead you might be looking for something with a bit more of a professional look and feel. If this is the case then, you are probably going to want a premium theme or framework. A premium theme or framework usually has a stronger development team behind it, and that team’s there to give you support when you need it. You won’t often get much support with a free theme.

These themes won’t often break the bank, but they will give your WordPress site a little more polish. Frameworks are becoming more and more common, and are probably your best bet. They take a little more work to set up than themes, but will provide you with a custom look without requiring you to drop the cash on a completely custom design.

When you are more established, you may decide that you’re bringing in enough income to justify the custom development costs of a one-off design. A custom design is a complete ground-up design, but in these days of custom frameworks, I think you really need a good reason to want to go with something like this.

Choosing your art: creating content

It’s often a good idea to have some content ready to go on your blog before you launch. This ensures that your visitors have more than just one thing to read when they visit for the first time.

I often recommend what I refer to as the “rule of fives”: launch with five pages, five categories, and five posts for each category. This rule isn’t etched in stone, so there is some flexibility for you to use your creative judgement; nevertheless, it gives you a starting point.

You don’t need to publish all of those posts on the first day—if you like, save some content to slowly roll out. It helps you set the theme of your blog and keeps your content focused. Keep in mind, too, that this doesn’t all need to be written content. It can be a mix of text, audio, images and video, for example.

Home sweet home: everything else

The above will get you started on your journey to blogging bliss, however there are other items to look at. WordPress is very extensible and things like plugins and widgets can really start to make your website your own. However, if you ask 100 different bloggers what their favourite plugins are, you’ll get a hundred different lists.

Later today on ProBlogger, we’ll be talking more about plugins. We’ll show you how to install your first plugin, and take a spin through some of the more popular plugins you might want to consider.

In the end, it’s all about building something that you can be proud of. If it isn’t enjoyable, you might be on the wrong path. Take your time and discover only what you need in order to get to the next step, just don’t sit around trying to figure out everything before you begin. Take action and push through the road blocks—and enjoy the process!

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

Tips from the Trenches: Best Blogger Productivity Tools

When we put together Blog Wise, I thought I would be the only blogger who didn’t use many (okay—any!) of the productivity apps I downloaded. As it turned out, very few of the pro bloggers we spoke to relied on any apps or tools other than Gmail, Google Calendar, and Evernote.

So I decided to ask some of my connections on social media what kinds of tools they use, and I got a great response. Here I’ve compiled the list so that, if you’re interested, you can try some of these tools for yourself. Of course, if you have other time-savers you’d like to add, let us know in the comments.

Software

WordPress plugins

Blogging software

Other services

Hardware

Don’t forget to give us your recommendations for productivity-boosting tools and tips in the comments!

Review: How to Start a Blog that Matters

I put Corbett Barr on this year’s list of bloggers to watch because he is brilliant. He knows how to draw a lot of attention to a new blog and sustain that interest over a long period of time.

That’s something that a lot of people struggle, including myself, so I was really excited when I heard he was developing a course on starting a blog that matters (aff. link). I was so impressed that I decided to write about it.

What is it?

How to Start A Blog That Matters is a course that will guide you through starting a blog that matters over 90 days.

You’ll start with choosing a great topic and setting up your blog and end with building your audience and spreading your influence.

Each of the 13 lessons contains a specific action plan for you to follow each week.

In addition to the lessons and videos, you’ll also get direct access to ask Corbett questions. This is a great way to pick an experts brain during the launch process.

Who is it for?

I believe that this product is for people who are in a position to leverage a launch beyond just attention. To get the most out it I would recommend:

  • That you have a rough business plan for your blog. The techniques will result in extra traffic, but it may not lead to extra income unless you have distinct monetization goals.
  • That you have done some basic branding exercises so you target the right audience.

Other types of bloggers, including new ones, will get a lot out of this. However, if you are in the experimenting stage of blogging you may not get a financial ROI.

Do I recommend it?

I sure do.

However, at $97, this may not be an option for a lot of you. That’s cool.

If you can’t afford this product, and you are unfamiliar with Corbett’s work, then I highly recommend you check out Think Traffic. It has enough resources to help you grow your blog and earn a modest income. You can also undertake the million dollar blog project.

If you are in a position to take advantage of his teachings then check out How To Start A Blog That Matters.

Blog Smarter: Invest in Your Own Success

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

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

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

The results I achieved

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

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

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

The investments I made

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

1. I changed my WordPress theme

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. I moved to a better email subscription management service

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. I implemented a pop-up lightbox

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

Isn’t this amazing?!?  It is to me!

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

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

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

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

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

Make an investment to grow your blog

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

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

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

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

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

5 Reasons Why Dai Ling Ping is Going to Win On YouTube in 2012

This guest post is by David Edwards of A Sitting Duck.

I’ve just passed three years on YouTube and I’m really happy with what I’ve achieved so far.

But over the last few months I’ve become mates with a guy who owns one of the fastest growing channels in the UK—and he started just over a year ago. Dai Ling Ping has gone from zero to over 25,000 subscribers! It’s awesome for an individual to achieve this.

I’m blown away by how quickly his brand is growing and even though you may not be into video games, you will still be able to take some notes from his story and start something of your own. Get your pen and paper ready, here’s what Dai has done!

1. He uploads five videos a week

Most top YouTubers usually produce one video a week. I know that, within the animation industry, the top guys try to get one video live every calendar month, as their work is more time-consuming. But Dai is cranking them out. He’s not dwelling on the fact that some videos get a few hundred views and others are getting thousands, he just keeps on going!

2. He is part of something big

What ever subject you choose, you should always think of yourself as being part of something much bigger than you. For instance, Dai got involved with the Machinima network, which has a database of millions of gamers all over the world. If they like one of Dai’s videos, they can get it in front of hundreds of thousands of people very quickly.

3. He leverages his most popular video

Dai has a video titled “My House”—it even ranks top on the search engines, having racked up over 500,000 views. And his other videos are feeding off the success of this one.

On YouTube, you have two spaces beneath the video to promote your other works. Also, YouTube will line your other videos above and on the right hand side of the displayed video automatically. So, if you have a popular video, be sure to add others—don’t give those valuable spaces away to other YouTubers.

4. He is always looking for the next big thing

Because he’s organized with making videos, if something breaks out on the news, Dai can create a video on that topic within a few hours, and send it straight to his subscribers. Sometimes his videos rank next to the original news story on YouTube!

5. He is original

Many people are getting a bit stuck online now because they don’t know what information to read and what to do.

By keeping it simple, cranking out funny videos and illustrations, and chatting with his fans in the comments, Dai has built something that is growing faster than he could ever control. Because he invented the Dai Ling Ping character, he will eventually be able to make some big profits from original merchandise sales.

You may find some of Dai’s videos offensive, due to bad language. But if I was half as productive as Dai I would be sitting on a lot more subscribers today! Comedian Ricky Gervais once said “always produce more than you hope” and in the online market that has never been more true!

David Edwards is the founder of http://www.asittingduck.com and produces animations over at www.youtube.com/asittingducktv

How to Know Which Plugins are Killing Your Site’s Performance

This guest post is by Matthew Setter of Malt Blue.

You know the situation: your site’s been slowing down for a while, but you just can’t put your finger on why. Then you get a tweet, an email, or a comment on your Facebook page mentioning it. Even worse, you see someone talking about your site in your niche’s main online forum—they’re not impressed with your sites performance.

What was once an amazingly quick-loading site has slowed and slowed to a crawl. Your visitors are growing unhappy and may even be starting to look for alternative sites. To be honest, who could blame them for wanting to seek out someone else that serves their needs better, in less time?

What makes things worse is that you’re not really a geek or a tech-head and you don’t know what to do about it.

You ask yourself:

  • How can I find out what’s killing my sites performance?
  • How do I know where the issues are?
  • How can I give someone the right information to help me?

Well in this post, I want to help you do just that, by giving you a quick introduction to analyzing your site’s performance using one of the simplest, free, tool package of all—Google Chrome’s Developer Tools.

Now I appreciate that we’re not all geeks or tech heads, and that more than likely, this isn’t something that you’d do on a regular basis. But that needn’t stop you. You can be partially autonomous without being either a nerd or programmer.

So I am going to show you, quickly, just how easy it is to use the developer tools available in Google Chrome, to work out which components of your blog are causing you issues. With that information, you’ll be able to take action yourself if you host your own blog, or report this to your tech support if you don’t.

What are the Developer Tools?

The official Developer Tools blog describes them as follows:

The Developer Tools, bundled and available in Chrome, allows web developers and programmers deep access into the internals of the browser and their web application … The Developer Tools are organized into task-oriented groups that are represented by icons in the toolbar at the top of the window. Each toolbar item and corresponding panel lets you work with a specific type of page or app information, including DOM elements, resources, and scripts.

Now okay, there’s a bit to take in there, but if you’re not comfortable with all that, don’t worry: it simply means that these tools provide a way of finding out specific details about each component of the web page that you’re currently viewing.

They allow you to filter by category, and sort the available information by a simple set of key criteria, such as size, time and type. The image below shows you a working example.


 

Step 1. Open Developer Tools

The first thing that we want to do is to display the Developer Tools window in Google Chrome. After opening Google Chrome, click on the wrench icon on the right-hand side of the main Chrome window. In the menu that pops up, move your mouse over the Tools option and in the next window that pops up, click Developer Tools (this is second from the bottom).

Step 2. Get familiar with the Developer Tools window

All being well, you’ll see the Developer Tools main window, which looks similar to the screenshot above. You’ll see a set of tabs across the top, including:

  • Elements
  • Resources
  • Network
  • Scripts
  • Timeline
  • Profiles
  • Audits
  • Console.

The one that we’re focusing on is Network, so go ahead and click that tab. Now you’re going to see what seems like a large amount of information, but don’t worry—before you’ve finished this article, you’re going to be an ace at making sense of the parts that are most important.

Step 3. Filtering options

Now, take a closer look at the footer> of the window, right down the bottom. You’ll see a set of menus, which include:

  • All: Displays all the components in the page
  • Documents: Displays only HTML output
  • Stylesheets: Display CSS stylesheets
  • Images: Display all images (.png, .jpeg, .gif, etc.)
  • Scripts: Display all Javascript (inline, external).

These options allow you to filter the components that make up the current page. In this case, it’s the Facebook fan page of my first blog, Malt Blue.

By default, the All option is selected. This shows you everything in the page. This is a bit much to work with, so go ahead and click each option and notice how the list can dramatically change in size.

Now take a closer look at the row under the main menu. It has a series of columns that allow you to sort the available information. They include:

  • Name: the name of the HTML page, image, stylesheet, etc.
  • Method: whether the item was requested with GET or POST
  • Status: some information about status of the item
  • Type: a text description of the item’s type
  • Initiator: what requested the item
  • Size: the size of the item
  • Time: the time taken to retrieve the item displayed in text
  • Timeline: the time taken to retrieve the item displayed as a graph.

The key columns, however, are Name, Size, Time, and Timeline. By focusing on these columns, you can see that of the eight displayed, the first one took 1.57 seconds to load with a size of 65.40KB. Not too bad overall. If you’re a visual person, like me, then sort using the Timeline tab.

Okay, so you’re now more familiar with the available options. But for the quickest assessment, the two key columns to look at are time and size. Let’s consider each in turn.

Step 4. Sort by time

This one is probably the best one to use when it comes to finding rogue components. It was a god-send recently when it was able to tell me that a MailChimp sign-up widget in my sidebar was taking over 15 seconds to fully load.

So click on the Time column until it has a downward facing arrow next to it. Then, you’ll see the components in the page, displayed from slowest to fastest. In the column, you’ll see two numbers for each component, one in grey and one in black.

The number that you want to focus on is the top number in the black font. This shows you the total time that the component took to load, right from when it was requested by the browser, to when it was displayed on the page.

Step 5. Sort by size

This is probably the second-best option to sort by, especially if you’re more of a numbers than a graphics person. As you did with sorting by Time, click on the Size column until it has a downward facing arrow next to it.

Then, you’ll see the components in the page, displayed from biggest to smallest. In the column, you’ll again see two numbers for each component. Once again, focus on the number in the black font. This is the total size of your component.

Step 6. What To Do

So far, we’ve opened the Developer Tools, familiarized ourselves with the Network window, played around with its key options, and finished up by getting to know the components in our web page.

But what do you do now?

Based on time and size, take an inventory of the biggest and slowest loading elements of your page. Then look to see what you can do to reduce these points. To save you time, here are my top suggestions for speeding up your site with this new knowledge:

  • See if the elements relate to plugins or widgets that you’ve installed. If so, consider disabling them or finding an alternative that loads faster.
  • Look at the slowest loading or biggest images. Maybe you’ve set the width and height to make them appear smaller. Could you:
    1. optimize them for displaying on the net?
    2. scale them down in size without losing quality?
    3. remove unnecessary parts of the image?
    4. use another image format, producing a smaller file size?
  • Do you load a lot of CSS stylesheets or Javascript files? Could you:
    1. combine them in to one file?
    2. load some from external, faster, sources, such as Google?
    3. shrink the Javascript and CSS files with online services such as jscompress.com or minifycss.com?

Don’t manage the site?

What if your site’s managed for you by someone else?

In that case, get in touch with your tech support and tell them all that you can about the slow components that you’ve found. Tell them what they are, how long they’re taking to load, the size of them, and so on. An even simpler option may be to send them an annotated screenshot of the developer tools window where you’ve highlighted the results that you’ve found.

Experiment!

Like all new things, give yourself time to become familiar with the tool. As you do so, you’ll grow a proper appreciation for what’s fast and what’s not, what’s a good size for a file or an image and what’s not, and so on.

Then, as this knowledge builds, you’ll be increasingly autonomous and better informed about the state of your site.

I hope that you’ve found this helpful and that in future, when your site’s exhibiting poor performance, you’ll be in a much better position to perform the initial diagnostics yourself. You’ll be both better informed and more able to let your tech support know when issues need to be addressed and where.

Matthew Setter is a passionate writer, educator and software developer. He’s also the founder of Malt Blue, dedicated to helping people become better at web development.You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+ anytime.

Get StudioPress Themes and Premise Landing Page Plugin for Big Discounts Today

I’m excited today to let you know of two great Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals from the team at CopyBlogger. I use and love both of these products and know that they’ll help a lot of you in your blogging efforts. Note: For both deals the coupon code is ‘Thanks’. Don’t miss out!

StudioPress Themes: 25% Discount

Nitrous Theme - High Energy Theme for WordPressI’m often asked about the design here on ProBlogger and who created it. The answer is simple – it’s built upon the Genesis Framework by the team at StudioPress (a Copyblogger Media creation).

Genesis is a highly secure, fast loading and highly adaptable framework and the StudioPress designs are fantastic. I don’t regret switching to them earlier in the year at all. As a result I have no hesitation in recommending them and letting you know about their 25% off offer over the next few days.

Using the code THANKS at checkout, you can save 25% off of anything you’d like at StudioPress. For example you can get the following deals:

  1. Get the Genesis Framework for only $45.
  2. Snag most Genesis / design combos for a song and save close to $20.
  3. Wipe the entire shop clean and get the StudioPress Pro Plus All-Theme Package. Get Genesis plus every design they’ve made, plus every design they make in the future, and save more than $74 off the regular price and over $875 off the retail price — and that’s just the existing 43 designs!

All you need to do is use the code THANKS when you check out and you’ll save 25% on anything and everything at StudioPress.com.

Premise Ultimate: 42% Discount

Readers of ProBlogger know that I have taught numerous times on the importance of ‘landing pages’ to help you convert readers to different types of actions. Landing pages are specifically designed pages to call your readers to action (whether that action might be to ‘subscribe’, ‘buy’, ‘advertise’ etc. I’ve written about the importance of landing pages here.

I’m also a big fan of Premise – a WordPress based software for developing landing pages by the team at CopyBlogger Media. Premise was very recently updated to version 1.2 and includes heaps of refinements including a new landing page type – the social sharing page.

Premise Ultimate usually sells for $165, as it gives you a heap of value:

  1. All the landing pages you can build
  2. Use on as many domains as you want
  3. Access to ongoing optimization seminars
  4. Copywriting advice from inside WordPress
  5. 1,100+ custom graphics by Rafal
  6. Unlimited technical support
  7. Unlimited updates (you’ll thank yourself for this next year)

During their Thanksgiving sale, you can get Premise Ultimate for only $95.

Just use the code THANKS when you check out and you’ll save $70 on the best landing page software available for WordPress.

Both of these deals ends promptly at 7:00 pm Pacific time on Monday, November 28, 2011. Hurry up and get claim your new WordPress theme and Premise Ultimate before the CopyBlogger team come to their senses!

What Blog Platform Do You Use Most? [POLL]

It’s been a couple of years since we ran a poll here on ProBlogger about the blogging platform that readers are using, so I’m keen to see the results on this one.

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What Blog Platform Do You Use Most?
Total Votes: 1660 Started: 11/9/2011 Back to Vote Screen

Please answer for the platform you use most if you have multiple blogs (one selection per person). I’d also love to hear some of your “why?” responses below in the comments, along with mentions of any other platforms not listed here.

What Google Search’s SSL Change Means for Your Blog

This guest post is by Oz of OzSoapbox.

Secure Sockets Layer (or SSL to you and me) is an encryption standard most of us are familiar with using whenever we do something over the Internet that needs enhanced security.

security

Image copyright Evgeniya Ponomareva - Fotolia.com

Whether it be banking, email, signing into a personal account, purchasing something, or any one of the dozens of things we do online daily with the potential to have our private data compromised, most Internet users are familiar with that little padlock symbol that appears every time we use SSL.

How SSL affects blog owners

In a recent update on their official search blog, Google has outlined plans to apply SSL to user search queries. Under the guise of privacy, Google claims that the addition of SSL will:

recognize the growing importance of protecting the personalized search results we deliver.

Increased privacy is all very well, but what will that mean for your blog?

Previously an opt-in option, it’s important to note that Google’s implementation of SSL in performed searches at this stage will only affect logged in users. That is, people with a Google Account who are logged intot hat account while searching.

So what kind of affected traffic are we talking about here?

Google’s Matt Cuts (head of web spam) told Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief at Search Engine Land, that he “estimated even at full roll-out, this would still be in the single-digit percentages of all Google searchers on Google.com.”

Less than 10% of Google search users have a Google Account? I can’t help but seriously question that.

Between Gmail, iGoogle, YouTube, and more recently Google+ (over 40 million at last count and climbing), pretty much anyone who uses a Google product has an account and, more than likely, will be signed in. Is this SSL implementation really only going to affect less than 10% of internet searches?

Leaving that doubt aside for a second, let’s get back to the question at hand: again, what does all of this mean for your blog?

The one thing you, the problogger, needs to take away from all this is that if you’re tracking your users via keywords (that is, seeing which keywords bring in the most traffic), the accuracy of your stats is going to take a massive hit.

Once Google flip the switch on SSL searches, logged in Google Account users who wind up your site via Google will no longer be passing on any keyword referral information.

In an industry where even a few percentage points can result in massive changes to SEO campaigns and blog content strategies, losing up to 10% of your keyword referral data is huge!

And you don’t need me to tell you how important traffic monitoring tools like Google Analytics are in managing and analysing your blog.

What can you do?

As a blog owner, what can you do about these upcoming SSL changes?

Unfortunately for now, not much.

Google seem to have made a final decision on this and will implement SSL searches for logged in Google Accounts over the coming weeks. Interestingly enough, despite Google citing increased privacy reasons as the backbone of their decision, keyword referral data will still be available to advertisers.

It appears that while your privacy is seemingly important to Google, it’s not important enough to cut off your search queries from advertisers’ prying eyes.

As a blog owners, all we can do for now is sit back and take the hit. A monthly report (30 days) of the top search queries that brought traffic to your site will be made available via Google Webmaster tools, but it’s a far cry from the level of data analysis most blog owners are used to.

That’s even more of an issue when you consider there’s only so much you can do with WebMaster Tools when compared to proper traffic analysis tools like Google Analytics.

Looking at the long-term effects here, if SSL encryption doesn’t cause any hiccups for logged-in users, I imagine it’s only a matter of time before it’s implemented permanently for every search Google processes.

Google themselves are clearly hinting at this on their own blog;

We hope that today’s move to increase the privacy and security of your web searches is only the next step in a broader industry effort to employ SSL encryption more widely and effectively.

What appears to be shaping up is a future divide between the needs of blog owners and the financial relationship between advertisers and search engines. And we all know who’s going to win that battle.

As blog owners, do we have a right to demand keyword referral information from the visitors browsing our blogs? Or, as the value of this referral information is slowly quantified and sold to advertisers, is it only a matter of time before we too will have to start paying for the stats we need to run our blogs as best we can?

Updated daily, OzSoapbox is a blog cataloguing life in Taiwan, the good times and the bad. Interrupted only by social commentary on current events facing Taiwan, feel free to drop on by and join Oz on his journey through this beautiful island.