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How Compendium’s Web to Post Generates Content and Community

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

You might have read my article about a business blogging platform called Compendium. Today, I wanted to share with you a fantastic Compendium tool called, Web to Post that allows customers or clients to tell stories about your products or services.

Web to Post turns your consumer’s advocacy into web content.

Of course, as Business Blog Writers, sometimes this writes us out of the picture, but at the same time, if we are used to supplement the Web to Post content, then we can also get a lot of content ideas from what customer or clients submit.

In addition to my blog writing business, I also have a Ragdoll cat blog and all images of Compendium’s Web to Post form come from that.

How does Web to Post work?

A Call to Action is put in the sidebar of the blog. The CTA usually says something like, “Share Your Story”.

This call to action can also be put on your Facebook fan page, in your newsletter, on your YouTube Channel or in an email to an existing database.

The customer sees the CTA and decides to submit a story. They click on the link and are taken to an online form that asks them things like their story title, the story, and their first and last name. They can also choose to upload a photo to include with their story. The forms are totally customizable to fit your campaign or story needs.

Once the stories are received, the administrator of the blog is sent an email letting him or her know there is content waiting in the system. The stories can be edited, approved or declined from there, just like internal blog posts on Compendium’s system. So in other words, the story isn’t instantly on your company website the second the customer or client hits “submit”. Rather, it has to go through an administrative layer for final approval. This is awesome, because it turns your advocates into your bloggers! [Share Your Story Submission on Dashboard.jpg]

Once the administrator has checked out the post and added a keyword rich title, then the admin approves it. At that point is the Compendium algorithm automatically categorizes or tags the story to the relevant, targeted keyword pages on your blog . The admin can also choose to promote it on your company’s social networks, like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Then, the viral effect kicks in. Each story is published on your company’s blog, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages.

The customer who submitted the story also gets an automatic email that says their story has been published on your company’s blog. Another link encourages them to share their featured story on their own social network profiles.

How Web to Post helps business blogs

Lee Jorgenson, an Account Manager at Compendium recently pointed out that Sears Outlet has generated over 5,000 posts in just three months by gathering content from five different channels.

Sears Outlet sends a great transactional email after someone purchases from their website that invites customers to share their stories. This email is timely and helps harvest stories while they are fresh in the customer’s mind. The email has a link that drives the customer to a web to post form to submit their story. They also use the Web to Post forms to capture stories from blog and website visitors. They also have one embed on their Facebook fan page tab and collect stories from Facebook fans that way.

The process is simple: Content → Exposure → Referrals → Sales

Another Compendium client, The College Network, was able to launch a contest asking nurses to share their stories. The prize? An iPad. They received nearly 100 user generated stories (that’s 100 free posts!). The stories got over 40 comments and over 1,500 Likes. They drove 3,500 unique visits to their story page and tracked an average of 35 additional Facebook fans per day from the campaign. It also increased their organic search traffic by 25%—all for the cost of an iPad.

How Web-to-Post helps smaller bloggers

As far as my site, Floppycats.com, is concerned, Web to Post has made my life incredibly easier. When I run a giveaway, I tell people that for an extra chance to win the prize, they can submit a photo of their cat as well as a description explaining why their cat needs to win the product.

This approach not only generates more activity on my site, but also creates more content for my blog. And readers love to see photos of their cats on my blog!

I also use Web to Post for Ragdoll breeders who want to advertise kittens for sale. It saves me the time involved in uploading them to the site, and entering all the information—and they’re hosted on Compendium’s server, not the one I am paying for.

I also use Web to Post to accept content from people who need to rehome their Ragdoll cats, and cat rescue groups that need to get the word out about cats available for adoption.

I give a lengthy explanation of what I want (this eliminates time-consuming emailing back and forth between the poster and me) and provide examples so readers know what information they need to submit.

So while Web to Post is great for sales and boosting social media buzz about your company, for the blogger who wants an active online community on their blog, Compendium’s Web to Post can also make your life a lot less busy. Just say “no” to too much right- and left-clicking!

What if you don’t have compendium?

If you don’t have Compendium, you can probably still put something like this together, but it would require more manpower and coordination to get it done.

Frankly, I don’t like to spend my time on the technicalities and would rather have it right from the get-go. Compendium’s business blogging platform simply takes care of the strategy, process and technology so your business can focus on the content and stories.

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

Is Shared or Dedicated Hosting Best for You?

This guest post is by Jesse of Professional Intern.

Blog owners have a lot of decisions to make if they want to be successful. What will my blogs focus be? What audience do I want to target? Should I use a formal tone or a more personal one?

One of the questions to which blog owners rarely give enough thought is what kind of web hosting solution they’ll use. In this article, I’ll explain the differences between shared and dedicated servers, as well the benefits that each can offer you and your blog.

Shared hosting

Copyright Eimantas Buzas - Fotolia.com

Shared web hosting is the lowest cost hosting option available. With this type of hosting, your server is basically one of many server programs run on a single piece of hardware. You share physical resources with other clients whose servers also inhabit the same machine.

This spreads out the cost of hardware, bandwidth and maintenance among all of the hosts clients, but it also means that each client only gets a portion of the power and speed of the server, which can significantly degrade performance if one or more of the clients starts using more resources.

If, for instance, your site is hosted on a shared server and begins attracting significantly more visitors than normal, the performance of the other sites on the server will be degraded and, eventually, your site may be temporarily deactivated to reduce the strain on the server and its impact on other clients.

Customizing a shared server

Most shared web hosting services offer simple, one-click management options for their servers. While this makes it easy to set up a basic WordPress or Drupal blog, the options are often limited to whatever the host decides to support and, often, more extensive customization is not available.

With this specialization, however, often comes better customer support. Because the host carefully chooses the programs and options available, they’re better able to serve their users.

While shared web hosting can be a great choice for blogs that are intended to be personal and small, if you want to grow your blog, host multiple blogs or begin offering additional content, like forums, you’ll need to start considering a switch to a dedicated server.

Dedicated hosting

Dedicated servers offer a wealth of benefits you can’t receive with shared servers, but they do have one major drawback: increased cost.

Even a moderately-priced dedicated hosting package can cost upwards of $99 per month. If you add on management, technical support, a firewall or upgrade to a more powerful server, the price can increase dramatically. A powerful, fully-configured, managed and serviced dedicated server will often cost over $1000 per month.

How can that kind of expense be worth it to a blog owner?

Reliability and security

The biggest advantages of dedicated hosting are increased speed, reliability, security, and control. If you’re not sharing resources with other clients, you won’t have to worry about their sites slowing down your site’s load times and degrading your site’s user experience.

Further, because the server won’t be split among multiple clients, there’s less of a chance of it experiencing a critical failure that could take your site down.

Hosting your site on its own server also results in fewer security vulnerabilities. If you share a server with someone who doesn’t practice good security measures, your site is vulnerable, too; on a dedicated server, however, your site’s security rests on your choices, not those of another user you may never meet.

With a dedicated server, you’re in control

Having a dedicated hosting plan gives you far more control than a shared plan would. After choosing your server’s operating system, you may have as much or as little control of the workings of your server as you desire. Unless you wake up every morning excited about server administration, you may want to look into either hiring someone to perform those duties for you, or look into a managed hosting plan on your server.

Many hosts will give you several levels of management options, ranging from little user intervention to full user configuration. The more control you give someone else over your dedicated server, the more you’ll end up paying, but it can definitely be in your best interest to let someone with experience in server administration handle those tasks for you.

In addition to multiple levels of control, you’ll be able to choose which features you want to include on your site. Generally speaking, the more features you want on your site, the better off you’ll be with a dedicated server.

When to switch to dedicated hosting

If you already have a shared web hosting plan, you might be wondering when it would be most beneficial to switch to a dedicated host. If you’ve noticed an increase in user complaints about slow server response times, degraded performance or an inability to access your site reliably, that’s a good indication that it’s time to start looking into alternate hosting.

Also, if you’ve been experiencing a marked increase in traffic, you might want to switch to a dedicated server to head off any capacity problems you might experience if your growth continues. As I previously mentioned, if you plan on adding more advanced features to your site, you should definitely consider a switch from shared hosting.

Who needs a dedicated server?

Basic shared web hosting is a great choice for a new or amateur blog, but if you’re planning on getting serious with your site, you’ll probably end up needing a dedicated server at some point.

Shared servers often end up slow, crowded and vulnerable, in addition to leaving you with few options for control. Dedicated servers, while the more expensive option, feature none of those drawbacks and give you as much performance as you need. You also have a wider range of options for control over your site’s server.

If you desire a faster, more reliable site or want to add many advanced features, you should seriously consider switching to a dedicated server. Your users will have a much better experience and you’ll likely end up dealing with fewer performance issues.

How’s your blog hosted? Have you transitioned from shared to dedicated hosting? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.

Jesse L. is a recent college graduate who blogs at http://www.professionalintern.com and enjoys all things social media and Apple-related.

Does Fotolia Have Photos for Your Blog?

Do you use images in your blog posts? Most bloggers like to increase their posts’—and blogs’—impact with an image, and while I’m a die-hard textophile, I can see the point. An image is certainly more eye-catching than text. Couple the right image with the right heading, and you’re on fire.

Until recently, the only image resource site I’d used was stock.xchng. While I like the site and its offerings, sometimes, there’s slim pickings for particular image types. I prefer not to use CC-licensed images myself because some CC images can be used for commercial purposes, others can’t, and the image owners may change their minds, then ask you to take the image down … to be honest, it all seems like a lot of hassle to me.

I do work with a lot of content, so maybe that has something to do with my inflexibility on this point.

Fotolia: royalty-free stock photography

Recently we were contacted by Fotolia and offered a month-long trial of the service, which boasts a library of over 13 million images. There were some images that were unavailable within the trial, but in the month, I sourced 17 images. Only once did I find that an image I wanted to use was unavailable in that subscription—and it wasn’t hard to find a replacement that was just as good.

Fotolia offers photographs, vector images, and videos. The only option I used was images. To give you an idea of what’s on offer, I ran a little search on both Fotolia and stock.xchng for the keyword “handshake”.

Fotolia returned 17,913 results, and the selection was good.

stock.xchng returned 34 results, and the selection was … not as good.

Both sites allow you to roll over the images to see an enlarged, lightbox version of the pics. Both tell you on the results page what sizes are available, and when you view a specific image, both sites tell you how you can use that image—in Fotolia’s case, you’ll also find out the cost of the image.

Costs

Fotolia uses a credit system to sell images. The cost of each image depends on:

  • the size and resolution of the image
  • the license you choose
  • the image itelf—some images simply cost more than others.

If you’re planning to buy a stack of images, subscription plans are available which can see the images cost you “as little as $0.14 per image!”

Use and application

Fotolia offers two kinds of licenses:

“The standard license (from XS to XXL and the V license)

“This license allows you to use our images to illustrate magazine ads, websites, blogs, marketing campaigns, press articles, tv video or movies, book and book covers, documents, reports, presentations, etc. on all types of media with no limit on time or copies.

“The extended licenses (X to XV)

“This license allows buyers to use the image to create derivative products intended for resale or distribution where the value of the product is derived from the image (postcards, t-shirts ect.)

“Without limitation, you’ll be able to create mugs, t-shirts, posters, greeting cards, templates or other products, and sell them to your customers.”

This is a pretty big bonus over free stock images. stock.xchng doesn’t allow the resale of images—if you want to do that, you need to contact the creator through the site. That’s (likely) no big deal, but from an ease-of-use perspective, Fotolia makes this a no-brainer.

Image quality

Anyone who works with images knows that there are good stock libraries and bad stock libraries. Even I can tell that. Those who are really into design, marketing, and visual communication can pick very fine lines between what’s deemed “usable” and what’s not.

I’ve used a lot of images from stock.xchng over the last three years or so, and it’s pretty easy to tell the dross form the diamonds. Some amateur photographers are great and I’m always able to find something really good on the site.

While Fotolia returns many more results, and more polished images, for each search, I generally found the bulk of images to be a little too … posed. Or contrived. An image of a hand reaching out of a computer monitor, in particular, made me cringe (I think I was searching for “handshake” at the time). I still shudder when I think of it.

I just can’t get that image out of my head.

Seriously.

But let’s move on. On occasion, I did use what I felt were less-than-ideal images for want of anything better (one of these days I’m going to do my own photo shoot of a branding iron, no matter what it takes).

That’s not to say there weren’t some fabulous, fabulous photos on the site. And some of the less-polished, not-designed-for-an-ad-agency shots that I feel are more natural and speak more directly to real readers.

All in all, I’d say Fotolia had a great selection of images. I always found something I liked—and found it quickly.

Finding what you want

As a text fiend, I find search functions universally poor. However, the search on Fotolia was really very good. I had no complaints, which is saying something, and was pleased with the results I got every time, which is saying even more.

If you’ve used image sites before, you’ll know that it can take some intuiting to get the kind of image you want. So when I had to find a shot for Angela’s post on humor, I expected the worst. I’d have to say that I got some pretty unusable results on Fotolia, but with them, I also got some good results, and was extremely pleased with the image I chose. It was natural, not too posed, and comparatively low-key.

Choosing images is an extremely personal thing, though, and what I think is bad, you might see as great. All I can tell you is that I had better luck searching for tough keywords on Fotolia than I ever have elsewhere.

Is Fotolia worth it?

If you’re not earning money from your blog, I wouldn’t recommend spending cash on images. You can get good free photography through so many other sources—spend your money on something that translates directly to more readers.

If you are making money through your site, Fotolia is worth a look. You don’t need to be making millions, either. The images I bought cost US$0.33 each, and I downloaded 17 images during the trial, so all up, Darren would have been looking at $5.61 for three weeks’ worth of images here at ProBlogger. Not bad!

If you:

  • deal with a lot of content
  • don’t want to have to worry about licensing and permissions
  • want to spend as little time as possible making your posts look good
  • want to finish looking for images so you can [insert other, more interesting task here]

…then Fotolia could provide the answer.

Have you used Fotolia? What about other stock photography sites? Let us know how you manage imagery on your sites through the comments.

The Blogger’s Ultimate Guide to YouTube Success

This guest post is by Hasan of MarketingTheInternet.

YouTube, the second largest search engine right after Google, in 2010 broke the record of uploading more than 24 hours of video per minute! YouTube has also shattered the millstone of over 700 billion video views.

YouTube is an excellent platform for bloggers to build a brand, connect, and provide value to millions of people at once. It can ultimately help you increase traffic to your blog while quickening the process of building loyalty and trust between you and your audience.

After knowing all the stats and the potential, why don’t bloggers use YouTube more to build our blogs and to reach out to millions of people, free? It’s because most blogger are afraid to get behind a camera and show their faces, and share their voices with such a big audience.

Overcoming the fear of rejection

Most bloggers are afraid to create videos because of the fear of rejection—the fear that people will not like your video or think its not good enough.

The nasty thing about life is that you can’t be liked by everyone. Likewise, there are people in life who bring others down just because they don’t have the guts to do something themselves.

So to find success, you have to break away from this millstone and start believing in yourself and your work. Only then will you start seeing the fruits of success. There will always be a majority of people who will find your video interesting and will benefit from and eventually spread and share your work.

But how do you create an awesome, relevant, and interesting video that people share with their social connections, friends, and family? It all starts with brainstorming ideas that provide value to your viewers and get them to spread and share.

Step 1. Brainstorm and mind-map topics

To create a successful video that people will love and benefit from, you first need to sit down and grab yourself a piece of paper and a pen to start brainstorming topics you want to create a video on in the relevant niche you’re in.

Next, decide which format style you want to record your video on. For example: if it’s a screen cast recording, PowerPoint slides presentation or you talking in front of the camera.

After figuring out what topic and which type of recording you choose to use for your first video, you need to create a mind map of all the key points you’re going to talk about in your video. To create a productive mind map, first write down your topic in the middle of the paper and show arrows pointing outwards with all the key points you’re going to talk about.

Once you’ve drawn a simple, clean mind map of your main topic with the headline and all the key points you’re going to talk about, it’s time to gather the equipment required to record your first video.

Step 2. Gather your equipment

Depending on which type of video you’re creating, whether it is a screen cast recording, PowerPoint slide presentation, or you talking in front of the camera, these are some of the basic equipment you’ll need.

A video camera

To record your video, you need a camera. Any video camera should do the job.

A web cam

If you don’t have a video camera to record with, you can use a web cam to get the job done.

A microphone that’s compatible with your computer

You need a microphone to speak into for a clear recording. Microphones help block out all the background noises in your video.

Camtasia for screen casting

For a video tutorial or PowerPoint slides presentation you need screen casting software to record your computer screen from. The best software for the job is Camtasia. This is easy-to-use software with a very friendly interface for both beginners to advanced users.

Step 3. Record your video [draft version]

After deciding on the topic and equipment you need, it’s time to record your video! When recording your video, keep these tips in mind:

Rehearse your video

It’s a good habit to rehearse the whole video before actually recording, as it will eliminate the chances of things going wrong when you actually start recording.

Focus and speak clearly

Speak clearly into the mic while recording, and don’t go too fast. Take your time and speak with confidence.

While recording any video, it’s easy to get distracted and lose focus on what you’re saying. If your viewers realize that you’re loosing your focus and attention, viewers will loose interest in your video and end up leaving. So stay focused while recording.

Don’t be a perfectionist

Don’t think your video will be perfect. Nobody’s perfect and this is definitely not a “job interview”, so keep your video simple and just provide valuable content to viewers who can benefit from it.

Step 3. Edit your video [final version]

Once you’ve recorded your video, it’s time to edit it and create the final version. For Software editing I recommend:

  • Windows Users: Windows Movie Maker, which is an excellent free tool to edit and create high quality videos on windows.
  • Mac Users: iMovie, which is the best software for editing videos on your Mac. It’s easy and simple to create professional looking videos with ease in no time!

Three quick tips for video editing

  1. Create a simple Intro to capture the attention of your audience.
  2. Tweak and fix any mispronunciations and “muck ups” in your video.
  3. Create a logo of your brand on the top left or right corner of the video to get brand recognition (optional).

Step 4. Upload your video to YouTube

The final step is to upload your awesome creation to YouTube for full exposure.

First, log into your YouTube account and click on the Upload Button on the top right.

Now, click the Upload Video button to upload your video.

As the video starts uploading, fill in the form below it, describing your video with the relevant keywords.

Choose your keywords carefully—they’ll be used to rank your video in searches on YouTube. Don’t use any spammy keywords in your video, as this can violate YouTube’s terms and conditions, which could result in your video being suspended from YouTube.

Three tips for success

  1. Call to action: In your video always ask for people to comment, rate and subscribe your video as this will help your video to rank higher in searches on YouTube.
  2. Be active: Reply to every comment you get on the video to start conversations, as this will encourage more comments and interaction on your video resulting in a higher ranking on YouTube.
  3. Connect with others: After you have uploaded your video, connect and ask your social network, friends and family to watch, comment and share your video. Also start connecting with other YouTubers and ask them to watch your video to spread and share with their friends and subscribers on YouTube.

People love videos because it shows real people and real emotions, so start creating videos that people will benefit from, and build your online presence on YouTube by reaching out to millions of people who spread and share valuable content each day. Video is by far the best way to build your brand and increase traffic to your blog.

Share your experience with video marketing in the comments below!

This guest post is written by Hasan from MarketingTheInternet, Internet Marketing and Make Money from Websites Tips Blog. You can get started with his free Email “Make Money with Websites” Series. Stay in touch with him on twitter @Hasan_tw.

The Commonsense Time-saver We All Missed

This guest post is by Stephen Guise of Deep Existence.

You’ve been wasting time in the blogging process, whether you know it or not. When I reveal this simple idea, it will figuratively smack you in the face with its clear benefits.

It’s not that your current method is bad. I just happened to stumble upon an intuitive time-saver that will help you. When I thought of it, I smacked myself in the face (literally this time) for not realizing sooner.

Use a dedicated bookmarks toolbar folder for new posts

All internet browsers have a bookmarks toolbar. (I hope) most of us use them, but when it comes to creating a new post, is your toolbar optimized accordingly? Probably not.

If you don’t have a bookmarks toolbar, you need to set one up immediately for a better browsing experience and to implement this advice. Do a search for “bookmarks toolbar (your browser)” for installation instructions.

1. Create a “New Post” folder

This folder will save time, keep you focused, and remind you of vital steps in the blogging process. To create a new folder, do the following (it may vary for different toolbars). I’m using Google Chrome in this example.

2. Add desired links

Once you’ve created the folder, the idea is to add link shortcuts to every destination page you always navigate to in the process of constructing a new masterpiece. You can see in the next screenshot that I have seven items in my New Post folder.

3. When creating a post, open your links with just one click!

When I right-click on the New Post folder, I can choose the Open All Bookmarks option. This opens each of my carefully selected items into tabs. Does one click instead of seven (or twenty for some people) sound good to you?

These links are the specific resources I use to when I create a post. Do not underestimate the value of this. It can save you at least a few minutes of time, and even more if you’re susceptible to mental blocks like I am. It makes it much easier to focus on your writing and the saved time/energy adds up.

Now I typically don’t have to navigate to any websites when I type up a post. I have all of my tools ready for me before I write the first line. There is even another benefit to doing this that I’ll get to later.

These are the seven tabs I currently use for my posts. I hope you find them as useful as I have. It should give you a basic idea of what to look for when adding bookmarks to your “new post” folder. Notice that they are in order of expected use. I use the keyword tool first and I share the post on Facebook last.

  1. Google Adwords’ keyword tool for SEO purposes. I can see what phrases are searched for most frequently. This is good for SEO and readers too as more popular phrases are that way for a reason.
  2. This is the direct link to the “Add New Post” option in my WordPress dashboard. This is where the magic happens. I don’t have to take the extra step of going to the admin page and then clicking on New Post—it’s just there!
  3. Google—the most powerful research tool in the world. Sorry Yahoo!
  4. Dreamstime —my favorite place for free or inexpensive photos.
  5. PunyPNG—the best (free) online photo compressor I’ve used. It can compress PNG, JPG, and GIF.
  6. My Facebook page and my fan page. I share my posts manually at both places after I publish.

Before, I would have to rethink this process for each new post. I’d be halfway through and remember SEO (distraction). I’d publish a post before adding the thumbnail (unprofessional). I’d forget to post to one of my Facebook places (lost traffic).

The other benefit of this system is when I’m finished with the keyword tool, I close the tab. After I obtain my picture from Dreamstime, I close that tab. Eventually there will just be the Edit Post tab (and the Facebook tabs to share it). This is great because it is an easy visual confirmation of what you have or have not completed.

Warning: only do this if you want to increase your speed, productivity, accuracy, and even your creativity by freeing up your mind. There is no downside and you can do it in less than a minute! Bonus: Apply this concept to other areas such as analyzing data on various websites. Any other ideas? Share them in the comments.

This post was manufactured in a house that contains peanuts by Stephen Guise of Deep Existence—where critical thinking is considered appropriate. If you know anyone who isn’t getting free Deep Existence updates, could you tell them about my puffer fish story? It might change their mind.

Is It Time to Hit the Reset Button on Your Blog?

This guest post is by Joseph of Blog Tweaks.

Don’t worry, nearly every blogger knows the story. You’ve been writing for six months or more, but haven’t seen a significant increase in traffic. Some of your posts have have been successful, but the majority have gone unnoticed.

Quite frankly, you’re ready to quit.

But should you?

No. Don’t give up just yet.

Why you shouldn’t give up yet

Did you know that most professional bloggers weren’t successful with their first blogs? This list includes Darren Rowse, Jon Morrow, and Johnny Truant.

With so much to learn in the first year, it’s almost impossible to start a successful blog on the first try.

But you also learn a lot in that first year. You learn how to write better posts and how to craft compelling headlines. You learn how to use Facebook and Twitter for promotion, and how to work the technical side of WordPress or Blogger or whatever platform you’re using.

After a year of blogging, you’ve got a lot invested in your blog. If things are going rough 12 months, it’s not time to quit just yet.

So what should you do instead?

Hit the Reset button

Instead of giving up on your blog, you should hit the Reset button.

It’s not that your blog isn’t any good—you just didn’t know what you were doing when you started. This is the case with most bloggers.

When starting, they don’t know what they want to write about, and they don’t know how to write for an audience. Most people don’t even know how to write a simple post or headline.

It makes sense that you wouldn’t be successful with your first blog. Does a magazine owner start a successful magazine without any experience? Of course not.

Magazine owners start successful magazines after being in the industry for a decade or more. After years of experience, they’re ready to start a publication. That’s what the first year of blogging is all about—gaining industry experience.

So now that you have some experience, how do you use it to run a successful blog? And what do you do if your current blog isn’t performing as well as you’d like?

Here’s what to do—instead of giving up, hit one of the two blog Reset buttons.

Reset button #1: the Refresh button

If your blog is good enough, you may be able to get away with hitting Reset button number one—the Refresh button. This means cleaning up the clutter, giving your blog a new look, and planning for the future.

To refresh your blog, mercilessly delete any weak or unnecessary posts. After this, take a serious look at everything else on the site. If there are any tags or widgets that are creating clutter and adding no value, get rid of them. All of them.

Widgets shouldn’t just take up space. If you can’t think of what value that they add or if they take away from something important, it’s time for them to go.

Here’s an example: Do you really need a calendar widget for your blog? Do people actually use it? And even if a handful of people do, should it really sit above other important sidebar elements like your subscription widget?

The answer is no. It’s got to go. If there’s anything else like this, it needs to go as well.

The goal is to have a clean, uncluttered site that doesn’t distract from the steps that you want people to take. That means reading your posts, subscribing for future posts, clicking on ads, or anything else that is really important for you.

If there’s anything that doesn’t fit into one of these important categories, it needs to be removed. Immediately.

After cutting out the unnecessary clutter, the next step is to refresh your blog’s look. This is the time to invest in that premium theme you’ve been looking at. They’re usually around $80 and totally worth it.

If you want people to take your blog seriously, you need a professional looking site. To get one, invest in a premium theme.

This is how to hit the Refresh button. If your blog needs more help than this, it may be time for the Eject button.

Reset button #2: the Eject button

It’s possible that your blog is in worse condition than the refresh button can help with. When you started, you really didn’t know what you were doing. Your blog was totally an experiment, and you don’t even like your topic any more.

In this case, you need to hit Reset button number two—the Eject button.

If you’re really tired of your blog and you know you’re ready to start over, now is the time to do it. Hit the Eject button and get out of your blog while you still can. It’s time to start over.

The harsh reality is that you have a limited amount of time to write for your blog. Everything you write needs to be creating value for the reader and needs to contribute toward your long term goals. If you feel like your blog is headed in the wrong direction, don’t just try to wash it up a bit—get out as quickly as you can.

If you do, don’t quit—start another blog. Take some time to decide what you really want to write about, and then get to work.

Pick a topic that will get you going in the direction that you want to go. Then, start a self-hosted WordPress blog with a premium theme that will give you the flexibility and look that you need to create a professional impression that readers will take seriously.

After getting these pieces in place, it’s time to start writing again. Go ahead, make that keyboard work.

A fresh start

Don’t worry, it’s okay to start over. A fresh start in a new direction may be exactly what your blog needs. You may not realize it, but most bloggers have done it already. Most successful bloggers didn’t start out with the site that they’re currently writing. Most of them hit one of these two Reset buttons.

So what do you think? Is it time for you to hit the Reset button?

Joseph recently started Blog Tweaks which specializes in helping bloggers reset their blogs. Check out the site to see how you can get your blog tweaked.

From $0 to $1000 on a Blogspot Blog

This guest post is by Sid of GeeksMakeMoney.

It has been a year now since an eventful day when I was browsing the Internet and clicked on an advertisement that seemed an obvious scam: Get 90% off a new iPad. “Yeah, right,” I thought. But I wanted to check it out anyway since I seemed to recall seeing the same ad previously, and I wondered if it was a new type of scam I should be aware of. As it turned out, it wasn’t a scam, just misleading advertising … and thus began my blog on penny auctions, which are a class of entertainment auctions.

I found the idea exciting enough to blog about. I was just getting interested in multi-player game theory and thought that auctions are a nice field to study. The problem was, I had no experience of problogging at all. Like so many others, all I previously had was a blog for my random musings but nothing serious. I had a very elementary knowledge of SEO which I gained working as a freelance writer. I knew nothing about how to rank well in Google or how to use backlinks effectively. As a writer, the only promotional tool I did know about was article marketing.

I started this blog in May 2010, and it’s been growing for one year now. Looking back, I have learned so much and there is still so much to learn. Here is my journey in a nutshell.

Blogspot is okay!

The thing that surprises people the most about my blog is that it is a Blogspot (or Blogger.com) blog. Yes, it is against the holy grail of problogging, but there is a very simple explanation—I didn’t know better! If I had waited to gain all the technical knowledge needed to have my own hosting, I know I would never have started, which would have been an even bigger mistake.

If I had a chance to create this blog all over again, I would of course choose WordPress and have my own hosting. That being said, I was just following the very fundamentals of blogging: sharing with others what I knew and what I thought. These details didn’t matter to me then.

Using Blogger is really convenient for me as I can spend almost all of my time writing posts instead of anything else. Since my primary purpose was just to share my thoughts rather than making money from the blog, Blogger was a natural choice. However, even now, it seems it isn’t as bad as it is made out to be!

The jump from blogging to problogging

No, I didn’t start the blog with the intention of making money from it. Truth be told, I didn’t even know how to at that time. I just started the blog because I felt intrigued by the niche I was blogging about and had a thing or two to share. I wouldn’t say I was passionate about the niche like a dog-lover is about his dog-related blog. However, I was certainly interested and curious and it was always a good learning experience.

The shift from blogging to pro-blogging for me was very gradual. As I saw more and more people visit my blog, I thought it would be a good idea to start monetizing the blog. As is common with beginners, I really had an information overload and didn’t really know where to start. The simplest was Google Adsense and I started off with it. Even now, I get about $100/month from one ad unit of Google Adsense on my blog although I have moved to better ways of monetization.

If you have a blog, you don’t need to monetize it immediately. You don’t even need to get started with that intention. It is true that it is all about the traffic. Once you build an authority in this area, there are a hundred ways to make money. The first step is not about making pennies and then dollars but about building an authority and brand that people look up to and trust.

Blogging in a new niche: advantages and disadvantages

When I started a year ago, there were very few blogs on penny auctions, if at all. There was just one famous forum on this topic and no well known blogs. This has plenty of advantages and disadvantages and it was a very different learning experience than blogging in Internet marketing, affiliate marketing, or other more common areas.

The biggest advantage that I can think of is the ease of ranking. When I started, I wrote a couple of general posts and then a strategy which would help people improve their winning chances on an auction. I didn’t have any backlinks to this post at all. It so happened that it was indexed and ranked within the first page of Google then (it would never happen today!) and I could see a small but steady stream of traffic. For me, without this initial encouragement, I would never have taken to problogging.

The biggest disadvantage was there was no community of bloggers. I couldn’t comment on related blogs, which is central to most other blogging success stories. Even today, I hardly know of five bloggers in my niche. Another disadvantage is that there is no precedent so you need to do your own research and take leaps of faith quite often. You do things that you think are right, which may be absurd for this particular industry. For example, when I first started banner advertising on my blog, I had no clue how to go about it or how to price them. I only learned through a series of failures, which looking back seem like obvious mistakes.

The importance of knowing how your niche is unique

I think it is very important to realize how your niche is unique and different from other niches. This is particularly so when you are blogging in a new area because there is ample scope to do things differently and be creative. Finally, it is all about creating value to readers and advertisers.

I figured out relatively early that there are plenty of new businesses opening up and they don’t have adequate ways to advertise except with Google Adwords. I gave them a very good alternative: advertise on my blog! I have had excellent advertiser feedback for the amount and quality of traffic my blog sends to their site, which is also why I charge more than what a blog in another niche would for the same amount of traffic. I also realized that featured blog posts, especially promotional ones with coupon codes are good both for my readers and my advertisers, so that was another area I was making money off.

It is very important to know what the readers of your niche are looking for and what the advertisers are looking for. By matching their two needs, you can create a good harmony and make good money off it in a sustainable fashion.

Knowing what to promote

Reading online about affiliate marketing, I wanted to enter the niche as well. Problem was, I didn’t have many products that I could promote. I found an ebook about winning penny auctions on ClickBank that I wanted to give a try, but I never liked the idea from the beginning—I thought my blog had superior information!

With time, I found some sites that gave me a percentage of sales that I make—CPA advertising. If my visitors registered at the site and bought a product, I would be rewarded. With experience, I figured out this would be the best way for me to make money from my blog and I was right. Today, more than half of my income comes from affiliate marketing but not from promoting a product but from promoting a website. Of course I need to be extremely careful that the site I promote is indeed good for my readers.

Earnings overview

In the end, I want to share with you my breakdown of earnings. As of now, I have three primary sources of money on my blog:

  1. Google Adsense: One ad unit near the header. For May, I made about $100 from this.
  2. Direct advertising: I contact advertisers directly and tell them how they can get value from my blog. I usually combine banners with featured blog posts (mostly coupon codes). For May, I made about $350 from this.
  3. Affiliate marketing: Out of a bunch of sites, I chose the one that I found the best fit for my readers. For the money of May, I made about $750 through this route.

Did you start blogging in a new niche? Do you run a Blogger blog as well? I would love to hear comments from you!

Sid is a freelance writer and blogger. He is one of the top Penny Auction Blogger and an expert in this niche. He is sharing his tips to Make Money Online and is the blogger at Geeks Make Money. He is always happy to connect to his readers through blog comments and ready to help those are beginning their journey online.

Top 20 iPhone Apps for Bloggers

This guest post is by Daniel Scocco of Next iPhone News.

The Internet changes pretty fast, and if you want to have a popular blog, you must keep up with it. What if you get an awesome idea for a new post while at dinner? What if an important news breaks while you are at a birthday party? The bottom line is: you should be able to work on your blog all day long, even if you are not sitting in front of your computer.

How do you do that? With an iPhone! The 20 apps below will help you blog on the go, find ideas and images for your posts, track your analytics, promote your posts on social media and so on. Enjoy!

1. WordPress

If you are reading this blog I am guessing you use WordPress, right? The WordPress app for iPhone gives you everything you need to make a quick post, edit previous posts, edit pages, reply to comments and the like. In other words, it lets you manage your blog even while you’re commuting on a train or taking a break from driving on a highway. Just recently, the app was updated to version 8, bringing one essential feature suited for mobile bloggers: the ability to post photos that you’ve taken using your iPhone’s camera. Perfect!

2. Evernote

Literature on being a successful blogger will always tell you to be organized with your thoughts and to keep notes for your ideas. With Evernote, which is a very popular getting-things-done application, you can do that quite efficiently with your iPhone. You’ll find it’s an awesome tool for organizing your digital life.

3. TypePad

Okay, so your blog is not on WordPress? Then it must be using TypePad. This app lets you do things that you can normally do on your blog using your computer—write new posts, post photos to your blog, and alert your friends when you’ve published a new post, You know what’s great? The TypePad app integrates with the desktop client, too.

4. PayPal

PayPal is a must-have for bloggers and online entrepreneurs. When you want to check your balance, withdraw your hard-earned money, or pay-off a contracting service, you can do so now through the PayPal iPhone app. I’ve used this app many times before, and it’s secure, fast, and reliable.

5. Instapaper

Instapaper is an useful app to keep track of interesting posts and pages you found online. I mean, being a blogger, I’m sure you do a lot of web surfing using your iPhone. Since you’re on the move, though, you won’t have time to finish reading all those articles, so using this app becomes quite handy.

6. Twitter

Find me a blogger who doesn’t have a Twitter account and I will quickly say that the person is not a true-blue blogger. If PayPal is the official financial service of bloggers, Twitter is the official microblogging service. In fact, it’s not a microblogging service anymore. It has become an official communication medium for online geeks. There are many Twitter apps for iPhone, but why bother with third-party apps if there is this official one?

7. Analytics App

Once you start using Google Analytics it’s easy to get addicted. If you already are, then you’ll certainly want to install the official Google Analytics iPhone app. This should also save you from boredom in those situations you have nothing else to do.

8. iEarn

Useful if you’re running Google AdSense on your blog, this iPhone app will let you check your earnings and statistics with all the AdSense aggregate data (including revenues for today, revenues for yesterday, last seven days, this month, and last month). The app also gives you statistics on your AdSense impressions, clicks, eCPM, and CTR.

9. Byline

A useful tool for getting the latest news from your favorite sites and blogs, which you can use as a reference for blog posts, new ideas and outbound links. What’s good about this app is that it syncs with your Google Reader account and delivers the latest and most updated news feeds to your iPhone.

10. Blogpress

If you need to manage several blogs hosted on several blogging platforms, you definitely need this app. It supports Blogger, WordPress, TypaPad, and others. It also integrates well with social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and Picasa. The app lets you do most of the things that you will normally do while log-in to your blog using your computer. One thing that you will most likely appreciate from this app is that you can cross-publish a post to different blogs on different platforms.

11. CoverItLive

Sooner or later in your blogging career you’ll be prompted to live blog a certain event. If you don’t feel like bringing your laptop to said event, you can still cover it using your iPhone. Get this app and you’ll be able to launch and run live events, publish live commentary, publish photos, audio and video, email event links, and more.

12. ShoZu

This app is best described as a social media hub. That is because will let you connect with more than 50 social networking. For bloggers like us, this app also supports WordPress, Blogger and TypePad. It lets you upload photos and videos to multiple sites with one click, update status and tweets, and geotag photos.

13. Photoshop Express

We all need to edit photos and images once in a while, so Photoshop’s app for the iPhone comes in handy. It has several nifty features that we could otherwise enjoy only on our computer. This app gives you the ability to perform several photo editing functions to your images or photos—from simple cropping to filtering and applying special effects. It’s free as well.

14. Air Sharing

Let’s say you’re drafting a post while on your way home. When you finally arrive home, what’s the best and fastest way to transfer your draft to your Mac or PC to fine-tune the post some more? Well, this app of course. Air Sharing lets you mount your iPhone as a Wi-Fi device on your computer. Once mounted, you can drag and drop files from your iPhone to your computers and open them using the appropriate app.

15. Posterous

This app made it to the list because of its seamless autoposting feature that works with most blogging platforms. It’s useful to integrate different blogs, Twitter streams, and to make sure that your posts are going directly to all your online channels.

16. Tumblr

Tumblr is also known as the “other” microblogging service, which thankfully didn’t follow Twitter’s path and remained true to what it was created for. If you have a Tumblr account and you want to regularly update it with text, image, video or link posts, this app should be sitting on your iPhone’s app screen. It’s completely free.

17. WriteRoom

This app (which is the iPhone version of a popular desktop software) has one goal: to give you a distraction free writing environment. No fancy menus, options, formatting features and the like. Just plain and straight-out writing with an even more useful full-screen writing feature.

18. Photobucket

Not only is this app is useful for posting photos you’ve taken using your iPhone, but it also allows you to search for images and photos from the Photobucket website. And if you find something that you can use for a blog post, you can save the photo or image and then use it right after. It’s great for sourcing images.

19. iBlogger

The first thing you’ll notice when checking out this app from the App Store is the relatively expensive price (i.e., $10). However, this app has several nice features that make it worthy of its price. For example, it makes adding links to posts easier and it allows the integration with Google Maps and other location based services (using the iPhone’s GPS).

20. Facebook

We couldn’t leave the Facebook app for the iPhone out of the list, right? After all Facebook and blogging go hand in hand. With this app you can easily share links to your recent posts, write new updates for your followers and readers and so on.

Do you use these apps? What others can you share?

Daniel Scocco is the owner of Next iPhone News, a website that tracks the latest news, rumors and tips about the iPhone!

How to Keep Your Blog Hacker, Spammer, and Spyware-free

This guest post is by Sean Sullivan of F-Secure.

It’s a notion that strikes fear deep in the heart of every blogger. No, we’re not talking about getting dooced (fired for blogging). We’re talking about waking up in the morning, loading up your blog, and finding a screen that looks something like this:

The website has been blocked

The website has been blocked

Or perhaps it wasn’t as overt—you just discovered links injected into your site footer containing the anchor text of a certain famed pharmaceutical brand.

In any case, these kinds of scenarios aren’t good news for bloggers. Those fickle web users you work hard to attract can easily be put off by a hacked site and never return. Or, just as bad, being hacked (and not fixing it) risks the search engine equity you’ve built up over years of blogging, and which is time-consuming to restore.

If your site has been hacked or spammed, you’ve likely been through the tedious and time-intensive process of combing through MySQL databases, theme files, and directories on your server. If you’re lucky, you found the problem, removed it, and got things back up quickly (without having it replicate again, which we’ve seen). Or perhaps you had a backup copy and completed a restoration process.

But even then, this situation is not ideal. If you’re anything like us, you feel it’s unacceptable for your blog to be brought down, even for a moment—and especially by hackers.

The single most important tip? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

In no area other than security is that adage more important. This is simply because hackers, both the automated and the manual kind, choose the path of least resistance.

To a large extent, many are playing the numbers game to try to build black-hat links or manipulate website content for the benefit of helping illegitimate companies rank higher in search engines. To accomplish this, hackers frequently send crawlers searching around the web, to seek out the most vulnerable sites.

So how can you stay safe?

1. Keep your blogging software up to date

As we know, most bloggers here use WordPress (and definitely most professional bloggers use a self-hosted installation). Keeping it up to date is critical. Since WordPress is so popular, unfortunately that means it’s frequent prey for hackers. By keeping up with the latest updates, you’ll ensure security, and get vulnerability fixes straight from the source, as the WordPress community actively seeks to maintain security of the software.

2. Choose secure logins and passwords

Brute force attacks can easily be prevented: choose a secure login and password. By “secure login” we mean change it from the typical “admin” to be more specific. For a “secure password,” use something that is at least ten characters long, and contains at least one upper-case letter and one symbol, such as an exclamation mark. This will make it virtually impossible for either a human or computer to guess your login details.

3. Beef up security with WordPress plugins

There’s a huge number of free WordPress plugins written by Good Samaritan developers looking to keep their blogging peers safe. A few must-haves include Secure WordPress, which removes some critical meta information that a hacker could use against you from your WordPress install, Limit Login Attempts, which makes a brute-force attack basically impossible, and WP Security Scan, which provides a report about your specific configuration of WordPress and suggests corrective actions.

4. Only blog from a system that is safe, secure, and spyware-free

Computer virus

Computer virus

For those who aren’t so tech savvy: your WordPress install (or any blog install) is software and runs on an operating system, similar to how your own computer runs.

One of the easiest ways for malicious code to find its way onto your blog is through an infected system. In reality, your blogging software is only ever as safe as the system you access it from. The best way to keep your system safe is with a comprehensive Internet security and anti-virus product. Alternatively, you can check with your ISP—many of them now offer Internet security to their subscribers.

5. Automated backups: set it and forget it

You can setup backups to be made easily via a simple plugin. Alternatively, for those who run popular sites and are very serious about the safety of their posts, Automattic (the makers of WordPress) recently started to offer a premium service called VaultPress, which provides the dead-simple backup of not just databases, but all files associated with WordPress. Frequent snapshots of your install are critical and, aside from providing peace of mind, will ensure even if you ever get hacked, you don’t lose your work.

6. Stop spammers in their tracks

You can use Akismet (which analyzes comments via hundreds of tests) to quickly and effortlessly deal with spam comments, or use Bad Behavior (which references bad IP addresses via Project HoneyPot) and block them from even reaching your site in the first place.

What to do in the worst-case scenario

Even with prevention, code compromise is always possible. It happens to even the savviest bloggers. If you ever do get hacked or find webspam on your site, and aren’t sure what to do, don’t panic and start deleting files. This can make the situation much worse.

Instead, take screengrabs of the issue, and send them to someone who specializes in WordPress (or whatever your blogging software is) along with the most recently known good backups. This issue is very common, so there are many who specialize in helping fix just this situation.

Of course, these are just basic tips for prevention that everyone should take. There are more advanced tips (for example, locking down the /wp-admin/ directory with an .htaccess file) but if you can start out by implementing the tips above, you’ll already be a notch safer than most.

Has your site been hacked? Tell us what happened—and how you rectified the problem—in the comments.

Sean Sullivan is security advisor for F-Secure, a provider of award-winning anti-virus and computer security software. You can find more great security tips like this on F-Secure’s Safe and Savvy blog and stay at the cutting edge of the latest online threats via the F-Secure labs blog.