FeedBurner vs. Aweber: Do You Really Need an Autoresponder for Your Blog?

This guest post is by Aman Basanti of

When it comes to turning casual visitors into regular readers there are two main options—FeedBurner and Aweber.

FeedBurner uses Feed-based technology (RSS and Atom) to send updates to your blog subscribers. Owned by Google (Google bought it in 2007 for $100 million), FeedBurner is one of the biggest feed syndicators on the Internet.

It works like this: a site visitor subscribes to your feed and every time you add a new post, a message is sent to them alerting them of the addition. The subscriber needs special software (a feed reader) to access the feed.

For more information on feeds, see Darren’s post, What is RSS?

Aweber is email-based technology that allows you to send automated email messages to your subscribers. It works similarly to a feed but does not require special feed-reading software, only an email address to subscribe to a blog.

Aweber is the most popular autoresponder software system on the Internet. Other popular brands include Infusionsoft, MailChimp, and GetResponse.

Advantages of FeedBurner

  • FeedBurner is free, Aweber costs money: The key advantage of using FeedBurner instead of Aweber (or other auto-responders) on your blog is that FeedBurner does not cost anything. Aweber, on the other hand, can cost $20-$100 a month depending on the number of subscribers you have.
  • FeedBurner take less effort: Most popular blogging platforms (WordPress, Blogger, TypePad etc.) publish feeds automatically. There is nothing more to do on top of publishing a post. With auto-responders, however, you have to manually setup the messages and sequence them (but you can now set up a blog broadcast in Aweber, which creates an automatic email newsletter).
  • FeedBurner supports both feed readers and email subscribers: The key advantage of auto-responders like Aweber used to be that you did not need special software to subscribe, only an email address. As millions of people still do not have feed readers or prefer email, this meant that you still needed an aut-responder to capture those readers. But FeedBurner changed all that by allowing people to subscribe to a feed using an email address. This means that while an autoresponder only supports email, FeedBurner supports both feed readers and email.

Given that FeedBurner is free, easy to set up, effortless to use, and supports both feed readers and email, why would you want to pay for an auto responder?

The fatal flaw in feeds

The key thing that you cannot do with a feed is sequence messages: you cannot create a series of messages to be sent to your subscribers. This means that your subscribers only get alerts for posts that are added after they subscribe.

For example, say you post four articles over four weeks, and a visitor subscribes to your blog after week three. This means they will only get alerted about the fourth post, and will not receive posts one to three, as shown in the image below.

Feedburner alerts

In FeedBurner, you cannot send alerts for older posts

Now, if you post time-sensitive information (news or latest developments) on your blog, this doesn’t matter. But if you publish evergreen content, or you want to take your blog readers through a specific set of messages, the ability to sequence is crucial.

Autoresponders allow you to do just that. You can create a sequence of messages, set how long the wait is between each message, and the autoresponder will execute that for you for each subscriber, regardless of when they join, as shown below.

Aweber sequencing

Aweber allows you to create a sequence of messages

Then there are the other benefits of auto-responders like Aweber—customization of look and feel of emails, personalization (“Hi John”), controlling the wait period between messages, solid delivery rates, split-test multiple lead capture forms, and so on.

The audience factor

A third factor in deciding which system to use is your audience. If you have tech-phobic audience, then an email-based system like Aweber is likely better for you.

For tech-savvy audiences, on the other hand, FeedBurner may be better. Technically inclined people are more likely to use and prefer to get their blog updates through feeds. Feeds also have the added benefit of allowing another blogger to include your feed on their blog, creating free exposure and traffic for your blog.

The best way to find out what your audience wants is to have both options on your site for a month and see what your readers prefer. You may even find that it is useful to have both.

The bottom line

If you have a small budget, publish time-sensitive information, and/or cater to a tech-savvy audience, FeedBurner will be sufficient for your blog.

If, on the other hand, you want to take your subscribers through a sequence of messages and control the wait periods between the messages, then Aweber is better suited to your blog.

What are you using: Aweber, FeedBurner … or something else? Tell us how you do it in the comments.

Aman Basanti writes about the psychology of buying and teaches you how you can use the principles of consumer psychology to boost your sales. Visit to get his new ebook—Marketing to the Pre-Historic Mind: How the Hot New Science of Behavioural Economics Can Help You Boost Your Sales—for FREE.

Take 5 Minutes to Make WordPress 10 Times More Secure

This guest post is by David Wang of The ClickStarter.

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

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

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

Move wp-config.php up one level

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

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


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


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

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

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

Time required: 1 minute

Delete the ‘admin’ account

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

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

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

Time required: 1 minute

Update WordPress, plugins, and themes

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

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

Time required: 1 minute

Install WP Security Scan and Secure WordPress

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

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

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

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

Time required: 2 minutes

Stay vigilant

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

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

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

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

How I Use BuySellAds to Monitor Blog Traffic and Goals

This guest post is by Kevin Muldoon of WordPress Mods.

One of the biggest mistakes new bloggers and webmasters make is to check traffic stats and affiliate reports too often—often enough for it to stop them doing real work on their projects. That being said, it is still important to check stats from time to time.

A quick review once a week, and a slightly longer recap once a month, is more than sufficient for most bloggers (affiliate marketers will obviously check stats much more because of how closely their income is tied to converting campaigns). It’s very important to check your blog’s progress, particularly within the first year or two of its life. Tracking important metrics can not only show you how your blog is progressing, it can also highlight what needs to be addressed in order for your site to grow.

Tracking can also be a fantastic motivational device. By tracking your site correctly and setting achievable goals, you can spur yourself to work harder and make things happen.

Everyone uses different scripts and services to track traffic. Here, I’ll show you the metrics I track for a blog I’m developing, and how BuySellAds indirectly helps me achieve my goals.

What to track

The BuySellAds ad network lists the following information for websites that sell banners ads through them:

  • Alexa Rank
  • Compete Score
  • number of Delicious bookmarks
  • number of Yahoo inbound links
  • number of RSS subscribers
  • Twitter followers
  • Facebook Fans
  • Page Rank.

Basic metrics

It is possible to add your blog to the BuySellAds network without adding any banner zones to your pages; if you do, you can automatically track these metrics with ease.

These stats are useful for two reasons. Firstly, by keeping note of your own score on a regular basis (e.g. via a spreadsheet), you can see the progress your site is making over time and predict future growth.

Secondly, by tracking metrics which are publicly listed in a directory, you can quickly and fairly accurately compare your blog to hundreds of competitors within your niche.

The BuySellAds metrics can be divided into three types:

It’s really up to you which metrics you track for your site. For example, if you are actively trying to increase the number of inbound links then you would track your Yahoo inbound links score.

I like Alexa and Compete to give me an external view on how my traffic is growing. Their figures can be quite erratic and unrealistic for low-traffic websites, however these are reliable metrics for established blogs. RSS subscribers is a metric which I also like to track. Like any metric, it’s not 100% accurate, however it’s one of the best ways of seeing how popular your blog is and how fast it is growing.

I don’t feel so strongly about some other metrics, though—search engine presence, for example. I do try and make sure that my blog design is SEO friendly, and link internally and externally frequently, however I strongly believe that for most bloggers it takes care of itself. That is, if traffic and readership grows, and you continue to write good content, your inbound links will increase. This is also true for social media bookmarks. Every single post on high-traffic blogs gets shared, dugg, retweeted, and stumbled; therefore it’s not something I believe you need to actively check (I know social media junkies will disagree with me on this, though).

I have, however, come to the conclusion that while I may value some metrics more than others, it’s worth tracking everything, as over time these values may prove incredibly useful and highlight areas which need to be addressed.

Another metric which I always track for myself is the number of daily uniques. For this I use Google Analytics and Webalizer (a traffic script which most hosting packages offer).

Once you have decided on what you are going to track every week or month, you should create a spreadsheet to store all this info. Spreadsheets are better than simply noting details down, as you can compare figures from month to month more easily, and you can import the data into charts for further analysis.

How I use BuySellAds advertisers to set my goals

You can of course track all of the metrics mentioned above without using BuySellAds (though adding your site to the directory will save you some hassle). What their marketplace does give you, though, is access to a lot of useful information on other blogs and websites within your niche. Not only can you easily view any website’s traffic, social media, and SEO presence, you can also see exactly how much they are making.

The BuySellAds marketplace has websites from a number of different niches including automotive, business, gaming, and travel. A high percentage of publishers are from the design and development niche, however everyone should be able to find at least a few websites within their own niche.

If you look at their advertising information page or a website you will see a description of the site, some traffic stats, and information about where you can advertise.

BuySellAds stats

Above is a screenshot from the AngryBirdsNest information page. The page confirms that the site has two ad zones: a 260 x 125-pixel banner area on the right-hand side of the page, and a 75 x 75-pixel banner area to the right of that.

BuySellAds ad information

The 260 x 125-pixel banner costs $300 for 30 days whereas the 75 x 75-pixel banner costs $50 for 30 days. There are six slots available for the larger banner area and seven slots available for the smaller one. All advertising inventory has been sold; therefore the ad zones bring in $1,800 and $350 respectively for a total of $2,150 per month. BuySellAds takes a cut of 25% of any advertisements sold, so we know that the owners of AngryBirdsNest make $1,612.5 every month through the two banner positions on their sidebar.

This information is incredibly useful. For every website listed on BuySellAds you can find out the approximate traffic levels and the money generated from ad zones (though most sites generate income from other sources too). If you also track your own traffic levels regularly you are in a great position to work how much money your blog could potentially earn once it reaches a certain point.

Bear in mind, though, that websites with similar traffic levels cannot always charge the same rates, so reaching a certain traffic level isn’t a guarantee that you will make a given amount of money. The more sites in your niche there are on BuySellAds, the more accurate your estimate is likely to be.

For example, let’s say you start a brand new blog and want to get a rough idea of the sort of income you can expect in the future. You could track competitors through a number of metrics, but the most reliable is number of impressions. If you looked at 30 websites within your niche and noted their monthly impressions and the money they earn through BuySellAds (using the method I noted above), you may find:

  • Those with an 50,000 impressions earn around $100 per month.
  • Those with an 250,000 impressions earn around $800 per month.
  • Those with an 1,000,000 impressions earn around $5,000 per month.

Once again, I remind you that stats from one source only tell you one part of the story, so it’s important to look at each website individually and see why some sites are selling ads and others aren’t.

Monitor your progress

It’s very difficult to gauge when your blog will start making good money, particularly if it’s in a niche you don’t have experience with. We should all be setting goals and tracking our blogs’ growth over time. What the BuySellAds marketplace does is give us an idea of the right time to start selling ads, and an indication of how much we could potentially earn at certain levels (BuySellAds could obviously be substituted with any ad network that displays ads and confirms the rates publishers are being paid).

It isn’t 100% accurate, but it’s a great way of monitoring your blog’s progress and I believe anyone who is still developing their blog will find this useful. It gives you a a tangible target that you can aim towards, which should inspire you and keep you focused on what you need to do to make your blog a success.

Kevin Muldoon is a webmaster and blogger from Scotland. His current project is WordPress Mods; a blog which focuses on WordPress Themes, Plugins, Tutorials, News and Modifications.

“Most Recommended” by Blogging Geniuses at WordCamp Boston

This guest post is by Marci Reynolds of

The July 2011 WordPress WordCamp Boston rocked!  Hundreds of eager WordPress users gathered to watch more than 40 speakers who presented on topics from social media to themes to shortcodes to security.

WordCamp BostonI took detailed notes as I listened, watched and networked with blogging and WordPress geniuses and have gathered what I consider the most interesting tips and tricks.

Most recommended WordPress plugins

Plugins were a hot topic in every session, but only three rose to the top as the “most recommended”:

  • Yoast SEO: allows you to optimize page titles, meta descriptions, keywords, XML sitemaps
  • HubSpot Plugin: allows you to leverage HubSpot’s lead nurturing, website analytics and “call to action” post types
  • Google Analytics for WordPress: allows you to synch up information with your Google analytics account and allows you to track custom variables and meta data.

Most recommended WordPress SEO tips

In addition to the hearing about the importance of fresh, high quality content (“content, content, content”), a number of experts reinforced these WordPress SEO tips:

  • Change the Permalink default on blog posts to end with your post name, not the post number.
  • Use images to break up your content, engage readers and help with SEO.
    • Be sure you own the image, or choose them from “creative commons”, with appropriate credit (one of my favorites is
    • Use relevant keywords in the image name and alternate text
  • Add an XML sitemap.
  • Monitor and improve your site loading speed.
    • Google’s Matt Cutts has stated that, “We want the web to be faster, we want sites to load quickly,” so it’s very possible that Google could be looking to encourage and reward this through their ranking of sites.
    • In May 2011, Google added a Site Speed Report in Google Analytics.
    • For more detailed info, check out the recent blog post on Search Engine Watch, Why Marketers Must Care About Site Speed.
  • Build link juice. Not random back links, but high quality links to and from other sites that offer relevant content. (One technique that has worked well on my Sales Operations Blog, is to build a page dedicated to linking to other sites with relevant, high quality content. Check out the Other Sales Ops Articles example. )

Social media … of course

I think it’s required that every 2011 conference, whether it’s about real estate, insurance, or cat food, must include several sessions on how to use social media, and WordCamp (WC) was part of that group.

However, there was an obvious division in the WC audience. Some WC attendees like me, were well versed in social media 101 and 102 and were looking for something new and advanced. The remaining attendees (seemed like 50% of humans) were beginners and were looking for advice on how to get started. One conference attendee was skewered on Twitter, hashtag #wcbos, for asking how to spell “Mashable.” Understandable!

The general themes on how to use social media to support your WordPress efforts were:

  • Make it easy for readers to share your blog content by including sharing buttons within your posts. There are many plugin options to facilitate that.
  • Use social media to share your content. You may only share it with 50 or 100 followers, but you need to consider the power of the retweet.
    • Per HubSpot, blog posts that are shared on Twitter have more page views, while blog posts shared on Facebook have more comments.
    • Try testing three headlines on Twitter and see which one gets the most clickthroughs.

Overall, WordCamp Boston was a great experience, and well worth the time and money investment. I saw some very talented speakers, networked with other WordPress users and learned many new things. I look forward to attending next year’s conference.

Have you attended a WordCamp event? What did you learn?

Marci Reynolds, based in Boston, MA, is an operations leader by day and an active blogger after-hours.

She enjoys writing about sales support, service operations, process improvement and social media best practices. Learn more about Marci.

WordPress Plugins that Make Your Blog Comments Social

This guest post was written by Neil Matthews of WPDude.

Have you noticed a decrease in the number of blog comments you get and an increase in Facebook likes and Twitter tweets about your posts?

Are you worried that you are loosing social proof about the validity of your posts to the social media conversation, rather than as direct comment on your site?

There is a way to get the best of both worlds and aggregate comments and social media responses on your site.

The problem

People are building social media presences, and part of that is sharing great blog content and their opinions on those posts.  It’s more public and gives better results to share on Twitter or Facebook than it is leave a comment.

Curating is the new black at the moment. Adding links to your own social media conversation adds great value to your followers, while leaving a comment on a blog where no-one but the avid readers will see it does not add any value to your social media stream.

Fewer comments seems provide less social proof that people like your content, but this is not necessarily true. People stil love your stuff, it’s just that they’re expressing their emotions in different places.

What’s the solution?

Th solution is to bring the comments made on social media into your comment stream so you can maintain all of that social proof in one place.

There are a number of plugins that will aggregate social media and traditional blog comments into one stream on your site. This post will focus on these plugins—specifically I will be focusing on WordPress plugins (sorry Joomla, Drupal and Tumblr people! Some of these pugins will work with your platform but I’m focusing on WordPress today).


This is a cloud-hosted comment system, wich means that your comments are hosted on the Disqus platform, and by adding a plugin to WordPress you can show those comments alongside your posts.

Disqus is a complete commenting system that offers a number of social media functions including authentication using your Facebook and Twitter accounts, and the ability for people to add a comment to your post and their social media profile of choice. But more importantly it has a Reactions feature, which will search for and aggregate into your comment stream off-site comments from social media conversations about your post.


Intensedebate is another hosted comment platform brought to you by the people behind WordPress Automattic.

Intensedebate has something it calls Social Commenting features.  Using these, users can log in with their Twitter or Facebook IDs, and post comments that are synced to their social media profiles.


LiveFyre is another fully featured and hosted commenting system. Please note that this is a premium solution with  a free option for less than 20,000 page impressions per month.

This  plugin has the ability to post the comment onto your site and the social media platform of your site user’s choice.  It also has a neat function that lets them tag their social media friends in your comments.

Check out the social media options for more information.

A note on hosted comment systems

When you host your comments on a third-party site, you’ll need to export your comments into that service’s car. If you breach the service’s terms and conditions, there’s a chance you could be kicked off the platform and loose your comments.

I’ve not heard of this happening but it is a possibility, so think long and hard before you chose to have someone host part of your site.  I wrote about the same concept in my last post here at Problogger when I talked about loosing your email addresses in Are You Protecting Your Blog’s Most Valuable Asset?.

Facebook Comments for WordPress

If you want a solution that replaces your traditional blog commenting system with Facebook-only comments, then this plugin is for you.

It is a self-hosted solution that replaces traditional blog comments with something akin to a Facebook wall. People log in to Facebook, leave their comments on Facebook, and they’re replicated back on your site.

Twitter Mentions as Comments

This final plugin is again a self-hosted extension of WordPress. What is does is scan Twitter for any mentions of your posts, and pulls those tweets into your existing comment stream as if they were additional comments on your posts.

Other options

These are just some of the options available to you—there are many others. Check out the plugins under the Social Media tag on the WordPress plugin repository to see how vast your options are.

Make your comments social

Don’t worry that you’re losing blog comments to social media. Using these handy plugins, you can bring the conversation back from the social platforms, and retain social proof on your blog.

How is your blog faring with comments and social media? Could these plugins be helpful to you?

Neil Is  a WordPress coach and consultant, see his work at WPDude. He has also created a WordPress group coaching program called the WP Owners Club.

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,, 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,, an informational website about Ragdoll cats and, 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 -

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 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.


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.


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.