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WordPress.com or WordPress.org? Which One’s Right for You?

This guest post is by Matt Hooper.

When you first start looking at building your own blog, you are going to be inundated by the different options that are out there. After considering all your options, hopefully you’ll come to your senses and realize that WordPress is your best option.

As a reward for all this deliberating you are now presented with one more decision. Do you choose .org or .com? And we’re not talking about your domain name. You, along with many others, might be surprised to find out that there are actually two different kinds of WordPress.

WordPress.com is a version of WordPress that is hosted by Automattic, the development team behind WordPress. WordPress.org is often referred to the self-hosted version of WordPress. The two are very similar but there are a few differences that you need to be aware of before you finally get down to work on your blog.

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the safest way to go, as there are a lot of mechanisms in place to make sure that you don’t accidentally break it or prevent it from working the way it was intended to.

This means that it is nearly impossible for a beginner to render their site unusable. It also means that you are unable to really make use of some of the more advanced, and fun, features of WordPress. I’ll get to those below, but let’s take a closer look at what WordPress.com has to offer first.

The biggest selling feature of WordPress.com is the fact that everything is free and easy to use. You can head over there right now, sign up for a free account, and be blogging before you know it. You won’t even need to invest in a domain name if you don’t want to. Without any expense, you are able to have a website of your own at a domain like yourname.wordpress.com.

That’s right: you don’t even have to purchase a domain name to get started. However, going from a yourname.wordpress.com domain to yourname.com in the future is going to hurt your search engine rankings. This is something that you might want to consider before going the totally free route.

In the event that you are even remotely serious about creating a blog, you’re best to start off with your own domain. You can have your own domain name at WordPress.com for an extra $12 per year plus the cost of the domain itself.

On November 29, 2011 WordPress announced WordAds. Only WordPress.com hosted sites with custom domains and “moderate to high traffic and appropriate content” are eligible to apply for the WordAds program. WordAds appears to be a viable monetizing option for WordPress hosted sites that have established audiences. This does not appear to be an option for new WordPress.com sites.

The barrier to entry is extremely low here so it can be very appealing to the less technically inclined. For hobbyists or people interested in just kicking the tires, WordPress.com is a good starting point. However, if you are at all serious about moving forward with your blog, you’re going to quickly run into the limitations of WordPress.com.

WordPress.org

WordPress.org is the version of WordPress that you have to host yourself. This means that if you use wordpress.org, you have to go out and find a web hosting company to host your blog. This may result in you having to paying for services before you even hit Publish on your fist post.

The good thing is that some hosting companies may give you a short grace period to try out their service before you get your first bill. Then, after you get going, you’ll be looking at a cost of anywhere from a $5 to $10 per month for a shared host.

You’ll also have to buy your own domain to use with your blog—you won’t even have the option not to. Again, some hosts will give you one domain for free when you signup. This also means that you can add additional domains for just the cost of the domain, since you already have the host.

After you have decided on a shared host of your choice, you are going to have to install WordPress in your hosting account. Don’t fret: most shared hosts worth using will have a “one-click install” for WordPress, so it’s not too complicated to get WordPress installed. In the event that you do have any problems, most good shared hosts will help you out.

Once this has been completed, you will have free rein to do whatever you wish with your shiny new WordPress installation. This also means that you get access to two of the best features of WordPress that I alluded to above: plugins and custom themes.

Themes are what control the look and feel of your blog, colours, layouts, fonts, etc. Yes, it’s true that you are able to pick a theme while using WordPress.com but there is a limited selection and you are not able to do much customization to the theme itself. If you know your way around CSS, you can pay an additional $30 per year to have the ability to modify the CSS.

Even if you get to the CSS of your WordPress.com site, you still have a limited selection of themes to choose from. At least with WordPress.org, you have the choice of using the same out-of-the-box free themes as on WordPress.com or to pay a bit extra for a premium or custom theme.

But the killer feature of WordPress.org has got to be the ability to add plugins, which are not available with WordPress.com. Plugins are add-ons that expand the core functionality of WordPress. As an example, if you want to be able to scan your entire site to make sure there are no broken links, there is a plugin for that. There are countless other plugins for WordPress that will:

  • compress images
  • enhance SEO
  • create contact forms
  • lightbox images
  • and much, much more!

Initially, having FTP access to your blog might not matter to you, but as you grow into your blog, you might want to have the ability to modify and move files around on your web host’s server. This is something that you get with a self-hosted site running WordPress, that you can’t ever get with a WordPress.com blog.

Probably the most important feature of using WordPress.org is you get to make money with your blog. You’re free to use anything from Adsense to affiliate promotions. You’ll even have the option of creating and selling your own products through your site. And if the need arises, you can turn a WordPress.org site into a full-blown ecommerce solution.

That said, it’s not all roses with a self-hosted blog. There are two major things missing with WordPress.org that you get with WordPress.com: backups and protection from extreme traffic spikes.

There aren’t many safety nets with a self-hosted site, so make sure you back it up often. WordPress.com takes care of this for you. A good web host usually performs regular backups, but most will tell you that they don’t guarantee anything. So whatever you do, make sure that you perform your own WordPress backups frequently.

In the event that your blog does get popular overnight, it could buckle under the added traffic. Don’t worry: the stability of your site can be beefed up through the use of a good caching plugin, like W3 total cache. Also, it isn’t too difficult to upgrade your hosting at some point in the future when your site starts getting massive traffic. This would be a good problem to have!

Wrapping it up

I have to admit that after being so accustomed to the flexibility of WordPress.org, I would have a hard time being happy with a WordPress.com blog. If you have any aspirations of taking your blog past the hobby stage, you should just start out with a self-hosted site.

It is possible to move a WordPress.com hosted site to a self-hosted site later on. However, presuming that you might consider starting with a WordPress.com site and moving to a self-hosted site later on, you’re best to just start out with a self-hosted site.

That said, if you are comfortable living within the limitations of WordPress.com, and you want to never have to deal with the technical details of a blog, then a WordPress.com hosted blog might be all that you need.

WordPress.com is great if you are looking to keep an online journal or for small clubs and the like. Due to the fact that you are reading this site, I expect you’re interested in making a business out of your blog. On that note, at some point in the future you will end up with a WordPress.org website. Save yourself the fuss and the hassle of trying to transition your site later on. You’ll be happy you did.

The initially-free option of WordPress.com could actually result in higher costs down the road. After you start piling on extra fees for a custom domain, ad removal, extra storage space (you only get 3GBs to start), plus the ability to use custom CSS in your blog design, you really aren’t saving much, if any, money on WordPress.com, and you have to deal with its limitations.

Finally, and this is a big “finally”, you don’t own a WordPress.com website. After you’ve spent all that time to build a blog and an audience, do you really want to wake up one morning and find out that WordPress.com didn’t like your site so they deleted it? There isn’t a strong chance of this happening, but you should be aware that it could.

Have you been trying to decide between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? What challenges are you facing?

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

Blog Smarter: Invest in Your Own Success

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

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

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

The results I achieved

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

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

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

The investments I made

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

1. I changed my WordPress theme

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. I moved to a better email subscription management service

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. I implemented a pop-up lightbox

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

Isn’t this amazing?!?  It is to me!

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

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

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

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

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

Make an investment to grow your blog

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

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

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

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

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

Blog Smarter: 5 WordPress Plugins to Help You Make Money From Your Blog

This guest post is by Louise of MoneySupermarket.com.

Why do we blog? Perhaps you feel you have things to say which the world would be interested in, or maybe you’re very passionate about a topic and your friends are sick of hearing you talk about it! I have a blog like that; it’s simply a sounding board for me to jabber on about a particular hobby of mine which none of my friends take part in.

But the main reason for blogging, I think, is to make some money out of it. Let’s face it, we all enjoy blogging and we all enjoy making money, so why not combine the two? But as we all know, it’s not that easy to make money from blogging, at least at first. So I did some research and found some plugins which could make monetising a blog just that bit easier. Please note that I haven’t used every one myself yet, so I’d welcome your feedback in the comments if they’ve worked (or not) for you!

Amazon Associate

I use this one myself and it’s invaluable if you have an Amazon affiliate account. Once the plugin is installed and set up with your access keys (found on your Amazon affiliates profile) it’s really simple to add in affiliate links to your posts by way of a simple search box on the New Post screen.

Simply highlight the text you want as the link, enter the search term relevant to the post in the side widget, select the category and hit search. It will bring up a list of products from Amazon and you just click on one of the insert buttons to put it straight into the post you’re writing.

You can also enter sidebar widgets as easily as setting up any other widget; on your widget page you’ll see several available widgets that just need to be dragged and dropped into the relevant sidebar panel. You can set up product carousels, favourites, product clouds, MP3 clips and there’s also a search widget. Each one can be customised to match your site and is linked to your affiliate ID, generating revenue each time a user clicks and purchases.

The money you earn from this plugin can be sent to a bank account or as an Amazon gift certificate. Sadly there’s no PayPal support yet but this will hopefully be implemented in the future.

Ad Rotator

This is one I’ve recently been trialling and so far it’s working well. Once installed (in the usual way) it gives you a widget which looks like the default text widget box. You put your ad codes in here and use <!–more–> to separate each block. Each time your site is refreshed the ad will change.

You can have more than one Ad Rotator block in your sidebars so you could have static ads too. The widgets can go in sidebars and footers and work with any ad size.

As there’s no CPM system with this plugin you can charge for ads in whatever method you like. I personally charge more for a static placement than a rotating one but it’s whatever works for you. The best thing about this plugin in the flexibility it offers you.

Kontera

I installed this on a site I run which doesn’t use sidebars. As Kontera places contextual ads within the text of a page, the absence of sidebars didn’t matter. You need to register for a Kontera account first but that is quick and easy, and gives you your published ID which is then entered in the plugin setup. From there it’s simply a matter of choosing the colour of the links you want and adding the generated code into all the pages you want the ads to appear on.

It can take up to 24 hours for ads to appear within your site text, so don’t do what I did at first and deactivate in frustration because it didn’t appear to have worked!

Kontera works in multiple blog platforms, so if you’re a fan of Blogger or Drupal you can also use this nifty plugin. Payments can be made via PayPal for best security.

MediaPass

If you have content on your website which you’d rather keep behind a pay wall, then this plugin would seem to be an easy answer. I say “seem” only because I haven’t used it myself.

Once you’ve registered for a MediaPass account and the plugin is installed, it’s as simple as highlighting the content that you want to put behind the pay wall and choosing the subscription option to apply.

MediaPass take 35% of the revenue the plugin generates, which sounds like a lot, but you do get a lot of support and behind-the-scenes processes for that commission. Their technicians handle all the merchant fees, database management and all the other techy stuff so the blogger can just concentrate on the actual content.

Skimlinks

If you want to earn your money through affiliate marketing, Skimlinks looks to be the tool to go for. The plugin will convert any product links and references in your posts into affiliate links, which can be from any one of over 17,000 merchants on the Skimlinks database.

The advantage of using Skimlinks is that it allows the busy blogger to free up the time otherwise spent seeking out affiliate schemes, setting up tracking codes and maintaining the accounts. Skimlinks does all this for you, and you only need the one account with them to get access to all those different merchant programs.

Skimlinks takes a 25% commission from the merchant, but because of their standing with the merchants they can often negotiate a better rate so overall, you’d probably end up getting more money than if you’d set up all the links yourself. Plus, all the time it saves you means you have more time to write great content!.

Again, I haven’t yet used this one but I am thinking of trying it; has anyone has experience with this?

I’d love to hear feedback about all of these plugins, and if there are any which work especially well for you that you feel should be included. Please let me know your opinions in the comments!

All images taken at the WordPress Plugin Directory.

Louise is a financial writer for MoneySupermarket.com and a freelance copywriter/web designer. In her spare time she runs her wrestler husband’s website and blog. You can find her on Twitter: @louisetillotson.

Blog Smarter: 9 Ways to Make Money from WordPress … Without Having a Blog

This guest post is by Sean Platt of outstandingSETUP.

The Internet is flooded with too many blogs. It probably doesn’t need yours.

It’s not that you don’t have anything to say—you probably do. And it’s not that you couldn’t develop an audience, or eventually monetize that audience—you probably could. It’s definitely not that you’re not smart enough. There are plenty of people less intelligent than you already killing it online.

Unfortunately, it’s no longer 2007. There are now millions of blogs. Most of them fail, and few make any money.

Advertising rates are scraping so low, they’re now digging beneath the bottom. Monetizing your traffic is ridiculously hard, which is why you want to monetize your audience instead. Yet using a blog to monetize your audience through quality content marketing, audience engagement, and relationship building is a slow burn at best.

The market is saturated, and competition is fierce. Sure, the gurus know what they are talking about, but what worked for them probably won’t work for you.

The environment has changed and the strategies that helped the A-listers climb to the peak of the pyramid once upon a yesterday won’t be a fraction as effective for you.

But that doesn’t matter. You can still make a great living with WordPress. And the best part is, you don’t even have to have a blog. There are smarter ways to do it.

1. Themes

Every blog needs a theme—no exceptions!

Sure, WordPress comes with a couple of stock themes, but they are so basic, few bloggers choose to use them, and the number of serious bloggers or entrepreneurs who use them is approximately zero.

Even in a time when everyone is counting pennies, most serious bloggers don’t question the value of a quality theme. If you have the coding knowledge and drive to create a theme, along with the willingness to support it, a single theme could provide a full-time living, like it does for Eric Hamm from Catalyst themes.

Best of all, there are already marketplaces filled with buyers, meaning you have a place to sell your wares just seconds after they’re finished. ThemeForest and MojoThemes are just two examples.

2. Child themes

If you don’t want to get cracking on your own theme with crazy amounts of code, then you could take the lighter approach while still capitalizing on the massive customer bases (buyers) for existing themes.

Genesis has over 50,000 active users. Thesis has over 40,000. Other themes such as Catalyst and Headway have fiercely loyal audiences. Many talented designers and smart entrepreneurs have leveraged these large audiences to generate impressive profits.

A child theme is easier to build than a full theme because it piggybacks on the existing layout, options, and code from a parent theme. Relatively speaking, a child theme can be built in far less time, while still providing more profit to the designer.

In the time it takes to create a single fully developed theme, designers could create a handful of child themes instead. And while the profit is larger per individual purchase for a premium theme, child themes allow you to leverage an existing community, meaning you can easily make up the difference in volume.

3. Hosting services

This isn’t for everyone in the WordPress community, and may not be for you. But if it is, reselling hosting can be extremely lucrative.

WordPress users need support. Online entrepreneurs who are serious about their success, and are using blogs as one of the most powerful tools in their box, are smart enough to know they shouldn’t waste their time lost in the back end of their blog.

Servicing this community could be your fast track to success. WPEngine, ZippyKid and Page.ly are all examples of startups that have been extremely successful in this market.

Yes, you’re reselling hosting, putting your hosting on someone else’s servers and managing the network, but that’s not what you’re really selling at all.

Hosting is the steak, but you’re selling the sizzle. The sizzle in this instance is the safety, security, and comfort your potential customer will have knowing that someone highly qualified to work within the WordPress framework is there for them when they need it most.

Again, this isn’t for everyone. If you don’t have the technical knowledge to pull it off, you will be wasting your time, crash into a wall of certain frustration, and possibly irreparably damage your reputation if you leave behind scores of unhappy customers.

Yet there is a huge demand for this type of service. If you specialize—meaning aiming your services towards professionals who need hosting for their businesses (restaurants, realtors, dentists, lawyers, or any other market in need of hosting—that’s pretty much all of them!)—then reselling hosting might be one of the best ways for you to leverage WordPress for your personal profit.

4. Plugins

Most WordPress users would agree that plugins are a large part of the pixie dust behind the world’s best CMS. With a few clicks, plugins can change the behavior of your entire website.

A well-designed plugin can put money in your pocket. And the market is exploding. This makes sense, since a well-designed plugin can help your blog make money faster, which is appealing to anyone who’s using their blog to turn a dollar.

Plugins must do something specific, and do it especially well, if you expect to charge for them—especially considering there are already countless quality plugins available for free. Scribe and Gravity Forms are two excellent plugins that make their customers happy and developers rich.

Plugins can generate revenue through upfront purchases, or through donations and premium upgrades that improve upon the user experience from the base plugin. There are also plugins such as Wishlist (a plug-in that turns your WordPress blog into a membership site) that have added monthly continuity programs to their offerings.

5. Content creation services

You already know content is king or you wouldn’t be here. But what if you were the one supplying the crowns?

Populating a blog with quality content is the hardest part of growing a blog. Video, text, audio—everything adds to a blog’s growth, yet content creation is time-consuming, and one of the biggest reasons to find ways to make money from WordPress without having to run a blog.

There are countless online entrepreneurs and full-time bloggers knee-deep in their operations’ growth: they can’t afford to step away. They require content to fuel their continued growth, and you can be the provider to give it to them.

You have a specialty. Whether that’s video, copy, or voice, your specialty is what would have fueled the growth of your blog. Rather than creating that content and publishing it to your own site and waiting for it to quickly wither upon the WordPress vine, you could create the same content and sell it for top dollar to those who need it most.

6. Blog creation services

Professional blogs are started every day, and many of the professionals starting those blogs would be happy to pay someone else to put the pieces together for them.

Some bloggers like to tinker, but others see their blog as a serious tool in a serious business and don’t want to spend the time it takes to learn WordPress inside-out. Most online entrepreneurs would rather outsource the setup, paying someone else to install the framework, upload the themes and plugins, and get the blog otherwise ready for business.

The person they pay could, and perhaps should, be you.

You can make a blog setup service especially lucrative by making it your specialty. Whenever you do the same thing over and over, you can continuously improve the quality of your work while shaving minutes from your time. And whenever you can produce higher quality work in a shorter period of time, your growth and profits will both soar.

You can also sell content creation services as suggested in the tip above. This is a perfect upsell since a buyer who just paid to have a blog created will often be happy to pay an additional fee to populate that blog with content as well.

Of course, you must be comfortable creating content, and the decision to add the service to your business must be personally scalable for you. outstandingSETUP does an remarkable job with design, installation, setup and security, but we don’t offer content creation services since it doesn’t fit the model.

Your model must always fit your goals.

7. Support services

You know all those online entrepreneurs and bloggers who are paying for blog creation or content creation services? Well, most would be perfectly happy to pay for quality support as well. And if you’re already offering creation services, continual support is an easy add-on, as long as time and strategy allow.

There are two primary monetization models for this sort of service. The first is to charge by the hour. And while hourly rates for tech support are often high, hourly service isn’t scaleable unless your outsourcing the work, which is why you may want to go with the second monetization model—charging a monthly subscription for support.

8. Build an ad network

This is the most difficult one on the list, but if it matches your personal skill set, it can be extremely lucrative, much like the reselling hosting suggestion up above.

An ad network connects publishers and advertisers, in exchange for a cut of the money changing hands. There are countless blog owners with decent traffic who would be happy to sell ad space, and countless of advertisers looking for places to place their banners. If you can effectively put the two and two together, it could equal a whole lot more than four for the time that you spend online.

Building an ad network can be an especially good idea for entrepreneurs with existing, sizable networks with both publishers and advertisers. This usually means someone who’s been online for a while and dabbled in a lot of different enterprises.

But this isn’t the type of business you want to start from the ground up. You will be most successful if it naturally fits your existing skill set. If it does, you may want to give it a try. It might just be the best way for you to make money from WordPress websites.

9. Offer website reviews

Every author needs an editor. Every website should have one, too. It’s hard to see the forest through the trees, and you never know what other people are thinking when they land on your website.

All the traffic in the world means nothing if a website isn’t optimized to convert visitors into leads, fans, or paying customers. If an online business owner doesn’t know how to organize their site for maximum conversion, you can be the one to show them (so long as that is your specialty).

MenWithPens and Derek Halpern have both done this extremely well. It’s a win-win for the provider since they are advertising their skill set and steadily increasing their authority, while helping business owners maximize the value of their visitors.

Because you are directly helping a website owner generate a higher average profit per visitor, they will be willing to pay you well for your time. The more sites you optimize, the better your reputation will be, and the more you can charge per optimized site.

The above list is by no means exhaustive. There are countless ways to make money with WordPress, and they’re limited only by your imagination. But the message is indisputable.

There is a lot of money to be made in the world of WordPress, but due to massive competition, and depending on your skill set, running a blog might just be the worst way to try to get your share.

Sean Platt is a content marketer and cofounder of outstandingSETUP. Get his FREE report “9 Website Building Mistakes You Should Avoid”.

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

This guest post is by Matthew Setter of Malt Blue.

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

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

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

You ask yourself:

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

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

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

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

What are the Developer Tools?

The official Developer Tools blog describes them as follows:

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

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

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


 

Step 1. Open Developer Tools

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

Step 2. Get familiar with the Developer Tools window

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

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

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

Step 3. Filtering options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 4. Sort by time

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

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

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

Step 5. Sort by size

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

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

Step 6. What To Do

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

But what do you do now?

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

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

Don’t manage the site?

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

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

Experiment!

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

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

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

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

How To – Move From WordPress.com To WordPress.org

WordPress To WordPressMoving a Blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org is something I’ve had a lot of questions about – today Jeff Chandler shares tips on how to do it.

Everyday it seems like I find a story or two from a cities local online newspaper which delves into the topic of blogging and what it’s all about. The story usually goes through a mini backlog of history surrounding the term, what blogging is and at the end of the article, there is usually a list of suggestions on how to get started with the most popular suggestion being WordPress.com. Using WordPress.com is a great way to introduce yourself to blogging but if you decide that you want to turn blogging into a full time job or just want more control over your work, you’ll need to move.

Thankfully, the move from WordPress.com to WordPress.org (WordPress.org being the self hosted version of WordPress) is painless thanks in large part to a great export tool.

Tools ImportTo start things off, login to your WordPress.com account and browse to your administration panel. From the menu on the left, click on TOOLS – EXPORT. At this point, you have the option to confine the export to a particular author or all authors. Using the export tool will compile your posts, pages, comments, custom fields, categories, and tags. This information is placed into a WXR file or, WordPress eXtended RSS file. Essentially, this file is just a normal XML RSS based file with a couple of custom fields added to it which makes it specific to WordPress. Once you’re finished, click on the Download Export File button and save it to your desktop.

Once you have that file on your desktop, you can breath a little easier considering your half way through the content migration process.

The second part of this guide refers to an installation of WordPress 2.7. Login to your self installed WordPress administration panel and from the menu on the left click on TOOLS – IMPORT. From the list of blogging systems click on WordPress. Next, click on the Browse button and locate the XML file you downloaded earlier. This will upload the XML file into your WordPress installation and will unpack all of the data the file contains. There is one caveat though regarding this entire technique.

Importing WordPressMost webhosts for whatever reason still have their PHP.ini configured in such a way where end users can only upload files with a maximum file size of 2MB or smaller. Although it takes quite a bit of content in an WXR file to go over 2MB, 2MB is not a lot of head room. If you find yourself in the position where your WXR file is larger than the maximum file size, I highly suggest submitting a trouble ticket to your webhost and asking them to increase the limit. If they choose not to, then ask them if they can import the file for you. If that doesn’t work, you can pull a trick from your sleeve by uploading a custom php.ini file to your webhosting accounts root folder. This is what my host did for me and afterwards, I took a look at the php.ini file and noticed it had this line in it:

; Maximum allowed size for uploaded files.
upload_max_filesize = 7M

Apparently, the php.ini file overwrote the settings on the original file and I was able to bump my limit up to 7 Megabytes. This trick is not guaranteed to work. As a last ditch effort, you can also try adding these lines to your .htaccess file. Just replace the pound sign with a number that is above the size of your WXR file.

#set max upload file size
php_value upload_max_filesize #M

#set max post size
php_value post_max_size #M

Once the WXR file is unpacked on your self installed version of WordPress, you’re ready to walk through the gates of freedom without skipping a beat!

P.S. This strategy also works for those wanting to go from WordPress.org to WordPress.com.

What You Need to Know about WordPress 2.7

WordPress 2.7 is already released in beta and will go live shortly for all. I was lucky enough to get a demo of it at BlogWorldExpo a couple of months back and I have to say that I’m quite excited by what I saw. It is very different to look at and will take some getting used to but having had the changes explained to me I think there’s a lot to like about WordPress 2.7 (particularly some of the configurable options of layout in the back end, comment moderation and plugin management).

If you’re going to be upgrading and want a little tour of the new features check out Aaron Brazell’s great post 10 Things You Need to Know about WordPress 2.7 which will run you through some of the new features, design and usability.

How to Manage a Multi-Author WordPress Blog

More and more blogs seem to be transitioning to multi-author set ups and as they do I’ve been asked increasingly for information on how to manage these types of blogs.

If you have a multi-author WordPress blog then you’ll want to check out a great post at Hongkiat – 35 Tips Tricks To Manage and Handle Multi-Author Blogs.

The post is packed full of useful tools and plugins that will help make the task of managing more than one author on a blog a lot easier – enjoy.

10 WordPress Plugins for New Blogs

Over the weekend I set up and launched my new Twitter Tips Blog – TwiTip.

Since announcing the launch of TwiTip here on ProBlogger I’ve been asked quite a few times about what WordPress plugins I’ve installed to enhance and add features to the blog.

I still need to add a few more but so far I’ve added the following 10 WordPress plugins:

  1. Akismet – a great comment spam plugin. Interestingly I had comment spam on TwiTip that Akismet filtered within minutes of launching the blog on Twitter.
  2. All in One SEO Pack – a plugin that helps to optimize a blog for search engines. It gives easy ways to set up title tags, descriptions, keywords (both for home pages but also on individual posts) and a variety of other settings that have an impact upon SEO.
  3. cforms – a powerful contact form plugin. It’s a lot more complex than other comment form plugins out there but has a lot more features (some that I’m yet to fully test).
  4. Google XML Sitemaps – a plugin to help Google and other search engines to find every page and post on your blog – good for getting a new blog indexed quickly.
  5. Simple Tags – extends the built in tags features on WordPress.
  6. Subscribe To Comments – a WordPress plugin that allows those leaving comments to check a box and be notified when other people leave a comment on that thread.
  7. Tweet This – ads an invitation for readers to Tweet a link to the post they are reading. While I wouldn’t put this on every blog – it seemed a no brainer on a blog about Twitter.
  8. WordPress.com Stats – I’m using Google Analytics as my main metrics tool for TwiTip but it doesn’t update in real time so this plugin helps to get a quick update of what’s happening on the blog at any given point in time.
  9. WP-Polls – an AJAX polling plugin with some nice features. I’ve previously used the Democracy Plugin but this one seems to be working really nicely so far.
  10. WP Ajax Edit Comments – this plugin allows those leaving comments to edit their comments for a short period of time after they leave a comment.

These are just the first 10 that I’ve already installed (listed in alphabetical order and not in order of importance). There are more to come. For example I’ll install Related Posts (pointless at this point as there are only 5 posts on the blog), WP-Navi (again, no point to install it yet as I don’t have enough posts to need a navigation tool) and WP Super Cache (I’m not doing enough traffic to really need it yet).

They are the 10 WordPress Plugins I’ve installed on TwiTip. If you were starting a new WordPress blog today – which plugins would you be installing?