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Google Penalizes Copyright Infringers: Are You At Risk?

This guest post is by Shahzad Saeed of TechAndProject.com.

Recently Google announced on its official blog that it will start penalizing sites that are accused of copyright infringement.

The announcement may reduce the content theft around the web, since now it is clear that if a site continuously violates copyright laws, it will lose search rankings and possibly even be removed from Google’s index. On the other hand, today’s technology makes it easier than ever to copy, modify, and share any information from the web. But the problem is that the vast majority of people do not care about copyright. This may now result in legal actions and loss of Google traffic.

How can you avoid Google penalties related to copyright? Here are a few tips.

A quick disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this does not intend to constitute legal advice. It is only the results of my own research.

Reusing content? Get the author’s permission every time

I’ve found many of my articles published on other websites without my permission. Some people assume that there is no copyright infringement if they steal the content, but credit the author’s website. This is incorrect.

Some others assume that the worst thing can happen as a result of copyright infringement is that they will receive take down notice from the author, and then, if they remove the copyrighted material, they will be out of trouble.

Let me talk about my experience. I published an article titled Top 10 deadliest air crashes in the last 10 years on my own blog. At the time, Google brought a nice amount of traffic to that post. But recently, when I Googled the keywords related to that post, I’ve found that it’s no longer listed even in the first ten result. Instead, a ripped post was there. It was republished in an article gallery where users are paid for the content! I’ve found the same article reproduced without my permission on other blogs as well.

Sometimes, it is nice to see that your work has been used by many people around the web, even if they are not crediting you. I don’t care if someone gets paid a small fee for my article; what I worry about is suffering a Google penalty if someone steals my content.

If you plan to copy more than a few words or phrases from someone’s post, ask the original author for permission to republish it. If you copy copyrighted material without getting permission from the author, and crediting the author, your actions will infringe their copyright. If you cannot get the author’s permission, restate the ideas in your own words.

Determine if permission is needed

In some cases, using work without permission is allowed. For criticizing, commenting, and news reporting, short quotations are considered fair use. You can also use material that’s available in the public domain.

Finally, you are allowed to use a brand name on your site under nominative fair use laws. In this case, your usage of the name would not be considered trademark infringement because the use is unlikely to confuse consumers, as you’re merely using it to identify the brand without suggesting affiliation or sponsorship with the brand owner.

An example is Windows7sins.org—a site where free-software enthusiasts criticize the use of proprietary software especially Microsoft Windows.

It is really important to identify what works come under public domain and which don’t. Public domain materials include federal government documents and materials produced before 1923. If material was produced between 1923 and 1978 without a copyright notice it is also considered to be in the public domain.

For a blogger this does not matter much, unless they’re copying material from printed sources, because the web didn’t take off until the late ’90s.

On the flip-side of all this legislation, if you want others to have free use of your work, you can explicitly make it clear that you do not assert any copyright ownership. You can learn more about the public domain here.

Use materials licensed under Creative Commons

As you might know, Creative Commons (cc) enables you to license your own writing, photos, videos, or anything you’ve created for reuse by others, and it’s free. The CC license tells people that your content is available for mixing, copying, and modifying with their own content and creations. It automatically grants third parties permission to use your work.

Creative Commons is not a license that allows the reuse of any work, but it is less restrictive than standard copyright. In order to identify what you can do and can’t do with Creative Commons-licensed material, you should check what type of license the material is available under. Here are the different types of Creative Commons licenses.

  • Attributions: authors specify that the work can be copied if a credit is given to the author like linking to the original article.
  • Derivation: authors specify if the work can be altered or only verbatim copies of the work are allowed to be reused and shared.
  • Commercial or non- commercial licenses: authors specify if the work is allowed to be used for any purpose, or only for non-commercial purposes.
  • Share-alike: authors specify that if the work is reproduced, then the derived work has to use same license (or they may specify that it doesn’t).

Using Creative Commons-licensed content is a good choice, but attributing it properly can be difficult and a bit confusing.

The first rule of thumb of using licensed content is to attribute the creator properly.  Open Attribute is a simple tool I suggest for anyone to copy and paste the correct attribution for any CC-licensed work.

Most bloggers and webmasters use Flickr to find images for their own blogs. Not every picture on Flickr is free to use, though. Some of the Flickr images are “All rights reserved”, so you can’t just copy and use them unless you have got permission explicitly from the owner.

For finding a Creative Commons-licensed images, you can use Google Advanced Image Search. If you are a Flickr fan when it comes to using images for your blog, use the advanced search and limit your results to Flickr or any other specific domain that you are interested in.

WordPress users can use the Flickr pick a picture plugin to find suitable pictures from Flickr.com. Another useful plugin is Free Stock Photos Foter, where users can find free—and freely available—stock photos.

Another important thing to keep in mind is not to hotlink the images that you use. Many people are lazy, and when they upload the picture they just bulk upload it—they might not have given name, title, and tag to each and every picture on their site. If you then hotlink those pictures and do some basic image optimization techniques on your blog, chances are high that you will outrank the source picture—not good if you want to stay on good terms with the image’s owner. So the best practice is to host the image yourself instead of hotlinking it.

Add licensing information on your site

You can see, most of the mainstream websites have some kind of copyright messages on the site. Displaying a copyright message is not necessarily needed to claim your rights over your blog and its content—as soon as you publish an article on your blog, it is automatically copyrighted.

However, a copyright notice can be useful if you need to defend your rights to your blog in court. The following is the common format for displaying copyright.

© [Full Name] and [Blog Name], [Current Year or Year Range]

[Source]

No matter what size a blog is, no blog is secure from content theft. Some bloggers license their blog under creative commons license by arguing the issues of content theft and difficulty in discouraging copying under the (DMCA) Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Some bloggers, like Leo Babauta of Zenhabits.net, encourage readers to copy their content to their own blogs any way they need—even without attribution.

If you own a blog licensed under Creative Commons, it’s a good idea to use WordPress plugin called Creative Commons Configurator. This adds your CC license near the footer of your posts, and in the head of your blog. This will be visible only to robots, but ensures your approach to copyright is clear to all—including Google, which means you should avoid their penalties when others reuse your content.

My advice? License images and videos under CC, but not the text of your blog if you don’t want your blog get penalized by Google. But what about you? Do you protect your copyright, or license your content for others to use? Tell us how you do it in the comments.

Shahzad Saeed blogs on TechAndProject.com where he talks about Technology for students. If you want to learn web designing either to become a freelancer or to be an employee feel free to read his article series on web coding.

9 Elements of the Perfect Post

This guest post is by Ginny Soskey of Shareaholic.

A perfect blog post is hard to come by. Sometimes the mistakes are small, like a grammatical error, and other times the mistakes are so glaring that you just can’t look away.

You spend so much time coming up with post ideas, optimizing, editing, and promoting that you should make sure your posts are near perfect so your efforts don’t go to waste.

To help you make sure you’ve covered all your blogging bases before you hit “post,” I’ve created a handy infographic outlining the perfect post with some key learnings below:

9 Elements of a Perfect Blog Post

1. Headline

It’s essential to start your post off with a great headline.

In Shareaholic’s publisher network, the most shared websites tend to optimize for keywords in their headlines, include headlines less than ten words, and stick to “list” and “how to” kinds of posts.

Think of your headline as a tweet—would you click through to the link if it showed up on your feed? Crafting a headline in the form of a tweet also ensures that your headline is short enough to be shared via Twitter.

2. Sub-header

People like to scan, and large blocks of text scare them off. Try to break up your copy with several sub-headers as it will make it easy for readers to digest your content. Having sub-headers will also help them to comprehend your post as the main points are brought immediately to their attention.

Numbers, bolded text or larger font size are all ways you can create sub-headings for your blog. If you have several authors for your blog, be sure to tell them how you want your sub-headers to be styled in your editorial guidelines.

3. Optimized copy

SEOmoz’s infographic of the perfectly optimized blog post will guide you to see where you should place your keywords throughout your post.

To identify your keywords in the first place, make sure to check your content analytics tool to see what organic keywords and topics are popular with your readers.

4. Multimedia

Having visual and interactive elements to your blog post is essential to engaging visitors on your blog. Find stock photos or Creative Commons Licensed material using Compfight or even create one of your own.

The best part about using visuals in your posts is that it’s easy to reuse them to promote your blog on Pinterest, which Shareaholic found to be the fifth largest traffic source in the world. Among our publisher network, we notice that websites with branded visuals get the most shares on Pinterest while along benefitting from the brand exposure of including their name in those shares.

5. Embedded CTAs

Ultimately, you want your readers to take some form of action from your blog. That could mean subscribing to your blog so they come back again, or maybe downloading an ebook or other offer from you.

Make it easy for them to do so by embedding a call to action (CTA) in your post. From what we see in our publisher network and on our own blog, CTAs above the fold do the best, as your readers don’t have to scroll to take action.

6. Sidebar

This is prime real estate on your blog, as it is displayed no matter which article your readers are viewing. Use this area to show off links to your social networks, subscriptions to your RSS feed and email list, and free downloads of white papers, infographics or badges.

One of my favorite plugins for the sidebar is Social Media Widget—it’s easy to customize and use for bloggers of any level. Having these buttons will help keep your readers connected with you long after they leave your article.

7. Social sharing tools

After you create content that people enjoy, you need to make sure it’s easy for them to share it through their social networks.

Make sure your social sharing tools are prominently displayed on each post. Also, you should choose social sharing buttons that your readers are likely to use—you can use content analytics to determine where people are sharing your content and then include those social networks in your sharing buttons.

8. Related content

It’s not always love at first “site”: it may take a few posts to convince your reader to share your content or subscribe to your blog.

A related content tool speeds up this process by engaging your current readers with suggested posts at the bottom of each article you publish. This is sure to increase your pageviews and improve your overall time on site.

9. Comments

As social media has gained popularity, commenting on a blog post has expanded from the real estate directly below the post to other networks like Facebook and Twitter. Commenting systems have evolved to accommodate to this change and one of my favorites is Livefyre—it works in realtime and integrates seamlessly with Facebook or Twitter.

Knowing how to optimize your layout for maximum pageviews and social shares is incredibly important to growing your blog. What are some of your favorite tools to help create a perfect blog post? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Ginny Soskey is a marketing manager at Shareaholic. Shareaholic creates social sharing, related content and content analytics tools for more than 200,000 websites, reaching 300 million people each month. You can keep up with Shareaholic on the Shareaholic blog to get more tips on blogging.

How to Build and Monetize a Mobile-Optimized Blog

This guest post is by Thomas Samph and Matt Convente of Grovo.com.

For bloggers, creating a mobile site can seem daunting. Without the time, money and a working knowledge of various coding languages, a mobile site can seem out of reach.

But today, just like anyone who only has a desktop version of their website, that thought process is outdated. Mary Meeker, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, noted in her 2012 Internet Trends report that mobile traffic today accounts for 10% of total Internet traffic.

What’s more, way back in 2010, she predicted that mobile users would surpass desktop users by 2014. Even more recently, the Google Mobile Ads Blog released an infographic showing that in the United States, 47% of searches for information about Olympic athletes or news about the Olympics were conducted on mobile devices.

In other words, the rewards of going mobile far outweigh the risk. Plus, with the myriad of tools at our fingertips, creating a mobile optimized site isn’t as difficult as it sounds.

So let’s take a look at why you need a mobile optimized site. Then we’ll show you how to do it. And of course, let’s not forget to monetize, too.

Why have a mobile site?

Even by the time Meeker released her Internet Trends report at the All Things Digital conference in May, we knew where the Internet was headed. The Internet is going mobile, and bloggers need mobile sites.

Here’s a short case study: think of all your favorite sites. The majority is already mobile-optimized, and there’s a great reason why. Whether readers are checking in before they go to bed, as they’re waking up, or on the go, mobile-optimized sites offer great user experiences no matter what device readers are using.

Let’s see a demonstration. Below is a screenshot of the New York Times desktop version, to the left, and its mobile version, to the right.
NYtimes_desktop_mobile

When you access the New York Times from a mobile device, you actually get the same version of the site as from a desktop browser, just smaller. This is what you want to avoid by creating a mobile version of your site.

“But wait,” you say, “The New York Times has an app that I can access from my mobile device.” True; but there’s a large difference between native mobile apps and mobile versions of sites.

Whereas a native mobile app requires a brand new infrastructure (i.e. lots of time and resources), a mobile version of a site simply means that the existing site is presented to mobile users in a user-friendly format. Plus, a mobile version of a site doesn’t require its own content management system.

To see the difference, let’s take a look at the New York Times native mobile app, and the mobile-optimized version of their site:

nytimes_mobile_versions

In comparing the two, we can see that there’s much more functionality in the native app to the left, but the mobile version to the right is a huge step up from looking at the desktop version of the New York Times on a small screen.

Now that the difference between a native mobile app and a mobile optimized site is clear, there’s one distinction still to make. We’ll illustrate that with the following two sites:

mashable_desktop_mobile

ethan_desktop_mobile

Both Mashable and Ethan Marcotte have mobile versions of their sites. But there’s a subtle difference between the two, which has huge implications on how easy (or difficult) it will be for you to create a mobile optimized version of your site.

When Mashable’s site detects that a visitor is accessing it from a mobile device, it shows that visitor the mobile version of the site, instead of the desktop version.

Ethan’s site, on the other hand, uses responsive web design, where the elements of the site rearrange themselves depending on the size of the browser. Check it out by clicking and dragging the corner of your browser on his site to make the content bigger and smaller. You’ll see that all the content shifts and rearranges itself based on the size of your browser.

In fact, Ethan Marcotte wrote the book on responsive web design. He’s a good act to follow. But following him is not easy, by any means. Responsive web design is a very difficult emerging trend in coding and design, and few people can pull off a site like Ethan’s.

So, bloggers are left with a decision when it comes to creating mobile-optimized sites: create a mobile version of a blog, or build a site using responsive web design.

How to make a mobile-optimized site

Using a plugin

There are several methods you can use to create a mobile optimized site. But anyone with a Blogger blog has it easy: Blogger blogs are automatically set up with a mobile-optimized version. If you use WordPress, the easiest method is to use a WordPress plugin.

To see what your site might look like after you use a WordPress plugin to create a mobile-optimized version, check out TechCrunch’s browser version compared to its mobile site:

techcrunch_desktop_mobile

WordPress, which powers TechCrunch, has a number of plugins that can optimize your site for mobile—all you need to do is install one of them.

Wapple Architect will display the mobile version of your website to visitors with mobile devices. It supports AdMob and Google Adsense, and allows you to retain the URL structure of your current site, instead of having to create a new subdomain for the mobile version.

wapple_plugin

WPtouch is another popular WordPress plugin that, like Wapple, is fully customizable to your needs. There’s also an option for mobile visitors to switch back to the desktop browser version if they wish to do so.

wptouch_plugin

The WordPress Mobile Pack transforms WordPress blogs into mobile sites quickly and easily, while offering a range of customizable features. Again, you’ll have the ability to manage your ads through AdMob or Google Adsense. With this plugin, however, you can view mobile analytics apart from your desktop analytics.

wordpress_mobile_plugin

By using these plugins, you ensure that those visiting your site from a mobile device will see the mobile version only. Problem solved.

However, if you’re looking for more customization, or you’re not using WordPress, check out Onbile.com.

Instead of building a mobile site from scratch or installing a plugin, Onbile lets you build a slick mobile interface with no coding. You can choose from several themes, customize the pages, and link in your RSS feed.

how_to_use_onbile

Once you’re done building, grab the redirect code and place it in the index of your site, and you’re ready to go.

Here’s the transformation of my website:

samph_desktop_mobile

Unlike WordPress plugins or Blogger mobile sites, however, the free version of Onbile requires that you keep the Onbile advertising banner on your mobile site—not the best choice if you’re looking to keep your mobile site monetized.

Still, using WordPress plugins or sites like Onbile that let you build your own HTML5 mobile site can be a great quick-fix for anyone looking to appeal to mobile traffic without having to get their hands dirty with code.

In the next section we’ll discuss some more in-depth methods of creating a great mobile presence with responsive web design. The feint of heart can skip to the last section!

Using responsive web design

Responsive web design is a way to build mobile capability into your existing site. This method is much more difficult than building another version of your site and redirecting, such as with Onbile, and it requires a deeper strategy and planning to pull it off.

For another great example of responsive web design in action, check out the Boston Globe’s site. Note that as you change the size of your browser, the content of the site changes as well.

boston_globe_site

small_boston_globe_site

This is made possible by media queries, which control the adaptation of site layout and content based on certain conditions, such as screen resolution, orientation, and pixel density. Media queries are placed either in your master CSS file, or in a separate file; it’s really up to you. Having them in your master CSS file means you have one less file to load, but having a separate file for responsive styles makes them easier to maintain.

However, no matter which method you choose, you must place your responsive styles after your main styles. This is because browsers render code from top to bottom. If your responsive styles are placed above your main ones, they won’t be activated when they’re needed.

Here are some sample media queries that you can run to adjust the layout of a page when a visitor’s screen resolution is a certain size.

1. Make a layout that adapts to a max screen width of 600 pixels (likely a phone):

@media (max-width: 600px) { CSS goes here }

2. Make a layout that adapts to screens between 768 and 850 pixels (likely a tablet):

@media (min-width: 768px) and (max-width: 850px) { CSS goes here }

The last step to a successful mobile site is to add the viewport meta tag in your header. This determines a device’s width and informs the mobile browser, making it a necessary supplement to media queries. In order words, media queries adjust your CSS to varying widths, whereas viewport tags determine the starting width of the device a visitor is using right now.

In addition to device width, viewport tags can also assign initial and maximum scale. Here’s an example meta viewport tag:

meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width; initial-scale=1.0; maximum-scale=1.0;”

Here, initial-scale should be set to 1 so the correct responsive styles are displayed for your specific mobile device. The maximum-scale value can be whatever you want, though it’s important to note that zooming on a mobile device might cause some site elements to break, similar to zooming on full-width browsers. If you want to disable zooming, set maximum-scale to 1.

Let’s not forget to monetize

For any blogger who uses AdSense, it will be fairly easy to keep the mobile version of your site monetized. And if you don’t already, you can use AdMob, another Google advertising service designed specifically for mobile devices, to serve mobile banner ads to your mobile site.

Still, there are several common problems with advertising on mobile sites:

  • No Flash: It was slightly shocking to developers when Apple announced that Flash would not be supported on their mobile devices. Sites built with Flash were relegated to the broom closet, in favor of HTML5 and javascript. Many ads themselves, let alone entire mobile sites, are built with Flash. So, with limited support on Android devices, and no chance on Apple devices, Flash ads are a no-no on mobile.
  • Ad display size: The screen area of mobile devices is much smaller than desktops, so many ad sizes simply won’t do on mobile. The biggest victim of mobile is the vertical sidebar.
  • Ad file size: The speeds at which you can download data to a mobile device have still not caught up to those of a desktop. This means you need to be mindful of the loading time for your ads. Large files will take a while to load, and can also force your other content to load more slowly. When sites are slow to load, people leave.

However, those problems have some quick solutions:

  • No Flash? No problem: Instead of using Flash, try an animated GIF if you want a moving ad. Flash files are large, slow to load, and probably won’t even display on most mobile devices. Animated GIFs are a quick fix.
  • Getting the right ad display size: Square or almost-square ad units are best for mobile designs, because they’ll fit on most devices as long as you place them correctly.You can also use a rectangular adhesion banner that is fixed to the bottom of the mobile browser. Fixed banner ads have an identical pro and con: it’s always there. Be mindful of height, especially in landscape viewing mode, as a fixed ad that is too tall will cover up too much of your site. For a reference, check out the iab guidelines for digital ad units.
  • Fixing ad file size: Export your ad images using a “Save for web” or equivalent option in your editing software. This will compress the file size and make it acceptable for mobile.

How mobile’s your blog?

To prepare for the mobile traffic of the future, bloggers need mobile sites. Although some methods are more time consuming and difficult than others, there’s a way to do it for bloggers of all skill levels.

And with more and more data surfacing about the volume of mobile traffic, from Mary Meeker’s reports to the mobile search volume at the Olympics, going mobile is all the more necessary.

Do you have a mobile-optmized blog? How’d you build it? Tell us in the comments.

Thomas Samph, a product analyst, and Matt Convente, a front-end developer, both work at Grovo.com, an online training and education platform for cloud-based software.

Blogging for Startups: 10 Essential Tips to Make it Work

This guest post is by Gregory Ciotti of Help Scout.

Getting the word out about your startup is tough.

Blogs serve as a great way to increase organic traffic and establish the all-important relationship of “know, like, trust” through the provision of free content. In addition, few other marketing channels allow you to connect so well with prospective (and current) customers as well as giving you a platform to provide readers with a ton of value.

To become a thought leader in your startup’s industry, and to generate quality leads through your blog, be sure to follow these ten essential steps to creating a blog presence that thrives in the crowded blogosphere.

1. Create useful resources

You’ve likely heard (many times over) the effectiveness that resource pages and opt-in freebies play in generating more email sign-ups, and it’s all true.

But when it comes to startups, these resources become doubly important.

It’s critical that you create numerous resources that are both informative about your industry and your offering.

Maintaining an ever-growing resource section that employs multiple media types to help people become informed about both your industry and your business is essential for increasing conversions.

It’s important to branch out into visual media to promote these resources, too. One of my favorite methods is to create slideshows based on existing content.

Why are resources so important for startups?

If you’re just running a blog, your resources are likely going to be used to generate more subscribers.

But for a startup, these resources can be the deciding factor in whether customers are willing to try you out: your free content gets them on your site, but your professionally prepared and incredibly useful resources give them the info they need to justify a purchase.

2. On-site content + guest blogging = success

Don’t get me wrong, running a company blog is hugely important. It’s so obviously effective, it almost doesn’t need to be mentioned.

One thing I see many startups fail to do, however, is to embrace the power of guest blogging.

Although the process can be time consuming, and it may take an extended period before any fantastic results are achieved, it is hard to argue with the success of folks like the BufferApp team, who’ve utilized guest blogging to attract over 100,000 users to their service.

Great on-site content deserves to be viewed, and there are few things that work as well as guest blogging to get your worthy content in front of readers who will enjoy it. Speaking of getting the word out…

3. Content promotion doesn’t end with a tweet

This is a big one. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that this is the biggest mistake any blogger can make.

Once a great piece of content is written for your blog, you may think your work’s done. In reality, it’s just begun.

They don’t call it “content marketing” just for kicks: although the content itself is a good marketing outlet, you’ve got to market your own content in order for it to succeed.

What does this mean? It means reaching out to people who may enjoy your posts.

This exemplary tale of getting published on Lifehacker makes an important point: when your content really is interesting and informative, getting featured on a huge blog like that may only be an email away.

It’s all about finding the right places for your content, and establishing a connection with the sites’ owners through mutual interests. Don’t blast your latest article out to everybody you know. Find a few people who might really enjoy it, and send them a personal email.

If you don’t know where to begin, I recommend browsing a few sites in your niche via AllTop.

4. Repeat after me: it’s not about you!

This is content marketing 101, and although it’s pegged at point four on this list, this is really the most important tip.

Your startup’s blog is never going to be an industry leader if the only thing you talk about is you.

On occasion, an important company update is definitely necessary. Cool company stories also make the cut, because they’re something that anyone can enjoy.

The rest of the time, you need to be creating content that informs, delights, and solves the problems of potential customers.

One of my favorite examples of a company that gets it can be found over on the Mint blog. While Mint is a powerful tool that’s worth writing about, the Mint blog focuses on Mint’s customers’ interests, which in this case includes topics like personal finance, savings, and income (jobs).

People read what interests them. While the internal updates within your startup may interest you, few other people are going to want to read about them. That’s why, in order to become a thought leader, your content needs to serve customer’ needs and interests, not yours or your team’s.

Your goal is to turn your company blog into a resource of its own. When other outlets start doing round-ups of the Top 25 [your niche] Blogs, will yours be mentioned?

5. Use the “halo effect” to generate more links

Your startup shouldn’t be excessively worried about getting backlinks, but generating links is an importance process of establishing your company’s (and your blog’s) authority in search engines.

One thing that startups can utilize is the so-called halo effect.

The halo effect states that people will generally feel favorably towards people (and things) that give them a good impression (that impression can be through association, perceived intelligence, and even their attractiveness).

As an example, there are many entrepreneurial shows that startup founders can appear on for more exposure. The shows are popular and seen favorably, and so are the people who appear on them as guests.

Here’s a great interview with Jason Cohen (founder of WPEngine) on Mixergy, which leverages the story of his startup’s growth for additional exposure.

This is the halo-effect in action: people generally support startups and view a group of hard-working people toiling away at a new venture as admirable, and they will often be willing to tell your story if it relates to their audience.

6. Check in on the competition, and find what they’re lacking

You can’t create a great company blog without a unique selling proposition. It’s needed for your business and it’s essential for your content as well.

The best way to do this is to see what’s lacking over on your competitor’s blog.

One great example comes from the fine folks at StudioPress, where content creator Josh Byers creates some of the more interesting web-design content around.

Many other WordPress theme sites only update on new theme releases or new features. If they don’t do that, their blog posts are often uninspired or generic.

Taking advantage of this, Josh creates some really in-depth content like the Secret to Confidence with Color Design, a fantastic look (with some great visuals) on a topic that many rookie website owners struggle with.

While competitors are busy focusing on themselves, Josh and the StudioPress team produce a ton of content that helps readers, and that’s the best kind of content to write!

What gaps are your competitors leaving wide open? How could you come in and fill the void?

7. Collaborate to take things to the next level

One of the biggest advantages you have at a startup is that you have access to a lot of talented minds. You don’t need to rely entirely on yourself, as you do as a solo blogger.

I mentioned how effective resources can be, but these collaborative efforts can also be used to enhance your marketing.

One of my favorite examples comes from the excellent startup Grasshopper, which collaborated with Less Films in order to create a video entitled “Sh*t (Tech) Entrepreneurs Say”, a comedic spin in the same vein of the original viral video:

On your team you’ll likely have a multitude of talents, so if you are able to use different aspects like visual marketing, creating different kinds of media, or brainstorming other out-of-the-box marketing tactics, you’ll more than likely have the manpower to pull it off (this is a more difficult process if you work alone).

8. Don’t fall for the social media trap

Bring out the pitchforks! Yes folks, I said it: social media is by and large way less useful than its vastly superior counterpart: email.

Social media is great in that it lets other people share your content. That’s good for exposure, but it happens without you being there. While it is useful for your brand to engage on all of the essential social media platforms, you’re dooming yourself to failure if you aren’t placing emphasis on email.

Email is the greatest way to provide customers value, to drive consistent and reliable traffic back to your site, and to … oh yeah, make more sales.

This is especially true if your startup is in the enterprise software or B2B spaces, because email crushes social media in those areas.

So remember, it’s great to create a strong following on Twitter, but if you aren’t ending your funnel with email (and actual sales), you’re just wasting your time.

9. Simplify your SEO

Search engine optimization is a powerful piece of the content marketing puzzle, but it can be portrayed as a very complex subject, and that’s largely because at its deeper levels, it is.

For startups, the most important SEO rule is this: create content for humans, then target one keyphrase per article. That’s it.

Create blog posts that people will enjoy. Next, find a relevant keyphrase that you might be able to rank for that’s related to that article. After you’ve figured this out, you can contextually link back to that article from guest posts and other off-site features, as well as make headline adjustments in things like All-in-one-SEO to enhance on-site optimization.

Industry-leading content is made for people to read and enjoy, but by keeping search engines in mind can help get it in front of a larger audience.

10. Follow the leader(s)

Sivan Cohen recently did a great piece on Mashable entitled 5 Tech Companies That Get Content Marketing Right, and in it she outlined some of my favorite places to observe as I look to improve my own blogging efforts.

To make things a bit more concise, I’ll highlight my two favorites:

Here’s what I like about what they do…

For KISSmetrics: The focus was on creating industry leading content and large guides on complex topics within the field of marketing and analytics.

KISS also entered the scene early by focusing heavily on infographics that truly set the bar for design. They weren’t afraid to get very data-driven because they knew that’s what their customers wanted. It’s okay to ostracize some readers—you want the people that lap up the kind of content that relates closely to your brand, as those people will become your buyers.

For the Buffer blog: The two big highlights are the prodigious guest posting coming from Buffer’s main content guy, Leo Wildrich, and the subsequent pivot of the Buffer blog USP.

Leo has done a fantastic job with utilizing guest blogging to bring customers back to Buffer, and it’s also what got Buffer’s own blog off the ground (I should know—I was the first person to guest post there!).

Buffer also made a great pivot recently when it outgrew its original topic of unique Twitter tips. It now addresses an angle consisting of productivity, lifehacks, and customer happiness (since it now serves multiple social networks).

There are definitely other great examples to learn from, so pick a few favorites and start taking notes!

Blogging for startups

As you can see, blogging for startups is different than either blogging solo, or blogging for an established business.

How has your startup utilized blogging so far? Bloggers, have you ever worked with a startup? If so, what were your experiences? I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments!

Gregory Ciotti is the author of Sparring Mind and the content strategist for Help Scout, the customer service software for small-businesses that turns email support into a fast, easy and memorable experience for customers. Learn more about @HelpScout by watching this free webinar.

Top 10 WordPress Security Myths

This guest post is by Anders Vinther of The WordPress Security Checklist.

WordPress Security is about as sexy as cleaning your house. And as a serious blogger, you already know that securing your site properly is not a trivial task.

That makes it a fantastic topic for myth fabrication.

In this post, I’ve compiled the top ten WordPress security myths for your easy consumption, followed by a light sprinkle of facts to debunk the myths.

Here are the myths:

  1. WordPress is not secure.
  2. Nobody wants to hack my blog.
  3. My WordPress site is 100% secure.
  4. I only use themes and plugins from wordpress.org so they are secure.
  5. Updating WordPress whenever I log in is cool.
  6. Once my WordPress site is setup my job is finished.
  7. I’ll just install xyz plugin and that’ll take care of security for me.
  8. If I disable a plugin or theme, there is no risk.
  9. If my site is compromised I will quickly find out.
  10. My password is good enough.

Myth 1. WordPress is not secure

When people experience security problems with their WordPress sites, they tend to blame WordPress. However, the WordPress core is very secure. And when a security hole is found, the development team is very quick to respond.

The most frequent causes for compromised WordPress sites are in fact:

  • outdated software
  • insecure themes and plugins
  • bad passwords
  • stolen FTP credentials
  • hosting problems.

For more on this topic, see WordPress Security Vulnerabilities.

Myth 2. Nobody wants to hack my blog

Most hacking attempts are automated. There are rarely personal or political motives behind WordPress hacking—more often the motives involve financial gain.

Maybe you’re thinking, “But I don’t have anything for sale on my site. I don’t have credit card information or any other sensitive information. What could they possibly steal from my site?”

What you do have is resources.

Possible ways to exploit your site are:

  • the insertion of spam links in your content to boost SEO for other sites
  • through malware infections of your visitors computers, e.g. to steal their financial information
  • redirecting your traffic to other sites.

For more details, see Are Small Sites Targeted For Hacking?

Myth 3. My WordPress site is 100% secure

No site that’s accessible on the internet will ever be 100% secure. Security vulnerabilities will always exist.

That is why you need a backup and recovery plan. If disaster strikes, you need to have a good backup available, and a plan for how to restore your site.

For more, see:

Myth 4. I only use themes and plugins from wordpress.org so they are secure

The WordPress Team reviews themes and plugins before they are included in the wordpress.org repository. However they do not have the resources to review updates.

Themes and plugins are developed by programmers from all over the world. Their experience and programming skills vary greatly, and so does the quality of their work. Even the best programmers make mistakes and all software contains bugs. Just pick a random plugin, look at the change log and you will see that bugs are routinely discovered and fixed. Even the best plugins developed by the most renowned people could contain undiscovered security risks.

Is it safer to get your themes and plugins from wordpress.org? Absolutely.

Is it guaranteed that there are no security problems with themes and plugins from wordpress.org? Absolutely not.

For more information, see:

Myth 5. Updating WordPress whenever I log in is cool

You need to keep WordPress core, plugins, and themes updated at all times. Whenever a security update is released the whole world can see what the problem was. This obviously exposes any site that has not been updated. Unless you log in to your WordPress admin dashboard every day, you’ll need a plugin that will notify you when updates are available.

More information can be found in the article, Update Notifications.

Myth 6. Once my WordPress site is set up, my job is finished

Having a WordPress site is an ongoing commitment—it’s like having a dog. As a bare minimum your WordPress blog needs to be maintained when new updates come out. This is crucial even if you do not write new posts or otherwise update the content.

If you simply leave your WordPress site behind like an abandoned holiday pet, chances are that you will be helping the bad guys carry out their malicious schemes to control the world. So if you will not or cannot keep your WordPress site updated, it’s better if you take it down!

Myth 7. I’ll just install xyz plugin and that’ll take care of security for me

You do need security plugins. And you need the right mix of security plugins. However, keeping your WordPress site secure goes well beyond what you install on your site.

Other factors you need to consider include:

  • securing the computer you use to connect to your hosting account (anti-virus, malware and firewalls)
  • creating and managing strong passwords
  • using Secure FTP to access your hosting account
  • protecting sensitive WordPress files from access from the internet
  • off-site WordPress monitoring.

Myth 8. If I disable a plugin or theme, there is no risk

All files that exist in your WordPress folder are accessible from the internet unless you specifically protect them. This means even disabled themes and plugins can be exploited if they are vulnerable.

The best practice is to remove anything you do not use. Or, at a minimum, make sure you keep de-activated themes and plugins updated.

Myth 9. If my site is compromised I will quickly find out

Professional hackers are not interested in you finding out that your site has been compromised. Therefore you might not find out what has happened until quite some time after a hack has occurred—if you find out at all.

Some types of hacks that are difficult to spot include:

  • redirection of all traffic coming from a search engine (so if you enter the URL in your browser or use a bookmark, everything will look normal)
  • the inclusion of hidden text in your posts and pages.

You need some kind of off-site monitoring of your WordPress site. For more details, see:

Myth 10. My password is good enough

Unless your WordPress admin password looks something like LR!!g&6uTFL%MD8cyo, you need to change your password management strategy. And make sure you do not reuse passwords on multiple websites.

Amazingly password and 123456 are still the two most used passwords! To find out more about this issue—and how to solve it—see:

Don’t get caught out!

Getting WordPress security right is not trivial. That’s probably the reason why too many bloggers stick their heads in the sand when it comes to protecting their valuable assets.

While you do need to be pro-active and take action WordPress Security is by no means an impossible task. The same way you would add an alarm to your car and get a guard dog for your house you need to secure your website. Don’t get caught with sand in your ears, nose, and mouth when the hackers come knocking on your door. Act now!

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

Protect Your Content from Being Copied in 3 Steps

This guest post is by Abhishek of Budding Geek.

Content scraping still haunts the entire blogosphere. No matter how hard you try to defend your creation, content thieves will always find a way to steal it!

It really feels terrible to find exact copies of your original work distributed all over the internet, often without any credit or link back to your blog as the source. The most frustrating part is when you find the copied content outranking your own blog in the search engines.

How can someone copy content from your blog?

Copycats can steal your content in a number of ways, but there are two key techniques:

  1. by directly copying text and images from your published post and re-publishing the content on the spammer’s blog (or splog!)
  2. by scraping your RSS feed. The truth is, this form of plagiarism is the most difficult to tackle.

Since plagiarism is impossible to obliterate, we need to safeguard our blogs from these vulnerabilities in such a way that it becomes at least extremely difficult for the content thief to plagiarize our content.

Protect your blog content

There are a few different ways you can protect your blog content.

1. Disable text selection on your blog

This is the first and most essential step to discourage direct copying of your content.

Users of the Blogger platform can disable text selection from their blogs by manually installing some JavaScript code before the closing <head> tag in the HTML of their blog.

WordPress users can add this feature by installing the wpcopyprotect plugin.

2. Watermark your images

It’s important to watermark all the original images you’ve created for use on your blog. A watermark proves that you are the owner of the copyright to all those images. Moreover, watermarks discourage others from using your photos and illustrations on their blog, since they’d have your blog’s name all over theirs!

Although there are many watermarking utilities available on the internet, I generally prefer to use Windows Live Writer’s inbuilt watermark plugin. Note that if you’re using photos from any other outside source on the web (like Flickr or Picasa), it’s up to you to take a notice of their licenses before reusing them—otherwise you might find yourself guilty of ripping someone else’s content!

3. Manage your RSS feeds

A few months ago, I encountered a terrible content scraper who, I think, was using content scraping software and publishing my posts under several different permalinks. Sounds scary, right? This software basically scans your main content and republishes your posts with the main keywords replaced by synonyms. Isn’t that irritating?

These auto-publishing sploggers target the RSS feed of your blog, where they scrape your creation in just a matter of seconds! In order to stop such exploitation you should either allow partial/short RSS feeds (so that the scraping software doesn’t take all of your content) or add a custom feed signature with a copyright notice in the feed footer section of your blog, like this:

© 2012, All Rights Reserved ¦ yourblog.com

Note that, like a waternark on an image, this note won’t prevent your content from being taken—but when it’s reproduced on another site, readers will see that the content is being used illegally.

Users of the Blogger platform can add a custom feed signature by navigating to Other settings for your blog, then in the Site Feed section, add the following feed signature in the post feed footer:

<p> © copyright 2012 – All rights reserved </p>
<a href=”
http://www.yourblogaddress.com“>Your Blog</a>

For the WordPress platform, I stumbled upon this excellent free plugin that adds a custom signature in the feed footer.

These tips can definitely help you to reduce plagiarism of your content. But what other techniques have you tried? Share them with us in the comments.

Abhishek is a part time blogger from Delhi who loves to write unique and interesting tech tips on a variety of topics like blogging, making money online, SEO, internet marketing and gadgets. Apart from that he is a die heart android fan and so don’t be surprised if you find loads of android tips on his budding blog!

Weekend Project: Sharing a WordPress War Story

While we love blogging, we all know there are some aspects that really do seem impossible sometimes—none moreso than transferring a WordPress.com blog to the WordPress.org platform.

We’ve discussed the differences between these two platforms before, because more than one blogger has been caught up by the limitations of WordPress.com (usually the limitation that this platform doesn’t allow you to monetize your blog). But it’s well known that swapping to the .org platform from .com can be a challenge.

This weekend’s project explains the WordPress war story of a blogger who chose to start a blog on WordPress.com, because it required so little technical knowledge. But when she wanted to monetize her blog—and switch to the .org platform—that lack of technical skill proved a major hurdle. It’s no wonder the process has gained such a bad reputation!

Actually, I think this is something that blog platform developers probably want to consider as they’re creating their platforms‚ because any help they can give to users who want to upgrade or switch to other versions of their products is always much appreciated.

If you’re one of those bloggers who’s itching to move your blog from .com to .org, but you’ve been too scared, clear some time in your weekend schedule to implement the process that our Weekend Project sets out. I’m giving you plenty of warning for this project—it starts tomorrow!

For now, if you have a WordPress war story of your own that you’d like to get off your chest, feel free to vent in the comments.

10 Fresh Tips for Finding Time to Blog

This guest post is by Brian Milne of The Corporate Mentality.

Work. School. Friends. Family … and kids.

We’ve all got a lot going on in our lives, and I haven’t even mentioned our online worlds yet.

Twitter. Facebook. Google Plus. LinkedIn … and Pinterest.

The list is always growing, and as our offline lives get busier and online worlds more cluttered, our blogs are getting more and more neglected.

And while it’s great spending time learning everything the above social sites have to offer, let’s not forget the importance of our own blogs, and the significance of providing readers with quality content. After all, without quality posts, you’ll be slow to take your blog to the next level and will have little original content to push out to your followers.

And, in the end, isn’t that what it’s all about? Generating exposure, traffic, leads and potential customers or partners?

That said, here are ten ways I’ve been able to carve out more blogging time of late—despite running dozens of sites and having our third child in five years this past April. (And if these ten tips aren’t enough, ProBlogger’s timely Blog Wise ebook will certainly do the trick!)

1. Get up early

There’s nothing better than starting off the day with something you really enjoy, whether it’s a nice jog around the park, a bike ride through town, or a trip to the gym. And if you’re someone who truly enjoys writing, you’ll appreciate making blogging part of your morning routine.

Just be sure to do so before you get online and open your inbox. Your writing is more impactful when ideas are fresh in your head—and you aren’t bogged down by your list of tasks for the day.

2. Write at lunch

If you can’t get up early enough to write before work, get away from it all at lunch. Take the iPad or laptop with you to the park, fire it up on a shady bench next to your brown bag and write to your heart’s content.

3. Go offline

No wireless connection at your local lunch getaway? No worries. Disconnecting makes for a distraction-free hour of writing. In fact, while you’re at it, turn off your phone, Twitter alerts, Facebook messages, IM and email inbox—anything that’s going to keep you from getting your thoughts down.

If you get the inspiration to Tweet, take that clever 140-characters and expand on it in a blog post. Remember, it’s better to own your content than get owned by Twitter or Facebook. Make those platforms work for you, not the other way around.

4. Stay up late

All the hustlers do it. And don’t just stay up late and use the “free time” to soak up more David Letterman. Kill your TV and breathe new life into your blog.

As Gary Vaynerchuk writes in Crush It, “If you already have a full-time job, you can get a lot done between 7 p.m. and 2 a.m. (9 p.m. to 3 a.m. if you’ve got kids), so learn to love working during those predawn hours. I promise it won’t be hard if you’re doing what you love more than anything else.”

5. Use an app for that

Don’t have time to post, but have a second to snap a photo? Start photo blogging from your mobile device. Mobile content is becoming a lot more acceptable in today’s blogosphere, whether it’s an inspirational image or an event photo that’s related to your site, snap it, and post it in less than a minute.

You can use the WordPress app, which allows you to post images, text and even HTML straight from your mobile device. Or set up your blog to allow for email publishing, whether it’s straight from your mobile email client or through a third-party platform such as Flickr—which can auto post images to the site and your blog via email.

6. Use shortcuts

Take advantage of additional WordPress features that streamline posting. For example, did you know you can embed a YouTube video in the body of your WordPress blog by simply pasting in the URL of the video? In the latest version of WordPress, 3.4, you can do the same thing with Tweets, embedding an individual Tweet just by pasting the link to the Tweet in the body of your blog post.

Knowing shortcuts and quick tips like this can cut down your “time to publish” considerably.

7. Accept guest posts

I know, it’s your blog, and it’s tough to allow others to post on the site you’ve poured your blood, sweat and tears into. But there comes a time—when either you get too busy or your blog gets too popular—when you have to take a step back and ask for help.

It’s a good problem to have if you think about it, because your site has likely scaled to the point where it’s bigger than you ever would have imagined. To keep feeding the content machine, reach out to some folks you trust for regular contributions. Adding different perspectives to your site often brings in new readers, and also encourages those you trust to help build and promote your brand when they post.

8. Hire some help

If you’re not sure where to turn in terms of guest contributors, post an ad on a related freelance board for part-time writers. Be sure to ask candidates to include a résumé and links to from three to five related blog posts. That way you can see exactly what types of posts you could expect when outsourcing. You never know, you might just find someone who writes as well or—gulp—better than you do!

9. Post different types of content

Have you ever created a video for your audience? How about a podcast? Sometimes turning on a microphone or camera can be easier than sitting down to craft a solid 600-word blog post.

As noted earlier, photo blogging or producing short, informative videos or podcasts can be a quick way to whip up new content and complement your writing. And in some cases, audiences respond better to non-traditional content types. New mediums also allow your audience to digest your content on the go, which is becoming increasingly important in this mobile world we live in.

10. Put it down on paper

Maybe it’s the former journalist in me, but I still use an old-fashioned reporter’s notepad to jot down quick notes and sketch out illustrations when I’m not in front of a computer (during my commute, for example).

It helps me organize and prioritize my thoughts, and keeps me from cursing iPhone autocorrect fails—which, when funny enough, lead me to waste another 15 minutes ridiculing those blunders with all of you on Twitter.

And that, my fellow bloggers, would be a waste of everyone’s time.

Brian Milne is founder of the BlogHyped Network of sites, where bloggers vote up posts and receive valuable links and exposure for their blog. Follow @BMilneSLO on Twitter to share your blog productivity tips and to be featured in his upcoming “Book on Blogging.”

Should You Use a Third-Party Commenting System on Your Blog?

This guest post is by Syed Balkhi of WPBeginner.

If you’ve been blogging for anything more than a few months, you probably have come across blogs using third-party commenting systems like Disqus, Livefyre, Facebook Comments, Intense Debate, and more. You may have asked yourself, “Why do other blogs use these systems? Are they helpful? Should I use a third-party commenting system on my site?”

I have used both the built-in WordPress commenting system and a third-party commenting platform for an extensive period of time. In this article, I will share the pros and cons, from my personal experience, of using a third-party commenting system, and point you to some of the plugins that I use to extend the power of built-in WordPress comments.

Pros of third-party commenting systems

1. Single login (authenticity)

There are a lot of trolls on the web leaving anonymous comments. By using a third-party commenting system, you can require the user to register before the comment, and so cut down on trolling.

If you’re using a popular third-party commenting system like Disqus, Livefyre, or Facebook Comments, then the chances are that the user already has an account with those services. Users can surf from one website to another while staying logged in to the commenting platform, and this allows them to easily track all of their comments—and those of others—throughout the blogosphere.

2. Expanded social media presence

Almost all third-party commenting platforms offer some sort of expanded social media presence, Facebook Comments being the leader because it gives you the viral aspect. Your users’ comments can be posted on their walls, as long as they leave right the checkbox checked.

Other platforms allow users to integrate with Twitter and Facebook. Livefyre, in particular, allows the user to tag their Facebook or Twitter friends within the comments. This tagging sends a tweet or Facebook message to their friend(s) notifying them about your post.

3. Spam control

Requiring a commenter to log in to comment virtually eliminates the chance of a spam bot attacking your site.

4. Increased engagement

Most third-party commenting platforms claim to increase engagement. Some do it by making your comments appear in real-time, simulating a chat-like feel within comments. Others allow users to easily subscribe to comments via email to keep up with the conversation.

Cons of third-party commenting systems

1. Change and frustration

While the concept of using one login across all websites sounds noble, it doesn’t always work.

If your current commenting system doesn’t require user registration, then your users will likely be frustrated when you introduce a new system. This change “forces” them to create an account with a third-party service to leave a comment on your site—and that may seem as if they’re losing their freedom to comment on your site. This can drive some of your most loyal users away.

2. Lack of control

If you are the kind of blogger who likes to fine-tune and tweak every aspect of your blog, then third-party comment systems probably aren’t for you.

You will lose control over most aspects of your commenting platform in terms of formatting and design by adopting these systems. Your users will also experience slower page loads while the third-party commenting platform loads (especially during maintenance and occasional server outages), which is totally out of your control. Last but certainly not least, you will not be able to add features, such as lead-generation option or comment policy text links, without mastering the commenting system’s API.

My choice: default WordPress comments

After using a third-party commenting system, Livefyre, for over a year, I decided to switch back to the default WordPress comment system. While I could go into the excruciating details about why I switched away from Livefyre, the main point was the cons outweighed the pros. I wanted more control over the look and functionality of our comments, and I also wanted to keep our users happy. Lastly, I was able to replicate just about every advantage of a third-party commenting system using WordPress plugins.

So let’s go through that pros and cons list again, and see how it caused me to switch to WordPress comments.

  1. Authenticity: While requiring users to register is one way to ensure authenticity, it was really annoying. So we just use Gravatar, which allows others to recognize the same commenter over multiple platforms. No need to use a plugin for this! WordPress has built-in support for Gravatar as long as your theme is properly coded (most good themes are).
  2. Expanded social media presence: I was able to add Sign in with Twitter and Connect with Facebook options to my blog fairly easily while leaving the default method as is. I used the plugin called Simple Twitter Connect which allowed me to add the Sign with Twitter option. I used the plugin called Simple Facebook Connect to add the Connect with Facebook option for my comments.

    Social comment integration

  3. Spam control: While requiring registration can reduce spam, it is also very annoying. I thought of a less annoying method that has been working great for us—the awesome Akismet plugin, which comes with every WordPress installation and does a fairly decent job of detecting spam comments.

    I noticed the main reason why people leave spam comments is to get backlinks. Well, I decided to get rid of the link feature altogether. This required me to edit the comments.php file, but it wasn’t very hard. All I had to do was get rid of the Website field from the comment submission form. Then, I just edited the way our comments were displayed in the theme by removing the hyperlinks from the name and Gravatar image. This takes away the backlink incentive for most spammers. Another thing I did was disabled pingbacks/trackbacks on all posts. I noticed a lot of folks were trying to send trackback spam on our site, hoping for a backlink from posts. However by doing this, I totally avoided that issue.

  4. Increase in engagement: You can add the Subscribe to Comments feature to your comments using a popular plugin called Subscribe to Comments. I also added an opt-in checkbox to our comments that allows readers to subscribe to our newsletter using Newsletter Sign-Up.

As you can see, I was able to get almost all of the benefits of a third-party commenting system that people want while still using the built-in WordPress comments. Not to mention that I was able to customize the look of our comments, so they look good and are in keeping with out site.

Do you use third-party commenting systems?

Despite my experience, third-party commenting systems work perfectly for some bloggers and their blogs. I’d be interested in hearing your experiences of using a third-party commenting platform—or choosing to use the default system that came with your blog.

Syed Balkhi is the founder of WPBeginner, the largest unofficial WordPress resource site that offers free WordPress videos for beginners as well as other comprehensive guides like choosing the best WordPress Hosting, speeding up WordPress, and many more how-to’s.