Saturday, November 2, 2013

Easy Ways to Check PageRank- How to Check Google PageRank for Free

Easy Ways To Check PageRank and Boost Your Traffic


Easy Ways To Check Google PageRank
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

What is PageRank?

Google PageRank is the result of a scoring system that Google uses to evaluate the importance of a website.  The algorithm was developed by Larry Page at Google as part of development of search engine algorithms.  PageRank is still used today by Google as a factor to decide which pages to display in Search Engine Results Pages.



How is PageRank Calculated?

The details of Google's PageRank algorithm have not been disclosed.  Based on patent applications and other publicly disclosed information, the concept of PageRank is to evaluate links from other website and links within a website.  For example, if a lot of important sites on the internet link to apple.com, the PageRank for apple.com would be high.  In fact, the current PageRank for apple.com is 9 out of 10- a very high score.

What Do PageRank scores mean?

PageRank score ranges from 0 to 10.  The scale is nonlinear- for example, a site that has a PageRank of 2 may 16 times more important than a site with PageRank of 1.  Sites with PageRank of 8 or higher are elite sites on the internet.  A PageRank of 4 or 5 for a blog would be considered pretty good.  New sites or blogs will have have PageRank of 0, or will not have a PageRank at all.  You can still rank in search results with a PageRank of 0 if you have good keywords and weak competition.

How Can I Improve PageRank of My Site?

Links are the key to PageRank.  If you have really good content, you can get reputable sites to link to yours.  One of my blogs has a link from msn.com- this is a big boost and provides some serious "link juice" in terms of PageRank.  You can link to your page from some of your other sites to help boost PageRank.  Internal links are also a factor in PageRank, so you can link to your own pages and help increase PageRank.  PageRank is only updated every 3 months, so it takes time for PageRank to increase as a website or blog becomes popular.

How to Check PageRank with Free, Easy PageRank Tools

There are some free tools that let you check your PageRank, or the PageRank of any website or blog.

Page Rank Checker:  This website has a box where you can type a URL of the site you want to check.  You then enter an anti-bot code and you can see the Google PageRank within a couple seconds.  This is a very simple site, probably the easiest way to check PageRank.  If you like, you can get a badge for your blog or website that shows your PageRank on your page to visitors.

Website Analyzer:  This free website provides Google PageRank and many other statistics about a website such as Alexa Rank, backlinks, authority rating, keywords and more.  If you want more details than Google PageRank, this site provides an analysis report.

Use PageRank to Improve Search Engine Traffic to Your Blog

When you are doing keyword research to decide what title and keywords to use in your blog post or website, you can do a Google search and see what comes up in the search engine results- this is your competition.  Before you invest time and effort developing content, it is worth spending some time to determine if your content has a chance to be displayed on the first page or two of search engine results.

Landing pages have PageRank scores, and individual pages have PageRank scores as well that may be different.  When checking out competition in SERPs, check the PageRank of the page that will be competing with your page to help determine if you will be able to outrank that page based on the PageRank of your site.  Other factors come into play in the position of pages in search engine results- you may be able to beat a page with higher PageRank if you use better keywords or have a better title.




Copyright © 2013 Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Pro Blogging Journal



Friday, September 20, 2013

How to Fail at Blogging

Why Do Blogs Fail?


While almost of the other posts in Pro Blogging Journal deal with how to succeed at blogging and make money with your blog, today's post describes the top reasons that blogs fail.  They say you can learn more from failure than from success.  Study these reasons that blogs fail to improve your chances of having a successful blog or website.

Why do blogs fail to make any money?
Image Source: http://pixabay.com/en/american-bank-banknotes-bills-70980/




1. The blogger burns out after about 1-3 months
You have probably seen this type of failure when reading blogs.  A new blog is started and the blogger posts frequently for a short time and then stops, never to post again.  Why does this happen?  This is a classic case of an author getting burned out.  The blogger is excited to have a platform to address the world and pours a lot of time and energy into the blog, at first.  Then the blogger runs out of ideas and is perhaps discouraged by the anemic traffic to the blog.

How to avoid failure:  Start new blogs, keep reading to get fresh ideas, be patient while your traffic ramps up- it takes Google some time to trust new sites with high rank in search engine results.

2. Google updates kill search engine traffic

Here's another blog failure scenario.  A blog gets up and running with good content and gets AdSense and affiliate marketing monetization going.  Traffic starts to pick up and then... traffic falls 30 to 50% all of the sudden.  What happened?  All of the sudden, Google doesn't like your blog anymore.  This can occur when Google updates their algorithms by giving more weight to certain types of pages and penalizing others with lower ranking in search engine results.  If a blog has pages ranking on the 1st page of search engine results and then slips to 2nd page or further back, this significantly impacts traffic.  

How to avoid failure: Google algorithm updates seem random, all you can do is try to figure out what characteristics pages that rank well have and try to mimic these in ways that make sense for your blog.  For example, keep an eye on keyword density- Google has been changing the preferred keyword density downward recently.

3. Blog is not approved for AdSense or Affiliate Programs

AdSense is one of the best advertising programs for blogs.  You have to apply to get your blog approved to have AdSense ads shown.  Some blogs apply repeatedly and do not get approved.  Or sometimes a blog is approved and then receives notice that AdSense approval has been withdrawn due to Terms of Service violations.

How to avoid failure:  Don't click on your own ads!  This will get you banned from AdSense.  Don't have any content on topics that are not allowed.  Watch out for user generated content- text and links in comments on your blog left by users can bring you crashing down if the comments or links are related to topics that are not allowed for AdSense approval.  When applying to AdSense make sure you have plenty of good content and have a Privacy Policy.  Also, there are other advertising programs- check out Chitika and other advertising programs for your blog.  Depending on your blog topic, you could make money with your blog using only affiliate marketing opportunities.

4.  The competition is better, you just don't get any traffic

Some topics are crowded with lots of high quality content.  Even if you can produce high quality content, Google likes sites that have aged, so you may never get to that first page of search engine results.  No matter how hard you try, you just can't get much traffic to your blog.  Without traffic, you might as well write your blog content on scraps of paper and put it in your closet.  A blog is useless without traffic...

How to avoid failure:  Choose a topic with less competition.  You are much better off with 10% of the traffic on a mediocre keyword than 0% of traffic on a really high volume keyword!  Start a niche blog on a topic that you know something about.

5.  You end up in the Google Sandbox...

There is debate on whether or not the Google Sandbox is real or not.  I suppose it is a matter of definition, but sites can end up in the situation where they have been crawled by Google, but are not listed in search results.  For some reason, Google is not ready to trust the site.  I have experienced this myself, and have heard accounts of this going on for a long time, for example a year!

How to avoid failure:  You can leave your blog up and running in the sandbox, but move on to work on another one for awhile.  Make sure you don't have too many 'spammy' links to or from you blog.  Spammy links are links that are not related to the topic of your blog post- for example if your post is about buying a car and you link to a post on repairing shoes,this looks like spam to a search engine. Also make sure you don't have an excessive amount of affiliate ads, this can be an issue particularly when affiliate ads are bunched together on a page.  Otherwise, there is not much you can do if you're in the Google Sandbox.  Move on, and come back to work on the blog when it gets out of the sandbox.



Copyright © 2013 Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Pro Blogging Journal

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Keyword Density: How Much Should You Use Your Keywords?

Keyword Density- How much to use keywords?


What is the best keyword density to rank in search engine results?
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Keyword density is a metric that describes how often your blog post or webpage contains a keyword.  For example if you write a 1000 word blog post about "Old Navy Credit Card" and use this keyword phrase 10 times, your keyword density would be 4%.  The math to calculate keyword density is simple: this keyword phrase contains 4 words, if you use it 10 times, that adds up to 40 words.  This keyword density is 40 words out of 1000 words total, which means you spend 4% of your words on the keyword phrase "Old Navy Credit Card".


How Do Search Engines Use Keyword Density?

Search engines use keyword density as a factor in deciding how to rank pages in search engine results.  If your page has a higher keyword density for the search term, that is an indication to the search engine that your page is highly relevant to the search term.  However, some bloggers and webmasters engage in "keyword stuffing"- using the keyword many times in an attempt to rank higher in the search results.  I have seen pages that have a block of text repeating a keyword phrase dozens of times. Sometimes this was done with the text set to match the background color so that search engines would see the many repetitions of the keyword, but humans would not notice it.  This sort of abuse has resulted in search engines penalizing pages for "keyword stuffing".

Keyword density is an important factor in Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  If fact, some write for hire tasks specify a range of acceptable keyword density.  If keyword density is too low, the page will not rank well in search engine results.  If keyword density is too high, search engines may flag the site as spam and greatly reduce its rank.  If the keyword density is right, the site can rank very high in the search engine results.

How Much Should You Use Your Keywords?

Until recently, the guideline was to use your keyword with a density of about 7% to 8% to maximize your page's placement in the search engine results.  It takes a bit of work to get keyword density up to the 7-8% level.  You can replace some pronouns with your keyword- for example instead of saying "it", you can say "Old Navy Credit Card".  You can also add headings that contain your keyword phrase.

Following some of the latest Google Panda updates, I have seen advice to aim for about 3% keyword density.  Google is really trying to reduce spammy results such as articles that repeat keywords a lot yet provide little information of value.  The 3% keyword density more closely matches the keyword density found in natural writing.  Getting to 3% keyword density in your writing is easy and does not take much special effort.

How Can I Check Keyword Density?

There is a free and easy to use tool to check keyword density on any webpage or blog post.  You enter your URL, and a report is generated within seconds showing keyword density for all combinations of keywords on your page.  This allows you to check the main keywords you are trying to use as well as all other possible keywords.

The tool is Keyword Density Tool from seocentro.  Below are example results from the Keyword Density Tool.  The first is the Tag Cloud which is a graphical representation of keyword use in your page.  The more frequent  keywords are larger.

More frequently used keywords are larger
Keyword Density Tag Cloud from seocentro Keyword Density Tool
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

The second result is a table of keyword density.  In this example, you can see at the top of the center column that I use the keyword "Old Navy" with a keyword density of 4.78%.  You can use these results to fine tune your use of keywords to get them to the desired keyword density.

Table shows keyword density for all keywords on your page
Keyword Density results table from seocentro Keyword Density Tool
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Running the seocentro Keyword Density Tool can give you ideas for other keywords that you may want to accentuate on your webpage or blog post.  Remember that all words on your page are keywords to a search engine!  You may be attempting to rank for a particular keyword, but the search engine is looking at all of the words on your page as potential keywords. There is no reason not to attempt to rank in multiple keyword searches if it makes sense for your content.  I have pages that rank well for multiple search terms- this is desirable to maximize traffic.

After reviewing the results of the Keyword Density Tool, you may decide to reduce or increase utilization of certain keywords in your writing.  This tool is very easy to use, and you can get detailed information on your keyword density in a few seconds.  If you have some pages that are doing very well in search engine results, you can check the keyword density and attempt to match this keyword density on your other pages to boost your search engine traffic.

Another way to use the Keyword Density Tool is to check the keyword density on successful pages that rank on the 1st page of search results.  For example, I checked one of the top results for the keyword search "Kohl's cash", and found that one of the top results had a keyword density of 3.75% for the keyword "kohl's cash".

Note that there are many factors that go into search rankings in addition to keyword density such as page rank and backlinks.  But keyword density is easy for you to control by simply editing your content to give your pages the best chance to rank high in search results.


Copyright © 2013 Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Pro Blogging Journal


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How Long Does It Take to Write a Blog Post?

How Long Does it Take to Write a Blog Post?


Astronomical clock
How long does it take to write a blog post?
Image Courtesy of Judith CC-20


Theoretically, the fastest you could write a blog post is limited by your typing speed- at 40 words per minute, you could type a 1000 word blog post in 25 minutes, plus about 10 minutes to add some pictures.  So I would say 35 minutes is about the fastest most bloggers could write a 1000 word blog post if they have a topic they know well and are experienced at writing blog posts.  Maybe a bit longer if you are typing on a cell phone...



I would say 35 minutes is about how much time it takes to write a journal style blog where you write about what is on your mind, make a few edits, and publish.  The type of blog posts I write are usually more like magazine articles and take longer to produce.

Realistically, it takes longer than the theoretical limit of 35 minutes to write a quality blog post.  It takes time to choose a topic and organize your thoughts.  Depending on the topic you select, you may need to do some reading and research as well before writing your content.

Another step that takes time but is a good investment- keyword research.  If you spend a couple hours writing a blog post, is anyone going to read it?  Keyword research can help you answer this question before you even begin writing.  You can use tools such as Google Adwords Keyword Tool to check what people are searching in Google.  You can also check your potential competition by searching in Google- if the search results using the keywords you are considering are already stacked with high quality articles from reputable sources, you probably won't get much traffic even if you write a great blog post.  You might want to try a different topic.  Keyword research also gives you a chance to focus your content on a topic with high potential before you start writing.



Steps to Write a Blog Post and How Long it Takes

Following are some example time requirements for the steps to writing quality blog posts:
  • Choose a topic idea:  15 minutes
  • Keyword research: 15 minutes
  • Research topic, prepare to write: 30 minutes to several hours
  • Outline, and first draft: 30 minutes
  • Flesh out, edits: 30 minutes
  • Add images: 10 minutes

The total time required to research and write the blog post in the example above is 2 hours and 10 minutes.  This seems like a reasonable estimate of time required to produce a quality blog post based on my experience, although sometimes I spend hours researching a topic, or even decide to take my own pictures which takes longer.

On the other hand, some blog posts that I write take very little time to write.  I can think of some blog posts that took less than an hour to write total, including thinking of the topic idea, writing the post, a some quick edits, and adding a few pictures.  If you know where to look, you can quickly find free high-quality pictures to add to your blog post.  The blog posts that are easiest to write are on topics that you are very familiar with and that require little or no research.

The quickest way to produce quality content for your blog or website is to write about topics you already know well.  Start a niche blog on a topic that interests you- think about things that you know about from work or hobbies that people ask you about.  These can make good blog post topics that you can write quickly and easily to create valuable content.




Copyright © 2013 Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved. Pro Blogging Journal



Friday, August 2, 2013

Blogger vs HubPages revenue sharing: Where should I host my blog?

Blogger vs HubPages revenue sharing site

There are two types of free hosting services you can use to start a blog.  One is Blogger, also known as blogspot.com.  This is a blogging platform run by Google.  You can get free web hosting and use the Blogger tools to create your blog.  It's all free, and you get 100% of the advertising revenue and affiliate income that you generate.

Advantages of HubPages and other Revenue Sharing Sites

The other type of blog hosting arrangement is revenue sharing sites for writers.  These sites provide an environment where writers communicate with each other about their writing and about how to make more revenue from their writing.  These sites have a social networking aspect built-in.  For example, you can increase your "score" by interacting more with other writers, and you can follow other writers and get them to follow you.  Perhaps the most popular of the revenue sharing sites for writers is HubPages.  You get to keep 60% of the revenue from ads and affiliate income- HubPages keeps 40%.  Other popular revenue sharing sites for writers include Squidoo, Triond, InfoBarrel, and Wizzley.

Why would you take 60% of the income from your blog at HubPages instead of 100%?  The main reasons people use HubPages and other revenue sharing sites are:
  • You get advice from other writers and form connections
  • The revenue sharing site provides simple tools to create articles
  • The revenue sharing site has a high page rank with Google and may get more search engine traffic
  • You get some built-in traffic from other authors on the revenue sharing site
  • You can link from the revenue sharing site to your own blog or webpage to increase your traffic



I have blogs on both HubPages and Blogger.  The writing community on HubPages is a big plus.  It provides more motivation to keep writing when you know some people are following your work and will read your next post.  You will get more comments on HubPages than on Blogger.  HubPages also has great forums where you can ask questions and get help and advice from experienced writers and bloggers.  HubPages give you accolades as you achieve milestones such as number of posts, number of pageviews, number of followers, etc.  This allows you to take into account the experience of people who are offering advice by checking their profile.


Check out HubPages to Increase Your Skill as a Writer and Blogger

If you are new to blogging or are having trouble staying motivated to produce more content, give HubPages a look.  It's free, and you'll learn a lot there about writing and search engine optimization (SEO) if you participate in the forums and study the FAQs and training materials.  Since HubPages makes more money if YOU make more money, they are motivated to help writers become successful.



HubPages



Copyright © 2013 Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved. Pro Blogging Journal


How long should a blog post be to get the most traffic?


How long should a blog post be?



Ball of string
How long should a blog post be?
Public domain image by Ryj

A common question among bloggers- how long should blog posts be?  Blog posts that are too short won't do well in search engine results, and advertisers may not value advertisements on short posts since readers may only spend a few seconds on the page.  Blog posts that are too long take a long time to write and people will not read the whole thing.

What is the best length for a blog post?

When I was in high school English class, we were assigned to write a term paper.  One of the students asked, "How long should the paper be?"

The teacher replied, "How long should a piece of string be?"  That was his entire response.  After some thought, this makes perfect sense.  The best length for a piece of string depends on its purpose.  If you are using a string to make a straight row in your garden that is 10 feet long, the string should be pretty long- at least 10 feet.  If you are using the string to tie around a small package, then a 1 foot length of string may be just right.  My teacher was telling us to make the term paper the right size to carry its message.

Selecting the best length for a blog post is a bit more complicated because you are really trying to make several parties happy.  You want your readers to read and value your post.  You want search engines to rank your blog posts high in search engine results.  And you want advertisers to see your blog post as a valuable property so you can get maximum advertising rates.

So how many words in length should a blog post be?

Google seems to like longer articles in search engine results pages.  Blog posts about 1000 words in length seem to rank well.  This length seems to satisfy readers, search engine bots, and advertisers pretty well.



If you have a lot of content on your topic, a longer post makes sense.  Some writers break their writing up into multiple parts.  As a reader, I find this really annoying.  For example, you search for the answer to a question and click on a search engine result.  This takes you to a page that is labeled page 1 of 10, and the answer is not on the first page.  I click away from this sort of website.  It is simply to tedious to click through page after page looking for information.

I would rather see a longer page with everything on one page, or multiple posts on separate topics.  Blog posts divided into part 1, part 2, part 3, etc. make it hard for me to start reading.  If I am on part 1 and see that there are more parts to the article, I might not even start reading.  If a search result takes me to part 2 of a multi-part post, I might think I need to read part 1 first, so will not start reading part 2.

The longest post I have published so far is about 2500 words.  This post was meant to be a reference with all of the essential information on my topic on one page.  The intent was not necessarily for the reader to read it all at once, but to find parts of it relevant and bookmark it for future reference.

Here are some thoughts on blog posts of different lengths:
100 word blog post: too short
250 word blog post: OK for a short answer to a specific question
500 word blog post: OK for a topic of limited scope
600 words: Google issued a recommendation in 2014 that posts of 600 words or more will maximize appearance in search engine results
750 word blog post: Shortest length for an in-depth article
1000 word blog post: Best length for a blog post.  Works well for readers, search bots, and advertisers
1150 word blog post: Great length if you have enough content, even better than 1000 words
1500 word blog post or more: Consider breaking your post into separate topics 750 words each

Sometimes a short answer is what people are looking for, but to make a successful blog post, you may need to go beyond the short answer.  For example if you are writing about "What color is the sky?" you might come up with a one word blog post: "blue".  You can include your one word answer, but then expand on why the sky appears blue, what colors appear in the sunset and sunrise, etc. to make a complete blog post that will perform well on your blog.

Blog post length advice

Remember that longer blog posts give you more opportunities to use your keywords and rank higher in search engine results pages.  Also you get readers to spend more time on your blog, which is valuable to advertisers.  Plus longer blog posts give you more time to showcase your writing and perhaps get readers interested in you as an author.  If you have short blog posts, try to think about ways to increase the scope of your topics a bit to reach at least 500 to 600 words.




Copyright © 2013 Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Pro Blogging Journal


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How to Make Money Blogging

How to Make Money Blogging


Google sign- start a blog and own a piece of the internet
How to make money from a blog
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

How much money does it cost to start a blog?

You can start today for free on revenue sharing sites such as HubPages or on Blogger.  Read on for details on how to start blogging today.

If you want your own web domain, you can register a domain for about $20 and purchase web service for about $10 per month.  This is a very low start-up cost to start your own business to make money blogging.

How much money can you make on a blog?

One of the benefits of owning a blog is that you own the content you produce.  This provides an opportunity to make passive income over time.  You can write an article once and get income from that article forever without doing anything else.  Some topics will age with time, for example my blog article on the best Android browser for your smart phone or tablet has a life expectancy of a couple years at most.

The amount of income potential your blog has will depend on your niche and how much traffic you generate.  If you have a topic that advertisers are willing to pay top dollar for advertising and you grow a big audience, the income potential is high.  I know of bloggers who make thousands of dollars every month from their blogs.  This level of income typically requires years of hard work.


How do you make money from a blog?

Making money from a blog is known as "monetizing the blog".  There are several ways to make money from a blog:

Advertising
Making income from your blog depends on getting traffic to your blog so you can earn revenue from advertising.  You can sell advertising to companies who want access to your visitors.  You can get paid for displaying ads, you can get paid when visitors click your ads, or you can get paid when users click an ad and then buy something at another site.  Or you can make money from all three of these types of advertising on your blog.  AdSense is the top advertising program for blogs, but it takes time and some quality content to get approved for an AdSense account.  There are many other advertising programs available for bloggers to choose from.

I signed up for Chitika recently- it only took 30 minutes to sign up and add Chitika adds to my site.  If you're looking to make more revenue from your blog or website, try adding Chitika ads.  It is easier to get approved for Chitika than AdSense.  Even if you already are using AdSense, Chitika gives you another revenue stream that does not interfere with AdSense ads.




Affiliate Programs
Another form of income is from affiliate links on your blog.  You can add links to products on other sites and get paid a commission for each purchase.  When you establish you blog you can apply to join affiliate networks.  Amazon, eBay, ClickBank, and FlexOffers are some popular affiliate networks for bloggers.

Sell Your Own Products
Another way to make income from your blog is to sell your own product on your blog, such as an e-book.  ClickBank provides an opportunity to sell existing e-books for a very high commission, typically 50% to 75%.  If you produce your own e-book, you can get 100% of the revenue from selling it on your blog.

How many hours per week do you need to work to make income from a blog?

When you are establishing your blog, you will need to put in a lot of work to find good topics and develop good content.  Promoting your work and adding the right affiliate and advertising programs also takes a lot of time.  I enjoy the work, so I spent a lot of my free time during the past few months working on my blogs to start generating income.  One nice thing about blogging is that there are no set hours or commitments.  You can choose to spend as much or as little time as you have available working on your blog.  Of course, the more time you spend, the more money you will be able to make.

How long does it take to start earning income from a blog?

It does take time to get established and rank well in search engine results pages (SERPs).  If you do not have experience, it takes time to learn search engine optimization (SEO) techniques as well.  Some income sources take time to establish, for example getting approved for AdSense or affiliate programs requires a certain amount of established content.  I established my blog on January 8 and made my first income on April 16.  Most blogs require at least 6 months of work to start making much income.

Darren Rowse of ProBlogger shares his experience starting up blogs in his book ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income.  Darren worked on his first blog part-time for several years before he had enough income to become a full-time blogger.  However, you can learn from the experience of successful bloggers who are willing to share to find a faster path to success.



What computer skills do you need to be a successful blogger?

You don’t really need much computer experience to put together a successful blog.  The ability to handle basic webpage html to make the format look like you want is useful.  You’ll need to learn to add HTML code for some affiliate programs.  You may need to edit your template file to add trackers for Google Analytics and Bing Webmaster Tools to provide the best data to evaluate your blog's performance.  The more computer skills you have, the better- but you can get started with basic skills.

What business skills do you need to generate income from a blog?

If you plan to make money from you blog, you’ll need to make business decisions.  Should you invest in registering your own web domain and renting web servers, or use free subdomains from Blogger or revenue sharing sites?  Which advertising programs should you sign up with?  Which affiliate programs make sense to join?  Even the selection of blog topics and articles is improved by an understanding of how to best create value for your blog.

You will need to handle intellectual property rights, for example correctly attributing images to their owners and following license agreements.  Affiliate programs also have rules that you will need to follow carefully to avoid losing income opportunities.

Unlike most other businesses, there is little at risk when you start a blog.  You won’t need to invest much to get started, and you can always start over if you want to.  However after investing a lot of time and hard work, the business decisions carry more importance and impact the success of your blog.

What writing skills do you need to earn money from a blog?

Writing a blog is a specialized form of writing.  Most web pages that do well in search engine results pages are a couple pages in length-around 1000 words- and contain a few images.  The writing must be clear and to the point.  People do not have patience- they are seeking answers or information and will click away from a page that has imperfect English or does not get to the point.  You’ll need to be able to produce clearly written articles with correct grammar and spelling that offer visitors the information they are seeking.

You will have the best chance for success if you can find a topic that you are interested in writing about and have some experience in that subject area.

What equipment do you need to start a blog?


  • Personal computer: desktop or laptop to type your articles and do the page layout.  It is technically possible to do this with a tablet or smart phone, but using a computer is much easier and more productive.
  • Digital camera: take images for your articles.  A cell phone camera will suffice
  • Phone: advertising programs require a phone number to verify your identity.  Some programs will text a code to your phone number and you’ll need to enter this code to establish your identity.
  • e-mail account:  You’ll need an email account: gmail or outlook work fine.   You can set one up in a few minutes for free if you don’t have one already using the links provided.


Steps to create a blog and make money

Step 1. Start a blog on an income sharing site or create your own blog website

Revenue Sharing Sites for Bloggers
The revenue sharing site will take care of most of the administrative issues and provide training on producing high value content.  This is the easiest way to get started blogging to make money.  The revenue sharing site will get a share of the revenue generated from your blog.  The author typically gets 50% or more depending on the site.  An advantage of a revenue sharing site is that you the author can focus more on developing content and less on managing website and advertising issues.  Also, you’ll have an opportunity to join a community of writers that provide advice and feedback on your writing.  This is very valuable, especially as you are getting started.  Another advantage of revenue sharing sites is that the site is well established and may rank higher in search engine results pages than a new site, resulting in more traffic to your pages.

My favorite of the revenue sharing sites for bloggers is HubPages.  This is where started and I continue to be active on HubPages.  Not to mention that I am making money there as well.  HubPages uses AdSense, eBay, and amazon programs to generate income.  The author gets 60% of the revenue from advertising and affiliate referral links, HubPages gets a 40% share.

HubPages


Here is my list of popular revenue sharing sites to make money blogging:

HubPages
http://hubpages.com

Wizzley
http://wizzley.com/

Squidoo
http://www.squidoo.com/

Wikinut
http://www.wikinut.com/

InfoBarrel
http://InfoBarrel.com

Helium
http://Helium.com

Triond
http://www.triond.com/


Another option: Create your own blog site and keep 100% of the revenue

If you have some experience developing web pages, you may want to develop your own website and keep 100% of the revenue from your site.  The most popular site for this approach is Blogger (blogspot.com).  Blogger is owned by Google and provides free web hosting for your blog.  As you may have noticed, Penny Pincher Journal is hosted on Blogger.


Blogger platform for bloggers
Image Courtesy of Adrianemporio CC-SA-30


Blogger
http://www.blogspot.com

You can sign up for a subdomain on Blogger for free.  In other words, you'll get a URL like:
PennyPincherJournal.blogspot.com
Notice that the URL has .blogspot.com at the end.  This is known as a subdomain- you can pick the first part of the URL, but you get .blogspot.com as the last part.

You can register a custom domain name for your blog on Blogger for an annual fee of $10.  This will get you a top level domain.  Blogger will provide free web hosting for your custom domain.

For even more control, you can find your own web hosting service, register your own domain, and install blog software on your web server.  WordPress is a popular option to host your own blog independently

WordPress
http://wordpress.org/


Step 2. Create quality content that is valuable to readers and advertisers

You will want to choose topics for your blog content that you are interested in and have some experience with.  A lot of your traffic will come from search engine results pages.  People searching on Google are typically looking for answers to their questions.  You want your blog content to provide satisfying and correct answers and information.  People expect images and graphics that look good and are relevant to the page content.  People are sensitive to sites with too much advertising and will click away from annoying pages to look elsewhere for information.

When a visitor arrives at your blog, this is a great chance to get them to browse to some of your other relevant content.  You can design your blog so that visitors will be interested in reading several of your posts, increasing your page views and revenue.  If you can find a niche and develop deep content, your blog can become an authoritative source of information on your topic.

Step 3. Get traffic to your blog


You will also want to do some research to find out that people are searching for in search engines.  A large and steady source of traffic to blogs is based on search engine results pages (SERPs).  You can use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to increase traffic to your blog from search engine results.  SEO techniques are ways to make your blog appear higher in the search results to get more traffic from search engines.

For example, someone types in search terms in Google, and your blog shows up on the first few pages of search results.  You will get lots of traffic to your blog from this- right?  Not necessarily.  This is a trick question- you will only get lots of traffic if it is a popular search.  If no one searches for the keywords in your content, it doesn't matter if it shows up high in the results.  This is where keyword research will help increase traffic to your blog.

Keyword research allows you to see what search terms people are entering in search engines so you can tune your content to match the exact searches that people are doing.  You will be able to rank high in search engine results for popular searches, resulting in lots of traffic to your blog.  Google's Keyword Tool allows you to see check keywords and see how many times these keywords were used in Google searches.

Develop your blog content to be relevant to popular keyword searches.  Use the keywords you have found through keyword research in your title and frequently in your content.  Don't overuse the keywords- this is known as keyword stuffing and can lower your rank in the search results.  Just use the exact keywords a few times especially early in the content.  This lets the search engine know that your content is highly relevant to the keywords and your blog will appear higher in the search results.

You can also see which topics advertisers are wiling to pay most for advertising rates.  Google's Keyword Tool  has a competition column in its results to indicate how competitive the market for advertising is for the keywords.

You can also use social media to drive traffic to your blog.  This involves creating connections over time through social media and establishing yourself as a reliable source of information.  People will share your blog within their social groups when you have become established.  Facebook, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Reddit, and Google+ are some key social media platforms that can generate traffic to your blog.  You can get lucky sometimes and have a blog post go viral on social media, generating lots of traffic and revenue.


Step 4. Generate revenue from your blog

Like many things, creating a successful blog is harder than it sounds.  If you enjoy creating blog content, running a blog can be a fun hobby with income potential.  If you are willing to treat blogging like a job and create lots of high value content that people are seeking- the sky’s the limit.  From my experience, blogging is not a get rich quick scheme.  It takes time to learn how to generate traffic and develop revenue generating programs on your blog.

Advertising is the place to start.  Develop content and apply for an AdSense account to get ads through Google.  It currently requires about 30 posts and at least a couple months to get approval for a new AdSense account.  If you want to get ads on your blog faster, you can explore some of the other advertising programs available such as Chitika.

Apply for affiliate network accounts that offer marketing opportunities that fit your blog content. Amazon, eBay, ClickBank, and FlexOffers are among my favorite affiliate programs.

Recommendations: Start Now and Make Money Blogging

If you’re new to blogging and want to give it a try, I suggest starting on HubPages.  You’ve really got nothing to lose since it is free to join and start blogging.  The sooner you start, the sooner you will be able to generate income.  You'll find help and advice on HubPages to get you started.  You can always establish a blog on Blogger or on an independent website after you gain some experience on HubPages.

If you’re already experienced at web development, you might like the higher amount of control you’ll have on Blogger or setting up your own website.  Check out some popular blogs to get ideas to implement in your own blog.  Here's some further info from Christian PF on making money with a blog to help you get started.


Copyright © 2013 Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved. Pro Blogging Journal


Start a Niche Blog to Improve Traffic and Increase Revenue

Niche Blog: Increase your Blog Revenue

Increase your search engine traffic with a niche blog
Image courtesy of Justinc CC-SA-20

A niche blog is a blog focused on a very specific topic.  Niche blogs are becoming more important due to recent Google search engine updates.  "Content Mills" are blogs and websites that have churned out tons of low-quality content.  Google is looking for ways to keep this low-quality content out of search results.  One of the ways Google is applying quality control in search engine results pages is known as Google Panda.  Among other things, Panda punishes sites with low-quality or duplicated content.  Panda also seems to reward sites that have original content on related topics.  This is one way having a niche blog can boost your search engine traffic and hence your blog revenue.



One reason Google favors sites with content focused on one topic is that these sites are more likely to have high quality material.  For example, sites dedicated to a specific topic are more likely produced by enthusiasts and less likely produced by content mills.  Content mills typically produce content on a wide range of topics- anything that will perform well in search engine results.  The writers of this material are not experts- they just do a little research and put together low-quality pages that use lots of keywords and rank well in search results.  Google is trying to ensure that pages with high quality content that are written by experts and enthusiasts rank high in the search engine results.

How to Start a Niche Blog from your Existing Blog Content

A couple of my blogs are on saving money- you may have guessed that from my name.  Saving money is not necessarily a good topic for a niche blog since saving money touches so many different topic areas.  I write about all sorts of different ways to save money- to a search engine this probably looks like general content.  I have posts about bikes, food, computers, cleaning products- all focused on saving money, but on a variety of topics as far as a search engine looking at keywords is concerned.  I made the situation worse since I like coffee and had a number of blog posts about making coffee and not really about saving money at all.  I decided to move 13 coffee articles from one of my blogs on Blogger and coffee 7 articles from my site on HubPages to start a niche blog on coffee.


1. Move Posts from Blogger or HubPages to Start a Niche Blog
Moving the posts on the topic of my niche blog from one Blogger blog to another on Blogger was very easy.  I exported the blog posts to one file that I saved on my computer and exported the template to another file.  Next, I imported these files into my new blog.  This article explains in more detail how to download your blog posts and template from Blogger.

I set the import post feature so that the posts would not be automatically published.  I went through and deleted all of the posts except the 13 coffee posts that I wanted in my new niche blog.  Bringing material from HubPages was more difficult.  I ended up doing some copying and pasting to create new blog posts in blogger.  I also re-imported my images from the original image files, and I needed to recreate some amazon capsules into widgets the blogger can use.  The entire process took a few hours to create a new niche blog site with 20 posts.

2. De-index old pages before publishing them on your Niche blog
Before publishing any of the articles on the new niche site, I used Google Webmaster Tools to remove URLs to de-index all of the articles from the old sites, removing them from search engine results.  Google does not like duplicate content and will punish sites that it thinks is publishing duplicated content.  So make sure your old pages are gone from Google search results before publishing the articles on your niche blog.

I searched for text from each post and made sure the old pages were not in search results before publishing the posts on my niche blog.  The de-indexing process took about 8 hours.  It is painful to de-index pages that are at the top of search engine results and making money for you every day.  I decided that the pain was worth it to achieve better traffic going forward.

3. Publish posts on your Niche blog and submit to be indexed
Next, I submitted my new URLs in Google Webmaster Tools to be indexed in the search engine.  I also submitted the sitemap for the new niche blog.  It can take anywhere from a week to one month get a new site indexed- your site will not get any search engine traffic until it is indexed.  Waiting for a new site to get into search results is painful.  Use this time to create some new material for your niche blog while you are waiting for it to be indexed.

Update:  It has been 10 days now since I have moved blog posts to a new subdomain to start a niche blog- and the search traffic is still not back.  Some of my posts were on page 1 of the search engine results pages on the original blogs, but have not been picked up at their new location yet since moving them.  I think a lesson here is to start niche blogs from scratch if you can to avoid the need to move posts and wait for them to climb up in the search results.

Starting a Niche Blog from Scratch

Starting a niche blog from scratch requires discipline and the ability to plan ahead on what articles you will be able to write.  Having a library of material to choose from, it is easy to go through and find material that fits your niche blog.  If you haven't written the material yet, you need to select a topic that you have experience or expertise to support a lot of content.  I would suggest at least 20 articles on the topic of your niche blog.  You want to avoid starting a niche blog only to run out of material after 3 or 4 posts.  That would be a waste of time.  Try to list out your first dozen or so post topics to see if you'll be able to fill the niche blog with enough good content.

Benefits of a Niche Blog

Creating a niche blog has several advantages.  You will likely see a boost in search engine traffic.  The articles in your niche blog will enjoy boosted traffic, and your other material may get a boost as well since it will be more focused on a topic from the perspective of a search engine looking at keywords in your posts.

Having a niche blog makes it easier for people interested in your topic to find and share your blog.  People interested in coffee are not likely to sort through lots of articles about saving money to find a few about coffee.  But a site that is 100% about coffee has a much better chance to attract coffee fans and keep them there reading multiple articles.

Another benefit of having a focused niche blog- it is more obvious what to write about next on your blog.  The topic of my next post on my coffee niche blog is going to be about... coffee!



Copyright © 2013 Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Pro Blogging Journal

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Make Passive Income From Your Blog


Passive Income from Blogging


Passive income is income that keeps coming in with no further effort required.  Making passive income from a blog is very desirable.  I remember a specific moment when I realized that I had achieved passive income from my blogs.  I was sitting in a coffee shop one evening, drinking a cup of decaf, and smiling.  I was smiling because I knew at that moment I was making money without doing any work.  In fact, I now make passive income 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from my blogs.  This is a feeling worth experiencing.


Make passive income from blogging
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Passive income is quite different than the income that most people ordinarily think of.  Most people are used to an income model where you work and are compensated for your time.  This model applies whether you are paid hourly or paid a salary- you are being paid for your time working.  Ultimately, you can make only a limited amount of income because your time is limited.  You are selling your time, and you have only so much time to sell.  Passive income is different.  You produce something of value that you own- in this case a blog.  You can stop working on the blog at any time, but it keeps generating income without any further effort required- this is the "passive" part of passive income.  Unlike time, you are not limited in terms of how much value you can produce.



The passive income concept is similar to income that an author gets from writing a book.  After the book is published, the author does not need to work any more, but the royalties keep coming in as the book is sold.  If an author publishes additional books, the royalties from the 1st book keep coming in.

Multiple streams of income is another important concept for earning passive income.  You typically only have one or two jobs that you work.  However in passive income, you can have many streams of income simultaneously.  You want to establish a stream of passive income, and then move on and establish more streams of passive income.  Let your earlier projects continue earning income as you build more value and more passive income.

How to get Traffic to your Blog to Support Passive Income

The key to making passive income from your blog is getting a lot of traffic to your blog.  The key to getting traffic to your blog is writing high quality content that people are searching for.  If you want to make passive income from your blog, you will need to write about topics that remain popular all the time- these are known as "evergreen" topics.  For example, if you write about a presidential election or other current event, interest in this topic will soon pass and you will get very limited traffic.  If you choose topics of enduring interest, you can publish blog posts that people will visit for years and years.  Coffee is one of my favorite examples of a topic that will be popular for a long time.

Search engine traffic is the key to making passive income on your blog.  It is possible to generate traffic to your blog from social networking activity- however this takes continuous work on your part.  Search engine traffic provides traffic even if you stop promoting your site.  This allows you to apply effort to creating more content rather than promoting your old content, allowing you to develop more passive income streams.


How to Make Passive Income from your Blog


Once you are getting a lot of traffic to your blog, you can use advertising to generate revenue from every visitor to your site.  AdSense and Chitika are my favorite advertising sources for my blogs.  This advertising on a blog supports a passive income model very well.  AdSense and Chitika automatically assign the advertising space on your blog to the highest paying advertisers- no work on your part is required.  The ads may change over time, but you don't need to change your blog or do any work to recruit advertisers- the ads are updated automatically and the money appears in your account every month.

Another source of passive income from blogs is affiliate marketing.  You can place links in your blog posts to relevant products for sale from sites such as amazon and eBay.  If someone follows a link to an affiliate site and purchases a product, you get an advertising fee from each sale.  In order to make money from affiliate marketing from your blog, you will need to get approved for each affiliate marketing program you want to participate in.  Once you place the links, the only work required is to occasionally check to make sure the products you linked are still available.  You can place affiliate links that show search results that are guaranteed to have products that are current.  However, I often like to link to specific products.  I think this is worth the effort so I can show the specific products I prefer in my blog posts.


Passive Income from Blogging Starts with Great Content



The foundation of making passive income from blogging is great content.  You need blog posts on topics that will remain popular in web searches over time.  You need blog posts that will rank high in search engine results- your goal should be to have as many of your blog posts rank on the 1st page of search engine results pages as possible.  This can be accomplished using keyword research to understand what people are searching for- you can write blog posts on the best topics and use the best keywords.

As you develop your blog, try to identify evergreen topics for some of your posts.  Use keyword research for at least some of your blog posts to start developing a lasting stream of traffic from search engines that will set you up to make passive income from your blog.  You can drink decaf and smile thinking about making money just sitting there while you are not working!



Copyright © 2013 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved. Pro Blogging Journal


Monday, July 29, 2013

Your First Day Blogging

How to Start Blogging


How to start blogging
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Congratulations!  You've decided to become a blogger and are ready to start blogging.  What should you do next?  What should you do on your first day as a blogger?

Choose a Topic for your Blog

Your first order of business as a blogger should be to decide what topic to blog about.  The old advice "write what you know" applies to blogging as it does to other forms of writing.  Make a list of your hobbies and interests.  Consider what you like to read about.  What topics are you considered an expert at?  It shouldn't take long to come up with 2 or 3 topics.

Being an expert is not a requirement if you are willing to do research and learn as you go.  If there is a topic that you are interest in learning about, that would probably make a fine topic for your blog.  If you  pick a topic that you already know about, it will be easier to write about.

Your topic can be very specific, in fact this works well for many blogs.  The term "niche blog" refers to a blog with a very specific focus.  Since your audience is everyone in the world, you can still draw enough of an audience to have a successful blog even with a very specific topic.  Plus choosing a very specific topic will eliminate a lot of your competition- there will be few other blogs about the same topic as yours.

Blogs work best if they are focused on a single topic.  If someone were to ask you "What is your blog about?", you should be able to give a simple answer.  If the answer is something along the lines of "whatever I feel like writing about" then you should probably refine the scope of your blog more.  Having a focused topic for your blog will help you in the search engine results.  Especially since the Panda updates, Google rewards blogs that are focused on a topic by ranking them higher in search results- this means more traffic and more revenue if you have a focused topic.

What if you want to write about lots of topics?  I would recommend having lots of blogs then.  But your task for your first day as a blogger is to pick a topic for your first blog.



Pro Blogging Tips- Choosing a Blog Topic

  • Choose a topic you know something about
  • Choose a topic you want to learn more about
  • Choose a topic to write about that excites you

Choose a Name for your Blog

After you have a list of a few promising topics and pick the topic of your blog, next choose a name for your blog.  The name of your blog should describe what it is about.  You will get more traffic from search engine results if the name of your blog contains some good key words.  For example, if your blog is about coffee, you'll want the word "coffee" in the name of your blog.

You'll want to pick out a few potential names for your blog.  Then try searching for these in Google to see if there are already blogs with similar names.  Keep your list handy- when you actually start your blog, you may need to work down your list if some of the best domain names are taken.  The domain name is the web address of your blog, which you want to contain the keywords for your blog.  

For example, I have a blog named "Coffee Maker Journal".  The domain name for this blog is "coffeemakerjournal.blogspot.com".  Notice that from both the blog name and the domain name, you can tell what the blog is about and it contains keywords.  You want the name of your blog to give search engines confidence that the material on your blog is relevant to what people are searching for.

If you will be hosting your blog on Blogger (which is free), you will get the ".blogspot.com" included in your domain name.  In the example, "blogspot.com" is the domain name and "coffeemakerjournal" is the subdomain name.  If you go the Blogger route for free hosting, you will need to find a blogger subdomain that is available.  If you register a domain name, you can make your domain name any .com address that is available.  You can use a domain registration tool to see which domain names are available.

Pro Blogging Tips- Choosing a Name for your Blog
  • Your blog name should describe your blog topic
  • Your blog name should contain keywords people would use to find your topic in a Google search
  • Choose a blog name that is somewhat distinct from other blogs
  • Try to pick a blog name that has an available domain name to match the blog name

Business Plan for your Blog

Think of starting a blog as starting a business- because starting a blog is actually starting a business.  If you were starting a traditional business, you would write a business plan outlining:
  • How your business will operate
  • Expenses and operating costs your business will have
  • Revenue sources you will have
  • Your competition and how you will distinguish your business in your market
One of the main purposes of a traditional business plan is to help raise money to start a business- either from banks or from investors.  Fortunately, starting a blog is very inexpensive or even free.  So you can skip writing a formal business plan for your blog, but you should spend some time thinking about the elements of a business plan for your blog.  Here are some questions you should think about on your first day and develop answers at least in your own mind:


Q: Do you intend to make money with your blog, or is it just for fun?  
There are 2 major reasons that writers write: 1) to make money and 2) to have an audience of readers.  Which of these is important to you?

Q: Do you need to buy any equipment?  
Developing your blog, you'll need a computer, a place to work, and likely a digital camera (or cell phone with a camera).  You'll also need internet service, either at your home or you can work in a coffee shop with free WiFi.

Q: Are you willing to pay for a web domain and web hosting, or would you rather start off using free services?  
Since many people will try blogging and decide not to follow through with it, I recommend starting off with free services such as Blogger or starting your blog on a revenue sharing site that is free.  If you find you like blogging and want to grow after a few months, then move up to paid servces.
Q: How much time will you be able to commit to developing your blog?
One great thing about blogging is that you can spend as much or as little time as you want doing it.  If you want to develop you blog quickly, it will take a significant time commitment.

Find some Role Models

On your first day, you should do some research and find a couple blogs to use as role models.  Blogs are very individual creations- I am not suggesting you copy anything.  It helps to have goals, and finding a couple successful blogs to follow in your area of interest will help give you ideas and motivate you.  Sometimes just seeing that something is possible is more than half the battle.

You don't need to pick large successful blogs as your role models.  I like to follower new bloggers to watch how they progress.  Some bloggers have a burst of activity during the first few weeks, producing a lot of posts... and then they burn out.  Other bloggers can sustain their creativity and ultimately succeed.

Find a couple blogs that you would be proud to call your own, and start following them.  Read new posts, explore older posts and see how the blog developed over time.  Study the length of posts and frequency of posts to get ideas for your own blog.  Check out monetization methods used- advertising, affiliate programs.  What do you like (or not like) about the look and feel of the blogs?  Is it easy to read, or is the layout distracting.  Is the writing focused and interesting, or is it difficult to finish reading some of the posts?  Start picturing how you want your own blog to look and feel.

Launch your Blog

Tomorrow, you'll make it real.  You'll start your blog and publish your first post on your chosen topic.  The more you learn today on your first day, the easier it will be to launch your blog and write your first post on Day 2.  As you look at blogs in your topic area, start thinking in the back of your mind about the topic of your first post...


Copyright © 2013 Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved. Pro Blogging Journal

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Adding Pictures/Images to Your Blog

Adding Pictures/Images to your Blog


Camera for taking blog pictures
How to Add Pictures to Your Blog
Public domain image courtesy of Mohylek


I like to include at least one picture with each blog post.  Pictures make your posts more interesting to read and help get readers engaged.  Search engines also prefer posts with pictures- your blog will be listed higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs) if you include pictures.  Some people search for images in Google- one of my blog pages has an image that shows up as the top listing in the first page of search results for the image.  The top ranking images are included on the first page of search results even for "normal" Google searches- so a good image can get you lots of traffic.



Some previews of your blog will include a thumbnail of your first picture- another reason to include a picture in your blog posts.

Some blog posts call for a lot of pictures.  For example, if you are writing step-by-step instructions, you may want to include a picture for each step.  Other blog posts do not really call for a picture at all- for example this one.  If your blog post does bring to mind any obvious pictures, pick one that generally suits your topic.  As I am writing this blog post about adding pictures, a picture of a camera comes to mind as a good general picture to use to add interest.

So how do you get pictures to use in your blog?

Using Free Pictures/Images for your Blog

There are 2 ways to get free pictures for your blog.  One is to take pictures yourself, which we'll cover later.  The other is to find free pictures on the Internet to use in your blog.  There is a right way and a wrong way to go about getting free pictures on the internet.  An example of the wrong way to get pictures for your blog is:

  • Search Google for images on the topic you want
  • Find a cool image on the internet and download it
  • Post it to you blog

What's wrong with this?  The images you find this way are likely copyrighted images.  If you put one of these on your blog without permission, you'll be in violation of Federal copyright laws.  What will happen if you do this?  Maybe nothing.  Maybe the owner will contact you and ask you to remove it.  Maybe the owner will file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaint with Google and get your blog deindexed from search results- that would be devastating.

Instead of taking your chances using stolen images, you can easily get images with proper permission to post on your blog.  Many of these images require proper attribution- you'll need to give the image owner credit, for example "image courtesy of OWNER".  The best way to handle image attribution is in the caption directly below each image where it is used.

Some free images have restrictions, such as you cannot modify the image or you cannot sell the image.  Some images have agreements that if you modify the image you have to give it away and cannot sell it.  Some images are Public Domain and have no restrictions on use.

I have found lots of high quality free images, and the restrictions and requirements for using them are pretty easy to deal with once you have done it a few times.  I keep track of where every image I use comes from and site the source in my blog.  It is much easier to do this as you go than go back later and try to figure out where your images came from!


Where to Get Free Pictures/Images for your Blog

You can search the internet for "free images" and find lots of possibilities.  Here are my favorite sources to get legal free images for blogs:

Wikimedia Commons.  Wikimedia Commons is where the images used in Wikipedia come from, and you can use them too.  There are many high quality images on Wikimedia commons and you can search for the topic you want.  Make sure to check the license agreement for each image before you use it and include the proper attribution in your blog post.  When using Wikimedia Commons images, I include a link to the Wikimedia Commons page that is the source of the image.  That way I can easily prove that I have the right to use the image on my blog if it is ever challenged.  From the main Wikimedia Commons page, click on images to start searching the images library.

Creative Commons.  Creative Commons has a library of images and other works that you can legally use on your website or blog. 

FreeDigitalPhotos.net.  FreeDigitalPhotos has lots of stock images you can download and use free on your blog.  Some images are free in smaller sizes, and may be purchased in larger sizes.  Again, make sure you include the proper attribution for images on your blog.

MorgueFile.  Morguefile has free stock images you can use on your blog or website with few restrictions.  Some of the free images are high quality and high resolution.    The site also has databases of images that can be purchased or licensed.

Taking your own Pictures for your Blog

I would say more than 90% of the images I use on my blogs are pictures that I take myself.  This has several advantages.  One is the the ownership of the image is clear- it's mine.  Another advantage of using pictures that you take yourself is that this serves as a sort of filter.  If you are writing blogs about topics you have your own pictures to support, this is a sign that you are qualified to write about the topic.  If you find yourself writing about a topic that you have no pictures to support and cannot take your own pictures, ask yourself if you really know enough about the topic to publish a credible blog post.

You don't need expensive equipment to take your own pictures for a blog- a cell phone camera works fine.  The main requirement is the your pictures are clear and not blurry. Advertisers, and readers, do not like blurry pictures on a blog.

The pictures you take do not need to be super high resolution.  The main benefit of high resolution photos is that you can zoom in.  Photos on a computer monitor that are about 1Mb filesize are adequate for blogs as long as they are clear.  One mistake I see bloggers make when working with their own pictures is not cropping them enough.  You can find lots of examples where the item of interest is surrounded by lots of extraneous stuff- crop your pictures so the item of interest is obvious and takes up most of the area of the image that you post in your blog.

When I use my own pictures on my blogs, I give myself attribution.  This makes it clear that the images are my own and that I have the right to use them.

Pro Blogging Tips- Blog Images:

  • Use at least one image on each blog post
  • Always use legal images, never use stolen images.  Using images without having proper permission can only cause problems for you.
  • Add image attribution under each image you use in your blog- state the source and link to the source if appropriate
  • Check sites such as Wikimedia Commons for legitimate images to use on blogs

Copyright © 2013 Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Pro Blogging Journal


Saturday, July 27, 2013

How to Backup your Blog or Website

Do you have a backup copy of your files from your website or blog?  If not, you should...



What would happen if your web hosting service goes out of business over night and your website is simply gone one day?  Would you easily be able to move your files to a different web hosting service and be back in business quickly?  Or would you need to spend weeks trying to re-create your site?

If you have a blog, what if the web server crashes and all of your blog posts are lost?  Surely they must have an off-site backup, but what if that fails as well and your files are not recovered?  Would you be able to restore your blog on your own, or would your posts and comments be lost forever?

Many people write articles and blogs on sites like Blogspot, HubPages, Wizzley, Squidoo, Yahoo! Voices, about.com, and others. What if your blog platform or writing forum goes out of business or unexpectedly blocks access to your files for some reason?  Could you smoothly recover, or would your writing treasures be lost for good?

One problem with blogs and websites is that a lot of work is done on the server itself.  For example, you may write or edit your writing directly on the server, leaving you with no other copy of your work.  You may edit your web page adding links and updates by editing html files on the server.  Many people spend a lot of time adjusting the layout of their pages to look the way they want and then reload their page to check the results.  It is great to quickly see the results of your edits, but working directly on the server leaves you with no local copies of your files.

There's no reason to take any chances with loosing the huge investment you have made in creating your blog files or website files.  It is easy to make a complete backup of your blog or website using free tools.


Method 1: Copy and Paste for Webpage Backup

You can simply highlight your web page or the part you want to copy.  Use Control-A in Windows to select the entire page or click-and-drag to select the part you want to copy.  Select copy (Control-C or Copy under the Edit Menu in Windows) and then paste into a Word document or other word processor and save your file.  This is a quick way to grab a copy of a webpage.  This method provides a copy of the text, graphics, and links in your page.  I do this every time I publish an article on Blogger or HubPages.  I give each one a serial number in the file name, for example 77_website_and_blog_backup.doc.  This allows me to sort by filename and keep track of my backup files easily.  Most of the time and effort invested is in writing the text, so copy and paste into a Word document gives me a quick way to preserve this work.

If I had to restore a web page or blog post from a word document, I would copy and paste the text from the Word document into a new web page.  Then I would save the images as separate files and load these into the new web page.  Finally I would format the web page.  This would take some work, but much better than trying to create the page again from scratch.

Issues with using copy and paste to backup webpages:

  1. Labor intensive- you need to do this one page at a time
  2. Does not save any scripting or markup
  3. Graphics and images may not be full resolution.
  4. Page layout may not be well preserved
  5. You'll need to save video files separately
  6. It would take work to restore a webpage even if you have the Word file (formating, turning the images into files, linking, etc.)



Method 2: Save As... from Chrome or Internet Explorer

Another way to create a backup of a web page is to simply use the file menu in your web browser and select save as...   This allows you to save the .html file and will also place the images in a subdirectory on your local hard drive.  If your writing platform allows you to edit html you can simply copy and paste your backup html file into your new html file.  If your writing platform does not allow html editing, you'll need to use a web browser to view your html backup and then copy and paste the text into your writing forum tools.  Next, upload the images and modify the page layout to match the appearance of you html backup file.

Issues with saving individual web pages from a web browser:


  1. Labor intensive to create backups if you have many pages or posts- you need to do this one page at a time
  2. Creates lots of files to keep track of: one .html file and one subdirectory for each web page



Method 3: Export Your Blog for Backup

Blogger and WordPress sites have a function to export all of your blog posts to a .xml template.  This can be used to make a backup copy of all of your blog posts and comments.  However the image files are not included in the export file.  This method is useful for moving your blog from one site to another since Blogger and WordPress also have import functions.  You can obtain tools on the internet to convert between these blog formats.

You can access the export feature for you blog in blogger.com (Blogspot) by selecting Settings,  Other, Blog Tools, and click on Export Blog.  You will get to save a .xml template file to your local computer containing your posts and comments with markup  Exporting your blog in Blogger will also save all of your images in the exported file.  The export function in Blogger saves comments on your posts as well, which is nice.

You can use the blog export file to import your blog posts to your blog if they get corrupted on the server and need to be backed up.  You can also use the export feature to move blog posts from one blog to a different blog, for example to start a niche blog.


Shows export feature under settings- basic
How to Export your blog from blogger.com (Blogspot)
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher


If you have customized your Blogger template, you'll also want to download a backup copy of your template.  You can do this selecting the Template menu option (see screen capture above, above Settings).  After clicking Template, click the Backup/Restore button in the upper right.  This will allow you to download a copy of your template for local backup.

Issues with exporting your blogs or writing:
  1. Not all writing platforms have an export feature, so this method may not work on your site
  2. The .xml file is not very useful itself.  Your text and formatting is contained in the file, but it is not easy to work with.

Method 4: Create a Mirror Site for Backup of your Website of Blog

A nice way to backup blogs and websites is to create a mirror of your web server.  You can use free software to scan your website and copy all of your files to a local hard drive.  This includes all .html files with markup and scripting as well as all images and video files on the server.  When you backup this way, the file structure on the web server is preserved.  I have backed up my subdomains on HubPages and Blogger using this method.

Creating a mirror of your website will result in having an off-line accessible version of your website or blog.  You'll be able to look at all of your content on your local computer without internet access.  This is the most complete method to backup all of the files on your blog or website.




Interface to enter the website address to be copied
WinHTTrack website copier- create a mirror of your blog or website
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher


I used WinHTTrack to create mirrors of my blog sites.  This website copier is freeware for Windows and Linux.  It can also be used on Mac OSX using Linux ports

WinHTTrack (Windows and Linux website mirroring tool):
http://www.httrack.com/


If you're looking for a mirroring tool for Mac, check out SiteSucker.  This website copier tool is "donationware"- you get the full featured tool for free and can choose to make a donation if you wish.

SiteSucker (Macintosh website mirroring tool):


Issues with creating a mirror of your web server:
  1. Size of the mirror can be pretty large- it will be the same size as your file utilization on the web server
  2. Creating a mirror can take awhile if you have a lot of media and files on your site
  3. You'll need to download website mirroring software and learn to use it.  Good news:  you can get freeware and it's easy to use.

Recommendations:
  • Backup your files from websites and blogs- why risk all of the time and effort you have invested?
  • Any backup is better than no backup.  
  • Create a mirror website so you'll have a complete backup of all your blog or website files




Copyright © 2013 Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved. Pro Blogging Journal