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Delivering fresh blog content on demand

writers block wont be a problem any moreWhilst many Internet marketers still say that ‘the money is in the list’ there is strong evidence to show that fresh, useful and above all high quality content is just as, if not more important if you want to be successful at making a living online.

And of course blogging and list building aren’t mutually exclusive and can work hand in hand to help you extend your reach and interact intimately with your readers.

It is this concept of fresh content that I want to talk about today. Recently we looked at how, for a business blog or at least one you hope to make money with, you really need to stay on topic.

Doing that is sometimes easier said than done however and you wont be long into your blogging career when you experience the dreaded writer’s block or hit the wall for the first time.

This is where your beloved readers come in.

Here’s one trick (professional writing technique) you can employ to give you inspiration for tens if not hundreds of blog posts.

Open up the admin area of your blog and at the same time open up notepad or your favoured word processor and have them in side by side windows.

Now simply scroll down your comments list in the back admin area of your site and either copy and paste the title of each comment or type a sentence that captures the essence of the subject that each comment is covering.

Make a new line for each comment and capture something unique about each one. Even if there are 20 comments on one post, there’s probably 20 different views or opinions there.

Once you’ve completed that, open your cpanel area and go to awstats or whatever stats program you use or your Google analytics account and look under Site Search.

Now scroll down to where it says “Search Key Phrases”. This is a goldmine of information and a great source of inspiration for any blogger. Click the link that allows you to open the full list of Search Terms and copy and paste this into your notepad file.

You now have titles and subject matter for possibly hundreds of blog posts. Start writing the posts right there in the notepad file, starting under each title.

Not only is this a good source of inspiration, but it also guarantees that you are talking about the exact subjects that your kind of reader wants to know about.

Get to it!

Meantime if you need any help with anything WordPress related or to do with blogging, social media and /or doing business on line, as always just give me a call on 07939 149103 or drop me a line. Happy blogging!

Photo thanks to: Haris Awang via Compfight, cheers Haris nice work!

5 essential steps to make your blog a success

learn the 5 essential steps to starting a successful blog

Lets say you’ve decided to start a blog to help get the word out about your business, art or philosophy on life.

You’ve got some decisions to make about where your going to do that. By that I mean what blogging software/platform are you going to use?

Where will this be hosted? Will it be a free blog at blogger.com or WordPress.com, or will you have it hosted so that you can have a greater control over its look and it’s destiny should anything go wrong at these 3rd party free blog providers.

No matter where you blog, or what you decide to do with your blog, there are some ‘must do’ steps as follows:

  1. Make sure you’ve configured everything correctly. There’s nothing worse than having done 99% of the work, only to be let down by the final 1%. To ensure you’ve got the best fighting chance to get the best attention for your blog, you should fill in everything that you can. This includes any profile settings, and in the case of WordPress, any plug-ins or other information that needs to be completed – many plug-ins and themes require some work to make them usable.
  2. Pick a design theme and stick with it…at least for a few months. Radical design changes can upset your readers, especially if you haven’t alerted them to this in advance. Changing your design theme in WordPress is a breeze. Making your blog stand out from the rest is a major step in retaining traffic. More importantly, if you make it yours, the you’re more likely to work on it more often. Changing away from the default theme in WordPress has other benefits as well. Although the default theme is rock solid and very customisable, it does make your site look like just another WordPress blog. Another thing to consider is that if you update your WordPress software to the latest release, this can sometimes break or delete any customisations you have made in the default theme, as quite often the theme itself is updated with new versions of WordPress.
  3. Write some content. Try to write 5 or 10 blog posts in advance before you tell anybody that you are blogging. This way when people start to turn up, there will be a good amount of valuable content ready for them to read and to make sure they return you should plan a blogging schedule.Tell your readers what this is right on the front of your blog if you want. This will keep you accountable not just to your readers but also to yourself. If your goal is to build a strong following, then I suggest you try to do a lot of writing at the front end of your project. Daily posting isn’t too much if you can manage it; its certainly what I try to do here on 4 donkeys. You can scale back later when you have a bigger archive of material for your readers to engage with.
  4. Promote your content – once you’ve got a nice stock of content up start promoting your blog. Consider using your posts on article sites, get active on related forums and share your wisdom and of course links back to your blog. You’ll get more traffic if you diversify, so remember to add your site to bookmarking sites and make good use of social media to spread the word – and, encourage your readers to do so too.
  5. Be authentic; if you don’t know it from experience, don’t make out that you do. It doesn’t mean that you cant write about it, but its better to speak from experience and its better to be just you, don’t try for any fancy image or to change your personality into something you are not. By saying it from the heart, you will be more encouraged to continue when you start to get positive feedback from readers…and if you are genuine…you will get feedback.

Blogging, ultimately, is about making connections with readers and will help you to build a reader base to discuss your work and share your ideas with. It allows you to express yourself, make valuable contacts and to showcase yourself as the expert you are in your field.

Photo today thanks to:  Adam Tinworth via Compfight; keep clicking Adam, cheers.

How to Back Up Your WordPress Website

cpanel back up wizardThere can be no worse feeling than making a tweak or adding a plug in to your WordPress site only, pressing preview and finding that your site has been re-designed by Picasso!

The horror I felt the first time I found a line of code at the top of a white screen or a jumble of header and content all over the place was palpable.

Worse is the sudden lock out of the admin area where you can’t even get back in behind your site to see what went wrong.

These “disasters” are rarely more than a plug in conflict which can be resolved relatively easily, but I have had a client delete their entire website in an effort to
free disk space! There was plenty of free disk space of course so the primary aim was met, but there was no longer a business website, just lots of lovely free disk
space.

That story had a happy ending, because we had a…Back Up plan.

Many people shy away from backing up their WordPress site because it appears too difficult. There’s not just the site to back up but there’s also one of these pesky
database thingy’s and no one wants to mess around with those do they?

Fortunately its easy when you know how.

You can use a plug in for this, but it easy to do it manually.

All 4Donkeys hosting clients have access to their website’s control panel (cpanel) which is different to the wp admin area; this is where the bare bones of the
operation are managed.

Here’s my 10 simple steps to feeling good!

  1. Log in to cpanel
  2. Scroll down to the section titled “Files”
  3. Click on Backup Wizard: Box 1 will be pre-selected.
  4. Click on the “back up” button within the Option 1 box; this takes you into Box2.
  5. Select “Home Directory”, box 3 opens and gives you a button to download a copy of your Home Directory…
  6. Download the Home Directory file to a folder on your PC (preferably one that is synchronised with off site storage like Dropbox).
  7. Depending on the size of your site this might take a little while.
  8. Then click on box 2 to return to the download options.
  9. Select mySQL databases which will take you to a list of the databases for your site (usually just one).
  10. Click on each database in turn to download a back up file and store safely as before.

Of course you should do this regularly if you are updating your site frequently and always make sure you have a copy saved to somewhere other than your own PC and
somewhere other than you own building. Cloud folders are great for this. I use Dropbox, Amazon Cloud and Google Docs, all of which are free.

Happy backing up.

Any questions please feel free to call me or drop me line, or head over to Maintenance and I’ll do it all for you.

Why you need a blog

No, It's that way!

If you are the owner of a small business or you are an artist of any persuasion and you want to make at least part of your living from these activities, you should have a blog.

A blog is a way of getting on-line simply and economically. It looks professional and as long as you engage with the process fully, it gives your audience a very real feeling of being close to you and/or your work.

With a blog you can stay small if you want, which is the complete opposite to what you’ll be told if you go along to a business computing night class.

Staying small is good in the eyes of your audience, they want you to stay small, approachable and in touch with their world.

So even if your aspirations are to become a completely insane despot who eventually takes over the universe, you are much more likely to take people along with you if you stay small in their eyes.

Most of the people I talk to about website development either don’t blog, or have tried it and then dropped it. That’s why there are so many blogs out there that haven’t been updated for years.

Every now and then I come across a really great blog post only to find that the blogger gave up 2 years ago and that their blog just sits languishing on wordpress.com or blogger.com with a diminishing readership.

The reason for this isn’t that these bloggers have run out of ideas or something to say, its usually that they didn’t really know why they were doing it in the first place.

There can only be one reason for blogging and that is to genuinely offer help to people who need to hear what you have to say.

That’s why, on this blog I often write about ways you can do stuff on the web for free. Many people who are just starting out in a business or art project don’t have stacks of cash to spend on a web presence, so if I can shorten their learning curve in getting their blog or website up for free then I will.

Of course by helping people this way you hope that someday they will ask you to help on a paid basis, but that should never be a condition of offering the help in the first place.

By helping people in any way you can, even by showing them exactly how to do what you do, you can grow your following organically and know that the people who follow you are genuinely interested in what you do.

Look at the number of Etsy sellers who have youtube channels dedicated to showing their customers exactly how to make the stuff they already sell!

If you have genuine followers you can gradually grow a “permission” list; a list of email subscribers who will avidly read the stuff you send out to them and welcome its arrival.

Seth Godin has some really useful advice on this way of doing business here.

Photo thanks to: maistora via Compfight

Why you should build your website with WordPress

Schwags

WordPress is an open source (free and constantly developed) software program initially associated with blogging, but increasingly the web development platform of choice for many website developers and coders.

A lot of people are building their websites and blogs using WordPress without you even knowing it.

You can build a website today for absolutely no financial outlay whatsoever over at WordPress.com, or if you are bit more comfortable with coding and tweaking, you can
install the WordPress software on your own server or hosting space and develop your site that way.

If you decide to go the hosted route, you will need to make sure that your hosting company will support Wordpress and that you are able to create at least one SQL
Database on your account. Most free hosting will not allow you to do this.

You might be familiar with WordPress as a blogging platform, but it is also a very powerful and intuitive web development tool.

The web development work that I do uses WordPress almost exclusively and I have chosen to work this way for many reasons including:

Database Driven
Wordpress is database driven, so what you see on the screen when you call up a page in WordPress isn’t a static HTML page; it is actually the contents of a database
field or fields that have been presented to you on screen as a page or post that takes on the exact look and feel that the site’s developer intended when she built the site.

This process also makes WordPress very quick to load as only the absolute minimum of re-loading is going on each time you click a button or link.

The database in theory also makes the site very portable, so if you decide to change hosting, the site can be transferred simply to a new server (don’t try this if you don’t know what you are doing however, because simply doesn’t necessarily mean easily)

Modular

WordPress is the most intuitive web development tool due to its modularity. Remember in the old days when you asked a developer to build you a website for your small business?

If you came back to the developer later to say your business was changing direction and you need the site to reflect this with a new look and maybe some different pages
and functionality, you would be greeted with a sharp intake of breath and the inevitable words:

to be honest you’d be better starting from scratch.

Well with WordPress, there is never any need to start from scratch; you can keep all of your content and functions whilst changing the look and feel of the site easily.

More importantly, a 4donkeys client can start today with the simplest of blogs and end up with a mini social media site, full of bells and whistles somewhere later down the line and I will never have uttered the words:

“you’d be better starting from scratch” at any time along the way.

This is one of the most compelling reasons to build with WordPress.

Another is that even if you decide to load up WordPress and start building your own site, I can jump in and help you with the hard stuff anytime without having to undo loads of mistakes and bad code.

I can help you do just one little bit of your functionality or take over expanding the entire site.

Consistency in Design
Building your site with WordPress is also a good way to ensure that you don’t have a hotch-potch of different designs and looks on different pages. The theme or design you choose drives the look of the site, so that no matter what you type and no matter how many changes you make to a page or post it will always take on the look and feel you have already designed into it. And by and large it looks professional almost regardless of what you do to the content.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Being found on search engines is obviously a very important aspect of website development and WordPress is very strong on this right out of the box. However it is
also so tweakable that it almost unfair to sites written in other languages and programs.

I recently wrote a blog post about the amazing seo plug in for WordPress available for free from Yoast.com

Coding

If you are proficient at writing computer programs or coding, especially in html and css3, you can take WordPress to extraordinary levels, but there is absolutely no
need to get into any of that if you don’t want to.

Through tweaks to the CSS styling of your WordPress site or the addition of plugins and added html code we can make your site do just about anything you want.

Leaving all of that aside however, the main point I want to make about coding is that there are literally thousands of coders working on WordPress right now, to take
it to the next level of development.

Every now and then a major new version of WordPress is released and in-between these major releases, smaller updates are made to take care of bugs and to add
functionality.

And if you can think of something you want your WordPress site to do, the chances are that someone has already written a plug-in to make it do that. Some of these are
free and some you have to pay for, but generally speaking they are mostly fantastic.

I recommend that you build your new site with WordPress.

Why not get started today.

Photo thanks to: David W.