April 25, 2010

WordPress – 5 Must Have Plug-ins

WordPress – 5 Must Have Plug-ins

by Deloris Mansfield – April 25, 2010

Last week we reviewed blogging pink viagra for women powerhouse, WordPress.  In this Tech Tip, we’ll look at some tools, widgets and plug-ins to optimize your site to its fullest potential.As stated in the last Tech Tip, there are two versions of WordPress – .com and .org.  To enhance your WordPress.com site you have some basic widgets available from the WordPress Dashboard.  Under the drop down menu for Appearance, you’ll find a Widget tab that displays about 30 different widgets for your sidebar(s).  Unless otherwise, noted, these tools and plug-ins are for use with WordPress.org.


All in One SEO Pack

One of the most popular plug-ins, All In One SEO Pack, is streamlined for some best practices for WordPress SEO. Some benefits include:

  • Fine tune Page Navigational Links
  • ONLY plug-in to provide SEO Integration for WordPress e-Commerce sites
  • Support for CMS-style WordPress installations
  • Automatically optimizes your titles for search engines
  • Generates META tags automatically
  • Avoids the typical duplicate content found on WordPress blogs
  • For beginners, it works out-of-the-box. Just install.
  • For advanced users, you can fine-tune everything


WordPress Comments Notifier

Brought to you by Google, WordPress Comments Notifier works just like gmail notifier. It's a great tool that lets you know when new comments are posted to your blog and allows you to manage/reply/edit your comments directly from your desktop. The program sits in the System Tray and keeps checking your blog for new comments.  If there is something new you'll see a popup window in the bottom-right corner of your screen. You can then open this window and moderate comments right from your desktop.


Visitor Contact Forms

It's rare to find a web site without a way to contact the author.  The safest way is via a Contact Form. No worries about bots scraping your site to grab your email address for spamming.  This simple WordPress plug-in has these key features:

  • Geocoding – Know the location of people contacting you
  • Captcha Spam Protection
  • Auto Responder
  • Contact Manager
  • Google Maps
  • Twitter Follow
  • Skype Status

For WordPress.com users, you too can have a simple contact form, just insert this code [contact-form] into the HTML section of your Contact page.


123LinkIt

In Tech Tip 257 we looked at ways to monetize your blogs and web sites through affiliate marketing. A simple plug-in, 123Linkit easily integrates WordPress with affiliate marketing. It analyzes relevant keywords and ranks them in relevancy to your post. Then it matches those keywords to the appropriate affiliate links. Write your post as you normally do and then click on "Add affiliate links". It cloaks the links and changes the keywords into regular hyperlinks.It’s free to use, however 123LinkIt will do a 70-30 revenue share. You get 70 cents on each dollar of commission.  Right now, it only works with Commission Junction merchants such as Geeks.com but they say more networks are on the way.  Perfect for those who really don't want to be bothered with all that is involved with affiliate marketing but are open to making a few extra bucks.


WordPress e-Commerce

If you're looking for full service e-commerce shopping cart tool for your web site and products then consider a WordPress Shopping Cart Plugin that is truly easy to use.  Just like WordPress, the WordPress e-Commerce plug-in is an Open Source project, which means everything from the documentation to the code itself, was created by and for the WordPress community.If you're just looking for a simple donation or subsciption payment plan try Easy Paypal.


Even More Plug-Ins

As just stated, WordPress is an OpenSource project so people all over the world are constantly contributing to it by adding new plug-ins. You can search the Internet and find countless plug-ins, themes and tools.  Mashable has a nice list of about three hundred.   These aren't necessarily reviewed by the WordPress community so exercise caution before downloading any files.As we mentioned last time, WordPress.org is where the rubber meets the road in terms of blog development. You're only limited by what code exists.  The only caveat is that since it's OpenSource, it's kind of like the Wild West out there with no one entity overseeing the countless plug-ins. Check to make sure the developer has stayed on top of their project and that it is compatible with the version of WordPress you are using.  You can search the WordPress Plug-In Repository for a list over 9,000 available plug-in and tools with ratings, reviews and compatibility. 

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April 21, 2010

WordPress – BLOGGING POWERHOUSE

WordPress – BLOGGING POWERHOUSE

by Deloris Mansfield – April 18, 2010

Blogging has come a long way since we first talked about it back in 2006 with Tech Tips 61-64. What started out more as a personal journal has morphed into a professional/business, media/journalism tool. Now, organizations like the New York Times and MTV use blog software to power the “Comments” sections and more on their web sites. Media outlets like CNN, MSNBC and Fox News have editorial blogs.  No doubt your own hometown newspaper’s online version utilizes some form of blog software as well.We covered many of the blog platforms three years ago in Tech Tips 130, but today, the de facto leader of the pack is WordPress. WordPress is to blog, as Kleenex is to tissue as Xerox is to copier. We’re not going to delve into the history of WordPress in this Tech Tip but if you’re interested, you can learn more here.  An estimated 200+ million web sites are powered by WordPress. As stated on their web site: "[WordPress] hosts CNN's Political Ticker, Dow Jones' AllThingsD; NFL, Time Inc's The Page, People Magazine's Style Watch; famous bloggers like Mark Cuban, John Scalzi, and Joy Behar; corporate blogs for Flickr and KROQ; and many more.


FEATURES

Let's get the big one out of the way right now. WordPress is FREE but as robust as you could want. You can have as many blogs as you want under just one account.  They can be whatever you choose them to be; share them with the public or keep it private.  You can display the full content of your post or just excerpts and it allows you to password protect your blog. WordPress has built-in RSS feeds to distribute your most recent posts or categories. If you'd rather have more of a web site than blog look, simply make your front page a static page rather than the most recent posts.You get full Comment moderation so that you can approve or delete remarks. Another advantage is WordPress's proprietary overnight viagra spam filter – Akismet – which keeps the junk out of your Comments section.You can add "widgets" to your sidebar and rearrange them by simply dragging and dropping them. Some of the widgets included with WordPress are Links, Search Form, Pages, Categories, Calendar, your tweets from Twitter, arbitrary text or HTML and lots more. New widgets are added all the time. It's a snap to add Media such as pictures, video, audio, polls and even files like PDFs, Powerpoint presentations, Word documents.  You can create galleries and slideshows of your photos, artwork etc.Constantly on the cutting edge, there are plenty of WordPress Apps for iPhone, Blackberry and Android, as well as Apps for Desktop and Microblogging. Check them all out here. Since WordPress is an Open Source project, it gives you an OpenID identity. WordPress OpenID lets you create an online identity that you can use anywhere where OpenID is supported.  To find your OpenID, go to the WordPress Dashboard and under Settings you'll find an OpenID tab.This only scratches the surface of the power and potential of WordPress.  Explore the web site for more information.


THEMES

Themes are design templates that affect the visual layout and appearance of your blog. Think of it like a "skin". Currently, there are more than 1,100 free themes to choose from for WordPress.org and more than 75 at the freely hosted WordPress.com, with more constantly added. You have your choice of single column themes or 2-3 columns or sidebars. Changing the appearance is a snap with WordPress.com, just click a button and you're done. The sky's the limit if you are hosting your own WordPress blog with thousands of free themes, just do a Google search. If you're looking for a more high-end, versatile look, shop around at sites like PremiumPress.com or Thesis.


COM OR ORG

There are basically two versions of WordPress*.  If you’re just looking for a fast and easy way to set up a nice looking blog with some cool bells and whistles, then your best option is the free version you can access at WordPress.com.  You’ll have a personal URL for your blog such as yourblogname.WordPress.com and the site is hosted for free by WordPress.  You can tweak your site with sidebar widgets, Polls, Calendars and more but you are limited to what WordPress.com has to offer. They do offer upgrades for things like CSS editing and custom domains but for a fee.If you want ultimate control over your site, then consider WordPress.org.  While the software itself is also free to make use of all it has to offer, you’ll need a domain name, a hosting company and an FTP Program to upload the WordPress files to your server. WordPress Software uses a PHP and MySQL platform,  so make sure your host  supports PHP/MySQL. The PHP coding language creates the look and feel of the web site while MySQL stores all the content like your blog posts, options and comments.*Presently there is a third version of WordPress, WordPressMU for multi-users. It allows you to  run unlimited blogs with unlimited users with a single install of WordPress. Universities would be a prime example of a WordPressMU user. WordPress.com is itself a WordPressMU account.  However, word has it that WordPressMU is going to be incorporated into WordPress 3.0 which is in Beta testing since the beginning of April 2010.


HOSTING AND UPLOAD

You might consider signing up for hosting with Godaddy or Dreamhost which offer One Step WordPress installation.  They do all the work for you.  A domain name and hosting will probably run you around $100 per year. Check for deals. You can research and compare different hosting companies at WhoIsHostingThis.com.  But again, make sure your host supports PHP/MySQL.There are numerous fee-based FTP programs such as WS_FTP, FileZilla, FTP Explorer. However, if you use Firefox as your browser, there's a FREE FTP Add-on called FireFTP. FireFTP works with Mac and Windows based systems and once installed, is easily accessible from the TOOLS tab in the browser. Doesn't get any easier than that.


LEARNING TOOLS

There are plenty of resources to guide you through the WordPress world.  We highly recommend  “WordPress for Dummies, Version 2” by Lisa Sabin-Wilson.  You might want to check your local library for a copy first, as Version 3 is set for release in August, 2010.   Lisa walks you through all the basics as well as the advanced features of WordPress in very clear but not over-simplifed steps.  You can also check your area's community college or Adult Education Program for classes to attend.  If you're more of an online student, check out Jeremy Phillips' KickTheWebGeek.com (no relation).  He's currently offering 14 clear and concise video tutorials for $1.  Yep, just a buck and he'll have you up and running on WordPress in about an hour.  There are also more videos than you could ever watch available at WordPress.TV.


NOT QUITE THE FINAL WORD

While you might want to start out with WordPress.com to get your feet wet, WordPress.org is where the rubber meets the road. The possibilities are endless with a plethora of plug-ins you can use.  Next week we'll look at some of the top plug-ins and WordPress tools to really make your site stand out. You can build a full e-commerce web site, utilize it as a Content Management System and much, much more.   And once you've got that site up and running, revisit Tech Tip 257, where we discussed making money with blogs and web sites.Do you use WordPress? Let us know in the Comments section some of your favorite tips and tricks and plug-ins.

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April 16, 2010

Tools to Jump Start Your Site’s Success

Tools to Jump Start Your Site's Success

by Deloris Mansfield – March 7, 2010

In the last Tech Tip we looked at ways to monetize your web sites and blogs with Affiliate Marketing. As promised, we’re going to look at free or low-cost tools to help get you started and improve your site.  Here are some suggestions.


Web Page Test

A study by Akamai Technologies found that if a web site takes longer than 4 seconds to load, 75% of visitors will not return to the site.   If you’ve loaded your site with banners, flashing graphics or heaven's forbid, a Flash intro, you're sunk.  Here's a handy tool to test your page load time and see what improvements you can make.WebPageTest is a free tool that lets you plug in your URL and then run a real-time browser test on the load time.  It displays a detailed report on each link and aspect of your page plus provides an Optimization Report with a checklist to help you quickly resolve any load issues.


URL Shortener

In Tech Tips 254  we looked at URL shorteners which are simple programs that can cut the length of a URL address by up to 90%. While there are numerous shorteners (not hard to custom make your own shortener tool) out there, one that stands out is bit.ly   Bit.ly doesn't just shorten the URL but also tracks clicks and sources for you. It's a quick and easy, free resource to see how your links are converting.  It also serves to disguise your affiliate links.   Bit.ly automatically integrates into Twitter apps such as Tweetdeck.


AddThis

One handy tool is something you see on most major blogs and web site pages you visit that allows you to easily share that page with others.  Wonder how it got there?  A nifty little service called AddThis.  With just a snippet of code you have an image that allows people to share your page via email, Digg,  Facebook, Twitter and more than 200 other services. The goal, of course, is to have your web page go viral. One person shares, then another and another and another etc.The cool thing about AddThis is that it custom fits each menu with the services your visitor normally uses. For example, if they usually share via Facebook or Digg, they will see those first. You can customize the widget to match the look and feel of your site plus determine what services you want it to display.  Oh, and did we mention AddThis is FREE.  Sign up at AddThis.com and get your button after 3 easy steps. Place the code between the tags and away you go. You can also choose to have AddThis track the activity of your button using "several different analytics reports to help you understand how your visitors are sharing your content."


Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools

Once you feel you've optimized your site the best you can and want to maximize your marketing and traffic building efforts then Google Analytics is for you.  It's the most comprehensive package of analytic tools you'll find for… free!  Sign up, place a snippet of code onto your site and Google will report back with VISITS, AVERAGE TIME ON SITE, BOUNCE RATE, PERCENTAGE OF CHANGE in those three.  You can set goals,  see exactly where your traffic originates from, browsers used and a plethora of other information. Way too much to cover here so the best way to get a more complete picture of all Google Analytics has to offer. Click here to take the Google Analytics Product Tour.One "must do" is to sign up for Google's free Webmaster Tools. You'll be able to see which phrases or keywords you're ranking well for, what pages are causing problems for Google when crawling your site, which pages are getting the most links, rss subscribers, etc.  You can create a Site Map and more.  Google will require you to verify that you do own the site by placing a small bit of code into your page and then have Google crawl your site.  Again, this really is an over-simplification of all that Google has to offer so block out some time and check it out.


PopShops

So you’ve got that web site or blog up and running and would like to showcase great deals. Let's say you're not proficient in HTML or Dreamweaver but would to have a nice display of products from different merchants on your web site. Look no further than PopShops. PopShops is a datafeed aggregator that allows you to build "storefronts" with products from merchants all across the affiliate spectrum.  You determine the look and feel of your store with how many columns, rows, etc and fill them with products from merchants that you are affiliated with or would like to join.  When you sign up you'll fill in your ID number for the affiliate networks like Commission Junction, Linkshare, GAN, Pepperjam, ShareASale and more.  When you choose a product to promote, PopShops encodes the link with your network ID and away you go.  You don't have to go to each individual network and create a link for each product then post it to your web site individually. PopShops handles all that for you. Another great feature is that PopShops will automatically pull out-of-stock product from your storefront and notify you when datafeeds are down or no longer available. No more broken links on your site.As PopShops says:  "Easy enough for a 3-year-old to use." They offer a FREE basic plan which is a great way for you natural viagra alternative to take it for a test drive.  If you like what you see, and you will, you can always upgrade to their PRO or Enterprise Plan.  There's a 10% off coupon for Geeks.com Tech Tips readers. Just mention GEEKS10 when signing up for PRO or Enterprise.


Summary

Feel FREE (pun intended) to try any or all of these tools to inexpensively test different ways to generate more traffic, more sales. This has been just a cursory overview so visit the respective web sites for more details.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  Any other tools you find handy that you'd like to comment on? Do share!

Summary

Feel FREE (pun intended) to try any or all of these tools to inexpensively test different ways to generate more traffic, more sales. This has been just a cursory overview so visit the respective web sites for more details.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  Any other tools you find handy that you'd like to comment on? Do share!

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Affiliate Marketing 101 – Blogging for Dollars

Affiliate Marketing 101 – Blogging for Dollars

by Deloris Mansfield – February 28, 2010

Would you like some extra money? Who doesn't these days. Do you have a web site or blog? Then you might want to explore the world of affiliate marketing.


Overview

Affiliate Marketing is an Internet marketing channel which started around 1994 with a pay-per-click program (PPC) hosted by an adult website. Amazon launched what it calls its“associate” program in 1996 and is considered to be the premier affiliate program. Since then, Affiliate Marketing has skyrocketed into a billion dollar industry with Forrester predicting that it will be a $4 billion market by 2014. There's no reason why you can't have a piece of that pie. It simply involves generating sales or leads for a merchant or company who pay you a commission. This makes you their affiliate or "publisher" in the industry jargon. The easiest way is to put a link to that merchant’s site or products and have visitors to your site click through and make a purchase or provide their information. The commission rate can vary from 1% of the sale amount up to even 75% in some cases. Some companies will pay you a "bounty" for a lead which can be a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. Sounds easy, right? Well it is easy to get started, but to be successful takes a lot of work and maybe just a tad bit of luck.


Getting Started

If you already have a web site or blog you're all set to sign up for affiliate programs. Most are handled by what are referred to as networks. These companies oversee the affiliate link structure, track sales and distribute commissions. One advantage of networks is that you can have access to hundreds of affiliate programs across a broad spectrum of markets all in one location. The top two networks are Commission Junction and Linkshare as well as other networks such as ShareASale, Pepperjam, Google Affliliate Network (GAN). If there is a merchant or web site you think you'd like to partner with, you can usually find that info on their home page. Check down at the bottom or naviagtion bar and look for a link that says "Affiliates" or Affiliate Program". That should lead you to whatever you need to know in order to sign up. Some merchants run their own in-house affiliate program so if you don't see them in one of the networks or agencies, again, check their web sites. Geeks.com uses Commission Junction to run its affiliate program though it also has an in-house affiliate manager. Geeks.com pays 3% of the sale to its affiliates and you can learn more about the program at geeks.com/affiliates. While it isn't absolutely necessary to have a web site or blog to do affiliate marketing, some merchants, like Geeks.com, require you to have one so make sure to check out their requirements. If you'd like to work name brand viagra online with PPC and Adword campaigns then you can try that as well but it can require a significant up-front investment. Merchants usually have strict PPC rules so find out what they are before you get started.


Find Your Niche

The caveat to affiliate marketing is that it is not for everyone, though many get rich quick ads and websites will try and convince you otherwise. Your best bet to find a niche, a subject that interests you, something you're passionate about so you'll stick with it. If you're into organic gardening, quilting, motorcross, snowboarding, whatever, build your site/blog around that and look for merchants that are a fit with your topic. Then you can add their links to your web site. So far, so good. Now you can make money while you sleep, right? Hang on there, don't expect to turn your income on auto-pilot unless you have people coming to your site to click those links and buy those products. That's going to involve some search engine optimization (SEO) work and traffic-attracting content for your site. There are lots of resources to help you with that as well.


Resources

Affiliate Marketing isn't rocket science, and there's no need to try and re-invent the wheel. There are plenty of FREE resources available for you to learn the ropes. AbestWeb Forum is the world's largest affiliate marketing forum with 60,000 members. You can find information on everything affiliate there. Successful affiliate mentors like James Martell will share their expertise via free downloadable ebooks and blogs to get you started and advice on how to be successful in this constantly evolving marketing space. And if you really want to dive in, there's the semi-annual Affiliate Summit Conference hosted by Shawn Collins and Missy Ward. Affiliate Summit West '10, held in January 2010, was the largest to-date with more than 4,000 attendees, gathering affiliates, merchants, networks, agencies and services, in one location. Shawn is recognized as one of the premier affiliate marketing authorities and also offers many resources to those just getting started via his blog, AffiliteTip.


95% of People Who Try to Make Money Online Will Fail

As mentioned earlier, this isn't for everyone. So don't start out investing a lot of money till you're sure this is for you and you'll stick with it. To be part of the successful 5%, know up front that it's hard work, it's learning, it's time-consuming and it takes patience. But it can be exciting, fun and financially rewarding. You can make a few extra hundred dollars a month with minmal effort and there are affiliate marketers making 6 or 7 figure incomes. One of the most respected affiliate marketers is Mike Allen of Shopping-bargains.com. Mike turned his hobby of finding online deals for friends and family into a full-time netpreneur career. He currently has 8 employees, with 5 successful web sites including shopping-bargains sites for Canada and the U.K.


Summary

This is just a cursory look at affiliate marketing but gives you an overview of what's involved. Find your niche. Do your homework. Decide if this is a good fit for you. Don't fall for the get rich quick schemes. Don't invest more than you can afford to get started. Don't get discouraged. Have fun. Sit back and enjoy the ride.Next week, we'll look at some free tools and other resources you can use to enhance your sites and affiliate sales.

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November 4, 2009

Self Publishing on the “NET”

Self Publishing on the “NET”

By Bryan Lambert – August 9, 2009

Pullquote TT230“Are you a writer or do you want to look like one?”  If so, then welcome to the 21st century world of self publishing!  Yes, you too can produce good quality printed works for a pittance – especially with the advent of self-publishing the internet way.  On the Internet, there are a number of self-publishing or “publish-on-demand” sites available and in this week's Tech Tip, we’ll look at some really cool things that you can do by self publishing via the Internet – the geeky way.

Make You Own Calendar, Photo Book or Print up a Family History

Making your own bit of personal memorabilia can be fun, easy and exciting.  Whether it’s a cool calendar that you hand out , a personal photo book for the coffee table or even a family history that you create with the help of Ancestry.com (see the Tech Tip on 15 cool websites) you’ll find that self-publishing sites help walk you through the process. Not only make it as painless as possible, but offer top notch on-demand printing that looks terrific and is relatively inexpensive.  Many will even grab your Facebook, Twitter or Flickr Photos.

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Sites such as Lulu.com have cool and creative step by step “wizards” and “creators” that walk you through making a terrific calendar or photo book that will be the envy of your friends and family.  Such self-publicizing sites are very up-front with costs (for example, for a standard calendar or a 20 page letter size photo book, on Lulu you’ll be looking at under $20). If you decide to venture into reselling your work they’ll help you with that too.  So in an afternoon, from the comfort of your living room you can design your calendar or photo book and then have it shipped to you – geeky fun for all.

Get that Novel Published (kind-of)

Four years ago, I participated in a wonderful experience of tossing together a 50,000 word novel in just one month – by participating in “National Novel Writing Month” held every November (see www.NaNoWriMo.org for details if you think you’re up to it).  Typically, if you reach the magic 50K mark, one of the self publishing sites will print out a free copy of your novel for you.  Obviously, since these are self publishing websites, any services such as editing and layout are extra, but in this modern computer age, many of us are up to that task.  The last year (November 2008) www.CreateSpace.com kindly stepped up to the plate to make this offer available to NaNoWriMo participants.

If you have a novel already done up, why not have a self-publisher site print up a copy for you – it’s something that you can look at for inspiration as you submit copies of it to commercial publishers for their “slush piles.” – or If you are an enterprising type, feel free to try these sites for posting/selling your work – it usually (for the most basic services) will not run you anything to have it up for sale. Self printing novels is actually pretty cheap considering how much you pay for paperbacks these days. For example, for many novels of around 100 pages – you’re looking at under $10.

Look around at what some other people have done

Despite the knock that some uninformed people may give the self-publisher businesses, you’ll be surprised at some of the really good quality items you’ll run across (and how cheap some of it is – some publishers will even let you have e-copies free).   Self-publisher websites are kind of like the “America’s Got Talent” of the writing world – you’ll never know what you discover!  True there may be some duds but you’ll be sure to run across some gems as well in the process.

Concluding words

In truth, this Tech Tip just scratches some of the cool things that you can do in the world of self-publishing.  For example, some sites allow video and musical content as well as the written word.  So get cracking and go ahead and explore this very cool, very geeky and very 21st century version of self-publishing – the Internet way.

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