Category Archives: Blogging

{Productivity Hack} How I Save 7 Hours a Week With Canned Email Responses in Gmail

How to Do Canned Email Response in Gmail

One of the biggest drags of blogging is email.

Don’t get me wrong, I love getting email from my readers. We both do.

But after blogging for several years the emails start to pile up.

In fact, I think that last time I saw Mandy’s unread email count is was just under 200 emails.

Yowzers!  {She’s quite the popular blogger. :)}

Many of these emails are very similar in nature and basically ask the same question over and over again.

Having to type out individual responses can be tedious and nonproductive.

Is there a solution? Absolutely!

Enter in the canned email response…..

How to Do Canned Email Response in Gmail

Mandy and I both use Gmail for our primary email provider which provides an amazingly simple canned response feature. If you use Yahoo, here’s how do their canned response.

In this post I’ll share some personal examples that I use with canned responses in Gmail and then a video tutorial on how you can set them up yourself. First, some examples…..

Canned Response Examples

Guest Post Requests

For anyone blogger that has been doing it for a while you know the constant amount of guest posts requests you get.

When my book was being launched I decided to hold off having any guest posts on my site so I could highlight more of my own content.

For anyone that emailed me about a guest post, this is what they got in response:

****

Awesome! Thanks for your interest in guest posting on my site. I seriously appreciate it.

Unfortunately, for the time being I have stopped accepting guest post inquiries. :(

My new book Soldier of Finance is finally be released this fall (Sept 9th to be exact) and I want to make sure that all the content on my site is mine leading up to that and also after.

So I’m not saying “never”, just not right now. Feel free to check back later on this year or the early part of 2014.

Thanks again!

****

Post Interview Canned Response

After I conduct an interview on my Good Financial Cents podcast I send this to the guest when the podcast goes live:

****

Hey,

In case you didn’t know, you’re interview is officially live!

Feel free to share it on social media:

Also, if you could leave a review on iTunes and Stitcher that would be great!

It would help give us both more visibility.

Here’s the link for iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/good-financial-cents-podcast/id775107294

Here’s the link for Stitcher: http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/goodfinancialcentspodcast/good-financial-cents-podcast?refid=stpr

Thanks again for sharing your story to the GFC Community!

****

Can I Pick Your Brain?

One of the most common questions I get on my blog is “How do I get started as a financial advisor?“.

Even though I wrote several posts on the topic I had people asking me the same question and I could tell that they never took the time to read my posts.

The solution?

This canned response:

****

Thanks for the contact!

I’ve put together quite a few posts for those that are looking to get started in the business. Review these and let me know if you have any further questions.

http://www.goodfinancialcents.com/certified-financial-planner-cfp-how-to-become-career-planning/

http://www.goodfinancialcents.com/how-to-get-started-job-financial-advisor-planner/

http://www.goodfinancialcents.com/how-to-become-a-successful-financial-advisor/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=traGKwKz93k

http://www.goodfinancialcents.com/start-financial-planning-investment-business-firm-practice/

****

Taking it one step further I get seasoned advisors that want to pick my brain for other items such as:  how did I start my own practice, had do I balance my blog and my practice, what’s the best place to get started online marketing, etc.

I love talking about this stuff.  So much in fact I would spend over an hour sharing my love for blogging with other advisors.

What became frustrating was many of these advisors that I spent time on the phone with did nothing my advice.    In essence,  what took me over 4 years to figure out I gave them the road map to get started and they didn’t do jack.

Because of the growth of my practice, blog, podcast and family I don’t have the time like I used to spend on the phone with these advisors.  Especially for free.  That’s when I decided to start charging a consulting fee.

If an advisor emails me wanting to “pick my brain”, this is the response they’ll get:

****

Awesome!  So glad that you reached out to me.  :)
 
Due to the number of similar requests I get like this everyday, I have to protect my time.   Between running my practice, recording my podcast, running my blog and making time for family, I only have limited time in the day.
 
Because of that I had to made the business decision to start charging for my time. 
 
Right now only charging $200/hour (minimum 1 hour billed) but expect this rate to go up as the requests incerease.    Payment is done via PayPal.
 
If you’re interested in setting up a consulting call I would be happy to set up a time.
 
P.S.
 
If you have a simple email question I’ll do my best to respond.  Just realize that it may take a few weeks to get back to you.
 
Thanks again!
****
[Side note:  I recently just tested this with a $100/hour consulting fee and had a 75% success rate.  I then raised my fee to $200/hour and I've already had one person agree to that rate.]

Canned Responses Save Time

On average I used my canned responses 4-5 times per day and I’m constantly adding new canned responses when I find myself answering the same question repeatedly.

Mandy has done the same thing for her blog and especially with Happy Mommy Box as that business grows.

At a rough calculation, I estimate that having canned responses saves me at least 1 hour per today.   It also allows me to stay more productive and not have my energy drained so I can focus on doing the stuff I love.

Yes, I heart canned email responses.  :)

Ready to start adding canned email responses to your day?

Here’s a tutorial to get you going:

Are you using canned responses with your blogging efforts?

How to Make Over $100,000 Per Year With an Online Store

steve chou My Wife Quit Her Job

Have you ever wanted to fulfill a dream but was just too scared of what could happen?

We’ve all tasted a bit of that in our lifetime.

For those that take that giant leap of faith, the end result can be an exciting story to share.

I had the opportunity to interview Steve from the blog MyWife Quit Her Job.com who, as you can imagine, blogs about how his wife quit her job to become a stay at home mom.

While that doesn’t sound that exciting, what makes their story special is that his wife was able to develop a web based business from home that has replaced her former salary and currently brings in a 6 figure income.

steve chou My Wife Quit Her Job

If you’ve ever considered starting an online store, I strongly suggest you check out their site. They have tons of good information for anyone that is looking to get started. Now on to the interview…..

Continue reading

How to Kiss Your Day Job Goodbye and Chase Your Dreams with Tom Ewer of LeavingWorkBehind.com

new-leaving-work-behind

Most people that start a blog hope to make a little bit of money from their efforts.

I know I was stoked to make my first $100 bucks from my blog. Even though I was probably averaging about $.76/per hour. Haha!

Many bloggers dream to make real money that allow them to help out with their finances. But how many actually dream that their blogs will allow them to quit their day job?

One blogger did and his name is Tom Ewer.

new-leaving-work-behind

Tom blogs at LeavingWorkBehind.com where writes about his journey from having the steady 9 to 5 to giving all that up to chase his dream of running an online business.

Well, that dream has become reality.

Tom and I have connected on the interwebs and we’ll definitely have him on the D&R Podcast next year. Being impatient though, I wanted to get Tom on the blog to share his story with all of you.

Here’s our interview with Tom….

***

Hey Tom, thanks for joining us at the Dollars and Rose Blog.  First, for those that aren’t familiar with you, tell us a little bit about your blog, Leaving Work Behind, and your journey in starting your online business.

Sure thing. Leaving Work Behind is a blog and online community for people who want to quit their jobs and build a life of freedom and flexibility. It’s not necessarily about making a six-figure income (although plenty of us certainly have that as a goal) — it’s ultimately about creating a fulfilling and happy life. I know that sounds a little “out there,” but I’m not a particularly spiritual guy and I take a very practical approach to the process.

As for my journey, it actually started with Leaving Work Behind back in May 2011. I launched the blog as an accountability journal — to keep tabs on my money-making (or not!) projects.

For the first six months or so I achieved very little; in fact, I lost money. But I eventually stumbled across freelance blogging as a means of making money and haven’t looked back since.

These days I make money from my writing business and Leaving Work Behind itself (through affiliate marketing and information product sales).

I also have other projects on the go that I hope to monetize in 2014.

Dropping the Day Job

When was it evident that you could replace your entire nine to five job with your online business?

When I got paid for my first freelance writing gig, my eyes really opened to the possibilities. Although the hourly rate at the time was low ($15 from memory), I could see the potential.

For example, $15 per hour at 40 hours per week represented an annual salary in excess of $30,000. I wouldn’t say it was evident that I could replace my nine to five job at that point, but I could certainly see that it was a possibility.

What were some of the mental obstacles that you had to overcome that allowed you to give up your nine to five job?

The biggest one was self-doubt. I think that’s a real beast for most people and can prove to be a real barrier to success. The key to overcoming that for me was to objectify and rationalize my concerns.

For example, although I had doubts that I could make a living out of freelance blogging, I couldn’t deny the simple math of the calculation I made above. Put simply, if I could find the clients, I could make a living at the rate I was already being paid.

And although I didn’t tell myself this at the time, these days I always tell people who doubt their abilities the following: Whatever you’re trying to achieve, others out there who are less intelligent, less capable, less experienced and with fewer assets to help them have already achieved it. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t join their ranks.

What’s something that you wish somebody would have told you before you left your nine to five job to focus on your online business full time?

The above actually! Realizing that your planned achievements are a drop in the ocean compared to the breadth of human achievement does really help to form a healthy perspective on your goals.

What They Don’t Tell You

Often times when you hear people that have quit their day job to focus on their online business you always hear about all the good things; what are some of the downsides of having a fully online business?

It’s not the dream that many people assume it is.

Don’t get me wrong — I love what I do and I would never go back into employment. I definitely made the right move. It was perfect for me but it’s not perfect for everyone.

You’ll have to cope with spending a lot of time on your own and being excluded from the typically social environment of most workplaces. Furthermore, you’ll have to cope with the pressure of generating income on a month-by-month basis. A paycheck is constant (most of the time) — your income won’t be.

Of course, the potential upsides are huge, but they should be put into perspective.

130820-TomEwer-009-Edit-S

Show Me the Money

What’s your main source of revenue from your online business and how are you able to diversify on where your revenue is coming from?

My main source of revenue at the moment is the money I make from my writing business. Although I started out as a freelance writer, I now outsource the writing part of my work to subcontractors and work in an editorial role to ensure that their work is fit for distribution to my clients.

In terms of diversification, I am currently working on expanding the income streams from Leaving Work Behind. I will do this by expanding my audience and creating new information products.

I recently re-launched Leaving Work Behind with a new design and community forums, which has made a big difference already.

Finally, I always try to have other standalone projects on the go — to keep me familiar with the perspective of my LWB readers (who are typically just starting up their business). I’m currently working on a health and fitness blogs for “normal” people called Healthy Enough, which I’m really passionate about.

My ultimate plan is to develop it into one of the biggest health and fitness blogs on the internet. So I’m setting my sights pretty high there ;-)

The Toolbox

What are some of your favorite tools you use to run your business? (what can’t you live without).

There aren’t that many things that I can’t live without, and I like it that way. I don’t like to rely wholly. upon anything. I’m afraid that those things I do really covet are pretty bog standard:

  • Gmail: the best email client out there
  • Evernote: for keeping notes on projects, etc. all in one place
  • Dropbox: cloud storage rocks!
  • Google Drive: for collaboration and files I regularly work on
  • Freshbooks: to bill my clients
  • Byword: for writing minimally
  • Mac Reminders: to keep my to do list in order!
  • My moleskine notebook: I use this to write out my to dos in small blocks so that I don’t get overwhelmed by them

Don’t Do This

What’s the biggest mistake you see most bloggers make in trying to monetize their sites?

Trying to do so too soon. You’ll see someone with 10 visitors a day plastering their site with AdSense. it makes no sense (pun not intended) to do that.

Build an audience, get them to trust you and build rapport. Then carefully consider how you will monetize that goodwill. Don’t jump the gun.

Do This.

Any closing tips for anyone aspiring to running an online business?

Just one: persist. I know that things can seem pretty fruitless at time, but persistence makes success all but inevitable. It trumps intelligence, experience, and all those other coveted qualities that are considered so important. If you keep trying you will eventually succeed.

***

Thanks,  Tom, for the awesome interview!

Tom  just launched a new course “Paid to Blog” where he’ll show you step by step how you can average $100/hour from freelance blogging.  If you have interest in “leaving your work behind,  check out the details here.

How to Improve Your Guest Posting Strategy by 1716%

guest posting

Guest posting has been one of the key attributes of growing my blog over the last five years.

When my blog first launched in 2008 I managed to spew out over 30 guest posts in about a 90 day period.

That was on top of writing regular content for my own site 3-5 times per week.

#hustle

I contribute that onslaught of guest posting to putting my blog on the map, getting tons of new traffic, readers and credible back links.

Guest posting is still a strategy I implement to this day and I try to guest post at least one to two times a month when I can.

guest posting

I like to think of myself as a “quasi-expert” when it comes to guest posting.  I’ve written guest posts for over 70+ different sites while also writing for bigger sites like U.S. News, MarketWatch, and Equifax.

I’ll showcase one of the strategies that has worked well for me and how I drastically could have done it better.

Note: This is a strategy that I’ll be focusing on for every guest post I do going forward.

My Main Focus on Guest Posting Has Been….

One of the things I have been focusing  on with my guest posting strategy is making sure that I get a link to my Google Plus authorship. I’ve put a lot of faith in believing that Google authorship will be huge allowing my name and voice to stick out amongst the crowd.

If you haven’t set up a Google author profile yet check out these blog posts on Copyblogger that talks about the importance of claiming authorship and how you can set it up.

Below is a screen shot of an example of a guest post I did for ChristianPF.com where I got a link from my Google authorship profile as well as a link to my blog homepage and a link to my book.

Trifecta!  :)

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 2.38.07 PM
My byline

This strategy has worked well demonstrating to Google that my authorship is legit and also that my blog is legit.

I mentioned this has worked well for me, but I’d like to show you a few examples on how I could have done it better.

The email list grows.

A blogging buddy of mine and entrepreneur James Clear from JamesClear.com shared a strategy with me that was mind numbing.

James has an awesome blog where he writes anything from entrepreneurship to effectively changing your bad habits into good ones. When talking with James…

I learned that his email list grew from zero to over 20,000 in the span of nine months.

Now just in case that doesn’t mean a lot to you, that’s freaking huge. I’ve been blogging for over five years and my email list has just now gotten up to about 7,500.

Can it be repeated? Well here is one little trick that James did that we all could learn a valuable less from. Below is a screen shot that James did on Medium.com.

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 2.55.09 PM
James Clear guest post

The guest post looks like a traditional guest post, but look down at the screen shot of his closing byline.

You’ll see that he also gets a link directly to his blog homepage (which I still think is very important), but if you look closely at his other link you will see the anchor text to join his free newsletter.

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 2.55.01 PM
James’s byline

Offer Even More Value

What that link takes you to is a landing page on James’ site that is dedicated clearly to getting email newsletter signups.  You can see the actual page here.

The last time we spoke James had mentioned that the newsletter landing page converts between 50% to 70%, meaning that approximately three out of every five people that visit this page have come from one of his guest posts and have signed up for his newsletter.

I think the industry standard is more like 5% to 10% (don’t quote me on that), so the fact that he’s five to six times that is utterly amazing. This simple trick has turned his guest posting into an email newsletter machine.

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 2.56.46 PM
Super successful landing page

Is James’ way the only way? Take a look at another way of doing it.

Savvy Business Networking.

John Corcoran of SmartBusinessRevolution.com recently did a guest post for my blog on business networking.

 

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 2.56.09 PM
John Corcoran guest post

 

Once again his guest post looked like the typical guest post until you look at the byline.

At the end John, like me, gets a link to his Google Plus profile and a link to his homepage .  What John does that’s a bit different is is he also gives my readers a call to action be enticing them  to download his free eBook titled “How to Create Your Own Personal Network Plan“.

 

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 2.57.20 PM
John’s byline

 

If you click on the link you’ll see that John has created a custom landing page specifically for my readers. (See the screenshot below).

I’m sure that John has created this template for other guest posting opportunities where he can easily swap out the name of the blog.  Either way it looks very personable and makes you feel like you’re special because you came to this landing page.

This takes a little bit more work than James’ strategy above, but is equally effective.

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 2.57.37 PM
John’s super slick landing page

Why is This More Effective?

This method is so much more effective because your limiting the number of choices people have when they visit your site.  When people visit your homepage for the first time they may click around some but without a clear call to action, they’ll most likely eventually leave.

It takes some serious hustle to get somebody to your blog for the first time.  You better take advantage because they may never come back.

How Am I Going to Use This Strategy?

I’m basically going to follow the same format, but I’m hoping a new secret weapon will help with conversions.

What’s this secret weapon you ask?  Glad you asked.  :)

I’m been testing LeadPages on my site after the new site design.  LeadPages is a landing page platorm that has several pre-built templates that you can choose from.   What makes LeadPages so unique is that they are constantly testing their landing pages to see what converts the best.

They are constantly sharing case studies of how other people are using their landing pages and adding new templates all the time.   In a future post, I’ll talk more about how we’re using LeadPages in other ways, but for today I’ll show you the landing page I’ve created for my guest posting campaign.

Here’s the link to the landing page I’ve been working on.  What makes LeadPages so cool is that you just upload the images and it automatically resizes everything.

LeadPages screenshot LeadPages screenshot

You just have to write the copy and sync it with your favorite email newsletter service.  For us, that’s Aweber.   You can read more about how to setup an email newsletter with Aweber here.

Do You Have to Use LeadPages?

Absolutely not.  I could have created a similar landing page on the blog and it would probably be just fine.  Why I’m leaning towards LeadPages is because they’ve already done all the testing for me.   They’ve tested the layouts, call to action buttons, text fonts, text colors – everything!

They also have analytics so you can see how many visitors you get to the page and how many actually sign up.   In other words, LeadPages is #legit.  :)

I’ll definitely share some of the details after my next guest post so stay tuned!

Are you currently guest posting for other sites?  Are you using a similar strategy? 

 

How to Travel the World While Building a Thriving Online Business with The Suitcase Entrepreneur

The Suitcase Entrepreneur

Running an online business has so many perks. You make your own hours. You get to wear your pajamas if you want. The list goes on and on.

The one BIG advantage that the online business has over a brick and mortar business is that you can literally work from anywhere.

With 3 little kids, it’s a bit more difficult to pick up and go, but when we do, or blogs are still working for us. If we need to do some work on them, all we need is our laptops and an internet connection and we’re good to go.

It truly is a beautiful thing. :)

Taking it one step further is Natalie Sisson, more commonly known as The Suitcase Entrepreneur. To say that Natalie has traveled the world is an understatement.

The Suitcase Entrepreneur

This girl has literally been everywhere! What makes that even more impressive is that she’s been able to run a thriving online business while she does it.

I had the pleasure of meeting Natalie at World Domination Summit where I learned she was also launching a book appropriately titled “The Suitcase Entrepreneur“.

I’m totally fascinated with nomadic entrepreneurs that can not only run an online business, but they can also kill it!

I was so intrigued with Natalie’s story that I wanted to pick her brain in how she did it.   I hope you enjoy the interview as much as did.

Introducing Natalie….

1. Can You First Share a Bit About Your Journey Into Becoming an Online Entrepreneur?

After 9 years in the corporate world, I’ve built a six-figure global business from nothing but a blog and close to zero investment. Now I travel the world, living out of my suitcase, teaching others how to do the same. That’s the short version.

The reality is that I’m somewhat of an accidental online entrepreneur who forged my own path thanks to my insatiable appetite for learning about new tools, technology and strategies.

I took my corporate background and all I’d learned in my roles in marketing, brand management and business development and applied it to my own technology company I co-founded in 2008 in Canada, and later to my blog which is now my business.

I’ve always done things in a way that others would consider crazy or non-linear and for that I feel very lucky – because we all know that luck is preparation meeting opportunity, and I’m usually prepared and opportunistic.

So when I left the corporate world and walked away from the 9-5 drudge of a trade union in London, England, all I knew was a fancy title, a high up position and a great salary meant nothing if it wasn’t combined with work that you loved doing and had real meaning, and gave you a sense of freedom.

So I quit it all and took a flight to Vancouver, Canada to play the World Ultimate Frisbee Championships and figure it out from there. I met my business partner a networking event where I was determined to either figure out my own business or align with someone else. For 18 months we worked our asses off to build up a fundraising application on Facebook, acquire funding from investors and customers for our product.

It was during that time when I was wearing a bazillion entrepreneurial hats and cutting my teeth in this new fast paced startup world, that I started my blog – which eventually became something I was more passionate about then our company. The rest is history combined with three years of hard work and hustle to build the company and lifestyle I have today and love with all my heart.

2. What was your “aha-moment” when you realized that you could make real money online?

It was November 2010 and I’d run a series of successful in person workshops on using social media for your business. I decided since I’d gone to the lengths of creating all this great content for a two day workshop that I should figure out how to turn it into an online program.

I learned as much as I could and then when it was as ready as it ever would be, I ran my first webinar and sold one spot in the program. A couple of days later I had made my first few thousand dollars and I was like `Ah so this stuff is possible’.

I’ve gone on to launch a lot more products and programs since, and some worked amazingly well and others were not fully tried or tested, so if there’s one other thing I’ve learned is that you have to continually learn and apply what you know every single time.

There’s definitely a formula that works but it’s part and parcel of a much broader context that includes your own personal brand, values and alignment with your work and offerings.

3. What were your biggest obstacles of getting there? Can you share a personal story that shows one of those obstacles?

Myself. More importantly my limiting beliefs that I was cut out to run a business and figure out how to turn a humble blog into a profitable venture. The first 6 months after I left FundRazr to pursue my own thing, were some of the most terrifying and challenging of my life. But I personally wallowed in them to know what it felt like to feel the fear and do it anyway. To have zero income and have to hustle like crazy to make some magic happen and generate revenue.

I just had to learn to believe that I could achieve anything I wanted if I truly wanted it to become a reality and to believe in myself, my skills and my knowledge.

4. You literally travel the world and run your business from your laptop. Can you break some of the common misconceptions that people usually have about how you could never run a business purely online?

The biggest push back I get is that you have to have a physical presence somewhere in order to be seen and trusted. I think most people now know that’s a complete lie.

There are so many examples of businesses that have built a global empire with a virtual team around the world who all communicate through Skype, Google Apps and email. This is particularly true for software, tools and apps. But it also applies to businesses like legal firms, accountants, copywriters and companies with physical products (you can outsource inventory management, shipping and customer service and not own a warehouse these days).

But there are certain types of businesses, particularly service based where clients still expect you to show up and see them in person, come to meetings and be at an arms length. The solution to this actually comes back to you and how you set your business up in the first place.

If you give people the right signals from the beginning and are really clear on your intentions to be truly location independent, you will naturally deter the types of people who expect personal contact, and attract people who actually admire what you’re doing and want to work with you because of it.

5. What are some of your current challenges for running a complete online business?

Well sometimes it would just be great to have a physical office, printer, fax and telephone to get stuff done and have that infrastructure in one place. But now there are tools to fax people from your email and have mail sent from online so there no excuses really. It’s more from the point of view that there are benefits to having a set location to work from (especially if you’re not disciplined about working from cafes and airports) and security in knowing your wireless is reliable and always on.

Also it can be pretty tiring searching for locations to work and live from, and knowing when to switch off for the day given that you can be online 24/7. All of this mobility requires effort to harness in the right way, that positively impacts your business and lifestyle, rather than detracting from it.

6. Tell us the inspiration about your book “The Suitcase Entrepreneur”.

The inspiration behind my book was that I finally felt I had a story to tell and message to share that could impact hundreds of thousands of people who still don’t think it’s possible to work and live anywhere.

More importantly to challenge peoples’ assumptions of what’s possible and buck the traditional methods and perspectives on how we are meant to work, profit and play.

So it’s all about possibilities but backed up with incredibly practical and hands on strategies, tips and methods to apply to your own unique situation. I know my book also appeals to those just starting out and established entrepreneurs who are looking to go more mobile and take their business online.

Even if you don’t want to start a business there’s a lot of juicy travel hacking tips and reality checks on what to expect and consider before you do go off on your adventure too.

7. What’s the #1 thing you hope people get out of reading your book?

That there is no better time than now to choose your own adventure and truly live life on your own terms. And that you don’t need to permission to do this.

Bonus Question: Best and Worst places you’ve visited?

I had someone ask me about the worst country I’d visited and I really struggled to answer that. I tend to view most challenging experiences as positive ones, and travel has this way of making you forget the really bad parts and remember the fantastic ones. I’d say the outskirts of Cebu in Philippines were not exactly the most wonderful moments spent on this earth. I was there for a purpose – to write my book. But the surroundings were pretty shabby, dirty, noisy, dusty, and supposedly unsafe. I felt quite isolated and a little trapped for a time being.

Best places are to many to mention but visiting the powerful Iguassu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina, reaching the summit of Sugar Loaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, biking from Nairobi to Cape Town, floating down the Mekong river in an inner tube in Vang Vieng (while drinking Beer Laos and taking time out to go on giant swings and dive off platforms) and sailing on the Pacific Oceans in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand to name a few.

Thank you Natalie!

Be sure to check out Natalie’s new book The Suitcase Entrepreneur now available on Amazon.

Can You Be An Average Writer And Have A Successful Blog? (Video)

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It seems as if we get asked this question time and time again:

“Can you be an average writer and have a successful blog?”

In other words, can you suck at writing and still make it in the blog world.

Here’s a little hint…Jeff and I are both “average” writers.

In fact, I would consider myself below average. Ahem.

I still think we have done a decent job of making it. :)

A recent reader asked us this very question so we thought it would be good to answer this question for everyone else that thinks they are an average writer.

*Bonus* We may have a few bloopers at the end. Enjoy! :)

How To Un-Pandify and Penguin 2.0 Proof Your Site {Updated}

Penguin

Update: With Google up to their dirty tricks again with Penguin 2.0, I thought it would be a good idea to update this post. As I write this, both Mandy’s blog and my main blog are unaffected. My niche is down 23% however. Not cool. It’s still early, so time will tell. If you’re experiencing fluctuations in your traffic, consider the points below. I’ve added a few extras.

Panda

December 2010: Good Financial Cents gets over 100,000 unique visitors for the month for the first time.   My traffic keeps growing. I’m a rock star.

December 30, 2011: I see record numbers approaching year end.  I had 8,421 amount of visitors come to the site on this day alone.  Justin Bieber ain’t got nothing on me.

January 2011: I get over 120,000 unique visitors. I’m on top of the world!  I’m considering buying a T-shirt that says, “I’m a Baller”.

February and March 2011: Different months, same results.  I’m thinking 2011 is going to be a banner year. I Google “How much is a Bentley” to see if I can ever afford one because I’m going places baby!

April 14, 2011:  Panda hits. I now Google, “What the hell is Panda?”

April 17, 2011:  I’m left shell shocked wondering what in the heck just happened.  I’ve seen my traffic drop between 60-70% literally overnight.  I’m sick to my stomach.  Even In-N-Out burger doesn’t sound good to me.

panda
Ouch!

June 2011: It’s the lowest that I’ve seen my traffic since starting my blog over two years back.  I’m still lost and helpless and not sure what to do. I now Google, “Blogger 24-Hour Crisis Hotline”.

September 2011:  5 months later of miserable traffic numbers and I finally figure it out. My traffic is finally coming back. This prompts me to go to iTunes and immediately download MC Hammer’s “2 Legit to Quit”.

May 24, 2013: Panda 2.0 tries its best to throw me off my game. It ain’t happening. Panda 2.0 doesn’t realize that my new theme song is Chumbawamba’s hit Tubthumping for that unforgettable lyric “I get knocked down, but I get up again and you’re never going to keep me down“. Eat that Panda 2.0.

When I say the phrase Panda Update, many of you may not what I’m referring to.  If you’ve been blogging for the past couple of years, then I’m sure you’ve heard of it and if you’re like me, you had a bit of a taste of it and one bite was good enough.

Spring of last year, Google made some changes to their algorithms effecting search traffic.  They claim that only a small percentage of websites were affected.  Unfortunately, that small percentage affected me.

As I mentioned, I literally saw 70% of my search engine traffic disappear overnight.  I felt that I went from one of the premier personal finance blogs in the nation to all of a sudden being a nobody.  When you’ve spent almost three years building up something and then to have it get whacked underneath you without any explanation whatsoever, I promise you it’s not a fun feeling.  There was a part of me that wanted to give up blogging, although I knew I never would, but it was frustrating knowing that I had no control over what had happened.

Thankfully after attending the Financial Blogger Conference in Chicago, I got a chance to meet an online friend, Pinyo from Moolanomy. We talked a little bit about Panda and he offered to take a look at my site and give me some suggestions.  Needless to say, I am so thankful that he did.

Some of the tips that he shared with me allowed me to see results literally overnight.  If you’ve been blogging for a while and you haven’t done any of these tips, I suggest you do so.

You might not have been hit by Panda YET, but Google has made it clear that this is an ongoing update and just because you survived one Panda update doesn’t mean you’ll survive the next.  In fact, several bloggers I know that avoided Panda are now getting hit by Google’s new update named Penguin.  (What’s up with all the zoo animal names?)

Here are some tips to protect your blog from the next zoo animal attack:

1.  Check for broken links (This Is HUGE!)

One of the first things that Pinyo suggested I do was to install the broken link checker plug-in.  This plug-in will go to your site and identify any time that you’ve linked out to another blog or article and the link no longer exists.

It also shows you how many outgoing links are considered redirects, which basically means that it’s not linking to the respected article anymore and it forwards onto an updated link.

When I first ran the scan with the plug in, I discovered that I had several hundred broken links and almost three times as many on redirect.  It took me about a week to go through all of the links individually, but after it was all said and done, I was able to clean it up immensely.

Mandy had a blogging friend who had never did such a check on her blog.  She unfortunately felt the wallop of Penguin 2.0 and ran this test on her site.   She discovered over 1,000 broken links.  If you’ve been blogging for any period of time, run this test.  And try to remind yourself to recheck at least twice a year.

Action:  Download broken link checker plug-in and install it into your site.  Start going through the broken links and redirect, updating accordingly. Although I don’t have any concrete evidence of this, it suggested not changing too many links in one given day.  Such an abrupt change could cause your site to be viewed upon Google in a non-flattering way.  For my redirect, I allocated to doing 50 a day and that’s it.

Also, only run this plugin at night or a period of low traffic. It’s a highly draining plugin that could slow your site down. Once you complete the check and get all the links and redirects fixed, unistall it.

If you don’t want to install another plugin, or you are not on WordPress then you can also use this free site: Broken Link Check.

2. Cut out all of the crap

You’ve heard the phrase “spring cleaning”; well the same concept applies to your blog.  When you look through your archives, I’m sure you’re going to come across a lot of articles that were written back in the day before you had mastered your writing craft.

I had several blog posts that were old and information that was outdated and provided little to no value to anyone that came across them.  But the truth is that nobody was coming across them, so they were taking up wasted space. Pinyo suggested that I go through my archives, identify any old articles that have no relevancy and then no index and no archive them.

He then suggested implementing a 301 redirect linking that article to another article on the blog of a similar topic.  Essentially what the 301 redirect does is if that article does have any appeal value, meaning that someone has linked to it in the past, you can transfer that link onto an existing article.

One example, I had a Roth IRA article that I had wrote in the first couple months of starting my site.  When I came across the article again, I almost laughed at how amateur I sounded.  I then implemented a 301 redirect to a more recent Roth IRA article that provides much more value to my readers.  For any article that provided little value and had no articles of a similar nature, I would then just redirect them directly to my homepage.

How do you do a 301 redirect?  I’m glad you asked.  One of my blogging friends who is more technical than I am was able to do this on the back end inside the server.  I personally have no idea how to do this. I’m sure I could learn, but it would probably take me half a day to figure it out.  Luckily, I use the theme “thesis” that allows you to implement the 301 redirect in your Word press admin.

3.  Keep the links on coming

When I first started my blog back in 2008 and continuing until 2009, I had a very aggressive guest posting strategy.  I was doing so trying to build up my reader base and also build up my blog’s credibility by getting linked from different personal finance sites.

Once I had reached my hay day of having record traffic, I got lazy.  My guest posting dropped considerably, but I didn’t see a need as I continued to see my traffic numbers go up.  While I don’t have any documented evidence that shows this, in my heart, I do believe by not continuing  to guest post consistently it eventually deteriorated my site.

Since then, I have went on another guest posting campaign, making sure to let Google know that my blog is on other site’s radar.

One easy way that I’ve been able to implement this is by going through old blog posts. A lot of the times the content was good, it just needed to be spruced up a bit.  So I’ve taken an article that I’ve already written in the past, added new fresh content to it and then repurposed that as a guest post on another site.

In this case, repurposing the content is a win/win.  I’m able to reuse content that I’ve already spent some time putting together and I am able to offer updated content to another blog and get that valuable link back to my site.  All three strategies have helped bring back some of the traffic to my site.

4.  Don’t get greedy with your ads

For the longest time I was running a 336 x 250 Google Adsense block under my post title. Money wise this paid off as that gave potential search engine visitors more ads to click. Panda, however, had other plans.

One of the main focuses of Panda was to improve reader experience so Google frowned upon sites that pushed their content below the fold because of heavy advertising.

One of the first things I did after being hit by Panda was to reduce the ad block to a 468 x 60 (see below). I also run two more ad blocks (one in the post and another at the end of the post) since Google does allow up to 3 per page.

Google Ads
Is this better Mr. Panda?

5.  The need for speed.

Google likes fast sites.  If you’re site is slow, it can hurt you.  You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to find out how fast (slow) your site is.   If your site is fast, good job!  If not, here are a few things to consider:

  1. New Host.  Shared hosting plans are great when you’re just starting off.  After your site starts to grow, you’re now sharing bandwidth with hundreds of other websites, which will drag you down.  You’ll want to up your hosting package to make sure your site uploads faster.
  2. Reduce Image Size:  Mom bloggers love BIG photos.  My wife included.  Unfortunately, many of them upload the full file size to their blog. This gets even worse on a shared hosting plan.  You’ll want to reduce the file size before uploading.  One easy tool is Yahoo’s Smush.it.  By uploading your pictures there, you can reduce the file size by over 50% without losing the quality of the picture.  Another advanced option is having all your pictures stored on an outside server like Amazon.

6. Keep it social

If you’re blogging and not using social media, you might as well stop now.

Seriously.

It’s been said that Google is now implementing social signals on your articles (how many Facebook likes, how many ReTweets, etc) to help determine how it ranks in search results.  If you’re a mom/DIY blogger, I don’t have to tell you about the power of Pinterest.

Point is, start using some, if not all, of them to start promoting your blog.

7. Get out of your comfort zone

I’m going to be bold and say, if you’re “just blogging” then you’re going to be left in the dark.

What do I mean by that?  I mean this…..

Starting a blog has become so easy nowadays that thousands of new blogs start up everyday.  Crazy! If you’re just going to “write blog posts” are you really going to stand out?    Using social media will help, but even that’s becoming the norm of blogging.

How are you really going to stand out?  I have a few suggestions:

  1. Vlogging: This might be completely out of your comfort zone, but there’s so many powerful reasons why you should be using video in your blog:
    • Deeper connection with your readers.  I’ve experienced this with tremendous results on my blog.  Mandy has also done extremely well with her “Stop and Smell the Roses” vlog cast.
    • YouTube is owned by Google.  It ain’t rocket science.   Google owns search.  Google also owns YouTube.  You have a YouTube channel with your blog = helping you out with search.  Google also measures time on site as a valuable metric.  If you have videos that people watch while they are on your blog, that means they will be there longer.  That’s a win-win all around.
  2. Podcast:  Podcasting is becoming huge.   Yes, that’s why we’re jumping on that train. Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income recently shared some stats where 25% of people that found his site did so because of his podcast.   That’s crazy because he already had a big community with his blog and social medial outreach.  The podcast was just icing on the cake.
  3. Publish a book.  Amazon has made book publishing so much easier that anyone (yes, anyone) can publish a book.  I have a blogging friend that took a post that was already on their site, added some new content and turned it into an eBook on Amazon.  That book now makes him an extra $500/month plus introduces him to new readers every single day.

Don’t feel that you have to do all of these right now.  As soon as our podcast is launched and my book is published in September, I will be able to say that I’ve done all 3.  But it’s taken me over 5 years!   Start small and work your way up.

8. Claim your authorship

google-authorship

One of my main focuses this year has been Google Authorship.  In a nutshell, Google has been trying to figure out ways to crackdown on all the web spam that exists on the web.  One way of doing that is giving authors/publishers who are experts in their space or niche credit for sharing their expertise on the web.

For example, since I write guest posts for tons of other blogs, contribute to Market Watch, Equifax, and US News, claiming my authorship with these articles should give Google the signal that I’m knowledgeable in financial planning matters.  I’ve been trying to get my wife on board with this for months, but she’s hasn’t caught on yet.  <ahem>.

Here’s one of the best posts I’ve read that talks about why writers should claim their authorship.

Key Takeaways

I still have some room to grow, but I firmly believe that a combination of these  things have helped out immensely.

Have you been hit by Panda or Penguin?  If so, what steps have you done getting your search engine traffic back?

24 Tools To Grow Your Blog Through the Roof

24 Tools To Grow Your Blog Through The Roof

If you are reading this post then either you have already started your blog or you at least have some curiosity of getting one going.

Blogging can be an awesome and an equally addicting adventure.

At the same time it can be a very lonely place, especially if you don’t know anything about blogging.

Blogging Tools

That is exactly where I was five years ago when I started my blog. I knew nothing about hosts, themes, HTML…nada.

I was absolutely clueless.

But after A LOT of research and making some strong connections, blogging has become a passion, and also much more simple.

Another thing that blogging can become is expensive.

There are so many tools and courses and widgets that you can buy that will supposedly get you more traffic or make your blog operate more efficiently.

Some of the stuff is legit.  Some of it is pure crap.

Starting off, it is easy to go “blog broke” buying stuff you don’t really need.

Trust me, I was one of those that wanted to buy everything that I could if I thought it would get me more traffic.

Thankfully, I have a smart wife {thanks baba!} to keep me grounded and to make sure I was being frugal with my blog starting off.

The following is a list of the blogging tools that we have paid for or are currently paying for to help us run our blogging empire.

If you are a newbie blogger starting off, do not think that you have to have all of these tools to have a successful blog. Many of these were purchased after I started making money.

Please Note: Many of the links below are affiliate links. That means if you click on the link and buy it, we are compensated a small commission for the sale. Which we greatly appreciate!

1. A custom theme

Personally, I think it is essential to have some type of custom theme; not only will it make your blog more presentable, but it can also help with search engines and rankings.

Currently, all of our blogs are hosted on Thesis, which has been a theme that I have loved working with. We bought the developer’s license, so that we could upload the theme on various sites.

At the time I’m writing this, Thesis has just recently introduced their 2.0 theme which has received enormous backlash from the blogging community. It is not as simple as the previous themes and after spending a few hours looking it over, I was overwhelmed.  I’m not a guy that likes to be overwhelmed.

I say this as a disclaimer if you are considering buying Thesis.

Currently the 1.85 Thesis theme is what we are using and I love it. Other bloggers have talked about Genesis as being super easy to use. I have personally not had a chance to work with Genesis, but some of my closest blogging allies have.

We are in the process of trying to switch most of our sites over to Genesis. (Mandy is moving her site now)

Genesis WordPress Theme

Ready to rock one of the best themes on the planet.  Check out the Genesis Theme.

2. Hosting

To get started blogging, you have to have a host; that is plain and simple. What is not plain and simple is who your host should be.

If you are a newer blogger having a shared hosting plan with someone like BlueHost, Lunar Pages or Liquid Web is a great way to start. It is super cheap and their customer service is decent enough for a service that costs you less than $10 a month.

Keep in mind though that these are shared hosting plans, so it basically means that your domain is shared with hundreds of others. In the five years that I have been blogging, I think my sites have gone down approximately a dozen times using these type of hosting plans.

If you don’t get a lot of traffic then it’s no big deal. The frustrating part is when it is down for an extended period of time during a high traffic time period {like during the day}. Again, for the price, and if you are just starting off then using a shared hosting plan like Bluehost or Lunar Pages is well worth it.

bluehost sign up now

Looking to start a blog and want a cheap host?  We recommend Bluehost.

Stepping Up Your Plan

The next step up is using something called a dedicated server. However, this gets much more expensive.

Currently we have a few sites hosted with Liquid Web. The difference between Liquid Web and Bluehost is that instead of being shared with other domains, you would have your own dedicated server. That should mean that you have a much faster site and won’t be taken down if one of the other sites is hogging your resources. This type of plan can cost you anywhere from $25 to $50 a month, so it is definitely more expensive, but if you have more traffic and are more concerned about the speed of your site, than that is the way to go.

Since I am as non-techy as they come, trying to manage my own server is something that I had no interest in. I wanted a host that would take care of everything that goes on the backend to make sure that my site was running as efficiently as possible and also was able to back up my site on a daily basis.

Upon doing research, the host that I found was WP Engine. Initially starting with them, I was paying $100 a month for them to host my site. Immediately upon switching to them, my site speed increased dramatically; I loved it!

The only {good} problem was I started to get more traffic and based off WP Engine’s pricing, I went from the $100 a month package to the $250 a month package; ouch! Once again, my site was running the fastest it ever had with them, plus they were instrumental in taking care of all the security measures that I didn’t want to have to worry about.

Since it costs $250 a month, we decided to move my wife’s blog over to WP Engine as well. Her site is filled with tons of high resolution pictures and was running really slow on the shared hosting plan. By moving over to WP Engine, her site sped up dramatically, too.

I have since added a few other sites to WP Engine to fully maximize the $250 a month hosting package. As you can see, it was a natural progression going from the shared hosting plan all the way up to the $250 a month hosting package.

3. Design

This is one of the areas where you can spend a lot of money very easily. The design of your blog is something that you are never ever satisfied with; trust me. Just when you think you have it the way you want it, there is always going to be another tweak that you will want to make.

If you are good with coding and design work than that is great; you can do it yourself. If you are a coding challenged like myself, that can get rather pricey. Luckily, I found a good designer, Larry from Side Income Blogging that has been instrumental in developing GoodFinancialCents.com along the way.

Since Thesis was relatively easy to do some of the basic design stuff like colors, text, background, etc., I saved a lot of money by doing research on my own.  For some of the other custom things like the large subscribe box on the homepage, I had Larry do them.

If you are open minded to get design work done on your site, I would strongly encourage you to get a few quotes. Designers can vary extremely on cost. Make sure also to get some referrals and whatever you do, don’t pay 100% up front.

4. Article writers

When I first started my blog, I just saw it as that, a blog. I never really looked at it as an online publication. As you get more traffic, you start to realize that there are certain topic ideas that you’ll want to cover on your blog.  Some of these topics that might not be your specialty or you just don’t have time to research and write them.  At that point it might make sense to bring on a writer to cover those topics. This helps keep your readers engaged and it can also help generate even more traffic.

Miranda Marquit has been a writer for Good Financial Cents for a number of years. If there’s a topic that I think my readers would have interest in but I know I’ll never have the time to write it, that’s where Miranda comes in.

Even my wife has been able to get contributors to her blog. She’s done a better job than I since hers are free.  :)

5. Virtual assistant

Had it not been for Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Work Week, I would still be slaving over my blog, doing basic administrative tasks that I should not be doing. In his book, he talked about hiring a virtual assistant to take on some of the tasks that allow to focus on the tasks you should be doing.

In the early days of Good Financial Cents, I was spending a lot of time going through Flickr’s creative comments trying to find pictures to upload to my site.

Since I was routinely posting three or four times a week and each post would have one to two pictures, I figured I was spending anywhere from three to four hours a week trying to find the perfect picture. Yes, I’m anal – haha…..

Having stumbled upon a virtual assistant that randomly contacted me, I inquired to see if she had time to work on my blog inserting pictures. I gave her a step-by-step tutorial on how to do it.

It was so comforting to realize that I had just freed up that many hours a week that I could spend either writing more articles, networking or just doing whatever I wanted to do. The same virtual assistant now is basically a full-time employee doing anything from keyword research, SEO work and any other blog tasks I need her to do.

#gamechanger

6. AWeber

aweber

I’ve stated several times on this blog the importance of having an email list.  In fact, in a previous post I wrote about the biggest mistake I made blogging was not starting an email list.  I’ve been able to get a much more deeper connection with my readers through emails than I have with Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest combined.

AWeber has been my go-to email marketing service from the onset.  You can read an in depth post on how to setup an email newsletter with AWeber.

They start off at $19/month for the 1st 500 subscribers.  As my wife’s and my email lists have grown (over 11,000 email addresses) we are currently paying $130/month for their service.

AWeber offers a 30 trial period for $1.  Go here to sign up.

Keyword Research

web SEO chart on blackboard

If you are not doing keyword research before you hit publish on your next blog post, you are making a mistake. Do you have to do it on every single post?

Absolutely not.

But, I am confident there have been posts that you have published, had you done some keyword research, you would be getting more traffic than you currently are.  How do I know this?  Because I’m guilty of it, too!

Here’s how you do it.

6. Google AdWords Tool {free}

The best part about Google AdWords is that it is free. Using the Google AdWords Tool, you are able to see what advertisers are currently bidding for certain keywords and also what they are willing to pay.

The other key element is that it shows how competitive that keyword might be. Before trying to rank for something like “red wagons”, you might see that in Google AdWords it is extremely competitive. Instead, you should go after “tiny red wagons” or something similar. This is what is referred to as “long tail keywords”.

I found this video on YouTube that shows you the basics of using Google’s Adword Tool:

7. Market Samurai

Market-Samurai

Market Samurai was one of the first blogging tools that I ever paid for.  For the price, it is well worth it. I think it retails for about $100 but the cool thing it is a one-time payment.

Market Samurai is like Google AdWords on steroids. It gives you everything that you need, the ability to do keyword research in a much simpler fashion than what you get in Google AdWords.

My virtual assistant uses this tool on a monthly basis to track our positions on several hundred keywords.

Market Samurai offers a free trial with some great training videos.  Sign for your free trial here.

8. Raven Tools

Raven-Tools

A tool that helped me immensely in identifying keywords and also doing research on competitors was Raven Tools. When I first started Raven Tools, it was a bargain price of $20 a month. For all of the information that you got out of it, it was more than worth it.

After being with them a year, they restructured their payment plan and it went from $20 a month to $100 a month. I debated dropping it but it was a tool that I used literally almost every day.  It helped identify several keywords on my site that I could rank for.

The tool does a lot more than that.  For example,  you can check back links to your site, you can check to see how many back links a competitor site might have, you can track social media campaigns and much more. It is very robust and definitely offered more than I needed. It wasn’t until they changed some of their keyword research tools that I ended up dropping it.

Raven Tools offers a free 30 day trial period to see if it makes sense for you.

9. SEMRush

semrush

SEMRush is what I currently use that replaced Raven Tools. Unlike Market Samurai, it is a monthly payment of $69.95, not a one-time payment, so it is an ongoing expense.

Why I prefer it over Market Samurai is that it is not as clunky as Market Samurai. Market Samurai is a great tool, don’t get me wrong, but upon doing research, sometimes it takes a while for it to process all of the information. SEMRush, being completely web-based, I am able to get similar information super fast.

SEMRush offers a 7 day money back guarantee. Try SEMRush here.

Social Media

social media tools

I don’t think anyone would argue that social media has a major impact on how much traffic you can drive to your blog, but for many that have full-time jobs, families, soccer games, etc, it’s hard to keep up on all the different social media channels. There are some tools that you can pay for, that can help out.

10. TweetAdder

One of the easiest ways that I’ve been able to get more Twitter followers is to find an influential person in my niche.  I’ll then follow everyone they are following. Next, I’ll start going through all their followers to see if there’s anyone that might have some similar interests as me.  This strategy alone has helped me get a ton of new followers.

The only problem with this method is that it takes time. A service that I found that automates this process is TweetAdder.   This has been super easy to setup and I’m constantly adding new followers daily. 1 profile will cost you a one time payment of $55.  Since adding it, I’ve added a couple thousand new followers.

Go here to begin adding new Twitter followers automatically with TweetAdder.

11. Buffer

Buffer allows you to integrate multiple social media accounts and also allows you to schedule when certain tweets or messages may go out. This is something that I typically frowned upon, as I think social needs to be active. But I also realized that many times people are missing updates from the blog if I only Tweet it or share it on Facebook once.

I’m currently working with my virtual assistant to come up with a game plan where we can have scheduled tweets, highlighting certain blog posts throughout the day.  I’ve been testing this process for a few months and the results have been very promising.  I’ve been able to get more social media shares from older posts giving them new life and, in turn, more traffic to my blog.

The other cool thing with Buffer is that it offers analytics so you can see how well your strategy is going.  Right now I’m posting at 10am and 2pm to my Twitter feed and 7pm to my Facebook Fanpage. If those times don’t generate a ton of shares, I can always tweak it.

Buffer offers a free account, but I’m currently using their paid service that costs $10/month.

12. OnlyWire

One way to get easy backlinks to your site is by submitting them to bookmarking sites.  Boomarking sites are free, but you have to setup individual accounts with all of them.  When you have new posts to share, then you have to manually upload the post to all of them (if you want maximum value).  Yes, this is a real pain in the butt.  That’s if you’re not using Only Wire.

OnlyWire is a social media and bookmarking automation tool that allows you to send your content to 51 different networks. I primarily use OnlyWire on my niche sites to help get the content indexed with Google much faster.  The faster it gets indexed, the faster it will be found in the search engines.

OnlyWire also offers a free trial (7 days) and then goes to $12.99 per month.

Premium Plugins

Adding plug-ins to your blog can give it new life and new features that you and your readers will love. Most plug-ins are free, but there are some premium ones that I have opted to pay for that have done wonders.

13. OptInSkin

Screen Shot 2013-04-10 at 1.20.45 PM

OptInSkin allows you to add awesome-looking opt-in forms and social share boxes to your blog in seconds. Since email marketing is something I’ve really focused on over the last couple of years, I was looking for something more engaging than the typical templates that AWeber offers. Introducing OptIn Skin.

OptIn Skin is super easy to use and only costs $67 to get going. They have tons of choices and, also, awesome tracking tools so you can see where people are actually signing up on your newsletter.

Get more email subscribers, by using OptInSkin today.

14. LeadPlayer

LeadPlayer-600x475

Lead Player is another cool plug-in that I’ve been testing out. The only downside of having You Tube videos on your blog is if you’re trying to get the individual to take action. For example, you want them to sign up for your newsletter, or click on an affiliate link to buy a product, you would have to include a link in the blog post underneath the video.

With Lead Player, it allows you to upload your YouTube video to its interface inside your blog.  You can then choose if you want want to add a subscribe box to the video or a call to action button that takes them to a specific affiliate link.  If you’re reviewing a product that you’re an affiliate for, this plugin is magic.

To use LeadPlayer on one site, it will cost you $107.  If you want the unlimited license to use it on multiple sites, it’s only $40 for a total of $147 (this is the one I bought.)

15. Hello Bar

hellobar

Hello Bar is a tool that I’ve been using on and off for the last couple years. If I’m trying to drive specific attention either to a blog post, an affiliate program, or say, my book, I can put the Hello Bar at the top of my site to draw more attention.

Hello Bar also offers a free trial to see if you like it.  After that, it can cost as little as $5/month up to a certain number of clicks.

16. Pretty Link

Pretty Link Pro

If you’re using any type of affiliate marketing on your site, I can’t stress enough how important it is to have Pretty Link. Pretty Link allows you to shrink or mask your links using your domain name instead of the ugly looking long affiliate links.

For example, our affiliate link for Pretty Link looks like this: http://prettylinkpro.com/amember/go.php?r=5050&i=l0

By using pretty link we can make the link look like this: http://dollarsandroses.com/prettylink

See. Much prettier.  :)

The other cool thing is you can track what links are being clicked inside your blog. There is a more complicated way of doing redirects on the back end of your site, but if you’re a newbie blogger, I wouldn’t suggest this. That requires logging into your server which is a pain in the butt.

Pretty Link can all be done on the back end of your blog and it’s super easy.

Make all your affiliate links look like pros do it.  Get Pretty Link Pro Here.

Others

17. Copyscape

copyscape-main

If you ever plan on accepting guest posts from contributors, you always want to make sure that the content is original and not published elsewhere. The easiest tool to do that is Copyscape. For as little as 5 cents a scan, you can copy someone’s guest post into their tool to see if it is published anywhere else on the web.

I also use this tool myself when I’m offering guest posts to other bloggers. When you write a lot about the same topics, you have a tendency to borrow similar ideas that you may have written elsewhere. To prevent “getting an egg on my face” I always double check myself before I send it out.

18. Elance.com

The one thing about the online space that is ironic is that even though it is huge, it can often feel like a lonely place.  Especially when you don’t know how to do something such as coding on your site. When you are needing to hire someone to help you out, it can be tough trying to find a good referral.

Elance.com is a marketplace for freelancers that can do anything from building websites, transcribing interviews, writing content, designing graphics, and on and on and on. I just started using Elance recently and thus far the primary freelancers I have hired have done video transcription for some of my video interviews, as well as writing content for one of my websites.

Before you hire someone on Elance.com, make sure you are very descriptive in what you are looking for. If you put out a very general ad looking to hire someone, you could have 100’s of applications.  The more specific you are the better.

You can (and should) also ask up front for a sample of their work and referrals to other clients they may have worked with.

You have to treat it like a real job interview making sure you ask up front everything that you need to know.

19. Mobile Assistant

This is something that I could not live without. I hesitated listing this as a blogging tool because I also use it for my financial planning practice. But I love it that much that I could not leave it out.

Mobile Assistant is a mobile transcription service that runs me $55 per month. It is a number that I have on speed dial on my cell phone and after placing a simple call, all I have to do is talk. Within a couple of hours, I will receive an email of the complete transcription nicely typed out and formatted to my specifications.

The reality is that I hate to write and Mobile Assistant has been a savior for me.  Where it would usually take me a couple hours to write a 500 word post, I could have 1000 words written using Mobile Assistant after a seven to eight minute phone call.

Now that is efficiency at its finest!

Mobile Assistant uses real people that transcribe and their first language is English, which means less typos and much better transcriptions. If you want to give Mobile Assistant a try, they offer a 20-minute trial to see how much time it will really save you.

The monthly package usually runs $72 per month, but if you use the coupon “financialcents” you will be able to get the rates I pay, which is $55 a month.

P.S.  Much of this post (over 90%) was written using Mobile Assistant.  That’s why I love it! :)

21. Survey Monkey

surveymonkey

One of the best things that you can do to continually engage your readers is to take surveys and find out what they want. Google docs offers a way to do this free, but if you have a lot of people responding, the information can get very jumbled.

Survey Monkey is a tool that I use when I’m looking for feedback from my readers about what content that they want from me. It is super easy to set up and offers charts and graphs that make deciphering the information so much easier than any other counterparts.

Recently, when I was trying to find the perfect book cover, I sent out a survey to all of my readers. If it were not for survey monkey, trying to figure out which book cover my readers like the most would have been very difficult. Thankfully, Survey Monkey saved me hours and I was able to get concrete feedback immediately.

Survey Monkey offers a free version that you can test out.  Although, I’m currently paying $25/month for the Gold Package that offers a few more customizable features.

22. Dropbox

This is another tool that I have used both for my financial planning practice and also for blogging. If you work on different computers it could be very frustrating when you are trying to find the documents that let’s say is on your home computer, but you are now at work. Dropbox is your solution.

By having a folder “in the cloud,” you can upload any file type to it and then access it anywhere. This is also really good if you are trying to share documents or video files with other bloggers or virtual assistants.

Mandy recently did a video collaboration with the people from Blissdom prior to her attendance. Since the video camera we use is a DSLR, the video file is very heavy, so trying to email that to anyone would be very difficult. The solution is Dropbox.

By uploading the video file to a drop box folder and then sharing it with the person from Blissdom. She could then share that folder with that person and then they could download it to their own computer; it’s that simple.

Building Niche Sites

We’ll be talking more about niches on this site in the coming months.   Besides OnlyWire (listed above) the following tools have been instrumental in growing one of my main niches site from 0 to 15,000 unique visitors per month.   I’ve also tested these tools on my main blog targeting keywords that were outside the top 10 of Google’s 1st page results.  After a little work, I was able to move many of them to the front page.

23. The Best Spinner

This is a tool that I primarily use for building our niche sites. By using this tool, you can take this one written article and upload it to the tool and then “spin it” so that one article can become five to ten new and unique articles. Those articles can then be uploaded to other web properties to build a back link to your main site. The Best Spinner runs you $77 a year to use if you are ever considering developing some sort of niche site.

The Best Spinner for 7 days for $7.  (then $77/year after that).

24. Unique Article Wizard

After you spin all your articles using The Best Spinner, you now need to get them published on the web.  There’s the manual way which would take hours a day to do.  Or there’s the smart way using Unique Article Wizard.

My VA uses Unique Article Wizard to submit all the new posts that we are writing for article directories and other sites.  This is a tool that they use daily which is why I’m okay spending $67/month to have it.

No free trials for Unique Article Wizard.  $67/month gets you going.

Bottom Line

Don’t feel you need all of any of these tools to get you going.  As your blog grows, you can start incorporating some of these tools to make blogging that much easier for you.

Blogging

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Step by Step Guide: How To Easily Move Your WordPress Blog From One Host To Another

wp blog

wp blog

A few weeks ago I bought an already existing site for the first time. Another blogger was wanting to unload on the site and I thought it would be a good pick up to help out with some of my other online projects.

Transferring the funds via PayPal, buying the site was very simple. The one thing that didn’t cross my mind until the transaction was nearly complete was,

“How in the heck do I get the site on my website host?”

Having never bought an already exsisting site, I was clueless on how to proceed. The site owner suggested that I contact Jesse Michelsen from AntiNecktie to help me get it transferred over. Done!

Jesse made the process seem uber simple. Because of that, I solicited him to write up this post that shows you step by step how to do it.

In the event your lazy like me, feel free to contact Jesse and I’m sure he’ll be happy to help you out. :)

Enter Jesse…

*******

For every blogger, there comes a time when he or she has to change web hosts. This task sometimes comes from selling your blog, or outgrowing your current host which are both great problems to have. Whatever the case may be, this tutorial should come in handy to all you bloggers out there.

First, let’s talk about what a WordPress Install consists of:

In a WordPress blog, you’ve got the WordPress PHP files – These files are downloaded from WordPress.org manually or by using one of your hosts SimpleScript or similar installers, are installed on your server in your web directory and get served up by your web server. They are the core of your WordPress site.

Then there is the WordPress MySQL database – Without your database, the WordPress core files can’t serve any information. This database houses everything about your blog, all your posts, your usernames and almost all your settings.

Next up is your domain name – Your domain name points to the IP address of your server. This is controlled by the Domain Name System better know as DNS records. You will need to redirect your DNS record to your new host, so your domain name is pointing to the right server out there in Internet land.

There are some minor details in the mix, but changing these three things; your WordPress PHP files, MySQL Database and DNS records are necessary to move your WordPress site from one host to another.

Let’s get down to the details.

We need to collect all the information you’ll need for the move. Here’s a quick list:

  1. Old host cPanel (or alternative control panel) credentials: You need to be able to access your files on the old host.
  2. Domain registrar credentials: if your domain is registered through a third party such as Godaddy, you’ll need these to change the DNS records.
  3. New host cPanel credentials: as with your old host, you’ll need to be able to log in and upload the WordPress PHP files and MySQL database backup to the new host.

Important: I almost always do this kind of job in the middle of the night so there aren’t any noticeable interruptions in service. Things can and sometimes do go wrong when moving hosts.

Okay, let’s get started.

Log into your current host via cPanel. Typically you can reach your cPanel login area by going to yourdomainname.com/cpanel.

Once you log in, you should see a “Find” box near the top on the sidebar. Start typing in that box and you’ll notice your cPanel options start to get narrowed down to only those that contain the text you typed in. Type “file’ to get your File Manager options and click on the File Manager.

Open cPanel File Manager

After clicking File Manager, you’ll get a pop-up that asks where to launch the file manager. Select Home Directory and click Go.

Select your home directory and hit go

In the File Manager, you have two panels. One on the left is the directory structure tree where you can select locations to view. On the right side is the view panel that shows you the folders and files in the directory you’ve selected on the left. Since we elected to open the File Manager to your home directory, you should already have your home directory highlighted in the left side panel (eg “/home/yourusername”) and the contents of your home directory including your web directory (public_html), in the right side panel.

Highlight your public_html directory in the view panel by clicking on it and then click the Compress button in the menu bar of the File Manager. What this will do is make a compressed copy of your web directory that you can download much easier than downloading individual files and directories. Choose your compression format (default .zip is fine), the file location and name (again the default location and name work just fine here), and click Compress Files.

Compress your public_html directory

Choose your compression format

Once the compression is finished and you hit Close on the compression results window, you’ll have a new file called public_html.zip in your home directory. Click on this new .zip file in your view pane and click the Download button in the File Manager.

Download the created public_html.zip file to your computer

Tip: Before leaving the File Manager, there is one more thing to do now that will save us time later. Locate your wp-config.php file in the view pane, located within your public_html directory and click Edit in your File Manager menu. Inside the wp-config.php you’ll find all the information for your MySQL database including the Database Name which we’ll need very soon. Note that down somewhere.

Time to Backup

That takes care of your WordPress core files but we still need to back up and download your WordPress MySQL database. Since we are already logged into cPanel, the easiest way to do this is by using the cPanel Backup feature. Go back to your cPanel window (the File Manager should have opened in a new tab/window. If you don’t have the cPanel window open anymore, navigate back to yourdomainname.com/cpanel), type “backup” into the Find field and click on Backups.

Click Backups to back up your MySQL database

Note: You’ll probably notice you can back up your home directory and full account here too, but the way we did it via File Manager is generally quicker when moving hosts. However, if you are cancelling your old hosting account, I recommend doing a Full Backup from the Backups section for historical purposes in addition to the partial backups we’re using to move to a new host.

Scroll down under Partial Backups and you’ll see “Download a MySQL Database Backup” as well as a list of the current MySQL databases. Clicking on any of these database names will download the database backup to your computer. Download the database for the website you’re moving. Remember, we noted the database name from the wp-config.php file earlier.

Click on the database you want to back up to download it

Tip: As soon as you download your MySQL database, it’s a good idea to change your old wp-config.php file via the File Manager so that your website isn’t adding/updating information in the database anymore. Merging database backups is not fun.

You now have your WordPress core files and your MySQL database backup that can be moved to your new host and restored. Let’s continue.

Note: At this point, you have not pointed your domain name to the new host so to access cPanel, you’ll need to locate the direct server URL sent to you by your hosting company in your “Welcome” email. Alternatively, if you assigned a second domain name to your new host account, you can use that domain name to access cPanel.

Time to Upload

Log in to your new host via cPanel. Type ‘file’ into the Find field and click on File Manager. Once the File Manager is open to your home directory as we did before, click Upload in the File Manager menu bar.

Click upload to upload your old public_html.zip

That will bring you to the Upload screen. Click Browse here and select your public_html.zip file that you downloaded from your old host. The upload will begin automatically and an “Upload complete” message will appear in the bottom right corner when the upload has been processed.

Browse and select your old public_html.zip

Caution: Before going any further, take a look at the directory structure in your File Manager. Is there already a public_html folder in the home directory? There should be. Verify that it is empty (or only contains a cgi-bin directory) and that it is where you intend to place your WordPress core files from you old host!

Once the upload is finished, you should see the public_html.zip file in File Manager, in the home directory of the new host user. Select public_html.zip and click Extract from the File Manager menu bar. This will bring up a dialogue box that allows you to choose where to unzip the file contents. We zipped up the entire public_html directory on the old host, so you’ll want to extract the zip into the home directory and it will put your WordPress core files into the existing public_html directory on the new host. Please reread the caution above to insure you don’t overwrite important files.

Extract your old public_html files from the zip

Verify that your public_html directory is full of your old WordPress core files now. This can easily be done by checking the wp-config.php file under your public_html directory on the new host. If the database name in the wp-config.php file matches what you noted down from the old host, the old public_html.zip has been extracted into the right place.

Restore Database

Now you need to restore your MySQL database onto the new host. Go back to the cPanel home on the new host and type ‘mysql’ into the Find field. We have to create a new database before we can restore the old database backup. Click on MySQL Database Wizard.

MySQL Wizard

Enter a new database in the provided field and click Next Step

Name your database

Now you need to create a new user for this database. Enter a username and password into the boxes and click next. Tip: For better security, use the password generator provided on the Create User screen.

Create your database user and password

On the next screen, note down the database name, username and the password you created. You’ll need these very soon. Select the All Privileges check box on the screen and click next to finish the database creation.

select privileges

Now go back to the cPanel home page and type ‘mysql’ into the find box again. This time, click on phpMyAdmin in the results. We’ll use phpMyAdmin to import our old data into the new database.

phpMyAdmin

When phpMyAdmin open (you may have to log in here. Use your cPanel credentials at the login prompt if it appears) you’ll notice the interface is similar to the File Manager with a list of databases on the left and your view panel to the right, with actions you can perform on the databases. Select your new database from the list on the left, and click Import from the view panel on the right.

Select upload in phpMyAdmin

Leave the options on this page as the default. Click Choose File on the Import page, browse your computer for the database file you downloaded from your old host and click Go down at the bottom.

Click go to upload and import your old database

The upload may take a minute but you’ll get a success message at the top of the import page when it is finished. Close phpMyAdmin.

Now you need to connect your WordPress core files to your new MySQL database via the wp-config.php file. Open up the File Manager again on the new host, select the public_html directory in the left side directory tree, and locate the wp-config.php file in the view pane. Click Edit in the File Manager menu bar.

Select your wp-config.php from public_html

Here you’ll need to change the database name, username and password to match that of your new host. Remember, you noted these down earlier when we created the new database and user.

Edit your wp-config file to use the new database information

That just about does it for the move. Your WordPress core files have been moved to the new host, your MySQL database restored and everything is in it’s proper place. Oh but wait, we can’t forget to point your domain name to the new host!

Test, Test, Test….

First, it’s always best to test your new install to make sure it works. Since there isn’t a domain name assigned to the new server you have a couple options. First, if you got a ‘Welcome’ email from your host with a temporary URL to access your web files, use that to see if your site appears on the temporary URL. If you added your side as an addon domain, you’ll also have a temporary URL you can use (only available on some hosting platforms). If so, you can skip the next part of this guide.

The easiest way to test things is to assign a temporary A Record to your new host server through your DNS provider, also called a Host record or Address record. To do that, log into your DNS provider, most commonly your domain registrar, and navigate to your DNS Management interface, sometimes called your Zone File or Zone Editor.

zone-editor

You’re going to add an A (Host) Record and there are two fields required. First, the host name of the A record. This is assigning a subdomain to your domain. A subdomain comes before your domain name. For example, I like to use ‘dev’ as a subdomain for testing. You would type this into your browser as ‘dev.yourdomainname.com’. The second required field in the A record is the address or the Points to… field. In this field you’ll need to put the IP address of your new host web server.

add-a-record2

To get that IP address, log into cPanel on the new host server again and look at the status bar or Stats bar running along the side of your control panel. In it is all sorts of info about your server including the shared IP address.

Bluehost-stats

A (Host) Record propagation may take up to 2 hours but I can usually access a subdomain within minutes of it being created. If you get a 404 error when going to your new subdomain, give it a little more time.

If you navigate to your new subdomain now, you should see your website.

Note: Clicking anything on the page will usually redirect you back to your live site without the subdomain as WordPress hardcodes your domain name throughout your web pages. Don’t be alarmed, you just need to finish the final step of the process.

Now you can change your domain name to point to your new server. The proper way to do this is to change the nameservers for your domain to your new host’s nameservers. Your nameservers can usually be found in your ‘Welcome’ email from your new host or in your control panel.

set-nameservers

set-nameservers-page

You can also change your main A (Host) Record with the name ‘@’ to point to your new server’s IP address just like you did with your subdomain instead of changing the nameservers but I consider this a temporary solution. Some hosts required your nameservers to point to them, not just A (Host) Records.

And that’s all there is to it! Details will vary between hosts and domain registrars but most of these steps should translate without much fuss between most of the hosts and registrars out there. cPanel is one of the most widely used control panels and the other control panel solutions available are very similar.

If at any time during this process you get lost or overwhelmed, (there’s a reason I suggested doing this during the middle of the night) you should search in your host Knowledge Base or contact a professional to help you with the process.

Jesse Michelsen is a freelance writer, developer and system administrator. He can be found on twitter, writing for one of the Jestem sites or at his new entrepreneurship blog, AntiNecktie, where he shares small business and freelancer tips.

5 Things You Must Know About Link Parties and How Easy it is to Link Up

Link Parties to Grow Blog

One of the biggest pieces of advice I got when I started blogging was that I needed to utilize link parties. I remember thinking three things…

-  What the heck is a link party?

-  How in the world do I link up?

-  Why on earth would this help my blog grow?

After doing a little research I realized that a link party is a way to connect with other bloggers, highlight some of your best content, and possibly get featured on bigger blogs.

A way of SHOWING OFF your stuff per say!

Link Parties to Grow Blog and Increase Traffic

This year when I attended the New Media Expo I had the chance to hear the Six Sisters Stuff talk about how link parties helped their blog get big.

Here are FIVE things you must know about link parties:

1.  The bigger the blog? The more traffic you will get.

You also have to remember that the bigger the blog, the more competitive the link parties are. It’s extremely important to find out what time link parties go live and be there RIGHT when they open. Sometimes if you are not in the top 20 links your post can get lost in the crowd. Many bigger bloggers have hundreds of people link up each week. However, if you are diligent about getting there right when the party starts and linking up as one of the first then you will see a ton of traffic.

That being said…don’t overlook the little guys. Yes, there are many link parties that are not as huge {when I say not as huge I mean that they have less people linking up and less traffic to their blog}. This is still a great way to get exposure because you are able to build relationships with other bloggers quickly!

2.  Your thumbnail image can make or break you.

When you are competing with hundreds of other thumbnails you really need to think about how you can stand out. What image will catch the readers attention and make them want to click on your post? If you have a crappy image the chances are you will see very little traffic. But, if you have a good thumbnail image that clearly describes what your post is about? You will see MUCH more traffic.

As one of the sisters said, “A picture really is worth 1,000 words…or 100 pageviews.”

So true!

3.  Getting featured will score you double the traffic.

Most link party hosts will feature projects from each week. If you have a post or project that you are proud of then trying to get featured is a great way to grow your blog. Again, this goes back to having great images. But you also want to be creative and unique. There is a much higher chance you will be featured if your project is unique rather than something that you see on every other blog.

Comment on the link party page. Tell the host “thank you for hosting”. Compliment them. Engage them. Make yourself known.

4.  Include a link back to the blogger hosting the party.

This is probably the one that drives me the most crazy because I see tons and tons of people NOT doing this. It is common courtesy if the person linking up links BACK to the person hosting the link up. Many bloggers have buttons you can grab and insert in your post, but if not, always always always include a text link back to the link party blog.

It will also increase your chances of being featured because most hosts will ONLY feature bloggers who have properly linked back.

5. Visit other people who have linked up and introduce yourself.

One of the main reasons of a link party is traffic, right? So visit some of the other bloggers who have linked up and let them know you stopped by. It will not only give you a chance to support others who are trying to grow their blog, but it will also give them a chance to visit your blog {if they haven’t yet}.

A good rule of thumb is to include in your comment…”Visiting from (name of link party here).”

Here’s how easy it is to link up to a link party.

For this example we are using the inlinkz tool. There are several programs out there that bloggers use to host link parties. This may not look EXACTLY what you see when you go to link up {depending on what site you are on}, but it should be VERY similar.

  •  Look for the button at the end of the post that says “Add your link”.

link party how to

Click on “Add your link”

  • A box will appear asking you to enter the URL of your post, the name of your post or project, and your email address.

link party how to 2

Remember that you are not linking to your home page. Link directly to the blog post that contains the content you are linking up.

For example: I would not use http://houseofroseblog.com, but instead I would use http://houseofroseblog.com/master-bedroom-wall-makeover.>

Another good tip when entering in the name…use something catchy. It doesn’t have to be the title of your blog post. In fact, most of the time there is a character limit on the name field so you have to get creative and make it something that will fit and that will catch the readers attention.

One thing you do not want to do…Enter in your actual name. I have done that a time or two. Haha! It’s suppose to describe what your post is about and make people want to click to see more.

Once you have entered in your URL, name of post, and email then  click “Next Step”

  • Choose your photo for the thumbnail

links

Not all link parties offer the ability to post a photo, but most do. It will prompt you to choose the photo you want to display in the thumbnail gallery. You can select an image from your blog, a direct url of the image, or upload a photo from the computer.

I always choose “select from blog”. It will let you select a photo from the post you are linking up. You can either click “Select” or “Crop”. If you select “Crop” it will allow you to crop your image.

That’s it!

Your thumbnail should show up in the link gallery. It may take a few minutes before it is showing up so don’t fret if you don’t see it immediately. Most of the time it takes some time to load.

Here is an example of a link gallery below.

How to link up to Linky Parties

I have a list of link parties that I link up to over at House of Rose. Get busy and start linking!