Four Things to Consider When Choosing a Blogging Platform

Four Things to Consider When Choosing a Blogging Platform

A blog is an essential business tool that will not just attract potential clients to your website, but that will also help you connect with your current clients. If you’ve been thinking about starting a blog for your small online business, you will first need to decide on which blogging platform to use. After all, the blogging platform that works for one particular company may not necessarily work for your company.

Here are some of the things you need to consider:

1) Your Budget

If you’re just starting your business, it may be difficult to estimate how much incoming cash flow to expect. Many blogging platforms are available at absolutely no cost, although you are often only given access to very limited features, and may not be able to customize it as much as you would want to. Other platforms charge a monthly fee, but come with many more features. Also, if you’d rather host your own blog on your own domain, then you’ll need to purchase the domain and pay for the hosting.

2) Your Skills

Do you have experience with coding in PHP or CSS? If the answer is yes, then you may have an easier time finding a blogging platform that you can work with. If you’re new to blogging, then it may be best to find something user-friendly and easy to understand. If you seem to find a particular platform confusing to use and workaround, then perhaps that platform is beyond your specific technical skills.

3) Theme Options

While blogging platforms generally offer several theme options for you to choose from, not all platforms offer themes that are appropriate for your needs or line of business. Some allow you to customize your own theme, although you might have to pay extra for such feature. If you aren’t familiar with coding or can’t afford to hire a website designer, it may be best to find a platform that comes with an available selection of themes.

4) Available Features

One thing you seriously have to consider are the features you’d like to add to your blog, both now and later on. This includes the ability to use Google Ads, compatibility with Google AdWords, and extra functionality like forums. Some blogging platforms do not allow users to host advertisements, and so it is essential that you identify your blogging goals and how exactly you plan to achieve them. It would be a shame to spend so much time fixing up your blog, only to find out that you’ll need to export it to another blogging platform later on.

7 Video Marketing Tips for Small Business Owners

7 Video Marketing Tips for Small Business Owners

As a small business owner, you probably already know that creating a truly effective video marketing strategy can be rather costly. What you need to know is that you don’t have to work with a professional studio or a celebrity spokesperson to achieve video marketing success.

Here are some practical video marketing tips that every small business owner should know:

1) Keep it real.

Some marketing videos are overly complex, but the great news is that these videos don’t necessarily have to be elaborate in order to be effective. Communicate openly and directly to your viewers, and keep things genuine. It is completely possible to make an impact simply by speaking passionately about your products or sharing expertise on a certain subject.

2)  Keep things simple.

Keep your marketing video short and simple. Some of the most effective marketing videos out there involve a white background, one person, and a great script. Of course, remember to get to the point. After all, not everyone will want to watch a 15-minute video.

3) Record customer testimonials.

Are you in need of content for your videos? One thing you can do is record your customer’s testimonials and place them on your site. Show your website visitors that your customers are real people, and allow them to see and hear about your products firsthand.

4) Create a video blog.

If your business has a blog as part of your website, consider creating the occasional video blog instead of always publishing written content. This combination allows you to cater to both types of visitors—those who prefer to read your content and those who prefer to watch it.

5) Make a call to action.

Be sure to end every single video with a call to action. Inviting viewers to visit your website, make a phone call, or send you an email will likely generate more leads than if no contact information were placed in the first place.

6) Switch up your video hosting.

You can opt to host your video in multiple ways, such as on YouTube, Facebook, or even the company website. While posting your videos on YouTube allows you to save on bandwidth and reach a wide user base, placing videos on your website will provide your visitors with a richer content selection. It would be most advantageous to create a dynamic online presence by switching it up, and even posting your videos on a variety of mediums.

7) Maximize the power of social media.

Reach out to potential clients and customers by maximizing social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace. A small business owner can especially benefit from doing so, as viewers can easily share your videos with their family members, friends, and colleagues. Of course, be careful not to overdo this, because you don’t want your viewers to become annoyed at your incessant posts.

Common Website Mistakes You Should Avoid Making

Common Website Mistakes You Should Avoid MakingThese days websites are very easy to put together. Of course, putting a simple, bare website online will not automatically translate into more customers or clients. If you want to truly make your website an effective business tool, then you have to put some serious thought into what it looks like and what it contains. When it comes to creating a website for your small business, here are some common mistakes you should avoid:

1) Not updating your content.

Remember that the reason people visit your website is because they’re searching for content. A website is used as a primary source of information for both new and old customers, and it is a must that you keep it updated if you want to drive more traffic. Find a way to engage your customers and keep them coming back for more. A simple way to do this is by adding a blog to your regular retail site and use it to post topics of interest to your audience.

2) Being careless with typos and grammatical errors.

The tiniest of spelling or grammatical errors may seem insignificant, but these mistakes can make you look unprofessional. If you can’t tell the difference between “their” and “there,” keep in mind that you may just be damaging your credibility. Have someone else proofread your website before publishing it on the World Wide Web, or use a spelling and grammar checker to look for errors.

3) Forgetting a call to action.

People are visiting your website—but now what? Don’t let them close that browser without taking some sort of action. Tell your customers what to do next! Ask them to contact you, buy something, or sign up for your mailing list. Every page should have some sort of call to action that leads your readers in the direction you’d like them to go. It might help to offer then an incentive for signing up with you like a free report or ebook.

4) Not making it user-friendly.

Your website might look nice, but is it easy for visitors to navigate? Don’t go live if your website isn’t user-friendly. Make the navigation within your website seamless! If your website visitors have a hard time finding the information they’re looking for, then they’ll likely take their business somewhere else. Keep your web design smart and simple.

5) Being unreachable.

Make it extremely easy for people to get in touch with you. List your contact numbers and email address in a location that is simple to find. Have a contact form or page so customers can easily leave you a message that goes directly into your inbox. Don’t forget to write them back!

Photo Credit: iClipart

5 Steps to Easily Create Your Own Kindle Books

5 Steps to Easily Create Your Own Kindle BooksAs a self employed person I find myself wearing many different hats during the course of a business day and I’m acutely aware that I’ll be entirely responsible for my own retirement when the time comes. For this reason I attempt to always spend a minimum of 20% of my time on product creation, because my ebooks, templates, apps and other products continue to make sales and earn an income even while I’m sleeping, playing with the kids or off doing all the other busy work on my list.

Kindle books are the perfect product to add to your arsenal because if you’ve been blogging for any amount of time you likely already have lots of content and you’re building a fan base, plus Kindle books are fast, easy and cheap to put together. Here are five simple steps to creating your own Kindle book:

1) Gather the Content

Write up a report on a topic you’re interested in, put together a short instructional guide, or gather some of your best blog posts to develop a short book. If you blog about recipes, sewing, crafts, family or business, pick some of your favorite recipes, posts or tutorials and combine them to create a short book on your niche.

2) Get a Free Kindle Account

To self-publish your books on the Amazon Kindle Store you’ll need a Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account. It’s free to join and any books you publish through KDP can participate in the 70% royalty program.

3) Format Your Book

You can get lots of help and tips on formatting your Kindle book through the KDP quick guide or you can automatically convert your documents using the Kinstant Formatter for a small investment. If your book is very complex or contains lots of graphics and images then you might want to consider using an editing service.

4) Upload Your Book

Next you’ll upload the formatted book through your KDP account. You’ll also need to enter the title, the price, a short description, and the names of any contributors. To help readers find your book you’ll be asked to choose a category and to enter 5 to 7 descriptive keywords.

5) Create a Cover

Technically it’s optional to include a cover, but buyers are very visual and you’ll make more sales with an eye catching cover so you really need to have one. It doesn’t have to be fancy and you can create a simple cover yourself, or if you need help in that department you can hire a graphic designer to make your cover.

Once your Kindle book is uploaded and all ready to go, be sure to market the book to your readers and others by placing sidebar ads on your blog and sharing through all of your social media accounts. If you’d like a little more direction on how to get your book to the top of the list for your keywords at Kindle, I’d highly recommend that you check out the Page One Profits guide – you’ll learn how to quickly get your books to rank high in searches, which will result in more sales for you! The Page One Profits guide is just $27, but you can take $17 off with promo code DENISE and pay only $10 through October 17th.

State of the Deal Blogging Economy

State of the Deal Blogging Economy

According to Nielsen Wire there are over 181 million blogs online, up more than 400% since 2006. There is no way to break it down by topic so we can’t know what percentage of these are deal and frugal bloggers, but those numbers have increased dramatically with the combination of a tough economy and the popularity of the Extreme Couponing television show that airs on TLC.

Many of the top deal bloggers post 20 or more times a day and have thousands of loyal followers who flock to their posts so they don’t miss any of the bargains. There are also hundreds (if not thousands) of smaller blogs that post deals and coupon matchups, like my Shopper Strategy blog, who have benefited from the tremendous increase in traffic from couponers and deal hunters.

Heather from Inexpensively predicted in a Babble post that

“this year will see some changes in store policy, as both consumers and retailers cut back on coupons. I also believe we will see some of the daily deal sites folding — the market won’t be able to handle quite so many as consumer needs change.”

Now many retailers and grocery chains have begun tightening their coupon policies and there are fewer high value coupons available. Daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social are struggling with the effects of deal fatigue on their customers who are being bombarded with email offers. Traffic at my blog has dropped to about a third of normal and conversations in some of my frugal blogger groups have turned from sharing popular deals to complaining about affiliate programs that are no longer performing.

Unfortunately, once a market becomes saturated it hits the decline stage of its life cycle. At this stage those bloggers that have earned their readers loyalty may not suffer in overall profits but they will experience a decline in new readers. Other sites that may have been performing only marginally well will begin to go by the wayside as traffic becomes concentrated on a smaller number of blogs.

So what do you do when faced with a shakeup in your blogging niche? There are a number of options for those looking to stay ahead of the changes in the market. We’ve already seen several coupon bloggers merge or buy each other out and consolidating is a great way to increase profitability by reducing duplication of efforts from running more than one blog. Other bloggers have accomplished this by adding another website that focuses on a different store. Alternatively you may choose to take a different route with your blog and begin to focus on a new niche like cooking and food, crafts or product reviews.

If you’ve been blogging for any length of time then you’ve worked hard to build up a reader base, or platform for your voice. There is value in what you’ve built and you should think about ways to build or expand upon that platform. No matter what your blog topic, if you earn any sort of an income from your blog then it is a business, and every business needs to have an exit strategy. Your exit strategy may simply be to evolve, stay ahead of these decreasing traffic trends by branching out now into other areas of interest. Mindi at gives this excellent advice,

“Find your own niche and research it before you put your heart and soul in to it. Want to do “general couponing”? Guess what – there are 3000 other blogs competing with you! Want to focus on gluten-free coupon deals? There are probably only a few blogs with which you need to compete.”

For example, I took a long hard look at my blog to determine which posts are currently pulling the most traffic, which have the best returns, and which posts take most of my time. I found out that my shopping trip posts are very popular, my ‘saving strategy’ posts are evergreen, and earnings from my matchup posts have decreased along with traffic but the time to do them certainly hasn’t. I’ve responded by changing my editorial calendar from an average of 3 to 5 posts per day to a new goal of 1 to 2 posts per day. All matchups and most deal posts have been cut because I find they’re taking more time than they’re worth and there are other blogs that do a much better job with them so I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. I’m implementing these changes gradually so I don’t startle my readers and so far the traffic and rank numbers have all held steady. I’m focusing more on sponsored post opportunities instead of affiliate posts that rely on high traffic for a decent return and the blog is already more profitable and is taking less time to manage.

These small changes are working out well for me, what plans or changes do you have in mind for your blog? Remember that the blogosphere, just like any industry, is constantly changing and evolving and it’s up to you to determine what is best for your blog and for your readers’ changing needs.

Photo Credit: iClipart

How to Earn Extra Income as a Freelancer

How to Earn Extra Income as a FreelancerAre you trying to get a new business or blog off the ground? Are you trying to make the transition from having a job to owning a business? What can you do to get through a dry period while you’re waiting for your new gig to make money? Performing freelance jobs for others is a perfect way to fill in when you need extra income as you’re building your business or blog. Many people do freelance work full-time as their business, but you can take small jobs on an as needed basis to get through any tough times while growing your business.

There are several great websites like Elance, Odesk, and Witmart where you can sign up and bid on jobs that match your skills such as web programming, creative writing, data entry, sales and marketing, graphic design, tax services, customer service, research, transcription and many other types of jobs.

When you promote your services through these websites you can bid on as few or as many jobs as you would like and you may quote whatever you wish. You don’t have to work full-time or even consistently in order to be a member of these sites, and you don’t have to take any jobs you don’t want. In fact, you may just want to bid on jobs occasionally when you’re experiencing slow periods or downtime with your blog or business.

Look for jobs that will fit with your schedule and that will pay frequently or within a short timeframe to keep your cash flow going smoothly. Some projects may take a month or two and if bidding on those you’ll want to request frequent small payments, or you could look for shorter jobs that can be completed within a week or so where you’ll receive full payment when you’re done.

I recommend setting up a free account with one or two freelance websites so you can slowly build up good feedback and relationships with clients over time. The beauty of performing services through a freelance website is that you can find paying customers rather quickly for an infusion of cash whenever needed so you can focus on building your blog or business without worrying about how to pay the bills.

Photo Credit: iClipart

How to Automatically Send Blog Posts to Tumblr

Tumblr Logo

Tumblr is a popular microblogging platform that gets over 15 billion hits a month. Anyone can join and post their thoughts, links and images, just like a regular blog, and others can follow you and your posts on their dashboard page similar to Facebook or Twitter. I’ve resisted joining because I already have a never ending list of things to do, but Tumblr keeps coming up in conversations lately with blogger friends and Mashable called it an emerging second tier social network so I finally broke down and joined.

After giving some thought to how I planned to use Tumblr I decided that it would be a great place to consolidate links to all posts from my blogs as well as guest posts, latest Tweets, Facebook updates and Instagram photos. What a nice convenient way to highlight all of my links in one spot! It’s a simple matter to authorize connections between your Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts from the settings pages of the respective sites. Unfortunately, I soon found out that Tumblr no longer supports using RSS feeds for automatic blog post updates. If you’ve had a Tumblr account and were already using RSS feeds then you’ll be able to continue, but new members won’t have access to that service.

Tumblr RSS Help

It would be tough for me to manage the Tumblr page without being able to automate some of the processes so I set out to find another way to automatically submit my blog posts to Tumblr. If This Then That provides a simple and free solution to this problem through the use of what they call “recipes”. They include a huge group of 51 different “channels” that you can select from to create some recipes so that IF THIS happens, THEN THAT happens next. Trigger channels include Buffer, Craigslist, Dropbox, email, Evernote, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube just to name a few.

IFTTT Recipe for Tumblr

Recipes are very easy to create and even share with others. Here’s the recipe I created, you can use it to setup your own automatic blog feed to Tumblr using IFTTT (pronounced ‘lift’ without the L) in just a few seconds. You can create triggers for things like saving your Instagram or tagged Facebook photos automatically to Google Drive, or to save your Tweets or Twitter mentions to a spreadsheet. Head on over and check out all the available options and shared recipes in the member community, you’ll be amazed at all of the different things you can do!

Invitation Consultants to Sponsor 3 Bloggers

Today Invitation Consultants, an online provider of invitations and stationary, announced that they will award three $100 sponsorships to bloggers who will be attending conferences this summer in their #BoostYourBlog promotion.  To enter you must fill out some basic information plus a short description of why you feel Invitation Consultants should sponsor you and you must tweet about the promotion.  Everyone who enters will receive a free custom Blogger Bag Tag.  This contest runs from 6/27 through 7/27, after which the entries will be reviewed and three winners will be selected based on their entries.  Winners will be required to post about the conference they attend on their blog, and also disclose that they received the prize.