Category Archives: Blogging

Blog Themes, Free Or Paid?

On Monday I wrote about how I got hacked last year and what I had to go through to fix everything because it also ended up taking out some of my other websites for awhile. I also mentioned in that post that it was due to some free themes that I’d downloaded years earlier that I never used, but forgot to remove from my blog at the time.

Woman's Home Blog Book
Mike Licht
via Compfight

This brings us to the discussion about paid versus free themes. Often you’ll read where some blogging “professional” is telling people that a paid theme will help you make more money because it’ll work better with your keywords and thus Google will love you. They’ll also tell you that if you want to look like a professional you’re going to need to get a neat photo icon to pop on there to help your branding.

I agree with only one part of this; you want to have a blog that looks nice and professional. It turns out that you don’t have to go the paid route to get that, although you’re probably going to need some technical expertise or a couple of friends to help you out. I’m telling you this one from experience as someone running 5 blogs.

What makes a blog look professional? That’s kind of a tough question to answer because there’s no one way to look like you know what you’re doing. Instead, let’s go from the aspect of what makes you look like you don’t know what you’re doing.

First, colors. If people can’t read what you have to say then you’re just wasting time. Hey, my favorite color is red, but a bright red background, no matter the color of the print, is going to freak people out. The same would apply if I had red print against almost any color. This blog stands out because my print color is burgundy; how many other blogs have you seen using that color? But it fits well with the overall color of the blog if you ask me.

Second, your header. You want something that’s at least a little bit unique. In my case I use the banner that’s also at the top of my website. Some people use colors, some have images created that fit well up there. Going with the WordPress header is quick and convenient but truthfully, so many other people use it that you not only won’t stand out from the crowd, you also won’t look very professional. If you don’t care and just want to write then it’s fine. But if you hope to do business, you’ll want to change something up.

Third, your sidebars. There’s nothing wrong with pimping a product or two on your sidebars, but being too busy can be distracting for people who you hope are there to read your content and learn more about what it is you do or can do for them.

With all of these things, if you go the free route then you’re probably going to need some help, at least initially, to help you get it right. If you pay for your theme then your learning curve is much easier and you can get some expert help. Still, you’re paying for it whereas you might not have to pay a friend. Or you might if you want a nice fancy business logo.

What I want to mention in closing is that even paid themes can get hacked if you don’t keep up with software changes. WordPress is great because they’re always updating for security, but if you’re not updating your blog, the theme won’t matter. Decide whether you want to spend more money or more time getting your blog correct, and then go forth and write.
 

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The Difference Between Moderating Your Space And Censorship

Something that many businesses seem to struggle with is whether or not to moderate comments on their websites, blogs or social media pages and spaces. There are some people who believe that no matter what a person says, businesses should leave the comment there because it’s honest, whether or not the company agrees with it. On the other side, there are companies who believe they deserve the right to control the message, even if that means killing what someone else says so that only positive things show up on their site.

es la veritat ?
Art Crimes via Compfight

My take is that there’s no one specific answer to this, but there are circumstances that drive everything. With certain policies in place, whether everyone else knows it or not, companies and individuals can navigate the minefield that someone is going to call censorship.

First, always remember that if you’re paying for it that you get to decide the decorum in your space. If you want to allow bad language, it’s your prerogative. If you want to allow insults and spam messages and sales messages and the like, go for it.

However, most people don’t want that stuff in their space because, if it’s for business, you want to be represented in a positive light, and unless you’re selling bikes to drill sergeants, you might want to keep conversations civil and clean because you never really know who’s reading and how they’ll react. Anything that can drive business away like that is a bad thing.

Second, if you put a product out or provide services or you’re giving an opinion about something, you need to remember that everyone isn’t going to agree with you and that you can’t please everyone, no matter what you do. As long as the conversation is civil, if people disagree with you or don’t like your product for some reason, you should allow those things to stay in your space. These are opportunities in more ways than one.

It gives you a chance to hear what your potential customers want and what they might not like. It also gives you the opportunity to address your potential customer where others can see the type of person or business you are.

If you get your message correct, no matter what the issue is, other potential customers could be impressed enough to either try the product or service themselves or at least give you a chance because they see that your company takes the issues of its customers seriously.

Figuring out the difference between common courtesy and honest critiques can be challenging at times, and you might have a tendency to overreact; after all, no one likes criticism against what they do. If what you do is for the betterment of the community, do it. I think it’s always best to post your commenting policies so that if you do end up having to delete something, that person and everyone else can’t gripe because you followed a policy they didn’t. And if they do complain, it’s on them; the customer may always be the customer, but the customer isn’t always right, despite what some might say.
 

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Inspiration From Other Blogs Or Websites

Blogging isn’t all about you. Yeah, I know, most of it is, but the truth is that blogging is really about community. And if you know how to use the community, it can bring great benefits. What do I mean?

His Hand
Hartwig HKD via Compfight

It’s rare that I don’t have anything to write about. My imagination is pretty good. But it does happen here and there. What I do when that happens is I go and check out other blogs. I’m one of those people that actually enjoys commenting on other people’s blogs, but in this case it’s not all I’m doing.

Something people don’t think to take advantage of is writing a long piece on their own blog based on inspiration from someone else’s blog. I do that often, and it works really well, even if I comment on someone else’s blog. But the extra step I take is that I’ll link to the article that I’m commenting on.

What that does is brings to my readers attention another blog and gives them a boost, whether they’re ranked higher than I am or not. It gives them a one way link which of course benefits their blog, and it gives me a topic to write on. We both benefit, and I show that it’s not all about me.

And here’s the thing. You don’t have to agree with whatever you’re writing that’s addressing the other person’s blog. I go both ways equally and both serves the same purpose, which is giving me something to write about and the other person a free link, even if they might not see the benefits of my disagreeing with them. It’s a win-win; search engines will love it.

This is a little tip but an important one for many reasons. Give it a try; it’s probably one of the easiest things you could ever do to give your blog more character.
 

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Blogging Bad Habits You Should Try To Break

Can you change your habits? All experts believe you can if you want to change them. I’m one of those people; I hate calling myself an expert most of the time but hey, if I don’t every once in awhile then why would anyone want to work with me?

Oh no, here come the Bloggers
Brett L. via Compfight

There’s a phrase where the number changes all the time saying that it takes “this many” times to consciously do something to change a habit. I’ve tested that one multiple times and have learned that it’s not always true. When it comes to working out, eating better, or generally enjoying yourself, it’s hard to sustain those habits; trust me on this one, unless your life is in danger, it’s not easy to do.

Having said that, you’re probably wondering what I’m leading to. I’m talking about blogging and coming up with content for your blog. I’ve seen a lot of bad habits, some that border on being unethical, some that border on lazy. What are they? In a nutshell, let’s look at these three.

The first, stealing content from other people. What happens is that a person sees an article someone else wrote, copies it, changing a word or two here and there, and sends it out as their own. Sometimes they don’t even go that far; they just copy and paste it, put their names on it, and go about their business.

Bad idea folks. One, it’s smarmy. Two, it could be illegal. Three, it’s definitely unethical. Look at my posts, near the bottom of each one. You see that copyright logo? That means it’s my work; don’t steal my work. And don’t steal anyone else’s work.

There is one time when this might not be so bad, and that’s if you’re stealing from yourself. In that actuality, you’re not stealing, just sharing with a different audience. Online newspapers do that all the time; you’ll notice that they write their own local stories, but other stories are written by national and international outlets. If you wrote something for someone else, ask them if they’d mind if you put it in your own space some months later. They probably wouldn’t care, but only do it if you’re not a prolific writer.

The second, writing sloppily. No one is perfect, but consistently misspelling words you should know how to spell that spell check is telling you is wrong each and every time, not using punctuation properly, and generally writing content that makes no sense… very bad idea.

Finally, the third, which is not being consistent in any way with your content. I hate visiting blogs where I see a post every 4 to 6 months; ouch! I’m not following any blog like that, and I’m not even going to waste my time leaving a comment on it, even if it’s written well. If you don’t care enough about your audience to even try to be regular, why should I? Maybe you’re not prolific enough to write a post daily, but writing at least one post of at least 300 words.. that’s too much of an effort?

That’s all I have for now. I could write a lot more but this one’s already over 500 words. See how easy this can be? If you’re doing any of those 3 things I mentioned above, break those bad habits. Trust me, your business will thank you for it.
 

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Freedom Of Speech And Controversy On Your Business Blog

In the past I briefly talked about the controversy surrounding Chik-Fil-A. I’ve talked about controversy and having to deal with it often. I figured this was as good a time as any to talk about freedom of speech and controversy as it pertains to business blogs as opposed to general blogging.

Pitbull or Victim?
cobalt123 via Compfight

When businesses are thinking about being controversial, they shouldn’t be thinking about being controversial on social issues such as politics or religion. Those types of things can take away from the reason you created the blog and your business as well.

Unless those issues are what your blog is about, it’s best to stay away from them; at least on your business blog. If you feel the need to express your opinion about other things, it’s best to create a personal blog, whether you use your real name or not, and go that route.

However, negating the benefits of going against the grain, which is what controversy is all about, as it pertains to your business, means you’ve giving up an opportunity to stand out from the crowd. For instance, on this blog, I’ve taken some contrary views to the norm as it pertains to backlinks. All that does is set me apart from others who do some of the same type of work I do and starts a discussion point. In a way, it also establishes me as a free thinker, someone who sees things from a different perspective, and potentially helps me get clients who have some thoughts that lean my way.

Using another example, let’s say that I do kitchen remodeling. Most people in that industry recommend granite counter tops because they’re sturdy and pretty, and they come in multiple colors. If I wanted to be like the majority, I’d also advocate granite counter tops.

However, I’ve seen a few people that advocate slate counter tops, saying they’re also sturdy, easier to clean, won’t stain and that you can even cut on them without worrying that you’re going to cut them up. So, maybe someone else starts writing about the benefits of using slate instead. It goes against the norm, but you can bet that someone out there doesn’t like granite and likes reading something where an expert in the field has a much different opinion. And let’s face it, even those that advocate using granite can’t say slate is horrible, even if it wouldn’t be their first option.

Now, I don’t know whether slate is popular or not; I’m just using this as an example of how it might be controversial within the remodeling industry because everyone else goes in a different direction. As long as it’s related to business, controversy could end up being a good thing. Now, if you were advocating paper counter tops, that wouldn’t be controversial; it would be crazy, and you’ll never work. So you have to pick your options based on your own business.

Final point. Freedom of speech means that everyone can say anything they want to, no matter what or where it is. It also means that others can disagree with you however and wherever they feel as well. Hopefully it only stays at a verbal level but that’s the thing about some controversial topics. You’re probably never going to have two social media consultants coming to blows over whether Twitter is better than Facebook, but social issues are a much different animal. That’s why it’s best to avoid those topics where your business is concerned.

So, have you started blogging yet? Come on, be controversial, say something!
 

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