Wednesday, December 24, 2008

16 Essential PC Applications for Bloggers

1. Mozilla Firefoxmozilla-firefox.png

Mozilla Firefox is the king of all browsers. Limitlessly extendable, fast, and lightweight. If you’re still using any other browser (even Google Chrome), then switch to Firefox immediately, it’ll boost your productivity – guaranteed. There are many Firefox plugins, these two posts give the essential ones for bloggers:

2. MemoKeys

Stop wasting time typing the same thing repeatedly. MemoKeys saves you time by letting you call up commonly used text with keystroke combos. This is very handy is you get a lot of email, comment on blogs a lot, or have a default email/comment template.

3. Microsoft Office 2007office-2007-logo.png

All you Microsoft haters might say otherwise, but you need Power Point, Excel, and Word if you want to make it big as a blogger. Office 2007 is easy to use and has beautiful default templates.

If you don’t want to pony up for Office 07 then the open-source OpenOffice is a nice alternative.

4. SnagIt

SnagIt is the best screen-capturing program out there. Using SnagIt, you can take screenshots of menus, windows, specific regions, and more. The more-than-capable editing program that comes with SnagIt is also a godsend for productivity seekers and Photoshop phobics like me.

5. WordWeb

WordWeb is a free powerful dictionary and thesaurus program. It’s mainly an offline dictionary tool with about 150,000 words in its database, although it also allows you to look into online reference sites such as Wikipedia. WordWeb’s a feature rich dictionary & thesaurus tool and a must have for bloggers who write their own content.digsby-logo

6. Digsbydigsby-logo.jpg

Digsby is an all-in-one IM/social networking client. It supports most of the IM protocols out there, like Yahoo!, MSN, ICQ, and AIM. It even supports Facebook chat! It features tabbed conversation window, allows you to manage your email, and stay up-to-date with everything that’s happening on your Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn accounts. As its makers say: Digsby = IM + Email + Social Networking.

7. Link Popularity Check

Link Popularity Check checks how many links you have according to Google, Yahoo!, MSN and a bunch of others.

8. RoboForm

RoboForm is the tool to have for bloggers. It cuts out the time you spend filling various forms online, it remembers all your passwords, and it even features a random password generator for the security freaks among us. The price? Only $29.95. Use the discount code GOOG1 to get $6 off.

I’ve yet to come across another app that is better or on the same level as RoboForm. If you don’t have it, you don’t value your time.rss-bandit

9. RSS Banditrss-bandit.JPG

RSS Bandit is a desktop RSS reader that syncs directly with Google Reader. The best feature is has is that it allows you to download your feeds (including images) for you to view offline. Very useful for travelers and those who hate web based RSS readers.

10. Camtasia Studio

Camtasia Studio is the ultimate screen-recording program for PCs. With the latest version, you can create HD quality professional-looking videos. It can produce your videos in many formats such as iPod, Flash, Quick Time, Windows Media, AVI etc.

11. Windows Live Writer

A full-featured desktop blogging application, Writer allows you to add images, videos, maps, tables, and much more. Overall, it’s a much better alternative to your blogging software’s inbuilt editor.

12. AdesClrPicker

This little known color picker has recently gone free. It’s fast to load, easy-to-use, and captures colors in HTML, RGB, C++, VB, and Delphi color codes. You can capture color codes anywhere on the screen. What more could you want?

13. Yahoo! Widgetsyahoo-widgets-gears.png

Yahoo! Widgets adds small widget apps to your desktop. Aside from being glitzy, it can be useful if you choose the right widgets. Here are a few widgets that bloggers should get:

  • Day Planner – Calendar – A very useful to-do and day planning widget that also has a calendar
  • Simple Notepad – Useful for quick note-taking without having Notepad always open
  • My MemoPad – Useful sticky-note widget. I actually use it to display my goals.

14. Twhirl

Of course, how could I forget Twirl? A must-have app for twitterers to twitter their tweets.

15. PeaZippeazip-logo.png

PeaZip is a beautiful but fast archiving utility that supports most of the compression formats out there. It’s recommended for bloggers who download and sample a lot of files. Alternatives are WinRAR and 7Zip.

16. The Journal

Keeping a diary/journaling can help you improve as a blogger. Now, not many of us are so keen on opening a notebook every now and then to write in, so if you’re such a person then The Journal is for you. It supports separate volumes, inserting images, tables and the like, and you can even password-protect your diary.

Can you REALLY Make Money Blogging?

Every now and again I get an email from a ProBlogger reader excitedly telling me that they’re about quit their jobs to become full time bloggers. More often than not they are new bloggers who for one reason or another have it in their minds that blogging for money is a quick and easy thing to do.

This post is yet another attempt (I’ve done this 2-3 times a year since 2004) to help bloggers thinking about blogging for money to get a realistic picture of what is possible.

I always struggle a little with responding to these emails. On the one hand I love the enthusiasm that new bloggers often have and don’t want to be responsible for squashing it and leaving them despondent.

Blogging is an exciting medium, it is filled with many possibilities (one of which is profit), it is a lot of fun and it is possible to make a full time living from doing it. In fact it’s possible to go beyond making a living from blogging - (stories like this one about a 1 man blog being sold for $15 million illustrate this).


The reality is that most bloggers never sell their blog for millions…. in fact most bloggers don’t even come close to a full time living from blogging. Every time I’ve surveyed my readers on how much they earn the majority report that they’re earning less than $100 a month with most of those earning less than $10 a month.

Can you REALLY Make Money Blogging?

The simple answer to this question is - yes.

It is possible to make money blogging. In fact it’s quite likely that if you try to make money blogging and stick with it for the long haul that you will make at least some money blogging - however ’some’ money is different to ‘much’ money.

Can you Make MUCH Money Blogging?

Again - the simple answer is yes. You can make a lot of money blogging. The example of the $15m blogger above is one example. My own experience is less spectacular but is another story of a blogger making a good living from the medium (I’ve been earning well into the ’six figures’ range for a number of years now.

It is possible - but every statistic I’ve ever read shows that it’s not likely, at least for the majority of bloggers, to make ALOT of money blogging.

As mentioned above - I’ve surveyed my readers a number of times on their earnings. One of these surveys was back in May 2006 (I did one with very similar results in November 2007 and things seem similar in the current poll I’m running on this same topic) where I found that my readers were earning a large spread of income levels from blogging:


While 7% reported earning over $15,000 a month (I suspect this is a little inflated - some people tend to pick extreme results in polls just because) 57% report earning less than $100 a month. 30% reported earning less than 30 cents a day.

I don’t know about you - but that chart is both sobering and inspiring all in one. It shows quite clearly that most bloggers are not making much - but does also seem to indicate that there are some bloggers out there who are at least making at least a part time supplementary income from blogging.

Getting Your Expectations about Earning Money from Blogging Right

OK - some of you are possibly quite depressed by this stage. Should you give up on your dreams of making a living from blogging? Is it all too hard? Is it worth it?

Don’t give up but be Realistic.

My encouragement to all bloggers with the dream of building a blog that makes money is simple. Get into the game - but do so with realistic expectations. A few thoughts and tips to help you get those expectations right:

Aim for the sky but set your sights on the next step

There’s nothing wrong with having big dreams. Very early on in my own blogging for money story I began to see the possibilities of earning a good living from blogs. Dreams are great for motivating and inspiring you - but they can also be a distraction and set you up for disappointment. Allow yourself time to think about ‘what could be’ but then get yourself focused upon the next step you need to take to take yourself in the direction you want to end up.

For me this was about setting realistic goals of what I could achieve in the next month. Each month I had the goal of increasing monthly traffic to my blogs by 10% on the previous month. This meant that over time I would see exponential growth to my blogs. With a goal of 10% growth in mind I then set myself ‘tasks’ - concrete things that I could do to achieve the goal (writing certain amounts of posts, networking with other bloggers etc).

Don’t give up your day job

There may one day come a time when you can give up that job and focus upon blogging full time - but that time is not likely to be now for most people reading this. My own experience of this (I share an extended version of my story of taking blogging from a hobby to a full time thing in the ProBlogger book by the way) was that I worked a number of part time jobs and was studying part time in my early days of blogging. As my blog income grew I slowly decreased the time I was working other jobs.

I actually was working a part time job even after I was earning a full time income from blogging. I wanted to have a backup in case things went pear shaped (in fact this was smart because at one point Google reindexed my blogs and my blogging income largely disappeared for a couple of months).

It’s really important to be responsible with cutting off other income sources in order to ‘go Pro’ as a blogger - particularly if you have a family relying upon your as the main income earner. I’ve seen a number of very sad stories of people taking this drastic action only to leave their family without income.

I’ve previously written about this in a post about Monkey Bar Blogging.

Take a Long Term View

Most successful blogs take years to build to their potential. It takes up time to:

  • build a large enough archive of posts
  • to build up loyal readers and subscriber numbers
  • to become known in your niche, to ‘get blogging’
  • to find your voice
  • to get authority in the eyes of the search engines…. etc

None of this just happens. It takes years to grow a blog.

It’s NOT Passive Income

Another common misconception about blogging for money is that it becomes ‘passive income’ - that you can sit back and let your blog earn you big dollars while you enjoy your lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong - there are a few ‘passive’ elements to the income that a blog can generate. For example:

  • I could go away for a week today and not post anything on my blog and it would still earn me money
  • posts that I wrote 4 years ago continue to generate income for me

Yes it could be argued on these fronts that the income is somewhat passive. However blogging for money is a lot of hard work. Most bloggers whose blogs make it big time put a lot of time and energy into building their blogs. Most that I’ve met have worked beyond full time hours on their blogs over years.

This isn’t to say that it’s not fun - one of the things I’ve discovered in the last few years is that hard work can be a lot of fun (who would have thought) - but there are days when it is very time consuming and challenging work.

Not all Blogs are Created Equal

I am often asked - ‘how many visitors a month do I need to earn $XXX?’

While I’d love to be able to give people a formula for working out the answer to this question the reality is that every blog is so different from every other blog. I’ve worked with hundreds of bloggers over the years and each time I do I relearn the lesson that no two blogs are alike.

Blogs vary from niche to niche (ie a finance blog will earn differently to a craft blog which will earn differently to a tech blog) - but even within niches they will perform very differently (I’ve had two photography blogs over the years and they couldn’t be more different).

I bring this up because quite often I come across bloggers who model their blogs after other blogs - sometimes to the point of copying every aspect of them. Unfortunately this isn’t a great way forward. Most successful blogs cut new ground, have their own voice, blog in their own style and tackle a topic with their own perspective. As a result they grow differently, attract their own audience and monetize differently.

Do learn from other blogs and bloggers - but also attempt to find your own way.

adsense.jpgHow do you make money from the Google Adsense Program? What AdSense Tips can you share with us?

I have been asked this question so many times in the past few weeks that I thought I should write something on the topic. It seems increasingly bloggers want to try to cover their hosting and ISP costs with some revenue from their blog - and increasingly they’re doing it and are able to make a few (or quite a lot) dollars on the side. Many are turning to Google’s Adsense program.

Whilst the agreement you sign with Google stresses that you are not allowed to give specific information about your earnings from the program I can say that I’m glad I’ve signed up because its well and truly covered my costs - and then some. In fact I think its quite feasible to expect that Adsense coupled with other strategies for making money from Blogging could quite easily generate a decent living. It takes time and hard work, but I think its very doable. (Update: Since writing this series I’ve revealed that I am now looking at making over a six figure income this year in 2005 from blogging).

So how do I make money from Google Adsense? Let me share some AdSense Tips that heve helped me.

This will be the first in a series of posts on this topic. Let me say up front I’m no expert - there are a lot of people out there making a lot more money than I am using Adsense - however most of them are not telling their secrets - well not for free anyway. I’ve got no secrets to hide and am willing to share what I’ve learnt since I signed up for the program 8 months ago. If you want a REAL expert’s opinion on Adsense I’d recommend buying Joel Comm’s What Google Never Told You About Making Money with Adsense E-Book. Joel earns $15,000 per month from Adsense and has some good things to share.

I know some bloggers are put off or offended by the idea of making money from blogging so I’ll try not to let these posts dominate my blog - however if you are not interested in the topic, simply skip over these posts.

I am going to assume a few things in this series to cut down the amount of introductory comments I have to make. Here is what I am assuming:

  • You have a blog. Whilst most of the following tips will apply to other types of websites I run Adsense on blogs and will speak from that experience.
  • You have (or will) read a basic overview of Adsense and have some understanding of what it is.
  • You have(or will) read the program policies as outlined by Google. These give details of site eligibility, ad placements and other requirements for using the system.

Enough introductory comments - lets get stuck into the Adsense Tips for Bloggers!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Why are Some Blog Networks So Successful?

‘So really should we be asking how writers in these networks should be getting paid? I don’t think so because you can find people to write for you in almost any model. The question you have to ask yourself is what type of model do you need to bring in the talent to help you succeed?’

I’ve been pondering this whole question for a few days now since we launched b5media and I’m coming to a similar position.

The question of ‘how much’ IS important. But I’m wondering what else makes a blog network successful?

I chatted this morning with a blog network owner who told me how he couldn’t believe the response we’d had at b5 from people wanting to be involved - he asked why he’d had little interest from a similar invitation to bloggers to join with what he thought sounded like much more generous terms.

I’ve been wondering ever since why this is the case? With networks being announced every second day (I saw two new ones yesterday alone) - why are some taking off while others seem to disappear so quickly?

My answer to this question is still forming in my mind - but let me attempt to give a glimpse of what I’m coming to by describing what I’ve noticed so far about those wanting to join b5media.

One of the few things that I can put my finger on is that in most cases people seem to want to be involved with Duncan, Jeremy and/or myself.

This sounds totally arrogant and to be honest I laugh at the thought of people wanting to join an ordinary fellow like me at anything - but the fact is that over the last three years of blogging - for some reason that baffles us all a little - the three of us have built some level of credibility, trust and/or respect with those who read our sites. We’ve got some runs on the board in terms of running blogs and we’ve built relationships with other bloggers in the process.

These things seem to be the foundation for many of the applications we’ve had so far.

From what I see - people are not joining up because they see a cash cow (although everyone would like to make some money from it) - they are joining because they want to belong to something that goes beyond the money. I’m yet to put my finger on exactly what it is but I’m wondering if one of the keys to successful blog networks is that they are started by people with track records of actually doing it for themselves previously.

It would be interesting to see someone do some research around this (I wish I had the time) - investigating what characteristics the established blog network owners share etc. I know my theory stacks up well with Jason Calacanis (who has a history of successful ventures) and Nick Denton (who similarly has been behind some successful start ups).

I also suspect it’s behind what Paul Scrivens is doing (although he doesn’t have any big companies to point at - he’s definitely put the runs on the board in starting, running and selling some successful blogs).

I’m sure there is more to it than this - but I wonder if it might be one factor that could be the difference between attracting quality bloggers and not. I know as a blogger I’d be much more likely to join with someone who I’d seen build something successfully previously than joining one that I’d never heard of who just put up an invitation to come join them.

Recommended social networking sites to build free website or blog traffic

Social networking started to get really popular for networking with existing friends online, but for internet marketers, it has become an invaluable resource for making new friends on the internet and building free web traffic using the age old concept of “networking”.

Here’s a list of 4 recommended social networking sites that i use personally to build free website or blog traffic.

1) Facebook - Millions of people use Facebook everyday to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet. I like Facebook for the powerful friends search function and being able to find mutual friends.

2) Twitter - Tell friends what you are doing and know what they doing right now on Twitter. A relatively new service with over 2.2 million but growing fast. I like it because you can expose your website easily by following other members and getting them to follow you.

3) Myspace - Over 120 million users. Create a community on MySpace and you can share photos, journals and interests with your growing network of mutual friends! With the sheer massive size of the membership base, you can’t afford to miss out on using Myspace.

4) Friendster - With more than 90 million members worldwide, Friendster is a leading global online social network. Friendster is focused on helping people stay in touch with friends and discover new people and things that are important to them. I recommend using Friendster for getting more friends from the Asian online market,

There’s many more which i will keep updating on this article as I build up my own friends network on them. So bookmark this page and come back often to check out my updates.

For a complete list, check out Wikipedia’s directory of social networking sites.

How Bloggers Make Money from Blogs

How do bloggers make money from blogs?

How-Bloggers-Make-MoneyI’ve been reflecting this week about the amazing diversity of opportunities that are opening up for bloggers to make money from blogging.

I’ve long advised that bloggers seeking to make money from blogging spread their interests across multiple revenue streams so as not to put all their eggs in one basket.

The wonderful thing is that this is becoming easier and easier to do 2005 has seen many options opening up. I thought I’d take a look at some of the methods that bloggers are currently using to make money through blogs.

Income Streams for Bloggers - How to Make Money Blogging

Advertising Programs - Perhaps the most obvious changes in the past few months have been with the addition of a variety of viable advertising options for bloggers looking to make money from their blogs. The most common way bloggers seem to earn money online is via the contextual ad program from Google - Adsense. A more recent addition that many are using successfully are Chitika’s eMiniMalls and WidgetBucksText Link Ads.

Azoogle AdsIntelli TxtDoubleClickTribal FusionAdbriteClicksorAdHearUs,KanoodlePheedoTextAdsBidvertiserFastclick and Value Click (to name just some of the options) and there is a smorgasbord of options. Of course there is more to come withMSN Adcenter and YPN both in beta testing and with a variety of other advertising system currently in development (YPN is only available to US publishers).

Lastly there’s BlogAds - one of the first blog specific ad networks.

RSS Advertising - The past 12 months have seen some advances in RSS Advertising also. I’m yet to hear of any bloggers making big money blogging through it to this point - but as improvements are made to the ad programs exploring this I’m sure we’ll start to see examples of it being profitable.

Sponsorship - In addition to the array of advertising programs that are available to join there is a growing awareness in the business of the value and opportunity that exists for them to advertise directly on blogs. I’m hearing more and more examples of this and have been fortunately to have a couple of ad campaigns of my own in the past month - one with Adobe a couple of weeks ago and another just completed with Ricoh for a new digicam over at my Digital Camera Blog. These are not isolated cases - as I say I know of many blogs exploring sponsorship with advertisers at present and suspect we’ll see more of it in the year ahead. Sponsorship is also happening on a post by post basis with some bloggers being paid to write on certain topics by companies - either in one off or a regular fashion - and they are able to make big money from their blogs doing so.

Affiliate Programs - There are larger affiliate programs like AmazonLinkshare,Clickbank and Commission Junction but also literally thousands of others from the large to the very small.

Digital Assets - Increasing numbers of bloggers have been developing other digital assets to support and add revenue streams to their blogs. By this I mean that I’m increasingly seeing e-books, courses and tele-seminars being run by bloggers. My recent foray into this with the first series of the six figure blogging course that Andy and I ran a few weeks ago and have just released the study version of. This type of activity will only increase in future - in fact this week I’ve seen numerous examples of bloggers running courses.

Blog Network Opportunities - with the rise in popularity of Blog Networks - bloggers are also being presented with more places to earn an income from their blogging - by writing for and with others. While it might be difficult to get a writing gig with one of the bigger networks - there are plenty who are always asking for new bloggers to join and who are willing to pay bloggers using a variety of payment models. While there are distinct advantages of blogging for yourself - blogging for an established network who will handle a lot of the set up/promotion/admin/SEO etc has it’s advantages also. More and more bloggers are combining writing for themselves on their own blogs with taking on blog network blogs as additional income streams.

Business Blog Writing Opportunities - as blogging has risen in it’s profile as a medium more and more businesses are starting blogs. Many of these companies have internal staff take on blogging duties - but an increasing number of them are hiring specialist bloggers to come on and run their blogs. I know of a number of bloggers who in the past month or two have been approached for such paid work. Check out Bloggers for Hire if you’re looking for this type of work.

Non Blogging Writing Opportunities - Also becoming more common are bloggers being hired to write in non blogging mediums. Manolo’s recent coup of a column in the Washington Post is just one example of this as bloggers are increasingly being approached to write for newspapers, magazines and other non blog websites. Along side this is the rise of bloggers as published book authors - this is to the extent that one blogger I spoke with this week complained to me that they were one of the few bloggers than they knew who didn’t have a book deal!

Donations - Tip Jars and donation buttons have been a part of blogging for years now but this last year saw a number of bloggers go full time after fund raising drives. Perhaps the most high profile of these was Jason Kottke of who through the generosity of his readership was able to quit his job and become a full time blogger.

Flipping Blogs - Also more common in 2005 was the practice of ‘Blog Flipping’ - or selling of blogs. This has happened both on an individual blog level (I can think of about 20 blogs that sold this year) but also on a network level (the most obvious of these being the 8 figure sale of Weblogs Inc to AOL).

Merchandising - My recent attempt to sell T-shirts wasn’t a raging success, but it is an example of how an increasing number of bloggers are attempting to make a few extra dollars from their blogs by selling branded products through programs like Cafepress. While I didn’t have a lot of success with merchandising - quite a few larger blogs are seeing significant sales - especially blogs with a cult following. I’m not at liberty to discuss details - but I know of one largish blog which will see sales over $20,000 in merchandise for the calendar year of 2005.

Consulting and Speaking - While it has been popular for established consultants to add blogs to their businesses we’re also starting to see bloggers with no consulting background able to make money by charging readers for their time in consulting scenarios BECAUSE of the profile that their blogs have built them. Blogging has the ability to establish people as experts on niche topics and we all know the value of being perceived as an expert. I spoke to one blogger last month who charges himself out at over $200 an hour for speaking and consulting work - his area of expertise was something that he knew little about 18 months ago - but through his blog he’s become a leader in his field and a minor celebrity in his industry.

As time rolls on there are more and more ways that bloggers make money from their blogs opening up. Feel free to suggest your own ideas and experiences in comments below.