September 25th, 2017

Quick Blog Tasks For When You Know You’re Going To Be Interrupted

Quick Blog Tasks For When You Know You're Going To Be Interrupted

One of the hardest things about blogging or running any home business is finding the time to do it all. There’s always something you should be doing, whether for your business, your family, your home, or maybe even a regular job. When you need to keep up with the needs of your blog, it’s helpful to know which quick blog tasks you can do when you know you’re going to be interrupted.

Doing these quick blog tasks won’t replace the larger and more time consuming things you need to do to run a successful blog. They are, however, also important to your success as a blogger.

Most of these tasks should be easy to do in 15-30 minutes. They’re also easy to drop in the middle if you have to.

Post On Social Media

Whether you schedule your social media posts or share them as soon as you create them, it only takes a short time.

I recommend using a tool such as Hootsuite to schedule your social media posts. Using a scheduling tool allows you to plan out your social media posts at any time, and share them at better times.

I also keep a spreadsheet of social media posts of varying types. Hootsuite allows you to bulk import posts into your schedule, so having posts ready for scheduling is a huge help.

Don’t just plan to share blog posts. Share quotes and ask questions too. Post tidbits about your day. Be a person as well as a business.

Remember the social side of social media. Sometimes when you have only a little time for social media, try being social. Reply to someone else’s post. Post in a Facebook group relevant to your niche, whether you ask a question or answer someone else’s. Post links to your blog if relevant and permitted by the group.

Look For Guest Posting Opportunities

Guest posting on high quality, relevant blogs can bring your blog significant traffic. The keys here are high quality and relevant.

A relevant blog doesn’t have to be in your exact niche. You only need reasonable overlap between your audiences. If you blog about recipes on your blog, for example, you might write a post about meal planning for a parenting blog.

High quality is the other concern. If the other blog is nothing but guest posts with little apparent concern for quality, you will probably do your blog more harm than good by guest posting there. Be picky. Go for the good websites.

If you don’t have time to craft a pitch, bookmark or follow the blog so that you can come back to it later. It never hurts to spend some time reading a blog you’re hoping will accept your guest post.

Comment On Other Blogs

Commenting on other blogs is a quick way to build links to your website and to bring your blog to the attention of your fellow bloggers. You may even get the attention of their audience if your comments are sufficiently interesting.

“Great post!” is never a sufficient comment on someone else’s blog. Some bloggers won’t allow those through at all. You need to make comments that contribute to the discussion and show that you are knowledgeable about the subject, or that you can ask intriguing questions when you don’t know enough. Be a real person when you comment, not a marketing automaton.

Brainstorm

How often have you had trouble coming up with blog post ideas when you have time to write? It’s a common problem.

Brainstorming ideas when you don’t have time to develop them is a big help. I keep a file of post ideas to go through. Some I will later decide aren’t worthwhile, but that’s not something you should worry about while brainstorming. Just come up with ideas. Worry about quality when it’s time to write.

There are several ways to get ideas. You can do some reading on other sites in your niche. You can check what’s happening on social media in your niche. You can do keyword research and see if any new keywords spark an idea. You can read through your old posts and see if you can expand on an idea in one of them.

Ideas are everywhere. You just have to find them. This is one of my favorite quick blog tasks because there are so many possibilities.

Keyword Research

Keyword research can be a part of brainstorming, as I mentioned above, but is also its own activity. It’s helpful to know keywords you should consider using on your blog even when you aren’t ready to connect them to actual post ideas yet.

Outline A Blog Post

Once you have a blog post idea and keywords ready to use, you can outline the basics of a post with relative ease. Note the topics you want to cover, choose your subheadings and note any resources you want to link to.

This will make it much faster to write your posts once you have the time.

Plan A Blog Series

Some blog post ideas are better off as a series of posts, rather than a single post. Take some time to break down your series ideas into individual post ideas, then follow the outline ideas above.

This can turn from a quick blog task to a highly detailed process, but getting your ideas started shouldn’t take much time at all.

Edit Pending Blog Posts

If you have blog posts written but not posted yet, review them. Use a grammar checker to see if you’ve made any mistakes.

Once you’re certain the post is well written, double check the search engine optimization (SEO) of your post. Is your keyword in your title? Is it in your first paragraph and few times after that? Did you use your keyword in at least one subheading?

Does your blog post have appropriate images for various social media websites? Should you make extras to keep things interesting? Are your keywords in the alt text for your images?

The Yoast SEO plugin is a good choice to help with the basic SEO for your blog post. It will tell you what you’ve missed by its standards.

It’s a good idea to reread blog posts a few days after writing them. I rarely post something I’ve written immediately after finishing it. Editing is easier when it is separated from the original writing process by time.

Update Old Posts

As your posts age, many will become less accurate. Take some time here and there, pick an old post and bring it up to date.

Sometimes it will be worth changing the date and presenting it again as the most recent post on your blog. Other times it may not be. Updating a post can require significant changes if the subject has changed enough. Other times, you might only change the occasional dead link.

It’s very worthwhile to update old posts. It helps control the number of dead links on your site and keeps the information you present more accurate. You can also update the SEO of the posts if it’s not up to standards.

Don’t forget to review the monetization of the post. Are all affiliate links current? Are they still the best products for the post? Can you add links to products you’ve created? Is there anything you can add that makes sense with the content and might add to your income?

You should also look at the images you used. Are they suitable for social media? I know a lot of my old posts have images that are simply terrible for use on Pinterest. You may want to change post images completely or add some new ones to help the post perform better on social media.

Seek Out Stock Images For Blog Posts

I keep a supply of stock images ready for use in my blog posts. It’s much easier to have a ready supply than to have to search for them every time I post. I do a little filing by type of image to make it easy to find the images I want.

You can get free stock images from sites such as Pixabay. I have a longer list of free image sites available as well.

To make these into images for your blog posts, you can use Canva, Adobe Spark, or Gimp. Gimp is my personal favorite, because it’s the most flexible. It can be faster, however, to use Canva or Spark, especially if you haven’t made a lot of blog graphics on your own.

Review Your Email Marketing

How well is your email marketing working for you? Are you getting subscribers? Are they opening your emails and clicking your links? Are you delivering everything you promised? Are they buying the things you offer?

A quick check can reveal any problems your email marketing may be having, but some problems will take a little time to fix. This is a quick blog task you should do regularly so that things won’t get too out of hand.

Review Your Income Sources

Where is your income coming from? Which streams are producing well? Which ones are falling off? What can you do to bring in more income?

Some products will be worth recommending for a time, but become outdated or are no longer offered. These need to be replaced with more current offerings. Others will be worth recommending for a long time, but updates to the product may mean you should change what you say about them.

Monetization can take a lot of time and effort to do well. A review of what’s working and what isn’t can help you find the things that need a little more of your attention. It’s a quick blog task that might mean a lot to your blog’s bottom line.

Seek Out New Income Sources

Look for new products and services that would benefit your readers, and see if they have an affiliate program you can join. This may also help generate post ideas as you consider ways to promote these new sources.

When you blog at home with your kids, interruptions may be inevitable. Having a plan to work on quick blog tasks despite the interruptions can help you remain productive. Save the focused work for those times you know you can keep most or all interruptions at bay.

Can You Think Of More Quick Blog Tasks?

What quick blog tasks do you do when you don’t have a lot of time or you know you’re going to be interrupted? Are there other things you find are okay to work on when you know someone will interrupt your train of thought?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

September 11th, 2017

12 Blogging Myths You Can Ignore

12 Blogging Myths You Can Ignore
Blogging is one of the easiest home businesses to start, but that ease comes with a lot of myths. Some make blogging sound easier than it is, others make it out to be more difficult. For the most part, you’re better off ignoring the blogging myths and working on your blog in your own way.

Blogging Is Easy Money

The people to treat blogging as easy money for anyone who tries it drives me up the wall. It’s not realistic for most people, especially within the first few months. It can take months to get a small income from a blog, never mind a full time income.

Yes, some people make amazing money with their blogs, far better than they could from a typical job. They aren’t most people. Odds are that you will have to work long and hard to make a full time income from blogging.

It’s a great goal. Go for it. Just don’t assume you’ve failed if it doesn’t happen in your first few months or even you first couple years.

You Must Blog Every Day

People hear that posting more is the way to get more traffic, which means more opportunities to earn money. It sounds reasonable.

It really isn’t.

For the long term, quality matters far more than quantity. Post high quality whenever you can (although there is a place for quick posts). Give each post the time it needs to be a good post.

Being the most recent post for a couple of days can help a post get more traction on social media. It doesn’t get buried too fast for your followers to notice it. You get more time to promote it. All around, it’s often better to give it a day or two (three? four?) between blog posts.

You Must Be An Excellent Writer

Start reading blogs, and you may realize that many bloggers aren’t particularly good writers. While you should be able to avoid the worst mistakes in your writing, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Some of those imperfections give your posts their style.

This blogging myth doesn’t mean you can be a terrible writer, of course. Your readers need to understand what you write and enjoy reading it. That allows for a more relaxed writing style than you might think.

Always Stick To Your Niche

Having a niche is a big part of success for most bloggers. It helps readers know what to expect from you, which makes them more likely to subscribe or otherwise follow your blog.

There can be times when stepping out of your niche can be appropriate. Don’t overdo it, but don’t feel awful when you decide it’s appropriate.

SEO Matters Most

Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important factor in getting traffic from search engines. It matters. But it’s not the most important thing to consider. The needs and interests of your readers matter most. From there, work on your SEO.

Some posts honestly won’t need much in the way of SEO because they aren’t important to your blog in the long run. When you go off topic, announce a giveaway winner or do anything else where you don’t need to worry about what kind of traffic it gets from search engines, you can skip the SEO.

Use ALL The Social Media

Used correctly, social media is amazing for blog traffic. It’s more ways to get in front of current and new readers. People always have opinions on which social media sites you need to have a presence on.

You’re best off focusing on just a couple social media sites. Which ones depend on the results you’re getting for the time you spend on that site. You can consider Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Twitter and many more, but which ones you actively use should be determined by the ones that get the best results.

Traffic Is Everything

Traffic is very important to the success of your blog, but it is not everything. If you’re serious about your blog as a business, the only traffic that matters is the traffic that converts well.

In some niches, a small amount of traffic is all you will ever get. If you can get good engagement with that traffic and convert that into income, that little bit of traffic can be enough.

There’s Too Much Competition

There’s a lot of competition online in pretty much any niche you can think of. It can be overwhelming. Don’t let that scare you off, so long as you can bring a new perspective.

Your perspective doesn’t have to be completely unique, just so long as you make your content interesting.

If You Build It, They Will Come

If you put up a blog and don’t promote it, don’t expect much in the way of traffic. You may get a visitor here and there, but without some effort put into promotion, you won’t see a lot of visitors.

Your Posts Must Be A Certain Length

There are a lot of statistics out there about which posts do best. Longer ones (over 1000 words or some such) have been found to do better on Google. Others will tell you that your posts need to be 300-700 words.

These may not be bad guidelines, but considering them to be rock solid rules is not a good plan. Sometimes what you need to say will take more words. Sometimes it will take less. If you force yourself to stick to a certain number of words, the quality of your posts will suffer.

Using A Free Host Is Fine

Many people start their blogs on a free host. It’s a way to find out if they enjoy blogging and can build a following without spending any money. There’s a certain logic to such a plan, but if you’re serious about running your blog as a business, it’s a bad idea.

The first problem is that many free hosts limit how you can monetize your blog. If you want to be a business, this is huge. Some free hosts will let you monetize in quite a few ways, so this is less of a problem in those cases.

The biggest problem comes when you decide to move to paid hosting. Odds are that you will lose a lot of traffic and followers when this happens. It messes up your indexing in the search engines, and all your old social media links now point to the wrong site. Changing things over is tedious, and a poor use of your time. Hosting is very affordable, as are domain names. Take the chance and spend a little right from the start.

I like Host Gator. I’ve used them for years with very few problems, and decent help when I have had a problem. They’re very affordable.

You Just Need One Viral Post

Most businesses look forward to having a post go viral. It can be a huge boost. If you’ve monetized your blog, it might even be a big money earner.

But a viral post is not the end all, be all of bringing traffic to your website. They’re a help, but in the long run, you need the steady traffic that comes from producing quality posts on your blog regularly more than you need the traffic from viral posts.

There are a lot of things you need to learn to be a successful blogger. Perhaps the biggest is to not fall for the blogging myths. There are so many more important things you should focus your energies on while working toward your goals.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

August 23rd, 2017

7 Free Image Editing Tools To Make Great Blog And Social Media Graphics

Free image editing tools

The graphics you use on your blog and social media do a lot to bring attention to your website. A well crafted image will bring attention to your posts. Making great graphics is a challenge if you don’t know how. Fortunately, there are some very simple and free image editing tools to use to make appropriate graphics for your blog and social media.

Use these tools after writing your blog post or when you have something you want to say on social media and an image is appropriate. It’s hard to craft an image to match your message when you don’t have a message prepared.

To start with, use my post on finding free images to use on your website to locate the images you would like to use in your posts. Some tools make it easy to find images through their interface, but not all of those are free. I find it easier to import an image I’ve found elsewhere than to use the search function on these sites.

Online Free Image Editing Tools

Adobe Spark

Adobe Spark does a great job with images, but you can also make videos with it. I haven’t tried that feature personally, but it strikes me as very useful if you’d like to get into video.

When you decide to create an image with Adobe Spark, it first offers you a range of templates. You can pick one or start from scratch. I usually start from scratch.

Type in what you want your image to say. You can edit this later. Pick your graphic size. You may not be able to pick the exact size you want – these aren’t always clear, but you can resize them later, in Gimp if necessary. I usually shrink them, as Spark makes huge images for most things.

Even though you’re starting from scratch, it will present you with an image with your text on top. You can change this however you want, replacing the photo with one of your own, changing the layout of the text and so forth. You can add another section of text, use multiple images to form a collage, and more.

One of the tools I like on Spark is the Style Suggestions tool. Spin the dial and your text will change over and over and over. Stop when you see one you like. Even then, you can change the colors if you like the style, but the colors aren’t quite what you like. You can back up on the dial if you pass one you liked.

Spark has a bit of a learning curve, but overall I like the results I get from it best so far. As free image editing tools go, it’s quite good. The Share button is also where you download your image, which isn’t immediately obvious, but not too difficult.

One disadvantage to Spark is that it may add branding of its own to your images. If you share your images on social media, this is removed. This doesn’t happen much on the website, but may be more common on the app. The ability to remove the Spark branding.

Another disadvantage is the lack of an undo button. This can be spectacularly annoying.

On the plus side, you can create one image, and then resize it for different social media uses. I love this, because it becomes easier to be consistent across the different social media sites.

Website
iOS App
Android – coming soon

Canva

Canva can be used to make a wide variety of graphics, and the basics are free. There are parts you can pay for, but you can make some beautiful blog and social media graphics completely free.

I don’t like to search for images on Canva because a lot of them are not free. I prefer to upload a photo I’ve taken or something I’ve found on a site that offers Creative Commons Zero (CC0) images. Once they’re uploaded, there’s a lot you can do with them.

Canva offers templates for various popular uses, such as images for Instagram. Their template page has templates sized for Facebook headers, YouTube channel art, Twitter posts and more. Having a template when you’re making social media graphics is useful, especially if it’s something you don’t make often, such as a header.

I find Canva quite intuitive to use. It has a decent selection of fonts – not huge, but not bad. You can change the colors around easily.

As online free image editing tools go, Canva is my second favorite. I use it when Spark isn’t working out for what I have in mind.

Website
iOS App
Android – not available

PicMonkey

PicMonkey has a decent suite of tools you can use on images in the free version, but they push the premium version hard. You can edit your image, including crop, rotate, sharpen, touch up and more. You can make a collage with multiple photos. They even offer printing services (for a fee, of course).

Adding text is easy, as is adding other features to your images. Once you’re done, download it for whatever use you have in mind.

If you want to try the premium version of PicMonkey, they offer a free trial. I haven’t used PicMonkey as much as Spark or Canva, but I know a lot of people love it.

Website
iOS App
Android

Piktochart

Piktochart’s focus is on infographics. If you have an idea for an infographic, it makes a lot of sense to use a tool that is ready for that. I haven’t tried it personally, but when I read up on it, people like it fairly well. It has some great tools, such as a chart builder that can take your data and make it into a chart on your infographic.

Website
iOS App
Android – not available

Visme

Visme is more robust in many ways if you want to make infographics. You can use it to make animated or interactive infographics, something you can’t do with Piktochart. It’s a little harder to learn, from what I read about it, but it’s more powerful once you know what you’re doing.

Visme has a basic plan which is free and allows you to store up to three projects. So long as you aren’t storing a lot in there, I don’t think that will be a problem, since you should usually download your work once it’s done.

Website
No apps

Free Image Editing Software For Your Computer

Gimp

Gimp has an awful name, but it does a great job editing your photos. I often use it for final touches on projects I’ve worked on with an online tool. It has been my main tool for making graphics for many years.

Gimp has a lot of addons that make it extremely flexible. Many people compare Gimp to Photoshop. It’s not quite as powerful as Photoshop, but free is much easier to handle for most people than paying for Photoshop. You can do most of the same things.

Gimp is open source, so various developers had created plugins and more for it. You can find some interesting Gimp addons at the DeviantArt site. Pay attention to the terms of use for these. It can also use Photoshop plugins.

One of the big things I love about using Gimp is that I can keep some images ready to use. I have images ready to use to put my domain name on each image, so that where it comes from is apparent. You can use this for branding, creating a version of your logo that goes onto any image you create. Then it’s a quick copy and paste to add it to new images. Make it bigger than you need. It’s easier to size an image down than up.

Paint.NET

Paint.NET is much simpler to use when compared to Gimp, but can still do a good job. It was originally intended to replace Microsoft’s Paint, but it does a lot more. It has the ability to use layers and filters, for example.

If you want something on your computer that’s easy to use, this is probably the one.

If you’ve found it intimidating to make your own graphics for your blog and social media, I hope one of these will prove to be helpful. They won’t do the work for you, but the right one will make it easier. Are there other tools you like?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

August 4th, 2017

How To Start A Blog, Part 7: What Else Would You Like To Know?

how to start a blog-what else would you like to know?

You’ve made it through the series, congratulations! I hope you’ve started a blog and have some good ideas to get things going. There’s still so much to learn, and you need to give yourself the time to do so.

Now it’s your turn. What else would you like to know about running your own blog that I can help with? Please post your questions in the comments section of this post. Sometimes I will answer directly in the comments; other times it will come up as a blog post all its own.

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Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

August 3rd, 2017

How To Start A Blog, Part 6: Should You Add Video Or Podcasting?

How To Start A Blog, Part 6: Should You Add Video Or Podcasting?

Video and podcasting are hugely popular options right now. Many people prefer video or audio content to written blogs. Fortunately, you can do these alongside your regular blog.

The reason to consider these options is simple: People like consuming content in their own ways. Giving them options will help you to stand out from the crowd. Some will listen to your podcast while doing other things. Others are visual learners and like seeing what you mean by watching a video. And of course, many people are just fine reading what you write.

These three options mean three ways to bring traffic to your site. Three ways to earn money. Yet you can use very similar content across all of them. You will probably need to make some changes as you go, since not everything translates well from one format to the next.

You’ll have to work up your courage if this is something you aren’t comfortable with. I still haven’t tried a podcast or video, but I have always been intensely shy. But I can see how others benefit.

Video

Most people have smartphones with fairly good, high definition recording available, making it easy to create videos. Cameras with better lenses are also pretty reasonable. You can go with the talking head style, write on a whiteboard, demonstrate how to do something, or just have fun.

For those who want to record something off their computer monitor, screen capture software makes that easy. You can decide whether or not to include your face in a corner. Screen capture software often include the option to use your webcam so that people can see you as you speak. You don’t have to show your face if you don’t want to, of course.

It’s really amazing what people earn money off of with video. My youngest daughter is a big fan of unboxing videos and videos of people playing with dolls. My older two like watching people play video games. Some of these people earn serious money.

What you have to consider with video is all the behind the scenes work. It can take more than one try to get things right. Your video will probably need editing. You have to figure out what the video is about in the first place, and plan all your shots. Lighting can be an issue. It’s not just grab a camera and go for the most part, at least, not if you want you videos to look good.

Most people will use YouTube to host their videos, and that’s a pretty good idea, so long as you don’t get yourself in trouble with them. You’ll get some traffic from there, and it’s easy to embed the YouTube video into your blog post. Just make sure you keep a copy on your hard drive. If anything happens to your YouTube account, you will want those backed up.

Within your blog post, there are a few things you should do. First of all, make sure you note in the title that the post contains a video, so that people expect it.

Second, embed the video early in your post, right after a very brief introduction to explain what it’s about. If someone wants to see your video, that’s pretty much what they’re after.

Third, transcribe the audio of the video so that if someone has the sound off for any reason, they will still know what was said. You can also use captions in your video if you have the software for it. YouTube has ways for you to do this.

Podcast

A podcast can seem pretty intimidating to start. Once you work your nerve up (if that’s a problem), it’s pretty simple, at least in terms of equipment and software.

I would recommend a good quality microphone to start. Many people like the Blue Snowball or Yeti. They’re not unreasonably priced, and are good quality. There are better microphones out there, but you probably shouldn’t spend money on something top of the line right away.

Audacity is free, open source software that can record multiple tracks of audio. It’s a simple choice for a beginner.

As with video, it’s probably not as simple as taking a blog post you’ve written, and reading it out loud. Most people don’t talk exactly as they write. It can be quite similar, but play close attention to how your words say when spoken versus when they’re read. You will probably want to make some changes.

Your podcast can be a part of a blog post. Don’t write a blog post, put it up on your blog, then make a podcast of the same post into a separate post. Put them together if that’s the way you’re doing things. Note in the title of the post that there’s a podcast in there.

As with video, the podcast should be early on in any blog post, and should have a transcription of it below if it’s not simply the audio version of the post already.

You can get your podcast made available on iTunes and other sites for people to download or subscribe.

Include A Call To Action

A call to action at the end of a video or podcast is a good idea. You can ask for comments, likes, follows, newsletter subscriptions and so forth. These are tools to build your following, and you should take advantage of that. More people will take a particular action if you ask them to. Come up with a closing phrase you can use at the end of all of your videos or podcasts that asks people to take action.

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Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.