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Do You Need to be Techy to Blog?

By the word “techy” I mean understand terms such as HTML, CSS, CMS, SEO, SEM, etc. (Please, don’t panic! They’re not that hard to learn about.)

So, do you need to be techy?
I think it honestly depends on how far you want to go and how much money you have. If you want to have a full time career blogging then I think you should at least understand the terms – even if you couldn’t edit CSS to save your life, if you know what it is then you’re good. Let’s look at what you can do:

Learn everything yourself and do everything yourself. This is the option I’ve chosen as I have very little spare cash available plus I studied coding (specifically for game building) on a short course when I was still at school – after learning one language I found the rest relatively simple to pick up – and when I get stuck Google is a great resource.

Outsource everything. You can pay other folks to do everything for you. There are some great places to outsource things – you can buy custom blog themes from lots of places, get avatars made at fiverr.com and so on.

Not care. I would advise this only if you’re not a “serious blogger” meaning you don’t mind if you aren’t particularly successful, or don’t (want to) make a lot of money, or actually don’t care. Of course, you can always take this route at the beginning while you’re getting yourself started and then learn/outsource later.

So, are you techy? Would you like to be?

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Amazon Affiliate Programs: A Guide

Disclaimer: I am NOT using Amazon Affiliates on this website. It is hosted on WordPress.com and would violate their TOS.

What is the Amazon Affiliates Program?
The Amazon Affiliates Program is an affiliate program offered by Amazon. It allows you to earn up to 15% of any product bought after someone clicks your link – not just whichever product you were linking too!

Sounds great! How can I join?
First check that your blog host allows affiliate links, so I’m afraid that if (like this blog) you’re on WordPress.com, you’re out of luck – no adverts or affiliate links allowed. Step 2, sign up for for your local affiliate program, and the one of your target market. Actually you can sign up for all of them, but think realistically how many you can post links to. On a book review blog (like the one I’m planning on starting, eventually!) you could realistically post a set of links at the end of each post to give readers a choice – especially if there’s more than one place (with or without affiliate programs) that you can buy the product. On the other hand if you’re doing something like “The top X products that you need” then realistically you can probably only post 2 links, having a long list looks pretty spammy (depending on how you present it). !Make sure you register your blog, your twitter profile, Facebook page, Google+ profile, etc.!

Ok, now what?
Now you wait for your acceptance email to the program and go ahead as normal – just insert affiliate links to Amazon instead of regular ones. How do you do this? Either through the dashboard or by using the site stripe.

Where can I use affiliate links?
You can use affiliate links on any website you’ve registered with amazon. After you’ve registered a site adding more is pretty easy – and you just have to add a short description. You should definitely add your Facebook Page and Twitter Feed – this way if you’re reading a great book you can let your friends/fans know

Should I mark affiliate links?
This is entirely up to you. Personally now I’ve started including affiliate links on my blog College Student Magazine I’ve just added a message to the footer saying that links to Amazon and iTunes are affiliate links to support the costs.


Definition: Blog Platform, Blogging Software, Blogware, Content Management System (CMS)

This is part of a series called “The Blogger’s Dictionary”, we’ll be defining everything to do with blogging every Wednesday and Friday for the time being!

We know they can be hosted, or self-hosted, but what actually is a blogging platform?

Blogger, WordPress, Moveable Type, Tumblr, are all examples of blogging platforms, and that is they are the core of your blog. They are what makes your blog actually work – allow you to create posts without hand-coding HTML and CSS to create a website. Essentially they are a form of software on the internet which were created to make the process of blogging itself and blog maintenance easier.

This is the last blog post before Christmas, I will be back on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday next week and then posting daily after the new year!


Why I’m Using WordPress.com

First I’d like to apologise for the lack of post yesterday. You might have heard about the general strike in Belgium today – I was due to travel via Eurostar from Brussels today and had to change my travel plans at the last minute. Anyway, onto today’s post!

Anyone out there who “knows about blogging” is probably thinking something along the lines of:

“This lady is crazy, every serious blogger knows you use self-hosted WordPress to blog properly.

And the truth is I do use self-hosted WordPress, over at College Student Magazine. So why on earth am I not using it here then?

Money.
I don’t have a huge amount of money, it’s enough to live on – but I managed to get the hosting for College Student Magazine at a special offer ($3.95/month for two years). I decided that for at least the first year I would be better off using WordPress.com for this blog for several reasons.

Ease of use.
Everything is integrated here. I don’t need to install any plugins, find API keys, or do anything except the writing and comment moderating side of things, that for me is great, I don’t even have to update!

Social features.
Wordpress.com is almost like a social network within itself – you can follow each other’s blogs, like posts and so on. The biggest thing is it notifies the blog owner who has done what – whenever someone likes a post, follows my site or leaves a comment I always check out their blog and if I like it then follow it, comment on it, or like a post too.

You can make money here too.
You can sell things you’ve made yourself – so no Adsense or Amazon Affiliates, but if/when I create eBooks or tools I would like to sell then I will be able to as I’ve created them myself. (Sidenote: It’s advisable to contact the team directly to double check that what you want to do will be fine.)

Simple.
This probably goes hand in hand with ease of use, but I like not having so many themes to choose from, not being able to play with the HTML, etc. It saves so much time. I think this blog looks professional enough for now – and if/when I move to a self-hosted Wirdpres blog then I will redesign the theme myself. But I’ve spent a lot of time working on the theme for College Student Magazine, and unfortunately it wore me out a little bit so I was fed up with the blog for a while.

So that’s why I chose WordPress.com for this blog. What do you use and why?


The Disadvantages of Self-Hosting

So now we know what self-hosting is and the advantages of it lets have a look at the disadvantages!

Cost

I would say that most of the time you’re going to have to pay for a host for your self-hosted blog. There are free options out there, but you want to be able to trust whoever’s in charge – and be able to contact them if there’s a problem. Self-hosting costs can vary – I got a special offer for my other blog (College Student Magazine) with BlueHost and I pay just $3.95 a month. But I had to pay for that all in one go.

Ease of Use

If you’re using WordPress.com, Blogger.com or any hosted option then you simply sign up, choose your blog name and you’re away. If you’re self-hosting you have to choose a host, choose what platform you want, pay, install the platform, set up your blog how you want it and then you can start blogging. Now with some hosts this is much easier than with others, With BlueHost (the only host I’ve paid for) I had a great experience and I was up and running in about 20 minutes, but I knew what I was doing.

Time

I’m talking here about the time you spend doing things other than writing posts and publishing, etc. You will have to update your platform and any addons yourself, possibly spend more time tweaking settings, etc. Now you can still spend quite a bit of time doing that with the hosted options (I mean, I definitely don’t… honest!) but everything is pre-optimised for you. If you use WordPress.com as an example then you have several addons pre-installed and set up, and some other settings are different.

Can you think of any other disadvantages?


Blogging Pet Peeves: Spellcheck Fail

It doesn’t matter if you’re a serious blogger or not, but failure to run spellcheck on your blog post is bad. Worse still – failure to run spellcheck on your titles!

I’ve seen several blog posts that would probably have been very good this week – but as they had spelling errors in the title I decided not to read them. My day job is a teacher of English as a foreign language, I see enough spelling mistakes there and unfortunately the urge to correct is ingrained now.

It takes seconds to run spellcheck on your blog posts – copy and paste them to Word or Google Docs if your platform doesn’t have it built-in, but please, for the sanity of myself and the rest of the people on the internet, do it. If you don’t you’re implying to people that you don’t care about their impression of you and your blog, do you want that?

Thanks!

What are your pet peeves with blogging or mistakes that bloggers make?

Note: I understand everyone is human and the spellcheck is imperfect, if there is the odd mistake I can live with it, but having one right there in the title sets a pretty bad tone for the rest of the article, don’t you think?


Holiday Blogging: What Will You Do?

It’s nearly Christmas – in fact it snowed here last night! But this leaves you with a question: what are you going to do with your blog? You have 4 options, which of these options you choose will depend entirely on you, your niche and your readership.

  • Keep posting like normal.
  • Stop posting altogether.
  • Post less.
  • Post more.

Keep posting like normal. If you’ve got the time, or the posts already written, then you can keep posting as per normal.

Stop posting altogether. Want a holiday? Can’t be bothered? Too busy? Feel free to stop posting, do let your readers know when normal service will resume and consider scheduling some posts in advance to keep them going if you’ll be away for over a week.

Post less. This is what I’ll be doing, I know that my readers (hey guys!) won’t be around as much over Christmas, so I’ll post less to keep pace with them. I’m also going to be spending approximately 40-50 hours travelling in a 2 week space and will want some time to relax!

Post more. This works better for some blogs than others – for example a blog about your family would probably benefit from posts of the kids opening their Christmas presents, having a wrapping paper fight (like snowballs, but warmer and drier), etc.

What are your readers going to do? Well if you stop posting they’ll have to live with it. But if you know that the majority of your readership will be busy/not bothering to check your blog for updates then it will be demotivating to put up a post and see little to no view or comments. So, what will you do?