Wednesday, July 28, 2010

5 Reasons to Take A Break From Your Blog

1. Gives you time to reflect

What I realized, when I actually had the time to think about it, was that blogging was introducing a lot of stress into my life. The stress wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy writing my posts. The stress was caused by the pressure I was putting on myself by trying to adhere to a regular posting interval. Since I have started my blogging back up, I have vowed not to let some set posting interval determine when I publish a post. I understand that this goes against all conventional wisdom when it comes to blogging. But I really don’t care. I do this because I love it and I run the show, not conventional wisdom.

2. Revitalizing

I think we all need a break from things every now and then. Whether it be taking college classes or working extra hours at our regular jobs. We need to get away from it for a while. Granted, by taking a break from my blogging, my Alexa rating went from roughly 150K to 400K. I worked really hard to get it down to 150K, but now I am determined to work to get it back there, and even lower. Daniel allowing me to guest post here on Daily Blog Tips, is certainly a step in the right direction. I have a renewed vigor and energy to work on my blog and improve the content. I am revitalized and I know that, without that break, I wouldn’t feel this renewed vigor.

3. Therapeutic

As stated earlier, I was feeling the stress of having to post regularly to my blog. Once I was able to get away from the process for a while, the stress disappeared. It was extremely therapeutic for me. The thing is, I didn’t make a conscious decision to stop blogging. It was a personal loss in my family that consumed my life. I don’t think I could’ve written anything even if I tried. But, I realized, after it was forced on me, that I truly needed the break. I think sometimes we get so entrenched in doing something that we don’t realize that it may be adding stress to our lives. If I was to give you a bit of advice, take a step back and ask yourself “Is blogging still fun for me?” If the answer is “No”, then I suggest that a break may be just what the doctor ordered.

4. Reinforces your love of writing

Running a blog can be extremely time-consuming. Anyone who is reading this, assuming you run your own blog, understands that fact. Sometimes we get so caught up in the process, that we forget why we started blogging in the first place. I started my blog because I have always enjoyed writing. Taking that break reminded me how much I truly do love to write. It’s been something I’ve loved since I was a child sending actual snail-mail letters to loved ones across the country. If you find your love of writing waning from the pressure of blogging, a break may just remind you how much you do love to write.

5. Helps you appreciate your blogging buddies

I have met a number of special people through my blog. A number of these blogging friends contacted me when they noticed that there was a break in my blog posts. They felt that there must’ve been something wrong in my world, and they were right. The kindness that these friends showed me was touching. Granted, these are people I have never met in person, and they went out of their way to send their best wishes. It really gives you an appreciation not only of blogging friends, but of humanity.

I hope, for your sake, that a break in your blogging is not forced by a personal loss or tragedy in your world. But, if you are finding that blogging is adding stress to your life, consider taking a break. You may find that some time away, could revitalize you, and immeasurably improve your blog, in the long run.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Use These 10 Tips to Write Your Most Popular Post Ever

One popular post can bring your more traffic and links than a month’s worth of your usual content.

In this post, I want to set you a challenge with the potential to launch your blog into the stratosphere.

Make the next post you write your most popular post ever.

The following ten tips form my key advice for tackling this task. I used all of them when hitting the Digg front page for the first time. There’s no blueprint you can follow to write an incredibly popular post, but you won’t have a chance unless you try. I’m confident these tips will give you a good shot at success.

1. Time is more important than talent. Work on something for eight hours and you can bet it will be good. You don’t need to spend that long, however (though that’s how long it took me to craft the first post I wrote that hit the Digg front page). More time means you can refine, format and fill your post with plenty of value. Take the time to really craft your content. It will show in the finished product.

2. Use your best idea. A post will never become wildly popular unless it fulfills a need, and does so emphatically. What’s something your niche wants but hasn’t got yet? Can you assemble a whole lot of really awesome (targeted) resources in one place? The more your posts helps people, the better it will do.

3. Use formatting to your advantage. These days, social media is key when it comes to launching your posts into the stratosphere. Social media users are notoriously spoiled for choice, however. Use formatting to emphasize the best aspects of your post. Hone in on your funniest lines, your most profound bits of advice, your best resources. Make them stand out.

4. Brainstorm headlines. There are probably one or two bloggers who’ve completely mastered the art of writing headlines for social media (you’ll know who they are). The rest of us haven’t been blessed with such skills. When you see a great headline, chances are it’s option #12 of a dozen choices. Few of us can think of a great headline straight away. Spend ten minutes brainstorming and you’re bound to stumble across something that works. A weak headline will cripple your post’s chances of success. It’s essential that you put a lot of work into getting it right.

5. Invest plenty of value in your post. Ever bookmarked or voted for something without completely reading it? We’ve all done it. It’s because of the ‘Wow’ factor — the presence of enough promised value in one place gets the reader enthusiastic about the post straight away. Instead of 5 tips, why not share 50? Instead of 9 resources, why not 40 or more?

7. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If your post looks good, it will draw readers in. Take the time to add images, thumbnails and formatting to what you create. Make your post a visual feast. With so much web content presented in a bland way, your post is guaranteed to stand out.

8. Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Readers will skip your waffly introduction. You can say the same in less words, particularly when you’re writing for an impatient reader: someone who wants to get straight into your tips/resources/opinions. Use your introduction to highlight why the reader should stick with your post. There’s a reason my post introductions mainly consist of: “In this post, I’m going to do this, this and that.” It’s what people really want to know: what am I getting in exchange for my attention?

9. Send messages with links. The best way to get a blogger to investigate your blog is by linking to them. We’ve got a natural desire to know what’s being said about us. If your post becomes really popular, each link inside it should send enough traffic outwards to be worth investigating. Be generous with your outbound links when writing your most popular post. It gives other bloggers an incentive to link to you, because it’s ultimately more promotion for them.

10. Utilize your network. If you want people to Digg, Stumble or Reddit your post, there’s no reason why you need to sit back with fingers crossed and hope it happens. Ask them. Your loyal readers like you. You entertain them, or teach them, or help them. If voting is a simple matter of clicking a link they’ll be more than happy to do so. Ask for votes in your post and email readers and social media influencers. In most cases you will need to get the snowball rolling. After that, others will do most of the work for you.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Nine myths and facts about lightning

Scientists have been studying lightning for hundreds of years. Although they have a pretty good idea about what causes it, there is still more to learn about these mysterious sparks of electricity.

Given that summer is peak season for thunderstorms, it's probably a good idea to brush up on your lightning facts, particularly if you have some outdoor adventures planned.


Tornadoes and hurricanes are more dangerous than lightning

Myth: Lightning kills more people (about 58) each year than tornadoes or hurricanes. In fact, it is the most underrated weather hazard, according to the National Weather Service. Only floods are routinely responsible for more deaths than lightning.

You can get struck by lightning when you're inside

Fact: It's true that being inside a building when lightning strikes is your safest bet, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't take some precautions.

If a building gets struck the electrical current will most likely travel through the wiring or plumbing before going into the ground. That's why you should stay off of corded phones (cellular and cordless are okay) and away from running water (so no showers or hand- or dish-washing). Don't use stoves, computers, or anything else that's connected to electricity. Here are some more indoor safety tips.

Lightning always takes down planes

Myth: The reality is that lightning regularly strikes airplanes, but rarely causes plane crashes. On average, each U.S. commercial plane gets hit at least once a year. Most airplanes are made of aluminum, a good conductor of electricity, and there are also strict lightning protection requirements for planes.

You need to unplug major electronics in a storm

Fact: Electrical surges generated from lightning can damage electronics even if your house isn't struck. Unplug your computer, television, and other electronics before a storm hits because you can't necessarily depend on a surge protector. You can be struck if you try to unplug your gadgets during a storm.

You should avoid cars during a thunderstorm

Myth: Cars are actually one of the safest places you can be in during an electrical storm if you can't be inside a building. Just make sure you're in a car with a hard top. Golf carts and convertibles don't count.

Lightning never strikes twice

Myth: Lightning can hit the same spot more than once during a thunderstorm.

It's not safe to be outside during an electrical storm

Fact: If you're outside, then try to find a grounded building or car to take cover in. If you can't, then here aresome tips to minimize your risk: Avoid open fields and tall isolated trees or other tall objects. Stay away from water. Don't lie down on the ground.

You should stay indoors until 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder

Fact: Most people are not struck at the height of a thunderstorm, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Lightning can strike as far as 10 miles from where it is raining, but if you can hear thunder you are within striking distance.

The NWS suggests following this advice: "When thunder roars, go indoors and stay there until 30 minutes after the last cap of thunder."

You can tell the distance of a storm by counting

Fact: Surprisingly, that old childhood trick you learned is based on fact, not fiction. Light travels faster than sound so lightning is seen before thunder is heard.

Here's how it works according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency website: "You can estimate how many miles away a storm is by counting the number of seconds between the flash of lightning and the clap of thunder. Divide the number of seconds by five to get the distance in miles."

13 ways to save money on air conditioning

1. Close your windows
It may seem counter-intuitive, but opening the windows will often make your home warmer, not cooler. Open your windows at night if the air outside is cooler than inside, and close them -- along with blinds and shades -- before the sun hits your house in the morning. This will allow cool night air to circulate, and prevent a good deal of the sun's heat from infiltrating your living space.

You may also put houseplants -- particularly larger potted trees -- in front of sunny windows to absorb some of the sun's energy. Use this method, and on all but the summer's hottest days, you can get away without using the air conditioning at all!

2. Use fans strategically
Ceiling fans and those set right in front of you are there to keep you cool, not cool the room. But a fan in your face can help you feel dramatically cooler, even if the room temperature hardly budges. You should be able to set your air conditioner higher, at about 78 degrees, but feel much cooler by using a fan.

Enhance its effect by wetting your skin with a spray bottle, and get a near-instant cooling effect by wetting your wrists and letting the fan blow air across them.

Fans can help cool your home, particularly when used to blow cooler air indoors, usually at night. You can maximize the effect by creating a wind tunnel of sorts, with a fan blowing cool air in on one end of the house, and another blowing out on the opposite side of the house.

3. Adjust the thermostat
If you have central air controlled by a thermostat, program it to save energy by increasing the heat significantly during the day when the house is empty, and give up a couple degrees at night, too -- especially on the hottest days.

You may be surprised to find that the contrast between outdoor and indoor temperatures matters as much as the absolute temperature inside your home.

4. Cook a cool meal
Just as drinking a nice cold cocktail cools your body, eating cold food helps keep your internal temperature lower on a hot day. One great option: Watermelon and Cherry Salad with Fresh Mint Syrup.

If you do cook, use the grill or the microwave, or else you'll heat up your kitchen from using the oven and stove.

5. Shut off the lights
While modern lightning, like compact fluorescents and LEDs, are more efficient, incandescent light bulbs can produce as much heat as they do light. Energy Star-rated light bulbs produce 75% less heat, so consider that when replacing bulbs.

It's always a good idea to shut off lights to save energy, it makes a big difference on hot sunny summer days. The same goes for many electronics, so consider unplugging any device that isn't needed (even in standby mode, many electronics remain hot).

6. Clean the air filter
Whether you have central air or a room air conditioner, a dirty filter will reduce its efficiency, making it use more energy and cost more money to do the same job. Check your HVAC system's air filter monthly and expect to change the filter every three months.

7. Go for a swim or take a cold shower
It may sound obvious, but it's worth saying: Cooling your body is as effective as cooling your room. One easy way to cool off is to immerse yourself in cold water. The immediate refreshment works immediately by cooling your core temperature. And unless there's 100% humidity, the evaporation of water off your skin will further cool you.

For a short cut, use water and ice cubes to keep your wrists cool; since your blood vessels are so close the skin there, you'll feel cooler by applying cold directly to your blood. Check out these stunning natural swimming pools.

8. Get an annual checkup
If you have central air, consider an annual checkup -- once should cover both the heating and the cooling season. A professional should be able to diagnose any inefficiencies before you've wasted money on monthly heating and cooling bills.

tree planting tips for energy savings

9. Plant a tree (or two or three) strategically
Your house gets hot because the sun beats down on it relentless on hot summer days. Let nature help reduce your energy bills by planting deciduous trees on the east and west sides of your home; in the summer, their broad leaves will shade your house, while in the winter, bare branches won't stop the sun's warmth from reaching your walls.

Also consider planting trees or shrubs to shade high-heat areas -- air conditioning units that emit heat, for instance, and driveways and walkways that absorb it.

10. Install attic insulation
While attic fans may or may not help significantly to cool your home, attic insulation can help a lot. Insulation keeps cooler air in your home from escaping through the ceiling.

If you have central air, also seal ducts -- especially at vents and registers, where you could be losing up to 20% of you cooled air. Do the work this year to take advantage of a tax credit covering up to 30% of the cost of insulation, up to $1,500.

11. Put up awnings
Just as window shades and shrubbery work to shield your home from the sun's rays, awnings can cut down on the heat your house absorbs. This is an investment to make if you like the look.

12. Think small
Cooling one room with a window air conditioning unit requires much less energy (and investment) than a central air system. If you're in the market for a new air conditioner, ask yourself how you'll use it, and choose the smallest option that works.

13. Buy Energy Star
Whether you're buying a central air conditioner (which could qualify for a tax credit worth 30% of the cost, up to $1,500) or a room unit, efficiency matters. An Energy Star central air system will use just 86% of the energy it takes to run a typical air conditioner that meats minimum government standards, and a room air conditioner will use 90% or less.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Making Money Online and Trust


Trust plays a very important role for people wanting to make money online. Simply put, readers who trust you will be more likely to purchase products you recommend, buy your eBook, take your reviews seriously, click your links or hire you for some other service.

Fortunately, there are a number of methods available to help establish yourself as trustworthy, and in doing so, increase your earnings.

Trust is particularly important on the web because there is such a lack of it. In the face-to-face world we make purchases from established brands, mediated by (hopefully) knowledgeable and competent salespeople. We can clearly and transparently observe transactions being made. We can also return or exchange products we buy that fail to meet our needs.

Most of these things are lost on the web, and as bloggers, we will rarely have the chance to even meet those we hope to buy from us, either directly or indirectly.

Here are some methods you can use to counterbalance this initial lack of trust.

Being objective

The risk when writing things like paid reviews is that readers will immediately assume your views will be biased toward the product. It seems logical that a company would only pay for a review if it could safely assume the result would create a favorable impression of their brand.

If your review sounds like an advertisement, however, you will lose the element of trust that might have encouraged readers to investigate the product. It seems counter-intuitive, but writing a glowing review may indirectly decrease sales.

This does not mean you should take the opposite tack and trash the product (unless it’s well and truly deserving). Instead, try to temper the positive points in your review by including some possible draw-backs, or by explaining why the product or service might not be suitable for certain types of people.

Not only does this make your review seem more trustworthy and objective, but it can help insure you against disgruntled buyers. Those who do read your overwhelmingly positive review and buy the product, only to find that it is not at all suited to them, will direct their anger against the person who recommended it to them in the first place: you.

Being honest about affiliates

A good rule of thumb is to let your readers know when you have the potential to profit from a link. Readers might not appreciate being profited from without their consent, particularly if their initial level of trust is low.

I have seen some bloggers insert (aff link) in brackets after the link to let readers know they’re linking to an affiliate. This is not the method I would choose. It tells readers you will make a profit from anything purchased, but it does not explain on what terms. My main criticism, however, would be that only a small percentage of web users are familiar with affiliate marketing schemes. Many readers will not understand what you mean by aff link.

Another option would be to include a disclaimer at the beginning or end of your post, linking to a page explaining how and why affiliate links are used. For example:

This post contains affiliate links for the product _____. To learn more about how and why affiliate links are used on this site, or how they help to support the blog, feel free to browse my Disclosure Policy (link).

You do have one, right?


It’s not necessary to have a special page for your disclosures, but it might be a good idea. Another method could be to add a disclosure policy to your About page, or if the idea of a policy seems too formal, simply create a page explaining how your blog supports itself. You can link to this from any post you use affiliate links and explain to readers that:

  • you only link to products and services you truly recommend
  • you stand to make a few dollars from each item sold
  • this money helps you keep the blog afloat

Loyal readers who learn that buying products through links on your blog will help you keep blogging may actually be more likely to click affiliate links once they know this information, simply as a way of saying thanks for what you do.

Tell readers how they can support you

‘Support This Site’ links generally lead to a donation page, but what if your site doesn’t accept donations? It really can’t hurt to create a page explaining how readers can support your site through its existing monetization strategies.

On this page you could explain how interacting with advertisements or purchasing products you’ve recommended generates revenue to help you pay domain name and hosting costs and keep the blog afloat. You could even explain how specific actions will benefit you (for example, “I could receive up to a dollar from Google if you download and install Firefox via the link below.”)

Be sure to make yourself familiar with the rules and requirements of each monetization strategy you use before constructing such a page. It is against AdSense terms of service, for example, to encourage visitors to click on AdSense ads.

Explaining the part visitors play in keeping your blog afloat makes clear your motivations for monetizing and provides an opportunity for you to be honest about where the money goes. This can only help to build reader trust.

Over to you

  • What methods do you use to demonstrate you are a trustworthy blogger?
  • How transparent are you about monetizing your blog?
  • As a reader, what determines your trust in a blogger?

4 Methods To Make Money On The Internet Quickly

If you are wondering, the four methods are:

  1. Selling an eBook
  2. Promoting Affiliate Offers
  3. Freelance Writing
  4. Selling Stuff on eBay

For each method I have provided a step-by-step guide on how you can get started, including links to related resources. The article has over 3,000 words, so it should be worth a read. Check it out!