For Bloggers: Finding Your Own Solsbury Hill

As I come up on my second-year blogging anniversary, I’m reminded of this great Peter Gabriel video.

When all’s said and done, blogging–even a professional blog, on a ordinary-sounding profession like technical writing–is of the spirit…at least that’s what blogging is mostly to me…

If you’re lucky and dedicated enough, there’s going to come some magic moment, when you’ll hear the sound of your own voice rising–strong and clear–entirely its own–and you won’t look back.

That’s the biggest gift blogging has given me. Thanks to those of you who have been part of the journey so far, and to the ones who’ll stick around, for the next stage of the ride.

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Contacting the Author: Content for a Convergent World – Peg Mulligan’s Blog

6 Resources for Beginning Bloggers: Ready, Set, Go

So, you’ve opened your first WordPress account. Now what? Or you’re thinking about finally starting a blog, but not sure what’s involved.

The following blogging resources will help get you up and running very quickly and support your blogging goals along the way, as you continue to advance.

WordPress.com. For a great video introduction to blogging, see Introduction to WordPress.com. WordPress.com is a freely-hosted version of the open source package, where you can start a blog in seconds, without any technical knowledge.

WordPress.org. To learn more about blogging basics, check out the Introduction to Blogging by WordPress.org, at the codex for WordPress.org, the largest self-hosted blogging tool in the world. There, you’ll find the differences between a blog and a Content Management System (CMS), as well as terms and concepts you’ll need to know (such as archives, feeds, blogrolls, and syndication). You’ll also learn about managing comments (including trackbacks, pingbacks, and spam). Other topics include permalinks, blog e-mail, post slugs, excerpts, plugins, and basic blogging tips.

Writing Inspiration. Want writing advice from an expert blogger? Check out Chris Brogan’s Blog Topics Newsletter, a weekly email newsletter, which contains at least 10 topic ideas, plus tips on how to customize these post ideas into something useful to your own organization. Chris invites subscribers “to reply back, comment, and/or share your favorite posts you’ve written with the rest of the community, so that it’s not a one-way street, but a two-way learning experience.” For more information on this subscription service ($9.97 per month), check out A Sample Blog Topics Email or Great Ideas from the Blog Topics Community. (So far, Chris’ service has been very helpful to me.)

ProBlogger Resources. Want to learn about making money online? Check out Darren Rowse’s Problogger Blog: Tips to Help You Make Money from Blogging, or his book ProBlogger Book: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income. For one of the most reasonably-priced, moderated members forums around (subscriptions start at $5.95 per month), also consider joining the ProBlogger.Community, where you can discuss blogging and social media, with like-minded folks.

Twitter Chat. For a real-time community, sign in to #Blogchat, hosted by veteran blogger Mack Collier. #blogchat is a weekly conversation that takes place every Sunday night, starting at 8pm Central (9pm ET), on Twitter. Collier moderates a range of topics, from personal blogging to business.

Blogging Conferences. I haven’t attended either of these conferences–one an in-person event, and the other online, but both are geared to blogging topics and can help you get more involved in the larger blogging community:

  • The BlogWorld & New Media Expo provides an educational experience for all levels of expertise and interests. The BlogWorld Conference, which occurred last Oct. in Las Vegas, is a two-day event that coincides with the exhibits. Topics range from high-end experienced blogger, podcast, broadcaster and social media themes to novice “start-up” topics.
  • Blogging Summit 11 runs from February 1 to February 22 (fully online) and is designed to help you master blogging for business, from 23 leading blogging pros.

So, there you have it. Those are the resources that have been most helpful to me, as I’ve been ramping up my blogging efforts for my side business. (In the case of the conferences, I’d like to attend these events, someday, and of the ProBlogger community, I plan to make the time to become more involved this year.)

If you’re  new to blogging, what are you biggest questions, concerns, or challenges? If you’ve been blogging awhile, do you have any additional resources to share?

 

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Contacting the Author: Content for a Convergent World – Peg Mulligan’s Blog

Small Business: Eight Changes I Made to Improve My WordPress Blog

Readers who have been dropping by now and again have probably already noticed some of the branding and related changes, which I’ve been steadily incorporating.

These changes are part of an ongoing effort to use inbound marketing to enhance my job search and to launch a small side business.

Moving to WordPress.org this past summer was a major factor, in making these changes possible. On the new platform, I’m able to benefit from a variety of helpful plugins and widgets, which weren’t previously available to me on WordPress.com.

Before making the changes, I researched my targeted keywords using the Google Wonder Wheel and AdWords Keywords Tool. I also thought a lot about my own blogging goals as well as the goals of the cross-disciplinary readers who visit here.

Here are the changes I’ve made so far to improve this blog:

1. Developed Consistent Branding. Back in July, I held a 99 Designs contest to develop a logo for this site. The winning logo by arkvisdesigns consists of a Convergent World symbol, as well as the major keywords that apply to my new small business (Content Strategy, Development, and Management). I incorporated the logo consistently at this blog as well as my other social media outposts, such as TwitterFacebook, and Flickr.

2. Restructured site. The sidebar navigation now reflects the major keywords I’m targeting, as sub-sets of Content Strategy, Development, and Management. Previously, I had just used a drop-down list to display my blog’s main categories in the sidebar, but for better keyword optimization, I’ve started displaying the full category names.

3. Optimized blog elements. To help this site rank better in search results, I’ve also started more consistently including my targeted keywords in the blog’s page title, categories, meta-tags, headings, and body text.

4. Switched from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. To take full advantage of the Premium themes and the many plug-ins available, I moved from freely-hosted WordPress.com to the self-hosted WordPress.org platform.

5. Added Plug-ins. Through WordPress.org, I’ve added these helpful plug-ins: WordPress.com Stats, TweetMeme Retweet Button, Easy Facebook Like ButtonShareThisWordPress Seo Plugin by Yoast, and Contact Form by ContactMe.com.

6. Added widgets. In my sidebar, I added the AddtoAny – Subscribe Button. I also added a free Mailing List form (courtesy MailChimp), to sign-up for the monthly Convergent World newsletter.

7.  Added a Work with Me page. As part of my small business launch, I added a Work with Me page, linked to my Contact form, which describes my writing, editing, and holistic SEO services. (For tips on how to develop your Work with Me page, see Chris Brogan’s slides on How to Enhance Your Job Search with Social Media.)

8. Added a Portfolio Page.  I’ve highlighted guest posts, samples, and endorsements on a new Portfolio Page. So far, this page is more visited than my About Peg Mulligan page, so I highly recommend including one, to anyone ramping up a small business, especially as a way to reinforce credentials.

There’s still lots more to do, including incorporating more video, especially in my About Peg Mulligan page, adding a Resume page, installing Google Analytics, and investigating other helpful plug-ins. Long-term, I still plan on moving to the Thesis or Genesis theme. I’d also like to start exploring affiliate marketing and see if I can generate some extra revenue from my blog that way.

How about you?  Any additional recommendations, on ways I can make this blog a better experience for my readers? Or suggestions on how blogging can enhance my job search or expand my business? What’s your experience with affiliate marketing? Any tips on getting started there? All feedback is quite welcome and appreciated, in advance.

 

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Resetting Nameservers at WordPress.com to a New Hosting Service

In my last post, Taking WordPress to the Next Level, I described my transition from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, this past summer. The one part of the process I didn’t mention was resetting nameservers at WordPress.com to a new hosting service.

The main part of your blog URL is its domain. An example of a domain is “wordpress.com.”  When you make the transition from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, you must first reset the nameservers at WordPress.com (available through the Domain Manager) to point to the servers, at your new self-hosted service.

At the time, I stumbled through the process, a bit clumsily.  I prepared the instructions below, based on my experience over the summer. Hope it might help anyone, making a similar change.

Resetting Your Domains

To reset your nameservers, complete these steps:

  1. From Settings>Domains at WordPress.com, set a password under Domain Administration and note your customer number.
  2. Click the Manage Domains link.
  3. From the Secure Login Screen, enter the Customer # or Login Name and password.
  4. Click Secure Login. The Domain screen appears in the Domain Manager.
  5. Click your site’s domain name.
  6. Under Nameservers, click the Nameservers link.
  7. In the Set Nameservers screen, select the option, “I have specific nameservers for my domains.”
  8. Enter the respective nameserver (provided by your web hosting service) in the box for Nameserver 1 and Nameserver 2. For example, in my case:
    ns1.blogs-about.com
    ns2.blogs-about.com
  9. Click OK.

Now your domain points to the servers at your new hosting service.

If You Are Unable to Reset Your Domains

Initially, I wasn’t able to reset my nameservers. I entered the new nameservers multiple times, but the default WordPress nameservers remained. When I asked my web hosting provider why this might be happening, she advised that it can sometimes take up to 24-48 hours for domain changes to take effect.  If the domain servers did not fully change in that time frame, she advised it would be a good idea to contact WordPress.com Support and ask why their system wasn’t allowing the changes to occur.

Contacting WordPress.com Support

I ended up contacting WordPress.com Support (support@wordpress.com) and was happy with the fast response. According to my “Happiness Engineer” (what a great title!), the WordPress.com domain provider implemented a fix for the name server change issue I was experiencing. I was advised to try my changes again, which this time, I was able to make successfully.

Importing Content  

From there, for a small fee, my new hosting provider used my WordPress.com credentials to make a copy of my WordPress.com blog, install the latest version of WordPress, and import my content.

My new hosting account was ready to go.

In hindsight, I wish I had installed WordPress and imported the content myself (just to get the experience), but I was simultaneously working with a designer on customing my theme, and I took the easier route because of time constraints. If you want to try installing WordPress and importing your WordPress.com content on your own, Tom Johnson’s webinar demos how easy it is to install the WordPress software. For complete instructions, you can also see Installing WordPress, at the WordPress Codex.

If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to receive future posts delivered to your feed reader.

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Understanding the Differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org

WordPress.com versus WordPress.org

WordPress.com versus WordPress.org

In my last post, I mentioned various blogging services available, including the service I am currently using at WordPress.com. Initially, it usually takes people a little while to fully understand the differences between the free, hosted service at WordPress.com and the paid, self hosted service at WordPress.org, so I’ve compiled a quick summary of differences between the services.

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is a freely hosted version of the open source package, where you can start a blog in seconds, without any technical knowledge.

According to the site, “[a]lmost everything on WordPress.com is free, and things that are currently free will remain free in the future, but we do offer paid a la carte upgrades for things like CSS editing and custom domains.” Through the upgrade option, WordPress.com also lets you increase the space of your blog.

As I wanted to get up and running very quickly, I decided to start out blogging, using WordPress.com. So far, I’ve been very pleased by how easy the WordPress.com service is to use as well as by the many professional themes available. By using the hosted WordPress service, I have been able to focus mostly on content, without worrying about the technical details. I have also been able to quickly build up search engine equity, which I have read takes a bit longer with self-hosted services.

However, even in the short while I’ve been blogging, I’ve already upgraded my WordPress.com service, as I wanted my own domain name, which to me seems more professional. For example, previously, this blog’s domain was pegmulligan.wordpress.com, but with the upgrade, which only costs $15.00 a year, it’s now pegmulligan.com.

According to the HubSpot post, 7 Beginner Blogger Blunders and How to Avoid Them,  it’s best to get a “real” domain name, so you do not lose your link juice, if you ever change services later. “At least this way, if you decide to switch later, you won’t lose all the search engine optimization (SEO) that you’ve built up.”

In a webinar hosted by the Society for Technical Communication, Tom Johnson mentioned that when your needs require, it is possible to move your WordPress.com blog to WordPress.org. Johnson also stated that you can import Blogger and Movable Type blogs into WordPress, but the code does not always map exactly.

WordPress.org

If you are interested in applying WordPress Premium themes, or extending its functionality through its more than 4,000 plug-ins, then WordPress.org is the right service for you. Though the blogging software at WordPress.org is open source, it does require your own Web hosting service.

I was only a couple weeks into blogging, when I realized that long-term, I really want to move my WordPress.com blog to the WordPress.org service, to take full advantage of the Premium themes that would give my blog a better customized look and feel, more like a web site than a blog. Long-term, I also want to use the many available plug-ins there, including a well-known WordPress Search Engine Optimization (SEO) plug-in, which would help my blog’s Google ranking.

Choosing a Hosting Service. WordPress recommends these Web Hosting Options. In his STC-hosted webinar, Tom Johnson mentioned Lunarpages and DreamHost, as his favorite hosting services.

Installing WordPress. In his recorded webinar, Tom Johnson demos how easy it is to install the WordPress software. For complete instructions, see Installing WordPress.

Choosing Themes. Lots of free WordPress themes are available, as well Premium themes. According to Johnson, “the premium themes are usually more complicated. The code gets pretty advanced when you want to change a string.” New WordPress.org Users Beware: It is possible to blow away your entire blog site, if you are not careful about the changes you are making to the code.

Through the water cooler on Twitter (including recommendations from professional bloggers Chris Brogan and Darren Rowse), I’ve heard that Thesis is one of the best Premium WordPress themes available for non-coders. On Twitter, I’ve also heard good things about the Thesis Theme User’s Guide.

Using PlugIns. Over 4,000 WordPress plug-ins are available.

In the STC webinar, Tom Johnson mentioned examples of plug-ins that have been helpful to him:

  • Akismet: Blocks spam.
  • All in One SEO Pack: Optimizes your WordPress blog for Search Engines (Search Engine Optimization).Lets you make a generic title for Google, but a catchy title for your visitors.
  • Audio-Player for Podcasts.
  • Contact Form, with name & e-mail address.
  • Favicon for Admin Page.
  • Google Search Widget.
  • WP Related Posts: Shows all related posts in your archives.
  • Video Plugin: Lets you embed YouTube videos.
  • WP Super Cache: Generates static html fies from your dynamic WordPress blog.

For an excellent WordPress resource, see a complete list of all the plug-ins Tom Johnson uses in his highly informative I’d Rather Be Writing blog.

Recommendation and Additional Resources

For most nontechnical users, I recommend a phased approach to blogging, concentrating first on building your site’s content, and learning basic WordPress functionality. When you start to outgrow WordPress.com and want the more advanced functionality, moving to WordPress.org will probably be a natural progression for you. However, if you want to avoid the web hosting fee and have no desire to understand the technical details, then the hosted service at WordPress.com can continue to serve you. For users who choose long-term to stick with the WordPress.com service, the available Advanced Services may help meet your evolving needs.

In the meantime, here are some helpful blogging resources:

Photo credit, nbachiyski

Related Links

  • Choosing a Blogging Service
  • WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org
  • Chris Brogan’s Post: Thesis is My Favorite Premium WordPress Theme

Choosing a Blogging Service

As a beginner blogger, I was trying a few months ago to decide which blogging service to choose. I asked for guidance from the Twitter community, and the “tweeps” who responded there recommended that I should use WordPress. I’m grateful that I followed the advice, as subsequent, informal research confirms that WordPress is a good choice, and so far, I’ve been very happy with the free blogging service provided at WordPress.com.

I later found more specific advice from HubSpot, a provider of inbound marketing software, on why it’s better to choose WordPress, over for example, Google’s Blogger, at least in the case of business blogs. According to HubSpot, if you ever decide to migrate to another site, Google does not let you redirect your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) value.

If you currently have a blog that is something like mybusiness.blogspot.com and you build a ton of inbound links to the site, Google [via Blogger] does not let you redirect that SEO value to a new site (like your company website).

Basically, Google has seemingly made it intentionally difficult to migrate off of their platform. If you’re looking to build a successful business blog that will help you find more clients and grow your business, you should find a professional blogging platform that is designed for your needs.  HubSpot has one such offering (it’s a piece of what we do).  But, if all you need is a blogging tool, we’d recommend WordPress.

In his recorded webinar, Tom Johnson from the Society of Technical Communication, also recommends WordPress, because of the flexibility WordPress offers through its widely available themes (both for free or at a reasonable cost, through Premium themes), as well as its over 4,000 plug-ins.

Once I chose WordPress, I had to decide whether to use the freely-hosted service at WordPress.com, or self-hosted service, at WordPress.org.

I’ll discuss the differences between these WordPress services more fully in my next post, Understanding the Difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

Your Experiences with Blogging Services?

If you are currently using a free, hosted service other than my WordPress recommendation, such as Blogger, or if you have any additional thoughts about the freely hosted WordPress service, I’d be happy to hear about your experiences, in the comments. (TypePad is another hosted service, though it does require a monthly fee.)

How about those of you who are using self-hosted blogging services, like Movable Type, “Serendipity,” and WordPress.org? How do you rate your experiences with those services?

Your feedback is especially helpful, both to me and any other readers here, who are sorting through the choices. In one article, I learned that with Blogger you can add Google AdSense ads to your  posts to generate revenue, which seems like a potential benefit to that free service.

What are your thoughts and experiences?

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Writing a List Post, Focusing on Current Readers, & Writing a Link Post (Days #2, #5, & #7 from 31 Days to Build a Better Blog)

I continue to participate in Darren Rowse’s 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. In this post, I summarize how I completed challenges for Day #2, Day #5, and Day #7. (For reporting purposes, I am completing some tasks out of sequence.)

The sections below describe the challenge for writing a list post, focusing on current readers, and writing a link post.

Writing a List Post
in the challenge for Day #2, Darren Rowse describes three types of lists that bloggers often use successfully:

  • The post as a list: “In this case there’s nothing in the post except for the list. The title of your post introduces the topic and then the list speaks for itself. The list can be quite barebones – short and to the point.” For an example of a list post, see Peer Review Checklists for Writers in this blog.
  • Extended lists:  “This type of post is not dissimilar to an essay or article but the main points are broken down into a numbered list format. Generally there is a heading for each section (highlighted in bold or heading tags), with a paragraph or two under each one.” For an example of an extended list, see A Baker’s Dozen: Links on Cloud Computing, in this blog. This post also represents a link list  (building a resource on a topic).
  • Lists Within Posts:  “In this type of post, lists present ideas in the midst of other content. In a sense the list becomes a way of breaking up your text. …these posts do quite well as other bloggers looking for a quote to share with their readers will many times grab your list.” For example: see Digital Marketing World: Spring 2009 – Winning Against the Odds—my most viewed post, with multiple bulleted lists, providing takeaway points for various digital conference sessions, within the same post.

Focusing on Your Current Readers
In the challenge for Day #5, I emailed two blog readers, who both left comments on my earlier posts:

My email simply thanked my readers for their comments and asked for more information about the blog topic (Larry Weber and his respective companies, in the case of my note to Farah at RacePoint, and the virtual conference schedule, in the case of Cece at InXpo.)

I promptly received e-mails back from both company representatives, with helpful information to supplement my original posts.

From RacePoint Group, I obtained the following information about how to best keep up with Larry Weber:

From Cece at InXpo, I learned that InXpo keeps a list of upcoming virtual events on the InXpo website: http://www.inxpo.com/news/upcoming-events/index.htm.

The point Darren Rowse intended for this exercise, I imagine, is to deepen relationships and the lines of communication, with your existing readers, as I did with both Farah and Cece  (and by extension, the organizations they represent). In the process, I gained new information to supplement my original blog posts and added more value to my other readers.

Link Post
In the challenge for Day #7, Rowse provides these reasons for linking out on your blog:

  • Giving something of value to your readers
  • Building your credibility
  • Building relationships with other bloggers
  • SEO

He also describes six types of link posts to consider:

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Writing An Elevator Pitch (Day #1 from 31 Days to Build a Better Blog)

I am participating in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog challenge, sponsored by Darren Rowse (aka @problogger on Twitter).

In the challenge for Day #1, Darren Rowse recommends developing an elevator pitch for your blog:

What is an Elevator Pitch?
“An elevator pitch is an overview of an idea for a product, service, or project. The name reflects the fact that an elevator pitch can be delivered in the time span of an elevator ride (for example, thirty seconds or 100-150 words).” – Wikipedia

According to Rowse, your blog’s elevator pitch is important to successfully “writing content, promoting and finding readers, search engine optimization, networking with other bloggers, branding, design”…in other words—everything.

I have been working on refining my blog’s tag line, but finding a way to concisely express my purpose (and related skill-set) in terms specific enough to reflect my primary expertise and interests as a technical communicator, while broad enough to encompass content-related topics in other disciplines (including content marketing, customer relationship management, and product development) has required some tweaking.

In the last month, my tag line has evolved this way:

  • “Technical Communication for a Convergent World”  ~ Good Start
  • “Content for a Convergent World” ~ Getting There
  • “Content (Information, Interactions, & Experiences) for a Convergent World ~ Eureka

The inspiration for the final version of my tagline comes from Vince Giorgi’s post, Is It Content? Software? Let’s Call It a Branded Experience, with this working definition of content:

“Content is about so much more than words…Content is value-adding information, interactions and experiences by which brands engage and build affinity with the audiences vital to their business success.”

Through my final tag line, I now have a clear purpose for this blog and major organizational categories (information, interactions, and experiences), which reinforce this purpose.

In addition to my tag line, I can start using my elevator pitch in my “about page, real life conversation, business cards, pitching to media, pitching to other bloggers, my e-mail signature, and social media profiles” (Rowse, Day #1: 31 Days BBB).

What do you think about the tag line? Do you think it’s serving my goals? As for audience, though I imagine that this blog most appeals to other technical and professional communicators  (aka content developers), the targeted audience for this blog is quite broad because we are all knowledge workers—all impacted by the convergence of communications and technology.

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