Monthly Archives: July 2018

WordPress Blog building

The One Thing Every WordPress User Should Own

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When I started my site I didn’t have a lot of experience building a website, and by not a lot I mean none. Absolutely none. Not a little bit, not I’ve seen it done once, not even someone told me I could but I didn’t believe them. Absolutely none. I didn’t have any idea that someone could build a site on their own without 6 years of schooling and two masters’ degrees. Which also goes to show you how little I knew about schooling and degrees. But, I’ve learned a lot since then. It’s been a long bumpy road with many ups and downs, and I realize that my journey has really only started, and that learning something isn’t the same as mastering it.

One of the many things I learned is that thanks to WordPress pretty much anyone can start their own website. WordPress is hands down the most user friendly site builder/content management system in existence today. It is so easy to use in fact that 31.4% of all websites in existence use WordPress. Aside from its ease of use WP (WordPress) is so widespread because its developers keep it open source. In layman’s terms that means it’s free. Well, the code required to build a site is free. In most cases, you still have to pay to host your site. It’s like if someone gave you all the materials and plans to build a house. You still have to purchase or rent land to put that house on. That’s what you get with WP, the materials and plans. Actually, you get a seemingly endless supply of materials, plans, and templates that you can tear down and rebuild on a whim.

 

 

There is almost as many website hosting companies as there are internet service providers. You have Liquid Web, Host Gator, SiteGround, Blue Host, Kinsta, and WPEngine just to name a few. All of them have their pros and con’s, and getting into that will require a whole separate post. I, on the other hand, went the other direction and hosted this site on WordPress.com. As a beginner this gives me a certain piece of mind. While it may cost me a little more than some of the sites listed above, I don’t have to worry about things like site security, or site back-ups as WP takes care of all of that for me. WP also has great customer service, and has on one occasion worked with customer service of another company to help me get through a problem.

 

While I say WP is the most user friendly site builder out there, it’s not without its growing pains. Things just aren’t where you would expect them to be. For example you can’t just go to settings and change your font. Font isn’t anywhere near settings. Your font is determined by your theme, preset layout, and to change your font you must customize your theme. If there is a particular font you want, and your theme doesn’t contain it, you have to download it, then upload it to your site. Sometimes you have to actually purchase it first, depending on where you get your fonts. That seems like a lot to go through just for a font.

 

I know that makes WP appear incredibly complicated but it’s really not. If you find a theme that works perfectly for you, and you can use it for your site with little or no customization, you can have a site up in only a few more minutes than it took you to choose the theme. And if you’re ok with a run of the mill cookie cutter website than you’re done there. If you want your site to accurately represent you or your business, than you have some changing and customizing to do. There is an almost countless number of adaptations and modifications that can be done to a WP site. Anything from Font and background color to graphics placement and shadowing effects can all be changed by you. I know this sounds a bit overwhelming but once you get the hang of it, it’s really pretty easy.

 

I struggled to get the hang of it. I’m sure as a new user I’m not the only one. I just couldn’t find where the settings were. I couldn’t grasp the relationships between what I wanted to do and dashboard control placement. At first, it didn’t make any sense to me that something as simple as font wasn’t just in settings. I struggled pretty hard. My 10 minute website was coming up on 3 weeks of building time, and I still didn’t feel like it was ready to go live. Someone who was a very good friend and is now much more brought me a book one day. This book may have saved my sanity and my site. It was WordPress, The Missing Manual the book that should have been in the box.

 

This book goes over everything from step by step instructions on signing up for a WordPress site through WordPress.com, to the evolution of dynamic vs static sites and how WP works, and that’s just the first 20 pages. If there is anything you want to know about WordPress it is in this book. If you want to set up multiple users for your site, for instance if you have contributing authors to your blog who don’t need access to the Admin Dashboard, it’s in there. If you need to know how to use JetPack’s LaTeX formatting, or how to add mobile support to self-hosted sites, it’s in there. There is even a section on WP specific SEO. If you are not already a WordPress master, “The missing manual” is worth your time to read. If you are a WP novice, than it is an absolute necessity.

 

Throughout the book there are images of websites, sort of. These are real images of not exactly fake sites to demonstrate one feature or another the book is talking about at that time. The sites actually exist and are navigable. There were 6 sample WP sites created and while you can’t actually modify the sites, they are good representations of the features described. There are also snippets of HTML and CSS in the book to help give you a basic understanding of code, if you don’t already have one, which you are allowed to use on your own sites without further permissions beyond purchasing the book.

 

You also get access to a page containing 181 links, they are not numbered I counted them myself, to WP websites (as demonstrations), free plug-ins, or free resources for things like HTML and CSS tutorials, and how to create a test site.

 


 

The book itself is divided up into 5 parts, each part broken down into chapters. I recommend reading the Manual in its entirety, but you don’t actually have to. Each chapter touches on a particular design feature or necessary area of knowledge, such as registering a domain name, or adding a slide show. Once you know what kind of site you want to build, the book will direct you to which chapters you absolutely need to read. For example if you only want a simple blog you only need to read the first two parts. If you want to add music player to entertain visitors as they read your musings, then you will also want to read chapter 10. ECommerce store? Chapter14. Self-hosted? Appendix B-Securing a Self-Hosted Site. It can even help you with migrating your current site to a new host.

 

Let’s be honest, WordPress is a living breathing open source tool. It currently contains over 423,759 lines of code and encompassed 112 person-years to build, and currently has 70 fulltime developers contributing to the core code. By the time I finish this post WP will probably be able to do something it couldn’t when I started writing it. “The Missing Manual” may not contain every single piece of existing information about WordPress, but it most certainly has all the information you need to start and maintain a WordPress site. As for missing information, the book has already been updated once, and there will most likely be a 3rd edition. There is even a page to inform the authors of errors or submit feedback.

 

I would not have made it this far without this book. I wish I would have found out about it much sooner, I hope it helps you as much as it did me. Click below to get yours now.

7 Tips for Driving Traffic to New Blogs

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When you are a newer blogger one of the riddles you struggle to overcome is how to drive traffic to your page. You will see hundreds if not thousands of articles on how SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the best way to drive organic traffic to your site. Which is absolutely true, however SEO is a long game. Even if your SEO strategy is absolutely perfect, as a new site it can take many months to make it to the first page in search results for your niche. So where do you get your views? Easy, other bloggers.

 

Blogging is a community in its own right. There are 409 million blogs listed on Tumblr alone. There are 30.6 million active bloggers in the U.S. right now, according to statista.com, and interacting with as many as you can will drive traffic for the first few months.

 

 

We are all trying to be successful and make a living from our blogs. It isn’t a contest, teamwork makes the dream work. It may feel like you are competing against other bloggers but I promise you, that isn’t the way it works. Interacting with other bloggers helps you garner a following, and that following will spread your name, and talk up your site. If you work for it.

 

Visit other blogs.
               Visiting and viewing other blogs is a good practice to maintain. It helps you stay up to date on trends in the community, and can supply you with ideas for new posts. Never steal another bloggers content, but it is perfectly ok to write about the something you saw on someone else’s site in your own words and style. You should visit a few blogs within your niche every week, and leave comments. Not just hello, or The Ragged Writer was here, but things that add value to the original post, or personal insights you may have about the content. Some sites even allow you to link your own blog in your comment. Which may attract a few visitors.

 

Reply to comments on your own site.
              If you visit and comment on other blogs, people will begin to return the favor, and you should reply to every comment left on your page. If you engage and interact with your visitors they will continue to return week after week. The comment section should read more like a conversation, then just a list of individual remarks at the bottom of the page. I know what you’re thinking. If you have perused this site then you know that replying to comments is not one of my strong suites. And you want to know if I didn’t do it, then why should you. Well, it’s because I didn’t, that I know how important it is. I know that people that used to come to my page every week stopped coming because they felt insignificant or ignored. You may even begin to build professional relationships or friendships with people that have already been through what you a going through, and their experience and advice will prove to be incredibly valuable.

 

Subscribe to informative blogs in your niche.
           If you find blogs that are full of great content, informative, up to date, and pertinent to the industries you write about than following them should be a no brainer. Subscribe to their newsletter. Sign up for email notifications of new posts. It is extremely important to stay current and informed in your niche. You may not be the first to know, but you should never be the last. If someone seems to have the inside track, than get in line directly behind them. Besides, people tend to reciprocate. If you are following and subscribing to bloggers in your niche, then a percentage of them will follow or subscribe to your site also.

 

Share on social media.
           Join blogging Facebook Groups and post your work when allowed by each individual group’s rules. Post on Twitter and Pinterest also. You can acquire reasonable views by “selling” your work, but you will fare much better by being part of the community. Share your posts to social media, but share posts from other bloggers as much if not more than your own. Spamming your content to the same 100 twitter followers over and over will not get you any more readers. But, if you catch the attention of, and impress 10 bloggers who share your work with their 100 followers, then you’ve just received a big boost to your page views. When you share someone else’s work, be sure to leave them a comment telling them. It lets them know someone appreciates their work enough to introduce it to their network. People will generally reciprocate by visiting your site, and if they like your work they may share it as well.

 

Eye catching headlines.
                It is important to get your work in front of as many eyes as possible because only a percentage of people who see your post will actually take the time to read it. For example, if all 1000 people in the paragraph above actually see your post only 80% will take the time to actually read the headline (CopyBlogger). Of that 800 people only up to 20% will read the post. Whether it’s 1% or 20% depends on your headline. If you title your new post “My New Post” then only the insanely curious will click through. However, if it’s titled “20 Reasons this Article is so Genius that the only Title I Could come Up With Was ‘My New Post’” then I’m going to read it to find out if it is in fact genus, or as cluttered and rambling as the title. It doesn’t actually matter why I would open it, only that I would because of the headline.

 

Building and maintaining reputation.
                Be the authority in your writing. You don’t have to be The Expert, but you should know what you are talking about. That doesn’t mean you can only write about things you have done for a living, just make sure you research your topics thoroughly, and site your sources. Do not state facts without being able to back them up, or at least stating how you got that information. You don’t have to link every source, but you should always site it.
If you are writing about your own experiences try to be as open and honest as possible. Everyone understands that there are things you don’t want to share with the world, but you have to share enough to form a connection with your readers. And for god’s sake don’t make big bullshit claims. Don’t tell people you can teach them how to get 1000 page views a week, when you wrote a post last week about this being your first site and it’s only a month old. If your readers trust you, they will keep coming back. If they don’t, they will make it known.

 

Guest Blogging.
              Many sites accept guest posts. Guest posting is writing content for an existing blog other than your own. Generally doing so will cumulate links back to your site or Backlinks. Backlinks are the primary form of off page SEO. Basically if your site is linked to a reputable site, than google believes you must also have a reputable site, therefore ranking you higher in searches. You are judged by the company you keep. If you have a lot of good friends, you must be a good person, or in this case a good website. This is why your reputation is so important. When someone offers you a backlink they are putting their name at risk for your benefit. If they feel like they can’t trust you, than they will not take the risk. On top of backlinks, guest blogging also offers exposure to a new group of readers that you may not have been able to reach otherwise. Essentially, guest blogging is extremely beneficial in both short and long term returns.

 

 

The biggest tip I can give to anyone starting a blog or thinking about starting a blog, is Be Part of the Community. Interact with other bloggers, be it through Facebook, WordPress, Twitter, or actual blogging communities. Don’t just drop links to your posts in your groups and run off. I spend the majority of one day a week, usually Friday, reading the blogs that are linked in the groups I belong to or follow through email, and commenting on them or sharing them on social media. You don’t have to read everything. It is perfectly ok to stick to your interests. A single guy who lives alone doesn’t have to read 10 mommy blogs a week just to prove he is part of the group. Just understand that if you write primarily about video games, mommy bloggers may not be reading your work either. That is the truly amazing thing about blogging. There is literally something out there for everyone.

 

However the thing you need to realize is, quality content is incredibly important. Probably the most important. You can do everything else perfectly, but if you don’t put the time and effort into your writing, you won’t get anywhere. No one will attach their name to your work, by sharing or linking it, if it is full of typos or misinformation.

 

Write well, be a valuable member of the community, and traffic to your page will take care of itself for the first few months. You may even come away with a few lifelong followers.

Defining Imposter Syndrom

Fighting Imposter Syndrome

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I’ve noticed a trend in the discussion threads of groups that I belong to. I’ve also noticed that on occasion I fit into this trend. Not all the time, but every so often. Sometimes more than others. There is a doubt that winds its’ way through the community, touching on everyone here and there. Occasionally it strikes quickly then fades away. Sometimes it lingers like a summer cold and affects our work twice as much. It isn’t specific to writers, but it is definitely prolific among us.

 

Imposter Syndrome

 

“Each time I write a book, every time I face that yellow pad, the challenge is so great. I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out’.” -Maya Angelou


Just announced from George R. R. Martin: Discover the thrilling history of the Targaryen family in F

“Some years ago, I was lucky enough invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realize that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.

 

On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, ‘I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.’

 

And I said, ‘Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.’

 

And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.” —Neil Gaiman

 

I’m sure by now everyone knows the story of Tabatha digging the first pages of “Carrie” out of the trash because Stephen King threw them away. An incredible story rescued from a bout of self-doubt. If not for that woman in that moment we may not have had one of the greatest story tellers of our generation.

 

One of the best ways to combat Imposter Syndrome is to name your problem, state aloud that it is in fact Imposter Syndrome that is weighing on you, this immediately drains some of its’ power. Another is to realize that you are not alone. This is not a “You Problem”. This is something experienced nationwide, and no one is immune. The more successful you are, the more likely you are to feel as though you didn’t earn your success but were simply in the right place at the right time, and will be discovered as a fraud at any moment.

 

“It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I’m just going, ‘Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved’.” –Emma Watson

 

Imposter Syndrome runs deep in younger, or newer, writers because we haven’t cut our teeth yet. It feels awkward to tell someone you’re a writer. You know they are going to follow up with the dreaded question, ‘what have you written?’, and we all know they mean ‘what have you published?’ When the answer is ‘nothing yet’ you know ‘then how can you call yourself a writer?’ is coming right behind.

 

“If you wish to be a writer, write.” –Epictetus

 

Writers write every day. It’s just what we do. I have never published a story, and I have sold only one product description to another website, but I hold my head high and call myself a writer, in the privacy of my own home. Am I a writer? I really can’t say with any sort of confidence, within ear shot of anyone else, that I am. I believe I am, until I don’t. I can tell you that my posts are better received, and stories easier to write, when I am writing with confidence. They also feel better to me in that moment. Take this post for example, I feel good about this one because one thing I’m confident about is knowing what not being confident feels like.

 

“I think the most creative people veer between ambition and anxiety, self-doubt and confidence. I definitely can relate to that. We all go through that: ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ ‘Is this what I’m meant to be doing?’”-Daniel Radcliffe

 

When you hit one of those valleys, talk to someone. Talking to family or friends about it helps, good friends almost always make good sounding boards. Talking to other writers really helps, they have an intimate knowledge of what you are going through, and can offer a unique insight. Most of all keep writing/working. It’s hard for Imposter Syndrome to drag you down when you are fighting through it. Fake it till you make it definitely applies here. It’s like swimming against the current, if you rest for even a minute you lose ground. Continuing to work can help prove to yourself that you’re not an imposter, or a fraud.

 

“Envy is ignorance.” –Emerson

 

In the world of social media, perception is everything, even if rarely true. Comparing yourself to other writers or copywriters is pure folly. You don’t know what someone went through to get where they are. You can only see what they show you. It’s like opening a candy store then comparing yourself to Milton Hershey. Most people don’t know that Hershey had multiple failed candy companies before he started Hershey’s Chocolate as you now know it. Bloggers touting 50k unique visitors in their first 6 months aren’t telling you that it’s their 10th site, and they pretty much got their system down pat by this point. You can’t judge your self-published e-book based on the success of 50 Shades. You are who you are and, you will have to take your own path to success. Remember to learn from others, be yourself, and that quitting is the only failure.

 


Back to School

 

Make a list of all you’ve accomplished, and don’t be stingy. I sometimes have to remind myself that the stories that I’ve entered into contests are accomplishments, even though I did not win. I stood up and took a chance, I put myself out there. I did something I had always wanted to do. Whether or not I won, I achieved a goal and raised the bar for myself. Even small deeds are still triumphs, so be truly honest with yourself. When you’re making this list include any positive feedback you’ve received on work you have done, no matter how small. Keep all of this in a file for easy access. These are your successes. Successes that show you are not an imposter or fraud. You worked hard for this and you deserve it.

 

“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.”― Lao Tzu

 

This is the hard part, accepting that self-confidence is exactly that, confidence in ones-self. It can’t be given to you, but it also can’t be taken from you. You alone hold sway over how you feel about you. Others can point out traits that they admire in you, but whether or not you believe them is solely up to you. I can tell you all day long that you are a brilliant writer, and it won’t make a bit of difference if you believe otherwise. Repeat to yourself a few times a day, ‘I am not a fraud, I am great at what I do, I am successful’.

 

“Even when everything is going terribly and I have no reason to be confident, I just decide to be.” -Derek Sivers

 

There is a trait in Imposter Syndrome that is constantly looked over. Imposter Syndrome is the feeling that one did not earn their successes, that they will be discovered as a fraud, that their successes are undeserved, that their accomplishments were the result of luck rather than skill. Success. One who has done nothing doesn’t feel as though they are a fraudulent couch potato. I’ve never heard someone say ‘I haven’t really done anything with my life, but I actually feel like a ginormous success.’ Imposter Syndrome is a symptom of success. You feel this way because you have busted your ass, and you stepped outside your comfort zone, and you’re still uncomfortable. It’s ok. It’s ok to not be ok. Think of it this way. Your brain knows that you are successful enough that it can convince you that you aren’t. You feel this way because you have achieved great things, even if you don’t realize it yet.

 

Comment below and tell me about your bouts with Imposter Syndrome.

 

Experiencing Life

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The act of building and running a website can take up a lot of your time, especially if you are new to the process. There is an extensive amount of behind the scenes work that can’t be seen by simply visiting a site. Endless research on techniques for design or advertising. It’s enough to drive a person out of their mind if they don’t take a break every once in a while. Regular 9-5 jobs come with vacation time, and with good reason. You need to take a step back when you are running your own business too. You need to get out, experience life, and spend time with your family. So that’s exactly what I did, and what this post is about. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not about what you need to do, it’s about what I did. Be jealous, ‘cause it was amazing. I’m going to gloss over the drive out, it’s not really pertinent to the story at hand.

 

You know that list that some people have, the celebrity crush list? That list is the reason we ended up where we did. My girlfriend’s birthday was coming up and I wanted to do something special for her. Her list consists of Ty Pennington which offered no opportunities for a gift. Wolverine, not Hugh Jackman, but Wolverine which was also no help. Her last and probably biggest crush just happened to be coming to town.

 

Poison Bandanna

 

She absolutely loves Bret Michaels, she had never been to a rock concert, and Poison was coming to the area June 24th. So I got floor tickets as close as I could, 9th row, and reserved a room so we didn’t have to worry about the drive back so late at night. Having the room also allowed us to have a few drinks together if we wanted during the concert. Instead of one of us drinking alone, and one being the designated driver.

 

Room Number

 

We got to our room at the luxurious Renaissance Hotel in Allentown Pa. with a couple of hours to spare before the event we were attending began. Basically just enough time to get cleaned up after a long drive, and still arrive at the venue early enough to get a bite to eat.

 

T.V.-Wall.jpg

 

The room was well decorated, and quite comfortable. It’s miles beyond my usual side of the highway, middle of nowhere motel. I don’t know about you, but I have never stayed in a hotel of this caliber before. This is the kind of place with gourmet room service. If I need a hotel, the kind of place I usually stay is lucky to have vending machines and the ice machine is always broken.

 

PPL Center

Taking a few pics waiting for the show to start.

 

The Renaissance Hotel is inside the PPL Center which greatly improves the entire experience. There is a door from the hotel lobby directly into the venue allowing us to skip the huge security lines and be some of the first people inside even though doors opened 30 minute before.

 

There were 10-15 concession areas open serving a pretty wide range of arena foods like hot-dogs, nachos, soft pretzels, and quite a bit more. Of course each one had beer, but you had to keep an eye out for whatever you were drinking, because they didn’t all carry the same selection.

 

PopEvil

 

Pop Evil was the opening band. They put on a great show. Towards the end Leigh Kakaty walked the crowd and actually ended up in my row and shook my hand. I’ve been to quite a few concerts and festivals over the years, and met a few band members here and there. It’s always a cool experience. I know, they are just people, but they are people I was listening to on the radio 20 minutes ago.

 

Rick Neilson

 

Cheap Trick played next. Rick Nielsen is amazing to watch. His rapport with the audience is legendary. At 70 he was running around the stage, throwing a seemingly infinite number of guitar picks into the crowd, with the energy of someone 50 years his junior.

 

Bret Michaels

There was no guessing who the spectators were here to see. Seats didn’t begin to actually fill up until Poison was due on stage. Even then they didn’t stay occupied for long because everyone was on their feet for the duration of the set. The energy and excitement could be felt throughout the stadium.

 

Seeing Poison live was incredibly nostalgic for me. They were one of the last on a list of bands that I grew up following and idolizing that I had yet to see live. To be able to share that experience with someone so special made it that much more enjoyable.

I feel like maybe I should apologize for the quality of the photo’s. I didn’t originally plan on posting this, so we only had our cell phones with us for taking pictures.