WordPress 3.8 Parker features an Updated WordPress Dashboard

WordPress 3.8 Parker was released only a few days ago on December 12th, 2013 and the latest iteration of the world's most popular blogging and content management system has just gotten a major backend design update.  Checkout the refresh below when I updated one of my other websites, CarNewsCafe.

WordPress 3.8 Oscar

wordpress 3.8 parkerThe new WordPress dashboard and backend is much cleaner and seems to be more inline with how a lot of WordPress themes look nowadays.  I imagine this is not a coincidence on the part of Automattic, the company that handles WordPress development.

The new backend uses Open Sans font, which most people probably didn't know about but it works well in the WordPress dashboard.  The idea is to make things less cluttered and easier to read and manage.  In addition icons have been updated and they are now vector based which means they can scale to your screen.  That means they load faster and work better.

Dashboard Color Schemes

wordpress dashboard color schemeIn addition to the udpated look you now have options in terms of what colors you want the WordPress dashboard to look like.  There are currently 8 options to choose from which includes Default, Light, Blue, Coffee, Ectoplasm, Midnight, Ocean, and Sunrise.  The idea is to provide more options and better contrast to be easier on the eyes for WordPress users and admins.

If you have a WordPress website that a lot of different people access, a user can individually choose what WordPress dashboard color scheme they prefer.  A pretty cool update to the backend.

WordPress Twenty Fourteen ‘Magazine' Theme

wordpress twenty fourteenFor WordPress 3.8 Parker there is also a new theme called Twenty Fourteen (2014).  It has the layout of a magazine which seems to be what a lot of people use WordPress for.  The new theme is by far the cleanest default WordPress theme Automattic has come out with.

Other WordPress 3.8 Improvements

In addition to all these cool updates to WordPress 3.8 Parker there are several other nice updates.  This includes better theme management which allows you to see more advanced previews of themes you might want to switch to.  Also the widget menu is easier to handle.

It seems that the WordPress team also has improved the functionality of WordPress for mobile phones and tablets.  Creating and managing posts should be easy no matter what device you are using now.

There are other WordPress tweaks you might notice too.  For instance if you check your plugins page eeactivted plugins are highlighted in white while active plugins are in blue.  (I personally find this confusing.)  Also there is no “Quickpress” in the WordPress dashboard anymore and in it's place you will find a “Quick Draft” box.

wordpress quick draftAt first I was apprehensive about the WordPress 3.8 update since I've been using WordPress for awhile.  Automattic didn't change too much and they make ease-of-use a top priority unlike a lot of other open source software.  After a few days I really like the updated WordPress dashboard and backend.  It is definitely faster and snappy and I imagine that Automattic developers worked hard on improving the WordPress core code to achieve this in addition to reworking the design.  Kudos to everyone that contributed to WordPress 3.8 Parker.

By the way WordPress 3.8 was codenamed “Parker ” after the great Alto saxophone player, Charlie Parker.  Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress, likes to use Jazz musicians to codename WordPress releases since he is Alto saxophone player.  WordPress 3.6 Oscar was named for Oscar Peterson and WordPress 3.7 Basie was named after Count Basie.  Matt Mullenweg and these these other Jazz giants might be great musicians but they don't have singing dogs. 🙂

If you haven't updated you WordPress website(s) or blog(s) to WordPress 3.8 I would recommend you do it to enjoy the new features.  I would encourage you to make a backup of your WordPress installations before you pupated though.   You never know what might happen in an update and it is always a smart precaution.

If you are used WordPress 3.8 Parker are you thoughts about the updated and new dashboard?  Do you love it or hate it?

Writing Great Blog Posts Consistently is Nearly Impossible

great blog postsLately I've been trying to come up with ways to write great blog posts consistently for all my websites.  Everyone wants to write the best articles that their audience will really engage with.  I sort of had the sad realization that writing engaging posts consistently is something that lots of bloggers and content marketers struggle with.  Honestly, you can't always predict what people will like or hate until you've written it and it's gone up.  It sucks.

I've experienced this sad truth firsthand many times.  One of the most frustrating blog posts I've written was “Most Expensive and Cheapest Gas Prices around the World.”  I spent a lot of time researching and playing with numbers to make sure this was an accurate piece.   (That's saying a lot for someone who compared math teachers to nazis.)  Not only that but I choose the keywords and title for this article carefully.  It was well researched, SEO optimized, and had all the right ingredients to come out to be a masterpiece the internet would love.  Except… it failed miserably.

How does a blogger know when great blog posts have failed?  Usually it's when you've put a ton of effort into an article and nobody comments on it, nobody shares it on social media networks, and basically nobody likes it since Google Analytics is not showing anyone landing on it.  This is exactly what happened with my gas prices article.  Even though I did a lot of research and put a lot of time into writing it, people for some were not attracted to it.

To this day I still don't really understand why.  Usually in author's mind the post they wrote was “Epic” or “Awesome” or choose another word to insert here.  This is basically what I thought but I was wrong.  Hard to admit but it's true.

Let me tell you something, it doesn't matter how much money you have to analyze data.  It's damn near impossible  to predict what articles Google will rank you for, people will share, connect with and comment on.  Talk to professional bloggers and they will tell you the same thing.  “I spent hours writing what I thought was a great post, but nobody commented on it.  Then I just posted a picture with a few words and everyone commented on it.” was something I heard at Affiliate Summit recently.  Several other successful bloggers complained about the same thing.

This is really not an uncommon discussion to have with bloggers across the spectrum and different niches.  Sometimes it's just hard to know even if you've put in the time, research, and effort.  Those great blog posts that everyone loves seem harder to come by then a white truffle sometimes.

This is why I encourage blog coaching clients I work with to focus on Quantity over Quality in the beginning.  Sure, it's hard to know what other people will think is a great blog post but if you don't have enough posts up to see what people are landing on, it is even harder to know what you should be writing about.  The more content you have the easier it will be to know and figure it out.   Still, you will be pulling your hair out like other bloggers because it can drive you mad.

Maybe you can read my gas prices article and tell me why it sucks and nobody liked it?  Have you experienced the struggle to find those elusive epic and great blog posts?  I'd love to hear your frustrations and blog bombs too.

Paid Links, one of Blogging’s Dirty Secrets

paid links

A few weeks ago I was reading a few successful and highly trafficked blogs.  I was quickly looking through what I thought was a well written article when all of a sudden the article flow came to a halt and I noticed something interesting but not unusual… paid links in the article.

Was I surprised?  No, not really since paid links are one of the dirty little secrets in blogging and the SEO (search engine optimization) industry that nobody really likes to talk about.  However, I will since I am not afraid of touching on taboo internet marketing topics I will.

What are Paid Links?

Paid Links are pretty self-explanatory and sound exactly like what you think they are.  It's when a site owner or blogger agrees to place a link on their website in exchange for cash.  The link is mostly always a DoFollow link which passes pagerank onto the other site.  Sometimes the SEO company gives you the article content and other times they'd rather a blogger work the link into an article so it makes sense.

The amount of money a company has to pay is usually determined by a site's pagerank, age of the domain, authority of the site, amount of traffic, and the authority of the blogger.  I've seen some people charge as much as $1,500+ per year for a link.  Sounds like a lot but when you hear what some SEO agencies charge, some bloggers should be asking for more.

In case of of the big time blogger I was reading she probably charged a lot for the link since it was for freezing women's eggs (embryos).  More importantly her demographic seems to be women 22-40 years old.  The medical company was aiming for wealthy women 20-30 years old probably.  (Although the article and blog is not entirely aimed at women.)  Most people know that health (and fitness) is a very profitable internet vertical.  If you are in fertility and cord blood and can manage to get paid for a link for it, that's some serious money.

What does Google think of Paid Links?

Google frowns upon companies and people paying for links and it is against their Webmaster guidelines.  (It would be good to read them if you haven't by the way.)  However, few people that engage in paid link schemes get caught.

Since Google is not on the side of bloggers making any real money honestly… fuck them.  They are many ways to monetize a blog but few that pay well enough so you can make a living.  Paid links are one of the best and most profitable solutions if you are someone with an authority blog.  (Of course creating an authority blog nowadays is no easy task.)

The blogger in question will probably never get caught and will not face any Google penalties.  I don't like she was using paid links and misleading her readers, but quite honestly it's not like I don't understand why she was doing it and haven't seen it before.

Keep in mind Google employs engineers that can't read for shit.  Just look at search results for competitive topics like domain names, web hosting, medicine, etc.  Low quality spammy sites still rank 1st or 2nd in a lot of cases.

How Did You Know the article had Paid Links?

It wasn't like the blogger explicitly said, “Hey these are paid links.” but I knew immediately since;

  1. The article lost it's flow at that point.
  2. They were medical related sites for freezing women's eggs.  Which in turn made me say, “WTF is this?”
  3. The keywords used were highly competitive.
  4. It was deep linked URL.

When you add it all up it was clear this blogger's article on, “6 Things to do in your 20s to make your 30s good” had paid links placed in it.  At least that is my “expert” opinion.

Paid Links Conclusion

Next time you are reading one of the millions of blogs out on the internet I encourage my readers to be aware of paid links.  It's good to be aware of how other bloggers monetization and content strategies.  This is why I try to read a wide variety of authors and bloggers.  You get an idea of how they target their content and who they is reading them, especially when you notice paid links.

On this blog I've had plenty of link requests but since it is a personal blog, I do not accept any of them.  I haven't been offered money for this blog yet but if a person or company did, I wouldn't accept it.

What do you think of paid links?  Is it ok for a blogger to use them to cover the costs and time they need to put into a blog?  Should they be upfront with readers?  Have you been offered money for a link on your site?

11 Slick Tips on How to Attend a Blog Conference Inexpensively

Attending a blog conference (or any conference) can be quite expensive.  Costs add up quickly which usually includes the ticket or pass, airfare, hotel, and meals while at the conference.  Attending a Blog Conference cheaply sounds impossible, right?  Well it's not and I'm going to share some with you “11 Slicks Tips on How to Attend a Blog Conference Inexpensively!”

attend a blog conference

1. Win a Free Ticket!

Ok, this is easier said than done but it is possible to win a Free Ticket or all expenses paid package to attend a blog conference or web conference if you keep your eyes peeled.  If you follow a conferences' social media channels well before the event takes place you will see they have contests and giveaways.

Typically the hardest thing to win is an All-Expenses Paid Trip, meaning all trip expenses are covered (ticket, hotel, and airfare).  Usually they will have a blog contest, raffle, or some sort of giveaway for these packages.  While the odds of you winning might be small, keep in mind that the amount of entrants is going to be relatively small.  This isn't like a sweepstakes where anyone will enter just so they can, usually people only interested in what that blog conference topic is will try to grab the All-Expenses Paid package.  This grealy increases your chances of winning.

Even if you don't win an all expenses paid trip, usually they still giveaway a few tickets to the conference.  Meaning you just get a pass to get in and airfare or travel costs in addition to a hotel is on you. I've actually won passes twice this past Summer to 2 completely different conferences!  🙂 One was to BarkWorld in Atlanta (thanks to The World According to Garth Riley) and the other was for Affiliate Summit in Philadelphia.  It might have just been luck but if you read my posts.  The one for Affiliate Summit I had to work for.  (Of course Affiliate Summit East wasn't a great time for me, so it was good I didn't pay.)

2. Choose Cheap Conferences

This is a no brainer!  If you go to a conference where the tickets are $1,000-$2,000 just to get in the door and doesn't include meals during the day, you still have lot of other expenses to think about.

Most blog conferences are not going to be cheap as it's a money maker and the organizers need to cover their costs of putting it on.  There are some blog conferences which are not going to break the bank though.  BlogPaws, a pet blogging conference, only costs $169 for a ticket for BlogPaws 2014 which is very reasonable pricing.

The lower the ticket price is the more money you have for other expenses.  That means you are more likely to attend.

3. Buy a Ticket Early

Usually a blog conference will have a early bird discounts for people that pay well in advance.  The savings can vary greatly but I've seen conference jack up prices up to 50%.  It's their prerogative and definitely ask if there is early bird and if/when the prices go up.  This way you can plan your trip better and save more money.

4. Stay With Friends or Family

If you have any friends or family where a blog conference is taking place, definitely call them and see if you can stay with them.  You will save money on hotel expenses while still enjoying the conference.  In addition you get to see friends and family that you might not have seen otherwise and probably don't visit with often.

When I went to BarkWorld I stayed with a family member.  This not only made for a nice visit but enabled me to save money on a hotel as well as food expenses.  I didn't eat every single meal out since I cooked a few of my meals over the weekend.  When you add this up over 3-4 days it drastically redcues the cost compared with staying at blog conference host hotel.

5. Couchsurf

Have you heard of Couchsurfing?  It's a great service where people offer up rooms for complete strangers that are looking to stay in your city or town.  I've Couchsurfed a few times and offered to show people around Baltimore on the site.  If you are trying to save money on hotel expenses and don't know anyone, it's a great option.

Couchsurfing experiences can vary widely though and can present certain challenges.  One place I stayed the person had a whole room dedicated for Couchsurfers and it was quite nice.  Most of the time… you will be sleeping on a couch. 🙂  In addition you will have plan well in advanced of your stay since people don't respond quickly on Couchsurfing.  Also be aware some hosts will cancel on you at the last minute.  You should have a backup plan if things don't workout.

Also it's best to be build up credentials in the community before you start asking to stay with people.  How do you do that?  You can attend local Couchsurfing events and meetups in your area to meet other Couchsurfers in your area, and when they get to know you they will vouch for you.  I'd highly recommended paying the $25 to get verified on Couchsurfing.org which gives your profile more credibility as well.

6. Share a Hotel

If you can't Couchsurf, or that doesn't sound like your cup of tea, why not share a hotel room?  If you can find someone else going to the conference you feel comfortable splitting a hotel room with, that's a huge savings right there.  I've seen a lot of people do this which allow them to attend a blog conference inexpensively.

7. Don't stay at the Host Hotel

Sometimes the cost of the host hotel might be more, even with a group discount, than searching around for a hotel really close to where conference is being held.  While this does present more hassle and possible headaches it can save you green.

A good alternate option is AirBnB which is liking Couchsurfing, but you pay to stay in people's places.   I've never used AirBnB and I am not personally recommending it, but plenty of people use it and seem to like it to my understanding.

8. Share a Rental or Cab Ride

Renting a car gets kinda pricey, so why not split the cost with another blog conference attendee?  It's quite common thing to do since you mostly only need the rental car to get to and from the airport to the hotel.  You might to out to lunch but usually if you are going to attend a conference you will not be doing much driving.

Additionally you could split a cab ride to and from the airport.  I've seen plenty of people do this at various conferences and it's a whole lot easy with social media, hashtags, and online groups that form before the conference actually happens.

9.  Find a Conference Close to You

When I attended BlogPaws 2013 I went for my two Singing Dogs, Cody and Sierra.  We wouldn't have taken them unless it was in Tysons Corner, Virginia.  This was just outside of Washington DC and was only 1 hour drive from Baltimore.  This made it so that we didn't need to get a hotel room and made it a lot easier for us to attend.

10. Get a Sponsor

Sometimes you can find a brand to sponsor your blog conference trip expenses either fully or partially.  Usually you agree to write-up and thank the sponsor by writing a post about them.  Some want a little bit more from you, like wearing a T-shirt or other garment that displays the company's logo.  You can be a brand ambassador and agree to hawk their products too.

Just make sure not to whore yourself out too much.  Readers of your blog should still respect your but they do need to understand it's helpful to have brands cover trip expenses.

11. Be a Speaker

If you think you have the skills, knowledge, blog authority, and speaking ability why not apply to speak at a blog conference?  Most blog conference organizers are always on the lookout for fresh faces and people they feel can contribute something new to their event.  Applying to talk takes time and effort but you get more people coming up to you and make better connections.  In addition part of your expenses are paid, such as a hotel and pass to the conference.  This can vary widely depending on the blog conference and who is organizing the show though.  Sometimes they will just comp your pass to the show, while others might include a hotel for 2-3 nights.  Unless you are a keynote speaker or a big name they will cover airline tickets or travel costs, but this is not usual.  Make sure to ask and know what to expect blog conference organizers to pay for and not pay for.

Final Thoughts on How to Attend a Blog Conference with Little Money

You will not have the time, energy, or money (at least I assume) to attend every blog conference you want to.  Most can't get away the time to go to all the events and conferences they want, even if you have the money.  I recommend you pick and choose carefully what blog conferences you think will receive the most benefit out of.  Use these tips if you are working on a tight budget.

Do you think I missed something in my guide on “How to Attend a Blog Conference Inexpensively?”  Have any other slick tips you want to share?  Please let people know below!

Catch me on Twitter @AdamYamada… if you can! 

Top 6 Misconceptions about Blogging

I read a lot of different articles about blogging all around the internet and it always surprises me that the same misconceptions about blogging are getting passed around.  While I think some information you read about blogging out there might kind of be accurate, it is not telling you the whole truth about the difficulties and realities of what it takes to be a successful online nowadays.  So, I am going to break the myths and misconceptions.

misconceptions about blogging

1. You can make a lot of money Blogging

While there are definitely a lot of bloggers who make a full time living from their blogs or writing, the vast majority don't.  You need to understand that the act of writing doesn't make any money.  To monetize your blog and visitor traffic you will have to display ads, use affiliate links, or possible encourage people to pay for a monthly subscription to your blog.  (This is possible to do but your content better be really good and niche specific.)  If your writing is top notch you might even be able to snag a book deal, but those sorts of deals are not likely to happen to an average blogger unless you are putting in a lot of time and effort.

2. Lots of Traffic is Always a Good Thing

Even if you have a lot of traffic it may not always be the best thing.  If your users are not clicking on ads or converting sales via your affiliate links than all that traffic is likely to be costing your money.  I know a lot of webmasters and bloggers that have high traffic sites but are spending more money keeping up a VPS (virtual private server) or dedicated server than what they are making blogging.  If you ever get to this point your blog should probably serve as sales funnels for some product or service you want to sell, such as your book or web consulting services.

3. Content is King

Having great content that people like is important if you want repeat visitors, but that doesn't mean content is everything.  I see lots of terrible writing and content still ranking well on Google while great content is not getting ranked and has ZERO traffic.  It is honestly your ability to have good SEO (search engine optimization) and how you distribute your articles and content around the web that make the difference.  Google honestly can't tell between bad and good writing.  Keep in mind it is a computer (an extremely advanced one) that does the ranking and not a human.

4. Social Media is more Important than SEO

I imagine a dumbass “social media guru” started this one.  While social media should be part of your blogging strategy, it is important to use strong keywords and write your articles and posts so they that search engine can find your content easily.  SEO is cyclical with social media actually.  If Google sees a lot of people are Tweeting your articles, it is likely you will retain higher ranks for certain keywords and therefore get more visitors via search.  You will make it easier though if you use keywords people are searching for in the first place and serving up what people want to see.

5. Blogging in a Specific Niche will make you Successful

This really depends on the niche.  For instance I love writing about cars and I like Japanese automakers.  I can start a blog about cars that focus only on Japanese automakers, their models, and news.  This way I have a niche that is specific but open enough I can find new content for the blog on a daily basis.  I see a lot of people choose niches that are too specific and they don't have enough to write about to keep the blog updated.  You need to ask yourself, “Can I blog about this topic and find lots of subjects to write about?”  If the answers is, “No.” you should consider looking at another niche unless your goal is to build mini-websites.  If you really want to be successful niche blogging you should find an area that is what I like to call “Wide Fucking Open” (WFO).

6. Everyone Should Start a Blog

No, not everyone should start a blog.  It really depends on your skills and what you want to accomplish.  Not everyone is a good writer and I don't think everyone can blog.  Do you prefer listening to the radio?  Are you more a visual person?  Maybe a weekly podcast and video show in your area of interest would be better than starting a blog.  Have you considered starting a forum?  Sometimes forums can work better since you are not solely responsible for coming up with interesting content and can engage in great conversations with people and let them share their thoughts openly.

If you have any other misconceptions about blogging that you want to add or that I missed, please leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear bloggers thoughts and anyone who is considering starting a blog to comment about what I wrote about above.

Catch me on Twitter @AdamYamada … if you can!

 

Find a Niche that is Wide Fucking Open

find a nicheI was talking with someone the other day about online publishing and blogging.  This person is interested in starting a blog which could earn some side income.  Naturally the conversation touched on how to stand out online nowadays.  There are an estimated 200+ million blogs and more popping up everyday.  So if you want to standout from the crowd you have to find a niche.  What I tell people is you shouldn't find a niche with high competition and a lot of people covering that subject but one that is WFO short for “Wide Fucking Open!” 🙂

It is best to find a niche that is WFO for a lot of reasons.  The biggest reason is if you are the first person to get into a niche that nobody else has covered you have a much better chance of becoming the online authority in that topic.  This makes it more difficult, but certain not impossible, for others to come in and dominate the untapped niche that you found.  It also means you site will attract more specific visitors, ie more targeted traffic, and therefore advertisers.

I see a lot of webmasters and bloggers make the mistake of going into topics that are highly competitive.  There is nothing wrong with this if you have a good gameplan and the skills to do it.  Keep in mind a lot of companies and individuals have good SEO, link building, and  social media skills from working online for several years.  If you don't have any online experience while trying to start in a competitive field it is likely your website will not go down in flames… but die a tedious and slow death.  I know because I've experienced this myself and it is painful to watch.

The question everyone asks themselves though is, “Where do I find a niche that hasn't been covered already?”  It is pretty simple actually.  When you are searching for answers to your questions in Google and don't find what you are looking for that is when you should consider starting a site to provide that information.

About 6 months ago I started a forum in a eco-niche that was what I would say was “Wide Fucking Open.”  There were several blogs in the this niche and many companies that sell these eco-friendly products all around the world.  What I was trying to find was a community for this product so I could learn about it more in-depth than what I currently knew.  To my surprise there wasn't a community or forum for this niche even though lots of people around the world love participate in this activity.  So what did I do?  I decided to a community for it.

While the community is small, it is growing everyday.  I am always surprised by the people that are finding the forum and engaging on it.  We have several members from outside the US which includes France, Australia, and Canada.  I might not make a lot of money off the forum but that doesn't matter to me.  My main focus is on providing value to the web and the people on the community first.  Hopefully money will come later but since the niche is WFO I assume I can attract direct advertisers at some point.  (I certainly don't want to operate the forum at a loss forever.)  I doubt there are many others who have the time, inclination, or skill to build another forum like this and in this eco-friendly niche.  So essentially I have cornered the market for this topics, at least for the time being.

While the internet is getting more crowded everyday it is still possible to find a niche that you can dominate.  I know because I still find them all the time and I am sure you can too.