Category Archives: Blogging

Why I’m Leaving HostGator

HostGator Review

My legit blogging journey started early 2012 when I decided to whip up a few websites to see what this whole self-hosting fuss was about it.

I started with an online tutoring business, and created a mediocre-but-awesome-for-a-beginner website one nonstop weekend in February.

HostGator Review

After reading reviews, I went for the best and friendliest seeming hosting company out there. Honestly, I really loved my hosting company for quite some time. The quality, customer service, and price were spot on. Any emails were responded to promptly. I always felt appreciated and there was no downtime,

I mean none. I’d laugh when I saw that GoDaddy or Blue Host users were down, because *I* picked the best hosting company. I was with the hidden golden child.

Except then things started to change. 

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How to Submit Sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools with a Custom URL

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Submit Sitemap to Google

First off: good on you.

You know just how important it is to submit your sitemap to the big search engines if you want real traffic. If Google can’t access your content in lightning speeds, other sites are going to get those clicks and readers.

 Submit Sitemap to Google

But sometimes, Google Webmaster Tools can be confusing. It’s streamlined, but still a little clunky, and the help options are always overly wordy and often too technical.

Recently, I found myself trying to submit sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools, but I kept getting the dreaded 404 “page not found” error. How could my sitemaps not be found? I just checked, and they were right there.

I did two things to resolve my sitemap troubles, and I recommend both.

1. Install Google XML Sitemaps plugin for WordPress.

This allows you to customize a whole variety of features when it comes to your sitemaps, and you can even create custom titles and URLs and all of that. I thought this was going to resolve my problem, but it did not. Instead, it showed me the URL at which my real sitemap is displayed, which I then noticed was not the same as what Google thought.

2. Delete your old sitemap, and burn a new one.

See that red button that says “add/submit sitemap?” Click it, and add the file name used to create the URL on your blog.

So, if you’ll enter yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml or yourdomain.com/sitemap or however else you customize the wording.

If you’re getting the 404 error like I did, select the little checkbox to the left of the submission, and hit “delete.”

Then, figure out your custom sitemap URL (this is where the XML Sitemaps plugin makes it really convenient), and add your tail words.

Hit submit, and watch your sitemap get all eaten up by the Google spiders!

If this does not work, check all of the details and punctuation. If you get a different error…read the Webmaster Tools help information, and then search for layman-friendly posts on how to make the fix.

What was my problem? I didn’t add the .xml bit to my URL when I first submitted my sitemap. No matter how frequently I updated Attracta or utilized my best SEO techniques, my traffic wasn’t right. Now, I know that Google has a clear and full view of my blog, and I’m in the clear. Finally!

Did this help? Drop a quick note below and let me know!

Disclosure: cmp.ly/5

Why Taking a Facebook Break Might Not Be the Worst Thing Ever for a Blogger

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Facebook Break

On June 10, 2013, I decided that my Facebook addiction had gone too far.

Instead of spending time with family or getting out of the house, I was continuously sucked into the downward blue-and-white scrolling of the insanely popular social media site.

Facebook Break

“The internet is stealing my soul.”

As a blogger who maintains several different pages, I was constantly checking new updates, searching for social media parties, and looking for content to share. If I spent several hours a day obsessively Facebooking, I could generate some major traffic boosts to my food blog‘s page.

But, that meant I spent hours on my days off of work doing things to watch numbers increase. Basically, I was supplementing my real life with an artificial one so I felt less bored and lonely.

That’s a painful truth to admit. Sure, I justify it as “blog work,” but it was also “sad, bored Rachael work.” The more it leaned towards the latter, the more I knew it was time to go.

So, I finished up a few email relays I had going, sent out a goodbye, and logged off (suspending your account is really about the same as logging off).

The worst part of the entire experience was teaching myself to let go. WhyThe second my “I’m leaving” status went live: my numbers dropped.

Not just a little, but a lot. It was like I said “I step on puppy tails and I like it,” not, “hey, I’m moving across the country and going crazy with social media addiction.”

That hurt my feelings (boo, a blogger with feelings!) because it felt like my readers were such fair-weather, one-sided friends that they disappeared if I needed time for myself.

Blogging really is a going-out-of-your-way process. Sure, it might seem like I’m just spewing out content, but I’m actually doing an insane amount of leg work, not including creating and preparing recipes, photographs, posts, and more. It can very easily be a full-time job if I don’t keep it in check.

So, the crux of the emotional pain was that people didn’t want me around anymore if I wasn’t giving them something for free, and that hurt.

Over a month into this little experiment, that pain went away completely. Who cares if they left? That’s not my core readership. My core readers actually comment MORE on my individual posts and I still get traffic from people sharing my updates on their Facebook pages. My real audience understands and, even more, supports my choice.

I blog more, spend more time on the little details, and have noticed a drastic spike in affiliate sales and advertising fees. Yes, when I cut off Facebook, I doubled my Amazon Associates earnings.

Success Kid Blogging

That’s probably not a direct correlation, but still, I wake up in the morning and my numbers continue to increase even without the obsessive Facebook stalking.

Do you have a Facebook problem?

If you…

Promise you can “quit anytime,” you might.

“Just want to scroll one more page,” you definitely do.

Talk about your statuses and comments in ordinary conversation, you need a break.

Will it kill your numbers?

Not necessarily. Even if it does, does it matter? Would you rather have a high Like count or increased traffic and revenue? What about a little more breathing room in your life? That sounds pretty sweet to me.

The moral of the story: take care of yourself.

Do what you need to do. If you want or need time away from Facebook, go for it. People will leave, but those who do are not really your core readership.

If you have more time for life, you’ll feel more relaxed and refreshed, you’ll write better content, and your blog will improve.

Or, you’ll enjoy being alive, stop worrying about the little details, and have fun a while.

Either way, you CAN be a blogger and stay off Facebook. And it isn’t even the slightest bit of a nail in the coffin.

What do you think? Would you ever leave your Facebook page unattended for a while? Are you happy with the amount of time you spend on Facebook? Would you ever be willing to try a brief Facebook break? Why or why not?

One Year Later: An oDesk Review

oDesk Review

Nearly a year ago, I signed up with oDesk. I finally realized that I wanted to turn my freelance writing dreams into reality and also, I wanted money so I could feed myself and my cat.

Last August, I wrote a post about making oDesk work for you, which continues to be my biggest traffic boon. Turns out people around the world had similar ideas to mine, and wanted to know a bit before jumping in (smart move, world!).

Click here for 17 tips to avoid being scorned on oDesk! And yes, “scorned” is basically the same as “screwed.”

I received both positive and negative criticism out there. Many freelance writers think it’s awful another would ever consider suggesting such an endeavor to new writers. Others thanked me for my feedback, and told me that my words helped them know what to look for and what to avoid.

The real test, though, is to see if I still use the site. Even with my long list of tips and suggestions, do I still work with any of the clients I met through oDesk? Do I still work as a freelance writer?

No and Yes.

Do I still work with any of my oDesk clients?

First, I must admit that I found wonderful clients on oDesk. These tips led me to amazing people working hard to make their own businesses work. I really enjoyed knowing I was helping real people, but I eventually walked away from all of my projects.

Yes, there was work out there and yes, there were good clients, but I couldn’t generate enough passion and enthusiasm to write about topics that don’t interest me personally. Maybe that’s bad and maybe I’ll get some criticism for that, but I just couldn’t. Instead of writing strong posts on topics I cared about, I was forcing myself to write mediocre articles. I take my work seriously, and I do not want my name on mediocre articles. Would you?

So instead of schlepping manure, I opted to lose those sources of income. It was hard walking away from some of the clients, but I am glad that I had the guts to know when it was time to go.

Am I still a freelance writer?

Yes! In my heart, yes. Do I have any paying gigs right now? …Not at the moment. I took a break to figure out what to do with myself. I needed the income (student loans and such), but I also wanted to make sure that I only worked on projects that I could sustain. I’ve been working more on my own blogs and researching great places to guest blog. Plus, I’ve been helping other blogger friends make their sites and pages work.

As it turns out, that’s what I like. I love helping people, especially brand new bloggers, turn their ideas into something real. Sometimes, all they need is an extra set of eyes. Other times, they need to be walked through a specific process here or there. I’ve done it, I know how to do it, and I love sharing.

To pay the bills, I took an out-of-the-house job as a cheesemonger (for real), which fits perfectly in line with my food love. I am seeking new clients and work that fit within the parameters of topics I actually enjoy, so don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any projects or questions out there! I’m still totally available and eager.

Do I ever return to oDesk?

There have been times when I’ve gone to oDesk to look up the projects available out there, but I always end up shaking my head and closing all of the tabs. Those pay rates just are not sustainable with the expenses I have here in the U.S. The best projects I took were through oDesk though, so that doesn’t mean that you can’t find great clients out there. For higher, more sustainable rates though, you might have to look elsewhere.

My biggest tip about making oDesk work for you now…

Grab a niche. Yes, be versatile. Have skillz out the wazoo, BUT you also need a niche. I found my best clients when I narrowed down the focus as a small business blogger and social media manager. People wanted that background of people who can do the social media thing but also offer blogging. They also found my degree to be an asset, as it proved my writing and research strengths.

To succeed, pick something that you do really well (or want to do) and sell yourself as that. Don’t be a “freelance writer;” Be a “social media manager” or “food blogger” or “technical virtual assistant” or something else like that. Be specific. Clients LOVE finding people who can do exactly what they want.

One Year Later: An oDesk Review

The best thing about oDesk…

Still, I think that oDesk is a great place for new writers to get started. You might not make a ton, but you can see what it’s like to work with a client and fulfill a writing gig. You learn how to sell yourself through a cover letter, and how to get over the fear of failure and JUST DO IT ALREADY.

oDesk gave me some cred, but my work helped turn me into a professional.

Do you have any oDesk experiences? How were they? How did you get started as a writer?

Disclaimer: I may be compensated financially for any purchases made from the links above.

How to Get More Guest Posts for Your Blog: 3 Simple Steps

Get More Guest Posts

{Today, I am so honored to introduce you to Keri Lynn from Amazing Women in History. She’s a phenomenal writer, and one of the coolest women I’ve ever met (even if we’re only internet friends).

We met over Reddit once, and she had written this amazing list of tips to increase your guest blogger count, and I told her she should share it as her own guest post somewhere…like here! So she wrote it up, and sent it on over. This is some top notch advice, and I feel not worthy of such wisdom here!

So please, read everything, leave comments, and then tell her you love her, too. – Rachael}

I’m sure you’ve read all the advice floating around the interwebs about guest posting: why it’s the greatest way to build your blog, how to find the best blogs to guest post on, what to write about, and how to snag that spot on the A-list blogs.

But what if you’re on the opposite end? Not an A-lister, I mean (though if you are, and you’re reading this right now, you should totally read my blog AmazingWomenInHistory and tell all your followers about it). I mean a blogger like me with an established blog whose looking for some guest posters.

Get More Guest Posts

If guest posting is such a big thing, you might be thinking, where are all these bloggers that should be overflowing your email inbox with proposals and queries and kick-ass posts for you? The truth is, you’re probably not making it worth their time to write for you, or maybe you’re keeping it a secret that you accept guest posts. You’re probably not even asking for guests posts either, are you?

“Wait — why do I want guest posts?”

Besides the fact that it makes you feel like a superstar when other people want to write for your blog (isn’t that enough??), here’re a few reasons why you should be seeking guest posts:

  1. Other people promote your blog for you. When your guest post goes up, your guest writer will happily share their post with their own platform. They’ll tweet it, share it on Facebook or LinkedIn, post it to G+, email it to their friends & family, maybe even pin it to Pinterest. That’s a lot of marketing legwork someone’s doing for you for free!
  2. All this promotion your guest is doing for you is going to keep working for you long after their precious is posted, through the magic of SEO: Search Engine Optimization. All that social sharing and backlinks will give your blog a big Google boost long after the date stamp on the post itself.
  3. Mini-vacation! You’ve gotta take a break once in a while, but there’s no need to make your readers wait for your return. Why not take a mini-break from blogging by featuring other writers for a week or two? You can even spend the time you’re saving to start working on that e-book you’ve been planning for the past year. Okay, maybe that’s just me.
  4. Here’s one benefit that’s a little less markety: Having guests on your blog is a great way to build relationships (which actually is the best way to build your blog—but this point isn’t about marketing. Oops). I’ve met several wonderful people through Amazing Women In History who are just as passionate about women’s history and writing as I am. We’ve developed real relationships and helped each other out with the challenges of blogging and more, and I feel so lucky that I’ve gotten to know these amazing & inspiring people.

So if you weren’t before, you’ve gotta be dying for the secrets for attracting all these guest posters. Believe me, they’re out there! You just have to know how to reach them & convince them it’s you blog they want to write for.

1. Write your guest post guidelines

If you want guest posts, it’s absolutely essential for you to have a guidelines page on your website, with a clear link in your main menu:

  • It shows all your visitors that you accept guest posts.
  • It pops up in the Google searches of guest posters looking for your blog.
  • It saves you time by telling potential guest posters exactly what you’re looking for in a post.
  • It attracts potential guest posters by extolling the benefits of writing for you.
  • Make the title obvious. For a while, my page was titled “Contribute”. Terrible idea. I finally realized that everyone that saw the link probably thought I was asking for donations. Which I am; but not monetary, just literary. Now it says “WriteforAWH”.
  • Specify what kind of posts you’re looking for. If you only want posts on certain topics, list them here. Tell them what style of writing will fit with your blog, how long you want the post to be (in word count), whether you need pictures or other media with it, etc. If you want to limit the amount of outside links in the post, or disallow affiliate links, here’s the place to tell them.
  • Convince them it’s worth it. This is optional; you might want to keep this info to yourself, or tell them in a private email. You could tell them exactly how you’ll promote their post—how many times will you tweet it? Will you share it on Facebook? Send it out in your newsletter? On my page, I have a section titled “Self-Promotion”, where I tell them about how they can write their own bio including a picture, and include links to their websites and social media accounts.
  • SEO Optimize. This is a scary-sounding phrase if you don’t know SEO, but really it just means to use the same words on your page that are being used to search for you. Prolific guest posters will often search for new blogs by entering search terms like [niche] “guest post guidelines” or [niche] “write for us”. So you want to use these exact phrases on your page, especially in important places like page titles and headings.

Guidelines for your “Guest Post Guidelines” page

1. Make it worth their while

Here’s the most important fact for you to remember about soliciting guest posts: No one’s going to write for you for free.

Now I know you’re an awesome person with an amazing blog, and in a perfect world people would be flooding your inbox with proposals to write for you just for the sheer joy of it. Alas, that perfect world doesn’t exist, and everyone here in this blogosphere is in it for themselves.

We know why guest posting is so popular: bloggers guest post around the interwebs for exposure. Whether to build their newsletter, boost their SEO, or sell more books, they’re in it for the big payoff. You’ve got to let them know exactly why your blog is the best place for them to do that.

  • Have your stats ready to share if someone asks for them. How much to share is up to you; you may want to keep some or all of this info (like hits per day or your newsletter subscribers) a trade secret. But a lot of it is publicly available anyway, like your Twitter followers, Facebook likes, or RSS subscribers, so you may as well show them off. Focus on the big numbers and don’t mention the ones that still need work.
  • Give your guest authors a sweet author bio. Don’t just ask them for a bio—ask them for a picture and let them list all their websites & social media. I recommend the WordPress plugin CustomAboutAuthor. It lets you display a really nice-looking bio for guest authors with a picture and links to all their social media profiles. This is really attractive to potential guest posters because they know their bio will be featured prominently.
  • Tell them how you’ll promote their post. I tweet a post at least 3 times the week it’s out, plus it gets tweeted automagically every so often with my Tweetily plugin. I also share all posts on my Facebook page and send them out to my email newsletter. You can put this information on your “Write for Us” page, or just share it when inviting someone to write for you.

2. Ask for guest posts

Ninety percent of blogging success comes from building relationships. Okay, I just made up that percentage; but we all know that building relationships with other bloggers is truly essential if you want to succeed in blogging.

You already know where your readers and fellow bloggers in your niche hang out, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, 90’s-looking niche forums, or wherever. You’re out there schmoozing and helping and giving advice and generally building your rep as the expert.

Guess what? All those friends & colleagues you’re meeting are potential guest posters for your blog. Some of them may be dying to get exposure for their own blog or book or Kickstarter project, and would love to write you a little post to help them get the word out.

Here’s how you can harness their powers for your own blog:

  1. Remind the world that you accept guest posts. Here’s where you can show off your new guidelines page. Just post a quick message like “Hey, did you know Super Awesome Blog is now accepting guest posts? We’d love to have you! Check it out here: http://example.com/guest-post-guidelines/
  2. Get your competition working for you. You’re already checking up on the competition, and you know they’ve got what it takes to write a great post. Email your blogging arch-nemesis asking for a guest post exchange.
  3. Hit up new fans and followers. Next time someone interesting follows you on Twitter or Facebook, take some time to check out their website or blog. If you like what you see, send them a Twitter DM or Facebook message complimenting their work, and ask if they’d be interested in guest posting on your blog.

Bonus tip: Don’t worry too much about how big or small your guest’s blog is. Maybe your guest only has 500 Twitter followers to your 5,000. Guess what? They’re way more likely to put their heart and soul into promoting their post, and may become one of your most loyal readers. And don’t be too intimidated to ask a bigger blogger for a guest post. You just won’t know till you ask—maybe your favorite big blogger is a fan of yours, too!

Now you’re ready for more guests posts on your blog! Here are 3 simple steps to take now:

  1. Start writing that Guest Post Guidelines page—don’t put it off! Don’t worry about getting it perfect at first; you can always add more info later.
  2. Get your blog ready for your guests. Collect some stats and decide how you’ll display your author bios and promote their posts.
  3. Now make a list of 5 bloggers you want to write for you, and contact them with a short & sweet email or Twitter DM.

Follow these three steps & soon you’ll be able to go on a blogging vacation with all the posts you’ll have rolling in ;)

What You Need to Know: Linky Party and Blog Hop Basics

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unwarranted-advice-icon-150

In the food blogging world within which I am so happy to be a part, there are these popular things called “blog hops” and “linky parties.” It took me some time to figure out WHAT THE HECK they were, but I think I have enough knowledge now to pass on how they work!

Let’s break it down easy style.

What is a linky party?

Basically, a linky party is an “event” that spans a set period of times (hours, days, months, years) that allows people to share URLs to specific posts or pages on another person’s website.

Often, the linky party host will allow for photos to display, which means you show a little picture of your recipe or project above the direct link to the post itself.

Linky Party Basics

Here’s a simple example of what a linky party looks like. Note the icons, purple URLs, and blue submission button.

A linky party is usually for specific projects, NOT your blog homepage, although there are some “market yourself” types of linky parties intended to increase traffic.

What is a blog hop?

Although pretty much the same as a linky party, a blog hop usually happens when multiple bloggers host a party from various different sites.

This happens when the bloggers embed a specific code (Java, iFrame, HTML, etc) onto their page, which shows the contents of the specific party (the pictures and links) on all of the sites that contain the code.

Sometimes blog hops are run by just a few people, but other times, entire groups of people pass the code around like in different recipe clubs, etc.

Why would I want to do this?

Well, this relates back to the issue of blog authority. If you can show the search engines that you are an authoritative, popular, and respected site, they will increase your ranking. A higher rank converts into more traffic, which can lead to higher income (assuming that’s why you blog).

Plus, you can pass on a fun recipe or project. For specific seasons and holidays, many bloggers host themed-parties, which makes it easier for people to find relevant content in one place.

Note: If you subscribe to a linky service, you often get unlimited lists. Many people use this to share long lists of links with ease, instead of manually changing everything from within a post. Like, you could host a page where people share their own linky parties or giveaways.

What’s in it for me?

In addition to the increased rank and potential earnings from traffic spikes, you can also create a wider blogger outreach (crucial to those of us who like communities). Sometimes, bloggers will even host giveaways based on their linky parties or hops, so all those who enter are eligible to receive a specific prize. Or, the party can really be a traffic contest. The most popular posts (those clicked most often, as tallied by the linky party program) are often featured in the next week’s linky party post (with full size pictures) and can receive free advertising, etc.

Do you have a particular program preference?

Actually, yes. At first, I preferred something called LinkyTools. There was a free trial, a nice set up, and a great blog run by the program’s creator.

But, LinkyTools required people submitting their links to open a new tab, and fill out a full page of information. It went quickly, but it was an inconvenience.

So, I moved to InLinkz, which requires a link, link name, and email address. It then opens a page for the individual to select a picture, and that’s it. Super easy, cheaper than LinkyTools, and very versatile. I’m sold (I even bought a year subscription to the service because I like it that much).

Linky parties and blog hops might not be for everyone, but they’re an incredibly popular part of the blogging world. Plus, they’re extremely easy to run and host (it’s as easy as creating a new post and embedding code). I love that they help me build pages full of relevant, blogger-approved content for my readers, and that I can build a little blogging world. They’re fun!

Disclaimer: I am an affiliate of InLinkz, and may receive a small compensation if you purchase any services through the links above.

“Deadlines and Depression:” The Unwanted Slogan of My Freelance Life

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Depression

Although I’ve shared some of my less-than-awesome life thoughts in the past, I always try to remain infinitely positive. Why? Well, it’s partly for you and partly for me. I presume that you, my loveliest reader, are a beginning blogger or someone looking for their life path. Perhaps you come here for practical tips, or perhaps you come here to spend time with a like-minded soul on the path for their big, meaningful life’s work.

If you see me struggle, maybe you’ll feel dejected, breath that “harumph” of a sigh, and feel less awesome about who you are and where you’re going. That’s the EXACT opposite of what I want to happen! Therefore, I try to keep my contemporaneous conundrums to myself.

But then…I don’t write, because I don’t know how to be upbeat and cheerful at the moment. I feel sullen and sorrowful in the worst, Hamlet-ian kinds of ways. No one wants to read that. No one.

So, I don’t write because I’m not cheery, then I’m not cheery because I’m not writing, which then cycles back in and on itself in a terrible train wreck of a path.

That’s no good.

Part of this comes from the actual, clinical depression with which I ride around in life. It’s always there in my purse, next to me on the passenger seat, or, in the worst of times, as a giant, all-engulfing helmet that occludes my vision.

It can become incredibly challenging to stay focused, and then this weird thing happens:

Depression

I stick a pin in my life raft.

This whole freelance writing and blogging gig is my life raft. It enables me all kinds of fancy and fun things like working from home, wearing pajamas all g-d day, traveling on a whim, focusing on my very own and very particular interests and fancies, hand-picking the best clients and projects, eating breakfast for lunch and lunch for breakfast, and many, many more.

I started freelance writing because I couldn’t find a single freakin’ job not in food service or sales. Here I was with this shockingly expensive degree in English and I wanted to do something with it! My critical thinking and writing skills are off the charts. People need writers. People need thinkers. I’m desirable.

Plus, I never wanted to feel stuck in one job or one place. As a military brat, being stuck somewhere makes me panic. However morbid it may be, I always go back to the scenario of the death of a family member. I’m a family-oriented person. If someone passes, I’m going to the funeral and I do not care what any employer says. What if I couldn’t attend a funeral because of a work commitment? What if I couldn’t go on vacation, attend a wedding, or take advantage of the little luxuries in life because of some time clock?

Personally, that’s not an option. The money-making constraints in my life will not stand in the way between me and what I want.

That’s a resolution I made exactly a year ago when I opted to go down the sole proprietor/independent contractor/freelance mindworker road.

With all of these strong, personalized resolutions, I should have no problem mustering up the gumption to fulfill all of my work obligations. Right?

But, I don’t. I don’t want to sit down and type out of all of these blog posts, newsletters, and sundry items. So, I do anything else. I bake, clean, or organize when I’m still feeling positive. When I’m feeling depressed, I go into all-out couch potato mode. It’s a terrible sight. I can power through more hours of television viewing than I’m comfortable admitting. It’s a complete shutdown justified as a way of entertaining myself that doesn’t really do any such thing. I throw my sleep schedule off by staying up way too late to see how this last home renovation goes, and then kick myself from waking up too late to submit posts on time.

When this starts happening, I have to remind myself of these things:

  • I chose this path.
  • These people are depending on me.
  • Passive aggressive is no way to live.
  • This isn’t fun for anyone.
  • Life could and should be better.
  • It’s better to quit a job than to be fired.
  • Money is no object until it is.
  • Life will be better the sooner you start acting.

Even when my depression starts slicing away my desire and ability to stay on target, there are ways to pull myself out. Usually, it requires some introspection and the guts to end a project that I’m fighting against for some wicked reason.

Deadlines and depression might be how it goes sometimes, but I still have the ultimate confidence that this is where I want to be.

Giveaway Review: Widget Failures and False Entries

Giveaway Review

In the blogging world, especially the food-mommy-kitchen-lifestyle blogging world within which I reside, giveaways are a pretty common affair. Every blog has them at least once, and they tend to strike fear into the hearts of the uninitiated. I shared my very first giveaway experience with you all, and now I’m back to share the second. This time it wasn’t as simple, but it still went pretty well indeed.

 

Giveaway Review

The product: This time, I was giving away a tin of a spice rub made from dehydrated craft beer. I found the company on Etsy, and was immediately interested in the product. So, I contacted the owner, and he generously sent two tins of the rub. I decided to use one for personal use and review, and then to offer the second one as a giveaway item.

The interesting thing here is the total value of the product up for grabs. Since the spice rub retails at about $6 a pop, I was able to gauge the different responses according to general price value.

The details: So, I used Rafflecopter, created a recipe to go along with the giveaway, and advertised on about 3 giveaway sites. I allowed the giveaway to run for a week instead of the two I allotted previously, and I received a total of 420 entries. That compares to the first giveaway in which the item valued for $18, the giveaway ran for 2 weeks, and I received 694 entries.

Those numbers seem pretty comparable, especially for the diminished duration and price value.

How did Rafflecopter fare?

The biggest hitch to my giveaway success was the Rafflecopter widget! That was disappointing to me since I seriously love how they simplify giveaways in general. Well, the problem wasn’t really their widget, but another plugin I use (EasyRecipe). Apparently, EasyRecipe actually deletes the key part of the Rafflecopter code required to make the widget show up.

Having problems with your Rafflecopter widget? Click here for troubleshooting

Naturally, that sucked. I contacted Rafflecopter several times, and received a lengthy, personable, and authentic response from Rafflecopter in which they described this weird retro-deleting tendency of the other plugin. So, I moved the recipe out of the plugin, and reloaded the post. This time, everything worked.

You know what that means — I’ll stick with Rafflecopter.

[NOTE: I received criticism on some online messaging boards because my previous post seemed to be too supportive of Rafflecopter to be authentic. They claimed I appeared to have an affiliation with the company. I do not. I am not an affiliate of Rafflecopter, and they don't give me any money at all. I just really, really, really like the service they offer, and am eager to review my experiences wholeheartedly. If that comes out a little enthusiastic and excited, that's a good thing.]

What about falsified entries?

I was disappointed this time around to find more fake entries. In fact, the first winner I pulled was a fake entry. They said they’d subscribed to the email list, but the email address wasn’t to be found. The next winner I drew did everything they claimed to do, and responded within 48 hours, so the end result was pretty simple after all.

When’s the next giveaway?

Well, since my blog’s Facebook page is right at the 500 Like mark, I decided to host another giveaway to celebrate that milestone. I had two products to pick from — a handcrafted basket made for the blog and a high-quality coconut oil. Instead of assuming that my readers would want one item over the other, I polled them! I asked which item they’d like to see as a giveaway first, and the winning item (the basket) is the next one.

I really look forward to running this one, as the basket was made for my site and because the last handmade item I gave away was an enormous hit.

I’ll be sure to share the details with you when the time comes! In the meanwhile, what’s YOUR next giveaway?

What I Learned This Week: There are No Objective Blogging Truths

Blogging

Here’s the thing: No matter how many thousand blogging articles, tips, or books you read, there will never be a perfect solution for you.

I’m very sorry to say it. Fortunately, you haven’t necessarily wasted your time or inflicted any harm to your blog. But, you very well might not be just about to reach blog nirvana (blogvana).

Blogging

Why?

Because blogs are entirely subjective creations.

1. Made by a Person

Last I checked, each and every one of you is a person. You might wish you were from another planet, but you’re not — you’re from here. No matter how hard you try, that means you’re subjective. I don’t want to get all Platonic up in here, but we can only hope to strive for objective Truths (capital T and all).

2. Written for People

People are particular. Some might appreciate all of the lessons you learned reading those “bitter blogging truths” posts, but others will find them alienating and possibly offensive. How can you say, categorically speaking, that THIS is the absolute truth when you’re dealing with billions of potential readers with entirely different experiences from the next?

3. Reacted to by People

Even those who are not loyal readers will come in contact with your blog. They’ll see posts shared in social media, or whiz through to leave some angry comment here and there because you did this or that in a way they just can’t stand.

We are all writhing amalgamations of decades of existence. Every sunny day, spilled drink, and lost puppy (whoa, that got sad really fast) built us into these people we are today, which are ever-changing. Who you were when you started reading this post is no longer who you are now. It’s just what it is.

So when a post or website or book tells you that you must do everything this way, there’s no way that it will work for every blog. Oversimplify, and you can make it difficult for readers to understand how everything works. Have a sidebar full of ads? Shame on you! Except, strategically shared products and companies provide a great resource for people breaking into a new field.

Disagree or agree with those individual points; they do not matter. The only thing you really should remember from this is that there is no strict, hard and fast, objective Truth.

It’s impossible in life, and it’s even more impossible in blogging (are there quantifiable amounts of impossibility?).

So whenever you read a post that gives you a painful feeling in your gut and you feel like you’ve failed, shrug it off. No matter what they say, they do not know you, your blog, or your readers. They couldn’t. What works for someone else might crash and burn on your blog, and what doesn’t work might succeed greatly.

This is the beauty of life and blogging. We are each absolutely unique, and full of unforeseen possibilities.

Do strive and improve, but make sure you do it with respect for your creative output — your blog. Do A/B testing, poll your readers, take surveys, send out different newsletters, and adjust for your own success.

And that’s what I know.

Please share your thoughts and observations below. :)

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Why I Wish I’d Paid Higher Domain Registration Fees in the Beginning

Domain Registration Tips

Oh, youth. One mere year ago (well, on February 25, 2012), I registered my very first domain.

It was a huge moment for me, and is the turning point in this online world I share with you.

I had a tutoring business, an online tutoring business in fact, because I was sick of watching an employer take a huge chunk out of every hour I taught.

Turns out that I didn’t love tutoring, especially blogging about tutoring, and that effort faded into oblivion.

But, then I decided to transform all of my recipes and household living tips into a unified blog and I called it The Aliso Kitchen. It’s my baby, and I love it almost as much as I love my other baby (my cat). Yes, I’m one of those people.

For the online tutoring company, I registered my domain through HostGator. I paid about $20, which I thought was a little high at the time. I liked their hosting packages though, so I went with it.

Then I did research and found countless sites that let you register domains for $1 or close to that. As a cheapskate, you know I had to go for at least one of those fancy deals!

After a year, I’m starting to get domain renewal notices from all of these various companies. The worst part: they’re all different prices.

For HostGator, I have a looming charge of $15. That’s not bad at all, and I figured the other companies would charge about the same.

For The Aliso Kitchen and this site, I have bills for $35. That’s not a ton of money, but then I started doing the math.

Domain Registration Math:

HostGator:

1 year domain registration – $20

Annual domain renewal – $15

For two years, that’s $35

If I were to manage that same site for three years, I’d pay a total of $50.

Year 3 domain renewal – $15

For 3 years, I’d pay $50.

For the bottom barrel domain registration sites, it looks like this:

1 year domain registration – $1

Annual domain renewal – $35

For two years, that’s $36

That’s already more expensive than HostGator, but not by much. If we start adding more years, the numbers change.

Year 3 domain renewal – $35

For 3 years, I’d pay $71. That’s $21 more than HostGator! That’s an entire year’s worth of domain registration to a lame site.

If you bundle more years into HostGator, the numbers drop even further.

This simple math shows me that I’m dumb. I should have stuck with HostGator for all of my sites and paid the temporarily higher fees.

Why didn’t I consider this from the get-go?

Well, I did. But, I was so obsessed with building websites that I was registering new domains all the time. I wasn’t sure if I’d want to maintain these websites after a year, and multiple $1 registrations suited my budget better than all kinds of $20s.

This was very smart for some of the sites. They fell to the wayside, and I only lost a couple of bucks.

Now, I see the sites that made it past the one year mark though, and I’m tallying up the overly high prices in my head for the future.

The moral of the story:

If you want to register a domain that you want to maintain for years, pay more now to pay less in the future.

PS: You totally can switch your domains over through the transfer process, but it takes time and money and puts your beautiful domain at a slight bit of risk. I’m happy to pay $8 to transfer a domain to a better company!

Want to take my advice? I’m a HostGator affiliate because I love them so much. Here’s a link!

HostGator Web Hosting

**As an affiliate of HostGator, I may be compensated for any purchases you make through the link above.**