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February 2011

How Do Parent Bloggers Find the Time to Blog? 10 Tips For Finding Time

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The number one question I’m asked when I tell people I blog is, “How do you find the time to blog when you have 4 kids?” The second question is, “How do you do it all?” I use the time effectively or I would never get anything done.

Finding time to Blog There are days where it all flows easily and I feel like I’m on top of the world. But there are also days where I am lucky to get a shower in, I forget to pick someone up from school and all three meals are McDonald’s. Not something I care to admit, but the truth.

Here are my tricks for finding time to blog, keep a house up and raise kids.

  1. Let go of perfection. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have standards and you shouldn’t try to do a good job. It just means that not everything you do has to be done to perfection. That is an impossible goal, so don’t even try.

  2. Don’t do it all yourself. I have someone come and clean my house every 2 weeks. I know that if nothing else, my showers and floors will get cleaned every 2 weeks. It also forces me to pick up every 2 weeks. I hate cleaning with a passion and so I let someone else do it. Ask for help when you need it.
  3. Carry something with you to take notes. Whether it’s a pad of paper or audio notes on your iPhone, when an idea strikes, take note of it. I use my iPhone because I can talk faster than I can write. When I have an idea for a post, I talk it out. I find that often I talk enough to get an entire post written. If you use a program like Dragon Dictation on your iPhone, you will save some of the writing time too.
  4. Work when you wait. According to Answers.com, the average person spends 2 – 3 years in their lifetime waiting. When I’m waiting at the doctors, in line at the grocery store, in line to pick-up kids, I get small things done that I can do on my iPad or iPhone. I check e-mails, read blogs, research for articles I’m writing or edit articles. It doesn’t seem like much, but it helps me get some of the small tasks done. There are days where during that time, I listen to music or catch up on a TV show. Either way, I’m accomplishing something I want to get done.
  5. Have a weekly plan. Each week, I look at my deadlines and plan out how I will accomplish everything. Things do come up and I have to adjust, but I find having a plan helps me.
  6. Schedule in time for last minute stuff. I have deadlines each week, but I try to make my deadlines several days before the article is really due. That way when I have to take a kid to the doctor or I am sick, I have some leeway on my time.
  7. Learn to say No! I’m still working on this one. You have to know what you have time to do. Saying no isn’t not an insult. It just means you do not have the time. There are so many things we would like to do, but we have to prioritize our time. Leo Babauto of Zen Habits wrote an excellent article, 7 Simple Ways to Say “No.”
  8. Take a break. This may seem like an odd tip for this topic, but if you do not take time for yourself, you will burn out. It will begin to take you longer to do tasks because you will not be able to focus. Take a break and you will feel refreshed.
  9. Enlist the help of your family. When I have to review products, I get my family to help me. If it’s something we can all do, I get everyone to try it and I record their responses on video. This morning my kids and I did a workout video together for a review I’m working on. We had a blast and it was a great way for me to work and spend times with me kids.
  10. Have fun! When you stop having fun blogging, then it may be time to quit. When your work is something you love doing, it doesn’t feel like work.

Not all of these tips will work for everyone. Use what works and leave the rest.

What ideas do you have for finding time to blog?

Image from Microsoft.

Facebook Updates the Like Button – More Prominent On Your Wall

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Facebook has released an update to the “Like” button that definitely changes the way it appears on your wall. Instead of just including a link in your recent activity (buried among a ton of other links) Liking a page/link/video will put the full story with headline, blurb, and thumbnail on your wall!

Facebook has slowly been rolling out updates to its Like button and stopped developing the Share Button – which probably means it will be phased out altogether. Since Facebook debuted the Like button last spring at the f8 conference, it has definitely grown in popularity. Inside Facebook noted that an initial 2.5 million sites integrated the button, and by August, 350,000 more sites had added the Like feature.

For me personally, this doesn’t change how frequently I’ll be hitting “Like”. If I’m interested in promoting an item to my followers, I’m fine with it being bigger and better. It’s sort of like using the Retweet button! But I’m curious to know – will this impact how and what you choose to Like around the web?

[poll id=”2″]

Why I Don’t Listen to Your Podcast

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I’m not a big podcast person. Oh, I think they’re great for blogs to have and I’ve even done podcasts in the past. I just don’t listen to them often. Why? Well, I’m working much of the time and I don’t really like having any noise while I am. I listen to podcasts occasionally when traveling, but since I have no commute, it’s rare that I actually have car time that I need to fill.

Because my podcast time is limited, I only listen to the best of the best. If I listened to one bad episode, I probably won’t be back. It sounds harsh, but my time is limited and there are a lot of interesting podcasts out there.

So what makes me stop listening to yours?

  • Too much “intro” material

It’s okay to introduce yourself and talk a little about what you do, but if you spend tons of time talking about yourself rather than the topic at hand, I’m out. It just starts to get boring. Sure, your mom might be interested to hear about your day, but there’s a line you have to draw between personality and TMI. Make sure you stay relevant to the listener.

  • Too many ads

We all gotta pay the bills. I understand that, my friend, but do we really need a 10-minute commercial break? If you have to fill tons of time with ads, that might be an indication that you’re not charging enough for the slots. Increase your prices, have fewer ads, and stop driving your listeners away.

  • No structure

I’m not a fan of conversational podcasts that have absolutely no structure. I don’t think you need a rigid schedule to follow, but if you have no direction, there’s often a lot of boring crap that’s irrelevant to the listener. Before you start each episode, make sure that you and your fellow podcasters have a run-down of the information you want to cover on the show – and make sure that you (or a co-host) takes a leadership position to keep everyone on point.

  • A face for radio

People often joke around, saying that someone has a “face for radio” (i.e., they’re ugly), but sometimes I think that phrase is relevant when listening to someone. Although you might be looking at something on your computer, it’s not good to include anything visual, even if you do give your readers the link in a show note. If you do, make sure you describe what you’re seeing really, really well. Not everyone has the ability to click a link or type in a URL while listening, since people listen when driving, jogging, etc.

So, those are my biggest four podcast pet peeves – boring intro info, too many ads, lack of structure and relying on visuals during the show. What makes you groan most when you listen to a podcast? What are your favorite podcasts (other than your own)?

What Google’s Crackdown on Content Farms Means for Bloggers

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Recently, Google announced major changes to their algorithm, which will mostly cut down on how often certain written content will appear in search results. This is being seen as a crackdown on content farms, notorious companies that fill their websites with as much content as possible aimed at pulling in search engine users. Most of the time, this content is low-quality or rewritten content optimized to beat out the same content found on original sites. These changes will affect nearly 12% of search queries, so its definitely not an insignificant change. As usual, Google didn’t go into tons of details about their search engine changes.

What does this mean to you as a blogger?

The hope is that it will only help you, as long as you’re dedicated to providing original, thoughtful content. Amit Singhal and Matt Cutts, from Google, have explained that this algorithm change will reward people who have high-quality content, since they will no longer be beat out by people who are copying their work or providing low-quality content to scam the system. So that’s a good thing, right?

Yes, in theory.

But, I could see some problems with the changes as well. For example, if your website is new-orientated, you might see your search engine traffic drop a bit. Take this post, for instance. The news that Google is changing their algorithm certainly isn’t original – I read about it on multiple websites. I rewrote the story for you all (in case you haven’t read it yet), as well as interjected my own opinion and thoughts (i.e. what I’m doing now), but the story itself can be found other places. So, will my search engine rankings be hurt because of that?

If I’m doing a good job, and I think I am, I shouldn’t have anything to worry about. I’m not just rehashing a story – I’m adding a lot of original content that isn’t found in other places. Google is pretty smart. I think their algorithm will likely take into account whether or not original content is added. But then, I do expect that some bloggers will have to change how they do things, at least a little, if they want to maintain search engine traffic. I also expect some mistakes to be made. No algorithm is perfect.

In any case, it will be interesting to see how this content farm crackdown will affect bloggers and the web in general. As a freelance writer, I’ve worked for writing companies in the past (some even being accused of being content farms, though I stand behind the work I did as original and high-quality). I also have friends who work for such companies, and the writers forums are buzzing. Overall, I think that Google’s changes are going to be an extremely positive thing for bloggers, but I guess only time will tell.

What do you think of Google’s algorithm changes?

Go Green as a Blogger

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I grew up in a super rural area. As a kid, it stinks when there are no nearby malls and the best thing to do on a Saturday night is going cow tippin’ (seriously), but on the plus side, living in the country gave me a deep appreciation for the environment. Going green sounds like a big, hard, pain-in-the-butt task, and who has time for that, right? I’m not suggesting that you go out and invest in solar panels or purchase a hybrid (unless you want to, of course) – but I am suggesting that you make a few small changes to be a more environmentally-friendly blogger. In all likelihood, these changes won’t cost you much more or add much time to your day, and while independently it doesn’t make much of a difference, there are millions of blogs out there. If they were all run by green bloggers, we could do a lot.

Some simple tips:

  • Turn off your computer.

This is one that I need to work on, as my roommate will attest. Whenever you’re going to be away from your computer for a half hour or more, shut it down. It may be annoying to have to restart your computer instead of just waking it up from sleeping, but the extra effort will not just save energy, but also add a little life to your computer, especially if you have a laptop.

  • Unplug at the end of the night.

Your electronics suck more energy than you realize – even when they are switched off. You can keep the electircity vampires at bay by simply unplugging at the end of the night. To streamline the process, plug everything into a surge protector so you only have one plug to pull at the end of the night.

  • Combine your trips.

Just because you work from home doesn’t mean that you don’t run errands. If you had an office job, you might stop to pick up stamps or milk on your way home, but as a freelancer, you can go whenever you want. Instead of making trips every day (or multiple times a day), combine tasks instead. It takes a little planning, but it’s easy enough to do. My roommate is a freelancer as well, and we keep a running list of things we need to pick up on the refrigerator. That way, when we’re going out for something, we can grab the list and pick up whatever else is needed.

Those are my three best tips for bloggers who want to start going green. What are yours?

Tell Us Your Favorite Plugins

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wordpress

We all have our go-to plugins when launching WordPress … you know, the ones that make your life immensely easier – and your blog easier to use.

For me (in random order) they are:

And then, of course, it depends on the blog as to what other plugins I install. Maybe Lightbox Gallery, or eShop, or Collapsible Archive.

There are other obscure plugins that I have yet to use but look interesting. Ones like WP-Invoice or the Ebay Sale Lister.

It seems lately, if I need something for my website, it’s only a plugin away! We have the top 10 downloaded plugins, but we want to hear from you. What are your favorite WordPress plugins? What should we be installing today?

MTV Launches OMAs Focused on Digital Music and Social Media

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MTV has announced that it’s launching a new awards show focused on digital music and social media. The show, called the O Music Awards (or OMAs) will air on Thursday, April 28th. What does the O stand for? Well, they’re leaving the ‘O’ open to interpretation from viewers!

The network said the awards “honour the migration of music to the digital space, and celebrate the art, artistry and technology of digital music.” and they hope the show will do for digital music what the Video Music Awards did for music video.

The goal is to present a heavily interactive awards show – spread across the internet, social media, and mobile applications.

Categories and nominees haven’t yet been announced – but MTV plans to announce a hub for the event. What categories do you think should be included?

Are Free Ebooks A Waste of Time?

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It seems like every blog these days has a free ebook. To get said ebook, you have to sign up for a mailing list in most cases, though some blogs are offering them with no strings attached. At one time, the free ebook was certainly a way to draw people in, enticing them to get on your list or become a member of your community. But with so many free ebooks out there, does it still make sense for you to offer one to your readers? Or is creating this kind of content just a waste of time?

Perceived Benefits of Free Ebooks

People are attracted to the word free. At least, that’s what bloggers count on when they offer a free ebook. Even if your name doesn’t get stuck on a mailing list of some sort in order to get the ebook, bloggers wouldn’t create them if there wasn’t some sort of benefit, right? You may notice links throughout the ebook, and most ebooks have a strong call to action at the end so that you do sign up, even if it wasn’t originally required, or (if you’re already on a mailing list) you buy something. Free ebooks can also help build your brand, because the hope is that someone will download the ebook (since it’s free) and get to know you, even if they would have more quickly clicked the back button on your website after getting the information they needed.

There are other benefits as well, but I see those as the big three: collecting names for a mailing list, getting people to do something you want, and building your brand.

There’s a reason I headed this part of the post “Perceived Benefits,” thought. While these might be the benefits that you hope you get from a free ebook, are you really going to get them? For some bloggers, the answer is no. Why?

  • Many people will sign up for a mailing list to get something for free and then immediately unsubscribe or never actually read your emails because they aren’t really interested.
  • People who download something for free often ignore a call to action at the end, especially if it is trying to sell something. Some even get angry that you aren’t providing more stuff for free.
  • Free ebooks can hurt your brand if they aren’t high quality, but if they are high-quality, you might not be able to afford giving it away.

Of course, this isn’t the case all of the time…but are you really getting the most out of the time you spent creating a free ebook? Maybe. But maybe not. Unfortunately, most bloggers don’t really think about it. They create free ebooks because “it’s what you’re supposed to do.”

“Free Ebooks Work!”

Whenever I bring up the free ebook debate, there’s always at least one person who points to the fact that his/her free ebook is “working.” Because you wrote a free ebook, you’re getting people to sign up for your mailing list or you’re making sales. But how do you know?

Because you have the numbers to prove it?

Maybe, but few bloggers actually do have proof, they just have flawed stats. Just because your mailing list is getting 100 new sign-ups a month doesn’t mean that your free ebook is the reason. Here’s a good example: I used to offer a free ebook on After Graduation for new mailing list subscribers. Then, I got curious and added a sign-up box at the end of each post which didn’t mention the ebook, but rather just said something like “keep in touch with me.” When comparing the numbers after three months, the sign-up box featuring the free ebook performed only slightly better than the sign-up box that did not, and this might have been attributed to other things, such as placement on the site and word choice.

Or, here’s something else to consider: are the people who sign-up because they want the free ebook really high-quality mailing list subscribers (i.e., they’ll buy something from you in the future). The people who are truly interested in your products might sign up even if you don’t offer something for free. If your free ebook brings 100 new people to your mailing list, but not a single one of those new people actually buys anything from you, ever, does it really matter?

My point is this: before you claim that your free ebook works, take some time to actually think about the stats you’re tracking. Even if your numbers go up, that doesn’t mean your ebook was worthwhile.

Ebook Fatigue

I’m not totally against free ebooks, despite what I’ve written in this post. I think they can be useful for some people. Actually, when a new blogger asks me for advice, a lot of the time, I recommend that they consider creating a free ebook to build their list. I think what is important to remember here is that your audience is probably not the same as the audience of some of the blogs you read.

In other words, if you’re a blogger, you probably read a number of “make money online” type of blogs – i.e, blogs about blogging, social media, affiliate sales, and so forth. Tons of bloggers in this niche have free ebooks. We’re all kind of ebooked-out. But keep in mind that your readers probably don’t see free ebooks offered every day.

For example, my mother would never get online to read this blog or Problogger or Social Media Examiner or any of the other blogs many of us read daily. What she might read online is a blog about sewing (my mom is a crafter). She would probably search for something on Google, say “sewing patterns,” and a blog might pop up. When she goes to that blog, if there’s something available for free (and she likes the blog so far), my mom is likely to sign up. She isn’t getting attacked on every site she visits with offers of free ebooks because most of her time online is spent checking her email or visiting non-blog websites.

It is sometimes hard to remember that our often audience has a much different experience than we do. So a free ebook might be right for you, even if you’re personally so sick of seeing free ebooks that it makes you want to puke. So, what’s the answer to the question I posed in the title? Are free ebooks a waste of time? They can be. It’s a question you have to ask yourself, and not everyone’s answer is going to be the same.

Ask the Notables: Where Would You Buy a Second Home?

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This week’s Ask the Notable question …

If you could buy a second (or third or fourth) home anywhere – where would it be and why?

Don’t forget – we consider YOUR answers to be notable too – so jump on in and answer the question with a comment below!

The responses (and not everyone responded to every question – so you may see some different people next week!) in alphabetical order are:

Amy Lupold Bair
@resourcefulmom
Resourceful Mommy Media

If I could buy a second home anywhere, I’d have a tough time choosing between two locations. I’ve always wanted to restore an old farm house and would love to buy a farm in rural Pennsylvania where I grew up. We live in the suburbs of Washington, DC, and there is just nothing like being able to run around on acres of open land. The other location would be Orlando, Florida. My family and I have more than just a little Walt Disney World addiction, so it would be a great investment for us to own a home there rather than always staying at the house of mouse.

C.C. Chapman
@cc_chapman
C.C. Chapman

I’d love to have a cabin in White Mountains of New Hampshire and and another in the hills of Sedona, Arizona. I’m a complete chill out in the woods sort of guy so while everyone else is buying beach front property I’d rather be in the woods.

Chris Garrett
@chrisgarrett
chrisg.com

Melbourne Australia and Antibes, South of France

I live in my first choice since we just emigrated to Canada, but I loved visiting Australia and most of our summer vacations were spent in the south of France

Jason Falls
@JasonFalls
Social Media Explorer

Within walking distance of PNC Park in Pittsburgh. I can’t help it. I love the Pirates.

Jeremy Wright
@jeremywright
Ensight

Holy Island, in England. It’s that place I go in my head when I’m too stressed or just need to breathe. The entire island, community, history and area calms me down completely, so having a house overlooking the ocean would be killer!

Maggie Fox
@maggiefox
Social Media Group

Paris – it is such a livable, wonderful city and I have come to realize that I am quite French in my feelings about food – nothing makes me angrier than something that is not well prepared. Don’t confuse that with complexity, however – it’s about the best ingredients, thoughtfully brought together.

Zac Johnson
@moneyreign
ZacJohnson.com

I’ve always said I’d like to live in the internet hot spots within our country (NY, CA or FL). I currently live in NJ, so NY is just an hour away. CA and FL are always nice to visit, but I wouldn’t mind having another home in a tropical climate, right near a crystal clear beach.

Next Week: What kind of car do you drive?

32 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Klout

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Brilliant Bloggers is a weekly series here at BlogWorld where we look at the best posts from around the web all surrounding a specific topic. Every week, we’ll feature three of the most brilliant bloggers out there, along with a huge link of more resources where you can learn about the topic. You can see more Brilliant Blogger posts here.

Want to be a BlogWorld Brilliant Blogger? Scroll to the end to find out how to submit your post for an upcoming edition!

This Week’s Topic: Klout

In case you missed it, this past weekend I posted “Klout 101: What the Heck Is It and Why Should I Care?” all about the social media influence measurer Klout. I was curious about this tool myself, since I didn’t know much about it beyond “Oh, look at my score. That’s nice.” I’m no expert, that’s for sure, but doing some research for that post and reading all of the entries and posts I found on the topic has really made me want to start using the site more often! On the other hand, there is also a downside to using Klout, so it is definitely important to think about this tool with a critical eye. If you want to learn more about Klout, the following brilliant posts are an awesome place to start!

Advice from Brilliant Bloggers:

Digital Influence Recalibrated, Part 1: Understanding Klout’s Measurement Spectrum by Olivier Blanchard

This is just the first of a series of posts on The Brand Builder blog about social media influence. It’s a really thoughtful series that I highly recommend – it explains what Klout is, why is is important, and some of the problems with Klout’s system. You can follow Olivier on Twitter @thebrandbuilder.

Klout for Business: A Sometimes Useful Metric – But an Incomplete View of Customers by Jeremiah Owyang

I highly recommend this post for two reasons: It is a great discussion of the limitations of Klout and it includes a comment from Klout’s CEO Joe Fernandez addressing a number of the points Jeremiah made in his post. Check it out and follow him on Twitter @jowyang.

The Klout Myth and Living Above The Influence by Dan Perez

This post is unlike most of the others you’re read on the topic. While Klout can certainly be an important tool to use, the lessons we learn about digital influence from Klout can – and should – be applied to the more important things in life. Head to Dan’s blog to read the full post and follow him on Twitter @danperezfilms.

BONUS POST: 16 Strategies to Win Over Online Influences Using Klout by Scott Hepburn

Usually I only pick three brilliant bloggers to highlight, but I just couldn’t stop myself from going for a frouth this week. This post by Scott at Media Emerging is AWESOME because it explains how you can use Klout to totally rethink the way you blog. LOVE IT. Follow Scott on Twitter @scotthepburn.

Even More Brilliant Advice:

Did I miss your post or a post by someone you know about Klout? Unintentional! Help me out by leaving a comment below with the link!

Next Week’s Topic: Commenting on Other Blogs

Want your post included? Simple email me at allison@abcontentonline.com with “Brilliant Blogger Link” in the subject line. Remember, only posts about this topic will be accepted. If you have another brilliant post, save it for a topic that better fits the post! Submissions will be accepted until March 2, 2011 at noon. Deadline pass already? Head the most recent Brilliant Bloggers post to see this week’s topic. (Want to work ahead, getting ready for a future Brilliant Bloggers? Some upcoming topics include StumbleUpon, writing list posts, and getting more RSS subscribers.)

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