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July 2011

Android is Top Operating System in the U.S.

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Nielsen released news today that Google’s Android operating system is the largest smartphone system in the United States. Android has the largest share with 39%, followed by Apple with 28% and RIM with 20%.

Apple still holds the title of top smartphone manufacturer in the United States, with HTC, Samsung and Motorola following behind.

Nielsen put out a similar report in March stating that Android was at the top, so this isn’t new news about them grabbing a top spot from someone, but rather an update that they’re still numero uno. Although it’s share is bigger now than the March report stated, which was at 29%.

Here’s a visual from Nielson which gives you an idea of the current standings.

So tell us – what operating system and smartphone do you use? I use the Android operating system on my tablet and so far love it. As for my smartphone purchase, I used to own a Blackberry and am carefully considering what my next purchase should be. Any advice on what I should choose?

ZipList Partners with Popular Southern Food Bloggers

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ZipList, the leader in online and mobile grocery list and recipe box management, has partnered with four popular Southern Food Bloggers. The four bloggers have integrated fully-branded recipe boxes and grocery shopping lists into their websites.

Here’s a brief description of ZipList:

ZipList is a free online service that makes managing your grocery shopping list easier than ever. With ZipList, you can create a shopping list which is always available to you online. You can add to or delete items from your list via the web, mobile phones, text messages, email or instant messaging. You can share your list with family members or friends so they can add or delete items as well — and they can even help you shop.

ZipList also has a universal recipe box, so you can save all your food recipes in a single place — whether they are your own or compiled from other online recipe web sites.

The four Southern Food Bloggers who have teamed up with ZipList are:

As you browse each site (which I did and it made this Southern girl very, very hungry) you’ll see the different ways they have integrated it on their blogs. Deep South has theirs a little more prominent with a link to ZipList on the sidebar. On the others, you can find it under their tabs labeled “Recipes” or “Recipe Box”.

Geoff Allen, Founder and CEO, ZipList, Inc. says “By adding fully-branded, seamless experiences to these Southern food blogs we’re helping their readers engage and act on the tasty comfort foods and Cajun creations they publish online. Our partners do a fantastic job of inspiring their readers and ZipList’s partner tools make it as easy as possible to take action on their wonderful content.”

Engaging your readers is the difference between a successful blog and a not-so-successful one. Congratulations to the four food bloggers who were chosen!

McDonald’s Says Some Mom Bloggers Get More Eyeballs Than City Newspapers

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Have you heard about the new healthier menu for kids McDonald’s is rolling out? They made the announcement on Tuesday and used all the resources they could find to get the word out. Exactly how did they spread the word about downsizing the french fry portions and adding apples to every kids’ meal?

Facebook, Twitter, journalists and….mom bloggers.

Rick Wion, director of social media for McDonald’s, says “Mom bloggers are very networked and very linked-in. They spread information very, very quickly”

He also called them “key influencers” and made the statement that some mom bloggers get more eyeballs than city newspapers.

McDonald’s Canada recently put out a call for mom bloggers to join their All Access Moms campaign. They’ve chosen their three moms who will get a behind-the-scenes look at the golden arches.

Wion’s team plans to take mom bloggers on field trips to McDonald’s corporate headquarters, as well as starting an invitation-only community.

Thoughts?

Image Source: McDonald’s Facebook page

Google+ Traffic Down Last Week

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We knew we would see this coming right?

Google+ grew at such an intense rate (10 million) and it’s all anyone talked about for days. According to Experian Hitwise, Google+ traffic is down and people are spending less time on the site. (I know I am.)

Total Google+ visits fell 3 percent to 1.79 million in the U.S. The average time on the site also fell 10 percent to 5 minutes and 15 seconds.

A rep for Hitwise said this wasn’t a huge drop. These numbers only cover the U.S. and it makes us wonder if other countries are seeing the same trend.

It was just last week comScore reported that Google+ had reached 20 million users. We even saw people completely close their Facebook accounts and move over to Google+. I wonder if they’re lonely?

What are your thoughts on this drop in visits to Google+? Do you think it was just a cool new thing to do but now the coolness factor has worn off a bit?

Update: Check out this statement made by Google stating why this data may not be telling the whole story.

The Truth about Blogging for Other People (part 2)

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Today, we’re talking about blogging for other people. Head over to Part 1 first to read about what you can expect to be paid and the perks of blogging for clients.

Let’s jump right back into it by talking a little about what you can expect when blogging for other people

The Freedom

When you blog for yourself, you and write whatever you want whenever you you want. When you blog for clients, that’s not the case. Some have extremely detailed instructions and others have no idea what they want and are looking to you to be their expert in blogging. In my experience, the more freedom I get, the better, but I’ll also take on projects where they have very specific requirements if the price is right and the topic interests me.

But what you have to understand that no matter how much freedom your client gives you, what they say goes. A client can come along and take down or edit your post, or they can even fire you if you write something they consider to be a major problem. I highly recommend that you have a contract with your client, and for this contract to outline just how a post with your name attached can be edited. I once had a client complete butcher something I wrote, making me look like a fool and misrepresenting my opinions. Sure, he was well within his rights to post whatever he wanted on his blog, but it had my name attached to it, so it was a problem.

Work with clients who are a good fit for your personal brand so problems are less likely to arise. For example, I’m an extremely opinionated, and although I’m willing to “play nice” on a client site, I won’t change who I am on Twitter for the sake of a blogging gig. Some clients have a problem with that because I occasionally curse or post NSFW material on my own sites and social media profiles. That’s okay – those clients aren’t a good fit for me and I’m not a good fit for them. Remember that ultimately your brand is most important, so stay true to who you are. If you change yourself for a blogging gig an that gig ends, then what? few jobs last forever.

The Tasks

When you blog for yourself, the entire success of your site rests on your shoulders. You write, edit, promote, respond to comments, find sponsors/advertisers, create products, run mailing lists, write newsletters, attend in-person and virtual events, develop your social media outposts…the list goes on and on and on and the work never ends.

When you blog for other people, you might do all of the above or you might do a single task. Most of the time, it’s somewhere in the middle. You’ll write posts but are also expected to do at least a little promotion and help develop the overall brand of the blog. The more you’re expected to do, the more you should get paid if you’re paid a flat fee. Of course, if you’re paid on performance, the more effort you put in beyond just writing, the more money you’ll make.

Remember to outline exactly what you’re being expected to do in your contract. Some clients expect to see results, but that isn’t possible if someone isn’t promoting. If you’re not being paid to do that, make sure that your client understands that it’s necessary to be successful. Otherwise, they may assume that you’re not doing a good job writing posts and fire you.

It benefits you to do at least a little promotion with your posts, even if you’re not being paid for it. You don’t have to spend hours a day tweeting, liking, stumbling, and the like, but taking a moment to push out the link once can help drive a little traffic, which is an incentive for the client to continue working with you. It also can help you – as a writer, you always want to proudly promote your work, since it could lead to more clients in the future.

As a freelancer, you’ll benefit if you can offer more services. Clients want to hire one person when necessary, rather than hiring different people to write, handle social media, format posts, etc. Not every client will pay for every service you offer, but the more things you know how to do, the better.

The Truth

The truth is this – blogging for other people is hard. You don’t have the stress of trying to make your own business succeed, but there are a whole host of other stresses that come along with this job. Here are a few last pointers if you’re consing this career option:

  • Sometimes, clients don’t pay. They promise you money and they just disappear, argue that you didn’t fulfill the contract, or whatever. It isn’t always malicious – sometimes clients just run out of money. A strong contract can only protect you so far. Make sure you work with people you trust and people with great business plans.
  • You aren’t always going to agree with the direction a client takes with the blog. You should always politely speak your mind, but not all clients will hear you out or take your advice. It can be frustrating.
  • A client can hurt your business if they feud with other people. Online, people often take sides when there’s an issue, scandal, or problem and if you’re working for a client, you might be lumped in with them even if your opinions differ. Yes, you can leave, but sometimes it’s hard to reverse damage is done to your online reputation.
  • Clients can be very demanding. They often don’t realize how much time your tasks take. Don’t be afraid to say no or ask for more money if you’re asked to take on additional tasks.
  • The customer isn’t always right, but sometimes you have to do things you think are silly to please them. For example, I have a client that insists on meeting every single week on Skype to catch up with what we’re doing and go over blog goals. That would be fine if we actually had new stuff to go over, but every week, we talk about the same things. The meetings are completely unnecessary from my point of view, but to him, they’re necessary, so I do it. I also had a client who insisted that I watch a very 101-level WordPress video before working on his site. I could have produced a better video with my own WP experience, but it made the client feel assured that I’d be right for the job. Sometimes you just have to do these things.

The ultimate truth I suppose is that blogging for other people is right for some and not right for others. Personally, I love it because it allows me to do what I love most – write – without worrying as much about all the other blogging work that has to be done. Some people don’t like giving up that control, though. Do your research before you jump into freelancing, and take projects that are right for you. Some of you out there might love it as much as I do.

The Truth about Blogging for Other People (part 1)

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If you would have told me, back in the late nineties, that I would someday be paid to blog for other people, I would have laughed at you. Not just giggled. We’re talking sort-milk-out-of-my-nose laughter. I loved blogging back in those early days, back when LiveJournal and Xanga were all the rage and all of us high school kids poured our hearts out online…of course, behind a protected screen so only our friends could see.

I never imagined that blogging could become a profession.

Yet, today, that’s exactly what I spend 99% of my time doing. When I first started freelance writing, I took on all kinds of gigs, but over the years, I’ve noticed that the majority of the jobs out there are for blogs. Some clients are hiring bloggers to work on an ongoing basis, where you’re required to help promote and build the brand as well as write, format, and otherwise prep posts for publishing. Others order groups of posts sent via email and they take care of the rest. Clients also order ebooks to sell or give away in conjunction with their blogs or sales letters to promote products based on their blogs. But the point is this: if you want to be freelance writer, you want to learn about blogging.

Blogging for other people is very different from creating your own blog, however. Most of the advice you’ll read online is for those who own their own blogs, and while some of that advice certain holds true, there’s so much more to it if you want to be a successful blogger for a client. And the truth about blogging for other people? It isn’t easy. Let’s go over some of the basic information you need to know about this blogging path to get started.

The Money

Okay, I’ll start with the question that everyone has but that is a little embarrassing to ask. How much do you get paid to blog for other people? The fact of the matter is, there’s no one easy way to answer this question.

First, there are a few different ways to get paid. Some bloggers are paid a flat fee per post (or a flat fee per month with a minimum post requirement). This is great for the blogger, since you can plan your budget more easily and schedule your time in a way that makes sense. You can also get paid based on performance. When your posts do better, driving more traffic, you’ll make more money. The advantage here is that many clients see it as more “fair” and affordable to work this way, and as a blogger, you have the potential to continuously earn more from posts you write, since posts can get popular even long after they initially go live. Some clients combine these two payment methods, paying a smaller flat fee and then monthly performance bonuses.

I recommend staying away from performance-only based payment unless the blog already has a track record of success. The main draw to blogging for other people is the guaranteed money; if you want to be paid based on how good you are at SEO and post promotion, you might as well create your own site and upload ads yourself. It’s almost as much work as doing that.

But just how much can you expect to make?

To be honest, I’ve seen clients offering gigs that pay anywhere from just a few dollars per post to hundreds. It depends on the content and nice, the blog’s current traffic/revenue, and what skills you can bring to the table. In general, you’ll be paid less for news posts and paid more for op-ed or how-to pieces. My non-scientific guess at average (once you dismiss all the jackholes that want you to write for free) is $10 to $20 per post.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that you should only take jobs paying at least $10 per post. It might make sense for you to take a blogging job that pays much less, especially if they can offer a ton of exposure to your personal site. If you spend hours creating long, thoughtful, heavily-researched posts, though, even $20 probably seems laughable – in this case, you should expect to be paid $100 or more. There’s no one right answer when it comes to what you should charge or what offer you should except.

The Perks

When you blog for others, there are perks beyond a paycheck. These fringe benefits might make a lower-paying gig worth your time. Some benefits you might get include:

  • review items related to your niche
  • access to celebrities in your niche for interviews
  • free travel to conferences and other events
  • links back to your own blog if you have one
  • links back to your freelance writing site/portfolio, which can help you get more clients
  • free company products like t-shirts and tote bags
  • name recognition in the niche

The perks really vary by blog. Once, I wrote for a blog and someone sent me free candy to review. Another time, the company gave me a complete profile page where I could post links to everything from my social media accounts to my writing portfolio. And of course, writing here at the BlogWorld blog allows me to go to the best conference in the world!

Click here to continue on to read Part 2, where I talk about freedom, tasks, and more.

New Facebook Ads Tell Users How to Opt Out of Facial Recognition

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Back towards the end of June, Facebook rolled out a feature which made tagging your friends in photos even easier. What made some people unhappy and felt that it violated privacy, was that this tag feature or facial recognition feature, was made a default setting.

You could disable this feature (if you even knew about it in the first place) by making a few tweaks under your “Privacy Settings”. Basically you needed to find “Suggest photos of me to friends” under your privacy settings and edit according to your preferences.

After being contacted by Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen who expressed concerns about this new feature, Facebook decided to make the public more aware of how to turn off the tag suggestions setting.

Jepsen said in a statement, “Facebook has made significant changes that will provide better service and greater privacy protection to its users, not only in Connecticut, but across the country”.

In an effort to make “significant changes” that supposedly provides better security for its users, Facebook has launched a set of ads to show users how to turn off this facial recognition default setting.

The ads began running in July. Facebook said that every U.S. user should see the ad twice. I have yet to see an ad for this, have you?

Image Source: LA Times

A New Way to Share Images with mrror.com

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A super easy new way to share photos from your webcam was released today. It’s called mrror and I’ve been playing around with it a little this morning.

Mrror gives you a quick way to posts photos to your blog or social media streams. You can also send a quick photo via email or IM. They say you’re only two clicks away from sharing a photo from your webcam and they aren’t kidding. Here’s a picture of me and my dog D’art that I took.


Just click the camera to take your picture and down at the bottom, there are several buttons to click on. You can choose from Twitter, Facebook, tumblr and the download button for quick saving to your computer. There’s also a link button which allows you to share links to your webcam photos.

After snapping the photo above, I shared it on Twitter with one click, as well as downloaded it to my computer.

Mrror also allows your webcam to be used as a mirror, a handy tool when time-crunched between meetings or video calls.

Can you think of ways you would use mrror.com either for blogging or social media?

Another Google Panda Update Made Late Last Week

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Have you noticed any changes in your blog traffic or rankings the last few days? I’ll be honest. I’ve been so busy I haven’t even checked my stats lately, but I am definitely about to after reading this latest news. I’m crossing my fingers it’s good news.

Google confirmed to Search Engine Land that they did indeed push out a small Google Panda update late last week. A Google spokesperson told them, “We’re continuing to iterate on our Panda algorithm as part of our commitment to returning high-quality sites to Google users. This most recent update is one of the roughly 500 changes we make to our ranking algorithms each year”.

Some webmasters have said that the changes in rankings was a positive one for them, which is always nice to hear after one of these updates.

Here are the Panda updates so far:

  • Panda Update 1.0: Feb. 24, 2011
  • Panda Update 2.0: April 11, 2011 (about 7 weeks later)
  • Panda Update 2.1: May 10, 2011 (about  4 weeks later)
  • Panda Update 2.2: June 16, 2011 (about 5 weeks later)
  • Panda Update 2.3: July 23, 2011 (about 5 weeks later)

So, it looks like about every month Google is pushing out a Panda update.

What does that means for us bloggers? Not much really, except keep pumping out good solid content and hope that if your site was hit badly one month, it might go up the next month. Or, you could try the little experiment HubPages has done with sub-domains.

Did you notice a drop in traffic or rankings and do you have any tips or tricks to share?

Amazon Sales Up, Plus CFO Comments on Sales Tax Issue

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Amazon posted its financial results for the second quarter in 2011 today. The big news? Their sales reached $9.91 billion, which is a 51% increase from last year’s same period. I am sure this news makes some Californians cringe after the announcement by Amazon that they were pulling the plug on their affiliates.

The report did include a few details about the Kindle, saying that the sales were up compared to the first quarter 2011.

It was also revealed in a conference call today, that Amazon has built 15 fulfillment centers in 2011 and they plan to build a few more by the end of this year. That brings the total to 65 fulfillment centers across the globe. These centers enable the company, as well as third-party merchants to store inventory and fulfill orders.

Amazon is obviously growing and investing in their business. If only they could work out something with the affiliates they have dropped because of the Internet sales tax law. During the conference call, CFO Tom Szkutak was asked about the tax law issue.

His response was, “You know, I think in terms of the sales tax issue in total, the way you should think about it is we support a federal simplified approach as we have for more than 10 years. We think in the U.S. that the federal solution’s right way to solve this. Also keep in mind as you think about our global business, we already collect sales tax equivalent in … approximately half of our business across the world and, again, we think the right solution to the U.S. is a federal solution.”

When asked if there were any plans to cut more affiliates, he said he couldn’t really comment.

For those of you who were cut from the Amazon affiliate program in June, what steps have you taken to work towards regaining that income?

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