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23 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Podcasting Gear

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Brilliant Bloggers is a bi-weekly series here at NMX where we look at the best posts from around the web all surrounding a specific topic. Every other week, we’ll feature a brilliant blogger, along with a huge list of more resources where you can learn about the topic. You can see more Brilliant Blogger posts or learn how to submit your link for an upcoming edition here.

This Week’s Topic: Podcasting Gear

I guess this week’s edition should be called “Brilliant Podcasters” instead of bloggers.

When it comes to just about anything in life, you’re only as good as your tools. Podcasting is no exception to the rule. If you use high-quality equipment, you’re going to have a better final product. Previously, we compiled a list of Brilliant Bloggers talking about starting a podcast, but today, we’re focusing on the specific gear you can buy to produce the best podcasts.

Podcasters, I hope you’ll also leave your advice in the comments!

Brilliant Blogger of the Week

daniel m clark The Best Podcasting Equipment by Daniel M. Clark

Today’s Brilliant Blogger is probably a familiar name to you if you’ve spent any time reading the NMX blog. Daniel is a regular contributor here, and when it comes to podcasting advice, he really knows his stuff. If you want a simple, great list of equipment to use for your podcast, his site is the place to find it! He goes over everything from hardware and software to WordPress plugins for podcasters on this list.

I also encourage you to check out all of Daniel’s contributions here on the NMX blog if you want to learn more about producing better podcasts. Definitely take a moment to follow him on Twitter at @qaqn after reading all of his great advice.

Even More Brilliant Advice:

  1. Adventures in Podcasting Equipment by Frei Casull (@freicasull)
  2. Best $200 Podcasting Condenser Mics by Matt McGlynn (@recordinghacks)
  3. Choosing the Right Equipment for Your Budget by David Doucette (@residedavid)
  4. Don’t Forget about Shotguns as Podcasting Microphones by Brian Schwartz (@bschwartz)
  5. How I Produce My Podcast by Trent Dyrsmid (@TrentDyrsmid)
  6. How to Start a Podcast – The Gear and Software Needed to Produce Your Own Podcast by Ray Ortega (@podcasthelper)
  7. How to Start a Successful Podcast on a $50 Budget by Jonathan Taylor (@BIBPodcast)
  8. Microphone And Mixer Suggestions For Podcasting And Low-Power Radio by Michael W. Dean (@FreedomFeens)
  9. Microphone Reviews for Podcasting and Video Marketing by Colette Mason (@colettemason)
  10. My Podcasting Gear and the Ms. Ileane Speaks Podcast is Now on iTunes by Ileane Smith (@Ileane)
  11. My Podcasting Gear, Setup, and Process – Lean Blog Podcast by Mark Graban (@MarkGraban)
  12. My Podcasting Equipment by Dan Blank (@DanBlank)
  13. Podcast 101: Session 1: The Basic Gear by Matt Cohen (@cameltoad)
  14. Podcast Equipment by Cliff Ravenscraft (@gspn)
  15. Podcasting Equipment by Ben Curry (@BadDice_Podcast)
  16. Podcasting Equipment: Does size really matter? – Part 1 and Part 2 by Dan Lyons
  17. Podcast Equipment Jim Uses by Jim Harold (@ParanormalPdcst)
  18. Quite Possibly the Best Starter Microphone For Podcasters by David Jackson (@learntopodcast)
  19. Solid Option for Portable Podcasting: iRig Mic and iRig Recorder for iOS by Tris Hussey (@trishussey)
  20. Starting A Podcast: The Best Recording Equipment & Platforms You Should Use by James Bruce (@w0lfiesmith)
  21. The Top Five Most Affordable Podcasting Microphones by Briley Kenney (@BrileyK)
  22. What is the Best USB Microphone for Podcasting? by Jon Buscall (@jonbuscall)

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

Next Brilliant Blogger Topic: Media Kits

I’d love to include a link to your post in our next installment– and if you head to the Brilliant Bloggers Schedule, you can see even more upcoming posts. We all have something to learn from one another, so please don’t be shy! Head to the schedule today to learn how to submit your post so I won’t miss it.

27 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Tumblr

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Brilliant Bloggers is a bi-weekly series here at NMX where we look at the best posts from around the web all surrounding a specific topic. Every other week, we’ll feature a brilliant blogger, along with a huge list of more resources where you can learn about the topic. You can see more Brilliant Blogger posts or learn how to submit your link for an upcoming edition here.

This Week’s Topic: Tumblr

I feel like those of us who use WordPress and Blogger sometimes treat Tumblr like the red-headed stepchild of blogging platforms. It’s true that there are definitely a lot less…shall we say professional…bloggers using Tumblr, but there are also some really cool Tumblr blogs as well as people who very successfully supplement their main WordPress/Blogger blog with a Tumblr blog.

So today’s Brilliant Blogger is all about Tumblr. How are bloggers using Tumblr? What are some best practices and tips for this platform? Why Tumblr over WordPress and Blogger? All this – and more – can be found in this week’s list below!

Brilliant Blogger of the Week:

10 Useful Tumblr Tips That New Users Need to Know by Bakari Chavanu

Never mind that this post is over a year old. If you’re new to Tumblr, it’s the perfect place to start. The author of this post, Bakari Chavanu, writes,

I’m absolutely hooked on Tumblr. I found my way back there recently, and in two days I managed to post 45 blogs – some reblogs, some quotes, a few long form essays, and lots of image posts. I don’t know what the appeal to Tumblr is over other similar blogging sites such as Posterous or WordPress, but I’ve caught the Tumblr bug and I have learned some things that might not be so obvious to those who are new to the fastest growing  microblogging site.

His tips are the beginner’s guide that Tumblr so desperately needs for new users. If you’re used to using WordPress or Blogger, using Tumblr isn’t going to come naturally. But once you do start using it – especially after checking out Bakari’s tips – you’ll find that it really does become second-nature in a hurry.

If you love his post, don’t forget to follow Bakari on Twitter at @bakarichavanu.

Even More Brilliant Advice:

  1. 5 Tumblr Tips for Microblogging Success by Megan O’Neill (@maoneill)
  2. 6 Tips for Tumblr Beginners by Anna Attkisson (@akattkisson)
  3. 10 Tips for Awesome Tumblr Theme Design by Joshua Johnson (@designshack)
  4. 11 Tumblr Tips for Power Users by Christin Erickson (@christerickson)
  5. 60 Brands Using Tumblr by Jason Keath (@jasonkeath)
  6. A Complete Guide To Tumblr by Cameron Chapman (@cameron_chapman)
  7. Build Your List on Tumblr by Rebekah Henson
  8. Change your URL Tumblr by Tumblr Academy
  9. How To Choose a Good Tumblr Name by Tumblring (@tumblring)
  10. How to Gain Followers on Tumblr and Blogger by Isabelle Wuilloud
  11. How to Make Money on Tumblr by Sara Hottman
  12. How to Make Money with Tumblr by Tumble Guy
  13. How to Start Using Tumblr by Erica Schrag (@ericanschrag)
  14. Impressive Tumblr Customizations by Jad Limcaco (@designinformer)
  15. Love Tumblr Themes? 3 Questions To Ask Before Installing One by Darnell Clayton (@Darnell)
  16. PiercingMetal & Social Networking: Tumblr by Ken Pierce (@piercingmetal)
  17. The 10 Benefits of Using Tumblr For Your Business by Social Media Magic (@smmagic)
  18. The 10 Most Amazing Free Tumblr Themes by Simon Slangen (@simonslangen)
  19. Three Tumblr Tricks by Henry Cooke (@henrycooke)
  20. Tips for Using Tumblr for Small Business Brand Marketing by Yo Noguchi
  21. Tumblr Guide 101: Tips And Tricks For Building Your Site, Posting And More by Thomas Houston (@thomashouston)
  22. Tumblr Tips for Writers by Jason Boog (@jasonboog)
  23. Tumblr Tips From Tumblr’s Founder by The New York Times
  24. Tumblr vs. WordPress vs. Blogger: Fight! by Damian Roskill (@Droskill)
  25. WordPress vs Tumblr by Jerson Calanuga
  26. WordPress vs Tumblr – Choosing the Right Blogging Platform for Your Clients by Robert Bowen (@rob_e_bowen)

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

Next Brilliant Blogger Topic: Podcasting Gear

I’d love to include a link to your post in our next installment– and if you head to the Brilliant Bloggers Schedule, you can see even more upcoming posts. We all have something to learn from one another, so please don’t be shy! Head to the schedule today to learn how to submit your post so I won’t miss it.

Red Routes: What City Busses Can Teach You about Website Usability

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Even though people in London drive on the wrong side of the road, there are still some things we can learn from their transit system. Their bus system, just like every other one in the world, is designed to get people where they want to go quickly and easily. However, they’ve found a way to optimize travelers’ experiences using a system called red routes. This same logic can help you optimize your website to guide your visitors to the information they’re seeking.

As you might expect, some places in London are more popular than others. In fact, just 5 percent of the city’s roads make up a third of the traffic. The city decided to fast-track busses on those popular routes by creating red routes, which received their name courtesy of the double red line land markings. These routes place restrictions on other traffic patterns and prohibit parking in bus lanes. By optimizing the efficiency of these routes, they’ve managed to reduce wait times on those routes by 15 percent in the first five years.

Now think about your own website. Chances are there are one or two pages off of your homepage that make up at least a third of your traffic. On my Web design company’s site, for example, most of the traffic from our home page goes to either a page about our services or our portfolio. I know that these are important pages to my visitors, and I also know how frustrating it can be when you can’t find what you’re looking for on a website. Therefore, I want to make sure this majority group can easily find links to that content.

Just as in London, Web developers now commonly refer to these critical paths as red routes. And, just as in London, optimizing them can have a big effect on your most important metric: conversions.

Identifying Your Website’s Red Routes
The first step is to identify these routes. A quick look at your analytics can shed some light on how visitors flow through your site today. Granted the paths might not be as easy as it could be for visitors, but these numbers will show you the popular tracks your customers are actively seeking out. By improving the flow to these red routes, your goal is to more easily direct the more passive visitor down the same path. After all, all red routes should lead to a conversion.

Optimizing Your Website’s Red Routes
Now you have two good pieces of data: where you want your visitors to go on your website, and where they’re currently going. It’s time to put those together to create a simple path for users to not only get to those pages, but more importantly, to also get from those pages to a conversion. Take this site as an example. Two obvious goals for this site are to get users to opt-in to the BlogWorld newsletter, and to register for the NMX conference. At the same time, let’s assume the most popular page after the home page is the most recent blog post. That is why there are prominent banners on the right of all blog posts showcasing these two things. There are plenty of sites that just feature these types of calls-to-action on the homepage, and they’re missing out on a big opportunity.

Testing Your Website’s Red Routes
Once you’ve identified your red routes and set them up, it’s time to see if they work. While things might look obvious to you, it’s best to try some user testing to see what an average visitor thinks. When testing your own site, it’s always a good idea to give users a series of tasks to complete to see how difficult it is for them. Think of this like a virtual scavenger hunt on your website. You want to know if users can easily find what they want, or in this case, what you want them to find. This is much more valuable than simply asking how your site makes a person feel.

In this kind of testing, it’s critical to test your red routes. Can people locate the content that is most important to them? There is nothing worse than a customer on an ecommerce site who is ready to buy but can’t find the product they’re after. Likewise, a visitor to a blog that can’t find the “subscribe” or “share” buttons would be equally frustrated.

Red routes are just one important way to give your visitors a better experience on your site. If you’re looking for more tips, then you’re in luck. I’m speaking at NMX in January on defining and maximizing conversions through better usability. I hope to see you there!

Social Media Monitoring 101

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Social media matters. Whether you’re a household name or a brand-new blogger, social media is key. It’s how you establish influence. It’s how you maintain your good name. It’s how you spread the word about your products or services.

Are you making the most of it?

From big brands to small firms, top bloggers to new ones, we all need to keep tabs on what’s being said about us online. “Even if you or your clients have ‘decided’ not to actively participate in social media, it’s really not a choice,” writes Jason Schubring at Six Revisions. “Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does social media. Either you can fill the vacuum with your perspective, or your customers and competitors will fill it for you. The choice is clear.”

The Fact Is, People Are Talking

Since people will be talking about you on social media, whether or not you join them, especially as your brand expands—it’s vital to know about it, even if it’s not all good. Then you can use those mentions to your advantage. You can turn the talk into a way to boost your brand.

Do you know who’s talking about you? Are you tracking your social media influence?

Here’s how.

Find out What Are People Saying about You

First things first: once you know you want to monitor your social media presence, you have to figure out what that means. What are you looking for exactly? To put it simply, you’re looking for your brand. You want to find everything that’s being said about you on every social network. You want to keep up with the social media community in all its forms.

Things You Might Find:

  • Tweets mentioning your brand
  • Content shared from your site on Facebook or Twitter
  • Pins to your content on Pinterest
  • Mentions on other blogs or websites
  • Reviews posted on industry sites (i.e., Amazon, Travelocity, yelp)
  • Links to your site in blogrolls or articles
  • Other content regarding your industry or specialty

What all this content possibility means is that it’s not enough to have social media profiles. You also have to watch the networks. Take the big-name payment processor BluePay as an example. On the bottom right of the BluePay website, you can see this is a financial company that’s active on both Twitter and LinkedIn; yet those profiles are only part of the equation. To know what’s being said about BluePay, you’d have to do some research. In other words, you need to know how to monitor social networks.

How to Monitor Social Media

In today’s Internet-centric world, there are plenty of tools available for monitoring your social media presence. Here are some highlights:

1. Google Alerts.

Through Google Alerts, you can set up automatic keyword searches for the name of your brand (or its competitors) and receive regular updates via email or RSS feed. So for a company like BluePay, for example, this would mean notification every time a press release goes out or a news article mentions you. You can set your queries to filter for only news, blogs or video mentions; or you can include any and all references.

2. Network-Specific Searches.

Within each network, it’s also possible to search for your brand and see what’s being said.

  • Twitter Advanced Search: Like Google Alerts, Twitter Advanced Search allows you
    to set up specific criteria for searches of content on Twitter.
  • LinkedIn Search: There are many ways to search on LinkedIn, whether for people
    or job listings or through updates or companies. One especially helpful place to check is the Advanced Answers Search, where you can hunt down any mentions of terms relating to your industry. If you’re a graphic designer building your brand online and looking for new clients, you might search for questions/answers regarding design
    issues.
  • Flickr, Delicious, Digg: All of these networks allow you to set up RSS feeds for searches on your brand name and industry terms.

3. Facebook Insights

Maybe your company sees the value of social media enough that you’re already on Facebook and other networks. TSI is a good example of this—they have an active Facebook fan page where they’re regularly linking to industry news and company updates. In this case, you can log right into your Facebook dashboard and use the Insights section to gain knowledge about fans, page views and new wall posts. Staying up-to-date on what your audience is saying on your own page is especially important, as fans will expect you to be listening.

4. Klout

Designed to measure influence, Klout can be a powerful tool for bloggers and business owners. It shows you a tangible measurement of your online influence and offers several tools that can be helpful. Use it to find information about competitors or professionals in your industry who are on various lists; see what topics users are assigning you +Ks in.

As you gain information and insight into what’s being said about your brand and your industry online, the next step is knowing what to do with it. Do all mentions matter? How can you respond to them?

Know Which Mentions Matter Most

The Internet is democratic in that anyone can have a voice. Yet not everyone’s voice has the same influence or reach. A user’s scope of influence is directly related to the power of their communication. So part of knowing how to respond is knowing whom you’re talking to.

Evaluate the User’s Influence

  • How many followers, fans or subscribers does the user have?
  • How many Retweets?
  • How many external links point to their blog?
  • How many comments do their blog posts attract?
  • Do people respond to them often?

After you’ve analyzed a user’s network and influence, then you can determine how to respond to them.

How to Respond

Remember that in social media as in every other part of life, people are people. Behind every profile, there is still a person posting or Tweeting, someone with whom you can converse and connect. So how do you do it? How do you turn online mentions into good press?

It’s all about Engagement.

Joe Hall writes at Search Engine Land that “Proper engagement needs to contain either one of two things: a ‘click’ factor or a ‘response’ factor. A click factor is an incentive for the user to click through a link … A response factor is an incentive for the user to respond and engage in dialog.”

How can you encourage clicks and responses? The most basic answer is to ask for them, through clear calls-to-action that prompt responses. Here are a few ideas:

  • Ask a Question: One of the surest ways to start a conversation is by asking a question. When you see someone Tweeting about recently buying your product, why not respond by asking how they’re enjoying it? Or if someone says they had a bad customer service experience, reach out to them for more info.
  • Give a Solution: When a user is expressing a problem or concern, there’s nothing like giving them a solution. When you reach in a LinkedIn discussion board about a manager looking for a better precision measurement tool, tell him about yours. When you learn someone can’t find your product at their store, see if you can get it there.
  • Offer an Incentive: Other effective engagement techniques include contests, giveaways and other promotional strategies that give the user an immediate benefit or reward. This could be “Test this product for a chance to win a year’s supply” or “Fill out this customer survey and get 20% off your next order.” Or it might be, “We’d love to send you some free samples to try.” The idea is to provide an incentive attractive to the user.

By understanding the basics of social media monitoring, you have a good start in building and strengthening your online brand. Does your company or is your personal brand already doing this? What results have you seen? Or if you’re new to monitoring, how have you seen other brands do it well—through engagement on social networks?

Give us your thoughts!

Tips for Better Audio on Your Videos

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Hands down, good audio is the most important quality for your videos. People will suffer through choppy editing and grainy visuals all day before they’ll suffer through a video with audio they can’t hear or understand.

It’s not just about having a good mic. It’s about how you hold the mic to pick up your voice, cancel out background noise, and more. In this video from Olivia Speranza with Robert from JuicedLink, they talk about how you can get better video by using the right mic for your situation and holding it in the right way.

Want more video tips? We had an entire Web TV track at BlogWorld New York 2012, and if you missed it, don’t worry – you can check out our virtual ticket here to get recordings of your favorite sessions. And don’t miss New Media Expo in January 2013, where we’ll again be presenting a Web TV track with tons of educational sessions about how to produce awesome video content.

A Glimpse of the Future Internet [Infographic]

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Earlier this week, I wrote about choosing an extension for your website, and .com remains the most popular option for a variety of reasons, other extensions (.net, .ly, .me, etc.) might also make sense depending on your specific needs.

The Internet is about to get a lot more complicated, though. The new global program to expand your choices is going to start rolling out as early as next year and there were nearly two thousand applications for vanity names submitted. Some major companies, like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft actually submitted multiple applications. Other companies, like Facebook, eBay, and Disney, were notably missing from the list of applicants.

So here’s a look at what is coming in an inforgraphic from Visual.ly. When new extensions are introduced, will you be on board or will you stick to buying .com addresses?

 

Creating a Professional White Background for Your Videos

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Ever wonder how companies like Apple get that nice, white background on their videos? It looks really professional, so I always assumed that you need an expensively built professional studio to get this look. Not so! Today, I wanted to share this great video from Rapid Video Blogging‘s Gideon Shalwick, who explains how to get that clean white background that looks so great when filming a video.

And yes, he is doing this all in a messy garage!

Having a professional white background helps the view focus on what is most important – you, the subject of the video. It’s great for talking about a product/service or teaching someone how to do something because there are no distractions to take the attention away from you. And if you’re already creating videos, chances are good that you already have most of the supplies you need to make a white background possible.

Hope this video helps you create your next professional video!

Did you know that we had a complete three-day Web TV track at BlogWorld & New Media Expo 2012 that featured tons of great video creation tips? If you missed the event, you can catch up with all of the sessions, as well as sessions about blogging, podcasting, and social media, with our virtual ticket.

Is a .com the Best Choice for Your Website?

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Whether you’re a blogger, a podcaster, a web TV producer, or a business, you probably have your own website. Or, at the very least, are interested in getting your own domain name so you have have a website. For most people, tons of thought goes into choosing your domain name. One of the elements you definitely need to think about is the extension (.com, .net, .org, etc.).

Novel names are coming as soon as next year, reports the BBC. But today, you already have several choices, including not only some of the more commonly used choices, but also options such as .me, .es, and .in to name a few.

Why .com Domain Names Rock

There are a lot of compelling arguments out there for purchasing a .com domain name over any other type of domain. At the end of the day, this is the most common type of domain name for a reason. Here are some of the biggest advantages to choosing a .com for your website:

  • People can most easily remember .com since it is so common.
  • When people do not know, .com is the thing they most common type in the address bar.
  • You can often more easily sell a .com name (if you want to do this someday).

But .com domain names are not going to rule forever, and already we see quite popular sites using different names, especially when the extension makes sense with the rest of the domain name. A good example is Visual.ly, which uses the .ly extension.

An Argument for Other Extensions

While .com makes sense for many, other extensions should be considered for your website as well. At BlogWorld & New Media Expo 2012, I had the chance to talk to the folks at .ME, and there are some very compelling reasons to choose this extension (or another non-.com extension):

  • Chances are pretty good that the .com domain name you want is already taken.
  • You can do a play on words. Some .me success stories include About.me, Call.me, and the ever-popular Formspring.me.
  • Having something other than .com as your extension can make your domain name memorable.

A slightly shorter extension (three characters instead of two, like is possible with .me and others like .ly and .co) is also better if you’ll be using the domain name as a link shortener. For example, Facebook uses fb.me. Every character counts!

The Bottom Line

So should you go for a .com or choose a more unique extension? There’s no right or wrong answer to that question. For some website owners, the best choice is .com hands down, but for others, .me or another extension might make more sense. If you’re in the process of choosing a domain name for your next website, don’t rule out non-.com choices.

Check out .ME for more information about why this type of extension might be right for you!

10 Best Blog Tools for Beginners

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Blogging can be challenging for beginners. We’ve all been there: the early days of blogging when it’s exciting just to receive a single comment on one of your posts, when writing good content takes up all of your free time, and when it feels like you’re talking to no one on social media.

So today, I wanted to share with you all the best blog tools for beginners. These tools can help you make friends online, find new readers, save time, and avoid common blogging mistakes. And of course, I hope there are a few tricks in here for experienced bloggers too! I didn’t start using some of these tools until late in the game, simply because I didn’t know about them.

1. Windows Live Writer

I know I’ve mentioned this tool before, but I have to start by mentioning it again – it is super valuable if you’re a blogger on the go (and who among us isn’t?). Windows Live Writer can be downloaded onto your desktop so you can write blog posts when you’re offline, making it perfect for travelers, and because you can link it to your blog (or multiple blogs), when you type, you’ll see how the blog post will look when it’s live on your site, which is invaluable for placing pictures and doing other formatting tasks. When you’re connected again, you can simply upload your posts straight to your blog without having to copy/paste. So now you can make use of otherwise wasted time during your day by writing blog posts for later.

2. Zemanta

Another tool that you may not be surprised to find on this list, since I’ve mentioned it before, is Zemanta. This plugin sits on your dashboard in the “new posts” page and allows you to quickly link to other resources as you’re creating your blog posts. You can set it up to hunt for related posts from people you know, and you can also insert posts from members of the Zemanta community you don’t know yet. Linking to others’ posts is a great way to make friends in the  blogging community. They also have a new image insertion process, which makes adding high-quality fair use images easy to insert into your posts, saving you time.

3. PicFont.com

Need to add text to a picture? Unless you have a photo editing program like Photoshop, you might find yourself resorting to *eek* Paint. No more! You can simply go to PicFont.com to add outlined or shadowed text in a variety of fonts and colors. It doesn’t take and technical skill to use this site and get a really professional look. Remember, having great images is part of what it takes to be successful on Pinterest.

4. Google Alerts

If you aren’t already using Google Alerts, definitely set up this tool to use in conjunction with your blog. Even if you don’t report the news, it’s good to know what is going on in your niche. You can also set up a Google Alert for your name (if it isn’t too common) and for your blog’s name so you get an email every time someone else talks about you. Even if you’re new, you might be surprised how often other bloggers link to your site or mention something you’ve written.

5. Skype

It never fails to amaze me how many people are not yet using Skype, but this free calling tool is invaluable! You can use Skype to interview others, talk to fans, record podcasts, and more. You can even set up a business line so you don’t have to give out your home phone or cell phone.

6. Survey Monkey

One of the best ways to get better as a blogger is to ask your readers what they like and don’t like. Survey Monkey is a great tool for doing this. Like most of the other tools on this list, you don’t need technical skills to set it up, so it’s great for beginners. Even if you only get a few responses to your questions right now, it’s still better than not knowing what your readers want at all.

7. Visual.ly

Infographics are certainly hot right now, but many bloggers avoid posting them simply because they do not have the skill set to create them. Not to worry; there are many designers out there who would love to have you share their work, as long as you credit it. Visual.ly is one of my favorite places to go to find free infographics for your blog. If you are a designer, you can also create infographics on this site for others to share.

8. Twitter Lists

Twitter in and of itself is a great tool for blog promotion, but what I find especially helpful is the list function. I create private lists (so others can’t see them) in categories I want to follow, which makes it a lot easier to weed through all of the tweets to see what’s most important. You can set up lists for others blogging in your niche, which makes it easy to connect with these people regularly (important to any new blogger’s growth), and you can also create lists for any conference you’re attending (like BlogWorld of course) so it’s easy to meet up with other attendees.

9. Evernote

I swear, sometimes my lists have lists. Evernote is a great way to keep track of everything you have to do, and it’s totally free. You can sync it across your phone, tablet, laptop, and other devices, which I absolutely love, so if you have a great blog post idea while you’re out getting your hair done, for example, you can simply write yourself a note to remember when you get home. Easy-peasy, no more sticky notes all over your desk!

10. PDF Converter

Lastly, if you’re going to create some free eBooks or guides, one tool that I love is this free PDF converter. There are tons of PDF tools on the market, but this is one of the few free ones I’ve found that will actually keep any links you’ve inserted into the text. With other PDF converters, you’re more limited, since the links won’t carry over from a Word document.

Okay, those are my 10 favorite tools for beginners – now it’s your turn! Leave a comment with the best blog tool you’ve come across to make your job easier.

And of course, if you’re a beginner, definitely consider checking out BlogWorld in June. We have sessions for all levels, from beginner to experience, so everyone can walk away with awesome education!

 

Seven WordPress Hacks for Bloggers

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There are tons of awesome blogging platforms to consider, but WordPress is definitely one of the most popular content management systems out there – and with good reason. It’s easy to use and easy to customize, even if you’re a beginner.

But as you begin to use it more and more, you start learning little tricks. I’ve stumbled upon some fantastic time-savers that make me almost want to scream, “WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME THIS SOONER?!?!”

So I’m going to tell you these things, and I apologize for not telling you sooner! Experiences users, hopefully you still find a gem or two in here, and please leave your own favorite hack with a comment below!

1. Expand to Fullscreen for Easier Typing

Let’s start out with a simple tip, but one I didn’t realize was an option until well into my blogging career. It can be annoying to type a post in such a small box. First and foremost, if you scroll to the bottom of the left-hand sidebar when signed into your blog and editing a post, you’ll see “collapse menu.” Click on this text to get rid of that sidebar (don’t worry – you can easily get it back). It’s instantly a little more space. But an even better option is WordPress’ Fullscreen Mode.

There are actually two fullscreen modes. If you click the button that looks like a, square with arrows pointing at the corners (see picture), you’ll get a full screen mode with limited button options for easy, quick typing. If you press Alt+Shift+G you’ll get a version with the full bar of buttons for easier formatting. Both are great, especially if you’re working with a lot of pictures or block quotes.

2. Use Windows Live Writer for Formatting

How your final post looks will depend on the WordPress theme you’re using. You can continuously preview using WordPress itself, but that can be a little tedious, especially if you’re working with pictures and trying to get things to line up just right. Instead, download a desktop client to make formatting easy. I use Windows Live Writer (Mac fans, help me out with a comparable version?), which I like because I can sync it with all the blogs I have. As long as you keep it updated, you can use the WYSIWYG editor to add posts and see what they’ll look like on your blog when published. Adding pictures and videos is super easy.

Sometimes, you have to do some major updates that will cause you blog to look crummy for a few hours. Rather than scaring users away, download and install a plugin like Maintenance Mode and your readers will get a simple message that you’re working on your blog at the moment. I like this plugin specifically because you can even choose to include a countdown clock that will tell users when you get back. No coding knowledge necessary!

There are other maintenance mode plugins out there; this is just the one I like to use on my personal blog. Of course, you can also manually point code your site to give users a maintenance message, but who has the time/knowledge/ambition to do that? This makes it super easy!

4. Use Zemanta for Easy Linking

Finding links can take time, but it makes your posts more valuable to readers. For example, in the previous tip, I linked to the plugin page so you could easily find it. Otherwise, you would have probably had to search for it, and there would be no guarantee that you’d find the plugin I was talking about. Zemanta totally takes the hassle out of linking. This plugin gives you a list of potential in-text links you can add, which updates as you type. In addition, it gives you a list of related articles based on your post, which you can update as you type. You just link on their recommendations to add links as you see fit. Super easy! You can even choose to create a profile and tell Zemanta the blogs you like most so it will draw links from those sites when possible.

5. Prevent Images from Being Too Wide

If you’re working with images, it can sometimes be annoying to remember the max width they can be to fit on your blog. I have a lot of trouble with this one since I blog on multiple sites, all using different themes. If your image is too wide, it will either cut off or overlap onto your sidebar, depending on the them you’re using. Both look pretty bad.

It’s an easy fix. I learned this one from WPHacks. You have to go into the code, but don’t be scared! It’s easy; I promise! Under “appearance” on the left-hand dashboard sidebar, you want to click on editor and find your theme’s .css file (probably the one that comes up by default. Then, just follow the instructions here to add a snippet of code. That’s it! If you can handle copy/pasting, you can do this one. Once you change the max to fit whatever your theme’s max width is, you won’t have to deal with cut off or overlapping pictures ever again.

6. Install the Editorial Calendar Plugin

Recently, we added this plugin here on the BlogWorld blog and it has been a total game-changer for me! I like to stay organized and am a very visual person. The editorial calendar plugin gives me a way to see when posts are being updated, and for a multi-author blog, it allows you to understand when others are planning to publish so you can strategically plan out your content schedule. I also like that you can jot down ideas quickly using the calendar when you have a post idea, and the visual nature makes it easy to see where you’re faltering: Are you uploading too many posts about a specific topic? Are you updating enough? Is your content always bunched instead of spread out? You can also use the calendar to schedule your content easily. Love it.

7. Split Long Posts

Depending on your theme, long posts may or may not look good on your homepage. You can use the “more” tag to split the post after a few teaser paragraphs. It’s the little split button beside the link buttons on your tool bar (see picture) or you can just hit Alt+Shift+T.

By default, this will create a link that says “Continue Reading” or “Read More” or something of that sort, depending on the theme you use. Want to change the text? It’s pretty easy. It requires you to go into your code again, but don’t be scared! Under Appearance on your sidebar, click on editor and then find the index.php file (Main Index Template). Search for:

<?php the_content(‘Read more …’); ?>

If your blog by default has different text, the theme editors already changed it, so that’s what you should search for. In other words, if when you split the text and publish the post, it says on your site, “Click here for more…” you should search for:

<?php the_content(‘Click here for more…’); ?>

Search for whatever that text might be. Then, once you find that line in the code, you can change the text to read whatever you want.

It’s a great way to get more page views out of a single long post.

So there you have it, seven of my favorite WordPress hacks for bloggers. Now it’s your turn to tell us your favorite hacks and tips with a comment below!

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