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10 Best Blog Tools for Beginners


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 Cool Ways to Use Pinterest


Have you joined Pinterest yet? I have to admit – I’ve been pretty obsessed with it in the last few weeks as I started pinning things and exploring the community. And some pinners are using this new network in really cool ways.

For those who’ve not yet familiar with Pinterest, the concept is pretty simple. When you sign up, you create “boards” – as many or few as you want. Each board has a certain theme. When you come across something you like online and want to both remember (like a bookmark) and share with others, you can pin it to one of your boards. For example, I found this really cute costume idea and wanted to remember it for next year. So I pinned it to my “Halloween” board.

Your homepage is filled with the pins from the people/boards you’re following. When you follow someone, you can choose to follow all of their boards or pick and choose the boards you want to follow. I find this extremely helpful, since a lot of my friends have interests that aren’t relevant to me, but I still want to connect with them when it comes to other interests that we share. A good example of this is my friend Kelby Carr. I follow her craft projects board, since that interests me, but don’t follow her board that features stuff for kids, since I don’t have kids of my own.

The most common boards I see are for recipes, craft projects, fashion, and humor, but more and more, people are starting to get creative, which is super inspiring. And, if you use Pinterest in unique ways, it can definitely help you as a blogger or online business owner. Let’s take a look at some really cool ways I’ve seen people using Pinterest:

  • Create a gift registry.

This list tip comes from Kenna Griffin from Prof KRG. This holiday season, she used Pinterest to create a Christmas wish list, which you can see here. She shared the list with family members, which made it much easier for them to purchase gifts she really wanted. You could use it to create a wish list for your blog as well. Depending on your niche, fans might want to send gifts or donations, and this helps them understand how to best show their appreciation. Of course, if you’re a parent, you can also have your (older) children create boards with a wish list theme to help you make purchases.

  • Pin your best blog posts.

Sure, Pinterest is a great way to share funny pictures and whatnot, but does it have any practical use for bloggers who aren’t working in visual-centric niches? Yes! For example, one of the boards I created is called “Favorite Blog Posts I’ve Written,” and my plan is to use it to pin posts that I’m especially proud of. This has the potential to get out of hand if bloggers use boards to promote every post they write, but with the correct restraint, I think it can bring me a lot of traffic. People have already started to follow that board, and as of writing this post, it only has a single pin.

  • Start a Pinterest book club.

This is one board I’m hoping to start in the coming months – a little book club for me and others interested in reading the same books as me. Lots of people use Pinterest to share their favorite books, but what about creating a group board (where anyone can pin things) and every month reading a book together, using the board to share links to reviews and analysis, products inspired by the book, interviews with the author you’ve found, etc. When I read a book I like, I love to read as much about it as possible, and share with others who are reading the same things, so Pinterest could give us a fun place to collaborate.

  • Use Pinterest for project management.

I haven’t seen anyone doing this yet, but I think it could be super helpful for some people, since you can create boards where multiple people can pin things. For example, say you’re an interior decorator. You could use Pinterest to share cool stuff you find online for a specific room you’re designing with the rest of your staff (and they can share with you too). The homeowners can even get involved with pinning. There’s a lot of potential here for anyone collaborating on a project. I love that it would cut down on the crazy number of emails you send back and forth.

  • Pin as an affiliate.

This Pinterest board idea comes from James Dabbagian, who created a board called “Books on Blogging and Social Media.” All the pins on that board are affiliate links, so if others check them out on his recommendation, he’ll get the credit on Amazon (or wherever). You can easily disclose that your links are affiliate links in the description, which James has done, and it makes total sense, since it helps people who are interested in a specific type of product find an entire list of items to check out.

  • Create a Pinterest test kitchen.

Food bloggers have definitely headed to Pinterest en masse, which makes sense since food is definitely visual. Instead of just sharing recipes, though, what about creating a “test kitchen” board? As you’re developing new recipes, ask your followers to try them out and “like” or repin if they enjoyed the meal. It’s a great way to get feedback on the success (or not) of a dish.

  • Bookmark inspiration pieces.

Occasionally (and by occasionally, I mean every two minutes), I come across blog posts, infographics, pictures, and so forth that get my inspiration juices flowing. I don’t always have time to write at that moment, though. Instead of just bookmarking posts, which is clutter-y and hard to efficiently organize, I’ve created a new Pinterest board to essentially bookmark cool ideas. If it inspires some of my followers to check out awesome things other people have written or created, all the better.

Some there you have it – my seven cool ideas for using Pinterest. As I continue using this platform and explore what others are doing, I’m sure I’ll have even more neat ideas to add to this list. Have you come across anyone using Pinterest in a cool way? If so, tell us about it in the comments!

New WordPress Plugin – P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler)


A new WordPress plugin authored by GoDaddy has been released. The P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) “creates a profile of your WordPress site’s plugins’ performance by measuring their impact on your site’s load time.”

Many plugins can cause major issues with WordPress sites, but this plugin helps profile and report performance issues.

If you have ever had issues with a site that loads slow, it can often be due to a poorly configured plugin or because there are too many plugins installed in the first place. With the P3 plugin, you can pinpoint what’s causing the slowness of your site.

To download the P3 plugin, visit the plugin page on the WordPress.org site here.

Have you downloaded the P3 plugin yet? I am downloading it now and am hoping it will help my blogs’ performances.

The 12 New Media Days of Christmas 2011: 11 Emailers List-Building


During the 12 New Media Days of Christmas, we’re counting down the days until Santa comes by featuring some of the best blog posts of 2011 from awesome writers within the BlogWorld community! Skip to the end to read more posts in this holiday series and don’t forget to leave a comment if you’ve written a post about today’s topic!

You won’t get far in this industry without hear the phrase “the money’s in the list.” What that means is that you need to build an email list to make the most of the relationship you’re building with your readers. You can use your list for affiliate marketing, selling your own products, or even just driving traffic back to your site. So, today, I have a great group of posts from 2011 that talk about building and using an email list. Enjoy!

Post too long? Head to the Quick Links section for just a list of the links included in this post without all the analysis and quotes!

1. Beginner’s Guide to Email Marketing for Bloggers by Paul Cunningham at Blogging Teacher

If you’re new to email marking and only have time to read one post, this is the link for you. In this post, Paul writes about the nuts and bolts to using email to connect with your readers. He goes over everything from how to avoid being called a spammer to what kind of content you should consider sending to your list. From the post:

Your mailing list is like a cup of coffee. Too hot and your subscribers can’t handle it. Too cold and it loses its appeal. But when you get the temperature just right they will enjoy what you serve up to them…

Getting that temperature just right means understanding your audience, and delivering them the right types of content at the right times.

After checking out Paul’s post, you can follow him on Twitter @paulcunningham.


2. 5 Most Powerful Ways To Build an Email List Online by Michael Dunlop at Income Diary

I like this post because it’s a list of tools that you can (and should) consider using to build your own email list. It’s important to remember that not every technique is going to work for every person. In fact, you might not like any of the list-building techniques in Michael’s post. But I think it is important to be aware of your options! Writes Michael,

Sending an email to your list about a product takes literally minutes. The reward is always thousands of dollars for me. If I did it 4 times in a month which isn’t much at all, that’s likely to be at least an additional $10,000 in revenue that month! Hopefully by now your excited about the idea of building a list.

Get out there and build that list, friends! After checking out Michael’s post at Income Diary, You can also find more from him at Retireat21, Fiked, Popup Domination, Site Profit Domination, Expert Photography, and Awesomeweb. You can also find him on Twitter @michaeldunlop.


3. Why the Money Really is in the Email List by Natalie Sisson at The Suitcase Entrepreneur

We keep saying that the money is in the list, but why is that? This post is part of Natalie’s Build Your Online Business (BYOB) series, and it’s a fantastic post to check out if you’re new to list-building and want to do a good job connecting with readers. As Natalie puts it, your list is your tribe, and being about to build that relationship with them is important! Building a list doesn’t have to be spammy. It can be about making real connections. Writes Natalie,

When I think about how many visitors I lost in the early days because I had nothing to offer and no way of being able to contact them again, it makes me kick myself. I also had this strange perception in my head that `list’ and ‘building’ were two dirty words. In fact they are two of the smartest words ever.

Natalie is on Twitter @womanzworld and you can also add her to your circles on Google+. Her Build Your Own Business Guide is available as an audio book, ebook, or complete package with coaching video.


4. Aweber vs. Mailchimp: Which is the Best Email Newsletter Service? by Tom Ewer at WPMU.org

Aweber and Mailchimp aren’t you’re only two choices if you’re interested in starting a new mailing list, but they are two of the biggest brands in the industry. I personally grappled with the choice, and ultimately went with Aweber, but I don’t know that I’ll stay with that decision forever, since Mailchimp is a fantastic services as well. In this post, Tom talks about about the differences between these two services and ultimately gives you his preference. Writes Tom,

Both services are popular with good reason. MailChimp’s no-cost entry level service is a huge attraction to many. But the general consensus leans in favor of AWeber when it comes to the most important aspects of list management, such as tracking and spam management.

You can find Tom on Twitter @tomewer and like his Facebook page. He also blogs at Leaving Work Behind, where you can sign up for his mailing list to download his free guide on keyword research and competition analysis.


5. The #1 Trick for Increasing Email Open Rates by Steve Scott at SteveScottSite.com

Your list doesn’t matter one iota if nobody opens the emails you send. In this post, Steve shares his best top for increasing your open rates – and I have to say, I 100% agree with him! I also love how he uses an analogy to describe what he means, and I think anyone who’s read or watched Game of Thrones will totally understand this post! Writes Steve,

In April, the TV show “Game of Thrones” premiered on HBO.  Like many shows on this network, each episode is part of a large story.  So you have to watch each to understand what’s going on.  In a way, it’s similar to the popular shows like The Sopranos, Lost or 24.

What draws people to shows like these is how they’re set up.  An important part of the plot is to create tension.  The writers introduce a number of storylines that are not resolved for many years.  People watch them because they feel compelled to get answers.

You can also check out Steve’s 45 Ways to Take Your Email Marketing to the Next Level or download his free online income guide. He’s on Twitter @stevescott1, and you can also like his blog on Facebook and add him to your circles on Google+.


6. Are You in the Three Danger Zones of Spamminess? by Phil Hollows at Feedblitz

This list is actually part of entire awesome blog post series about list building for bloggers by Phil, but I wanted to take a moment to highlight this one because I think a lot of list-builders are definitely in the danger zone. Your subscribers signed up for your mailing list. They want to hear from you. Don’t be too afraid to email them! But if you aren’t careful, email programs could accidentally label you as spam, and this means your message will be less likely to reach your readers. Writes Phil,

The thing is, of course, is that most bloggers are untrained as marketers. Specifically, we’re largely not trained as email marketers. We put up our subscription forms and hope for the best. Usually, that’s fine.

But sometimes that lack of expertise can hurt, because it can lead us to create content that ends up setting off content filters. It’s actually all too easy to do, in fact, because in social media we can easily add widgets and plugins that are designed for the web, but which can completely foul up your feed and eviscerate your mailings.

In addition to checking out this post and others in the list building for bloggers series, you can also buy Phil’s List Building for Bloggers ebook. He’s on Twitter @phollows and you can check out the Feedblitz Facebook Ap here.


7. Sephora’s Beauty Roulette: A Creative Email List Builing Tactic by DJ Waldow at Waldow Social

In this post, DJ offers a screencast mini case study on one company’s interesting way to get people to sign up on their email list. He talks about what Sephora (a makeup company) does write, along with what he believes they could be doing better. Hopefully, this will inspire you to think of some of your own creative ways to encourage people to sign up for your mailing list. From DJ’s post:

You can have the most compelling email creative and copy, the best subject line, the highest inbox deliverability; however, if you don’t have an email list to send to … well … you have nothing….

My friend and Social Fresh president, Jason Keath, shared this super-creative email list building technique from Sephora with me last week. The landing page has some dynamic aspects to it, so I figured it would be best to show you via a screencast (thanks, Screenr!).

You can find DJ on Twitter @djwaldow and is the original Social Butterfly Guy.


8. How to Get a Clean Email List – 3 Mailing List Maintenance Tips You Should Do by Paul Ventura at Converting Copy

This post was definitely a kick in the pants for me, because I’ve been neglecting my email list maintenance. Depending on the email management company you use, some of Paul’s tips might even help you save money! At the very list, his recommendations can help you understand your audience better and connect with them in a more relevant way. Writes Paul,

Just like anything else in your life, your website or business’ mailing list can become cluttered and require upkeep from time to time to continue working in your best interest. Here are a few mailing list maintenance tips you can use to get a clean email list.

You can get Paul’s free 10 Day Fast Track Affiliate Course if you want to read more from him, and you can also find him on Twitter @convertcopy and like his blog on Facebook.


9. The Most Important, Can’t-Ignore Law of Email Marketing by Lisa Barone at Outspoken Media

The “law” Lisa shares in this post may at first seem like common sense, but it is a law that is broken so often that I think it is super important to include on this list. Before you ever send a single message to your email list, make sure you understand Lisa’s post and make sure you don’t make the mistake made by so many so-called “experts” out there. Lisa writes,

Hey you! Yes…you, the one sending out all those email newsletters. We need to talk.

I mean, sure, we’ve already talked to some degree. We’ve talked about best practices for email marketing, how email is NOT dead and why it’s actually the Batman to social media’s Robin, but NONE of that matters if you ignore the most important email marketing law of them all. Get this wrong and the rest of it simply doesn’t matter.

Lisa is the co-founder of Outspoken Media and can be found on Twitter @lisabarone. You can also like Outspoken Media on Facebook and follow the company on Twitter @outspokenmedia.


10. Call It What You Want, It’s the Future of Email Marketing by Garry Lee at RedEye (Guest Post for Unbounce)

Grab a cup of coffee and sink your teeth into this post. It’s super smart and full of tips about what Garry calls “behavioural emails.” Yes, you can just mass email your list once or twice a week, but how effective are you really being? More importantly, how effective could you be if you did a little research? From Garry’s post:

In the past few years behavioural email has become one of the most effective forms of email marketing. Resulting in ROI figures as high as 750% and open rates of 70% it is certainly a strategy that online marketers are realising is essential to their online marketing (not just email) strategies.

Garry is the Director of Analytics and Usability at RedEye and you can find him on Twitter @garrylee316.


11. Episode 19 of The Daily Interaction: Savvy Email Etiquette by Farnoosh Brock at Prolific Living

This last link I wanted to share about email is actually a podcast from Farnoosh about a topic that is very important no matter what kinds of emails you’re sending: etiquette. This post is not about list-building or even about email marketing, but I think this is one of the most important topic matters you can ever understand if you use email, whether you’re emailing your list or just emailing with your friends. From Farnoosh’s show notes:

What is the most sensible, smart, savvy and professional way to use email in today’s world? I give you tips around things that have worked very well for me as well as things that have made me, well, you know, take a second look at my own approach, to say the least.

After listening to the podcast, you can check out more episode of The Daily Interaction here. Farnoosh is also the author of the Fear-Crushing Travel Guide, Motivation: From Goals to Greatness, and The 10 Minute Daily Invigorator, as well as the Comprehensive Guide to Green Juicing. She’s on Twitter @prolificliving.

Quick Links

For those of you short on time, here’s a list of the links covered in this post:

  1. Beginner’s Guide to Email Marketing for Bloggers by Paul Cunningham (@paulcunningham)
  2. 5 Most Powerful Ways To Build an Email List Online by Michael Dunlop (@michaeldunlop)
  3. Why the Money Really is in the Email List by Natalie Sisson (@womanzworld)
  4. Aweber vs. Mailchimp: Which is the Best Email Newsletter Service? by Tom Ewer (@tomewer)
  5. The #1 Trick for Increasing Email Open Rates by Steve Scott (@stevescott1)
  6. Are You in the Three Danger Zones of Spamminess? by Phil Hollows (@phollows)
  7. Sephora’s Beauty Roulette: A Creative Email List Builing Tactic by DJ Waldow (@djwaldow)
  8. How to Get a Clean Email List – 3 Mailing List Maintenance Tips You Should Do by Paul Ventura (@convertcopy)
  9. The Most Important, Can’t-Ignore Law of Email Marketing by Lisa Barone (@lisabarone)
  10. Call It What You Want, It’s the Future of Email Marketing by Garry Lee (@garrylee316)
  11. Episode 19 of The Daily Interaction: Savvy Email Etiquette by Farnoosh Brock (@prolificliving)

Other posts in the 12 New Media Days of Christmas series will be linked here as they go live:

12 Bloggers Monetizing
11 Emailers List-Building (this post)
10 Google+ Users a-Sharing
9 Vloggers Recording
8 Links a-Baiting
7 Community Managers a-Managing
6 Publishers a-Publishing
5 Traffic Tips
4 New Media Case Studies
3 Must-Read New Media Interviews
2 Top New Media News Stories of 2011
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

You can also check out the all the posts from 2010 and 2011 here, and don’t forget: If you wrote a post in 2011 about today’s topic (email marking and list building), PLEASE leave the link in a comment below to share with the community!

How Klout Helps Me Build My Brand


The hullabaloo about Klout has been deafening in recent weeks. Some people are staying. Some people are going. Some people are ranting that no one cares if you’re staying or going. The debate over the value of Klout is raging.

I tend to think that people are looking at this tool the wrong way.

Klout’s intended purpose is to measure influence. Through a wacked out, complicated algorithm that changes constantly, you’re judged and a number is spit out to you. Unfortunately, numbers don’t have much meeting unless there’s context – and I personally feel like if we spent more time examining the context, Klout could be really super useful to bloggers (and anyone using social media). I get an incredible amount of value from Klout, even if I don’t think there’s much value in the numbers themselves.

So, without further ado, here’s how I personally use Klout to build my brand:

  • Making my lists and checking them twice.

Klout’s relatively new “lists” feature is amazing for bloggers. Twitter lists can be used to build blog traffic, but Klout lists are a little different. You don’t actually interact much on Klout itself, other than giving one another +K on different topics. But Klout lists can be used to quickly find any social media information you want about someone, which is fantastic if want to contact people about a specific topic. Create a list and use it to find people no matter where or how you want to connect.

You can also use their lists to find new people. For example, I’m on a list called “writers,” so if I wanted to find another freelance writer to help me out with some blog posts, this would be a great place to look. More importantly, however, Klout allows you to see lists others have created where you’ve been added as a member. It’s a really great way to monitor what people think about you. If you’re building a brand, this information is extremely valuable.

  • Topics help you find who you truly influence.

The topics that Klout assigns to you don’t always make sense. For example, I’m apparently influential about luggage. Erm. Okay then.

But what is helpful is to see where people have given you +Ks to indicate that they think you’re influential about a specific topic. I’ve received +Ks in blogging, BlogWorld, zombies, and writing. Let’s say that I want to release a new ebook about freelance writing. The people who gave me +Ks about writing are a fantastic place to start when I’m looking for affiliates.

Again, you’re also monitoring what people think about you. If I had a bunch of +Ks in luggage and none in BlogWorld, I would begin to suspect that my social media message was muddled. Maybe I should rethink the things I tweet so that it is apparent that I would for BlogWorld. In other words, if you haven’t received any +Ks in topics that you want to be influential about, that’s not Klout’s fault. People are perceiving you a specific way. Brand is all about how people perceive you, so take a look at what you’re doing that is confusing your followers and friends.

Want to connect with others in your field? Klout allows you to see who they’ve ranked as top influences about a topic, as well as who has received the most +Ks about a topic, so it’s helpful for making new connections as well.

  • Your style can be revealing.

A lot of people argue that the “style” Klout applies to you is a load of bs, but I think we might need to be a little more honest with ourselves, because in my experience, these styles have been correct. We tend to get defensive when the truth varies from how we perceive ourselves, but on Klout, it isn’t about what you want to be or even what you try to be. It’s about what you are.

That’s not to say that your Klout style is 100% right 100% of the time. But the good thing is that no matter where you fall on the Klout scale, it’s a good thing. There are no bad styles. You can, however, learn and improve to be a more well-rounded social media user. Look at your brand goals in social media and how you are perceived according to Klout. What can you do to better align the two? Ask yourself why Klout has you under a certain heading. Think critically about your social media usage. We all have room to improve.

Klout is certainly not without it’s problems. I’ve contemplated leaving, but I think there are just too many helpful ways to use this tool to convince me to delete my profile. Today’s fad is to “not care” about your number, but just because you’re a member of Klout doesn’t mean that you’re somehow obsessed with your Klout score. There are a lot of other faces to this tool, so don’t be blinded by the numbers.

The Klout Debate: Should You Stay or Should You Go and Does It Matter?


Klout has never not been controversial, but recently, users got their unmentionables in a twist over algorithm changes that caused just about every score to drop, some more significantly than others. Some people were upset about the changes, but I saw even more people upset that others care about the changes. In the past few months, I’ve seen more people virtually yelling, “Klout doesn’t matter!” than yelling about any other topic. And in this industry, people like to yell, so that’s saying something.

Klout’s also been under fire recently for creating profiles for any user interacting with another Klout user on Facebook – but they didn’t have age verification in place, which means they created profiles for countless minors. Partially as a response to that incident (and partially, I suspect, because users were asking for it), the company also made it easy and clear top opt out of Klout, even if you wanted a profile in the past.

And so began the wave of opting out. There’s no shortage of people willing to talk about why they’re doing it, and why they think you should as well.

The line has been drawn in the sand – Klout users and non-users. For transparency sake, I want to note that I am still a Klout user as of writing this post, though I wouldn’t classify myself as an avid user, since I only remember to log in a few times a month. I’m firmly a fence-sitter on this one – but I think I might be in the minority.

Let’s Quit Klout: The Grand Exit

I think the need to quit Klout, at least for many people, can be neatly summed up in a recent post by Liz Strauss entitled, “Klout, My Story & Why Opting Out Was My Only Choice.” In the post, Liz writes,

People who had started using their measure, who had trusted it enough to include it in their client work, woke up one morning to find Klout had changed the algorithm without notice and with abandon.

It was at best a naive decision to move without thought to the people who were building on what Klout offered. Those people who were putting Klout scores in their marketing plans and on their resumes were building Klout’s credibility.

Still I stuck with them, because who hasn’t made a bad decision, especially when starting something new? But I watched with new interest in what they would do.

I became more aware that my data, your data, our stories are their product and they seemed to become less aware of the responsibility that might come with a offering product like that.

The Klout perks I was offered — especially the invitation to audition for the X-Factor — were all about my number not me. The additional unannounced tweaks to the algorithm that made it unpredictable and unstable did more damage to a sense of credibility.

What I think it most valid about Liz’s argument is that if the numbers are constantly shifting and the data is never full correct, those who use these numbers to rate you or form opinions about you are going to be doing so without proper data. I’m the same today as I am tomorrow, but my score might drop significantly as a result of an algorithm change. That’s not a very fair way for a potential employer, client, or advertiser to rate my social media value.

In other words, having a Klout score is an invitation for those getting to know you professionally or personally to be lazy – and it might not be to your advantage.

Klout Doesn’t Matter

On the other side of the debate, you don’t exactly have the opposite opinion. Instead of people championing for Klout (which is a sentiment I don’t see often), you have people exasperatingly arguing that Klout doesn’t matter and that the only thing these numbers are doing is giving people who otherwise don’t really matter an inflated sense of ego. The people on this side of the argument aren’t exactly encouraging you to continue using Klout. Instead, they’re encouraging you to stop ranting about it or making proclamations of your need to quit.

A very good example of someone on this side of the argument is Jason Falls, who recently write, “Please Don’t Quit Klout. Or At Least Don’t Announce It.” In this post, he writes,

And canceling your Klout account means nothing other than you were upset your score went down. The algorithm changes attacked your sense of self-worth and you can’t face another day being a 37 rather than a 42.

Guess what? 99.9 percent of the people you really care about in the world don’t measure you with a number. Neither do most people who have half a brain. So why be a 0.1 per center? Ignore the score.

Jason goes on to make a very good point that if people leave Klout (as they have been doing recently), the platform is even less useful than it is now. Measuring tools like Klout need data to be successful. If you really don’t care about your score, don’t care about it…but don’t ruin things for people who do find use in the score. Or, at the very least, stop belittling them with a “I’m better than you because I don’t care about Klout” attitude (something that I don’t think Liz has, by the way, just so we’re clear).

The Klout Advantage

What I think is interesting about this debate is that everyone seems to be talking about how others are perceiving their Klout scores and few people are actually talking about how they’re looking at their own score. That’s how I’ve always used Klout, and why I’m hesitant to leave. I find it extremely useful in this way – in fact, I’m going to write a post for tomorrow about how I use Klout that you might be interested in reading.

In any case, I find the whole Klout debate one of the most important and interesting topics in our industry right now. Which side are you taking? Are you still using Klout or did you quit?

How I Tripled My Mailing List Sign-Ups in Under 10 Minutes


In addition to my own sites and the work I do here at BlogWorld, I also help other clients with their blogs. Recently, I was tasked with helping a client with his mailing list, and although my main job was to write some auto-responders, I also made a few simple suggestions regarding the mailing list sign-up box on his site.

It took my client less than ten minutes to make the changes, and he saw an immediate increase in daily sign-up, even though his traffic stayed about the same. In fact, his daily sign-up rate actually tripled.

So what do you think? Is ten minutes of your time worth triple the sign-ups to your mailing list?

Sign Up Box Location

The first and most obvious suggestion I made was to move the sign-up box and add it to different places to his site. He already had the box on his sidebar, but it wasn’t above the fold. He moved it to be at the very top of his sidebar, so anyone landing on his site, even if they were only there for a few seconds, would see it.

The bigger different, however, came when he also placed a sign-up box at the end of his posts. It’s pretty easy to add this to your code so you don’t have to actually manually add it at the bottom of every post. At the end of your post, you need a call to action, and unless you actually write, “Hey, sign up for my mailing list,” people are probably not going to remember to scroll back up to the top of your sidebar to do that. Put it at the bottom, and bam! Sign ups out the wazoo.

Wazoo is an official term.

Sign-Up Box Language

Next, my client took my advice to change the language on the sign-up box itself. He had something pretty generic there, like “Sign up on for my mailing list and get a FREE ebook!” Okay, awesome, he’s giving away something for free. But let’s face it – there are a lot of free ebook offers out there, especially in his niche (search engine optimization). If you’re in what I call a non-internet niche (like cooking or dating or collecting miniature ponies or something), a free ebook might still be a good idea. But to an SEO professional, that language really just reads, “In order to get this free crap that you probably don’t want, you have to agree to let me send you a bunch of emails that you also probably don’t want.”

So, he changed his language to make the offer sound more exclusive. People don’t just want free stuff. They want free stuff that no one else has. They want to be a part of something, even if it is just a mailing list, because it makes them feel like a special member. So, he changed the language to (I’m paraphrasing), “Become a member of my SEO email club and get a free ebook EXCLUSIVELY for members.”

Not only did he start to get more sign-ups, but those people also stuck around longer. Previously, a pretty high percentage would grab the ebook and immediately unsubscribe, but those numbers are now way down.

Sign-Up Box Information

Lastly, take a look at what information you’re requiring of potential sign-up-ees. Most sign-up boxes I see ask for a name and email address, but some ask for more, like checking a box or including other information. Every single little thing that your readers have to do is another setback for you. People don’t like giving away information, nor do they like anything that looks like work.

Think about your audience. Do you need to have them include a name, for example? If you work in a niche where people value their anonymity, taking away that requirement could help you gather more sign-ups. My client, in his SEO field, wanted to keep the “name” box for signing up, but he took away the little check box that said “check here to receive emails.” Hitting the “submit” button made this check box pretty redundant.

Also take a look at the emails you send someone after they subscribe. I don’t consider someone officially subscribed until they verify, since they won’t get any emails until that point. On one of my own highly-targeted mailing lists, I stopped requiring them to confirm by clicking the verify link in the auto-email that subscription services send. Instead, in my first follow-up welcome message, I make a very clear note that if they don’t remember signing up, they can simply hit the unsubscribe button.

The result? More actual list members. I have a higher number of unsubscribes within the first three messages, but the overall total is a lower percentage than before when you combined the number of unsubscribes and unverified subscribers. In other words, for me, it worked.

Don’t Forget to Test

Before closing out this post, I wanted to make a special note to remind you to test test test! For my client, the above changes made sense. They might for you as well. But there’s so much dynamic content on a blog, that it’s hard to tell. Did your subscriber count go up because you added a sign-up box at the end of your posts? Or did if go up because you wrote especially compelling content one day this week? Or are people responding to different wording? Or did an a-lister tweet about you, and you saw an influx of readers and subscribers?

The only way to know for sure is to do split testing. I personally use Aweber as my email list management system, and they make it really easy to do split testing. I’m told that others do as well. So change things slowly can see what really is working for you before making any permanent changes.

How to Choose a Perfect Domain Name?


The domain name is your Internet ID, a cornerstone of your online presence, and thus should be chosen carefully. With the ongoing increase of broadband penetration at the world level and, more importantly, rapid personalization of the user online presence, the domain is assuming even more significant role in creating a virtual destination. In general, there are three ways of using the Web space (personal, business and community), which affect the domain name choice.


Clearly, the domain name usually matches the personal name. However, before rushing to claim your name, perform a short search engine test first. If it is already registered on multiple extensions, a new registration will only reduce your chances of eventually becoming recognized by a wider Internet community. In this instance, the last name or the nickname could be a great alternative (of course a search engine test is recommendable).

As for the extension, gTLDs (generic top level domains such as .com, .net, .org) are more commonly used than ccTLDs (country-code top level domains such as .de, .es, .ru, .us) since they are targeting wider audience. However, if traditional extensions (.com. .net, .org etc.) are not available, consider registering one of the sizzling new ones that may add personal flavor to your virtual home.


The key feature of your business domain name is memorability – the more memorable, the more chance to be re-visited. What makes this online memorability? Three things: length, call-to-action and a nice extension.

A short domain is, by default, easy to remember and perfect for sharing across online and offline social media. For instance it saves characters on Twitter, fits on your business card, spreads rapidly through the word of mouth etc.

Call-to-action is what makes a website URL appealing. This concept urges users to act immediately and get the domain (permanently) stuck in a consumer’s head. For instance, .ME is perfect for creating domain hacks consisting of Verb + Extension – just try to forget addresses such as Advise.ME, Join.ME, Blog.ME or even those including newly coined words such as Themify.ME!

Finally, the extension plays an important role – if you start/launch on a ccTLD it is more than recommendable to register a gTLD, since at some point the company may go global. Nonetheless, do not register it at any cost. Should there be shortage of suitable names on mainstream extensions, keep in mind that some new ccTLDs (including .ME and .CO) may be a good option since they be geo-targeted in the Webmaster Tools. Therefore, you can set them to any location regardless of their country of origin.


In general, community implies usage of web space for online portals, forums, databases, organizations etc. The most commonly used domain for community websites is .org, so it is by default the primary choice. Still, all of the above (memorability and use of alternative extension) should apply to community websites as well.

In addition to these general guidelines, there is a number of tools across the web available for public use such as WHOIS, domain suggestions, registrar and registry websites, domain auction tools and dropped domains tools etc. that can make your quest easier. If used along with the piece of advice provided above, these tools will give you a pretty good idea of what should be your dream domain name. In the end, instead of getting the domain you really want, you will register the domain you really need.

The .Me Registry operates the .ME domain name which is available for worldwide registration and also offers special, highly valuable premium names through its development program (see details here). .ME Registry (the d.b.a. of doMEn, d.o.o.) was chosen by the government of Montenegro to operate the new .ME domain name extension. ME Registry partners include ME-net, GoDaddy.com and Afilias Limited.

Google Chrome’s New Tab Page, Google+ Integrated


Google says their web browser, Google Chrome, is now even more app-ealing. Did you get it? Their play on words?

That’s right. They’ve redesigned their Tab Page making it more streamlined and easier to access and organize your apps. (Will this move them even closer to taking over second place?)

Being the visual person that I am, I love how their apps are now “presented in a wall of images” as they state on their blog. It’s updated everytime you visit, it’s more visually appealing and it’s just easier to find what you’re looking for. As for installing new apps, they’ve made that super simple as well. Just hover over the image and click “Add to Chrome”.

Continuing with their efforts to integrate Google+ into all of their products, the apps store now includes reviews from Google+ profiles. The reviews link back to the person’s Google+ profile.

They’ve also added some new apps such as My Robot Nation™, an app that lets you design your own robot and bring it to life with a 3D printer.

Here’s a quick video tour of the new updates from Google Chrome.

This won’t be the last update we see from Google Chrome. They have more new features coming!

What browser do you use and why? For those of you not using Google Chrome, do these new features make you want to switch?


Is This The New Gmail?


It looks like Gmail, Google’s email system, is getting a facelift. The company accidentally posted a video on their YouTube channel with shots of a new Gmail interface. The video is now private, but thanks to the quickness of this Google blogger, we have the shots and a good look at it.

If you’ll recall in August, Google launched a new Google Labs featured called Preview Pane. I used it for about a week and then reverted back to the old Gmail I know, love and am used to. These new shots are based on Preview, but definitely have a lot of changes.

Here are a few of the changes noted:

  • An action bar that uses icons instead of text labels
  • A completely new interface for conversations
  • Profile pictures next to contacts
  • A flexible layout that adapts to any window size
  • Display density options like in Google Docs
  • Resizable chat/labels sections
  • New high-definition themes
  • Updated search box that includes advanced options

You can see all of the pictures from the new interface here.

As for the accidentally leaked video and when we might see this new interface, a Google rep told ReadWriteWeb, “Oops, you weren’t supposed to see that. Stay tuned, we’ll be sharing more info on Gmail’s new look soon.”

What do you think of the new design?

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