Feedburner set-up

One of the set-up options many new bloggers miss as they aren’t aware of it is Feedburner.  Feedburner augments your RSS feed and allows you to track the number of subscribers to your RSS feed along with email services and numerous other features.  Before we jump into setting up Feedburner, let me explain what RSS is, as this is a confusion point for most new bloggers.  If you’re familiar with RSS, just skip to the next section: What is Feedburner?

What is RSS?

RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” and is basically a technology that allows visitors to your blog to “subscribe” and receive updates whenever you publish new content.  Updates are received by RSS Readers that the subscriber uses.  Basic browsers such as Internet Explorer and Firefox comes with built in RSS readers.  My personal preferred RSS reader is Google Reader when I’m on my MacBook, and FeedlerPro on my iPad.

Some of you maybe asking: Why use RSS versus just visiting the website directly?  Good question and here are a couple of reasons/advantages:

  1. All of your favorite content in one place – RSS readers consolidate all of your subscriptions into one place.  Using an RSS reader you can just scroll through all of the latest articles from all of the blogs you subscribe too, one after the other.  No need to visit each website to see the content.
  2. Latest content only – RSS readers keep you from having to visit each blog or website only to find that there isn’t any new content.  RSS readers also are set-up by default to only show you new content, so no more visiting a website and trying to remember if you read the sites latest article or not.
  3. Avoids email clutter – I know some people love to have updates sent to their email, but I get enough email without having updates from the more than 100 blogs I subscribe to being sent there as well.  Using RSS allows me to separate my blog reading from my inbox to avoid clutter.

What is Feedburner?

WordPress by default comes with an RSS feed, it’s your domain name followed by /feed, so for Side Income Blogging, it’s http://sideincomeblogging.com/feed.  The problem with this default feed though is that WordPress nor RSS provide a way to tracking statistics about your RSS subscribers though.  Things like how many people are subscribed and did they click through to your website.  WordPress and RSS also don’t provide any additional capabilities on top of your RSS feed, like formatting and advertising.

Feedburner to the rescue.  Fortunately, Feedburner does.  Feedburner not only allows us to track our subscribers, but it provides numerous other functionality to compliment our RSS feed.  Feedburner is a definitely a must have for every blogger.  Feedburner initially was it’s own company and quickly grew due to the fantastic capabilities and features offered.  Google acquired Feedburner a few years back and added one really nice feature, Adsense integration.  You don’t have to worry about that right now, but this will become an important part of your income stream later.

Feedburner works by “wrapping” or intercepting your blogs RSS feed.  When you set-up Feedburner, it will ask you for your blogs feed address.  Feedburner will consume your blogs feed and provide you with a special Feedburner RSS URL.  This is how Feedburner is able to track subscribers and give you special abilities.  Feedburner works as a “middle man” of sorts.

With that in mind, let’s get Feedburner set-up and configured.

Feedburner Set-up

Feedburner set-up is pretty easy:

  1. Visit http://feedburner.google.com
  2. Enter you Google account credentials or sign-up for a new Google account if you don’t have one.  You’ll then be shown the My Feeds page of Feedburner.  This will be the main landing page when you login and will display the various feeds you have set-up with Feedburner (assuming you have more than one blog).
  3. To set-up (aka burn) your new feed, enter your website’s feed address in the “burn your feed right this instance”.  Remember, your feed address is your blog URL followed by /feed.  Using Side Income Blogging as an example, the feed address would be: http://sideincomeblogging.com/feed.
  4. Click Next
  5. Next, confirm the feed name and URL.  I would recommend leaving them as defaulted by Feedburner, but you can certainly change them as well.
  6. Click Next
  7. You should receive a confirmation window showing the URL for your Feedburner feed.  Copy and save this address somewhere.  While you can always log back into Feedburner, it’s often handy to have this address available.  I save my Feedburner addresses along with other website information using Evernote.
  8. Click Skip directly to feed management, which will take you back to one of the settings pages for your new feed.
  9. Click the Google Feedburner logo in the upper right corner to return to the main landing page.  You’ll see your new feed now listed.
  10. Congratulations!  Don’t close the window though, because we’re not done just yet.

Feedburner Email Set-up

One of the really nice features of Feedburner is that it not only enables RSS subscriber tracking but also adds the ability to email your post updates to subscribers.  This is something you’ll want to set-up as well.  This will give your readers the option of subscribing to your site using both RSS and EMail.  In order for email subscriptions to work, we’ll have to set-up the email subscriptions option.  Here’s how:

  1. Click on your new feed name.  If you closed the window, just access Feedburner again and re-login using your Google credentials.
  2. You’ll now see the details/settings page for your feed.  For now, Feedburner will tell you that your feed is new and to check back.  This is normal.  It can take a day or so to begin showing detailed stats about your feed.
  3. The various tabs at the top allow you to change your feed settings.  To set-up email subscriptions, click on the Publicize tab.
  4. Under the various services options listed along the left, click on the Email Subscriptions option.
  5. Click on the pink Active button to activate Email subscriptions.
  6. You’ll now see the Email subscription management page.  Feedburner provides two options for adding email subscription options to your blog.  You can either use a link or a form.  The link will allow you to place a link on your website and when your visitor clicks on it, they’ll be routed to Feedburner to enter their email address and name.  The form allows you to place a form on your blog, so visitors can enter their name and email directly on your website.  For now, we’ll just be using the link.  In a future article, I’ll discuss how to add the form directly to your blog.
  7. Scroll down to where it says Preview Subscription link, and copy the URL located between the quotes just after the href tag.  For example, for Side Income Blogging it will be: http://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/mailverify?uri=SideIncomeBlogging&loc=en_US
  8. Click Save
  9. That’s it, email subscriptions are now enabled.

Adding your Feedburner RSS and Email links to your blog

Your subscription links should be very visible and easy to find for your readers.  I highly recommend added them to the very top of your sidebar.  If you’re using the Thesis theme, here’s how you can easily do that:

  1. Login to your WordPress admin console
  2. Navigate to Thesis>>Site Options
  3. Click on the + next to Syndication/Feed URL
  4. Replace the value there (if there is one) with the Feedburner address I asked you to save in Step 7 under Feedburner Set-up above.
  5. Click the Save button.
  6. Navigate to Appearance>>Widgets
  7. Drag the Subscriptions Widget over to your Sidebar (on the right) and drop it at the top.  Once you drop it, it will open up allowing you to set tthe settings.
  8. For Title, I’d recommend putting “Subscribe”
  9. For Describe your subscription options, you can put something like “Get free updates by subscribing”, but feel free to snaz this up a bit.  The key goal is to encourage your visitors to subscribe.
  10. In the RSS Link text, enter: Via RSS
  11. In the Email link and text, enter: <a href=”YOUR EMAIL LINK GOES HERE”>Via Email</a>
  12. Where it says YOUR EMAIL LINK GOES HERE, replace that with the Email link from step 7 under Feedburner Email Set-up above.  Again, this will be something like: http://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/mailverify?uri=SideIncomeBlogging&amp;loc=en_US
  13. Click Save

That’s it, you should now have a basic subscribe widget on your blog.  Make sure you confirm everything is working by clicking on the links.  I would  suggest subscribing to your blog both to fully verify the links are working and so you can monitor your feeds to ensure they work going forward.

Feedburner Feedsmith Redirect

One last step.  What if someone visits your feed URL directly or uses an RSS Reader that automatically pulls your feed?  Well, the problem is that both of these would most likely use your /feed URL to pull your RSS feed.  This will bypass Feedburner and make your stats inaccurate.  Fortunately this is easily solved by using a plugin called FeedBurner FeedSmith Extend.  This little plugin will redirect any access to your /feed address to your Feedburner URL, basically forcing any subscriptions to use your Feedburner feed.  Slick huh?

Here’s how to install and set it up.

  1. Install the FeedBurner FeedSmith Extend plugin.  This is done by using the Add New menu under Plugins in your WordPress console.
  2. Once installed, activate the plugin
  3. Under your settings menu, select Feedburner FeedSmith Extend.
  4. In the Main Feed feed, enter your Feedburner feed URL.
  5. Leave comments blank for now.
  6. Press Save.

Now let’s test it to make sure it’s working.  In your browsers address field, enter your blogs URL and add /feed on the end.  Again, for Side Income Blogging (as an example) it would be: http://sideincomeblogging.com/feed. Press enter.  You should be redirected to the Feedburner subscribe page.  If not, follow the instructions above again to make sure you didn’t miss something or miskey the address of your Feedburner address.

That’s it!  Your blog is now fully Feedburner enabled.  We’ll explore some of the more advanced features of Feedburner later, but for now just enjoy watching that subscriber number slowly grow!



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Don’t ever just shutdown a blog or website

I recently had a client that decided they were not longer interested in blogging.  As a result, they went to their hosting provider, deleted the site and canceled their hosting.  Seems reasonable right?  After all, if you’re no longer interested in blogging, why keep your site?  While in some scenarios this is the right thing to do, in most it’s not.  Websites and blogs are like real estate (well, what real estate used to be a few years ago).  In most cases, they begin gaining value from the moment you buy them.

Websites and blogs have value and grow

My client’s site was a site they actively wrote on for almost a year, then as their interest faded the site received less and less updates.  Regardless of how frequently it was updated, the site contained a large amount of content that was indexed by Google and receiving search engine traffic.  Additionally the site had a Page Rank of 2, not great, but not bad either.

As you may or may not know, Google gives additional credibility to sites that have been around for a while.  The longer the site has been live, the more credibility the site gets.  Credibility yields search engine traffic and search engine traffic yields income opportunity.

What I’m trying to say here is that my client just up and deleted a site:

  • A large amount of good content
  • A mature and search engine indexed site
  • A perfectly good domain name

Alternatives to deleting a blog or website

Instead of just deleting the site and throwing away more than a years worth of content and site maturity, here are some options that should be considered:

Just keep the site up

Instead of deleting it, just leave it running.  This is particularly a good idea if the site has advertising on it and is making money.  Overtime the site could continue to gain traffic even though it’s not actively being updated.  Sure it will grow slower, but it will still get traffic, especially if the content is good and targeted at good keywords.

Additionally, you may decide to come back and begin writing on it again.  I know for me personally, I can get a little burnt out writing on the same topics over and over.  But, if I take a break for a few weeks or even months, I’ll often get the itch to write again.  I’ve done that a bit here on Side Income Blogging.

You should also consider hiring a writer.  If you’re too busy or not currently interested in writing, hiring a writer might be a good option, particularly if the site is earning money or has the potential to earn money.  You can find writers and websites that offer article writing services for as little as $10 – $15 per article (actually some advertise $5/article, but I question the quality).

The only thing that would make me shy away from just keeping the site up and running is it was costing me more to run the site than I’m earning and I think it’s going to be that way for while.  If that’s the case, sometimes it is better to just cut your loses.  But before you do, consider the remaining options.

Sell the whole site

Many people are surprised to find that they can sell their site, even if it’s a fairly new site.  One of the most popular places to sell your website or blog is on Flippa.  Flippa allows you to auction your site off.  You can set a reserve price to insure you get a base amount.  Flippa provides potential buyers will all types of useful information about your site.

Of course Flippa is just one option.  There are many other websites that allow you to list and sell your website or blog.  You can also just publish a post on your site indicating you’re interested in selling.  Word of  mouth also works very well.  When I sold Gather Little by Little, I expressed interest in selling to some fellow personal finance bloggers and within a few days sold the site.

The trick with selling your site is determining it’s value, basically answering the question: How much is my blog worth?.  This isn’t an easy question to answer and there are multiple “right” ways to answer it.  The general rule, and the one I’ve used is: a site is worth 24 months of income plus some premium for the domain name and site itself.   Let’s say that your site is 1 year old and earning $100.00/month from Adsense and various affiliates.  The site has a decent domain name, a good page rank, and well written content.  The value of the site based on this rule would be $2400.00 + the premium.  The premium is where things get a little fuzzy, but I’d say maybe $500.00, making the site value $2900.00.  This is a good starting point.

The bottom line on site worth is that it’s really up to you.  You have to ask yourself, will I regret selling it afterwards?  That’s what the decision really boils down to.

Sell the content

Another option, albeit less popular is to just sell the content.  Many bloggers are always looking for ways to add good content to their blogs and will often be willing to purchase your content (aka articles) from you.

The best way to do this is to just contact successful bloggers in the niche for your site and ask them if they would be interested.  Determining value is difficult and there isn’t a real good rule of thumb here.  Just be aware that most bloggers can outsource article writing for as little as $10 – $15 per article.

Wrapping Up

I’m certainly not saying that just up and deleting a site isn’t the right thing to do.  I’ve done it numerous times, especially for sites that are getting little to no traffic, I haven’t put much time into, and aren’t earning money.   In many cases though, you can recover some of your investment by selling your site or your content.  Please don’t ever just up and delete a website or blog you’ve created.  Consider the options first.



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Advertising on my blog – When should you start

One of the more common group of questions I get on a daily basis from readers and clients is about “advertising on my blog” and more specifically “when should I start advertising on my blog”.  Unfortunately there is no real clear and concise answer to this question and answers from experts vary greatly.  I’ll provide you with my perspective on this and give you some items to consider, but ultimately the right answer is that you should start advertising on your blog when you feel comfortable.

My recommendation to most clients is to not start advertising right away, but to wait a few months or until you get a decent amount of daily traffic, say 100 visits per day.  Here’s why:

  • You have enough to do without advertising – When you’re new to blogging or even an experienced blogger trying to get a new blog started, you have tons of work to do getting the site up and running, getting links, writing lots of great content, promoting your blog, etc.  Advertising is just another extra activity to distract you from these crucial set-up items.  You might be saying at this point” “but advertising is easy”.  Sure, putting an ad on a website is easy, but finding a high quality targeted ad and placing in the right position isn’t.
  • No traffic, no money – In order to make money from advertising, you must have traffic.  Without traffic, you get no money.  Having ads on a blog or website when there is no money is really just a waste of space and frankly can make the blog look cluttered.  In the early stages of your blog, rather than wasting the space with ads, use that space to promote yourself, your articles and your blog.  This can be done by using “Most popular” article lists, articles by category, Author’s favorite articles, etc.
  • Perception – I’m honestly on the fence about this  one, but am going to mention it anyway: Having ads on a new blog can send the wrong perception to readers.  The logic here is that someone visiting a new blog arrives, sees ads and says to themselves “Well, they’re only interested in making money”.  I think this was definitely true in the early days of blogging, but now blogs are everyone and most if not everyone is looking to offset their time and effort writing with ads, ad perception may not be a big deal.  It is something you should consider though.
  • Monetizing your blog is complicated – Many bloggers start out day one by throwing up a few banner ads in the sidebar and check daily to see if they’ve made any money, only to find that they really never do and when they do it’s only a few cents.  This can be very discouraging.  Monetizing your blog and optimizing it based on your traffic and the type of traffic you get can be complicated.   Instead of just throwing up a few banners, hold off placing ads for a few months.  Use this time learn about ads and consider the choices you need to make.  Use this time to start building search engine traffic, which is the key factor in earning revenue from your blog.   Once you’ve gained a good amount of knowledge on advertising and have some traffic, begin placing ads.  Google Adsense is generally the best first option to begin with.

When building traffic and trying to start a new blog, really focus on the blog and blog’s content initially.  Get readers, get traffic, and get practice writing, publishing and maintaining your blog.  Once your blog becomes a little more popular, you can then start focusing more on ads, affiliate offers and revenue in general.  Bottom line though, the choice is yours and their really isn’t a right or wrong time.  Just consider the options and do what you feel comfortable doing.

Photo by: marksweb

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What is FTP and why you need it for your blog

File Transfer Protocol, better known as FTP is a communications standard that allows you to move files to/from a server on the internet.  FTP is commonly used to install software to a web server or to copy files up to a web server to make them available on a web-site.

Thanks to many different software programs available, FTP is really rather easy these days.  Back in the day, you had to use FTP from a command line.  While not terribly complex it did require knowing the syntax along with some other cryptic information.  While those tools are still available, there are many easier to use tools available.  Using these programs, transferring files to and from your server is as easy as moving files from one folder to another on your home computer.

FTP Clients

FTP programs, more commonly called FTP clients are a dime a dozen.  There are literally hundreds of them out there, all offering different features and capabilities.  I’m going to mention a few but really just focus on one:

  • FileZilla – This is by far the most popular choice and frankly probably one of the best as well.  The great thing about FileZilla is that it’s free.  I’m all about free.   Version are available for Windows, Max OS X, and Linux
  • FireFTP – FireFTP is an FTP client that runs within FireFox.  If you aren’t using Firefox, you should be….go download it right now!  Many of the tools I’ll be highlighting here on Side Income Blogging will run within Firefox.
  • WinSCP – A Windows only client that supports both standard FTP and Secure FTP.
  • Transmit (Mac OS X Only) – Transmit is an awesome FTP program built by my favorite Mac Software shop Panic.  Transmit has a ton of really slick features.

My preference and the FTP client I use everyday?  FireFTP.    I do a lot of custom development and most of my transferring of files is supported by the development tool I use call Coda.  When I’m not in Coda I’m generally in Firefox doing something on the web.   I’m not particularly fond of switching applications, so I’d rather just run my FTP client inside of Firefox.  FireFTP does exactly what I need, and it’s free.  Again, I’m all about free.

How to transfer files using FireFTP

As I mentioned, transferring files using FireFTP is really simple.  The following sections will walk you through installing it, configuring it and show you how to transfer files.

Install FireFTP

Installation of FireFTP is easy:

  1. First, if you don’t have Firefox, download and install it.  If you’ve never used it before, just give it a try, I promise you’ll love it.  It’s one of my missions in life to convert everyone from Internet Explorer (ok, not really but Firefox is still great).
  2. Next, visit the FireFTP site and click on the Add to Firefox link.  A window will slide down.  Press the Install Now button and Firefox will install FireFTP for you.  Depending on your Firefox and computer settings, you might need to restart FireFox.
  3. Once installed, you now have a new menu option on the main FireFox Tools menu named FireFTP.

Run FireFTP and create a new connection

Now, Let’s run FireFTP and get it configured.  To start FireFTP, click on Tools, FireFTP. FireFTP will load in a new Tab.  Your screen should look similar to this (click on the image for a larger version):

On the left is a file browser for your local hard drive.  The blank area on the right is the file browser for the server you’ll be connected to.  At the bottom is a log window that will show you information about your activities.  In order to connect to a server, you’ll need to create a New Account.  Do this by performing the following steps:

  1. Click on the drop down box in the top left corner of FireFTP that says Create an Account. A pop up window will appear named the Account Manager.  This is where you will enter your new account information.  FireFTP keeps your account information for your various FTP connections so that you don’t have to re-enter them each time.
  2. At this point, you’ll need your hosts FTP information.  This would have been provided to you by the hosting company in the initial welcome email they provided.  If you cannot find this information, just contact your hosting company’s support area and they’ll provide it for you.
  3. By default, the cursor is located in the Host field.  This is where you will enter the hostname for the ftp server you want to connect to.  For your blog or website, this is generally your domain with an FTP on the front.  For example: ftp.myblogname.com.
  4. Notice that the Account Name field is auto-populated with the hostname your typed.  If you’re ok with this leave it as is.  Personally I like to use names that are a little more friendly.  To do this just place the cursor into the Account Name field and key in whatever name you would like.
  5. Next we can assign a category.  If you are only going to have a handful of ftp accounts, you can just leave this field blank; however if you’re like me and have a ton, I’d suggest assigning your connection to a category.  This is done by just choosing a previously entered category name or by keying a new one in the Category field.  My Categories are: My Sites, Client Sites, and Misc.
  6. Now place your cursor in the login field.  Enter the ftp login id.
  7. Move to the password field and enter your ftp password field.
  8. Press the OK button and your New Account is added!

Note that in the connection drop-down where it previously said Create an Account, it now has the name of the FTP server we just entered.

Transferring files using FTP

Now that we have an account created, it’s time to connect to the server and transfer some files!

  1. In the connection drop down in the top left corner, choose the account you want to connect to.  If you only have one, it will be listed by default.
  2. Just to the right of the drop down, press the Connect button.  In the bottom window, you’ll see information FireFTP provides as it’s connecting to your server.  If successful, the right side window will show the file structure for the server you connected to.  If you get a pop-up asking for your login ID and password, than the information you provided for the server name, login id or password when you created the connection is incorrect.  Use the Edit option to make changes.
  3. In the left hand window (your computer) navigate to the directory where the file exists you want to upload (source).  In the right hand window, navigate to the directory where you want to place the file (destination).  Make sure the source and destination directories are highlighted.
  4. Select (highlight) the file on your computer in the left hand pane.
  5. To copy a file to the server, click the green arrow your local machine window and your server window that’s pointing to the right.  To copy a file from the server to your local machine, click the arrow pointing to the left.  Yep, it’s that easy.

That’s it, you just transferred a file using FTP!  To move whole directories, instead of highlighting a file highlight a directory and follow the same process, the directory and all of it’s contents will be automatically transferred.

Why do you need FTP?

FTP is useful for  number of reasons:

  1. If you have a text editor installed on your computer, like Notepad++ on Windows or the default text editor that comes with a Mac when you right click on a file on your server you can edit that file and when you save it, FireFTP will save it back to the server.  This is REALLY convenient for editing theme files, robots.txt files or your wp-config.php file.
  2. Use it to do a manual install of WordPress.
  3. Upload downloadable content to your website.
  4. Backup files.

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How to install WordPress on HostGator

I’m assuming since you’re reading this article, you decided to host your blog with Host Gator.  If not, you’re in the wrong place.  Visit the How to install WordPress parent article and choose the right install WordPress article for you.

Installing WordPress on Hostgator

Installing WordPress on HostGator is incredibly easy and is one of the many reasons I recommend hosting with them.  HostGator uses a software package called Fantastico.  Fantastico is a commercial scripting library that automates the installation of web applications to websites.  Fantastico is used by HostGator and they have a script that automatically installs WordPress for you.  Here’s how you do it:

  1. Login to control panel for your HostGator account.  This information would have been provided to you by HostGator when they set-up your account.
  2. Find Software/Services, then click on the Fantastico De Luxe icon (it’s a blue smiley face)
  3. When the Fantastico screen opens, click on the WordPress link located in the left hand menu.
  4. In the left hand window, some information on WordPress will appear.  This will tell you the version being installed.  Click on the New Installation link.
  5. Next, the installation screen will be displayed.  Choose the domain that you would like WordPress installed to.  If you have only one domain on your hosting account, than only one will be listed.
  6. For the Install in directory field, leave it blank if you want WordPress installed to the root or enter a directory if you want it installed to a sub-directory.  In most cases you’ll leave this blank; however, if WordPress is only a portion of your site you should install it to subdirectory.  For example, if you already have a site on your domain and want to add a blog using WordPress, you would install WordPress to say the blog directory.  Again, for most of you, this field will just be left blank.
  7. Next we’ll complete the admin access data.  The admin account is the primary administrator account for your new blog.  Put whatever name here you would like in the Administrator-username field.    In the Password field, enter a password.  Use something that is easy for you to remember.  Personally I suggest using a combination of letters and numbers as this makes the password harder to guess.
  8. Next we’ll fill in the Base information.  For Admin Nickname, either put the same admin name you entered above or you can chose a different name.  For Admin Email, enter your primary email address where you want emails from your WordPress site sent to.  These emails include comment notifications, new user notifications, etc.  For Site Name, put the name of your blog.  For my blog it would be: Side Income Blogging. Then enter a description or a tagline for your blog.
  9. Click Install WordPress.
  10. The next screen will show a summary of the installation.  If everything looks accurate (it should be), than click on Finish Installation.

That’s it!  Yes, it was really that easy.  Like I said, HostGator makes the process simple.

Now that you have WordPress installed, we’ll get it set-up and ready to go.  I’ll walk you through the set-up process in my next article in the Start a money making blog series

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