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Winning the Fight Against “The Little Things”

Theme screenshot

First, click Refresh on your browser to view the new theme correctly.

Working on a new theme for Zoomstart is just one of the “little things” that has consumed a lot of my time lately. Other things include Summer and studying the art of blogging.

Currently I’m also reading a brilliant book suggested by a friend called Made To Stick. If you’re writing or marketing anything, this book is a must read. It’s all about how to create ideas that stick. There are a few books that I have on my bookshelf that are THE book on their subject. This is one of them.

Beating up the Little Things

Little things have a way of conspiring against us, ganging up on us, and just being a general threat and nuisance. The last few weeks they’ve thrown my schedule into a tailspin. But I’m starting to round them up … they’re gonna pay for what they’ve done.

Another few weeks and I’ll be able to declare this a “Little Things Free Zone” and get back to posting more regularly. And ironically, many of the things that are consuming so much time are behind-the-scenes things to do with Zoomstart and blogging in general.

The Key Steps to Winning the Fight

There are a number of things I’ve been doing. I’m gaining ground, and maybe these things can help you out if you’re in a similar fight to the death with the details:

  1. Stand back and survey the landscape. That’s right look at all the little things. Now start taking names and list them all.
  2. Outsource them. One of the things that takes too much time is creating pics for each blog post. So I’ve started to go out and find great stuff at sites like Morguefile, stock.xchng, and iStockphoto. The first 2 are free, the third is a great investment at $1-2 a pic. My time is worth a lot more than that.
  3. Utilize what you’ve got. Even though I still have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the racing stripe sidebar for this new theme … it’s what I’ve got. It’s all we need and there are much bigger fish to fry. Like writing and networking. Utilize what you’ve got and the chances are excellent that you’ll utilize the next thing you get when it’s time to get it.
  4. Just do them. Ahh … currently in progress.

The little things are tough. But they’re not that tough.

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PPA Referral Ads by Google ups the Ante

Google Referrals 2.0

Every time you turn around there’s another article about how poor a revenue source Google AdSense is for most blogs and websites.

The truth is, it’s great for very large and well known sites that get a lot of competitive bidding on site targeted ads. And if you get bigger than big, you can negotiate a bigger piece of the pie the way YouTube did before Google purchased them.

Add to this the fact that there are many other very innovative advertising options emerging on the internet every day and you can see how the need to progress and innovate has to be a priority for a company like Google.

So that’s what they’ve done.

Referral Ads 2.0

They’ve expanded their referral program in AdSense to offer a whole host of different pay-per-action ads in different categories. When you sign in to your AdSense account and click on AdSense Setup > Referrals, there’s a whole list of new products and services available.

They’re all rated by performance with 5 stars being the highest. The payouts range anywhere from $0.02 to well north of $40. Pay-per-action requires a newsletter or service signup or a product purchase. Which is a bigger commitment than just a click, and it’s why the payouts are significantly higher than you’ll find with regular AdSense advertising.

At the same time, these higher paying programs often offer a lot more value than you’ll find in regular advertisements. They’re successful, which is why they can afford much larger payouts.

Check Out the Categories

You can choose the referrals you show in a specific referral unit in 3 different ways:

  1. By individual ads (choose up to 15 different referral ads from multiple categories)
  2. By keywords (choose up to 10 keywords)
  3. By category (choose up to 10 categories)

They’ve put together a pretty good selection of categories to match a broad range of niches:

  • Google Products
  • Automotive
  • Business
  • Computers & Electronics
  • Entertainment
  • Finance & Insurance
  • Food & Drink
  • Games
  • Health
  • Industries
  • Photo & Video
  • Recreation
  • Shopping
  • Telecommunications
  • Travel

Google Continues to Make it Easy

Choose all the referral products you want to show, choose an ad format, track their performance by assigning them to a channel, copy the code and paste it into your site.

All the ads you’ve chosen will rotate in the referral unit. If you check Pick best performing ads then the best performing ads in the program will show, if you uncheck this option, then only the specfic ads you’ve chosen will show.

Making it easy for people to search, and to signup for their programs has always been the secret of their success.

And as long as they continue to innovate and expand the options and offerings for advertisers and publishers the way they have with Referrals 2.0, they’ll stay ahead of the curve and a step ahead of the competition.

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The Zoom Guide To Writing High Traffic Blog Posts

Did the headline get your attention? I hope so. That’s its job.

For the last week I took a little hiatus from blogging to go to blog-writing school. Where is this school? It’s all around you. There are eBooks, blogs, and blog posts that can teach you everything you want to know about how to write great posts that people want to read and bookmark because they bring real value.

Zoom Traffic

I’ve studied quite a few things around the web over the last week. I have some links to share with you; to things you can check out and dive into on your own.

And I’ve assembled a checklist of all the essential elements of a great post. It’s not a template. It’s more of a quality control guide that you can use to check your posts to make sure they contain the things that make a great post great. I’ll be using it quite a bit to check my own writing.

Off to Blogging School

A lot of people have been writing about what it means to create great content. And why you should. So there are quite a few great posts and eBooks out there to devour. Here are some of the best:

Let’s start with understanding what an authoritative rescource is. Why it’s important to be one, and learn a little from a few people who’ve excelled in building blogs that are …

Right about now you’re starting to realize just how important it is to write great posts. Now the big question is, how?

  • We have to start with Brian Clark’s eBook Viral Copy.
  • Then we have to check out some of his other stuff like his Copywriting 101 series.
  • And then, it’s time to take a field trip. Pour over, study, and understand the great content written by people who’ve built superblogs in a very short time … zenhabits, Dosh Dosh, Freelance Switch. These blogs have all done very well, very quickly by writing great content. Authoritative content. Resourceful content.

There are a ton of other great resources out there. Pay attention to them all and learn a little bit from each and every one of them. And now that we know why and how, it’s time to boil it all down into something we can practice every time we write …

The Checklist for Writing High Traffic Blog Posts

The Post Idea

  • Be inspired. Write and build ideas with a creative angle
  • Understand the benefits to your readers that the idea conveys
  • Fit the idea into your subject niche. For your audience

The Headline

  • Be bold
  • State the benefits of the post to your readers in the headline
  • Describe what you’re writing about. The headline should be definitive of what you’re going to talk about

Images

  • Use good quality images that are appealing
  • The image should literally represent or very easily symbolize what the post is about

The Opening Paragraphs

  • Set-up the post
  • Focus on your readers
  • Provide an executive summary of the content

Your Authoritative Content

  • Maintain your character and personality. A dry read sucks, no matter how concrete the info is.
  • Create a step by step ‘How to’
  • Create lists
  • Tell stories and show examples
  • Link to the best resources

The Denouement

  • Write a final summary, take-away, lesson, or commentary

How to Use the Checklist

You can use the checklist to help you write great stuff, or use it as a quality test when a post just seems to be a little lost. What the checklist does is help you measure two things:

  1. Is it Authoritative? Does it have the best information from the best sources? Does it have the most detailed and easy to understand information? Is it trustworthy and believable?
  2. Is it a Resource? Is it worth bookmarking or referencing? Is it worth linking to or talking about?

Deliver these two things time and time again … build it … and they will come. The proof is in the blogs that have done it.

Not every post that I write or you write will be a diamond. Not even in the rough.

But there will be gems. And more of them.

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What Is Blogonomics? Content. Brilliant Content

American Beauty bag in the wind

Outside of the fame and the fortune (or quest for them), blogging is about writing. There’s absolutely nothing more rewarding if you’re a writer than to have people read what you wrote because you wrote something worth reading.

And as for fame and fortune … that’s just a product of what you wrote. At least, what you wrote that was worth reading.

There are a thousand tips, tricks, and strategies for taking a blog to dizzying heights of stardom. They include traffic building schemes, social networking, SEO, and a host of other ideas, topics, and experiments.

Brilliant content trumps them all.

I came across the latest Wise Camel post the other day. I didn’t have to wonder how a blog with only 4 posts and next to no comments could garner so much attention with one page. The answer was easy. It’s, in short, brilliant. And again and again, I see brilliant content that transcends everything else a blogger can do.

Making Money With Blogonomics

On the internet, traffic is synonymous with economics. That’s the easy part. And if writing brilliant posts is the key to traffic, then at the expense of every other strategy, optimization, and leverage you can harness, nothing should divert you from the task of writing brilliantly.

Forget about your blog design. Don’t be concerned with proper ad placement. Don’t be too concerned with anything except writing the absolutely best stuff you can possibly write.

Leave your sweat on the page. And your blood.

That’s just good blogonomics.

Writing Brilliant Content

I’ve been trying to make some time to think about what I write and how I write lately. And how often I should write. And how long it takes to write brilliant content. I haven’t spent nearly enough time thinking about these things, so this post is the start of those thoughts.

Back to the Wise Camel. And a story of strippers. There’s a lot to learn from that post. A lot about blogonomics, about brilliant content. And even though, on the surface it might seem like some kind of pop-fueled pandering piece of linkbait, somewhere, Hemingway is nodding, Shakespeare is laughing, and Henry Miller is, well, probably still wondering where his next cigarette might come from.

The Making Of A Brilliant Post

Inspiration.

You can’t decide who you fall in love with. Chemistry just happens. Writing is like that. When it comes to writing, it’s often the inspired post you wrote in 10 minutes that travels around the world. While the smart and well researched ones stay home. Inspiration is fire. And it fires us up like nothing else can. It’s a thought you can’t shake. It’s a merging of ideas that shouldn’t go together but do. It’s what you feel in your gut that takes your words away.

And then hopefully, gives them back.

There are a thousand tips, tricks, and strategies.

Inspiration builds great walls. It tears them down. It turns a paper bag playing in the wind into a five-time Academy Award winning movie. Inspiration is how a man who spent a lifetime inventing and engineering could paint the most famous smile in the world.

And it’s just good blogonomics.

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The South Park Meme

My South Park alter ego

I see quite a few charicatures around the net, and the other day my head wandered into the thought “I wonder what I’d look like in South Park”?

So, I thought I’d check online for some SP pics and use them as a model to create my own likeness in Photoshop. And then I ran into South Park Studio. Janina has created a cool flash app with dozens of different clothing and hair styles, eyes, hats, skin tones and accessories.

A few minutes later, and I found my South Park alter ego staring me in the face. I did a little Photoshop customization to add a little more “me” to it, including a belt, watch, and my Zoomstart logo, but South Park Studio did all the heavy lifting.

Blogging Community Invades South Park …

So what do you look like in the South Parkisphere?

I gotta know! So I’m turning this into a meme … first, create you. And then capture your image in a screen shot by holding “Shift” and pressing “Prt Sc” and paste it into your favorite photo editor for final editing/cropping. Post your character along with a link to Janina’s site for others to follow. And then tag a few people to keep it rolling.

I’ll kick it off by tagging Jon, Nate, Danielle, Martin and Anthony

And if you’re reading this, tagged or not, jump in and check it out.

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Stuff

A carton full of STUFF

This is one of those regular posts I write that’s in serious need of some branding.

Maybe I should call it … oh wait a minute, Nate already writes a list called Powerful Posts. Well, I’m sure I’ll figure out what to call this one of these days.

The last time, I called it Leviathan Ran. And Other Free Associations. Catchy, isn’t it. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe it is. That post received a lot of traffic. Which, like Martin says, is a good reason to never stop experimenting.

What Is This Already?!

It’s a link post and it’s about bringing you some cool posts and ideas from around the web. But rather than just throwing out a list of links, I like to wrap a little blathering around them.

I just haven’t figured out a common theme for doing this yet. Every time it’s different. Every time it’s like doing improv. I went with my cousin to Yuk-Yuk’s one time. It was his first time doing stand-up. He bombed miserably. It was so bad that people were laughing at how bad it was.

Afterwards, we laughed at how bad it was.

But that story should never stop you from trying something different. Which is why I wrote a guest post on Shoemoney about StumbleUpon the other day. Just to do something different.

I like StumbleUpon. A lot. It’s a great place to find thought provoking stuff.

There’s great stuff everywhere. Stuff from people like Penelope Trunk who tells you how to do something big with your blog. Or from Neil Patel, who makes a great point about doing something so simple and smart as linking to your contact page from your about page.

There’s stuff to inspire you and motivate you. Anthony’s motivated. He’s just released his fourth WordPress theme.

So that’s what this is. Stuff. At least that’s what I’m calling it.

This time.

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Change Your WordPress Permalink Structure Without Breaking The Internet

Chain Links

One of the things I’ve wanted to do lately is go timeless.

What I mean by that is getting rid of the date in my WordPress permalink structure. The problem with doing this kind of thing after you’ve started your blog is that it breaks links. And by that, I mean all of them. The internal ones, the search engine ones, and all the links you’ve gotten from other blogs and websites.

Let’s Start At The Beginning

A commonly used permalink structure looks something like this:
www.zoomstart.com/2007/03/23/the-flavor-flav-factor/

I want to get rid of the date and make it into this:
www.zoomstart.com/the-flavor-flav-factor/

That’s very simple to do. All you have to do is log into your WordPress Admin panel, go to OptionsPermalinks and change the structure from:

/%year%/%monthnum%/%day%/%postname%/

to

/%postname%/

Easy, right. Until you break the internet.

Here’s What Breaks

  • Every hard-coded link in your posts to other posts you’ve written. Poof … gone!
  • All your search engine results. Bu-bye Google!
  • All the deep link love you ever got from anyone else to your great words of wit and wisdom. Nice knowing ya!

Luckily, There’s A Solution …

All you need to do is download Dean Lee’s Permalinks Migration Plugin. Upload and activate the plugin. Go to the Options page and select the PermalinksMigration page and type in your current permalink structure. Then go to the Permalinks page and type in your new permalink structure.

The plugin uses a 301 Redirect to get everyone to the right page. Eventually, the search engines will change your links to the new structure, and all your internal links and external backlinks are fine.

It’s that simple.

What’s A Good Structure And Why?

Alright, you might be thinking ‘who cares?‘. And honestly it probably doesn’t matter unless you really want to build timeless content. Timeless content is the stuff that’s still relevant a year or 10 years from now.

It just looks better if it’s not dated in the link. Then, no matter when someone finds your post, they don’t automatically think it’s outdated and they judge the content for what it’s really worth.

It also keeps your link structure simple and simple is good.

Some people advocate using myblog.com/category/postname as a convention. Not a bad idea, but I’ve decided to go with myblog.com/postname. This gives me the easy option to revise my category structure in the future without breaking the links.

So even if you didn’t start out being “timeless”, no worries. You can still get there.

Without breaking the internet.

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The Ultimate Blogging Resource Page

What if you could narrow your search to find the best information on the web? 

Google Co-op is a cool little feature that allows you to create your own custom search engine. It’s a little different than Site-search because you can add as many different websites to search as you want. It also has a number of other customization features.

So I thought I’d put together a custom search bar for bloggers. I’ve included a great selection of top notch sites where you can find all the best information about blogging, from advertising to writing and everything in between. Enjoy.

The Ultimate Blogging Resource search bar

Start searching …





Google Custom Search

What Sites Are Included In The Search?

The engine gives priority search to the following sites. It also searches the entire web, so if there’s another blog or website that has better information on what you’re trying to find, the engine should pick it up.

Bloggingpro
Copyblogger
Copywriter
Dosh Dosh
Jennifer Slegg
Jensense
Lorelle
Matt Cutts
Problogger
SEO Book
Weblog Tools Collection
WordPress
Zoomstart (I know, but hey, couldn’t resist)

Check out Google Co-op and put your own customized perfect search engine together. All you need is a subject and a list of great authoritive sites on the subject to drop into the engine. 

*Update. Added the following site:

Daily Blog Tips (Thanks Maki!)

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Leviathan Ran. And Other Free Associations

There’s nowhere to run from a leviathan!

There’s a lot of chatter lately about how difficult it is to write a blog. After a while, a lot of people just run out of ideas and throw in the towel. Maybe this will help …

 Blogging is about writing, more than anything else. And you have to exercise that. 

This is a creative writing exercise. It’s called free association, and it’s a good way to exercise your noodle. It’ll help your writing no matter what you’re writing. Basically, you choose a number of seemingly random things, and put them all together into a little story that makes sense. Or sort of makes sense.

Ready, Set … Go

Last week, The Paper Bull engaged in a little word play with Wordsmith’s anagram application. He punched in a bunch of names and the anagram software mixed up all the letters to find new words.

So I’m Leviathan Ran. Course I’m also Nasal Hair Vent, which has got me looking at my nose with a puzzled look on my face. What did it all mean?

In a search for answers I stopped by Zen Habits to see what the Handbook for Life could tell me. I didn’t find the answer to the anagram riddle there, but if you decide to have a weekend without television, there’s a lot of great advice to be had and things to do to keep you busy. And not so busy.

Steve Roesler has some great advice on subtraction. Success, Authenticity, And All The Things You Aren’t seemed like it might be the angle I needed. Was I not Leviathan Ran.

Or not Nasal Hair Vent.

I needed another angle. So I wandered over to Antbag since Anthony recently won the Millionaire Mind book contest. Maybe he had some million dollar advice. Since winning the book he’s put out a WordPress theme and probably the most innovative productivity wallpaper you’ll see on any desktop.

He was obviously too busy becoming a millionaire so I didn’t bother him.

Nate Whitehill always has great advice. Like 5 Ways to Make your Post more Readable. Hmm … we’re way past the point of no return on that one here. But maybe I can salvage some readability with a couple bullet points:

And … Stop!

So that’s free association.

It’s a great way to  break through writer’s block or just stimulate your writing process. What you come up with doesn’t matter so much. It’s gonna be off the wall. And it should be.

What’s important is the exercise.

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Branding: A Free eBook To Help You Build Your Brand

Branding eBook

A few weeks ago, I conducted a little survey here to get some feedback on a topic for an eBook.

Branding stood out as a favorite. So branding it was. And branding it is.

And incidentally, part of building a great brand is testing it. And surveys are a good way to get the opinions you need to make good branding decisions and to make sure you’re on the right track.

Enough Talk … I Need The eBook!

Just subscribe to Zoomstart to get free updates and a link to download the book. You can subscribe to the RSS feed or to Email Updates and at the end of each blog post you recieve via RSS or Email is a link to download your copy of Zoomstart Branding!

Tell Me More. What’s In The Branding eBook?

First of all, what’s the catch? There is none. Cool, huh? Enjoy it, read it, print it out and wallpaper your wall with it. Email it along to someone you know. And check out the links in it; there are quite a few great blogs and sites in the resources section on the last page to help you think about and build your brand.

The Zoomstart Branding eBook is a step by step guide to building a brand. Here’s what I cover:

  1. How Branding Works. A brand has a job to do. Understanding what that job is really helps you focus on the elements of how great brands do what they do.
  2. Defining Your Brand. Before you build it, or rather as part of building it, you want to define what it’s all about. Step by step I walk through how it is that people will experience your brand.
  3. Designing Your Brand. Aha! Down to the nitty-gritty. The basic alements of a name and a logo, and just as important, a population. Yes, you need to populate it with people.
  4. Promoting Your Brand. If a tree falls in the woods, right? Again, the basics for you to explore along with some tools and ideas on how to do it.
  5. Resources. As I mentioned, there’s a page of categorized links to click on. This eBook is just the start of your brand building journey. I’m a firm believer in gathering ideas and information from many sources. Check ’em out.

So that’s what it’s all about. Enjoy.

Subscribe to Zoomstart RSS or Email Updates and get your free copy of Zoomstart Branding.

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