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Grab Flickr Creative Commons Photos Without Leaving Your Blog

February 28, 2008

Creative Commons License photo credit: muha…

I was browsing through my RSS subcriptions when I saw this post Darren wrote featuring a fantastic WordPress plugin that I knew I had to have.

“With the Photo Dropper plugin, you can now search millions of Flickr photos and add them to your WordPress posts with just 1 click, all without leaving your WordPress dashboard. Attribution links are automatically added underneath the images to comply with the Creative Commons license rules. It’s the easiest way to add photos to your blog. Period. And best of all – it’s Free!”

Considering how I always talk about why using images is important, and that I’ve written a guide on how to find and use Flickr photos, I knew this was a big one for me. Images make a blog look a lot more attractive and interesting, and they catch the visitor’s eye and make your site memorable. Since you can either steal images, pay for them, or use Creative Commons photos, I opted for the last choice. The first should never be an option, the second is expensive, but the last one is great – Flickr has thousands of amazing Creative Commons photos you can use for free, as long as credit is given.

And with the Photo Dropper plugin, you never even have to leave your dashboard to find great images – or even your ‘write a post’ page, for that matter! Once you install and activate the plugin, you can set up the options, which include how many images you see at one time and whether they’re sorted using the ‘Most Interesting’ feature or not, as well if they’re images to use on a commercial site or not. After that, all you have to do is go write your posts and the plugin will be there. You enter a keyword to look for, photos appear, and when you find one you like you can add it to your post with the click of a button.

This is so easy! To make your posts and pages beautiful with images you won’t even have to leave WordPress anymore. Take a look at the image at the top of this post, and you’ll see an example of what this plugin has done for me. With a click there’s a gorgeous photo and the credits in place. This couldn’t be any more simpler, and I definitely recommend it for all bloggers.

Click here to download the Photo Dropper WordPress plugin.

10 Reasons Why a Blog is Better Than a Website

February 25, 2008

blog vs website
Photo credits: jurvetson.

So many people wonder whether they should start their online hobby or business as a blog or a static website. The two have many differences, but I honestly believe that in most cases a person should start a blog instead of a website. Some still remain unconvinced, especially since blogs are newer on the scene. However, these are the reasons why I think a dynamic blog is better than a static website.

1. Blogs are easier to setup and manage.

A blog can be installed with WordPress, the best blogging platform and my choice, in five minutes. You don’t have to get up close and personal with coding it, all of the core files are already there for you and all you have to do is upload them and create a database (which takes two seconds). You can find an amazingly beautiful theme or design, upload it in one minute, and if you want you can easily tweak it. You can login to the user-friendly dashboard and write your content, manage your categories and comments, change your options or blogroll, and much more without dealing with anything over the top and complicated. The blog platform does all the work with the technical stuff while you get to enjoy writing for your site and running it however you like.

2. Blogs retain interest.

Because blogs are updated all the time and it’s easy to browse through them and all of their content, that makes them a favorite with online visitors and readers. A visitor is much more likely to return to a blog than a static website. Blogs catch and hold attention and it’s easier for the reader to get lost in one for hours since the content is navigated the way it is. That can happen with a website, but it’s a lot less likely. Blogs are at more of a personal level, and all of the posts are easily accessible and featured for the readers. Instead of a website where visitors have to crawl through page after boring page, consider a blog and keep your readers longer and have them coming back all the time for more.

3. Blogs are more search engine friendly.

Just like they’re reader friendly for being updated all the time and having a huge collection of interlinked content, they’re search engine friendly for those same reasons as well. It’s not always true, but more than likely that a blog will rank better in search engines than your average website. The more a site is updated, the more often a search engine bot will come back and crawl your site so they can quickly index the new things you have to offer. And when a bot is coming to crawl your site, it will have many more options with a blog since all of the content is linked to and featured everywhere. Besides those things, blogs are easy to optimize, especially with all the plugins available (see All In One SEO Pack). And blogs attract links more than static websites as well, which will help you out in the search engines too.

4. Blogs gain an audience more easily.

Just like how I mentioned that blogs retain interest, they also more easily gain an audience. With the abundance of content and such a navigable site, readers will like your blog. A blog will also be found for the first time by visitors because they are usually much more popular than a static website. If you write good content and provide things of interest, you’ll get noticed easily. And once you start building a readerbase, your readers will help promote your blog for you. People will talk about you, link to you, and grow your blog for you. Usually when I first learn about a blog I learn about it through someone else or another a blog I read. People like to stay on top of blogs about topics they’re interested in, and that’s easier to do with a blog. And for an audience, the easier it is the better.

5. Blogs help build author and visitor interaction.

When you have a static website your visitors aren’t going to be known to you like they would with a blog. With a blog, anyone who likes your page or post can comment on it. You’ll start to learn your readers’ names and their own blogs or sites. You’ll have conversations with them and discuss topics through the comments or email. And even if a reader doesn’t comment, you might see them voting for your content a lot via social media, their avatar might be popping up a lot on your MyBlogLog widget, or you might be getting linked to by them and see it via your trackbacks and incoming links. As your blog grows you’ll come to recognize hundreds to even thousands of your readers, with dozens becoming people you know much more closely.

6. Blogs can be made to look however you want.

Like I mentioned earlier, you can achieve any look you want with your blog, WITHOUT having to get up close and personal with the coding. There are so many free themes, plugins, and resources available that are already built and coded for you – all you usually have to do is upload them and click the ‘activate’ button. If you find a theme you like you can upload it, and if necessary, tweak it here and there to make it perfect for your blog. Plugins can manage and run things automatically without you having to lift a finger after you install one. There are plugins that work behind the scenes and block spam, create navigation systems, generate sitemaps, and enforces WWW or non-WWW for your blog. Then there are visual ones, like plugins that encourage visitors to subscribe, create contact forms, rotate advertisement banners, let you create polls for your blog, and thousands more. A blog can look however your heart desires – it can even look like a static website if that’s what you want, while still being managed much more easily.

7. Blogs allow readers to subscribe via RSS.

RSS readers are one of the most valuable things a blog can have. Subscribers are people who love your blog and what you write so much that they want it delivered to their feed aggregator or their email inbox each day. They are people who are targeted to your content and are probably your blog’s biggest fans. By allowing people to subscribe, developing regular readers is even easier than it was before. The amount of RSS subscribers a blog has is one of the ways to determine how popular and valuable it is. Besides providing value to you, it provides obvious value to your readers as well and makes things much easier for them to read everything you write.

8. Blogs are popular with social media sites.

Since blogs have a bigger sense of community and the blog owner and readers interact, (as well as bloggers interacting with other bloggers), you’d know blogs are popular with social media sites, like Super Blogging’s readers’ favorite StumbleUpon. Since you’re already building relationships with the readers who come to your blog, it’s easy to encourage social media votes and promote your blog this way. Loyal visitors and blogging friends will often vote for your best content, and using a blog over a website content is easier to promote.

9. Blogs build links much more easily.

And again, since blogs have such a huge community and personal aspect to them, they gather much more links. Bloggers try to link to other blogs as much as possible, not only because this helps build exposure and traffic (since a blogger is alerted whenever they receive a link), but also because blogs are huge sources of easily browsed information to direct their readers to. At Super Blogging you might notice I do weekly roundups called “The Best of the Blogosphere”. I do this to point my readers to fantastic content from other bloggers, and also to get those other bloggers’ attention. And since blogs collect many links each day or week, they often develop better rankings in search engines as well.

10. Blogs are better for a million more reasons.

What other reasons do you need? They’re easier to setup, easier to manage, have thousands of free themes and plugins to install, build a loyal readerbase quicker, are promoted by others, retain interest, are more popular with search engines AND social media, are easily customized, promote interaction, offer RSS subscriptions, and much more. Websites used to be the only choice, but blogs are quickly gaining popularity to overrank them. It always depends on the goal you want to achieve, but 95% of the time I’d tell you to start a blog.

Did I leave any out? Please let me know if forgot any reasons stating why a blog is better than a website, or if you think differently, please tell me why in the comments as well. What do you think? Is a blog better than a static website, or is it the other way around?

It’s Time to Upgrade to WordPress 2.3.2

December 30, 2007

Wordpress Logo

WordPress just recently released a new version, WordPress 2.3.2, which fixes a security bug that can allow people to see your drafts. This can be pretty bad for some who save their best articles in drafts, or keep important information stored in draft files. Either way, if you don’t want anyone to have access to your drafts or to be able to read what they contain, then it’s best that you upgrade to 2.3.2. The folks at WordPress call this an “urgent security release”, so maybe you shouldn’t skip this one!

However, upgrading to 2.3.3 also allows you to customize DB error pages. According to WordPress:

“As a little bonus, 2.3.2 allows you to define a custom DB error page. Place your custom template at wp-content/db-error.php. If WP has a problem connecting to your database, this page will displayed rather than the default error message.”

If you’re currently using WordPress 2.3.1, then you can see the differences between it and the newest release, 2.3.2. Or you can go ahead and download the latest WordPress upgrade, staying on top of the game and keeping your blog safe!

Do YOU Have A Blog?

November 8, 2007

Typing Hands OnlineRecently I ran a poll on this site asking the question, “Do you have a blog?” I received a generous amount of responses and most of the voters said that yes, they do have a blog. Of course I guessed that a very high percentage of people would pick that choice over “no” and “not yet”, since after all this blog IS about blogging, but I was surprised at just how high that percentage was.

91% of people who voted said that they do have a blog. 4% of voters said that they don’t have a blog at all, and another 5% said that they haven’t made their blog YET. It surprised me that more people didn’t vote that they were going to make a blog but hadn’t yet. I thought that there would be more beginners reading this site, interested in finding out what it takes to have a blog and make money online with it.

I really enjoyed going over the responses and finding out what kind of readers I have on this site. It’s always important to know who you’re writing for exactly so you can do a better job at it. If you haven’t run any polls of the sort on your own blog yet, you might want to try it. There’s an interesting plugin I use called WP-Polls Plugin. It’s very simple to work with and once you starting using it on your site, it will be 100% to your advantage.

For me, running polls is a win-win-win-win! I can learn more about the readers of this site and get feedback to help me out, for one thing. Having a poll within posts or the sidebar also adds a sense of interactivity to a blog and gets the readers interested. And then, once you’re done with the poll, you can write up a post sharing the results! Polls are a lot of fun and can be very, very helpful. Any blogger who has never implemented one on their site is definitely missing on some great opportunities.

Tell me, do YOU have a blog and how do you use polls on it, if you do at all?

A New Twist on WordPress Contact Forms

August 23, 2007

Contact FormThe form I’m using on my contact page is more unusual than you might think! It’s a contact form with a twist (and when I say twist, I mean new advantage). Today I’m going to tell you all about it, so if you’re on the lookout for a new contact form then you’re in luck. ;)

It’s called the Simple WordPress Contact Form, and the plugin page can be found here. Like the name says, it’s very simple. Commentators can leave their name, email, link, and message. Then their message heads straight for your email inbox – but that’s not the only place it goes!

The Simple WordPress Contact Form doesn’t only deliver the message to your email, but it uses the WordPress comments routine. A section is added to the comments part of your admin panel titled “Contact Messages”. If you can’t currently access your email or just don’t want to, then you can retrieve their message and read it within WordPress! But if you want to reply, you do have to go to your email.

Another cool thing is the fact that the Simple WordPress Contact Form works along with any anti-spam plugins you have installed for your comments. Because basically, that’s what it is. The contact form is integrated into your comments, and when people leave a message that’s what they’re doing: commenting. The difference is only you can see the comment and ones left by the form have their own section.

How does it work (copied from plugin page): “The form uses a standard page and adds a standard comment form to it. As soon as a comment is posted to the contact page and is approved by all anti-spam plugins, that comment is moved out of the “comments” db table to the (newly created) “contacts” table and emails are sent to the selected users.”

The one thing I wish you could do is reply from the admin panel as well, because often times I’m just too lazy to login to my email. Hehe. But if your contact form needs a new twist and maybe a different feature, this is the way to go. :)

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