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Tips for Beginning Bloggers

BLOG IDEAS

When I started this blog I had never dealt with blogs, wordpress plugins, blog themes or even photoshop. It has been a trial and error process which is still ongoing. Some things I am still discovering I need to do in order to protect my work, make sure it is backed up and other things I really did not think about at the time. I wanted to share a few things that I use and you might find helpful. Before we begin I want to state that I am not affiliated in anyway with any product mentioned here and do not receive and compensation from any of the products or services mentioned.

Blog Platform

Most people use one of two blogging platforms either Blogger or WordPress. I started out with blogger and like so many others quickly discovered its limitations. Blogger is free so it is a good way to get started and it is user friendly. You can start and have a blog live in about an hour. The downside is you don’t really own it. Blogger is owned by Google and is hosted on their servers so when there is a problem, and there are a lot of problems, there is not much you can do. There is no live person to talk to regarding problems instead you post questions in a forum and hope someone answers them.

WordPress also has a free blogging platform but most people download the program and self host. Self Hosting is when you go out and buy a domain name such as thetravellingfool.com and have it hosted by a service, I use Bluehost. Bluehost is cheap, allows you to have multiple domains if you choose to later and has great service. Anytime I have ever called I received quick professional service. If you choose to self host, you can buy the domain name anywhere. A quick search of the internet will reveal some selling names for less than $5.00 USD. Take some time thinking about your domain name. Make it something relevant to you or the blog subject and do a little research on how the domain name affects how search engines will find you. I did none of this. One word domain names are best but are hard to find these days. Don’t hyphenate the words in the domain name and don’t try to be slick by taking a popular name and using misspellings or other such things it will only make you look bad and search engines are getting smarter and penalizing people for this. In other words you might wind up on page 6000 of Google when people do a search.

Once you have the domain name purchased, sign up with a hosting service and move the domain there. Most hosting services have features to download the wordpress platform and you are up and running.

WordPress Plugins

So now you have your blog, what next. There are lots of good wordpress guides that will show you how to navigate the platform. The first step is to get a Theme. Themes come in all shapes and sizes from free to premium. There are advantages to having a premium paid theme just be sure that the company or person you buy it from is available if there are questions or problems and that support will be there for upgrades. The theme will come with certain things that you can use to customize it, widgets for adding categories, comments, advertising and other things. But to really get the most out of your blog you need to download wordpress plugins.

Plugins allow you to do several things and the plugin search function will generate a huge list you can use. Here are some I use on my blog.

All in one SEO Pack

Helps optimize your blog for search engines so they can find you.

CommentLuv

When someone leaves a comment on your blog it shows a link to one of their posts on their blog so you can help each other out.

Contact Form 7

A quick easy comment form you can add to one of your pages so people can get in touch with you.

Google Analytics for WordPress

This will show you all kinds of data you can use to improve and monitor your blog.

Google XML Sitemaps

This helps search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo index your pages so they can be found.

MHR Custom Anti Copy

Stops people from using right click and copying the contents of your blog

Sexy Bookmarks

Is a set of buttons you choose such as twitter, facebook and more so people can share your posts.

Spam Free WordPress

This uses an anonymous password authentication which stops 99 percent of comment spam. If you don’t get something like this you will find your comments loaded with spam content.

Stumble Page Social Widget

This puts a Stumble Upon button on your page so people can share it.

WP Greet Box

This allows you to have a custom greeting to people visiting your site.

Zemanta

Zemanta helps in finding photos that are fully licensed for your blog and also related content you can use.

There are literally hundreds of plugins you can use. Download a few, play with them and if you don’t like them just deactivate the plugin.
 

Photo Copyright and Protection

Sometimes you may not have a personal photo that you feel is good enough for your blog. In cases such as that make sure you have the proper authorization for any photo you use and give proper attributes. For those you do use you will want to mark them as yours so they don’t get used everywhere without your permission. On my earlier posts I failed to do this and have gone back and corrected a lot of them.

There are free resources on the internet to watermark your photos but it is just as easy to do it yourself.  You don’t need photoshop to do this Windows paint works just fine.

First: open windows Paint, click Paste. A drop down menu will say “Paste From”. Click on Paste from and get your photo from your computer.

Second: The photo shows up in paint. Click on the text block in the menu, then using your mouse on the photo drag open a box where you want the text.

Third: This opens a rectangular box. In the box press the CTRL + ALT + C keys at the same time and release. Next press and hold the ALT key and using the number pad on the side of your keyboard type 0169 (ALT+0169), this produces the symbol (©)

Fourth: Next to your copyright symbol type in whatever you want such as © Thetravellingfool.com 2011

Fifth: Click save and you now have a watermarked photo with your copyright on it.

If you are using a MAC use photoshop or some other program and then hold down Option and at the same time press the “g” to get a copyright symbol.

Taking Photos

There are a lot of good guides and blogs that give tips on taking photos, read up and keep learning it will only make you better. I am still trying to improve because when I see my photos compared to others I know I need to keep learning. I personally don’t use photoshop and try and keep my photos more original. Of course with photoshop you can enhance the colors and a lot more and it makes for beautiful photos, the choice is yours.

One program that is useful is the tourist remover. This is a free online program that removes tourists, vehicles, basically anything that moves from your photos so you can get a photo of say a landmark without the clutter. You can read up on it here so you will know how to use it.

Basically you to take 3-4 shots at the same angle, so use a tripod, then you upload the photos to the site and it looks at all of them and removes things that are not consistent in all the photos. If you ever wanted to take photos of landmarks like you see in the brochures this will help. This program lets you get rid of the people, cars and other things in the photo so it comes out clean and picture perfect.

Backing up your blog

Once you get started writing articles and getting comments and getting noticed you want to protect that. There are lots of examples of hosting services having problems and losing data. It is a terrible feeling when you log onto your blog and you see a problem or no blog at all. It is imperative you backup all of your data, files, photos comments and so forth. There are wordpress plugins that do dome of this and there are premium services you can purchase. I know just starting out you are reluctant to spend money but this is a case where it is needed. Consider it blog insurance. Check around and see which program is best for you. I am partial to backup buddy by IThemes. You can read about it here  but basically it backs up your data, all your widgets and restores it to the way it was.

I am still learning from others and by trial and error. If anyone has any other advice or tips leave a comment so we can all benefit.

 

 

 

 

 

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Important Things to Add to Your Packing List

Passport Pages 10-12Image by nathangibbs via Flickr

I do a lot of traveling and I pack what I need taking into consideration where I am going and how long I will be gone. But these are things I always do no matter where my travels take me and so far it has worked out pretty good.

 

Copies of Your Passport

Before you leave home get color copies of your passport made. Put one in your wallet or purse, one in your carry on bag and one in each checked bag. It is always a good idea to carry your passport on you after you check into the hotel and you are out exploring the city. This way you can leave your passport locked up in your luggage in the room or in the rooms safe. Extra copies are also important if you loose your passport and need to get one at the nearest Embassy. Having a copy on hand makes the process easier and quicker.

Small Flashlight

I travel in a lot of out of the way places but even in if you stay in the more populated areas a flashlight is a good idea. Blackouts, brownouts, unexpected storms whatever if you have a small flashlight it makes things much easier and safer. A compact flashlight small enough to put in your pocket or a zippered area of a bag costs as little as $2.00 and can be bought at any sporting goods store, Walmart or K Mart.
Universal Adapter

There is no need to take several adapters and cords for plugging in and staying connected.  Whether it is an electric shaver, cell phone charger, computer charger or anything else, a small universal converter does the job. I bought mine six years ago in the airport in Frankfurt Germany and it is still with me. At about 1 inch squared it fits easily in any bag and comes in handy. Just remember if you take electrical items to check the voltage, cell phones and computers don’t usually have problems and can recharge anywhere but try to plug in a 110 volt electrical item in Europe and you won’t have it long.

Baby Wipes

Even if you’re not traveling with a baby these things come in handy. They are great for freshening up after a long plane ride, or after and hour of walking around in the heat. They don’t take up much space and you will be glad to pull one out and wipe away the grime from your face, neck and arms.

Anti Bacterial Hand Sanitizer
Small bottle goes a long way. Whether you’re walking around and stop at that roadside food vendor or your hot, sweaty and dirty, after touring that tropical site, it is nice to get the dirt and germs off. A small bottle can fit into your pocket and you won’t even notice it.

First Aid Kit
Ok before you say anything just wait. I am not talking about some big and bulky box. Lots of places sell a small kit about the size of a cell phone. I have found them at Walmart in the pharmacy section, Dollar Stores, Target and other places. Look for one that has a couple of band aides, some antiseptic cream and if it doesn’t have the following then put it in there; a couple of Imodium tablets, a couple of antacid tablets and a few aspirin or other pain pills. Doesn’t take up hardly any room and with any luck you won’t need it but you’ll be happy to have it if you do.

When I travel I take all of the things mentioned and like I said, it doesn’t take up much room, in fact it takes up less room than those neck cushions I see everyone using on the airplane. I don’t have one of those I just ask the stewardess for an extra pillow.

OK one last item and this is it I promise. Stop at the bank before you go and exchange some money for the currency you are going to need at your first destination. You have money as soon as you step off the plane without waiting in line with everyone else. Doesn’t seem like a big deal but take a 15 hour flight then stand in line behind 10 people and have that kid that bothered you for the duration of the flight play stomp the big guys foot and you will be glad you have the cash already.

If you have things you take and want to suggest then leave a comment.

 

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