Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Useful html for your blog - 30 Lessons in Blogging



Although Blogger is very simple to use and has great templates for you to just type in your posts and add photos, I've still found over the years that I've learned little bits of html coding to help add other elements to my blog.

I thought I would share the links to the few posts I've written about these elements - so others can benefit from them too and add that little extra to a blog. The first two are very simple,and the second two are more technical but just have blocks of code you can copy and paste then just add in your own urls.




I use this lots and this is how I created my tutorials page galleries (see an example page here)

I have this for my blog sponsors. It means that each sponsor gets equal time in the top spots and the ads randomly rotate each time the page is loaded. You can see it in action if you look straight across to the right sidebar now (if you refresh the page, the three button ads should appear in a different order).




Well that's it - 30 Lessons in Blogging. I don't claim this to be anything more than me sharing the things I've learned over 4 years of blogging. 
My blog is still relatively small but there is a lot of knowledge and learning in it and I'm happy to share that with others, just as so many bloggers have helped me reach where I am now.

I do hope you have enjoyed this series and gained something from it. I've certainly enjoyed writing it.

As of tomorrow, I'll have a '30 Lessons in Blogging" page set up on this blog with all the lessons laid out and easy to click through to making it an easily accessible resource for all.

Thanks for reading and do tell others about it, if you think they'd enjoy or benefit from the lessons too.

I will continue to post about things as I learn over the coming weeks and months. This series as given me an added incentive and kickstart to continue learning further to make my blog bigger and better than ever!


Day 79, Use What You've Got - growing a snake!




Do you have any Christmas Presents in your cuphoard from last year that you've still not used or played with?

I found this snake in our cupboard from last Christmas. It's one of those toys that magically grow in water.

Since we were having a quiet family weekend at home last weekend, we thought we'd 'use what we've got' and finally open up the snake packet and get it in some water!


The girls measured it before we started, then threw it in the swimming pool!


They've been measuring it quite regularly ever since, but we've yet to see enormous growth.

I'm not sure if the chlorinated pool water is having the right effect on the snake, or maybe the water is too warm (it's supposed to be under 35C).

But the packet said it would grow 600% in 96 hours (4 days).
It's now been  48 hours (2 days), and it's only grown by about 50% - from 38cm to 58cm long.

Maybe we left it in the packet too long? Or maybe it's just a slow grower?

Oh well - at least we've got it out and are making use of it! Better than having it sitting in the cupboard!
 I think we might take it out of the pool, rinse it off and put it in a bucket of tap water - see if that helps it grow any more!

Have you ever had one of these toys that grow in water?
Did yours work?
And do you have and Christmas presents from last year you haven't played with yet?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Take a step back and review - 30 Lessons in Blogging



This month of blogging posts has taught me a lot about what I've learned; what I am and am not doing; and what I plan to do from now on.

Taking the time to work through and write down what I've learned in a methodical way has helped me understand it even more and put it all into perspective.

I've said before that I believe you need to be constantly learning to keep growing. I also believe that you have to also step back and try to reassess what is and isn't important for you now, what is and isn't working and what needs to change.


What I've learned

Throughout September I have posted twice every day on my blog. This is more than I've ever done before. I did it for myself .

My morning posts are part of my 100 day "Use What You've Got" challenge to make the most of my fabric and crafting stash, and also other areas of my life - my kids, the area we live in, recipes, kitchen gadgets, games etc.  This has pushed me to take action every day and has helped to get me into good habits which I will certainly continue (although not need the commitment of a daily post on my blog to keep me accoutable!).

My evening posts have been all about blogging.  This was a way to bring together and reflect upon what I've learned in 4 years of blogging. And to share that knowledge in the hope it might help others.  



More posts doesn't mean more pageviews

Despite posting a lot more than usual, this has not resulted in any more traffic to my blog than usual.  I'm not really surprised by this, I saw a few months ago when I almost stopped blogging that my stats didn't change much.  It's also a relief in a way as getting 2 posts out every day is quite a challenge at times!  Knowing that posting more often isn't what is going to grow my blog means I can spend my time more usefully elsewhere.



Learning from the statistics

I've learned that when you look at your blog stats isn't not just about page views and big numbers. It's about understanding what the numbers mean and figuring out how you can use that knowledge to grow the numbers yourself!

From what I've learned from my stats, I'm going to spend less time trying to create more content for my blog, and more time promoting the content I already have - largely through Pinterest and Google +, as I grow my community too.


Making money

From learning more about Google Adsense, I now understand what I'm looking at when I look at my stats regarding the income I'm earning on my blogs.  This has shown me that my logical step is to work more on my other two blogs  (Be Our Best and A Fitter and Healthier Me ) which although small now, appear to have more potential Google Adsense income than this blog!


I've also decided that I do need to have some kind of product to sell. Be this real creations I sew, or e-books I write.  Sales is something I've always shied away from, but it's time to get over this fear and learn!



How about you?

Have you taken a step back to reassess your blog lately?
What have you learned from your time blogging and how can you use this knowledge to improve and grow your blog now?


A Round Tuit 225 - Day 78, Use What You've Got

Good morning from sunny Cairns!
It's such a lovely time of year here in Cairns. The temperature is warming up but the humidity of summer hasn't yet arrived, making for glorious sunny warm days - just perfect for the school holidays.
I'm having a lovely time with my girls - crafting and getting out in the fresh air.  One more week to go - and lots more fun to be had!

Here's my week in review with my #100happydays photos:


Now let's see what you've all been up to!


Welcome to this week's linky party. A place where you can link up your posts and creations, and be inspired by others.

Tuits are very hard to come by, especially the round ones. For years people have been saying, "I'll do it as soon as I get a round tuit". Well now you can have one of your very own, and all those jobs that have needed doing will finally get done!
 
 
 
Here's my favourites from last week's party:
 
First of all, this gorgeous
 Infinity Scarf Crochet Tutorial from Happy in Red:

Next, an intriguing post of 
Uses for Apple Peels by Little House Livin'
Some interesting ideas there!



Finally, this delicious looking 
Toffee Apple Cheesecake from With a Blast:



For those featured, feel free to grab a 'featured on' button here.
Creating my way to Success
----------------------------------------------------------
Now it's your turn:
Link up your own projects - old or new - no rules - just share your creativity and inspiration!
I'd love if you grabbed the button - then you can have your very own Round Tuit!
And of course we all love visitors and comments so do visit some of the other links!
By linking up here you're giving me permission to use photos from your post in features here on my blog.
I will feature my favourites on this post next week.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Write and publish your own E-books, 30 Lessons in Blogging




Creating your own e-book is another way to make money, or promote your blog. E-books are free to create and easy to advertise on your blog and people can download them instantly. You can either sell them for another income source from your blog, or offer them as a free resource or as an encouragement for people to sign up for your newsletter.



Exposure for your blog

I've been lucky enough to have some of my tutorials features in free e-books created by Allfreecrafts, like my penguin costume tutorial in their Halloween costume book. This provides great exposure for my tutorials and  the book contains link backs to my blog.


Creating your own ebook

I created my own e-book a couple of years ago for my other blog - Be Our Best. It's a book about helping your kids learn their times tables, with a structured plan, games and ideas.

I have this book available as a free PDF download for anyone who signs up for my newsletter on that blog.

My e-book is basically just a PDF document, very simple and the cover I created on Microsoft Word. Nothing fancy.

I have another e-book project underway just now, hoping to launch in the next few weeks. This time I'm learning what I can about e-book creation and marketing so that I can release if for sale.
There are heaps of great articles out there to read and learn, One I'm reading through just now is here, but there are many more and as yet I can't make any recommendations.


This is one area of blogging that I will update in the weeks to come after I launch my e-book for sale, sharing what I learned and hopefully - my success!!


How about you?

Have you ever written an e-book?
Do you have any plans to?


A glimpse of Cairns - Day 77, Use What You've Got

On Friday, I had a lovely morning out with my girls, biking around the cane fields. For lunch, we then took a picnic to a gorgeous spot here in Cairns - Stoney Creek.

The water is cool and refreshing and we had lots of fun cooling off, building dams, racing leaves in the water and watching the wildlife!

Here are  a few pictures:









It's good to take time to enjoy the beautiful place you live in! 
Do you?


Saturday, September 27, 2014

How to use Pinterest to increase traffic to your blog - 30 Lessons in Blogging


Pinterest is the third largest traffic source for my blog (behind Google and Allfreesewing), so it's definitely something I'm looking into and consciously making an effort with to try to boost that traffic!


Pinterest Basics

When I first started to notice that Pinterest was driving lots of traffic to my blog, I thought I should take a look at my Pinterest account and profile to see if I was making the most of it and what I could do.
Here are the simple changes I made initially

  • Changed my profile name to include my blog name too, so this helps identify me and my blog together.


  • I added a Pinterest widget to the sidebar of my blog. This shows a collage of my most recent pins and has a clickable link to my Pinterest boards making it easier for people to find and follow me. (Here's the widget builder I used for this)

  • I tidied up my boards and pins. I used clear titles for each board and chose an eye-catching front cover picture for each one. I added a board "Best of Creating my way to Success" to feature my work and highlight what I do. I also ordered the boards to show off the best and most interesting ones at the top.




Growing your Pinterest Following

Once I had these basics sorted out I began to read about how to grow my Pinterest following. Here's some steps you can take for this

  • Start following others with the same interests.  You can search pins, boards or pinners in the top left corner of Pinterest. When I get a little time, I search for things like upcycling, recycling, sewing tutorials, bags etc and follow some boards and people . This means that my feed gets much more of the type of pins I'm most interested in.  I love browsing these boards as I find them too, and repinning plenty of ideas onto my own boards! 

  • Join Group Boards: I have joined a few group boards as a contributor. In doing this, you an spread the reach of those people who will see your pins. Hopefully this will lead people to see you as an interesting pinner and come to follow you.  Some group boards you can ask to join, others you need an invite. There's a great site Pingroupie, where you can search through all the group boards on Pinterest to find ones that match your interests. You can see which ones have lots of followers and so greater reaches and see if you can join as a contributor.

  • Pin different things at different times of the day or week to maximise reach.  This one I haven't tried yet - but it makes a lot of sense. There's a great post explaining why here, for example fitness and motivation pins do well at the beginning of the week as that's when people start out with their good intentions!

  • Don't comment too much. I read that if you comment on pins too much, Pinterest may see you as a spammer and suspend your account. I don't know how true this is, but I'm not going to risk too many comments just in case!





My Pinterest Account Growth

I've been making a conscious effort to work on Pinterest lately. I've tried a schedule but have too much else going on right now to stick to that, so instead I've been trying to just use time here and there where I can to pin and follow and try to make the most of this great site and the potential traffic to my own blog.

I noted down some figures a couple of months ago, and checked again this month to see the growth.  Not huge, but a significant increase in followers.  Hopefully I can work on this some more and create a bigger increase over the coming months.


As of July 26th 2014
78 boards, 1868 pins, 23 likes, 928 followers, 374 following

As of September 26th 2014
81 boards, 2284 pins, 35 likes, 1496 followers, 1786 following


 I'm happy to spend more time on Pinterest and hopefully I can do so to a good effect on my blog. I will keep you updated of my progress!




How about you?

Are you on Pinterest?
Do you consciously use it to grow your blog?
Do you have any more tips to maximise its effectiveness?


Of course I'd love it if you followed me on Pinterest too!

Saturday Spotlight - Day 76, Use What You've Got

Today we're having a family day at home to watch the AFL (Australian Rules Football) Grand Final.
We've all chosen sides, our girls have worked out cheers and dances for us! We'll be wearing team colours and watching from by the pool!  Go the Hawks!

So while I'm doing that, here's some highlights from this week's Round Tuit party!

First of all, my favourite type of project - upcycles!





And some tasty and fun cakes!





Hope you have a great weekend!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Related Work and Income Sources - 30 Lessons In Blogging



So you want to make money blogging?  I've already mentioned Google Adsense, Blog Sponsors and Affiliate programmes, and Selling your creations; but you can also use your skills outside of your blog but in related areas to earn more income.



Freelance Writing

Earlier this year, I decided to try looking for some work freelance writing and blogging. I figured I was writing lots anyway, and maybe I could put some of that writing to use making some instant cash instead of just waiting for growth and profits on my blog. I have had moderate success with this, and now do a few writing jobs each month for a little extra cash. It's not much but every little helps.  I write the odd article for an environmental website and also do some copywriting work  - mostly found via the site Peopleperhour.


Writing for magazines

I know of several bloggers who have also written tutorials or articles for magazines. Personally I haven't done this - but I did find this great article with lots of links and suggestions of what to write and where to submit it. There are both online and hardcopy magazines that take submissions. 



Sponsored Posts

As a blogger you there are plenty of opportunities to receive free gifts and samples in return for writing a blog post about a product or service. 
I've done this for sewing and crafting supplies which has been great as it saves me purchasing things I would use anyway!
I've also done this on my other blog - Be Our Best for a couple of websites that offer kids educational programmes. We got to try the programmes for free in return for writing a review about them. 

 In all cases, I did not seek out these opportunities, the companies approached me via email.  I'm sure you can approach companies to offer your services in this respect, you don't have to wait for them to come to you!



Grab every opportunity!

I've had odd jobs offered to me here and there, through word of mouth and from people seeing my blog or my work. Not all is paid, some is fun but all of it helps me and my work be noticed - you never know what other opportunities may arise!


There are plenty of opportunities out there, it's just a matter of going out and finding them. Think about what your skills are. What do you do and use for your blog and could you contact larger blogs or companies to offer your services.  It's always worth asking and offering. You've really got nothing to lose and perhaps lots to gain in terms of financial gain, or exposure for your work or blog!


How about you?

Have you found any related work or income sources for your blog?
Do you think it's worth looking outside your blog - or do you prefer to focus on just building your own blog content?

Tin can upcycles, Day 75 Use What You've Got

This week I've been spending time with my girls as it's the school holidays. 
Yesterday we got out a pile of tin cans that the girls have been saving to make pencil holders from. 
This was a nice simple project, using up fabric from my scrap stash and glue!


They came up with quite a selection! and had lots of fun in the process.




 The fur and thicker fabric definitely worked better as you can't see the ridges of the tin through the fabric. I can see there might be some embellishments added to some of these tins. But that will have to wait until I can buy some more glue as the girls used all we had!



Thursday, September 25, 2014

Goal Setting for your Blog - 30 Lessons in Blogging



If you want your blog to grow and go places, then you have to know where it is you want it to go and have an idea of how to get there!

Goal setting is vital if you are to have direction and focus to make your blog a success.



SMART Goals

When you set your goals, you should make sure they are SMART:

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Achievable

R = Relevant

T = Time bound 



It's no use saying 

"I want a successful blog with lots of followers that's going to make me oodles of money."

Don't we all?



What you need to do is be specific - what do you mean by successful? Popular? Good content? Looks pretty?  Be as exact as you can about every aspect.  

For example: " I want my blog to look smart and professional with a clear focus and easy to navigate. Anyone coming to my blog for the first time must immediately be able to see what the blog is about, and be able to read more and explore easily. I want them to get relevant information that will help them to solve their problems/achieve their goals."



Add numbers too. This gives you something measurable to aim for. If you want lots of followers - then decide where you want those people to come from - Facebook? Google +? How many do you want and what kind of people - age? interests? Remember be specific so you know exactly what it is you want - this makes it easier to figure out how to get there,



Be honest with yourself when you set your goals and make your targets achievable. Don't say, "I'm going to start my blog today, write 3 posts each day and have 5000 followers by the end of the first week!" That's perhaps a little unrealistic! Decide what you have time for, and set smaller goals initially - try not to overwhelm yourself by trying to do everything at once!

(This is something I'm not so good at. Every week I start with a huge list of things I'm going to do 'on Monday' - inevitably it takes me to Friday to get through everything, but by the next week I'm all gung-ho to get it all done on the first day again! Will I ever learn?)



Make sure you set goals that are relevant. Do they relate to and help you towards your bigger and long term goals? It's easy to get caught up spending time on things that don't really matter or help you in the end towards achieving what it is you're working towards.



When you set your goals, you must decide when you want to achieve them by.  You can have your ultimate goal with a deadline maybe a year or more in the future, and then smaller milestones to aim for in the days, weeks and months ahead. Making your goals time-bound gives them a sense of urgency and forces you to work upon them.


I set goals quite regularly for my blog, and have them written up on a whiteboard above my computer so I see them every day (and so they are easy to rub out, update and change as I go along.)



How about you?

Do you set goals for your blog?
Are they SMART?
And do you have any tips or tricks to help stick to your goals?

How to fix being a 'No-Reply Blogger' - Day 74 Use What You've Got



If you are with Blogger and have switched to the Google+ profile, then you may (or may not) have noticed that for some unknown reason, your profile occasionally reverts to being a 'No-Reply Blogger'. This basically means that when you comment on other blogs, they can't reply to your comment as your email is not left.

I now check mine every couple of weeks and often have to reset it.

If you aren't sure if you are a 'No-Reply Blogger' or not - simply leave a test comment on one of your own posts, then see if you can reply to it or not!

So - if you are no-reply, but want to fix it so people can respond to your comments here's how.

(Please note, there are several tutorials out there showing how this is done - but I figure the more places we have this shown, the more people will find it and change so we can reply to a whole lot more comments!)



Steps to fix being a No-Reply Blogger

  1. Go to your Blogger dashboard and in the top left hand corner click on the little cogwheel. In the drop-down menu click on "Revert to Blogger Profile". On the next page that comes up you have to confirm - "Switch to a limited Blogger Profile".
  2. Click on Continue to Blogger, then click on your name in the top right hand corner and then on "Blogger Profile".
  3. Click on Edit Profile in the top right hand corner, then check the box that says "Show my email address". Scroll down to the bottom of this page and click "Save Profile".
  4. Click on the Orange and white Blogger logo on the top of the page to go back to your dashboard.
  5. Now click on Google+ on the left hand side. Then "Get started". You have to check the box to agree to using your new profile, then click "Switch Now".

I hope that helps!
Like I said, I check mine every couple of weeks and often have to change it!



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Building a community around your blog, 30 Lessons in Blogging




One of the most important things a blog needs in order to grow is a community. People who regularly read, comment and share the blog content. 

Your community is likely to be like-minded people, some of whom may have blogs themselves and some may not. The important thing is the interaction. If people take the time to comment then it's polite to respond and this will also encourage further comments and discussion.  
Of course it's not only responding to comments on your on blog and social media that's important - it's a two way thing, and equally important is for you to comment and interact with people on their blogs and social media sites.



One community location or several?

Do people comment on your blog? or on links to your blog posts on Facebook or Twitter? 

As my blog has grown, so I've expanded my reach from only on the blog to across several different social media platforms.  
Most blogs you visit will have their social media icons clearly visible so you can choose where to follow them.

Everyone has their own favourite form of social media. Some people are on Facebook all the time, others can't get enough of Pinterest and some people may simply read blogs.
By having a presence on a few different platforms, you can expand the reach of your blog.



Don't spread yourself too thin

Of course you can have too many different social media accounts which then become too hard to keep up with. It's best to focus on a smaller number and perhaps use each one in a slightly different way.


Different aspects of my own community

My blog itself is where I post my finished projects and tutorials. Occasional full posts about something else in my life - a family trip, a recipe or a running race.
Facebook is what I have open on my computer during the day when I'm working. Being home alone, this is where I share my thoughts, works in progress, and things I like during the day.  It's like the social side of my workplace.
Instagram is what I use to take photos and share them directly onto Facebook, just because it's the simplest way I've found to do this.
Google + is something I'm using more and more - to share and find lots of variety of blog content. 
Finally Pinterest is all about ideas - so much inspiration there and an awesome place to spark creativity.

I do have accounts on Twitter, Linkedin and have tried Stumbleupon and Flickr, but it was mostly a token effort as I don't have the time to dedicate to more platforms.
If there is a time in the future where I choose to expand again, I think Stumbleupon would be one I'd look into, as I've had a couple of HUGE traffic spikes as 'one offs' when something on my blog has been 'stumbled'.


Growing your community

Back when I first started my blog I did the whole, 'follow me - follow you' thing with Google Friend Connect.  This was more about the number of followers showing on the blog than meaningful connection. But I think it's something a lot of people work their way through when they start out.
Now I try to build my communities with like-minded people. So on Google + and Pinterest I follow lots of people and boards with the same interests. You can search for people by topics and then once you're following them, their posts and shares come up in your feeds so you can start to interact with them.

Really, building your community is all about sharing - your content, other peoples and the discussion and interaction they provoke. The best and most valuable communities aren't necessarily the biggest - but they're the most interactive and supportive. I personally believe that is what you should aim for in order to build a successful blog.



How about you?

Do you have a community around your blog? 
Is is centred in one particular place or spread over several social media platforms?