Goodies and Gadgets

Depending on the blogging software or service you are using, you can use what is referred to as a plugin. Plugins, also known as add-ons, are modules of software that add features or services to the main blogging system. They can help you enhance your blogging experience by adding special functions to the original installation. Plugins can make the reader experience smoother or provide detailed information about varying topics, like visitors, comments, and traffic. Checking out the website of your blog software can usually direct you to a master list of goodies that you can download and customize.

Plugins and add-ons can range from practical to downright ridiculous. Practical: you can use some plugins to monitor comment statistics and turn URLs into links automatically in your posts and comments, or you may find a plugin that allows you to pull RSS feeds from other blogs you own or participate in into your blog. Ridiculous: there are plugins that display the birthdays of your readers, list your Netflix rentals... etc.

Third-Party Services

MyBlogLog: This service allows you to build mini-communities. After you register, you can place a badge on your blog that displays the most recent MyBlogLog members who have visited your site. It is a great feature for finding new blogs and for connecting with other bloggers who may be lurking on your blog.

Twitter: "What are you doing?" is the question over at Twitter. Twitter is a service that let you tell people what you are doing every moment of the day. It lets you blog in short burst, from your PC, from your mobile phone, or right from your Instant Messenger. Twitter is completely free and highly addictive. The service provides handy badges for your site with a quick copy and paste, and your every move is there for public consumption.

Amazon Associates: Amazon has an associate program that allows you to earn a little by promoting items it sells on your site. You can use it as a money-generating tool, but you can also use it to display what you bought recently or show the items on your wish list. And you make a couple of bucks from it.

Share Your Musical Tastes with

Consider sharing a list of your favourite artists, or hook up with and display your favourite tunes or currently playing tracks right on your blog. is a great community for music buffs. With a quick download and installation of the software plugin and application, it streams the info from your recently listened tracks from your chosen player to your profile on its website. also automatically compiles a customized radio station based on your listening habits, and tallies up your most popular songs so you can see what your own patterns have been. You can link up with friends, find people with similar musical tastes, and find new music through network. After you have built up a bit of information in your profile, you can easily incorporate your playlist or a personalized radio station into your blog with's widget code. also provides your playlist as an RSS feed.

Pulling Flickr Photos into Your Blog

Pulling photos into your blog from your Flickr account is quite simple. First, you need to have a Flickr account.

Here are the simple steps for adding Flickr to your WordPress blog:
  1. Log in to your WordPress blog.
  2. Click My Dashboard.
  3. Click the Presentation tab.
  4. Click the Widgets tab.
  5. Click and drag the Flickr widget into your widget list.
  6. When the widget is in place, click the icon on the right side of the Flickr widget. A window appears for you to paste your Flickr account's RSS feed.
  7. Find your account's RSS feed at the bottom of your Flickr page and paste it in the Flickr RSS URL field on your WordPress Flickr widget.
  8. From the drop-down menu, choose the number of photos to display. Then close the widget window.
  9. Click Save Change to ensure your settings are saved. Preview your site to make sure that your Flickr photos appear.

If you are using a blogging tool such as Movable Type or Blogger, you can create a code snippet right on Flickr to copy and paste into your sidebar template. Creating and customizing your Flickr code snippet, or Flickr Badge, is a simple procedure. You can choose from a couple of different looks.

Here are the steps to finding the Badge Wizard and applying it to your blog:
  1. Log in to your Flickr account.
  2. From your Flickr home page, click Upload Photos.
  3. On the left side, click the Uploading Tools link.
  4. When you are on the Help/Tools page, scroll down the right side until you find the section called Display Flickr Photos on Your Website.
  5. Click the Build a Badge link.
  6. From here, Flickr takes you through a number of steps to customize your Flickr Badge. Choose from an HTML badge or a Flash-enhanced badge; choose what photos to display from your account, select your colours to make them match your blog, and then click the Preview & Get Code button. When you are finished, Flickr provides you with a snippet of code to copy and paste into your own templates.

Personalize your Sidebar

Your sidebar is the section on your blog containing typically a column or two. Gussying up your sidebar is quick and painless. With just a few clicks and your sidebar is ready. If you are using MovableType or WordPress on your own hosted site, it takes a little more work and a little copy and paste, but it is rather painless. Here are a few ideas to get your creativity flowing:

More about yourself. If you are not sure what to do with your sidebar, start with the basics. Not only will poeple who read your blog want to know more about the kind of person you are, but they will be interested in the things you like as well. Some bloggers opt to include links to sites they frequent, or places they shop. Bloggers sometimes provide information on how to contact them using various methods, links to their RSS feeds, and may be short bios about the poeple they frequently talk about in their blog entries.

Your interest. Get a little creative with your interests. If you are an avid book lover or music junkie, share that with our readers. Display a list of your favourite reads. Compile a list of your most angst-ridden CDs or create a catalog of your CD collection.

Popular widgets. There are bazillion widgets, plugins, and code snippets dedicated to displaying who, what, when, where, how. May be you want to display how many people are on your site at this very moment, show what your rank is in Technorati, or may be tell visitors how many people are subscribed to your RSS feed.

Paparazzi. Photos are popular items to include in your sidebar. Including them as a more permanent installment of your site is quite the trend. Whether they are a part of your overall design or a wdget in your sidebar, they can spice up your site with some visual interest.


PayPerPost is a relatively new method of advertising for blogs. In essence, you are paid to write an article or post a link in an entry about a particular product or company. Designed to be self-serve style of ad service, you sign up for an account and submit your blog for approval. After you are approved, you can then accept Opportunities.

An advertiser posts an Opportunity, and when your account is approved, you are free to respond to that advertiser's Opportunity. Most often, the advertiser is looking for someone to blog about his product, website, or company in exchange for cash, although the amount and requirements for each Opportunity varies from advertiser to advertiser.

When you post the blog entries relating to the Opportunities chosen, you submit links to those entries to the people at PayPerPost. Their staff reviews the links and if all is well, approves the posts. If your post is denied, they do give you a chance to revise it once before rejecting it.

If your post has been approved, you must leave it up on your site for 30 days. It does not have to be on the front page of your blog, but it does need to remain live. PayPerPost will spot-check over the course of that time and again at the end of 30 days to ensure it is still visible to the public. If your blog entry is still alive, you will get paid.

PayPerPost has a moderate list of other requirements that vary depending on the Opportunity selected. You can view these requirements on its website. You must have a PayPal account in order to receive payment from PayPerPost.

Federated Media

Federated Media, or in short FM is currently an exclusive, invite-only advertising network that accepts only blogs with what their staff members consider the utmost in passion, integrity, authority and strong community support. They choose the bloggers in their network based on how much revenue they think the blogs can generate. FM feels bloggers with the trust of their audience, in addition to high traffic and quality content, are going to lure more potential advertisers.

FM organizes its sites, similar to other services into groups that they call federations. They have federations for parenting, travel, graphic arts, entertainment, and much more, so there is a good chance your blog should fit into at least one federation. FM also allows you to approve or deny all ads that may appear on your site. FM does not publicly disclose the amount of revenue you can expect to earn by joining their network, so you need them to accept your blog before they share that info.

While Federated Media is invitation-only, you are welcome to submit your site for consideration. If you feel your blog meets FM's criteria, fill out the submission form on the site.


Blogads has been around since 2002 and is wildly popular choice of advertising among bloggers of all types. In the Blogads structure, the advertisers themselves, with assistance from Blogads, manage, renew, and add campaigns to your blog via a simple web-based interface.

The blogs participating in the service are classified under various categories that Blogads calls hives. Hives are groups organized by location and topic. Advertisers decide, by visiting your blog or by perusing the list of blogs in their targeted hives, whether to purchase ads based on your blog's advertising cost, audience, traffic, and popularity. They also can purchase ads in targeted group buys based on the quantity, quality, and cost of the other blogs in your hive.

In addition to having advertising approval, Blogads also allows you to customize the appearance of your ads, set your own prices, and even write the copy to entice potential advertisers. Ultimately, Blogads is one of the most rewarding services. The company takes a mere 30% cut from the revenue generated by the ads on your blog. And you can run Blogads along with other ad services.

Text Link Ads

One of the hot services around is Text Link Ads. It places very subtle text link ads on websites and blogs. Text Link Ads are not contextual; they are static links, meaning they do not change on refresh and are not served dynamically. You can personally approve or deny the text link ads that are sold before applying them to your blog. Having some say in what gets served up to your readers can give you peace of mind and a feeling of control over the advertising process.

Text Link Ads touts a 50% revenue share on the price of the ads sold to your site. You are not paid per click or per impression, just for the cost that Text Link Ads charged the advertiser to place the ad. So if an ad on your site cost $20, you get $10. You are conveniently paid via check or Paypal on the first of every month with a minimum payout of $25.

Google Adsense

Google, the oracle of Internet search engines, has a great ad delivery service called Adsense which allows you to run ads based on the content Google indexes from your blog. This method for displaying ads is called contextual advertising. The ads come in varying sizes, and you can customize them to match your blog design through the Google Adsense web-based interface.

Google Adsense serves both text and graphic ads to your blog in a relatively unobtrusive manner. Google does have to approve your participation in Adsense, so if it deems your site controversial or offensive, it may deny your application. Google Adsense is free.

Google pays for the ads on either a cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-1000-impressions (CPM) basis. Your potential advertisers pay Google either when your readers click on the ads (CPC) or whenever their ads are displayed on your blog (CPM). You receive a certain portion of this payment via check every month, provided your ads have generated revenue. And a minimum amount of $100 must be earned before Google will issue a check. Google does not disclose the exact amount that you receive per click or impression, but you can make money with Google Adsense if you use it in accordance with Google's guidelines.

Pro and Con of Blog Advertising

The pro:

Advertising on blogs has become more accepted as a way to make legitimate cash. There are bloggers who support themselves solely with advertisements. Of course, not in the sense of placing advertisements all over the blog, hiding the actual content. There are some widely successful sites that run unobstrusive advertisements and use them as a primary source of income.

Once you have established your blog and can convince potential advertisers, via site statistics and consistent content, that they should invest some advertisements on your blog on a regular basis, you can sit back and have money rolling in. You can make a tidy sum if you place your ads wisely and generate steady traffic.

The con:

When you accept ads on your site, you should have a sense of responsibility to your advertisers. Some bloggers have legitimate concerns about making sure their voices are not compromised by the requirements of certain advertisers. In this highly litigious society, advertisers are much more careful about who they align themselves with.

Not all advertisers are that picky, but if you are hoping to make money with your blog, keep your target audience and target advertisers in mind when you post entries.

The best way to keep your blog free of influence and truly your own point of view is to call the shots whenever possible. This may or may not be lucrative, depending on the circumstances, but it is your blog and ultimately your choice on what kind of content it holds and what advertisers you choose to partner with.

Free Site Traffic-Monitoring Tools

There are lots of traffic-monitoring services available. Here are two of the popular ones among the blogging masses.

Site Meter
Site Meter offers a free stats counter to place on your website or blog that is quick to set up and provides real-time reports on your site's activity. Signing up is easy, and as a free service, the service asks that you honor a few simple guidelines.

After a few short questions, Site Meter provides you with a snippet of code you must paste into a visible area of your site. Somewhere near the bottom of the page is usually sufficient enough. The free service puts a small logo icon on your site, but you can opt to pay for the advanced service and be icon free and benefit from the extra perks, such as more advanced visitor information, search engine ranking statistics, and information on up to 4,000 visitors. You can even download all your stats as a .csv or a Microsoft Excel-compatible file for creating reports. For most, the free version is sufficient, but if you plan to use your blog for revenue, you may want to more closely analyze your site traffic.

StatCounter's free service provides similar information as Site Meter but has the added bonus of letting you choose an invisible tracker. You still need to install the code snippet, but it will be invisible, so no weird icon button messes up your fancy design. Another added bonus is that the code StatCounter provides can be valid current code.

Like Site Meter, StatCounter provides handy, step-by-step instructions for almost any blog or website setup. StatCounter provides the neat little code snippet ready to copy and paste.

Site Statistics

Various tools are available to track site traffic, some free, some not, that you can take advantage of. Finding out who reads your site and with what browsers, and what kind of activity specific areas of your blog are seeing, can aid you in enhancing your site further and help you make improvements to areas you think deserve more attention.

Stat counters usually summarize your traffic in a graph format. For example, StatCounter gives you a nice little bar graph to help you monitor general spikes in traffic. But you will want to drill a little further to see what is really going on.

Unique visitors
This is the most important statistic for those who are using blogging for business or revenue-generating sites. This is the total number of people who have come to your website, and you can usually view it by day, week, month, and year. This number includes every person who come to your site, including returning visitors and new visitors. You often need to know this number when selling advertising or obtaining sponsors. Companies buying ad space on a site usually will want to know what you average in unique hits or visitors oer week or month.

Referrers and keywords
In most cases, traffic-monitoring tools tell you where your traffic is coming from. Knowing where your readers are coming from or finding a link to your site can be helpful in terms of tracking your promotion progress. It also gives you a clue of how people are finding your site through search engine.

Entry and exit pages
This feature shows you from what page visitors are entering your site and where they exit. You want people to stay and look around, especially if you are marketing a service or selling a product. If you notice that a large number of people are exiting on an entry that links to a lot of outside resources, you might want to change how you present that information. Your goal is to keep people on your site. The longer they stick around, the more they find, and the higher chances they will return.

You can usually see from which part of the world your traffic is being generated, which can come in handy in certain scenarios.

Browser statistics
The design of a blog or website can really impact how visitors navigate and use your site. It is always important to cater to all current browsers, if possible, but knowing which browser the majority of your site readers use to look at your site can help you weigh options when it comes to design or layout of specific information. If you have an even spread of varying browsers and sizes, choosing a layout that is a bit more flexible can be beneficial. The key is to know your audience.

Traffic Quality not Quantity

The appeal of tons of traffic can be intoxicating, and of course lots adoring fans are a nice idea. But if you are blogging for the benefit of creating revenue, you will want a certain type of reader group coming to your site, rather than everyone on the Internet. Finding your target audience can be tough, but it is not impossible.

Participate on relevant websites that already have the type of readers you desire. Obviously thousands of hits are great, but if only three of those hits are from people who are interested in your blog, you are not targeting the right audience with your techniques. You want the bulk of your readers to have a genuine interest in your content, rather than being just passing-by readers.

Search Engine Optimization

You would want to keep search engine optimization techniques in mind with any type of website you built, the same goes for blogs. However, your content is constantly changing, so it should be handled differently. Search engine optimization (SEO) is about creating a website with search engines in mind. Search engines crawl or index websites in different methods to populate search results. Paying attention to what search engines index, such as certain headings, titles, and content arrangement, can help boost your ranking in search results.

Of course, there is always the chance that appearing in search engine results is undesirable for reasons of privacy and spam prevention. There are steps you can take to avoid being indexed by search engines.

A business blog naturally has different goals than does a blog for a hobbyist, so you will need to address specific areas more aggressively, depending on the topics and what kinds of ranking you hope to achieve. Paying careful attention to what you title your entries, for example, can influence what and how people find your blog. What you post may not be immediately indexed, so anticipating what could end up in search results may guide searchers to drill into your blog for further information. Search engines get clogged up with blog content so easily that getting in is not the problem. It is ensuring that what does get in is meaningful or has keywords that invite desired readers to come have a look.

Promoting your Site

Tossing a blog up and sitting back to wait for the readers to spill in is a surefire way to be sorely disappointed. Here are a few tips to invite traffic to your blog:
  • Tag your entries and register your site with Technorati. Get your blog into Technorati and start tagging your entries. It sounds like a hassle but helping people find things is a key component to building readers.
  • Promote your RSS feeds. Your RSS feed will tell readers where to find your site and keep their curiosity peaked. Hopefully, your RSS feed will prompt readers to visit your site to comment and participate.
  • Provide fresh and alluring content. If you do not plan on posting daily, at least make the posts you do put up worthy of the visit. Traffic is about building repeat business. Make sure you keep your readers wanting more.
  • Keep your site free of errors and clutter. It is important to keep your site running smoothly. That is not to say that the occasional snag will destroy all of your chances at building readership, but a perpetual code error or a broken feed can deter people from coming back. That is also true about extraneous content. You want people to be able to find your entries; try to keep the extra bling, like distracting scripts and blinkies, to a minimum. Keep it simple, clean, and unclutered. Deliver your content properly and build from there.
  • Participate in the blogging community. Interacting with the community from which you hope to acquire readers is essential in getting the word out about yourself. Provide thoughtful commentary on other related blogs, and reply to the people who do visit yours. Just because they visit once does not mean they are permanent visitors. You will need to give them a reason to come back again.
  • List yourself in relevant directories and webrings. Peppered around the web are directories and webrings for every topic you could possibly want to find. Consider listing your blog in a few to get the wayward web traveler to find you. You may visit Google to search for your blog topic. See what comes up and visit a few sites to see what strikes your fancy.
  • Link to other blogs. Consider linking to other blogs that interest you. Not only will you build a list of sites you enjoy reading, but you could also aid in the interconnectivity of blogging. Blogs allow people to discover new sites at nearly every turn. The sites you link could reciprocate and lend their readership the chance to discover you.

Traffic Control

Business blogs or revenue-generating blogs rely on traffic to build interest in products or services and to keep people connected to your trade. Traffic can create opportunities to make money, develop ideas for new projects, and make connections with people you would otherwise have never known.

Traffic gives you leverage when it comes to advertising and sponsorship, if that is an important direction for your blog. Some bloggers depend on blog advertisers as their primary income, and some use traffic to turn a hobby into a profession. It all depends greatly on what you want to achieve. But of course building a following and gaining readers and repeat visits are the basics of the blog world. Most bloggers would want to drive traffic to their blogs.

Newbie Hustle

When you are new to blogging, you want to sign up for every gadget and display every widget. You are going to be the neat A-lister. You are instantly going to be best friends with the most popular blogger on the Internet by leaving her one of your magically delicious comments. When you launch, your blog will be flooded with avid readers. You want to blog and podcast and videocast and photoblog and... a lot more.

Slow down there, success requires endurance and patience. Here are some insider do's and don'ts.

Don't leave comments on other blogs begging people to read your blog. It is bad enough to be blatant, but not even bothering to leave any thoughtful commentary is even worse. It borders on spam, and it is become a tactic spammers have started using. So unless you want your comment deleted as spam and your IP potentially blacklisted, share a comment but skip the sales pitch.

Do blog often and with quality, easily digestible content. Consider starting out with snack-sized entries so new readers to your blog can get an idea of what your writing is like. If you are new and your goal is to build an audience, do not write long-winded diatribes. Other successful blogs might have long entries packed full of hilarity, but unless you are prepared to bring it on similar level, you will want to build a readership.

Don't sign your blog entries or comments. It is really unnecessary. Most blogs have a Posted By section for both blog entries and comments, so you do not need to close with your name. It takes up space, adding more stuff people have to scroll through and it is just one of those things that make people think... you must be new.

Don't stuff your blog full of surveys. If surveys and quizzes are your thing, having a MySpace account should be more appropriate. The occasional quiz or survey, sometimes called a meme, is fine and can be a fun way to engage other bloggers by challenging them, sometimes called tagging them, to complete the survey too. It gets old if surveys make up the bulk of your blog.

Do run a spell check. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Common mistakes are made by people who are not conscious of some similar words. You need not to be a scholar, but you would be surprised how many people judge by grammar alone.

Social Commentary

People sometimes think that because your blog is public, you are entitled to their opinion. Not everyone was born with the tact gene. Treating others as you wish to be treated is one of those rules that applies anywhere, including blog comments. How respectfully you comment on the blogs of others is important.

You do not have to agree with everything you read. If you feel the need to leave a heated comment, keep in mind that you usually would not be able to edit or delete it after it is posted. Take a moment to compose yourself before responding. A well-thought-out, intelligent comment or rebuttal can at least be respected, even if it is not agreed with.

If you are particularly outspoken, be prepared for resistance. Regular readers of a blog tend to rally behind its owner. This is not to say that you should not speak yoour mind, but do so with decorum. A witty, well-timed retort and a sweet disposition can leave them wondering.

Having a blog opens you up to a whole world of wack-a-doos, so sometimes you need to chaperone your blog, making sure that everyone plays nice. These wack-a-doos, usually called trolls, will leave negative comments on your blog, usually more than once. Most of the time, blog commenters are lovely, fine people such as yourself, but once in a while, you will get someone who is hell-bent on picking a fight with you, usually over something ridiculous. The troll will usually comment anonymously because mean people are often too cowardly to reveal themselves.

Similar tactics apply. Delete the comments and block the jerk from commenting, or from your site entirely. You can do this by blocking that IP address from the server, or with features that may be available through your blog platform or service. You can track the IP address and use search engines to help you find the offender, but that is usually a dead end. Check with your hosting provider for more information about blocking IP addresses.

When someone gives you a hard time on your blog, relax. It is only the Internet after all. Unless you feel you are in danger of harassment or stalking, try not to let the occasional negative incident impact your feelings toward the blog community. One or two rude people do not represent the whole of the Internet, and the benefits of blogging and sharing comments definitely outweigh the random troll here and there.

Blogging Manners

Whether you are the center of attention or a shrinking violet, it is always important to be courteous. Here are some myths and oversights in linking etiquette:

Asking permission: Unless the blog owner specifically requests it on her/his site or it is required by the blog service, it is not necessary to ask permission if you wish to link to someone. Feel free to link at will. You are welcome to alert the blog owner that you have linked to her/him, in fact requesting a link from a blog author is sometimes met with confusion.

Linking to images: Directly linking to people's images on their servers is frowned upon. To right-click and save the image to your desktop and then upload it as your own is equally frowned upon, unless it is a photo in public domain. If you wish to link to someone's image, use a text link to the entry itself or email the blog author first to ask whether it is okay.

Tracking it back: As a new blogger, you probably would want to know if someone were talking about your entries. Other bloggers would too. Trackbacks can help. When you trackback to someone's blog entry, that person's blog software creates a link on her/his blog in that particular entry linking back to your entry. Thus, anyone visiting that blog entry can click through to your blog to read more. Google and other search bots can also pick up your link on the other person's blog, allowing you a potentially higher rank.

Posting direct quotes: Being quoted can be extremely flattering. However, quoting someone without proper credit is plagiarism. If you wish to quote someone else's blog entry, be sure to include just a snippet of the original entry, not the full entry itself. Also make sure to link back to that entry and trackback to it as well, if that feature is available. It alerts the blog author that you are discussing her/his entry and allows your users to click through to the full entry on the original author's blog.

Blogrolls and Link Sharing

Linking to other blogs in your entries or in the sidebar of your site is called blogrolling, and the list of links itself is called blogroll. It is standard blog practice and usually encouraged. Most of the time, people love to be linked. It drives up their ranking in Google and grants them a tiny slice of advertising to your blog readers. Of course, these perks apply to your blog too. Most importantly, linking allows bloggers to connect. Quoting other bloggers in your entries is also welcomed. However, do not forget to credit the source and link back.

The blogosphere is founded on community. If we did not read each other's blogs, there would be no point to it all. Part of the fun of blogging is linking to other blogs. It allows you to share your reads with those who read your blog, potentially turning them on to someone new. You may be too timid to comment on the blogs you like, linking to them can let the bloggers know that you dig what they are saying. When the blog owners check their referral stats, it leads them to your blog. Consider it an extremely subtle calling card.

BlogRolling was one of the first services available to bloggers to create link lists. Using a simple script provided by BlogRolling, you can generate a link lists, or blogroll, to display on your site. BlogRolling will check whether a blog has updated and display the update on your blogroll with an indicator you customize through BlogRolling. Currently, BlogRolling is a free service that lets you create multiple link lists, create private link lists, and add people to your blogroll with one click.

You can also use various RSS feed services to post blogrolls on your site. Bloglines offers a small script that produces a blogroll of the public feeds to which you subscribe when yoou insert it into the HTML on your blog. Some blog services offer link lists as a feature of the service.