#bloggingedumacation: Running a Blogging Business

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Interested in learning more about how to run your blog business? In this #bloggingedumacation lesson, I'm sharing my tips on running your blogging business!

I’ve been blogging consistently (about 5 days/week) since October 2011. I had a blog prior to that but October 2011 marks the moment when I began to blog full time. Let me tell you…I honestly cannot believe it has been that long. January 2013 is the marking point when I decided that I was going to turn my blog into a business. I rebranded into Pink Heels Pink Truck and hit the ground running and never looked back. I’ve had my blogging slumps when my creative juices just weren’t flowing. And I’ve had moments where my editorial calendar was booked out 3 months in advance. I’ve tried out various programs to help me become more efficient. I’ve tested the waters of hiring interns. I’ve done a little bit of everything, all while working a full time job which requires me to be on the road Monday-Friday, away from my home, my husband and my stuff. Yes…I miss my stuff. You can’t quite understand what it’s like to live out of a laundry basket (aka my suitcase cause it’s easier to throw stuff into) for the last 3.5 years. I literally look like I’m moving in or moving out depending on if I’m coming home or going back on the road.

So, all that to say, I’m going to give you my advice on what has worked for me so far. How I’m running a blogging business and growing every week. First let’s talk about the tools I use to run my blogging business.

HootSuite – Social Media Management: I use HootSuite to schedule out twitter accounts. I pay for the pro version so that I can have multiple accounts all in one framework. You can also connect Facebook (pages, groups and profile), G+ Page, LinkedIn and Instagram (you can’t post to it though). I pay $9.99/month for the Pro Account and I have at least 4 different twitter accounts connected if that gives you some idea (not including all the Facebook accounts I have connected).
BufferApp: I use buffer to schedule out Retweets. I set up a specific schedule and then when my tribe has stuff they want me to help promote, I will “Buffer” their tweets and Buffer will send them out according to my specific schedule. Makes it super easy to have content going out on twitter when you aren’t around and you’re supporting your friends. Win-Win!
Meet Edgar: Edgar is used for my Twitter Schedule as well. You are probably thinking why am I using HootSuite, Buffer and Edgar. Well, for me they each have their own pros/cons. For Edgar, I can load in all the tweets from all of my blog posts, set a schedule and basically let Edgar have at it. I only have to login to add my latest posts into the rotation. It’s $49/month
Tailwind: Tailwind is my Pinterest Scheduler. It’s $15/month and if you pay for a year up front, you can get it for $9.99 a month…basically 2 months free if you pay up front. The analytics on your Pinterest account alone are worth paying for Tailwind. And bonus: it’s a Pinterest Partner. So when I schedule out my Pins, it pushes to Pinterest as if I was the one doing it live.
Google Docs in Google Drive: I use Google Docs all the time. I share between my assistant, my blog tribe friends, whomever I need to create docs with and share. What’s nice is that more than one person can be on the form or spreadsheet at the same time. So you can make live edits while someone else is in the form or doc. I also use Google Forms a lot. Or use Google Docs to host PDFs that I share on my blog (think Printables). Makes it super easy for people to download to the computer. And I can access from anywhere, including my phone.
Gmail: My email is my life line to the world. ;) Well my social media is too…but I am addicted to my email. I have folders out the wah-zoo and try to get things organized. Although if you visited my inbox, you’d think it wasn’t organized. ;)

So that’s it for the tools that I use. Let’s talk about my website and what I use for it. I’m on the Self-Hosted WordPress platform. I run Genesis Framework + a child theme to hold my design all in place. Here are the details of what I use:

Website Platform: Self-Hosted WordPress (aka WordPress.org). The versatility of WordPress is amazing.
Website Framework: Genesis Framework + Pretty Chic Child Theme (as of 3/25/15). A framework/child theme is like using a template for your design. Think of it as the skeleton of your site. It gives you the bones to use and then you can make it look pretty on your own or by hiring a website designer.
Website Hosting: RFE Hosting…if you need an amazing hosting service, check out RFE. I’ve been with Aaron for over 2 years now and have all of my domains hosted through RFE and well…hands-down the best host ever. I’ve rarely ever had a problem. And when I have had a problem, it’s been me that caused said problem. Aaron’s customer service has come to my rescue many many times.

Now let’s talk about some of the plugins that I use on my site:
Akismet: You need this one for sure. It’s a spam catcher. I pay for a Pro Account (billed yearly) because I have a couple of sites I have Akismet running on. I recommend you paying for this if you are blogging for business. I think you can get their Donation version, but because I’m making money off of my blog, I pay for the Pro version.
WordPress SEO: The best SEO plugin ever. Plus you can get your sitemap through this plugin which is super important if you want google indexing your entire website….which you most definitely want to do.
Add Signature: I use this plugin to call my signature into my post. It’s a shortcode that is a lot easier than typing in my graphic signature, social media links, pinterest widget and subscribe/opt-in form for my website.
All-in-One Favicon: It’s what makes the little pink truck appear in your browser tab.
Filament: The social media share buttons you see on the left-hand side of the screen.
Genesis Simple Hooks: This plugin allows me to make changes to my site without going into my .php files and potentially crashing them.
LinkWithin: I haven’t decided how I feel about this one now. I’m leaning more towards coding my own “If you liked this post, check out these.”
Remove Amazon Links from RSS Feed: If you are an Amazon affiliate, you defintely need this plugin. In their TOS, it states that you cannot promote Affiliate links in any kind of email or RSS feed. This plugin kills your links in your RSS Feed and Email. It does not affect your links on your website. Now the downfall is that it kills all of your links going out through the RSS Feed and Email. So just FYI on that.
Simple Custom CSS: a great plugin to make quick design changes to your website without getting into your editor.
Sucuri Security: Highly recommend this install to track the security on your site. You can set it up to email you when someone is trying to hack into your website. Sounds scary. It truly is (to me at least). You might be thinking, why would someone want to hack into my website?? Well..great question. I just know they do, because I get brute force attack emails weekly. The most recent happening last night from about 1:30am till about 2:30am. The amount of notices of bruteforce attack that were in my inbox was astounding. This also leads to me to tell you to have a super super super strong password on your logins.
WordPress Backup to Dropbox: My website automatically backs up to my Dropbox account every Monday at 11pm. Make sure you have a regular backup of your website stored somewhere!
WP Gallery Custom Links: I use this plugin so that my Recipes Page, #bloggingedumacation Page and #NOEXCUSES Fitness Page has clickable gallery photos that will take you to the post I’m trying to direct you to. Without this plugin, if you create a gallery of images on a page or a post, they will only lead to the image. They will not lead anywhere else.

Now, let’s talk about how I make money. I’m a pretty open book when it comes to my blog and my blog business. Partly why I have this #bloggingedumacation series. Plus I love to teach. I make money a few different ways. Through Affiliate Networks, Ads and Sponsored Posts. Let’s look at some of my Affiliate Networks.

Amazon Associates: This is probably one of my biggest Affiliate programs. I make a decent amount of money through Amazon especially around the holidays. And what’s nice about it…you can practically buy anything and everything through Amazon.
ShopSense: This affiliate network is specifically for fashion, beauty and home. It’s open to those that want to apply to become a ShopSense Affiliate.
shareasale.com: This is a platform that has a ton of different affiliates within it. A few that I’m linked to are StudioPress, HootSuite. There are so many more, but I recommend only applying to be an affiliate for brands you absolutely, 100% love love love.

My Ads that you see on my website (on the desktop and mobile/tablet) are managed by The Blogger Network and Marfeel. Both of these require a minimum of 100k pageviews/month. If you signup with either, tell them I sent ya! ;)

The Sponsored Posts and Ambassadorships are things I’ve worked on throughout my years of blogging. Currently, I’m working with the following blogger networks for sponsored posts (outside of the brands I work directly with): Lunch Box and PopSugar. Both are invite only. Lunch Box has an email you can use to find out about opportunities. There are no guarantees for you submitting an email inquiry (but I think that goes for most blogging networks).

The business side of blogging can be tedious. Keeping up with your monthly expenses and income for tax purposes. Deciding what kind of company you are going to form (I’m an LLC). Keeping up with your social media and your community. I started to feel the overwhelm last summer, so I went in search of a few interns. I hired 2 interns for a 6 month period. One of those interns, I turned into my assistant after the 6 month period was up. Best decision ever.

So that’s my blogging biz info in a nutshell. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out! If you’d like me to dive further into the business side of blogging, let me know! I’d be happy to write future posts on anything you are curious about!! I’ve got some fun stuff in the works for all my creative entrepreneurs out there! I cannot wait to share what’s been going on behind the scenes!!

You can find all of my #bloggingedumacation lessons here!

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#bloggingedumacation – 11 Things to Check Before Hitting Publish

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Are you about to hit the publish button your post? Check out these 11 things to see if you've got everything ready to go first! #bloggingedumacation

Blogging isn’t easy. There’s so much to learn. And things are changing every single day. As bloggers, we work really hard to get our posts ready for publish. Whether we are creating recipes or crafts, styling outfits, curating great information or whatever it is….we work really hard right up until we hit publish. But before you let the world see your hard work, let’s make sure your post is ready to go! Check out these 11 Things that you need to double check prior to publishing your post!

ONE: Did you proof-read your post?
Go back in and double check that everything is spelled correctly and that you are using the write words instead of the wrong ones. See what I did there??

TWO: Do you have a call to action at the end of your post?
This can be a question that you ask your readers or add in a Pinterest widget or add in an email sign-up form. All of these are calls-to-action.

THREE: Have you tested your links?
If you have links in your post, I highly recommend that you test them all.

FOUR: Do you have a Pinnable Image?
Make sure you have something that people can pin from your post!

FIVE: Do your photos have actual titles and ALT Text?
Make sure your photos don’t say IMG00055. Google reads Image code and let me tell you…no one is searching for IMG00055. So make sure you change your photo file name. Also, get in that ALT Text. The Pinterest “Pin-It” button pulls your ALT text before it pulls your picture file name. Tell a story with your Image ALT Text. Think of it as if you were describing your post to your best friend.

SIX: Is your Post Title & Post SEO-friendly?
Make sure you have a keyword or keyword phrase for your post and make sure that is somewhere in your title. Do you have the keyword or keyword phrase being used throughout your post? It doesn’t have to be in every single paragraph, but you want to include it at lease 2-3 times in your post.

SEVEN: Is your post sponsored in anyway?
If it is, make sure you disclose that fact to your readers. Your disclosure must be clear, concise and conspicuous. It cannot be hidden and it cannot be at the very end of your post. At the very least, your disclosure MUST be before your first outbound sponsored link (or affiliate link). I HIGHLY recommend that you disclose at the very beginning of your post. I know you probably think that will kill your post when it goes out to RSS feeds…but let me tell you…the FTC is the real deal. And they get their panties in a wad if they think a consumer is being duped. No lie. So make sure you are disclosing properly. Read more about FTC disclosures here.

EIGHT: Do you have any Internal Links to yourself?
Link to yourself when you can. Have a similar post, share it and then go back to that particular post and add a link to your new post. Self-promote your previous posts as often as you can within your own posts.

NINE: Add relevant Affiliate links.
If you have a craft post, add affiliate links to the tools you were using. If you write a book review, add an affiliate link to the book. REMEMBER to disclose that your post has affiliate links. Your disclosure must appear before the first outbound affiliate link. I recommend you place your disclosure at the top of your post. (You can see mine at the top). ALWAYS DISCLOSE!! And read all about why you should disclose in my #bloggingedumacation post about the FTC Disclosure Guidelines.

TEN: Do your outbound links have the “open in a new window” code attached to them?
I highly recommend that those links going elsewhere (meaning not within your blog), open in a new window when they get clicked. Add this code at the end of your link: target=”_blank”
Here’s an example: <a href=”http://pinkheelspinktruck.com” target=”_blank”>Pink Heels Pink Truck</a>

ELEVEN: Have you No-Followed your Sponsored or Affiliate Links?
Any link that you either got paid to insert or that you might make money from (Affiliate), those links need to have the No Follow code attached. This is what your No Follow code should look like: rel=”nofollow”
Here’s an example: <a rel=”nofollow” href=”http://pinkheelspinktruck.com/”>Pink Heels Pink Truck</a>

So now that you’ve gone through the list, pin it to Pinterest or Bookmark it so that you remember this for next time!!

Want more #bloggingedumacation lessons? You can check them all out here!

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#bloggingedumacation: How To Improve Your SEO

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Tips on How to Improve Your SEO (aka Search Engine Optimization) for your Blog from looking at your search query data #bloggingedumacation

Do you have an SEO plan for you blog? Are you familiar with SEO? aka Search Engine Optimization. I talk about how to find your Keyword Search Results in Google Analytics and how to find them in Google Webmaster Tools.

But what do those keywords tell you and what should you do with the information?

The keywords tell you what terms or phrases people used to get to your site. Or to land on your site. I highly recommend that you take some time either monthly or quarterly to go over those terms and expound on them…ie…write more blog posts centered around the words that are bringing people to your site from a search engine result.

Webmaster Tools actually gives you some pretty good data as far as how you are ranking for those terms in the search engine via Google. When you are looking at your Search Query results, you’ll see a column that says Average Position. That Average Position is the ranking spot that you appear in a search result. Let’s take a look at a specific example so I can explain it better visually.

How-to Improve your SEO

Okay, so if you look at the above picture, I’ve already sorted by my Average Position (the far right column) to show everything in a descending order (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 etc). The very first keyword in my list is my blog name, pink heels pink truck. You can see that I have 104 impressions (ps..the timeframe is over the last 30 days). Of those 104 impressions, I’ve received 34 clicks over to my website which calculates to be 33% CTR (click through rate). So even though there were 104 impressions, only 34 clicks happened. You see that number 1.0 under the Average Position column? That means my website appears in the #1 spot on Page 1 of the search results for that keyword phrase pink heels pink truck.

Okay, so really…I can’t do anything SEO-wise to improve on that keyword phrase because it’s my blog name. I mean I guess I could but it wouldn’t really benefit me in any way. So let’s look at another example, and I’ll expound on what I can do to improve my SEO.

Keyword Phrase: beach theme baby shower ideas

In the last 30 days, I’ve had 2 people search for that specific phrase. And 1 person click through to my site, so a 50% CTR. My blog appears at the #1 spot in the search results.

Here’s my plan:
I wrote a recap on a beached theme baby shower that I hosted for one of my best friends awhile back. I get a lot of hits to that post (just look at the different ways people are searching for ideas). Considering I don’t have any preggo friends right now, I don’t really have any reason to create another entire beach themed baby shower. However, what I can do is to write a DIY post on how I made the invitations. And then I would make sure that phrase was somewhere in my post and I would link it back to my original beach themed baby shower post. I can write a DIY post on how I made the scalloped tablecloth for the cake table. There are so many different things I can do in order to really improve my SEO for that specific post. I can see there is a need for it just by seeing all the different forms of beach theme baby shower ideas that appear in my Search Query results for my blog.

Your goal is to work on posts that are similar to posts you are already ranking for. It’s cool to see my site appearing in that #1 position, but when I look further at the CTR rate, it reveals a whole lot more info. So yes, I may be #1 in the results, but people are skipping right past my site and clicking through to something else.

Understanding Average Position…
If your average position says 7.0…that means you appear at the #7 spot on the FIRST page of the search results for that keyword/phrase.
If your average position says 15.0…that means you appear at the #5 spot on the SECOND page of the search results for that keyword/phrase.
If your average position says 2.7….that means that you appear on average at the #2 spot on the FIRST page, but that you could appear also at the #9 spot for one person and the #1 spot for another…and then an average is taken across everyone and it equals 2.7 (don’t do the math on my example, it won’t add up…just know that if you see something like 2.7, it means that you show up, ON AVERAGE, at the #2 spot on the FIRST page of the search results.

If you show up at the #11 spot, you are the first spot on the SECOND page. And your goal should be to try and get yourself into the #10 spot on the FIRST page.

Having an SEO plan is super important if you are looking to grow your site. The other tip is to be able to rank in the top 5-6 spots for a specific keyword across all platforms. Let me explain:

If you already rank #1 for beach theme baby shower ideas and have a high CTR for the phrase beach theme baby shower ideas, then create a YouTube video so you can chase for the #2 spot. And create a G+ post so that you can chase for the #3 spot. And get some pins or a pin board going on Pinterest to chase for the #4 spot. So that when someone google’s beach theme baby shower ideas, your stuff appears as the #1, #2, #3 and #4 spot in the search results. Make sense?

So, don’t just limit your SEO plan to your website. Work it on all of your platforms.

I hope I’ve given you some food for thought on how to improve your SEO!

Check out all of my other #bloggingedumacation lessons here! And let me know if you have any questions! I’m here to help!

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#bloggingedumacation – Common HTML used in Blogging

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Confused about HTML? Let me show you some of the Common HTML used in blogging & explain what it does! #bloggingedumacation

HTML was one of the first things I took notes on when I first started blogging. I wanted to know what did what and how to make this do that. All of my posts are written on the Text side of WordPress (aka the HTML side). Very rarely do I use the Visual side to write my posts. I’ve been writing in this format ever since I was on blogger. It just always made it easier and made my control-freak self feel like I was in control of the look/feel of my posts. ;) I forget sometimes that a lot of newbie bloggers (or maybe even some veteran bloggers) may not be comfortable with HTML. So I’m giving you a cheat sheet. In this #bloggingedumacation, I’m sharing some common HTML used in blogging.

So before we get started, let’s talk about some HTML basics. All HTML start with a tag and always close with a “closing tag”. Let’s take a look at what I’m talking about…

<strong>This html turns your text bold</strong>

The <strong> is the opening tag of HTML. Anything that comes after that opening tag will be turned into whatever you told the text to do. So for in the example above, the text will be bold. In order to turn the bold text off, you need a closing tag. The closing tag in the example of above is </strong>. The forward slash is what closes the tag. But the entire tag is super important to turn “off” whatever it is you had asked the text to do.

Okay, so now let’s talk about some common HTML used in Blogging:

<br> = page break (inserts a page break aka makes your text appear on the next line down)

<b>bold</bold> = also is another code for bold

<u>underline</u> = underline’s your text

<strike>strikethrough</strike> = creates a strikethrough on your text

<font size=”5″>makes your font size bigger</font> = make your font size bigger or smaller, just change the number!

<font color=”red”>colored text</font> = change the color of your text

<a href=”http://pinkheelspinktruck.com/”>Pink Heels Pink Truck</a> = create a link with text

rel=”nofollow” = turns your links into ‘no follow’ links (use this code on all links that you’ve been paid to write about or received product in exchange for a post (read this #bloggingedumacation post for more details on “No-Follow” vs “Do-Follow”)

You would insert the code above in this manner:

<a rel=”nofollow” href=”http://pinkheelspinktruck.com/”>Pink Heels Pink Truck</a>

<img src=”http://pinkheelspinktruck.com/wp-uploads/blogging-edumacation-graphic.jpg”> = inserts an image (just insert your image link in between the quote marks)

<center>Centers your text within your text body</center>

There you have it…common HTML used in blogging!! Want more #bloggingedumacation lessons? Check them all out here!

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