How To Avoid Blurry Text in Blog Graphics

One of the most frustrating things I have ever found about setting up a new blog (and I have allowed it happen a lot of times) is getting the header graphic right.

Let’s be clear about something here: you don’t need Photoshop to create a good graphic. You don’t even need a paid graphics suite to create a quality graphic.

I have got to know my way around the free Paint.net tool – which, I have to say is awesome, especially since they updated it recently.

It’s not the actual graphic that’s the issue – it’s the text. If you have tried any of the free graphics editors like SumoPaint, GimpShop or Paint.net you will know that once the image is saved, the text tends to be somewhat less than professional looking.

I have used each of these programs and they are all excellent programs. It’s just the text that lets them down.

It was Tiff Lambert who got me on the right track in the end with the suggestion that I use PowerPoint (Don’t have Microsoft Office? Use Open Office) to create the text and then save it as an image.

Awesome!

And so, I was able to finish the header graphic that will adorn my refurbished PLR store:

PLR Store

Try this out by opening your graphic in PowerPoint first, then adding a text box – it must be a text box to allow you add shadows and change colours.

The Mega-Ultimate List of Free Image Sources

Earlier in the year, mega site Getty decided to practically allow free use of a ton of its images with a new sharing with attribution embedding process. That’s a massive boon to any blogger on a budget. You can read the full story here on The Verge.

But can you ever have enough image sources?

Personally, though I mostly use the same four places to look for royalty free and public domain images, I do also maintain a long list of hard-to-find secret sources.

In this, the first part of a rather humongous post, I am going to share every resource you could possibly want for free images.

Be warned, this is a megapost in the making and will require extensive updating in the week’s to come, so make sure you sign up for my newsletter to get notified of new updates – and to receive the ultimate list in PDF  format when it’s complete.

To begin, let’s look at some popular “Ultimate Lists” that exist already:

53 Free Images Sources for Your Blog and Social Media Posts from BufferApp

53  Free Image Sources For Your Blog and Social Media Posts

30 Free Image Sources for Commercial Use Stock Photography and Clipart Graphics 

clock wood 3a7.jpg  1200×800

15 sources for finding free online images from PR Daily

15 sources for finding free online images   Articles   Home

The Ultimate Directory Of Free Image Sources from The Edublogger

NOAA Photo Library

20 Free Image Sources to Make Your Great Content *Epic* from Ecommerce Platforms

20 Free Image Sources to Make Your Great Content  Epic    Ecommerce Platforms

15 FREE sources for online images from Ragan

Clipart   Eris Discordia

21 Totally Free, Legal Image Sources for Bloggers from Michelle Schaeffer

photo-1416339442236-8ceb164046f8

13 Sources For Free Public Domain and CC0-LicensedImages from WP Tavern

13 Sources For Free Public Domain and CC0 Licensed Images

10 Rare Sources for Copyright-Free Images from YMB Properties

cg114s0034_2

40+ Free Image Sources for Social Media and Blog Campaigns from Visual.ly

40  Free Image Sources for Social Media and Blog Campaigns   Visually Blog

Kirsty Girl: Top 10 Copyright Free Image Sources for Bloggers

Kirsty Girl  Top 10 Copyright Free Image Sources for Bloggers

Have you got a favourite that wasn’t featured here? if so please let me know in the comments below.

Don’t forget to join the newsletter or you’ll miss the next updates on this list.

Where to Find 50 Million Keywords Google Won’t Give You

Bing's Keyword research  Tool

A Wealth of Keywords!

Google’s API is probably one of the most called upon there is by all sorts of software and even manual searches for information about keywords people are searching for.

But bear in mind: there are over 50 million people who refuse to deal with the Big G. Those people prefer to use Bing.

Add to this fact that Bing updates its keyword search statistics on a weekly rather than a monthly basis, making their results just that bit less biased and more relevant.

Don’t go rushing off looking for the Bing Keyword Tool just yet, because that’s NOT the keyword resource I am talking about (though it’s still worth a look if you want. Just go to Bing Keyword Research. You’ll need an account but that’s free so don’t worry about it.)

The real resource I am talking about however, is in Bing’s Webmaster Tools.

Here’s a site I set up for a client only a few days ago – no marketing has been done on this site except for inclusion in Bing and Google’s Webmaster Tools:

Bing Webmaster Tools

You can see quite clearly what search terms the site was associated with for users who found it on Bing’s search engine. “Data recovery Kildare” was not a keyword used in optimizing the site, but given that my client can offer that service, it’s a phrase that will be from now on. Notice that even after only a few days there are a total of 11 search keywords returned.

When I click on “See all 11″ I get this result:

Search Keywords   Bing Webmaster Tools

I hope you see how exciting it is to get a very readable, jargon-free snapshot of what keywords the site is being found for, how often it has appeared for that keyword, the click-through rate for that keyword (I am in nerd heaven over that one!), the average SERP the site appears on and another one that makes my heart skip a beat: exactly which page is showing up for that query.

What can you do with this info? How about target offers on the page that shows for a query so that they are highly relevant to the search term that brings people there!

If you haven’t done so already, go to Bing Webmaster Home  and do it now.

Don’t forget to share this and sign up for my newsletter for some special giveaways in the new year. And I am talking software!

Create A Blog More Attractive Than Julia Roberts for Less Than The Price of a Burger King Whopper

wordpress cupcakesChances are at some point you have enthusiastically gone about choosing a domain name that fits your chosen niche, installed WordPress, created the pages and added various widgets, then got stuck on finding a theme that fits your vision.

Hours have gone by. You’re still in your bedclothes and robe, unshaven and smelly, when your partner arrives home. And you’ve found it kinda hard to explain how you spent your day.

You go to bed still disturbed by your lack of success in choosing just one theme from the several thousand that exist. You are distant and troubled looking. You can’t sleep because you just want to get back to your laptop and finish what you started.

I’ve been there (can you tell?)

For that reason, I am going to share with you some of the best free tools I have found to create a modern looking site that’s responsive (essential in any theme since 2013), with forms and social widgets so good looking  that your visitors want to click them just to experience the sheer pleasure of doing so!

My pick of the free themes out there:

Not all free themes are equal. If you are going to go with a free theme you should invest in the best security plugin you can afford, because it’s not just the unnecessary extra code (slows down your site) that makes a free theme a liability, but the fact that it’s easy for a hacker to figure out what makes it tick.

That being said, my criteria for a good free theme are that it is responsive, has plenty of white space, allows a custom header and if possible, allows a choice of typography (font).

The following themes are ones I came across during the hunt for a theme suited to a ghostwriting site:

Crawford, Matheson & Swift.

I imagine them to be the lawyer firm of the blogging world ;-)

Note: These are all responsive and are all single column themes – which is specific to my requirements for a freelance site. I don’t want distracting sidebars. Social interaction and lead capture will be handled by the plugins I mention below.

Crawford

Crawford   Demo of the Crawford WordPress themeCrawford’s title can easily be replaced by a custom image, and the typography is beautiful. This was my pick for the site in question as it’s text to space ratio and elegant font really create a visual pleasure for the reader. It’s uncluttered setup makes it easy to see what the site is about.

Matheson

Matheson   created by bavotasan.com

Personally I can’t think of this theme without thinking of the James Bond character of the same name from Casino Royale, but that’s just me. What’s not to love about this theme? The big headline is awesome and visually, the theme is graceful yet fun. If your blog is more visually orientated this is for you!

Swift

Swift Theme   For a faster web

Another beauty here. Swift claim this to be an incredibly fast loading theme that will propel your site to stardom. Maybe it’s just the paid theme that does that cos I didn’t notice any difference in the free one. But it’s not site speed that made me choose it in the first place. Again, lots of white space and eye-pleasing typography. Images don’t dominate, but are still given their share of space.

Match the Collars and Cuffs

Okay, whether one of those themes suited your project or not, here’s two plugins that can lift your blog out of the ’90s and futureproof it enough to last another 2 years or so:

SumoMe from AppSumo

SumoMe

 

The SumoMe plugin from AppSumo integrates with HTML and WordPress sites. It features an array of free features that include:

Opt-in form (newsletter)

Image sharer

Twitter “share this” type widget

Heatmap

Social media

and more…

The widgets are controlled from the AppSumo settings on the front end of WordPress, not the dashboard. So don’t waste time looking aroundfor them there. Log in, then go to your front page and click on the crown image on the widget interface and go to the Sumo Store where you can choose your free features.

The widget boxes are all very attractive, solid colours and in some cases their behaviour can be modified to suit your needs. No more grey “Are you sure you want to leave?” boxes. This is high class stuff.

GetSiteControl

GetSiteControl widgets for your website

 

GetSiteControl also works with HTML and WorPress. It similarly has very eye-catching widgets that will add some oomph to your blog. Some features as similar, but while SumoMe has a heatmap, GetSiteControl have an exit survey that drops to the bottom of the screen as your visitor is about to leave, should you choose that. An ideal way to find out why your visitor is leaving and ask what they might prefer to find on their next visit.

Both sites have premium offerings, but as long as you don’t mind their branding on the free widgets and some small limitations, they are worth checking out.

As a final note, I found that the two don’t play well together. Whether that was down to a mysterious combination of other factors or not, I had to login to my hosting account and delete one of them in order to login to my site again. However, people do tire of the one kind of visual after a while, so I suggest alternating one with the other to liven things up a bit. I have two sites with both plugins and deactivate one as I activate the other.

Like this post? You’ll love the launch day treat I have in store for subscribers when Blog Laboratory gets its official opening event in the new year, so make sure you subscribe (or you can ignore the chance to get some premium themes and plugins for free if you like).

3 Free Keyword Research Tools That Will Give You Goosebumps

keyword research for bloggersGoogle’s keyword planner is good if you want to find search volumes for your projects. Trouble is, it’s all historic information. It’s based on the search figures for the past month and requires some further investigation into the keyword trends over the past year or more, and often it’s a good idea to use an alternative tool to gather ideas. Us humans still think differently than the machines  have been able to figure out and so, as clever as Google is, it doesn’t always make the same intellectual jumps between phrases and their meanings that we do.

As an aside, Bing’s search target’s terms that are a week old, rather than a month, and with over 50 million users who are unique to Bing (and don’t use Google at all) it would be foolish to concentrate totally on Google for keywords. That figure has changed again now that Yahoo is the official search engine for Firefox.

So, to help you get more from your keyword research, here’s

3 Free Keyword Tools You Won’t Be able To Live Without!

1. Wordpot

It seems like a very plain and boring tool, but let’s look at what’s going on when I search for my chosen example keyword here, “acne.”

free keyword research tool, Wordpot

I’ve highlighted important items in red.

Firstly, on the left we can see the word’s definition, related words and associated words. Great info for varying our content with LSI terms, and for further research into the topic.

Then in the keyword search area we can see suggestions based on the keyword organised from largest search volume down, the total and exact match amounts of searches per month for that keyword.

What’s so good about Wordpot?

Well, for one thing, the related and associated words is a great bonus, but to get the total and exact match searches on the same page and alongside the keywords is a real time saver.

Keywords can also be downloaded.

2. Soovle

Soovle shows the autosuggest info for terms that are typed into Google, Bing, Yahoo, Wikipedia, YouTube and Amazon.

What’s good about Soovle? Soovle does what no other keyword tool does, and that’s make it easy to see the intent behind a search – if a term shows up on Google and Wikipedia, it’s an information search only. If it shows up on Amazon, then it’s likely the search is for a related book or product:

Free keyword research tool

Soovle data can be downloaded – but needs to be tidied up afterwards.

Clicking on the “Top” link in the gold star at the top left of the page will show an alphabetical list of the top searches that day and which search engine is getting the most queries. Also note the “engines” text link on the top right which allows the user change the search engines used.

3. KeywordTool.io

Ubersuggest.org was good, but it relied very much on scraping autosuggest keywords in a very limited manner.

KeywordTool.io is similar in implementation, but doesn’t just rely on going through the alphabet from a-z after the search term, but also adds a-z and the numbers 1-10 before it too.

KeywordToolio free keyword research

What’s so great about KeywordTool.io?

As if the ability to gather search terms with a-z and numbers both before and after it weren’t enough, it’s also possible to define which search engine the results should come back from: Google, Bing, YouTube and the App Store, target a country-specific version of Google – see the Japanese one in my screenshot, and to choose what language the searches should be in.

There is no download function, but clicking “Copy All” will copy all results to paste elsewhere. a simple notepad file is always good, and if the results are under a thousand, can easily be pasted into Google’s planner for search volume.

I hope you found this shortlist of my favourite keyword tools helpful. If you feel there’s one that I missed out and should be included, please comment below.

Don’t forget to subscribe!

 

Facebook Like Plugins and Why You Should Avoid Them

The best Facebook "Like" pluginOne of the most common social media queries I have come across from new bloggers is which plugins are the best for adding Facebook “Like” boxes. Every query is met with a list of preferred plugins from the WordPress repository. Similar responses abound for Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube and Pinterest plugins designed to add social proof via. Like, Follow and Plus One buttons.

However, there’s no “best” plugin. All the plugins do is call on the social media API anyway – so they are really just bluffing.

Worse, all these plugins cause your site to slow under the bloat of all the extra code they contain. When it comes to coding on your site, less is definitely more!

Keeping your site speed up is much more likely to impress your visitors than how many people like your Facebook page.

The good news is, you can have the best of both worlds, by ignoring the plugins and adding the bare basics of the necessary code yourself – direct from the platform developers themselves!

Here’s where to get the code you need:

For Facebook, go here
For Twitter go here
For Google Plus go here
For YouTube go here
For Pinterest go here

Just add the code in a text widget or on a page as desired.

If you have any difficulty, just reach out!

Force Google to Give You Targeted Keywords

What keywords are responsible for your traffic?

If you don’t know, then how do you know what content you should be sharing or creating? It makes sense that if visitors are finding your site through relevant keywords, then you should be feeding those visitors content to keep them there and entice them to sign up for your newsletter.

So, how exactly do you know what keywords are really responsible for Google directing browsers to your site?

Keyword research tips for bloggers using Google analyticsThe answer lies in Google Analytics.

No webmaster should run a site without properly setting up their Google Analytics.

On your analytics dashboard, simply scroll down to Acquisition, and expand the list of data.

Then navigate to Search Engine Optimization and Queries.

 

 

 

You’ll see below what the top ten queries that have brought traffic to my social media blog have been. Note that not all queries will make sense. The blog’s name is SocialTrafficJam.com so that explains “traffic jam” to an extent. I can safely leave this out of my content plans, but know that I know I am attracting organic traffic who are searching for info on “diy press release” and “google plus business page” and they do fall into the realm of my blog’s niche, then it’s a good idea that I go and create content based on those terms and give visitors what they are looking for.

GAQ2

There are a lot of reasons you should use Google Analytics and I will be dedicating a few posts to them over the coming weeks, so stay tuned (probably a good idea to join my newsletter).

Keyword Research for Total Nerds

Keyword research tips

Keyword research Secrets

I hold my hands up high – you got me bang to rights. I’m a nerd.

Why? Cos just the thought of keyword research gets me all… “oooohhhhh, yeah!”

I like to think that such a fascination means I have a keen interest in human psychology – that I like to dig beneath the surface to see what makes people tick.

Or maybe it’s just that as a keen Sherlock Holmes fan, and mystery novel reader, I love it when I uncover a highly sought keyword phrase with low competition: the money phrase!

Or else, I am just a nerd.

Enough about me, here’s –

Two Secret Keyword Research Methods Using Google’s Free Keyword Planner Tool 

All keyword tools are not equal. I should know: at last count I own 7 of them. The thing about the majority of keyword tools is that they tend to use Google’s API, or their auto completion data. Same goes for Bing and YouTube, etc. So, quite often your fancy schmancy keyword tool is just doing what you could do, only faster.

And returning a thousand times more junk than your more highly intelligent brain would have bothered looking at in the first place.

This isn’t the case with all keyword tools. There are two paid for tools I love to death, but aside from those I use a small assortment of free tools – alongside my own proprietary one (more details to come soon).

Google Keyword Research Method 1:

What keywords get page one relevance is a topic often argued over and there are some very (VERY) expensive tools out there designed to figure that out. Basically, the idea behind them is to find what keywords are used most often by the pages that are found on page one of the SERPs for a given term, collect the results from each of the top ten on the SERPs and list them in order of frequency.

Unfortunately, these pieces of software are not intelligent enough to understand that word frequency does not sense make once jumbled up. ;-)

Too often, the results can be:

“Welcome to” – 3 occurences

“to the jungle” – 5 occurences

“welcome to the jungle” – 2 occurences

“the jungle” – 4 occurences

See how much sense it makes to optimize your content by the results from those fancy, expensive tools? Meh.

The idea is that this gives us an insight into what Google sees as the most relevant terms associated with the search term. It’s a LSI thing. LSI is short for Latent semantic indexing. Basically it means that search engines have become intelligent enough to recognize that we don’t always say “doctor” when we are talking about going to see the doctor, but if we use other terms like “fill my prescription” or “get a sick note” the search engine will recognize that we are indeed going to see the doctor. The words don’t mean doctor but they make sense when included in an article about doctors.

Here’s an example in action:

Say I am starting a Doctor Who site. Why not, I’m a fan :-)

I know that I have stiff competition for Google’s hallowed page one slot, so I take a look at who’s already dominating that area and make a list of my competitors.

Next I head to the keyword planner and choose “Search for new keyword and ad ideas”:

Google AdWords  Keyword Planner

Now, I can choose one of three options. Generally I will choose to get search volumes for keywords I found using another tool, or new ones that Google suggest. Thing is, I want to find out what Google thinks my competitors on page one should be using, so I spy on them by making a list of top competitors from my Google search and one by one, I paste their URLs into the Keyword Planner instead of my own:

Google AdWords  Keyword Planner dr who competitor

The result gives me some nice low competition keyword groups:

Google AdWords  Keyword Planner tardis

Why did I pick “Ad groups” instead of “Keywords,” as usually espoused by blogging gurus? Let’s talk about that in method 2:

Google Keyword Research Method 2:

I want to find out what keywords might be useful for my Doctor Who site, so I head over to Google Keyword Planner where I have this choice:

Google AdWords  Keyword Planner

I’ve had a hard time finding Doctor Who keywords that seem to be buyer-orientated, so I use the niche option to narrow the focus. In this case i choose gifts as I want to find keywords that let people know they’ll be spending money!

Google AdWords  Keyword Planner Niche

Now the results I get are:

Google AdWords  Keyword Planner Dr Who Results

To some, this may be a little off-putting. But note: I left the tab on the “Ad group ideas,” NOT the “keyword ideas.” The reason for this is about to become clear.

When I click on the first result, I don’t get anything much better:

Google AdWords  Keyword Planner dr who party

While this looks bleak, notice that all the time we are digging further into these results, the search phrase is increasing in word count. We are moving from a general “Doctor Who” search term that could mean anything from bath bubbles to watching free episodes online. We need targeted keywords we can focus our marketing efforts on, and we need them to include a buying intent. Looking at the phrases above, it’s obvious these are terms that would only be used by someone looking to buy supplies for a Doctor Who party.

I didn’t know they even had Doctor Who parties, but:

1. Yay!

2. Mine’s a mojito!
mojito

 

 

 

 

 

So what happens when I use “Doctor Who party” as my new search term –

Firstly, I get new ad groups, the first is titled “Doctor Who parties,” which expands to give me the following result:

Google AdWords  Keyword Planner Dr Who party result

BINGO! That’s my result right there – a long tail, buying phrase with 720 searches a month and low competition, culled from lists of high competition keywords.

Never be put off by high competition. Always, dig deeper.  There’s gold dust in them there mountains.