Monday, September 17, 2007

a blogger's toolkit

There are lots of alternatives for each of these blogging, monetizing and tracking tools. Here you’ll find a review of what I use on this blog and what I’m most satisfied with, or what I intend to use in the future. I’m not saying they are the only ones, I’m just sharing my personal experience with them, so you can take advantage of it. Some of the links are affiliate, which means that I’ll make money if you use them to sign up for those programs. Some others are simple links pointing to resources which helped me bring my blog at this level.

Web domain

Many people start with free Blogger accounts, only to realize very soon that it would have been better to buy their own domain name. If you can’t afford to spend approximately $8/year for the .com domain name, plus $3-$7/month for hosting, then you can set up your free account at blogger and start blogging in about five minutes (if you are not interesting in making money with your site, you can sign up for a free account - be aware they don’t accept advertising on blogs).

However, if you want to build your personal brand, you may want to look for special hosting offers and go for your own domain name.
Bust a name is a site where you can play with words in order to generate domain names which suit best your blog’s niche. The tool shows you what combinations are available, and offers you the possibility to buy the discovered domains through


Web hosting

This blog is hosted on Dreamhost. The quality is good, I can host as many domains as I want on the same account, I have 140GB storage space, 1.4TB bandwidth, one click installs (including Wordpress, with lots of themes), MYSQL, PHP, CGI, and up to 3075 e-mail accounts, all these for $7.95/month. This is not a big amount of money, taking into consideration what you get for it. If you decide to host your blogs there, I give you my special promo code: ATT2007GIFT. Use it to sign up for one of the yearly plans and you’ll get $97 discount. This is the maximum discount possible. I don’t make any money by having you sign up with this code. It is my gift to you, made possible by Dreamhost. And it comes with a .com domain name free for the first year.

This is another hosting alternative, if for some reasons you don’t like my first choice. Their package is sound, too:

  • 50 GB of space

  • 750 GB of traffic

  • 2500 email accounts

  • Host 6 domains in 1

  • Free set up

  • Free Domain

  • Free Easy to use Web Builder

  • Free Google and Yahoo Advertising Credits

AN Hosting is another interesting variant, offering 20 domains hosting, 250GB space, 2.5TB bandwidth, at only $6.95 per month. Additional goodies that come with the hosting package:

  • Free domain registration (for life)

  • Online Site Builder

  • $50 Yahoo Ad Credit

  • $25 Google Ad Credit (terms)

  • $25 Enhance Search Credit

  • $20 Search 1-2-3 Credit

  • Free Shopping Cart, Blogs, Boards

  • Help a Toll Free Call Away

Blogging software

This site uses Wordpress. I chose it because of a few considerents:

  • It is easy to install (even if you don’t have one click installs in your hosting package, installing Wordpress is very easy and it does not require special programming knowledge)

  • There are a lot of free themes (layout templates) available, plus a lot of free plugins (programs which offer additional functionalities to a blog, such as displaying a list of related articles at the end of each post, or allowing readers to edit their comments, or showing a list of your top commenters, or automatically create a sitemap, or even display contextual advertising)

  • It has a user friendly administration panel

Money making sources

  • Google AdSense: 60% of my online earnings come from this contextual pay-per-click advertising program. I’ve been using AdSense since one year already, and I can say that they are trustful, and they pay as promised in their terms of service. You have to make at least $100 before they’d issue a payment.

  • Text Link Ads: my second money maker, accounting for 35% of my revenue. The minimum amount necessary to get paid is $25. However, if you choose to be paid by check and not PayPal, the bank would take some $10-$14 commission, so it would be better to raise the minimum amount at which you’ll be issued a check for your earnings. Upon accepting you into the program, Text Link Ads would give you a plugin which you’d install on your blog. When advertisers buy links, they will be shown as you can see in my sidebar, at Featured Sites section. You can display a maximum of 10 such links. Monetize Your Site with Text Link Ads and you’ll enter also their referrals program which will allow you to earn $25 for each person which joins the program via your referral link.

  • ReviewMe: You can write paid reviews for advertisers who order them via ReviewMe. If you get accepted, you have the possibility to set your own price for the reviews, and you may reject whatever advertisers you feel like being inappropriate for your blog. The reviews you write will be clearly labeled as “paid reviews” and you don’t have to always be positive (advertisers state their requirements when placing an order, so you will be able to reject those which are not in accordance with your policy). Review Me has an affiliate program which will bring you $25 for each advertiser who subscribes via your link and orders a review.

I’ll add other money making programs to this list as soon as I’ll be happy with their performance.

Monitoring & statistics

Statcounter: free, real time statistics program, helping you see the number of visits, unique & returning visitors, plus detailed statistics for the last 100 visits (referring sites, referring keywords, visit length, visitors by country and many more).

Google Analytics: free, detailed program, with options of defining goals and measuring success. However, it does not show statistics in real time.

103bees: free program, showing statistics for the past 30 days, split by organic and referral traffic; it is very useful because it shows for which search keywords people found your site, and which was your position for those keywords.


A new blog won’t get lots of traffic from search engines, so you have to use alternative ways of showing your work to people. Social networking can be a good start. These are a few networks I’ve had good experience with:

StumbleUpon: you need to install a toolbar in order to be able to use the program. Each time you see a site you like and you would like to recommend it to other stumblers, you press a toobar button and write a short comment. Then, the site goes into the system and it is shown to other people. The more positive votes (thumbs up) it gets, the more traffic it is sent.

Digg: all you need is to sign up in order to use it. When you like a page, you can submit it, so it will appear in the upcoming sites section. If other people like it and vote for it (digg it), your story may be promoted to the front page, bringing you tens of thousands visitors over the following hours.

Reddit: sign up, submit stories, give votes to stories you like. The principle stays the same, but the audience is different. this can help you keep your bookmarks online. If many people bookmark the same page, it goes to the front page, resulting in a lot of traffic.

Searchles: smaller than the other ones, but it can bring in some constant traffic which lasts in time.

MyBlogLog: subscribe, put your face in there, put a widget on your blog, then you’ll be able to see who is visiting your site (look at the big pannel with pictures in my sidebar). Your blog will become a community. Other people will be able to subscribe to your community. Similarily, you can subscribe to other communities. It can bring some additional traffic to your blog, but don’t expect it to be huge.

Useful learning resources

For blogging tools and advice: ProBlogger, DailyBlogTips, Chris Garrett on New Media,

For learning how to write better: Copyblogger, DailyWritingTips,

For search engine optimization (SEO) advice: SEOmoz, SEO Scoop,

For inspiration and creative resources: Inspiration Bit, Graphic Design Blog, David Airey,

The list stays open, it will be updated continuously.

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