How to Monetize Your Blog Without Selling Your Soul

Sellout….It is the ugliest word that’s routinely hurled at creative individuals of all types. This goes for writers, artists, musicians and anyone else who makes a living (in part or in whole) on the back of their creative endeavors.

That being said, money and art have to mix at some point. You need your money to support your art, whatever it may be, and that is equally true for bloggers and other authors online.

So how do you make money from your WordPress blog without selling your soul? There are many different ways you do that, but it’s important to find the right model that works for you, your niche and your site.

1. Advertising and Sponsorships

For many, advertising is a foul word. However, it doesn’t have to be if done well.  Advertising that isn’t intrusive and doesn’t get mixed in with the content can be a very simple and safe way to earn money from your site. However, this means keeping your ads away from your editorial content physically and figuratively, ensuring a total separation of the paid message from your creative one.

This can be tricky if you find yourself writing about the companies that advertise on your site (it might be wise to favor sponsorships as you can control who advertises better), but with proper disclosure this doesn’t have to be a major problem.

All in all, if you don’t intrude on your readers needlessly and don’t let your advertisers influence your work, you can host ads on your site without worrying sacrificing your integrity. [Continue Reading…]


WPTouch: Creating a WordPress Mobile Theme

Thanks to the huge success of the iPhone/iPod Touch, Android, and other mobile devices, Apps have become all the rage.  The problem for many webmasters and WordPress users is that most smaller WordPress websites/blogs can’t afford to have a custom app developed for their WordPress site.  

Of course, thanks to beauty of the open source nature of WordPress, WordPress users have access to all sorts of great WordPress plugins.  I recently found myself debating whether or not to develop an app for WordPress Hacks and decided that first I would look into what free WordPress plugins were available.  My goal was simply to find one which would display a WordPress blog to mobile browsers in a mobile friendly format.  

Based upon roughly 2 million downloads plus great reviews, far and away the best plugin I’ve found to accomplish this is one called WP TouchFor those that haven’t heard of WP Touch, this WordPress plugin automatically transforms your WordPress blog into an iPhone application-style theme, complete with ajax loading articles and effects, and will display this theme when your WordPress blog is viewed from an iPhone/iPod Touch, Android, Palm Pre, Samsung  and BlackBerry Storm/Torch mobile device!

The admin panel allows you to customize many aspects of its appearance and deliver a fast, user-friendly and stylish version of your WordPress website to mobile visitors, all without modifying a single bit of code or making any changes to your standard WordPress theme.  The mobile theme also includes the ability for visitors to switch between WP Touch view and your site’s regular theme if that is what they prefer.

If you are looking for a more feature-rich product, I discovered that users can also purchase a Pro version of WP Touch which includes a slew of new features like more style, color and branding customizations, themes, 10 languages, more advertising options, web-app mode, and even iPad support.


Jetpack: Supercharge Your Self Hosted WordPress Site!

Ever notice how many features the standard installation of WordPress lacks? YouTube embedding, stats, and even a specialized Twitter widget? Well, if you have a self hosted blog at WordPress.com, these features are all given to you. In fact, many of these features are forced upon you by the sponsoring company, Automattic. Wanna learn how to get all of that “cloud-power” for your WordPress site?

If you are one of the people who would love to have these features at your disposal and already has a WordPress.com account, keep reading. Otherwise, you’re losing out on a great plugin for self-hosted WordPress sites!

Keep reading to find out more


CRON Jobs Give WordPress Users Peace of Mind

If you’ve never had a website go missing, then you’re very lucky. Your host can have a network error or hardware failure that loses your site’s files. A malicious hacker can penetrate your FTP server and replace your site with files of his choice. You might get curious about a new plugin, install it, and break your site to pieces in the process. No words really describe the panic you feel when you realize your website is gone!

If your host allows you to use CRON jobs, you can protect yourself from all those things by running a daily backup of your database and web site files. If you lose your site for any reason, you can put it right back in a few minutes.

A CRON job is script that your web server executes at a specified time. CRON comes from the word chronograph, and it is a time-based job scheduler for LINUX based operating systems. Most WordPress sites are running on such an operating system. If you have access to a CRON scheduler through your hosting control panel or have command-line access to your hosting server, you should be able to write a shell script to back up your database and site files.

The first thing you will need is a shell script. The script will connect to your database, export the whole thing to a file, and zip the file up so you can store it safely somewhere. Then, it will zip up all your website files.

If you have a host panel where you can create and edit a file, you can do this there. Otherwise, open any non WYSIWYG text editor and create a file called daily_backups.sh. The .sh file extension indicates this is a shell script file.

#!/bin/sh
TERM=linux
export TERM
NOWDATE=`date +%a` # Sets the date variable format for zipped file: Sun
clear # clears terminal window
echo
echo "Hi, $USER!"
echo
mysqldump --opt -Q -h your-website-host-name --user=your-db-user-name --password=your-db-password your-database-name | gzip -v9 - > /www/public_html/backups/MySQL-$NOWDATE-yourwebsite.sql.gz

The first line is an indicator to the server for which shell processing language to use. Your server might require

#!/bin/bash or something else there. Use echo $SHELL from the command prompt to determine your shell type if you have command line access.

The TERM instruction tells the server what terminal type it is communicating with; in this case, a text terminal.

Next we create a variable named NOWDATE and use a little script magic to set it to be equal to the abbreviation for the current day of the week e.g. Sun, Mon, Tue, etc.

The mysqldump command will “dump” the entire database including create procedures and insert procedures for all the current data.

Replace your-website-host-name with your website host name for your database. You can find this in your wp-config file if you don’t know it.

Replace your-db-user-name, your-db-password, your-db-name with actual values. Again, these values are likely exactly what they are in your wp-config file.

Replace /www/public_html/ with whatever your hosting account’s root path is.

Replace yourwebsite with some meaningful name.

Now, save the file. You need to set the permissions on the file so that it is executable. If your cpanel has a cron scheduler, just add this file to the list of files it runs. If you need to edit your crontab from command line, see this tutorial.

To back up your site files, as well as your database, add a few more lines to your script.

echo
echo "Zipping wordpress directory structure..."
tar -czf $HOME/backups/$NOWDATE.mywebsite.tar.gz $HOME/public_html/*

Hopefully, you do have a directory outside your public web root so that your backup files are stored in a location that is not accessible via the internet.

The tar command will pack the files up into a tarball for you (like a zip archive).


All Killer WordPress Websites are Built Around These Concepts

I’ve been coding with WordPress for a long time now. All the way back to when there was a my-hacks.php file. Shortly thereafter WordPress introduced plugins and widgets. Over all these years I find myself going back to a few key WordPress concepts that make blogs really functional.

  1. Popularity of Posts – The plugin I use, and hack often, is Alex King’s popularity plugin. If you download it from wordpress.org, it works great, but if you really want to make some cool features, you are going to have to hack it.The popularity plugin displays the most popular posts based on time frame, or category in a list (<li>)by default. I’ve hacked it to get the the raw posts, so I can do my own formatting. You can see an example in my “hot list”.
  2. Related Content – Notice how I didn’t say related posts. Finding related content goes much deeper then posts or pages.Related content is a must to build loyal readers (repeat visitors). You have to guide your readers and help them find content THEY are interested in. Remember, most people will find your content from Google, so feed them some related content and grow your user base. Related posts are easy to get, you simple have to a fulltext index to your database. You can then match terms to keywords.
  3. Categories – WordPress is nothing more then a way to organize your content, hence the term CMS (Content Management System). 80% of my traffic from Google comes from a relation to WordPress categories. Either trying to display top level categories without children, or trying to build a top menu/submenu navigation menu.Working with categories in WordPress can be pretty frustrating. I wish there was better information. Luckily there are a lot of help from the WordPress Community.
  4. Images – Magazine themes are the most popular style of theme on the Internet. It’s all about the cool graphics and images to get reader to click on posts. Content sliders and featured content sections with large graphics can be a pain to manually update, which is why you need to learn how to manipulate the images from your posts.

There you have it. If you want to be a WordPress hacker and make killer websites, you gotta have a good working knowledge of those four topics.  Thanks for reading my post, and as always, don’t be scared to ask me for help.