Paid With Blog Earnings: Starter Laptop for Kiddo

It’s been awhile since I posted on this category. I am still earning from blogs, but I just quit counting much now. Lol. Not that its a lot  (I wish it is) but the recent months, my blog earnings have been steady and growing. Add to the fact that I have tried out using other ad networks too and trying out other affiliate products to promote.

A big chunk of my online earnings go to savings and to another saving fund for when I retire. Yes, I’m totally saving a portion of my income for the day I’m old and unable to work. It might not be gratifying for the moment but I think its a great investment than going on a mad spree and buying  a cool gadget on a whim.

But, last month I did buy something nice using my blog earnings, not for me but for my daughter. It was her birthday and we went to an out of town trip, booked and pampered ourselves in a nice resort and I also gifted her with a new entry level laptop. We got a Samsung NP370R with Win8 lappie for her.

Samsung NP370R

We decided on this coz she has been increasingly using the computer for school work and projects. BUT I still do monitor and limit the time she spends on it.

So far so good. She’s loving it and its performing marvelously well. In fact, I’m quite jealous. It’s awesomer than my laptop hahahaha.

Looking at it inspires me to work on my blogs more. Little things do add up.

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List of Basic WordPress Plugins to Install

Time for some more blogging talk? Oh yes. And today I’m blogging what’s my list of basic wordpress plugin to install for every one of my blog sites.

List of Basic WordPress Plugin

You see, I run dozens of blogs, most of them running on the WordPress platform. And after installing and building up sites I have it now down pat, in fact, I think I could do it with one of my eyes closed. Hahaha. It also helps to have a list of basic plugins in I need to install. The other plugins I just add depending on the site’s needs, eg, some sites need Google maps integration, some don’t. So it really varies if I’m setting up a site for cd duplication services at disc2day, a photo blog, or a simple personal blog.

But these are the very basic must haves for me.

  1. Akismet – for spam
  2. Bad Behavior  – also for spam too.
  3. Better WP Security – my favorite wordpress security plugin. Easy to use and effective.
  4. Proper Contact Form – easy to set up and use, and nice looking contact form plugin. This is for single contact form only, but for other complicated forms, you can check out other form builders.
  5. Feedburner Feedsmith – I used Feedburner for my feeds, so I need this to redirect my feeds.
  6. Google Analyticator – I use Google Analytics a lot to track my website, so this is handy.
  7. WordPress SEO by Yoast – comprehensive, easy to use and quite effective.  This one also offer a xml sitemap.
  8. Quick Adsense – easily inserts ads on any part of the post or widgets. Easy to use too.
  9. WP Super Cache -cache plugin, easy to set up and makes the site faster and less strain on the servers too.
  10. Broken Link Checker – a must to check broken links.
  11. WP Touch – for a responsive mobile version of your site.

Optionals:

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WordPress Security Woe Workarounds

So, the past few days had been hectic. For web hosts and web admins anyway. There has been a wave of global brute force attacks on WordPress and Joomla installations. When I first learned about it, I was a bit panicked coz I have dozens of sites and I also take care of several dozens more for friends. All of them running WordPress.

When I checked my reseller hosting, I was informed that the host temporarily disabled login pages for majority of the sites. So I breathed a sigh of relief and that’s when I started thinking rationally. I can’t help it when you hear something like this, can you imagine several hacking attempts every second on a site? But I did realize, my wordpress sites are not that vulnerable to brute force attacks, at least not too vulnerable.

It’s really a must to be secure against this attacks as I think its rather common now. How to do that?

  • First things, don’t use commonly used usernames like “admin” or “admininstrator”, “test”, “root”…You can check out this very informative post on Brute Force Attack Myths or Reality.  You’d see there the commonly attempted user names and passwords.
  • Use a strong and long password. Combination of upper, lower cases and special characters. I personally use more than 20 character passwords.
  • Limit login attempts. Yes, this is effective in way that the server will block an IP address after trying several wrong logins. This can be easily achieved by a plugin like Limit Login Attempts and also Better WP Security. I prefer Better WP Security, as it can have a lot of security functions.  Note that these plugins wont secure the site 100% but it will surely block them from exploiting commonly used routes for hacking.
  • Hide the wp-admin page. Better WP Security has this functionality if you have enabled your permalinks. You can change the location of your login area to where nobody has the business to know.
  • Lastly, always be aware and contact your host if there is something weird. Ha!

It always pays to be vigilant and actively work to secure your sites. Don’t wait until its too late.

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Chick Picks: Value For Money WordPress Theme Clubs

I LOVE WordPress with passion. And one of the best things about this platform is the availability of different themes to suit everyone’s tastes and needs. There’s about a gazillion free themes out there, and choosing one is a lot more difficult than shopping for cover stays . You can even build your own if you want to. There are also several wordpress theme clubs offering unique premium themes to give your site the added edge.

Personally, I prefer to use premium themes. I do build a lot of sites, so premium themes is a good choice for me. Most of them are very well coded, offers a unique and professional look, saves me time from doing a lot of tweaking, and one big deal for me, your site will stand out. I have nothing against free wordpress themes, in fact, I use them quite often (see this blog is sporting an awesome free theme with added customizations) but if you really want to add that unique pizzazz to your site, you can customize a free base theme or getting a premium theme would be one way to go.

The downside of premium themes is the price. Yup, some of them are pretty steep. Some overly so. But there are theme clubs out there that I think are worth the buck. Here’s my favorites:

Elegant Themes – Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous themes. Elegant Themes are really eye catching, has a host of customization options, a very good support forum, and best of all? The PRICE! For only $39 per year you get access to all themes. To date, Elegant Themes has about 81 and they regularly churn out new themes. So that’s bang for your buck, for real! They’ve got themes geared for shops, personal blogs, portfolios, photography sites and more.

I’ve been using Elegant Themes for years already and I’ve never been disappointed. The only complaint I would have is that, they often come up with a new theme, just after I changed themes and after seeing the new one, I want to change it again.

Genesis Theme Framework for WordPress by StudioPress

StudioPress – Home of the Genesis Framework. Another favorite. Beautifully coded framework which you can easily tweak to your hearts content. But if you’re not up to the customization bit, then Genesis has child themes available for free or premium. The framework costs $59.95. What I love about the Genesis Framework is the simplicity. It also have a very professional vibe which is great if you are building sites for corporate use or for business.

Another place I go to for premium themes is Theme Forest. It’s not exactly a theme club, more like a marketplace for themes. You can find all sorts of pro wordpress themes with affordable prices.

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Changes, Changes

You know its totally a trite thing to say, but really the only permanent thing is change.

And there’s bound to be a couple of changes for this blog soon! One, I’m definitely moving this to another host and server because of the issues I’ve mentioned in my post. I’ve done my homework, analyzed the data with analytic tools and I went ahead and made the decision to move. It’s gonna be a big change and for sure there will be a few hours of downtime here soon.

Also, the site lost its PR. 🙁 Why Google, why? Ha! But I don’t really worry about that much. Its the least of my worries, right now. I’m pretty sure I’ll get that back in a few months time. Heh. Confident me.

And also I’ll be revamping the total look of this site. I’ve been sporting this theme for the past year and I love love it. But I think its time for something fresh. Well see about implementing those cosmetic changes soon.

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Time To Move

Yup. I’m taking a big leap. I know I this is a really big move for me, perhaps even more serious than choosing a pool heat pump.

You see, I currently have 2 hosting accounts from two different companies. Both are good. Recently though, the other one kept having CPU overload issues because the host has pretty strict rules, and no matter how much I optimize one of my well trafficked sites it just keeps overloading.

So I wanted to consolidate my sites into just one account because to be honest its getting hard to manage. So I was deciding on getting a reseller account or a VPS. I decided to go with the reseller hosting since my sites are not huge and it would best serve my needs and I could easily create 1 cpanel for each site, so they can enjoy a higher percentage of cpu usage.

I was veering towards VPS, but the managed VPS is kinda expensive for me. So for now I’m trying out the reseller hosting first and see how it goes from there. Once my sites have outgrown the reseller hosting and once I could afford it, I would most definitely be moving to a VPS or dedicated server.

For now, I’ll be very busy moving my sites to the new server. Including this one. So wish me luck!

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A Great Blogging Year

2012 was a WOW year for me, blogging wise. And I’m just so thankful. While I might call myself a ‘full-time blogger’, I didn’t exactly spend every waking moment, blogging. In fact, I blog usually for about 2-3 hours per day only. And usually just on weekdays. Weekends are usually for graphic design work. So, I wouldn’t call myself a seriously full time blogger. My main thing still is home and mommy chores.

Nevertheless, those little time focused on blogging has allowed me to build a lot of blogs which are now earning. Nothing much, but enough really to buy me stuff I want, to add to savings, and travel funds. In fact this year, from blogging alone, I bought a lot of home appliances, several gadgets for myself, a few online shopping sprees, and I also traveled a few times using only funds from blogging.

This made me realize, little things pay off. If you build things slowly, with great care, and a lot of thought on quality then you will surely reap just rewards. Blogging and earning is not an instant thing, nor should earning be the only motivation. It takes time, but the rewards are great. Now I can take off for a few days and my blogs would still be earning some passive income from Adsense and product affiliates.

This year, was also the time I started experimenting with Amazon affiliates and I was pleasantly surprised that I managed to make money out of it. Seriously surprised since in 2008 I tried this and I didn’t even earn a dollar. I guess I needed to experiment on what works and what does not work.

For the upcoming year, I intend to go more into affiliate marketing. I intend to build -grow small, relevant affiliate websites. That will be my main focus for 2013. Also, I intend to save a bigger portion of my online income and start an offline business. My friend and I had contemplated setting up a printing and design business like banner printing at printingamerica.com but lately were leaning towards putting up a crafting supplies shop and later branching out to printing.

We’ll see how things go. I hope 2013 will be as great if not greater than 2012.

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Gift To Self: Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0

I figured I deserve some sort of reward. I’ve been working my butt off this year, and blogging wise this has been a fantastic year for me. I have experimented with different income streams for my blog, and most of them turned out well. I’m specially ecstatic with my Amazon affiliate experiment which turned out to be unexpectedly good for some of my sites.

So I wanted to give myself a little reward. Most of the stuff I bought from my blog earnings were used to buy things for the house and poured into savings. I did indulge in online shopping once in awhile and bought a few dresses, a bag or two but that was it. Hence my wanting something a little more substantial for me to reward myself for working hard and also to inspire me to work harder the next year. I was thinking of getting some musical instrument because that’s my dearest wish, to learn how to play at least one instrument. But I really really can’t decide on what I want to learn, so short on jumping the gun , I just decided to wait a bit until after I have a firmer decision.

Instead, I bought myself a tablet – a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 3G and WIFI version. Eeeeep!

 Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0
white Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 3G/WIFI 16 GB

Why did I pick this? I like the size. I could never go for the huge 10 inch tablets, I think its like holding a tray. LOL. And I also liked the price point – just right. I dare not spend on something so expensive for something I will just use for reading and casual net browsing. A tablet would never be my main driver, I prefer to work on a laptop that can run my graphic design software fairly fast. And lastly, I prefer my device to run Android. I’m sure other OS are brilliant, but I know myself. I’m a tweaker by heart, so Android is really where I’m totally at home. When I buy my gadgets I always, always go by what would best suit my needs and personality. I could never be one that would buy something just because its IN or everyone else has it. I think that would be a total waste of money. Buy things to please yourself, not others. That’s my motto anyway.

It took me awhile to make the decision and these are the devices that made my shortlist:

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7-Inch, Wi-Fi)Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 WIFI version only. – This is incredibly cheap but the one with 3G won me over. Mainly coz I do move around a lot .

Asus Google Nexus 7 ASUS-1B32 32GB Tablet - Quad-core Tegra 3 Processor, Android 4.1Asus Google Nexus 7 32 GB – awesome device. Pure Google Android experience and I’m huge fan of the Nexus series. It just didn’t have 3G. That said, I’m waiting for the next Nexus tablet.

Kindle Fire HD 7", Dolby Audio, Dual-Band Wi-Fi, 16 GB - Includes Special OffersKindle Fire HD – I love to read and Kindle’s content was a big draw. But the tweaker in me is not that happy with this filtered version of Android. But this is still a fantastic buy. Great price point and lots of content available.

For prospective buyers out there who are at a loss on which tablet to buy, here’s a few tips:

  • Buy one that would best suit what you would need it for. If its just for basic browsing and reading, then a reasonably priced one would be a good choice. Do ask yourself what you want to do. 
  • Price. Lots of choice here. But really this should be tied in with how you want to use your tablet.
  • OS – some say Apple iOS is fairly easy, it has a great app selection so this would be great for those who want an easy out of the box experience. Android on the other hand, while it can be used easily out of the box, it also offers more customization and personalization options for users, tweakers delight so to speak. Windows is also nice, but right now not much apps to offer. So best consider how this would suit you.
  • Get yourself over to the nearest gadget store and try out the demo units. That way you’d have a feel for what you’re signing in for.
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A Bit of SEO Won’t Hurt Your Blog

Nor would it require too much effort.

That’s what I found out anyway, after almost 6 years of blogging. When I started out blogging, SEO was alien to me like how articulating arm wall mount are alien to me. I thought it was some techie whachamacalit that I shouldn’t really bother with. I mean, you can’t really fault me on that (as well as a lot of newbie bloggers too) because to be honest I was just too busy trying to figure out how Blogger works (and more so if you use WordPress) to think of something like SEO.

I was also too preoccupied with too many things and ideas that I wanted to blog about. But after awhile, my crazy burst of excitement died down, and I was a calmer and rational, I have decided to stick to some particular topics for each blog. Not exactly a  micro niche but I think I was able to pinpoint what exactly I wanted to write about in my first blog.

From there, it was a natural progression and a learning process and along the way I have learned slowly how to integrate those things I learned to my blogs. One of which is SEO. If you are a newbie blogger, my advice would be not to beat yourself on the head trying to do too many things at the same time. Better pace yourself, learn and experiment.

So what exactly is SEO and how to do a little bit of it so it can help your blogs? A foreword: I am not an  SEO expert (there are countless others there calling themselves gurus, just google and pick up from their tips and tricks). These are just simple SEO tricks I have learned as I waddled my way into the blogging world.

  • SEO is search engine optimization. Unless you want to publish a private blog, then I’m assuming you want a fair bit of traffic to your site. One of the best sources for good traffic is SEARCH ENGINES. It’s free traffic, after all. You must remember that when someone searches for a term related to your blog niche, you would want to have your blog up there on the search results. It’s common sense (and studies have also proven) that 1st and 2nd page search engine results bring around a lot of traffic.
  • Remember too that there are millions of websites out there competing to get into that results page, so that is now the goal of SEO. To get you a good place in the search engine results.
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Optimizing CPU Usage of Your WordPress Websites

The last three weeks I had been pretty much preoccupied trying to optimize my websites and after a lot of tweaking here and there, I think I have finally managed to lower down the CPU usage of my websites. I’ve blogged about my CPU over usage and about CloudFlare, last time.

It has been a little nerve wracking, specially so since I’m not really well versed in server management. My technical knowledge is limited to design, a couple of CMS but I’m completely an ignoramus when it comes to server issues except for the basics like installations, FTP etc. I understand it the same way disk defragmentation boggles me. But I really think these things are learned by experience.

Everything is working fine and well now, however, I have plans on upgrading my current Hostgator business plan to a reseller account. I have to distribute my sites into several cpanels so I could get most of them dedicated IP’s, higher CPU quotas and for easier management too. I also need a reseller account now since I’m getting some site building requests and I could offer hosting side by side with the webdesign service.

Anyway, this experience have thought me some valuable tricks into keeping WordPress websites optimized so it doesn’t wear down the server and earn that dreaded temporary bans.

  • CloudFlare – my webhost support technician recommended installing CloudFlare, which is easy coz their cpanel already has a pre-installed one-tick button to install it. I was at first hesitant to use this, but I tried it one a few sites and observed for more than a week. The verdict? Worth it! Faster loading websites, visitors stay for a longer time and access more pages, almost no more spam comments. The traffic went down and I think that is natural because a lot of bots, spammers are weeded out.
  • Use a cache plugin – a must anyway for all wordpress sites. WP Super Cache plugin is my preferred plugin since its easier to configure and works well with Cloudflare.
  • Remove unnecessary plugins – some plugins do consume too much unnecessary resources, so I trimmed down to the basics. Also removed plugins which are not up to date as they pose security risks.
  • Replaced some plugins – I searched for a lightweight plugin to do my site SEO. I was previously using All-in-One SEO but tech support says it does use up and runs unnecessary processes. I replaced it with Greg’s High Perfomance SEO.
  • Weed out too much banners and ads – yes. those excessive number of banners and adverts are also resource drainers.

Other recommended optimizer is to limit the number scripts running and avoiding too much use of encrypted pages.

Image courtesy of basketman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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