My Interview with the Los Angeles Lakers

I could have been sitting courtside, rubbing shoulders with Jack Nicholson and listening to bad Kobe Bryant jokes… okay more like editing bad photos of Kobe while sitting at a desk in El Segundo, miles away from every home Laker game. Still, ever since I realized that Lakers.com existed, I’ve considered it the white whale of webmaster jobs. I had no idea how much they paid, how much work was involved, or even where their offices were. I just knew that my passion for web development would be in perfect synergy with my passion for the Lakers, in a perfect union.

Well, recently, I had my chance at that job. Continue reading

JavaScript, failure, a baby, and other upcoming blog topics.

A lot has been going on in my life lately. Just in this past year, my wife and I celebrated our 1st anniversary: we traveled to the Bahamas on a Disney Cruise for 7 days straight. We visited San Diego, CA just before my parents started their move to Orlando, Florida. I left SiteGoals after almost 4 years for a position as a UI Engineer at Incisent Technologies. We moved, I sold my GTI and I am now walking to work. The biggest news of all: Karen is pregnant and we are expecting our first child in late February! Continue reading

Links of the Week

I come across great content on a daily basis. Twitter and Google Reader are my modern replacements for the newspaper, which I read every morning with coffee. But instead of just consuming, filing, and never coming back to it, I wanted to start writing about some of the best stuff. Continue reading

One Step at a Time

Too often I get caught up in lofty goals which are impossible to achieve. I set the bar so high that I give up before taking a single step (I know, I’m mixing metaphors left and right). On top of that, I spend way too much time consuming and not enough time producing. I’m addicted to Google Reader. I have too many subscriptions. I can’t tell you how many amazing tutorials and articles I’ve read, bookmarked and stored for later, that I’ve never come back to. What good is that information? Well instead of storing that knowledge up like a chipmunk, I’m going to start producing again.

I’m going to plan less, or at least plan for shorter and smaller goals. I want to be proactive and not plan so far ahead that I never reach my goals. Really my checklist is very simple. Every day I want to learn something, build something, and write something. I’m hoping each one leads to the next. We’ll see how I do.

Learning Object Oriented Javascript

I’ve never considered myself a programmer. Developer yes, coder, sure, but not a programmer by any means. Although I took some computer science classes in college, I never learned the basic tenets of programming and instead always learned just enough to get by. Focusing on HTML, CSS, and jQuery has always been enough. With my new position at Incisent, I’ve had to dive into the deep end of some very complicated, custom Javascript. This code has huge custom classes, uses Underscore, fastFrag, and Lawnchair (three JS libraries I’d never heard of). Although it’s easy to fix bugs, given enough time, adding new features the “right way” requires a bit more knowledge.

A few weeks ago I saw this post: learning object oriented Javascript in 15 minutes or less and I knew I needed to walk through it. So I finally did. The best thing about this is that it was short. Like the title says, it took less than 15 minutes and I was able to understand some concepts that were always at the edge of my knowledge. So it was definitely successful.

From there, in the comments, someone linked to this short collection of OO JS articles. These obviously go more in depth and are helping to take my knowledge to the next level. Armed with this new information and I’m starting to really enjoy the challenges at work and I hope to apply what I’ve learned for some of my own after hours projects.

Blogging 101: How to Setup WordPress

Time to get started!

Okay, hopefully after reading my last Blogging 101 post, you have a set of keywords to target, have picked the best revenue channels to monetize your blog, and maybe even written a couple articles. All that’s missing is an actual website. There are dozens of platforms you could build your blog on, from WordPress.com, to Blogger, to self-hosting a Drupal, Joomla, or ExpressionEngine install. If you want to make money from your blog, DO NOT USE WordPress.com (.org is the self-hosted download). Here’s why:

Adsense, Yahoo, Chitika, TextLinkAds and other ads are not allowed on free WordPress.com blogs… In addition to AdSense-type ads, please do not use the following services on your blog: sponsored / paid posts including PayPerPost, ReviewMe, and Smorty; affiliate / referral links to the following domains: usercash, clickbank, clickhop, cashrocks, payingcash; clicktrackers (and any similar) and any promotion of the “I made a million on the internet and so can you” type of advertising (i.e. MLM, network marketing, cash gifting, etc.). Paid or sponsored post content is also prohibited.

From: http://en.support.wordpress.com/advertising/

I can’t speak for Blogger or other services, but I imagine their terms are the same. Even if the don’t prohibit ads now, it doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. By chaining yourself to a service, you’ll have to abide by their rules as long as you keep using their service. You will also be limited in which plugins you can install. Transferring to your own host isn’t impossible, but it can be a lot of work to update your URLs and any images you’ve uploaded. Skip the regrets by learning how to setup your own domain and hosting.

Ultimately the best and most recommended solution is a self-hosted WordPress site. The benefits of WordPress are many: 5 minute install, easy to use control panel, thousands of themes, plugins and tutorials. Trust me, unless you’re an expert web developer, and even if you are, you’ll be stepping into the wild if you build your blog on anything BUT WordPress.

Okay, so, WordPress. What now?

1. Get a domain, through something like Namecheap and get some hosting. There are lots of reliable hosts with dirt cheap pricing. You do not need to pay a premium for hosting. I wouldn’t spend more than $10/month and that might be pushing it. Personally I like Lithium, but I’ve also used apis networks and they were fine. Whichever you pick, start with the lowest price and work your way up as you need more bandwidth.

2. Install WordPress, theme, plugins, and setup your pages and initial posts. Here’s a list of recommended plugins. At the very least I suggest installing WordPress SEO (by Yoast) or anything that lets you set meta values and create an XML sitemap.

3. Setup Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, register your sitemap with Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

What’s the best theme?

There is no best theme. There are literally thousands of very good choices and as long as you are in control of your sitemaps, your heading tags, and your URLs, it will be hard to go wrong. I would always suggest you pay for a theme from a reputable site like ThemeForestMojo Themes, or Woothemes and not by Googling “free WordPress theme”. Why? Because half the time (or more) those “free” themes have hidden backlinks or other malicious code. Not to mention the quality of the design will almost always be lower and your blog will look like a cookie cutter, spammy blog.

A professional, well designed theme typically runs $35. I always count this cost as part of the required blog investment along with domain name and hosting. Don’t skimp.

If you want a more detailed guide on how to setup everything for WordPress, including detail on most of the steps I’ve outline above, I highly recommend this post: A Comprehensive Checklist To Creating The Perfect WordPress Website

Introduction to Blogging: Choosing the Right Keywords

I started blogging, for personal reasons, many many years ago on this very site. Since then I’ve started doing it professionally both at work and at home. Writing has always been enjoyable to me (I nearly graduated as an English major) and with my passion for web development, blogging seems like the perfect combination for me. At work, I’ve spearheaded the launch of two separate blogs, both aimed at promoting a company or product. Those have met with minimal success, but that is due to a lack of time for content generation.

At home, where my time is my own, I’ve had significant success with my blog about the Fiat 500 Abarth, a new car model debuting in the US in 2012. It took 3 months before it made a single penny, but the income from AdSense steadily rose to $100 a month and then $300, and just this month it has made over $1,000! Now that I understand the power of passive income through blogging and niche sites, I’m aiming to replicate that success with a handful of other websites.

Through that first site, I’ve learned a lot about SEO, WordPress, writing, hiring writers, and everything else that is involved with running a revenue generating information site. I have done countless hours of research and had some success, so I feel qualified to talk about it with some authority. Hopefully my advice will help, if you’re just getting started.

Note: I originally wrote this content for a popular forum I frequent, when I was given the responsibility of restarting the blogging thread with a new introductory post. Now that enough time has passed, I’ve decided to republish my first post here, since it is my own content. I have taken the time to update the content with new bits of knowledge I have learned.

Blogging? Isn’t that for weird people with no jobs?

Well, yes. But you’re not going to be like them. You’re going to create a blog that makes money while you sleep!

There are lots of way to make money online: doing surveys, writing articles, etc. Most of those are very time intensive however, especially when compared to the passive income that blogging or niche websites can create. Don’t get me wrong, building a successful blog still requires a considerable amount of work, but once you get one going it can run with minimal input.

Blogging also doesn’t require any one particular skill, other than the motivation and determination to put in the time. In order to be successful, it certainly helps to be skilled at writing and web design and development, but all you really need is time and a willingness to learn. Even if you don’t have the time, there are enough resources out there to simply pay for the skills you don’t possess. I’ll get to that in a later post.

Enough with the pep-talk about determination and heart. Let’s get to the good stuff…

What do I write about?

Picking your blog topic is probably the most important step of the process. Pick something with too much competition (like “video games”) or too few keyword searches and you’re pretty much doomed from the start. First, think of something you might be interested in writing about. Then start typing keywords into the Google Keyword Tool to see what people are actually searching for. I recommend Looking for keywords with at least 1,000 local monthly searches and an Approximate CPC above $1. I used to only consider keywords with low competition, but there is an argument to be made that high competition validates the popularity of the keyword and is not a barrier to entry (if you know your SEO).

Some more tips on using the Google Keyword tool:

  • Start with a broad set of words that your blog could cover (‘sleeping bags’, for example), with ‘Only show ideas closely related to my search terms’ clicked. This should give you a big long list of potential long tail topics.
  • For the sleeping bag example a lot of it is stuff like ‘princess sleeping bag’, which may not be right for your blog, so be sure to filter out the bad stuff. You’ll notice a lot of duplicates as well, like ‘compact sleeping bag’ and ‘sleeping bag compact’, and I usually just write the one that gets more views, unless I can make the two posts reasonably different.
  • It depends on the niche, but for anything below 500 global searches or so, the competition is probably going to be low enough to warrant writing. Anything above that it might not hurt to just check the first page of Google and see.
  • Google keyword tool is useful, but you really need to go and actually look at the first page of the Google results for whatever the keyword is and see what kind of chance you have of getting there. This is a half decent guide on analyzing the first page of Google to see what your chances are, but if you’re willing to put more work in, more competition for the first page is acceptable.

You’ll want to target these keywords in all of your posts. You don’t have to write like a spambot, but you need to get those key phrases in. Just write like you normally do, make it engaging for real readers, then come back and insert those keywords where they are needed for SEO.

If you need more help picking a topic, here are some very useful articles from authors that are smarter than me:

What’s Next?

Next week I’ll start getting into the technical details of setting up your website with WordPress. There are a lot of different ways to build a website, including free services like Blogger and WordPress.com, but I always recommend owning your own domain and a self-hosted site using WordPress. This gives you the most freedom and flexibility for the future.