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Blog Exercises: How Does Your Blog Make You Money?

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.In an interview with Daniel Scocco of DailyBlogTips, he asked me how long a blogger should wait to monetize their blog.

Ha! Forever!

I do not think bloggers should monetize their blogs. I think that people who want to get into the business of blogging must make a business plan on how they will use blogging for their business or as their business, thus creating a plan for monetizing their blogs.

But general bloggers? Why should your hobby make money? If you want to work your way towards professional blogging, then blog for a year or two to get a feel for blogging and make your business plan. Then move towards being a professional blogger.

Blogging, in general, is a hobby. Blogging for business is a business. There is a big difference between them and I’m a fan of a hobby for enjoyment. Not every hobby has to make money.

I still believe that. If you wish to blog, blog for free until you become a professional. Don’t expect your hobby to make you money as it sucks all the fun out of the hobby when you convert it to a business. If you blog for your business, it is a business. Treat it professionally.

As a business, it’s important to identify all the sources of income you are generating, and check in on how you are doing with your efforts to use your site to generate income. Income may come from a variety of sources with a website. Too often we get focused on one aspect of our business and forget the bigger picture of income generation.

In “Blog Exercises: How Much Does Your Blog Cost?” I asked you to itemize all the costs associated with your site. Today, we’re looking at what pays for all of those.

If your site generates income, list all the sources. Do you have a donation button? Do you sell something? Do you charge for services, consulting, or advice?

  • Do you have ads on your site? Does the entirety of the income go to you or is it split with others (such as web host or designer)? Is it a straight rate or percentage or variable compensation rates?
  • Do you blog for money, such as pay-to-blog, reviews, endorsements, sponsored posts, and other variations on the theme?
  • Do you work with affiliate programs? Companies that pay you to advertise for them?
  • What about direct advertising, direct contact with advertisers to put paid ads on your site rather than being run through affiliate programs?
  • What about indirect income, income generated by gaining clients based on your expertise. Not all sites need ads. Your site is one giant advertisement, a virtual billboard, of your skills and reasons why someone should hire you. What part of that income can you tie directly to your site like you would a phone book ad or ad in a magazine or newspaper?

Darren Rowse of Problogger often talks about how he turned his blogging expertise into income as a consultant on how to help individuals and companies blog better and increase his revenue sources:
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Blog Exercise: When Was the Last Time You Got Personal

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.I walked into a friend’s home and found the fridge covered with refrigerator art from her seven year old. The traditional home often features such childhood artwork but this was extremely precious as the child has learning disabilities and drawing.

The artwork was beautiful. I stood there transfixed at the crude scribbles, trying to find distinguishable shapes and forms. Then I realized it didn’t matter. They were her attempts to connect visually to her world and translate it.

A few days later I watched a presentation by Aarron Walter, author and UX director at MailChimp. He explained how we need to design “small kindness” into our site designs, personal touches that connect with us personally through personality, story, and voice.

It’s not about the products. It’s about the effect of those products on the people and their lives.

This is what those pieces of art on the refrigerator made me realize. While they are scribbles to someone else, the effect of these on my life, because I understood the big picture and real story behind them, made them even more important and special.

Walter cited Seth Godin’s book Tribes as he described client demographics, how tribes are important to culture as they are inclusive but also exclusive, serving only those who want and need to be a part of the tribe, the community. The following comment stopped me in my tracks.

When you design for everyone, you design for no one.

He’s so right. You must take your site personally and design and create content for the part of the tribe you serve, not everyone. When you design for everyone, everyone loses, including you.

He showed examples of companies changing the concept of branding and marketing. General Electric, one of the top five corporations in the world, changed their messaging and marketing to let employees tell the story of the company to make this huge corporate represent the individual.

Many companies are completely rethinking the way they market their businesses to make them more personal – they have to. Think of the Geico Gecko, Progressive Insurance’s character Flo, and Target’s new ad campaign which pokes fun at the high fashion industry by making laundry soap sexy and chic. The blog and social web has forced them to change their messaging strategies, making them get personal, sometimes seriously personal.
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Blog Exercises: Are You Setting an Example for Others?

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.A milestone in personal rights seemed to have been achieved recently when US basketball player, Jason Collins declared publicly he was gay, hopefully setting an example for others that it is now “safe” to come out of the closet. The news in and around his announcement has me thinking about heroes, mentors, and risk-takers, those willing to sacrifice themselves to change the world.

Martina Navratilova in 2011 from Wikipedia - WikiCommons.Martina Navratilova, the famous tennis star who revealed her sexual orientation over 30 years ago, talked about receiving thousands of letters over the years from men and women telling her of how she saved their lives. Her courage gave people a role model. In an interview on NPR she said:

I’ve gotten letters over the years from men and women saying you saved my life. I was ready to commit suicide because I thought I was the only one that was like this, and then I saw you on TV or read about you, whatever. And now this is going to happen again. So there’s no doubt in my mind that [Jason Collins] will save some kid’s life.

Confronted with prejudice for her actions, Navratilova’s career went downhill but she never gave in nor up. Discussing the struggles Collins may face in the future, she shared:

Our sexuality is just a small part of who we are as a human being. Nobody wants to be defined by that. I spoke at the march on Washington in 1993, and I actually said that I hate labels. Labels are put on a drawer or on a piece of clothing, not for people. I totally get where Jason is coming from. Like it or not, he’s a pioneer and he’s a hero and a role model for many.

Ellen DeGeneres with star on Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012.When Ellen DeGeneres, comedian and television star, came out publicly in 1997 on her television show, she also set an example for others to be brave about what defines you, be it sexual orientation, opinion, belief, or culture. She’s risked her career. Sponsors backed out and so did the studios. Her successful comedy sitcom was cancelled. She rebounded and today is one of the most popular talk show hosts with her own show, “Ellen.” Sixteen years later, Ellen is proudly married to movie and television star Portia de Rossi, accepted world-wide as a powerful and strong advocate for gay rights and equal marriage, blogging a Supreme Court brief in her unique comedic style to convince them to approve same sex marriage.
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Blog Exercises: Spell Checkup on Categories and Tags

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.Oh no! I was writing out a tag in WordPress and the auto-suggest feature popped up with a misspelled tag name! Yikes!

Today’s blog exercise is to clean up your tag and category names to ensure you’ve not made the same mistakes.

To review your category names in WordPress, go to Posts > Categories and go through the list. While you are at it, fill in description words in your category descriptions. Many WordPress Themes feature these on the category pageview such as on WordPress Tips.

To review your tag names in WordPress, go to Posts > Tags. While editing tags, you now have the option to add a tag description which might appear on tag pageviews if the WordPress Theme supports it, which few do currently.

Tag panel in WordPress - Lorelle on WordPress.

Reviewing your tags might be a simple job if you have only a few. If site-wide tags were available when I started blogging, I’d have thousands upon thousands of tags to inspect. Site-only tags were added to WordPress.com only recently. Before that, they were WordPress.com global tags, linking all WordPress.com sites together by tags, resulting in my articles grouped with unrelated content more often than not as people didn’t know how to use tags well. I have over 2,000 tags to deal with, reminding me that I also need to go through my thousands of older published posts and tag them.

tags_-_screen_options_to_set_number_of_tags_to_display_wordpress

If you are faced with a vast list, here are some tips to find your own tag misspellings and mixups. Begin by going to Screen Options on the Tag Panel and increasing the number of tags to display so you see more tags on the page and have less “pages” to sift through.

  • Search for commonly misspelled words. I often spell WordPress wrong when I’m racing through, playing dyselxia resulting in worpdress and wordperss.
  • Look for punctuation errors. WordPress tags are separated by commas. Once in a while, a comma will mystically turn into a period or not make its way between the words and phrases. As you scan the list, a long tag name may catch your eye. Check that a punctuation didn’t go missing merging two tag phrases or words into one. Try a search with a period in the search form. That turned up many for me.

    WordPress tags featuring periods not commas by mistake.

  • Scan the Popular Tags list: If you use the auto-suggestion feature much, you may find that you’ve been picking a word that has been misspelled for a while. I found one in my list. You might find some in yours.
  • Search for random words you combine with others: I use tag phrases with the word “WordPress.” Going through that long list, I found several misspellings in the words combined with WordPress such as “WordPress lpgins” and “WordPress cimminity.”

Sometimes editing the tag will result in a warning that the tag exists. Cancel and delete the tag instead.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.You have your blog exercise for the day. It’s Tag Name Cleanup Day.

It’s boring, I know, but the grammar and spell check police are everywhere. Every detail on your site matters, even the smallest ones.

Use the suggestions listed above or just go through the list on your lunch hour as you nibble at your desk, which I’ve been doing. Or reply upon checking each time the auto-suggestions come up. Make sure they are all right, and when they aren’t, dig into your Tags list and fix it.

If you blog about this blog exercise, don’t forget to include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your blog exercise task.

ALERT! I’m working on the six month collection of these blog exercises. Watch this space for news on how you can get a free copy of the first part of the collection.

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Blog Exercises: Blog Work Flows

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.In “A Sample Blogging Workflow” by my friend, Chris Brogan, he talks about the process of blogging with consistency and determination in mind.

Your company has decided to launch a blog, and you’re the lucky blogger. Maybe you’ve even asked for this pleasure, suggested it to the boss yourself. Only now, you have to deliver, and you have to stay consistent. It’s not always easy to keep up a steady blogging pace, and there are days when you might run into a roadblock or two that might keep you from delivering on your schedule.

His tips for “building and maintaining a steady blogging rhythm” are excellent to help us set our goals and plans for keeping our blogging on track. Here is a brief summary in my words.

  • Know Your Goals: List your site goals. What do you want out of this blogging experience. Look at secondary goals. What are your business, professional, and publishing needs. Make sure everything you publish goes through this filter to help serve your goals.
  • Create a Task List and Schedule: Blogging takes time, and there is a sequence and rhythm to that time. You need to find an idea, research it, start composing your story, possibly find images, figure out the category and tags appropriate to the content, edit, publish, and promote it. Afterward, you need to track it, make sure it is getting the attention it deserves. You need to examine all the elements that define your work blow and take them into account, scheduling them to keep you on track.
  • Know Your Tools: It’s critical that you know well the tools in you blogging arsenal. You must know your browser in order to effectively use it. You must know WordPress or your CMS publishing tool inside and out to understand how to make it work for you, framing your content. You must know how to use a feed reader, tracking your favorite news and inspiration sources. In today’s highly social web world, you must understand the ins and outs of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other social networks. Bookmarking, note-taking, image editing, screen capture programs, scheduling, editors…what are the tools you need to blog. Learn them well so you can speed up the process of delivering content to your site.
  • Plan for Inspiration: Don’t rely exclusively on social networks or your feed reader for story sources. Plan for self-inspiration and motivation. You never know what will inspire and trigger a blog post, so schedule walks, open your eyes during visits to the grocery store, eat at new restaurants, attend a new meetup group event…plan for serendipity to increase the odds for inspired blogging.

It has taken many years to streamline the process. My work flow is often interrupted with client work and teaching, just as yours would be with family and other work. Over the years, I’ve built in many backup techniques to my system to ensure I can return to the flow and keep working. For example, I write and do my core editing in a text editor as I work often offline and far from a convenient and stable Internet connection. The auto-save feature of WordPress creates backup versions of my post as I work on it, giving me opportunities to leave it and come back to find the article preserved (most of the time), and go back to an earlier version just in case I completely lose track of what I’m writing. After publishing a post, I copy it and save it in a “done” file to ensure I have a backup copy for those just-in-case moments or when I need to quickly refer to information within the article in future posts. It’s important to incorporate Take advantage of all such details into your own blogging workflow to ensure you are using the most efficient and effective process.
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Blog Exercises: Awesome by Association

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.In “Two WordPress.com Experts and One Series of Blog Work,” Kinna Reads featured myself and my friend, timethief of one cool site (lowercase intentional). I’m honored and grateful, but more importantly, I’m awesome by association.

My friend, timethief, started blogging in 2005. When she switched to WordPress.com, her life changed as did mine and hundreds of thousands of WordPress.com bloggers.

This beautiful, passionate, and energetic person learned how to use WordPress by helping others on the WordPress.com Forums and blogging the answers. In addition to thousands of answers offered for free on the support forum, her articles such as “Writing a Blog Post,” “7 Basic Blogging Dos and Don’ts,” “Tips for Organized Blogging,” “Blogging: Focus on Content Creation,” “Multi-Author WordPress.com Blogs,” “6 Easy Ways to Feature Older Content,” and “Tips for Avoiding Blogger Burnout” serve as guideposts and references for bloggers on WordPress and other publishing platforms.

Her personal development and self-improvement blog, this time – this space, is a haven for those wishing to live a simpler life focused on health, personal well-being, and mindful practices, and meet like-minded people supporting each other. She publishes inspirational articles on yoga, meditations, affirmations, and spiritual practices. A recent article, “Five Ways to Make a Difference Where you Live,” offers advice in how to make the world a better place by making a difference close to home in easy-to-do ways.

When Kinna featured timethief in her post, my reputation rose by association. Her great blogs and publishing expertise lifts my credit rating up for readers, search engines (SEO), and in my spirit. Because of her, I’m a better blogger. Because of Kinna’s article, I’m a better person and blogger by association with my long-time friend.

I blog about blogging and WordPress, as does timethief. While our articles are very similar, we present the material in very different ways. There are many times when she does a better job on a subject than I do, so I’ll recommend her article over my own words. She does the same for me. We’re our own private fan club.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise today is to blog about two or more bloggers related by subject matter and reputation, praising them by association. Lift them up as Kinna did with timethief and myself.

These may be your competitors or bloggers you enjoy reading. They must have some commonality in their blogging subject matter.

In the above example, timethief and I have known each other for a long time. Your combination may be an introduction. The trackbacks generated by linking to specific posts on their site (not just the front page of their site) could result in a long-delayed meeting and new connections with you as the networker.

Recommend each blogger’s work and describe what makes them distinctive and special in your eyes. Your article is a letter of recommendation. Make it a good one for each person featured.

Remember to include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your blog exercise task.

UPDATE: I’m currently working on converting the first six months of these blog exercises to a draft ebook for release in July. Stay tuned for more updates on this and to get a free copy.

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Blog Exercises: Become Your Own Fan Blogger

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.Fan blogging is one of the most challenging types of blogging.

Fan blogging is blogging about a celebrity, television show, movie, sports team, sports player, criminals, or other groupie subject. Today’s blog exercise examines the art of fan blogging and how to learn from fan blogging to create your own fan club around your blog.

On the surface, fan blogging seems like fun. We have all been fans at one time or another, obsessed with someone or something for longer than “natural.” Such fandom helped create the likes of Justin Bieber, Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson, and the Kardashians, people who have done little to contribute to society but provide never-ending fascination with their audience, thus feed fan blogs with constant content. Imagine a time when you were obsessed with someone or something and all you wanted to do was talk about it. Fan blogging gives you that opportunity.

It is natural to be a fan. Fans are part of the marketing energy, using their community to use the most powerful advertising tool in the world: word of mouth (WOM). Today’s WOM marketing is exemplified by social media, especially Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

The Stephen Colbert Fan site, No Fact Zone with DB Ferguson.Fan blogging is hard work. My friend, DB Ferguson of No Fact Zone, a fan-blog about Stephen Colbert, described the intense work involved in maintaining her highly popular fan site in the announcement that she was stopping her site in May 2011 due to health and life issues.

A few weeks ago, I woke up and realized I was tired. I mean, dead, to the bones, to the soul tired. I had too much going on in my life, and I had to lighten the load. The morning I woke up and realized, “I’ve got to let go of the site” was one of the most surreal moments of my life, I think. You have to understand, blogging had become my second life. I woke up at 6a four mornings a week and blogged. At lunch I blogged. At night I blogged. When I was out with my husband, and my friends, I was checking my emails and working constantly to make sure that we were the best fan site out there. A huge part of my IRL social life was spending time with my WordPress blogger friends. Creating and maintaining this site was so much more than typing out blog posts – it was making friends, and sharing joys, and commiserating in sorrows (MANILOW!!!!!). Being a blogger had become part of my identity. So to wake up and realize, it’s time to let go, was indescribable.

DB’s fan site began in 2005 as did the The Colbert Report television show. The show had over 1180 episodes as of April 2013. No Fact Zone had an episode report for every episode up until the closing date of the site. This accounted for an average of five posts a week plus two to four additional articles on fan news, rumors, and other related newsworthy subjects. Imagine researching and writing nine articles a week! Eventually, DB attracted fans willing to pitch in and keep the energy going, but management of multiple contributors and authors is a full-time job in addition to DB’s full-time, bread-winner job.
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Blog Exercises: June Monthly Random Edit Day

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.Today it is 6 posts to edit on our monthly Random Editing Day.

It’s June. It’s summer in most of the world, some switching from winter to summer while others are switching from summer to winter. It’s a time of change.

This month’s random editing day let’s focus on the word “change.” Run a search on your site for the word “change” or synonyms for change such as shift, vary, convert, transform, mutate (you might use that word), switch, adjust, difference, modification, revision, revolution, evolution, variety, transition, innovate…whatever words represent “change” on your site.

If you don’t talk about change and things changing, how about improving? How about reviews of things that changed, improved, or went the other direction. Anything you’ve published that deals with the concept of change.

If you can’t find six posts dealing with change and improvements, randomly find six posts and edit them to bring them up to standards with your fresh and new site you’ve been working on so hard for many months in these Blog Exercises. If you are new to the blog exercises, don’t kill yourself with six. Set the number lower and work your way up.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.As described in the original exercise, your task today is to find six random previously published posts and edit them. Use the list in the original exercise as a review on what to look for when editing the article.

Show us your best edits by adding a hat tip link to the edited post(s) to this post to generate a trackback, or post a link to the two posts in the comments. Include an explanation of why you are proud of your editing skills and how your blogging has improved through this process of editing. If WordPress moderates the comment because of the links, be patient as I’ll be here as soon as possible to approve the comment. Thanks!

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.

Coming Soon! I’m working on bringing all of the past six months of blog exercises together to create a draft ebook for you. Stay tuned for more news soon.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Blog Exercises: Battling the Blue Funk

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.My mother just sent an email saying she was in a funk. Ten minutes later I got a phone call from a friend asking to visit to help her get over the “winter funk – summer blues” – her words. I just got over my blue funk a couple weeks ago.

Funks are mini-depressions, short term experiences of the blues, down-in-the-mouths, sads, sighs, and woes. They can come from seasonal change, life experiences, procrastination, weather, change, or just because. Some sensitive people can watch a sad movie or television show or listen to sad music and find themselves feeling a bit sad over several days or weeks. This is more than dealing with self-doubt issues. It is a psychological state. The triggers are vast. The solution to escape the blue funk can be more challenging.

We all get the blues. Unfortunately, when your blog calls, these can feed the fuel for continued depression or turn you away from your cheery blog content and audience.

My ongoing article series, Blog Struggles, came out of a funk. I figured that if I was feeling blue about blogging, I wasn’t the only one. I wanted to share my thoughts so people would know they weren’t alone, and in turn, it would snap me out of it and get me on the right positive path.

It worked.

I’ve several family and friends suffering from clinical depression, a medical condition that goes beyond simple blue funk. There are times when depression as an illness or symptom of something worse requires medical treatment. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the normal highs and lows of a life lived well.

Something triggers these funks. If the something goes ignored, the mood persists.

We all have our ways of handling the blues. For me, a change of diet and exercise is the quickest cure. I learned a long time ago that do rather than wait gets me out of a funk faster than any other method. I change my diet to non-processed foods, sticking strictly to fruits and vegetables, take two short walks a day, and within 24-48 hours I’m mentally back on course. By then I have the energy and clear mind to focus on the things eating away at my spirit and resolve them.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise today is to prepare for the blue funk.

You may be in it right now, it might be around the corner, or it might not happen for a year or two, but it happens.

There are many ways to deal with the blue funk. I can’t help you wish serious medical causes and issues. My job in these blog exercises is to help you deal with the issues in and around your blog, the things that are holding you back, stopping you, making you procrastinate, or making the process of blogging difficult or stressful. Blogging is fun. Let’s keep it that way by dealing with the things we can change.

  • Identify the triggers. Sometimes it is consistent, sometimes it is random. Something triggers these. If you can identify it, you can prepare for it and recognize it when it happens.
  • Make a plan to wallow. I believe that emotions deserve our respect. They also deserve a time limit. Wallow in the woes for a specific time period and set a deadline to deal with it. Check-in to see if you are done, add more time if you need, but set a serious deadline to get over it.
  • Make an escape plan. Look at what has retrieved your spirit from the abyss in the past. Prepare your plan to kick in when you are ready to rescue yourself.
  • Check in with friends. Your support network is critical to your success to shortening the blue funk as well as escaping. Be they online or in person, keep them informed and share your plans with them.
  • Make a plan for your blog. Prevent yourself from publishing if the blues may influence your published work negatively. Use posts from your backup collection to keep the energy going forward until you are ready to return to “normal” on your site.
  • Reward yourself. Breaking through the blue funk is hard work. It takes courage, commitment, and passion. Reward yourself when you succeed to remind yourself that there is good on the other side of the wall.

If you share this with your readers, include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your blog exercise task.

Coming Soon! I’m working on a draft of the first six months of these blog exercises to release in July. Stay tuned for news.

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Help Spread the Word – Writing for the Web Class

Articles about blogging tipsThere is still room available in my Writing for the Web course at Clark College Corporate and Continuing Education in Vancouver, Washington, just across the river from Portland, Oregon.

This professional development course runs from June 11 – 27, 2013 on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9AM – Noon. The class size is limited so there are only a few seats left. The deadline for registration is Monday.

If you are new to the web and WordPress, this is an ideal class to begin with as it covers the core essentials you need to know about WordPress.

The course will cover the core tips, techniques, and forms for writing on the web. Learn how to share your thoughts, experiences, and expertise on the web through a website/blog and social media.

Participants will set up a site and learn the basics of how to manage and organize content in WordPress.

Participants will learn about how to write for and share on the web, how to write articles, stories, memoirs, and marketing material for businesses. It covers a variety of web writing styles, personas, content organization and management, guest blogging, research, SEO, editorial calendars, copyright, community building and networking, how to comment, journaling, citizen journalism, and a wide variety of web publishing forms. We will also covering how to turn your blog into a book and build an audience and fan club in the process.

This is an ideal class for anyone with a website who wants to know how to improve their content and share better on the web. Perfect for journalists, family historians, storytellers, business owners, employees, bloggers, authors, and anyone with a story or expertise to share with the world.

I’ve covered many of the tips for web writing in my Blog Exercises as an example of some of the material covered in the class.

For more information, check out the listing for the Writing for the Web course course at Clark College Corporate and Continuing Education. You may register on the web, in person, or by calling (360) 992-2939.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Blog Exercises: I Thought You Would Appreciate This Gratuitous Picture

Orangutan chewing on finger, portrait, photography copyright Brent and Lorelle VAnFossen.

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.
For many years it was thought that every post published on a blog had to feature a gratuitous image, some photograph that would lure people to click through and read the article. The myth perpetuated itself, which myths tend to do, and many still publish content with gratuitous imagery.

A gratuitous image is one that might complement the content but often has little to do with it. If the article is inspiring, an inspiring image would be chosen. If the author wished to motivate the reader, some motivating picture would be scrounged up. If the article’s purpose was to build a relationship with the reader, pet pictures, family photographs, and images of togetherness might be chosen. Or some sexy woman (or man) in a position believed by many to be sexy might be featured on the prime real estate and have nothing to do with the content at all.

There is nothing wrong with this method of hooking potential readers with a flash of flesh or inspired imagery. There is also nothing good about it. Let’s look at the reasons to use and not use gratuitous imagery.

If a reader is a fan already, they are there for a reason. Keep that reason going and let nothing get in their way.

If someone is searching for your content, is it the imagery or the content that drives them to your spot on the web? Search results do not currently show images unless someone is searching for images. If the content is found on social media channels, is it the words or the images that generate the click-throughs to your site?

Ask yourself why you are using such images. They take time to find, time that might be spent writing the next post or promoting yourself and your ideas across social media. How much of your time is spent finding these images? Is it really time well spent?
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Blog Exercises: Under the Hood Spring Cleaning

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.One of my students in my Portland Community College WordPress class reminded me that clutter is clutter, no matter where you find it.

Peter Smith reminds us that too many WordPress Themes is a waste of resources. Today, I feature his post to remind us all to clean up our sites under the hood.

I had about 15 to 20 themes installed at anytime. Granted there is no need to have so many themes on self-hosted site. Should not use up server resources like this. This also could be said for WordPress plugins…

When using WordPress, we tend to use only one WordPress Theme, switching to a new one when we make a site design change, something most people do every couple years or so. After all, we worked hard to find the design we wanted, maybe tweaked with it. We’re not switching Themes daily, so why do we have dozens of WordPress Themes installed doing nothing?

Peter is right. While having all these WordPress Theme files on our web server doesn’t do any harm, they don’t slow down the site or impact our visitor’s experience, but they impact our own experience. They take up file storage space and distract us with their clutter.

Check your Theme list on your site. Go to Appearance > Themes. How many do you have listed? How old are they? Clean house and remove the ones you aren’t using. You can always reinstall them at a later date for testing, but the testing is done. Get rid of them.

What about your WordPress Plugins? As Peter also mentioned, do we need all those, especially the WordPress Plugins installed over a year or more ago? What about five years ago? Eight? When moving my site from its old host to the amazing WPEngine hosting service, hosting all WordPress all the time, I found I’d had dozens of WordPress Plugins, some left over from the earliest days of WordPress Plugin development. It was time for them to go, leaving me with only a few precious Plugins I can’t blog without on that site.

How many do you have installed and deactivated, or activated and not using or using to full advantage? Clean those out by uninstalling the ones you don’t use or thought were good ideas that weren’t.

Do you have images you’ve uploaded but never used? Consider going through your Media Library and looking for images to delete giving yourself a little more space to upload more.

What about draft posts? Take a few minutes to go through these and clean these out as well. If they are ready to publish, use these for emergency draft posts or schedule them for a future release date. If they are ideas that went no where and never will, trash them.

In April, the Blog Exercise was to clean up the clutter that may give poor first impression to visitors and readers on the front of your site. Today, it’s time clean things up under the hood.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise today is to dig into the back end of your site and clean out the clutter.

It doesn’t seem like much. I’ve found that I feel better when I clean out the clutter around me, even that hidden from the public behind the closet door – you know the one. The one you’ve created that resembles that closet seen in television sitcoms where the unwitting person opens the door and all the tribbles fly out and bury the guy…you know the one. We all have them. It’s time to slowly open the door and clean up the dead tribbles on your own site. For your own protection.

Start cleaning!

SPOILER: By the end of June, I will be publishing the first six months of Blog Exercises as an ebook, the first half of what will become the final book at the end of the year. Stay tuned for news!

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Blog Exercises: If You Had a Dream Speech

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day out on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state sweltering with the heat and injustice, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification,” one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.

Martin Luther King

We’ve all heard these famous words, this poetic speech that moved a nation and changed the world. Today, while there is still hate and prejudice in our world, many of his dreams have come true.

Do you have a dream speech?

What would your dream speech be if you were to write a dream speech?

The most powerful thing about Martin Luther King’s dream was that it was attainable. The US Bill of Rights stated that all men are created equal. The government wasn’t practicing it. That’s easy. Practice what you preach.

Mississippi is still a hot bed of heat and injustice, but it is more representative now of how we can all get along than some other states in the union. King’s children live in a nation where they can get a college education, hold any job, and not be judged by their skin but their character – as long as they aren’t in an area where profiling is practiced. It isn’t perfect but it is improving all the time.

As for state governors free from prejudice – we’re getting closer. Prejudice has shifted from blacks to “immigrants,” so prejudice survives in different forms. George Wallace, identified as the racist governor in King’s speech, famous for his “Segregation now!” speech in 1963, changed his mind about his racist ways and spent the rest of his life fighting for the rights of blacks to vote and hold office until his death in 1998. Government leaders and the people who vote for them are changing their attitudes about racism every year, so yes, things are improving and we’re getting closer to King’s dream.

Pie-in-the-sky wild dreams are great, but rarely do they inspire as much as achievable tasks with personal relevancy. How would your dream speech change under those guidelines?

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise today is to write a dream speech.

We all have dreams. Some are big, some are little, some are for us individually, some are for the whole world. What’s yours?

Your blog is a place where you are free to have your say, to share with the world your thoughts, feelings, stories, and expertise. It’s your soap box. Use it.

Some of us have many dreams. I ask you to choose only one dream for this exercise. One soap box to stand on and ask the world to join you in this dream.

Wish to blog about this? Remember to include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your blog exercise task.

SNEAK PREVIEW: I’ll be putting all these blog exercises together in a rough draft ebook by the end of the month or first part of July and make it available for download. Stay tuned for news and details on getting a free copy!

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Blog Exercise: Take Yourself on a Bloggy Vacation

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.

Writer’s block is a tool — use it. When asked why you haven’t produced anything lately, just say, “I’m blocked.” Since most people think that writing is some mystical process where characters “talk to you” and you can hear their voices in your head, being blocked is the perfect cover for when you just don’t feel like working.
Colson Whitehead, author/educator

I rarely have blogger’s block, the equivalent of writer’s block for bloggers. In fact, my problems is usually that I have too much to write about and can’t choose which one to prioritize. Yet, there are times when I just don’t feel like working. It isn’t that I’m not inspired. I just need some selfish time, time away from what I’m doing. I find that time is actually healing, giving me fresh insight for when I return.

There are authors and writers who’ve truly suffered from writer’s block. Often it is self-doubt, stress, pressure, and anxiety getting in their way rather than their imagination going on vacation. Sometimes vacation is what the imagination needs, which is the subject of this blog exercise.

I find myself the most inspired when I travel, when I leave the confines of my day-to-day life and push my comfort zone around. I don’t have to get on a plane. I don’t have to spend much money. I can drive to a park I’ve never been to and take a walk through it, visit a tourist location in town and play tourist, or camp in my back yard.

Disruption shakes up conventional thought. Find ways this summer to disrupt your thinking, your process, your habits, your norms.

As you plan your summer vacation, find ways to push around those comfort zones to stretch yourself – and your blog.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise today is multi-fold. Begin to stretch your bloggy parameters by planning an outing this week. It may be for a few minutes to a couple hours, or possibly overnight. You don’t have to go far and it doesn’t have to cost much.

For me, I’ve planned to head into the Chinatown District in Portland, Oregon, to visit a friend who owns a restaurant there. I asked him to teach me how to play Chinese Chess months ago. Everything has gotten in the way, so this week I’m going to make time in my busy schedule to eat their glorious food and spend an hour or two learning a game I’ve never played. For those few precious hours, I will be transported to China, eating home-cooked native food and drinking luscious Chinese tea and learn to play a complicated board game.
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Blog Exercises: Page and Post Abuse

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.If you are on WordPress, you are familiar with the concept of Pages and Posts. If you are on another Content Management System (CMS), it is likely you have similar content with a different name.

In WordPress, Pages, with a capital P, are pseudo-static web pages on your site. They exist outside of the reverse chronological order of posts, and are not typically tagged or categorized. Navigation to Pages is found from the main navigation areas. I went into depth explaining Pages in “WordPress Pages: Exploring the Pseudo-Static Pages of WordPress” if these are new to you.

Posts, with a lowercase p, are your “blog” content, so to speak. They are web pages presented typically in reverse chronological order. They are grouped by categories and tags. Navigation to posts are on multiple post pageviews such as the Front, categories, tags, and through category lists in key navigation areas. Posts are typically not featured as direct links except in lists of recent posts or most popular posts.

When it comes to choosing which content to place where, I explain to students and clients that Pages are timeless and posts are timely.

Pages are placeholders for your timeless content, content you require for your site such as About, Contact, Policies, Events, Resources, and similar content. It is content you reference from other web pages on your site that needs to stand aside. Pages answer questions and guide visitors to the right information.

Posts are articles, news, information, tutorials, tips, commentary, and timely information for your readers. It is the flow of content that feeds your audience. Posts entertain, inform, and educate.

Example of using Pages in main menu - out of control navigation.While the concept seems simple enough to explain, many novice and experienced bloggers and web publishers get confused and abuse posts and Pages.

If you think of your site as a book, it makes sense to make every web page a Page as in page of a book. As Pages require key placement within the navigation areas, Page lists may get cumbersome as they become giant tables of content with Pages, subPages, and sub-subPages. It’s a mess.
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