Fine tuning the blogging platform

Well, I think I’ve settled on the “Journalist” theme for the blog. One could argue it’s pretty boring (and one would be right) so my hope is that the scintillating prose I splash across the page brings all the interest the blog needs. Oh, and the covers of my books “pop” the most against this stark black/white landscape, which itself is rather appropriate for a blog that covers “publishing,” among other things.

This theme also doesn’t have that annoying “tag line” to the blog name which says something like “Just another WordPress.com blog” and which I couldn’t figure out how to get rid of except by selecting a theme that didn’t say that. It must be me, because I can’t imagine a platform that prides itself on its flexibility doesn’t allow the blogger to remove that from their heading. But I couldn’t figure it out in the 2 minutes I devoted to the task, so choosing a theme without that tagline seems to work. The downside is that there isn’t a graphic heading at all. Or maybe that’s an upside — it prevents me from having to design something. Besides, this blog is supposed to be branded by yours truly, so my photograph there hopefully provides all the branding this blog platform needs.

I also can’t figure out how to change the “Name” of my blog, in spite of the promise WordPress made when I first named it that I could change it whenever I wanted.  The lack of the word “of” is bothering me.  When I initially named it, I just strung some keywords together, but now it’s TOO close to an actual, grammatically-correct sentence, that the absence of the word “of” looks like a mistake. <sigh>  I’ll keep trying to figure it out.

This photograph I’m using along the right-hand side is the same one I use everywhere else, so it appears on the backs of my books, it appears on my book web pages, it appears on Amazon, etc. The image you choose for yourself when establishing your brand is important, so take the time to do it right. Have it professionally taken, and then acquire the rights from the photographer to use it however you want (yes, you have to acquire those rights — just having a picture taken of you doesn’t entitle you to use that image; it belongs to the photographer).

By now I’ve also added a few “widgets” to the side column of my blog, specifically three image widgets that allow me to add a photograph of myself (for blog branding purposes) and the covers to some of my books. A nice thing is that when I write and publish future books — this blog will cover that process in great detail — it will be an easy matter to add those cover images to the column, too.

Amazon Blog and Embedded Videos

So here’s summary of the results of our little Amazon blog test from yesterday. I have my Amazon blog picking up my RSS feed from my WordPress blog at www.brentsampson.com – and yesterday I embedded a video from YouTube into the blog, which always appears fine in WordPress — I love you, WordPress — but as we saw in yesterday’s blog, it was handled a little differently by Amazon. Instead of embedding the actual video which streams from YouTube, Amazon places a thumbnail image representing the video along with a link to the original blog source. From there, you can watch the actual video.

I guess that’s not SO bad, in the overall scheme of things. I would rather people read my brentsampson.com version of the blog anyway, because it contains other elements not present in the RSS version, like the images along the right, the additional SEO tactics, and the menu bar along the top.  I’m only “using” Amazon to try to attract traffic, so if Amazon would prefer to send that traffic to the original source so nice and kindly, that’s fine with me.

For those of you paying attention, you will also notice that WordPress automatically linked to my domain name when I added the www in front of it, but failed to automatically include a link when I just entered brentsampson.com — so while referring to the “www” in today’s Internet nomenclature has become passé, there is still a cause for it in some places.

Thank you, Amazon.

Adding your blog to Amazon

Yesterday’s blog posting was the first one I scheduled to appear on my Amazon Author Page, and I’m happy to report it appeared their automatically via RSS without a hitch, so now I’m going to test whether or not I can embed a video into this WordPress blog from YouTube — which I know works fine on WordPress — to see if the Amazon blog accepts the video. I’m doing this for a number of reasons:

1) If it works, I’ll want to advise our authors how to “get around” the one-video limitation imposed by Amazon’s own Author Central functionality.

2) Not only do they limit the video uploads through their “Video” tab to one, but they prohibit .mp4 files entirely, which is the high-quality, high-def format that we use to provide our book video trailers and teasers to our authors. I guess it’s our fault for being MORE high-quality than Amazon allows. But if our authors can embed their videos into their blog, and then feed their blog into their Amazon Author Page via RSS, there’s the perfect solution. So, let’s see if it works…

So when this posting appears on my Amazon Author Page, we can see if the video appears.

I’m also doing this — and in such detail — because I’m nearly done with the Second Edition of Sell Your Book on Amazon – Newly Revised for 2010!  My current Kindle edition has some formatting editions (Kindles don’t take too kindly to drop caps, sidebars, and the like), so rather than reformat the first edition, which was somewhat out of date, given that it was published in 2007, I just decided to crack out the new edition and then correct the Kindle edition all at the same time.

So, if you’re looking for instructions about HOW to create a blog post on Amazon, or how to pick up an RSS Feed from elsewhere so that is appears on Amazon, or how to upload a video, or book video trailer to your Amazon Author Page, the Second Edition of Sell Your Book on Amazon reveals it all.  But here’s a hint: It all begins at http://amazon.com/authors

 

The importance of blog titles – domain name / URL

As I continue to experiment with the different themes available through WordPress, I will touch upon another important element of creating a blog: the titles.

There are three parts to naming a blog: the URL of the blog, the name or title of the blog, and the heading used for each specific blog posting. All of them have SEO (search engine optimization) ramifications, so in that sense, they are all important.

The URL used for your blog is where you have the least amount of control. It will probably come down to availability. “Good names” are being grabbed left and right. Whenever a new Internet company surpasses the “tipping point” to become commonplace (facebook, twitter, etc), the usernames become somewhat valuable. By valuable, I’m not implying they have a dollar amount associated with them. No, instead it means that they having a branding, “platform,” SEO equity.  And if you’re not quick or savvy enough to secure the usernames you want for these successful internet properties, you can rest assured that your competitors are.

Let’s look back at history. The first internet “user names” were domain names, and in the 90’s, it became known as the Internet Landrush to register as many “good” domain names as you could. Nowadays, getting a “good” domain name is next to impossible – they’re all taken. But, look! When MySpace launched, the opportunity presented itself again. You could register a good “username” on MySpace. And again with FaceBook. And now with Twitter and Ning.

So, if you have a brand you’re trying to build, or a particular search-term you’re trying to leverage, be sure you attempt registration for those words/phrases with all the major Internet Properties. And yes, you should still try to register your own name as a domain name, too; it might still be available.  And register your kids’ names, too. Who knows what the Internet will “be” 20-30 years from now?  In not-so-hypothetical world, your kid having his/her own domain name could possibly mean the difference between being hired or not.

So, in terms of blogging, the URL for your blog will be largely determined by the availability (either the domain name, or the registration username on the blogging platform of your choice). But if your preferred name is available, ask yourself of its value. In my case, I used “brentsampson” with WordPress to secure that username, and I already had “brentsampson.com” registered as a domain name a while ago. I simply connected them with a DNS forward, which WordPress makes relatively easy. It’s $10 a year. In fact, up until 2010, I had an alternate website set up for “brentsampson.com” but it wasn’t one I devoted any time to, so it therefore lacked any motivating factors for anyone to visit, other than the fact that it was listed on the back of one of my books. It’s my hope this blog is different. Who knows? That’s one of the fun parts of the internet — anyone can put anything up that they want. It’s up to readers to determine their value. In fact, that’s one of the core philosophies of self-publishing, too, but that’s a topic for a different day.

Also topics for different days are the 2nd and 3rd titling opportunities for your blog…

More on branding, SEO, and blogging

Well the Sapphire theme didn’t look so hot either, so for today’s post I’m trying a theme called “Contempt.” Contempt? Really, WordPress? That’s like naming a movie “Gigli” and hoping it makes any money. Titles are very important, and I’m not talking about employee titles like “President/CEO” which, to me, always sounds so huffy-puffy. No, I’m talking about titles as in names of products, titles of books, etc. This will be an on-going topic of this blog.

But today we’re still talking about branding because I’m still in the process of branding this blog appropriately. I haven’t yet settled upon a theme. It occurred to me to simply use the theme we’re using for Self Publishing News, which is “Blix” if I remember correctly. But part of successful branding is being DIFFERENT from everyone else. Being unique. Self Publishing News already takes too much of my time, and I only contribute to it about 3 times a month, but I have to be AWARE of it, and that takes allocation of my own brain’s resources. So, if I’m going to allocate time to THIS blog, too, which I am anticipating will take much more time than Self Publishing News, I owe it to my blog for it to have its own identity. So it can’t share the same theme as Self Publishing News, which is too bad, because that theme “Blix” is a pretty good one.

So, back to “Contempt.” What makes a good blog theme? There are one-column themes, like the Sapphire (bad). There are two column themes like “Contempt” and “Blix” (good) and there are three column themes like… I don’t know even what. When scrolling through the themes offered by WordPress, I even saw one 4-column theme. No!

In my opinion, two-column themes are the best. They allow for the most aesthetic viewing, with the largest column devoted to the content, and the smaller column devoted to the widgets along the side. Then the consideration becomes, which side should the “smaller” column be on? The left side or the right side? Well, this consideration revolves around SEO, which will be a common topic of this blog. At Outskirts Press we’ve always been somewhat cognizant of SEO, and in 2010 we are really accelerating those efforts because, frankly, we’ve hit something of a glass ceiling with the ROI on PPC.

How’s that for an acronym filled paragraph? Here’s a quick key:
SEO: Search Engine Optimization
ROI – Return on Investment
PPC – Pay Per Click (online advertising)

I’m already breaking one of the cardinal rules of marketing and social networking, and that is this: Don’t use jargon. But at least I’m following another rule: If you DO use jargon, at least translate it.

Back to the story: Search Engine Optimization. Search spiders read website and blog content from left to right, and there is a calculation in the algorithm that gives more value to terms that appear “higher” on the page during the spider’s search. Therefore, content that the spider “sees” on the left-side of the page will weigh more favorably to SEO than content the spider sees on the right-side of the page.

Problem solved! The Self Publishing News blog has the smaller column on the right-hand side and the larger content column on the left-hand side (for the reasons outlined above). So whatever theme I end up choosing for this blog should have the thin/wide columns reversed to give me an opportunity to conduct some A/B testing.

Am I shooting myself in the foot by moving the content-column to the right side, given the procedure with which search spiders read blogs? I don’t think so. Because my previous blogging experience has shown me that the “tagging” and “content clouds” that can be added as widgets in the thinner colum will organically/dynamically “grow” with the blog — putting the thinner column on the left-hand side might actually be BETTER. I guess we’ll see when this blog and the Self Publishing News blogs begin their “race” up the pages of Google.