March 26, 2015

Understanding WordPress Structure: Content vs. Sidebar

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No matter what type of WordPress site you are setting up, every WordPress blog has some structural things in common.  One of those is the way the pages/posts are set up visually.  WordPress has the main part of the content on every page or post in the main part of the page, while there is also a sidebar on the right or left of the page with standard inserts.

Before I go on, let me preface my information by saying although this is the usual way a WordPress site is set up, with some themes, you can do away with the sidebar completely, have more than one sidebar, or have the sidebar on the bottom.  However the jist of the information that I will give you here will not change.

To understand how a WordPress page or post is set up visually, here is a post from Writing Online:

For this website, we have chosen to put the main content on the left of each page.  For English readers, or readers from any language that is read from left to right, it is natural to start on the left side of the page.  That means that you should put your most important content, pictures or information on the top left side of a page.  (For this discussion pages and posts are the same because they appear the same visually to the public.)  For Writing Online the most important information is the page content, which might not be true on another site.

Our sidebar is on the right side of the page which lists the search bar, login space, ads, and feed from our other sites.  This set up was a deliberate choice for our readers made by us taking into consideration the data of how people view a page on the internet.

So what do you want to include in your content which will appear on the main part of the page?

Content should be what includes your keywords, your main topic, what the search engines will find and what your readers will read.  If you have Adsense on your site, Adsense will also put ads on that match the content on your page.

What goes in the sidebar?

The sidebar on a WordPress site is populated by widgets.  Widgets can be may different things, but I usually include featured posts, ads, and a search bar, and sometimes a directory of how the site is set up.  While you do not want to overwhelm your pages with ads, remember that ads near the top will get clicked on the most.

Over time, I have found that the simplest looking WordPress sites are usually the best, because people do not get distracted by anything that will stop them from reading, clicking and buying from you.  My best sites are the ones with either a black, gray, or white background, and very little distractions from the content.  As I update my sites, that is what I am changing them all to, because they load faster, and they get a better response from readers.

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Understanding WordPress Structure: Plugins and Widgets

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One of the most difficult concepts of WordPress to understand is the difference between plugins and widgets.  Once you understand, you will smack yourself on the head and say, “that is so easy, why didn’t I get that?”  But don’t feel bad, because I didn’t understand it either, and I don’t usually think of myself as a dumb person.

First of all, definitions:


WordPress plugins are addition code that you add to your WordPress site that give your site added functionality.  They allow you to do more than the WordPress shell does.


WordPress widgets are moveable blocks that you can place in specified places on your WordPress theme that function in different ways.  These include text, RSS feeds, links, and more.

Adding Plugins

To add plugins, go to your plugin page inside the back end of your WordPress blog.  It looks like this:

To add a plugin, you need to click on the Add Plugin button at the top left of the page.  It will take you to a search field to find the plugin that you would like to add.  Once you select a plugin, then click on the Install link to install the plugin.  Plugins are not activated immediately.  You can activate them one at a time, then work with them to see how they function.  This is a good idea if you have never worked with the plugin before.   Each plugin you add will add a function to your blog, but it is possible that some plugins do not work well together.  For the best efficiency, it makes sense to use the least amount of plugins possible to get the effect that you want on your WordPress site.

Here are some free plugins that I use routinely that work well together:


All in One Favicon

Anti Feed Scraper Message

Google Analyticator

Quick Cache

SEO Friendly Images

SEO Search Terms Tagging 2

WP-DB Manager

XML Sitemaps

Yet Another Related Post Plugin

There are many free plugins that you can use to add to your WordPress blog, and there are some paid plugins.  However, I do not recommend using paid plugins at first, until you understand how WordPress works.  One paid plugin that I have started using is phpBay and phpZon.  These allow you to create modules like on Squidoo, Hubpages, or Wizzley for Ebay and Amazon to sell products. You can buy one or the other or both.

One you activate a plugin, the plugin will show up on the left side of your dashboard as a back end page.  Usually they are in the settings section, but not always.  You may need to configure the plugin to get it started.

Adding and Using Widgets

Adding and using widgets is a whole different ballgame.  Your WordPress site comes with some default widgets.  Others are added when you install plugins.  To work with your widgets, you need to go to the Widget page in the back end of your site.  It looks like this:

Adding WordPress Widgets

All of the widgets that are available for use are in the large center box that says “Available Widgets.”  To add them, you just click on an available widget and drag it over to the appropriate section on your right sidebar.  Each theme will have different useable widget areas.  This particular one has a space for a widget on the header, which you can see has a text widget placed there.  Once you place your widget, just open it up by clicking on it and set the settings.  Most themes will at the least have space for widgets in the sidebar, and you can place any widgets you like there, rearrange them, or take them back out until you are happy with the arrangement.

The theme I am using on this example is a Genesis theme by StudioPress, which is a paid for theme.  It has more functionality than most free themes.

Widgets are used for inserting ads, feeds, links, and page and category lists in most blogs.  You can also feature pages and posts in many themes, or an author on your site.

To help get the difference between plugins and widgets straight, you can remember that plugins add the function, and widgets are one way to add building blocks to your theme.

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Spam Comments on a WordPress Blog

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Superheroes crossing

Super Spam Fighters

Just like junk mail in your mailbox, and spam emails in your email box, spam comments are a fact of life if you run a website or blog that allows comments.  Spamming is just the way unethical people think that they can get us to buy their product or services, and if it didn’t work some of the time, they wouldn’t bother doing it.  That means that as the author or administrator of a website, you need to decide how you want to handle spam comments.

There are really only two options available when handling spam.  The rest are variations of the two options.

  1. Do not allow any comments.
  2. Allow comments, but filter them to keep out spam.

Since most of us are trying to interact with other people through our blogs, posts, and websites, then Option 1–not allowing any comments is not a viable option.  So that means we need to pick Option 2–allowing comments and filtering the spam comments.

One of the basic things that you have to understand about spam comments is that most spam comments are written by machines, or at least distributed by machines.  That means that they are easily spotted the majority of the time.  However, since they are so very insistently present, no one wants to spend time fighting spam.  So the thing to do is fight it the best way you can using functions that can be added through plugins.

Another point is that no matter how good your spam fighting plugins are, some spam will sneak through the filters that you set up.  It may be a new form of spam, or a real person spamming your comments.  You will have to check your comments every few days to keep up with the real people who comment, and you can delete the spam as you go.  Your blog will learn from what you delete by pressing the spam button, and keep similar items out after you reject ones that got through.   From time to time, even a human filter gets fooled though, so make sure you know what comments are being allowed through by the filters.


Pingbacks are when your site or blog is mentioned by another site, and there is a link placed there that refers people back to your site.  This kind of link is also called a backlink from your perspective.  The pingback shows up in your comments as a comment, but says that it is a pingback.  There is really no reason to keep these comments.  I usually trash them, but it is nice to see that the links are there.

Adding Plugins:

  • Akismet–Akismet is an awesome plugin that usually comes with any WordPress default set up.  Once you set it up, it will filter a huge portion of your spam for you.  If you don’t already have one, you need to apply for a free Akismet API key from to operate the plugin.
  • SI Captcha Anti-Spam–This plugin requires a person to type in a random letter/number code when they comment if they are a new commenter.

These are the two plugins that I routinely add to any website that allows comments.  There are many others to choose from that also will help filter out comment spam.  Some blogs get way more spam than others, and you have to determine how hard you want to make it for real people to add their comments.  You can require a free membership, and only allow members in that you have vetted personally before they can comment.  Fighting comment spam is an ongoing process that is just part of working online, and as you get more familiar with different plugins and what kind of spam you are getting, you can adjust your settings on your own site.

Realize that spamming techniques are always being updated, and improved, so that what works for you now, may not work a year from now.  But this is a good beginning, and should help you get a handle on any spam that is reaching your comments section.

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Understanding WordPress Structure: Pages and Posts

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For new bloggers, the structure of a WordPress blog can be especially confusing.  When I first started using WordPress, my biggest confusion was the difference between a page and a post.  The confusion is understandable because there are a lot of similarities, and pages and posts can sometimes be used interchangeably.  When blogs were first introduced, there were no pages.  Blog authors could only use posts to offer information, and they could link back to another post, but the post was still in the sequential order of posts.


Page–a WordPress page is a static page.  That means that the page literally stays in one place.  You can make the page part of your tabbed menu or linked menu or not.  But the page is always there in the same place.  Pages are listed in a hierarchy of the author’s determination.

Post–a WordPress post is the originally mainstay of any blog.  This is a sequential post, that will move in sequence with other posts as you continue to add posts.  However, you can link to it in a tabbed menu, or linked menu like a page. Posts are listed in a sequential hierarchy. Traditionally, a tabbed menu is made up of pages, and a linked menu is made up of categories that posts are written under, but that is not always the case.


Does this sound confusing?  Well, it is, especially when you consider that with all the advancements that WordPress has added to their blogs, it is hard to tell the difference unless you are a WordPress expert.

On this Writing Online Network blog, the static pages are listed on the black bar at the top of the page, and sequential post categories are listed in the light gray bar underneath the black bar.

Once you understand the difference between a post and page, the question is how will you use them in your blog?  While many bloggers use the posts and pages in a traditional manner, similar to how we are using them on this site, you do not have to do that.  You can create a WordPress site that is only made up of pages or only made up of posts.   You can also use posts as articles, and pages as selling pages.  The best thing is to experiment with different ways to use the structure until you find one that is comfortable to you, and the topic of that particular site.

I like to try different configurations and uses depending on the site and the purpose of the site.  One of my most complex WordPress sites is Antique Vintage Gallery.  On this site, the intention was to create pages similar to what you see on Squidoo, Hubpages, and Wizzley using modules that includes links to Ebay and Amazon.   To create this effect on the posts, I added two plugins called phpBay Pro and phpZon Pro.  As you can see this adds the module look to the posts that people can use to buy straight from Ebay, as well as a slightly different look for links to Amazon.  In another experiment on Antique Vintage Gallery, I added shopping pages to related items.  For these, I used a tool called Popshops which creates grid pages of items from affiliate companies.

Plugins add functionality to pages, posts, and can also add functionality to the WordPress structure.  More about plugins in future posts.

As you build a site of your own, you can decide how to configure the structure of your site to its best advantage.  However, the flexibility of the WordPress structure while confusing at first, is a big positive in making a blog or website work just exactly the way you want it to.


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Why Should I Create a WordPress Site/Blog?

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When I first started out writing online, I was told that I should blog.  At the time, I had a rudimentary website for Lake Erie Artists Gallery, my home base site, and my brick and mortar store, and was selling some items on Etsy.  Blogging was a relatively new thing, and a couple of friends of mine had blogs to promote their art on Etsy.  As it happened, I went to a small business seminar that fall, and learned that one of the best things to keep a site active was to continually have changes and updates, new information, and blogging was one way to do that.  So that fall I began a blog on Blogger, and the blog had a live feed that went to my website.

That was before I starting writing online for a living, and before I found Squidoo.  When I look back on it today, I believe that I had a pretty typical introduction to blogging, and have come a long way since then.

I still have that blog on Blogger, but all of my other blogs and websites are now on WordPress sites or blogs, and there are many good reasons why I would recommend that a new blogger start on WordPress.

So, back to the initial question, why create a new blog on WordPress?

WordPress has come a long way as well since the time that I learned to blog.  And blogging has also changed.  Nowadays, a blog can be a blog, but it can also directly earn you money, and it can be a full blown website.  WordPress has built in flexibility that is easy to learn to use, even for a complete newbie, and it allows you functionality that you cannot find elsewhere unless you hire a website company for about $4000 to build you a custom site.  With WordPress, you can create a site that looks and feels unique, but is just a compilation of a WordPress frame, and additional programming add ons called themes (which add visuals) and plugins (which add functions).  With the right combination of these, you can have a unique site that will sell your product, raise money for your cause, instruct your students, or offer a service depending on which of those you would like it to do.

If you are a complete beginner, you can start a freestanding website with its own url, or you can work with a multi-user site like this one, where you can get advice and help at a moment’s notice if you need it.

Once you have the hang of it, you can create a WordPress site within several hours, and get it going on an in-depth basis within a week of concentrated work.

WordPress sites differ from one another in some ways, but the main differences are the quality of the themes and plugins used to create the site’s structure and design.  There are some excellent free themes and plugins, but over time you will find that when you are ready to create very stable sites with less problems and more functionality, you will need to pay for themes and some of the plugins.

But if you are wavering about creating a blog, and which type of blog or site to create, I would push you towards WordPress unless you are a highly technical person with a good background in programming.  Or unless you want to spend a lot of money to have someone else build a custom site for you.

I created this website today for an artist in my gallery, Ralph Solonitz.  This is a WordPress installation, with a StudioPress Minimum Child Theme.  I was looking for a theme that was simple, and Ralph’s art would stand out on.  This site will highlight his work, sell wholesale prints, and direct people to buy from my gallery website for retail.  Ralph will be adding blog posts and videos of him drawing to the site.  This is just one thing that you can do with WordPress.

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The Debate Between Using Paid vs. Free WordPress Themes

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If you would like to really create websites of your own using WordPress as the base, the first big question you have to ask yourself is whether you want to use the free WordPress themes that are available for download from WordPress or if you want to buy a paid for theme.

Almost everyone in the world starts out using free WordPress themes because they are free, and because they do not understand why they should pay for a theme if they can get one for free.  And for beginners, the free WordPress themes are fine.

There are several good free themes, but the one I like the best is the 2010 Weaver, which combines the features of the 2010 and the Weaver themes.  You can customize the theme in several ways, and the theme does not have the hidden traps and links that many free themes have.  2010 Weaver works well with most plugins and also allows you to upload a custom header.  The theme comes with several already configured customizations, or you can add your own to make the site look the way you want.  For free themes, this one is the best one I can recommend, and if you need backend help, you can consult with Anne at SEOPraxis who is an expert on this theme.  This blog, Native American Totems, is using a 2010 Weaver theme.

For professionals, who are looking to put up several sites, who want the best SEO optimization built into their site, and who want a truly professional look to their sites, one of the best companies to deal with is StudioPress.

StudioPress offers you the ability to buy one theme or a package with all of their themes.  The package is the best deal if you will use more than one theme.  Once you buy a theme, you can use it on as many sites as you like; there is no limit.  So if you buy only one theme, you can use it on several sites, and many of the themes allow different colors or customization.  StudioPress themes come with the themes already set up for SEO, so you don’t need to add a lot of plugins, although you can still add plugins for features that you want to add.  Most of the themes come with specialized widgets that show up on the home page, making it look more like a site, and less like a blog.  And the themes are very professional looking, designed by paid professional graphic designers.

You do have to learn to use the themes, but once you do, they are easy to use.  I have installed StudioPress themes on several websites in the last few months, and I can attest that the themes are well designed, look great, and pages index extremely quickly on Google.  Here are two sites that are using StudioPress themes:  Cleveland OH Visitor, and Pro Hubpages.

There are other companies that create paid themes, but I only have direct experience using StudioPress.  I would investigate and use the one that fits your situation the best.  In essence, I think that if you are creating a blog for little traffic, and backlinks, then the free themes are fine, but if you want to drive commercial traffic to your site, then you should invest in a paid theme.

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How to Place Effective Advertising on WordPress Blogs

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For those of you who are creating WordPress blogs, either as separate websites, or to promote your lenses, there is significant money to be made from Google Adsense.  Recently, the question has come up as to how to earn money from Adsense, and I will address that in this post.

I have had a blog for my gallery for at least 5 years.  During that entire time, I had an Adsense account, but for the first two years, I made almost no money from it.  I think in two years time, I accumulated about $12.  Google Adsense requires a minimum of $100 for a payout, so you can see why I was not excited about the $12.

However, in the last 3 years, I have learned a lot more about how to earn with Google Adsense, and while I am not a complete expert, I can tell that I have made well over payout month over month for about 18 months now.  That is a significant change, and I would like to help you achieve the same using some simple methods.

Adsense is totally free to sign up for, although not everyone gets approved.  To be approved, you need to have a website or blog of your own, but it doesn’t have to be on your own domain.  There is no question that newer Adsense publishers get less valuable ads, and you have to prove that you can send buyers to the advertisers.  So don’t be surprised at first if your clicks only get you a few pennies at first.  This is how you pay your dues as an Adsense publisher.

Adsense works best on websites that have a clear focus.  And this focus can change from post to post, but at least each post should be directly focused on one basic topic.  Adsense will try to match ads to your content.  However, depending on what your topic is, there may not be a good match.  If this is the case, then Adsense will not be the best advertiser for you.

Just like any other form of marketing, Adsense is a numbers game.  The more and better targeted traffic you have, the better Adsense matches you will get, and the more paying clicks will occur.  Adsense is a pay per click program, so people have to click on the ads for you to earn anything.  Never, never click on your own ads.  This is click fraud, and will get you banned from Adsense forever.  Google is extremely unforgiving about click fraud.  It is actually best not to click on any ad on a site that you write on.  That way, your behavior cannot be questioned.

So how do you get people to actually click on your ads.

The best way to do this is to put your ads in what I call an umbrella pattern.  That means a banner ad at the top of your page, and an ad block to the right and the left of your content at the very top of the sidebars.  One of these blocks can also be inside your content with the text wrapped around it.  This is sort of an upside down U shape.  That means that the introduction or first paragraph of your content is surrounded by ads.  You can match the colors of the Adsense blocks to match your site or blog, so that the ads look natural sitting there.

Depending on your blog or site’s layout, all these three positions may not be the best place to put ad blocks.  If you look at this example on Eco-Chic Green Fashion, you will see an ad block at the top and right, but nothing on the left.  That is because I decided that the pictures were more important here.

That is also what I am doing on Precious Metal Clay, here. On Cleveland OH Visitor, the sidebars move around.  Here is a page with ads on both sides. The primary spots for getting clicks are at the top of the page, above the fold, or above the scroll online.  This is where your best ads should go.

As your blog matures, and your entire portfolio of Adsense income matures, you will get better ads, and better paying clicks.  I have had clicks in the last year as high as $10, although rarely, but the average rate is usually around $1-$2.  These add up a lot faster than pennies.

As to how large of ad blocks to use, I like to use the largest ad block that I can in a given space, and prefer the square and horizontal ads over the vertical ones.  They seem to perform better for me.  You have to see what will work on your sites or blogs.  Don’t worry too much about readers being put off by ads.  If they are not interested, their eyes will just skip right over the ads, and go to the part of your page that they are interested in.  You are allowed to put a maximum of three Google Adsense blocks per page, no more unless you get special permission.

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Moving a WordPress Blog

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Over the past few weeks I have learned a lot about how to move a WordPress Blog. In many cases moving a wordpress blog is not a decision that can be taken lightly, particularly if the blog is well established, getting traffic and even more so if it is making sales.

However, sometimes circumstances conspire to force this decision upon you and you get to the stage where you feel you have no alternative but to move that Blog. And in some cases you really do have no choice because that wonderful free platform you were using either changed the Terms and Conditions, forcing you out or, the platform may even disappear.

A couple of years ago, I had to move a blog for someone. In this case it was moving a Blog from WordPress to Blogger. And WordPress did not make it simple! But moving from one WordPress Blog to another WordPress Blog is made a lot easier by using a plugin called Redirection.

But before you move your blog, there’s some crucial decisions you have to make.

If the platform you are moving from is still up and running, it may be best to leave the old blog on there for the time being and simply redirect visitors to the new blog. This means that you have time to work on establishing backlinks to the new URL, before you lose the benefit of all that hard work you did in the past as you bookmarked, linked Squidoo lenses, published Hubs, set up link wheels and wrote articles to promote your blog and to deep link into specific posts on the original blog.

The WordPress Export feature (you can find it on your Dashboard, under Tools) allows you to export an XTML file that you save onto your own hard drive. This file contains all your posts, categories, tags and pictures and once you have set up the new blog, you can simply download all the saved content and voila! Your new blog is instantly populated.

(Incidentally it is the Export Tool that you use to backup your Blog – you do back up your blog don’t you?)

Then you simply use the Redirection plug-in on the old blog to point to the new one. But what is really Ace about Redirection, is that not only can you point one blog URL to another, you can redirect from one post on the old Blog to its corresponding post on the new one.

This can be a headache though, depending on how many you posts you have. When I moved some of my Blogs, I only had around 30 posts so testing out Redirecting from one post to another was fairly easy and probably took me around 30 minutes to set up. Had my blog contained 300 posts though, then that would have not been so easy.

The trick, if you have a lot of posts, is to check your site stats, see which individual posts are getting the most traffic and make sure they have their own redirect.

One of the other things you have to watch is any pictures you export from the old blog and download to the new one during the import. For some reason, although they may be downloaded into the library on the new blog, the links may still point back to the images stored on the old blog.

Moving my Blogs has not been accomplished without a lot of angst and frustration. The traffic stats on the new blog did not correspond with those I was still seeing on the old blog. Traffic is down and sales are down. However, in the long run, with some hard work on doing some new backlinking, I am hoping that within a few months I will be getting more traffic directed straight to the new Blog, instead of via Redirection and the old one can then be deleted.

If you are considering moving a blog, something else you may like to look at is changing the URL and the title. Perhaps you did not do keyword research when you first set up the blog. Perhaps the phrase you used for the main keywords have either “gone out of fashion” or people are using different search phrases now?

In which case, although you may intend to import all the original content to the new blog, you may also take the opportunity to improve the SEO by changing the URL and the title following some thorough keyword research

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How to set up a WordPress Blog: 1 – Choosing your Blog Topic

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Do you know how to set up a WordPress Blog? Are you thinking about Writing for Profit, but you don’t know where to start?

In this WordPress Tutorial Series you will learn:

How to choose what topics to write about

How to choose your blogging platform

How to set up a WordPress Blog

What WordPress Plugins to use

How to move an established WordPress Blog to a new site

Choosing your WordPress Blog Topic

When considering the topic for your new blog you need to be clear about the reasons why you want to blog. Ask yourself these questions:

Do you want to write to provide information?

Is your blog personal to you?

Do you want to write to supplement your income?

Do you want to sell specific products?

Are you blogging in order to establish backlinks and drive traffic to another site?

Do you want an audience for your writing, or do you just want to write?

The answers to these questions will have an impact on the way you go about setting up your blog.

If, for example, you are planning on setting up a personal blog, just to keep friends and family informed, then you may not be interested in attracting a wider audience. You may just send the link to the people who you think may be interested and then leave it at that.

In this case the preparation you undertake and the way you set up your blog will be different than if you want an audience. You can just go ahead and set up the blog, organise it how you want and pick a theme that is attractive to you.

However, be aware that when you first start, you may think you do not want an audience, but you may change your mind later.

Also, you need to remember that if you want to write a personal blog, nothing is ever private on the internet. Never assume that the people who you do not want to see what you are writing will never find your blog – they will definitely find it! Even if you delete something, it may have been downloaded elsewhere and the way that Google and the other Search Engine cache webpages, means the content may still be availble, long after you have deleted the post.

Note: Google takes a snapshot of each page it examines and caches (stores) that version as a back-up.

This WordPress Tutorial assumes that you want to set up a blog to get an audience and also with a view to writing for profit.

Your first task, even before you decide the name and the topic of your blog and grab your URL, is to do some keyword research. It is this keyword research that will:

help you narrow your topic – the all important narrowing the niche

help you understand how much competition you may have for certain keywords

make it easier for you to rank high in the Search Engine Returns Pages (SERPs)

give you more of a chance of making sales

You need to try to get your blog (and individual posts on your blog) featuring in the first couple of pages of Google (or other Search Engines) to give you a better chance of persuading people looking for the information you provide, to click on your links.

More traffic means the potential for more sales.

When setting up a blog, or even writing an article on Squidoo, Hubpages, Ezine Articles or any of the other content sites, the biggest mistake you can make is to assume that you know what people are searching for, even if you are blogging about topics about which you have a lot of knowledge and which you know are popular topics.

(If you are not sure about how to research keywords, then check out my page How to Research Keywords.)

Not only will doing thorough keyword research help you you choose your niche, it will also give you a list of strong keywords for your Blog Categories and your post topics.

Blogs that you may like to check out, which give good examples of niche blogs that have been set up following careful keyword research are:

Native American Totems

Tiger Tattoo Designs

Cleveland Oh Visitor

In my next post I will give you some guidance about choosing a Blogging Platform.

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