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Blogging Again After A Year Hiatus…

April 9, 2010 by · 101 Comments 

It’s funny that my last post was written exactly a year ago on 9 April 2009 and here I am again.

I am still alive and kicking, just doing things in the background while I took the time out from blogging. As some of you know, this is what I do for a living, i.e. work online (not so much of a full time blogger by the way) so I’ll always be around.

For sure there are lots of new developments in the blogosphere for me to catch up to but let’s do this one thing at a time shall we 😉

While I was away, people kept coming to this blog. Nothing changes much in term of number of visitors although it’s not as busy as when I was active writing obviously. 

One thing I would like to mention is the passive income generated by this blog. There have been several purchases made for the products I promoted in my posts and advertising income from direct ad order as well as AdSense. While the amount is nothing to shout about, neither I am complaining since I don’t even have to lift a finger to earn them.

If you would like to sell advertising directly from your blog, check out the script that I use to sell banner ads from Oio Publisher. It’s not free but I think it’s one of the best investments you could ever make for your blog if you want to take control of your ads inventory.

During the time the blog was dormant, AdSense has generated USD621 from Sabahan.com alone. Yes it’s not much I know but that’s roughly the amount I am making from AdSense monthly from all my websites combined including Sabahan.com. It’s a passive income and that’s what makes it interesting to me.

I am currently concentrating on my software development side of my online business and will be releasing two new versions of my software soon.

Anyway as you may now I am an affiliate marketer and always try to find a way to do affiliate marketing more effectively. Recently I was contacted by Richard Adams, the owner of WPSplitTester.com who came up with a product to help people like us to make more money from our websites… without getting any more visitors.

I am going to do my own review of his product soon but for now if you are interested to learn more just read on the following article by Richard.

 

Affiliate Marketers: Are You Leaving Money On The Table?

If you wanted to boil affiliate marketing down to it’s simplest, you are essentially trying to attract traffic to your website and then send them through to an affiliate program where if they buy anything, you make money.

It sounds simple enough. Set up a niche site or blog about mp3 players for example, plaster it with adverts from Commission Junction or Amazon and cross your fingers that you’ll make money.

Some sites work, others don’t but over time if you keep on building your profits slowly rise.

But the problem with this process is best described as "missed opportunity".

You see, you will often find that one affiliate program converts better than another, even for the same product. Send 100 visitors to each one and it’s very likely that you will make considerably more money from one than the other. Strange but true.

Taking it another step, if you do some testing you will also normally find that some of the adverts on your website get far more clicks than others. And that adverts in certain places on your website get more clicks than adverts in other areas of your website.

So if you could find which affiliate program converts best, which advert converts best and where to place that advert on your website for best results, then got rid of everything that *didn’t* work so well, as I’m sure you can imagine you’re likely to significantly increase your affiliate marketing profits.

And remember that you don’t have to write any more content, build loads more links or spend your life trying to build up visitor numbers.

All this extra money is simply as a result of some smart testing to reveal how best to monetize your affiliate sites. Surely this is leverage at it’s best.

By now I’m sure you can see the potential of this method and are wondering how best to actually go about the testing phase.

There are two ways to go about it. The first way is to simply make manual changes to your websites and see how the results change. However not only is this not exactly scientific, but it also takes quite a bit of time and effort to constantly move adverts around, keep an eye on clickthrough rates of adverts, affiliate profits and so on.

However there is also a tool which you can use which will do most of this for you. It will make all the necessary changes to your website and track the results. Let the script do all the "heavy lifting" and you can just pull out the top-performers from the statistics area of the tool and make the necessary changes to maximize your profits.

If you’d like to learn more about the tool that I mentioned that automates 95% of the process for you, saving you time and hassle, while helping you to increase your income, click here and get a free report.

Marketing, SEO & Blogging Related Blogs That I Read

November 12, 2008 by · 56 Comments 

The number of blogs that I subscribe to changes all the time as new ones being added and old ones are removed as I continue to discover better ones that serve my needs better.

Undoubtedly, there are many other excellent blogs that I have not included in my list. That said, I’m trying to minimize the number of blog that I subscribe to, to the bare minimum.  IMHO, there’s no point in subscribing to hundreds and hundreds of blog feeds if the end result is information overload.

Besides, I just don’t have the time to keep up with all of them anyway. While it’s important to read blogs to keep yourself informed of the latest happenings and developments, it’s more important to practice what you’ve read.

Now here are some of the blogs that I’ve been a subscriber for a while.

 

Google AdSense

  • Inside AdSense
    There’s no better place to keep track with the latest development with AdSense than from the official AdSense blog

  • JenSense
    Here’s another good source for independent opinions and news for contextual advertising such as AdSense and YPM, although, it appears that this blog has not been updated for a while.

 

AdWords

  • Inside AdWords
    Google’s official blog for news, information and tips on AdWords. If you are spending money on Google AdWords, this blog is one that you can’t afford to ignore.

 

Affiliate Programs

  • Affiliate Blog By Shawn Collins
    I’ve been reading articles written by Shawn since late 1999. In addition to the normal affiliate marketing industry news, Shawn gives away some useful tips and guides to help people make money from affiliate marketing.

  • CPA Affiliates
    Another good source for tips and techniques in affiliate marketing. Then again, this blog has not been updated since late August.

  • DerekBeau.com
    This is actually one of the better affiliate marketing blogs out there but it appears it’s going through a hiatus since on Nov 13 2007.

  • ZacJohnson.com
    If you want to learn how a super affiliate makes money from PPC & affiliate marketing this is the blog for you. For starters, check out how Zac made over US800K in profit in 4 months.

  • Reve News
    Contributed by several authors who discuss about online advertising, CPA, SEO and affiliate marketing.

  • Super Affiliate Mindset
    Amit Metha is the super affiliate behind this blog. What I like the most about his blog is the practical advice he shares that you can use in your own marketing effort. He often talks about how you need to change your mindset first in order to move closer to you goals. Sadly, moving forward, Amit decided to write fewer posts in order to set aside more of his time to helping PPC Classroom 2.0 students.

 

Blogging

  • Problogger.net
    Almost everything you need to know about blogging and making money from your blog.

  • The Blog Herald
    Blog news, features, interviews, podcasts and the whole enchilada

 

Google News

 

Internet Marketing

  • Besting AdWords
    The short posts help me scan through the content quickly and find news that really matters. While you won’t find the blog breaking new ground anytime soon, I find it quite insightful to read the writer’s personal experience on certain issues.

  • Dosh Dosh
    Articles about marketing on the Internet and social media. Good blog, but be prepared to read some long articles.

  • JohnChow.com
    I read JC to keep me motivated about making money from blogging.

  • MindValley Labs
    Besides Internet marketing tips and tricks, this blog is also a good place to find some AdWords tactics. Sabahan.com was mentioned in one of their posts once

  • ShoeMoney
    This is a good site to get you inspired. You’ll also find some killer marketing ideas sprinkled throughout the blogs.

 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

 

I subscribe to several other blogs besides those above but for the time being this list should keep you busy for a while.

How to Monetize Your Blog & Make Money

November 5, 2008 by · 55 Comments 

I planned to write a series of articles based on a formula that in my humble opinion sums up the “secret” of success for any blog. The formula is

Blog Success = Truckloads of Traffic + Good Monetization Technique + Good User Experience

Now when it comes to blogging, I must say that I am not a full time blogger and admittedly, there are other full timers who might have put the formula into practice, whether intentionally or not, and make tons of money out of it.

JohnChow.com comes to mind when we talk about this, the guy who made USD34,350.93 from his blog in October alone.
Well, it goes to show the sky is the limit when it comes to making money from your blog.

In general, this formula works regardless of whether you are trying to make money from blogging, affiliate programs, AdSense, eBay or whatever.

Some of you may recall that a couple of month back I wrote the first article of the series titled “Traffic to your Blog – A Recipe For Success.” A follow up to the first article is long overdue and I think it’s about time for the next one in the series. The second factor that I’d like to talk about is “Good Monetization Technique”.

If you have been blogging for sometime, you may already know that there are many ways to monetize your blog. From AdSense to promoting affiliate programs, and from writing paid reviews to selling direct advertising on your blog, the choices are endless.

Rather than listing all the monetization options available under the sun, I’ll try to discuss how to best monetize your blog in general.
The first question you need to ask yourself is that do you really want to make money from your blog? Perhaps you just want to share you opinion and making money is just a secondary goal.
Or perhaps commercializing your blog will compromise your integrity as an independent blog writer and if that’s the case, then this article is not for you.

The reason I ask is that there has to be a compromise between the quality of your content and how far you are willing to sacrifice user’s experience by having advertising in your blog.

The best way to make money from your own blog would depend on your blog’s niche and the type of visitors it attracts. If I can make money from AdSense, it doesn’t mean that you too will make lots of money from AdSense, although the chances are, you probably will because it’s the most popular way to make money from blogging.

Similarly, if you can make money from paid reviews, I don’t think I can make as much from this blog because I doubt I can churn out paid reviews as fast to generate as much income as you. Not to mention the Google penalty I’m trying to avoid for writing paid reviews in my blog.

 

So What Works Best For You?

The trick is to test to see what works best for you in your situation. If you run a finance blog, an ad that offers tax software might appeal to your readers.
Similarly, if you blog about making money on the Internet, your readers might response to ads related to how to make money online.

Now let’s look into several monetizing options in more detail.

 

Contextual Advertising

Content sites are best monetized with contextual advertising programs such as Google AdSense which is easily the most popular ways for bloggers to monetize they blog.
The ads are targeted and easily integrated with your content.

That said; do not assume right away that AdSense is the best monetization option for you. If your blogs belong in a popular niche such as entertainment or technology it would work great but if you blog about some obscure topics such as Qubit Field Theory, you would probably end up getting lots of Public Service Ads which doesn’t pay you anything when clicked.

In addition, you may want to try other ad network such as Chitika, Yahoo Publisher Network and others.

Like everything else, you need the traffic in order to make money from contextual advertising. It won’t make you rich overnight but it’s a good option to start with.

 

CPM Advertising

CPM advertising is ad programs which pay you for the each ad displayed on your blog. This option is best for blogs or sites that aren’t attracting enough targeted advertisers or the readers are less likely to click on your ads.

CPM (cost per thousands impressions) may pay you around $2 for 1000 impressions for instance but typically the pay out is rather low these days.

The downside of this is advertising option is that you really need a lot of traffic to generate a reasonable amount of income. Once you past the minimum traffic threshold, everything should be rather straight forward.

 

Direct Ad Sales

Direct ad sales is a great way to monetize your blog since there’s no middleman to take some of your profits. You can set you own ad rates and have more control over the advertising and payment options as it increases the amount and type of ads you can sell and let you specify when and how you get paid.

The main disadvantage is that since it’s up to you to find advertisers, you could end up with many unsold inventory especially when you are just starting out.

In addition, you’ll also open yourself to potential disputes as some buyers might ask for a refund. It’s therefore important to make your terms clear to potential advertisers before they sign up so that any future dispute can be resolved amicably.

If you are planning to offer direct ad sales from your blog, I suggest you check out the advertising script from OIOpublisher that help you manage and control your own ad sales easily. I am currently using this script to manage the direct ad sales in this blog.

 

Promoting Affiliate Programs

Once you get to know your readers closer, you might want to move into promoting affiliate programs. Unlike, AdSense, promoting an affiliate program require more than just plastering banner ads in your blog.

You can potentially make more money from affiliate program but since it requires some action from the readers in addition to a simple click, the conversion rate could be a lower.

I’ve written several articles regarding affiliate program in this blog which you may want to check out

 

Conclusion

It takes time and some effort to make money from your blog. The most important thing is to never give up and continue to focus on the areas of your strength.

Do not put all your eggs in one basket, diversify your income stream as much as possible.
When one method fails to work, at least you have five other sources that are making you money.

Sabahan Bloggers Gathering 2008

August 3, 2008 by · 36 Comments 

The well organised event took place last night at the glamorous 11th floor restaurant of the Imperial Hotel Kota Kinabalu overlooking the South China Sea. The bands were cool, food was delicious, and everyone was looking groovy.

There never was a dull moment when the lively DJ Selina and her sidekick took the stage as the MCs for the event.

Obviously, everything would not be possible without the hardworking organizing committee – the lovely Jacq, Gallivanter (Da Dude), Wei Chuen (you are tall), KadazanBonita (so anggun), PapaJoneh, Impedius, Julian and Farah. I think I chatted briefly with Julian (or was it Impedius). Anyway, hats off to them. I imagine it would be a hard one to top.

Meeting fellow bloggers including Sabahan.com readers face to face was an interesting experience. I’ve met Don (apparently he is one of my subscribers), Lorna (I thought you looked familiar even before we chatted), Pinolobu a.k.a Ben (I already knew you), the famous Elphege Godomon the TV3 reporter.

Then there’s Josie (the cheerful one), Eshark (sama misai kita haha), Shukery (a rather quiet but nice guy), LadyMariah (I didn’t recognize you with the braids), Chegu(betulkah tu?), Sumardi and who could miss PapaJoneh, one of the most boisterous bloggers that night. Sorry Papa, I was unable to join you guys afterwards.

I’ve met several other bloggers too but can’t recall their names – my bad. I should’ve written them down like what some people did! The list will be updated from time to time.

I would have uploaded some photos if not of the crappy connection here in Starbuck. I need a more reliable wireless connection to tap into for that. I am certain you’ll find more detailed reviews about this event in other blogs with lots of photos to feast your eyes on 😉

Making A Living Off The Internet From The Rainforest of Borneo

August 1, 2008 by · 18 Comments 

I had been trying to come up with a nice tagline for Sabahan.com that describes what this blog is all about.

My previous tagline was

About Computers, Blogging, Making Money Online, Marketing and Interesting Stuff

After launching Sabahan.com v2.0, I changed the tagline to

Internet marketing, blogging and everything in between…

While both taglines pretty much sums up what I do and write in this blog, it lacks the originality that I wish to convey that makes this blog stand out from other blogging and marketing blogs.

Anyone, anywhere in the world could have written this blog but not many people from Sabah in Malaysia (formerly known as North Borneo) blog about their experience making a living off the Internet while literally doing it from the rainforest of Borneo.

Then it occurred to me, since I do live in a little town where the rainforest is practically in my backyard, why didn’t I just use that in my tagline? With that in mind, I came up with this new tagline:

making a living off the Internet from the rainforest of Borneo

What do you think?

Here’s a picture of the small town where I live. This picture was taken by a friend of mine. I hope he’s OK with me putting it here without asking for his permission first. Sorry bro, can’t help but showcase your beautiful picture here.

I guess the next thing I should consider doing is to integrate motives of the local culture in the design of this blog. OK one step at a time shall we 😉

Sabahan.com v2.0 Is Now Online

July 30, 2008 by · 32 Comments 

First off, welcome to Sabahan.com version 2.0!

For me changing my blog template isn’t as easy as changing clothes. OK, technically it is that easy but if you change your blog template that often, you risk disorientating your regular readers and your effort, whether intentional or not, in trying to establish a brand for your readers to associate with will be wasted.

That said, change can be good as long as you don’t over do it.

Now, this is actually the first time I’ve changed Sabahan.com template since it came online in February 2006.

My main motivation for selecting this particular template isn’t because it allows me to allocate more space for advertising like what Rice Bloggers has commented in my previous post. No my friend 😉 It just happens that I’ll be able to set aside specific section in the sidebar for that purpose.

As blogging continue to mature, a trend is emerging where established blogs have started to use templates with width 900 pixel and wider. In addition to the usual content, the sidebar is often used to serve several 125×125 banner ads.

Many of those blogs boast Web 2.0 design styles, although these styles are often only loosely implemented as to accommodate the bloggers own unique needs. Some of those design elements include simplicity, fewer columns, separate top section, solid areas of screen real estate, gradients, rounded corners, reflections and so on.

As much as I love Sabahan.com previous template, its simplicity and functionality, in this day and age, it’s obviously outdated. So here I am, using a brand new template to keep up with the current trend.

As you notice, Sabahan.com is now selling banner ads on the sidebar. In addition, interested advertisers could place their ads inline where the rectangle 300×250 AdSense ads is located. The banner ad space at the top of every page is also available for purchase.

I’ll write more about this in my future posts as I continue to tweak and enhance the advertising system. I plan to share my experience in finding advertisers and actually closing the deals, of which I am aware that it’s not as straight forward as it sounds.

If you are curious as to whether this arrangement will make me more money than what I’ve been making from AdSense here, I suggest your subscribe to my feed to stay up to date with the development 🙂

One ad unit that I’m itching to get rid of is the Nuffnag ad, if only I could get in touch with the advertisers directly and struck some deal with them ehem..

I’ve also disabled the WP Super Cache plugin temporarily as it’s not counting the page view properly. It has also messed up the posts view count where most of them have been reduced after the upgrade.

I have several posts to write and ideas to implement. But I would probably have to put them on hold as I’ll be leaving for Bali this Sunday for a long overdue vacation. You might see me blogging from Bali if I could locate a wireless connection somewhere there, who knows.

On the 2nd August 2008, the Sabahan bloggers will hold their second gathering at the Imperial Hotel in KK. I would have to book a room for the night in KK one day before my flight if I were to attend this which I might but I can’t confirm at the moment.

Interestingly, the event is listed on the official SabahTourism.com website.

Anyone reading this coming to the gathering?

Speed Up Your Blog and Improve Your Blogging Experience

July 23, 2008 by · 9 Comments 

Having a fast loading blog is a must if you want to retain readers. Since the next blog is only a mouse click away for them, you owe it to yourself to ensure your blog is as fast as possible.

Studies have shown that you risk losing the majority of your potential visitors if you made them wait longer than 8 to 10 seconds.

If you can’t make your pages to load fully in less then 8 seconds, you should optimize them so that your main content and important elements are loaded within that time period.

There are several online tools that could help you find out the loading speed of your blog, and one of my personal favorites is the tool from Pingdom.

This tool analyses your page and tests the loading time for all objects including images, CSS, JavaScripts, Flash, iframe and so on as it simulates the way a page is loaded in a typical web browser.

You can then determine the total number of objects, their size as well as the time it takes for each object to load. This helps you identify objects that are slowing down your page.

 

How Fast Is Your Web Host?

To reduce the loading time of your pages, the first thing you have to pay attention to is the quality of your web host. There’s no point having the leanest page of all time if your blog is hosted on a slow server in the first place.

When it comes to choosing a web hosting service, avoid cheap services that put quality in the back seat. When your blog is offline as frequent as the commercials aired during your favorite TV show, you’ll not only lose visitors but risk having your blog removed from Google index.

Obviously no web hosting company will admit that their service is crap. But you can find that out by googling the company name and visiting the popular web hosting forums and read what others are saying about the company.

Beginning April 2008, Google has taken landing page load time into account when calculating your page Quality score. If you are using AdWords to advertise your blog, beware that you may be penalized for slow load time and may be paying more than you should. Therefore it’s important to make sure you have optimized your page load time as much as possible.

Talking about web hosting, currently I’m using HostGator to host Sabahan.com on my own server. So far, they’ve been quite reliable and I am happy with the service. The only problem I had was during the initial transfer when I had to move many websites from my old server to the new one. But once that’s over, everything has been working nicely.

If you are looking for a reliable web hosting service, I highly recommend Hostgator.

 

Choosing the Right Template

Next thing to consider is your template. I assume most of my readers prefer to make use of templates from the third party rather than coding it themselves. So to ensure that the template that you want to use is a fast loading one, ask yourself the following questions:

Does it contains excessive nested tables and repetitive HTML code?
Find a template that uses separate tables where ever possible. Avoid a template that nested tables for the header, content, footer etc. A page generally won’t load until the server processes the whole code. A slow loading image in the footer will delay the loading time for the entire page. The good news is that you should be able to find a template that uses CSS tables fully which will improve your page load time.

In addition, check for unwanted tags and unoptimized HTML codes that slow down your load time.

Does it has an optimum content area?
Having a template with two or three sidebars with many elements inside them will slow down the page load time. Instead, look for a template that maximizes the content area to reduce load time and improve your page readability.

Does it make heavy use of graphics, flash animation and Javascript?
While your template might look nice, it’s not worth it if no one is willing wait around long enough for the whole enchilada to load. Most people come to your blog to read your content and not to be mused by your template design.

While having a pretty template is definitely a plus, avoid a template that doesn’t optimize the graphic and flash animation and other script files.

 

Is the design too complicated?
Just look at Google.com and realize that a simple design usually equates to fast loading page. People like fast loading page and it’s important to find a template that balance functionality and good look.

 

Cache Your Pages with Plugins Like WP Super Cache

WordPress has its own built-in caching utility which is very simple to activate. All you have to do is perform the following steps

  1. Enable the caching mechanism by adding the following line into your wp-config.php file

    define(‘ENABLE_CACHE’, TRUE);

  2. Create the cache directory within the wp-content directory

    /wp-content/cache/

  3. Make the cache directory writable by setting its permission to 755 or 777.

 

I haven’t personally tested the WordPress built-in caching mechanism yet. Instead I’ve installed WP Super Cache for this purpose.

The native WordPress caching basically reduces the database queries that are performed on every page load by catching them. That means less demand on your MySQL database but it will still generate your pages dynamically.

WP Super Cache goes one step further by generating static HTML file from your dynamic pages. After a HTML file is generated, your web server will serve that file instead of processing the comparatively more resource demanding WordPress PHP scripts to generate pages.

Some of you may have noticed the line of text on my sidebar which indicates the number of queries and the time it takes to process them. This is the code that I’m using:

<?php echo get_num_queries(); ?> queries.
<?php timer_stop(1); ?> seconds.

After installing WP Super Cache, the time it takes to process 49 database queries on Sabahan.com main page is reduced from 2-3 seconds to less than 0.8-0.3 seconds. Now, at first glance, that may not seem much but it will add up when you blog is visited by thousands of visitors daily.

Actually this information is immaterial because once you have installed WP Super Cache, no database queries are made since the users are being served static HTML.

But that’s only true for users who are not logged in, users who have not left a comment on your blog or uses who have not viewed a password protected post. That means you as the admin will still be working with dynamic pages and not cache pages.

Why? If you are interested to learn more, I suggest you read the article from the developer’s blog to understand how it works.

Most blogs, including Sabahan.com that only get a couple of hundreds of visitors per day probably doesn’t need to install this plugin. But when it comes to improving your page load time, there’s no harm installing it. Besides, your blog will be better prepared to cope with the spike in traffic in the event that it gets dugg or slashdotted.

Another reason why you might want to install this plugin is if your blog is hosted on a shared and slow server or your blog performs excessive database queries due to several inefficient plugins (although in such case, I suggest you replace the problematic plugins with a more efficient ones).

While the installation isn’t as straight forward as activating the WordPress native cache mechanism, as long as you follow the instructions, you’ll be up and running in a few minutes.

 

Speed Up Your WordPress Blogging Experience with Google Gear

There’s a new feature in WordPress 2.6 that allows you to speed up your blogging experience using a browser addon called Google Gear. It enables web applications such as Google Readers, Gmail, and Google Docs and now WordPress feel more like an offline application.

This is achieved by storing information on your computer locally allowing you to read, edit and update data from the Internet without actually being connected. In case of WordPress, dialog such as the Add Media function will load faster as you’ll be loading images and running scripts locally.

Unless you already have a fast Internet connection, you should notice a speed increase making your blogging experience more pleasant.

If you look at the top right hand side of your Dashboard, you should find a link called “Turbo”. If you don’t and you are using WordPress 2.6, check that you are using the latest version of Ozh Admin Drop Down Menu plugin currently at 2.2. This plugin modifies your menu and the old version doesn’t work properly with WordPress 2.6.

When everything is in order, install Google Gears if you haven’t already done so and then click on the Turbo link. Gears will download around 200 files and store them on your PC.

These tips are by no means definitive and complete. As each blogger has his/her own needs and unique audience to cater, you’ll have to adapt them accordingly.

One thing for sure, as our Internet connection continues to improve, we will enjoy more flexibility in presenting our content in a way that best serve our readers’ interest.

Update: I’ve just noticed the WP PostViews plugin that I’m using to count post views is no longer working after installing the WP Super Cache plugin and hence the low page view count on this post. This is another caveat for using the plugin where dynamic content will only refresh or be updated when the cached pages are refreshed or viewed by certain users when the page is not actually cached.

WordPress 2.6 Released & Sabahan.com Upgraded… Again

July 15, 2008 by · 11 Comments 

Well what do you know! Two days after upgrading Sabahan.com to WordPress 2.5.1, a new version, v2.6 was released today, almost a month ahead schedule.

While I am still at it playing with the new interface, I might just as well upgrade Sabahan.com to the latest version. I didn’t perform any backup because the last backup is two days old and nothing much had changed since. This post is posted after the upgrade.

It made me reconsider whether to install the WordPress Automatic Update (WAU) for Sabahan.com to make things easier. However, at its current form, I can’t help but think that it may potentially introduce security holes by changing several directories and files writable (of course you can always reset the permissions).

I also do not like the idea of allowing a plugin to create a folder (wpau-backup in this case) in the root index. That said, I feel that this isn’t a big deal if this is done on my secondary blogs which I have WAU installed and now is a perfect time to run it.

Other software such as Windows OS, Mac OS X, and Firefox have their own built-in update mechanism that ensures their users have the latest version. This essentially reduces security holes and ensures their users obtain the latest version without having to go through tedious upgrade rituals.

And for WordPress, having an auto-upgrade feature integrated at its core seems like a natural progression which the developer should consider in the future version. The Automatic Upgrade option was planned for WordPress 2.6 but it appears that this feature didn’t make it in this current version.

Version 2.6 contains a number of interesting new features such as the ability to track changes to every post and page. This feature adds wiki-like tracking of edits, useful for multi-author blogs if you want to keep track of who’s doing what.

Then there’s the post from wherever you are on the web with Press This bookmarklet that you can add to your browser toolbar. If you click “Press This” from a YouTube page for instance, the video embed code will be extracted into your WordPress post where you can add your own comment and post it in your blog.

I can imagine this can be handy if you are running a video blog or you just get your inspiration from places like FaceBook, Del.icio.us, FriendFeed etc.

In addition, you can now take advantage of the Google plugin for Firefox and IE called Gears which speed up your blogging activities by caching commonly used Javascript and CSS files on your local computer.

If you change your theme often, you’ll be happy to know that you can now preview the theme live with all your content without having to make it immediately active on your site. This is great feature which I’ll test soon as I am now in the process of looking for a new theme for Sabahan.com.

I’ve also noticed inactive plugins are separated from the active ones making the interface more initutive and easier to keep track of your active plugins.

Some other smaller features and enhancements in version 2.6 are

  • Word count! Never guess how many words are in your post anymore.
  • Image captions, so you can add sweet captions like Political Ticker does under your images.
  • Bulk management of plugins.
  • A completely revamped image control to allow for easier inserting, floating, and resizing. It’s now fully integrated with the WYSIWYG.
  • Drag-and-drop reordering of Galleries.
  • Plugin update notification bubble.
  • Customizable default avatars.
  • You can now upload media when in full-screen mode.
  • Remote publishing via XML-RPC and APP is now secure (off) by default, but you can turn it on easily through the options screen.
  • Full SSL support in the core, and the ability to force SSL for security.
  • You can now have many thousands of pages or categories with no interface issues.
  • Ability to move your wp-config file and wp-content directories to a custom location, for “clean” SVN checkouts.
  • Select a range of checkboxes with “shift-click.”
  • You can toggle between the Flash uploader and the classic one.
  • A number of proactive security enhancements, including cookies and database interactions.
  • Stronger better faster versions of TinyMCE, jQuery, and jQuery UI.
  • Version 2.6 fixes approximately 194 bugs.

I can go on and on about all the new features in this version but I suggest you watch the following video if you are interested to learn more about them

 

Download WordPress 2.6 here

Sabahan.com Upgraded to WordPress 2.5.1

July 14, 2008 by · 14 Comments 

After putting this off for so long, I finally made the move and upgraded Sabahan.com WordPress installation to v2.5.1 from the pre-historic v2.2.1. (OK it’s not that bad).

The upgrade went without a glitch, apart from the Popularity Contest plugin which refuse to work with the latest WordPress version. A fix has been found and the develper is working on the new release.

What may seem like old news to those early adopters, I’ve just found out several nifty features in WordPress 2.5.1 that could make my blogging activity easier and more fun.

The new interface is a welcome update which gives WordPress a fresher and current feel to it. It’s both pretty and more user-friendly. Although, there are a few changes that require some getting used to at least initially.

The main navigation menu has been split up into two separate groups. Frequently access items are placed on the left, while items such as the Settings, Plugins and Users are placed to the right.

 

Personally I prefer the previous arrangement where all items are grouped together and fortunately, one of my favourite plugins, the Admin Drop Down Menu let me do that.

 

 

Several functions that used to be on the sidebar are now moved below the post. This includes the Categories which forces you to scroll down when selecting categories if you have a smaller screen. Also, I still prefer the “Save” and “Publish” button below the post instead of on the sidebar.

I expect I’ll encounter more changes as I continue using the new version. While everyone has his/her personal preference as far as the interface is concern, it would be nice if WordPress allows users to rearrange any elements on the page to suit their personal needs with AJAX drag and drop support in the future.

Another cool feature in WordPress 2.5.1 (included since v2.5 I think) is the ability to update your WordPress plugins automatically. No more searching, downloading, unzipping, uploading via FTP as all these steps can be done automatically by clicking a link on your dashboard which is visible when a new version of a plugin is available.

Talking about auto-updating, there’s a plugin that automatically upgrade your WordPress installation to the latest version with a click of a button. The plugin is called WordPress Automatic Upgrade and is compatible with WordPress 1.5 and above.

It basically follows the 5 steps upgrade route suggested by WordPress upgrade instructions

The plugin will perform the following steps during an upgrade:

  1. Backs up the files and makes available a link to download it.
  2. Backs up the database and makes available a link to download it.
  3. Downloads the latest files from http://wordpress.org/latest.zip and unzips it.
  4. Puts the site in maintenance mode.
  5. De-activates all active plugins and remembers it.
  6. Upgrades WordPress files.
  7. Gives you a link that will open in a new window to upgrade installation.
  8. Re-activates the plugins.

The plugin can also be run in an automated mode where all the above steps will be executed quietly without your intervention.

This can be a definite time saver for everyone running WordPress especially for those who manage multiple blogs. I’ll give it a test drive on several of my blogs. But for important blogs like Sabahan.com, I prefer doing manual upgrade as a precaution until I’m convince the plugin works flawlessly (or officially recommended by WordPress) after several upgrade exercises.

Traffic to Your Blog – A Recipe For Success

June 16, 2008 by · 39 Comments 

I know it has been a while since my last post, sorry if I kept you waiting ;). However, I feel that if I don’t have anything substantial to write besides writing a quick comment about other blogs’ posts, I’d rather not write anything.

Posting for the sake of posting doesn’t add much value to this blog.

As you may also know, I’ve been busy with some other projects. I don’t know about you but I find that I am not as productive when I multitask between blogging and my other projects. It’s either blogging for today or doing the other projects but not both.

OK enough of that, now it’s time for a follow up to my previous blog post. In that post, I mentioned the success of a blog can be attributed to the following factors

Blog Success = Truckload of Traffic + Good Monetization Technique + Good User Experience

This post will take a look at the first variable in that equation which is getting truckload of traffic to your blog.

It’s important to realise that having truckload of traffic to your blog doesn’t mean a thing if it’s NOT targeted. A friend of mine proudly told me the other day that his blog gets thousands of visitors per day, it’s so popular to the point that its monthly bandwidth allotment often consumed within days.

I took a look at his blog stats and sure enough the number of hits it’s getting daily was rather impressive but then I noticed nobody was leaving a comment. Sabahan.com gets a fraction of that traffic and yet it has more comment.

Then I realised that his traffic probably came from those auto-surf traffic programs traffic exchange programs. Autosurf traffic is a program which sets your browser to surf certain websites automatically. Often, for every 2 pages viewed, your own page will be viewed 1 time by someone else in the exchange.

Sounds good? I don’t think so. Those programs will get you traffic all right but the kind of visitors that usually ended up on you blog are untargeted visitors who don’t care about what you write.

If you display AdSense on your pages, it’s against Google AdSense policy to use autosurf, click-exchange programs, and paid-to-surf programs to drive traffic because these methods artificially generate clicks or impressions on your Google ads.

What you need is targeted traffic where the visitors are genuinely interested in your content. I should mention that I have written extensively about attracting traffic to your blog. The following post is a good one to get off on the right foot.

How to Attract Traffic and Get Some Activity Going In Your Blog

While new methods of attracting traffic to your blog are coming out all the time, there are a few that remains as timeless classics and continue to be relevant today.

 

1. Write Better Content

Before you do anything else, take a look at your content. A blog post consists of several elements which are the title and the body copy. Most newbies fail to realise that blog headlines are so important they could make or break their blog.

Before your visitors read your content, they’d have to read the headline first. Writing a poor and uninspiring headline could result in you losing the majority of your visitors. Lets me give an example: which of the following headlines you’d likely click?

 

1. Popular blogs by Technorati
2. 50 Most Influential Blogs in Malaysia

Now, here’s a post I wrote earlier to help you write good headlines for your blog posts: 10 Tips How to Write Blog Post Headlines That Hit

The second element that you have to pay attention to is of course the body copy. Here’s a tip, you don’t need a big talent to produce good content with a perfect grammar and so on.

You just have to write posts that YOUR VISITORS want to read. You see, when it comes to making money online, blogging is often not about what you want but what your visitors want. While I might not be the best writer in town, that doesn’t stop many people from visiting Sabahan.com daily.

One of the most successful bloggers (or rather netpreneur) IMHO is Shoemoney.com. If you read his blog, it won’t be long before you notice that Shoemoney has a terrible grammar for someone whose first language is English. But that doesn’t prevent him from making almost US40,000 from his blog last May.

Also writing about your personal life won’t make you money, unless you are some kind of celebrity already or somehow manage to attract die-hard fans like KennySia.com. If you are OK with that, than this tip probably doesn’t apply to you.

In addition, learn the art of link baiting and please do not start another how to make money blog if your main goal is to make money from it. You’ll better off selecting other niche such as entertainment or technology. There’s a follow up to that post that you might be interested in reading here.

 

2. Optimize Your Blog for the Search Engines

As time goes by, it’s becoming increasing difficult to get your blog listed high up in the search engine results. While you can perform some on page search engine optimizations which undoubtedly is important, it won’t guarantee a good ranking because obviously the external factors play a much bigger role these days.

External factors or off page optimization factors include anything from the number of sites linking to your blog, the anchor text used by those sites that link to you, the PageRank of those pages that link to you and so on. They all influence your ultimate ranking on the search engines.

While you can’t directly adjust the external factors to your advantage, you can at least do certain things such as improving your blog content (my first point), attracting links from other blogs/sites and making your blog more social by participating in the networking activities.

 

3. Attract Links from Other Sites

Again, this comes back to your content. You’ll more likely attract links from other bloggers if you offer something that people want to read.

Also bear in mind that not all links are created equal. Those that would benefit you most are links from trusted, authoritative, high PageRank sites, links that use relevant keywords in their anchor text, links from relevant sites, and links from variety of sources instead of just from one or two of your own sites for instance.

Again, learn the art of linkbaiting. An introduction to linkbaiting would be in order if you are totally new to this. Here’s another practical advice from Matt Cutts, the Google engineer about link baiting.

 

4. Take Full Advantage of the Social Media Sites

Social media sites are basically sites for communities of people who share interests. They offer an excellent opportunity for you to attract attention and targeted traffic to your blog instantly; otherwise a quite impossible thing to do nowadays with every blog competing for attention.

These sites allow you to submit news stories, blog posts, articles and other media and share them with other users or the general public.

If your post gets into the front page of Digg.com or Slashdot.com, expect a traffic tsunami. One of my posts in my other blog was dugg once and over the course of three days, over 42,000 unique visitors read that post. Besides the traffic, your blog will receive instant visibility and this will naturally attract links from various other sites.

Some of the social media sites that worth exploring are

  1. Digg
  2. Slashdot
  3. Reddit
  4. Fark
  5. StumbleUpon
  6. Mixx

 

So there you have it. In my next post, I’ll write about the second variable which is “Good Monetizing Technique”.

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