Stuck for Blogging Ideas?

While blogging often looks ridiculously easy to readers, bloggers know that coming up with fresh, entertaining web space content on a regular basis can be downright nerve-wracking. If you’re feeling stuck, don’t despair—you’re not the only one. Writers’ block hits bloggers just as often as authors, and it’s just as frustrating. Here, you’ll find a few ideas to jump-start your brain and get those creative ideas flowing.

Simple Fixes

Sometimes, finding fresh inspiration can be as easy as reading. Pick up a few copies of magazines devoted to—or somehow related to—your web space content. You can browse websites as well, at no cost. If your web space is more literary, consider picking up a book in a related genre.

While it’s never a good idea to simply copy ideas, reading through related material can give you fresh ideas as to what readers are seeking. If you spot an article which catches your interest, changes are good that it will do the same for your audience. Read it carefully, paying attention to what you feel is wrong with it. Next time you sit down at the keyboard, spin those missing portions for a post which is entirely your own!

Going Way Outside the Box

If you run your own blog, it’s important to remember that you can do virtually anything you want in your web space. If an idea interests you, write about it! Even something totally unrelated to your typical subject matter can be entertaining if written in a fun, engaging way. Many of the most successful bloggers around occasionally drop in personal stories, and their readers it them up.

If you’re uncomfortable talking about personal life online, or if your blog is unsuited to anything too off-topic, get creative. Grab a topic—any topic—and twist it around until it relates to your web space content. This not only enhances your craft by forcing you to think outside your comfort zone, but it entertains readers by providing a totally unexpected take on a familiar subject.

An unfamiliar, exciting format or placement for your blog is another way to set yourself apart. You’ll discover some great options at our top hosting pick, as well as our other recommended hosts.

Something for Nothing

Everybody loves the chance to win something, and there are few posts easier to write than contests. Beauty bloggers, for example, have had huge success—and massive traffic increases—by offering a bundle of beauty loot. This basic concept can be applied to virtually any subject matter, and is virtually guaranteed to interest your readers. You don’t even need a physical prize—offering to feature a reader’s own writing on your blog is a completely free yet extremely attractive way to draw traffic.

Take It Outside

Blogging, especially as a job, can be draining simply because it’s an entirely indoor activity. Humans need a bit of fresh air every day, both for health and mental reasons. Sometimes that new idea you’ve been trying so hard to think up is—quite literally—just around the corner. Take a quick stroll and let your mind wander—you may be shocked at how fast the fresh ideas start rolling in.

As you can see, there are tons of simple, cost-free ways to increase your web space traffic and break through blogger’s block. Always keep this in mind, however—staring at your computer screen and willing an idea to come almost never works. Shake things up, look around and get a fresh perspective—you’ll see the results in increased traffic!

Do You Really Need E-Commerce?

E-Commerce, for many online sellers, is somewhat like the last frontier. You want to offer the service, you think you’re ready, but something keeps holding you back. What if you make a mistake? What if something goes wrong? What if…what if…?

This type of thinking, although common, is ultimately bad for business. Your web space deserves all the time and attention you can give it, and your customers deserve the utmost in convenience. In short, if you’re selling products, you do need e-commerce. Here, we’ll review the best ways to get started and the benefits your customers will enjoy.

Start with Existing Marketplaces

For the truly commerce-phobic, sites which incorporate e-commerce are an excellent way to become familiar with selling online. Etsy, which is dedicated to handmade and vintage products, is a great example. Through these sites, you can become familiar with the process of handling credit card and PayPal orders. After a while, once you feel more confident, you can move up to offering e-commerce in your own personal web space.

Choose a Trusted Platform or Software

There are several reliable and trustworthy selling platforms out there, each backed by a reputable security guarantee. These are your choices—don’t be tempted to cut costs by choosing an unknown provider. When dealing with customers’ money, safety is key. Your web space needs to be a safe place for customers to shop, and a cut-rate e-commerce provider is a very dangerous way to save a few bucks.

Make It Convenient

In the past, you’ve probably found a product or service online, only to find that you can’t purchase it. Frustrating, right? Don’t let your customers go through this—they’re likely to end up becoming somebody else’s customers.

Convenience is huge when it comes to online shopping, and a checkout right on your web space is the most convenient option. While some online sellers start by offering products through a larger site such as Amazon, keep in mind that this also automatically places other products in front of your customers. Start small if you must, but keep your own e-commerce web space as your ultimate goal. In today’s society, where we’ve all been conditioned to expect service at a single click, your customers will appreciate the effort.

Show Your Accepted Payment Methods

Whether it’s actually true or not, seeing a verified, familiar e-commerce checkout logo on a web space automatically instills a level of trust in customers. Seeing that your web space will accept their credit card or PayPal lets them know that you’re serious about your business, and have taken the steps to ensure a speedy, convenient checkout experience. This speaks volumes about your reliability as a seller, and nearly always leads to increased sales.

If you’re on an extremely tight budget, you may want to begin by accepting only PayPal. This is low-cost in nearly every scenario, and is quickly becoming one of the most trusted forms of e-commerce. Once the increased sales start rolling in, you’ll have enough extra cash to advance your e-commerce into having your own credit card merchant account. In the meantime, however, your customers will still feel an increased level of trust at seeing an e-commerce name they know related to your web space.

Look Professional

There are a few major, nationally-known sites which simply do not offer e-commerce. This is common in the worlds of haute couture, for example. However, these sites can afford to avoid e-commerce because they are so well known. For most small businesses, this level of name recognition is still years into the future.

In order to appear as professional as possible, e-commerce is a must. Regardless of how detailed your product or service descriptions, or how beautiful your photographs, customers will feel they’re dealing with an amateur if they can’t purchase via your own web space.

Conclusion

Although it can be daunting at first, e-commerce is a true must for any serious business-related web space. Not only will it make purchasing more convenient for your customers, but it will lend your site an air of professionalism and consumer trust which can’t be found through any other site component. Want to get started today? Check out these hosts, all of which let you install an e-commerce system with a few clicks!

Top 10 WordPress Plugins

WordPress’s basic feature set makes it a top-notch blogging platform, but the software isn’t limited to that. There are all sorts of plugins that can enhance and extend its functionality. Let’s look into ten of those.

Jetpack

While it’s generally an inferior option to hosting a WordPress site on your own web space, the hosted solution provided by WordPress.com does include a number of interesting social features. Additional stats, email subscriptions, and social networking integration are just three of these features; there’s a huge list of everything included at the link. Jetpack is a massive upgrade to WordPress’s ability to build and retain community, and can be useful for almost anyone.

Tumblr Importer

Not every worthwhile plugin is as feature-packed as Jetpack; some are more utilitarian. Tumblr Importer does just that: it imports posts from a Tumblr blog to your new WordPress installation. If you were using Tumblr before setting up your own web space, this means that you can effortlessly carry content over. Your users will never know that this plugin is there—but it does its job, and that’s what matters.

Hotfix

If everything is going well, Hotfix does nothing. Literally, nothing. That’s okay, because this plugin is intended for when things don’t go well—it patches known bugs in the installed version of WordPress that have yet to be fixed in a core release. It’s not a substitute for a WordPress update, but it can help immensely with security while you’re waiting on that update.

Akismet

Spam is ubiquitous in comment threads and email inboxes the world over; that doesn’t mean you can’t combat it, though. Akismet is a web service that identifies comments as spam via a sophisticated pattern recognition algorithm, pulled from its data on every site using the service. It’ll go a long way to making your site’s comments worth using.

Google Analytics for WordPress

If you want advanced data on your site’s visitors, Google Analytics provides some of the best tools available. This plugin ties that functionality into WordPress, allowing you to customize and target your content or advertising for its viewers.

bbPress

If you want to foster community among your users, a message board is a great way to do that—but most of the existing forum software is hard to use and set up on your own web space. bbPress ties that functionality into WordPress, giving it a fully functional message board.

Google XML Sitemaps

Your content is only worth as much as its viewers, and most of those viewers will be encountering it through a search engine. XML sitemaps allow search engines to better explore and catalog your site, increasing its visibility. This plugin generates a sitemap automatically, in real time. All of your pages are included and made available to search engines, without any effort on your part.

Ultimate TinyMCE

WordPress has a basic WYSIWYG text editor for your posts, but by default you’ll have to use HTML to do anything really impressive with the formatting. Ultimate TinyMCE beefs up the options of that text editor, and enables you to do far more entirely from within the graphical interface. It’s great for non-technical users.

NextGEN Gallery

If your site uses a lot of images, a properly organized image gallery can be a good way to make those available to users. NextGEN Gallery integrates a powerful, easy-to-use image gallery solution into WordPress, and makes presentation of visual content much easier on you.

WP Super Cache

By default, WordPress runs resource-intensive PHP scripts to generate every page served to your users. WP Super Cache stores the HTML results of those scripts, and—unless the page has been updated—will serve these static HTML versions to users if possible. It’s the same result on the user’s end, but it conserves your web server’s resources.

WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org

The Two Versions of WordPress:

You actually have two options with WordPress: the self-hosted version (wordpress.org), and the WordPress.com version (wordpress.com). Each version has its advantages and disadvantages.

In the WordPress.com version, you just sign up for a blog very similar to the way you sign up for free email. You get an instant blog that is hosted on http://wordpress.com/.

In the case of the self-hosted version, the software is free, but you need a domain name and have to purchase web hosting so you can host it yourself.

Pros and Cons of the WordPress.com Version

It’s easy to start a blog or website with WordPress.com. All you need to do is register and then start working on your website. You don’t have to worry about hosting, setup, upgrades, security, backups, spam, etc. which are all taken care of by WordPress.com.

WordPress.com does provide many themes and a lot of features, but you are limited to only those themes. You can’t do any custom code changes and you can’t upload any plug-ins. So basically, it has limitations as far as the functionality and customization options are concerned.

There are other drawbacks as well. WordPress.com does not allow you to monetize your blog using affiliate links and pay per click programs like AdSense or Infolinks. Although you can have your own domain name, like yourbusiness.com for your website, a paid upgrade is required. If you want it free, you only get a subdomain, e.g. yourbusiness.wordpress.com.

Pros and Cons of the Self-Hosted Version (wordpress.org)

In the case of the self-hosted version, which you can get directly at http://wordpress.org/, the advantages and disadvantages are different. You get a free script that you have to install on a web server. You are responsible for maintenance aspects of your site, like hosting, installation, security, backup, and fighting spam. However, these are not difficult to do even with minimal knowledge about web hosting. Good web hosts, such as the ones recommended here, have a one-click install of WordPress, and after that everything can be managed from the dashboard. For any technical issues, the customer support team of your hosting provider will be able to help you, though this is rarely required.

If you have a self-hosted version of WordPress, you have complete freedom. There are no restrictions on what you can do with your website, except the reasonable restrictions that your hosting provider may impose. With paid web hosting, this is not something to worry about.

If you want to get yourself a web presence, then one of the best ways would be to find WordPress web space that allows you to do one-click installation. It’s generally better to use the self-hosted version rather than live with the restrictions of WordPress.com.

WordPress Web Space

With humble beginnings as a simple blogging platform, WordPress has since then grown into one of the most popular content management systems (CMS) in use today. WordPress web space is available on most web hosts and its many benefits make it the preferred CMS for not only blogs, but also for small business websites.

What You Can Do with WordPress

WordPress is a web application that manages all aspects of your website in the same way an operating system manages all aspects of your computer. It allows you to input the content you want to display on your website, specify how it should be displayed, and then displays it to your visitors. It also allows your visitors to interact with you and other visitors. It manages all the content including its input, storage, retrieval, and presentation.

WordPress was originally designed to be a blogging software and so it has all the features that a typical blog would require, such as making a new post, accepting comments from users, etc. It also allows you to create static pages on your web space which can be used to present non-blog content, for example, an About page or a static home page. All these can then be linked through customizable menus and widgets, and this makes WordPress very suitable for blogs as well as small websites.

Benefits of Using WordPress

  • It’s free. You don’t have to pay anything for the software. The only thing you have to pay for is the web hosting and domain name.
  • It’s easy to install. Our recommended web hosts all come with a bundled tool called Fantastico, which allows you to install WordPress easily from your control panel.
  • It has a user-friendly and intuitive interface. Once you’ve logged into WordPress, you don’t need any special training to use it. If you know how to use a web browser and a word processor, you already have enough skills to work with it. You won’t find yourself frequently running to the web for help even in the initial stages.
  • Help is always available. Even if you want to do something advanced, you’ll find a lot of help on the web. All you need to do is Google it. WordPress has a large following and an active online community.
  • It has lots of free and paid resources. WordPress functions can be expanded by using pieces of software called plug-ins, and the appearance of your website can be customized with themes. There are many plug-ins and themes available for you to choose from, and in most cases they’re free. Everything can be installed right from your WordPress dashboard. All updates to WordPress, its plug-ins and themes can also be done from the dashboard.
  • It won’t get outdated. Being open-source software supported by a huge online community has its advantages. WordPress is being continuously improved and new features are being added with each release. The themes and plug-ins are also being continuously improved.

Are you interested in WordPress web space? These web hosts allow you to install WordPress in just a few clicks.

PHP Web Space

HTML is an incredibly powerful tool for creating webpages in its own right. But it’s limited. It’s just a markup language. You can’t do any complex calculations with HTML alone, because it doesn’t execute. You need a scripting language for that—and one of the best is PHP.

What is PHP?

PHP has become the de facto standard language for web applications because of its combination of ease of use and power. PHP code is run entirely server-side, allowing CPU-intensive tasks to be performed without worrying about your users’ ability to handle them. This means that—given good web space—complex applications don’t need to place any more burden on their users than ordinary web pages.

If you have the ability to write your own PHP code, then of course that opens up an incredible number of options for you. You can do almost anything, given that you have the skills and resources.

Using PHP Platforms

But if you can’t code in PHP, there are huge numbers of high-quality scripts available to you, both open-source and proprietary. There are forums like the free MyBB or the paid XenForo. There are blogging platforms like WordPress. You can even set up an entire website with ease using a PHP-powered CMS like the free, open-source e107.

For more advanced users, you can set up a wiki with a solution like MediaWiki, or even use a full-fledged e-commerce system like Magento. Any of these can easily be extended with plug-ins or themes, as well. Using PHP, it’s very easy to create a website that fits your precise needs.

PHP Web Space

But what does your web space need to have available if you want to run PHP-based apps? Well, for starters, there’s the obvious: your hosting provider needs to run a recent version of the PHP parser.

The current version is 5.4.12, as of the time of this writing—though you may want to check that information yourself. Your host needs to be running as recent a version of PHP as possible for best results; most current apps don’t absolutely require the latest and greatest version, but older, unsupported versions can hamper performance and create security holes.

Databases

Databases are critical too. Simple applications can work with flat files, but larger ones need to be able to quickly and easily organize and work with large amounts of data. SQL variants are the most common variety of database engines that you’ll need support for if you just want to run existing scripts.

In particular, SQLite and MySQL are compatible with the vast majority of publicly-available PHP software packages. Your web space should provide you with a well-maintained SQL server running up-to-date versions of the software in question. You should also have the ability to create and use several databases. At least three databases are good. Unlimited is better, even if you don’t intend to use them immediately. It’s about room to grow. Your plans can and will change as time goes on, and you should have the ability to expand your website the same way you expand your business.