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Google Tools to Enhance your Blog

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googleAside from Google’s Blogger platform, there are several tools you can use to enhance your blog and overall writing experience. From interactive maps you can embed in your blog pages to an online notepad to organize your thoughts and ideas, Google offers us many free tools and services which can help us blog better and interact with our readers to a greater extent.

In this article, I’ll offer an overview of Google’s  most useful services and tools to enhance your blog – no matter which platform you are using to publish your articles online.

Google Gadgets

gadgetsGadgets are small objects which enable you to add dynamic content to your blog pages, either in the sidebar, footer or directly within your blog pages.

These are similar to “widgets” which you may already be familiar with through your blogging platform (eg: Blogger, WordPress, Typepad).

There are literally thousands of Gadgets available through Google which you can add to your blog by simply copying and pasting a few lines of code. Here is a selection of the most popular and useful Gadgets for bloggers:

  • Map: Add an interactive map to your post or sidebar
  • Google Translate my Page: Ideal for readers to translate your articles into their native language
  • Multiple RSS Reader: Add headlines from your favorite blogs like an enhanced interactive blogroll
  • Day Calendar: Add the date and time to your sidebar
  • Quick Email: Enable readers to email you from your blog without having to open up their email client

To add a Google Gadget to your blog, simply browse or search the Gadget directory for the item you would like to add. Click the “Add to my webpage” button, and you will see a preview of how your gadget will appear.

You can then alter the dimensions and color scheme of the gadget to suit your blog design and preview the changes on the page. When you have finished making any alterations, click the “Get the code” button and copy the code offered into your blog sidebar, post or page.

If you use Blogger to publish your blog, it is even easier to add Google Gadgets to your layout. Simply go to Layout>Page Elements in your Blogger dashboard and click the area where you would like to add your gadget.

On the pop-up page, you will be given the option to add a Google Gadget as well as the regular Blogger widgets to your layout. Simply choose the Gadget option, search for your favored item, and add it to your layout in the usual manner.

Google Friend Connect

A relatively new service, Google Friend Connect allows you to add rich social features to your site which enable readers to interact and engage with your site content to a much greater extent. From becoming “members” to adding comments, tags and media, Friend Connect offers a range of services which can help grow a relationship with your blog visitors and develop a simple blog into a community based site.

To get started with Friend Connect, you will first need to set up your blog by uploading two core files to your root hosting. Those using Blogger may be interested to read Antonio Lupetti’s article about adding Friend Connect functionality to Blogger templates instead.

Once you have set up your site, you can choose from various options and widgets to add interactivity to your blog, including dynamic comments, a message board where readers can tag and add media, and even a log-in feature which would enable you to provide content only for registered members of your blog.

To learn more about Friend Connect, take a look at the Friend Connect pages and FAQ.

Google Calendar

calendarGoogle Calendar offers an online means of organizing your schedule. You can set up any number of calendars, both personal and public, and can choose to share your calendar with friends and family.

Many bloggers like to share their calendar with readers. One useful possibility is to offer a schedule of future posts/important events for your blog readers.

While WordPress and other platforms may offer plugins to display a calendar within blog pages, it is even easier to utilize Google Calendar for this purpose by creating a public calendar which can be embedded in any page or post (including Blogger-based blogs) using a few lines of iframe code.

To achieve this, simply log in to Google Calendar and create/edit your calendar as required. If you do not already have a Google account, you will need to create one before you can create your first calendar.

Next, choose your calendar from the menu in the left-hand sidebar and click the “Settings” link.

On this page, you need to click the name of your calendar which will bring up a page of advanced settings for this calendar. Then scroll down the page a little until you see the “Embed this Calendar” section. From here you can edit the appearance (dimensions and color scheme) as preferred and acquire the correct iframe code to embed your calendar in your blog.

Once you have added your calendar to your blog, this will update automatically to reflect each new entry and the passing of time.

To get started with Google Calendar, take a look at the main calendar page.

Google Apps for your Domain

If you own your own domain name but don’t want to pay for extra email/calendar features from your domain provider, you can utilize Google Apps for Your Domain to map your domain name to your email address, Google Calendar and more.

Essentially this offers a more professional approach to your blogging and professional persona: as most web professionals would agree, an email address like your-name@yourdomain.com is far more preferable to yourname@free-email-provider.com! What’s more, it can save you money as you won’t have to pay extra monthly or yearly fees for a service which Google provides for free!

When using Google Apps for Your Domain, Google does not become your domain host. Instead, your domain name is mapped to the Google services you choose to associate it with (for example, your gMail account. You will still manage your domain name and registration from your domain provider.

To get started with Google Apps for your domain, take a look at the six steps required for set-up on the Google Apps page or have a look at this video:

Google Maps

maps-bt-postOne feature I have personally found useful in recent weeks is integrating Google Maps with my blogs. If you have a business site, you can use Google Maps to show customers exactly where your business is based (with useful driving directions and street views); travel bloggers or local interest writers can offer their readers interactive maps to explain exactly where their articles are based or written.

Google Maps can be inserted into blog pages (or posts) or anywhere in your blog layout you choose to add them. There are many different methods you could use to add Google Maps to your blog, many of which offer unique features to tweak the appearance of your maps to the greatest degree.

My personal preference is to use the simplest option: look up the location for your map on Google Maps and embed this in the blog as an iframe.

To embed a Google Map in your blog, visit Google Maps and search for the location you wish to display. Then click on “Link” at the top right of your map. This will display a small pop-out section which includes the default iFrame code to embed this map, or a link to help you customize the appearance of your map to suit your blog’s overall design.

Google Notebook

notebookDuring the course of your everyday browsing, chances are you’ll come across sites or articles you’d like to reference in your blog posts later. Rather than keep a messy handwritten notepad or disorganized bookmarks in your browser, why not use Google’s Notebook service instead?

Using Google Notebook enables you to take “clippings”, write notes and even organize media while you are browsing the web, and organize this for later use. It’s much easier and quicker to use Notepad than other forms of organizing web clippings, especially if you make use of the Firefox extension (which enables you to organize your notes without having to navigate away from the page you are on!).

To get started with Google Notebook, simply visit the Notebook page and log in with your Google account. You can then create any number of notebooks (for example, one for each planned blog post, another for interesting sites and one other for inspiration and ideas) and organize your clippings and media for later use:

Overview

Google offers a huge variety of free tools and services which can be utilized to enhance your own blogging experience and for the benefit of readers of your blog. Here we have discussed several of Google’s most useful services and tools for bloggers, with explanations of how they can be best used in the context of better blogging.

Since all of Google’s services are (currently) free for anyone to use and hosted on reliable servers, these tools are perfectly accessible and offer greater interactivity for your blog which can in turn, help generate a wider readership of your blog posts.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this article. Please feel free to leave your comments and opinions below.

Image Credits: Google Einstein by DannySullivan, Gadgets by jblyberg, Calendar by Joe LanmanGoogle Maps by zone41, Notebook by Marcin Wichary. All via Flickr Creative Commons.

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Amanda is a freelance blogger and web/blog designer. She writes about Blogger at www.BloggerBuster.com and maintains several other blogs on various subjects.

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Who Do You Surround Yourself with in Your Blogger Network?

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Some bloggers cannot see the forest for the trees, like the beautiful, lush, thriving national park I visited in New Jersey recently.

The masses tend to be caught up in fear, pain and struggle because they cannot see the big picture.

Birds of a feather flock together.

You have heard that one, right?

I circle the globe and change time zones like most folks breathe. Would I be wise to surround myself with people who tremble at leaving their home town or home neighborhood? Nope. Such people would teach me the world makes for a scary, dangerous place. I would get advice like play it safe, be comfortable, get a job, buy a home and take it easy, from such folks. Such folks also live a bland life because if you rarely or never leave your comfort zone, you cannot:

  • grow
  • thrive
  • face your fears
  • serve humanity
  • be a bright light for people to follow
  • live your deepest, wildest dreams

Obviously, I chose to surround myself with bloggers who happily circled the globe as successful bloggers. I also surrounded myself with happy, successful, home body bloggers too; to learn the basics of building a rocking blog effectively. I learned how to succeed from my blogger friend network, sponging up their knowledge, inspiration and insight.

Meanwhile, if you surround yourself with new, struggling or failing bloggers you will get advice on how to struggle, fail, or flounder through your blogging day.

Do bloggers around you complain about losing $50 on blogging? Lose these zero’s immediately and surround yourself with bloggers who invest thousands of dollars on their blogs. High rollers teach you to succeed. Broke jokes teach you how to fail.

Do bloggers around you see making $25 as being a huge amount of money? You better lose the low-aiming crowd to surround yourself with bloggers who see $1000 and $10,000 and more as making coin.

Do bloggers around you circle the globe as swash buckling travelers? Check out this photo from my trip to Vietnam. Kong: Skull Island was filmed here.

Time to ditch the comfort zone crowd to hang with adventurous types.

Don’t get me wrong; I celebrate every cent I make online. But if you think I’m placing a sponsored post for less than $1000, you are insane. Like a famous super model who said she didn’t get out of bed for anything less than $10,000 a day, you need to develop a prosperity consciousness that demands big money and ignores appearance of poverty, lack, limitation and fear.

Who Do You Hang With?

Who do you count as blogging buddies? Happy, highly successful, prospering bloggers? You better, to increase your success.

For example, observe my blogging paperback on profiting. The aftermarket price is $45 USD. If most or all bloggers in your network would feel uncomfortable receiving $45 in royalties for a paperback, you better lose that network and surround yourself with bloggers who believe in abundance. I know John Chow feels comfortable receiving $45 for anything he offers online. Who cares? It is just money. It is only money.

Surround yourself only with bloggers who:

  • have posture
  • have authority
  • charge top dollar
  • profit freely
  • prosper freely
  • exude confidence
  • have a highly developed prosperity consciousness

You learn from the best, gain inspiration from the best and become the best by surrounding yourself with the best bloggers on earth.

But you need to be honest in who you choose to hang with in your blogging circles. Be clear. Be truthful with yourself. Maybe you feel comfortable trading comments with struggling bloggers you befriended 10 years ago but nothing spectacular happens for you if you surround yourself with struggling bloggers, being firmly fixed in your comfort zone.

Release all bloggers who are not happy and prospering.

Fill your blogger friend network with empowered, inspired, happy, successful, prospering bloggers.

Nothing personal.

Just your blogging success at stake.

 

 

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Blogging

Are You Chasing the Flavor of the Month?

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My first fundamental of successful blogging focuses you on being present.

All of our power resides in the moment.

None of our power resides in the future or past because neither exists.

Time is illusion.

Only Now is real.

Look at that brilliant featured image. I snapped it from the front porch during our trip to Fiji. Sweet things happen when you are in the moment, focusing all power on the present.

This marks my 796th blog post on Blogging Tips. I feel grateful to Zac for the opportunity to serve you. Plus I feel grateful for all success that flowed to me through these guest posts.

How in the heck did I write and publish nearly 800 guest posts on one blog?

I am in the moment, mostly. I am present. Plus I never, never, ever chase the flavor of the month.

Bruce Lee and Blogging

Alonzo Pichardo and I often chatted about being patient, persistent and present during the Online Success Chats Podcast.

Being patient, persistent and present helps you tap into immense powers, including the power of being creative *and* prolific. See my 800 blog posts on Blogging Tips as evidence of such power. Toss in my 2,008 articles (between posts and pages) on Blogging From Paradise and you understand: focusing on one core task, or core purpose, in the present, leads to amazing things.

Bruce Lee spoke of fearing not the man who practiced 10,000 kicks once, but he did fear the man who practiced one kick 10,000 times. He embodied this mindset in his genius, Renaissance Man type ways.

Lee’s wisdom and physical prowess are both timeless because he understood and lived this great truth: do 1 thing so frequently, with a focused energy, being in the moment, that you do it incredibly well. He understood the truth of how I live my life: where your attention and energy goes, grows.

The Flavor of the Month

Most bloggers struggle because they practice 10,000 kicks once, chasing hot niches, running after trends, and choosing to blog today, and podcast tomorrow, because everybody runs a podcast these days. Wait a second; live video reigns supreme? Time to become a live video expert. Meanwhile, as you jump from niche to niche, and from blogging to podcasting to live videos, I just wrote and published 800 posts on Blogging Tips alone. Plus I wrote and published 1,000 more guest posts on other blogs.

While most bloggers chase hot trends, profitable niches and the latest game changing opportunity, guys like Alonzo and I thrive by doing one thing alone so we do it incredibly well.

Success is yours, but success is not an overnight or week-long endeavor.

Stop chasing hot niches. Visualize your dreams in detail. Focus on your blogging wins. Invest in coaching and courses from top bloggers. Surround yourself with positive vibes and positive people.

Write, publish and connect with top bloggers by helping top bloggers.

Success Finds Specialists

I took a nap this afternoon. A calm, peaceful breeze kisses my face right now as I write and enjoy the day.

Imagine if you could work from home every day? Visualize that fun and freedom.

Sweet, right?

Specialists are the only folks who work from home full time. People who do 1 thing persistently, practicing this skill, so they become super skilled in a single, specialized niche.

I gave all of my professional energy to being a blogger for the past 10 years. I became really skilled at blogging because I never chased the flavor of the month.

Avoid program hopping, niche hopping and all forms of flavor-chasing.

Do one thing. Do it well.

Succeed.

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What Is the Incredibly Easiest Way to Drive Blog Traffic?

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Drive traffic to other blogs.

Give what you want.

Help people get what they want and people help you get what you want.

I have found this to be the easiest way to drive traffic to my blog because friends I made through cross-promotion promote me around the clock, 24-7, 365. Easy peasy.

I checked my Twitter a few moments ago. During the past 3 hours I noticed 11 mentions, engagements and retweets collectively. 3 hours, 11 engagements, more blog traffic.

I drive a heavy amount of traffic to my blog by driving a heavy amount of traffic to fellow bloggers who drive a heavy amount of traffic to Blogging From Paradise every day, all day long.

The more you give, the more you get.

The hardest way to drive blog traffic is to try to do it solo. Imagine publishing one post and hitting social share buttons. Even if I do a fine job writing the post, gaining traction solo is tough because successful bloggers know: 1000 is better than 1. 1000 blogging buddies promoting you 24-7, 365 beats you promoting yourself or you trying to write and publish 5 to 10 or more posts daily.

I used to publish 60 posts daily between 2 blogs. Short videos and short posts created the bulk of the content. I had a difficult time succeeding because you can only do so much solo. I published 60 posts in a cyber cave. Nobody listened to me because I did not listen to anybody. But making friends by driving traffic to other blogs made blogging easier and easier for me.

My blogging buddies – who appreciate me promoting them – freely:

  • link to me on their blogs
  • retweet my posts
  • share my posts on Facebook
  • share my posts on LinkedIn
  • send my blog posts to their email list

That my friends is a lot of traffic flowing to my blog easily, freely and exponentially.

Every time a blogging buddy promotes you to their tribe you gain exposure to one more large, targeted audience. Imagine when you gain exposure in front of 10, 50, 100 and 1,000 or more audiences daily? This is serious traffic! Plus it is easy traffic because your prime duties of reading posts and tapping social share buttons, or, linking to fellow bloggers on your blog, are quite easy.

How to Drive Traffic to other Blogs

I spent a fair chunk of today driving traffic to other blogs.

I promoted some of my blog posts linking to my blogging buddies. I also retweeted and Facebook shared posts from other bloggers.

Each share lays the foundation for new blogging friendships and fortifies old blogging friendships. Every time I promote Donna Merrill or Alonzo Pichardo, we bond more deeply. Easy way to keep friendships strong and to grow your blog traffic exponentially.

You Will Run out of Time Solo But You Never Run out of Friends

Eventually, I ran out of time each day trying to do it all by myself. No human is super human. No human can be in a billion places at once, by their own steam.

But you never run out of friends if you are generous. During a reasonable lifetime, no blogger will befriend all 7 billion humans. You will however keep meeting friends every day if you drive traffic to other blogs every day.

As more folks befriend you, more folks promote you. What an easy way to increase traffic to your blog. Your ever expanding friend network does much of the legwork for you and also drives traffic to your blog:

  • when you sleep
  • when you travel
  • when you spend time offline with family and friends

Sounds sweet, right?

Give freely.

Drive traffic to your blog easily.

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