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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.

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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Blog Content or Promotion?

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Freaking both!!!

I just scanned a tweet. Someone noted how a well-read blog stressed promotion over creating content, going so far to say that blog traffic does not come from publishing great content. 100% of the time, this statement is not true. Why? If you do not publish valuable, helpful, great content, you could promote it in 1 billion places and nobody will care. Nobody will read it. You will not get traffic. Nobody will buy your stuff. You will not boost profits. I know top bloggers mean well, but sometimes they get so analytical that they blind themselves from truths, and advise bloggers inaccurately.

Blog content needs to rock, for people to share it, and for people to buy what you offer, or for people to hire you. But blog promotion needs to be top shelf too, or else you blog in a cyber cave. Nobody will know who you are or what you offer unless you promote your blog effectively through guest posting, through genuine blog commenting and by building your blogger friend network. No way around that one. Like I say in my course for getting featured on top blogs, you want to write your butt off and bond with niche leaders. This means plenty of creating, and plenty of connecting. Or, content and promotion.

But never get promotion twisted, guys. I received a few common emails this morning; strangers asked me if they could submit a guest post to me. I have no idea who they are, what they offer or heck, anything about them. But strangers who never earned my trust want to promote themselves and their blogs on my blog? Nope. I ignore these emails or alert them to buying my eBook so they can learn how to guest post on popular blogs. Promoting your blog is not about promoting YOUR blog. Promoting your blog is about building friendships with bloggers by helping them and asking for nothing. Allow friendships to form. As bonds form, blogging buddies promote your blog freely, expanding your reach and increasing your traffic and profits.

Of course, you need to practice your writing regularly to create skillful content showing off your expertise. Readers only gobble up and enjoy content created by skilled writers. Skilled writers practice writing daily, either online or offline. Nobody becomes skilled unless they write a bunch. But skilled writers do lay the foundation for a prolific, successful blogging campaign because folks freely share good content published by experienced, expert bloggers.

Both Content and Promotion

Focus both on creating helpful content and building bonds leading to cross-promotion. Think of promotion being an indirect thing. You will not promote your blog in 1000 places daily by copying and pasting links. But you will make friends with top bloggers by helping them and asking for nothing. These friends promote your blog in many spots; indirect but powerful, and effective, in spreading your blogging word around the clock.

Keep helping people through your content and through assisting other bloggers freely, asking for nothing. Content, and promotion, both create a dazzling blogging campaign. Beware about getting caught up in either/or; focus too much on content and you lose your blogger friend network, along with massive indirect promotion. Focus too much on promotion by building your network, and you have no quality content for them to share. Easy does it. Balance between each aspect of blogging and you will become a successful blogger.

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Does Blog Content Make You Money?

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Nope.

My eBook:

How My Wildest Travel Experiences Can Help You Become a Successful Blogger

starts off with a Bali Bang. I slammed into the ground during a wicked motorbike accident. Pain followed. Big time pain. Excruciating pain. What was my life and blogging lesson? Never take your eyes off of the road. I looked at a dog for a split second who’d been hit by a car or motorbike. Shaking my head at his injured paw, I missed the oil slick ahead. Ouch. 2 seconds later, I felt like 40,000 monkeys stabbed me in the back and lungs, after hitting pavement, Superman-style.

Blogging is similar. You will be punished if you take your eyes off of the proven, straight and narrow road of blogging fundamentals. One such fundamental is knowing YOU, not your blog, and not your content, makes money. Sometimes, we say blogs or content makes money because we speak in casual terms to help people see importance in creating and connecting. But getting clear, and helping you understand this simple concept, behooves me to stress how your generous practice, your creations and your connections make you money through your blog. Never, ever is it the other way around because blogs are inanimate objects. Content is an inanimate object too; it cannot do anything, or be anything,

You are the one, the blogger, the being, that puts everything into motion. This involves your generous effort, your willingness to learn a skill and your daily practice, creating and connecting for years, to make your content pop. Sure I sell stuff THROUGH my content but it was me, and my generous effort, and not the content itself, that did the selling. The content is not anything. Content cannot do anything. Content is worthless unless bloggers inject worth into it; see what I mean? The blogger makes it pop, or, makes content a dud, and that pop-dud outcome bases itself solely on a blogger’s generous effort and full commitment to learning their craft, day after day, for years of their lives.

You can and will succeed. You can do it. Really. But you need to understand how you are the center of it all. Everything moves according to your focus, practice and generosity. Content is a tool; like a hammer, if by itself, totally useless. Hammers need humans to work, and hammers need skilled carpenters to really sing. Content needs skilled, generous bloggers to make it sing, too, and the skills increase as your focus and generous practice, and service, increases.

Does blog content make you money? Nope, not at all. Put in the time and energy to helping folks for free. Improve your skills. Increase your exposure. In time, slowly add multiple streams of income to your blogging campaign. Allow cash to flow to you as people see you in all types of spots, making a serious impact where you show up, because of your blogging skills. Everything gets easier if you commit 100% to honing your skills blogging-wise because the content genuinely sings when you get the job done, with your prodigious, polished blogging skills.

Content makes zero dollars.

You, through your practice and generous service, develop the skills through which you make your content top notch. Profits follow.

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Why Do You Want to Publish an eBook?

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One subsection of my eBook on writing eBooks is:

Know Why You Want to Publish an eBook

Knowing why gives you clarity if you write to free yourself and to free your readers. But if you write just to make money or to be well know, clarity lessons. Fear invades your mind because you write mainly to get, not to give. Shifting from fear to fun intent-wise just takes a little decision on your part. Small potatoes really. But this shift does feel a bit uncomfortable if you are new to the eBook writing process because you need to face fears. Who wants to face fear? Nobody, really.

But facing fear is one tax to pay for being successful in blogging and life. Ditto for your self-publishing journey. I largely faced fears to be who I am today, although I keep uncovering fears along the way. Part of the journey. I am cool with that. I had to ask why I wanted to publish an eBook about 4 years ago when I went on a tear, but even before, in 2014, I asked why I published an eBook in the first place? Simple. I created a new blog and brand in Blogging From Paradise and just believed having an accompanying eBook would help me be successful. I only had one eBook in mind. I never thought beyond the single eBook. But someone told me I deserved to write another eBook so after my first, I wrote and self-published a second eBook. I caught the writing bug.

100 plus eBooks later, here I am, writing eBooks for years, and now, promoting the eBooks effectively. The why, the emotion I chose in writing eBooks, propels me forward because I do what I do to have fun, to spread love and to help you, largely. One small part of me wants to make money online too. This is OK. As long as it is a small part of what you do, eBook-wise. Moving that money aspect mostly to the side gives me the energy to keep writing and to keep promoting, should I choose to write another eBook. Now I am all about promoting those suckers.

Why did you consider writing and shipping an eBook? Be honest with yourself. Think through your driver. Money? Fame? Sweet passive income stream? Each primary driver saps your energy because money, fame and passive income flow to you years or minimum, months, after publishing your eBook. What do you do during that zero dollar time? Money drives you, but you see no money. Since you lose your motivator, you quit. This is why so many authors fade into obscurity. Poor driver. Sell 3 eBooks, get flustered because you made $4.35 over 6 months, and quit, because money drove you but you made no money. On the flip side, bloggers and authors who choose a fun, freeing intent promote and write every day for their online career because the work is the reward. All else feels like a bonus, gravy, extra, or icing on the cake….including money.

Be straight with your eBook driver. Do not bother writing an eBook if you mainly want money because you quit and fail when money does not arrive. Even in rare cases if you make money pretty fast, you lose your heart and feel bad reaching money goals because we are mainly designed to have fun and help people, not to make money.

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