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How to blog on a (very small) budget (Part 2-Images and Scripts)

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no-moneyIn the first part of this mini-series, I introduced the concept of saving money while blogging. As many of you will understand, there are running costs associated with running a blog: domain names and hosting costs are among the primary expenses we need to account for as bloggers. Furthermore, marketing and effective advertising can cost a small fortune if not performed effectively.

Following on from last week’s article, this week I will offer suggestions on reducing the costs of hosting and bandwidth by finding free (or very low cost) hosting for images and scripts you may need to use for your blog.

Overview

Optimization Week reported in 2006 that the average file size of a web page is 130kb. Of this average, only 25kb consisted of HTML code the remaining 105kb was generated by images, flash, video and scripts (and this does not include CSS background images!).

If you blog using WordPress or another self-hosted blogging service, most of your image, script, flash and video files will be hosted on your hosting account, using hosting space and bandwidth which could be costing disproportionate amounts of your income every month.

Even if you host your blog on Blogger, you may still need access to images (for your template) or scripts which require external hosting since Blogger does not support file upload (except for images and video uploaded to your posts).

In this article, I’ll explain how to reduce the file size of your images and scripts to help save on your bandwidth and hosting costs, and also how to source reliable free hosting for these files (which is particularly useful for those using Blogger).

Reducing the file size of your images

Wherever possible, try to use images in the JPEG format at the lowest quality, and only upload the image size required.

For example, if you have a 1200px by 900px image which will display in your post at 400px wide by 300px tall, edit this image in your favorite image editor and choose the option to “Save for the web” (if this is featured in your software) to save this at the correct size as a low quality JPG.

This will save a great deal of file size, resulting in reduced impact of your hosting space and also lessening the impact of bandwidth on your server each time your page is loaded.

GIF and PNG image file types are of significantly higher file size though the quality may be much better. It’s best to only use these file types where you really need a quality image. When designing your blog template (or using one provided by a thirs party), do experiment with the quality of image types before uploading. Where a PNG file is provided, you may well discover a low quality JPEG will suffice, saving you a lot of bandwidth as CSS background images will be present in every page of your template.

Here are some useful sites you can refer to for assistance and further information:

Finding free, reliable hosting for your images

If you use many images in your posts, or are seeking a reliable host with whom to store your CSS background images, there is a wide variety of sites you could use.

image-gallery

Many have limitations on how much you can store and (more importantly) how much bandwidth you are allocated. Photobucket, for example, is a favorite site for hosting images, but when the bandwidth is exceeded, you will notice an ugly sign explaining this in place of any images you need to use.

Here are a few of the sites I have used to supply reliable free hosting for images used for my own blogs:

Flickr

Hotlinking to images on Flickr is indeed a grey area. While there is nothing in the Terms of Service to suggest it is disallowed, and no prevention of hotlinking, many assume you are not allowed or at least frown upon this practice.

If you would like to use Flickr as an “image host” for your blog, I would suggest you adhere to the following conditions:

  • Only use your own images: in doing this, you are not affecting anyone else’s account and using your own account for your own requirements.
  • Do not EVER upload copyright protected content: this goes without saying! Besides illegal infringement of copyright, this practise could also cause your account to be disabled and is downright rude!
  • Always provide a link back to Flickr, preferably by linking your image back to it’s page on Flickr. This is suggested as good practise where this issue is discussed in the Flickr forums, and also offers your visitors a guide to where they can see other images hosted on your account.

Picasa

If you use Blogger to publish your blog, you may be aware that any images you upload to your posts are hosted on Picasa. Indeed, anyone with a free Google account can also make use of a free Picasa account, of which Picasa Web Albums is particularly useful.

Picasa Web Albums offers 3GB of free image hosting with (seemingly) no limitations on bandwidth. Uploading new images to your Picasa Web Albums is easy: simply log in using your Google Account details and follow the on screen prompts to upload up to 5 images at a time using the web upload service. Alternatively you can upload using free Picasa software and organize your photos online.

To “hotlink” to images held in your Picasa account, you will need to ensure the album in which they are hosted is made “Public” (otherwise you will receive error notices that the images cannot be accessed). While this ensures that others can access these images, the same can also be said of almost every other image hosting service, so be sure that no private images are hosted in the same account.

ImageShack

Using ImageShack allows you to upload any number of images and media files (including PDFs) so long as the file size is under 3mb per file. Bandwidth is only limited to 300mb of trandfer per hour which is usually sufficient for most blogs, particularly if you use linked thumbnails rather than extensive series’ of large files.

Saving money with scripts and applications

javascriptHosting JavaScripts (and other applications) has always been an issue for me. Those familiar with my main blog will understand that I offer Blogger widgets for other Blogger users at the expense of my own hosting. I quickly discovered that most reliable hosting services can become overwhelmed or can cost far more than expected, and have been sourcing out alternative hosting solutions ever since!

JavaScripts and other web applications can be among the most expensive (and bandwidth consuming) file types to consider, particularly if you offer use of your scripts to your readers (as I’m sure Dan Zarella, author of the Tweetbacks script, has come to understand!).

If you are using Blogger, or are simply trying to reduce the impact of acripts sun from your server, there are several resources you should check out for free and reliable hosting of scripts and web applications:

JavaScript Libraries

Many popular scripts are available from JavaScript libraries who permit “hotlinking” to the core files. Linking to scripts hosted on Yahoo! or Google Code can save bandwidth and the costs of hosting these libraries on your own servers:

  • Yahoo! User Interface Library: here you can find a whole host of scripts and applications to use for your blog. To get the appropriate code for linking to the scripts you require, visit this page. Alternatively you may like to see examples of scripts in action and build your own applications around them using scripts hosted on Yahoo! servers.
  • Google Code: Google hosts over a hundred projects and thousands of open source projects which you can link to. Simply visit the site and search for keywords of the application you are interested in using. In particular, the Google Ajax API and Web Toolkit are particularly useful.

Free hosting for your own scripts and applications

If you have developed your own scripts for use in your blog (or for others to download/use), I strongly recommend making your project open source and uploading this to Google Code’s Project Hosting. As a developer, you can upload up to 10 projects for free (and each project may have multiple files). You can create your developer account after signing in using your Google Account details and (at the time of writing) there are no costs involved.

When you use Google Code’s hosting for developing your project, you can specify the type of “copyleft” license you want to use, such as Creative Commons or GNU. However, you should be aware that anyone can view, download and access your project files.

Google Apps Engine

I’ve only recently taken interest in the Google App Engine which promises to be a useful and reliable way for web developers to test and run their own web applications.

Currently the App Engine allows you to write your applications in Python 2.5 and is limited to the free account status. You can choose to link your applications to your own domain name or use the free URLs provided by Google for your project.

As yet I have no experience to offer advice or comment on this beta release of the App Engine, though I suspect this will prove wholly useful to experienced web developers looking for a budget (it’s currently free to use!) scalable solution for their applications.

Combine and compress your JavaScript files

If you use more than one JavaScript for your blog or project and need to host your scripts on your own servers, you should consider combining these in a single file. This can result in a smaller combined file size than the two separate scripts.

Also, you should compress the size of your script files as much as possible, eliminating unnecessary line breaks and spaces wherever possible to minimize the size. Milonic and ShrinkSafe offer online tools to achieve this for you quickly and simply.

Not only do these methods result in less demand on your hosting and bandwidth, they can also result in faster loading pages – a bonus for you and readers of your blog!

Prevent unwanted hotlinking to your images and scripts

A simple and rather unpleasant fact about publishing online is that others will steal your bandwidth by linking to your images and scripts in their own web pages. Even if you specifically state on your blog that hotlinking is not permitted by means of a blazing great notice in your header, your files will still be hotlinked by unscrupulous bandwidth theives.

Most frequently this happens because of scrapers: those who steal your blog content to republish in their own sites. But it can also happen when people attempt to copy your site’s design (linking to your CSS and image files) or use your scripts to accomplish similar functions to those you are using.

Yes, it is theft and often invasion of copyright, and you could spend inordinate amounts of time trying to track down the culprits. However, a far better method is to limit the sites which can access your files.

The most common form of preventing hotlinking is by using .htaccess. This method can block requests for content from different sites (ie: sites which are not owned or operated by yourself) or can be used to serve other content (such as a message about stealing bandwidth!).

I’m certainly no expert on using .htaccess to block external access to files as I’ve only had to do this once. Instead, I’ll direct you to this excellent  guide to .htaccess by JavaScript Kit which explains the basics and a sample application to prevent hotlinking to image files. You may also be interested to read this article by Jotsheet which explains how to prevent hotlinking to selected files, in case there are particular files you would like to serve to the public rather than prevent external access to all.

It’s also good practice to inform your readers that hotlinking is not permitted by adding a notice or link to terms of use on your site. This will inform legitimate users of your concerns to prevent embarrassing incidents.

Conclusions and “coming soon…”

In this article, we’ve seen how images and scripts constitute over 80% of the average file size of your web pages, and how your bandwidth and hosting costs can be drastically reduced by compressing file sizes or hosting them elsewhere.

Using these methods, those you using Blogger can create professional blogs at virtually no cost whatsoever (with the only outlay being for the charge of domain names) while those using self-hosted blog services can drastically reduce their costs.

In next week’s article, I’ll explain how you can market your blog effectively with little or no costs at all. There are many free marketing techniques and strategies for blogs which cost nothing at all, and some highly effective ones which can be purchased at very little expense.

Please feel free to leave your own suggestions or siply post your opinions on this article (and indeed, this “saving money” series) by leaving your comments below.

Image credits: Money Hand by Neubie, Gallery by Lamerie, JavaScript Code for Type Treatment by deletem3. 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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Why Do You Resist Writing eBooks?

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Writing and self-publishing eBooks scares bloggers.

I piddled in my eBook writing pants until 2012. People told me I should write ’em. I looked for every reason in the eBook NOT to write eBooks. Nobody would listen. Nobody would buy. Nobody would care.

Turns out, people listen, buy and care enough to publish 5 star reviews for my eBooks. Look at the featured image for this blog post describing this eBook:

7 Tips for Writing Successful eBooks Quickly

I locked down five, 5 star reviews because I taught my readers how to write successful eBooks fast. But years prior, fear clouded my mind concerning writing eBooks to the point of me refusing to write one. You may be in the same cyber boat; but you better not miss the eBook writing boat. Lucrative profits serve as one part of the picture. Digging deeper, writing eBooks brands you, distancing you from the herd. Plus you feel good writing short reads and gain trust and extra credibility in the eyes of readers.

Why Do You Resist Writing eBooks?

Fear is the core reason. Fear of failure, criticism or wasting time sit near the top of eBook-related fears. I did not know how to sit down and write the darn things. Fear arose in my mind; how would I do it? Who would teach me? Could I find the process? Would I need special editors? How could I learn the technical steps for conceiving an idea to shipping the eBook on Amazon? Tech stuff really scared me; I had no idea how to save Word files with different, web-based extensions, let alone creating covers with proper dimensions via Canva to meet Amazon’s diligent standards.

From my trip to Oman.

Rather than learn how to do these things I allowed fear to get the better of me, refusing to write eBooks. But during a trip to India I met a reader and friend who begged me to write eBooks for a while. He had been on me for a minute. Meeting in person, he finally convinced me to write and self-publish an eBook on a lesser known digital platform. Later, I went with Amazon, and never looked back.

I had to dive into and nudge through deep fears related to failing and being criticized because I believed nobody would buy what I offered in eBook form. As my friend convinced me, I waded through ideas like wasting my time, getting terrible reviews and promoting my eBook to the tune of zero sales. Did it feel good to embrace these fears? Heck no. But the benefits of self-publishing far outweighed a few unpleasant emotions experienced during these fear-feeling sessions.

Nothing to Lose Everything to Gain

Gain by writing eBooks; if you take experience with you, loss is impossible. Even if you sold not a copy you take valuable writing, marketing and selling experience with you any time you write and launch an eBook. But if you generously help people and make friends, you will sell eBooks and help more people, reflecting gain back to you in physical form.

Digging even deeper, facing and releasing fears associated with criticism and failure benefit you across the board with your blogging campaign. Apply that same fearless nature to other aspects of your blog to boost your blog traffic and profits.

Write and ship.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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1 Tip for Being an Intelligent and Prospering Blogger

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My eBook: 10 Tips to Be a Smarter and Richer Blogger

possesses an interesting cover for anyone not familiar with my eBooks.

For anyone familiar with my 100 plus eBooks, my cover is par for the course. Every single one of my eBook covers has been personally snapped by me. Images of paradise preserved by yours truly fit my brand, blog and eBook covers perfectly. Blogging From Paradise means retiring to a life of island hopping through smart blogging. Sometimes I visit islands. Sometimes I visit mainland spots. In all cases, my eBooks and courses – as well as my blog – bleed travel images because this approach fits my brand and is unheard of in the blogging tips niche.

I totally respect any blogging tips blogger who posts featured images for their blogs and eBook covers consistent with content titles. Imagine a light bulb and dollar sign for the above eBook cover, for starters. But I went with a photo I snapped in gorgeous Rawai Bay in Phuket, Thailand for my cover image. Why? Nobody else on earth uses their travel photos as eBook covers and featured post images in the blogging tips niche. If nobody else does it and the move completely aligns with my brand message, this is the starting point for being an intelligent and prospering blogger.

Smart and Prospering Means Different

Every successful blogger I follow sticks to basic fundamentals but deviates from the norm in some regards. Different means bigger bucks and smarter prospering because readers notice that different flavor stepping away from normal. Folks enjoy my covers and blog post images, even though the content and eBook title technically have nothing to do with travel images. Guess what? Adding my brand logo aligns the eBook cover with my blog and brand. People clearly see I am about blogging from paradise. Why not add travel images to each eBook cover?

From my trip to Oman.

I follow a high number of basic blogging rules; create value, build connections, be generous and have fun. But if you do EVERYTHING just like most bloggers, you get lost in the herd. Nothing makes you stand out if you do not choose to stand out with at least one element of your blogging campaign. I stood out with eye-popping eBook images I snapped myself, in a blogging tips niche. How do you stand out? Ask yourself the question. Be straight with yourself to answer.

Bigger Profits from a Smarter Energy by Being Different

Cindy Crawford kept her mole. Muscle Man Arnold kept his accent. Steve Jobs made computers and peripherals outrageously expensive and designed quite weirdly compared to other computers and peripherals. Guess what? Crawford, Arnold and Jobs are legends who we won’t forget for a long time. Different makes you a serious fortune because people notice folks who stand out in some way, shape or form. This different approach bleeds intelligence; why work your butt off if you look just like the next guy and offer a mimicking service?

But Make Sure You Follow Some Fundamentals

Steve Jobs did not attempt to make computers out of cardboard. Arnold did not try to speak German in Hollywood movies. Cindy Crawford did not try to rewrite the foundations of modeling by wearing a fake beard of photo shoots. All icons followed basic rules for their industries because being too far out in left field usually makes you forgettable, or, impossible to spot. Follow blogging fundamentals to stay in the game but find that one thing that distances you from the herd.

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Why Should You Help Other Bloggers Succeed?

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If you build it AND if you help other bloggers build it, then they will come.

We have all seen the famous line from Field of Dreams rehashed many times, regarding blogging. Building a blog solo ain’t good enough. Platitudes of content being king and networking queen get bandied about, and I do not disagree.

But I wanted to put a spin on the line; if you build your blog and help other bloggers build their blogs, THEN people will visit your blog, hire you, buy your stuff and endorse you.

A few moments ago, my friend and power house blogger Julie Syl Kalungi tagged me on Facebook with kind words.  She mentioned a common mistake we both see often; bloggers pitch us content with nothing else to show for the pitch, other than mediocre or OK content from an unknown blogger. If it were that easy to get featured on Blogging From Paradise or on Julie’s blog, we would both place 5 to 10 to 20 guest posts daily, or a helluva lot more.

Of course, landing features on established blogs is not easy at all. But struggling, failing bloggers mistakenly believe it *is* as easy as tempting pros with a helpful post, or some other lukewarm incentive, and wonder why they never get featured on top blogs. Plus bloggers do the silly thing of offering a $1 or $3 bulk discount for 25 posts. Having a poverty consciousness makes you do silly things.

Anyway, these strategies NEVER work because the pitching bloggers are trying to build it – aka their blogs – before building other blogger’s blogs. Build your blog and other blogger’s blogs. Grow your friend network. Be genuine. Be generous. Help. Expect nothing. Ask for nothing. As you help other bloggers succeed and improve your writing skills, something neat happens; you befriend a bunch of skilled bloggers who boost your traffic and profits through endorsements, promotions, by buying your stuff and by hiring you.

From my trip to Oman.

This is why you should help other bloggers succeed. Make friends. Profit. 100 is better than 1.

100 Is Better than 1

I learned years ago the efforts of 100 blogging buddies beats my individual efforts. I am not super connected to 100 plus blogging buddies, but at least that many folks promote me or endorse me routinely across a wide range of channels. Imagine how much 100 bloggers can expand your reach, compared to your individual, singular efforts?

Why do 100 plus bloggers help me out? I have helped thousands of bloggers grow their traffic and profits over a decade online by commenting genuinely on their blogs, by promoting them on social media, by endorsing them, by promoting them on my blog, by inviting them to guest post on my blog and by guest posting for them.

I benefit too, of course. This marks my 6th guest post of the day. As I promote my 71% blogging course discount (use the discount code in the first paragraph) across a slew of these guest posts I gain profit potential and boost my blog traffic too. But I also drive free, passive traffic through each guest post. My 3 blogging buddies living in India who I guest post for wake up to free, passive traffic. I help them succeed. My blogging buddies help me succeed by giving me platforms for reaching their readers.

Do you see why building it and helping other bloggers build it makes you incredibly successful over the long term?

Julie became a wildly successful blogger by generously helping other top bloggers succeed. Now, her blogger friend network expands her reach far and wide.

Give What You Want

Do you want money? Help other bloggers make money. Promote them on your blog. Link to them. Buy and review their eBooks. The number of friends you make by being generous will astound you. As this loyal tribe grows in size and scope, and helps you make more and more money, you will be even more astounded.

Blogger Outreach Resource

Are you looking for bloggers to help? Buy my eBook:

27 Influential Bloggers to Follow

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