Interview With An Influential Blogger: Brian D. Hawkins

influentialbloggerseriesI’ve met Brian D. Hawkins through the blogosphere by seeing him run in circles containing mutual friends. He runs HotBlogTips.com, which is designed to help bloggers from beginning to advanced levels succeed with their websites.

Brian has a wonderful reputation with other bloggers and, I’ve noticed that he has a genuine passion for helping other bloggers. He displays a lot of great knowledge on blogging, has great engagement with his readers, and so, I’ve asked him to do an interview for my Influential Blogger Series.

ME: What inspired you to start blogging, or why did you start blogging?

BRIAN: First, I’d like to thank Nile for considering me for part of her Influential Blogger Series, I’m truly flattered. I think it was back in 2006 when I converted a finance website I had to WordPress. The site was a couple years old by then and I had already started a Blogger blog on Internet Marketing, which eventually went to a self-hosted WordPress blog as well.

I loved the ease of maintaining a blog as opposed to editing an HTML file and uploading via FTP with every update. It wasn’t long before I came to understand that blogs were very well suited for the search engines because we updated more often since it was so much easier. Once the interaction kicked in, I was hooked and haven’t looked back since. I had several forums and a few membership sites at the time but blogging was what I really enjoyed.

ME: How did/do you go about promoting your own blog/ website?

BRIAN: Google forces our hands when it comes to promoting but, for the most part, it’s for the better. Today I use a mix of social media and interaction on other blogs but I honestly don’t spend a lot of time promoting my blog. I don’t bother with PPC or any real form of paid advertising. I do have a lot of relationships with other bloggers and some of those go back ten or more years. Those relationships are my best asset and I’m thankful to have so many online friends.

ME: Have you ever had some difficulty in the beginning when trying to reach a target audience? If so, how did you overcome that issue?

BRIAN: I’ve always had a pretty good grasp on who I was writing for but I do get asked that question a lot. I think one of the problems is the “make money blogging” and “blogging about blogging” niches get so much attention and interaction that other niches are drawn to it. It’s tough to bring in targeted traffic to a woodworking blog, for example, when they’re spending so much of their time on blogs about blogging.

My advice is to focus on the target market and seek out others in the same or similar niches. Comments and social sharing may be lower simply because there’s less understanding but the value can’t be beat when it comes to conversion.

Another common issue I see is broad ranged personal blogs. Many bloggers with personal blogs have a tough time branding themselves because their topics are all over the place. It’s probably more enjoyable but it has to hurt profits. It really comes down to what the blogger’s goals are and that should set the tone for their blog. With that said we’ve seen some pretty amazing personal blogs and it can be a fantastic way to brand ourselves and become very influential bloggers.

ME: You’re in the Blogs About Blogging niche. Did you have a blog prior to getting into this niche? What was it and why did you decide to get into the Blogs About Blogging niche?

BRIAN: I had several, like I mentioned above, my first was a finance blog. I had a couple related to internet marketing and I played the niche blog game for a while with a couple dozen of those. The niche blogs ranged from Nasolabial Folds to Government Appliance Rebates; wherever the keywords took me.

I actually started Hot Blog Tips because the domain seemed cool and was available for registration. I had over a hundred domains at the time and I started the blog just to flip it. I did sell it but ended up getting it back a little over a year later. I decided to make it a priority and now it’s here to stay.

ME: What has been the highlight point of your blog?

BRIAN: That’s tough to say, depending on how we measure it. Personally, when a post’s social shares hit triple digits and great interaction is high, I’m felling on top of the World. Commenting is down but I think quality is up. We’ve won a couple of awards and have been featured on many blogs but I have to say our readers are what really make my day.

ME: Can you share 1 or 2 tips on how to become a better blogger, at least from your own experience?

BRIAN: I was going through backups of old blogs and posts just yesterday and I’m amazed at just how bad it was. I was all over the map with pretty bad quality. I’d recommend bloggers spend their time writing epic content and don’t worry so much with what everyone (including me) is suggesting every day.

We tend to get wrapped up in stats and details when we should be trying to deliver the best information possible for our readers and subscribers. Forget about daily SEO changes, how long the optimal post is, what’s the best time to share on Facebook, etc. All of that is just a distraction from becoming the best resource and the most influential person in our niche. Those are my goals and that takes knowing our market and becoming the best resource for them.

ME: In your opinion, what is it that you believe a person must do in order to become influential amongst their niche?

BRIAN: Oops, I should have read this question before I got carried away on the last question but its back to being the best resource. It’s also putting your readers/subscribers/customers ahead of everything else, including profits. I’m very careful what I promote and that’s a must for long-term influence. Our reputation is the one thing we have complete control over and we need to protect it like our future depends on it – because it does.

Never promote something we haven’t tried ourselves and are willing to put our name and face on the product. Don’t promote junk because the ROI is high; promote a great product because it will really help others. Those people you help will continue to support you as long as you put them ahead of profit and always look out for them.

Treat people with respect and don’t “fake it until you make it”. If you don’t have traffic, don’t start writing on how to drive massive traffic. Don’t blog about making money online if you’re not making any yourself. Things like that hurt our reputation and get in the way of real success.

influentialblogger-briandhawkins

Brian is a 48 year old guy from Michigan He lives with his wife of 30 years. Brian got married early, at eighteen, and now have four grown children and four grandchildren so far. Brian drives a truck locally during the day and runs the Internet business at night and on the weekends.

How Easy is it to Use WordPress?

wordpress-video-tutorialLike any software out there, it does take some time to learn how to use WordPress. However, WordPress is not hard at all to use, especially if you are using it out of the box. It’s normally the things you want to install on top of it, like plugins or themes, that it necessary to dig a little further into learning how to use WordPress. So, how easy is it to use WordPress?

How easy is it to use WordPress?

WordPress is designed to be simple and easy to use, even for the not so savvy Internet user. Most people confuse WordPress with just being a blog platform, but it’s more than that… its a fully functional content management system. It is designed out of the box to allow you to create a whole website with OR without utilizing the blog functionality that is naturally built into the system.

So, if you’re thinking that you don’t want to blog on your site, you don’t have to. It’s there as a feature if you want to take advantage of it. And frankly, down the line, you may want to use the blog aspect of your WordPress installation as it is a powerful tool in leveraging your business.

The WordPress Backend

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WordPress has a simple interface listing the major areas to either update your site, create new posts or pages, install a theme or plugin, and more. You will never lose your way when navigating within the WordPress backend as long as you remember that the main navigation that you need is always on the left hand side.

This is also the same for any theme options or plugin that are added as sections to the menu.

Posts

This is the area where you can publish blog posts. The interface is clean and simple. You also have a couple methods in order to create a new post like the Visual editor and the Text Editor. The Visual editor in WordPress allows you to see the format of your post as you create it. The Text editor allows those who are code savvy to insert HTML and any other dynamic content.

In creating a post, you can organize them into categories and tags. Categories are usually used for general description of the post and tags are a little more detailed. Categories and tags actually help a little for your own site’s search, so you have to be careful on how you organize your site.

Publishing is easy. You can either click the big blue button or schedule your post to be published at a later time.

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As you can see, in some of the images above (you can click and they will open in another window as a larger image), you see buttons over the area you can place your content. You can use these to stylize your text or even add images or other media files.

Media

This area is where you can upload PDF, images, music files, and video. You can also maintain individual images.

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Links

If you’d like to maintain some type of Link list on your site, the link section is a good place to start. You can display your link lists using widgets.

Pages

Pages are a bit different from posts. These are used for static content or content that won’t be updated as often. Pages can be arranged in an hierarchical order, or in simple terms, organized as if they were sections.

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Creating a page is similar to that of creating a post, except there are no categories.

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Comments

The comments area allows you to edit, reply, or even delete comments that come into your website.

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Appearance

The Appearance section of the WordPress backend is the area that maintains a lot of the front end interface of the site. You can install themes or child themes. You can maintain your menus on your website, or what goes in sidebars by adding or removing widgets. You can customize the theme with a visual editor type option, or for the code savvy, you can edit the code directly.

Plugins

Plugins are code built to add dynamic functionality to WordPress with little or no code experience needed. Some examples of what plugins can do are:

  • Add a contact form to your site.
  • Give e-commerce functionality to your site so you can sell products.

The plugins area of the WordPress backend allow you to install or remove these plugins.

Users

The Users section of the WordPress backend allows you to maintain who has access to your site and what they can do on it whether it be adding and editing content, having full access, or just being a subscriber. Each role you give, you can edit exactly what each individual is allowed to do.

Tools

This area is normally used for importing and exporting content. Some plugins do add their settings to this section, but this is known to be an area.

A couple built-in tools are the Press this button that you can add to your browser and being able to convert categories to tags or the other way around. The Press this button allows you to basically re-publish an interesting article to your website from an outside site. Caution: if you use this, you probably should be editing the article to make it your own, but also link back to the original source.

Settings

The Settings section of the WordPress backend allows you a lot of different options. You can:

  • Allow or disallow people from registering on your site.
  • Edit how comments should appear on the front end of the site and how they should be moderated.
  • Change the URL structure or permalink structure of your site.

and much more.

There are 3 things that are important about learning how to use WordPress. The first is that the majority of your time using WordPress is usually spent in the Post, Pages, or Comments section of your site. The second is that if you don’t know how to use something, there are forums like the WordPress Support forums or All About WordPress that can help. The last thing to remember is that you shouldn’t fear taking a peak around your WordPress installation to get familiar with it.

In the case you prefer something more visual, I’ve put together a screencast on the WordPress backend for you.

A Walk Through The WordPress Backend

Hopefully this post will help those new to WordPress see how easy it is to use.

How To Find Out What WordPress Theme Is Being Used In A Site?

wordpress-eyeglassLet’s face it, when you have a website and you see all the other cool websites powered by WordPress, you have to wonder where it came from. Was the theme downloaded for free from the WordPress theme directory? Was it bought from a premium WordPress theme company? Or was it developed by a very talented WordPress designer and developer?

I’m sure you might wonder why would someone even want to look up this information. Well, it could be because a person really likes the site and is genuinely interested in finding out who designed the site. If the site is custom designed by an individual, and it’s really that amazing, it actually is a nice calling card if the developer had filled out their theme information within the theme. In fact, the information for the developer is typically recommended. In many cases it is done, but there are some cases where the theme is designed under a privacy or non-disclosure agreement.

Here are some ways to find out what WordPress theme is being used in a site.

How To Find Out What WordPress Theme Is Being Used In A Site?

There is a way to find out what theme a person is using on their website. In fact, there are a couple methods to doing this.

The harder way would be to view the page source of a site and view the style sheet. The style sheet is named style.css and is typically seeing between the head tags ( >header< ) and comes in a long URL path much like

yourdomain/wp-content/themes/theme-name/style.css

In many browsers, to get to the style sheet, this is a 2- step process. You have to view the source of the page, and then click the link to the style sheet to view the theme’s information.

The problem with this method is that not everybody is well versed in HTML code.

Easy Way On How To Find Out What WordPress Theme Is Being Used In A Site

The easiest way to find out WordPress theme a site is using is WordPress Theme detector ( http://www.wpthemedetector.com/ )

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All you have to do is put the URL of the site into the form field and click the button that says Detect WP Theme. It’s really easy and takes a moment to do.

What this does is find the style.css and read the theme’s info. I can detect and tell you if a theme is actually a child theme, and even lists some of the plugin’s that the site uses.

Have you ever wondered what theme a site was using? Have you tried the WordPress Theme Detector site?

SEO Is Not Hard

seo-1I’ve blogged about advising others to stop over-complicating search engine optimization for years. What we do know is that Google loves organic content. This is achieved by writing naturally, presenting unique information, building relevant and natural links, and achieving good social engagement. Why do people still try to game the system? SEO is not hard!

In trying to play the SEO game, you can end up losing your rank and even adsense… or worst case scenario- being de-indexed from the search engine. Its no joke. If you’ve been playing the game and have seen a drop in traffic and some of your listings falling from page 1 in some search terms, then you need to stop playing and start writing.

You can focus on keywords, but ranking an article is more than that. It is also social engagement, domain age, backlinks, and more.

Even in the micro niche sites, there are some leeway to expand on covering topics that are relevant, but also toe the line in introducing innovative ideas. Getting wrapped up in keyword density takes the natural flowing creativity of an article and makes it forced, especially if you’re not an experience writer, let alone a talented wordsmith. And if you’re writing in English as a second language, it makes it even more difficult.

The biggest mistakes that come from gaming the system, especially with sub par writers are:

  • Article titles and blogs seems awkward and forced
  • Misuse of words/ using the wrong words
  • Inability to present information in a universally logical format

SEO is not hard at all. It is suppose to be simple! This is the reason why search engines like Google and Bing try to adjust their algorithms to produce human-like suggestions and results.

Rather than play some guessing game that self appointed experts are pushing on people, start writing. This is one of the reasons people get stumped or they get bloggers’ block. They are trying to game a system that doesn’t exist and trying hard to impress… nothing.

The best results are filling the needs of your own readers first. Your own site’s stats will tell you what people are looking for when it comes to your website.

The biggest takeaway to this article is to remember that SEO is not hard… just keep it simple and your site will do fine without having to turn to playing the SEO game.

Blondish.net Podcast – 2013 Mini Episode 7

blondishnet-podcastThis mini episode touches base on the automatic background updates integrated in WordPress 3.7. This has produced some polarity in the community. I am not for this feature, but I’ve made a suggestion to making this option easier to digest, especially to those who are more for web accessibility and giving the user their decision on what they wish.

What are your thoughts about automatic background updates? Are you going to allow it on your site or have you implemented the code given out to prevent automatic updates so you can do them when you want? Listn in and let me know your thoughts.

Video: Blondish.net Podcast – 2013 Mini Episode 7

Blondish.net Podcast – 2013 Mini Episode 7

Play

Graphic: Be Prepared For A Long Journey Toward Success

The biggest mistake a business owner can make it believing in getting rich quick. It doesn’t last for long, so its not enough to sustain. The best thing is to think about building a business and mapping it out enough to include room for error, because mistakes and failure will happen along the way.

The journey will be long and bumpy, but it will also have some highlights. If you stay on top of your business and are open-minded enough to try a few new things here and there, you can’t really go wrong, even if some of those things don’t work. It all builds your experience to building a sturdy foundation for your business.

Same can be said for bloggers. You can create a website and make all of these posts, but you won’t become an overnight success. You have to work to connect with others, ask for shout outs and trade favors to promote your colleagues, and sometimes even invest in advertising too.

If you’ve been in business or a blogger for a few months, to maybe even a year, have patience. However, don’t sit back and think it will come eventually. You still have to work hard so you can play hard in the future.

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Blondish.net Podcast – 2013 Mini Episode 6

blondishnet-podcastOut of all my regular podcasts, I haven’t done much on covering WordPress topics, so now I’m breaking tradition and including them. This mini podcast episode is on backing up your WordPress site.

I cover why it’s important to have a back up plan for your website and include some simple but effective ways to back up your WordPress site. I know that some of you who regularly visit have heard many times, but for those who have heard that backing up your site is important, there are many more who haven’t heard.

And you know, it’s a damn shame to see a site go down because it was hacked, or something failed to work, or perhaps the web host itself had some strange issue that resulted in data loss. That backup comes in handy.

Remember, a mini podcast episode is only a few minutes long. For WordPress bloggers, please share this around and spread the word to others on how important it is to have a back up plan for your site.

Video: Blondish.net Podcast – 2013 Mini Episode 6

Blondish.net Podcast – 2013 Mini Episode 6

Play

#SharingSundays Recap 2013 Volume 25

sharingsundays-fb-event-thumbnailOne of the benefits of liking my Facebook fan page is being able to participate in weekly events like #SharingSundays. It is the only day of the week that I open the floor to allow bloggers all over the blogosphere the opportunity to share their most recent post.

While that is the only requirement of this event, I do encourage participants to try to visit each other, leave a comment, and hopefully share each others’s blog posts. Its a simple and friendly event to not just drive in a little traffic, but to allow people to widen their blog circles.

Below are this past week’s shares.

#SharingSundays Recap 2013 Volume 25

Suresh Khanal shared a post by his guest blogger Adesanmi Adedotun on his own experience in his article How A Change Of Environment Affected My Blog.

Pastor Andrena Ingram talks about HIV encounters the airport. She talks about her encounters at an airport while wearing a shirt about HIV and others’ reactions to it as well as her. Andrena is an HIV survivor and is active on spreading the word on urging people to be safe and get tested.

Jackie Jimenez celebrated 3 years of her site being up in her post Happy Birthday, Blog! @JackieJ04 Talks Meaning Of INC #InnovateWP.

Marquita Herald cautions book writers in her article Why Writers Need to Avoid the Competition Trap.

Marcie Hill announces her crowdfunding campaign for her book in her blog article – Marcie Hill’s Crowdfunding Campaign on Indiegogo.

Please note that there were a couple posts that were shared during the event that had content like images that were from premium image repositories. If the image requires a license to use, you need to pay for the image. Using the watermarked image and giving credit is not acceptable as some of those premium image galleries have strict usage policies.

See you at the next #SharingSundays event.