5 Awesome Tools to Make Blogging Easier

One of the things I hear most frequently when people find out I not only have multiple blogs (8 at time of writing) but manage them all with 3 children at home & no daycare is, “How do you find the time?” My answer is always productivity & cheats. Also, my house is a wreck, so I save a lot of time not cleaning.

Of course, I’m probably more excited than most for back to school time. That’s really going to help, but I’m always on the lookout for ways to make life easier. Here are a few of my latest discoveries for blogging quickly & easily:

  1. Verizon MiFi—this is going on my list of “things I want to pay for as soon as our budget looks better” for sure! Verizon sent me this cute, little card to take to BlogHer earlier this month. And, had to pry it out of my hands at the end of BlogIndiana last week. I had no idea what it was, but they were looking to send a few on the road to New York—and I took that quite literally! We enjoyed road trip wifi, blogging on the long drive.

    Basically, it becomes a wifi hotspot anywhere Verizon covers. It was spotty in the middle of nowhere, PA but worked well for me most of the time. You can even connect up to 5 wireless devices so my roommates, carpool buddies & fellow conference attendees had the luxury of free wifi. I desperately want one for everyday use—I’d love to work from the park or pool while the kids play.
  2. Shortkeys: Robby Slaughter exploded a few minds when he showcased how quickly & easily you can insert common phrases & links with text replacers. A few days later, I stumbled on someone else singing the praises of shortkeys. So, I downloaded the free trial—but I’m already considering the full software. It’s going to be perfect for quickly calling up the text for things I frequently type (like html for the links to my various sites!).
  3. Automatic SEO Links: This WordPress plugin is pretty similar to the text replacer idea, but it does it automatically (hence, the name) with a link. Choose your keywords, set the link and never think about it again. For example, when anyone on Team Inexpensively includes the phrase “grocery lists” in their post, it will automatically publish with a link to our grocery lists.
  4. Lists & Drafts: This one isn’t so much a tool as a technique, but it works well for me. I keep a running list of blog posts as the ideas occur. Then, when I have time set aside to blog, I pick one or two, and get started. Recently, I have started to just enter the topic idea as a draft so it’s attached to the correct blog. If I come up with ideas on a post, I bullet point them in to use as idea or paragraph starters when it’s time to write.
  5. Voice Recorder: I have to admit I feel like a total douche when I pull out my phone to record notes, but it’s effective! I also have to admit that I don’t always remember to go back & listen, but often the act of saying it out loud burns the thought into my brain. I’ve also been known to jot notes the back of receipts, junk mail envelopes or school notes—but I’m much less likely to lose my iPhone.

Slaughter Development’s classes always send me home with more productivity tips & tools than I can ever manage to implement. Robby Slaughter’s BlogIndiana session was no different & much of this list is straight from his presentation. While I might not be able to write a full blog post in under 5 minutes, I’m getting pretty good at cranking out posts in what little free time I can squeeze out of my day.

What tools or techniques do you use to save time?

Introduction to Affiliate Marketing (Tricia Meyer Session)

I’m so excited to have Tricia speaking at BlogIndiana—this is what we need. Tricia has made a successful work-at-home career through internet marketing. She has fun & brilliant ideas for niche content sites.

Working with large brands

How in the world is a small blog going to get Target & Amazon to sponsor them? Advertising is painstaking but you can utilize affiliate marketing programs to earn income from major brands.

Types of Affiliate Marketing Sites

  • Coupon & Deal Sites
  • Cash Back Sites
  • Comparison Shopping Sites/Directories
  • Paid Search
  • Newsletter Marketing
  • Toolbars
  • Mobile Ads
  • Facebook & Twitter Ads
  • Virtual Currency
  • Most importantly—blogs!

How Does It Work

Customers visit an affiliate website. Affiliates (affiliate = blogger/publisher) direct customers to partners/brands who complete the sale. Partners pay the affiliates a commission for the referral.

Network’s Role

The network is your directory of merchants to find brands/partners to promote. They handle payment processing (get money from the merchants & send the commission to you), host datafeeds & creatives, negotiate commission contracts with merchants and facilitate communication. Sometimes they will manage programs as well, but you’ll often have an affiliate manager or OPM (outsourced program manager).

Affiliate Manager’s Role

They create the text & graphics (a good one can even create graphics specifically for your website), negotiate custom commission rates & coupons, communicates with network & affiliates, finds new affiliates for merchants, advises affiliates on placement (talk to them about what might work best for your site) and educates affiliates about their merchants.

Steps to Making Money on Blogs

  • Sign Up for Networks
  • Find Merchants
  • Load Creatives to Your Sites
  • Drive Traffic to Your Sites

Finding Merchants

  • Search network directories by category or keyword
  • Search for products in Google (check shopping results)
  • Visit Your Competitors’ Sites
  • Ask Network Reps for Suggestions

Choosing the Right Merchant

Products need to fit your site—it should make sense for your content & readers.
Evaluate the EPC (earnings per click)—tells you how well the merchant’s ads convert.
Site leaks—if the merchant website has adsense or links to other merchants, you’re less likely to make a commission on your referrals.
Return Days—how long the merchant will recognize the cookie that tells them your reader visited the site from your link.
Reputation of Network or Manager
Freshness of Creatives—choose merchants that are updating their graphics regularly
Reversal Rates—how often a merchant cancels an order after they’ve already given you credit (happens a lot in shoes, especially with Zappos who have free returns).
Responsiveness of manager

Google AdSense

It’s a bit of an intro to making money on your blog—it is a great way to get started but it has some downsides.
Great for a place that is hard to monetize.
You’re making pennies on the dollar and sending readers to someone else who may be making a commission on that sale.

Banner Ads

Standard sizes (square/rectangle—as small as 120×60 or large as 728×90)
Features name brands & products
Choose rotating banners that the merchant automatically updates.

Product Links/Images

You can use product images & text links to feature specific products. (i.e. product reviews)


Merchants & Plugins canl create widgets that autoupdate with content that is popular or fits a keyword.


They are on Pepperjam, but we prefer the partner network.
phpBay Lite Plugin generates the items closing soon based on keywords you provide.


Conversion rates are high on video. You can create your own, but some networks also provide video for affiliates. I need to find the link of Tricia’s oldest eating vomit-flavored Jelly Bellies. Too funny!


Generates product/shopping pages for your own site. They have a free version, but you’ll get more functionality from the paid options. The only downside is everything goes through their links (with your affiliate id) so you don’t have the tracking abilities you would.


Has coupon directory & search options that will create widgets/pages for your site. They run on a 4th-click system so every 4th click changes to their affiliate id. However, many merchants are now paying to get into GoldenCan so they are “free of 4th click” & you receive full commissions.


No direct merchant affiliation or understanding of links needed.
Use the plugins for blogs or forums to convert standard links to affiliate links.
SkimLinks keeps a portion of commissions but they negotiate such high rates that you may still make a decent percentage.

Legal & Ethical Issues

Adware—affiliates who install software/cookies on readers’ sites so their affiliate link overrides any other affiliate link in the future.
Cookie Stuffing—affiliates who require you to click something (i.e. click here to see coupon) are probably just getting their cookie onto your computer in case you ever go back to shop.
Ad Tax/Amazon Tax/Affiliate Tax—I’ve been watching this, especially with the Colorado mess, but we’re lucky this hasn’t come to Indiana yet.

Learn More

Affiliate Summit
Forums (A Best Web)
Network/OPM conference calls

Speaker: Tricia Meyer, @SunshineTricia

This is a live blog—an unedited version of my notes. It is not meant as an exact transcript but I try to capture the highlights along the way (and, you know, add commentary). I’ll fix spelling errors & grammar later, when I get a chance to go back. Be gentle, until then.

Brands, Swag and My BlogHer Experience

This was my 2nd BlogHer, 6th blogging conference and who knows what number conference as a whole. It is, however, the only one that seems to be all about the swag. I know it wasn’t their intent. I had the immense pleasure of joining Elisa Camahort Paige, co-founder of BlogHer, on Red Plum’s Viva la Value radio show.

She spoke of the conference origins, their desire to connect brands with women bloggers and where she sees it all going. I distinctly remember the “Where are all the women bloggers?” conversation that apparently kick started BlogHer. In fact, I’m pretty sure I blogged about it, but that post is long gone. The conversation was primarily about politics and it didn’t take me long to realize I don’t want to be a political blogger.

I also don’t want to be a product review blogger, but that seems to be the only way brands want to work with bloggers. I spent a lot of time in the Expo hall and brand suites, asking PR and brand reps what they hoped to get out of the conference—how they wanted to work with bloggers in the future. Those we spoke to in quiet settings or one on one at parties were so great about answering our questions, and we brainstormed great ideas about how to work together.

But, from my experience in the Expo hall, we were mostly right. Many of the brands just wanted to get their free stuff into our hands, in hopes that we’d write about it later. There just has to be a better way for brands & bloggers to make intelligent connections. Not that I’m anti-swag—I am very excited about the Yummie Tummie headed to my mailbox, and I’ve eaten more of the 1-800Flowers popcorn balls than you’ll ever get me to admit—but it needs to happen in a way that makes sense.

Rather than write a review of Yummie Tummie, I talked about how it helped with my 40×40 list. Instead of writing a review of the Traverse that carpooled me to BlogHer, I’m sharing fuel efficiency tips from Chevrolet on Inexpensively. It is important for me to find ways to connect the brands I love with my readers, in a way that is relevant for the site.

As a result, I visited less exhibits and spent a lot more time talking with each company. I may have less swag. I may have attended less parties. I may have missed out on some pretty cool freebies. But, I came home with solid contacts, specific ideas and great additions to my editorial calendar.

This Makes 5

I have been creating websites since 1996 and blogging since 2002. Over the years, my family has expanded, my interests have changed and I have grown (I hope). My personal blog ended up all over the map, depending on who I was or what I was doing at the time. Clearly, I cannot be contained on just one blog!

My different hobbies & parts of me have been divvied up into niche blogs & guest posts all over the web. I needed something to pull it all together. Something that says “This is Me,” thus my newest site was born. I’m not sure how often I’ll blog here—it was created to pull all my other projects into one place—but the option is here if I ever want it.

You just never know what I’ll come up with next!