Why we Chose E-junkie.com for our Online Store

Eagle eyed followers of this blog might have noticed that yesterday marked two special occasions for Guerrilla Wordfare. The first was obviously the launch of the much anticipated book three in the Rhyn Trilogy “Rhyn’s Redemption”. The second event had much less fanfare but was still significant; we launched our online store on this site.

Since day one a big part of our strategy has been to make Lizzy’s books available to readers across the world including places where Amazon doesn’t reach. India has been and likely always will be one of our biggest reader bases. Several of Lizzy’s readers have requested alternate methods of buying her books and now we have those in place. The system we use also enables Lizzy to start doing something she’s been mulling over for quite a while, an affiliate program. For these reasons and many more Lizzy has been on me to turn our site into an e-commerce site for some time but between my day job and nighttime SEO/webmaster duties it’s always been pushed down on my to-do list. We finally decided to get it out this weekend for the launch of “Rhyn’s Redemption and I’m glad we did.

I wanted a system in place that requires zero effort once setup. I want someone to click a button, buy a book, receive their book and the only notification I want is an email letting me know it happened. I started off by examining several of the different shopping cart options or other methods that we could use to deliver digital content instantly. I did quite a bit of reading and testing and ended up choosing a provider that I felt very comfortable with, E-junkie.com. In addition to low prices, the best options of any provider I found and ease of use, E-junkie.com also comes with the peace of mind of being one of the biggest providers out there. Their Alexa rank is around 3,000 and when I Googled “digital content providers” they came back as the top organic result. I don’t automatically use the biggest provider of a service (otherwise I would use Aweber instead of MailChimp for our mailing list) but it’s nice to know that your cart provider has the scalability and reliability that comes with size. We haven’t had the shop open for 24 hours yet but it’s already handled 235 transactions like a champ. I’ve been programming computers for most of my life but when it comes to keeping payment information secure, I’ll go ahead and use a professional.

There were a few things that I really wanted to make sure that the option we picked had. We’re looking at shopping cart options is not just a matter of of something will work or not it’s a matter of finding something that the buyer will feel comfortable with. There’s been several times in my life that I’ve started to buy something online but really didn’t like the look of the payment system didn’t feel comfortable giving them my info and so I ended up canceling the purchase. There’s also been a few times when I started to buy something and couldn’t complete the checkout process due to a slow loading or buggy payment system. Due to these factors I wanted a cart that kept the visitor on our page as long as possible. Several of the bigger providers like getdpd.com take you offsite every time you check your cart. Neither I nor Lizzy liked that. If you haven’t already take a second to check out our shop and try it out (it’s the “shop” option at the end of the row at the top of this site). You don’t even have to buy anything. When you add an item to the cart it doesn’t take you to an entirely new site, it just shows you what’s in your cart. Only when you go to checkout does it take you to PayPal. There are a lot of other payment options like Google checkout that we haven’t configured yet.

The second feature that I will wasn’t willing to budge on was that the card had to accept PayPal. I know not everyone loves PayPal but nearly everyone uses it. I love it because it acts as a trustworthy middle man between my payment details and the site where I’m shopping. If I’m looking at two sites to purchase something I will always choose the site which has PayPal as an option. I looked at one site (gumroad.com) that had no monthly fees, but also no options and no PayPal option. I would much rather pay a few dollars a month for a system I like than try to work with one that will frustrate me and likely cost us sales.

I only had one previous experience with E-junkie.com, which was when I purchased my Facebook ad coupon several months ago. The process was quick and painless. The more I started to dig into all of the options that becoming an E-junkie.com seller provided, the more I fell in love. Every option I could think of (discount codes with every imaginable option, affiliate programs, link expiration dates etc.) was in there. Adding items to our store was quick and easy but there is one caveat that I mentioned in the video that I must mention here.

A lot of our readers download our content on their mobile devices instead of a computer. Unless you want frustrated buyers (who usually don’t become repeat buyers) then you need to provide downloads for actual .pdf, .mobi and .epub files, not just all three combined into one .zip file. We learned this lesson the hard way. Most providers offer their content delivery services in a monthly fee which entitles you to sell a certain number of products. I originally thought I would go with getdpd.com so I emailed their tech support and asked them if I could associate three files with one product. They replied back the next day and said that I could not and had to use a workout of creating each file type as one product, and then have a fourth product which was a bundle of those three other products. Easy enough to do, but when you realize that the $16 a month 30 product plan will only handle 7 books, it becomes less attractive. As I started to look around I realized that this was a common issue and E-junkie.com is no different. So when you look at the $5 a month 10 product plan, that will only be 2 books if you use the 4 product bundle method. The good news is that the plans on E-junkie.com stay cheap. You can get a 20 product plan for $10 a month or a 40 product plan for $15 a month. I’ve included a YouTube video where I demonstrate how to create a product for each file type and then create a bundle combining all three.

I’m sure that every digital content delivery option system has their pros and cons, but E-junkie.com was a perfect fit for us and I honestly can’t think of anything I would change about it (outside of the 4 product bundle thing common to a lot of providers). I rarely place affiliate links on this site because whenever I go to a “review” site with affiliate links, you always have to question if the reviewer had an undeservedly favorable opinion. For this reason I only place affiliate links to sites that I have no problems with and recommend to my friends. I recommend hostgator.com to someone at work at least once a week. If you have had a good or bad experience with any digital content delivery system please post them here.

Tips for Starting a Website

When people find out that you’re a “computer guy,” they ask you a lot of questions. I think “Which laptop should I buy?” is the current leader. One of the other popular questions is “I want to start a website, what do I do?”. You’re on your own for the laptop question, but I’ll give my thoughts on the website question here. If you already have website, this article may not for you, but feel free to forward to a friend or family member who is thinking about starting one.

The first choice you likely face: should you use a free blogging site (like blogger) or buy your own domain? There are many good reasons why you should buy your own domain, and only one real negative one, which is: you’re going to spend around $80 a year for your domain name and hosting. If that price is acceptable to you, go for it.

A gentle warning: don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’ll start off with a free blog and transition later to your own domain. While you can copy and paste your articles to your new site and tell your fans where you’re moving, any authority and credibility you’ve built with Google stays with the original blog and is not conveyed to your new website. You do NOT want to split the authority and credibility you’ve established with Google. One website on page one of Google search results gets far more traffic then two separate websites on page 2 or 3.

Ok, I’ve broken down the main steps in creating your website.

Step 1: Choose and buy your domain name (.com)

Go to godaddy.com and start plugging in names you like until you find one that’s available. Me personally, I buy the .com I want, pay a couple of extra bucks for a private registration (to cut down on spam) and that’s it. Godaddy will try to up sell you on EVERYTHING, but don’t fall for it. The links in this article are affiliate links. I get a few cents if you buy extra services from Godaddy, and I’m still telling you just to grab your .com and make it private.

The first thing they will try to do is convince you that you need the other extensions. “Grab the .net & .org before your competitors do!” . “You want your site to be visible on on peoples phones right?? Make sure you buy the .mobi!”. I never buy them, and I tell my friends not to waste their money either.

The next round of upsell is the most devious of all. “You want your site to be visible in search engines? You need our search engine power pack!!” & “You want email right? add on this option”. Don’t fall for it. The stuff they’re offering is free elsewhere. Trust me. The private registration is all I ever pay for. People who consult with me first about their websites end up with a $18-$20 bill from Godaddy a year. Those who talk to me me about their Godaddy experience after they’ve paid have usually paid over $200 for things that Godaddy makes them believe are necessities.

Why even use them at all then? Because they’re cheap, and most importantly, stable. If you buy your .com from ebay or some site you’ve never heard of, there’s a chance that they go out of business or one of 1000 other malicious things happen to your site.  You’re then fighting for control of your own website. Sound far-fetched? I’ve seen it with my own eyes from a cheap domain name registration/web hosting package on ebay. Don’t do it. Give Godaddy their $18-$20 a year and move on to step 2.

Step 2: Web Hosting

The last round of Godaddy up-selling is website hosting. They offer the lure of your website already being there, you might as well host it there. Where to begin with this one….

I’ll start off by saying their web hosting is bare bones. Things that a lot of other web-host’s throw in for free (like email) they don’t, because they try to charge you for it. If that alone doesn’t seem like a deal breaker, check this story out.

When we first started this site, we bought the domain from Godaddy and a hosting package as well. There were a lot of features that good hosts have that Godaddy either didn’t or wanted to charge extra for but nothing that forced us to switch. Our first big day came on January 25th, 2011 when “Damain’s Oracle” hit the front page of getfreeebooks. Our site had 271 visits that day and we were thrilled!! Our baseline after that was around 100 visits a day, but we were just waiting until “Damian’s Assassin” hit getfreeebooks for our next big spike. Our website started to run a lot slower than it should of (Google even flagged our site as flow saying it took around 7 seconds to load) and our site seemed to go down a lot. I contacted Godaddy support and they assured me that they were working on it. I knew I should have switched hosts, but it was already paid for and I didn’t want to deal with the hassle.

The day we had been waiting for came March 14th. “Damian’s Assassin” hit the front page of getfreeebooks and hundreds of people clicked on the cover to download it. What a lot of them found was a website that tried to load for a long time and then failed. We felt like our big break had arrived, and we were wasting it. A few hundred visitors was a ton to us, but nothing close to the amount of traffic it takes to crash a server. I instantly called Godaddy tech support and basically got a yawn in reply. They were working on it, maybe in a week or so. Of course in well under a week, “Damian’s Assassin” would be off the front page of getfreeebooks and our opportunity wasted.

A non-technical podcast that I listened to a few months early had spent half of one episode raving about hostgator and how good their technical support and customer service was. I knew they were one of the biggest and most popular. Based on the podcast’s recommendation and our site (which was down for a day at that point) I got an account from hostgator that afternoon. When I got home from work that evening, our website was still a joke, loading up in about 15 seconds, if it even loaded up. I backed up all of the files for our site and tried to work up the nerve to transfer them to another server. I moved the files, modified some code, and after about a grueling hour I went to load up our site and got an error message. I had been a hostgator customer for only a few hours and it was already time to put their famous customer service to the test.

I went to their website site and there were 3 options: email, chat and 24 hour phone, all of which were 100% free. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone, so I picked chat. Within seconds, a rep joined the chat with me. We spent several minutes trying to figure it out, and nothing worked.  What we found was that the hosting wasn’t the problem – I’d done something wrong with my WordPress migration.  What was awesome, though, was how much the customer service rep knew. A LOT of companies wouldn’t have helped me, because their hosting wasn’t the problem. After ten minutes or so, he said he was going to go grab his WordPress expert. A minute later he came back and within two minutes he said ok, the problem is fixed and explained to me what the problem was. I tested our site and it worked great. That was by far the best tech support experience I’ve ever had in my life, and hostgator made me a fan for life. I haven’t used tech support one time since, but I now understand the hype from the commercials.

In addition to the tech support, they are also cheap. Their basic plan, which is all you need, starts at $4 a month, and they offer everything you could imagine, all for free. Email, easy WordPress setup, unlimited bandwidth and storage space, all for $4 a month. Switching to them was the best move I’ve made.

These horror stories weren’t to scare you away from getting a webpage.  These are just things I wish I would have known before I started. Last week my buddy Lee at work told me he wanted to make a webpage. I told him what I’ve told you here. When I walked in the next morning he couldn’t wait to call me over to his desk. He showed me the site he had made the night before. He bought his .com from Godaddy, got his hosting at hostgator and setup WordPress at hostgator (which takes literally about five minutes). He even had two articles on there and had a nice banner and background. His total cost for a year’s domain registration at Godaddy and a year of hosting at hostgator was about $80. It’s not hard and it’s really quick, as long as you make the right decision from the beginning. He will most likely never have a problem on his site like I had.

Another note of caution: if you’re considering trying one of the free web-hosting services, be very, very careful. One thing that Google looks at is the IP address that your site is hosted at, and if you’re hosted in what Google considers a “bad neighborhood,” then your rankings and web traffic will suffer severely. If your website is hosted on the same server as adult content, hate sites or other things that Google frowns upon, then you will find yourself almost invisible on Google. I haven’t experienced this problem yet, but there have been people who’ve poured a ton of time and resources doing SEO work on a site and were unable to figure out why they weren’t seeing an improvement in their rankings. One day they thought to do a scan of other sites on that IP and saw that their web host had been kind enough to host them with several undesirable sites. After moving to a separate server and an “adjustment” period, their rankings rose to the appropriate level.

I really hesitate to spend money on anything related to our internet presence but the $80 or so you’ll end up paying your your .com and a reliable host is money well spent.

I’ll cover step 3, why you should strongly consider WordPress in a separate article.

One last thing, if you’re using something else for your website and you’re happy with it, STICK WITH IT!!! This article is mainly for those starting out and not an encouragement to leave something you’re happy with to go somewhere else.

How to Make a Custom QR Code

Custom QR Code for Guerrilla Wordfare

Custom QR Code for Guerrilla Wordfare

Seeing Custom QR Codes has become extremely common recently, but not many people know their name. I think I’ve heard them called “3D bar-code thingy” as much as anything. Regardless of what you call them, you see them on most advertisements nowadays and for a very good reason. A survey taken in May of this year showed that 35% of American adults have a smartphone.  Those numbers are sure to increase, and custom QR codes will become more common.

The QR codes allow for someone with a smartphone to take a picture or “scan” the code. The most common use of the codes: to take the user to a specific webpage.  I’ve become totally addicted to scanning bar-codes since Amazon instituted the scan search feature into their iPhone app earlier this year. Thursday night I was at a Barnes and Nobel looking at a book on electronics. In addition to flipping through the book to get a feel for it, I scanned the bar-code into the Amazon app on my iPhone which instantly pulled up the Amazon reviews on that book. I’ve also scanned items at Best Buy to compare prices with Amazon. The toughest part then is figuring out if you can wait a few days for the item to be shipped to you or if you need it now. 🙂 If you’re doing ANY type of print advertisement then you really want to make sure you have a custom QR code somewhere in your ad.

I’ll show a short YouTube video showing how to make your own custom QR code and then talk more about uses for the QR codes.

As we talked about in the movie, there are now a ton of uses for a custom QR code. Some of the options at the site shown in the video: Make Your Own Custom QR Code

Custom QR Code Uses

You can browse to a website.
You can bookmark a website.
You can make a phone call.
You can send a short message.
You can send an e-mail.
You can create a vCard (v2.1 or v3.0) with coordinates to add a contact to your device.
You can create a meCard to add a contact to your device.
You can create a vCalendar event to add to your calendar.
You can create Google Maps URLs.
You can create Bing Maps URLs.
You can create iTunes app and review URLs for iOS devices.
You can create special youtube:// URLs for YouTube app on iOS.
You can fetch and encode the latest tweet of a Twitter user.
You can overlay a Twitter profile image over the code.
You can create a mobile URL to tweet on Twitter.
You can initiate a chat to a particular Blackberry PIN on Blackberry Messenger.

That’s a lot of uses! I’ve used several other sites to make a custom QR code in the past, but I love this site’s options for destination as well as color customization. If there is a demand, I may do a future video on making a more advanced custom QR code. This site and video should be plenty to get you started. If you have any creative ways you use these codes, I’d love to hear them!  Feel free to post them here.

Things to do on Your First Day with a WordPress Site

While Lizzy and I were eating a bagel this morning I got an email from indie author Julia Crane. The email basically read “I just switched my website to WordPress, now what??” Talk about one of those questions where it’s easier to show then to tell!

I made three YouTube videos showing where I give a VERY basic WordPress introduction, and demonstrate a few things you can do to make your WordPress exactly what you want it to be. If you’re an experienced WordPress user these are probably of little interest to you. In the videos I deal with one plugin to demonstrate the concepts, but be sure to check out my post on plugins we use on our site to see some other handy ones.

In video one we take a quick look at the WordPress dashboard, discuss the difference between a page and a post and introduce you to widgets.

In video two we find, download, install and configure a plugin and we show you how to control when your posts publish and why you would want to alter that.

In the third and final video we discuss categories, themes and show how to modify your post URLs for better search engine visibility.

I’m a little stuffed up and still trying different things with my new microphone so please excuse the less then stellar audio, I hope the content makes it worth it! As always, please feel free to ask any questions.

Some WordPress Plugins Worth Using

I’m going completely backwards with this one. One of the posts on my “to write” list is an article on some of the advantages that using WordPress has over traditional websites and as part of that I was going to talk about some of the plugins we use. Well today Julia Crane is converting her website to WordPress and so the list of handy plugins we use jumped to the front of the list.

Akismet
The fact that WordPress includes this as part of the standard installation should tell you something. Akismet checks every comment that get’s posted on your site and and determines if it’s spam. If it thinks it is it moves it to a special spam queue with the others where you can delete them with two clicks. When we first started this site I thought Akismet was awesome as it would save us from identifying and deleting the spams by hand one at a time. As our site has grown in traffic it has gone from great to a necessity. We got 36 spam comments in March and Akismet was handy. So far in September we have 3,839. If it wasn’t for Akismet I would literally spend all day cleaning spam. To say this is worth the time to get an api and configure it would be a colossal understatement.

All in one SEO pack
Ads a small window window when you write new posts that let’s you set the title of the page that your post will show on as well as the meta description and meta keywords on your post. If you’re an SEO addict like I am you want this.

AmberPanther Favicon for WordPress
Let’s you ad your own cute little custom icon next to your page name that shows on browser tabs or browser bookmarks.

Exclude Pages from Navigation
I just added this one last week. It’s bad mojo with Google if it goes to find a page that used to exist but is no longer there. Google frowns upon dead links. I had a page that no longer fit with the rest of the site so I didn’t want it showing at the top of each page but I didn’t want to delete it all together. I downloaded this plugin, checked that page to be excluded and it now longer shows in the navigation menu at the top of each page, but it still exists so no Google penalization.

Fast Secure Contact Form
I use this for our “Contact Us” page. It was quick, easy and works great.

Google Analyticator
Automatically ads the code for Google analytics to the top of every page or post you create. I set this up one time and haven’t thought about it since. This is a day one “must install”.

Google XML Sitemaps
Automatically creates a new XML sitemap every time you ad new content and submits it to the major search engines. Another day one “must install”.

Online Backup for WordPress
Let’s you download a backup file with all of your site’s content and formatting. Do it at least once a month or so. Hopefully the day never comes when you need it, but if it ever does and you don’t have it….

Post Filters
Some posts I write belong in their categories but I would rather not have them hog a spot on the front page. This ads a little checkbox to the bottom of the post creation form called “skip frontpage” that does exactly that when I check it. VERY useful for landing pages.

Ultimate Category Excluder
Another one I recently installed to fill a specific need. With WordPress everything you do goes out on your sites RSS feed, as well it should. Lizzy has it setup so that every new RSS post get’s posted on Goodreads, Facebook etc. Most of the time that is really cool. The problem is, if I’m getting ready to make a landing page I don’t necessarily want that going out to all of those sites. Not that there is anything wrong with that, I just don’t want to spam Facebook with “Check out Lizzy’s new books!!”. This plugin let’s me designate a category to be excluded from the site’s RSS feed, and therefore won’t be posted on those other sites. Another handy plugin for landing page fans.

There are thousands of WordPress plugins and more are added every day so if you have a specific need, you can probably download an answer. As always, feel free to ask any question and please post if you know of any handy ones you loved that I’ve missed!

Things to Consider When Planning a Website

Step 1: Buy a domain or use a free service?

The first things to consider is what you would like to accomplish and what you are willing to spend on a website.  If you just want a spot to blog or pass along information, you can sign up for a free service likes Google blogger and get up and running instantly.  The downside is you have very little control over your site, and if you’re using the site for a business it’s much more professional to have www.yoursite.com then it is to have www.yourdomain.blogspot.com. If you’re using it for a business, you’re better off buying the domain.

Tip: Domains are cheap to buy. They usually run about $10 a year for .com and another $10 a year to make it “private” which means that while you own the website, it’s registered in their name instead of yours. This is $10 well spent as it will cut down on quite a bit of junk mail. If you decide to purchase a domain, use GoDaddy.com

Tip: There are a lot of mistakes that are easy to recover from, but buying your domain from a cut rate company is not one of them.

If you buy a bad logo, you can just have another made.  If your hosting service goes down, you can sign up for another service and point your site to that host.  If, however, you buy your domain from an small-time firm that goes under, you are then battling for control of your own site. Not only is this an incredibly painful process, but best case your site is offline while you struggle to get it back, worst case inappropriate content is placed on your site and you get blacklisted from Google. $20 is a small price to pay for a year of a domain and avoiding all of that hassle.

All that said, around $20 is all you have to spend. For small companies, the domain itself and private registration are likely all you need. The extra add-ons are probably not necessary for you, or can be acquired elsewhere cheaper or for free. Pick it out a domain name you like, go to GoDaddy.com to see if it’s available, if it is, grab it.

Step 2: Hosting

Once you have your domain, you need to acquire a web hosting service to host your site on the internet.  There are countless hosts on the net, but I highly recommend hostgator.com . They have been around since 2002 and they host over four million domains. In addition to being one of the best, they are also one of the cheapest name brand sites. Their plans for hosting one site range from $5 a month.

Tip: Hostgator is also very good about offering items for free (like email accounts) that other hosts charge for.

Step 3: The Site Itself

This is where it gets far more personal. At this point, you really need to determine what you want your site to accomplish.

1. Are you trying to build a web presence or brand or sell items? If you’re selling items, are you selling them locally in person, or over the internet with shipping?

2. Do you envision your site to be fairly static (gives basic information, locations, hours etc.) or dynamic (with updated content you create and/or user feedback).

These are important questions to answer, but here are a few tips.

Tip: Simple is usually better.

You want an attractive site. You want your site to have a nice layout, be easy to navigate and possibly have an attractive logo. What you probably don’t want on your site is a lot of flashy animation. In addition to slowing your site down and limiting compatibility with mobile device browsers, it also makes it much harder for search engines to analyze and therefore rank your site.

If you use words and links to build your site, Google and other search engines will have a much easier time cataloging your site then if it’s comprised of animations and pictures. There are things a skilled web developer can do to help fancy websites be handled appropriately, but this can be difficult, time consuming and costly.

Tip: You may want to seriously consider using wordpress.

WordPress is a framework used used by millions of websites to make the job of updating the content on websites much easier. Once the site is created, and the look and fell desired is achieved, someone can log onto the site and add new content about as easily as one sends an email.

Using wordpress has some serious advantages:

It’s very highly used.  This means it receives a frequent amount of security updates and has a large community which will help provide support or advice for the developer.

It’s extremely modular.  There is a huge community of developers who create “plugins” for wordpress, most of which are free for use. These plugins add increased capabilities to your site such as social media content or automated backups.

You can customize the appearance.  There are tens of thousands of “themes” you can choose to change the appearance of your site. Or you can create your own design if you’re so inclined.

WordPress is fairly easy to maintain, but you still want to make sure you’re backing up regularly and that you or someone else is applying the security updates.

Step 4: Getting the word out

Now that we covered acquiring a domain, a host and one popular option for building the site, now it’s a matter of what you would like to do with it and how aggressive you want to market it.

No matter if you have a small 5 page site with static information, or a large site with dynamic content, if you want people to be able to find you in search engines like Google, it is going to take lots of time and or money.

There are a few search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) that handle an overwhelming majority of all web searches. If you want your site to be found by people, you need to be in the first two pages of search results for these sites for key words that your potential visitors/customers would be searching for. It doesn’t matter how great your site is, if it’s on page 30 of Google, nobody will ever find it.

TIP: There are two ways to attempt to acquire search engine traffic. Organic SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and Pay Per Click (PPC).

SEO is a time consuming process. It involves research to figure out which key words to optimize your site for, optimizing your site for those key words (both in content as well as the underlying website code) and submitting your site to search engines such as Google and Bing.

The other big part of SEO is backlinks.  A major part of the algorithm Google uses to pick which sites to display at the top of its search results are how many quality sites link to your site. Links from small, low traffic sites count a little bit, but a link from a website Google views as high quality and relevant to your industry counts for quite a bit more.

The first half of SEO requires a lot of research but is not too bad. The backlink part is extremely time consuming. You can skip the backlink part on the assumption that – if your site is high quality – it will eventually get the links.  It very well might, but it will take a longer period of time versus a site which aggressively pursues its SEO.

The other option for acquiring search engine traffic is to pay for it. Search engines such as Google usually display a few “sponsored” links at the top of their search results. These are sites which have set up accounts with the search engines (Google calls it “Adwords”) and pay on a pay per click (PPC) basis.

That means a business picked its key terms, picked how much it was willing to spend per click, set a daily budget, gave Google their credit card information and told google to have it. If you bid $1 for the keyword phrase “Tucson RVs” (and that was the highest bid Google had), then every time someone Googled “Tucson RVs” your site would appear on the first page of the results at the top or side. They don’t charge for each time the ads are displayed (these are called “impressions”). But every time someone clicked on that link and was taken to your site, Google charges you $1. This occurs as often as people search and click until your daily budget is reached.

How difficult will it be to get your site appearing high in search engine results? It depends. If you’re going after keywords and phrases that are competitive at a national level, you’re likely going head to head with large companies and are in for a rough time without spending a fortune. If however you’re going for local terms (Optimizing your page for “Boise hardware stores” instead of “hardware stores”) or terms with lower search volume (“Computer motherboard repair” instead of “computers”) then you can be effective. These are smaller demographics to go after, but much easier to obtain, and hopefully more relevant.

Summary:

If you do the technical work yourself or are lucky enough to have a friend do it for you, you can get a website up and running with a year’s worth of hosting for under $200 (plus whatever you bribe your friend with). It’s worth asking around to see if anybody has a connection who can help you out. If not, your options are going with a professional service (costly) or using someone off of a site likes craigslist (costly and varying degrees of quality). If you’re paying for a service, be sure to ask what they do to help your sites search engine rankings, and be sure to shop around and compare.

Don’t let the process scare you out of acquiring a website. One of the factors Google uses in site rankings is how long the site has been online. You’re far better off getting a site up and running now and promoting it next year than you are waiting until next year to get it off the ground.

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How to make ebook covers in several not-too-difficult steps

Review of: Making Your Own Ebook Covers tutorials.

I’m cheap. There, I said it. Feels good to get that off my chest. I’m cheap in real life and I’m really cheap online. I’ve found that with a little bit of practice I can do what I need to do online. What I can’t do, I can usually find someone who can do it dirt cheap on eBay. Yesterday it was time to crank out two ebook covers.

With the 12 in 12 challenge looming, I knew I would be making several ebook covers over the coming months. My first thought was to check eBay for software which would let me easily make them. Denied. The only thing on there were cheap cd’s with photoshop scripts. While I’m pretty tech savvy, I’ve never spent the time to learn photoshop beyond the bare basics.

My next thought was finding some software I could download that would let me make ebook covers with the push of the button. Strike two. I found one with no trial download, and the other I gave up on after a minute due to pure failure on its part. More googling led me to the unavoidable truth, I was going to have to pay someone $40-$100 each to make them, or I would learn to create ebook covers myself.

I went back to a link I had found earlier on Making Your Own Ebook Covers. I had been dissuaded by the $27 price tag but after doing my normal google research, and reading what appeared to be a unbiased favorable review, I purchased the package. What I got was:

  • 66 page pdf guide to making ebook covers
  • Access to ten “members only” Making Ebook Cover Videos
  • Several preformatted ebook cover templates

All of the tutorials are using the  open source equivalent to photoshop called GIMP. GIMP is extremely widely used, and even better, free! One of the selling points of the Making Your Own Ebook Covers site was that once you bought the system for $27, you would never need to buy anything else to make your covers. After several covers, they have delivered on that promise.

I’m a big fan of video learning, so I was looking forward to the videos. To my surprise, I never touched them until I already had my first ebook cover under my belt. The 66 page guide was extremely well written and informative. It assumes (correctly in my case) that you have never touched GIMP before. The first part of the book gets you comfortable with GIMP. The next part has you designing a very simple ebook cover then transforming it into a snazzy looking 3d picture. The final part of the book is taking that cover, and going through several steps to make it look professional. These steps include adding reflections and shadows. The guide does a great job of going step by step and explaining everything. They even tacked on a one page cheat sheet at the end for when you make future ebooks and only need a general outline not step by step instructions.

Most of the videos are well done versions of what the book outlines, but the final few are on subjects not covered in the guide such as different ebook and software box formats and a guide to making dvd and cd covers. Like everything else, they did a great job.

They advertise that they include several ebook templates if you want to get up and running in a hurry. While I haven’t used one yet, I did look at them and they are very professional. I will definitely be using them in the future.

The online review I found said it took him 3 hours to go through the guide making his first ebook cover, and about 90 minutes to make his next cover. That was almost exactly how long it took me on the first run with my second cover clocking in about an hour. On the first trip through, you’re getting a feel for the program and going step by step making your ebook cover. On the second cover, I had a workable cover in under 30 minutes; I spent the rest of the time adding the professional tweaks.

As corny as it sounds, in addition to getting the ebook covers I needed this weekend I

  1. Set myself up to obtain all future ebook covers for free
  2. Learned an extremely valuable skill that I had waited to long to learn

In summary, if you are only ever going to need one ebook cover in your life, pay a graphic artist to make it for you. If, however, you think you will need more then one, do yourself a huge favor and check out Making Your Own Ebook Covers. If the thought of following a step by step guide with lots of pictures doesn’t scare you, you’re in!