Night Shots: New York City Skyline

One of the first things that exited me about getting my new Sony A7R camera was shooting full frame night shots. We are talking 30+ second shutter times at ISO 100.  Absorbing as much light as possible, capturing all the rich colors possible.

Living across the Hudson River from New York City, well that begged to be my first subject.

This was one of my first attempts.

Taken from Hoboken, NJ. An airplane in the distance behind One World Trade Center (looks like a shooting star).
Taken from Hoboken, NJ. An airplane in the distance behind One World Trade Center (looks like a shooting star).

It was absolutely freezing out when this was taken (Jan 26, 2014).  It is interesting how the temperature impacts the clarity of the night.  Knowing that I was going to want to take photos like this multiple evening, I started becoming hyper aware of the conditions outside every night.

Luckily, the cold, crisp air made it pretty easy to get clear shot.  Unfortunately, it makes your fingers numb within seconds.

The large photo at the top of the page was taken this summer on an especially clear night.  I actually had to check multiple nights before finding one as clear as pictured here.

Both photos are taken from the same spot.  One looking south towards WTC1.  The other looking straight across the river or slightly north.

For comparison, here's the same basic direction taken in the winter.

Taken from Hoboken, NJ looking at the Empire State Building.
Taken from Hoboken, NJ looking at the Empire State Building.

HDR of NYC

Ok, the main photo at the top of the page is what some consider to be "cheating."  It is an HDR image.

To be honest, I'm starting to become obsessed with shooting HDR because it adds an additional set of creative inputs during post processing.

This is real HDR photography where I'm bracketing multiple shots at various exposures, merging and layering them, etc.  It is actually pretty technical.

One of the biggest challenges is movement.  For some reason, it didn't occur to me that the water in these images could present a challenge for HDR since there are so many points of movement.  Especially in the dark!

After dozens of frames, I was able to make this image work.

You can see all of these images in higher resolution over on my SmugMug gallery.

Domaining Lessons Often Learned the Hard Way

There are webmasters and marketing experts who reportedly earn $10,000 a day. This may be huge earnings compared to what the average individual earns, but it’s actually meager income compared to what others are earning from their domain portfolio.

For these domain services experts, earnings of $100,000 a day are normal. If you want to capitalize on this online moneymaking scheme as well, then you’d do well to avoid the common mistakes beginners make.

Mistake #1: Getting Ahead of Yourself

Before you announce a domain deal (whether you’re buying or selling) on your social media pages, make sure the deal is already final. Never forget to put everything in writing! Once you get the deal in writing, be sure to read all the details, especially the fine print. Remember that there are people who want to keep domain purchase terms a secret for whatever reason.

You could become unwittingly guilty of breaching a contract if you post details of the sale on social media when the contract says you shouldn’t. While it’s understandable to be excited about a good deal, you should always err on the side of caution.  

Mistake #2: Keeping Too Many Domain Names

Never forget that you’re buying domain names as an investment. Therefore, they should form part of your assets, not your liabilities. This means every single domain you own should be turning in a decent profit, whether you’re actually using them as profitable websites or simply keeping them as passive income sources.

If a particular domain isn’t turning in a decent profit and there isn’t really any hope of it appreciating in value anytime in the future, then it’s best to dump it immediately.

As a general rule, it’s better to invest more of your money in a few high-quality domains than to spread your investment among several non-performing or poorly-performing ones. No matter how cute or clever a particular domain name sounds, if it isn’t performing as it should, drop it.

Mistake #3: Using Unethical or Highly Expensive Registrars

Be very careful when choosing a domain name registrar. There are registrars that charge up to $100 a year for a .com domain that you can actually get for less than $10 a year at another registrar. These registrars that charge exorbitant fees are counting on the negligence of newbies. They know that many of those who are new in the field do not bother to shop around, and they capitalize on this knowledge. Don’t let them take advantage of you!

What if you got a domain from an auction and it’s already registered with one of those high-charging registrars? The simplest solution is to transfer it out to a better registrar immediately. If you wait until a later date, you just might forget and end up paying too much when renewal time comes.

Be sure to keep a record of your domain purchases and the respective registrars. If you discover that some of your domains are held by a rip-off registrar, transfer them out at the soonest possible time.

Mistake #4: Going Maverick

Many wannabe domainers have gone before you and fallen hard on their faces when they tried to do everything by themselves. Rather than repeating their mistakes, you need to learn from them. Seek out the experts in domain services and see if they’re willing to share some of their secrets to success. At the very least, they could offer some useful advice that could guide you along the way. The good thing about the domain industry in general is that it’s pretty much a supportive community.

As long as you’re willing to learn, those who’ve gone before will most likely be willing to teach you.

You may also want to consider entering into a partnership with a few individuals who can bring capital into your venture. As long as you do it right, partnerships can be an excellent way of diversifying your holdings and minimizing your risks.

Mistake #5: Not Focusing on the Moneymakers

If you have one or two domains that earn a sizable amount of money, whether it has been developed into a full-fledged website or simply being used as a passive income source, be sure to pay close attention to it. Develop the site further, add value to it by posting more high-quality content, create marketing campaigns for the site, and make sure it stays profitable.

Your goal in this case is to multiply the profitability of this domain as much as you possibly can.

Mistake #6: Failure to Set Priorities

As soon as you’re done reading this article, get a pen and paper, sit down, and do this! List down all of your objectives and priorities where domaining is concerned, and then display copies of the list where you’re sure to see them every single day.

If you suddenly find yourself doing things that aren’t on your list of priorities, take stock of the situation to make sure you aren’t wasting any of your precious time. This helps you ensure that any time spent on your domains is time well spent.

Mistake #7: Failure to Check Trademark Laws

Trademark violations can give you more trouble than you’d care to be in, especially if you happen to commit them without knowing you did! This is why you need to familiarize yourself with trademark laws. More importantly, you need to steer clear of using domain names that are too close to a trademark or any famous name. Sure, you’ll probably benefit from the good reputation of that name, but the headache and stress you’re likely to suffer when you face an infringement lawsuit are too high a price to pay.

Just like any other industry, the key to success in domaining is keeping up with the latest developments and trends. It is also important to keep observing what other domainers are doing and learn from their successes and failures. Even if you’re able to avoid the above mistakes, there’s still a possibility that you’ll make your own mistakes along the way.

In fact, there are probably dozens of other newbie mistakes we haven’t covered here, as no single article can possibly cover every aspect of such a complex and dynamic industry. What’s important is for you to keep learning and never give up. Good luck!

Getting Found: Five Fast and Easy Steps to Increase Your Web Presence in a Big Way

Today’s vendors have numerous digital advantages never imagined by those of decades ago.  Digital assets not only increase brand awareness, but direct access to for-sale products and services, increasing revenue and potential for expansion. Today’s advertising mechanizations are not a matter of knowing your ABCs as was regarding presence in the Yellow Pages.  Today’s marketers leverage offline and online platforms, growing clients’ presence within particular industries.

Social Networks

What online platforms can today’s brands use to increase levels of presence? 

YouTube Channel

Years ago, making a brand-related ‘video’ meant preparing for a television commercial.  A one-time video shoot, featuring about a minute of brand-related information would broadcast and rebroadcast in the hopes of increasing sales and awareness.

Today, brands don’t have to pay for television advertising; brands can create and produce their own videos for free with a YouTube channel.

Ensure channels and individual videos are tagged with specific keywords and phrases related to the content.  Furthermore, engage with other channel users, commenting upon and sharing the content of others to fuel the impressions and interactions of one’s own channel.

Google Plus Page

Years ago, more people began owning computers and mobile devices.  More people were online at any given point than ever before.  ‘Social’ sites, like Facebook, began evolving, quickly gaining attention and popularity.  Google, enjoying its reign as the world’s preferred search engine, took note of the social sites’ levels of popularity.

Seeking to emulate similar interaction, Google created Google Plus, a social sharing site like Facebook with some alterations.  Yes, users can post blogs of text, pictures, and even videos.

In addition, Google Plus users may leverage the platform’s real-time video broadcasting capabilities.  Brands can video conference with partners, employees, and customers in real time for troubleshooting, meetings, and brand-to-consumer promotional fodder.

Load social channels with a number of brand-related digital extensions; use social channels to invite consumers to read brand-related reviews on sites such as Yodle, Inc.

Automated Sharing

Twitter, recently ushering news about an incipient public offering, is quickly augmenting its advertising platforms.  In addition, the social resource allows for continuous sharing of brand-related content.  Considering automation, an employee can manage a week’s worth of ‘tweets’ in under an hour, scheduling the content, time released and leveraged hashtags.

Yes, interested brands use social channels to communicate with consumers in real time, but in order to strengthen exposure, brands automate a number of enterprises to ensure a bigger and better presence.

Affiliate Marketing

Traditionally, affiliate marketing hosted opportunity for two brands of related but unlike industries.  For example, an energy bar company may form an affiliate partnership with a bicycle manufacturer, identifying a mutually inclusive share of potential consumers.  However, considering how easy it is to communicate through social channels like Facebook, brands may pay ‘friendly’ respects toward others.

One company may write a Facebook post about another brand that does well in providing customer service, sharing the post with followers as well as prompting the discussed brand to notice.

The enterprise not only alerts the discussed brand of endorsement, but it could inspire the brand to direct its followers’ attentions toward the complimentary brand.  It’s not likely for Coke fans to ‘like’ Pepsi, yet it’s likely Coke fans will like the music produced by record label Virgin for example.

Revisit Post Titles

Review a number of mainstream newspaper article titles.  Many host signals of emotion and sensationalism.  It’s done on purpose; newspaper editors want people immediately intrigued, reading the articles attached to headlines.  Blog and digital property owners seek the same levels of attention regarding headlines, yet the digital producers have an integral advantage – digital titles can be modified post-production.

Revisit a blog’s titles, making them more aligned with keywords and terms; titles hold value for different reasons after digital production.  As stated, upon release, titles attract user attention; however, after production, titles work better in attracting the attention of search engines.

Revisit older posts, aligning content with specific keywords and phrases, modifying the existing title to make them more optimized for engines and ongoing user queries rather than immediate human attention.

6 Ways to Better Conversion Rates

When it comes to succeeding as an online business, many people focus most of their time and effort on attracting as many people to their websites as possible. Unfortunately, just because you have hundreds or thousands of visitors doesn't mean that you will make sales. Fortunately, to help improve your chances of making sales, here are 6 tips:

1. Become an authority figure in your niche.

It is a fact that people are more likely to buy from individuals or companies they trust, even if the product isn't necessarily the best. To gain people's trust, you need to first become an authority figure in your niche. To become an authority figure, you must be knowledgeable about your niche and interact appropriately with your customers.

2. Make your website easy to find.

If you sell a product or service, you need to ensure that your landing page ranks in Google (and other search engines). By using a combination of buying keywords and white hat SEO practices, you can direct traffic to the right places on your website and help your website rank. Fortunately, if you don't care much for keyword research, you can partner with services such as SEO Works to take care of your SEO needs.  

3. Make your website easy to use.

If you want to encourage people to buy, you need to keep your website simple and ensure that it is accessible on a number of different browsers and devices (especially mobile devices). To keep people interested, you have to think about how easy your products and information is to find and how fast everything loads. If a buyer struggles with any aspect of your website, you could lose a sale.

4. Offer different payment options.

One of the easiest ways to lose a sale is to have limited payment options. Whenever possible, you should have a number of payment options available to benefit even more buyers. Although PayPal is one of the most popular choices, it is not the only payment option.  There's also the new Square Marketplace.

5. Offer guarantees.

To truly make people have faith in what you are selling, it is very helpful to offer guarantees and honour them. If you give people the option to return a product if they are not 100% satisfied, they will feel more relaxed about buying products from you.

6. Regularly test your landing pages.

One of the main reason why many landing pages fail is that businesses neglect testing. When you need a webpage to fulfill a specific duty, testing every single element on the page is essential to improve the conversion rate. Even something as simple as how you design your “Buy Now” button can make or break a sale.

One of the key elements that must always be tested is your call-to-action. By clearly telling people what you want them to do, you can greatly improve your conversion rates. However, your call-to-actions must be relevant and not sound too pushy to be the most effective.

With these 6 tips, you can begin improving your conversion rates to make your online business more successful.

Blog Advertising Networks

You don’t have to blog for long before you start thinking about monetizing—Regular blogging takes time and energy, so it’s only natural to want some compensation for you efforts. The only problem? Nowadays, the Internet is filled with so many advertising networks that choosing one is tough.

How do you know which one is right for you? Where can you find more info? What should you do? To help answer those questions, here’s a look at various ad networks and what they offer. Use this research to decide which advertising to pursue.

BlogHer

One of the most popular advertising networks for bloggers of various sizes, BlogHer caters mostly to female bloggers and/or female audiences. It has specific requirements for its publishers (posting a minimum of twice a week, keeping ads above the fold) and asks writers to sign contracts when joining. On the plus side, BlogHer is an established network with a variety of perks for its bloggers; on the downside, it usually has a waiting list for acceptance and sets standards bloggers must follow. 

Federated Media

Federated Media is a San Francisco-based marketing company offering ads to websites that deal with living, business, and technology. A website must have high traffic to qualify for this network, but in return, Federated Media provides the established reputation of a network that’s catered to sites like Dooce and Apartment Therapy.

Lijit

For smaller blogs, Federated Media offers the Lijit advertising network. No traffic minimums are required to join, so any blogger may begin displaying ads immediately. What’s more, Lijit is not exclusive, so you may run other ads at the same time. While the payment rates are not as high with Lijit as with Federated Media, payments come conveniently via Paypal at the end of the following month.

Izea

Izea is an ad network offering advertising to blogs with a minimum of 2,000 page views per month. If your blog meets that requirement, you can apply to the network to begin displaying advertising, as well as to learn more about sponsored posts.

Google AdSense

Google’s content-targeted advertising network is non-exclusive, with a variety of options for implementation. Choose from text ads, media ads, or a combination. Your ads may appear anywhere on your site, and you don’t have to sign a contract to participate.

How Do You Pick?

After you’ve taken a look at the above advertising networks, what should you do next? How do you select which network is best for you? Here are a few key questions to consider to help guide your choice:

  • Who’s using these networks, and what do they think? Before signing up with a network, talk to others who uses it. Are other publishers happy with the network? What complaints do they have? This gives you a good idea of what to expect if you join.

  • What is the quality of the ads? Take a look at the ads from a given network as they’re displayed on other blogs. Do you feel comfortable with the way they look and what they advertise?

  • What are the requirements? Some ad networks require you to sign a contract of exclusivity; some do not. If you must be exclusive to a particular network, consider whether  you are comfortable committing to one network only. Likewise, certain networks require you to place ads at the top of your website; others are more flexible. Think about whether you are more comfortable with one option over the other.

  • Do I qualify? If your blog doesn’t meet minimum traffic requirements, you won’t qualify for some networks. If this is the case, focus your attention on the ones whose qualifications you meet—or wait until you can join the ones with restrictions.

A Guide to Making Your Blog Appear like a Website

If your website looks exclusively like a blog it might be time to change things. You might be thinking it’s time to make the switch to a classic website style. You don’t have to follow these steps if you just want to revitalise your blog. There are other ways of doing this without making such a drastic change. Here are some guidelines for giving your blog a facelift and changing the structure of your website.

Making Minor Changes

Superficial changes are those changes which the visitor sees. It could be a new background or a slightly different layout. These don’t actually alter the structure of your website. It focuses on appearances only. You can make some changes to make it seem more like a traditional website. Superficial changes are good for keeping up with current trends in web design.

Easy as Pie

Superficial changes aren’t difficult to enact. Start from the blog post selection screen and you’ll see a bunch of options for making another web page. You can add picture links with a blog title underneath it. Every picture acts as a link to your blog. Try using the Ahref feature to direct users to a specific part of the page. This is great if you want to direct your visitors to something specific.

Try changing some of your category pages to make your site look more like an article site, such as Cracked.com. You can still build web pages on top of your new category pages, which keeps things simple like a blog. You can choose from a variety of pages, including sitemaps, index pages, and doorways.

If you want to change your home page, you can. Add a banner to it so all your blog entries move downwards and things start to look more like a conventional homepage. It doesn’t break any of the links already on your home page. The pages still exist and they have the same URLS. You’re simply altering how things appear to the user.

Another option is to convert the existing home page into a sitemap. Shove all your links at the bottom to create a minimap a user can click on. This is an inferior option for converting your homepage, though. Larger blogs will struggle to deal with all the different content on the website.

Going Deeper

In some cases, you’ll have to start going deeper into your website and changing the structure of it. This will alter links and you should prepare for a lot of work if you want to start changing codes and adding new things. If you’re using a Content Management System (CMS), like WordPress, you can get away with simply installing a plugin which changes how your site looks.

With most CMS, they tend to look like blogs so you should read up on some tutorials before fiddling around with things.

Converting a Blog to a Website

If you’re absolutely sure you want to transition from a blog to a website, prepare for a lot of work. Anything can be changed as a website and a blog is just a set of codes. To convert a blog to a website, you need to rewrite the base code. If you have a smaller website, you might want to start from scratch.

You should watch out for any URLs and backlinks during the conversion process. Any changes to the URLs will break any relevant backlinks and remove the benefits gained from them. You should read through Google’s guidelines on URLs to make sure you’re adhering to best practices during the rewrite.

Redirects are a DIY method of preserving your links, but they aren’t as beneficial as direct links.

The chances are you’ll have to upload all your content again. Remember to save every page before making the change. It’s such a large project, so it’s often easier to simply pay someone else to do the job. It also removes the possibility of making any mistakes. This isn’t something you should attempt if you have little experience.