Crazy for Contact Forms

Contact Form(Astroblogging) Let’s face it. Many of us are blogging astrology to build our astrology business. Yet I’ve notice a lot of us are not making use of our blogging visibility by promoting our businesses on our sites. Now you can go back and forth between the esthetics of having too much versus too little personal promotion and much of that is a personal decision.

As someone who has spent much of her professional life selling print products I can tell you marketing professionals spend a lot, and I mean A LOT of time figuring out response rates and the best way to increase them. Marketing professionals zero in on not just the message, but the elements that will get people to respond to the message. In fact, you can have the most compelling message in the world, but if you do not provide to your customers a fast and easy way to respond to the message, it won’t do you a darn bit of good.

As a real world example, the marketing manager of our circulation department set up a promotion that featured a discount on the subscription price if the customer responded on a certain day. Discounts are no brainer in the print circulation world. But he also set up the promotion so that the customer would have to call into the call center to get the discount. Here all the little details that go into a subscription gets attention, from the start date to the payment arrangements. And all the customer had to do was pick up the phone and make the call.

Let’s translate that into building your business from your blog. Take a look at it right now:

Is there an easy way for your potential clients to contact you?

Is it readily visible on the page or does the customer have to click on something else to get there? If it doesn’t smack them in the eye, than that point of contact is doing you little good. Its time to take it up a notch.

Is there an invitation for the potential client to contact you?

The last thing a potential customer want to appear is foolish and most likely won’t reach out to contract you if it isn’t obvious you want them to do so.

Or, (shame on you) is it absent all together?

Some might make the argument that comment sections are all that’s needed, especially since you want to build your up your blog, and comments crank that up. However, my opinion and experience is that when it come to a potential client and their problems they don’t want to share with the world that they are talking with an astrologer much like many don’t admit they are talking with a therapist. At least not at first.

So what’s a solution here? A contact form. much the like you see on the sidebar here. For WordPress users there are a selection of plugins to use as a contact form.

For Astrology Media Press I chose the Word Press Plug In Custom Contact Forms 4.0.1 by Taylor Lovett. This plugin is not connected with a paid service and can be easily changed to suit the look and feel of your site. Since “free” and “customizable” are what I look in a good contact form, it does the trick for me. You do need to take some time to learn the features, so it is not an “out of the box” type of app but it is easy to use even if there is a plethora of features to navigage.

If you use a Google BlogSpot blog you can create your own form and insert the code in your blog.

On the other hand I found this site–Wufoo that lets you create any type of form whose code you can pop into your website. It promises to always be free, though the number of forms you can create are limited to three, so make them some good ones!

Image from user Simon_lwc on Photobucket.


Beth Turnage authors Astrology Explored as well as being publisher of Astrology Media Press. Beth is available for private consultations. You can contact Beth at

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When Someone Violates Your Copy Right

copyright(Astroblogging) Nothing frustrates a writer more than when someone lifts their work and uses it without permission. The thief may publish the article under his or her own name. Online writers face special challenges because their work is easily copied into someone else’s blog or forum.

This is what one blogging friend found when she traced her work published in its entirety on another site. Appeals to the site admin was met with resistance, denial and even a claim that anything published on the site was protected under the site’s own copyright. What a nightmare!

While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, in the writing world is also actionable. Few us though have the time and resources to slog things out in court, there are things to do to protect your work.

Experts recommend, of course, that you register your copyright with the U. S. Copyright Office, though registering a blog, which is ongoing collection of material, is problematic. However, just the act of publishing a blog piece with a date and an author name establishes your ownership of the material. As long as your original work predates any subsequent publication of the material the blog itself proves your ownership.

Additional and less expensive ways to protect your material:

1.) Understand what constitutes copyright and copyright infringement. The use of a passage may be considered fair use and not actionable. Printing an entire work without permission certainly is.

2.) Check Copyscape, an online tool that checks and compares other online works to yours, will pull up for free ten searches each search. If you want more, then of course you have to pay at 5 cents per pop. Copyscape provides a nice little badge with warns people not to copy your work. This may or may not be as effective as a “Beware of Dog” sign, but at least you provided a clue on how seriously you take copying of your work.

3.) Write a nice letter to the admin of the site or forum explaining that your work was used without your permission and what you would like them to do to address the issue. In the past I’ve laid out to certain people that a paragraph and a link to the rest of material is OK, wholesale copying of the work is not. State what will happen if the material is not removed. Most reasonable people comply.

4.) If this doesn’t work than then next may. Write to domain server explaining that you found a terms-of-service violation in one of their hosted sites. If you don’t know the domain server you can find this information in the Who Is? Database, which can be accessed through your own domain registrar. Go Daddy for instance will allow you to look at the Who Is? Database list of the owner of the domain name. In the list you will domain server name. Most of the time, writing to the host will solve your problem, as they certainly don’t want a legal fight on their hands.

What are your experiences with people who have used your work without permission?


Beth Turnage authors Astrology Explored as well as being publisher of Astrology Media Press. Beth is available for private consultations. You can contact Beth at

Posted in Copyright Law, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Sometimes You Just Have to Fiddle With the Code

Swearing(Astro Blogging) You’ve seen some of your friends add a Facebook “Like” button and a “Tweet” button to each of their posts. And you think “Gee, I’d like to do that too!” Actually Blog Grader recommends that you do. This was my blogging project yesterday for Astrology Explored. At one site I grabbed the code for a Facebook Like button, and another a Tweet button picking in each case the horizontal option with the intention of putting them side by side. Except of course, it didn’t quite work like that, since the code for each didn’t quite match in size parameters. The Facebook button’s code actually stretch across the length of the blog post preventing the Tweet button to side next to it. Even when I fiddled with the length parm for the Like button, the Tweet button sadly sat below it to the left. Hmm. Sometimes you just have to fiddle with the code.

Actually, if you are paying attention, you can change some of these parameters even on the page where you grab the code. However, some people aren’t even aware of their pixel width for a blog page, so it is just as easy to make changes within the code as long as you are careful.

For some the thought of tweeking a code is scary. Many of us don’t know enough about how these codes are put together. And it is true a little misstep can produce some unintended results. Let’s take a look at one code, so you can get an idea of what you are looking at. Let’s look at the Facebook Like button which I laid out here in pieces.

iframe src= This is the opening statement which defines what this particular piece of code is. There are different statement, they all do pretty much the same thing. Do not change this In this piece of the string is your web address to link the action of the code to your site. Again do not change this.

;layout=standard&show_faces=true& Instructions for look of the button. Do not alter.

width=450& Ah, something looks like it can be changed! This is the width, which at 450 goes across the length of the blog. But no, this in not the number to change because changing it will do nothing. Just leave it alone.

action=like&colorscheme=light& More instructions for the look of the button. Unless you want to be particularly daring, just leave it alone.

height=80″ Though we want to change the height, this is not the place to do it.

scrolling=”no” Another instruction to ignore.

frameborder=”0″ style=”border:none; overflow:hidden; Again, no need to fiddle with this.

width:450px; With the “px” notation, which stands for pixels you can change this number as long as it is not shorter than the image. In this case I changed it to 300, which when the Tweet button butts up against it, will put the Tweet button at the half way mark of the blog. Sweet.

height:80px;” The height parameter, to achieve the effect I am looking for needs to be changed. Since on the Tweet button’s height is 20 pixel, I’ll change the Facebook button’s height to the same pixel height.

allowTransparency=”true”> Another image instruction. No need to touch this.

/iframe The closing statement which closes the door on this piece of code. Leave this alone.

To put the two side by side, just insert the Tweet code at the end of the closing iframe statement.

The result is this:

Go ahead. Press the buttons. See what happens!

So what do you do to have this code show up in each of your posts? Sorry, no automation here. Copy and paste it each time in the new post.


Beth Turnage authors Astrology Explored as well as being publisher of Astrology Media Press. Beth is available for private consultations. You can contact Beth at

Image from Photobucket from user FamousPoliceDog

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Grade Your Blog Here

Blog Grade for

(Astroblogging) I’m blogging this because Hub Spot told me I should. No, this is not some evil plot on Hub Spot’s part. A while back I wrote about Hub Spot’s Web Site Grader which is very cool way to see what is good and not helpful about your current site.

Web Site Grader spun out mini-version of this as Blog Grader. In looking at their helpful recommendations they told me I should do another post. They also had some other helpful things to say. They recommended I should post more often, recommending at least once a day, though in their own blog post they noted that A list bloggers post twice a day. They thought the average post length was a little short. And they’ll show you the level of social media engagement that your blog enjoys, or not.

In the end, if you want, you can get this nifty little badge (shown above) that can be inserted into your blog, if you want to display your blog rank.

All in all, this is nice snapshot of your blog, and following their suggestions will help you out a bit, without stressing out with a lot of do’s and don’ts.

If you want you can type in another blogs URL to see how you stack up to them.

While you are at it, you can check their list of the Top Sixty Astrology Blogs for October 2010 based on their rankings.

Looks like I have some work to do, so I better get cracking! Let me know how this works for you!

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Widgets, and Networks and Customer Service, Oh My!

(Astroblogging) The great irony of my life is that in my day job among other things I run a call center. This means that I have high expectations at what I expect from customer service of other companies. Among these high expectations is an attitude that the customer MUST be satisfied in the course of an interaction with a company.

You can imagine my frustration then at dealing with Widget Box, a company which Astroblogging previously endorsed, but sadly must now tell you, don’t go near these people with a stick.

Widget Box allows you to create widgets, and if you decide to “Go Pro” they will generously allow your widget to go without their advertisements. There is a price for this generousity, however, $29 per year. I ponied up this amount last year when I created Astrology Media Press last year on the defunct Blogs.Mu site. Blogs.Mu had a limited selection of widgets, so I attempted to fill the void with Widget Box widgets. This year, going to Host Gator with Astrology Media Press my WordPress options expanded and the Widget Box widgets were no longer needed. My problem stemmed from not cancelling the service before they automatically charged my PayPal account again.

Here is my communications with Widget Box. If I wasn’t so annoyed with them, I would be laughing my head off.

Dear Sirs,

Regarding a recurring payment on my Paypal account, (Recurring Payment ID#86919885TU790951S) on paypal account under the email (deleted).

Please discontinue this yearly subscription fee, cancel my widgetbox account if you like, and please refund this money.

I did not intend to renew, but since I received no advance notice of the charge, did not have a chance to do so.

If you check your records you will see I have not accessed the widgetbox account in quite some time, and I simply find no use for the product.


Beth Turnage

Their reply:

Dear Beth,

I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have about your subscription and you are welcome to cancel anytime. Simply login to the widgetbox site and go you “my Account.” You can scroll to the bottom of the page to find options to cancel your subscription or cancel your account all together. You can also click on “purchases” and find the option to cancel there, as well.

However, please keep in mind, per our terms-of-sale, that a subscription service is non-refundable. So this step will only cancel additional service periods: We emailed a reminder of the renewal on July 21, 2010 to the email address we have on file at Widgetbox: I currently show that you account is active with 4 PRO widgets and therefor not eligible for a refund.

The account will continue to have the Pro functionality until the subscription period has ended, after which time it will turn back to a basic account and functionality and you will not be billed again.

We will be more than happy to assist you with any functionality concerns, as needed. You can find a list of our various Pro products and features here: If you are having functionality issues with any of your services, please send a detailed email to and your email will be answered in the order it was received or review the many customer questions and interactions at

Please let me know if you have any further questions.

That “cheers” really got to me, especially since this company told me to go take care of my request myself and yeah, sucker we are keeping your money even though you are not using our service.

And no, despite their assertions I did not get ANY emails regarding a future charge to my PayPal account.

So you can be sure that I went right away, deleted the entire account and send them another email.


“Unfortunately, I cannot offer you a refund on a product you have had for over a year.”

This despite the fact that the fee was a subscription fee for one year into the future.

But I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised since charging people perpetually for services they aren’t receiving seems to be de rigour in the online world. Despite the fact that Blogs.Mu has been out of business for three months, and has given me one refund already, its parent company WPMU DEV continues to charge me my monthly hosting fee.

Its up to you folks, but you just might want to avoid these businesses, because life is too short for bad customer service.


Beth Turnage authors Astrology Explored as well as being publisher of Astrology Media Press. Beth is available for private consultations. You can contact Beth at

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Should You Add a Forum to Your Astrology Blog?

(Astroblogging)–You know a blog is “alive” when it hosts a conversation. You’re not just posting articles about the cardinal square or the astrological topic of the day. Readers are actually commenting. This level of participation in turn helps motivate you to write the next blog post, because you know some people actually care what you have to say.

If you have already built a community on your blog – if you have regulars who even talk to each other in the comments section – it may be time to introduce a forum. That way, your core readers can start their own topics, they’re not just relying on you to spark the conversations.

The Upside

There are many advantages to hosting a forum on your astrology blog:

  • It boosts page views.
  • User-generated content can bring you more search engine traffic.
  • It increases retention. Readers who are involved in a small community feel more invested, they feel like they have a home.
  • Having a forum gives you a deeper understanding of your readers, which provides data to help you write blog posts more customized to their needs.

The Challenges

  • Integrating a forum into a blog can be a technical challenge, especially if you want the forum to maintain the look and feel of your blog. A standard vBulletin board (image) looks nothing like a blog. ElsaElsa does a good job of integrating a forum that fits in with the style of her blog. It appears from looking at the source code that she uses bbPress, which integrates with WordPress blogs. On Sasstrology, I use bbPress within a larger BuddyPress installation. (BuddyPress is a social networking platform within WordPress).
  • You have to moderate discussions. If you are not intimately involved with your forum, it can get out of control. Face it, when members are allowed to be anonymous, sometimes their darker selves come out. Nastiness ensues. When I first started my forum, I had to learn the hard way that a set of community guidelines is essential to prevent the forum from turning into a cesspool of spam and personal attacks. If your community is large enough and you have mentally stable members who are committed to its health, you can enlist them to become moderators, and give them privileges from the backend of your forum software to delete posts that violate the forum rules.

Comment below: What is your experience with forums within blogs? Do you think it’s worth the trouble for your own blog?

About the Author

Jeffrey Kishner is publisher of

Posted in Astroblogging, Promotion, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

How to Sell a Digital Product for Immediate Download on Your Blog

(Astroblogging)–In a previous post, I discussed how to make money from an astrology blog. An additional income source can come from selling your own ebooks or mp3 recordings of talks you’ve given.

Of course, you can throw a PayPal button up on your site and manually email your customer the file she purchased, but if you have a high-volume business – or just want to minimize your workload in the future – you can set your blog up so that your customer can immediately download her purchase.

There are a few ways to do this, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

aWeber and PayPal

I set up Conquer the Universe With Astrology so that the customer would automatically subscribe to an emailing list after her PayPal purchase. This can be done with AWeber (affiliate link), a highly-reliable email marketing service. You need to follow this tutorial to allow PayPal to communicate with AWeber. (And you don’t have to use PayPal – AWeber is compatible with other payment gateways.) Essentially, PayPal sends an email to AWeber subscribing your customer to a particular mailing list. AWeber sends your customer a confirmation email (to opt-in). After your customer clicks on the link in the email, she is sent her first “follow-up” email. You set up this first email so that (1) it is sent out immediately; and (2) so that it contains a link to the digital download within the body of the follow-up email.

Advantage: Your customer is automatically signed up to an email list, which allows you to send her a combination of updates (“broadcasts”) and more follow-ups. You can pitch more products to her, or just send out weekly forecasts – it’s up to you.

Disadvantages: (1) You have to communicate to the customer that she has to confirm her subscription to your newsletter. Otherwise, she will not be able to receive the follow-up email that contains the link to the digital download. You can set PayPal up so that your customer is sent to a “Thank You” page where you can make it loud and clear that she has to click on the confirmation link. Nonetheless, some customers will not read these instructions, and will email you about why they haven’t received their products. (2) AWeber is expensive. I personally think it’s worth it, because an email list is valuable. However, I would not suggest this option if you don’t plan on making use of a list.

A WordPress Plugin

If you have a self-hosted WordPress blog, you can take advantage of a free plugin at GetShopped. I am currently using this plugin for my Sasstrology Store. After you install it, you can add digital products in your dashboard. After the customer “checks out” using PayPal, she is sent back to a transaction page that includes temporary links to download her purchased ebooks. She also receives an email containing these links.

Advantages: This option requires less work on the customer’s part. Also, the barebones version of the plugin is free.

Disadvantage: You have to worry about plugin compatibility with your current version of WordPress. When I automatically upgraded to the most recent version of the plugin, my store “broke.” I had to delete the plugin and re-upload the older version that I had originally downloaded. Although there is a forum, I’ve seen complaints about product support, and you do need to be savvy with the back end of WordPress to really take advantage of this plugin.


I have no experience with E-Junkie, but I learned about it when poking around at Love Astrology. According to the website, “For merchants selling downloads, we automate and secure the digital delivery of files and codes.” This service can take the headache out of setting up email parsers at AWeber or an e-commerce plugin in WordPress. They have a clearly defined pricing structure based on the number of products you are selling. For example, you can sell up to 10 products for $5 per month, and “there is no limit on the number of sales or bandwidth.”

I can’t really speak of advantages and disadvantages for this service, but it looks like it’s the easiest to implement.

About the Author
Jeffrey Kishner is publisher of Sasstrology. He is also a blog consultant.

Posted in Making Money, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Social Media: AOL Takes the Hint

A while back (Astroblogging)–I wrote a review on AOL’s Lifestream, a particularly useful app that incorporates various social media streams, like Facebook and Twitter, into one location. While I liked it, I saw one drawback:

Where AOL runs short of a home run is the lack of an easy interface like a button to gather new buddies into your AIM account for private chats. While you can import your email contacts into your buddy lists, you can’t do the same for your Facebook Friends or Twitter followers. Nor do they offer a way to invite people to do so. Without an easy incentive to invite people to reach across social media streams people just won’t, leaving AOL all dressed up and nowhere to go.

Well, it looks like AOL took the hint or got a clue somewhere. Recently they’ve shook hands with Facebook to allow AIM users to import their Facebook friends into AIM chat. No starting with square one here! And that beats Google’s Buzz all to heck, now doesn’t it?

Beth Turnage authors Astrology Explored as well as being publisher of Astrology Media Press. Beth is available for private consultations. You can contact Beth at

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Mudslinging Part 1: Improving Traffic on Your Astrology Blog


Today we’ll look at strategies to improve your blog traffic. Here is the mud I sling at the wall.

Blog Traffic

Where does your traffic come from? For a long time with the first Astrology Explored, most of my traffic came from the aggregator’s which at the time was Elsa’s Top Ten Astrology News (which is no longer up), Jeffrey Kishner’s Astrology Blogger (same thing). Along around the one year mark, Google started to send me traffic. Apparently, after a year of blogging I made the search engines. It was a very long year. Once Google recognized AE as an authoritative source it sent me 60% of my total traffic. Along the way I learned the following:

Post Often and Regularly

During the first year of AE I made it a point to post everyday. I had a monetary incentive to do so, to be true, since the network paid me per post but it turned out for the best. Having an extensive body of work out there made it juicy pickings for the search engines.

Use Keywords in Your Posts

Yeah, it seems counter intuitive to the creative process, but sprinkling your posts with common astrology keywords is like saying “Here doggy, doggy” to the search engines. Use keywords in your title, and repeat them in your post. It helps, I swear.

Link to Other Blogs

I’ve mentioned before that you should make new friends. You should also link to their blogs. Julie Demboski does it by mentioning posts she likes at the end of her post. I do it by referencing the blog within the piece itself. Either way, when you link to other people, they are likely to return the favor.

List Your Blog in Directories

At one time this was the only way to get your blog noticed. Now there are more social networking tools out there and it is tempting to rely on them. While I personally recommend Networked Blogs through Facebook and Twitter to jump start your blog traffic, you should still spend the time to list your blog with directories. Blog Catalog is good if you take the time to log in fairly regularly and make sure your page is updating with your latest posts. List with and Top at the very least.

Timing is Everything

Get your posts up early. If you are writing about an event in the future, like an eclipse, get your piece up at least a week ahead of the event.

Not Last and Certainly Not Least–Content

Posting regularly is good but not enough. If you want to build your traffic you might find you’ll have to stretch yourself as a writer and astrologer to build a broad body of work that captures the notice of the search engines. Jeffrey Kishner does it by having different writers on his blog, but we all don’t have Jeffrey’s luxury.

Topics that capture search engines’ attention are horoscopes, current events, crime topics, and celebrities. Specific astrological events that get hot play are eclipses, full moons, and equinoxes. Devote some of your posts to these topics and you’ll see an increase in traffic on those days.

Question: How have you improved traffic on your blog?

Image posted under a Creative Commons license from Flickr.


Beth Turnage authors Astrology Explored as well as being publisher of Astrology Media Press. Beth is available for private consultations. You can contact Beth at

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Three Common Metrics to Measure Your Blog’s Success



(Astroblogging)–Ellen asked:

I use Google Analytics and am looking for a good article on the 3-5 most important things to track. I can get so lost looking at the data and imagining what it means and what to do about it.

Let’s start at some basics and in future posts we can provide some deeper knowledge. (hint, Jeffrey Kishner!)

Blog Traffic

No one wants to answer this question. What kind of traffic do you need to “arrive” as a substantial blog? What would it take to become something like Sasstrology, the number astrology blog on the net?

Different internet gurus sling about page hits, page views, and unique visitors. Most advertisers are looking for unique visitors, actual people, not spyders or bots that are reading your page. From my experience to place as a notable blog, an authoritative source, you need to break the 100 unique visitor per day mark or 3,000 unique visitors per month. Sasstrology on the other hand has nearly 26,000 unique visitors per month.

That being said, the niche for astrology blogging is very small and even blogs with a few hundred page views per month rate on

Bounce Rate

If someone comes to visit you in your home, you’d like them to stay a while, not bounce right in and out the door. Bounce rate measures whether or not people are staying to look at your content.

One website says this about bounce rate

average bounce rates are 30% and anything above 50% is bad and below 20% is awesome.

There is quick disclaimer that every industry is different, so when it comes to an astrology blog, given the diversity of the material out there a higher bounce rate might not be as bad as you might think.

All that being said, if your bounce rate is below 50% you are doing well.

Length of Time on Page

Once some has come to visit, and decided to stay, the next thing to work on is getting them to stay longer. Again this is an advertising metric, but it also is a measure of how engaging your content is. There is huge variable in the length of time on page from website to website and industry to industry.

As you get more into making money from your blog, you will be motivated to add features and items to entice people to linger over your posts. One insightful blogger noted that when she added YouTube videos to a page she got more revenue through clicks on the ads simply because Google paid higher rates to pages that had a longer length of time on the page.

Again, there is no standard here, but if people spend an average of 2:50 minutes you are doing something right to engage your audience.

Well, Miss Beth, How Do You Improve These Measurements?

If there was a magic bullet to improve any of these things someone would have bottled it and made their first billion dollars. The answer lies not in one strategy, but many. Like one of my corporate bosses used to say “Throw enough mud on the wall and something will have to stick.”

So my next post will be “Mud Slinging”

Photo printed under a Creative Commons License as posted on Flickr.


headshotsmallBeth Turnage authors Astrology Explored as well as being publisher of Astrology Media Press. Beth is available for private consultations. You can contact Beth at

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