How To Make Money From Your Blog

Features, Lifestyle, Quick Reads

Have you ever wondered how bloggers make money from blogging?

If you have just started out and you want to learn how to make money on your blog from affiliate marketing it can seem daunting, but it is really simple once you get the hang of it.

Make Money From Blogging

It occurred to me the other day that my day job gives me loads of insight and information that I could use to help bloggers who want to make some money through advertising on their blogs. Going into 2018 I am hoping to create some informative posts as well as normal ones. Affiliate marketing is something a lot of people shy away from dipping into because they do not feel they will get it right, but it’s super easy once you know how.

Pick the right affiliate or affiliate network

If you want to start running some affiliate marketing on your blog, you can either contact companies you have worked with directly or use a network. There are different benefits to each method and it really depends on how niche your blog is.

Direct

Setting up a direct affiliate programme may be a little bit more tricky than a network one as you need to ensure that the company is tracking your conversions. If you are going to approach a company to start running some affiliate marketing for them agree to the terms and conditions before you start running the promotion. Make sure they are able to provide you with a link that tracks the conversion back to you and test it before you start.

Networks

Using an affiliate network is probably the best way to get started if you are a beginner. I use one of the largest networks, Rakuten. I use them because they have big names on board like Beauty Bay, Smashbox and Charlotte Tilbury. Everything is pre-packaged so all you need to do is copy the links to your blog and then you are set. Obviously, Rakuten takes a cut, but if you are just starting out with affiliate it is worth the cost for how easy it is to use.

Learn the types of commission

One of the first things you will want to find out if you are going to venture into affiliate marketing is how much you will get paid and when. There are a few terms that circulate around when it comes to affiliate marketing that sound super confusing, but trust me they are easy to understand once you have them explained.

Last click commission

Last click commission means that whatever affiliate is the last to place a cookie on the user’s machine gets the commission. This means even if the user has clicked on a link through to the website from another affiliate in the past, you will get the commission for being the last person to direct them to the website and encourage the conversion to a sale.

CPA

CPA stands for ‘cost per acquisition’. The company you are hosting affiliate links for will set the acquisition before you start running the affiliate programme. It can be a number of different things but one of the most common ones is a completed sale. Once the users convert to a sale you will get the pre-agreed rate of commission which is usually a percentage.

There are also websites like CPA Lead where you can earn commission on things like account creation web form sign-ups. These are usually things like online casino’s so you may need to think about whether this will fit in with your blog or not.

CPC
CPC stands for ‘cost per click’. It is more unusual in affiliate programmes but there are some that will pay you per click. If the campaign is for brand awareness rather than to drive direct sales then you may find that the advertiser is willing to pay you per click or per lead rather than per acquisition.

Fixed Cost

If all else fails, and you are working with a small company who may not be able to provide links that track back to you, or you just find the affiliate pricing structure confusing, you can always set a fixed price. You will agree a time frame with the advertiser and then both come to a mutual agreement on how much you get paid. This can seem like an attractive offer for bloggers as you do not need to do much if they have already paid you, but remember, this company may grow and want to pay you a high rate at CPA or CPC in the future.

Think about how you are going to drive traffic

Getting signed up to a network or an affiliate programme is the easy part. Now comes the hard work. How are you going to drive traffic to your blog? If you already have loads of organic traffic, great. If not, you will need to take measures to ensure you make the most out of your live affiliate programmes. You can easily use the model content arbitrage websites use. Basically, those slideshows about Kim Kardashian you see at the bottom of the Daily Mail are huge money makers. They get paid every time you refresh the So all you need to do is set up a Facebook or similar social media campaign promoting the blog with your affiliate programme on it, and work how much you can bid from your conversion rate.

Sounds confusing, doesn’t it? It’s not. If I get it, anyone can.

Let’s say for example you have a lovely brand that are going to pay you £10 every time someone signs up for their newsletter. GREAT SUCCESS. This is quite lucrative, so you want to put some paid advertising on Facebook in the mix to get things started.

Facebook gives you the opportunity to bid whatever you want, so let’s start with £0.05.

If you are bidding £0.05 and you get paid £10.00 per lead, you need a conversion rate of 1/200 to break even.

£10.00 divided by £0.05 equals 200. 1/200 is your conversion rate.

Once you have been running the campaign for a while you can track the conversions. If more than 1 in 200 people are converting, then you can afford to bid higher and get in front of a larger audience.

If fewer people than 1 in 200 are converting then you need to bid lower.

See, it wasn’t as hard as it sounded, was it?

Support other bloggers

If you support other bloggers by reading and engaging with their posts, then they are more likely to support you and use your affiliate links. Even if it doesn’t bring you any conversions, it’s just nice to be nice and great for networking.

If you want to host banner ads you will need to upgrade to a self hosted blog. Blue Host seem to be the cheapest people to do this with.

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Things I’ve Learned This Year

Features, Lifestyle, Quick Reads

2017 has taught me a lot. After losing my Nan in 2015, I would say that the back end of this year is the first time I have really started to level out, feel well and feel like myself again. Unfortunately, that has come at a cost. There have been a hell of a lot of people that haven’t understood this year that I’ve needed to take a step back to get better. Life is all one big learning curve, and I’m glad I have learned what I did this year even if some things were the hard way.

Even people with mental health issues, may not understand your mental health issues

This year I gave up drinking and decided to focus on my work and getting myself better. That has put a lot of people off being friends with me. Not being available like a helpline 24/7 has offended some people I am close to, literally, the last people who I would have thought would not be understanding of how much I need this time and space to get well. Fortunately, taking some time out from everyone and everything is the easiest way to figure out who your true friends and family are. The ones who wish you well will be right back there waiting to pick up where you left off.

Alcohol isn’t good for me

I gave up alcohol in August and despite one setback getting a bit drunk at the work do and going missing in action, I haven’t really drunk. Being drunk makes me incredibly “not-remembery” and heightens my anxiety massively. I won’t even get the whole morning after fear – it literally is about three weeks that my anxiety is bad for if I have a drink. I’ve now learned that if I do drink, it makes me really unwell because I don’t tend to do it now. As I sit writing this I am feeling rather smug as I drunk water all of last night at my friends and I have no doubt they are hungover the amount they put away. This is also one thing where I have found out who my real, true friends are. All of my friends have been super supportive. They’ve managed to find the balance between being polite and still asking me if I want a drink, but not pushing me into it. Now I can actually remember conversations I have with people the next morning.

Sometimes friends or friend groups just shouldn’t be mixed

I was really close to a someone a little while ago and if I am going to be perfectly honest, she treated me awfully. It wasn’t until just recently that I found out literally all of my other friends disliked her because of how badly she treated me. Despite being the typical Pisces and wanting everyone to get along – sometimes friends just don’t mix. I’m the sort of person who loves organising big events and getting everyone together, but sometimes people are just kept better separately.

You can get that dream job

I worked in my care job for six years more or less (there was some traveling and working abroad in that time). I worked my way up to a manager because this is what I thought I should be doing and what everyone told me I should be doing. I hated it, and it took a toll on my mental health. All being a manager meant was that I didn’t get time with the customers and I had even more stress. When an area manager started that hated me from my care days because I had to be a whistleblower and she did NOTHING about it until I started telling other managers, I knew my time was up. Needless to say, she did everything she could to get me out so I left.

At the grand old age of 29, I had to rethink my entire career path. I got a job for a small start up as a digital marketer based off of my experience outside of this job with my blog and some bits and bobs I was doing there for their marketing team. six months down the line the investors pulled out. It didn’t matter. I had quickly identified that the way I could make myself the most valuable was to find out EVERYTHING about programmatic so I asked and asked and asked some more and spent many a train ride reading and learning about the real-time bidding process. Now I have a job at an advertising agency in Covent Garden, and my probation is up more or less the same week I would have left my care company a year ago. I’m working hard and praying I pass it, as I love it there. I actually left my care job on my birthday last year, so this year all I want for my 30th is to pass my probation and hope I have finally found my forever job.

Physical health is really important

When I was about 14, I used to have McDonald’s breakfast EVERY day. I’m not even joking. Our school bus stopped outside McDonald’s and I got breakfast there every day without putting on an inch. 16 years later and a spell of the pill and antidepressants and I only have to look at a cheese melt dipper and I put on a stone. The whole giving up alcohol thing has done wonders for my weight and my skin, so I thought why not carry it on. Now I eat fairly healthy and take Hello Day vitamins as well as going to the gym. The buzz I used to get from alcohol I now get from knowing that I am doing absolutely everything I can to keep my body healthy.

In 2018 I am going to try Prepp’d  who deliver fitness food straight to your door. This may sound lazy but I am a firm believer in paying someone else to do things you can’t be bothered to do yourself.

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Fairfields Farm Microwaveable Crisps

Features, Food, Lifestyle, Quick Reads

IMG_0085I consider myself an expert in all things crisp. A “crisp connoisseur” if you will. There probably isn’t a crisp on this earth I haven’t tried. Favourite flavour? Dil Pickle Pringles that I haven’t seen anywhere other than the Philippines. Favourite shape? Monster Munch claws. Favourite hot crisp? None as of yet, because I had no idea you could have crips hot until I heard Fairfields Farm made microwaveable crisps. Even the little numbers you get at the cinema are not hot themselves, so I was looking forward to trying something different.

So what’s the deal with a microwaveable crisp?

If you were to have crisps fresh from the fryer, they would be hot. Fairfields Farm are recreating this with their delicious “Heat & Eat™” idea. Even if you can’t cook or you have never used a microwave in your life you will be able to easily use Heat & Eat™. All you need to do is tear off the strip on the bag, microwave the crisps for 30 seconds and serve with the dip that comes with them (take the dip out of the bag before you microwave them, obviously).

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I tried the sea salt and the cheese and chive flavours. They came with a tomato salsa dip and an onion chutney dip. One of the main things I noticed about them being warm was that the flavours were a lot stronger. The great thing about Fairfield’s Farm crisps is that all of the potatoes come from the family farm. So from the moment, the potato is harvested to the moment you put it in your mouth it is lovingly handled by the same people. It sounds like a really strange thing to say about a crisp – but you can actually taste the freshness (I am fully aware I am making myself sound like an incredibly strange crisp enthusiast here).

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Another thing I loved was that because everything is made with tender loving care on the farm, they manage to avoid some of my crisp pet hates.

Soggy crisps

Absolutely hate a soggy crisp, but you do not get any of this with Fairfields Farm crisps. You may think that they would go a bit soggy when you microwave them, but this isn’t the case.

Broken crisps

Every day I shove a bag of crisps in my bag (Marmite if you must know, I save them for the train ride home so people won’t sit next to me), and they end up as nothing but dust. Fairfields Farm sent me my crisps to try by post and not only did they survive but they were completely in tact thanks to their packaging.

Flavourless crisps

Supermarket’s own brand crisps are usually the worst offenders for this. There isn’t anything worse than a flavourless crisp and if there is I don’t want to know about it. Fairfields Farm crisps really pack in the flavour.

Would I recommend them?

Definitely. They make a lovely change from tortillas and dip and there are still a lot of people out there who prefer the great British flavours like sea salt and cheese and chive, so they are a perfect addition to any girls night.

Three Days In Iceland

Features, Health & Beauty, Lifestyle, Out & About, Travel

Is Iceland worth the money?

Northern Lights

I’m going to start this article with an admission that is going to make me sound incredibly uncool. I LOVE the Eurovision song contest. I’ve watched it my whole life and it is very rare I will miss it unless I’m working abroad.

So, what has that got to do with Iceland?

Well ever since I started watching it, the little VT’s before each country have evoked the explorer in me. I’ve wanted to go to Iceland ever since I can remember, so this year, when my friend asked me to go for her 30th I thought “why not” and we made it happen. We did everything. People who tell you a long weekend is not enough are lying. If you are actually going to get up off of your bottom and go out and do things and worry about the tiredness after you will be able to fit in absolutely everything exciting that Iceland has to offer.

Day 1 – Reykjavik Cathedral, The Northern Lights, and a Scary Air BnB

I’ve never used Air BnB in my life, but when it turned out our flights were cheaper to go the day before we thought we’d give an Air BnB a go for the first night instead of booking an extra room in the Radisson which was quite expensive. The theory was “how bad could it be?”. Tasked with organising everything so that we didn’t need to rely on busses or taxi’s I found an Air BnB in central Reykjavik. The “how bad could it be?” theory didn’t really serve us very well.

A short, easy walk form the bus station – the location was everything they promised. Unfortunately so was the cleanliness. Although the Air BnB had described itself as “not immaculately clean”, to me, that just meant that they probably didn’t keep up hotel standards and were worried about appearing badly in a review. As it would happen this estimation was wrong. I won’t name and shame someone’s livelihood on an article the whole world can see, but all I will say is make careful choices if you are going to use an Air BnB.  It was so bad, my friend named it “the crack den”. Luckily, we were at the Northern Lights all night on the night we stayed, so once we crawled into bed after we didn’t really mind that it was filthy.

We left immediately to walk into Reykjavik and go up to the top of the Cathedral. Don’t worry, there’s a lift, so you don’t have to walk it. It was a beautiful view and it also gave us the advantage of now having seen where everything was in conjunction with each other and knowing where to walk For 900 ISK it really is worth it.

The Northern Lights were amazing. We booked through Isango and I would really recommend them. The coach picked us up from the hotel we were staying in for the next two nights so we walked up and found our way. On the way to the first stop, the tour guide informed us that we had a 0% chance of seeing the lights. She did say that we would see some cool stars and have some snacks so we weren’t really that worried. When we got to the stop, the chance of seeing the lights had increased to 1%. Wow. We found the stars amazing. While we were on the stop, we saw four shooting stars and the normal stars were so low it looked like you could pick them out of the sky.

How To See The Northern Lights

Luckily for us, we did, in fact, see the lights. They were amazing. You can’t really describe what it’s like to be standing there looking at something that occurs naturally that is so beautiful. We understood how lucky we were, and also we managed to see them on another stop and get a picture with them.

Day 2 – Checking into the Radisson and a Night Out in Reykjavik

My friend woke me up promptly around 9am and said “Wakey wake Kelly, it’s time to leave the crack den now”. We left promptly and tried to leave the room as clean as possible but my friend did admit when we were halfway down the road that she had stolen the picture of Bjork above our room. Sorry guys!

 

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We went for breakfast at Le Bistro which was wonderful as by this point I was craving a decent cup of coffee. Le Bistro is a lovely place for breakfast and I should imagine that the French food they serve for dinner is just as nice. After breakfast we just decided to take our chances and walk up to the Radisson Blu Saga and see if they would look after our cases for the day while we did other stuff.  This is one of the best, most helpful hotels I have ever had the pleasure of staying in. Because our room was ready they let us check in, and after the crack den it was VERY welcome. My friend went off to do some horse riding and I enjoyed the big comfy, clean bed with the view of the mountains, followed by a long bath in the lovely bathroom. The hotel even lent me and my friend some plug adaptors because we are both pretty stupid and forgot them.

Now armed with the use of 2 lovely big mirrors, we got ready for a night out in Reykjavik. The other convenient thing about the Radisson is that you can easily walk to Reykjavik town in about 10 minutes. We hadn’t booked or chosen anywhere for dinner so we ended up just going to the first place that looked busy and did food we both liked – Caruso. It turned out to be a pretty good decision. Shown upstairs to the rustic little room we were going to dine in complete with ski’s and exposed wooden beams, we realised we had made a great choice. The food matched the atmosphere and was just great, home cooked, filling winter warmers that were very welcome after a chilly walk into town. The wine was also good, according to my friend, and the guy playing the guitar completed the perfect, cute, Icelandic evening.

We went on to a bar in Reykjavik and it can’t have made a great impression on me because I forget what it was called. I can’t say it was particularly lively and I must admit even though I do not drink I am far from boring, so we moved on looking for somewhere with a bit more of a party atmosphere. This was also the evening we decided to celebrate my friends 30th as it was the next day but we were going to be out all day.

When we came across The American Bar we didn’t really want to go in, not because it didn’t look good just because we are the kinda gals that like exploring and doing different things, rather than going to American/English places while abroad. As soon as we heard the live singers we were draw straight in and it was great! The music was amazing, the drinks were not too expensive and the atmosphere was great – aside from one couple who looked like they were forced to be there at gunpoint. If you are out and about in Reykjavik on a Friday or Saturday night it’s definitely worth a visit.

Day 3 – The Blue Lagoon and the Golden Circle

No trip to Iceland is complete without going to the Blue Lagoon. It is every bit as amazing as everyone makes it out to be. We got a basic admission package included with our Isango booking. All anyone else who paid more got was a towel, robe and flip flops but we took our own towels and flip flops so I can’t say we really missed out. The mud masks looked good but you can pay for them there so if we really wanted one we could have had one. When you arrive, you get a wristband and you are able to purchase extra’s including treatments, drinks outside, or drinks inside. If you are going, do what we did and go early. Watching the sun come up over the mountains while actually being in the water was an incredible experience. The main thing we were worried about was freezing to death getting in, but getting in is actually indoors and then you walk outside while in the water. There is also a sauna and a steam room that is included in the admission price, so if you do get a bit chilly it’s fine. The water is every bit as warm as people say, but it is a rather weird experience having your face get that cold.

Blue Lagoon Iceland

The changing rooms are really modern with all the amenities you need to get ready to carry on your day and most of all they are warm. If you are going to book the tour that includes the Golden Circle as well then leaving yourself about an hour to get ready will give you a good chance to get dry and warm because trust me, it’s freezing at the Golden Circle.

Visit Iceland

We went into Reykjavik to pick up the next coach and start our afternoon touring the Golden Circle. Our tour guide was a jolly, knowledgable guy who’s name escapes me because my friend insisted on calling him Boris. The first stop was Þingvellir National Park where excitingly you can walk between two continents. Unfortunately the childishness of both of us came out when we found out we would be hiking down a crevice, but it was really interesting.

The next stop was the Selfoss Gesyir. By this point it was really snowing. It isn’t that I don’t like nature, it’s just that I don’t like it when it is cold and in my face. The geyser goes off a few times every hour, and we were lucky enough to see it. It was something that was definitely worth seeing, but I am glad it was part of a tour and not just the main thing we were doing as it wasn’t exactly overwhelming.

Before the next stop the Gulfoss waterfall, we had kind of agreed we were going to look at whatever it was we needed to look at and get back indoors sharpish. I can’t really remember what I was expecting, but it wasn’t much. The Gulfoss waterfall is amazing. Standing there looking at something that incredible really is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The Gulfoss waterfall also has the added benefit that the amenities in that particular part of the National Park are really good and include a cafe where you can defrost.

Getting around Iceland

We flew with Norwegian Air on the way there and I was expecting great things after so many recommendations, but they were rubbish! The plane was freezing and the service was terrible. To get out and about while we were there, we booked most of our travel with Reykjavik Excursions and they were perfect! 100% book with them if you are going. On the way back we flew with Iceland Air to Heathrow. On the day we were due to fly there was a strike so we were delayed by a couple of hours. I have to admit, after being up at 2.30am and being told by them to go to the airport anyway when they KNEW the mechanics were going to be on strike we were a bit annoyed and there were a few exchanges on Twitter. They had known about the strike for months and it was really poor form not to be more prepared. Saying that, we were just being moaners. Some poor people got literally stranded there. We also got boarded a bit too soon and ended up being on the aircraft for over an hour, but Iceland Air’s aircraft to Heathrow from Keflavik are lovely. Because it is the first or second leg on some long haul flights, it is like flying long haul. Leather seats, loads of legroom, free tea and coffee and soft drinks and setback screens. Even though the trip is only 3 hours long it was like being on an Emrites flight and I loved the service and the plane itself. I would actually fly with them again despite the inconvenience of the strike, I would just hope that they have learned their lesson from the situation.

Is it as expensive as everyone says?

Short answer: yes. It is expensive, but it is just one of those things you are going to have to deal with if you are going to go. There probably are ways to do it on a budget if you don’t want to see much, but some of the trips and excursions are absolutely once in a lifetime things, so if you are going to go save up and do it properly. One thing I was surprised at was the Blue Lagoon, as the food and drink wasn’t anywhere near as rice as I thought it would be. The other thing I was surprised at was the food in general, as there really are not many cheap options for eating out.

Top travel tips for Iceland 

  • Book through Iceland Air to and from Heathrow. Because they are connecting flights you will most likely get the benefits of a lovely long haul plane. We booked through CheapOair.com and got a great deal.
  • Take flip flops, your own towel and a robe to the Blue Lagoon. Then you can just book the basic package. It’s also worth taking a spare hat you don’t mind getting wet as your face and head get really cold.
  • Book up to stay somewhere you can walk into town from. Taxi’s and busses can be hit and miss so the less you have to use them the better.
  • Check out the local swimming pools and geothermal spa’s. There are a couple dotted around Reykjavik that are a fraction of the price of the Blue Lagoon if that is too pricey for you.
  • Go up to the top of Reykjavik Cathedral on the first day. It’s really practical because you can find your way around, and it is also beautiful.
  • Eat seafood. It is REALLY fresh in Iceland as one would expect, and if you are going to try seafood anywhere it may as well be somewhere where the turnaround from catch to plate is about 24 hours.
  • Take snow boots, thermals and a proper coat, hat and gloves. When it snows, it really snows. Iceland isn’t messing about, especially when you start mooching around the Golden Circle.
  • Pay out that little extra to stay somewhere luxurious like the Radisson. It really does make all the difference when you have been walking around in the freezing cold all day.
  • Use a company like OneTravel to get a super cheap deal on a holiday to Iceland, then just convert to pounds. For some reason travel companies based abroad seem to have better deals than your native country.

 

 

Is your property one of 3 MILLION + caught in the Cavity Wall Insulation scandal?

Lifestyle

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Get your FREE Chartered Surveyor inspection through Wall Cavity Claims

If you have had wall cavity insulation fitted in your house in the last 14 years then it could be causing severe damage to your house and your home. Damp is one of the main symptoms of poor wall cavity insulation and only recently has the match between failed Cavity Wall Insulation and damp, mould and severe condensation been made.

Parliament discussed the huge problem in November 2016 but little has been heard in the media and with Brexit and many other things higher on the list for the country’s leaders, nothing more has been heard since.

Wall Cavity Claims have been supporting homeowners who are suffering with damp, mould, condensation, damp smells and other related issues for over 2 years, and offer a free, no obligation Chartered Surveyor service to check whether your insulation was installed properly. It can cost an average of £25,000 to have it extracted and repairs carried out when it has been installed incorrectly.

12 million homes have been installed and many under free schemes. Each install should have been covered by a CIGA or other guarantee, and with the massive scale of the problem, many of the contractors have now gone out of business.

Wall Cavity Claims offer a national service across England and Wales, and where faults are found by their surveyors, they can recommend specialist panel solicitors to represent you on a No Win No Fee funded solution. To make a private claim paying upfront for reports and professional services you could need a large deposit of £4000, so this solution is very well worth looking at.

Wall Cavity Claims boast the services of the UK’s No.1 Chartered Surveyors firm in the country in this field, so you and your home will be in very capable hands.

Buying or selling a home today you will more than likely need a ‘no faults’ certificate to complete. Conveyancing solicitors and mortgage lenders are putting measures in place to protect those buying in today’s marketplace.

Many people have not even linked damp or similar issues to being caused by Cavity Wall Insulation, but the word is spreading fast, and soon thousands of these claims will be processed every week which might delay claims, so the sooner you act the quicker your property can be checked and fixed.

There’s lots of useful information on their website including News & Blogs, or you can follow them on Facebook by clicking here

Wall Cavity Claims TV Advert

 

Why Is Instagram Rubbish Now And What Can I Do About It?

Features, Lifestyle

How can I get past Instagram’s new algorithm?

Instagram Algorithm

What has happened to Instagram?

Twitter and Instagram used to have one great thing in common that set them aside from Facebook – the chronological newsfeed. Instead of being bombarded by stuff that the social media channel THOUGHT you would want to see, you had the chance to scroll at your leisure and pick out what posts you wanted to engage with. That all changed last summer when Instagram introduced a non-chronological algorithm that was based on the complicated Facebook one that gave your posts visibility based on the follow variables:

Timing: The time you post. Simply put if you post at a less peak time with a lower traffic volume across the network you have more chance of being seen.

Engagement: How many engagements the post is getting. The more engagements you get the more the post is likely to be visible on other peoples news feeds.

Interaction: If someone has interacted with your posts in the past then it is likely that they will see your post in their newsfeed.

Let us not also forget the fact that Instagram and Facebook are now intrinsically tied together when it comes to biddable media. Anyone who has posted a Facebook ad recently will understand how easy it is to push your ad out to both. Now who do you think Facebook is going to give those oh so valuable newsfeed slots to? Struggling bloggers who constantly try and push out interesting content or someone paying them who may become a returning customer? Exactly. As frustrating as it is, it is unlikely to change. Within the next 18 months I predict Snapchat will actually cease to be the last social media channel that is independent and sell out to one of the bigger players to control their declining share price.

So what can I do?

Save from getting in a time machine and convincing Instagram not to sell out to Facebook there really isn’t much you can do to play the algorithm. Algorithms have an unfortunate ability to learn as they go so considering the new Instagram one has been in play for well over a year, it’s doubtful it is missing any tricks right now when it comes to organising your newsfeed by what it has ‘learned’ you want to see. There are a few things you can do to make the best of a bad situation. Most bloggers are probably already doing them, but it doesn’t hurt to share any tips you can get your hands on when it comes to this age of social media all being a scam to get you to pay for reach.

Focus on content

This sounds super obvious and like something that everyone who is trying to grow their Instagram is doing anyway – but the frustration can lead to an increase in posts that may leave quality falling by the wayside. Although it may seem like a sheer numbers game, posting more posts really will not get you higher up in that newsfeed. Especially if they are mediocre. Keep doing what you are doing and let your great pictures speak for themselves.

Include a call to action

In advertising a call to action is exactly that. A call for the customer or user to do something based on the content they are seeing. Yes, it can sound annoying to keep putting “double tap if you want more posts like this” on your Instagram but you really would not believe how simple the human brain is. A call to action puts the idea of engaging with the post in the users head which means they are more likely to hit the like button or leave a comment, rather than just scrolling past.

Use old fashioned advertising

Ok – this one is going to come as a shock to you. Did you know that back in the day people had to actually advertise themselves without the use of the internet? It’s mad isn’t it! What a world they used to live in. When the idea of marketing comes up now it is almost always thought of as something you do online. Although it would be pretty hard to have an Instagram without the internet (unless you went round taking Polaroids of peoples doorsteps and put them on your bedroom wall), there are ways you can build a following from offline sources. Get some cute business cards printed and give them out at every blogger event you go to. If you have met someone and enjoyed chatting to them they are far more likely to give you a follow.

Get the timing right

Now that Instagram is owned by Facebook and uses more or less the same algorithm, you need to start using practices you use on Facebook for Instagram. It’s long been known that slipping in a Facebook post on your page in the early hours of the morning can help it show in the newsfeed, so try it with Instagram too. Obviously you want to get your posts seen by the right people at the right time, but at peak times when there are so many competing posts it is highly unlikely you will achieve the holy grail of getting it into your target audiences newsfeed. Post at a time when no-one else is posting and you are more likely to get a few impressions, that lead to interaction, which boost your chances of getting up there in that newsfeed. Every single social algorithm favours posts with a higher CTR (click through rate), so even if a handful of people see it and interact it will help it to gain traction.

A/B test

A/B testing is something us marketing and advertising people absolutely love to do to the death. Play around with timings, themes of posts, hashtags etc. Play two posts against each other with just one variable changed and keep going until you get all of the information you need to make every post a successful one.

Good luck huns! You can find me on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/kellyjackson88/

8 Things You’ll Hate If You Commute

Features, Lifestyle, Out & About, Quick Reads, Travel

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For most people, working in London is the dream. Why else would so many people put up with three hours each day of being squished onto the central line with someones Evening Standard up their nostril? As wonderful as working in London is, there really are a few things on the commute that I think I can speak for all of us when I say we could do without.

Loud Eaters

Just to clarify – crunching is involuntary. Crunching is not annoying. If someone is eating a bag of crisps on the tube most of the time the noise of the train will cancel it out. Hey, you have been there yourself when you are dashing between meetings and a bag of Hula Hoops is all that stands between you and stomach rumbling that sounds like the huge rolling stone that chased Indiana Jones.

No my issue, ladies and gentlemen, is with those who just cannot keep their mouth shut. You see, unless you were raised by wolves the chances are at some point someone would have explained to you that you shut your mouth while you eat. The other commuters in your presence do not want to see your food rolling around like vomit in a tumble dryer, and we also do not want to hear you smacking your lips while you eat. In the last week, I have had to move TWICE because of people who think it is ok to eat like this. Grown adults as well.

We are in the midst of an epidemic.

People Who Can’t Use Escalators

I have quite a good memory and I can’t remember ever being taught how to use an escalator in school. Further to this, I also don’t remember any sort of guide being handed out when I first started having to use them. As far as I am aware I pretty much picked up the basics myself. You get on, it moves up or down, and you get off. This has always seemed like a pretty simple process to me until I started working in London and realised 99% of the population cannot use escalators. People just LOVE to stop at the bottom and keep everyone behind at a death defying stand still while they work out what to do next.

Here’s a hint hun – you get off. 

Men Who Shove Women For Seats

OK so this one may seem weird as I do class myself as a slight feminist. The deal is lads, I don’t actually WANT your seat. I am a serial seat giver upper and in the last week I have done two olds, a preggers and one girl who just looked exhausted. If you are a male and you approach me for my seat and tell me you are exhausted, have a long way, and just really need to sit down I’ll hand my arse holder over to you without fuss. To me this is just basic politeness. What I do not find acceptable of so many men on the commute is the way they will actively shove women out of the way to run for seats.

Granted, the violinist at Tottenham Court Road CAN make it seem like it – but you really aren’t fighting for lifeboats on the Titanic guys.

Personal Space Invaders

I very rarely show affection to my family or friends and to be honest it freaks me right out if someone sits next to me when there are other free seats. As you can imagine this attitude does not fare me well on the commute. The packed tube is one thing. Personal space is out of the window. I’m going to have an armpit in my face until Holborn, this is the trade off for working somewhere pretty.

But off of the tube or the train there really is no need for you to be standing so close to me you are sharing my body heat.

People Who Simply MUST Read Their Paper

It still amazes me that in a city as expensive as London you get something free. I love a free Evening Standard or Metro. In fact, I challenge anyone to deny looking at the rush hour crush section in the Metro to see if they have been mentioned. The London free papers offer a similar quality of journalism to what we know as tabloids, so I struggle to believe that there is anything important enough in them for you to have to paper cut someones eyeball on the Picadilly Line. We ALL find the commute boring and I’m sure all of us are looking for something to take our mind off of the fact we are sweating because we have seven layers on and we can’t locate one of our feet.

However, if there isn’t space for you to read, there isn’t space. We are all in the same boat mate.

The Ones Who Won’t Give Up Their Seat

Sitting down is one of the things I enjoy in life probably just as much as laying down. Who doesn’t love a good sit? Getting a seat on the commute is like getting a free coffee from Pret or winning the lottery. Sometimes you have to give your seat up. As much as you love sitting the old lady or pregnant lady standing up for the whole journey would probably love it more. Nothing annoys me more than people who just stand blissfully unaware of a “Baby On Board” badge. Over the course of the last month or so I have had to offer seats to people fairly far away from me because those sitting around them just put their heads in their phones and pretend not to see someone who is quite clearly struggling.

No one wants to give up their nice comfy seat on a packed journey but it’s something you just have to like or lump like recycling or Piers Morgan on GMB.

People Who Get On Despite Their Being No Space

As much as basic knowledge of escalators seems to evade even the most experiences commuters – so do the basic laws of physics. You see the simple mantra “if there is no space, you can’t get on” seems to be ignored by even the most intelligent looking of to and from work travellers. Pop on the Jubilee line from West Ham around 810am every morning and you will be able to view this species in their natural habitat. They are ABSOLUTELY going to get on whether there is space or not. Never mind the people at the back are getting intimate with the window because they have been pushed so far against it. If you really want to get on and there doesn’t appear to be space just do what everyone else does and get on anyway.

I mean, humans are quite malleable aren’t they? Surely someone can shrink a bit or bend a bit to make an inch or two where needed? Never mind comfort, we simply do not have the ten minutes to spare.

Commuters Who Push From Behind When The People In Front Aren’t Moving

Another law of physics that seems to be absolutely lost on anyone trying to get around in London. I always thought that it was a pretty basic principle. If the people in front of me are not moving, I cannot move. Somewhere along the lines I am sure there is an ACTUAL law of physics the supports this notion that can be explained by a complicated math equation. Regardless of the obviousness of the situation – people will continue to push you if the others in front are not moving anywhere. Because in England somehow we have managed to raise a generation of people who believe pushing and shoving is the best way to get somewhere faster.

Politely asking what the hold up is or god forbid waiting patiently like everyone else, simply isn’t an option.

MiniXplorers Christmas Gift Guide

Fashion, Features, Lifestyle

Final Clothing ME

1. Snuglo™ clothing

Bees Knees Newborn Baby Gift Set is the perfect gift. This super cool slogan is one of a Snuglo’s newest designs.

 

 

This set includes:

  • I’m the Bees Knees baby grow, on amber yellow in size 0-3mths.
  • I’m the Bees Knees Bib on amber yellow.
  • Bad hair day hat in yellow.
  • This Sucks dummy on yellow with white print.

Made from super soft 100% cotton and machine washable at 40 degrees. All items are hand screen printed in England on vibrant colours with cool slogans making for a unique baby gift that is sure to make a big statement. All items will be lovingly packaged in a cool Snuglo™ branded box with tissue paper and we will gladly add a personal note from you if you are sending it as a gift.

£44.95

 

2.Baby Acorn

 

100% cotton waterfall blue sleepsuit from the Waterfall Fox collection. This side fastening sleepsuit has integrated mittens, poppers for easy changing and features the blue Waterfall Fox print consisting of silver foxes on waterfall blue. All of our products are machine washable at 40 degrees.

£24.00

3.Molly & Monty

 

 

White organic Sleepsuit, Blanket and Beanie set featuring our Red Star design. Gift wrapped in tissue paper and delivered in a beautiful large magnetic closing keepsake box.
A great set to start your collection.
Made in the UK from 100% organic cotton.

£45.00

 

4.Dribblebuster

 

This Christmas design for baby is very pretty and goes with any outfit with the cream background. This fun Christmas dribble bib is made from top quality 100% soft woven cotton fabrics for your baby’s gentle skin. We use soft 100% absorbent woven cotton for the backing fabric too. There are no complicated fastenings or metal parts, as the bibs fasten with adjustable plastic poppers, making them perfectly safe.

£8.00

 

5.British Babies

 

This is a lovely cream fox pyjama set with all over fox print on the leggings and sleeves. Felix the Fox is cuddled up fast asleep for those sleepy little cubs at bedtime.

The top is a slim fit t-shirt shape. The leggings have elasticated cuffs to prevent them from sliding up little legs in bed. Made with 100% British organic cotton jersey.

£29.95

 

6.Pretty Bows for Princesses

 

Christmas tinsel bows (5 pack)

5 beautiful tinsel bows ready for clips bobbles or hairbands all handmade, custom orders also taken.

£15.00

7.Juniper Berry Kids

 

 

One of our new designs for Autumn/Winter 2017. We have introduced a fancy ruffle and   new a-line shape with a pretty pleat at the front. Perfect for the festive season!

 

This dress is made using beautifully soft, UK sourced, cotton corduroy fabric with a contrast pink floral fabric for the ruffle and pockets and our signature neon pink trim. It’s classic with a twist and can be worn with tights or over leggings.

 

The dress is long sleeved and has a zip fastening at the back. It’s 100% cotton excluding the trims.

 

Available in sizes: 1-2yrs, 2-3yrs, 3-4yrs, 4-5yrs, 6-7yrs and 8-9yrs.

Price £50

8.Funky Feet Fashions

 

 

Guaranteed festive fun with huge antlers and large red noses.

 

These festive reindeers are the perfect gift for baby’s first Christmas and make super soft baby shoes & toddler slippers.

Our funky footwear makes an ideal gift for new born babies and children.

 

These reindeers are a pram shoe, a pre-walker, cool for crawling, safe for first steps and wicked for walking. They’re perfect for nursery, kindergarten, school or home.

 

Buying as a gift? Select the gift box option above & we’ll write your message on the gift tag and tie the gift box up with a satin ribbon.

£18.99 – £22.99

 

9.Hesperoo

 

Meet Brunta… a handmade bear cushion printed with eco-friendly inks. In black and white with flecks of pink, this bear is perfect for a modern nursery or kids room.

 

It will complement any room scheme and makes a lovely gift for a new baby.

 

Digitally-printed onto cotton twill with eco-friendly pigment inks.

Filled with hollow fibre filling and backed with soft organic cotton flannel.

A woven name label is sewn into the side seam.

Printed and handmade in the UK.

H31 x W24 cm, approx.

Free gift wrap available. This can be wrapped with a small handwritten tag attached.

£25.00

 

10.Rix and Co

 

Our unique hobby horse design brings a classic toy into the modern age. Our hobby  horses are made from the best and most durable materials of birch wood and feature a hand crafted oak handle. Our Hobby horses are supplied with or without handles depending upon your preference. They also come in a variety of colours to compliment any interior or child’s favourite colour. Let their imagination grow.
Colours available:
Fuscia, Baby pink, Purple, Lemon, Sunshine Yellow, Turquoise, Blackboard

£45.00

 

11.Celtic and Co.

 

Kids’ Sheepskin Slippers

Snuggle up for story time in our cosy sheepskin bootees. Comfortable and durable, they have hardwearing soles and a cuffed ankle that can be worn up or down.

£35.00

 

 

12.Yummikeys

 

Engraved Yummikeys! Meet Coco Crocodile, Ziggy Zebra and Emma Elephant, a trio of beautifully designed cheeky chums for babies.

 

Produced in the UK, Yummikeys are made from stainless steel (the very same material as your cutlery). They are cool on teething gums, beautifully-designed and provide jingly fun with built-in baby appeal. We offer an engraving service, making them an ideal keepsake gift too.

 

Yummikeys are a safe, hygienic alternative to real keys and last but not least (as we know to our cost), should your baby mislay them, you will not have to change the locks!

£37.50

13.Savannah and Skye

 

 

Inspired by an artists apron and in an original Savannah & Skye designed, limited edition, woodland print, this handmade pocket pinafore dress makes a real statement! The large front pocket is the perfect place for all your little ones collections!

 

Fully lined in 100% cotton, this medium weight linen/ cotton blend dress is the perfect year round addition to your child’s wardrobe. It is beautiful just the way it is or teamed with leggings and a long sleeved t-shirt or cardigan.

 

Dressed up for a party or down for a romp in the woods this dress will soon become a wardrobe staple.

 

Two poppers on each strap give plenty of room to grow!

£48.00 – £52.00

 

14. Selfie Clothing

 

Spiral into a magical colour in adventure with this unicorn kids colour in top

Get your little ones in the creative spirit with this unicorn kids colour in top, including six fabric pens.

 

This beautifully packaged kids colour in top, creative kit includes; a long-sleeved round neck top, six fabric colour in pens and a colour in practice sheet available for ages 2-10.

 

The lightweight jersey blend top features a unique unicorn colour in design, ready for your little kids to get creative with. The fabric pens use high-quality UV ink which can be air cured for 24 hours or ironed by a parent. The colours will not fade and can be worn time and time again.

 

The products are designed, handmade and handprinted in the UK exclusively for the Selfie Clothing Co. The perfect gift for any child with a creative edge or a group activity for parties or play dates.

 

For that perfect present, why not add our beautifully packaged gift wrap option?

£15.00

 

15. Zac and Bella

 

Our half lined Arlo Christmas Romper makes a festive return for Christmas!

 

Plain Green with red stripe cuffs, lining & motif.

 

Featuring a fashionable drop crotch & funky prints you will be wanting this Romper in every fabric! Comfortable, fashionable and hard wearing.

 MiniXplorers Online

Why Essex ‘ProseccoFest’ was a HUGE Rip Off

Features, Food, Lifestyle, Out & About, Travel

Having made my peace with the fact that I do not drink alcohol, and my friends do, I was under no illusions that going to a prosecco festival for my friends 30th birthday would grant me the same experience as everyone in the group who was drinking would have. That being said I am absolutely shocked that the event itself was so bad. I’ve always heard great things about Best Parties Ever and I’ve always loved Barleylands so I am obviously surprised either company would allow themselves to be associated with something that is quite clearly a scam.

The tickets for the event on the 18th of November set us back £19.70 each. You can get them online through Eventbrite, and as someone quite rightly pointed out – they do not profess to include anything in the ticket price. Fair enough. No one from our party was expecting anything free but the basics were not even supplied and the drinks in there were so grossly overpriced I’m not at all left wondering why no one was even remotely tipsy by the end. 

When we arrived, we were quite abruptly told that we would need to wait until 11am because we were ten minutes early. We actually ended up getting let in about 11.10am, so they can’t be that particular about timings. The venue itself was beautiful if not a bit empty. The tokens were 3 for £10 or 20 for £60 and that doesn’t sound too bad until you find out that ONE glass of prosecco is 2 tokens and a bottle is 10 to 14 tokens. If you can’t do that math that means a glass works out at £6.66 and a bottle works out to £33.30 on the lower scale.

For a non-drinker you would think that the day would be less expensive, but unfortunately a cup of flat coke from a bottle will set you back a token, and so will a water.

Staff were incredibly unhelpful on the day. We were turned away from a number of bars after asking for advertised drinks with staff either telling us to go to another bar or point blank that they did not know why they were advertised as they were not available. To be honest it’s lucky we spent so much of the day chasing things we couldn’t actually buy because there was sod all else to do.

One of the main problems only occurred to use after about an hour after we had all started to getting serious leg cramp. There was NO WHERE to sit down. Yes, customers are expected to stand for the full five hour session. We resorted to sitting on the floor. So for £20 we got a band for ten mins, some cheesy disco music and to sit on a cold hard floor in the middle of a farm. Great success.

After the event, I put across my views of the day (as did many others) on the Facebook page. Unfortunately, ProseccoFest have been snidely deleting anything negative from their page. This is an art form mastered by scammers – the reason they are doing this is because there is an event next week and they just want to scam the next lot of unsuspecting idiots out of £100s.

To make this article fair, I looked for some contact details to ask if a manager wanted to explain some of the reasons for the above complaints. There were none. You can only find their email address if you go right into their terms and conditions, and in true scammer style they have not answered me. Many people have been saying they are going to ask for a refund, but it is obvious they are just going to take everyones money and run.

Thankfully, a few people I know and who are active on the page have said they are not going now next week because of all of the negative reviews. Hopefully this will be the last time Best Parties Ever and Barleylands let themselves get associated with something that is quite clearly dodgy.

If you do not believe just my opinion, here are some of the Facebook comments I screenshotted before they get a chance to delete them. I’ve edited out names as I have not had time to contact everyone and ask if I am able to use their first name and last name in a post.

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*UPDATE*

ProseccoFest have now changed their prices and are still refusing to refund those of us that have paid full price already.

Fortunately, you CAN complain about the event. 

Had a reply from the council:
  

Ten Reasons To Love Winter

Features, Lifestyle, Out & About, Quick Reads

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           For me, the only things that compare to how awful getting out of my nice warm bed on a cold winter morning are taking the bins out and putting the hoover back in cupboard (seriously though why is putting the hoover away such a bigger task than actually doing it?). It’s safe to say winter is not my favourite season. This year though, I’ve decided to embrace winter and try and find things that I love about it.

Festive Menus

Is there anything better than the excitement of a festive menu? Although Costa now do a gingerbread latte all year around, it just really isn’t the same if it doesn’t come in the Christmas cup. As for food, don’t get me started on the McDonalds cheese melt dippers. You haven’t experienced sheer joy until you have driven through the McDonalds drive-thru and realised that these bad boys are on the menu.

Jumpers

I really think you would struggle to find anyone in this world who doesn’t think that jumpers are cute. Seriously, jumpers are amazing. They really don’t get enough credit. If you find one that is comfortable enough you’ll be able to spend the whole winter season cosy at your desk wrapped up like a little pig in a blanket. They are also a great way to hide any extra pounds from all the festive menus. Win win.

Snow

Hear me out on this one. I’m not exactly a snow loving kinda gal who would run out to freeze my tits off at the first sight of something white, but snow does have its benefits. Snow is the main, number one reason for being able to swing a day working from home. Let’s face it everyone who has to deal with a commute on a regular basis deserves a little treat in the form of working from bed watching old TOWIE episodes. I also think snow has the ability to make everything look cute, even Basildon town centre which is quite the task.

Winter Comfort Food

Winter is probably the only time of the year you can get away with eating huge portions of carbs without feeling guilty for it. After all, it’s cold and your body needs the extra fuel. I like to add winter to my long list of excuses for eating a serving of mashed potato that could have easily fed four people. Got to keep yourself going through the cold and all that.

Being Able To Regulate Your Own Body Temperature

As much as I love summer, I am always hot. Even in the winter I have to sleep with my windows open. The one thing I love about the winter is that when it’s cold you can either wrap up or turn the heating on, but when it’s summer there literally is nothing you can do but rely on a useless fan or some zircon that doesn’t really do the trick.

No Bugs

Yes, I am shallow enough to add this to my list of things I love about winter. There seriously is nothing worse than being nice and relaxed in a room and then realising there are two flies, a beetle and a giant tarantula invading your personal space. I don’t know where bugs get to in the winter and as a vegetarian I really don’t wish harm to them but my God am I glad they are not in my bedroom.

You Don’t Have To Do The Garden

As much as frost is a bit of a ball ache when you need to get it off of your car – it really is a garden God send during the winter. After spending the whole summer trying to figure out how my weeds can possibly still be alive after all of the poisonous chemicals I put on them, the frost killing them off naturally is amazing. I don’t even care if the plants I have actively paid for die – not as if I am going out there sunbathing is it?

Winter Candles

I love all of the different candle scents that come out in winter. They make the whole house smell cosy and Christmassy. Although Yankee will always be my go to for winter spiced candles, we recently had a Range open up near us and they do some amazing ones. My favourite December activity is lighting some winter candles, watching Love Actually and decorating my tree.

Christmas Markets And January Sales

Christmas does dominate the winter period (for good reason) and in December there are so many cute Christmas markets. In the city my favourite one is the market on the South Bank. As if being underneath the London Eye wasn’t magical enough – they have proper wooden huts selling all sorts of things from mulled wine to handmade gifts. If you are not shopped out after doing all of your Christmas shopping, then the January sales are a great way to combat the post Christmas blues. With some of them starting in December and going through to early February you can literally see the rest of the winter after Christmas out by buying things. Awesome news.

Christmas

People that don’t like Christmas freak me out. Seriously. It’s CHRISTMAS. The Christmas period is the best thing about having to spend four months freezing to death with the sniffles. After Halloween what is seen as the ‘festive period’ starts and it just automatically makes everything more magical. During December everything becomes swathed in pretty lights, people are in better moods and it is acceptable to drink mulled wine at literally any time of the day. Even though it is just one day, the build up to it is amazing and Jesus did a right turnout being born when he did because Christmas really does take your mind off of the cold winter period.