The Best Of Breaking Even So Far

Maybe you’ve just started reading this blog or maybe you’re wondering what are the most read items on this blog? Here is a top ten list, inspired by another great personal finance blog, FreeFromBroke. Some of these items were surprising, some were less so. (For example, I think the podcast reviews will be big once they’ve been online for awhile.) Check them out!

Top Ten Posts On Breaking Even:

Blog Improvement Tips
Ebates: Is It Really All That?
Book Review: Helping Me Help Myself by Beth Lisick
Breaking The Circuit AKA How To Get A Random Check From The State Of Maine
Credit Reports: Worth Listening To A Lame Automated Voice For
DNTO: Deep Into Debt
Winter Sports: Retro And Cheap
How To Throw a Party with $50
How To Make Crappy Furniture Cool
Saying Goodbye To My Bank

Free Advertising With Entrecard

Exchanging Links For Credits Means Not Spending Cash On Advertising

I was checking out another money saving blog, Sense To Save when I learned about Entrecard.

Betile The five minute video on their site will explain this better than I can but essentially, it is a way to trade advertisements with other bloggers by exchanging virtual business cards (I put the card I designed in this post. It’s amazing what you can make during an afternoon break with Photoshop!). Rather than pay money for advertising, I earn credits and then can use these credits to "buy" advertisements on blogs. People can do the same with me. We can approve or not approve a trade, giving blog authors control of what’s on their site.

I just posted my card when I began this post and I already got an offer for an exchange (three minutes later). So if you’re a blogger, look into setting up a free account at Entrecard and trying it out. Because with free advertising that you approve, you have nothing to lose.

Blog Improvement Tips

Order To Get More Visitors, Continuous Site Improvement Is Necessary

Originally, this blog was started so I could write to inform and entertain. Like most other things, however, there is more to blogging then meets the eye. Thank goodness I find myself equally interested in marketing as writing my blog entries.

All bloggers are looking to drive up traffic to their site and I have been working on some site improvements the last week or so to increase traffic and in general make Breaking Even more appealing.


I joined the Finwikian, a Wiki dedicated to personal finance web sites. I have been also commenting on at least one blog every day whereas before I tended to read but not comment. This has led to more traffic from referrals than I expected.

I got my first "friend" at BlogCatalog and have been improving my social networking on that site and on Myspace. I have tried to list all my web presence beneath my photo on the front page of my site.


I want to not only be part of “breaking even” branding but a “Nicole Ouellette” branding. Putting all Nicole Ouellette sites on Breaking Even will no doubt help this association. I have also decided to take the plunge and splurge on a custom design for this site because if I look like everyone else, people will keep thinking I’m everyone else. Stay tuned.

I have also decided that the fact I live in Maine (i.e. a rural area) effects a lot of my writing and have been targeting my "Maineness" more recently. I figure I can be a personal finance woman who happens to live in Maine. I see no conflict and only benefits in being both of these things.


I’m considering link advertising on other blogs and exploring this further.

Search Engine Optimization

In addition to putting links within my posts (not only to other sites but parts of this site as well), I have also been taking steps to improve search engine rating.

A friend at work who knows a lot about this sent me Justin Cook’s web site with some of his favorite search engine optimization tools. The post was written in 2006 so it’s not surprising that some of these tools are no longer free. I’ve checked into them though and a couple are:

Backlink & Anchor Text Tool
Knowing who is linking to you and what link text they’re using is one of the most important aspects in Search Engine Optimization. This tool checks your backlinks (only showing one backlink per URL that links to you) and shows the link text used to link to you. It takes a while for this SEO tool to run, but when it finishes, you’ve got a great report. This is a 2 part internet marketing tool. When the first part finishes, you can get a summary – often the summary is more useful SEO information.

Sitemap Generator

This tool will spider your site (up to 1000 URL’s) and create a sitemap in ROR format. (I’m going to stick my sitemap on my "About Me" page if I can figure out how.)

A Better Looking Site

I’ve been cleaning up my sidebars and trying to make more readable lists. I’ve been trying to use photos well and have pared down the categories and directory listings to make more room for useful sidebar information. I was also advised to put my photo on the top of the page to make things more personal.

So what do you think about the site? What do you like about it? What could use improvement? I’d love your feedback as I strive to improve this blog not only for my satisfaction but for those who read this.   

An Invite To Guest Post

I’ve read in a few sources now that guest posts (posts written by special guests) are a great way to get more readers and interest in a blog. I am, of course, willing to try most anything so I thought I would offer readers an invitation.

Do you know something about a personal finance topic that I haven’t covered? Are you an interesting and informative writer? I invite you to email me your idea. (Just a few sentences of what you would write about is fine). We can then have a conversation about where to go from there.

Of course, I’ll give you author credit (or byline as we say in the newspaper business) and link to your site. Click “Email Me” if you are interested!

Search Engine Optimization For A Small Blog

Improving A Blog’s Position In Search Results

I like to blog but, as with anything else, there is a certain amount of periphreal stuff to do like networking and techy chores. The last few days, I have been working on search engine optimization.

The more tech aspects of blogging I have been learning as I go. I submitted my blog to all kinds of directories and I added Google Analytics to my page. I’ve been reading lots of Problogger articles. Still I wanted to further increase my traffic. (Who doesn’t?)

I pumped one of my co-workers who is great with search engine optimization for what I could do with my blog. Here were his suggestions:

1) Use “Header 1” or larger fonts so when the spiders are crawling your web site, they know what is most important.

2) Submit your link to search engines (which I actually hadn’t done yet).

3) Choose good keywords. You want ones that people will be searching for but that fewer web sites use. There is a great article about Keyword Research in my list of articles about how it works.

4) Update your site at the same time every day. This is so the crawlers know when to come back to your site. (Spiders, crawlers, and robots are the same thing; you can read more about them here.)

5) Create a sitemap.

6) Use pay-per-click ads (Like Google Adsense) and do other things to increase the amount of links on your site.

Google has some Webmaster Tools that actually help you build a sitemap, which I’m working on now. I’m pro-Google but I’m sure other companies have software that can help you accomplish some of these goals. I hope this was of help and I hope my work on this yeilds me some more visitors like yourself!

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A Moral Dilemma

I’ve been faced with an interesting dilemma these past couple of weeks.

Twice, I have been contacted about advertising on my site. Would I be interested in advertising? How about a pay-per-post or a small text ad? Basically, do you want money for what you are already doing? Sure do. Seems like an easy question, right?

So both of these potential advertisers that have contacted me are short term (sometimes called “pay day”) loan companies. Not so easy anymore. For one, I’m very against these but also I wouldn’t want someone visiting my site to get into a bad situation because they followed one of my links.

I would love to make money blogging. Actually, I am currently paying to maintain this Typepad site so I guess breaking even should be my first goal. But at what price? It becomes a moral dilemma.

Have other bloggers been faced with this? If so, how have you reacted?

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