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31DBBB Day 25: Ask a Question

Today is another writing challenge, but it’s one that need not take much time at all. In fact, it might be the shortest post you’ve ever written!

Very simply, ask your readers a question.

In the episode, I detail the benefits of writing this kind of post – things like how it can increase blog stickiness, how it can help you gauge where your readers are at, how to tailor your content from what you’ve learned, how it even helps your post rank higher in Google searches.

And if you’re new, or concerned that you won’t get much of a response, take heart! I explain how it can still be useful even if you only get a handful (or less!) of answers.

I also go through 12 tips and ideas for asking readers questions on your blog, so you will come away with plenty of ideas to help you nail today’s challenge. I’d love to see what kinds of questions you ask your readers, so feel free to leave a link in the comments to your post and we can check it out.

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Click here to listen to day 25 of the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog series on the ProBlogger Podcast. 

Further Reading:

The Full Blog Monetization Menu – 60+ Ways to Make Money With Your Blog

60+ Ways to make money on or with your blog  problogger.netThis is a guest contribution from Paul Back.

You think about it all the time – how great it would be to make money from your blog.

Yet, with monetization, things can get a little confusing. There are just so many different options.
Making money from your blog is not something that happens by accident.

It takes forethought, planning, and a winning strategy.

Once you understand all of the possible ways to monetize your blog, it’s much easier to devise the right plan.

Succeeding at Monetizing Your Blog

The First Step is Understanding Your Options

There are almost limitless possibilities for a blogger like you to earn money online, but most of these fall into a small number of distinct categories.

This post is designed to show your options so that you can go on to make the right monetization decisions.

Without having a clear idea of what’s possible, you simply can’t make a solid choice.

Your destination is a blog that makes you money – you need to choose some routes that will get you there.

Let’s face it – blogging is hard work, so don’t make it even harder by failing to create a clear path to reaching your goals. You’ll end up investing time and energy on something that just won’t work for you.

When analysing your options, think about your end goal – do you want a more passive way to earn? Perhaps you want to offer a service? Maybe you just want to create and sell your own products? Not sure yet?

Whatever it is – we have it on the menu.

The Full Menu

I scoured the Internet for months trying to find the most diverse and proven ways to make money from blogs.

I’ve talked to every contact I have, conducted research, done free and paid courses and classes, read real books and e-books, watched videos, attended webinars, and have tried a lot of these strategies myself – if it’s not on the list, it probably doesn’t exist or just doesn’t work.

So don’t worry; I’ve got you covered!

Look through the list, and find your best options — or just see what’s available. Use it as a guideline for your blog monetization plans.

Display Advertising

Ads are great, but they can be tricky.

They can deliver staggering revenues, but for most people, they make very little. If you want success with ads, you must consider traffic, audience, and context.

Generally speaking, the traffic numbers of most blogs don’t have the volume to make a real dent with display advertising, and once you have the traffic, there are usually better ways to monetize.

Of course there are exceptions to the rules – so aim to understand your niche and audience before deciding if ads are right for you.

Overview

  • Pros: Easy to set up, offers passive income (set-and-forget), requires no special skills, works on most audiences, and works from day one.
  • Cons: Usually results in relatively small profits, requires a lot of traffic, turns off some audiences, makes your blog look less attractive, and is usually not the main revenue maker for a blog.
  • Best When: You have a lot of traffic, you have other sources of revenue, and you’re waiting to develop your own products for sale or quickly monetize without much effort.

You have many ad networks to choose from. Google AdSense is the most popular, but look into Media.net (Yahoo/Bing) and Clicksor. These ad networks are contextual – they automatically display ads based on your page’s content.

After you choose an ad network, there’re many different ad models you can use – each one has its benefits.

Here are the best options:

Display Advertising Options:

PPM

Get paid whenever a visitor lands on a page displaying the ad, as its “seen” — it doesn’t matter if the ad is clicked or not.

  • Pros: Visitors don’t have to click on your ads to make money.
  • Cons: Needs even more traffic than other ad types and usually pays less.
  • Best When: This is great for high-traffic blogs that have little audience interaction – news-type blogs for example.

PPC

Get paid when someone clicks on the ads displayed on your blog. (Prices depend on niche — more competitive = more money.)

  • Pros: Standard advertising model — it is the best bang for your buck.
  • Cons: You want advertisers with relevance to your blog to increase ad clicks.
  • Best When: In high competition niches that are relevant to your blog.

Banner Ads

Banner ads are placed in sidebars, headers, and individual posts. These can be PPC or PPM.

  • Pros: Common and effective form of advertising.
  • Cons: Can ruin the look of a blog depending on which ads are displayed.
  • Best When: You have control over which banners display.

RSS Ads

Appear in the RSS feed of a blog.

  • Pros: A great way to make money from your RSS feed.
  • Cons: With the decline of RSS feeds, these have become less popular; that doesn’t necessarily make them bad.
  • Best When: You have a large RSS list.

In-text Ads

These are ads that are embedded within your written text. When a reader clicks on them, it displays the corresponding ad.

  • Pros: They look like links, so there is no need for banner ads.
  • Cons: Distracting. People may find it annoying. Makes your blog worse from a usability perspective.
  • Best When: You don’t use other forms of advertising.

Mobile Advertising

If you have a mobile app or want to advertise via mobile channels. See: ADMob, Millennial Media, and Adfonic. There were 7.1 billion mobile devices connected to the net in 2014 – mobile and app advertising is set to take advantage of this in a big way.

  • Pros: Take advantage of a growing sector, less competition in the app sector, majority of web traffic comes from mobile devices.
  • Cons: Situational – you need to have an app or want to advertise in apps.
  • Best When: You have an app, and you want to capitalise on the growing number of mobile devices or when your audience largely uses mobile to view your content.

Advertising widgets

Use widgets such as AdSanity to help you manage and customise ads on your blog.

  • Pros: Detailed advertising information, makes your ads more profitable and customizable (e.g., display ads with higher revenue). Works with single or multiple ads.
  • Cons: Cost of entry, needs more effort on your part.
  • Best When: You already use ads with some success and want to increase their profitability.

Bulletin/job board

Create a bulletin or job board and let others advertise on it for a fee.

  • Pro: Easy to set up and can drive huge amounts of relevant traffic to your blog, which amplifies other monetisation avenues and turns your blog into a “hub” in your niche.
  • Cons: Usually this is not a primary source of income; your blog has to be sufficiently popular.
  • Best When: Your blog is seen as a hub in your space when you already have a lot of traffic and when combined with other revenue streams, e.g., Problogger Job Board.

Audio ads on your podcasts

If you have a podcast, use audio ads similar to a commercial radio station and promote people’s products, services and get paid — e.g., use networks like this, and this.

  • Pros: A great way to earn money from your podcasts.
  • Cons: You must have a regular audience for your podcast to have any real effect.
  • Best When: You have a large and consistent podcast audience.

Sponsored content

Sponsored content is advertising material in the context of a blog post (should be disclosed). Its effectiveness is determined by audience size and relevance. A good example of how sponsored content works is mashable.com. They regularly use content from big companies and get huge brand visibility in exchange for money.

  • Pros: Good way to earn money. Most people would have no issue with sponsored content, if you label it as such.
  • Cons: Would turn some people off and would only work well in some niches (depending on sponsored content opportunities and how well they match your blog).
  • Best When: You have a large reach and you are in a niche with good sponsored content opportunities.

Ads on your videos (for other’s products or your own)

Use your videos as platforms for advertising. Use the YouTube advertising program, or create an agreement with a sponsor, and mention them or display their logo in your videos.

  • Pros: Make money from the content you create, easier to get noticed than blog banner ads, relatively unexplored area for most bloggers, and can go viral.
  • Cons: Only applies to video content. Traffic needed. May need relationships with businesses.
  • Best When: You are a successful video content creator.

Directly sell ad space on your blog

Sell ad space to other bloggers or businesses without going through a middle man (ad networks).

  • Pros: No middleman, total control over what ads you want to display, more profit, and you can choose ad designs that complement your blog.
  • Cons: Fewer ads to choose from and harder to arrange than AdWords (or equivalent).
  • Best When: You share an audience with a blogger or business that’s interested in advertising on your site.

Sell, Sell, Sell – Blog Stores

Sometimes, the best way to make money off your blog is to treat it like a sales platform.

The biggest problem for most online businesses is they lack traffic volume and a repeat audience. As a blogger, that’s your bread and butter.

Bloggers get so hung up on providing free content that they forget they are allowed to sell to their audiences. If you provide real value with your content and offer something relevant, your audience would love to buy from you.

Here are the best ways:

Create blog merchandise:

Sell shirts, caps, or just about any merchandise from your blog.

  • Pros: A fun idea which under the right conditions will make a great income; check out Cafepress and Merchify for ideas.
  • Cons: Situational — some brands just don’t make for good merchandise.
  • Best When: You have an active, engaged community and a cool social brand. E.g., it’s perfect for health blogs.

Auctions/eBay store

You can create a simple eBay store for your blog. It’s easy and a quick way to start earning an income. Alternatively, you can auction items to your audience without eBay.

  • Pros: Easy and cheap to set up.
  • Cons: Not suitable for every blog, people might take you less seriously depending on niche, and probably not a steady income.
  • Best When: You are in a creative category such as DIY or in a niche that has many physical products associated with it.

Start an ecommerce store

Sell items directly from your blog with no third party involvement.

  • Pros: This is a great way to monetize a blog; a varied inventory can create fantastic revenue.
  • Cons: Need products to sell. Not all niches can be successful – or at least not without thinking outside the box. Check out Lynne Knowlton’s selection of products.
  • Best When: You have many things to sell or have a blog for business purposes.

Reviews and Sponsorships

As a blogger, your biggest asset is your audience.

They give you authority and influence. And when influential people speak – others listen.

This makes bloggers like you perfect for product reviews and sponsorships. These strategies have been around for a long time – and for good reason; they work.

You can use the power your audience gives you to earn a living, without violating your audience’s trust or using any sleazy tactics.

Here are the best ways:

Paid reviews

Paid reviews are where an advertiser pays the blogger for a review of their product or service. Bloggers should let the audience know when a post is paid for; in some countries it’s required by law (including the U.S.). You can use PayPerPost, com or make your own arrangements.

  • Pros: You get paid to review products and services in your niche. It’s easy and requires little effort.
  • Cons: Not every niche and blog has the opportunity to review a product. This method is a short-term monetization strategy.
  • Best When: You have a popular blog with a lot of reach and an audience that is understanding.

Receive gifts for reviewing products

Getting paid in the form of products or services can be another source of revenue.

  • Pros: An easy way to get rewarded. You can set up a page on your blog to let people know you do reviews, or you can email people directly if you are interested.
  • Cons: Most people would prefer cash payments.
  • Best When: You have a large audience that values your opinion.

Get sponsored by a company

Leverage your audience and influence to get sponsored by a company that will pay you in cash or gifts to promote them.

  • Pros: Can be lucrative, and you don’t have to do your own development or branding.
  • Cons: Usually you need to have a popular blog.
  • Best When: You have a popular blog and you outreach to companies that you have an interest in working with.

Become a brand ambassador

If you love a particular brand, you can try to become a brand ambassador. You promote a company and get paid in commissions, free gifts, or cash.

  • Pros: A great way to earn and promote your favourite companies.
  • Cons: You need to have a company you strongly believe in that fits your image, you need a large following, and your reputation is in another’s hands.
  • Best When: There is a company that lives up to your expectations of quality, service, and ideals — and is beneficial to your audience.

Passive Income

Every blogger has fantasized about making a fully passive income at some stage.

And affiliate marketing is the best way of doing that. But even with passive income, you still have to do some work.

Well, initially at least.

But get it right and your life will change in a big way. So kick back, relax, and watch that money come rolling in.

Here are the best ways:

Join an Affiliate Program

Becoming an affiliate is the perfect way to make money selling products or services without having to invest time in creating them yourself.

  • Pros: Great source of potential revenue, no need to develop your own products.
  • Cons: Turn your audience away if you promote the wrong type of product, lose audience to competitors, lose audience if you overdo it, and not as much money as making your own products.
  • Best When: You have a large devoted audience, you want to make extra money to an already successful blog, or you want to “test drive” an idea before committing your own time and money.

Affiliate links in posts

You create “evergreen” content with links to affiliate products – this is not promoting another blogger’s products via email advertising. For an example of affiliate links in posts, check out Darren Rowse’s Digital Photography School. The difference is subtle, but some audiences simply do not want to hear about other people’s products in your email messages.

  • Pros: Earns money while providing value to your audience. Perfect for monetizing your current content.
  • Cons: Takes some effort to set up; very few people could make a full living off affiliate links in posts.
  • Best When: You create incredible list articles with affiliate links and you have a large audience.

Webhosting referral affiliates: (Bluehost, Godaddy, Hostgator)

Promote a service you trust and use on your blog to earn commissions.

  • Pros: It’s easy, no special skills are needed, and anyone can do it. All website owners need hosting.
  • Cons: Like other affiliate links, this usually won’t be enough to make a full living, and needs lots of traffic.
  • Best When: Using hosting companies that you trust and use with your blog. Your audience has or intends to have a website, e.g., blogging, social media, and business niches.

Affiliate sales from social media (Instagram and Pinterest)

If you have a large presence on Instagram or Pinterest, you can promote affiliate products using RewardStyle or ETSY. This is a great way to use your blog in conjunction with social media, and earn money – perfect for visual merchandise, i.e., fashion or design blogging.

  • Pros: A fantastic way to leverage your social media presence.
  • Cons: You need to have a large following to be accepted.
  • Best When: You are a popular blogger that focuses on visual content.

Create an affiliate program for your own products

This is a way to get extra reach and revenue from one of your own products.

  • Pros: Increase profits for no extra work, and a great way to make extra sales and get exposure.
  • Cons: Not as profitable as tapping into the market without a middleman.
  • Best When: You have an expensive product to sell and have relationships with influencers in your niche.

Directly sell other bloggers’ products and get commissions

Like affiliate marketing, you’re selling other people’s products, but unlike traditional affiliate marketing, the commission is determined directly between you and the other party.

  • Pros: High commissions and relevant to your audience. Good way to build goodwill and relationships with other bigger players in your niche.
  • Cons: You need strong connections to other bloggers – which means you are already established. Has potential to lose your readers to your competition.
  • Best When: You already have a medium to large email list and have good relationships with other bloggers/businesses/gurus. 

Be a Leader

As a blogger, you’re naturally a coach and mentor to your audience.

You love what you do, and you wouldn’t change a thing. So, why not get paid for it?

Everybody wants your help, but it’s not possible to help everyone. You need to prioritize and still find the time to create quality content.

When you charge for your services, you can focus on your work, provide quality advice, and spend

your time more wisely.

Here are the best ways: 

Consulting

Consulting is about using your expertise to provide specific problem-solving or troubleshooting – such as providing marketing advice or strategy. E.g., Neil Patel. Consulting usually requires you to have a specific skillset.

  • Pros: Usually more lucrative than coaching and builds your credibility faster. Great as a primary or secondary revenue stream.
  • Cons: Requires a high level of authority and credibility in your niche when compared to coaching, therefore not the best option for total beginners. It’s also time intensive.
  • Best When: Your intervention can have quick and measurable results (changing marketing strategy, providing SEO audits etc.), usually “service” based.

Coaching

You offer expertise to help your clients resolve a problem – coaching is similar to consulting, but there is more emphasis on providing support, encouragement, motivation, and guidance. With coaching, there is less emphasis on having a specific skillset or qualification in general and more emphasis on support and feedback.

  • Pros: Provides a consistent flat rate and a reliable income, and you also learn more about your audience.
  • Cons: It is a time-heavy process that slows the growth of your blog and requires a certain amount of authority.
  • Best When: There is a longer-term issue or problem that requires more than one or two sessions to resolve — e.g., lifestyle change, personal development.

Group coaching programs

Like advanced consulting for a whole group of clients through a predefined curriculum. You provide lessons, exercises, feedback, and mentoring.

  • Pros: You learn new skills and get rapid feedback about what your customers want – while being paid.
  • Cons: A lot of time is taken in running and preparing these courses. You need some level of experience.
  • Best When: You have already had success with one-on-one coaching and are looking to take on more students at once — e.g., Selena Soo.

Get Paid for Superior Content

It’s your job to create incredible content for your audience.

You spend countless hours researching, writing, creating and editing. But some content is just too valuable, too time intensive and too in-depth to be given away for free.

If you didn’t charge for it – it would be impossible to keep your standards that high.

This is a natural progression for any blogger, and it’s a fantastic way to earn money.

Here are the best ways:

Private interview series

You interview experts in your field on a number of important topics and charge a fee for accessing this material — e.g., Yaro Starak from EJ.

  • Pros: These are cheap to set up, easy to scale, and are incredible relationship-building opportunities.
  • Cons: The experts have to be well known authorities in your space for people to consider it valuable enough to pay for. The interviews must provide real value. You need to be fairly well connected.
  • Best When: You are well connected in your niche as well as have other products (with higher prices) for sale.

Develop and sell your own self-paced courses

Self-paced courses are teaching resources that a user goes through at their own pace; usually it’s a combination of text, video, audio, and live calls.

  • Pros: One of the best ways for bloggers to make sustainable, high-level profits. Courses like this build your credibility and can be your sole revenue stream.
  • Cons: Time and effort intensive to put together, and you need a lot of experience in your field (to create worthy learning resources).
  • Best When: You are a popular blogger who’s ready to step up to the challenge – this separates the casual bloggers from the big boys. E.g., Jon Morrow’s Guest Blogging

Create a video course

Video courses are similar to self-paced courses, but they focus heavily on in-depth “over the shoulder” type videos. These are perfect for instructing complex tasks that users need to view multiple times to follow.

  • Pros: Same as a self-paced course.
  • Cons: Video courses take a lot of time to set up, may require special video and editing software, and high production value is a must, due to repeated viewing.
  • Best When: You are in a technical niche like link building / SEO. E.g., Brian Dean.

E-books

E-books are a great place to start monetizing.

  • Pros: Low up-front and overhead costs, no ongoing cost or customer support, easy to create, and you gain credibility and widen your audience.
  • Cons: Relatively low profit per sale, and requires high volume to make money.
  • Best when: You have other forms of revenue, and you are looking to expand your authority. E.g., Enchanting Marketing.

Membership Site

Create regular private content that users pay to view.

  • Pros: A great way to get consistent money (this works by charging a relatively small, recurring monthly fee).
  • Cons: You need to produce regular high-quality content that’s worth paying for.
  • Best When: You have a ton of high-quality topics to discuss, and you’re invested in creating high-quality content consistently for the long term.

Private forum

A great way to reach out to hundreds or thousands of clients at once.

  • Pros: Like private membership content but usually more time intensive. The quality is usually lower than that of premium courses.
  • Cons: It takes a lot of time and energy to set up, and the level of service is usually not as high as a self-paced course.
  • Best When: You have a loyal audience and you are willing to spend time each day to review threads and post in forums, or when you have other “power users” that will aid you in the forums.

Leverage Your Blogging Skills

As a blogger, you develop a particular skill set.

This skill set is extremely valuable in the real world. But most bloggers take it for granted – some don’t realize how sought after these skills can be.

But if you’re smart, you can use these skills to your advantage.

Here are the best ways:

Paid guest posts

There’re blogs and business sites that pay you to guest post. Do this regularly and the money starts to add up. Check out some great resources for paid guest posting: here, here and here.

  • Pros: Great way to polish your writing and get paid for it.
  • Cons: Too time intensive to make a lot of money.
  • Best When: You want to earn some money while polishing your writing skills.

Ghost-writing for other bloggers or sites

Earn money by offering ghost-writing services for other blogs or businesses. This is similar to guest posting, but you’re not credited for the work, and you’ll usually get paid more per post.

  • Pros: Fantastic way to boost revenue and build relationships.
  • Cons: Time consuming, and a lot of bloggers may find it unsatisfying in the long run.
  • Best When: You are in the freelancing / blogging / writing niche, which means you can charge a lot more and build a reputation with popular bloggers and businesses.

Use your blog as a platform for a higher-paying job

Use your blog as a launching pad for a much higher-paying career in the real world. Make yourself an authority in the niche your ideal job fits into, and use it as leverage in your workplace or the job market. You can also launch your own freelance career as a blogger, writer, or coach.

  • Pros: Gives the security of a “real” job. A lot of people prefer more traditional and structured ways to earn money.
  • Cons: Ultimately, you are bound by the job market.
  • Best When: Your passion lies within a particular business sector or you are self-employed.

Write sales letters

Writing a sales letter is similar to a sales page for a business, but it’s longer, more detailed, more difficult, and requires a high level of copywriting and marketing skills.

  • Pros: Direct marketing is a particular skill that can earn you much more money compared to traditional copywriting.
  • Cons: It’s an acquired skill, and not everyone is capable of doing it well.
  • Best When: You’re a blogger in the marketing/copywriting niche with a few years of experience.

Publish a book

Write and publish a physical book. Many bloggers have become bestselling authors; some even have a few books under their belts.

  • Pros: Books are an incredible authority booster, and you receive huge acclaim and open up other opportunities. Not only do you make money from book sales, but you also can increase your rates on all your other offerings.
  • Cons: For this to have any real chance, you need a fairly large and devoted audience.
  • Best When: You’re a gifted writer, and you run a popular blog. E.g., Seth Godin.

Write web copy for businesses/blogs 

A great way to use your copywriting skills is to write sales copy for websites. Copywriting for company websites and sales pages is a sought after skill, and can be hugely rewarding. 

  • Pros: Get paid a lot more than just writing articles.
  • Cons: Providing a service like this usually only applies if you are in the blogging, social media, or marketing niches.
  • Best When: You are in the right niche and have some degree of authority and/or marketing experience.

Form a partnership (with another blogger, online business, or physical business)

Enter a mutual business relationship with another blogger, business, or physical business, and get paid to do so.

  • Pros: Access to revenue or skillsets that you otherwise wouldn’t have. With a mutual partnership, you have the option to split up work, access to products you normally would not have, and the freedom to focus on doing what you’re best at.
  • Cons: Not receiving full profits.
  • Best When: Your blog is related to an industry with business opportunities, and you are well connected.

The Power of Events

You’re probably pretty social.

You love talking with your audience, you love networking with other bloggers, and you love to share what’s on your mind – and the best way to share ideas is to share with a receptive group.

And creating an event is an excellent way to teach, raise your profile, and get paid.

Here are the best ways: 

Organize an event (in real life)

Step out from behind your keyboard, and organize a real-life event. Take the lead and earn money from real-life events — like Copyblogger, Problogger, or NerdFitness (check out this awesome fit camp) — if you have readers that are in proximity to you or are willing to travel. Most people put more value in a face-to-face interaction and are willing to pay for the experience. Events will bond you with readers, and are mutually beneficial.

  • Pros: You can make great money and strong bonds with readers.
  • Cons: It can be difficult logistically and may not work in some niches; usually you would need to be well known and respected.
  • Best When: You have a strong bond with your audience, and you can organise an event worth paying for.

Paid speaking gigs

Use your blog as a platform to launch a speaking career.

  • Pros: Branch out from your blog for a well-paid and rewarding speaking career.
  • Cons: The suitability of this depends on your authority, niche, and comfort with public speaking.
  • Best When: You’re passionate and imagine yourself “blogging” in front of a large, live audience. E.g., Neil Patel (above) or Adam Franklin.

Host a branded Twitter party

Bloggers have more authority on social media than most businesses or online users. If your blog gives you clout on Twitter, approach a business or company to host a branded Twitter party and get paid for your efforts.

  • Pros: Leverage your large Twitter following and get paid to promote.
  • Cons: A Twitter party is audience specific and brand specific. This strategy requires your audience’s “permission” and participation, and it would put some people off.
  • Best When: You know your audience likes the brand/product being promoted, and you have a large Twitter following.

Live workshops

You can hold a webinar online, or a real-life local event, which requires payment to attend. E.g., Jon Morrow’s live workshops for his Guest Blogging program.

  • Pros: A cool way to teach and engage an audience which is very rewarding and provides you with a good income. Similar to group coaching but with a higher price bracket.
  • Cons: You would need to organize well and have a high level of service and value for this to work.
  • Best When: You have had some practice with webinar software and consulting.

Get the Crowd On Your Side

Rally the troops and form an army.

With the power of the crowd on your side, you can achieve incredible things.

Harnessing the power of crowdfunding has never been easier; there is money to be made, projects to complete, and lives to change.

If you have the will, and the right people behind you, there’s a way.

Here are the best ways:

Create a crowdfunding page

If you have a specific goal or mission for your blog, create a crowdfunding page, and source funds from your audience.

  • Pros: Get paid for having a vision and the initiative to start something your audience appreciates.
  • Cons: Ideally, you need a mission people can get behind, and this method usually doesn’t provide reoccurring income.
  • Best When: You have a vision, goal, or mission that inspires people to take action — you may be helping others (like Pat Flynn did), have a special project you want to work on, or be developing a product your fans want ( with an epic $50 million dollars from crowdfunding – check out their blog here).

Enroll in the Beacon network

Get donations for your creative work.

  • Pros: An innovative way to get paid for your work.
  • Cons: Not yet a proven way, and it’s mostly for creative work.
  • Best When: You have a blog in the creative space, and you want to try something different.

Get fan funding with Patreon

Get donations for your creative work – this is like crowd funding but for a sequence of smaller projects.

  1. Pros: A great way to make money for content in the creative space. A unique way to build a bond with your fans.
  2. Cons: It’s not mainstream, and your audience would need to adopt the Patreon system.
  3. Best When: You create creative projects, and your audience is open to new ideas. E.g., Cliff Ravenscraft uses Patreon for his podcasts.

Get your audience on Flattr

An interesting platform for you to share your creative content and get paid for each “like” from any Flattr user. 

  • Pros: In theory, it’s a great way to get paid for your creative work.
  • Cons: You have to convince your audience to use the Flattr system.
  • Best When: A large part of your audience uses Flattr.

Get tips on Tiptheweb

Encourage your readers to use a tipping service to get paid for your creative work.

  • Pros: You get rewarded for your outstanding work on a per case basis.
  • Cons: This is in the beta stage, meaning you most likely won’t get enough people tipping to make a solid income.
  • Best When: You consistently create great content, and your audience members are early adopters that benefit from your work.

Let your audience show gratitude on Gratipay: Similar to tipping but provides a reoccurring weekly donation for doing good work.

  • Pros: You have a better chance to make regular income than tipping since you get weekly payments.
  • Cons: Might have a harder time convincing your audience to commit to reoccurring weekly payments.
  • Best When: You have a loyal audience, you create great content, and you do not advertise or sell any other products.

Just ask for donations (PayPal)

A bit of an old-school way to make money blogging. Just put up a donations page, and ask your readers to donate, either for a specific one-off purpose (e.g., buying a new microphone) or just in general. This can work well, depending on your audience. E.g., Scooby’s Fitness Network.

  • Pros: One of the easiest ways to make money from your blog.
  • Cons: Not a dependable income and as most people will not donate.
  • Best When: Your readers feel in debt to you and your great work, especially when you don’t push any products on them. 

Get Technical

Sometimes it’s necessary to get technical.

Creating a unique product for your audience takes a lot of resources, planning, and work. If you have the know-how and the will to make it happen, you can achieve great things.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m saying that if you do it right, it’s going to be worth it.

Here are the best ways:

Develop and sell your own physical products

Much like selling your own programs, but this product is physical. 

  • Pros: A physical product lends you credibility and makes you seem more serious than your competitors. Physical products are often easier to market.
  • Cons: Costs are higher due to producing prototypes. Higher risk strategy when compared to non-physical products or courses due to upfront costs.
  • Best When: You are in a niche that allows for physical products. E.g., no meat athletes gear.

Sell your blog/site template or theme

Sell your custom designed blog theme or template.

  • Pros: A great way to make money if you have a unique theme that people like.
  • Cons: Not every theme and template would apply; most wouldn’t.
  • Best When: You have your own custom theme that your readers ask you about regularly.

Develop and sell your own software:

This is specific to your industry; your programs could be web-based programs, software, or systems that you directly sell to your audience.

  • Pros: The best option for high revenues, and it can be your sole revenue stream. Specifically designed with your audience in mind, which makes it much easier to sell.
  • Cons: An advanced method, it takes a lot of time and money to set up. It’s crucial to have experience (or an experienced team) in development and to really know your audience before you attempt to create these programs.
  • Best When: You have an already popular blog, in the right niche, with a proven track record in sales, and you have money to invest in hiring experts to help you. For example, AppSumo, created by Noah Kagan who runs his own blog at OkDork, or KISSmetrics.

Create a mobile app

Create a mobile app related to your audience, use it as a way to sell something, or leverage it for promotion, advertising, and brand awareness opportunities.

  • Pros: A unique approach, and unlike other app developers, you already have an established audience. Use your blog as a platform to distribute your app, build awareness, and create cross-promotional opportunities.
  • Cons: Technically challenging, and you need to have a good idea of what people want.
  • Best When: You have experience in development, you know your audience well and understand what they need. The level of complexity varies, but you would need a developer if you do not have the skills. Here is a non-tech example.

Try Something Different – Break the Mould

Sometimes, the best way to make a living from your blog is to try something new.

That’s the beauty of it; there really isn’t a limit to what you can do.

If you have the courage to try something different, you may get the rewards you’ve always wanted.

Try something unconventional, innovative, cutting edge – or even downright crazy!

If you have the vision, passion, and drive, no one is going to stop you.

Now go get ’em tiger!

Here are the best ways:

Treat it like a business, and look for an angel investor

If you’re looking to turn your blog into a profitable business, search for investors to back you financially and strategically. Look to Mashable and BuzzFeed for examples.

  • Pros: Secure funding to invest in your blog and the security of knowing successful business people are backing you.
  • Cons: It’s less like a traditional blog and more like a business, which requires a regimented and profit-driven approach.
  • Best When: You have a vision, and you want to build a business around that.

Use a paywall

Paywalls are commonly associated with news websites, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t use them for a blog.

  • Pros: Proven in other industries to make money with your content. A great opportunity to make it work for blogging. Great with in-depth content or more news-type blogs.
  • Cons: Will put a lot of people off.
  • Best When: You have a popular blog with exclusive

Try an “out there” idea

Check out Lynne’s awesome treehouse. She thought outside the box and made money from it. You may not have a treehouse, but you have skills, services, opportunities, or physical products that a portion of your audience will be interested in. 

  • Pros: Unique to the individual; almost everyone has something special they can offer.
  • Cons: You have to look hard to create opportunities.
  • Best When: You identify your unique offer, and you have the courage to try it out.

Sell your blog

Sick of your blog? Sell it. Get paid for your effort; look how Ramsay Taplin and Yaro Starak sold theirs.

  • Pros: Get rewarded for all your hard work with none of the pressure.
  • Cons: It’s usually only one payment unless you have a licensing contract, which can be complicated to arrange. Your blog needs to hold a business value to be eligible for sale.
  • Works Best: When you have a successful blog that you want to get rid of.

Here’s a Toast to Your Success

You have choices to make.

Choose the right ones for you and your blog – and you’ll be rewarded.

Hundreds of thousands of people make money from their blogs; some even make enough to quit their day jobs.

Stop wondering what it would be like – join them.

In reality, it’s no harder than what you do as your job every day.

But without blind luck, the only way to get there is understanding your options, choosing some strategies, and working toward your goal.

Targeted action is the difference between success and failure.

There is a lot riding on your decisions.

But don’t use that as an excuse to take no action.

The only decision you’ll regret is the one you don’t make at all.

Right now, action is vital.

Even if it means you make mistakes.

You can adapt and change later – just start now.

You have your options laid out in front of you – make your choices, and work at them.

It’s time to make a move.

Are you ready?

 

Paul Back will help you grow your blog, increase your traffic, and teach you to make money online. If you’re serious about blogging, then head on over and get your free guide to The 3 Most Effective Blog Monetization Methods and start earning a good living from your blog, quickly and without frustration.

 

3 Simple ways You can get your Blog Engagement Rockin

A Guest Contribution by Shaun McCarthy from Twitter, or visit Training Outcomes

When was the last time you learned something new? It could have been anything, from customising your blog template or setting up your social media to fixing your leaky tap. I want you to think about how you were taught. Did you just sit down and read a manual?

I’m guessing you didn’t. I bet you did a whole combination of things in order to perfect your new skill. It might have included reading, but it probably also included watching how someone else does it, listening as they explained it to you and almost definitely trying it yourself.

Why is this important to you as a blogger and content creator? Because in order to get your audience to do what you want them to do, you first need them to fully comprehend your message.

In this post I’m going to show you three basic ways that people learn and what you can do to ensure your blog content gets them excited.

Three key learning types

Did you know that more than half of the population (around 65%) are visual learners? What that means is they need to be able to see a concept in order to process, remember and use it.

Everyone has a preferred way to consume information, a learning style. Visual learners want to see how to do something. Auditory learners like to hear an explanation and talk things through. Kinaesthetic people need to get their hands dirty and feel how something is done.

If you understand the way your audience likes to learn, then communicating with them becomes a whole lot easier.

1. Visual learners

Visual learners prefer to watch demonstration and will often get more out of video, rather than written instructions. Aside from the sheer entertainment value, this is one of the main reasons why YouTube works so well.

Video works well because it is very engaging, but you can also use simple visual alternatives such as diagrams and images that help to communicate, or better demonstrate the outcome you are trying to achieve. Photos, cartoons, tables and charts all work well as reinforcement tools for visual learners.

The good news is that you can create videos yourself using a decent camera with movie mode, or even with an iPhone if you are starting out. Practice makes perfect, but it is likely that your audience will value any effort you make to show them what you are talking about.

Well renowned blogger, Ramsay the Blog Tyrant, has used video to great effect in his article about Google authorship. Not only did he write a really detailed ‘how to’ and inject plenty of his own thoughts, he also included a video to show his audience exactly how it can be done using screen capture software.

Videos aren’t the only visual learning tools available. Infographics visually communicate ideas and sometimes, quite complex data. They are so popular because they resonate so well with visual learners.

2. Auditory learners

Hearing and speaking are closely related so you’ll often find auditory learners combining the two when they are introduced to new concepts. Maybe you have even found yourself repeating something out aloud in order to remember it.

Auditory learners remember complex information through song or rhyme; in fact we all do it from an early age – who doesn’t know the alphabet song?

A good way to engage people that like to learn by listening is through podcasts. Podcasts are a really popular way to deliver online interviews and once you are up and running, podcasts are pretty easy to offer to your audience. Check out Pat Flynn’s great resource about setting up podcasts for a great step by step (funnily enough it actually contains a lot of video).

Video can also be a good way to engage auditory learners. It can really help develop a stronger connection when your audience can see the person behind the voice. Someone that does this extremely well is Derek Halpern from Social Triggers. Derek has stacks of energy and gets right to the point, leaving you with a clear and actionable takeaway message every time.

As surprising as it might sound, you can also engage auditory learners through text by getting them to repeat something (like a desired action) aloud to themselves. Try suggesting to your reader that they read a word or sentence using a well-known voice (like a celebrity), or tell them how it should sound (sexy, angry, crazy). You will be amazed how well this works at getting someone to recall a certain piece of information.

3. Kinaesthetic learners

While kinaesthetic learners make up the smallest group, many of us use this type of learning at some point. This is the process of performing the intended action, which is naturally more suited to physical activities.

Although this can pose some challenges in an online setting, there are ways to incorporate this learning style into your blog. Try to be very descriptive about the way in which something should feel to the learner and ask them to action it out themselves.

You can also try setting specific homework related to your desired action. On your blog you could do this by:

  • For a photography blog, you could ask your reader to take a specific photo in a particular way and have them post a link to it in the comments;
  • For a personal development blog you could challenging readers to interact with a specific number of new people in a given amount of time, then ask them to report back;
  • For a marketing/writing blog you could offer subscribers a reward in the form of a link from your site, for a specific piece of content they create.

Aside from helping people put their learning into practice, another benefit in doing this is that it often promotes community interaction. Your audience will not only share and learn from you, but also with each other, which is really cool to see happen.

Adding the additional reward element through recognition makes it all the more enticing.

Combining learning styles

Research has show that combining different learning styles is the most effective way to engage learners, independent of the way they best learn.

The key is making your blog a hot house of interaction is to understand that most people use a mixture of learning styles. Some have one dominant style, and use small amounts of the other styles, while other people will use different styles in different situations.

What this all boils down to is that the best way to create a hot house of reader engagement on blog, is to incorporate all three learning styles whenever practical. Look for ways to inject this into your online content and experiment with different communication media like audio and video, I guarantee it will result in better engagement and greater success with your target audience.

Do you usually create one style of content over another? How could you tailor your content to better suit each of these learning styles?

Shaun McCarthy helps people create fantastic learning experiences that anyone can relate to. He also likes to make wild claims about guaranteed success using a training based approach. Feel free to take this up with him on Twitter, or visit Training Outcomes to see how a simple approach to online training can help you get more from your online business.

Heavyweight Help: The Ultimate Guide to Selling Your Blog

Did you know there’s a massive marketplace out there filled with people who want to buy your blog?

Yep, your blog!

Sale sign

Image courtesy stock.xchng user JMGRIFFIN

It’s really big business and you can make serious money if you know what you’re doing.

In fact, some clever people make a pretty decent living just from building up blogs and then flipping them for $10k, $50k or even $100k+. And while I haven’t been quite that successful I have sold several blogs for around $20,000—the first time all the way back when I was at Uni.

In this post I’m going to try and cover everything you’ll need to know to sell your blog for the best possible price with the fewest possible regrets. I’ll cover things like:

  • why you should think carefully about whether you sell or not
  • how to calculate your blog’s value and why that measure is controversial
  • how you should set up your blog so it’s easy (and possible) to sell
  • where you can sell your blog safely
  • how to write a good and trustworthy listing
  • steps to take to ensure you have a stress-free transaction
  • clever things to do with the sale money (and an embarrassing story).

This is going to be a long post so set your eyes to strained and get your scroll finger warmed up. Let’s do it!

Why you should think carefully about selling

How good does it sound?

You build up a blog, make a bit of consistent revenue, and then sell it for a handsome sum of money.

Great, right?

Well, actually, there are a few considerations that you need to take into account before you get selling. Broadly speaking, there are two categories of pre-sale issues to think about:

  1. Emotional factors: You might be keen to sell your blog now but are you sure you’re not going to miss it once it is all said and done? Remember, once that blog is sold you lose all rights to your logos, articles, design—it will all belong to the new owner.
  2. Financial factors: Having a big chunk of money in your bank account is really exciting but you need to figure out how long it’s going to last you, what you’re going to invest it in and whether the short-term payout amount is more valuable to you than keeping the blog for five or ten years.

If you are thinking about putting your blog up for sale I urge you to take a few weeks to carefully think things through.

Most importantly, if you rely on your blog for a good portion of your income you need to make sure that you have some other projects on the go that are already earning you some money. One of the key mistakes people make (myself included) is selling their blog before they really have another solid income to rely on.

What is your blog worth and what are buyers looking for?

The title of this section covers both what your blog is worth and what buyers are looking for because often those things are totally separate from each other.

What do I mean?

Well, as I wrote about in this post on valuing a blog, you’ll often find that what your blog is worth to you is totally different than what it is actually worth in monetary terms, or to an independent buyer. The cold calculation of a blog’s value is often not inclusive of all the things that it means for you and your career.

How to calculate a blog’s sale value

Some people are going to disagree with this but in my experience the safest way to calculate what your blog is worth is like this:

Monthly revenue x 12 to 24 months = sale price

This is by no means a hard and fast rule; some people get 36 months, 48 months, etc. But for the most part you’ll find that people who buy blogs usually only offer around one to two years’ revenue.

So, at the most basic level, if your blog makes $1000 a month you will probably be able to sell it for between $12,000 and $24,000.

You’ll often see people trying to sell a blog or website for a higher price because it it is under-monetized, inefficiently set up, or not fulfilling its “potential”.

These words and scenarios mean very little to buyers who are essentially trying to purchase a successful and stable business. It is rare (though not impossible) to find someone who is investing in developing blogs because they want to build them up.

How to calculate a blog’s real value

Something that I learned the hard way was the fact that your blog is worth a lot more than just the money that it brings in. It sounds crazy at first but you’ll often hear guys like Darren say that even though Problogger.net doesn’t make him huge amount of money it elevates his profile and gives him a hugely valuble marketing tool.

When thinking about selling you need to consider whether your blog:

  • Promotes other stuff: Do you use your blog to promote and expose other products or websites? Can it send traffic to other sites and give solid SEO links to new projects?
  • Helps you: Some people use blogging as a method of dealing with stress or anxiety, which is obviously hard to put a dollar value on.
  • Connects you: Does your blog help to connect you wither big players in the online world and therefore bring in new opportunities?
  • Utilizes its list: If you have a big mailing list but have never done any successful promotions you might be sitting on an asset worth a lot more than it would appear on paper. Remember, a good mailing list promotion can bring in large amounts of money in a single day.
  • Has a replaceable social media brand: The last point is that almost all of us have social media accounts that are connected with our blogs. For example, if Darren sold Problogger.net, would he also have to give up the hundreds of thousands of followers @problogger has on Twitter?

As I mentioned, a lot of these last items are things that are totally irrelevant to an independent buyer. They are, in some ways, unquantifiable considerations that will often hold great importance to you but very little to someone else.

What are buyers looking for?

Now that we’ve got the basic valuation types out of the way it’s a good idea to discuss exactly what buyers are looking for. I’m not going to go into too much detail here as there is a post coming up later in this series about buying a blog which will get you sorted.

However, having a basic understanding of what buyers are looking for will help you plan future sales:

  • Consistent earnings: Google updates and other internet changes often mean that blog earnings fluctuate in a way that is totally unacceptable to regular businesses. You need to make sure your earnings are stable if you want a good sale price.
  • Consistent statistics: Again, if buyers can see big fluctuations in your search engine rankings they will consider it a warning sign that you might be selling for a reason that you’re not disclosing.
  • An easy-to-adopt website: If your blog is totally wound up in your personality and has readers and content that apply to your life and experience it will probably be very difficult for someone else to take over and profit from.
  • Historical reports: I almost lost out on one big sale because I hadn’t installed Google Analytics on the blog in the early stages and thus the buyers was worried that the current trends and traffic levels weren’t truly representative of what was going on. Make sure you have stats installed early on and clear histories of traffic and earnings.

So, if you want to sell your blog, make sure you know how much it is worth to you (in the short and long term) and how much is worth to a buyer. These are different numbers.

How to set up your blog for an easy and comfortable sale

What a lot of people don’t realize is that selling a blog means that buyers are going to need access to a lot of stuff that you might never have intended to hand over to anyone else.

If you think you might want to sell somewhere down the line or you’re building a blog specifically for the purpose of a future sale, you want to make sure you have a few things covered.

1. Make sure you are on a separate, self-hosted set up

Although it does happen sometimes, you’ll find that most of the time people will want to buy sites that are fully owned and operated by the individual they are dealing with. With free blogs like Blogger and Tumblr the lines are less clear—who own the domain, the content, the theme, etc.?

The ideal situation is one where you have the domain name and WordPress blog host all in separate, individual places that aren’t mixed in with your other sites and domain names.

Of course, it isn’t all that hard to transfer a domain name or migrate a site to someone else. But it is much easier if you can just do one change of ownership transaction, which means the site doesn’t experience any downtime.

2. Try to have social networking accounts that you can sign over

As mentioned before, it can be a little bit tricky if your personal social networking accounts are also tied up in the brand name that you are selling. For example, my Twitter handle is @blogtyrant which means that if I ever sold www.BlogTyrant.com I would probably have to hand over that Twitter account as well.

I once spoke to Kristi Hines about this issue and she told me that it is much wiser to have a personal account that you use for yourself and a brand-name account that is just for the website and its followers. This is a lot harder than it used to be, however, with Google+ profiles and pages, YouTube, Facebook and accounts all over the place being linked together and muddled up.

If you can manage, find a way to separate your personal accounts from your brand-name accounts so you don’t lose it all or have headaches transferring them.

3. Be careful with linked email services

When you own a blog you often sign up for things like Google Analytics and other online services with your personal email. Much like the social networks, this can cause a huge pain in the future if you sell the site and need to give someone else access to this stuff.

Some services don’t let you remove the original email address that you signed up with but instead only allow you add new accounts. What this means is that you might always be linked to that old site in some way if you want to hold on to that email.

As far as I can tell, the best way to avoid these traps is to sign up for a separate Gmail account or create a Google account/other accounts with an [email protected] email address that you can hand over at the sale.

4. Make sure you know what you own

I’ve heard of blog sales getting into hot water when the seller doesn’t realize that some of the assets for sale actually belong to someone else.

It’s extremely important that you know whether you have the copyright all sorted for photos and images as well as whether your theme is original or something used by thousands of other people.

Where to sell your blog safely and simply

When it comes to selling your blog, the options are actually a lot more expansive than people usually think. That being said, I really only recommend going about it either of two ways, in order to keep your stress levels low and your chances of success high.

  1. Sell your blog on Flippa.com.
  2. Sell your blog in a private sale.

I’m going to go over each option in a little bit of detail so you get a good idea about how they work, and which one is best for your situation.

1. Sell your blog on Flippa

Flippa.com is the absolute go-to website for selling your blog. It is the largest marketplace of its kind and, even better, it is owned by Australians—a trustworthy and handsome lot.

A Flippa listing

All jokes aside, Flippa is the kind of site you rely on because their entire business model is wrapped up in the convenient and safe sale of blogs and websites. That’s all they do. What that means for us is that we get a good service because Flippa knows that their reputation is important for their continued success. In 2012 alone over 29,000 websites were sold there.

Flippa seller ratings

The great thing about this site is that you find a rare mix of highrollers and budget buyers here. This means that you can sell blogs that might only be worth a small amount as well as those $100k+ monsters.

How does Flippa work?

Selling a blog on Flippa is a lot like listing a product on eBay or any other selling site, except that Flippa only deals with websites and blogs.

The basic process goes like this:

  1. Create an account: You’ll need an account to list a site for sale as well as manage any messages that bidders send to you.
  2. Create your listing: This is a seven-step process where you list all your blog details, provide screenshots of traffic proof, explain your reasons for selling, etc. You’ll also be able to set a Reserve Price so that you don’t sell for less than you hoped for. More on this process below.
  3. Add upgrades: One of the ways Flippa makes money is by offering you certain upgrades to enhance the visibility of your sale. Some of these are a really good idea and you can see them all at Step 6 of the listing process.
  4. Manage your listing: Once your listing is up and live you can’t just leave it alone; you need to stick around and answer any questions that people have. Most serious bidders will ask questions and won’t be willing to move ahead until you’ve answered them properly.
  5. Proceed with the sale: Once someone has placed a winning bid or purchased your blog for the Buy It Now price, you proceed with the sale process. This is extremely safe and involves using Escrow.com which means that nobody gets any money or domain name access until both parties are happy.

Of course, the whole shebang is a lot more involved than that, but those steps should give you the basic idea of how Flippa works. I’ve gone into some more detailed Flippa listing tips below, but this video gives a quick overview of the auction listing process.

What are the advantages of using Flippa?

Some of the main reasons I think Flippa has gained so much popularity include:

  • Safety: The Escrow process and the increased transparency that comes from requiring buyers to be verified, etc. makes the whole process a lot safer for everyone.
  • Reach: To put it simply, there are a lot of buyers on Flippa looking to acquire your blog. I’m yet to find another marketplace that has such an active community.
  • Support: The support staff at Flippa are happy to jump on board and give you help when you need it with a transaction or a listing problem. I’ve found them to be quite responsive.
  • Simplicity: The listing process is extremely easy to follow. It’s no harder than composing an email and attaching a few images to prove your revenue, etc.
  • Feedback ratings: Although not always relevant, Flippa has buyer feedback ratings which means you can see how buyers have performed in previous transactions.

What are the disadvantages of using Flippa?

As always, not every web service is perfect. There are a few drawbacks that people often talk about when it comes to using Flippa as a blog seller.

  • It’s somewhat expensive: Flippa has listing fees and upgrade fees but, frustratingly, a fairly high success fee. What this means is that an established website will pay $29 to list the site (without upgrades) and then 5% of the final sale price. This is capped at $2,000 but for some people it is still too high considering other costs that go along with making a big sale, like local taxes.
  • There are still risks involved: Although a lot less risky than the alternatives, there still are risks involved in selling a site on Flippa. Admittedly the risks are higher for buyers than sellers but you still need to exercise a lot of care.
  • Publicity: I have heard some people express concerns that listing a site for sale on Flippa can have a negative impact on that site’s readers and even SEO rankings. Flippa does offer an option to hide your listing from Google, but you still need to consider any impact that can occur if people find out you’re selling, and then you don’t actually make the sale after all.

Overall Flippa is, without a doubt, the best place to sell an established blog that you really care about. The second optionis something that’s perhaps better suited to more experienced sellers with some trustworthy connections.

2. Sell your blog to a private buyer

The only other option that I really wanted to share as a method of selling your blog is to do so yourself, through a private buyer. This has a lot of advantages but also some pretty tummy-upsetting disadvantages.

How do you sell to a private buyer?

Unlike using Flippa, this process has many different variations depending on who you are selling to an how paranoid each party is. Generally, however, it will go something like this:

  1. You decide to sell: First of all you need to make the decision to sell your blog and package it up ready for the transaction. This means getting your accounts in order and having another project ready in the works.
  2. You find buyers: Perhaps the hardest part of all is finding buyers without actually listing your site anywhere. Of course, many people do list their site for sale in various places and then move the transaction to private method but this is both risky and against many of those flipping sites’ terms of service.
  3. You bang your head against the wall (or “negotiate”): The next step in a private sale is the process whereby both parties go back and forth for days, weeks, or even months until a price is agreed upon. This involves giving them access to revenue proof, stats, etc. as well as not caving in at the 12th offer simply because you are so exhausted.
  4. Arrange the terms: Because there is no site guiding you on the transaction, you need to come up with the terms of the trade yourselves. How is payment made? Which shadowy carpark will they meet you in with the contract? So on and so forth. This is the stage where a lot of inexperienced sellers get into trouble. You really want contracts and other protections in place.
  5. Make the trade: Selling your blog like this is better described as a trade. They give you money and you release the site files and, last of all the domain name. Once the buyer has that domain name, there is no going back, so you have to make sure you have the money and are totally happy before that happens. Again, it’s very wise to use a site like Escrow.com for this process, and not a site like Paypal where there is less protection.
  6. Assist with the transition: If you’ve made a good sale to a genuine buyer, they will probably want you to help with the transition period. It’s always a good sign when the buyer asks you to stay on board for six months so as to train them up and keep the site running well.

Again, each blog sale is a different process that can be done in different ways. It’s important to know how the basic process works and to make sure you know as much about the buyer as possible. This is a big asset that you are giving up so you want to make sure to take your time and get it right.

What are the advantages of a private sale?

Let’s have a quick look at some of the advantages of selling your blog to a private buyer:

  • No fees: Unless you use a payment site that charges a fee there are no fees involved in the process.
  • No restrictions: You aren’t restrained by any website terms or service and as such can often negotiate a better position for yourself or take more time to select the right buyer. It’s not a matter of “highest bidder wins”.
  • Better prices: It might seem strange, but I’ve heard people say that they’ve achieved slightly better prices with private sales because the buyers didn’t feel guided by “standard pricing” that often becomes commonplace in set markets. Of course this is a very case-by-case phenomenon and might be totally incorrect for your sale.

I have sold one five-figure blog in a private sale and it went extremely smoothly. The clinching factor, however, was that the guy lived in my town and I was able to meet him face-to-face to sign papers, have a chat, etc. That gave me a lot more confidence.

What are the disadvantages of a private sale?

By now you probably have a pretty clear idea about why you might not want to sell your blog privately:

  • It’s really risky: You have no idea who this person is or what their motivations are. Are they trying to scam you? Are the competitors trying to see your stats and methods? You need to exercise a lot of care during a private sale.
  • It’s not monitored: When you use a site like Flippa, you can often contact support if something fishy is going on. When you are doing things privately there are very few methods you can resort to if something weird happens.
  • It’s stressful: To be honest, I get a lot more stressed out than most people by this stuff so you might not find it as horribly nauseating as I do. All the negotiating, risk-taking—it just stresses me out too much and makes the Flippa fees seem worthwhile.

All in all Flippa is a really good place to start out and learn the ropes. The process is simple and extremely guided which means you’ll have less chance of running into trouble. Of course, you still need to use your brain and be careful when you are dealing with such an important asset, but by and large you should be happy with the process.

How to create a listing for trust and success

I couldn’t really talk about how to sell a blog without sharing a few tips for creating a listing that will help you promote your blog well while creating trust and increasing your chances of a successful sale.

Most of these tips will apply to Flippa sales but you can implement a lot of them in private sales emails and negotiations too.

1. Study successful listings

I’m really surprised at how badly some listings are put together. There’s a lack of clear information, unbelievable reasons for selling, etc.

Before you sell your blog it’s a good idea to check out some other Flippa listings that are doing well. Of course this has a large part to do with the quality of the site for sale, but you’ll also pick up some tips on how to write your listing so as to improve your trust.

2. Don’t skimp on the proof

As I pointed out before, most blog buyers are looking for established businesses that they can purchase and maintain. This means they need proof. They want to know that your traffic isn’t periodic or paid and that your SEO rankings aren’t going downhill.

Make sure you give good and transparent proof while still keeping in mind the various Terms of Service agreements that you have. For example, there are parts of your Adsense statistics that you aren’t allowed to reveal publicly.

3. Be personal

Some people might disagree with this but I’ve found that a lot of people want to buy not only a good site but a good site that comes from a good person. If someone is going to part with $10k+ they are probably going to want to know that the seller is trustworthy and cares about the site.

Of course, you don’t want to go on about your weekend in the sales pitch, and you don’t want to give away any information that puts you in an unsafe position, but you do want to create a sense of transparency and honesty that buyers feel comfortable with. Be open about how the site developed, why you like it, why you’re selling, any concerns you have, etc.

4. Stand your ground but don’t be rude

Especially in any private negotiations, it’s really important to know what you want out of the sale and to not back down because someone is a better negotiator than you. Quite often you’ll face savvy buyers finding very good reasons to get your price down even though they fully intend to pay what you’re asking for. Know what price you want to achieve (realistically) and be prepared to back yourself.

5. Never, ever be dishonest

Honest people don’t need to be told this, but it’s critically important that you leave any sleazy sales tactics at the door and forget about lying or exaggerating to get some money. Not only does this make for a bad listing, it can really ruin someone’s financial situation if you sell them a site that has “skeletons in the closet”.

Comments on a Flippa listing

One of the most common things you’ll see in this regard is people trying to sell a site that has just been penalized by Google for one reason or another and claiming that they are just bored with the niche or need the money for family reasons. Forget it! It’s dishonest and will come back to bite you. As you can see from the few honest users featured in the screenshot above, there are both buyer and seller ratings, so all of your dealings go on record.

6. Use headings and organized formatting

Wait a sec! Writing a sales listing is like writing a blog post? You got it!

It’s not uncommon to see listings that are pages of clumpy text with no real order. Try and keep it in a structured format that is easy to digest. Break it down into headings like Background to the Sale, Why I’m Selling, Traffic Details, Revenue Details, Expenses and Costs, Problems and Issues, and so on.

This is the largest ever sale completed on Flippa ($750,000) and while I don’t support gambling sites I think it is an interesting study in setting up a listing.

7. Emphasize your blog’s strong points and what buyers want

If you are asking for a decent amount of money for your site you’ll want to know its strong points and be able to communicate them convincingly. Now, I’m not talking about tricking anyone or being really pushy. I’m just saying that it’s wise to clearly communicate why your blog is a good buy.

For example, if you rank for a particularly competitive set of keywords you might want to share that. If your site has survived Panda updates that other sites in your niche haven’t, that is also a good thing to get across. If you have a high converting opt-in form or a great email open rate you should absolutely tell them about it!

Don’t assume that revenue details are all they care about (although it is a big deal). Some other factor might be the difference between them buying your blog or another one on the same page.

How to ensure you have a good transaction (and post-transaction!)

As soon as you sell a blog you’ll have one of those “wish I had thought of that…” moments which can leave you with a few regrets. With that in mind I thought I’d go over a few little things you can do that can make a big difference to your happiness before and after the sale.

  • Know the process: A lot of bad mistakes happen when people haven’t done their research. Find out about how the process works and what is expected of you before, during and after.
  • Know the financial details: Find out how much the transaction is going to cost you from every angle. You need to know the fees Flippa charges, if you’re using that site, as well as any other fees/costs like bank fees or taxes.
  • Know your limits: If you have a strange feeling in your gut about something or someone then just stop right there and wait for another buyer. It’s better to be safe than sorry. It’s a good idea to set up some limits that you won’t go past to keep you focused during the sale.
  • Control the post-sale climate: In some situations it is possible to specify what can and can’t be done with your site once you sell it. You might need the help of a lawyer in order to draft a contract but if you don’t want your site getting used for unethical purposes down the track, for example, try and make it a condition of the sale.
  • Stay on board: Again, if you care about the site it is sometimes wise to stay on board for a few weeks or months to help the new owner get used to the day-to-day activities involved in running it.
  • Protect yourself: Don’t give out personal information that you don’t need to and try to use every protection that is available in the selling situation.

A lot of this stuff comes with experience but if you are selling your “pride and joy” blog it’s a good idea to take your time to do the preparation.

Some clever things to do with the sale money

I thought I’d share a pretty embarrassing story at this point.

When I sold my first blog I was quite young and was living like a broke college kid. So when the money hit my account I was pretty excited. It felt like a million dollars to me!

A smart person would have stored that money away or re-invested it into new businesses or blogs.

Not me. I ate the money.

Not literally, but I spent most of the profits sitting around playing video games and eating footlong Subs. It was a great holiday but a huge waste of money.

So what should you do with the money?

Well, it seems to me that if you’ve just sold a blog for a good profit, then maybe you have a skillset that you can develop and grow. Making money online isn’t easy so it might be a good idea to see how far you can take the blog development/sale process and whether you can scale it up.

For example, if you sold one blog for $50,000 with two years’ work, I wonder whether you could repeat the process on a larger scale and aim for three or four sales a year by hiring writers, coders, assistants, etc. A post later this week will look at buying blogs so that might be a good place for you to begin.

Reinvesting the money is smart. Eating sandwiches isn’t.

Would you sell your blog?

Sometimes we bloggers spend a lot of time reading and not a lot of time doing (myself included) and so I thought I’d encourage you to develop your own guide to selling a blog by trying it for yourself.

Remember, selling your blog is forever, so make sure you really want to go ahead with it before jumping in.

I’d love to hear from the Problogger.net readers on this one. Would you sell your blog? How much would you hope to get? Are you worried about the risks associated with the transaction? Drop a comment and let me know.

Update: check out our followup posts on selling blogs at:

Contributing author The Blog Tyrant is a 26 year old Australian guy who plays video games at lunch time and sells blogs for $20,000 a pop.

Blogging in Brief: Engagement Tools, App Auctions, and Brutal Realism

This week has turned up some really interesting ideas for blog reader engagement using technology as well as creative content techniques…

Mini reader surveys … and more

On Eugen Oprea’s blog, we saw this handy little query form:

Query form

It’s made with LeadConverter, which you can use on a free subscription if you want to give it a try on your blog.

Eugen’s using it to survey readers about their interests, but the tool can actually be used for a range of purposes, including boosting conversions.

Taking a sponsored post one step further

The old-timey vibe on The Art of Manliness stretches even to their images. This post about equipping yourself for a whisky tasting is topped by a specially developed graphic that presents each contemporary item in an old visual style.

That’s a pretty great value-add for the sponsor—and really eye-catching for readers too. The Art of Manliness have a commissioned illustrator on the blog. What a great way to help build your brand.

Realism counts

Did you see Greg McFarlane’s recent post here on naming blog products? This is one example of a continuing trend I’m noticing around blog content, and that’s realism.

I’ve noticed realism taking over on quite a few blogs a media sites. It may be because we’re all well-trained to be skeptical of over-promising headlines these days. It may also be because brutal realism cuts through the chatter.

Here are a few examples of the kind of thing I’m talking about:

Are you using realism on your blog? If not, perhaps it’s time!

Showing off your best content

I spotted this great idea from Heather Solos this week: an attention-grabbing way to get readers to click through to your pillar content.

Here’s a screenshot from Heather’s home page:

The Home Ec 101 homepage

The Home Ec 101 homepage

I took this screencapture on a Thursday, and I have the feeling the chores list changes to reflect the day of the week. But in any case, who can resist clicking on that sticky note? It looks so real—like it’s been stuck to my fridge as a friendly reminder!

I thought the sticky would take me to a download, but it doesn’t—the content is a blog post, and it’s free, and you don’t need to sign up to get all the content. This is a great way to encourage users who hit your homepage to get right into your content, based on their needs. As a creative approach, it’s also perfectly in line with the purpose of Heather’s blog, and the needs of her readers. What a great idea.

Get appy

We’ve talked a bit about developing an app as a product for your blog. There’s an alternative, though: buy one.

Apptopia is a fairly new marketplace where developers sell their apps. While some of the prices are mind-boggling, some aren’t. Could this be a good way for you to add to your blog’s offering and help your readers? Maybe. As the Web Marketing Ninja hinted in this article, you’ll need to consider the maintenance and future development needs of the app before you buy (or develop) one.

What’s caught your eye in the blogosphere this week? Share any innovative ideas you’ve spotted with us in the comments.

Score Face Time with New People in Your Niche

This guest post is by Stanley Lee.

We all know the benefits of networking are obvious, so why are we neglecting it?

Are you scared about meeting new people in your industry? Do you spend a fortune to attend conferences and trade shows? Or do you waste a lot of time with travel and setting up your computer to work properly?

If you’re sick of making compromises, read on.

Get in touch using Airtime

Airtime allows you to talk to strangers and friends on Facebook via video chat without leaving your home office.

You can meet new people on the platform based on:

  1. where you live
  2. your interests
  3. their relationships with your friends.

The information is extracted from your Facebook profile.

The best part of all this is you don’t have to acquire strangers’ permission in advance to talk to them, which is typically common when you try accomplishing this feat with Skype or even on Google+ Hangouts. Also, you won’t find any random dudes doing weird stuff (remember Chatroulette?). I mean, who really wants to expose their Facebook identities while doing that?

If you’re concerned about Airtime’s credibility, let’s start with its leaders. Sean Parker was founding president of Facebook and co-founder of Napster, and Shawn Fanning, was co-founder of Napster. Celebrities such as Snoop Dogg, Alicia Keys, Jim Carey, and Martha Stewart checked Airtime out on its launch day.

If you aren’t familiar with any of those guys and girls, how about Gary Vaynerchuk? He loved using Airtime to connect with other social media fanatics.

Now that you’re excited, let’s learn how you can use Airtime to connect with readers and others in your blog’s niche.

The How-tos

Basic requirements

Before logging onto Airtime.com, you will need the following:

  • A compatible web browser: For simplicity, I suggest using Google Chrome.
  • A Facebook account: For obvious reasons.
  • A webcam that works with Airtime: Most laptop cameras should work without problems. Plug-in webcams may have problems. See the steps below to find out if yours does.

Step 1: Log into Airtime.com

A simple process—just visit Airtime.com and follow the launch process. You will need to press some buttons to authorize certain permission settings in Airtime’s login process. These are required in order for your camera to work properly.

authorization

Step 2: Choose your target

You will see this splash screen after successfully configuring your webcam.

Start screen

I blacked out my Facebook contacts to protect their privacy here. If you want to talk to your existing Facebook or Airtime contacts, you can click on a name on the right-hand panel and explore for yourself.

But since you’re most likely interested in discovering industry colleagues, let’s look at that. You have two ways to accomplish this goal.

The first way involves finding users with a common interest to talk to (as indicated by the blue rectangle). Then, click the Talk to Someone button.

Options

This is the easiest way because:

  • By checking the Near option, you can find people located close to you. If I live in Vancouver, Canada, I’m more likely to be connected to someone in, let’s say, New York City than New Delhi, India.
  • By checking the Common Interests option, you can specify multiple interests to find like-minded people. For example, if you read ProBlogger, your search won’t just be limited to this publication. You likely read Copyblogger, Think Traffic, Social Triggers, SEOmoz, and Blog Tyrant regularly. You may have even liked them on Facebook.
  • By checking the Friends of Friends option, you increase your chances of talking to a second-degree connection rather than the third, fourth, fifth, etc.

Let’s face it, life is already complex enough as it is. Enabling these options simplifies your Airtime experience and helps you home in on the right readers and industry contacts.

The second option involves finding users with a specific common interest. This is a great feature, but I do not recommend this method at the moment. Airtime does not have enough simultaneous users for you to find strangers with a specific common interest in a reasonable timeframe. Still, let’s take a look at how to do this just in case you want to play around.

Click on your profile, indicated here by the red box.

Interests

Move your cursor down to the Interests section, indicated by the blue box. You can click the More button at the bottom-right corner of the section to expand it.

Click on an interest

Click on an interest, then click the Find people who like this hyperlink, indicated by the blue box.

Find people who like this

Step 3: Start talking

In case if you’re a networking novice, here are some quick conversational basics before you begin talking.

Your goal should be to make new friends and make a great impression. How? By asking these simple questions in the following order, you will be able to spark deep conversations with your contacts:

  1. How did you find yourself trying out Airtime?
  2. What are you interested in these days?
  3. What challenges are you facing when you’re doing that?

Feel free to add one or two more questions specific to your industry or niche. The point is to break the ice, inquire about their hopes and challenges, and steer the conversation into the direction where you can provide—rather than extract—value. This is the key to keep the conversation going beyond this meeting.

After asking each of these questions, stop talking, and listen actively. After all, mutual exchange is a key ingredient to the art of networking.

If you really like talking to the person, you can add the contact into your Airtime list by pressing the blue button. You can also find other interests you may want to check off in your contact’s Interests panel on the right.

Adding interests

Step 4: Closing the loop

So you’ve met some new people and added the contacts you’ve bonded with particularly well. However, you’re just beginning the relationship. You’ll need to stay updated with what they’re up to, and close the loop by learning what you can help them with.

Here are some suggestions of what you can offer them:

  • Advice from your expertise: Act like a consultant giving them free advice on their problems related to your blog’s niche. Leave money off the table, as you want to keep the relationship social rather than transactional.
  • Be a connector: Doing so would not only help out your connections, but also build your reputation as a connector. Read this guide to get started if you don’t know how to be a connector.
  • Share relevant resources: This could be as simple as sending a quick email with actionable information you come across that’s helpful for them.

It takes several iterations of loop closing in order to build trust in those new relationships. If the first tries seem daunting, don’t worry. Networking is a learned skill, and you’ll improve with more practice. And Airtime is a great environment for you to practice quickly.

Let me know about your experience!

I hope you have enjoyed learning how Airtime can improve your life. Both in business and personal contexts, but particularly in terms of your blog.

Now you know how to use Airtime to build new relationships with other similar-minded people in a fail-safe manner. Or improve the quality of your relationships. Or even just conduct research for your blog that would otherwise be time-consuming and difficult to get without a large existing readership.

All within the comfort of your workspace, without the headaches of messing around with software packages.

Don’t you want to focus on big wins rather than being buried in the endless list of trivial tactics (e.g. spending all your resources tweaking SEO or honing a sales page when you don’t even know if it has its place in the marketplace)?

Have you used Airtime? How did it help you? What were the good points and bad points? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Stanley Lee blogs about systems building, marketing, and societal topics, providing in-depth commentary for the benefit of his readers.

5 Big Hosting Mistakes Bloggers Don’t Know They’re Making

This guest post is by the Blog Tyrant.

If you take your blogging seriously you’ll know that you have to wear a lot of different hats. We are content marketers, SEO students, social media savants, and sometimes web designers.

But what a lot of bloggers seem to forget is that our blog hosting setup is an extremely crucial piece in the puzzle. Yet it often gets overlooked because it is scary, boring or just too darn hard.

It is really complicated stuff. I certainly couldn’t cover everything in one post—some people spend their whole careers figuring it out!

What I am going to show you, however, is a few big mistakes that you need to make sure you avoid. If you know any others please leave a comment and let me know. It might really help someone.

1. Setting up on a free host instead of your own

I’ve talked about this a lot on my blog and so have writers here on ProBlogger but it is a mistake that many new bloggers continue to make.

Now don’t get me wrong, services like Tumblr are a really cool way to get your word out there and blog socially but if you want to take it to the next level and go pro, you need to get your own domain name, and install WordPress on your own host.

Here’s why I don’t like freely hosted blogs:

  • Lack of control: On a free blog, you don’t have total control over the theme, settings, back end, or hosting environment. You are essentially leasing a space from the owners.
  • You don’t own it: The big concern for me is that on a lot of free platforms you don’t own the blog! This is a really big problem if you are trying to go professional or if you ever want to sell the blog down the track.
  • Google doesn’t rank them as well: The last big clincher for me is that many SEOs will tell you that Google doesn’t rank these free domains as well in the search results. If you want to step up and compete in a very competitive niche, you’ll need your own domain name and a solid permalink structure.

And it’s important that you switch sooner rather than later if you are planning on doing it. You see, when you change from free to paid hosting, there’s a whole host of other issues to sort out, like a loss of current rankings if your link structure changes.

It’s very important that you weigh up the pros and cons of a migration like this as soon as possible.

2. Not choosing a host with live support

As I mentioned at the start, this stuff is really confusing. And things often go wrong. When they do, it is really important that you have live support staff that can help you out and get the problem fixed fast, without hassle.

Part of the reason I recommended Blue Host in my post on the best host for new WordPress bloggers was because they have live, 24/7 support staff that are incredibly helpful. I am no longer with Blue Host as I outgrew the service, but for the years that I was there, I had countless life-saving, middle-of-the-night, brilliant support sessions from staff who really know their stuff.

Live chat

A screenshot of the live support wait time at Blue Host recently

I have noticed that it is really common to get stressed and panicked when you don’t understand something fully. And because hosting is so complicated, it is really easy to lose your cool when something goes wrong. It is a massive advantage to know there are people there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in case something goes wrong.

3. Thinking that “unlimited domains” actually means unlimited domains

Something that I learned only recently is that when most hosts say that you get unlimited domains, unlimited hosting, and unlimited databases, they don’t actually mean it.

If you dig deeper into the terms of service you will find that most hosts (not all) have an excessive storage policy which basically says that if you abuse your “unlimited” space, your service will be affected.

Some of the things they might do include:

  • Throttling: This is where your site gets slowed down in order to help cope with the strain on the servers. This might happen if you have a bunch of sites that are taking up too much bandwidth for your hosting environment.
  • Stopped backups: Most good hosts perform a daily backup of your entire server to re-install if something goes wrong. But if you exceed the allowed file count by too much, you’ll find that those automatic daily backups stop pretty quickly.
  • Account suspension: If things get really bad and the host suspects that you are hosting files not related to any website activity, they will suspend your account. This is something that you really don’t want to happen.

My best tip here would be to know exactly what your host’s policies are on file storage, and to then make sure you know exactly what your server needs are.

If your blog is getting a lot of traffic and constantly growing it might be time to move to a more advanced environment like a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or a dedicated host.

4. Mixing your experimental stuff with your money sites

If you have a website or blog that is starting to make money that you rely on, it is really important to make sure it is on its own hosting account.

You see, what often happens is that we purchase one hosting package and then start experimenting with new blogs and websites. Eventually the whole situation gets cluttered, crowded, and very unprofessional.

Blogs that are starting to get some good traffic and have good rankings and loyal subscribers need to be protected and looked after. Make sure you keep them on their own host for security and up-time reasons, and leave your experimental sites to a different hosting package and location.

5. Failing to delete old blogs, websites, and files

The last thing I want to talk about is the fact that many bloggers leave abandoned or dead files, blogs, and websites in their host not knowing that they represent a security threat.

Without going in to all the details (I don’t really know all the details!), hackers can use insecure and old files to access your account in some situations. This is especially risky if you have been using WordPress and not keeping your plugins and installations up to date. It’s a threat.

If you’re not going to use a blog any more, just delete it. It’s not the easiest process, but it’s something that is worthwhile learning. So how do you do it?

Well, in some hosting environments you can just go to Addon Domains and then remove the domain that you want to stop using. That often removes the installation and the remaning database.

Other times, you will need to use PHPMyAdmin to locate the old site and delete the corresponding database. This can be a complicated process, so it’s best to ask your own host for advice on how to proceed. As mentioned, some environments and setups are different to others.

Are you making any mistakes?

I’d love to know if you are making any of these mistakes or whether you can think of any others that we can add to the list. Please leave a comment and let me know.

The Blog Tyrant is a 26 year old Australian guy who plays video games at lunch time and sells blogs for $20,000 a pop.

What to Put Above the Fold on Your Blog, And Why

This guest post is by the Blog Tyrant.

Above the fold

The Blog Tyrant is a 26 year old Australian guy who plays video games at lunch time and sells blogsfor $20,000 a pop.

4 Simple Growth Strategies Any Breakthrough Blog Can Learn From Pinterest

This guest post is by Mike Holmes of the Simple Strategies for Startups blog.

You don’t need me to tell you about Pinterest do you? I’m pretty sure you’ve heard all the media outlets singing its praise:

  • the fastest growing site
  • its user base is mostly female
  • its breakthrough rise from obscurity
  • how marketers are using it
  • how marketers CAN use it
  • how its a step forward in the evolution of social media
  • …and etc.

Pinterest LogoI mean we’ve talked about it over here too, haven’t we?

But what else can we as bloggers and businesspeople learn from this recent phenom? Namely:

1. Have a greater purpose

When CEO Ben Silbermann created Pinterest, he did so with the purpose of making something “timeless.” Like most great entrepreneurs, he created the company out of his own interests, passions, and purpose.

Throughout history, truly great companies answer these question: Who are we? And what are we about?

In fact, purpose is the catalyst for all great companies and organizations.

When Steve Jobs came back to Apple he came back to a mess: little to no market share, declining revenue, and a business almost on the verge of bankruptcy. He turned the company around simply by focusing on what the company had long overlooked: its core purpose.

According to Jobs:

“Apple was in serious trouble. Apple had to remember who Apple was because they’d forgotten who Apple was.”

We all know how that ended up!

Companies like Wal-Mart, Southwest Airlines, Charles Schwab, and BMW are all purpose-driven. In fact, John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, repeatedly stresses the importance of companies having a core purpose. These entrepreneurs make money (in fact, they make a ton) but they set out to “change the world” in some way or other.

I know this sounds like some touchy-feely-cry-me-a-river-nonsense! I understand that.

But purpose is anything but nonsense. It’s a viable business strategy—an immutable law. And those companies, entrepreneurs, and bloggers that practice it always rise above the crowd!

2. Have a great product

Not an okay, good, or not-too-bad product. But a great product!

From the very few interviews there are with Silbermann, you can feel his obsession with the quality of the site:

  • He and his team spent a lot of time agonizing over the site’s five-column layout, producing almost a dozen fully-coded versions before settling on the one that is live today.
  • According to him, he’d rather spend time working on the site than giving interviews. The site is incredibly addictive because he obsessed over every detail.

For the blogger, this boils down to writing epic content (thanks again, Corbett Barr!).

But maybe that’s not for you. I mean, you could just follow the crowd, make an okay product, and write ok content.

You could do that.  You won’t get noticed that way, but you could do it. It’s totally up to you!

3. Forget the mainstream: go after those who want it!

Pete Cashmore noted early on that Pinterest didn’t take the mainstream route to success:

“The web-based pinboard, which launched almost two years ago, barely got a mention on Silicon Valley news sites until six months ago, when early adopters suddenly realized that a site with millions of monthly users had sprung up almost unnoticed by the tech press. That’s because Pinterest didn’t take the usual route of Web-based startups: romancing early adopters and technology journalists before attempting to cross the chasm to mainstream adoption. Instead, Pinterest grew a devoted base of users—most of them female—who enjoy ‘pinning’ items they find around the Web.”

That was totally unheard of. And yet this strategy produced better results than a thousand press releases.

It was the strategy used by early hymn writers. While the majority of church attendees didn’t see the value of the songs, the hymn writers focused all their attention on those that did. Ultimately the majority came around.

It’s the strategy used by great salespeople, startups, and game changers. For instance:

  • When an unknown author named Tim Ferriss decided to promote his book, he focused his efforts. He called successful authors and asked them how they promoted their books. They gave him two answers: radios and bloggers. Since radio was losing its influence he decided to rely on bloggers. He went to a blogger event, met the ones he wanted to meet, established relationships, and then asked them to do a review. They did. And with the book becoming the #1 New York Times, the #1 Wall Street Journal, and the #1 Businessweek bestseller, the rest is history.
  • When Mel Gibson decided to market The Passion of the Christ, he focused his efforts. When he approached movie executives about producing the movie nobody wanted to go near it. So Gibson decided to fund it himself using $30 million of his own money. Not having much money left to marketing (it usually costs $40 million for marketing, he only had $15 million) he tried an unconventional approach: letting pastors see it for free.  They started small–showing only a few pastors, but it grew exponentially. One of the final screenings was at Willow Creek Church. After the showing, Bill Hybels took the stage and spoke for the 5,000 pastors in attendance: “All right, what do you need us to do?”  And with $611,899,420 in gross sales, the rest is history.
  • When a Baptist preacher named Rick Warren decided to market his book, Purpose-Driven Life, he focused his efforts. Years before he wrote his first book, Purpose Driven Church and followed it up with a website: Pastors.Com. The membership of the website grew to 85,000 pastors who saw Warren as trusted advisor. He enlisted their help with the PDL book–asking them to conduct the “40 day campaign” in their churches. And 1200 agreed to it. He gave away copies of the $20 book for $7 to churches and congregations that agreed. Within two months, those spokespeople pushed sales to $2 million, then to 30 million copies by 2007 … and the rest is history.
  • When an pop artist by the name of Lady Gaga found success it was through focus. She did everything she could to break through: schmoozed the music execs, performed wherever she could, had doors slammed in her face, begged to have her music played on the radio, was cut from a label, and was told she wouldn’t make it. But the turning point for her was her acceptance by the gay community. Once they accepted her, they championed for her, and she championed for them. And the rest is history.

Why do we spend the bulk of our time trying to get people who don’t like us to like? And in the meantime turn our backs to those that love us?

  • Rick Warren didn’t market to atheists.
  • Mel Gibson only showed screenings to conservative Christian and religious groups (even refusing to include those that initially criticized the film).
  • Timothy Ferriss didn’t go after those interested in a nine-to-five lifestyle.
  • Not once did Lady Gaga try to win over those who adamantly opposed her. She focused all her attention on her “monsters.”

It doesn’t make any sense does it?

Well, with 20 million users and a $1.5 billion valuation, it’s evident Silbermann understood the power of fans.

4. Remember: service is the best form of marketing

In the beginning, Silbermann said he personally wrote to the first 5,000 users, gave them his cell phone number, and even met many of them for coffee. He asked them questions, listened to their concerns, and went above and beyond for them.

Whoa!

Sometimes in the middle of our social media, SEO, and direct marketing efforts we forget that great service is still the best form of marketing.

There are six primary reasons people stop doing business with a company:

    1. 1% die.
    2. 3% move away.
    3. 5% develop other relationships.
    4. 9% leave for competitive reasons.
    5. 14% are dissatisfied with the product.
    6. 68% percent go elsewhere because of the poor way they were treated by employees of the company.

Case in point: when Patton Gleason went live with his online startup, the Natural Running Store, he outhustled his competitors in terms of service:

      • He created personalized videos that thanked customers for their purchase.
      • He created videos that told customers their shoes were on the way.
      • He put handwritten notes in the shoe boxes.
      • He sent follow-up emails asking about his or her training plans.
      • Instead of having an FAQ page, he sends out a two-minute video answering the customer’s questions.

naturalrunningstore.com

Because of this, Natural Running Store receives a ton of organic traffic, customer referrals, and endless praise.

And this is with Gleason admitting he doesn’t know how to sell.

You’ve all heard the story of how the Blog Tyrant became a true fan of Darren? You didn’t? For shame! “What happened?” you ask. Well, I’ll just let the Tyrant tell you:

“I once sent Darren Rowse an email telling him that I was having problems leaving a comment on his site. I told him not to worry about it too much as it was obviously working fine for everyone else. He replied in about ten minutes telling me that every single one of his readers were important to him and then tried to problem solve the issue with me. Instant fan for life.”

My friends, we’ve entered a new paradigm: marketing is the new selling and relationship building, engagement, and delivering new and innovative content is the new marketing.

High five for Silbermann!

What can we learn?

Right now we don’t know what’s in store for Pinterest. Right now, they’re flying as high as a Facebook IPO. They’re on top right now.

But if history has been any kind of teacher we’ll find more lessons in their story as the days go on. Good or bad.

What do you think? Are there any other lessons we can learn from Pinterest, or other startups like them?

Mike Holmes is an author, speaker, and serial entrepreneur who leads a small movement of world changing startups. You can find out more about him on The Simple Strategies for Startups Blog