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More on Why You Need ProBlogger the Book [Video Tips and Bonuses]

It’s been a couple of days since we launched the 2nd edition of ProBlogger the book and I’m hearing from many of readers who bought a copy that they’re finding parcels with it enclosed in their mail boxes.

The above video was produced by our publishers (Wiley) and is both a preview of the book but also holds some tips for bloggers from my co-author, Chris Garrett and I (filmed in Austin earlier in the year – one of the few times Chris and I have met in person).
[Read more...]

Do You Feel Like You Don’t Belong as a Blogger?
[I Do Somedays]

Some one pinch me please…. this must be a dream!

November 2002

Early DaysAt the end of a day on a warm November day when I was about to leave work a friend emailed me a link in an email suggesting I check out a blog because it seems to be on a topic I have an interest in.

It’s one of those emails that most of us regularly trash without looking at because we don’t have time – but on that day I had a spare few minutes and I followed the link.

The blog was on a topic I was interested in – however it was the medium of blogging itself that immediately grabbed my attention.

  • What was this ‘blog’ thing that enabled a Kiwi guy living in Prague to have his voice amplified around the world to thousands of people?
  • What was this ‘blogosphere’ thing that enabled not only one guy to have a voice – but thousands of people have a voice, interact with each other and build community?

I was immediately hooked and started a blog of my own within a few hours. ‘It could be fun’ I told my wife….

The rest, as they say, is history….

April 2010

2010Now on this cool Autumn day (remember I live in Australia), 7 and a half years later I:

  • make a good living from blogging (and have been full time at it for around 5 years)
  • have written a book on the topic (it’s 2nd edition debuted at #140 on Amazon’s best seller list this week)
  • have around 3 million people each month read what I publish
  • have been interviewed and made appearances in more mainstream media that I can count
  • get invitations to speak around the world on my topics of interest

I feel like I’ve been living in a dream

The above list of ‘achievements’ is actually something that I feel should be written about someone else. You see I’m not qualified to have them written about me.

Recently at a conference where speakers shared their ‘credentials’ to speak on their topics of expertise I decided to share my own list of ‘credentials’ from my life before blogging.

The list included:

  • 20 jobs in 10 years (none of them in social media/web/tech or anything slightly related to doing anything online)
  • a Bachelor of…. Theology (it took me almost 10 years to get)
  • Half a Bachelor of Marketing (I loved the marketing subjects but kept failing the more ‘business’ related topics and ended up giving up.
  • C grade average in English at High School
  • Incapable of making text BOLD for 3 months into my first blog

I was certainly not a dismal failure in life. I’d done pretty well in high school, had achieved in some of my jobs and study and had a fairly happy and healthy life – however I was certainly not a high achiever with too many skills or experiences that would set me up as a blogger.

In fact if I could add to the list one thing it’d be that I was a fairly undisciplined kind of person. I’d not had a great track record at sticking to too many things for the long term (my longest stint in a job was 2.5 years) and was notoriously bad at deadlines. The thought of doing something daily for 8 years would not have been something I’d have seen myself ever doing.

Many days I wake up in the morning and think about where blogging has taken me and wonder if it’s all been a dream or a mistake – I really don’t think I belong in this life some days….

None of Us Really Belong

I’m sharing this today for a couple of reasons.

Firstly – I’m having one of those ‘pinch me, this must be a dream’ days. It’s a good dream, but I’m shaking my head and wondering how I got here.

Secondly – the main reason I’m writing this is that I want to share my story because the more successful bloggers I talk to the more I realise that I’m not the only one who feels like they’re in the middle of a dream that they don’t quite belong in.

On the flip side of things I also talk to a lot of newer and less established bloggers who tell me that they look at ‘successful bloggers’ and wonder if they can ever be like them.

Sometimes as more established bloggers those of us who have been around for a while come off as being more polished and qualified than we really are. The reality is that most of us are pretty normal and ordinary people.

Most of us have little experience in publishing, limited training in communication and have days where we wonder if we really belong or why we’ve had the success that we have.

By no means am I saying bloggers who’ve been successful don’t deserve their success (many of the bloggers I’m thinking about are creative, smart and hard working people) – I guess I just wanted to acknowledge that while I write about being a Professional blogger that there are days where I’m not sure I fit the ‘mold’. I hope in doing so that bloggers of all levels might feel a little more ‘qualified’ no matter what their background.

For me the key is not to be put off by the achievements of others but to focus upon who you are and how you can be useful to others. Learn from those who may have gone before – but don’t become distracted by them. Instead work hard on who you are and what you’re doing.

Keep in mind that blogging and the social media space is not really owned by anyone – none of us really ‘belong’ any more than anyone else. To put it more positively – we all belong and have as much right to the space as each other. 10 years ago the blogosphere didn’t really exist. 5 years back ‘social media’ was hardly a blip on the radar.

We’re all still finding our way in this space and there’s plenty of room for more to join us.

3 Ideas for Moving Beyond List Posts: Creating an Experiential Blog

A guest post by Tara Gentile of Scoutie Girl.

As a design & craft blogger, I often struggle with putting tips from sites like Problogger into practice. But I diligently mull them over and translate them to fit my needs. One tip I struggle with regularly is mastering the art of the “list post.”

You know, the “5 Tips for Yada Yada” or “7 Ways to Blah Blah” posts. Sure, these posts are helpful. I like reading them. I frequently glean good information from them. They really work to provide useful, actionable information in an easy-to-read form. They attract traffic to information-driven blogs where people come with real problems seeking concrete answers.

But I don’t write that kind of blog.

My blog, Scoutie Girl, is much more experiential. It’s driven by images, creativity, and stories. Readers come to my blog and others in my niche to experience the artistry & passion of others. Perhaps, when it comes down to it, that’s why readers visit your blog too…

Do your readers long to connect to something greater than themselves? Are they searching for a little inspiration in a crazy world? Maybe they crave a bit of humanity or to know that they’re not alone.

Perhaps, our blogs are not so different.

Ironically, I present you with 3 ideas for implementing a bit of “experience” into your blog:

  1. Consider a lesson from your past that has shaped who you are, why you blog, or what you blog about. Share this story with your readers, embrace the personal introspection that you’ll need to endure, and find common ground with your readers when they comment in response to your post. Tell your story succinctly but completely, include details,  free yourself from a few boundaries. Use telling your story to set up a narrative around the point you are trying to make or problem you are trying to solve with your post. Once you’ve told your story, don’t just revert to your information-driven style, embrace the narrative and let the lesson flow.
  2. Take the time to source creative or inspirational images for your posts. There is so much more out there than stock photography. Check out the Flickr Creative Commons and use the “Attribution” library to find images that photographers would love for you to use, if you just provide them with a little credit! If you’re feeling especially brave, you might allow a post to be driven by a fascinating image that you find while browsing.
  3. Bring in unrelated inspiration. I am constantly amazed how much inspiration I can draw from just listening to public radio, watching good (and, yes, lots of bad) television, or watching my daughter interact from the world. None are directly related to what I blog about but each has provided fodder for some of my most popular posts. Allow yourself to be inspired by outside interests and you might hit pay dirt!

These posts my be more difficult to optimize for search engines but they are sure to engage your readers and elicit great comments. I’m betting you’ll see a nice little surge in social sharing, too! A foray into more “experiential” blogging might just give you the opportunity you’ve been looking for to reach a new level of connection with your audience. It has for me.

Tara Gentile is the editor of Scoutie Girl, the blog with a penchant for the passionately handmade, and the owner for a boutique web design business. You can also find her blogging on her personal site, Write Well, Create Often.

Blogosphere Trends – What Bloggers Are Writing About This Week

This column is written by Kimberly Turner from Regator (a great tool that gathers and organizes the world’s best blog posts). – Darren

Happy Monday, bloggers! Every week, we use Regator‘s blog trends to show you what the blogosphere has been buzzing about during the previous seven days. (As always, click any trend to see posts about that story.) Because so many people are blogging about each of these stories, it becomes more important than ever to find a way to set your post apart.

This week, we’ll be taking a look at a few posts from bloggers who used interest-adding formats to approach these widely covered stories. So many of us tend to think in terms of text and paragraphs when we sit down to blog, but there are dozens of options you can use to add variety to your blog, find new ways of looking at a story, and present an oft-covered topic in a fresh and engaging way. Live blogging, slideshows, infographics, charts and graphs, timelines, contests, polls, lists, interviews, videos, reviews, tutorials, Q&As, and lists are just a few formats that are worth keeping in mind. Let’s take a look at how some bloggers approached this week’s top stories:

  1. Earth Day Treehugger‘s “An Earth Day Tribute to 11 Environmental Heroes” uses a slideshow to great effect, putting faces to the names to help readers connect more closely with the people being profiled. If creating a slideshow feels a bit overwhelming, a post with large, high-quality photos with deep captions can achieve the same thing in most cases.
  2. Goldman Sachs – In “SEC vs. Goldman Sachs Q&A,” The Huffington Post explains a complicated issue without frightening readers off with huge blocks of uninterrupted text by using a Q&A format.
  3. NFL Draft – In “Our NFL Draft Drinking Game Will Melt Your Face,” Asylum creates a game, complete with lengthy list of rules, for readers. My first thought was that creating games would rarely be a good option, then I searched Regator and found blog posts on drinking games relating to Earth Day, Avatar, Glee, income taxes, Battlestar Galactica, and dozens more. A search for more wholesome, less boozy options turned up posts on Appropriation Bingo, Gender Bias Bingo, Food Writer Bingo, Chatroulette Bingo, and too many more to mention. Get creative.
  4. South ParkBoingBoing‘s “South Park’s 200th, Litigious Celebs and Mohammed” makes great use of video. Videos add an extra dimension that can work well if your subject is engaging enough to hold your readers/viewers’ attention. In general, the shorter the better (without losing important context, of course).
  5. Gizmodo/iPhone 4G – Like a Q&A, timelines have the ability to break a complicated situation up in a way that makes it more digestible for readers. The timeline used by Today @ PCWorld in “Apple’s iPhone 4G Debacle: A Timeline” is in text format but, if you have the technical prowess and time, you could potentially get quite fancy with interactive visual timelines.
  6. Nick Clegg – Live blogging events encourages interaction and gives your readers the freshest information available. The Telegraph used this technique in “Sky TV Leaders’ Debate: Live Blog.” If you blog with others, live blogging as a group is a good way to give readers’ some extra viewpoints.
  7. Country Music Awards – You can use polls as a quick, easy way to cover a story and to encourage reader debate and comments. The Hollywood Gossip‘s post “ACM Awards Fashion Face-Off: Taylor Swift vs. Miranda Lambert” is an example of how brief a poll post can be.
  8. Project Runway – Interviews are a great option and, if you ask the right questions, also guarantee that you’ll have something original and exclusive to post. FabSugar‘s “Exclusive! Project Runway’s Jay Talks About Second Win and Why Nina’s Opinion Matters Most” has a descriptive headline and solid photos to accompany the interview.
  9. Tribeca Film Festival – Film, book, art, and music blogs employ reviews regularly (The Independent Eye has a series of well-written review posts on Tribeca Film Fest movies) but your niche might give you some even more interesting/unexpected options.
  10. Beijing Auto Show – Going to an event of interest to your readers? A thorough day-in-the-life post to share the experience with them is a useful alternative to live blogging (who has time to live blog while taking part in an event?). The Truth About Cars“TTAC at the Beijing Auto Show. Day Two” is an example of a detailed post of this kind. It’s obvious that the blogger took care to take ample photos and notes throughout the day.

What other formats have worked for you and your readers? Please share your examples in the comments!

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator.com and Regator for iPhone as well as an award-winning print journalist. You can find her on Twitter @kimber_regator.

ProBlogger the Book 2nd Edition – Available Today!

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Today I’m pleased to announce the launch of the 2nd Edition of ProBlogger the Book! It’s a book designed to help you take your blog to the next level – so make sure you grab a copy today.

Chris Garrett and myself put together the first edition of ProBlogger the book back in 2008 with the goal of putting together a resource for bloggers that would walk them through many of the aspects of setting up and growing of a profitable new blog.

Between us we’d written literally thousands of tips and tutorials on our blogs about blogging – but a book put the best of them together in a logical order and in a way that a blogger could take and set up a blog.

Since that time it’s been used by many many thousands of bloggers.

Time for an Updated Edition

However 2 years is a long time in blogging and so it was time for an updated version – hence when Wiley asked us to do a 2nd edition we were only too pleased to do so.

This is an update of the 1st edition and not a complete rewrite – however there are a few significant updates including:

  • there have been many many small updates and changes throughout the book. New examples, screenshots, updates of new tools, a few deletions of references to old tools, an update to our stories in the intro etc.
  • we’ve removed a chapter on blog networks – things have changed a lot in this space and many networks are not hiring any more or have changed their models significantly.
  • Chris has added a significant chapter on social media and how it impacts and can be used by bloggers
  • I have added a case study chapter that goes through the first 4 years of my main blog – Digital Photography School. I work through how I launched it, what I focused upon in years 1-2 and then in years 3-4, how I monetize it and share the secrets to how I drive significant traffic and income through email newsletters, social media etc.
  • Bonuses – we’re offering anyone who buys the book a series of bonuses (some interviews with successful bloggers, some extra teaching etc)

Grab Your Copy Today

The update brings the book into the new decade and we’re excited to see people’s reactions to it.

If you’re going to grab your copy – make sure you do so today because when the first edition was released it sold out pretty quickly and it was a week or two before more copies were available! Amazon have it on sale at 34% off.

PS: this 2nd edition will be available on Kindle in just a few days – you can pre-order your kindle version here.

Is eBay Partner Network a Good Affiliate Program for Your Blog?

A guest post by Dee Barizo

_wp-content_uploads_2010_03_epn-logo.jpgeBay’s affiliate program doesn’t get mentioned much in the problogger space, but it’s been the best monetization option for my collectible card game blog.

The program is called eBay Partner Network, or ePN for short. It’s been a great for my blog. AdSense was a flop because most of the ads being served were irrelevant. On the other hand, ePN earns over 10 times as much as AdSense. Also, I use simple text links to promote eBay so I don’t have to clutter my blog with big distracting ads.

I thought I’d write about ePN to give you another monetization option. It’s generally a good idea to have multiple income streams to diversify your earnings. I believe ePN can be a viable program for many bloggers.

In this post, I’ll give a quick overview of the affiliate program. Then I’ll share some questions for you to consider to evaluate if ePN is right for you. Hopefully, by the end of the post, you’ll have a good idea whether or not the program will work well on your blog.

ePN Overview

ePN is similar to AdSense because it pays per click (although AdSense also pays on a CPM basis depending upon what ads are served). However, ePN is an affiliate program rather than an ad network like AdSense. Therefore, your traffic must generate revenue for eBay or else you won’t get paid. If your traffic doesn’t convert, then your earnings per click can go down to zero and you risk being dropped from the program.

eBay originally paid affiliate marketers a percentage of the transaction fees. But just recenty, in October 2009, eBay switched to a payout system called Quality Click Pricing (QCP). In this system, affiliates are paid based on an algorithm that takes into account several factors including revenue from sales, the long term value of new users, eBay advertising revenue and PayPal revenue.

ePN offers several tools to promote eBay on your blog. These tools include banner generators, link generators, an RSS feed generator, product feeds, and an API.

Questions to Consider

Is there an active market for eBay products in your niche?

Check eBay to see if there are many listings for products in your niche. This page is a good place to start because it lists all the main categories on eBay. Also, you can use eBay’s search box for market research. Search for common products in your industry and see if many auctions show up. If there is an active market, then ePN may well be a solid income source for your blog.

Even if you’re in obscure niche, I would still check eBay. You may be surprised at the wide range of products on the site. eBay has an active market for many things including antiques, books, clothes, cameras, computers, DVDs, industrial equipment, musical instruments, pet supplies, sporting goods, tickets, and toys. You can even buy automobiles on eBay.

Are you an affiliate marketer or willing to become one?

You don’t have to be an affiliate marketer right now, but you need to be committed to the trade to fully realize the benefits of ePN. As an affiliate marketer, you’ll have to focus on selling products and converting your readers to buyers. These skills are different from generating traffic and producing content.

Still, if you understand your audience and have a relevant site, it won’t be too difficult to get your readers to spend money on eBay. But you may have to learn different skills to make ePN a viable income stream.

Do you have a quality site?

One of the reasons why I wanted to write this post for ProBlogger is because blogs that follow Darren’s advice are often great sites to run affiliate programs.

eBay is looking for relevant sites that have unique or value-added content. These types of sites tend to do well with ePN.

The eBay team published a white paper on Search Engine Marketing Journal titled The Coming Evolution in Affiliate Marketing: A Focus on Quality (pdf file). This paper was based on their advanced tracking and research of their affiliates.

In this paper, they write:

Affiliates who take the time to create high-quality sites with value-added content tend to perform better than those who simply slap together hundreds of sites that contain very little other than affiliate ads and AdSense. It probably doesn’t come as a shock that ads crammed five or ten to a page on ringtone sites don’t capture the same quality of users as well conceived ads thoughtfully integrated into product-oriented content.

They note that small and mid-sized affiliates often outperform larger ones because they add a lot of value to their sites.

If you’ve built trust with your audience and have relevant, quality content, then your blog could be a great place to promote eBay.

Do you have a plan for promoting eBay?

I applied to ePN a couple months ago, but my blog was rejected. I think one of the reasons why my blog was rejected is because I didn’t give a plan for promoting eBay.

I thought of a marketing strategy and then resubmitted my application. My plan was simple. I would tell my readers that eBay offers low prices on the cards I write about. Then, I would link to the relevant eBay search pages. My second application was accepted.

You want to have a plan before applying so that eBay knows you’re serious about promoting their offers.

Can you send a good amount of traffic to eBay?

Traffic is important because the more click data the ePN algorithm has, the more accurate your earnings will be. If you don’t send a lot of clicks to eBay, you will receive a default earnings per click (EPC) amount that is assigned to the smallest publishers. You could be missing out on the earnings you deserve.

eBay hasn’t given a benchmark on the number of clicks that will give you the default EPC amount, but based on my experience, I would aim for at least 50 clicks per day.

Apply to ePN

If your blog seems like a good fit, you should apply to eBay Partner Network. One quick tip for the application process: Give a lot of info about your blog (like traffic, RSS subscribers, Twitter followers, etc.) to increase your chances of getting accepted. Also, don’t forget to mention your plan for promoting eBay.

Along with running a gaming blog, Dee Barizo is a project manager for affiliate sites. His newest project is The Best Degrees, an online degree site currently in the alpha state.

This Time it’s Personal

by Larry Brooks of Storyfix.com

Just like pretty much everyone else reading this site, when I began my blogging gig I struggled to find a niche, and a voice within it.

I was confident with the content and the agenda that would be the focus of my site.  And, again pretty much like everyone else, I harbored a quiet resolve to one day make a few bucks from it.  But I didn’t have a substantive revenue-generating plan in mind – a business model – other than that rather blind ambition.

In other words, I was winging it.  Make my mark first, earn a respectable following.  See what happened next, what doors might swing open.

And they did.   A couple thousand subscribers.  A major book deal.  A bunch of ebooks I had no idea I would write when I started.  Even some ghostwriting projects.

Not that this qualifies me to have drinks with the Big Boys as the next blogging conventions. But it’s a start.

This is perhaps the only business venue since the creation of minted cash where such a strategy is actually viable.

Best advice I ever heard in getting there: give it away.  As much and as fast as you can.  It’s not your father’s competitive environment, with its kill-or-be-killed mentality, anymore. 

At least here online its not.

To paraphrase… if you build it (a reader base), they (those minted bills) will come.

Maybe.  It’s still a bit of a crap shoot.

Bear with.  That’s not even my point today

Another great peace of advice was to read and study the blogs of others, both in terms of instructional wisdom (like Problogger) and examples of how and how not to go about things.  In doing so I discovered that blogs tend to come in three flavors: entrepreneurial, instructional/informational, and the highly personal.

All three may, and most likely do, harbor that same money-making agenda, by the way, but these are in general the three faces of blogging.

My website cleanly fit into the middle category.  My mission was, and is, to help writers understand the complex nuances and processes required to turn an idea into a story, and then render that story in a publishable form.

Which meant, while I read and actually enjoyed a few blogs where the author boldly wrote about little else than, for lack of a more strategic term, the author, I couldn’t see myself going there.  Just because I had published a small stack of novels to a minor standard of credible success, that only made me one of about a million writers who could claim the same thing.

And, where the more personal stuff is concerned, my life and what I have to say about it outside of my small and humble field of expertise just isn’t that interesting. 

Or perhaps, something I’d care to admit to.

Or so I thought. 

I soon realized this was narrow, limiting thinking.

 
And that’s my point today.   In a roundabout, forthcoming way.

As I look back upon nearly a year of blogging, and the curious fact that I have actually made an admittedly modest little pile of cash doing so, something rose up off the screen and smacked me upside the head: some of my most successful posts in terms of reader response were those that were of a personal nature.

Not me waxing wise and instructional about storytelling, but me becoming vulnerable and parting the kimono a bit.  Writing about things that have happened in my life and in my head that have helped to shape who I have become as a writer.

Opinions.  Stories.  Observations.  Hopes.  Fears.

The kind of stuff you’d admit to over beer and onion rings with a buddy.  Or, with enough of those beers in you, with a perfect stranger.

Notice that this post is really about its author

Moi.  It still creeps me out to adopt this perspective, especially on this highly global venue, but I couldn’t very well write a post about getting personal without, well, going there.

My site performance review reminded me that this work, unlike any other venture you can name short of politics and sheep herding, is about community.  One that embraces me as a peer as well as a self-anointed guru.

And that particular realization allowed me to recognize this newly-galvanized truth at work elsewhere online.  I find myself unable to click away from a post where the writer is being real, is sharing a moment and the emotions that underpin it, and establish a connection that transcends the intention of the otherwise branded content of that site.

It’s good to connect

To share and be the object of sharing.  To unburden and to leverage the learning curve of the unburdened.

So keep striving to nail your content and embrace your readers with something that serves them, as well as your business agenda.  But don’t hesitate to take a moment now and then to, in effect, share a coffee break with your readers and get downright, unabashedly real.

Watch what happens.  That flood of empathetic feedback is nothing other than a big ol’ hug.

And you know what they say in business school – he who gets hugged sells ebooks.  Because friends buy from friends.  From someone they like and trust.

That alone, without a dime attached, is worth the time and effort.

Then again, you have a business to run.  What better way to go about it than by connecting with those you intend to serve.

Here online, those agendas almost always go hand in hand.

Larry Brooks writes about the principles and process of writing successful fiction at Storyfix.com.  His book, Story Engineering: Mastering the Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing, will be published by Writers Digest books early next year.  He claims his latest novel, Whisper of the Seventh Thunder, is not remotely about him. 

How Small Victories Help You Create Big Products for Your Blog

A Guest Post by Paul Cunningham from Blogging Teacher.

Recently Darren blogged about how you can use small victories to build momentum in your blogging. This same technique can also be used for product creation for your online business.

Creating a product for sale is a goal for many bloggers, but some bloggers struggle to see a path from where they are now to where they want to be with their product. One of the biggest obstacles can be the reality that creating a product to sell involves a lot of hard work.

Instead of looking at your product idea as one giant project that you need to complete, build momentum by breaking it down into smaller steps that you can achieve with less effort. Here is an example of a process you can use to progress from running a blog to launching a paid membership site as a product.

Create a Free Report or Email Course

Take a look at your Google Analytics and see how many visitors in the last 30 days were new visitors to your blog. In other words, people who have never been to your blog before. Even if these visitors stick around for several minutes and read a few of your latest posts you still have an archive of older posts that they probably won’t see. And chances are they’ll never come back to your blog again.

By mining your archives for older, related blog posts you can bundle that content together and repurpose it into killer content to use to convert new visitors into subscribers.

For example, take a handful of related posts from one category and turn them into a free guide that visitors can sign up to your mailing list to receive.

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This method can increase the conversion rate for new visitors into subscribers because they see the free guide as an incentive to sign up to your mailing list immediately.

Another popular variation of this is to create a short email course instead of a downloadable guide. When the visitor signs up to your list they are put into an auto responder series that delivers them the information in a sequence.

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This is a great way to re-use a blog post series from your archives, and test out a product idea by measuring the response to your free offering.

An added advantage of this method is that it gets the subscriber used to opening your emails, which can improve your conversion rates later on if you choose to send marketing emails to them.

See also:

Create an Ebook to Sell

If you’ve been blogging for a while you’ve probably got most of an ebook already written in your archived blog posts. Even if you only blog once or twice each week that can easily add up to 50000-80000 words which is a massive amount of content that can be quickly edited down and put in sequence for an ebook.

You then only need to write an introduction, some interlinking material and do formatting and design for the ebook and you’ve got a product ready to sell to your audience.

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See also:

Create a Membership Site

The holy grail of products these days seems to be membership sites. These are usually training or mentoring programs run over several weeks or months and provide strong, recurring revenue for the owner.

The effort involved in launching a membership is much greater than other products, but don’t worry, if you use the techniques already mentioned in this post you can be on the way to your own membership site as well.

First you can test your ideas in the market by putting out free guides and short email courses to see what kind of response they get. Once you have established a viable product you can create the first iteration of it as an ebook. This is a low cost entry point for selling products and if successful will further confirm the viability of your membership site while also providing a stream of revenue that you can reinvest into the development costs for the site.

You can then take your existing content from your blog, guides, email courses and ebooks and complement it with richer content such as video tutorials and audio podcasts for the membership site.

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By the time you are ready to launch your membership site your content has been well tested and revised based on feedback, and you’ve got an established mailing list of potential customers and JV partners to market the site to.

Long Term Strategy

The techniques listed above are not a formula for overnight success, but they can be used to achieve your goal of creating products and building an income from your blogs.

Depending on where you are with your blog traffic and audience you may be able to skip over the free guides and email courses and jump straight to the paid product opportunities.

But if you’ve got a new blog or your monetization efforts for an established blog have not yet been started you can begin with the free content and build on that over a period of time to eventually reach the more lucrative stages of selling products and memberships.

Paul Cunningham writes articles, tips and tutorials at Blogging Teacher to help bloggers overcome the many challenges they face building a successful blog. Follow @paulcunningham on Twitter.

My Secret to Running Successful Competitions on a Blog

One of my favourite ways to generate a little reader engagement and buzz on a blog is to run a competition.

Giving stuff away never fails to create a little excitement among a blog’s community and it is something that creates goodwill among your loyal readers.

I must have run 50-60 competitions on my blogs over the years but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about which ones work best it is this – MAKE THEM SIMPLE.

A couple of years back to celebrate the anniversary of ProBlogger I ran a series of competitions here on ProBlogger that gave away tens of thousands of dollars of prizes to readers. The competitions were a big success in that they generated loads of buzz – but by the end of the week of giveaways I (and Lara who helped me administer it all) were exhausted.

We’d spent time finding sponsors, liaising with those sponsors, coming up with ideas for the competitions, writing posts announcing the competitions, moderating the competitions, choosing winners, announcing the winners, liaising with winners, liaising again with sponsors to arrange delivery and then on a few occasions mediating between sponsors and winners who had disputes.

I remember asking myself at the end of the week whether it’d been worth it? I think it probably was – but for all the buzz we got we had to put in a lot of work.

In stark contrast to this rather complex system of contests that we put in place that week I’ve also run some very very simple competitions on my blogs over the years.

The most recent of these is on my photography blog – a competition where readers can win one of two E-books simply by choosing which one they’d prefer and leaving a comment to let us know their answer. I launched the competition at midnight on Wednesday and by the time I woke up the next moment almost 700 people had already entered.

How much work was involved? Not a lot – I simply asked the author of the E-book if he’d give me some copies to give away (something that costs him nothing and will generate him some sales), wrote up the post and posted it. Next week I’ll choose the winners randomly and let the author know who to send the prizes to.

When I say this is a ‘simple competition’ I mean it on a few fronts:

1. The prize is simple – I’m not giving away anything expensive, it’s not even a physical product! The beauty of competitions with such simple prizes is that

  • they cost you nothing
  • they’re still attractive to readers (I actually find as many people enter these as do competitions with big prizes)
  • they’re easy to deliver

2. The requirements to enter are simple – choose between two options and leave a comment. It couldn’t be much simpler and as a result the participation rate is very high. The more you require people to do to enter the more hurdles you put in front of them (and the lower the participation rate).

Big and spectacular competitions can create a lot of buzz and be worthwhile – but don’t discount the simple competition. They’re less work, less risk/cost and can still generate some great goodwill and buzz among your readers.