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From Blogging To ProBlogging in 6 Months

This guest post is by Ivan Walsh.

How long does it take to set up a profitable online business? One thing I learned since starting my first site in 1997 is that the more preparation you do, the more likely you are to succeed.

Something that made a big impression on me when I first starting reading ProBlogger was the
six-month challenge Darren’s wife gave him. This made me re-think what I was doing with my blogs. Instead of blogging as fast as I could, I sat down and developed a six-month plan with the specific aim of monetizing my
blogs.

Let’s look at how I managed to monetize my technical writing blog in six months—along with some of the issues we had to overcome.

Month 1. Develop a monetization plan

What this means is before you start any coding, writing, or design work, ask yourself how the blog will make money. Try to be as honest with yourself as you can.

Earlier in my career, I worked with IBM. One exercise we’d do when starting new projects was to identify the costs, expenses, and net profit. Net profit is the real profit you make, for example, when you’ve taken away web hosting fees, software licenses, training, design work and, of course, your own time. You can do something similar for your blog.

Here’s what I did:

  • Identified Revenue Streams: I explored different ways to earn revenue for the site. The simplest way to do this is to analyze your competitors and record how they monetize their sites in an Excel spreadsheet. For tech writing blogs, this was mostly around services, education tools, direct advertising, Google Adsense, and books. Remember some areas are more lucrative then others, so factor this into your planning.
  • Establish goals: Identify different ways you could leverage these on your site. For example, how much traffic would you need to generate 100 USD per week? Or, how many books do you need to sell on Amazon to make $50?
  • Set baselines: If you’re starting from scratch, your baseline is zero. However, if you’re already selling some advertising, for example $30 per week, record this so it doesn’t influence your end of quarter reports.
  • Target dates: Give yourself specific targets for each month. Be realistic. I chose not to use Google Ads for example as technical writing is very niche and my target readers tended to ignore these. Also, I wanted to focus on ‘evergreen’ post posts rather than daily news updates, which attracts passing traffic.
  • Set up a budget: If you believe in your site’s business model, set aside some money (even $25 a week) to run Google Adwords / Facebook ad campaigns. The advantages of doing this are that you’ll learn how to run ad campaigns,you’ll raise your profile faster, and you’ll see very quickly if anyone is interested in your site. Look at it as a ‘pilot test’ for your blog. If they are interested, run more campaigns!

Tip: don’t link to your homepage in the ad campaigns, rather link to a specific landing page and tweak it based on the results.

While it’s tempting to run past this phase, take your time and do it right. Spend as much time as possible working out how you can make money from the blog. Don’t forget to explore avenues such as email listings, developing digital products, ebooks, and co-branding with other bloggers.

And ask a trusted friend—one who’s not afraid to tell you what you need to hear, if necessary—to look at the numbers and see if it makes sense. Remember, you’re going to commit to this for the next six months so check, verify, improve as much as possible.

Month 2. Implementation

You’ve now decided which products to add to your site.

Why not services? While I could have made money providing services (e.g. writing technical documents), I wanted to avoid this as it’s hard to scale services and I didn’t want to do more work in the evenings. In other words, while there are only x number of hours in the day to write, you can sell products online 24/7.

The implementation phase works as follows:

  • Partner Programs: Sign up to affiliate programs that match your readers’ interests and your areas of expertise, and have a good track record. I used CJ.com to get started but then shifted to other more niche sites as I found them.
  • Cost/benefit analysis: Explore the pros and cons of different offerings, for example, while it’s easy to setup with Amazon and start offering books online, look at the profit margin (6-8%) and the number of books you’ll need to sell to earn $100 (it’s about $1,250). Also, look at the buying patterns of your target customers. I found that technical writers took a lot of time researching books before making a purchase and often left to competitor sites to check prices. Ideally, you want to target customers who are more likely to make “impulse buys” or offer products that are very hard to resist.
  • Focus on three products: One mistake when you start out is to offer all things to all people. Try to avoid this. Don’t be a generalist, be a specialist. Offer three products on the site and build your content, marketing and networking around these offerings. This also keeps people on the site longer and
    encourages them to sign up to newsletters. The other benefit is that you can tailor your ad campaigns to these three items and adjust the landing pages, content, and messages based on the results.
  • Offsite sales channels: There is an exception to what I said above. For example, I sell other products through my email list that never appear on the site. Why? Because, I segment the email lists and offer different products (usually special offers I run with co-partners) to each list. Email also allows me to upsell other products and migrate customers across different lists. With their permission, of course.

When starting out, don’t defeat yourself by taking on too much. When you work on the implementation phase, put other tasks on hold for a while and give this all your attention. It’s tempting to stretch yourself and do more than you can.

I’ve created a project plan in Google Docs that shows me what I need to do for each phase. I recommend developing something like this that works for you. Not only does it keep you on track but it helps prioritize what needs to be done today. The siren song of email can wait until tomorrow.

Month 3. Split test

What this means is that you test different pages against each other, see which performs best, and adjust accordingly.

You can also go one step further and test, for example, the layout of ads on different parts of the page, the color of the Buy Now buttons, and the size of your email subscription box.

You can also determine top performing revenue streams and pages with Google Analytics and other tools, such as CrazyEgg. Experiment and test different:

  • Designs: Where is the best place to put your products? Above or below the fold?
  • Layouts: Does two or three column work best? Examine ProBlogger very carefully and note where the search, social media icons, email subscription, products and Facebook fan page are placed.
  • Colors: Understand how colors influence customer behavior. Analyze sites like Amazon and see how they limit their color palette (e.g. to orange and blue).
  • Landing pages: If you sell products, test the pricing, Buy Now buttons (large vs. small, green vs. blue, Paypal vs. Clickbank etc.), sales copy, and incentives. Minor adjustments can have a considerable impact.
  • Popups: While this increased email subscriptions, I removed it as it frustrated my most loyal readers. Also most of those who subscribed, unsubscribed rather quickly. Why? They didn’t spent enough time getting to know the site before engaging. Now, I try to keep them on the site longer, which seems to work better.

After a few weeks split testing, orange worked best for the Buy Now buttons. Red signaled emergency/error/warning to readers (at least in the west) and green was too passive. Orange seems to get the balance just right. Your results will be different. Check out Paypal’s ecommerce resource site for ideas.

Month 4. Analyze results

We’re now at the mid-point of our six-month plan. If you’ve ever been on a diet, you’ll know that looking at the results shows what works… and what doesn’t. Once you’ve analyzed the results, you’re much better placed to refine your blog and capitalize on those areas that perform the best.

For example, I noticed that my video interviews had very few comments but ranked very high in the search engine results. Likewise, when I cross-posted them on YouTube, I got more traffic and increases in email sign-ups.

Be careful in the metrics you use to analyze your site. If I used comments to judge my success, I might think the site was failing but these turned out to be my top landing pages. So, I added more content and slowly began to get more comments.

  • Metrics: Examine what’s working against the goals you’d set earlier. Don’t get distracted by items outside the scope of your plan. Focus on a few key metrics and really zero in on these. Traffic is probably the weakest metric to use as numerous factors (often outside your control) can influence it.
  • Demand: Determine which products are viewed, queried and sold the most. Look at the traffic to these pages, the percentage of bounce-backs (i.e. signals lack of interest or poor web copy), percentage of shopping cart abandonments, and percentage of sales. Note any trends that may explain why they are performing so high/low and what you can do to resolve this, for example, change the price, content, call to actions or offer better incentives.
  • Sales vs. Profit: Look at the net profit for each sale. Sometimes you have to pay a commission to third parties or use expensive shopping cart software that eats into your profit margin. You also need to look into the ‘hidden cost’ of answering emails, dealing with support queries, re-shipping lost products, tracking goods via FedEx none of which add to your profit margin.
  • Upsell opportunities: In addition to selling your own products, look for ways to upsell other items at, or just after, the purchase. For example, when I sell items through eJunkie, it allows me to offer other items after a sale has been made. The advantage of building your own products is that you can offer these items are part of a bundle or at a discount.
  • Tools: One of the issues I had with previous sites was paying for the best ecommerce software ($75 per month) while trying to keep costs down. Ecommerce software such as 1ShoppingCart.com are very powerful but probably out of most bloggers’ price range when starting. If you’re selling physical items, consider PayPal (which let’s you hold monies in different currencies) or eJunkie and Clickbank for digital downloads. Make sure to research all these products and identify potential issues with refunds, payments, commission rates, and other problems.
  • Financials: The final step in this phase is to review the financials, for example, check that you’re within budget. Examine where you spent your money, look at the cost of ad campaigns, and expenses such as graphic design work. This helps determine the net profit and see which areas you need to focus on.

Tip: if you are running ads, for example on Google Adsense, make sure to cap the maximum amount for each campaign, so it doesn’t keep running in the background. Also, remember to cancel recurring payments and subscriptions. I signed up for an online software tool, forgot about it, and got re-charged the next year without my permission. Getting the refund proved to be very difficult.

One thing I’ve noticed is that higher value goods tend to have less customer support issues, whereas goods under $10 often generate many nitty-gritty tech support queries. Another issue is refunds. If you’re selling ebooks (for example via Clickbank), you have to offer a 60 day return. What this means is that even if you make sales, some customers will demand the refund. Don’t take it personally.

Month 5. Refinement

At this point, you should have a good idea of what’s working on the site from a financial perspective. In addition, you should see trends and opportunities begin to emerge.

If so, consider adding these to your product offerings, possibly on a limited basis to gauge the potential interest. I use a combination of different Excel spreadsheets to track all financial activities.

Based on the results, do the following:

  • Change placement: Experiment by switching the products in different places on each page and rotating banner ads to different parts of the sites. For example, you can test to see if specific products sell better on different days of the week or even at different times of the day.
  • Mix: Another tactic is to see where you can combine different products that may not seem complimentary or create special offers for low-selling items. Sometimes it’s easier to sell “2 for 3″ special offers rather than discounts. My interpretation is that the idea of getting something for free is stronger than getting a few dollars off. Or maybe that’s my customers!
  • Update marketing strategy: In the first three months, I tested different ways to get publicity, network with others, and find ways to increase my sphere of influence. For example, creating an online glossary of terms for the technical writing industry worked very well. I emailed this to others who then shared it to with other writers. In a low key way, it went viral and generated lots of backlinks. You can try something similar on your site. It just takes a little creativity. Keep your marketing strategy flexible and adjust it based on the results you’ve seen to date. Also, don’t blindly follow what others experts suggest you need to do. What works for them may not work on your site.
  • Email campaigns: You’ve probably heard the saying, “the money is in the list,” and it’s
    true. When I started out I used Google Feedburner, mostly as it was free. Feedburner is fine for emailing your blog to readers but is essentially a one-way email broadcast tool. Email marketing tools such as Aweber (or MailChimp) let you segment your list, send special offers, and create a stronger connection with readers. While Aweber is not inexpensive, learning to write and implement different email campaigns paid for itself within a few months. The trick is not to abuse the list (which are real people, remember!) and provide value above and beyond what they get on the site.
  • Buy advertising: Now that you understand your customers a little better, it’s easier to invest (not spend!) in more advertising. I took out small ads on other tech writing blogs which generated very good responses. Most of the bloggers I contacted were very open to the idea as it gave them some income, even if it paid for the hosting. Maybe you can identify 5 medium size blogs and run some ads on their sites or in their newsletters. Another alternative is to swap ads across each others site. Also remember to change the budget allotment for different ad campaigns, for example, on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google.

During this phase, the emphasis is on refining the overall model without making any drastic changes. Resist the temptation to change too much at once. Why? When you examine the changes in a few weeks, it will be very hard to determine which adjustment had the most negative or positive reaction. Instead, make small incremental changes.

One of the problems with my technical writing blog was that most technical writers buy things thought their company, i.e. they don’t use their own credit cards. What this meant is that I had to give them enough information to persuade their line manager to buy the product. If you’re selling a product, one suggestion is to include a feature list or product matrix (with a PDF download) so others can print it out and share with the decision maker. If you’re selling a service, include endorsements, headshots of happy customers, and links to professional bodies, if possible. Don’t underestimate social proof.

Month 6. Track and optimize

We’ve now come full circle. We’ve defined the financial opportunities, implemented the products, tested the results, and made the adjustments. The final stage in the process is to track the different revenue streams and optimize where possible.

To do this, look at:

  • Statistics: You can link together different Excel spreadsheets (i.e. sales, returns, tax, goals, costs etc) so you can monitor sales at a high-level and also drill-down into more granular information. This doesn’t need to be complicated but I’d recommend having systems in place where you can see (and print out) your sales performance and see at a glance any warning signs or trends that need special attention.
  • Goals: In Google Analytics, setup different goals; for example, enter the date when an ad campaign starts, and track its performance for the campaign’s duration. This gives you a more objective view of your site’s performance and is more reliable than your subjective feelings about what’s working. You can export Google Analytics as a .csv file and import it into Excel.
  • Investment: Plough the sales profits back into the site. Everything I earned from the site in the first 6 months, I put back into it. This helped the site gain traction faster, build a larger audience, and establish itself as an authority, albeit in a very small niche.
  • Quality: If you plan to develop your own products, which I highly recommend, explore how you can improve the quality, not only of the product but for all associated activities. For example, how can you improve the design, boxshots, security, ecommerce software and customer service? Having a dedicated tech support email address gives customers more confidence in your business than a Hotmail or AOL account. Small things like this undermine your credibility very fast. Remember to include a phone number!
  • Monitoring: Create (low-tech) ways to monitor your product’s performance and adjust campaigns, marketing tactics, and campaigns as needed. Don’t defeat yourself by creating very complex systems. Instead spend a little time learning how to use Excel and analyze the data.

Tip: If you do decide to sell the website, having this data will put you in a much stronger position.

Six months to problogging

There’s a saying in sports: “fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” If I could share one thing with you regarding running a successful blog, it’s that the more planning you do, the more likely you are to succeed. Why? Regardless of how much you read, tweet, follow, or blog, unless you have a system in place, it’s hard to make real progress.

While you may have random traffic spikes and good sales days, unless you can pin-point what’s really working—and know why it’s working—it’s almost impossible to develop your blog into a real business. And that was the purpose of this post. If you want to move from a blogger to a problogger, see your blog as a business and give it every chance to succeed.

This is the framework that’s worked for me. What have I missed? What would you add?

Ivan Walsh has worked with IBM, Intel, Accenture, NEC, and the Dept of Justice in the US, UK, and China. Learn how to develop an internet business plan here and follow him on Twitter at IvanWalsh.

Announcing ProBlogger Melbourne Training Day – Register Your Interest Today

Today I’m excited to give ProBlogger readers advance notice of a special training day in Melbourne for bloggers—the second ever ProBlogger Training day. I’ll share the details below (you can express your interest in attending or sponsoring below, too), but first let me fill you in on the backstory.

In July 2010, and very much on the spur of the moment, I came up with the hare-brained idea to run a small conference in Melbourne.

Within a couple of days I’d booked an international speaker (Chris Garrett), had convinced four local bloggers to speak, booked a venue, and had announced to the world it was happening. We released 100 tickets (I thought I was ambitious, given there were only three weeks until the event) and I stood back to watch what would happen.

IMG_2052.jpegThe event sold out quickly and we ended up upgrading our venue room to accommodate another 50 people. The day was amazing—it brought together 150 great bloggers from across Australia (and one from New Zealand), and some amazing speakers. There was a real buzz in the room (and around the Web as it trended on Twitter). You can read about the day here. The overwhelming response was that people wanted another event (although they wanted more notice and a bigger venue, as it was squashy).

The details so far

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been working on the next Melbourne ProBlogger Training day. Here are some advanced details (although as we’re a few months out there is still a bit to be filled in):

  • Date: Friday 21 October 2011
  • Time: all day (9am-5pm for the conference)
  • Networking Event: we’re looking at adding an evening networking drinks after the conference part of the day free for attendees
  • Cost: TBA but we’re aiming to keep it affordable again
  • Venue: we’re still finalizing this, but it looks like being in the CBD of Melbourne. The venue is larger than last year in terms of capacity, but also will allow us to spread out a little more.
  • Speakers: the only person I’m able to talk about at this point is myself … but I’ve already had confirmation from two overseas speakers and am talking to a number of local bloggers.
  • Schedule: last time we had everyone in the same room for the whole day; this time we’re booking a venue where we can have multiple topics running at once. You can set your own schedule depending on your needs. I’ll update you more on this as it gets closer.

Interested in attending?

We’re currently putting together a site with all the information about the conference, and anticipate launching it and starting to sell tickets in August. However, in the meantime, if you’re interested in attending please add your email address below and you’ll be the first to be emailed about it (this advanced email list bought the bulk of the tickets last time, so you’ll have every chance to attend).

Note: if you can’t see the email field above you may need to disable ad blockers, as some are a little too aggressive and block this form.

Calling sponsors

Do you have a company or product that you’d like to get in front of 200 or so Australian bloggers? If so, we have a limited number of opportunities for sponsorship on this event. Last year’s attendees numbered 150, but they were an influential bunch. We tallied up their combined readership and it totaled millions of readers, so this is an opportunity to get in front of key influencers.

These sponsorship opportunities are limited to a handful of companies, though, so please don’t delay in contacting us via the contact form here on ProBlogger. We’ll get you information on these opportunities a.s.a.p.

Time Management for Ridiculously Busy Bloggers

This guest post is by Stepfanie Cuevas of The Lady Bloggers Society.

I used to be a huge multi-tasker. I was always taught that you can juggle at least a dozen projects at once, and that it was an art form that you could boast to the rest of your blogging buddies. I spent nights writing blog posts, getting assignments turned in, tweeting, Facebooking, and replying to emails. After a whole day’s (and plenty of nights) of work, I was completely exhausted. After all that juggling, the list of things still needing to be done had only grown not shortened whatsoever.

Blogging was something that I loved to do not only to connect with people, but was the perfect way to work from home doing what I loved. So when I found myself sorting through hundreds of comments while trying to figure out what to make for dinner and who was going to take the dog to the vet, I knew something had to change. I’m proud to say, gone are the days of multi-tasking. I learned to embrace the new rules for time management for ridiculously busy bloggers like myself.

Multi-tasking is dead: set time aside

When I tried to juggle several items at the same time, I ended up completing a bunch of crappy work, or sending out tons of insensitive emails. Committing myself to one task at a time resulted in amazing blog posts and personalized emails and tweets. Complete with flowers and butterflies.

Not only did I break up my tasks, but set a timer for each item I was working on. Say I wanted to reply to emails in the morning, I set a timer for 20 minutes, and when that time was up, moved on to the next task on the list.

Schedule blog posts, tweets, and your favorite pizza man

For a long time, I turned my nose up at scheduling blog posts and tweets. In addition to my blog for blogging women, I also have a parenting blog, where I pride myself on spontaneity and creativity. Little did I know that I would be so flustered and busy that my time for creativity would almost disintegrate.

I learned to batch write, take guest post submissions, and schedule out a majority of what I wanted to say. With all blog platforms, you are able to schedule blog posts. I also use Twuffer to schedule all of my tweets. Craig is also scheduled every Thursday evening to deliver two large pizzas to our home. Yes, he knows this as well.

Take advantage of mobile apps

In connection with scheduling blog posts and social updates, I keep on top of everything using the golden iPhone. With the WordPress app, I can quickly scan comments and reply. The Mailchimp app lets me easily see how many new subscribers I have, as well as keep up with my email reports. I can also quick reply and DM anyone using the simple Twitter and Facebook apps.

It usually takes me about ten minutes to scan through everything without opening up my laptop whatsoever. I do this about two or three times a day, and then I’m off enjoying the rest of my day laptop-free.

Eliminate the unnecessary

Take a look at your blog. What are you using and what are you not? Is your blog filled with ad networks you no longer use? How about your email? How many mailing lists are you on that take 20 minutes to delete?

Spend a half hour going over your blogs and your email, and get rid of all the unnecessary items that take up your time, space, or crowd your mind. When these things are gone, you’ll have fewer things to manage, and more time to actually blog.

Focus

Last but not least, I’m caught red-handed when it comes to taking on too many projects at once. There was one time when I was working on two of my own blogs, writing for three other websites, all while freelance writing for parenting and entrepreneur magazines. I had to take a step back and re-think what it was that I really wanted to do. I had to choose and focus on what was worth my time and cut back on what was not.

Take a break and see where your time and energy is going. Does the work you are doing right now reflect where you want your blog to go? Instead of ad building, maybe you should be participating in communities to network with other people. Instead of applying for all these blogger opportunities, maybe you should try guest posting on blogs to gain more credibility.

Focus is the ultimate tool when it comes to time management. Have you found this in your blogging?

Stepfanie Cuevas is a blogger and social media enthusiast. She is the founder and editor of The Lady Bloggers Society and writes for many different parenting, entrepreneur, and social media sites. Stepfanie is also organizing this year’s Social Online Conference for women bloggers. Visit her at Stepfane.net

How to Turn Your Blog Traffic into Money

Over the last three years as an online publisher, my business has undergone a complete transformation in its approach.

Whereas I previously slapped some code from a couple of ad networks into my blogs’ templates and relied upon people clicking those ads to generate income, I’ve increasingly focused my energy upon creating my own products (largely ebooks) to sell.

The change in approach has been gradual and it has been a lot of work, but the results have made it worth doing. Last week the total of ebooks that we’ve sold moved past 62,000 units, with a combined revenue of around $1.1 million (note: that’s not all profit).

The cornerstone of my new approach

Numerous factors have contributed to these results, but one that I’ve recently been focusing on more and more is that of “landing pages.”

A landing page is a page on your site to which you direct traffic with the goal of converting those who land on it to take a specific action. This action can be many things, but might include:

  • convince your reader to buy your ebook (or other product)
  • get your reader to opt in to your email newsletter list
  • convince advertisers to advertise on your blog
  • convince your reader to buy an affiliate product that you’re promoting
  • welcome anyone arriving from a social media account, and convince them to follow you
  • introduce your blog and give new readers a tour of content that’s especially relevant for them
  • thank people for subscribing, and encourage them to confirm their opt in to your list.

The list could go on and on, but the common thing is that these are pages to which you drive traffic, and on which you call readers to take a specific action.

Landing pages have been key in my own approach. I’ve used them in all of these ways, however, using them as sales pages has been the most effective tactic in selling ebooks.

Specifically designed landing pages work better

One of the key progressions in my own use of landing pages was to transition from using the default layout in my WordPress theme, to using specifically designed landing pages.

Previously, I used the default page that came with the theme that my blog used. As a result, landing pages looked pretty much the same as any other page on my blog. The result was good, but not great.

The problem I faced was that readers not only had a call to action to buy my ebook, but also numerous distractions in my sidebars and navigation areas (calls to subscribe, advertising, calls to visit other parts of the site, etc).

Readers were distracted from the main call to action on the page—to buy my ebook. A change of approach was needed, so we designed a landing page that had one single focus, and one call to action only.

You can see an example of this page on our latest product page at Digital Photography School—Going Pro (an ebook for helping photography enthusiasts to make money from their photography).

While the page is consistent in design with our normal dPS theme (in terms of color and branding), it doesn’t have any of the distracting elements of a normal page on the site.

There’s none of the normal navigation to other parts of the site in the header area, and there’s no sidebar. All people can do when they arrive is to read about the product—there are no other options to click or read.

When we switched from using default pages to a specifically designed landing page for the sale of our ebooks, we saw a significant leap in conversions. I don’t have the specific figures but it was in the order of a 30-40% increase—which in time has lead us to many thousands of dollars in extra revenue.

These landing pages were something I knew I should institute for a long time before I actually did it. The reason why it took me so long was simply that, as a technologically-challenged blogger, I consistently put it in the “too-hard basket”. In the end I only did it when we redesigned the blogs and I had my designer create a template specifically for the job. That was a couple of years ago, and about a year after I should have done it.

As a result of that inertia, I lost considerable sales, and I still kick myself about that regularly. That was two years ago—today it would have been a lot less difficult.

Landing pages made easy with Premise

Earlier this year, the team at Copyblogger released software for WordPress that’s all about creating landing pages that convert—it’s called Premise.

I can safely say that if I’d had this plugin when I first started selling my ebooks, my sales numbers would have been a lot higher. It takes the “too hard” part of landing pages, and completely eliminates it.

The idea with Premise is that instead of having to have a designer create a template specifically for each type of landing page for your blog (or having to learn to do it yourself), this plugin helps you create those landing pages yourself.

Premise focuses on three areas:

  1. Creating pages: they let you choose from seven types of landing page styles, and then add graphics and copy to them to create clutter-free and beautifully designed pages.
  2. Creating compelling copy: the design of your page is one thing, but the real magic happens in the copy that you create for the page to convince readers to take the action you’re suggesting. Premise gives advice on how to craft the type of landing page you’re creating, right in the WordPress interface. You also get access to some great copywriting seminars (keep in mind that this is from Copyblogger—the masters of creating compelling content and copy).
  3. Optimization: improve your conversion rate and search rankings with more tools and guidance, including easy split testing and SEO features.

One of the most amazing features of Premise is the graphics library. You could easily pay more than Premise costs just for a set of graphics like this, and it ensures that every landing page you create is unique.

Check out Premise for yourself. Just like I learned, the extra income you earn from quality landing pages will make Premise pay for itself many times over.

Maximize Social Media Traffic to Your Blog

This is a guest post by David Cowling of SocialMediaNews.com.au

As bloggers, we are always looking for new ways to increase the level of traffic and readers to our websites. You may have a great product to sell or you just monetize you blog through display advertising—increasing your traffic to the next level is sure to increase your potential blog earnings.

Copyright Photosani - Fotolia.com

Using Social Media traffic to methodically drive more eyeballs to your site is a great way to capitalize on the Web 2.0/3.0 boom. Have a look at these tips to increase user engagement on your topic, and boost new readers clicking through to your website:

1. Use social media distribution tools to send out your RSS feed

As a blogger, you want to promote your RSS feed as much as possible. Getting other websites to display your feed can result in increased visitors clicking through and viewing your posts.

This can also result in back-links to your blog, which results in better search engine rankings. So how can we ensure our RSS feed is getting the attention and exposure it deserves?

You can take advantage of social media distribution platforms, such as Hellotxt.com or Ping.fm, which can distribute your RSS content to over 100+ different social media websites around the world.

These sites allow you to save in your RSS feed, and then they can automatically post your content to your social networking accounts whenever you write a new blog post. This is all done automatically behind the scenes so there is no extra work for you every time you create a new blog post.

While distribution tools like this can get your content in-front of a whole new readership, I don’t think signing up to every single social networking site that is integrated with these tools is the smartest idea. A better approach is to sign up with the social networking sites your readers and audience are most likely to use themselves.

2. SEO your social media profiles

We are now leveraging maximum traffic from our various social media profiles with the help of posting automation tools. The next step is to drive even more traffic to our social media profiles, which will in turn go onto our blogs.

A smart way to drive more traffic to your social profiles is actually through Search Engine Optimization—yes, that’s right, SEOing your social media profiles. This is a fairly new idea where we are mixing the power of social media with SEO.

Facebook Fan page SEO

One of the only parts of your Facebook pages that are seen by the search engines is the About box.

This is only a small section of the page, so make this product-descriptive if you are selling something, or if you are promoting a particular website, include your URL and primary keywords.

Whilst the URL won’t be clickable, this will display to search engine users, and correct keywords will also push your Fan page higher in the rankings. While that increase may only be a small amount, every bit counts.

If you have other Fan pages on Facebook, link them all together. In some ways, Facebook is like a big social search engine, and they will crawl the links between your pages.

When filling out the Info tab on your Fan page, make sure the information you include is keyword-rich, and again has some reference to your URL and/or your products.

The search engine inside Facebook is not just for people—we now have the option to search “everything,” which includes Fan pages and groups. Having keyword-optimized pages will help you show higher in the Facebook search results.

Twitter profile SEO

When you are creating your Twitter profile, take note that your username actually becomes the Title tag of your page. Since Twitter is so highly trusted by Google, many profiles rank highly in organic Google searches just because of a keyword-rich username, which becomes a keyword-rich URL.

If you decide to use your full name as your username, be aware that your Twitter profile may rank first when someone Googles your name.

If you’ve uploaded a picture to Twitter, the search engine also uses the exact image name of your picture. So you could further optimize your Twitter profile by using a keyword-rich image file name, (e.g. your-name-your-primary-keywords.jpg).

LinkedIn profile SEO

As LinkedIn is a pure business social network, its developers have made a number of tweaks to help your profile stand out, particularly in the search engines. Your name, LinkedIn headline, current location, and the industry you have selected for your profile are placed into the Meta Description tag on your profile page.

That’s often why when you Google someone, their LinkedIn profile may often be the first social network to appear in the results.

3. Use social groups to promote your topic

To get even more traffic to you blog, consider creating Groups and Discussions on both LinkedIn and Facebook about your blog and products. Facebook and LinkedIn users are generally very active, and if you can get active users in your own group, this will have a positive effect on your blog.

You may actually have a large LinkedIn network but not really sure how to take advantage of it. Create a LinkedIn group about your topic/blog and invite your network to join it. If you can get engaging discussion occurring you are likely to find more professionals in your space join the group. If suitable for your own blog or product, consider the option of an Open Group, where anyone can join and invite others.

As the group administrator, you are able to send LinkedIn messages to all Group members (if they have opted-in to receive notifications when joining the group). This is a great way to push-market to your LinkedIn network, as often, InMails have a high open rate and are not considered as intrusive as other email marketing tactics.

Conclusion

I hope these tips give you some insights into new ways you can leverage traffic from social networking websites to your blog.

If you are a blogger and actively use social networks as a traffic generation source:

  • What networks send you the most traffic as a blogger?
  • What % of your traffic is coming from these social networks?
  • What has been your most shared article? What can you learn from this?

Consider optimizing your profiles to rank higher and get even more profile views and click-through traffic.

This is a guest post by David Cowling from Social Media News Australia.
If you are looking for more Social Media hints and tips check our David Cowling’s blog on
Social Media.

Make the Most of Product Reviews on Your Facebook Page

This guest post is by Jenny Dean of Business Blog Writers.

You might have seen the ProBlogger post by Tommy Walker that talked about using photos to your advantage on Facebook. This post will add to some of Tommy’s ideas.

I have two websites, Floppycats.com and Antioxidant-fruits.com, and corresponding Facebook fan pages where I like to set up albums for the product reviews that I do on those sites.

Why having albums on a Facebook Fan page is important

  • Opportunity: Since I feature a product every Tuesday, that’s pretty much 52 product reviews per year. That means 52 (or 53, depending on the year) opportunities for my sites’ Facebook fan pages to show up in people’s news feeds.
  • Link love: You can link or tag the manufacturer’s Facebook page on each photo within your Album, which means you’ll get a link back to your Facebook page from theirs.
  • Clickthroughs: You can add a link back to your website from your Fan page. I like to link back to the actual product review, so that users will visit the site if they are interested in learning more.
  • Communication: You’ll get questions—and if you are doing product review albums like me, it might give you more insight on how to do your review, or provide you with feedback for the manufacturer, showing the manufacturer how valuable you are as a blogger for them.
  • More fans: That’s right, when you link to the manufacturer, you never know who will see the link on the manufacturer’s page, and then will come and check out your Facebook Fan page—or your site.

In this article, I’m going to explain how to set up a successful Facebook album as well as how to tag and link photos in that album to the manufacturer’s Facebook Fan pages.

Setting up your album

Facebook has changed up a bit since Tommy’s post, so first, I’ll show you how to set up a Facebook album.

First you want to start from your blog’s (or business’s) Fan page. Under your photo, there is a category called “photos”. Click on that, and your photo section will appear.

To add an album, click on “Photos.”

Another page will open and on the right-hand said there is a button that says, “+ Create Album.” Click on that.

A dialog box opens, and you can start adding photos from your hard drive that are applicable to the album.

Adding photos to an existing album

Now, every Tuesday on my informational website about fruit, I do a product review on a product that has fruit in it. I have, of course, already created the album. Every week, either when I write a review or after the review has been published, I add a photo.

To add a photo to an existing Facebook album, simply click on the album (follow directions above) and then click on “Add Photos” in the upper right-hand corner once you are on the album page.

As I was writing this post, I decided to add the photo of the product that will make its debut on my blog this week: blazerfarmz Fresh Frozen Aronia Berries.

When the upload is complete, click on “Done.” Then, scroll to the bottom of “Edit Album—Product Reviews” until you find the image that you’ve just uploaded.

Enter the name of the product (you might want to throw in a keyword here, too, but since “aronia berries” is already a keyword for me, I don’t worry about it) and then include the URL link to your product review.

Then click on “Save Changes,” then “Publish.”

Once this image is published, Facebook will return you to the album in question. So then you want to go find the photo you just uploaded and click on it. When I do this, I can see that it has a product name and also a clickable link back to my product review. You might even want to make this link a bit.ly link, so that you can track the number of clicks.

Now, here comes the important part that will help you stretch your reach across multiple Facebook pages: you want to tag the manufacturer’s page in your photo.

When you’ve clicked on the photo and the photo is open on your screen, in the white section below the photo on the lower left side you will see a “Tag This Photo” link. Click on that.

Move your cursor over the photo and then click on it (anywhere is fine in this situation because there is only one product in the photo). Then start typing the name of the manufacturer. In order for this to work, you have to have already liked their page.

Select the manufacturer’s name (“blazerfarmz” in this case) and then click on “Done Tagging.”

You’ll see that “Blazerfarmz” has been tagged in the photo, which means your photo is now on their Facebook page. So all the fans of their page now have the opportunity to click on your photo as well as click on through to your review. My photo is on my page and on their page—it’s double the exposure for little effort.

If we go back to my album, you can see that I have several manufacturers tagged in my Product Review album.

Benefits of using Facebook albums

Some benefits of this approach to using Facebook’s albums include:

  • Cross posting of photos with minimal effort creates much more exposure.
  • It shows manufacturers that you have interest in them and are making an effort to expose their products.
  • If you offer giveaways, product reviews, or advertising on your site, you could always add your Facebook albums as an added bonus to product owners. In other words, you will cover their products on your Facebook page and will include them in a permanent album where their product images will be located alongside those of other manufacturers. So if someone comes from one manufacturer’s Facebook page, they might discover other manufacturers’ products through your Facebook fan page.

An added touch

Something I like to do to finish it all off is to post my review on the manufacturer’s Facebook page. I like to do that from my Antioxidant-fruits.com account, though—I have to switch from my personal account to my Antioxidant-fruits.com account.

To switch accounts, go to the Account Tab in the upper right-hand corner, click it and choose, “Use Facebook as a Page.” A dialog box will open showing all your pages. Click on the one you want to use.

When you click on the switch, it will take you to your Facebook home page. Next, search for the manufacturer’s name using the search bar.

Then go to their page and type a message. I wrote, “Thank you to blazerfarmz for letting us review their awesome Fresh Frozen Aronia Berries over at @ant.” When you type the “@” symbol and your page’s name, the full page name will come up. You can select it, and it will link to your Facebook page.

I can also then include the URL of the YouTube video I did for the review. If I just copy the URL from YouTube, paste it into that field on Facebook, and then hit the space bar, a photo will appear from the video, and the link will be there too.

Then, click on “Share,” and you’ll see your message show up on their page. Here, I forgot to include a link to the actual review, so I added that in the comment section.

You can do the same on your page. The beauty of posting on your page and linking to their Facebook page with the “@” symbol is that that message will show up on the manufacturer’s wall too!

What ideas do you have for making the most of your blog site and photos on Facebook? I’d love to hear them!

Jenny Dean is a 31-year-old-business owner and entrepreneur from Kansas City. Jenny is currently working on Business Blog Writers, a company that supplies blog content specifically for company’s blogs, Floppycats.com, an informational website about Ragdoll cats and Antioxidant-fruits.com, an informational website about the antioxidant powers of fruit. Follow Business Blog Writers on Twitter or on Facebook.

6 Killer Writing Tips from a Great-Grandmother of a Copy Editor

This guest post is by Aman Basanti of Ageofmarketing.com.

Meet Ailsa Campbell. Ailsa is a great grandmother of an editor (pun intended): she’s been teaching English longer than many of us have been alive. Needless to say she knows a thing or two about writing well.

Here are Ailsa’s top tips for becoming a better writer.

1. Get your homophones right

“Homophone” sounds like an alien word, but you use homophones every day, and often incorrectly.

Homophones are words that sound the same (homo—same, phone—speech sound) but have different meanings. Here are some common homophones that bloggers get wrong.

  • compliment—to praise (e.g. when you tell your partner that he or she looks great)
  • complement—to balance, set off or add to (red wine complements Italian food)
  • right—correct
  • right—the opposite of left
  • rite—ritual or ceremony
  • write—putting pen to paper
  • effect—(most commonly a noun) end result or consequence (the breakup of the marriage had the effect of driving him to drink)
  • affect—(most commonly a verb) impact (the drought affected local farmers)
  • descent—plunge, fall or ancestry (humans trace their descent from apes)
  • dissent—disagreement, opposition or dispute (some people express their dissent to the idea that humans descended from apes … and are quite right—humans and apes are descended from a common ancestor)
  • dependent—reliant on (the answer to the second question was highly dependent on the answer to the first)
  • dependant—a person who depends on others (the poor guy has 13 dependants). Note that this term is mainly used in British English; American English accepts “dependent” for both spellings.

Ensure that you are using the right homophone.

2. Know when to use a “c” and when to use an “s”

Is it practice or a practise? Is it advice or advise? Is it licence or license?

Answer: “c” is for nouns and “s” is for verbs. Remember “c” for “ice” and “s” for “see”.

When you play tennis, you practise your swing. When you run a social media business, you run a social media practice. Again, this is mainly a British English differentiation. In the US, it’s standard to use to use the “c” spelling in both cases.

When you guide someone to do something, you are advising them. When you receive instructions from your client, you receive advice.

Licence is permission to do something. Giving that permission to someone is licensing them to do it. Although in America, both usages use the “s” spelling, license.

Use “c” for naming words and “s” for doing words.

3. Understand terse phrases

Terse phrases are short punchy sentences to give your writing a sense of urgency. For example:

Favreau was blown away. How did this guy pull off such a feat? Was there anything this man couldn’t do?

“Using them in groups of three,” explains Ailsa, “as in the example above, gives a great sense of build–up.

“If you listen to Barack Obama, who is one of the greatest orators of the day, you will notice he often uses groups of three. This is not chance. He has studied it and worked at it.

“The use of three terse phrases was an oratorical trick taught by the Ancient Greeks, to capture the audience’s attention and reinforce a point without making it tedious. Apply it to writing too.”

4. Know how to use contractions to bring your writing to life

In the publishing world, using informal abbreviations and contractions (weren’t, aren’t, can’t, etc.) signifies a very informal type of writing. Contractions are not acceptable in, for example, a serious article about current affairs. They sound sloppy.

Even in less formal writing, they are better avoided unless you are very specifically wanting to sound “chatty.”

Where contractions are useful, however, is in quotes and dialogue or when you are giving someone’s thoughts. The use of contractions in dialogue allows the character’s voice to come through, which is a great way to bring your writing to life.

Consider the sentence, “They couldn’t put a finger on it but there was something about Mike.” The shortened form is very good here, because you are giving their thoughts—less formal language is right.

5. Do not put an “a” in front of numeric values

Do not say, “a 127 people chose option b,” or that “the suit cost a $100.” Just say, “127 people chose option b,” or “the suit cost $100.”

Also be mindful when writing monetary values. Do not write “$100 dollars,” just keep it to “$100.” You have already said “dollars” by using the sign $.

6. Know how to use apostrophes

What is wrong with the sentences below?

  • He was selling chocolates to the participant’s.
  • The Lindt’s were a better choice.
  • Vast majority of Australian residents already had HD TV’s and little content to view on them.
  • They were a well-known group in the 1960’s.

Answer: The apostrophe is incorrectly used in place of a plural. It should be participants, Lindts, TVs, and 1960s.

There are two uses for the apostrophe—in shortened forms, indicating a verb (it’s, couldn’t) and in possessives (Age of Marketing is Basanti’s brainchild).

What should we do when a possessive is also a plural?

The participants’ job was to choose between two options.

Here the participant is a plural and a possessive, so you place the apostrophe after the “s.” If the participant was singular, you would place it before the “s.”

Of all the mistakes, this one seems by far the most important to Ailsa, as is evidenced by her comment, “Dammit—if you don’t stop using apostrophes when you mean plurals, I shall murder you.” In her defense, I did get that wrong a lot.

Conclusion

It is these minor distinctions that, as Ailsa likes to say, “separate the sheep from the goats.” Get them right and your writing will be more fluent and engaging. Get them wrong and you will look silly, sloppy, and uneducated—not how you want your readers to see you.

Do you make any of these common mistakes in your writing?

Aman Basanti writes about the psychology of buying and teaches you how you can use the principles of consumer psychology to boost your sales. Visit www.Ageofmarketing.com/free-ebook to get his new ebook—Marketing to the Pre-Historic Mind: How the Hot New Science of Behavioural Economics Can Help You Boost Your Sales—for FREE.

Don’t Drive Your Blog Distracted

This guest post is by Chris The Traffic Blogger.

I can tell you a thousand ideas I have on how to be creative and when/where to write, but I struggle to create a list of times when you shouldn’t write. Most authors advise that you create articles during the good times and the bad in order to do two things: Improve upon your writing skill and increase the diversity of your writing. With that being said, is there ever a bad time to write then?

Blogging while distracted

Copyright Sergiy Serdyuk - Fotolia.com

Here is the first thing that came to mind regarding a time when you shouldn’t be writing. Focus is a hard thing to come by these days, especially with the increased speed of technology. If you don’t turn off that smart phone, unplug from tweetdeck and mute the television, well you’re going to be interrupted quite a bit when you try to write.

Writing while distracted is a lot like texting while driving. It’s dangerous, your focus is split so your content is not optimal and there are far more chances for accidents than under normal writing conditions. Don’t blog while distracted. Take the time to apply focus and effort to your work.

When I created the post, Explosive Backlink Strategy, I wrote an entire draft of it without unplugging myself from all the previously mentioned distractions. I repeated sentences, created broken links, had grammatical errors galore and left many ideas unsupported. Worst of all however, was the fact that I had written far too much!

When you think about it, it’s a miracle that we accomplish anything at all with all the Facebook chimes going off on our phones and other mediums desperately calling for our attention. Instead of writing less in these conditions, I tend to write more! And we all know that online readers prefer concise, helpful information.

After unplugging myself, I was able to refine my article to the core ideas that mattered and scrubbed all the errors. That’s the difference between being focused on one thing and having your attention split amongst many things.

Keeping a schedule

The key to avoiding being distracted is to remove the distractions during the period of time you wish to write. This takes planning, since distractions are often unplanned issues which you need to deal with in a timely manner. If you plan ahead and schedule of block of time to write, you are far less likely to be interrupted, especially if you take care of anything that needs doing beforehand. Stay focused and you’ll write far better than you would while distracted or on a limited time budget.

For the blogs I run, I tend to keep a very strict schedule as to when I write every single day. The moment I have woken up and had some much needed java, I write at least a few ideas down for articles I’d like to flesh out later on. Sometimes I write whole posts, but usually just ideas. Then, throughout the day, I turn those ideas into main concepts and supportive ideas soon follow.

Sometimes I write five posts a day, other times I jot down just the ideas for several. The point isn’t to finish a post every day, but rather, to take the time to think and write at least something before I do anything else every single day.

Blogging while extreme

Once again, the root problem that I suggest avoiding while blogging is a lack of focus. When you are angry, emotional, and upset, you will tend to focus on the wrong feelings as you write. Perhaps you won’t have any focus, just a blind anger that directs your article for you and feeds your creative thinking. This is a bad thing. A very bad thing. Cooling down and getting the proper focus back is important to avoiding writing while angry.

Always remember to put your audience first and avoid the personal feelings you have towards comments, emails and other bloggers alike. Keep things professional and write when you can afford to be emotionally focused on the right goals for your blog.

I’ve had my scrapes with fellow bloggers in the past, particularly very jealous ones, and I must say that it is far wiser to ignore someone than it is to try to get into a mudslinging contest. Even if you are 100% right and the other person is completely wrong, everyone gets dirty when the mud starts flying.

My advice for anyone who has copycats and jerks following them around the way I do is to ignore them. Don’t publish their comments, don’t respond to their emails and don’t publish responses on your blog. Just act as if they do not exist and keep on doing things better than they do. For heaven’s sake, don’t write while angry at someone as it always ends poorly for you!

What about the reverse of anger… happiness? Should you write while extremely happy? I would suggest not simply because your focus is once again blurred or ultra-centered on the wrong thing. I’ve written some awful, assuming posts while very happy that came back to bite me in the past.

For example, I had to rewrite the first chapter of The Why People Course because I wrote it while extremely excited to be writing my first book. After reading it I came across as way to hopeful and impossibly optimistic, to the point that most people would probably read it and say “yeah right, that’s wishful thinking.” Even though the numbers and statistics were real for me, they might be impossible for others, so I ended up rewriting the chapter when my focus was more on my potential audience and less on myself.

Focus is the key in blogging without distraction, whether the distraction comes from external or internal forces. Write with focus and write well! And please, don’t blog while distracted!

Have you ever blogged while distracted? Tell us what happened in the comments.

Chris is a self proclaimed expert at showing bloggers how they can get traffic, build communities, make money online and be successful. You can find out more at The Traffic Blogger.

Are You a Generous Blogger?

I know what you’re thinking.

“Of course! I’m a lovely blogger! I’m always giving stuff away—advice in my posts, free chapters from my ebook, whitepapers, time, and a whole swag of fun fun fun on my Facebook page!”

That’s great—and certainly generous—but what I’m talking about is something different.

A generous blogger is one who shares such valuable information that readers immediately start searching for their contact details.

  • In a blog post, we’re scrambling for the comments so we can thank them, and add our own thoughts.
  • After using their product, we head to their Contact page so we can let them know what a difference the information has made to us.
  • In a guest post, we’re scrolling frantically for the bottom of the post so we can find the author’s bio and check out their site, now!

As we consume their information, we find ourselves thinking, “This is amazing. Who is this person?”

A generous blogger doesn’t need to sprinkle their off-site content—comments on others’ blogs, Twitter replies, and so on—with links to their own blog: they freely provide information that’s so valuable it makes readers want to seek them out.

They explicitly ask for feedback and happily engage in hearty, thoughtful exchanges with readers.

And they encourage goodness—by alerting readers to All Things Good, not just their own thoughts or products, or programs they’re affiliated with.

Generous bloggers let their content and actions do the talking, while their easily findable bio, linked name (in post comments), or contact page lets readers get in touch, or get more information, if they’re interested.

Are you a generous blogger?