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Blogosphere Trends + Using Infographics

Information graphics, or infographics as they are more often called, are a great way to convey complex information clearly and concisely. Infographics can be anything from annotated maps, timelines, flowcharts, graphs, Venn diagrams, size comparisons, charts, or data presented with snazzy typography to a gorgeous amalgamation of several of these techniques. They add visual interest to your blog and are passed around more often than ordinary images or text.

If you have a design background or are fortunate enough to have some artistic skill, you can create your own infographics from scratch. If you’re like most of us, you’ll need a bit of assistance; fortunately, there are plenty of helpful resources online. Here are a few:

  • Visual.ly is like a search engine for infographics, so if you’re looking to use a graphic created by someone else (with permission or by Creative Commons and with attribution, of course), you may well find what you need here among the thousands of beautiful options that have already been created. They’re also working on a tool that will allow bloggers and others to create their own infographics using a plug-and-play system.
  • IBM’s Many Eyes gives you access to libraries of data and the ability to upload your own. It’s straightforward and yields professional looking results.
  • Google Public Data allows you to use publicly available data to create attractive infographics in a variety of forms.
  • Wordle makes it extremely easy to turn text into eye-catching word clouds with customizable fonts, colors, and designs.
  • Stat Planet lets you create interactive maps and data visualizations using simple browser-based tools and built-in data from sources such as the World Health Organization, CIA World Factbook, Wikipedia, and more.
  • If it’s simple, elegant, easy-to-customize charts you’re looking for, Hohli might be your answer.
  • Creately is a good option if you’re working with flow charts or diagrams but does cost $5 per month or $49 per year (USD).

Now let’s take a look at some striking examples of how infographics were used to illustrate and enhance posts about last month’s most-blogged-about stories (according to Regator.com, these were: Hurricane Irene, Steve Jobs, London Riots, Libya, Labor Day, the GOP candidates, earthquake, September 11, Federal Reserve, and Motorola Mobility) and get ten quick tips on choosing or creating infographics for your blog…

Do your research. If you’re creating your own infographic, start with a solid foundation of research. This infographic comparing Hurricane Irene with two other storms is visually simple but is based on solid research.

Cite your sources and be transparent. This infographic on Steve Jobs features an extensive list of sources in the footnotes and in doing so, allows viewers to fact-check and determine the reliability of the sources used.

Promote your blog. It takes a lot of effort to put together an attractive, well-researched infographic, which is why visualizations, like this one about the London Riots, often feature a prominent link or logo near the bottom indicating the creator. If you do make your own infographics, rather than keeping them solely for yourself, use them as an opportunity to spread your blog’s brand by tagging them with your logo and allowing them to be embedded around the web, preferably with an embed code that leads back to your site.

Get interactive. If you have the resources, interactive graphics such as this timeline of Middle East protests is just about the most engaging content you can provide. These, obviously, require a great deal of expertise and skill, but when done right, are a stunning way to provide a large amount of information.

Choose a color scheme. Choose a color palette that is complementary, striking, and able to tie elements together to create a cohesive look. This Labor Day infographic is a great example of color done right.

Give credit where credit is due. Before hosting an infographic on your blog, be sure you have the rights to do so. Check for Creative Commons License information (see the CC logo at the bottom of this infographic on the 2012 GOP candidates) or other licensing information and if an embed code featuring a link back to the source is provided, as it is here, be sure to use it.

Do one thing and do it well. Define your focus and make sure that the information you’re presenting is relevant to your point and not simply pretty to look at. This map of Twitter activity during a recent U.S. earthquake presents only one kind of information but, in doing so, paints a clear picture that can be understood in an instant.

Lead the viewer’s eye. This infographic on travel ten years after September 11, 2001 makes effective use of lines and graphics to pull the viewer’s eye down the page and onto the next piece of information. Pay attention to where you want viewers to look, especially in flow charts, and use design principles to get them there.

Use minimal text. Some text is necessary to convey your point, but the beauty of infographics is that they allow you to minimize text while still conveying extensive information or complex concepts. You want your infographic to look more like the top half of this Federal Reserve visualization than the bottom half, which is attractive but text-heavy.

Keep it short and simple. This comparison chart of Google and Motorola is short and sweet but tells the story. Use only as much data and information as you need to make your point and no more.

Do you know of other ways to find or create infographics? Please share them in the comments.

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator.com, Regator for iPhone and the brand-new Regator Breaking News service for journalists and bloggers. She is also an award-winning print journalist. You can find her on Twitter @kimber_regator.

Start a Magazine that Complements Your Blog … in 5 Steps

This guest post is by Deidra Wilson of deidrawilson.com.

They say that print is dead. That the Internet laid waste to the magazine rack at the airport. But that line of thinking has the good old boy driving the diesel pickup today behind the wheel of an electric car tomorrow.

Print is, and always will be, alive and well. You blog, eBay, search for Thai food recommendations and interact online, but you will always read magazines.

Have you ever considered adding a print arm to your digital empire?

If you have ever entertained the idea of publishing your own magazine, it is not as difficult as most suggest, and can be done for a small initial investment. Maybe you want to start a magazine that compliments your online business. For example, if you run a wedding website/portal/blog, look into self-publishing a local/regional wedding publication (and you already have the best advertising and self-promotions spots saved for yourself).

The potential of print

Let’s talk about how a print arm of your blog can benefit your brand and your bottom line. Whether you will admit it or not, you on occasion take a peak at your closest competitor’s Twitter follower count and compare it to yours. If their count far outweighs yours, you assume that a large part of the public would consider your more followed competitor’s brand more legit than yours and to an intelligent extent you would be right.

What does adding an offline component to your blog’s brand achieve?

Perceived credibility

Similar to that monster Twitter follower count, the general public believes what it sees. It is rational to place a value on the increase in credibility your blog will gain from self-publishing your own print magazine. If you structure your whole effort properly by always pointing your magazine readers to your blog and other online efforts, you now trump the most common online “noise” your competition is creating due to the simple fact that stands the test of time and always will—magazines are perceived as glamorous and convey credibility. Run your own impromptu poll. “Media company” sounds more Fortune-500 than just “blog”—creating a strong and professionally credible percecption will make everything you do online easier, which leads to more readers and more profits.

That’s the sound of opportunity knocking

As soon as your first issue is on the streets and in reader’s hands, you will hear a knocking on your door. Answer it and you will see new revenue streams, new readers, new traffic and new business relationships that can not be created in the 100% online world. If you sell/manage your own advertisements on your blog, you now have added value to offer your advertisers by either offering a la carte print advertising space or a bundled package of both online and print.

Diversity is the glue that holds media companies together. There have been times where I have relied heavily on revenue generated by Google Adsense, and that always made me nervous. I found myself asking “What if the Adsense market fails? What if Google fails?” Those fears lead me to always seek out a balanced diversity for all of my businesses. Adding a print publication to an online-only identity adds a solid amount of diversity to build overall value in your business should you ever decide to sell and also help you weather any rough cash flow storms along the way.

“Pass along” is the offline “Add this”

You work hard on your blog, writing solid content that you hope goes viral and gains a web of deep inbound links, retweets, digs, etc. When you put your magazine in one person’s hands there is a high probability of them “passing along” that copy of the magazine to a friend—especially in multi-occupant households. Why is this important?

Studies have shown that pass-along copies of magazines generate the same positive value in the hands of the secondary readers as the first reader, and that all readers share the same measurable action ratio, ie: one copy of your magazine will bring multiple new people to your blog and online efforts.

Start the Presses!

1. Check your wallet

Each and every new small business startup needs some capital, and magazines are no different. Just how much do you need? As little as a few hundred dollars will work (not including your printing costs) to get your first issue on the streets and/or news stands. I started my first magazine on roughly $300. If you have your sights set on producing a higher end magazine, you will need significantly more, depending on what market you are entering and how big you are going right off the bat. Bigger is not always better here—this magazine is a supporting effort for your online business, so think light and fast.

You have solid computer skills which will benefit you here, as you won’t have to hire an office full of employees. The key is to do it yourself. Stay away from the urge to make a lot of noise (advertising, events, etc.) about your new magazine in the beginning. You have a computer, you own a camera, and you own Adobe Photoshop. All you need now is publishing/layout software. Adobe InDesign is the gold standard of magazine layout and costs around $300 online.

2. Develop the framework

You probably have an idea of what type of magazine you want to publish, but from here you need to construct some basic framework. Pick a name for your magazine carefully. Make sure you are not stepping on anyone’s trademark by searching national trademark databases. Be creative: you can’t survive without offering something new to your readers in an attractive package, and for this, being creative is a necessity.

Your website’s domain name is also something to consider when choosing your name. Search for open domains that match your magazine’s name as closely as possible. It is okay to use a few pseudo-odd takes on domains for magazines, like magazinenameonline.com or magazine-name.com. Keep your targeted keyword in mind when selecting your magazine’s domain name.

Your website does not need to be award-winning right out of the gate; it just needs to be something professional that’s clear about who you are and what your magazine is about—or consider adding your magazine’s online identity to your existing website. You can always offer your web design company a service trade—they design, and you advertise their business both in print and online if you do not code your own websites. A website or some sort of online presence is an essential part of this process, though; do not skip out on this one.

Okay, you have a name and a website, what’s next? Figure out what you are going to include in your first issue by writing out an editorial outline. That’s a fancy name, but in reality, just write out what you want to feature, how many pages you want to devote to each item, and how many pages you want to stash away for ads (this will be dependent on how many ads you sell for your first issue).

How many pages should your magazine contain? Two factors are in play here. One is the cost of printing the magazine—obviously, it costs more to print a bigger magazine. The second question is: how much editorial can or do you want to produce? You do not need a 100-page magazine your first go around so, depending on what your competitors are doing, aim for around 40-50 pages for a local or lifestyle magazine and 90+ for a magazine you want to distribute on national news stands.

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need an army of journalists to publish your first issue. I have produced content for hundreds of magazines by myself or with the help of just a handful of people; it is simply a matter of putting together text and images that will occupy a predetermined amount of space.

Start with item number one on your editorial outline. Write your text first, making sure to follow basic guidelines for writing editorial (Google search it for tons of help). Have friends read the copy and get their honest opinions. Did you lose your readers’ attention at any point? Are your facts correct? Do you have any typos? Does anyone actually want to read this? What type of content that’s relevant to your niche has worked on your blog in the past? Could a version of it work in your magazine?

A picture is worth a thousand words—literally. People like pictures—big, colorful pictures and lots of them. Now it is time for the fun part. You own a camera, so get out there and start snapping. Make sure you are shooting in RAW or on a setting the produces 300 dpi images (every image in your magazine needs to be 300 dpi, no larger, no smaller—nothing comes off as more rookie than low-res photos in magazines).

Remember that if you have any people in your photos, you’ll need to get them to sign a “model release” allowing you to use their image in your publication. Your readers will quickly form their opinions of your magazine based on three things—your cover, your layout/design and your interior editorial images.

After you have knocked your editorial out, sleep on it and go over it yourself. Is it good? How many magazines have you seen that all regurgitate the same tired “electronics features” on iPhones, or some silly gadget that not many people care about? Lots. You have to have a new take on things if you want to see issue number 2, 3, 4, or 54.

Going back to my example of the local wedding magazine, you have to offer your reader new venues, vendors, and ideas that they have not seen anywhere else. Instead of writing about “How to pick your wedding colors,” think along the lines of “CityName’s hottest wedding colors for 2011″ and include information straight from local wedding venues, with actual images and quotes from planners, brides and photographers. Never underestimate the power of putting someone’s name in a magazine!

3. Start selling advertising yesterday

New publishers often fall into the trap of just focusing on the creative side of the magazine and ignoring the sales. As an independent publisher, you have to wear both hats. Start by putting together a media kit for your new magazine. A media kit is a couple pages, printed out (on good card stock), that act as a resume for your magazine. It features all of the details of who your magazine is for, how many you print, your distribution tactics, what ad spaces you offer, how much they cost, etc. I have always lived by the motto that the media kit should look better than the actual magazine.

In the beginning, most of your sales will not be because of your media kit—this is just an essential tool to have that you can leave with prospective advertisers. I could go on and on about how to sell ads for new magazines but if you read it, you’d have to send me a pretty big check as that is closely held information by all in the industry.

What I can tell you is: start with a plan. Call on advertisers that make sense for your magazine. It is a waste of time to try and sell an ad to Budweiser if you are a new magazine that is about quilting—it’s just not going to happen. Put yourself in that business owners’ shoes: would you consider buying the ad space? Back to the wedding magazine example, go and see all of the local wedding venues, planners, photographers, cake makers, dress designers, etc. Include a vendor directory in your magazine and offer inclusion in that directory at no extra charge for all new advertisers.

Now is not the time to get rich quick. You want to sell ads to pay the bills, and hopefully recoup your investment and promote your online business. That means pricing your ad offerings in reality. For an idea of what reality is, try and find out what similar magazines in your market are charging. Do not go too low on your pricing however. Believe in the value of your magazine—giving it away free almost guarantees future failure.

I know of one magazine that just kept throwing money at itself, starting in new markets without first being profitable in one and, to appear successful, they gave away their ad space for free. A couple years later and it is common knowledge in the media buying industry that no one pays for ads in that magazine, ever. If a potential advertiser says they want the space for less than you want to sell it for, pass on them politely and come back to them in a few months, when you can prove a stronger value to justify your rate card.

Most importantly, offer value to your advertisers. There are a gazillion different ways to do this, but it all starts with you delivering a strong, readable publication on time. The old under-promise and over-deliver adage works well here.

4. It’s layout time

It’s crunch time! Layout is hardly ever pleasurable. The first issue of a magazine I ever designed took me about 72 hours of work with about six hours of sleep in that period—not exactly what I call an awesome time. Make sure you know how to use your software before you need to start laying out your publication.

If you flip through a random magazine here and there, you will notice that a lot of them have an inconsistent layout throughout the book, meaning that the fonts and styles change every few pages or every story. If this style appeals to you, knock yourself out—just know that it is not a good practice to follow. You need to aim for a balanced flow with your layouts and a consistent overall look. The first page of content should look similar to the last page, and don’t stray too far in between.

Use a text font at or above eight points in size, and never smaller. Don’t forget those pictures: use lots and lots of pictures! Get into Photoshop and clean your photos up. I have spent at least 60 seconds with every photo I have ever placed in a magazine layout—it is a crime to run photos with zero post work done on them.

What you need to do is end up with a PDF file for each page of your magazine that you will give to your printer. Name each file in a standard way, e.g. p01_NAME.pdf. Covers will be labeled C1, C2, etc. You will have the option to view proofs of your files before your printer fires up the press to start your job (a big chunk of what you are paying them to do). Always look at every proof of every page; once it gets put on a plate and starts laying down ink, you are locked in.

Make sure you are happy with your printer. Do some research, talk to all of your local printers, and get quotes. It is tough to do but I have pulled it off many times—you can offer your printer one full page of advertising in the magazine for a discount on printing. Always control costs. I recommend getting your finished magazines carton-packed rather than skid-packed and wrapped in plastic, as this practice guarantees a percentage of waste as the magazines on the outside of the skid aren’t protected.

5. Distribute your magazines

If you are starting a magazine that will have National or a large ranging distribution, head straight to one of the two major magazine distributors. I won’t name them because they, in my opinion, make it very difficult for startups to get in the game. I will leave it at that.

If you are starting a locally distributed magazine, read on. Yes there are services that offer to distribute your magazine for you, they will do a poor job and charge you and arm and a leg for the privilege. Distribution is paramount. If no one sees, picks up or reads your magazine then it is just a waste of time, money and trees. A major part of your focus should be dialing in the best distribution strategy possible. Do not just toss magazines in front of stores, offices, bars, etc. and expect them to take the time to place them out in a neat fashion – they will end up in the dumpster out back. Do your own distribution. Personally ask permission from each distribution spot, not only is this the right thing to do but it is a great way to get your name out there and meet a few potential advertisers and/or clients for your online business.

The process never stops in the magazine game; it is a fight at all times. There will always be strong competition, new people looking for their share of a market and times where you feel like you are the only person that reads your magazine. But if you do not fight at all, it’s a guarantee that you will not win. There is a special satisfaction for standing on the end of a large printing press and peeling back that cover for the first time. Good luck!

Byline:

Deidra Wilson is a Las Vegas wedding photographer and has a background in small business and publishing magazines. You can check her out on Twitter where she posts about her life as a photographer in the desert she calls home.

Not Every Ebook is a Success, But it’s Always a Lesson

This guest post is by Chris The Traffic Blogger.

Ebooks have played a vital part in my business for all three of the years I have been operating. From free offers to successful products, these handy publications enabled me to earn quite a bit of money in three years, as well as grow an audience of over 11,700 members.

What I’d like to do for you today is go through a history of the ebooks I’ve written, and explain what I’ve learned along the way. My hope is that you will learn from my mistakes and failures as well as enjoy the experience of sharing in my story.

Ebook case study 1: $2030 in one day

My first ebook was written about World of Warcraft gold (the in-game currency for players) and how to make as much of it as possible, as quickly as possible. The ebook benefited from being sold to a highly receptive audience that I’d spent months building a relationship with.

Having only 500 subscribers made me nervous, but I went forward with writing the book and publishing it anyway. To my pleasant surprise, the ebook made over two thousand dollars in the first twenty four hours. I was absolutely ecstatic.

Why was it so successful? I didn’t know it at the time, but I had done quite a lot of things right throughout the process of creating, selling, and advertising my new ebook.

I used media that was perfect for gamers within my product, namely diagrams, audio casts and videos. This ensured that readers would absolutely love the product once they purchased it. I always find it interesting how people assume ebooks have to be … well … books! The “ebook” wasn’t just a .pdf file, it was actually a series of web pages that you needed to have paid for in order to visit. Being unconventional was one of the primary reasons for the success of the ebook.

The content itself was straightforward, easy to use and incredibly useful. I had worried that maybe I wasn’t writing enough, but as the sales poured in I soon realized that this was exactly what gamers were looking for: easy strategies that anyone could follow and be successful with. That’s what I was selling; solutions to their problems. Who wants a long-winded solution anyway?

To improve the number of successful sales, I used a huge number of websites, social media outlets, and forums to sell and/or advertise my ebook. I didn’t simply write “buy this now to be successful!” Rather, I took the time to engage members of these sites in conversation about similar topics. Eventually, someone would ask for more information, or if I had a website. That’s when I would promote my ebook, and it worked amazingly well. All those people who were reading the conversation but not contributing ended up buying the ebook, not just the few involved directly.

This is a life lesson for selling anything online: don’t try to sell outright. Instead, focus on answering questions. If your ebook is the answer, then you can feel confident recommending it within the discussion!

Ebook case study 2: Freebies for subscribers

Getting more subscribers to my autoresponder email sequence was very important to me throughout the process of building up my business. To increase the influx of new subscribers, I created an incentive to sign up: a short ebook broken up into seven emails. Each of these seven emails contained a very specific piece of information, and discussed how this could help readers succeed. These were an incredibly big hit to the tune of +220% new signups per day; once again, I made use of an unconventional way to share an ebook.

Free ebooks are one of the simplest ways to test how good an ebook writer you are. Splitting up the ebook into a series of emails is also a great way to distribute it, especially if you aren’t sure if your audience would want to download something from your site. This is particularly true if you are dealing with a group of users who are afraid to download anything online.

Ebook case study 3: A flop

Not all of my ebooks were amazing success stories. One in particular was my first book about making money online: The Why People Course. I chose to forget everything I did right with the past two ebooks and try something new.

It’s okay to try new things, but not at the expense of the lessons you learned in the past. I simply wrote up a very long peice (105 pages) on everything I knew regarding running a business online. There was no table of contents, just three gigantic sections of information. It was, to be frank, completely overwhelming for readers. Since I didn’t focus enough on any one area, many readers said that they felt the information was great but far too spread out to be truly useful. That’s not to say I am disgusted with the book, it’s actually pretty good in terms of content, but it’s nowhere near focused and organized enough.

Unfortunately, I also tried to really sell this book instead of engaging others in conversation about related topics. I told them to just go buy it and see for themselves, instead of proving the value I could bring through discussions and debate. I was a salesman instead of a friend recommending a successful product.

Why didn’t I write in such a way that the information was concise and immediately useful like my previous ebooks? Why didn’t I take advantage of unconventional methods for selling the book like I did in the past? For one, I fell victim to the lie that you have to do things a certain way in order to be successful selling an ebook. Because the niche was new to me, I felt that what I had learned in other niches was no longer true. I see this in the words of many of my readers who move to the make-money-online niche from either offline sales or similar businesses to my own. It’s not a good mindset to get stuck in.

The book earned very little and I went back to the drawing board.

Ebook case study 4: Re-focused

Black Sheep is my newest ebook and, I think, one of the best I’ve written. It combines traditional book writing methods with the new age of online concepts. I concisely define what it is I want to teach my buyers (critical thinking and decision making skills in order to improve their online businesses) and keep the book focused on only the information that will achieve this goal. Instead of 105 pages of fluff, I have less than 40 pages of actually useful and powerful information.

I’m still learning to write in the make money online niche and am nowhere near as successful with it as I have been in the gaming niche. However, I hope to continue to go back to what worked in game writing and apply the same concepts to writing for online marketers.

The next ebook I write will probably be for either making money online or a new gaming blog I’m starting about the Diablo 3 franchise. In either case, I will be going back to using outside the box methods for presenting the information within my next ebook, all the while remaining as concise as possible.

These are the lessons I have learned from successfully and not so successfully writing ebooks. What have you learned? Have you not tried to write an EBook yet?

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.

Use Showcase Sites to Boost Your Blog’s Loyal Readership

This guest post is by Issy Eyre of Fennel & Fern.

I’ll let you into a secret. One of the key ways I grew my traffic for my gardening blog Fennel & Fern wasn’t through clever SEO campaigns. It wasn’t through endless tweeting, or sucking up to other bloggers (although I’ve been guilty of all of those things—and more).

A showcase

Copyright mangostock - Fotolia.com

Instead, I used showcase websites to show off my content to a targeted group of users who I knew would love it. The lifestyle blogging community is lucky enough to have plenty of sites that showcase and link directly to quality blog posts, and these sites bring in a wealth of quality readers.

When one of my posts gets a StumbleUpon, I can get a thousand readers on my site within a couple of hours. But the average time spent on the site falls dramatically, from an everyday 3.5 minutes to just ten seconds, and naturally the bounce rate soars. These readers aren’t going to be digging into my site, or clicking on my advertisements, or subscribing to my emails.

But when one of my posts appears on the front page of TasteSpotting, 300 readers turn up, and the average time spent on site actually goes up to just over four minutes. The number of actions per visit is up as well, and I always see a little spike in email subscriptions. This is because showcase sites are targeted perfectly. I know that everyone who looks at my post on sundried tomatoes is a massive foodie, and so they’ll love my blog. They will read the whole recipe.

I’m such a big fan of the traffic-growing magic of showcase sites that I set up my own for the gardening blogging community, called GardenGrab. This also makes me quite popular with other garden bloggers, as I promote their content for them.

The best showcase sites

For food, try TasteSpotting, FoodGawker, Bkfst, and Refrigerator Soup.

For homes, craft and interiors, try ThingsYouMake, DwellingGawker, and CraftGawker.

There’s also WeddingGawker for anyone with a wedding blog.

If you’re a political blogger, you should try to get your content listed on the PhiWire of PoliticsHome (although many of the rules I list below about images etc don’t apply)

Word about these sites tends to spread through the blogging community they serve. A lot of blogs display badges which show that their posts are being accepted by a showcase site, so have a look at the sidebars of some of your favourite blogs for ideas. You can also search through tumblr for more showcase sites which fit your blog’s niche.

How to get your post accepted by a showcase site

A lot of showcase websites require you to register as a user and upload your post through the front page. You’ll need the full URL of the post, a description of the post, and a good quality image. On some sites you’ll upload and crop the image through the front page, while on others you’ll complete a form which pings to the site’s moderators so they can consider your post.

The first thing you need to realise about these websites is that they are entirely visually-driven. Your recipes might be the most delectable dishes ever produced, or you might be an incredible writer, but if you don’t submit a post with good-quality photos to any of these sites, then you’re wasting your time. There’s a useful guide on how to edit your photos so that they get accepted by a showcase site here.

All the sites listed above read every post submitted, so make sure yours is well-written. Most sites let you know when they have reviewed your submission by sending you an email, and the best give you feedback if your post has been rejected, normally on the basis of poor image composition.

Riding the wave

Probably the most useful post I ever read on ProBlogger was this one about surfing the wave of new users. all the principles in this post are even more important with a spike in traffic from a showcase site because your new visitors are already more likely to stick around and dig into your website.

Take this post I submitted to both FoodGawker and TasteSpotting on making sundried tomatoes. It ticks all the boxes for both sites, with eye-catching photography and an easy-to-follow recipe. But it is also ready for the readers when they come.

For starters, I’ve got a ‘Subscribe to our email updates’ button at the very top of my sidebar, and I’ve also got a related posts plugin at the bottom of the post, options for readers to share the post on nine different sites and a ‘subscribe to comments’ tickbox. All standard. But I want to give these eager foodies even more opportunity to dig further into my blog. So in the text of the post, I’ve recommended some varieties of tomatoes perfect for roasting. This shows that I’m an expert on the subject of tomatoes, and sends them scuttling over to the posts as well.

At the bottom of every recipe post I write, I always recommend my free to download postcard guides on growing the key ingredient in the recipe. It’s a great way of flagging up to the new readers that I have a product that can help them. Those cards are now the most popular page on my site, so the strategy is working.

Do you use showcase sites to drive targeted traffic to your blog? Which ones have you found most effective, and how do you engage readers once they arrive?

Issy Eyre started Fennel & Fern when she was just 21 years old to settle an argument with some friends that gardening wasn’t cool. Three years later, the blog now boasts a team of eight writers, its own gardening blog showcase site, GardenGrab, and a bunch of readers who agree that gardening is awesome. You can follow Issy on Twitter here.

Do You Spend Enough Time Looking at Your Stats?

This guest post is by Deb of Science@home.

Do you spend enough time looking at your stats?

What a statement to start with, given that the mantra seems to be to check once a week and don’t waste too much time on your stats. And I agree with what seems to be the reasoning—if you are spending all that time looking at your stats, what else could you be doing that’s more productive? There also seems to be an underlying feeling that for us little guys the stats might be just too darn depressing, so staying away might be good for your mental health and motivation.

Readers are people

Readers are people (image is author's own)

But I’m going to fight back for the little guys and stats junkies and say that if you use them right, stats are an extremely useful tool for building your community. Because for most of us, most of our community doesn’t talk to us. The number of comments, Facebook likes and Twitter replies is miniscule compared with the daily number of hits on our blogs, and when no one’s answering your questions you need another way to learn what makes them tick.

Your stats are the key to finding out what is important to all those people who have found you and like you but aren’t saying anything. I know it’s traditional to try to talk to those people and get them talking to you, but to get those comments in the first place you need to learn about the silent majority. The more you find out about them, the more likely you are to hit on what’s important to them.

Here are four ways your stats can help you learn about your community.

Nationality

It’s obvious, but can be important. Do you need to be aware of the seasons, holidays, and traditions of your readers? Even though I’m Australian, many of my readers come from the US and a large number are from Europe. This makes me consider how to balance my stories of running around in the bush and make sure I offer indoor activities too when my readers are snowed in. Plus it determines when I post and tweet—my posts go live in the early morning to catch US readers in their evening.

Origin

The big players are search engines and social media, but sometimes you get a spike in traffic from a specific forum or web community. If it’s public that’s great—you can get in and talk to the people thinking of visiting your site. But even if it’s private, it tells you something about your visitors—if you’re getting hits from a site on baby names, can you do some posts aimed at babies to capitalize on their interest?

What’s happening in their world?

One day I had a spike on a post called “13 Things to Do When it’s Raining.” Sometimes you can capitalize and sometimes you can’t. But the image of mothers all over the US East Coast being stuck inside and searching for something to do with their kids struck a chord. It made them into real people with real lives and problems that I could relate to, rather than “readers” or “hits.” And that’s at least as valuable as knowing which social media network they prefer, because it makes me write for them, rather than numbers.

I had another spike just after the earthquake in Japan on a piece I’d written earlier about plate tectonics and earthquakes. That was emotionally confronting—at once I felt horrible it was happening, and guilty for doing well out of it, but at the same time I was glad I could help explain it to people searching for an answer. It reminds me to take responsibility for what I write, because you never know when it might stop being interesting and fun, and become important.

What do they want?

One of my most popular posts of all time is about starfish babies. A bit of digging showed me that most of the information out there about starfish either doesn’t mention babies, or is fairly static. Looking at this and my other long-term popular posts taught me a lot about my audience and what they want to know. They are parents, teachers, people who are looking for understandable explanations of the quirky details kids demand. And they’ve secretly always wanted to know but none of the “official” information sources would give the information to them! The strange searches that bring people to your site are not just cause for amusement (although that can be fun too)—they tell you who your readers are and what they want from you.

Once you start getting readers who aren’t personally related to you, just looking at numbers is a waste of time. But don’t avoid your stats completely, because if you learn to listen they are your community talking to you.

If you’ve ever wondered why Daddies are bigger than Mummies or other weird and wonderful questions, Deb has the answer at Science@home. Plus lots of things to do with babies, toddlers and kids whether it’s raining or not.

The Mottos that Landed Me a Post on Problogger.net

This guest post is by Magz Parmenter of Tangerine Turtle.

Close your eyes for a minute and think about the biggest goal you have right now. Is it becoming a full-time blogger? Would you like to speak at a conference? Maybe you want to sell advertising on your blog. Whatever it is that you’re trying to achieve, you need to take the advice in this post. It’s how I succeeded with one of my biggest goals this year: to write for problogger.net…

I was going about my business, writing a post for my blog when I got a little pop-up message in the corner of my screen. It was Darren Rowse, you know, the Darren Rowse, from Problogger. Here’s how the conversation went:

Darren: “Hi Magz, I read your blog and liked what I saw. How about doing a guest post on problogger.net?”
Magz: “Wow! I’m flattered, Darren! Of course, I’d love to!”
Darren: “Okay, that’s great. Send me something and I’ll make sure to send it through to Georgina (the Content Manager at problogger.net).”

Okay, I’ll confess. None of the above actually happened. But wouldn’t it be awesome if it did?

The truth is, if you want to guest post for anyone, particularly an A-list blogger, you have to submit your ideas to them. Let’s be honest, they get thousands of emails asking them to please, please, please consider their amazing post. Particularly if you’re a new blogger, or even if you’re not (I’ve been blogging since 2005), getting to grips with pitching the big guns with your ideas can be daunting.

I’ll be the first to admit, it took me a good six months of reading and researching, interacting with Darren on Twitter and learning as much as I possibly could from heavy-hitters like Brian Clark, Jon Morrow, Pat Flynn, and the Blog Tyrant before I got the courage to pitch my ideas to the guys at problogger.net.

I. Was. Terrified.

To make matters worse, I sent my pitch on a Friday, and because of various factors like the time difference from the UK to Australia and Georgina’s work schedule, I didn’t get an answer until 1.30am on Sunday (Monday). I was sweating it that weekend!

So, How Did I Get that Elusive ‘Yes’ to Guest Post on Problogger?

In my former life, I used to be a counsellor. I’ve always been interested in psychology and what makes people do the things they do. I’m now a Personal Coach and I love helping people find ways to be more productive and successful in their lives, whether that means organizing their homes and offices, or organizing their thoughts.

I’m also addicted to Google. (They should give me shares, really. No … really.) Finally, I love inspirational and catchy quotes. Put these things together, and it should come as no surprise that I used the marketing slogans of four major companies to help me reach my big goal of guest posting here.

1.  Impossible is nothing (Adidas)

If you’re struggling, this motto might seem as believable as a pink elephant flying. But here are a few thoughts that will help you:

  • Your thoughts are influenced by words.
  • The words you tell yourself become your reality.
  • “Impossible” is a word.
  • So is “possible.”

If you tell yourself (or someone else) something over and over, eventually they will believe it. That is why parents are warned about the things they say to their children. If you tell a child continually that they are no good or can’t do something, they will start to believe it whether it’s a fact or not.

This is just as true for adults. In January of this year I did a productivity course and it changed my life. To see what I accomplished in just six weeks after the course, click here. One thing the speaker said really stuck with me:

There is nothing you can’t do that someone has already done before you.

Read it again, and then read it again a few times. When I saw the Adidas slogan “Impossible is Nothing” it immediately reminded me of that same thought. I realized these two statements were both extremely powerful tools to help me achieve my goals and be successful. I started repeating both of them to myself whenever I could. Every time I started feeling fearful or doubtful of my abilities, I would say one or both of them over and over until the feeling passed.

Do you know what? Over time, I found that I was doing it less and less. In other words, it had become my reality. It was no longer a strange sentence that I was just repeating, I actually believed it.

Impossible really is nothing: it’s just a word. It has no hold over you.

2.  What’s the worst that can happen? (Dr. Pepper)

It’s no secret that one of the main thing that holds us back from achieving our goals and dreams is fear. It may or may not come as a surprise to you to learn that many of the biggest experts out there also struggle with fear. We’re all human. We all hate the thought of failure or rejection.

The difference between successful people and the rest of the world is that successful people don’t let the fear win. They go for it anyway.

When you’re gripped by fear, ask yourself, “what’s the worst that can happen?” The Dr Pepper people took that thought and made a joke out of it, showing outrageous scenarios of things going wrong in their ads. If it helps you to remember those ads, do it. Sometimes it’s good to visualize the “worst” and then make a joke of it in your mind. (That won’t be appropriate for every situation, of course!)

When I was preparing my pitch to Problogger, as I said before, I was terrified.

But to conquer it, I asked myself, “what’s the worst that can happen?” The worst that could happen was that they would say “no.” Okay, the worst that could happen was that they would say no and then tell me how I had no talent whatsoever and that I should find a different job and never write again. But I was banking on them being more professional than that, and from what I knew about Darren, I thought it would be unlikely that he or any of his staff would be so soul-destroying.

As it happened, I got a “yes.” But if I had let the fear win and not even tried, I would not have achieved one of my big goals for this year, and you would not be reading this right now.

So, the next time you’re afraid to make a move that will push you towards success with your blog, or in your life, ask yourself, “what’s the worst that can happen?” The chances are, it’s not as bad as you think and even if it is, do it anyway—that’s what the big guns do!

3.  Because you’re worth it (L’Oreal)

After fear, the second biggest reason that people don’t achieve their goals and dreams is lack of self-confidence and self-worth.

They don’t believe they can do it, and more importantly they don’t believe they deserve it!

When I was younger and the L’Oreal ads would come on TV touting “because I’m worth it,” I used to smirk just a little bit. It was a catchy little slogan; I could see how women justified lots of purchases using this mantra. But really … how many of them really believed it?

Sadly, not many I would say. Research has shown over and over how low women’s opinions of themselves are. The issue isn’t confined to just women either; many men suffer from the same lack of self-belief.

As I’ve said before, what we tell ourselves becomes our reality, and unfortunately, too many of us tell ourselves that other people are better and more talented, smarter, more beautiful, and frankly, more deserving than us. To make matters worse, we tell ourselves this over and over and over, until eventually, it’s all we believe.

The fact is, none of us is more deserving than another. (I’m talking about hard-working people here; I’m not saying you can just do nothing and expect to get everything just because “you’re worth it.”) I am no less deserving of success in my life than Darren Rowse or Brian Clark or any other expert out there. I remind myself of this every day.

So the next time you think you deserve less than someone else in your niche, or in the blogosphere, tell yourself “I’m worth it.” Tell yourself over and over until you actually believe it.

4.  Just do it (Nike)

The last motto is one that really speaks for itself.

Just do it.

This is the last piece of the puzzle that will get you where you want to go.

After all the thinking and talking and preparing, you have to just go for it. You have to take the leap and take a chance. Doing nothing will get you exactly that: nothing.

When I was preparing my pitch, and indeed, this post, I went through all of the things I’ve talked about above. The hardest thing was just clicking the Send button. But that’s what you have to do.

When you’ve done everything else you can, all you have to do is:

Just Do It.

So, there you have it. Take the advice in this post and you’ll be guaranteed to achieve just about any goal you set for yourself and your blog. When you do, stop by and leave me a message, I love hearing about people’s successes!

Magz Parmenter is a Freelance Writer, Blogger, Personal Coach, Organizing Addict, and Author-in-Training. She specializes in writing about personal development, organizing for success, home and family management. She’d love to hear from you on her blog Tangerine Turtle, on Twitter: @magzparmenter or Facebook.

My Secret Formula for Creating Super-engaging Blog Content

This guest post is by Kiesha of WeBlogBetter.

Many of my readers have asked how in the world I come up with such creative ideas for my blog content.

If you’ve read:

  • “The Walmart Guide to Increasing Time spent on your Site,”
  • “Can your blog Pass the Salad Test?”
  • “Attract Readers to your blog like Mosquitos
  • “What the Sims Taught me About Social Media”
  • “How to Solve the Blogging Puzzle” (a post that compares blogging to a jigsaw puzzle)

…then you’ve probably figured out by now that there are no limits to the subjects I’ll squeeze a blog post out of.

I often challenge myself to find the most unlikely subject and see what blogging lessons I can squeeze out of it. While some things are a complete stretch and really won’t work, there are some surprising lessons you can pull from just about anything, if you’re creative enough.

I’m going to be honest: I’m using the phrase “creative enough,” but really what I mean is this. If you have a brain that has the capacity to think deeply enough to write a coherent paragraph or two, then you’ve got “enough creativity” to pull this off.

I’ll tell you how, but first let me tell you about a book that I read that really informs how I write today. It’s called The Medici Effect. This book talks about how it’s not completely new ideas, but the intersection of two seemingly unrelated ideas, that make a real difference in innovation.

I’m really simplifying the complexity, so you’re going to have to check this one out yourself to really get this and fully grasp the secret to creating meaningful and engaging content.

Here’s my secret formula for creating those zany analogies and surprising comparisons that I write about.

1. Pay attention to the surrounding environment

Every good writer is so because they pay attention to the details of life around them. They use those details and describe them with words that evoke the five senses: sight, smell, taste, sound, and touch.

Being able to describe an experience is key to hooking readers and keeping them engaged.

2. Squeeze lessons from personal experience

This is a direct extension of step one—if you’re paying attention your environment, you’ll discover that life’s lessons are everywhere. Blogging, like Kung Fu, is in everything!

You can pull lessons from any subject and then think about the ways they are similar to your blog topic.

This is easier if you make a list. For example, think of all the ways your experience in college is similar to your blogging experience. If I were to list mine I’d say:

  • Both were baffling at first.
  • Both required time studying alone.
  • Both required commitment and dedication to a schedule.
  • Both required one to stretch his or her thinking beyond the ordinary.

This list could go on and on. I might start with a really long list, but then I would narrow it down to the most important points, since only so much can go into a blog post if it’s to remain engaging.

3. Overcome fears and ignore the inner critic long enough to write

This step is extremely important. If you’re sitting there worrying about how crazy people will think you are or how much someone might think your analogy sucks, you’re not going to be able to do much writing. When you kick your inner critic to the curb and decide to just have fun with writing, it will come through in your writing. Confidence or lack thereof can be sensed and can weaken your credibility and authority.

4. Brainstorm catchy titles

If you’ve selected an interesting topic, then half of the work is done for you. At this point you just need to think of ways you can capitalize on those phrases that people love and that are also search engine friendly.

5. Revise and polish

This works best if I’ve allowed the post to sit for a couple of days. This gives me fresh eyes and since the mental load of revision is far less than writing, it also allows me to think of ways to inject humor, think of details I’ve left out, choose better words and also consider ways to extend the post if possible.

6. If you canít think of ideas to combine, try a dose of randomness

Randomly pick two items and think of ways they are similar and can complement each. Then boldly consider ways you could use the combination to your advantage. You may need to try this exercise a few times before you arrive at something you believe to be true genius that you can passionately use to separate yourself from your competitors.

It was the combining of seemingly random, unrelated ideas that sparked the idea to change up the blog contest game and do something different. I suddenly got the idea that I should host a reality blog contest where bloggers will team up and work together while simulaneously competing for a Grand Prize. I got that idea while reading The Medici Effect, specifically a passage that talked about what makes a good contest. It discussed the evolution of the game show over the years until it eventually turned into reality contests and shows—that immediately sparked a eureka moment for me!

That’s what combining unusual ideas should do for you and your readers. It will help you create super-engaging content that your readers won’t be able to resist.

Kiesha blogs at WeBlogBetter, offering writing, social media and blogging tips. She’s currently holding an exciting new type of contest on her blog—the first ever reality blogging contest called “Surviving the Blog”. Visit her blog for details.

The Warren Buffett Method for Building a Successful Blog

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

Billionaire Warren Buffett’s method of deciding which companies to buy and invest in is not only instructive for share investors, but also for bloggers. His strategy can be used in the blogging world to create a successful blog—especially instructive for bloggers who are short on time and need to make every post count.

Buffet’s “Durable Competitive Advantage” concept

When Buffett analyses a company for potential, he looks for what he calls a “durable competitive advantage.” A durable competitive advantage is a unique product that has a strong competitive advantage in the market and does not have to change over time. In other words, he looks for a product that he can profit from over a long period of without changing it much.

Coke, for example, has a durable competitive advantage because it does not change over time. The same can be said for Budweiser, DeBeers Diamonds and OPEC. A car manufacturer, on the other hand, does not have a durable competitive advantage because cars change in design every few years.

Companies with a durable competitive advantage like Coke enjoy the following advantages over other companies:

  • They spend fewer dollars on research and design.
  • They do not need to retool their production line to cater for new models.
  • They have a long life span in the marketplace.

This means that more money is available for profits and re-investment, allowing more to be achieved with less.

Applying Buffett’s principle to blog strategy

Buffett’s strategy is a great strategy for time-deprived bloggers. Simply put, it states that rather than buying companies that have time-sensitive products—or writing posts that are time sensitive—buy companies who products are evergreen—or write posts that are evergreen.

Rather than building a news site, which is what many bloggers do, build a resource. Build a source of information for your chosen topic. Write posts that focus on principles rather than techniques. That way your posts will be as relevant in four years as they are on the day you write them.

On my blog, for example, all the posts are about principles of consumer psychology. Each post adds to other posts and completes the overall picture. When I am done, I will have covered most of the principles of consumer psychology.

Exceptions to the rule

This does not mean that you cannot write about time-sensitive topics. You absolutely can and should from time to time (topical posts can bring you a spike of traffic in a short period of time). But the bulk of your blog should comprise of posts that are timeless. This way, if you are only writing one or two posts a week, you are making every post count not just for that week but for months and years to come.

If your skill lies in acquiring and communicating breaking news and trends, this strategy is not optimal for you. Similarly, if you can find ways to generate a lot of content quickly through crowd sourcing (think Huffington Post, Wikipedia, and ProBlogger), this strategy is not necessary for you. If you have the time, skill and strategy to write time-sensitive posts, by every means do so.

But for the rest of us, who are short on time and need to get the maximum mileage out of our posts, concentrating on evergreen content is a winning strategy.

As Buffett once explained, “There is a huge difference between the business that grows and requires lots of capital to do so and the business that grows and doesn’t require capital.”

Translated into blog strategy, this means there is a huge difference between the blog that requires breaking news to stay relevant and make money, and the blog that grows because its posts are as relevant today as they were two years ago.

Which strategy do you use on your blog, and why?

Aman Basanti has written for a number of A-list blogs including ProBlogger, MarketingProfs and Business Insider. He shares his secrets to getting guest posts on A-list blogs in his new FREE e-book – Guest Posting Secrets: 25 Tips to Help You Get More Guest Posts. Visit Ageofmarketing.com/guest-posting-secrets to download it now for FREE (No opt-in required).

How to Use Conversion Optimization to Grow Your Blog

This guest post was written by Alex of ToMakeALiving.

It’s pretty well established that to grow your blog you need to write well, and you certainly wouldn’t struggle to find a dozen or so posts which offer suggestions that mostly boil down to “learn to write good content.” Well, duh…

But assuming you can write, there is plenty of other stuff you can do to improve your blog.

So rather than launch into yet another checklist about how to make a nice looking, effective blog post, I am going to share with you a more scientific method: conversion optimization.

What is conversion optimization?

Quite simply, conversion optimization is the process of using measurable behaviour data and testing small or large changes to see what effect they have on the page or site.

Basically, you can change absolutely anything on your site and actually test it to see what works best. So rather than spending hours umming and ahhing over exactly what shade of grey to use for your text, you can test a number of shades and get a precise result.

Why is it so awesome?

Well, as I hinted at above—and I’m sure you’ve all done this once or twice—most bloggers design their sites based on how they like them; this is totally missing the point, though. Assuming you want to grow your blog, it is your users that matter, not your own personal tastes.

Your personal preference on how to lay out your navigation might turn out to be less desirable than a layout that you would have rejected. Small things really can make a big difference, and I don’t know about you, but I would rather pick the setup that gets and keeps the most readers.

How to get started

Like I said, we are going to do this scientifically, no guess work involved. So we are going to start by finding the right application. Google have a free Website Optimizer, which works just fine if you are on a budget.

If you can afford it though, I highly recommend Visual Website Optimizer—it is far easier and faster to use, which means you will use it more, and that’s a good thing.

What can you track?

All manner of things. But we are talking about your blog here. So what matters most for your blog? Well here are the things I tend to track:

Bounce rate

If you can reduce your bounce rate, you will retain more visitors. That’s got to be good, right?

Signups

You are hopefully trying to get people to sign up to your mailing list. The better your sign up form works, the more subscribers you will get.

Key pages

You can track specific pages and navigation paths from one page to another, for instance, from a particular post to a page which tells people about one of your affiliate products.

Once you get to grips with the process, you can start testing other elements, but these are good things to start with because they are simple to test and they will make the biggest difference to your blog.

Setting up your first experiments

Actually using the software is simple enough, and you’ll soon get to grips with it, so I’m not going to go through the nitty gritty. The biggest challenge starting out, though, is thinking up some experiments to run. So here are a few ideas.

1. Look and feel

How many times have you been torn about what color to make your text? What font to use? What background image looks best? Well, for our first experiment we are finally going to answer that question.

For my first experiment, I created three different backgrounds—one was just plain light blue (this was the original one), one was busier, with black swirls, and one had a color gradient. I ran the experiment with all three backgrounds being split equally among users.

The aim of the experiment was to see which background produced the lowest bounce rate across the entire site.

The results were actually pretty surprising—the swirly background came out with the lowest bounce rate, at 51%, and the second-best was the plain blue, which came in at 62%. So overall this one experiment helped me to reduce my bounce rate by 11%.

2. Signup form

For my next experiment, I decided to test whether a popup would increase my sign ups, and also whether a popup would increase my bounce rate. My main concern was that I didn’t want to push away or annoy my visitors, but I did want more people to subscribe to my blog.

I created a simple signup form, and set it so that it wouldn’t keep appearing for repeat readers. Then I ran an experiment that tested this popup against pages where the sign up form appeared as a widget in the side bar.

As expected, the popup increased signups; the shocking thing was by how much—across just over 1000 visits, the popup form produced 72% more signups. Even more surprising was that the bounce rate was actually 0.5% lower than the signup form.

3. Key pages

For experiment number three we are going to target a specific page. One of my key navigation pages is 8 ways to make money. I wanted to experiment with how best to lay out the page in order to get people to click through to a relevant strategy, and not exit the site or go elsewhere.

I tried a grid layout of 2×2 panels against a simple list. I also tried pages with and without small descriptions for each section, and I tried different bullet points. All in all there were about 6 or 7 alternatives, so I let the test run for a while so that I could be sure I had enough data.

The results showed me that a 2×2 grid layout worked best, short descriptions did help, and bullet points didn’t make any discernable difference either way (so I got rid of them). Overall, I was able to improve the goal rate (visitor clicking on any of the eight “strategies”) by 46%.

Building your own experiments

So there you have it: three experiments to try out. As you can see, these are all pretty simple. The key is that you are testing them with real visitors so that you don’t have to rely on guess-work.

Sometimes you might find that the best layout is the one you already had, but if you keep testing different variations, you can really improve your blog, one small change at a time. I started with things like background images and other simple changes, but you once you feel confident you can change headers, tag lines, navigation—or whatever you want.

Just imagine if you could halve your bounce rate and double your signup rate; wouldn’t that help you to grow your blog much faster?

Targeting specific pages

Just a final thought: once you are happy with your overall site layout, you can start trying to improve individual pages. I always start by looking at my analytics—one option is to look for any posts that have a relatively high exit rate.

These are pages which are losing you traffic, so again, if you can reduce your exit rate, you will retain more traffic and increase the time that people spend on your site.

Your actual experiment can involve changes whatever you like. Simple things might be adding/removing/changing images. You could also play with headings and subheadings, and you can even try a complete re-write of the page or test long copy vs. short.

Summary

I hope this post has given you some inspiration to go and get started with your own simple experiments. You can do a lot to improve your blog by simply getting in the right mindset. Results vary and you can never be totally sure what will and won’t work, but when you can see the numbers in front of you, and a clear improvement, it is very encouraging.

Have you tried conversion optimization experiments? Share your experiences in the comments.

This post was written by Alex from ToMakeALiving a site dedicated to showing you how to earn money online. The site covers all kinds of money making strategies and gives you the complete guide from planning to monetizing.