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How to Create a Website and Sell it for $200,000

This guest post is by Patrick Meninga of Make Money with No Work.

Over the last four years, I created a single website that exceeded $2,000 in monthly income, and sold for six figures to one of my direct advertisers.

When I started this journey, I had no idea what I was doing.  I wasted a great deal of time using actions that were inefficient, wasteful, and unprofitable.  Looking back, it is easy to see which actions produced the most income.

My action checklist for creating a website and selling it for $200,000 looked like this:

  • selected the perfect topic
  • published a high volume of content
  • created premium content to attract organic links
  • pitched premium quality guest posts
  • cultivated a community of fans
  • negotiated direct advertising deals
  • persisted through any setbacks
  • sold when the right offer came along.

Select the perfect topic

I chose the perfect topic for my website.  The subject of addiction worked because:

  1. I had expert knowledge and first-hand experience in it.
  2. There was sufficient traffic and interest in the topic on the web.
  3. There was money to made from related products and services.

If you want to creating a six-figure website, you’ll need to meet all three of these requirements.

How can you find the perfect topic?

Think carefully about where your expertise lies. What have you done, what have you learned, and what could you teach others? Brainstorm a list of potential topics based on your experiences. ProBlogger has some helpful suggestions on how to do this.

Next, filter your list of potential topics by profitability. ProBlogger has a detailed guide on how to do this.

Then, filter your list of topics based on potential volume. ProBlogger explores the idea of considering your niche’s volume in detail.

It is not enough to choose a topic in which you are an expert. You need to find the intersection between:

  • your expertise
  • sufficient traffic volumes and interest on the web
  • profit potential.

Publish a high volume of content

I sold my website for six figures because I published a large number of articles. This is how I attracted large volumes of search engine traffic.

My success stemmed from a mountain of content. Over the life of my website, I averaged three new articles per day, resulting in over a thousand new articles each year.

My website sold for six figures because it had a lot of quality content on it.

One of the most important things to implement is a daily quota for publishing new articles. Build a big website. Publish regularly. Writing multiple articles per day will result in the fastest growth. Volume matters. Ninety percent of my effort went into content creation.

Create premium content to attract organic links

One action I took was to create premium content. What is “premium content?” It is content that beats the competition on the web.

Search for you topic online, and glance through the top sites. Analyze the quality, depth, and usefulness of this content. Your goal is to write and publish content that exceeds the quality of what’s already out there. Create a better resource that is useful to your audience.

These are the actions I took to accomplish this with my website:

  • I designed custom infographics (even though I did not know exactly what I was doing!).
  • I published several free ebooks.
  • I helped anyone with personal questions via email for free.
  • I created videos to give the audience a choice of content formats.
  • I created a discussion forum where people could ask questions, get advice, or seek feedback from each other.

Few of my competitors were implementing these tactics, and many of these strategies generated organic links and word-of-mouth exposure for me.

Pitch premium quality guest posts

My website sold for six figures because it had enough authority to rank for many keywords. The site was pulling in over eighty thousand unique visits per month because it had a combination of lots of articles and enough authority to rank well. That authority was created through a handful of guest posts.

While ProBlogger already explores how to get your first guest post published, I want to highlight a couple of points that many people may not realize.

Firstly, because guest posting can be difficult, many people will turn to chasing easy, manufactured links.  Don’t do this!  While some links are very easy to get, they won’t be as powerful as a real guest post. Recognize that quality links are difficult to achieve but are well worth the added effort.

Secondly, with most topics on the web, you only need a few guest posts to create powerful authority. Do not be discouraged. Just start with a single guest post. Give things time. If you are not getting the results you want, add another guest post. This is part of a long-term strategy: give new links time to produce results.

Cultivate a community of fans

I created a fan base in a simple two-step process on my website:

  1. I engaged my readers by opening discussions with them about my articles, encouraging them to leave comments, and having conversations with them.
  2. I gave them a platform in which a community formed and took hold. For my site, this meant adding a discussion forum.

This approach was so successful that some of the fans spread the new forum via word of mouth, bringing in friends and growing the community naturally.

Thus, the action of cultivating fans must begin by engaging your readers. Start a discussion, have conversations, and build from that.

Negotiated direct advertising deals

While I built my site and earned decent money from it, I asked myself, “What if I could monetize more efficiently?”

I was using Google AdSense, so I set out with the goal to make a direct advertising deal. I made a list of each advertiser, then contacted them and inquired about going direct. This was my basic pitch:

“Look, you are already purchasing traffic from my website via Google. What if we were to cut out the middleman, do a direct deal, and both come out ahead for it?  Is that something that interests you?”

After contacting about 20 advertisers, five replied, and I struck three different ad deals. Each of these ran separately, and they had mildly successful results. In all three cases, AdSense delivered better results. There were two problems. First, our advertising contract was too short: there was not enough time to measure real results. Also, the advertisers didn’t have enough control over my website, and couldn’t fine-tune things to their needs.

Even though these direct advertising deals didn’t pan out, they were still valuable because I learned from them. Most importantly, the last direct deal that I made resulted in an unsolicited offer to purchase the website. This would not have happened had I not experimented with new forms of monetization.

Persist through any setbacks

During my journey to create a full-time income online, I experienced a few setbacks. The reason that my website sold for such a large amount is because I persisted through these setbacks and continued to improve the website.

In one instance, a Google algorithm update reduced my traffic by about 40%. I quickly made corrective actions and improved the quality of my content. This particular setback helped in that it raised my standard of quality for future posts. Instead of producing “good enough” articles, I tried to redefine what “premium content” meant to me. I challenged myself to be original, insightful, and helpful with each new article I published.

Sell when the right offer comes along

As I stated above, my last direct advertising deal resulted in an offer I could not refuse. $200,000 was a life-changing amount of money for me. I also had the knowledge and skill to build another profitable website.

Think carefully about your selling price, and keep it in the back of your head. If your website is earning $1,000 per month, would you sell the website for $30,000?  Why or why not?

My website sold for an outrageous premium because it was “best in class” in terms of original content, epic resource articles, and lots of free ebooks. The strength of the content and the community will allow the site to remain profitable long into the future.

Review your action list

To increase monthly income or sell your site for a huge premium, review the actions I’ve suggested in this article and make sure that you are addressing each of them. Six figures does not just fall into your lap, but if you are determined to work hard for your success, these actions can get you there.

Any questions? Let me know in the comments!

Patrick Meninga runs Make Money with No Work. Patrick recently sold his flagship website for $200,000 dollars and has since taken to sipping cold beverages on white sandy beaches.  He also recently launched a free eBook titled “Ninjanomics – This Changes Everything.”

5 Ebook Publishing Hurdles, and How to Beat Them

This guest post is by Paul Jun of Motivated Mastery.

During the journey of writing my first ebook, there were many roadblocks and sudden realizations that I faced; it’s only right for me to share them with you so that you can avoid undermining your ebook’s true potential, or at least starting from scratch.

Below you will find the crucial issues that you must overcome when it comes to writing the ebook and marketing it. Answering these questions mindfully will help you stay on track, deliver a compelling ebook, and prepared you as best as possible.

Don’t count other people’s money

Halfway through my book, when I was brainstorming out loud with my two friends, I realized something: the style of this book was someone else’s; it wasn’t original. I had emulated too much of their format.

The thought of having to start all over kept flashing through my mind. A friend of mine told me, as my head was between my knees: “Listen, you can’t copy someone else’s style of book just because they did well on it. You have to create your own book, your own style. Be original. Be you.”

You may have read ebooks and also witnessed the sudden growth of the owner’s blog and subscription numbers, and you told yourself that you could do the same. The truth is that you can, but you have to be wary that you aren’t basking in someone else’s success; it’s easy to get lost in the thought of this ebook being the end to all your problems. You need to work beyond your limits to produce something compelling. Writing this ebook may change you a little…

Evaluate your approach

I had to do some reevaluating—some beer-with-classical-music-in-background-style thinking. I asked myself some questions:

  • What is this ebook about?
  • What do I have to offer my audience?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • What will they receive from reading this?
  • How can I build a relationship with my readers?
  • How long do I want to make this so it doesn’t feel like I’m barfing a bunch of history and facts on them?
  • Do I put a price on this? (We’ll get to that.)

These were all questions I had to ask myself, and answer mindfully.

If writing an ebook has been on your mind, these are crucial questions you should be asking: they will help you stay focused on what you’re delivering. The worst thing you can do is veer off topic or not meet your target audience’s needs. Do that, and you’ll lose your readers’ attention and possibly their trust.

Have you ever read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield? It’s a must-read. In this book, Pressfield talks about resistance. That’s it. He focuses on the entity, he breaks it down to the bare essentials, and he presents it to you in an easily digestible way. He makes it relate to you. He reveals something that you knew was there but could never put a name to. (You can also listen to his interview with Copyblogger here).

That’s a powerful book: Pressfield never veers off track, he doesn’t overload you with information in each chapter, and he explains how to swing the sword to slay the dragon.

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing fiction, self-help, romance, comedy, or vampires ravaging cities—the topic of your book must stay focused through the beginning, middle, and end.

Without answering the questions above and having a clear target audience, it doesn’t matter what kind of guest posting and marketing you do: your book will never reach the audience it’s meant to.

A simple question to ask yourself is: Who am I writing to? Can you envision that person? This usually helps a lot. When Stephen King wrote, he always had his wife in mind.

Rely on teamwork

Ever read the end of a good book, or any book for that matter? It was never crafted by one person; it was made by a team of people: a spouse, family, or friends assisted in the making.

In order for your ebook to stay focused, you need people to edit your work and tell you where parts are confusing or out of place. My one friend was the editor, carefully picking at every word, as well as the punctuation, format, and tone; my other friend helped me brainstorm: we would spend two hours every morning just talking about the book, what I wanted it to do, how I want it to affect people, and so on.

This helps tremendously; it’s safe to say that it’s absolutely imperative to the creation of your book. This is not a solo venture, or for the weak, or the fainthearted. Writing an ebook—and a compelling one at that—is hard.

Over the last year, I networked with some amazing people, and they all provided me valuable insights that pulled me back into place when I was close to falling off the edge (thank you Sean PlattJeff Goins, and Danny Iny). A little bit of feedback can go a long way. That one thing that someone says to you can be the missing puzzle to your problem.

Networking is the lifeblood of growth and success. Bloggers don’t become popular by themselves: they build a network of friends and like-minded individuals who help each other out along the way. Don’t be afraid to reach out—as a matter of fact, you should reach out; you should talk to your friends, other bloggers, writers, and authors, and you should use email to your advantage.

Free or paid?

At some point, the question will hit you: What will I charge for this ebook? $1? $2? $10? Or will I make it free? And where will I publish it?

You could do any of a few different things, but be sure to read up on the Terms & Conditions:

  • offer your ebook in PDF format as a subscription or newsletter opt-in bonus on your blog
  • publish through Kindle
  • Publish through Smashwords, an indie publishing website
  • Publish through iBooks
  • publish through Barnes & Noble’s Nook.

Note: If you go the Kindle route, you can either opt into their program or not; if you don’t, you can publish anywhere, but if you opt into the KDP Select program, your ebook will be locked in for 90 days and only be exclusive to Amazon. Also, if you go through Smashwords, they will assist publishing your ebook to iBooks, Nook, and other platforms.

In order to build your online authority, you need to build trust and relationships. Content is good, but you need more than that. You need to create something—from your knowledge or experience or techniques—that alleviates stressful situations, breaks down difficult concepts, or simply educates in a simple and informative way. By doing this, you build trust with your audience. Your blog offers them a place to continue to the conversation and know more about your cause.

Why do you think the popular bloggers have such a large following? They know something important and insightful, they know how to explain and teach it, they create an accessible product that is viable on a multitude of platforms, and they consistently over-deliver.

Deliver to the best of your ability, prove your authority, build relationships, and it will spark limitless possibilities.

When it comes to pricing your first ebook, here are some things to consider:

  • What is my strategy for making it free or paid?
  • Who am I trying to reach with this offer?
  • How will my audience react?
  • What are my limitations? You can’t have the cake and eat it too, so really think over your strengths and weaknesses.
  • What is your rationale for charging or making it free?
  • How can this build relationships and trust?
  • Are you simply just releasing an ebook to release it, or do you have long-term goals for this?

These questions I cannot answer for you; they depend on your measure of value, strategy, and goals for your product.

Think it over. There is no wrong answer. This may not be your only ebook, so every opportunity is a chance to experiment.

Devise a strategy

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win” — Sun Tzu

You want your ebook to spread like airborne virus. You want this ebook to be on every tablet, smartphone, laptop, and desktop. You want to make some serious noise, and this requires you to devise a strategic plan.

Before you launch your ebook, I advise you to take these steps:

  • First, get the permission of your friends, network, niche—whoever is willing to endorse your eBook.
  • Use your blog as a launchpad and a place for your audience to find and contact you.
  • Build hype; give your audience a sneak-preview and let them know when you plan to release it.
  • Send out a newsletter or do a blog post asking for assistance. (You’ll be surprised who steps up to the plate.)
  • Get the permission of other bloggers to do a guest post.
  • Have guest posts lined up, ready to be shot out all at once, so that you’re visible everywhere.
  • Use social media to market your book through hashtags, calls to your followers, daily tweets, and more.
  • Create a succinct, compelling page on your blog that promotes your book and tells your readers how to get it.
  • Reach out to your community, niche, friends, family, and networks.
  • Remember to always thank your readers and helpers.

It doesn’t end there…

You have to keep this going. People may come to your blog, but it’s your job to get them to stay.

This is your moment, your debut, the opening scene. Will you shock and awe, or will the launch of your book simply fail because you lack strategy? You are in control of this outcome. Hard work, smart planning, networking, and momentum are required of you.

If you want this to be the inception of something remarkable, answer the above questions mindfully, reach out to your friends and networks, and use what you can effectively so that your ebook may reach its audience.

Paul Jun is a writer and author of Building An Empire With Words. His blog, Motivated Mastery, is about inspiring mindfulness, simplifying your life to make room for what’s important, and harnessing the effectiveness of free will. You can also find him on Twitter (@PaulJun_). His eBook will be available for free the day this post is live.

From Hobby Blog to Business Blog: a Plan of Attack

Many—perhaps most—blogs start life as hobby blogs. We have a special interest, and we want to share our passion with others, so we start a blog. But then somewhere along the line, a large proportion of bloggers decide they’d really like to make some money from their blogs.

This is my story—I started blogging for fun, and liked it so much I set myself the goal of doing it for profit. Examples like this convince many to try their hand at turning hobby blogs into businesses, but the process really isn’t as simple as it seems on the surface.

There are a few tasks I believe we really must spend time on before we consider turning a hobby blog into a business.

1. Assess the niche

If you have a hobby blog, you’ve probably already chosen a niche. But to make the decision to turn it into a business, you need to know if the niche is large enough, and profitable enough, to generate an income for you. I’ve written about choosing a blog niche before, but basically there are a few things you’ll need to assess:

  1. the size and popularity of the niche
  2. the size and strength of competition
  3. the scope within the niche for ongoing, growing monetization (some niches and markets are, obviously, easier to monetize than others).

2. See if your monetization plan suits

It’s one thing to blog in a niche with a strong profit potential; it’s another to actually make money from your blogging within that space. Different niches are suited to different kinds of monetization. While you might love blogging in your hobby niche, and it might have strong potential to generate advertising revenue, for example, you may not want to put ads on your site or in your newsletters. If you want to make money in this niche, you’ll have to find another way to do it—and that way might be different from what everyone else is doing.

On the other hand, you might have big plans for monetization, but find that your niche can’t sustain them. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your ideas are “bad”—it may just be that the niche isn’t sufficiently mature for there to be enough people to take up your offer, or that, for instance, the niche is a low-value one and audience members aren’t used to paying higher prices for more value-rich offerings.

If your hobby blog’s going to become a business, you need to pitch your profit-making tactics at a level that’s matched to a sufficiently large audience segment.

3. Make a plan

I have to admit that I’m a bit better at preaching this point than practising it, but if I were looking to turn a hobby blog into a business today, I’d make a plan. That plan would have the current status of my hobby blog as a starting point, and a revenue (and profit) figure as an end point. In between, I’d plot out the key steps I’d need to take to move from hobby to business.

Those steps might include things like:

  • building on my existing content inventory
  • market testing product ideas
  • a clear plan for ongoing reader attraction, engagement, and loyalty-building, perhaps with numerical targets attached
  • working out a stepped approach to turn my blog’s loyal readers into paying customers
  • plans for developing my own ability to generate income (which might include things like using ad management systems, establishing contact with potential advertisers or sponsors, taking a writing course or SEO training, etc.)
  • …and so on.
  • I’d definitely encourage you to put a time limit on your plans. I did this when I decided to try blogging professionally—I had six months to make it work. If it wasn’t generating an income in that time, I’d have to look for some other want to make a living. Having this time limit on things gave me motivation to really get stuck into what I was doing. It also gave me a light at the end of the tunnel, because if I hadn’t enjoyed it, or it hadn’t worked, I’d have had an “out”—permission to cut my losses, rather than keep trying to make a go of a failing effort.

    That thing called passion

    The one thing that anyone who’s ever pursued a passion for profit has wondered is whether making a hobby into “work” will kill their enthusiasm. There’s really no answer to this question—I think it’s something you probably need to test for yourself.

    One thing’s certain, though: if you want to make money from a hobby blog, and you succeed in doing that, your passion is much less likely to flag than if you struggle with the challenge from the start. I think the best way to avoid risking losing your passion for your hobby is to research and plan well, perhaps along the lines I’ve outlined here—though of course your preparatory work will depend on your niche, your area of focus, your experience, and your audience.

    Have you ever turned a hobby blog into a business? Share your story with us in the comments.

Brand Yourself in Four Simple Steps

This guest post is by Crissie Fuller of Independent Fashion Bloggers.

Think about your resume. You stress over making it perfect, sweat every little detail—from the wording, to the layout, all the way down to your “Special Skills.” It’s your ticket to your dream job and you know it needs to be good. But hold on! Your resume might not be the be-all-end all of potential employer wooing anymore. We heard it over and over again: The Blog is the New Resume.

It makes sense when you think about it. When you’re applying for a job in the digital world, your new boss is going to want to know what your digital life looks like. How do you stand out from the crowed of others scrambling for an open position?

Brand yourself.

It’s not as scary as it sounds. You don’t need billboards or even crazy design skills! Let’s start small.

  1. Choose a color scheme you love and few fonts you can’t get enough of, and use them across the board: on your blog posts, your Twitter profile, business cards, letterhead—even your traditional resume (the list goes on and on!). That wasn’t hard, right?
  2. Streamline your profile pictures. You want your Google + page, Linkedin profile, Twitter profile, and Pinterest account to all have the same image, so that people who don’t really know you still know they are looking at the same person across all digital channels. When your future employer see this, they’ll spot your attention to detail, dedication to your craft, and above all, your understanding of the digital space. It’s a simple technique, and yet very, very effective. For example, when I applied for my current job, I sent in my resume and cover letter, both of which linked to my web page. The font on my web page matches the font on my resume, and I use the same background image across all my spaces (my blog, Tumblr, Twitter, even my Facebook page, which might be a little over the top, I admit…).
  3. Standardize your user names. This is an area in which I am seriously lacking. In some places I’m Crissie Fuller, in others Fuller.Cris and sometimes just the name of my blog, Chicasaurus-Rex. Ideally you want to use the same name across all platforms, but whether you choose your name or the name of your blog is really up to you. However, Erica Domesek of PS – I Made This suggested using your blog name during IFB’s semi-annual blogging conference (and really, if you want to see great branding, check out her blog, Twitter account, book, etc.!) But whichever you choose, keep it consistent. And don’t forget: you want to have exactly the same handle on Twitter and Instagram (if you can)!
  4. Besides the look of your brand, you want your voice to be consistent as well. You should always sound like you. It’s fine (good even!) if you are slightly more formal on LinkedIn and in cover letters, but you should never use big words and fancy phrases just to sound smart; your employer (and especially one hiring in the digital space) wants to hear your voice, not some regurgitated version of “the ideal cover letter” you found on Google.

To summarize, there are four easy steps to creating your personal brand:

  1. Use uniform fonts and colors for all your online and offline collateral (blog, Twitter, business cards, etc.)
  2. Streamline your profile pictures. Use the same one for all your online accounts.
  3. Make sure your user names all match!
  4. Find your voice and always write in it. Alter the tone to fit the audience that you are speaking to, but be sure you always sound like you!

What other tips can you add?

A University of California Santa Cruz and Fashion Institute of Technology graduate, Crissie Fuller is the Digital Strategist at Independent Fashion Blogger (IFB), a collective mentorship dedicated to enabling bloggers reach their social media goals. When she isn’t busy writing and developing digital content for IFB, Crissie spends her time exploring New York and documenting her personal style adventures on her blog, Chicasaurus-Rex.

The Taylor Swift Guide to Growing a Massive Fan Base

This guest post is by Jennifer Blanchard of InkyBites.

If you haven’t heard of Taylor Swift, you’ve probably been living in a cave the last few years. Swift is the teen country sensation who took on the music industry starting at the ripe age of 13, and became one of the biggest musical acts in the entire world only a few short years later.

On Twitter she has more than 10 million followers. On Facebook, she has a whopping 27.8 million likes—that’s more than all three of the Kardashian sisters combined!

Not only is Swift one of the most popular musicians in the world (her concerts usually sell out in under two minutes), but she’s also critically-acclaimed: she’s won two-thirds of the awards she’s been nominated for.

There’s a reason for all of Swift’s success. And it’s not because she’s the best singer-song writer in the world (although she’s actually pretty darn good at that, too).

It’s because she knows how to connect with people. She knows how to tug at their heart strings and wrap them around her finger. Funny thing is, she doesn’t do it with her music alone.

While she has received criticism for being just a tad too open with her personal life (she’s known for writing songs all about her exes), it’s being so open about her life that helps people connect with her. She sings of stories her fans have experienced, too. Her music has touched the lives of millions of people and she has become the voice of her generation. But even that isn’t why she has a massive fan base that supports her unconditionally.

She has a massive fan base because she’s mastered the one skill most people spend their lives ignoring: gratitude.

She lives gratitude day-in, day-out. She uses the words “thank you” more than any other phrase in her vocabulary. And she goes out of her way to show her fans how grateful she is for their love and support.

A couple years ago, Swift held a meet-and-greet for her fans where she stayed for 13 hours and met every single person who showed up to see her. Thirteen hours! How many celebrities do you think would do something like that? T

This is all part of what makes Swift special and what makes her fans love her and support her. If you want to grow a massive fan base of your own, here are some tips you can take straight from Swift:

1. Go above and beyond … and then go another mile

Swift’s fans will follow her anywhere, because she always meets them halfway. During her “Fearless” album tour, she went out into the crowd in the middle of two of her songs to hug fans and thank them for coming to the show.

And this was not an impromptu occurrence like you sometimes see at concerts. This was a planned walk into the crowd during the same two songs at every stop on her tour.

“It was really important for me to go out there and actually say hi to people and thank them for coming and be right there next to them … I’m always gonna wanna go the extra mile for them because I can’t believe the extra thousand miles they’re gone for me,” Swift said in the HUB Network documentary series, Taylor Swift: Journey to Fearless.

If you want to grow your fan base, you have to figure out where your fans are and meet them there. Find ways to go above and beyond for them.

If your fans are all hanging out on Google+, that’s where you need to be. Host a series of Hangouts and invite them to join in. Or if your fans are all about Pinterest, logon and start building some boards for them to follow.

Post special content you only share in that one place or host special events for fans in that channel. Go out of your way to show your fans you appreciate each and every one of them.

The more you do this, the bigger your fan base will grow.

2. Reward your super-fans

Swift wanted a way to thank her super-fans, so she put together a T Party event that would happen after the show every night she was on tour. Each night during the concert, her crew went out into the crowd to find the craziest Taylor fans and give them passes to the T Party.

When the show was finished, the super-fans went backstage to the T Party area, which was a Moroccan-style tent set up like a living room with ping pong, TV, and pizza. Swift showed up shortly after the guests arrived to hang out, meet everyone, sign autographs, and thank them for being there.

“The T Party is a way for me to get to meet people after the show … who I just felt so grateful to have on my side. The T Party room gives me an opportunity to say that to them and to give them a hug,” Swift said in the same documentary series.

Do you have super-fans? You know, the people who buy everything you put out there and will drive a ridiculous distance to see you speak/play/perform? Show your super-fans how much they mean to you by personally reaching out to them and offering up something of value—a free coaching session, signed copies of all of your books, whatever it is you do.

When you show your fans—and especially your super-fans—how much they mean to you, you’re stoking the fire of building an incredible fan base.

3. Find ways to surprise people

One last way Swift showed fans how much they mean to her during her “Fearless” tour was she would pop up at the back of the arena during the intermission of the show and play one of her songs on the landing of the stairs, surrounded by fans who weren’t able to get seats up front.

Then she’d continue the show for a little while on a stage near the back of the arena before eventually going back to the front stage. She did this so the “worst seats in the house became the best seats in the house.”

How do you show up for your fans? Is there a way you can surprise them?

For example, if you’re on a blog book tour, do your reading, sign autographs, and then invite everyone who showed up to meet you at a restaurant nearby for dinner. Bonus if you pay for everyone’s meal.

There are literally thousands of ways you can go out of your way to make your fans feel loved and appreciated. Practice gratitude in your life, on your blog and in your business, and in no time you’ll be on your way to growing a Taylor Swift-style fan base.

How do you go out of your way for your fans? What have you done to show them how grateful you are for them?

Jennifer Blanchard is the founder of InkyBites, where she helps artists nourish their creativity by making simple diet and lifestyle changes. Visit the site to grab her free “Clarity Smoothies and Other Energy-Sustaining Snacks” eGuide.

How to Overcome the “I Wish” Mentality and Start a Blog

This guest post is by Adarsh Thampy of Conversionchamp.

I wish I started my blog a long time back when there was a lot less competition.

I wish I was able to write great content from the start.

I wish I had the money to purchase hosting and set up a self-hosted WordPress blog.

I wish, I wish, I wish…

How many of us have wished for something like this in the past? Or, worse yet, is still wishing for things to happen just like that?

I know I have. And I bet a lot of you have wished for something similar as well.

The problem with the “I wish” mentality

Do you know what’s stopping you from becoming the most sought after blogger in your niche?

You!

Yeah, you heard me right. The biggest obstacle to your blogging success is none other than you.

I know this for a fact, because I have been in the same position. I started many blogs, built many successful ones … and then let them die. Yeah, just like that.

There wasn’t enough motivation for me to keep going. So in effect, I was my own bottleneck.

Right now I am determined to change all that. Today, I want to share what I have learned from the past five years of blogging with you so that you realize:

  • there’s no reason why you can’t be a success today, even if you feel you should have started a blog long time back
  • consuming more information may be counterproductive for you
  • there is no reason why you should have a self-hosted WordPress blog either (I do believe that having one is best for business, though).

3 Rules for overcoming the “I wish” mentality

Rule #1: Stop wishing

First of all, you need to realize that wishing is not going to make things any better.

Sure, you could wish you started blogging five years back. But five years down the line, you’d be surprised to find that you’d still be thinking the same. You’ll think then, “I wish five years back I wasn’t dumb enough to not start a blog because I thought I was too late.”

If you keep on wishing, the only thing that’s going to happen is that you’ll never realize your dreams, and others will get ahead of you.

So rule #1 for overcoming the “I wish” mentality is to stop wishing. If you want to wish, wish for world peace. If at all your wish comes true, you’d be satisfied that you contributed to a greater good.

Rule #2: Stop consuming too much information

When I started out, I believed that reading all the information I could get my hands on was the best way to learn and grow. How wrong I was!

Information is always good. But once it becomes too much, it’s going to negatively affect your growth.

At one point I was on a buying spree, and spent more than $2000 on information products and courses. Guess what I did with all that information? Nothing! Really, those courses and ebooks are sitting in my computer collecting digital dust. I haven’t even consumed 5% of everything I bought. Talk about a waste of money.

“I wish” I could go back in time and stop myself from buying so many info products and save some cash. But there’s no use wishing. The damage is already done.

I want you to stop investing your time and money into learning as much as you can. You’ll end up wishing for more information. So stop buying things you don’t actually need. Instead, act on what you already know.

Rule #3: Stop thinking about being a pro all the time

We all want to be pros, right? You can either be a “somebody” in blogging or be a “nobody” in blogging. Which would you chose? I’d rather choose the “somebody” over “nobody” any day.

And what’s the first pro tip we all read about blogging? That you need to have a self-hosted blog. If you run a business, there is no doubt that it’s true. But if you are starting out, there is no reason for having a self-hosted blog.

People think that they need to appear professional in order to get acceptance, and they wait for the perfect time to start so they have enough money for hosting and a domain name, getting a unique theme coded for their blog, and even learning coding to customize the blog themselves.

Do you see a problem here? You are just adding complexity to what is, at heart, a rather simple thing.

Most people never get around to getting everything done, so they don’t start a blog at all. So just start a free blog on WordPress or Blogger if you don’t have the money right now to go the self-hosted route. Having a blog is better than not having a blog.

Over to you

Are you still stuck with the “I wish” mentality, or have you experienced it? How did you overcome it? Let us know in the comments.

Adarsh Thampy is a blogger and advices small and medium business on effective content marketing strategies. You can read more on the topic of content marketing by following Adarsh @conversionchamp.

5 Epic Blogging Lessons Learned from Parenting Five Rowdy Kids

This guest post is by Ruth Zive Ruth Zive Copywriting.

Most of my readers and clients know me as a freelance copywriter and content marketing strategist. But the truth is, I’m operating under cover; my real identity is SuperMom to a brood of five rowdy children (including one that is a wee bit chromosomally enhanced).

I’m actually not that “super,” but I’m most certainly Mom, first and foremost. It’s a busy, messy, loud, hectic, demanding, and unbelievably rewarding job. Each of my five children has taught me valuable lessons that have informed all aspects of my life. Because of my kids, I am a better human being—and definitely a more effective professional.

There is a lot of crossover in my life—my work blends into my mom-related duties, and vice versa. My children have taught me a lot about blogging, writing, social media, and content marketing strategy (albeit an inadvertent effort on their part).

Hopefully these five epic blogging lessons, learned from parenting five rowdy children, will help you to gain traction and grow your online presence.

1. Stick to a schedule

Between dance lessons, basketball practice, speech therapy, school carpools, high school exams, doctor appointments, and parent-teacher interviews, it goes without saying that my head would explode if I didn’t stick to a schedule.

And forget about my sanity; my children thrive with a routine.

Takeaway

Similarly, you will create a sense of momentum with your blog if you settle into a routine—and you can incorporate this fundamental discipline in a variety of ways.  For instance, you’ll want to:

  • Map out an editorial calendar and write your posts predictably. Not only will you be more productive, your readers will come to appreciate your routine and will know when to visit your site for new content.
  • Plan your blogging time strategically—make sure to budget time for writing, reading, commenting and social media.
  • Work your blogging priorities into the rest of your daily schedule. Don’t forget to leave time for personal interests and priorities and other work-related responsibilities.

It took me a while to settle into a predictable routine (heck, life’s rarely predictable with five children).  But going through these motions helped me to be much more productive and focussed as a mom and a writer.

2. Know your audience

I often have to tailor my parenting style to the unique interests of the specific child I am addressing.

One of my kids will follow instructions only if we make eye contact and I resort to threats and bribery. My youngest daughter, on the other hand, needs a lot of handholding and coddling, no matter the circumstance. And the middle child will do pretty much anything as long as it involves chocolate.

Takeaway

Your blog readers will invariably share certain qualities and it’s important to know what those are; but remember that they also have unique interests. Segment your target market accordingly and be flexible in your style to accommodate their needs.

For instance, on my blog, I’m essentially appealing to three different target markets:

  • independent copywriters and bloggers
  • c-level and marketing executives
  • independent business owners and entrepreneurs.

All three groups are interested in learning more about content marketing strategy.

But I tweak my focus, depending on which group is on my radar.  When I’m speaking to the first group, I might write about landing copywriting clients, setting your fees and injecting personality into your writing.  But the second group, by contrast, is more interested in how to leverage the impact of social media to drive your content marketing campaign.

Same overarching intention, but a personalized and targeted approach based on the reader’s unique needs.

3. Get social

There is nothing my kids appreciate more than lively conversation around the dinner table, family game night, or a spontaneous adventure. The deeper the interaction, the more impactful. Mommy time trumps iPods, computer games, and the latest, must-have fashion accessory without fail.

And while my time is certainly limited, I seek out opportunities to engage with each child in a meaningful way.

Takeaway

You may have the most phenomenal content on your blog, but if you aren’t getting social, it’s a big fat waste of time!

Blogging is a big time suck, and it can be very hectic and overwhelming.  But starting now, every day, make sure that you:

  • take time to comment on other people’s blogs
  • cultivate relationships with prolific bloggers and industry experts
  • leverage the benefits of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

And most importantly, be authentic in your interaction.

I know what I’m talking about here.  Some of the best professional contacts that I’ve forged have been on Twitter.  It sounds ridiculous, but it’s 100% true. I was invited into a Mastermind group on Twitter; I was approached by someone on Twitter to edit an ebook; and I found a genius WordPress programmer on Twitter who solved some very troubling issues on my blog and saved me a small fortune. So don’t underestimate the importance of social.

4. Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture

Some days, I feel that my time is entirely consumed with meal preparation, laundry, housekeeping, carpooling—with some hysterics thrown in for good measure.

On those days, I have to remind myself that the time I invest in menial (and sometimes unpleasant) parenting tasks fuels the bigger picture payoff. Hopefully, because of my efforts, my children will emerge happy, secure, and confident with a sense that they can always rely on their Mom.

Takeaway

Blogging can be an exhausting, tedious, and slow process.

You have to do the grunt work if you’re going to reap the bigger picture benefits. Write often; read even more often; solicit feedback; invest in your blog’s design; learn how to optimize your site … do it all over again.

At first, it was hard for me to see the forest for the trees; my blogging experience seemed entirely mired in minutiae.  So I started to keep a journal—to track my progress from month to month, noting my higher level achievements so that I could have those in mind when I felt discouraged.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try keeping a journal so that you can maintain better perspective and not lose sight of the bigger picture.

5. Keep an open mind

Sometimes, no matter how well organized I am, irrespective of how much I’ve considered my children’s unique needs, and even with a perfectly planned schedule and a bigger picture focus, the stars misalign and my efforts are in vain.

Woody Allen once joked that if you want to see God laugh, tell him your plans. Things are bound to go awry with children, and with blogging!

Takeaway

Keep an open mind. Blogging is a journey (much like any entrepreneurial pursuit) and you learn along the way.

  • Plans transform.
  • Resources shrink or grow.
  • Goals evolve.

You need to be flexible and adapt to changes.

I’ve encountered this reality first-hand in a dramatic way.  After six months of blogging, my readership and subscriber base had skyrocketed.

I had faithfully cultivated relationships with other bloggers and using social media. I had great traction. But Danny Iny, of Firepole Marketing, recommended that I redo my site and position myself differently, to align my offline business and my online brand. It was tough advice to hear, but I very seriously considered his point of view, and after some strategic thinking, my old blog is no longer.

Poof.

But my new blog rocks even more than my old one. And making this transition required a very open mind on my part.

So I suppose I owe my blogging success to my children. And now, maybe you will too.

What do you think? Have your children helped your blogging journey? What have your relationships taught you about content marketing and social media? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Ruth Zive is a freelance copywriter and content marketing strategist. Ruth works with B2B companies, across industries, to help them leverage their content to drive business results. Learn about my corporate workshops.

Pinterest Basics for Bloggers

This guest post is by Yang of ChilliSauce.co.uk.

Does your world only revolve around Facebook and Twitter? Now it’s time to move on: in case you haven’t heard, Pinterest is the new rising star of social media!

Pinterest was developed in December 2009 as a closed beta that was released within a restricted group of individuals. After it opened registration to everyone in 2010, the Pinterest boom began. On August 16, 2011, Time magazine named Pinterest among the “50 Best Websites of 2011”.

Pinterest has dominated the headlines in Mashable, TechCrunch, VentureBeat and many other websites. The world seems to be going Pintereset crazy.

The Pinterest home page

So what is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a visual social network. Every time you come across pretty or eye-catching images online, you can “pin” them to your Pinterest bulletin board, where you can share and organize them into various categories.

For example, if I see a pretty wedding dress, I will pin it to my “wedding ideas” board, which is full of images of my favorite wedding-related ideas gathered from various websites.

Pinterest boards

Image 2: Pinterest Boards

Shareaholic compiled a Referral Traffic Rrport that looks into various social media platforms, such as Facebook, Youtube, and so forth. Their findings, based on aggregated data from more than 200,000 publishers that reach more than 260 million unique monthly visitors, show that Pinterest has driven more referral traffic than Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube combined!

Shareaholic Referral Traffic Report

So what are you waiting for? Let’s start mapping out Pinterest strategies for your site!

How can you use Pinterest on your blog?

To get started, you need to register for your own Pinterest account.

Take some time to fill out your bio, as this is a great opportunity to introduce yourself or your business to the masses of Pinterest users. Then you are ready to start pinning!

A good place to start is by following other popular pinners and “re-pinning” their images onto your board. Browse through the categories on the network that interest you (see image below), such as “Art, Design, DIY & Craft” and so forth. When you find an image you like, you can pin it to your boards.

Pinterest has more than 30 categories

Bloggers can make use of these “clickthrough images” to attract more people to our blogs. Set up your bulletin boards and pin images from your site. Then, when other users click on an image, they’re taken to your site, where that picture is located.

Take my favorite chocolate bars, for example: I saw this yummy Snickers bars under the “Food & Drink” category.

Clickable Snickers bars image

When I clicked on the image, it immediately led me to the How Sweet It Is website, where that image is hosted (see below).

The landing page of that clickable Snickers bars image

Scroll down and there’s the image, pinned to my Pinterest board

6 tips to kickstart your Pinterest campaign

1. Pin with discernment

Every time you pin or re-pin a picture, it shows up on the Pinterest community boards. Here, all the pinners can see your pins, which gives you exposure to the public. So pinning quality images from your site to your boards is a must.

But don’t spam the community boards with your pinned images. Remember that Pinterest is public and social; I’m sure you don’t want to brand yourself as a spam artist. In the following example, I just pinned a yummy Snickers bar and my pin immediately appeared on the whole community board.

Start pinning!

Your pins show up on the Pinterest community board

2. Pin quality images

Pinterest taps into people’s love of “visually sumptuous eye candy.” Therefore, when you’re blogging, try to attach interesting and high quality images to go with your articles.

If your pictures are not clear or look dull, then don’t waste your time on Pinterest. The whole point of the network is to use images as “bait” to attract more people to your blog. If your images don’t stand out in Pinterest, then people are not going to click through.

3. Track recent activity from your account

When you’re logged into Pinterest, the top-left column, labeled Recent Activity, shows who has re-pinned, liked, or commented on your pins. In social media platforms, social always comes first. So do these people a favor: browse their pin boards, and re-pin or comment on their images as well!

Being social and showing them your appreciation will help you become popular on Pinterest. I still get a little buzz every time I see people re-pin my image, and I always visit their boards and show them we share the same interests.

The Recent Activity column

4. Use watermarks

Try to add watermark with your blog’s URL to your original images. Then, no matter how many times your images have been pinned or re-pinned, readers can always see the image is originally from your site, which gives your blog maximum exposure.

Add a watermark to your images

5. Add catchy descriptions to your images

Try to craft catchy image descriptions that include key words or tags that are likely to be searched.

To make them more engaging, express yourself and your sense of humor here, to provoke a response from other pinners. Or simply ask a question as the description, such as “Who wouldn’t love a yummy donut like this?”

6. Speed up pinning with the Pin It button

Don’t forget to add a Pin It button to your bookmarks on Pinterest: go to About in the main navigation, and click Pin It Button. Then, drag the white button to your bookmarks bar.

Now, the next time you come across an awesome image, you can just click the Pin It bookmark, choose the picture that you want to add to your pin board, add an engaging and interesting description, then you’re done! Easy!

Add a Pin It button

Drag the Pin It button to your Bookmarks bar

Can’t wait to try it? It really is easy to get started! I look forward to your comments about your experience with Pinterest.

Yang manages the Chillisauce.co.uk website, who specialise in organising corporate events.

The Rise of Visual Storytelling In Marketing

This guest post is by Magdalena Georgieva of Hubspot.

The September 2011 introduction of Facebook’s Timeline proved prophetic. “It’s a lot more visual,” wrote Sam Lessin, a product manager at Facebook, about the new look of the social network.

Visual, as it turns out, is also the direction in which the world of online marketing has headed.

The rise of visual storytelling as a means of spreading a marketing message couldn’t possibly have evaded you. A number of image-based platforms out there, including Pinterest, Instagram, and SlideShare, have already made a strong statement about how visual content can impact business results.

Images, presentations, and infographics are getting shared with ease, attracting thousands of views and sending tons of traffic to their original sources. Then, marketers assume the responsibility of qualifying the new visits and converting them into leads.

What’s so irresistible about images?

Images on the web can take control of your time in an instant and lead you down a path that you didn’t intend on taking.

You must have experienced the irresistible urge of flipping through photos during your lunch break and letting them distract you for a minute or two. One moment, you find yourself laughing over the images and the next moment, you are sharing them with friends.

Not surprisingly, six out of the ten most popular pieces of content that HubSpot has shared on our Facebook page in the last 30 days are images. Their cumulative reach was in the range of 7,000-12,000 views.

Let’s take a look at the platforms that brought about this rise of visual storytelling in marketing.

Pinterest

Since December 2012, news of Pinterest, the popular image-based sharing platform, has dominated the technology and marketing blogs. The website has now exceeded 11 million unique visitors and is quickly becoming a big referral source for many organizations.

In our new ebook, How to Use Pinterest for Business we reveal that the network has been sending more traffic to HubSpot’s blog than Google+ has. We’ll be keeping a close eye on how much of that traffic is actually qualified and converts into new leads.

Editor’s note: Later today, ProBlogger will show beginners how to get a head-started Pinterest. So if you’re not already hooked, look out for that post!

Instagram

The photo sharing application Instagram has accumulated 15 million users and is quickly outgrowing Foursquare. The iPhone app is a great way to successfully tap into the mobile and social marketing trend and enable users to experience your brand in a different way.

“Think about the artsy ways you could showcase your work, your staff or your customers with this tool,” writes John Jantsch.

Starbucks, Red Bull, General Electric, and Marc Jacobs are among some of the brands that are using Instagram for great marketing.

Slideshare

Slideshare is a platform that enables businesses and individuals to upload their presentations online and share them for free. It’s a great tool for B2B companies, for which presentations have remained a powerful form of social media.

In 2011, HubSpot’s presentations hosted on SlideShare accumulated more than three million views and thousands of downloads and social media shares.

Just like with Pinterest and Instagram, SlideShare can yield positive results for your organization if the presentations you are sharing convey clear value in a well-designed form. “Take an extra hour or hire a designer to make sure that important presentations are visually powerful,” advises HubSpot’s Kipp Bodnar.

Naturally, there are many other image-based platforms out there that can be used in combination with your other marketing activities. For instance, you can upload pictures to Flickr and share them on Facebook or Twitter. ISSUU is another website that hosts visual content, such as magazines, ebooks, and other documents.

What should you do about the rise of visual content in marketing?

    1. Get on board: Join a visual storytelling platform and start posting some of your existing image-heavy content. Make sure the pictures you upload convey value and are consistent with your brand identity. Don’t forget to optimize the description of your posts and include links back to your website.
    2. Include calls to action: Make sure that your visual content includes calls to action that take viewers to a landing page on your website related to the specific visual content. This will be your way of qualifying prospects and getting them to convert into leads. For instance, you can include calls-to-action at the bottom of infographics, in the descriptions of images, or on the last slide of presentations as a natural next step for readers who want to further engage with your brand.
    3. Measure impact: At the end of the day, what’s going to matter most is the levels of traffic, leads, and customers you generate via a specific platform. Use marketing software that tracks how your traffic is changing, and has the capability to compare different sources and provide you with reliable reporting. With access to such insights, you can revisit your strategy and prioritize the efforts that deliver the best results.

Have you started using visual content to market your business? What is your number one tip for newbies?

This is a guest post by Magdalena Georgieva, an inbound marketing manager at HubSpot. HubSpot is a marketing software company based in Cambridge, MA that makes inbound marketing and lead management software.