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Taking the Mystery Out of Ghost Blogging

This guest post is by Jennifer Brown Banks of Ghostess.

There’s no doubt about it. The thrill of a byline never gets old.

I’ve been penning pieces for publications for more than a decade, and every time I’m in a grocery store and see my name in a magazine, or have it grace the online stage, it’s still magical for me. Still.

I liken it to falling in love over and over again.

And, if you’re a serious writer, no doubt you feel the same way too.

But let’s face it: “love don’t always pay the bills”!

Enter, ghost blogging

Simply stated, ghost blogging is the practice of writing posts for others without name recognition. They get the credit, you get the cash. And sometimes, lots of it.

Ghost blogging affords today’s bloggers opportunities to expand their creative projects and their bottom line. Because more and more busy professionals are seeking “ghosts” to pen posts to increase awareness of important causes, promote products, and cultivate a connection with the public, it’s becoming a pretty popular field.

Aside from time factors, some businesses and individuals bring on ghost writers because they’re primarily “idea people.” These clients are excellent in terms of innovation and creativity, yet they lack the ability to write effectively and communicate concepts to an audience clearly.

Ghostwriters can save them time, headaches, money, and potential embarrassment.

Ethical issues

For some, ghosting practices pose ethical issues.

There are those, (both writers and readers) who sometimes perceive ghosting as dishonest, in that it misrepresents true authorship, and lacks a degree of credibility.

Maybe. Maybe not. It all depends on how you look at it.

It’s really not much different than a speechwriter penning a speech for the president, or a resume writer putting someone else in a better professional light through his skills.

Or, think of it this way. How many of us in corporate jobs have worked for bosses who presented our ideas as their own? At least with ghostwriting, somebody is paying you to be a silent partner!

What does it take to be a good ghost?

Like other genres and fields of writing, ghostwriting is not for everyone.
But, if you’re straddling the fence on it, here are a few things to consider.

1. Confidentiality is a must

In this line of work, loose lips sink ships—not to mention that they can ruin careers.

Sometimes you may have the good fortune to pen posts for a celebrity or top-dog blogger, and you’re itching to brag about it. Don’t! Like any good relationship—personal or professional—once the trust is gone, so is the union.

It should also be noted that typically, ghost clients will have writers enter into a confidentiality agreement, stating that they will not disclose their identity, or the nature of their projects. You could be sued if you violate these conditions.

2. Good ghosts should have a wide knowledge base and a wide “speaking”range

Are you well read? Have you had multiple careers? Could you be a contestant on Jeopardy Game show? If so, it’s highly likely that you’d be successful in this field.

A broad knowledge base means that you will have a basic understanding of various topics, thereby allowing you to speak with a degree of authority and authenticity. It also means that the client has to do less hand-holding and feeding you information.

3. Good ghosts should have good people skills

As a ghost, you might be required to work with someone for whom there are creative or moral differences. Or perhaps you just lack chemistry. Suck it up. Remember, it’s their vision, and their decision.

Good ghosts know when to remain silent. If you’re not able to take directions from others, or to deal with a wide range of personalities and temperaments, this wouldn’t be the best type of gig for you. Do not pass go.

4. Good ghosts have the flexibility of a rubber band

To be a good ghost, you must be flexible.

For example, a client may change the direction of the project, or he may misplace files, or you may have to work around his schedule for the successful completion of the project. Keeping cool is crucial.

5. Good ghosts are good project managers

Writing skills only touch the surface of what effective ghosting entails.

Depending upon the type of client, and the range and complexity of the project, a good ghost might also be called upon to organize information, compile data, do research, and make recommendations accordingly.

Pay for your say

How much do ghost bloggers make? There isn’t a “standard” going rate. A lot depends upon the type of client, their budget, your experience level, and the length and frequency of the project.

To apply for opportunities, check popular job boards like Pro Blogger, Craigslist.org and Ghostbloggers.net

Have you ever been a ghost blogger? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

Jennifer Brown Banks is a seasoned blogger and professional ghostwriter. Her work has appeared at various top-dog sites such as: Pro Blogger, Men With Pens, Daily Blog Tips, Technorati, and The Well-Fed Writer. Visit her sites at: http://penandprosper.blogspot.com/ and http://Ghostess2.blogspot.com/.

Unconfidence: The Essential Ingredient to Crazy Stupid Success

This guest post is by Steve of Thecodeofextraordinarychange.com

Confidence is over-rated.

At least, it’s over-rated in the homogenized, misused, self-help industry clap-trap kinds of ways.

In today’s world it’s both easy and tempting to start putting a confident veneer over things, because it seems as though the world expects that.  In relationships, friendships, career, blogging and business, there’s an expectation that you have to know what you’re doing, otherwise you just don’t stack up.

So communicating the “I’m know where I’m at” position becomes something we busy ourselves with. We become focused on the portrayal of expertise or success in addition to building that same expertise and success, and sometimes that portrayal prohibits the very thing you’re looking to achieve.

So I think it’s time to stop the BS and to halt the veneer of confidence.  It’s time for unconfidence.

Here’s how it works.

You don’t have to pretend

I work two jobs because my coaching business doesn’t make enough money to support me. I don’t pretend that it does, because to do so requires that I see this fact as a negative and I don’t want to lie to my clients.  

I don’t pretend that I know exactly where my business is going, because I’m largely making it up as I go along. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, because that would make me an asshole.

Pretending to be something you’re not or to know something you don’t is part of the old world. Online, people can now smell that kind of pretence and it’s only a matter of time before the offline world starts behaving similarly (if it hasn’t happened already).

You have an incredible array of skills, experience, strengths and talents and an even more incredible capacity to learn, improve and grow.  Focus on that, not on pretending.

Engagement with meaning is a pre-requisite

If what you’re doing in your life and business doesn’t mean a whole lot to you, or amount to a hill o’ beans, you’re just treading water. If there’s nothing on the line, there’s no need for you to push at the boundaries of your capabilities. If there’s nothing at stake, you don’t need to step up to the plate or raise your head above the parapet.

You can coast.

The things that matter to you matter for a reason.  Ignoring them disconnects meaning from your life and work, and the net result is that you don’t really care what happens.

It’s a place of limbo and increasing constraint, where you die a long, slow death wondering what might have been.  It’s a ghastly place to be (I learned this the hard way). Meaningful success can only ever be derived from engaging with the things that have meaning. That goes for life and business.

Unconfidence is about listening and engaging with the things that matter to you, and requires that you make a choice to grow to the point where you feel ready, willing, and even compelled to get involved.

You’re already worthy

There are a lot of people out there hustling.  Pushing, doing, moving.  Trying to make something happen so they can prove to themselves that they’re good enough or that they’re worthy of their peers, friends, mentors, clients, and partners.

I can’t imagine much worse than that.

You don’t have to prove you’re worthy or deserving to anyone—yourself most of all. You don’t have to fit in with the cool kids or gain approval from others. You don’t need to hide who you are to gain approval for who you think you ought to be.

Unconfidence is allowing yourself to show up as who you are, warts and all.  It’s knowing—and feeling—that with all your imperfections you’re just right. And it requires that you stop judging yourself for who you are and start being yourself because of who you are.

As Brene Brown put it in her book The Gifts of Imperfection, “Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It’s about cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.”

Shaking in your boots doesn’t mean you’re not confident

There’s a common misunderstanding that confident people don’t get scared. That they don’t feel fear. That they’re fearless.

More garbage.

That fear response is deeply coded into your brain—when you’re feeling fear your amygdala fires up, giving you strong signals that you’re about to die and that you need to fight, fly, or freeze. The fear is just there to remind you that things might not go to plan and you might lose out, which is sometimes enough to stop you, right?

But here’s the thing: you can be shaking in your boots in the face of a decision, and still be confident that you can make a choice and deal with whatever happens on the other side.

Unconfidence is the quality that allows you to feel fear without judgment.

You can’t control the whole world

Plans are great.  Go ahead and make them.  Just remember that if you try to have your plans cater for every eventuality, you’ll be making plans for the rest of your days.

You can exert some control over what you do and how you do it in an effort to get a particular outcome, but if you’re focused on outcome after outcome after outcome you’ll be driving yourself loopy trying to control every variable to increase the certainty of your results.

Truth is, the world is uncertain.  You can’t control everything.  There’s always something that can throw you sideways and knock your plans off track.  So what if you knew that you could make a decision and deal with whatever happens?  What if you detached your decision making from a specific outcome or result?

Do that and the focus becomes less about the outcome and more about engaging with your decisions and behaviour.  That’s unconfidence—being able to choose your behaviour with implicit trust in that behaviour, not in the outcome.  You always get to choose.  It’s liberating.

The choice to trust yourself is sometimes the only choice you need

Crazy stupid success isn’t a one-time thing.  It’s not something you hit and then settle back into and ride ’til retirement.  It’s a process.

It’s a process that requires you to strip away the BS, show up as yourself, be vulnerable and start playing because it matters to you in ways that scare you.  I’ve called it unconfidence here in order to differentiate it from your normal assumptions and beliefs around what “confidence” is.  But it is confidence.  Simple, graceful, natural self-confidence.

You have it.  You using it?

Steve is a superstar confidence coach who helps you build an extraordinary life. He also makes a fantastic ragu, and while he can’t promise you a batch he’ll promise to help you put your dent in the universe, which is probably a better deal.  Get more of him on Twitter and Facebook.

Who’s the Boss of Your Blog?

Who’s the boss of your blog?

Neat desk

Image courtesy stock.xchng user furnishu

Who calls the shots, makes the hard choices, and keeps things moving in the right direction?

If you’re thinking, “me!” you might be falling prey to the kind of philosophy that prevents many bloggers from reaching their full potential.

Readers rule

What are your favorite blogs? Narrow the field to just two or three, and have a think about why you like them so much.

I have a feeling that when you look closely, you’ll find that each of your top blogs is one that you can relate to in some deep or essential way. That doesn’t mean that the topics have to be serious. Maybe your favorite blog is a humour blog. If that’s the case, I’ll bet you see a sense of humour and the ability to see the funny side of things as an essential part of who you are. I can well imagine that you love to laugh.

And I’ll also predict that your favorite blog delivers on that need every week. That it doesn’t just meet that need in tried and tested, proven ways, but that it edges off the expected path, too, to meet that need in even deeper ways you don’t anticipate, but find that you love.

How do they do that? And how can you achieve that with your own audience?

The answer isn’t just to get to know your readers. It’s not even to put readers first.

The secret is to let your readers rule.

Make readers the boss

Making your readers the boss of your blog can take something of a mindshift. The easiest way to start is probably to think about what good bosses do in the workplace. I’ve had plenty of bosses in my time—some good, some not so great—but in this exercise, try to think about a boss you really enjoyed working with. Picture them, and remember why you liked them so much.

The best bosses I had did several things.

  • They set goals and targets I needed to meet.
  • They helped me stay on track.
  • They stretched and challenged me by setting standards and expectations.
  • They gave me the help I needed to meet goals.
  • They reviewed my performance and helped me identify areas where I could improve, while also recognizing my hard work.

If you think about it, your readers can do the same things for you as a blogger.

Let them set targets

As well as looking at your blogging goals from a perspective of what you want for your blog, why not let your readers set targets for your blog, too?

Let’s say you decide that this year, you want to launch your first paid blog product. Before you go any further, turn to your blogging bosses. What challeneges are they facing right now? What tasks do they need you to help out with? What thinking would they like to delegate to you to make their lives easier?

If you look at your readers in this light, you’ll probably find more opportunities for product development than you ever expected. Not only will you identify the obvious needs but, just as with a real boss, you’ll be bale to intuit other, related areas where your help could benefit them—”If they need help with a, then they’ll probably be happy if I looked after b for them as well” thinking.

Let them help you stay on track

The more you spend time with your readers, the more real, and pressing, their needs will become for you.

Like the boss who keeps walking past your desk with an eye on your monitor to see if you’ve finished that report she’s waiting on, your audience can be a major motivator driving you to get that product finished, get that blog post written, get that new idea launched, attract more readers for them to engage with, and so on.

If you really want to make your readers the boss, tell them what you’re planning and working on. This way, you’ll be fully, publicly accountable to them as you would your boss at work. If you don’t deliver, you’ll have them to answer to—what a motivator!

Let them challenge you with standards and expectations

By making yourself accountable to readers, you automatically set expectations within them about their importance to you. That’s the most basic standard you need to meet—the expectation you’ve set through what you’ve promised them.

But again, spending time with your readers—looking at what they like and don’t like, understanding their standards for what’s helpful, useful, high-quality, and relevant, for example—can help you understand where they’re coming from, and what you need to do to perform.

It’s one thing to know that your boss needs you to report on something. But does he need that report in a spreadsheet or a slide presentation? Does he need multiple printed copies to circulate for discussion in a meeting? And what level of depth does he require in the reporting?

Similarly, your readers have expectations about what’s good, and what’s outstanding; what you can deliver, and what they can get from you. At the very least, you should understand those expectations so that you can asses whether or not your actions are enough to meet them. But once you know readers’ expectations and standards, you’ll know exactly what you need to do to exceed them.

Let them help you meet your blog’s goals

A good boss will give you everything you need to get your work done. Whole the standard to which you do that work might be up to you, your boss should at least provide the essentials—and be around to give you advice and direction when you need it.

Make readers the boss of your blog, and they can fulfil the same role. Need a designer? A translator? Opinions on something you’ve planned? Beta testers? Ask your readers first.

Not only does this approach involve readers more deeply, giving them opportunities to “buy into” your blog, but it can produce some surprising results and act as a fast way to obtain information you’d never have found otherwise.

If you’ve heard the term “crowdsourcing,” you’ll know that seeking help from an audience (or crowd) is an excellent way to innovate really smart solutions. You can apply that philosophy to your blog today by making your readers the boss, and seeking their help and direction when you need it.

Let them help you identify areas where you’re doing well, and can improve

If your readers are boss, they’re the best people to help you understand where you’re at, and how you can improve your work to suit them—and achieve greater success.

Inviting feedback directly, after a sale or conversion, through a feedback form on your blog, or even through a specially designed, periodic survey, is a great way to get a clear picture of how your readers feel you’re tracking.

But your ongoing involvement with them should give you an intuitive, gut feel for those kinds of answers, too. In the real world your boss will have a list of performance indicators she needs to meet, and similarly your readers will have real, felt needs that they’re conscious of. They’ll be able to see clearly whether you’ve met those or not.

But on a deeper level, we want our bosses to find us good to work with, a great team player, and an asset to them. This isn’t the kind of information your readers are likely to give you outright—you’ll need to infer it from the way they treat you and your blog, by looking at stats and comments and social media and backlinks and a host of information that, when you boil it down, lets you know what you’re doing well, and where you can do better.

Only by making your readers boss will you be able to approach that assessment with an open mind that’s not tainted by your own ideas about your performance. And the answers might just surprise you!

Who’s the boss of your blog?

Are you still thinking that you’re the boss of your blog? Or do you see merit in making your readers the boss? Do Have you already made your readers the boss? How has that changed the way you blog?

I’d love to hear your take on this idea in the comments.

Work with Marketers to Improve Your Blog

You blog. You may blog successfully. You may have a readership that, in all probability, buys things related to the subjects you blog about.

These three facts will alone mean, whether you like it or not, you may have a red dot trained on your forehead. It’s only a matter of time before marketers invade your inbox like cliché-spouting terrorists with shiny shoes. If they aren’t already, that is.

Over the last few years, as marketers have realised that bloggers have audiences and SEO benefits that even outweigh those of some media outlets, unfortunately poor practise has seeped into what is now defined as “blogger engagement,” or “blogger relations.”

I’m going to tell you how these marketers can be of benefit to you and your blog, how to attract marketers if you’d like to, and then, how to work with them to ensure the relationship is mutually beneficial.

In my experience

I’ve worked in PR for about five years now. I’ve blogged for longer, to varying degrees of success. Having maintained blogs related to video gaming, media, and marketing, and one site I think it’s best I don’t say much more about, I’d say I have a good deal of experience in this area.

A couple of years ago, I built a relatively popular fitness blog, which is where I first saw some of the most incredibly poor pitching I’ve ever seen. I’d be contacted with products and services that were of no relevance, and spoken to like some sort of second-rate journalist, as marketers attempted either to cajole or batter me into writing about their clients.

The worst thing was, I knew many of the agencies that were contacting me, and in some cases, I knew some of the PR or SEO “professionals” from Twitter or offline meet-ups. It was clear they hadn’t made the connection.

Aggressive emails chasing me for not responding soon enough, for declining review products or—in the rare instances pitches did hit the mark—trying to dictate to me what I should and shouldn’t write filled my inbox.

It wasn’t just that most of the products, services or clients weren’t relevant to fitness, it was that there was no desire to build any sort of relationship with me from the majority of marketers—despite the fact my readers could be their customers if and when they did have something that was right. As with many bloggers, I wrote because it was a passion; something I enjoyed doing.

Marketers will contact bloggers for as long as bloggers have an engaged audience. A niche audience is a receptive audience. You might not like it, and many, many marketers might be terrible at it, but it’s a fact that isn’t going to change. Therefore, just as journalists have developed ways to deal with pushy PRs, bloggers can either ignore marketers or learn how to work with them in a way that’s mutually beneficial.

And this is where I think I can help.

How can marketers help improve your blog?

Marketers can help you make a success of your blog. Here are five things marketers can provide you with that can help to build your blog. I’ll also give pros and cons for each, based on my own experiences.

1. Competition prizes

Marketers can offer competition prizes in a way that promotes their clients or business, but also gives you and your readers something different.

Competitions are great traffic draws, especially if the prizes or method particularly relate to your blog. I have run many competitions using prizes marketers have offered up for free in return for product publicity, and each did very well—some even drew thousands of additional unique visitors.

If you’re serious about blogging and building your audience, you’ll probably know of other bloggers in your area of interest or expertise. You’ll possibly keep an eye on their posts and you’ll see them doing things that work and things that don’t. One of the things that always worked for me and rival bloggers, in particular for the fitness blog, was competitions with prizes that interested our readerships.

Pros:

  • You don’t have to put your hand in your pocket.
  • It’s a great way to reward and pique the interest of current and potential readers, respectively.
  • A good prize can draw a lot of traffic, especially where sharing is a requisite for entering the competition.
  • They can provide good, regular content if you’re sometimes stuck on what to write.

Cons:

  • You may attract the wrong sort of traffic, such as readers that only visit to enter competitions.
  • Prizes that aren’t relevant to your desired audience can dilute your blog and put off current readers.

2. Review products/services/experiences

Receiving a product to review, or being asked to try a service or experience out because it relates to your blog audience is, or was for me, incredibly exciting.

My main tip here is: don’t allow marketers to dictate to you whether the review or write-up should be positive or not. Considering they likely contacted you, you should be giving your honest opinion and not writing something you think will ensure you receive similar offers in the future.

When I was running my fitness blog, I thoroughly enjoyed trying out the newest video games and fitness gadgets. Marketers would offer them for free, and in some cases, asking marketers using services such as those mentioned in the “How to find marketers” section below resulted in some very relevant prize offers.

In short, you will be offered the opportunity to review if the marketer thinks your readers are well suited to their client or business.

Pros:

  • Having a hands-on trial of a product, service, or experience is the only way to write knowledgeably about it. Your readers will appreciate this.
  • You often get to keep the products, which, given you likely blog about something you’re passionate in, is very cool.

Cons:

  • Some marketers want the products back!
  • You may be expected to write positively, though I’d recommend against doing so just because you feel pressured to.

Exclusive information

Building a good relationship with marketers might mean invitations to events, shared information about businesses and individuals and importantly, good content for your blog that will keep readers coming back.

I’ve personally managed to build some great relationships with marketers who are relevant to my blogs, ensuring I’m amongst the first to hear about stories. This is important because being the first with news or information means it’s your blog that’s likely to be shared and linked back to most.

Pros:

  • Knowing information first is what sets popular blogs like TMZ and The Next Web apart. Your blog might not be anywhere near the size of these yet, but everybody starts somewhere. If readers can rely on you for scoops, they’ll come back and share your content time and again.
  • You’ll build a base of contacts that’ll be useful if and when you need to verify or research posts.

Cons:

  • Speaking on behalf of PR people everywhere, we’re notoriously gossipy. And the problem with gossip is that it’s not always 100% accurate. Unverified information masquerading as bona fide fact may come back to haunt you.

Access to experts

Experts within your sector can add credibility to your posts and blog as a whole. Marketers can give you access to their clients or people within their organisation that you otherwise wouldn’t have a hope of reaching. They’ll do this either because they think the experts could be useful to you or, as mentioned, because you ask specifically for an introduction using one of the methods mentioned below.

In my experience, these experts are also likely to promote the posts they’re mentioned in. They often have good audiences in terms of social media, meaning your post could find its way into the streams of many potential readers.

Pros:

  • Quotes from experts can only strengthen your blog, adding credibility to posts.
  • Access to other people in your areas of interest can help build a roster of people who are happy to guest post for you. This means you have a body of people generally willing to help with good content—if that’s something you’re happy to receive in return for them plugging their own businesses. These experts are likely to have their own audiences, too, which they’ll likely promote their guest blog—and therefore, your blog—to.

Cons:

  • Not all “experts” put forward really are experts. Some may be simply touted by the marketer in a bid to achieve a plug on your blog.

5. Monetisation

Given that many bloggers post in their own time about subjects they are interested in, the dream to make enough money blogging to do it full-time is an unsurprising one. Marketers can be the middlemen you need to make this happen.

Some bloggers don’t accept payment for posts; some only post for marketers when they’re being paid. It’s a personal choice, and one you’re likely to consider the more prominent your blog becomes.

There are a number of ways of monetisation in blogging, many of which Darren has already covered in his make money blogging section, such as advertising, affiliate marketing, and speaking fees. Some bloggers also choose to only post for brands if they’re paid to do so, whilst others will post dependent on relevance.

The key is to lay this out to marketers at the beginning of a relationship. Online payment services such as PayPal make accepting payment simple.

Pros:

  • The most obvious of all: you get paid!

Cons:

  • Accepting payment for links is a dangerous game that can have your blog fall off the face of Google quicker than you can say “black hat SEO.” I’d recommend you steer clear of any marketers, mainly SEO people in my experience, who ask that you give them a live “do follow” link in return for payment
  • Your blog suddenly becomes a business and you are responsible for the administration and legalities that come with that. I list this as a con because many people don’t consider it.

How to find marketers

If you’re sold on the idea of working with marketers and they’re not yet contacting you, there are ways to make yourself more visible.

I’d always advise you to look at best-practise guidelines where possible, because naive requests for free products when your blog is just a day or two old with next to no audience are likely to be ignored. They could even hinder your chance of building relationships before you start.

Here are a few ways you can find marketers (or allow them to find you):

  • Use social media. In particular, Twitter is a great way to find and interact with marketing agencies and individuals.
  • Peter Shankman’s HARO is a great way to make queries that will be seen by PR people.
  • In the UK, Response Source’s request service gives you the chance to ask for everything from competition prizes to information for an article.
  • Sign up to my very own service, bloggabase.com.
  • Attend events related to your area of interest. I’m often at industry events where I get the chance to meet journalists and bloggers, trading contact details in a bid to provide them with information that’s relevant to them.
  • Ask fellow bloggers for introductions. Chances are they’ll be only to happy to help.

Whether you’re being contacted now or hope to be speaking to marketers in the future, please do be aware that as with good, old-fashioned media relations, where there are good and bad PR people in the eyes of journalists, there are good and bad blog pitches. To help you make the best of it, here are a few things I’ve picked up by being on both sides of the fence.

Top tips for fielding pitches

  1. Tell the truth: Lying about the number of unique visitors to your blog or the number of subscribers to a newsletter is not the way to build a mutually beneficial relationship. Looking at your Alexa rank, Google page rank, the number of Twitter followers, and the number of times your blog comes up in a Twitter search over the last week or so are some of the ways I’ll validate a blog’s popularity, especially if quoted figures seem inordinate.
  2. Be upfront: If you aren’t likely to post about something without being paid to do so, let the marketer know before speaking further. They may not mind, but they’ll need to know because inevitably, it’ll have to come out of their client’s budget.
  3. Be friendly: I’ve worked with many bloggers who have, at least at first, treated me with very little respect no matter how targeted my approach. If you appreciate that marketers can be of benefit to you too, in all the ways I mentioned above and more, you’ll hopefully appreciate that respect is a two-way street. The junior agency employee contacting you might one day soon be in charge of the marketing for a company you’d very much like to work with.
  4. Don’t be a walkover: Some marketers will, conversely, treat you with little respect. If a pitch is irrelevant, you can either ignore it or politely tell the marketer so. Some will try to ensure you write positively about their clients. Again, you don’t have to put up with that. The second they contact you or send you a product to review, I believe marketers relinquish the right to dictate what you can and can’t say. For instance, I know certain bloggers or journalists wouldn’t like some of my clients’ products or services, so I just don’t contact them with them.
  5. Ask questions: Ask the marketer if they have any other clients that are relevant to your blog. Ask them if there are any events coming up that might be of interest to your audience.

Have you used marketers to help build your blog and meet the needs of your readers? Tell us how it went in the comments.

Rich Leigh is a public relations professional, blogger and also co-founder of bloggabase.com, a service launched to help improve bloggers and marketers connect. Bloggers can sign up for free to receive targeted pitches, review products, guest blog offers and monetise their blogs. It’s an opted-in way of inviting marketers to make contact based on relevance.

 

Maternity Leave … for Bloggers?!

This guest post is by Kat Griffin of Corporette.

How do full-time bloggers take maternity leave? How do you schedule posts and get help, when you’re not sure when you’re going to go into labor, and when you have no idea what to expect when the baby first comes?

This is my account of how I not only maintained my traffic but grew it, all while taking ten weeks of maternity leave.

By Summer 2011, I had two very happy things going on in my life: I was pregnant with my first child, and my fashion and career advice blog (Corporette) was doing so well that I had quit my job as a lawyer to focus on it.

But this created an unfortunate problem—how could I have the baby, be a good mother, and keep my blog at the level my readers expected? My number goals: maintain 15 posts a week, and keep as much of my hard-won traffic as possible (which at that point was about 57K uniques and almost 500K pageviews a month).

It would be nice, I thought, if my blogging income stayed where it was, but I prepared myself for a dip. I had read that a newborn’s crying peaked around weeks six to eight, so I picked ten weeks as the optimal time for myself to take off.

Why I didn’t hire anyone

For some people, the answer would have been obvious—hire an assistant or an intern to take over content. But my site has always been a bit difficult in that regard—in fact, I think I owe a lot of my success to the fact that I actually had a conservative job for many years, so my workwear and career advice comes from a very realistic place. (I started my blog while working as a litigator for a Wall Street firm.) So your typical 22-year-old hire just would not do.

My answer? Some scheduled posts from me, but a lot of highly curated guest posts. To be clear: I also did not hire a baby nurse or nanny, although looking back I suppose that was an option also. I was very concerned that the mixture of sleepless nights and postpartum hormones would make me unfit to give career and fashion advice, even if someone else was looking after the baby.

Dividing my content

I looked at my regular content and asked:

  • Where do I make the most money? For me, those are always accessory posts (shoes and bags), so I kept those posts to myself. I also decided to write and schedule one meatier post each week, to keep my voice present on the site.
  • For the posts that could be scheduled, what kind of content was missing from my blog that the guest posters could bring?
  • Which posts had to be timely, and couldn’t be scheduled far in advance? I dropped some of them (such as my news roundup); for others, I took great care in inviting guest posters. For example, my first post, every workday, recommends an item of clothing that is available for online purchase. They’re not long or hard posts, but I know from experience that clothes sell out, particularly if they’re on sale, so they do have to be timely. I gambled that a) I could ask guest posters to take a full week’s worth of posts, b) I could trust them to send them to me in one fell swoop, a week ahead of time, so I could get everything coded appropriately (including adding my own affiliate links) and c) that their choices would not sell out by the time the post went live.

Reaching out to guest posters

I estimated I needed ten people to pick outfits for each week, and I needed about 25 people to write meatier posts. I drew up a “dream list” of guest bloggers, and individually emailed each person to say that I admired them and would love for them to guest post, suggesting a few topics for each blogger.

I wrote the email the way I advise my readers to write business emails: extremely clearly, using short, to-the-point paragraphs (including one titled, “What’s in it for you: exposure to my 57,000 unique readers”). The subject: “Invitation to guest blog on Corporette, deadline 7/25.” This was around early June, and my due date was August 10. Happily, almost everyone I reached out to accepted.

Editing

Honestly, it almost took as long to edit everyone’s pieces as it would have taken to write the posts myself. But I liked the diverse voices and topics that were coming to the blog.

At the beginning of every post, I wrote a short paragraph describing the topic and introducing the guest poster to my readers. In addition to being great for SEO, it helped lend a bit of my voice to every post, as well as to immediately make clear to my readers how each post was relevant to them.

Scheduling, three months in advance

I used a monthly calendar to keep a bird’s eye view of the process—for example, I didn’t want to schedule a “should you cover your gray hair” post right next to a “when is naturally curly hair appropriate for the office.”

But once I had things scheduled (using WordPress’s default scheduling feature), I sent a screenshot of the post, as well as the full HTML, to each writer for approval, and told them what day and time the post was scheduled to go live. I also thanked them, hopefully a lot. This was all done in early August—some people weren’t scheduled to go live until October!

Schedule reminders

I used Google Calendar to keep track of which post was scheduled for when. Each Saturday, I would find time to email the guest posters slated to go live that week, reminding them what day and time the posts were scheduled to go live, and letting them know that I had scheduled a Tweet to promote the post as well. (I used Tweetdeck. Facebook, at that time, did not have post-scheduling capabilities.)

In theory, this all sounds great, but how’d it go?

I scheduled guest posts to start going live on August 15. Again, my due date was August 10—I had read that first babies are often late; I also figured that if I went into labor before that, my readers would be kind enough to deal with a few days of minimal content.

My son, as it turned out, had other plans, as August 10, then August 15, both came and went without a baby in sight. The thing they don’t tell you about the last week or two of pregnancy is that between the false alarms and the doctor’s visits, you’re pretty much at the hospital or doctor’s office every day, sometimes waiting for hours. My pregnancy discomfort and exhaustion was also at an all-time high.

I wound up being incredibly thankful that the guest posts started “early” on August 15, because there’s no way I could have kept up my regular blogging schedule by myself. Oh, and those meatier posts that I kept for myself to write? True to personality, I was often editing those right before I published them—I even wound up blogging from the post-partum ward in the hospital, hilariously, about work/life balance.

The results

Somewhere between all of the guest posters, the Tweets, and the tightly-written first paragraphs, traffic increased. (It may have helped that I guest posted for Lucky Magazine in June 2011.)

I jumped from 57K uniques in June 2011 to 75K uniques by September 2011. Corporette currently has around 111K uniques, so I’ve maintained the increase.

I like to think my readers got to know a new group of bloggers, and I got to enjoy time with my newborn son without worrying (too much) about my other baby, my blog.

Have you taken a maternity or paternity leave while blogging? How did your plan differ from mine? Share it with us in the comments.

Kat Griffin founded Corporette, a fashion and lifestyle blog for women lawyers, bankers, MBAs, consultants, and otherwise overachieving chicks, in May 2008, while working as a litigator on Wall Street.

The Real, #1, Most Obvious Reason No One’s Reading Your Blog

This guest post is by Jared Latigo.

I’ve come across possibly hundreds of articles from prominent sites around the web that tackle the 10, 15, or 101 reasons your blog isn’t getting the traffic it deserves. But the interesting thing is that none of the ones I’ve found mention the real reason, the core reason, as to why no one is reading your blog.

This isn’t a stretch, in fact, we all know it. It’s not even something that we’re oblivious to. In fact, it’s obvious but we tend to forget it often.

The simple reason is entitlement. Let me explain.

Your mom is the only one reading your posts

That’s great. I’m glad she thinks you’re awesome. I mean, my mom reads mine and she thinks I’m awesome. At least, I think so. But that’s a problem.

It would be perfectly okay with me if it were her plus, say, 400 other people every day. But that’s not the case. So how do we fix it?

It’s a mindset thing.

The real problem is this

You are writing awesome, compelling, new-to-the-world content that will change the course of history, yet no one is reading it. Except your mom. And the reason is that we forget that we’re not entitled to anyone’s attention. Not any more.

We forget that everyone else thinks they are just as awesome as we think we are. It’s really a problem. We forget to ask permission to talk to them and then wonder why we’re losing followers on Twitter when we post 30 times a day about our recent blog post!

Seth Godin, who I’m a huge fan of, talks about permission marketing. He says that in order to market these days, we have to get people to want us to market to them. And we have to keep that promise forever.

“Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.”—Seth Godin

The interesting thing is that Dale Carnegie wrote about this in 1936. This is nothing new. The book is called How to Win Friends and Influence People. It’s amazing. But in it, he talks not about marketing a company, but about getting along with people. He references incredible people like Abraham Lincoln, who was known as “Honest Abe” for a reason: he was honest!

But the key takeaway from that book, for me anyway, was this.

“There is only on way under the high Heaven to get anybody to do anything. Did you every stop to think of that? Yes, just one way. And that is by making the other person want to do it. Remember, there is no other way.”—Dale Carnegie

The two takeaways from that quote are:

  1. The other person has to want to do it.
  2. Remember.

And we forget.

I have no idea why, but we forget that no one owes us their time, or their money, or their attention. We have to make them want to give us each of those. That’s the only way anyone is going to buy your product or read your blog. You have to make them want to read it.

Seth Godin and Dale Carnegie are a good two generations apart, but they understand the same core tenet of getting people to do something. The same is true for our blogs.

(Luckily) The solution is simple

Well, it’s not really simple in action, but it’s simple in terms of what to do. We need to remember a few things everyday, regardless of the day.

  • Not one single person on this planet owes us their attention, not even your mom.
  • We must make the other person want to read us or share us with their friends.
  • We must never take readership, friendships, or relationships for granted.
  • We must fulfill our promises, forever.
  • We must never feel entitled to anyone’s time or resources. They are finite.

But how do we implement this?

It takes work. It takes lots and lots of work. I’m not going to define a step-by-step list here because I believe every person and every situation is different. I think it will take some trial and error and some serious creative thought.

But I will leave you with this.

The road to gaining more blog readership is long. I’ve just begun, and it’s slow and hard. But I believe that getting rid of entitlement thinking is the core way, the number one, real way, to get more traffic to your blog.

Sure, there are other things that go along with that, many are on those lists I’ve read plenty of. But, when we get rid of that mindset that people owe us their attention, we open up a door to endless possibilites. And behind it we will be more willing to share content, give free stuff away, ask for permission, and get creative in building a tribe around our platforms.

Will you commit to this mindset? Sign up in the comment area by saying a simple “I’m In!” Feel free to tell us any ideas you have to help others. Post articles you may have stashed away that are great insight into building a blog. And all with the core remembrance of “I’m not entitled to anyone’s attention!”

Jared Latigo is a designer, writer, speaker, and passion guy. As a bonus, an exclusive ebook “The Big Blog Push: How to Turn Your Struggling Blog Into an Empire” has been written for you. Grab yours at JaredLatigo.com/problogger! You can also follow him on Twitter and read his posts on his blog.

Why Every Employee Should Start a Blog

This guest post is by Hassan Osman of PartTimeWebpreneur.com.

I’ve been running a blog for a year and a half now, all while working a demanding full-time job (at Cisco Systems), pursuing a graduate degree, conducting some research on the side, and doing what I enjoy the most: spending quality time with my family.

Although balancing those different areas of my life is no easy task, I can honestly say that blogging has been an extremely rewarding experience for me on so many levels—professionally, personally, and financially.

In fact, blogging has been so gratifying that I’m actually launching a second blog soon.

I truly believe that if you’re an employee—whether you’re just starting out after college, or you’re a 30+ year workforce veteran—you should undoubtedly start a blog. I’ll explain why in a second.

First, there’s one important thing that you should look into before starting a blog: carefully read through your employer’s social media policy regarding employee blogging. This is imperative, as you could get fired if you violate it. If your company does not have a published policy, you should still check with your HR department or boss about what’s considered acceptable to them.

Some companies, like Cisco, are quite open to having their employees run their own personal blogs (as long as the employees state that views are their own). Other companies place restrictions on what you can blog about, and a few other companies outright deny you from blogging.

So make sure you do your homework to avoid getting into trouble.

Why start a blog if you’re an employee?

1. You’ll establish yourself as an expert

By running a blog in a specific field, you’ll solidify your expertise in that area and establish yourself as an authority figure, which can differentiate you from your peers.

In addition, you’ll be building a strong personal brand for yourself. Everyone, including prospective employers, already Googles your name anyway. A blog helps you take advantage of that by controlling your online presence and reputation.

2. You’ll make some money on the side

You probably already know you can make a significant income from blogging (you’re reading this on problogger.net after all!), but making money from a blog takes a lot of time, dedication, and effort. So why not start early when you don’t really need the cash?

Moreover, in this shaky economy, you never know when you might need to fall back on a financial cushion for support. Pat Flynn started a blog as a tool for taking notes while he was an employee studying for an architecture exam. After he got laid off unexpectedly from his job in 2008, he had to rely on his blog for income, and made around $8,000 from it after a few months. Smart lad!

3. You’ll learn important new skills

This is perhaps the most important benefit you’ll gain from blogging. Running a blog is a lot like running a small business. You’ll pick up skills related to technology, marketing, social media, analytics, and much more. You’ll also improve your writing, research, and public relations skills.

Those are all transferable skills that you can leverage in any position or company you work for. In The Start-Up of You co-authors Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha talk about always staying in “permanent beta” so that you adapt and evolve. So think of those additional skills as job security insurance.

4. You’ll get a lot of new and interesting opportunities

The list of potential opportunities that you’ll have opened up for you from blogging is endless. Some examples include writing a book, getting hired for consulting gigs, or being asked to speak at conferences.

I’ve had all three happen to me—all because of my blog. You’ll also make a lot of new friends and build a crucial network of like-minded professionals all over the world.

Common excuses for not blogging—and their answers

“I don’t know what to blog about”

This is understandable, as it can be quite hard to choose a blog topic. However, the good news is that there are a lot of helpful articles and books that will make it easier for you to make that decision.

A great ebook that’ll help you get started is ProBlogger’s Guide to your First Week of Blogging.

“I don’t have time to blog”

It’s true that blogging can be very time consuming, but who said you can’t blog at your own pace?

As an employee, you have an advantage over full-time bloggers because you don’t need to worry about publishing posts every few days. In fact, I have blogged an average of only once or twice a month, and still gained all the benefits I mentioned above.

“I don’t know how to blog”

Of course you do! If you’re reading this, you already have the skills needed to set up a blog in less than 60 seconds. Just fill out this signup form on WordPress and you’ll have a blog in no time (it’s also free).

“I don’t think anyone will read my blog”

You’re probably right; no one will initially read your blog except maybe your spouse and a couple of your friends. But guess what? Unless you’re already popular, everyone starts off that way. Tim Ferriss’s first post got one comment. He now gets over 1,000,000 monthly unique visitors to his blog (and a lot more comments). Stay persistent, create good content, get social, and your blog will eventually acquire more readers.

To sum it up, the benefits of starting a blog while you’re an employee definitely outweigh the costs. You’ll be perceived as an authority figure, make some money, and learn some great skills in the process. So stop making excuses and start one today!

Hassan Osman is a Senior Program Manager at Cisco Systems, a graduate student at Harvard, and a blogger at The Couch Manager. His latest blog, the Part-Time Webpreneur, is about how full-time employees can start and run a side business (views are his own).

Traffic Technique 7: Networking and Collaboration

Two minds are better than one—especially when it comes to blogging.

For bloggers trying to grow their traffic, working with others can give you a real advantage. The most obvious example is, of course, guest posting on someone else’s blog, but there are as many opportunities for creative collaboration as there are players in your niche—and all of them are different.

I often report on the ways social media has helped me generate traffic for dPS—and connect with new photographers whose content, in turn, attracts more traffic. But today I want to look at some other, more creative networking techniques that you can use to attract attention—and hopefully lasting, loyal visitors—for your blog.

The comment connection: networking with other commenters

I think a great place to seek opportunities for collaboration is in blog comments. Often, when we’re commenting on blog posts, we focus on the post, the author, and making a response that’s intelligent and presents us in an authoritative light.

But there’s a missed opportunity here: the chance to forge connections with other commenters. We all know how easy it is to see who knows their stuff in blog comments. We can usually follow a link to commenters’ blogs or sites and find out more about them and what they’re doing—which may give us ideas that we’d never have had on our own, perhaps for joint projects.

Responding to the comments on a blog post, rather than simply to the post’s author, can be a good way to get a feel for how responsive peers in your niche may be to your ideas, and to get on their radars. If you want to get in touch after that, it should be pretty easy. And who knows? Perhaps together you’ll be able to do far more to build your audiences—and traffic levels—than you’d ever have managed alone.

Connecting with your local audience offline

Recently I ran a small blogging event here in Melbourne, for a sub-niche of bloggers in town (food bloggers). It wasn’t a speech given at a business conference, or a presentation at a blogging event: it was held at the restaurant of a friend of mine, and benefitted him, the event speakers, and the bloggers who came along.

This event was a collaboration between myself, a friend, some of Melbourne’s best bloggers (who spoke at the event) and some of the city’s up-and-coming and established names in the niche (the attendees). Some of these people were familiar with Problogger.net; others weren’t. In all cases, the opportunity to connect in person with people from your target audience was, for me, unmissable.

When it comes to traffic, it’s all too easy to focus on overnight traffic success tactics—like guest posting, which can spike our traffic for the day. But strategies like networking plant seeds that can bear fruit over months or years—you may not see the benefits of that work for some time. But these longer term traffic strategies are essential if you’re to keep growing your audience and your blog sustainably.

Connecting with other experts

This one might come as a bit of a surprise, but it’s just as important as the more direct traffic methods, and shows how valuable collaboration can be.

By networking on and offline, and collaborating with those I’ve met, I’ve built relationships that have directly influenced my blog’s traffic levels.

  • I’ve met the Web Marketing Ninja, as well as Naomi, my designer, who’s helped me optimize my product offerings and the way we present them, and attract more quality traffic to each launch—as well as to my blogs overall.
  • I met Jasmine and Georgina, plus a range of authors, who help me produce content and products that continuously meet the needs of my readers, and which are a basic necessity in attracting and retaining new readers. They’ve also made it easier for me to form more relationships with larger numbers of players in the markets where I operate, which is a big boost to my efforts to find readers.
  • I’ve also formed relationships with other bloggers, like Brian Clark and Chris Garrett. The print book I wrote with Chris is yet another example of a collaboration that sowed seeds for future traffic. We’ve been reaping the benefits of that work ever since.
  • Your traffic network

    Networking and collaboration are excellent ways to grow your traffic in the long term, as well as more immediately. Have a think about your traffic network—in terms of the people you know or you’re working with. Could that network use a little extra attention? Are there opportunities for collaboration that you’re overlooking?

    I’d love to hear how you’re using networking and collaboration to build your blog traffic. Let us hear your tips in the comments.

How to Sell Affiliate Products on Pinterest

This guest post is by Krizia of CreateProfitableVideos.com.

Since I’m not a creative entrepreneur or blogger, I’m not able to benefit from the great opportunity to sell my products on Pinterest.

I define “creative entrepreneurs or bloggers” as the jewelry designers, accessory designers, interior decorators, kitchen supply shops, and photographers who are dominating Pinterest and have seen their sales skyrocket.

I could feature some of my online training programs, coaching sessions, and service packages, but that just isn’t as sexy or interesting as many of the hottest products sold on Pinterest.

Pinterest encourages commerce on the site, and that’s a rarity among social media platforms. They make it easy for you the vendor to market a product and they also make it easy for users to find products they might be interested in buying.

So I decided to repurpose a feature that my assistant was already adding to each new video interview on my Women Entrepreneurs HQ online show. For the show, I interview successful entrepreneurs. When we feature them, I always ask for the last book they’ve read, and the book that was the most instrumental in their lives.

My assistant features those books via my Amazon affiliate link. We use those Amazon features on Pinterest, and because I’ve asked my assistant to add the price of each book, all my additions are now part of the Pinterest Gifts page—and they’re categorized by price.

This is a brilliant way for non-creative bloggers and entrepreneurs to take advantage of Pinterest’s commerce-friendly features.

I know it might sound complicated, but I can assure you that adding affiliate products to Pinterest is super-easy. I’ve removed all the guesswork for you by detailing step-by-step how you can add your own affiliate products to Pinterest to boost your affiliate commissions.

Before I get started, I want to show you where all the Gifts are featured on Pinterest, because this will give you a good idea of the power of this feature.

Where to find gifts featured on Pinterest

When you sign into your account, you’ll want to click on the Pinterest logo to land on your homepage, featuring the latest pins from people you follow. On your homepage, you’ll notice a Gift tab at the top of the Pinterest site:
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When you click on the dropdown button, you can select gifts by price range, or you can click and select to view all the latest products for sale added by users:

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You’ll notice that all products have price tags. This means users know the price of a product before clicking on the photo to find out more (I’ve added red arrows to show you where the price appears):

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How to add your first affiliate product to Pinterest

Now, let’s take a look at how you can add your own affiliate products to Pinterest.

1. Categorize your affiliate products by creating separate boards

Right now, I have one board for my Amazon books and another board for products related to video marketing and I intend on adding more boards as I add more affiliate products.

2. Add a new board

To add a new board you’ll first need to click on the Add button at the top of your homepage.
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3. Select Create a board

create a board

4. Name your board

Make sure the name is search engine friendly. It might be tempting to use a “cutesy” name, but remember that Pinterest is a search engine, and optimized boards can show up on Google search results. I’ve selected to name my board Books for Success.

books for success

How to optimize Pinterest to get more traffic and clicks to your affiliate product

description

6. Add your URL

Don’t forgot to always add your URL to everything you pin on Pinterest so people can find your blog. Since each additional pin contains my affiliate links, I’ve added the URL to one of my main sites in the description box.

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Upload your affiliate product to a Pinterest board

7. Upload a pin

Instead of adding a pin (because you need to include your affiliate link), you’ll need to upload a pin—that is, a photo—from your computer:

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8. Select the right board

You now need to select the appropriate board … in other words, the board you just created for all these affiliate products. So I’ll select the Books for Success board:

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10. Add a description and URL

You now need to add a description and add the URL to where you want people to land or your affiliate link. Although you’re allowed 500 words, keep the description short and sweet because you want to make sure your affiliate link or the link to your main site shows up:

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11. Point people to your blog via a URL and hide your affiliate link behind the image

In order to add your affiliate link behind the image, you’ll need to go back and edit the pin you just uploaded. You can add your affiliate link inside the description box, but if you do, you’ll want to make sure it’s “cloacked” (aka masked) or you’ll want to use the services of a link shortener like bit.ly.

If you add a long “affiliate” URL that screams “affiliate link!” it’s unlikely anyone will click on it:

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12. Edit your pin

In order to add an affiliate link behind the image—and one that will be accessible every time someone clicks on the image—you’ll need to edit the pin you just uploaded. Once you click on the red Pint It button, you’ll be redirected to a page where you can edit the pin:

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How to add your affiliate link to Pinterest

13. Add your link

This part’s easy: you’ll simply need to add your affiliate link inside the Link box. This will allow the image you uploaded to be fully clickable, and it’ll automatically redirect Pinterest users to any product or service you’re promoting via your affiliate link.

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14. Add your product to Gifts

In order to get you product added to the Gifts page, and to get those cool little price tags featured on your pin, you simply need to add the price to the description box:

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15. The price appears

The second Pinterest’s search engine recognizes you’ve added a price and the dollar sign, it will automatically add the cool price in the upper left corner of your image:

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16. Within a few seconds, your new pin, containing your affiliate link, will be featured on the homepage of every one of your followers:

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I’ve noticed that it’s hard to tell how long it will take for pins with price tags to appear under the Gifts category, because there are so many new additions going up all the time. That said, your pin is automatically added to the homepage of your followers!

There are quite a few little steps to adding affiliate products to our Pinterest profile, but as you can see, it’s quite easy.

In my example, I’ve used an Amazon product and I used my Amazon affiliate link, but you can use the same logic for pretty much any product. The advantage with Amazon is that you could actually include the affiliate link as it appears in the description box without putting off viewers, because everyone has come to associate Amazon with quality!

If you haven’t yet explored adding affiliate products to Pinterest, I encourage you to get started. It’s a great way for bloggers to increase sales of affiliate products, and it’s also a great way to increase the visibility of your blog among Pinterest users!

Krizia (aka Miss K), is an Entrepreneur, Video Marketing Strategist, Video Show Host, Video Blogger, Speaker and International Author! Krizia launched http://www.CreateProfitableVideos.com to help entrepreneurs create AMAZING and IMPACTFUL video messages and discover How to Use video to Attract MORE Clients, Sales and Profits!