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5 Affordable Image Creation Tools that I use In My Blogging

Earlier in the year I published a post where I shared links to 13 tools and services that I use every day in my blogging business.

Today I wanted to add a four – particularly ones that relate to creating images for my blogs.

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PicMonkey

I use PicMonkey every day to help me create images for sharing on social media.

If you head to the Photos on the dPS Facebook page you’ll notice that most days we share at least one or two ‘collages’ of images from posts on the blog. Almost all of these were created with PicMonkey.

It’s a free web based tool (although there is an upgrade option that I’ve not used myself) and is really easy to use.

It also has some image editing tools that you might find useful for editing single images.

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Canva

I’m newer to Canva… because it is a newer tool but I’m using it more and more. It’s currently in beta but if you use this link you can get a VIP account (that’s just for ProBlogger readers).

Canva is similar to PicMonkey in some ways in that you can pull in images and text to create great visuals – but it comes with a lot of cool templates for different types of documents to get you going. It’s free to use but if you choose to use some of their images in your designs you will pay $1 per image for their use (I have only ever paid once and use my own images the bulk of the time).

It is all drag and drop and while it probably has a slightly steeper learning curve than Pic Monkey I think it’s definitely one to check out.

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Skitch (by Evernote)

I used to use Skitch a lot but for one reason or another stopped – until recently. A couple of my team members use Skitch a lot, particularly when we’ve been doing the redesign of dPS to communicate with each other. It’s great for creating screen captures and then adding notes with arrows or highlighting particular areas that we want our developers to work with.

I don’t tend to use the images Skitch creates too much publicly but it’s a handy tool for our internal communications.

It’s got a cool smartphone app too for doing these things on the run too!

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MindNode

This is a tool for creating mind maps. I use both an iPad and desktop app and it is how I created the ProBlogger Money Map that outlines how bloggers make money.

I use mind maps more for internal planning and communication than for creating images to share publicly. Having said that – I also have seen a number of people use mind maps like this for diagrams in blog posts as well as for powerpoint presentations.

MindNode is easy to use and creates lovely looking mindmaps.

Imagewell

ImageWell

I’ve mentioned this a few times in the past but continue to use it.

It’s a light weight mac image editing tool that I use mainly for resizing images and a little editing.

You can add borders, text etc. I will say I’ve used it less since discovering the two tools above but for quick edits when I am not actually online it is handy.

What Would You Add?

What other image creation and editing tools do you use in your blogging? I’m sure I’m just scratching the surface here – looking forward to seeing your suggestions!

One Activity You Should Do On Your Blog Every Day

Every DayWhat’s the one thing that you should do on your blog every day (or at least regularly)?

“Create new content!”

Good answer! Without regular new content your blog isn’t really a blog is it?

Another Great Daily Exercise for Your Blog

But other than creating new content – what else should you be paying attention to every day?

I want to suggest a simple activity that I think can be almost as important as creating new content for your blog.

It’s still content related but it’s about paying some attention to OLD posts.

Lately, I’ve been paying as much attention to my archives as I have to writing new content. And it’s paying off driving more traffic to old posts, finding new readers and importantly, improving the quality of content on the blog as a whole.

Here’s what I do:

1. Select a Post

I choose a post each day that is at least a year old. I usually choose one that is 2-3 years old and one that could do with some attention.

My criteria for selection is that it is a post with one or more of the following criteria:

  • It has performed well in the past, in terms of traffic or comment numbers
  • It has dated and needs updating to make it relevant for today
  • It was a good post but for one reason or another didn’t perform to its potential

I usually am looking for a ‘tutorial’ rather than a ‘news’ or ‘review’ type post – because I find these posts don’t date as fast.

2. Update It

By updating the post I mean numerous things, depending upon the post itself. These might include:

Update Content

This can be anything from a proof read through to a larger ‘rewrite’ of the post (or sections of it). I might add updates to make the post relevant to today or even add images/diagrams etc. Ultimately, it is about improving the content to make it more useful for readers.

Search Engine Optimisation

I don’t spend a heap of time on SEO but as I read back through the post, I will tweak it to better optimise for search engines. I use Yoast’s plugin for this and it helps by suggesting areas the post can be improved (heading, titles, alt tags, meta descriptions etc).

I also add links to other relevant posts on the blog. This is not only good for SEO, it’s good for readers too.

Social Optimisation

Posts published 3 or more years ago were published into a very different internet. Since then we’ve seen people sharing different types of content through new social media sites like Pinterest and G+.

One update I like to make is to make posts more shareable. For example adding a good visual or a collage of images can make a post more shareable on Pinterest. Also adding calls to action to share can be beneficial.

Calls to Action

In the same way that the web has changed over the last 3 years, so too have my own blogging goals and monetisation model. As a result, I take a critical look at old posts and what ‘calls to action‘ I’m giving to readers.

For example, 3 years ago I didn’t have any eBooks to sell, today on dPS we have 14. If a post I’m updating is relevant to one of these eBooks I’ll add a call to action to buy it. Other new calls to action might be to share a post on social media, to subscribe to our newsletter, to read another post, to join our forum etc.

3. Share and/or Republish

With the post updated, I then consider how it might be appropriate to give it some more exposure.

Again – there are a range of options available here including:

Republish

I don’t republish every updated post but 1-2 times per week, I will. I usually choose posts that have a proven track record of being well received and the type of content that has been shared in the past on social.

These posts go up on the blog as new posts simply by changing the publishing date to a recent one (note: on dPS I can do this easily as our link structure does not have dates in it).

Social

I also share every updated post on social media, in some way or another. I will tweet links to it but also add it into our Facebook and Pinterest sharing schedule.

Newsletter

At times I’ll also link to these updated posts in our weekly newsletter. I don’t do this for every post but often will add them with a note saying that they’re a hot post in the archives.

New/Followup Posts

The last thing I occasionally do with updated posts is to write new followup posts. This usually happens when I’m doing an update of an old post and realise that there is now scope to extend the idea considerably with a second part to the series. This new post will link back to the old – driving traffic back into the archives.

The Benefits of Paying Attention to Your Archives

The archives of your blog are in many ways just as important as the new posts on your blog.

On dPS we have over 4000 posts in the archives and it’s on these posts that the majority of our readers land thanks to search engine referrals. Updating those posts, in the way I’ve described above, not only helps their search rankings but makes the posts more useful , which means you’re more likely to see the posts shared by readers and more likely to create a good first impression on the readers who find them.

The result is more traffic, more subscribers and followers and hopefully more revenue as a consequence.

Do you update old posts on your blog? What other ‘updates’ would you add to my list above?

Are You Leaving Yourself Open To Social Media Identity Theft?

This is a guest contribution from Amy Johnson.

Social media has become incredibly popular.  Many people have accounts on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or LinkedIn, and many share information, photos, and other things with their friends through these sites. But they may not realise how much they’re sharing or that strangers can access some of this information.

In fact, some people never think to apply some of the basics of online identity theft prevention to their social media posts and profiles.

It’s important to realise that, even if you have restricted your posts to certain people, it may be possible that others can see and access some of your information and use it to steal your identity.

What to Keep Secret

When you sign up for a social media profile, there are some things you almost always have to provide, such as your first and last name, your email, and your birthdate. Most sites allow you to keep some of this information hidden, but you still have to provide it.

However, besides the email address, you aren’t actually required to provide real information. You can use a fake last name or a fake birthday if you want. Just make a note of this information in case you need it later. Most sites will send a confirmation link to your email address that you must click on to activate the account, so you must enter a valid email address.

However, to avoid giving spammers and others your real email, create an email address you use only for things like social media or mailing lists.

Never add your address or phone number to your profile.

Think about your Profile Picture

Posting a profile picture is almost a requirement with social networks now, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a picture of you. You can use a picture of your pets, a piece of artwork you’ve done, or a picture you’ve applied different filters to.

If you have a professional photo that you know is being used elsewhere on the internet, there’s no reason not to use it, especially if you’re creating a work-related profile on a site like LinkedIn.

Here are two things when considering what picture to use:

  1. Does it give away any information about me that I would rather keep public?
  2. Would I want my mother or children seeing this picture?

Privacy Settings

Almost all social media sites have privacy settings you can use to help with online identity theft protection. However, they usually are not set by default.

When you create a new profile, make certain to look at the privacy settings and set them to at least friends-only. You may want to set some items, such as your birthday, to private. Remember that even if you choose not to display your birthdate on your profile, some social media sites will announce it’s your birthday to your friends, so you may need to find and turn off that setting as well.

Do Not Accept All Friend Requests 

It goes without saying that you should never accept friend requests from people you don’t know, but what about acquaintances and friends of friends you might have met once or twice?

If you don’t know the person well enough that you would be willing to share information face to face, you may not want to add them to your profile.

Be Careful What You Post

While it may be very tempting to post about your upcoming vacation, remember that this is telling people when your home will be empty.

Be careful when mentioning things like this, especially if you haven’t adjusted your profile privacy settings or if you have people on your friends list who you don’t know very well.

Protecting your Family from Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a trend that has become more and more concerning to parents over the last decade. Instead of teasing or bullying a child in public, kids have taken to using social media sites to do so.

Bullying on social media sites is just as hurtful as physical bullying. While it may be easy enough to block a bully on a site like Facebook, if they have access to your personal information, they may start bullying through email, text, or even appear at your house.

This is why it’s very important for children to understand that they must keep their information private. If you teach your kids online identity theft prevention techniques now, they will habitually use them later.

Check Your Credit

Finally, keep an eye on your credit. The importance of credit monitoring extends beyond keeping your credit cards safe. It can also alert you to online identity theft and help you understand where people are getting your personal information.

Checking your credit score regularly, as well as locking down your social media profiles, are both great methods of online identity theft prevention.

Amy Johnson is an active blogger who is fond of sharing interesting finance related articles to encourage people to manage and protect their finances.

Call-to-Action 101: Why they’re important and how to use them

This is guest contribution from Michael Kuhlmann.

Would you like to increase your readership? How about boosting downloads for your latest white paper or newly-launched digital product?

The secret to success sometimes lies in the obvious.

While you may have placed a sign-up field for your newsletter or added a new product to your e-commerce site, your job as a content marketer doesn’t end there. You need a CTA, a call-to-action!

The easiest way to start is by answering the “why” question. Why should somebody subscribe to your blog? Or, why should I buy this new product? The answer can be anything from “Buy 1, Get 2 Free!” to “Sign up today and never miss another post!”

A sleepy reader without a call to action

Finish the race

When you’re ramping up a marketing campaign through an email, landing page or any other asset, it’s easy to get lost in the offer and messaging. You’ll talk about all the amazing things your customers will want and maybe even include a bulleted list of why your goods and/or services are so awesome. You might even throw in the “time-limited offer” verbiage to incentivise your customers.

After you add your button that reads “click here” somewhere in your content, you might be inclined to call it day. Don’t! You’ll just have wasted a lot of time and effort on what’s, really, your first draft.

Let’s backtrack a little.

Every form of communication with your customer should begin and/or end with a call to action. While it’s easy to point out the importance this carries over your marketing efforts, it’s best explained through an example. Consider the following marketing copy for an email:

Scenario

Unilever announced it will sell a new body spray this December called Squirrel-Off, which is intended to repel food-begging squirrels.

Call to action: Example A

Ward off those pesky squirrels this holiday season with Squirrel-Off!

Call to action: Example B

Keep squirrels away this holiday season with Squirrel-Off, the amazing scented body spray that protects you from those unwanted critters.

Example A sounds abrupt, lacks any type of interaction with the reader and isn’t warm or fuzzy. Example B, on the other hand, is more descriptive and increases the click-through rate (CTR) by linking the bolded call to action in addition to the advertised product.

Split testing your call to action

Split test

To calculate the effectiveness of the marketing copy with and without a call to action, we can refer to what’s called an A/B split-test.

A lot of email service providers (ESPs) have a built-in functionality to measure this, but for the sake of keeping things simple, let’s assume we have a database of 200 contacts. If we also assume that our ESP is fairly basic without a simple or automated A/B split-testing functionality, then we can halve our contacts and send them the marketing copy with the contents from Example A and the other 100 people receive the contents from Example B. The CTR from the latter email should yield higher.

Calculating the effectiveness of CTAs doesn’t hinge solely on the email copy nor on the medium in which you use it, and it doesn’t have to be time-consuming or complicated.

For example, if you’re not too keen on fiddling with Google Analytics and have a fair marketing budget, you can use Optimize.ly or Visual Website Optimizer on your landing pages. You can perform split-tests on your hero shot and call to action buttons, as well.

Does a red pill button outperform a blue pill button? How about button with a chevron or triangle? The possibilities to what you can measure are endless, but the common denominator will always be your content, your call to action.

To hone down on your CTA, you’ll want to answer five questions.

1. Does your first sentence grab your attention enough to continue reading?

An easy way to figure this out is to think of your favourite product or service and substitute it for the actual product or service you’re promoting. If you’re thinking, “Sure, this sentence is still good enough” stop right there and revise it, because your first sentence needs to be excellent!

When it’s excellent, the road is paved for your customers to keep reading your content, which will increase the chances for them to perform an action – starting a trial, getting a discount, downloading a document, etc.

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2. Do you have emphatic CTAs sprinkled throughout your content?

If you think your call to actions might be a bit weak and you’re worried about making them sound too “sales-y”, don’t worry. Make them sound “sales-y”.  Obviously, you don’t want every sentence to have a link pointing to your product or service, but your call to action should be noticeable throughout your content.

The worst thing you can do is have a boring call to act

ion that nobody cares enough to click on, which brings up the next question.

3. Have you linked your CTAs?

Sure, you can expect people to read your entire content and scroll down to click on your awesome call to action button, but let’s not be so lazy. Your customers need a bit of hand-holding and that requires you to give them more than one way to click on things. For example, if you’re prompting them to “discover new music”, then make sure to link your CTA to the appropriate page.

4. Are you tracking your CTAs?

Hopefully, the answer is always “Yes”. If you’re shrugging your shoulders, link-tracking simply means you’re counting how many times people have clicked on your linked call to action.

You can use tools like Google URL Builder or Bit.ly or any other tracking method for that matter. You’ll want to get into the habit of continuously measuring your marketing efforts, as that will help you promote your products and/or services more efficiently. It takes a bit more time, but you’ll make much more informed decisions for your next campaign.

5. Are you using a pill-shaped “Click Here” button?

Yes? Shame on you!

That type of marketing belongs next to the blinking text from the late 90s. If you want people to start a trial, your pill-shaped call to action button should read “Start Your Trial” … and, yes, make that title-case, because it stands out more. Don’t be vague! People should be able to look at your CTA button and figure out what happens before they click on it.

Once you’ve tweaked your content, give yourself a pat on the shoulder and a quick breather, because you’ve just scratched the surface on optimising your marketing effort starting from your call to action.

Michael Kuhlmann is a highly-caffeinated content creator at Quote Roller. When he’s not writing stuff, he spends time with his shutterbug wife, teeny toddler and West Highland White Terrier named Beary White who has a Napoleon complex. 

How to Beat Amazon eBook Competition

This is a guest contribution from The Blogger, Greg Narayan.

If you’ve tested your luck in the eBook industry you probably have noticed one thing: the scene is a total mess.

While it takes years to publish a hard cover novel, we can now whip off a PDF eBook in the time it takes to make a PBJ sandwich, then start selling it online.

This presents a real problem to both producers, and consumers as competition rises to the extremes.

Aside: If there ARE good eBooks out there, they are here at ProBlogger.net. I’ve bought a few and even at my current stage in blogging I’ll admit that even the beginner content has taught me a ton!

Back to the whole ebook mess… how do we know which eBooks to buy, which ones will sell, and what topics need coverage?

Well, let’s take a look.

Learning how Amazon works

market an ebook on Amazon

Source: Goodereader.com

This short story  begins with Amazon, who frequently sends me eBook suggestions which I often delete.

But the other morning I decided to give Amazon’s suggestions a shot. Maybe it was my refreshed feeling with the new fall season or the strong cup of coffee that sat in front of me.

Either way, I was ready to learn.

And what I saw in this email proved worth it.

Gregory J. Narayan,

Are you looking for something in our Business & Investing Books department? If so, you might be interested in these items.

Typical introduction…but I kept reading.

Side note 1: If you’re a blogger or anyone bent on learning online marketing, clicking Amazon emails, ads, and even Facebook ads can be really informative. It costs you nothing and you can then take notes on the persuasive copy and landing pages that others have invested money in.

At the top of the list was the new book called “Let Go by Pat Flynn” and below it were books that were also awesome, but just lacked the pop that Pat’s had.

Here are five things I noticed from observing Pat’s book, which to date has already sold thousands of copies and receives ways more reviews than other books in his niche.

Best Practice Tips from Published Amazon eBooks

kindling

Source: Alvaro Gonzalez http://www.alvarogonzalezalorda.com/

These are some tips I sort of “stole” from Pat’s eBook launch.

Tip #1: Create a title that resonates

Make your title brief and powerful with simple words. The idea is not to use fluffy words like “world class, expert, millionaire, unique, or empire” because that’s what everyone else is doing!

These words look great upfront but will only cloud your objectives.

Instead, pick a unique yet simple combination of words that people will remember. Ideally, you want the title to be both memorable and relatable – reflecting the kind of activities a lot of people want to pursue.

Activities? Yep, eBooks are about doing.

⇨ Best practice: Keep the title short and include your name (even though Amazon sometimes discourages this)

Tip #2: Pay for a respectable logo

Pay a starving logo-designer a couple hundred bucks to create something memorable, instead of using some played out image like an open road or top of a mountain. It will make their day and they’ll put good hours into your design which will be reflect for months or even years to come, depending on how your niche evolves.

A good, respectable image can dominate your whole cover (which is a good thing) and create a lasting impression in peoples’ mind. Again, think memorable and relatable.

⇨ Best practice: Think up a story to go along with the image.

Tip #3: Recruit other known authors for social proof

Bring in 2-4 other niche names and you’ll really add value to your end result. I know it’s nice to do everything on your own – I’ve been guilty of trying to write, design, and even code my entire blog – but honestly outsourcing some of the work is a really smart tactic.

Firstly, this shows folks you have a network of like-minded thinkers.

Second, this will instantly multiply the organic marketing base you have (with things like more personal Facebooks and Twitters to share from). Lastly, more authors means more people to critique your own work before you publish to Amazon!

The value of another set of eyes is overwhelmingly high, yet most of us take this for granted.

⇨ Best practice: Don’t email your contributors until you have the ball-rolling, a sales page drafted, an image, etc. Once you do, give folks a concrete assignment and deadlines (people are just too busy otherwise).

Tip #4: Don’t get greedy with your price

Don’t set your eBook to hardcover prices. Unless you’re already established, no one is going to pay your rate of $15-30. Common sense economics tell us it’s more valuable to get more sales even if it means at a lesser price, duh.

But common sense economics also tells us that we often overvalue things we create. This part might be less intuitive. So, maybe ask someone (like ehem, one of your awesome readers?) how much they would pay.

Do a survey or a poll, and tailor your price around the higher end of what people say they would pay.

⇨ Best practice: Research prices of other eBooks already dominating your niche, and price yours competitively. Watch “The Price is Right” for a shrewd strategy or two :)

Tip #5: Jockey for positioning

The order in which we see thing really matters. So if your new eBook does start to gain some popularity and rise the ranks on Amazon or wherever it’s listed, you should deliberately keep increasing it’s rankings.

You could achieve the ‘snowball effect’. Sometimes, more people noticing your book and noticing that others are noticing it can really launch it into the limelight. And your window for success in this department may be slim.

In the next section, I’ll show you what I mean.

Time to contact Mr. Flynn

PatFlynn

Source: PatFlynn http://patflynn.me/

In my excitement seeing Pat’s book blast apart the others (seriously, hundreds more reviews than the next guy) I instantly reached out to him. What ensued was a ridiculous fun Twitter conversation/forum that you may want to join in on if you have a moment.

What I learned from Pat, as I prepare my own eBook for it’s sale (on the to-do list after I finish this post), was priceless.

The main message? You can enter even the most saturated niche – just do it with style, confidence, and originality.

Bonus Tip: Create an offsite promotions page

Now, I don’t mean to bombard you with so much here that you wont’ be able to stammer out a comment (which you know I love) but I needed to include this too.

Sure, your blog is a good place to promote your new eBook or any product you come up with. But you could go the next step.

Domain names go for as cheap as $2 bucks a pop (Google Search for discounts!) nowadays, so why not setup a promotions site and nest your eBook download right in there?

Advantages of offsite promo:

⇨ More websites = more trafic potential = more clout

⇨ Your announcments won’t get burried by newer articles as they would on a blog format

⇨ Leverage new domain name to build PageRank around keywords closely related to your book

And if it’s building PageRank you’d like to do…well, let’s just say the topic of eBooks and PageRank will be like peanut butter to jelly soon!

Conclusion

If you want your new eBook to launch well you have to research your niche and find out how to be different. While this boils down to price, style, and content there are lots more criteria to take advantage of.

Get creative, click ads, and send pipe dream emails to those you admire. The biggest flaw would be assuming you’ll get rich (or make anything) just because you make it to Amazon.

I know this has gotten your ideas flowing. If you have any stories from your own eBooks or personal businesses, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

The Blogger runs a blogging answers community out of Manhattan but really considers his home online. He just finished the launch page for his new PageRank eBook, make sure to hop on that list and read up before the next update passes you! As usual, get more on .

How Posting a Humble ‘Selfie’ Grew Traffic, Shares and Comments on a New Blog

Two months ago my wife, Vanessa, started to blog.

It is something she’s been planning for some time and with a little encouragement and some design help from Shayne, we set up at Style and Shenanigans.

The blog is in its very early days and Vanessa is still finding her voice but I think she’s a natural. I’ve been excited to see her experiment with a variety of kinds of blog posts.

NewImageTwo days ago saw a new type of blog post on Style and Shenanigans – a post that I watched Vanessa put a lot of thought into. It was the first time she’d shown herself on the blog in a picture with a post called Everyday Style @ Shenanigans Central.

The post included a montage of humble selfie shots of an outfit she wore and a description of the different elements in the outfit.

I totally understand V’s hesitation with the post.

Putting a picture of yourself ‘out there’ for all to see is something I remember pondering for a few days, before I did  when I started blogging back in 2002.

Back then, I had to go and get an image scanned to be able to put my photo up so it wasn’t something I could do on the spur of the moment. I also worried about doing it. I was concerned about privacy but I also felt weird about having my face ‘out there’.

I think I’ve gotten over that… as a quick search on Google Images will show (although I didn’t post all of these shots myself and at least one have been ‘doctored’).

Selfies

While we live in an age of the ‘selfie’ – when people constantly photograph and share pictures of themselves – many new bloggers do worry about their first time.

It won’t be for everyone and you will want to consider issues around privacy and safety however, there are some definite benefits. You can see some of those benefits with Vanessa’s post this week.

V’s blog post statistics were notable for three reasons:

  • Firstly, it was a record day of traffic. While it didn’t go viral it was the best day of traffic so far on the blog and around 7 times the traffic of a normal day.
  • Secondly, the post got shared more than a normal post. Again, it wasn’t a viral post but a greater number of people shared it around.
  • Thirdly, the post had more comments than she’d had previously. I think this was related to more than the increase in traffic.

My reflection upon V’s post was that it was a post that people connected to, a lot more than previous posts. Because of that, it generated more interest and more engagement.

People relate to people. We’re wired to be drawn to others and respond to their faces and stories. It’s no wonder that by injecting some personal touches into a blog – it has a positive impact.

I noticed this same thing when I first started posting images and videos of myself in my early blogging. It felt weird at first – but it helped my readers connect to me.

A Surprise Benefit of Being Personal

I also think that it had another benefit for my blog. It made ME feel more connected too. I noticed this in particular when I started posting videos of myself, here on ProBlogger. The same was true when I first did video streaming chats and webinars.

There is something about creating content that is more personal that makes ME feel more engaged with my readers. Perhaps having been seen and heard by my readers – I feel a little more accountable to them.

Whatever it is, I feel like by putting myself out there and over the years my blogging has improved.

Have you posted pictures of yourself on your blog?

I’d love to hear about your experience of this. Have you posted more personal content on your blog? Pictures, video, stories etc?

Was it something you struggled with or just did? What impact did it have?

The Do’s and Don’ts of Conducting Interviews For Your Blog

This is a guest contribution by Kelly Gregorio.

As an active blog owner, chances are you strive to produce content that is engaging, relevant and most important, fresh. Right?

Switching up your content’s style and delivery can keep readers’ interest and may even make the experience of producing content more exciting.

One way to engage your audience is with a stellar interview. Not only can a successful interview provide some great promotion to your brand and credibility within your field, but it also can get audiences more invested in your blog’s content.

Unfortunately not every blogger knows the keys to great interviewing.

Missteps and mistakes can turn your endeavour into a flop while running the risk of staining your online reputation. Follow these quality do’s and don’ts and make the process work for you, your interviewer and your blog audience.

Do Prepare

If there is one thing an interviewee hates it is a repetitive, unprepared interviewer. If you want stagnant answers and shallow insights, then by all means don’t do your homework. However if you want them to open up…

Get prepared. Know your subject’s biography and background better that he/she does. Read every interview about them that’s ever been published. Your interviewee will not only appreciate not needing to fill in the well-known blanks about their past, but they may even get invested in the interview itself.

By reading past interviews, you’ll know not to ask those same old questions that they’ve heard before. Take on the task of striving to ask something they’ve never publicly explored before; try to get them not just to answer, but also to reflect and really think.

Don’t Serve Your Own Curiosities

Of course you will come to the interview with your questions already prepared –this goes without saying. However pre-interview be sure to formulate each question with your eventual readers in mind. 

The formulated questions you collect should serve as a great skeleton for where you see the article going. The interviewee will either fill in the meat or break the mould completely; you have to be willing and open to things going either way.

Whatever you do be sure not to abuse your power and ask questions that solely serve your curiosity. Do not ask things that you have no intention of writing about but are instead, are just nosey; it’s so unprofessional. Everything you say and do should be in representation of your reader’s interest while being both polite and politically correct.

Do Set The Tone

It is your job to ease your interviewee’s mind. Despite their public persona, people get nervous during interviews. And a clammed up subject will make for some boring interactions.

This is why you should make the interview more of a conversation.

Be willing to work with your interviewee as they formulate his/her thoughts. If you rigidly plan to quote them verbatim you are going to find yourself with a tight lipped and hesitant participant. Instead, encourage them to just be themselves and go off and explore together. Get clarification before quoting anything, to make sure that their intended message gets across.

Don’t Forget To Show Thanks

Post-interview be sure to follow up with a formal thank you for their time. If you have an online following, promote your interviewee (and any upcoming projects they have going on) by providing teasers to your readers about the upcoming interview.

Be sure to let your interviewee know when their post will be live. Not only is informing them the polite thing to do, it might even open your interviewee up to participating and interacting with questions and comments from your readers.

Have you had any success conducting interviews for your blog? What tips can you add?

Kelly Gregorio is a journalist that reports on small business trends while working at Advantage Capital Funds, a company that provides businesses working capital. You can connect with her through the comments section of her daily business blog here.

 

30 Lessons from Selling $30 Million Worth of eBooks

This is a guest contribution from our very own Shayne Tilley.

class snapshots

Before you hit me up for a loan, let me preface this post. That number represents eBooks sold in for various masters and partners in the last decade. Yes there are a couple of mine in there, but it’s a tiny fraction of a % of the total.

Okay, with that out of the way, a big part of my digital life has revolved around eBooks. I’ve been trying to sell eBooks before anyone really knew what they were. I’ve tried just about every approach, channel, launch strategy there is, and made pretty much every mistake in the eBook. I’ll admit, a lot of the time I was making it up as I went along. There were no rules to this eBook game.

If you’re about to start your own journey with eBooks here are 30 lessons I learnt along the way…

1. Good eBooks sell eBooks

When it comes to selling eBooks, there are lots of techniques and tactics that will people motivated to buy, but there is none more powerful that a great eBook.

True word of mouth will sell more copies than your marketing copy ever will.

2. Page count doesn’t matter (when it comes to pricing)

People are happy to spend a $100 on an eBook that solves a problem they put a high value on. Higher than the eBook price anyway. The length of your eBook should be as long at it needs to be to deliver the value you promise.

Don’t pad for price.

3. Some people are great at explaining things, some are not

I read and listen to people like Darren and my friend Kevin Yank and I know they are better at explaining things than I am.  It’s the truth but it didn’t stop me writing two eBooks. It did teach me that I needed to focus on the skills I wanted to improve on.

4. Momentum early pays off immediately and in the long run

Every eBook I’ve launched that has gained great early momentum (and was evergreen) has always delivered the most over a long period of time.

Don’t think about what you’ll earn from great launch now; think of the impact momentum will carry over the life of the eBook.

5. You’re not actually selling content

I’m talking about practical eBooks here. You can read / listen / watch for free on the web a how-to on any topic.  EBooks organise things for us into a nice little bundle and often have a higher editorial standard. That convenience and quality is what we buy, not the content. There are exceptions to this I’ll admit, but it’s something to think about

6. The story matters

People care about why you wrote the eBook just as much as what’s inside. When you tell a story and share emotions, people will be a lot more inclined to listen to what you have to say.

7. Marketplaces find buyers but screw with your pricing

If you want to play in the sub $10 eBook market then getting your eBook into places like iEBookstore and Amazon are a no brainer.  But they’ll work against you if you want to aim higher than that.

Used well, these marketplaces can reach millions of readers but if you have your own audience you might not need to bend to their will.

8. Reviews matter

Bad reviews can kill eBooks – legitimate or not. Sometimes there’s not much you can do about a bad review but you should know what people are saying. Don’t just look at Amazon reviews, Google ‘[your eBook] review’ and see what comes up.

Chances are your potential customers already are.

9. Print is still prestige

Whilst this is perhaps fading, printed books carry more prestige than an eEBook. You might consider printing a small batch of books so you can give them to your clients (and your mom).  This is even more important if your eBook is the bait not the fish (we’ll talk about that later).

10. Evergreen lives longer, relevant launches bigger

If you want your eBook to live a long life then evergreen content is the way to go. If you want a big win now, a timely eBook is an option as long as you remember that the clock on the longevity of your sales is already ticking.

11. You’ll sell more than anyone else will

You just stick your eBook on Amazon and let Amazon work it’s magic, right?  Wrong. Don’t expect to create an eBook and just magically sell your way to retirement.

You’ve got to continue to sell you and the eBook at every moment, if you want it to pay the bills.

12. If there are 100 of the same eBooks on your topic, you need an audience

The amount of times people talk to me about their social media eBook does my head in. Honestly. There are so many eBooks on this topic already – why would someone buy yours?

If you’re going to plonk your eBook into an open marketplace with a bunch of similar eBooks that already have history, sales and reviews, you might be wasting your time. But if you already have your own audience and can launch it to them, you might just get some instant momentum.

13. Invest in an editor, and or a proofreader

People expect quality in eBooks. I don’t care how good a word nerd you think you are. Get a second opinion.

14. There’s not such thing as a perfect eBook

Don’t expect to create the perfect eBook. It doesn’t exist and probably never will.  For the perfectionists, call it done and ship!  You won’t make any money with it in draft.

15. Even the niche of a niche can be profitable

Don’t think you need to create the next 50 Shades of Grey to make good money.  Even the super niches are large enough to create a volume of buyers and well worth your while.

The wider the niche the more potential customers but the more competitive it will be, so it’s a balancing act.

16. Write your blog post / press release first

This is a technique I use to understand who my readers are and what they want.  Your sales page should be full of benefits and promises. Write those promises first, then make sure your eBook delivers on them as you create it.

17. You might have an eBook and you don’t even know it

Two of the most successful eBook publishers I’ve worked with created their first eBook as a collection of posts – with a few extra bits wrapped up in a nice design.

Remember what you’re selling, then look at what you’ve created already and you just might find an eBook in there.

18. Think in launch month, not launch day

I’m not going to talk much more about launches, as there’s another 30 lessons in there.  But if your launch plan is only one day – you really need to talk to me!

19. Get someone else to review or write your sales copy

Of the hundreds of eBooks I’ve launched, the only sales pages I didn’t write were for my own two eBooks. Why? Because I just couldn’t be objective.

You’re likely to focus on the hard parts to write, which probably are not the part your readers care about. You’ll infer and miss stuff — it’ll get messy. Get someone else to do it, or, at a minimum get someone else to pick it to pieces for you.

20. Sometimes you just can’t pick ‘em

I’ll guarantee you this, there’s no guarantee or sure fire success when it comes to eBooks. Sometimes you can pick ‘em and other times, they’ll come out of left field.

But you’ll never know if you don’t try.

21. You’ll be surprised who doesn’t help spread the word

When you launch you eBook, there will be a bunch of people who you’re convinced will help you spread the word. You’ll learn a lot about the people who do and who don’t.

22. Your perfect launch day was probably yesterday

I’ve spoken about this before, there is no one size fits all perfect launch day (or every single eBook would launch on the same day!). So just get it done and stop worrying about when.

23. Your eBook can be the bait, or the fish

You can write eBooks, charge money and that’s your income. You can write eBooks, charge money and open doors. Or you can give away eBooks to sell other products and services.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these plans however, you need to understand your objectives and focus on them – rather than trying to get the best of every world.

24. Lots of people will tell you it’s easy

Creating an eBook isn’t easy. There are lots of things to think about and anyone who tells you it is easy probably has a product to lead you to. That said, it’s hard work done once and can be extremely valuable. At a minimum, it’s something to be really proud of.

25. It’s not a forever investment

There is a time-limit on every eBook. Well, maybe not all eBooks – but most. Don’t expect that in a decade, you’ll still be selling the same eBook in the thousands.

If you want to keep the revenue flowing, think about new editions and new titles.

26. Procrastinators need a stick

My stick is my partner Justine, and Problogger’s stick is Jasmine, our eBook creator (she’s a wonderful person!). If you procrastinate, you need help. Find it in any way you can, or you’ll never ship.

27. Titles and cover images matter (even digitally)

Think about what your title means to a reader, now and tomorrow. Think about how they will remember your title and how they will describe it to others.

Coming up with a great eBook title is a bit of an art form like email subject lines and headlines but you don’t have as much chance of running A/B tests to get it right!

28. Split your selling and your writing

This is really a tip about your mindset. When you’re writing, you’re delivering a message to your reader and you need to focus on doing the best possible job. Immerse yourself and be narrow-minded.

When it comes to selling, you need to approach it as objectively as you can. Try to think like your selling someone else eBook not your own — or get some help

29. What worked for them, won’t always work for you

If enough people try something, eventually someone will get it right but that doesn’t mean it will work for you.

Someone else’s success is probably during a different time, on a different topic with different readers – and you’re a different writer.

Your perfect launch story is your own.

30. Just go with it

Of all the things that scare you about putting an eBook out on show, the reward (even if it’s just a personal one) will be worth it.  I’m a two-time author who got D’s in English.  If I can do it then you can!

So there you have it, 30 things I learned selling a crap load of eBooks.  I’m sure there are more so I’d love to hear about some in the comments!

Behind the Scenes – My Low Tech Editorial Schedule

How do you organise and plan your posts? Do you have an editorial calendar?

I like to keep things fairly informal but do use a spreadsheet to help me keep more organised than I used to. Here’s how it looks for dPS:

Editorial calendar

The left two columns are my blog posts. I publish two posts per day – one scheduled for the US audience in the morning and one for the afternoon. I’m usually scheduling these 2-3 days in advance (but up to a week or two in advance if I’m taking a trip).

The 5 columns on the right are my Facebook posts on the dPS Facebook Page which I plug in a day or two in advance also. The times at the top are Aussie time zone times but they tend to go up more during the US morning through to evening – every 4-5 hours.

The Facebook updates are a combination of:

  • New posts on the blog (2 per day)
  • Highlighting old posts in the archives (1-2 per day)
  • Discussion Questions (1 every day or two)
  • Links to hot threads in our forum area (1 per day)

Note: Much of what I do I posted about last week in my post on increasing Facebook Engagement by 200-300%.

I do move them around a bit depending upon what is happening on the blog on any given day. If something hot is happening on a post or forum I’ll push that into the schedule faster for example.

The green colour signifies that the posts are scheduled. If they are white they are just penciled in but not set to go live yet.

That’s how I roll – what about you? Do you schedule posts far in advance? Do you use a system or tool to help you do it?