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14 Bloggers Share Their Daily Blogging Routine

Yesterday I shared some tips for busy bloggers on how to find time to blog based upon a lot of questions I’ve had of late on that topic.

As part of that post I was intending on describing my own blogging routine – but on the spur of the moment decided to email a group of blogging friends to ask them to describe how they go about blogging.

Each have graciously allowed me to share their responses. I hope you find them as fascinating as I do.

My Question to these bloggers was: Can you give us a quick snapshot of your blogging schedule – when do you do it? Do you have a routine or is it more spontaneous?

Tsh Oxenreider from Simple Mom

I have a pretty set routine, simply because it is my job (that I also happen to love)—but that doesn’t mean I don’t also have lots of random things I need to do here and there, which I squeeze in with I can with three little kids. I typically write in the morning, since that’s my brain’s best time, and then I’ll fill in the gaps with tasks that don’t take as much brain power for me. Every day is different, to be honest, but here’s a typical day for me:

  • 6 am—Wake up, personal time, coffee, writing time (if my toddler doesn’t wake up).
  • 7:30-9:00 am—Breakfast with the family, get the kids ready for the day and out to school.
  • 9:00 am-1:00 pm—Work, work, work in my office at home while our babysitter is out in the rest of the house with the boys (my oldest is in school).
  • 1:00 pm—My second goes to preschool and my youngest naps, so I either wrap up work or catch up on household stuff.
  • 3:30 pm—Pick up kids from school, help with homework, start dinner, clean, and other typical mom stuff.
  • 5:30 pm-8:30 pm—Dinner, baths, storytime, family time, bed.
  • 8:30 pm-10:00 pm—Any combination of work catch-up (although I don’t write, I do more brainless stuff, like photo editing, email processing, etc.), but I prefer to do things like watch a movie or read a book.

Chris Garrett

chris_garrett_blogworld.jpgI used to have a routine, now I write when I have something to say, and when I find time (which never seems to happen recently).

In the past I had a proper schedule because at one point I was writing for a dozen blogs and people depended on me to deliver (contractually and out of a feeling of obligation). Like many bloggers, I used an editorial calendar, and such. This makes me feel I should get back to that!

Christina Butcher from Hair Romance

My most productive time is the morning so I get up early and head straight to the computer to write. I just work on blog posts for 1-2 hours.

I ban myself from checking emails or social media as it’s too distracting. I work to an editorial calendar which helps me plan my content, but it’s still flexible so I can add stories at the last minute.

I have a waterproof notepad in the shower as I always get blogging ideas while I’m washing my hair!

Leo Babauta from ZenHabits

leocomputer-300x290.jpgI write every morning, after I meditate upon waking.

But just twice a week is for my actual blog (as opposed to writing for books/courses).

So about an hour, twice a week, first thing in the morning.

Sarah Wilson

I tend to bang out some ideas and clip links as I go and keep about 20 “on the boil” posts in my drafts folder which I add to, patchwork, fiddle with over time.

Each Monday I try to devote to getting my blogs sorted for the week (I post Tuesday – Friday…ish).

I’ll write some afresh, or I pull one that inspires me from my drafts and tidy it up. My gorgeous assistant Jo will often add any links, caption pictures, do some extra research and run an extra eye over things. Invariably I get up on the morning of the post and tinker with it a little…often a bit of distance allows me to bring even more to it.

Neil Patel from Quick Sprout

neilpatel_1284435007_44-300x274.jpgI tend to schedule my blog posts, which means I blog in advance.

The 2 main days I find myself writing each week is Sunday and Wednesday. Typically I blog when I am at home or on the airplane.

As for my routine, I typically think of ideas to write on and then I just start writing.

Nicole Avery from Planning with Kids

Nicole-Avery.pngI have a content plan spanning most of the year. Most of the time, I will write my posts on the weekend. This is when the kids have their dad home to look after them and I can work uninterrupted or at least that is the theory!

As I have a plan for what I am writing, I can look at the topics earlier in the week. This lets ideas and often large chunks of the post, start formulating in my head, when I am doing other things like running. So when I actually sit down to do the task of writing the posts, it is much easier and quicker. I will schedule my posts in advance, so regardless of what happens in the week amongst family life, my posting schedule stays consistent.

If I have extra time and have something I want to say, I will write and post spontaneously, but this would occur only a very small amount of the time.

Tina Roth – Swiss Miss

untitled.jpgI blog in the mornings, mostly.

I have multiple tabs that automatically open to my favorite online stores, specifically to their “new arrivals” pages to get an idea for new products.

I am also so lucky to have loyal readers that send along wonderful things to my submissions email account!

Jonathan Fields from Good Life Project

untitled.jpgFor Good Life Project, we air a new show every Wednesday and often batch shoot 4 episodes in one-day.

For my personal blog, I use a very disciplined methodology I call “When I’ve got something to say, I write.” lol.

Chris Brogan

I blog a lot more spontaneously than not. I often have a core question that the idea of the post bounces against, but the actual “typing it into WordPress” happens quite randomly. For instance, I decided to write a post about Google+ the other day, but I framed it against the “if I’m a business person looking to get my feet wet, here’s a recipe for starting.” That’s the idea (google+) against the core question (how would I get started). I do that.

Crystal Paine from Money Saving Mom

I try to get up at 5 a.m. every day and get in two hours of blogging and computer work before my kids get up (yes, they are late risers!). I then try to get in a few more hours in the afternoon, as well as a few hours on Saturday.

I’ve found that I’m much more productive when I compartmentalise my blogging time and try to leave my laptop and phone in my office as much as is possible so that checking emails and social media is something that I do during blogging hours — instead of during family time or at the dinner table.

Rand Fishkin from SEOMoz

I blog almost exclusively very late at night on weekdays (between 10pm-2am) and on the weekends.

My work schedule is such that these days, that’s the only time I have to quietly reflect, write, build graphics, etc.

Trey Ratcliff from Stuck in Customs

My daily blog post the sweet albatross around my neck. I do it every day before 5 PM in New Zealand so that it appears around midnight in the US, which is still the biggest target market for English-language blogs.

I need to produce 365 unique pieces of photography art per year, so the production of the art actually takes much longer than the actual blog post. Maybe this is why I don’t mind the blog post. The blog post takes 5% of the time of the creation of the art. I write a short description of the photo and talk a bit about the art and the science behind it.

Chris Guillebeau

I have only two (main) posts a week, but they are rigidly scheduled and I’ve never missed one in five years of blogging. The streak helps to produce built-in accountability.

As for the actual writing, that tends to happen more spontaneously. I have a general quota of 1,000 words a day, but that can include a variety of writing. If I’m working on a book manuscript or traveling overseas, sometimes I create the blog posts in advance.

Stay Tuned for More

Tomorrow I’ve got a followup post to this where I ask these 14 bloggers for their key tips for finding time to blog.

Also – don’t forget to check out our eBook on the topic: BlogWise: Discover the Secrets of Productive Bloggers.

7 Tips for Busy Bloggers on Finding Time to Blog

Last week I tweeted a question asking my Problogger followers to share the biggest challenge that they face as a blogger.

Around 50 replies came back and a couple of themes emerged – the biggest one centred around ‘Time’.

Time to blog

Finding time to blog is something that all bloggers struggle with. Whether you are just starting out and blogging as a hobby, blogging as a part time job while juggling work, home, and a social life or even blogging as a full time business amidst other demands such as up-keeping of social media accounts, responding to comments and emails etc. – finding time to write is a consistent challenge.

This issue is so prevalent, we actually published an eBook on the topic last year – BlogWise: How to Do More with Less (featuring 9 busy but productive bloggers such as Leo Babauta, Gretchen Rubin, Brian Clark, Heather Armstrong and more).

7 Tips for Busy Bloggers on Finding Time to Blog

I’m someone who periodically struggles with the challenges of being productive in limited timeframes. Over the last 10 years of blogging, I guess I’ve settled into something of a workflow and routine. What follows is a collection of reflections on what I’m learning.

I hope something in it connects with where you’re at!

1. It Starts with Life Priorities

I feel a bit like a parent saying this but the truth is, time management is a lot to do with priorities. 

It’s important to take time out to identify what is truly important to you, as this is a starting point for working out how you should spend your time.

If blogging is important to you, the first step in finding time to do it is to name it as a priority.

Of course ‘naming’ it as important is only half the battle. For many people there is a HUGE gap between what they say is important and how they actually spend their time.

One of the most confronting exercises I’ve ever done, when it comes to time management, was when (as a young adult) I was challenged write a list of my priorities. I then had to track how I used each 15 minute block of time over a week.

At the end of the week I tallied up the different activities and was amazed to discover how much time I was spending on things that did not feature in my priorities list, and how little I spent on the things I’d named as my priorities.

My list of priorities included things like studying, career, relationships etc.

My actual use of time was dominated by TV, computer games, time in the pub etc.

Of course, at the time I was young and reckless… but I suspect if I did the exercise again today there would probably be a bit of a disconnect between my priorities and how I spent my time. The activities I ‘waste’ time on and my priorities today might be different but the pattern would probably remain.

One of the keys to finding time to blog is working out whether blogging is actually important to you and arranging your life so that time is allocated for it!

I know it’s sounds obvious but it is easier said than done… and needs to be said.

2. Name Your Blogging Priorities

In the section above I talk about ‘life priorities’ but now I want to hone in on your blogging priorities.

The challenge many bloggers face is that they feel overwhelmed and often distracted by the many elements of blogging that they feel they need to do to have success.

Writing blog posts, reading and commenting on others blogs, responding to readers comments, guest posting on others blogs, being active on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, LinkedIn, Pinterest (and more), working on your blog design, writing an eBook, finding advertisers, creating a media kit…. the list goes on and on.

I’ve had periods in my own blogging where this list overwhelmed me – to the point it almost paralysed me.

When I felt overwhelmed, I tried to strip my blogging back to the core tasks I knew I needed to do to keep my blog moving forward. Again it was really about priorities.

What do you need to do to grow your blog and make it sustainable?

For me, I strip my focus back to these areas:

  • Writing Content
  • Finding Readers
  • Building Community
  • Monetizing

These are the non-essential priorities I have with my blogging. Simply by naming them simplifies things a little for me so I’m not looking at a long, crazy list of little things that I need to do.

With this list in mind I’m can set myself some achievable goals in each area.

For example, when it comes to ‘Writing Content’ I’m set myself some goals with how many posts per week or month. Then I start to think about the types of posts I want each week.

So here on ProBlogger, my current goal is 5 posts per week as a minimum with 3-4 of those posts written by me and at least one of them to be a longer form piece of content (like my recent Guide to the Amazon Affiliate Program).

Within each of these areas I would normally have at least a couple of goals/priorities at any one time.

Simply having this list of things I want to achieve suddenly gives me direction on how to spend my time, which makes me much more effective when I do blog. Instead of sitting down at the computer to blog and then working out what to do, I have a list of things I need to get done – and I find myself just knocking them off.

3. Batch Process Your Main Tasks

I won’t go into great detail on this as I’ve written about it before but a number of years ago I changed the way that I do my weekly tasks and it significantly boosted my productivity levels.

Before making this switch, I would sit down to blog and find myself going through a whole day flitting from one thing to another…. but not really getting much done. I’d write an intro to a blog post, then jump onto Twitter, then talk to another blogger about a collaboration, then go back to the blog post, then moderate some comments, then jump on Facebook and then…. well you get the picture.

So I began to carve out longer chunks of time to do the most important tasks in ‘batches’.

For example, one of my weekly rhythms is to use Monday and Wednesday mornings to write. On those mornings, I will often set myself up in a cafe and work offline for 2-3 hours. This enables me to write as much content as possible for the days and week ahead. It is not unusual for me to write 4-5 blog posts that I’m then able to schedule onto the blog for the coming days.

By silo’ing off time to do the most important tasks, and removing other distractions, I found I churn through a lot more work than I had previously been able to do.

I now ‘batch’ process many tasks. I’ll often set aside half an hour to do social media for example (instead of popping into Twitter 20 times a day, I might spend a longer period once a day). Email is similarly something I try to do in batches, similarly I tend to read other blogs via RSS in batches etc.

Read more about ‘batch processing in my post ‘How Batch Processing Made Me 10 Times More Productive‘.

Mental Blogging

In the early days of my blogging I had very very limited times to blog. I was working 3-4 part time jobs at any one time while also studying in the evenings. As a result I often would only have half and hour here or there during a lunch break, late at night or early in the morning to write content.

In order to be more effective at those times, I began to do what I now call ‘mental blogging’.

So while I was working in one of my jobs in a warehouse packing parcels, I would begin to write my blog posts in my mind. I would come up with a topic, decide upon a title and then begin to map out my main points – all in my head.

I sometimes would use a small notebook to jot a few words down to remind me what I wanted to write but after a shift in the warehouse, I would often be ready to sit down and quickly write out a pretty decent blog post (sometimes more than one) because I’d effectively written it already in my head.

Since that time I’ve come across countless other bloggers who do a similar thing during their own daily activities.

Later on I did a similar thing by jotting down my notes on my iPhone or even speaking blog posts into an audio recording app on my iPhone while I was out on a walk.

4. Idea Generation and Editorial Calendars

In my early days of blogging one of my biggest time sucks was coming up with ideas. I would sit, staring at my computer screen for hours on end, trying to work out what to write about on my blog that day.

I discovered that a much more effective strategy is to put aside batches of time specifically to come up with post ideas.

Instead of deciding what to write about each day, I began to create times to brainstorm and mind map blog ideas. I would then developed a file for each post topic so that on any given day I could sit down and within seconds I’d have something to write about

Mind Mapping is my favourite technique for generating potentially hundreds of ideas (read Discover Hundreds of Post Ideas for Your Blog with Mind Mapping).

Just having the ideas ready to go when you need them will save you a lot of time. You can take this a step further and consider creating an Editorial Calendar where you actually slot the ideas into a calendar over the coming week, month (or longer) and map out where you’ll be going with the blog in that period of time.

Editorial calendars may not suit everyone but I know of numerous bloggers who plan their blogs content well over a month in advance. This not only gives them an idea of where their blog is headed but they also find it useful to monetize their blogs as they’re able to share their calendar with advertisers who may wish to sponsor a relevant series of posts that might be coming up.

5. Break Down Big Jobs into Small Bites

Late last year, I recorded a free webinar where I shared 10 things I wish I’d known about blogging when I started 10 years before. In that webinar I shared the story of creating the first eBook that I developed over at Digital Photography School.

The idea of creating an eBook was something that I’d been meaning to do for at least a year or two but I’d always put off doing it because I didn’t have the time for such a big project. I’d never done something like that before and I felt overwhelmed by it.

In the end, to get the eBook created and launched, I decided that the only way I’d find the time to write it was to get up 15 minutes earlier every morning to work on the project.

15 minutes a day isn’t much (although we had a newborn at the time so 15 minutes sleep was precious) but I was amazed how much I could get done in that short period of time, on a daily basis. Over the coming 2-3 months I completed writing the eBook, had had it designed, had worked out how to market it, had researched how to sell it (shopping carts etc) and was ready to launch.

I effectively broke down a big job into little bite sized chunks until it was complete. That eBook went on to sell thousands of copies and became the template for 19 other eBooks that I’ve now launched (the main source of income to my blogs today).

I often wonder what would have happened if I’d never found that extra 15 minutes per day!

6. Slow Blogging is OK

“I have to post something today!”

Sometimes, as bloggers, I think we create monsters for ourselves for no good reason when it comes to posting deadlines and frequency.

I’m very guilty of this and it’s been something of a relief to realise that I can slow down my blogging a little and not see it ‘hurt’ my blog.

Here on ProBlogger you may have noticed a bit of a change lately. I’ve gone from posting 7-10 posts per week to posting 5-6 times a week.

For many years here at ProBlogger I felt the need to publish daily posts and at times, even aimed for 2-3 posts per day. While there were some benefits of doing so (more posts can mean more traffic) there were also costs in terms of the quality but also personally (it’s hard to sustain that kind of publishing for years on end).

Since slowing down, I’ve been fascinated to see that our traffic has remained steady (in fact some days it has been higher). The other impact has been a rise in comment levels, in positive feedback but also in my own energy and passion levels.

While deadlines and targets for posting frequency can be motivating – there may be periods of time when slowing down has some big benefits.

7. Make Space for Preparation, Creating and Rest

I recently came across this great video from Aussie blogger Kemi Nekvapil

What I particularly loved about it was at around the 1.30 minute mark Kemi talks about the structure of her week and how she has 3 different types of days during her week. They are ‘preparation days’, ‘success days’ and ‘inspiration days’.

Note: I think this originally comes from Jack Canfield who talks about creating days for ‘preparation’, ‘success’ and ‘rest’.

So for Kemi, her Mondays are preparation days when she is getting ready to have a creative ‘success’ day, Tuesdays are successful days, Wednesdays are preparation days and Thursdays are successful days. Fridays are her inspiration days where she gets to do whatever she wants to do for herself.

By giving herself days with a different focus, Kemi says she’s able to keep her creativity up and to sustain herself.

It makes sense really – if every day is a day where you have to produce something and you never have time to prepare or to have a break the quality of what you produce will suffer (as will your energy levels).

I love this idea and almost intuitively have done something a little similar of late. My wife (V) works on a Wednesday, so on those days I’ve had a bit more to do with the kids (drop offs, pick ups and a shorter working day). I’ve decided to go with it not being quite as a productive day and make Wednesdays a little less hands on with work, giving me a little more space to just ‘be’.

I’ve been doing a little work but also am trying to put time aside on Wednesdays to read, walk and have a siesta. It might sound a little like a lazy day on some levels but I’m noticing that having a quieter day in the middle of my week certainly makes me more productive on the following days.

What Are Your Tips for Finding Time to Blog?

What I’ve written above just scratches the surface. I am by no means an expert on this and am keen to learn from your experience.

Update: Check out this post where I ask a number of other bloggers about their tips and blogging routines.

The Ultimate Guide to Making Money with the Amazon Affiliate Program

Today, I was looking back over some of my earliest attempts at making money from blogging. I realised that this month marks 10 years of me using Amazons Associates Program.

My Start with Using Amazons Affiliate Program

I first heard about Amazon’s Affiliate program in April 2003. I had been blogging for 6 months and was beginning to realise that this new hobby of mine was going to cost me a little money (for hosting, design etc).

I was newly married at the time and on a very tight budget. I realised that if I wanted to keep blogging, I needed to find a way for my blogs to pay for themselves. So began my hunt for ways to do just that.

I began to experiment with two methods of making money from my blogs – Google’s AdSense program and Amazon’s Affiliate program.

Of the two, AdSense has certainly earned significantly more money – however, Amazon’s Affiliate program has also been an important income stream.

10 Years and $420,000 later…

I’d love to be able to calculate exactly how much I’ve earned from Amazon in that time but their current reporting system only goes back as far as 2008.

However – after doing some reconstructing of my earnings I’ve put together the following chart of (the years 2003-2007 are based upon earnings numbers mentioned in previous posts here on ProBlogger but are not exact).

Amazon Earnings 2003 2012

This years earnings look to be tracking along at around the same rate as the last two, for the same point in the year.

Overall I estimate my Amazon earnings, since 2003, are around the $420,000 mark (USD) – although, as you can see, the bulk of it has been in the last 5-6 years.

So while it’s nowhere near my #1 income stream Amazon’s Affiliate program has certainly been important to me.

I share these results not because I’m the biggest Amazon Affiliate going around. I have no doubt I’m in the middle of the pack and that there are a lot bigger than me*. I share these results because, over the years, I’ve heard many many bloggers write off the Amazon Affiliate program as not being worth the time.

*I make this assumption based upon the fact that I’ve never ever been contacted by Amazon directly and I know a few other affiliates who have regular contact with Amazon and who’ve been assigned account managers over the years because they do so well from the program.

Why Many People Don’t Use the Amazon Affiliate Program (and Why I DO)

The usual reasons I hear people giving for not being an Amazon affiliate include:

  • The commissions are too small. They start at 4% and for most products can go as high as 8% depending upon how many products you see sold.
  • Because most people on Amazon buy low priced products like books, so 4% of a $10 product doesn’t add up to a worthwhile commission.
  • Because people have to make a purchase from you within 24 hours otherwise your affiliate cookie stops working.

The above reasons are all valid. There are other options that pay higher commissions (although not so many for the type of products Amazon sells), you can promote higher value products and there are programs that have longer cookies… but there are also some things I like about Amazon.

In 2007 I wrote a post titled 9 Reasons Why I AM an Amazon Affiliate and while the post is old, most of the points still are relevant today.

The main reasons I still am an Amazon Affiliate (apart from the obvious fact that it converts for me) are:

  • Amazon is a trusted brand – everyone knows Amazon. If someone were going to buy online, Amazon would have to be one of the safest options.
  • Commissions on higher value products – while 4% on a book isn’t a high commission, if you promote a high value product (like a camera) the commission can be decent.
  • People buy more than one item at a time – when you send someone to Amazon you earn a commission on whatever they buy, whether they end up buying what you sent them to or not. Many people load up their cart with numerous items so commissions can add up.
  • Easy integration – Amazon provides some good tools and widgets to help you integrate the sales channel into your website.
  • Holidays are boom times – Amazon runs some good seasonal sales. Thanksgiving to Christmas can be a particularly profitable time to promote.
  • Amazon has a wide array of products – Amazon is so much more than books these days. There are so many promotional options that most niches would probably find something relevant to their audience.

Obviously I’ll never argue that Amazon’s Affiliate program (or any other income stream for that matter) is perfect for every blog – but I do think it is worth considering.

20 Practical Tips to Make Money with the Amazon Affiliate Program

Over the years, I’ve written numerous Problogger posts on making money with the Amazon’s Affiliate Program.

Below is a compilation of some of these most powerful tips – based upon my experience  of working with Amazon’s program over last 10 years. I’ve updated them to make them as relevant as I can for 2013.

I’d LOVE to hear your tips and experience of using Amazon’s Affiliate Program in comments below, as I’m certain there is a lot more that I could learn!

1. Traffic Traffic Traffic

night_traffic.jpg

Let’s start with the most obvious point – one of the biggest factors in the upward swing in my Amazon Affiliate earnings (in the chart above) has been the corresponding upward swing in traffic.

As with most methods of making money from blogging, the more eyeballs that see your affiliate promotions – the better chance you have of them converting.  Of course, this is a generalisation as not all kinds of traffic converts – but more of that in the next point.

Does that mean it’s not worth experimenting with Amazon’s Affiliate program if you don’t get much traffic?

I think it’s definitely worth using early on. While you won’t earn a heap, you will learn a lot and earning a few dollars (or cents) is better than none.

In the first 3 months of using Amazon I earned a whopping $31.80 (around 30 cents a day). Sure, it wasn’t much but I often wonder what would have happened if I’d let that minuscule amount discourage me and stop my from trying!?

So yes, experiment early but if you’re just starting out your main focus needs to be on creating great content and building traffic to your blog. In the long run, that is what will help you earn more from Amazon (and other income streams).

2. Loyalty and Trust Convert

trust.jpg

Another major factor in the increase in earnings has been the type of readership I’ve gathered on my blogs.

While I do get a fair bit of search engine traffic, I’ve found that in most cases (and there is an exception below) search visitors don’t sign up to the affiliate programs on my blogs. Loyal and repeat readers do.

The main reason for this is that readers who connect with you on a daily basis, over the long haul, begin to trust you (and your blog). When you make a recommendation, or do a review, they’re more likely to take that advice that someone who has give arrived from a search engine link.

3. The Intent of Readers Matters

buyer.jpg

Another big factor in the equation of Amazon Affiliate conversions is the intent your readers have when they visit your blog.

Why are they there and where are they in the ‘buying cycle’?

I began to understand this in the early days of Digital Photography School. I looked at the growing traffic to the site but realised that my Amazon affiliate earnings weren’t keeping up with the traffic growth I was experiencing.

I realised that DPS was a blog that largely shared ‘tips on how to use a camera’. As a result, it wasn’t really attracting readers who were in a ‘buying mood’. In fact, I ran a survey and found that many of my readers had recently purchased a camera and were on my site because they wanted to learn how to use it.

So I began to add to the mix of content on the site with more articles relevant to people buying a digital camera. I wrote tips with advice on buying cameras, reviews of digital cameras and equipment etc. This culminated in a whole new section devoted to ‘cameras and gear‘.

Slowly this has attracted a new type of reader to the blog: readers who are researching their next camera purchase, readers who are more likely to click a link to Amazon and who, once there, are more likely to make a purchase.

If you want to attract search traffic that is more likely to convert, consider creating content that attracts people in a ‘buying mood’.

4. Relevancy Matters

Picture 4.png

This is another common sense tip that many of us mess up. The more relevant your products are to your audience, the better chance you’ll have of converting.

  • Promoting iPods on a blog that largely talks about spirituality and you’re unlikely to make a lot of sales (believe me, I tried). Try promoting relevant books, CDs and DVDs instead.
  • Rather than promoting perfume on your travel blog try travel books, luggage and other travel products.

Amazon doesn’t work with every topic and sometimes it is hard to find a product that matches your topic. Try different products related to your topic and track which products convert best for your audience.

open-door1.jpg5. Get People in the Door then Let Amazon Do What They’re Good At

One of the great things about Amazon is that it is a site people are familiar with and trust and they’re very good at converting visitors into buyers. Amazon has honed their site to present people with products relevant to them (based upon previous surfing and buying habits) and over many years they have tweaked their site so converts really well.

As a result, I find that if you can people to visit the Amazon site (pretty much for any reason) a percentage of them will naturally end up buying something. The cool thing is that whether they buy the thing you linked to or not – you still earn a commission!

I have found that one size doesn’t fit all. Rather, specific types promotions of particular products work well with Amazon. I have also had some success by getting people in the Amazon door for other reasons. For example I’ve experimented a couple of times on dPS with running a posts that gave readers a hypothetical $1000 to spend on photography gear and asked them to surf around Amazon and choose what they wanted to buy. The result was 350 comments (a fun community building exercise) and quite a few sales and commissions!

While a ‘get people in the door’ strategy might seem to grate a little with my ‘Relevancy’ tip above – the key is to get people in the door in a relevant way.  In my case, I was getting my photography readers to go window-shopping on Amazon, for cameras.

Once they are there, the purchases they make might not be ‘relevant’ to your blog but their motivation to visit should be.

NYT-extended-list-715372.jpg6. Social Proof Marketing 1 – Best Seller Lists

People are more willing to make a purchase if they feel, they’re not alone – that others have and are buying with them. I’m sure there is an insightful psychological reason for this but from where I sit, buying seems to have become a communal activity.

One of the most powerful social proof marketing strategies I’ve used, when promoting Amazon affiliate links, is creating ‘Best Seller’ type lists for readers. These lists show readers what is currently popular, in terms of purchases in our community.

A good example of this technique in action is my Popular Digital Cameras and Gear page on DPS. I update this page every few months and prominently link to it on the blog. Those two actions together, convert readers to buyers really well.

To construct the list, I simply go through the Amazon affiliate reports/stats and find which products are selling the best from within my community. I then categorise those results by product and ‘Waahlaaa’ – we have a best seller list that shows what readers of my site are buying in the last few months.

Bestseller lists convert well because readers know that others in their community are buying these products too. I guess it’s Wisdom of the Crowd mentality but it works!

Another quick example of this was a post, 23 Photography Book Reviews [Ranked], where I ranked the top selling photography books in order of sales. I additionally linked each book to reviews we’d done on the blog.

Note: the key with these ‘best seller’ lists is to drive traffic to them. Two ways to do this is to prominently link to these pages from within your blog plus linking to them from within other posts. This second method means your post doesn’t just convert for a day or two.

Also be sure to promote them through social media channels because these lists of what is hot are often shared well.

Another Note: Another way to create a bestseller list is to look at the ones that Amazon creates. For every category on Amazon, you can rank products based on how they are selling (popularity).

For example – here’s the Camera and Photo best selling page (affiliate link) that ranks the best selling cameras and gear. You can even drill down further to look at best selling DSLRs, Flashes and Lenses.

These lists give you hints as to what products are hot to promote but you could easily pull them together into a list of products to feature on your own site.

7. Social Proof Marketing 2 – Reader Reviews

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I used to review all the photography books featured on DPS. It was mainly because I couldn’t find anyone else to do it and partly because I’m a control freak.

However, one day I had a reader offer to write a book review for me. I knew the reader so I was confident the review would be OK to publish. As with all my reviews, it had an affiliate link to Amazon in it. I was a little skeptical about whether the review would convert. I thought my readers might not respond as well to a stranger’s review of the book. I was wrong.

The review not only converted as well as my normal reviews – it did even better than normal!

This could have been for many reasons but one reason I suspect came into play was the way I introduced the reviewer. I didn’t build them up to be an “expert”. I introduced them as a ‘DPS reader’, a regular reader who wanted to share some thoughts on a book that had helped them.

I suspect the social proof concept came into play a little here. Readers saw another reader recommending something in a genuine way and wanted to get a copy for themselves.

Note: interestingly Amazon themselves uses reader reviews as a fairly major feature of their site. Why? They work!

8. Genuine Recommendations and Reviews

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Apart from my ‘best seller lists’ mentioned above, there are two main ways that I promote Amazon affiliate links.

The first is in ‘Reviews’ for products (the second I’ll cover below in the next point). These links are where I, or one of my writers, will genuinely test a product and give it the once over.

I insist my writers actually read the books, test the cameras and use the software products they are reviewing. I encourage them to be as genuine and unbiased as possible, to point out both the pros and cons of the product. While there’s some temptation to hype up a product and only talk about its positive points, a real review will help your reader relationship over the long haul and I find actually helps promote sales.

Review links work well because it’s usually people who are considering buying a product who really read reviews. It comes back to capturing readers with the buying mood/intent mentioned in point #3.

9. Informational Links

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The other type of Amazon affiliate link I use is when I’m mentioning a product in passing and/or a new product is announced. For example, when Nikon announced the Nikon D300s we immediately posted about the news because it was a notable and anticipated camera announcement. The camera was not yet available in stores and we were not able to get a review sample yet – but it was available for Pre-Order on Amazon so we linked to it.

There was no recommendation or review attached to the link but it was a relevant link for readers who wanted to know more (price, specs, pictures etc). Some readers even pre-ordered the cameras from that link.

Similarly, if we’re writing about Photoshop or another photography post-production software we’ll usually include a link to the software. Again it’s not a review link but rather an informational/contextual type link.

These don’t tend to convert as well in terms of sales but they do get people ‘in the door’ at Amazon that can help with sales from time to time.

10. Contextual Promoting is King

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One of the biggest reasons my initial attempts with Amazon simply didn’t convert was that I thought it’d be enough to slap a button on my sidebar, featuring a product or Amazon.

Amazon gives publishers a lot of these type banners or widgets but despite trying almost all of them, I had little or no success with using them. Instead – 99% of my conversions have come from links to Amazon from within blog posts about the products themselves.

By all means experiment with the widgets and buttons Amazon gives you. If they do convert, then more power to you but every blogger I’ve talked to that has had success with Amazon tells me that contextual links, from within blog posts, work best.

11. Promote Specials, Promotions and Discounts

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Amazon has hardly any products that don’t have a listed discount. Most books are as much as 30% off the recommended retail price and at different times during the year, Amazon runs other special discounts and promotions on different products or product categories.

Keep an eye out for these kinds of promotions because they can be well worth promoting (if relevant to your readership). In fact, last time Amazon had cameras on special, I promoted the sale to my newsletter readers and had readers emailing me to thank me for letting them know about it.

Another related tip is that when you’re writing a product review and Amazon has a listed discount – include a note about the discount. For example, in this recent photography book review I link at the bottom to Amazon and note that it is currently 36% off.

11. Multiple Links Per Post

When I used to write product reviews, I used to include just one affiliate link. For some reason, I thought that a single link would be enough and I didn’t want to run the risk of annoying readers with more links. However, one day it struck me that the reviews I was writing were quite long and by the time people got to the end of them, the link to Amazon was no longer visible.

At this point I started to experiment with a link at the top and tail of the review. I did some heat map tracking to see which links were the most clickable and also used Amazon’s tracking codes to see which one would ‘convert’ to a sale more often.

The results were interesting:

  • Both affiliate links were clicked quite a bit but the link under the article was clicked slightly more than the link at the top (despite being under the fold)
  • The link at the end of the review resulted in more conversions than the link at the top
  • The people who clicked on the top link still purchased (although not as many) but interestingly it wasn’t always the product I reviewed.  It was often related products

I concluded that having read a product review, people felt more informed to make a purchasing decision. As a result, if they did click a link after reading the review they were more likely to buy the product. Those clicking on the top link seemed to be more in a ‘surfing’ mode. They clicked on the link less because they wanted to buy it but more out of interest to learn more. Some bought the product and some bought other products once they were ‘in the door’ at Amazon.

These days I generally (but not always) use two links per review post.

  • The first link is usually on the first time I use the product name
  • The second link usually has a stronger call to action e.g. ‘check it out on Amazon’ or ‘get a price on XXXX’ or ‘buy your own copy of XXXX here’.

Live Example: Let me illustrate it with a quick video (from a few years ago) that also picks up my next point.

12. Link Images to Amazon

While doing some heat map tracking of where people were clicking on my reviews I learned that there was quite a bit of ‘click activity’ on images of the products, even when those images were not linked to anything.

Note: I use CrazyEgg for creating heatmaps – it has the option to track clicks on all areas of your page, even where there’s no link to click.

There’s something about an image that people are drawn to and that makes them click. I began to experiment with linking images to Amazon with my affiliate links, setting up a tracking code to test whether they converted. While they didn’t convert as well as text links, they did convert in some instances and to this day I still use this technique most of the time.

13. Buy Now Buttons

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This is a technique I’ve heard others having real success with but one I need to experiment with more.

It basically involves using a ‘buy now’ button in your post. I suggest placing it below a review as a starting point. I’ve written more about the technique here but the first time I heard this being applied, the blogger actually used the yellow Amazon Buy Now button in his posts. The familiarity of the button seemed to help increase conversions.

Again – it’s not something I’ve done much of but it could be worth a try!

14. Multiple Promotions Per Campaign

I’ve talked about using multiple links in a post but another way to increase conversions on a particularly hot product is to promote it more than once, over time. I only do this on very popular or highly anticipated products but it certainly works well.

The key is to find a number of different ways to talk about the product over a few weeks (or longer). I wouldn’t do all of the following for a single product but here’s a few ways I’ve done it on occasion in the past.

  • If a highly anticipated camera is announced by one of the manufacturers, I immediately publish a post announcing it. Amazon often has advance notice of these announcements and will usually have a page up for it where it can be pre-ordered on the same day it’s announced. I link to it immediately in my announcement post.
  • A few days later I might post a post asking readers what they think about the camera or one of its features. For example, I recently wrote a post asking readers what they think about the idea of a camera with an inbuilt projector after the release of the Nikon Coolpix S1000pj.
  • When the camera hits stores, I might post a short post announcing that it’s available.
  • When we get a review product, we’ll post a review of it with our recommendations.
  • We might, at some point, post some other reader reviews of the product if enough of our readers have it.
  • We might also compile a list of quotes from other sites that have also reviewed the product.
  • We might pull in and embed some videos from YouTube that show the products features.

Again – I would NEVER do all of these things with a single product but if it’s a significant product release and newsworthy over a month or so around its release we might cover it in 2-3 posts.

You know your readership best so tune in to where they’re at and whether you’ve posted too much on the same product. You don’t want to over do it but if it’s a product your readers are discussing and are interested in there’s plenty of ways to bring it up (and promote it on Amazon) more than once.

15. Focus Upon the Holidays

Amazon associates christmas

If you check out this I shared here on ProBlogger back in 2009 you’ll notice that the yearly 4th quarters were usually bigger than those proceeding them. The reason is simple – Christmas and Thanksgiving.

The only December that I saw a downswing was when Google temporarily de-indexed my first site for a few weeks. Every other year there has been healthy rises for the later half of November and all of December (the last few Decembers have been massive).

The upswing in sales around Christmas is partly natural as people are more in a ‘buying mood’ at that time of year. I like to take advantage of this by creating content that is specific to the holiday season.

Content such as buying guides, reader questions getting people talking about what they’re looking to buy or would like to receive for Christmas, lists of popular/recommended products etc.

16. Promote Related Products

One of the challenges I came up against when writing about cameras regularly was that while a certain percentage of my readers were actively shopping for a new camera, many readers already owned one. In fact, writing a ‘photography tips’ blog means you attract more people wanting to learn how to use a camera that they already own, rather than buying a new one.

As a result, I often do more promotions on ‘related products’ than cameras themselves. That means promoting lenses, flashes, memory cards and other photographic accessories as well as photography books (which is strongly related to my core ‘tips’ focus).

One great way to get ideas for related products to promote is to look at the stats/reports that Amazon gives you to see which products readers are buying. After a while you’ll start to notice that they’re not only buying the products you directly promote but other products as well. Some will be completely irrelevant to your niche – but many times trends will emerge that could signal other products that it might be worth promoting.

Let’s look at an example of this. Following is a screen capture of a small part of the orders on my Amazon account a while back. I have arranged them in order of how many were sold.

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What you can see in this screen grab is that the #1 electronic item sold in the period was a Canon 50mm lens. You can see that in the ‘product Link Clicks column’ that people came to Amazon directly through a link from my site to this item – it’s something I promoted on DPS.

However look at the next most popular item (the Tiffen 52mm UV filter). You can see in the ‘Product Link Clicks’ column that there is a ‘0’ figure. I never promoted this product directly on DPS – yet 44 people bought it.

The next two items were things I promoted but the next 8 were things that people bought in number by themselves without me promoting them at all. To me, knowing which items people buy without my prompting is GOLD!

It’s possible that Amazon is promoting them heavily or that one person is buying a lot of the one product, or they just could be great products that almost sell themselves for one reason or another.

Whatever the reason, I’ll look into them further and see if they could be products I should be promoting somehow.

You can bet there will be a post on dPS soon that highlights some of these ‘hot/best selling accessories’ among our readers!

17. Promote Pre-Orders

I’ve already mentioned this one above but one of the things that I do is promote the ability to Pre-Order products on Amazon.

It doesn’t happen for every product but I find that Amazon will sometimes create pages for new products before they’re even available for purchase.

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When I post an article announcing a new camera I always check Amazon first to see if they’ve already created a page for that product. If they have, I make sure to mention that the product is already available for pre-ordering on Amazon.

For example a couple of years ago when Canon Released the Canon EOS 50D DSLR I used this technique. This post generated 10 sales of the camera before it was even available in stores. While two of them cancelled their orders later 8 sales of a $1000+ product certainly add up!

18. Track Your Campaigns

Until a bit over a year ago, I just promoted every single Amazon affiliate link with the one tracking code. I was lazy and while I saw which products were selling, I never really knew what links on my blog were converting and what ones were not.

Eventually I decided that I needed to know more about what was working for me so I started tracking campaigns. Amazon allows you to create 100 tracking ids (once logged into Amazon Associates you manage them at this link).

I didn’t realize there was a limit until a few years back when I hit the maximum. I wish Amazon would increase it! To be honest, I find their tracking system pretty messy and think it needs an overhaul however, it is great for testing what works and what doesn’t. Most of what I’ve written about in other tips in these articles was learned through tracking.

Because there’s a 100 tracking code limit, I suggest creating a few general tracking codes, one for each blog and perhaps one for each category on your blog. Then use other codes for major promotions that you’re doing. This way not every Amazon link will be tracked but important ones will.

Note: I’m told that Amazon do give more tracking codes if you email them but it’s a bit of a drawn out process. If you need more it’s worth a try (I know I’ll be trying).

19. Small Ticket Items Add Up

One of the most common criticisms I hear about the Amazon’s Affiliate program is that there are just too many small commissions. Getting a commission of a small percentage on a $15 book just doesn’t cut it for many people.  Some people use this to justify not using Amazon at all while others just promote big-ticket items.

While I agree that these small commissions are not much on their own – they do add up.

Yesterday I earned $506.03 from Amazon. It was actually a pretty good day, higher than average. One might think the higher than normal figure came from selling some big ticket items but that wasn’t the case. The highest commission for the day was a $21.34 commission. The vast majority of the sales were books sold from my list of photography books, which we promoted on social media recently.

The other beauty of getting lots of smaller ticket sales is that they go towards increasing the commission tier you’re on. The more items you sell (not the more $’s you refer – but item numbers) the higher % commission you make from Amazon.

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In the screen capture above you can see that when you go past 6 items referred, you move from a 4% commission to a 6% commission. If you keep referring more, the commission increases. The only category of product not included in this is consumer electronics (frustrating for a camera guy!).

This means that if you refer enough small ticket items you can double your commissions.

Note: Amazon lets you choose two types of payment structures – ‘Classic’ and ‘Performance’. The classic one has a 4% flat commission – while the ‘performance’ one has the tiers. I’m not sure why anyone would select ‘classic’ so make sure you choose ‘Performance’!

20. Big Ticket Items are the Cream on Top

While I strongly advise promoting small ticket items to help boost your sale numbers and commission figures, it’s also worth targeting some bigger ticket promotions too.

In my experience, they don’t convert anywhere near as well as cheaper items but when they do, they can give your revenue a real boost. As someone promoting cameras that can sell for several thousand dollars, I’ve had single commissions in the hundreds of dollars range (even when the commission is limited to 4% on consumer electronics).

For example, last month I saw the sale of the Nikon D800 36.3 MP CMOS FX-Format Digital SLR Camera (Body Only) (yes that IS an affiliate link). It sells for over $2700 and generated me a $111 commission.

Here are a few more smaller but still significant ones from the last week:

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While these bigger ticket items are certainly not selling in as great a number as books – they contribute a significant amount to the total earnings of the month.

10 More Tips on Using the Amazon Affiliate Program

To finish off this ultimate guide I want to share 10 more general, overarching tips and principles I’ve found helpful when making money with Amazon’s Affiliate program.

1. Time is a Major Factor

As I mentioned at the start of this guide, the $420,000+ that I’ve earned from Amazon has come over 10 years.

While the last 5 years seen me earn over $50,000 per year from Amazon, it took 5 years of building to get it to that level – with the first 3 years really not earning much at all.

That was partly due to increasing traffic. It was partly due to my regular inclusion of affiliate links in my posts. I don’t promote Amazon in every post but in an average week I’d say I link to Amazon in at least 4-5 posts. That adds up to 200-250 posts per year and around over 2000 posts in the last 10 years.

These posts act as a doorway to the Amazon site. As the number of posts has increased, my blogs have begun to rank higher in Google and my loyal reader numbers have grown, the number of people going through these ‘doorways’ has increase– hence the escalation in earnings.

2. Start Early

I recommend that bloggers start to use Amazon’s Affiliate Program early. In doing so, you’ll be populating your blog with links into the store that may not convert brilliantly early on but which can potentially convert for years to come as your blog grows in popularity.

The other good thing about starting early is that you’ll learn a lot about affiliate marketing. Most of the lessons and tips that I’ve shared in this series of posts have come directly from my own experimenting with Amazon’s Affiliate program.

I knew so little in the early days and I made a lot of mistakes but each time I messed up I learned another lesson that has helped me to grow my Amazon earnings into a more significant part of my own business.

3. Experiment with Widgets and aStore

I’ve already mentioned that I largely rely upon contextual links to promote Amazon products. I find these offer the best conversion however, I do know of a few bloggers who’ve successfully incorporated a variety of the widgets that Amazon gives their affiliates to use.

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Similarly – I know some readers who do pretty well with aStore, which is a tool whereby you create your own little online store using Amazon’s technology.

I’ve tried to use this a couple of times and have had a little success with my photography and ProBlogger bookstores but know I need to do more with it to take it to the next level.

I guess it comes down to experimenting with the tools and seeing what works best with your audience. If you’ve used some of these widgets I’d love to see examples of where you’ve had them work for you – please share links in comments below so we can all learn!

4. Transparency with Readers

There is always debate about the topic of transparency when affiliate marketing comes up. Should you disclose that your links are affiliate links or should you not?

 

The answer to this will partly depend upon your location. If you’re in the US, the FCC requires a disclosure – but in other parts of the world you are not required to do so.

Each blogger will ultimately have their own stance on this and it’s important to work out what sits well with your own ethics, the flow of your site and the law.

Being in Australia, I’m not required to do anything by the law (although I hear talk that there may be changes around this). I don’t disclose every single Amazon link on my photography blog in a direct way but do I have a disclaimer/disclosure page on the blog. When I’m doing a ‘best seller list’ always include a disclaimer on those posts as the whole page is filled with affiliate links. I have also written numerous times on DPS about how the links to Amazon earn us money and help the site to keep growing and be free.

I was nervous the first time I mentioned this to readers and expected a backlash however, what I found was that most readers not only accepted it, they encouraged us.

In fact, a few of our readers tell me that if they’re going to make some kind of purchase at Amazon that they always come to DPS to click on one of our links to do so! Transparency isn’t as scary as you might think (although this might depend upon your audience a little).

Here on ProBlogger I disclose Amazon affiliate links. That’s mainly because there are fewer of them and because my readers here are more savvy with the idea of affiliate programs (I don’t have to explain what an affiliate link is every time I mention one).

5. Don’t Hype – Put Your Readers First

When you engage in any affiliate marketing, always keep your readers’ best interests at heart.

I’ve been critiqued for taking this view over the years by groups of bloggers who seem to put the priority on ‘making money at all costs’. While you certainly can make money without a focus on quality content or building community and by hyping up the things that you promote – my approach has always been to put the reader first.

I do this because I want to build a solid reputation and a loyal readership of people who trust me. I’d rather make less money and still have a reader than make lots of money and never see the reader again. For me, this comes not only from my ethics but my belief that in the long term building a good profile and reputation leads to other opportunities for profit.

The problem with hype is that you set readers up with expectations that are beyond what the product you’re recommending can deliver. This might lead to a sale but it also leads to disappointment and anger – the loss of readers – damaged reputation etc.

6. Pick High Quality Products

This follows on from the last point but is worth stating on its own. The success (or failure) of your Amazon Affiliate Program hinges upon the products you choose.

When you promote quality, it is much easier to be both genuine in your reviews and recommendations which leads to conversions and commissions.

Wherever you can, test the products you recommend to ensure their quality (or find someone who can do it for you).

7. Be Bold

One of the recurring themes I hear from readers is that they worry about using Amazon links too much, asking “Won’t readers push back?”

I have always shared this concern but as you’ve probably picked up by now, the reader push back has been almost non-existent.

Perhaps this is because I carefully choose the products I promote or because I often promote these links in posts based upon reader feedback. I can think of less than 10 occasions when I’ve had people on my photography site question the links. In fact, as I said above, I’ve had more people give positive feedback about them than anything.

I guess there would come a point where too much promotion would get a negative reaction so you want to be a little subtle about your promotion but in general, I think readers can handle more than we might think they can.

Note: I think the line where readers will push back probably will vary from blog to blog depending upon their readership. For example here on ProBlogger I get a little more negative feedback from readers on affiliate promotions. I suspect ProBlogger readers are a little more tuned into the issue and suspicious of some of the affiliate marketing that goes on around the web.

8. Localized Audiences? Try Local Amazons

Another comment that sometimes comes is that Amazon.com doesn’t work brilliantly for blogs and sites with traffic from countries outside the USA.

A couple of reflections on this:

Firstly – it’s not completely true. I previously had a blog with almost completely Australian traffic and it converted reasonably well with Amazon. Amazon does ship some products to Australia and other countries (books, CDs etc) so if you’re promoting those products it can work.

Of course I always missed out on the bigger ticket electronic items that didn’t ship outside the USA. This was part of the reason I moved my efforts to starting Digital Photography School, which has a more global audience.

Secondly – if your traffic is localized to a country with its own Amazon store, join the affiliate program for that store and promote it. I know one of the UK photography sites does very well from promoting the UK version of Amazon. I also know one blog that adds two links to every post he does – one with the US and one with the UK store.

I’ve also heard that some people use geo-targeting tools to look at where a reader is from and serving them a localized link for them.

9. Topics Convert Differently

One forum I came across was discussing my previous articles and a number of people reported that Amazon didn’t work on their sites (doubting whether I was telling the truth about my earnings). When I delved a little deeper, and looked at their sites, the reason for their lack of success with Amazon became apparent – their topics.

Some topics will naturally fit with Amazon better than others. In the end, it comes down to the fact that Amazon is a product related affiliate program so it only works when people buy stuff. If your blog is on a topic that doesn’t have any natural connection to people buying stuff it is going to be an uphill battle.

In my experience, it’s product-related blogs that tend to do best with Amazon. Most blogs probably have at least some possibilities (for example here on ProBlogger I occasionally link to a book that relates or a computer or electronic tool that I think might be useful to bloggers) but the reality is that this blog will never convert as well on Amazon as my photography site.

10. Keep an Eye on Amazon

My last tip is to keep an eye on what Amazon is doing. I mean this in two ways:

1. Learn from Them – be a regular user of Amazon. You don’t have to be an active buyer but surf the site regularly and pay particular attention to the way that THEY are promoting products on their site.

Amazon has spent years perfecting the art of online selling and you’ll learn a lot about online marketing by observing how they do it. They constantly test different ways of promoting products and have evolved their site quite a lot over the years. See what widgets they use to promote related products, watch how they use reader reviews, and see the way that they describe products.

You’ll also be in a better position to pre-sell the products you recommend if you look at the page you’re sending people to before you do it.

2. Watch for Opportunities – earlier in this guide I mentioned that you could tap into a number of promotions Amazon on their site. Some of these are promote directly to their affiliates. For example, they send out emails to affiliates semi-regularly, promoting their latest promotions. They also have a blog where they do likewise.

If you read the blog and get the emails you’ll see promotions where they are offering discounts to readers but also where they’re giving bonus commissions for some items or categories of products. Not all of them will relate to your niche but over time some will.

However, there are other opportunities they don’t promote to us as affiliates but which you can still tap into. For example, today I was surfing on Amazon and came across their Camera Deals page.

The page is a sales page promoting any deals that they’re running on digital cameras. On the page are some pretty decent deals that are worth promoting on my photography blog.

This is just one of many promotions that Amazon is always running on their site. Keep an eye out on the site for what they’re doing that relates to your niche and you’ll find some good stuff to promote.

The more you keep an eye on how Amazon are promoting products to their readers the better informed you’ll be about how YOU can do the same thing.

Share Your Amazon Affiliate Program Tips

This brings to an end my ultimate guide to making money with the Amazon Affilate Program. I’ve shared everything that I’ve tried  but what about you? Got any tips to add?

Stop. Don’t post that post! 7 questions to ask before you hit publish

This is a guest contribution by Kate Toon, an award-winning SEO and advertising copywriter.

You have a blog post.

Who cares whether you wrote it yourself or paid someone to create it? It’s the right length.

You’ve shoe-horned your chosen keyword phrase ‘Pink llama-wool pyjamas’ into it five times. You’ve downloaded a cool image and even managed to code it into WordPress.

It’s time to press upload, right? Wrong.

Before you do anything, stop and ask yourself these seven critical questions.

Does your blog post target your audience?

Have you written a generic ‘appeals to everyone’ (read ‘no one’) vanilla article? Or are you targeting a particular niche? Try to get inside the mind of your audience, then read your blog post again. Does it address a particular need or concern? Or is it all blah yawn blah?

Is the blog post credible?

An especially important question to ask if the blog post has been written by a third party. Even more so if you used a $5-a-post copy shop. Very few writers will care about your business as much as you do, or write with true passion about your subject matter. True heart in writing shines through.

So be sure not only that the facts are checked but also that the blog rings true and doesn’t sound like marketing fluff.

Is the blog post unique?

This sounds impossible, right? With so many articles being posted in your niche, how can you write something unique? But even the most well-trodden ground can be given new life. Your tone of voice. Your viewpoint. Your inside knowledge can add a certain something to your blog.

It’s very important to write with a strong voice if you want to stand out from the crowd.

Is the blog post useful? (Or at least entertaining?)

A great place to start with useful content is by addressing the customer enquiries and questions you’ve received. Each one is potential post. But when these are all covered it’s important to keep your finger on your audience’s collective pulse. What are the market trends? What’s in the news? What are they talking about on Twitter?

If all else fails, at least try to be entertaining, interesting and funny. 

Is the blog post easy to understand?

Now I could direct you to some snazzy readability tool, but how about we just use common sense? Check your writing for:

  • Long rambling sentences.
  • Long complicated words.
  • Poorly phrased sentences.

Pay extra attention to those first 100 words. If a reader can’t get through those as easily as a knife through warm butter, your post is in trouble.

Would you share this blog post?

If the blog didn’t have your name on it, would you forward it to a friend? What would you say in the email that accompanied it?  ‘Check out this awesome history of llama wool production in Peru’?

If you wouldn’t share it, why would others?

Does the post address a your goals?

All the other points have been about your readers and rightly so. But this one is all about you. Why are you posting the article? Is it just to add some fresh content? To give you a boost for a certain keyword? To cover off a reader enquiry? To launch a new product or idea? To attract a new audience? To give your opinion on a news event? Or all of the above?

Don’t blog for the sake of blogging. Be clear what your blogging objectives are.

If you can’t answer each question with a confident ‘YES’, then you need to go back to the drawing board. This might seem like tough love, but it can just take one crappy post to put a potential customer off your blog.

When it comes to blogging, ask yourself the tough questions and don’t settle for second best.

Kate Toon is an award-winning SEO and advertising copywriter with over 18 years’ experience. She’s also a well-respected SEO consultant, information architect, strategist, hula hooper and CremeEgg-lover based in Sydney, Australia.

5 Keys to Writing Excellent Blog Posts

Today in a radio interview I was asked to give 4-5 quick tips on how to write great blog posts.

Quick isn’t my forte when giving tips (I have a lot to say) and I can think of many more than 5 tips for writing great blog posts – but here’s a brief overview of the things I mentioned:

1. Be Useful

When I start writing a blog post, I always identify how useful the post will be to my readers.

Will it solve a problem? Will it make people think? Will it start a conversation? Will it entertain? Will it make readers feel like they’re not alone? Will it teach them something?

Unless a blog post is useful on some level I don’t think it’s worth publishing.

More on Useful Blogging: Usefuless: Principles of Successful Blogging #3.

2. Write Conversationally

This one partly comes down to my own style, so it may not be for everyone, but I find my most effective blog posts are written as if I’m sharing the topic with a friend.

As a result, my posts are fairly informal and written with a lot of ‘I’ and ‘You’ language.

For me, this is partly because I find it a lot easier and more natural to write in this tone of voice – but I also find it connects with readers in a pretty powerful way.

Read more on conversational blog writing at 23 Top Tips to Make Your Blog Posts More Conversational

3. Write Great Headlines

I think about my headline before, during and after writing and it often will change numerous times before I settle on the final version.

Headlines, or blog titles, are often the deciding factor on whether someone reads a post or not – so they have a lot of impact.

Read more about writing headlines at – How to Craft Post Titles that Draw Readers Into Your Blog (with 8 great tips) and Titles that Work on ProBlogger – And Why.

4. Build Anticipation and Momentum

Having somebody read one of my blog posts is something I value very highly – it is a real honour – however I have a higher goal.

I want them to read more posts – both immediately and in the future.

As a result, I’ve discovered that if you write blog posts that build momentum in some way you’re much more likely to keep readers hanging around.

One simple way to do build momentum is to link back to old posts you’ve already written, both during and at the end of a blog post. You can see an example of this a few paragraphs above when I gave you links to read more on writing great headlines.

Linking back to old blog posts drives readers into your archives which makes them more likely to engage and become loyal readers.

I’ve found that writing in a way that builds ‘anticipation’ in your readers is particularly powerful. If you can get your readers to look forward to posts you’re yet to write, you give them a reason to subscribe and connect with you in the future.

I wrote a series on building anticipation that I highly recommend you check out.

The key is to look beyond the blog post you’re writing and draw your readers (particularly new ones) into the story (both past and future) of your blog.

If you can get them to see that your blog is much more than the post they’re reading, you might just find you have a reader that engages with you for years to come.

One more bonus link: How to Keep Momentum Going By Building on Previous Posts.

5. Build Engagement

The last thing I mentioned in the interview was to try to build some level of engagement into the blog posts that you write.

This can start with writing in a conversational style (see above) but it goes a lot further. The benefit of getting your readers to engage with you and your content is that they’re much more likely to stick around and become a regular reader.

It also builds social proof, making your blog more useful and relevant to a wider audience.

I won’t go on a great deal about building community because it has only been a couple of weeks since I wrote this mega-series on the topic:

How Would You Answer the Question?

If you had to give 4-5 tips on writing great blog posts – what would you say?

Looking forward to your responses in comments below.

How LinkedIn Groups can Explode your Blog Traffic

A Guest Contribution from Fiona Hamann.

Whatever topic you blog about, whether it’s your business or your life, getting your name out there and expanding your blog community can be a challenge. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram are free and work well if you have the time to organically grow a following. But let’s face it, if you are new to blogging or a small business blogger with little or no social media strategy, achieving 10,000 organic followers on these sites is often a pipedream.

Now, you could take the paid route via Google AdSense and sure, AdSense is a great tool for bloggers who want to get noticed online, but the drawback is that it costs money and can quickly eat through your budget.

So what other options are out there for bloggers wanting to increase their blog traffic and gravitas in their industry, without breaking the bank?

The answer is LinkedIn Groups.

Now I’m not guaranteeing that you will receive 10,000 ‘connections’ or that LinkedIn Groups is the only answer for bloggers with no marketing budget; nevertheless if you are considering social media as part of your online promotion strategy, LinkedIn Groups is a must.

What is a LinkedIn Group?

LinkedIn defines LinkedIn Groups as “a great way for organisations to keep in touch with their members about current events and to discuss issues of common interest.”

LinkedIn Groups have a stronger business focus that Facebook or Twitter, and unlike other social media sites, most LinkedIn Groups are industry specific. With its focus on careers, business and networking, LinkedIn Groups is one of the most appropriate social media tool for industry bloggers, and is one of the best ways to attract people to your business blog.

Not only can LinkedIn Groups attract readers and customers to your blog, who have a genuine interest in your topic and industry; it can also create viable financial business opportunities – all without breaking the bank.

The benefits of LinkedIn Groups:

  • It’s free
  • It’s social
  • The members are your targeted audience and either work or are genuinely interested in your industry
  • It’s effective at driving traffic to your site
  • It’s effective at getting you noticed in industry circles

LinkedIn Groups are not normally open for just anyone to join. This means that in order to be a member of a LinkedIn Group, your profession usually has to be the same as those members within the Group. For example, the LinkedIn Group labeled ‘Sydney Financial Services Industry’ is likely to have the captains of the financial services industry in Sydney as their core demographic – an ideal target audience if you are blogging about Australian fiscal matters and policy.

Give me the stats…

Before jumping in to how LinkedIn Groups works, let me firstly give you a real example on the effectiveness of LinkedIn Groups:

A small Sydney-based, PR firm used a WordPress blog post to attract clients and connections in the Public Relations and Communications sectors. The specific blog post in question was called ‘The 4 Words That Will Get Your Email Opened’ – a dilemma most PR professionals come across in their career.

After pinning the blog post on the Walls of just three different LinkedIn Groups, the blog readership skyrocketed from 212 readers to 736 readers in just 24 hours – a jump of 334%. Not only that, the blog viewership for this PR firm has remained consistent at about 200 hits every day thereafter. In addition, subscriptions to the blog grew by nearly 300%.

graph.jpg

As can be seen by the above graph this specific blog did not begin with a huge readership, but to get noticed, you don’t need a huge following.

Let’s look at the bare facts. This company spent nothing and tripled the amount of hits on their site from a single post on LinkedIn Groups.

graph4.jpg

The table above shows nothing grew the blog’s readership faster, or as organically, as LinkedIn Groups. According to the table, the blog article got as much as 29 times more views from LinkedIn Groups than from Facebook.

This response was enough to get the ball rolling on the PR-firm’s social media strategy, and the blog’s popular commentary helped cement the firm as a thought-leader in the industry. Moreover, another PR firm contacted them with a job opportunity that led to a monthly media monitoring contract.

Ca-ching! Free LinkedIn Groups marketing turns to profit.

Why do LinkedIn Groups work?

Killer content rules in social media circles and this is no different with LinkedIn Groups. If you blog content misses its target audience, or is not well written, it is unlikely to attract readers.

Using the above example on the PR firm, the majority of the content on their blog is about copywriting, social media and Public Relations. They targeted industry LinkedIn Groups that would be likely to read about these topics. In this example, the LinkedIn Groups they joined were ‘Copywriters Guild’, ‘Sydney Media People’ and ‘Public Relations and Communications Professionals’.

Each of these groups had over 250 members and unlike other social media, LinkedIn Groups sends a private email directly to these members whenever a new article/blog has been posted on the Groups community wall.

Essentially, putting your blog post on a LinkedIn Group wall is like direct mail marketing to a targeted audience, who are likely to click back to your site. All for free.

If you consistently post up new articles on the Linked Group wall, it’s as if the members of the LinkedIn Group are already subscribers to your blog.

Obviously, the more LinkedIn Groups you post on your blog to the greater chance of an improved readership. For example, say you post your blog on the walls of five LinkedIn Groups related to your industry, and each Group has around 500 members – essentially, you are targeting an audience of over 2,500 potential clients and connections – at no expense.

Just remember, there is a fine line between targeted promotion and spam. It is highly likely that same industry captains will be members of more than one group, which means they could potentially receive your blog post 3 or 4 times if you share it with too many Groups. For this reason, limit your blog post to the most important Groups: The ones with the most members or the highest level of comments and interactions.

The nuts and bolts – How do I make LinkedIn Groups work for me?

Step 1: Create a blog

Your blog’s purpose is to promote your business and/or your online profile, as well as to drive traffic to your website. If you are unsure if your website has a blog section in its Content Management System, speak to your web developer, they can help you get started.

In my experience, the more controversial or opinionated a blog post is – the more response you will get. However, don’t be rude, insulting or arrogant; after all, the intention of your blog is to sell your expertise, and you don’t want your opinions to come across as ‘rogue’ in the industry. Be professional about what you post, be informative and give some tangible advice.

If you find an edge in your business or in the industry, don’t be afraid to share it. Fellow members and bloggers in the industry will often thank you for it, share your discussion or even send you business – it happens!

Also, if you are a business, don’t make it obvious that you are selling something. This is spam. It is acceptable at most to put a single byline at the bottom of the post like:

“I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the topic, and if you are considering a personal loan, feel free to contact me.”

It is also fine to inject some humour or a funny photograph but keep it in tune with the professional character of LinkedIn and the group. You are talking to your industry peers, not your friends.

And again, be consistent. If you put up one or two posts a week, your face will become a familiar sight in the LinkedIn Group and will give your blog more exposure.

Step 2: Join LinkedIn

Sign up to LinkedIn. You can’t join a LinkedIn Group without a LinkedIn profile and signing up is easy and free. Just go to www.linkedin.com and follow the steps to create an account.

Once you have created an account complete your LinkedIn profile so that the bar on the top right-hand equals 100%. This may take some time as you will need to build connections, seek endorsements and put up a professional profile photo. Note, that some LinkedIn Groups won’t allow you to join their group if your profile is incomplete, so to increase your chances of being accepted into a Group, spend some time giving your profile some love.

Step 3: Join a LinkedIn Group

Once you have a LinkedIn profile, select the tab ‘Groups’ at the top of the page and in the search bar type your profession. For example, if you are in the financial broking industry and is selling personal loans, type keywords such as ‘Financial broker’, ‘Personal Loans’, ‘Financial Planning’ into the search bar. Different groups will appear such as ‘Finance Industry Professionals’, ‘Finance Broking Careers’, and ‘Women in Finance’.

Tip: To find Groups that are more local, type in your country or state or city in the search bar in addition to your profession.

Look for Groups with a strong following – anything above 500 members is fair game. Anything below that may be worth joining but is probably not considered the chief Group of that profession and, if you want to be noticed in the industry, you will need the biggest audience.

Moreover, check out the conversations taking place on the Group’s wall. Sign up if you see a lot of peers commenting in the Group – healthy conversation is a great form of networking.

Once you’ve found a Group, click the button ‘Join Group’. Don’t be discouraged if you are not accepted straight away, as many Group administrators want to check who you are before allowing you into their Group (hence the importance of a ‘complete’ LinkedIn profile). Spamming is an issue in LinkedIn Groups and Group administrators put up these checks in an attempt to keep it spam-free.

Step 4: Post your blog to the Group

Once you have been accepted to the Group, it is time join the conversation.

  1. Start a ‘Discussion’ or ‘Promotion’ by giving your blog a compelling headline. There are a number of ProBlogger articles that will teach you how to write the perfect hook for a blog headline, but one technique that I normally use to get results is to incorporate numbers and lists. Using a financial broking business as an example, some good titles to use would be ‘5 tips to paying off a personal loan faster’ or ‘4 smart ways to consolidate your personal debt’, ‘the cheats guide to loan applications’.
  2. Beneath the headline there is a section that asks you to add more details about your post. Fill this space with a quick synopsis of your blog post, e.g: ‘A recent survey revealed 64% of Australians take out a personal loan to buy a car. We all know that cars are a necessary, but bad investment. Check out these five savvy ways to pay off your personal loan in record time…’
  3. Lastly, ensure you post the link to your blog post where it says ‘Attach a link’, it will bring all LinkedIn traffic directly back to your blog.

In addition, Some Groups have strict rules on what you can and cannot post on a wall and when you post is also important. Some Groups like to use the ‘Discussions’ section, while other Groups prefer that you post in the ‘Promotions’ section. It is important to abide by the rules otherwise your post may be blocked by the administrator.

To illustrate this point, here is a message from the administrator of the ‘Australian Writers’ LinkedIn Group:

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And that is it.

Monitor your progress using Google Analytics or WordPress Stats and tailor and time your posts to how your audience responds. It is entirely free to use LinkedIn Groups and it’s an effective way to get traffic to your business site or grow your blogging profile. Good luck.

Fiona Hamann is the senior PR manager at Aussie. She is passionate about all facets of communications including PR, writing, editing, website content, new media, crisis and issues management and branding in the finance industry – home loans, personal loans, credit cards, and insurance.”300%

The Definitive Guide to Setting Up and Marketing a Podcast to Help Grow Your Blog

This is a Guest Contribution by Chris Ducker, from ChrisDucker.com.

It’s no secret that the subject of podcasting has been a buzz for quite some time. In fact, some say that although there have been solid podcasting networks around for years and years, it’s only just in the last 12-18 months that the idea of starting a podcast, especially as a blogger, has become something that we’d even consider.

I’ve been blogging for three years and podcasting for almost as long. I’ve had three separate shows, but nowadays tend to focus on just my New Business Podcast, which goes along with my brand as a blogger and entrepreneur. I can categorically say that starting and marketing a podcast has been extremely important, when it comes to my success as a blogger.

So much so, that I would say if you could only add just one strategy to your blog marketing mix this year, I’d highly recommend podcasting, and here’s a few reasons why:

  • 45 million Americans download and listen to at least one podcast a month (source). That’s in the US alone – think about how many millions you can reach worldwide!
  • One in every four podcast listeners, tune into podcasts while driving (source). This is a good opportunity for you to have the undivided attention of your audience.
  • The volume of podcasts has remained fairly steady since 2011 (source). There’s a lot of opportunity for you to capture a chunk of that market share – regardless of what niche you’re covering.
  • The typical podcast consumer is between the ages of 12-34. They are also, high-ticket buyers, and are Internet savvy (source). Perfect if you’re wanting to monetize your blog.

On December 22, 2012, I launched my latest, aforementioned podcast. Within the first month of it being live I had enjoyed over 10,000 downloads via iTunes and had gained the number one spot in the two main categories I was going after, namely “Business” and “Marketing & Management”. Cool, right? Accident? Absolutely not.

There was a very clear strategy in place to make that success happen, which I’ll tell you more about later, so you can put it in place for your own podcasting success. However, before you can have a top ranking podcast, you’ve gotta create one!

Getting Ready to Podcast

If you’re still with me at this point, I’ll assume that you’re rarin’ to start your own podcast. But, let me tell you now that, just like setting up a blog for the first time, it’s going to take some planning and preparation to get your podcast out there in the right way.

As this guide unravels you’ll see me discuss the process of setting up, packaging and launching your podcast in the following phases:

  • Planning your Podcast – You’ll need your thinking cap for this phase!
  • Recording your Podcast – Hardware and software you’ll need to record your podcast.
  • Post Production Work – Exporting, editing, and tagging your audio for iTunes.
  • Publishing your Podcast – All about creating an RSS feed and submitting your podcast to iTunes and the other directories.
  • Marketing your Podcast – Advice and tips on how you can get your podcast to rank well, be found and help catapult your blog and brand online!

Please note there are a bunch of links in this post to resources such as hardware, software and other online tools – none of them are affiliate links.

Let’s begin!

Planning Your Podcast

As with any marketing endeavor, you need to sit down and spend some time thinking about what your podcast is going to be about, your target audience, your keywords and your goals. If you’re blogging already and want to focus on producing content for the same type of audience, then this part of the process will be a little easier and faster for you.

Note: If you’re not blogging already, or if you’re thinking of changing your blogging focus – this exercise is also perfect for you, too – just replace the word ‘podcast’ with ‘blog’…

Some of the things you need to be asking yourself, in preparation of getting going with your podcast are as follows:

1. Your Podcast Title

The name should be descriptive of what your podcast is all about. Take my podcast title for example, from its title alone you know that “The New Business Podcast” is all about business. More importantly, it contains a keyword (business podcast) phrase that I am optimizing my blog and my podcast channel for. Smart, huh?!

2. Your Podcast Subtitle

This will show up next to your podcast title. Your subtitle should complement your title and give listeners the chance to get an ‘elevator pitch’ on what your show is about. Try to include a few keywords here, too – it’ll help your show get found in searches.

3. Your Podcast Description

This is a good place for you to identify who your target listener is and what they can expect from your podcast, i.e. what topics you will be covering in your episodes, common takeaways, etc.

4. Your Podcast Artwork

People’s eyes are naturally drawn to images that “pop” from the rest, so use colors and font styles that will draw people to your podcast, as flowers attract bees. If you’re looking to build on a personal brand, then it’s a good idea to include your headshot in the artwork, along with your title (and possibly subtitle), too. Dimensions change from time to time, according to the directory your listing in. When it comes to iTunes, which is the 800lb podcasting gorilla that you want to be focusing on going after, your artwork needs to be 1400×1400, to make sure that it displays in the various sizes it gets listed in, such as web results, inside iTunes, via the podcast app on the iPhone and iPad, and so on.

No good at designing, or don’t want to have to do it all yourself? No problems, I have a solution for that later on…

5. Your Podcast Talent Name

Your talent name should tell people who you are in several words. It’s not just your name. You have the ability here to include several keywords that you want to be discovered for. It’s imperative that you utilize this option properly.

You’ll see in the screenshot below how I’ve covered (1) the title, (2) the subtitle, (3) the talent name, (4) the description and (5) my talent name.

PODCAST1.png

6. Your Podcast Intro and Outro

One of the ways that you can brand your podcast is by having a distinct intro and outro. It can be as simple as a piece of an instrumental music, or a combo of music and a short voice-over.

If you’re using music, make sure that you get the license to use it – iStockPhoto has some brilliant audio recordings you can license cheaply. Then get your voice-over ready and simply lay it on top of the music using some simple audio editing software, such as Garage Band.

Don’t want to record the voice-over, or edit your intro’s and outro’s together yourself? No problems, I have a solution for that later on…

When you have everything above ready, put them aside for use later on. You’ll need them when you submit your podcast to directories like iTunes, Zune, Blackberry, Stitcher, etc. Before I get into that stuff, let’s get stuck into what you’ll actually be submitting!

Planning Your Podcast

This is the fun stuff! Recording your podcast. I say fun because this is really where “YOU” come into play. This is where you share your knowledge and experiences to your listeners. To start recording audio, you’ll need to get the following sorted out first:

Your Show Format

Typically, there are two types of podcast formats you can go with. First up is the ‘solo’ show, where it’s just you talking into your mic, laying down all your experience for your listeners to indulge themselves in. Secondly is the ‘interview’ format show, where you bring on guests that can lend their own experiences and tips to your audience – much like I did with Darren, on my podcast recently.

You might also decide to do a combination of the two. I recently changed from a full interview format, podcasting twice a month, to a mix of interview / solo shows, which allows me to share my own experiences and business experience a little more freely, by publishing slightly shorter episodes (around 15-20 minutes), bi-weekly.

Microphone

This is a no brainer, I know. Can you use your laptop’s built-in mic? Certainly. Will it sound good? No! At the very least, you need to be recording with a microphone that is on a headset – preferably when it’s attached to your head!

However, if you’re really serious about using podcasting to take your blog, business, or personal brand to the next level, don’t scrimp on your hardware (besides, it doesn’t cost a fortune, anyway!). Invest in a good quality mic and a few cool accessories.

PODCAST2.png

My podcasting set-up is in the image above, here are the Amazon links to everything I use:

  • MicrophoneAudio Technica AT2020 USB Condenser Mic
  • Swing ArmRode PSA1 Swivel Mount Boom Arm
  • Pop FilterNady PF-6 6-Inch Clamp on Pop Filter
  • Shock MountSamsung SP01 Spider Mount
  • Audio Recording / Editing Software

    Another no-brainer. You need software to record your podcast. Whether you’re doing a solo show, or an interview format show, if you’re on a Mac, I suggest you get involved with GarageBand, and if you’re a PC user, then Audacity should be your top choice.

    If you’re recording interviews, I’ve found the easiest way to do this is via Skype.

    You can do this really easily on a Mac using the software, Call Recorder for Skype from Ecamm Network – it’s just $19.95, and allows you to record not only Skype-to-Skype calls, but also Skype-to-phone calls, too. On the PC you can do the same thing with Pamela. I recommend upgrading to the Professional version (€24.95) because of it’s specific support for bloggers and podcasters.

    Getting Ready to Record

    There are a number of things that I’ve picked up in the last few years since I started podcasting, in regards to actually planning the individual episodes.

    Firstly, make sure you plan out your show properly. If you’ve ever listened to a podcast before and thought that it sounded like it had been literally thrown together at the last minute, the chances are it probably was!

    If you’re interviewing a guest, visit that guests blog, or website. Snoop a little on what they’ve been up to on social media profiles – especially Twitter, as people tend to speak a little more freely on that platform. Then put together some questions, or at the very least a collection of bullet points on topics that you’d like to discuss with them.

    If you’ll be recording a solo show, that doesn’t mean this gets any easier. In fact, it’s harder, as it’s all about you, and only you! So, likewise, plan out your content by getting some ideas from your community, answer some questions they have and provide some solid ‘how to’ advice. All this coupled together with your charm, humor and entertainment factor, and you should be fine.

    Either way, I always like to make sure that I’ve got a glass of water close by, any material I might need to reference during the recording either on the screen, or better yet, printed in front of me – as well as making sure that all other distractions turned off.

    Now, go ahead and hit that recording button!

    Post Production Work

    We’re now coming down to the nitty-gritty of things. The dirty stuff that happens after you’ve recorded your podcast. This is where all the techie talk comes into play. Audio and sound engineers refer to this stage as post production work and it starts with exporting your audio file.

    Now, don’t be scared of this term. When I say export, it just means that you will save the file in a format that is recognizable by iTunes and other audio directories and devices – in other words, across the board – an MP3 file format. Name your file something relevant, like NBP001 (this is the title code I use for ‘New Business Podcast – Episode 1’).

    Note: For those using Audacity, you will be asked to download a LAME encoder the first time that you export an audio as an MP3 file. The system will direct you the download site or you can also download it here.

    After you’ve exported your audio file, the next thing to do is to edit your audio. You can do this using Audacity, or GarageBand, as we’ve discussed already.

    This is the part where you add the intro and the outro, remove background noise, adjust sound levels, and add any sound effects, voicemail recordings, etc. This is also where you trim the audio and remove portions that you’d rather not include in the final product.

    Drop an F-Bomb by accident? Bleep it. Stuttered, mumbled? Removed it. Recording run for too long? Cut it! You can do what you want – it’s YOUR podcast, after all.

    When you’re done with the file, the next thing you need to do is to save your edited audio as a new file. This way, just in case something happens in the future, you’ve got the original, un-edited file, along with the ‘final’ edited version, backed-up. Always back-up.

    Now that you’ve got your final audio (the version of your recording that the world will hear), you need to tag it properly, so that all the information related to your show gets uploaded with it, along with the file itself.

    Here’s a screenshot of how I tagged a recent episode of my podcast. You’ll notice all the information we finalized earlier coming into play here, such as the title, subtitle, description, talent name, etc. It’s also at this point that you’ll attach the podcast artwork to the file, too.

    PODCAST3.png

    After you’ve done this, give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve successfully tagged your podcast. Which leads us to the next step.

    Don’t know how to edit audio files together, or simply don’t want to have to worry about tagging your audio files yourself? No problems, I have a solution for that later on…

    Publishing Your Podcast

    This is essentially a three-step process which includes getting a media host sorted out, setting up your podcast only RSS feed, publishing your first few podcast episodes and then finally submitting your podcast to the major directories!

    Set Up Your Media Host

    Firstly, you need to figure out where you’re going to host your audio files. At first, as long as they are below the maximum upload size of 50MB, you can do this directly onto your WordPress server, via your usual dashboard. The only problem with this is that when your podcast becomes popular, you might have server issues, with all the download’s taking place!

    A far better way to attack this step in the process is to upload your files to a dedicated audio file / podcast server. I use the folks over at Libsyn, and they have been brilliant. They even promote my episodes and blog posts via social media, from time to time. Awesome customer service, too. With a few different payment options to choose from you can get started at just $5 a month, for 50MB – just enough space for one, maybe two episodes a month.

    Set Up Your Podcast RSS Feed

    Once you’ve uploaded your file to your media host, the next step is to create a feed for your podcast. This is the one area where a lot of people trip up. So, let me put that another way – you need to create a ‘podcast only’ RSS feed. I can try doing this on your own, if you’re tech-savvy enough, if not – here’s the perfect, step-by-step solution for you.

    Within WordPress, you’ll see five dozen, or so plugins listed when you search for “podcasting “ in the directory.

    We’re going to install and activate the best one, in my opinion. The Blubrry PowerPress Podcasting Plugin. Note: This is the same plugin you’ll use to actually publish each of your podcast episodes, too.

    Once installed, follow the steps below to create your Podcast Only RSS Feed:

    1. Under the Welcome Tab, check the box before “Custom Podcast Channels” and save. It will create one podcast channel by default.
    2. Edit the default “podcast” channel. You can find this in under the PowerPress menu in the left hand side. Change the name of the podcast to the Title of Your Podcast show. Don’t forget to save.
    3. Click Settings under the PowerPress menu and go to the Basic Settings tab. Make sure that the boxes are checked before Media URL and Media File Size and Duration. These options created additional fields in the Post Editor, where you can enter the file URL of your podcast. Keep in mind that this URL ends up in .mp3, or other audio file formats.
    4. Scroll down to the bottom and delete the URL in the Default URL field. Save again.
    5. Under the Feeds tab, make sure that “Enhance All Feeds” is selected.
    6. Copy the Podcast Only Feed URL. Since you have no podcast episode published yet, it will be in RED. Make a note of it for later use.
    7. Scroll down under the Feed Settings, set the number of podcast episodes you want to show in the feed, e.g. 10, 20, 50, or 100.
    8. Upload your RSS Image. This is the cover art you prepared when you were planning your podcast. The size of the image should be 300×300 pixels.
    9. Add a location to your RSS Feeds. If you don’t plan on traveling for each podcast episode, then put down your normal location.
    10. Save your new settings for the Feeds tab.
    11. Go to the iTunes tab and scroll down to the iTunes Feed Settings. Enter the details required namely Subtitle, Summary, Keywords, Host and Categories. Just copy these from your podcast plan. (Remember the one you prepared before you started recording?) Select three categories for your podcast.
    12. Set whether your podcast will contain explicit content or not. Upload an iTunes Image, which is the cover art you have prepare beforehand. Use the file size with 1400×1400 pixel dimensions.
    13. This is where you publish your first podcast episode. Just open a post draft, as usual, type out your show notes and then put the post in a ‘Podcast’ category, so it’s easier for archiving / searching in the future. Don’t forget to add the media URL – the file URL for your podcast that will end in .mp3, that’s sitting on your file server. The box for this is under the text editor box.
    14. Go back to the Feeds tab under the PowerPress menu and click on the “validate” link next to the Podcast Feed. This will open another window called Feed Validator, which will tell you if you’re feed is properly setup.
    15. Make sure that your Podcast Only RSS Feed URL is the same as the one you took a note of earlier on. This is important because this is the URL you will be submitting to the directories.

    Continue to Publish New Episodes – Now that your feed is set up, and your first podcast episode is published, all you need to do is continue to publish new episodes – and before submitting to the main directories – which are:

    Why do we need to publish more episodes BEFORE submitting? Because the chances of your podcast getting accepted by directories is correlated to the number of episodes you have. Meaning, the more episodes you have in your feed before submission, the more likely that it will get accepted.

    In fact, Blubrry for example, says that it requires seven episodes before they’ll accept your podcast into their own directory. However, I’ve found that a minimum of three episodes is usually good enough to get listed in these major directories, and lets not mess around here – iTunes is the one we really care about, right?! I got a listing on the iTunes store with just three shows for my latest podcast.

    Marketing Your Podcast

    Just because your podcast has been approved by the directories and you’ve started to publish regularly, doesn’t mean that you can relax. In fact, you now need to work even harder than ever to make sure that it’s found and downloaded by as many people as possible. Especially when it comes to getting a taste of a little iTunes success.

    How to Achieve Amazing iTunes Success – FAST!

    At the top of this post I mentioned the success I had enjoyed in the iTunes store. I utilized a really simple tactic that paid off big time, and although I did produce an in-depth post about it on my own blog, this article would not be complete without including it here, too.

    There’s a little known fact that many first time podcast producers are unaware of, that will make all the difference in the instant popularity of your podcast in the iTunes store. It’s about how to take advantage of the ‘window period’ you’re given in the ‘New & Noteworthy’ section of Apple’s iTunes Store once your podcast is approved in its directory.

    Apple automatically lists your podcast in the ‘New & Noteworthy’ section, which appears at the top of the iTunes search results for every category, for a limited period of 8-weeks, following the launch of your podcast in the iTunes Store.

    Bottom line, you have two short months to shine, and grow your audience. So what you need to do is launch three episodes in your first week, this boosts your download count immediately – putting it very close, if not right at the top of the section – ahead of all your competitors.

    Then, try your best to publish at least one new episode a week, for the remaining 7-weeks, to keep the download (and subscriber) count growing, and your podcast listed at the top of the charts.

    With the New Business Podcast, by the end of the 8-week period, I had consistently held the number one spot in two separate categories, and received well over 25,000+ downloads with just 9 episodes published.

    General Podcast Marketing Tips

    Even with the simple iTunes tactic (and the success that it can bring) in place, you still need to market the hell out of your show. So, here are a bunch of additional marketing tips that you can work on, to be sure that your podcast becomes a success, and helps catapult your blog and brand to the next level.

    • Promote your podcast through social media. Post links to new episodes on your Facebook page, Twitter profile, as well as your LinkedIn and Google+ profiles, too.
    • Invite members of appropriate Facebook and LinkedIn groups to subscribe to your podcast – this works really well, if you stay focused.
    • Add a link to your podcast in your email signature.
    • Add a link to your podcast on the sidebar of your blog, or perhaps the navigation bar.
    • Email your list subscribers whenever you publish a new podcast, incase they aren’t subscribing to your Podcast RSS feed.
    • Reach out to other bloggers that you’re friendly with, and ask for them to mention your new podcast on their Facebook page, etc. – you can offer them a guest spot on your show, if it helps sweeten the deal!

    Get Smart – Don’t do ALL the Work!

    Remember where I said a few times earlier on in the post that I had a solution to you not knowing how to do something, or simply not wanting to do something related to getting your podcast up and running… well, here it is.

    It’s called outsourcing.

    No talent in graphic design? Want a cool sounding ‘movie voice guy’ to do your intro and outros? You can hire freelance graphic designers on oDesk, or if you’re in a tight budget, go to Fiverr. Just make sure that you’re clear on what you want. Provide examples of cover art work that appeal to you and perhaps some audio examples.

    If you want to take all of this to the next level, then you could also look into finding an Audio Editor VA, either part-time, or full-time through Virtual Staff Finder (Disclaimer: I own this company), or another service – they can then fundamentally handle the whole process for you. All you need to focus on is creating the content and marketing the content!

    And if you didn’t want to handle the marketing side of things, you could also find a VA to do that for you, too – but, that’s a whole separate blog post!

    And my final tip, above and beyond everything else, is to be sure to provide great value in every episode that you publish. This is easily the best way to make sure that your subscribers will continue to tune in, and recommend your podcast to their own networks.

    The fact is that ‘fluff’ doesn’t cut it anymore. As online content creators we need to be sure to research and create content that is genuinely consumable. If it is, people will not only consume it, but they’ll also be more than happy to share it with the people they know – and that is what makes a ‘good’ podcast… ‘great’.

    Focus on having fun with your podcasting, and utilizing the power that it brings to your overall online brand. As far as I’m concerned, it’ll help grow your blog faster than any other activity that you can spend time on nowadays.

    Are you already podcasting to help build your blog following and overall brand? If so, share with the community here what’s worked well for you. I know I’d love to hear from you, for sure!

    Chris C. Ducker is a serial entrepreneur, speaker and author. He is the founder of Virtual Staff Finder, the world’s number one VA match-making service, as well as a popular blogger and podcaster at ChrisDucker.com. He can also be found daily on Twitter @chriscducker.

    3 Simple ways You can get your Blog Engagement Rockin

    A Guest Contribution by Shaun McCarthy from Twitter, or visit Training Outcomes

    When was the last time you learned something new? It could have been anything, from customising your blog template or setting up your social media to fixing your leaky tap. I want you to think about how you were taught. Did you just sit down and read a manual?

    I’m guessing you didn’t. I bet you did a whole combination of things in order to perfect your new skill. It might have included reading, but it probably also included watching how someone else does it, listening as they explained it to you and almost definitely trying it yourself.

    Why is this important to you as a blogger and content creator? Because in order to get your audience to do what you want them to do, you first need them to fully comprehend your message.

    In this post I’m going to show you three basic ways that people learn and what you can do to ensure your blog content gets them excited.

    Three key learning types

    Did you know that more than half of the population (around 65%) are visual learners? What that means is they need to be able to see a concept in order to process, remember and use it.

    Everyone has a preferred way to consume information, a learning style. Visual learners want to see how to do something. Auditory learners like to hear an explanation and talk things through. Kinaesthetic people need to get their hands dirty and feel how something is done.

    If you understand the way your audience likes to learn, then communicating with them becomes a whole lot easier.

    1. Visual learners

    Visual learners prefer to watch demonstration and will often get more out of video, rather than written instructions. Aside from the sheer entertainment value, this is one of the main reasons why YouTube works so well.

    Video works well because it is very engaging, but you can also use simple visual alternatives such as diagrams and images that help to communicate, or better demonstrate the outcome you are trying to achieve. Photos, cartoons, tables and charts all work well as reinforcement tools for visual learners.

    The good news is that you can create videos yourself using a decent camera with movie mode, or even with an iPhone if you are starting out. Practice makes perfect, but it is likely that your audience will value any effort you make to show them what you are talking about.

    Well renowned blogger, Ramsay the Blog Tyrant, has used video to great effect in his article about Google authorship. Not only did he write a really detailed ‘how to’ and inject plenty of his own thoughts, he also included a video to show his audience exactly how it can be done using screen capture software.

    Videos aren’t the only visual learning tools available. Infographics visually communicate ideas and sometimes, quite complex data. They are so popular because they resonate so well with visual learners.

    2. Auditory learners

    Hearing and speaking are closely related so you’ll often find auditory learners combining the two when they are introduced to new concepts. Maybe you have even found yourself repeating something out aloud in order to remember it.

    Auditory learners remember complex information through song or rhyme; in fact we all do it from an early age – who doesn’t know the alphabet song?

    A good way to engage people that like to learn by listening is through podcasts. Podcasts are a really popular way to deliver online interviews and once you are up and running, podcasts are pretty easy to offer to your audience. Check out Pat Flynn’s great resource about setting up podcasts for a great step by step (funnily enough it actually contains a lot of video).

    Video can also be a good way to engage auditory learners. It can really help develop a stronger connection when your audience can see the person behind the voice. Someone that does this extremely well is Derek Halpern from Social Triggers. Derek has stacks of energy and gets right to the point, leaving you with a clear and actionable takeaway message every time.

    As surprising as it might sound, you can also engage auditory learners through text by getting them to repeat something (like a desired action) aloud to themselves. Try suggesting to your reader that they read a word or sentence using a well-known voice (like a celebrity), or tell them how it should sound (sexy, angry, crazy). You will be amazed how well this works at getting someone to recall a certain piece of information.

    3. Kinaesthetic learners

    While kinaesthetic learners make up the smallest group, many of us use this type of learning at some point. This is the process of performing the intended action, which is naturally more suited to physical activities.

    Although this can pose some challenges in an online setting, there are ways to incorporate this learning style into your blog. Try to be very descriptive about the way in which something should feel to the learner and ask them to action it out themselves.

    You can also try setting specific homework related to your desired action. On your blog you could do this by:

    • For a photography blog, you could ask your reader to take a specific photo in a particular way and have them post a link to it in the comments;
    • For a personal development blog you could challenging readers to interact with a specific number of new people in a given amount of time, then ask them to report back;
    • For a marketing/writing blog you could offer subscribers a reward in the form of a link from your site, for a specific piece of content they create.

    Aside from helping people put their learning into practice, another benefit in doing this is that it often promotes community interaction. Your audience will not only share and learn from you, but also with each other, which is really cool to see happen.

    Adding the additional reward element through recognition makes it all the more enticing.

    Combining learning styles

    Research has show that combining different learning styles is the most effective way to engage learners, independent of the way they best learn.

    The key is making your blog a hot house of interaction is to understand that most people use a mixture of learning styles. Some have one dominant style, and use small amounts of the other styles, while other people will use different styles in different situations.

    What this all boils down to is that the best way to create a hot house of reader engagement on blog, is to incorporate all three learning styles whenever practical. Look for ways to inject this into your online content and experiment with different communication media like audio and video, I guarantee it will result in better engagement and greater success with your target audience.

    Do you usually create one style of content over another? How could you tailor your content to better suit each of these learning styles?

    Shaun McCarthy helps people create fantastic learning experiences that anyone can relate to. He also likes to make wild claims about guaranteed success using a training based approach. Feel free to take this up with him on Twitter, or visit Training Outcomes to see how a simple approach to online training can help you get more from your online business.

    How NOT to Send an Email: A Day We’d Rather Forget But a Story We Need to Tell

    In this post Shayne and I share the back story how we mistakenly sent an email to almost a million people that should have gone to a few thousand – (and we then share what we did about it).

    From Shayne: Wednesday the 10th of April 2013 was a day I will never forget – for all the wrong reasons.

    It was a brain draining day for me.  A huge business decision was made in the morning, followed by spirited discussions, followed by lots of work and climaxed in dramatic style.

    A new deal had just been loaded on SnapnDeals and it was time to let our several thousand subscribers know about it via email.  The email was written, loaded, tested and good to go — so I thought.

    I clicked send at around 7:30PM and headed for dinner.

    About 30 minutes later I popped back into the office to finish up some work and immediately realised something wasn’t right.  I had over 400 out of office emails to an inbox that normally had only a handful.

    With haste I jumped into our Aweber account and my heart sank.

    I had sent the SnapnDeals email to ALL our lists. dPS, feelgooder and Problogger.  Almost a million people!

    Not good. Not good at all.

    Now that I have that admission out of my system (you can stop blaming Darren now) I wanted to share our actions and response to this no so happy moment so we can all learn from my mistake.

    Step 1: Tell Darren

    I didn’t really know what to expect from Darren because the situation wasn’t good. He was on holiday and this was the last thing he wanted to happen.  

    I find you always really get to know someone at times like this and what I can share with you is that the perception that he’s the one nicest bloggers on the planet – when push comes to shove it is 100% true. 

    His response… “It happens… let’s fix it”.  

    From Darren: I was just settling down to watch some TV on our second last night of our vacation when my iPhone began to buzz incessantly with incoming emails – I knew something was up and on checking my inbox I knew pretty quickly what had happened.

    The incoming emails were a mixture of direct emails from subscribers complaining of spam and unsubscribe notices from Aweber – mainly from ProBlogger readers – with comments that indicated they were not happy.

    I was just logging into Aweber to see how many people had been emailed when Shayne’s text message came through.

    My reaction: the first reaction was panic – seeing people quickly unsubscribe from a list you’ve put years into building up will do that – but I quickly realised we needed to react quickly and that panic and negative feelings wouldn’t get us anywhere.

    Step 2: Evaluate Quickly

    From Shayne: Every moment we waited to act was hurting us that little bit more. Together we quickly explored options.

    1. Hold our nerve and respond to anyone that contacts us directly
    2. Broadcast through social media and other channels about the issue
    3. Email people we mistakenly emailed, explain the situation and deal with the consequences.

    We decided to do all three.

    From Darren: Time was of the essence. Luckily for us this happened early in the evening here in Australia and most of our subscribers were asleep in the US – but the stream of negative emails and unsubscribes was constant and I wanted to react fast.

    Even as I chatted with Shayne I drafted an email that I began to send in response to every person who was emailing me to complain or who had unsubscribed and left a comment via Aweber.

    The email was short, apologised and briefly explained the situation.

    I also tweeted about it pretty quickly to the ProBlogger account and also added updates to Facebook and Google+.

    I was also pretty sure I wanted to email those who shouldn’t have received the email – however my reservation was that in doing so we may be accused of pulling the old ‘we made a mistake’ trick that some email marketers do by making a self serving mistake in their marketing.

    While being seen to use that tactic wasn’t something I wanted to happen I could also see that by NOT emailing we’d do even more damage.

    Step 3: Act

    From Shayne: Darren immediately shared the news on social media as we set about writing a follow up email explaining what had happened.  About 20 minutes later that email was on its way. Nerves were high – and yes, I had to get Darren to hit the send button!  But it was also a relief to be clearing things up.

    From Darren: Everything as though it was going in slow motion at this point – I couldn’t hit send on that email fast enough and as Shayne says – it was a relief to get it out!

    Step 4: Watch

    From Shayne: As the email was being delivered we both monitored all inboxes to understand the response our follow up email was having.  For the most part our pro-activity and transparency achieved the response we had hoped.

    such as…

    “I LOVED this message! I’ll take it as a benchmark of what to do when something wrong happens – because it often does, to all of us ;)

    When I received the SnapnDeals email I was puzzled, but I wouldn’t have known it had a connection with you – we receive so much spam, anyway… so I didn’t pay much attention to it.

    Receiving this apology, on the other hand, immediately caught my attention and had a very positive impact. It showed how a company or a consultant that cares for their contacts should behave, and made me not only sympathize with you all, but also admire your professionalism on a new level.

    I learned a lot, thank you and congratulations!”

    There were a few that assumed we were strategically manipulating the situation.

    “And by sending this ‘mistake’ out you inadvertently introduce your readers to your SnapnDeals site. Tisk tisk – shame on you Darren. A transparent marketing effort and a unprofessional marketing effort. “

    Which we knew was going to happen.

    We did lose some subscribers but we minimised the damage and being open an honest about what had happened.  

    From Darren: the reaction from subscribers was pretty amazing. Within seconds of the email and social media updates going out we began to see reactions. They were overwhelmingly positive.

    I’ve had hundreds of emails come in from those who received the Apology email and 99% of them were positive including some common themes:

    • Don’t be too harsh on the person who made the mistake
    • It’s good to see that even ‘ProBloggers’ make mistakes
    • Thanks for your transparency and admitting the mistake

    Of course it wasn’t all positive – as Shayne mentioned, some did see this as a marketing ploy. I responded to each person personally when they reacted this way. My response was to explain there is no way I would risk a brand as important to me as ProBlogger to drive a little traffic over to a side project on a completely irrelevant topic to ProBlogger readers.

    The costs of this saga were certainly higher than any unintentional benefits we may have received.

    Thankfully though, while we continued to have some unsubscribes they slowed down a lot immediately.

    Step 5: Share

    From Shayne: Darren and I both like to share our experiences so without even having to say it, we knew this had to be written about on ProBlogger.  Not only to show you how not to run an email campaign, but also share that when something goes wrong, getting on the front foot and owning the issue, in the long run, is going to minimise the harm.  

    It’s a story that I’m sure Darren and I will chuckle about in years to come, but also a story I hope we all can remember just before we hit that send button.

    From Darren: There was never a question of not sharing this story. For starters we told many of you already with our apology but interestingly another of the common responses from subscribers was them telling their own mistakes (it seems we’re not the only ones to make this mistake).

    Step 6: Learn

    From Shayne: Now that we know what’s possible Darren and I will look as way’s we can make sure this doesn’t happen in the future. We might look at separating out the accounts on Aweber or putting a few extra checks in place before we send out emails.  

    Either way we need to adjust what we do as I hope you’ll all forgive me this once, but should it happen again you have my complete permission to get angry.

    So that’s my wonderful 10th of April.  I’m sure there’s a few more email catastrophe stories out there waiting to be shared!  

    It’ll make me feel better if you do :)

    From Darren: The thought of this happening again sends shivers down my spine. I’ve been at this long enough to know that honest mistakes do get made (I’ve made plenty) however the keys in this are to:

    • Learn from those mistakes
    • Own the mistakes and to get on the front foot in responding
    • Look for ways to turn the mistakes into postives

    The last thing I’d say is that the mistakes you make – and how you respond to them – in many ways define you.

    As I look back over the years at the times I’ve messed up it is often these moments that drive me most to improve, to change and to better what I do.

    These are also the moments that others remember most – so how you move through these times is a really important part of building your brand (and character).