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How Early Should You Monetize Your New Blog?

A common question that I get is ‘how early should I begin to monetize my blog‘.

I understand the concern behind the question – some bloggers certainly like to build their audience before they introduce monetization and you do need readers before whatever monetization model you choose will work – but have always believed that if you intend to monetize your blog one day you should probably do it in some way from early on.

I’ve never heard a shop owner ask – ‘how early should I monetize? – shops open from day #1 with products to sell.

Likewise – Newspapers generally run ads from Day #1, Businesses open with sales staff from Day #1, Gyms generally offer membership packages from Day #1… why shouldn’t a blog that intends to monetize start with that in mind.

It’s never too early in my opinion.

Monetizing from the start has a few benefits:

  • Firstly it’ll generate a little income – it won’t be much early on but a little is better than nothing and you’ll be surprised how even just earning a little can motivate and energise you!
  • Secondly – you’ll learn a lot by just trying. The first time I tried to monetize I used AdSense and Amazon’s affiliate program. In the first week of doing so I learned a lot – knowledge that I’ve utilised ever since.
  • lastly, and perhaps most importantly – monetizing from the start means your readers expectations are that your blog is one that will be monetized and you don’t have to break it to an established community that you’re suddenly going to start monetizing in some way.

A better question might be ‘HOW should I monetize early on?’

Some blogging monetization techniques will work better from Day #1 than others.

For Example

If your goal is to sell advertising directly to advertisers/sponsors – you’ll need to build your traffic before an advertiser is likely to want to advertise with you. In that case you might want to consider running ads from an Advertising Network like AdSense or Chitika (aff).

Or if your eventual goal is to sell your own products (an eBook or course perhaps) it may not be feasible for you to have a product developed from Day #1. In that case it might be worth promoting someone else’s eBook or course as an affiliate while you develop yours.

When Did You Start to Monetize?

I’d love to hear your experience – did you monetize from the start or introduce it later? Or are you still waiting for something to happen before you do it?

DISCUSS: How do you Keep your Content Fresh, Interesting and Engaging?

Over on our Facebook page last week Kim Hill-MacCrone asked a question that I thought might be a good one to discuss with the wider ProBlogger readership.

How do you Keep your Content Fresh, Interesting and Engaging?

It is a question I get asked quite a bit and know is a challenge many bloggers face. I also know that bloggers use a wide array of techniques and strategies to combat the problem including:

  • limiting posting frequency to when they actually have something fresh, interesting and/or engaging to say
  • having an editorial calendar that cycles through different types of posts on different days of the week
  • outsourcing some of the writing of content (paid writers or guest posters)
  • regularly polling readers on what topics they want written about on the blog

I’m just scratching the surface here – I’d love to hear your thoughts.

So lets hear some tips and suggestions on the topic – how do you keep your content fresh, interesting and engaging?

What does it take to Succeed?

This guest post is by Tommy Walker of Inside The Mind

We often look outside of ourselves when we ask “What does it take to succeed?”

Surely, others know more about success than you, so following their advice will lead to success.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and while I think it’s true that you have to at some point seek outside mentorship, to really be successful, it comes down to a three things.

Consistency, Practice & Routine.

But first, watch this video.

Now you may wonder what the heck beatboxing has to do with blogging, and on the surface the answer is very little.

But watch this video a little closer.

This is a guy, on a stage, making sounds with his mouth… and people are cheering him on.

Technically, you could beatbox. If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you have a mouth and you make sounds with it.

But what this guy has done that you haven’t is practiced. Constantly.

How many hours years do you think he’s spent in the mirror practicing his patterns.

When he’s got nothing to do, what do you think he does?

The same as you might stare at tabloids in the grocery line, or playing a song in your head, he’s probably making beats under his breath.

I don’t know if this guy won the competition but I know he was good enough to compete.

And I know the only way he could compete was by practicing his skill more than anyone who didn’t take the stage, or make this far in the competition.

And I know that he’s got the same tools as you. What sets him apart is his willingness to practice, consistently, on a routine.   

…something to think about next time you sit down to write.

Tommy Walker is an online marketing strategist and the host of Inside The Mind and The Mindfire Chats, fresh and entertaining shows that aim to shake up online and content marketing.

A Key to Building a Sustainable Online Personal Brand

Recently I was part of a panel to launch a new book by Trevor Young called ‘Micro Domination‘.

In the book Trevor identifies a number of what he calls ‘Micro Mavens‘ – including people like Chris Brogan, Jonathan Fields, Marie Forleo, Chris Guillebeau, Trey Ratcliff, Pamela Slim, Gary Vaynerchuk (and he generously includes me too) and goes onto describe their characteristics and how they’ve built businesses around their personal brands.

The book is a good read – particularly for those starting out and wanting to get their head around the idea of building an online personal brand.

As I read through the list of Micro Mavens that Trevor identified it struck me that he’s actually put together a group of people who have a number of very common traits (many of which he outlines in the book).

The Power of Being Constructive

The most obvious trait to me is that the above group of people are a very ‘constructive’ group of individuals.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had both online and face to face meetings with most of the above group and many others listed in the book and in each case I’ve interacted with them I’ve been struct by how positive they are as people.

There’s a certain uplifting vibe about each of them in meeting them but when you look at what they’ve built online over the years you can see the trait again and again.

Day in and day out they use their time to build something that is useful for their networks, readers and followers.

  • The books and blogs that they’ve written have been positive and full of constructive advice.
  • Their tweets are largely positive and the communities that they form are largely positive and constructive too.
  • When they speak at conferences their messages almost always contain inspirational and useful ideas.

While from time to time they probably all have had a rant or have complained about something and they all are quite capable of bringing critical thought to what they write about…

  • They spend a lot more time constructing than being destructive.
  • They build more than they tear down.
  • They focus more upon the positives than the negatives.
  • They focus their energy upon helping those who interact with them to have positive outcomes

My suspicion is that this ‘constructive’ approach is probably a large part of their success over many years.

Destructive Personal Branding

This may all seem quite obvious – however as I pondered the group of people Trevor has written about I found my mind going back through the years to another group of people who took quite a different approach.

Many of those that came to mind rose to prominence in their niches quite quickly through using a more ‘destructive’ tactic.

They often burst onto the scene in their niches in a flurry of controversy, snark and personal attack – tactics that do often cause a stir and get the person behind them lots of attention very quickly.

The problem with this negative or destructive approach is that it is much more difficult to sustain over the long term for a couple of reasons:

Firstly for most people it is particularly draining to be constantly being negative. Controversy, snark and attack doesn’t really bring anyone life and isn’t something most of us can do on a day by day basis without it taking a personal toll.

Secondly creating a brand on the build of a more destructive approach makes it difficult to build a business model around it. While it is possible to build a following with such tactics I find it difficult to think of too many ways to build a profitable long term business on that. What advertiser would want to associate their brand with it? What product could you create that people would want to buy with such negativity?

In the long run these ‘destructive’ online personalities tend to attract others like them and something of a cesspool of negativity emerges around them.

Build Something Positive!

Building something ‘constructive’ is probably not the quickest way to build an online profile but what I find is that it is the key to building a more long term and sustainable online brand.

The rise to prominence may be a little slower but in time what you build is much better. In fact in my observation of the people mentioned above (and many many others) is that in time real momentum can grow when you’ve built something positive over time.

The accumulation of generously helping people over years and years can have a massive return in a business sense but on a personal level it is much more life giving back to you too!

The key lesson to me is to think about how you can build something that gives hope, that solves problems and that genuinely and generously serves others.

I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts on this. I’m sure there are a few examples of ‘negative’ brands that have managed to succeed despite their approach and I’m happy to hear about them but I’d also love to hear other positive examples and hear about your experience of this.

The Only Real Way to Learn About Blogging

… is to start a blog and use it.

Start

The barriers to entry into blogging are low – you can start a blog in minutes using a tool like WordPress.com.

In setting it up and hitting publish on your first blog post you’ll learn so much. In your first week of blogging you’ll develop skills and habits that could change your life.

Your first post won’t be perfect but it’ll be a step closer to perfect than never publishing one!

The only real way to learn about blogging is to start one!

15 Years Blogging And Still Learning

A Guest Post by Chris Brogan from Human Business Works

I started my first blog back in 1998, when it was called journaling. It was on some Geocities site whose name I no longer remember. From there, I moved to Tripod, and then to Blogger, a quick side-step into another platform or two, and then WordPress. Along the way, it went from being a place to share my fiction, and then my self-improvement efforts, and there were a lot of other iterations, too.

Maybe more of interest to you: it took me 8 years to get my first 100 subscribers, and I can say without a doubt that blogging was what made me most every dollar I earned from 2006 until present, in one way or another. It also landed me a New York Times Bestselling Book. Want to hear more?

My First Biggest Discovery

In the beginning, I wrote for myself. I wrote about myself, too. And I gave my opinions on this or that. Guess who cared? Only me.

My first big discovery was to be helpful. The more I could create material that was useful to others, the more it would be rewarded by people visiting more, interacting more, and checking in more often to see if I had anything more to help with.

That same process of learning how to be helpful led to my course, Blog Topics: The Master Class, which was a much more structured and premium version of what I had accumulated for skills. In fact, learning how to help gave me the idea to create courses that would add value to professionals in lots of different subject areas. Which, of course, led to even more success.

How To Get More Readers

The predominant advice out there is to guest post (like I’m doing now!) and that’s not wrong. But what I’ve come to learn is this: the more you interact with people on their sites and where they are, the more people will flow back to interact with you. Not the “big names.” Connect with the up and comers. That’s part one. The second part is that you have to practice the “B Strategy.”

  • Be Helpful (already told you that).
  • Be Human
  • Be Interesting
  • Be Everywhere

The sketch is this: most blog posts I’m sent to read end up being boring, too short, not especially helpful, and feel like they were written as a chore. Does that sound like the way to attract readers? I think not.

Build the Newsletter Subscriber List Early

I’ll tell you the most surprising (and depressing) revelation of all my years of blogging. Though my blog has attracted a lot of opportunities, if I intend to sell something, my blog isn’t actually very effective. My beloved newsletter has only about 29,000 subscribers on it. Compare that to my 200K unique monthly visits. Now, get this: I get 10x more sales activity (by volume, not %) from my newsletter. So, 10x less people get my newsletter, and I sell 10x more there than via my blog.

If I could go back and change one thing early, it would be to create a valuable newsletter earlier. Get mine to see what I do to make it valuable.

The Best Part of Blogging

When I met Darren Rowse for the first time, it was in the presence of Brian Clark (Copyblogger) at the first BlogWorld Expo in Las Vegas. It felt like magic, because the three of us had been writing successful blogs for a little while. Both Darren and Brian were more successful than me (still are), but we had very different approaches. Here’s the list of what I love most about blogging:

  • It lets me build business my way.
  • It empowered me to meet smart people.
  • It lets me help others in a scalable way.
  • It affords me a place to earn leads based on my thoughts.
  • It enables a campfire around which a community can gather.

I won’t be closing down my blog any time soon, even if it’s supposedly dead. Again.

Some Lessons For You

Here’s some advice on the way out the door:

  • Never write super long posts like this one.
  • Never write self-referential posts like this one.
  • Don’t approach guest posting as an opportunity to stuff your links into someone else’s blog, like I did.
  • Don’t lecture people on what to do like I am doing.

Oh, and break the “rules.” Do whatever serves your community best. That’s what got me this far (15 years and counting), and that’s what will get me to my next level. See you there?

Chris Brogan is the president and CEO of Human Business Works, a publishing and media company providing courses, books, and live education to professionals like you. He wishes he were Darren Rowse.

Mastering the Upsell

Everyone’s heard of the term ‘would you like fries with that‘ – it’s probably the most famous upsell of all time. The fast food industry are not the only ones working the upsell magic. Retail, supermarkets and yes online are all over it.

There’s two common terms used in the corporate world that are measured and heavily invested in — and it’s all related to upsells. The first is average transaction value. It’s essentially the average amount each customer is spending on each transaction. The second is the average number of units per transaction, so how many ‘things’ people buy each time they transact. To a business even a small lift in each of those measures can result in significant increases in revenue and profit. The same goes for bloggers who are selling products.

If you’re a ruthless businessman you’ll stop at nothing to get those upsells happening, regardless of if the customer likes it or not! But I know all of you don’t think that way and you certainly don’t take for granted that behind these measures are people and whilst you would like to have them spend more money with you, you don’t want to resort to trickery to make it happen.

… and that’s why I’m happy to share all my experience with upsells online.

When I’m looking at upsell opportunities, I first break them into three groups; The pre-sale upsell, the checkout upsell and the post sale upsell. Each of these areas require a different approach that I’ll try to explain.

Pre-sale upsell

These upsells typically happen on the sales page. They form part of the overall sales pitch of the product. You might have something that costs $19 on your sales page, but you also offer it as a bundle with another product for just $9 extra. You present both of these options to the customer before they check out.

We use this exact technique right here on problogger. If you look at the workbooks tab you’ll notice that each workbook is laid out for you to explore, but at the top and bottom, are details of a special offer to buy the entire library and save 40%. It’s not a hard sell, but something I want potential customers to have in the back of their mind as they are shopping around.

Checkout upsell

This is when a customer has indicated through some sort of action (clicking an add to cart or buy now button) that they wish to buy a particular product. On your way to the checkout you’ve got a couple of opportunities to, in your own way, ask if they’d like fries with that.

We use a specific technique on Problogger. If you head to the Blog Wise sales page  for example and click the download it now button, you’ll be presented with an upsell that looks like the below.

With this type of upsell, I only ever offer 1 product. I’m interrupting the checkout flow so I keep it short and simple also ensuring there is an easy way for the customer to say ‘no thanks’ and continue on. I’ve found that this is my best performing upsell technique, however it seems to be seldom used elsewhere.

The second opportunity you have in the checkout process is when someone is confirming their order. You can see in this example from SitePoint that they are subtly suggesting some alternative products. Amazon do a great job of this as well.

Post sale upsell

The post sale upsell is one of the most often used techniques and normally is an email sent post purchase offering them a similar product to the one they purchased. It might be a more advanced eBook or course if they originally purchased a beginners guide. It’s much easier to sell another product to an existing customer than it is to find a new one. That is of course as long as you treat them well.

What to upsell and when

At each stage of the above upsell techniques, the customer is in a different stage of the sales cycle. In the first instance when they are reading the pre-sale upsell they may not even have decided to buy. In the checkout stage they have committed (in their own mind) that they will buy, and post sale they are hopefully enjoying your product. So…

Pre-sale: I find bundles of similar priced products work best here. So ‘buy two books and save X’.

Checkout: Again I find bundles work well here, but also slightly cheaper priced add-ons can also work well. So for example, extra video content or downloads for $5 on your course page.

Post sale: This is where you have some freedom. Having proven yourself with one product you might look to offer your premium, more expensive offer. For example you might offer personal coaching services to someone who purchased one of your eBooks. Alternatively you can simply offer alternative products to the one they purchased. With a little testing you’ll figure out which upsell works for you.

Some things to consider so as not to piss off your customers

Upsells done well can be very rewarding, done poorly and you can frustrate your customers to the extent they no longer wish to deal with you. So here’s three little tips to ensure you don’t look silly.

Automatically adding things to their cart.

Adding things to people carts that they didn’t ask for surprisingly converts really well, but there is an element of dishonesty about it and if trust is important to you I would walk away from this.

Offering an additional product that they already own.

Where possible (and this is often difficult) try not to offer someone an upsell on a product that they already own. A customer doesn’t care about the technical challenges of this. They’d like to think you value them enough to remember what they have bought.

Offering them the same product when they’ve already said no thanks.

Most people don’t mind being offered an upsell. But when you offer them the same one over and over again it can start to become frustrating. Don’t be afraid to offer the upsell, but honor the decline if a customer indicates such.

Doing the math on the benefits.

There is a fine line to walk when balancing upsells with a low friction checkout process, so you need to ensure that you are measuring your upsell offers and they are not resulting in lower overall sales. I’d be suprised if they are, but there has been instances where I’ve had to back off my upsells to find the right balance.

So that’s how you can use upsells to boost your bottom line.  If you don’t, you might be leaving money on the table.

4 Key Stats to Monitor the Health of Your Blog

As a blogger spare time can be pretty hard to come by. Your focus, as it should be, is about creating great content and engaging with your community — leaving little capacity for the ‘other’ things that need to be done. Add the fact that a lot of us prefer to leave the numbers and bean counting to the accountants and statisticians, it’s no surprise that a lot of the bloggers I speak with have little or no idea about the statistical health of their blog.

Personally, I’ve always been a bit of a numbers guy. As the son of a maths teacher its been built into how I think. But I even as a bit of a number nerd, I don’t immerse myself in statistically breaking down all the facts and figures of a blog unless I have to. I instead identify key metrics that I measure and track over time allowing me to have  indicators that tell me if I need to dig any deeper or not.

If they’re all pointing in the right direction, it allows me  to focus on the fun things knowing everything is in good health.

You might have slightly different indicators on your own blog buy here’s my go to 4 measures I use for all the blogs I’m involved with:

1. Traffic

I’m looking here simply at unique visitors, visitors and page views. You can track and easily access the stats using Google Analytics. If all three are pointing in the right direction (increasing) then things are good. If traffic is dropping or even flat then it’s something I need to focus on.

2. Costs

The barriers to entry for blogging are extremely low, a couple of bucks and you’re up and going. However as your blog grows, costs can blow out pretty quickly. Keeping track of what you’re spending on your blog (hosting, premium services, stock images) will ensure that you can keep it under control. One cost I always measure that most don’t is my own time. I keep track of my hours and allocate a real hourly rate, as though I was a paid employee. Your investment in yourself can be pretty scary when you start tracking it.

3. Revenue

Even with small revenue it’s important to make sure it’s pointing in the right direction — increasing. I like to split revenue down into each stream of income. Affiliate, product sales, advertising and ensure that success in one area is not overshadowing poor performance in another.

4. Subscribers

Subscribers are a collection of your email subscribers, your social media following, your RSS subscribers or anyone that has connected to you in some way. Like revenue, I like to track each of these subscriber channels independently.

How I’m tracking.

Some of the metrics, in particular revenue, I’ll track daily. Most I’ll update and review once a month. It’s all done in a very simple spreadsheet, but most important of all it’s tracked over time allowing for comparison of the result. It takes less than an hour in total per month to do.

What I’m looking for.

When I’m looking through these 4 key metrics, I’m using them as traffic light indicators. If traffic is up, green light & onwards we go, if it’s flat, amber light & something to worry about if the trend continues, if it’s down, red light — time to dig a little deeper so as to understand why.

If everything is green, well you’re just awesome and I’m envious, but for the rest of us using key indicators, you can be confident that the little extra time you have, is spent where it’s most needed.

For those that do – I’d love to hear how you’re measuring the health of your own blog.

From Spark to Sale in 18 Days

Some of you will know that Darren has just headed off for a well earned 10 day break. While enjoying his holiday, Darren has bravely given me the keys to ProBlogger to share a collection of posts – with of course the one condition that I don’t scare you all away :)

Together we’ve picked 5 posts that I do hope you will all enjoy and importantly get something from.

The first is a story, or a mini-case study if you like about SnapnGuides. A new brand and product that went from idea to reality in less than three weeks. Before I get into the nuts and bolts, I want to give you the context behind the SnapnGuides decision…

The Need before the Solution

For some time we’ve talked about creating short mini-guides on Digital Photography School(dPS). There were quite a few potential eBook topics with clear demand that our current publishing process couldn’t meet. The subject matter was valuable, but wasn’t as deep and broad reaching as previous dPS eBooks, thus we could never give them priority over other eBook ideas. We knew with some out of the box thinking, there must be a way to deliver these mini-guides, however there were a couple of considerations we needed to make outside of our publishing priorities.

  1. Historically dPS eBook titles have been significant both in length, subject and market appeal. – In other words they are big books that comprehensively cover a subject that most photographers would be interested in. Our mini-guides on other hand are quick reads that cover a topic within a specific photography niche.
  2. Prices of dPS eBooks are between $20 and $30, due to their size, scale and comprehensiveness. – We couldn’t charge the same as existing eBooks for our mini-guides. Correction, we could have, and some people would have been happy to pay, but we felt $7-$10 was more appropriate. The risk was if we launched lower priced eBooks on dPS it could devalue the larger eBooks.
  3. The value of the dPS brand is something you only carefully tinker with. – Millions and millions of people visit dPS every month to help improve their photography. It’s built on a foundation of value both through the free content on the blog and great discussions in the community but also the content available through the eBooks. These new mini-guides were a new, unknown entity for us. Our standards of quality would always be maintained however they were shorter, cheaper and more niche. The impact they would have on the dPS brand was unknown for us — and presented quite a risk.

A quick rule of thumb about brand impact. If you’re thinking of making a change that may impact your brand, I like to ask the questions “Will this change the way other people describe my brand? How will it change? Is that a change I want?” In the case of our mini-guides it would be “I got this great little book from dPS, it only cost me $10 and was perfect for me as I like X.”

Enter SnapnDeals then SnapnGuides

Talking through these issues, Darren and I first considered SnapnDeals as a place to publish the new mini-guides. We could still leverage the dPS audience to bring awareness to the guides and given SnapnDeals is more about deals and cheaper prices this seemed a good fit. The problem with SnapnDeals was that it’s sole purpose is time limited offers on photography products, not publishing it’s own products. Adding this new dimension to the brand might dilute its original purpose. We ummed and aahhed about this for a while before finally coming up with the answer. Solution:Create a new brand under the ‘Snapn’ sentiment but focused on publishing and thus SnapnGuides was born. It …

  1. Allowed us to define a new, ‘fit for purpose’ brand
  2. Presented little or no risk to the dPS brand
  3. Came with no existing price expectation

However what that meant was, we needed to a start a brand and website from scratch and due to scheduling we had only three short weeks to get it done. Always up for a challenge, it was time to make it so.

Building SnapnGuides in three weeks

Given the time pressures we had to adhere to three basic rules.

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Leverage what we can
  3. Fine tune later

Keep it simple

In a perfect world we would have designed a new theme for the site, installed WordPress, got it on our main hosting platform but that takes time. Instead we chose to launch the site and brand with one single page, the sales page for the book. If it’s successful (more on that later) we’ll do it right. We also kept the people involved to a minimum to keep decision making simple. There was Darren, Jasmine and Myself and all decisions were made within a 30 second Skype chat.

Leverage what we can

We’ve already got a good system set up for selling dPS eBooks. We did want to separate the brand where possible, but leverage what we already had where needed. For example we are using the same Paypal account as dPS however have a separate payment email address and an independent e-junkie account (shopping cart) so we could keep the experience on brand.

Fine tune later

I’m not a perfectionist like say my friend Matt Magain, but I do like it when things just work. That said, when there is a time pressure, you need to come to terms with the fact that you’re not going to get everything right upfront. You’ll be fine as long as the fundamentals are there — you can always circle back and fix up the rest.

The process

I thought I’d share the actual process we went through (outside of creating the mini-guide itself).

Hosting and domain

  1. Register and setup the domain
  2. Create hosting environment (see note below)

Sales page

  1. Wireframe and write copy for the sales page
  2. Hand the wireframe to a designer
  3. Review and finalise design (artwork only)
  4. Hand the design to HTML and CSS coder
  5. Review and test web page
  6. Load up to the hosting environment.

Hosting the site: For ProBlogger and dPS we use synthesis from CopyBlogger however, we were eager to play with a new service called site44.com. How this works is it simply creates a dropbox folder for your website which you save the files too, it syncs and your site is live. It’s sits on Amazons server cloud so can take just about any traffic you can throw at it. We did go the paid option but did all our testing on the free plan. It’s very cool.

eCommerce

  1. Create a new e-junkie account for SnapnGuides
  2. Create a new email alias for current Paypal account
  3. Link new email alias to e-junkie account
  4. Set up and load SnapnGuide product
  5. Integrate with sales page (above) and test.

Prelaunch

  1. Final changes to the landing page. (I tend to make lots of changes here)
  2. Independent review and test of sales page. (more changes again)
  3. eCommerce check (actually buy the product yourself)
  4. Scalability test

Then of course there’s the launch, but that’s a whole series of posts!

The result

It was a late night on the date of launch (most of them are) but as I fell asleep at 3AM I was really happy with what we’ve been able to create in such a small period of time. That smile widened when I checked in on the sales a little later in the morning. Suffice to say that our experiment was a success and we’re likely to see more SnapnGuides in the future. Doing things that other people say can’t be done, in timeframes that seem impossible is really a part of my everyday life. But I’d love to hear any stories you might have in launching a new product under a time constraint and of course if you agree or disagree with anything above.