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Build Keyword Density the Right Way

This guest post is by Bill Achola of SeoArticleWriteService.com.

It would be great if the only purpose of your copywriting was to sell your products. Unfortunately your copy often has to serve two purposes: attracting visitors to your site, and then selling to them.

Attracting traffic using copy requires using search engine optimizing techniques, and adding keywords. Using the topic of baby food, in this post we will look at a few ways to include keywords in your copy.

Keep it natural

The key to successful keyword optimizing in your copy is to keep it natural. As Greg McFarlane points out in his post Why Bieber SEO Copywriting Sex Doesn’t iPad Work Minecraft, people often make the mistake of overloading the text with keywords, and replacing every generic key term with the keyword or phrase. This will not give you high-quality persuasive copy, as you can see in the following example.

Keyword = baby foods

As new mothers we all want our babies to have the best baby foods; we spend a lot of time researching good baby foods recipes and making sure we buy high-quality baby foods. Giving your child a good start in life with healthy baby foods ad not giving them baby foods that they are not ready for, is one of the major concerns of new parents.

The above example is not only annoying to read, parts of it have been made grammatically incorrect in an attempt to use the keyword as often as possible. While you might get a lot of traffic to your website from parents searching for the keyword “baby foods,” they will quickly move onto another site when they start reading.

Make sure you select your keywords carefully so that they fit in easily with the subject of your copywriting. This will improve the flow of your copy, increasing your sales conversions.

Here are three ways to include keywords naturally.

1. Break up keywords phrases

It can be hard to fit a long keyword phrase into your copywriting. I was once asked to use the key phrase “baby food recipes 6 months.” This is an awkward phrase to use altogether, but it works well when split up by punctuation. Search engines read straight punctuation marks such as full stops, commas and colons so think how you can use these to split your keyword phrase.

Keyword phrase = baby food recipes 6 months

Look no further for tasty and healthy baby food recipes. 6 months is the perfect time to start introducing your bay to new tastes and textures.

The above example keeps the keyword phrase intact so it will be recognized by the search engines, but does not seem out of place or awkward.

2. Lengthen the keyword phrase

Some phrases are difficult to include because they are singular when you would usually use a plural or vice versa. Adding words to the end of the phrase can help you overcome this problem as well as giving you inspiration for your writing.

Keyword = food for baby

  • Food for bay weaning
  • Food for baby meals
  • Food for baby taste buds

Adding a word or two to the end of this phrase makes it less grammatically awkward and helps you to fit it into your copy writing sounding repetitive.

3. Use a keyword phrase that describes what your product is not

Take the example of the keyword “cheap baby food.” When a parent enters this search term they are looking for good value, high-quality baby food that they do not have to pay very much for.

However, if you describe your product as cheap baby food, it will give the impression that it is poor quality, and therefore not great for their precious child. Avoid this by using the keyword to describe what your product is not.

Keyword = cheap baby food

Try out one of our healthy, easy-to-make recipes as an alternative cheap baby food. Once you’ve tasted one of these nutritious homemade meals, you’ll never want to feed your little one cheap baby food again.

Using the above techniques will ensure your copywriting remains natural and that you don’t have to sacrifice quality to keyword density.

A final tip: write your copy first and then go back with your keywords in mind and place them where appropriate. This will make your copy flow more naturally, and will appeal both to your readers and the search engines.

Visit the blog at SeoArticleWriteService.com to learn how Bill Achola can write high conventional marketing content for bloggers and affiliate marketers.

The Gong Fu of Blogging

This guest post is by Michael de Waal-Montgomery of The Monty Mike Times.

The word Kung Fu comes from the Chinese word “Gong Fu,” which means “hard work.” Anyone who’s studied Kung Fu knows this name is well deserved. It’s tough going, no matter how good you get.

Blogging is also “gong fu” sometimes. On a good day, the writing can seem to flow effortlessly, perhaps feeling something more akin to Tai Chi, or “Tai Ji Quan” in the original Chinese.

On a bad day, blogging is exhausting. The thought alone of sitting down and staring at a blank page, a blinking cursor in a field of white snow, can be utterly depressing.

If you’re writing for pleasure, this is the last place you want to be. Why spend your own free time doing something you’re not enjoying? It’s a question worth asking.

Inspiration

The other question worth asking is why does blogging feel like such hard work today? The answer is usually because you’re uninspired. You feel you have nothing worth blogging about. You feel like you have nothing interesting to say.

What you deem uninteresting and what the world deems uninteresting are often not the same thing. For starters, you spend every day with yourself, locked up in your own head.

Because we are too close to our own situations, to our own lives and the events that unfold within them each day, it’s easy to make a judgement call that we are just boring people.

That’s not true.

No one else is living your life. No one else is seeing the world in quite the same way you are. No one else is thinking the same thoughts and no one else is taking away the same lessons from each experience.

If you are feeling that writing that blog post is a bit Gong Fu today, look for inspiration. If you think you have to climb a mountain to find it, you’re wrong. Inspiration can be found everywhere, in everything.

Look in your thoughts, and at your experiences. Consider the things that make you who you are, the places you’ve been, and the people you’ve met. The lessons you’ve learned living this life.

It is said that a man is what he thinks about all day. If you think about cars, blog about cars; if you spent the whole day feeling uninspired, blog about something that will inspire others instead.

Often looking for a topic to blog about is as easy as facing up to the very one you’re running away from. The one that you think will bore readers to death.

Limitation

There is very little new and original content in the world today. What’s new and original is the way you look at something old and tired. The angle you take, the spin you put on it. The piece of your character that you bring into it.

The possibilities are endless.

There are only 26 letters in the alphabet. There are only four limbs in the body. Yet bloggers go on blogging and Kung Fu teachers go on teaching Kung Fu. So what’s the secret?

They know how to stay inspired, how to stay hungry. They know how to look at the ordinary and find the extraordinary. If you can’t learn to do this too, your blogging will always remain Gong Fu.

Time to buy some new spectacles, perhaps. Or take off your old ones. The whole world is right in front of you, like an oyster.

So start writing that latest blog post already!

Michael de Waal-Montgomery is a full-time journalism student and aspiring writer who enjoys blogging in his free time. You can read his rants over at The Monty Mike Times.

How Successful Blogging is Just Like Surviving Highschool

This guest post is by Josh Sarz of Sagoyism.

Do you ever feel like it’s high school all over again?

I’m talking about blogging. The whole “turn over a new leaf, do something great, do epic stuff, get famous” sense of it all feels like high school.

You know that feeling. It’s similar to when you’re just starting out, wanting to make a name for yourself, and hoping that some day you’ll become famous and get buckets of cash.

But just like high school, it’s a jungle out there. It’s not completely safe, nor is it any bit as easy as it seems. There are bullies, psycho teachers, cool kids, not-so-cool kids, and geeks.

You need to learn some rules on how to survive, just like in high school. This time around, you don’t just want to get out alive. You want to come out on top of your game.

1. Work hard

In high school, working hard was just about studying for the exams. Nothing more, nothing less. That would be decent effort, and you’d get decent grades.

When you’re blogging, studying is a prerequisite. There are loads of things you need to do to survive.

You need to learn how to multitask. You need to know your trade by heart. You need to sacrifice a lot of your time, and use it for brainstorming, writing, editing, designing your website, marketing yourself and your blog, pitching for guest posts … the list goes on.

2. Get involved

Getting involved in high school meant joining clubs. Lots of clubs, if you had the time and energy. It also included joining school plays, or getting into sports.

In blogging, it’s pretty much the same.

There are loads of clubs/groups/courses/forums where bloggers, writers, business owners and the like can hang out and socialize in their own little space. There’s the Third Tribe, The A-List Blogger Club, The Warrior Forum, and a whole bunch more.

Now when you want to get involved without having to join clubs (and pay for them), there are a lot of other ways to do so.

We’ve all heard of social media, blog commenting, and building relationships. That’s all good, but everyone’s doing it. What else can you do?

Subscribe to newsletters: But not just so you can get on their list. In a way, you’re getting them on your personal list. Not your “making money” email list, but your “talk to this guy about stuff” list.

Usually, the big boys and girls of blogging use their email list to communicate with their readers, right?

Bam! You have their email. Maybe not their personal email, but a contact point nonetheless. Another similar tactic is to use their contact forms, but some don’t really reply to that.

Name-drop: What’s this? It’s when you just talk about the cool kids; you could also opt to step it up by linking to them. If it’s good enough content, and if they notice that you mentioned or linked to them, they’ll think you’re cool and hang out with you.

Does this really work? I don’t know. Ask this guy.

Personal army: This is sort of risky. I’ve gotten permission from Martyn Chamberlin of twohourblogger to talk about it. Martyn had his friends pinged Brian Clark to ask him to retweet a post. Long story short, Brian Clark got annoyed but now they’re buddies.

There are a lot of ways to get someone’s attention; this is one of them. It worked.

3. Be on-time/present

You might be thinking “Not this again.”

You see, in high school, if you were always tardy or even absent during class, you’d get demerits. But those demerits aren’t that deadly.

With your blog, if you’re never showing up when you’re supposed to, it’s deadly for your image.

This does not mean having to post every day. You don’t want to force out below-par blog posts. No. You want high-quality content, with a story to tell.

So what else is being present and on-time about?

A hundred tweets a day isn’t presence. It’s annoying. Like a mosquito flying around near your ears.

Presence is when you reply to readers’ comments on your blog posts. It’s when people send you emails through your contact form, and you actually reply. Not your virtual assistant. Not an automated robot. But you.

4. Do your homework

High school. Homework. Important, although not life-threatening. But you still had to do it if you want to survive all the way through.

When you’re writing great content, you don’t get it by  just churning them out like a machine. Do your homework.

There are plenty ways to research for information to put in your content.

Surveys: A common website/tool to use for making surveys is surveymonkey.com. You can sign up for a free account, and it’s a decent tool for getting information from people.

Direct email: You can email anyone: bloggers, writers, journalists, friends, strangers … anyone. Don’t have their email? There’s social media to help you out.

Call interviews: This doesn’t have to be through phone. You can use Skype, Google Voice chat or Google Hangouts.

Split testing: This ranges from writing styles, tone, formatting, blog design/structure and more.

Blogging is hard work. Still with me? Good. Let’s continue.

5. Make a diverse circle of friends

In high school, you could get away with sticking to a single circle of friends. If you wanted to stand out and get recognized, you’d have to reach out to a lot more people.

The same goes for blogging.

Remember the age-old advice that the “veterans” talk about, like making friends with people in your niche? That’s great, but you could make it even better by making friends with people from other niches. Why should you bother doing that?

Think of it this way. If you have ten pals who blog about blogging talk about you, that’s great. If you have 30 people from all sorts of niches and industries willing to vouch for you, that’s massive. Think of them as your personal army.

How do you do this?

  • By getting involved with other people’s blogs and activities.
  • By replying to people who comment on your posts, reaching out to their blogs. Circling them on Google Plus.
  • Talking with people who comment on the A-list blogs, since they’re talking, might as well jump in the conversation. Some might find you intrusive, but if you do this with 100 people you’re bound to make at least ten friends.
  • Keeping in mind that one day, they can be your personal army who will vouch for you when you mess up.

6. Keep your locker stacked

We all had lockers back in high school, right? It’s where we put our things just in case we’ll be needing them soon.

In blogging, your locker can be your CMS, whether you use WordPress, Blogger, Hubpages, etc. How do you keep it stacked?

Always have backup posts written, proofread, formatted, and ready for publishing. If you need places to look for ideas, here are some examples that the cool kids don’t preach:

The Bible: A lot of people don’t talk about this as a source of inspiration for their writing because they’re afraid to sound all religious-like.

You’re missing out on a lot.

And if you’re not into the Christian faith, think of this book as the biggest piece of fiction that has inspired countless generations. More than all the Stephen King, John Grisham or Chuck Palahniuk books combined.

Kids’ entertainment: Again, a lot of people don’t talk about getting inspiration from kids’ shows because they don’t want to sound immature.

They’re just scared.

If you want to talk courage, here’s a post from a guy who wrote an amazing, inspiring blog post about courage using a character from the storybooks.

Again, these are stories that had inspired generations. They may be childish, but these stories have enchanted more people than any “mature” show like Mad Men.

7. Be excessively happy

Highschool gives you a lot of stress. Not from classes, but from people.

It’s the same in blogging.

You write your blog post, and expect to get massive traffic, but nothing happens. Why? People will be people. They flock to where the good stuff is. And to top it off, they don’t know you even exist.

Don’t go whining and quit. Hang in there, and smile. Be excessively happy. Crazy happy. Nobody likes to hear people whine all day. Or take out their frustrations on other people.

When someone comments on your posts, be happy. Reply to them in an awesome way. Stop being so uptight. Be more like Ayo Olaniyan. When he replies to comments, it’s like he’s always smiling just like his picture. Crazy happy.

8. Stay focused

Make lots of friends. Get involved. But remember to stay focused on what you’re blogging for.

Write down your goals on a piece of paper, and stick them somewhere in your desk. Someplace where you can see it whenever you’re working. Make your goals specific and tangible. Also, add the element of time restriction.

Here are some goals you can write down:

  • guest posts on X
  • ebook on X
  • interview with X
  • email X about X’s post about X

Writing specific goals lets you know what you need to do, and the deadline helps you avoid procrastinating.

9. Go out on dates

Yes, plural.

If you went out on a lot of dates back in high school (or at least tried to), you’ll know what’s coming when you’re pitching other bloggers for guest post opportunities.

Guest posting is just like dating.

As Sean Platt would say it, you’re going to be wooing other bloggers with your bouquet of words. And unless you already have a solid reputation, it’s going to be hard.

Those who’ve made a name for themselves through guest posting know the feeling of getting dumped. It happens. But you have to be persistent and get better. Get a better bouquet and try again.

People like Leo Babauta, Brian Clark, and Danny Iny all went crazy guest blogging. Jon Morrow teaches a course all about guest blogging. It’s that crucial to success.

10. Get in the yearbook

Getting featured in the yearbook back in highschool meant that you did something great. Something that made other students look up to you.

In blogging, there’s no physical yearbook. But there are blogging roundups, like the ones on ProBlogger, Copyblogger, Write to Done, and a bunch of other sites that give recognition to other bloggers at the end of the year.

It’s not biggest achievement that you could get with blogging, nor does it mean you’re the best out of all the other blogs not featured in them. But if you’re in one, you must have done something fascinating and remarkable, right?

Marcus Sheridan of TheSalesLion talked about this on his blog:

I’ve written my share of these types of posts in the past simply because I enjoy shedding light on great people who are blessing others through their work. This, in my opinion, is a very good thing and will never grow old.

But it’s also time we all understood and defined our true individual metrics of success, as it’s this vision that will carry us through the good and bad times that come with all the hard work, effort, and deep passion that is blogging.

When asked about what he thinks other bloggers could do to “get noticed” and grow their blog, he says:

I read the a-listers, and if they something I feel strongly about, for or against, I write about it. I’m not a blind follower. And I don’t want others to blindly follow me. I think A-listers respect you more if you disagree with them, but do it tactful. I’m not a jerk. I don’t demean. I think people demean A-listers too much, and that really bothers me. We’re all imperfect.

Keep in mind, I’ve been at this 2 years now. I’ve never written less than 9 articles in a month. I’m extrememly consistent, and show up to work everyday. A-listers notice up and comers, but they don’t necessarily embrace them right away (nor should they) because so many folks come and go in this business. Once they see someone who is talented and consistent, then they’re much more likely to notice.

I also did a quick interview with James Chartrand of Men with Pens, as she was also featured in a roundup at Copyblogger. Here’s what she had to say:

What’s really important to me (beyond having my hard work and efforts recognized) is that by having my name on the list, people can discover my blog and find helpful advice they need.

That’s always been my personal mission. I’ve been writing advice for writers, freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners for years because I want to help these people earn more money and more clients.

So it’s fulfilling to hear from people who’ve applied my advice and seen positive results. They’re changing their lives for the better and reaching their success goals. I feel good about being part of that!

But she also said this:

I think people should actually stop blogging until they have something to prove that their knowledge helps other people accomplish goals or that they’re achieving important milestones and can share proven techniques with others. Many bloggers don’t actually know what they’re doing—they’re faking it until they make it.

I feel that recognition comes from the ability to show results—and results come from working hard, putting in the effort, being willing to take risks and having a strong drive to succeed.

Getting included in these roundups is great. Your name and your brand gets more exposure to people who haven’t heard of you yet. That being said, getting featured in these roundups at  the end of every year shouldn’t be your ultimate goal.

It’s great and all, but achieving your personal goals as a blogger, like getting clients, selling your books, and so on, is way better.

Survival isn’t the end-game

Surviving highschool wasn’t the end-game. Nor is it the same for blogging.

After you’ve established yourself and your blog, there’s a whole new ball game.

It’s going to be about continuously delivering content that inspires people, and helps them in some aspect in their lives.

Are you up to challenge of surviving the blogosphere? What other tips can you add to the list above? Share them in the comments section below.

Josh Sarz is a Freelance Writer, Blogger and the founder of Sagoyism, a blog which talks about Epic Content Marketing and Storytelling . He also likes punk rock and metal, among other things.

25 Reasons Why Google Hates Your Blog

This guest post is by Belinda of The Copy Detective.

Your blog is a good read. Everyone says so.

Although “everyone” is really just people you already know. Like your Mum.

So why isn’t your blog being found by other people? The millions and millions of people hungrily consuming blog content out there in the global online space we call the Internet?

The cold, hard truth is that Google hates your blog. And it’s nothing personal. You just don’t have anything that Google wants.

Creating high-quality, relevant content is a must if you want your blog to be noticed by search engines but it’s only part of the picture. If you’re not sure if Google really hates your blog, or whether it’s just ambivalent, then step through these warning signs.

1. You don’t know which keywords your readers are using

The very heart of search engine optimization is understanding what people are searching for online and aligning your own content to those searches. When you use the same words and phrases that your audience members use, your blog posts can be matched to online searches. If you don’t? Well, you may as well be blogging in another language.

2. You don’t know how to find the right keywords

Google has a free keyword tool that will show you different phrases being searched on, the amount of traffic they get, and how many other sites are also trying to rank for those phrases. Spend a few moments before writing each blog post to find the most popular phrases for your blog topic, or use keyword analysis to think of new topics!

3. You don’t use your keywords frequently enough

Using your keywords as frequently as is natural will help Google understand what your blog post is about. Use an online tool such as wordle.net to produce a word cloud from your blog post. Your most frequently used words will be the largest ones you see and you can quickly see if you’re using the right phrases often enough. But beware of over-using your keywords and being labelled a spammer.

4. You are trying to rank for too many keywords in every post

Keeping it simple is definitely the best approach when you are optimizing your blog posts. Focus on a single theme and choose one main keyword to avoid diluting your SEO efforts.

5. Your blog headlines don’t even mention your main keyword

Strategic marketing aims your message like a laser rather than spraying it into the wind, and the same applies to SEO. Your headlines (h1 text) and subheadings (h2 text) are given more weight than regular text, so they’re prime candidates for your keywords and phrases.

6. You don’t bother putting descriptions on your images

You might include images to catch your readers’ eyes, or to help balance your text, but Google can’t see your images and unless you attach a description of some sort, your image will be ignored. Attach an image description using the ALT tag or caption, and don’t forget to use those keywords.

7. You never link to your old blog posts

Creating links between your blog posts makes it easy for your readers to discover other content, which naturally keeps them hanging around for longer. From an SEO point of view, Google pays particular attention to links, making them the ideal location for your keywords.

8. You never link to other bloggers

Although it sounds contrary, you will also get some SEO benefit from sending your readers away from your blog by linking to other blogs. You might do this with a “best-of” list post or with a blogroll—however you do it, but Google sees you sharing high-quality content with your audience, and rewards you for it.

9. You don’t fill out your page title and description fields

Meta data is the code name for the information you can use to advertise your blog post to Google. When you search on Google, the results are displayed as a post headline in bold and a brief description underneath. Search engines can work this information out but you are better off writing these yourself and popping those keywords in.

10. You don’t make your URLs search engine friendly

Using recognizable words, especially your keywords, in your blog post URL will help Google to make sense of your blog posts. The bonus, of course, is that your blog posts will be easier to remember for everyone else. So take a minute to edit your blog URL before you publish.

11. Your blog has broken links all over the place

Broken links occur when a URL points to a page that no longer exists. It might be that you changed the URL slightly or you deleted the blog post, but broken links give the impression that you aren’t maintaining your blog. Broken links also stop Google from crawling your blog posts and when you put the two together you get a big SEO cross against your name.

12. Your blog doesn’t have a sitemap

A sitemap is a website page that has all the links and pages of your blog mapped out. Sitemaps make it easy for Google to index every page on your blog, which can affect how quickly you appear in search engine results. Most content management systems will have a plugin that will create and submit your sitemap to Google, taking all the hard work out of the process.

13. You copy your content from other bloggers

Smart people don’t try to reinvent the wheel. They draw inspiration from the world around them. Google rewards original content but “original” refers to the wording rather than the concept. If you lift large amounts of content from external sources, and Google will mark it down as duplicate content and give you no SEO points. Adapt or attribute. Always.

14. You don’t publish blog posts often enough

Google loves fresh content and new posts on your blog are a great incentive for Google to come back and visit. Some bloggers publish when they are inspired. Some bloggers write every day. The question you need to answer is how often can you publish valuable and relevant posts to your readers.

15. You never use bullet lists in your blog posts

Google loves bullet lists. Not quite as much as headlines, subheadings and links, but a lot more than regular text. That, of course, means you should use lists to break up long passages of text and pop your keywords in, especially in the first couple of words of each list item.

16. You don’t have a presence on any social media platforms

Google is always looking for ways to return search results that are valuable and relevant. Social recommendations are becoming a huge influence on how search engines view your content and that’s exactly what active social media pages are. So go and get social, and build a community around your blog.

17. You don’t share your blog posts on your social media pages

Social media pages are fantastic for building a community—see above. They are also the perfect vehicles to share and promote your blog posts! Don’t be afraid to share your new blog posts across social media and ask your community to share the love. You are building social currency that Google loves to see.

18. You don’t invite blog readers to leave comments

Comments give your blog the kind of freshness that search engines just love. Comments also show that your blog posts are still relevant to readers. Invite readers to leave their thoughts and continue the conversation or blog about something a bit controversial to get the discussion started!

19.You don’t know where your biggest referrers live

Google Analytics will show you where you have the greatest numbers of people sending traffic to your blog. It’s worth knowing who they are so you can give them the attention they deserve. Your analytics will also show you the keywords that led people to your blog, how many times they visited, and which other pages they clicked on.

20. Your blog content will age like a b-grade actress: badly

Blogging about topical subjects is a great way to start a conversation but it might also date your blog posts into irrelevancy. Creating helpful, educational content, instead of editorial content, is just one way you can create a library of blog posts that will be relevant again at a later date. Mixing different types of blog posts will also keep your readers interested.

21. You don’t write about topics people are interested in

If you ever ask yourself if your blog posts are interesting enough, you’re asking the wrong person. If your blog isn’t getting much attention from readers then Google isn’t going to give it a second look. You can discover a wealth of potential topics from comments on other people’s blog, surveys, keyword analysis, trending Twitter topics, and simply asking your current readers. Don’t be shy!

22. You have advertising that is irrelevant to your blog topic

Paid advertising is more than ok but if you have a lot of advertising that is irrelevant to your blog topic then it kind of makes you look bad. Google is getting really good at picking out poor poor-quality websites and lots of irrelevant advertising can give off all the wrong signals.

23. You don’t have share buttons so people can’t spread the word

Social share buttons let your readers promote your words of wisdom without ever having to leave your blog. Apart from the extended reach, the more often your blog posts are tweeted, liked and commented on, the more value they have … and the more Google will notice you.

24.Your guest posts are replicated on other sites, word for word

Opening your blog up to guest bloggers is a fantastic way to add depth and variety to your own blog topics—not to mention giving yourself a break from writing! But if your guest bloggers publish the same content, word for word, on their own blog, then you don’t get the kudos from Google for original information. Ask your guest bloggers to give you exclusivity or at least a few weeks’ head start.

25. You write about too many topics and Google is just plain confused

If you have a lot of different passions, that’s wonderful, but blogging about them all on the same blog will get you nowhere. In fact, from an SEO point of view, your blog will look like a big pile of books on the floor: too hard to categorize. Keep it simple and Google won’t get so baffled.

Remember that Google’s ultimate mission is to match online searches with the most relevant and reputable content. You will be rewarded when you create content that focuses on your readers’ needs and you build a strong network around your blog. It won’t happen overnight nor is it a one-off process but if you keep at it, people will find you (and it will be Google that shows them).

Belinda is a professional marketing copywriter confidently walking the line between writing effective copy and creating an engaging brand personality. You don’t have to choose between them! Read her copywriting blog, The Copy Detective, and improve the way you write about your business.

6 Fatal Symptoms You’re in the Wrong Niche

This guest post is by Martyn Chamberlin of Two Hour Blogger.

“What should I write about?” It seems such a silly question. Of course you know what to write about!

In fact, you could argue it’s even impossible to write about the wrong thing. That’s like ordering the wrong iPod! Whoever heard of such a thing? As you know, if you write long and hard enough, someone will listen.

An audience of five is great if you’re just blogging for fun. But what if you’re trying to build a profitable business? Can you get enough people listening to make a business?

The answer is yes, if you’re in the right niche. The problem with many failing entrepreneurs is that they’re in the wrong niche. Here’s a list of symptoms you’re one of them.

1. You’re building a big list but you can’t sell anything

In your zeal to rebel from your day job, it’s easy to pick a topic that’s utterly foreign to what you’re good at. But it’s hard to make real money in an area you know relatively little about.

Forget about monetization. Businesses don’t monetize. They sell things. What are you selling? If you don’t have a clue, you’re in the wrong niche.

2. You aren’t becoming an authority in your niche

If nobody’s commenting on your prose, sending email, buying your stuff, and becoming clients, you aren’t an authority. If you’ve spent a year of hard work without anyone acknowledging your expertise, you’re at a dead end. It’s time to move on.

This isn’t always your fault. You can be the greatest parody IT blogger, but if not enough people care about parody IT, you’re stuck. It’s safer to go with a demand that people have proven already exists.

3. The people in your niche don’t spend money

If your niche doesn’t spend money, you’re in trouble.

I know a fine art painter who returned to his day job because his titanic audience wouldn’t buy enough work. Don’t pick a field where people are looking for a quick laugh or a brief diversion. They won’t pay your bills.

4. You never enjoy writing about your topic

Have you gone six months without loving your subject? Does the very thought of hitting “New Post” make you cringe?

The best content comes from writers who are compelled to write. You can’t enjoy this excitement every single time (we all have our bad days), but you should feel it regularly.

5. You’re measuring everything in immediate dollars and cents

If money is all you care about, you’ll be too sane to stick when it’s tough. You won’t be passionate with tasks that have little immediate revenue.

To build a thriving blog, you have to be dedicated to your community. This means dispensing free advice to strangers for the greater community. If you want every single decision to be data-driven and money-making, you’re in the wrong niche.

6. You’re copying other people’s ideas outright

There’s no such thing as 100% original content. It’s okay to get inspiration from other people—in fact, it’s important. But if you don’t even try to edit other people’s ideas, if you mimic their entire ideology with tasteless apathy, you aren’t built for this niche.

Eugene Swartz once said he never knew a company that built its success from copying a competitor’s ad campaigns. Content marketing holds the exact same principle. You can’t expect success when you’ve got nothing original.

If your imagination doesn’t takes control at some point, you’re destined to burn out.

What should you do?

You don’t have to start out a genius. You don’t have to be a perfect writer. You don’t even have to completely understand your business model.

But you can’t be in the wrong niche.

Take a hard look at your blog.

Then pick yourself up and get good at something people pay for.

Martyn Chamberlin can take your WordPress site to places you never dreamed with the Genesis Framework. He blogs at Two Hour Blogger.

10 Ways Multi-blog Authors Can Stay Creative and Generate Great Posts

This guest post is by Jo Gifford of Cherry Sorbet Creative.

Keeping fresh and creative is key to keeping on top of the game when writing different blogs across various sectors, and for various clients. Working with efficient workflows, time management and organization all help to keep that valuable information harnessed to be used when you need it, but how about making sure you can produce great content on time and on demand?

Keeping creative and informed means you are working efficiently to produce content that’s engaging, informative, and, of course, profitable for you. After all, time is money when you are managing a number of blogs and clients.

Here are my top ten tips for fueling that creativity, generating ideas, and managing your time and resources.

1. Make the info come to you—start mass reading

Working smartly is such a key part of working creatively. The brain loves to shoot out those genius ideas when it is free to do so, but cluttered working habits, information gathering, and idea dumping leave little space for those Einstein moments.

So, my first tip for working across blogs is to make the information you need for your different blogs or publications land on your doorstep with minimal effort. That means setting up Google alerts on your subjects of interest which are emailed to you as they occur.

Set up  journo request callouts on databases like Gorkana to allow PR pros to do some groundwork for you, and of course use #journorequest and #bloggerrequest on Twitter.

Use your groups on Linked In to source info, and set up specific RSS feeds grouped together in Feedly to get the blog posts and info you need at source. And of course, the old-school way of signing up for email updates from the right resources will see you right.

Speed up your fact finding, and you can concentrate on fueling great post ideas.

Okay,so now we have info flowing in, but an inbox filled to the brim. Well let’s sort that out too.

2. Filing it cleverly: Other Inbox

If you power your mails with gmail like I do, Other Inbox is your new best friend. I use gmail to ensure all my emails across blogs I write for and my design agency to come together in one place so I don’t miss anything.

OIB is an intuitive add-on app that actually learns where you file things over time, and does this for you. You can set up smart filing to send alerts and emails from certain sources, or containing particular keywords, to go where you wish. In this way, OIB makes that overwhelming inbox panic dissipate.

No creative genius can be cooking with gas when there’s a load of emails looking urgent. Get your inbox filed for you, check it when you need to, and carry on with the magic-making.

3. Dump it! Brain dumping for multiple sources

A wonderful part of working creatively to generate great posts is that those ideas can be trained to come. The problem is that we can’t always tell when they’ll hit.

Finding a brain dump system that works for you is key to keeping your ideas to hand for those moments when you can sit down and crack out the post that you need to.

Evernote is one of my favorite tools for mobile info dumping, and for grabbing info while browsing. I also use Simple Note and Google Docs to file useful ideas.

Designing a workflow that’s intuitive and works to your strengths makes life at work and—in the time away from it—so much more fun and a lot less stressful.

4. Getting creative

One of my favorite books around creativity is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. The book provides a 12-week, step-by-step process to unblocking creativity, and includes some fantastic tools and techniques for putting that grey matter to work.

I have gone though the process twice, both times with amazing results which have sent my business in unexpected directions that are aligned with my real aims and goals. Dip into the book. Even if you don’t do the whole thing, I’m sure you will find some of the daily tasks really useful to kickstart your creative thinking. Remember, innovation is just creativity and we can train it.

5. Find your zone and stay in it

In addition to getting your creative juices going, finding your zone to work in is so important. I wrote a post about it, the basic message being: whatever works for you, do it.

If you know that eating a banana and having a cup of coffee gets you in the zone, great, off you go. If it’s a run followed by two hours of great writing, replicate that and there you have a successful recipe. For me, it’s Daft Punk on the headphones, a coffee, and a set time limit to write with the reward of a run at the end. Find what works for you and use it to your advantage.

6. Map it!

Mindmapping is one of my favorite ways to get ideas out in a non-linear way that best expresses my thoughts. I use Mindmeister on my computer and iPhone to brainstorm business ideas and blog posts using imagery, colored segments and links, and all sorts of fun things.

I am even happier when brainstorming in real time with other colleagues or associates—it’s amazing to see ideas develop visually in a way that can be shared and presented so well.

7. Reach out

So often bloggers and freelancers work in isolation—in the ubiquitous PJs, of course. Make a point of having a few friends, colleagues of associates that you can brainstorm with, over a coffee in the big wide world, or using Facetime or Skype if you need to be surgically removed from your dressing gown.

Every genius needs to bounce around some thoughts from time to time and it’s a healthy way to get perspective, see things from a new angle, and just to ensure some human contact.

8. Step away from the machine! Illumination needs you

One of the best ways to let ideas flow is to step away from the screen. Illumination, one of the steps in the creative thinking process, needs space to happen.

I often have ideas when I step away to make a cup of tea, or to do some cooking; a process that isn’t taxing your mind or filling it with yet more information will let the ideas come for the next brilliant post you can write.

9. Unblock yourself on time

Despite our best efforts sometimes that white page or screen just catches out out. The cursor blinks, you try your best workflow habits, but nothing.

A good technique for creative thinking in a time managed manner when a deadline looms is to slice that time up into chunks of 15. Set your phone timer or computer gadget to a 15 minutes and make yourself write just a little.

You will often find if you start off, however clunky the writing is, you will get there. I wrote my MA thesis in a similar way, making myself do 500 words a day whether I felt like or not, was tired, slightly tipsy after work drinks, or just plain not in the mood. Slice it up and it will stop the panics from setting in and quashing any creativity even further.

10. If you are really stuck, go outside the box and freestyle

Try some creative thinking techniques such as random word association: auto-generate a word online or pick a dictionary page and see how that word or object makes you see your brief in a different light.

For example, a car: think of wheels, motion, driving, journeys … do these spark any ideas for your subject? Keep some tricks up your sleeve for the days when your genius is running a little slower than usual and you won’t fail to deliver.

Jo Gifford is a designer, writer, blogger, and founder of Cherry Sorbet Creative. Working primarily in the beauty, fashion and lifestyle industries her work spans graphic design for print and web, social media management and training, copywriting and editorial for on and offline publications. You will find her blogging as Dexterous Diva, and on Twitter bot ahs Dexterous Diva and Cherry Sorbet.

Ramit Sethi Exposed: How He Earns Millions Blogging

This guest post is by Michael Alexis of WriterViews.

In this post, I’m going to show you the exact steps one blogger used to earn over $1 million.

Not long ago, I interviewed Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich. If you’re serious about making money blogging, then you need to read this interview.

Ramit SethiBut a heads-up: this post is long and extremely detailed. It took me over 20 hours to write. It will take you about 15 minutes to read. If you like, you can download a PDF of the entire article here.

I know you may be skeptical about the $1 million, so let’s start by looking at the facts.

Ramit Sethi and I Will Teach You To Be Rich

Ramit’s advice on money has been featured on CNN, Wall Street Journal, ABC News, FOX Business, PBS, The New York Times, CNBC, Yahoo! Finance, npr, REUTERS, and most recently in a major feature in Fortune Magazine.

His personal finance book, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, is a New York Times bestseller, and a Wall Street Journal bestseller.

IWTYTBR is ranked 19,466 on Alexa. It hosts over 250,000 monthly readers, and has 100,000+ newsletter subscribers. Prices of IWTYTBR products range from $4.95 to $12,000. But most importantly, Ramit’s tactics get his readers results. See this post, where over 500 readers wrote 54,818 words that say so. That’s as long as a novel!

Impressive, right?

Now, let’s break down Ramit’s five-step system for creating and earning immense value.

  1. Do Research That Gets Inside Your Readers Head
    • Examples of research insights for IWTYTBR
    • Use surveys to uncover the words readers use
    • Collect words from your email subscribers
    • When to ignore your readers
    • Don’t refer to comments on other blogs
    • Collect all the testimonials you will ever need
    • It’s your birthday: ask for feedback
  2. Target your customers closely
  3. Write a sales page that makes your fortune
    • Naming your product
    • Answer objections before your customers even have them
    • Don’t waste time A/B testing: it’s about the offer
    • Understand the taxonomy of pricing
    • Write Super Specific Headlines
    • Give Your Product An Unbeatable Guarantee
  4. What to do right after the customer buys
  5. Using ethical persuasion

1. Do research that gets inside your reader’s head

When you can truly deeply understand people, even in fact better than they understand themselves, then your sales skyrocket.—Ramit Sethi

There are two reasons getting inside a readers head will skyrocket your sales.

First, you will use the information to create a product or service that matches their wants and needs.

Second, you can use their exact language in your copywriting to reach them at a deeper level.

A big part of selling a product is being able to understand your reader’s barriers. What’s holding them back from their goals? In terms of money, people already know they need to manage and invest it. In terms of weight loss, people already know they need to lose weight and eat better. And in blogging, you know it’s offering immense value to your readers that will make you a problogger.

But they aren’t doing it. There is something much deeper than this goal, which is the barrier to achieving it. You’ll only discover that by doing enough research.

Maybe you’ll find out that in finance, nobody wakes up in the morning and says, “I really need to study a compound interest chart and start investing!” Nobody. They say, “this year I am going to try harder,” or “yeah, I should probably do that, but first I need to figure it out.”

When you know that language, you are inside your reader’s head.

Imagine you are a weight loss blogger. I want you to write a headline for a coaching session on losing weight. Go!

Wait. You don’t have enough information to write an effective headline. The best you can do is generic stuff like, “Lose 10 pounds in 10 days with our experienced coach!”

“Weight loss” is too broad a topic. Maybe your reader wants to lose fat from a specific area. Or perhaps they want to lose weight for a specific reason. A 50-year-old mother of two will have different reasons than a 28-year-old guy living in Manhattan.

So, you do some research and find out your target customer is a single woman who wants to lose weight from her thighs. You could write a killer headline pretty quick, right?

Soon, you’ll be able to truly understand your reader’s hopes, fears and dreams—and articulate them even better than they can. That’s the power of research.

Examples of research insights for IWTYTBR

During our interview, I asked Ramit to share some of the specific insights he has applied from his research. Here’s a big one.

A couple of years ago Ramit was doing a book tour, and he’d ask readers what they really want to learn. Everywhere he went, people were telling him they want to earn more money. That’s why he decided to create his flagship course, Earn 1k On The Side.

But just like “I want to lose weight” is too generic, so is “I want to earn more money.” Here’s what Ramit thought: “I’m so smart. I know my audience so well! They want to live a better lifestyle—fly to Vegas for the weekend and drop a couple grand.”

Then he did his research.

It turned out the real reason his readers wanted to earn more money was so they’d have the option of quitting their jobs. Yeah, just the option. This insight profoundly changed how Ramit created and positioned his course.

By the way, take a look at the signup page for Earn 1k. How much do you want to bet “I can’t freelance … I don’t even have an idea” was one of the objections Ramit was hearing over and over?

So, how do you go about doing research that gets you inside your reader’s head?

Use surveys to uncover the words readers use

The beautiful part is that because so few people are doing this, if you do even a small amount—you completely stand out. You don’t need 25,000 data points. That’s ridiculous. It took me years to be able to get to that. If you have 20 qualitative responses to one survey question, that’s pretty informative.—Ramit Sethi

Before launching Earn1k, Ramit collected 25,000 data points, and then over 50,000 for version 2.0. He calls this his “secret sauce,” which allows him to be the “wife who knows her husband better than he knows himself.” Most of that data came from surveys.

He says that a lot of people don’t use surveys at all, so they come up with useless advice like “keep a budget.” So if you survey even a little bit, you’ll be way ahead of the competition.

Ramit starts with really broad surveys, and narrows the questions down over time. He asks the questions four or five times until he really gets at the truth. Sometimes it takes Ramit four months and 6,000 answers to get at a single nugget of truth. You don’t need that many responses, though: even 20 qualitative responses to one survey question can be extremely informative.

Preparing your survey

  1. Sign up for a free or $20 account at Survey Monkey.
  2. Ask open-ended essay-style questions. You aren’t aiming for statistical validity here.
  3. Ask five questions. Keep them short and specific.
  4. Include examples of the kinds of answers you want: really long, detailed responses, not one-liners.
  5. The two most important questions are “What is it you’ve tried and failed at?” and “What do you want?”

Here’s an example of a question from one of Ramit’s surveys:

“In your own words, what skill would you use to earn more $ on the side? (For example, “I’m good at writing, but I just don’t know how to earn $1,000 using my writing skills…”)”

Download copies of Ramit’s surveys—and an audio case study that walks through an example step by step—here.

Never do this on your survey

I asked Ramit if there was anything we shouldn’t ask on a survey. Here’s what he said.

Don’t ask them what they would be willing to pay. They don’t know. They will tell you an untruthful answer, and it’s pointless to ask them. Okay. People don’t know how to do pricing, so they get lazy and they are like “hey, what would you pay for this special mastermind ebook bootcamp” and you get the worst answers in the world. By the way they are total lies. People aren’t intentionally lying, they just don’t actually know what they would pay for something.—Ramit Sethi

Another thing you shouldn’t do is try to sell. You are doing research. How do these two research questions make you feel?

  1. If I told you I had an eight-week course that was guaranteed to make you 1k a month on the side, would that interest you?
  2. Have you ever tried earning money on the side? What happened?

Aim for the second option. It’s like my mom always said: “treat people how you want to be treated.”

Getting people to take your survey

You write great material, you are adding value for your readers. They love you. They wake up in the morning and see you in their reader, or come to your website or see you on Twitter. They like you.—Ramit Sethi

The key to getting readers to take your surveys is that they have to like you.

If you don’t have a good relationship with your readers, then none of this stuff matters. You can stop reading this post and go read How To Build The Relationship With Your Readers instead.

But if your readers like you, you are set. You don’t need thousands of them either.

Step two is to reach out to your readers via email and social media, saying something like this: “Hey guys, I’m looking for some help here. I’m trying to figure out how I can help you best. Would you mind taking like 5 minutes to give me your thoughts?”

That’s enough. You are set to start getting in your readers’ heads via surveys. But there’s another way you can do it.

Collect words from your email subscribers

You can also use email to better understand your readers.

Here’s what Ramit does.

  1. He writes a big, detailed email with a story about something that happened to himself or to a friend.
  2. He finishes it with a call to action, “Hey, I’d love to hear your story. Please email me back, I read every one.”
  3. He responds to some of the replies. The recipients of those personal responses think, “Wow, this dude actually reads his emails and he cares”.

That last point is pretty good for relationship building, too. These are the little things you can do that will bring you disproportionate results.

When to ignore your readers

Sometimes you’ll get reader feedback that you disagree with. Over time, you will develop a filter for what to listen to and what to discard.

Here’s a way to start developing your filter. When you get a good response, try to find out a little more about the person who wrote it. If everyone who buys from you is a 26-year-old man living in the USA, then listen to them. Ignore the 72-year-old grandma who’s complaining your font size is too small.

If you haven’t made sales yet, focus on getting to know your target audience. As Ramit advised in a previous interview, don’t write for everybody. For Ramit, IWTYTBR isn’t just another blog, so he isn’t interested in people reading just for intellectual entertainment. He wants people who will take action.

Don’t refer to comments on other blogs

You’ve probably heard this advice before: look at comments on other blogs in your niche, then blog about the questions they ask. Ramit says there is no value in this kind of research.

Why? Because audiences on different sites are so profoundly different.

Ramit recently wrote a post called The worst career advice in the world. It received over 200 long comments and was very well regarded. The article was syndicated by another site where the audience didn’t know him at all. On that site, the article got 24 comments, most of which were super-negative.

Your audience is unique and special—that’s why they are your audience.

Collect all the testimonials you will ever need

Another part of your research and development should involve collecting testimonials. We’ve all seen those generic testimonials that are totally contrived: “Oh wow, this is the best product I ever bought and it changed my life forever!”

You need real testimonials, and the best source is people that have bought your products. Send them an email that says, “Hey, hope things are going well. So happy to see how everyone is doing.” Then tell them to click the appropriate link: “If you accomplished x in 5 hours a week, click here. If you did y, but you were skeptical, click here.” This gives you testimonials for all those options.

Here’s another tip for getting rock-solid testimonials. As readers are going through you course, get them to fill out progress reports. That way, feedback is part of the funnel. Believe it or not, Ramit gets so much feedback this way he hired a guy whose sole job is to manage them.

And if you’re developing your first product, Ramit suggests two ways to get testimonials.

First, you may have some respondents you’ve never engaged with before. In your survey, include a comment like, “Hey, if you’ve used any of my free material for x/y/z, I’d love to hear your story. Please be specific”. All of a sudden you have 20 testimonials!

Another way is to offer free trials for your product. So, find five to ten friends or readers. Tell them “Guys, I’m planning to release this thing. It will be about $100. I’m looking for ten people to go through it and give me feedback. If you agree to fill out three surveys, you get this trial for free—and the final product as well.”

It’s your birthday: ask for feedback

During our interview, I asked Ramit about one other way I’ve seen him get people to leave feedback at IWTYTBR.

On his birthday this year, Ramit wrote a post and included this call to action at the bottom: “Nothing could be better than hearing how my material has helped you. Just leave a comment on this post. Or, upload a video to YouTube and tag it “iwillteachyoutoberich.”

“The more specific, the better Share a story. Tell us how IWT helped you hit a goal, pay off debt, earn more, get a better job — whatever. Provide specific, concrete #’s. Tell me what it meant to you. It would make my day.”

You know how many responses he got? Over 500. Check the post out at It’s my birthday today. Will you do me a favor?

The comments are people saying things like “I’m earning $70k more than I was before”, “I was able to quit my job and move across the country” and “I was earning $10 an hour, now I’m earning $40″.

These comments weren’t destined to be testimonials, but here’s one way Ramit uses them. When he makes a post about how he’s able to charge 100x what others do, and why his students are delighted to pay it, he includes the link. It proves that he’s not just providing information, but is also delivering actual results.

Target your customers closely

We saw earlier that Ramit targets his customers closely. He targets people who take action. He says it’s better to have a small core audience that takes action, respects what you have to say and gets results from your material, than a massive audience that doesn’t open your emails.

Here is a way to filter them out. Don’t sell via a squeeze page. Ramit sends subscribers through weeks of free material before giving them a chance to buy. If people complain, he unsubscribes them.

Then he tells the subscribers who can and can’t buy the course. For example, people with credit card debt are prohibited from buying his courses. If he finds out they bought it, he will ban them for life. Why? For one, Ramit doesn’t believe it’s right to take that money when he knows it will end up costing the customer twice as much. Second: it sends a message to the other readers.

Write a sales page that makes your fortune

We’ve had pages that convert at 68.7%, which in the online world is unheard of.—Ramit Sethi

Ramit spends months (or even years) doing research and development. He spends a lot of time crafting his product and offer, and he has converted as high as 68.7%. In our industry the average is 2-4%.

Realistically, you won’t get conversions that high. But could you improve your sales? Of course. If you don’t you are leaving a ton of value on the table—not just money—but value that users aren’t receiving because you aren’t messaging correctly.

Your blog doesn’t need as big a following as IWTYTBR to implement this. The basic patterns Ramit uses are modeled by people in businesses much larger and smaller. To succeed, you need to deeply understand your readers, then spend time on stuff that matters, and avoid what doesn’t.

Naming your product

Naming your product is some of the most important language on your sales page. If you want inspiration, check out Chris Guillebeau’s work at The Art of Non-Conformity. Chris names products like The Travel Hacking Cartel, Empire Building Kit and A Brief Guide To World Domination.

Let’s look more closely at how Ramit names his products. Why did he call his earning money course Earn 1k on the side? Because $1000 is an achievable figure. A lot of students go on to earn much more. But Ramit says if you tell them they will earn $10,000 they go “I don’t believe you, I’m not the kind of person”. Earning an extra $1,000 a month is life changing for most people. And it’s “on the side” because to become richer, people tend to think that they have to quit their job and start the next Google. The vast majority will not and cannot. But anyone can do five to ten hours a week on the side.

For Ramit’s new Find Your Dream Job course the naming process was similar. Even though the long-term goal is to help people find their dream career, he is using their language. If you are sitting around with your buddies, what you actually say is “I wish I could find a new…” What?

“Job”.

And “dream job” is what people are thinking.

Answer objections before customers even have them

Remember all those testimonials you collected? Now it is time to use them, and they are very strategic.

Imagine you find in your research that people don’t believe they have enough time to implement your advice. Great. Now you go to customers who are really happy and say “Hey, I’m looking for anyone who thought they wouldn’t have time to complete this program, but now you’ve achieved x results.”

Add that testimonial to your sales page, and when the reader’s there, they’ll find an answer to their objection before they even had it.

Don’t waste your time A/B testing: it’s about the offer

So few of us are even spending time on language. We are spending time on things that give us a shiny pop. You know you might be able to measure an increase in conversion by 1.6%. But when you do can things like this you can increase every other conceivable measure. Revenues up 500%. Engagement up 750%. Because you are actually speaking to people in the language that works with them, and not at them.—Ramit Sethi

Ramit really emphasizes how you should spend your time on the things that matter. “My point is, focus on the stuff that matters and is going to make the biggest most valuable gain for you… don’t get caught up in this microtesting world. It’s sexy. It’s fun. We see a 1.3% increase in open rates because we tweaked our subject lines. Or, you can get a 500% increase in revenue because you came up with a better offer,” he says.

Why all the hate? Two reasons. One is that even if you change the color of your button and improve opt-ins by 24%, it doesn’t mean you are going to convert any more sales. Second, even if you do increase the conversions to opt-in, they will eventually regress to the mean. You know who actually gets results from testing button color? Amazon.com.

Ramit says one area to test that can skyrocket your sales is your offers. Do your research and find out what people want. Do they want a standalone ebook? Maybe, and they’ll be happy to pay $97 for it. Or if someone doesn’t want a full video course, maybe they do want transcripts at a lower price. Others want accountability, like live calls every week or even a one-on-one call. Ramit warns that people might say they want an ebook but they may really need someone to check in.

One way to craft your offers is to study people you admire in both the online and offline worlds. What do they offer and how do they offer it?

McDonald’s created the kids’ meal. That’s an offer. They packaged up certain things in a certain way. Offered bonuses. Changed pricing. And the kids’ meal is one of the most successful packages ever created in the history of business.

When I interviewed Neil Patel of Quicksprout he told me about a $199 traffic generation system he offered. He also gave buyers a 30-minute phone call, and after hundreds of sales, is buried in scheduled calls. Ramit says Neil learned two things: that he will never do it again, and that people want his time. That’s very valuable.

Understand the taxonomy of pricing

There is a taxonomy of pricing that is well understood in the information product world.

It goes like this:

  • blog post: no one will pay for
  • PDF/ebook: $27-$97
  • audio/video course: $497-$997
  • must have video or live component: $997+
  • in person, one-on-one: the most

If you are putting out a book, and all the others in the store sell for $10 or $15, it’s going to be awfully difficult to roll in and get $200 for yours. Stick to the taxonomy.

Write super-specific headlines

There are plenty of great posts on writing headlines, so I won’t dwell on it here. Check out Copyblogger’s How to Write Headlines That Work instead.

I will note that Ramit says headlines matter profoundly. So spend 50% of your time on them and get super-specific. Doing this, you might decrease conversions, but the people that come through are worth so much more—not just in terms of money, but also in terms of the value you offer them.

Then you want to start thinking about your guarantee.

Give your product an unbeatable guarantee

Offering a money-back guarantee forces you to step up your game, because if your product isn’t good, you don’t get food on the table. I think all of us in this market need that, because there have been so many sleazy people that released substandard products. So I’d like all those people to go out of business, and I’d like the best people, the ones who say “look, my product is so good you try the entire thing and if you don’t like it I’ll send all your money back, even the credit card processing fees.” I want more people like that, because that is a product with integrity versus a fly by night product.—Ramit Sethi.

A big barrier for business people who want to offer guarantees is that they are afraid people will rip them off. Guess what? Some people probably will. But the ability to get a refund will drive more revenue and expose you to many more great people than the few bad apples acting illegitimately.

People expect the opportunity to get 100% of their money back. If your product is good enough, why not let people try the whole thing and get their money back? You have nothing to worry about.

But you should monitor your percentages. On a $97 product you can expect a return rate of about 10%. If you are getting 40% of sales returned, your product is not good. If you are getting 2% returned, that’s a problem too. Why? You probably aren’t selling to enough people. Generally the higher the price, the more refunds are requested.

Ramit offered some tips on creating an unbeatable guarantee. First, the more powerful you can make your guarantee, the better. In The Four Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss talks about offering a 110% money back guarantee.

Second, the best guarantees are very specific. So don’t just write, “if you are not satisfied for any reason, we’ll give your money back.” Instead try something like, “if you don’t get three paying clients within 60 days, then write me and I’ll send all your money back.”

Third, take as much risk as possible onto yourself. That means offering refunds greater than 100%, paying for shipping, whatever—as much as is economically feasible.

Neil Patel says you can reduce refunds by sending people free stuff you didn’t tell them about during the sale. Just before the refund period is up, send them an email that says, “Hey, next week I’ll be sending you a document that breaks all this down.” Or, “I’ve got a special bonus for you that I’ll be sending along next week,” for example.

So you’ve created a sales page that converts like crazy. But what do you do after your reader buys?

What to do right after the customer buys

When they buy, think through their experience. What are they feeling? Nervous. Don’t want to have gotten ripped off. Don’t want to have been taken advantage of. Don’t want their friends to think they bought a weird internet course.—Ramit Sethi

If you told your friends you bought a $2000 video course, they would probably say you got scammed. Normal people don’t buy stuff online, right?

So your newly acquired purchaser is nervous. And after you ease those nerves, they’ll be excited. They can’t wait. Where do they start?

Welcome your customers with a video—Ramit recorded his first one with his MacBook. Tell them something like, “You made a great decision. This is what you are going to get. If you ever have problems, contact us at…” Then give them the material.

It’s important to curate the material your customers see. If you ask people do they want all the information up front, they say “yes.” But if you give it all at once they will be overwhelmed and more likely to cancel or ask for a refund. So tell them, “Here’s why I’m not giving you everything—trust me, and take these action steps.”

I recently watched a Mixergy Master Class called Grow Your Recurring Revenue. It was about how to keep customers that signup for your membership site or courses.

Noah Fleming led the course and said there are three essential Cs: Character, Content, and Community.

In the case of IWTYTBR, the character is Ramit. He’s the personality that readers buy from. The content is what you offer—Noah also emphasized not dumping it all on new buyers all at once.

Community is the elements of your product that let buyers interact with each other. Noah says this is a great way to keep people around, and suggested the idea of forming small groups and giving them tasks: like creating a product together, or developing a landing page.

Ramit tried community by including a forum for Earn1K buyers. He took it down when he found people were spending more time on that than doing work. People still ask him for a forum. It’s what people want—but not what they need.

Using ethical persuasion

Life is not just about more conversions. You want to be classy. You want to be respectful. Yeah, you could make more money, but that’s not the goal—the goal is to help them make an informed decision.—Ramit Sethi

Why is ethical persuasion so important? Because now that you know Ramit’s techniques and frameworks for sales, you’d find it just as easy to implement them on the dark side. There are many ways you can use persuasion nefariously, like to convince people to buy things they don’t really need. Ramit says he knows of hucksters who find out how much money their leads have available on their credit cards, then charge that.

Here’s Ramit’s framework for knowing who to sell to.

rational (information + motivation) = decision?

  • Rational requires that the potential buyer is in a sound state of mind and able to make their decision. Someone in desperate financial circumstances might not be.
  • Information assumes the potential buyer has all the information in the world about Ramit’s product.
  • And motivation means it is something they want.

If those three criteria are met, and the lead would buy the product, then Ramit has the privilege to persuade them to buy.

For example, take someone who’s earning $60,000, has $25,000 in the bank and works 9-5 but really wants to earn more. The person has the time, energy, and no credit card debt. If they took the time to go through Ramit’s program, and they trust him, would they buy it? If the answer’s “yes,” it’s a sale.

If someone makes $30,000, has $20,000 in debt, and is looking for a magic bullet, Ramit won’t let the person make the decision to buy.

So, I asked Ramit about those guys who run sites like www.SuperInstantMoneyMakingMachine.com. You know the kind—the ones where they tell you about their life on the beach, drinking margaritas, and chasing women. And there’s a picture of the guy in front of a jet. There is always a jet shot.

Ramit says if that guy has a product that would genuinely change a customer’s life, and gives them an out in the form of a full refund period, then it’s ethical to aggressively pursue the sale. He warns that many pages of long copy, flashing icons, the jet shot, and highlights are scams. Those guys do it because it works, and there are deep psychological reasons for it.

Click here to listen to Ramit’s final thoughts from our interview. Thanks so much for reading through. I know this article was long and I hope you got a ton of value from it.

Can you do me a favor and leave a comment sharing the most important insight you got from hearing what Ramit has to say? Be specific—tell us a story, please.

I’m Michael Alexis and I interview the world’s top bloggers at WriterViews. Check out this ProBlogger article from the last time I interviewed Ramit.

8 Reasons Why Students Should Blog

This is a guest blog post by Michael White of Musings of a PR Student.

Students should be worried about their job prospects. I am. Competition is rife and the top advertised jobs receive hundreds of applications. Our work experiences are not just being challenged by a surge of candidates, but our very degrees are being questioned. Surely only post-graduate degrees now hold credibility?

I began blogging in 2005 (my promoted blog was founded in 2009) and have never looked back. As I reached maturity it became clear that blogging was no longer for the weird recluse yearning for a better life; instead, it’s a practical application for furthering a career.

Yet, despite my personal successes, I am still finding it difficult to convince fellow students to blog.

Here are eight reasons why students should join the blogosphere.

1.Your blog is your portfolio

When I submit my resume to potential employers, I always keep my blog’s address at the top of the first page as a contact detail. It is my online portfolio, which I can give as an example to organizations before I’m even at the interview stages. It is not only a way for me to stand out from the crowd, but it speaks a thousand words more than my two-page resume will allow.

University courses vary but you will certainly find a blogging format to suit you well. A blog can be used to do all of the following:

  • Post images of your latest photography, graphic designs, animations, architecture plans, 3D models, etc.
  • Post videos to present the brilliance of your last feature film project. Friends of mine have posted client work showing advertisements and band music videos.
  • Post written content which delves into industry matters and theoretical musings, or demonstrates practical experiences.

Your blog doesn’t just have to act as a portfolio of content; it can also present links to your social networking profiles. Control your online presence and stand out from the crowd.

2. Blog to control your SEO

What will the first thing your potential employer does when they receive your resume? Either bin it or type your name into Google. When I worked for Microsoft last year as an intern, members of the team took great pleasure in finding information on candidates outside of their resume. Fortunately for you, your blog will be the top result because, through you blog, you can control your SEO.

WordPress is arguably the best blogging software available, especially for those of us who enjoy self-hosting. A variety of plugins are available for WordPress blogs to enhance your SEO:

  • All in One SEO: This plugin is ideal for amateurs and professionals alike. Simply activate it on your WordPress setup to optimize your site for search engines.
  • Google XML Sitemaps: Create an XML-compliant sitemap for your blog to help search engines. I highly recommend that once you have activated this plugin that you post your sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools.
  • W3 Total Cache: Yes, this is a caching plugin designed to speed up your blog. It is still entirely relevant to SEO, though. Speed matters in terms of page rankings.

The art of improving your SEO is a subject for another blog post. The above plugins will prepare you though. Make sure when your potential employer is searching that they click on the link you want them to see.

3. Network with industry professionals

A couple of months ago I published a review on my blog for a book called Social Media Analytics. Within a few hours of posting it, the author, Marshall Sponder, got in touch thanking me for my kind words. An industry professional made first contact with a student! Yes, I did him a favor, but that was partly in a bid to gain his attention. It worked.

In terms of networking, a blog cannot be used alone. Twitter is still one of the best online networking resources available. Couple your Twitter profile with your blog and you could be playing more seriously. You can gain the attention of industry professionals by:

  • writing reviews of their books
  • writing a reactionary blog post to something they have written
  • offering to guest post for their blog (like I’m doing here!)
  • simply mentioning them in a post with a link.

There are countless methods. Use your own creativity to think of something different.

4. Blogging shows your determination

Make no mistake, blogging is tough. To be successful requires quality content, frequent posts, and networking clout. My blog won a college advisor award in 2010, today I look over the list to find a year later barely half of the blogs are still active. You don’t want your employer to be gazing upon a graveyard of a portfolio.

My current blog has been active for four years now. In that time, I have written 310 posts, which approximately total to 160,000 words. This easily out shadows a measly 10,000 word dissertation. Such a task can only be driven by passion. Only a few blogs reach such a high publicity level that you could consider yourself a minor online celebrity—mine has yet to do so.

In essence blogging is about sitting in your room, with a large mug of tea, which is being drunk by a very determined individual (some say he is mad). Blogging will be worth your time. Plan blog posts ahead. Remember, you are preparing yourself for a marathon and not a sprint.

5. Build a reputation before you hit the workplace

Your professional reputation no longer starts once you have found yourself your first job. It starts based upon the information on the internet people discover. Build your reputation upon the strong foundations of your blog.

My uncle could be regarded as old-school. He has a top job in a worldwide recognized media agency, a result of working his way up the ladder. If you type his name into Google, you will find a dozen news stories written about him by reputable magazines. Never has he needed to build his reputation online first; his reputation leaked online due to his “real world” efforts.

The year 2012 is different. Competition is high among students and so you should be building your reputation at all times, even before you study at University. Here are a number of ways in which a blog can help build your reputation:

  • Focus on your blog’s branding. What do the images and colors say about you?
  • Feature references from industry professionals. Let their endorsements give you credibility.
  • Show off your knowledge of the industry by providing insights and advice.

Reputation is everything.

6. Blogging expands and tests your knowledge

Blogging can be an excellent way to expand your knowledge by testing new ideas out publicaly. On a few occasions visitor’s comments have provided me with fresh angles in order to tackle information. Ultimately the result not only expands your knowledge but allows you to effectively tackle debates and tune your mind to thoughts in your chosen industry.

Don’t forget about comments. Whilst the main content serves as an important resource, comments can provide practical feedback (or nonsensical drivel) to take into consideration.

7. Access traditional media opportunities

In the recent post written by the inspirational Chris Brogan he explains how we should view ourselves as media channels. This is exactly what blogs are; frame them as your media channel. If you do then other, more traditional media channels could become available to you.

Over the last year I was fortunate to become a “rent-a-mouth” for a number of BBC radio stations (including their flagship BBC Radio Five Live). It was an opportunity driven by the content they viewed on my blog. Blogging is by no means a perfect media channel as its audience depends upon your activities. Journalists who work for radio stations and newspapers can give you the credibility of opinion, more exposure, and perhaps even endorsement for work you have produced.

This is a priceless reason to blog. Don’t ignore it. Get noticed.

8. Earn money

How could we not include money on this list as a reason? In my experience it is possible to make money from blogging but don’t think it is easy to earn a living from it.

In the past I have accepted sponsored posts from organizations, but only if they are willing to pay me. Eventually I stopped because posts were lacking detail and shamelessly back-linked to their content. The posts were not useful, informative or entertaining—they were useless. Bloggers need to protect their real estate.

There are number of ways to earn money from blogging. If you chose a path then it may buy a few pints as a student. Don’t expect the income to cover your rent. In my opinion earning money is never a goal, only a side effect from doing something you enjoy.

I hope I have inspired a new generation of students to begin blogging. At the same time I may have just harmed by own job prospects … how selfless of me!

Are you a student who is currently blogging? What have I missed in this post? Add to the debate by leaving your comments below.

Michael White is a British public relations student who studies at the University of Gloucestershire. He was a CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations) representative in 2009 and completed an internship with Microsoft last year. He regularly updates his blog Musings of a PR Student.

Un-dull Your Blog Posts: Four Fiction Techniques to Try

This guest post is by Harry Bingham of Writers’ Workshop.

Most blog posts are dull.

They might be well-informed, offer interesting insights, teach useful things—but they can do all those things and still be dull.

Although readers do come to blogs to learn, they are only ever two clicks away from rival offerings, which means you’re under constant pressure to retain those eyeballs.

And eyeball-retention is a learnable, replicable skill. I’m a novelist, after all. People don’t come to my books in order to learn anything: they come for entertainment and will desert me if I don’t satisfy their expectations. So I—and my peers—made darn sure we satisfy them. What’s more, the approaches that work for books are eminently transferable to blogs.

Story

One driver that always works is story. Let’s suppose you’re writing about an SEO technique which yields, on average, a 30% traffic increase over a three month period. Clearly that technique is, in principle, going to be of interest to your readers.

But isn’t that presentation dull? I mean, don’t you feel your heart contract just a little when you hear those stats? You know you need to read the post but, gosh, it doesn’t excite you.

Contrast that with a post that starts with a story. Jed Edwards is a fishmeal seller who’s struggling to make a go of his business in recessionary times. He hits on a new SEO technique that doubles his online traffic in the space of three months. He renegotiates a bank loan on the back of a new business plan and for the first time in years, things start to look up.

Now that snippet still feels a little poor. We want more detail, more personalization, more that is specific to Jed and his business. But enrich that one paragraph to, let’s say, three and you have a human, empathic connection. Your reader is hooked.

Of course at that point, you’ll need to backtrack. You’ll need to say that the Jed’s experience is unusually positive, that 30% increases are the norm, not 100% ones. And you’ll need to get into the nuts and bolts of the technique. But all that doesn’t matter. You’ve got the reader into your article. You’ve won their trust. Your task isn’t finished—but it’s very well started.

The trick to this approach is to start (and ideally finish) with the personal, the specific, the detailed. You can see one example of this approach on our blog here, but you can also view countless examples of it in the newspapers. If a journalist is writing about the Japanese tsunami, for example, they’ll likely start by picking out the experience of one particular family, or one particular village. Start with the particular, move to the general, and move back to the particular with your close.

Controversy

Another good alternative is to go for controversy. You don’t necessarily need to believe 100% in the position you are presenting. Obviously, you need to have some real belief what you’re saying, but it’s okay to allow yourself to express things more strongly than you truly believe. That’s not about lying: it’s about helping to clarify things for readers. By making strong statements, you can let your readers test out what they do and don’t believe on a subject.

In the end, a controversial stance is simply a way to keep the reader interested in what follows. A recent guest-blogger on our own writing-related website made a big splash with an argument that alcohol could be used to promote creativity. It’s a controversial position—but that post scored almost three times as many hits as one of our regular posts. (His post can be found here.)

Facts

You wouldn’t think that novelists spend much time wrestling with facts, but we do! Historical fiction, for example, nearly always relies on a novelist finding some extraordinary aspect of the past and bringing it to life via story. But if the background material weren’t compelling, the book wouldn’t be either. Philippa Gregory’s international hit book (and movie) The Other Boleyn Girl worked primarily by bringing an extraordinary aspect of King Henry VIII’s colorful life to public view.

You can do the same. Most pro bloggers recycle the same old facts. You need to avoid that. You need to locate the specific, unknown fact that throws a new light on the issue you are commenting on. You don’t need to embellish that fact or wrap it in fancy packaging. If your fact is strong enough, you can hook a post to it without any of that.

Take, for example, Amazon’s launch of the Kindle Fire. Countless commentators regurgitated Amazon’s sales statistics—to such an extent that no blog advertising this fact could be of real interest. So Clint Boulton did some original research (which he discusses here) and transformed a dull post into a value-added one.

Style and humor

A fourth—difficult—approach relies on writing style and humor. It’s hard, because you need real writerly skills. You can’t just bolt them on, the way you can with the first couple of approaches. And humor that falls flat is much worse than no humor at all.

On the other hand, there are replicable skills here too. Economy, for starters. Are you saying something in 12 words that could be said in eight? If so, your blog post risks being 50% longer than it ought to be. Pedantic micro-corrections to your text can build into a large macro difference in interest.

Cliché is another grievous sin against good writing. Every cliché kills—just a little—the reader’s interest in your text. If you spot examples of cliché in your text (and that means remembering to look for them!), you can correct the problem in one of two ways. Either come up with your own original striking phrase or choose a simple but accurate replacement. So you could change “She was grasping at straws” into either of these alternatives:

She grew desperate, a drowning woman in search of a lifebelt.
Tiny facts now filled her with unreasonable hope.

Both of those options are a big improvement on the cliché.

Examples

Finally, humans aren’t particularly rational creatures. Logically, it makes good sense to state general principles and let readers figure it out from there. But readers want examples. They make those general principles leap to life.

The joy of hyperlinks means that you don’t even have to slow your prose down with reporting those examples: you can just point to them and move on. The better written and more joyous the posts you point to, the more joy you bring into your own post too. It’s like love: you create more by sharing.

Have you used any of these techniques to un-dull your writing? Share your tips with us in the comments.

Harry Bingham is a novelist. He also runs the Writers’ Workshop which offers help with all aspects of writing a book.