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Making The Impossible Possible: How I Created A Full Time Blogging Income With No Qualifications

Image via Flickr user Susy Morris

Image via Flickr user Susy Morris

This is a guest contribution from freelance writer Stacey Corrin.

It was a dark day in November 2012 when I first began to blog. Rain lashed the windows of the home we’d just moved into. Removal boxes lay strewn across the floor and the cries of my newborn twins rang shrill in my ears.

I felt trapped, with no escape plan.

Being a new parent can do that to you. It can make you feel like the only person in the room. It can sap your energy, your personality, your identity. Yet it can also put you on a path you might never consider possible.

Today I want to share how I got from that wretched point to my life now. Three years later, I’m now a successful ghostwriter, blogger and full time freelancer.

 

It Began As A Cry For Help

My foray into blogging began like most peoples does. It was expression, even a cry for help. Most importantly it was an outlet for the turmoil and confusion of young parenthood.

I set myself up with a free WordPress blog and proceeded to spend any spare time, jotting down my thoughts. Off they would go into the ether and I’d feel a little lighter, a little more relieved for having let it all out.

Little did I know that there were people reading my musings. They introduced themselves, faceless entities going through similar situations. They provided support, insight and friendship I’d never found offline.

These people introduced me to a whole community I never knew existed. People from all walks of life were doing just what I was doing. They were baring their souls to the internet and finding comfort in the practice. What’s more, they were making a living from it too!

 

I Immersed Myself In All Things Blogging

That realisation was a revelation to me. Immediately I set about learning all that I could about blogging, SEO, and how to build an audience. It wasn’t an easy process. I learned some terrible blogging habits along the way but I also found that there was so much help out there if you knew where to look.

I discovered sites like this one. I haunted the big names on Twitter and Facebook yet also took stock of the little ones who were making waves. Sites like Blogging Wizard who at that point was still fresh and new.

What was it that made them so successful? What were their secrets? What made them stand out?

And then it dawned on me. These people stood out because they didn’t follow the crowd.

Well, I knew a thing or two about that. Always the oddball at school, I spent the majority of my teenage years sticking out like a sore thumb. So how could I do that with my own blog? How could I stand out and make a living at the same time?

By this point I’d spent two and a half years figuring this blogging thing out. My twins had grown to the point that afforded me more freedom, so one evening I sat down with a notepad and wrote out the things I was good at.

Three things stood out at me:

  • Writing
  • Blogging
  • WordPress

A thought began to blossom. What if I did something drastic? What if I started all over again and built a new blog from scratch? This time I’d do so with the aim of sharing everything I’d learned over the last few years. At the same time I’d market my skills to those who needed them – my blog a testament to them.

 

How I Turned My Passion Into Profit

I realised that through helping others with their own blogs, I could show off what I’d learned along the way. Let’s face it, not everyone has time to write blog post after blog post, on a daily basis. Unless of course like me, you love to write. Thus blogging about blogging and offering my services as a ghostwriter seemed like a smart move.

Through the power of Selz, a simple and free eCommerce platform, I was able to create product listings for my services. People could buy these from my new blog. With a few clicks of a button they could get a ghostwritten blog post and within a matter of days, have it land in their inbox. All attribution would go to them, no strings attached.

The services I offered included:

  • Ghostwriting
  • WordPress content management
  • Virtual help
  • Social media management

These were things that people needed. I knew I could provide them as I did those things every day and over time the word spread. Recommendations came in, people gave great testimonials and I built a small client base.

That was over three months ago.

In that time I’ve written over 80 blog posts of 900 words and over (excluding my own). My blog has grown from zero traffic and shares to posts with over 800 shares alone. I’m now in a place where people want to read what I’m writing. Not because they sympathise, but because they can learn something valuable from my words. Needless to say the clients have poured in too, coinciding with an income that’s sustaining five people.

How did I do it? I listened to what people wanted. Then I promoted the pants off what I created.

  • Jump into Facebook groups and Quora discussions related to your niche and listen to what people are talking about.
  • Talk to people on Social Media instead of just link dropping
  • Offer up solutions through your blog posts, which answer people’s most pressing questions
  • Forget word counts when you’re writing. A post should be as long as it needs to be, to get your message across.

When promoting your content:

  • Join places like Triberr and follow tribes with similar interests. Here you can connect with influencers who will help your posts reach a wider audience.
  • Use the power of imagery with networks like Pinterest. This can be a massive source of traffic if you create excellent visuals to go with your posts.
  • Don’t forget your email list! Provide incentives like content upgrades for subscribers only. Follow up with personal emails that provide value to your list.

The best way of exposing my blog to new readers, was to guest post for other blogs. This has been my biggest source of repeat clients and traffic. By keeping some of your best work for other people’s blogs, you’re making a bold statement. You’re telling people that you care about quality, that you’re not just about self-promotion.

 

It’s Been A Humbling Experience

Looking back to that November day, I don’t recognise the person I was. Blogging lifted me from a hopeless situation into a life that’s rich, vibrant and full of opportunity.

If I can offer any advice to anybody, it would be this:

Always believe in the impossible. No matter how hard it might seem, there is always a way if you’re willing to dream big and work for it.

Stacey is a Ghostwriter and Blogger who creates content for influencers in the digital marketing and WordPress community. When she’s not blogging elsewhere, she hangs out on her own blog, sharing visual content and blogging tips.

Six Secrets to Six-Figure Product Launches with Jeff Goins

goins11NOTE: We are running a free webinar with Jeff over at ProBlogger.com in two days (November 19), where he will talk about the Four Keys to Building a Powerful Audience Online. Normally the full webinars are only available to paid members of the site, but there will be a few big names in the next few months sharing their knowledge in our free sessions. You will need to create a free account.

Please head to the webinar page, and and click “Sign up here” to register for a free account and to register for the webinar. You will receive an email confirming your registration, and another reminder email as the webinar approaches.

Please note that our last public webinar was very popular and we can only take 1000 on the live call. We do record them though and send all who register a link to the recording.

Without further ado, here’s Jeff to explain how to totally nail any product launch with his six secrets. Thanks, Jeff

Six secrets to Six-Figure Product Launches with Jeff Goins

A few years ago, when I was just getting started with trying to monetize my blog, I met a successful online entrepreneur. When I asked her how I could start making money off my blog, she asked how big my email list was. I told her, and she said that was a six-figure business.

I laughed and explained to her that it was more like a three-figure business. I had run a couple of ads that had made me a total of about $400 in the past six months. I did not have a business.

“No,” she said. “You’ve got at least six figures there. You just need to leverage your influence and get your audience to buy from you.”

It turns out she was right. In fact, that advice didn’t just help me build a six-figure business in a year. It taught me how to start doing $100,000 product launches — not only for my own business but for other people’s businesses, as well.

I stumbled on to some secrets, thanks to the advice of that online entrepreneur and a handful of other mentors over the years, and I want to share them with you.

Secret #1: You Have to Want It

Okay, so I want to acknowledge the elephant in the room. I know this might sound out of reach to you. Pie in the sky sort of stuff. And I totally get that.

I remember reading Darren Rowse talk about his first year of blogging and how he “only made $30,000.” When I read that, I was working a job that was paying me a salary of that same amount, and making 30K online sounded like a dream.

So trust me when I tell you that nobody is more surprised to hear me talk about things like “six-figure product launches” than me.

But after doing this for a couple years now, I’ve realized an important truth about business: more income means more impact. Or as Walt Disney once said, “We don’t make movies to make money. We make money to make more movies.”

If you are like I was and tend to think of business and income-generating strategies as greedy or “evil,” I want you to reconsider your stance.

First, consider the income. What would $100,000 mean to you and your loved ones? Could it be a means to more freedom or a chance to travel the world or see your kids go to college? Maybe it would be a way for you give to all the charities and nonprofits you’d love to contribute to.

Then, consider the impact. If you sell a $100 product, $100,000 in revenue means you’ve just made an impact on 1000 people’s lives. I don’t know about you, but personally impacting 1000 people sounds like a lot of work. But a scalable product, especially an information product, allows you to do that.

It might sound hypey to talk about $100,000 launches, but I promise you: what I’m about to share with you is a series of practical principles I’ve seen proven over and over again. And they’ve allowed my friends and clients to not only live their dreams but to help a lot of people in the process.

The same could be true for you, but you’ve got to reconcile your relationship with revenue and get focused on the goal. This isn’t about just making more money. It’s about making a difference.

So let’s look now at what it takes to pull off a six-figure launch.

Secret #2: Having a Great Product Is Not Enough (But It’s a Start)

We can’t overlook this step as it is so important to creating a brand with integrity and building a loyal customer base. You’ve got to create what Michael Hyatt calls “wow” products and experiences.

Why? Because frankly, your customers deserve the best work you can possibly do. And because this is the kind of work that people talk about.

Apple is one of the the biggest brands and most successful companies in the world not because of their marketing (they spend a fraction of what their competitors do on advertising), but because of the experiences users have with their products. If ask a Mac fanatic why they love all their iGear, they will tell you, “It just works.”

That’s what wow looks like.

But having a great product is not enough. In fact, it is the basic requirement to even enter the market. Once you have something you are proud of, something the world needs, you have only just begun.

Secret #3: It’s Not About Having a Big List

A lot of people mistakenly believe having a big email list is necessary to monetizing your audience. They think they need something like 20,000 subscribers just to make a living.

Try telling that to Carol Tice, who launched her quarter of a million dollar business with only 1000 subscribers. Or Tim Grahl who has already started replacing his income running a successful book marketing company with digital products that he launches to his list of less than 10,000 people.

It doesn’t take a big list. It takes a willingness to sell.

My friend Stu McLaren, cofounder of Wishlist Member and Rhino Support, once told me that if you want to make more money, do one of the following:

  1. Increase your market size. If you have a smaller email list (less than 10,000 people), then you will want to either: a) rapidly grow the list, or b) partner with affiliates who can help you reach more people now (as opposed to spending the months or years it would take to organically grow your own audience. Firepole Marketing founder Danny Iny told me, “The key to the big launches is the groundwork that goes into building the relationships that make it happen.”
  2. Increase your price. This is often the easiest tweak to make and frankly the most common error I see bloggers and online entrepreneurs make. We are notoriously bad at valuing our own services and offerings and therefore tend to price ourselves lower than we should. The market will always sustain more than you think it can. Remember that, and when in doubt, raise the price. You’re worth more than you realize.
  3. Increase your sales frequency. Another problem people face is being unwilling to sell too hard. They don’t want to appear pushy or salesy, and end up unintentionally sabotaging their business. Look. You don’t have to be pushy or slimy or do anything unethical to sell. Selling is serving; it’s helping your audience connect with an offering that will truly help them (remember: you’re starting with a great product). So when it’s time to sell, sell hard. Make a case for why this is the very best thing out there, and let people know. And when you aren’t sure what to do, send another email.

A big email list is great, but having a lot of subscribers in and of itself won’t guarantee you a ton of sales. You need to understand the finer points of business: how to identify what a market wants, what they’re willing to pay, and how to get them to buy.

Which is what we’re going to cover in the next section.

Secret #4: Sell Like You Mean It

When you’re doing all of the above and people still aren’t buying, then you don’t have a strategy problem. You have a selling problem.

If you’re doing all the right things, and people still aren’t buying, it’s probably how you’re selling. You’re probably missing three important triggers, which author and entrepreneur Carrie Wilkerson talks about:

  • Scarcity.
  • Urgency.
  • Awareness.

If people aren’t buying, it’s often because they feel like they can buy at any time, or that there will always be enough, or they simply aren’t aware something is for sale.

So when you feel stuck, try the following:

  1. Only sell a certain number of units per launch. This feels scary, because you could be limiting your potential revenue, but really what you’re doing is creating a sense of exclusivity (which equals value in the customer’s mind). Warning: if you use this strategy, don’t create false scarcity. If you say you are only going to sell 200 seats to your online workshop, then close registration when you meet your quota. Otherwise, people will find you out for the snake oil sales person you are.
  2. Offer a time-sensitive deal. (i.e. “Save $100 when you buy this week!” of “Don’t miss these three bonuses — buy today!”).
  3. Talk about your launch — a lot. Send more than one email (best practice is to do one on launch day and two on the final day).

Secret #5: Give People Options

When Chris Guillebeau gave Nathan Barry (who incidentally doesn’t have a huge list and is killing it with online product launches) a simple piece of advice, it literally made him hundreds of thousands of dollars.

What was this simple piece of advice?

“Selling in multiple packages has worked really well for me.”

He said it in typical Guillebeau, off-handed humility. But in that statement was a ton of value that made Nathan more money than any other piece of advice he’s ever received.

Nathan estimates that having multiple price points for each product has allowed him to make two to three times as much money as he would have made, launching at just one price point.

Putting It All Together

The other day I was chatting with a friend who recently started an online business. He was telling me all about his next project, which was another online course he hoped to create, launch, and sell by the end of the year.

“Dude,” I said. “What are you doing?! How much money have you made off your course so far?” He admitted it wasn’t much. He thought, as many do, that the solution was to create the next thing. But he was wrong.

I then proceeded to walk my friend through the process I’ve shared with you, encouraging him to keep selling what he had already built. He planned his next launch and it ended up being bigger than any other launch he’s ever had.

He was made a believer. And I hope you are, too. The secret to a successful product launch isn’t just about the product. That’s a given. But good products, as Guy Kawasaki once told me, don’t sell themselves. You’ve got to launch them well.

When I was struggling to monetize my blog and figure out how to make a living off my email list, I decided to start listening to what all these smart people were telling me:

  • I reached out to people who could help my reach more people. Some became affiliates while others just helped spread the word.
  • I raised my prices, basically every time I did a new launch.
  • I leaned in and boldly promoted a product I was proud of.

And it all worked like a charm. Each launch, more people bought than the last time, and I made more money. But it wasn’t just the income (sure, it was nice to be making 10 times what I was making at my day job), but the satisfaction of knowing I was helping thousands of people was amazing.

It’s about the impact.

Taking the Next Step

So what does this look like for you? Here’s a recap of all of the above:

  1. Decide you want this.
  2. Commit to a plan and set a launch date.
  3. Build something awesome that you are proud to promote.
  4. Connect with people who will help extend your reach.
  5. Launch with scarcity, urgency, and awareness in mind, all the while building trust and delivering value along the way.

And watch the magic happen.

For more secrets to successful product launches, check out this page I put together just for Problogger readers.

Jeff Goins is an author, blogger, and entrepreneur who lives in Nashville. He loves helping writers and bloggers get the attention their messages deserve. Tweet at him @JeffGoins and get a free product launch resource here.

Never Too Soon: Using Your Blog to Generate Sales During the Holiday Season

Another holiday season is fast approaching, and that means websites are scrambling to ready killer campaigns (or have already launched them) that will generate North Pole-sized sales. For those fortunate enough to have a wealth of resources at their disposal, this will mean lavish advertising campaigns that will feature them prominently on the most highly-trafficked sites on the net.

Those with more moths in their digital wallet than Benjamins will need to rely on other assets, one of their most prized ones being their blog. While blogging and SEO have always been valuable tools in the online marketing arsenal, the paradigm is shifting, and quality content is now more important than ever.

There’s two reasons for that. On the one hand, Google’s search engine has evolved to put less emphasis on keywords and more of it on other aspects of a post’s content and quality. These changes will continue to happen as Google’s crusade for an unadulterated Internet only increases. And on the other hand, search engines and SEO are no longer the primary method to attract eyeballs in the first place. Instead, social media and social sharing have become a prominent means through which content is found and consumed.

That, more than anything else, is why quality is king. While search engines can still be tricked, real people can’t; or at least not quite so easily. Your blog post has to strike a chord with readers, a powerful chord; a “this post was so cool I just have to share it with my friends” chord.

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 11.59.00 am

At the same time, your post has to be a little self-promotional. It’s not entirely enough just to get people there, to read your post and depart. You need them to read your post, love it and share it themselves, but to also draw something from it and become interested in what you’re selling. That is a very difficult balancing act.

 

The Art of Sharing

 

 Firstly, you need to understand what content is being shared. Contrary to popular opinion about the attention spans of the internet hordes, long-form content is shared far more often than short-form. In fact, the longer and longer it gets, the more likely it becomes that it will be shared. Sharers clearly respect the effort put into longer pieces, and that effort is finally being rewarded by the internet.

 

Meanwhile, on the emotion front, readers tend to share awe-inspiring or humorous posts more than anything else. 46% of all shared posts were deemed to be either humorous, joyous, or amusing, and 25% awe-inspiring, according to a study conducted by OkDork. People want to share pleasing content, not something that will bring their friends down.

 

The easiest of those emotions to hit is probably humor. While it’s hard to inspire awe or joy in some subject matter, you can always sneak humor in (like I could put something funny in this bracket right here if I wasn’t so lazy; don’t be lazy!).

 

Tying it All Together With a Pretty Bow

 

In the end though, it all needs to tie-in with your product(s), encouraging your now-joyous readers to either look into other information on your website, return later for more information, or head straight to your checkout so your online payment processor (and hopefully you have a good one that won’t butcher that final, crucial step and will also be cost-effective for you) can rack up another sale for you. All of these are crucial to succeeding in an online sale. Your blog content can drive them there, but your inefficient and non- user-friendly shopping cart can drive them away just as quickly.

 

The content needs to be engaging, but also self-promotional. In this sense, your blog post should almost borderline on a sales letter masquerading as shareable content with a catchy title, a very personable (and personal) feel, and laden with humor. It should skillfully extol the virtues of your product or service in a way that feels fun and non-aggressive. Finding something shareable to talk about in your industry should be quite simple to not only come across, but to write about in an educated manner. After all, you are an expert in your industry, and your customers will surely think of you as such should you deliver consistently as both a content provider and retailer.

 

One possible way to pull this off is to compare your product to another comparable one, but not a direct competitor. Say you’re selling a motorized skateboard, instead of trying to attack other products in that niche, take a shot at regular skateboards instead with your blog post “5 Reasons Why Pushing a Skateboard with Your Foot is soooo 1990’s”.

 

You’ve just created an article concept with the potential to be a fun, viral success, while innocuously touting your own product and generating interest and potential sales for it. Congratulations. Now get to it; these blog posts (and the jokes in their brackets) don’t write themselves. Good luck!

 

Owen Andrew is a tech journalist and Apple enthusiast. When he’s not writing or drooling over the latest Apple announcement, he’s usually hanging with his kids and doing family activities. Feel free to give him a shout on G+ or Facebook

How Much to Charge for Sponsored Content – is This a Question You’ve Ever Asked Yourself?

For new (and even established bloggers) there’s a cloud of mystery in the Australian blogging industry around setting advertising rates. As the community manager for Blogger Connect, one question I get asked a lot is: “how many unique views do I need before I start advertising?”. Secondly, it’s: “how much do I charge?”. With no real industry standard, it is also a question asked around the world. On the flip side,  in this industry with no established guidelines, are brands just as much in the dark?

It’s not as cut and dry as looking at website and social media traffic to determine how much to charge. A blog that has 20,000 unique views per month doesn’t necessarily trump a blog that has 10,000 unique views. The blog with 10,000 UV may have a more engaged audience than the blog with 20,000 UV, which makes it a much better value proposition for the advertiser.

But are brands on the same page? Do they consider engagement rates in conjunction with unique views, or are they all about the numbers? Are bloggers respecting their worth, and are brands prepared to pay?

It’s these types of questions that led us to launch a poll on Blogger Connect to give bloggers more confidence in setting their rates, and brands insight into what bloggers are worth.

We polled both bloggers and PRs/brands about unique views, advertising rates and engagement levels, and the results to date are surprising.

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 4.37.26 PM

 

We asked bloggers how many unique views they had before they started advertising, and brands what the minimum unique views a blog needs before they will advertise with them. We also included an option for brands to indicate they don’t consider unique views at all when choosing which bloggers to advertise with.

In another question, we asked brands whether they consider engagement levels in conjunction with unique views when reviewing a blog, and 79% have responded with yes.

These results are heartening. At Blogger Connect we educate brands to not exclude the ‘little guys’ because smaller blogs with highly engaged audiences are of high value to their advertising mix.

Not only are brands indicating they are reviewing engagement levels of blogs (not just vanity metrics), 60% are willing to work with blogs who have unique views from 1000 to 3000. Brands are valuing smaller bloggers who have engaged audiences.

However, 45% bloggers believe they need from 3000 to 5000+ to start advertising.

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 3.24.59 PM

Now to the nitty gritty. As a benchmark, we asked bloggers if they had 5000 unique views, how much they would charge for a sponsored post. Equally we asked brands what the most they would be prepared to pay for a sponsored post with 5000 unique views.

Only 17% of bloggers would charge $300+, whilst 57% of brands are prepared to pay this. 32% of bloggers charge between $200 and $300, with only 9% of brands indicating they would pay that as a maximum. 51% of bloggers are charging less than $200, whilst 33% of brands are only willing to pay this much.

Key Takeaways for Bloggers

The poll results to date indicate brands have engagement levels on their radar, and it’s not just all about unique views. They are willing to work with smaller bloggers, and if you have an engaged audience, you may not need as many unique views as you think you do before you consider advertising.

Highlight your engagement levels in your media kit, and take them into consideration when setting your rates. Comments on blog posts used to be the holy grail of measuring a blogs engagement, but many communities are gathering around their social media platforms.

Whilst comments are still definitely worthwhile including, some additional ways to showcase your engagement levels are to include interaction levels on your social media platforms (i.e. ‘talking about this’ from your Facebook page), and page views (in conjunction with your unique views) and time on site from Google Analytics.

If you’d like to help to continue to bring clarity to the blogging industry, click here to have your say in the Blogger Connect Industry Poll.

Gaynor was a blogger for 5 years, and is now the community manager for Blogger Connect. She is dedicated to supporting bloggers to reach their full potential, educating brands on the growing power bloggers have with consumers, and setting industry standards for commercial blogger outreach.

Gaynor is also a social media and blogger outreach consultant, and social media course presenter for NET:101. She advocates social media as a means for organisations to establish strong communities around their brand, enabling direct engagement and long-term loyalty.

It’s been 2 Years Since I’ve Seen A Blog Training Program This Good

EBA FB Graphic 2

It has been almost two years since I’ve found training for bloggers that I’ve considered good enough to promote as an affiliate.

I’m very fussy with who and what I promote (because there is so much hype and dubious practice in this space) but today have a recommendation for an authentic and valuable program that I know will help many ProBlogger readers.

The Short Story

The Elite Blog Academy is one of the most comprehensive blogging courses I’ve ever come across – and it’s available to enrol in with an early bird offer for just over 48 hours with the coupon code EBASAVE50 (which saves you $50).

Check it out here

The Longer Story

Ruth-Profile-2013-Rounded-735x1024Earlier this year after running a ProBlogger Training day in Portland I had opportunity to grab a coffee with Ruth Soukup. 

Ruth shared with me the story of starting her blog Living Well Spending Less in 2010. Like us all she made her share of mistakes but persisted with it and struggled on and four years later has built a blog with over a million visitors a month that generates her a full time income.

I was really impressed with both Ruth’s success but also the clear and strategic she applied to her blogging.

Numerous times as she spoke I wanted to take notes as she’d been experimenting with techniques I’d not come across before – particularly around Pinterest and social media.

At the end of her story I remember thinking ‘I wish we could bottle what you’ve done and share it with ProBlogger readers’.

No sooner than I’d thought this Ruth slid across the table a white folder with an outline for her Elite Blog Academy course. Yep – she’d bottled it!

The Elite Blog Academy: Enrolments Close in 48 Hours

Ruth’s Elite Blog Academy is literally her stepping you through her process for building a profitable blog in 12 wonderfully crafted lessons. You can learn more about it here (but use the coupon code EBASAVE50 to save $50).

The course is delivered through 12 fantastic videos, 12 very detailed workbooks, 16 helpful handouts, 30 assignments, a series of 4 live webinars with Ruth an a private Facebook Group where you can interact with Ruth and other attendees.

This course is practical and actionable. Really meaty stuff.

Update: if you’d like to hear what others are saying about it, check out this post I did on Facebook where a couple of ProBlogger readers have already chimed in with their experiences of previously signing up to Ruth’s Academy.

This course is not designed for the faint of heart – it requires work (as does successful blogging) and a willingness to really buckle down. That said, for those who are willing to do the work, it also comes with a 200% money-back guarantee.

Anyone who completes the course and has not seen measurable results in both traffic and income growth will get double your money back, no questions asked. That’s a pretty incredible promise, but it means that you’ve literally got nothing to lose. 

If you are ready to finally take your blog to the next level, sign up now to secure your spot here

Don’t forget to use the coupon code EBASAVE50 – it’ll save you $50 at check out. The code expires and enrolments close at midnight US Eastern time on 30 September in just over 48 hours.

PS: as stated above – I am an affiliate for this product but do so having checked it out and genuinely recommending Ruth it’s creator and the program itself.

Update: What to Expect

A few people have been asking for more information on what’s in the units. Here’s what I just shared over on Facebook to give you some insight into what to expect:

1. Start with Awesome – Learn the secret to successful blogging and master the 3 steps to starting with awesome. Understand what makes YOUR blog unique (and therefore marketable), and create the framework for a powerful platform that gets results.

2. Content is King – Discover why the key to a successful, popular, and profitable blog starts with amazing content, master the four essential strategies for creating content that rocks, and learn exactly how to FOCUS™—the secret to creating a killer blog post every single time.

3. Presentation is Everything – Uncover the three visual areas every blogger must focus on in order to be successful and learn not only why Pinterest is the most powerful marketing tool ever created,
and how to harness that power through creating the Perfect Pin™.

4. Grow Your Platform – Learn how to increase, diversify, and stabilize your platform through eight proven strategic growth strategies. Develop the confidence to promote your core message with an authority that draws people in, master field-tested techniques for networking and collaboration, find out exactly how to grow your subscriber list, and discover why good SEO really isn’t as complicated as everyone makes it out to be.

5. Social Media & Viral Growth – Uncover the mysteries of capturing and retaining viral blog traffic through social media and learn to determine which social media platforms are most valuable for your own audience. Find out the ten crucial steps to take if your blog post goes viral, then create comprehensive marketing plans for both Facebook and Pinterest in order to develop a cohesive social media strategy that gets results.

After that it gets more into monetising through ad networks, affiliate sales, private advertising and creating products.

Lastly it gets into working smart/efficiently and being strategic to grow your business.

How to Craft a Blog that Attracts Customers and Converts Like Crazy

This is a guest contribution from entrepreneur Natalie Sisson.

So, you want to turn your blog into an online business?

Congratulations, so does every other person with wifi.

Now, I don’t mean to to bust your buns right off the get go, but if I’m being honest (and I always am!) then you need to know one thing:

A blog that doesn’t make money is a hobby, and a hobby is not a business.

The truth is, many of us don’t know what we’re doing when we’re first starting out online. Learning how to create a website, identify your ideal customer and convert them into sales will be a process, one that I am here to help you with though.

First things first; when you think of your website does it make you proud? If you are uncomfortable sharing your url with friends and family because it looks horrendous, then chances are your audience will be thinking the same thing.

Have you ever heard the theory that when shopping, if you hold an item for 10 seconds or longer you are more likely to buy? Well, the same principle goes for websites, but you have far less time to convert them – you have four seconds, to be exact.

A lot can happen in four seconds, which is why you need to make the most of it. If your viewer can’t find what they’re looking for, then they will surely go elsewhere. So how do you grab their attention and keep them on your site? It all starts by building a connection.

Every great relationship revolves around feeling a fundamental connection between two people. In this case, you need to build the foundation between your website and your audience. One of the best ways you can do this is to ask yourself what the primary goal of your website is.

Since your website is a platform to introduce yourself and your products to the world, knowing exactly what you mean to sell or achieve from having the site will help you target the ideal target audience.

The easiest way to convey this message is by creating a crisp, clear homepage. Your homepage is basically a landing page for any and all visitors. It will be the first thing they see, so capture them in those four quick seconds.

A few key tricks for ensuring a stellar home page is to:

  • Choose a clear web design – the more hectic your layout, the more likely your visitor will bounce
  • When asking your audience to opt-in to a free mailing list or free download, create one simple, to-the-point call to action
  • No one likes getting lost, so make navigating your site simple. Have a clear menu at the top so visitors can easily find their way around
  • Selling a product or service? Make it evident on the homepage. The harder they have to look for it, the more likely they will go to your competition
  • Outline what it is you’re all about. I’m not talking a novel, but one clear paragraph about who you are, what you stand for and what you’re offering

Now, to really start converting your audience you’re going to want to check off these next five steps from your to-do list.

1. Determine what it is you are selling

What do you feel jazzed about making money from? Whether it’s a product or a service you are are going to want to make this particular item forefront on your homepage.

Many people make the mistake of offering several different service on their homepage and it only confuses their visitor. For example, if you really wanted to sell business coaching, but offered website design coaching and business coaching on your homepage, how would they know which to choose?

Besides the fact that these two products sound beyond similar, why would you offer something you aren’t keen on doing yourself? Take away the option by simply promoting one service on you homepage.

2. Keep it clean

Some people just don’t know when to call it quits when it comes to web design. If you’ve ever happened across a site that seems to be hoarding widgets, images, links and more, then you know how unappealing and distracting that is to the eye.

Too much distraction will confuse and deter your visitor from becoming a sale. So here’s what you should do:
Remove any external links from your homepage that take them off your site
Choose social widgets that allow them to like your content without leaving your site
Avoid flashy text or image that takes their attention away from the product you want them to purchase

Are you starting to see a pattern here?

3. Implement a sales funnel

Your sales funnel should start on your homepage. That little chunk of screen you see when you land (referred to as ‘above the fold’) there should contain everything you need to compel your visitor to buy what you are selling.

Using your best copy, image, video or what-have-you to convey the many benefits of your product should all be visible here. To further resonate with your audience, feel free to direct them to your About page so they can get to know you and strengthen your bond together.

4. Make buying simple

You may have convinced them to buy, but if you make it difficult to pay that is a surefire way to lose a sale.

The easiest way to rectify this situation is to have a “buy now” option on your landing page; and be sure to make them feel safe when buying from you. To do that make sure you use and advertise a secure shopping cart option, like Paypal. A money back guarantee always helps solidify the sale as well.

5. Make sure your new landing page is working

I have no doubt that if you managed to follow the first four steps you will have created one heck of a landing page. Now that it’s there, it’s time to find out if it’s converting, which is where analytics comes in.

  • Set yourself up with a free Google Analytics account and add in the tracking code to your website. Every few weeks head back to that analytics dashboard and see:
  • How many unique (read, first time) monthly users are visiting your site
  • Where they are coming from, aka. traffic source
  • Your average bounce rate – how long they stay on your site before leaving
  • Which page exactly your visitors tend to exit your website from the most – visitor exit

You don’t need to be a geek to be able to read this data. For example, if you’re traffic is mainly mobile then make sure that you are using a mobile-optimized web theme. On the other hand, if your visitors continually exit on your product sales page, it’s time to think about doing a redesign.

With these five strategies, there is no doubt in my mind that you will be able to turn your current website into a cash converting sales machine.

Now tell me; what is the biggest change you need to make to your website after learning these steps? Share your thoughts and progress in the comment section.

Natalie Sisson is a Kiwi entrepreneur and adventurer who shares creative ways to run a business from anywhere. To start your very own lifestyle online business be sure to check out her new program, The Freedom Plan. And don’t be shy, – drop her a line on Twitter or Facebook.

Stop Writing for Free and Launch Your Own Profitable Blog

You’ve spent countless hours crafting article after article. Your articles have generated thousands of page views. You feel pretty successful in terms of exposure, but large media companies are not knocking down your door to hire you. That paying gig you have been dreaming of still seems just as far away as it always has. Your writing hasn’t earned you a dime, and your exposure hasn’t done anything but bring you momentary comfort. Sound familiar?

There has been a long-raging debating about the merits of writing for free. Some have spoken out heavily in opposition of doing so, saying it devalues the writer’s work. Others have supported it on the condition that the writer is either getting somewhere or is comfortable writing as nothing more than a hobby. In reality, a writer must make the decision that best fits her circumstances. Does she have time to write for free in addition to her paying job? Does she have a clear goal in mind and a path toward a full-time, or part-time employment in the writing field? These are all tough questions, but the decision to write is often one made from passion as opposed to logic. Passion is funny like that, driving us to do things that often don’t make sense.

There’s a way to have the best of both worlds, though. While there is no shortage of sites that will give a blogger the potential for exposure, not many offer pay. Even if some do offer pay, the money is insignificant. The allure of being read is strong, but writers can get the same (or similar) exposure while generating far more income. All they have to do is launch their own site.

Simple, right? Set up an account with Blogger or WordPress, throw up some ads, and start making some money. Not quite. Launching a blog, whether it be in sports, fashion, technology, or any field is difficult. You have to have a clear understanding of the market, of the steps necessary for success, and of the resources at your disposal. In my guide to launching a profitable sports blog, the focus is clearly on sports, but the steps to go from unpaid writer to founder of a site generating a profit can be applied for just about any other topic.

To see the traffic and the success necessary to justify launching your own site, you’ll need to focus on a few key areas:

  • Content Quality
  • Costs
  • Promotion
  • Quantity

Each area, if handled properly will ultimately lead to a blog that generates enough traffic to make a good amount of money. The sites I launched using these strategies have generated thousands of dollars. So, let’s get into it.

Content Quality

The most common pitfall in blogging is poor quality. For some reason, this is overlooked by those just starting out. It may be the rush to get thoughts out in the form of a blog, or it could be a lack of education in proper grammar and style, or it could be any number of things driving the quality of the content down the drain. If that’s happening with your blog, you’ll never build up a traffic base that will sustain any sort of revenue stream. Focus on quality first.

You can do so by taking your time. Read your articles out loud. Have others read them. Read them again yourself. Only after multiple reviews should you hit the publish button. But what if you don’t feel like you have the writing background or skills to ensure top-notch quality. Don’t worry, there are plenty of resources at your disposal. Some will cost you a bit of money (like Coursera’s class on Crafting Effective Writers), but others are completely free (a Google search will yield plenty of free results). If you struggle with your writing quality but want to run an effective blog, you should seriously consider classes. The improvement in your writing will pay dividends in the long run.

When you are launching your blog, trying to attract readers, and trying to get people to share your content, the quality of your blog will set you apart. Invest in that quality, and you won’t be disappointed. Ignore quality, and you’ll be just like the vast majority of blogs out there – ignored.

Costs

Blogging can be very inexpensive, but the costs can rack up fast depending on what you’re looking for. The most likely cost you will incur is hosting. If you use Blogger, you will not have to worry about hosting. All you’ll pay is your domain registration costs. Those are generally inconsequential. However, if you decide to use a content management system (CMS) that requires you to pay for third party hosting – WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla are good examples – you’ll want to make sure you monitor your costs closely.

Hosting providers will generally offer three types of hosting; Shared Hosting, Virtual Private Servers, and Dedicated Servers. Each comes with an increasing monthly cost. Let’s start with Shared Hosting.

Shared Hosting simply means you will be sharing a server with numerous other websites. If your blog is not attracting a ton of traffic this should be a perfectly acceptable option. In fact, if you are just launching, I highly recommend starting with a Shared Hosting plan. If you end up needing to upgrade, that should be easy. However, if you spend more money up front, you can never get back those wasted expenses.

A Virtual Private Server is similar to Shared Hosting in the fact that you will still be using the same server that other websites are using. However, unlike Shared Hosting, your site will be given a partitioned section of that server which helps improve performance. That improved performance means your blog can handle more traffic and will likely be more secure. This service will come with a steeper cost than Shared Hosting, so upgrade wisely.

A Dedicated Server should only be considered once your blog has reached the big time. If you are doing millions of unique visitors per month, you may need to look into a Dedicated Server. This set-up is exactly as it sounds. Your site will have its own server to itself. No sharing, no partitioning just to get a little privacy. A Dedicated Server will also offer the most security since you won’t be as vulnerable to attacks on other websites that may share a server with the other plans. The cost for a Dedicated Server is hefty, so make sure you truly need it before going this route.

Managing the costs of hosting is just one part of managing your blog’s overall costs. Running your site should be inexpensive, but you can gradually scale spending up as you’re generating more and more revenue. I would not recommend immediately going out and paying for advertising on social media or any other channel. Keep costs down to improve profits early. Reinvests those profits for future expenditures.

Promotion

Speaking of future expenditures, you may want to spend a little money on promoting your site once you’ve laid the early groundwork. While Google AdWords is the go-to method for advertising other types of websites, your site will be generating revenue from ads. Spending money on normal pay per click advertising just to generate traffic that may or may not stick doesn’t make much sense. If you decide to spend money on promotion, social media advertising may be your best option.

With the sites I launched, Twitter was my best friend. Twitter referral traffic often ranked in the top-three of all traffic sources. It can be difficult to build a following, but it’s possible to do so without spending money. First though, I’ll explain the paid route. By paying for promotion on Twitter (or Facebook for that matter), your site’s account will show up in the feeds of those who do not follow you. This can generate some quick follows, and those follows are likely to stick. However, beware of non-Twitter services. There are sites out there offering to get you thousands of followers for just a few dollars. Those followers will be robots and they will do nothing to help drive traffic to your site.

If you decide not to spend money on social media advertising, that’s perfectly fine. You can do so pretty easily with Twitter. In order to build a following without spending money, you’ll have to give up the notion of “being cool” on Twitter. If you look at most brands and plenty of individuals, they will have thousands of followers but will be following very few. Don’t worry about being cool. Connect with your potential readers. Follow back anyone who follows you. Seek out those who might be interested in your content, and follow them. Most people are willing to follow back, but be careful how often you do it. Twitter has a policy against “aggressive” following. They don’t explicitly define this, but if you are not following hundreds of people per day, you should be fine. This process takes commitment, and it takes time, but it pays off. The Twitter accounts for the sites I launched now have over 70,000 followers combined. That was the result of almost exclusively non-paid promotion.

You want real, engaged followers. You want those followers to click on links to your articles. Use a service like TwitterFeed or Dlvr.it or something similar to automatically post your content to Twitter as soon as you publish. If you build up a solid following and automate the delivery of your article links to your social media profiles, you’ll see social media suddenly become one of your top traffic referral sources.

While social media traffic is a great source of readers for your site, it’s not the only option. Perhaps the topic you’re covering has a network you can join. For example, in the sports blogging world there are networks like Bloguin and Yardbarker. By joining, you carry some of their approved ads and split revenue with them, but you more than make up for the revenue split with increased traffic viewing your non-network ads (think Google AdSense ads). If your topic of interest does not have a network like this, fear not. You can network on your own. Reach out to similar sites. Share links, offer to share their links, build a connection. While it all seems minute initially, these types of connections build up over time.

Finally, running contests and forging partnerships is a great way to promote your site and see an increase in traffic. With the sports sites I launched, I reached out to other sites who were not direct competitors that I knew I could drive traffic to. We arranged simple link deals where I would put a call to action at the end of each article sending traffic their way, and they would either do the same or promote my site on social media. Contests worked even better, though. If you can afford the cost of a giveaway prize, you’ll be amazed at how much interaction you’ll get with a giveaway. Make those who want to participate share your site’s link, follow you on Twitter or Facebook or do something else that helps build a long-term following. Then, you can randomly select a winner. As long as it’s fair, people will love it, and you’ll see a spike in traffic.

Quantity

We already discussed the importance of quality, but another driving force for your blog’s traffic will be quantity. Quality is far more important that quantity, but the amount of content you produce can usually be directly correlated to the volume of traffic your site sees on a daily basis. The articles all still need to be of a high quality, but you should strive to produce as much content as you possibly can.

Think of it this way, if each article maxes out at 500 views and you produce one article per day. That equates to 182,500 page views in a year. If you double that production to two articles per day, you might see a leap to 365,000 page views in a year. What happens if you produce 10 articles per day or more?

10 per day = 1,825,000 page views in a year

15 per day = 2,737,500 page views in a year

20 per day = 3,650,000 page views in a year

Obviously, there is no guaranteeing you’ll hit 500 views or more for each article, but it seems like a reasonable goal, doesn’t it? When you break it down by views per article, you can focus at a granular level that should help keep you motivated. But wait, you can’t possibly write that much, can you? It depends on the topic you are covering. If each of your articles is a 2,000 word in-depth analysis of something, you’re probably not going to hit 20 articles per day no matter how much help you have. However, if your articles are more quick-hit, you can certainly recruit a staff of writers to help you and easily hit 20 articles per day.

With my sites, we routinely hit 20 to 30 articles per day. It wasn’t always like that, of course. My co-founder and I were originally the only ones writing. We didn’t want to recruit a staff until we could pay them something. We were able to pump out quite a few articles per day, but it wasn’t until we brought on additional writers that we started really producing a lot.

If you choose to bring on a staff, just keep in mind the reason you started this blog in the first place. You were tired of writing for free. Don’t make your writers writer for free. Even if you can’t pay them much, pay them. It will help you build long-lasting relationships, and you’ll be able to bring on quality writers that will help you maintain the quality you worked so hard to enforce early on.

Conclusion

Launching a blog is easy. Launching a profitable blog is hard. If you follow the guidelines above, you won’t be guaranteed success, but you’ll certainly have a leg up on most other people launching new blogs in the area in which you’ll be focusing. The key to making sure your site is profitable is making sure you dedicate yourself. This is not going to be passive income. You’ll have to write, promote, recruit, promote, write some more, and hustle all around. If you do, you’ll love the results.

 

Justin Hunter co-founded Sports Injury Alert and Sports Rumor Alert. He is also co-authoring The Guide to Launching a Profitable Sports Blog. If you enjoyed this article, the guide will provide far more information and go into far more detail.

 

What You Need to Know About Your Stats if You Want to Work With Brands on Your Blog

This is a guest contribution from Louisa Claire of Brand Meets Blog, a blogger outreach agency marrying brands with the bloggers who want to work with them. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by last week’s Partnering with Brands theme week, this might give you just the inspiration you need…

When bloggers start working with brands they tend to be full of excitement about the opportunities that come with it. 

One of the biggest challenges for businesses is how to determine the ROI (return on investment) with bloggers. For every dollar they spend on marketing their business, they are looking for a corresponding return. Sometimes this comes in awareness and they will measure it based on reach only, other times they are tying it to sales. To work out the ROI they look at how many people they reached through blogging and compare that number and the cost involved with how many people they would have reached through traditional advertising or PR activity. We are also increasingly seeing agencies also compare potential blogger reach with how many people they could reach via targeted Facebook advertising. 

The whole way it works is complicated and, to be honest, a bit nonsensical because unlike with traditional media where you can know how many people bought the publication but not how many people actually read the bit about your business, you can measure exactly how many people clicked on a link about your post, how long they spent reading that post and what they did after they read it (comments, clicked away, clicked on a link to the business etc…). And of course, with bloggers brands are not just getting eyeballs on them, but a personal introduction through a trusted voice.

Unfortunately many bloggers have bought into this idea that what matters most is the number of hits your blog gets. The holy grail of blogging is more people looking at your site today, than yesterday and seeing that number going up and up and up.

What I would like to suggest is that bloggers who want to experience success working with brands and earn a solid income from it, need to focus not on having the most people visiting their site, but the most relevant and interested people reading. If you can begin to understand where your readers and visitors come from, what they do when they come to their site and what that means about their interests then you can ensure you work with brands that fit not only with your own interests, but with those of your readers. Of course, having this information isn’t just useful when working with brands, it actually gives you great insight into what is and isn’t resonating with your readership generally – golden!

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The impact of search

The amount of search traffic your blog gets from places like Google and Pinterest has the potential to significantly impact how you understand the nature of your blog readership and the influence your blog has. I think this is a big one given the recent rise of highly searchable industries like health and wellness, and of course, Pinterest. 

If you blog regularly about things such as a meal planning, recipes, birthday party ideas,  fitness, beauty etc… then you are most likely going to generate a solid amount of search traffic. Some bloggers might even find that a large percentage of their traffic is going to one specific post every day. 

Let’s look at some numbers to understand this: Let’s say your blog has 50,000 users per month but 25% of your traffic goes to the amazing recipe you wrote about pumpkin and lentil soup. A further 25% of your traffic is coming to other posts you’ve previously written meaning that though you have 50,000 users a month only 25,000 are truly likely to see the latest post that you have written – that post you wrote for a brand, for example.

Now let’s consider where those users are coming from – are they local to you or global? If you’re trying to appeal to brands and advertisers in your country then the geographic location of those users will be really important. 

Can you see how if you told a brand that you had 50,000 users that you might create a situation where the brand was disappointed by the results that came from working with you? If you had told them that you had 50,000 users overall but 20,000 that were relevant to them as a brand then they would have been able to go into the working relationship with you with appropriate expectations and likely have been delighted by the results.

There are a couple of other things you can take notice of that will give you the edge when working with brands.

Take the time to understand your Uniques vs Pageviews (or Users and Pageviews as they are now called in Google Analytics)

I think that bloggers are sometimes afraid of their stats – that they aren’t “good enough” or need to be presented in the best possible light in order to be appealing. It’s true that stats matter to brands, but it’s equally true that many brands understand that a bloggers true value is in the personal connection they have with their readers and they are open, even eager, to understand how working with bloggers can help them.

The key point to understand when looking at your stats is that if you look at your pageviews in isolation you will get a skewed (but probably attractive) picture of your blog traffic and if you look at the uniques you will get an equally skewed (and what might feel like a less exciting) picture. The truth is that these two numbers hold a lot of information in them when you look at them together.

I’ve previously written a more comprehensive overview on the issue of Unique Visitors vs Total Pageviews which will help anyone struggling to understand the significance of these two numbers being view together.

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Bounce Rates and Pages per Session

Bounces rates relate to how many people leave your site from the same page they landed on (ie they only look at the one post) and Pages per Session shows you the average number of pages that your readers look at when they visit your blog.

My experience tells me that bloggers with strong communities and influence have a high ratio of pageviews to users and sessions. That is people who visit their blog tend to look at a lot of posts while they are there – giving them a lower bounce rate and a higher page per sessions figure. If you’re not getting at least 2-3 pages per session on your blog right now then my suggestion would be to stop focussing on increasing your pageviews and start putting some energy into increasing this number – not just because you want to work with brands but because you want to form deeper relationships with your readers.

If you’ve spent the time getting a good understanding of how your uniques and total views per month work and what your bounce rate is then you’ll be able to give helpful information to brands that demonstrates your influence and value to them and I can tell you this, it will give you a great advantage when you start talking to potential brand partners. 

Partnering With Brands Theme Week: Putting it All Together and Getting Started

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You have decided to work with brands on your blog to create a little income. Congratulations! You’re joining hundreds of thousands of others doing that very thing, and more than likely having a great time doing so. You’ve read all the advice, and you’re keen to get started. Let’s put it all together and get the wheels in motion.

Step One:

Just like we discussed in the post about media kits, get your ducks in a row. So that means knowing what you and your blog stand for, what you’re comfortable monetising, and you’re in the right headspace to do so. It wouldn’t hurt to have a pretty slick About Me page, a page for potential sponsors and advertisers to find information (a “Work With Me” or “Advertise” or “Sponsor” page) and consistent branding across your social media channels. You can get a logo cheap as chips these days, and makes you look just that little bit more professional and ready for action.

Step Two:

Make a list of the brands you love and/or would wholeheartedly recommend to your readers. There will be times when you will be contacted by brands, but until that day comes, be proactive. Reach out to your favourites (remembering to make contact with people in charge of marketing, rather than generic email addresses or social media accounts, if you can) with your pitch and your media kit. You can specify what kinds of collaboration you’re interested in (Nikki discussed those here), or see what they have in mind. It’s always a good idea to go in with a few ideas of your own.

Step Three:

Reach out to brands, small businesses, or other bloggers and let them know you have advertising spaces available. Sweeten the deal with a 10% off if they sign up that month. Offer discounts for advertising packages (say, 15% off if they buy in three-month blocks), and let your newsletter subscribers (if you have them) and your social media followers know that you’re open for business. Maybe think about doing a swap deal with other bloggers so you both have some advertising spaces filled, which is always a good look. Re-read this post about what size ads work well, and where to put them. Have a look too and see if any of those ad networks would be useful to you (I know plenty of Australian bloggers who also use and recommend Passionfruit Ads), or go about installing Google AdSense to get your advertising off the ground.

Step Four:

Keep doing your thing. Write great posts from the heart. Participate in the blogger community. Be kind. Share your posts on your social media outlets. Share others’ posts. Chat to brands, and let them know when you’ve featured them. Get yourself on lists that are open to brands and PR reps looking for bloggers to work with. Enter competitions. Buy ads on other blogs. Stay true to yourself. Be passionate. Learn your craft. Value your reader. Blog like you don’t care about the money. Try not to get too caught up in the monetisation rat race. Remember why you started.

Step Five:

Once you have made the first forays into monetisation, by all means branch out. You might like to have a look at this post Darren wrote recently about how he makes his income (spoiler: it’s many different streams that roll into one river). The possibilities are pretty much endless.

Go! Do!