Blog Design for ROI, Rule 1: Prioritize the Opt-in Form

This guest post is by Gab Goldenberg, author of The Advanced SEO Book.

Are you writing phenomenal posts only to have your poor design fail you? Here’s how to fix that, with rules that will guide you whether you create a custom theme or just pick a theme and adapt it.

Today’s post is the first in a series on blog design for ROI.

Lots of articles give blog design rules or guidelines, but no one I’ve seen explains how these rules achieve your goals.

So let’s look at a business blogger’s possible ROI goals and how the design can help one achieve those goals:

  1. earning ad revenue
  2. earning revenue from selling your own products and services
  3. growing your email list, RSS + Facebook, or Twitter list (listed in decreasing order of value)
  4. building a community or audience—especially as reflected by comments, forum activity, etc.
  5. developing connections and networking.

Every blogger’s first goal should be developing repeat traffic from a loyal audience. Everything else—sales, links, social sharing, networking opportunities—is attainable from this.

In practical terms, the most direct way to achieve this is to blog regularly and to build an email list. Blog design can’t motivate you to write regularly, but it can maximize the number of people who subscribe to your newsletter.

Blog design for ROI rule #1: Prioritize the opt-in form above all

Q: How does your blog design help you build your list?

A: It makes the newsletter subscription call to action the most prominent element on any page, be it the homepage, an individual post page etc.

Sandra Niehaus of Closed-Loop-Marketing wrote an excellent guide to the factors of visual prominence (or “pop”), and I encourage you to read it.

Notably, Sandra highlights the following factors, which are within reach for every blogger to use.

  • location on the page
  • whitespace around an element
  • colour (saturation, hue and contrast).

Have a look at Derek Halpern’s Social Triggers. The design is brilliant with regards to building an email list. Here’s what an individual post page looks like:

Derek Halpern Home

Notice how besides the logo, the next most noticeable things are the email optin area and Derek’s face, followed by the title? Derek is making excellent use of both location, whitespace and color to draw attention to his opt-in box.

Even top marketers like Derek can improve, though.

If you look at the above screenshot, the email opt-in stands out—but it’s trying to shout over the logo and the further branding in the image box embedded in the post.

It’s easy to understand that Derek wants to brand himself and his blog as an expert source, but the large logo and face staring out are very distracting. Derek would likely increase his conversion rate by making the logo smaller and removing his face from the promotional box within his post.

What about branding? Branding is the result of relationships and getting your message out—two things which email does significantly better than a one-time view of a large logo and face.

So what lessons can we draw from Derek, on prioritizing our opt-in form in the blog design?

1. The ideal location to place your optin box is after the logo, before the content

This is the most prominent position you can place anything on the page, and since this is the call to action we care about, it fits here best. This is also why Google suggests placing AdSense ads there.

Failing this, you should still get it above the fold, and you can see that Derek did so at the very top of his sidebar. (Personally I’d love to see it integrated in the post’s upper right corner where his Insider box is, but that’s not always possible.)

2. Give the box plenty of breathing room

Note how it’s not squished between anything else? There’s also whitespace on the right and left margins, so this stands out even more.

3. Give it some colourThis way, it can contrast with the remainder of the page.

4. Make the rest of the page’s above-the-fold elements less prominent

Keep your logo small: look at Amazon’s for a good example of smart use of space. Also, avoid using a headshot above the fold, unless it’s integrated into your opt-in box.

Even this second point is debatable, as making the box too loud can make it physically hard for people to draw their eyes away from the opt-in to read your content. Or you could use a grayscale headshot in association with the author credits, or else resize the face image to be quite small.

The point is to be warily careful in using faces because they’re such a visually dominant element.

5. The spot before your comments is also a big draw visually, so put another opt-in form here

I attribute this prominence to people skipping down to the conclusion of a post to learn quickly what matters, as well as to being curious what others said and/or to see replies to their own comments.

Again, Derek does a good job with his placement, whitespace, and color contrast.

Derek's opt-in

So that was rule number 1: give the top spot in your visual hierarchy to your email list’s opt-in form.

I’d love if you could comment with other examples of bloggers whose designs do a very good job of persuading people to join their lists.

At this time over the next few weeks, I’ll share the other steps involved in designing your blog for ROI. To follow along, add ProbBlogger’s RSS feed to your reader!

Gab Goldenberg wrote The Advanced SEO Book – and you can get a free chapter here. Gab and Internet Marketing Ninjas, the folks behind the Blog Design for ROI series here on Problogger, are offering to mail you a free print copy of the Blog Design for ROI guide as a small book. Get your free copy from .

Courting Brands to Collaborate on Your Blog: A Complete Guide

This guest post is by Anshu of Blooms And Bugs.

You may have seen other bloggers working with different brands and wondered how they did it. You may have also considered if it was a good thing to emulate.

I’m a sewing blogger and in my one and half years of blogging, I have worked with several brands from the sewing industry. Here’s the why and how of finding the right brand for your blog, and developing a successful partnership with them. I found the process was not very different from finding a life partner.

Soul searching: Why are you doing this?

What are your motivations for finding a partner brand?

  1. To establish yourself as an authority in your niche: Being on website of a leading brand in your niche builds your status as an expert.
  2. Extra traffic: Some brands already have very popular blogs and forums. You could leverage their popularity by collaborating with them.
  3. Building back-links: Even the websites of relatively lesser-known brands generally have good Pagerank. When your website is mentioned there, that improves your reputation in Google’s eyes.
  4. To build a network in your niche: You may get introduced to other experts working for the brand. You may even get a chance to learn the tricks of the trade from them.
  5. To get free products: Most brands are more than willing to send their products to the bloggers they work with for review, give away, use in projects, and so on. You may even get  their products ahead of launch to play with and review.
  6. To get sponsored for trade shows, conferences, conventions etc.: There are some industry shows that are not open to the general public, yet the brands you are working with may sponsor you to attend them. Here is a great post by Kylie Ofiu on how to get sponsored for a conference.
  7. To make money: Some brands will pay you to generate a positive buzz around their products.
  8. To double-dip: This is important. Almost all brands allow you to post your content on your own website after certain time. This means that while you are writing for them, you are also generating content for your own blog. However, duplicate posts get penalized by Google, so you need to weigh that against leveraging your work twice.

Any and all of these are valid reasons to work with brands, but consider what you are looking for before you approach any company. Are you looking for more traffic? Then a company with a dormant blog or forum may not be the right fit. Do you want a paid assignment? Then the brands with popular blogs may not be right, because they may already be getting traction without paying bloggers.

So be sure you know what you want from the relationship before you look for a brand partner.

Take a look in the mirror before you head out

You are getting ready to approach some big names in your industry. Great! But are you looking your best?

  1. Collect your readership data, and any outstanding achievements you’ve made with your blog. Are you very popular on Facebook? Does your average reader spend half an hour on your website? Look at your stats and find the highlights.
  2. Prepare a reference page with some of your best posts. Is it something you would feel proud showing to a potential sponsor? If not, then you have more work to do before you approach a brand.
  3. Have you been featured by any reputed websites in your niche? Do you have a Featured page with those links? If not, then make one.
  4. Have you worked with another brand in the past? Do you have any feedback from them? Make sure you compile it nicely on a page that a potential partner could look at.

At the bar

I can’t help but remember the analogy given by Tom Ewer in his article, 5 Things Online Dating Can Teach Your About Networking for Blogging Success.

In the subheading “Going for the hotties,” he mentions how all the newbies head for the most popular person in their niche.

I would suggest approaching some lesser-known brands first and seeing how they respond to your offer of partnership. One exception to this is when a brand already has an active program for bloggers.

An example in my case was Moda Fabrics. I contacted them barely a few months into blogging, but they already had a very active program for bloggers, and I got accepted there right away.

To contact the brand you’ve chosen, you’ll want to first prepare the message you want to convey. Make sure you answer the most important questions for them in this message.

  • Why them? Without being sycophantic, mention the things you appreciate about them that made you get in touch. If you can’t find anything? Back off, delete the email and run away. That person brand is not right for you. Period.
  • Who are you and what do you want? Write briefly about your website and what you are proposing to offer them.
  • What is in it for them? What are you bringing to the table that a) they don’t have, b) they can’t get, and c) they can’t get from 13.29 million other bloggers in your niche? Are you willing to provide excellent content for their website, using their products? Are you willing to promote them using your blog? Are you going to shout from the rooftops how awesome they are? If so how often and when? Be concise, clear, and honest. And write the offer only if you can do all of that, and then some.
  • Why should they trust you? Highlight your best stats, add a link to your Featured page, and link to your best posts. Let your work speak for you.

Once you’ve prepared your message, find the brand’s Contact us page. Of course you can totally use it without worrying that your email will go unnoticed. I always use brands’ contact forms, and I always get a response.

Before you move in

So you heard back from the brand and they are as interested as you are. Before you hand them the key to your apartment and rent the truck, here are a few things you’ll want to have a mutual agreement and clarity on:

  • Who will do the dishes? Get a clear understanding of what you are getting (free supplies, products, backlinks, glowing introductions, promotion, etc.) and giving (content, promotion using your channels, etc.). Also, establish a time-line of what is expected when—even a rough guideline that you can both agree on will save a lot of headaches later on.
  • Who will look after the child and when? If you are a blogger collaborating with a brand, you will likely be generating some content for them. Get a clear understanding of who will publish it and when, and who will have the rights to it. If they publish it, do you get to republish it? How soon?
  • How possessive are they? Are they okay with your working with other brands?
  • What if you want to work with multiple brands at the same time? Think carefully about any potential conflicts of interest. If you are working in photography niche, working with both Cannon and Nikon at the same time may not look good for you.

    Also consider your time. If you want to write for multiple companies, commit only when you can do outstanding work for each of your partners. Remember too that all this work will eat into your time for your own blog. Make sure you’re able to keep your blog alive and healthy while you take up these extra assignments?

    Wow them!

    So you hashed out the details of partnership. You have to wow them from here on in, and show that you are a keeper.

    Deliver what you committed to—and then some. Deliver excellent content. Promote it the best you can, even if they didn’t ask for it—even if they are much more popular than you.

    When I wrote on Moda Bake Shop, my blog was fairly small and unknown. But I promoted my post to the best of my ability and brought it into the top five most-viewed pages on their website that month.

    Be generous too. If the brand has a new blog and you have some insights on specific things they can do to increase traffic, tell them (if they are receptive). If they are having an event on their website, mention it on your blog. I have even shipped some of my projects to partner companies when they needed help with trade shows and such.

    Finally, don’t forget the legal stuff. According to FTC policies, bloggers need to declare anything of monetary value that they received from a business. Make sure you do this so you don’t fall foul of the law.

    Parting ways

    All good things come to an end. Maybe you want to find newer opportunities, maybe they want to work with other bloggers. Whatever be the reason, try to bid adieu on good terms.

    1. Say your goodbyes in a note: Tell the partner how much you appreciated working with them. Also ask them to write you a letter of recommendation where they specifically mention how helpful you were and how well received your contributions were.
    2. Bring your stuff home: Unless specific arrangements are made otherwise, your content is your intellectual property. Give it rightful place on your website.
    3. Hang onto the memories: Put their feedback in your Featured page.

    So that was my experience of working with various partner brands. How about you? Have you partnered with any company in your niche? What was your experience? What are the pros and cons of working with them? Chime in with your experiences in the comments.

    Anshu blogs about sewing on Blooms And Bugs. It all started with a couple of dresses for her daughter…and just never stopped. Here is a list of the sewing tutorials she has written.

6 Practices to Overcome Your Fears of Playing Bigger

This guest post is by Tara Wagner of

Playing bigger. Putting yourself out there. What others will think? Not being good enough.

Most bloggers have had to face those fears at same point. Dreams and goals tend to bring up our ugly stories after all.

Being a life coach who works primarily with women looking to overcome fears, blocks, beliefs, and barriers is what I do. So of course I have an opinion on why it is our fears come up one step behind our dreams.

Because they need to.

They need to seen, heard, and dealt with. They need to be examined and released. Life will hear our desire to step up to the plate as a desire to step away from the dugout. “You want to play bigger? Good! Here’s the first thing you get to examine and let go of in order to do so.”

Our fear is not meant to be our saboteur. It’s just an emotion we’ve attached to the thoughts that go swirling through our head on overtime we go to hit that Publish button, or send out a tweet.

Digging deep to overcome that fear can be both a long, mindful process, or as fast and life-changing as a simple Aha! moment that forever changes the lens through which we see the world.

But if a client were to ask me which steps they most likely needed to take, here’s what I would say.

1. Surround yourself with the right systems of support

A big reason so many of us get freaked out at the perspective of blogging is because it’s new and probably mostly unheard of in our intimate circles.

Now I’m not knocking those intimate circles. We need those like we need water. But they serve a purpose of their own, and encouraging you to do something big and in a completely new arena is not likely the role they need to serve in your life.

By surrounding yourself with other bloggers (local meetups, online groups, tele-conferences circles with accountability partners), you’ll find more encouragement to match your fear and what looks a little crazy from the outside will begin to look natural and “what-was-there-to-be-afraid-of-again?”.

Get a coach, get a group, get a friend. Get support.

2. Don’t “push through fear.” Process through it

I loathe when I hear that term. It’s not that it’s always a big thing. I pushed through fear when I went cliff jumping. But this whole “Fear of Playing Bigger” thing isn’t over as soon as you hit the water.

Pushing through fear is like pushing a car through your first marathon. Exhausting, distracting, ridiculous. Stop pushing through it. Stop and address the damn car, so you can get on without it. Yes, it might come up again, but if you keep giving it the space to be heard and the space to process through the fear, you give it the space to heal.

How do you process through it?

Here are a few beginning tips.

3. Know what it is you’re really afraid of

It’s not “playing bigger” that you’re actually afraid of. It’s what “playing bigger” will mean: what you fear will happen, what you think someone might say or do, who you think that someone might be, and what all that might mean?

Right here I’m talking about our deepest core beliefs or fears—the stories we tell ourselves about Who We (or others) Are and what we’re capable of. The stories that keep us playing small in order to play it safe.

The best way to find your deepest core fear is to start with the scenario that’s freaking you out, and question it. Ask yourself why you’re really afraid of it, what you’re afraid might happen, and what that says or means.

This can take some time, and sometimes even support, so go back to #1 if you need to. But keep processing through it, because until you understand what your fear is really trying to save you from, you won’t be able to overcome it.

4. Test the validity of your fear

This is one exercise from my ebook, Digging Deep, on overcoming our barriers and fears by testing their validity. It doesn’t work in all scenarios, but it’s a powerful one to try. Why? Because nothing rewrites fear in the mind like experience to the contrary.

You’ll need to start out by knowing what you’re really afraid of (see #3), then you’ll need to create a scenario that tests it.

For instance, maybe you find you’re really afraid of ridicule from friends. One way to test that fear is to openly and authentically share your concerns and ask for feedback from those friends.

Or if you’re afraid of looking stupid, maybe you can purposefully go out and do something that makes you look ridiculous (think: giant rooster costume) and realize that the world neither crashes down around you, nor do most people even notice.

This isn’t about being rational. Because your fear likely isn’t very rational. This is about speaking to that irrational brain of yours, in terms it can understand: hard-core experiences to the contrary.

5. See those fears (or feedback) with compassion

This one is a hard practice, and I’m not gonna tell you it’s always one to practice. There are times when we don’t need to see the other side; times when we need to ignore the other side because it’s bi-polar and toxic and it’s probably a better bet to change our phone number than to try to empathize. (I’m talking about people who might not support you, but I’m also talking about those bipolar and toxic thoughts of yours too.)

Seeing the other side is about looking with empathy at what’s happening and trying to understand with compassion how it came to be this way, and the deeper needs that are trying to be heard and validated.

For example, a fear of “not being good enough” might be just an attempt to receive acceptance, something that we all need and deserve. Or for another example, the recent criticism of a parent for your career choice might actually be a need to know you will be secure.

I recommend this practice because it can be easy to get washed up in the fear, the drama, the criticism, the he-said/she-said, the messy stories and can we just say drama again? It’s easy to lose sight of what’s really happening beneath the crazy of what we’re thinking, saying, or doing.

But any time we drop beneath that, our path becomes clearer. Pretty soon we’re not wracked with self-doubt because our best friend said she didn’t think we could hack it; we have empathy for the fear or the hurt or the self-consciousness she may be experiencing.

Remember, seeing the other side is not about psycho-analyzing the other person, or even yourself. It’s about looking for love, with love. It’s about seeking understanding, instead of stoking the inferno of self-doubt.

6. Say what you need to say

This is a modified version of an exercise in Digging Deep, to help you have that conversation you’ve been needing to have in order to finally lay to bed the fear you’ve been experiencing.

This might be a letter to a hurtful loved one, to your younger self, or even to your own fear. Imagine yourself having a peaceful but firm conversation.

This likely also means you’ll need to see those fears (or the fears of someone else, perhaps) as in the last step. Send gratitude for the the good intentions of your fear, or the attempt to care for you from a loved one, then describe how it is that you’re okay, capable, ready for this.

You may give the fear your proof in the form of what you’ve been able to do, or how you’ll handle anything that comes up. You may even answer that nagging question of “Who the hell am I?” with an answer that starts something like, “I’ll tell you who I am…”

Take your time with this. Each time I’ve done this I’ve essentially had a four- or five-page “conversation” with my fear, letting it say everything it needed to say and calmly answering it with clear and confident choices. It sounds slightly ridiculous until you really let yourself fall into the exercise. Then you experience that weight lift off your shoulders.

Again, in all these exercises you’re looking to create mindfulness and understanding through acknowledgment and compassion.

Because understanding creates clarity in your choices or next steps, and clarity creates confidence. And confidence creates a wildly authentic, wildly unique, wildly successful blogger.

Tara Wagner offers lots more tools for overcoming self-doubt, fear, and other barriers to creating your own unconventional, authentic, and thriving lifestyle. You can find her and signup for her free e-course/toolkit to start thriving in your life and family (without the fear) at

How to Name Your Next Blog Product

This guest post is by Greg McFarlane of Control Your Cash.

Here are some sample products, most of them ebooks, that I recently saw available for sale and/or free download on some popular blogs:

  • “Ten Steps To A Better Golf Game”
  • “Creating Your Personal Life Plan”
  • “How To Make Money Online”
  • “23 Gluten-Free Recipes For You And Your Family”

Alright, I lied. I made up some of the titles, but I defy you to tell me which.

What do each of these titles have in common? Not much. Just dreariness of the first order, that’s all.

I’m repeatedly amazed at how so many bloggers can have scintillating information to share with their readers, and then, when it comes time to ask those readers to commit additional time and or money, opt for the uninspiring.

The act of buying your blog product involves minimal expenditure of your readers-cum-customers’ energy—just a few clicks are required. It takes almost no effort for them to buy. But it takes even less energy for them to ignore what you’re selling and move onto the next, flashier thing. So be that flashier thing.

Your product might have amazing and helpful content, but I’ll never know that if I can’t make it past a dull title that doesn’t compel me to buy.

Swap generic for specific

Take the first example above. If you’re a golfer, there isn’t a magazine, instructor, nor smug low-handicap playing partner on the planet who hasn’t offered to improve your game via one method or another. Of course your readers want to improve their game. That’s what golfers do! In fact, it’s all they do. Even Rory McIlroy would like to find a way to shave off a fraction of a stroke.

So here’s a blogger with a legitimate offer, presumably, yet he gave it as generic and unexciting a name as possible.

To create a worthwhile title, one that gets readers’ attention and compels them to act, you have to tailor it. Quantify. Be specific, not general. Swagger a little bit. Regarding our example, here are some ideas:

“Never 3-Putt Again”

The bane of the weekend player. Nothing’s more frustrating than sweetly swinging one’s way onto the green in regulation, only to end up bogeying. A title like this resonates with its audience, who can immediately empathize. Granted, it doesn’t say a word about wood and iron play, but being specific (obviously) requires you to omit certain stuff.

Or if that title doesn’t strike your fancy, how about:

“Don’t Toss Your Bag In The Ocean Just Yet”

Again, every golfing reader has been there and done (or certainly contemplated) that. “I was this close to selling my clubs on Craigslist and taking up pottery instead. But you’re saying I might not have to?”

Speak to your readers

This goes back to knowing your audience: what they want, what they’re visiting your blog for, why it matters to them. Gently persuading your blog’s visitors to maybe, if they’re not doing anything else, perhaps give serious consideration to possibly buying your products doesn’t work. It can’t. The volume of similar messages is just too overwhelming.

Like it or not, blog products are impulse items. Someone with an itch and a few shekels to spare sees what you’re selling and decides to buy. This isn’t as involved as shopping for a car or a house is.

My blog’s topic, personal finance, is more universal than golf. All of us, from the destitute university student to Gina Rinehart, would prefer more money to less. But if I wrote an ebook titled “Your Money-Making Action Plan”, my site’s online store would be covered with cobwebs.

Instead, I tried to err on the side of snappiness and provocation when naming the products I sell on my blog. They include:

Not to ruin the surprise endings for you—not that there are any, anyway—but “Your Boss Is Smart. You’re The Idiot” is about how to start your own business and, by extension, stop having your employer be the primary beneficiary of your toil.

Meanwhile, “The Unglamorous Secret to Riches” is about how to find underpriced stocks with the potential to appreciate. Which is done by the decidedly prosaic means of perusing financial statements: looking at balance sheets and their ilk with a critical and discerning eye. The activity itself is somewhat mundane, but on a per-hour basis it can pay handsome rewards.

Titles that touch a nerve

With the first title, I again empathize with readers, and touch a particularly sensitive nerve. Most of us have, or have had, bosses whose judgment we’ve questioned. We think, “I could do that easily. Why aren’t I in the corner office?” Well, here’s why. And maybe you don’t want to be in the corner office anyway. It just means that there’ll be one fewer level of management on top of you.

But if you start your own business—taking the necessary precautions beforehand, having the requisite capital available, and knowing which forms to fill out—you can enjoy the self-determination that you’re missing out on in your current and unfulfilling employee/employer relationship.

Titles that buck the trend

With the second title, I turn the idea of a “get rich quick” scheme on its head. Most of my personal finance blogging contemporaries also write for-profit products that ostensibly teach readers how to build wealth. But those bloggers seldom do more than tell those readers to clip coupons, hold yard sales, downsize their living quarters, etc.

Few bloggers in my realm tell their readers, “Here’s what to do with your savings. Forget about building an emergency fund. Instead, buy stocks. But not just any stocks, and not just well-publicized ones. And here’s the truth—there’s nothing exciting about the groundwork involved in doing this. It involves dry columns of numbers that you’ll have to decode the meaning of. But as boring as that sounds, if you want to make additional money, it beats the heck out of taking additional shifts at work. The excitement comes in the future, when the investments you bought (and that everyone else ignored) finally start to increase in value.”

Create a difference that sticks

With tens of thousands of blogs in existence, the tendency is toward homogeneity. Right now, without exaggeration, I could find you a thousand “mommy” blogs that all say essentially the same thing: here are some foods you should never feed your kids, here are some Halloween costume ideas, here are some unsubstantiated threats to children’s safety that I’d nevertheless like to blow out of proportion and share with you.

It’s hard enough to find a unique, singular voice in a crowded marketplace as it is. But by giving your products names that stick in your readers’ minds, you’re giving yourself a crucial point of differentiation.

Greg McFarlane is an advertising copywriter who lives in Las Vegas. He recently wrote Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense, a financial primer for people in their 20s and 30s who know nothing about money. You can buy the book here (physical) or here (Kindle) and reach Greg at [email protected].

Trial by Fire: a Beginner’s Attempt at a Product Launch

This guest post is by Ryan Derousseau of R.M.D. Media.

Unlike most bloggers who share their experience on ProBlogger, I haven’t quite seen the fruits of my labor turn ripe—yet. I only launched my blog on social media and media outreach a couple months ago. I’m a newbie to this whole blogging thing.

My decision to launch the blog fit well with my background, since I work as a journalist and a social media manager. But jumping into a blog of my own meant I had to do more than just write about my niche.

It involved truly marketing my own business, building readership (not just benefiting from a standard readership that I’m used to through the magazines I write for), and developing my brand. I think we all can relate here. It’s a move that has come with some trial and error.

In order to build this brand quickly, I wanted to develop an ebook and offer it for sale. “What better way to jump into the world of creating sales marketing copy and grow readership quickly?” was my thought.

Of course, this meant a bunch of reading and strategizing on how to ensure I had some following before launch, in order to help spread the word of my new product, The Insider’s Guide to PR.

I tried to do all the things that the experts tell you to do: join an affiliate network, find partners to help with promotion, guest post, write a sales page well in advance, and on and on. Along with those tools, I’ve tried some other endeavors—some from experts—that I launched or prepared prior to the ebook release, in order to see the effects I desired. I want to share some of those with you.

But this post isn’t about how effective these strategies were, as I’m not an expert at launching products (it’s my first one, remember). Instead, I’m sharing my experience, to help spark some ideas for you. Maybe this will lead to some other, better, ways to promote your product, which I overlooked.

Tactic 1: Leaking details of my ebook

When I was about a month out from launching my first online PDF, I started leaking tidbits from the book. I did this in order to build buzz and enthusiasm, but also to highlight my expertise, since I was a new blogger.

At first I began to leak ideas that are shared in the book. For example, I wrote a post on the types of media pitching campaigns that a consultant, independent business owner or entrepreneur could use to plan outreach. (This has actually become one of my more popular posts to date.)

These types of posts made for great content for the blog, provided knowledgeable “pillar material that I can use for months and years to come, and were easy to write since I had already developed the ideas in the ebook.

But I went further then that, as I began to have a clear launch date in mind. Once I did, any time I referenced something that would relate to my book, I began to say things like “And you can read more about this in my upcoming guide to PR.” That way, I encouraged the reader to check back, if they had interest in hearing more.

And it worked. About two weeks before my launch, I was at an event hosted by a client, and they asked me about the guide. That was exactly what I wanted to hear!

Tactic 2: Developing a product to encourage newsletter signups

If you’ve delved into building a newsletter list before, then you have heard this over and over again: “You have to offer them something!” So I listened to the shouting, and did.

In my Guide, there are free email templates for pitching the media. I took the ones for pitching guest posts, and turned that into a free offering in order to encourage signups. I then published a blog post announcing the new free offering, which I promoted heavily.

It’s still difficult to just do that and expect a ton of email newsletter signups. After all, if no one sees the post, how can they sign up?

So at launch, I decided to test the effectiveness of this strategy by earmarking a portion of my advertising budget for encouraging newsletter signups. Instead of pointing people to my product, these ads point them to the newsletter. Once they sign up, they receive a copy of my sales site, so they still learn about the book.

The issue with this tactic is that it’s leading to tons of clicks, but few sign ups. While I wish there were more, each one is very valuable, so it has been worth it. But moving forward, instead, I will offer the first chapter of my Guide to see if that entices more opt-ins.

Tactic 3: Offering consulting to encourage new clientele

One thing I wanted to try was to offer a consulting-like service prior to the ebook launch. This idea came from a partner I work with, and I thought it was so great that I put together the offering the day after our conversation.

Unfortunately, it proved ineffective at encouraging signups or promoting my ebook.

And looking back on this, it’s clear to see why. I put together the plan so quickly that I didn’t have time to promote the offering besides a blog post and some tweets (not enough!).

However, I do see the strategy working out now that I’ve launched. Because the service is in place, I don’t have to constantly promote it, but people who are on the site, and looking at possibly purchasing the ebook, can see that I also have this consulting service. They may prefer this service instead, or are simply comforted to see that I also consult. I’m not sure which, but I saw pageviews to my consulting page jump by a factor of eight in the week of launch, compared to the week prior.

That can only mean potential for success down the road. But it also means I can quickly change tactics after the book promotion dies down, to focus on consulting services. It gives me options—something you need at the early stages of a business.

Tactic 4: Sharing the guide free

One thing I did as soon as I launched the guide was send a free copy to anyone and everyone who helped me in some way prior to the launch. This includes partners, mentors, those that I reached out to in order to ask a question, my parents, and others.

I also told them to share the guide with anyone they liked. I did this because I’m not just looking for sales; I’m also looking for readers and newsletter signups.

By offering the guide to those who supported me the most, I provided them with content that they could use to further cheerlead my efforts. That could lead to a number of other opportunities down the road as well. And who knows who in their network can send my pageviews, and sales, flying?

What works for you?

While I’m sure I’ve missed steps in the process, these are the key tactics I tried before my first product launch.

I’d love to hear what you found effective—and what failed—as you launched your first product, second product, or 20th product. It’s a learning process, and there’s no better way than trial by fire. Still, might as well make that fire as dim as possible, right? Share your tactics with me in the comments.

Ryan Derousseau is Director of R.M.D. Media where he provides advice on media outreach and social media. And receive the first chapter of his new e-book by signing up for his newsletter here.

How to Make More Money Blogging, Stop Worrying About Advertising, and Get Back to Writing What You Love

This guest post is by Sophie Lizard of

I know your secret.

You’re spending too much time on your blog, and it’s starting to feel like hard work. Not only that, but your blog still isn’t making quite as much money as you’d like. Believe me: I’ve been right there with you.

Luckily, I got out. Now, I don’t waste time fiddling around with ad code and affiliate dashboards. I only check my traffic analytics if there’s a specific question I want to answer. And I make a good full-time income on part-time hours.

Want to know my secret?

I was on the wrong track, and so are you.

Most bloggers that make money at all will always wish to make a few dollars more. But a few dollars more isn’t worth hours more of your time, is it?

How to know when you’re wasting your time

If you’re labouring over a blog with few subscribers and low traffic, trying to scrape another half a percent on your affiliate conversion rate or posting three times a day to boost page views, you’re on the wrong track.

What you’ve got there isn’t passive income. It’s a blog-supported business, and it’s failing.

It’s failing because the time you’re putting in isn’t equalled by the money coming out. Monetizing is actually costing you money, in the form of time you could have spent on more effective revenue-generating tasks.

The point of blog monetization strategies is typically to make money in a way that keeps on scaling up as your traffic and engagement grow to mythic proportions… but what do you do if your blog hasn’t hit the big time?

Stop chasing scalability

Scalable is a buzzword. It means that your income can keep on growing, not limited by the hours in the day or your inability to be in two places at once.

Scalability goes right along with “set it and forget it” in the big bucket of ideas to stop chasing if they don’t apply to you. The scalability of a system doesn’t determine its growth; it only makes it more or less capable of handling growth.

A blog with few readers won’t make vast sums of money, regardless of its business model’s scalability. But there is an important scale to consider: your time-to-money ratio.

Your time and your income aren’t on the same scale right now.

That’s the only thing you need to focus on. How do you bring your income up to scale with the time you’re putting in?

Do what works, don’t do what doesn’t

Are your blog’s visitors frustratingly immune to advertising? Have you made a less-than-stellar income from your ad spaces and affiliate links? Then stop spending too much time on this income stream, and focus on something more effective.

Has frequent posting exhausted your mine of inspiration? Are you struggling to come up with fresh content ideas and new angles on old classics? Then stop wearing yourself out chasing traffic, and refocus on boosting quality instead of quantity.

I’m not saying that advertising, affiliate marketing or frequent posting are a bad idea. I’m saying that if they’re taking up your time without raking in money, then you need to rethink your strategy. Here are some suggestions that might work for you; they worked for me.

How to make more money

Selling your own products may be a more lucrative income stream than selling other people’s stuff. But then you’ll have to plan, create and launch each product, plus maintain the ongoing marketing that will keep the income stream moving in the long term. That’s a lot of time and effort for an unpredictable possibility of reward.

There’s a very simple way to increase your blogging income that doesn’t involve putting up more ads, publishing more often, or launching your own products. Sell a service instead. Sell freelance blogging.

In the last few years, I’ve earned a solid living part-time from my freelance blogging career. In fact, I know some famous bloggers who make more money from freelance blogging than they do from advertising or affiliate marketing.

These people have thousands of subscribers to their blogs. If their advertising income can’t compete with freelance blogging, then your ad income from your few hundred readers probably can’t compete either.

How to stop worrying about advertising

All this time you spend stressing about your blog’s monetization, tweaking ad widgets and affiliate link anchor text, obsessing over your stats, and checking your balance until it crawls past the minimum payment limit for your affiliate network… are you enjoying that? Because if you are, that’s all good—rock on.

If you’re not doing all that stuff for fun, though, I’ve got the best piece of advice you’ll ever hear: just stop it. Check your affiliate stats only once per month (or once per week, if you had a daily habit and really can’t quit cold turkey).

Unless you’re running tests, there’s no need to obsess over visitor clicks on your blog. Put your ads in place and then don’t touch them for at least 30 days. If you can’t resist analysing your stats to death at the end of the month, at least you’ll have a whole 30 days to analyse without multiple tweaks messing up your conclusions.

Now use all that time you’ve saved to write jaw-droppingly brilliant posts, for yourself and for other blogs.

How to get back to writing what you love

When you started blogging, what were your intentions? Did you want to be heard, to help people, to make money, or all of the above and then some? What were your first posts like?

Think about what you really love to write. Make a list of things you always wanted to blog about. It doesn’t matter whether you published a post on the topic or not, write it down.

Now think about what you love to read. Which blogs do you make a point of keeping up with? Which do you go to when you have a problem to solve? Add those blog topics to the same list.

This list is your passion plan. I want you to write at least one post on every single topic on that list. More than one, if you’re any good at finding multiple angles. Then pitch and sell your posts to paying blogs.

For advice on selling your posts, read more about freelance blogging here on ProBlogger and check out freelance writing and blogging sites like Make A Living Writing.

Use your blog as a portfolio

If you can’t sell one of your posts for a good fee, take on board any feedback you received from the editors you pitched to. Then publish each unsold post on your own blog and end it with a note that you’re a freelance blogger who enjoys writing on this topic and welcomes enquiries from potential clients.

Add a Hire Me page to your blog, too. Use it to explain what you blog about, what types of blogs you’d like to work with, where you can be contacted, and your rates.

Believe you can do it

You’d be amazed how many smart, eloquent bloggers I know who’ve chickened out before they got this far. Maybe you wouldn’t be amazed; maybe you’re one of them.

You could be making more money by blogging for other people, but the idea of pitching to an editor makes you so nervous you’ve never tried. Or, you pitched one idea to one blog and when it wasn’t accepted, you lost the confidence to try a second time.

Hey, it’s okay. We’re all nervous sometimes. But now you need to get off your digital behind and start making more money, right? So draw up your topic list, think of a few ideas that could make great blog posts, and email a few blogs to pitch them some of those ideas. Today.

That’s right, do it today. It doesn’t even matter if your topics are vague and your first queries aren’t perfect.

The important thing is that you’re doing it at all, and that puts you ahead of every other blogger who didn’t make the time. You can refine your pitching as you go along, but you’ll never have another chance to start right now.

You’re smart. You’re courageous. You’re exactly the kind of person a good blog needs. Now go out there and be a freelance blogger!

This guest post is by Sophie Lizard, a successful freelance blogger on a mission to help bloggers increase their income and authority by blogging for hire. To get you started making money as a freelance blogger, she’s giving away her insanely useful The Ultimate List of Better-Paid Blogging Gigs: 45 Blogs That Will Pay You $50 or More – download your free copy today!

5 Essential Elements of a Successful Self-published Book

This guest post is by Srinivas Rao of BlogcastFM.

Self-publishing is a hot trend.  People’s eyes are lit up by the possibility of actually making money from their content. But there’s more to it than throwing together a PDF, uploading it to Amazon, and waiting for a check to arrive in the mail. The most successful self published authors treat their books as if they’re working with a publisher.

While it’s easier than ever to publish something to Amazon, the low barrier to entry has flooded the Kindle store with less than stellar content. Much like the blogosphere, only the best rise to the top, while the rest get lost in a sea of noise.

After many conversations with several successful self-published authors, we’ve narrowed their advice down to 5 essential elements.

1. Content

It might seem obvious, but good content is the foundation for a good book, much like it is for a successful blog. You could execute the mechanics of self-publishing to perfection, but if the content falls short it doesn’t matter.

2. Editing

The fact that you’ve self-published is already a strike against you in the eyes of the average reader.  Many of the self-published books on Amazon are poorly edited—if they’re edited at all. If you’re serious about the success of your self-published book, you can’t put a price on a good editor. Good editing can make the difference between an average book and a great one.

3. Platform

You could write the greatest book in the world. But if there’s no audience for it, you’re not going to sell many copies.  Building a platform enables you to build an audience prior to the launch of the book. A platform could be any of these:

  • a blog
  • a Twitter presence
  • a Facebook Fan page
  • an email List

4. Promotion

Simply putting your book on Amazon is not enough to make it a big success, especially if you’re not a well-known author. A solid platform is an essential tool for effectively promoting your book. But the platform alone is not going to be enough to promote your book. You’ll need to come up with a killer marketing plan for the launch of your book. For more advice on effective promotion, the following interviews provide invaluable insights.

  • How Mike Michalowiz Sold 2000 Copies of His Book in 24 Hours
  • How Jonathan Fields Became a Career Renegade

5. Design

People make snap decisions on the web all day long. In this case, the old mantra “don’t judge a book by its cover” is nonsense. Books are definitely judged by their cover on Amazon. Below I’ve included two examples of self published books (one with a bad cover and one that was professionally designed). As you can see, design makes a big difference.

Goins Writer book cover

Facebook Likes cover

The best advice

The best advice I’ve ever received on how to successfully self-publish a book is to treat it just as if you’re working with a publisher. Sit down and outline every step that would be involved if you were working with a publisher. That means design, editing, and anything else a publisher would help you with are your responsibility. The only difference is that nobody is holding you accountable, so you you’ll have to be highly motivated to create the best possible book yourself.

Have you ever self-published a book? Share your tips for success with us in the comments.

Srinivas Rao is the host and co-founder of BlogcastFM, where he has interviewed close to 300 of the world’s most successful bloggers.  He is also the author of Blog to Book Deal: How They Did It.

Got a Consulting Gig from Your Blog? Don’t Make this Big Mistake

This guest post is by Bill Zipp of

You’re so excited!

The blog you’ve been writing faithfully, the list you’ve been building consistently, the newsletter you’ve been sending out weekly just paid off. You got a call from a reader who’s asked about the Holy Grail of blogging success: consulting.

When you actually talk with this person, you get even more excited.

What this company needs is exactly what you provide, and, unknown to you, many of the employees at this firm regularly read every post you write. They’re ready to work with you and ask this question, “What’s your hourly rate?” (or words to that effect).


Any answer—and I mean any answer—you give to that question, no matter how ridiculous $500 an hour sounds to you right now, sets you up for ultimate failure.

Here’s why.

Charging by the hour is unfair to your client

What could be more fair than a simple exchange of time for money, right?


When a consultant charges by the hour, that consultant is best served by a project that extends for many hours. The client, however, is best served by exactly the opposite. The client is best served by the quickest possible solution to the problem.

Do you see the conflict of interest here?

Yes, I know, as bloggers we are an honest, ethical bunch, but the moment a system of charging by the hour is implemented, all of us become blinded by our own self-interest to simple solutions that may serve the client best.

Charging by the hour is unfair to you

Not only is charging by the hour unfair to your client, it’s also unfair to you.

Case in point. I was speaking with a solo consulting client of mine who’s a leading coder for WordPress plugins, and I asked him this question, “Over the years as you’ve done this work, have you become faster or slower as a coder?”

“Faster,” he said (really fast).

“So,” I replied, “when you charge by the hour, you actually get paid less for doing more. Am I right?”

“Yes,” he said (really slow).

But, you say, you can charge a higher hourly rate when your get faster, right? Wrong again.

People will only pay so much money per hour, and there you are getting faster and better at what you do and receiving less for it. Or doing it fast and lying about the actual hours you spend on the project to get paid what you’re worth.

Charging by the hour is unfair to your business

Finally, charging by the hour is unfair to your business.

When solo consulting, there’s only one you with only so many hours in the day and only so many days in the week. You must do the work of your business, write your blog, market, sell, attend to bookkeeping, administration, professional development, and a whole host of others things that come up.

When you charge by the hour, you instantly limit your business’s growth to the time you can trade for money. Your business will be capped by your personal capacity to work.

So you do.

You work and work and work and work, pay your taxes, buy health insurance, invest in technology, and go to the occasional conference or two. Then you come to the end of the year with very little to show for it. Not to mention the fact that you failed to put anything away for retirement.

Remember? You’re a solo consultant and no one’s going to do that for you.

There is a better way!

Yes, there is a better way. It involves not going down the path of charging by the hour in the first place, and learning the secrets to value-based pricing instead. Alan Weiss is the premier thought leader on the subject and presents this approach in his book Value-Based Fees.

Here are four lessons I’ve learned from Alan’s book:

1. Build a trusting relationship with the economic buyer

Many times in the initial conversations of arranging consulting work I’m not talking with the economic buyer, that is, the actual person who will make the final decision and write a check.

This is tricky, because the person I first talk to usually influences the buying decision in some way, so I don’t want to alienate him or her. But that person isn’t the one who can approve the project.

Graciously, but firmly, I work to arrange a conversation with the actual decision maker and begin building a trusting relationship with that person.

2. Identify objectives and outcomes

The next step in this process is reaching conceptual agreement with the economic buyer around the work that needs to be done. Conceptual agreement is found in outlining what objectives will be reached and the measurable outcomes for those objectives.

One of the biggest consulting mistakes I’ve made is rushing this step in my excitement to get started. Lack of goal clarity, however, has ruined more that one consulting project for me. Projects where I ended up doing stuff the client didn’t even want, and not doing stuff that, from their perspective, was absolutely essential.

Invest time up front clearly defining objectives and outcomes. It will pay off in big dividends later.

3. Agree on value

Here now is the very heart of value-based pricing and how I begin to determine what to charge for a project.

If the objectives agreed on are fulfilled and the outcomes for these objectives are achieved, what difference will it make? What monetary value will be gained by the organization?

I’ve found that I don’t need an exact number for this, a range will do, but I do need a number. I even use this discussion as a way to differentiate myself from other consultants by helping my clients understand exactly how they will benefit from working with me.

I bet you’re asking this question right now (because I’ve been asked this question scores of times by the solo consultants I coach), “How in the world do I get people to talk about money like this?”

Remember, you’re a blogger, and they’ve been reading your blog. These people know, like, and trust you. That’s why bloggers have such an amazing advantage in arranging consulting work. Also, you built a trusting relationship with the economic buyer, so they’ll tell you this stuff. They really will!

4. Present multiple options

Armed with value-based information, I present a proposal with three graduated options—Tall, Grande, and Venti.

These options are created from achieving some, or all, of the client’s stated objectives and outcomes. Each option is priced, not on an hourly rate, but on a 10:1 return from the first year’s revenue in completing the project.

I used to present proposals with one solitary option and had terrible acceptance rates. One solitary option has a binary, take-or-leave-it effect (so they leave it). Multiple options create what Alan Weiss calls, “a series of yeses” that lead a buyer into the consulting alternative that makes the best sense for their business.

There’s lots more to mastering value-based pricing, but these are the fundamentals.

It starts with a different mindset

For most of the solo consulting clients I coach, however, the biggest shift they need to make in mastering value-based pricing is the way they think about their business. That’s probably true for you as well.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What’s the true value I bring to the marketplace?
  • What are the measurable results I deliver my clients?
  • How are people’s lives different when they work with me?

When you have real answers to these questions, you’ll have a value-based mindset and become convinced that you’re worth much more than a mere exchange of time for money.

In other words, if you don’t take your work seriously, don’t expect anyone else to. Ever.

It’s this mindset that’s the key to building a successful consulting practice and the starting point to enjoying the life you’ve always wanted, as a blogger and a consultant.

Speaker, coach, and consultant, Bill Zipp helps busy leaders do what matters most in business and in life. He also helps other solo consultants build a thriving, successful practice. To learn more about Bill’s work visit:

Build Your Brand to Get Paid Speaking Gigs

This guest post is by Valerie Khoo from

This article is the third of a three-part series on how to build your brand through your blog and get paid for your creative output and expertise. The first two parts were about How to build your brand to get paid to write for magazines and How to build your brand to get a book deal.

Jon Bon Jovi feels it all the time. The cheers, the applause. That feeling that you have an audience right in the palm of your hand while you’re on stage. The confidence that you’re taking them on the highs and lows of a journey with you.

Jon Bon Jovi does it through music. But when you’re speaking to a crowd of captivated listeners, you’re doing it through storytelling. And you’re getting paid for it.

If your blog has given you the opportunity to develop expertise in an area—whether that’s parenting, travel, wine or simply the art of blogging—it might be time to explore the world of paid speaking engagements.

Okay, chances are that you won’t be able to draw a crowd quite as big as Jon can. But even if you only do one or two speaking engagements each month, you might be able to generate more revenue from this than all the effort you put into trying to secure some banner advertising or sponsored posts.

So how do you go from being a humble blogger to rock star speaker?

1. Tell people you’re “open for business”

It sounds so simple, but this one thing can make a big difference. People aren’t going to know that you offer your services as a paid speaker unless you actually tell them. Mention it on your blog and customise your bio so it’s clear that you do this.

A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to get paid as speaker. I knew I had a wealth of information I wanted to share but no idea how to approach event organisers to offer my services—particularly as I had no track record as a speaker at the time.

Then I had a chat with Catriona Pollard from Public Relations Sydney, who successfully secures speaking engagements for many of her clients. She simply said to me: “You need a ‘speaker’s bio’ on your blog.”

A speaker’s bio is much like your regular bio except that it also features testimonials from people who have heard you speak, outlines your topics, and showcases your expertise in those subjects. You can check mine out here.

At the same time, I had to order some new business cards. Author and business coach William de Ora from Quantum Publications told me: “Put the words ‘keynote speaker’ on your card.” I felt this was a bold move at the time but I gave it a go.

Within a month of following the advice from both Catriona, I had secured my first paid speaking gig. And I’ve been doing them ever since.

2. Ensure your blog showcases your expertise

If you want to speak about the political unrest in the Middle East, then that’s what you should blog about. If you want to speak about how to raise children, make sure your posts cover these issues. If you want to talk about why Klingon is linguistically superior to Elvish, then your posts should debate the relative merits of both.

This is because you need to position yourself as an expert in your chosen field if you want to get paid to speak. Don’t worry, it’s not vital to have a Masters in Political Science or a PhD in Tolkien to get a speaking gig (although, sometimes, this can’t hurt). But you do need to show that you’re smarter than the average bear on your chosen topic. Your blog is the perfect showcase for this.

3. Identify your speaking topics

Identity two or three specific topics that you can confidently and passionately talk about.

Bad: I can talk about issues surrounding raising children.

Good: My core keynote presentations include:
“How to raise a teenager with depression”
“Successful co-parenting after divorce”

Basically, if someone is looking for a speaker, you want to plant a seed in their minds with a clear topic. Otherwise you end up spending a lot of time discussing a wide range of topics, then have to research and prepare presentations which may be just outside your core area of expertise.

Make sure you feature these keynote topics in your speaker’s bio and ensure that you also create blog posts that point to them.

4. Move from freemium to premium

I suggest cutting your teeth with smaller crowds first such as your local chambers or commerce, service clubs, or community organisations, so that you can hone your presentation and get over any nerves.

These groups may not have the budget to pay you. However, it may be worth doing a few free speaking engagements if you’re just getting started. Think of the “free” gigs as your beta test: you’ll see which jokes they laugh at and which fall flat, you’ll know the bits where the audience is on the edge of their seats, and the sections where they’re bored out of their brains.

While you might want to get cash coming in straight away, trust me, you want to know that you’re delivering a stellar presentation before you insist on being paid. Once you’re confident, then start targeting events and conferences that pay speakers.

If you can get someone to video you in action, put together a “showreel” and embed this video on your blog so you can showcase your talents.

5. Find a speakers’ agency and presentation coach

If you want to get serious about this speaking caper, I suggest two things.

Register with a speakers’ agency

A professional agency (which obviously takes a commission from your speaking fee) may already have established relationships with conference and event organisers, which is great if you don’t have any. But it depends on what industry you’re in and what you are speaking about. I’ve actually secured more paid gigs through my blog than through my agency.

Invest in a presentations coach

I thought I was a decent speaker—and then I invested in a presentations coach. She transformed the experience for me. Learning tips and tricks from a professional speaking coach helped me eliminate nerves, cut down my preparation time and gave me the tools I needed to really engage my audiences. I can’t recommend this enough.

Start talking!

Speaking on stage is not everyone’s cup of tea. But if you want to get paid to talk about what you love—or just want to channel Jon Bon Jovi—your blog might help you do just that.

Have you landed any speaking gigs through your blog? Tell us how—and how it went—in the comments.

Valerie Khoo is founder of which offers online courses in magazine writing. She blogs at and is author of the new book Power Stories: The 8 Stories You MUST Tell to Build an Epic