How to Be a Rockstar eBook Seller [Interview]

125X125-1In mid December last year I posted a mini review of a new ebook – How to Be a Rockstar Freelancer by Cyan and Collis Ta’eed from the popular FreelanceSwitch blog.

I enjoyed the book so much (and am always fascinated by bloggers making money from these types of resources) that I asked Collis if I could interview him about the process of writing and promoting the ebook. What follows is that interview:

Where did the idea for a book come from?
Actually initially I had been writing a book about business online, and I was about two chapters in when we launched FreelanceSwitch back in April 2007. The site was such a hit that I instantly dropped the business book and decided to write one tailored to the market we were creating.

I hunted around on Amazon to see what other books in the category were around and was pleased to find that most other books on freelancing are by writers for writers. I thought a book aiming to help all types of freelancers would be well received.

How long did it take to write?
I’d say in actual hours it was probably about 80 hours of writing, but it happened over a period of 9 months. Certainly I could never have written the book in two straight 40 hour weeks.

What I was unprepared for was that editing took the same amount of time. Fortunately Cyan was responsible for this task (as well as writing one of the chapters herself) and we also managed to rope Leo Babauta of ZenHabits in return for redesigning his site.

Moreover that was just a single edit. We are now working on a second edition with more edits and incorporating any feedback we’ve had.

Any tips for budding authors in terms of writing it?

My main tip would be that unless you a very self disciplined person there will be a lot of times where you *really* don’t feel like writing. The more you put it off, the worse it gets. I found it was best to allocate some time, a day or a few hours before work, and start writing, no matter what. Sometimes you delete everything you write in the first half hour, but once you get into the swing it gets easier and things flow.

The other tip is to not discount the editing process. As someone with no background in writing or editing, I completely misjudged how long it would take to edit a book and how much revision is needed.

Finally it’s worth registering your book with the library of congress in Washington. Although strictly copyright is bestowed on the author of the work automatically, having a registration makes proving your ownership a much simpler process.

What’s the relationship like between the blog and the book?

Having a blog is to me an ideal platform to launch a book. There are two reasons for this:

(1) You have an audience of people who are interested in your opinion on a particular subject. This is a natural group of people to purchase a book extending and formalising the knowledge you are giving out on the blog. Moreover it is a great platform to begin selling your book, as inevitably word of mouth helps drive sales.

(2) When you blog you develop a network of other bloggers who know you and more than likely see your book release a newsworthy event. We’ve been so fortunate that on the release of the book, a variety of sites have featured or mentioned it.

Additionally, we’ve found that selling a book has been an excellent way of monetizing the site. This is something we’ve struggled with, particularly with advertising which seems to be tough business to be in. Selling a product – be it a book, or a course like they say in Teaching Sells – is to me, a much more dependable business to be in. Where advertising is relying on a few, large transactions, selling a book is relying on a lot of smaller transactions. This is inherently more stable.

How are sales going?

Sales have been really good, exceeding our own expectations. Since I know, personally I’m always dying to get actual numbers when other people talk about things like sales, I’ve made a graph of the daily sales of the book for Problogger readers to reference (see below).

Some things to note are that periodically the sales spikes, particularly around the 18th of December when we sent out sample copies to many other bloggers to give away or review. Also the first day (the 14th) and the 22nd when we mailed out a discount offer for the book.


So overall, it’s been good. I know that some ebooks sell in much larger quantities (e.g. the 37Signals book which has sold more than 30,000 copies) and I suppose many sell in smaller quantities. The main thing though is that the sales seem to be settling into a consistent earning proposition.

Are you able to get a break down on how many are buying it from Freelance Switch as opposed to from other sources? I’m interested in seeing if it’s readers who are buying it or others?

Not exactly, however we have an affiliate program, so I can say how much of the sales have been a result of that. About 1/3 of all sales come from an affiliate link.

You’ve decided to launch with an ebook but also say you’ll do a hard copy on lulu – What was the thinking there?

At 212 pages, the book is a fairly long read. Personally, I don’t tend to read long ebooks (although I still seem to buy them anyway!) With Lulu’s service there isn’t really any cost associated with selling a book in paperback in that you don’t need to hold stock or process orders. The cost per print of each book is around $8 plus Lulu takes a commission as well. So we’re selling the book for $35 on Lulu (Available here) and out of each sale about $21 comes to us.

In essence, there’s really no reason *not* to sell the book as a hard copy.

One day I hope that we’ll have enough capital to get the book into bookstores, but for the moment we’re content to have it as an ebook/lulu paperback.

What techniques have you used to promote the book?

Early on, months prior to completing the book, we added a page to the FreelanceSwitch site promising a book. We included an email newsletter sign up form that I created in about 30 seconds using CampaignMonitor which stated that subscribers would receive a $10 off voucher when the book came out.

Over the three months we had almost a thousand people sign up for the launch code. This meant that we had one thousand people to email when we launched the book. Sure we lost 33% of sales coming from those customers, but the tradeoff of getting momentum and early sales was worth it.

We’ve now got a subscription form for the next book – How to Be a Rockstar WordPress Designer – up at

What section of the book are you most proud of/excited by – and why?

Oddly enough the thing that I’m most proud of is the branding of the book. Early on we had planned to call the book “Hired Gun” and make it a one off. But on the advice of our FreelanceSwitch subeditor John Brougher, we decided instead to create a brand for the book – How to be a Rockstar – which means that we can now release other books and leverage the success of the first.

So you can look forward to not only a second edition of this first book to be released soon (and made available to previous purchasers) but also other books in the same line.

Get a Copy – if you don’t have a copy of the book you can buy one at How to Be a Rockstar Freelancer.

Interview with Entrecard’s Graham Langdon

MeEntrecard is a blogging service that has quickly emerged (or exploded) onto the scene over the last couple of months. Entrecard widgets are popping up on thousands of blogs around the blogosphere – including here at ProBlogger since they became a ProBlogger sponsor.

I get a lot of questions about Entrecard and how to use it most effectively to promote your blog – so I thought I’d approach Entrecard’s Graham Langdon with some of the more common questions. Please note that while Entrecard is a sponsor of ProBlogger this is not a paid post. It emerges out of your questions of a service that I know many of you are curious about and using.

One of the first questions that I get from readers most about Entrecard is – ‘what is it?’ – From what I can tell Entrecard has a number of features that bloggers love – how do you describe it?

Put simply, Entrecard is a free social advertising network for bloggers. Everyone knows that the 125×125 has become this semi-official “ad of the blogosphere.” What Entrecard allows you to do is :

  • Advertise your 125×125, for free, on any blog in our network
  • Pay with Entrecard Credits instead of real money
  • Earn Credits by visiting other blogs, and leaving your card for the owner (through the widget) much in the same way you would hand someone your regular business card
  • See 3D statistics of traffic from ad campaigns and from our site, as well as stats for cards given and received
  • The whole service is incredibly easy to use and intuitive once you give it a try

So far, Entrecard has been quite effective at sending traffic to members’ blogs. Imagine a user that has a free ad right here on ProBlogger for a day, as well as ads running on 10 small to medium sized blogs. The traffic benefits can be significant. And on top of the advertising network there is an active social network, complete with a forum, messaging system, and more, that our members are actively taking part in. Bloggers have great information to share with each other, and we’re happy that so many are choosing Entrecard as an outlet.

When you place a free ad on someone else’s blog, how long does it run for? Are there other ads in rotation?

When you place an ad one someone’s blog with Entrecard, it runs for a full 24 hours, solid, with no other ads in rotation.

Following is a screenshot of the Entrecard Dashboard:


Where did the idea for Entrecard come from?

I’d have to say the gears started turning when I witnessed the massive launch of BlogRush. The take home message for me was that bloggers everywhere were craving a widget that could bring free traffic. My ensuing thought process went something like this: First, I thought of those fish-bowls in restaurants where you drop off your business card to win a free lunch. So I started thinking of a system where bloggers could drop their digital business cards to each other to earn some sort of reward. Then, I thought about how some “brick and mortar” businesses actually let other small businesses around town advertise their business card on their cashier counter, or on a window sill.

Once I translated this thought process to the world of blogging, I knew what I needed was a widget that could simultaneously serve as a way to not only exchange cards, but advertise other members cards. A Credit system, with varying cost to advertise based on the size and popularity of one’s blog, was the final piece of the puzzle, and thus, Entrecard was born!

You launched two months ago – how’s it been going so far? What milestones have you hit? Can you give us some insight into how many bloggers are using it and what benefits it’s bringing them?

Our launch has been nothing short of amazing so far. We’ve hit the following milestones:

  • Over 2,000 free ads are now placed daily through Entrecard.
  • Since launching, our members have exchanged over half a million cards with each other.
  • As of writing this, Entrecard proudly offers free advertising on 1700 unique blogs.
  • We’re now consistently ranking under under 2000 on Alexa (I hate to use the ‘”A” word) daily.
  • In the last 30 days, we’ve done over a million page views on our website.

In terms of benefits, reports are abound on Technorati and Google Blogsearch that bloggers are not just receiving significant traffic, but also an increase in comments, a boost in Alexa rank, and more RSS subscribers. Not bad for a free widget that takes up just a little more space than a 125×125! However, I will say that results vary depending on your level of involvement in the program.

What type of blogger will benefit most from it?

Without a doubt, the small to medium size blogger will see the most benefit from Entrecard. It is an excellent system especially for bloggers trying to attain their first 2000 RSS subscribers. It’s not the only system these bloggers should be using of course, but it will absolutely help. Most of our users report traffic of around 20 visits per day, and as many as 150 to 200 per day with particularly effective ad campaigning. While this amount of traffic may not be significant to some of the top bloggers, many bloggers would find themselves greatly benefited from this source of traffic.

Are there any restrictions, limitations, or guidelines for joining the Entrecard network?

Yes, we have a number of basic guidelines for Entrecard membership. We only allow blogs of reasonable quality into the network, so if you only have one post, or if your site is considered “spam” it will not be allowed in the network. We also only allow blogs written in English, though we hope to expand to facilitate all languages as soon as possible. Finally, you cannot have adult content on your blog.

We rely heavily on a flagging system, where users can flag any blog in the network that appear to be spam, offensive, or of poor quality. All these flags are reviewed promptly and proper action is always taken to keep Entrecard a high quality network. So far, this system has served us wonderfully, and has given an equal voice to everyone as to what they do and do not want to see in the Entrecard network.

What tips would you give bloggers who want to get the most out of Entrecard?

With Entrecard, you get out what you put in. So you’ll want to spend some time leaving your card for bloggers in your niche and in related niches to get them visiting your site. You can start buying as many ads as possible on related blogs. Finally, you can hold a contest on your blog and give away Entrecard Credits. This is becoming a very popular trend for our members, and provides a terrific incentive to get others commenting on your blog posts.

Another fairly large element that plays a role in your success with Entrecard is your blog’s content. Members with quality content, well written and useful articles with images, will find that Entrecard enhances their statistics more so than blogs with lesser quality content. And of course, blogs with terrible content simply get removed from our network. But if your content is good, simply participate as much as possible, and I can guarantee you’ll be happy with your results.

You’ve just opened a ‘marketplace’ (pictured below) – what’s this?

The blogger marketplace, which we call the Entrecard Shop, is the next step forward with the Credit economy we’re establishing. Cumulatively, our members are earning thousands of Credits every day, and while it’s nice that you can spend your Credits to advertise on over 1700 blogs, we have a bit of a larger vision.

So we’ve opened a shop where bloggers can buy and sell blogging related products and services for Credits. We have people selling exclusive WordPress themes, Blog reviews, SEO consultations, Blog makeovers, unused domain names, and more. The benefit for the seller is that it dramatically increases the amount of credits you earn, thus increasing your purchasing power as well. The benefit for the buyer is that now you can buy much, much more than network advertising with your Credits.


What is the most unique item available in the shop? What is the most useful?

I’d have to say that the most unique item in the shop is a Shakespearean Sonnet. A blogger, who recently enjoyed a class in Shakespeare, will write a sonnet about your blog for 50 credits, and post it on her blog. As for the most useful item, someone is selling a complete hosting package for your WordPress blog. This gives bloggers the opportunity to finally move off Blogspot or and onto their own hosted account, and pay with credits instead of money. I find it really satisfying to see such unique and useful items being sold in the Shop, which is only just a week old.

Are there any criticisms of Entrecard you would like to address?

Well the system isn’t perfect, and although we’d like everyone to read a full post and leave a comment before dropping their card, some people simply don’t. Some users will stop by your blog just to drop off their card, and then go off to the next one to rack up credits. Now this doesn’t include everyone; we have a lot of quality readers out there on Entrecard. In fact we’ve found that the majority of our users have reported discovering new blogs they now read regularly. But you could very well find, because of some chain droppers, that across all your Entrecard traffic, the average time spent on your site is slightly lower and the bounce rate slightly higher when compared to the rest of your traffic. Regardless, this is still real traffic and you still have the opportunity to command their attention when they stop by. And finally, even for the Entrecard members that do stay only just long enough to drop their card, you still earn a credit for each one of these “chain droppers,” which you can put towards advertising, graphic design for your blog, blog reviews, SEO consultations, hosting, and much much more in the Entrecard Shop.

The best thing our members can do to minimize the chain dropping, is to understand that this is not Entrecard’s intended use, and to really make an effort to read a post and leave a comment on blogs they visit while dropping cards.

Where do you hope to take Entrecard in the coming year? Do you have any more features planned that you can tell us about?
Over the next year, we’re going to expand the social networking features to include favorites, a news feed, and even more bells and whistles. We’re going to enhance the advertising network by adding greater control and analytics. Finally, we’re hoping to expand the marketplace to hundreds, if not thousands of items, and roll out a seller feedback system similar to eBay’s. By the end of the year, I plan on securing either an angel investment or venture capital. I’ve already had some interest from a few angel investors, but I’m looking for an investor who is well connected in an industry that would be of benefit. From the looks of things so far, Entrecard could become big. Very big.

Note from Darren: As a little companion post to this interview in the next day or two I’m going to do a little competition to give away my own Entrecard credits (there’s over 3000 of them). Stay tuned for how to win some of them for yourself to help promote your blog.

Creating an eBook to Make Money Blogging – An Interview with Leo Babauta

Interview-Leo-BabautaYesterday I wrote about Leo Babauta launching an ebook (Zen to Done) as a way to monetize his blog. In that post I promised to try to get an interview with Leo to explore both the wild success of his blog (over 21500 subscribers in 6 months) and the journey to releasing his ebook. Leo was generous enough to answer my questions. I hope you enjoy this interview:

Why did you write Zen to Done? Can you give us a brief synopsis?

Zen To Done is a synthesis of the productivity, organization and simplicity concepts I write about regularly on my site. It started with Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen — I’m a disciple and a fan, and for a while I wrote about it regularly on Zen Habits. I discovered some problems with it — not with the system, but with my implementation with it — and discovered that many others had similar problems. So I set out to figure out what those problems were, and how to solve them.

As a result, I pulled in some concepts I’d been writing about separately: the “Big Rocks” prioritization concepts of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (GTD doesn’t prioritize, purposely), and more importantly, the concepts of simplicity and minimalism that I’ve become known for.

Simplicity is the key for me, and that’s why I call ZTD a “simple productivity” system. We need to do less, not more. We need to focus on the essential, and separate the wheat from the chaff. Instead of doing busy work, we should do important work.

That’s ZTD, in short. You can read more about it on Zen Habits (or buy the ebook!).

Why did you decide to monetize your blog with an ebook as opposed to other methods?

I’ve given this a lot of thought, and my philosophy is to provide as much value as possible to my readers, as opposed to focusing on monetization. The decision to do an ebook is consistent with that philosophy.

My readers seemed to really enjoy the posts on ZTD I’ve done on Zen Habits (they remain some of my most popular), and a large number were asking for it to be turned into an ebook. Well, you don’t have to ask me more than 10 times! :)

I decided that the ebook would be the best way to provide additional value to my readers. I’m sure there are better ways to monetize, but I think too often the focus is on the blogger making money, not on the value to the readers. If you give people a lot of value, they’ll appreciate that, and come back for more. That’s my hope, anyway.

How long did it take you to write it?

I set aside my mornings for a couple of weeks to write the book. I still had the regular demands of Zen Habits, and the posts I write for other blogs, as well as my full-time day job and my family (a wife and six kids) … so I couldn’t put everything aside as I’d prefer to do, and focus completely on the ebook.

However, I decided that writing the book had to be a priority, so for a couple hours a day, for about 2 weeks, the only thing I allowed myself to do was write. And I actually enjoyed the process, and have been working on a second ebook (a joint venture with another blogging friend) … with plans to start a third coming up.

it’s a great looking ebook – how did you put it together?

Actually, I can’t take credit for that. I’m a lousy designer. A true designer, James Wondrack, volunteered to do the design, and I think he did a nice job. I’m going to give him a small cut of the first 200 ebooks sold as a thank you.

If any great designers would like to volunteer for my next ebook, let me know!

You’re delivering it with e-junkie – did you look around at other options? Why did you go with the delivery system that you did?

In truth, I’m a newbie here. I did a little research into some of the options, but ultimately made the choice to go with e-junkie based on the recommendation of a blogging friend. It seems to be a good choice so far … it was a super-easy setup, and I’ve had no problems. I also liked that there is no per-transaction fee (only a $5/month subscription fee) and the affiliate program was incredibly easy to set up.

How has ZtD been received by your blog’s readers so far? Are you finding it easy to convert readers to purchasers?

It’s been selling like hotcakes! Seriously, I had hoped to eventually sell 100 of them, over time, but I doubled that number in just a few hours. And so far, they seem to like the book. I hope they do, because I put a lot of work into it, and I feel it has a lot of value.

How did you get 21000+ subscribers to your blog in just 6 months?

Three things, actually, but the main thing has been, again, to focus on the value I provide to the readers. The three things are 1) provide extremely useful content (with catchy headlines) that solves problems my readers have; 2) write guest posts for other blogs, with the same goal of extremely useful content, so that I can tap into new audiences; and 3) use the first item to tap into the multiplying power of incoming links from other blogs and social bookmarking services such as Digg, Stumbleupon and

I should also mention that I’ve developed some great relationships with fellow bloggers — some outstanding and generous people, really — as well as a great relationship with my readers. These have been key. It’s important that we bloggers not think of other bloggers as our competitors, but as friends, and potential allies. If we link to each other, and share each others’ content with our readers, everyone wins: the blogger who links, the blogger who receives the link, and the readers. And developing a relationship with your readers, while it takes a lot of work (I spend a lot of time answering comments and emails), is crucial to keeping those readers and developing loyalty.

You’re one of the most prolific guest posters on other people’s blogs that I know – it obviously has benefits for you – but can you tell us what the biggest ones are?

I’ve said it before, but writing guest posts on other blogs is probably the No. 1 strategy for marketing your blog and your brand. Well, actually, creating great, useful, readable content on your own blog is No. 1, but if you’re trying to get new readers, you have to reach new audiences. It’s not enough to write great content if no one knows it’s there.

I think of my audience as a sphere of readers. In order to grow that sphere, I need to tap into new spheres, which are the audiences of other blogs. Obviously, some of those spheres overlap, especially if it’s in your own niche … after awhile, you’ve probably reached 95% of the readers in that niche. But not at first, so you should first tap into your niche … and only after you’ve exhausted that should you go outside the niche.

Tapping into another sphere of readers isn’t an easy job. You can do that with a link from another blog, but think about it: a link is usually surrounded by a sentence or two (if that) about your post … but a guest post on another blog is hundreds of words … and what better opportunity to show that blog’s readers how great and useful and readable your writing is?

Guest posts also help with branding: by writing great content for other blogs, you are showing what your brand stands for, and you’re repeating that branding to as many people as possible.

For Zen Habits, guest posting has paid off immensely: readers have enjoyed my guest posts and have come to my blog to subscribe. And the brand of Zen Habits has grown in many people’s minds in this past year, and continues to do so, because of guest posts.

Do you have any productivity tips for bloggers?

Sure, I have many! But some of my top tips:

1. Identify the essential. Blogging can take up your entire day if you let it. Identify the top 3-4 things you can do to improve and market your blog. Knowing what actions/projects are essential and which ones aren’t is the first step to effectiveness. In my opinion, the essential tasks are creating outstanding and useful content, writing guest posts for other blogs, and little else.

2. Focus on the essential. If you have limited time for blogging (and we all do), only allow yourself to focus on those essential tasks and projects … and minimize the rest.

3. Batch process. The smaller tasks, like processing emails and reading through comments and all the rest, should be grouped into a limited time frame later in the day. Don’t do them throughout the day.

4. Keep a list. Whether you use an index card, a Moleskine notebook, a text file, a Google Doc or whatever, keep a list of the tasks and projects you need to do. Get the tasks out of email. From this master list, choose 3 major projects to focus on, and focus 3 most important tasks you can accomplish today. Then focus exclusively on those 3 tasks and those 3 projects.

Those are the 4 things that you can do that will make the most difference.

Get a Copy of Zen to Done for just $9.50 USD

note: This post contains affiliate links

“This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me!” says Brian Clark on Page Rank Decreases

An Interview with Brian Clark

Yesterday when I posted that the new Teaching Sells resource has just launched I mentioned that I would have an interview with one of it’s founders Brian Clark from Copyblogger. Brian has understandably had a pretty hectic few days – but was generous enough to give us some time to explore a little more of what Teaching Sells is about.


Where does blogging fit into your own personal overall online business strategy?

Well, it would be silly to say that blogging isn’t an important part of everything I’ve been doing. I’ve spent over 18 months blogging at Copyblogger, trying to get better and better every week and attract more subscribers. I guess the key word in my blogging strategy is “attract,” though. Once you have a relationship with readers, that opens up whole new opportunities to have a direct financial relationship with them, rather than selling them to advertisers.

But it’s also crucial to remember that there are ways to make money without blogging and with very little free content. And that’s all tied to having something to sell.

Why did you start the course?

This project came together like most do for me. I rarely do anything on my own—I’ll either partner up with someone for marketing purposes, or I’ll partner with someone to do a project, or I’ll put together a team, like a producer does.

In this case, Tony Clark and I came to realize that we both had wildly succeeded with educational marketing and training approaches to paid content. It just took off from there.

What do you say to people who say ‘can’t people get this all for free elsewhere?’

I’d say first that it’s a rare breed of person who will actually do that. People who are online-savvy are not like the vast majority of people, but they make the mistake that others are like them. These people often never make any money, because they fail to realize that they have skills that “normal” people don’t.

What we teach, however, goes beyond that. When you position your paid content in a unique way, no one can really say they can get it free elsewhere. A unique perspective is not freely available, and it’s often a unique perspective that truly gets through to people.

So is it fair to say that those who have been blogging haven’t been wasting time, but rather creating a launching pad for bigger and better things?

Absolutely. Listen – I’ve been told by more than one Internet marketing “guru” that I’m wasting my time with an audience of bloggers. That they’ll never buy anything.

That’s crazy. Bloggers have done something that most people who buy Internet marketing “dream” materials have never done—they’ve taken action. They’ve actually done something, and that’s huge.

A blog to me is like an aircraft carrier… it’s the platform that you launch everything else off of. It’s the spoke in the wheel, and there are $100-million-dollar-a-year email publishing business models that follow the same strategy.

Just be smart about your free content, and have something to sell. That’s what’s worked for me for the last 10 years.

How practical do you get in Teaching Sells? Is it just theory or do you show people how to do it?

That’s the great thing about the interactive training format we use and teach. It’s to get beyond theory and to have people actually building sites. We do spend time telling people “why” they’re doing things, because that’s important. But the focus is on the how, and an approach that gets people excited about taking action.

How did you feel about the whole Google PageRank Fiasco?

Call me crazy, but I woke up, saw all the frenzy, and thought “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” I’ve been warning people about relying on Google, and here comes proof-I follow all the rules, and still I get dinged.

The fact that this happened on the day I was launching a training program that shows people how to get away from relying on Google? That was a gift.

Thanks to Brian for answering my questions. I should add that I’m really enjoying participating in Teaching Sells. There are already some cool things happening among those that have joined. There is a forum area where people are encouraged to team up and work together on projects – I have a feeling that we’re going to see some great collaborations emerge out of that as people apply the principles being taught.

More SEO Tips from Aaron Wall

Seo-Book-Aaron-WallToday I continue my interview with Aaron Wall – author of SEO Book. Also read Part I of my interview with Aaron Wall.

What’s the best link building strategy you ever used?

Creating free software and giving it away. It is unreal how many thousands of high quality links you can get from producing free software. One of my new Google Gadgets is about a month old and already gets over 30,000 weekly page views. I also love awards programs and interviewing others.

If you had to identify 3 important SEO tips that all bloggers should know and implement – what would they be?

Is it ok if I do 5?

Sure thing!

  1. Attribution is important. Linking to popular bloggers and other sources is a way of getting their attention. Its like saying hey I just talked about you, come see what I said. Many will ignore you, but it only takes a couple good ones liking you for your blog to spread like a weed.
  2. Make sure your content is formatted such that it is easy to read. Use headings and sub-headers, bulleted lists, spread things out, etc. Ultimately you need people to read and trust your work for search engines to want to trust it. Search engines follow what people do.
  3. Make sure your page titles are unique on a per post level with the unique part of the title element at the far left of the page title. This helps improve rankings and makes people more likely to click on your listing when you do rank. Descriptive enticing headlines will pull more clicks than boring and bland ones.
  4. Don’t ignore internal navigation. Where possible, allow some of your categories to drive your keyword strategy. Some of your categories should be well aligned with some of your keywords. Create a top hits or featured posts section that makes it easy to find your best content. Also link back to your older posts in some of your newer posts to alert new readers to the best related posts in your archives and help search engines understand which pages are most important.
  5. If many people are writing about the same thing you are, try to write about something else or try to write about it from a different perspective such that people want to keep paying attention to you. Don’t be afraid of being yourself. Often times our flaws are more interesting than what we are allegedly good at.

What are the biggest mistakes that you see bloggers making in SEO?

I don’t think this mistake is specific to bloggers, but is a general web thing. You can sometimes see a piece of garbage website ranking well, or see a site worse than yours doing better than you are. But you can’t beat people by following them to wherever they currently are. At one point in time some of those sites were some of the better sites on the market. If they launched a similar site today they would be nowhere. And some of the sites are in cash out mode, publishing garbage spam where something good once ranked.

Don’t believe that just by following anyone’s guidelines or doing exactly what other sites are doing that you are going to rank well. You really need to leverage your own knowledge and personality to create a brand that others can evangelize and spread.

Is Page Rank important any more?

Keep in mind that toolbar PageRank is perpetually outdated and measured on a rough logarithmic scale, but yes real PageRank is important. The reason why is that for any given amount of link equity you can only get so many pages indexed. The more link authority you have the deeper search engines will crawl through your site.

How is blogging important to your overall business?

It is huge. Where others are buying $5,000 booths at conferences and spending $500 a day on AdWords my marketing spend is next to nothing because I get many sales from people talking about me. Plus blogging got me media exposure which makes it easier to get more media exposure down the road. I was a no name SEO with one popular article before I started SEO Book, but now I have thousands of subscribers and thousands of customers. The single most important part of my business right now is blogging.

I talk to many bloggers who want to launch an e-book – what have you learned that could help them from your experience in launching SEO book?

I actually wrote a 9 page blog post offering a bunch of tips on this topic.

At the core it helps to have a strong name, keep the site clean, put your offer inline with the content, give a way a ton of value, give away review copies and just keep pushing on the public relations front.

If you are in a competitive marketplace you need people talking about you everyday. If you find a smaller uncompetitive niche then you might even be able to get away with hiring a freelance writer and having them do the writing and marketing. You can also test markets before you create your products by creating a PPC offer and promising a book as collateral for their feedback. Use their feedback to estimate demand and target pricing.

Seeing how quickly Google grabbed control of video and how aggressively they are pushing it I am not convinced that ebooks are a sustainable long term model that will still work in 5 or 10 years. Google and Amazon are both wheeling and dealing to get access to the catalogs of major publishing houses to sell their books online as ebooks. When those books are available at $8 it gets much harder to charge $80 for an ebook. I think it is better to sell a product as a service with recurring revenues if possible. Include video and other stuff as well. And the reason the web is great is because it is interactive. Most eooks generally are not. ;)

What SEO resources and blogs do you read?

I probably read about 100 different blogs. My favorites are ones that are published less frequently, but with deeply insightful posts, like:

As well as ones that usually have something unique, like:

I also stop by many of the old mainstays like and

Seo-Book-NewThanks to Aaron Wall for his time on this interview.

Aaron has been most generous with me personally over the years and both SEO Book and personal advice at different times have added significantly to my own earnings from blogging.

I commend him and his resources to you as a great source of knowledge when it comes to SEO.

Learn How to Get Your Blog Ranking High in Search Engines – An Interview with Aaron Wall

Seo-Book-Aaron-WallOver the next couple of days you’re in for a treat because I’ve managed to secure an interview with Aaron Wall – a blogger and author that has literally added thousands (if not tens of thousands) to my own blogging earnings over the last few years as a result of me reading his great eBook – SEObook. Aaron’s book is 300 pages of pure Search Engine Optimization gold and he’s been generous enough to answer some of my questions.

His answers are so good that I’ve decided to split this into a two part interview so you don’t scan over them too fast and miss something.

Aaron – thanks for your time. Can you give us a short introduction to yourself and what you do?

I am a blogger who wrote a popular book about SEO. I also publish a wide array of websites and do a limited amount of high end SEO consulting with my partner Scott Smith at

In addition to writing about SEO I offer free tools to help people automate doing research. I recently created a couple Google Gadgets that were well received, and my programmer created SEO for Firefox, which puts marketing data right in the search results.

It seems that a lot of people are getting into SEO at the moment – how and when did you get into it?

My first website, in early 2003, was a poorly done rant site. I wanted others to see my opinions and I figured the easiest and cheapest way to do so was to learn how to make it rank in search engines. I asked lots of questions at forums and then started moderating many of them. I had a site that listed my own notes about SEO stuff and a person hired me before I knew I was selling anything. A few months later they had already seen a 20x return on their spend and I felt pretty good about that.

By the end of 2003 I was ranking in the top 10 of Google’s results for search engine marketing, and my article about the Google florida update became popular and got me more client inquires than I could handle.

I’ve said on numerous occasions that I’ve learned almost everything that I know about SEO from your resource – SEO Book – but can you tell us why you wrote it and why ProBlogger readers might want to consider making the purchase?

Seo-Book-NewWhen I got on the web I bought SEO services from a scammy company that ripped me off. I also went down many dead end paths, trying to find where there was free traffic, doing arbitrage from unclean sources that stole my money, signing up for programs that teach you the world revolves around spreading their crap. etc. That led me to an inbox full of spam but no rankings.

I saw at the end of 2003 that the client services lifestyle was a bit feast or famine. I was getting about 2 calls a month. Then overnight it was up to like 30 in a day. Then it went back down a bit. And honestly I tended to undersell services because I didn’t fully appreciate the value of search off the start.

After I started learning more about SEO and business I thought it would be a good idea to share what I knew. My goal when I first wrote SEO Book was to write the book I wished I had read when I first got on the web. The first version was a modest 24 page HTML document that I gave away on Christmas of 2003.

Search has since got more complex and important, my experience has increased, and my knowledge of marketing has increased. As a result, the book is now over 300 pages, and rather than talking about do this do that in specific white and black my book also offers reasons why I think an idea will work or not.

When it comes to building links to a blog – do you recommend bloggers buy links, ‘use’ social media sites, trade links, linkbait, something else…. or some combination of the above?

I say try everything and see what works best for you. You might come across a trick that I haven’t used much that works well for you given your personality and your market.

  • I wouldn’t recommend renting too many links right out of the gate, because it adds cost and you may not be able to recoup the costs unless you are business savvy, plus sites get trusted more as they age. I would recommend listing in the Yahoo! Directory and some of the other higher quality general directories and blogging directories if you intend on creating a long term successful blog as a business.
  • Comment on related blogs and participate in related communities. These may not provide direct links, but links flow naturally after you have subscribers. You need to raise awareness if you are new and starting from scratch.
  • After you have awareness many people will frequently cite you just because they are subscribed to you.
  • Buy specific ads from specific sites.
  • Take concepts you see poorly done and do them exceptionally well, then use email to notify people who might care. Don’t forget to ping people you know well, especially if you have done them favors too.
  • Create social content as a form of marketing. Interview people, create tools, hold contests, give out awards, etc.

One other thing I would probably add is that for most people it is probably not going to be worth it to spend tons and tons of time building up a social media account on a large generalist website. If you only have a few hours a day to spend online then you should spend most of that reading and participating on sites specifically about your topic, or writing your site.

Tomorrow I’ll share the second part to this interview with Aaron and will ask him about the best ever link building strategy that he’s used, where he gives 5 key SEO tips that bloggers should implement, where he talks about Page Rank and gives some hints on how to launch a successful ebook (plus more).

In the mean time – take a little time out to check out SEO Book – which comes with a money back guarantee, free lifetime updates (and he does update) plus a few worthwhile bonuses.

“If you had a Gun against your Head to Double your Readership in Two Weeks, What Would you Do?” – An Interview with Tim Ferriss

Tim FerrissTwo of the most popular posts on ProBlogger over the last couple of months were an interview that I conducted in April with author Timothy Ferriss who wrote the best selling book The 4-Hour work Week. Tim’s also been developing a blog as part of his 4-Hour Work Week site and has seen some amazing traffic growth over the last few months.

I thought that it might be time for a follow up interview to see how the book launch has gone and what Tim has been learning about blogging. I hope you enjoy this chat with Tim.

How’s the 4 Hour Work Week Launch Going?

The books is screaming along. It’s been an unexpected and incredible ride thus far. From hitting #1 on the Wall Street Journal list and nailing the NY Times, it’s been a string of firsts for me. I was #2 on the NY Times business bestseller list for June, and the #1 slot was a political book. Very odd. So I’m hoping to move some mountains this week and hit #1 there, which would be a lifelong dream fulfilled. Fun stuff, to be sure.

Congratulations on that – How long have you been blogging now?

My current “real” blog has been up since early April in earnest, so about 3-4 months. I did play with another WordPress blog for a few months before that, but it was mostly to get comfortable with the tools vs. building a reader base. I would say 3-4 months of serious traffic creation and real posts.

Why did you start your 4 hour work week blog and have your reasons for doing it changed since you started?

I started it to create a community, a sense of belonging for not only others… but for myself. I wanted to attract like minded folk to discuss cool topics. More recently, this has moved towards having fun but also catalyzing some serious world change. It sounds ridiculously naive, but I used the blog to help get, an educational non-profit, into the finals for American Express’s competition for $1-5 million in funding. There is some serious power in numbers and proactive readers.

I’m also beginning to realize that you can monetize a blog without bastardizing your vision, sacrificing editorial purity, or otherwise “selling out.” There’s no need to sacrifice on either end.

Tell us a little more about how you think this is possible – ie” monetize a blog without bastardizing your vision”

Step one is understanding your readers. by this, i mean defining them psychographically and demographically. What would they buy? Then, it’s a simple matter of finding advertisers who would pay for “sponsor”-level access to this market. Choose someone who belongs to an industry that you’ll likely never write about. Problem solved.

There are certainly other avenues — affiliate programs, Amazon Associates, etc. — that add additional revenue with marginal additional effort. Last, and few bloggers consider this, is launching and offering your own products to your audience. I get hundreds of emails per week requesting the same types of help. There will be online educational modules or other products on the way to help these readers, and I will launch them on the blog.

The aforementioned sources of income would be “direct” income sources from the blog. “Indirect” income sources — those that result from the credibility your blog creates — are much broader and can be even more profitable and fun: speaking gigs for $10-30K, corporate training in foreign countries, etc.

I’ve been watching your alexa ranking and you’ve seen some nice growth (over 10000) – what’s behind it?

It’s just direct response advertising meets PR.

Study the top stories at Digg or and you’ll notice a pattern: the top stories all polarize people. Do not try to appeal to everyone. Instead, take a strong stance and polarize people: make some love you and some hate you. Hate is an extreme, but here’s the gist: what you write, in order to create the highest pass-along value, needs to be “remarkable”. Is it something that is worth remarking upon?

If you make it threaten people’s 3 Bs — behavior, belief, or belongings — you get a huge virus-like dispersion. Most of my explosive posts, which have brought in 1000s of new Feedburner subscribers, have nothing to do with my book. “Geek to Freak” is about how I gained 34 lbs. of muscle in 4 weeks. “How to Travel the World with 10 lbs. or Less” is obviously not (though a great case study in how to use Amazon Associates naturally).

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Tim Ferris Interview – Part II

Tim-Ferris-4This is Part 2 of my in depth IM interview with Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Workweek. You can read my introduction to Tim in my previous post. You can also read Part 1 here.

In today’s post Tim and I talk blogging. I ask him about some of the lessons he’s learned about driving traffic, posting frequency and being a productive blogger.

Darren – Why did you choose to add a blog to your strategy for promoting your book?

Tim – Good question, but I’ll reword it for you: why did I start a blog? It actually wasn’t solely to promote the book, though that’s a side-effect. There are a few reasons. First, a number of authors-cum-bloggers told me that they wasted thousands of dollars on book sites when a free blog ended up being the best PR tool. I believe that a good book site is important (, but the blog is much more.

The blog is how I build a “platform”. In publisher-speak, that means a fan base. Once you have a fan base — and I think my blog, forums, and other communities can be much bigger than the book — you have tons of options. Those options could be for monetizing (advertising, products, speaking, consulting, etc.) or simply extending your influence. There is power in numbers. Once I have enough clout with subscribers and fan base, I’ll be lobbying in Silicon Valley to establish an official “E-mail Detox Day” under law, for example! Lots of fun things coming.

Darren – What have you learnt about blogging since starting yours a month ago? Teach us oh wise one!

Tim – LOL… I don’t claim to have all of the answers, of course. Not even most of them, but I’m a pretty good “reductionist”. That just means that I question what everyone is doing and ask myself: if I ignore what’s popular, what everyone says you “have to do,” what actually works? I cut out all the fat and look at just the highest-impact variables.

For example, I’ve been told I need to post everyday, but when I really looked at the facts, a different picture emerged.

i’ve found that if i post less often, my blog has a sine wave sign-up curve. in other words: if i post just infrequently enough (for me, once every 4-6 days), the comments add up on each post, making the site look very popular, and rss subscriptions spike. if i post too often, it doesn’t look popular (since posts get pushed down and comment-count is low), so it is actually better for my site to post less often! love it when that happens…

The most important thing I’ve learned? Blogging is underestimated by many, but it’s overestimated by even more. It’s not a panacea or a silver bullet. It is a tool you should pay a ton of attention to, but it’s still just one tool.

Here’s another odd one.

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Tim Ferriss Interview – Part I

Tim-FerrisThis is Part 1 of my in depth IM interview with Tim Ferriss author of The 4-Hour Workweek. You can read my introduction to Tim in my previous post.

In Part 1 I ask Tim about the concept behind his book, we talk about how he wrote it (as I know many bloggers are looking at getting book deals) and talk about some of the lessons he’s learned about building buzz around his book. In Part 2 (which I’ll publish tomorrow) Tim and I talk blogging and he shares some of the lessons that he’s learnt in using a blog to support his blog launch.

Darren – ‘The 4 Hour Work Week’ is a great title for a book – what’s it about?

Tim – The premise of The 4-Hour Workweek is that there are three currencies in a digital world: time, income, and mobility. In the last 2-3 years, it’s become possible to do things like outsource your life and create virtual businesses, both of which can enable you to live the lifestyle of a millionaire on less than $50,000 per year.

The concept of retirement, as well as single offices with 9-5 clocks, is hopelessly outdated.

Darren – How did you come up with the idea for the book?

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