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How Free Ice Water Turned into a $10M/Year Business (And What it Means for You)

This guest post is by Greg Miliates of www.StartMyConsultingBusiness.com.

In 1931, during the depths of the Great Depression, Ted Hustead opened a store in a tiny South Dakota town, population: 326, virtually all of whom were penniless. Over the following decades, Hustead grew his store into a $10 million empire, now famous throughout the world, still with one location in that nowhere South Dakota town which has, at last count, 766 people.

His secret?

Free ice water.

What does this have to do with running a blog and earning money online? Just about everything. But more on that in a minute.

A bad beginning and a big breakthrough

From the beginning, Ted barely made enough to scrape by. The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl had wiped out most of the families in town, and there was no relief in sight–certainly nothing that might help Ted’s business.

Nearly five years after opening his store, Ted, his wife, and son–and now they had new baby daughter–were no better off than when they’d first opened their store. To earn a little extra cash, Ted even resorted to studying veterinary medicine so he could help farmers with sick livestock.

But Ted’s luck changed on a hot day in July 1936.

Ted’s wife kept hearing cars roar through town on nearby Route 16 en route to Mount Rushmore some 60 miles away. On scorching, dusty summer days, she thought those travelers might want a cool drink, and told Ted that they should offer free ice water to travelers. Ted put up a few signs along the road, and by the time he got back to the store, his wife was scrambling to keep up with all the new customers, serving up ice water, ice cream, and whatever else people wanted.

Fast-forward to today, and during the peak summer season, Ted’s store can get 20,000 customers a day.

From ice water to a world-famous, million-dollar enterprise

Ted and his wife built up from those first days of free ice water, learning what else their customers wanted, and adding onto their store to accommodate their customers. Their store—the world-famous Wall Drug, still with just one location in the tiny town of Wall, South Dakota—now sprawls over 75,000 square feet. Over the years, Ted added a restaurant, gift shop, clothing store, theatre, an Old West frontier town, chapel, and even an 80-foot dinosaur.

But how did he do it?

Now, unless you have a boatload of cash–which Ted didn’t–how did he scrape up enough money to build that kind of enterprise? And how did do you get 20,000 people a day to go out of their way—literally in the middle of nowhere—to come spend money at your store?

Remember those signs along Route 16 on that hot, dusty day back in 1936? That was the key. After the Husteads saw the signs bring in customers, it was a matter of “rinse and repeat.”

But Ted didn’t stop with just a few road signs. He decided to go big—on a massive scale. If you’ve ever driven through South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, or within several hundred miles of Wall Drug, you’ve seen signs for Ted’s store. Chances are, you’ve also seen lots of cars with Wall Drug bumper stickers too.

Strung out along thousands of miles of interstate highways, state routes, and other roads, there are hundreds, probably thousands, of billboards for Wall Drug, offering everything from free ice water, to a hot meal, cowboy boots, gemstones, a frontier town—even a roaring T. rex and the opportunity to pan for gold.

What Wall Drug means to you

That’s all great for Wall Drug, but what about your blog? Well, the free ice was a bribe. Everything else is an upsell. But there’s more to it.

Those first road signs back in the summer of 1936? Essentially, Wall Drug was able to bring in customers by tapping into marketing channels. Ted’s wife realized there was a steady stream of prospective customers hurtling past on Route 16; Ted just needed to give people a reason to stop by their store. And on a long, hot, dusty drive across the prairie, free ice water was it.

Tapping into your marketing channels—for example, by putting up billboards on virtually any road in the region—lets people know you exist.

The next crucial piece is giving people what they want—which can be different from what they need. People don’t need to see an 80-foot dinosaur replica. But what parent is going to turn down that request after being cooped up in a car and enduring hours of pleading for it? Damn right. The kids can see the darn dinosaur, and everybody can get a hot meal and stretch their legs.

How to magnetically pull people in

Educating prospective customers that you have something they want is necessary, but sometimes isn’t enough. Certainly not enough to create an empire in the middle of nowhere.

You need a little something to push people over the edge—to compel them not just to come to you, but to buy from you.

How? Emotional marketing.

For Wall Drug, curiosity and social proof—along with the desire to be part of a tribe—are powerful emotional triggers. There are other emotional triggers—like fear, jealousy, prestige—but curiosity and the need to belong are strong positive emotional triggers.

Back to all those Wall Drug billboards. Something strange happens as you drive along for those hundreds of miles, heading toward the national parks and other sights in the region like Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, or Devil’s Tower. As you keep seeing all those Wall Drug billboards—even if you don’t need anything they’re offering—you get curious. You think, “What the heck’s the big deal about Wall Drug? Why so many billboards?”

And when you finally get to Wall Drug—and you surely do—you see tons of people crowded into the store, some sporting hats, T-shirts, and other paraphernalia promoting Wall Drug. If you’re a savvy marketer, you realize that Wall Drug has created massive social proof—and its own tribe of fans. It’s the brick-and-mortar equivalent of Justin Beiber’s Facebook page.

How you can copy Wall Drug’s strategies in your own business

Now that you understand how Wall Drug got so successful, let’s apply those ideas to your blog.

  • Tap into your marketing channels: Ted put signs on Route 16, then expanded to other roads and the interstate highways. Find channels where your prospects are, and be there to educate and entice them. What’s your Route 16?
  • Understand your prospective customers: Know what they want, and let them know you have it. Road-weary travelers and families want a cool drink, a meal, and something memorable. Offer your bribe—free ice water, an ebook, a video—to get people in the door. Being part of a tribe (“I’ve been to Wall Drug”) is icing on the cake, and gets others to do your marketing for you.
  • Build buzz, engineer social proof, and create intrigue that magnetically draws prospects to you: Being everywhere and having other customers promote you creates social proof. Your prospects will also be curious what they’re missing out on enough to seek you out and join your tribe.
  • Adapt and offer additional products and services to meet customers’ needs and wants: Ted added a restaurant, entertainment for kids and adults, an art gallery, and souvenirs so people could show they’re part of the tribe. How can you give visitors what they want and generate revenue at the same time? Though lots of bloggers make money through advertising, some savvy bloggers realize that consulting can be very lucrative, and offer consulting services as another way to monetize their blog. If you aren’t offering consulting, you’re losing out on a potentially significant revenue stream. Look for other ways to meet customers’ needs and wants that also create revenue.

Next, answer the following questions, then experiment with implementing your answers to see what works best in your niche.

  • What are your marketing channels?
  • What are your prospects’ wants and needs?
  • How can you make people curious, create buzz, and build social proof for your site?
  • What other ways can you fulfill your prospects’ wants and needs? What other products or services could you offer?

Ted Hustead built Wall Drug into a large and successful business—in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere—by using strategies that you can apply to your site. Understanding how he did it gives you a blueprint to follow.

Greg Miliates started a consulting business in 2007, quadrupled his former day-job salary, and ditched his day job along the way. His blog (www.StartMyConsultingBusiness.com) shows you how consulting can change your life, and gives specific tactics, strategies, and tools for starting and running a successful consulting business on the cheap.

How to Score a Job on the ProBlogger Job Board

This guest post is by Jason Bacchetta of Life’d.

After posting quite a few jobs on the ProBlogger Job Board, I’ve come to realize that a number of pet peeves affect my decision as to whether or not an applicant gets hired. Although some jobs receive upwards of 500 applicants, few of those people will follow these twelve easy steps to scoring the job.

Implement the tips given here, and watch the positive responses to your applications skyrocket!

1. Follow the instructions

The very first thing you should do before applying for a job is read the entire job post.

If the company or individual asks for something specific, be sure to follow the instructions. After you’ve completed the application, go back through both your application and the job posting, making sure you’ve covered all your bases.

By following this first step, chances are you’ll already be in the top 20% of applicants.

2. Start with the application itself

Believe it or not, I’ve had applicants ask me not to take their initial application into consideration when judging how qualified they are for the job.

Your application is your first impression, when you should be trying your hardest. If you’re unable to demonstrate your qualifications now, why should you be trusted to perform in the future?

Use complete sentences in your application, and make sure you’re not making any obvious spelling and/or grammatical mistakes (read 3 Simple Grammar Tips to Improve Your Writing).

3. Act fast

If you find an exciting job opportunity, you need to act fast. As mentioned, some postings will receive hundreds of applications. Don’t wait a week before applying; get started immediately.

By being one of the first to apply, you’ll get noticed before the hiring manager becomes overwhelmed and, even more importantly, before the job has been filled.

Keep in mind, though, that “acting fast” doesn’t mean you should submit a sloppy application with a dozen errors; this will cancel out any advantages you might gain from applying early. Rather than getting eyeballs on your application, your email will end up getting trashed.

4. Don’t be demanding

Occasionally, I’ll get an email that sounds more like a decree than an application.

Telling the hiring manager how it’s going to be (e.g., “I get paid weekly via PayPal,” “I will submit X amount of articles on these days,” etc.) is not likely to go over well.

Don’t be so aggressive. Focus on getting hired first, and then get into the details and the negotiating once you know the hiring manager is interested in you.

5. Be direct

Start off your application with exactly what was asked for, and format your email so that it can be scanned.

If you choose to send one big block of text covering every minute detail about your awards and past experience, you will come across as a poor communicator … and boring. At the very least, this will earn your application a “come back to later” tag.

Additionally, don’t send the hiring manager all over the web with 30 different links. The person reading your application wants to find what they’re looking for quickly and without feeling like they’re spending more time doing research than actually evaluating you.

6. Submit relevant examples

If you’re applying to become a writer on a personal finance blog, link to articles that you’ve written in that particular niche. Submitting a portfolio that consists of random ramblings or medical research won’t get you far. Remember, your voice and writing style are going to be taken into consideration as well.

In other words, take that same cookie-cutter application that’s getting sent to everyone, and customize it to be better suited to this particular job.

7. Be honest

If you’re submitting an application that has been written by someone else, you’re going to be exposed in a flash. I’ve had applicants submit impressive applications, but when it comes time to write an article, their work barely qualifies as English.

Likewise, if you’re submitting sample articles that have been heavily edited by someone else, be upfront about it. Otherwise, you are going to be expected to deliver work of that quality each and every time.

Most companies won’t have any problem with letting you go the moment you fail to live up to their standards.

8. Don’t hesitate

Don’t send over an email asking whether or not you should apply, even if you’re just checking to see if the job has already been filled. You may come across as lazy or unsure of your own qualifications. If you’re not confident in yourself, why should I be?

9. Be realistic about pay

The web has completely changed the way publications are run. Rather than a few magazines that charge for each edition and stuff ads into every other page, we now have tens of thousands of websites that everyone expects to read for free.

Think about it. How often do you pay to read an article on the Internet? Sure, maybe you click on a few banner ads here and there (or maybe you have a program like Adblock installed, in which case the publication is actually paying you to read their articles), but the fact is, revenue isn’t what it used to be when traditional media ruled.

Be realistic about how much you expect to get paid for writing on the web. Of course, there are still publications out there that pay upwards of $2 per word, but those jobs are few and far between.

There are U.S.-based writers with some college education who are willing to write for as little as $0.03 per word. On the high end, I personally pay upwards of $0.10 per word to my best writers. These are people who not only have excellent written English skills, but who are also capable of generating intriguing article ideas and producing viral content with little to no help from me.

10. Be patient

Obviously, knowing that someone truly wants the job for which they are applying is a plus for the person doing the hiring. But don’t get too far ahead of yourself. At the very least, give it a few days before following up on your application. Ambition is great, but you don’t want to look too desperate or pestering.

Also keep in mind that popular jobs—ones that offer good pay and tend to be more exciting—are going to receive a lot more applications than the others. Therefore, in some circumstances, you may want to hold off for a couple weeks before sending over a second email.

11. Don’t burn your bridges

You’ve heard this phrase before, but you may not have known that it applies to freelance web positions as well. You never know how many web properties someone owns. And many website owners will ask each other for referrals when looking to fill a position.

I’ve had people burn me in the past, who then went on to apply for other job postings of mine. Needless to say, they didn’t get a response.

12. Treat it like a real interview

All of these guidelines point to one simple rule: treat your online freelance applications as if they were a real job interview. If you wouldn’t say something or act a certain way in a face-to-face interview, why would you do it via email?

This is a guest post by Jason Bacchetta, founder of Life’d, where you’ll find life hacks, health, finance and productivity tips.

5 Fatal Landing Page Mistakes—and How To Fix Them

This guest post is by Anshul Dayal of www.nichesense.com.

It is often said that lead generation is the lifeline of any online business big or small. Correct?

Wrong!

Allow me to explain this further. In a traditional business we often look at three or four key performance indicators when it comes to gauging success and profitability. They are leads, conversions, sales, and profits.

Brad Sugars, a very successful (and somewhat controversial) Australian entrepreneur, describes his “5 ways business chassis” as:

Number Of Leads X Conversion Rate = Customers X # of transactions X Avg. $$$ Sale = Revenue X Profit Margins = Profit

Where:

  • Number of leads = every person who is interested in purchasing from you
  • Coversion rate = percentage of leads that make purchase
  • Customers = every lead that makes a purchase
  • # of transactions = number of purchases made by every customer
  • Avg $$$ Sale = money spent every time a customer buys from you
  • Revenue = your total dollar value of sales
  • Profit margins = your “markup” percentage or simply the purchase price of your product minus the acquisition cost

Simple enough? Now let me ask you a question: which one of those variables should you be increasing to boost your profits quickly and efficiently?

Here is the key. Most people will tell you that it is the number of leads or customers. In reality, it is one humble little number many business owners often overlook, yet it is the easiest the way to boost profits without spending an extra cent on acquiring new leads.

Let’s see how.

Here is the equation again with some real numbers:

Equation

Now, lets simply double the “# of transactions” to 2 (easy enough?)

Equation revised

Suddenly our profits have doubled without acquiring a single extra customer! That’s exciting, right?

Let’s now apply this analogy to an online business.

I offer consulting services to a small group of private clients who seek me out to develop an online strategy, optimize conversions, and boost profits. More often than not I find them making one common mistake which often results in a major lost opportunity when it comes to making money for their offer or services.

The majority of people are wrongly fixated on traffic generation.

Traffic generation is only one part of the equation. Sure, you use a number of well-documented strategies to generate traffic, but what happens when that traffic arrives on your website? Do you have a clear plan for turning that traffic to potential customers you can sell to again and again?

For the majority of website owners, traffic generation is the end of their online strategy. In reality, it should really be the start.

So now the big question is, what is the easiest way to convert this traffic to customers? Simple: get them to subscribe to your email list!

The next big question? What is the most effective way to get visitors to convert to email subscribers? Well, we don’t need to look very far at all to find the answer to that. In fact, many of you have probably used this method of lead capture at some stage in your business.

A landing or a squeeze page is one of the easiest ways you can convert visitors to prospects and customers. A carefully crafted landing page can go a long way in converting that traffic to email-subscribed customers you can sell to over and over again.

So, is there really a science behind creating a high-converting landing page? The short answer is yes. In fact, it’s relatively simple, yet I find a number of business owners committing one or all of the five fatal mistakes I am about to reveal to you.

Fatal mistake #1: Poor headline

We often associate big, fat headlines with hyped up, bold-red text used by internet marketers, but in reality this is really your value proposition. More often than not, you may only get a few seconds of your visitors’ attention before they hit the Back button on the browser. This big, fat headline will go a long way towards grabbing your prospects’ attention and enticing them to take the next step.

Remember, the purpose of a headline is to skillfully answer one simple question: “What’s in it for me?”

An ideal headline should convey your value proposition in as few words as possible. Let’s look at some good and bad examples. The headline below is simply too long and does not offer a clear value proposition as to how using this business coaching service could help my business.

Headline example

On the other hand, this headline captures your attention straight away with a clear benefit and value proposition—a rewarding career:

Shorter headline example

Fatal mistake #2: Missing the call to action

Now that you have got the visitors’ attention, it’s absolutely imperative that you have a clear and easy-to-follow call to action to capture their details.

I see a number businesses wasting valuable advertising dollars only to have people land on confusing homepages that lack a call to action, or even a basic value proposition. Now, I don’t know about you, but as a prospect landing on such a page, I will probably be reaching for the Back button on my browser as soon as possible.

Here is a web design firm advertising on Facebook. Unfortunately, clicking on the ad goes straight to the default fanpage timeline—there’s no attempt to get me take any specific action. I seriously questions if this is a good use of your advertising dollars.

Facebook ad

Landing on the Timeline

Here’s a slightly better use of your paid traffic: visitors are directed to a fanpage squeeze page app designed to capture the prospects’ email addresses with a clear call to action:

Landing on a squeeze page

If you are an affiliate promoting offers, find offers with a clear call to action when you search for good affiliate offers to promote. Also, use them as good examples of landing pages that you can learn from.

As an affiliate marketer myself, one of the products that has done exceptionally well for me as an affiliate is a hair loss treatment which I currently promote using the Markethealth program.

A quick look at the product’s landing page indicates a clearly defined sales funnel for prospects, with key elements in place: the simple value proposition, benefits, and a very clear call to action.

My landing page

As an affiliate, I would be quite comfortable promoting such an offer. It is likely to convert extremely well given the quality of the landing page.

Fatal mistake #3: Placing your call to action below the fold

What is “above the fold”? It is essentially all the content that your visitors get to see before using the scroll bars on a web page. As a matter of fact, 80% of your visitors will simply never scroll to the bottom of the page if you fail to capture their attention in the first few minutes.

I regularly come across landing pages where I like the offer, but find myself searching for more information on how to take the next step.

How can I proceed?

An ideal layout for placing your headline and call to action is what I describe as the “double barrel” layout. This works best with a video, or at least bullet points that explain the key benefits of your offer.

Such a layout often includes your bold headline, a video (or bullet points) and a simple opt-in box stacked next to the video (similar to the hair-loss example above). Using such a layout, you can essentially include your headline, benefits and call to action above the fold.

Above the fold

If you are using a blog-style layout for your business website, then having an opt-in box on the sidebar widget above fold can also be highly effective.

Fatal mistake #4: Offering too many options

A well crafted landing page should be designed to do one thing and one thing only: capturing your prospects’ details as soon as possible. The best and easiest way to do this is to ensure that you are offering them as few options as possible so that they  reach for the opt-in box.

A well structured landing page will typically contain the big, fat headline (your value proposition), key benefits, and clear call to action. Yet we all see examples of websites offering too much information and too many links on their landing pages.

Too many clicks

Such a layout is guaranteed not to help your prospects take any action at all—they’ll simply wander away once they have had a quick scan of the landing page.

Fatal mistake #5: Not using a customized “thank you” page

One of the golden rules of a successful marketing funnel is to get your visitors to take the next step. A “thank you” page is often considered by many people as the last step in your marketing funnel where you have captured your visitors details and are now congratulating yourself on a job well done.

In reality, if you skimp on this, you are missing a golden opportunity to offer your visitors numerous other ways to engage with your content. Remember, at this point, your prospects are most interested in what you have to offer, as they have just given you their name and email address and are looking forward to receiving that information you promised on your landing page.

You can use the “thank you” page in many different ways. If you have a “premium” version of the product you are offering for free, then why not use a customized page to offer that premium product as a one-time offer for a low price?

If you have another free product, then a customized thank you page can also be highly effective for getting interested visitors to double opt-in to another offer. This way, you can promote a separate set of targeted offers relevant to another product you are offering.

This is a powerful yet badly underutilized strategy for making the most of your prospects’ eagerness to consume your products when they first offer you their name and email address.

Tools and tips for a better landing page

Now that you have had some insights into some of the mistakes to avoid when creating a well converting landing page, let’s look at some handy tools you can use to create high quality landing pages and opt-in boxes in a breeze. My favorites are:

If you find that even though your landing page structure is good, your conversions are poor, then I recommend split-testing your headline. Most of the premium themes mentioned above offer readymade functionality for split-testing headlines and page structures.

Last but not least, if you’re capturing leads through multiple landing pages, make sure to segment them using your autoresponder service. This will allow you to send relevant and targeted information and offers to prospects in specific categories, with specific interests.

How are your landing pages looking? And what tips can you add? Share your secrets to success with us in the comments.

Anshul Dayal is the owner at www.nichesense.com and helps his clients make more money online with cutting edge strategies. Sign up for his free niche marketing coachingon his niche marketing blog.

How I Fast-tracked My Blog to 10k Subscribers and $15k Revenue in a Month

This guest post is by Alex Becker of Source Wave Marketing.

Tracks

Image courtesy stock.xchng user Thoursie

When I first got into blogging, gaining any sizable amount of engaged subscribers seemed like a slow, tedious task. As bloggers, I am sure you know the popular ways to get people to your site:

  • guest posting
  • participating on forums
  • SEO.

But when your blog is brand new, getting featured on a site with a ton of traffic is next to impossible. Creating a solid reputation on a forum takes time. SEO is a popular tactic but also takes a long time. To put it bluntly, if you are new to blogging, the deck is not stacked in your favor.

This is why I decided to use another method to grow my blog: product creation.

“Wait, what?!” you might be thinking. “Making products as a way to grow your blog/brand? Does that even work?”

Well, my blog is just over seven months old. It has an email list of just over 10,000 people and brings in a total of $15k+ in revenue monthly. So yes, product creation is a super-effective and underutilized method to grow your blog. But before you can put this method to use on your blog, you need to understand why it works so well.

Why blogging and making products is like pouring gasoline on a fire

Ironically, the easiest place to get traffic you can capture is not on other websites. It isn’t on Facebook or Twitter. It is the massive email lists people have in certain niches.

But I am not just talking about any big email list. Getting a monster blogger or magazine to feature you in their email list is pretty tough, and oddly enough, they do not even have the best traffic.

Blogger and news lists: the hard way

A huge blogger might have 10-30k emails. The funny thing is that many of these are worthless because these are what we call “freebie chasers.” These are people that joined an email list for free and are only interested in one thing—more free stuff. They are also commonly not committed to a niche.

Now this blogger is going to make you jump through hoop after hoop to get featured in his or her list. While you can traffic from the list, it’s going to be very hard unless you also have a big reputation (which 95% of bloggers do not).

We want to focus on one and only one type of list: the massive email lists that other product creators have. And here’s why.

Product creators’ lists: the easy way

Think about the owner of a successful Clickbank product or information products. Even small-time product creators routinely have email lists of 5-20k. Bigger names can easily have 20k-100k. That’s a lot of people, folks.

Here’s why their lists are so valuable: every single person on their lists has loaded up their PayPal accounts and paid for information in the niche they’re selling in. As they say, money talks. And when these people have put money down, they’re telling you a couple things:

  • They are very interested in the niche.
  • They participate in the niche.
  • They are comfortable spending money in the niche.

This is exactly the type of person you want coming to your site and joining your list.

The ironic thing is that product creators are far less stingy with their lists than many others. This is because they usually have their list for a much less honorable reason than most straight-up bloggers. Most product creators (not all of them) use their list to promote other products and make an affiliate income.

This means one thing to you: if you have a product that will make them money, they will throw a tidal wave of traffic your way.

This is why they are such a great resource. They have one simple button you need to press to get access to “buyer” traffic. In this post, I’ll show you exactly how to push that button.

My product creation blueprint for blogging

I understand your thoughts right now: “What if I’ve never made a product before?”

Don’t panic. You don’t need to create a mega-product, nor I am not telling you to put crummy material out on the market. However, my father always told me “Keep it simple, stupid.” Sometimes something small and simple works insanely well. In fact, for this method, we want small and simple.

For example, one of the first products I made with my partner was a list of the most reliable Fiverr sellers, which we sold for five bucks. This simple product has sold over 6,000 copies, earning us over 6,000 subscribers.

So just keep in mind that you are totally capable of doing this. With that being said, let me walk you through the steps I used to create a product and blow up my blog, and then how I used my blog to create sales.

Step 1. Find an idea for a short product and make it happen

The first thing you want to do is find places online where your targeted visitor hangs out. These will usually be forums or Yahoo Answers-type sites.

The sites are so valuable because there you will see your visitor tell you exactly what they want. Look at the questions and problems that are getting the most focus. Then, make a product to solve these problems. Simple, huh?

Step 2. Make a juicy offer for product list owners and their customers

One of the best ways to get product creators interested is to offer 100% commission on your product. Remember, we’re not trying to make money: we’re trying to get them to hand over their traffic. You have to remember your motives, first and foremost.

We also want to make a product that’s cheap enough to convert very highly with their list. If you make, say, a $50 product, not very many people will buy it. However, if you produce a $5 product, the interest will, naturally, skyrocket.

Step 3. Find big list owners

This is fairly simple. Look around your niche and find information products. I guarantee you the owners of those products had a way to collect the emails of their customers. Email these product creators and pitch them on your product. (Hint: Be sure to mention the 100% affiliate commission!)

Step 4. Collect the emails

Now that you have a product creator blasting your product with traffic, it is time to collect the traffic that converts. (Remember, keep your product cheap for maximum conversions. More conversions means more emails.)

You can easily collect and manage these emails through a server such as Mail Chimp. After a person purchases your product, redirect them to an opt-in form that they must fill out to get access to the file.

Step 5. Treat your new subscribers like gold

Now that you have the emails of these people, it is time to deliver value, and really wow them with your brand.

One thing you need to keep in mind is that most of these people are used to being abused with affiliate offers whenever they get forced onto a product email list. This your chance to step up and do something different. Differentiating yourself will be what makes you so successful. Treat them with respect and earn their trust.

Constantly link them to cool things that are happening on your blog. Bombard them with value.

I did this by providing free weekly webinars, sharing my most potent internet marketing secrets for free and taking every chance I get to make personal connections with my readers. I also never asked for anything in return. Remember these words: what can I do for you?

This is the secret to turning a list of people that randomly bought your product into a community of friends and colleagues that trust you and like you enough to invest in your business.

Step 6. Use that trust in you and your brand to grow a profitable business

The funny thing about this is that most people would assume the next step is, “spam them with affiliate offers!” No way! That’s very, very bad.

The simple truth is that you will now have a community of buyers who trust and respect you. If you maintain that trust, they will invest in offers your promote and be eager to be a part of any business you create. So why push them away with spam?

A great example of someone who’s used the trust he’s developed with an audience is Pat Flynn of the blog, Smart Passive Income. By always having his readers’ best interests in mind, Pat has become not only a very rich man, but an internet marketing icon. Do not ever underestimate the power of a trusting audience.

The results

My partner and I have used this traffic generation method on our blog, and, in under seven months, we’ve created a thriving community in an extremely competitive niche. On top of this, any business we launch is an instant success due to the trust we have built with the subscribers we gained from product launches.

In fact, the last premium service we launched from our blog sold completely in under one hour. That is the power of combining buyer traffic from product launches with the amount of trust quality blogging can generate.

You were meant to make products

As a blogger, you are undertaking a role as an authority on information in your niche.

To me, creating products and being an authority go hand and hand. When you create a good product (remember, simple can be good), the people that buy it will naturally be interested in your blog. This is because authority figures make products and authority figures blog. Period.

By making products, not only do you get access to hoards of traffic, but you also become an authority.

This is why I encourage every ambitious blogger to break out of the “strictly blogging” mindset and spread your message through as many formats as possible. Remember, it’s important to differentiate.

Of course, creating a product is not going to be an easy 6-step process, but niether is growing a massive brand. I do promise one thing, though: If you take the ideas presented in this article and run with them, your blog will become a red-hot source of awesome faster than you ever thought possible.

Alex Becker is the co-founder of the Source Wave Marketing and owner of multiple online SEO services.

How to Mass Monetize Your YouTube Channel

This guest post is by Jenny Dean of Floppycats.

One of the joys of the Internet is the opportunity to become friends with a complete stranger on the other side of the world. Michael Strange and I had two things in common when we first met: we both owned Ragdoll cats, and we both had YouTube channels.

After an exchange of comments on each other’s videos, I discovered Michael knew a lot more than I did about being found on YouTube and being paid for being found.  I was making approximately $3 per month from  my YouTube channel and Michael showed me the potential to make 3500% more than that!

If you have a YouTube channel, you may not know that you can make money from your videos (if they are yours) through revenue sharing.

You used to have to be a YouTube Partner in order to be able to monetize your videos, however, this is no longer the case.  All you need now is a YouTube account that has videos on it and an Adsense account.

If you sign into your account and go to Video Manager, more than likely you’ll see a notification letting you know that you can now monetize your videos. So if you don’t have an Adsense account set up, you will want to do that.

Then, you’ll need to follow these steps to connect the two, and monetize your videos.

Setting ad preferences

Log into YouTube, go to Video Manager, and you’ll see a dollar sign that may or may not be colored in.  For videos that are not yet monetized, the dollar sign is not colored in.  For videos that are monetized, the dollar sign is colored green.

Monetization Buttons

Those already monetized, of course, can be skipped. The ones with a dollar sign button on a white background are the ones to select and update.

As of April 2012, YouTube made mass monetizing your videos easier than before. If you go to Settings, you’ll see they’ve added a new entry in the left-hand column, near Monetization,  called Ad Defaults.  Select all the ones you want (partner accounts will have three options; non-partners just two) and click on Save.

You can apply these preferences to all new uploads, but they won’t affect movies you’ve already monetized.

Ad Defaults

Mass monetize your movies

To mass monetize your videos, select ten movies at a time and use the Action drop-down to bulk monetize them using the default preferences you have just saved. If you go through all your movies you can update the ad types in bulk like this.

If you’ve already set those preferences for a movie, then setting it again will make no difference. If a video only had some of the new preferences set, they will be updated to the full range of options when you have selected them and applied your new preferences.

To mass monetize after you have set your monetization preferences, go to Video Manager, where you’ll see your uploaded videos listed.  Select the videos that you want to monetize, as below, then go to Actions and select Monetize.

Mass Monetize

A new window will pop up to confirm your preferences. Click on the blue Monetize button, and voila!  All of those videos are monetized to your preferences!

Blue Monetize Button

You’ll also see a confirmation that the videos previously selected have been monetized.

Monetize Confirmation

If you have not monetized your videos, if you have only monetized some of them, or even if you just don’t remember, I encourage you to go into your YouTube account and check everything out.

Update your preferences and more likely than not, in a few weeks time you will see your YouTube revenues climb. Thanks to Michael’s advice, I have had fantastic results from this tip, which has even given me a little debt relief!

What are some of the monetizing tips that work for you on YouTube? Share them with us in the comments.

Jenny Dean is the Editor over at Business Blog Writers, online SEO content writers.  She also has some of her own blogs, Floppycats, Antioxidant-fruits and Guide to Couponing. Business Blog Writers offers a YouTube enhancement service.

Why You Need To Create and Sell A Product Now (And How To Do It)

This guest post is by Brandon Turner of RealEstateInYourTwenties.com.

Last night I made $9.

I know that isn’t a lot of money. I know I’m not taking that dream vacation to Italy or buying that new MacBook Air I lust after. So why mention it?

Because I made $9 last night.

While sleeping.

While completely unconscious.

I woke up and discovered that I was $9 richer than when I went to bed. The feeling not only energized me beyond what words can adequately describe, it also took me one step closer to my ultimate goal—complete financial freedom.

Perhaps this goal is familiar?

Perhaps you share the same goal?

If so, I hope I can shed some light on why now is the best time for you to begin selling products on your blog. The truth is you don’t need to wait until you are a “pro blogger” to begin making money by selling products that you create. You don’t need fifty thousand RSS subscribers to earn online income. You don’t even need the classic “one thousand true fans.”

What you need is an idea and a kick in the pants.

Why start right now?

Like you, I spent the first several months of blogging simply writing.

My blog at RealEstateInYourTwenties.com is aimed at young people looking to replace their “job” and enter the world of real estate investing, so I focus most of my efforts on discussing how a young person can begin earning money through investing. I began writing without a clear picture of how I would someday monetize the blog, but aware that the end goal was to replace my investment income with my online income.

Last month, while writing a post discussing how I analyze deals using a spreadsheet I created in Excel, I thought, “I wish this spreadsheet was around when I started investing! I would have saved so much time and hassle!”

Boom.

I realized at that moment I had a product that could actually help people. I spent the afternoon researching how to go about actually selling a product (more details on that below), polished the blog post and spreadsheet, and by the late afternoon my post was live.

I’d love to say I made thousands of dollars that first day and am now living on a beach in Hawaii. However, that’s simply not the case for most people, and wasn’t the case for me. I think I made around $50 during the first week. Again, it’s not enough to dance around about—but then again, maybe it is. I had actually done it. I made money online. Since the day that post went live, I have been consistently making one or two sales a day.

“Big deal,” you say.

It is a big deal though. It’s a huge deal. It’s the difference between a successful blog and being another tire kicker.

I don’t care how many readers you have. You don’t need a million readers to begin selling your products online. You can, and should, start today. Even if it’s just your mom following along to your witty posts, get something for sale now.

I’m not suggesting you write a 400-page ebook or a $99-a-month membership site. Those things may come later. I’m talking about offering something small or introductory. I’ll explain in more detail later some examples, but for now let me explain why you need to sell something on your blog ASAP.

Motivation

When I woke up this morning and discovered I was $9 richer, something triggered inside of me. I got up excited to start the day and began working on making my blog even better. I was motivated to reach out and connect with more people. I even decided to write this very post for ProBlogger.net because of how motivated I was.

Don’t underestimate the “motivation” factor. Find what motivates you and capitalize on that. Chances are, you are motivated by the very thing I am: making money. (Don’t feel bad about that. It doesn’t have to be your primary motivation, but deep down every human is at least partially motivated by the need to make an income). Making a few dollars per day is not going to move you from a shack to a mansion—but it just might move you from a mediocre blog to a stellar one.

Learn what works

You may feel it’s best to wait until you have a huge following to begin marketing your goods. However, by waiting until that point you are missing out on a huge opportunity—learning what works and what doesn’t. What if I listed my spreadsheet for sale online and did not sell any? What if the feedback was largely negative? I would have learned a great deal about what didn’t work.

Instead, I found that everyone who downloaded my product seemed to love it. Think of this phase as the “research and development” phase of product creation. Additionally, by selling products early in your blog’s existence you will begin to learn what works in relation to your sales funnel. How are you getting from product creation to the beloved “payment received” email from Paypal? How is your conversion rate? What about split-testing? These are all questions that you can begin to answer before you launch a “major” product someday in the future.

Collect names and true fans

Have you purchased anything from a blog online? Probably not a whole lot. The fact is, most people do not actually buy things from bloggers online. While conversion rates differ dramatically, chances are less than 2% of your readers will probably buy whatever it is you are selling. However, those that do buy a product from you early on have probably one or both of these characteristics:

  • They like to spend money frivolously online.
  • They really like you.

Either way—those are the people you want as friends. Those customers who buy a small product from you will be significantly more likely to buy other products from you in the future. Make sure you separate these people into their own email list (using Aweber, Mail Chimp, or whatever email service you use) and value that list above all others.

Where do you want to be in two years?

Do you wish you had started blogging earlier? I know I do. I look at the growth my blog has shown over the past six months and realize how much larger it would be today if I had started two years ago. However, I can’t change the past—and neither can you.

Instead, change your future. Take a moment and think about where you want to be in two years. Pretty nice, eh? You will never get there if you don’t start down that path now. Don’t look back at your life in two years and say, “I wish I had started selling products earlier!” Do things today that will matter in two years, five years, and twenty years from now. This is the exact same advice I give newbie real estate investors because it’s the biggest regret most professionals have later in their life—“I wish I had started sooner.”

Are you a serious blogger or an amateur?

Finally, by selling a product on your website you are telling the world that you are a professional. You aren’t just posting photos of your grandma’s recent birthday party. You are offering a professional service to the world because you are an expert in whatever field you are in.

In the same way that I wouldn’t trust a consultant who charged $15 bucks an hour, I would also have a harder time trusting a “hobby blogger.” Selling a small product on your site will allow your readers to adjust to the idea that you are operating, at least in a small part, a business.

If you run a blog for two years and suddenly spring a $297 product on them, many will go running for the hills or pass you off as just another self proclaimed guru trying to take advantage of the small folk. Instead, by offering a small product for sale early in your blog development you will help your community adjust slowly to the idea of you making money and view you as an expert they could pay to get information from.

What do I sell?

“But Brandon,” you say “I don’t have anything to sell.”

False! Everyone has something to sell. I believed the same thing. Sure, I could make a video real estate training series, write a big ebook, or create a membership site. Those things, however, take lots of time to develop and I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a whole lot of free time these days.

The solution came when I found something I already had that could help others. For me, it was an Excel spreadsheet that calculated the profitability of a house flip. I realized that one of my most popular posts on my blog had to do with how to analyze whether or not a house flip would be profitable. Additionally, I received emails every day from people asking me “is this a good deal?” in regards to an investment property they found. By putting together both a common question and a popular post, I realized what people wanted.

Take a look at your blog. What do people want? What questions are they asking you? What are your most popular posts?

For example, let’s say you run a newer blog on fashion design. You take a look at your popular posts and realize that your blog post about t-shirt design is a popular subject. You may also have been asked questions about how you come up with ideas for t-shirts. You could spend an hour writing a document titled, One Hundred Killer T-Shirt Design Ideas, turn it into a PDF, and offer it as an emagazine for $7.00.

Or perhaps you run a blog about web design. How difficult would it be to sell a pack of twenty Photoshop images of buttons or icons for $9.00?

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. While obviously I can’t go into detail of every product type there is, there are a few standards:

  • An ebook, ereport, or emagazine: Perhaps the most popular type of product, these informational products are nothing more than a word processing document converted to a PDF. I use OpenOffice (a free, open source alternative to Microsoft Word) because it’s both free and has the ability to convert your document to PDF in seconds.
  • An MP3: Perhaps you are going to sell a twenty-minute lecture on how to do something. You can record your lesson using software such as Garageband (Mac) or Audacity (PC) to turn your words into an MP3 quickly and easily.
  • Consulting or coaching: If you are involved in a niche where you could profit by sharing your knowledge on a one-on-one level with others, consulting might be an excellent option for you. I use “Ether.com” to manage my consulting, which allows the client to call in, enter my Ether extension number, pay for the session, and connect us together while monitoring the time spent on the phone and charging accordingly.

If you have a really young blog (the “my mom is my only reader” type), a good strategy is to find a more popular blog in the same (or very similar) niche and read the comments. Look for questions that are being asked, or common concerns that are being raised.

If you can answer those questions on your own blog and turn them into a sellable low-cost product, you can often even respond to those comments on the other blog with a link back to your own. Just don’t be spammy.

How do I sell?

Selling products online is significantly easier than you’d think. There are many good articles across the web (like this one) that will teach you, step by step, how to do this. I want to just give you a big-pictur” look at how the process looks and show you how easy it really is.

The easiest way to upload a product for resale is using a website known as e-Junkie.com. Yes, the name is a bit off-putting and the web designers for the site haven’t yet caught on to the clean, smooth, minimalistic trends blanketing the Internet. However, what they lack in being pretty they more than make up for in being … awesome.

Once you register for an account, you will simply add your product to their servers, connect your PayPal account to e-Junkie, and place a link on your own website. E-Junkie will handle the entire process for you and provide the product to the customer after they have purchased it. The best part: e-Junkie starts at just $5 per month.

A warning and a kick in the pants

I am not suggesting that you spam all your readers with sales products. You are trying to build a blog into a business, and nothing is going to turn off potential readers faster than gimmicky sales and greed. If you are following the advice you find on Problogger.net and other great sites, you already know that providing value and great content is the best way to grow your blog.

However, it is important to have the option available for readers who earnestly want more and are willing to pay for it. By offering low-cost but premium content for sale on your site, you establish yourself immediately as an expert in your field as well as a professional business aimed at helping others. You also begin building a solid foundation upon which great success can be built for your blog, your financial future, and the lives of your readers.

You don’t need a million readers to start making money through your blog. You have everything you need to begin selling a product by tonight on your blog. The tools are there, the motivation is there, and the idea is probably already formed in your head. So what are you waiting for?

Brandon Turner is an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, and blogger at RealEstateInYourTwenties.com where he teaches others how to “hack” the real estate game. He is also the author of “7 Years to 7 Figure Wealth,” a free e-book.

How to Build and Monetize a Mobile-Optimized Blog

This guest post is by Thomas Samph and Matt Convente of Grovo.com.

For bloggers, creating a mobile site can seem daunting. Without the time, money and a working knowledge of various coding languages, a mobile site can seem out of reach.

But today, just like anyone who only has a desktop version of their website, that thought process is outdated. Mary Meeker, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, noted in her 2012 Internet Trends report that mobile traffic today accounts for 10% of total Internet traffic.

What’s more, way back in 2010, she predicted that mobile users would surpass desktop users by 2014. Even more recently, the Google Mobile Ads Blog released an infographic showing that in the United States, 47% of searches for information about Olympic athletes or news about the Olympics were conducted on mobile devices.

In other words, the rewards of going mobile far outweigh the risk. Plus, with the myriad of tools at our fingertips, creating a mobile optimized site isn’t as difficult as it sounds.

So let’s take a look at why you need a mobile optimized site. Then we’ll show you how to do it. And of course, let’s not forget to monetize, too.

Why have a mobile site?

Even by the time Meeker released her Internet Trends report at the All Things Digital conference in May, we knew where the Internet was headed. The Internet is going mobile, and bloggers need mobile sites.

Here’s a short case study: think of all your favorite sites. The majority is already mobile-optimized, and there’s a great reason why. Whether readers are checking in before they go to bed, as they’re waking up, or on the go, mobile-optimized sites offer great user experiences no matter what device readers are using.

Let’s see a demonstration. Below is a screenshot of the New York Times desktop version, to the left, and its mobile version, to the right.
NYtimes_desktop_mobile

When you access the New York Times from a mobile device, you actually get the same version of the site as from a desktop browser, just smaller. This is what you want to avoid by creating a mobile version of your site.

“But wait,” you say, “The New York Times has an app that I can access from my mobile device.” True; but there’s a large difference between native mobile apps and mobile versions of sites.

Whereas a native mobile app requires a brand new infrastructure (i.e. lots of time and resources), a mobile version of a site simply means that the existing site is presented to mobile users in a user-friendly format. Plus, a mobile version of a site doesn’t require its own content management system.

To see the difference, let’s take a look at the New York Times native mobile app, and the mobile-optimized version of their site:

nytimes_mobile_versions

In comparing the two, we can see that there’s much more functionality in the native app to the left, but the mobile version to the right is a huge step up from looking at the desktop version of the New York Times on a small screen.

Now that the difference between a native mobile app and a mobile optimized site is clear, there’s one distinction still to make. We’ll illustrate that with the following two sites:

mashable_desktop_mobile

ethan_desktop_mobile

Both Mashable and Ethan Marcotte have mobile versions of their sites. But there’s a subtle difference between the two, which has huge implications on how easy (or difficult) it will be for you to create a mobile optimized version of your site.

When Mashable’s site detects that a visitor is accessing it from a mobile device, it shows that visitor the mobile version of the site, instead of the desktop version.

Ethan’s site, on the other hand, uses responsive web design, where the elements of the site rearrange themselves depending on the size of the browser. Check it out by clicking and dragging the corner of your browser on his site to make the content bigger and smaller. You’ll see that all the content shifts and rearranges itself based on the size of your browser.

In fact, Ethan Marcotte wrote the book on responsive web design. He’s a good act to follow. But following him is not easy, by any means. Responsive web design is a very difficult emerging trend in coding and design, and few people can pull off a site like Ethan’s.

So, bloggers are left with a decision when it comes to creating mobile-optimized sites: create a mobile version of a blog, or build a site using responsive web design.

How to make a mobile-optimized site

Using a plugin

There are several methods you can use to create a mobile optimized site. But anyone with a Blogger blog has it easy: Blogger blogs are automatically set up with a mobile-optimized version. If you use WordPress, the easiest method is to use a WordPress plugin.

To see what your site might look like after you use a WordPress plugin to create a mobile-optimized version, check out TechCrunch’s browser version compared to its mobile site:

techcrunch_desktop_mobile

WordPress, which powers TechCrunch, has a number of plugins that can optimize your site for mobile—all you need to do is install one of them.

Wapple Architect will display the mobile version of your website to visitors with mobile devices. It supports AdMob and Google Adsense, and allows you to retain the URL structure of your current site, instead of having to create a new subdomain for the mobile version.

wapple_plugin

WPtouch is another popular WordPress plugin that, like Wapple, is fully customizable to your needs. There’s also an option for mobile visitors to switch back to the desktop browser version if they wish to do so.

wptouch_plugin

The WordPress Mobile Pack transforms WordPress blogs into mobile sites quickly and easily, while offering a range of customizable features. Again, you’ll have the ability to manage your ads through AdMob or Google Adsense. With this plugin, however, you can view mobile analytics apart from your desktop analytics.

wordpress_mobile_plugin

By using these plugins, you ensure that those visiting your site from a mobile device will see the mobile version only. Problem solved.

However, if you’re looking for more customization, or you’re not using WordPress, check out Onbile.com.

Instead of building a mobile site from scratch or installing a plugin, Onbile lets you build a slick mobile interface with no coding. You can choose from several themes, customize the pages, and link in your RSS feed.

how_to_use_onbile

Once you’re done building, grab the redirect code and place it in the index of your site, and you’re ready to go.

Here’s the transformation of my website:

samph_desktop_mobile

Unlike WordPress plugins or Blogger mobile sites, however, the free version of Onbile requires that you keep the Onbile advertising banner on your mobile site—not the best choice if you’re looking to keep your mobile site monetized.

Still, using WordPress plugins or sites like Onbile that let you build your own HTML5 mobile site can be a great quick-fix for anyone looking to appeal to mobile traffic without having to get their hands dirty with code.

In the next section we’ll discuss some more in-depth methods of creating a great mobile presence with responsive web design. The feint of heart can skip to the last section!

Using responsive web design

Responsive web design is a way to build mobile capability into your existing site. This method is much more difficult than building another version of your site and redirecting, such as with Onbile, and it requires a deeper strategy and planning to pull it off.

For another great example of responsive web design in action, check out the Boston Globe’s site. Note that as you change the size of your browser, the content of the site changes as well.

boston_globe_site

small_boston_globe_site

This is made possible by media queries, which control the adaptation of site layout and content based on certain conditions, such as screen resolution, orientation, and pixel density. Media queries are placed either in your master CSS file, or in a separate file; it’s really up to you. Having them in your master CSS file means you have one less file to load, but having a separate file for responsive styles makes them easier to maintain.

However, no matter which method you choose, you must place your responsive styles after your main styles. This is because browsers render code from top to bottom. If your responsive styles are placed above your main ones, they won’t be activated when they’re needed.

Here are some sample media queries that you can run to adjust the layout of a page when a visitor’s screen resolution is a certain size.

1. Make a layout that adapts to a max screen width of 600 pixels (likely a phone):

@media (max-width: 600px) { CSS goes here }

2. Make a layout that adapts to screens between 768 and 850 pixels (likely a tablet):

@media (min-width: 768px) and (max-width: 850px) { CSS goes here }

The last step to a successful mobile site is to add the viewport meta tag in your header. This determines a device’s width and informs the mobile browser, making it a necessary supplement to media queries. In order words, media queries adjust your CSS to varying widths, whereas viewport tags determine the starting width of the device a visitor is using right now.

In addition to device width, viewport tags can also assign initial and maximum scale. Here’s an example meta viewport tag:

meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width; initial-scale=1.0; maximum-scale=1.0;”

Here, initial-scale should be set to 1 so the correct responsive styles are displayed for your specific mobile device. The maximum-scale value can be whatever you want, though it’s important to note that zooming on a mobile device might cause some site elements to break, similar to zooming on full-width browsers. If you want to disable zooming, set maximum-scale to 1.

Let’s not forget to monetize

For any blogger who uses AdSense, it will be fairly easy to keep the mobile version of your site monetized. And if you don’t already, you can use AdMob, another Google advertising service designed specifically for mobile devices, to serve mobile banner ads to your mobile site.

Still, there are several common problems with advertising on mobile sites:

  • No Flash: It was slightly shocking to developers when Apple announced that Flash would not be supported on their mobile devices. Sites built with Flash were relegated to the broom closet, in favor of HTML5 and javascript. Many ads themselves, let alone entire mobile sites, are built with Flash. So, with limited support on Android devices, and no chance on Apple devices, Flash ads are a no-no on mobile.
  • Ad display size: The screen area of mobile devices is much smaller than desktops, so many ad sizes simply won’t do on mobile. The biggest victim of mobile is the vertical sidebar.
  • Ad file size: The speeds at which you can download data to a mobile device have still not caught up to those of a desktop. This means you need to be mindful of the loading time for your ads. Large files will take a while to load, and can also force your other content to load more slowly. When sites are slow to load, people leave.

However, those problems have some quick solutions:

  • No Flash? No problem: Instead of using Flash, try an animated GIF if you want a moving ad. Flash files are large, slow to load, and probably won’t even display on most mobile devices. Animated GIFs are a quick fix.
  • Getting the right ad display size: Square or almost-square ad units are best for mobile designs, because they’ll fit on most devices as long as you place them correctly.You can also use a rectangular adhesion banner that is fixed to the bottom of the mobile browser. Fixed banner ads have an identical pro and con: it’s always there. Be mindful of height, especially in landscape viewing mode, as a fixed ad that is too tall will cover up too much of your site. For a reference, check out the iab guidelines for digital ad units.
  • Fixing ad file size: Export your ad images using a “Save for web” or equivalent option in your editing software. This will compress the file size and make it acceptable for mobile.

How mobile’s your blog?

To prepare for the mobile traffic of the future, bloggers need mobile sites. Although some methods are more time consuming and difficult than others, there’s a way to do it for bloggers of all skill levels.

And with more and more data surfacing about the volume of mobile traffic, from Mary Meeker’s reports to the mobile search volume at the Olympics, going mobile is all the more necessary.

Do you have a mobile-optmized blog? How’d you build it? Tell us in the comments.

Thomas Samph, a product analyst, and Matt Convente, a front-end developer, both work at Grovo.com, an online training and education platform for cloud-based software.

5 Lessons I Learned About Blogging in Queensland #QLDBLOG

This guest post is by Rebecca Cooper of simpleasthatblog.com.

It’s hard for me to believe that just three short months ago I was in sunny Queensland enjoying the sites and attractions across the world from my homeland of Canada. Being chosen as one of the ten bloggers to go on this once in a lifetime trip was exciting to say the least! I was thrilled for the adventure and equally as thrilled to learn what I could about blogging while there.

Though I’ve had a blog now for over five years, I’m relatively new to the idea of monetizing and was feeling ready to take my blog in a new direction but I needed some help to get there.

Amidst helicopter rides over the Reef, ocean kayaking and zip lining through the rainforest, we had the chance to sit through two blogging workshops with Darren and the open discussion and interactions between all the bloggers was so helpful and really opened my eyes to a lot of possibilities in this world of blogging!

Besides the obligatory Koala and vegemite souvenirs I brought home for the kids, here are a few blogging tidbits I brought home from Queensland with me.

5 Things I learned about blogging in Queensland

  1. Blogging buddies are the best: Discussing blogging with other bloggers is a lot different than chatting on the subject with my husband, who does not blog. So very different!
  2. Make products prominent: If you want to sell ebooks, or other products for that matter, make them easy to find.  I had links to my ebooks on my blog’s sidebar, below the fold, and I was only selling a handful. It was recommended I move them to the top of my sidebar. I was so surprised to see my ebook sales more than double just by doing this. It’s something so simple and obvious to some, I’m sure, but I told you, I’m new to this monetizing thing, remember?
  3. Write with intent: One thing that really stuck with me from Darren’s blog workshops was to ask myself what is the one thing I want my readers to do after they read each post. I find myself asking this question before I hit publish, now. Whether it’s to have readers purchase a copy of my ebooks, have them subscribe to my RSS feed, or simply to feel inspired, with this intent in the back of my mind as I write, I’ve found my posts being more driven and accomplishing better what I want them to. I find myself writing with more intent.
  4. Editing published content is wise: Going back and adding to past content is okay. I learned a few things about what I should have done in past posts, so I fixed them. I went back through my past photography-related posts and provided links to my ebooks, for example.
  5. Believe: One of the biggest things I took away from my experiences in Queensland is to be confident in who you are as a blogger. Believe that you have something to offer, that your content is valuable. That belief in yourself really does shine through.

While I still have a very long way to go in growing my blog and monetizing it the way I’d like to, the things I’ve learned and the small steps I’ve made so far have certainly made a difference.

Sitting down with the other bloggers and doing an open critique of each other’s blogs was one thing I found especially helpful during the workshops and I came home with a list of goals and ideas I can’t wait to implement in my blog!

What new ideas do you have on your blogging to-do list? Let us in on them in the comments.

Rebecca Cooper is a mom, blogger and photographer from Alberta, Canada. When she’s not busy taking care of her four kiddos she enjoys crafting, running, being outdoors, taking photos and blogging about her family’s adventures at simpleasthatblog.com.

How Letting Go of Expectations Improved My Blog #QLDBLOG

This guest post is by Jess Van Den of Epheriell Designs.

One of the great joys and terrors of blogging is that a blog is never finished. This is an exciting and inspiring reality. It is also fraught with second-guessing syndrome.

Should I put this widget here? Should I change my banner/font/colours/posting frequency? …and so on.

Most of us learn what works for our blog through trial and error, which is a never-ending process.

We also learn from watching what other bloggers do—particularly those in our niche. If we see something working for others, chances are we’ll give it a go on our own blogs.

This can be extremely helpful—but it can also be limiting.

Setting the wrong expectations

In my niche—craft and design—there is a heavy emphasis on having blog sponsors—a whole lotta pretty ads in your sidebar for fellow indie businesses.

This has become such a norm that many bloggers in this niche don’t feel like they have a “proper” blog unless they have sponsors. That it gives their blog an air of credibility—that they’ve
“arrived.”

The number of ads (and the price of them) has become a litmus test of the popularity of their blogs.

I went through this stage on my own blog—I’ve run sponsor ads in my sidebar on and off for the last two to three years. That was partially because I wanted the money that ads could bring in, but if I’m honest with myself, the main reason was because I was concerned that if I didn’t offer sponsor spots, my blog would be seen as not being good enough. That I wouldn’t be a “proper” design blogger.

Fast-forward to June, when I was lucky enough to be one of the winners of the ProBlogger Great Barrier Reef Competition. It was one of the most remarkable experiences in my blogging career.

Along with making me fall in love with my home state all over again and giving me the chance to befriend an amazing group of people, the workshops helped me see my blog from a fresh perspective. It’s not often that you have ten successful bloggers sitting in a room with you critiquing your site. In fact, it’s not often you get anyone to sit down and critique your blog, is it?

Talking to all the other bloggers about their monetization strategies, I realised something profound—most bloggers struggle with monetization because they don’t have a product to sell.

They experiment with selling advertising, sponsored posts, affiliate sales, and other similar revenue streams. Even if they do create a product, it may only be a single ebook or course (at least to start with), and that isn’t enough to bring in the money they need.

I, on the other hand, do have products to sell. My blog is actually not my main business—that honour goes to Epheriell, my handcrafted, contemporary, eco-friendly sterling silver jewellery range. I also publish bespoke—a tri-annual independent print magazine for creative and crafty people.

It hit me like a bolt out of the blue: why on earth was I selling my key blog real estate to other people when I could be using it to promote my own products?

Why was I sending people away from me and my work?

I’d fallen into the trap of what was expected in my niche. Or—perhaps more to the point—I’d fallen into the trap of what I believed was expected in my niche.

Making changes, and getting focused

Since having that realization, I’ve phased out sidebar advertising, and put my own products above the fold, where they belong.

I’ve done away with the cognitive dissonance I was constantly experiencing when it came to balancing promotion of my own products with the promotion of my advertisers’ products. I have also cut out a whole lot of work that I was doing to organize and promote my sponsorship program, which has left me free to focus on other aspects of my business.

I consistently turn down people who contact me looking to advertise on my site, and I no longer feel the twinge of, “Oh my gosh I’m leaving money on the table,” because I know that the focus and integrity of my blog are more important that a few dollars.

My blog is stronger and more focussed, and I have let go of the fear that I’m not “doing it right.” I have the confidence that I’m doing what’s best for me and my business, and that’s what matters.

So, I’m curious—is there a blogging “should” that you’ve imposed upon your blog that isn’t really true to what you’re trying to achieve?

Jess Van Den is full-time creative entrepreneur – a jeweller, blogger, and an independent publisher. When not crafting sterling silver jewellery in her solar-powered studio in the countryside north of Brisbane, she blogs about beautiful things and bountiful business at Epheriell Designs.