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

Image via Flickr user Susy Morris

Image via Flickr user Susy Morris

This is a guest contribution from freelance writer Stacey Corrin.

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

I felt trapped, with no escape plan.

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

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

 

It Began As A Cry For Help

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

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

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

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

 

I Immersed Myself In All Things Blogging

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three things stood out at me:

  • Writing
  • Blogging
  • WordPress

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

 

How I Turned My Passion Into Profit

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

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

The services I offered included:

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

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

That was over three months ago.

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

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

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

When promoting your content:

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

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

 

It’s Been A Humbling Experience

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

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

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

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

Where I’ll be Speaking in 2015

I’ve had a few people asking in the last few weeks where I’ll be speaking in 2015 – I can’t believe the end of the year is so close!

I love speaking and am excited by some of the opportunities next year. I hope you’ll consider joining me both here in Australia and Internationally.

World Domination Summit 2013: Photo by  Joshua Seaman

World Domination Summit 2013: Photo by Joshua Seaman

Next year I’ll be speaking twice internationally (so far):

1. March 25-26: Social Media Marketing World in San Diego.

I’m really excited to get to Social Media Marketing World this year. I’ve jealously watched it from afar the last couple of years as many of those that I admire have attended and spoken.

All that I’ve spoken to who attend say it’s one of the best organised and most practically helpful conferences that they’ve been to.

Here’s a little recap of what attendees thought of last years event!

It was a real delight to be invited by Mike Stelzner to speak in the blogging stream this year.

What a buzz it’ll be to attend an event with 2500 bloggers and social media enthusiasts!

$500 Off! Social Media Marketing World

Until Friday you can grab a ticket to Social Media Marketing World at a whopping $500 off!

Note: I am an affiliate to this event but am also genuinely endorsing it (I wouldn’t travel for close to 24 hours to attend it otherwise).

2. May 9-14: Chris Ducker’s Tropical Think Tank in Cebu, the Philippines.

I’ve not been to the Philippines for 12 years so I’m really looking forward to this one.

Chris has assembled a great lineup of speakers for this intense but intimate event (there are only 50 attendees) – I’m honoured to be one of them.

I’m told there are a handful of tickets left – join me at TTT here.

In Australia: ProBlogger Event

My main focus in speaking next year will be within Australia. I’m still in talks with a couple of conferences and hope to announce them shortly but many ProBlogger readers have also been asking about our ProBlogger Event.

We hope to announce more details of dates and venue for our main event before the end of the year but I can tell you that it will be mid August 2015 and we will be in a new venue that will allow us to grow beyond the 550 attendees who attended last year.

I can also tell you that we will be running a full day event this year in Perth on Saturday 21 February. We hope to release tickets for this event by early in December.

Lastly we will be running some shorter events in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in March.

To be notified of all of these Aussie events the moment we have more news to share please join our Aussie Events email list here:

Need a Speaker for Your Event?

9226361525_3dc3aa965e_b 2I am open to speaking at a small number of other events in 2015. I particularly enjoy keynote style presentations but have a variety of workshops that I can run also.

I’m comfortable speaking to audiences of thousands right down to smaller groups and would love to discuss how I can serve those attending your conference.

If you have an event that you’d like me to come to please check out my speaker page for more information and some examples of me speaking.

How Bloggers Can Make The Best Use Of Their 24 Hours

Image via Flickr user Thomas R Stegelmann

Image via Flickr user Thomas R Stegelmann

This is a guest contribution from entrepreneur Charles Crawford.

Whether your parents believe you or not, there are ways to make a living off of being a blogger. And with as many benefits that come with blogging, who wouldn’t want to at least check out this lifestyle? After all, you get to be your own boss for the most part, so you don’t have to worry about a lot of the hindrances that come with a typical 9-5.

However, being a blogger isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Instead, it’s a job where you’ll have to work hard if you expect to get paid. And if you don’t work, then you might want to give your old employer a call and see if they’ll hire you back.

Another obstacle that bloggers must overcome is being able to manage their time appropriately. Because you won’t have a boss breathing down your neck every day, you get to decide when you want to work and what clients you want to work for. Therefore, it’s important that you ensure that you make the most of your day, in order to be as productive as possible. Here is a look at how bloggers can make the best use of their 24 hours each day.

Have A Plan

The first thing that any blogger will want to do as they look to organize their day is make a planned schedule. If you quit your job and became a blogger with the hopes of ditching a scheduled lifestyle, you may want to rethink things. Sure, you won’t have to be at your desk from 9-5 each day, but having a schedule for your blogging will be imperative if you plan to be successful. Even if the schedule changes from day to day, knowing what you want to get done will help you organize your less-traditional lifestyle.

Not only should part of that plan include time for blogging, but you’ll also want to accommodate for your personal life as well. Unless you plan on sitting in front of a computer all day long and blogging, you’ll also want to account for time to hit the gym or even hang out with friends.

Knowing when you have to work and when you have time to yourself in a schedule will do wonders for your time management as a blogger throughout the day.

Stay Focused

One of the toughest parts of being a blogger is going to be staying focused. Lets face it; there is a lot of stuff on the internet. For some bloggers, they may be looking on a website for information, but next thing they know they’ll look at the clock and two hours has passed by. When you spend two hours look at talking animals on the internet, it can really cut into your blogging time. Therefore, be sure that you stay focused and take the necessary precautions to avoid being distracted.

Keep Networking

Part of your blogging efforts should include time that you spend networking with other people. The more people that you meet in the blogging world, the more likely it is that you’ll learn from their advice and have more success individually. However, if you fail to meet the right people, you may struggle when it comes to your ability to get recognition for your blogging efforts.

Adapt To Your Plan

That plan that was mentioned earlier is a great starting point, but keep in mind that things might change over time. For example, you might need to arrange time in your schedule to contact new people about blogging opportunities. You may also need to check your email or social media accounts to communicate with other writers. The more that you can crunch into your work day, which will be easier if you have a schedule, the more productive you will be. And if you can easily work in changes into the schedule, you’ll be even more efficient.

Stay Informed

Part of your time while adapting to your schedule should also include staying informed on new technology, programs, or applications that can make your life as a blogger much easier. There are always new options to consider learning, or new niches to capitalize on, and doing so will help you to be more productive. Keep in mind that bloggers who work smarter, rather than harder, will likely see more success.

Know When To Stop

When you work as a blogger, the internet is always going to be at your fingertips. With that mindset, you might have a hard time turning your computer off and taking time to yourself. However, it’s equally as important that you know when to rest during your 24-hour day. If you fail to get adequate sleep, then you may have a tough time with being as productive the following day.

Being a blogger has plenty of rewards and it’s certainly a vital option for making a good income. But if you really want to be able to have your efforts pay off, then you’ll have to put in the work for it and make the most of your 24 hours each day.

Charles Crawford is a high-level entrepreneur and co-founder of Invisume. Charles has been studying internet marketing, web design, and tech start-ups for years, and he has been successful with multiple business ventures such as affiliate marketing (where 98%+ of people never make money).

Did Your Blog Have a Tipping Point? Here’s How My 2 Blogs Grew

Time for another reader question from a recent member webinar on ProBlogger.com.

Did you experience a “tipping point” in readership at some point or was it just steady growth?

This is actually a question I often ask full time bloggers who I meet because I love to hear the back story about how their blog broke through to have enough readers to make a living from.

What I’ve found in asking the question is that there are many different pathways to full time blogging.

This can perhaps be illustrated by sharing how my two main blogs grew in terms of readership because they could not really be more different.

Let’s start with ProBlogger

I wish I could show you an actual traffic chart of ProBlogger’s growth but when I started it back in 2004 I didn’t have Google Analytics installed (it didn’t come along until 2006, from memory).

However if I were to recreate it’s growth the chart would have looked something like this in the first couple of years.

blog traffic ProBlogger

You can see the first few months were particularly slow but within the next two months things boomed very quickly.

This ‘tipping point’ came as a result of me mentioning (without any forethought) in an interview that I’d reached a level of being a full time blogger and earning a six figure income from my blogging.

This caused quite the stir back in 2006. While blogging had been around for a few years and the idea of making money online was not new – there were not too many bloggers experimenting with making money from blogs.

The interview in which I mentioned making a six figure income from blogging went viral and was linked to from a number of big sites (one in particular was Slashdot which sent hundreds of thousands of visitors in a day).

Some people saw making money from blogging as controversial (blogging was seen by some as ‘pure’ and not to be monetised) and it also stimulated a lot of other bloggers to become interested in making money from blogging.

ProBlogger was the only real place to talk about making money blogging so subscribers shot up almost overnight and the term ‘ProBlogger’ quickly became a term those making money from blogging began to use to describe what they did.

While I didn’t set out to cause the ‘tipping point’ with that interview my blog here at ProBlogger was never the same after doing so.

A Different Story at Digital Photography School

Digital Photography School was a very different story to ProBlogger in terms of traffic growth.

If I had to chart the first two years it’d have looked more like this (in comparison to the yellow line of ProBlogger).

blog traffic comparison

It took around 2 years to get to the point where dPS was larger than Problogger (today it is 10 times bigger than ProBlogger is) and there was no real ‘tipping point).

I didn’t have Google Analytics on dPS until 8 months after the site began but here’s how growth has looked since that point (this is monthly visitors).

traffic-blog-dps

You can see that there were certainly some months were traffic spiked a little but the growth was fairly steady with no real breakout month that would classify as a tipping point.

The spikes in traffic were usually the result of being featured on other large blogs (usually the result of me networking and pitching other bloggers with links that their readers might find useful) or getting lucky with getting to the front page of sites like Digg or Reddit.

However it is worth saying that while spikes in traffic like these are fun… they rarely convert to long term traffic and are quite fleeting.

As I’ve written about in the past – this gradual but steady growth really came about as a result of a number of different factors:

    • Regular useful content: Daily “how to” posts that solved problems, showed people how to achieve their goals and improve their photography. This has been the main focus of the site since day 1 (I’d estimate over 90% of the content I’ve published fits into this category).
    • Shareable content: Content that I knew was more likely to be shared (inspirational posts, breaking news, humor, controversy (I didn’t really focus on this), grand list posts, and so on. This type of content has never been my main focus but I have mixed it into the publishing schedule at probably around 5% of what we publish.
    • Community: The other 5% of posts was more focused upon community activities like reader discussions, giving readers a chance to show off their photos, debates, polls, etc. We started a forum in time, too, to build this community further.
    • Email newsletter: If there’s one thing that grew the site more than any other, it was that we started collecting people’s email addresses early and began sending them weekly updates/newsletters. Email now sends a bit spike of traffic every Thursday night when we send our newsletter. Read more on how I use email to drive traffic and profit here.
    • Promotion: I defined who I wanted to read my blog and did the exercise of asking where they gathered. This lead me to sites like Flickr, other blogs, and some social networking sites where I developed presence, was useful and in time shared our content. Facebook is the #1 source of social traffic to the blog as a result of some of the strategies I’ve previously written about here and here.

SEO – I’ve never put a massive effort into search engine optimisation but one of the flow on effects of producing daily helpful content, regular shareable content, building community, and actively promoting dPS has been that the content we produce ranks well in Google. This doesn’t happen overnight but naturally grows as you add more content to your site and as your site becomes an authority in the eyes of Google. Knowing some basics of SEO helps but most of it for dPS has come about very naturally simply by trying to create the kind of site that people want to read (which is what Google tries to rank highest).

Further Reading On Content that Drives Traffic: I’ve talked a fair bit about content above – here is a post I wrote on ProBlogger last year that analyses 5 posts I published in the first year that generated a heap of traffic since that time which will illustrate the kind of content that has generated great traffic on dPS since the beginning.

How Did Your Blog Grow?

As you can see – my two blogs have had quite different journeys. Most full time bloggers I meet tend to have growth more similar to dPS than ProBlogger but no two are the same.

What has your blog’s growth been like?

Blogging with Intention: Creating an Income from a Successful Blog with Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom

Crystal Paine is the founder of the amazingly successful MoneySavingMom.com, which sees 1.5 million visitors each month, and employs 13 full time staff. Born of a blog series that turned into an ebook, which then evolved into an e-course, Crystal realised her readers were hungry for a real-life guide to living frugally, but well; be it slashing their grocery bill, using coupons, or finding ways to run their home on less.

Crystal had been looking for ways to create an income while she was a stay at home mom, and realised she could make a healthy business meeting her readers’ need for such information. With forethought and intention, Crystal created and monetized the site, but was still surprised when it outdid their expectations – by a long shot.

In our interview, we chat about the plans she made before MoneySavingMom.com went live, the things she did to make it a success, and how they kept that ball rolling to create the main source of income for her family today. Crystal also shares her ideas on revenue streams, how long it actually took to make a consistent income, and tips that will help you be more intentional with your efforts to succeed.

Blogging with Intention: Creating an income from a successful blog with Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom

The Beginning: Blogging Goals and Direction

You started Money Saving Mom after a blog series turned into an ebook, which turned into an ecourse. What dreams did you have for the site, seeing as you’d already covered so much of the content elsewhere?

I realized that I had barely touched the tip of the iceberg with the ebook and e-course I wrote on cutting your grocery bill. My vision for MoneySavingMom.com was that I was going to be sharing specific deals you could find at your local drugstores and big box stores (such as Walmart and Target). I also planned to share deals I had gotten locally, as well as ways our family was living on a small budget. As there are new sales every week and I’m always finding great deals and bargains, I knew that it wouldn’t be too hard to come up with new material to blog about each week.

 

Step Two: Creating an Income

You were very intentional about monetizing the site from the start to help supplement your family’s income while you were a stay at home mom. Did you have an idea going into it how you would monetize? 

When I started MoneySavingMom.com in 2007, I had already dabbled into monetization on a mommy blog I had. I knew I could make money with sidebar ads, as well as sharing some affiliate links. Back then, the options were fairly limited, but I kept researching, watching what others were doing, and slowly started experimenting with new ideas. One of the best ways to monetize in the early days of the blog was by becoming an affiliate for coupon printing sites (such as Coupons.com). They would pay me per print session. So if I posted about a great deal on toothpaste at Walmart and shared a printable coupon on Coupons.com that could be paired with the sale to get an even better discount, I’d get paid for every person who printed that coupon. While it was only a small amount per coupon printed, since I posted quite a few coupons each week, it quickly added up! To this day, getting paid per print for sharing great printable coupons is one of our highest earning affiliate income sources!

Do you think creating a monetized blog from the get-go is much different to monetising an established blog? (I have heard some people say it is easier to start with monetizing in mind rather than then try and turn a personal or other type of blog into something that makes an income – I was wondering if that was your experience.)

Great question! I think it’s always wise to be strategic and to go into any venture with a long-term plan. That plan can always change as circumstances and opportunities change, but I think it’s important to have a destination in mind when you start out on any road. Otherwise, you may end up just going around in circles because you don’t have any clue where you’re headed.

That said, I still believe that Content Is King. You can have the best monetized blog in the world, but if your content isn’t helpful and relevant, all the monetization strategies aren’t going to make much of an impact. So I always encourage beginning bloggers to start by establishing yourself as a voice people want to listen to. Provide great content, write about topics that are relevant, format your posts in an organized manner, and share your posts on social media in a compelling manner. Focus on solving problems and meeting needs in what you write, build up your credibility, and slowly also work on creative ways to monetize your blog.

I am told a lot that some people really wrestle with the idea of monetizing, although they ultimately would like to. What advice would you have for them?

I know there are definitely camps who believe you should just write because you love it, not because you’re getting paid for it. I think you should do both. I’m of the opinion that if you’re going to spend so much time producing great content, you should also get paid for your time.   One of the best ways to monetize your site is to be a person of integrity. Write about things you are passionate about and be very particular in what products and affiliate links you promote. Never sacrifice your integrity in the name of a quick buck. When people trust you, they will put much more weight in what you promote.

For example, I rarely wholeheartedly endorse a product. I might talk about pros and cons, share what I liked about a product, but it’s rare that I’ll say that I LOVE something. Why? Because I want my words to have weight. If I “LOVE” everything, it becomes meaningless quickly. So honesty is paramount when you’re considering promoting a product. Always have your readers and their needs first and foremost. Analyze every opportunity in light of: will this benefit my readers? If it only benefits me or if just mostly benefits me, I always choose turn down the opportunity. By doing so, I can, in good conscience occasionally really wholeheartedly endorse a product, site, or service — and my readers will know that it is something really worth checking into.

What kind of mindframe do you need to be in to make a blog a financial success? Do you need to treat it like a business as early as possible? Or can that come later?

I think one of the greatest keys to be successful as a blogger — both in terms of building a readership and making an income from your blogging efforts — is consistency. If readers know they can count on you regularly posting great content, they are much more likely to regularly show up.   This doesn’t mean that you always have to post the same number of times every week, or always post at the same time each day, or that you can’t ever take a break from blogging, but it does mean that you treat your blogging seriously. If you are employed somewhere, you are expected to show up to work and complete your work in a timely manner. If you don’t, there will be fall out — you might miss out on that promotion, you might not get that coveted opportunity, or you might even lose your job.   It’s the same way with blogging. You need to do all you can to keep your commitments to your readers — or don’t make the commitments in the first place. You need to place priority on producing great content. And you need to show up regularly. When readers know they can count on you, they feel much more invested in you and connected to you.

Someone asked me not too long ago what the secret was to my success. My answer: “There are no secrets; just hard work.” I have blogged almost every single day but Sunday, every single week, every year since I began blogging in 2005.   That’s a LOT of blogging. And trust me, while I truly love blogging, there were days when I would have rather been doing something else. I have stayed up late at night, gotten up early in the morning, and worked on Saturdays and holidays. There have been grueling and exhausting seasons, but the commitment, drive, and consistency have paid off in big ways.

Related: Crystal’s extensive list of resources and information of how she makes money blogging.

The Elusive Blog/Life Balance

What advice would you give to moms or parents who were much like you in the early days – trying to get a blog off the ground while balancing that with the needs of your home and family?

My best advice would be to not follow in my footsteps and bite off way more than you can chew! Instead, I encourage you to write down your goals. Where do you want to be in six months from now? A year from now? 5 years from now?   In considering your six month goals, write down a list of everything that needs to happen in order to achieve those goals. Then, pick the top 3 most important to-do items on your list as your first priorities.

After you’ve chosen your top 3 action items, consider how much time you realistically have to invest each day. Maybe it’s just 30 minutes or an hour. That’s okay. Start there, but remember that if you don’t have much time to invest, you may need to scale back your expectations for how quickly you accomplish your goals.   Break those three items down into bite-sized steps and then make an appointment with yourself for your 30 minute or 1-hour time block (or however much time you’ve committed) and make it a priority. Set the timer. Start in on one of the steps and keep going until the timer goes off.   While you might not accomplish as much as you’d like as quickly as you’d like, you probably be surprised how much you can accomplish in 30 minute to 1 hour blocks of focused effort.

Strategy

You have said before that you and your husband just wanted to “see where this goes” in the early days of your blog – did you have a particular timeframe, or certain goals that would help you decide to continue?

My goal was to make a part-time income (I was aiming for around $1200 per month.) I knew that this amount would help not only supplement our income, but would allow us to be able to save and give more.   It took me around 2.5 years of hard, hard work, to hit that amount on a consistent monthly basis. And there were many months in the beginning when I wondered if I was just chasing after some really unrealistic dream. But eventually I started to not only hit that goal every month, but then to exceed it. Pretty soon, I was consistently doubling that initial goal, and then tripling it. It was so gratifying to realize that all those early months where I was doing well to make $2-$3 per hour paid off! I’m so glad I didn’t give up when it felt like my efforts weren’t really going anywhere.

When did you realise the blog was actually going to be successful?

When I started MoneySavingMom.com in 2007, I truly pictured that it was just going to be a little off-shoot of the mommy blog I had started in 2005. So, you can imagine my shock when, within a few months of starting it, I was getting 14,000 to 16,000 pageviews per day on it! It blew my mind!   And it just kept growing… until we finally got to the point that I was having find a hosting company that didn’t cost an arm and a leg and could sustain the traffic that the site was generating!

Support Networks

How important is your husband’s support in your work?

Honestly, I doubt I would be blogging if it weren’t for my husband. He is my best friend and biggest cheerleader. When I was initially considering starting my first mommy blog, he believed in me and encouraged me to do it. When I was considering starting, MoneySavingMom.com, he said, “Go for it!” I’m positive I never would have had the courage to hit “publish” on so many posts if it weren’t for him reading through them with me and saying, “Yes, you need to publish that. Someone needs to read it.”

In those moments when I’ve doubted myself, wondered what I was thinking, or even considered quitting, his voice has been there speaking words of motivation, reminding me of the why behind what I do: to inspire and impact people. He’s prodded me out of my comfort zone so many times. He takes care of the kids so I can write. He runs our household when I’m out of town on business trips. He serves as a sounding board when I have difficult situations come up.   He takes care of all the legal and financial aspects of the business. He’s always reading through contracts for me, helping my team with legal questions that come up, working with our accountant to make sure all the books and payroll are taken care of (spreadsheets give me hives!), and working with me to dream for the future and make sure we stay accountable to our business goals.

Branching Out: Evolving the Blog

You now employ 13 people – what’s the most difficult thing about being a boss rather than a sole blogger? What is the best thing?

I never would have envisioned that I’d someday be running a business with multiple people working for me, not just a blog that I write on! It’s been quite the adventure and I’m so very grateful for the wonderful folks who are on this road with me!   The hardest thing about managing a team has been trusting my gut and actually being the one to be leading the team. I’ve grown a lot as a person through running a business and have been blessed to have some really wise people mentoring me along the way.

One of the pieces of advice I’ve received was that I need to be the one who sets the course. I need to decide the direction we’re going and then encourage and inspire my team to help me be successful in heading in that direction. My tendency would be to be all, “Whatever you think is best.” Or to just not communicate a clear-cut vision for where we’re headed. I’m learning and growing in this… but I’m still very much a work in progress!

The best thing about having a team working with me is that it’s not only a lot more fun to be in this with such brilliant and wonderful people, but we get so much more done because my team members are much, much more talented in so many areas than me. Plus, my team is committed to helping me only do what I do best and to take all the other projects, details, and work off my shoulders. It’s a humbling thing to have such fantastic people working together with me to further the mission I have for MoneySavingMom.com. Often, when we’re working on a big project and brainstorming about it, I’ll step back and just look at the amazing brilliance represented in the room and think to myself, “I cannot believe that I have the honor of working with these incredible people!”

Related: You can read more of Crystal’s story in her post: This Crazy Journey I’ve Been on the Last 10 Years (and Yes, You can Make Money Blogging!). 

So what do you think? Are there strategies Crystal used that you can now take into your own blogging experience? I know personally I got a lot from her forward-thinking and intentional decisions to create a successful site. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net, and the gal behind Veggie Mama. A writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd, she can be found making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.

Six Secrets to Six-Figure Product Launches with Jeff Goins

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

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

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

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

Six secrets to Six-Figure Product Launches with Jeff Goins

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

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

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

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

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

Secret #1: You Have to Want It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s what wow looks like.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secret #4: Sell Like You Mean It

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

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

  • Scarcity.
  • Urgency.
  • Awareness.

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

So when you feel stuck, try the following:

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

Secret #5: Give People Options

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

What was this simple piece of advice?

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

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

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

Putting It All Together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s about the impact.

Taking the Next Step

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

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

And watch the magic happen.

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

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

How to Master Visual Customer Service in the Social Age

This is a guest contribution from Jennifer Landry.

There’s a reason why the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” is still used today: 90 percent of information your brain absorbs is visual and you tend to retain 80 percent of what you see, versus the 20 percent of what you read. Marketers have already jumped on the visual content bandwagon, but ads and content aren’t the only places where you can take advantage of visuals. Forward thinking organizations have also incorporated visuals and social media with customer service.

Visual customer service might be difficult to envision, but there are plenty of ways you can incorporate it into your own strategy. Take a look at your current customer service process and see how you can improve upon it. Do your customers have a lot of questions on how to use a product or put it together? Create a video tutorial. Not only does this improve customer engagement, it can save you a lot of time answering questions. If you think outside-the-box, you can better understand how to deliver a customer service experience that engages and helps your customers. You should also research what your competitors are doing and see what will work for you and what won’t.

The infographic below provides examples of how brands are engaging customers through visual customer service and seven tips on how you can do the same.

VisualCustomerService

Jennifer Landry is a writer/journalist living in Malibu, California. 

How To Promote Your Blog With Content That Will Grow Your Traffic, Links, and Shares

This is a contribution from Gary Dek from StartABlog123.com.

Starting a blog is easy. Step-by-step tutorials to creating a blog and one-click CMS installations have ballooned the number of online blogs to over 200 million. But creating a blog isn’t the part you should worry about.

Unique and creative content can be hard to develop, especially when you are writing for a wide demographic. Am I producing something interesting, practical, actionable, valuable, and shareable? Would another blogger actually choose to link to it in the sea of other content available online?

Concerns like these are not uncommon when learning how to create a blog. All amateur and professional bloggers should evaluate their business strategies on a regular basis. It’s what drives us to constantly improve.

Fortunately, if you analyze some of the most successful bloggers online, it’s not that they are employing tactics or strategies that me or you can’t. There is no secret recipe or special club that builds traffic.

It’s the little things. Successful bloggers consistently execute on the little things that make their content relatable, shareable, and linkable.

Below, you will find a checklist of writing tips to help you create great content, increase your traffic and promote your blog. Don’t expect overnight results, but in the long-run, you and your readers will notice the difference. And to be more targeted, we’ve divided up the list between general writing advice, B2C, and B2B best practices.

Create Content To Promote Your Blog

Best General Writing Tips

  1. Start with a good headline. A good headline makes people want to click and read your content. Impart a sense of urgency, be dramatic, promise better results, or use a big number like “101 Ways…” Readers will be enticed out of curiosity.
  2. Write a good introduction. Your headline can get readers to click, but your intro needs to hook them to continue reading. Make an outrageous statement. Ask a difficult or relatable question. Tell them how the article is going to improve some aspect of their life.
  3. Have a conversation. Do you talk to your friends using 15-letter words or long, complex sentences? Readers don’t want to reference an online dictionary every other sentence, nor do they want a subject matter so complicated, they don’t understand what they are reading. Make reading easy by using simple words and sentences, which also makes for more shareable content.
  4. Talk directly to the reader. This is similar to the above point. Don’t alienate yourself. Use words like “you” and “I” freely. Write as if the reader were in front of you.
  5. Don’t BS. Don’t ramble to meet a word-count. Delete the fluff and unnecessary discussions. The sooner you make your points, the longer you will have them engaged.
  6. Write short paragraphs. No offense, but readers have short attention spans. I probably lost half the readers of this blog by now. There is no hard and fast rule, but generally, 5 to 7-sentence paragraphs are easier to comprehend.
  7. Break up your content with subheadings. Subheadings help organize content, making it easier on a reader’s eyes to scan the page.
  8. Use images. Start your post with an interesting, relevant image. Research shows that images increase click-through rates, shares and links. In fact, images (charts, graphs, spreadsheets, graphics, etc.) can often facilitate the transfer of information better than text.
  9. Tell a story. Everyone loves a good story. Don’t just present facts and figures. Share how the topic of discussion has changed or influenced your life or someone you know.
  10. Connect with your readers. You’re a human being with character, personality, and experiences. Allow your readers to relate to you and build a stronger connection.
  11. Write a good closing. Don’t leave your readers hanging. Just as a good intro hooks them, a good closing makes them feel that they didn’t waste their time.
  12. Proofread and fact-check. The facts and statistics you use to support your opinion/argument need to be accurate if you want to be seen as credible. Similarly, one or two typos is acceptable, but an article littered with poor grammar and incorrect spelling won’t get shared.
  13. Make social sharing buttons visible. It’s hard to expect social shares when you make the act of sharing difficult and tedious. If you are a B2B blog, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook are your top platforms. If you are a visual B2C brand, such fashion or foodie blogs, you will want to leverage Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook. Research your target demographic and be active on the social mediums they utilize.

Tips For Business To Consumer (B2C) Blogs

  1. Be timely. Timing is crucial to earning exposure. Write news when it breaks, not days after.
  2. Be consistent. If you’ve been blogging for a while, you have undoubtedly developed a loyal following. Don’t let your readers down by posting randomly. If you don’t post on a daily basis, make sure your readers are aware of your editorial calendar. Furthermore, there is an SEO benefit to posting fresh content regularly.
  3. Keep up with pop culture. Consumers keep tabs on pop culture, and if you want to get their attention, you have to keep yourself up-to-date. Read, listen, and watch so you can write about current trends and make your content relevant and relatable. This is especially important if your target demographic is Millennials.
  4. Rotate between evergreen and trending content. Trending content can last a few weeks or months, but evergreen is timeless. Intersperse your content with both. It’s the equivalent of diversifying your investment portfolio between equities and bonds – one can offer huge upside, while the other is more consistent and stable. Combined, they offer balanced growth.
  5. Use videos and images freely. A creative or beautiful image at the start of a blog post can really draw in a reader, especially if it organizes information more effectively and clearly than a textual description. This is especially true with B2C writing because consumers often don’t like to read long, in-depth articles.
  6. Experiment with different types of content. Text may be the backbone of your blog, but if Upworthy and ViralBuzz have taught us anything, don’t underestimate the power of well-curated videos and images.
  7. Tap into emotions, but don’t exploit them. Consumers are prone to emotional stimuli, the most popular of which are humor, wonder, and empathy. But don’t exploit it and purposefully tug at the heart strings of your readerships. You will build a bad reputation of being overly emotional.
  8. Respect your readers. Be honest, open, and treat your audience like you would family. Even if your blog is instructional in nature, don’t talk down to them. Present concepts thoroughly, but assume a certain basic level of intellectual sophistication.

Tips For Business To Business (B2B) Blogs

Writing for business requires you to make slight adjustments. One positive is that B2B audiences are more focused and willing to spend money if your product or service genuinely solves a problem and furthers their professional interests.

  1. Use credible headlines with statistics. Headlines still need to be catchy in B2B writing, but business people are more likely to want data-driven analysis and results. For example, “How I Grew My Email List By 329% In A Week” explains the benefit of reading the article. However, don’t be full of it and use outrageous claims – they will hurt your brand and reputation. No one wants to feel duped.
  2. Narrow down your topics. Ever heard of “inch wide, mile deep”? This concept suggests you limit the scope of each article, but thoroughly and comprehensively cover every aspect of the subject matter. Businesses don’t need general information. Instead, B2B readers want very specific, actionable content that addresses an issue or problem they are dealing with.
  3. Write more evergreen content. Evergreen content is timeless and will always be relevant. For instance, “How To Start A Business” gets 40,500 monthly searches in the United States alone. A focus on this type of content will bring you consistent traffic for years.
  4. Provide credible supporting evidence. Use white papers, government figures, research studies, and professional publications to prove your point. Business people don’t want unsubstantiated opinions, but arguments molded by reputable sources.
  5. Offer step-by-step solutions to problems. To build a reputation as an authority in your niche, you must demonstrate that you understand the factors, issues and obstacles facing the industry. Delivering reliable solutions via free content builds trust and confidence so when you eventually want to sell a product/service, your readership sees the value in working with you.
  6. Show personality and liven things up. Veer away from the stereotypical dry, boring B2B content. Crack a joke now and then. Share an anecdote. Business people are human, too, and are not immune to humor.
  7. Highlight your achievements. Credibility is paramount in B2B writing. Use an author profile somewhere on the page, and craft a story that showcases what you have achieved. It’s not bragging. It’s telling the audience that you know what you’re talking about.
  8. Always over-deliver. It’s a matter of developing goodwill. Instead of selling a guide or eBook and earning a quick thousand dollars, give it away for free. In the long-run, the loyalty and brand value you build is worth far more.Don’t ever forget that blogging is your business. When running a business blog, remember that you not only represent yourself, but your company’s brand. As such, maintain some level of professionalism and always emphasize great customer service, support, and satisfaction.

Final Word

Content creation doesn’t need to be a difficult process. Many successful bloggers don’t even consider themselves great writers. The key is to focus on finding your place and unique value-add to the internet, and you’ll develop your own niche and loyal community. Incorporate these writing tips and you’ll already be ahead of the curve.

What other ways have you leveraged to produce great content?

Gary Dek is the founder of StartABlog123.com, which provides a free step-by-step tutorial on building and growing a blog.

How to Make Your Blog Look Attractive in No Time

This is a guest contribution from Daniel Glickman of Emaze.

Appearance matters.

How your blog looks when visitors first visit has a powerful effect on their interpretation of the quality of your content. However, when designing your blog, it may be difficult to know what’s most important. Is it better to look professional and risk looking like every other company blog, or to focus on being unique so that you stand out from the rest? The truth is, neither is most important – what’s most important is creativity.

Communicating creativity shows that you are not ordinary. It shows you are capable of thinking outside of the box to deliver fresh content that offers something different than the rest. This is valuable no matter what niche your blog is in, so how do you capitalize on creativity and start making your blog look creative in no time?

Step 1: Understand creativity doesn’t equal off-the-wall.

Creativity doesn’t mean sharing purposeless viral dog videos or snazzy online presentations just because you think it will make you stand out from your competition. In fact, this is the opposite of creativity. Creativity is working with purpose to do what everyone else is doing in a unique way.

Even the most professional website can be creative just by taking a different approach to classic design. In fact, the best instances of creativity come due to the element of surprise. If your audience expects you to use a certain font, create advertisement campaigns similar to those you have in the past, or make the same offer as every other blog, you won’t be creative if you serve them what you want. For instance, if every business blog in your niche is offering a helpful marketing manual or white paper, be creative and think of what else you can offer. Once you understand what creativity is, you can outline what creativity looks like on your website.

Step 2: Outline what creativity means to you.

To determine what creativity means for you and your blog’s brand, there is no better place to look than around you to see how your competition is succeeding – or failing – at being creative. Some questions to ask yourself…

  • What similarities do you see across other blogs in your niche?
  • Do they all share the same content or have look-alike landing pages?
  • Is there one that is distinct among the rest?
  • What are they doing right – do they have a killer video advertising campaign or a logo you can’t get out of your head?
  • Where is there room for improvement? Are you a travel blogger and notice every other blog has great photos, but few videos or presentations? Or perhaps you notice all the other startup’s company blogs have generic logos or that everyone in your niche is sharing the same content on social media. Find weak spots among your competition to identify where to begin.

Use this to decide how you will bring creativity to your blog. Of course, your plan can (and should) evolve as you see what works and what doesn’t, but starting here is a good place to begin.

 

Step 3: Start communicating creativity before audiences ever reach your content.

Think about how many opportunities you have to plant ideas about your brand in your audience’s head before they even reach your content. To start, think of how they get to your site. How can you make your advertisements more creative, either by integrating creative touches within the ad content or using creative methods to reach new viewer? How is your blog’s meta-description language different from the others who come up in Google search results? What do you do that screams, “Come to my blog over the rest!” Integrate creative tactics for every step of your blog, including those leading to a visitor landing on your blog.

And of course, remember, landing pages matter. A lot! A creative landing page is one of the single most important moments for sticking your brand in your audiences’ mind. Integrating videos and highlighting focus keywords through design and font are all great ways to catch your audiences’ eyes.

Step 4: Don’t forget the little touches.

When creating a brand image, every little thing matters, and it’s important to ensure that they all fit with your desired message. Creativity doesn’t have to be grandiose – it can be as small as a rare social media link graphic or a dash of humor in your About Me page. Creativity is all about catching the visitor off guard – and making everything different is over-the-top and can defy this purpose. For example, pay attention to your logo to ensure it’s in line with the rest of your branding, and then add an unexpected touch of color to your color scheme or pick a unique font for standout content on your landing page. Creativity relies on little touches that draw the viewer’s eye and set you apart. Just like putting too much content can create an impression of clutter, so too can adding too many details because you think they are “creative.” Creativity is best when subtle, which is what makes it so powerful.

 

Step 5: Look at every piece of content you absorb through a creative lens.

When looking at others’ content online, start seeing the world through a creative lens. Notice what makes you pay attention and ask yourself why this company or advertisement was able to grab your focus. Chances are, you’ll notice a large part of it is due to good old creativity.

Let creativity funnel into every aspect of your blog. Use original marketing techniques and social media posts so you continuously communicate your ability to re-imagine the typical ways of doing things. An audience’s perception of you often comes from many different sources – an amazing Tweet you shared, a great logo, or an awesomely different landing page – every piece matters for creating the whole.

Daniel Glickman is the CMO of emaze. He loves analyzing marketing data and building strategic and tactical plans. 

Analytics for Content Marketers and Bloggers: What Do You Need to Track?

This is a guest contribution from Rizvan Ullah of Ranktactics.

The term “content marketing” refers to strategic marketing techniques where you create valuable and relevant content to attract a clearly defined audience. You’ll use this content to market a product and/or service in an attempt to generate profit through your blog or business. Since Google has changed the way they rank content, often giving higher rankings to that content which provides value, you can use this technique to dominate online. For example, imagine writing content on “link building” and mentioning a few products which streamlines your entire process. With an in-depth post, you can rank high enough and generate enormous commission through referrals. However, there’s a growing problem…

Many people are moving away from older marketing techniques because they are expensive, highly regulated (PPC) and provide little results, it’s becoming more important that you utilize content marketing more effectively. It’s no longer as simple as putting together 1500+ words hoping to generate sales because many bloggers are failing to analyze the long-term benefits. There’s NO point in writing 20 blog posts and none of them generating the desired results you want. It’s important to have the right tools in place and know what to look for so going forward your time equals money (T=M).

If your business relies on content to generate profit, then it’s important to analyze the right metrics and tweak them until you’ve achieved the desired results.

Let’s look at the five most important content marketing metrics to keep an eye on and how they can help double your conversions.

Desired Results

Before starting any type of campaign you need to determine what your trying to achieve. You need a “target” to compare your overall results making it easier for you to analyze how effective your campaign actually is. Through content marketing, you have many different types of desired results like profit, traffic, social media buzz, subscribers or even advertising conversions.

Once you determine what your trying to achieve, you can move into the next step which is production.

Before you continue, ask yourself this question…Through content marketing, am I trying to

  • Generate income through a product or service?
  • Increase traffic to my blog and/or website?
  • Increase user engagement (clicks, decrease bounce rate or forum interaction)?
  • Increase social buzz through shares and/or likes?
  • Double or triple email subscribers?
  • Generate income through advertising published within the content itself (banner ad, contextual, etc)?

Answering these questions will allow you to create a clear cut plan going forward. You can even tweak your content marketing to compliment your desired results. Once you determine your objective, it’s time to move to the next metric.  

Production

In order for you to generate a report, you need a trial group, in this case, a wide range of content to analyse. Without having a blog with content published you won’t be able to determine what’s working and/or what’s not. That’s why the “production” metric is so important because when you analyze the results, you’ll be able to see where most of the organic traffic is flowing or user engagement is occurring. The question is…

How much content do we need?

It’s no secret that Google loves a website which produces “high quality” content, and fresh content is great for brand awareness. However, if you’re not achieving the desired results then both high quality content and brand awareness doesn’t really matter. With that said, it’s important that you have enough content on your blog to provide results. For example, you need to ensure that you get a clear cut reading into what content, landing page, queries have been producing significant results. There are many FREE tools which will provide EXACTLY what you are looking for.

Google Analytics has been my tool of choice to analyze my data daily. It provides me with the information I need to tweak my content and landing pages. It’s a good idea to connect your Google Webmaster Tools with your Analytics so that you can get the entire reading under one platform. In the next step, you’ll learn how to correctly explore user engagement on your blog to pull out the information you need.

User Engagement

One of the best ways to analyze data is to view user engagement and how it’s increased or decrease over the weeks. These days you have many options available which will allow a reader to engage directly with your content. For example, you have: social shares, blog commenting, click through, bounce rate and even opt-ins. When you see an increase in engagement, it’s a great indication that your content resonates with your readers. The higher the engagement, the higher the chances you’ll achieve your desired results.

Once you find content which has high user engagement, you can tweak it to optimize conversions. For example, if I know that my “create a website from scratch” post has enormous shares and comments, I’ll strategically try different things to see what works well and if it achieves my desired results. If I want to increase email subscribers through content marketing, I’ll try placing opt-ins boxes in different places until I achieve optimal conversion.

Here are FREE user engagement insight tools to keep an eye on:

Facebook: When you publish content, look for the amount of Facebook “Likes” your content is receiving. If you notice that some content has much higher likes than others, then you can devote more effort into tweaking that content to increase your conversions. An indication of “Likes” will also provide you with a good idea of content which resonates with your readers.

Twitter: Add a “Tweet” button and analyze what content got shared on Twitter. Just like Facebook, the content shared several times is a good indication of where you should be focusing your attention. In the next section, you’ll learn how to make full use of engaging content.

Blog Commenting: I’ve been a big fan of blog comment because it increases interaction and provides content ideas. For example, many times people would often drop a question within the comment box which I can answer in-depth next time I publish content. Either way, analyzing the commenting between content on your blog will provide insight into what content works well with your audience.

Topsy: This is an awesome tool that many people don’t utilize to the full potential. It’s a great indication of the type of content which resonates with readers online.  Type in a keyword and Topsy.com will provide a breakdown of content which have the highest social shares, etc. How can you use this information?

If you plan on marketing a specific product or service, use Topsy.com to find what topic creates a massive buzz. Visit the 1st website on the list and create something better. You already know the content creates buzz so tweaking it into something more in-depth will work well for you.

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Bitly.com

A great way for you to track click-through rate and/or conversions is through Bitly.com. Bitly.com is a FREE URL shortener which you can embed into your contents external links. Every time someone clicks on an external link, it will be tracked within the Bitly backend. It’s a great way for you to find out which external links are being clicked and within what content. When you have enough data gathered you’ll be able to determine two very important metrcs:

First, you’ll be able to determine the content marketing strategy working through content creation. Next, what anchor text resonates with your reader, for example “buy now, “read more” or even interlinking structures.

The goal is to figure out where the conversions occur so time and effort can be focused around creating similar content with identical links.

Traffic

This metric still remains the most important of all providing you with information crucial to your content marketing strategy. For example, if you have traffic, your marketing strategy is working however if you don’t, you definitely need to do some damage control. The traditional traffic metrics include: organic, direct and referral. The good news is finding out this information is NOT difficult since all you need is a Google Analytics account.

Simply, log into Google Analytics, then click on Acquisition>All Traffic

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You have several metrics you can view under this dropdown which will provide you valuable information. It’s important to connect your GWT account to your GA so you get a breakdown of the queries & landing pages. Let’s see how you can use some of this information…

Organic Traffic: Acquisition through search queries and is FREE traffic. This means that content and corresponding keywords are ranking within the SERP’s. Depending on content marketing strategy an awesome way to build readership and/or get conversions.

Direct Traffic: A good indication of people who are loyal readers and know your URL. They regularly visit which means an awesome source providing user engagement via social shares, comments, etc

Referral: Many people don’t understand the power of referral traffic. This means that other platforms are sending traffic to your blog. For example, through social media, other blogs, social bookmarking, etc. The more referral traffic, the higher the user engagement however this can also mean that people are linking directly to your content which can build readership and your link profile.

When you connect your GWT to your GA, you can click on Search Engine Optimization under Acquisition and get a clear breakdown of the queries, landing pages and geographical structure. Now what?

Simple, I would analyze the highest performing pages, etc and optimize those with banner ads, email opt-in forms or even affiliate links to increase conversions.

Effect

All the metrics discussed are very important as they are solid indicators of a successful content marketing campaign, For example, “production” indicates how hard we are working while “user engagement” is a good indication of quality. “Traffic” can provide valuable information because it can shows progress overtime and what content should be the focus going forward. However, when analyzing the “effect” your content has had on your readership, nothing beats actual conversions. This is why it’s important to keep checking your statistics in affiliate networks, email platform or advertising network.

Content marketing is about achieving what we discussed in factor number #1 which is “desired results”. Personally, the effect of your content marketing is an easy metric to follow since the results depend on production, engagement and traffic. All that’s needed to track results is to log into your different platforms tracking sales, clicks, subscribers or anything else.

Wrapping Things Up…

Going forward, you’ll be surprised how important content marketing will be online. So far, over the past several months, we’ve seen Google implement changes to their algorithm focused on eliminating poor content pages. Let’s think for a minute…

If Google will be promoting high quality content especially which provides a complete resource to readers, it’s a great way to start marketing your products, services, etc. Obviously the focus should be on providing users with the best experience through your content however it’s a door which has just been opened to your marketing efforts. The only roadblock within content marketing is NOT finding out what works compared to what does. This is why having unique analytical tools in place is so essential. Start by using these metrics above and if you have more of a budget then others, you can purchase tools which will provide more in-depth analytics.

 

Rizvan Ullah is the founder of Ranktactics, which provides internet marketers with tutorials on traffic generation, social media marketing, product reviews and case studies. Learn how to create a profitable blog step-by-step from the ground up. Get started by reading his expert roundup post on effective link building techniques. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.