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Advertising Your Blog: Go Viral on a Blogger’s Budget

This guest post is by The Blog Tyrant.

Until now you’ve been relying on organic methods to grow your blog’s traffic—search engine rankings, guest posts, social media and word of mouth. But now you are thinking about stepping into the league of the the big boys (and girls) and spending some money on advertising your blog to the world.

Where do you start? Where do you find the money? How much do you spend? And where?

photo credit: x-ray delta one

In this article I am going to show you the ins and outs of advertising your blog on a budget. I am going to show you how to raise the money and then where to spend it to reap the most rewards. And trust me, if you haven’t thought about spending money to promote your blog you really should. The potential benefits are mind boggling. You might even go viral.

Why you should start spending money on blog advertising

I’m not sure how it started (it is probably Old Man Rowse’s fault) but bloggers seem to be afraid of spending money on advertising. For over a decade now there has been a real aversion to spending money and instead people focus on organic methods only.

Now don’t get me wrong, organic methods are super important. They are the backbone of your blog promotion. But adding some paid advertising is like adding adamantine to that backbone and becoming the Wolverine (non-comic readers please ignore). With just a little bit of cash you can totally change the speed at which your blog grows, the audience it reaches and the income you earn.

  • You can go viral more easily
    One of the major benefits to spending some money on advertising is that you can go viral so much easier. Normally you’d write some amazing content and hope it gets Tweeted by some big shot but with a little bit of money you can give it a major kick start. All the big guys do this.
  • You can laser target the right people
    Forget about all the tire kickers, with modern online advertising you are able to promote your blog only to the right people; people who are interested, ready to interact and possibly pay for something that you might end up selling.
  • You bypass the beginner stages
    We all know the beginner stages. The first few months where no one visits your blog and you have no subscribers. With a bit of advertising you can totally bypass those annoying months.

Like I said, you should never forget about the unpaid, organic ways of promoting your blog. You need to continue with them as you have always done. But why not try something new and spend a little bit of money on kick starting your blog and potentially launching it in to a whole new category of amazingness?

Proof is in the Fortune 500

If you still need proof you just need to turn your attention to the biggest companies in the world. Do you think they just rely on free methods of advertising? No. They spend millions of dollars promoting their websites, blogs, and products. Even their viral campaigns have a lot of money behind them.

“But we don’t have millions of dollars, Blog Tyrant!” I can hear you say.

Well, neither did they. Or, if they did, those millions are a proportional spending to what they earn. And that is all I am asking of you. Spend an amount of money that you can afford. But I’ll get more into that in a minute.

The strategy, advert and landing page

photo credit: sarihuella

Please keep in mind that these topics really are limitless. If a marketing student came on here they would be able to talk for hours about these matters. My goal is not to educate you on every possibility that you could think of but rather to give you an idea of where you can start.

1. The strategy

So, to develop a strategy for your blog advertising you need to do a few things:

  • Solidify your goal
    What is the goal of this campaign? Are you trying to reach a certain number of subscribers, sell a certain number of books, etc. Make sure this is very clear before you start.
  • Know your target market
    Who are you going to pitch to and why? Is it stay at home moms who are looking to make money online? Is it 18 year-old students who spend all day on Facebook? Who is your target market?
  • Research the competition
    Spend some time finding out what your competitors are doing. What is working and what is failing? Where are they advertising and how are they doing it? Try to get a very detailed picture about what is going on.
  • Find a point of difference
    You want to find a way to stand out from the rest, something that will make people sit up and pay attention. This point of difference is very important for the viral aspect.
  • Solve a problem
    The best viral campaigns solve a problem. It doesn’t matter how trivial the problem might seem, chances are it is being experienced by millions. If you can solve that problem in a new, clever or funny way and then kick-start it with some paid advertising you are well on your way to going viral.

The goal here is to come up with an idea about how you are going to talk to these people and get them interested in what you are doing or selling. You need to get a complete picture of the environment before you jump in.

2. The advert

Once you have developed some sort of strategy you need to take a look at the advert itself. These has several components to it and it can be in the form of an image, some text or a mixture of both.

  • Use a call to action
    Your advert needs to have a strong call to action. This is where you tell people what to do next. It is important because people often get confused or forgetful and without a specific command they will fizzle out. Show them what to do next.
  • Show social proof
    Social proof is where you alleviate people’s anxiety by showing them that other people are doing this as well. No one likes to be first, make sure they know they aren’t. Amazon do this really well.
  • Develop scarcity
    Your product isn’t limitless. This offer isn’t going to go on forever. To encourage people to interact with your advert you need to make it seem scarce. This is extremely important for conversions because people hate to miss out on things. Here is how I use scarcity to get a huge amount of comments.

If you aren’t very good at crafting ad copy you should check out a lot of resources. If you are really crap at it you need to hire someone to do it for you. Small mistakes can mean huge losses of interest and/or money.

3. The landing page

We are not sending all this traffic to the homepage of your blog. Nope. We are sending it to a specifically designed landing page that is built perfectly to deal with these new visitors. It needs to be specific and it needs to address all of their concerns. It is here that you will do things like:

  • Pitch the idea and the benefits
    Tell them why they are here and what the benefits are. Now, I said benefits for a reason. We are not telling them about the features of whatever it is you are advertising. We want these people to know what will happen to their lives if they get involved. Will they make more money, sleep better at night, or progress towards enlightenment? Tell them the benefits.
  • Reiterate all the advert copy
    You want to reassure people that they are in the right place and reiterate what your advert promised. This is very important if you want to keep the people on the page. Make sure they know they are in the right place doing the right thing.
  • Give something
    Before you can get you need to give. So give them something free. It might be a video or an eBook, it doesn’t matter. The act of giving helps to establish trust, good karma and gives you an opportunity to hit them with a little bit more sales speak. Increase the pressure so to speak.
  • Convert your goal (virus)
    It is here that you need to convert the visitor so that they do whatever it is you want them to do. If you want them to sign up to your newsletter make sure that is strong. If you want them to just share on Twitter or Facebook then tell them and make sure they can do it easily. It is from here that you want the virus to start happening.

Your landing page is the thing that starts it all off. It needs to be tweaked, refined, changed, and improved constantly. Everything you’ll ever need to know about landing pages can be found right here on Copyblogger.

Where to advertise your blog

photo credit: Daveness_98

Now we need to get into some of the fun stuff. Where exactly should you advertise your blog? What works best? What is cheapest? Over the years I have tried all of these methods with varying levels of success. Hopefully I can save you all some time and money.

1. StumbleUpon Ads (Paid Discovery)

StumbleUpon Ads, which is now called Paid Discovery, is basically a platform where you pay for other Stumble users to view your page. Let me be clear from the outset, this does not work for every niche. In fact, some of the results I’ve had have been dreadful. But, if you do it right, you can get those paid viewers to give it a thumbs up and potentially send it on the hundreds of thousands of other users … for free.

How does it work?
Basically you just sign up, pay them $20 minimum and then show them which page on your site you want them to send traffic to. You can also set the demographic (age, sex, location, etc.) of the people or you can let them choose the best ones.

What works well?
The best thing to use StumbleUpon for is super cheesy link bait articles and interesting photos. Stumble is all about sharing so you have to find something that is both interesting but generic enough that everyone would want to read it. I have had health and fitness articles get

Resources
Check out the StumbleUpon Ads Blog, Darren’s tips on running a Stumble campaign and a good discussion from the Warrior Forum about the ads.

2. Facebook Ads

Years and years ago Google AdWords was the best platform. They allowed anything, you could get really cruddy landing pages approved and make lots of money really easily. Then they made things harder. Well, Facebook Ads are a bit like that old AdWords except they are now getting more strict and controlled. If you want to get in on the action with Facebook, now is the time.

How does it work?
Facebook Ads are done through your own personal page by clicking Ads in the left side bar and then following the prompts. Basically you just create a text or text and image advert and select a target group or set of keywords. You have much greater control over who you target as Facebook collects a lot of information about its users. You then choose whether you want to pay per impressions or per click (perhaps we can talk in the comments about which is best) and then they invoice you once week.

What works well?
Facebook Ads work really well for anything that targets young people. High school kids. Why? Because these guys aren’t completely blind to ads yet and they love to click on things that will help them through their high school days. I have also had success targeting women looking to save money but, for some reason, I haven’t done well with the male demographic.

Typically you want to send traffic to a well designed Facebook landing page as this allows them to like it and then send it on to their friends. Also, if you send people to an outside website you might get the warning “You are leaving Facebook” which can put people off.

Basically, if you can design a page or site that promotes something that is valuable and to do with pop culture you will do well with Facebook. Remember, people are paranoid about what will show up on their wall so they won’t look at anything even slightly confrontational or iffy.

Resources
Some great tips from All Facebook about how to improve your campaigns, an interesting step by step guide from the world’s most evil blogger, a good first time try and more goodness from Zac.

3. Google AdWords

Google AdWords is, for those who don’t know, the reverse side to Google AdSense. This is the part where you pay to appear in the paid section of Google’s search results, or on the ads that appear in people’s websites and blogs. It is the largest online advertising method and is extremely well evolved.

How does it work?
You sign up for an account, add your bank details and then develop a campaign. This means doing all the regular things like creating an advert, setting a daily budget (important), setting your keywords or target sites and your locale. Always run a cheap $5 campaign first to get the feel for it and learn some of the downfalls. There is a lot of room for error with AdWords as the speed at which you can spend money is immense.

What works well?
In my experience local stuff works really well. If you want to target downtown Melbourne in Australia you can do it. This is extremely good news for people selling things from a local shop or to specific group of people. Football shirts, for example, can be targeted by city.

Landing pages, squeeze pages, affiliate pages, etc. won’t get approved so don’t even bother. If you want to sell a product through AdWords you better make sure you have a whole site of useful information before trying to apply. The good news is that most blogs already have that.

AdWords is not great for going viral but it is very good for targeting people ready to buy. Don’t bother paying for ads on people’s websites, just go for search results. Those people are looking for solutions to their problems and have their wallets ready. If you can solve a problem quickly, Adwords will work well.

Resources
Shoemoney has a good one here about an arrow ad, a great post about improving your quality score, something about increasing conversions and a great Adwords guide.

4. Private Advertising

Private advertising is where you contact other blogs or websites and pay for a spot on their site. For example, all those small square buttons on the right hand side of ProBlogger are either private ads or affiliate programs. Yaro also sells space all over his blog.

How does it work?
Sometimes these blogs will be partnered with an ad network that does all the deals and payments for them. This can get expensive. Other than that, you simply send them an email and ask for a spot. Generally these prices are fixed but you should always try to negotiate because often they are pretty keen to just fill a spot. Try coming down on the price 40% and then bargaining up if needed.

What works well?
Directly relevant is the key here. If you are running a viral campaign about becoming a millionaire then look to get ads on pages, posts and sites that are directly relevant to that. Why waste money appearing on pages about dogs if your product is about Porches? Keep your advert simple (no flashing rubbish) and to the point. Ask people a question or introduce your scarcity right away and make sure your landing page welcomes them directly from that blog.

What doesn’t work well?
Don’t ever pay for in-post links because Google will ban you as soon as they find out. Sidebar advertising is about as far as I would go in this regard.

Resources
For this section I just want to give you an article on how to haggle. It’s where its at.

Raising the money for paid advertising

photo credit: Ed Yourdon

So how do you raise the money for paid advertising? Well, it is as simple as you want to make it. And it is all about reinvestment.

Reinvesting for advertising

Remember I talk about my millionaire uncle who told me to have various projects on the go? Well he also told me to reinvest part of everything you earn. You want to set aside 5% to 20% of everything you earn to put back in the business and part of that goes on advertising.

So, if you make $100 writing a freelance post you should put aside your tax, your savings, your spending amount, and your business reinvestment amount. It takes a lot of mental toughness but you have to (just like with tax) imagine that part of that cash is not yours, it belongs to the business.

This allows you to advertise and actually grow your business further. Soon you’ll be getting more $100 jobs or more authority and as such be able to raise that fee to $200 and above. This is how advertising works. If you can go viral with clever campaigns you will find that you will be able to grow your authority, Google rankings and sales figures all at once and the momentum from that campaign can carry through for a long time.

Tax deduction
Remember that almost everything you spend in the course of earning money is a tax deduction. Advertising is usually included in that so make sure you keep records and reciepts and talk to your accountant about it. The more money you can get off your next bill the better.

Will you spend some money?

I’d really like to know whether you are open to spending money on your blog. Have you done it before? Will you try it after reading this post? Please leave a comment and let me know, especially if you have any stories, experiences, or advice to offer. I would love to make this comment thread a resource-rich stop for anyone wanting to advertise their blog on a budget.

Lastly, if you aren’t going to ever spend money on advertising your blog, why not? I find that really interesting.

The Blog Tyrant is 25 years old, works from home full time and sells blogs for $20,000 plus. Subscribe to his feed for a free eBook on increasing your email subscribers by 120% overnight or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

7 Tips for Bloggers with Learning Disabilities

This guest post is by Leigh Stevens of whereapy.

If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid with regard to external things.
—Epictetus

Image is author's own

“Are you stupid? You sure look stupid. Everyone else in this room handles this level of work. If you can’t do simple conjugations you shouldn’t be in my classroom.”

That’s what you get when the middle school basketball coach is also your advanced language arts teacher. Much to my eternal frustration, I was that “stupid” kid. I am dyslexic with an auditory processing disorder, which means I don’t understand verbal instructions very well, but at the time, the school didn’t know that. As a first-grader in the early 80s I was placed in the special education classes: the “speds”. It didn’t help much that I came from a financially poor family, relative to my peers. And I was a girl. And blonde. There was just no escape from the stupid jokes.

I was inspired to write this post after reading a piece by the Blog Tyrant a few weeks ago. As far as marketing goes it’s a standard emotional headline tactic designed to pull you in. It’s a good post. Except that, at the time, it frustrated me in a big way, bringing back all the garbage I went through as a kid. So here’s my response.

Persistence pays

A learning disability can hamper your blogging practice. Not so much functionally—there are people who can help you write cleaner prose. The real kicker is the emotional baggage created by years of verbal abuse, of people insisting that you’re not very bright. It’s hard to have confidence in your writing abilities when it was always assumed that you just weren’t smart enough to succeed.

My experience in school followed the same pattern, over and over. At the end of each school year, I would graduate from the special education reading class, and be placed in the advanced class for the beginning of the following year. Once my new teacher noticed that I couldn’t take verbal instruction, spell, or abstractly conjugate, I was sent back down to the special education class, so I could graduate again, be promoted again, and be rejected, again. Rinse, wash, repeat.

By third grade I had developed strategies to compensate for my dyslexia that made reading very easy for me: I memorized everything through pictures. I process visual and kinaesthetic information beautifully; it’s like when the blind develop greater acuity in their other senses, creating alternatives for making their way in the world. My brain created another way for me to learn, unique to me. Brilliant, right? Not according to my teachers.

Unlike more visible disabilities, atypical styles of learning don’t garner much sympathy or support. If I had a dollar for every time I was accused of “not living up to my potential,” I’d be rich; the ability to pass as almost “normal” can produce massive anxiety.

I hire a copy editor to clean up my posts, and while the ideas, connections, turns of phrase, overall structure and layout are mine, it still feels inauthentic. The fact that I need another person to help me when it comes to writing makes me struggle to feel complete ownership over the work that I create. And that can be difficult. But I suck it up and keep on trying, because that’s what needs to be done.

Tips for blogging with a learning disability

  1. Write with a copy editor. It may take some time to find a writer who understands you and with whom you can develop a “voice.” Learn how to collaborate to create a product you can be proud of.
  2. Strive for publishing only one or two good posts a week. Don’t get too aggressive with your posting schedule, especially when you’re just starting out. Putting too much pressure on yourself will only lead to frustration and burnout.
  3. Ignore all the advice on how to write a blog post in 20 minutes. Accept the fact that it may take you five hours to produce an imperfect 600-word post while an adept writer can whip something up over lunch.
  4. Ignore all the jingoistic advice that says “you can do it if you just try harder!!!” You can’t grow back a leg that’s been amputated—you need to learn to use the tools available to you to get where you want to go. The same thing applies to your brain: if you’re old enough to read this, you’ve already forged new pathways to circumvent the ones that weren’t working so well. If something feels good and works for you, stick with it, regardless of what everyone else is doing.
  5. Continue to read challenging blogs and try to participate in the discussion, knowing that your comments will likely be full of skipped words, switched letters and other indicators of how your brain works. The grammarians may complain, but that doesn’t mean that your contributions are any less important or interesting.
  6. Deal with your past and present emotional issues surrounding your learning disability. Rejection is a standard part of blogging for everyone: guest posts get turned down, comments in the forums get misinterpreted or misunderstood. When you have a learning disability you can expect to experience even more of this, and maybe even by people you respect and admire. A lot of smart people with learning disabilities respond to this by turning inward and developing a rugged and individualist persona, but still feel isolated and alone. Strangely enough, the experience of social rejection causes a 25% drop in IQ—an astonishing effect in a pernicious cycle that actually perpetuates “stupidity.” To counter this effect, I encourage you to keep participating: reach out to people, make meaningful contributions, even if you risk looking silly or being misunderstood. In the right context, it can be good to be vulnerable. Another way to cope with rejection is by practicing emotional resilience processes.
  7. Tell your readers that you have an issue on your About page (and tell them how they can help). You don’t have to write a long soppy story like me; you can just say, “Hey, I’m dyslexic. I’d appreciate it if you’d send me a message if you find a mistake on the blog. Thanks!”

One last note. Because Problogger has such an international audience, I feel comfortable mentioning that bloggers with processing disorders are a lot like bloggers for whom English is a second language. The stigma attached to grammatical and spelling mistakes in the blogging world is palpable, and if you’ve ever felt bashed for having less-than-perfect English, I want to let you know that you’re not alone! Kudos to everyone who blogs in a second language.

Your turn: Do you consider yourself to be a “‘real” writer? What kinds of limitations have you run across in your practice? How do you work past them? Feel free to comment. I’d love to hear what you have to say, no matter how you say it.

Leigh Stevens is a certified massage therapist, artist, humorist and co-founder of whereapy. Special thanks goes out to Heather Gaskill, social worker and copy editor extraordinaire.

8 Strategic Blog Home Pages that Draw Readers Deeper

This guest post is by The Blog Tyrant.

One of the hardest tasks a blogger can face is getting readers to stick around. In actual fact, its one of the most important things you’ll ever learn to do. Why? Because unless those visitors delve deeper into your site you are essentially wasting your time with all that amazing content, social media effort, and SEO work.

Bloggers often forget that we need to use things like design, layout, colors, format, and so on to help visitors delve further in to our sites.

In this post I’m going to show you eight blog home pages that make readers click deeper. Hopefully it will give you some ideas for your own.

8 Home pages that draw readers deeper

I wanted to start off by letting you know that each of these pages was chosen for a different reason. Now, I’m not saying that these are the best blog home pages in the world. What I am saying is that each one does something extremely well that encourages new visitors to become more loyal readers.

1. Mashable

Mashable is one of the world’s biggest blogs and has a massively high page views. The main reason they are able to do this is through social proofed elements of their layout. Let me explain.

Social proof is where you provide some kind of assurance that other people have used your service. Testimonials, for example, are a common form of social proof. These things reduce anxiety in the reader but also serve to encourage a group mentality whereby people want to be involved in what other people are doing. It’s just human nature.

Mashable is all about social media and you see items like the “most shared this week” and the number of Facebook “likes” featuring prominently. The “buzz” this creates gets people to go deeper in to the site—people want to read articles that hundreds of others found interesting.

2. Digital Photography School

Digital Photography School is Old Man Rowse’s biggest blog. It has hundreds of thousands of subscribers and is one of the most heavily community-based blogs you’ll ever read. The activity in the comments and the forums is really quite wonderful.

I remember when Darren first released the new DPS design; I was blown away by how efficient and enticing it was. The old site was a straight up one column blog but this is a multi-level blog that divides the areas up by different sections of interest. Want to read about photography? Just go to that section. Want to read about equipment? Go over there.

This is a fantastic way to ensure photographers find areas of interest at the home page. It gives very little room for people to get bored and move on.

3. Huffington Post

Huffington Post. The blog turned worldwide news source. Sigh. Whatever you might say about the quality of the news that comes out of the site, the layout is extremely captivating. And it’s not because it’s pretty. Here is an example of a site on which the visuals aren’t necessarily pleasing, but they are very effective.

The area of the home page above the fold is dedicated to the most shocking current story as well as a pop up bar that asks you to get involved. It also uses a series of highly placed headers to show you what news is trending at the moment. Again, this is done to capitalize on people’s need to know what other people are interested in.

Scroll further down the home page and you see more engaging items like author profile photos to build loyalty, huge comment counts on featured articles and a mix of featured articles from different topics.

4. Zen Habits

Leo from Zen Habits is one of the nicest guys in the world. A few years ago he gave me some free advertising space and helped me launch a new blog. His new design is totally minimal and fits in extremely well with the branding of the site. Lots of space.

This type of strategy works extremely well for a blog with amazing content. Why? Because it is entirely focused on that content. You read that first amazing article and you feel compelled to delve deeper.

This is a brave design that takes a lot of courage because if each and every post that appears on the homepage is not amazing, you will see a lot of people drop off.

5. Smart Passive Income

Speaking of nice guys, Pat from Smart Passive Income is one of the nicest. Recently when I was setting up my podcasts he gave me a lot of time-saving tips. And that is a big theme in Pat’s design: help.

See the top level of menu items? Each one has a sub heading that gives you more information about what to expect inside. I remember the first time I visited Pat’s site, I spent ages clicking through each menu item to browse the contents. That is something I don’t normally do. The navigation is extremely “sticky”.

Similarly, there is a little space below the menu where Pat gives little random messages or tips. This takes the “tutorial” vibe of his site even further and definitely makes the experience feel more personal and intimate.

6. Tumblr

The guys at Tumblr are extremely good at design. In my article on the 12 Best About Us Pages I confessed that I thought theirs was the best one of the lot. And while the blog homepage isn’t right up to that standard, it is still worth a look.

The reason I included Tumblr in this list is because they use simple graphical elements to draw the eye down. Each post is very simple and usually only includes a picture or a bit of text. And each alternating post has a different background. Mixed with the fact that the emphasis is on showing which staff member wrote each post and you have an extremely addictive blog home page.

7. Fail Blog

Fail Blog, in case you have been living under a rock, is part of the LOL Cat empire. These guys build sites with funny pictures of cats and dogs and people getting hurt and make a small (read: large) fortune out of it.

Again, the homepage design is not beautiful, but it is extremely addictive. You can navigate through all their sites from the top as well as getting in on the action by voting for the best fails. They also have a little “random fail” generator, which is the kind of gimmick people on this site love to use to waste more of their day.

One of the cleverest ideas here is the fact that every can have a go at re-captioning the fails. This builds on the community in a massive way by getting everyone interacting with each fail multiple times. People write new captions and then come back to see what other people are saying about it.

8. The Onion

The Onion is quite literally one of the funniest websites on the Internet. And aside from hilarious content, great titles, and a home page that lets you see a plethora of content all at once, one thing they do really well is have an interactive and changing header that gives you access to new information.

Normally blogs just have a static header but this one moves and changes based on what’s going on at the blog. Sure, they still have the same logo and colors to keep the branding recognizable but they also use the variation to get people involved in new areas. Very clever.

Lessons to apply to your own blog

So what are the take-aways from these eight blogs home pages? What are some concrete things you can apply to your own blog today to increase the amount of pages people view?

  • Focus on social proof.
    Make sure your homepage always has elements that relate to social proof. Use testimonials, popular articles, high comment counts, and social media followers to show that your blog is busy. This is something that you should never underestimate.
  • Know your audience.
    It is really important to know who is coming to your home page and why. Are they coming for this topic or that topic? Do they want to read articles or listen to podcasts? Make sure your navigation allows them to find what they want instantly.
  • Let your story show.
    Make sure you use photos or text to tell your story. Let people become loyal to you and your message. Tumblr does this with staff profiles, Pat does this by showing himself with his baby, etc. You want to make sure people feel like you are different from everyone else they’ve seen today.

As I mentioned in the post about the best about us pages, it is a really good idea to occasionally take a look at what the big guys in the industry are doing. Quite often they are doing it for a reason. The most important thing, however, is to make sure you don’t leave it as an idea but apply it to your own blog right away.

What draws you in?

I’d like to open up the floor now and find out what parts of a website’s home page draw you in deeper? Is it something to do with the layout, the content, the colors—or something totally different? Please leave a comment and let me know.

The Blog Tyrant hasn’t revealed his name yet but we know that he is a 25-year-old guy from Australia who works from home and has sold several blogs for around the $20,000 mark. Now he’s teaching you how to dominate your blog. Subscribe by email to get his free eBook on capturing 120% more email subscribers overnight or follow him on Facebook.

How to Harness Your Email List to Help Pay Your Rent

This guest post is by the Blog Tyrant.

Wouldn’t it be nice to send out an email or two and pull in $10,000+ to pay your rent or mortgage payments for the year? It is actually possible using your own products or those of selected affiliates. And while some of you will be thinking that word “affiliates” sounds dirty and underhanded, I’m here to tell you that affiliate marketing is actually one of the most honest ways to make money on the Web.

In this post I am going to show you how you can make $10,000+ a year using your email list and a product or affiliate program. I’ll even do a bit of math to prove it.

eMail
Creative Commons License photo credit: Esparta

How it works

Let me start by giving you a little overview of how this all works, in case you’re totally new to the idea. I’ll go in to more detail later on.

  1. Use your blog to grow an email list
    If you’ve read any of my other guest posts on Problogger you will notice that I have a pretty (un)healthy obsession with email lists. I’m constantly telling my readers to focus on growing a list of active, engaged, and interested email subscribers. It should be the main focus of almost every blog.
  2. Provide value
    The most important thing to remember with this process is that you need to provide value. You need to enrich the lives of your subscribers. You need to solve their problems. Without this step you will find that your list grows largely unresponsive.
  3. Create a product or find affiliate programs
    The next steps is to create a product of your own (ebook, ecourse, etc.) or find a product of someone else’s that you can promote and sell to your email list. It needs to be highly relevant, valuable, and helpful.
  4. Promote it to your email list
    This stage is actually rather complex and can involve a pre-launch and launch, as well as automated messages and so on. The net result is that you make a lump sum of money during a launch period, or an ongoing stream of income from automated sales that happen over time.

The whole thing can be a very exciting process and, if it’s done correctly, it is an extremely ethical way to make good money while enriching the lives of your subscriber list.

Doing the math

Now, let’s do a little math to see if $10,000 per year is really possible. In fact, if you really catch a hold of this concept you’ll find that $10,000 is actually rather conservative. The possibilities with this type of marketing are endless.

Let’s take a look:

  1. Capture four email subscribers per day
    Let’s assume you are able to capture four email subscribers per day. It is a very small amount that any one can do with ideas like this and this.4 x 365 = 1460 subscribers per year.
  2. Sell a $37 ebook to 20% of your list
    If your followers are loyal and engaged you should be able to sell to around 15% to 20% of them.1460 subscribers x 0.2 = 292 sales @ $37 = $10,804

Now, for those whose lists are significantly larger than this, the estimates are conservative. For those who have smaller lists, this can serve as inspiration to keep going with your blogging work. Remember, an ebook is just one example of the multitude of things you can promote to your list.

How to make $10k+ per year with email subscribers

George is Keeping an Eye On You!
Creative Commons License photo credit: peasap

The wonderful thing about this process is that it can be expanded upon to incredible levels. For some bloggers, $10,000 is a tiny sum of money. My hope is that this post serves as a catalyst for you to learn more about the field and really take your blog to its full potential.

1. Grow the email list

The email list is the backbone of all good blogging income sources. If you can capture a large number of email addresses of readers who love what you write, trust your advice, and look to you for help and new information, then you are setting yourself up to be in a very profitable situation.

I know what you’re thinking: “But isn’t it rude/annoying/spammy to sell stuff to my followers?” This is a very common question. I encounter so many people who don’t want to sell anything to their subscribers but, to be honest, the logic doesn’t make sense to me. Why? Because, like everyone else, you also have bills to pay, you aren’t trying to rip anyone off, and with the right products, you can help your subscribers to better their situations.

Don’t get me wrong: some people abuse their lists. I don’t condone this at all. But guys like Darren, who only sell high-quality ebooks or training courses that can help you grow a bigger and better blog, are helping their subscribers. Why shouldn’t Darren make some money selling a product that has taken him years and years to acquire the knowledge to create—and helps you in a big way?

How can you grow your list quickly?

  • Focus on value and quality information
    Your blog needs to publish high-quality content that adds value to the lives of your readers. Every time someone sees a post on your blog, they should leave feeling like a problem is solved. This is important.
  • Have an angle
    There are hundreds of millions of blogs out there. You need an angle. Why should people read your stuff over someone else’s? Without an attached story or angle, you give a person no reason to subscribe to your blog.
  • Use Aweber to add subscription boxes and send a free ebook
    I recently wrote a post about why I switched to Aweber and the reasons are simple: you can add a subscription box to your blog in about five minutes, you can send out a series of automatic follow-up emails and, best of all, you can send out a free ebook automatically. This is a tried and tested method for capturing a lot of email subscribers: write a highly valuable ebook that appeals to your niche, and give it away in exchange for their subscription.
  • Write guest posts related to your niche
    Once your free ebook offering is up and running, get out there and start guest posting on as many of the top blogs as possible. Darren has a thorough post on how to do this, so the only thing that I’ll add is that you should make your posts as good as possible, and in some way relate them to your free ebook. This ensures that all the visitors that trickle through to your site are interested in your stuff.
  • Engage people in email, Twitter, comment threads, etc.
    If you want your email subscribers to be loyal and engaged, you want to make sure you engage them in as many places as possible. As a general rule, I reply to every comment on my blog, and Twitter and Facebook accounts. I work from home so it’s easy for me to do this, but even if you work in an office, you should make an effort to reply to contacts and commenters each evening when you get home.

As a general rule of thumb, the number of email signups you attract is a good indicator of how successful your blog is. You might be getting all the traffic in the world, but unless you can convert it somehow, you probably aren’t making much progress. Capturing as many email subscribers as possible is the first and most important step in affiliate marketing.

2. Create a product and/or find an affiliate product to promote

This section is broken up in to two parts—your two different options. The first option is to create your own product and sell that to your list. I prefer this option because you can tailor it to suit your readers’ needs and wants. The second option is find someone else’s product to promote to your list for a commission (i.e. an affiliate program). Let’s take a look at both.

Creating your own product

The wonderful thing about the Internet is that it allows you to create your own product without much in the way of difficulty or start-up costs. In a recent article on how stay-at-home moms can make money, I said that a product launched off the back of an expert blog is one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to make an honest living online. This is true.

Your product could take one of many forms:

  • an ebook
    Creating an ebook is one of the simplest ways to make money from your blog. All you do is brainstorm a concept, write it out in Word or Open Office, tizzy it up with graphics and pictures, and then convert it into a PDF. Instant product. The problem? There are a lot of them out there. People have become a bit blind to them. If you are going to sell an ebook, you have to make sure it is of an outstanding level of quality and addresses a problem that’s massively relevant to your blogging audience. Ideally, it will cover a topic that hasn’t already been heavily written about.
  • an ecourse
    Another popular option is to develop an ecourse that teaches your readers how to do something. It could take the form of a series of emails sent out every week, or it could be an ebook mixed with video and delivered in module form. This is sometimes a better option because, the course content can be created or amended on the go, to respond to the feedback you get from users.
  • a membership site
    This is new black: it seems like everyone is creating membership sites nowadays. A membership site is basically a password-protected area of your blog that people can only access by paying. It could contain tools or courses or a forum of experts, for example. Some of the more successful membership sites are SEOBook and SEOmoz.
  • a physical product
    If you are one of these talented people who have an actual real-world skill like painting or designing clothes, you might want to make your product a physical one. This can work extremely well if you have a big list of people who admire your work.

Whatever you decide to create, you have to make sure it appeals to your readers and continues to add value as you’ve done on your blog. People simply will not pay for something unless they know that it will add to their lives in a meaningful way.

Promoting someone else’s product

If you don’t have the time, energy, or ideas to create your own product, you can start out by promoting other people’s—by becoming an affiliate. For example, if I created an amazing Blog Tyrant ecourse, I would offer people the opportunity to sell that ecourse on my behalf and earn a commission (usually 40% to 80%) on every sale. If you believed in that product (trust me, it’d be awesome!) then you could sell it to your list. Money for jam.

There are a few prerequisites to generating an income through affiliate sales:

  • The product must be relevant.
    If you run a dog-training blog there is almost no chance that my amazing Blog Tyrant product would sell to your list. You need to find affiliate products that are highly relevant to your blog.
  • You must believe in it/use it yourself.
    Personally, I never promote an affiliate product unless I use it myself. My site is all about helping people dominate their niche and grow an online business that allows them to work from home. Why would I risk my reputation (and in some cases friendships) promoting a product that I’ve never used?
  • It must be reputable and safe.
    Some affiliate programs out there really do not offer good protection for their customers. It’s getting rarer and rarer, but every now and then you come across a program that gets people involved with spam, or makes it difficult to get a refund. If you are going to promote something to your list, you want to make sure it comes from a reputable source that you know and trust. Shoemoney says that he never promotes an affiliate unless he has met the owner in person. This is a good rule.

Please do not think that affiliate programs are all dirty. They aren’t. There are some really solid brand names out there who are promoting very valuable tools and information. Darren’s one of them. With a little bit of research and planning, you will be able to find something great for your crew.

Finding affiliate products to promote
There are so many different places to find affiliates out there—some good, some bad. What you often find is that it is best to locate the product you want to promote first, then figure out what company that product creator is using to sign up affiliates. Some of the main ones you might want to look at include:

A lot of the larger companies run their own affiliate programs. In this case you want to visit the sites of the sellers themselves, scroll down to the very bottom and look for the Affiliates link that will direct you to the signup page.

3. Sell the product to your email list

The final part of this post is all about selling your product, or your chosen affiliate product, to your email list. This topic could be studied for a lifetime, but here, let’s look at a rough game-plan.

Pre-launch

The first step is to generate some interest among your subscribers around the product launch. You want to prepare your readers for the big sale day. There are lots of different ways to do this, and many different schools of thought as to what works and what doesn’t. Some ideas include:

  • a free give away
    Having a free give away that is related to your product launch can be a good idea because people circulate the free part to their friends and on their blogs. It can also help you capture more email addresses to use for the actual promotion.
  • a time-sensitive signup area
    Something else that can work is to have a time-sensitive signup area. For example, if you are releasing a membership site you might only want to release it to 100 members. Having an earlybird signup area on the blog a week in advance can get people motivated to join, rather than risk missing out.
  • create an affiliate program
    Around this time, if you’re selling a product you’ve created yourself, you also want to set yourself up as affiliate seller so that other bloggers can sell your products. Email your list of high-profile blogging contacts, letting them know about the product launch and the affiliate program, and ask them to help you out.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure it really does generate some buzz. The idea is to get as many people talking about the product, and sharing news about it, as possible.

Launch

The launch stage is where you actually send out the email to your list promoting your new product. You should also do a post on your blog to ensure your RSS readers hear about what’s going on. Make sure your launch email:

  • has a strong call to action
  • details all the specs of the product
  • uses social proof
  • focuses on benefits, not features.

As I said, this is only supposed to be a rough game-plan. There are some amazing articles out there that give you specific details on this process. I’d recommend starting with Copyblogger’s landing pages tutorials, Darren’s video on product launches, and Yaro’s article on creating an ebook.

Automate follow-ups for affiliate products

One thing to remember is that if you’re promoting someone else’s product you don’t have to do all this launch stuff. You can actually just set it to be entirely automatic. How? Well remember we talked about Aweber’s automatic messages earlier? What you can do is create a series of follow-up emails that go to every subscriber that you get on a sequence of set days.

For example, let’s say you subscribe to my Dog Training blog. On day one I might send you an automatic email thanking you for subscribing. Then on day three, you get an email with a highly useful dog training tip or tutorial. A week later, you get another training tip and then, maybe a day after that, I send you an email with an affiliate product that relates to the tips and tutorials, and really helps you solve the problem. It’s all automatic, and it works extremely well.

Remember, don’t flood your subscribers with emails, and don’t send anything out unless it’s highly valuable and useful to your subscribers. Don’t risk compromising your relationship.

Have you done it? Will you try it?

I’d really like to open up the comments now and ask you guys for any advice from your own email campaigns. Have you tried these kinds of approaches before? Did they work well? I’d also really like to know whether you will give this a try on your own blogs. Do leave a comment and let me know.

The Blog Tyrant is a 25 year old guy who makes a full time living from blogs and online businesses. He has sold several blogs for $20,000 plus and answers every comment he gets on his blog. Subscribe by email or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or RSS.

How to Get 80+ Comments on Your Next Blog Post

This post is by The Blog Tyrant.

My blog is only 22 posts old but I already get close to 100 comments on most of the articles I write. I recently wrote about how to increase conversions and got over 250 comments in about six hours. It’s a surprising amount.

You only get one shot
Creative Commons License photo credit: aqsahu

So why is my blog getting so many comments? And more importantly, what can you do to replicate the commenting frenzy on your own blog? Let’s take a look.

Why comments matter

The first thing I want to talk about is why comments are important to a blog. It’s quite simple—one word in fact: community. Blog comments are a sign that your community is healthy and functional. The post I linked to above was the 18th article I had written on Blog Tyrant and I hardly had to participate in the discussion: my readers did it all. I just put up a post and watched my amazing community help each other out with their questions and concerns. I felt like a proud dad.

I’ve found that if you can increase comments on your blog, you’ll often find that traffic, subscribers, and all the other nice metrics rise as well. In fact, when I look in my analytics I see that the posts that get the most comments also do the most converting and bring the most visitors—not the other way around.

Let’s say that again: more comments lead to more traffic, conversions, and sign ups.

How I get people to comment

I want to share some simple little strategies that I use on my blog to get comments, and lots of them.

1. Close comments

Wait a second … close comments? Yep, close them. After two weeks I close off the comments on my posts so that people have to wait for a new post if they want to start commenting. Sounds counter-intuitive doesn’t it? In fact, just two weeks ago I got an email from another blogger who asked:

Why do you close comments on old articles? What if people want to add to the discussion? You may as well close comments entirely.

I visited his blog and, quite ironically, almost every post he has written has zero comments. Unfortunately this guy has underestimated the power of scarcity. People are much more likely to interact with a product or a blog if they perceive it to be scarce or limited. That’s why car companies release limited editions and the big clothing stores have “one day only” sales. If you close comments your comment section automatically becomes more alluring.

2. Show up every single day

At least once a day I get an email from a reader thanking me for personally replying to their comment. In actual fact, I make it a policy to reply to every single comment that I get on my blog, unless it has already had some good replies. I do this because I want to show my readers that I care and that I really like getting comments from them. Replying individually, every day, shows them that I am interested and the karma of that action is that they want to comment more often.

You might also see a slight trick here. By replying to every comment you also increase your comment count. So instead of having ten reader comments, you might have 20 with your own individual replies. Not all of my posts are like this but in some of them, 30-40% of the comments are from me. Tricky huh?

3. Write full and detailed articles … but don’t finish them

In my 7,809 word series on how to blog, I told my readers to write comprehensive articles but not to finish them. This little trick is something I picked up years ago when I decided to sell a blog for $20,000: long but incomplete articles really attracted a lot of interest amongst visiting traffic.

Here’s the deal. If you totally exhaust a topic, you leave your readers with nowhere to go. They already have all the answers from your post, so why would they comment? The reverse of this situation occurs if you write articles that are too short and incomplete. In that case, you aren’t going to rouse enough passion and interest in order to generate some discussion.

The ideal situation is to write comprehensive articles, but to not quite finish them. Don’t complete every topic and always finish the post so that the reader wants to learn more, research further, and talk to you about what you have written.

What’s worked for you?

Have you ever heard the saying, “the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know”? I have been blogging for a long time but still, every day, I find new strategies and techniques to improve what I do. I get totally embarrassed by the fact that, after years of blogging, I still don’t know a thing!

Please leave a comment and let me know what strategies worked best for you on your blog. Is there any reason why your most commented articles did so well? Or is it totally random? I’m looking forward to hearing what the ProBlogger community has to offer!

The Blog Tyrant is a 25-year-old guy from Australia who has sold blogs for large sums of money and now writes about dominating your niche. Subscribe by email or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Buying and Selling Blogs with Strong Personal Brands

This guest post is by Andrew Knibbe of Flippa.

The responses to my last post raised the crucial issue of selling a blog that’s built around a strong personal brand.

Mark Wolfinger wrote, “When I write a blog, it’s my passion that the readers see. It’s my writing style and knowledge. Buy an existing blog and the blog’s voice changes immediately. How can you keep loyal readers who loved the previous voice?”

This is of course a key consideration in buying or selling a personally branded blog. It’s true that the strength of some personal brands may make a blog unsaleable, but that doesn’t need to be the case.

The blog as a business

In response to Mark’s comment, the Blog Tyrant pointed out, “Mark you read ProBlogger and hardly any of the posts are by Darren nowadays.”

This reminds me of that old saying that if you want to have a saleable business, you have to be able to step back at some point and work on it, rather than in it.

This seems to be the approach that Darren has taken with ProBlogger. He’s spent years building a strong personal brand, and building a blog that revolves around that. By establishing ProBlogger as a leading light in the niche, he’s able to attract some of the best bloggers and source high-quality content for the site, and that’s let him step back from the blog to work on aspects like product development.

We can guess that he’s now spending time he used to spend writing blog posts preparing courses, writing ebooks, and coming up with new concepts.

But the things that make ProBlogger what it is remain here, even if Darren’s time and presence on the blog has decreased from what it was when he started all those years ago. There’s a large and loyal community, a strong brand, an enormous, high-quality content inventory, and  a raft of happy advertisers, affiliates, and so on. So if ProBlogger was for sale, you can see that it would have a lot to offer a potential buyer.

Getting personal

What if this site was called DarrenRowse.net, rather than ProBlogger.net? Sure, that might reduce the overall sale price of the site, but it certainly wouldn’t make it unsaleable. As a potential buyer, you might choose to move it to a new domain, but if you were smart, and Darren was a caring seller, you’d probably negotiate a handover arrangement whereby you as the new site owner could be introduced to the ProBlogger readers and community.

Before you agreed to buy the site, you’d probably assess the alternative domains you could use, and you might buy one—possibly one like, say, ProBlogger, which talks about the niche more than a personality—as you bought the site. Perhaps you’d also secure Twitter and Facebook accounts with the same brand, or negotiate with the owner to transfer the existing account’s ownership with the blog.

During the handover period, you might undertake a gradual rebranding of the site and announce to users that its location was changing. Rather than switching off DarrenRowse.net the day your turned on the ProBlogger domain, you might have the two running in tandem, with a redirect attached to the personal domain, for a while.

Buying (or selling) an existing blog isn’t like buying a used car: it doesn’t need to be a take-it-or-leave-it situation. As the buyer, you can request any assistance you need to transfer the blog safely to your ownership, complete with its full complement of readers. If the seller cares about the community he or she has built up, they’ll hopefully be pretty happy to negotiate this kind of thing among the terms of the sale.

Finding opportunities on a personal blog

Another response to Mark’s comment on the article came from Alex, who wrote, “buying a blog which already has a small reader base and some articles can save you quite a bit of time, otherwise you’d need to “get the ball rolling” yourself, which is the hardest part of blogging, IMO.”

Mark replied, “It’s funny. I find writing to be the very easy part. And I have a decent number of readers (24,000 monthly unique). It’s the monetizing that’s difficult for me.”

These comments really show the variation that exists in the blog trading space—people buy and sell blogs for all sorts of reasons, and a blog that has real potential for one buyer will hold little appeal for another.

Take Mark’s comment, for example. It sounds like he’s built up a great content inventory, and a loyal, committed readership—but he has difficulty monetizing blogs. Alex says he finds the initial stages of starting a blog the biggest challenge, but perhaps he’s the type to easily spot monetization opportunities and do something about them. The fact that Mark’s been unable to monetize his blog presents an opportunity: if he wanted to, he might sell the blog to someone like Alex, who had monetization skills. After all, strong community and great content are valuable assets.

Mark comments that his unique style and personality are what readers come to his blog for. That’s great, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that, if he wanted to sell the blog, he couldn’t.

Firstly, he’d be choosy about the buyers he considered, looking for someone who knew his site and understood what it was about—he might well find that among the interested buyers were some of his site’s current users. He’d look for a potential buyer who had an appealing writing style that he felt would really engage his readers. Perhaps he’d invite them to write some guest posts so that he could see how his readers responded to the potential buyer, and to help that person build a profile among the readership in advance.

If the sale went ahead, he’d make a personal announcement to his readers, perhaps via email to subscribers as well as in a post on the blog itself. He might also recommend a handover period to help the transition go smoothly, and keep readers as loyal to the blog—and the new owner—as possible.

Personal brands can add an extra dimension to the buying and selling of blogs, but they don’t have to be a problem. A buyer might be able to find a personally branded blog that doesn’t have a strong personal style (we’ve all seen them online)—another opportunity for the astute buyer who knows what they have to offer.

Have you ever though about buying or selling a blog with a personal brand? What other concerns would you have about the process?

Andrew Knibbe is the Marketing Manager at Flippa, the #1 marketplace for buying and selling websites. He blogs at the Flippa blog. Follow him @flippa.

How a 30 Minute Reject Post Brings Me Hundreds of Subscribers a Week

This guest post is written by the Blog Tyrant.

Three weeks ago I wrote a guest post for a large blog that got rejected on the grounds that it contained ideas that had already been discussed at the blog. Now that same post is bringing me hundreds of email subscribers every week. Let me tell you what happened—and explain how you can replicate some of that success.

Graf-_6026-sm
Creative Commons License photo credit: Julian Stallabrass

How I turned a failed post into a subscriber magnet

Ever since I first thought about selling a blog I knew that I had to grow my email subscriber list. I’ve talked about it in my post on how to blog and I’ve talked about here on my Problogger guest posts. It is your mailing list that allows you to grow a large online business that outlasts the ups and downs and brings in considerable income.

The rejected post

Seeing as I had spent a fair amount of time building sites and blogs, and experimenting with growing a mailing list I thought I would make it a regular theme on Blog Tyrant. People seemed interested. In order to grow my readership, though, I knew I had to write exciting and relevant guest posts about themes that are closely tied to my blog. So I wrote an article called How to Grow Your Email List by 120% Overnight that talked about some strategies I had used to massively boost my email subscribers.

It got rejected. Actually, it’s the only guest post I’ve ever had rejected.

The free ebook

After I had cooled down and patched up the hole I punched in my office wall I sat there staring at the post. For some reason I didn’t want to just use it on my own blog. Something was telling me not to. Then, on a whim, I thought I would just turn it into a free ebook and give it away on my site to anyone who subscribed by email (nothing new). I wrote the copy, added the email subscription form and went to bed. The next day my email subscribers had gone up by 200 addresses. The day after that, 120 addresses. Hundreds of people were subscribing to my blog to get this free ebook.

Why is this ebook so successful?

I started to wonder why this ebook was so successful. I have other blogs that give away free ebooks but none of them seem to pull in subscribers at the rate this one does. After a while, I realized that I’d carried out a strategy without even thinking about it. In an effort to promote my new site, I had inadvertently pre-promoted the launch of my ebook.

I went back and looked at all the guest posts I’d written in the past few weeks which were still bringing in traffic. In every single one, I had talked about growing a mailing list, the importance of community, or something to do with that rejected-post-turned-ebook.

In essence, I had built a whole lot of hype around the ebook without even realizing that I was doing it. If I was a marketing firm I would have charged a lot of money for that strategy!

How to replicate that success

Duesenberg SSJ Roadster replica
Creative Commons License photo credit: Ed Callow [ torquespeak ]

Now that I’ve admitted to the shameful fact that I did all this by accident, I want to talk about a few ways that you can replicate that success on your own blogs. These few steps are key to making sure the whole thing goes down well.

1. Research that ebook subject hard.

The subject of that ebook is of utmost importance. I go to so many sites where the free ebook is a bit wishy-washy and not really that exciting. You don’t want that. Look at your analytics and find out why people are coming to your site. Look at competitors’ blogs and see what posts have gone viral. Find bestsellers in your niche. Research hard and come up with a subject and title that’s really compelling to the people that you write for.

To be honest, the title and subject are almost more important than the content. Sure, my ebook has excellent tips that I really did use, but it’s not even 20 pages long, and it only took me about an hour to put together including the coding and the cover design. You want to make sure you get it right.

2. Create guest posts that target and promote your ebook.

Here is where the magic takes place. You want to write a good ten or 15 guest posts for blogs in your niche that target readers of your new ebook. Now, you don’t have to directly mention the ebook like I’ve done in this post. You just need to generate interest, as I managed to do in my other Problogger guest posts Why I Leave Your Blog, How to Make Your Blog Addictive, and Why Your Blog is Not Going to Make You Rich.

None of those posts directly mention any ebook, but they do spend a lot of time talking about mailing lists and growing a community as a way to make big dollars. If you landed on my blog after reading one of those posts and saw the ebook, you’d probably be more likely to download it than any other random visitor. In the affiliate marketing world, this is called pre-selling; Darren calls it a sneeze page.

3. Generate more interest in the comments.

Once your guest posts are published, it’s important to get over to the pushing site and interact with people in the comments. Share as much as you can about the topic, and try to dispel any objections that people might have. What you’re doing by taking this course of action is giving people a secondary gentle push in your blog’s direction. They might not love you after they read your guest post, but they certainly should be open to liking you after you talk to them in the comments.

4. Make sure your call to action is strong.

The last thing you need to do is make sure the signup area on your blog contains a good, clean, strong call to action. Put it in one of the blog hot areas. Make sure you use copy that gets people excited, and allows them to give you their email without worrying that you’re going to abuse it. Most internet marketers agree that you need to use a direct call to action that tells your visitors exactly what they need to do to subscribe. Don’t leave it up to chance.

Bonus: how to give away a free ebook with Feedburner

Not everyone out there can afford to use Aweber to give away free ebooks to email subscribers. Unless you’re making good revenue, it can be a little bit expensive. For that reason, I want to show you how to do it completely free with Feedburner. It’s not quite as efficient, but it works well for me and a lot of other bloggers.

1. Upload your ebook to your server.

Go to your FTP area and upload your ebook into the root folder. If it’s small enough you can just go into your WordPress Dashboard and upload the PDF as an image. Copy the address of the ebook.

2. Get your FeedFlare template.

While your FTP is open, download this file. Unzip it, open it up with Notepad or Wordpad (not Word) and edit the information that I’ve filled out for you. Once you are done, hit save and upload it to your root directory without changing the name at all. It should appear as an XML file if you’ve done it right.

3. Edit Feedburner

Now log in to your Feedburner account and activate FeedFlare (it’s under Optimize). Scroll down to the Personal FeedFlare heading and add the URL of the XML file that you just uploaded to your root directory. The URL should be http://youblog.com/feedflaretemplate.xml

4. You’re done!

Every time someone receives a Feedburner message from you, there will be a little ebook download link at the bottom of the post. I’d recommend making an instructions page for people so they don’t email you asking where it is. Just let them know that the free ebook will be at the bottom of the posts that arrive in their inbox.

Conclusion

This strategy of pre-promoting an ebook has worked extremely well for me in the past few weeks. I’m getting hundreds of new subscribers every week, and they are all turning out to be valuable members of my community who comment, interact, and share my posts. Try it out if you haven’t already.

I’d really like to know if you know any other ways to promote your blog or a product on your blog. Please drop a comment and let me know.

The Blog Tyrant has sold several blogs for large sums of money and earns a living by relying solely on the internet. His blog is all about helping you dominate your blog and your blog’s niche and only includes strategies that he has tried on his own websites. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook or subscribe to his feed for all the juice.

Why Your Blog Is Not Going to Make You Rich (Or Pay the Bills)

This guest post is by the Blog Tyrant.

$100,000 a year? $500,000 a year? A million? These are figures I bet most of us think about from time to time. But I’m here to tell you a sober truth—something that you probably won’t like the sound of.

Your blog is not going to make you rich. It might not even pay the monthly bills.

But don’t lose hope yet. There is a (very shiny) silver lining to this article: I am going to show you what you need to do to get up to those wonderful figures. In this post I’m going to give you a few important facts and tricks that my multimillionaire uncle passed on to me; facts and tricks that translate to the blogging world very very well.

Aston Martin V8 Vantage
Creative Commons License photo credit: Ed Callow [ torquespeak ]

The millionaire’s advice

Let’s start this post with the advice that my uncle gave me. When I first heard it I think I probably told him to “go away” under my breath. But as I got deeper into my own business I realized how insanely important the advice had become. Especially because I learned the hard way. Let me illustrate.

My first blog was a fitness blog that I ended up selling for $20,000 after just eight months. Before that time, however, the blog paid my bills with a consistent AdSense income. It wasn’t a lot of money but it met my needs at the time. That was until Google banned it from the search results without warning, and without reason. I woke up one day and my excellent rankings for some super-high traffic keywords were gone. And so was my money.

Right at the moment my uncle’s advice came floating back to me:

You must always have a short-term source of income that pays the bills, two medium-term projects that supplement the income, and one long-term project that’s a year away from fruition. Always.

It is powerful advice that every rich person I know pays attention to (consciously or not). I, however, had totally ignored it in my youthful arrogance. I had put all of my eggs in to one basket and as such I had nothing to fall back on, and nothing to look forward to. I was in trouble.

Applying the advice: diversifying my business

So what did I do? Well I went out and cleaned toilets. I worked at a gym as a cleaner for over a year while I built up a new empire. I worked at the gym in the mornings and then came home and, after sleeping for an hour, plugged away at blogs and my other online businesses.

It was different now. Now I was applying the advice. Instead of just building up one blog, I was working on several while building small product websites. I was also working on ideas for the long-term project so that I had something to look forward to.

And this part is important. As the medium-term projects began to fall into the short-term income category, I created new medium-term projects. The trilogy of short-, medium-, and long-term must always be in play. I am trying very hard to remember that.

Why you need to diversify to be rich and safe

Adidas Pro Model
Creative Commons License photo credit: Julien Menichini

Your blog, as it is today, is not going to be enough to make you rich and safe. Okay, you might get lucky and be the next Huffington Post or Mashable and never have to worry about money again. But the chances are good that you’ll be like me; you’ll have to be smart about your future and your income. And to be smart you need to develop projects: one short-term, two medium-term, and one long-term project.

1. The short-term income

The short-term income is the work that pays the bills while you work on your other projects. The important thing to remember is that it doesn’t need to be blogging. It doesn’t even need to be glamorous. Like I said before, I worked as a cleaner at a gym in the mornings. It was one of the smartest business decisions I ever made, because it allowed me to still have a full work day to devote to the other projects, since I worked from 6am to 11am.

It also got me a free gym membership, which, trivial as it might seem, allowed me to work out daily and completely de-stress my system. That is a very important thing to do when you’re worried about money. Lift weights and run. If you just sit at home all day in your own company, you won’t realize how stressed you’re actually becoming.

2. The two medium-term projects

The medium-term projects are those that you’re working on to eventually take over your current short-term income. Remember, it’s a good idea to generate your short-term income from more than one source: the more diverse it is, the better. These medium-term projects should be no more than a year away from turning consistent revenue. They can take the shape of:

  • blogs
  • product websites
  • affiliate websites
  • content creation deals
  • partnerships
  • etc.

As they start to make money, you can put them into the short-term category and begin to create new medium-term projects. Perhaps these will come from your long-term category or perhaps you will see new opportunities that you can place directly into the medium-term area.

3. The long-term project

Your long-term project should be ambitious but achievable. It should be one of those ideas where you sit down and think about how much money it would make if only you could get it off the ground. Well, partner, the money coming from your short- and medium-term gigs is what you’ll use to get this idea running.

What I’ve come to discover is that it’s all about these long-term projects. The toilet cleaning, the short-term, the medium-term—all this is a method that gives me the finances and experience to get my big ideas happening.

Blog Tyrant is actually a long term project of mine; it earns me no income at the moment, but I have something absolutely massive planning, which will be launched in a few months’ time. At that point, the blog will fall into my short-term group.

How to make it all happen

Picture 020
Creative Commons License photo credit: Brian K YYZ

Sure, this approach sounds good, but how do you get it to work? How do you divide your time, and how do you manage all of the different problems that arise during the process?

Here are a few of my own suggestions but I would love to hear any advice that you might have — please leave a comment and let us hear your thoughts.

1. Focus on helping others, always.

The very first thing I want to mention is that you have to focus on helping others. This is both a marketing and an ethical concern.

Why is this important? Firstly, the products and websites that do the best are the ones that solve a need in a person’s life. I talked about this a lot in my article on how to make your blog addictive. Today a lot of products are created that don’t solve a need — instead, they create a new one. Forget it. Help people.

The second reason why this is important is because if it all fails you will have no regrets. And if it succeeds, you will spend your life helping people.

2. Take risks.

When you go to invest money in the stock market, the broker will say something like “the biggest returns come from the biggest risks”. At some point you have to decide whether or not you are a risk-taker. If you want to be making $100,000+ a year from the Internet, you’ll need to take some risks. You need to risk your time, maybe some of your savings, and definitely some of your sleep. But these risks should be managed and controlled — and well thought through. This isn’t like buying a lotto ticket: it’s like making an investment in the near future.

3. Stick to a routine.

Make a routine and stick to it. Don’t deviate from it at all — if you do, sooner or later the whole thing will fall in to a heap. Divide up your day or your week into the different categories. For example, I spend the weekends working on long-term projects, the mornings on medium-term projects, and the afternoons working on my short-term stuff. It works well. It works best when I stick to it.

4. Don’t give up early.

One of the biggest mistakes I’m guilty of is giving up before I’ve seen an idea through. For example, a few years ago I bought a whole bunch of domain names with the intention of creating a little group of product sites to dominate one particular niche. It didn’t pay off right away so I put less and less time in to it. Now, when I look back, I realize that these websites would be making a huge amount of consistent money without much work at all. The problem was that I didn’t keep my long-term motivation in check.

5. Use verticals.

A vertical is a product that you launch to compliment another product that you already have. A good example of this is the iPod, which makes Apple more money from iTunes, product cases, headphones, etc. If you can use your existing projects to help launch new products, you can cut out a lot of the hard work.

Conclusion

Your blog is not going to make you rich unless you diversify. Darren does it, Shoemoney does it, and my multimillionaire uncle does it. If you want to have longevity in any business, you need to make sure you’re diversifying your assets so that you’re not left high and dry if one of those income streams suddenly dries up.

If you have any stories about this approach, or advice on starting new businesses, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

The Blog Tyrant has sold several blogs for large sums of money and earns a living by relying solely on the internet. His blog is all about helping you dominate your blog and your blog’s niche and only includes strategies that he has tried on his own websites. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook or subscribe to his feed for all the juice.

Three Problems that Make Me Leave Your Blog in Three Seconds

This guest post is by the Blog Tyrant.

“Wow that’s an interesting looking title you’ve got there, I think I’ll check out that blog.”

That’s what I think. But three seconds later I’m gone, never to return again.

Despite racking your brains for amazing titles, composing literary marvels to dazzle your readers, and spending hours on your blog’s design, you still lost me. In this post I’m going to show you three serious problems that’ll make me leave your blog in three seconds (or less). Be very careful to fix these if they’re present on your site.

I need to open this post by reiterating a simple truth. It is a truth that applies to all businesses, not just blogs. And that truth is:

One loyal reader is worth thousands of one-time visitors

It’s true that one loyal reader (or customer) is worth more than thousands of one-time visitors. One loyal reader will do more for your blog than thousands of one-offs will.

Think about it for a second. Who is it that leaves comments, links to you on their own blogs, talks about you to their friends, Diggs and Stumbles your latest posts, and, eventually, buys whatever products you sell from your blog?

It’s the loyal guys. It isn’t the thousands of mindless drones who just sit there clicking Stumble, Stumble, Stumble, all day long and not interacting with the pages they land on. It’s your loyal readers. Sure, there are some exceptions like affiliate and product websites where you’re just sending super-targeted traffic to the landing page. But we’re talking about blogs, and on blogs, it’s the community that matters.

The three mistakes I’ll explain here will kill your chances of gaining loyal readers. Even if you answer readers’ questions and create content that will help enrich their lives, you are going to lose them if these silly little mistakes appear on your blog. If they do, fix them as soon as possible.

Three problems that make me leave your blog in three seconds

Let’s get into the bulk of the post and sort out these injuries that are crippling your blog. And as always, if you have others that I’ve missed, please leave a comment—your advice might help someone take their blog to the next level.

Problem 1: Lack of comments

One of the first things I do on a blog is check out how many comments there are. A lack of comments instantly turns me off, because I consider comments to be a good metric for determining how useful the articles are. If my initial scan turns up lots of “0 comments” notices, I almost always just close the window.

In my first ProBlogger guest post, on how to make your blog addictive, I talked about social proof and the fact that people need to see that other people are involved on a blog before they themselves get involved. Human beings really don’t like being first—it’s too scary.

How can you fix it?
How can you get more comments on your posts? I talked a little bit about that in my article on blog commenting, but here are a few extra ideas.

  • Change the default “0 comments” text.
    The first thing you should do is change that horrid default text that says “0 comments” to something more interesting and engaging. On Blog Tyrant posts where there are zero comments, the note reads, “Leave a comment, handsome.” That’s much more personal than “0 comments.” To change this text on your blog, just go to your Main Index Template file in your template editor, find the section called php comments_popup_link, and change the relevant areas. I also change the other text in that section, so instead of saying 5 Comments it says 5 Intelligent Opinions.
  • Ask for comments.
    The next thing you need to do is specifically ask for comments. Design your articles in such a way that they really encourage people to leave comments and share their thoughts. This has a lot to do with not answering all their questions in the post itself, but can also mean putting a question in the title or the first paragraph of your post. There is a danger here, however, as if you constantly ask for comments, and no one leaves any, you’ll start to look even more lonely.
  • Create a “buddy” group.
    This is something I used to do years and years ago, and it worked quite well. Find a group of blogs in your niche that don’t get many comments, and send them an email explaining that you’ll leave comments on their posts if they’ll do the same for you. It works really well.

If you’ve been blogging for a long time now, and you still aren’t getting many comments, it might be time to ask some hard questions. In my post on why blogging is a waste of time, I touched on the issue that many bloggers are afraid to ask: are you sure blogging is the best career path for you? Most of the time, however, you can fix a lack of comments with a few little changes here and there. But make sure you do, because “0 comments” looks horrid.

Problem 2: A butchered theme

The second thing that makes me leave your blog super-fast is when your template or theme is ugly, hard to navigate, and has been tweaked so much that it no longer works correctly. If I had a dollar for every time I visited a blog that had been tweaked to the point of looking terrible, I’d be as rich as Bill Gates. The reason I find this so offensive is because it shows that you don’t really care about your users’ experience.

Image credit: duerschi

One of the ways you can make it in the blogosphere is by appearing bigger than you are until you actually get there. And part of that is having a slick theme that functions perfectly for your readers. A lot of experts say that the content is the only thing that matters, but I personally think that’s garbage. I’m sure there are hundreds of excellent articles out there that I haven’t read because the site was too hard to get around, or too ugly to take seriously.

How can I fix it?
Because this issue of an ugly theme covers so many different areas of your blog, I want to offer a few broad suggestions that might help you.

  • Get a custom theme designed.
    The first thing that I’ll tell anyone who is going to take their blog to the next level is to get a custom theme designed for it. This is an amazing way to brand your blog and make it unique. However, I’m aware that it’s quite expensive and probably not an option for most beginner bloggers. If you fall into that category, move on to the next point.
  • At least get a logo designed.
    Big corporate logos that need to represent a brand can cost tens of thousands of dollars. We aren’t there yet. Go to Google and type in “cheap logos” and spend $30 to $100 getting a pretty simple logo made for your blog. It won’t change your world, but it will help your readers take you a bit more seriously.
  • Choose a simple, clean, and mostly white theme.
    The next option is to choose a theme that’s very simple, clean, and mostly white. Forget about black backgrounds and swirling colors everywhere, white is what people are used to reading on, and anything else is upsetting to the eyes. Your theme should be content-focused and really simple; don’t distract your readers with too much other than elements that are going to get them to subscribe or read more content.
  • Don’t edit it yourself unless you make it perfect.
    WordPress is fantastic because it lets you add plugins and edit the theme to add social media icons and other things to your blog. The problem is that people edit the template themselves and end up making it look like a pre-school painting. Unless you know how to make the spacing and graphics work well together, please don’t edit it. Go to Rent a Coder and hire someone with knowledge to do it for a few dollars.

Take the time to present your content in a beautiful and easily navigable way. Don’t clutter the eye, and definitely make sure any additions that you make to the design enhance your blog branding.  It is very important that you appear as professional as possible.

Problem 3: No original ideas

The last problem is probably the most serious, and unfortunately it’s the hardest one to solve. When a blog has nothing new to offer, readers can smell it a mile off. In fact, by a quick glance of the front page you can usually tell whether or not you are going to find something new on a blog. And if there’s nothing new to read, the window gets closed pretty fast.

Let’s be clear about something here. You don’t need to have some amazing new idea like Stuff White People Like. That whole concept is totally original and something that I’ve never seen before.

What you need to do is present your work in a different way from your competitors; you need to differentiate yourself from them. Go and have a look at your blog and ask yourself why a visitor would read your content over another blogger’s. Unless you can think of some solid reasons as to why your offering’s different, you aren’t going to retain me.

How do I fix it?
Fixing this problem can be hard if you didn’t start your blog with some original elements. That being said, there are some things you can to do differentiate yourself as you go along.

  • Find an angle.
    Everything you write about should have an angle. Even if you’re writing about a topic that has been done to death, you can still usually find a semi-unique angle to present it from. That angle needs to percolate through your blog and change the way you write titles, opening paragraphs, draw conclusions, and so on.
  • Brand yourself differently.
    Closely related to the angle idea is the idea of branding yourself differently. People usually think that branding is just having a different logo, but it’s so much more than that. It is how your blog is perceived by others and where it is positioned in the market. Take Subway as an example. This brand is positioned as the only healthy option in the fast food industry, and as a result it’s killing this market space. The branding is all centered around why Subway is a healthy choice and will help you lose weight. Make sure you brand your blog in a way that promotes your angle and helps readers to perceive you as different and valuable.
  • Find out what others aren’t doing.
    One way I find ideas for blog posts is to go to the major websites in my niche, look at their most popular posts, and see what they did—but also what they didn’t do. If you can identify something that’s missing, and tap into that, you’ll usually get people interested. This is even more likely if you realize that what the blogger has written about is incomplete or incorrect, and you can challenge them on it. I think one reason my blog post on selling a blog went to the front page of Delicious.com and got picked up by newspapers is because it didn’t hold anything back—a lot of the other articles out there seemed to not quite show you the whole process. That is now a theme on my blog: share everything.

There really aren’t any original ideas out there. People have been thinking for a very long time now, and chances are that if we think of something, someone else has already thought it. The task, then, is to present your ideas in an original way or make it seem like you are different from the next blog. Unless you can do that, people will have no reason to stay on your blog, or come back once they’ve left.

What do you think?

What makes you leave a blog super-fast? Is it the design? Is it the grammar mistakes? Or is it that you just feel like you’ve seen it all before?

The Blog Tyrant has sold several blogs for large sums of money and earns a living by relying solely on the Internet. His blog is all about helping you dominate your blog and your blog’s niche, and only includes strategies that he has tried on his own websites. Follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his feed for all the juice.