With a crowded internet filled with blogs and podcasts and websites to browse, it can be really difficult to stand out. Today on the podcast I'm bringing you tips for building traffic! I'm also going to share why I don't think traffic is the bee's knees (as in, my main goal is NOT to build traffic).
As a quick note, I am spending a whole MONTH talking about traffic in my paid membership community. We'll have exclusive interviews and resources and a guide to traffic. If you want to see what this exclusive community and training is all about, you can try your first month for $1! You'll have access to hours of video trainings and join our private Facebook group, plus get weekly email check-ins from me. Check the Create If Community Membership!
When we talk about traffic, we are talking about how many visitors you have on your blog, usually measured monthly. There is a difference between pageviews and unique monthly views, but for now, I'm talking about pageviews.
(If you REALLY want to know, pageviews are the number of times your site literally loaded and unique users separates out multiple visits from the same people, so you'll get a more accurate number of how many different people are reading your stuff. Sessions are kind of in-between-- the same user could have two different sessions and view six total pages, resulting in two sessions, one user, and six pagviews. Read this great breakdown here!)
In the old days of blogging, you wrote blog posts and people came. I like to think of this as Field of Dreams blogging: if you blog it, they will come.
When I started in 2007, that's how it worked. People found me. I didn't seek them out, and I certainly didn't promote my blog. Social media wasn't really used for self-promotion back then.
2017 is a different world. If you write a blog post, hit publish, and do nothing else, chances are that maybe like 10 people might read your post. No one will just "find" it (unless you do a great job with SEO). Few people will share it (unless you first share it yourself). These days, you have to WORK to get traffic.
There are two main ways that you can build traffic to your site.
The best idea is to use a combination of these two methods. When you have your SEO working for you, after the initial setup, you can expect to have traffic continue, no matter what you do. It's passive, long-term traffic. (Not to say that you shouldn't do updates or that you can't strengthen your game.)
Combine great SEO with promotions on social media, where you will see short-term spikes of traffic. It's great to diversify your traffic sources so that you can have a more secure foundation in case something major shifts or an algorithm kills off your traffic.
How can you grow the traffic you currently have?
In theory, this is simple. Choose #1 & #2 (or, ideally, both) and work on your game. In practice, this is obviously not as easy as it sounds. SEO is more of a long game, which means that you can put things in place now and hopefully see some increases in the coming months. But the benefit is that after you set up SEO, it keeps going.
Social media is more of a short game that will result in temporary traffic spikes. I've had a post go "viral" on Facebook that resulted in 50k pageviews in a few days. But then it dropped to 2k and then 500 and then...nothing.
Social media is something you need to do once and then do again and then do again. In fact, a lot of people will say that you should spend 20% creating content and 80% PROMOTING. Yikes.
If you are building an ads-based monetization strategy, straight-up traffic is what you want. Numbers = $$$. But it takes a LOT of traffic to make a significant impact. For reference, one of my sites gets between 10k-20k pageviews per month and I get about $200 or less in ads revenue.
Traffic is fragile. So if you are building on straight traffic and straight ads-based revenue, you are building something delicate. One algorithm change and everything shatters.
So it's important to think about how to capture traffic and what you want those visitor so DO on your site. My biggest recommendation is (surprise, surprise): EMAIL. The most permanent way that you can connect is by getting people on your list. Email is also a third, not as often talked area in terms of building traffic.
You also may want them to read more posts, check out your about page, or generally hang out for a while. So you can work on optimizing your site in a way that encourages reading, clicking around, and signing up for your email list. It makes #5 on Neil Patel's great list of ways to build traffic!
Make sure as you think about ways to build traffic that you are thinking about WHY. You need a purpose. You want people to DO something. At the least, try to connect in a more permanent way with your readers by getting them on your email list.
This is NOT an exhaustive list, but a few things that have been working for me in 2017. Also! I want to make a big note that in these things that are working, not ALL of them are about building traffic to my site. Many of the things I'm doing are about sending people to a landing page for my email list.
So...why am I including them?
The reality is that whether you are asking someone to click to a blog page or a landing page for email, these tips ask people to click through to something. And these tips are working right now to get people clicking. I am simply focusing on my list right now and making that a priority over blog traffic.
As I mentioned before, traffic is fragile. It can be awesome, and there is something powerful about having millions of pageviews a month. I have friends doing that and they are making more than full-time incomes on their blogs through ads and sponsored posts and other revenue streams. Since my main revenue streams are NOT related to ads or sponsored posts, I utilize my email list primarily to build relationships and offer products and services that fit their needs. Yes, I'd like to build my blog traffic. But it's not my main thing.
Utilize timely or time sensitive things. I did an experiment with social media over the last month. I scheduled out daily posts to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn advertising one of my big freebies, Seriously Simple Social. I found that I got less than 50 in total for the month. Meanwhile, I held a webinar and started signups for Summer School, a 6-week free class I'm holding this summer. In just a few days, I more than doubled the other signups. Even though these were events with email signups, you could try something similar by promoting timely blog posts-- like my boredom busters for kids, which I promote more heavily at the beginning of summer.
Post to popular Facebook pages. I've seen the power of large Facebook pages sharing your posts. See this list of pages who allow or encourage sharing HERE. Basically, you can post on their page wall, where the post isn't super visible to regular visitors, but the page owner will see it. If it's a good fit, they will share it themselves on their page so it IS visible. When I had that 50k pageviews in a few days, it was from several large pages sharing my post.
Post with GREAT DESCRIPTIONS to Facebook group share threads. If you are a member of 1 million Facebook groups like I am, you'll know that there is usually a no-promo policy. This keeps everyone in the group from posting their blog links 100 times a day. (As a group owner, trust me that I delete a billion of these every day.) There is often a thread once a week where you can share your links. Many people miss this opportunity by just literally pasting a link in that thread. The people who see the most engagement and clicks are those who put a description and actually talk about their link and give a mini pitch.
Get excited about your own content. This is a tip from Paula Rollo of Beauty Through Imperfection. (She shared it in her Quick Blog Tips Group, which you should join!) She pointed out that often when we promote other content, we gush and give a great testimonial for why people should read. Then, for our own content, we say something like "Read my latest post." We can tell people our content is great without being smarmy. I know it's often hard to talk nicely about ourselves and it can feel...off. But if you believe in your own content (and you should), then give people a reason to read!
There are TONS more tips for building traffic, but these are a few specific actions that are helping me see results!
You can choose to focus on SEO, Blogging, or Building Your List (or all three!) after you register. You don't want to miss these classes, which start on June 15!
There are so many ways to publish a book these days that when it comes to publishing tips, it seems okay to say: choose what works best for you! But it's great to trust those who have found success before us. Honoree Corder just released her FIFTIETH book and shares practical launch strategies, whether you should use a hybrid publisher, and more publishing tips in this episode! Read more or listen below!
Official bio: Honorée Corder is the author of dozens of books, including You Must Write a Book, The Prosperous Writer book series, Vision to Reality, Business Dating, The Successful Single Mom book series, If Divorce is a Game, These are the Rules, and The Divorced Phoenix. She is also Hal Elrod’s business partner in The Miracle Morning book series. Honorée coaches business professionals, writers, and aspiring non-fiction authors who want to publish their books to bestseller status, create a platform, and develop multiple streams of income. She also does all sorts of other magical things, and her badassery is legendary. You can find out more at HonoreeCorder.com.
This post contains affiliate links!
PRO TIP: Make sure your ideal reader team is targeted to the audience who would be likely to actually BUY your book because of interest. Not just friends or your mom. Probably NOT your mom. When these people buy your book, it can skew your also-boughts underneath the sale area on Amazon, which means that your book may not get shown to the right audience!
For a moment, let's define the terms. Traditional publishing is when you have one of the big five publishers or a small press publish your book. They pay you an advance and royalties if you sell more copies than the cost of the advance.
Indie publishing is the new term for what we used to call self publishing. It means that the author takes control for all aspects of the book (though often this means hiring an editor, a cover designer, etc) and publishes the book without an outside publisher.
Hybrid authors is a term NOT to be confused with hybrid publishing. These authors may have some traditionally published books and some indie books.
Hybrid publishing is when a company asks for an upfront payment from authors in exchange for publishing, printing, distributing, or other aspects of the publishing process. The contracts and terms vary.
There are horror stories. Many. I hear them all the time from authors who paid thousands of dollars to get hundreds of copies of their book that may or may not even look professional. At best, you may end up with a book that has been formatted and have a cover designed...both things that you could do yourself or pay someone to do for MUCH less.
But one of the big points to consider is WHAT ELSE COULD YOU DO WITH THE SAME AMOUNT OF MONEY? (Or even less.) You could hire a top cover designer, editor, and even pay for Facebook ads or AMS ads for less than you would pay a hybrid publisher.
Can I just say that I LOVE that Honoree burned her own books? There is something freeing there. And humorous.
Amazon's Media Breakfast Honoree attended
Whether it's a podcast or a blog or a book or a course, launching can make or break you. Break is a LITTLE extreme, but your spirit can definitely feel broken after a not-so-hot launch! According to Jenny Melrose of the Influencer Entrepreneur podcast, it's all about the strategy. In this episode we are going deep to learn tips for a successful launch!
And don't miss a live workshop with Jenny (and me!) on May 24 at 9am CST where she's going to teach us how to run a successful challenge-- a key component to her launching success. Register HERE!
There are so many kinds of launches. You can launch tons of different products, first of all, and then you can choose to launch just to your list or do a joint venture (JV) launch with someone else. You can launch with affiliates. You can use ads. You can have open and closed cart or evergreen. You can use webinars. You can go on podcasts as a guest. YOU CAN DO ALL THE THINGS.
But what really works?
It will vary depending on what you're launching and what your goals are, but here are some great tips for a successful launch from Jenny Melrose, who has done a number of launches for different products and in different ways.
I've busted the Field of Dreams myth with books, blogs, and even podcasts that I thought would naturally bring in the right audience in DROVES because they were quality. Nope.
Without a strategic plan, your launch is not likely to be a huge success. It seems obvious, but I think most of us have done this at least one time. Do NOT build a book or product that you assume everyone will want and find without strategic planning.
Note: If you have something you truly love and want to build it for the sheer love of it, go for it! Just realize that this is not the most strategic path for launching success.
Jenny creates evergreen challenges so people can come as they want to. The challenges up engagement, give people a taste for the content and quick wins that make them feel successful.
To promote her challenges, Jenny utilized Facebook groups, but not in a smarmy way. (Read my full post on how to not be smarmy in Facebook groups.) She searched for questions that people were asking related to her challenge, answered the question as fully as she could, then let the person know she had a challenge and invited them in a no-strings-attached kind of way. After some time of this, even group owners started tagging her as the expert when people had questions related to her topic.
The purpose of the challenge is to show them that the next step is your product, whether that's your tripwire or your bigger course or product. You don't overwhelm with information, but give just what people can handle in a 5-10 day period.
Evergreen challenges connect to evergreen products or that add people into a group in your email list that you target with a related launch. Another option is to have a live challenge that runs during the launch of a course where every person in the challenge starts and ends the challenge on the same day.
Another place to use this same kind of strategy is Quora. See this post from Teachable for ideas!
Jenny recommends using a tripwire product, one that's less than $20.This could be an ebook or a video training that's evergreen. Many people fear selling too much, but this early introduction to an affordable price gets people primed as customers. Once people have given you money once for a product, they are much more likely to give you their money again (assuming you're creating quality content).
Start with what your final product will be and work backwards to the smaller, tripwire product, and then to the challenge (or other kind of funnel you'll be using to attract people). For an evergreen launch, you can pitch your larger product sometime after the time after the challenge (or email series) ends.
Evergreen or Open-and-Closed Cart?
Jenny has found better results with the open-and-closed cart, where there is a limited time for the sale. This urgency results in more conversions. People (like me!!!) wait often until just before the cart closes to make that decision. Other people know going into a webinar that they are planning to buy something.
The first failure you have can really keep you from doing more (read about my failed launch and thoughts on this), but you should consider where you can fix things.
Jenny found that doing more Facebook lives and webinars really helped with her launches. People don't expect Facebook live videos to be perfect, so you can put less pressure on yourself. Instead, they help people see the REAL you and are often winsome and attractive to people because they see the real person behind the product. Being authentic builds trust.
Links mentioned in the interview:
If you've been around for a while, you know that at Create If Writing, I'm all about growth without the use of smarmy tactics. The kind that make you feel gross in your SOUL. Who better to talk about non-smarmy marketing than Nathalie Lussier of Ambition Ally, one of my favorite companies, both in terms of products and values. In this interview, Nathalie shares about starting her company, what's working in list growth right now, and how she commits to non-smarmy marketing.
This post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase something after clicking through, I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you!
Links from the Show:
Nathalie recently shared a post on her blog about the dangers of income-claim marketing. This is essentially selling your product based on the success you've had in the past, not the value or service or outcomes they've provided.
These numbers CAN be a good thing because we are curious. We'd like to know what goes on behind the curtain and behind the scenes. But those same numbers may not be the best way to get people to BUY. It can be a trap for both the consumer and the producer because neither may be able to replicate those numbers. The consumer may be disillusioned or dissatisfied and the business may find themselves trapped trying to go bigger or repeat the same numbers. It's not a sustainable way to grow a business.
Whatever we are offering needs to solve the problem that people are having. Go back to your core values. For Ambition Ally, the values are solving problems through software.
(PS- I LOVE how simple that description is. Can you describe what you do in this concise, clear way??)
Exit Intent Pop-Ups - Since Google has made its update penalizing sites that are using intrusive pop-ups on mobile, it may be a good idea to consider that desktop might be next. An exit intent pop-up shows up when someone moves to click away from your site and doesn't impact the user experience while reading the post.
Scroll-Based Pop-Ups - On mobile, these don't show up until someone has scrolled through 80% of your post. This keeps you Google-friendly and is great also for the reader.
Content-Based Pop-Ups - Using a tool like PopUpAlly Pro, you can choose for certain pop ups to show up on certain categories of pages. This gives a more targeted invite to your email list.
Vanilla Calls to Action - When you run across a sign-up form that says "Sign up for my newsletter," there is no REAL incentive. Write unique copy that is inviting and clearly shares the incentive for signing up.
Make It PERSONAL - Your language should speak to a person so they read it and KNOW it's speaking to them. Being specific and speaking to exactly to what people are looking for really helps.
Don't miss the Idea Sanctuary, the newest video series from Nathalie Lussier helping you sift through all your ideas and refining and polishing them so you can launch them. (I just finished the first video and love it!)
What is YOUR biggest non-smarmy marketing tip? Share in the comments or hop into the Facebook community so we can discuss!
This episode is sponsored by Ambition Ally, the makers of PopUpAlly Pro! Learn how you can target subscribers by category and page on your site, rather than just throwing a random freebie at them. Learn more here: http://ambitionally.com/kirsten
Thanks to Jasmine Commerce for the tunes for this show. Find more here: http://www.jasminecommercemusic.com
And sign up for my workshop on automated email series: http://createifwriting.com/auto
This month, I'm running a case study on how my list grows over social media with the same freebie! I'll return with Part 2 down the road to share my findings.
Thanks to my sponsor, Ambition Ally, the makers of PopUpAlly Pro! Find out more here: http://ambitionally.com/kirsten
Can you help with my survey? http://createifwriting.com/2017survey
Today's show is sponsored by Ambition Ally - Check out PopUpAlly Pro HERE! http://ambitionally.com/kirsten
Take the survey for this year - http://createifwriting.com/2017survey
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Join the community! http://createifwriting.com/community
A few weeks back I told you to stop creating content. Now I'm telling you to stop buying courses. What gives? Keep reading! Or listen to this latest episode.
Thanks to our sponsor: AmbitionAlly, the creators of PopUpAlly Pro! I use and LOVE this plugin. Check it out HERE.
Confession: I'm a course junkie.
Not even just a course junkie, but a resource junkie. I love to learn and I love to buy resources that help me learn. These days that's mostly courses. I LOVE courses. So why am I telling you to stop buying courses?
First, for context, you should check out my post about why you should stop creating content. The main point there is the same main point here: Be a good steward of what you HAVE. Whether you are creating or buying more, first take care of what you've got.
So...if you're a course junkie like me, what do you do? How can you be a good steward with the courses or information sources you have?
1.Make a List. Whether you are a spreadsheet person or something else, you need to make a list of the things you've purchased. Am I the only one who has bought a course and then FORGOTTEN I BOUGHT THE COURSE? Yep. Done that. So keep a running list in a Google doc or somewhere of what you own. Don't waste your money! Track it.
2. Make a Plan. There are two parts to this. The first is that you need to think about what gives you the most ROI. (That's return on investment.) What will bring you cash or benefit first? Consider what course might bring you a return for the time or money invested first.
The second part is that you may need to go in order. If you want to make money with Facebook ads, you need to drive them to something. So you might need to take the course that helps you to create a product that you'll sell through webinars through Facebook ads, you'll need to first take the course on courses, then the course on webinars, then the course on Facebook ads. Make sense?
First, plan around ROI. But within that, you'll need to plan in the order of how the pieces fit together.
The actionable part of this is that you need to plot this out on a calendar. Make an actionable plan to complete the courses & resources so that you have the space to apply it.
3. STOP BUYING COURSES. Once you have your list and have your plan, do not invest in any more resources. Yup. Stop buying courses until you've complete the plan and the list.
The caveat, of course, being if you find a really great deal that will expire. But you should ask these questions:
Do you NEED it?
Can you FINISH it?
Will you have time to APPLY it?
Ask those questions before you invest in any new resource or even tool. (Because often tools take time to learn and set up.) On then should you ignore the advice to stop buying courses.
With all this in mind, I DO hope that you'll sign up for the Profitable Blogging Summit. It's not a course, but it's a summit with 30 + actionable sessions that can act as a course in terms of training and information.
So why would I tell you to stop buying courses and invest your time in the summit?
I ask you this because you can go in with a plan. You can apply the three pieces of advice I gave you in a smaller sense with investments you make. Make a list of the schedule. Make a plan of what sessions you'll watch. And take some time off during the summit week to invest your time in the summit.
I recommend this not just because I'm biased as one of the hosts. But because it was so hard NOT to take notes during these interviews. That's how actionable the sessions are. I plan to watch them again and to watch the ones that I didn't record. This is GOOD STUFF.
So despite my advice to stop buying courses, you should invest your time and money in the things that move you forward. I really do think that the Profitable Blogging Summit will do that!
Whether you love to take your own photos or not, most bloggers need to find free stock images or free photos for their blog at some point. But as a few recent horror stories have shown, how to find free and legal images for your blog is NOT so simple. Here are three things you need to know!
Thanks to PopUpAlly Pro for sponsoring this episode! Find out more about PopUpAlly Pro!
Before I get to the tips on how to find free and legal images for your blog, I want to share the horror stories. You MAY have already read these, but they are scary. The first is from Allison Puryear who shares that she was sued for using an image that she got from a stock photo site. (Language warning in case that offends you!) Her malpractice insurance saved her, but the interesting thing to note is that the lawyer she spoke to said that this is COMMON. Because photographers are doing this on purpose as a cash flow. That stinks. But it's legal.
The second post is from Chrystie of Living for Naptime and she shares how several years ago, she used a photo from a Google Search (hey- a few years ago MANY of us did that ignorantly) and lost $7500. She also explains that this was an intentional practice of the photographer.
You might think that this won't happen to you, but there are three key things that everyone need to consider if using an image that they did not take. Let's get into it.
Often people stop at permission. We KNOW now that we shouldn't use an image we find on Google. But we may NOT consider the fact that we still might have to put a line underneath the image that tells where it came from and who took the photo. We also might assume that because we find a free photo or even PAY for a stock photo that we can use it on the cover of our book or sell t-shirts using the image.
But PERMISSION does not mean that you can use an image without attribution or anywhere you want. You MUST consider all three.
Every site for stock photos is different, but you want to look for the licensing and attribution information. It may help to email the company itself if this is unclear. This may vary from image to image on ONE site, which is the hard thing. You might get used to no attribution on a certain site because most don't require it and then not realize that ONE of the images does. Pay attention!
Or use a site like Pixabay, where all images fall under the Creative Commons 0 license, where you can use it for commercial purposes with no attribution. Be sure if you are searching for Creative Commons photos that you STILL read the license, as there are several different kinds of Creative Commons licenses.
Be sure that even if you are PAYING for a photo, you read the fine print. You want to be as careful as possible, especially considering that some photographers are intentionally using this as a means to make money. Smarmy, but they can. WE need to be the ones doing our due diligence on our photos!
I'm a big dreamer and an ideas person. But today I'm going to tell you to stop creating content! Yes. I said it. Stop. Keep reading (or listen to the podcast) to learn why AND what you should do instead.
A big thanks to our sponsor, Ambition Ally, the makers of PopUpAlly Pro!
I'm the kind of person who loves to START. If I could hire a team of finishers, I would be the most productive person on the planet. I have half-finished books everywhere-- both books I'm reading and books I'm WRITING. I like to paint and I have half-finished paintings stacked up against the wall in one room. I even have a half-finished hallway.
So creating content is my jam. I DO finish blog posts (though I have a ton of drafts in my lifestyle blog, waiting for an image or a few more paragraphs) because they are shorter. As a lover of starts, I can just keep on churning out blog posts. I used to post every day of the week, multiple times a DAY. Then I moved down to once a day, seven days a week. Then five days. Then three days. Then one day a week.
And you know what? My pageviews didn't drop. (Not until I became a blogging derelict and stopped posting weekly at all...)
There are two main problems with creating so much content:
When you create content over a period of weeks, months, or years, sometimes you get to a point where it's like the schedule owns YOU instead of the other way around.
If you've ever ruined a vacation because of your blog, you know what I mean. (Yep. I've done it.)
It's time to stop creating content when the content owns YOU.
If there is guilt when you don't post every day. Or every week. Maybe you should STOP. Take a breath. Take a break. Remind your content who is boss. (Spoiler alert: it's YOU.)
If you feel constantly behind and stressed and rushing for a deadline or to get that Instagram post up at just the right time, then maybe you should stop creating content.
I don't mean forever, by the way. I'll get to that later.
One other way you may know you need to stop creating content is if you are not giving each piece of content the love it deservers. If you are rushing to post. Not proofing. Not creating awesome content because you don't have time and just want that post up.
Or if you don't have time to promote the content. Because let's be honest: this isn't 2007. If you create content and write a blog post, people DON'T just come. (Unless you rock your SEO and Fred-- the new Google update-- doesn't hate you.) You must promote posts for people to find them.
If you aren't promoting your content well, then you are just tossing it into the abyss.
Don't waste your content. Share your content well so that it gets the attention it deserves.
This means that you need to set up some kind of system by which you are constantly sharing your content and promoting it. (More on that in a minute.) If you aren't being a good steward and sharing your already existing content, maybe it's time to stop creating content.
If it's time to stop creating content (even for a bit), here are two big things you can do instead.
I love, love love repurposing content. It can be a fine art. I'm going to share a few really helpful posts on that here instead of going into detail in this post.
Repurpose existing content into a paid product. Read my post, listen to episode 90, and download the free case study on how I took a few live trainings that were free and turned them into over $1500 worth of income.
Update old content to increase traffic. This post from Becky and Paula goes into great detail about how you can update old posts to see more results. It's super detailed from your title to the amount of whitespace in your post!
The point of repurposing existing content is to take something that is already working and make it work better. Do more with it. Change and tweak rather than starting from scratch. It saves you time and it makes better use of your old posts. Which brings me to the second thing you can do instead of creating new content.
In order to be a good steward of your content, you should set up an evergreen sharing system. This is not simply scheduling every week in something like Hootsuite or Buffer. This is setting up automation that means your posts will keep on sharing after you set it up ONCE. (Read more about the difference between automation and scheduling.)
You can use tools like Social Jukebox (which I use), Recurpost, or Meet Edgar to create sort of content libraries with your links and images and even how you want to word the post itself. Set a schedule of how often you want it to post and where, and then YOU'RE DONE.
For Pinterest, you can use something like Tailwind or Board Booster. These aren't quite automation, but close. You can set things up for a long time and even loop things in Board Booster.
You are not being a good steward of your content if you aren't sharing it well.
Unless you want your blog to be a diary that only you read, you need to get it in front of people. This should happen with the double-edged sword of SEO and social promotions. If you aren't doing these things for your current content, maybe you should stop creating content until you have a system in place.
So...what do you think? Are you on board with this movement to stop creating content? Are you treating your current content well?
Subscribe to get all the links! http://createifwriting.com/quickfix Hear why I'm taking a break (soon) and what I'm reading.
It's important to know the rules or best practices. Because then you can know when to break them.
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One of the most frustrating things is when you create a great image for Facebook and then you can't make Facebook show the right blog image. I hate this. Bloggers hate this. Writers hate this. People email me about this and write questions in Facebook groups about how to make Facebook show the right blog image.
So I'm going to show you!
This is just one of two tips in this week's Create If Writing podcast episode, so you can listen here and watch the video blow to see a demonstration.
Step 1- Create the right sized image
If you are just sharing a photo on Facebook, square is best. But if you are creating an image for Facebook to pull into the feed to go along with your link, I always use 560 x 292 pixels. This pulls the correct image, beautifully sized and non-pixellated.
I use Picmonkey for this and you can watch my quick video on how to resize images for social media for more on this.
Step 2- Insert the image into the Yoast SEO plugin
I love this plugin. It is life. It helps guide you into making smart SEO choices, allows you to choose the heading when your post shows up in Google search, and lets you choose the image for Facebook. And more.
First, install the plugin and get familiar. You'll find that it creates a little box at the bottom of every post. You can click on the social share tab and then upload the image you just created for Facebook. (You should also create a great Facebook headline and description while you're there.) Publish the post as you normally would.
Step 3- Debug that mug
Facebook generally will NOT pull the correct image at first. Sometimes ever. Which is the super frustrating point most bloggers find themselves in. But Facebook made a tool for that! It's called the Open Graph Object Debugger. You plug in your url and then hit Show Existing Scrape Information. Then scroll to see what image and description it's pulling.
Then, when the image is NOT the one you wanted, you will put in the url again and click Fetch New Scrape Information. I do this as many times as it takes to get that image showing up in the preview. I also generally ignore any errors that it points out. I'm just interested in the image and usually the errors are a bunch of nonsense anyway.
And that, my friends, is how you make Facebook show the correct blog image. Ta DA! Share with all your friends. Bookmark the debugger. And use it. Often.
What you need to know about course creation, how to set up your blog's navigation, and writing catchy headlines.
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What IS platform and how do you build it? Last week I spoke at Houston Baptist University's Writer's Conference all about platform. I had some great questions and thought it would be really great to unpack and define platform since it's a word that gets tossed around so much. What do you really need to have a platform? How can I deal with the struggle to promote my own work? Let's dive into that.
Listen to Episode 93 - What Is Platform and How Do You Build It
The idea of platform, for writers or bloggers, wasn't even a Thing years ago. If you were an author, you wrote books and a publisher (were you so lucky to find one) would handle most of the marketing for you. As a blogger, you would write blog posts and people would just appear to read. That's how it worked!
Now, there is the need to build a bridge to connect with readers. You can either draw them into your site with SEO (search engine optimization) or be present with social media to push out your content.
If you shudder at the idea of platform, stop thinking of it as a burden and consider it the way that you can directly build relationships with your readers. Who doesn't want that?
So here is my three-step process for building your platform: your blog, your email list, and your social media.
The beginning of your platform, whether you are an author or a blogger is your website. The term "blog" generally refers to a site with a series of posts, but these days, blog and website are more synonymous. Blogs look more like traditional websites and often are now a PART of a site, not found on the main page.
I would highly recommend if you HAVE a blog, to integrate that into your main site. I'm a fan of using your real (or writer's) name dot com. If you have an awesome blog or brand name that's working for you, you could always own your name and have it redirect, or even have the blog page have your unique blog title.
When I started my parenting blog, it was called I Still Hate Pickles. People always said I would love pickles (my most hated food) when I was pregnant, and since I started the blog when I got pregnant (and STILL hate pickles), this seemed like the perfect name. Switching to Kirsten Oliphant made sense from a writer standpoint, but plenty of people missed the Pickle-Hating theme. And it is always a little weird to say, "Check out my blog, Kirsten Oliphant dot com!"
Whether you consider it a blog or a site with a blog on it, this will be the main hub online. People can find out the basic info about you and where to connect with you on social media and also sign up for your email list. At the most basic, your site should have a main page where people can find out basic info & sign up for your list, an about page, a shop page if you have books or products, and a blog page if you have a blog.
Here are some helpful resources if you're trying to get this whole thing started. I highly recommend starting with either Wordpress.org or Squarespace. Wordpress is great for the long term, but has a larger learning curve. Squarespace is GREAT for people just starting out, but not just for newbies. You can drag and drop and even set up a shop, all for about $8 a month.
As an alternative to a whole blog, you could set up just a landing page just to collect email addresses. You could do that with an email service provider like ConvertKit (read why I love them so much!) or even Mailchimp, though it won't be so pretty. This will take some of the overwhelm out, but will still get you starting on having a central hub.
Though I mention your site first as the public face and place for people to connect online, your email list is the foundation that goes underneath it all. This is where you KEEP the connection you've made with people and retain it. Your email list is more permanent than anything else you have. It's your best digital asset.
I'M A HUGE EMAIL NERD, Y'ALL. And there's a reason. It's because I truly believe email is the most important and long-lasting connection you can make with your audience. (I literally wrote the--or A--book on email, Email Lists Made Easy for Writers and Bloggers.)
Don't wait to set this up. Set it up first and make sure you have some great opt-in places on your blog, not just a "Subscribe to Our Newsletter" thing in your sidebar.
No one is just going to find you, unless you are KILLER at SEO, which also requires usually being present online for some period of time. So you need to promote and connect with your audience. Social media is where you put yourself out there. It's where you talk to your audience and share your content. But it can be super overwhelming!
Start with ONE platform and rock that platform out. It's really hard to manage multiple platforms, even with great tools.
Things to consider:
It's important to think about what YOU like, because if you don't want platform to be a huge burden. If you can find something that you enjoy, you'll interact better and resent it less. So take into account what platform speaks to you.
People really are EVERYWHERE these days, but your people might be more likely to be on one platform than another. Everyone is on Facebook (at least 30 years old an above) and a lot of the world is on Twitter. LinkedIn tends to be much more traditional, both in terms of publishing and the corporate world. So consider your audience hangs out as well as where YOU want to be.
Consider what skills you need for each platform. Instagram, for example, needs great photos. For YouTube, you need video. If you can't easily integrate into the platforms because you don't have the tools or skills, then DON'T CHOOSE THAT PLATFORM. Or, take a course or really work to get your skills up to snuff for the platform.
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Last week I shared details about my disappointing course launch. Reader Kaitlin from Ink & Quills emailed me asking a question I hear a LOT: Should you pr sell your course before you build it?
Course creators hotly debate this and I want to break down reasons why you should NOT and why you should presell your course before you build it. Plus one option you might try instead!
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I'm going to give you a spoiler alert here and say that I think you can do EITHER. Preslling before building might really work for you. Or it might not. I definitely DON'T think it's unethical. Unless, that is, you're running off to Paris with the money you make and not delivering the product. (Listen to the episode for more on THAT story.)
Let's break those down into the dirty details.
Preslling Validates Your Idea.
Preselling your course before you build it shouldn't be the primary way you validate your course idea. You could be surveying or getting people on the phone (yes, the PHONE) or listening in groups to see what people are asking or paying attention to the responses of your email list for what they want from you.
But preslling your course before you build it makes people put their money where their mouth is. I've heard many stories of people who build out what their audience SAYS they'll buy, but their audience doesn't actually buy when push comes to shove. Preselling before you build your course will let you know for SURE. Until you get paid, all that validation seems like guesswork.
Preselling Motivates You to Finish.
When people have given you money, it puts a mighty responsibility on you to finish. It lights a fire that makes you GET 'ER DONE.
Contrast with people I know who have been building courses for months or years without finishing because there is no fire. Nothing is at stake for them. It's easy for life or kids or other projects to get in the way.
WARNING: This isn't for everyone. Some people don't work this way and a deadline with this kind of pressure would paralyze them and shut them down rather than getting them to work. Only YOU know how YOU operate.
Preselling Can Finance the Course.
When I interviewed Bjork Ostrom from Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro, he talked about preselling memberships to Food Blogger Pro. They built the membership site with that money.
Some courses or program may not have a lot of overhead, but the presale allows you to have money to invest back into the course you're finishing up to get things polished and in order.
Be Clear That It's Not Complete!
I totally bought a course in presale that I didn't realize hadn't been finished. It was a huge disappointment to me. I'm sure they made it clear, but you need to realize that some people (like me) skim and just click buy without reading the fine print. Make it bold and clear. The last thing you want is someone who is disappointed or feels cheated.
Have a Good Portion Complete.
Make you don't have the bells and whistles. Maybe your course isn't shiny. But your course should have an outline and a solid bunch of content before you presell it! Don't start from scratch after you have money in hand. That WOULD be paralyzing and too much pressure. Definitely have things in place. Otherwise, how would you present the course for sale to people? How would you have content for a lead magnet or webinar or anything to even PRESELL the thing in the first place?
Relevant Links about Why You SHOULD Presell Your Course:
Presell Your Online Course and Get Paid to Make It - Halley Gray via Teachable
How to Sell a Product Online - Lewis Howse
Exactly How I Marketed My Online Course - Melyssa Griffin
Again, let's break these objections down.
You Might Not Finish.
Only YOU know how YOU work. For me, having that deadline and the money on the table mean that I had to finish and would do a killer job. For you? That might be too much pressure. It might be paralyzing. If you don't work well with this kind of pressure, please do yourself a favor and don't presell!
You Might Ruin Your Reputation.
If you don't finish or don't finish on time or don't have people find your course awesome, you may really affect how people see you and talk about you online. That's never a good thing. This is a big risk. Make sure it's a well-calculated one.
You Won't Have Validated Results That Your Course Works.
This is the biggest reason many have for NOT recommending a course sale before it's built. If you haven't had people go through the course, how can you promise results? (I'll get to my OWN problem with that statement in a minute.) You won't have testimonials or feedback. In a sense, your course won't be PROVEN. This is a valid point! You're selling something blind, in a sense.
Tweak as necessary.
Take the feedback and change from it. Let those first people really help you with the updates that you need to make.
Ask if your course is about information or transformation.
For some courses, this idea of transformation (ex: I went from 10,000 pvs a month to 100,ooo after taking this course!) is more important than in other courses. Some courses may be more about INFORMATION. We are in a period where the transformation seems like the big sell. I get it. But sometimes you just need to KNOW something. Like the tech behind running a webinar. Period.
I personally hate when people promise results, through testimonials or just flat-out saying that you'll get them. To me, these don't give the full picture either. Success and change depends on the student as much as the course. I think there are so many factors that THIS makes me way more uncomfortable than selling something that isn't done yet. I hate overpromises.
This looks different for different people, but overall, you would have either an application process or a smaller payment to get people in beta. You wouldn't fully be launching without a product, but maybe you would start with the first week and drip out the content rather than having everything ready as you plan to do on launch day.
I personally recommend having people pay. I have not had good experiences with people doing something for free in order to give a testimonial or give feedback. There is no skin in the game. No push to DO it. So unless you have someone SUPER motivated (this is where an application process could come in handy), you may get nothing from letting people in for free.
However you plan to sell your course, do it in a way that doesn't feel smarmy to YOU. Keep your integrity. Be smart. Make intentional choices. I stand by the idea that there isn't a right one, just a right one for YOU.
How have you (or would you) launch YOUR course? Presell without a product or no?
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Today I'm getting real about something that makes me feel INCREDIBLY vulnerable. Mostly because I don't read a lot about this from other people. I'm going to share what you do when your launch fails.
Recently, I re-launched my email course, Own Your List, and it totally failed to meet my expectations. I want to share my own personal thoughts on this and on why I think this happened so that I can help YOU succeed with your launch. Or so you can get back up on your feet if and when your launch fails.
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In the podcast episode, I share all the nitty gritty about the background from this course, how it started as a terribly named course (How to Build an Authentic Email List) that didn't sell well and was built on one password protected Wordpress page. It had good content, but I clearly had NOT taken enough courses to see different ways to build them or what should be included.
Now, 18 months later, I updated the course to a full video course built on full course software on a webpage dedicated to courses. (See my course site here!) I had some reservations about rebuilding, just because I never validated this idea in the first place to see if it was something people wanted when I created it the first time.
It was really important to ME to redo the course into something I was proud of, and I stand behind the content. It's pretty stellar. But in the back of my mind, I knew that I was again creating something that people didn't necessarily say they were NEEDING. And I decided to build it anyway.
That's the back story.
In a ten day launch, I added about ten people to the course. My goal was to make $5000. And I fell super short of that. Clearly.
SO WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THAT?
I'll share what I did and what I suggest YOU do at the end, but first: let me help you avoid getting to the point when your launch fails.
Before you build a course or write a book, you should first do the best you can to make sure that people can and want to buy it. If you still want to create it even without validation, realize that it's a passion project and you're doing it for YOU.
Tips for Validating Your Idea
This is really a part of validating that idea. If your people cannot afford the price point that you were planning, you should really reconsider.
Tips for finding your audience's price point
It's also important to note that people may SAY they can't afford it, but what they MAY MEAN is that they have the money, but not for your particular product. Really hear what they mean, not just what they say. I had some people say in the follow-up survey that they didn't have the money, but that they were interested in my one-on-one coaching, which has a high price point that might exceed the cost of the course, depending on the option they choose.
When you are selling, you need to show people the benefits (the transformation that will occur as a result of taking your course or buying your book) and the features (the details about what exactly they will get). Typically, the benefits sell a course. But I know that I am not alone in being a features girl. I look for how many modules, how long it will take to complete, and the exact subjects. I totally skip all the long sales page stuff with all its benefits.
The benefit is why MOST people buy. They want to know what will happen as a result. They will start out stressed and confused and finish your course with an exact strategy that's easy. That is how you need to present your course in terms of benefits.
Be sure that you are accurately presenting BOTH. I missed out on some sales by not letting people know that every video had an audio MP3 for those people who don't want to watch. I also didn't explain fully why my course was different than my book, Email Lists Made Easy for Writers and Bloggers, which is only $4.99. (The difference: monetization is not included in the book, but plays a significant role in the course. Among other things.)
It's important to think about whether or not you have a sales copy problem as well. You can always improve and work on this, so print out any copy you used in email or watch back your video to see what you said and how you could sell better.
When I started doing what I'm doing now almost two years ago, the webinar space was much less crowded. I had 200 people sometimes show up for a live workshop. My attendance and registration this time were MUCH lower, I think because of the crowds. There are also way more courses, and a lot of people communicated that they already had too many courses to go through.
While many people are still having success with webinars and with courses (and it's still not too late to start), it's MUCH MORE CROWDED. That means you have to do more work to stand out and succeed. Just keep in mind the context of what's going on in the space that you're in. It matters.
Those are some great ideas to avoid this, but if your launch DOES fail, here are some things you should do afterward to recover.
I really do think it's important to spend some time mourning or being bitter or angry or depressed. I feel depressed whenever I finish ANY project, whether it was a raging success or not. Give yourself some time to complain to a friend or just be miserable. But no more than 24 hours or so. Then get up and do the rest of these things.
Stop saying that it failed. Say that it failed to meet your expectations. When I started talking to friends who are NOT in this space about my launch, they were blown away. "You just made money doing WHAT?" was a common response. It IS pretty awesome that I can create something online once and sell it again and again. It was amazing to get some emails during a night out with friends, letting me know I just made money while having dinner. Give yourself grace.
I knew almost immediately WHY my launch didn't work well. I identified those four things up above pretty quickly. You may have some insight right away into what went wrong.
I created a super quick, three question survey asking why people didn't buy, what would have made them buy, and what they WOULD be interested in. Those three questions alone tell me so much! I did a random drawing to give away one spot in the course to the winner. Then I followed up and offered all of those people a free copy of my book Email Lists Made Easy for Writers and Bloggers as well as a coupon code if they DID want to buy the course. I also let them know about my coaching packages (though there is a wait list).
One great thing about creating something is that you can keep on using it. My course does rock. And I have a few ideas on how I can continue to get revenue from it in the coming months and year. I'm not sure if I'm going to do a bigger joint venture launch in the later part of the year because of how low the response was. I'll share more about how I plan to use the course in the future, but for NOW, you can check out the episode I did last week on repurposing content to see how I've done this in the past (not a launch failure, but just a repurposing).
Don't give up when your launch fails. Don't. Learn lessons. Get up. Keep moving in a forward direction. There are so many lessons to learn when something fails to meet your expectations. If you give up on something, you'll never learn the lessons and get better.
Have you had a launch that failed your expectations? Let's talk about it in the Facebook group. It's a safe space, I promise.
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When you have a piece of content in WHATEVER form that has legs, make those legs go the extra mile. Whether that's a podcast episode with more downloads than normal that you turn into an ebook or a blog post that keeps going viral that you turn into a course, repurposing uses what you've already created as a springboard to create even MORE.
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Building an author platform is second maybe only to thinking about book marketing strategies in terms of things AUTHORS HATE DOING. Not all writers, I'm sure. But many of us just wish we could write the thing and people would gather to read it. This interview with author and marketer Chris Syme will give you some solid tools, book marketing strategies, and maybe help you change your mindset about all this platform stuff!
Connect with Chris Syme
You can find Chris at her website, listen to the Smarty Pants Podcast (here's my interview!), follow her on Twitter, or find her over on Facebook.
Also, I HIGHLY recommend her book (affiliate link!), Sell More Books with Less Social Media. If you liked this interview, you will LOVE that. And here is the link to her free, vetted book marketing resources that she mentions in the interview!
While it's amazing that we can do so much on our own with the tools for indie publishing now, that also means that authors are often tapped out from writing, editing, formatting, and all that by the time they get to the marketing point. Social media is also dynamic (as in always changing), so it's hard to keep up and can be very frustrating to know what works right NOW.
Chris' tip: Find the one place in the marketing world where the light bulb goes off and you really click with something. Quit hating that! Find a way to like it.
These problems are universal. Get into Facebook groups and forums so that you can talk to other authors to hear what's working for them and what they're struggling with. You need some camaraderie.
Fear of missing out (FOMO) plays a big role because there are so many posts from authors talking about different platforms and how you need to be everywhere. With a new platform every week, this can totally overwhelm and freeze authors. Find the platforms that work for you and where you can SELL BOOKS. Try something and get good at it. You don't have to be on every platform 100 times a day. What works for someone else may not work for you. And not ALL advice is good advice! So be discerning and maybe be a little wary of all the advice, especially if it sounds too good to be true or too easy.
Chris recommends Facebook as the one place to be if you pick only one. The data tells us this is the place to be, with over 80% of online adults using it globally. You can't just sell your books 100% of the time on ANY platform, so you need a strategy that allows you to engage and sell in the same place. You need to engage AND you need to sell. Facebook really allows you to do that in a place where so much of the adult world is there. (Plus, Facebook ads are a really cheap and great way to advertise if you can lock it down.)
Don't use a profile to sell. Facebook doesn't want you to sell there (this is actually against their terms of service) and you can get your account shut down. Pages also have commerce tools and insights that will make it easier for you to be successful.
Don't even use your profile for engagement. Engage where you will sell. This is huge. So work to engage people on your page, where you will be selling. People struggle migrating people from their profile to their page. Use the 80/20 rule where you're engaging 80% and then 20%.
Use commerce tools. There are built-in tools on pages from developers to sell your books. You can use the Freebooksy app, for example, or embed a signup form. Check out this screenshot to see some of the ways that Facebook encourages you to use tools as you post.
Have a group for engagement. Pages were built to sell and groups were built to deepen engagement. If you have time for both, have a group to up engagement. But there are no commerce tools or insights like you'll have on a page.
Warm Audience Ads- Reach people who are already opted into your page or your email list. (You can actually upload your list--if it's big enough--to Facebook's ad manager and run ads that your list will see.) Your fans who have opted into your page are likely to sign up for your page. Then you can use warm ads to your page likes AND to your email list. Ads are also cheaper when you're running them to a warm group. (This means that they will be more effective for less money!)
Grow Your List- You can grow your list with those warm ads to your Facebook audience. People who already like your page are more likely to want to sign up for your list.
Cold Audience Ads- These are great for promoting your backlist promotions of your books (as in, not the newest books) or some of these joint author events that many authors are doing. These can also be effective for non-fiction authors who are doing courses or similar events.
Engagement vs Numbers in Email Lists- Email marketing used to be all about growth in numbers and having a giant list. Now it's all about upping open rates and engagement.
ONE LINK - Have only ONE link in each email rather than the newsletter style with a lot of links for people.
Email as Audience Research- Ask your email subscribers for feedback on marketing topics. Ask an easy question that people can reply to (like: which platforms do you use online?), enter those email addresses of responders into a giveaway, and then store and utilize that information.
Get rid of newsletters- Consider selling a one-topic email blast (that's not necessarily sales) that gets your audience engaging and maybe giving you feedback.
Use social platforms for discoverability- You can totally utilize something like Twitter as a placeholder to send people where you actually HANG OUT. You don't have time to be everywhere, so you can set up a basic account with your name and image and a link or pinned post that tells people where they can really connect.
Do you have any book marketing strategies to share? What's worked (or NOT worked) for you? Share in the comments!
Are you trying to live the creative life on your own? You don't have to. Today, our Community Wizard, Matt McCarrick, talks about the importance of building relationships and how to connected to our Facebook group.