Get to planning your best 2017 ever! Here are two planning tips for making your plans work well. Oh, and you want a totally free 75 page planner? SURE YOU DO.
The term copywriting often sends writers (especially creative writers) into a tailspin. But did you know that copywriting can improve your other kinds of writing? (Yes, even fiction.) And that studying poetry can help you write better copy? This interview with Bryan Cohen will help you rock those copywriting basics.
About Bryan Cohen
Bryan Cohen is an author in several genres, a podcaster, and sits at the helm of Selling for Authors, a site dedicated to author training. You can read his fiction on Amazon or pick up his non-fiction such as How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis. You can listen to his podcasts, like the Sell More Books Show and the comedy podcast Something Nice to Say. Or find out more about Selling for Authors.
Copywriting is targeted writing or writing with an agenda. That doesn't mean it can't have a particular style or voice, but that it has a specific PURPOSE designed to get someone to DO something.
It's a mix of attitude and bad reputation where people feel like it's difficult, so it's difficult for them. When you write a 60,000 word book, not every word or sentence is a winner. But when you write something shorter or more condensed like a book description or Facebook ad, everything needs to be gold. But it's possible to not hate it and do it well. You CAN get better!
The surprising thing that helped Bryan with his copy was studying poetry. When you have to pay attention to syllable and the sound of words and how they work together, you will become better.
Great copy grabs your attention right away with a hook. It's a hook related to that genre and the readers of that genre that you're trying to reach. You have to make a connection to the readers that helps you sell more books or achieve your goals. It has to make the expectations for that particular situation. Our brains filter out the things that don't matter to you because we can't possibly take in all the information and data we encounter. If a piece of copy doesn't match our expectations for the particular situation, we tune out.
The next important part is the flow. You don't want to set the expectations and then veer off into a strange place. The pieces need to fit together.
Calls to action round out your copy. Calls to action are phrases that tell you to do something and without them, you are unlikely to see effective copy. People need a strong call to action at the end of copy.
We should have the best covers for our books or design for our books or blogs or products, but people will have more points of contact with our writing. If we can work to improve our copy at these various points from sales pages to book descriptions, we can impact the response of our readers.
Forget the way you typically edit things where you write it and then go line by line. Write a handful different ideas (some of which are drastically different) for your hook and your call to action.
Often we make the mistake of falling in love with a line that's problematic and slows down the whole process rather than coming up with five versions and then ditching the one that is slowing us down. Because we are often working with less text than longer-form content, we can actually play with each line, rewriting in different ways that can help us see it in a new way.
Sound like a lot of work? Start with the first line of your email, sales page, book description, or whatever. Write a lot of versions and choose the best one.
If you are planning to write a ton more books, you could learn to do it yourself and become a better copywriter AND writer as you value words a bit more. Learning through self-instruction or a course, you will save yourself money in the long run and become a better writer. But there is a time when you may want to focus on the things you do best and hire out.
If you want to hire Bryan, find out more about his services here!
ShareThrough Headline Analyzer (the one that loves celebrities - this one is more FOR FUN, not real headlines)
Affiliate sales can be a lucrative revenue stream, especially during the holiday season. If you aren't using affiliate marketing, this means that you are recommending another person or company's product and will get a commission upon sales. Sometimes it can be hard to get started, so here are my best tips for affiliate marketing.
This post contains affiliate links! This means at no extra cost to you, any purchases made through links in the post may result in a commission for me. Thanks for your support!
Thanks to the sponsor of the show, Go Lance! Need a virtual assistant or copywriter? Many people use Facebook groups to find and hire help. But there aren't ratings and reviews. Every few days, I see a post warning people against using a certain person who didn't do their work as promised. With Go Lance, you can see how many hours people have worked and read reviews of their work. Sound good? Set up a free account today with Go Lance!
Thanks also to Jasmine Commerce for the music for the show!
So many different tools, apps, and courses have affiliate programs. Make a list of the things you use, from web hosting to your note-taking apps. Once you have a list of the things you use, check to see if they have an affiliate program. Usually this will be listed somewhere on the website. If not, google it or email the contact person.
A few times this year I received emails about courses or summits that were a great fit for my audience. I hit reply and asked if they had an affiliate program because the promotion would be perfect for my people. Sometimes programs are only open to people who have purchased them. But other times, the creators are open to interested people. When in doubt, ask.
Some people will only promote things they have or currently do use. I like to promote things that I have used in the past, use now, or are from someone that I trust enough to recommend without actually using or taking them. There are VERY few people I trust that much. You should decide what feels right for YOU. The programs and items you recommend should be things that you can stand behind or you may risk the trust of your audience.
You will make the best affiliate for products that you are PASSIONATE about. [tweetthis twitter_handles="@kikimojo" display_mode="box"]You will make the best affiliate for things you are passionate about.[/tweetthis]
Evergreen products or programs are things like items on Amazon. They are available at all times (though prices may fluctuate). Promotional products are things like courses that open or close, bundles that are limited times, or sales for specific days. Often the promotional launches will have a larger-scale affiliate program where you'll get daily emails and sales copy that are designed to help you sell. Which leads me to the next tip.
Especially when it comes to big launches of courses or larger products, you don't want to layer too many on top of each other. If you are launching your own products too, you especially need to watch out for this. Try to plan out what launches will happen when (most course creators know months or a year ahead of time when they will run promotions) and put that on your calendar so it doesn't get too crowed.
When you are running promotional affiliate sales over a period of time that will have multiple emails, offer your readers an opt-out. Depending on your email service provider, this may not be possible. In ConvertKit, I simply create a link with a tag that will automatically attach to that person's email. Then when I send the next promotions, I can exclude the tag from people who aren't interested in the promotion. This will cut down on the number of unsubscribes. (Read more about why I love ConvertKit!)
For more on this, listen to episode 33. But in short, when it comes to affiliate marketing, you must disclose. This means that in your social media links, you will use a word like ad or affiliate or sponsored. NOT "aff" or "afflink" or "spon." Those words are not clear to the general masses. Your disclosure should be clear to people who don't know what affiliate marketing is. In a blog post you should have a statement before any outgoing affiliate links where you state that any sales made by clicking through links may result in a commission for you at no extra cost to them. If you want a longer disclosure explanation, you can have a post and link to that post, but you still need to have a statement that is clearly understood in your post, not simply a link to a post about disclosure. Read a great breakdown of the FTC rules on disclosure here.
Looking for some good affiliate programs?
ConvertKit is having a special November 28 & 29! You can get one month free, plus a month of Meet Edgar, a month of Teachable, 6o days of Samcart, 45 days of Wistia, and a ConvertKit tee. Get your free bundle here! (This is my affiliate link!)
SiteGround is offering 70% off hosting through Monday! If you're tired of having your site down with Blue Host (that was the story of my life! Use Down Notifier to make sure your sites are up), then switch to Site Ground. They'll even move you! Sign up for the hosting deal here! (This is my affiliate link!)
The Foundation Series is 50% off through the end of November 28. That's only $24 for over four hours of workshops helping you bring clarity to your blog, email list, social media, and images. Use the code blackcyber.
I've opened up the beta price of the Create If Community Membership through the end of November 28. Use the code BETA to get grandfathered into the membership price. Find out more and sign up for the Create If Community Membership here!
Blog traffic is useless. Traffic is nothing but empty numbers of people who have stopped by your page. And if that's all that happens---stopping by---then traffic is useless. But if you can figure out how to optimize that traffic and get them to DO something, then you can really get the most out of those blog visits with some help from Melyssa Griffin!
This episode is sponsored by GoLance! If you do freelance ANYTHING, you need to check this global platform where you can post your profile OR look for people to hire for some of those jobs you need to outsource. It's free to sign up and post. Get after it!
If you break it down, traffic comes either through social sharing (like Facebook) or through search (like Google). Pinterest, though often considered a social platform, is actually more of a search engine or discovery platform. Once people realize this and apply strategies geared toward search & discoverability, they can find much better results from Pinterest. You need a strategy that is current because SEO changes on a almost a yearly basis.
Platforms like Facebook or Instagram are more about engaging and inspiring content, while search traffic is more about answering a question or solving a problem. If you want to have traffic from search engines, make every blog post solve a problem. Google likes lengthy, meaty articles that solve problems that they can have show up in their search results.
The benefit of focusing on search is that when Google or Pinterest update their algorithms, it's to try to help people get more relevant answers. (As opposed to something like Facebook, who SAYS that it's about relevant content, but is very much about getting people to pay for things to be seen on their page.)
If you don't DO anything with your traffic, there is no guarantee that people come to your site once will ever come back. Once people are on your website, you want them to take an action once they are on your site. Melyssa's number one recommendation is to grow your email list. Social media doesn't have the permanency or the intimacy of what an email list has. You OWN those emails, whereas your social followers are out of your control. (If you need more on how to use email, check out the Free Email Course!)
Content upgrades are specific downloads tied to a particular blog post. You can create these thinking about what the next step for people that should be taking after the blog post. Create something that will help them get to that point. It can be super simple, like a checklist or a helpful calendar or outline. Use a button in your post and something like LeadPages to get people to sign up.
Melyssa's Tip for the Welcome Email - Be really clear in your first email (or emails if you are doing a sequence) about who you are and the kind of content that you write. Share content that gives them a clear picture of who you are. And then ASK THEM TO UNSUBSCRIBE. The psychology behind this is that if they stay, it's more of a commitment and more of confirmation that they DO want to be a part of your list. This also gives an easy out for the people who don't feel like they are a good fit.
SumoMe - has welcome mats and other pop-up options
ConvertKit - an email service provider with advanced features (read why I love Convertkit!)
OptinMonster - can A/B test the opt-ins on our site
[My Recommendation is Popup Ally Pro, which gives you 12 different kinds of opt-ins, from welcome mats to pop ups to smart bars. You can also choose whether you want them to show on both desktop and mobile or choose only one or the other! Check them out with my affiliate link HERE.]
Despite the fact that I say every week on the podcast that my audience is writers, bloggers, and creatives, today I'm going to talk about why you DON'T need a blog. No, REALLY. This may go against a lot of common advice, but I think it also relates to the current state of the internet as well as common sense. So, should YOU be blogging? Let's find out!
This episode is sponsored by GoLance! If you do freelance ANYTHING, you need to check this global platform where you can post your profile OR look for people to hire for some of those jobs you need to outsource. It's free to sign up and post. Get after it!
The common advice if you want to make money online is to start a blog. If you want to publish a book, often you will hear that you need to start a blog. WHATEVER IT IS YOU ARE TRYING TO DO ONLINE, people will tell you that you need a blog. But DO you actually need a blog?
Maybe. But maybe not.
Before you decide if you need a blog or not, you need to consider your WHY. There are really two things you need to think about this: your end goal in terms of what you want to DO as well as what you want to get OUT of it. In other words, consider what you want to be doing and what the benefits of that thing will be.
An example would be that you may want to be a writer as your end goal. Your benefit could be that you make a full-time living. OR maybe you want to be a writer, but you mostly care about seeing your books in the hands of readers, not so much about the finances.
Before you can answer the question of IF you should blog, you need to know the WHY. You should also know what a blog is and what it can or cannot do. So let's take 20 steps back to the history of the blog.
"Blog" actually comes from the term "web log," which referred to the earliest days of the world wide web as we know it in the 1990s. Livejournal and Blogger became two very popular platforms, launching in 1999.
2003 saw the launch of Wordpress and Google Adsense, two huge moves. Wordpress would eventually grow to overtake Blogger (which Google purchased in 2002) as a blogging platform. Adsense brought in the idea of monetization, which would gradually and continually shift the nature of blogs.
In 2005, the first blogger was granted White House Press credentials, marking a shift and a blurred line between blogging and news reporting. The launch of The Huffington Post that same year only solidified this opening of the blog space to include more editorial and news angles than simply the personal.
With the arrival of Facebook in 2004 and Twitter in 2006, people began engaging on these social platforms in addition to blogs. Soon people used these platforms as vehicles to promote blog posts as well. This plus the Panda update in Google brought the gradual end to the age of "if you write it, readers will come."
The 2009 film Julie & Julia became one of the first mainstream pop culture references to blogging as something that provide and income and personal success. By 2010, 11% of bloggers were earning their primary income through blogging.
The past five or so years have seen the rise of more and more blogs as viable income streams and other social media platforms as microblogs, also able to provide an income. Blogs are now much more indistinguishable from web SITES, a far cry from their roots as online diaries.
For a much more comprehensive timeline of blogging, check out this post from Hubspot!
A blog can be a vehicle for platform-building. But it may not be the BEST vehicle for you, depending on your goals and how you feel about blogging and all that goes along with it.
Social media of some kind is a MUST. But rather than simply use it as a vehicle to promote your blog, you could use a particular social media platform INSTEAD of a blog. It could be your main platform and way of connecting with readers. (Check out my Seriously Simple Social Media Guide to help you figure out which platform you need.)
You can also use other people's platforms. (Read my tips on leveraging the power of someone else's platform!) Write guest posts or write posts on Medium. Become a contributor on a large site. Apply to have your posts go up on the Huffington Post.
Consider your best medium. Maybe that's NOT writing. Perhaps it's video. Or more specifically, LIVE video vs edited videos. Maybe you love audio and want to launch a podcast as your main platform and way of connecting readers.
If you choose NOT to blog or to use another platform, you DO need a website. Many blogs look like websites these days, so I'll be clear about what you need in terms of a website.
Is a blog right for you? Maybe. Maybe not. Circle back to your goals and your why. The blogosphere is really crowded and a lot of work these days to get traffic and find readers. Which may mean that a blog would take way more time than what results it would bring back. It simply may not be the best vehicle for what you want.
If you haven't started a blog yet, I might recommend getting your static site up and then considering guest posting or focusing on another social platform that might have an easier entry point than a blog.
So do YOU need a blog? Leave a comment to let me know what you think about the idea of blogging or NOT blogging.
When I graduated with an MFA in Fiction in 2007, the publishing landscape was totally different. In fact, traditional publishing and indie publishing were not locked in the awkward battle they are today. Indie publishing was not really a thing. There was only self-publishing, which was viewed as vanity publishing and generally disdained. You only published your own work if you weren't good enough to get published and not realistic enough to admit that to yourself. You would pay a lot of money up front for 500 copies of your book, which might gather dust in your basement. Or the trunk of your car.
So, where are traditional publishing and indie publishing in 2016? Let's hear what Jane Friedman has to say about it.
This post contains affiliate links, which means that any purchases you make may provide me with a commission at no extra cost to you! Thanks for supporting my site in this way!
Jane started working in publishing right out of college and started the blog at Writer's Digest, There Are No Rules. She has worked for the Virginia Quarterly Review, teaches at the University of Virginia, and has a long speaking and writing career. I love that Jane has an understanding of both traditional publishing and indie publishing. Find Jane on her site, follow her on Twitter, and follow her on Facebook. I would HIGHLY recommend her monthly newsletter, Electric Speed!
Today you have to commit to self-publishing for a few years to see success and traction. Once you are with one, you want some consistency to have a longer time to grow your audience. With traditional publishing, you can easily become a one-and-done deal because if your first book doesn't do well, that's it. Literary writers and poets will not find the same kind of recognition outside of traditional publishing. For those who write genre fiction or really want control, you'll find that with indie publishing.
Either way you plan to publish, you need a visibility that will translate into book sales. This could be a blog or a social media presence or a podcast. Or it could be offline where you connect with other influencers or with your audience other places. There aren't as many hard and fast rules about exact numbers, but more a sense of what kind of sales you can achieve through your influence. (See my post on Jane's blog about how to leverage other people's platforms for more ideas!)
You need an author website that is a hub for your content. The site itself doesn't need to change a lot, but will contain all your author information, bio, books, and information. A blog should be connected to that site so that all your traffic is going to one place. If you are sitting there unsure of what you should blog about, may you don't need to. It should be something that is consistent over years. It's a helpful tool, but you can utilize other social platforms or do interviews on other blogs. You do not HAVE to blog.
Human beings are marked by curiosity. We often love that peek behind the curtain, both at the writing process and also our personal lives. It requires a level of charm and being able to create an online persona that draws people in. There is a balance where you don't want to crash your career by the way you express yourself online as an author. (I love YA author Sarah Dessen's blog!)
As an instructor, a writer, a coach, and someone with an active online space, Jane has to wear a lot of hats and keep them straight. She breaks up the days and also the weekdays vs weekends, blocking out certain pieces of time for particular tasks to make sure those tasks get done.
In the past few years, books have move primarily to Amazon, not through brick and mortar stores. 50-60% of all book sales are coming through Amazon, which affects traditional publishing AND indie publishing. The United States is moving toward subscription models (think: Netflix for books) like Kindle Unlimited or Scribd. The traditionally published authors get paid differently-- traditional by a set price per "borrow," while indies get paid by pages read. (Jane doesn't see this lasting and guesses that there will likely be a move to ALL authors paid by pages read, though traditional publishers will likely balk at this. PS- Read about some of the issues with this pages read model HERE.)
Another trend is serialization, where authors release chapters at a time of their books through something like Wattpad or Tapas. People also read more on mobile devices and this changes how publishers market books for commuters specifically and in other ways.
Raise your hand if you've ever been a part of a failed collaborations? Working with other people means you WILL run into trouble. Of various kinds.
Here are some of the issues you may run into and some tips for dealing with your difficulties!
The famous quote tells us that "the money's in the list." As in, your email list. But for many people, this is still somewhat of a mystery. Marketers and entrepreneurs have this DOWN, but for writers and bloggers, monetizing your email list is often a foreign concept. I'm going to break down a few main ways that you can monetize your list and some best practices to sell to your list without being smarmy.
**This post contains affiliate links!**
There are a few main ways that you can monetize your email list as a writer or blogger. You may choose one main way or a combination of a few.
Affiliate sales are when you promote products for other people and earn a commission when people buy through your link. There are a number of great affiliate opportunities for email, but be sure you check the Terms of Service for your email service provider and also for the company you are an affiliate for. Amazon does NOT allow for affiliate links in email, PDFs, or ebooks.
Be sure that you ALWAYS disclose affiliate links. You should be disclosing BEFORE the first outbound link and in a way that is clear to someone who isn't marketing savvy. (Don't use aff or spon. Those words are not easily understood by a general audience.) Even if the gateway to a paid product is through a free product, DISCLOSE. If there is a cookie involved, you should disclose. (More on the FTC guidelines or check out my post & episode on disclosure!)
Here are some other sources for affiliate programs:
Tools & Tech
Do you create online courses or write ebooks? Many people say you SHOULD, but I want to argue that you COULD. This may not be for you if you don't like creating and teaching. (In which case you could be an affiliate for products that relate to your audience.) Some people are afraid to teach or create courses or digital products because they don't feel like enough of an expert. Don't sell yourself short, but don't do it because everyone else is.
If you aren't sure where to start, consider your most popular posts, the questions people always ask you, or what you're really passionate about. You can also check out the market. Finding other courses or ebooks on the same topic doesn't mean you shouldn't create your own. It's a good validation that there is a market for it. And YOUR people on YOUR list who love YOUR style are more likely to buy YOUR course or product.
You may be a coach or virtual assistant or help people with the backend of their Wordpress site (like Merri Dennis of WPTech Cafe, my go to when I break things!) As with courses, your people who know you are more likely to hire you for their needs.
Your email subscribers are like validated customers in that they have already taken the time and effort to sign up for your list. They are your BEST chance at making sales. Unlike a follow on Twitter or a like on Facebook, people don't let EVERYONE into the sacred space of the inbox. So if you land a spot there, you are already a step closer to having someone be a customer. (But stay tuned for best practices on how to treat your email subscribers!)
I don't have a LOT to say here because I've found a few ad networks that do email, but haven't vetted them and can't recommend them. I DO think that sponsored content and ads are going to continue moving into the email space since blogger and writers are way more savvy now than they have been in the past about growing an email list.
If you already work with brands, your email list is something that you could leverage, either on its own or as part of a package deal with a blog post and other social media shares. Consider reaching out to a brand you've got a relationship with and ask if they'd like to sponsor an email or a month's worth of emails. I do foresee this being a direction that email moves into as more and more bloggers take their lists more seriously.
The thing about monetizing your email list is that you can't JUST sell. If you've ever been on a list like that, you know how impersonal and how smarmy it feels. You don't feel like a person. You feel like a number or a customer. Here are a few tips to treat your people well. This will establish a better relationship with your people which should naturally result in more sales.
Always treat your email subscribers like your inner circle. They really have jumped through all the hoops to let you in their inbox, so they should receive great treatment from you. I often give out exclusive content or let them know what I'm up to first. I speak to them more intimately and personally and I encourage replies to email so that I can actually have a RELATIONSHIP with them. Most of the other best practices fall under this umbrella.
I heard someone once say that if you don't know how to treat a list of 200, you won't know how to treat a list of 2000. No matter what the size of your list, connect. Don't focus on growth alone, but quality growth and actual relationship with those people. If you can effectively reach your small list, you'll learn to scale as you go.
Make sure your list is valuable. Offer great content that's free before you ever try to sell things to your people. There should be a nice balance when it comes to the proportion of value offered and sales presented to your list.
A lot of this (to me) hinges on disclosure. I've gotten so many promotions for so-and-so's free webinar/book/video series. No disclosure. But having been on the back end of these same programs, what I know is that there are cash prizes (SIGNIFICANT cash) for those who get the most signups. And that those free things attach a cookie that result in a commission if there is a sale down the line, even months later.
This feels like a breach of trust when there is no disclosure. Because it DOES affect how I feel if someone promotes simply because they support the product OR because they get a commission. It doesn't mean the product is any less good, just that we should KNOW about that relationship. The FTC agrees, so remember to disclose clearly.
I think a lot of bloggers and writers struggle with selling if they haven't been trained in business or sales copy. This means that often when we try to sell, it feels stiff and awkward and it's overall ineffective. What you need is to find your selling "voice."
I've talked about finding your writing voice before and your selling voice is similar. It's the way that you sell that feels and sounds natural to you and to your readers. It should feel familiar and authentic. It should be confident. It should be clear.
If you are struggling with confidence, you should ask yourself these two questions:
If you fall into the first camp, then you simply need to sell more. Get more comfortable and confident in your sales. If it's the second, then you need to consider NOT selling that product or being an affiliate for that product. There is nothing worse than promoting something you really aren't sure of just for the money. Ew! Don't do that.
I don't think that you have to have tried or currently use every product you promote. But be sure you can stand behind it (because you trust the creator or have seen the back end or used it in the past when it was a better fit for you) and that it's a good fit for your people.
Monetizing your list can result in more income than monetizing your blog or other social media. It can be more enjoyable too, because you are providing for a need that your audience has through a personal relationship.
Facebook groups are a useful tool to build your business, either as a group owner or a group member. Much of the advice recently about finding your perfect readers or customers is to use Facebook groups. The only problem? This has created a culture of people behaving badly in groups. From shameless self-promotion to poaching group members, people seem to have forgotten their manners.
The easiest, overarching thing to remember in a Facebook group is that it's not YOUR group.
If you want to bring value to the group, you can engage in conversations and respond if people ask questions. When it comes to posting content in the group, make sure what you are posting is not a thinly guised, smarmy promotion, but something that's actually helpful.
Remember that you didn't build the group. This is someone else's work. If you feel bitter that you can't share or build your own platform from the group because of the rules, you may be there for the wrong reasons. Build your OWN group.
Many people join the larger groups because they are unhappy with their own group and want to access more people.
REMEMBER that at one time, that giant group was small. It grew because that group owner valued the people in it.
Pinterest is my favorite social media platform. Well. My favorite for TRAFFIC. As an introvert, it's also my favorite because I DON'T HAVE TO TALK TO PEOPLE THERE. Pinterest is actually more search engine than social platform. Surprised? This interview with Alex Evjen from AVE Styles is going to give you Pinterest best practices so you can use the platform like a pro to drive traffic.
Connect with Alex!
Find her on her blog, Pinterest, or Instagram. If you gel with her style, she also has some fabulous (and affordable) classes! I'm an affiliate for them (and you KNOW I'm only an affiliate if I love things, right?) if you want to dive deeper with Alex after this interview! Browse her Pinterest classes to see if one suits your current needs.
Alex was an early adopter, using the platform for her personal stylist business. She was able to replace bulky binders of magazine clippings with a simple, easy-to-use digital format of Pinterest. As an avid user, she gained the attention of Pinterest's founder and has actually been invited TO Pinterest headquarters where she has received training on Pinterest best practices. Who better to share with us today?
Interaction on Pinterest looks like: repinning content mostly. Likes and comments can actually help, but most people don't do them.
She logs in daily and uses Pinterest itself, not a scheduling tool.
Her perfect number of pins/repins is around 25 a day.
She shares 90% of other people's content and 10% her own.
If you are on boards that are just made up of bloggers pinning their own and each other's content, Pinterest KNOWS. These kinds of boards are having their content pushed down. It can hurt you to be on these boards and the boards can even be shut down.
Group boards are supposed to be collaborative and share great content, not a way for bloggers to game the system. Consider your group boards and how people behave. If your traffic is dependent on this traffic, then beware because this is not going to last.
She has four classes (or a package of all) that are affordable and deal with creating the perfect pin, how to create a strong business profile, driving traffic to your blog, and how to grow your following. Find her classes through my affiliate link HERE.
If you hadn't noticed, many people are utilizing challenges and courses to grow an audience, bring in revenue, and build their brand. You can create free or paid challenges and courses, serving to explode your email list or bring in passive income. Ready to learn more about using challenges and courses for YOUR brand?
***Can you take a moment to tell me about yourself? Click HERE to fill out a super simple 5-question demographic listener survey! ***
Connect with Jennifer
How Jennifer Runs Her Detox Challenges
Evergreen Challenges vs Group Challenges
If people want to buy and are interested, evergreen offers a chance for people to start now and not wait. But the accountability piece and the group piece of doing a challenge together has been more popular and more successful for people. People can post successes or slip-ups, which helps them and also the group as a whole.
Promoting a Challenge
Planning a Course
Start with a targeted audience in mind
Solve the problem or pain point that you know that specific target has
Speak the language of those people so they resonate
How Content Will Be Consumed
Decide between dripped content (released one week at a time), evergreen content (where people can access everything and bing if they want), or live courses (where you literally set dates and show up live to teach.
What Kind of Content
You can have live videos (for the live course option), videos of you talking to the camera, or videos of you talking over slides. Or you don't have to use video at all! I've taken courses that are a mix of video and audio or written content. Just know that many people EXPECT video, so if you are using another format, be up front about this.
Where Content Will Be Hosted
You have the option to build out a course yourself using membership software and course software OR hosting it somewhere else like Teachable, where you pay monthly and/or transaction fees to have someone else host your content. With both, you own your content, but when you host it yourself you have more control, which ALSO means you are responsible for the issues that arise. (Story of my life as I type this.) Even things like an affiliate program are tied into Teachable's platform!
When you use another platform, you don't have to worry about the tech side, but it means your things are at another place and you are dependent on that platform's limitations. There are not great free options, so realize that you will be paying either monthly/transaction fees (with another hosted program) or paying for the course/membership software.
If you can't decide between self-hosting and having it hosted somewhere else, don't let this decision hold you back if you're ready to get moving. Consider your big picture why and your current needs. If you take the time to learn all the software yourself, will you be losing out on potential revenue? Worse-case scenario, you can put things up on Teachable and move the content later if you want a membership site or something self-hosted.
When looking at software and plugins for hosting yourself, consider all the pieces you will need. For courses, you'll need to set up and take payments, protect content, have a course interface, and a way to capture emails and communicate with the students. Those are the BASIC needs. You may also want to have the option to drip out content through the software or have it connect to your email service provider to drip content that way. Each of these pieces may be included or may be extras that cost more money. You'll also have to consider how to run an affiliate program. Sometimes this may be included and sometimes you will need a separate plugin to handle the affiliate piece.
Using an Affiliate Program
Teachable makes this SIMPLE and people can automatically be added to the affiliate program. Your happy customers are the best salespeople for your products. You may want to consider using different language for your affiliates (but still clear under the FTC for disclosure!), but you can control how you talk to your people about being an affiliate and help train them to be better affiliates and share with their people in a way that isn't smarmy.
Final Thoughts from Jennifer: Consider your actual passion. Where can you take less time to do something that ISN'T your passion or isn't something that needs YOU in it, you can save more of yourself to do the things that you really love or that need you personally involved with them.
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It's the year of video! And has been for the last five years, apparently. But live video stormed onto the scene in 2015, offering more ample and unique opportunities to use video. In this interview with Chef Mareya from Eat Cleaner, she shares how to use Facebook Live to build an audience.
This posts contains affiliate links! At no extra cost to you, any purchases made by clicking through may result in a commission.
Mareya had a following already on Facebook, so she used the live aspect once it became available to leverage who she already had. Facebook is still favoring the live platform, so you can get tremendous reach by using live video within the platform. You are able to reach people in a dynamic way. There is no smoke and mirrors-- no editing. The watchers have started to become their own tribe with a name for themselves and interact with each other online.
What's the worst that could happen? People know they aren't getting a polished, professional video. Your people have more faith in what you're doing when things are so stripped down. Being unedited means you build trust with people. There may be surprises, but there are no secrets!
The nice thing is that you don't need to have a lot of the things that you might need for more edited and polished videos. Here's what you DO need, based on Mareya's suggestions and my own.
You can actually use your own products or cross-promote your products in the videos. If you are talking about something paid in the video, you can have a more authentic integration that's NOT an ad.
People don't just buy products. They buy people. They come to like you and want to do business with you and support you. They see you telling the truth and it builds trust. Live video is a phenomenal way to tell your story in an authentic way.
So if you're wondering how to use Facebook live to build your audience, the best way is to USE FACEBOOK LIVE TO GROW YOUR AUDIENCE.
Got it? Okay. Perfect.
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In this episode I'm talking with Christine Pittman, a food blogger who runs Cook the Story (her personal food blog) and Cookful (a contributor food site). I was blown away by her levels of organization and how starting Cookful with intentional organization brought the site to over 200k pageviews a month after just a year. How did she do it? By starting out blogging as a business.
If you are blogging as a business, invest in it as though it's a business. (Don't go TOO crazy; definitely consider your current financial status. But you may take more risks.) It may sometimes be a bit of a gamble, because you don't know the end result. Thinking of it as a business changes things. It IS often an investment to make money. (Read my post on how to know if you should use free or paid tools!)
You should also consider how things free you up or will make money BACK for your site. If you are investing in tools or people or apps, think about how the money will or can come back to you. Ask if you NEED it or what it will bring back into the blog.
You may start out taking money or jobs that are not the idea or things you really WANT to do, but the goal may be to work toward saying NO a lot more and only saying yes to the opportunities that you LOVE. Consider your dream job and then work toward that.
Getting organized starts with having a plan, writing it down, and working step-by-step to accomplish the steps along the way. A mastermind group or small tribe of people doing similar work can really help as you try to articulate your ideas and get feedback from other people.
What are the systems and tools that help YOU accomplish your goals? Have you seen a mindset shift make a big difference in your decisions, large & small? Leave a comment. Let's chat.
Monetization of your podcast, book, blog, or platform is not without pitfalls. Whether that's getting caught in the traffic-chasing circle or turning off your audience talking about too many affiliate products, you will have roadblocks and issues. It can even stifle or choke your creativity.
But in this episode I hope to help you see some of the pitfalls and avoid them. We should sell confidently, without apologizing, and realizing that we won't see eye to eye with everyone about what is smarmy.
If you can figure out what monetizing your passion looks like in real life, you are living the dream. For many of us, it STAYS a dream. But for Lindsay Ostrom, her love of food and sharing recipes turned into a full-time job for her and her husband Bjork (remember episodes 61 & 62?) through Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro. In this episode she shares the story of how she was able to monetize her passion through blogging.
Want to connect with Lindsay? You can find her blogging at Pinch of Yum, sharing amazing recipes (like this Tikki Masala that is in our kitchen rotation) or follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook.
Monetization Started Through Experimentation.
When Lindsay and Bjork started out with ads on Pinch of Yum, it was a scary change. They started by asking what was working for other people, then implemented ads and began watching and tracking metrics to see what was working. The mindset was: if you can make $20, you can make $40. And if you can make $40, you can make $80.
Growth Isn't Always Fast, But a Slow Upward Trend.
They started small, just using ads on the blog to monetize. Then Lindsay paid attention to what people were interested in and started with ONE product, an ebook. She utilized affiliates to sell the book and saw a steady increase in traffic and sales through word of mouth and the affiliate program.
It Is Possible to Monetize, Even without Huge Masses of Traffic.
Find a value that you can provide to the readers you do have and to potential readers. You don't have to have masses of traffic or depend on ads. Find what your readers want and how you can provide that for them, whether through information or a product.
Follow What Is Naturally Happening and Makes It SCALABLE.
Pinch of Yum's training counterpart is Food Blogger Pro, where Lindsay and Bjork run a membership site to train food bloggers. This formed organically when they realized that people were constantly coming to them for help and answering emails one on one was simply not scalable. If you have people constantly coming to you for help, find ways
Working with Your Spouse as a Business Partner May or MAY NOT Work for You.
Every couple may not work well together on a business. (It's hard enough sometimes to work with people you aren't married to sometimes!) For Lindsay and Bjork, this looked like working in separate spaces. If you are trying to partner with your spouse on developing a business, there are the great benefits, but those same benefits can be a real struggle. You need to be intentional in taking care of and protecting your relationship.
Food Blogging as a Business Looks Different Than Food Blogging as a Hobby.
Lindsay started out just trying things and posting her thoughts. Now that the blog has a more serious following, it works better in systems. She makes every recipe twice, once at a normal time, and then one day when she makes all the recipes and takes all the photos in one day. Working in batches is a way to get more done systematically.
Your Skills Will Continue to Develop Through Use and Experimentation.
Pinch of Yum is a site known for food photography and Linday's book, Tasty Food Photography, has helped countless bloggers get better. She found with each new lens, she learned new things about photography. With her writing, she tried to write the kind of blog she wanted to read. It's important to read other blogs and works similar to yours, but to keep your own voice and perspective so you are inspired by someone else, but aren't emulating anyone else. Just start and keep showing up, trying new things along the way.
Should You Do It for a Business? Or for the Love?
Lindsay is in the camp where you start with what you love and see where it goes. If you aren't rewarded by the process itself, you will struggle to sustain that. There MUST be an intrinsic reward in the work itself. That will keep you going. Success doesn't happen right away. You should ask, "Would I do it even if I weren't being paid?" Think long term. It's not getting rich quick. There is no magic formula to blogging or anything else, no matter what other people tell you. Keep showing up and posting content. The love will be the fuel behind what you do.
This episode is all about Pinterest for podcasters. Why podcasters? I keep hearing the conversations and questions from podcasters who don't use or simply dismiss Pinterest. If you aren't a podcaster, never fear! You'll still get some great tips and takeaways for how this platform can work for you. But podcasters, I'm writing this with YOU in mind!
Many people are under the impression that Pinterest is the kind of site where you hang out to learn about DIY, tasty recipes, or home decor. I rarely (if ever) read or hear of people talking about Pinterest for podcasters. Twitter and Facebook tend to be the more favored social platforms.
But those who use Pinterest for promotion know that Pinterest is perhaps THE most powerful platform for promotion.
Why? Unlike both Twitter and Facebook where links have a shelf life of a few minutes to a few hours, Pinterest has legs. Long ones.
I am constantly getting traffic from Pinterest. EVEN FROM THINGS I PINNED A YEAR AGO. Yes, you read that right: Posts I shared one time a year ago bring daily traffic to my blog from Pinterest. LOTS of traffic.
Pinterest is a marathon, not a sprint. It is not really a social network so much as a search engine. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT just for moms hanging out at home wanting to cook great meals and redecorate their homes.
No matter what your podcast niche, there ARE people pinning and sharing that kind of content on Pinterest. With the potential for mad traffic that keeps on going (and going and going), you have the potential to broaden the reach of your podcast.
You ready? Let's get to it!
This seems pretty basic as you basically need an email and password to set up your Pinterest account. BUT there are a few important parts to setting up an effective account! (I'm moving really quickly through the setup process here, but have a much more in-depth post about Pinterest on Jane Friedman's blog.)
Set up a business account. Nope, this isn't scary and it changes NOTHING if you already have a personal account. It looks the same and feels the same with the added bonus of getting all the analytics your heart could desire. Learn to set up your Pinterest Business account.
Get rich pins. You'll know rich pins when you see them. They look more official with all the info from the site itself right on the pin. People pin these more frequently because they know they are actually validated. Follow this tutorial to set up rich pins with Yoast. On blogger? Try this setup for rich pins.
Write great keyword descriptions. Pinterest is less social and more search. This means that you'll want to use effective and relevant keywords in your descriptions. This means your profile, your boards, and your pins themselves. This doesn't mean keyword stuffing (repeating the same words again and again) but rather using the words that people might search for NATURALLY within your descriptions.
Have a board for your site & podcast. Create boards that are for your target audience. If you want to have other, less relevant to your podcast or business boards, you can always make them secret boards or (if you want more to manage) have a separate personal account. I just keep my board secret. Your first board or boards should be YOUR content. This means name one after your podcast or your website, use the correct label for the kind of board it is, and a description with great keywords. Every time you do a new post or episode, pin to that board or boards.
On your site side, you will want to do a few things to be Pinterest-friendly. These things make it more likely that people will share your images on Pinterest.
Have your site verified. This basically means your site fully connects to Pinterest. It will make sure you're getting the correct analytics. Use this simple tutorial to verify your site in a few minutes.
Install the Save It Button for Pinterest. Most people have social shares on their site, typically at the top or bottom of each post or floating along the side. The Save It (formerly Pin It) button will hover over each image, encouraging your readers to keep the juice going by pinning your images. Learn how to install the hovering button in this post.
Create Pinterest-styled images. It takes a few more minutes, but I create several images for each set of show notes. I have my normal thumbnail for the podcast, a horizontal image standard for each episode with my guest for that week, and then an image that is geared toward Pinterest. Take a few minutes to search around Pinterest for keywords related to your podcast topic. What catches your eye? I'm dealing with writing, social media, and online platform, so I tend to grab pictures from Pixabay or use my own stock photos. The typical podcast image may not perform as well on Pinterest as it would on other platforms. It's worth the time to consider how you might make images that would be more suited. Here you can see a few images that I used for the same set of show notes.
Label images with keywords. Every image has metadata that you may not know about. You can find this in blogger or wordpress by clicking on the image. You'll see the file name (which typically starts as something like IMG3002) and the alt tag field. Those are the two you really need to worry about. Rename the file with keywords, which will help you in Google search and in Pinterest.
Replace IMG 3002 with how-to-grow-your-email-list as the name. Then in the alt tag field, you will want to write out a description that will help you get pinned on Pinterest. When people click to pin an image, the alt tag automatically fills in the description on Pinterest. That may be something like: "This interview with Kirsten Oliphant will teach you how to grow your email list without breaking your budget." See how the phrase is the same? That's called a long-tail keyword and will help your image appear in search. Do this with every image on your blog. Starting NOW.
Hide images if you need to. For some people, a giant image disrupts the feel of the post. You can always hide the long images in your post. (Read how to hide vertical Pinterest images in a post!)
This is the place where I feel like podcasters really can learn to shine. Since I was a blogger before I was a podcaster, I write posts that are full of great content, images, and keywords. If you are dialing in your show notes, you will not find much success on Pinterest. Instead, try to beef them up and make the show notes content that will stand on their own rather than a supplemental afterthought.
Don't rely solely on transcriptions. Transcriptions are great for some people and for enrichening your post with SEO juice from long-form content and keywords, but most people don't want to read them. Pinterest users especially are not going to be thrilled to click over and find a simple transcript. If you want to use a transcript, consider writing out content before the transcript so that the post has some value in and of itself.
Don't be afraid to repeat yourself. I have a lot of listeners to my podcast who don't read show notes. I also have a lot of followers who read and almost never listen to the podcast. Why? They just aren't podcast listeners. I'd love to convert them, each and every one, but some people just don't get it. So I write out show notes that follow the arc and the details of the show fully.
By creating rich show notes that resemble more of a blog post than traditional show notes, you may be able to reach a new audienc. Maybe you can convert them to listeners and maybe not. You can for SURE work on getting them both kinds of audience members (listeners and readers) on your email list. If they love you, they will follow what you're doing using the medium they prefer. Don't turn off non-listeners.
Make listening easy in the post. I love the custom player from Libsyn (which you can see at the top of this post). It's pretty and effective. Some people listen to my podcast solely in the posts themselves. Libsyn also has the ability to push your podcast to YouTube, where it will be a sort of static video showing your cover art and playing the audio. You could embed this YouTube video in your post for a bigger, more noticeable way to listen. Give people options and make it EASY. Don't make them leave your site to listen. You are more likely to hook new listeners and maybe even first time podcast newbies this way.
Make subscribing easy in the post. Definitely make listening possible right in the post, but don't forget to link out where you want people to subscribe or leave a review.
Have a call to action. Want subscribers to the podcast? Reviews? Comments? People who will sign up for your email list? Make sure you have one strong call to action at the end of every post.
Pinterest (like most platforms) is pushing video. Video currently looks weird on Pinterest because it doesn't appear like the other long pins, but because Pinterest is focusing on it and promoting its use, this is a great feature to use. People can view videos right in Pinterest, which means that people have a chance to hear your voice and get hooked right then and there, even if you aren't doing video podcasts.
If you are using Libsyn, you can make YouTube a destination. This creates a video with a static thumbnail image from your show in YouTube. (As with any video, you could go change the thumbnail image to an image of you and your guest if you have one!) and then pin each video to Pinterest. These could go on your main podcast or blog board, or their own separate board that's all video.
This is my next step and I'm excited to see how this might impact listens and discovery!
I hope that this posts has helped you consider Pinterest for podcasters. (And if you're not a podcaster, it should still give you some best practices for the platform!) If you are not using Pinterest, you are missing out on a massive and lasting traffic source.
To celebrate speaking at BlogHer Food in October, I'm sending you some interviews with food bloggers for the next few weeks! This week I'm chatting with Rachel Matthews of A Southern Fairytale about how she got started food blogging and how she has come to work with brands.
Her first relationship with a brand came from leaving a comment on another blog.
Comments are not what they were a few years back, but connecting with other people in your niche and being social, public, and putting yourself out there can lead to any number of collaborations. When you are a writer or blogger, the danger can be staying in your own little space and comfort zone, waiting for people to come to you, rather than giving back, going back, and connecting with other people in their spaces.
The key to long term success is forming relationships, not just one-offs.
While there is nothing wrong working with someone one time, forming a more lasting relationship with a brand (or collaborator) helps your own brand and enriches your content. It establishes authenticity when you stick with one brand rather than hopping around from brand to brand, relationship to relationship. (Especially if they are competing!)
Want to connect with brands? Rachel breaks down how this works today.
You can use connecting companies like Collective Bias (aka Social Fabric), SITS Girls, Izea, Influence Central, or many other companies that help bloggers partner with brands. This can sometimes introduce you to a brand and save you the work of having to go out and make pitches directly to the company. They also don't allow for the type of relationship that Rachel mentions as so key to her success. They might be a good place to start OR, if it makes more sense for you, where you want to stay.
Rachel rocks her elevator pitch on the spot and explains how she developed it.
When it comes to crafting an elevator pitch, it should be something that flows naturally off your tongue using your own words and style. You can practice it and hone it, but make sure that it feels authentic and natural and conversational. Consider recording it and listening back on your phone or computer. Whatever it takes to make it completely ingrained so that when someone asks, it comes across professionally, clearly, but in your unique voice. Get feedback from a friend or reader that is familiar with your blog and brand. Crafting your elevator pitch can also help you firm up your sense of self and who you are.
Food bloggers have learned how to write recipes better and have become better at photography & styling.
When you go back and look at the early posts from most food bloggers that have been around for a while, you will see big changes in how recipes are written and how photography has evolved.
Food bloggers love food, love each other, and love to talk about it. -Rachel Matthews
The Automated Home
The Quantified Self
Bjork is fascinated with the idea that we are becoming more and more connected, but through the internet in tiny particles sent through files and time and space. Technology is such a huge part of our lives, but has become more than just consuming, but creating and connecting. Bjork thinks that we are always moving forward and making things better. There is a potential for increased quality of life, even if there is some shadow.
He's an optimist.
Meanwhile, I'm a little scared thinking about how fragile this world of technology is that we have built so much upon. That's my pessi-realism for you.
Do you ever feel like you're stuck on a plateau? Or the opposite-- you are so busy with ideas and tasks that you are completely overwhelmed? Neither of these is a best-case scenario. But when you are biz planning for the long haul, you can move past either of these obstacles.
How? You'll have to listen to what Bjork Ostrom has to say about it.
Food Blogger Pro - membership is closed, but you can still get great info on the blog and listen to the podcast
Podcasting is a fantastic medium for building connections, trust, & intimacy. (1:18)
While blogging and written media is not going anywhere, audio has some unique properties that may allow you to reach new audiences, or your same audience in a new way. Your audience can listen to your podcast while running at the beach, driving their car, or while washing dishes. Something about audio triggers a deeper connection with your audience that is more intimate that simply reading the written word. It also allows you to form connections with other influencers if you are doing interviews or being interviewed.
The best growth happens as you get a little bit better every day forever. (5:15)
Bjork coined the phrase and concept of One Percent Infinity, which simply means that you can improve a little each day over a longer period of time. Rather than thinking of it as going from 0 to 1000, the One Percent Infinity concept means small wins along the way that add up over time. (Read more about this idea at Pro Blog School.) Bjork and his wife Lindsay run Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro and he shares what this one percent infinity looked like for their journey. (9:23) Some of this looked like making intentional business decisions to scale this day by day.
When you have something at 80%, leave it to work on the thing at 10%. (13:05)
I loved this concept of not perfecting the things that are already working really well, but letting those stand while you then try to bring up another element to that same 80%. Start working bit by bit, day by day on the areas of your blog and business that really need the help. Don't spend time tweaking when you could be making a bigger, more important change. (Raise your hand if you ever spent like two hours messing with your sidebar??) We steal from progress when we focus on those little things that aren't moving you forward. Move forward on something matters. You will steal joy from yourself if you focus on things that aren't really accomplishing a larger goal.
When you hit a plateau or get stuck in overwhelm, you need to be able to get out. (19:10)
Consider the things that are not actually impacting your bottom line, whether that is traffic or downloads or sales. Figure out the things you're doing that don't need YOU in them. Pass those off to someone else. (Which reminds me a lot of my episode on free vs paid tools!) Or, if they aren't moving you forward, stop doing them altogether. Drop off the things that don't matter to focus on the things that DO. Experiment with giving this to someone for a month.
Need tips for a membership site? Here are Bjork's tips. (34:18)
Try a presale to validate the idea and prove the concept. Consider a course vs a membership. With a membership you need to offer something of value every single month. Consider how you can niche down and focus on a specific audience rather than a generic audience.
Many businesses lose money the first few years, but online that may not be the case. (43:18)
Adjust the revenue and expense categories so that you might be profitable from the beginning. How can you become profitable right from the start or as quickly as possible? Find what point it takes to spend money that will save your time. You have to consider the time value of your projects and the things that you are doing. When you start, use the free things that make sense for you rather than diving into paying for all the bells and whistles. You need the things that are worth your time.
Meron Bareket (his session helped me learn sound editing for podcast editing!)
I've made my fair share of money mistakes. (Remember my $1300 mistakes of 2015??) Today I'm talking all about tools and how to decide between free and paid tools.
Listen to Episode 60 - How to Decide Between Free and Paid Tools
When it comes to investing in your blog, brand, or small business, there is no shortage of options. You can pay designers or developers for your blog, pay for better blog hosting, pay for advertisements, pay for courses and education, pay virtual assistants, pay for memberships, pay for coaching, or pay for tools. I'm sure I missed some things in there.
I'm shocked at how the little potential costs add up on a monthly basis. But what do we really NEED to pay for?
I'm going to speak specifically about how to decide between free and paid tools in this post, but may revisit the conversation with thoughts on how we decide to pay for courses, services, or more.
The thing about tools is that you have to first know your goals to determine what you NEED. What you need and what someone else needs will not be the same. I will always start conversations by making sure you know your why. If you need help with this, consider my mini-course, the Foundation Series, which helps build your foundation for your blog, social media, email list, and images on your WHY.
Your goals will help you understand what tools you need, but you also need to have an understanding of your budget before you move on. If you are bootstrapping your beginnings, you may not have any money or have a tiny budget at the beginning to pay for tools. Know your why and your budget and then consider these helpful questions.
Will It Save You Time?
Will this particular tool save you enough time that it actually DOES equal money? This is a really great question to ask, especially as you are getting started. For me, unless it saves me hours, this is not enough of a reason to pay.
Will It Propel You Forward?
Some tools have the ability to really move your business forward. An example for me has been ConvertKit. It's an email tool that I pay for that absolutely helps move me forward and grow my email list in ways that Mailchimp and Mad Mimi just couldn't. My list growth saw huge surges from the advanced features of using this tool. But for one of my sites I still use Mailchimp because my needs are simpler.
Is There a Learning Curve?
Do you need to learn how to use the tool? I recently bought Camtasia. I know I will use it for my business. But so far I haven't used it because I don't know how to use it and haven't had time to sit down with the program. You may need to consider if now is the right time for a tool with a learning curve. If you don't have time to learn it, then you probably don't need it right this second.
Do You Need It NOW?
Sometimes we get that itchy trigger finger. We want our goose that lays the golden egg and we want it NOW. (Little Willy Wonka reference for you.) But do you NEED it now? Like, right now? If you are trying to stick to your budget, make a list of things you want to buy and then try to buy them in order of immediate need.
Is There a Unique Deal?
You may not need it now, but sometimes you find that amazing deal that happens to be ONLY now. Taking my previous Camtasia example, I don't have time this month to figure it out. But I also know that in the long run I need it and I found a sweet deal that I couldn't pass up. Sometimes you may see a great deal on a tool you don't need this second that you know you WILL need. This might be the only time I'd suggest getting a tool you don't need now so you don't stockpile and forget to ever use it.
Will It Have Direct Impact on Reaching Your Goals?
This is similar to the question about propelling you forward, but it helps distinguish between tools that are fun and tools that really ACCOMPLISH something. My example here is Pat Flynn's Smart Podcast Player. I got a good deal on this tool, which allows you to neatly embed your podcast into your posts and pages. It looked like it would help with shares and make listening easier. Also, it was pretty and on sale. But in reality, it looked pretty but didn't increase any activity for me, so I cut this out of my budget. We all love pretty things, but if you are on a budget or need to cut back, look for tools that may be neat, but not actually DO anything.
Is It a Necessary Tool for Your Goals?
I recently was on the fence about paying for some scheduling tools. I know a lot of people pay for Edgar (a cool $50/month) or an advanced version of Hootsuite or Buffer. While these tools are helpful, I don't see tons of traffic from Twitter, which is a platform more about connections. Paying for scheduling there won't increase connections or enhance relationships. I also prefer to do Facebook scheduling natively, because I see the best results that way. On the other hand, I DO pay for Tailwind, an app for Pinterest scheduling. Why? Because Pinterest is my top traffic referrer and I need to be intentional. There are also great analytics that help me continue to be strategic. This tool helps me with my goals, but a Twitter scheduler would not.
Does It Take on a Job That YOU Don't Have to Do?
One example might be hiring a ghostwriter or contributors for your blog. I personally want to be THE writer and voice. But if it's not important that YOU write the posts as long as SOMONE does, this could be a good tool. (Though I'm talking about people in terms of ghostwriters or contributors here.)
Does It Fall Under Shiny Object Syndrome?
Often the other questions will rule this out, but sometimes for reasons I can't explain, I really WANT something. It may not meet a need or really affect the bottom line, but I get obsessed and keep thinking about it. That's when it becomes a shiny object. I'm not saying you shouldn't invest in something you obsess over, but do ask some of the other questions first before you invest. And realize that you may feel totally happy once you've got your special thing, OR you may be disappointed because you buy it and then realize that you should have gone with your rational senses that it didn't actually accomplish something you need.
Do You NEED It or Do You WANT it?
Similar to shiny object, it's important to think about whether you really need it. I need an email service provider or I can't send email. I need a media host for my podcast or no one can listen to my podcast.
Will It Save (or Make) You Money?
Some tools might cost something, but bring in a return. Many people attribute a tool like Leadpages or ClickFunnels to helping them make sales through sales pages that convert. (Personally, I can't directly attribute any sales to Leadpages, though I've used it a lot this year.)
Is There a Cheaper Version That Works Just As Well?
One alternative to Leadpages is Thrive Pages, which has several features that are similar to Leadpages. People can argue til they are blue about which is better (and you have to really decide which is best for you), but if one is cheaper and you don't have the budget to go above, then go with that one!
Is There a Recurring Fee?
Some tools have a hidden yearly fee if you want support. Or just a recurring yearly fee, rather than a one-time fee. Don't miss this when you buy! It makes a big difference if something is $50 once or $50 every year. That doesn't mean you should only buy the one-time cost tool, but simply know what you're getting into.
Does the Tool Do the Work of SEVERAL Tools?
This year SumoMe made some big changes. I used to recommend it for pop-ups, welcome mats, or smart bars (all email list tools on your site), but I found that my emails were NOT actually getting to my email service provider. Hundreds of emails were trapped in a spreadsheet within the tool on my blog and never made it to my email service provider. I left at that point. Since then, SumoMe also changed its plans so you have to pay WAY more. I wouldn't give them my money after seeing how it failed on the free level, but looking into other options for pop-ups, I kept finding that some tools did one or two things, but I would need another tool for another job. Some were free and some were different prices, so I was toggling between all of these window.
Enter: Popup Ally. It has a HUGE functionality, plays nice with ConvertKit, lets me have like 9 different kinds of signup forms and allows me to easily design them with custom looks and fonts. You can do exit intent pop-ups, block pop-ups on certain pages or on mobile, and even get a little fancy and make it so people already subscribed won't see the pop-ups at all. (I'm still working to get that bit down.) This was a one-time fee while many of the others were monthly, but it did the work of many tools and email is giant piece of my platform.
What Do Other People Say about It?
Ask around, read reviews, and see what you can dig up. Ask people what they use and what good and bad experiences they have had. You will find a mix of good and bad for most tools, so this likely won't give you a definitive answer, but may help you make your decision.
What Is the Return Policy?
This seems basic, but I don't always think about it, especially with things like courses or tools. I recently paid for a tool that just didn't work on my blog, but it had a refund policy so I got my money back. I didn't check ahead of time, but I should have. Always know the policy. Set an alarm on your phone if there is an expiration. Always read the fine print. I've seen some courses where the refund policy includes a piece where you have to do all the worksheets and proved you actually did the entire course and tried things AND DIDN'T SEE RESULTS to get your money back.
I hope that these questions can help you work through the decision to buy (or not buy) a particular tool! I have to really think about it every time and make sure I'm not caught up in shiny object syndrome and that the tool meets a need that is worth paying for rather than bootstrapping to do it myself.
You haven't been online long if you haven't had to learn how to deal with critics, haters, and trolls. They are everywhere. Your Facebook page, the comments section of newspaper articles, and even your blog comments. The more traffic you get, the more critics you'll have.
I’m sure I’m not the only one with a distinct memory for those mean-spirited or otherwise critical comments on Facebook, Twitter, or my blog. In this episode I talk with Kami Huyse from Zoetica Media about her experience with online critics. She spent two years with a critic who followed her to every online space she frequented, calling her names and publicly attacking her. Yowza!
Kami offers advice on how to deal with criticism and even when we should consider criticism a GOOD thing.
You can find Kami at the Zoetica Media, on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. Check out her SlideShare for more great content! This year, she was able to launch the CiviliNation Harassment Barometer, a quarterly report that monitors online harassment in the US. You can sign up to receive that report for free!
I've got a fantastic free resource for you today, Seriously Simple Social. It's a guide to the major platforms (with my commentary, of course) and some helpful links to get you started with the various aspects of each. You can create your own simple social media strategy! Keep reading to learn more, or pick up your Simple Social Media Strategy Guide NOW.
This week, Blab died. Did you know Blab? It came crashing onto the scene a little over a year ago with it's four-way split screen, live chat, and the ability to create what was essentially a live TV show without needing to know any tech. I hadn't used the platform in months (mainly due to scheduling conflicts, in turn mainly due to four children), but I am sad to see it go.
The reality of social media, however, is that it won't all stick.
And even if it DOES stick, how can you manage all the platforms? Secret: you can't. I mean, you can have a presence on a lot of platforms, but if you're trying to be active, managing multiple accounts is overwhelming. Spreading yourself too thin may make you less effective, not more.
I'm all about the strategy. I'm all about the WHY. If you know the purpose behind everything, things fall into place with more clarity and cohesion. (For more on this, check out my Foundation Series mini-course!) The general why behind a social media strategy is to make you more effective without wasting your time or resources. You'll also have a specific why that centers around what you hope to accomplish.
To create a simple social media strategy, you'll need to consider four main things:
Your Purpose: the specific why of your blog or business and the goals that you have.
Your Platforms: the social platforms you will use.
Your Plan: the way you will handle the posting and scheduling.
Your Particulars: the details about how many posts, when, and what your specific follower counts are.
Sometimes I think the hardest part of this altogether is the platforms aspect. Because there are SO MANY. How do you choose? How do you manage them all, or even the few that you decide to use primarily?
I created a resource that I hope will make this simpler. It breaks down the most used platforms and provides links & resources to help you utilize them. Plus you'll be guided to create your own simple social media strategy. Because who DOESN'T want a strategy that is smart, but also SIMPLE?
The key with social media is to find the platforms that fit your goals, your specific content, and your audience. (Need help with your audience? Check out my Find Your Perfect Audience series!) This will not look the same for everyone, even in the same niche. It's great to know where your kinds of people hang out, but you also might find that YOUR people, the ones who really jive with YOU, are somewhere else altogether.
As I mentioned at the start, platforms come and go constantly. As I started writing the guide Blab (RIP) was one of the major platforms that I planned to feature. Then I heard rumors Blab was going away, so I downplayed but still mentioned it. And moments after I finished what I thought was the final draft, I saw the headline that Blab ended. Like, right that second. Making my guide out of date, five minutes in.
IT'S HARD TO KEEP UP.
The best way to keep up is to follow the people who know what's up. Subscribe to relevant emails (see my list of favorite email lists to subscribe to) and listen to weekly podcasts or check blogs from people who are keeping up. Here are a few great people to watch:
Social Media Examiner- everything social & internet
Sue B. Zimmerman- Instagram
Jenn's Trends- Instagram & more
Madalyn Sklar- Twitter
Holly Homer- Facebook & Blogging
Take some time to think about the platforms that are already working or that you already have an audience. If you're totally new, check out my guide to see the platforms and hop on a few to see what's happening and what feels good for you. Don't give up on any immediately. I was a slow go-er on a few, then really ramped up. And some that I used to use a lot (*cough* Instagram *cough*) I rarely even open on a weekly basis.
Use the free guide to plan your strategy, then stick to something for a few months, evaluate what's working and what's not, and adjust as needed. You can TOTALLY create your own simple social media strategy to make your more effective and keep you from overwhelm.
Just get started. Like NOW.
Blogging is an investment of both your money and your time. Whether you are setting up more of an author site with a blog, or a blog in and of itself, you want to have the blog design basics down to keep people reading, scrolling, clicking, and STAYING. You want engagement and return visits.
Even though many of us might prefer to just focus on the writing (can I get an Amen?), without having the basic blog design elements in place, people will be turned off. We can't please everyone, but we can avoid the big pitfalls and work to make our blog a place where people come and STAY.
In this episode I'm talking with Elaine Griffin about Blog Design Basics YOU need to know. (Originally recorded in 2015!) In this episode we talk about why you might hire a designer or what you can do on your own if you choose not to hire a designer. Elaine also discusses how to pick and work with a designer, what her pet peeves are in terms of design and why you DON’T want to use a plugin to be mobile-friendly.
When You Need a Designer vs Design DIY
What You Get When You Pay a Designer
Elaine’s Personal Pet Peeves
Tips If You Can’t Afford a Designer
Elaine’s Favorite Plugins
Important Mobile Friendly Tip: DO NOT use a plugin to make your site mobile friendly. Even if the Google test says your site is mobile friendly when using a plugin, Google has actual defined mobile-friendly as an actual responsive sizing-down and coding. Your plugin is not really doing that, so while it technically IS responsive and may show up as fine on the Google test, you may actually NOT be mobile-friendly and lose search traffic. Use a theme rather than a plugin!
Tips for Working with a Designer
Is blog design an area where you want to invest your money or your time? You will absolutely have to invest one or the other to have a professional site.
I’ve learned a lot about CSS and blog design hacks over the years, but often I spend way too much time trying to figure things out. That time equals money! Especially if I break something in the code (it happens almost every time) and then have to call someone to fix it.
Have you worked with a designer? What are your tips for getting the most bang for your buck?
Are you doing design DIY? What made you choose that route and where did you learn the tools you used?
You know about affiliate programs for companies like Amazon, but today I'm taking you behind the scenes of affiliate programs that may be a little less familiar.
Ever gotten three (or five or fifteen) emails in the same day or week letting you know about the same free webinar/book/video training? Friends, you are in the throes of an affiliate program. You just might not know it. Want to go behind the scenes of affiliate programs? I do! I do!
I'm currently an affiliate for Nick Stephenson's Your First 10K Readers launch, so I'm involved in an affiliate program right now. It's not the first big affiliate program I've done, so I've gotten a chance to see some of the ways that they work. I'm going to share Nick's free resources within this post as I walk you through what affiliate programs might look like.
First up: Here are Nick's free resources. These are free, but they are my affiliate links. (You'll see why & how as you read the post.)
Now, let's get onto the business of how those links to free things are actually affiliate links, shall we?
As you may know, there are a lot of affiliate programs out there. The most familiar kinds are those with companies like Amazon, where you apply to be an affiliate and then at any time can use your affiliate links to promote products and receive a commission if someone buys that (or any) product after clicking through your links. They could click through a link for your favorite book and then realize they need dog food instead and you get a commission.
Other programs like ConvertKit (my FAVORITE affiliate program) is more specific. Someone has to sign up for a specific thing through your specific link. Each program has a different payout. Most are a one-time fee. ConvertKit is a 30% commission of all people that sign up under you, every month. (Sound good? Read more about ConvertKit.)
These programs work through distinct links and cookies, which track in ways I don't understand because I'm not tech-y. Essentially until or unless people clear their cookies or the cookie expires, after someone clicks through, the sale will be tracked and you get a commission. Woot!
With some of these larger launch programs (which I'll dive deeper into next), there is a lifetime cookie that does not expire. So for the affiliates in these programs, they just need someone to click through one time. Which allows these programs to do something smart.
The lifetime cookie means that some larger affiliate programs and launches can think outside the box. What this typically looks like is a free book, video series, webinar, or other neat product. Many virtual summits work this way. You will see a link or receive an email about the cool free product, but when you click the link, a cookie is attached. If you EVER purchase the upsell that inevitably follows the free product or another related course, book, or package, the person who introduced you to the free product gets paid.
This works well because sales are more effective when they aren't just tossed at you. Would you be more interested in a course if you were simply given a link to a sales page OR a free video training that gave great information before being given a link to a sales page?
Exactly. What about it? Well, for the most part, people tend to ignore the disclosure part until linking to the paid part of the product. So for the free products, there is no disclosure. Someone could send you an email with a product they just really like OR an affiliate product.
I don't like that.
It's odd-- I'm not always a rule follower. Not at all. But some things really get me when people color outside the lines. Disclosure is one of those.
I think it's all about trust. I lose trust in people when they aren't up front. I talk a lot about this in Episode 33 about disclosure. I'm not opposed to affiliate links or buying through them, especially for people I support, but I don't want people trying to sell me affiliate products without telling me they are affiliate products. It feels...gross. SMARMY, even. And you know I'm anti-smarm.
Let me be clear: I feel very strongly that these free products need to be disclosed. It's awkward because they are free, but STILL. If there is a cookie involved, there should be disclosure. If there is a potential payment involved, there should be disclosure.
Unsure what should be disclosed? This epic post about disclosure and the FTC written by Rae of Sugar Rae will explain it all. In detail.
Typically, you need a software and/or a manager to make this easier. I know that a lot of people use Infusionsoft for this and since it's a tool I don't use, I can't really speak to it. There are also affiliate plugins for Wordpress that will work with WooCommerce, so if you're interested in running this kind of lifetime cookie affiliate program, you can check out something like Affiliate WP.
I hope this is enlightening as far as affiliate programs and how they work for launches! Questions? Thoughts? Worked on a big launch and want to add your note? Leave a comment below!
What does it take to make it online? In this interview with Amy Lynn Andrews, we chat about her blogging journey and the ways she has survived algorithm changes, rebrands, and a huge drop in traffic. She is the writer of one of my favorite emails, The Useletter, and so of course we also chat email lists.
Tricky question, right? If I had to choose one word that would describe someone who is going to find long-term success, it would be SCRAPPY. You have to be willing to fight and scruffle and work and hang in there through changes. (Can I get an Amen from people who were rocking Facebook before the algorithm changes??) The online world is not static.
So if you want to make it online, you can't be static either. You need to be ready to adapt and regroup, or you may die off.
Does this sound dramatic? I don't mean to be. But making money online consistently for years means you can't be no punk. Amy Lynn Andrews ain't no punk. (Tweet that? Maybe not.) She has been blogging forever and has a lot of wisdom to share about what it takes to make it for the long haul.
Don't try to transition your personal blog into a business blog. (6:56)
Unless you want to confuse, anger, or lose all your readers, that is. (This is something we talked about in the Find Your Perfect Audience series!) If you want a rebrand that is largely different, you can choose to start a wholly new blog with new readers (and probably will take some of your current superfans) or you CAN choose to just scrap your blog's old focus and rebrand, but you will likely alienate that readership used to the old.
Be helpful. Which comes from continually learning. (9:58)
Consume information and stay current on trends and apps and updates. Things change really quickly these days with algorithms and platform changes and new platforms. If you can't stay current on your own or don't like to do the research, subscribe to email newsletters that will keep you up to date! (See my list of must-subscribes HERE.)
Make smart choices with free verses paid content. (14:45)
I've talked before about how much free is too much. It's a very personal decision that should flow out of your personal goals. If you are working for pageviews (to make ad revenue, for example), then you will want to be pushing out tons of free content to bring people to your site. If you are creating a paid product, make sure that your product has something special or unique from the free content (yours or other people's) online.
Realize that people will pay for curation. (19:00)
Even if people can find information for free on their own, for the sake of ease, people WILL often pay for curation and organization. Many bloggers sell books that are made up of their blog posts, all free on the site, but arranged into a readable book format. It saves people TIME and people will pay for that savings.
Be YOURSELF. People follow people, not websites now. (19:47)
We are drawn to people who share information that we are interested in, especially if they have a similar mindset to our own. Don't try to be someone else. Be yourself and you will draw the people who want the information presented from YOUR point of view.
Think outside the box. (25:50)
Amy Lynn Andrews started the Useletter as a way to present so much ever-changing information quickly and in a way that didn't clog up the blog. When you consider what it is you're trying to accomplish and why, don't shut yourself into thinking that there is only one way to present the information. Consider what platform or tools you can use.
You need an email list. (26:30)
You own your lists. You don't OWN your traffic. By that I mean that you have access to those readers anytime you want to shoot something into their inbox. This is HUGE. What you send is totally up to you and should fit your goals. (For help with figuring out how to apply your why to your blog and your email, you should check out my Foundation Series Mini-Course, which will help you get started.)
Be valuable and unique. (30:08)
"It's all about something that people are getting from you that they're not getting elsewhere very easily." -ALA
Stick with What Gets You Excited. (32:09)
If you love writing blog posts, write blog posts. Don't stress about having some kind of crazy awesome newsletter. Send your posts via RSS and focus on what you LOVE. Don't stretch yourself so thin to follow the trends. Ask your readers what they love. Check your traffic and stats to see what people are interested in.
Don't just monetize the same way other people do. Ads are NOT the only way to make an income. (36:20)
Experiment and find what you love and what works for YOU. Ads may not be the best way for you to make money. There are also affiliate sales, creating your own digital products, coaching and more. Try things out and see what fits for you.
Find a way to diversify so your income is not ONLY tied directly to traffic. (42:04)
If your income is only tied to traffic, when Google updates or you get a penalty or Pinterest changes or Facebook changes, you could take a huge hit. Consider how you can diversify your revenue streams by trying things other than just ads that are tied to CPMs. Traffic is fickle.
Consider what you can sustain over the long haul. (45:35)
There will be peaks and valleys in your blogging journey. What can you do and keep on doing? This doesn't mean that you can't change as you go, but don't choose something that will leave you in a burning pile at the end of three months. Plan for the long game.
Take the Time at the Front to Establish Your Reputation. (49:49)
If people trust you, it will be easier to weather the storms when they come. If you are known for creating great content, this will take you further than anything. If the business jumps ahead of your reputation, it can be harder to work backwards. Establish your expertise and trust at the front end.
Don't Compare Your Success to Someone Else's Success. (52:01 )
This is a biggie. Especially if you are helping people grow a business or brand similar to yours. Probably every one of us will experience the feeling of giving someone a leg up who is just starting out and then watching that person totally ECLIPSE you with their success. It happens. Remember YOUR personal bottom line. We all have been in the starting point and struggled through growth. Stay in your own little world of what's success for YOU.
Do you feel encouraged? Do you think you have what it takes? Dig in, my scrappy friends. Let's do this for the long haul.