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Create If Writing - Authentic Platform Building for Writers & Bloggers

Create If Writing is a weekly podcast for writers and bloggers dealing with authentic platform growth. Kirsten Oliphant interviews experts to find out how they are building email lists, connecting through Twitter, and using Facebook groups. These practical episodes are balanced out with inspirational interviews from successful writers and bloggers who have made it big and want to share the struggles, the creative process, and tips for reaching your goals whether you are an author publishing books or creating an online presence through blogging.
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Now displaying: August, 2016
Aug 29, 2016

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. 

 

Connect with Bjork Ostrom

Food Blogger Pro - membership is closed, but you can still get great info on the blog and listen to the podcast

You can also find him on Twitter or hanging out on Pinch of Yum

 

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. 

"There is so much opportunity to perfect things that don't need to be perfected." (15:20)

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. 

 

Links we mention: 

Meron Bareket (his session helped me learn sound editing for podcast editing!)

Maritza Parra & the superniche 

Ramen Profitability

 

 

Aug 25, 2016

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.

Questions to Help You Decide Between Free and Paid Tools

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. 


Want to learn more? You can check out details by clicking through my affiliate link (which gives me a commission if you decide to upgrade!) to get the PopupAlly Pro details


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. 

 

Aug 22, 2016

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!

 

Highlights from the Episode

  • You will not be able to avoid conflict online, but you can minimize it by the type of content you post and the ways you interact.
  • Many times conflict in the comments deals with character of the commenter, not the issue at hand. (Make sure you don’t fall into this trap!)
  • Deleting your Facebook account is pretty drastic, but it is not a bad idea to evaluate whether online interaction is something you can handle.
  • Don’t react. RESPOND.
  • Criticism stings, but can also sometimes help you see where you have room to grow. Take some time to think about whether the criticism has any truth before you dismiss it.

 

Easy Traps to Fall into with Criticism

  • Defending yourself TOO much
  • Taking things too personally
  • Unleashing your fans on the offending commenter
  • Responding in the moment without taking time to think about it

 

How to Handle Critics & Trolls

  • Prepare yourself from them and know that they WILL come.
  • When you receive a negative or nasty comment, pause.
  • Type out a response in another program that is not online so you won’t be tempted to hit send. Come back and read it later to see if you REALLY want to send it.
  • Remember that you are not likely to change someone’s mind about you.
  • Keep some amount of separation between your online world and your real world.

 

Questions to Ask before Diving into the Fray

  • Is there any truth to the criticism or comment that you might grow from?
  • Do you really NEED to respond?
  • Are you adding value to the conversation?
  • How will the readers watching perceive your handling of the situation?
  • Does a response to the critic fit with the brand or persona you have built online?
  • What will you gain from engaging? What will you lose if you don’t?

Helpful links:

 

Have you experienced criticism online? How did you deal with it?

 

Aug 18, 2016

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.

How Do You Create a Simple Social Media Strategy?

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.

Keeping Up With Social Media Changes

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

So, How Do You Get Started?

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.

 

Aug 15, 2016

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.

Listen to Episode 57

You can find more about Elaine’s services on her site or follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook.

 

 

Blog Design Basics with Elaine Griffin

When You Need a Designer vs Design DIY

  • Designers help you establish your visual brand.
  • You may be able to use plugins to do a lot, but those can slow your site speed if you use too many!
  • Designers know about back-end technical things you may not.
  • Designers provide an expertise about aesthetics & functionality that you might not have.
  • You might break something. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever broken your site!!)

 

Being Mobile-Friendly

  • You need a good mobile responsive theme (most of the Genesis themes are).
  • New iPhones sometimes need a coded work-around.
  • Use Responsinator to check how your site looks on different devices.
  • Headers can be an issue. Designers can code them down, but larger headers can be a large problem!
  • Sometimes ads visible in the truncated view of posts also cause problems.

 

What You Get When You Pay a Designer

  • design expertise
  • header sizing
  • where things should visually be located on your blog like ads & content
  • technical and back-end knowledge
  • best plugins
  • where you might need special coding
  • support for emergencies
  • your TIME
  • professional look

Elaine’s Personal Pet Peeves

  • too much navigation (she suggested two nav bars, neither one too crowded)
  • huge header
  • grab a button widget (no one is grabbing your button!)
  • too many badges

Tips If You Can’t Afford a Designer

  • Don’t be afraid of white space.
  • Be simple and clean.
  • Use Google Fonts (free for commercial use) rather than just what fonts come with a theme.
  • Have big, beautiful images. (Use stock photos if you aren’t a great photographer.)
  • Make sure your header isn’t too big.
  • Have an About section in the sidebar with your email. (Brands don’t like contact forms.)
  • Mobile Friendly!

 

Elaine’s Favorite Plugins

  • Simple Social Icons
  • Shortcodes Ultimate
  • Studio Tiny MCE
  • Visual Editor
  • Gensis eNews Extended
  • Featured Widget Amplified

 

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

  • Find someone whose designs you like, but make sure your personalities seem like a good fit.
  • Have some vision for what you want. If you don’t, be prepared to accept the designer’s vision.
  • Don’t approve something and then later decide to change it.
  • Ask if the designer can show you test sites in Wordpress rather than just a view in photoshop.

 

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.

Helpful links:

 

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?

Aug 11, 2016

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.)

Get Your Free Copy of Reader Magnets

 

Free Video Training: Overcome the Top 5 Struggles with a Simple Formula

 

Now, let's get onto the business of how those links to free things are actually affiliate links, shall we? 


Behind the Scenes of Affiliate Programs

Different Kinds of Affiliate Programs

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.) 

Mmm...Cookies!

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. 

Free Bonus to Paid Product

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? 

What about Disclosure? 

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. 

How Do They Work?

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!

Aug 8, 2016

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.

 


What Does It Take to MAKE IT Online?

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.

 

Tips from Amy Lynn Andrews

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.

 

For Big Amy Lynn Andrews Fans...

  • How the Useletter was born (24:05)
  • How not to stress out about email and freebies (31:17)
  • How many pageviews she typically gets a month* (50:11 ) *recorded in 2015

 

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.

Aug 1, 2016

Do you know how to experiment with your blog successfully? In this episode I interview Ramsay Taplin of Blog Tyrant all about how to take calculated risks and run experiments that will better your blogging and get you the results you want. A lot of these principles can apply to multiple parts of your online platform, whether we are talking experimenting with Facebook ads or a content strategy on Twitter. 

 


How to Experiment with Your Blog Successfully

A lot of people dream about making a full-time living being your own boss and working from home. Ramsay Taplin from The Blog Tyrant did just that in his early 20s, selling his first five-figure blog when he was 19. Blog Tyrant started as an anonymous blog until Glenn of Viper Chill asked Ramsay to be his very first guest post ever—if he would un-mask and reveal his true identity. (Read that post here!) His site is a wealth of knowledge and has a great community of readers.

Some of my favorite Blog Tyrant posts are:

You can find Ramsay on Blog Tyrant, Twitter, and Facebook. He is great about answering emails and responding to Tweets!

Highlights from the Episode

  • You have to adapt and grow as a blogger and online entrepreneur. The internet is always updating and you must follow suit!
  • Keep clever people around you that inspire growth.
  • Permanent curiosity is a great tool to have!
  • Take calculated risks and experiment to find what works for YOU.
  • Pay attention to the successful people around you are doing. Be a good student of other bloggers or people in your niche.
  • A Google penalty can tank your traffic and sales. An email list is a great way to keep your own audience no matter what algorithms change.
  • An email list is the best way to grow in your market. It’s a platform to promote products, new websites, posts, or anything you’re doing. Email is a trusted signal from you to your audience.
  • NOT having a search bar can help you funnel your readers where you want them to go. You are the best curator of your own content, so this is less arrogance and more an understanding of what people need from you.
  • Don’t let fear or perfectionism keep you from moving forward!
  • Having definitive goals for your blog can help you build your email list and following. Think about what kinds of people you want to attract and what you can offer them to keep them around. Be specific in your mind about the person you are pitching to.
  • Ramsay is in the opinion that reach trumps loyalty. (What do YOU think in the comments?)
  • You need to be distinctive as a blogger. How do you stand out from the rest? You don’t need to be original, but you do have to be unique.

Good to Know!

Using a Facebook Boost, you can’t choose metrics the way you can in ads. If you’re going to pay, it may be easier to just click Boost, but setting up the ad and choosing the metrics is a lot more helpful!

My Favorite Tip

Keep your email subscribers in an excel spreadsheet doc on your computer and keep it backed up.

Ideas for Experimenting

  • Promotional End: How can I get the cost per click down for a campaign? How can I fine-tune promotions (like on Facebook) to reach the right subscribers?
  • Colors & Placement: Will a button color affect sign-ups? Will placement in the sidebar or a pop-up have a better conversion rate?
  • Email Open Rates: What kinds of email do people want to open? What subject lines get the best open rates?
  • Search Bar & Navigation: How can you best funnel your readers to the places you want them to go and the places that would be best for them?

 

Helpful links:




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