9 Key Ingredients for Creating the Perfect Sales Page

9 key ingredients for the perfect sales page

If you’ve created one of these 7 types of products to sell on your blog, or you’re going to start offering a service to your readers, then you need a sales page.

The sales page is (not surprisingly) a page on your blog that’s all about your product or service. You can link to it in the navigation menu, from an ad on your sidebar, from your social media accounts, and from guest posts.

As an example, here’s the sales page for Digital Photography School’s Photo Magic ebook.

Photo Magic sales page example

While sales pages don’t need to be complicated, creating your first one can be daunting. You may have seen all sorts of highly designed sales pages on large blogs and thought, “I can’t do anything even remotely like that”.

But all sales pages have similar elements, which you can think of as ‘ingredients’. Those elements are:

  1. A clear, compelling headline
  2. An image of the product or service
  3. An explanation of exactly what’s included
  4. A list of benefits the customer will get from the product
  5. Testimonials from satisfied customers
  6. The price (and the different pricing options, if applicable)
  7. A money-back guarantee (if applicable)
  8. A buy button
  9. No sidebar

Here’s what you need to know about each one.

#1: A Clear, Compelling Headline

Sometimes you can use the name of your product or service as the headline, providing it’s interesting and self-explanatory. But in most cases you should come up with a headline as if you were writing an advertisement.

Here’s an example from Copyblogger’s “Authority” membership.

Their sales page begins with a clear statement: “How to Take the Guesswork Out of Content Marketing”, followed by supporting copy about it being a training and networking community.

Try coming up with several possible headlines, and ask your readers (or fellow bloggers, if you belong to a mastermind group or similar) which one they think works best.

You might also want to look at some of the sales pages of products or services you’ve purchased, to see what they did. Do the headlines grab your attention and draw you in? How do they do it? (And are any of them a bit over the top and potentially off-putting?)

#2: An Image of the Product (or Service)

Even if your product is digital, or your service is something fairly intangible (e.g. email consulting), you need an  image.

Here are some ideas:

  • If you have a physical product, use high-quality photos that show it from different angles, or perhaps in different operating modes.
  • If you have a digital product, take screenshots of it. If it’s an ebook, you might want to create a ‘3D’ version of the cover to use on your sales page. (A cover designer should be able to do this for you. Alternatively, there are plenty of online and downloadable tools you can use.)
  • If you’re providing a service such as consulting, coaching, an in-person workshop, or similar, use a photo of yourself. If you don’t have any professional headshots, ask a friend or family member to take several different shots so you can select the best.
  • If showing your face isn’t an option for any reason, think of other ways you might include a relevant image. For instance, if you’re an editor you might have a photo of your hands on the keyboard.

On the 2017 ProBlogger Evolve Conference sales page, we had photos taken at past events plus headshots of all the speakers:

Use images in your sales page

Normally, you’ll want to save your image as a .jpg file so it loads quickly without losing much quality.

#3: An Explanation of Exactly What’s Included

Sometimes it seems obvious what the customer will get when they buy your product. But always spell things out as clearly as possible so there’s no room for doubt or confusion.

For instance, if you sell software you might want to make it clear they’ll receive a password to download it from your website. Otherwise, they might expect the software to arrive as an email attachment or even a physical CD.

With an ecourse, you’ll probably want to include at least the title of every module or part. And with an ebook, you may want to provide a full chapter list. Here’s what we do for our courses over on Digital Photography School. (This example is from the Lightroom Mastery course.)

#4: A List of Benefits the Customer Will Get

When you’ve created a great product or service, it’s easy to get carried away with the “features” – the nuts and bolts of how it works.

But customers don’t buy features – they buy benefits. (Or, as Harvard Professor Theodore Levitt put it, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”)

Think about what your product (or service) will help your customer achieve. Will they save time, avoid silly mistakes, or overcome fears?

You might want to list a benefit for each feature. For instance, if you offer website setup and design services, some of the features might be:

  • You’ll get your own domain name
  • Your site will run on WordPress
  • Your site will feature responsive design
  • You’ll get unlimited email support

But these features may not mean much to someone who’s new to websites. They might not even know exactly what a domain name is, let alone why having their own matters.

Here are those same features, along with their benefits:

  • You’ll get your very own domain name: you’ll look professional from the moment someone sees your blog’s address.
  • Your site will run on WordPress: this popular website platform lets you easily make changes without touching a word of code.
  • Your site will feature responsive design: it can tell when someone’s visiting from a mobile or tablet, and adjust (just for them) accordingly.
  • You’ll get unlimited email support: while you’ll be able to update every aspect of your site on your own if you want to, I’ll always be available to help.

You can see how adding simple, clear benefits makes the offer sound much more attractive.

#5: Testimonials from Satisfied Customers

One crucial sales tool is what other people say about your product or service. Readers will (rightly) treat your own claims with a little skepticism – of course you think your product is great. But what do other customers think?

Testimonials are quotes from customers recommending your product. You could think of them as reviews, though they’re invariably focused on the positive. And each testimonial may only talk about one or two aspects of the product.

Of course, before you launch your product you won’t have any customers. To get your first few testimonials, you may want to make advance copies of the product available for free (or very cheap), or offer your services for a nominal fee, or even free. You could ask people  on your blog or social media sites whether they’d be interested in using your product and providing a testimonial.

Here’s how Erin Chase from $5 Dinners incorporates testimonials for her meal plan subscription:

Use Testimonials in your sales pages

Ideally, you’ll want to use the full name and a headshot of anyone providing a testimonial to prove they really exist. But ask permission before doing it – some people may prefer to be known by their initials alone.

#6: The Price (and Pricing Options)

It probably goes without saying, but at some point you’ll need to let customers know how much your product (or service) costs.

Be clear about the price, and exactly what it covers. If there are several options, you may want to use a pricing table (showing the options side by side) to help customers choose.

Here’s what Thrive Themes does with its Thrive Leads product (affiliate link), so customers can compare the monthly subscription to all of its products with the price of just Thrive Leads:

We have a Thrive Themes Membership for ProBlogger, and now use it to create all of our sales pages. Check out their sales page so you can see what’s possible with their drag-and-drop builder, Thrive Architect.

#7: A Money-Back Guarantee (if Applicable)

Providing it’s reasonable to do so, offering a money-back guarantee can help those customers ‘on the fence’ decide to buy. This is particularly true for digital products such as ebooks or ecourses. If they buy it and realise it’s not what they wanted, they can get a refund.

With services you might offer a trial period, or a short free consulting session, to help customers make up their mind.

Most bloggers find that very few customers ever ask for a refund, but giving people the option results in more sales. A standard money-back guarantee period is 30 days, but you might offer a longer period if your product is quite involved (e.g. a 60-day refund period on a six-month ecourse).

Here’s an example from a recent Digital Photography School deal. And you can check out the full sales page we built with with Thrive Architect (affiliate link)

Use a guarantee in your sales page

#8: A “Buy” Button

This seems so obvious that you’re probably wondering why I’m including it. But if you’re creating your first sales page, you may not have given it much thought.

To sell your product or service, you’ll need a “buy” button. It might read:

  • Buy now
  • Add to cart
  • Sign up
  • Join now

or whatever makes sense for your product.

You can easily create a button using PayPal. If you want to style the button yourself, you can create any image and use the PayPal button link. (PayPal currently calls it the “Email payment code”. It’s just a URL you can send by email, use in a sales page, etc.)

If you want to automatically deliver a digital product when someone makes a purchase, you’ll need to use a third-party website or tool such as Easy Digital Downloads (affiliate link), which is what we use at ProBlogger and Digital Photography School.

Experienced bloggers sometimes split-test different button text, and even different button colours. But the most important thing is to make sure:

  • it’s clearly visible and easy to find (you may want to include several buttons on the page
  • it works.

#9: No Sidebar

This final ingredient is one you’ll remove from your sales page, rather than add. If you look at  the examples I’ve linked to in this post, you’ll see that while they all look very different in terms of design and layout, they all have one thing in common.

They don’t have a blog sidebar. And there are no interesting links and widgets to distract the customer from making a purchase.

Many bloggers use special software to create sales pages without sidebars (and even without the navigation bar or other standard elements on their blog). But you may be able to do it with your current WordPress theme.

When you’re editing a page, go to “Page Attributes” and look for an option called “blank page”, “no sidebars”, “full width” or similar:

Simply select the appropriate option and update your page: the sidebar should disappear.

I hope I’ve made the process of building a sales page a little less daunting. By gathering these ingredients one by one you can put your page together a bit at a time, rather than trying to write the whole thing at once.

Best of luck with your sales page, and your first product or service. I hope it’s the first of many for you.

The post 9 Key Ingredients for Creating the Perfect Sales Page appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

Seven Types of Product You Could Sell From Your Blog

7 types of product you could sell from your blog

It took me nearly seven years of blogging to create my first products: two ebooks, one for ProBlogger and one of Digital Photography School. They made me a total of over $160,000 in 2009 alone and changed my business.

Back in 2014, I wrote about the experience … and how it nearly never happened:

My big issue was a severe lack of time. Between juggling two growing blogs and a growing family (we had just had our first child), I wasn’t sure how I’d ever write an eBook. I also had a long long list of other excuses to put it off.

I’d never written, designed, marketed a product of my own before… I didn’t have a shopping cart system… I didn’t know if my readers would buy…

In short – the dream of creating and selling an eBook of my own stayed in my head for two years until 2009. Ironically by that point I’d become even busier (we’d just had our second son and my blogs had continued to grow) but I knew if I didn’t bite the bullet and do it that I never would.

Does any of that sound familiar to you? Perhaps you’re blogging alongside a busy day job, or you’ve got young children at home, and the whole idea of creating a product seems very daunting.

You’re definitely not alone. But creating your own product – even a small, simple one – can bring in money much faster than affiliate sales or advertising: after all, your audience trust you and if they like your writing, they’ll want more from you.

In this post, I’ll take you through seven different types of product you could create. Some of these require more time and initial investment: others, you could plausibly create in a weekend.

But First … What is a “Product”?

What exactly do I mean by a “product”? It could be something virtual (like software or an ebook) or something physical (like a t-shirt or a paperback book).

A product might involve an element of ongoing commitment from you, but it isn’t only about the hours you put in – so I won’t be covering freelancing, virtual assistant roles, or other services here.

Seven Types of Product You Could Sell from Your Blog … Which One is Right For You?

The seven types of product I’m going to run through in this post are:

  1. Ebooks: these might be positioned as “guides” or even self-study courses. Essentially, they’re written downloadables, probably in .pdf, .mobi and/or .epub format.
  2. Printables: these are designed to be printed out! They might be planners, cheat sheets, party invites, worksheets … anything that someone might buy to print and (probably) fill in.
  3. Digital subscriptions: these are normally delivered by email, and are often relatively cheap compared with some other products (making them attractive to first-time buyers).
  4. Online courses: these could be text, audio and/or video, although video is increasingly becoming the “default” expectation.
  5. Membership of a private website or group: this might be a membership site that you host yourself, or something as simple as a closed Facebook group.
  6. Software or a phone app: unless you’re a developer, this probably isn’t the product you’ll go for first … but it could be a very lucrative one to try later on.
  7. Physical products: these could be almost anything from books to t-shirts to one-off pieces of art. Unless you’ve already got a business selling them, though, they aren’t the best products to begin with.

Let’s take a look at each of those in more detail. I’ll be giving examples for each one, so you can see how different bloggers are using these different types of product.

#1: Ebooks: Are They Right for You?

The first two products I created, back in 2009, were both ebooks: 31 Days to Build a Better Blog (since updated) and The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography (now superseded by a range of portrait photography books)

That was almost a decade ago, which is a long time in the ebook world. Amazon had only recently launched the Kindle, and the first iPad didn’t appear for another year.

These days, there are a lot more ebooks out there, but don’t let that put you off. A well-positioned ebook can still be a great starter product. If you’re really pushed for time, you might want to compile some of your best blog posts into an ebook (that’s what I did with 31 Days to Build a Better Blog), then edit them and add some extra material.

Example: Deacon Hayes’ You Can Retire Early!

You Can Retire Early Deacon Hayes

Although many bloggers still sell ebooks via their own platforms, charging premium prices for specialised information, it may be a better fit for your audience if you sell your ebook through Amazon and/or other large e-retailers.

If your ebook has a (potentially) large audience, if they’re unlikely to pay more than $9.99 for it, and/or if they’re a bit wary about buying online, selling through a well-established ebook retailer could be the way to go.

This is what Deacon does with his ebook You Can Retire Early! – it’s sold through Amazon, but to make it a great deal and to capture his readers’ email addresses, he offers a free course for readers who email him their receipt.

If you’d like to see more examples of ebooks, we now have 23 ebooks on Digital Photography School.

#2: Printables

Printables are becoming increasingly popular. They differ from ebooks because they’re designed to be printed and used/displayed – and they’re unlikely to contain a lot of text.

Printables could be almost anything:

  • Planner pages
  • Party invites
  • Pieces of art
  • Greetings cards
  • Kids’ activities
  • Calendars
  • Gift tags
  • Adult colouring sheets

… whatever you can think of, and whatever suits your blog and audience.

Unless you’re skilled at design, you may need to hire a professional designer to create high-quality printables for you … though it depends what you’re creating.

Example: Chelsea Lee Smith’ “Printable Pack”

Chelsea Lee Smith printables

Many of Chelsea’s printables are available for free on her blog, but this pack adds five exclusive ones … and brings everything together in one place. Most of her printables are simple and straightforward (which could be a bonus to readers not wanting to spend a fortune on ink!) She’s priced the whole pack at $4.99, making it an appealing purchase for busy parents.

#3: Digital Subscriptions

A digital subscription is information or a resource that you send out to subscribers on a regular basis. Depending on what exactly it is, they might be paying anything from a couple of dollars to a couple of hundred dollars each month.

Delivering the subscription could be as simple as adding paying members to an email list (which you can do through linking PayPal with your email provider). You won’t need to create all the content up front – though you’ll want to get ahead so that you always provide your customers with their resources on time.

Depending on the type of subscription, you could either provide all subscribers with all the same content in order (e.g. they start with week 1, then week 2, and so on) – or you could send out a weekly or monthly email to everyone at the same time, so they get the same content whether they’ve been with you for a day or a year.

Example: $5 Meal Plan, by Erin Chase  

Erin Chase 5 dollar meal plan

Erin’s product solve a problem that many parents have: how do you get a tasty meal on the table each night, quickly and cheaply … without spending hours every week writing a complicated meal plan?

This weekly subscription costs $5/month, with a 14 day free trial. Like Chelsea’s printables, above, it’s priced at a point where it’s an attractive offer for busy families. We recently had Erin on the ProBlogger podcast where you can hear more about how she started blogging and went from zero to a six-figure income in two years.

#4: Online Courses

An online course can take quite a bit of time to put together, and some bloggers feel daunted by the technology involved.

At its simplest, an online course might be essentially the same sort of content as an ebook, only split into “lessons” or “chapters” rather than modules. Many courses will include additional features, though, like:

  • Video content: courses that are based around videos normally have transcripts or at least summaries to help your students who prefer not to watch video or who want a recap to refer to.
  • Audio interviews: if you don’t have the tools to create high-quality video, audio can be a good alternative (and some students prefer it to, as they can listen while commuting or exercising).
  • Quizzes: depending on what you’re teaching, it may be helpful for students to test their knowledge at the end of each lesson or module.
  • Interaction: you might choose to offer feedback to students, or you might have a closed Facebook group for students to join, where they can talk with one another and with you.
  • Certification: this is more appropriate for some topics than others … but offering students some sort of certification at the end of the course can be helpful.

Example: ProBlogger’s New Courses

ProBlogger Courses Example

At ProBlogger we’ve just gone through this process to launch our first ever course. We decided on the self-hosted route and use Learndash as our Learning Management System. You don’t necessarily have to host your course on your own site, though – there are plenty of online platforms like Teachable and Udemy that you can provide your course through instead.

Learndash (partnered with the Buddyboss-friendly Social Learner theme) allows us to offer all of the above features with our courses. Whilst our first course is free, we will be using the same platform to sell our first paid course, an update of my popular eBook, 31 Days to Build a Better Blog in March.

For our free Ultimate Guide to Starting a Blog course, we are running a beta version in conjunction with our first ProBlogger International Start a Blog day on the 7th of February, so as part of the beta we’re also trialling a Facebook group. It is common for bloggers running courses to run a group for communication in conjunction with a course, but beware the amount of time and attention this requires.

We’re closing registrations to the course on the 31st of January, and after we implement suggestions from the beta group, we’ll open it up again as an evergreen course (ie people can start it at any time as a self-guided group) as well as again in the new year for the next International Start a Blog Day.

#5: Membership of a Private Website or Group

For quite a few years now, “membership sites” have been popular. These are essentially closed websites where people have to pay and sign up (almost always for a monthly fee) in order to view the content.

The content might be text-based, or (more often) it could involve audio or video. Sites might offer monthly “seminars” or “workshops”, or regular courses that members can take part in.

On a smaller scale, some bloggers offer Facebook sites with paid membership: this can be a quick and easy way to set up your product, though it’s worth remembering that if you were banned from Facebook, you’d no longer have access to your group!

Example: Copyblogger’s “Authority”

Copyblogger’s membership site Authority focuses on the community elements as well as the teaching materials provided. It’s a fairly high-end community site aimed at professional copywriters, small business owners, and so on, and also gives members the opportunity for expert coaching, in addition to peer support.

Like most membership sites, it has a monthly subscription ($55/month) – but there’s also the option to purchase a year’s membership for $550.

#6: Software or a Phone App

This is unlikely to be an option for your first product, unless you’re a developer … but creating a piece of software or a phone app could potentially be very lucrative.

There are a lot of options here, and your software/app might be anything from a business tool to something that relates to your readers’ hobby. You might have a one-time price, especially if it’s a relatively simple tool … or you might be pricing on a monthly basis (the “Software as a Service” or SaaS model, where you host the software for customers to login to).

Example: Fat Mum Slim’s Little Moments App

little moments app fat mum slim

Long-time blogger Chantelle Ellem created her fun photo editing app on the back of her viral Instagram hashtag challenge #photoaday. When she released Little Moments in 2014 it went to number one in Australia, and number seven in the USA. It was picked as the App Store’s best app for 2014 and has been Editor’s Choice {selected by the App Store worldwide}.

Whilst it’s a free app, it has in-app purchases where you can purchase packs of designs to use in the editor – either per pack or an offer to unlock everything and get all the packs.

Little Moments in-app purchases

Chantelle shares some insights here about creating the app, including being prepared for the feedback from customers and creating a community around your app.

#7: Physical Products

Finally, even though blogging life revolves around the online world … there’s nothing stopping you creating an offline, physical product. This could be almost anything you can imagine: bloggers have created board games, comic books, merchandise, artworks, and far more.

Physical products need to be created, stored and shipped, all of which will take time (and money) – so this probably won’t be the first product you’ll want to experiment with. You can sell directly from your own blog, or you can use an appropriate online marketplace: Etsy for handmade goods, for instance, or Amazon or eBay for almost any product.

Example: Kirsten and Co’s Skin Boss

Kirsten Smith Skin Boss

Personal and lifestyle blogger Kirsten Smith recently developed and launched Skin Boss, a range of facial oils in response to an issue she was experiencing with her skin. You can read the backstory here on why and how it was developed. When you create something in response to a real need and have a strong connection with your readers and other bloggers, it’s an excellent platform for the success of a new product. Kirsten has able to reach out to her network of blogging friends to get media coverage for her new product.

 

I know there’s a lot to take in here! All bloggers, however fancy and complex their products are now, started somewhere – often with an ebook, printables, or a simple online course.

Even if you’re pressed for time, could you set aside 15 minutes a day or maybe block out a weekend in order to create your first product?

It might just change your life.

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One Screenshot You Must Include When Pitching a Sponsored Post

william-iven-22449.1.jpgIf you’re familiar with sponsored content as an income stream, chances are you’ve been asked for a media kit or a proposal to do a sponsored post. Unfortunately, the world of sponsored post rates and assessing the value of your site is a bit like the wild, wild west.

It can be daunting putting together a media kit, especially when you don’t have the ‘big numbers’ everyone seems to flaunt and expect. So most bloggers look at what everyone else is doing, and then create something similar. Brands can then compare one blogger to the next simply by looking at the stats they’ve included.

While that’s great for them, it’s bad for you. You don’t want to be judged on numbers alone. Two bloggers with the same audience size can generate very different results for a sponsored campaign. And a smaller blogger can often outperform a larger one.

One of the biggest issues with media kits is they often only highlight the totals, such as reach (Users) and pageviews (Impressions) for the past 30 days. They’re rarely broken down by location or demographic, and almost never by topic. Bigger numbers may look more impressive, but they can set the wrong expectations.

Another issue is showing averages, such as average time on site or average bounce rate. They’re averages, which makes them look… well, average.

If you want to really impress a brand, create a media media kit that focuses on the topic of the sponsored post.

Let’s say you have a baking blog, and the brand wants to promote a chocolate product. Wouldn’t it make sense to show how crazy your audience is about your recipes that include chocolate?

Pretty logical right? But how many of you actually do it? Maybe you’re not even sure how to do it.

Well, today I’m going to show you how with Google Analytics.

What screenshot do I need?

If you navigate to Behaviour, and then All Pages, you’ll see results for all your content (usually sorted by pageviews).

Google Analytics Behavior All Pages.png

But what you really want is a screenshot that highlights content related to whatever topic the sponsor is interested in.

Using Darren’s Digital Photography School blog as an example, let’s say I wanted to pitch a sponsored post to a Wildlife Photography Tours company. Naturally I’d want to demonstrate how many people are interested in wildlife photography content on the DPS site. Assuming the term ‘wildlife’ is in the URL of these posts (after all, it’s good SEO, right?), I can use the search function in Google Analytics to bring the relevant content to the surface.

You may not have noticed the search function before. But it’s there, pretty much in the middle of the screen. And you type in a keyword (on our case, ‘wildlife’), it will return a list of blog posts with that keyword in the slug.

Google Analytics Topic Search.png

And this is where it gets interesting.

Instead of generic totals, you’ve now shown interest in the sponsor’s topic. In our case, the screenshot shows interest (pageviews) in the topic over a year. After all, sponsored posts hang around a lot longer than a month. And why pitch for one sponsored post when you can show them what a long-term partnership could look like?

You can also point out things like the time on post being longer than the site average. (Agencies love ‘dwell time’ as a measure of engagement.)

Of course, you don’t have to put this in your media kit, although you certainly can. I usually either send or embed it in my intro email and draw attention to it.

You can still included totals in your media kit, and most potential sponsor would expect that. But now you can also send them something they probably wouldn’t expect, which will help your pitch stand out from the rest.

What are some interesting things you’ve done to help your sponsored post proposals stand out from the rest? Share them in the comments below.

The post One Screenshot You Must Include When Pitching a Sponsored Post appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

Community Discussion: Should Bloggers Ask For Donations?

Bloggers calling for donations or reader contributions like “buy me a beer” or “buy me a coffee” have been around for over ten years, as has the debate over whether they should.

Now however, with more mainstream media putting up paywalls, the growth of subscription based content providers and the rise of crowdfunding, is it a better time for bloggers to put their hand out too?

As an example, it appears Guardian News and Media (Guardian and Observer) is trying to monetize its content every which way. It produces a variety of content from outside parties, categorising it as either:

  • ‘Supported by’ – editorially independent content, produced by journalists, funded by foundations and the like;
  • ‘Paid content/Paid for by’ – produced by the paper’s commercial department not journalists; or
  • ‘Advertiser content/from our advertisers’ – produced by the advertisers themselves.

Whilst they are earning money from advertisers and sponsors, the Guardian also asks its readers to ‘Become a Supporter’ (subscriber) or ‘Make a Contribution’ (donate).

Paypal has long had a ‘donate’ button you can put on your blog and even set up a recurring subscription-like donation. How would this go down with your audience?

Similarly, I’ve seen many bloggers disclose affiliate referrals to their readers as a way to ‘donate’ to help them keep the lights on or pay their internet bills.

Patreon claims to have sent over $150 million to creators using its membership model whereby your fans pay you a subscription amount of their choice. This model seems to be growing in popularity for creators of all kinds, but particularly podcasters and YouTubers.

Inklpay is a new player offering $0.10 micropayments either in the form of voluntary ‘tips’ or an enforced paywall per piece of content. Would this work for you?

At ProBlogger, we occasionally run blogging events and often receive feedback from attendees that we should charge more given the value of these events. We noticed that the event ticketing system Eventbrite now also offers a ‘donate’ option alongside its free or paid ticketing. This concept seems like those restaurants where they don’t have prices on the menus and instead ask you to pay what you think the meal is worth or what you can afford.

So, what about you? Have you ever asked for or received donations on your blog? What system do you use? Do you donate to others? Would a voluntary subscription fee, once-off contribution or a micropayment per piece of content work for you? More importantly, would your audience see value in that?

Please contribute to the production of this content by leaving your ‘tip’ in the comments below (see what I did there?!). 

(Photo by Thomas Malama on Unsplash)

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How to get Your First Podcast Sponsorship

How to Get Your First Podcast Sponsorship

This is a post from ProBlogger podcasting expert, Colin Gray.

Advertising is a sensitive subject for a lot of people. It’s a step into the ‘money stuff’, into earning cash from your loyal audience, and it can feel like sullying your beautifully crafted content. Who enjoys the sight of a banner ad sticking out like a sore thumb, after all?

On a blog, it’s hard to run ads or sponsorship in a subtle way. No matter what you do, it’s usually as obvious as that ‘sore thumb’, and twice as painful for the loving content creator. But, there is one way to deliver ads to your audience in a more natural, less… grating… way. And that’s through a podcast.

Sponsorship in podcasting is long established, and bloomin’ effective! Why? Rather than seeing that money grabbing advertiser’s message in cold, stark letters, instead it’s delivered by your warm voice, dripping with personality.

Some podcasters make an art of the advert. For example, Mark Maron creating hilarious skits out of his sponsor slots, Gimlet Media crafting highly produced, entertaining content out of sponsor interviews, or every good podcaster everywhere who simply tells a story about the time they recently used the product and how it helped them.

In Podcasting, you can put the sponsor in context and make it more honest. That’s why it works.

What’s it Worth?

The first question: is it worth it?

Running sponsor slots takes time, including finding sponsors, maintaining them and delivering the spots.

If you can find a long-term, loyal sponsor, that’s great. It becomes an efficient machine where you slot them in, every episode, telling a new story about them every now and again. But, at the start, when you’re running 2-week or month-long campaigns, it’s a treadmill of chasing, contracting, maintaining and recording. So the obvious question is, can you earn enough to justify it?

The rates vary, as you’d imagine, but we’ve got a decent ‘average’ these days when it comes to sponsorship costs. Normally, they’re based on a CPM rate, which means ‘Cost per thousand’ and refers to listeners in this case. Here’s how it breaks down – all times are approximate and costs in USD:

Podcast Sponsorship Rates

  • Pre-Roll: $20 CPM

This is a 15 second sponsor mention during the podcast introduction

  • Mid-Roll: $25 CPM

This is the main sponsor slot, around the middle of the show, 60 seconds long.

  • Post-Roll: $20 CPM

Again, a 15 second mention, but at the end of the show.

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So, if you run a show that’s grown to 3000 listeners (a great milestone, and achievable for most), and you run a pretty standard pre-roll and mid-roll package, you’re looking at $20 + $25 x 3 (for 3000 listeners) = $135 per episode. That’s $540 per month for a weekly show. Not a bad wee extra income!

There’s also the fact that most shows can stand to take two sponsors without diluting their content too much. This depends on the length of your show and how good you are at making entertaining sponsor slots. But, if you manage that, then you’re doubling the income right away. Then add post-rolls for some, and it ramps up a little more. Remember, though, with every ‘extra’ you’re also increasing the work. But, it does get more efficient, the more you do, so it can be well worth it.

Of course, a 1000 listener show (closer to the average listenership out there) is looking at $180 per month for 1 sponsor, or $360 for two. The work is the same as with 3000 listeners… So it comes down to the time it takes to manage, which will be really individual to your show.

Is My Niche Worth More?

The qualifier here is that some niches and some shows can be worth a lot more.

For example, let’s say you run a show on Mountain Biking. I can’t imagine who’d want to talk about Mountain Biking, but hey, it takes all sorts, huh?

Assume you’ve got an audience on the smaller end of the scale: around 500 subscribers. But, do you know what, people who like mountain biking, really really like mountain biking. It’s a niche with fanatical fans. It’s also a niche with people who like to spend money. You don’t get into a sport like that without developing a serious shiny gear fetish, as my own wallet can testify…

You’ve also spent the months, the years even, developing a relationship with these people. So, they know you, they trust you. That’s one thing Podcasting is really great at: trust.

Those three elements – fanatical users, a spending audience, and trust in you – combine to create a dream audience for anyone who sells mountain biking kit.

If they pay to reach your 500 listeners, they know three things.

  1. Their product is ideally suited to every single person in that group
  2. The audience are ready and willing to buy good products
  3. The audience trusts your recommendation.

The conversion rate on an audience like that can be mental. Perhaps 50 to 100 sales from just a couple of mentions, and more after long term sponsorship. That’s worth a LOT more than the mere $22.50 per episode that the standard CPM would suggest in this case.

So it’s up to you to find an advertiser that’s relevant, and convince them how great your audience is.

So, how do we go about finding and managing sponsorships?

Three Approaches to Podcast Sponsorship

1. Media Hosting

The first option is to let your media hosting take care of it. BluBrry have been brokering sponsorships for years, notifying their show catalog whenever a deal comes up. Libsyn, too, run both a self-service and a fully managed programme with dynamic ad insertion.

Some hosts even offer free hosting if you’ll move your show to their service, and allow them to manage your sponsorship. Acast is one such host, and they’ll take on the whole process, finding sponsors, inserting them into your content and sending you the proceeds.

The downsides? First, they’ll take a pretty significant chunk of that payment for the work involved. Second, you tend to get offered a lot of ads that might not be the most relevant to your audience.

Acast and other dynamic ad servers tend to require bigger audience numbers before it’s worth their time. Expect to be turned down if you have less than a few thousand. Blubrry and Libsyn offer their sponsorship services for smaller audiences, though.

If this is the option for you, then you’ll find our podcast hosting roundup here which has a lot more detail.

2. Sponsorship Agencies

If you’d prefer to keep your hosting and your sponsorship separate, then a dedicated sponsorship agency might work for you. They often offer a very tailored service, including more options and flexibility around how you run your campaigns.

One of the biggest names in this area is Midroll, who hold some of the biggest shows on the web in their books.

Again, an agency of this type will take a significant chunk of your revenue as payment, and they tend to require a minimum of 3k to 5k downloads per episode to get involved, although it can vary by niche. The work they do is significant, though, and can be well worth the fee. It’s hard work running your own sponsorship campaigns, and their contacts list can be a huge advantage in finding good sponsors.

3. Do it Yourself!

Yep, it’s possible: you can manage the whole process yourself, and many shows do.

The upside here is that you have ultimate control. You can determine pricing, location, length, and be really flexible in how you work with every sponsor you encounter. You can search out really relevant ads, only including products that you know your audience will love.

You can build relationships with sponsors, offering more and more value, getting more in return. And you can easily include much more than just the sponsorship, such as social media, newsletter mentions, sponsored blogs, video clips or consultancy.

To be fair, some of this you can do with your hosting, or with an agency. They can never force you to take an irrelevant ad, for example. But going DIY means there’s no minimum audience numbers to get started, and, importantly, you get 100% of the ad revenue.

But, like I said, it’s a lot of work. Finding sponsors, negotiating a deal, signing contracts, inserting the ads, following up, re-negotiating, ending the relationship, searching for a new sponsor, and on, and on… If you treat it as a job, though, and you have the networking, sales and negotiating skills to pull it off, then it’s entirely manageable. Done well, the time can be well worth the extra income not lost in agency commission.

How Can I Find My own Sponsor?

If you want to use your podcast hosting company or an agency, the way is clear. Sign up, and let them take care of it. But, if you want to go for glory and take the DIY route, how do you start? Here are some tips on finding and closing a good sponsor.

1. What Products do YOU Use?

The first, and most obvious, is to look around your house. What products do YOU use? Often, you’re a member of your own target audience, so you love the products they love.

For example, take my mountain biking show, hinted at above. If I were to start sponsorship for that, I’d go no further than my own garage. I’d look around at the kit I use, the shorts, the shoes, the bags, the helmets, the bike itself. Every single one has as manufacturer or a retailer which you can approach.

It’s the same with Podcraft, my show about creating great podcasts. I just need to look in my bag, or around the studio to find dozens of products and manufacturers to approach, from microphones to software.

The big benefit here is that if YOU use a product, then you can honestly talk about how great it is. You can tell stories, give examples and generally enthuse about how much you love it. That honesty and passion translates to the audience, making your ad spots more entertaining, more useful, and far less grating on the listener. As a bonus, it also makes it more effective. They’re more likely to buy something that you obviously love.

Whatever subject you talk about, think about your favourite things related to it. It could be gadgets, books, courses, services or something else entirely. Whoever makes that thing, they’re your sponsor.

2. Who’s Spending in Your Niche?

Another place to find likely sponsors is in the ad spots you see every day.

Search your subject keywords in Google and see what pops up. The sponsored results will show companies that are already spending on advertising and targeting your chosen topic.

Similar with Facebook: next time you’re wasting your life gazing at your ex’s holiday pics, keep at least half an eye on the ads that pop up. Facebook is ridiculously good at knowing what you like, and will show ads to match. As I said, if you’re part of your target audience, then those ads will match your listeners. That means they’ll serve up even more relevant companies that are already investing in advertising.

Finally, get onto the big websites in your niche and check out the ads. Most big magazine sites include banner ads at some point and, again, these might showcase some inspiring products.

3. Old School: Print!

Do you still buy magazines? If not, you should! They might be on the decline (or are they…?), but most industries still have a few good mags. There’s something about the printed word and tangible products that keep people buying.

Magazines survive on advertising, too. Inside those glossy pages you’ll find hundreds of ads, from full page to tiny little boxes. Start contacting those companies and selling them on the benefits of new media sponsorship!

4. Offer a Test

Once you’ve started negotiating, a great way to close the deal is to offer a test. This is even more useful if you’re new to the game, since you’ll not have much of a track record to show potential sponsors.

You might offer a half price rate for the first two episodes, for example, reducing their risk in ‘trying it out’. If you’re confident that you have a relevant audience and they’re likely to take action, then the results should speak for themselves. Win the sponsor a few sales and you’ll have no problem charging the full rate from them on.

Better yet, if you’re really confident, then offer a money back guarantee. Tell them, “If I don’t deliver X sales or X amount of referrals, then you can have half (or all!) of your money back.” Of course, you need a great way of tracking this, like an affiliate system or offer codes, and even then it’s never 100% accurate. But if you account for that in the numbers and stay realistic, then it can work well.

Give it a Shot

The aim in sponsorship is to build long lasting relationships. If you can find two or three sponsors who are super-relevant and who get consistent results with your listeners, then it can lead to a hugely beneficial relationship for both parties. Less chasing, less negotiating, and more creating great content, attracting an even bigger audience.

If you’re looking to dip your toe in the waters, but sponsoring your blog is a step too far, then try your podcast. Build a relationship there and who knows, it might lead to your blog, your video channel, your social media.

If that gives you the time and the space to spend time on the content you love, offering more and more value to your readers, then it’s worth an ad spot or two. Give it a shot!

Image credit: Teresa Kluge

The post How to get Your First Podcast Sponsorship appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

3 Ways to Make More Affiliate Income as Bloggers

3-ways-more-affiliate-income

This is a post by ProBlogger expert Jerry Low.

Promoting affiliate products is still one of the most effective ways to make money from your blog.

Jayson DeMers points to affiliate marketing as an excellent entry-level place to begin monetizing your blog in this Forbes article, because it is easy to implement and free to start up (just taking a bit of your time).

One of the great things about affiliate income is that it works well with a blog with either high or low traffic. The key is promoting your blog and the products to the right audience – people who need the products you are promoting. With the right marketing tactics, you can make money from affiliate products.

Even better, choose a trusted affiliate program that you already know and love.

If you promote it properly, you’ll find that you can create a long-term source of residual income.

This article will focus on how to make more money blogging via affiliate marketing.

1. Pick the right niche and products to promote

There are two key elements to making good money from affiliate marketing.

First, you have to find a profitable niche. Second, you have to promote the right product.

To accomplish this requires time and research before you jump into the affiliate game. Don’t worry, if you are already promoting affiliate products, I will help you refine what you’re already doing.

How to find a profitable niche?

Finding a profitable niche requires a bit of research.

Here are some tools that will come in handy:

1- SpyFu

Use SpyFu to check advertisers’ spending on a niche that you wish to tackle. If advertisers or merchants are spending big money on that industry, it means there is money to be made.

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For example, advertisers are paying $5.60/click and almost $70,000 per month on the search term “payroll software”.

2- Google Search

Do a Google universe search (search at .com, add &pws=0 and &gl=us at the end of your search strings) on the niche you are interested in. View the search results carefully. Are there any advertisers in the mix?

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3- CJ.com

Login to CJ.com and search for relevant merchants. Use “Network Earnings” (the green bar) as a potential earning indicator. The higher the green bar, the more merchants are paying affiliates.

4- Impact Radius

Login to Impact Radius. Check the “30 days EPC” (affiliate earnings per hundred clicks) for relevant merchants in your niche.

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Example of merchant listing at Impact Radius.

5- Use Common Sense

What do people buy online? What kind of information do people search for online? Are there any information gaps you can fill and monetize?

Once you’ve chosen a niche area, it is time to move on to the actual products you’ll promote.

How to find the right products?

Once you’ve decided on your niche, it’s time to find the right products to promote within that niche. There are some specific steps you can take that will help you narrow down your choices.

Method #1- Study others

The first step is to look at what other bloggers are promoting.

There are two messages behind this: one, the product is good; and two, there is money to be made with that product.

The next thing to do is to study and try that product out and find a unique angle to “soft-sell” (more about this later) it.

Method #2 – Soft products

Generally speaking, digital products and services are usually easier to sell.

Think digital downloads (i.e. eBooks, mobile applications, movies), online training courses, professional services (i.e. designers, marketing services, accounting or legal advice), e-commerce platforms, and web tools (site builders, lead generation services, email service providers, etc.).

Method #3 – Products/services that are already in demand

Find a product that already has an existing demand.

Use SEM Rush to see if people are searching for more info about the products. Tip: We often use ‘review’ or ‘compare’ in our searches when we want to buy something. Check search volume for those search phrases when you wish to find out if there’s sufficient demand.

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SEM Rush example 1 – Low search volume for the search term “Bit Defender Review.”

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SEM Rush example 2 – Higher demand (search volume) for MacPaw Clean My Mac software”

Method #4 – Promote products you already know and love

This is probably the most common way bloggers get started with affiliate marketing. You become an affiliate for something that you’ve used yourself, had a good experience with, thoroughly tested and feel good recommending. You should be fairly confident that others will get the same results you did (or better), as long as they do the work.

2. Be unique and irreplaceable

With affiliate marketing, it is vital that you “soft sell”.

This allows you to influence and drive users to buy what you are promoting. Basically, the soft sell proves to the consumer that the product is what she needs to solve a problem.

The Blogosphere is a crowded space these days. There are over 1 million blog posts written every day on the Internet. That is a lot of noise to sift through. It is easy to get lost in the massive information dump that occurs every minute of every day.

Soft-selling: #1 overlooked online marketing skill

With soft-selling, the key is to be subtle about the fact that you’re selling, yet to think through ways to persuade the site visitor.

So, your main focus is going to be on developing a relationship with your readers and building trust. Once they trust you, you can sell them a product or service you believe in.

The key, however, is to make sure you truly do believe in, or better, love the product. The last thing you want to do is recommend something that isn’t high quality. That will cause you to harm the relationship you have with your readers and they will no longer trust you if you’re just trying to turn a fast buck.

Even though affiliate marketing is lucrative, it is also quite competitive with the numerous blogs on almost any topic you can imagine. The best digital marketers are in the game because the money is good. To stand out from those mega name players, who are pretty hard to compete with, you have to differentiate yourself.

How?

Method #1. Become an expert

Develop yourself and become an expert in your industry.

Stand out as a leader and help others prosper.

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One example of a blogger who has become a known name in the blogging industry is none other than the owner of this blog – Darren Rowse. He developed his name as a blogging expert by helping hundreds of thousands of bloggers via his blogging guide and training events. In 2002, Darren read an article about “blogging.” By the next day, he’d started a blog of his own. His blogs grew from a hobby he enjoyed to part-time income to full-time income.

Write definitive and knowledgeable content on the related topic. Include basic info as well as unique info no one else is talking about. Or look at it in a unique, new way.

Grow your presence on social media networks. Interact with influencers in your industry. Post regularly. Interact with others. Remember that social media is a give and take environment.

Guest post on sites where your readers can be found. It won’t do you much good to post on a crochet and knitting site if your niche is personal finance. Seek out related blogs where your target audience is likely to hang out.

Attend conferences and speak at them as a specialist in your area. Network with other influencers at these events. It’s amazing what you can learn over a cup of coffee. Most successful bloggers are happy to share tips to help you succeed as well.

Method #2. Provide unique information that users can’t get elsewhere

Let’s revisit the idea of providing unique information that no one else has covered before.

For example, I went undercover and tried out dozens of hosting companies’ live chat support systems. The results were quite enlightening and I’ve not seen anyone else cover this particular topic or go this in depth on an undercover review.

My readers now know which hosting companies are most likely to provide instant live chat support when they need it.

What can you cover that no one else in the industry has covered?

Tactic #1 Look at what topics your competitors have covered

What is missing? What isn’t covered deeply enough? Is there another way to look at the topic? For example, if you search the phrase “how to improve your golf swing,” some of the top results that pop up include an article titled “5 Beautifully Basic Golf Swing Tips Every Player Should Know,” but directly under that result is “Top 10 Golf Swing Tips.”

As a reader, which would you rather have – 5 tips or 10? You certainly don’t have to cover the same topic, but this is just an example of how you can expand on what others are doing.

Tactic #2 Use tools such as brainstorming to come up with unique ideas

The simplest way to brainstorm is to write a single word in the center of a paper in a bubble and then begin drawing lines and words as they come to mind.

Don’t stop to think, but let the thoughts and the words flow freely. Do this for about 10 minutes and then study the paper. What words are unique? How do they tie into your niche? Which ones can be turned into an article that hasn’t been covered before?

Tip: Also try these 180 blog post ideas by Darren Rowse.

Tactic #3 Tie your personality into your blog posts.

Do you absolutely love to watch Star Wars movies? What about an article on how being disciplined in your golf game is like learning to be a Jedi? Just make sure that it is something most of your readers can relate to and that you tie it back into your niche.

3. Focus on winners

Would you like to instantly make more affiliate income from an existing blog? The trick is to spot your winners, in various aspects, and double down on them. This strategy works in various aspects in businesses and has helped us improve our blog tremendously well.

Spotting the winners in various aspects

To spot your winners, you first need to track your blog and affiliate stats closely.

In the past, advertisers threw out a bunch of radio, television, magazine and newspaper ads and hoped something would resonate with potential customers.

We all knew the expansion of the Internet has changed all that.

As an affiliate marketer, all of your advertising will naturally occur online. The difference is that you have many tools at your disposal today to figure out which advertising is successful and what just isn’t working.

Pay careful attention to:

  • Traffic source: You can find this information from Google Analytics or the control panel of your website.
  • Performing search keywords: Google Analytics can help you with this type of information and tell you which pages are performing best.
  • Advertising statistics. If you take out an ad on Facebook, you’ll gain the ability to check statistics on the back end. You can not only target your ad to a very specific audience, but you can also look and learn more about the people that shared your post, liked your post, or somehow engaged.

Affiliate winners

Which of your affiliate products are selling the most?

Which ones are the “winners” in the affiliate marketing game for your particular site?

Focus on who’s paying you the most money.

Find out why that product is selling so much better than others.

Now, build content around that product. For example, build a video tutorial on how to use the product, write a detailed FAQ on the product, and explain the problem users deal with and how the product can solve that problem, etc.

Content winners

In addition to looking at the affiliate products that are winning, you’ll want to focus on the blog content that is winning.

Use Google Analytics to figure out which of your blog posts is getting the most traction.

Which one is getting traffic, but also has a decent bounce rate? Which pages are people actually staying on for a while?

Find the blog posts that are already performing well for you and ask yourself these questions:

  • Why are your readers spending more time on that post?
  • Is there a problem you solve in that post?

Now, can you spot a gap and recommend a product that suits your readers’ needs from that post?

Winners in traffic

Figuring out where your traffic is coming from can help you increase efforts that make sense.

Traffic source

Do you know where your blog traffic is coming from? Is there a traffic referrer that is sending lots of traffic to your blog?

Once you know where the traffic is coming from, you can increase that traffic in a number of ways.

Say blogger X is sending you the most traffic last month – Invite him/her to guest post on your site. Trade links to his blog so his/her users can find your blog easily. You can even take out a banner ad on his blog to encourage even more click throughs.

Traffic that converts

Did you set goals in Google Analytics?

You can track more than just successful transaction or newsletter signup with goals. For example, if you have written a product review page that converts well – your goal can be driving your readers to read that particular review.

Once you have set the right goal – it’s time to look for traffic source that converts the best. To see this, login to Google Analytics Dashboard > Acquisition > All Traffic > Source / Medium. Find out which traffic source is converting the best – find ways to get more traffic from that source. For example, if Facebook is performing best – spend money and advertise on Facebook. If you are getting hits from Google, take out a few ads on Google, etc.

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To investigate your blog traffic, login to Google Analytics Dashboard > Acquisition > All Traffic > Source / Medium. In this example, traffic organic search and Facebook mobile are converting exceptionally well – logic sense tells us that we should work harder and invest more in these sources.”

In Summary…

Affiliate income as a blogger is just one piece of a larger puzzle, but it is the quickest way to start building an income and helping your blog pay for itself.

Once you gain the skills needed to attract a larger audience and also a targeted audience, you will be able to grow your income exponentially.

The post 3 Ways to Make More Affiliate Income as Bloggers appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

198: 6 First Income Streams Recommended for Bloggers

6 Recommendations to Monetize Your Blog

In today’s episode I want to talk about making money blogging.

More specifically, I want to tackle a question from a reader who has been blogging for a while without monetizing but is wondering which income stream she should try  first.

I’ll suggest 6 income streams that I see bloggers often starting with and at the end nominate my favorite one that I think can be a good place to start for many bloggers.

So if you’ve been wanting to start monetize your blog – whether you’re a new blogger or an established one – or even if you’ve been monetizing but want to add another income stream – this episode is for you.

Links and Resources on 6 Recommended First Income Streams for Bloggers



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Good morning and welcome to episode 198 of the ProBlogger Podcast. My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the blogger behind problogger.com, a blog, podcast, event, job board, and a series of ebooks, all designed to help you as a blogger to grow your audience, to create amazing content that’s going to change your audience’s life in some way and to build profit around your blog.

In today’s episode, in episode 198, I want to talk to you about that topic of making money from your blog, building a profitable blog. Most specifically, I want to tackle a question from one of our readers from the Facebook group who’s been blogging for a while now without monetizing. She has actually built up a bit of an audience, some archives of content, but is wondering which income stream she should try to add to her blog first.

In today’s episode, I want to share with you six different income streams that might be a possibility for this particular blogger. These are six income streams that I see bloggers often starting with. At the end of presenting the six, I want to nominate my favorite one that I think could be a good place to start for many bloggers. If you’ve been wanting to start to monetize your blog whether you’re a new blogger, or an established one, or maybe you’ve been monetizing for a while and want to add another income stream, this episode is for you.

You can find today’s show notes where I will be listing some further reading and listening over at problgger.com/podcast/198. Also, you can join our Facebook group and connect with other bloggers on this same journey of monetizing their blogs. The Facebook group is over at problogger.com/group.

Lastly, if you are in America, in the US, check out our upcoming Dallas event which I will be co-hosting. We’ve got a great lineup of speakers including Kim Garst, Pat Flynn, myself as well as a range of other bloggers and online entrepreneurs. You can get the details of this event which is happening in October, I think it’s the 24th and 25th of October. You can get those details at problogger.com/success.

If you use the coupon code SUCCESS17, you’ll get $50 off over the next couple of weeks but don’t wait too long on that because that discount won’t last long. All those details will be on the show notes today. I think it’s time we go into today’s episode.

I got a message from Danielle who’s one of our Facebook group members this morning. She said in her message and she gave me permission to share this, “I saw your recent Facebook Live on how to make money blogging. I love the idea of adding multiple income streams to a blog.” That’s something that I did cover in that Facebook Live recently. “But as a blogger who’s been blogging for a while and has a medium sized audience but who’s never monetized, what income stream should I add first? Thanks, Danielle.”

Thanks for the question, Danielle. I do appreciate that. If you do have questions at any time, pop them into the Facebook group or send me a message if you would like to do that as well. On the group would be great because that way we can answer I publicly. But there are a few options for you, Danielle, as is often the case with question that I’m asked about blogging, the answer is, often, it depends. It really does depend. There are a number of factors that are going to help us to work out what income stream should work best for you.

Some of the factors that you will need to ponder and I guess you need to think about as you’re listening to some of what I’m about to suggest. Different factors will impact the income stream that you choose. Some of the factors might include your topic. Some topics lend themselves very well to different income streams whereas other topics don’t at all. For example, I found talking to many bloggers who blog about spirituality of different faiths or politics that advertising doesn’t always work so well on some of those, particularly advertising with advertising networks like Google’s AdSense. Your topic is going to come into it.

Even more important than topic though is your reader’s intent. The question is why are readers on your site? If you can really tap into that, why are they there, you will, hopefully, begin to see some opportunities to monetize. For example, if your readers are on your site wanting to learn information, they want information of some type, they want teaching, they want how to information, then that’s going to land itself to monetize by selling information, information products. I’ll talk a little bit more about that.

If people are there because they want to connect with other people who share a similar interest or a similar life situation, it may be harder to sell information but it might be easier to sell them into a membership community. Ask yourself the question why are readers on my site? What is it that they’re there for? Because that might help to reveal the right income stream.

Some other factors that come into play, your audience’s size, whilst you’ll always find that as you grow your audience your income will grow with most of the income streams I’m going to talk about today. Some of them are almost not worth trying if you’ve got a tiny audience. For example, Google AdSense. You’re not going to make much on it at all unless you have a sizeable audience.

Your audience’s location is another factor. Some locations monetize better with Google AdSense, with things like Amazon’s affiliate program. If you have an audience who is all in the one location whether that be in the one country or even the one state or even the one town, I know some of the bloggers in our Facebook Group have very localized blogs, then they will lend themselves to different types of income streams. For example, I know one blogger who has a blog in Melbourne and they monetized their blog by advertising on their blog to Melbourne businesses. That really lends itself very well to that, your audiences’ location.

Also, the source of your traffic, you’ll find that some different types of traffic will monetize differently. Traffic coming in from search engines might do better with Google AdSense but traffic coming in from social media might do better with affiliates. Really, it’s going to depend on your certain situation. I’m generalizing a little bit there. Email, I find, works really well when you’re selling a product, for example. The source of your traffic is another factor to consider.

There are some other things to keep in your mind, your topic, your readers’ intent, the size of audience, the location of your audience, the source of your traffic, these types of things, it’s worth knowing what they are because as I go through these six different income streams that you might want to consider, those factors will come into play.

Let me outline six of the options. By no means are these six the only options. These are just six of the most common things that I see bloggers doing as their first income stream. I’m not saying any of them are the best for you, Danielle. You’ve got to give it a go and I’ll talk a little bit later about trying different income streams because different income streams will have different fits for different blogs.

Number one and by no means am I putting this in order of priority, this is just the most common one that I see a lot of bloggers starting with, it is actually the one I started is Amazon’s affiliate program. Amazon’s associate’s program is what you will need to Google. To find it, I’ll link to it in today’s show notes. Some people are pretty much turning our podcast off right now because they don’t like Amazon’s associates program and I understand why that is. There are a number of reasons that I regularly hear from people that they don’t like it.

For one, in some places it’s just not available. There are some states in America that you cannot join the Amazon’s associates program and it’s got to do with tax and the legal aspect of it. I don’t really understand it because I’m not in one of those jurisdictions. Other people might be from other parts of the world where there’s not an Amazon store. There are legitimate reasons not to do it.

But often, the complaints I hear about Amazon’s program are that the commissions are quite small, they are. The commissions that you make on Amazon when you recommend a product and someone buys that product, you earn a little commission and the commissions are quite little, they’re I think 4% depending on the products. It can go a little bit higher. I have high commissions up to 8% or 10%. It’s not a massive commission that you get, particularly if you’re recommending low priced products. If you’re recommending a $10 eBook and you’re earning 4%, not a lot there, which I understand.

Other people complain about Amazon because the cookies don’t last long. If you send someone into Amazon, if they make a purchase, I think it’s within 24 hours you can get a commission but after that, you don’t. I will need to check how long that cookie lasts today. They’re some of the reasons that I hear Amazon being critiqued and they’re valid reasons but I still like Amazon and I still like to promote on Amazon. If you follow my Digital Photography School blog, you will see that I recommend cameras on Amazon all the time. Every time I talk about a camera, we link into Amazon with our affiliate code.

There are a number of reasons for that, that we choose Amazon even above camera stalls and that is because Amazon’s an incredibly trusted brand. We have a very US based audience. We know most of our audience know, use and trust and like Amazon. They know that brand, they trust it. It’s a safe option for them to spend their money on. Another reason that I like Amazon is that it’s not just books on Amazon. There are all kinds of products. If you have a high value product that you write about on your blog like a camera, 4% isn’t really much when you’re talking about a book but if you’re selling a $2,000 camera, it add ups over time. That’s one of the reasons that I particularly like it.

Another reason I like Amazon is that there’s more than just books on Amazon, there’s products from almost every category that you can think of. People tend, once they’re in Amazon, to start surfing around and I can see, I actually recommended a lens on Amazon yesterday from our Facebook page and no one bought the lens but I can track that people bought other things. I saw people buying books. I saw people buying cosmetics. I saw people buying nappies. I saw someone buying a necklace, jewellery and this was because I linked in pointing to lens. I would say that most people are buying more than one items. They tend to surf around and Amazon is very good at suggesting things for people to buy. Get people in the door at Amazon and Amazon’s very well refined, very well tested and then I will get this out for you.

Another reason I like Amazon as a first income stream, just to begin to learn how to monetize your blog is that it’s so easy to integrate. Amazon provides a variety of different tools and widgets that you can use on your site. You can just create text links but you can also develop little icons and widgets that you can put in your sidebar and even a shop that you can build as well.

Another thing I like about Amazon is that particularly around holidays like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, they are very well optimized and they often have really good promotions on them. If you can get people into the store at those times, people are in a buying mood but Amazon also have a lot of specials and so you can promote those types of specials as well.

Amazon’s not going to be a perfect fit for every blog but I do think it’s worth considering if you want to start out. One of the reasons I do particularly like it as a first one is that it’s so easy. You can be up and running with Amazon within a few minutes, just go to Amazon’s associates program, signup and you can be generating links pretty quickly.

The times that it may not be good for you is if you do live in one of those US states where it’s not allowed or if you have an audience that doesn’t live within one of the locations that Amazon has a store. Amazon has stores in America, they’ve got a UK one, I think they’ve got a German one. They’ve got a variety of different stores and you’d be aware of the ones in your particular area. I think there’s about to open up in Australia as well.

It may not be perfect for you but it’s one to consider. If you want to learn a little more about Amazon, check out episode 53 where I talk about how I made over half a million dollars with Amazon. That’s sounds like a lot but it’s come out of almost the last 15 years of blogging so split that up a little bit. I also have written a really extensive article on the topic called the Ultimate Guide to Making Money with the Amazon Program which is a text based version of that particular podcast in podcast episode 53. I’ll link to those in the show notes today.

That’s the number one, by no means is it the best. Number two that I want to talk about is other types of affiliate programs. This is another option that I think is very easy to do. There’s very little investment that you have to make when you’re promoting someone else’s products and there’s a variety of different types of products that you might want to promote.

Again, just for a recap for those of you who aren’t even familiar with that term affiliate, it’s when you recommend a product and you earn a commission when someone buys that product. You are given a link that has a little tracking code and so the person who’s selling the product knows you referred that and they were able to pay that commission.

There’s a variety of options here. You might want to promote a physical product. For example, Vanessa, many of you know Vanessa, my wife, she has a style fashion blog. It’s called Style and Shenanigans. She has an affiliate link from numerous types of physical products. She’s writing about fashion so she is linking into clothes store, clothes and shoes and bags, accessories, those types of things. She also writes about books so she’s recommending books on online stores. She’s recommending them on Australian stores because her audience is in Australia. She doesn’t do so much on Amazon.

She’s linking and promoting home wear products, vases and paintings and all kinds of those types of things, sheets, duvet covers and those types of things and then gift ideas. Around Christmas, she might do a list of 10 things to buy a guy for Christmas, or a woman for Christmas, or mother’s day, that type of thing. She’s talking all the time on her blog about physical products. When she promotes those products, they work quite well for her.

If you’re talking about physical products on your blog, find an affiliate program where you can recommend those types of products. You’ll find many these days, many normal retailers like actual brick and mortar retailers in shopping centers and malls that you go to. Many of them will have programs already. You could simply do a search on Google for the shop name affiliate program and you’ll probably find that many of them do. Of the shops that Vanessa shops in, there’s only really one or two that don’t have an affiliate program already.

Some of them will have their own affiliate program but most of them will use what’s called an affiliate network. Some of these might be networks like Commission Junction, or Commission Factory, or ShareASale, or LinkShare. I’ll link to those in the show notes today as well. There are networks around as well. The beauty of the networks is that they actually represent quite a few different retailers and different options for you so you might sign up for a site like LinkShare or ShareASale and you might be promoting three or four of their merchants at once which means you’re not getting lots of little checks and lots of little payments coming in. ShareASale will just send you that one payment every month.

Physical products might be a good fit for your blog if you’re writing about those types of things already and you can find products related. The other type of product that you can recommend as an affiliate is virtual products. These are usually more information based products. This is really where I started to ramp up my monetization. I started out with Amazon’s affiliate program and AdSense which I will talk about in a moment but then I very quickly learned that you could earn a higher commission if I was recommending an information product particularly an ebook.

The first ones that I promoted were ebooks on photography. I found that many of the people who are writing ebooks, even 10 years ago, now were paying 50% commission. You’re not looking at a 4% or an 8% commission like Amazon, you can earn a higher percentage. Again, really, it’s going to depend upon the reader intent. If your readers are there to learn something, information products like ebooks, or courses, or even membership sites can be very, very good. If you have people wanting to have community, you might promote membership sites. They tend to be more about where people have a forum and can connect with other people.

If people are there to learn how to do something, you might also want to recommend software products. On ProBlogger, we recommend hosting options, we recommend tools, landing page sites, plugins, those types of things, WordPress themes, they all have affiliate programs as well and they relate to the reason that people are on ProBlogger because they want to have good blogs and these tools enable them to do that as well. Think about that and you might want to do some research and look at what other bloggers are promoting in your particular industry. You might want to Google your topic and affiliate program, or your topic and ebook, or your topic and course. Many of the products you’ll find will have an affiliate program attached to them.

Some of those affiliate networks that I mentioned previously will have lots of information products in them as well. I find ShareASale has a lot of software as a service products that might relate to your niche. There’s another one called Clickbank that has a lot of more information product. E-junkie also as a lot of affiliate options for information products as well. Again, it’s really important that you not only choose a product to promote that is on topic for you, but you want to also match it to the intent of your readers.

Many of you will remember I had a camera review site back in the day. When I recommended teaching products or ebooks on that site, people weren’t buying those products because the intent of those people on that camera review site was to learn about which camera they should buy. It was much better for me there to link into Amazon because that’s where the product they were researching was. Promoting books on how to take better photos just didn’t work there at all. These days on my Digital Photography School site, the intent of the reader is to learn how to use cameras and so those ebooks do so much better. Again, match the intent of your readers with the product.

I do share more about affiliate marketing in episode 51. If that’s something you want to learn more about, go check that one out. Again, I’ll link to it in the show notes and I’ll remind you of all of these further listenings later as well in the show.

Number three thing that you might want to try and I see a lot of bloggers starting this way, particularly bloggers who’ve already built a bit of an audience and they want to start monetizing is advertising networks. This probably won’t suit a brand new blogger who doesn’t have an audience because this is one of those income streams that does really require you to have traffic. It’s not going to convert at all. You might earn a few cents if that, using an ad network. In fact, you might not even get into some ad networks until you have some traffic.

This is how I got started, but again, I’ve been blogging for a year and a half before I started to monetize. I signed up for Google’s AdSense network. It actually came out about the time that I started to think about monetizing my blog so I was lucky in some ways to get in the ground floor. AdSense is another one of these income streams that gets a bit of a bad rep from some bloggers. Some bloggers don’t like it because they don’t make much money from it and that could be because they don’t have much traffic or it could be that they have a traffic from a location that doesn’t monetize while using Google AdSense.

I find Google AdSense works really well for US audiences but it doesn’t seem to work as well for audiences from different parts of Asia, for example. It really is going to depend upon that location but it’s worth a try if you do have some traffic but you’re going to need a lot of it to really ramp things up.

Another advertising network that I do know a lot of bloggers who are doing quite well from these days is a network called Mediavine. Again, I’ll link to it in the show notes. They do have a few restrictions on who can join but the bloggers I know who get accepted by it say they do a lot better than they did from AdSense. On their page, you can actually go and have a look at some of their guidelines that they say. They say that you have to produce original content so you’re not let to repurpose content from other places and the categories that they say they accept bloggers from are food, parenting, DIY, health, fitness, fashion, travel, crafts, education or entertainment.

It’s fairly broad but there are some categories that they don’t seem to represent like politics, religion, those types of things. Really, if you fit into one of those niches, you might want to have a look it. They do require you to give them exclusive access so you cannot be running other ad networks here. They also say, “It has to be exclusive across mobile and desktop.” You also need to have 25,000 sessions a month, that’s a Google analytics measure there. If you’re getting under 25,000, you may not get accepted into it but it’s something to aim for, again.

They’ve got some requirements. You can check that one out if in you’re in one of those categories. There are other advertising networks around and if you are in another niche and you’re looking for one, you might want to pop into the Facebook Group and ask if anyone else is aware of any that might suit your particular niche. That’s the number three.

Number four is related to that because it’s still advertising. It’s what I would classify as a sponsorship. This is, again, not going to be relevant if you’re a brand new blogger because like ad networks, you do need to have some existing traffic to be able to sell sponsorships on your blog. Danielle seems to have some traffic so it might be a good fit for her. This is where you find a brand that is willing to work directly with you. In some ways, it’s cutting out the middleman like AdSense or Mediavine, you’re going directly to the advertiser.

I’m not going to go into great detail on this one because I think we’ll do a full episode on it in the coming episodes but I did talk to Nikki Parkinson about this in her recent interview in episode 196. There are a variety of ways that a sponsorship can work. Again, it’s only going to really work if you’ve got that traffic but a sponsor may be interested in buying a banner ad on your site, they may be willing to sponsor some content so they might want you to write a review of their product and then pay you for that. They might want to sponsor a series of content, we’ve done that type of thing on Digital Photography School where we might have done a whole series of articles on portrait photography, that was sponsored by Canon.

They didn’t actually do that but that would be an example and it’s not where you’re actually promoting a product but you’re presenting content sponsored by them. A brand might also be interested in hiring you as an ambassador if you’ve got a well-known face or profile in the industry, a brand might want to sponsor a giveaway or a competition on your site or they might want to do a combination of those things. This is what we often do on Digital Photography School, we will sell some banner ads, we might sell a banner ad in our newsletter as well, maybe some social media promotion and it’s a competition as well. We bundle things up.

There’s a variety of ways that you might want to work with a brand. Again, it’s going to only really suit bloggers who have a bit of an established profile and some traffic as well. You want to find a brand who wants to associate them with you. For that to happen, you need to be in good standing and have a good reputation.

The fifth thing that you might want to consider is creating your own products to sell. Up until this point, we’ve largely been talking about promoting other people’s product as an affiliate or working with a brand. You’re sending people away from your site selling other people’s stuff. That can work quite well particularly if you can get a cut from what you sell and that converts. But your own products might be another one.

This is one that I would suggest most bloggers might not have as their first income stream unless they have been around for a while because it does take some traffic but it also takes a lot of work. It’s going to be some investment that you have to make into creating a product particularly if it’s a physical product. You need to get it designed. You need to get it made. Even a virtual product like an ebook, you’re going to have to take some time to create that product.

My first product was an ebook. What I did is turn some of my previously published blog posts into the ebook and then I wrote some extra content that was exclusive to the ebook as well. It took me some time to get it together. It took me three or four months to create that ebook and get it ready to sell. It does take some work. The reason it worked very well for me was that I had a lot of the content already written and I already had an audience who is engaged. I had fans of the site. They’re willing to buy what I was selling. There was trust and relationship there.

This one is definitely more risky if you don’t have many readers or they’re not an engaged reader. If you have a lot traffic coming in from search engines, for example, and they’re people who just come in once and then never come back again, they’re less likely to buy from you because they don’t trust you as much. You have to really work hard on your marketing to convert them because you got to convert them in that one time they’re on your site unless you do some retargeting advertising later. But if you’ve got readers who are coming back again and again particularly if you’ve got email addresses of those readers, I find email is a great way to sell products.

If you got that engaged audience and you’re looking for your first income stream, it might be that selling your own product is the best way in because if you’ve got a very engaged audience, they’re going to be excited about your product and you’re going to actually make it a bit of an event and include your readers in the development of that product as well and bring them on that journey. Let them know that you’re writing an ebook ahead of time. Get them even to crowdfund the ebook using Kickstarter or that type of thing.

If products are something you’re interested in, you could check out episode 67 where I tell the story of my first products and also outline some steps that can help you to work out what product to make and how to make that product as well.

The last income stream that I want to talk about is where you sell your own services. Again, this won’t be relevant for everyone, not that any of them are. This is another way that I see some bloggers monetizing early in their blogging, it’s where they sell themselves in some way. This is obvious, if you’re a professional, you might be an accountant, or a lawyer, or a child behavior therapist, or you might have a business of your own on the side and this is where you use your blog to promote that business. I do know quite a few bloggers who didn’t have an existing business but then decide to sell services that relates to their blog.

Let me give you a few examples. I know two bloggers here in Australia who are fashion bloggers who now sell their services to fashion boutiques and fashion manufacturers, small fashion manufacturers to write copy for their websites and also to manage their social media. Because they’ve built up their profile as a fashion blogger, they’ve got some expertise in those areas, they then offer those services to others in that particular industry. If you’ve got a decent reputation in your industry already, you might do well from that.

Another example is a parenting blogger that I know who writes paid articles for a parenting magazine and for local newspapers. She has a regular column and she gets paid to do that. It may be that you have a service that you can offer people in your industry as well. Again, not going to be relevant for everyone but if you’ve already built up that reputation, it may be something you can do.

When I did a recent survey of full time bloggers, I surveyed about 100 full time bloggers. I found that over half of them offered freelancing services. I was really surprised at that but it makes sense because often when you are selling yourself as a writer, or a consultant, or as a coach in some way, you are able to charge a higher rate than you might able to get from selling an ebook or two. That’s another one to consider.

I’ve gone through six different options there. We started with Amazon’s affiliate program then we talked about other affiliate programs, we talked about advertising networks, we talked about sponsorships and working with brands, we’ve talked about creating your own products and then we talked about selling your own services. But the question still remains, which one should Danielle do and which one should you do if you are wanting to monetize your blog for the first time. Again, it really does depend. But if I had to choose just one, if I just had to choose which one, for me, it would probably be affiliate, it would probably be affiliate marketing.

Whether that’s Amazon or whether that’s another affiliate marketing relationship with a brand that’s more suited to your audience, I think it could work well. There are a variety of reasons that I think affiliate is the best way to go for many bloggers, not all but many. That is because there’s very low barrier to entry. You can sign up for an affiliate program and some of them will take 24 hours to approve you but many of them will approve you instantly. You can be generating some links that you can then be putting into your blog straight away.

The reason that I love affiliate marketing so much isn’t so much the income that you’ll get because in the early days, you’ll probably won’t earn a lot from it but you’ll going to learn a lot from it. You are going to begin to see what products your audience are interested in buying. You could be promoting a variety of different products. You could be promoting some physical ones, you could be promoting some high priced ones, you could be promoting some low priced ones and you could be doing some information products, you can try few things and then begin to see what your audience response to. This might help you to work out what you should create, what product you could then build.

Creating that product might be your ultimate goal but to work out which one to create and how to market it and how to price it, how to promote it, you’re going to learn a lot by doing some affiliate marketing first. For me, that’s probably the real beauty of it. The other thing you might also learn by doing some affiliate marketing is what type of products you could then be approaching to sponsor your blog. You might find that jewelry does really well on your blog or why not reach out to some jewelry stores or jewelry manufacturers and see if they would want you to become an ambassador or to become a sponsor on your site.

This is what I actually did in the early days of my blog, I did a lot of affiliate marketing and I worked out after a while on my Digital Photography School blog, the ebooks work really well. I didn’t create an ebook till 2009 but I was promoting ebooks since 2007 and I worked out that my audience, they like ebooks and they like them on certain topics and at certain price points. I created my first ebook on the topic that I knew would work and at the price that I knew would work as well. You’ll begin to learn a lot about what’s going to work with your audience.

I also learned on my very first blog, that camera review blog, that Amazon affiliate links were working well on my site. I began to approach camera stalls directly to sponsor the site. Again, you’re going to learn a lot there that can flow onto other income streams as well. If I was starting today, I’d probably identify a few key products to promote on my blog as an affiliate and then start with that.

A few last things to really keep in mind, and I really want you hear this. Making money from blogging takes time. It’s not an overnight get rich quick program. Most bloggers also have more than one income stream and that’s what Danielle mentioned in her question. We’re talking today about your first income stream, it’s not your only one. Most full time bloggers have at least two. Many of them have four or five different income streams. Most full time bloggers try income streams that don’t work for them too. Most full time bloggers have a stream of things that they have tried that didn’t work. Don’t just rely on one. Just because the first one doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean that others won’t as well so hang in there. Keep experimenting.

Another thing to keep in mind is that making money from your blog isn’t a passive thing, it’s not passive income. You are going to need to set aside time to monetize. A lot of people tell the story of my first ebook making $70,000 in its first couple of weeks. I’ve told that story from the stage a few times and I’ve heard other people retell that story. But they tell it as a he got rich overnight type story. The reality couldn’t be further from that truth. The reality is that it took me two years of building up traffic to a site. It also took me three months of working everyday to create that ebook and getting ready for that launch. It took years of developing trust with my audience.

Yes, you can make money quickly but it’s usually built on the foundations of a blog with a great archive of content that has an audience that you’ve worked really hard to build up, an audience that’s engaged. These are the foundations for that profitable blog. Yes, experiment with those income streams but don’t do it at the expense of creating great content, engaging with that audience, and promoting your blog as well. Those things are just so important.

I hope that somewhere in the midst of that is an answer for you, Danielle. Maybe affiliate marketing but maybe as I’ve talked today, something else has peaked your interest as well. I have mentioned a lot of further listening. I just want to emphasize that again. If you do want one of those income streams, here’s a list of a podcasts that you might want to listen. Firstly, episode 32, I’ll list all these in the show notes. 32 is an episode on answering that question can you really make money from blogging. I talked about seven things that I’ve learned about making money from blogging.

Episode 51 is about affiliate marketing, if you do want to explore affiliate marketing, how to do that, how to convert better than just putting an ad in your sidebar for an affiliate product, episode 51 is for you. If Amazon is one that you want to look at, you can listen to episode 53 which really builds on episode 51 so those two might work well in conjunction. If you want to create your first product, go back and listen to episode 67 because I really do talk about my journey in that as well.

If you want to learn a little bit more about working with brands, you might want to listen to that interview that I did with Nikki Parkinson. Just a couple of episodes ago in 196, I think it was. She actually talked there also about how she monetizes in a few other ways as well. It could be a good one to listen to if you haven’t already.

All those will be listed on the show notes at problogger.com/podcast/198. Lastly, if you want to do check out the Facebook group, head over to problogger.com/group where I’d love to hear about how you monetize your blog. There’ll be a thread announcing this podcast in the comments of that. We’d love to hear about your first dollar, how you made that first dollar, and what you would do differently if you’re starting out again today.

Thanks for listening today. I’ll be back with you next week to talk about another cool tool that’s going to help you in your blogging. Thanks for listening. Chat with you soon.

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Don’t Lose your Funds to Amazon – How to Stay Within The Operating Agreement


don't-violate-amazon-agreement

This is a guest post by Cathy Tibbles of WPBarista

Recently a lot of warning bells were sounding around the internet because of some changes to the Amazon Associates program. Looking at Problogger’s experience and the success of several other bloggers using affiliate sales, this post will take you through the importance of using Amazon Associates (or deciding if it’s right for you); and how to keep your account open and funds within your grasp.

How much can you really make from affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is earning income by referring products to your readers. When they purchase your recommended products, it generates a commission payment for you.

To earn affiliate income, two things must be true:

  1. you must have earned some credibility and trust with your reader
  2. the item must be in some way relevant to the reader

Over the last 13 years, Darren has reported $600,000 from Amazon affiliates alone! Smart Passive Income reported $94,824 in affiliate income for the month of January 2017. Google can provide a healthy list of monthly income reports if you’re interested in more; but keep in mind that those reports are from a small section of the blogging community that reports their income. My guess is a disproportionately high number of them are blogs earning over $1000/month.

If you want to create an affiliate marketing income stream, one of the best run-throughs is right here on Problogger – Podcast Episode 51.

The main reason bloggers prefer Amazon’s affiliate program is because it is so well known. Easily recognised companies have a higher perceived trust value to our readers, and we all know that more trust equals more sales.

The downside is the often lower ticket items coupled with lower commission fees. To find out if Amazon Associates is the right affiliate company for you, see Darren’s Pros & Cons list in this post.

That brings us to point number two in our research – what on earth happened to make Amazon the ‘bad guy’ overnight?

Amazon Affiliates Program Not Paying

Amazon Associates, the name of their affiliate program, is chock-full of legal jargon and difficult to understand. So I took apart the interesting (read: controversial) parts of the Operating Agreement and contacted Amazon directly for clarification.

Before we get into the consequences, let’s look at what actions are worthy of these consequences, shall we?

  1. Of course there are a bunch of regular things – don’t display their Special Links (affiliate links) on any site with illegal or inappropriate (R rated) content; don’t artificially boost clicks or impressions, and don’t generally be sneaky, crooked or malicious. Fair enough.
  2. This is the part everyone is up in arms about:

    “6. You will not engage in any promotional, marketing, or other advertising activities… in connection with… the Program, that are not expressly permitted under the Operating Agreement… For example, you will not engage in any promotional, marketing, or other advertising activities in any offline manner, including … email or attachment to email…”

    *Emphasis mine. More on this below.

  3. Every blogger using Amazon Special Links, must display this:

    “We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.”

  4. You may not use a link shortening service. They further go on to say that you can’t cloak, redirect or in any way obscure the link. I don’t know about you, but I have a ton of affiliate links that are organised with link shorteners to make it easier to link to! This is a no-no. In fact, the Operating Agreement says that you cannot use your own links in any way – you must use their supplied images, their links and their ‘code’.
  5. If you currently have posts or sidebars that pop-up, or any popup at all, they cannot contain any Amazon Special Link.And what dire consequences will Amazon level at you?

>>> Immediate account closure and forfeiture of all earned funds.<<<

From the Operating Agreement:

If you violate this Agreement… then, in addition to any other rights or remedies available to us, we reserve the right to withhold… any and all fees otherwise payable to you under this Agreement, whether or not directly related to such violation.

Yes, that says you will forfeit your fees, whether or not they are directly related to the particular infraction. I’m guessing even the rebels among us are motivated to stay in line, at least until we find new affiliate companies.

Now, let me take a moment to tell you why #2 above impacts 99% of bloggers …

99% of You are Violating the Operating Agreement

Do you use feeds? Are you familiar with that glorious machine-readable version of your blog that lets us download your blogs and read at our leisure. We use our own favorite feed reader like Feedly or Bloglovin.

Whether you know this or not, your feed (in WordPress) is always available and anyone can access it.

Interested in trying this?

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Go to yourblog.com/feed and you can see a bunch of awful looking code-stuff. That, my friends, is your feed!

Another very common use of the feed, is to attach it to a mass email provider – like Mailchimp or Convertkit – and send your posts automatically to subscribers. Do you see where I’m going with this?

If you link to Amazon Special Links within your posts and you serve your feed via email, you are violating the Operating Agreement.

Promoting your Special Links in blog posts and blog posts via email have to be pretty much the same thing, right? That’s what I thought… so I asked Amazon. Here is Cody, the service representative’s reply:

“Associate links can only be used on approved websites and are not permitted to be used in e-mails, newsletters or in any off-line manner. Sending links via email will cause your Associates Account to be shut down indefinitely.”

Um. I guess they take a different view.

So. Emails are out.

Let’s talk about maintaining delivery of your posts to subscribers’ emails, and somehow keeping Amazon happy at the same time.

Amazon Special Links & Email Dilemma

Solution One:

  1. Move all Special Links to the bottom of posts in a “Shop This Post” area.
  2. Change your emails to send excerpts only. This can be done either in your settings, or in your email program.

The downside is that you’ll need to edit each post! Uggg.

Solution Two:

  1. For WordPress users, install this plugin (disclosure: happens to be mine!) and it will automatically change all links (in the feed only) to point to your site.

    (Cathy’s plugin has been screened by ProBlogger’s own developer)

Downside – The reader will expect to be taken to Amazon, and instead will be redirected back to the post, where they can click again to purchase.

Two steps is not ideal, but at least you don’t have to edit each post, and you’re not in violation of the program.

Do you have another solution? Let us know in the comments!

And… like anytime our income is threatened, it’s a good idea to review your income streams and diversify!

Cathy Tibbles is the founder of WordPress Barista – your geeky girlfriends partnering with bloggers to take care of the technical aspects of blogging. 

The post Don’t Lose your Funds to Amazon – How to Stay Within The Operating Agreement appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

A Practical Look at Turning Your Blog into a Functioning Business

Following last week’s post on treating your blog like a business, this guest post from Anna Johansson provides some practical ways you can start turning your blog into a business.

In many cases, blogging starts out as a hobby or creative outlet for someone looking to have a little fun writing about a topic that interests them. But at some point, most bloggers reach a fork in the road where they have to decide whether they want to continue their blog as a personal endeavour or turn it into a professional pursuit. Considering there’s a lot of money to be made in blogging, a lot of people choose the latter route.

The problem? It’s not an easy road. Trying to turn a blog into a profitable business takes strategic planning, hard work, and precise execution. But if you think you have what it takes, it’s definitely worth a shot.

How Much Do Successful Blogs Earn?

Before diving headfirst into blogging as a business endeavour, most people reasonably ask, “How much can I make?” Well, there isn’t an easy answer to that question. It depends on dozens, if not hundreds of factors. Some make a few dollars on the side, while the largest blogs on the internet produce more than a million dollars per month.

The Huffington Post, for example, which is technically a blog, reportedly makes $2.33 million per month. Mashable brings in a healthy $600,000 in monthly earnings. The popular Life Hacker blog earns $110,000 per month, while the lesser-known Shoe Money blog brings in $30,000 per month.

If your head is suddenly spinning with ideas at the prospect of earning between $30,000 and $2.33 million per month…slow down. These are some of the most successful blogs in the world. Most people will never come close to sniffing these figures in a year, let alone in a month. However, it is possible. When you compare these blogs to the ones that make just $25, $500, or $1,000 per month, there’s an obvious difference in the approach. The more successful ones treat their blogs like functioning businesses – not hobbies.

Five Ways to Turn Your Blog Into a Business

While you aren’t going to make $30,000 per month from your blog any time soon, who’s to say you can’t start making $300 or $3,000 per month by the end of the year? It’s far from easy – and many fail trying – but the first key is to start treating your blog like a fully functioning business that’s hell-bent on bolstering the bottom line.

There’s obviously way more on this topic than can be fit into a single article, but let’s review some of the things you need to do and think about as you shift your mindset towards building a business.

1. Don’t Do it Alone

Most bloggers operate as a one-man team. At best, they solicit help from their spouse or a close friend. But would you ever attempt to build a successful business without ever hiring an employee, advisor, or partner? Hopefully, the answer is no because solopreneurs rarely taste success. If they do, they end up working themselves to death.

“No one is good at everything. We may have expertise in many areas, but we aren’t experts at every thing,” blogging coach Lisa Kerr says. “That’s why it’s important to find and build a team when you have a big goal. Actors have agents and managers. Writers have agents and editors. Public officials have an entire staff. Companies have dozens of teams. The fact is we need other people’s expertise.”

Don’t think you have the resources to hire writers, editors, and marketing pros up front? Feel free to get creative. Offer small amounts of equity in the blog. Trade content on your blog in turn for content on their blog. Provide a talent you have in return for a service they can provide.

The point is that you can’t cultivate a thriving blog without having some support. The demand for quality content is simply too high and there aren’t enough hours in the day for you to handle everything that’s required.

2. Find Your Voice

One concept new bloggers often struggle with is the idea that their blog can’t be everything to everyone. They want a blog that reaches the masses – therefore, they generalise everything they do in order to appease as many people as they can.

Hint: That doesn’t work.

Think about the most successful blogs in the world – such as the ones referenced earlier – and consider that even they don’t attempt to reach everyone. The Huffington Post targets liberal people on the far-left – specifically younger liberals. Mashable is squarely aimed at millennials. Life Hacker targets millennials who want to learn practical skills. Shoe Money targets people who are interested in earning money online.

These blogs still reach millions of people, but they’re able to do so because they don’t attempt to overextend their reach. There’s a fine line between targeting a niche with a large enough audience to build a profitable business around and trying to reach everyone on the internet. The difference between the two is identifying a voice for your blog and sticking to it.

“A voice, with respect to your blog, is a feel or style evoked in your writing that causes the reader to personalise what she is reading,” entrepreneur and blogger Jeff Goins explains. “Your readers begin to construct a person based on the voice of your blog. And when that happens, your blog ceases to be all things to all people and becomes something very particular to a certain group of people. And that is okay. That is the whole point.”

Not sure where to start? Large companies usually craft “style guides,” which establish standards for writing that can then be referred to when there are questions on language, tone, grammar, and structure.

And as a point of clarification – because there seem to be lots of misconceptions on the idea of developing a blogging voice – you can’t just copy someone else’s style. “If you’re going to develop your own style – your own blogging voice – you can’t just take another person’s voice,” blogger Jeni Elliot says. “You have to take everything, everyone that influences you and filter it through your own personality.”

Sit down and think about who you’re trying to connect with (your target audience) and how they talk and write. Do they use big words, or are they short and to the point? Are they sarcastic or literal? Do they prefer slang or grammatically correct sentences? Once you start uncovering these little facts, you’ll naturally find yourself developing a voice.

Your voice is your brand. Just as a business can’t survive without a recognisable brand, your blog can’t thrive without a voice that connects with readers. Don’t rush this process, but certainly don’t delay it. You’ll find that your voice will evolve over time, but the key principles will remain the same.

3. Create Value With Your Content

Monetisation may take place through other vessels (more on that in the following section), but for all intents and purposes, content is your currency. If you don’t have good content, your blog (business) doesn’t stand a chance of surviving. Specifically, your content needs to create value for your users.

Did you know that 94 percent of people who share blog posts do so because they think it’ll be helpful to others? In other words, people want content that’s constructive and applicable to their lives, not vague prose that lacks purpose. And while length isn’t always indicative of value, the average word count for top ranking content on Google is somewhere between 1,140-1,285 words.

The point is that while revenue may be produced in other ways, your blog’s content is what drives traffic to your business. Without content, everything else withers away. Consistently create valuable content that aligns with your voice and you’ll do well.

In addition to word length,valuable content is defined by actionability. Is the content you’re providing your readers with able to spur action and drive real results? Google wants semantically pleasing content, or content that answers questions.

Let’s compare two pieces of content to get a better idea of what we’re talking about here. We’ll start with this article, titled Carpenter Bees, Genus Xylocopa. It’s a fine article with good quality writing, but it doesn’t really provide the reader with any value. All it does is explain the characteristics of carpenter bees. Unless you’re merely looking for head knowledge, the article is pretty useless.

Now contrast that previous example with this article, titled 13 Home Remedies to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees. This article provides practical tips and suggestions for homeowners looking to ward off carpenter bees and prevent damage to their homes. After reading it, people can apply the knowledge learned. They’re also much more willing to share via their social profiles. Do you see the difference?

In order to create value with your content, you need to move your readers to action and give them a reason to share. It may sound obvious, but if you go back and review your posts from the past, you’ll find that many of them don’t create much tangible value.

4. Develop a Monetisation Strategy

In the beginning, when you’re still trying to transition from hobby blog to moneymaking business venture, the focus needs to be on creating quality content and engaging readers. However, as your audience grows and you start to see results, you should also start looking at opportunities for monetising your blog and driving revenue.

There are more than a dozen ways to monetise a blog, so you’ll have to experiment with some ideas and see what works for you. However, these are the most common techniques:

  • Product sales. Presently, one of the more profitable monetisation strategies is to sell physical or virtual products to blog visitors. Some bloggers choose to build online courses and sell access to customers, while others like to create tangible products and sell them through an ecommerce portal on the blog.
  • Advertising. The classic strategy is to turn pageviews into revenue by attracting advertisers and charging them for space on your blog. You can do this through banner advertising, CPM advertising, or even pay per click ads via Google AdSense.
  • Affiliate sales. If your blog is an industry where there are lots of different products and services from various businesses, you may find it profitable to join affiliate marketing programs and sell their products on commission. You don’t want to dive too deep into affiliate marketing or you may water down your blog’s value, but there’s a lot of money to be made in this niche.
  • Subscriptions. Finally, there are subscriptions. If your content is valuable enough, then you may be able to create premium content and stick it behind a “paywall” where loyal readers have to pay a monthly or annual fee to access it.

The key is to stay honest to your blog’s purpose and voice. You don’t want to pursue some monetisation technique that stands contrary to your blog’s long-term focus just to make a quick buck. You’re trying to build a sustainable business, not develop a side hustle. It’s always better to forgo a little revenue up front if it means making a smart decision for the future of your business.

5. Take Charge of Your Accounting

One of the biggest problems entrepreneurs encounter when trying to build their blog into a successful business is not knowing what to do with their finances. They end up mixing personal and business accounts, failing to keep meticulous records, and making other costly mistakes that could eventually get them in trouble with the IRS.

When it comes to taxes, you need to remember that you’re responsible for paying estimated quarterly taxes. This means you’ll have to set aside a portion of your earnings each quarter and cut a check to the IRS. Stay on top of this or you’ll quickly fall behind.

“On a monthly basis, when you review your P&L statement, put aside a percentage of your profit for taxes into a separate savings account,” accountant Brittany Turner suggests “A safe percentage to put away of your profit for taxes is about 30%. Your actual percentage may be more or less, depending on a number of factors, such as your total exemptions, your incorporation status, and your itemized deductions.”

Treat Your Blog Like a Business

There isn’t a ton of up-to-date information on the subject, but according to a survey conducted a few years back, just 7.4 million of the 133 million blogs tracked had been updated in the 120 days leading up to the study. Assuming that a blog needs to be updated at least once every four months in order to be considered profitable, that means roughly 95 percent of blogs are failures.

If you want your blog to be a part of the five percent that actually thrive, then you need to treat it like a business. It’s easier said than done, but you have to start somewhere.

Anna is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant. A columnist for Entrepreneur.com, HuffingtonPost.com and more, Anna specialises in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

The post A Practical Look at Turning Your Blog into a Functioning Business appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

Want Better Results? Treat Your Blog Like an Actual Business

This is a guest contribution from Larry Alton.

There are millions of blogs on the internet. Some are nothing more than creative outlets for people who are interested in hobby blogging. Others are successful brands that produce millions of dollars in revenue each year. If you want your blog to be successful, you have to stop treating it like a hobby. In other words, you need to treat your blog like an actual business if you want to get real results.

Five Signs Your Blog is a Hobby

Having someone tell you that your blog is more of a hobby than a business can be infuriating. After all, what do they know about your blog? But if you fear that your blog isn’t on the right track, then it’s possible that you’re treating it as more of a hobby. Here are a few signs that would reinforce this possibility.

  • Generic email address. Does your blog have a @gmail.com, @hotmail.com, @yahoo.com address? Generic email addresses like this may be free, but they don’t look very professional. This harms your brand’s reputation and is one sign that you probably aren’t as business-oriented as you’d like to believe.
  • No accounting records. Do you have any accounting records to track revenue and expenses? Even something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet will work. A lack of accounting records shows you aren’t treating your blog’s finances like business revenue.
  • Very little consistency. Do you spend time with your blog every single day? If you spend an hour on the blog one day, two hours the next day, take off four days, and then spend 30 minutes on the blog the following week, your inconsistency is a sign that you don’t take the demands of blogging seriously. You’re fitting it into your schedule, as opposed to setting your schedule around it (which is what should happen if it’s a business).
  • No investments in growth. When was the last time you paid for something that you believed would elevate your blog? It could be marketing, advertising, or a blogging course that’s aimed at bettering your results. If you struggle to remember an investment in growth, then you aren’t doing what’s needed to make your blog a business.
  • Little attention paid to analytics. Blogs thrive on analytics. In order to attract advertising dollars, sell products and services, or bring in revenue via any other means, you need visitors on your website. A failure to pay attention to analytics means you aren’t interested in making money.

If one or more of these signs ring true in your situation, then it’s time to consider that your blog may very well be a hobby. This doesn’t mean it’s destined to remain a hobby, but should indicate that something needs to change.

Here’s How You Can Turn it Into a Business

If you want to keep your blog a hobby, that’s fine. Just know that it won’t ever become a consistent source of monthly income for you. If, on the other hand, you hope to turn it into a business and produce real results, you need a plan. Here’s where to start:

1. Create a Concrete Work Schedule

Have you ever held a job where you simply decided when you wanted to go into work, how long you wanted to stay, and whether or not you wanted to get anything done on a given day? If you treated a job with this sort of attitude, you’d be fired quicker than you could spell “lazy.”

The only way to really treat your blog like a business is to create a concrete work schedule that doesn’t bend or falter because of outside factors. You may be working another job and only be able to dedicate three hours a day to your blog, but make sure you’re setting aside this time and only using it for blogging. Actually write it into your daily schedule to hold yourself accountable.

2. Set Objectives and Deadlines

“Don’t just blog aimlessly without a plan in place. In order to truly treat your blog like a business, you’ve got to serious about it,” says one blogger. “Set a goal of the things you want to achieve in blogging. Is there a certain amount of pageviews you want to hit or a number of posts you want to write? Whatever it may be, having a goal gives you something to work toward. Just make sure to set a deadline so you can achieve it in a timely manner instead of procrastinating.”

Goals give you something to reach for and allow you to measure your success. The more specific you can get, the more likely that you’ll be able to meet your goals. But even if you fail to meet your goal, at least you know you’re doing everything possible to make progress.

3. Seek Outside Help

You may be able to run your blog like a one-man shop most days, but a red flag begins to emerge if you never seek outside help.

“In order to offer amazing value and content to your target market, you should always be growing both personally and professionally,” career coach Elizabeth Smith says. “This means you have to continue to learn new ideas, products, and strategies!”

While smith suggests getting a mentor, you have to let mentorship happen naturally (and it typically takes months or years to come to fruition). What you really need to do is hire a consultant to help you with areas where you struggle. You’d be surprised how many qualified consultants can be found online at decent prices.

Why not just hire an employee to handle the issues you’re faced with? Well, you have to pay an employee on a consistent basis – regardless of whether or not you need them. With a consultant, you get specialised advice for a period of time and can then part ways with no strings attached. Consultants are especially good for things like big-picture business strategy, marketing, legal issues, and other complicated challenges.

4. Make Marketing a Priority

Speaking of marketing, it needs to be a big priority if you’re focused on growing your blog and building a brand. While writing may be the bones of a blog, marketing is what ensures people are reading what you’re publishing.

Feel free to have a consultant walk you through some marketing strategies, but this isn’t something you should outsource. Successful bloggers need firsthand knowledge of things like SEO, content marketing, PPC advertising, and search marketing in order to create a sustainable business.

5. Carefully Track Expenses

“When you start making any kind of income for your blog, it’s important to start tracking the income that’s coming in, and the expenses you’re incurring to keep the site operational,” blogger and finance expert Peter Anderson says. “The reason? You’re going to need to pay taxes on your income when tax time comes around. In fact, if you’re making enough money on the side, you’ll need to be making regular estimated tax payments during the year as well.”

A failure to properly track income and expenses could prove to be a fatal mistake. The IRS doesn’t care if you’re making $5,000 or $500,000 per year, they expect you to pay your taxes and provide documentation if asked.

6. Give Yourself a Paycheck

There’s always the debate over whether or not you should give yourself a paycheck or just pour all of the profits back into the blog. For the first few months that your blog experiences positive cash flow, it may be smart to put the money to work. However, after a while, feel free to start paying yourself a modest sum of money.

The reason you should give yourself a paycheck is that it solidifies in your mind the idea that your blog is indeed a business. If you don’t achieve the results you need each month, your paycheck is in jeopardy. If you exceed expectations for an extended period of time, a raise may be on the table.

7. Be Religious About Analytics

Any thriving company develops monthly, quarterly, and annual reviews to understand the health of the business and see where things are. For bloggers, one of the best ways to conduct performance reviews is by accessing analytical data from your blog. Throw these figures into a spreadsheet so you can quickly see a snapshot of what’s happening over time. This is just another way you can treat your blog like a fully functional business.

It’s Time to Take Blogging Seriously

If you talk with other people who made the decision to take blogging more seriously, you’ll see that the results are nothing but positive. Just ask blogger Rachel Green.

“Earlier this year, I took a step back and looked at what I was doing with my blog and how I could make it work better for me,” she says. “I started writing posts with more value and found my niche audience. I also started listening to what my audience wanted by analysing which posts got the most traffic and interaction and listening to what people where saying in the comments about each post.”

In other words, Green started to take her blog seriously for the first time – and the results left her pleasantly surprised. “Since making these changes, I have noticed triple the blog traffic I was getting before and an increase in new clients and shop sales as well,” she happily reports. And while a lot of other factors played into her growth, the fact that she sat down and made the conscious decision to take her blog seriously certainly played a part.

If you want to see your blog finally take off, then it’s time that you do the same. Start treating your blog more like a business and less like a blog. You’ll love the success and hobby blogging will no longer be something you’re even remotely interested in.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn

The post Want Better Results? Treat Your Blog Like an Actual Business appeared first on ProBlogger.