120+ New Viral tips and hacks in Blogging 2019
The growth of most people’s blogs is not limited by the size of the niche they’re part of. In fact, even successful bloggers rarely manage to reach the majority of their target online audience.
The real limit is often the amount of content that a single person can produce. Excluding a few bloggers who manage to obtain a celebrity-like status online despite publishing infrequently, there is a strong correlation between how much you publish and how popular your blog is.
By now, I’m operating under the assumption that your content is good, that you’ve presented it well, and that you’ve promoted your work through all the legitimate channels you can think of.
The easiest way to rapidly scale your blog at this point is to transform it into an online magazine or news site. This blog explains all the tips that viral your blog in 2018
Online Magazine vs. News Site
Both choices are collective blogs that require the help of other writers. They mostly differ in their frequency and content type.
An online magazine like Smashing Magazine typically publishes one or two articles per day. These articles tend to be HOWTOs about accomplishing certain web design–related tasks.
A news site like The Next Web publishes forty to fifty posts per day on tech-related events and announcements. Smaller news sites, however, could get by with just a few stories per day.
Magazines tend to require a few writers who can publish in-depth, informative articles on the topic at hand. News sites will require many writers who are on the ball with what’s happening in their niche and can quickly write a four-hundred-word piece before other news sites do (or at least create better content than their competitors while remaining timely).
Remember this important point when searching for bloggers/writers to hire. Before transforming your blog into a magazine or news outlet, consider what’s made it successful so far. If it was the excellent writing, ensure that the writers you hire are on par with your own degree of writing talent.
If you adopted a particular style or covered various topics in a certain manner, see if the same features that characterize your blog can be maintained as you expand it.
As usual, treat the process of expanding as an experiment. Make a gradual switch and see how your audience responds. Perhaps announce that a new writer is coming on board and then invite the community surrounding your site to welcome that person. If your audience is happy about it, slowly add more writers. Keep your readers in the loop and explain what benefits your decision to scale will bring their way.
Hire a Team of Bloggers
So you’re getting serious about your blog and are now looking for new writers to help you produce a substantial amount of content every week. Here’s how to go about it.
From Guest Bloggers and Your Community
The main advantage is that you don’t pay them. They are happy enough to do it for a backlink to their own site. The main disadvantage is that you don’t pay them. How much can you really rely on someone you don’t pay?
I don’t doubt you can get good articles from your most prolific guest bloggers, and you should certainly continue to promote your availability for guest posts.
Unfortunately, you can’t expect these people to post on a regular basis and to (necessarily) respect your editorial schedule, nor can you request a specific number of articles per week from them.
Unless you pay your guest bloggers, you should consider their efforts to be a helpful bonus. Every week you may have zero to N new posts coming from guest bloggers. These are certainly nice, but again, you can’t rely on their presence or frequency.
If you introduce economic rewards, you can start to fish for writers from your existing pool of guest bloggers. You already know who did a great job and who didn’t, so you can approach the right people with your proposition.
Since you’re paying them, if they accept, you can now rightfully request that they publish at least three articles per week or whatever schedule you agree upon.
Insightful commenters are another pool of prospective writers. Contact people that you feel fit this description and explain what you are trying to create and what you’re offering, and then see what they think about this proposition.
Keep in mind that people are not solely interested in money (particularly if you can’t offer much). People yearn to belong to something important. Make your project that something important.
If you can’t find the right amount (or type) of writers from among your guest bloggers and top commenters, consider asking your community directly. A simple “We are hiring” page and post-announcement should attract a variety of candidates.
The trick will be to select those who can write well and keep up with a regular schedule. Specify how much you’ll be paying up front so as to prevent wasting your and other people’s time if economic expectations differ.
From Job Boards, Freelance Sites, and Outsourcing Services
In addition to paying guest bloggers and recruiting from your community, you should consider placing local ads, listing projects on freelance sites, using outsourcing services, and posting on niche job boards.
The advantage of using ads on places such as Craigslist or Kijiji is that you may be able to find local talent that you can interview and meet in person and who can regularly contribute as a contractor to your blog.
You could use this approach to assemble your own newsroom locally rather than virtually. In turn, this grants your team a better environment for communication and collaboration. Of course, this also implies a more serious commitment to blogging as a business than your average virtual team of bloggers.
Freelance sites like Elance, Freelance.com, and oDesk are also decent venues to find people who are willing to write for truly reasonable fees (e.g., $20–$30 for a well-written article).
The main problem is that, in my experience, you’ll have to be very selective and go through a series of low-quality writers before you find a person you can trust and rely on to deliver the kind of posts you’re seeking.
Paying a little more and aiming to hire (actually) native English speakers is the way to go (assuming your blog is in English), if you want to keep the number of unsuccessful paid writer experiences to a minimum.
Being clear and detailed about what you want is also a must. Some people even go as far as to include special requests in their job description in order to filter out those who apply without having carefully read the description.
You could, for example, ask candidates to include an out-of-context word (e.g., peach) in their application so as to demonstrate that the candidate manually applied and carefully evaluated your position before applying.
It’s also a good idea to check out the feedback and comments left by other employers, but view such comments with a grain of salt. In my early days of hiring paid writers, I had a few bad experiences with contractors who had fantastic feedback. Always remember that people who are desperate for work will go to great lengths to game the system.
Often contractors on freelance sites don’t mind if you want them to act as ghostwriters whose name won’t be attributed to the posts they write for you.
This can have its advantages in some contexts, but I personally prefer not to publish other people’s writing under my own name. Either way, specify in your requirements whether the article will be published in your name or in theirs.
Alternatively, you can consider outsourcing to services that provide articles on demand. The advantage of such sites over freelancing ones is that you don’t have to go through the process of selecting writers, which will save you a considerable amount of time.
These types of services take care of assigning a prescreened writer to your article. If you order a set of posts in bulk, you may have several authors assigned to you who work in parallel, therefore reducing turnaround time and introducing a greater variety of writing styles.
On the lower end of the spectrum, you can get articles written for as little as $0.01 per word, which equates to a mere $5 for a five-hundred-word article. And such a piece will generally speak, be unusable garbage.
This approach works for MFA (made for AdSense) sites and content farms that don’t really care about the quality of the content, but it is absolutely useless for reputable technical or business blogs.
If you want to rely on these services for the convenience they offer, you need to aim for the higher end of the scale.
For example, if you are using TextBroker, a reputable outsourcing service, aim for their four- to five-star writers. At their current rates, you can expect to spend $10–$15 and $30–$35, respectively, for a four- or five-star, five-hundred-word article.
The quality is still highly variable, but your odds of obtaining a well-written article increase. Start with four-star writers, and if you’re not happy and your funds allow it, consider trying five-star ones. In my experience, five-star writers on TextBroker are better than four-star ones, but they’re not three times better.
Once you find a writer you like, you can request that same person again the next time you place an order (if the person is available), hence introducing some consistency to the writing you’ve outsourced. This is equivalent to hiring them directly, with the added convenience of having the site handle payments and disputes.
Niche Job Boards
If you are looking for a longer-term relationship with a blogger who will produce content on a regular basis, you might also want to try job boards that are specifically targeted toward bloggers or at people in your niche. The Jobs board on ProBlogger is an example of the former, while Careers by StackOverflow is one of the latter.
For regular bloggers, you would typically establish requirements up front regarding the frequency, length, and types of posts you expect to see and offer a monthly payment. If you look around, you’ll quickly notice that the going rate is not particularly high.
Of course, the more technical and specialized the content, the harder the time you’ll have found someone who’s willing to work on the lower end of the scale. In other words, while some people may have lower income expectations when blogging for hire, you still get what you pay for.
More elaborate arrangements exist, such as offering 50 percent of the ad revenue, but such terms would generally not attract or convince many qualified writers to come work for you.
Hiring bloggers can be a great business decision, but it’s one that requires an investment of time and money, so it’s the sort of option that’s best left for when you have a clearer indication of the economic potential of the blog that you are trying to scale.
Build Your Blogging Empire
What do you do when you feel you have exhausted the economic opportunities your blog can provide? You can scale horizontally, rather than vertically. Instead of diminishing your returns by putting much more effort into a blog that is already providing as much as is reasonable to expect, you can start a second blog.
The idea is that at times it may be easier to grab a second lemon than try to squeeze every last bit of juice out of the current one.
It is not rare to see wildly successful blogs launch sister blogs. If a multitude of blogs is born over time, they’ll progress into a network.8 Each site promotes the network, typically at the top and the bottom of each site, in turn sending each other visitors.
One such example is the Cheezburger Network. It all started with the popular LOLCAT blog I Can Have Cheezburger? and has expanded to now include dozens of blogs, including FAIL Blog and Memebase.
Despite the humorous nature of these sites, networks like this can be a very serious business. For instance, the aforementioned network received a $30 million investment Another example of one of the oldest blog networks is Gawker Media which includes popular blogs such as Lifehacker and Gizmodo Keep in mind that you don’t always have to come up with new domain names.
At times you may want to simply create new sections in your existing blog and dedicate the same kind of effort to them as if they were their own sites.
MobileCrunch used to be a site unto itself available at MobileCrunch.com; however, it has since become part of the new, larger TechCrunch.In the case of MobileCrunch, it isn’t even branded differently on the TechCrunch site. It’s just a category.
VentureBeat created ten or so brands; all kept on the same domain name. Each section is branded as if it were a standalone site (e.g., MobileBeat) complete with its own logo. If the topics are not related enough, it is preferable to use new brands and domain names for sister blogs.
Launch the Second Blog
As you probably can imagine by now, it is possible to create a media empire online by running a series of successful sites that promote each other. Is it easy? Certainly not; but once you’ve established one blog and managed to make it very popular, launching a second one and making it successful, too, is not terribly hard.
Picture this: you are running a successful blog about cars, and you now want to launch a blog about motorbikes. Your second blog won’t start from scratch. In fact, you’ve got the invaluable asset of firsthand experience under your belt now.
Not only that, but you’ll announce and talk about your new blog on your existing site so your feed readers can learn about it. And if you have a powerful presence on social networks like Twitter, your followers there will also learn about your new venture.
From an SEO standpoint, it is beneficial to link to your new blog from such a popular preexisting site, even if both are on the same server.
SEO will give you all sort of tricks, such as hosting the sites on different class C IP addresses to convince Google that the two sites are not related and therefore the links from the popular one to the new one should be valued a lot.
Ignore all that. It’s not worth your time or money in a scenario where you are already so successful.
Remember to have links in your navigation bar, perhaps an ad in the sidebar, and to mention the new blog several times in your posts as your site is just beginning to get off the ground.
Chances are, a percentage of your car enthusiast audience will also be into bikes and will, therefore, check out your new blog. Ta-da! Instant traffic for your second site.
Rinse and repeat the process of promoting new online properties from existing ones. Just be warned that if you are trying to create a network on your own, it can quickly become overwhelming. If you were posting ten times per week, now you need to post twenty, thirty, or more times, depending on how many sites you launch.
Networks are definitely not for everyone. They require multiple writers, ideally a few editors, and good management to ensure things run smoothly. You’ll also need a good hosting solution to handle all the traffic that an entire series of successful blogs will attract.
On the plus side, networks have huge economic and influence potential. If you manage to attract a few million visitors a month with your network, you’ll also have much more bargaining power when dealing with advertisers and sponsors, be able to command higher CPM rates, and also get larger deals.
Your Strategy for Social Media
Social media adoption has exploded over the past few years. It has become an integral component of any Internet marketing strategy, so it would be a disservice to you to leave it out, even if this blog is really about blogging and not about social media per se.
Part of the reason why social media has become so prominent is due to the innate desire that humans have to get together, belong to something, and share what they know, what they think, and what they do with other people.
Social media is an incredibly fast-moving target, so I won’t provide detailed signup instructions that will become obsolete before the ink even dries.
We will focus instead on the essential notions you need to learn in order to establish yourself or your business on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and whatever social media channel may become popular down the line.
Define a Social Media Strategy
Head over to Gary’s Social Media Count, and you’ll almost certainly be impressed by how much user-generated content and interaction happens on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in a matter of seconds.
We discussed social news sites like Reddit and Hacker News before, and in the rest of this blog, we’ll chat about how to establish yourself on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.
The actual steps may be slightly different, but the same principles will be applicable to other relevant virtual communities of your choice, present or future.
Plan and execute your social media strategy by following these steps:
1. Select the social networks you intend to target.
2. Create your social media profiles.
3. Cross promote your site and social properties.
4. Post frequently and interact with your followers.
Let’s address each of these steps with a great degree of detail. You’ll find common trends in the way you approach your social marketing strategy, regardless of the particular social network sites you’re working with.
Select the Social Networks You Intend to Target
A large number of successful networks have been established over the past few years. The following list includes a few types of common social networking sites:
General social networks (e.g., Facebook or Twitter)
Professional networks (e.g., LinkedIn)
Networks specific to a particular segment of the population (e.g., CafeMom or PatientsLikeMe)
Media-specific networks (e.g., Flickr or YouTube)
Social networks around a particular interest (e.g., Geni or GoodReads)
Industry-specific social networks (e.g., GovLoop or Channel DB25)
Mobile and location-based social networks (e.g., Foursquare)
There are thousands of social networks, with at least a few hundred well-known ones.
The good news is that all these channels allow you to reach most of the online population without having to pay (although you can advertise on most social networks for a fee).
The bad news is that there is a lot of noise. It’s one of those situations where you’re shouting in a very crowded, very noisy room, and as a result, it’s not easy to be heard or communicates with the people you intend to.
The key here is to select the social media channels that best work for you or for your business. Then establish a remarkable presence that enables you to genuinely connect with a targeted subset of that audience, acquire new followers, and further promote your content, yourself, and/or your company.
You can’t go after every social network out there, nor after all of the users of said sites. Attempting to do so would be a colossal waste of time and effort. So you need to be selective.
My suggestion is to shoot for a presence on the largest ones, including Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Then search for social networks that are specific to your niche or industry, if any exist. Your choice needs to be strategic and calculated, as each social network you add will generally require further promotion and attention on your part.
The choice you make will also depend on whether you’re attempting to promote yourself or a business. There are perfectly acceptable communities to establish yourself personally in for which the creation of a company account would seem out of place or against the site’s policy.
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Create Your Social Media Profiles
Now that you have decided which social networks you intend to target, you should immediately try to secure your social properties (e.g., accounts on these sites with your desired usernames). Depending on the network, you may be able to create a presence for your blog or business or you may have to settle for a personal presence only.
For example, the fictitious Acme Fireworks Inc. will want to register the Twitter account @acmefireworks, if available. If already taken, a variation using an underscore, prefix, postfix, or abbreviation may be necessary.
The same is true for YouTube, where you can create a video channel with the name of your choice, including your company or site name.
When it comes to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+, things are a little different. These sites, at least at this stage, require you to sign up as an individual and then allow you to add a company identity that you manage/represent.
For Facebook, once you have a personal account, you’ll be able to define a fan page by clicking Create a Page. On LinkedIn, you can click “Add a company.” Finally, visit plus.google.com/pages/create to do the same for Google+.
Personal Presence vs. Business Presence on Twitter
My Twitter handle is @acangiano (by the way, feel free to follow me there). If I were to launch a consulting practice tomorrow, I would probably keep using my personal handle for that business. This is because the company would be focused on me, and its success would greatly depend on my personal online presence.
But what about a business that sells products as an online retailer or a SaaS? In such a case, I would absolutely need to create a dedicated account for the company.
My perspective and existing customers would search for and refer to the company name on social networks, as very few people would even know who the founder of the company was. I could and would promote my company with my personal presence as well (e.g., @acangiano), but the business identity would be key.
OK, those two cases are straightforward enough. What about edge cases like a blog that’s not a business per se? Ask yourself if the blog is mainly a single-person operation or whether it’s collective. Collective blogs get their own account because they transcend your personal identity.
If it were to be a technical blog that I ran on my own on a domain different from my own name, I would probably go through the effort of securing a Twitter account for it if I was serious about the project.
When I started on Twitter a few years ago, I didn’t bother doing that for my sites Programming Zen and Math-Blog, but I did when I launched Any New Books (i.e., I used @anynewbooks).
Brand Your Social Properties
Your mindset for social properties shouldn’t be intended to sell products outright like a used car salesman. Instead, you’re trying to inject yourself into the active discussion going on within a community of prospective and existing customers. The objective here is to obtain social currency, which is about affiliation, conversation, utility, advocacy, information, and identity.
It’s important to understand that these social properties represent you just as much, and often more than, your site does. This means that you should brand these properties within the limits of the platform.
For Twitter, you’ll need to use a custom image (i.e., an avatar) representing your blog or business. Your icon will be shown along with each of your 140-character-or-less messages (known as tweets) to your followers. You want to be identifiable among the stream of messages shown to your followers, so make sure to pick a good avatar (such as the icon within your logo, if any).
Accounts with the default Twitter egg icon rarely attract followers. Likewise, you should commission a background design that includes your logo so that your profile page is better branded and able to convey a sense of professionalism and care.
Backgrounds on Twitter can also be used in clever ways. Some people opt to create a collage of tweets from customers and influential early adopters who have praised their company. Showing testimonials in this manner is a powerful social proof trick that increases one’s conversion rate from profile visitors to followers.
Be sure to include an enticing description in your profile (as well as your URL in the appropriate field), as this will be shown at the top of your profile page and will help convince visitors to follow you. That’s pretty much it when it comes to customizing your appearance on Twitter (it’s really quite easy).
For Facebook, after you have created a fan page, you should provide a profile image, a URL, and a description that will appear in the sidebar and in the Info tab for the page. You’ll also be offered the chance to choose a URL that will identify your Facebook fan page (e.g., facebook.com/anynewbooks).
In the case of both social networks, get your account/page name right the first time, as you won’t be able to edit it at a later stage (technically you can on Facebook, but only if you have less than a certain amount of Likes).
Unlike Twitter, Facebook enables you to create custom tabs that you can use for newsletter signup forms, sweepstakes, and other activities that can reinforce your brand and help you interact with your followers.
To kick things off, you should post a welcome message that suggests you’re open to the conversation. Being informal and relaxed is far better than portraying a corporate image. This is the microblogging equivalent of your welcome post on a blog.
Customize other social networks you are targeting in a similar fashion. Some are more liberal than others when it comes to branding your identity on the network, but you should strive for a professional look.
Social properties are an opportunity to reach new customers and readers as well as to strengthen your relationship with them. But if you use these sites incorrectly, they can do more damage than good. Starting out with a good branding effort is essential.
How to Get Your Initial Followers
All right, let’s assume that by now you have your branded pages on a bunch of social networks that you intend to target. Everything is in order.
The problem is that you have zero followers/fans to start with. How do you go from zero to hundreds or thousands of followers?
We’ll discuss techniques to attract followers in an ethical way in a moment, but first, it’s worth clarifying that the viral nature of the beast requires an initial group of followers who can amplify your messages by rebroadcasting your updates to their followers.
On Facebook, as a page admin, you’ll be able to invite your existing Facebook friends to like the fan page. When I launched AnyNewBooks’s page, I selected about a hundred Facebook friends that I already knew were into books and technology.
Many of these friends, colleagues, and acquaintances liked the page. Some did it because they were already existing users of the service, others because they were genuinely interested, and some, I’m sure, just to humor me.
Either way, it got my page more than fifty initial Likes. This means that new updates I posted on the page appeared in the News Feeds of these fans, who could then interact with the updates by liking them, commenting on them, or even sharing them with their friends.
And hopefully, their friends will do the same in turn, and so on. If your updates are engaging and your fans loyal enough, you can leverage a network effect and reach thousands of people’s News Feeds very quickly.
For Twitter, I did something similar. I announced the new account from my personal Twitter account, leveraging my existing contacts in this case as well. If you don’t have the luxury of an existing account and network, fear not. We’ll delve right into how to acquire fans/followers in the next few sections.
Cross Promote Your Site and Social Properties
You have a successful site and you’ve created various accounts on social networks. Cross promoting those accounts means promoting your social properties on your site and in turn, your site/blog on your social properties.
A successful blog has a constant stream of new visitors. Many of these readers will have accounts on major social networks. Your goal is to let them know about your presence there as well.
This will not only allow you to better connect with visitors in an environment that they’re already familiar with, it will also help you grow your presence there.
Furthermore, search engines are now considering social media signals more frequently when determining the ranking of your pages as well as when showing friends who recommended a page in the results.
Your network of followers and fans can quickly expand if your site or blog visitors engage with the social elements of your page.
For all these reasons, your blog should include widgets to +1 your business page on Google+, follow you on Twitter, and like your fan page on Facebook.
You can find all sorts of widgets and snippets of codes to achieve these actions, including official resources from Google, Twitter, and Facebook. In blogs, such widgets are typically located toward the top of the sidebar.
When a visitor decides to +1 your blog, your site ends up being listed and linked in the list of +1 for that user profile. When visitors follow you on Twitter, your follower count increases, which in turn shows social proof as well.
Finally, when visitors like your fan page through your site, they’ll increase your Facebook counter, automatically subscribe to your updates on Facebook, and broadcast that they just liked you to their friends.
A small percentage of their friends may decide to like you as well, and in turn, some of their followers will too, and so on. Again, a network effect can take place if enough people genuinely like your brand/site/blog.
For Facebook, opt to use the official Like button so as to show a random assortment of your followers. Faces add a powerful human element to what you’re doing and may increase trust for your project or business as well as invite others to like the page also.
If you have Twitter embedded in your site, opt for either its compact Follow button or one of Twitter’s widgets that showcase your latest tweets.
Your fan count should also be shown (both for Facebook and Twitter). As we discussed before when talking about FeedBurner counters, showing that you have a large following act as social proof that what you are doing is worthwhile, interesting, and worth paying attention to.
If you are trying to attract a large following, you can make your social properties part of your call to action. At the bottom of your blog posts, for example, you could invite readers to like you, follow you on Twitter, etc. You could also place this call elsewhere, such as on the confirmation page for an order or newsletter signup.
As of late, mentioning social properties have become increasingly popular in offline advertisement campaigns (e.g., fliers, billboards, and TV commercials and programs).
Even software programs are beginning to integrate social features in an attempt to have users share with their friends the fact that they are using that particular software.
It’s all fair play as long as you don’t trick or force your users into taking the social action you ideally hope they’ll accomplish. Also, remember not to go overboard. Your Facebook page may be
Author Information in Search Results
It’s becoming more and more common for Google to include social elements in its search results. By associating the content you produce with your Google profile, it’s possible for your face to show up in the search results, thereby giving your entry that much more of a feature spot.
You can read about adding author information to search results at google.com/support/ webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=1408986. important, but it shouldn’t be included in lieu of your official site in any paid advertisements you may do.
After you’re done setting up a way for your visitors to discover your social properties, you should ensure that the same is true the other way around, too. People may come to know you via social networks by way of their friends. You want them to immediately be aware of your site when they discover you this way.
This is why I recommended earlier that you include the URL of your blog (or site if you are representing a business) on sites like Twitter and Facebook. Include it in your background image as well (in the case of Twitter) and whenever possible in your status updates.
Whatever you opt to do, don’t be shy with your main URL on social properties (within the limits of each site’s policy and the netiquette for that particular community).
Post Frequently and Interact with Your Followers
By far the easiest way to grow a following is to be interesting and approachable (which really isn’t that different from regular blogging).
In order to attract more followers, your account needs to be seen as one from a subject matter expert who offers quick quotes, insight, comments, and shares links to interesting stories (from other sites) related to your niche.
These stories will be, for the most part, published elsewhere by other people, not by you on your own blog. You can also post announcements and status updates, share what you are working on, and give examples of praise you’ve received.
The same is true if you are promoting a business. Don’t post a hundred updates per day, or people may begin to ignore the messages that are most important. These are generally messages that announce something, sell something, or come directly from your blog.
Why should people follow you? Because you post great links and comments about your industry. Again, it’s not that different from what you aim for when blogging in its more extensive form.
The Twitter-style you adopt should be similar to that of your blog but perhaps a little more relaxed. People expect to interact with a real person and not an emotionless corporate robot. Being witty and giving your audience a laugh here and there will do wonders for your brand, even if you’re representing a Fortune 500.
Keep in mind that you can post on Twitter and then have the same message appear on Facebook. To do so, simply connect your Facebook account to your Twitter profile settings.
Creating Lists and Groups
To further promote your account on Twitter, you should also create lists of users who tweet about topics that are related to your main interests (a list of well-known Java-Script programmers, for example, if that’s your niche). When people search for such a list, they’ll find you and possibly end up following you.
For Facebook and Twitter, you can do the same by creating thematic groups or by interacting with existing ones and generally being helpful to others within these kinds of communities. In doing so, people will notice you and want to find out more about your blog or business. (Just don’t spam such groups with your links.)
Tools for Twitter and Facebook
There are a few tools that you may find useful for managing your social media activities and keeping the posting frequency relatively high.
I like to use (or have successfully used in the past) the following:
TweetDeck is my choice to monitor my accounts’ streams, mentions, and a few target keywords (for example, technical blogging).It can also be used to schedule tweets at specific times and is my default Twitter client (it supports other social networks, too). Another dashboard worth checking out is HootSuite.
SocialOomph is used to automatically send a direct welcome message text to followers (as well as to carry out other automated tasks).15 An automatic welcome message can be particularly useful in opening up conversations and showing new followers that you are approachable. Just don’t include your link within it or it will come across as aggressive at best and spammy at worst.
In the past, I’ve used automated direct messages to send out coupons after announcing a Twitter promotion so that those who followed me received a discount. It wasn’t spam because the scope and context of the promotional message were clear to most followers.
I use TwitterFeed to automatically broadcast every new post I publish on my blogs to Twitter (and optionally Facebook). To do so, all you have to do is provide a source (i.e., your RSS feed) and a destination (e.g., your Twitter account). TwitterFeed will do the rest for you. You can also define how the message will appear, what URL shortener (e.g., Bitly) should be used, and so on.
I like to include a prefix such as “New blog post:” and then only include the title and shortened URL in the message to highlight that it’s a post of mine and not just a link I’m sharing. You can customize virtually every aspect of the process, and TwitterFeed will even provide some basic statistics on the number of clicks each link receives.
Buffer queues up tweets as I write them or as I find interesting links around the Web. This app will automatically try to calculate the most beneficial times and schedule your tweets so as not to flood your readers with too many in a short period of time. The main aim is for your tweets to have the maximum impact and reach.
Interact with Your Followers
What’s the point of having a hundred thousand followers if they’re not personally interested in your brand? If they are not involved? Along with being interesting, you need to be approachable and ready to converse with your audience.
When people ask you questions, try to reply to them whenever you can. When they praise you, thank them, and if the compliment is worth bragging about, rebroadcast it to your followers (on Twitter, this act is called a retweet).
Doing so will give your followers further confirmation of their existing positive bias toward you and your brand and make the original commenter happy that you noticed him or her.
As a matter of fact, don’t just retweet praise. Also, retweet interesting people you follow when they post great messages or links. Doing so will make your participation valuable, and chances are they may do the same and reciprocate with you.
If you take the time to interact with your followers, you’ll naturally grow your brand and, as a result, people will be more likely to share your important announcements, posts, and sale offers.
Post Frequently and Interact with Your Followers
Remember that it’s not just about being responsive there, you should be proactive in the way you interact with followers anywhere online. Engage them, both on Twitter and Facebook, by asking questions.
If you’re a company selling books, ask them what books they’re currently reading, what’s the latest blog they bought, whether they give books as gifts for the holiday season, what their favorite blog ever is, and so on.
So long as you don’t constantly bombard your readers with questions, you’ll see a great deal of participation from people who are eager to connect with you and share their knowledge or enthusiasm for the subject you’re covering.
On Twitter you can also actively search for people who ask questions that you may be able to answer. In fact, you can even use the search function to find people who are interested in your specific topic. If you follow people that you find are genuinely interested, they’ll take notice and some will start following and interact with you as well.
Don’t Try to Game Twitter
Resist the urge to game the system. The Twitter API has limits in place to prevent you from automatically following thousands of users at once, so if you had a bot that follows people in your niche in place, it would have to be a bit clever to bypass Twitter’s detection. If you are caught doing such things, your account may be banned, so it’s not worth the risk.
A lot of self-defined social media marketing experts will have thirty thousand or more followers on Twitter. When you take a closer look, you’ll find that they often follow a roughly equivalent number of people as well.
More often than not they used software that allows them to follow thousands of people over time and then automatically removed those who didn’t follow them back.
Others will go so far as to use lists of people who automatically follow you back if you follow them in order to guarantee a larger number of followers— all for some form of social proof about their expertise.
Twitter has become more aggressive in curbing this type of gaming. It’s not worth getting banned just to obtain a large number of followers who will very rarely engage with you anyway.
Resist the temptation to spam users by messaging links to specific people by including their @name.17 For example, the following message would be considered spam:
Should I Follow People Who Follow Me?
Scroll through the list of people who follow you on Twitter and only follow back those people you genuinely find interesting. Be selective or it will be really hard to inject yourself into conversations that matter.
If you follow people back almost indiscriminately, you may end up following spammers and other undesirables. And once you follow someone, you’ll receive more notifications about their interactions with you via email (unless you change the relevant settings). They can even DM (direct message) you and spam you privately.
Alternatively, let’s look at a different scenario, one where I am monitoring the keyword new blog on Twitter, where someone has posted the following tweet:
I loved Infinite Jest, can someone recommend a new blog like it to me?
I could respond, even if the person is a perfect stranger, with a few blog suggestions, and doing so would not be considered spam.
However, if I were to reply automatically through software or manually with the following tweet, it would be seen by many as spam.
When you monitor keywords, be sure your reply adds value and doesn’t just push your product or site. Your site can be mentioned if it’s a good answer to a specific question though (just play things by ear in this regard). For example, check the following conversation on Twitter:
Where can I find out about new blog releases?
@example You could try our free service at http://anynewbooks.com. Please let us know if it’s what you are looking for.
This would not be classified as spam. But should you do it on a daily basis? Probably not, and not just because it’s time-consuming and may fail to bring a positive return on investment your way. The real reason is that overzealous people may mistakenly consider your message as spam and as a result flag you in the system.
Furthermore, your profile page will look like a series of unsolicited “You can check us out”-type messages without the context of actual back and forth Twitter conversations. You don’t want your brand to be represented in that way.
Final Tips for Social Media
Here are a series of final tips that should help you live the social media experience in a positive way.
Check your statistics to figure out how much return on investment you are actually receiving from your social media efforts. Remember, you are doing these things for social currency and for a lot of reasons that can’t be easily quantified. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to figure out if there is a direct correlation between the links you share and the number of sales you receive.
Monitor your influence over time by using services like Klout. While these services are far from perfect, they should give you a general idea of where you’re standing compared to others, as well as give you additional interesting stats (such as your true reach on Twitter).
It’s a numbers game. On average, only 5 percent of your Twitter followers will bother to read a random tweet you make, so keep tweeting and tweeting.
At the same time though, don’t obsess over numbers. Focus on adding value and building relationships with your customers or readers. Twenty early adopters who are raving fans of your brand are better than a thousand apathetic followers who casually followed you.
Social networks are made up of people. Never forget to treat everyone with respect by making them feel welcome as part of your conversation. Also, cultivate your relationship with early adopters as much as you can; they’ll provide invaluable feedback and help you increase your reach on social networks.
Hecklers will criticize and attack you on social networks as much as commenters do on blogs. Follow the usual guidelines. Ignore trolls, but politely address valid criticism or misguided folks without belittling them.
Don’t waste money on pay-for-tweet services. Paying up to thousands of dollars to have someone popular plug your message is not the way to go about building a loyal following.
Imposing a Like or a tweet before granting the download of a given product is not liked by many, but it can be very effective. Likewise, sweepstakes, giveaways, and contests wherein participants must take some social action are a great way to spread the word about your site or product.
YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. Grab a camera, get some screencasting software, and start rolling. If you create informative or witty videos, you’ll quickly grow an impressive following.
If it’s funny or particularly impressive, your video may even go viral and become a meme. That’s pure gold for your blog or business. (By the way, top YouTube vloggers (i.e., video bloggers) make a fortune from their clips.)
If you are running a business, don’t forget to try out a paid advertisement on social networks that permit this. If the ROI is there, it’s a fast way to earn new customers. On Facebook, you can even advertise your fan page and prompt people to like your page through your ad.
What your friends buy affects what other friends buy too, and so on. Social media is a huge opportunity from this standpoint. If you have a business, you can greatly increase your revenue by crafting your site so as to encourage customers to share the fact that they are interested in an item, or that they just bought one, with their followers. (Don’t forget social media when it comes to your thank-you e-cart page either.)
Wordpress is one of the most widely used content management systems (CMS) in the world. It’s not that difficult once you get rolling, but be aware that there is a bit of a learning curve, and prepare yourself for a challenge. Remember!
Learning new skills is tough in the beginning, but if you persevere, anything is possible.
The great thing about Wordpress is that you don’t need to know any code to get a beautiful looking website online. The only real challenge you’ll face is becoming familiar with some of the parts of Wordpress (I may call it WP for short), what they do, and where they are located.
Unfortunately, I can’t teach you everything you need to know! Wordpress can do a lot of stuff, and there is no way to explain it all, especially in a text-based ebook. There are tons of tutorials you can find on YouTube or written guides people to publish on their own blogs.
I will give you a basic rundown of the main elements you need to know, and you can learn the rest as you go. In the last blog, I will direct you to some resources with tutorials on how to build Wordpress websites for affiliate marketing.
Wordpress Main Elements
Dashboard: This is a quick snapshot of different things happening on your website. I rarely use this, but it’s a prominent feature of the Wordpress back-end.
Themes: This is where you can find and choose the look of your website. There are 10,000+ free ones to choose from that you can download to your website automatically in this area.
Widgets: These are little “boxes” located in the sidebar or bottom (footer) of your website. The location, size, and features of widgets vary greatly based on a theme. Don’t forget to remove the default ‘meta’ widget from your website as serves no purpose. I always like to start of a new site with a “recent posts”, “pages”, and “search” widget in the sidebar.
Menus: What they do is pretty self-explanatory, but how to use them might not be very intuitive. Custom menus are located under Appearance > Menus. You can create a list of pages or posts on your site and put them in a variety of menu areas on your site. The design, location, and a number of the menus you have depend on your theme.
Users > Your Profile: This is where you can write a short user profile about yourself. This will not be visible on the site unless you are using a plugin or widget that takes information from this page.
Settings > General: You can define the name of your website and your tagline on this page. DO NOT change the Wordpress Address or Site Address or you will break your website.
Settings > Reading: There are some interesting settings here. We currently have a blogroll on our homepage, but you can also use a static page if you want. You can set how many blog posts show on your blogroll, and whether to use a full text or summary for the blogroll. I highly recommend using the summary.
Settings > Discussion: This is your comment settings area. You can uncheck “Attempt to notify any blogs linked to from the article” and “Allow link notifications from other blogs” because we don’t need those. Leave everything else as-is.
Settings > Permalinks: You probably don’t have to mess with this area, but double check that the settings are set to “Post Name http://website.com/sample-post/” OR “Custom Structure http://website.com/%postname%/. This is important for search engine optimization (SEO).
Plugins: These are like little ‘apps’ that can add features to your website. There are tons of free ones that can be downloaded under Plugins > Add New. There are also paid ones that usually have better features, better code, and support.
Comments: This is where you moderate comments on your website
Pages/Posts: Pages and posts are where you publish content to your website. Posts and pages look exactly the same to search engines, but there are some minor differences to consider when choosing which ones you want to publish your content to. In general, pages are for core elements of your website, while posts are for your keyword optimized content.
Core Elements To Your Website
At this point, if you have an empty Wordpress website live and can log into the back end, your business is live. This freaks some people out and they worry that someone will land on their “incomplete” site. Don’t worry.
No one is going to find your site until you start publishing content, and even then, you probably still have a few weeks leeway where no one important will see anything you’re doing.
There is no website “launch date” in this business! If you wait until your website is perfect for launch, you could delay rankings and earnings for several months. Every day that your website is live and indexed in Google is a point working in your favor. Please do not try to keep people off your site until you think it’s perfect for viewing because you are only shooting yourself in the foot.
Core Elements To Your Website
How you build the core of your website – actually – how you build your entire website is up to you. There is no magic formula to making money online, and no website structure that is going to guarantee rank, visits, and sales.
That being said, there are a few core elements I always include in my websites, and if you are starting your first niche website, I am going to recommend you follow this structure, at least in the beginning.
You can always make changes later. Content can be updated, deleted, or redirected to new pages. Nothing is permanent, and you have the option to be as creative as you want with your own business.
Core Element #1: Blog Roll
By default, your blogroll will be your home page. As you publish new articles to your website (called blog posts), an excerpt will be posted to your home page.
When people land on your website, they can see a list of your recent activity. How this list is displayed will depend on the theme you use (like a ‘skin’ for your website). There are free and paid themes to choose from.
Free themes can be accessed within your Wordpress dashboard area under Appearance > Themes. Paid themes can be bought and downloaded from different companies on their website.
They are then uploaded to the same area under Appearance > Themes > Add New > Upload Theme. You can just drag/drop the .zip file you downloaded or you can click the “upload” button and find zip file in your downloads folder on your computer.
Larger themes may need to be uploaded via FTP, a kind of “app” or “software” that allows you to access the directory of your website files. I prefer YummyFTP, but CoreFTP and FileZilla are two popular FTP clients.
If you’ve never done this before, you’ll probably want to watch a YouTube video on how to do it, but for right now, using free themes will be fine so you won’t have to mess with FTP.
For paid themes, there are thousands to choose from. My personal favorites to use are from Studiopress, but there are many others out there like WooThemes, YooThemes, Elegant Themes, and more!
Having your blogroll on your homepage will look quite boring in the beginning because you don’t have any content published yet. It may even say something like “There’s nothing here!”, or “Hello World” if you keep the default example post up there. Don’t freak.
This should just be an incentive to start building your site and start publishing content ASAP. But if you take your time, it’s not going to damage your website, so don’t worry about it.
Core Element #2: About Me Page
This is a very simple way to get introduced to the Wordpress editor and publish your first piece of real content. No research necessary! Just write from the heart – something about yourself, and include a picture.
I always like to write something about how I became interested in the niche I chose, and what kind of activities I’m currently doing as related to that topic. Am I a beginner? An expert? Somewhere in between? How does this activity affect my day to day activities?
Be sure to include a picture of yourself! Maybe not so surprisingly, people are curious about website owners. When they read your articles, if they like them, they will naturally want to see WHO wrote this great stuff other than just some “admin”.
People want to be your fan. By including a picture they can make that visual connection that you are a real person they can talk to.
This increases your trust factor. While Google may not be able to see who you are physical, they do see when people return to your website, leave comments, and share your website on social media.
The more PEOPLE trust you, the more Google trusts you.
Core Element #3: Contact Page
Part of having a business is going to be engaging with your visitors. This can be done in the comment section on individual pages, but it can also be done through email. Being available for questions means more opportunities for sales!
Creating a contact page on your website is a must, and it’s pretty easy. In it’s simplest form, you can simply say contact me at email@example.com (or whatever email you set up for yourself).
However, to get a pretty form where people can type in their information and get in touch directly from that page you can just install a plugin. A free one that I use is Contact Form 7.
Some plugins have a settings area and then you can add a bit of code to the page you want to define as your contact page. Some allow you to change the page layout by adding a “contact page” option to the Page Attributes section of the Wordpress editor.
If you plan on placing Google ads on your website at some point, you definitely need this! For many folks, Adsense will be how they make their first $1 online (more on that later), but I am not a fan of this method of monetization.
The general idea is that you want to inform people of how their private information is going to be used (or not used). The sad truth is that most of us don’t understand the legal jargon on these pages. You may want to just write something up in your natural language to make it easier for your readers to understand.
If you are unsure how to write one but concerned that you need one, just create a free one (shown above), and copy it verbatim to your website. Good enough. By the way, I’m not a lawyer so this is just my personal advice.
Suggested Page #2: Affiliate Disclaimer
Again, this is an option for most people and is mostly done as a courtesy to your visitors. The FTC recommends you have one, but as far as I know, it’s not an actual law that you have one, though this may vary from country to country.
Some affiliate programs do require that you have one, so make sure you find this out while signing up. Amazon is the best example, and they actually require that you put your disclaimer on a spot on your website that is visible from every page.
How you write the disclaimer is usually up to you. The Amazon disclaimer should be copied directly from their website.
[Insert your name] is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to [insert the applicable site name]
For others, it depends. I would say something about making money from affiliate links on the site. Someone in the “make money” niche may say that they are not responsible for traffic losses and cannot guarantee income as a result of following their advice.
Someone in the holistic healing industry might want to have something visible that says you are not a doctor and you should consult a qualified physician before making any changes to your current lifestyle.
The basic idea is that you want to cover your butt in case someone comes to your website, buys something you recommend, and has some kind of problem as a result of your advice. Of course, we don’t want to be giving bad advice, but people are crazy and always looking for a scapegoat.
I’ll probably do something similar for this book in the beginning, just in case someone buys it and blows themselves up and decides to sue me for whatever reason.
I also wanted to provide some things from the FTC website that you can look at, and understand how I interpret them. If you are particularly concerned about the legal stuff, don’t take my word for it. Be as obvious and open as possible about your affiliation with companies.
I’ve seen some blogs with an (affiliate link) disclaimer right next to every affiliate link on their website and they still make money. Other people have no disclaimers and have no issues at all.
From the FTC: The FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People Are Asking
Endorsements must be truthful and not misleading;
If the advertiser doesn’t have proof that the endorser’s experience represents what consumers will achieve by using the product, the ad must clearly and conspicuously disclose the generally expected results in the depicted circumstances; and
If there’s a connection between the endorser and the marketer of the product that would affect how people evaluate the endorsement, it should be disclosed.
I’ve read that bloggers who don’t comply with the Guides can be fined $11,000? Is that true?
No. The press reports that said that were wrong. There is no fine for not complying with an FTC guide.
Are you monitoring bloggers?
We’re not monitoring bloggers and we have no plans to. If concerns about possible violations of the FTC Act come to our attention, we’ll evaluate them case by case. If law enforcement becomes necessary, our focus will be advertisers, not endorsers – just as it’s always been.
I’ve heard that every time I mention a product on my blog, I have to say whether I got it for free or paid for it myself. Is that true?
No. If you mention a product you paid for yourself, the Guides aren’t an issue.
Do I have to hire a lawyer to help me write a disclosure?
No. What matters is effective communication, not legalese. A disclosure like “Company X sent me [name of product] to try, and I think it’s great” gives your readers the information they need.
Or, at the start of a short video, you might say, “Some of the products I’m going to use in this video were sent to me by their manufacturers.” That gives the necessary heads-up to your viewers.
I’m an affiliate marketer with links to an online retailer on my website. When people click on those links and buy something from the retailer, I earn a commission. What do I have to disclose? Where should the disclosure be?
Let’s assume that you’re endorsing a product or service on your site and you have links to a company that pays you commissions on sales. If you disclose the relationship clearly and conspicuously on your site, readers can decide how much weight to give your endorsement. In some instances, where the link is embedded in the product review, a single disclosure may be adequate.
When the product review has a clear and conspicuous disclosure of your relationship – and the reader can see both the product review and the link at the same time – readers have the information they need. If the product review and the link are separated, the reader may lose the connection.
As for where to place a disclosure, the guiding principle is that it has to be clear and conspicuous. Putting disclosures in obscure places – for example, buried on an ABOUT US or GENERAL INFO page, behind a poorly labeled hyperlink or in terms of service agreement – isn’t good enough. The average person who visits your site must be able to notice your disclosure, read it and understand it.
Important concepts as I understand them from these sections of the FTC FAQ. You don’t need to hire a lawyer and can write your disclaimer in your own language
They are not actively monitoring bloggers and there is no fine for not following the guidelines
These are a set of guidelines, not laws
Most of these rules apply to people that get free products to test, or are paid by companies to write reviews. If you’re not paid for the review and are just paid a commission for sales, the rules are not as clear-cut
If you do want to comply with the guidelines, make sure it’s obvious on every single page, near the top of the page
If anyone is going to get in trouble, it’s going to be the vendor, not you
There are literally thousands of cool plugins that you can install on your website to make it do different things. You’ll learn about these as you chat to other business owners and search for features you want to add to your site.
You can search for “feature I want + Wordpress plugin”, and there’s a good chance that someone has already created something you can use.
When installing a plugin, make sure to check the last date it was updated. Some developers create a plugin but stop updating it somewhere along the way. Anything older than a year or two should be avoided unless you see comments that people are still using it for some reason. Old plugins are sources of security issues and may conflict with updated versions of Wordpress.
Also, keep in mind that poorly coded plugins, or too many plugins, can slow down your site. Try to keep them to a minimum. That being said, here is a list of core plugins I recommend you install on your website right now.
Spam Guard: Akismet is probably the most widely known and popular one. I have had troubles with it recently and now use Anti-Spam.
Many Wordpress experts recommend Yoast as the top SEO plugin, but I prefer All in One SEO. It’s much simpler for newbies to figure out, and I don’t like features of Yoast like the URL optimizer or keyword density feature. AIO SEO just works in the background and you can build your business while it works.
Don’t forget to activate it after you install it All in One SEO > General Settings
Enabled. Type in the name of your website and a short description in the Home Title and Home Description area, and the search engine optimization for your website is now done. Easy, right?
You can choose to use the AIO SEO plugin to build your sitemap. I have always used the Google XML Sitemap plugin though, and prefer this one.
Social Buttons: There are many social plugins to choose from with different looks and features. Only activate 2-3 social buttons of your choice. Too many buttons can slow down your website.
I like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and maybe Pinterest or LinkedIn. Reddit is another popular site to consider, but you’ll have to pick the ones you think will work for your audience.
Caching Plugin: This is going to make your website run faster by storing “cached” version of your pages to show visitors. However, keep in mind that if you are making changes to your website, a caching plugin might confuse you by showing you the old version instead of the new version of a page. I use W3 Total Cache but there are others. Check rating stars!
Core Concept AKA Cornerstone Pages
Now the fun part! We need to think of 3-5 running themes, or ‘core concepts’ for our website. Think of them as the cornerstones to the foundation of our business – vital, yet just the beginning.
They are going to give us focus and help define our audience. They can be altered or completely changed later, but for now, we want to define them so we can have a good idea which direction we are taking our business.
There are a few ways to structure these cornerstone pages, all of which I’ve used at some point and had success to some degree.
This is the simplest to set up at this point because it doesn’t require you to do anything except to set up some category titles on your site. Think of 3-5 ideas that you want to cover on a regular basis (related to your niche). Go to Posts > Categories, and create those new categories.
You can also change “Uncategorized” to something general related to your niche. This way your default category will not be “Uncategorized” which is boring and bad for website optimization.
Then go to Appearance > Menus and create a custom menu with category pages. As you publish blog posts and choose a category each time you publish, those posts will be listed under that menu item like a “mini blog roll” based on that specific topic.
Just so you don’t start out the lazy way, if you choose category pages instead of long-form content (below), be sure to publish one blog post under each category so you don’t have a menu item that leads to nowhere!
High Traffic Keyword Pages
Another popular method is to do some keyword research and find high traffic keyword you’d love to rank for, but feel that competition is too tough. Because you’ll be linking to these core pages a lot, and driving traffic to them from other pages, they’ll gain rank over time.
Even if it takes several months or years to get there, you’re in no rush because you’ll be focusing on ranking other, lower competition articles on your website.
By targeting these high traffic keywords and driving traffic to them over time, you can then rank and get more traffic from these keywords, snowballing your website’s traffic. Once you have boatloads of traffic, pick your choice of monetization strategy and you’ll have plenty of data to work with to find out how to make the most money from that traffic.
Publish these high-traffic-keyword articles as pages (not posts), and try to hit that 1000+ word count if possible.
Monetized Pages (Non-Keyword Based)
You may want to start out with monetized pages from the beginning. Although it’s not the best idea to include affiliate links right away (wait until you are generating traffic), once your site is moving along nicely, having some pages with affiliate links won’t affect your authority in the slightest bit. You can load ‘em up with affiliate stuff at that point if need be.
The advantage here is that you are free to write about whatever you want, and title the page whatever you want. You are not locked into any kind of keyword density or usage, and can simply tweak the pages how you see fit, without worrying about search engines.
These could be product comparison pages, product review pages, or even a squeeze page with an email signup form for list building and email marketing. It doesn’t really matter what they’re about or what they’re called, as long as you have a plan to make money from them at some point.
Because we aren’t relying on search engine traffic to rank this page, focus on the quality of content and writing effective ad copy. We’ll be driving traffic to these from other keyword-based posts on our website just like with the ‘high traffic keyword pages’ section.
Summary + Tasks
We’re creating some basic content pages for our website. These core concepts can be published in a variety of ways. Our goal is to get a solid content base, to begin with, and start displaying information on our website so it’s not “under construction”! Having some running themes for our website will keep us focused, and our target audience in mind.
Tasks For This blog
1. Decide how you want to display your core concepts on your website
2. Publish 3 pages or posts based on what you want to make them about. Shoot for 1000 words or more and include some pictures!
3. Set up your main menu to display these pages
Product + Website Quality
Don’t forget to check out the website and the stuff they are selling. 50% commissions on some trashy RC-cars with bad reviews on Amazon should not be a priority. Compared to 15% on a similar product with good reviews, a nicely designed site, and other perks for the customer like free shipping? I’d pick the latter any day.
Different products will have different ways of being sold. Some physical products may be listed with images, info, and customer reviews. Digital products may have a single sales page. Visualize what the purchase process will be like people you send to this website.
Get inside your potential customer’s head. Remember, you can have an awesome website, but you still have to send them to the vendor! Sometimes, even if you have a poorly designed site and mediocre content, just getting people to click over to a fantastic sales page is all you need to do to close the deal.
After all, you are not selling yourself or your business. You are selling stuff from other people, and that’s ultimately what’s going to matter most to the people spending money.
Find Related Products
Take some time to browse around for related products in related niches. Don’t bite off more than you can chew by broadening your niche too much, but it’s nice to see what’s out there.
For example, if you choose Hawaiian honeymoons as your niche, you can also look into things like diamond ring affiliate programs, hotel referral programs, plane travel affiliate programs, or even stuff related to wedding gift ideas.
I mean, if you knew your friend was getting married and going to Hawaii for his honeymoon, couldn’t you get him and his wife something related to that? Silverware sucks. How about skydiving lessons from a volcano?!!
General Product Research
It’s actually pretty simple – just find products that you personally like, or that you think are selling well. You can look at other websites’ Top 10 lists, or on Amazon Top Sellers. Check the news for hot items, and see which ones might be able to fit into your niche.
Once you find a product you are interested in promoting, search for an affiliate program that will allow you to promote it. Some products will only be sold by one vendor, and it’s either “Yes” or “No” whether they have an available affiliate program. Other products will be sold by multiple vendors, and then you just have to choose which website/company you want to work with.
It’s OK to sign up for more than one affiliate program and promote competing companies side by side. You can compare prices, shipping rates, and customer service ratings if you want.
Personally, I find it easier to start off promoting just a few core products and focusing on that versus trying to re-create an e-commerce style website where everything is available on your site. However, I’ve seen people succeed with the second method too, just pumping out reviews of tons of items related to their niche.
What Is A Niche?
A niche is another word for the topic of your website. For the rest of the blog, I’ll be using the word ‘niche’, so you can become familiar with internet marketing jargon.
A niche is just a group of people that you can categorize in some way. Golf, cooking, fitness, and tech are broad industries, and not what we’re looking for. What specific subcategories of people can you think of in each of those industries? Here are some random niches I thought of off the top of my head.
improving your golf swing for seniors
Golf equipment for kids
paleo cooking & recipes for families
how to cook for college students
indoor exercise equipment (people that live far away from gyms or are too busy to go)
muscle building for women
fitness gadgets and wearables (people looking for this type of technology)
Learning games for kids
See how each of those submarkets targets a much more specific audience? There are many ways to drill down from a broad industry to a targeted niche.
There are hundreds of niches within the fitness industry alone, and finding one that makes money is simply a matter of finding one interesting enough to you that you follow through with creating the business.
Some possible ways of defining your niche are simply filling in the blanks: [People] who want to ____. The following examples correspond to the examples above.
Seniors who want to improve their golf swing
Kids who want to learn how to play golf (Or parents that who want to teach their kids golf)
Families who want to eat a paleo diet
College students who want to cook good food on a budget
People who want to be fit can’t make it to the gym
People with disabilities who want to stay in shape but need special training equipment
People who like to exercise but live in cold climates and can’t exercise outdoors all year
Women who want to gain muscle
Fitness enthusiasts interested in technology, data tracking
Parents who want smart kids
Which ones make the most money? ANY niche can make money! Many training courses I’ve seen have you do a bunch of research before picking a topic for your website, but this is now how I am going to teach you.
Yeah, niche research can be useful, but it can also be confusing to newbies, meaning lots of people quit right in the beginning because they’re unable to find the perfect idea and get it right the first time around.
Picking that ‘golden ticket’ niche to make you rich is not what we’re shooting for at this point. We just want to find something that works for you, as a beginner.
If you can make your first dollar in a niche you really enjoy, you can then use the skills you learned from building that business to start another website later on. By then you will have the skills to do research, test the market, and direct your business with more intent and foresight.
This is exactly what I did. I mentioned that I started out promoting VPNs. It’s something I had decent knowledge about and enjoyed writing about. But I also saw the huge potential in the “make money online” industry, and most recently started a website in that category.
Using what I learned building my previous sites, I was able to grow my new business faster, more efficiently, and more professionally than before. What may have taken me two years before took me one year this time around?
Please don’t stress about whether or not your niche will make money. It will. Any website with traffic can make money!. Keep that in mind, but we’ll dig into that in the traffic section later on in the book.
Why Do We Need A Niche?
Why not create an “Everything about golf” website instead of targeting something more specific? More topics = more traffic = more money, right?
Yes and no.
Sites like Mashable, Buzzfeed, and Lifehacker cover a huge range of topics and rake in the cash because of their “shotgun” strategy. But they have big budgets to hire website developers, writers, and social media managers.
These articles are not written by experts and published just to meet a deadline. The readers are savvy to this, as demonstrated by some recent articles I read about craft beer on Buzzfeed and Business Insider.
I’m a homebrewer and know quite a bit about craft beer. After reading these articles, I immediately knew that they were not written by someone who knew what they were talking about, and comments on the post reflected my own feelings.
Buzzfeed and Business insider got what they wanted – their money comes from ad revenue so they just want views, and don’t care if readers like what they see or not. If I hate it and share it with my friends to tell them how stupid it was, these guys still make money!
This is NOT the way to build a trusted brand. I would never buy a ‘how to brew beer at home’ guide from these websites. They need tens of thousands of views to make money from ad revenue on those cheesy articles. As affiliate marketers promoting specific products to a targeted audience, we can make money much more efficiently than the big guys.
The point is, we pick a niche is so that we can develop specialized knowledge on a very specific topic. Knowing a lot about one thing is much better than knowing a little bit about everything. By becoming an expert, or trusted source of information, people will buy stuff through our site based on our recommendations.
Another reason is simply to pare away the competition. You are starting at ground zero here, with nothing on your website. You’ll also be doing all the work yourself. How can you expect to compete with a website that’s been around for a decade and has 1000’s of articles and loyal fans? You can’t.
So we target a very small audience to make our job more manageable.
The extremely specific articles we write make it easier to rank in search engines and build traffic slowly over time. Once we start gaining traffic from those low traffic, low competition articles, we can begin to expand into broader topics.
Perhaps the most compelling reason to focus on a specific group of people is so we know who we are talking to!
Let’s look at bodybuilding for example. Though you might think of this as a single group of people, there are actually competing subgroups within this arena.
Some guys want to build muscle mass. They love being the biggest guy at the gym and want nothing but ‘gains’ (slang for gaining muscle mass).
There are other guys that want a ‘cut’ physique and could care less about size. They want to look good in a tank top and be beach-ready all year long. They don’t care about gains, as long as they get the girls.
If you create a website about bodybuilding, who are you talking to? If you write an article about how to gain weight fast, the beach body guys won’t care. If you write an article about how to lose body fat fast, the muscle dudes will worry about the loss of muscle mass.
You could even break it down further to ‘natty’ (natural) or ‘juicing’ (steroids) techniques. Include men vs women, and now we have several possible audiences to target our website too.
natural bodybuilding gains for men
safe steroid use for bodybuilding women
lifting techniques to improve physique
bodybuilding for strength
How targeted you get depends on your level of interest or expertise in a topic, as well as how big of a project you want to take on. It’s also nice to leave yourself some elbow room for growth. Doing something like “free weight gym exercises for women over 50 to gain strength” might be limiting if you run out of exercise routines to talk about.
But ‘strength training for women over 50’ leaves you possible room to include topics like home gym equipment, supplements, human biology, exercise mentality, and so on.
My Stance On Competition
When deciding on a niche for their business, most people will start to look around at similar websites to see what others are doing. They soon realize that these awesome looking, established websites are going to be their competition, and the fear starts to set it.
“How am I ever going to compete with that?!”
I agree, it’s pretty hard to imagine that you, someone starting with pretty much zero internet marketing skills could outrank and outsell some of the big boys, whether it be Online Shopping for Electronics, Apparel, Computers, Books, DVDs & more or The Huffington Post.
The easiest answer to explain at this point is that you have to start somewhere! If you don’t start now, at zero, you’ll never get started. The established players may have a lead on you, but remember, they too started out from scratch some years in the past, and grew to what we see today.
In a few years time you will have a head start on some other newbies just getting started, and probably be happy that they have to work hard to achieve what you have.
The growth process isn’t obvious, but it happens to everyone in every business.
No one starts out on top.
The other portion of that answer is that no one stays in the lead forever. Many things can happen in the next few years. There are always things happening that shake up the business world, and new opportunities may open up that you never considered before.
One last thing I also want to help you understand is that it doesn’t take that much work to be in the Top 10. To be #1? Yeah, it takes true dedication. But to be just “very good” is achievable just by being consistent over a period of time.
If you are careful about the steps you take and focus on creating high-quality content that delivers value to your visitors, you will easily outrank 90% of the competition. The vast majority of people in every industry get lazy or complacent at some point, and that provides an opportunity for hard workers just like you!
No, it’s not always as easy as having the answers written on the wall saying, “Hey, Business X didn’t see this opportunity so now it’s time for you to take advantage of it!”.
But the opportunities are always there, and it’s just a matter of knowing how to identify them as they pop up. Imagine if we lived in a world where established players just never gave up their position and the new guys never had the opportunity to show them up?
Nothing would change in the world of business, ever.
The more difficult thing to explain is that you will learn tactics and become a savvier business person in the coming months. You might not see things clearly right now, but as you do your research and learn about affiliate marketing, you’ll discover places where competition is extremely low, even in very competitive niches.
For example, weight loss for women is a very competitive niche. Even weight loss for women before weddings is well known as being lucrative and has a lot of established sites to compete against.
But what if you start targeting even smaller areas that the big guy's neglect? If USA TODAY: Latest World and US News - USATODAY.com is ranking for “how to lose weight before a wedding”, what stones have they left unturned? How about these:
how to lose 10 pounds before my wedding
how to lose weight fast for a wedding for someone with high blood pressure
how to lose weight 2 weeks before a wedding
how to buy a wedding dress if I plan to lose 15 pounds
It just wouldn’t make sense for a site like USA Today to just write these types of articles over and over again. So they write a generalized 500-word pop article that their audience reads and forgets about. The real meat of research and help for people that actually need to lose that weight can be done by you and put on your site http://loseweightbeforeawedding.com.
No, you won’t get those big fat juicy rankings right away, but you can build up to that. We start with the scraps, but our day is coming!
One article can bring you 100 visits a day, or 10 articles with 10 visits each for a total of 100 visits a day. Same deal.
So I mean to make these points clear.
1. Growth and competitiveness take time. You’ve got to start somewhere.
2. There are plenty of ways to squeeze your way into any competitive market if you put in the effort
What You Need To Know About Traffic
Another topic that many experts have different ideas about is whether or not you need to look up traffic (and other) stats related to your niche of choice.
My stance is that yes, it can help, but if it’s going to confuse you and keep you from getting started, forget about it and just choose something you are interested in.
I can tell you right now that ‘how to make money online’ is a very lucrative niche. Keep in mind though, if you are not interested in helping people build their business, then it’s a bad idea to go into this industry.
Why would you want to trade a job you don’t like, for a business you also don’t like? Why supplement your current income by coming home to a website about something you don’t care about?
Wow, that would suck!
Sure, now you say that you don’t care what you write about as long as it makes money. But what happens when your business isn’t making money? I’d be willing to bet that most people reading this book will need to work on their business for at least 3-6 months before even making their first sale, and maybe a year or more before turning a regular profit.
Are you willing to put in 12 months of work into a business that is not profitable, about a topic that you are not passionate about, let alone interested in?
For me, and for a lot of new online business owners, the first time around is like a trial run. We have to learn the ropes, see how to connect the dots, and then we can find our ‘big break’ somewhere down the road.
What are you worried about?
If you do build a website and find out that traffic isn’t great, it doesn’t mean you can’t make some money from your website.
ANY website can be monetized and profitable. Let’s say that worst case scenario you dedicate 6 months of your life to a website you are completely passionate about. You spend every waking hour building this site to be the most beautiful, most interesting, and most helpful resource in this niche.
But then you find out that traffic isn’t as great as you thought, and you only earn $100/month from it using generally paid advertisements (like Google ads). Oh no, wasted effort, right? Wrong.
Now you can pay someone $25/article and have them publish 2x per month to the site to maintain it. You make $100, spend $50 in outsourcing fees, and pocket the other $50. Now you have a profitable business on your hands that runs by itself basically, and you can start site #2, with more knowledge and foresight.
This time around you have a better idea of some hot markets you want to go into, a good idea of how to get your pages ranked faster and where to target low competition areas of high traffic niches.
Instead of taking 6 months to produce a website that makes $100/month, you take 4 months to create a website that produces $500 a month and still has the potential to grow beyond that.
Was your first website a waste? Absolutely not.
This is why I don’t want you to focus on traffic numbers while choosing your niche. Honestly, stuff like that will confuse a lot of you to the point that you won’t even want to get started. Understand that your first website might not be an instant success, and you can always regroup later as you gain more experience. Let’s move on.
Passion VS Profit
I built at least 10 websites before I found the one that really worked for me.
Most of them died out because I just couldn’t bring myself to write another damn article about Plants VS Zombies plush toys (one of my first websites).
Yet, here I am spending my Friday night typing away at an ebook I have no idea if I’ll be able to publish, or if it will make me any money. Even if it does make money, will it be worth the effort?
I don’t know, but I do know that I enjoy talking about this stuff, and really want to create a unique product that helps people accomplish the same things I have.
Some folks tell me that they don’t have any interests, and don’t care what they write about as long as it makes money. I call BS on that. Everyone has preferences.
You don’t have to wake up in the morning drooling, unable to hold back the pure passion you feel for the niche you’ve chosen. That’s a bit extreme. Just pick something that you think you might enjoy as opposed to something else that is boring. You like…stuff right? Think about what stuff you could enjoy writing about.
Breakfast is delicious. I could probably make a pretty interesting site about breakfast. How about an old-fashioned cocktail website? I don’t know much about them, but they sound pretty interesting.
You don’t have to know everything about your niche right now. It’s not necessary to be an expert at day one. Chances are, most of you are not an “expert” in anything right now.
If you dedicate 12 months of your life to researching a topic daily, you WILL become an expert in whatever you choose. So it’s not necessarily that your business will be chosen for you based on what you already know, it’s that YOU will choose your business based on what you want to know more about.
Fear of Choosing The Wrong Niche In 10 Years…
An idea I try to drive home to folks that get stuck in the “I’m afraid to pick the wrong niche” phase is to think about their potential failure and what that means. Consider the worst case scenario, and it might not be as bad as you imagined. If all of your websites make $0 for the next full year, lots of people would consider that a failed business venture. Wow. You’re a failure!
But what if after that year you scrap everything and start over. This time you build a website, and it takes you another full year to make your first sale. Slow, but progress nonetheless. At your 5 year anniversary, you are making regular sales and your business is profitable, allowing you to quit your job and work full time from home.
So fast forward 10 years from today. You have 1 year of utter failure, and 4 years of struggle. Then you have 5 years of working from home, then another couple decades of success ahead of you in the future.
Would it be worth it?
Would you trade 5 years of NON-success for 5 years (plus the future) of success? Most people would.
But for some reason when newbies get started they set unrealistic timeframes of just a few months to “test this thing out” and see if they can make it. If I had quit at 6 months because I was failing I would not be here today talking to you.
So forget the idea of picking the right or wrong niche, and just pick something that suits you for now. Not right now, because we’ve still got to talk about how to actually pick one in the next section, but I mean pick it by the end of this blog.
If you are still concerned about picking the wrong niche because of profitability, or just don’t want to waste your time, here’s another thing to think about. You can always ‘pivot’ later, and change the direction of your site. If you pick a domain correctly, it won’t lock you into a specific niche and you can just tweak the content as you grow.
For example, a domain like http://laserprinterreviews.com is going to lock you into laser printer reviews for life. But a domain like http://mrprintmaster.com can start off as a laser printer review website but change later.
If in a few months you discover that this isn’t your thing, you can tweak to be broader, more narrow, or head in a different direction (while still somewhat related to the domain).
For example, you could start reviewing all printers later if you run out of stuff to say about laser printers. Alternatively, you could make a website about how to start a t-shirt company. “Print” fits with t-shirt printing, so no one would think it was weird that your domain is called http://mrprintmaster.com.
You could even go a bit more abstract and do something like small home business advice, with a little printer-man as your logo. Kooky, but fun and still makes sense because small businesses use printers.
I chose the name onemorecupof-coffee.com for my current affiliate marketing website because it had a story behind it. But when I started, I wrote about everything related to making money – real estate investing, stock investing, and passive income.
As time went on, I realized I wasn’t that interested in all those other topics, and just wanted to focus more specifically on affiliate marketing through Wordpress blogs.
I changed direction (pivoted) and no one noticed.
The other thing is that you can always put a project to the side for a while and come back to it later. Maybe you start a website this month, unsure if it’s really something you are passionate about.
Then two months down the road you have your “aha” moment and have a great idea for a different website. You can put the first on the back-burner and restart it later if you want.
Letting a website stew for a few months isn’t going to harm it, especially if it’s brand new. Nothing gained, nothing lost. The story might be different if you were generating traffic and revenue from the site, but I have a feeling if that were the case you probably wouldn’t be putting the project on the back-burner!
Big Mistakes To Watch Out For
There are a few common niche-picking mistakes I see, and while making mistakes can be a great learning process, here are two concepts that are simple to understand and avoid.
Don’t Pick A Single Product Without A Niche To Back It Up
Sometimes it’s easy to mix up ‘niche’ with ‘product’. Beginners often tell me they want to promote the iPhone 6, or a specific brand of shoe. My response is always – what happens when iPhone 7 is released or the shoe goes out of style?
The other thing to consider is that you are going to be talking about this product on a weekly, maybe even daily basis. Can you think of enough content to back it up?
iPhone might actually be OK since there are lots of related topics like app development, games, paid app reviews, and lots of rumors to speculate on.
But if I were to pick something like the Logitech c920 webcam, I might be screwed. What would I write about week after week on http://logitechc920webcam.com? Not much…unless…I had a niche to back it up.
So in the case of ‘iPhone’, I could pick a broader niche like app development or iPhone game reviews.
Instead of the Logitech c920, I might create a webcam review site, even something like ‘staying in touch with friends & family overseas’ (the c920 review would be one article on the website). Using the “person who wants to ___” example I used before, here’s what those two sites would look like:
1.People interested in buying a webcam
2.Families that want to to use technology to keep in touch
It would be a nightmare for me (personally) to dig into webcam specs every day for the rest of the year, but I could have a fun time reviewing webcams, talking about handwritten letters, teaching Skype to the elderly, or craft ideas that are easy to for kids to send in the mail.
Both the webcam review website and ‘staying in touch’ website are interesting ideas for different types of audiences.
Actually, now that I think of it, the second example is a pretty good business idea! You can have that one. I don’t have the time for it right now :)
Don’t Pick A Broad Industry
Some folks go in the opposite direction and say that they want to promote “everything technology”, or “video games”, or “fashion”. Actually, video games and fashion are two of my biggest niche pet peeves. I hear them all the time and I really have a hard time thinking of ideas of how to break them down for folks because I just don’t know enough about them.
BUT, we’re going to do it here, right now, in case you were just thinking, “I love video games” in the last blog. The key here is to break the industry down into “tribes”, identifying groups of people that are different from each other.
For example, someone playing Second Life is way different from someone that’s into vintage video game consoles. Now we have two niches from one industry! Other possible video game niches are:
immersive video game equipment (gaming chairs, shock controllers, headsets)
World of Warcraft
creating gaming mods
NOTE: WoW, Minecraft and DOTA 2 are huge games with massive followings and more than a decade of history behind them. They are very complicated games and I think could stand on their own legs as a separate niche. Need-4-Speed (a racing game) however, I think could not.
There are no doubt more sub-niches that I haven’t thought of. If this is your passion, put on your thinking cap because “game reviews” just isn’t going to cut it.
Honestly, I’m not even going to touch fashion because it’s something I have a hard time with. I’ve seen some people do really good jobs of it, in ways. I wouldn’t have thought of. I don’t want to give away their great ideas, but it can be done well if you think about who you want to be visiting your website.
Let’s talk about something that’s a bit more interesting for me to break down:
how to train a puppy
owning small dogs
organic dog food reviews
homemade dog treats
health & nutrition for older dogs
adopting rescue dogs
showing specific breeds in competition
And how about one more just to give you an idea of just how many possibilities there are. Lots of people say “tech” or “smartphones” as their niche, but that’s just way too broad. It’s too much competition, and you would kill yourself trying to write everything about “smartphones”.
mobile game app development
app development for small businesses
Hopefully, these examples have made it clearer how to break down a broad industry into an actual niche. Coupled with last blog’s advice on how to avoid going too narrow and building yourself into a corner, I think you have a pretty good shot at getting it right the first time around.
Even if not, remember that you can always tweak it as you move forward.
Summary + Tasks
We are going to be choosing a topic (niche) for our website that we know something about, or are interested in learning about. The main reasons we do this are to learn specialized knowledge about a specific topic in order to write quality content on the topic and to reduce the amount of competition our website will face.
It’s also going to help keep us motivated and interested while building our business. A topic too broad means that we won’t have a defined audience, and it will be too much work.
A topic too narrow means that we’ll struggle to think of what to write about on a weekly basis. It’s a balancing act, but it can be refined later on as we grow our business and learn about our audience.
Tasks For This blog
1. Pick 3-5 potential niches for yourself
2. Read the blogs on affiliate programs and domains + hosting before you start buying anything. I know this is a lot of info to take in, but these three sections (niche, affiliates, domain) kind of go hand in hand