Category Archives for "Ask A Blogger"
I have had been blogging since April 2009 at Madame Deals. I decided in December I was going to take my blog from a hobby to a business. I knew I had to make a business plan. I had to set goals. I had to come up with strategies to manage it all. I also know the website would be a part of my life but not my life. It is easy to get caught up in making sure everything you see gets posted and every deal appears on your site. If you a careful you will neglect your “real” life and family. The only way to avoid this to make a schedule. You also have to be selective as to watch you are going to write about and develop a methodology for doing so. I decided I would share some of my tips with you.
1) When you receive a pitch and you have decided you are going to do the review
a) Put it on your calendar when it is due
b) Put a reminder in your calendar to actually do it
c) Create a post template by copying and pasting the requirements found in the email in your post
d) Set the template to the date it needs to be posted and then use a year that is one year greater than the year your are in so you can easily find it
e) Place in the email address from which it came so you can send the link to the company easily
f) Create a google doc and place in the contact name and email and payment information and the products they represent in case you nee dot pitch them in the future. It is great to say I loved working with you on such and such.
2) Use a calendar and create a schedule. On your calendar should be your post schedule and your product review schedule.
3) I believe you need to educate yourself. You need to spend at least 15 minutes a day learning something new to grow your business. I pick a new topic each week to learn.
4) Once you learn your new item. You need to implement your idea. If you just read or see something new you will not remember it unless you actually use it.
5) Tip is do not put all your efforts on one area. You need to grow your business every week. I pick a different place each week to expand my reach and create new readers.
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How do you write a pitch letter? This question comes up often. Why? I have a lot of bloggers that want to know how did you get that? Why did they respond to you and not me? It is true I am not prettier or smarter nor do I have a better site then you do. What I do have is a little more Chutzpah. I also have a formula for success. I tried to simplify my letter so you could actually use the information right now and write a pitch letter that yields a result. I encourage you to link to work samples from your site so they can see what you do.
Personal- Do not send a letter that is addressed to Dear Madame or Sir. You need to do your research and find a name. I do not care if you call the company and ask who is in charge of their web based advertising and promotions. I think finding a person’s name means you are willing to go above and beyond to get the job done. It is all about the first impression.
Imagination- You have one sentence to sell them. This sentence should be used in your subject line and repeated in your letter. What can you say that will get their attention? It is just like writing an article you have ten words before someone clicks through or moves on.
Thoughtful- You need to do your research. How does this company advertise normally. What groups are they targeting what is their lead product in most of their campaigns. What tools are they currently using. How do you compare? How do you excel? How could you represent them and increase their market share and revenue.
Change- When you have determined their normal advertising methodology what changes can you make that would impact their bottom line. You need to state this clearly I would mention your research and I would mention why your methodology would benefit them.
Hook- This is it the last line in your letter you need to hook them and reel them in. You need to make them want to work with you or at the very least contact you.
Okay so we have talked about everything from getting started and writing a post, and making money blogging. We’ve discussed contests, building relationships with other bloggers, and actively promoting your site with good content, readers & strategy. We talked about affiliate programs. last week. We figured this week it is only fair to share our address book. Yeah! I am going to put in here that you all might not be accepted into certain programs. I am still not accepted into certain programs that is life. I say keep trying. This is a job that you have to take because you love it not because it is going to pay the bills. It may eventually but not always. I am very honest that I take posts for money. I put it in my disclaimer Madame Deals does not run on love, hope, or peanuts. It runs with effort, intelligence, and CASH! I believe it takes money and time to grow a business. I think of my business much like cable programming there are “shows” which is the content and articles. There are “commercials” which I equate with paid posts and ads on my side bar and in some of my posts. Finally there are more aggressive ads called referral links. I personally do not send other bloggers spam. I will not send out my referral links to others on a weekly basis. I am only sharing them now because my in box is full of people asking for them. I am kind of on the fence because if I give you all my advertiser information then we will all have the same “commercials” on our sites.
Amee and I have shared with you many ways to make money blogging. We’ve discussed contests, building relationships with other bloggers, and actively promoting your site with good content, readers & strategy. This week I’ll be talking about affiliate programs. If you want to make money; you must sign up for affiliate programs. You can find affiliate programs all over the web to promote companies and products to help boost your income. The key is finding programs suitable for your audience.
If you’re in an affiliate program and have postings about baby items & deals, but your website it all about cakes, you’re not going to see much revenue from the affiliate. Why? You’re not gearing these programs to suite your audience. You need to find affiliates that have cake making products for sale, books to teach decorating techniques and other relevant baking content.
You should also be conscious of the types of affiliates, the programs you are linking to & how these programs are being promoted on your site. Spamming or linking to affiliates for the sake of making a dollar can turn readers off. Finding a balance between keeping your readers needs in mind and generating income can be difficult & time consuming, but worth the effort.
I get hundreds of emails a week with deals or products to share with my readers. Most of these never make it onto my site. Yes, I could be making more money by posting these deals, so why don’t I post?
Ad placement is also key to generating income from affiliates. Prime ad space is above the fold, within the first 1000 pixels of the page. Some advertisers may require placement in this area of your site as a requirement for joining their program.
A few of the types of affiliate programs are:
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Dana: The Coupon Challenge I started my blog with a free design from The Cutest Blog on the Block. The set up was easy and FREE. There are numerous other sites offering free or cheap templates to give personality to your site. These can be downloaded with little to no expense or design experience. After several months, I had my blogger blog designed by Custom Blog Designs. The rates were reasonable and I loved her designs. Plus, she handled all the design installation with very little downtime to my website. My only problem came later when I moved to wordpress. I would have loved to work with her again, but she only works with blogger. She was able to help me adjust the header to accommodate my new site, though. I would like to eventually change the design of my site to fit this stage of my life and where I’m hoping to take my blog in the future. For now, I’m working to make the site more user friendly to keep you all wanting to come back for more!
Amee: Madame Deals I also started my site with blogger. I suggest using blogger if you think this may be something you want to do but you aren’t sure. If you do decide this is your new business then I would invest in design. I would use free templates if you are on blogger because most of what you do on blogger will have to stay on blogger when you leave. If you think you want to stay on blogger then hire someone who can build a design that would work on Word Press as well do not pay twice. Madame Deals moved over to Word Press and has been designed a total of three times. I just completed the third redesign. Why? I think as you blog more you start really understand what people like and what you like. I thought my site was to white the text wasn’t anchored. I tried a couple of variations of designs but I kept coming back to the daisy. I felt like that was part of my brand and I didn’t want to lose that. I did add a little personality with my cool and crazy Barbie like social media buttons. I say be different but do not confuse the reader. When you find someone to design your site look at the sites they have done and determine what you like from those sites. Then find a couple of other sites you like to take ideas from. I say hire someone with a flat rate so you do not end up with a huge bill. I also encourage you to pay a deposit but not the full amount until the site is done. When we did our second site design it ended up costing a fortune because we paid up front and half way through the job the guy doing the site was gone. Then we had to find someone else to finish so we essentially paid twice. Speaking of paying. Do you know what the parts on your site are called? Do you understand what is included and what isn’t included? This is really important to figure out otherwise you could end up with something less than what you thought. I say this because I found some less expensive services but that was because they only did one or two things and I need 20 million. I just finished working with Kim at My Crafty Mom. She has a wonderful package for $175 that included everything. I wanted her to install my plugins and clean up a lot of stuff that was in the background that frankly I didn’t understand. She went above and beyond. I was very excited to have found her because her basic package was $130 which is a HUGE deal! Our design tips: The design of your site is the first thing visitors notice when they arrive. You don’t need a fancy or expensive blog design, but you do need a design that pleasing to the eye and one that allows visitors to easily read your posts and find whatever topics you are promoting.
If you missed last weeks article we answered questions about moving your site. If you need hosting we both use Host Gator and Love them. You can search all of our Articles by typing in Ask A Blogger.
Okay, so you have a blog. You have a button and the code to post so others can promote you. How do you get people to your site now that you have decorated it with great screen shots? You head to your newly created Twitter page and think of something good to say. Except, you only have two followers and your mom has no idea how to log into the twitter account you created for her and the other follower doesn’t speak the same language.
The key is to think of something others want to hear or learn about. You need to define who you are and what your audience is looking to gain from coming to your site. You have to come up with a plan for engaging your audience. The best thing you can do is be true to yourself.
It is very difficult to put yourself out there and have opinions. A blog is not for the faint of heart. I have received ugly comments among the positive comments. The point I always remember is there is more good than bad and if we can help one person make a difference in their life, then we have done our job.
I have really learned a lot about social media in the last couple of months and have put forth a tremendous amount of effort to build my audience. It is something I am devoting an hour or more to each day.
Here are the top 3 ways I have built my audience:
1) Get a Twitter account, Facebook account, and Google Friend Connect account. These are the most common social media channels to follow and be followed. Add plugins to your site to feed your blog directly to these sites. I encourage you to do more then send your site to these media options. Engage your readers/ followers by sharing more than just the latest deal.
When you gain a new follower, respond to their comments. It is important to build relationships. After all, you are engaging in “social” media.
2) Participate in blog hops. I do one Facebook hop, one Twitter hop, one Stumble hop, and a random hop each week. Here is a list of hops to attend. You can add yours if I am missing it.
3) Design a contest that your readers will enjoy. Madame Deals is the home of We Love Coupons But We Hate Cutting Them Contest and the We Got It and You Want It Contest where we gather all the items we got for free and add them to the contest daily.
4) Link up your contest to other sites. You can steer their traffic to your site and hopefully you have the content to keep the new visitors interested. I put together a list of giveaways here. This is a super way to gain exposure.