Here is the bad news… You can no longer use the Google Keyword Planner to easily assess which keywords are the best for your search engine optimization strategy. The competition ranges are vague and you must start a PAID campaign to see more specific analytics.
Yes, this change to the Google Adwords Keyword Planner totally stinks.
Here is the good news…
You can piece together your SEO research by using various free keyword tools or invest in a Google Keyword Planner alternative that gives you all of the information needed in one location.
Alternatives for Google Keyword Planner
This list includes a mixture of free Google’s Keyword Planner alternatives and paid keyword research tools.
InstaKeywords – Probably the most inclusive FREE keyword planning tool currently available, InstaKeywords allows you to see extensive information about your keywords without registration. If you create a FREE account, you can access even more keyword results.
Soovle – Not sure where to begin looking for keywords? Just start typing into Soovle and the database will pull the top related searches, automatically recommending related terms as you type.
Ubersuggest – If you know where to start but are looking for long tailed keywords, Ubersuggest yields the most comprehensive listing of keywords for free. You can even download your list as a CSV to help create a keyword strategy.
Google Trends– If you write according to trending topics, you can find exactly what has been the most popular over the last 24 hours as well as check on the popularity of other topics and categories.
Keyword Discovery– Check the popularity of keywords or use the free trends tool to research the best month to post your topic. Upgrade for access to additional tools.
Google Search – Sometimes, we overlook the easiest solution. Using the Google search engine as a keyword tool is simple. Add your terms to the search bar and Google recommends the top searched keywords.
Once you click to search, scroll to the bottom of the search results page to find other related terms.
Pinterest Guided Search – Pinterest hosts the fastest growing search toolbar on the internet. Guided Search offers you the benefit of seeing the most popular keywords related to the terms you place in the search bar and even helps you refine your keyword choice by offering additional context words.
Bing Webmaster Tools – Understand the words people are searching to find your blog and research keywords to target with your content.
Wordtracker – Start your keyword research for free with the Wordtracker Keyword Tool. This is a very limited search that reveals the overall volume of the search. An upgrade is required for additional information.
BuzzSumo – See how engaged social media users are with your topic by viewing the top trends for your keywords. You can also view current popular topics and trends.
HitTail -The simplest tool for locating keywords you should target based on your existing blog content. Have your website analyzed automatically and receive recommended keywords that fit the topics on your blog. You can try it for FREE and export the recommendations in a CSV file (which can be opened by Excel, Numbers, or with Google Drive.) This is the most affordable of the keyword tools at $9.95 per month.
SEMRush – See the keywords people are using to find your blog content and who is linking to you with SEMRush. Also use SEMRush to research keywords for new categories and see their popularity and the competition across the internet.
WordStream – Much like Google Keyword Planner, receive high-volume low competition niche longtail keywords. Receive 30 keyword reports for free but upgrade to receive more detailed analysis.
Keywordtool-io – Without registration required, each search generates up to 750+ long-tail keyword suggestions but you must upgrade to see the important analytics.
Spyfu – The best keyword tool for affiliate marketing, you can see the most profitable keywords related to your search. A variety of analytical tools are available for free but an upgrade is required to see beyond the top results.
Keyword Eye– Boasting 50,000 users, Keyword Eye offers competitor analysis, keyword finder, and popular questions tool. Pricing starts at $44 per month.
MOZ – You can search for two keywords FREE each day and get complete results including domain authority and page authority of current search results leading pages. A 30-day free trial is available.
Your favorite Google Keyword Planner Alternative?
If you have a favorite tool for researching keywords, let us know! What will you use as an alternative to Google’s Keyword Planner?
Have you wondered if Google Plus was worth the time investment? Please welcome Pam Larmore of P.S. I Love You Crafts as she shares how she grew her blog traffic using Google Plus Collections.
If you read blogging message boards, you will see that writers either love Google Plus or they are completely baffled by it. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground.
In the fall of 2014, I devoted two weeks to each social media platform, so that I could learn how to use them. For the most part, I already understood Facebook and Pinterest. With its straight forward platform, Instagram was pretty easy to learn as well.
The one social media that I avoided and dreaded was Google Plus. I had a Google Plus account. I even had some friends. I was in circles (which still confuses me). However, I was completely lost.
Not only was I confused by how the platform worked, I was completely lost trying to figure out how to promote my blog using G+.
So I did what I always do when I had blogging questions. I googled it!
Google revealed a mixed bag of reviews from bloggers for Google Plus and very few details on how to actually navigate the actual platform.
Feeling rather defeated, I did that only thing I knew how… I jumped in with both feet. I made myself (yes, I had to force myself to do it) go to my G+ account EVERY DAY. It was brutal!
Every day, I logged into my G+ account.
I had zero notifications.
I had zero +1’s.
I had zero shares and zero comments.
I was starting from scratch.
I clicked anything and everything that was clickable to see if I could figure it out. I found communities, and there were some communities in my niche. I found that this was a much better place to find followers and content to share.
My first mistake on Google+
Somewhere, I read, “Follow lots of users, and they will follow you back.” So I spent an hour every day, following random users in hopes that they would follow me back.
Very quickly, my followers grew. I was ecstatic! It was working. I was making progress. It took a whole year to realize that none of these “friends” cared about what I shared. They were NOT my target audience.
Not only did I have that problem, but now my feed was flooded with articles that didn’t interest me either. It took me a month to pare down the number of people that I was following.
Collections were a game-changer
In July 2015 someone on a message board said they were having good luck using G+ Collections. I had never heard of them, but on a whim, I took a look.
A Collection is a group of related content, similar to a Pinterest Board. I set up four Collections: Handmade Cards, Cricut, Scrapbooking, and Crafts.
A Collection is a group of related content, similar to a Pinterest Board.
The concept was interesting, but I really wasn’t convinced that there would be any benefit to using Collections. A fellow blogger said that she didn’t have much luck with Collections until she had 30 posts within it.
Within a matter of weeks, I noticed that I was getting a nice flow of new followers to my Handmade Card Collection. The best part was that they were engaging with my posts.
Gaining 600 followers within the first month, the increase in followers encouraged me to post to the Collection more frequently, and September saw a growth of more than 3,000 followers.
I was so excited, and my follower count continued to grow.
I was invited to the G+ Collections Community that is run by the G+ Collection Team. Though I was having so much success with my Handmade Card Collection, I wanted to know why.
What had I done that made this Collection a success?
Posting this question in the group, they answered, “You have found a niche with low competition that lots of people are seeking. You post consistently, and the photos you share are good quality. You use good hook words.” (I later learned that Hook Words are what you use in your description.)
My Second Mistake was a Doozy!
It wasn’t until recently that I realized that Google Plus has business pages.
I have worked so hard to build my G+ account, but it is all on my personal page. Having come so far, I’m not going to start over, although the analytics on the business pages would be super helpful.
I am still stunned every time I look at it. Not only has this collection grown like crazy, but it drives traffic to my site with very little effort. If I see that my page views are lagging, I can share a few of my posts to the Handmade Card Collection, and I will be rewarded rather quickly.
Google+ Collections is definitely a social medium platform worth investigating.
About Pam Larmore
Pam Larmore with P.S. I Love You Crafts started creating at 9 years old, when she joined 4-H. She has tried lots of different crafts, but thirteen years ago, she fell in love with card making, scrapbooking, and paper crafting. She started blogging in 2006 and is currently working on her first eCourse.
Have you ever looked at blogger income reports and wondered, “How do they make that kind of money?” Now, these pro bloggers are sharing their affiliate marketing strategies to help you grow your profits.
When I have a question about profitable blogging, I always turn to my amazingly talented friends who have been in this business longer than I have. Their advice is always solid, and I feel a little guilty about having such an awesome resource available, just a text message away.
So this time, I went and asked a question for you.
I asked seven bloggers with incredible expertise (and tremendous monetary success too) what they would say was their #1 tip for using affiliate marketing on a blog.
Can you tell me what you consider to be the best thing/strategy you implemented to generate income through affiliate links?
The best and smartest ways to increase conversion on affiliate campaigns is to 1.) make sure that your audience is the right fit for the product and that the product solves a specific problem for them, and 2.) tell a personal story about your struggles and how the product helped you, carefully explaining how it will help them.
My most popular and successful affiliate posts are the ones that solve a problem- not the ones pushing a promotion or discount. That’s our strategy when working on a post that we want to do really well- solve a problem. It can be a silly problem like stinky hands after cutting onions and garlic to a little more serious one but if one of our team has that problem it’s a safe bet that others do too!
Make sure you’re sharing products that you genuinely believe in, and connect with your audience either through Facebook live, daily emails, or more personal posts so they feel more “at home” with you. And, always be up front and honest about letting readers know if you’re receiving a commission on a product. Also, just logistically, make it easy for your readers to find the place where you want them to land. After adding a “click to save” button on certain affiliate posts on my site, my affiliate income has gone up significantly simply because people know exactly where to go to find more about the item I’m sharing.
I have found the most effective affiliate marketing strategy is to be super picky about what you are putting before your audience. Protect them by offering high-quality resources that fit closely with the message your audience has come to expect from you. This builds trust and creates a customer eager to buy anything you share.
Creating shopping guide style blog posts are important – but the key is to research your keywords so you are writing content people are searching for. And if you keep to a niche that isn’t overdone you’ll have much better success!
The best strategy I have implemented for generating income through affiliate links is crafting a personal email to my subscriber list and organically adding the affiliate link along with why I love the product and/or why they need the product. Utilizing my email list for these type of promotions has been one of the best sources of income for me.
Look around your house and business. You do not need to invest in new products to start affiliate marketing. Talk about the items you are already using.
Create a resources page
A resource page listing the products you use that are related to your blog niche is the perfect way to start building affiliate income.
You can link to this page from your menu, sidebar, and even from your posts. Drive as much traffic to that page as possible and make sure it includes a pinnable image.
Work your affiliate links like you would a sponsored campaign
You know the effort you place into making your sponsors happy? Use that same initiative and creativity when pushing your affiliate link.
Create new content, post social media ads, send a newsletter, and/or host a Facebook Live. The more often you mention the product in a consecutive campaign, the more sales you will receive through your link.
Use tracking links that can be changed
Companies often change their affiliate platforms. To avoid combing through your blog looking for each link, use shortlinks with a plugin like Pretty Link. You can set the link inside the plugin so you only have to change that one location to have the other links redirect to the correct location.
Plus, you can track the number of clicks through the link. If you notice you are seeing significant traffic to a product, promote it more often.
Prepare for the holidays
My blogging friends in the deals and coupons niche plan for the holidays like it is an alien invasion. No kidding. It’s very tactical and strategic. But we could learn something from them.
Since the holiday season is the most profitable season of the year, create a plan IN ADVANCE that puts your affiliate links in front of your readers before they are shopping.
Place your efforts on high commission potential
Consider the payout amount when you are promoting an affiliate link. If the link pays $0.03 per click, automate that link in your social media but don’t spend extra time planning how to promote the link. Instead, save your efforts for the affiliate items with high commissions.
Have a great tip for maximizing your affiliate marketing strategy?
Leave a comment. We would love to hear how you are monetizing your blog with affiliate links.
A key factor in a profitable blogging business is establishing multiple streams of income. But not all income streams will be considered passive income. Even so, are you utilizing all of the possibilities? What can you add to your monetization strategy to boost your blogging profits?
When I balance my blog income and expense reports each month, I divide my revenue into “income buckets” because it helps me organize the various deposits – or “income streams” – flowing into each bucket. At a glance, I can see the areas where my business is profitable and the areas where I need improvement.
Think of my system like a trickling stream that combines with one or more streams to make a river. The river flows to a dam that creates a reservoir, a holding place like a giant bucket.
One thing that always stuns me is the number of potential income sources available to bloggers.
Many bloggers get overwhelmed with an exhaustive list. They glance at it, file it away on the hard drive, and think, “That looks like a lot of work. I will get to it another day.” The reality is… you never look at the list again, and your bank account remains the same.
Establishing your income streams earlier (rather than later) is much better for your blog for two reasons: 1) Your readers become adjusted to seeing the advertisements. 2) You start making money (and inching towards a payout) sooner.
So, here it is… the list that will either make your profits grow or sit in your hard drive waiting for someday. It’s your decision.
Income Bucket #1 – Advertising
Advertising includes any content or banners you place on your website when you are paid per click (PPC), paid per impression (PPM), paid per acquisition (PPA), or a flat rate for displaying the content.
Advertising: Income Stream #1 – Banner Advertising
When most bloggers think “advertising,” they immediately think of passive income streams including sidebar ads with code embedded from “Adsense.” They place a banner advertisement in the header and a few in the sidebar but are confused when their efforts fail to harness significant income.
Where you place your ads is extremely important and can make a difference, but don’t expect your blog to thrive on banner advertising alone.
IMPORTANT: Always read the terms before signing a contract with an advertising agency as they may have terms including non-compete, meaning you cannot work with any other advertising company while you are publishing their ads.
Of course, you can always approach a company directly about advertising on your blog instead of depending on a third party. If you are unsure what to charge, I recommend the DIY Media Kit.
Advertising: Income Stream #3 –Other Sponsorship Opportunities
Do not limit the advertising potential of your blog by clinging to traditional advertising. Be creative! Companies are seeking individuals who can represent their products in unique and original ways.
You can also offer sponsors:
Dedicated email (eblasts) – an email you send to your email subscribers on behalf of the brand
Live video unboxing – reveal the contents of a product box and give your first impressions
Short form video – create a short video review or story featuring the product to post on YouTube or social media
Social media takeover – allow the brand to take over your most popular social media platform for the day or YOU take over their page
Reviews and giveaways – most bloggers group reviews and giveaways with sponsored posts but they can be treated differently or posted directly to social media
Social media parties – host a Q&A party directly on social media or create a scavenger hunt for readers to become more familiar with the brand
Sponsored subscriber freebies – offer a freebie provided by the brand to your email subscribers or as a free gift for new subscribers
Video reviews – review a product via video and edit the video for YouTube and/or embed the video on your website
Instagram photo-a-day campaigns – create a week- or month-long photo challenge where you encourage your followers to share have they are using the brand’s product
Sponsored guest posts – publish content written by a brand representative
Social media mentions – feature a brand directly on your social media
Sponsored pins – pin product and other brand pages to your Pinterest account
Multi-outlet campaigns – create a campaign that includes multiple types of advertising
Live events and sponsored workshops – use and/or promote their products during a live demonstration, workshop, or party
Conference sponsorship – represent a brand at a blogging conference
Affiliate recruitment – offer to recruit new affiliates for the company
Branded swag and product placement – have branded products in your photographs, videos and/or at live events/appearances
Blog versus blog challenges – coordinate a group of bloggers to use the brand’s product in creative but useful ways and encourage readers to vote for a chance to win a prize bundle from the brand
Multi-blog campaigns – create a campaign that includes multiple types of advertising across more than one blog
Holiday gift guide – sell placement within a PDF catalog or on a landing page promoting gift ideas
Interviews – publish an interview with the brand or a celebrity representative
Public speaking – offer to speak to a group on behalf of the brand
Tutorials – publish creative projects you have completed with step-by-step tutorials using the company’s products
Live blogging from an event – use multiple platforms and types of media to share your experience from a live event as it happens
Do not stop here! Brainstorm a list of ways you can represent your favorite brands and then contact their marketing team with the idea. What’s the worst thing that could happen? They say, “No?” But they cannot say “YES” unless you ask.
You can also pitch your sponsors with a double-whammy of advertising opportunity by bundling your best sponsorship options into a package.
Income Bucket #2 – Affiliate Marketing
Fill another bucket with income from affiliate marketing.
In a nutshell, affiliate marketing is making a commission when someone purchases the product through your unique link.
Amazon Affiliates is one of the easiest places to find products that match your content and reader’s needs because of the volume and diversity of products available. However, Amazon has restrictions against bloggers in some locations due to state nexus laws.
Affiliate Marketing: Income Stream #3 –Direct Affiliate Marketing
Another option is to connect with other bloggers and brands who have an affiliate program. Working directly with the person who created and/or markets the product often yields a higher commission rate.
One of the best ways to control your blogging income is by creating your own products.
You choose everything about how the product will be marketed, what you will charge, etc. Of course, by selling your own products, you must choose a way to deliver your products and deal with customer service issues but these will factor into the price of your product.
Choosing the type of product you create depends on the needs of your audience and your abilities to produce and distribute the product.
Product Income Stream #1 –Digital Products
The easiest products to deliver are digital products. Using a WordPress e-Commerce plugin like WP eStore makes it possible to email digital files directly to your customers.
Potential products to consider include:
Video recordings and tutorials
Printable pages, menus, and planners
Programs, plugins, themes, and computer software
E-courses and webinars
Stock photography, video, and/or music
Anything that can be hosted on a website or sent via email is a digital product and can boost your income stream.
Beyond digital products, you can also create tangible goods to provide your readers with problem-solving products that meet their needs. I know bloggers who sell everything from linens to t-shirts, from kitchenware to jewelry.
With physical products, you can choose to manufacture your own or promote products as an independent consultant for a direct sales company.
If you can create your product within your home and choose not to house a shop on your website, you can create a store with Etsy and immediately access a large established audience.
For products that need more specific or detailed manufacturing, consider browsing the manufacturing companies available through Alibaba.
You can also consider having your products manufactured and then creating a seller account with Fulfillment by Amazon.
If you have your heart set on publishing a book, film, or music, do not wait for a company to call you! Self-publishing becomes easier each year. Check out CreateSpace with self-publishing available to authors, filmmakers, and musicians.
To someone else, you are an expert and people are willing to pay you for your advice. Offer your services to readers through:
Private consulting by phone or over Google Hangouts or Skype
Group coaching with Google Hangouts
Assessments and critiques
Customized menus, fitness routines, etc.
Private shopping and deal notifications
Copywriting or ghost writing
Some bloggers host local events and conferences. While events can require teamwork, they can also be very lucrative.
Some events to consider include:
When Income Streams become overwhelming
Looking at this huge list can strike anxiety into the heart of even the most driven entrepreneur. Just keep these tips in mind.
Do not assume that you need to start filling each income bucket this week. Choose one type of income and one option for channeling revenue into that bucket. Once you have mastered one stream of income, then add another. As you feel comfortable with the amount of revenue pouring through those streams into an income bucket, create a new bucket.
Track every penny
By knowing from where your income originates, you can easily see which areas need a strategic evaluation.
For instance, I spent months looking at an empty affiliate marketing bucket. I thought I knew how to use affiliate links to create a flow of cash, by my bucket showed me something was wrong. I knew I needed to invest in a class that would help my affiliate marketing income bucket fill (over overflow.)
Subscribe and receive the spreadsheet I use for tracking my blogging income.
Success! Now check your email to confirm your subscription.
If something isn’t working, try something different. Or, maybe you are trying too hard and need to take a step back to evaluate what is going wrong.
Blogging for profit should not be a chore. You need to love what you do first. Then, identify ways that you can solve your audience’s problems while building your income buckets.
As you practice sincere and honest monetization strategies, your income will grow month after month.
What is your best income stream?
When you look at your income, which income stream performs the best?
Is something missing from this list?
Please leave a comment and share your best monetization strategies.
Affiliate marketing is a primary source of revenue for most bloggers. But when you start affiliate marketing, it is easy to misunderstand the best practices for affiliate marketing. I made tons of mistakes in the beginning, and honestly… I still have a lot to learn about affiliate marketing strategies.
As a blogger, I am very aware that I need multiple streams of income in order to achieve consistent revenue. My income is grouped into three buckets: advertising, products, and affiliate marketing.
However, my bucket for affiliate marketing appears to have a leak because the money does not accumulate as much as I would like. So I am striving to learn more about affiliate marketing and how to make it work for my blog.
An Affiliate Marketing Success Story
I bumped into Michelle Schroeder-Gardner after attending FinCon last year, and her story stunned me.
Michelle is younger than I am… much… both in age and in blogging experience. My ego took a hit, and I was tempted to shrug off someone I considered to have less experience. But her income reports were hard to ignore.
Having started a blog in August of 2011 as a hobby, Michelle thought about using affiliate marketing to build her blogging revenue but thought her blog was “too small to make any real money from affiliate marketing.”
Then, I started applying different affiliate marketing strategies to my blog, and they were working. I saw my blogging income increase dramatically every single month.
Now, I wake up and cannot believe the amount of income I am earning through affiliate marketing, all while living a great life and being able to help my audience.
Michelle started affiliate marketing, growing her income from $0 to over $50,000 per month, and now makes over $100,000 each month.
I have much to learn from Michelle’s affiliate marketing strategies.
What is affiliate marketing?
Many companies choose to expand their reach by enlisting bloggers and other companies to be partners, or affiliates. Each affiliate is assigned a unique link by which they can generate traffic to the company’s product.commission based sales (explain)
When a person clicks the unique link and makes a purchase, the affiliate receives a commission.
Where to find affiliate marketing opportunities
When you discover a common problem among your readers, you have the ideal opportunity to seek out a product that will give them a solution. Then, become an affiliate for that company and connect your readers to the products they need.
The company benefits because they are growing their reach. Your readers benefit because they are finding the answers they seek. And you… you are making money with your blog in a very authentic way.
But where do you find the companies with affiliate programs?
You can locate a company’s affiliate program with one of these strategies:
Visit the company’s website and look for a link marked “Affiliates,” “Referral Program” or “Partners.” The link is often in the footer or sitemap.
Search the internet for terms like “ affiliate,” “[company] affiliates,” or “[company] referral program.” If your search doesn’t work, try again with a variety of terms.
Contact the company directly through Twitter or email and ask.
And don’t fear being rejected. Some companies have requirements based on your location and traffic but the majority are eagerly looking for someone just like you to be a partner.
Technical words to understand
Just like blogging, there are a collection of terms you should understand before agreeing to represent a company.
Cookie – When someone clicks an affiliate link, a tracking code is placed in their browser that contains the unique affiliate ID. This “cookie” will last for a designated amount of time as set by the company. Purchases made while the cookie is in their browser are commissionable sales.
Commission – Typically, affiliate sales are commission-based, meaning the partner receive a percentage of product sales or a flat rate per purchase, depending on the affiliate agreement.
Tracking – The company will give you a specialized affiliate link to use and will track the statistics related to your link which may include the number of times the link appears on a page (impressions) and the number of times it is clicked.
Bidding – This term confused me for a very long time since it is normally associated with a list of keywords. In the beginning, I thought I could not use those keywords in my post but “bidding” is actually referring to targeting keywords through Adsense when you are purchasing ads and has nothing to do with what you write on your blog.
To remain authentic, you want to use affiliate links that relate to your audience. Ideally, you will create products to help your readers, but when you don’t have time to create your own product or when someone has a product that is superior to anything you could create, use an affiliate link.
If you are struggling to brainstorm a list of potential companies, begin with your favorite products and items you already mention on your blog and/or social media. Then, visit other blogs within your niche and view the advertising in the sidebars.
You can also search for posts related to the most popular content on your blog and see which ads show in the Adsense search results and other network advertising in the resulting blog’s header, footer, and other key locations. Then, check to see if these companies have an affiliate program.
Bad Affiliate Marketing Strategies
As with any aspect of blogging, bad strategies will kill your potential for growth and success.
Do not apply to multiple companies.
No. You need to research brands and products across multiple companies and third party networks because often the cookie life is longer or the commission rate is higher.
Individual brands often list on several third parties with different terms on each.
Recommend anything and everything just to get a payout.
No. Stay true to your personal brand and the focus of your blog. Dedicate your intentions to connecting your readers to the products that will solve their problems.
Hide your affiliate links. No one needs to know you are getting paid.
No. Always disclose and do so in a lawful fashion.
No. Many companies consider a plea for using your affiliate link as a violation of their policy. Likewise, some companies such as Amazon will terminate your affiliate relationship even if you phrase your disclosure as a thank you note. For instance, you cannot say, “Thank you for using my affiliate links.”
Best practices for Affiliate Marketing
Use fewer links per post.
Yes. The temptation is to load your posts and sidebar with affiliate links in hoping of capturing a sale. However, the best practice is to use one link per post and connect it with a strong call to action like “buy now” or “learn more.”
Use your social media to promote your affiliate links.
Yes, if it is allowed in the affiliate terms. Not every company will allow you to promote your link directly on social media but most do. Just make sure to disclose your affiliate link.
Track your links.
If tracking is not available through the company (and sometimes even if they allow you to view your tracking statistics), use a separate plugin like Pretty Links or a URL shortener to track the number of clicks through your link and compare the number with other reports.
Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing
Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing by Michelle Schroeder-Gardner is a step-by-step class to guide you through creating and making money with your own successful affiliate marketing strategy.
This course makes affiliate marketing achievable. You can see your blogging income grow from the beginning, and the information in this course will help you well into the future.
Mastermind groups provide the forum bloggers need for bouncing ideas off others who understand blogging language and have similar goals. But starting a mastermind group that works for everyone involved can be difficult.
It is a foolish blogger who thinks she can attain success without the help of others.
Sounds like an ancient proverb or something, but it was actually ME. I tried to create my own blogging success without the help of others for a couple of years and struggled with huge frustrations, bordered on burning out, and wandered aimlessly.
I was doing all the “things” but could not get traction.
Then, I opened my business up to seasoned bloggers, allowing these ladies to peek behind the scenes. As I shared my difficult emotions with my mastermind group, they opened up the wisdom vaults (their brains coupled with vast experience) and poured ideas, encouragement, and butt-kicking truths over me.
Over the last few years, my blogging business has grown tremendously in ways I never thought possible because of my blog mentors and the ladies in my mastermind group. Now, because of the time they have invested in me, I want to invest in others.
^^Click the one you need.^^
Characteristics of great mastermind groups
When I was first approached about being in a mastermind group, I was anxious because I was not sure I wanted to open myself and my business to people I barely knew. Plus, I had watched these ladies work their businesses from a distance and perceived them to be much more successful than I was. Don’t laugh but honestly… I could not fathom why I was invited to participate.
Because I was more curious about why they picked me and truly needed a group of bloggers with whom I could ask questions, I accepted.
That was the best decision I have ever made in my blogging business.
But the success of our mastermind group did not happen by accident. It was strategically planned by the two bloggers who started the group to include characteristics that would encourage growth in all the members.
Each participant in our mastermind group chose to blog as a career, meaning we were each striving to make a profit from our blogs. Having a similar goal immediately defined the purpose of our mastermind group as well as the agenda: We work together to see income growth and share our income and expense reports once a month.
Does this mean every mastermind group should be focused on monetization? No. There are many possible objectives so do not immediately dismiss the idea if your most pressing goal is something different:
creating your first product
starting a new blog
increase page views
learn a new skill
Similar level of experience
In my mastermind group, our blog analytics are vastly different with a range of 20,000 page views a month to over 400,000 page views a month. However, we have each blogged for about the same amount of time.
Another similarity is our pursuit to continue our education. Each of us regularly attends conferences and purchases courses to keep learning. Although we have different personalities, we are all driven to grow and succeed and highly-motivated to help one another.
By having a similar level of experience, a mastermind group avoids relying on one person to be the expert guru, working together and not draining one person. After all, a successful mastermind group is a cooperation of all the members and not a mentorship where one person must guide the rest of the members.
Balanced with diversity
While the members of my mastermind community have similar goals and experiences, we each have different strengths and niches. This was not a planned effort but certainly became a tremendous benefit.
Should you intentionally try to find a mix of people with various expertise when starting a mastermind group? That is difficult for me to answer. I have definitely seen the asset of having various abilities in our group, but if striving for such a mix leaves you frustrated, I would skip it.
That is difficult for me to answer. I have definitely seen the asset of having various abilities in our group, but if striving for such a mix leaves you frustrated, I would skip it.
When we decided to launch our mastermind group, each of us understood that this was a commitment to share our time, energy, and knowledge.
Attendance was a MUST. And while our schedules sometimes conflict, we strive to meet twice a month except during the summer when the calendar is harder to coordinate because many of us have children.
Supportive but not counseling
As our friendship has grown, we have occasionally discussed something off-topic but these instances are very few. We are not together to provide counseling on relationships, parenting, home renovations, or anything else.
A mastermind group is not a place to provide counseling on relationships, parenting, home renovations, or anything else.
Our purpose is to support one another as we pursue blogging success. Therefore, our discussions are focused on topics related to blogging.
The majority of the ladies in my mastermind group can easily assume a leadership role but we allow one person to guide our meetings. This has kept our group amiable but on task.
By having one person as the group facilitator, you know who will start the meeting, who will prompt the group members when they stray outside of the group’s boundaries, etc.
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How to start a mastermind group
When you understand the characteristics of a healthy community, it is time to start a mastermind group. As you begin generating an interest, you need to develop guidelines for how your group will be structured including: What is the maximum number of members allowed in your group? Personally, I recommend at least four and no more than ten. Too many and you lose the trust of the members. Too few and it is hard to meet when someone must be absent. How will you gather for your meetings? Google Hangouts is an excellent option. You can keep your meeting private and even record them for playback later. Plus, it is FREE. When or how often will you meet? Setting a time for meetings is often the hardest part. Once you find a timeframe that works for everyone, stick with it. Changing the schedule often leaves members frustrated and makes the group feel unsafe. Setting a time for meetings is often the hardest part. Once you find a timeframe that works for everyone, stick with it. Changing the schedule often leaves members frustrated and makes the group feel unsafe. Some mastermind groups met weekly while others choose to meet bi-weekly. Find the frequency that works best for your group. How long will the meetings be? Bloggers are busy balancing life and family and business… and hundreds of other things. Having a length for meetings and sticking with it helps everyone plan their day. The length of your mastermind meeting will vary greatly depending on the number of people in your group. Typically, a mastermind group of five people will need at least 90 minutes for the agenda. Will you have a private group available? By creating a secret Facebook group (or another community), mastermind members can stay in touch between meetings. The private group is also convenient for meeting reminders, creating accountability, sharing files, and other correspondence.
Mastermind group rules
When starting the mastermind group’s first meeting, set the rules. No one likes the uncomfortable feeling of creating group guidelines, but neither do people enjoy being stuck in an uncomfortable situation. By setting your mastermind group rules, every participant understands what is expected and the repercussions should the terms be violated. Nondisclosure Mastermind groups must be a safe place where confidential information can be shared without fear of someone mentioning these plans and problems outside of the group. Attendance requirement How many consecutive meetings can a member miss before being asked to leave the group? How many total meetings can be missed before the absences become a problem? Setting an attendance requirement might make you feel like an elementary school kid, but a mastermind group does not work well when members regularly miss the meetings. Length of commitment Life changes. Business changes. You cannot make a commitment without understanding that you may not be able to run a mastermind group forever. Having a set time for reviewing the success of the group gives everyone a trapdoor to escape if the group is not functioning well.
Mastermind group meetings format
When people hear me say that I participate in a mastermind group, they often ask what we do during our meetings. Our agenda is loosely based on one mentioned by Pat Flynn. Review wins for the week At the beginning of each meeting, we each share our “wins” for the week. A “win” is something we accomplished and are proud of. Sharing with one another gives us a chance to celebrate even small successes. Typically, our “wins” relate to the goals we set during the previous meeting but may also include something new we learned. Each person shares for about five minutes. Hot seat For our meetings, one or two of the participants will be placed in the “hot seat.” In the hot seat, a member shares the biggest struggle she is facing and asks for feedback on the issue. Those with expertise on the topic tend to take on a primary role in the conversation but everyone shares their opinions and ideas. After our conversation, the person in the “hot seat” is likely to have a list of action items to try. Learning together When there is a topic we are all interested in mastering, we spend some time in our meeting questioning the member perceived as the expert or seek out resources to share.
Learning together heightens the level of accountability.
This would actually be a great way to review notes from a book you read as a group or an e-course you all decide to take. Learning together heightens the level of accountability. Setting goals As the meeting comes to a close, each participant sets an action-oriented goal to accomplish prior to the next meeting. And that’s it! While this mastermind agenda might sound too simple, the routine works well. Over-structuring the meeting would not allow time for us to focus on anyone who needed more time and might stifle the conversation with a feeling of being rushed. Having a basic agenda is very helpful but leave room for relationships and the current needs of the group.
Are the constant Facebook algorithm changes making you crazy? Are you perfecting your Facebook marketing strategy only to see a dip in your Facebook reach?
But here is the better question… Is the time you are investing on constantly babysitting your Facebook page, seeking and curating viral content, and responding to commenters worth the number of page views you receive from Facebook?
I will admit it… I am a HUGE Facebook skeptic.
When I started my first blog page on Facebook, it was during the golden age when the rules were few and followers could actually see my content. It was GLORIOUS. And addicting.
I knew that if I wanted instant traffic to my blog, I could post something and BAM! Response. It was like giving a dog treats for good behavior. I posted and my master, Facebook, responded by giving me the reward of page views.
Now, after constant algorithm changes, everything on Facebook has shifted, but me? I am still there. I am an established Facebook user. Habitual in my routine. Determined to beat the Facebook system.
Over time, I have altered my strategy slightly in order to jump through new hoops placed by deviations in the Facebook algorithm, but I was still checking my Facebook page daily. I was still pushing my amazing content into the Facebook feed. I kept doing my part to give Facebook material to use, but I was no longer rewarded with treats.
But this dog was tired. My tricks were tested for long enough. It was time to see if my master, Facebook, was worth my devotion or if I should find a new place to play.
So I devoted four weeks to analyzing my time spent on Facebook and compared it to the number of pageviews Facebook was sending me as a reward.
The results? Dismal. I actually saw an increase in my Facebook reach when I did less. Yes… LESS. But I will get to my specific changes and results in a minute.
Facebook Case Study
A group of bloggers participated in this Facebook challenge with me and the numbers were SHOCKING.
The percentage of traffic that Facebook was sending to most blogs averaged 6% of total traffic with some bloggers receiving less than 0.5%.
That number is insane when you compare the time bloggers pour into Facebook pages.
During this test, I noticed there were two “camps” of bloggers participating.
Camp A took a laid-back approach to Facebook by scheduling their pages or neglecting them all together.
Camp B was ALL ABOUT Facebook and regularly spent a tremendous amount of time scheduling, sharing, and pouring over their analytics.
However, despite the differences in strategy, the statics were roughly the same, and after four weeks of tweaking and twisting, many bloggers decided that Facebook was no longer worthy of their devotion.
Even though I’ve been more involved… the amount [of page views] from Facebook has stayed the same.
I am pretty much just fully automating everything [to Facebook] and then just post manually every once in a while or share something now and then.
Testing Your Facebook Efforts
If you are tired of feeling like a pretty poodle running an obstacle course but getting nowhere on your Facebook page, maybe you should analyze your Facebook efforts.
I challenge you to test your own Facebook page to see it the amount of time you are devoting to the Facebook algorithms is worth the page views you are receiving.
About Facebook Reach
As you perform this test, the temptation will be to focus on reach but remember the purpose of this test is to see how Facebook impacts our blog traffic.
When you change your approach to Facebook, your reach will naturally change. It is a see-saw. So do not hyperventilate over an increase/decrease in total Facebook reach. Instead, focus on overall blog traffic in your Google Analytics.
WEEK ONE – Establish your baseline
In order to test Facebook to see if your current efforts are producing any results, you need to establish a baseline for the test.
Start with TWO things:
1) Every time you work on your Facebook strategy, make note of the time you invest. Make no changes to your usual Facebook habits. Your goal is to create a tally of the time you spend on Facebook over the next 7 days.
The tasks you record should include:
If you are doing something that is FOR your Facebook page, write down the amount of time.
IMPORTANT: Be real with yourself. Don’t alter your behavior on Facebook this week. This number needs to be real.
2) Visit your Google Analytics. Change the report dates to include the last seven days and record the amount of traffic your blog received AND the amount of traffic referred by Facebook. So this means you write down two numbers: your page views for the last seven days and the number of people sent to your blog from Facebook.
HOW: To find the number of visitors sent through Facebook, navigate in your Google Analytics to ACQUISITION, then ALL TRAFFIC, and REFERRALS. You will typically see m.facebook.com (from mobile traffic) and facebook.com (from desktop traffic.) You might even see l.facebook.com and lm.facebook.com. You can record these numbers separately or combined as I do not think it will make a difference for our purposes.
At the end of the week, tally the amount of time you spent on Facebook and compare that to the percentage of traffic Facebook is referring to your website.
But don’t jump to conclusions yet.
WEEK TWO – Change one thing
If you are a Camp A blogger, approach Facebook more aggressively for the next 7 days.
Make a note of your page views for the last 7 days.
Write down the number of sessions referred by Facebook.
Give EXTRA effort to Facebook this week.
Look for changes.
Now, you can define “extra effort,” but I recommend posting organically once a day. “Organically” means posting directly to your page and not using a scheduler.
Why give more focus to Facebook if you have not previously done so?
Because how can you be sure you need to give up on your current Facebook strategy if you don’t really give Facebook a chance to work?
If you are in Camp B, be more relaxed in your Facebook efforts.
Make a note of your page views for the last 7 days.
Write down the number of sessions referred by Facebook.
Give LESS effort to Facebook this week.
Look for changes.
Just to clarify, your efforts should not be drastically reduced. Facebook hates sudden changes, and if you have been fastidious about grooming your page, I do not want you to incur any damage this week.
Instead, just remove one post a day. You have to treat Facebook with a gentle hand. Nothing angers the Facebook gods more than quick and/or drastic change.
Choosing where to place your efforts
I am sure you have heard the saying, “Work smarter, not harder.” Right?
Well, I look at that phrase a little differently. I want to work smarter so I CAN work harder.
This is what I mean…
When you are working smarter, you have more time to work on other important details. If you accomplish more work in less time, you have more time within your office hours to work on the things truly important to moving your blogging business forward.
So, if you are spending less time on Facebook, you should be spending more time working on another task to grow your blog traffic.
WEEK THREE – Try a different platform
During the third week testing your Facebook efforts, work smarter on Facebook so you have the time to work harder on content, email, Pinterest, or whatever you choose.
Automate your Facebook by either spending time scheduling posts directly through your Facebook page or through a service like Post Planner.
You cannot turn off your efforts for gaining blog traffic from Facebook without increasing effort in another area. So, choose a focus for this week:
Building your email subscriber list
Nurturing or segmenting your current email subscribers
Live Video (Facebook Live, Periscope, etc.)
or something else?
Take the same amount of time you normally spend on your Facebook page and invest in this different platform.
At the end of seven days, test your efforts by checking your total blog page views and the number of referrals you received.
WEEK FOUR – Make a decision
After four weeks of analyzing your time and effort, choose whether you need a new approach to Facebook or can maintain your current strategy.
Decide on these facets:
How much time will you dedicate to your Facebook efforts? (You should only spend 10% of your office hours on marketing.)
What type of content (status updates, links, videos, etc.) will you post? Will you experiment with Facebook Live?
Where will you get the content you share? Will you only post content from your blog
Will you automate what you post to Facebook? Will you use Post Planner or something else?
And, because the Facebook algorithm changes often, set a reminder to recheck your strategy quarterly. Do not fall into the trap of being a well-trained dog again.
How I changed my Facebook strategy
My Facebook marketing strategy prior to the test was to post viral content as often as possible to my Facebook page. Each time I published a new post, a link was sent from my blog using Social Networks Autoposter (SNAP).
WEEK ONE RESULTS
When I viewed my statistics, I decided that I was spending way too much time on Facebook for the blog traffic I received. But brands still love Facebook and I needed to maintain an active page for that one reason.
I also noticed that Facebook was a timesuck. The more time I spent working on my page, the more time I spent distracted by my newsfeed or groups.
WEEK TWO RESULTS
I chose to post less during week two but became very picky about what I shared. My goal was to only share MY content or content that matched my blog’s goal: providing families with solutions for living a generous lifestyle on a budget.
Deciding to only share content that represented my brand eliminated a lot of the time I spent scouring my newsfeed and Post Planner for viral content.
WEEK THREE RESULTS
During the second week, I turned my attention to my highly neglected email subscribers and started planning out newsletter content and a way to segment my list.
By chopping my list up by interest using tags in ConvertKit, I saw an increased open rate resulting in more clicks through to my blog.
WEEK FOUR RESULTS
Despite my determination to break my co-dependent relationship with Facebook, I did maintain a presence after the testing, but I stopped killing myself, trying to find viral content and no longer post more than once a day. Sometimes, I post every other day.
In a nutshell:
I post less often on my Facebook page… maybe four times a week?
Most of the content I share to Facebook is my own.
I have a highly defined definition of what I will share on Facebook.
The final results after these changes? My blog page views are the same. The amount of traffic referred from Facebook is a little better but not enough to thrill me.
But, my Facebook reach… has skyrocketed.
Previously, my Facebook updates (on a page with over 13,000 followers) would reach between 100 and 400 people. After tweaking my strategy, each post reaches between 1,500 and 4,000 people. Crazy, right?
Roughly 80% of the content I share on Facebook is my own. From my own blog. Automated with Social Networks Autoposter. These posts have gone from a reach of 100 people to over 1,000 people and higher.
I also push one or two Instagram posts through to my Facebook page each week. These updates have a reach of at least 1,000 people but typically score over 3,000.
Rarely, I share content from other bloggers but ONLY if it matches my brand message.
Through this experience, I think the most important thing I learned was that Facebook is not as necessary for driving traffic as I believed.
Yes, bloggers need to have a Facebook page.
No, bloggers do not need to focus so intently on posting to Facebook.
By choosing my content carefully and posting less, my Facebook reach has grown and my referral traffic is unchanged. I have more time to spend on other social media platforms and… more importantly… my email subscribers.
Will you get these same results? I cannot say with certainty. But I encourage you to test your Facebook strategy and see for yourself. Do you feel the results are worth the effort?
Are you wasting time on Facebook?
Test your Facebook strategy to see if your efforts are being wasted with this free 25-page guide.
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Summer can be very rough because readers are on vacation or distracted by obligations. They are not online as much as when the kids are in school. So, if you saw your page views and income dip, you are not alone.
In this post, I am going to get really REAL with you. Ready?
The truth is… months like this can leave me feeling defeated.
I have friends who started blogging at the same time I did who make $10,000 a month. When I start thinking about how they have moved beyond where I am in my blogging business, it’s easy to get trapped in a mindset where I think something is wrong with ME.
Why can’t I make what they make?
What am I doing wrong?
Maybe I should quit!
Blogging, even with a network of friends, can feel very lonely.
You spend your days (and nights) pouring your heart into content that you hope will help someone.
When you need to learn something, you sit in front of the computer with earbuds firmly placed and watch a dozen videos. Or, you listen to several podcasts. Alone.
And while monetizing is a secondary goal for most bloggers, when the money doesn’t appear at the end of the month… you wonder if this is even worth the effort.
Or is it just me?
I can remember when I would be happy to make $400. I just wanted enough to break even at the end of the month.
If I could just make $400… that’s all we need!
Now, I consider myself an absolute failure if I don’t make at least $3,000 a month.
What happened? Am I less of a success when I make less money? Does falling short of a certain number make me less of an expert?
So why the feeling of defeat?
Perhaps my definition of success should not be based on a monetary value.
The amount of money most bloggers hope to make
Here is a wake-up call… Despite the stresses, you are among the most profitable of bloggers if you make $1,000 a month.
Yes, there are bloggers making $10,000 a month. Yes, they are awesome! Yes, I hope to be like them one day (and soon.) But, if you are making $1,000 a month then you are making exactly what some people are hoping for.
During a recent conversation in our Facebook group, I asked,
How much money do you need to make from your blog each month to feel successful?
I was shocked to discover that most bloggers would be happy to make between $100 and $1,000 a month. That’s it.
And here I sit… scratching my head and wondering why I feel depressed when I have what so many hope for, knowing that this $1,000 goal is easily accomplished.
$1,000 a month is more than possible
If you are reading along and thinking,
I would be super happy with a $1,000 a month!
I want you to know that this is more than a possibility.
To build a profitable blog you need three things:
Quality content that solves a problem.
Traffic to your blog.
A passion that will motivate you on the months when you don’t make a dime.
A little creativity doesn’t hurt either. (Emphasis on the word *little.*)
There is absolutely no reason why a blogger with 50,000 pageviews a month should not be making $1,000 a month.
And this is why I say that…
If you have an average of 50,000 page views a month, you could be receiving:
$400 to $500 a month from Adsense (with specialized topics earning more)
$600 from three sponsored posts a month
$100+ a month in affiliate sales
Not to mention all the other income streams you could utilize.
What if you don’t have 50,000 page views?
If your traffic is not between 20,000 and 50,000 page views a month, you will struggle to make money blogging. Plain and simple.
Does that mean you should give up?
It took me one year (of knowing what I was doing) to make $100. Not a month. A full $100… in a full year.
The second year of blogging, I started seeing $100 a month. By the beginning of the third year, I was making $1,000 a month.
And while there are people out there who make much more money faster than I did, my story is the norm… because most people will not invest to learn what they need to know, and the time it takes to master growing and monetizing a blog slows to a crawl.
If you want to make money blogging quickly, you must do these things:
Learn as much as you can as fast as you can.
Write high-quality content and a ton of it.
Begin monetizing your blog with multiple income streams from day one.
You will not get rich quick by blogging. But, you can expedite your growth if you are willing to fully commit the time and effort it takes.
Blog Income Report – June 2016
InspiredBU represents Inspired Bloggers properties including this website, Inspired Bloggers University and the associated Facebook communities.
Meet Penny is the group of blogs I write under a pseudo-name, Penny. These blogs are lifestyle and food focused.
Total Income = $3,182.28 June Goal = $6,000 Difference = -$2,817.72
Advertising $740.58 (Facebook Ads)
Paypal & Other Fees $108.51
Email Service $149.00 (ConvertKit)
Internet Service $194.13
Cell Phone Service $183.08 Audible Subscription $14.95 Post Planner $75.32 New Camera $960.44
Podcasting and Video Equipment $128.71
Office $199.83 (GoDaddy domain renewals, Canva, PicMonkey, Amazon S3, etc.) Total Expenses = $3,093.40
Net Profit = +$88.88
My business mistakes
Honestly, I don’t know if the Facebook Ads were a mistake or not. I followed models very closely and had experts review my ad copy. Each sales funnel and landing page were reviewed at least three times. But, nothing converted into profit. However, I did add email subscribers who may convert into sales later.
My page views at Meet Penny have tanked, sending my advertising income into the toilet. June is always a terrible month for page views but I can’t help thinking that spending so much time focused on Inspired Bloggers is hurting my other blogs.
My business successes
I posted new content to the Inspired Bloggers blog five times AND posted new content at Meet Penny and Frugal Family Favorites. Granted, the recipes at FFF are hired content but using a ghost writer is helping me maintain balance as I have elected to focus on Inspired this year.
You might not consider this a success but… I do! I invested in my family. My children decided to launch their own YouTube Channel. So, I purchased a new camera, sound equipment, and lighting to help make their business a reality. The expenses almost put me in the hole for the month but we are having so much fun on this summer project as a family.
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Content is King! Bloggers know… but do you struggle with planning quality blog content?
Regardless of any angst, content creation is the most important thing you do as a blogger. The majority of your time should be spent on planning and developing amazing content.
Optimizing Your Blog Posts
One of the printables that you receive with the Blog Success Planner is the Blog Post Optimization Checklist. This printable prompts you to review your current and old posts for maximum impact.
1) Check for errors.
First of all, you want to review your content for obvious errors. I understand that life happens and you cannot always write your blog content weeks in advance. However, you should write your post and save it as a draft. Then go back in the next day – or maybe a week later – and read the blog post to check for errors.
Why wait that long to review the post for typos?
Because if you are like me, you tend to get glazed over. You know, I write it all out and think, “There are no mistakes here!” Then, I will proof it quickly and will not see anything. I hit publish and sure enough… somebody is going to email me to say, “I think you didn’t mean to say ‘you.’ You meant to say ‘your.’” You get numb to your typos.
So go back and check for obvious errors: punctuation, spelling, grammar. If you are not great with grammar, I recommend Grammarly.
Grammarly is a FREE browser extension that automatically checks for up to 250 types of grammatical mistakes, contextual spelling errors, and poor vocabulary usage.
2) Review for relevance.
This step is very important especially if you are going back and reviewing an old post.
An evergreen post that means it is going to be great information over and over and over again. The post might be seasonal but the content will still apply later. For instance, if you write a post this December that will also apply next December. I consider that an evergreen post.
It is very important to revisit old posts seasonally. Review your evergreen content and cycle the posts through your social media again. Just make sure it is still relevant.
3) Use quality images.
Look at your post images through a fresh set of eyes. Create your featured image and then ask a blogging friend to take a peek.
Your featured photo also needs to be pinnable. What does that mean?
Pinnable images are long, not horizontal but vertical. Edit your photos in ratios of 2×3, 4×6, 4×5, and 5×7. Vertical images take up more real estate on Pinterest, and you will get you more attraction from the feed.
Horizontal images do not capture as much attention in the feed because everything else is long, beautiful, and vertical.
But, I think having a horizontal image optimized for Facebook is also a great strategy. The two images (one for Pinterest and one for Facebook) do not need to look exactly alike but they can.
If you do not want duplicate images in different sizes within your blog post, there are ways to hide images behind the background. If you upload an image to the social tab of WordPress SEO by Yoast, you can use a different image for Facebook that is seen only when shared.
4) Check your SEO keywords.
As you are reviewing your content, make sure your keywords are in the:
title of the blog post
URL (or permalink)
We have a separate checklist for SEO is in the SEO section of the Blog Success Planner.
5) Insert monetized links.
Have at least one or two monetized links in each post. These links include your affiliate links, referral links, some type of commissionable link where you are directing traffic towards that click so if you make a sale you get the credit for it.
6) Include links to related blog content.
Do you have links within your post to other related content on your blog? Ideally, you want to keep people on your blog for as long as possible.
If you review your Google Analytics and notice that readers are not clicking on additional pages, you need to go back and evaluate whether your post is linking to other content on your blog.
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I recommend including a list of related content at the bottom of your post. For instance, let’s say your post is about homemade Christmas decorations. You know that you have two or three other posts about homemade Christmas decorations or something else related to Christmas. Then, at the bottom of your post, you would type “Other Homemade Christmas Ornament Ideas” as a subheading and list posts.
Anyone who makes it to the bottom of your blog post is a perfect candidate for subscribing.
Why place this list at the bottom? Because if the reader has reached the bottom of your post, they are willing to click around and see if you have more content on that topic. Anyone who makes it to the bottom of your post is a perfect candidate for subscribing. The more readers see that you have related to what they like, the apter they are to subscribe.
Managing the Frequency of Your Blog Content
How often you post is a personal decision. You might only post once a week. You might only post once a month. However, whatever you choose to do, do consistently.
7) Accept that seasons change.
The more often you post the higher your page views will be.
I have gone through seasons where I will post every day because there is an ebook bundle sale, and I want to drive traffic to my links. Right now, I am in a season where I cannot post as often.
Did I make that change suddenly? No! I back off the amount of content I am pushing out each week slowly. I might transition from five posts a week to three posts a week for a couple of weeks. Then, I will post twice a week for a month or so before shifting to one post a week.
The point is: if you do need to change the pace at which you post blog content, change slowly.
I want to maintain a consistency and predictability, but at the same time, I know those moments in life are going to happen when I cannot be writing as much content and maintain quality.
The point is: if you do need to change your pace, change slowly. Don’t just make a sudden shift and by all means… do not announce to your readers that you are making a change because 1) they don’t really care, and 2) it shows you are inconsistent.
8) Post to most popular categories regularly.
When you are planning your monthly content in your Blog Success Planner, take into account any special events and holidays but also verify you are maintaining consistency in how often you post to your categories.
Do I post to every category every month? No, I don’t.
Research your most popular categories – where people are clicking most often – and consider it an indicator of what they are really wanting to read. Then, publish to those categories consistently. Add new blog content to those categories frequently.
9) Plan your publication dates.
As you brainstorm post ideas and know how often you are posting that month, use the blog post schedule to evenly space your content throughout the month.
You do not want to post five posts in one week and then… your readers hear crickets. It’s like choking readers with too much and then starving them for the rest of the month.
No matter how passionate you are about that topic, no matter how badly you are wanting to push that blog content out, space it out evenly.
Content is King. We all know.
But it sure can feel overwhelming to create amazing content week after week.
With these FREE content planning pages, you’ll discover the secret to creating memorable (and profitable) blog posts. And you’ll feel more organized, less overwhelmed and more productive with your time!
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When you need an image for a post or product and do not have the opportunity to take a picture, you look for a reputable website with royalty free images… and you get frustrated. Right?
But don’t fret, my friend! Free stock photos are easy to find if you know where to look. Grab this list of over 80 places to get royalty free images.
However, while there are places to find copyright free images, you need to understand the legalese to avoid getting into trouble using stock photography that requires additional licensing.
Stop! Have you made these copyright mistakes?
Have you ever used a photo you discovered through an internet search?
Did you think the photo was free because it did not have a watermark?
Have you used a photo because you do not blog for profit and thought you would not be prosecuted since you are not a business?
Did you comply with a DMCA takedown notice by removing a photo and feel like “all is well”?
Do you have a disclaimer on your website saying that you “do not claim copyright to any of the images” on your blog?
Answer “yes” to any of these questions and you are in jeopardy of copyright infringement.
Every photograph, blog post, graphic… everything created and published in the internet is immediately covered by copyright law whether it is register or not. Even if an image is void of watermark, the intellectual property rights belong to the original photographer and may not be used without permission or licensing.
Many internet newbies make a huge mistake by searching for an image with a search engine like Google Images or Pinterest and assume that if the photograph is online, it is readily available for any use.
Actually, the majority of images that show up in searches are all copyrighted images.
Whether an image carries a watermark or not, it is the property of the original owner. You may not use these images even if you remove the watermark or alter the image. These photos do not belong to you and using them can get you in tremendous trouble.
Bloggers can be sued for using images!
Don’t believe me? Read these articles about bloggers who were sued for thousands because they used what they thought were “free images”:
You might see one blogger say, “I am safe because I use Public Domain images” while another blogger boasts, “I am just as safe because I use photos with Creative Commons.” But what is the difference? What do all of these terms mean?
Intellectual Property Rights
Creations of the mind are protected by certain laws and may have rights to additional patents and trademarks. Works include but are not limited to music, literature, discoveries, inventions, words, phrases, symbols, photographs, and designs.
Selected by the owner based on perceived value, licensing imparts certain rights to others on how the property may be used. The terms of a license should include the requirements and restraints for use.
The term “royalty-free” means that the owner shares the right to use copyrighted material without charging the consumer with royalties or license fees for each use or per volume sold.
Creative Commons is a non-profit organization intent on providing creates with the ability to share their art with certain protections.
They have created several levels of licensing to help others understand how the property can be copied, distributed, edited, and altered.
The 6 basic Creative Commons Licenses
With a Creative Commons license, you can build upon the original work. However, each work may have additional conditions attached. Look for these terms when searching for photographs:
Non-Commercial (NC) means the image may not used for business intentions.
No Derivative Works (ND) gives you permission to use the original work only and not to change it in any way.
Share Alike (SA) refers back to the original license and means you can only use that image based on the conditions placed on the original work. An image denoting CC BY-SA means that you can change the work but you have to maintain the original works designated licensing. For instance, you cannot change the photograph and then insist on a ND condition.
These options are combined into six basic Creative Commons licenses.
CC BY – Attribution required
“This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered.”
CC BY-SA – Attribution and sharing required
“This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.”
CC BY-ND – Attribution required and no derivatives allowed
“This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.”
CC BY-NC – Attribution required and noncommercial use only
“This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.”
CC BY-NC-SA – Attribution required, noncommercial only, and sharing required
“This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.”
CC BY-NC-ND – Attribution required, noncommercial use only, and no derivatives allowed
The most restrictive of the six main licenses, this license only allows others to “download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.”
CC0 – No attribution required, no limitations
This license allows commercial use and derivative works without requiring attribution. Many websites refer to this as a “do anything you want” license. Sometimes, this is referred to as Public Domain.
Credit is required to use property requiring attribution. Correct attribution means that under the image you will place the name of the work (with link), name of the photographer (with link), and the CC license number (with link).
A public domain photograph can be used by anyone and altered without giving attribution to the original artist. The copyright or licensing has expired or been forfeited. [SOURCE]
Using royalty free images
Personally, I seek royalty free images, meaning that I pay for a membership to an image library or buy the image and can use it without owing the company further payment based on my profit. [SOURCE]
Most royalty-free images also come with licensing guidelines. Make sure that you read the guidelines as they may differ based on the company.
For example, on Canva you can pay $1 per image but only have rights to use the image once.
If you want to use any of Canva’s Stock Media, you have to pay to obtain a license.
If you pay for a One-time Use License, then you can only use that Stock Media in one of your Canva Designs and you’re not allowed to edit the PDFs, PNGs or JPGs that we give you as part of that license. [SOURCE]
According to my understanding of these terms, you can can create an image for a blog post but need to purchase the image again if you want to resize it for social media or an email campaign.
Also with Canva, you are not allowed to use their images if you will be profiting from the image. Within the terms, Canva specifically mentions posters, templates of any nature, and “on demand” products, including postcards, mugs, t-shirts, posters and other items. [SOURCE]
Where to find royalty free images
Free and cheap images are available but finding them through a basic search can be difficult so I compiled a list of websites that I either use or have been recommended to me.
Please be aware that the licensing on these websites may change. A link is provided (when available) for you to verify the terms of the website before using.
GraphicStock.com – My primary source for images. Pay once a year and never have to worry about individual licenses. They have a tremendous selection of photos, design elements, and more. [TERMS]
Canva.com – Typically, images are $1 each for a one-time use license. Some elements are free. A multi-use license is available. [TERMS]
PicJumbo – Choose from a large selection of free photos or upgrade to premium membership. [TERMS]
Wikimedia.org – A collection of free and donated media. To find images, navigate to Wikimedia Commons. [TERMS]
Snapwire Snaps – A Tumblr-based website, seven free photographs are made available every seven days. You can also search for image by topic. [TERMS: not found]
MyCuteGraphics.com – Free clip art “for printing, scrapooking, teacher created lessons, craft projects, to decorate your blog and more. The clip art you find here is 100% original and free for personal and educational use.” [TERMS]
Unsplash – Photographs are divided into collections or available by search. [TERMS]
Flickr – Search by “license” to find images available for free use without attribution. [TERMS: vary by image]
Epicantus – A Tumblr-based website. “Feel free to use these hi-res photos for your landing pages, blog posts & designs.” [TERMS: not found]
Raw Pixel – Authentically styled, unique stock photography. Email registration required. [TERMS: not found]
Sketch Jar – Although they promote two new pictures every day, nothing new has been added since 2015. Even so, you will still find an eclectic collection on images here. [TERMS: not found]
Free JPG – The tagline mentions these images are free for commercial and editorial use. [TERMS: not found]
Splashbase – Free photographs and videos available under the CC0 license. [TERMS: not found]
Photo Collections – Browse CC0 photos by category, including industrial, nature, people, transportation, food, and animals. [TERMS: not found]MMT Stock – Free for commercial use, these photos are by Jeffrey Betts with a CC0 license. [TERMS: not found]Designers Pic – All images listed are “free for personal and commercial use” with the condition that you do not sell the photographs. [TERMS]StreetWill.co – “Free vintage photos to use any way you want…” but they offer a lot more than vintage photography. [TERMS: not found]PublicDomainPictures.net – A collection of free and premium images. Also includes vectors and videos. [TERMS: not found]Jay Mantri – A Tumblr based photo blog where all photos are available to use for free under CC0. [TERMS: not found]stokpic – Download images from various categories or subscribe to receive ten premium images each week. [TERMS]Re:Splashed – Landscape and architectural photography “for website and design projects.” [TERMS: not found]UnrestrictedStock.com – A large collection of vectors and stock photos. [TERMS]Stocka – Beware the click-bating of advertisements on this site. Search by category (and there are several) or with the search bar. [TERMS: not found]Picography –Free high resolution images of animals, architecture, and landscapes. [TERMS]Lime Lane Photography – A collection of photographs intended to be used by bloggers. Includes nature, food, crafts, and more. [TERMS]Travel Coffee Book – A collection of landscapes and travel photos listed with Creative Commons. [TERMS: not found]Refe – Not everything is free but they do have a category for free images. [TERMS]SplitShire – More like a blog that a stock photography site, you can browse this collection of Creative Commons images by category or search. New images are added daily. [TERMS: not found]Little Visuals – Unfortunately, this website is no longer updated due to the tragic death of the photographer but a large selection of landscape and architecture images are available. [TERMS: not found]Titania Foto – A German website featuring animals, landscapes, food, and backgrounds. [TERMS]Gratisography – “Free high-resolution pictures you can use on your personal and commercial projects. “ [TERMS]StockSnap – Primarily nature and architecture, you can browse through recently available photos or using their search bar. [TERMS]Public-Domain-Image.com – “High quality copyright friendly images, not copyrighted and no restriction for their use. Images explicitly placed in the public domain, no any rights reserved. Public domain images can be used for whatever you want, use it freely for any personal or commercial use.” [TERMS]FreeDigitalPhotos.net – “Download free and premium stock photos and illustrations for websites, advertising materials, newspapers, magazines, ebooks, book covers and pages, music artwork, software applications and much more.” [TERMS: not found]ThinkStockPhotos.com – Search millions of premium royalty-free images selected from Getty Images and iStock pulled using API. Also features premium services. [TERMS]Bucketlistly – “A free creative common collection of over 2800+ travel photos anyone can use.” [TERMS]ISO Republic – Free and premium photographs with people, landscape, urban, and texture categories. [TERMS]Foter.com – “Foter.com allows you to search, manage and add free stock photos to blogs, forums, websites and other online media. We host over 220 million free Creative Commons images from many online sources and the entire system is also available as a WordPress plugin for seamless use within the WordPress platform.” [TERMS: not found]FreeImages.com – A collection of over 300,000 free images and illustrations. [TERMS]Frankenfotos – A German photograph website with a focus on travel photography. Licensing is CC-BY. [TERMS]Fancy Crave – Free high resolution photos from professional photographers. Two new images every day. [TERMS]Magdeleine.co – Browse a curated collection of images by photographer, dominant color, category, or license requirement. [TERMS: none found. Varies based on image.]FreeMediaGoo.com – “No subscriptions, commission plans or shopping of any kind. These are free stock photos and backgrounds for you to use.” [TERMS]Foodies Feed – Choose free images or become a premium member. Images are all food themed. [TERMS]Skitterphoto – Over 800 photos from people to landscapes and everything in between. All photos are CC0. [TERMS]New Old Stock – Copyright free vintage photographs. Most in black and white. [TERMS: not found]123rf.com – Over 58 million stock photographs, vectors, footage and audio clips available for purchase through a credit system. [TERMS]Negative Space – Browse images by search and sort based on category, copy space position and color. [TERMS]Creative-Commons.DeviantArt.com – A photographer community where not all images are CC0. [TERMS]FreeRangeStock.com – Search by keyword and browse a database of images including holidays, insects, arts, flowers, food, fitness, and more. [TERMS]KaboomPics – Lovely photographs of architecture, fashion, food, and more. According to their terms, you “can do virtually anything” with these images. [TERMS]Tookapic – User submitted photo database of free and premium images. [TERMS: not found]pdphoto.org – An older website with a category listing in the sidebar, most are copyright free but some are not. [TERMS]BossFight – Promises new images are added daily. Just look for the small text to “download” and avoid the click-bait ads trying to distract you. [TERMS]Photo Everywhere – Over 3,000 travel related photos that you browse using an image map of the world. [TERMS]EveryStockPhoto.com – “We are a search engine for free photos. These come from many sources and are license-specific.” [TERMS]Startup Stock Photo – Business-themed photographs listed with Creative Commons as CC0. [TERMS: not found]Cupcake – “Free (do what ever you want) photos.” [TERMS]Minimography – A stark collection of minimalist photographs. Browse by number, tag, or category. [TERMS]FromOldBooks.org – True to the name, expect over 3,500 free images from old rare antique and vintage books. [TERMS: not found]Pexels – Promising to add 50 new photos every day, choose from a wide variety of CC0 images. [TERMS]Shutteroo – A collection of travel-related photographs. [TERMS]animalphotos.info – A large database of user submitted animal photos. “Image Copyright is held by original owners; all are licensed as either CC-BY or CC-BY-SA.” [TERMS: not found]CarPictures.cc – An abundance of automobile photography. “Images on this site are licensed CC-BY or CC-BY-SA; Image descriptions and metadata are CC-BY-SA.” [TERMS: not found]Visual Hunt – Images are pulled using the Flickr API and a search for Creative Commons photos. I recommend verifying the photos licensing before use. [TERMS]openclipart.org – Primarily clip art and graphics, these are available for unlimited commercial use. [TERMS]clker.com – A variety of free clip art and images covered under CC0 licensing. [TERMS]Skuawk – A varied collection of photographs without need for license or attribution. [TERMS]Libreshot – Browse images based on category or keyword. (Just beware the advertising strategically placed below their search bar.) “A collection of hundreds of high quality free stock images for personal or commercial use.” It is not necessary to indicate the author or source. [TERMS]CompFight.com – “Compfight is an image search engine tailored to efficiently locate images for blogs, comps, inspiration, and research. We make good use of the flickr™ API, but aren’t affiliated with flickr.” [TERMS: not found]Creative Vix – All images are CC0 but be aware that repeats were on the home page from others similar websites. [TERMS]Pixabay – Over 660000 high quality photos, illustrations, and vector graphics. Free for commercial use. No attribution required. [TERMS]search.CreativeCommons.org – Free images, videos and more but a sketchy disclaimer: “Please note that search.creativecommons.org is not a search engine, but rather offers convenient access to search services provided by other independent organizations. CC has no control over the results that are returned. Do not assume that the results displayed in this search portal are under a CC license.” [TERMS]Good Stock Photos – Browse free images, purchase photo packs, or choose a membership. [TERMS]moveast – “This is a journey of a Portuguese guy moving that decided that every photo should be used for free.” [TERMS – not found]photopin.com – Free image database that you can search based on type of license. [TERMS]Realistic Shots – “Free stock photos (high resolution) for personal and commercial use. 7 new photos every week.” [TERMS]Photos8 – Free photos are available but you can only use a small size and attribution is required. They have a complex licensing system. [TERMS]Barn Images – Despite the name, this website hosts a wide variety of photos with free and premium images available. [TERMS]
Have a favorite spot for royalty free photos?
Leave the link in the comments and tell us about the type of images (and the licensing required) that you find there.
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