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  • 15 Essential Tools Every Ambitious Blogger Needs

    Thursday, April 13, 2017 by
    Online tools for bloggers Blogging isn't easy. There’s a common misconception that bloggers just write. And as a full-time blogger for your own site or maybe multiple clients, you know that writing is just one of many responsibilities. Beyond writing creative text, bloggers must develop attention-grabbing topics, create eye-popping visuals, and promote their posts on social media. Plus, there’s the business of blogging that includes tracking time, signing contracts, and collecting payments. That’s why it's so important for bloggers to use tools to make their lives less hectic. Here’s a list of 15 tools every ambitious blogger needs to excel in their craft and business. Recommended WordPress Hosting  

    1. Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator

    So, it’s time to write. You sit down at your computer and stare at it for 30 minutes. You’re experiencing a bad case of writer’s block. The creative juices aren’t flowing. To break through this mental barrier, try using Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator. This tool will help you generate ideas fast. Type in a few terms in the form. And voila! The generator produces a week’s worth of blog topics. Hubspot's Blog Topic Generator  

    2. Grammarly

    Most writers will agree that writing is only 20% of your job. The other 80% is editing. Writers continue to refine their writing to give readers their best work. It’s how they master the skill. Grammarly makes you a better writer by spotting grammatical errors and offering synonym suggestions. It’s like having a virtual editor. “With Grammarly, we have managed to eliminate almost every type of mistake that could potentially sneak their way through our editorial process. Grammarly has lead us to much higher customer satisfaction rates and fewer headaches for everyone involved in the content creation process,” says James Kosur, chief marketing officer at Presto Media.  

    3. CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer

    Headlines rank as one of the most significant parts within a blog post. If you can’t capture people’s attention in a few seconds, it’s likely that your post will never get read. CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer helps you solve that problem by scoring your titles. The analysis includes the overall structure, grammar, and readability of your headline. Moreover, you’ll learn whether your title needs an added boost of emotion. CoSchedule's Headline Analyzer

    4. BuzzSumo

    Blogging is very competitive with the growing number of content pieces being published every single day. People want their voices heard. To scope out the competition, use BuzzSumo to explore what types of content get traction. Also, learn who is sharing content and how that content compares to your posts. “With BuzzSumo you can type in a specific keyword and get a list of the most shared content related to that keyword. That way you can see what was involved and attempt to duplicate the results (or "10x" as they say),” writes Jordan Lore, a content marketer and PPC manager at Wishpond.  

    5. Canva

    Research uncovers that content paired with a relevant image boosts people’s retention of the information by 65%. Therefore, it’s essential that your blog post contains jaw-dropping visuals. With Canva, you can produce high-quality graphics for your post. Choose from millions of images and hundreds of fonts. It’s drag-and-drop feature makes designing easy for beginners. If you ever need inspiration, check out the brand’s interactive tutorials. Canva  

    6. Keyword Planner

    How will your target audience find your content? It all starts with boosting your organic search traffic. Google’s Keyword Planner is effective for forming keyword ideas, viewing historical statistics, and generating traffic forecasts. “Google’s Keyword Planner is a great place to start plugging in keywords that are relevant to your site to see what the competition for each of those keywords looks like. This will help you eliminate the ones you shouldn’t be optimizing for and select the ones that can work best to drive traffic to your site,” states Forbes contributor Jia Wertz.  

    7. Sprout Social

    Content promotion amplifies the reach of your work. So it makes sense to use social media  because it helps spread your message to a diverse audience. However, managing multiple platforms is a time-consuming task. That’s where Sprout Social comes to the rescue. This platform lets you schedule and publish your content across several social channels. With its powerful analytics, you’ll identify your best content and discover trending topics in your mentions. Sprout Social  

    8. Constant Contact

    Email marketing plays an integral role in connecting directly to your audience. Your subscribers are already familiar with your content and want to read your emails. With customizable templates, Constant Contact gives you the flexibility to shape your message. And you can track your success in real-time. “One of the key perks to using Constant Contact (vs. sending emails manually) is that you can track the successfulness of your emails. Constant Contact tells you how many people opened the message, clicked a link inside the message or forwarded the email to a friend,” says Jeremy Marsan, a business analyst and staff writer for Fit Small Business.  

    9. HostGator

    An online presence is critical for bloggers to build their brand and attract new readers or clients. A website makes it possible for you to show off your skills and portfolio. From site building tools to templates, HostGator gives you everything to launch your website right now. The WordPress Hosting plan also empowers bloggers to manage website content more efficiently. HostGator  

    10. Toggl

    When you’re engulfed in your work, it’s easy to forget how much time has elapsed. Knowing the time it takes to complete specific tasks helps you manage your time efficiently. Toggl makes sure you never lose a minute of your billable time. To increase client satisfaction, you can send reporting straight to their inboxes. No Wifi? Not a problem. The tool offers offline support.  

    11. Wave

    When tax season rolls around, scrambling for pertinent documents will only add to your frustrations. Every professional blogger needs accounting software to create, send, and track invoices. Wave helps you stay organized and run a better business. Within the software, track income and expenses to understand your cash flow. You also can connect your bank accounts for transactions to appear in your bookkeeping. Wave  

    12. Sortd

    It’s difficult to stay productive when you receive hundreds of emails per day. Without even noticing, a few crucial emails might slip through the cracks, causing more chaos. Sortd maximizes your productivity by turning your inbox into an organized workspace. Tori Reid, a contributor at Lifehacker, writes: “With Sortd you can sort your emails into actionable lists. Just drag and drop an email from the left pane—your inbox—into one of the lists you've created on the right. You can use the lists for follow ups, receipts, or anything else you see a need for.”  

    13. DocuSign

    Whether you’re signing brand partnership agreements or a new client contract, you don’t want the burden of paperwork. You need a digital solution. DocuSign starts the signing process with quick access to your documents. Trust that your electronic signature is secure and legally binding. The platform uses the strongest data encryption technologies to protect your privacy. DocuSign  

    14. Dropbox

    We live in a mobile culture. You constantly bounce around between multiple locations. So it’s common to forget your laptop that contains all your work files somewhere. Dropbox solves that problem by giving you access to your files from any device. Forgot your laptop? Just open them from your mobile phone. The tool also makes it convenient to collaborate on projects with your partners or teammates.  

    15. TransferWise

    Want to receive timely payments? Of course, you do! However, invoicing payments to your overseas clients isn’t always a simple task. TransferWise calculates the real exchange rate so you don’t lose any money. Choose to send payouts to your email or bank accounts. On top of that, this tool is 8x cheaper than banks. TransferWise  

    Take Your Pick

    Yes, the life of a blogger is sometimes unorganized and stressful with back-to-back deadlines. Fortunately, you can move in a positive direction. Start using these tools to accelerate your writing and business. They will help you increase your productivity, so that you can become a better blogger.
  • Win by Competing on Value, Not Price

    Wednesday, April 12, 2017 by

    Competing on value not price

    One of the most frustrating aspects of running a small business is setting the right prices and sticking to them. After a few art markets where customers pass you by in favor of cheap trinkets at the next booth, or after you lose another bid because your prospect found someone cheaper on Craigslist, you may be tempted to drop your prices, lower your rates, and try to compete on price. Don’t do it. Business veterans describe competing on price as a sucker’s game that puts you “at the mercy of your dumbest competitor.” You’re more likely to succeed if you compete on value instead. In this post, we’ll talk about adjusting your customer personas, and customer-service goals to do that, along with strategies for different types of businesses, from home-based solopreneurs to B2B agencies and consultants. Create Your Blog

    Change your customers, not your pricing

    Your business can’t exist without a base of customers who give you repeat business and referrals. If would-be customers are passing you over on price, you need new customers. Take a good look at your target audience. Are they extremely price-conscious? Customers who buy on price alone should not be your audience, for two reasons. First – and I write this without judgment, because getting by when you’re broke is a job of its own – customers who only care about the lowest price don’t have money to spend with you. How can you to sell to, let alone upsell to, someone with no money to spend on your stuff, no matter how great it is? If you drop your prices, you may get a little more revenue in the short run, but from customers whose lifetime value to your business is very low. [bctt tweet="Customers who only care about the lowest price don’t have money to spend with you." username="hostgator"] Second, price-focused customers are loyal to the lowest price, not to any particular store or service. Say you cut prices to beat the competition, figuring you can absorb the loss until you get a lot of these price-focused customers. Then your competitor drops prices lower (maybe they’re doing high-volume sales, maybe they’re dumb – it doesn’t matter). Now you’ve taken a loss on your sales and lost your customer base and you may not have enough cash to recover. [bctt tweet="Price-focused customers are loyal to the lowest price, not to any particular store or service." username="hostgator"]  

    Fine-tune your customer personas

    For small online businesses and home-based business, it’s important to get out of the mindset that your friends are your only customers. We tend to hang around people like ourselves, so if all your pals are bootstrapping their own business or side hustle, they don’t have the money to spend with you, at least not yet. If you’re a freelancer or run a B2B business, avoid the “whatever client comes along” treadmill. Market to clients who have the budget to hire you now and give you repeat business. Good advice I got from my freelance writing mentor Carol Tice was to set a minimum market-capitalization or venture-capital investment threshold for prospective B2B clients. This can help you avoid sinking time into one-off projects for small-budget clients so you can focus on finding clients that appreciate your value and will pay your rates.  

    Value-over-price goals

    The most concise description of providing value I’ve seen comes from writer Neil Gaiman, who got it from Stephen King: “People keep working in a freelance world… because their work is good, because they are easy to get along with and because they deliver the work on time.” He goes on to say that two out of three is good enough – that you can be cranky if your work is good and on time, or that you can be late if you’re good and people like you. If you really want to win on value, though, aim to deliver all three. That way, if one area breaks down every now and then, you’ve got some wiggle room. Let’s get a little more specific. Whatever your business, your value goals should include: Building good customer relationships Remembering birthdays, offering promo deals and preview sales, following up on purchases and asking for feedback are all ways to build lasting relationships. Enhancing customers’ experience Etsy encourages its sellers to package items beautifully and maybe add a small bonus item. This works surprisingly well, because it makes buyers feel special. Saving your customers time Rush shipping, gift-wrap and product tutorial videos help retailers save time for their customers. Agencies and freelancers can save time (and upsell their services) by offering market research, social media management, site hosting and maintenance, and other services to commercial clients. Giving customers peace of mind Make your refund or revision policies clear and fair. Answer questions and complaints quickly and professionally. Show your customers and clients that they can rely on you. Staying ahead of the curve Whatever business you’re in, offer your clientele new ideas, products, or ways to use existing services. If you sell shawls, keep up with color and fabric trends. If you sell white papers to businesses, offer to script video summaries they can post on their websites. Making your customers look good The ultimate value goal is to make your customers look so good that people will ask how they do it. One of my friends is a metalsmith who makes jewelry (when she’s not making swords). I will buy her work forever because every time I wear something she’s made, I get compliments and questions about where to buy. It’s a win-win. I feel great and I give out her business cards. Maybe that presentation script you wrote earned your client raves at the trade show. Maybe your silk flower customer got hundreds of shares on her wedding-décor photos. Make your customers look great and they’ll be your best ambassadors. That’s the one-size-fits all advice. Let’s get more specific.  

    When you sell the same physical goods as other merchants

    For online B2C businesses that sell mass-market products, value comes from making your customers feel truly taken care of. Ways to differentiate your shop from other sellers include: Help new customers make the most of their purchases. For example, nail wraps are popular now, with women who sell them from home and with customers who hate nail polish. A nail wrap seller can set herself apart by recommending the best styles for beginners and emailing how-to videos to customers immediately after their first purchase. If your customers like your product and know you’re helpful, they’ll come back. Ask your existing customers what they really need, and create bundles to fill that need. Maybe you sell cosmetics and know people in a recreational dance or theater group who need stage makeup. Package the products they need most – lip color, lashes, and makeup remover – for their convenience. (You can also send tutorial videos or offer a demo.)  

    When you sell your own products to consumers

    If you sell your own creations online, promote the quality differences between your goods and cheap alternatives. Maybe your products are made in the US with reclaimed materials or are simply more durable. If there’s a difference that will matter to your target audience, include that in your marketing and product descriptions. Also, tell your story, because people who shop local or small want a sense of community. A good example is In.gredients, a grocery store in Austin. The grocery business is tough on a great day, and the Austin market includes a huge regional chain with a century of brand loyalty and Whole Foods, which is based here. In.gredients doesn’t compete on price or selection, though. It’s positioned itself as a “zero-waste micro grocer in East Austin committed to providing the community with local, seasonal, and sustainable food.” In Austin, there’s definitely a market for that customer experience.  

    When you sell services to other businesses

    Everything we’ve covered so far applies to B2B services, freelancers, and agencies, especially the need to qualify your prospective customers. As your business grows, you should revise your qualifying criteria so you don’t get stuck at an earnings plateau. For B2B professionals, add-on services can set you apart. For example, if you’re a CPA who offers tax preparation and advice, your clientele might gladly add a la carte bookkeeping and payroll services to save time and hassles. For freelancers and consultants, reliability and quality will be your strongest selling points. Show your portfolio and client testimonials on your website, as Detroit wedding photographer DeAndre Glover does. If your site shows that you’re reliable and do good work, and you’re a pleasure to talk to when prospects contact you, you’ve hit the Neil Gaiman-Stephen King trifecta. For agencies, your clients expect you to save your clients time and hassles while delivering reliable, high-quality work. To truly set your business apart, show your clients they can trust you to stay up to date on technologies and methods they don’t have time to learn. HMG Creative, a digital agency in Austin, provides conveniences like web hosting (as a HostGator reseller) and pushes hard to stay ahead of the tech and marketing-trend curve. This is how you make your clients look great, which is the best way to build loyalty and win referrals. By now, you should have a list of ideas you can use to market your business on value, rather than playing the losing price-competition game. Want more inspiration and ideas? There’s a whole section of customer success stories on the HostGator blog.
  • How to Become a Freelancer: 10 Tips to Get Started

    Tuesday, April 11, 2017 by

    How to Become a Freelancer

    For some of us, the appeal of freelancing is irresistible. Being your own boss and choosing your own clients can give you more control over your time, more interesting work projects, and – if you’re good and have some marketing chops -- more income than you would earn as someone else’s employee. Starting can be intimidating, though, and a little guidance can make it easier. After many years of part-time freelance writing and four years as a full-time freelancer, these are the initial steps I recommend when aspiring freelancers ask me for advice. I learned them from following Sarah Horowitz at the Freelancers Union and writing experts Carol Tice at Make a Living Writing and Linda Formichelli at The Renegade Writer. My focus is writing, but the steps apply to just about any type of freelancing.  

    1. Find mentors and peers

    A connected freelancer is more likely to be a successful freelancer. National groups like the Freelancers Union, local meetup groups in your city, and freelancer-focused websites by experienced pros can put you in touch with fellow freelancers to share information about available gigs, successful marketing, contract negotiations, continuing education, and other aspects of your business.  

    2. Pull together your portfolio

    Prospective clients want to see your work. Gather links to projects you’ve done for current and former bosses if you’re not bound by a NDA, create PDFs of your print work, or show off work you’ve done pro bono for nonprofit and community groups. If you don’t have a portfolio, you can easily create one following this guide from HostGator. [bctt tweet="Want to succeed as a #freelancer? Better get yourself an online portfolio." username="hostgator"]  

    3. Define your specialties

    Doing what you love is a good goal, but mining your expertise can pay the bills, and who doesn’t love being solvent? If you’re not sure what your niches are, read over your resume. Maybe you have medical equipment manufacturing experience and can write knowledgeably about the subject for marketing clients, or you’ve designed several e-commerce sites for retail boutiques and can turn them around fast. Niche knowledge can help you establish yourself with good-paying clients, build an impressive portfolio, and subsidize your passion projects, too.  

    4. Plan your services

    Think about what you’re best at and how you prefer to work to decide what services you’ll offer. For example, I like to dig into topics so I focus on long-form copy like special reports, magazine features, and extended blog posts like this one instead of short social-media posts. Some writers like the adrenaline jolts and big paydays that come with handling rush work for clients who are up against deadlines. Offer the services you’re comfortable with and omit those you don’t like.  

    5. Gather testimonials

    Ask employers and colleagues who’ve given you LinkedIn testimonials or other praise if you can use their words in your marketing. The most effective testimonials include a picture and name, so request permission to use those, too. Most people will be happy to say yes. Copyblogger has more tips on using testimonials in your marketing, which we’ll touch on in a few steps. [bctt tweet="Starting out as a #freelancer? Gather testimonials and recommendations from past employers." username="hostgator"]  

    6. Set your rates

    Most new freelancers just accept what their first few clients offer. This is understandable but unsustainable. Research the rates for your type of work and price yourself within that range based on the value you can provide to clients and what you need to sustain your business. Calculate your base hourly rate to learn what you must charge to earn a living. The Freelancer blog at Contently outlines the process. The number you get may seem high, but it has to cover not only your billable time but also marketing, administrative and accounting time and expenses employees don’t have, such as professional insurance and self-employment taxes. [bctt tweet="#Freelancer rookie mistake: Basing your rates on what your first few clients offer." username="hostgator"] Note: If you quote this hourly rate to prospective clients, they may run away screaming or at least snort before they hang up on you. That’s because self-employment rates sound exorbitant to people used to earning an hourly wage and who don’t have to think about employer costs. Most experienced freelancers bill by the project rather than by the hour to avoid invalid comparisons between employee hourly pay and freelance rates. Per-project rates also give your clients a firm budget item instead of a wait-and-see cost.  

    7. Define your target clients

    Specific clients will vary by niche and the type of work you do. In general, ideal clients are those who can pay your rates, provide a good showcase for your work, refer you to other potential clients, and have more than one project for you over the long term. Ideal clients also pay promptly, communicate clearly, use contracts, respect your time, and don’t expand the scope of projects without also expanding your fees. Not sure how to find your target clients? Talk to your mentors and peers, and do lots of research.  

    8. Take care of the paperwork

    For tax and legal purposes, you’ll need a business permit, IRS EIN number, and a business bank account. For peace of mind, you’ll want professional liability insurance. You also need to understand the typical freelance contract for your type of work—your peer network is a good place to start—and use it with every client.  

    9. Get a website

    Your site is how prospects will find you. The ideal site looks good on mobile devices as well as desktops, includes your portfolio and testimonials, serves as a sample of your work, and gives prospects a way to contact you right away via phone or email. Seed your site copy and meta tags with the search terms you think clients will use to find you, and update your site regularly to maintain a solid search-result position. Get your website today with HostGator's affordable web hosting plans.  

    10. Always be marketing

    Your site is an important marketing step, but it’s just the first. Find the social media channels your target clients use and jump in. Attend conferences and trade shows to meet prospects. Send direct mail and email letters of introduction. Ask current and former employers and clients for referrals. Trade tips and ask for feedback from your professional peers and mentors. Establishing yourself as a freelancer is a lot more work than a 9 to 5 job, but if you like to learn new things, enjoy creative work, and want more professional freedom, it’s well worth the effort.
  • 10 Creative Content Ideas for Affiliate Marketers

    Monday, April 10, 2017 by
    Creative Content Ideas for Affiliate MarketersAffiliate marketing is one of the best ways to turn a passion project into something that makes money. But throwing a few links up on your blog will only take you so far. If you actually want your affiliate marketing relationships to pay off, you should consider creative ways to promote your affiliate links that also provide value to your readers. To do that, take a page out of the content marketing handbook brands are using; start creating interesting and useful content that does the double job of helping your readers make smart purchasing decisions and helping you make more money from your affiliate marketing. Here are a few types of content you can try out to get started: HostGator WordPress Hosting

    1. Reviews

    One of the easiest types of content you can use to promote affiliate products is reviews. Simply write up your opinion of a product based on your experience. You can describe how you used it and how it helped you. The goal here is to be more thorough and helpful than outright promotional (although it’s good to explain what you like about the product). You want to keep your readers’ trust while providing them honest information on what makes buying the product useful.

    Take the review of Credit Sesame over at 20somethingfinance.com.

       Credit SesameCredit Sesame Safe

    The piece includes over 1,000 words and a number of screen shots that thoroughly explain what the product is, how much it costs, and what users get from it if they choose to start an account. The writer even anticipates questions readers might have and answers them. It’s clear that the writer’s recommending the product, but they do so in a way that’s more educational than salesy, which ultimately comes off as more persuasive to readers.  

    2. Product comparisons

    You will want to answer the questions your readers are most likely to have when it comes to choosing what products to buy, like trying to figure out what’s different about two competing products in order to determine which one is best for them. You can answer that question with a product comparison post. As with reviews, you should focus on providing all the information your readers could possibly need rather than pushing the sale. We Rock Your Web does a good job of pitting small business accounting software products against each other in a comprehensive comparison post. They include mini-reviews of each product, a ranking of their top three picks, and a comparison table that looks at the products’ features and costs side-by-side.
    We Rock Your WebWe Rock Your Web Comparison
    That’s all extremely valuable information to any small business owner trying to make a decision. As such, it both builds trust in the blog and is likely to encourage many readers to click through one of those links and make a purchase.  

    3. Informational Videos

    While text is the most obvious format to stick with when it comes to affiliate marketing (it’s much easier to include a link within text than most other formats) a lot of people do prefer consuming content in video form rather than reading it. You could always combine the best of both worlds. Create a video that explains the benefits of the product you’re helping promote (or do a video version of your review) and embed it within a post that provides similar information. Yaro Starak pulls that off with impressive results over at the Entrepreneur’s Journey blog when he writes about using a stand-up desk. Both the video and the post lay out the reasons for why a stand-up desk is worth it and how to put one together. The blog itself includes a number of links to the specific products he bought to put his stand-up desk together, so a video doesn’t have to preclude your ability to link out. Entrepreneurs Journey For people that prefer video, and for any topics or products that really lend themselves to making a video (like this one did), making informational videos coupled with text can be a great way to promote affiliate products.  

    4. How to articles

    You could take a couple of different approaches when it comes to using how-to articles for affiliate marketing. You could write articles that describe how to get the most out of a product or make use of certain features. Or you could use more general how-to articles to point readers toward affiliate products. The Penny Hoarder offers a good example of the latter with their How to Build a Home Gym for $100 post. It addresses a topic relevant to their frugal audience: how can you stay in shape while also saving money on a monthly gym membership? And the topic gives the site plenty of opportunities to link out to product pages for relevant items readers can buy. $100 Home Gym  

    5. Video tutorials

    Like how-to articles, video tutorials give you an opportunity to show your readers how to make the best use of the product you’re recommending. These can particularly be useful if the affiliate products you promote on your blog are complicated to use, like software that has lots of features. For many types of products, a video that provides a visual walk through can be a lot more helpful to your audience than words that communicate the same thing. With software, knowing where on the screen to look and click is important. And with something like workout equipment, seeing someone use equipment properly can ensure those watching are more likely to use it correctly and safely. For an example of how video tutorials can look, Envato Tuts + has a number of brief videos showing viewers how to do multiple things in Microsoft Power Point in different ways.
    Powerpoint TemplatePowerpoint Slide Master

    As with our earlier video example, the tricky thing here becomes how to include your affiliate link. By hosting these videos on your own website embedded within a blog post, that shouldn’t be an issue. You can include a link to the product both above and below the video.

    As an extra tip here, by including a written version of the tutorial in the same post like Envato Tuts + does, you can still optimize the post with your chosen keywords to improve its SEO and you have plenty of opportunity to include your links. And it’s good for your followers too, who have their pick between a video and text, based on their personal preferences.

     

    6. Educational webinars

    Businesses frequently use this tactic to promote their wares and there’s no reason affiliate marketers can’t do the same. Consider what informational topics are relevant to the affiliate products you represent and craft an educational webinar around them. If your blog is focused on personal fitness and your affiliate products are mostly gym equipment and supplements, you could host a webinar on “10 Habits to Help You Stay Healthier This Year” that highlights the affiliate products. If you run a blog focused on helping people save money and your affiliates sell products that help you track your spending, you could host a webinar on “How to Start Keeping a Budget.” Whatever route you take, a webinar requires more of a time commitment than most of the other content types on this list, so you need to make sure you pack that time full of useful tips and information. Webinars are also interactive, so consider ways to get people more engaged, like including surveys or taking questions throughout the webinar. The Freelancer’s Union recently set up a webinar based on tips to help members Save for Retirement with the help of Honest Dollar, a company that provides retirement plans. To help track which customers come to Honest Dollar from the Freelancer’s Union promotion, they set up a special price for members to sign up with. Freelancers Union If you can’t work out a similar deal with the affiliate company to entice your attendees and track how many customers came from your efforts, you can send a follow up email afterward with affiliate links to any products you mentioned, so you don’t lose a linking opportunity.  

    7. Gift guide

    While it’s possible to put a gift guide together that includes affiliate links together at any time, you’ll likely get the best results if you publish a gift guide around the holidays when everyone’s scrambling to find good gift ideas for loved ones. Beth of Budget Bytes published a Gift Guide this past December that collected a number of items that are appropriate for her quirky, frugal cooking brand. It never feels promotional and when she describes, for example, why she loves each of the cookbooks she recommends, it feels authentic, honest, and persuasive. Budget BytesBudget Bytes Cookbooks  

    8. Longform guides

    This is another common content tactic businesses use. They often employ longform guides as a way to collect leads, but where a business is likely to put their guide behind a sign up form, you might be better off publishing it to the open web to get SEO points and make the affiliate links more accessible. Longform guides are appealing because they pack more useful information than shorter forms of content, so (if they’re good) the reader appreciates getting a huge amount of valuable information for free. That makes them more likely to click on it, share it, and potentially revisit it. One of the most popular pieces on the College Info Geek site is The Ultimate Guide to Building a Personal Website. And Thomas, the owner of the site, is not kidding when he calls it the “ultimate guide” either. It’s over 9,000 words long and includes all the specific steps required to start a website, from picking a domain and web hosting plan, (and turns out, he has pretty good taste there) to choosing from popular themes.
    Shared Hosting from HostGatorTheme Recommendations
    The guide gives Thomas a chance to include affiliate links that will make him money in a context where the products answer just what his readers are looking for. Readers get a ton of value and, as a result, are more likely to click through and take advantage of the deals he offers.  

    9. Seasonal content

    Many of the topics people care about and seek out vary throughout the year. In October suddenly everyone loves costumes and pumpkins. In July, vacations and days in the sun dominate our thoughts. Brainstorm all the seasonal trends that relate to the topics you cover on your website and turn those ideas into content that goes up at just the right time for people to be primed for it. If you have a blog about healthy cooking, write about pumpkin recipes in October and healthy Christmas cookies in December. If your blog’s about makeup and skin care, then point people toward the best sunscreens to buy in the summer. The Frugal Girl, assuming that readers will have cleaning on their mind at the beginning of the New Year like she does, chose the beginning of January to highlight a good deal on cleaning supplies. Fresh Cleaning Supplies She recognized early January as the time of year when people are making resolutions and used it as an opportunity to draw attention to one type of product needed to follow through on those good intentions.  

    10. List roundups

    Sometimes simply doing the work of curating a list of similar items is valuable to readers. The Wirecutter maintains an ongoing list of good deals, along with more specific lists of products like The Best Accessories for Your iPhone and iPad.
    The WirecutterWirecutter
    Putting all those products together in one place saves readers the time and trouble of going out and finding those products and deals on their own (or missing them entirely due to ignorance). And it pretty well guarantees that they’ll click on The Wirecutter’s link if they see something they like. Content marketing has gained the buzz it has for good reason. Providing valuable information to readers is one of the best ways to gain their loyalty and steer them toward smart purchasing decisions. Some creativity and work can help you launch more interest in the affiliate products that make your website profitable. Branch into these content types, or see what other great ideas you can come up with. If your content is truly helpful, you’re likely to gain more profit from your affiliate marketing because of it.

    Psst... did you know HostGator has an affiliate program? Earn $125 per qualifying signup! Learn more here.

  • 5 Ways to Connect With Brands as a Blogger

    Friday, April 7, 2017 by
    Connect With Brands as a Blogger More often than not, consumers trust industry influencers over paid advertisements. Customers crave honest and candid messages that speak their language. And brands are starting to recognize that trend. Research found that 84% of marketers are employing an influencer marketing campaign. This finding presents an opportunity for bloggers to collaborate with their favorite brands. With a robust platform, bloggers can talk directly to a company’s target audience. From posting product reviews to hosting a video tutorial, bloggers have the power to influence a generation of consumers. But how can bloggers garner the attention of top brands? Here’s five creative ways to land your next big gig: HostGator WordPress Hosting

    1. Tell the World

    Let’s face the facts. There are millions of blogs on the Internet and hundreds more are cropping up everyday. If you want to work with corporations, you must spread the word. Start by dedicating an entire blog post to discussing your desire to partner up brands and why you would be a perfect fit. This content should highlight your knowledge as well as your accomplishments. Consider the post like a Batman signal. You’re placing everyone on notice that you’re ready to engage in business. And by telling your audience, you’re tapping into their network of colleagues. Also, take the time to develop a page dedicated to attracting companies. Provide brand managers with details about your services and how they can contact you. Serial entrepreneur and bestselling author Gary Vaynerchuk possesses a ‘Hire Me to Speak’ page on his website. He pinpoints exactly what he can offer brands and includes a contact form, along with his most recent talks. Gary Vaynerchuk And don’t limit marketing efforts to just your blog. Share the news on all your active social media accounts. Send a teaser tweet with a link to your promotional post. Or record an Instagram story about the announcement. No one knows that you’re open to brand opportunities until you tell them. So, tell as many people as possible.  

    2. Target Specific Brands

    Can I share a secret with you? Not every brand will match your blog’s audience or needs. That’s why it’s so important to narrow down your options. To target specific brands, learn more about your readers. What are their behaviors and interests? And what companies do they currently buy from? Use this knowledge as a foundation to focus on certain brands. Because if you’re already catering to their customer base, they may feel more comfortable spending advertising dollars on your site. Next, do some research on those particular companies. Make sure their values coincide with your beliefs. For instance, if you’re an advocate for clean energy and Company X doesn’t believe in that cause, you may want to eliminate it from your list. The last step is to actually reach out to the brands. Send an email or write a letter expressing your interest in establishing a partnership. And don’t let the fear of rejection stop you. “Companies will say no that is a fact. But you will be amazed at how many people will respond with a polite letter explaining why they can’t sponsor you at this time. Thank them for their time and keep them in your database for future reference,” state Dave and Deb, the smiling faces behind The Planet D. Not every business will meet your standards. Therefore, conduct research to find the ones that do.  

    3. Sell Your Niche

    As a blogger, you’re doing something very special. You’re writing posts, recording sound clips, or maybe even talking in front of the camera. The uniqueness lies in your ability to offer your perspective about a chosen topic. You might be sharing family recipes or giving readers your personal gardening tips. And all of that content matters to companies. Selling your niche means showcasing your distinctive traits that make your blog outstanding. Why do your subscribers sign up? What keeps them coming back for more? “The fact is that most of us will never compete with the broad publications that are out there...sell the fact that you’re different and that you can reach a narrow and targeted group of people that makes the money an advertiser spends much more effective,” writes Darren Rowse, founder and editor of ProBlogger. Brands are hungry to collaborate with bloggers that will make them stand out. You can offer a vertical of exclusive content, or let companies receive access to your VIP audience. While most fashion bloggers cater to petite women, Tanesha Awasthi at Girl With Curves is doing something different. She is empowering curvy women to live their lives with confidence. Girl With Curves Stand up and be heard! Demonstrate what sets you apart from all the other bloggers.  

    4. Create a Media Kit

    After you get the word out, it’s possible that you may receive a few inquiries about your work. Executives will be curious to know what you’re doing and who you serve. Prepare for this conversation early by creating a media kit. A media kit is usually a PDF containing the nitty-gritty about your blog. It should include an introduction about yourself, your mission, notable clients, website statistics, and frequently asked questions. If you already know what type of partnerships you want, provide a section about your services and package rates. “I can’t stress this enough – the energy and effort you put into your media kit can either open doors of opportunity for you or slam them in your face...if you want to be competitive and really shine in front of brands, do yourself a favor and invest in a professional design for your media kit,” says Jeni The Blog Maven. Spice up your media kit with images. Below is an example from Jessica Fiorillo at Feed me dearly. Feed Me Dearly Professionalism is part of connecting with brands. Invest some money into producing a quality media kit.  

    5. Showcase Brand Results

    It feels amazing to have relationships with brands. They recognize your talent and see the value in what your blog brings to the table. However, it’s still a business. And brands are interested in knowing if you can deliver results. Can you drive significant traffic to their websites? Can you persuade 200 of your readers to enroll in their free webinar? At the end of the day, your record of results will matter. Social proof is an effective way to present your achievements to potential brands. Ask previous clients to give a short testimonial of how you executed on a marketing campaign. You also may want to develop case studies. These detailed stories outline how you solved a company’s problem. Blogger Kristi Hines offers a few suggestions for creating a case study:
    • Write about past experience your ideal brand can relate to.
    • Tell a story from start to finish.
    • Provide an easy-to-read format.
    • Talk about specific strategies.
    Flaunt your past results to brands, and use social proof to clinch the deal.  

    Build a Solid Connection

    Influencer marketing isn’t anything new. However, bloggers can seize the opportunity to work with major brands. Spread the word about your hunt for partnerships via your blog and social media channels. Attract brands with your expertise in a specific niche. And create a media kit for executives to learn more about your blog. Ready for the big leagues? Start connecting with brands today.