Tag: Steps

How to Write Your First Blog Post in 9 Simple Steps


If you’re a brand new blogger, you might be struggling with how to write your first blog post on WordPress. 

For example, what are you supposed to write about, and what are the best practices?

Truly, the best thing to do is just to get started and learn as you go. 

But if you’re really scratching your head over how to get started, these eight steps can help you find your way.

How to Write Your First Blog Post in 9 Steps

Step 1: Determine Who You are Writing for

If you intend to monetize your blog one day, it’s important to write content that’s relevant to your readers. 

It may be tempting to make your first post an introduction to yourself and an overview of what the website is all about, but I would encourage you to save that for your “About” page. 

Instead, jump right in with content that’s going to serve your target audience.  

Think about your niche and then pick a problem or question that many people have in relation to that niche. 

You can’t go wrong with a good “how-to” post!

For example, if you are a beauty blogger, your first post could be about choosing the best products for your skin type. 

Step 2: Choose a Long Tail Keyword to Target

SEO is a long game, and it will likely be many months before you start seeing any Google traffic with a new website. 

Although you may have more success getting traffic via social media initially, Google traffic is more ideal because it tends to convert better and be a steadier source of traffic.

Therefore, it is still worth adopting some good SEO practices from the beginning! 

Keyword research is a big topic with many different approaches, but beginners on a budget can get started using a free keyword research tool like Ubersuggest.

If you type your topic idea into Ubersuggest, it will give you an overview of the keyword phrase, how high it is in competition, and a list of other keyword ideas.

As a beginner, you typically want to choose something with a low keyword difficulty and low volume. Low-volume keyword ideas are more specific and are also known as “long-tail” keywords. 

For example, “spice cake recipe” is a high volume keyword phrase and also very high in competition. 

But “spice cake recipe with cream cheese frosting” is a much more specific term with lower search volume and less competition, which means it is easier to rank in Google. 

Long-tail keywords are also known for driving high-converting traffic!

There is much, much more to keyword research than this, but these tips will help get you thinking about SEO right out of the gate. 

Just don’t let yourself get overwhelmed to the point where it prevents you from posting. 

Remember, you can always go back and update older posts later as you learn more about SEO!

Step 3: Outline Your Blog with Subheadings

Now that you have your topic idea and long-tail keyword phrase, it’s time to outline your blog post using subheads. 

You should use subheadings in your blog post because:

  1. Google likes subheadings
  2. Readers like subheadings
  3. An outline will help prevent writer’s block!

Use H2 headings throughout your blog post to keep it Google-friendly. (The H1 Header tag is always reserved for the title.)

It’s also a good idea to work your keyword (or a variation of) into one or two of your subheadings if you can. But don’t go overboard and make sure it reads naturally.

Step 4: Write Your Blog Post 

Now it’s time to use your outline to draft up the content for your first blog post. 

For many newbie bloggers, this is the most overwhelming part, but it doesn’t have to be! Most bloggers do best with a casual writing style, as though speaking to a buddy. 

So put down that thesaurus and just write the way you would speak naturally. Let your personality shine through!

At this stage, don’t worry about making every sentence perfect yet. Just get all your thoughts and ideas down first. You can go back and polish it up during the editing stage. 

Keep your sentences and paragraphs short. Each paragraph should only be 1-3 sentences long. 

It’s also a good idea to end your blog post with a “Call to Action” or question that encourages engagement or discussion in the comments.

Step 5: Choose an Engaging Title

Choosing a click-worthy title is really important. 

Because it doesn’t matter how awesome your post is – if your blog title doesn’t make people want to click, it’s not going to perform well.

I usually start with a working title when I begin writing my post and change it to a more catchy title after I’ve written it. 

Some great title ideas include “how-to” and “list” type titles. Also, make sure the title includes your keyword phase.

If you need help choosing a title, a fantastic free tool to try is Coschedule’s Headline Analyzer. All you need to do is plug in your title, and it will give it a grade and some suggestions for improvements. 

Step 6: Add Photos

Readers love visuals, so it’s always a good idea to add a few relevant photos or short videos if you can. They help break up the content and make your content more interesting. 

Original images are ideal, but many bloggers will use stock photos instead.

If you use stock photos, be careful that you obtain them legally, and understand the license that comes with them. There are free stock photo sites like Unsplash and Pixabay, but you may find the selection is a little bit limited. 

If you can swing it, it’s better to purchase your stock photos from somewhere like Depositphotos

Keep in mind that large images can slow down your site significantly, so take the time to resize your pictures before uploading them into WordPress. (My favorite free tool for this is Squoosh.)

Step 7: Edit and Format

The next step is to thoroughly edit your content to ensure it is easy to read and free of errors. 

It can be hard to catch all the mistakes by yourself, which is why it’s a good idea to use a tool like Grammarly

Grammarly is a free browser extension that automatically catches most of your spelling and grammatical errors. 

The next step is to format your post for optimal on-page SEO. If you’re using WordPress, choose or create the parent category for your blog post from the settings bar on the right.

Next, make sure you have a few relevant internal and external links included in your post.

You’ll also want to make sure your keyword phrase is in the following locations:

  • The title
  • The first 100 words of the blog post
  • The alt description of at least one of your images, where it makes sense
  • The slug/permalink
  • The meta description
  • Near the end of your blog post

It’s crucial not to overuse keywords in your blog post. This is called “keyword stuffing,” and if Google suspects you’re doing this, your rankings will suffer for it. 

Yoast is a great free plugin that gives you guidelines for improving your post’s SEO. It also allows you to easily optimize your meta description and SEO title.

How to Write Your First Blog Post in 9 Steps

Step 8: Make it Easy to Share

During your blog’s early days, social media is your best friend. It’s the quickest way to get some traffic coming in to your new posts. 

My favorite plugin for social sharing is Grow by Mediavine, which lets you add a floating sidebar of social share buttons on your blog post or within your content. 

This makes it super easy for anyone reading your blog to share your post on their favorite social media platform.

Step 9: Publish!

Once you have taken all of the above steps, go ahead and hit that “Publish” button! Do not get too hung up on making everything perfect because you can (and will) always go back and make improvements to it later.

The most important thing is to get your stuff out there so your audience (and Google) can start finding you!

Conclusion

Learning how to write your first blog post can seem a little overwhelming at first. But if you follow the above steps, you’ll be hitting that publish button before you know it!

Just remember to keep moving forward. It’s through taking action and learning as you go that results in a successful, income-generating blog!

How To Start a Website For Your Small Business in 5 Steps


Every business needs a website. If you’re not tech-savvy, you may not know how to start one. This guide will help you get started. Every step is explained so you know what to do and how to start a website for your business.

You can go on different routes when starting a website. There are many choices you can make and there are lots of options, which is why these kinds of guides are always different. We tried to make it as easy as it can be for any level of expertise.

Step 1: Get a Domain Name

The first step of starting a website for your business is getting a domain name. Your domain name should, in most cases, be the name of your business/brand. However, the choice is still up to you and if you can come up with something more creative than your brand name, go for it.

Use a domain name provider like Namecheap. They have other domain extensions aside from the classics like .com, .net, etc. You can use something like yourbrand.rocks. You can learn more about Namecheap and their domain extensions in our review.

Step 2: Get Web Hosting

Once you’ve chosen your domain name, the next step is to buy web hosting in order to host your own website. You can read our guide on how to choose a web hosting provider to help you narrow down your options.

For this guide, we’ll be using WordPress, since it’s one of the most documented and easiest CMSes to use.

Some notable hosting providers are:

  • iWebFusion for cheap, shared web hosting. If you don’t plan on creating a complex website with lots of visitors, you can safely use shared hosting.
  • Kinsta for fully managed WordPress cloud hosting. Go with this option if you want the speed and dedicated resources that a cloud server provides.
  • Vultr if you want to manage a server yourself and install WordPress yourself. This is not recommended if you’re a beginner.

You can explore other WordPress hosting options here.

Step 3: Choose a Theme for Your WordPress Website

WordPress has lots of free (and premium) pre-made themes you can use that would fit your business. Whatever your business is, be it a restaurant or a small consulting company, there’s a great WordPress theme you can use that would fit that category.

Some resources that would help:

Or you can just use google and find a theme.

Installing the theme can be done with a couple of clicks. Most themes use a visual editor, so you don’t even need coding skills to set it up.

Step 4: Design and Customize Your Website

Choosing and installing a theme is not enough. You need to customize your website (specifically the design) so your website stands out and better fits your branding. This includes using a custom logo and custom images and icons for your website’s sections or blog posts.

Penji is a great service you can use to get professional designers to design your logos and all graphics you need for your website. You can even use Penji for custom graphics for your marketing needs, including social media marketing.

Pay great attention to the design as it’s the first thing most people notice when visiting your website.

Step 5: Promote Your Website

Now that you officially started and customized your website, the next step is to promote it. This is arguably the most difficult step that takes a lot of time and skills to succeed at.

There are multiple ways you can promote your website. You can use SEO to gain relevant search traffic. You can use Social Media Marketing. This is where Penji would come in handy with their social media content design. You can even use offline advertising if the niche you are in is right and attract visitors to your website using offline marketing. Again, the options are unlimited.

This is the step you need to focus on. There’s no point in starting a website if nobody visits it. You should use your website to attract new customers or get new clients for your small business. There are upsides to owning a website even if it doesn’t help you convert, like branding and brand awareness. It can even be used for something as simple as contacting you or getting more information about the services you offer. Whatever the needs may be, there’s always a need for a website for your small business.

8 Practical Steps to Take


Key Takeaways

  • Figuring out your career path can take years, but patience is part of the process.
  • Narrow down your job search step by step, starting with an honest self-assessment and industry research.
  • Invest in yourself by building your skills, networking, and learning how to sell your personal brand.

Most people spend around a third of their lives working, which is why it’s a worthy endeavor to find an engaging, energizing job. 

Maybe you’re just getting started on your career journey, or perhaps you’re a seasoned professional looking to change industries. Whatever the case, finding a job you love can enrich your life.

But your dream role isn’t going to just land in your lapyou’ll need to spend time conducting research and putting in effort to earn it. 

The path to your ideal position involves some serious introspection. 

What makes you happy? 

What are your strengths and weaknesses? 

What are you willing to sacrifice to get a job you actually want?

Being proactive is critical to landing a position you’re excited about. Below, we’ve outlined some practical steps for how to find a career you love.

Step 1: Take time to reflect with total honesty

Before you even think about combing through a job search board, you’ll need to look inward. 

Why? Because work satisfaction usually boils down to whether or not you feel fulfilled by your job on a daily basis. So, what fulfills and motivates you?

Tons of career websites will suggest you go back to your childhood aspirations to find what makes you tick. But this isn’t the most practical advice. Your idea of a great job as a child is probably a lot different as an adult since your priorities have likely changed. Adulthood has fewer monkey bars and more bills, unfortunately.

Instead of going back to childhood or dreaming up what you’d do if you won the lottery, come back down to Earth and ask yourself a set of questions to get to the heart of what you want from a career.

  • What are your existing skills? Are they transferable to another career?
  • Whose career do you admire?
  • What interests you?
  • What are your non-negotiable desires for your next job? Flexible schedule? Fully remote? Benefits?
  • What are your lifestyle priorities? 
  • What is your desired salary range?
  • Are you comfortable starting over in a new career?

Take a personality test

Take a personality test like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or the Strengths Finder test. While these kinds of personality and aptitude assessments can’t lead you to your next job, they can give you an idea of which career paths are most promising based on natural inclinations.

Assess what you like about your current position

If you’re planning to switch careers, take stock of your current employment situation. Do you feel engaged? Do you enjoy the company you work for and the people you work with? Do you have room to grow and the ability to learn new skills here?

These basic questions can guide you toward what you need from your next role and where you’re likely to be happiest. Perhaps your career has reached a point where you can’t advance and you feel stifled. Or, maybe you’ve found that you work best with people and you spend most of your time isolated. 

Keep a running list of your likes and dislikes about your current job to help fill in the blanks for your future position.

Step 3: Learn about your target industry and position

Once you’ve narrowed down the industry and career path you want to pursue, it’s time to research. 

Head to industry forums to ask questions and read about the experiences of current professionals in the field. Get up to date on the industry and learn where it’s heading in the future.

Find out the answers to these specific questions:

  • What are the barriers to entry in this career path?
  • What is the likelihood this career will be relevant in ten years? In twenty?
  • What education, certification, or technical skills do I need to be competitive?
  • Who are the biggest players in the industry?
  • What are the salary ranges for this industry?

Step 4: Network and leverage connections

To discover new career opportunities, try to spend time around professionals in your target industry. Who are the movers and shakers? 

And don’t just limit your networking to LinkedIn and in-person conferences, you never know who might be a potential job connection. Tell your neighbors, friends, and family that you’re looking for a new job. You might be surprised by the possibilities that arise from these everyday interactions.

Step 5: Get real-world qualifications and skills

If you’re switching industries, there’s a good chance you’re going to need to put in time outside of your normal working hours to make the transition successfully. 

You might be able to volunteer or work on a contract basis for a company you’re interested in to build experience, for example. Night school or online courses are also great options if you want to develop a specific skill set like coding or photo-editing.

Being as prepared as possible is one thing, but it will be next to impossible to acquire all the new knowledge necessary for stepping into a new role.

But that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to fail. 

Think about your transferable skills, for instance. Research abilities, analytical skills, written communication, organization, and leadership experience are all examples of transferable skills.

Soft skills are also weighed as heavily or even more heavily compared to technical skills in certain industries. Being team-oriented and eager to learn can often make up for experience and technical gaps. 

Step 5: Save, save, save

When you feel like you’re ready to move toward a new career path, it’s helpful to add some extra padding to your emergency savings. A financial cushion can give you the peace-of-mind you need to focus on finding a job you feel strongly about, rather than only considering the final number in the job offer. 

Although making a decent living will likely always be a factor in any career decision, creating a strong financial foundation can give you the flexibility to take a chance on something new. 

If you’re starting over in a new career or industry, a robust savings account can tide you over when you’re at the bottom of the totem pole. As a result, you can accept an entry-level salary without worrying about how you’re going to pay rent. 

Since compensation levels of many positions commensurate with experience, it might be years until you’re making what you used to make. Be realistic about whether a lower starting salary is a dealbreaker or not.

Step 6: Tailor your resume and cover letter

When you’re getting ready to transition into a new type of work and industry, it’s essential to touch up your “personal brand.”

Take some time to revise your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile so that it accurately reflects your updated career goals. 

Many companies, especially larger ones, use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to automatically organize and filter out candidates using algorithms. Unfortunately, this can mean a bot tosses out your resume, even if you’re a great fit for a particular position, because you’re missing certain keywords in your resume. 

To avoid getting thrown out by bots, carefully comb through job descriptions to incorporate keywords that match up with your experience. Weave those keywords into both your resume and cover letter so your application gets prioritized.

Step 7: Create a list of employers you love

Once you’ve cleaned up your cover letter and resume, it’s time to go hunting for the employers you could see yourself working for. Create a list of potential companies within your target industry and sign up for job alerts at the companies that interest you. 

Is there a general application available on the company site? You can take advantage of these general applications to sell yourself and what you bring to the table.

Step 8: Get a referral if possible

A referral can help you enormously during a job search or career change. Obviously, this strategy works best if you have a personal relationship with a professional connection, but you might be surprised how far a great portfolio and research can get you. 

Step 4, networking, can help you build these solid connections who can and want to help you with a job opportunity and referral, which can be the difference between getting your foot in the door and a rejection email.

The Path to a Job You Love

Learning how to find a job you love can be intimidating. It might even feel a little like dating at timesminus the awkward moments. But the right employment match is worth the effort. Given enough time, research, and hard work, you can land a job that leads to long-term contentment.

Do you know your earning potential?

Take my earning potential quiz and get a custom report based on your unique strengths, and discover how
to start making extra money — in as little as an hour.

Start The Quiz



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4 Simple Steps You Can Take Today



You’ve probably heard there’s a retirement crisis in America. In study after study, half of Americans expect to struggle financially in their golden years because they won’t have enough retirement savings.

Did you know it’s getting even worse, though? Now it’s more than half of Americans, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s an example: Boston College has a Center for Retirement Research, which puts together a National Retirement Risk Index. Before the pandemic, it said 50% of U.S. households probably won’t be able to maintain their standard of living after they stop working. Now, after the pandemic has tanked the economy, that number has jumped to 55%.

So what about you? What can you do?

We have four suggestions:

1. Maximize Your 401(k)

If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, contributing to it is a no-brainer. It reduces your taxable income, keeping more money in your pocket and out of Uncle Sam’s. And your employer’s 401(k) match is basically a raise.

At the very least, you should be contributing enough to get your employer’s full match. If your employer matches your contributions up to 4%, make sure you get every penny.

Your 401(k) isn’t just savings; it’s an investment. Through the magic of compound interest, it can potentially grow a lot with time.

If you invest $25 a week — or $1,300 a year — starting when you’re 21, for example, a typical return of 7% would give you more than $25,000 a year to live on in retirement. If your employer matches your investment, you only have to give up $12.50 a week.

2. Wipe Out Your Expensive Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt will eat up your savings. It’s the most expensive kind of debt there is, thanks to the absurdly high interest rates credit card companies charge.

A free website called AmOne can help you wipe out your credit card debt faster, potentially saving you thousands of dollars in the long run. That’s money you could bank for retirement.

AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan to pay off all your credit cards at once. Its interest rates start at 3.99% — way lower than the 20% or more you’re probably paying your credit card company.

Plus, you’ll be debt-free that much faster.

AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000.

3. Start Investing

If you don’t have access to a 401(k) plan through your employer, you’ll have to save for retirement by yourself. Consider opening an IRA, which is an individual retirement account that’s not attached to an employer. It stays with you regardless of where you live and work.

You contribute when it’s convenient for you and choose what mutual funds, stocks and/or bonds you want to invest your money in.

If that sounds intimidating, start small and simple. Investing doesn’t require you to immediately plow thousands of dollars into the stock market. In fact, you can get started with as little as $1.*

We like a micro-investing app called Stash because it lets you choose from hundreds of stocks and funds to build your own investment portfolio. But it makes it simple by breaking them down into categories based on your personal goals. Want to invest conservatively right now? Totally get it! Want to dip in with moderate or aggressive risk? Do what you feel.

Plus, with Stash, you’re able to invest in fractions of shares, which means you can invest in funds you wouldn’t normally be able to afford.

If you sign up now (it takes two minutes), Stash will give you $5 after you add $5 to your invest account. Subscription plans start at $1 a month.**

4. Try the Budget for People Who Hate Budgets

The 50/30/20 method for budgeting is one of the simplest ways to get your spending in check. No 100-line spreadsheets or major lifestyle changes required.

Here’s how it works: Take your total after-tax income each month, and divide it in half. That’s your essentials budget (50%). Take the rest, and divide it into personal spending (30%) and financial goals (20%).

Let’s break it down: That’s 50% for things like utilities, groceries, medications, minimum debt payments and other essential spending. Then there’s 30% for fun: Thai takeout, your Netflix subscription, dressing up a skeleton on your lawn for Halloween.

That leaves 20% for your financial goals, like additional debt-reduction payments (anything above the minimum monthly payment) along with retirement savings and investments.

If you can get rid of your debt, you’ll have that much more to invest and save for retirement.

And when retirement comes, you can be part of the 50% of people who won’t have to worry so much.

*For Securities priced over $1,000, purchase of fractional shares starts at $0.05.

**You’ll also bear the standard fees and expenses reflected in the pricing of the ETFs in your account, plus fees for various ancillary services charged by Stash and the custodian.

A Simple Guide to Self Publishing a Book in 5 Steps


Is this the year you’re finally going to get that book out of your brain and into the world? Is it something you’ve been dreaming of doing for some time, but you’re not sure how to go about it, what it’s going to cost, and how to get people to buy your book? 

Self-publishing is fast becoming a popular option for writers of all styles. Are you thinking of writing a children’s book, do you think your blog content would make a good ebook, or have you always wanted to write your memoir?

As an author, there are several self-publishing models to choose from, so to be successful, you will need to plan carefully as you’ll be managing each step of the publishing process. Let’s look at how to self publish a book in five steps.

1. Research the Market

Before you dive into writing your manuscript, you’ll need to research the market. Is there a ton of other books on the same topic? How will yours be different? If there aren’t many books in your niche, research more into why there might not be a demand for it. Know your market, and write a book that satisfies them. 

2. Write and Edit Your Book

Once you’ve written your book and self-edited as much as you can, you might choose to have it assessed by a professional editor. Professional editing will cost anywhere between $30-$55 an hour, according to The Editorial Freelancers Association. So request quotes and find the right editor for your budget and needs. There are also different kinds of editors, so get familiar with the options available. You may just want someone to proofread your book for typos or someone who examines the whole book’s structure. 

3. Design the Cover and Format the Book

To make a beautiful, readable book for your readers, you may want to hire a professional cover creator (whose rates will depend on their experience), or you can go it alone with the assistance of apps, such as Canva. Don’t forget to explore tools that will help you format the book’s interior, such as Scrivener. These two design steps are hugely important, so if possible, try to leave it to the professionals. Your book needs to look its best inside and out—it’s what’s going to attract readers and make you some sales! 

Note: You will need an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) before you work on your book’s cover. It’s a unique barcode that you’ll need to purchase for each version of your book (Bowker charges $85 each). 

4. Plan Your Self-Publishing Method

Self-publishing used to involve paying up-front to print off thousands of copies, and then you were left trying to sell them all. Thankfully now some solutions have simplified the whole process with a print on demand service. With POD, you can upload your book file, and the service will print out individual copies as they’re purchased. These are the two largest POD services in the world:

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing

KDP is an author platform that lets you upload your book and list it for free. Readers can choose to order it as an ebook or have a print copy created for them with the click of a mouse. Publishing takes less than 5 minutes, and your book appears on Kindle stores worldwide within 24-48 hours. You set your prices and will earn up to 70% royalty on sales in many countries. 

IngramSpark

IngramSpark offers authors the ability to self publish a book and make it available to 40,000+ retailers and libraries (in-store and online) through their global distribution network. 

What does it cost to upload a book with IngramSpark? For both a print (hardcover and paperback) and ebook, it’s $49; for a print book only, it’s $49 per title; and for an ebook only, it costs $25 a title. Check their website to see what’s included in their fees. The cost to print and ship a book depends on the page count, trim size, interior color and paper, and the ship-to address. Check out their print and ship calculator for an estimate. 

eBooks

You might choose only to go down the digital book route. To distribute an ebook, you will provide it to online retailers for sale. Some of the major e-retailers include:

  • Amazon (Kindle) offers a lot of advantages to encourage you to publish exclusively on their stores. In exchange for not listing your book anywhere else, KDP Select (Amazon’s exclusivity program) will give you access to Kindle Unlimited, discount deals, and free promotions. Do your research, make a choice, and then stick to it. 
  • Apple Books is available in 51 countries. There’s no cost to publishing your book. However, Apple takes a portion of your royalties. For instance, if your book sells for $9.99, the royalty rate is 70%, so you’ll make $6.99 on each sale. 
  • Kobo Writing Life allows you to upload your manuscript, set the price, and you’ll be added to their catalog within 72 hours. Your ebook will be available on leading online book retailers in over 190 countries. You will receive 70% of the book’s list price, provided the price is equal to or greater than $2.99. 
  • Barnes & Noble Press gives you access to millions of readers within 72 hours of publishing. You’ll have promotional opportunities and earn royalties up to 65% with no hidden fees. 
  • Google Play Books allows you to reach billions of people on Android devices easily. You will be granted a 70% royalty, but you can make an additional 7% commission on your ebook if you sign up for their affiliate program. 

5. Market Your Self-Published Book

Now that you’ve written a fantastic book, and you’ve done your research and decided on how you’re going to self-publish your book, the next step is where it gets a bit more involved. 

  • Start a blog or website.
  • Increase your online presence. Guest post and contribute to related forums.
  • Use social media.
  • Use SEO keywords that your readers are searching for.
  • Learn what helps other books sell in your genre.
  • Get reviews for your book by offering a free copy and requesting feedback.
  • Use your publishing platform’s promotional tools and programs.
  • Join the Goodreads Author Program and create a profile page, where you can run giveaways, host discussions about your book, seek reviews, and connect your blog.
  • Paid advertising.

Related Reading: 5 Quick Tips for Promoting Your Self-Published Book Through Social Media

Conclusion

The journey to self-publishing isn’t necessarily the easiest, but seeing your book come to life can be a deeply rewarding experience. You can absolutely do it as long as you set realistic goals, prepare through research (and then more research!), and surround yourself with other indie authors who have been through it all. 

What are the pros of self-publishing? There are numerous benefits to self-publishing, including having no literary agents or publishers standing in your way. You can publish quickly, and you can earn more than you would with a traditional publisher who will take a big cut. You have total control over the publishing process, and thanks to the improvement in technology, your book will look like any other book on the shelves. 

How much do authors make? Now that you know roughly the costs involved, you’re probably wondering how much a self-published author could make. Well, there’s no easy answer. It all depends on your genre, the quality of your book, how well you market it, and what’s popular at the time. Like most artists, you do it for love and not the money, but if you’re committed to being a successful author and ready to put in the hard work – What are you waiting for? 

7 steps to refinance your home mortgage (& when to do it)


Refinancing your mortgage may be a good move for you, but how do you do it? I’ll show you how in 7 simple steps (+ when you should refinance)


Ramit Sethi

Key Takeaways

  • Refinancing can save money if you can take advantage of lower interest rates, which makes your mortgage debt less expensive to carry.
  • There’s more than one way to refinance, so choose the solution that complements your finances.
  • Refinancing can eliminate extra costs over the lifetime of your home loan like private mortgage insurance.

Although the pandemic has caused economic turmoil, it’s also resulted in at least one bright spot: interest rates are dropping to historic lows. Lower interest rates can mean lower monthly mortgage payments or better loan terms, which is especially helpful for individuals who’ve lost their jobs, had hours cut, or otherwise felt the impact of a worldwide health crisis. 

But there’s more to refinancing than waltzing into your local bank and demanding a new loan. Understanding the different forms of refinancing can guide you to a decision that makes sense for you.

Bonus:If the COVID-19 pandemic has you worried about money, check out my free Coronavirus Proofing your Finances guide and protect your money during this pandemic!

What Does Refinancing Your Home Mortgage Mean?

Refinancing your mortgage means you replace your existing home loan with a new one. Homeowners can use home loan refinancing to leverage lower interest rates, restructure their mortgages, or tap into their home equity.

When Should I Consider Refinancing My Mortgage?

  • To leverage a lower interest rate: You can lower your monthly mortgage payments if you can secure a lower interest rate, which makes your debt less expensive to carry over time. 
  • If you can recoup the costs: Refinancin’ ain’t free, so you’ll have to whip out a calculator to confirm that you reach a break-even point relatively early on in your new loan. At first, your loan will be more expensive because of the closing costs for the new mortgage, but you’ll save money later in the form of less interest.
  • If you want to reduce your loan term: Homeowners often opt for a 30-year mortgage to spread out payments. This is a double-edged sword because it also means that you’re paying more in interest plus other potential expenses like insurance. By reducing your loan to a 15-year term, you can pay more cash toward the principal. 
  • If you want to transition from an ARM to fixed: If you’re in an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), your interest rate stays the same for an initial period, but then changes every year for the life of the loan, according to an interest rate index. Worried about your interest rate going up? If you’ll be in your home for the long haul, it might make sense to restructure into a fixed-rate mortgage. 
  • To use a cash-out refinance: For homeowners with a substantial amount of equity (over 20%) in their homes, there’s an opportunity to refinance and “cash-out” the difference between your old home loan and your new one. This cash is free to use for home improvement projects etc. You can think of cash-out refinancing as a way to both refinance your mortgage and borrow money, simultaneously.
  • To get rid of mortgage insurance: Many lenders require at least a 20% down payment if you want to avoid mortgage insurance. If you’re still paying mortgage insurance, refinancing is a way to eliminate it.

What Are the Costs of Refinancing?

Refinancing is Latin for “new loan.” 

Okay, it’s not, but refinancing still means that a new loan is created to replace your old one. Remember all those fees and expenses you had to pay for your first home loan? Unfortunately, those same costs apply. 

Fees vary lender to lender, but you may have to pay fees for the initial application, loan origination, legal reviews, title insurance, and title searches. All in all, these fees and costs usually sit between 3% and 5% of the total loan. 

Bonus: Having more than one stream of income can help you through tough economic times. Learn how to start earning money on the side with my FREE Ultimate Guide to Making Money

Okay, How Do I Refinance?

Step 1: Know why you’re refinancing

Do you want to restructure your ARM into a fixed-rate loan? Do you want to shorten your loan duration? It’s essential to nail down exactly why you want to refinance your mortgage, so you can approach the refinancing process with a specific goal in mind.

Step 2: Take your financial temperature

Just like your original home loan, your new mortgage requires approval. Do you have a good to excellent credit score and a low debt-to-income ratio? The better your finances, the better your potential loan terms. 

If your credit score could use a little work or you have lots of outstanding loans you can pay off, it’s in your best interest to work on improving it before applying for a new loan.

Step 3: Calculate how much home equity you’ve built up

Home equity is the difference between your property’s value and how much you owe the mortgage lender. So, let’s say your home is worth $500,000, and you owe $300,000 on the loan. Your home equity would be $200,000. Figuring out your home equity will tell you if you can avoid getting private mortgage insurance and other fees.

Note: If you have more than 20% equity in your home, you’ll be charged with fewer fees and be eligible for better loan terms. But you can still refinance if you have at least 5% equity.

Step 4: Get quotes from lenders

When you’re shopping for clothes, you probably don’t take home the first thing you pick up on the sales rack. You likely try on a few clothing combos, decide those horizontal stripes are unflattering and put a few pieces back before ending up at the register. The same process should apply to your refinancing… Minus the horizontal stripes. 

Approach multiple lenders to get a variety of quotes. Make sure you look beyond interest rates when evaluating your quotes—the fees and other costs are also important to consider.

Step 5: Gather your paperwork

Have you ever had to give a speech without your notecards there to guide you? Although winging it can sometimes result in success for the lucky few, you’ll have a lot more success if you prepare. You shouldn’t “wing” your refinancing, either. 

Gather appropriate tax documents, pay stubs, IDs, and all the other paperwork your lender needs for the loan approval process. In some cases, you’ll also need to prepare for an appraisal—but not all lenders require this step. 

Step 6: Prepare for closing

Like your first home loan, you’ll be on the hook for closing costs. Lenders will give you the closing disclosure and loan estimate that details how much cash you’ll need to close on your new loan. 

Step 7: Pay your loan and settle in

Ask your lender about autopay discounts and make sure you keep track of your loan payments. Make copies of your paperwork and review your statements regularly.

Your Home, For a Little Cheaper

Refinancing isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth your time to look into your options when interest rates drop or if your current mortgage terms aren’t ideal. The pandemic has delivered a slew of unfortunate news, but for some homeowners, it can make a mortgage debt less expensive to carry.

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11 steps to create a marketing plan for your business


Focus on growth

Many entrepreneurs know they need to create a marketing plan, but they are either intimidated by the thought of it, or they don’t put the time into it soon enough.

You can hear the voices of protest (and excuses) now…

“But I’m not going to be doing any advertising anyway.”
“I just want to grow through word-of-mouth.”
“I’ve got to get my business up-and-running first and then I’ll figure out the marketing.”
“I’m not a marketing person!”

If you’ve secretly thought of any of these things, you’re not alone.

But the reality is that writing a good new business marketing plan is extremely important and not very difficult.

It’s just outlining decisions about what your business is, who your customers will be, and how you will reach them — and committing those ideas to paper in an orderly format.

A good marketing plan answers questions like “Who are our target buyers?” and “Where will we spend money to attract them?” With these kinds of questions resolved, you’ll be setting your business up for success right from the start.

So stop procrastinating and learn how to make a marketing plan.

 

Where to begin?

Well, let’s start at the beginning.

What is a marketing plan?

A marketing plan is a document that outlines a brand’s plan to attract and retain customers and promote its brand, products, and services.

It includes research, information, and past marketing performance history, and it outlines a plan for creating future marketing and advertising strategies.

Marketing plans are often a section of a larger business plan. But they can also stand on their own.

Why do you need a marketing plan?

A marketing plan helps you put all of your research, ideas and plans in one place. When you go through the process, you can:

  • Define your core messaging and positioning to create a cohesive brand voice, vision, and style.
  • Set a budget that matches your goals and agenda.
  • Deliver a stronger return on investment as you will create tracking processes to measure and optimize campaigns.
  • Develop better future plans as you can clearly see what’s working and what’s not.
  • Organize and centralize your marketing plans so your entire team is on the same page.

Without an official marketing plan, it’s likely that your business will have a lot of ideas, opinions and plans floating around without much cohesion.

A marketing plan helps you get focused and organized so you can be more coordinated, productive and successful.

When’s the best time to make a marketing plan?

There’s no bad time to create a marketing plan. But the best time to make a marketing plan is:

  • At the beginning/end of the year so you can plan out plans for the year ahead.
  • When launching a new business so you have a new business marketing plan to help you grow and scale your business.
  • When launching a new product, service or category in your business so you know how to capture a new market.
  • The moment you realize you don’t have one because it’s never too late to start to reap the benefits of having an existing or new business marketing plan.

If your business fits into any of these scenarios, it’s time to create a marketing plan.

Before you begin

If you have an established business, but this is the first time you’re creating a marketing plan, start by reviewing your history.

You’ve probably had marketing plans in the past even if they weren’t laid out in a formal document. Reflect back on those campaigns and strategies to help create your new plan.

Open up a spreadsheet to start recording an inventory of everything you’ve tried so far to market your business. Note any action you’ve taken (cost, time investment, dates, duration), and categorize everything.

Think about each of these efforts.

Be honest about what did and didn’t work, and what is and isn’t working.

List it all out so you can use it to inform and guide your future marketing plans.

Now, let’s get into how to make a marketing plan for your new or existing business.

How to create a marketing plan in 11 steps

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed as you start to think about creating your marketing plan. But, all you really need to do is follow a simple outline and go through the following marketing plan steps.

  1. Define your offerings.
  2. Define your brand mission.
  3. Define your target audience.
  4. Conduct a market analysis.
  5. Conduct a competitor analysis.
  6. Define your brand positioning.
  7. Outline your goals.
  8. Outline your marketing strategy.
  9. Set a budget.
  10. Outline offers and marketing tactics.
  11. Define metrics and KPIs.

Let’s walk through each step.

1. Define your offerings

Before you can create a marketing plan, you need to be clear about what it is that you’re selling.

Create a list of your products and services and outline:

  • The features of each offer/product
  • How each feature benefits customers
  • What makes each offering different from other similar offerings
  • The price for each offering

Related: How to write a mission statement you’ll be proud to share

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2. Define your brand mission

Now that you know exactly what you’re selling, it’s time to explain why you’re selling it.

Outline your brand mission by answering questions like:

  • What is it that you would like your brand to accomplish?
  • Why do you want to help your customers?
  • Why are your products or services important?
  • Why should customers look to do business with you instead of your competitors?

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3. Define your target audience

Once you know what you’re selling and why you’re selling it, it’s time to outline who you will sell to.

Define your target audience by creating buyer personas that describe your ideal customers and audiences. Outline their:

  • Demographics (age, gender, income, education, location, etc.)
  • Professional details (industry, job title, company, etc.)
  • Psychographics (personality traits, beliefs, attitudes, etc.)
  • Goals (what they what to achieve)
  • Challenges (pain points, what they’re afraid of or in need of, etc.)
  • Influences (favorite media outlets, thought leaders, etc.)

Need help defining your target audience? Check out this guide on What information should you include in your buyer persona customer profile?

Related: Why a target audience matters (and how to find yours)

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4. Conduct a market analysisMan Reviewing Details For Market Analysis

A market analysis describes the total marketing environment in which your company competes.

When you create a marketing plan, this analysis is an essential section as it answers questions that help you navigate your competitive market’s landscape.

  • How many businesses offer similar offerings?
  • How many businesses will your brand be in direct competition with?
  • How large is the market?
  • What are the trends in the market (growing, decreasing, etc.)?
  • How much are customers already paying for similar offerings?
  • How much are customers willing to pay for similar offerings?
  • What does the sales cycle in your market look like?

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5. Conduct a competitor analysis

The market analysis should help you come up with the names of a few of your direct competitors.

Now, look closely at those competitors to see how you can differentiate your brand and drive customers to choose you over others.

  • Who are your competitors?
  • What is their market share?
  • What are their strengths, weaknesses and unique selling propositions?
  • How can you differentiate your brand from competitors?

Related: How to find inspiration from your competitors (without stealing their ideas)

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6. Define your brand positioning

By this step in the process to create a marketing plan, you’ve done a lot of research, and you’ve outlined what you know about your brand, market, and competitors.

Use this information to decide how you will position your brand in the market.

  • Outline your unique selling propositions.
  • Define what market differentiators you will highlight.
  • Specify what market segment you will target.
  • Define your brand voice and tone.

Related: A beginner’s guide to branding your business

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7. Outline your goals

The goals section is just that — defining your short- and long-term goals. Think about where you’re starting from, and where you want the business to be in three, five and 10 years.

Some examples of marketing goals might be to:

  • Attract customers
  • Retain customers
  • Increase website traffic
  • Increase social media following
  • Increase online sales
  • Increase in-store sales
  • Generate more leads
  • Improve online conversions

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8. Outline your marketing strategyCreate A Marketing Plan Woman Working On Laptop

Your marketing strategy should then outline your approach to reaching your goals.

Look at your goals and figure out what type of marketing tactics will help you get closer to your target objectives.

They might include (but aren’t limited to) the following.

  • Online advertising. Pay-per-click advertising, banner ads, text ads on partner sites.
  • Email marketing. Sending electronic newsletters, adding subscription tools to your site to grow your email list.
  • Print advertising. Newspaper or magazine ads, business cards, direct mail postcards, brochures or flyers.
  • Social networking. Maintaining your business profile and engaging with customers and prospects on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
  • Blogging. Writing your own blog, responding to or submitting articles or features to other people’s blogs, RSS feeds, etc.
  • Online directories. Your business listing on both global (i.e. Google, Yelp and YP.com) and local (i.e. Chamber of Commerce) listings sites.
  • Live networking. Handing out business cards, professional memberships, public speaking.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO). Tweaking website content to attract organic traffic.
  • Trade shows. Sending your team to attend or present at industry conferences and events.
  • Public relations. Getting mentions and features about your brand in the news.

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9. Set a budget

There are a lot of factors that go into setting a marketing budget. But at this point, you should have some good information to help direct your budgeting.

Ask yourself:

  • What is your current revenue?
  • What percent of your revenue have you allocated for marketing?
  • What set marketing costs do you have (for software, team members, etc.)?
  • How much money will you need to reach your goals?
  • What are your competitors are spending on their marketing?

Once you start running strategic and goal-focused marketing campaigns, it will become easier to set marketing budgets. You will be able to use past campaigns to measure costs and your return on investment (ROI) — such as cost per lead, cost per customer, etc.

But, in the beginning, you will need to try a few campaigns to see what works and delivers the best ROI.

Related: 5 ways to build a strong online presence on a shoestring budget

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10. Outline offers and marketing campaignsWoman Writing Outline In Journal

Now, it’s time to turn your ideas into concrete marketing promotions and campaigns.

Decide what type of offers you can make. What can you offer as a special or deal? A free consultation? Special pricing for new customers or for referrals? Rewards? Samples?

Whatever you do, be consistent with your goals.

 

It doesn’t make sense to offer early bird specials if your target audience is college students grabbing late-night burgers.

Then, consider your marketing strategy, goals, offers and budget to lay out a few concrete campaigns. Outline the cost, time and tactics for each campaign.

Examples of marketing campaigns

Increase awareness with business cards

  • Cost: Less than $20 to print custom business cards with a service like Vistaprint
  • Time: 10 minutes to two hours per week
  • Tactic: Carry business cards with you at all times. Share them with anyone you meet who shows an interest in your business, whether you’re at a client meeting, your Rotary Club, or a party where the topic of what you do for a living comes up in conversation. Give each person multiple cards, one for them and another one or two to share with someone they know who might also be interested in your services.

Drive traffic to your website with a banner ad

  • Cost: About $200/month (costs will vary from $0 to thousands, depending on where you choose to place your ad)
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Tactic: Banner ads are those rectangular ads you see in the margins of just about every website. When someone clicks on a banner ad, they’re typically taken to the advertiser’s website, where they can redeem the offer or shop for whatever is advertised in the banner.

Promote your business with email

  • Cost: Starting at about $10/month for an online email marketing tool
  • Time: One to five hours per month
  • Tactic: This assumes you have a list of email addresses to start with. If so, subscribe to an email builder and customize one of the email templates. Start by sending one information-filled email every 10 days to two weeks (“Check out our latest offerings.” “SAVE 10% now through Thursday!”, etc.). Track customer responses. Resend emails that work and stop sending those that don’t.

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11. Define metrics and KPIs

The final step as you create a marketing plan is to decide what metrics you will use to evaluate your campaigns.

Better-known measurement options like surveys can be useful, but you’ll also want to understand things like the cost of customer acquisition (for every new customer you get, how many marketing dollars do you have to spend?) or market share (out of the universe of your potential customers, what percentage do you have, and is that growing?).

Look at your marketing campaigns and decide what metrics will be best for showing results tied to your goals.

As mentioned earlier, having the right set of metrics will allow you to make more informed decisions about your budget as well as make adjustments to strategies as you go.

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Check your new business marketing plan, iterate and improve

Now, you know how to make a marketing plan, but your work doesn’t stop here.

Use the framework to go through the marketing plan steps and start writing your plan. Then, review your finished marketing plan with fresh eyes and make plans to continue to update and improve your outline.

1. Ask questions of others to check your thinking.

It’s easy to get in your own head and substitute your judgment for your customers’ because you’re passionate about your business.

You might think “I’d prefer receiving a coupon rather than a sample; a coupon would make me more likely to buy.” Run that by some people who fit the profile of your target market before you decide which way to go. You might be surprised.

2. Don’t try to think of everything yourself.

Look at your competitors and learn from what they do well. But don’t forget to look at other industries, too.

There’s no reason you can’t steal a trick from a different kind of company facing the same issue. It will save you time, in the long run, to test tried-and-true methods in addition to your own brilliant, unique ideas.

3. Stick to the plan — and keep changing it.

I know this sounds contradictory but do both. Being true to the decisions you’ve made in your marketing plan is key to remaining focused.

If your business is growing faster than expected, if your customers give you feedback you didn’t have before, if your competition changes, then these are all good reasons to make adjustments.

Don’t be afraid to tweak your marketing plan or even make substantial revisions.

Remember, you’re never really finished writing a marketing plan.

 

The document should evolve along with your business. Don’t just put your marketing plan in a filing cabinet never to see the light of day. Use it. Share it with your team.

A marketing plan, like any tool, is good only if it’s used. And when it is, it’s a powerful guide for running and growing your business, from startup to wherever you’re headed.

Bring your marketing plan to life

You now know what a marketing plan is, why you need one and how to create a marketing plan in 11 simple steps. You’re ready to start outlining the path you will take to launch, market and grow your business.

Go through the marketing plan steps outlined in this post and then, make it easy to execute your plan with GoDaddy’s Websites + Marketing service. It supports your plan by helping you build a professional website and market your business everywhere online.

This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by the following authors: Andrea Rowland and Jennifer Friedman.

Affiliate Marketing for Beginners: How to Make Your First Affiliate Marketing Sale in 7 Steps

Affiliate Marketing for Beginners: How to Make Your First Affiliate Marketing Sale in 7 Steps

The lure of affiliate marketing is undeniable; who can resist passive income?

But to make that passive income happen, you have got to put in some work first. 

To succeed in affiliate marketing, there are a number of crucial steps you must take before you earn that first affiliate profits. And these steps are, well … not passive.

The good news is that if you’re determined to make this work and are willing to put in the time and effort, you’re already well on your way to affiliate marketing success.

All the work you put in is to help you make your first affiliate marketing sale. There is nothing like a first sale to motivate you and make you keep at it. 

So, what do you need to do to get started?

7 Steps to Earning Your First Affiliate Commission

We’ve broken down the process into seven steps for affiliate marketing beginners. Following this guide will set you on the right course and have you earning your first commission in no time.

1. Choose a Niche

Before you even begin building your first site, you’ll need to decide which niche you’re going to target.

Obviously, if you don’t know what your site is about or who you’re going to target with it, you can’t really build a site around it…can you? 

If you’ve already figured this one out, way to go! This is undoubtedly one of the most difficult and overwhelming steps.

If you don’t quite know what your niche is yet, here’s some advice that you might find useful. 

Some key questions to ask yourself when determining your niche are:

  • What topics am I already passionate about?

It’s much easier to work on something if you’re passionate about it. Plus, when you have a passion, you’re usually quite knowledgeable about it too, so that definitely helps. For example if you have a passion about about makeup, your niche of choice might be makeup related, too. 

  • Is there money in this niche?

While following your passion is definitely the recommended option, sometimes the possibility of making money in a profitable niche trumps passion. So, you might not necessarily know much about your niche, but if it’s likely to make you money, you can always learn more about it, right? 

For example, KitchenFaucetDivas is clearly a site that was built for profit, not passion. Unless of course there is someone out there with a serious passion for kitchen faucets! 😉 

  • What topic could I see myself easily writing 25, 50, or 100 blog posts about?

The topic you choose must have enough depth that you can create a lot of content for it. This is important for building an authoritative site, for search engine optimization, and most importantly, for the end user. If you don’t have enough content about a topic, you’re not going to be taken very seriously as an authority on the topic and it’s unlikely you can convince someone to make a purchase from you. 

MoneySavingExpert is a great example of a site with a topic for which you would have a never ending supply of content ideas. 

  • Is there room in this niche for another affiliate marketer?

There are several profitable niches that are also very popular among affiliate markets (e.g., weight loss). Before jumping on board with a hugely popular niche, make sure there’s enough room for you. That is — will you be able to make money and compete with already established marketers? If not, keep looking. 

  • Is there enough interest in/demand for products in this niche?

The niche you choose might draw enough interest from your audience when it comes to reading and acquiring knowledge, but are they willing to buy relevant products too? Without consumer interest in products, your niche isn’t going to make you much money. 

  • Are there affiliate programs available in this niche?

This is obviously a crucial factor to consider. You might come up with an idea for a niche you know a lot about, but are there affiliate programs for the niche? No affiliate program = no sales. Time to look for a different niche. 

Additional Resources for Choosing a Niche

Want to learn more about choosing a profitable niche? Here are some excellent resources we recommend for further reading:

2. Research Affiliate Programs

Once you’ve decided on a niche, it’s time to find out what’s out there in terms of programs and products to promote. You’ve probably already done a bit of research for this while researching your niche — now you need to dig deeper. 

Choosing an affiliate program will take some work, but don’t be afraid to invest a significant amount of time into it because this is, of course, where your income will come from. Choosing the right program will make it well worth your while!

When choosing an affiliate program, keep these key points in mind:

  • What type of merchants use the program/ affiliate network? 

You want to make sure other similar sellers are also using the network, as this can help you gauge your likelihood of success with the particular program.

  • How much commission are you likely to make from the products?

Make sure you sign up for programs that are profitable and generate a sufficient return in on investment. Some tips:

  • If using ClickBank, products should have over a 50% commission (preferably 60%), and have a high gravity rating (meaning they’re in demand).
  • For CPA (cost-per-action) programs, commissions should be over $1, and products shouldn’t be overly restrictive in how you can promote them.
  • For physical products, look for commissions over $40.

     
  • Do you want to be associated with the products and services?

The products and services you will be promoting to your audience must be relevant and good quality. Make sure you believe in them and know everything about them, because this will be crucial to you delivering the sales pitch to your audience. You need to build trust with your audience so make sure the products and services you choose to promote are trustworthy enough. 

Ads like the one below often lead to sketchy products — do you want to be associated with a product that promises results that may or may not be true?

  • What kind of support does the program provide?

Be sure to check what kind of customer support you can expect from your affiliate program once you have signed up. Do your research online and if possible, speak to other sellers using the program to get their thoughts. Can you speak to someone via phone or Skype or do you have to wait 72 hours for email responses? Be clear on this because trust me, you will need support at one point or another. 

Additional Resources to Find the Right Affiliate Program

We’ve given you a few quick tips to help you choose an affiliate program that is right for you. For more information, be sure to check out the following: 

3. Build a Site

Steps 1 and 2 are all about research and figuring out what’s possible and profitable. Now, it’s time to start putting your research into action. 

Assuming you don’t already have a website built, this will be the next step. Fortunately, building a site isn’t as complicated or labor-intensive as it was in the past.

If you’re a newbie to building sites, the easiest way to set up a site is by using WordPress. The WordPress CMS is very easy to use and while coding skills can come in handy, for the most part you will not require any tech knowledge to set up your site. 

You need to follow a few steps to have your site up and running:

Your domain is the address for your website (e.g., www.affilorama.com) so this is the first thing you will need to do when setting up your site. Considering there are millions of websites on the internet, it’s possible that the domain name you want may already be taken by someone else. So make sure you have several options in mind. Be sure to read our advice on how to choose a good domain name

There are several places you can buy a domain, including our very own Affilorama Domain service. Other well-known options are: GoDaddy and NameCheap

  • Purchase and set up hosting. 

If your domain is your address, hosting is like the actual house within which your site will live. It’s your own little slice of the internet — the place where all your website files live. Hosting is very affordable these days, so don’t unnecessarily scrimp on costs. Go with a reputable, reliable provider because your affiliate marketing business depends on it. 

For more details on how to choose a reliable host, make sure to read our free lesson on What to Look for in a Hosting Provider. Some affordable and reliable hosting providers we recommend are GoDaddy, HostGator and BlueHost

If you purchase your domain and hosting from different companies, you will need to link the two together. Don’t panic, it’s a simple process. Check out our lesson: Linking your Domain with Your Hosting.

Once your hosting is set up, you need to install a content management system (CMS) for your site. We recommend WordPress because it is easy to use and a beginner (like you!) can quite quickly figure out how it works. Most good hosting providers will have a one-click install option for WordPress, which means it will only take you a couple of minutes and you will have WordPress installed on your site. 

A WordPress theme provides all the styling of a site that you (and your audience) see on the front end. There are thousands of themes available, so choosing one might seem daunting at start. Our advice: go with something simple and easy to customize. You can always change it later. 

The AffiloTheme is a great option. Completely customizable, and built specifically for affiliate marketers, you can use this WordPress theme to bypass much of the initial learning curve other affiliate marketers will experience. You can also search for themes on a site like Theme Forest. 

Finally, once your site is ready, it’s time to create content for it. The content you create must be relevant to your niche but also interesting and engaging enough to keep your audience coming back. You should also ensure the site content is search engine-friendly. More details about content creation in Step 4. 

Additional Resources for Building Your Site

For more information on building your first affiliate marketing website, we recommend the following resources:

4. Produce Excellent Content

Now that your site is set up and you’ve joined an affiliate program, you’re ready to begin perhaps the most time-consuming (but potentially rewarding) part of the affiliate business: Producing content.

This is where the overused but truer-than-ever phrase “content is king” comes into play.

Your goal for your site will be to establish it as an authority site in your niche, and the main way to do this is to consistently produce unique, high-quality content.

This could consist of:

Your affiliate site model could be based off writing reviews about different products or services. This is a common model and if done well, can prove very useful in generating affiliate income.

For example, The Wire Cutter is focused on writing reviews of several different kinds of products and helping their readers make the best decision about the product they want to buy. After reading a review on their site, if the user clicks through to the product/service using the affiliate link, The Wire Cutter will earn a commission from. 

  • Blog posts that address common problems, questions or issues relevant to your target market.

Creating blog content is a very useful and effective way of consistently building content on a site. When creating blog posts, it’s a good idea to do some keyword research to figure out what it is that your audience is interested in and searching for online. Also, be sure to research competitors, forums and social media to narrow down on topics for your blog. 

For example, Security Guard Training HQ has a very extensive blog on a variety of topics relevant for anyone interested in security guard training, jobs and more. 

If you are building a site that has the potential for information that will never age and remain useful for your audience, you have the opportunity to create what is known as evergreen content. It’s important to carry out extensive keyword research before planning any evergreen content for a site like this, as your site could hugely benefit from the proper usage of keywords within such content. 

For example, the content on Super Weddings is useful whether you’re organizing a wedding today or next year. All the content on the site is created accordingly. To make things easier for the audience, it is separated into categories to make it very convenient for the reader to find what they’re looking for. This, of course, is also very good for SEO. 

Giving away a free informational product such as an e-book, an email series or a mini-course is a popular tactic many affiliate marketers use. Usually, your readers will have to provide their email addresses to receive the product from you. You can then use this to sell to them via email marketing. Additionally, an informational product can generate interest in the actual product you’re trying to sell. If your product is popular enough and brings enough traffic to your site, you could also monetize the traffic in other ways, such as AdSense.

A good example is DatingMetrics, where you’re tempted with a Free Texting Crash Course in exchange for your email. The real marketing will begin once the user has downloaded this course. 

The type of content you create for your website will largely depend on your niche, as certain types of content perform better in some niches than others.

Remember: Purchasing generic content is NOT an effective method to build your site. While it may be tempting to populate your site this way, in the long run it won’t help you to position yourself as an expert in your niche (and ultimately means less traffic and fewer sales).

Additional Resources for Creating Your Content

5. Build an Audience

Building an audience for your site will, in some ways, follow naturally once you start producing excellent content. An interested audience will not only bring you consistent traffic, but also result in consistent sales for you. 

So how do you start building an audience for a completely new site? Here are some ideas: 

  • Promote your content via social media.

The easiest and most common way to start building an audience for a website is via social media. Depending on your niche and industry, you can choose from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and several other niche and location-specific networks. Building up an engaged and interested following on social media is a great opportunity to build relationships and once you have their trust, promote your products and services to them. 

I’ll use MoneySavingExpert.com as an example again. The site has over 154,000 likes on its Facebook page and it connects with the audience by sharing links to content but also asking money-saving/budgeting related questions. The highly engaged readers then visit the website, where they read content and no doubt make purchases.

  • Guest post on high-traffic blogs.

While your site is still new, it’s a good idea to start capitalizing on someone else’s audience. Continue focusing on building your own content, but also considering writing content for a few big, high-traffic blogs that are relevant for your niche. By writing content for a bigger site, you are able to get in front of another audience and showcase your expertise on a particular topic. This will eventually lead to more traffic to your site, as well. 

Let no one tell you that email marketing is dead. An email list is crucial for every affiliate marketer. You can start building up your email list with a lead magnet (like the information products mentioned previously) or even just by encouraging your audience to sign up for your updates. You can then push your content to this audience via email and also direct them to your affiliate offers. Don’t be sleazy about the sales, but if you build up enough trust with your email audience; when the time comes, they will not mind purchasing a product from you. 

  • Use basic SEO techniques to increase search engine traffic to your site.

Organic search remains an important source of traffic for any website, so it’s important that you optimize your website for search engines as well. When creating your content, you must always do so keeping the reader in mind first, but don’t forget to follow a few basic SEO principles as well.

Learn SEO yourself or hire a good SEO marketer to help you maximize on-page and off-page SEO opportunities for your site. If your site starts to appear in search results for terms relevant to your niche, it will be a huge boost towards building your audience (and your sales)!

  • Invest in paid advertising.

Many affiliate marketers use paid advertising to generate additional traffic to their site and drive more sales. Paid advertising on social media is often a good place to start, as these networks tend to be more affordable.You may also want to consider taking out inexpensive banner ads on small niche sites. Depending on your niche, Google AdWords could also be a good option to drive some paid traffic to your site.

Additional Resources for Building Your Audience

If you’re interested in learning more about how to build an audience and start generating traffic for your site, check out the following resources:

6. Promote Affiliate Offers

Finally, the part we’ve all been waiting for!

This, my friends, is where things really kick into high gear. Many fly-by-night affiliates will jump right to this step and bypass steps 1–5 completely. And this is what will set you apart.

Once you’ve shown that you can offer something of value in your niche, it’s time to continue adding value by promoting products that will be useful and helpful for your audience.

You can promote your offers in a number of ways. It will depend on the type of site you’ve built and also what you’re selling. Some ideas include:

Write honest, real reviews about products. Build up trust with your audience, and remember that they rely on your opinion. Don’t just point out all the positives of a product and gloss over the negatives. An honest opinion will be valued. Add compelling images and make mention of useful features, specifications and other details. 

Your product review can then link to the page (with your affiliate ID attached), where your audience can make a purchase if they’re interested. If do, hooray! You’ve made your first sale. 

You can put up banners on your site, to promote your affiliate offers. Most affiliate programs will usually provide their own creatives when you sign up for their offers. All you have to do is insert the banner on a highly trafficked page (your affiliate tracking is usually embedded within the code). Banner ads in the right locations can do a great job of driving sales.  

Below are some examples of banners that Templatic provides to its affiliates. 

This is a very common way to promote offers. For example, you will often see a blog post with links to certain products or services. If the reader clicks through and makes a purchase, the blog owner will make a commission. These in-text links blend in with other content on your site and are a great way of promoting an offer within your content, without being over-the-top salesy with banners. 

If you have built up an email list, you could also promote your affiliate offers via email promotions. Just make sure you build up a relationship with your audience first instead of going for the hard sell straightaway. The emails you send out must contain your affiliate links to products so when your audience click through. the sale is attributed to you. 

  • Discounts and giveaways. 

Many affiliate programs will often run promotions with good discounts or giveaways that might be attractive to your audience. For example, if you’re an Amazon Associate and the site have a big Holiday Sale, it would be the perfect opportunity for you to promote discounts to your website visitors. This is a great way to promote your offers while also providing good value to your audience. 

When promoting affiliate offers, just make sure you are fully aware of all the terms and conditions attached to your affiliate program. Some programs can be strict about how they allow you to promote their products. For example, some may limit you to banner ads and links only, while others will allow you to use paid advertising, but won’t allow email marketing. 

Also, make sure you have a disclaimer on your website that advises your audience that you may have links that promote affiliate offers. This is necessary for several affiliate programs and also a basic courtesy to your website visitors. In the U.S., the FTC mandates disclosure for affiliate marketers (and anyone issuing endorsements), as well.   

Additional Resources for Promoting Your Offers

7. Rinse, Lather, and Repeat

Now that you’re done with Steps 1 – 6, Step 7 is simply to keep doing what you’re doing. Yes, seriously!

Your ongoing work as an affiliate marketer will be to repeat steps 4 – 6 on a continual basis. Building a site up to a point where it can make you consistent income takes a bit of work and you must be willing to constantly create, promote, market, innovate and of course, sell. 

Review of Key Points

It can feel overwhelming to do all the necessary work involved in setting up your site and building your reputation. But trust me, once you’ve made that first sale, all the hard work will be worth it!

To sum it all up, making your first affiliate commission requires a bit of work but if you break it all down and follow it step by step, it won’t seem so overwhelming at all. Here’s a quick recap of what you need to do:

  1. Choose your niche.
  2. Research different affiliate programs and products.
  3. Build a site.
  4. Produce excellent content.
  5. Build an audience.
  6. Promote your affiliate product(s).
  7. Repeat steps #4–7 on a continual basis!

 

As you can see, there is a tried-and-true strategy when it comes to affiliate marketing for beginners. Put in the work, and you’ll soon be reaping the rewards of your first sale. 

Do you feel overwhelmed about making that first affiliate sale? What’s holding you back from getting started? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll be happy to help. 

Active Revenue Review (2020) – Steps for Profitable Campaigns

Hi everybody! Without further ado, we are reviewing today an international ad network, ActiveRevenue.

They’ve launched their network in 2012 and from that time onwards they’ve been selling plenty of different advertising formats, such as Push, Pop, and Zero-click.

As usual, we’ll review all their targeting options, advanced statistics and ways of optimization available in their interface. From words to deeds – let’s start!

ActiveRevenue Overview

Should we take a deep look at their platform?

Let’s do it!

Dashboard

We usually start exploring all platforms from their interface, and we must say that the guys at ActiveRevenue did quite a good job here.

Their interface is intuitive, user-friendly, all main features are well-placed and it doesn’t take long to find what you are looking for. You’ll get used to its layout quite fast unlike other big advertising networks where some features are hidden or hard to reach.

When you log in to your account, on the main panel you’ll see your statistics for the month, as well as money spent, conversions and income.

Statistics

A well-thought-out statistics section allows you to make a comprehensive analysis as if you’d been using a traditional affiliate ad tracker. And this is quite an advantage if you are short with a budget and rather spend it on the traffic itself.

Start by selecting which traffic you need to analyze:

In your report, you will see not only the number of clicks and impressions but also details about conversions, revenue, and profit.

Next, you can drill down to the report and analyze Source Creative, as shown in the example below:

Such stats will allow you to determine the most profitable campaigns, sources, formats, and ads that you should focus on.

And of course, you can download your stats in CSV format and analyze further in Excel if you need additional calculations.

Available Macros in ActiveRevenue

Prior to creating a campaign let’s see which macros are available in this ad network.

  • {source_subid} – Source subid
  • {conversion} – Conversion tracking
  • {campaign} – Campaign ID
  • {bid} – Bid price
  • {browser} – Browser
  • {os} – Operation system
  • {carrier} – Visitor’s ISP
  • {ip} – User IP
  • {keyword} – Keyword matched on campaign
  • {user_agent} – User agent
  • {country} – Two-letter visitor’s country (ISO 3166-2)
  • {state} – Visitor’s state
  • {city} – Visitor’s city
  • {zip} – Visitor’s postal code (if available)
  • {banner} – Ad ID

Also note that ActiveRevenue presents all default settings inside the main ad trackers such as Voluum, RedTrack, BeMob, Binom, and more, so configuring a Postback won’t be difficult.

After your traffic source is configured in the tracker, you can move to create a campaign.

You will see 3 options to choose from once you click on “Create a Campaign”.

Let’s begin with a push campaign, the most trendy ad format nowadays.

Creating a Push Campaign

There are 4 steps in the campaign creation process:

  1. Budget & Limits
  2. Targeting
  3. Micro Targeting
  4. Creatives

Let’s dig in each of those.

1. Budget & Limits

By its name you can guess that this step will be about budget and various traffic restrictions.

  • Name – Choose a name for your campaign.
  • Start – Start immediately/Setup start date. Here you can set when you’d like your campaign to start (whether it is immediately after your campaign is approved or at a certain date).
  • Campaign date range – This field will become active if you opted for “Setup start date“.

You’ll be able to set up the first day of your campaign as well as the last day until it should run.

Campaign Budget

  • Total budget
  • Daily budget
  • Default CPC
  • Daily budget spend type: Evenly/ASAP (choose the first one if you want your budget to be spent evenly within 24h of your campaign or second if you want to spend it as soon as possible.

Below is the section where you can specify other campaign restrictions:

  • Frequency cap – Frequency of showing your ad to one user within 24 hours.
  • Total Clicks per day – The total number of clicks for your campaign.
  • Conversions per day – The total number of conversions is convenient if you have CAP per offer. This way you can be sure that you will not make more conversions than you are allowed during the day.

Click on the Next button to move to the Targeting settings.

2. Targeting

Geo

Here you can select which countries you want to work on, you can quickly find it by typing the country name in the search bar.

Operating Systems

In this targeting section, you’ll indicate the device and operating system targeting.

I also want to draw your attention to one interesting and useful feature: you can set up a certain percentage of traffic for a device or operating system, as indicated in the example above.

Browsers

Serves for detailed browser and browsing versions targeting.

You’ll set up here carriers for your campaign. For my tests, I’ve selected Vodacom for South Africa.

Time Targeting

The last targeting option is dayparting. Go and indicate here which hours you want your campaign to receive traffic.


Click Next to move to the next step.

3. Micro Targeting

At this step, you can configure targeting by IP ranges and sources.

With IP ranges – everything is standard, just specify if the system should take them as a whitelist or blacklist and enter the ranges.

When adding a White/Blacklist for sources, consider the following:

  • Source ID / {source_subid} – should be added with a dot at the beginning. E.g: .123456
  • Publisher ID / {pubfeed} / {source} – should be added, as is, without any additional value.

Learn more about the source and publisher.

4. Creatives

The final step is managing Campaign Creatives.

You might be already familiar with its structure: 1 campaign, several creatives/ads.

Click Add new ad and start filling out the details:

  • Title – short title of the ad.
  • Description – description of the ad.

Note: you have an option to use City and Country macros. This is very convenient if you want to reach users from a specific city or country.

Such personalized ad, if wisely set, gives the best clickability results.

  • Destination URL – URL with macros.
  • Call to action – here you can place additional text forcing for Call to action.
  • Main images – the main image of the ad.
  • Icon images – additional image (icon).

Their platform actually helps you to save editing time while cropping and preparing the image for the ad.

After all the details were introduced click on Create Add to save your Ad in the list.

If needed, you can continue to create other ads.

I usually add at least 3-5 ads to the same campaign to try different approaches and angles. There are more chances to attract your target audience with an ad that particularly matches your users’ interests.

Let’s take a look at options for automatic optimization of your campaign. They are placed just under the list of ads.

Auto Blacklist – this option allows you to automatically disable an ad that doesn’t perform effectively.

Auto Bid Optimization – allows you to raise or lower your bid depending on the ROI.Note: these options will only work if a postback is configured.

That’s all!
We’ve got through all steps of Campaign creation. Your campaign will be sent to moderation prior to starting traffic.

Creating Pop and Zero-Click Campaign

The process of creating a campaign for Pop and Zero-Click traffic is very similar to what was described for the Push campaign above.

So, let’s highlight the only few points which are different.

For Pop campaigns, in the first step, you’ll have a choice to select among the following traffic types:

  • Site
  • App
  • Extensions
  • Adult

Basically, you can specify what type of traffic you want to receive.

Also, unlike Push traffic, for Pop campaigns you are going to be charged by impressions, thus when specifying a bid, indicate CPV.

All other steps of Targeting remain similar.

And only in step #3 of Micro Targeting, you’ll find specific targeting options that aren’t available for Push.

Domains List – allows you to create White/Blacklists of domains you’d like to receive traffic.

  • Keywords tab – give you an opportunity to work with keyword lists. I would say that this feature is more relevant for Zero-Click traffic, although here it presents for Pop, too. It is possible to make a large list of keywords and load them from a file.
  • Match type – this targeting will be familiar to those who worked with Google Ads.
  • Broad – broad match, all keywords which are found in the phrase.
  • Phrase – phrase match, that is, for the keyword or phrase to be displayed it is necessary that the whole phrase matches.
  • Exact – a keyword or phrase must exactly match your impressions.
  • Negative – if you tick this checkbox the specified keyword will be excluded.
  • Bid adjustment – you can increase the bid for the keyword you need.
  • RON – (run on network) it’s a switch that allows you to enable impressions throughout the network and don’t consider keywords.

Note: The keyword guidance can significantly reduce your traffic volumes, so I’d recommend starting a wide audience without keywords and RON parameter enabled.

The tab Creatives has almost no difference with the exception that it doesn’t include text and images as it is specific to Push traffic only.

What you need is only to add a link.

Note: ActiveRevenue gives you the ability to add several links per campaign. This means that you can actually run several offers inside one campaign and conduct Split testing without using a tracker.

That’s it! We’ve covered all you need to know about Campaign Creation.

Let’s move to optimization features.

Campaign Optimization

The campaigns were created, traffic has started, what to do next? Exactly, optimize!

Let’s take a closer look at available features for optimization.

Optimization is a detailed analysis of campaign targeting elements that you can influence to make your performance better.

In other words, your optimization goal will be to configure a campaign the way your traffic brings the highest ROI.

Let’s see which targeting parameters can be optimized on ActiveRevenue.

In the example above, you can see statistics per Sources.

Keep in mind that you can disable sites/sources directly from this section.

This is what the Publisher_ID report looks like.

Note: Publisher_ID is an essential Source defragmentation. Therefore, Publisher analysis helps in achieving a more accurate traffic optimization. I highly recommend analyzing this parameter.

Let’s take my test campaign as an example. From this report of ads, you can clearly see that I kept only those ads that were bringing some results for me.

Domain List – you can benefit from optimizing domains for your Pop and Zero-click traffic, just disable the ones which suit less to your offer audience.

Or vice versa, feel free to make a Whitelist for domains with the best performance for your campaigns.

IP List – a list of IP addresses to be used when targeting by IP ranges. It’s a must-have optimization to target only certain mobile operators.

Postback – ActiveRevenue provides you a postback URL to the integration with your affiliate network (or tracker) to facilitate profound analysis and optimization.

Traffic Estimator – a tool that assesses and displays real-time traffic volumes inside the ad network.

As you can see ActiveRevenue has many tools for optimization to focus only on relevant traffic for your offers.

Insights Tab

Here you can get access to a visual dashboard of your campaign statistics. I found it pretty clear and useful for a quick scan of performance.

Takeaways

It’s time to sum up everything we’ve learned about ActiveRevenue above:

  • Convenient, intuitive and most importantly functional interface.
  • Excellent opportunities for traffic analysis and optimization.
  • Great features for fine-tuning: individual bids on Ads, Countries, Browsers, Sources.
  • Big traffic volumes.
  • Perhaps the most important thing for me as a Media buyer: quality traffic.
  • Referral program – 5% bonus on referral spends for 90 days.

As can be seen in the screenshot above, during my tests I managed to optimize campaigns to be profitable.

Offers & Verticals

Ad types: Push, Pop, Zero-click.

Cost Model:

Verticals: Gaming, Dating, Adult, eCommerce, Gambling, Finance, Sweepstakes.

Payments & Investment

Minimum deposit: $100

Payment methods: PayPal, Paxum, Wire Transfer, WebMoney, Payoneer.

Support

Dedicated Account Manager: Yes.

Support Response Speed: Good.

Support Rating: Good.

Contact Methods: 24/7 live chat.