Beth Hayden |

The #1 Thing You Absolutely Must Have If You Want to Make Money Online

One of my clients recently told me a story that broke my heart.

This client (I’ll call her “Sasha”) had just spent 3 months developing an online product. She worked diligently to put together the online course she thought her audience needed, and put her heart and soul into every lesson.

But when she finished the course and launched it to her list of 100 subscribers, only 2 people bought the course.

She was devastated after her failed launch, and she was also in a BIG financial bind. She’d been counting on the income from her course launch to offset the many months she’d spent in course-building mode (when she wasn’t making any money at all).

The #1 Thing You Absolutely Must Have If You Want to Make Money Online

And just a couple of days later, I heard a similar story from another client. Jack is a fiction author who had launched a book six months prior to our call, and he was disappointed with his lagging sales.

He’d worked for years on this first novel, and when the big day came to launch his book, he sold a few copies (mostly to his friends, family and social media followers) but the book didn’t rank well on Amazon, and after launch day the sales had trickled down to nothing.

These two client anecdotes might sound like completely different situations, but at the heart of each of these two stories is the exact same problem.

What went wrong, you ask?

Neither of these folks had the most important thing you need when you’re selling something online – whether you’re selling a book, an online course, a service, or a physical product.

What you need if you’re going to make money online is an audience.

What do I mean when I say “audience”?

I mean a group of people who visit your website, receive your email messages, or follow you on social media. Preferably, you want to attract a group of people who do all three.

I’m talking about a group of people who like you, like what you do, and can’t wait to buy from you.

The Radical Transformation That Happens When You Have an Audience

If Sasha would have had an audience in the first scenario, she might have been able to run a pilot version of her course before she built the whole thing — so she would have known whether or not people were interested in that topic.

She could’ve gotten feedback on the course as she taught it the first time, and made sure the idea and the course were 100% validated before she tried to do a major launch. And when she did launch the full version of her course, she would’ve had a large email list of people who couldn’t wait to buy it, so she potentially could’ve have had a 5-figure course launch.

And if Jack had attracted a large following of people who loved his work and couldn’t wait to buy his book, his book launch would’ve gone quite differently.

He could’ve sold hundreds (or thousands) of copies during his book launch, could’ve ranked better on Amazon for his book topic, and might have been smiling and collecting royalty checks 6 months after the launch, instead of scratching his head and wondering what the heck went wrong. He could’ve started working on his next novel, knowing he had a hungry audience of people who were excited to buy his second book.

I’ve been doing a LOT of one-on-one coaching over the last year, and what I’ve noticed is that almost everyone I talk to has the same problem: They need an audience.

If you want to fill webinars with hundreds (or thousands) of passionate participants, you must have an audience.

If you want to have a 5-figure (or 6-figure) launch of your first online class, you must have audience.

If you want to get support and donations for your non-profit, you need an audience who care about what you’re doing and are willing to support you.

If you want to make money from affiliate sales or online advertising, you must have regular, consistent traffic to your site (which means, you need an audience).

If you want to sell a physical product, WordPress plugin, or piece of software, you must have an audience of people who want to buy it.

I sound like a broken record – right? I repeat it because you ALWAYS need an audience, no matter what you’re trying to accomplish with online marketing.

So how do you build an audience? How do you attract a community of people who know, like, and trust you? Folks who absolutely can’t wait to buy from you?

Of course, that’s the tricky part. Growing an audience is not easy, and it’s not for the faint of heart. But it is hugely rewarding, and when it’s done right, it can be incredibly lucrative, too.

The 4-Step Process for Building an Audience

Here are the four steps you need to take if you want to build an audience online:

  1. Publish high-quality content on your website.
  2. Drive traffic to your content.
  3. Convert a portion of your website visitors into email subscribers.
  4. Cultivate relationships with your subscribers by sending them regular content via email.

From there, you can do anything you want. You can:

  • Sell online courses
  • Sell your services as a coach, consultant or freelancers
  • Launch your book
  • Offer a physical product
  • Create a membership site and sell spots using a monthly subscription model
  • Offer relevant affiliate products or services

The sky’s the limit, once you have an audience — but there are no shortcuts. You can’t jump ahead, and you can’t skip steps.

You also can’t put the proverbial cart before the horse. Before you starting thinking about launch strategies, sales pages, promotional webinars, conversion rates, or A/B testing, you MUST build an audience by following these four steps.

Most people approach online marketing backwards – they build a product, program, or book first, then start looking around for people to sell it to. No wonder folks are frustrated when they can’t make progress!

The other thing we need to be clear on is that you need to consistently keep doing steps 1 through 4, even after you’ve started offering products and services. When you’re an online marketer, audience building never ends.

Building a strong community is a marathon, not a sprint. You ALWAYS need to be doing list-building and audience-building activities, no matter what niche you’re in or how you’re trying to make money online.

Discouraged? There Is Some Great News

There is good news, though. Because you know you must build an audience before you can make money online, it takes a lot of the mystery out of online marketing.

Having audience building as your first priority helps you decide what you should and should not pursue, when you’re considering different online marketing options.

Perhaps you’re considering re-writing the copy on your sales page for the tenth time. You can ask yourself, “Is my sales page the problem, or do I not have a large enough audience?” If the answer is the latter, you need to spend your time on audience-building activities, rather than grabbing your red pen for another edit.

Same with launches of any kind – before you write that book, create that course or build that physical product, ask yourself, “Do I have a community of people who can validate this idea, to make sure I’m on the right track?” If the answer is yes, GREAT! Ask them what they need, and build your product, book or program around their suggestions.

If the answer is no, focus on audience building first, before you go into your Creation Cave to begin building your widget.

Where to Go From Here

Audience building is a 4-step process – but of course, each of those steps can be complicated, especially if you’re just starting out.

I’m about to launch an intensive course (tentatively called “Online Marketing 101”) that focuses on how to implement these four steps, and it’s perfect for anyone who needs to build an audience. You’ll hear more about that over the next few weeks.

But for now, I want you to ask yourself, “Do I have a substantial audience of people who want to buy from me?” and if the answer is NO, I want you to go back to steps 1 through 4, above, and get cracking.

Your audience is out there, and they’re waiting for you to put out the word. Don’t let them down.

Focusing on growing your email list can be a great way to build your audience. If you want specific, actionable advice on how to get more email subscribers, join us for the Great List-Building Challenge. I’ve challenged myself to get to 16,000 subscribers by the end of the year, and the List-Building Challenge Community will get all my best tips and tricks along the way. If you want to build your list, click here to join us.

Introducing the Great List-Building Challenge!

When it comes to running an online business, having a large list of loyal subscribers can make a HUGE difference in your bottom line.

You may have heard online marketing experts say things like, “The money’s in the list,” and to some extent, that’s true. If you have a large list of loyal subscribers, it means you’ve got a community of people who support your work — and those folks are far more likely to buy from you!

But list building is challenging. It’s difficult because:

  • List building is something you have to work on constantly – it’s not something you can do once, then forget about
  • To get loyal subscribers who are true fans, you must follow spam regulations and ask permission before you add people to your list. This results in a better quality list, but it means your list grows more slowly
  • It’s not easy to consistently find potential subscribers and convince them to sign up for your list.
  • There’s always going to be a certain amount of turnover on your list, so you will usually lose a certain percentage of subscribers every month. That process can make you feel like you’re taking one step forward and two steps back.

What does all that mean for us, as online marketers?

It means we need to be patient when we’re working on growing our lists, but we can’t rest on our laurels, either. We’ve got to take focused action every month to attract more subscribers.

And that’s exactly why I’m excited to announce that I’m doing a list-building challenge for the rest of 2016 – and you can join me!


How the List-Building Challenge Will Work

Right now, I have 5,300 email addresses on my subscriber list. I did a big list purge last summer, and now I feel like I’ve got a good quality list of people who like my content and are fans of my work.

My goal, by the end of 2016, is to have 16,000 subscribers on my list. I picked 16,000 because:

  • It’s a little over triple my current list size.
  • It seems a little bit crazy to me, so it will really be a challenge to reach that number.
  • I feel like adding that many community members to my list would make a significant difference in my business.

To reach my goal, I’m going to be experimenting with a number of list-building techniques – some old, some new.

I’ll be using some tried-and-true methods, like:

  • Guest blogging
  • Joint venture webinars
  • Pinterest marketing

And I’ll also be experimenting with some new techniques, such as:

  • Adding unique opt-in forms to my site
  • Changing my site design
  • Publishing a Kindle book
  • Creating slide decks for SlideShare
  • Syndicating and re-publishing my posts on sites like

To make the whole challenge a little more fun – because it’s always a good idea to try to turn stuff like this into a game — I’ve created a little tracking chart to hang on my wall.

Here’s what the chart looks like today:


Wow. I gotta admit – that looks pretty daunting. But I believe I can do it — especially if you join me and play along in the Great List-Building Challenge!

How You Can Join In and Play Along

I’ll be posting Challenge updates every month here on the blog, so you track my progress and see what I’m up to. I’ll be sharing my numbers every month, so you’ll see how many subscribers I’ve added and how close I am to reaching my goal.

And if you want the real insider scoop on the Challenge, join the special List-Building Challenge community. I’ll be sharing special updates, tutorials and insider tips with that group, and you can only get those updates by signing up right here.

I also encourage you to play along, and do your own list-building challenge! Here’s how you can join us:

1. Set your own goal for how many subscribers you’ll add to your list between now and the end of 2016. Announce your goal publicly in some way (you can start by putting it in the comments below this post!)

2. Consider creating your own tracking chart, so you can mark your progress as you add subscribers to your list. Make this challenge more fun (and more motivating) by figuring out a cool and interesting way to chart your progress. Try gold stars, a fundraising thermometer-style chart, or whatever you want! Post your tracking chart somewhere you’ll see it every day.

3. Pay more attention to list building this year, to attract more subscribers. You can try to use the techniques I’ll describe during this list-building challenge, or use your own! There are tons of ways to build your list, so experiment and try to find ways that work for you. I’ll be giving you some help in the List-Building Challenge Community, too.

4. Keep in touch and let us know how you’re doing with your challenge! Report your progress in the comments sections of my monthly updates, or send me your own Challenge blog posts via email, and I’ll try to link to them in my posts.

I’ll be telling you more about how you can get involved as we get started, so look for more updates from me, and make sure you join the Great List-Building Challenge community to get special tutorials and behind-the-scenes messages from me.

Will you join us for the Great List-Building Challenge of 2016? Or do you think I’m a little nuts? Let me know in the comments!

The 6-Step System for Publishing Top-Notch Guest Posts on Your Blog


You’re starting to get some traction with your blog.

People are visiting your site, you’re attracting some comments, and your visitors are sharing your content on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

That’s fantastic news! Way to go!

Now you might be thinking about trying to bring in some guest writers, to help create content for your blog.

How exactly do you find those guest bloggers? How do you start attracting people who are good writers – folks who can create content that is a good fit for your audience?

First, let’s describe what guest bloggers are, how they can help you as a blogger, and when you should start looking for them.

Why You Should Attract Guest Writers for Your Blog

A guest blogger is someone who writes a piece to publish on YOUR blog, instead of writing for his or her own site.

Guest bloggers don’t usually get paid – they typically write guest posts for exposure, and for the links back to their sites.

In my business, I talk a lot about guest blogging from the flip side. In my Blog Traffic School program, I go into detail about how to get your own guest posts published on popular sites in order to get attention, links, subscribers, and relationships with big bloggers.

But today I want to look at guest blogging from the other angle. What’s the best way to attract guest writers to publish top-notch content on your site?

Having guest bloggers publish content on your site helps you in many different ways. Guest bloggers:

  • Help you feature new and different voices and points of view on your blog.
  • Create content for you (which means you have to write fewer blog posts).
  • Help you get traffic to your site, because they share their guest posts with their own community members.

Keep in mind that guest blogging is quite different than ghostblogging. When you bring in a ghostblogger, that person writes articles on your behalf, and they are published under your name (not the original writer’s name). Ghostblogging is a paid service, and ghostbloggers usually sign on to work with you for a longer period of time (like 3-6 months or more).

The Step-by-Step Method for Attracting Quality Guest Writers for Your Blog

Here’s the process you should follow if you’d like to attract talented guest bloggers for your site:

Step One: Make your site as appealing as possible for guest writers.

Guest bloggers typically write guest articles for free, in exchange for exposure and a link back to their site. Because they’re writing for the exposure – and hopefully some subscribers – it’s worth your while to make your site as appealing as possible for those potential writers.

The more comments and social shares your post has, the more enticing it’s going to look to potential writers — so try to get as much traffic as you can. Encourage your subscribers to share your posts on social media. Nudge people to comment.

That said, you don’t need a TON of traffic or subscribers or social shares to attract a guest poster or two. But it’s a good idea not to try to get guest posts when you’ve just started, you’ve got zero traffic, and you only have ten people on your list. You want to offer the best possible situation to your guest bloggers, so put some effort into make your blog appealing by building your traffic.

No need to stress out over this step, though. Do your best, and move on to Step Two.

Step Two: Write out a simple document explaining your guest post guidelines.

If you want people to write for your site, tell them what kind of submissions you’re looking for, and how they should submit their ideas or articles.

If you want people to submit ideas or outlines first, tell them that. If you’d rather see full posts, that’s okay too – spell it out.

Then explain what’s in it for them. Will you send a link to the post out to your entire mailing list? How large is your list? Will you share it on your incredibly popular and engaged Facebook page or Pinterest profile? Say that.

Be clear on what kind of link you’ll give in the byline of the article, and show an example, if possible (even if that example is from another site).

You want people to want to write for you, so this is no time to be modest. Spell out exactly what they’ll get by becoming a guest blogger for your site.

If you want examples of guest blogging guidelines from other sites, check out CoSchedule and MarketingProfs.

Step Three: Publish your guidelines on your site.

Add a link to your guidelines to your navigation bar, perhaps under your “About” page in a drop-down menu.

You can add a link to your guest post guidelines in the footer area of your site, too. You could call the link “Write for Us,” “Guest Posting Guidelines” or something similar – just make sure it’s labeled clearly. This is no time to be cute or clever.

Step Four: Spread the Word About Your Guest Posting Opportunities.

The people on your email mailing list are some of your biggest fans, so it’s a good idea to let them know you’re looking for guest writers. Send a note to your list saying you’re looking for guest bloggers, and include a link to your guest post guidelines.

Next, reach out to people whose writing you respect and admire, and ask if they would like to write for your blog. Make sure the people you reach out to write content that is a good fit for your audience members.

Step Five: Pick the Best Blog Posts for Your Site.

You should only accept a guest post for your site if the content is well-written and the topic is a good fit for your audience.

You may receive guest post requests from people who are just trying to promote themselves, who don’t actually have anything useful or interesting to say. Or you’ll get requests from people who want to write about topics that aren’t a match for your audience. You should say no to those folks.

It’s also not your job to give people guest post ideas. Refer people back to your guest post guidelines (Step Two) so they know it’s their job to bring guest post topics to the table.

If you’re not sure about a particular writer, it’s okay to say “maybe” to his request. If you’re concerned about writing quality, ask him to go ahead and write the article, then submit it to you so you can look it over before you make a decision (or ask for previous writing samples).

Long story short: It’s your blog, so it’s your decision. Don’t agree to anything you’re not comfortable with, and always keep your readers in mind when you’re deciding about a guest blogger.

Say “yes” to articles that are a good fit – articles you’d be proud to publish on your site – then move on to step six.

Step Six: Promote the guest post and develop relationships with your guest bloggers.

When you publish a guest blogger’s article on your site, do your best to promote it! Send the article to your mailing list, promote it on social media, and ask influencers to share the piece with their audiences.

Make sure the guest blogger is replying to comments and promoting the piece to her audience, too.

If the blogger did a good job and the piece was popular with your audience, you can ask the blogger to contribute another article for your site.

The same rules still apply for repeat guest bloggers – make sure the piece is high quality and a good fit for your audience.

How to Make Guest Content Work for You

As you publish guest posts on your site, you will probably get more requests for guest posts. Hopefully you’ll have tons of quality submissions to choose from.

Take note of which types of content get a lot of social shares and comments (and which ones don’t) so you can add more information to your guest post guidelines. Remember – the more specific you are in the guest post guidelines, the better your guest submissions will be.

And whether you decide to publish just a few guest pieces, or make guest bloggers a regular feature on your site, your readers will appreciate the high-quality content they’ll get from you.

Guest bloggers can be a breath of fresh air into your solitary blogging world, so if publishing guest posts seems like a good fit for your site, start making your site appealing to guest writers and putting together your own guest post guidelines.

And have some fun with this process! Guest bloggers can take some of the content creation burden off your shoulders, and can really help build a large and loyal online audience. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Free Writing for Bloggers: A Miraculous Tool for Content Creation

Have you ever heard of timed writing practice, or free writing?

Shortly after I moved to Boulder in 1998, I discovered the work of author and writing teacher Natalie Goldberg. Ms. Goldberg teaches timed writing practice (also known as free writing) as a major part of her informal writing curriculum, and the technique has helped millions of writers be more productive (and more free) with their writing.


Here are the rules for free writing:

  • Give yourself a time limit (say, 10-20 minutes). Set up a timer for that amount of time, and begin writing.
  • Keep your hand moving until the time is up. Don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t read over what you’ve written – just keep your pen moving (or keep typing) until the timer goes off.
  • Pay no attention to grammar, spelling, punctuation, neatness, or style in your writing. Nobody needs to read your timed writes, and the only thing that counts is that you keep writing. The correctness and quality of what you write do not matter; the act of writing does.
  • If you get off the topic or run out of ideas, keep writing anyway. If necessary, write nonsense or whatever comes into your head — anything to keep your hand moving.
  • When the timer goes off, put your pen down, or stop typing.

Creativity and writing coach Cynthia Morris (of describes free writing this way:

Free writing is a method that can be used for all genres of writing, for both seasoned and new writers. Free writing allows for a safe, fun exploration of your true voice. Modeled after Natalie Goldberg’s free writing methods in her book, Writing Down the Bones (Shambhala Publications, 1986), free writing allows you to get your words out without judgment or concern for correctness.”

I’ve used free writing to complete blog posts, copywriting projects, personal essays, and major sections of my book on Pinterest marketing. It’s a huge reason I was able to complete a major 30,000-word writing challenge last August. I absolutely LOVE free writing.

Cynthia Morris teaches a class a few times a year called the Free-Write Fling, which is a month-long course in which students do free writing for 15 minutes, every day, for 30 days. Free-Write Flingers get structured support and accountability from Cynthia and the other members of the group.

I’ve been hearing about this course for years, but last year one of my blogging clients (Linda Tate) signed up for the program and got some AMAZING results from it. I was amazed at what she was able to do during her month of free writing, and I decided I wanted to share her story with my community.

It’s not often I get to feature one of my favorite clients (Linda) AND one of my favorite teachers (Cynthia) in the same post, but today I get to do just that! I conducted little mini-interviews with Cynthia and Linda about free writing (and the Free Write Fling program) and how bloggers can use free writing to create content. You can see those interviews below.

Cynthia’s next Free Write Fling starts tomorrow (April 1, 2016). I highly encourage you to sign up – as you’ll see, the program can be incredibly beneficial for any blogger or online content creator. Note: I am a proud affiliate for Cynthia’s business, so the links to the Free Write Fling in this post are affiliate links.

Even if the Free Write Fling isn’t your thing — keep reading! I think you’re going to be really inspired by Cynthia’s insights and Linda’s incredible success story, and they both give helpful advice about how bloggers can use free writing to create content.

Questions About Free Writing (and the Free-Write Fling) with Cynthia Morris

1. Why is free writing a good practice for writers, in general?

Free-writing is a great way to:

  • Listen to our truth
  • Develop our unique voice
  • Get a lot of writing done
  • Work on an existing project
  • Explore new topics
  • Push creative boundaries

2. Do you have to be a fiction writer to get the benefits of free writing?

Free writing is a method of writing that is useful for ALL kinds of writing. I have written non-fiction books, blog posts, marketing copy, coursework and my novel using this method.

3. How can free writing help bloggers?

Free writing can help any kind of writer, both seasoned and newbies. Bloggers who must generate fresh, insightful content need to shake off the pressure of looking good, smart and authoritative, and free writing helps you do that.

Blogs also require a fresh voice, and with the inner critic sitting on our shoulder, it’s hard to tap our authentic voice.

4. How can a structured program like the Free-Write Fling help bloggers?

Bloggers need to generate a lot of consistent writing. The Free-Write Fling is designed to help writers sit down daily to get their thoughts out of their head and onto the page.

This class helps people know their writing flow, when their ideal writing time is and what the length of their writing sessions is. It doesn’t take long before bloggers get into their groove. Using free writing generates more ideas so bloggers never run out of content.

Questions About How to Use Free Writing to Create Blog Content, with Blogger Linda Tate

Tell us about your blog. What kind of blog posts do you write?

StoryWeb: Storytime for Grownups is a weekly blog and podcast. Each week, I feature a different storyteller and story. Visitors to StoryWeb will encounter novels, poems, films, songs, and more!

Each blog post (and podcast episode) gives background on the storyteller and the featured story. At the end of each blog post, there’s a multimedia clip. Visitors might be able to listen to E.B. White read from “Charlotte’s Web” or watch a clip from Julie Dash’s film “Daughters of the Dust.” And for a bonus treat, sometimes I read from the selected work. It’s great fun!

What got you interested in free writing, to help with writing your blog posts?

I found that I was always putting off writing my blog posts. I post a new “episode” every Monday morning, and when I was depending on inspiration or waiting until I “felt” like writing, I’d find that I had often waited until the last minute.

I was a university English professor for 26 years, and I knew the power of free writing to unlock stalled writing. I thought it was worth trying free writing to see if I could get over that initial hurdle of sketching out a post.

Why did you sign up for the Free Write Fling?

The Free Write Fling makes me accountable. I know that I “have” to write every day. It’s just for 15 minutes, but it has to be every day.

Of course, Cynthia’s not holding a gun to your head. There are no real consequences to not following through on your commitment. But just knowing that I’ve made a commitment and that Cynthia (and others in the Fling Zone, as it’s called) will notice if I don’t post keeps me on track.

Also all participants who complete every single day of the Free Write Fling are entered into a random drawing for a free hour of coaching with Cynthia. I would love to win that free hour, and that usually motivates me to write even when I don’t feel like it. I haven’t won yet, but I will keep trying!

Can you tell me about your experience during the program?

I have done the Free Write Fling four times, and each time I generate tons of ideas for my blog and podcast. At the beginning of the month, I create “prompts.” That is, on an index card, I jot down a storyteller and story I want to feature. I create about 35 of these cards, so that I can pick a storyteller and story at random. I put the index cards in a box and draw one each day, then set my timer for 15 minutes.

Often, I look at the prompt and think, “I don’t have anything to say about this topic! Why did I include this as a prompt?!” But then the free writing takes over, I’m off and running, and more often than not, I’ve generated good material when the timer goes off.

One other fun note: When my timer goes off after 15 minutes, I often keep writing. This always prompts my husbands to imitate a schoolmarm. He says, “Pencils down!” Cracks me up every time.

How did the FWF help you, as a blogger? What benefits did you get from the program?

I do the Free Write Fling twice a year. This allows me to generate raw material for a full year’s worth of blogging and podcasting (note from Beth: Holy crap!).

Of course, during the 15-minute free write, I don’t come up with a finished blog post or podcast episode – but I do get over the initial hurdle. Then when I sit down to craft the blog post and podcast episode each week, I’ve got the raw material I need. I move right into revision and polishing – because the material I develop during the Free Write Fling is usually pretty much right on the money.

There are 30 days in most months, and I do the Fling twice a year. That gives me 60 chunks of raw material (each chunk on a different storyteller and story). I only need 52 episodes, so that gives me some room for “clinkers!”

Would you recommend free writing and/or the Free Write Fling to other bloggers? If so, why?

I would highly recommend the Free Write Fling for bloggers. It’s such a relief to know that I’ve got lots of material to draw from as I face my blog post and podcast episode each week. Besides, it’s fun! Cynthia’s Fling Zone is a very welcoming place.

You don’t actually share what you’ve written – but you post “about” what you’ve written. Cynthia always chimes in with great cheerleading support. Her enthusiasm keeps me going!

Try Your Hand at Free Writing

Whether you join a program like Cynthia’s, or try free writing on your own, a timed writing practice can add a major boost of adrenaline to your blogging efforts.

So grab that timer, set it for 20 minutes, and prepare to change your blogging journey forever!

The 5-Step Process for Creating a Successful Author Blog

Author and blogger Michael Hyatt (of currently has 615,000 subscribers on his mailing list, and he runs one of the most popular websites on the web.

On the first day of his most recent book launch, Michael’s fans cleaned out Amazon’s entire stock of the new book. Michael actually had to email his list of subscribers to give them some alternate vendors where they could buy their copies.

Great story, right?

Here’s the not-so-secret background story behind this amazing book launch tale:

Michael Hyatt’s blog is the reason he’s become so successful.

Michael’s site is one of the top three business blogs on the web, and he attracts over 500,000 to his blog every single month.

Michael says his blog is the engine behind his entire business — and his business includes multiple bestselling books, a popular membership site, and numerous online courses.

Mr. Hyatt’s blog is the foundation of his hugely successful online business. He currently has:

  • 270,00 Twitter followers
  • 117,000 Facebook fans
  • 250,000+ podcast listeners

Most of the biggest, most successful writers on the web have built their platforms around their blogs – folks like Joanna Penn, Seth Godin, Scott Adams, Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, and Nora Roberts – and starting a blog is one of the best things you can do to launch your first book, or sell more copies of your current book.

Let’s take a look at why blogs are so important for authors, and the critical steps you need to take to create your own thriving author blog.


4 Reasons You Should Start an Author Blog Today

It’s clear that a blog can be the foundation for your success as an author – but why (exactly) are blogs so important? Why does having a blog help your book sales?

Here are the reasons why you should start an author blog as soon as possible:

  • A blog makes you visible to potential fans and readers. In our crazy busy online world, your blog gives you a way to stand out from the crowd and let people know who you are and what your message is.
  • Your blog content will help you rank well in the search engines. Having a blog enables you to quickly and easily create online content, which helps you get found in the search engines. Google rewards sites that regularly publish relevant content, and your blog platform is your best tool for doing that.
  • Building a quality blog helps establish you as an authority in your field. Creating online content (and developing a large audience for that content) is a great way to let the world know you’re an expert in your topic. Building your online authority can lead to multiple book deals, speaking gigs, guest posts, joint venture partnerships, and other high-visibility opportunities.
  • Having blog visitors allows you to build a large email list and a sizeable social media following. Want to build a big list of loyal subscribers and potential readers? Publishing a blog can definitely help you do that. Your blog content can also help you gain followers and friends on social networking platforms like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

No Matter What Kind of Author You Are, a Blog Can Work for You

If you are trying to get a traditional publishing deal, publishers will be looking at the size of your overall author platform to decide whether or not to offer you a book contract.

That will include the number of visitors to your site, the amount of subscribers on your email list, and the numbers of fans and followers you have for your various social media profiles. A blog is the #1 way for you to increase all of these statistics.

Bottom line: If you want to get a traditional publishing deal, having an author blog is a must.

If you want to self-publish your book, you need a loyal fan base of prospective readers who can’t wait to read your book, and having a thriving blog community is the #1 way to bring in those prospective readers.

Bottom line: If you want to self-publish your book, having an author blog is a must.

And what if you’re a fiction author? Starting a blog is still your best option for building your fan base of potential readers. Some of the most popular novelists in the world use their blog as the foundation for marketing their books.

Fiction writers need readers, too, and the best way to reach potential readers is by developing a strong online presence.

Bottom line: Blogs are the best marketing tool you can use, whether you write fiction or non-fiction books.

The 5-Step Process for Creating a Wildly Successful Author Blog

Let’s walk through the 5-step process for launching and nurturing your author blog.

Step 1: Do some critical thinking before you begin.

 Unfortunately, this is the step that gets skipped by most authors.

Many authors hear that blogging is a good way to sell books (or they’re trying to attract a traditional publishing book deal), so they decide to start a blog. They launch their site, then sit down to write their first posts.

Only then do they ask themselves, “What should I blog about?”

This approach definitely puts the cart before the horse.

Instead, you should ask yourself some critical questions before you decide on a blogging tool, pick your domain, or start creating your first post. Those questions are:

Question #1: “Who is my intended audience?”

What kind of readers (and potential readers) are you trying to attract with your blog? Are they teenagers, senior citizens, or middle-aged people? Are you looking to reach women or men? What are their interests and hobbies?

The more you know about your audience, the easier it will be to create relevant content for those people.

And remember – the audience for your book is the same as the audience for your blog. You should create blog content specifically for those potential readers, so spend some time thinking about who these people are and what’s important to them.

Question #2: “How will my audience benefit from my blog posts?”

The best thing you can do to attract your ideal reader is create blog posts that are useful, interesting and entertaining for your audience members.

So consider this, before you start writing: Why would you blog reader benefit from your content? Can they learn a skill from you? Be entertained by your stories? Gain insight into the human condition?

The most enticing benefits for most people are things like health, wealth, freedom, better relationships, and peace of mind. If you can write content that provides one (or more) or those benefits to your readers, you’ll be well on your way to building a blog community of people who know and like you, and can’t wait to buy your book(s).

Question #3: “What kind of content will I be able to write consistently?”

When you start a blog, you need to publish great content consistently, so it’s important that you consider what kind of content you’ll actually enjoy writing.

Don’t create a interview-based blog if you’re an introvert who doesn’t like interviewing people.

You have lots of choices for the type of content you create – you can do how-to advice, frequently asked questions, book and movie reviews, curated content, and much more – so it’s really important to consider this question before you begin.

Once you’ve pondered these questions and jotted down some notes about your answers, it’s time for you to move on to the next step.

Step Two: Pick your blogging platform.

These days, you have lots of good options for blogging platforms (also known as content management tools).

I personally recommend using, which gives you the most flexibility and power, but SquareSpace and Typepad are also good choices. I would highly recommend steering away from Blogger (Blogspot) for professional blogs.

Make sure you pick a blogging platform that lets you start simple, but can grow with you as your blogging community develops over time.

Step Three: Integrate blogging into your writing life.

I hear a lot of authors say things like, “I can’t waste time blogging. I have to get my real writing done.”

This is a HUGE mistake. If your blogging philosophy is “let me get through this blog post as quickly as possible, so I can work on the writing that really counts,” you are setting yourself up to fail as a blogger.

Publishing content on your blog is a critical part of your book marketing strategy, and as such, you need to integrate it as part of your overall writing career.

Your blog is not some redheaded stepchild of your “real” writing – it’s what enables you to write and sell your books!

You must schedule time for your blog writing, and give your blog posts your best effort as a writer. Don’t assume you can your blog writing into your spare time – because if we’re being honest, none of us really have spare time, right?

Stop thinking there’s a distinction between blog writing and “real” writing – it’s all real writing, and all of it is vital to your success as a writer.

Step Four: Consistently publish top-quality content.

Potential readers will come to your blog because they like your content.

They don’t come for fancy design, or search engine optimization, or any of the other myriad of other things you can spend time and energy on as a blogger.

If your content isn’t good, you aren’t going to succeed as a blogger. Period. So your blog must be useful, interesting, or entertaining for your reader.

If you’re a non-fiction author, use your blog to teach your reader more about your area of expertise. Think frequently asked questions, tutorials, how-to posts, infographics, and recommendations.

If you’re a fiction writer, you can do interviews with other authors, make book and movie recommendations, tell stories, and talk about your life as a writer.

As soon as you possibly can, start writing a list of possible blog post ideas. Keep it in your computer, your phone or tablet, or even a little notebook in your purse or briefcase. Once you start brainstorming ideas, you’ll be amazed at the ideas that come to you!

Then use those ideas to publish top-quality posts on a regular basis – it’s the most important thing you will do as a blogger.

Step Five: Build your traffic and your email list.

As you publish content on your blog, you’ll also need to promote that content and take steps to build your email list.

You can attract more traffic by doing blogger outreach, finding guest blogging opportunities, hosting webinars, optimizing your content for search engines, and using social media in smart ways.

One of the very best things you can do to get more traffic and build your platform is work on building your email mailing list.

Your email subscribers are the folks who are most likely to visit your blog, share your posts on social media, comment on your posts and buy your books – so it’s definitely worth cultivating your list as part of your book promotion and blog growth strategy.

The Inspiration for Starting Your Own Author Blog

If you are willing to invest some time and energy into your blog, it can be your new best friend as author.

Your blog can help you build your online platform, which will make you highly attractive to traditional publishers. Or if you’d like to go the self-publishing route, your site can help you attract passionate buyers for your book.

Follow these steps to creating your own successful author blog, and you’ll be able to do anything you like with your platform – whether that’s publishing books, creating online courses, getting high-paying speaking engagements, or anything else you’d like to accomplish in your career as an author.

All you need to do is get started – so dig in, and begin your journey as a blogging author today!

How to Protect Your Blog From Hackers, Tech Gremlins and Things That Go Bump in the Night

You pull up your blog first thing in the morning, ready to create a new post. You’re feeling creatively inspired, and can’t wait to start writing.

But when you try to log in to your blogging tool, you can’t get in.

In fact, you can’t see your blog at all. It looks like the whole site is just….gone.

Imagine how you would feel if you feel if your blog simply vanished. All your carefully written posts, your hand-selected images, your comments — all of it disappears in a flash.

This isn’t a ridiculous, impossible idea. It’s completely possible – and it happens more often than you might think.

Bloggers can be the victim of hacking attempts, hosting problems, miscommunications with Google, and other technical issues – all of which have the potential to wipe out months (or years) of a blogger’s hard work.

But there is good news.

There’s one fairly simple step you can take to avoid losing your site. That step is backing up your blog on a regular basis.

How to Protect Your Blog from Hackers, Tech Gremlins and Things That Go Bump in the Night

All the major blogging platforms have simple ways to do regular backups of your work, and some platforms even offer ways to automate the process.

In this post, I’m going to explain how to run backups on the five biggest blogging platforms –,, Blogger, Typepad and Squarespace – so you’ll never need to wake up at night in a cold sweat, wondering if all your hard content-creating work might’ve just gone up in smoke.

Let’s start with the world’s most popular blogging platform:

Why Sites Get Hacked – and Why It Matters

There are a lot of advantages to blogging with It’s flexible, fast, and full of fantastic tools and themes you can use to grow your email list, check your visitor stats, and customize the look and feel of your site.

But has one major disadvantage, and that’s hackers. sites get hacked all the time, because is a wildly popular, open-source platform.

Hackers can add all kinds of malicious code to your site, causing issues like:

  • Creating obnoxious pop-ups to come up on your blog, advertising stuff you wouldn’t want your mother to see
  • Adding malicious code to your site to get access to your email list, credit card information, or other data
  • Locking you out of your dashboard
  • Bringing your site down entirely

Sometimes, hackers do really weird things to your site. Last year, I got hacked, and the only thing the hackers did was transform my most recent post into an x-rated article full of links to porn sites. They kept the title and the image of the article the same, so actually it took me a couple of days to realize what they had done.

One of my developers, Michelle Panulla, couldn’t stop laughing when I called and asked her to try to fix it – she said it was one of the cleverest hacks she’d ever seen. I can laugh about it now – but I wasn’t laughing back then!

Thankfully, was easily able to restore my site, because we run regular backups of my entire blog.

And you should never assume that because your site is small (or about a topic that’s not controversial) that you won’t get hit. WordPress hackers don’t discriminate – they’ll hack your site if they get the chance, no matter how small your site is, or how much traffic you attract.

How to Back Up a Blog

Want to decrease the damage hackers can do to your blog? The best thing you can do is perform weekly backups of your entire site.

That includes your blog posts, pages, theme, comments – everything on your site.

When you back up your site regularly, you won’t necessarily prevent hackers from messing with your site, but you will make it easier to restore your blog once it’s been hacked.

My favorite tool for performing regularly backups for sites is Backup Buddy, a premium plugin that allows you to set up automated backups of your entire site. You will need to pay a yearly fee to use this plugin.

Here’s a tutorial that walks you through the steps of configuring Backup Buddy, running your very first backup, and setting up automated backups.

VaultPress and BlogVault are two other (paid) options for running automated backups of your blog.

An Important Security Issue for Bloggers

Doing regular backups is great, but what if you want to avoid getting hacked in the first place?

One of the best things you can do to avoid getting hacked is regularly update your site to the most recent versions of WordPress and all of your plugins.

As the WordPress team spots security problems in its code, it regularly fixes them by releasing new versions of the software.

In years past, you could often go for years without updating to the latest version of WordPress – but these days, not updating your blog (and continuing to use an ancient version of WordPress) leaves you highly susceptible to hackers.

Many hackers actually look for bloggers who haven’t updated their sites recently. Right now, running an a really old version of WordPress is like rolling out the red carpet for these malicious weenies.

If you’d like someone else to take care of backing up your site on a regular basis AND keep you running with the most recent version of WordPress and your plugins, it’s a great idea to sign up for an ongoing maintenance service with a qualified WordPress developer.

Having a developer handle monthly maintenance for you is actually cost effective, too. Consider these potential costs, for trying to manage WordPress security on your own:

  • Buying a license for Backup Buddy, which is your best option for backing up your WP site on your own ($90 a year)
  • Managing your own WordPress and plugin updates, which can take several hours each year and will pull you away from doing more important business tasks (around $300 a year)
  • If your WordPress update fails, you’ll need to pay a developer to help you sort out the problem ($250-$500 each time)
  • If your best security efforts fail, and you get hacked anyway, you’ll need to pay a qualified developer to help you restore your site and remove all malicious code (Usually $400+, depending how bad the hack is)

Since most developers charge between $35 and $50 a month for ongoing WordPress maintenance fees, it actually saves you money to let someone else manage your WordPress security efforts.

If you’re looking for a WordPress specialist who can keep your site safe by managing your updates and putting up barriers to getting hacked, I highly recommend Tim Falb.

Tim offers a monthly WordPress maintenance service called Eagle Eye Updates, and right now he’s offering a low price for my community members of just $30 a month, or $300 a year. Check out Tim’s site for details on his services.

Note: I am an affiliate for Tim’s services, so I do receive a small commission if you sign up with him. I have worked with Tim many times in the past, and he’s a highly reliable and ethical developer.

Now let’s move on to’s closest cousin:

How to Back Up a Blog

Here’s what the support site says about running backups:

“If your blog is hosted here at, we handle all necessary backups. If a very large meteor were to hit all the servers and destroy them beyond repair, all of your data would still be safe and we could have your blog online within a couple of days (after the meteor situation died down, of course).”

This sounds awesome, right? And it probably is.

However, as someone who usually errs on the side of caution when it comes to technical stuff, I still recommend running your own manual backups. It will only take a couple of minutes a week, and it’s always better to have too MANY backups than to have too FEW.

Here’s how to export your site and create your own manual backup in

  1. Go to and log in to your account.
  2. Click on “My Site” in the upper right corner of your screen.
  3. At the very bottom of your left navigation bar, click on “WP Admin.”
  4. Hover over the word “Tools” in left navigation bar of your WordPress Admin dashboard, until you see a dropdown menu appear.WPCom1
  5. Click on “Export” in that dropdown menu.WPCom2
  6. Click on “Start Export” under the “Export” section on the left side of your screen.WPCom3
  7. Choose “All Content,” then click on the blue “Download Export File” button.
  8. Save the file to your computer. It’s a good idea to start a folder for blog backups, because this is something you’ll be doing on a regular basis.

For more information on exporting your site to create a manual backup of your site, click here.

How to Back Up a Blogger (Blogspot) Blog

Because Blogger (Blogspot) is a totally free platform, their tech support can be really hit or miss. That means if you’ve got a problem and your blog disappears, you don’t have a reliable tech support team to call or email to help you sort out the problem.

That’s all the more reason to consistently create backups of your site if you’re blogging on the Blogger platform.

To create a backup in Blogger, you’ll need to export your blog to a file, then save that file on your computer to keep it safe. When you follow this process, you’ll get a .xml file that acts as your backup.

Here are the steps you should follow to export your Typepad blog:

  1. Sign in to Blogger.
  2. Select the blog you want to export.
  3. In the menu on the left side of your screen, click on “Settings,” which will open up some additional options under that word.Blogspot1
  4. Click on the word “Other” under “Settings.”Blogspot2
  5. Under the “Import and back up” section at the top of your screen, click on the “Back Up Content” button.Blogspot3
  6. When you click on that button, you’ll see a pop-up box appear. Click on “Save to Your Computer,” and your exported file will be downloaded automatically.Blogspot4
  7. Make sure you save the file somewhere where you’ll be able to get to it later if you need it. It’s not a bad idea to create a folder called “Blog Backups” somewhere on your computer, and always save your backup files to that folder.

How to Back Up a Typepad Blog

Typepad apparently does some periodic backing up of their sites, but it’s definitely a good idea to create your own manual backups, too. Don’t rely on their backup process to protect your content.

You can export your Typepad blog to create a manual backup. Here are the steps you should follow to export your Typepad blog:

  1. Log into your Typepad account.
  2. Click on “Settings.”
  3. Click on “Import/Export.”
  4. Scroll down to the “Export” section.
  5. Click the “Export” button to generate your export file.
  6. Once the export (backup) has run, you’ll see a link to download the file and save it on your computer.
  7. If you are a Windows computer, click on the link with the right mouse button and choose “Save Target As” or “Save Link As” to save the file.
  8. If you are on a Mac, hold down the “Option” key while clicking, and choose the “Save Link As” menu option to save the file.

Learn more about the Typepad export process by clicking here.

How to Back Up a Squarespace Blog

According to their support website, Squarespace reportedly performs extensive site backups on your behalf, so they say there’s no need for you to manually back up your site.

I still think it’s good idea to perform your own backups. Servers fail, and problems happen that are out of your control, and I’d always rather you be safe than sorry.

You can export your SquareSpace blog to create a manual backup. Here are instructions from Squarespace, for doing your own backups (including a nice tutorial video.

The Most Important Weekly Appointment on Your Calendar

We’ve talked about the unique security issues of, then walked through the process of backing up your blog with the five most popular blogging platforms.

The most important message of this entire article is to make sure you regularly perform backups of your blog content.

Weekly backups certainly won’t prevent every problem. Hackers will go on being jerks, and tech gremlins will still crop up. But if you’ve backed up your site, at least you can rest easy, knowing you always have a way to restore your site if something catastrophic happens.

And that’s a compelling reason to create a weekly appointment with yourself that’s called “Weekly Blog Backup.” Then make sure you always honor that appointment, and create a backup of your site every single week.

Otherwise, all your hard work on your blog can disappear like a puff of smoke.

And your backups can shield you from ever having that happen to you – so you never again need to sit down to write a blog post and have to say, “My blog is gone!”

Picture your weekly backups like the antidote to hackers, hosting problems and other catastrophic blogging problems. Perhaps they won’t prevent your blog from ever getting sick – but they certainly can prevent the illness from becoming a fatal one.

How My Mom Became a 67-Year-Old Entrepreneur (Plus, a Fast and Free Way to Crop and Resize Images)

My mom has been an artist for as long as I can remember. For years, she’s created incredible paintings, cross stitch projects, jewelry, and clothing. She’s also a prize-winning quilter, and there’s nothing she can’t do with a sewing machine.

A few years ago, Mom turned her creative attentions toward a new passion: hand-crafted dolls. She started making unbelievably adorable elf and Santa dolls, and as it turns out, she’s got a knack for that, too.

She started selling her dolls at Pennsylvania craft shows, and last year she launched her own Etsy shop.

Check out some of her creations here:

How Mom Became an Entrepreneur

How Mom Became an Entrepreneur

How Mom Became an Entrepreneur (Plus, a Fast and Free Way to Resize Images)

I’m incredibly proud of Mom for starting her first online business at the age of 67. Her story proves that is absolutely, positively NEVER too late to follow your dreams and start your own online business (if that’s what you’re called to do).

Now Mom is studying online marketing, to learn how to successfully sell handmade items on the web. I’m having a great time supporting her entrepreneurial ventures by giving her marketing advice.

So when Mom asks me for my help with email list building, using Pinterest, or anything else related to online marketing, I try to teach her everything I can. She’s learning quickly, and I have no doubt she’s going to be hugely successful.

The other day, Mom asked me to proofread a marketing email before she sent it out to her list, and I noticed that she had attached three images to the email. She wanted to include the images in the email to give her prospects a sneak preview of the new dolls in her Etsy shop.

And it was a good idea. But the problem was, the images were huge (each one was more than 3000 pixels wide), so I knew it was going to cause problems.

Some of her prospects weren’t going to be able to receive her email at all, because the attachments were so large, and if the messages did get through, the images were probably going to be stripped out.

So I told her to either remove the images, or resize them to a small, more workable size. I gave her a link to my favorite image editing tool, PicMonkey.

How to Resize (and Crop) Images Using PicMonkey

Then it occurred to me that if Mom needed to know how to resize images, other people in my community probably needed to know that, too.

Have you ever need to resize (or crop) an image, so you could use it in a blog post? Ever need a fast and free way of doing some basic image editing?

If the answer’s yes, this is the perfect little video for you. I created this little tutorial to walk you through the process of cropping and resizing images using PicMonkey. It’s fast, painless, and fun!

(click the four arrows in the lower right area of the window, to view the video full screen)

PicMonkey is a free tool you can use to do all kinds of things with your images, including cropping, resizing, adding text, and using filters. If you want a free, fast and flexible photo editor, this is a great choice.

After you’ve watched the video, tell me in the comments: Do you have other entrepreneurs and business owners in your family? If so, how do you support each other?

How to Build a Massive Mailing List by Adding Content Upgrades to Your Site

Are your subscriber numbers….lagging?

Are you looking for a fast, efficient way to add qualified prospects to your email mailing list?

You may want to try adding some content upgrades to your blog posts or articles.

Let’s talk about what content upgrades are, why they’re an amazing tool for bloggers, and how to put them to work on your site.

How to Build a Massive Mailing List by Adding Content Upgrades to Your Site

What’s a content upgrade?

A content upgrade is simply additional (or companion) content that your visitor can get access to, in exchange for his or her email addresses. It’s a little bonus that goes along with the post, but your visitors can only get it if they sign up.

Your reader reads the post, then sees your additional offer and gives their email address in exchange for the piece of content.

Let’s walk through an example.

On Brian Dean’s site,, he writes outstanding blog posts on a variety of topics, usually about search engine optimization or list-building. He offers content upgrades with many of his articles.

Early in his post, Brian will include a small yellow box that offers the readers some useful gift, in exchange for his or her email address.

For examples, in this post, 17 Untapped Backlink Sources, he offers a free checklist that walks the user through the process of accessing those backlink sources.

How to Build a Massive Mailing List by Adding Content Upgrades to Your Site

When you click on the link in the yellow content upgrade box, you see this pop-up box:

How to Build a Massive Mailing List by Adding Content Upgrades to Your Site

You can fill out the form to get the free checklist, and it will automatically be sent to your email inbox. You receive a great piece of companion content for the piece you’re reading, and Brian gets a new subscriber for his mailing list. It’s a win-win situation.

You can create a content upgrade for any post on your site, but this technique works particularly well to help you get subscribers from your popular blog posts (perhaps ones that are already pulling in regular social media or search engine traffic).

Brian Dean reported that when he added content upgrades to all the posts on his site, his conversion rate went up 785%. That’s not a typo. That’s just by adding content upgrades to his post.

Why you should try content upgrades on your site

Here’s why content upgrades work well, and why they’re becoming more popular these days:

  • They are less annoying and obtrusive than pop-up boxes. Everyone hates pop-ups, but bloggers still use them because they work. Content upgrades offer a far less aggravating way to put a content offer in front of readers, and they don’t interrupt the reading process.
  • Content upgrades offer the reader “just in time” content that is directly relevant to the article they are reading. Usually the upgrade is something like a checklist or printable version of the article your visitor is already reading. If the reader likes the post and finds it useful, it’s a cinch they’ll sign up to get the upgrade.
  • Content upgrades offer a “set it and forget it” option for building your list. Most of the time, you can create the free gift and put the opt-in form in place, then move on to other projects while the upgrades work their magic on your visitors. This gives them a big advantage over more labor-intensive, time-consuming list building techniques like guest blogging and social media promotion.
  • Upgrades on your site can fit in beautifully with other list-building techniques. If you are using social media or blogger outreach to increase traffic, you never need to worry that content upgrades will clash with your efforts. They are a fantastic compliment to all kinds of traffic-building tools.

More and more smart marketers are using content upgrades for their blog posts, videos and podcasts. Here’s another brilliant usage of a content upgrade from Amy Porterfield, on her post called 4 Webinar Myths and How to Avoid Them:

How to Build a Massive Mailing List by Adding Content Upgrades to Your Site

In this example, Amy’s podcast episode is all about webinars, so she offers a printable “cheat sheet” content upgrade that summarizes the main points of the episode.

A bit further down in her post, she has added this little box, to offer her content upgrade:


Amy’s PDF cheat sheet is a great companion piece for someone who already listened to the episode and wants a short reference of the main points. It also works as a stand-alone report for someone who doesn’t want to listen to the whole episode, but wants the episode highlights.

Want to start implementing content upgrades on your own site? Here are the steps you can follow to add one to your site.

Want to do your own content upgrade? Here’s how to do it.

Step One: Pick a piece of content that is already getting some traffic.

Do you have a piece of content on your site that regularly brings in traffic from search engines, social media, advertising, or other sources? That would be a great choice for a content upgrade.

Take a look at your site (and potentially your Google Analytics statistics) and pick a blog post to use as your first content upgrade experiment.

Step Two: Come up with an idea for a content upgrade for that particular post.

What piece of content would make a good accent or compliment to that article? Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Checklists
  • Transcripts
  • Flowcharts
  • Summary of key points of the article
  • Mini-library of smaller freebies
  • Short reports
  • Lists of tools and resources

Step Three: Create your content upgrade.

Here’s the key thing you need to remember when creating email incentives (also called freebies, giveaways, or bribes): They don’t need to be perfect, and they don’t need to be fancy.

I officially give you permission to NOT hire an expensive graphic designer that will make your content upgrade into a work of art.

Create your upgrade in Word (or whatever word processor you use) and then spruce it up a little with a big header, some bullet points or check points. Then put your name and website address in the footer and call it done.

Then save it as a PDF.

POOF. You’re finished! It doesn’t need to be more complicated than that.

If your content upgrade is wildly popular and people are clamoring to download it, then you can certainly make it fancier or prettier later. But it’s absolutely, positively NOT necessary to start.

As Jon Morrow says, “Awesomeness is an iterative process.” Remember that, and just create something that will work for now.

Step Four: Create an opt-in form, and add it to your site.

If you’re using an email service provider like AWeber, MailChimp or Infusionsoft, you can add a form to your post pretty easily by following the directions of your provider.

If you don’t have an ESP, you’ll need to sign up with them before you move on. I highly recommend MailChimp and AWeber as user-friendly, inexpensive providers for people who are just getting started with list building. If you need more assistance in choosing an email service provider, read this post on Copyblogger about how to choose an ESP.

Make sure the initial “welcome” message people receive (when they sign up your list) includes a link to your content upgrade.

Step Five: Drive traffic to your newly-upgraded post, and see what happens.

If you get a lot of sign ups for your content upgrade, great! You’re on the right track!

If not, you may want to revisit either the content upgrade idea or the form itself, and make some changes. Is your content upgrade a good choice for that piece? Is it a good fit for the content? Or is there something else you could offer that might be more appealing to your reader?

Look at your opt-in form, too. Consider using a button or link (like Brian Dean or Amy Porterfield do) to create a content upgrade prompt that is clear but not annoying.

One tool you can try, if you’d like to get a little fancy with your sign-up buttons, is LeadPages has a slick tool called LeadBoxes that makes this process really easy.

Then tweak your content upgrade and the form itself until you have a system that regularly brings in subscribers.

Step Six: Pick another blog post, and repeat this process on that piece.

The best way to get HUGE results from your content upgrades is to create a series of them on various posts on your site.

When your offer relevant content on a number of posts on your site, your readers get exactly what they need – just when they need it – and you get the reputation for giving away an amazing amount of free stuff.

So keep your momentum going! When you’re done with your first content upgrade, pick a new blog (or podcast episode) and start the process again.

Content Upgrades Might Become Your Best Friend for List-Building

Content upgrades can make a HUGE difference in your list-building efforts, and once they’re in place, you can reap the benefits for a long, long time.

Pick a post, come up with an content upgrade, and put it into place today. You could be on your way to a huge subscriber list in the next few months.

And that’s a big upgrade for everyone involved.

Want more ideas about how to get more traffic for your site and building a huge mailing list? Get ready to join us for the 2016 session of Blog Traffic School. Registration begins February 9th!

The Top 3 Reasons Why Blogging Regularly Is So Incredibly Difficult

Publishing blog posts regularly is one of the best things you can do for your business.

The statistics are clear: B2B (business to business) companies that blog generate 67% more leads per month than those that don’t blog. Businesses that blog also have 434% more indexed pages (meaning, web pages that are noticed and indexed by Google and other search engines).

Long story short: When you blog, you get more traffic, social media shares, and customers.

So why is blogging consistently so hard to do?

Why does it feel like such a struggle to keep your blog updated on a regular basis?

Why is Blogging Regularly So Incredibly Difficult?

Surprise, surprise! The blogging coach has consistency problems, too

I’ll confess: Blogging regularly is tough for me. In the past, I’ve had a hard time sticking to a regular publishing schedule, even though I teach blogging and I know exactly how important consistency is.

I even had one client mention my inconsistent blogging during a meeting. She said, “It makes you look bad that you haven’t updated your blog in months. You know that, right?”

Talk about a cringeworthy moment.

The good news is – since I struggle with blogging regularly, that means I understand the problem intimately. That insight means I can (hopefully) help you get past the roadblocks and figure out how to blog regularly, too.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the main reasons people don’t blog, and then talk about some ways you can get past these hurdles.

Reason #1: We don’t blog because we don’t know what to write about.

Depending on what niche or industry you’re in, it might be difficult to come up with content ideas for your blog. If you’re in a business that doesn’t lend itself well to how-to posts or useful articles, you might have trouble finding interesting post topics.

I get it. I’ve struggled with that in the past, too, especially when I’m in a writing slump.

Here are some ways of breaking through this blogging roadblock:

1. Start keeping a list of blog post ideas. You need a list of article ideas you can return to anytime you need to start a new piece. Use a word processing or text editor file, start a spreadsheet, keep a list on your phone, or write in a notebook. Just make sure your list is easy to access and add to.

As your list of blog post ideas grows, you can even separate your list into sections. You can create categories for paid writing gigs, guest posting opportunities, your podcast, and your own blog.

Add to your idea list on a regular basis. Once you get started with brainstorming and recording post topics, tons of ideas are going to come to you all the time. Write ‘em all down!

2. Keep a list of headline templates, and use them to brainstorm. One quick and easy way to plump up your list of blog posts ideas (if your list is getting low) is to use headline templates. You can look at a list of headline templates, and brainstorm a bunch of blog posts topics using those templates.

Need some templates to start with? Start with Copyblogger’s suggestions, then download Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks report for more ideas.

3. Use timed writing practice. Years ago, when I first moved to Boulder, I was introduced to the work of writing teacher Natalie Goldberg. What a gift.

The foundation of Natalie’s writing advice is a simple practice. It’s called “timed writing.” The process is simple: Set the timer for 20 minutes and write. Do not overthink, do not edit, and do not stop writing until the timer goes off.

Timed writing sessions are very freeing – and they’re also fun! They really help you get past your doubts and fears, and get out of your own way as you write. If you’re having trouble getting the words out on paper, try a couple of timed writes – you’ll be amazed at how interesting and productive they can be.

Natalie’s books, Long Quiet Highway and Writing Down the Bones, are a wonderful and gentle introduction to creating an effective timed writing practice. I highly, highly recommend both of these books for any blogger or content creator.

Reason #2: We don’t blog because we don’t have time.

When I ask about their online marketing struggles, the #1 complaint I hear from my community members is “I don’t have enough time!”

Let’s be frank. Blogging is time consuming.

We’re all incredibly busy. Life keeps roaring forward, day by busy day, and our personal and professional responsibilities constantly chip away at our time. There never seems to be enough time to do everything we want (and need) to accomplish.

It takes time to write a post, craft the perfect headline, find an image to go with the post, queue up the post in our blogging tool, optimize the post for social media, proofread it, and finally, hit publish.

I’m usually lucky if I write and publish and entire piece, start to finish, in fewer than 5 hours. And that’s just to write and publish the post – it doesn’t include any post promotion (like sending it out to my list, or publishing the link on social media).

Because it’s time consuming, blogging will often get moved to the back burner – which means it often doesn’t get done at all, and your blog (and your marketing) will suffer the consequences.

Here’s are some suggestions for carving out time in your hectic schedule to complete your blogging tasks:

1. Schedule your blogging time. If you wait until you have some “spare time” to blog, it’s never going to happen. We rarely have big chunks of available time during our entrepreneurial days, so blocking off blogging time in advance is the best thing you can do for your marketing plan.

You also can’t wait until inspiration strikes. If you wait for the muse to show up and give you the perfect blog post idea, you might be waiting a very long time. Don’t wait for the muse to decide to visit – put your butt in the chair and start writing, and occasionally your muse will reward you by showing up and inspiring you.

The best solution for time-crunched bloggers is always to schedule your blogging time on the calendar. Then you must make sure to honor the commitment – no excuses!

2. Spend less time in your email inbox. This is a really tough one for me, and has been for years. I’ll admit it – I am addicted to email.

Nothing breaks my writing momentum more quickly than seeing that little red circle on AppleMail that indicates I’ve got a new email message. I will click on the icon within seconds, no matter what I am working on.

It’s like getting a treat every time I click on it – like a little pat on the head that says, “Someone is paying attention to you! YAY!” Feels good – right?

But email is a creativity and productivity killer – so try shutting down your email inbox during your blogging sessions.

Long term, you might want to try getting in the habit of only checking email 2 or 3 times a day. Yes, I know this is hard – I’m still working on it, myself – but every baby step you take will be helpful to your blog and your overall marketing efforts.

3. Minimize your time on Facebook. Imagine an entire day without Facebook. How much could you get done?

There are tools you can use (like Freedom and Anti-Social) to limit the amount of time you spend on time-sucking social sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

Set limits with these tools, and you may find you’ve opened up huge chunks of time for content creation.

4. Stop watching so much television. This might not be an issue for you, but it is for a lot of people.

If you have two hours (or more) every night to sit in front of the television, you can definitely make room in your schedule to blog.

It is so easy to binge watch entire seasons of television shows (Downton Abby and The Walking Dead – I’m looking at you) that we really need to learn how to self-regulate when it comes to television. And that’s not easy task.

If you think watching too much television might be issue for you, try tracking the amount of time you are spending on television and movies – then see if you can cut time down by half. Then make sure you’re using that saved time productively. It’s a great time to blog!

If you’re not willing to give up your TV time in order to get some writing done, then you might actually have a different problem: Maybe you don’t actually WANT to write. Keep reading to see how to tackle that problem.

Reason #3: We don’t blog because we just don’t want to.

Some days, you just don’t feel like writing. And it can be so easy to say, “Ehh, I’ll do it tomorrow.” It’s highly tempting to put blogging on the back burner if you’re not in the mood, not feeling well, or just don’t feel inspired.

Here are some methods for summoning your blogging motivation:

1. Try declaring your intentions (and a deadline) publicly. Tell someone (or tell lots of people!) that you’re going to complete a blogging project or publish new blog posts on a certain schedule. You’ll be a lot less likely to bail on a commitment if you know other people are watching.

I use this technique to create all kinds of content, from webinars to online classes to blog posts. Read this post to find out more about how I use this technique to create content, webinars and products, click here.

2. Remember your motivation and cultivate discipline. If you’re having trouble motivating yourself to publish, ask yourself why you want to blog. Are you building a platform to get a book deal? Are trying to get more email subscribers, make more sales, or establish yourself as an expert in your field?

Remembering your ultimate goal will make it easier to create content even when you don’t feel like it.

Over time, you’ll be able to stay motivated by relying on discipline, too – blogging will become an ingrained habit, and it won’t be such a fight to stay motivated. My high school band director, Rich Miller, once told us:

“Discipline is doing what you have to do, when you have to do it, as well as you can, all the time.”

I struggle with motivation and staying on track just as much as everyone else. But on my really, really bad days, I remember that quote (and why I blog) and I can often pull myself back on track.

3. Make a game of it. I decided to challenge myself to write every day during the month of August, and that month I wrote 34,000 words. Making a game out of your blogging tasks makes writing and publishing a lot more fun.

You could try giving yourself little rewards if you create a certain number of blog posts or write a certain amount of words. Writer Joanna Penn actually uses a calendar and sticker system when she hits her word goals, which I think is awesome. Is there a simple and fun way for you to turn writing into a game?

4. Create content in a different way. If writing isn’t fun or interesting for you, consider a different kind of content creation. Podcasting is gaining popularity these days, and there’s always a need for useful tutorial videos.

If you have more fun creating audio or video content, it’s 100% okay to do that, instead of writing blog posts.

5. If all else fails, hire a ghostwriter. If you have to force yourself to write every month, and motivating yourself to blog isn’t getting any easier, you can outsource your content creation.

Lacy Boggs is a very talented ghostwriter, and there may be other experts in your field who could write for your site. Be prepared to pay decent rates for good posts, though, and don’t skimp and hire bad writers.

And remember: It’s still better to publish good quality posts less often, rather than publishing badly-written articles that are too short and don’t contribute anything new to your industry’s online conversation. Keep that in mind when you’re shopping for ghostbloggers.

Use these tips to blast through your own blogging roadblocks

Blogging is the absolute best way to establish yourself as an expert in your field, build an author platform, or sell more products and services online. And if you’re going to build a popular blog, you must publish top-notch content on a regular basis.

So you must schedule enough time to write, maintain a ready-made list of post ideas, and do your best to keep yourself motivated and enthusiastic about blogging consistently.

Use these tips to keep your blogging engine chugging along.

Tell me in the comments – Do you find it difficult to blog on a regular basis? If so, why? And how to do you get past those roadblocks?

The Simple Little Thing You Can Do to Be Happier in 2016

I have a little secret.

No one else in the world knows this secret, but I am going to tell you today. So lean in, folks.

Here goes:

I have been writing a list of things that make me happy for over 25 years.

My list is called “The Good Things in Life,” and it currently has 1,791 items on it.

The entire list fills about a notebook and a half.

My entries on the list are simple and short – usually just a word or phrase, and no item is longer than two lines on lined paper.

I used to call the list “Natural Highs.”

The Simple Little Thing You Can Do to Be Happier in 2016

How I started writing my own list of natural highs

In 1990, a genius published a little book called 14,000 Things to Be Happy About.

The genius’s name is Barbara Kipfer, and I sincerely hope that she is a multimillionaire right now.

Turns out, that little black and white book sold over a million copies in 1990, and become one of the best selling books of that year. Its sales tied with What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It was a really big deal.

I remember paging through a hard copy of that book at my local bookstore, and thinking that some of the items on the list didn’t particularly resonate with me — but I thought the concept was spectacular.

So later that year (1990), I started my own list. I was a sophomore in high school.

And for 25 years, I have been adding to that list. I used to add to it every few days, and then as I graduated from high school and went to Penn State, it was more like a few times a week, or a couple of times a month.

The list went on, line by line.

The list follows me into adulthood

When I become a busy mom and entrepreneur, the list would often sit for months (or even years) at a time.

But every once in a while, I would think of the notebooks – usually because I wanted to add something to the list – and I’d get the latest book out, dust it off, and start writing more items.

Because adding to this list is like Lay’s Potato Chips – you can’t stop at just one.

Once I start thinking of little things that make me happy, I just want to keep going – because the practice of writing these items gives me a little jolt of joy.

And over the years, the list has grown and grown and grown. When I filled one notebook, right around 2005, I started a new one. I figure at this rate, by the time I reach old age and die, I might have the privilege of filling four or five notebooks with my own little snippets of gratitude and joy.

That’s not a bad legacy, if you ask me.

I like the idea of my family finding these little bits of me after I pass on, like maybe it would make them smile and say, “Yep, that sounds about right.” Because there’s not a single word in this notebook that isn’t right from my heart. Every line was added in my handwriting, in pencil, on notebook paper. Line by line and year by year, it gives an accounting of my entire adult life.

This list is a journal. It’s a practice. It’s a balm.

And when I read and add to this list, I feel better.

I think about how awesome my life really is – and how incredible it has been for many, many years.

No, my life is not perfect. But how could I possibly be unhappy when I have compiled nearly 2,000 things that have made me happy over the last 25 years?

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Here’s what is important for you, as a business owner

I’ve heard “Happiness Experts” say one of the best things you can do to become a happier person is cultivate gratitude. Apparently keeping a gratitude journal next to your bed, and writing down 5 things you were grateful for (every day) is a really good way to become a significantly happier person.

I think that is awesome. But I am, well….let’s say….not quite that disciplined. So I have my notebooks, instead. And I write down things that make me happy — whether it’s something big (sometime during the year 2003, I wrote down “My toddler learning to talk”) or tiny (“Oprah Magazine” and “Gilmore Girls”) or ridiculous (“the pen I accidentally stole from Lori” and “bendy straws”).

Some of the items from the first notebook are so old I don’t remember what they are, or what the heck I was thinking when I wrote them. Case in point: What does “MALCOLM” mean? Who is Malcolm, and why did I write his name in all caps?

But it doesn’t actually matter if I remember all of them. I remember most of them. And even if half of these items fall out of memory by the time I turn 85, I will still cherish this list. I will have notebooks full of things I appreciated and loved. Things I loved enough to actually WRITE THEM DOWN. On paper. And for a writer, that’s really the greatest compliment of all – right?

I say, “If you love it, write it down.”

A gratitude practice – whatever practice works for you – can make a huge difference in your happiness level. That means you’ll feel happier and more satisfied in your personal AND professional lives.

We’re at the start of a new year, so I’d like to humbly recommend that you start your own “Good Things in Life” list. Buy a fun notebook, and start writing on page one. Make your list easy to find and fun to add to. Write your own “Good Things” down for 6 months, and see how you feel.

My bet is that you’re going to feel better about your life, no matter what problems and troubles you’re dealing with. Your business and your mental health level will probably improve tremendously.

In case of fire, make a beeline for your list

My list is now so old that I can actually see how radically different my handwriting was, 25 years ago. The list is so old that the pages in the first notebook are starting to yellow a little bit in the corners.

But if my house caught on fire today, these two notebooks are two of the first things I would grab.

Because everyone needs to know what makes them happy — and I currently have 1,791 things that do just that.

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