How to Reduce Bounce Rate on Your WordPress Site

Post synopsis: Worried about high bounce rate on your website? You can reduce the rate by making your readers check out more content on your website. This post explores some simple tips to improve your bounce rate.


You have a lot to share on your blog. Perhaps you want to share professional tips or nuggets of personal growth. Perhaps you want to share about your travels or your beauty hacks. Perhaps, you want to share your family recipes.

And you work very hard at not only creating solid content that is SEO-friendly but also promoting it social media platforms. Your page views are going up but somehow so is your bounce rate. This worries you. You

Well, here’s the good news. High bounce rate does not necessarily mean readers are not finding your content useful. It’s possible that

Or, perhaps you have fallen prey to the Facebook promotion thread guidelines where most people are visiting your site with no intention to engage.

Wanna find out? Read on to understand the concept of bounce rate, what a high bounce rate means for your website, and how you can reduce the bounce rate.

How to Reduce Bounce Rate on Your WordPress Blog

Worried about high bounce rate on your website? You can reduce the rate by making your website check out more content on your website. This post explores some simple tips to improve your bounce rate.

What is bounce rate?

Bounce refers to an event when a visitor lands on your website/webpage and exits without clicking a link (to another post or page) or commenting. Bounce rate is the percentage of events when a bounce occurs on your website.

You can find out the average bounce rate of your website in your Google Analytics account.

Why should you care about high bounce rate?

Turns out, bounce rate is one of the million (!!) determining ranking criterions when it comes to search engines, especially Google Search.

It is, however, not known how influential it is because Google doesn’t share that data.

But more importantly, a high bounce rate could be indicative of unengaging or unhelpful posts. That goes completely against the objective of most blogs–to help other people.

If people are not finding good content to engage with on your website, it is unlikely you will earn followers, subscribers, and high rankings.

What does it mean to have a high bounce rate on your website?

When I started blogging a year ago, my bounce rate was through the roof. I think I was averaging around 97%. With time, I worked on my content and marketing to bring it down to high 20s. For good part of the year, the average bounce rate of my website hovered around 30-32%. I put all my learnings in an email series and created the 7-Day Sticky Blog Workout (have you signed up yet?)

However, in the last month or two, I have kinda, sorta gone slow on content creation and even slower on promotion. My traffic has dropped and my overall average bounce rate is creeping up again. Law of average, you’ll! At the time of writing this post, my bounce rate is somewhere in 80s :-O There! I said it.

I am determined to bring it back down to 30s in a month or so. The 7-Day Sticky Blog Workout works! I want people to engage with my content more.

Anyway, back to the reasons for high bounce rate.

There are two ways of looking at this. Your bounce rate is high because your content is:

  • Very helpful and super focussed
  • Not helpful and all over the place

Let’s consider the first scenario: a visitor lands on your website looking for something super specific. And you, being the keyword champ, have in-depth information on that subject. The visitor comes and reads the content, finds all the answers she was looking for, and leaves.

You’re good!

But remember, the key to the first scenario is that you are retaining the visitor on your website/page for the duration of the post. Even if they do not interact with your page in any other way, such as click an internal link or check your About page. For example, if your in-depth post is a 5-minute long read, the visitor should be spending a minimum of 2-3 minutes on that page. If you see the average screen time for this page is just a few seconds, you need to work harder on your retention strategy (we will discuss how to do this in a bit)!

Let’s take my example: even though my bounce rate is high, take a look at my “time on page” number:

5+ minutes!

That means people are reading what I have to say and it’s probably enough to answer all their queries at that time.

Now, consider the second scenario: readers do not find your content useful or your content is not focussed. This is a more deep-seated problem because this requires attention. In a moment, you will learn about some practical ways to increase reader engagement on your website, and consequently, reduce your bounce rate.

Related:

But before we get to that, here comes a curve ball: given that most of us are promoting our blog posts on Facebook promotion threads, it is very likely that your bounce rate is high for no fault of yours. You could write great content that is on point and compelling. But, because of the promotion threads, a majority of participants visit your blog post with the sole intention of fulfilling the promotion thread guidelines. Most of them won’t take even a second to look what your post is about. They just want to hit the share button, exit, and move onto the next promotion thread. Not ideal but it’s the reality.

That’s why working on your SEO is so important. You want the majority of your audience to be interested in what you have to say. Check out this SEO-boosting cheat sheet to improve your Google rankings and increase organic traffic to your website.

How to reduce the bounce rate?

It is not difficult to bring down a bounce rate floating away into the far skies.

Deliver content that your audience wants

Pretty basic, right?

If your target audience does not find what they are looking for on your website, they are going to exit pronto! So, be very intentional about what you put in your post.

First of all, do your research. Find out what your target audience is looking for. Scan the search engines to see if there are other posts about this topic and whether there is a gap you can fill.

Related:

Once you have a topic, decide on the type of post you want to create. There are many styles of blog posts. Choose the one that best serves your intentions and do justice to it.

Readers appreciate posts that focus on one topic comprehensively. Write it in an interesting manner. Make your readers stay and automatically your bounce rate will reduce.

Related:

Also, here’s a cheat sheet to boost your SEO ranking. After all, you first have to get people on your website.

Related:

Optimize your website to load super quick

Let’s take a look at my page load time:

Holy moly! 14.7s is terrible! But I know what’s going on. I haven’t compressed my images in a while. I also have a ton of plugins and themes installed–I need to delete those.

Think about the last time you tried to open a website and it just wouldn’t load. Remember how frustrating it was? Now, check your own website’s speed on GTMetrix.

How long does it take?

Visitors abandon sites that take more than 5 seconds to load. In fact, a good page load time is less than 1 second. It’s true!

So, how do reduce page load time? There are some technical and some non-technical aspects to it:

  • Choose a good hosting partner and the best plan for your needs. I recommend SiteGround for their reasonable packages and spectacular customer/technical service team.
  • Compress your images because these take up a lot of space. Believe it or not, when you upload one image on your WordPress media library, WordPress saves up to 8 copies of that in different sizes. I use the EWWW image compression plugin.
  • Delete images that you don’t need. Why fill space with unnecessary junk?
  • Delete plugins and themes that you don’t use. Themes and plugins use a lot of backend files to create a seamless user experience. However, those files add up and slow down your load time.
  • Install caching plugins. For example, W3 Total Cache save parts of your website so that it doesn’t need to contact the server each time a repeat visitor lands on your website.
  • Use CDN services. These services distribute the load across various servers across the globe. This means if your host is based in the US but someone from India is trying to access your site, their ping will be sent to the US server and back. This takes time, even though it’s a matter of seconds. Instead, with CDN installed, the India visitor will ping a destination closer to her (such as India or Singapore) instead of pinging the US-based server.

Here’s an article with even more ways to speed up your website.

Update your content regularly

Okay, so you got someone interested in visiting your website by researching keywords and writing stellar content. Google can take a long time to show any movement in your posts ranking. But that day has come. A long time has passed since you created this piece of content–it has become outdated. And someone has landed on your website to read this post. Yikes!

Always make sure your content is up-to-date.

  • Revisit old posts and check if content is still relevant. If not, update it to reflect the latest information.
  • Remove the date display from your blog posts
  • Sort comments from newest to oldest

Related:

How to Reuse Old Blog Posts

Use simple language

In most cases, your blog is not your creative writing canvas; it’s an instructional content platform. Unless you are an author, poet, painter, actor…and your website is your portfolio.

Readers come to your website to find information and/or learn something. Make it easy for them to learn.

When you create content that is not only interesting but also easy to understand, readers will stay and check out your other content.

Related:

How to Grab Your Readers’ Attention

Build a web of your posts

Now that your reader wants to read more of your content, guide her to your best content.

How will she know what she should read next? Where can she find more content on the topic you have written about?

Use internal linking.

The idea is to not only guide the reader to appropriate reading material but also to be a one-stop-shop for her.

Be generous with linking to your existing content. Create a storyline that demands that you add the links to related content. Do not force-fit though.

An additional advantage of internal linking is creating backlinks. More backlinks = high Google ranking.

When appropriate, do not be afraid to add a few external links as well.

Make your site mobile-friendly

With the advent of smartphone technology, more and more people now access the web on their smartphone or tablet.

Now, you may think if you have a website, it should load and be accessible from all platforms. Well, that used to be the case.

But now, it’s just the minimum threshold of any website. Your website has to load in a prescribed manner on a smart device. Factors such as page load speed, resize responsiveness, pop-ups, etc. determine whether someone will continue on your website.

When selecting a theme for your website, make sure it is mobile responsive, or AMP compliant. Non-compliance means poor user experience on mobile device and results in users navigating away quickly.

Here’s a post that explains how to make your website AMP compliant.

So, there you have it. Those are some of the most common ways to reduce the bounce rate on your website.

For even more tips on reducing your website’s bounce rate, join the

FREE 7 Day Sticky Blog Workout

This is an email series designed to share not only tips but actionable items at the end of each day.

Alright, let’s wrap up…

Do you track your bounce rate? What changes have you seen over time?

Pin for later.

Worried about high bounce rate on your website? You can reduce the rate by making your website check out more content on your website. This post explores some simple tips to improve your bounce rate.

How to Design an Amazing Sales Page for Your Next Big Launch!

Post Synopsis: A powerful (i.e. highly-converting) sales page is made up of two things: a good copy and a good (visual) design + layout. Without one or the other, your sales page will fall flat. In this post, you will understand what makes for a good copy and a good design when it comes to a designing a sales page.


Last week, I introduced you to the characteristics of an effective sales page. This week, I want to introduce you to the components that make up an effective sales page, i.e. how to design a sales page.

Broadly, these components fall into two categories–text and design.

The text (a.k.a. the copy) is the story of you and your product or service. The design is how you organize the story to make it easy to understand. Together, these two aspects bring your sales page to life and primed for action.

Ready? Let’s go!

How to Design a Kickass Sales Page

A powerful (i.e. highly-converting) sales page is made up of two things: a good copy and a good (visual) design + layout. Without one or the other, your sales page will fall flat. In this post, you will understand what makes for a good copy and a good design when it comes to a sales page.

Text Elements

The “hero” headline

When designing a sales page, this is the biggest, the boldest, and the most beautiful element. Your hero headline (often also your course or package name) is the hook of your sales page…this is what grabs the attention of your target audience. Without the hero headline, most potential customers won’t bother even scrolling down to know about the offer.

  • Keep it short and snappy: Headlines are most effective when they are short…about 60-100 characters (without space!). Spend a good amount of time coming up with your hero headline. Believe it or not, most effective headlines are not the first headline the writer thought of.
  • Choose clear over clever: Snappy need not be unclear. Often, in an attempt to be cute or show their offbeat personality, some bloggers construct sentences that are ambiguous or bring no value to the table. While it’s always good to be true to your personality, your sales page may not be the most appropriate place to showcase it. This is not to say you shouldn’t even try, but remember being humorous in a sales copy is a lot more difficult than writing a straightforward copy that resonates with readers. Make sure what you write prioritizes clear over clever.  
  • Make it compelling: This builds on the previous point. Your headline should be strong enough to compel readers to find out more about you and your offer. One way of doing this is to promise them something aspirational or relief from their pain. This promise is essentially the unique selling feature and the primary benefit of your product or service.
  • Examples of hero headlines:
    • Struggling with low traffic? Grab our revolutionary traffic building strategies for a never-before price!
    • Want guaranteed sales on your next amazing product?
    • 5 High Converting Facebook Ad Templates (even if you’re in a competitive niche)
    • Want personalized landing page advice?
    • How I earn $10K every month (and you can too!)

The sub-headline

Sub-headline is what comes under the hero headline–it’s like the tagline of your sales page. Make it descriptive but don’t write a novel here.

  • Use this area to describe the objective of your product or service.
  • In 12-15 words, draw attention to how your product or service can address your target audience’s core frustration, problems, weaknesses, struggles, etc.
  • Examples of strong “solution” headlines:
    • How I landed my first $10K client and you can too!
    • What if it didn’t have to be that way?…
    • I have the perfect solution to get rid of that nagging voice in your head…
    • What if (your life, business, etc.) could look like this… (use imagery)

The “sales copy”

This is your main selling message…the part where you talk about your extraordinary product or service.

  • Deliver a clear value proposition: Explain the “what’s in it for me?” or the WIIFM, of the course. You know that your offering is not for everyone. That’s why you did audience analysis; that’s why you did competitor analysis; that’s why you created your ideal customer avatar? It’s time to bring all that research to the table. Spell out clearly who this product or service is for? What will they accomplish if they take your course or hire you as a coach? The last thing you want is to target the wrong customer segment and then receive poor feedback.
  • Use benefit driven language: Benefit-driven language presents your course to your audience in a way that appeals to them and their needs. Instead of saying, “I’m giving you 5 hours worth of content that I spent 2 months creating!” You can say “After taking this course you’ll be able to X which will result in Y and Z.” Make sure that your sales copy is less about you and more about your audience and product or service. In other words, focus on the benefits rather than features. Here’s an exercise for you: work on finding the benefits of benefits. Confused? To impress upon the real pain point of your ideal customer, you need to know what is really going on and what exactly are you helping address. To find out, drill down to the lowest level of benefits, that is, the benefits of benefits. I learned this very cool trick from a copywriter to help extract the actual benefit of your offer–using the “so what” method. For example, let’s assume you are a money and/or mindset coach.  Put yourself in the potential client’s shoes and think:
    1. I am offering a free 30-minute discovery call > so what?
    2. On this call, you and I will discuss why you are afraid to market yourself > so what?
    3. If you are afraid to market yourself, you will not be able to land high-paying projects > so what?
    4. Without the high-paying projects, your bank account will not swell > so what?
    5. Without a swelling bank account, you will not be able to pay off your student loan > so what?
    6. Without paying off your student loan, you will not be able financially independent > so what?
    7. Without financial independence, you will not be able to create time for things you love to do (or relationships)… > so what?

Get the drift? Go on till you cannot drill down anymore. This exercise will also help you validate your ideal customer avatar.

  • Split your content into several paragraphs: Let’s face it…too much text is a turn-off for most of us. Chances are even though this post is packed with useful information, you are starting to get restless. SO.MUCH.TEXT. Sorry!! Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do on a blog post without spending hundreds of dollars or breaking your website. But what you can do is break your content into smaller paragraphs (blog post writing best practices, anyone?). This makes your content scannable and adds white space for visual relief.
  • Focus on the benefits: I know this has already been discussed but this is just SO important. At no point can you let go of the benefits of your product or service. For each paragraph, ask yourself “Why should anyone read this?” Translate the answer to create a compelling sub-heading.
  • Use sub-headings: Breaking the content into scannable chunks is great but customers are busy and greedy. They need quick answers. Use sub-headings to present those answers. Can a visitor understand your basic offer by just looking at the paragraph sub-headings? The answer should be YES! Because again, customers are busy and greedy.
  • Entice the reader: The majority of potential customers will scan your sales page. A small percentage makes the effort to read the first couple of sentences in each paragraph. An even smaller percentage will read the entire copy. Keep it interesting for them. Draft your sub-heading and the following content in a way that entices the reader to read further and find out more. More the time they spend on your sales page, higher the chance of you landing such clients in your pocket.

The price and payment methods

Humans (well, most of us at least!) value money. We work hard to earn it and would think 10 times before spending on it on something.

  • Don’t let the price overwhelm: Make sure if you are selling a high-ticket item, the amount is not the most prominent chunk of text on your sales page. Conversely, if you are selling a low-priced item or offering a heavy discount, increase the font size. In short, highlight low price; downplay high price.
  • Offer tiered pricing: This involves offering 2-3 different versions of your product, each building on the previous version and add additional features and benefits. This ensures that you are casting your net wide and targeting various customer budget points. This strategy works beautifully for both product and service providers. Here’s an example of tiered pricing on my preferred web hosting partner, *SiteGround’s pricing page.

Example of tiered pricing

    • Offer bundles: Instead of offering a tiered structure, you could also offer complementary products and/or services to create a high-ticket combo. You may have seen this technique being used heavily in retail shopping–buy 1 get 1 free; buy 1 get 2nd at 50% off; buy 4 get 40% off, etc. Bundling is so successful because they bring a sense of “value for money” in potential customers’ minds. Here’s an example of effective bundling on *Suzi Whitford’s course listings page.

Example of bundling

Example of payment plan

Alternatively, if you can present or teach your content on a monthly membership basis, that will ease the burden of one-time payment and will really add up in the long run.

    • Offer multiple forms of payment: Fun fact: a few months ago, I tried the free plan of Tailwind for the first time and LOVED the convenience of it. I almost bought the paid plan but did not go through with the payment at the last moment because they offered only credit card payments. No Paypal. Now, I don’t own a credit card (you heard me!) and I didn’t want the heavy transaction fees on my debit card (it’s HEAVY due to savage foreign exchange rates). So, I did not make the purchase at that time. But scheduling pins was taking up too much of my time. So I ended up borrowing my husband’s credit card and signed up for the paid plan earlier this month. I guess this round goes to Tailwind but it’s really bothersome to have only one type of payment option. That said, if you haven’t signed up for *Tailwind, you must! It’s a great scheduling tool that has freed up several hours of my week. Please don’t make this mistake with your products and service. At the least, offer Paypal and Credit/Debit card payment options. Here’s the gist of it all when it comes to payments: make ordering easy.

The call-to-action button

Very clearly, communicate what you want the potential client to do on your sales page.

Unlike a landing page, a sales page is designed to drive one and only one action from a potential customer–buy your product or service. This is not the place to book discovery calls or sign up for your mailing list (if you want those actions, you need to create a landing page, not a sales page).

Related

The social proof

Whenever possible, add social numbers (such as existing student numbers, followers on social media platforms, etc.) on your sales page.

But to really make a case, ask these social followers or your existing customers to write a solid testimonial for you.

The testimonial is nothing but an approval for you and your offering. Take a look at *Suzi’s sales page–it’s full of testimonials and even presents the number of current students.  

Examples of testimonials

With such solid testimonials, who wouldn’t be tempted to invest in her courses?

The FAQ

No matter how good a sales copy you write for your product or service, a majority of potential customers will still have doubts and objections. Use the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section to address their doubts and objections.

Common examples of doubts and objections are:

  • Will this work for my unique situation?
  • Is this going to be too hard?
  • Will I have time for this?
  • What if I need to return this?
  • How can I trust this person?
  • Do I really need to buy this?

Use your sales copy as an opportunity to remove all possible objections your potential customers may have. It could be about the price; it could be about your credibility; it could be about payments or refunds. By addressing their concerns, you build your credibility and trustworthiness. Become your own ideal client. Think of everything that could hold your customer back. And then, break the holding spell.

Design Elements

The look of your sales page plays a HUGE role in raising or crashing the perceived value of your offer.

Depending on your personality and the offer, your sales page may be colorful or minimal. Irrespective of the tone you take, make sure the design is streamlined.

Colors

  • Use colors intelligently. Use contrasting colors for the background, font, and CTA buttons.
  • Do not use more than 3 (max. 4) colors. Do not layer two brights or two pastels on top of or next to each other. This can reduce comprehension and readability.

Formatting

  • Streamline and format the page properly.
  • Do not use script fonts.
  • Do not center-align bullet lists. They don’t look good.
  • Leave plenty of white space for visual relief.

CTA buttons

  • Make it a BUTTON–not a hyperlink.
  • Keep the CTA button front and center.
  • If using multiple CTA buttons, keep their colors the same.
  • Use Serif font on CTA buttons.

Misc.

  • Include the image of the product or the creator (if service based).
  • If possible, include images of people whose testimonials you are displaying.
  • Do not use sliders or heavy animations on your sales page. Design it as a static page to avoid visual distractions.
  • If creating tiered pricing structure, keep the highest price on left and lowest on right.

Additional Guidelines

  • Adjust the length: Depending on the price of your product or service, you need to alter the length of your sales page and the number of details you need to add. Generally speaking, more expensive the product, longer the sales page. This is because money matters. Think about this: you know what you need desperately. But, if two people were to pitch you the same exact solution for $97 and $197, which one would you pick? You want to be really, really sure about an investment of $197 compared to an investment of $97. Yes? Same goes for your client. Spend the time detailing every damn thing your potential customer needs to know to believe in your product.
  • Use personal language: Make the CTA button personal. Writing in first-person and second-person puts your reader in control when compared to using third-person language. For example, test using “Send me my workbook” versus “Send the workbook” in your button copy. Another example “YOU can do this!” or “I can do this!”
  • Design a great CTA button: The call-to-action (CTA) of your sales page is not just another button; it’s another chance to persuade your potential clients into buying your product, booking your service, calling you for a consultation, etc. Make sure your CTA button is designed to attract your readers’ attention. Here are some tips to design a high-converting CTA button.
  • Create a sense of urgency or scarcity: When pushed against the wall, our survival instincts kick in. The same applies to your sales page. If your readers know your product will be available forever, they will procrastinate buying it. But if you use phrases like “available limited time” or “grab at a never-before, never-after price” “limited seats” it creates a sense of urgency and/or scarcity. They don’t want to miss out on this amazing “deal” and so they are more likely to go through and make the purchase.

Pin for later.

A powerful (i.e. highly-converting) sales page is made up of two things: a good copy and a good (visual) design + layout. Without one or the other, your sales page will fall flat. In this post, you will understand what makes for a good copy and a good design when it comes to a sales page.

How to Create a Wallet-wooing Sales Page

Post Synopsis: Your sales page is the window to your amazing product. It is what will help potential customers decide if they want to invest in your product or service. This post explains how to write an effective and persuasive sales page that converts potential clients into paying clients.


Who among you started a blog but has no plans of ever monetizing it?

Nobody?

Thought as much.

So, what’s your plan for monetizing your website?

If any or all of these strategies are your chosen strategy for monetization, this post is not for you.

But, if you want to create and sell your own products and/or services, stick around.

Think about the last course or eBook you bought from your favorite blogger. What convinced you that the course or book was the right choice for you?

You may think it was the webinar the blogger hosted or the emails that you received.

But pay attention and you will notice those webinars and emails directed you to a persuasive, long-form sales page.

So if the webinar and the emails could persuade you to purchase the product or service, then why did the blogger spend so much time and energy in creating a full-blown sales copy too?

Believe it or not, despite all the promotions leading up to a course, it’s the sales page where most potential clients drop off. They may not even read the whole page and decide this product is not for them.

That’s why it’s so important to design your sales page to be the most effective tool in your sales process.

How to Write a High-Converting Sales Page

How to create a persuasive sales page

What is a sales page?

Let’s assume you have done all the prework (as you should–if not, a relevant post is coming soon). You have created a paid product and designed an offer. But now, you need to get the word out.

This is where your sales page comes in the picture.

A sales page is a page designed to get you a sale. In other words, these pages are meant to convert potential customers into paying customers.

How is a sales page different from a landing page?

A common misconception is that a sales page and a landing page are the same. They are not.

The purpose of a landing page varies depending on the type of page it is, but at the highest level, they are meant for “mini-conversion.”

For example, the purpose of an About page is to convert a generate lead by presenting your skills and how they can help the potential client. These pages do not focus on any one product or service but are meant to deliver an overall feel of what to expect.

Consider landing pages on the broader end of a sales funnel.

On the other hand, the purpose of a sales page is to…you guessed it…sell. These pages are super focussed on selling one and only one product or service and are designed to cover everything a potential client needs to know about an offer.

But more importantly, these pages present the how and why aspects of the offer.

Why should the reader buy this product? How will this service help the reader? Why should the reader purchase the product now? How is this service different from what’s already available in the market.

Why do I need a sales page?

You can’t be there in person to tell your sales story. Create a sales page to do the talking with potential customers.

Sales pages are designed to persuade potential customers into buying your product and/or invest in your services.

You may be great at what you do but not everyone knows that.

People first need to know that you have something to offer. Then, they need to recognize that they have a need for your offer.

Even so, humans are fickle…they have a little voice in the heads that raises its head every time there is a possible financial transaction at stake. So, they need more coaxing.

A well-designed sales copy informs potential customers and addresses their objections.

What are the features of a high-converting sales page?

If you look closely at some of the best sales page examples, you will notice that the basic structure of all high-converting sales pages is the same. They talk about:

  • What the product/service is? 
  • Who is the creator and what is her backstory? Why is she well-equipped to teach you?
  • What are the features and the benefits of the product/service?
  • What are existing customers saying about the product/service (through social numbers and testimonials)?
  • Why now is the right time to make the purchase (through urgency and CTA)?

Based on this structure, here are the features of an effective sales page:

  • Talks to one and only one customer: Remember, your sales page is made for only one person–your ideal customer. Have you created an ideal client persona yet? This is part of your pre-work–market and audience analysis.

Know everything about your customer–how old is she; is she married; is she working. A potential customer reading your sales page should feel they are actually having a conversation with you. Make it intimate. Don’t write in the plural. Use first and second person language.

  • Talks about the ideal customer’s pain or pleasure: Your ideal customer is looking for a solution to either their pain points or their dreams, hopes, and aspirations.

    If your product or service deals with these two aspects, then you most likely have a winner at hand. Your sales page then needs to highlight these pains or desires and make the potential client believe and trust that your product or service is exactly what they need.
  • Delivers a clear value proposition: Continuing on the same line, your sales page should not only highlight the features of your product or service but also what benefit your potential customer stands to gain by investing in you.

    Make sure your sales page delivers the value proposition of your offer very, very clearly.
  • Sets clear expectations: As humans, we always want more. We want more when we are seeing results; we want more when we don’t see results.

    Listing detailed features and benefits, and establishing the value proposition on your sales page is not enough.

    Make sure your sales page lists everything that you will be offering to your customer.

    But more importantly, make sure there is no ambiguity about what you are NOT delivering.

    For example: who will benefit from your course; who will NOT benefit from your course; what habits can your course change; what habits can your course NOT change…get the drift?
  • Presents solid credibility: Would you buy a completely new product or invest in a service you have never heard of? No! You will either reject those outright or you will search for review posts on Google.

The same applies to your audience–they may not know you; they definitely don’t know about your product or service; they don’t know if you are worth investing in. Use your sales page to help them make a decision–include social proof to establish your credibility.

Examples of social proof include past and current success stories, followers on social media platforms, testimonials from past and current clients, etc. This addition of human element helps build trust and resonance.

  •  Addresses objections: Get in your potential customer’s head. What objections might they have to your offer? What will they be thinking while reading your sales page? What could hold them back from whipping out their wallets and put in their money?

Address all their objections via your narrative or a special FAQ section. This is a great way of establishing your credibility even more because it’s going to leave your potential client thinking, “Wow! She gets me!”

So next time you sit down to create the sales page for your next online course or your incredible service, ensure that it checks all the points discussed above.

Have you created a sales page before? Based on what you just learned, what was missing from your sales page? What could you improve on your existing sales page? Leave me a comment and let me know. Let’s learn from each other.

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How to create a high-converting sales page

How to Create a High-Converting Call-to-Action (CTA) Button

Post Synopsis: A call-to-action (CTA) button is an integral part of blogging endeavor. It helps build engagement, invites responses and shares, opens communication channels, and builds your email list. This post explores the characteristics of a high-converting CTA button.


You started a blog and you are investing hours upon hours of your life to create fabulous blog posts and very relevant content upgrades to go with the posts.

Your email list is growing…but at a snail’s pace.

You are creating fantastic mini-courses or worksheets for a nominal price and hoping someone will make a purchase.

You are earning from your products…but not enough to even pay for weekly grocery.

You waited patiently for your cat to do something fun, recorded it, and posted it on YouTube. Funny cat videos are something people search for on YouTube all the time.

Some people had a good laugh watching your video but it hasn’t gone viral. Not enough people are sharing it with their social circles.

Here’s why:

Of course, the CTA isn’t the only factor that determines how well your sign-up form will convert, whether your post will go viral, and if your subscribers will purchase your next big product.

You must pay attention to a lot of other things, including following some basic tips of good writing. These include:

Of late, I have spent hours studying effective marketing tactics.

For example, I have learned that one way to increase the rate of conversion is to write compelling call-to-actions (CTA)–both text and buttons–that compel your readers to take action. It’s a small, little detail that most of us often ignore. And the consequences are there for you to see.

Ready to learn more?

How to Write a Powerful, High-Converting Call-to-Action Button

How to create a high-converting call-to-action button.

What is a call-to-action (CTA)?

A CTA, or call-to-action, is what it sounds. It’s you calling your readers to perform an action.

The action could be to write a comment, share your post on social media, join your newsletter, make a purchase, join your affiliate program, etc.

Whatever action you want your readers to take, communicate it directly and clearly to them.

CTA can be found in the body of a copy or embedded as a button, or as a combination of both.

Why do I need a potent CTA?

CTA is pertinent in every sphere of your blogging business. It’s one of the cornerstones of your marketing material.

For example, it is what:

  • Pushes your potential customer to become a paid customer and a paid customer to become a repeat customer.
  • Persuades website visitors or YouTube viewers to share your content on their social media platforms.
  • Compels your readers to share their names and email IDs with you. And we all know the money lies in the list.

A copy with a strong CTA will convert more readers/visitors into paid customers.

Unfortunately, many bloggers put in a lot of time and resources in writing blog posts and courses, but not enough time crafting their opt-in and sales pages.

If you look around, chances are most of the free and paid resources you signed up did not have the default “Submit,” Sign up,” or “Download,” CTA buttons.

Those buttons probably said something custom, such as “Help my business grow,” “Send me the good stuff,” “Count me in,” “Hell yeah!” etc. Such CTA buttons are more likely to convert (i.e. get sign-ups and purchases) than the default text options.

Are bells going off? I was in your shoes until a few months ago. I used to create CTA and leave the default “Subscribe” or “Sign Up” text in. But no more! And you shouldn’t either.

But here’s a caveat: a powerful CTA alone cannot guarantee a high conversion rate.

Your headline, your body text, how you weave the story, how well you communicate the relevance of your product or service–all such things add up in the end. These pieces of content, put together, communicate to your readers what they stand to gain by clicking the CTA button that follows.

(I will write a separate post on the body text of an opt-in and sales page. In this post, let’s learn about the CTA button.)

Characteristics of a high-converting CTA button

Marketing strategies have undergone tremendous changes in the last 20 years.

With the advent of the digital age, strategies are delivered online more often than not. Personal marketing (door-to-door) is on the decline yet engagement is at an all-time high.

The principles of writing an effective sales copy and the following call-to-action remain the same:

  • Offer a fail-proof, low barrier to entry: Most people are risk-averse and they are likely to click away from a page that seems forceful. Craft your CTA in a way that is non-obligatory and low-risk for the potential customer. A no-obligation, fail-proof CTA is more likely to invite immediate action from the reader.
    • Examples: Free trial; money-back guarantee; proven techniques to gain 500 email subscribers in 30 days, etc.
  • Include one specific instruction: The most effective CTAs are no-nonsense and straightforward. Tell the reader what you want her to do–give her one, clear instruction.
    • Examples: Buy the bundle; Learn more; Download XYZ; Add to cart, etc.
  • Encourage immediate action: Even though the copy should be obligation-free, you can create a sense of urgency by including wordings that point to limited availability. When people know something is going away if they don’t take immediate action, they are likely to give in.
    • Examples: Cart open for 1 week only; Start a blog in the next 10 minutes; Free webinar recording available for 48 hours only, etc.

The goal is to persuade the reader to take an action.

A typical high-conversion CTA button:

  • Has one purpose: Every blog post, every video, every sales page, every CTA button should be focussed and written to accomplish one and only one objective. What do you want the reader to do next? Do you want them to join your newsletter, like your Facebook page, browse your shop, or buy your product? Identify the primary objective of your copy and make the CTA button all about that one objective.
  • Uses one button: On an opt-in or sales page, you should only have one primary button that accomplishes one primary objective (as explained above). Sometimes and especially in long-form sales pages, copywriters will give the reader multiple chances to complete the action. This requires placing multiple buttons on the page, but all are geared towards the same outcome.
  • Uses a persuasive tone: Agitate the problem your product or service can help resolve. Push the reader to see the benefit of your offerings. Make them believe there is no better solution to their situation than to buy your product or service. What you write must be compelling enough for the reader to click through. Take away all the frills and deliver the exact action that is desired from the reader.
  • Is action-oriented: The reader should know the outcome of clicking the CTA button. This is why the CTA button text should always be action-oriented, i.e., use a verb. Click here; Add to cart; Call now; Share the love, etc. are all examples of a good CTA button.

These four are the most important characteristics of a high-conversion CTA.

Bonus Tip: Use “power words” to increase the rate of conversion

Believe it or not, there is actually a list of words that are considered “powerful” and “high-converting” in the copywriting world.

Power words are words that trigger emotions and invoke curiosity–something I wrote about earlier in my post about crafting the best headlines.

The same concept applies to CTAs.

Let’s look at an example:

Here’s what’s great about the WordPress.com landing page:

  • Specific action verb: Get started
  • Low-risk entry: Free; few simple steps
  • Benefits: Easily create; new; beautiful, secure, mobile and SEO-friendly website
  • Emotion: New; amazing

Want a list of power words you can use in your CTAs for higher conversions? Sign up below!

Additional tips to create better call-to-action buttons

The secret to writing amazing call-to-actions is the same as the secret to any good persuasive writing. But, it may take you a few tries before you know for sure what clicks with your readers.

Don’t hesitate to experiment with the verbiage, visuals, placements, etc.

  • Find the optimal placement: The CTA button should be placed in the reader’s direct line of vision.
    • Example: Place a button just below the benefits, front and center.
  • Utilize the power of I, Me, Myself: Writing the CTA in first-person will put the reader in control.
    • Example: I am ready to explode my blog traffic.
  • Add social proof: This adds credibility to your brand.
    • Example: Network with 6500+ fearless writers in our free FB group.
  • Design a standout button: The CTA button is the most important element of your opt-in and sales page. It is the threshold of something bigger. Ensure that you use a contrasting color on the button to make it stand out from the rest of the page.
    • Example: Red button on a white page.
  • Be true to your personality: If you are someone who doesn’t use cuss words in real life and/or in your blog posts, it would be very awkward if you drop the F-bomb in your sales page. However, it doesn’t hurt to be a little humorous in your opt-in and sales pages. Charm the reader.

Want a list of power words you can use in your CTAs for higher conversions? Sign up below!

Starting today, set aside a reasonable amount of time to craft the best CTA you can think of for your free resources. This will stand you in good stead when it’s time to create the sales page for your paid product.

What are some of your proven techniques for writing a high-converting CTA button? Share in the comments below.

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How to Create a High-Converting Call-to-Action (CTA) Button

How Bloggers Make Money: Sell Products and Services

Post Synopsis: Nothing feels more entrepreneurial than creating and selling your own products and services, such as eCourses, workbooks, freelance writing, etc. This post explores the fundamentals of creating and making money from your own products and services.


What’s your greatest joy when it comes to being a blogger? I bet sharing your knowledge with others is one of the top answers. But you also want to make money out of it, right?

As part of the How Bloggers Make Money series, I have already discussed three ways to monetize your website:

But there’s only so much you can earn from the aforementioned methods.

Consider this: some bloggers claim to be making a full-time income from these methods, especially affiliate marketing. They promote really high-ticket targeted items and they really know how to keep their subscribers engaged. But such bloggers are few and far between.

Coming to advertisements banners, you MUST have very high traffic on your blog. And even then, there are only limited spaces on your website where you can display the banners. The returns are not even worth the effort. It’s a way to earn side income at best.

As for creating sponsored content, you are constantly pitching to brands and not always writing about things you truly love. Every post brings in a one-time payment yet you also run the risk of being considered a sellout by your readers. This affects building a loyal following.

Not great earning potential.

Enter the fourth method: creating and selling your own products or services.

In this scenario, your blog becomes a component of your website and not the website itself. In addition, you add an e-commerce + payment component to your website for showcasing your offerings and making sales.

This method casts a wide net and it’s completely up to you to make a success out of it.

 

Perhaps you have already recognized your calling and your blog is the medium to spread your message and showcase your products and/or services.

Perhaps you have some idea but largely undecided on what product or service you will sell to potential customers. You want to use your blog as a testing and validation platform.

Or, perhaps you have no idea at all if you even want to create and sell something on your website.

It doesn’t matter.

In this post, I will help you explore whether creating and selling your own products and services is the right fit for you.

How Bloggers Make Money: Sell Products and Services

Nothing feels more entrepreneurial than creating and selling your own products and services, such as eCourses, workbooks, freelance writing, etc. This post explores the fundamentals of creating and making money from your own products and services.

First things first, do you know your audience?

Whether you want to go the product route or the service route, you have to know who your target audience is.

Ask yourself questions, such as:

  • Who are you trying to bring to your website?
  • What is their pain point?
  • What do you know that they don’t?
  • What can you do to solve their problem?

Answering these self-analyzing questions will help you decide the kind of content you will create for your website.

For example, let’s say, you want to offer your services as a copywriter in the long-run. Your content should reflect the type of copies you can deliver to potential clients. What value-adds can you offer with your service? You will craft your content to showcase your mastery and pitch your services.

Or, if you want to sell a physical product, create content about that product and how it’s going to satisfy the needs of your target audience. You will build your authority in your specific niche and craft your content such that your readers don’t hesitate to buy from you.

Either way, your content targeting a specific niche will weed out people who anyway won’t purchase your products and services.

Your audience decides your content.

Product or service–which is better?

Creating and selling a product–say, an eCourse–is a very attractive aspiration. It may even seem easy to do…just think of an idea, put some content together, pitch it to your audience, and sit back and enjoy the money pouring in.

But you couldn’t be farther from the truth.

As an instructional designer, I have created close to 500 hours of training modules for big corporations. I know the ins and outs of what goes into creating a solid and effective course. And the bloggers who are successful course creators more or less follow the same process as I have done in the last 15 years. Trust me, it’s a LOT of work.

Also, there is no guarantee that your course will take off unless you have built a loyal group of subscribers who will buy everything you offer. Plus you have to come up with a plan for marketing it constantly and pricing it competitively.

Now, look around…

There are very few “pure product” offerings these days. Most courses now come with an associated mastermind group or a coaching session or a boot camp or a website audit…something in which the creator gets directly involved and coaches the student.

Here’s the reason: services can be priced higher because of the personal touch.

But the bigger reason is this: because of our traditional education system and mental conditioning, humans learn better when in presence of other humans. We need to exchange ideas and express our thoughts. We need to see something happening live in action for us to soak in the learning. And we need feedback on our performance.

Think about it–classrooms in schools, group study programs, workshops and training programs in offices, etc. Even homeschooling and distance learning programs have human teachers thrown into the mix. None of these settings will be successful without a “teacher-student” interaction.

All this is to say: don’t shy away from offering services. Whether services will be your primary revenue stream or secondary or tertiary–that’s up to you to decide.

As an introvert, I know how difficult it can be to be in the presence of other people for the majority of the day. If such is the case, consider selling a product as your primary offering and build in a once-a-month (or weekly) group coaching sessions as a secondary service. The group coaching aspect will allow you to price your course higher and you don’t have to spend a ton of time talking to your students. Win-win.

On the other hand, if you want to offer only services, pitch retainer packages instead of one-off sessions. This way, you won’t have to constantly look for clients and maintain a steady flow of income.

But, selling services means trading time for dollars…

Not true!

Good project management and setting the right expectations from the beginning will ensure you don’t have to work until midnight forever.

Come to think of it, product creation and launch periods are equally busy plus you don’t even get paid for that time.

Big mistake!

Remember to account for all this time in your product price 😉 Don’t offer a $37 course just because you think more people will buy it. In the long-run, you might be undercutting your time.

The same holds true for selling services.

Don’t charge $0.01 per word because you want to win every copywriting bid you come across. You will work yourself to death and won’t even earn enough to buy a coffin. Morbid much?!

Know your worth. Do market research. Be shameless and ask competitors. Find every income report you can find on Google for your niche. Do whatever but don’t undersell yourself.

Screw services! I want to make money selling online courses!

Fair enough!

Most successful bloggers offer at least one course to their followers. You can too.

Start at the beginning–know your audience and their needs (scroll up if you have already forgotten we discussed this just minutes ago).

Now, let’s assume you have a good grasp of your audience and their pain points.

And you have a fantastic course idea that will address their problems. But is it guaranteed to earn you big bucks? Probably not.

I have heard from some bloggers how they surveyed their audience on email and FB to ascertain if they would be willing to purchase a unique online course that would solve their XYZ problem (well done!).

The audience replied with a resounding “YES.”

The bloggers spent several hours getting the course ready.

And then nothing!

The prospective students disappeared. And so did their YES!

Now, there could be a flaw in the bloggers’ marketing strategies and I will leave it to a marketing expert on how to improve on it.

But for now, no matter how excited you are by this unique idea, don’t reinvent the wheel. Build on what’s already out there. Identify the gaps in the existing programs and fill those gaps instead of trying to disrupt the market with your first course.

Okay, I have a course idea. What next?

Good! You are willing to step off the reinvention wheel before it throws you off and makes you land on your head.

But just having a course idea isn’t enough. Here’s what you also need to do.

Step 1: Identify your top 10 blog posts.

Step 2: Identify the specific questions or pain points that your Top 10 blog posts address.

Step 3: Shortlist 1-3 problem areas and come up with a course idea.

Step 4: Research the market for similar courses. Validate your course idea.

Step 4a: Know your competition. Research if they are offering a similar product.

Step 4b: Expand the research net and look for similar courses in marketplaces such as Skillshare, Udemy, etc.

Step 4c: Find out how well the course is doing. Are people buying it? Look for social proof of the course’s success. Go with the bestsellers.

Step 5: Create a simple sales funnel.

Step 5a: Step up your SEO and social media game to bring in traffic to your website.

Step 5b: Create an amazing opt-in offer (lead magnet) to bring potential buyers into the fold. Make sure the lead magnet gets them inside the threshold, i.e. it’s related to the pain point you will help address.

Step 5c: Create 3-4 blog posts and emails that agitate the identified problems. Help your audience identify and acknowledge that they have a problem that you can solve.

Step 6: Start creating your course material. This step runs parallel to Step 5 and onward.

Step 7: Market your course via Facebook Ads, Webinars, etc.

Step 8: Create a super-effective sales page that focuses on the target audience, their problems, and the benefits of your course. (I will write a post on how to create a sales page in a few weeks).

Step 9: Launch your course for a limited period.

Step 10: Nudge your subscribers towards making a purchase.

So yeah, all of that. And a marketing expert would probably tell you there are more steps. But these are the basic minimum.

In the near future, I will go into the details of these steps.

For now, what’s your plan? Are you more inclined to sell your own products or services? Share with me in the comments below.

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Nothing feels more entrepreneurial than creating and selling your own products and services, such as eCourses, workbooks, freelance writing, etc. This post explores the fundamentals of creating and making money from your own products and services.

How Bloggers Make Money: Affiliate Marketing for Beginners

Post Synopsis: Do you want to make money online by joining affiliate marketing programs? Do you want to know which are the top paying affiliate programs? Do you wish you were also earning a full-time income just like that famous blogger you admire? This post explores how you can start making money from top affiliate marketing programs.


Have you ever come across bloggers or YouTubers talking about an awesome product they have tried and want you to purchase it too using their link? It could be a book, a course, a camera–anything really. Sometimes, the creator will even throw in a discount code for you to at the time of checkout. That’s affiliate marketing.

A majority of people (not brands) start blogs because it’s one of the cheapest businesses to start and run. A successful blog, in return, has the potential to earn you a great living. Among others, becoming an affiliate marketer is one of the cheapest ways of making money from your blog.

How Bloggers Make Money: Affiliate Marketing for Beginners

Do you want to make money online by joining affiliate marketing programs? Do you want to know which are the top paying affiliate programs? Do you wish you were also earning a full-time income just like that famous blogger you admire? This post explores how you can start making money from top affiliate marketing programs.

As someone who is considering becoming an affiliate marketer, you must be having a lot of questions in your head. How does an online affiliate program work? How do affiliate marketers make money? Can I make a full-time income with affiliate marketing?

Let’s begin by understanding what is affiliate marketing and how does it work.

Disclaimer: All links prefixed with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. Any purchase you make by clicking these links will earn me a small commission but will not cost you anything extra. For more details, please read my Disclosure Policy.

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a very popular method of making money online.

Bloggers (or any website owner, for that matter) can earn through affiliate marketing by promoting third-party products and/or services to their followers. For every sale, the bloggers then earn a fixed percentage as commission.

So in essence, you–the blogger–are a marketing and sales channel for the owners of the products and/or services you endorse.

Why should I become an affiliate marketer?

As you continue reading the post, you will understand why becoming an online affiliate marketer is a great way to earn moolah. But, if you don’t have the patience to read the entire post, here are some reasons you should:

You don’t need to spend anything: 
Affiliate marketing requires zero to minimal investment from you (and some of your time) but has the potential to earn you several hundred dollars every month. 

You don’t need to spend on manufacturing, storing, shipping, hiring a team–nothing. All you need to do is find a great product or service you believe in and talk about it positively to your followers.

You don’t need to worry about product/service delivery: As an affiliate marketer, your job ends once you have promoted a product or service. Appropriate delivery and post-sale customer service is the creator/owner’s responsibility. That said, it is important to only market products and services that you know are valuable to your followers, has a strong foundation and a responsible owner/creator.

You don’t have to provide customer support: Similar to product delivery, providing customer support is the responsibility of the product owner. You are simply a sales outlet who is bridging the gap between the owner and potential customers.

You may earn passive income from it: Over a period of time, if you are promoting the right product or service AND optimizing the promotion page properly, you may continue to make sales and earn a passive income without spending any additional time or effort.

How do I become an affiliate marketer?

Becoming an affiliate marketer is actually quite simple. What is difficult is knowing which programs will work for you.

Identify one or more product or service that you’d like to get behind and promote. Find out if there is an affiliate marketing program associated with the product or service.

And sign up. That’s it.

Typically you would find the sign-up information on the brand’s website.

If it’s a course, then look for an appendix at the end of the course that mentions whether the course is open to affiliate marketing.

If you don’t know or can’t find the information, email the brand PR or the product creator (such as a blogger selling a course) to find out.

Direct affiliate program vs. affiliate network

Most often, especially as far as blogging courses and software go, brands have their individual affiliate marketing programs. However, there are some–especially software–that tie up with affiliate marketing networks and offer their programs via those networks.

For example: *my preferred hosting partner–SiteGround–has their own affiliate program. They offer very reasonable hosting packages and gold-class customer service.

To sign up, you need to be their existing customer and apply for the program through their website. Once approved, you will promote their services on your blog and every sale you make earns you a certain commission.

If you are looking to switch your current host, consider signing up for *SiteGround’s amazing hosting plans. As their affiliate, here’s what you stand to earn:

My preferred hosting partner--SiteGround--has their own affiliate program. They offer very reasonable hosting packages and gold-class customer service.

*Another affiliate program I have signed up for is Suzi Whitford’s series of courses. Her courses are fantastic learning material for bloggers who are just starting out or are ready to step up their beginners’ game.

To sign up for Suzi’s affiliate program, you have to be an existing student (i.e. purchase one of her courses). In the course material, you will find the instructions to join her affiliate program that will earn you a 40% commission per sale.

*Just started a blog and need direction? Want to step up your email game? Want to create awesome lead magnets? Suzi’s courses have got you covered.

ust started a blog and need direction? Want to step up your email game? Want to create awesome lead magnets? Want to write an eBook? Want to do it all? Suzi’s courses have got you covered.

Most brands offering direct affiliate marketing programs will also provide you with marketing material to make your job even easier.

On the other hand, some brands choose to offer their affiliate programs via a network. *For example, Pinterest and Instagram scheduler–Tailwind–hosts their affiliate marketing program via ShareASale.

To sign up for *Tailwind’s affiliate marketing program, you need to first sign up on the ShareASale website.

At the time of signing up, ShareASale requires you to submit your website details. They will then review your application and you can expect to receive a response in 2-4 days. Once approved, you can browse their merchant listing and apply for each individual brand’s affiliate program.

*ShareASale lists thousands of brands–Tailwind is just one of the merchants listed on their Website.

Sometimes, brands listed on ShareASale may contact you to become their affiliate on the ShareASale website.

How does affiliate marketing pay?

As mentioned earlier, affiliate marketing programs pay you a fixed percentage per sale as commission. That’s the most typical payment model brands follow.

However, there are also other models in the market.

For example, some brands–though in minority–also allow you to become an affiliate without first purchasing the product or service in question.

You heard it! Some brands will pay you commission without you spending a penny.

For example, Amazon.

Amazon is a marketplace. They will pay you for helping them sell products that are listed on their website. All you need is an existing account and an active website.

With Amazon though, there are a lot of terms and conditions you need to follow–I will get to those in a couple of minutes.

As with display advertisements, affiliate marketing is also based on various payment models:

Pay per sale: In this payment model, you promote an affiliate product or service. Once a visitor clicks on the affiliate link and completes a purchase, you earn your commission.

Pay per click: In this payment model, your lead simply has to click on an affiliate link and get redirected to the affiliate brand’s website. That’s it! You’ve earned your commission.

Pay per lead/action: In this payment model, your website visitor has to click on an affiliate link, get redirected to the affiliate brand’s website, and complete an action.

These actions are varied and could range from entering their Name and Email ID to more details such as phone numbers and zip codes.

Or, perhaps they would need to complete a survey, watch a video, or download a software. Once the visitors complete the required action, you earn your commission.

There might also be other models out there that I am unaware of.

I have personally only come across and signed up for the pay per sale model.

Which affiliate marketing program is the best for me?

If you are convinced that affiliate marketing could work for you, the next string of questions in your mind will most likely be: “Which is the best affiliate program to make money?”

Well, the real answer is: there is no sure-shot way to know which programs will work for you and which won’t.

It depends on trial and error.

As long as you are mindful of the products and services you are choosing to market, you will start noticing which products or services are selling more than the others. Start focusing on those.

Most eCourses or eBooks you have purchased from bloggers have an affiliate program attached to them. Find out about these programs and apply to become an affiliate marketer for them. Again, choose only the ones you believe in.

With that out of the way, here’s a list of most popular affiliate marketing programs and networks you can sign up for:

The options are aplenty. Just Google.

At the cost of sounding repetitive, choose only those programs that you truly believe in and/or have used successfully.

You owe this to your readers and yourself.

Enough yapping, just tell me about Amazon affiliate marketing already!

Sigh! Okay.

Amazon affiliate is popular because it’s the largest online marketplace you know of. Anyone can sign up to be their affiliate.

But their affiliate marketing program is shit!

There, I said it. And that’s all there is to say.

Don’t waste your time on Amazon!

For one, their cookie length is 24 hours! This means unless your reader is an impulse buyer, you are unlikely to earn anything out of it.

Two, even though Amazon lists high-ticket items too, people usually are wary of buying expensive physical products online. So, there goes your chance of earning a decent commission.

Three, Amazon’s commission rate ranges from 1-10%. So, even if someone purchases a $700 phone from your affiliate link, you will earn a 4% commission, i.e., $28.

Four, they don’t pay commissions for purchases made by your friends and family. I don’t know how they track it but they do.

Five, if you don’t make at least three sales in your first six months as an affiliate marketer, Amazon will terminate your affiliate account.

Six, you cannot cloak your links or send affiliate links on emails, Pinterest, etc.

There are many more convoluted terms and conditions for Amazon affiliates. If you have time to kill or want a way to fall asleep quickly, read them here.

Told you, Amazon’s affiliate program is shit!

How many affiliate programs should I sign up for?

There is no limit to how many affiliate programs you can sign up for. But that doesn’t mean you should sign up for every program you come across.

Choose quality over quantity.

Select products and services that belong to your chosen niche and deliver to your audience’s interest.

Though not mandatory, it’s also wise to market only those products or services that you have personally used AND benefited from. In fact, *Suzi Whitford from Start a Mom Blog suggests that you post pictures of you using an affiliate product or service as it builds trust.

My personal recommendation would be to limit the number of affiliate programs to 10 or less.

Remember you need to justify the products you market. This means you need to write a good copy for the promotion. In my opinion, 10 is a good number to work with. Any more and you may be scrambling for time and ignoring your own products/services.

Best practices to earn from online affiliate marketing programs

Affiliate marketing is not a get-rich-quick-scheme. It may not make you thousands of dollars every month in your first year. However, following some best practices can help you ensure consistent income:

Invest in quality products: Blogging as a business needs investment, whether it’s to buy technology or knowledge. When it’s time to invest, purchase the best you can afford.

Most good quality products and services, especially blogging courses and software services offer a high percentage of commission.

Consequently, you can earn back your investment in a short amount of time.

In addition, because of the high value of the product, you are likely to squeeze the last drop of use of out of it.

Choose affiliate programs that pay at least 30% commission: When you are just starting out, it’s easy to sign up for several affiliate marketing programs without much consideration for the commission percentage.

However, it’s in your interest to scout for products or services that pay a minimum percentage of 30%.

Typically, high-ticket items do offer high commissions.

Another reason you should consider the previous point I made about purchasing the best you can afford.

Sign up for recurring payment vs. one-time payout model: It’s a 50-50 split when it comes to payout models. Some programs continue to pay you every month that your referred customer stays with the brand.

ConvertKit is a prime example of such a payment model. For every person who signs up for their services via your affiliate link, you earn a sweet 30% commission for every completed month your lead stays with ConvertKit.

On the other hand, most other programs use a one-time payout model in which you earn a fixed one-time commission when your lead signs up for a service.

Check the program’s link cloaking terms: Typical affiliate links contain a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters. They don’t make for the prettiest of links. So, bloggers often use cloak plugins that enable them to customize the affiliate links as per their own liking.

For example, an original link https://www.xyz.com/[email protected]#jkhIheoo can be customized to https://www.xyz.com/yourname using a link cloak.

However, some programs, such as the Amazon affiliate program, do not allow any type of cloaking. You have to use the original link generated by the Amazon affiliate software.

Similarly, if you want to use affiliate links on Pinterest, you may need to fulfill certain conditions. So, all this is to say read the terms and conditions of each program carefully.

Select programs that offer cookie length of 30 days or more: Cookie length refers to the amount of time you are entitled to earn a commission from a purchase.

Each online affiliate marketing program offers different cookie lengths ranging from 24 hours to 365 days.

Suppose one of your readers clicks your affiliate link, she has between 24 hours and a year (depending on the program) to make her purchase. Any purchase made outside this window will not earn you anything.

But human minds are fickle. They take long to deliberate and decide, especially when it comes to certain purchases. It is, therefore, in your favor to promote programs that come with at least 30 days…but the longer the window, the better.

Disclose all affiliate links: As with sponsored posts, you need to disclose that fact that you stand to earn from your affiliate links.

Whenever you are including an affiliate link–even one–include a blanket statement that the post contains affiliate links. Same is true for including affiliate links in emails and social networking platforms.

Mark all affiliate links as Nofollow: Any link or content that may result in generating an income for you should be marked as a nofollow link. This applies to affiliate links too.

Follow the rules: Read the terms and conditions of each program carefully. While some programs do not put any restrictions on you, others may have certain terms that you need to abide by.

For example, you cannot include Amazon affiliate links in your emails or any social media platform.Don’t know if becoming an affiliate marketer is the best choice for you? Take this quiz.

Okay, I signed up for my favorite affiliate program. What next?

It’s time to promote.

Traditionally, writing a product or service review blog post is the most common way of promoting your favorite products.

But there’s only so much you can write about the features of a product or service. Plus, there are 100 other bloggers who are also writing a review post listing the same features.

What can you do differently?

Let me tell you the secret of copywriting–weave your story around the benefits of a product.

Too often, bloggers list the features of a product or service in their blog post, sprinkle the affiliate link in the post, and think their job is done.

Features don’t tell potential customers what they stand to gain from purchasing the said product or service. What pain point is the product or service resolving?

Focus on the benefits of a product or service. Illustrate how using the product or service of your choice has changed your life? Tell your personal story and show why the potential customer should invest their money in your favorite product?

You may choose to talk about all the benefits of a product or service in one epic post or create a series out of it.

If you are feeling super creative, you may even think of a more innovative way to promote the product or service on your blog.

Other common ways of including affiliate marketing links on a blog are:

Write an in-depth tutorial. Illustrate how to use a product.

List your favorite products and services: Create a Resources page on your website and list all of your favorite tools and products. Here’s an example from ProBlogger.

Create a roundup of products and services your peers use but include your own affiliate links. For example, write a post “10 Successful Bloggers Share Their Favorite Productivity Tool” and include links to 10 different productivity tools.

Create a day-in-the-life YouTube video or blog post and show yourself using a product or service.

Embrace the “in your face” technique. Instead of displaying third-party advertisement, use the space to display affiliate banners. Very often, the brand will provide you premade banners for this purpose.

There are bloggers who are earning a full-time income just from affiliate marketing. The most popular name that comes to mind is Michelle Schroeder-Gardner. Her personal finance + travel blog, Making Sense of Cents, earns her a handsome $100K+ per month. Most of that income is a result of affiliate marketing. If you are looking to take up affiliate marketing as your #1 method of blog income, check out her course, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.

As for me, I started including affiliate links in my posts a couple of months ago but it’s sporadic. It is not my aim to earn a full-time income from affiliate marketing. I am working on it to generate a “passive” revenue stream while I focus on my main income offering–my own product and service.

That’s right! I am working on creating an epic course on creating effective content. That, after all, is my expertise and my bread-and-butter. If you don’t know, I am an Instructional Designer with over 15 years of experience. I create web copies and online + offline course material for Fortune 500 companies.

And that is exactly what I will talk about in my next and final post in this “How Bloggers Make Money” series–creating and selling your own products and services.

Do you have any experience with affiliate marketing? How was your experience? What advice would you share with new bloggers? Share with me in the comments below.

Postscript & a confession

Of late, I have been feeling disconnected writing about blog-related stuff and ignoring the “content creation” category.

But then again, I get so many comments and emails from new bloggers telling me how they are benefitting from these “blogging” posts.

So I am really torn. I love sharing lessons from my own blogging journey but it’s not the niche I am passionate about.

After next week’s post, I am going to switch back to content writing. Posts on blogging may take a backseat for some time or maybe I will split it 50-50. I am yet to work out the distribution of posts, but I will keep you updated.

Thank you for your support.

Pin for later.

Do you want to make money online by joining affiliate marketing programs? Do you want to know which are the top paying affiliate programs? Do you wish you were also earning a full-time income just like that famous blogger you admire? This post explores how you can start making money from top affiliate marketing programs.

How Bloggers Make Money: Sponsored Content

Post synopsis: Are you a blogger who wants to make money online? Creating sponsored content is a great way of earning an income from your website. This post explores the ins and outs of finding sponsored blogging opportunities and creating sponsored content. 


You know how I got addicted to YouTube? By watching beauty videos!

That was some 8-9 years ago and online influencers and niche gurus were becoming a real thing. Beauty channels were especially huge on both YouTube and Google. Lifestyle blogs were making an appearance but all they posted really were “What’s my makeup routine?” “What’s in my bag?” “What’s my evening skincare routine?” etc.

How many of you have watched Michelle Phan and Elle Fowler videos–the numero-uno beauty gurus of their time? You would know why it was addictive, yes?

The production value wasn’t great during the first couple of years. I suspect most videos were shot on a computer webcam.

And then something changed.

In just a couple of years, drab backgrounds were replaced by sterile-white backgrounds with a bunch of flowers adding a pop of color. Photos and videos were whitewashed with super-high exposure but they were HD-quality and posed.

I would watch those beautifully-shot backdrops and the awesome, expensive makeup and skincare stuff and sigh. At some point, I may have even considered starting some beauty or skin care channel of my own–but you know, but the thought of even 10 strangers watching me made me quit even before I gave it a chance #introvertproblems

And along with all these changes, a lot of videos/posts started showing the “Sponsored” FTC disclaimer.

And thus began the second-oldest form of blog/video monetization–creating and posting sponsored content for public consumption.

Many “successful” online influencers today–both YouTubers and bloggers–grew their personal platform to a business by posting sponsored content.

So, yes, it’s true that sponsorship is one of the most profitable–not passive–ways of earning online.

But here’s the other truth: finding sponsored opportunities is not a walk in the park. It takes a lot of hard work and time before big brands will even consider hiring you to endorse them.

So, if you started a blog and want to monetize it by posting sponsored content, this post is for you.

How Bloggers Make Money: Sponsored Content

How to find sponsored blogging opportunities.

What is a sponsored content?

Sponsored content comes in many forms–be it a blog post, an Instagram photo, or a YouTube video. Basically, any product- or service-related content for public consumption that is created and posted in exchange for compensation by the endorsed brand is considered sponsored content.

For the purpose of this post, I will cover the aspect of sponsored content on blogs only.

How do I make money from sponsored content?

The compensation is usually decided by the brand but if you are a good negotiator and stand firm on your rates, many brands will agree to your terms.

Monetary compensation involves getting paid in cash. Plain and simple.

Non-monetary compensation could be in the form of free products or services, publicity, discount, etc.

Be aware that compensation by way of free products can be tricky. Not only are you required to disclose to your followers that you are being compensated but it may also affect your tax numbers.

Check with a qualified accountant whether such transactions are considered taxable in your country.

What kind of brands can I work with?

That’s completely up to you. You get to decide which brands you want to work with.

You may be someone who only wants to work with big brand names or you could be someone who is open to working with startups.

Irrespective of the brand you choose, it’s always a good idea to remain within your niche and choose products or services that your readers can truly benefit from.

Remember, even when you are writing sponsored content, it’s all about your audience.

For example, if you are a lifestyle blogger with the niche audience of women between 25-40, then marketing a mid-range skincare line might be a good idea. However, if you post content about the new programming software, it won’t interest them.

Can I write a sponsored post for my specific niche?

At a broad level, almost all niches can bring you opportunities to write sponsored posts. However, the more you niche down, opportunities are fewer but high-quality.

That said, brands in some niches are more open to hiring online influencers for their marketing efforts. A lifestyle brand is more likely to reach out to a lifestyle blogger than a scientific calculator brand reaching out to a calculator-enthusiast 🙂

Even within a broad niche, certain bloggers are more likely to receive opportunities than others.

For example, a beauty blogger is likely to receive more opportunities than a stationery products blogger. Both are considered Lifestyle bloggers.

Historically, the following niches have proved to be most profitable:

  • Make money online/online business/blogging
  • Lifestyle, especially beauty and style
  • Personal finance
  • Health and fitness
  • Food
  • Self-help/personal development

I know you have heard a lot about choosing a very specific niche but if you want sponsored posts or ad banners to be your mode of monetization, choose one of the aforementioned niches.

How to find sponsored blog post opportunities?

As with display ad banners, there are two ways of finding opportunities–contacting brands directly or via ad/media networks.

For a small- to mid-sized blog, working with a media network is a more realistic option compared to direct pitching. All you need to do is sign up them, share your social reach details, and depending on your stats, they will find suitable opportunities for you.

It’s completely up to you whether you want to accept or reject an offer.

Your social reach aside, many of these networks now require you have either a YouTuber following or an Instagram following. There might also be a sign-up fee.

Additionally, most cater to the Lifestyle niche. In their defense, Lifestyle is the most popular niche. It is also a very broad niche encompassing Beauty, Style, Gardening, Home Decor, Food, Parenting, etc.

Here’s a list of some media networks that can help you get sponsored deals.

Want more? Here’s a comprehensive list of companies that bridge the gap between brands and influencers.

What about direct pitching?

Working directly with a brand enables you to make more money simply because there is no middleman fee (network) to be paid.

Bloggers who have monthly page views of at least 1,00,000 can pitch their ideas directly to brands.

You can find the contact details of a brand’s PR person on the brand’s website or on their LinkedIn or Twitter accounts. That’s the person you need to pitch to.

Often, a brand may contact you directly. So make sure, you have your contact details posted on your website and social media accounts.

It is important, though, that you choose a product or service that is closely related to your niche and audience’s needs.

How to pitch to brands?

Once you have gathered the contact details of brands you want to work with, it’s time to pitch your idea to them.

The brand knows nothing about you. It’s probably the first time they will even hear your name. This is your chance to stand out from the hundreds of other bloggers who might be pitching their ideas to your preferred brand too.

Illustrate how you can give exposure to the brand and/or their product(s)/service(s).

But, the days of simply talking about a brand in your blog post or YouTube video are fast becoming a thing of the past.

Brands now want influencers to showcase their chosen product or service as part of their daily lives so that their audience can see how they can also benefit by purchasing the said product or service.

In short, what’s your story as far as the product or service goes?

This is where it becomes important that you are truly a fan or consumer of the product or service.

So, give some thought to your pitch–what does the product or service mean to you, how does it help you and your audience, how is it aligned with your values, why you and your audience will love it, etc.

Once you have a solid idea, put it in an email in the following format:

Hello {PR/Marketing person’s name},

{1 sentence to compliment the brand and why/how their message speaks to you}

{2-3 sentences – Include a short synopsis of your own brand. What type of blog you own–include URL, and how it is related to the brand’s message}

{2-3 short sentences – Why do you want to work with the brand? How the brand and your audience– a good place to include your social reach numbers–can benefit from this collaboration?}

{2-3 sentences – Pitch your idea–a working headline/title and a synopsis of the idea.

{1 sentence – Close the email with positive words}

Best,

{Your Name}

{Your Blog name and URL}

{Your contact details, including social media}

As far as possible, send the email from a professional ID, such as [email protected]or[email protected]etc.

Once you have sent the email, give the brand a week to respond. At the end of the week, follow up with them by sending them another short email.

Bigger the brand, the more follow-up emails you may need to send. Don’t be disheartened. Following up 4-5 is normal.

What else can I do?

Be intentional about the brand you choose to endorse. Please don’t send an email to every brand in your niche.

It helps if the brand recognizes you even before you send your email. Here are a couple of ideas how you can do this:

  • Follow and engage with the brand on their social media accounts, especially Facebook and Twitter.
  • Recommend the brand to your followers on social media and tag the brand.
  • If you already use their product or service (as you should!), give sneak peeks of you using it.
  • Write a short, unpaid blog post or Instagram post (or a platform of your choice) that includes the said brand/product/service on your Wish List, Shopping List, etc.

Here’s a fantastic post by The Sway (previously known as The SITS Girls) on how they select bloggers to work with.

How to create a media kit?

Irrespective of whether you need to work with a brand directly or via a media network, you need to create a portfolio to showcase. A summary of your portfolio is called a media kit.

Often a one-pager, your media kit showcases a synopsis of you as an online influencer. At a bare minimum, it includes your:

  • Short bio
  • Blog Name and URL
  • Niche/target audience
  • Social reach, including your blog numbers
  • Cost

You may also choose to include your success stories, testimonials, how you can help as an influencer etc.

In short, your media kit is your blog resume.

Give it as much love, care, and thought as you would to a traditional resume when applying for a job.

Tiffany from Beautiful Dawn Designs has an entire post on creating a media kit and offers a free template if you sign up.

How to write a sponsored blog post?

It depends on your negotiation with the brand. They may or may not have specific ideas about how they want you to showcase their product or service.

This discussion will take place once the brand has seen your pitch and chosen to contact you. Be ready with a couple of different ideas.

Perhaps you want to include the product or service in a personal story; perhaps you want to showcase the product in use via a DIY YouTube video, or perhaps you want to write a simple text review.

No matter what approach you take, ensure that your post is an honest post.

  • Don’t rave about something you don’t believe in. It will damage the trust your audience has in you.
  • Don’t showcase a product that your audience has nothing to do with. It will tarnish your reputation and project you as a “sell out.”
  • Don’t talk about a service that your audience cannot afford. It’s a lost cause.

Other than the aforementioned guidelines, treat sponsored posts like any other post you would write with your heart and soul.

Do justice to both the brand and your audience.

That’s it. Plain and simple.

And now comes possibly the most important question for most of us:

How much can I expect to earn from sponsored content?

First and foremost, know your worth.

Just because brands can buy blog posts for $5 on Fiverr doesn’t mean you also charge $5 or less. There is something to be said about quality over quantity.

Let’s consider some of the components of cost calculations:

  • What type of post are you creating? A simple text review post will typically require less time and effort than a YouTube video or even a DIY activity post. Determine how much of your time and energy is going to be spent in creating this post.
  • Do you need to spend anything from your own pocket for this opportunity? Suppose you are promoting a hobby product by creating a DIY activity post. Include the cost of products you will spend in creating this post.
  • What is the perceived value of your brand? An established content creator will naturally charge more than a small blogger who is not as well-known. Dive into your social reach and analytics to determine the perceived value of your brand.
  • Do you have past success stories? If you have already worked with brands before, how successful were those campaigns? Do you have testimonials you can showcase?
  • What is the going rate for sponsored posts in your niche? Some niches are more profitable than others and it reflects on your rates. Try researching on Google about the going rate for sponsored posts. A typical freelancer charges about $250-$500 for writing paid blogs. Let that be your guiding factor too.

In fact, ask for more than you wish to be paid and then be open to negotiations.

Another important thing to remember is that if you are accepting free products instead of monetary compensation, you may be liable to pay tax on it. I would recommend avoiding these type of exchanges.

In conclusion, there are plenty of opportunities available to earn money from sponsored content. You just need to be patient and honest.

Do you have any experience with creating sponsored content? How was your experience? What advice would you share with new bloggers? Share with me in the comment box below.

Pin for later.

Are you a blogger who wants to make money online? Creating sponsored content is a great way of earning an income from your website. This post explores the ins and outs of finding sponsored blogging opportunities and creating sponsored content.

All About Advertising Banners and Advertisement Networks

Until a few years ago, displaying advertisement banners on blogs or websites was the primary source of income for most mommy bloggers. Banners would be found pasted across the header, footer, sidebar, within the post…basically, they would take up all the available white space on a website. What made them even more jarring to the eyes was that the advertisements were of poor design (color, font, etc.).

Even today most websites (both personal and business) show advertisement banners that are either static and unobtrusive (such as text ad on the sidebar) or dynamic and intrusive (such as pop-ups, exit intents, etc.). Visit any online news website and you will know.

But advertisement banners have come a long way. Not only have the aesthetics improved but the content is more targeted and often contextual. Bloggers now have the option to work directly with brands or join ad networks that offer you banners that best fit your website’s niche and audience.

How Bloggers Make Money: Advertising Banners

Displaying advertisement banners on your website or blog is a very popular method of monetizing websites. But is it the right choice for your website?

Let’s begin by understanding the display advertisement options available to you as a website owner.

Basically, you have two ways of doing this–work directly with brands or work with an ad network.

Working directly with brands

In such scenarios, a brand contacts you or you contact a brand to rent ad space on your website. The said ad could be in the form of a text, image, text+image, or even an animation or a video.

Don’t be surprised if many of the brands that contact you have nothing to do with your niche. Often, the brands send out scores of inquiries without filtering for a niche.

Related Post: The Truth About Earning a Passive Income Online From Your Blog

On the other hand, if it’s you who is going to reach out to brands, pitch to them why advertising on your website can be beneficial for them. Draw on your social proof.

Needless to say, if you are serious about building a blogging business or becoming an online influencer, you have to be very selective about the brands that you work with.

Now, assuming a good brand related closely to your niche pitches you an opportunity to display their banner on your website. It is common practice to quote a monthly rent amount such as this: your monthly unique visitors divided by 10.

Suppose you get 10K unique visitors on your website every month. You can pitch 10,000/10 = $1,000 per month.

Bigger influencers can charge even higher rates and some even invite bids.

As you can see, working with brands directly is much more profitable as far as display advertising is concerned.

Working with ad networks

For a mom blogger who is still in the early stages of blogging and without much social proof, working with advertisement networks is a more realistic option.

Don’t worry, mama! There are tons of ad networks that you can join beside the ubiquitous Google Adsense.

The reason Google Adsense is so popular is that it does not require a minimum number of page views to approve an account.

It’s true.

But the competition is tough.

According to some estimates, there are more than 440 million blogs in the world. A large number of these blogs today belong to stay at home moms who start a mom blog to either share their knowledge or to keep a diary of their mommy life.

Related Post: How to Monetize Your Blog

If ad networks were to approve even half of all the mom bloggers, they would be bankrupt within a few weeks. Therefore, many ad networks require a minimum number of monthly page views and may even apply geographic restrictions.

Google doesn’t stipulate these conditions but in return, it pays you just a few cents for every 1,000 views. When you have low traffic, mama, your monthly earning would be just a few dollars, if that. 

Here’s a list of five popular advertisement networks for small publishers. Review the terms and conditions to determine if you can apply to be on their network.

  • AdThrive: Major requirements:
    • Google Analytics installed and running and a minimum of 100,000 monthly pageviews
    • The primary traffic should be U.S. based
    • No previous advertising infringements and are not blacklisted by Google or other major providers
    • Content is unique, original, amazing for audiences and advertisers
  • Mediavine: Requires:
    • At least 25k sessions per month (not page views, but sessions)
    • A mobile-friendly site
    • You take down all other existing ads on both desktop and mobile
  • Adsense: The grand-dad of all ad networks, Google Adsense doesn’t stipulate any minimum requirements at the time of sign up.
  • Media.net: Part of the Yahoo-Bing brand, they don’t have any minimum requirements (just like Google Adsense).
  • AdClerks: No minimum requirements at the time of sign up.
  • Sovrn: No minimum requirements at the time of sign up.

Please note that even though these websites list no minimum requirements at sign up, they will still review your application and website before approving your account. Make sure you have an active website/blog with some basic pages–such as About, Blog, Contact–published publicly.

Also, please note that except Google Adsense, I have not used any of the other aforementioned networks. I used Google Adsense during my first month and earned a grand total of $0.49 – Yay! Then I removed all the ads.

How do you earn from display banners?

Display ad banners are programmed to bring in the bucks in several different ways. CPM, CTR, CPA, and CPC are some common ways of measuring performance and calculating earnings.

CPM: Short for cost per mille, CPM refers to the cost per thousand page impressions. So, if a thousand people visit your website and view an ad, you will earn a certain amount. For example, if the CPM rate for an ad is $1, you will need 1,000 of your website visitors to view that ad before you will earn the dollar.

CTR: Short for click-through rate, CTR is a way of measuring an ad performance that takes into account the number of times visitors click on an ad divided by the total number of visitors who saw the ad. For example, if 100 out of 1000 people click on an ad, your CTR will be 0.1 and you will be paid as per the CTR slab determined by the advertiser.

CPA: Short for cost per acquisition, this method pays only when a certain condition, such as sign up or sale is completed. For example, if 10 people sign up for the advertiser’s newsletter or make a purchase, you earn an amount for each of those people.

CPC: Short for cost per click, CPC registers the number of clicks on a particular ad banner. So, if 100 website visitors click on a CPC ad valued at $0.01, you will earn one dollar at the end of it.

Direct advertisers or online ad networks–who should you work with?

As you can see, almost all measurement methods put the publisher (such as you) at a disadvantage.

Ad networks keep a percentage of advertising money they receive from the brand and pass on the rest to publishers such as bloggers. Because there are so many mouths to feed, the earnings from ad networks are very little for a new mom blogger. For a big blogger whose traffic runs into hundred-thousands or even millions, of course, the amount could be something to write about.

Related Post: How to Promote Your Content (and Not Just on Social Media)

On the other hand, working with brands directly earns you more money because you get to pocket the entire fee. However, such opportunities are difficult to find for new bloggers. You cannot expect to start a new mommy blog today and earn hundreds of dollars from private brands. They will want to see a high amount of traffic on your blog in addition to proven social engagement. I am sure you are working on that.

Should you display ad banners on your website?

I have nothing against display ad banners, but personally, I don’t use them. If I ever reach a stage where I have 100K monthly traffic, I may give this a second thought but as of now, I am good.

But what about you, mama?

Here are some reasons why I am staying away from display ad banners (for now):

  • They pay peanuts: Listen, the only reason you would consider including banners on your website is that you want to earn from them, right?

But for an average blogger whose traffic numbers are not in the high thousands, most banners don’t bring enough money to pay monthly bills.

  • They compete for reader attention: Assuming you want to show ads on your website, I would recommend you choose ads that are customizable (to match your website aesthetics) and contextual (to match your content).

    Just the other day, I was reading a blog post on writing skills, and the website header was displaying a banner from a local grocery store with photos of potato, tomato, and eggplant. Often I also find ads from online clothing stores on a business website. Ugh!

If you want to show me an ad, at least make it relevant to what I am looking for at that moment.

  • They take up space from your brand: All the places where you can display ads are places where you can also promote your own products or services.

For example, let’s say you put up an add in the header or footer, you could utilize that space to show an awesome lead magnet of your own or promote a new course or service you are offering.

In the early days, ad banners used to be shown on the sidebar. But today, most websites are doing away with the sidebar because apparently, readers have learned to ignore the sidebar. So, you will notice that most established bloggers use the header area or the body of a blog post to display ads.

These are highly-coveted areas of your website. You should use this space to either display your own products and services or you should display high-quality ads. Please don’t spoil the aesthetics (and thus credibility) of your blog by display Adsense banners in the middle of your post or in the header.

That, however, is my opinion. You need to make your choice, mama.

Who can earn from display banners?

Let’s say you decide in favor of displaying ad banners.

To earn a decent amount solely from these banners, you need to have high traffic numbers on your website. The numbers, however, vary between third-party ad networks and private brands.

Most ad networks will require you to have a minimum number of page views of unique visitors.

Related Post: How to Rank Higher on Google and Explode Your Pageviews

However, the earning potential is much higher when you do business with a private brand directly.

Suppose you have consistent 10K monthly views, maybe you can charge the private brand 50 cents on a CPM basis. That means for every 1,000 views, you earn 50 cents. That’s about 1,000 dollars in your kitty per month.

Depending on your domain authority and traffic numbers, your CPM cost could be much higher.

How to get approved by ad networks?

Each ad network comes with its own set of terms and conditions for accepting new publishers.

It is essential that you find out what those terms and conditions are and ensure that your website complies accordingly.

At a very high level, following are some of the most common requirements to get accepted into ad networks.

  • Primary language: Most ad networks require that the primary language of your website be English. So, if you want to run a blog in, say German, you may want to build your website in English and provide translation tools.
  • Geographic restrictions: Many networks also stipulate that your primary traffic is from a particular geographic region, such as North America or the European Union. Typically, users from these locations earn higher ad rates than audiences based in Asia and Africa.
  • Minimum traffic numbers: Increasingly, ad networks require you to have a minimum amount of traffic flow. This can range from pageviews to sessions to unique visitors. It could also require you to prove that the number is stable or increasing over a predetermined period of time, such as 30 days or 90 days.
  • Website currency: Ad networks require that your website is an active one. For this, they require that you have 3-5 blog posts as well as basic pages, such as About, Contact, and Privacy published.
  • Exclusivity: Many ad networks require that you host only their banners. For example, if you sign up with Mediavine, they require that you not show ads from any other network or brands.

When working with a private brand, they may even ask you to place the ad “above the fold.”

This means it should be displayed in the landing area of your blog, i.e. the area that users can see without having to scroll down.

How to place banners on your website?

Once approved, brands and ad networks will provide you with a code that you need to publish on your website.

Ads can be published on your website in the following two ways:

  • Using plugins or widgets
  • Manually

In WordPress, you can install the sidebar widgets, such as Custom HTML, and then paste the code into that widget. When published the ad will show in the sidebar.

If you want to display the ad in the header or footer area, you can use a plugin such Insert Headers and Footers to paste the code in.

If you want to display the ad in the body of your blog post, switch over to the Text tab of your WordPress Authorware and paste the code where you want the banner to show up.

Where to place banners on your website?

The short answer is any white space on your website can host a banner.

Typically, you will find website owners display ads in the following areas:

  • Header
  • Footer
  • Sidebar
  • Within the post

Among these, the most effective places are the header area and within the post.

Most ad networks will provide pre-designed placeholders to display your ads. For example, header banners (also known as leaderboard) will typically be 728 x 90.

Head here to see Google Adsense dimensions.

Make sure your website theme supports the prescribed sizes.

So, those were all the tips I have for you this week.

What about you–do you earn from display banners? Which brands or ad networks have you found the most success with? Share with me in the comments.

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Displaying advertisement banners on your website or blog is a very popular method of monetizing websites. But is it the right choice for your website?

The Truth About Earning a Passive Income Online From Your Blog

If you’ve started a self-hosted blog, chances are you want to earn from it. There are two types of income you can make from a self-hosted blog–active and passive. Yet somehow, the idea of earning a passive income online enchants new bloggers more than the idea of earning an active income.

Active income refers to the earning that requires you to provide a service in real-time and continuously, such as from a membership site, coaching services, copywriting, etc.   

Passive income refers to the earning that does not require you to market a product or provide a service in real-time or continuously, such as displaying third-party advertisement on your website. All you need to do is embed the code–a 5-minute job–and hope people will view/click the advertisement.

Then, what about the other types of blog income–income from selling your own courses, worksheets, sponsored posts, affiliate income, etc? Are they not sources of earning passive income online?

Yes and No.

Truth is no income can be considered passive income from the beginning. You have to put in the effort at some point to get a system in place–a system that will reduce, if not eliminate, your efforts in generating the income.

The Myth About Earning a Passive Income Online From Your Blog

Is earning a passive income online from your blog just a myth? No matter how you monetize your blog--sponsored posts, affiliate marketing, Google Adsense, or selling your own eCourses or eBooks--you have to work actively toward generating a consistent income from it.

Let’s consider the four most common type of monetization strategies that have gained the title of “passive income earner” in the blogging world.

Third-party advertisement

Let’s consider the work that goes into earning “passively” from third-party advertisement.

You need to sign up with an advertising network, embed the code on your website, etc. But, for you to earn a reasonable income from third-party advertisement, you need to have a high amount of traffic.

For this, you have to constantly work on your SEO skills and create blog posts and pages that are optimized to show up on search engine result pages. Because, you know, that’s where the traffic is going to come from.

Writing blog posts every week, optimizing them for search engines, researching keywords that are popular, creating attractive graphics, promoting on social media…all that goes into earning a passive income online via third-party advertising.

Not exactly passive income, in my opinion.

Sponsored content

Another popular way to earn an income from your blog is to publish sponsored content.

Brands in your chosen niche (sometimes outside of your niche) will contact you to perhaps review one of their products or services on your blog, or post a photo of you using it on Instagram, or simply just mentioning them on your Twitter handle. There are various ways you can do a sponsored posts. In return, you get paid a certain amount–your sponsorship.

Needless to say, you should be extremely selective about the brands you choose to endorse. You are working hard to build your own following and earn the trust of your followers. Endorsing brands you don’t truly believe in is a surefire way to the bottom of popularity chart.

Be responsible when making your choice.

With that out of way, now consider the three scenarios I mentioned above.

  • Writing a sponsored blog post: Some brands provide the text and images you need to publish on your website, others don’t. If you are writing the review in your own words, it will obviously earn you more whereas prescribed content will earn you less.
  • Nonetheless, you still have to put together a blog post and then publicize it to your readers and across various social media channel.

With time, the post will fade into the oblivion and you will no longer earn from that post unless you choose to revive the endorsement.

Not exactly passive income, in my opinion.

  • Endorsing on Instagram or other visual mediums: Numerous posts have been published about the reality behind the glitzy Instagram influencers (here’s one).

That one glamorous photo you saw on your Instagram feed this morning…it was probably just one of the many shots the influencer tried or hired a photographer for. It isn’t easy to get a perfectly-composed photo that catches attention and converts to a sale.

There is a lot of hard work that the influencers have to put in before they can quote a high price for posting a brand photo on their account. Don’t forget the many hours of brainstorming that goes behind how best to compose and then promote the product, such that it earns them a commission.

Not exactly passive income, in my opinion.

  • Mentioning a brand on your Twitter account: Everything I mentioned for the Instagram point applies here too.

You have to have a long and genuine list of followers before an established brand will even approach you. And that’s where the money lies. Can you imagine the time and energy you have to spend in nurturing and engaging your followers on a daily basis?

Not exactly passive income, in my opinion.

Affiliate marketing

This is a very popular way of earning an income for bloggers. This strategy requires you to promote a product or service that they truly believe in. The product or service could belong to a name brand or a fellow blogger.

What is important though is that you really believe that the product or service you are choosing to market on behalf of someone else is worth its weight in gold. You are introducing your audience to another brand’s offerings. If your audience chooses to invest in that offering, it’s because they trust you. You have earned that trust.

It’s easy to get carried away and become an affiliate for 30 different products or services and hope that some of those will convert.

Let’s take the example of Amazon affiliation.

Almost anyone can apply to be an Amazon affiliate. Once approved, you can pretty much promote any of their listed products. But honestly, unless you are promoting high-ticket items, the earnings won’t be high.

Again, you have to spend your time and energy to find the right products and then promote the posts consistently so it remains in your audience’s field of vision.

Not exactly passive income, in my opinion.

Creating and selling your own products or services

Of all the revenue streams I have listed so far, this is the hardest one for obvious reasons.

It requires a lot…A LOT…of time and work on your part to turn your products or services into revenue-earning sources.

Let’s consider a digital product-based business.

Creating a course or an eBook or even a printable planner requires a lot of research and hard work. A typical well-researched eCourse can take at least a month to create, given you are not working on anything else.

You have to come up with the content outline, determine the medium of delivery, write the content, record the videos, edit the videos, sync the audio, set up the course on your teaching platform…and so on.

And then again, the marketing–the webinars, the Facebook ads, training the affiliates, the email sequences…you get the picture.

What also matters is to keep the information current. In today’s age, technology is advancing at light speed. That means you have to regularly update your products so they remain relevant to your customers.

The same is true for a service-based business. Maybe you are a coach or a copywriter, in which case you are trading your time for money. You will be working against deadlines and trying to find new or repeat clients to keep up the income.

Not exactly passive income, in my opinion.

So then, is passive income just a myth?

Well, yes and no.

The way “passive income” is promoted on the internet is not right.

Come about it yourself: there is no passive income. If you want to earn money, you have to actively work for it. In some cases, the efforts needed to market your product or service may reduce over time but it never truly goes away.

When a successful course creator puts up a post on Facebook about how she earned $7,000 from her course just last night, that’s her marketing her product. Don’t even think otherwise.

Overnight success happens only to a handful of special bloggers. But what we don’t see is the sleep they have sacrificed and the frustration they cast aside before their blog became big. Success doesn’t come easily to anyone…not a single person.

For us mortals though, we have to work even harder than the ones who have succeeded.

Are you monetizing your blog the right way? Take this quiz to find out.

Over the next few weeks, I will add more posts about each of these monetization strategies and how your hard work and dedication will help you earn “active” income, not “passive” income.

See you then.

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Is earning a passive income online from your blog just a myth? No matter how you monetize your blog--sponsored posts, affiliate marketing, Google Adsense, or selling your own eCourses or eBooks--you have to work actively toward generating a consistent income from it.

How to Start a Blog When You Are On a Budget

So you’ve decided to start a blog and become a blogger…a professional blogger. Good for you! It’s a fast-growing community of awesome people who are driven to live life on their own terms. Blogging success stories are shared in every popular media. Bloggers are replacing traditional celebrities in many endorsement deals. These “bloggers” are now known as “digital influencers.” They have the power to make or break upcoming brands with their reviews. They are also teachers, mentors, coaches, and employers. They are the new face of the digital world.

And you want to join the club.

But if you are looking for someone to tell you how to start a blog for free and make money, my friend, it’s not happening. Because professional blogging is a business and no business can be started without at least a token investment.

But worry not.  Even if you don’t have the huge budget to invest in the business of professional blogging, it’s fine. 

That’s the beauty of most online businesses. You can create a blog easily for as little or as much as you can afford. Really!

You can start a blog today by paying less than $100 a year! Of course, you can scale up when you can afford to do so. No hurry.

In this post, I am sharing the absolute essential tools you need to start your blogging business even if you are on a budget. Remember, these are all things that your business NEEDS, not WANTS.

However, keeping in mind that some of you may be better able to afford paid products, I am also listing some paid products that I truly believe in.

Let’s start.

How to Start a Blog on a Budget

How to start a blog even on a tight budget

Disclaimer: All links prefixed with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. Any purchase you make by clicking these links will earn me a small commission but will not cost you anything extra. For more details, please read my Disclosure Policy.

No time to read the whole post? Grab the “whats” right here; read the post for the “whys.”

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Domain

If you want to start a blog, the first thing you absolutely need to invest in is a domain name.

What’s a domain? That’s the address of your website. Yes, your blogging business needs a website. Your “blog” will be a component of your website. This will be the place you will direct potential clients to when you meet them. This will be the place search engines will list on their result pages.

Now, look–you can start a free blog on WordPress.com or Blogger. In fact, if you are absolutely new to the blogging world, I encourage you to do just that. Create a free blog and work on it for 30 days. By the end of the month, if you feel you can keep up with the consistent content creation, go ahead and move your blog to a self-hosted site (more about this in the next section).

But, once you come up with a name for your blog, buy that domain right away. Because those things sell like hotcakes. Your chosen name may not be available after 30 days. *Buying your domain name should be priority #1.

Here are some options to buy your domain name:

  • GoDaddy: They are one of the most popular domain registrars in the world. GoDaddy’s registration process is simple and takes literally 5 minutes. Additionally, most available domain names come pretty cheaply for the first year. Subsequent years will typically cost a lot more than the first year. This website, Momchakra.com, is registered with GoDaddy until 2020.
  • *SiteGround: Another up-and-coming domain registrar, *SiteGround is better known for their hosting packages (more on that in a minute). If you buy their hosting package, you can register your domain for free. I cannot talk about their domain registration process because I haven’t done it personally. However, I have gone through their web hosting process and customer services, and trust me, *SiteGround is worth their weight in gold.
  • Namecheap: In the last few months, I have seen Namecheap come up in several discussions. Turns out, their offers are truly cheap. You can buy certain domains for as little as 80 cents…a year! Typically the “.com” extensions are costlier (~$10) than the uncommon extensions, such as .website, .ca, etc ($0.8, $1.88, etc). Again, I do not have any personal experience with Namecheap but you can give them a try.

Bonus Tip: Before making the payment, search Google (or Groupon) for valid promo codes to get additional discounts.

Hosting

Most domain registrars also offer hosting packages for your website files. So, at the time of purchasing your domain name, you can choose to purchase the hosting package from the same company as well.

It may sound reasonable to keep buy the domain name and the hosting package from the same company. However, it’s in your own interest to keep your domain registrar and hosting company separate. This is because if for some reason you decide to change your host company (most likely to be slow site speed or bad customer service), you will most likely want to move your domain too. Then, it’s like setting up your website from the scratch all over again with the new companies. Instead, if you register your domain with one company, you just need to change the name servers (hosting company) details. Here’s a good post that explains why it may be better to go with two separate companies.

Okay, with that out of the way, I recommend *SiteGround as your hosting partner. Their hosting packages are reasonably priced and offer great features. Buy their *StartUp plan, which is targeted at new website owners and is priced at $3.95 per month. But more importantly, their customer service is excellent. And that is important for someone who is just starting out and overwhelmed with 10 other things they have learned. And most likely, they are not tech-savvy either.

As mentioned, almost all domain registrars provide hosting packages. Beside *SiteGround, the following are also popular hosting companies:

Special mention for Squarespace, which is a relatively new kid on the block. Squarespace offers very professional-looking website designs but comes with a subscription fee that is almost priced double of *SiteGround.

Irrespective of which domain registrar and host you choose, make sure you are signing up for these additional services either from your domain registrar or your domain host:

  • SSL: Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL, is a standard security protocol to ensure that any data transmitted between the server and browser is encrypted for security. In simpler terms, no third-party can intercept and read your data. Let’s not discuss the NSA and the CIA here 😉
    Another reason SSL is important for your website is that Google has decided to downrank or eliminate the websites without an SSL certificate from their search result pages. Not showing up on world’s #1 search engine is bound to hurt your business.
  • Domain privacy: Check this! Unless you pay to protect your personal information on the web, it’s up for sale and public consumption. Don’t believe me? Search my website on WhoIs. You will find information about my host partner, domain, and website. But you won’t find my address and phone number because I have paid to protect those details. *I suggest you do too!

Website/Blog Builder

So, you have your domain name and self-hosting package. It’s time to build your website/blog.

But first, you need to choose a blogging platform (technically a content management system or CMS).

At this point, if you are confused about domain, host, and blogging platform, here is the example I like the best: the host server is the building you want to reside in; the domain name is the unique address of that building; the blogging platform is how you decorate your apartment in that building.

The options are aplenty, but WordPress is one of the most popular blogging platform in the worldaround 19,500,000 websites on the entire web use WordPress.

Hosting sites, such as *SiteGround make it really easy for you to install WordPress–in fact, it’s a “one-click installation.” Awesome, right?

At any point, if you get stuck, just chat up one of *SiteGround’s amazing customer care team and they will help you out instantly.

The other common blogging platform you can give a try is Blogger. Google owns this platform. As expected with Google products, a positive user experience is their top priority. Blogger interface is very intuitive and comes with a variety of themes and customization options. Sadly, it is not as robust as a self-hosted WordPress website–as essential for an upcoming or established business.

Squarespace is also a good complete package solution should you choose to go with them.

However, WordPress trumps the aforementioned options because it’s just much more robust than all of them put together. With WordPress, you can select among thousands of free and paid themes and plugins (see next two sections for details).

Theme

A theme is a pre-designed visual template for your website. It is what gives your website its unique look.

After you set up your blogging platform (hopefully WordPress), you will see a default theme that comes with every new blog installation.

Now, it’s time to find a free or paid theme that reflects your brand vision and matches your sense of aesthetics.

Here’s the thing: beauty is a trap and themes are nothing but beautification of your website. As a new blogger and website owner, it’s very likely you will spend hours trying to get the “just right” look for your website.

Don’t.

Find a good free theme and focus on building your content repository. That’s all you need to do when you start a new blog.

Here are three free themes that I think can work wonderfully for your new website/blog.

  • Sydney: This is a great business theme and looks very professional. It can give any paid theme a run for their money. I gave it a try but found that it requires some time to set it up like their demo page. And time is something a preschooler mom lacks. So, I switched to Total.
  • Total: This is the theme I have used for the longest time. Truth be told, there is a lot you can do even with the free version of this theme but right now, my focus is on content building. I am not bothered whether I can create clickable image boxes on my homepage (something the paid version offers). As I grow my blog and start offering products and services, I will need to do that but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
  • Elementor: This is not exactly a theme but a page builder that works with most pre-installed themes. It helps you create customized visual layouts for your posts and pages. This plugin can give any professional page builder a run for their money!

Free themes are great but may not give you hundreds of features that a paid theme will. So, if you feel you need a lot more control on your website, go with a paid theme. But remember, the key to staying within budget is to purchase your NEEDS, not WANTS. And you don’t NEED a paid theme until your business has grown to revenue-generating state.

As of March 2018, I have purchased only one paid theme–*Isabelle from Bluchic and I am happy to recommend it to others. It’s a wonderful, clean theme to work with scores of customization options.

Here are some theme marketplaces and recommended paid themes you can consider:

Plugins

So, now you have your blog/website almost set up. Now it’s time to add some widgets or plugins as WordPress calls them.

Plugins allow you to add additional features to your website/blog, such as a content calendar, legal disclaimers, email collection form, etc.

Note for this section: Those on platforms other than WordPress, please do your own research to find options. Due to my lack of experience with other platforms, I am unable to suggest a resource of similar authority.

When you start a new blog, it’s natural to get carried away and install any and all plugins that promise to boost your profile and reach. However, the downside of installing too many plugins is that it will slow down your website tremendously. Did you know any website that takes more than 3 seconds to load fully is considered a slow website by the Google Gods?

Here’s a list of just the essentials plugins that will keep your new blog or website in good shape.

  • Antispam: Spammers are no longer limited only to your Inbox; they are ready to infest your website too. Most bloggers who start a new website or blog do not know they will be bombarded by spam bots within hours of setting up their blog. These will typically come in the form of incoherent comments on your blog posts. If you are wondering why spam bots are let loose, it’s to leave links on your website, which in turn boosts the owners’ page rank (learn more about SEO techniques, including backlinking, in this post). To block these spammers out, install a free antispam plugin, such as Akismet. From my experience, Akismet is a fantastic antispam plugin that is on point 99.99% of the time.
  • SEO: Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is your secret sauce to finding loyal subscribers. People who find you on SEO are more likely to stick around because they came seeking your content intentionally. They are not random visitors from Facebook promotion thread who are interacting just because they have to as part of the promo thread rule. Therefore, do everything you can to boost your SEO (sign up to receive the Boost Your SEO Juice Cheat Sheet). Make SEO your #1 priority–not FB, not Pinterest–SEO is your long-haul partner. Following are your top 3 options:
    • Yoast SEO: This is a fantastic and probably the most popular free SEO plugin. It comes with pre-defined text fields, which you need to populate for SEO purposes. Additionally, it offers suggestions on things you can do to make your content more SEO-friendly.
      Yoast SEO comes with a paid version too, which allows you to optimize for long-tail keywords, enable redirects if you change your blog or post URL, etc. But really the free version is good enough.
    • All-in-one SEO: This is another popular free SEO plugin with features similar to Yoast.
    • Squirrly: You guys, I recently installed this plugin and I LOVE IT. It is, by far, the most robust SEO boosting plugin I have come across. It’s jam-packed with additional features, such as weekly website audits and reports, suggested copyright-free images, etc. Do give it a try!
  • Social sharing: You can run, you can hide, but you can’t escape–that’s social media for a blogger/business owner.
    • *Social Warfare: This plugin allows you to customize the share buttons so they are consistent with your brand style and colors. You can also choose from some pre-designed button styles. Plus the cool feature of having a floating set of buttons that moves with your readers’ scroll direction. This ensures your readers don’t need to search for the share buttons if they want to share. I used the free *Social Warfare plugin for about a month before upgrading to the pro version ($29 annually) because it’s just so bloody good! Here’s a look at the features of the pro version over the free version.
    • Sumo: Another diamond in the dirt, Sumo also offers a free and a paid plan with features similar to that of *Social Warfare. But Sumo does more. It’s a hybrid between a social sharing plugin (like *Social Warfare) and an email service provider (like *MailerLite). Yes, Sumo allows you to create landing pages and build an email list. The only downside to Sumo is that it slows the website down to a great deal. I have seen a difference of up to 3 seconds full load with and without Sumo. On the internet, 3 seconds is a big deal!
    • Jetpack: This plugin is a multi-utility one. With this one plugin, you can add social share buttons, see analytics data, image optimization, additional themes, downtime monitoring, auto-publish to social media, etc. Jetpack is a fantastic starter plugin but you know what they say about the master of all trades…

  • Image optimization:
    Images play an integral role in a website. They not only add visual relief but are meant to complement or supplement the text-based content. However, images can quickly slow your site down and eat into your web space.

The following plugins help reduce the size of image files (compress) on your website, thus saving you web space and speeding up your website. The difference can be up to 70% in most cases.

    • WPSmush: A very basic image optimization plugin, WPSmush is a very unobtrusive plugin that goes about doing its job in the background. WPSmush saves you a lot of time by processing the images on a bulk basis, i.e., it optimizes images as you upload them and can even compress several images together in the background while you go about your blogging business. And yes, do not be worried about the loss of image quality because WPSmush compresses but doesn’t compromise (the quality, i.e.).
    • ShortPixel: This free plugin offers a free and a paid version. I installed the free version, which allows you to compress 100 images every month. However, at the time of install, I had about 143 images on my website so the plugin stopped processing after it reached the limit of 100. However, three months have since passed and by default, I should have been able to compress 300 more images. But I haven’t been able to compress any additional images. I would like to believe it’s some kind of a glitch with my website because I have heard really great reviews of this plugin.

Contact Form

If you want your readers to contact you, they can either email you or they can submit their query in a contact form. Both these contact details should be included in your Contact, About, Services/Work with Me page(s), etc.

Contact Form 7 is a simple form-based plugin that collects your readers’ Name, Email, and Query/Suggestion.

Remember though that any emails collected through these type of contact forms or emails can NOT be tallied toward your email list. It’s illegal because the reader has shared their email ID to contact you. To join your email list, the readers need to express written interest and intent for doing so.

Therefore, Contact Form 7 allows you to add an acceptance checkbox for any condition, including joining your email list. If you reader checks that box, you can manually add that person to your email list.

Email, Sign up Forms, & Lead Magnets

Your email subscriber list is the biggest asset of your business. It allows you to be in touch with your existing and potential clients and that’s what makes money.

You can use Sumo or Contact Form to collect emails but you cannot email your subscribers using personal email services, such as GMail, Yahoo, and whatever other services are out there. That’s illegal.

For marketing emails, you need to sign up for services created especially for marketing.

The good news is that there are plenty of options to choose from. Some services even provide free services until you reach a certain number of subscribers. Others charge a monthly fee right from the beginning.

For a new blogger on a budget, I highly recommend *MailerLite.

  • Mailchimp: *THIS ISN’T A RECOMMENDATION. THIS IS A RANT.* When I started blogging professionally, I signed up for the free account of Mailchimp. It seemed to be a popular option and it was free for up to 2,000 subscribers! Wow! I thought I had hit the jackpot. But the frustration of using Mailchimp started soon after. It wasn’t intuitive to use and a truckload of headache. The opt-in form designs were amateurish and it reflected on my signup rates. But worst still, open rates were abysmal and I wondered why. Turns out, emails from Mailchimp are known for getting dumped into the Spam folder. So, if the subscriber can’t see your email, how will they open it? The nightmare didn’t end here. One fine day, I got a notification and an email from Mailchimp saying I had violated their terms of use and so they are disabling certain features on my account. Say what? What terms could I have violated? I wasn’t even marketing or selling anything; I didn’t include affiliate links in the email; heck, I wasn’t even talking about making money online (all things Mailchimp apparently doesn’t allow). So, I wrote to them asking what terms did I violate. It’s been 9 months and I haven’t heard from them. Here’s a screenshot from this morning.

So, what I am saying is, even if you are on a budget, don’t sign up with Mailchimp. Or do it, but at your own risk. There are many bloggers who use Mailchimp and seem happy using it but I do NOT recommend them.

  • *MailerLite: After the Mailchimp debacle, I found *MailerLite. It offered a free account but up to 1,000 subscribers. I thought to myself, “Well, 1,000 is a big number. Even though I am losing out on 1,000 more free subscribers–compared to Mailchimp–I should give this a try.” You guys, from the moment I started using *MailerLite, I wanted to cry tears of happiness. It was soooooooooooo easy to use and I could create pretty opt-ins. But more importantly, *MailerLite was offering the automation feature even for a free account (at that time, Mailchimp automation was a paid service). Automation helps create a process that sends out prewritten emails to all new subscribers, or to subscribers who complete a certain task and sets of the “trigger.” *MailerLite also allows you to create beautiful landing pages and sign up forms and most features that paid services offer. For all new bloggers and future business owners, I recommend *MailerLite with my eyes closed.
  • ConvertKit: This is one of the favorite email services of most bloggers these days. I had the opportunity to use it for two months free of cost because of a promo they were running. I found that the setup process was a little advanced for an absolute beginner but once you are set up, ConvertKit is a breeze. They offer very advanced features, such as tagging your subscribers according to their current place in the blogging journey, or any roadmap for that matter. You can dive deep into getting to know your subscribers with ConvertKit. *MailerLite also provides this “tagging” feature but it’s very limited. The reason I didn’t jump on the ConvertKit bandwagon was that I wasn’t ready to pay for this service yet. My email list is not very long (300 odd) at the moment and I have open rates in the high 40s. I think I can live with *MailerLite for several more months. When the time comes, I will have to decide whether I want to upgrade to *MailerLite’s paid plan or switch completely to ConvertKit.
  • *Interact: I spoke about using Contact Form to collect email IDs but also mentioned that you need to have a special checkbox to ensure people who contact you also want to join your email list. The other way to collect subscribers is offering your readers a free resource–known as a lead magnet–and asking them for their email IDs in exchange. Typically, you would create a short PDF document with exclusive tips or a cheat sheet as your lead magnet. But another fantastic and more engaging way to collect emails is to have them take a quiz. The quiz is tied to an actionable blog post or list of action items and to see that list, the reader gives you her email ID. If you’d like to create your own quizzes, give *Interact a try. They offer a fantastic quiz builder that is intuitive and easy to use. Their help center is a gold mine to equip you with product tutorials as well as done-for-you quizzes that you simply need to embed on your website.
  • Freebie delivery: If you choose to create a digital, downloadable lead magnet, you need a way to deliver it. The easiest way to do this is to upload your free resource on Dropbox or Amazon Web Services (AWS) and then provide the link to the file in your email created on *MailerLite or your chosen service provider. These are all free options you can use when you start a new blog.

Content Creation

The beauty of blogging is that you can create content and graphic for free and sell it for a profit. This is why so many people love the online business–the investment is just a fraction of what a physical product business or even a service requires.

Text

As a blogger, you can write your content directly into your blogging platform’s Authorware. But, if you work from multiple places (home, coffee shop, park, traveling etc.) and need access to your content at all times, Google is always there to rescue you.

Use Google Docs to write your content or create your lead magnet; use Google Slides to create your webinar presentations or more visual lead magnets; use Google Sheets to track your blog growth or expenses; and use Google Forms to survey your readers.

All four resources sync across all your devices and can even be used “offline,” that is when you have no or poor internet connection.

Graphics

Images not only add to the aesthetics of your website but when used intentionally, they can be fantastic supplementary and/or complementary resources for your blog. However, good images and illustrations come at a cost.

Enter free stock images.

Stock images refer to generic images that are available to the public for free or paid use. Earlier, stock images were usually low quality or were badly composed. But nowadays, you can find very high-quality, professional-style images for free.

To get these images you don’t have to pay (but you can get even better images or a bundle for a few bucks and you own them forever).

I use the following two websites to download fantastic, copyright-free images…for free.

However, the downside to free stock images is that every second blogger is also using the same images. Also, one never knows when the terms of use may change. Do your due diligence before downloading any “free” photos.  

If you want your graphics to be customized and personal, but more importantly free of copyright hassles, consider using your own photos. You could either click your own photos (free, free, free!!) or you could hire someone to do this for you (may get pricey!). YouTube is full of tutorials on how to take your own professional-looking photos.

Once you have source images, you may want to edit those or compose a new image by combining other graphics or text elements to your existing photos. Use Canva for free image editing. Canva offers a lot of features to create or customize your blog graphics or social media graphics. It’s a lot for a free resource. However, if you upgrade to a paid plan or choose a service like PicMonkey (also paid), you get a lot more control to create even better graphics.

Social Media Schedulers

You don’t need schedulers to see your social media grow. It takes a little more time and effort to see growth without the schedulers but social media schedulers are examples of NEED vs. WANT.

I do not use any free or paid schedulers. That is to say, I don’t schedule anything on social media. I put aside 15 minutes every morning to live post on Pinterest, Facebook, StumbleUpon, and Twitter. Then throughout the day, I pin and tweet three more times–each time pinning 3 pins or tweeting three posts of which 1 is my own. That’s it!

Did I forget to tell you that social media is my highest source of traffic, especially Pinterest (57%) and Facebook (36%)? That said, my business goal this year is to optimize my posts fully such that they rank on first of the result pages. Here’s what I am doing to push my rank up.

However, if you would like to schedule (remember you still need to put aside time to schedule too), here are some free or trial options that you can upgrade to paid options.

  • Buffer allows free scheduling up to 10 posts per account at any given time
  • Tailwind offers free trial up to 100 pins and 30 Instagram posts
  • Board Booster offers a free trial for 10 days and up to 500 pins
  • Hootsuite offers a free trial for 30 days with all paid features
  • Facebook native scheduler

Learning

Know that the field you have chosen to be your profession is constantly evolving. As a savvy business owner, you need to be on top of things. You have to be aware of what the latest trends are and what strategies are working.

Lucky for you, bloggers are giving away a lot of information for free in exchange for your email ID (remember lead magnets?) Just keep your eyes open and sign up for the best free courses, weekly podcasts, Facebook groups, and webinars hosted by gurus who have proven results.

Here are a few free courses/resources, which in my opinion are as good as any paid courses in the market.

Now, you can find all the information online for free but that takes time. Alternatively, invest in quality courses that are affordable and provide a ton of value. I have personally bought these courses and found immense value in them.

  • *Blog by Number by Suzi Whitford: This is a great resource for a beginner blogger. The course is packed with information–blog set up, image creation, lead magnet creation, finding subscribers, etc.
  • *List by Number by Suzi Whitford: If you want to get serious about building your email list, buy *List by Number. Suzi details the process in great detail. While she bases the content on ConvertKit, the learning can be applied to any email platform.
  • *Find Your Tribe Online by Jen Snyder: While Suzi’s course, *Blog by Number, is geared primarily toward a beginner, Jen’s course targets those who are past the set-up stage. *Find Your Tribe Online will help you find and connect with your ideal niche audience. Jen gives you information on hundreds of Pinterest Groups, Facebook Groups, and guest blogging opportunities you can leverage to “find your tribe online.” She even gives you email scripts you can send to the group and blog owners to help you join.
  • *Fantastic Freebies by Jen Snyder: You know how important it is to grow your email list. As discussed earlier, offering free lead magnets to your readers in a great way of building your email list. *Fantastic Freebies helps you create high-value lead magnets that have a higher chance of converting. Honestly, you will find an overview of this information in *Blog by Number, *List by Number, as well as *Find Your Tribe Online, but *Fantastic Freebies goes a lot deeper because that’s the focus of the course.
  • *Blogging to Win by Allison Lindstrom: This course is an extraordinarily detailed course for bloggers at all levels–beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Yes, this is a tiered course and you get to choose the depth of information you require for your own needs. What sets *Blogging to Wins apart from Suzi’s and Jen’s courses is that it’s very clearly a course for professional blogging. Blogging to Win Intermediate package starts with articulating your blog vision, goals, business plan, etc. much before diving into blog set up, lead magnets, etc.
  • Paid conferences: Good conferences are pricier than most courses but allow you to not only learn from the best but also allow you the opportunity and privilege to meet other bloggers, business owners, and mentors in person. Popular blogging conferences include BlogHer, FinCon, and Mom 2.0.

To recover the cost or to pay for paid options, monetize your blog. Be sure to invest 100% of your earnings back into the business until you start earning an ROI of 100%.

Now you know how to start and run a blog on a budget. There is no denying you will eventually need to start investing in your business to see big number growth, save while and where you can. You can do it!

Okay, I am winded now!

If someone you know can benefit from this massive blog post, please share it with them.

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How to start blogging when you are on a budget

How to Monetize Your Blog

How to start a profitable blog” – I am sure you have seen these words floating around on search engines and social media platforms. And for good reason too! Take a look at this startling statistic: according to HostingFacts.com, “the internet influenced sales to the tune of $2.1 trillion in 2016.”

$2.1 TRILLION!

Being a business owner is not a dream reserved only for a handful of people anymore. Anyone with special skills can create and sell their products or services without even having to invest in a brick and mortar physical storefront.

If you sit to think of at least five industries that aren’t online yet, you will just be wasting your time. Almost every industry in some way or the other has an online presence. And taking advantage of this digitization wave are online business owners. Bloggers are a subsegment of this online business owner community.

Bloggers have grown to be online influencers endorsing products and services they have discovered and loved or hate. Or, it could be their own product or service.

Brands are making a beeline for such influencers in hopes of reaching new audience/potential customers. Also word-of-mouth marketing.

Remember the $2.1 trillion?

If you have started a blog in the last year, you most likely want to monetize your blog and earn an income too. You may want to be one of those online influencers who seal the fate of business they like or dislike. Or, you may want to put your own business online and run a blog as a knowledge service.

But is it sustainable to run a blog without earning any revenue? Perhaps not. After all, there are certain operational expenses–such as, domain, hosting, email service, etc.–that need to be taken care of regularly. And of course, if after paying for all these costs, you earn a profit, that’s just a sweet deal.

How to Monetize Your Blog

Explore the three most common blog monetization strategies and find out if you are monetizing your blog the right way?

The Three Types of Monetization Strategies

How you choose to monetize your business will essentially fall under one or all of the following monetization strategies:

While some niches can leverage all three sources, others may be better suited to leverage one. Before knowing which one is best for your website, let’s explore the pros and cons of each strategy.

Disclaimer: All links prefixed with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. Any purchase you make by clicking these links will earn me a small commission but will not cost you anything extra. For more details, please read my Disclosure Policy.

Income from sponsorship and/or affiliation

Sponsorship and affiliation are not the same.

Sponsorship refers to established or upcoming brands offering a monetary compensation in exchange for a mention or full-fledged review from you.

Typically, you will include links to the brand’s website or offering in your blog post so that your readers can visit them. In exchange, you receive either money or access to the free product and/or service that you are endorsing.

Affiliation refers to recommending products and/or services that you truly believe in. The brand doesn’t pay you in exchange for your mention–unless, of course, you make a sale. Then, you earn a commission–a percentage–of the sale price.

For example, I use and recommend my website host, *SiteGround. If you purchase any of SiteGround’s plan by clicking the link I included above, it will earn me a few dollars.

Similarly, I wholeheartedly endorse *Blog By Number, an eCourse by Suzi Whitford, to anyone who is looking to start or is in the early stages of their blogging journey.

The difference between sponsorship and affiliation is the guaranteed compensation. While sponsorship means you are sure to receive a compensation, affiliate marketing requires you to actively promote the products and/or services without guaranteed compensation unless you make a sale.

In both cases, you must remember to add a disclosure statement (about the guaranteed or potential compensation) and mark all brand links as “nofollow” links. Not doing so can affect your listing in search engine result pages adversely and may even land you in a legal soup.

Additionally, ensure that the brands, products, and/or services that you endorse are not only relevant to your niche but are also in alignment with your values and principles. It helps even more if you have personally used and liked the product or service in question.

I know it may seem profitable to promote as many products and/or services as you can and hope some of those will stick, I would recommend picking and recommending no more than 5-7 brands/products/services on a regular basis.

Once you zero-in on your options, be sure to read the brands’ Terms and Conditions to learn how you can promote their offerings. For example, Amazon neither allows you to modify their affiliate links nor do they allow you to include their affiliate links in emails.

Income from Display Advertisement Banners

Displaying third-party advertisement banners on your website is one of the most popular methods of earning an income. This monetization strategy, in the truest sense, is an example of earning passive income.

You may have heard of Google Adsense or Mediavine–those are examples of third-party advertising networks.

These networks rent predetermined space on your website to display their advertisements. How these translate to income for you depends on the Terms and Conditions of the agreement.

For example, Google Adsense will track each visitor on your website and show them targeted advertisements from third parties in the designated ad space(s). You get paid if a visitor clicks the advertisement (pay per click).

Some networks simply pay you per 1000 views (pay per view).

In both cases (pay per click and pay per view), the amount isn’t the best. So unless your blog traffic is at least in 5 figures, don’t expect too much from this income stream.

Income from Selling Your Own Products and/or Services

My favorite.

If you have a product or service that others can benefit from, put it up for sale.

Except it’s not THAT easy. In fact, it’s the most difficult of the three monetization strategies.

First of all, you NEED to have a product or a service that you can offer. Maybe you already have a product or service, maybe you have an idea but nothing concrete yet, or maybe you haven’t even given this option a thought yet.

So, write down what special skills you have and what kind of products or services you can offer because of those skills. Can you write an eBook that helps new entrepreneurs change their money mind blocks? Can you create an eCourse that helps homeschooling moms teach better? Can you write email sequences for other bloggers? Can you be a fitness coach to people who want to build lean muscles? Can you be someone’s maternity photographer?

The options are unlimited. It can be as common or as uncommon as you make it.

However, make sure you are truly equipped to create that product or service offering.

Be prepared to put in some extra effort right from ideation to after-sale. As you become familiar with the process, things will become easier each time and you won’t be spending as much time modifying or marketing your offerings.

Make the offering so awesome that word-of-mouth becomes your biggest marketing tool.  

Curious to know which monetization strategy is best-suited for your business/niche?

Take this quiz!

[interact id=”5a58ec4fa188390014233b06″ type=”quiz”]

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Explore the three most common blog monetization strategies and find out if you are monetizing your blog the right way?

The Ultimate Guide to a High-Converting Lead Magnet

Synopsis: A lead magnet or an optin freebie is a free resource you give away to your readers in exchange for their email IDs. This post explores the frequently asked questions (FAQ) related to lead magnets.


As a business owner, one of your main goals is to find leads and convert them into paying customers. Right? But how do you find those customers? In a brick-and-mortar business, your shop is your proof of concept but you may also mail flyers and possibly drop an advertisement in the local newspaper.

But what are your options in the blog world?

Well, you embrace the most popular medium of communication in the digital world–the email.

I tell you the email is the greatest invention of all times, especially for an introvert like me. I can open it when I want, I can mute it, I can ignore it, I can draft a reply for 1 hour and send then it…and for the most part, there is no “read receipt.”

Email is also a great medium for starting conversations. Recipients feel secure and in control of the situation (see above) while you still get to pitch your thoughts and offers.

But remember, you cannot send an unsolicited email pitching your awesome products or services without expressed and written interest from the recipient. Even thinking of doing so could get you sued!

So, how do you get that precious email ID to build your own email subscribers’ list?

You work for it! You earn it! You provide value.

Enter lead magnets.

The Ultimate Guide to a High-Converting Lead Magnet

A lead magnet or an optin freebie is a free resource you give away to your readers in exchange for their email IDs. This post explores the frequently asked questions (FAQ) related to lead magnets.

What is a lead magnet?

A lead magnet (or opt-in resource, freebie, etc.) is an additional piece of information or a tool that will help your readers accomplish certain goals. Think of it like a job-aid or a ready reckoner that your readers would refer to while completing a specific task or a series of tasks.

In the blogging world, lead magnets are typically either attached to your overall brand or to specific posts. You put the free information or tool behind a sign-up form and interested readers provide their email IDs in exchange for access to the resource. Typically, these resources are absolutely free.

When attached to the overall brand, lead magnets encompass a wider content idea while the ones attached to specific posts (also known as “content upgrade”) are more specific to the post they are attached to. For example, suppose you are a food blogger: your high-level lead magnet could be an eBook about “Meal Planning” or an “Affordable Food Pyramid” whereas your content upgrade could be a printable recipe card for each recipe you post.

Why should I create a lead magnet?

Lead magnets or opt-in freebies are a great way to build your email list. Basically, you barter your knowledge for your readers’ email ID.

Traditionally, opt-ins (or job-aids, as they are called in the Learning & Development circles) were provided to students as a ready reckoner or reference material–something they can print out and stick on their soft board. For example, Math students may want all trigonometry formulas in one place along with mnemonics to help them remember the formulas. Or, call center employees may want to refer to a checklist for every customer call they receive. So, in essence, lead magnets are nothing but tools to aid the user in completing their job.

But in the blogging world, which has now grown to be a mix of teaching + selling, job-aids (or opt-ins, if you will) are being created for the additional purpose of gaining email subscribers.

Related Posts

(Actually, you don’t sell on your blog; you sell on your website of which your blog is a component.)

These resources help your reader gain additional knowledge on a particular topic you teach. Typically, this knowledge is complementary and/or supplementary in nature and builds off of what you have already covered in an existing blog post or series. Remember not to include radically new or unrelated information in your opt-in resources.

Mobile users, click here to sign up. You get 20 lead magnet formats + 35 lead magnet ideas across 7 profitable niches.

How often should I create a free lead magnet?

There is no correct answer to this. You can do this as often or as infrequently as you want. What is important, however, is that your lead magnet is truly representative of your brand. Don’t force yourself to create a free content upgrade for every post. Some niches allow for more opportunities than others.

That said, what I do and recommend is to plan your content calendar in such a way that there is a new sign-up opportunity for visitors every two or three months. Any fewer than this frequency and your readers may lose interest. Any more and basically your lead magnet, even though it is free, will sit in their Downloads folder and never see the light of the day.

Also, I have read a few bloggers who say that your free lead magnet should be easy to create and not time-consuming. But what is left unsaid is that anything and everything you offer your readers must still be “high-quality,” including your free lead magnet. After all, these are your gateways to your readers Inbox. Honor their trust.

How should I deliver lead magnets?

Your choice.

As mentioned before, in the blogosphere, lead magnets are used as a way to gain email IDs. You may choose to include a link to your resource in the Thank You page of your opt-in form or in an actual email.

Another related question that often pops up is “should I host all my lead magnets in a single library, or should I create separate “events” for each lead magnet?”

Again, it’s your personal choice.

However, one massive advantage of creating separate sign-up events for each lead magnet is that you get to segment your email list according to their interests.

For example, if someone signed up to receive my SEO checklist, I know they are interested in learning about SEO. In future, if I ever have something special to share about SEO tools or techniques, I know who would be interested.

On the other hand, if I have a global sign-up button to my “library” or “vault,” there is no way for me to know who downloaded what. I imagine that’s a missed opportunity to know your audience better.

Should you email new freebies to your existing email subscribers?

Your email subscribers should get first dibs on everything you create. Of course, I assume you have already segmented them and know what resources and offers they are truly interested in.

Additionally, it’s highly likely that even though someone signed up to be on your email list, they don’t actively follow your blog. In that case, they will miss out on your awesome lead magnet.

Makes sense? I thought so.  

What are the features of an effective opt-in form and landing page?

Without an effective opt-in form/landing page, your readers won’t be interested in your free resource. And you already know the importance of getting those readers interested.

This is the meat of the matter.

However, the opt-in form, or the landing page depending on how you want to promote your resource, deserves its own post. I will write a separate blog post soon detailing the design of an effective opt-in form and/or landing page. There’s a lot to cover there.

Broadly though, there are some quick tips you should incorporate in your copy:

  • Write a super-inviting headline. Click here to get some ideas on crafting compelling headline in this post I wrote.
  • Highlight the problem that your resource will help solve. What is your reader struggling with? Why have you created this freebie? What can they do better if they download your freebie? Identify your potential client’s pain points and highlight those. Additionally, where possible, outline the features and benefits of your resource–how can your lead magnet help them–without giving away too much information. Typically this is difficult to do in a typical freebie opt-in form versus a full-fledged sales page but do what you can.
  • Ensure the form’s aesthetics are simple and clean. I know there are some forms that are a riot of colors and elements but also remember those designs complement their owners’ personalities. Take a cue from your writing…for example, I write in a casual language but it’s not as carefree as some others. If I blast up my opt-in form with confetti bits, it will absolutely go against the understated aesthetics of my “brand.”
  • Do not ask for more information from the user than necessary. To me, first name and email ID are the only two pieces of information you should need. Some may even be happy with just the email ID. And yet, I came across a form a few weeks ago that asked for my zip code and phone number. That person lost a potential customer even before a sign-up.
  • Pay attention to the Call-to-Action (“Sign Up”) button. According to several studies (here’s one), the use of a contrasting color–especially reds and oranges–in the CTA button increases the chances of a sign-up. Additionally, modifying the default CTA text “Sign Up” also helps increase sign-ups. Change the default CTA text to a first-person action such that the reader feels compelled to take action. For example, instead of “Sign Up,” you can write “Send me the freebie,” Ï am interested,” or something such.

Mobile users, click here to sign up. You get 20 lead magnet formats + 35 lead magnet ideas across 7 profitable niches.

Should I use a Single Opt-in form or a Double Opt-in form?

To begin with, read this article outlining the differences between the single opt-in and the double opt-in processes.

Single opt-in may be easier to sign up with, but it may also leave your Inbox more vulnerable.

A single opt-in form doesn’t require the user to confirm that the email address they have entered is valid. Sometimes, a user may enter an incorrect email ID due to a typing error, or simply because they don’t want to reveal their primary email ID. In both cases, you will be riddled with email IDs that serve you no good because nobody will ever be opening your emails.

You could, however, purge your email list monthly or quarterly and remove the “bad IDs.”

On the other hand, a double opt-in form mandates that the user confirm their email ID by completing an action right from my Inbox. Once they confirm, they can access the free resource on the delivery platform you have chosen (over email, over a blog page, over Dropbox, etc.)

Of course, there is no guarantee that users who signed up via the double opt-in process will open all your emails in the future but at least you can be sure it’s landing in an active Inbox.

My personal choice is a double opt-in.

Getting your emails opened is another story. Here’s a great article to help you get higher open rates.

What are the features of an actual lead magnet?

This is what it all comes down to–the actual resource. The meat of the matter. The final product your readers have traded their email IDs for. Make it worth their while.

  • Deliver the product in a web-friendly and printer-friendly manner: Consider delivering your printable products as a PDF document or a Google document instead of an MS Word or Mac Pages document. The former are web-optimized and easy to print compared to the latter options. PDF file sizes are less than MS Word/Pages too while Google doc resides on the Web.
  • Turn down the colors: There is no denying that colors add a lot of vibrancy. However, please be mindful of your readers’ resources and avoid a “full-color experience.” 20 pages of colored pages will use up their cartridges sooner than they thought. It’s not something most people think about but it’s good to err on the side of caution. Alternatively, you could give your readers the option to choose between a “colorful” and a “pastel,” “minimalist,” or “black-and-white” format.
  • Fulfill the promise: MOST IMPORTANT. Make sure the resource delivers the promise you made. I would be really mad if I saw a “Your Own Social Media Calendar” in the opt-in form and it turns out to be just a stylized, blank calendar.
  • Keep it short: The days of giving away 80-page eBooks are gone. No one has the time to sit and read those many pages. What your lead magnet should do instead is summarise those 80 pages and hand them a 5-pager. That’s what your readers will thank you for. Make things easy for them.
  • Provide instructions and guidance, where needed: Your lead magnet should be an easy tool to use. However, if at all, it needs to be explained, please make sure you include the instructions. For example, an Excel worksheet containing formulas may need some instructions for users who are not Excel savvy.

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A lead magnet or an optin freebie is a free resource you give away to your readers in exchange for their email IDs. This post explores the frequently asked questions (FAQ) related to lead magnets.

TED Talks: 5 More Inspirational Talks You Should Watch

Way back in June 2017, I had posted a list of 5 inspirational TED Talks. That post is still my highest traffic source. I had no idea it would attract so many readers. But then it dawned on me that the post is so popular because it has met its objective–to motivate others.

The scope of that post, of course, was very broad because it could be a motivator for anyone and everyone and not just my niche audience. After all, each one of us needs a dose of inspiration every now and then.

Between our work responsibilities and family responsibilities, most of have very little time left for self-care. I do not mean the self-care that involves long showers and relaxing massages, or just 30 minutes alone time without a child hanging by your shoulders. You absolutely must make time for all of that…and more! You deserve it! But additionally, I want you to make time to stimulate your mind and soul too.

And so, I have decided to put together a TED Talk series for my readers. I will search the TED website and curate a list of 5 most amazing talks I find in there. I will publish this list for public consumption once every quarter.

Let’s get started. 

Feel like you are stuck in a rut? Watch 5 awe-inspiring TED Talks to challenge your status quo.

Disclaimer: All synopses are from the TED website.

TED Talk #1: Free Yourself From Your Filter Bubbles

Duration: 9:18 minutes

Synopsis

Joan Blades and John Gable want you to make friends with people who vote differently than you do. A pair of political opposites, the two longtime pals know the value of engaging in honest conversations with people you don’t immediately agree with. Join them as they explain how to bridge the gaps in understanding between people on opposite sides of the political spectrum — and create opportunities for mutual listening and consideration (and, maybe, lasting friendships).

Direct Link 

TED Talk #2: What Makes Something Go Viral

Duration: 10:29 minutes

Synopsis

What’s the secret to making content people love? Join BuzzFeed’s Publisher Dao Nguyen for a glimpse at how her team creates their tempting quizzes, lists and videos — and learn more about how they’ve developed a system to understand how people use content to connect and create culture.

Direct Link

TED Talk #3: Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

Duration: 10:54 minutes

Synopsis

Luvvie Ajayi isn’t afraid to speak her mind or to be the one dissenting voice in a crowd, and neither should you. “Your silence serves no one,” says the writer, activist and self-proclaimed professional troublemaker. In this bright, uplifting talk, Ajayi shares three questions to ask yourself if you’re teetering on the edge of speaking up or quieting down — and encourages all of us to get a little more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Direct Link

TED Talk #4: The Future of Storytelling

Duration: 21:59 minutes

Synopsis

“We all feel a compelling need to watch stories, to tell stories … to discuss the things that tell each one of us that we are not alone in the world,” says TV titan Shonda Rhimes. A dominant force in television since “Grey’s Anatomy” hit the airwaves, Rhimes discusses the future of media networks, how she’s using her narrative-building skills as a force for good, an intriguing concept known as “Amish summers” and much more, in conversation with Cyndi Stivers, director of the TED Residency.

Direct Link

TED Talk #5: 12 Truths I Learned From Life and Writing

Duration: 15:55 minutes

Synopsis

A few days before she turned 61, writer Anne Lamott decided to write down everything she knew for sure. She dives into the nuances of being a human who lives in a confusing, beautiful, emotional world, offering her characteristic life-affirming wisdom and humor on family, writing, the meaning of God, death and more.

Direct Link

That’s it for this quarter. To receive one inspiring TED Talk video in your Inbox every week, please sign up for our mailing list.

I hope this post lifted your spirits as it did for me.

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Feel like you are stuck in a rut? Watch 5 awe-inspiring TED Talks to fuel the fire in your belly.

How to Create a Quiz That Converts

Have you heard of Buzzfeed quizzes? Never mind; scrap that because I know you have. New question: have you tried a Buzzfeed or similar quiz? Come on, no shame! I have taken SO many quizzes it’s embarrassing. Here are some I remember:

  • Which Disney princess are you?
  • Which city should to move to?
  • Which vegetable are you? (Say, what?!)
  • What type of a mom are you? (Panda!)
  • Are you a bad mom? :-O (Okay, this was around the time the movie Bad Moms was showing, but I tell you, mom guilt is real!)

That said, over time, these quizzes faded into the oblivion because I stopped using my personal Facebook profile. It was part of my “simplify life” action plan. That was two years ago. If it weren’t for Momchakra.com and its FB page, I wouldn’t be on Facebook at all.

Disclaimer: All links prefixed with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. Any purchase you make by clicking these links will earn me a small commission but will not cost you anything extra. For more details, please read my Disclosure Policy.

Anyway, back to the quizzes. Recently, I was introduced to *Interact, a quiz builder aimed at lead generation. And I thought “hey that’s a very cool idea!” Online quizzes don’t have to be silly; they can be used for education too. After all, that’s why someone came up with the concept of quizzing. Right?

So then, what if you could use quizzes to help your readers identify their strengths and weakness or find their life or career paths? All the while still growing your brand by generating leads!

That’s exactly what *Interact does.

How to Create a Quiz That Converts

Quizzing your niche audience is a solid way of building engagement. But what if quizzes could also help you build your email list? Introducing Interact, a quiz builder that helps you not only generate brilliant quizzes but also multiple leads.

Why you should create a quiz

Any idea why these quizzes are so popular among users of all age groups? Curiosity, yes but also the element of interaction is a great lure.

As a blogger, you publish a lot of content and your readers lap it all up. But do you know who among all your readers benefit the most from your content? The ones who retain the information. Typically, these are people who write notes or key learning points from your published content. In other words, they interact with your content passively.

Interaction is a very powerful way of drawing your readers into your realm. It gives them the sense of being in control because of active engagement. Engaged readers are absolutely primed for investing in your brand–mentally if not monetarily.

How YOU can use a quiz to generate leads

As a blogger, there is a lot you can do with quizzes. But for the purpose of a lead-generating system, like *Interact, you can create quizzes that help your readers:

  • Identify their strengths and weaknesses
  • Provide a roadmap for growth
  • Select a product or service you offer
  • Provide entertainment (BuzzFeed-ish)

Consequently, as a businessperson, these quizzes will help you:

  • Gain insights into your niche audience
  • Segregate your audience into relevant email sequences and sales funnels
  • Build engagement
  • Break monotony

Ready to start creating your own quizzes?

Download your free list of engaging quiz ideas!

Features of an effective quiz (and how you can create one)

  • Choose a relevant topic: Before anything else, make sure the quiz is relevant to your readers. Make it fun (or silly–your choice!) or seriously educational, but it should ultimately be about the information your readers are looking for. For example, if the goal of your quiz is to collect emails, create it for people who would be willing to trade their email IDs for your content. Make the quiz very targeted, just as you do for your content.
  • Use informal language: Write in the second person, as if talking to your audience. And make it personal. Earn your reader’s trust. Highly formal language acts as a hindrance to building relationships. It will deter your audience from investing their time and energy in your quiz.
  • Write a compelling headline: Spend some time coming up with a headline that will piqué your readers’ curiosity. This will be your audience’s first impression of your quiz. Write a headline that is engaging, relevant, and clear. If you need help coming up with compelling headlines, read this post I wrote earlier.
  • Add a descriptive subheading: Sometimes–not always–you may need to write a subheading that describes the goal of the quiz in a more descriptive way. This will usually happen when your headline elicits curiosity but is vague. For example, Which Disney Princess Are You? Is a great headline but which characteristics of a princess personality are the quiz focussing on is unclear–is it their wistfulness, leadership, beauty, and so on. Alternatively, you could also use the subheading to deliver the benefit of participating in the quiz. How will the reader benefit by attempting your quiz?
  • Ask relevant questions: Once you have decided the headlines and style, it’s time to draft the question stem. Unless you are an entertainment channel, you should write useful, realistic questions. Your readers will go to BuzzFeed if they want to binge-participate in whimsical quizzes. They come to you for information. Make it worth their while. For example, if you quiz title is “What is your blogging personality?” you should avoid questions that ask them who their favorite US President of all time is! It’s just not relevant.
  • Present plausible options: As with the question stem, write options that are plausible. For example: If you quiz is “How much money will you make this week from your side hustle?” it’s highly unlikely it would be “1 million US dollars.” Don’t offer what you cannot provide.
  • Write positive results: Your readers have invested their time and energy in your quiz for this–the result. In a lead-generating quiz, you will collect the readers’ email IDs right before the results and instead of displaying the result on the current page, you will email the results to them. Now, here comes the important part: when they open your “result” email, they are curious and hopeful. They want to see a result that is relevant but also inspiring, positive, and uplifting. Nobody wants to be told they are losers and there is no hope for them. Craft your results in a way that is sensitive and personal. You will also earn brownie points if the result includes action items for the readers–what can they do to improve the status quo?

I would recommend spending the most time writing your results page followed by the headline. If you are creating a personality quiz, come up with the personality types (results) first and then work backward to create the quiz content.

And there you have it–the secret to creating an awesome quiz. If you want to create your own quiz, *Interact makes it really easy for you to do that. You simply populate some text fields, select the HTML code generated by the *Interact system, and paste it into your website’s content window. Their interface is easy-to-use and comes with a great set of user manuals.

As if that wasn’t enough, I have put together a list of ideas you can use to create your quizzes. It’s all yours for free. 

Pin for later. Quizzing your niche audience is a solid way of building engagement. But what if quizzes could also help you build your email list? Introducing Interact, a quiz builder that helps you not only generate brilliant quizzes but also multiple leads.

How to Promote Your Content (and Not Just on Social Media)

You have created an awesome piece of content–be it a blog post, a video, or a podcast episode–but no one knows about it. Not until you put it out for others to see it. For a new blogger, getting organic traffic is mostly unheard of. That’s because ranking on search engine result pages takes a lot of hard work and time. While you improve your SEO skills, you need to find other places to promote your content and attract blog traffic.

For those of you who downloaded the Boost Your SEO Cheat Sheet, you would have noticed that promoting your content on social media platform plays a huge role in getting your brand name out there.

But, blog promotion is hard work. You are competing with hundreds of, if not thousands, other bloggers who are equally keen on getting their voice out there.

In this post, I am listing five ways to promote your content (and not just using social media marketing).

9 Ways to Promote Your Blog Content

You have created an awesome piece of content--be it a blog post, a video, or a podcast episode--but no one knows about it. Not until you put it out for others to see it. Explore some practical tips for your next blog promotion.

Note: What I am listing are IDEAS for promoting your content. You DO NOT need to do ALL OF THESE. In fact, it will burn you out. Pick 3 ideas that work best for you and test them out.

Disclaimer: All links prefixed with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. Any purchase you make by clicking these links will earn me a small commission but will not cost you anything extra. For more details, please read my Disclosure Policy.

Social Media Platforms

I am willing to bet my last dollar that you found me or this post on a social media platform. That’s where the majority of my traffic comes from. Sure, I am working on my SEO skills, but it takes a while for your posts to show up on search engine result pages.

Have you downloaded the Boost Your SEO Cheat Sheet yet?


But knowing that you should promote your content on social media platforms is the easy part. Figuring out how to promote on these platforms is what will make the difference. Here are a few ideas:

Facebook

  • Facebook Groups: These are my #1 source of traffic. That’s right! It isn’t Pinterest, but FB groups. Here’s how I look at the whole FB vs. Pinterest debate: 99% of the time, I only share or comment on blog posts that are either in my niche or I am truly interested in. I don’t click on any random post in a promotion thread. As I shared earlier, I also don’t participate in “all or nothing” type of promotion threads. I am assuming you work the same way too. This means the traffic coming to my blog is more or less targeted. Yes, it takes a little more time than just pinning because you want to reciprocate the shares or comply with the rules of sharing in each group. That you can network with other content creators and potential clients is an added bonus.
  • Your own Facebook business page: If you are or wish to be a business entity, create a Facebook business page for sure. Set up your blog settings to automatically publish your new posts to your business page. During the week of publish (but not on the day of), host a Facebook Live session (if you are not ready to go live, record a video and publish) based on the blog post you published earlier.
  • Post to your personal profile: Okay, this one is a little tricky and completely up to your comfort factor. Personally, I don’t post anything related to my work life on my personal profile. No one, except my husband and a few close friends, knows about my blog. But if you are okay with sharing your journey with your personal social circle, go right ahead. You never know, it might earn you a new endorser.

Pinterest

While Facebook works great for me, for many Pinterest does the trick. Whether you sign up for all popular social media platforms or not, I suggest sharing your content on Facebook and Pinterest without fail.

Again, set up your blog to auto-publish all new blog posts to Pinterest. In addition to the original pin, create 5-7 pins for each blog post with different headline variations. You can either include these pin images in your blog post but hide them, or you can manually upload a new pin image to Pinterest every day. The objective is to add ONE new pin of your own content every day. Try to pin these images during your peak traffic hours. Another advantage of creating multiple images is to provide more options and opportunities to your readers.

Twitter

This platform needs a little more work than any other social media platform. Luckily, you have the option to retweet other people’s tweets with just two clicks. But we’ll come to that later.

Before anything else, set up your blog to auto-publish new blog posts to Twitter. (I know I have repeated this thrice already, so let’s just say set up your blog to auto-publish to all platforms you wish to be on and that WordPress supports.)

Identify or create a list of at least 10-15 tweets per post and tweet them out during your peak hours. All these tweets need not be direct quotes from your blog post–they just need to be related and you could even use an image+quote to draw attention (Instagramish).

Ideally, try to send out a tweet every hour or two hours so that you are covering global time zones and reaching out to maximum people.

Optional: Install plugins such as Click to Tweet on your website, which will not only enable you to highlight tweet-worthy sentences in your post but also enable your readers to simply double-click other sentences and tweet those out.

Instagram

Once or twice a day, during your peak hour, post an image related to your blog post. It could be a quote or a peek into your personal life yet speaks to the post you are promoting.

Additionally, if you want a more personal approach, consider posting a couple (or more) “stories.” That’s a great way to connect with your audience and give them a glimpse of your personal life. They will be interested/intrigued about you and would want to check out more about you. Personally, I LOVE watching Instagram stories, especially of bloggers, though I am still very camera shy and not ready to post my own yet.

YouTube

Video posting is becoming very popular. This is apparent from how social media platforms are pushing for video stories–Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and of course YouTube.

While most of your audience is likely hanging out on non-video platforms such as Facebook and Pinterest, some may even be on YouTube. Because that’s just how people learn–visually. Additionally, YouTube is owned by Google, which means Google search queries will list YouTube videos as well. And we all know that means more traffic to your website.

Now, you could either create and post fresh videos on your YouTube channel (say, once a week or month, depending on your schedule) or you could repurpose your FB Live videos on YouTube. The only downside to this type of repurposing is the interaction element, i.e. when you call out viewer names in an FB Live video, your YouTube audience might be confused. Nonetheless, it’s a great way to start building your YouTube presence.

Industry News Sites and Forums

You’ll be surprised how many people visit industry news sites or forums, such as LinkedIn, Reddit, and Quora to get their queries resolved. These sites also host several influencers answering questions and thereby building another fan base.

If you are knowledgeable about a topic, consider joining these news sites and forums to answer questions. While answering questions, you may link back to relevant blog posts on your website. Additionally, include your blog link on your profile page.

These sites may not drive explosive traffic to your blog, but you can rest assured that 99% of the traffic will be your niche audience.

Aggregation/Curation Sites

Another popular option to promote your blog posts is sharing your content on aggregator or curation sites, such as StumbleUpon, Tumbler, Flipboard, etc.

These sites are positioned as “discovery” sites while also allowing you to create your own list of favorite content pieces.

Again, these sites may not be your primary traffic driver but this is a great way of putting your content out there with the click of just one button.

Promote Other Bloggers

I am sure you have heard from many blogging gurus that you should promote other people’s content more than your own. It helps you get noticed by your fellow content creators.

If you create good content, your work will be promoted by those who you promote. A simple case of gratefulness and reciprocation.

I know this works because I have noticed that certain people are more likely to share my content than others every time I include my link in the FB promotion threads. Likewise, I always share the content of these creators and some others because I know they write useful content that my audience will benefit from.

While it’s natural to follow and promote industry influencers (read: big bloggers), be sure to identify content creators who are in a similar position as you in their blogging journey. This will not only allow you to build a professional network but may also help you find some wonderful, like-minded friends.

Comment on Blogs

Similar to promoting other creators’ content, be sure to comment on their blogs. This allows you to not only build a relationship with the blog owner but also gives you the opportunity to put your own blog’s name and link out there.

One word of caution though: do not leave your link in the comment box. Some bloggers may mark you as spam. Leave your link in the URL box provided above or below the comment box.

Additionally, when someone leaves a comment on your blog, try and respond to their comment. This may not always be possible but do the best you can. Replying to comments shows that you care about your readers. People love to engage and if you offer them an engagement opportunity, they will likely return to read more on your blog.

Another unverified benefit of commenting on blogs is that it creates backlinks to your own blog. Now, I say this claim is unverified because I have read posts that say this isn’t correct. According to these sources, most blog platforms are built to mark any and all links in the comment section as “nofollow” by default.

Related Post: What are “Nofollow” Links and When to Use Them

Contribute to Other Blogs/Guest Post

Another very popular way of promoting content is by contributing to other blogs and publications. By becoming a guest blogger.

Guest blogging allows you to put forth your content in front of a potentially new audience.

It may be your natural desire to create content for big and known blogs or media houses. If you can manage to grab their attention, great! But focus your efforts towards landing guest blogging opportunities with bloggers who are in somewhat the same position or slightly ahead of you in the blogging journey.

Of course, whether you pitch to a big brand or a new brand (or blogger), choose one in or close to your own niche.

Email Subscribers

Do you have an email list? If not, please start today.

If you do, email them. If you are not visible to your subscribers, they will forget about you. As they say, out of sight out of mind.

It might be the scariest thing to email strangers who happened to stop by your blog and signed up to receive a free resource or updates from you. But do it anyway.

As you start writing to your subscribers, you will slowly find it easy to pour your thoughts into the digital paper.

There’s a lot you can share with your subscribers. One such thing you can and should share are your latest blog posts. Now, you could activate an RSS feed email to go out every time you publish a new blog post but this strategy is not the most popular among readers today. So, to err on the side of caution, avoid it.

Instead, in your emails, include your latest blog post in some form–excerpt, pretext, post link, etc. Make it contextual…draft your email based on that context with additional value that is exclusive to your email subscribers. It could be a simple sentence of upliftment or it could be a full-fledged passage. That is up to you.

Remember, it is very likely that your email subscribers do not even follow your blog. So, unless you promote it to them, your blog remains invisible.

Paid Promotion

I am sure you have seen sponsored posts on most social media platforms, most notably, Facebook Ads, Sponsored Twitter and Instagram posts as well as on Twitter. Of late, Pinterest has also jumped into the party and offering paid promotion opportunities to its users.

I think it’s a fantastic way to reaching your target audience. There are so many webinars I have signed up for because I saw a paid promotion of them.

Paid promotion is not for everyone when they are just starting out but may become a necessity as your business grows and so does your need to reach a wider audience group.

However, it is equally possible that you never end up paying for promotion. In the end, it’s your decision alone.

General Tips

On your website

  • Use plugins like Jetpack to auto-publish your latest blog posts to multiple social media platforms.
  • Install social media sharing plugins, such as *Social warfare or Sumo, that allow visitors to share your content.

On your social media accounts

  • Include your website URL in the bio section of all social media platforms.
  • Post your own content 1-2 times a day on each social media platform you get your traffic from (not YouTube though…unless you have a LOT of free time)
  • Post other people’s content 2-5 times a day (definitely not YouTube!) on each social media platform you get your traffic from.

There are even more ways of promoting your blog. I will be sure to share those with you in another post.

How do you promote your blog?

Pin for later.

You have created an awesome piece of content--be it a blog post, a video, or a podcast episode--but no one knows about it. Not until you put it out for others to see it. Explore some practical tips for your next blog promotion.

How to Reuse Old Blog Posts

We all have just come out of an extremely busy season. The first quarter of every year promises to be as busy. During such time-strapped periods, you feel drained out and it takes a lot to motivate yourself. As a result, often your work commitments fall by the wayside.

But you don’t want to let go of those commitments. It is essential to keep your audience connected to you and your brand throughout the year. And especially during the busy times because your existing audience is going through the same motions and is looking for support. Additionally, there are a lot of new people looking to start something new. Again, they need inspiration and motivation.

So how do you ensure you are still putting up quality posts even when you don’t have the time to write one?

There are several things you could do. If you don’t have enough time to create a new blog post every single week, consider posting short videos on YouTube or going live on Facebook. Appearing on camera is a very popular way of connecting with one’s audience these days. I love people who do.

But, if a camera is not your best friend, you could still be adding value by updating and reusing some of your old blog posts and republishing them.

5 Ways to Update and Reuse Old Blog Posts

Update content

This is the most common way to update old blog posts.

As a blogger, you will often write topical content that is relevant for a particular time. For example, perhaps you created a product or service walkthrough or tutorial. After six months or a year, the product may get new features or the navigation may change. Use the busy times to update such posts. It may sound like a lot of work, but you won’t have to spend as much time thinking of an introduction, context, and conclusion. Within the tutorial too, you won’t need to update all of it–only the relevant steps.

Another example: if you are a food blogger, perhaps you wrote a recipe two years ago and now know of a better ingredient to use. You could update the recipe accordingly.

While you are at it, apply the best practices to write sticky blog posts.

Related Posts

How to Increase Your Blog’s Readability Score

How to Write a Compelling Blog Headline That Guarantees Clickthroughs

How to Make Your Blog Images Rank Higher on Search Engine Result Pages

Build it up or break it down

Do you have an epic blog post that you think is going to help your audience but no one seems to be reading it? Consider splitting the post into a series of several posts or lists.

Alternatively, if you have an epic list post that has the potential to be discussed in depth, break it down into several blog posts.wherein you create a post for each list item and discuss it in greater detail.

Another option: if you have a series of topics that belong to a larger category, consider combining them into one epic post or publishing it as an eBook.

Create an opt-in resource

Do you have one or more blog posts that you are super proud of? Consider creating a free opt-in resource using these blog posts. This works particularly well if you have a really in-depth post or a series of posts that you can combine and publish as an eBook (see the previous point for ideas on how to find an eBook idea).

Alternatively, and an even easier option is to create checklists, workbooks, infographics, or cheat sheets for existing posts. Your audience is always looking for a quick win and what better way to equip them for that win than to give them a checklist or cheat sheet.

Related Post

How to create 10 blog posts from just one idea | FREE 300+ blog post ideas

Convert to a new delivery format

People learn in different ways–that’s the first rule of teaching.

Traditionally, bloggers create written content. But today, as newer formats become available, do not ignore them. Think about this: you already have the content ready. Why not use that content to serve people who don’t have the time to sit and read your blog posts.

Additionally, this is also a great strategy for gaining new followers. For example, when you post videos on YouTube or launch a podcast, your visitors/listeners will also comprise of people who do not already know of your blog.

I am currently recording videos for some of my already-published blog posts. I am condensing the information into bite-size chunks so that the videos can be shared as quick wins.

Optimize for search engines

SEO is one of the most important strategies that will help your posts rank high on search engines.

But, SEO strategies keep evolving with time. What works today may not work tomorrow. Therefore, it’s imperative to update your posts periodically to match the most-recent SEO guidelines.

Revisit an existing post and add internal links to your other existing posts. This will direct your readers to other relevant posts they can benefit from on your website. Consequently, the visitors will stay on your website for longer durations. Search engines love that.

Another thing you should look out for is broken links. Often, due to changes in the domain or structure of your website or an external source you have linked, links do not point to the correct destination. Use any of the broken link checkers available online to see a list of links that you should look into. You won’t be able to fix each and every link, especially when it comes to external links (often found in the comments section). So, don’t get stressed too about it.

While you are at it, optimize your images for search engines. Additionally, check whether your images can be switched out with newer images that reflect your brand.

So, there you have it. Try these tips to continue publishing content even when times are busy or your motivation levels are not at their peak.

How to continue posting content for your audience even during busy times? Refresh and reuse old blog posts. Read the post to learn how.

Free Resource: Boost Your SEO Cheat Sheet

If you have been around in the blogosphere for even a month, you would have surely heard about the term “search engine optimization,” or SEO. That is for a reason. In the long run, your SEO is what will carry your blog.

Look, there is no denying the popularity of social media platforms in promoting your website. My highest traffic comes from Facebook. But with every week, I am starting to notice an increase in the number of organic searches. That’s my SEO tree bearing fruits.

I want to help you grow your blog as I grow my own.

Rank higher on Google search engine. Free cheat sheet to boost your SEO.

SEO requires a rather broad skill set to master. I, obviously, am no master. Nonetheless, whatever little I do so far, I am sharing those strategies with you in the cheat sheet.

The cheat sheet is divided into two major sections–on-page SEO and off-page SEO.

  • On-page SEO refers to the strategies you should implement at an individual blog post or page level. The objective of these strategies is to facilitate search engines to understand your content.
  • Off-page SEO refers to the strategies you should implement at the website level as well as on external platforms, such as social media. The objective of these strategies is to get more page views and engagement on your website.

Together, and over time, these strategies will help you rank higher on search engine result pages (SERPs). And that’s an important thing to know about SEO ranking. With the exception of super-specific and exact keyword search, ranking on SERPs takes a bit of time. That’s because the search engines will first crawl your site for information and then study the level of relevance and engagement with the information.

If you start today, you will rank tomorrow.

Sign up below to download a super-handy SEO Juice Booster Cheat Sheet.

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How to Increase Your Blog’s Readability Score

Have you heard of the term ‘readability score’? Perhaps back in school, you were asked to write an essay or a report with a certain readability score.

Well, what you learn in school doesn’t stay in school.

As a blogger, you must ensure that your content is on par with your audience’s level of experience and literacy. Your content should NOT be too easy for your readers to understand because they will then undervalue your expertise. At the same time, it should NOT be too challenging because it will turn off your readers and add no value to their lives.

If you have never heard about the term ‘readability,’ it is a measurement system for your content. Based on several parameters, the system assigns a score. 

The Flesch–Kincaid readability measuring system is one of the most popular readability measurement systems. It assigns a different range of scores for various age groups and literacy level. Assuming your blog content is targetted at young moms who have a college degree, your readability score should be between 60.0 and 70.0. 

If you have the Yoast plugin installed on your WordPress (as you should), you will find the “Readability” tab built right into the system (screenshot below).

Here’s how my Readability summary of this post looks on Yoast. As you can see my writing is not perfect and does not meet all the criteria of the measuring system. The conditions my post doesn’t fulfill, it’s my writing choice to let those be. For example, I am okay with having one section in the entire post that’s more than 300 words. These are subjective decisions you will have to make before publishing your content. But be honest with yourself about things you can let go of.

Make it easy for your readers to understand your content. Click to read the post for some tips to improve your blog's readability score.

 

Why should you care about your content’s readability score?

Well, first of all, there’s no point slaving to create content that nobody can understand. Make it easy for your readers to understand your content.

It may not be obvious but most results that rank high on search engine result pages are easy to read and carry a high readability score. This means that your content’s readability score affects your ranking on search engines too.

Once you have visitors to your blog via the search engines, you want them to stay on your website for as long as possible and ideally, convert them into subscribers. However, if your blog’s content is not up to the standard they expect, they will neither subscribe nor return.

 

10 Tips to Improve Your Blog’s Readability
Make it easy for your readers to understand your content. Click to read the post for some tips to improve your blog's readability score.

 

Alright, let’s get to the tips.

Restrict your posts to one idea

In an earlier post, I have already written about the importance of focusing on only one key idea in your blog posts and courses. It deserves repetition because this one thing can make or break your blog post/course.

Navigating more than one key idea confuses the readers (and search engines!) and they do not understand what to focus on. That is a surefire way to dunk your readability score into deep water.

You may choose to deep-dive into a topic or create a list of actions, but ensure that the content still funnels up to the one central idea.

To help you keep the focus, begin by identifying the ONE primary goal of your blog post (or course)–what is it that you want your readers to accomplish?

Then, create a content outline before you start writing the content. Ensure that each subheading in the outline (or lessons in a course) align with the primary goal of the post (or course).

After you finish writing the post (or lesson), review the content to ensure that you are meeting the end goal.

Organize your thoughts

As a content creator, your mind is full of ideas. But as an educator, you need to present your ideas in a sequence that is most beneficial to your audience.

Your audience comprises of people who are at different levels of experience and knowledge. To ensure your content is meaningful to all levels of audience, your content has to flow from general to specific. Sometimes, it may even become necessary to create different posts or courses for different levels.

Within a post or a lesson, cover the big concept first and then filter down to smaller concepts. Or, present a generic example that is relatable to a larger audience before using specific examples.

Additionally, use subheadings, bullets, and numbered lists to help your readers follow the intended structure.

Again, creating a content outline before writing the content will help you see the structure and flow of the post from the beginning.

Write in the active voice

One tip that is common to all books on writing practices is to write in the active voice.

Active voice helps trim unnecessary words, thus making it easier to read. More importantly, sentences written in the active voice are more impactful and appealing.

Conversely, most sentences written in passive voice are difficult to understand (especially for non-native English speakers—they too may be your audience!). The difficulty arises because passive sentences contain more words and shift the focus from the subject.

This is not to say that you can never use the passive voice—the truth is some sentences sound better in the passive voice. But as far as possible, try to write the majority of your content in the active voice.

Related Posts:

Avoid wordiness

Fun fact: my first job was in a call center. One of the first things we learned and were constantly monitored for was the use of filler words and dead air. You see, in spoken language, it is very common for filler words to seep in. They should not, but they do.

But in written content, there is no excuse for using filler words.

When I say filler words, you may think of words such as “umm…,” “you know…,” “like…,” and you are right. These words indeed must be avoided in written content as much as possible (trust me, there are plenty of these in this post!). Sure, they help your writing sound more conversational but be very intentional about using these words. It’s OKAY to use fillers at times…it can add some interest when used intentionally. Just don’t go overboard.

But there is a second class of words that you must identify and eliminate from your work. Let’s call these ‘inconsequential words.’

When creative juices flow, we tend to embellish our sentences with words that are inconsequential to the sentence. These words do nothing but fill pages…but hey, blogging is no writing competition…unless you write about writing or storytelling  

I am not a writing coach but I can tell you this: avoid words that are redundant and add no value to your content.

Here’s a fun exercise. Listed below are six examples of sentences, which are wordier than they need to be. Can you edit these and come up with appropriate replacements? The first one is solved.

Original: In order to write a new email, you need to click the Compose button.
Revised: In order to write a new email, you need to click the Compose button.

Your turn.
Make use of Google doc to save your first drafts.
I am wanting to start a blog.
I can definitely see where you are heading with your blog.
Given the fact we are living in the digital age, it is very important to be on social media platforms.
I am planning to launch a new course in the month of March.

Note: Editing is subjective. There is no right or wrong answer. But there is always something you can do to make your sentences concise.

Write short and simple sentences

If you write in active voice, your sentences will naturally be short and simple. However, be intentional about making your content easy-to-understand for your audience.

Restrict your paragraphs to 3-5 sentences.

Within each paragraph, construct sentences that are no more than 18-20 words.

In a paragraph, if you write a long sentence, make the other sentences short.

More importantly, know where to end your paragraph. This is where your editing skills will come into play. If you find more than one concept or idea in a paragraph, stop and start a new paragraph.

Use transition words and phrases

Transition words—such as, firstly, but, additionally, meanwhile, etc.—are used to link ideas between sentences and paragraphs. These words help steer your readers in the right direction and their absence makes your content sound disjointed.

Think of transition words and phrases as a bridge to help your reader move from one thought to another. They create the flow needed for easy comprehension and retention of information, which is one of the goals of every instructional content you write.

Vary the length

Reading large chunks of text not only leads to fatigue but also introduces monotony. This is dangerous because your readers may leave your website without spending enough time getting to know you.

Make it easier for your readers to stay on your website longer.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to vary the length of your sentences and paragraphs. This creates an interesting rhythm and then breaks the rhythm before it gets monotonous. You may think, “Mala, isn’t that bad? Breaking their rhythm?”

The answer is a resounding “NO.”

Think about it: a rhythm is made up of different notes, not the same note over and over again (that’s called hypnosis!!)

Let’s take another example: think of a poor movie or a play you watched. Or, even a music piece. What made it poor for you? Often, the answer is a flat script or note. The different pitches, tones, emphasis, length of a scene, etc. make the movie or the music piece interesting.

Similarly, for written content, mix it up. Write one long paragraph followed by a couple of short ones. Within a paragraph, write no more than one long sentence.

Use these tips not only for your future posts, but revisit your old post and determine if you need to update their readability.

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Make it easy for your readers to understand your content. Click to read the post for some tips to improve your blog's readability score.

How to Make Your Blog Images Rank Higher on Search Engine Result Pages

All links prefixed with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. Any purchase you make by clicking these links will earn me a small commission but will not cost you anything extra. For more details, please read my Disclosure Policy.

Let’s begin with a fun fact about me: *I LOVE PLANNERS! I am somewhat obsessed with them. My latest obsession is the *bullet journal system. I mentioned in an earlier post that I am a new entrant in the bujo world. So, every other night, after I am done with all my chores, I sit and browse bullet journal inspirations. I type in “What’s in my bullet journal?” or something similar in the Google search bar.

But I don’t search for text posts. I search for images (click the “Images” tab on Google for this). And then for the next 15 minutes or so, I scan the image results page for the prettiest bullet journals (if you think, “Mala, that’s just sad,” or “get a life, girl!”… well, maybe …but this is what brings me joy).

Anyway, coming back to the point. The searches are becoming increasingly visual nowadays (hello, Pinterest!). It is, therefore, pertinent to optimize not only the text on your website but also the images. Maybe your posts don’t rank on the text tab but you can certainly do your bit to help your images rank. Not most people do this, so you can be an early adopter and get a head start.

In today’s post, let’s discuss how to optimize your images for the web (i.e. the big bad world of search engines).

Anatomy of an Awesome Web-optimized Image

How to Make Your Blog Images Rank Higher on Search Engine Result Pages

Use relevant images

This is really about common sense but you will be surprised how often bloggers mess this up. I have mentioned this example before but I will mention this again because there is just no excuse for this: an image about an online course in today’s time cannot show a typewriter as its featured image.

Please be sure the image you choose is relevant to your content. The purpose of using images is not to decorate your post—use images to complement the content.

Select only copyright-free images or use your own

The blogging world is full of horror stories about unsuspecting and ignorant bloggers being sued for using copyrighted images. Please be careful when you search for free stock images. I am listing five popular websites that offer royalty-free, copyright-free stock images.

Please be advised the websites are free to change their terms and conditions. Therefore, always exercise caution.

When possible, consider purchasing stock images. This will ensure the image on your post is not as widely circulated as a free stock image.

While there is no denying the ease of using stock photos, the fact remains that copyright claims aside, most stock photos look super staged and fake. For this reason, you may want to shoot your own photos to make your images personal. But be aware that shooting personal photos requires significant investment of time (if you shoot your own) and/or money (if you hire a professional).

Use the correct file format

Images are stored in various formats depending on how it will be used. The three most common formats that bloggers use are JPEG, GIF, and PNG.

GIF images are usually used to include an animation or a meme. A regular image loses quality when saved in a GIF format. So, avoid it as much as you can. If you must use GIF, consider using GIFs created by professionals.

JPEG and PNG are the standards when it comes to blog images. Both give excellent quality but PNG files are heavier than JPEG files. It’s okay to choose JPEG images unless you want a transparent background. For that, always go with the PNG format.

Use high-quality images, not pixelated poor quality ones

This one is related to the previous point. Sometimes in your search for free stock photos, you may select a photo that is not up to the web standard. It may look perfect when seen in smaller dimensions, but as soon as you enlarge the image or try to zoom in for cropping purposes, individual pixels begin to show.

Another example could be if you choose to take your own photos using your phone or camera. Often, in the absence of enough lighting or poor camera quality, photos are of poor quality.

So, ensure the photos you are using as of the best quality.

Compress images to reduce the file size

The loading time and speed of your website is a very important factor in ranking high on search engine results page.

Among other factors, file sizes affect the loading time significantly. So, remember to compress your images so they load faster. But often, compressing images can also result in the loss of image quality.

Luckily, there are websites that enable you to compress without compromising on the quality. The websites that I personally use are Short Pixel and Tinyjpg.

Another option is to install the WP Smush on your website and the plugin will automatically compress all images on the website. The reason I don’t use the plugin is that I like to keep the number of plugins to the minimum—again, the number of assets on your website affects the website’s load time.

Make your file names descriptive and use keywords

Search engines depend on you to tell them what your image is about. The way you can tell them about it is via the various text fields available in the image properties.

Even before you get to the properties, the first thing you can do to save your image file with a specific name that describes what the image is about. For example, instead of using the default file names, such as DSC006 or IMG05, use a description such as “laptop on a table.”

Also, when writing the file name, try to include the keyword for which you are trying to rank.

Update “Alt Text” using keywords

After you have decided on a file name, it’s time to add even more information about the image. Your next stop is the Alt text (or Alt Tag) field.

Alt text is the rollover text that one sees when they point to an image. This is also essential for cases where an image fails to load, or when a visually impaired person is consuming your content.

The Alt text is nothing but the exact description of the image. Think of Alt text as a label for each image. It tells the user what image they would have seen had it loaded or if they were able to see it. Similarly, it tells the search engines what the content of the image is.

The Alt text may or may not be the same as the file name. For example, “laptop on a table” could be both the file name and the Alt text. However, to take full advantage of the available opportunities, experts recommend writing “similar” text but not the “same.”

Keep the Alt text short—say, 5-7 words—and using a sentence format is appreciated but is not mandatory.

Update “Description” using keywords and use sentence format

The Description box is yet another opportunity to tell the search engines about your images. The “description” that you write in this field is what is typically picked by the social media platforms when you publish your posts. That said, some platforms may have a preference of displaying the Alt text over the Description text. To err on the side of caution, populate both fields with as much descriptive text as allowed.

A word of caution regarding File Name, Alt Text, and Description

While it is important to use keywords in the aforementioned sections, please don’t overdo it. I mean, forget doing so, don’t even think about it! Using too many keywords without any context is considered as “keyword stuffing” by search engines. Keyword stuffing is not an experience for your readers. It’s a strict no-no and such websites are penalized by the search engines by pushing the website way down in the search results, or not showing them at all. This is where using the sentence format helps. Draft the sentence is a manner that offers useful information to your readers while still incorporating the keywords appropriately and in context.

Don’t embed important text inside images

Do not use images as supplementary material for your content; use them as complementary material.

As explained before, search engines do not yet have the ability to “read” your images. Therefore, if you add any key (or new) information as part of the image (that is, text on image), the search engine will not be able to scan and pick it. This will result in loss of data for you.

Create custom images for each social media platform

Your blog posts and image not only show up on search engines but also on social media platforms, which have their own search ecosystem. Therefore, it is important to cater to these platforms.

Each social media platform requires specific dimensions of images on their website. These guidelines are based on how they want their website to appear.

These platforms are your hosts; you are a guest. Respect the hosts’ guidelines.

In most cases, the platforms will reject images that do not match their guidelines. Frustratingly, the platforms also keep updating their guidelines often. Be on the lookout for any changes and update your images accordingly.

Bonus Tip

Pay attention to the placement of your image within your blog post.

Make sure that you place the relevant images near the relevant and corresponding chunk of text. The search engines may not be able to read your images, but with the help of the text fields (Alt, Description, File Name, Caption, etc.) as well as the body text around the image, the search engines tend to “guess” the context of the image and types of results they should appear for.

Help the search engines help you.

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Want to make your blog images rank higher on Search Engine Result Pages? Read the post to learn about 10 tips that will help you understand the anatomy of an awesome blog image that ranks high.

How to Exclude Your Own Visits from Google Analytics

It is natural for new bloggers to check their traffic on Google Analytics very often. I know I used to check my numbers every few hours (bad habit—don’t do it!).

As bloggers and website owners, we want our message to reach as many people as possible. This not only helps your brand endorsement but also pushes you up on search engine result pages (SERPs) as well as builds your portfolio for sponsored opportunities.

Moreover, for bloggers who monetize their website using third-party display advertisements, page views are paramount to their earning. This is why page views are such a sought-after number in the digital content world.

Related Reading: How to write a compelling blog headline that guarantees clickthroughs

But did you know that unless you tell Google Analytics to exclude your own visits from their data, you will always see an inflated output? You may think you are getting 1000 page views every day but miss the fact that out of those 1000 views, 10-15 (maybe more!!) are your own.

You may think that’s not a big number, but for you to interpret any business data, it must be free of any and all external influence.

The good news is that you can exclude your own visits from Google Analytics very easily.

How to Exclude Internal Traffic From Your Website Analytics

How to Exclude Internal Traffic From Your Website Analytics

Essentially, you block your home/office IP address from appearing in the data because that’s just…internal traffic.

If you have not linked Google Analytics to your WordPress website yet, here are the instructions to do so.

Alright, let’s get started.

Before you begin, sign up for a Google Analytics account.

Next, identify your internal IP address. Type “What’s my IP” in the Google search bar. Google will display your IP address at the top of the SERP.

  1. On Google Analytics, click Admin.

    How to Exclude Internal Traffic From Google Analytics Step 1

  2. Next, in the View section, click Filters.
    How to Exclude Internal Traffic From Google Analytics Step 2
  3. Click the Add New Filter button.
    How to Exclude Internal Traffic From Google Analytics Step 3
  4. On the New Filter page, leave the Filter Type as Predefined.
    Click the Select filter type drop-down menu and select Exclude.
  5. How to Exclude Internal Traffic From Google Analytics Step 4
  6. Click the Select source or destination drop-down menu and select traffic from the IP addresses. To exclude only your home or office IP, select the traffic from the IP addresses To see examples of how the other options in this drop-down list work, visit this page by Google.
    How to Exclude Internal Traffic From Google Analytics Step 5
  7. Click the Select expression drop-down menu and select the appropriate expression. For static source (such as your home or office), select the that are equal to option.
  8. Type your IP address in the IP address field.
  9. Click the Save button.
    How to Exclude Internal Traffic From Google Analytics Step 6
  10. Make sure you verify the filter you just created. To read instructions on how to verify filters, visit this page.

That’s it! Google Analytics will no longer track your internal traffic.

If you found this post useful, please share it with others.

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How to Exclude Internal Traffic From Your Website Analytics

How to Write a Compelling Blog Headline That Guarantees Clickthroughs

Across search engines and/or Pinterest, what is the first thing you notice about the search results? What compels you to pick a particular blog post? Is it the image and its styling? Is it the author/website’s name? Is it the headline or title?

In most cases, it has to be the headline. Here’s why:

You query the search engine for specific information. By default, the search engine result pages (SERP) display the most relevant results for your search query. That means within each page, it now comes down to the competition among all the listings. Now, you will either default to viewing the results top-down, i.e. in the order the search engine displays the results or you will pick the result that aligns closest with your requirements the most. This alignment comes from nothing but the title and the meta description.

Related Post: How to grab your readers’ attention

If your title and description aren’t engaging, then the chances of anyone clicking through to your post are remote. Consequently, all the time you toiled over creating the awesome content for your blog will be a waste.

So what can you do to make your post title compelling enough to guarantee a click-through?

How to Write Compelling Blog Titles That Guarantee Clickthroughs

Tips to drive massive traffic to your website or blog by writing an amazing blog title or headline Momchakra.com

Let’s begin by writing regular blog post title:

How to be Productive

Now, let’s learn about the tips and apply it to the chosen headline.

Make it about the reader

If there is only one thing you can take away from this post, it’s this: everything you do, it’s for your readers. For your title to resonate with your readers, they need to see the benefit they will derive from your post. Instead of writing a headline that focuses on your achievements or failures, make it about the reader: what can they learn from your success and failures.

The ultimate goal of your blog is to provide solutions to your readers. Make those solutions the hero of your post.

Old headline: How to be Productive

New Headline: How YOU can be Productive

Related Post: 6 lessons from my first 6 months of blogging

Use emotion-driven words

You are writing for human beings, not robots. Use this fact to your advantage. Humans love emotions and they are drawn to emotions. Whenever possible, bring in a personal element in your blog headlines. For example, instead of saying: ‘5 Ways You Can Run Your Household Productively,’ you can say, ‘5 Surefire Ways You Can Be the Productivity Queen.’

Depending on your niche and style of writing, it may not always be possible to write an emotional headline for your post. But you can surely explore the possibilities while crafting your social media (including Pinterest) graphics.

Old Headline: How YOU can be Productive

New Headline: How YOU can be a PRODUCTIVITY QUEEN

Use power words

Power words are a derivative of emotion-driven words but focus on higher emotions—both positive and negative. Examples include fear, elation, curiosity, suffering, guarantee, etc.

Old Headline: How YOU can be a PRODUCTIVITY QUEEN

New Headline: How YOU can SURELY be a PRODUCTIVITY QUEEN

Related Posts:

How to create memorable and effective instructional content? (Part 1 of 2)

How to create memorable and effective instructional content? (Part 2 of 2)

Use action verb

This is a great way to introduce a sense of urgency and performance in your readers. Using action verbs encourage your readers to…take action. Ensure the verbs you include in your title are positive because your aim is to play a facilitator who will take your readers on an upward journey.

Old Headline: How YOU can be a KICKASS PRODUCTIVITY QUEEN

New Headline: How YOU can BECOME a KICKASS PRODUCTIVITY QUEEN

Use numbers

“How to…” articles are one of the most popular types of articles. That’s because 99% of the time, your readers search for ideas on doing something. Using numbers in your titles sets reader expectations even before they click through to your post.

Old Headline: How YOU can BECOME a KICKASS PRODUCTIVITY QUEEN

New Headline: 5 SUREFIRE WAYS YOU CAN BECOME A KICKASS PRODUCTIVITY QUEEN

Remember, the aforementioned tips are not a complete sequence. You can use these alone or in any combination, as your post and niche demand.

Additional tips

Be counterintuitive

Sometimes, going against the grain is the best thing you can do for your blog. In a sea of positive headlines, try playing with a negative headline. For example, instead of saying “Why you should buy XYZ product,” consider saying, “Why you should NOT buy XYZ product” or “Why I Hated XYZ product.” The idea is to pique your readers’ curiosity as to why you are saying not to do something while everyone else is recommending. In your post, you could either stick with the negative review or construct the post in a way that actually praises the product. For example, “If you are happy living in a dusty home, don’t buy XYZ vacuum cleaner because it will not leave a speck of dust in your home.”

It’s a fact that out of 10 comments if 9 are positive and 1 is negative, that 1 negative comment will affect us more.

Don’t make it a habit though 🙂

Join the 7-Day Stick Blog Email Workout here

Read it aloud

Most blog writing is meant to be informal and conversational. But thanks to the writing lessons we all received in school, it’s difficult to break away from that (guilty as charged!). Formal writing is devoid of emotions and therefore, goes against the aforementioned tip to include emotion-driven words.

One way you can check for formal language is by reading it aloud. If it flows well and elicits the emotions you want to associate with the headline, you are good to go. If not, rework the headline.

Use headline analyzers

Wouldn’t it be cool if you had someone review your headlines for effectiveness? Luckily, there are plenty of headline analyzer tools available in the market. These tools measure your headline against parameters we discussed earlier. Based on their calculation, these tools give an effectiveness score to your headline.

A tip I discussed in my How to Grab Your Reader’s Attention post is, to begin with several headlines (say 8-10) and shortlist them (4-5) based on the tips discussed earlier as well as the effectiveness score.

Don’t ignore the meta description

Once your headline catches your readers’ eyes, many are likely to read the description below the title. Use this area to convey the specific objective of your post. Begin with a problem statement, then tell them how your post is going to help them address that problem. This is your second but last chance to convince someone to click-through to your post.

Have you been implementing all these tips in creating your blog titles? If not, go ahead and try implementing them.

Remember you can apply these tips not only to your blog posts, but also to your emails, landing/sales pages, forms, products, and images.

Additional recommended reading

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You can drive massive traffic to your website simply by writing a compelling blog title or headline. This post lists tips to create amazing blog titles or headlines. Momchakra.com

What are “Nofollow” Links and When to Use Them

Disclaimer: The information about nofollow links in this post is true as of October 31, 2017. The information may change in the future and may even differ for various search engines. So, please take the article with a pinch of salt and always be on the lookout for any algorithm updates in the future.

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO—a term most of us are familiar with. But SEO isn’t just about researching and using keywords in your posts. There’s much, much more to it.

The trouble is no one really has the complete list of guidelines that will help you rank your posts on the first page of search results. As a result, most of us spend hours agonizing about keyword research and usage. This is not to say it isn’t important or necessary—it sure is, but there are a few other smaller things you must do to get in the good books of search engines, especially Google.

Did you know Google can penalize your website (i.e. affect your ranking) if you do not follow their guidelines pertaining to link listings?

For example, while writing a sponsored post, you will create a backlink to your sponsor’s website at some point in your post. Any backlink to a certain website adds to the website’s trustworthiness. But the problem is you are being paid to create this “trust factor”—a big no-no! So, for such link listings, you must apply what is known as a “nofollow” attribute.

The What, When, and How of Nofollow LinksThe What, When, and How of Nofollow Links

Dofollow Links Vs. Nofollow Links

Most links, by default, have the “dofollow” attribute enabled. Which is why SEO experts consider guest posting and commenting so important in driving organic traffic to your website.

When you guest post on another person’s website, they will typically allow you to add one or two backlinks to your website in your post. One way to look at it is the exposure you are gaining by posting your content and backlinks. That aside, every backlink to your website adds more credibility to you being a domain authority, and thereby, your ranking.

Similarly, by commenting on other people’s blogs and leaving your website URL behind, you create more and more backlinks for yourself. Nowadays platforms such as WordPress and Blogger have set links in comments as “nofollow” by default.

When it comes to big companies, the stakes are exponentially higher. Imagine how many people must be linking to their website and/or product listings. A high percentage of these listings is paid and therefore, segregated from genuine backlinks. This is where the “nofollow” attribute comes into the picture.

When search engines find “nofollow” links, they know these must be excluded from their influence-building algorithm (don’t know what else to call it :-)). In other words, these links do not influence the page ranking of the website.

How to Create Nofollow Links

There are two ways of doing this—using plugins or manually.

Plugin Method

There are several plugins available for WordPress that will allow you to mark select or all external links as “nofollow” links. One plugin I have used in the past and liked is the “Ultimate Nofollow” plugin. It’s easy to use.

Alternatively, just search in the WordPress directory for the one you want to try out (keyword: nofollow).

Manual Method

I find the manual method more reliable compared to using a plugin. Additionally, every new plugin takes up web space and slows down your website. So, choose your plugins carefully.

When you create a link, it looks like this in the HTML view:

<a href=”http://www.YourLink.com”>YourLink</a>

This is an example of a “dofollow” link even though the words “dofollow” are not spelled out.

Search engines will consider http://www.YourLink.com as an endorsement of quality content. This will push the link higher in the search results.

Conversely, if you are endorsing a website because they paid you for it, you have to enable the “nofollow” attribute. This is how it will look in the HTML view:

<a href=”http://www.YourLink.com” rel=“nofollow”>YourLink</a>

This link will not count towards link building for the website.

When Should You Use “Nofollow” Links

Affiliate or Sponsored Links

First and foremost, any time you are being paid to write about a brand, all backlinks to the brand’s website must be set to “nofollow”.

Display Advertisements

Embedding third-party display advertisements, such as via Google AdSense and Media.net, on your website is a very common method of earning revenue. Make sure the HTML codes of these advertisements have the “nofollow” attribute included.

Non-example or Offensive Website

It’s possible you want to mention a certain website as a non-example. For instance, maybe you are listing websites that are not safe for the work environment or for children. You want your readers to know about these websites, so you link them. But you do not want to endorse these websites by creating legit backlinks.

General Non-endorsement

This is similar to the previous point. Often, you will cite another website to make a point but are not necessarily endorse them. For example, you may embed someone else’s YouTube video to illustrate something. But that doesn’t mean you want to specifically endorse that channel. Make the link “nofollow”.

I hope you found this post useful and will keep the pointers in mind. For more information, please read this detailed article about “nofollow” links (I have set the link to “nofollow” :-))

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The What, When, and How of Nofollow Links

How to Grab Your Readers’ Attention

According to a Nielsen report, “on the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.” So, if you wrote a 1000-word blog post, your reader will read only 280 words of your post. Wanna bet most of those words will be in your post’s introduction?

I have written about this earlier too: before even knowing the relevance of a post, your audience must be ready to pay attention to your writing. And you have about 15 seconds to do so.

Why Do You Need to Grab Your Readers’ Attention?

How many of you deal or have dealt with a toddler or a preschooler? There are times when you are fighting tooth and nail to gain their attention but they are busy doing something else. I face it every day…especially during meal times. My son is so lost in his own world playing with blocks or simply daydreaming that I often have to raise my voice to divert his attention back to the meal in front of him.

Your readers are distracted toddlers too.

Very few visit your blog intentionally to read your words (and for those of you who have loyal fans, kudos!). Most people land on your website via a search engine, as part of their blog hop, or because of a social media promotion thread both of you are participating in…while still having other tabs open or the television running in the background.

Once they are on your website, how do you ensure they don’t hit the Close / Back button immediately? Grab their attention such that they are happy to stay on your website for longer than they signed up for. However, to do this, you have only 15 seconds. That isn’t much! But there are a few things you can do to facilitate this.

How to Grab Your Readers’ Attention

Most readers on a webpage have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit. Here's how you can grab their attention and make them stay.

When your visitors land on your website, they will be either on your website’s homepage/landing page or on an individual post/page. Therefore, it is important not only to make your website pretty and functional but also your posts exciting and compelling.

 At the Website Level

  • Streamline your interface and make it functional: First impressions matter. When visitors land on your website, the first thing they will notice is the face of your website, i.e., the interface/theme. A cluttered website confuses and repels new visitors because they don’t know where to focus. Ensure your theme is minimal and streamlined. Additionally, focus on easy navigation. Pay special attention to your sidebar. Populate your sidebar only with the essential items, or better still, lose it completely. If you embed advertisements, ensure they complement your website’s aesthetics.
  • Utilize your sidebar effectively: If you choose to go with a sidebar, consider adding a small About blurb along with your photo to encourage personal connection with your readers. I always find it useful to know about the blog owner right on the home page. Alternatively (or in conjunction), consider adding your most successful opt-in offers to collect sign-ups.
  • Use your Header area to communicate: Utilize the header area intelligently. Instead of displaying a one-foot-long image, use this area to convey what your website visitors will stand to gain from your blog—state the benefits. One way of doing this is to use a tagline that conveys the mission of your blog.

At an Individual Post / Page Level

So, your visitors approve of your website. However, that still doesn’t guarantee a read because they are not your (loyal) readers yet.

Each page of your website (About, Legal, Resources, etc.) should be written in simple language and laser-focused on the task. These are not the places to experiment with your creativity. Sure you can organize the content in a specific manner but keep the content of these pages straightforward and to the point. If readers want to know about you, give them that; if they want to know about your privacy policy, give them that. Simplicity and functional are the two keywords for individual pages of your website.

Now, coming to individual posts, it’s a whole different story. You have the opportunity to impress your reader with a phenomenal opening to each of your posts. This is not to say the rest of your post can survive being crappy but the introduction is what will decide whether your visitor will stay for longer. Without a quality opening paragraph, forget any response from your visitors.

No time to read the tips below? Download the summary sheet.

Tips to Grab Your Readers’ Attention

Here are some ideas to write blog openings that will get your visitors interested in what you have to say.

  • Go top-down: The first peep into your awesome post is through your headline. It’s the awesome trailer to your even-more-awesome blog movie. It is, therefore, imperative you spend quality time coming up with a headline.
    1. Start with 8-10 headlines (difficulty level: extreme!)—read them aloud; see how they flow. Make each word count because not every visitor will read your post, but they will read your headline for sure.
      • Make them catchy and emotion-driven.
      • Make them about your reader (try using second-person pronouns).
    2. Then, run all the headlines through analyzer tools, such as CoSchedule, to test their effectiveness. Here’s an excellent article on the magic of headlines.
    3. In the end, narrow it down to 3-5 headlines.
      • Use the highest scorer as your blog post headline, and the remaining headlines for your social media graphics.
  • Nail the opening: Once you are past the headline, it’s time to write a killer introduction. Your one and only job at this time is to write an introduction that will not only highlight the relevance or benefit of your blog post but also pique their interest. Use any of the following techniques:
    • Present striking statistics / facts / quotes
      • Numbers resonate with people and can even influence their thinking about certain subjects. Do your research about the subject matter of your post (where applicable) and present your findings using colorful charts and graphs.
      • Alternatively, present striking facts (such as “did you know that…”) that will make your readers go “whoa”.
      • And quotes, well, who doesn’t love those?!
    • Open with a problem statement
      • Use a personal story, famous quote, or just create a scenario to talk about the problem you are about to address in your post.
        • Use superlative examples to invoke a sense of hope/positivity
        • Use negative / mediocre examples to invoke a sense of disruption / shock / controversy
      • Invite reader interaction: Readers love to interact because it gives them a sense of control. Ask your readers to state their opinions on the subject of the post using interactive elements, such as a survey/poll.
      • Use multimedia: Using powerful visual or aural mediums help evoke strong emotional reactions. This, in turn, creates a highly receptive mindset for your story.
        • Images / Graphics / Animation
        • Newspaper clipping/essay excerpt
        • Video
        • Audio
      • Cartoon / Humor: When all else fails, humor saves. Enough said!

Don’t be afraid to restrict these elements only to your post opener though. Experiment with them midway or toward to ending to break the text monotony. It’s not unusual for your readers to remain on the website but completely zoned out. Mixing up your presentation elements will keep them alert and interested.

What are some of your tried-and-tested methods of grabbing your readers’ attention? Share in the comments below.

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Most readers on a webpage have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit. Here's how you can grab their attention and make them stay.

6 Lessons from My First 6 Months of Blogging

I have officially crossed the much-acclaimed six-month mark in the blogging world. Yay! I think six months is a good enough time to test the waters and find out if one is cut out for the blogging world. I know I am! During these first six months, I have learned about the backend of the blog, a basic idea of how to identify and attract the right kind of audience, how to create useful content upgrades, etc. But there’s so much more to learn.

You guys, I started blogging with some idea about the hard work that needs to be put in. That’s because I spent a lot of time researching the ins and outs of professional blogging before I decided to take the plunge. What I didn’t anticipate is how addictive this profession is, especially when you start seeing some traction, as I am starting to see. I often find myself sinking deeper into my work even when my preschooler is home. I have to constantly remind myself to stop but it’s difficult to tear away from the screen. I am working on this aspect with all my might because nothing in the world can be worth more than my family time. They are the reason I quit my high-paying corporate job though I continued working part-time to quench my creative thirst (I have been creating online courses for 15 years now—I started long before it hit the professional blogging market).

But I digress.

In honor of crossing the six-month mark, I am sharing six things I have learned about professional blogging during this time.

6 Months. 6 Lessons. 1 Blog’s Journey

Six lessons I have learned about professional blogging during my first six months of being a blogger.

All links prefixed with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. Any purchase you make by clicking these links will earn me a small commission but will not require any additional cost from you. For more details, please read my Disclosure Policy.

1. Define your business vision and goal(s) when you start…and take your time doing this.

Why do you want to take up professional blogging? Make sure you are doing it because you want to give back in some way. Sure, all of us want to earn an income from our blogs, but that’s for the service you will be providing to your readers. Here’s the thing: the blogs that blow up within the first six months are few and far between. For the rest of us mortal souls, it will push your limits and then some more. Without a vision, these are the times, many will abandon the ship because they were in it only for the income and that’s nowhere in sight. Your vision is your driving force, and often, subjective and emotion-driven. Earning 1 million dollars is NOT your vision; helping others realize their financial dreams is—the keyword being ‘helping.’

On to goals, determine your objective, number-driven goal that will help you deliver your vision. What can you do to ‘help’ others but grow your own business? Writing goals help you gauge your growth strategy and progress. It includes statements like x number of subscribers by xyz date; $x amount of sales by abc date; etc.

The vision statement is your ‘why’ while the goal statement(s) is your ‘how’.

Note:

  • Write your goals in a statement format so that it is in alignment with your vision.
  • Make sure your big goal funnels up to your vision, and your small goals funnel up to your big goal.
  • When defining your goals (big and small), use the SMART goal-setting methodology.

2. Pay attention to data

Linking your website with Google Analytics is one of the most common pieces of advice you will come across in the blogging world—for good reason too. Business analysis is fundamental for any business—online or offline, big or small. Without studying your business data, you will not know about the direction your business should take.

Now, while I understand the importance of analytical tools, especially Google Analytics, I am far from mastering it. I do use it on a weekly basis to check my time on page, referrals, and demographics so I can tailor my content accordingly. I am sure there are a lot more cool things I can do with Google Analytics but I am saving those tricks for later (read: I am scared to even think about it). It used to break my heart to see a bounce rate of 70-80% but I recently learned that is the norm for new-ish blogs, not the exception. Phew! My aim is to bring down the bounce rate anyway.

Similarly, I use my Pinterest and Facebook Page analytics to check visitor counts, engagement rates, and demographics.

I realize I need to dive a little deeper into data, but for now, what I know serves me well.

(Note: If you have any recommendations about essential data to focus on, please feel free to leave a comment below, or send me an email at [email protected]. I shall be indebted.)

3. Invest money in your blogging business

You are a business owner and you need to invest money first before you can see any returns on it. I get it: it’s natural to keep your wallet close to you when you are just starting out. I have been there! I thought, “Oh why should I pay for information that I can find for free.” Makes complete sense but here’s the thing: as a business owner, time is money too. If you are okay with spending hours searching for content instead of spending it to create content and network, go right ahead. The other thing is the echo chamber effect. Often, the free content you find sounds similar because everyone (even a new business owner) is telling you the same thing…but those are just the basics. Nobody is going to give away a game-changing tactic free.

Let me give you an example: when I started blogging six months ago, everyone was talking about Pinterest being the next best thing. I read post after post advising to pin content 20-30-50-100 times a day. And to sign up for a business account. So I did. But it wasn’t until I enrolled in *Jen Snyder’s Find Your Tribe Online course that I learned about Pinterest aspects that free content doesn’t talk about, such as setting up your profile and types of pins that convert. *Jen’s course also helped me find and narrow down some amazing Facebook groups for networking and marketing.

*Find Your Tribe Online was the first course I invested in and I do not regret the expense one bit because the knowledge I gained from the course far outweighed the cost. My Pinterest monthly views have grown from about 50-75 to 25K+ in little over two months. It is also translating to increased blog traffic and more email signups for me.

So, go ahead and invest in your business. It may be a course to help you gain mastery over a certain topic, or it could an automation tool to save you time, or it could be a paid mastermind group to hold you accountable. Determine your business needs, research the available products, and start investing. It doesn’t need to be a big purchase because big is not always better!

Note:

  • Courses aside, please invest in an external hard drive or SSD card or cloud storage because your laptop WILL fill up fast and as a result processing WILL slow down. I learned it the hard way.
  • Be ready to invest time as well. You cannot grow your blog into a business by spending one hour a day on it. Or, maybe you can, but it will just take that much longer to see the returns. Schedule at least 3-4 hours a day to spend on your business. If you need help in the time management department, I have created a resource to help you to manage your time better. Hint: prioritization is key!

4. Sign up for all the big social media platforms but focus on only one (or two)

You have defined your vision and goal(s). You researched your niche and target audience. You have created awesome content that is in alignment with your business vision and goals and added keywords in strategic positions throughout the blog. Apparently, in the olden days, that was enough. You build and they will come.

Not anymore. Especially for a new blog owner, you are yet to build domain authority. Without that, Google is unlikely to rank your content on the first page.

So, what do you do? Do you just wait and watch? No, if they don’t come looking for you, you go seek them out. This is where the social media platforms come into play. People hang out on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest etc. a lot more than on Google search page. So, that’s where you go too.

Facebook groups are awesome mediums to promote your content actively.

*Suzi Whitford’s signature course, Blog By Numbers has an exhaustive list of Facebook groups you can join but she also puts her finger on her favorite ones. You are free to join and check out all of the groups she provides, or you could go with her recommendations. I definitely joined her recommended groups and I have also started identifying 3-5 groups that I want to continue in. These are groups I had previously joined on my own.

*In her course, Suzi also gives you access to a long list of Pinterest group boards, which are a big thing these days to promote your content. I’ll be honest: I haven’t joined too many group boards. I think I am part of just 4-5 such boards and I definitely need to pick up my pinning game on these boards. Who knows…maybe if I was active on these group boards, my numbers could have been even higher.

For now, Facebook is my focus and Pinterest comes a close second.

5. Create systems and processes for your blogging business

Once you have spent a few weeks on your blog, you will begin to see certain patterns emerging. These will relate to your posting schedule and techniques, your working process and schedule, your preferred social media platforms, etc. Pay attention to these patterns and see what you can do to simplify/automate and standardize these patterns.

I described in an earlier post about how I batch process my blogging tasks and the schedule that I follow to execute the batched tasks. Another thing I am seriously looking into is automating my social media posting, especially Pinterest. (I almost bought Tailwind but I don’t own a credit card and Tailwind doesn’t support PayPal yet, so there’s that.)

Another example of standardization is creating templates. When I started blogging, I used to run around like a headless chicken trying to come up with graphics for my blog promotion. I kept experimenting with fonts and colors and come up with a certain style only to forget what I had come up with when it was time to do it again. Then a light bulb went off—why was I not doing what I had been following for the last 15 years as an online course creator? Maintaining a style guide has been an integral part of my professional life and it was time I built it into my blogging life too. Boom! I now work with premade graphics templates—all I need to do is change the image and text. What took me 15 minutes earlier now takes me no more than 2 minutes.

The idea behind the automation and/or standardization is to save time. As your business starts growing, you will find yourself spending more time on creating epic content and nurturing your subscribers. You cannot afford to waste any time doing other tasks that can be automated or delegated. Again, make prioritization your best friend.

6. Build relationships with people

Like most bloggers, I am an introvert too. Quitting the corporate rat race was my greatest gift to myself. It used to drain me to function in a structure that essentially favors extroverts. I would feign illness on days of office parties because I just could not stand the whole networking scene and gabbing nonstop for three hours.

So, when I read to be successful, bloggers not only have to network but also market and (gasp) sell, I panicked. Then I thought I don’t HAVE TO meet or broadcast myself live. I could still hide behind my screen and do it all.

I was wrong. Well, technically, I wasn’t…I really can hide behind my screen and do it all but the truth is like everything else in life, blogging success also depends on human interactions. Luckily, I don’t have move around in big groups (nightmare for my introverted personality). I can have meaningful relationships with others on a one-to-one basis.

Remember your vision is to ‘help’ others…make their lives easier by providing them with inspiration, advice, and tools. In return, find people who will help you give your best and boost your confidence. And it helps of course when your network supports you by supporting your products or services.

So, after dilly-dallying for 4 months (out of 6!), I finally took the plunge and sent out an email to my only subscriber. I sat waiting for the unsubscribe notification to pop up. But she didn’t unsubscribe. My list has since grown (albeit slowly) and I have been sending emails on a weekly basis to my group. I have seen a few unsubscribe notifications too (some on the same day as subscribing :-P) but the number of subscriptions far outweighs them and motivates me.

I am now working towards creating a safe environment for my subscribers and me to interact. To understand their needs and equip them with the information they need is my one of my top blogging priorities.

How long have you been blogging for? What have you learned in this duration that you think can help others, like me? Share in comments below.

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Six lessons I have learned about professional blogging during my first six months of being a blogger.

 

How to create 10 blog posts from just one idea | FREE 300+ blog post ideas

You started blogging with great intentions. You started with a bang and in the process exhausted all of your awesome ideas. Now, a few weeks in, you are struggling to come up with topic ideas. That spells trouble for anyone with true intentions of blogging professionally.

Or, perhaps you are great with ideation. You are religiously publishing a new post every week. Now, you want to ramp up your publishing schedule and publish more blog posts every week.

Even if you don’t see yourself as either of the above examples, it’s always good to have a list of ideas to work with.

So, what can you do to come up with more and more ideas? Sure, you have to use the tried-and-tested techniques (Google Keyword Planner, Pinterest search bar, BuzzSumo, etc.) But once you come up with an idea, what if you could create multiple blog posts using that single idea?

Yes, it is possible! Let’s call it the multiplier effect.

The process is simple: you pick one idea and spin it to create the following types of blog posts:

  • List / Top 5
  • (Expert) roundup
  • Ultimate guide / Long-form / Research-based
  • How to / Tutorial / Instructional
  • Case study / Problem and solution / Success or failure story
  • Infographic
  • Podcast
  • Video
  • Opposing view / different perspective / guest post
  • Opinion-based / review

That’s 10 blog post ideas right there!

Let’s work with an example.

You want to publish more blog posts. But you are running out of ideas. But what if you could create multiple posts using a single idea? Click the image to learn how. You also get 300+ blog post ideas across 9 profitable niches if you sign up.

Suppose, per research, you have come up with the idea ‘KonMari techniques of decluttering.

Back to your chosen topic: ‘KonMari techniques of decluttering.

At the outset, determine which types of blog posts you can create with this idea. A little thought reveals that your chosen topic lends itself to all of the aforementioned types of blog posts. Cha-ching!

(Okay, let’s be real for a second here. Not all ideas may translate to 10 blog posts, but if you put your mind to it, you can easily come up with at least five. That’s great too, isn’t it?)

Now, let’s see how we can use the KonMari idea to create 10 blog posts. The objective of each of these posts will be to help your readers determine whether they should adopt the KonMari techniques in their daily life.

  • List / Top 5: This could be a list of advantages and/or disadvantages of the KonMari techniques.
  • (Expert) roundup: This could be a roundup post citing short reviews of the KonMari techniques from organizational experts.
  • How to / Tutorial / Instructional: This could be an actual tutorial of the KonMari techniques of decluttering. Create a step-by-step guide aka user manual for your readers.
  • Ultimate guide / Long-form / Research-based: This could be an extensive post evaluating the KonMari techniques. Think of it as an in-depth review.
  • Opinion-based / Review: This could be a subjective post about the KonMari technique. It will highlight what YOU think about the techniques. It is NOT an in-depth objective review.
  • Opposing view / different perspective / guest post: This could be an opposing view of the KonMari techniques, i.e. why your readers should NOT adopt it. Essentially, by writing this post, you want to go against the grain. Or, you could write a pro post while a guest blogger can write an anti post or vice versa. Write it as a narrative.
  • Case study / Problem and solution / Success or failure story: This could illustrate an example of a KonMari follower and their story from point A to point B. You could begin with a problem statement of the user and then show how adopting the KonMari techniques did or did not help alleviate that problem.
  • Infographic: This could be a visual chart of the KonMari techniques. Summarize your findings of the methods (such as statistics, techniques, advantages, disadvantages, etc.) and present them as an infographic. Great boost for your Pinterest account as well!
  • Podcast: This could be an audio version of your findings of the KonMari technique. Make it long or short.
  • Video: This could be an audio version of your findings of the KonMari technique. Make it long or short, but videos usually work best when they are short (5 minutes or less) and focus on the key points.

There. One great idea. 10 awesome blog posts.

It’s time you get started with your own multiplier effect.


How do you come up with ideas for your blog? Share in the comments section below.

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You want to publish more blog posts. But you are running out of ideas. But what if you could create multiple posts using a single idea? Click the image to learn how. You also get 300+ blog post ideas across 9 profitable niches if you sign up.

7 Necessary Productivity Hacks for Gmail User

Gmail is the e-mail service provider of choice for millions of people, including me. It has become not only the most-used personal e-mail system but also a strong business e-mail system. Whether it is your way of staying in touch with your child’s school, other mom friends, or even your friends from back in school, I am willing to bet 80% of you use Gmail.

I was one of the early adopters of Gmail, back in 2004. Those days, you could join Gmail only through an invitation from an existing user. The streamlined, minimal interface of the system was like a breath of fresh air among the cluttered interfaces of Yahoo! and Hotmail. User-friendly Gmail soon spread like a wildfire among the young and the old.

Gmail has been in existence for over a decade and (other than the concerns around Google’s privacy policy) it still works like a dream. Over the years, it may seem like Gmail has not evolved at all but I will attribute it to the “why fix what’s not broken” adage. That said there are several Gmail features that are amazing but hidden from the main interface and not discussed enough. Traditional users do not tinker around looking for hidden features. Are you one of them?

Here are 7 amazing Gmail hacks that will improve your productivity.

7 Essential Gmail Productivity Hacks

Fair warning: This is an image-heavy post. I plan to replace the image series with video clips. But until such time, thank you for your patience and support 🙂

Create Alias-Based Filters

Optional reading: Text explanation from the Gmail Support team here.

Did you know when you sign up for Gmail, you actually sign up for multiple IDs or aliases? For example, when I signed up for [email protected], I get [email protected] and [email protected] free. Similarly, my husband uses a “.” (dot) between his first name and last name, but if by mistake, someone misses the “.” he will still receive the email. Cool, eh?

But, here’s something even cooler. You can take advantage of these punctuations to filter your emails. Suppose you are a work at home mom and you do not want to create a separate work email ID (provided your personal email account is not [email protected]), you do not have to. Simply create an alias on your existing email ID using either a “.” or a “+” and add a distinguishing keyword.

For example, I will receive emails from my personal emails at [email protected] and business emails (I freelance) at [email protected]. All from the same email account. Similarly, you can come up with aliases for maybe your website, your child’s school, your college reunion group, promotional emails, etc.

Here’s how to create an alias-based filter.

Remember to provide the correct alias email ID. For example, while you are signing up for a new application, sign up using [email protected]. Create a filter for this alias. That’s it. All incoming emails on this ID will automatically get filtered as per your chosen conditions.

Categorize and Color Code

Optional reading: Text explanation from the Gmail Support team here.

I am sure you all are aware what categorization means. If not, categorization is a technique to sort items or tasks into like groups. The sorting is based on certain preset conditions. For example, on your master list of To-Do items, some are work related, some are house chores, some are school related, etc.

Remember the Eisenhower Decision Matrix? That’s also categorization based on priorities.

Similarly, the emails you receive can be sorted into various categories. Gmail provides an option to set up your Inbox based on certain keywords and display them as tabs. It’s the default setting of all new Gmail accounts. But if you want don’t have it active and want to try it out, here’s what you need to do:

I do not like using this setup because the sorting is based on very broad categories (not Gmail’s fault; they have to keep it broad to fit all users). I like to filter using my own categories (see the previous tip).

On Gmail, you can categorize using two methods:

Use Labels

Optional reading: Text explanation from the Gmail Support team here.

Assigning labels to your emails helps you locate them quickly. My account is quite streamlined, but if you tend to have many categories, using labels can help you sort, scan, and locate them visually. You can also use the labeling system to create a To-Do list. For example, I have a bright red label called “ACTION REQD.” I assign this label to emails that need follow-up: either a reply or a printout, etc. Similarly, I have labels for items that add to my income or expenditure.

Stars and Icons

Optional reading: Text explanation from the Gmail Support team here.

Instead of using simple color-coded labels, Gmail also allows you to use pictorial labels to sort your emails. To do this, use the Stars and Icons features provided by Gmail.

For example, for emails that need your attention or it is a high priority item, use the red exclamation triangle icon. Alternatively, use a red star or multiple stars. It is up to you how you want to use the stars and icons.

Remember you can use only the active stars and icons.

Undo Send

Optional reading: Text explanation from the Gmail Support team here.

How many times have you sent an email and immediately realized you forgot to add a detail? It happens. I have done it a few times.

Luckily, the Gmail team does not look down upon people like me. They have just the thing to save us embarrassment. The Undo Send feature allows you to recall your email within 30 seconds of sending. Trust me, that’s time enough to realize what mistake you have made 😀

Ready to save you some embarrassment?

If you do not find the feature in the General tab, look for it in the Labs tab and enable it.

Done.

Use Preview Pane

How many of you have used Microsoft Outlook? I have not since I quit my full-time job, but one feature of MS Outlook that has stayed with me is the Preview Pane. Seeing a preview of anything helps you decide whether you want to invest more time in diving deeper.

Think of it this way: would you go watch a movie that has a crappy trailer? I bet not unless someone is holding a gun to your head or you have nothing better to do.

So, when I discovered the Preview Pane feature in Gmail, I was over the moon. Here is how you can activate it too.

Voila!

Create Canned Responses

Emailing can eat into your time faster than you think.

Think about it: not every email needs your immediate response. However, you do not want your subscribers or clients to hear crickets either. What’s the solution then?

Canned responses.

You can create standard responses to similar queries.

Appreciation/feedback from subscribers? Send them a standard “Thank you for your feedback. I appreciate you.” note.

Too many frequently asked questions from subscribers? Send standard responses with relevant answers.

Inquiries from brands about your portfolio? Send them a standard package email.

You can save a lot of time by sending these pre-typed standard responses. Gmail calls them “Canned Responses.” Here’s how to create your own canned responses.

Now, every time someone sends you an email about something you have answered several times previously, just use the saved canned responses and be done with just a few clicks.

Create Tasks from Emails

Gmail is no longer just an email service provider; it’s a productivity tool.

That’s right! You can create a basic To-Do list right in your inbox. You don’t need a separate task manager anymore. Let’s see how.

Isn’t that cool?

Integrations

As if the aforementioned features were not enough, you can integrate a number of third-party extensions to power Gmail even more. Here are a few of my tried-and-tested recommendations:

  • Zapier is a tool that allows you to create triggers and actions to automate your emailing requirements, such as creating labels, creating To-Do lists, etc. It allows you to create actions that native Gmail features do not.
  • Boomerang is an exclusive browser extension for Gmail to schedule outgoing emails. As a blogger, you may already be using this feature for your marketing emailing system, such as MailerLite, but now you can do it for your personal emailing system as well.
  • FollowUp is a browser extension that not only schedules emails but also alerts you when someone opens your email. In addition, you can also set up reminders for…you guessed it, follow-ups.

What are some of your favorite Gmail hacks or integration? Share in the comments below.

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How to Create Memorable and Effective Instructional Content? (Part 2 of 2)

Creating high-quality instructional content (in a blog) is a highly sought-after income option. Isn’t it amazing it to share your knowledge with others and eventually being paid for it? Your writing may help a working mom to manage her time better. Your writing may allow a stay-at-home to add to her family’s finances. Your writing may help a toddler mom to learn how to engage her child. The possibilities are many. And they are all positive!

In my earlier post, I introduced you to the ARCS model of presenting instructional content. You learned about the importance of including the elements of attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction in your writing. While the ARCS model will help you keep an overarching strategy in mind, you also need to work on the meat of the matter—your content.

7 Tips to Create Awesome Instructional Content

Write Memorable and Effective Instructional Content

Know your audience

Nothing is more important for an instructor than to know her audience. It’s very well to consider your blog a creative outlet for you, but if you have any hopes of earning income from your blog, you have to write content that helps others. In doing so, if you can fulfill your creative needs, even better.

Think about what you can bring to the table for your audience? How can you change their lives? What tangible transformation will they see in themselves if they follow your advice? Think like your audience. When you put yourself in your audience’s shoes, you will understand their challenges better and write for them instead of shooting in the dark. When you write in your audience’s shoes, your content will resonate with them. That’s the beginning of building a loyal readership, isn’t it?

Find your focus

Every blog post begins with an idea that is not just useful but hopefully unique. When you sit to brainstorm ideas, make sure that each post focuses on only one concept. For example, you want to teach your audience how to create a slideshow. However, creating a slideshow involves several tasks, including but not limited to:

  • Choosing the software
  • Choosing the template and theme
  • Designing a master slide
  • Creating engaging but minimal content
  • Adding animations
  • Viewing a slideshow

A high-quality post will focus on only one of the aforementioned tasks and go in-depth with it. This is true for all the other tasks—each task being its own post. When compiled, these will come together to form a series or a course. One more thing: for each of these tasks (posts), use the SMART method to draft the outcome or goal of the post. Yes, you can apply the SMART method to content creation too.

Begin with the outcome in mind

(a.k.a. Long-form vs Short-form content)

It’s widely advised to create long-form content (1500+ words—jury is out on what word count qualifies as “long-form content”). Here’s why: long-form content:

  • Allows you to create in-depth posts
  • Allows search engines to understand the purpose of your post and rank your content
  • Increases the chances of reader engagement by keeping them longer on your blog

As a mom to a pre-K boy, I have limited time to read long articles. Even so, if I come across a high-quality blog post that I think will help me progress, I will bookmark it or save it to Pocket or Evernote. It may take me three days to finish reading it, but finish it I will!

That said, do not force yourself to write long articles just because that is the norm these days and you want to rank higher. Katina Davenport wrote a wonderful post about why you do not need to make every post of yours an epic post. Once you find the idea, find the outcome of the idea. And then, stick to it. Again, find your focus.

The length of your post should solely depend on the purpose of the post. If you force yourself to write longer posts, your focus will drift in and out and words will start to lose meaning. That cannot be good for your engagement numbers, yes?

Break up the content

Reading on a digital device can be tiring for the eyes. Additionally, too much content can result in information overload and again cause fatigue. So, if you decide to write a long-form content, make sure that you break up the content to reduce text fatigue. To do this, use:

  • Headers and sub-headers to organize the content into logical chunks
  • Add emphasis to power words or key takeaway sentences
  • Bullet lists with short sentences
  • Bright, relevant, and engaging photos or illustrations
  • Colorful charts and graphs, where applicable, to present and/or summarize data
  • Well-produced video or audio clips
  • Examples of success stories or testimonials to add “human” or “emotional” element
  • You may even consider splitting your long-form post into a series of posts (like this one J).

Use meaningful images

It’s true that content is king when it comes to traditional blogs. However, according to research, using the right image can help retain the same information six times more than usual.

The general trend has been to include at least two clean images in each blog post that are social media friendly. That’s great! But do you know why you are including these images in the first place (other than publishing to social media platforms?). Visual elements help:

  • Add an emotional angle
  • Break the blocks of text, which can tire out the eyes.

While text remains your primary data in blogs, images should complement the text. It should not take the focus away from the main content (unless it’s an infographic, in which case the body text becomes complementary).

Spend time looking for beautiful, powerful but more importantly, relevant images that evoke the necessary emotions in your readers. The other day I saw a Pinterest image about creating an online course. It was a great image and well designed. Except it used an image of a typewriter. Show me how you can create an online course using a typewriter and I will be happy to eat my words. Don’t be that person.

Don’t stop looking until you find the right images to support your content.

Walk away

You may be someone who writes a post in one sitting or in installments. I aim to finish a post in one sitting but it does not always happen. For example, today is the third day I am working on this post. Sometimes I feel plain uninspired; sometimes my child needs my attention in the middle of my writing time; sometimes I will answer a call from my mom. But that’s okay, and in fact, it’s good.

Even if you work distraction-free, you still need to dissociate yourself from your content before you publish it. It is important to take breaks during your work hours. Granted, the aforementioned breaks are unplanned, but it refreshes my mind nonetheless. Walking away from your work helps you return with a fresh eye and more zeal. So, next time you work on a post, allow yourself to take small breaks. Here are some ideas to utilize your breaks better:

Don’t force yourself to write when your heart is somewhere else. It will show in your writing.

Be brutal with your edits

Many bloggers mistake editing for proofreading, but they are not interchangeable tasks. While proofreading helps eliminate language errors (grammar, mechanics, typos, etc.), editing tests the objective and usability of the post.

So, next time you sit down to “edit” your post, check if your content:

  • Meets its objective(s) or outcome
  • Focusses on one and only one idea; remove all superfluous content
  • Uses a hook in the introductory paragraph (for more information, read the ARCS post I wrote earlier)
  • Is organic—meaning, each post can be a standalone post without depending on another post
  • Is logically chunked and organized
  • Flows easily from general to specific concepts
  • Is engaging to read
  • Uses direct, easy-to-understand, and actionable instructions
  • Uses relevant examples and images
  • Is grammatically correct

I hope you found this post useful. Try incorporating these tips the next time you write instructional content or any content for that matter.

If you found this post useful, please consider sharing it with others.

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Create Memorable and Effective Instructional Content

How to Create Memorable and Effective Instructional Content? (Part 1 of 2)

Have you ever found yourself attracted to a particular blogger’s writing style? Have you ever thought what is it about this blogger’s style that attracts you? For example, I LOVE reading Ruth Soukup’s weekly posts on the Elite Blog Academy blog and the related newsletter that comes with each post. It took me a while to figure out why her writing was so effective. Most of her posts:

  • Have an attention-grabbing or action-oriented headline
  • Illustrate a personal but relatable struggle of hers in the introduction
  • Pose a thought-provoking question
  • End with a strong dose of motivation
  • Use simple and familiar language

These are all tenets of great writing, especially when it comes to instructional or motivational articles. Besides the obvious element of great “writing,” the effectiveness of such posts also depends on several other elements.

The Secret to Creating Fantastic Instructional Content

In my professional life, we use a learning model called the ARCS model to deliver effective learning experiences to adults. ARCS is an acronym for Attention, Relevance, Confidence, Satisfaction—the four elements that, when woven into your learning products, ensure your learners benefit from it as they should.

ARCS is a great checklist to ensure you can gain and sustain the interest and motivation of your readers/students. While the acronym specifically applies to adult learning experiences (think about your upcoming eBooks or eCourses!), you can easily adapt it to your writing for the blog. Here’s how:

Writing Memorable and Effective Instructional Content

Attention

There are no two ways about the fact that grabbing your readers’ attention is the first and most important element for gaining loyal subscribers. Without grabbing their attention, how will your writing stand out amongst 10,000 other blogs? What is it that will make people sit up and take notice of your writing?

Remember, according to research, you have no more than 20 seconds before readers will decide whether they will continue reading your post or bounce to the next shiny pasture. So, GRAB.THEIR.ATTENTION!

And here’s what you need to do:

First, spend a little more time thinking about a solid headline that uses power words and is unambiguous about the intent of the post. That said, stay far away from click bait headlines because you may attract traffic purely based on such titles but when your headline and article do not match, your readers would be suspicious of you in future.

Second, write a solid introduction for your actual post. You want to sustain your reader’s/student’s attention even past the headline because that’s where your message lies.

You can do this by using either of the following two strategies:

  • Perceptual arousal: This strategy uses an element of surprise or uncertainty to gain interest. This could be a startling fact or a statistic. Or, it could even be a “non-example” that will go against the reader’s expectations. Try giving humor a chance to introduce an information-heavy post. Basically, include elements that will shake up the foundation of an ideal situation and make your readers sit up and pay attention.
  • Inquiry arousal: This strategy stimulates curiosity by presenting challenges and questions upfront. You can present these challenges or question on a first-person or second-person basis; the idea is to make the premise believable and relatable.

It’s up to you what media you choose to use—it could be a short video clip, an audio clip, a cartoon, or plain old plan. Make it engaging, make it intriguing, make it useful.

Whatever you do, keep your readers/students hooked.

Relevance

Once you have your audience’s attention, you need to make it abundantly clear why they should keep reading your post—what do they stand to gain out of your post? Which real-life problem of theirs does your post address? In other words, what is the outcome or end result of reading your post? Hint: employ SMART goal setting to determine the outcomes.

But how should you present this information? One way to do this is to simply list the outcomes before diving into the main content. But that is as boring as it gets. Instead, consider using model behavior examples, or better still, present yourself in your readers’ shoes. Remember Ruth Soukup’s example above? “Show” the readers how your post will help them in the short and/or long term. Show them by telling how it has helped you, or include testimonials.

Confidence

By nature, humans put energy into tasks that they feel will bring them success/reward/award. Plain, simple return on investment. Does your style of writing make your readers feel they will stand to gain something? The gain could be a new skill, better lifestyle, or even just momentary feel-good headspace.

Use positive and encouraging language when imparting knowledge. Tell your readers/students up front what they will learn from your post and the amount of effort needed from them. Organize your content in a manner that goes from general to specific, and draws from real-life examples.

If your post is building on a concept that you have discussed previously, direct the reader to that resource to level the field for everyone. Provide related and useful content upgrades, worksheets, cheat sheets wherever you can. Essentially, set your reader up for success every step of the way.

Another important thing to build your reader’s confidence is to talk to them, not talk down to them. Even if you are writing an “XYZ post for dummies,” do not think of your readers as “dummies”.

Satisfaction

Now, this element is more in tune with a formal learning program. In going through a course and/or at the end of a course, learners are typically see awarded a digital completion certificate or access to an expert to address doubts. The objective is to do what you can to ensure that the learner is rewarded for their effort upon successfully completing your intervention.

For blog posts, this element can be difficult to implement. But what you can do instead is do it anyway. Perhaps you can invite comments and respond to each comment—this could be their access to an expert (you!).

In my next post, I will share a few more tips to create better instructional posts. I would love it if you could leave your feedback in the comments below and share the post with others.

Write Memorable and Effective Instructional Content

The Anatomy of a Style Guide + Free Starter Template

Ever since I started this blog four months ago, I have been playing around with themes and trying to establish its visual branding guidelines (I realize I will have to purchase a premium theme and/or hire a designer eventually, but for now, I enjoy playing with the available resources). While I have been pretty sure about the style of content this blog will carry, I have been quite fickle with the visual aspect. So, every time I changed the theme, I wanted to update the color scheme of all images on the blog and social media. I have experimented with so many colors pallets (all in the same color family though) and fonts, it was difficult to keep track. And then it hit me! Why wasn’t I using the #1 tool I have used throughout my professional life? I needed to create a style guide–or, a prescribed set of guidelines that help keep your brand’s message and messaging consistent.

The Anatomy of a Style Guide and Why You Need One for Your Blog

Do You Need a Style Guide For Your Blog?

If you are anything like me, you have played around with your blog appearance several times. Experimenting with font styles, colors, images…an overall theme…trying to create a unique style for your unique brand. It may take you several iterations to come up with a style that truly reflects your brand. While the visual aspect of the blog gets a lot of attention from your readers and you, it’s equally important to realize your content style. Your content style adds as much value as the visual style to your brand quotient.

In addition, as you grow and bring in more hands on the deck, you need to ensure that the changes in the backend are not visible on the frontend. Your message and tone should be consistent across your blog. Your reader must not be able to tell the difference between the posts that you write yourself and the posts that your content writer writes (unless you want your readers to know!). Your style guide will be the one-stop reference material you and your team can consult.

A well-researched style guide:

  • Allows uniformity: By establishing branding guidelines, your style guide allows uniformity across all your products—think eBooks, eCourses, printables, emails, and blog posts following the same style that is consistent with your brand.
  • Provides reference: Consider your brand’s style guide as a legacy handbook. Any person who needs to know about your branding guidelines can consult the style guide.
  • Saves time: Imagine how much time you would waste if you or your team did not have the style guide to consult. A new team member may need to sit around waiting for a more experienced person to guide frequently.

Which Style Guide Is Right For Me?

All links prefixed with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. Any purchase you make by clicking these links will earn me a small commission but will not require any additional cost from you. For more details, please read my Disclosure Policy.

It is a common practice in the publishing industry to create one’s own style guide based on the unique requirements of your brand. While the visual aspect is often built from the scratch, most organizations adapt their content style to existing industry-standard style guides.

Two common style guides you can follow or borrow from are the *Chicago Manual of Style and the *Yahoo Style Guide. I have used both of these style guides in my professional life, and base most of my current writing on these as well. Both resources are beneficial for those using informal language, i.e. most bloggers. For example, if you have a parenting blog, your content should be easy to understand, use the active voice, and provide actionable tasks or steps. It should be informative but presented as quick tips (parents don’t have time to sit through a 3000-words paragraph format post). It should have a reassuring tone and highly trusted voice.

Another popular resource for establishing writing style is the *AP Stylebook. This resource is apt for serious writing. For example, if you have a website on mental illnesses, then your writing will be very different from a more casual beauty blog. The AP Stylebook will be more apt for a blog on mental illnesses.

Download a free, fully customizable style guide for your blog NOW!

Common Sections of a Style Guide

Writing Style: This section provides guidance on the expected writing style and formatting for your content.

  • General
  • Formatting
  • Grammar and Mechanics
  • Industry Language and Jargon
  • Credits and References

Visual Style: This section provides guidance on the expected visual style and formatting for your content.

  • Logo: Where does your logo appear? What is the size of your logo?
  • Color and Fonts: What fonts do you use for your text and headers?
  • Images
  • Placement and alignment
  • Templates: Add the image template for each social media platform you use.

At face value, this may look like a lot of unnecessary work. But you should work with the mindset of a business owner. Your aim should be to optimize your processes such that you or any new member that works on your blog knows exactly what to do. Maintaining a style guide is one such resource that helps maintain business continuity. A style guide can be as concise or as detailed as you like. It is not a fossil document; remember to modify it as your brand evolves.

To get you started, I have created a fully customizable style guide template for you. You can work with this template as is, or add further sections to your own liking. For example, if you start writing eBooks or eCourses, you can create a separate section for the content and visual guidelines to follow. Much of this guide will overlap with your existing style guide.

The Anatomy of a Style Guide and Why You Need One for Your Blog

5 Facebook Groups to Promote Your Next Blog Post

As a new blogger/online business owner, you need to be visible. People should see you. The name of your blog/product/service should start to register. Your brand should intrigue your readers. And you, in turn, need to find your niche audience and gain traffic. One way of ensuring this is to promote your blog/business on social media platforms, including Pinterest and Facebook groups.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned in a post that I am no longer participating in the “all-or-nothing” Facebook promotion threads. To participate in such threads, one needs to set aside a good amount of time. But as someone who not only has a young kid as well as a thriving freelance business, I cannot afford to set aside that much time. But more importantly, I spoke about how these threads often do not comprise of my target audience.

So what have I been doing to promote my blog posts? Well, I am still using social media to get the word around. I am also focusing on Pinterest and Facebook because that’s where the majority of my traffic comes from. So let’s talk Facebook!

I share a love-hate relationship with this platform that has over one billion active users. While I am very nervous about the privacy of my personal page, it would be foolish of me to ignore the reach of Facebook for my business.

Facebook groups help:

  • Connect and collaborate with other bloggers
  • Gain and provide support
  • Promote content (though some groups do not allow any kind of promotion)

So, I continue to promote my work on select few Facebook groups that are well-moderated and have helpful and thriving communities.

5 Facebook Groups to Promote Your Next Blog Post

Facebook Group Promp Social 1

  1. Boost Your Blog: Hosted by Helene Sula, this is one of my favorite Facebook groups. The group allows promotion of your blog post any day of the week but disallows “like-for-like” type of threads (YES!). You are also expected to participate in the discussions and add value in return. Blog Your Blog has more than 25K members, so there’s a fair chance your target audience is hanging there J
  2. Blogging Newbs: Hosted by McKinzie Bean, this group is a thriving community of over 16K members who support each other by sharing knowledge. The group allows promotional posts on Tuesdays (direct promo) and Thursdays (via social media).
  3. Bloggers Supporting Bloggers: This group, hosted by Allie Barke, has over 23K members who have a chance to promote their business every day of the week. The themes or source of promotion may vary depending on the day, but its promotion nonetheless.
  4. Secret Blogger’s + Bosses Society: If you haven’t watched the very useful free webinars hosted by Kate McKibbin, you are missing out. But I digress! This was one of the first groups I joined on Facebook and have found the discussions immensely helpful. Kate hosts promotion threads on Saturdays and Sundays.
  5. Women Winning Online: I consider Jennifer Snyder one of my unofficial mentors 😛 But that’s absolutely not the reason her group finds a mention in this list. I have found Women Winning Online to be an extremely close-knit and supportive group of over 4.5K members. The group is alive but not noisy. Jennifer hosts promotion threads on Fridays but the threads during the rest of the week are worth participating in too.

 

Conclusion (and a confession)

So, there you have it: my top 5 Facebook groups for promotion. That said, I hope you also understand that these groups are extremely useful not just for promotion, but also for networking, building visibility, and self-education.

I am not as active on Facebook as I would love to because of certain personal circumstances but I try to spend as much time as I can to participate in the groups that I mentioned above. I would love for you to join these groups, if you haven’t already, and connect with me if you are already a part of the group. I go by the name ‘Mala Magotra’.

See you around.

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5 Ways I’m Eliminating New Blogger Overwhelm

How often have you sat at your desk after putting your children to sleep or finishing your day job, and suddenly did not know where to start? As a new blogger, you feel overwhelmed even before you start working on your new blog post. You are not sure whether you should finalize the post first, or separate your draft from your editing process. You sit at your desk and stare at your computer. Finally, you give up and call it a day. I wrote about my frustrations as a new blogger. But, I wasn’t going to let that keep me down for too long. I needed to address those issues and tackle them head-on.

Here’s what I realized: this feeling of overwhelm is natural when you are being pulled in five different directions. Perhaps you have young kids and they need your attention. Perhaps you have a large family and you want to cook three square meals for them every day. Perhaps you work full-time and have a small home-based business on the side. Which way do you go first?

I knew there are things I CAN do to eliminate the overwhelm from my busy mom life. I decided to apply those same principles and guidelines to my blogging life and replicate the results.

5 Ways I’m Eliminating New Blogger Overwhelm 

Make Prioritization your Best Friend

The key to productivity is prioritization. Writing a simple To-Do list in no particular order does NOT count. It is essential to identify and mark the order of priority. Personally, I use the Eisenhower Decision Matrix to determine my priorities but you may have your own system. The important thing is to have a system.

Use the Pomodoro Technique

Consider using the Pomodoro technique. For those of you who do not know, Pomodoro is a productivity technique of working for 25 minutes on a single task and then taking a 5-minute break. Each 25-minute window is called a Pomodoro. After four Pomodoros (i.e. around the 2-hour mark), take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. This refreshes your brain and helps you maintain focus for longer durations. The technique by itself is more detailed, and I will write a separate post on it.

Simplify and Automate the Systems/Processes

As you gain experience in the blogging field, you will start to see patterns emerging in the way you work, such as tasks that can be grouped together and executed together at a later time. Based on your findings, simplify the processes. For example, I once read a lifestyle blogger who admitted they pass their images through three different editing apps on their phones and then finally through Picmonkey. I think that’s too much. Unless you are a professional photographer, I don’t see why you want to edit your photos so extensively. But to each his own. What is important is that for your unique situation, identify the time suckers in your routines and eliminate those. Additionally, automate what you can. You are not just a blogger; you have other roles to fulfill too. Save some time by automating tasks. As a new blogger, it is not practical to purchase all the essential automation tools at one go. But most of these tools have a free trial you can use for 15-30 days or longer with limited features. Try them out and see what works for you. For example, I have been using the free version of Tailwind for a month now and I have hit my 100 auto-scheduled pins limit. As I go about upping my social media game, I will purchase a subscription from Tailwind. There are other tools I am interested in too, but those will have to wait for now.

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Take Time for Self-care

All work and no play make you a dull person. Remember to take some time off every now and then. When you hustle hard, you are likely to burn out fast if you don’t take care of yourself. Using the Pomodoro technique will take care of your work hours but take some time to chill outside of your work hours too. I know it may be difficult for some of you but self-care does not necessarily mean spending a weekday afternoon in the spa (wouldn’t that be nice though?) Self-care can be something as simple as spending 15 minutes in the shower instead of 5 minutes. Or, perhaps watching a few funny cat videos on YouTube for 10 minutes may make you forget your worries. Think about the little things that make you happy. And find the time to do those things.

Educate Yourself

Blogging is a fast-evolving medium and you need to keep yourself up-to-date. Every day, I am reading about social platforms changing their algorithm and I don’t even know how exactly that affects my work. By the time you come up to speed with Technology X, another technology will come knocking at your door. Therefore, it is very important to stay up to date. Schedule time in your calendar (daily, weekly, or monthly) to educate yourself, whether through free webinars, articles, blog posts, or through paid courses. My Facebook feed is mostly filled with blogging-related posts because that’s what I am focusing on these days. But I cannot afford to spend too much time reading long articles or watching webinars for hours every day. So, I save the article links throughout the week, and on Thursdays, I open those links and read them. Or, if I have enrolled for a course, I will go through that course.

With time and with the aforementioned tips, I am slowly settling into the bloggers’ groove and finding my pace. I can literally feel some of my fears and stress addressed. I am determined to create more and better content in the near future. I hope you will stick around. J

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Batch Processing + My Blogging Routine

There was a time I was wildly fascinated with the lifestyle of the French. I wanted to know everything about their lifestyle: how they dress, how they live, how they raise children, what they eat…everything. So, I started following a few bloggers who write about the “Parisian Chic” life. In one of the posts, the writer mentioned how French women build exercise into their daily routines. They walk everywhere. They take the stairs. They grocery shop several times a week. Wait, what?! Call me lazy but I don’t want to step out of the house multiple times a day. When I am out, I better finish all (or most) of the errands, return home, and kick off my shoes. I grocery shop weekly. I go to the gym directly after dropping my son to the school, I visit in in-laws on the way to or back from somewhere else. That’s me, batch processing my life!

And I follow the same principles in my blogging life too. I batch process my blog production.

Batch processing is a technique that will transform your blogging routine and amp up your productivity manifolds. Click the image to read more.

What is Batch Processing?

Batch processing, as the name suggests, is a technique to process tasks in batches. It’s based on one and only one principle: single tasking. In today’s day and age, everyone multitasks. When I was still part of the corporate world until five years ago, I was even evaluated on how well I could multitask (can I just say I rocked multitasking?). But let’s be honest: I used to slip up every now and then. Recently, I have seen a lot more articles urging people to adopt a single-tasking mindset.

Remember, batch processing is not a process, it is a technique. It simply helps you group similar tasks that can be processed together. For example, you may choose to write your SEO even before writing your post, or you may choose to create your images before writing the SEO. These tasks are not necessarily linear (it helps me though to keep it linear but that’s the “process” that I follow—more on this later).

Benefits of Batch Processing

Once you start batch processing, you will see the benefits within a very short time. Batch processing:

  • Helps focus: Working on a single task at a time helps bring focus to the task. When you are switching between tasks that require the use of different faculties/abilities, it messes up your concentration. Conversely, while batch processing, you are using only one set of faculties and your brain can supply all the juice to the required faculties.
  • Improves productivity: When you batch similar tasks, it builds rhythm and improves your productivity. On the other hand, if you are constantly switching between dissimilar tasks, your brain has to reorient itself to the current task.
  • Saves time: When your brain doesn’t need to switch modes constantly, it helps save time. Your brain knows the requirements and parameters within which you are working and it’s already optimized to deliver at those levels.

How to Batch Process Your Blogging Business

Quite simply you break down your blogging tasks to the last detail and group them for similarity. Let’s say on the 1st of every month (ideally before), you research all the topics you want to write about during that month. Spend 1 hour coming up with as many topic ideas as you can. Note that you are NOT focusing on ONE topic idea but several topic ideas at a time. That’s batch processing.

Similarly, identify other tasks that you can group but need not necessarily relate to a single blog post or project. Here are some ideas:

  • Populate the content calendar for a month
  • Edit and proofread multiple blog posts for the month
  • Record multiple YouTube videos in one sitting (ok, you can change your shirt for every video if you want!)
  • Schedule social media posts for the week
  • Write invoices
  • Respond to emails OR comments

The options are aplenty.

Once you have identified the task groups, you want to schedule them on your calendar and build a routine around it. For example, I group tasks and then schedule them by days. Here’s a screenshot of my “sample” Trello board:

Trello Screenshot Momchakra Batch Processing Productivity Blogging

  • On Sundays, I come up with several topic ideas. Yes, my work week begins on a Sunday. It takes me about 1 hour and it’s nothing more than a brain dump.
  • On Mondays, I select 2-3 topics and begin researching. I note down the key points and build a wireframe for each post. I also decide if a post warrants a content upgrade. I spend 4 hours doing this.
  • On Tuesdays, I write the first draft of the posts. I do not worry about the formatting or grammar. It’s a free-form writing day. I spend 4-5 hours on this task.
  • On Wednesdays, I go in with a hawk’s eye and edit my content. I have been trying to write the long-form content of late so it takes a lot of time and patience to edit.
  • On Thursdays, I create content upgrades, if applicable. If not, I use the time for self-education or administrative tasks.
  • On Fridays, I create the images, fill in the SEO details, and schedule publish. Another thing: social media. Right now, I am very bad at it but I am trying to become more visible on social media. So, with whatever time I save on Fridays, I plan to schedule social media posts for the week going forward.
  • On Saturdays, I spend about 1 hour to draft the week’s newsletter (no subscribers to read them though :-P)

I am only three-months into the whole blogging system, and I am still learning. In addition, I am a stay-at-home mother with only about 4 hours to spare in a day. Additionally, I like to keep my weekends as open as possible. I know that is the opposite of a hard hustle, but if I cannot spend time with the ones for whom I am doing this, what is the point of doing it at all? I wrote about my new blogger frustrations in an earlier post. Depending on your unique life situation, you may do more or less and take more or less time doing each task.

So, there you have it: how I use batch processing in my blogging routine.

What your blogging routine? What processes and techniques do you use to work on your amazing blog?

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Batch processing is a technique that will transform your blogging routine and amp up your productivity manifolds. Click the image to read more.

How to Set SMART Goals and Accomplish More Every Day! + Free Goal-setting Template

A friend of mine recently came up with the idea to start a home stationery business. As we got talking about the business and her vision for growth, we agreed that she needed to put her vision on paper for more accountability and clarity. Naturally, one of the first things that came to mind was to create goals so she can measure the success and growth of her business. Among others, here is what she wrote as her goal:

  • Be the one-stop shop for all things in home stationery.

Let me add here that this is the first business she plans to launch. I applaud her for that. It takes guts! She quit her full-time job as a graphic designer 7 years ago to stay at home with her then-newborn daughter. Today, when her daughter has grown up and spends most of the day at school and after-school activities, my friend found herself with a lot of time on hand and she did not know what to do with it. Instead of wasting it on binge-watching a show on Netflix for the rest of her life (someone, please tell me it gets boring after a while!), she decided to use her design skills to start her own business. Yay to that!

Coming back to the goals…here’s a little background on my professional experience. I am an instructional designer, which means I analyze, design, and develop online and offline courses for corporate employees. An integral part of being in the education business is to know how to identify the goals and objectives of any program (or business, or any project really). This is what I do for a living and I couldn’t hold back. We spent the next two hours thrashing out goals. A tried-and-tested strategy to draft goals is to use the SMART methodology.

How to Set SMART Goals and Accomplish More Every Day!

What is the SMART Goal Setting Methodology?

A SMART goal stands for a goal that is:

  • Specific: Your goal should be as specific as possible. It should have an expected outcome attached to it. Explore the what, why, where, how, who of your goal. Making your goal specific to the last detail helps you identify the component(s) that you want to track. It helps make your goals clearer and more manageable, and consequently easier to accomplish. For example,
    • Vague goal: I want to grow my email list.
    • The problem: The aforementioned goal is vague because it does not address several questions, including (but not limited to):
      • Why is it important to grow your email list?
      • How many subscribers do you want to gain every month?
      • How will you grow your email list?
      • Do you have the necessary tools in place to grow your email list?
    • Specific goal: Grow my email list to 100 subscribers by October 31 so that I can pitch my eBook for sale.
  • Measurable: How will you assess and measure the success of your goal? How will you know that you have achieved your goal? Identify the metric and benchmark against which you will measure your specifics. Vague words such as “successful blog,” “life-changing post,” “awesome email list” are neither specific nor measurable. For example, if your goal is to grow your list of email subscribers from 0 to 100, every new subscriber will be a metric to measure. That each of those subscribers is “awesome” is an added bonus J
  • Attainable (or Actionable): It is important to remember that the goal must be realistic and achievable. While it is good to be ambitious and positive, it is somewhat unrealistic to set a goal of growing your email list from 0 to 50,000 in the first month. Another example is to aim for a goal for which you do not have the necessary resources available. “Aim for the stars” is a great motto but unless you are part of NASA or Elon Musk’s team, it’s pretty unattainable, don’t you think? Draft goals that set you up for success, not failure!
  • Relevant: Often, it’s easy to get carried away and lose track of the big picture. Does the goal align with your vision/big picture/ultimate goal? For example, gaining email subscribers may not matter for bloggers who analyze current affairs. Generally, such bloggers do not aim to sell anything on their blogs. A more relevant goal for such bloggers may be to have a high traffic rate.
  • Time-bound: Finally, the goal you draft should have an end-time so that you know when to measure efforts. In other words, define the range of time within which your efforts will come to fruition. This is the time when you will consider marking your goal either a success or failure. For example, if your goal is to grow your list of email subscribers from 0 to 100, determine an end date to this goal—such as, by October 31, 2017. This way when the time comes, you will know to measure your growth. Additionally, be realistic about the period. Keep your personality and circumstances in mind when deciding the end date.

Why should I use the SMART Goal Setting Methodology?

Why should you? Here’s why. A well-defined goal will act as an effective roadmap for you to gauge your growth. It is a productivity tool that helps:

  • Convert vague goals into actionable tasks
  • Visualize success
  • Prioritize
  • Monitor progress

Convinced? Here’s a little bonus resource for you.

But, if you need more convincing, keep reading 🙂

How to Achieve Goals Consistently

The great footballer (soccer, for Americans J), Pele, once said, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” Sure we all want to be successful at what we do. Sure we want to accomplish everything the universe has to offer. But success takes a lot of work and it is in our favor to define and approach success in a way that’s challenging but not overwhelming. Here is the step-by-step process that can help work accomplish your goals consistently.

  1. Identify your big SMART goal: Before you do anything else, do a brain dump on a piece of paper or use a digital worksheet…whatever works for you. Come up with ONE big goal that based on the SMART methodology. One ring to rule them all 😉
  2. Break down the big goal into smaller goals: Think of it as a funneling process. Identify the smaller goals (further filtered to task level) that will collectively help you funnel up and accomplish the big goal.
  3. Set deadlines: Assign due dates not just for the big goal but also for each individual task you identified in the previous step. This will keep you accountable and help prioritize. Also, small wins. Yay!
  4. Build-in review checkpoints: Have you ever set yourself a lenient deadline and still found yourself scrambling for the finish line on the last day? That’s Parkinson’s Law at work. ‘Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.’ Let that sink in for a moment. Guilty? Here’s what you can do: set up 2-3 checkpoints between the start and end date of the big goal. Hold yourself accountable for meeting these smaller “deadlines” on your way to the checkered flag.
  5. Reflect, evaluate, and modify: At the end of a goal’s life cycle, it’s time to reflect and evaluate. Think back on the process you followed. Determine what work and what didn’t. Identify the roadblocks and think about how you can work around or eliminate those roadblocks from the next cycle. This kind of evaluation will help you modify your process going forward.

How to Set Yourself Up for Success

While the process will help you achieve goals, there are a few additional tips you can keep in mind when brainstorming your goals.

  • Set goals at regular intervals: January 1 is not the only date when you should think about reflecting and setting goals. No, I am not saying you should not set goals on that date…do it; it’s been a long-standing tradition and it’s good to follow some traditions. But please understand the logic behind this tradition…it plays on the word “new year” that is supposedly a clean slate to work on. But ultimately, it’s asking you to reflect on your wins and losses and determine how you can leverage that knowledge to succeed at your next mission. One year is a LONG time to not evaluate yourself or your goals. But, if you choose to follow this “tradition” every quarter or every month and line up fewer and smaller goals, leading up to a big goal, isn’t that more realistic, empowering, and achievable?
  • Set fewer goals: We are ambitious and success is great for our confidence. But are we setting ourselves up for failure by adding too many things on our plates? You bet we are! Take my example, I am a stay-at-home mom to a preschooler, I run a freelance writing business, I have a home to run, I have a family to care for, and now I have a blog too. That’s a mighty lot. But there’s a lot I don’t do—I have a help who dusts, mops the floor, cleans dishes, cleans the bathrooms, folds laundry, etc. Another lady comes in daily to cook our meals (Indian meal cooking takes a lot of time + I hate cooking). I had trouble giving away some of my household chores because it makes me anxious. But labor is cheap in India and I just had to measure the return on investment. For a few bucks each month, I have freed up the time to do other things that are more important to me. Those are my fewer, big goals I want to accomplish. Cooking a daily meal for my family is important but it’s not my big goal. As long as we are eating home-cooked meals, I don’t really care who is cooking for us.
  • Focus on the smaller goals: Keep your eye on the big goal, but focus on the smaller goals. Remember the funnel? These short-term goals are going to buoy you up and carry you to your big goal. Focusing on the smaller goals allows you to reset or refine your tactics continuously. Imagine going all the way to the big goal deadline and finding that everything you did was a waste of time.
  • Allow yourself to fail at times: Even superheroes fail at times. Give yourself the grace to fail occasionally. If you can learn something even from a failed opportunity, it’s not really a failed opportunity after all, right? Some goals can be tougher than the rest. Or, perhaps you didn’t allow yourself enough time to accomplish the goal. Or, maybe your measurement metric was wrong all along. Next time, you will know better than to repeat the same mistakes.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

– Winston Churchill

What methodology do you use to draft goals? If you’d like to explore the SMART way of goal setting, I have created a template that will help you draft goals that are not only based on the SMART methodology but will also help you break the goal down into smaller, more achievable tasks. Simply sign up below to receive this free resource.

My Struggles and Learning as a New Blogger

What’s that one thing every new blogger experiences during the first few weeks? FRUSTRATION!

*Minor Rant Alert*

I have been blogging for about three months now but let’s be honest, my efforts are nowhere close to what some other new bloggers put in. The blog is just not among the top three priorities of my life at the moment.

So, two weeks ago, it was time to visit my parent’s house 1000 miles away with my almost-four-year-old son. These were to be his last few days of summer holidays and I was determined to make his visit as memorable as possible. I needed to plan a lot for this trip. Where would the time for all this planning come from? My blogging time, of course. And so it happened one day, and then the next until it was already time to travel. On the other hand, I had nothing planned for my blog for the following two (and then some more), nor did I have any social media promotions scheduled.

As expected, my numbers dropped tremendously and it frustrated me. No, it angered me. It made me feel stupid for treating the blog like it did not matter at all. I wasn’t prepared to see the low numbers but I refused to acknowledge the reason for it. Luckily, better sense prevailed and I started reflecting on my relationship with my blog. In the process, I realized certain areas that frustrate me as a new blogger and what I have learned from it. I wanted to share these thoughts with other bloggers–both new and established–and see if they have gone through the same cycle and how they got their acts together.

New-Blogger-Problems-Mom-Chakra


New Blogger Challenge #1: Information Overload

My struggles: Naturally, every new blogger wants their content and products to succeed. But blogging is no longer about online journaling. It has grown to be a very complex medium that requires a lot of analysis and marketing. This means I have to learn about a LOT of things—which theme, which plugins, which social media promotion strategies, and so on. The flip side of this unfamiliarity with all the systems is that I am trying to learn a lot in a short amount of time. I have signed up for several courses, webinars, FB groups, and what have you. It all adds up and swirls around in my little brain all day long, and sometimes even at night. I think about how to apply certain strategies that I have learned from a certain course, or whether I have scheduled all the social posts for the coming week. As a stay-at-home mother to a pre-K kid, I only have limited time on my hands—ideal situation would be to cram in as much as I can during the four hours of school. As a result, some days, I end up spending more time “learning” than actually “creating” content.

My learnings: There are many bloggers who blog about blogging (isn’t that a mouthful?). As a new blogger, it’s easy to get enticed by shiny pin-worthy images that promise to drive my traffic up 3x, 6x, 10x. As of today, I have probably watched at least 25 webinars on how to drive traffic to my blog or how to build my email list. But here’s the thing: I did not scout for the best business minds that I could afford. Upon reflection, I realized there is really no point reading about the same strategies that 10 other bloggers have already talked about. Instead, I should invest the time that I save by not reading the repetitive posts or webinars or email courses into creating my own posts and products. In addition, I need to set aside dedicated time every week to educate myself (perhaps 4 hours a week). And the learning must come from the crème-de-la-crème. I am also going to stop participating in social media promo groups that require me to engage in “all or nothing” type of promos. Because here’s the thing—liking 150 FB pages, or 100 Pinterest pins, or commenting on 50+ blog posts is no joke. It WILL eat into my time and sanity.

New Blogger Challenge #2: Motivation and Direction

My struggles: Okay, so I learn from the people I consider my mentors (all one-sided relationships, I tell you =D) and I implement their strategies. I follow the SEO tips and promote my work in high engagement social groups. But where is the traffic? My numbers soar on the days I engage in promo groups but there is no organic traffic. I have created free opt-ins in the past but no one signs up. It is frustrating because no matter who you talk to will tell you the importance of building an email list. On the other hand, because there is no permanent readership, I will mostly receive positive words from the occasional readers. Because, well, that’s the polite thing to do. I do not go around giving my honest feedback unless asked for. It’s easy to gloat in those positive words of encouragement but I also realize that I have no honest feedback system in place that will help me improve. So I wait. And I wait.

My learnings: I have already mentioned how certain social media promo threads eat into my time, energy, and sanity. But the other important thing why I am reducing my participation in these threads is that these groups comprise of hundreds and thousands of members but perhaps only a small percentage relates to my content. In a promo thread with 150+ links, who is to say my niche audience will find my blog. Most people will drop their link and run. Others who are forced to visit or comment on or share my work (because that’s the rule of the thread) will often not leave meaningful feedback. Sure, I will see spikes in my numbers on promotion days and feel happy for 30 minutes but then what? Same goes for FB Likes. I have 250+ likes thanks to some of the promo threads I have participated in before, but has anyone engaged with me after that day? The same is true for me. I have liked several FB pages but engaged with only a handful whose content happened to be of my interest. It has been said before but it bears saying again: DO NOT go after traffic. Most of that traffic is not my niche and they will never return and they will not give me compelling feedback to help me grow.

New Blogger Challenge #3: Content Creation

My struggle: At a very personal level, this one is the most difficult one of my struggles. For those of you who don’t know, I am an instructional designer by profession with about 15 years of experience. My role requires me to develop and deliver a course from the scratch…conducting audience analysis to delivery…and content creation is a BIG part of this process. That said, most of the content I have created in the last 15 years is geared towards corporate employees….no room for the creative juices to flow freely, you see. So, now when it’s time to be really creative with my content and make it flow, I find myself staring blankly at the screen for hours.

My learning: Blog writing is a creative process—it needs to be free-flowing and unabashed–very different from the kind of writing I am used to. It is also an art that needs to be developed and requires a LOT of practice. So, this is what I plan to do: I will no longer hold back when writing my first draft; I will not get perturbed by the semantics at this time. Do not be afraid to experiment. It’s easy to get tied down by the tried-and-tested formulas of successful niches and content presentation. But maybe I have an idea that will revolutionize the blogging business. But oops, it doesn’t fit the “acceptable” framework. Therefore, I should drop the idea. Whose loss is it? Mine and only mine. I must become fearless and create content that may not be widely accepted but it will set people thinking.

New Blogger Challenge #4: Time Commitment

My struggle: I am a stay-at-home mom who also owns a freelance business. My business has not been a deterrent because I have not taken up any new project in the last three months. But being a SAHM is a full-time job too. Blogging requires a huge time commitment and very few will tell you that in the beginning. Between my house, my family, my paid job, and my blog, you can easily guess which has the least priority. And therein lies the problem: I haven’t yet prioritized my blog or treated it as a business.

My learning: Don’t let anyone tell you that you can earn a full-time income (or even half) by blogging only two hours a day. It doesn’t happen that way. In the first year or so, I must be prepared to put in a lot of time creating meaningful content and connections. As the blog grows, I may have to spend a little less on creating new content but I will still need to spend the majority of my day overseeing the business aspect of my blog. It will never get easy! Ironically, it is easy to take this profession lightly when you read established bloggers claiming they put in only 2 hours a day into their blog and are earning a full-time income from it. Remember this: these bloggers are either fabricating their stories or they are an exception to the rule. If I want to blog professionally, I should be ready to set aside at least 20 hours a week during which I will do only and only blog-related tasks. No pulling away for 30 minutes to cook dinner or to make a phone call to my family…no, not during the time I have set aside to work on the blog. Because you see, blogging is not just about writing; it involves editing, finding the right images, creating graphics, thinking about SEO, administrative and technical work on the blog, promotion, and so on. And not to forget, the time to educate myself about the blogging profession.


I realize each of my learnings have already been addressed by established bloggers in their teachings. But, I probably did not pay the attention I needed to. But learning that comes from reflection when one is down in the gutter works wonders toward putting them one in their rightful place.

I am working on all of these challenges and frustrations but like I said, in the absence of feedback, it’s easy to lose motivation. I have some thoughts on how I want to prioritize the blog while still juggling the other, more important roles of my life but I just don’t know if I am setting myself up for success or failure by going against the tide. I guess time will tell.

Are you a new blogger? What are some of your frustrations and how are you dealing with those? Are you an established blogger? What tips do you have for us new bloggers? Leave a comment below. If you enjoyed reading or could relate to this blog, please spread the word by sharing with your friends and family.

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New-Blogger-Problems-Mom-Chakra

5 Tips to Have an Amazing Morning Routine…Every Day!

Enough has been said about the importance of having a good morning routine. Routines are something I seek and test out very frequently. Mommy routine, morning routine, evening routine, cleaning routine, fitness routine…the list goes on and on. The reason I am so interested in routines is I want to learn how to simplify and/or better my life. Some of these “hacks” work for me, some don’t. But try I will.

So today, my friends, I bring to you my current morning routine and why you should consider adopting it too.

Now, first things first: this post is purely focussed on incorporating “health” in your morning routine. And for that reason, it will not tell you to make your bed, throw a load of laundry, make your To-Do list, or plan your dinner. That will be a post for another day. So are you ready to learn about my morning routine? Here goes!

1. Rehydrate Your Muscles and Cells

The first thing you should do after waking up is to rehydrate your body. If you find it difficult to remember to consume water, keep a glass or bottle of water on your nightstand. This way when you wake up in the morning, all you need to do is reach out for the glass or bottle and gulp down the water. I wrote about the importance of hydration and tips to consume more water in an earlier post. Have you read that yet? It’s also beneficial to eat a small fruit (preferably one that is “in-season” and fresh), or a few almonds soaked overnight within 15 minutes of waking up. This helps kick-start your metabolism and will also act as a before-workout snack (Yes! You need to work out!).

2. Include 30-45 Minutes of Physical Exercise

If you are feeling rushed by this time, perhaps you should consider waking up a little earlier. Here are some tips to become a morning person. Equally important is to sleep early and deep. How will you wake up early if you don’t sleep well, right? I got you covered.  But coming to the point, enough studies have been published highlighting the benefits of including 30-45 minutes of physical exercise every day. Incorporate a good workout routine into your mornings. Consider it like eating the Frog. Let’s face it–of all the things listed in this morning routine post–this point about physical activity is going to be the most difficult to accomplish. But if push yourself to get this done in the morning, you won’t have to worry about it for the rest of the day. If you are still on the fence about putting aside 30-45 minutes of your morning, you surely can put aside 7 minutes, yes? And while you are at it, gain the immense health benefits. Just remember to start and end with stretches 🙂

3. Practice 15 Minutes of Deep Breathing and Meditation

Alright, it’s time to cool down and nourish your mind. And during this time, do one and only one thing–meditate or bring your mind to focus. Practice deep breathing exercises for about 10 and taper off with 5 minutes of guided or unguided meditation. But how is it beneficial? Breathing is the very basis of life…and no, I am not talking spiritually. Plain, simple biology. Several researchers have put forth the benefits of deep breathing. Here are just a few of those: reduces anxiety and depression, increases energy levels, relaxes muscles, and reduces stress response and overwhelm. The ROI of deep breathing is simple, in my opinion. Coupled with meditation, you will not only bring awareness of your breathing technique but also to every part of your mind and body.

4. Eat a Nourishing Breakfast

It’s time to eat! You may say, “but I just ate,” and I would say “sure…four almonds and a glass of water!” That, my friend, was not your breakfast. I am sure you have heard a thousand times how breakfast in the more important meal of the day. What if they are right? Trust me, I used to be you. I would skip breakfast almost every day–no wait, my breakfast was two cups of coffee–because you see, I was busy and I’d rather get “work” done in the time I’d instead spend eating breakfast. But here’s the thing: the reason they say breakfast is the most important meal of your day is that your blood glucose is at its lowest in the morning after the 8-12 hour gap since your last meal. Low blood glucose means you are low on energy (grogginess, anyone?) given that glucose is what your body uses to provide you energy. A word of tip: try to include both carbohydrates and proteins in your breakfast. One without the other will not serve any purpose. If you, like me, struggle in the kitchen, try searching for easy breakfast ideas (that are also healthy) on Pinterest.

Now, remember, the sequence of routine I have outlined above is what I recommend. If you feel like you need to meditate before your physical exercise, go for it. The idea is to get done with all the tasks BEFORE you go about the rest of your day.

And now *drumroll* it’s time for the fifth and most important tip. TADATADA

5. DO NOT GET SUCKED INTO THE DIGITAL WORLD YET

You heard me. Don’t check your email, don’t check your social media, don’t play games on your phone, don’t read news on your tablet…just don’t. Everything you have done so far to have a healthy start to your day will hold no water. Come on, you have the entire day to spend time with your digital companion, just not the first thing in the morning. You don’t need me to tell you how the digital world is like a quicksand, a whirlpool. In today’s day and age, there is no escaping the digital world, but it need not take up your time from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. Remember my earlier post on how to get a good night’s sleep and how you need to practice digital shut down at least one hour before your bedtime? The same is true for when you wake up.

Listen, depending on your personal family situation, you may need to do only this much or a lot more every morning. But let the first one hour be only about you. You deserve this time to yourself. Your daily tasks will get done no matter what, but if you lose your sense of balance, picking up the pieces of the day will be a more difficult than it should be.

So, if you are not already following this routine, will you at least give this a try? For your sake?

If you liked this post, please consider sharing with your friends and family on social media.

How you start your day can either make it or break it. Here are five tips to start every day with a killer morning routine.

How Desktop Clutter Is Killing Your Productivity and How to Address it

I hate clutter. I hate it. I pride myself on being super organized and yet this morning as I switched on my laptop, I was struck by this monstrosity!

A cluttered computer desktop | Productivity | Organization | Mom Chakra

Now, to some of you, this may seem like a normal “working” desktop. I salute you! I don’t know how you find anything on this desktop without spending energy and time that could be put to better use. But you know why it bothered me? Here’s the thing: not one month ago, all I had on my desktop was the Post-it note and the three folders you see on the far right of the screen. I am obsessive about cleaning out my desktop because in the past I have spent a lot of time digging through tens of files and folders on my desktop. I don’t know why I let go in the last one month but this desktop gave me a huge jolt and I promised myself to restore sanity to my desktop.

Why Should You Address Desktop Clutter?

Think of your desktop as the entryway to your digital home. It’s the first space you will experience when you log on to your computer. How do you feel about a messy entryway in your home? I want you to feel the same way about your digital entryway. Besides, a clean desktop:

  • Allows more focus; less distraction: A no-brainer, really. The more clutter you have in your working area, in this case, your computer desktop wallpaper, the more distracted you will get. Clutter takes away your focus from the important things.
  • Saves time; increases productivity*: The more items you have on your desktop, the more difficult it will be to find a file. Conversely, if you keep your desktop organized and clutter-free, you will save time you would otherwise lose.

*Have you read my earlier posts on how to slay your To-Do list and be more productive when you work from home?

How to Reduce Desktop Clutter?

Desktop Clutter Pin MOM CHAKRA

So, then, assuming your desktop situation needs help, what should you do to salvage the situation? I have listed my step-by-step instructions to guide you through my recommended process.

1. Use a minimal and inspirational Desktop Wallpaper

Okay, first things first! An overcrowded backdrop adds to the distraction. So ensure your desktop wallpaper is minimal. Second, I recommend using a wallpaper that has more dark tones in it–dark because typically icon labels use a light font. Here’s an example: imagine you need to look for a particular PDF file on your desktop and you have more than three PDF files (often plenty more!). You will rely on the label to search for the correct file. But if you use a light colored wallpaper, chances are the icon labels will become difficult to read, consequently using up your precious time. So, go dark! Now, it’s up to you whether you want the wallpaper to be just a solid color or a photo. If you are going for a photo, make sure again it is minimal and you like looking at it for inspiration. It could be a photo of your current personal goal (mine is, running) or it could be a photo of a quote you live by…the choices are up to you.

2. Create a holding area

After your wallpaper is sorted, create a new folder on your desktop and name it Holding Folder…or whatever you want.

3. Move all items to the holding area

Next, select all items on your desktop (except the holding folder and Trash), and move all items from the desktop into the holding folder. You now have a clean slate to work with.

4. Create a folder structure

Don’t overthink this at this time. At a very high level, I recommend creating five base folders. Once you have these five base folders, you will create subfolders inside them depending on the type of content you have.

  • Multimedia: To store photos, audio, and video files. You will create subfolders, categorize each file into the
  • Applications and Programs: To store all available applications and programs on your computer.
  • Personal + Home: To store files related to your personal space (such as goal sheets, bank statements, eBooks, etc.), as well as files related to running the household (such as a meal planner, schedule sheets, recipes, contacts, etc.)
  • Work (if applicable): To store work files. Again, create subfolders that cater to your personal work requirements.
  • Downloads: The default location to store all your downloaded files. You will categorize these later according to their type into the other appropriate folder(s). Please remember the above structure is my recommendation. You don’t HAVE TO use it. Take what works and customize it according to your own requirements, or change it completely while taking in the gist.

5. Review

At this time, your desktop will have about six folders (1 holding area and 5 base folders). Now, open the holding folder and review each file…consider it a reconnaissance…get a sense of what you are dealing with.

6. Group and Organize

As you are going through each file, move it to a folder where it best belongs. For example, a music file belongs to the Multimedia folder; a recipe belongs to the Personal + Home folder, etc. Again, go as deep as you are comfortable with while creating the folder structure. Personally, I would recommend not going more than two levels down and here’s why–when you become obsessed with perfection, you spend more time thinking and creating folders than actually doing the job at hand, which is to remove the clutter.

7. Eliminate

For files that do not belong to any category or is of no use (such as a temporary working document you created last year; or your bank statement from five years ago)….DELETE. This step is only going to work out if you are honest with yourself. Don’t try to hold on to files that have served their purpose already and are no longer needed. LET THEM GO!

My friend, say hello to your clean desktop work area!

Uncluttered computer desktop | Productivity | Organization | Mom Chakra

Much better! I feel I can now breathe freely again.

How to Maintain a Clutter-free Desktop?

When it comes to desktop clutter, one-time cleanup is not going to cut it. You need to be consistent in your approach and come up with a regular maintenance plan. The secret to a clean home is regular housekeeping. So, here is what I suggest:

  • Eliminate the unnecessary files every night/week: Ideally at the end of each day, but definitely once every week, review the files on your desktop and move them to their rightful category folder.
  • Create backups on external hard disk and the cloud regularly: When you have worked on your computer for while, files start to slow down the computer. It’s frustrating to click a file and spend the next two minutes waiting for the file to open. Occasionally, your computer will also freeze up. But nothing tops the fact that even in today’s technology-driven world, computers crash! Where would that leave you? All your data erased at the blink of an eye? So, if you are not doing this already, please start creating backups on external hard disks and/or cloud services. Now, these disks and services are not exactly cheap. So, if you want a bang for your buck, ensure you are backing up only the files that are super important. Let that be your guideline for what stays and what should be trashed during the next cleanup process.
  • Create multiple desktops (optional): I am unsure about MacBooks, but Windows 10+ operating system allows the user to create multiple desktops–so, you could have one desktop only for your work-related tasks and files; another for your personal data. Consider leveraging this feature to not only have a clean desktop but also to segregate your major work areas.
  • Use the Start Menu (Windows users) and/or the Taskbar to access applications: Instead of keeping the application and program shortcuts on the desktop, move them to the Start Menu or pin them to the Taskbar at the bottom. You could also use the Search function to pull up the required applications and/or programs.

Desktop Clutter Pin MOM CHAKRA

How about you? What’s your desktop situation? Will you evaluate your desktop wallpaper situation? If it’s already under control–KUDOS! Share some your tips with others in the comment section.

TED Talks: Top 5 Inspirational Talks You Should Watch

Ok! Let’s begin with a confession. I am addicted to YouTube. I spend a couple of hours on YouTube every day, mostly watching auditions of singing or talent-based reality shows, or I watch mom bloggers (or vloggers, in YT slang). It’s my way of decompressing. Now, most days, I go through the videos guilt-free, but often I talk myself out of it. While YouTube indeed is a great source of entertainment, I find it lacking in content that is educational. Enter TED Talk.

Now, for those of you who have never seen a TED video, here’s the deal: TED is an annual conference where influencers from various fields share their experiences, learnings, and visions. Given the popularity of the original conference, nowadays, several local bodies and institutions are hosting their own scaled-down version. This helps open the doors to more influencers, achievers, and visionaries and makes the content more local. While I have never attended one of these conferences in person, I consume their content by the kilo!

So today, I wanted to share five TED Talks that I absolutely adore. The theme of these talks vary widely but the common thread is “inspirational” and “perspective-changing.” I hope you will enjoy these talks as much as I do.

Now listen, before I begin, let me warn you this is a long post. Not long because of the length of the post but because the five videos I am listing for you will take you approximately 1 hour to watch. I recommend you set aside some time. But worry not! Remember I mentioned Pocket in one of my earlier post on organization apps? You can save this post to Pocket and watch it later at a time and place of your choice. Alternatively, you can pin the images to your Pinterest boards and revisit whenever you want. Do give it a try!

Okay, let’s begin!

5 TED Talks Worth Their Weight in Gold

Disclaimer: All synopses are from the TED website.

TED Talk #1: Louie Schwartzberg

Duration: 9:39 minutes

Synopsis

Nature’s beauty can be fleeting — but not through Louie Schwartzberg’s lens. His stunning time-lapse photography, accompanied by powerful words from Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast, serves as a meditation on being grateful for every day.

Direct Link

TED Talk #2: Isabel Allende

How To Live Passionately, No Matter Your Age

Duration: 8:16 minutes

Synopsis

Author Isabel Allende is 71. Yes, she has a few wrinkles—but she has incredible perspective too. In this candid talk, meant for viewers of all ages, she talks about her fears as she gets older and shares how she plans to keep on living passionately.

Direct Link

TED Talk #3: Elizabeth Gilbert
Success, Failure, and the Drive to Keep Creating

Duration: 7:14 minutes

Synopsis

Elizabeth Gilbert was once an “unpublished diner waitress,” devastated by rejection letters. And yet, in the wake of the success of ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ she found herself identifying strongly with her former self. With beautiful insight, Gilbert reflects on why success can be as disorienting as failure and offers a simple — though hard — way to carry on, regardless of outcomes.

Direct Link

TED Talk #4: Nancy Etcoff
Happiness and Why We Want It

Duration: 14:14 minutes

Synopsis

Cognitive researcher Nancy Etcoff looks at happiness — the ways we try to achieve and increase it, the way it’s untethered to our real circumstances, and its surprising effect on our bodies.

Direct Link

TED Talk #5: Gary Greenberg

The Beautiful Nano Details of Our World

Duration: 11:58 minutes

Synopsis

When photographed under a 3D microscope, grains of sand appear like colorful pieces of candy and the stamens in a flower become like fantastical spires at an amusement park. Gary Greenberg reveals the thrilling details of the micro world.

Direct Link

Did you manage to get through the list?

No? Well, here’s what you can do!

Save the pin to your Pinterest board. 

So tell me, friends, do you watch TED Talks? What are some of your favorite Talks?

Feeling reflective? What better time than to be grateful for your life’s journey so far?

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5 Things to be Grateful For Every Day + Free 31 Days Worth of Gratitude Prompts!

Earlier this week, I traveled with my son to visit some relatives in another city. It was a tough trip for me because, throughout the four-hour-long journey (one way), my almost-four-year-old son was fidgety and wanted attention (my husband couldn’t join us due to work deadlines). Now, if you are a parent or a caregiver, I am sure you understand how exhausting it is to entertain a child for four hours continuously while on the road and then again for two days+nights and another four-hour journey back home. I was ready to pull my hair out several times during this trip. But in the end, the only thing that stopped me in my tracks was reminding myself about the purpose of our visit. You see, I am at an age where most of my elderly relatives are at a really advanced age and are experiencing failing health. Some of them had not even met my son because my husband and I were too busy with work to make time and meet them (Awful, I know!). So, this year, we decided that one of us is going to take a step back from our crazy work schedules and focus on other important things, like relationships. And so, this trip was undertaken especially to ensure that my son gets to meet his extended family he has never met. While the trip in itself tested every ounce of my patience, I am grateful I had the opportunity to make it happen anyhow. Gratitude makes it all worth it.

Upon returning, I got thinking about the concept of practicing the attitude of gratitude. One of the secrets to finding peace and happiness in our lives is to be grateful. It’s a scientifically-proven fact that gratitude increases not only your emotional health but also your physical health. After all, thoughts that do not revolve around gratitude veer towards negativity and consumes you. That can never be good, can it now?

So, in today’s post, I want to share things I am grateful for every day. But I want to spread the word to everyone I come in contact with. So, if you stay till the end, there is a bonus download for you 🙂 Let’s begin!

5 Things I am Grateful For Every Day

5_Things_To_Be_Grateful_For_Every_Day_Gratitude_Pinterest_Mom_Chakra

Family and Friends

Where would I be without my family and friends? And I put family and friends in the same category because my true friends are nothing but the family I chose for myself. These are the people I love the most; people who hold me up when I am down and out; people who hold me down when I let success go to my head. These are the people who taught me what it is to love without asking for anything in return except love and respect. These are the people who taught me values that make me a good person. These are the people who taught me life skills so I could help not only myself in difficult situations but also help others who are facing a similar situation. These are people I turn to when I need advice. These are people who will be with me until the end.

Shelter

A roof over our heads is the safest place on earth for me. I am thankful that we have been able to own a house at our young age with all debt paid off. It’s truly a blessing. As our son grows, we may or may not upgrade to a better and bigger house in the future, but at this moment our house shelters us not only from the harsh tropical environment but also provides us peace when the public cacophony rises outside. This is where we retire to at the end of each day to either celebrate our achievements or to lick our wounds…or, let’s face the truth, to vegetate on the sofa every often. It’s where we prepare food to nourish our bodies; it’s where we spend quality time with each other; it’s where we have meaningful conversations and pass on our values to our son. It’s where we entertain our loved ones; it’s where we discuss our dreams for the future; it’s where we reminisce about the past. It’s the place we call HOME.

Food and Water

It’s an uncontested fact of life that food and water* come only next to clean air when it comes to the basic sustenance of human beings. I am grateful that we can put food on the table every day. It breaks my heart to see homeless people (especially children) go without food so often. When I can, I try to carry some food and water in the car to give away if I come across a homeless person. It is my hope that every country in the world will find a way to provide food, water, and shelter to every family on our planet. If you are in a position of God’s grace, please do not hold back from helping the less fortunate. Pay it forward as often as you can.

* Have you read my earlier post on the benefits of drinking water and 5 tips to stay hydrated? If not, do give it a read 🙂

Education

When I say I am grateful for my education, I don’t just mean the education I received in school. Obviously, without that foundation, I would not be able to make decisions and think rationally about anything at all. School education has given me the ability make choices that were not swayed by the heart; it has allowed my family to earn a decent paycheck and provide for others. However, the education that I gain by meeting other people, or when I am exposed to new life situations is priceless. It’s a blessing to be in a position of enriching my life every single day. But more than all of that, my biggest blessing is being able to apply my education to help my child (and sometimes, friends and family) resolve problems and become a better person.

Work

If it weren’t for the formal and informal education we were exposed to, my husband and I couldn’t have afforded to own a house and put food on the table. It’s because of our education that we landed jobs that help us keep up with the ways of the world. It has allowed us to put our child in one of the best private schools in our neighborhood. It’s allowing us to look after our aging parents at home. At another level, our jobs have also allowed us to learn important life skills–well, important in today’s world, at least–such as networking, teamwork, analysis, problem-solving, creativity, etc. And of course, our jobs have allowed us to be friends with some wonderful human beings. I know there are many people who believe colleagues should not be brought into their personal lives…but my husband and I are not from that school of thought. Most of our closest friends today are people who are/were our colleagues.


So, those are the five things I am grateful for every day. But that isn’t all. There are hundreds of more things that I am grateful for. I try to find something new to be grateful for every week, if not every day. It forces me to look for the positives and let go of the cynicism and negativity that often comes with age. But unless I force myself to weed out the negatives, the positives will not find any room to grow in my life. Practicing gratitude is a habit that needs to be developed and nurtured.

Scroll all the way down for a FREE download!

But before that, if you found this post helpful, please consider sharing this post with your friends and family. It could be your good deed of the day 🙂

One way of sharing share can be pinning the following image to your Pinterest account.

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My friend, what are you grateful for? Do you find a reason every day to be happy about? Do you express your gratitude? If you do, congratulations! You are in a forever-self-healing mode. Spread the word. But, if you don’t, I would like to help.

It’s bonus time!

I have put together 31 gratitude prompts to last you an entire month. 31_Gratitude_Prompts_Mom_Chakra

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Trust me, once you are in the habit of being grateful, you will find newer things to be grateful for every day. You will no longer need a prompt sheet to recognize and express your gratitude. I urge you to take the first step and see the immense positive aura that will surround you. Go ahead, give this a try!

5 Free Productivity Apps to Organize Your Life

Ah! Productivity and Technology–two of my favorite areas of interest—and, when these two come together, I can spend hours absorbing information related to them and then several more hours telling others about these. You can tell I am passionate about these two subjects!

The other day I was visiting a friend and we got talking about paper vs. digital planning. We agreed both of us love paper planners over digital planners—I like to write things down; typing does not hold the same motivation. Then, our harmless conversation things started to move into the “tech-bashing” zone, and it got me riled up. Look, there is no denying the analog world will always be more charming than the digital world, which is evolving every day. But, we also cannot deny the ease of the digital world. Worse still, I believe we cannot give up on the digital options without even giving them a fair trial.

So, in this post, I will share some of my favorite apps that help me stay productive and organized. These apps, in conjunction with my other tips on productivity, is sure to give you a head start.

So are you ready? Here we go…

5 Free Productivity Apps For Moms

Explore 5 free productivity apps to stay productive and be organized every day.

Please note this post is neither sponsored nor do I have any affiliate links added. I am simply sharing how I stay productive with the help of certain apps. These are what I use and recommend. However, what works for me may not work for you. So, I want you to understand the use of each of these apps and then choose to either give these a try or to find similar apps that serve the same purpose but are more suited to your preferences and/or style.

1. Google Calendar

Productivity Apps for Moms: Top 5 (Free) | http://wp.me/p8zbJC-at

Who hasn’t heard of Google Calendar? It’s the king of productivity, in my opinion. You can carry your life in this one little app. I was introduced to GCal while I was still working full-time. The organization I was working for was brave enough to switch from the industry standard Microsoft Outlook to Gmail for Business. Now, Gmail does not come with an inbuilt calendar like Outlook, so naturally, we switched to GCal as well. Though we were all reluctant when we made the switch, GCal has now become an integral part of my planning and scheduling process. In addition to my work meetings, I schedule all my travel dates, social events, birthday/anniversary reminders, my son’s school events and even my blog post schedules on Google Calendar. Events are easy to create and modify on GCal. Any spillovers or postponed events can be easily moved to another date by simple drag and drop action. For events that require travel, you can even integrate estimated travel time and the destination address on Google Maps (another favorite app of mine, but not really a productivity app except that it may help you plan for your travel time and destination).

2. Google Drive

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I’ll be honest. I started using Google Drive very recently on a serious basis. Before this, my only experience with GDrive was to access shared documents for my job. But once you start using it, you know it’s a great tool to stay organized, thus helping your productivity. It helps that you can mirror the Microsoft Office suite on Google Drive—you have the option to create documents (MS Word), spreadsheets (MS Excel) and even presentations (MS PowerPoint). But what sets Google Drive apart is the ability to not only share documents online but also allowing live editing. For example, if I write a blog post on Google Docs sitting at home, I can share it with my husband who is on the train back home from work. He can access it on the go and review it on the go. You will say you can do that by emailing your native MS Word document and the recipient can review it on the go. But I bet you cannot view the review happening in real time. Told ya =) It has saved me so much time to be on a live document review with my clients. Both of us access the document and run through it together. Changes are suggested and implemented then and there while some major changes can be noted for future implementation. Similarly, you can create and share project plans, schedules, presentations etc. I even track my home projects, budget, utility services on Google Drive.

3. Pocket

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I have been a long-time user of Pocket and it is one of my favorite apps…ever. As a busy mom (and even before), I will often come across articles that are interesting but I have no time to read then and there. What’s the next best option? Bookmark it! Pocket does that for you and much more. You see, your bookmarked article will be added to your Pocket queue (on the web or on your phone depending on how you have it installed). The article will, thus, be available to you whenever you have the time….even if you do not have a data connection. What’s more…it gives you the option to select your “view” – whether you want to read the article in a mobile-optimized format, or you want to read it in its original web format. But can I tell my favorite feature of this awesome app? It’s the editorial team-curated list of articles that have been doing well around the world. On your own, you may not have known about these articles but Pocket makes sure you never miss out. Instead of spending your precious free time on mindless YouTube cat videos, why not use Pocket to access and read some brain-stimulating information.

Like this post? Then, you will love this free resource that will change the way you plan your day.

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4. Evernote

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I am a big consumer of information. I am also a compulsive planner. Evernote helps me do both on one platform. In a way, I started using Evernote to save articles for future consumption…until I discovered Pocket. So, while I still save articles to read later, I use Evernote more as a brain dumping platform, mostly geared towards this blog’s content, but also certain social events. For example, I planned a Christmas party To-Do list on Evernote last year. Additionally, I also use it as my shopping list because I do not want to carry a notebook that adds weight to my handbag. The To-Do list can be created as a checklist and you can check off items you have already bought or done, as the case may be. Isn’t that great? Another great feature of Evernote is the Notebook and Notes distinction. You see, you can have individual notes about whatever stuff you want to list, but you can also have a broad-level notebook (think of it as a category) under which you can organize your individual notes that fit the category. For example, I have a notebook named after my son. In that notebook, I have individual notes on planning his birthday party and the Christmas party I mentioned before. The options are endless. It’s up to you how you want to organize your Evernote.

Remember: being organized is the first step to being productive.

5. Scanner Pro

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This is a mobile-only app but it is a lifesaver! So many time. I don’t know about your country, but here in India, one needs to produce their photo identification very often. I have been stuck in situations when I didn’t know I needed to submit copies of a certain official document and did not have it on me when needed. Scanning apps, like Scanner Pro, came right to my rescue. You simply need to take a photo of the required document and the app saves it as a scanned copy and allows you to email the “scanned document” to the concerned party. It also comes in handy when you have to fill a physical form. Fill it, scan it, email it. Done, done, and done.

And here’s a Bonus App

LastPass

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How many websites do you visit in a week? 5, 10, 15…? More? Now tell me this: how often do you read and hear about the news of some website database being hacked and data of thousands and millions of people stolen? At least once a month? It’s a scary time to live in. But it is also a time where most of our life is managed online. Most of us now bank online, make reservations online, and share much of our personal data with a third party. Agree? Now, unless you have a brain that can store 50 passwords (some of which need to be updated at regular intervals), you should definitely give LastPass a try. LastPass is a tool that helps manage your passwords for hundreds of websites. If you do not pride yourself in coming up with strong passwords, LastPass can even generate one for you. So, you don’t want to spend time scavenging for your passwords. Over time, you would have saved a significant amount of time and energy. Whether you choose to give LastPass a try or not, I want you to remember these two points:

  • Do NOT write down or type out your passwords anywhere—online or offline. It is just not worth it!
  • Do NOT use the same password for all your website logins. It’s a hassle but it’s important.

Before I sign off, I want to ask you—my dear readers—a few questions: have you used any of these apps before? How is/was the experience? If you haven’t used any or all of these apps before, would you like me to do separate in-depth posts on each them, and share their features and functionality and most importantly how I use these tools personally? Leave a comment with your feedback.

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Explore 5 free productivity apps to stay productive and be organized every day.

Sleep Faster and Better: Top 5 Tips for Get a Restful Night’s Sleep

Hello, sleepyhead! What’s keeping you awake? A newborn baby, too much coffee, a high-profile impending presentation, a thousand emotions bottled up inside of you? Or perhaps, you lay awake reflecting on the past, or worrying about the future. No matter what your reason is, we need to address it. Because you know, sleep deprivation is not only a hindrance to your daily productivity but it can also affect your health and wellness in an adverse manner. Studies reveal that not getting enough sleep over an extended period of time can lead to serious health issues, including high blood pressure and heart attack.

5 Tips to Sleep Faster and Better

Are you one of those people who have trouble sleeping and then end up feeling jaded during the day time? Here are my top 5 tips to sleep faster and better.

So, what should you do? I have listed five tips you should try for faster and better sleep.

Add Physical Exercise to Your Daily Routine

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But you already knew that, did you not, my dear reader? Physical exercise tires you out thereby increasing your body’s need to rest. If you have not done anything even moderately physical during the day, your body is left with unspent energy, which in turn does not allow for a deep sleep. But, remember to leave at least a two-hour gap between the end of your exercise session and the start of your bedtime ritual. Why? Because physical exercise gets your blood flowing and energizes you–something you want to avoid if you want to get a better quality of sleep.

Avoid Daytime Naps

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All of us have different sleep requirements. While some of us can function well with just five or six hours of sleep, some others (*cough*) may find even 10 hours not enough. But hey, you know, we can not spend all our life sleeping. We need to get out of the bed, no matter how tired we feel, and get on with the day. If you are not well-rested, then the exhaustion will deter you from completing necessary tasks during the day. And we all know the result of unfinished tasks piling up.

Now, to combat this exhaustion from sleep depravity, some of us take daytime naps. But hear me out. Unless you are a sleep-deprived parent of a newborn, an infant or a toddler, or an elderly or sick person, you should avoid daytime naps. Instead, adjust your nighttime sleep routine.

Now, I know there are many gurus who advise taking daytime naps, but remember, those naps are called power naps and typically last between 15 to 20 minutes. So, if you must, please go ahead and grab a short nap during the daytime. But remember the time limit of power naps to ensure you are not turning your nap into a deep sleep. This is because when you take long naps during the day, it reduces your sleep requirements at night, and you are back to square one.

Develop a Healthy Bedtime Routine

So, let’s assume you exercised and avoided the day nap successfully. You now need to prepare for the night time sleep. Develop a routine comprising of the following three habits to ensure you can fall asleep easily.

Limit Alcohol and/or Caffeine Intake

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This isn’t rocket science, my friend! There’s a reason why many of us start our day with coffee. It stimulates the brain in a way that takes away the feeling of tiredness. I won’t get into the science behind this, but if you are interested, you can read about it here. So, coming back to coffee, you need to limit your daily caffeine intake (caffeine also includes aerated drinks) to no more than 2-3 cups, and definitely not within 6 hours of your scheduled sleep time. So, for example, if you go to bed at 10 PM, make sure you consume your last cup of coffee no later than 4 PM.

Monitor Your Food Intake

While you may already ensure not going to bed while you are still hungry, you need to take care of the opposite end of the spectrum too–do not go to bed stuffed. Have you noticed how uncomfortable you get when you overeat? Yeah, you will neither be able to do chores nor sleep. What good is that? So make sure you are eating healthy but also monitor your portion sizes. While you are at it, cut out those snacks upon which your day is built. Reduce your salt, sugar, and processed food intake. Hydrate yourself by getting enough fluids in your body. Here’s a post I wrote to help you stay hydrated.

Practice Digital Shutdown

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The digital world is as addictive as coffee. It is also a necessary inconvenience. It keeps us connected to the rest of the world and apprises us of the world happenings. But it also limits human relationships within the confines of the digital world. So, let’s all agree it is necessary for us to engage with the digital platforms. But for the sake of your health and wellness, limit your usage, especially late evenings. Here’s why: we all know the lights emitted from the gadgets interferes with your sleep cycle. That’s why manufacturers are designing their phones and websites to function on a “night mode” but I am not sure how effective that is. Additionally, let’s assume the “night mode” works and you settle into your bed and switch on your phone. Remember this: digital platforms are created in a way that will keep you bouncing from one event to another, never really allowing you to switch off. Suppose you decided to catch up on the current affairs of the country at bedtime. You read one article, and then you find the “You may also like…” bait. Then, you may want to check your email one last time. Uh oh, an important email from that important client. Your response can wait until tomorrow, but since you are anyway awake, why not reply now. Next, let’s check Facebook, Twitter, and oh yes, Snapchat and YouTube. Before you know, you would be 1.5 hours past your scheduled bedtime. So do yourself a favor and disengage from all gadgets at least 1 hour before your bedtime. Allow your body to wind down.

Prepare for the Next Day

Before you head for the bed, you need to prepare for the next day in whatever little ways you can. If it means writing down your To Do list for the next day or packing the lunch bag, just do it. It will be one less thing to worry about in bed and the next morning. Developing this habit not only help you sleep better at night, but also save you a lot of time when you wake up the next morning.

Write Down Your Thoughts

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How often have you found yourself unable to fall asleep because your mind is racing, worrying about an impending presentation the next day? Grab a pen and paper and write down what’s causing you to toss and turn. What are you thinking? What are you worried about? Writing it down is proven to mimic the act of sharing worries with a friend. It’s a great way to release the bottled up emotions that are a cause for your sleeplessness. Writing it down will also allow you to “see your thoughts” and help you analyze them.

So, there you have it. My top 5 ways to help you sleep faster and better. But you know what, there is another added benefit: sleeping faster and better will make it easier for you to become a morning person. Now that’s what I call a win-win situation.

Let me know in the comments your tips to sleep faster and better.

Until next time,

Sleep well.

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Water: The Life-changing Magic of Drinking Up!

Back in school, we all learned that our planet comprises 70% water (though with the whole global warming threat, I wonder what the percentage shift will be 10 years from now). It’s a sweet irony that the inhabitants of this wonderful blue planet–humans–are also made up of primarily water.

Water is not only the main constituent of cells and tissues in our bodies, it is also present in various life organs, such as the brain, the heart, the lungs, and the kidneys. Water is what helps flush out the toxins from your body; it is what helps keep your brain ticking.

Why Drink Water?

Don’t you think water must be somewhat of a magic potion? Well, guess what–it is! Studies have established the benefits of hydrating our bodies on a regular basis. To understand these benefits, let us first take a look at the consequences of not consuming enough water. Here are just five of them:

  • Constipation: Water hydrates and lubricates the life organs of the human body. It also helps move the food from your stomach to the large intestine (colon). When the body does not contain enough water, it starts to dehydrate these organs. When the body is dehydrated, these organs go into survival mode and start absorbing whatever water they can find. The colon soaks up all the water that is made available to it while leaving the food waste (stool) dry and makes it difficult to pass. So, please drink plenty of water to relieve at least some of your life’s “hardships” 😉
    Note: It is imperative to note though that water alone cannot relieve constipation; equally important is the intake of dietary fiber and adequate physical exercise.
  • Toxin Build-up: Related to the aforementioned consequence is the build-up of toxins in your body due to dehydration. When bodily waste is not moving in an appropriate and timely manner in and out of the organs, toxins start to accumulate. In the absence of enough water, the kidney is unable to filter the toxins from your blood and urine. Over time, this compromises your immune system and affects your health adversely. We don’t want that, do we now?
  • Headaches: Certain headaches (including hangovers) are a result of dehydration. As with every other life organ, the brain is also made primarily of water and requires water to function properly. When your body is dehydrated, the brain shrinks, triggering off the neurotransmitters signaling pain. In addition, dehydration also lowers your blood volume. As a result, your brain receives less-than-optimum oxygen blood supply, thus triggering a more intense reaction (pain).
  • Fatigue: With a reduced supply of water in the body, the life organs work extra hard to maintain their functions. This takes a toll on your energy deposit and causes fatigue.
  • Calories!: Drinking water satiates your thirst but adds no calories (unless of course, you are adding artificial flavors or sweeteners to it). A trick many weight watchers swear by is to drink half a glass of water 30 minutes before their meal. The water fills up the stomach and prevents them from overeating. Now that’s a side-effect I am willing to suffer.

Now, flip these aforementioned consequences (there are more!) on their heads, and you are face-to-face with the wonderful benefits of drinking enough water every day.

This begs the question:

How Much Water Should I Drink Every Day?

To be honest, there are quite a few recommendations floating around the internet. The most-accepted one is the 8 by 8 rule–drink eight 8-fl. ounce glasses (approximately, 1.8 liters) of water per day. And trust me, it isn’t as difficult as you think. As long as you promise to not give up. In fact, I have put together a simple tracker to help you track your daily intake of water.

Sign up now to download your free personal daily water intake tracker!

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Done? Now, let’s get to the crux of the matter, shall we?

How Can I Meet My Daily Water Intake Requirement?

aka

How Can I Stay Hydrated?

aka

How Can I Drink More Water?

It does not take a lot of effort to take care of yourself once you put your heart to it. Here are five simple ways you can add more fluid to your diet every day.

  • Set goals: Make “drink 64 fl. oz. water” one of your daily goals. Set alarms on your phone. Or, how about those awesome smartphone apps that help you track your water intake. If you are a physical notebook kinda person, write “drink 64 fl. oz. water” to your To-Do list as a high priority item.  Or, use sticky notes reminding you to stay hydrated around places you spend most of your time–your office desk, your refrigerator, your bathroom mirror…the options are totally up to you.
  • Build it into your daily routine: Adding the daily essential tasks–such as drinking enough water–is the easiest way for you to stay on track. Setting goals is not enough unless you work towards achieving these goals. So, once you have set the goal of staying hydrated, remember to build it into your daily routine. For example, keep a bottle of water on your nightstand. As soon as you wake up in the morning, drink it up! Keep a reusable water bottle in your handbag, on your desk, in your car. And then throughout the day, set alarms on your phone to remind you to drink water.
  • Include other sources and forms of water in your diet: Drinking water need not be a boring habit. Personally, I love it in its purest form. But for those who do not enjoy drinking plain old water–they can eat their water! There are plenty of fruits and vegetables that can help you keep up with your daily fluid requirements. These include water-rich foods, such as iceberg lettuce, watermelon, cucumber, pineapple, etc. You can include these foods in your diet in various forms. For example, if you can not bring yourself to drink the recommended 64 fl. oz. of water every day, drink up at least half of the amount, and for the other half, substitute with water-rich foods. The only catch is that it will be difficult to track your water consumption.

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Work-at-home Moms: 5 Productivity Tips

I am a work-at-home mom. Every time I mention my work situation to family or friends, they say, “You are so lucky! You can stay at home and earn money. I wish I could be a work-at-home mom and earn my salary sitting in the comfort of my home.” Well, I agree. Staying home, earning money, and watching my child grow up is a blessing. But I also tell my family and friends, my work-at-home situation isn’t a bed of roses…work-at-home moms have to be really smart and disciplined to save their sanity.

When I was working in my corporate job, we were encouraged to follow Eisenhower Decision Matrix, which is a very effective tool to help you identify and prioritize tasks that are truly important and/or urgent. To this day, I use it to manage my day-to-day responsibilities and especially work-related ones.

Today, I want to share with you the process I have devised for myself based on this wonderful time management tool. As with me, I am sure other work-at-home moms can also greatly benefit from it. Without further ado, let me show how you can adapt the Eisenhower Decision Matrix to make your day more productive as a work-at-home mom.

5 Productivity Tips for Work-from-Home Moms

Step 1: Identify the Time Sucks

This is the number 1 tip for work-at-home moms to be a more productive professional or businessperson–identify the time sucks.

Look at your To-Do list and ask yourself, “which tasks are neither important nor urgent?” Ask yourself, “is it really necessary to check my personal Facebook profile during work hours?” Or, “do I NEED TO sort through my email spam folder every day?”

These kind of tasks are simply unnecessary–and going by the Eisenhower Decision Matrix, are neither important nor urgent. These are simply time sucks. They do nothing but distract you and pull you down. Do yourself a favor and eliminate these time suckers from your To-Do list. That, my friend, is the first step towards eliminating overwhelm and being productive.

Eisenhower matrix is a great tool for work-from-home moms to prioritize their days, months, and years.

Step 2: Prioritize Tasks

After you have identified and eliminated the time suckers, it’s time to work on the remaining tasks. First, you want to identify tasks the tasks that are urgent but not important. These are tasks that are due soon but do not contribute significantly towards your long-term work goal. For example, maybe you have to go for a conference two weeks from now. Now, you could spend one hour trying to find the best deal, or you could hire or request someone to do this for you. And you, on the other hand, can use the one hour you just freed up to work on something important. In other words, you need to delegate tasks that are urgent but not important.

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Step 3: Schedule Your Day

Now you are left with two types of tasks–those that are important but not urgent, and those that are important and urgent. I am sure you know the difference between the two terms, but just to reiterate for clarity sake:

  • Urgent tasks are those that help you achieve your long-term work goal, and are due on an immediate basis. Not addressing these tasks immediately may result in missed deadlines or lost customers.
  • Important tasks are the other tasks that help you achieve your long-term work goal, but is not due immediately.

It is essential that you clearly distinguish between the two, otherwise, you can misconstrue an ‘important’ task as ‘urgent,’ which will eat into your hours. So what’s the solution? Schedule the ‘important’ tasks in your calendar for a more appropriate later time while the urgent tasks take up the more immediate calendar space. For example, if you need to email your project status to your client, it is an important task but not usually urgent. You can schedule a time in your day when you can draft and send an email to your client with the requested updates. Maybe that time is 2 PM every day. On the other hand, an article that is due today is an important and urgent task that you should address before taking up other ‘important’ tasks.

Step 4: Hold Your Work Hours Sacred

So, now you know how to follow Eisenhower Decision Matrix to design your workday to be more productive. The matrix can help you achieve your short- and long-term goals and make your day more productive.

In addition, I recommend establishing routines in and around your work hours. There is no denying that routines help bring semblance to your day. For a work-at-home mom, it is important to distinguish work hours from non-work hours. When your day begins and ends within the same four walls, it’s easy to lose the distinction. But if you design routines that will help you ease in and out of your work day, it will bring more satisfaction and fewer frustrations. Ensure that you hold your work hours sacred.

Decide which hours of the day you will work, and stick to those hours. Do not be distracted by any personal chores or whims during these hours. It may take some trial and error before you can settle on your best hours for working, but when you find that sweet spot, stick to it. For example, perhaps your best time to work is while your children are away in school. Use those hours to complete your work tasks. Do not get sucked into the social media whirlpool or picking the grocery. Remember, everything in its own time.

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Step 5: Set Aside Time for Self-Care

Lastly, in a previous post, I mentioned how, as moms, we don’t take the time for self-care. How many times have you used your work break to run an errand? You might say “I am a busy mom. I do not have another time to run these errands!” I understand, and it may even be true for some of you on certain days. But if you don’t use the break to nourish your mind, body, and soul, you will soon run out of the motivation. Say to yourself, “I am already a super mom. I do not need to pack in more into my day.” You know what I say to myself though? “I may not be a supermom or best mom. But I am a good-enough mom. And that’s okay!”

Remember this: You are doing a wonderful job raising your child. And boy! You also work-from-home. Like others say, “it’s the best of both worlds.” But it’s easy for this world to fall apart without the necessary discipline. I wish for you a fruitful and blessed personal and work life.

I would love if you can share some of your tips as a work-at-home mom.

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5 Ways to Slay Your To-Do List

Consider this: it’s early morning. You are full of hope on this beautiful day. You sit down to write down your To-Do list for the day. And it grows. And grows. You better get a head start on the day. It’s going to be a wonderfully productive day. Before you know it, it’s evening and you are only halfway through your To-Do list. You reflect on where all the time went. Well, you know it as much as anyone else where it all went.

Don’t we all want our days to be productive? I know I do!  But as moms, we often tend to bite off more than we can chew. Because, you know, there is just so much to do. It’s not that you cannot do it, but remember some of the items on your To-Do list may need to be tackled on another day. This really isn’t a race, so please allow yourself some grace (unintentional rhyming in play ;-))

So how can we become a little more (or a lot more) productive?

Top 5 Ways to Be the Productivity Queen

Eliminate Distractions

No surprises there! When you are distracted, nothing gets done. Would you believe it’s taken me 5 days to finish writing this article? Yes, this article that you are reading! I was distracted. We are in the middle of moving houses and I have a preschooler on spring break, and you know how that boat sails. So, I would sit every day in the middle of all this chaos and try to finish writing this article. And I would be either called away to either supervise something or by my child. It was very frustrating to not see any progress as far as this article goes. “My blog is going to suffer and I will NOT let that happen,” I said to myself. So, I ensured everything that can be done in the new house is done and then I requested my mother-in-law to care for my child for two hours while I finish my “work.”

So that was an example of “offline” distraction. The best way to tackle this type of distraction is to remove the source of it until you are ready to get back to it. But remember, in today’s age, “online” distraction is also a real thing. I know I get distracted by Lord Google. I will log in with the intention to research for my post for about 15 mins and then I find myself hopping from one site to another and soon I find myself reading or watching something that is just not related to my original query. Or, how about the time I wanted to check my Twitter feed and soon I had spent 45 minutes not only checking the feed but also click on the various links that people had shared. How would you handle these distractions? Well, if you are strong-willed and disciplined, maybe you can chide yourself every time you get carried away in the virtual world. But, if you are anything like me, consider using a productivity application like Cold Turkey, which is a free productivity program that can be used to temporarily block websites that you find getting distracted by while working. Cold Turkey offers both free and paid versions, but for me, the free version works well enough.

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Identify and Work During Your Peak Hours

Okay, so you have dealt with the distractions but still can’t find yourself getting any work done? Perhaps the hours you are working are not really your “peak hours.” Let me give you an example: I am sure you must have read a few articles highlighting how people who wake up early are more productive. Apparently, it’s true. They get more done because they start early and usually do not have any distractions around at that early hour. But hey, no matter how hard you try, if you are not naturally a morning person, it may be very, very taxing for your mind and body to change its natural cycle. So, it is important to recognize your body’s natural rhythm and schedule important work during those hours. Now, I understand it may not be possible to schedule every important work late in the evening (for night owl mommies), but try and pick your battles. Remember, not everything needs to be done today!

That said, if you would like to give this “becoming a morning person” phenomenon a try, here is a post I wrote earlier listing my top 5 ways to become a morning person. There is no harm in trying, right? After all, it is a scientifically-proven fact. Good luck!

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Break Up Your Work

While we are on the topic of picking your battles, remember it’s about winning the battles, not the war. How often do you have a big house or work goal you need to accomplish…and one week (or, one day!) before the deadline, you are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work that needs to be put into accomplishing this goal. Many of us make this mistake of trying to tackle the giant and win the war. But if you simply plan ahead, break your goal into smaller tasks, and schedule these tasks accordingly, you will not only be in control of the situation when the big day comes but also you will have the satisfaction of checking off the smaller goals. Now, that’s being productive!

A very popular tool to draft goals is to follow the SMART goal methodology. When you follow this methodology, you break your bigger goal into smaller goals that are specific, measurable, agree-upon (or attainable), realistic, and time-bounded.

Top 5 Productivity Tips | http://wp.me/p8zbJC-BSo next time, you find yourself working towards a big goal or project, break it up into smaller, easily accomplished tasks.

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Prioritize High-Value Work

Now that you have identified your peak hours and broken down your big goal into smaller, achievable tasks, it’s time to prioritize. Take a look at the small goals (or even your everyday To-Do list). Is every task listed there equally important? Perhaps. Then, ask yourself, will accomplishing each task give you the same amount of return on investment? The most likely answer is NO! Let me give you an example: you have slogged yourself over the gas for two hours to prepare a feast for your family. At the dinner table, you notice your family reaching for 1-2 staple dishes while the fancy dish you spent one-hour preparing lies mostly untouched. Was that productive? Was it really worth it? You might as well cook your dinner in one hour and utilize the remaining one hour working on something else that is more valuable….like your body or mind. Learn where to draw the line. If your family is being fed nutritious food that can be prepared in 30 minutes, why would you want to spend two hours on the gas every day? Save the feasts for special occasions so your efforts are appreciated (and consumed) more.

Many of you must have heard of the 80:20 rule, also known as Pareto (here’s a very well-explained article about the 80:20 rule). Pareto charting is a very popular business principle, which we used frequently during my corporate stint. It is a principle to identify the high-value 20 percent input that will help achieve the 80% output. Tasks that are not high-value or of any value at all must either be delegated or eliminated. Think about it.

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Take Scheduled, Strategic Breaks

The most important point to boost productivity. As moms, we want to be a superwoman, but please believe when experts say that breaks are necessary. It’s natural to get carried away and trying to do strike off every item on your list at one go. The sudden burst of energy and improved productivity may lead you to expend more energy than your mind and/or body may allow. The adrenaline rush will inhibit signs of exertion but soon you will find your brain fogging up. It is, therefore, important to take regular breaks while working on finishing your To-Do list.

A very common productivity technique doing the rounds is the Pomodoro method. This method introduces a time factor in your workday by dividing your work day into several chunks and breaks. It is up to you to decide the duration of the work windows and the break windows, but the developers of the Pomodoro technique recommend working in bursts of 25 minutes followed by a 5-minute break. After four Pomodoro windows, the user is expected to take a longer break of 20 minutes or so. Personally for me, working in 90-minute windows followed by 15-minute breaks work the best. I schedule my break times into my calendar so that impromptu meetings can be avoided.

Now, taking breaks is half the battle won. But there is also the matter of how you utilize that break time. Washing dishes or dusting the furniture during the breaks do not count as “break.” Please be mindful of why you are taking the break and ensure you utilize the time to relax your mind and body.

So, there you go. Five ways you can boost your productivity. I hope you will give these a try.

What are some of your productivity tips? Please leave a comment to share. I would love to learn from you.

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Top 5 Ways to Slay Your To-Do List Everyday!

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How to be a Morning Person: Top 5 Tips

Running late every morning? Need some alone time to meditate in the morning? Well, it’s time to become a morning person by waking up just a little bit earlier and use that time to not only get more things done but also to achieve wellness.

But not every one of us is a morning person. I know I am not. I used to be, but I fell into the habit of waking up later and later during my pregnancy. But nature has a way of whipping you back in shape. There were things I wanted to do for myself — like enjoy that morning cup of coffee (very important!) and sit quietly for 30 minutes before my toddler woke up and demanded all of my time for the rest of the day.

So then,

How to Become a Morning Person

Becoming a morning person not only helps you get more done and improve your wellness quotient.

Start the night before!

Here are five simple ways to make sure better chances of becoming a morning person.

Simplify dinner

Eat a simple dinner to allow your body to digest the food. Undigested food will lead to disturbed sleep. Food with too many spices or fried food items takes a lot longer to break down sending your digestion process into an overdrive. This can hinder your sleep cycle and we all know how difficult it is to wake up after a night of sleep deprivation. So simplify your dinner today to become a morning person.

Limit caffeine consumption

I get it! You need coffee to run at your full power. I do too! But I limit my intake to one cup a day after I wake up. Now, some of you may need more than just that one cup to keep you going, but at least set a rule that you will not drink any more caffeine after, say, 4 pm. No! Aerated drinks with dinner or tea/coffee after dinner is not a good idea. Cut off all sources of caffeine at least four hours before bedtime. No! Aerated drinks with dinner or tea/coffee after dinner is not a good idea.

Monitor screen time

There are studies upon studies that the light from electronic devices makes it difficult for you to fall asleep because it interferes with your circadian cycle. Sleep experts advise turning off all electronic items at least two hours before bedtime to achieve your goal of becoming a morning person. But hey, while you are at it, why not bring it up by another hour and spend that extra time catching up on your reading or with your family?

Ditch the curtains/blinds

I know, I know! I was like most other people who use blinds or heavy curtains and draw them at nightfall. Well, guess what, this will hamper your attempt at becoming a morning person. Worry not! There’s a simple solution. Leaving the curtains or blinds half-open, or at least going for sheer/light material curtains will still protect your privacy but wake you up naturally when the sun’s first rays filter into your room. This has been the biggest game-changer for me in the past one year.

Set alarm for 15 mins earlier

You will not become a morning person overnight. But be ready to take small steps. Waking up 15 mins before your regular wake-up time will allow your body to adapt to the changing schedule. It’s up to you whether you want to go as fast as waking up earlier every day or spread it out across several weeks until you reach your target wake-up time. I do this with my son every time we need to switch up his schedule because of a change in the school schedule, or an impending trip.

Remember to give yourself at least a couple of weeks to before you will see any sustainable results. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I am by no means an out-and-out morning person but I am on my way. I urge you to try these methods and be on your way to successfully become a morning person.

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Becoming a morning person not only helps you get more done and improve your wellness quotient.