Amy Lynn Andrews http://amylynnandrews.com I teach people how to blog. Sat, 19 Apr 2014 00:50:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9 Blogging FAQ http://amylynnandrews.com/blogging-faqs/ http://amylynnandrews.com/blogging-faqs/#respond Sat, 12 Apr 2014 18:12:45 +0000 http://amylynnandrews.com/?page_id=11611 Whenever I tell people I blog for a living, or when I talk about blogging and websites in general, there are questions. I’ve gotten all kinds since I started blogging in 2004. These are the popular ones. Making money blogging Do people really make money from blogging? Is making money blogging legitimate? How do people make money blogging? […]

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Whenever I tell people I blog for a living, or when I talk about blogging and websites in general, there are questions. I’ve gotten all kinds since I started blogging in 2004. These are the popular ones.

blogging faq

Making money blogging

Getting started

The nitty gritty

Do people really make money from blogging?

Yes, all the time. The money I earn from this blog, sales of my book and income from related projects is our family’s main source of income.
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Is making money blogging legitimate?

Absolutely. As in any industry, there are definitely scammy people out to make a quick buck, but many, many people are making very legitimate money via blogging and other income streams related to blogging. And the number is growing all the time.
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How do people make money blogging?

There are several ways people do so. Here are the main ones:

  1. Putting advertisements on their blog. Just like a TV show gets paid by advertisers to insert commercials into their show, a blogger gets paid by advertisers to insert graphic or text ads into their blog.
  2. Promoting a product for someone else and then getting a commission if a sale is made. This is called affiliate marketing. I wrote a post called What is Affiliate Marketing? in case you’re curious.
  3. Using a blog as a launching point to sell their own product(s) or service(s) like I’ve done with my time management ebook Tell Your Time and like I do when I coach or consult. I also charge a small fee to get premium access to all my useletter tips.
  4. Taking advantage of other opportunities their blog brings such as authoring a book, virtual assistance (here’s how to become a virtual assistant), speaking, brand ambassadorship or writing for online and offline publications.

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How long does it take to make money as a blogger?

Blogging for profit is hard work and certainly will not happen overnight; it’s just like starting any other business. The nice thing is, there’s very little overhead and virtually no risk.

There are always exceptions to the rule, but I’d say on average, most of us started making coffee money after about 6 months, a solid part-time income took at least a year and a full-time income, 2 years plus. If you’re willing to do the hard work in the beginning, it can really pay off down the road.
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How can I start my own blog?

You can start your own blog in 15 minutes or less. I’ll walk you right through the process. You’ll get your digital hands dirty but technical know-how is not required to start.
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I’m not very tech-savvy. Can I do this?

I like non-tech-savvy types. After all, I started with no computer background myself. My goal is to teach anyone how to blog or create a website from the very beginning. I’ve taught countless people these steps, most of whom have no prior web building knowledge.
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How much does having a blog cost?

It depends on a few things such as the blogging platform you use, the size of your site, whether or not you want to make money blogging and more. Like anything, there are plenty of additional products/services you can buy to enhance your blogging experience, but $10 a month (paid annually in most cases) would sufficiently cover the basics. If you hope to earn income, clearly it’s not huge overhead. Most offline businesses cost significantly more to start. But like any business, it requires a ton of work and it doesn’t happen overnight. If at all possible, I don’t recommend using a free blogging service (like Blogger, for example).
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Why don’t you recommend using a free service like Blogger or WordPress.com?

If you have no intention whatsoever of using your blog to generate income now or down the road, either of these services work just fine. However, you get what you pay for and for a business blog, expandability and flexibility are key, both of which are limited with free blogging services. Also, a free service means you don’t really own your blog, they do. That’s not so good if you’re counting on the income. I always recommend a self-hosted WordPress site.
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What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

Good question. Both use the same blogging software, which is free. The difference lies in the host. With a self-hosted WordPress blog, you purchase hosting yourself and therefore it’s “self-hosted.” If you have a free blog on WordPress.com, they host your blog for you. (Do you find these terms confusing? Read this post and it’ll make a lot more sense.)

At first glance, you might think the deal at WordPress.com is a sweeter one. I mean, free blogging platform plus free hosting–score right? Well, life is all about trade-offs (as my dad would say). So, in exchange for their free service, they severely limit your ability to customize your blog and do not allow you to monetize (i.e. make money) unless you pay an upgrade fee. And if you’re going to pay them for the chance to make some money, you might as well purchase your own hosting and have a whole lot more control over your blog and business to start with!
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What’s the difference between a blog and a regular website?

A blog is a type of website that is updated regularly, with posts listed in reverse chronological order (newest first). I often use the term “website” to refer to the type of site which is static, that is, not updated regularly. A static website would be used like a brochure, providing basic information about yourself, your company or your organization. For example, if you want to start a virtual assistance business or you want a website for your existing business with basic info like services, pricing and contact info, a static website would be the way to go.
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What if I don’t want a blog but just a regular website?

No problem. You can still follow the steps here, and then just make this simple tweak.
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Who are you and why should I listen to you?

I’m Amy. I created my first website in 2004. I am completely self-taught (read: zero prior computer knowledge) and if I can do it, you can too…except you won’t have to be googling like a crazy person (that’s how I learned) since I spell it all out for ya. :) For me, blogging started out as a hobby and has grown into a full-time job.
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What is a niche?

Your blog’s general topic is often called a niche. While not required, a niche provides focus and direction, making your blog’s purpose easily understood and defined, not only by you, but by your visitors as well. Some examples of popular niches are food, decorating, memoirs, homeschooling, fitness or weight loss, parenting, photography, etc.
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What does “Above the Fold” mean?

Everything on your site that shows up as soon as your page loads is above the fold. Anything a visitor has to scroll down to see is below the fold.
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What is a child theme?

A child theme is the second part of a WordPress theme. This explains the concept.
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What’s the difference between a domain and a URL?

Your domain is the web address you would give to someone if they asked, “What’s your website?” or “Where can I find you on the internet?” On the other hand, the URL (stands for Uniform Resource Locator) is the complete string of characters that identifies a web address. So, for example:

  • My domain = AmyLynnAndrews.com
  • My URL = http://AmyLynnAndrews.com

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What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and involves making your site more attractive to the search engines so they will include your site when someone searches for a topic you write about. Read my full post, What is SEO? (And Why It Matters).
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This post was updated on April 15, 2014.

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I Hate Promoting My Own Stuff. What Should I Do? http://amylynnandrews.com/promoting-myself/ http://amylynnandrews.com/promoting-myself/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 16:25:35 +0000 http://amylynnandrews.com/?p=13238 I am not good at promoting my own stuff, not so much because I’m humble, but more because I’m insecure. I have Eeyore tendencies (“Probably no one would want this.”). But Eeyore, precious as he is, doesn’t always operate in reality. And frankly, he can be a drag to be around. Then again, Tiggers can […]

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promoting myself

I am not good at promoting my own stuff, not so much because I’m humble, but more because I’m insecure. I have Eeyore tendencies (“Probably no one would want this.”).

But Eeyore, precious as he is, doesn’t always operate in reality. And frankly, he can be a drag to be around. Then again, Tiggers can be annoying too if all they ever do is promote themselves.

The fact is, there’s someone out there who wants what you provide. Don’t apologize for it and don’t brag about it. Don’t tip-toe and don’t gush. Just do it, and tell others about it straight up.

Not sure what it is you have to offer? Here, try this:

Do people marvel at something you do? Do you love doing it?

There. Focus on that.

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Can I Link to My aStore in an Email? {Q&A} http://amylynnandrews.com/can-i-link-to-my-astore-in-email/ http://amylynnandrews.com/can-i-link-to-my-astore-in-email/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 21:01:13 +0000 http://amylynnandrews.com/?p=13221 In my post last week called Are You An Amazon Associate? Are You Violating This Term of Service? I explained that (as of now) it is a violation of the Amazon Associates Operating Agreement if any of your Amazon Associates links are in emails. If you haven’t read that post, I recommend you do so first. Many […]

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In my post last week called Are You An Amazon Associate? Are You Violating This Term of Service? I explained that (as of now) it is a violation of the Amazon Associates Operating Agreement if any of your Amazon Associates links are in emails. If you haven’t read that post, I recommend you do so first.

can i link to my astore in an email

Many of you have wondered if linking instead to your aStore would be a viable workaround.

According to my latest Amazon chat (it’s becoming a regular occurence, lol), the answer is, it depends.

The short answer

You may not link directly to your Amazon Associates aStore in any emails (including RSS to emails) and you may not link to any individual product in your aStore.

However, if you create a page on your website with your embedded aStore, you may include a link to that page on your site in emails.

If that makes sense to you, you can stop reading. The rest is just an analogy for further explanation.

Let me break it down if that’s clear as mud

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, an aStore is one of the options you can use to promote Amazon products. (I’m talking about affiliate marketing here, by the way. If you’re not familiar with affiliate marketing, you can read my post What is Affiliate Marketing?)

Here’s how an aStore works

This isn’t the best analogy, but think of an aStore like your own Amazon vending machine. You walk around the Amazon warehouse and you pick out some Amazon products you love. Then you put those products neatly in your vending machine. Whenever someone buys a product from your vending machine, you get a percentage of that sale.

Make sense?

OK. But now you have a choice. Where are you going to put your vending machine?

Option #1: Let Amazon house it for you

Amazon will let you keep your vending machine in their warehouse. It’ll be safe there, you don’t have to find a spot for it and they’ll let you house it there for free. You still get to display your own collection of things you like.

If you meet someone, you can say to them, “Hey, I’ve got this cool collection of things I love in my vending machine. You should check it out!” Then you give them the address to the Amazon warehouse. Your new friend goes there, buys something and you get paid. Yay!

Option #2: House it yourself

But you also have the option of taking your vending machine and putting it in your own warehouse. Of course, it’s a bit different now because you have a few more things to think about (where you’ll put it, paying for the space, etc.), but there are advantages too. You can decorate it to match your own warehouse and it’s never far away from you.

And if you meet someone who wants to see the collection in your vending machine, you give them the address of your own warehouse.

It’s all about where you’re sending people

The location of your warehouse is the key for us in this post. The reason is, a warehouse is like a website.

In Option #1, you are sending people directly to the Amazon warehouse (i.e. website) using an Amazon URL (address).

In Option #2, you are sending people to your warehouse (i.e. website) using your own URL (address).

According to Amazon’s Operating Agreement, you may not include the direct address to an Amazon aStore in any email. However, you may include the address to your own site…which has your aStore embedded.

Should you get an aStore then?

It’s up to you. I’m not a fan of them in this instance because I’m not a fan of embedding things when I don’t have to. Embedded things tend to slow down your site and they aren’t always mobile responsive. But it’s up to you.

How to embed an aStore

If you have a website, and you want to go this route, here’s how to embed an aStore. (If you don’t have a website, you can get one easy peasy.)

  • Go here. Click Build an aStore now. (You’ll have to login or sign up.)
  • Once you’ve built your aStore (too many details for this post, but you can get tips here).
  • Once your aStore is created, go to Manage Your aStores (you can also click the “aStore” tab at the top of the page when you’re logged in to Amazon Associates).
  • Click the Edit button next to the name in of your aStore.
  • In the left column on the next page, you’ll see a section titled “aStore” and an option underneath called Get Link. Click that.
  • You’ll get to this page.

On that page, there are three sections:

  1. Link to your aStore as a stand-alone site – This will give you a direct URL to your aStore on Amazon’s website (i.e. warehouse). This URL may not be in any email you send (RSS to email included).
  2. Embed your aStore using an inline frame
  3. Integrate your aStore using a frameset

The last 2 options (#2 & #3) you may do because they embed your aStore on your own site (i.e. your own warehouse). You may only link to the page on your site where your aStore is embedded.

Bottom line

If your link looks like this, http://astore.amazon.com/yourstore-20, it can’t go in an email. (Again, even if it’s in a blog post and gets sent to your readers via RSS to email. See my previous post.)

If your link look like this, http://yourdomain.com/shop (or something similar as long as it’s your own domain), it can go in an email.

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Did My Useletter Land in Your Spam Folder? http://amylynnandrews.com/useletter-land-spam-folder/ http://amylynnandrews.com/useletter-land-spam-folder/#comments Tue, 25 Mar 2014 13:55:03 +0000 http://amylynnandrews.com/?p=13206 Apparently my useletter from last Saturday landed in a lot of spam folders. So if you didn’t see it, you might check there! Tips I shared: How to delete your unused accounts Free background texture tool, with color! Where to find special characters not on your keyboard How to find similar sites and get out of […]

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Apparently my useletter from last Saturday landed in a lot of spam folders. So if you didn’t see it, you might check there!

Tips I shared:

  1. How to delete your unused accounts
  2. Free background texture tool, with color!
  3. Where to find special characters not on your keyboard
  4. How to find similar sites and get out of a rut
  5. Plus a few more tidbits about cool things I’ve found, what I downloaded and more.

Don’t know what the useletter is?

My useletter is for those who work (or want to work) online from home. It’s a once- or twice-a-week email containing tips I don’t post elsewhere like… (read more…)

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Do I Really Have to Include a Mailing Address in My Email Newsletter? {Q&A} http://amylynnandrews.com/include-mailing-address-newsletter-qa/ http://amylynnandrews.com/include-mailing-address-newsletter-qa/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 20:37:45 +0000 http://amylynnandrews.com/?p=13199 I get a lot of blogging questions in my inbox. I do my best to answer as many as I can, but I’ve decided to post some common ones so everyone can (hopefully) benefit. This one is a good one and very important. Yes. If you use an email service provider (ESP) to send out an […]

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I get a lot of blogging questions in my inbox. I do my best to answer as many as I can, but I’ve decided to post some common ones so everyone can (hopefully) benefit. This one is a good one and very important.

mailing address in email newsletter

Yes.

If you use an email service provider (ESP) to send out an email newsletter (like I use Mad Mimi* to send out The Useletter™), chances are you will be asked for a physical mailing address when you sign up.

This address will be inserted into every email newsletter you send out.

For many, this throws up a red flag, which is understandable. After all, who wants their physical mailing address floating out there, right? (I sure don’t!) Here’s the scoop…

1. This is normal

Being asked for a physical mailing address by your ESP is standard practice. In fact, if you aren’t asked for a physical mailing address, you should proceed with caution. Why? Because (here in the U.S. at least), according to the CAN-SPAM Act (see #4) you must include your location. In other words, if an ESP says you don’t need to include one and you live in the U.S., I’d find another ESP pronto.

2. Use a snail mail address

You have to use a location where you can receive snail mail. You may not use a website or email address.

3. Don’t use your home address

Although you can use your home address, I definitely don’t recommend it. You can use a different mailing address as long as you can receive mail there. In my case, I rent a P.O. box. (Some rent a box at The UPS Store or similar.) I rent the smallest size since I rarely get mail there and the cost for me works out to about $5 a month, paid 6-12 months in advance usually.

4. It’s possible to find free options

If you don’t want to rent a box, you might also be able to use the mailing address of a brick and mortar business you own or are associated with. If you’re going to go that route, though, I highly recommend you consult a lawyer to see whether or not you can do so without violating the CAN-SPAM Act.

5. Whatever you do, don’t use a fake address

I’ve seen this suggestion made by those who don’t want to pay for a box and don’t have access to alternatives. Don’t do it! This is a direct violation of the CAN-SPAM Act and as included in the document, “Each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $16,000, so non-compliance can be costly.” Did you catch that? Each. Separate. Email. Up to $16,000. Ouch!

As I mentioned, the email service provider I use is Mad Mimi and I highly recommend them. Their free plan allows you to have up to 2500 contacts and send 12,500 emails per month so it’s perfect if you’re just getting started building your list. And once you outgrow that, the cost of a post office box is well worth it.

*There are affiliate links in this post.

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Are You An Amazon Associate? Are You Violating This Term of Service? http://amylynnandrews.com/amazon-associate-vilation/ http://amylynnandrews.com/amazon-associate-vilation/#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 10:54:57 +0000 http://amylynnandrews.com/?p=13144 It seems a tip in my last useletter has opened up a can of worms. Several of you have asked me about the whole “Amazon Associate links shouldn’t be in emails” thing, and specifically, how it applies to RSS feeds. So, I spent some time digging further and here’s what I got. Here’s the scenario… You […]

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It seems a tip in my last useletter has opened up a can of worms. Several of you have asked me about the whole “Amazon Associate links shouldn’t be in emails” thing, and specifically, how it applies to RSS feeds. So, I spent some time digging further and here’s what I got.

amazon associate violation

Here’s the scenario…

You are a blogger.

You are an Amazon Associate.

You publish posts promoting Amazon products using your Associates affiliate links.

Those posts get sent to your blog readers via RSS, to their emails or RSS readers.

Are you violating Amazon’s Terms of Service?

Well, very possibly yes.

How they said it in legal jargon (and what we agreed to)

Amazon says in the Associates Program Participation Requirements (emphasis mine):

6. You will not engage in any promotional, marketing, or other advertising activities on behalf of us or our affiliates, or in connection with the Amazon Site or the Program, that are not expressly permitted under the Operating Agreement. For example, you will not engage in any promotional, marketing, or other advertising activities in any offline manner, including by using any of our or our affiliates’ trademarks or logos (including any Amazon Mark), any Content, or any Special Link in connection with an offline promotion or in any other offline manner (e.g., in any printed material, mailing, SMS, MMS, email or attachment to email, or other document, or any oral solicitation). Upon our request, you will provide us with written certification that you have complied with this Section 6. We will specify the form of, and content required in, that certification in our request. Any failure by you to provide the certification in accordance with our request will constitute a material breach of this Operating Agreement.

How they said it in real English

They put it more succinctly on this page:

It is not permitted to bookmark your links, send them in e-mails/newsletters, post in your Kindle books, or use them in any other offline manner.

How they said it in email

Then I emailed them to clarify. I linked to the above and asked them if it “applies to Amazon Associates links that I post on my blog, but then are sent via my RSS feed in an email to my blog subscribers?”

Summary: We cannot use Associate links in, emails, newsletters, RSS feeds or anything else that’s offline.

How they said it in a live chat

And then I chatted with them because it never hurts to ask multiple times. Here’s the summary of the conversation:

Associates links cannot be included in email, only on your website or blog. Not even in the emailed version of your RSS feed. Any product link in any email would be a violation. Amazon does not have a standard recommendation for bloggers in this instance. They simply want any Associates link you share to be on your site only.

And there you have it folks. Bummer.

So, what’s a blogger to do?

Well, I’m sure there are several things one could do, but here are the things that immediately come to mind that any beginner could do right away:

  • Don’t be an Amazon Associate. That’s an option, but for many of us, it’s a sad one. So moving on…
  • Truncate your feed. By that I mean, use a partial feed for your blog, not a full feed. That way, if you do have Amazon affiliate links in your posts, someone will have to click through to your blog before seeing the live affiliate links. This of course assumes the links are not in the first part of your post that is included in the snippet of your post. (So maybe but them towards the end?) In WordPress, you can switch to a partial feed by going to Dashboard –> Settings –> Reading –> For each article in feed show: Summary –> Save.
  • Bonus tip: Don’t put Amazon Associate links in ebooks (Kindle or otherwise), PDFs, documents, or any other readable thing that is not a blog or website. Just stating the obvious here.

Update 4/10/2014: Phil McDonnell and Gretchen Louise emailed me about a plugin Phil wrote that aims to deal with the problem. If you offer a full feed, this might be something you want to look into. The plugin automatically takes out any Amazon links in your emails, but keeps them in your blog post. If that sounds like a good fit for you, you can find the plugin here. (Not sure how to install a plugin?Here’s my tutorial on the subject.)

Got any other ideas that one could implement quickly? Feel free to leave them in the comments.

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