Wordpress automatically provides avatar support in it’s current version, but it’s not very good. You have to use defaults and they don’t work well most of the time. So, if you want to have your own avatar or allow your readers to upload one of their own, Gravatar is a good plugin to have on hand.
Once you’ve installed Gravatar, go to the “Avatars” menu on the User section of your dashboard. Here, you’ll find a complete list of all users and their avatar settings. To add an avatar for any one user, click on “update” next to their name and upload a new image or choose one from another website.
Below the user list you will find a series of options that allow you to choose the level of content your avatar can have, the default avatar if they don’t upload one, how users will upload their avatars, and some more complicated technical options that you won’t need to mess with unless you want to place avatars on your site independently of comments.
Related Posts
For whatever reason, WordPress still doesn’t do this automatically, so you’ll need to download a plugin for it. You’ve probably seen it a few dozen times on other blogs anyway – a list of posts that are thematically related to the one you’re reading.
Once you install the plugin, you can change a few settings that will determine which posts appear, including the use of common tags, categories, or keyword matching. I like to use tag matching as most posts with similar tags are related (due to how those particular posts get defined).
Permalink Redirect
For whatever reason, the permalinks for your pages can get crossed up and misinterpreted by search engines, outside sources or even your own WordPress installation. For that reason, you can end up with multiple URLs for the same post, which can hurt your search engine standings and be very confusing for your readers.
That’s why Permalink Redirect is a good plugin to have on hand. It will automatically use a 301 redirect to send your readers to the correct URL for every post they read. That way, no one ever accidentally gets stuck on the wrong URL and Google doesn’t think you have forty pages of duplicate content floating around your site.
Simple Tags
As WordPress stands, tags are pretty boring. You can add or delete them, and with your SEO tool you can use them for keywords. That’s not horrible, but if you want to really get the most out of every post, you want to be sure you don’t miss any potentially awesome tags.
That’s where Simple Tags comes in handy. Once upon a time, WordPress didn’t support tags at all, and these plugins were vital. Today, they are more of a handy booster for your existing tags. You can use them to generate tags automatically using the keywords in a post, you can look up tag suggestions in the search feature, or you can tag your posts on the fly as you edit them. I don’t recommend automatic tagging, if only because it can lead to some pretty bland, and sometimes repetitive tags bordering on spam.
However, the other tools included with Simple Tags allow you to mass edit tags, click on them to see related posts in the dashboard, embed tags in your posts so you can link to related posts, and use tags that will show up on aggregate sites like Technorati. All in all, it’s a very useful tool that provides a lot more ways to insert content into your blog.
This is the one and only plugin that comes default with all WordPress installations and for very good reason. Akismet works to automatically recognize comments on your blog that could be spam. And if you haven’t run a blog before, trust me – there will be a LOT of spam. You might not notice it at first, or even after a month or two, but once your blog starts getting real traffic and is indexed in search engines, expect between 5 and 100 spam comments a day from a variety of unsavory sources.
So, it’s best to install and use Akismet from the start to remove the comments before they can become obnoxious. To use Akismet, you’ll need to go to Akismet’s website and get an API key (you can also get one from WordPress.com). Here’s the link for Akismet:

Once you register, you’ll get an API key that you will then paste into your Akismet options screen. Once it’s installed, go to the Plugins menu to find the Akismet options
From here, you can enter your API key, and set up your spam filters. The default settings are usually good for young blogs, as they will filter out all posts with two or more links or that contain a certain number of numbers. If you are ever uncertain of your spam settings, you can go into you spam folder in the comments menu and remove anything that was inadvertently filtered (much like your email inbox).
Wordpress Popup Scheduler
There are a few plugins for this as well, and while many of them cost money, they don’t need to (unless you want a lot of fancy features). We’ll discuss flying popovers later on so don’t worry if you’re not sure what to put here or how to make it look.
The basic idea is that you want to convince people who have spent a small amount of time on your site to sign up for your list so they can continue getting updates about your site. This plugin will provide all the tools you need to make that happen. Later, when we go over how to create a list for your blog, I’ll go into further detail of how your popover should look and what it should do. So leave this option disabled for now.

Simple Link Cloaker
There are a few link cloaking tools out there that cost an arm and a leg for no good reason, because Simple Link Cloaker is free and does everything you need it to do. Basically, it allows you to enter affiliate links, then create sterile URLs to use in your affiliate marketing campaigns so that your readers won’t be turned off by a big long, messy link. Here’s an example.
Instead of http://jim342.starworld23.clickbank.net/?32
You can use http://www.YOURBLOG.com/RECOMMENDED
The result looks much nicer and the reader can still be sent directly to the end result page. Now, don’t forget that new FTC rules require you to disclose that your readers are about to click on an affiliate link for which you will get paid, but the conversions are still better with a pretty link like this.
There are other plugins out there that will also track click throughs, but with Google Analytics and your basic analytics tools from Clickbank and the other networks, those bulkier tools aren’t really necessary.
Star Rating for Reviews
Don’t ask me why it is, but people like star ratings. I like to place the blame (or honor) at the feet of Amazon, a website that has acclimated people over the course of the last 10 years or so to associate instant recognition of quality with a star rating.
You can boost your own readership by using that star rating with your posts, doable with this little plugin. The only downside to this plugin of course is that you will need to maintain high quality in your posts if you want to maintain readers. People won’t click on a 1 or 2 star post, so if you write short, grammatically dicey content, this may not be your best bet.
However, since that kind of content isn’t going to help you sell anything anyway, I fully recommend upgrading your content and using this to help increase how many articles your readers peruse when they visit your site.

I fully expect that sooner or later WordPress will integrate its own tools for adding social bookmarking links to your posts as it’s an extremely common request and a very regular. But for now, it does not support this and you’ll need a plugin.
Basically, what it does is add a line of social networking icons to the bottom of each blog post that look like this:
You can change which ones appear in the options menu and even where they appear on your blog post. The rest of the data is automatically entered when someone clicks on any of those links. Keep in mind that many premium blog themes will already have a social networking plugin built into the code. If you are using a blog theme, double check this before installing Sociable, because two different social media tools can interact with each other sometimes and cause all sorts of glitches.
Exclude Pages
Right now, this plugin might sit dormant, not doing a whole lot on your site. But, eventually it will be a good friend that helps keep all that content you’ll be writing well organized. Here’s how.
When you create a new “Page” – the static content that you link to at the top of your blog (image below) – it automatically gets added to that menu.
By default, you cannot control which of the pages appear up there. It’s all automatic and if you have 30 pages, it would become a giant mess that is hard to navigate. Exclude Pages allows you to uncheck a box that says “include this page in menus” when you create it. This way, if you want to create a static page of content, you can do so without having it on every menu of your site, taking up space and making it very confusing to navigate your site. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later for installing this one.
WP Banner Plugin
As an affiliate, you might decide to populate your site with a variety of different banner ads. The problem, however, is that it can be hard to keep track of those banners and where they appear and whether the links are all correct. That’s where WP Banner comes in.
With this plugin, you can easily manage multiple banner options from one affiliate program, multiple banners from different affiliate programs, and the time ranges and impression counts for all of them. In fact, you can even use it to sell ad space to advertisers if you ever become one of the guru bloggers with a million hits a day.

Because banner rotation is so hard to maintain manually, this is more or less a must-have tool. To top things off, it will keep track of clicks for each banner so that you can compare data. It’s an instant split-tester which makes it easy to determine which banner ad deserves more screen time.
Advertising Manager
I already recommended a good plugin for Google AdSense, but there are dozens of other ad networks out there and I wholly recommend you give them all a shot if you’re trying to monetize your content through impression or click-based advertising.
That’s where Advertising manager comes in. This plugin will allow you to manage campaigns from AdSense just like the other plugin we discussed, but it also works for AdBrite, AdPinion, Commission Junction, ShoppingAds, Adify, AdGridWork, AdRoll, CrispAds, Yahoo!PN, OpenX, and WidgetBucks – all solid ad networks in their own way. And other ad networks are constantly being added to the list of supported options.
You can choose ads by category, tags, author, page type, template style, and much more, allowing you to customize content on each page. You can also manage your accounts for the 15 biggest networks through WordPress’s backend instead of through their own sites, making it much easier to have all those accounts running at once.
You’re probably still quite a way from getting this many ads up and running on your blog (content must come first), but install the plugin now and you’ll be ready to go when you start monetizing that screen space.
Choosing Your Plugins
I want to make a quick note here. Just because I’ve listed more than a dozen plugins above doesn’t mean you’ll need all of them. And it doesn’t mean these are the only plugins you’ll want or need for your site either. In reality, you’ll probably think of a dozen other things that you want to do with your blog that require a plugin.
In my opinion, the reason that WordPress is so fantastic is that you can be as creative as you like and someone, somewhere has already thought of a way to make your ideas come to life. So, as you start putting your blog together, sit down and determine which of these features you need and how you would like them integrated into your blog.
wIDgets Another thing you’ll see in your blog’s backend a lot is “widgets”. Widgets are not necessarily installed. Rather, they are little bits of code that you can move around on your blog’s pages. For example, if you have a right side bar on your blog, you can add widgets for categories, recent posts, search, or your picture.
These are all predefined segments in your theme’s code that will automatically update all that information whenever your blog changes. It’s a pretty simple way to manage all that content without having to spend additional time generating content.
So, you never really choose your widgets. Rather, they will be a built in part of your theme. Whatever the theme creator has coded into the design you’re using will be available.
Changing Widgets
When you go to the Widgets menu under “Appearance”, you’ll see something like this:
On the left will be a list of all the possible widgets you have available to place and on the right will be the different modules of your site where widgets can be added. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to show you exactly what your own widgets will look like because I don’t know which theme you’ll be using, but here are a few examples of what widget changes will do to your page.
The Primary Sidebar
For the most part, I ignore any of the secondary sidebars that a blog has. Most blog themes will have a primary sidebar and possibly a left side bar if you have a three column design:
Most of your features should be placed in that right side bar, or below your blog posts, out of the way. Advertising especially needs to be placed in a prominent location, but not supplanting your content. By default, most themes will have “search”, “recent posts”, “categories” and sometimes “meta or login” information in the primary sidebar. How you want it to look will determine what goes there, but I usually remove everything except search and recent posts or categories.
This provides you more space for advertising in the sidebar above the fold. What I mean by this is that you will be able to place ads in a location where your users can see them without having to scroll down. If you place five or six widgets above the fold, they would need to scroll down the page a bit to see your ads, which you don’t want to rely on.
Another important thing to remember about widgets is that you don’t need to use them all – not even close. If you have thirty widgets sitting there as options, you may only use five of them and that’s okay. If you try to jam all that content onto your blog, it will look like a mess. And don’t forget you have things like “bottom content” and “footers” where you can place things like archives and tag clouds.

Later on, when we discuss advertisement placement, I’ll discuss the best places to put those ad blocks. For now, I recommend keeping your search box at the top right with at least one widget below it for finding old posts – either a tag cloud, categories or archived posts.
tHeMes Finally, we have themes, the primary tool you’ll have in changing the look and feel of your blog. Themes are awesome in so many ways because they cut out all that unwanted outsourcing, creative struggling, and design back and forth that goes into choosing the look and feel of a new website. Instead of thinking of something new, you can shop for an existing look and either download it for free or pay for it.
Premium vs. Free
One thing to keep in mind with themes is that they come in two very different categories – free themes that cover the basics and provide a general look or paid themes that include very specific tools and are usually supported by customer service and forums where you can ask questions.
Which one you choose will depend partly on your needs and partly on your budget. So, you’ll want to sit down and determine where you will be headed with your site before you choose what kind of money you want to pay for your themes. Free Themes

Wordpress.org has a number of free themes, or you can search other galleries on Google to see what is out there. For the most part, free themes are very limiting. They provide a specific look, some basic widget controls, and sometimes a few cool effects. The problem with free themes, however, is that they are often designed for artists and hobby bloggers, not marketers.
If you’re only planning on putting together a basic blog where you write posts and people read them without any frills, a free theme may be all you need, assuming you can find one you like the look and feel of. Premium Themes
On the other side of things is the premium theme market. Here, you’ll find themes that are catered to specific styles of websites, including affiliate marketing and as such they come with the widgets and plugins you’d expect and want to make your site fully functional.
An added plus with premium themes is that you can also often get technical support from the programmer through a website or forum that they maintain. In fact, I usually recommend that if you don’t get this kind of support you skip the theme. Why pay hard earned money for something that doesn’t help you when you have problems?
The biggest problem with premium themes is that there are so many of them. You’ll need to sort through hundreds of websites and dozens of themes to land on the perfect one for your needs. It can cost quite a bit of money as well if you don’t know 100% what you want ahead of time.
My recommendation is usually to start with a freebie and once you have a good grasp of what you need out of your blog, start looking for a premium theme to upgrade to. Changing themes is instant and simple as long as you haven’t made any edits to the original, so you can always make changes later.
Capabilities of Themes
Themes do a little bit of everything depending on what they’re designed for. To start with, they make it possible to change how your blog looks to fit your particular audience and style. They also allow you to change specific pages on your blog without having to go in and manually change anything.
Good themes will also provide customization options for things like social networking buttons, tags, categories, and the home page display of your posts. A very basic blog might just have a listing of recent posts, but advanced themes might have sliding windows with recent posts, news-magazine style layouts, or blocks of content that can be interchangeable.
Just visit any of the top blogs online like Boing-Boing or Mashable and see how the content is laid out. Those blogs are almost all based on a WordPress platform, and while they likely have custom themes made for them, they are still using the same tools you have at your disposal.
That’s why it’s such a good idea to spend time investigating which themes will work best for your particular site. Look at their features, the widgets and plugins they offer, and the sites that currently use them. You want to be sure you get the right tools for your particular needs. But, even if a theme you really like doesn’t cover everything you want it to do, don’t forget that you can always use plugins to expand its capabilities.
Customizing a Theme
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s possible to go in and make changes to a theme to add features or insert code of your own into the background. I really don’t recommend you do this. Those themes are custom coded by experts in their field and not every theme will react the same to outside code, even if you have clear instructions. If you really need to change how a theme works, consider a premium theme or hiring an outside coder who can help make those changes. The results are often a lot less dangerous to the integrity of your blog. Getting Help
While custom themes are available in plenty, you never know when you might want to find someone to help you produce content that meets your particular needs. It might be a very specific widget, or a design style that is built for you alone, or your own graphics being placed into the template. Whatever the case, it might come up that you need to outsource a bit of coding for your blog.
First, make sure you find someone who will work at a reasonable rate. You don’t need to spend $300 for someone to add your custom graphics into a blog’s theme. It takes 20 minutes and minimal knowledge and they should charge you accordingly. Sites like RentaCoder or Odesk are good for this because they allow you to find people willing to work based on time investment and at a reasonable rate – especially when overseas.
There’s a lot to be said for outsourcing in general (and a lot that has been said in the past), but I won’t go into it all in detail. But, if you need a very specific piece of code or change to your theme, look for someone who will do it at a reasonable rate. Best Themes for Affiliate Marketers
Out of all the themes on the market, there are a few that stand out as particular powerful options for marketers. They offer specific tools designed for link tracking and cloaking, image incorporation, video posting, list building and more. Beware though that almost all affiliate marketing targeted themes are premium and some of them only offer single license use so you’ll need to purchase them more than once to use for multiple blogs (though most offer unlimited use after purchase).
WP Unlimited
The WP Unlimited Theme costs $59 for a personal license, which isn’t that bad for a premium theme that does so much. This is by far one of the best all-around themes for affiliate marketers because it has only the stuff you need and none of the stuff you don’t. I’m not trying to sell you on anything here, but I will do my little schpeil so you can see what it comes with: • AdSense Generator – The AdSense functionality is very nice because it’s all built into the theme already. Plugins are great but they can have bugs when paired up with a separate theme – something you’ll never need to worry about with WP Unlimited. • Design Customization – Most free themes have a handful of different options for how things will look, but WP Unlimited is loaded with color, font, layout, and size options, allowing you to essentially choose exactly how your theme will look. It’s also very easy to upload custom headers and footers, making it easy to personalize your site. • SEO – A lot of the features you come to expect from plugins like All in One SEO are all here and easily integrated into your layout, which makes for easier to access tools. I won’t say that WP Unlimited offers anything that you can’t get elsewhere for free in your SEO, but it’s already there and you won’t need to set anything up.
In short, a theme like WP Unlimited puts all the tools you need in front of you without the need for any plugins or upgrades. That may be well worth the cost for most of you.

Affiliate Theme
Affiliate Theme costs a bit more than WP Unlimited at $97 for a single user license ($147 for unlimited multi-use package) but it does come with a number of additional features for those that know they’ll be building a LOT of blogs in the near future.
It comes with 6 layouts that allow for a wide array of customization in how your blog looks, and the changes are very easy to make. Additionally, there is a color picker and easy to use layout tweaking tools that make it super easy to change how the theme looks without having to recode anything. The options are surprising robust and if you don’t know anything about coding, it’s a godsend to have it so easy.
Additionally, it is optimized for SEO and PPC, similar to the above themes, allowing you to easily get the right titles, descriptions, keywords, and everything else in place before anything goes out to the search engines. The support for this theme is pretty solid too with quick response customer service and an easy to use forum to ask questions. In short, changing, adding, and tweaking your settings is super simple and you’ll never need to worry about tech problems.
This is only a sampling of possible themes you can integrate into your blog for marketing purposes. If you’re interested in getting the most out of your new IM blog, make sure you find one that has a lot of solid support and people who can answer your questions if and/or when something comes up.
Create Your Own Theme
For those of you that don’t want your site to look like anyone else’s, and have a very clear idea of what you want the graphics and layout to do for you, there is a tool that has become quite popular in recent months. It’s called Web Artisteer and it’s a custom theme editor that allows you to pretty much change anything you want on your site without having to do any coding – a major plus for most marketers who are just getting used to blogging, let alone building a website.
It also works for more than just WordPress, allowing you to create custom themes for Drupal, Joomla, and

DotNetNuke as well as plain HTML if you ever decide to make a plain, static site. The exporting features do not work, however, unless you pay the full license fee for Standard Edition. The trial and home editions will only allow you to export to WordPress, Blogger and XHTML. This should be enough for most of you, but if you’re using a more advanced CMS tool or if you need a lot of color and font options, you’ll need to upgrade to the full version. Using Web Artisteer
When you get started with Web Artisteer, you’ll need to download the software from http://www.webartisteer. com. Once you have it installed and ready to use, open it up and go to the option for WordPress Template.
Choose to have it suggest a design for you. You can click the button as many times as you like and the software will toss out a different combination over and over again until you get one you really like. It’s pretty simple to use and the result helps you get the most out of your theme. Don’t accept the first one that pops up.
Feel free to make as many changes to the template that appears as you like. This includes changing the layout, the background, the fonts, the header, or the footer. These should all be changeable in the WYSIWYG editor.

Once you’re finished editing your file, choose the Export option from the menu and then choose where to save your theme. This will create a local copy on your hard drive.
Next, go to your web host or open an FTP program such as Filezilla (free) to upload your files directly to your server. Upload the entire theme as it was exported from Web Artisteer to the wp-content/themes folder on your server.
Now, go to WordPress and visit the Dashboard and the Appearances/Themes menu located on the left side. You should see your new theme as an option here which you can then activate and start using.

If you have trouble using your new theme, it may not have been uploaded to the right folder or it may not have been exported properly. Double check to make sure everything is in the right place before you start over.
Aspects of Your New Theme
There are quite a few tools in Web Artisteer that make it easy to edit your WordPress installation’s look and feel. The instant theme samples are great, but most people probably want to at least partially customize their site. • Header – The Header is a big part of your site’s design and you will get a good amount of control over how yours is edited. You can choose to use the built in background images by choosing a preselected template, or you can install your own header by choosing the “header” menu at the top of the screen and inserting a new one. The text tool allows you to instantly add new text to the header as well. There are also a number of image effects available in the editing menu to change how these images look. • Font and Color Options – Every aspect of your theme can be easily changed with the editing features of the software. You can use the main menu’s “suggest” features to choose various things for your theme, or you can go to the specific menus and change those features in particular. At the top of the screen, you’ll see menus for “color and font”, “layout”, “background”, “header”, “menu”, “articles”, “blocks”, “buttons”, and “footer”. • Styles – There are quite a few styles and button types you can use to highlight different parts of your page if you like. For instance, you can set different fonts for different types of posts or

pages. You can also customize the side bars, the background of the page, or the way your posts are displayed. The level of customization makes it possible to make non-classical blog themes as well.
Overall, Web Artisteer is a fantastic tool for anyone interested in developing a custom theme for their site. You will need to play with the tools for a bit to get a good grip on your options as there are so many of them, but the end result is almost always attractive.
Uploading Themes to WordPress
For those that have purchased or found a free theme to upload, you’ll need to install it from the WordPress directory. Once you have found a theme you like and are ready to install it, place the .ZIP file on your PC and go to the Themes menu on your Dashboard. From there, you can choose to “Add New” and then click on “Upload” from the menu atop the screen.
Choose the file on your PC that you want to upload and then click “install now”. After 30 seconds or so, the theme should be installed. Check how your site looks to make sure it installed properly and you can now start fiddling with options (depending on what is available). If your theme has advanced options to choose from, they will be available in your Settings menu or on a separate tab below Settings.
Every theme you upload to WordPress will remain on the server so you can access it later. You just need to activate it from the “Themes” page.
If you do this, however, keep in mind that any customizations or widget changes you made in the old theme will be lost when you switch. Don’t Over Think Your Themes
The theme you use for your blog is not nearly as important as the content you place on it. Much like the frosting on a cake, it can make for a very pretty presentation, but in the end, the cake better taste good, or it was all a waste of time.
So, don’t’ spend too much time worrying about the “perfect” theme or plugins for your site. Sure the functionality is important and you’ll be offering something very cool if you get it just right. But, the majority of your effort should always be poured into generating or finding good, important content that will engage your readers, generate traffic, and most importantly, translate to sales.
And that’s exactly where we’ll be headed in the next few sections – the all-important generation of content for that fancy, shiny new blog you just built.

starting your Blog So, you know where to go to change the format of your blog, have all your plugins and your theme active and ready, and maybe even wrote a post or two to fill out some of your content. Now, it’s time to get your blog up and running, but what kind of content will you write about, where will you get the readers from, how will you optimize it and who are your competitors?
If you’ve read anything else about internet marketing, then you know success starts with understanding who you’re targeting and what they want. That goes the same for your blog, even if you’re not planning on selling anything just yet. You need to know who that target reader is, how to reach them, and what they expect from your finished “product” – the blog.
So, again like internet marketing, you need to get your start with niche research, then keyword research, competitor analysis, and topic selections.
nICHe researCH anD seleCtIon Niche research for a blog starts and ends with knowing exactly what you are selling and how you want to sell it. Sounds simple enough, right? Unfortunately, a lot of guys and gals like you skip this step and think that it will all make sense as they get started.
You cannot start a blog about ‘dogs’ and hope that a good product pops up later on to sell. You need to have a clear idea of what you want to do in that niche. Remember, you don’t need to have a product to sell. You can place banner ads or AdSense on your blog and monetize your traffic instead of your product suggestions, or you can build a list to monetize later. However, you need to know ahead of time who your target audience is and how you will reach them. That’s where niche research comes in.
There are quite a few ways to find a good niche when developing a new blog. To start with, ask yourself what you enjoy writing about. You’ll be writing a LOT of content about this particular subject, so if you’re not 100% interested in it, you’d better reconsider your decision. Even if you opt to outsource your writing to a content writer on Odesk or Elance, you’ll still need to edit content, upload it, reply to comments, and stay appraised of the most recent developments in the niche.
In short, it’s a bad idea to blog about something you don’t have a personal interest in. The drive needed to turn a simple blog into a traffic hub will drain out of you before you can say “deadend” and you’ll wonder where everything went wrong.
So, always start by brainstorming topics you have a real interest in. If you want to get ideas, go to a site like Technorati or Digg. These sites gather content from throughout the blogosphere that has been voted on and discussed by readers. You can see what is popular, and more importantly, what you are interested in. If it doesn’t interest you, don’t write about it.
fInDIng a ProfItaBle nICHe Of course, just being interested in something doesn’t get you anywhere if there’s no money to be made. That’s where some market research will come in very handy. To get started here, you’ll need to reach out to the largest marketplaces on the Internet and see if there is money to be made.
Amazon is one of my favourite research tools for a few reasons. First, it’s huge. Name it and Amazon sells it. Even if the main branch of the company doesn’t sell it personally, someone is on there selling a copy on their own. It’s a huge marketplace and it represents millions of daily purchases that are ranked, reviewed, and listed by popularity.
Another very interesting fact about Amazon is that very few people actually write reviews or leave ratings for a product they have purchased. While 83% of online shoppers read reviews about products, less than 1% of shoppers actually leave those reviews. The numbers vary, but industry estimates place it somewhere between 0.01% and 1% – as little as 1 in 1000 people. That means that if you see a product with 20 reviews, it has been purchased at least 2,000 times and as many as 20,000 times.
Now, let me ask you this – if 20,000 people buy a single product, do you think there is a solid market for that product?
Seems like a pretty simple answer when you put it like that, doesn’t it? In reality, there are thousands of products on Amazon right now that have 20+ reviews and they are all solid niches that you could make a profit in.
There are lots of solid info product networks online, but Clickbank is the industry standard and I’ll use it for our example, if only because it’s so easy to review the gravity statistics here to see who is selling what.

Basically, when a product is uploaded to Clickbank, it will receive gravity points for every unique affiliate that sells that product within a certain period of time. So, if a product has a gravity of 30, at least 30 different people have successfully made sales of that product (and possibly more because of how the system is weighted).
So, if you’re looking for valuable niches, aim for anything with a gravity of 30 or higher and you will know that there is plenty of pie to go around for you and your fellow marketers.
AdWords Data
A completely separate way to measure successful niches is by how much money is poured into them every month in the form of advertising. Imagine a niche where people spend $2 per click on AdWords ads. Clearly those people are very eager to make a sale and the value of those clicks must pay for themselves.
Using Traffic Travis (more soon), you can review how many people are bidding for hot keywords in a particular niche. You can then search for those keywords in the Google AdWords tool or the free version of SpyFu.com and see exactly how much money they are paying for clicks on those ads. If it is above $0.75/ click, that’s a solid, high competition niche with lots of opportunities for you to make a profit.

Choosing Your Niche
When it comes to blogging, you don’t really need to have a product in mind right away. I like to focus more heavily on the importance of the niche you choose. If you don’t know which niche you want to focus on, you’ll never be able to sell yourself and subsequently whatever products you’re marketing.
However, don’t be afraid to make a list of things you might be able to sell as well. If your niche of choice has a dozen different high quality info products with good $/sale rates, you should keep a list and consider writing reviews. If you know for a fact that your niche is dominated by physical products and you’ll need to place ads and Amazon links on your page, then start making lists of specific products you’d like to sell – this will help with keyword research later.
Right now, you’re not monetizing yet, but by keeping the money part of things in mind as you create a niche targeting plan, you’ll be far better prepared when it comes time to turn all this hard work into a pay check.
keyworD researCH I already mentioned Traffic Travis once – a tool that we’re very proud of and have been working on for quite some time. It’s not only a keyword research tool – it also provides valuable page analysis and PPC data – but when it comes time to start a new website, it can be incredibly useful in pinpointing your target keywords.
With a blog, keyword research is not quite as important as for a static page that will never have new content. You have opportunities to hit on long tail keywords or smaller market phrases on a blog because you’ll be writing new content every week for months to come. However, when it comes to the home page, your categories, your descriptions, and your overall theme, the keywords you select early on will have a huge impact on how the site performs in the search engines.
That’s where Traffic Travis comes in. You’ve already done some basic niche research to determine what you’ll be writing about, which should make it easier to start searching in Traffic Travis for your target phrases.
Brainstorming General Phrases
Start by brainstorming some very general phrases that relate to your niche. If you want to write a blog about dog training, you might come up with a list like this: • Dog Training Techniques • Common Dog Problems • Teach your Dog Tricks • Puppy Training Tips • Dog Training Ideas
These are all relatively general keywords that could be shortened even more so to “dog problems”, “dog training” and “puppy training”. That’s good – but it won’t get you on page one of Google. Those are pretty general keywords and while they may be what your blog is about, you should focus more intently on specifics and ways you can set your blog apart from others. So, start pumping these keywords into Traffic Travis.
Open up Traffic Travis and go to the “Keyword Tools” menu. With the free edition of the software, you will get 200 results for each keyword you provide. The biggest problem here is that the keyword lists are given alphabetically, so if you have something as general as “dog training”, you’ll only get down the B’s. But, even then, you should get a solid return of results to help you choose your dog training topics.
You’ll see results like “aggressive dog training”, “agility dog training”, and “bird dog training”. Those are actually very different areas of the same niche, and you could write an entire blog about any of the three.
Using the data you get here, try to find a get handful of keywords that relate to each other and that you can use to build the basis of your site. I recommend narrowing down to a list of 20-30 core keywords. These keywords should all be generally related and not include too many variations. They should also all be at least three words long to avoid hyper-competitive phrases that you’ll never be able to sell.

For good measure, run your keywords through the Google Keyword tool (http://adwords.google.com/select/ KeywordTool). This will provide you with specific Google search volume to show you how well your words will perform in Google. Look for high search volume and medium competition. High competition is okay too, but try to avoid all your phrases having high competition.
Additional Keywords
This initial keyword list is important, but it’s not the end all of the process. You’re writing a blog and a blog is a search engine’s best friend. With 2-4 new posts a week, you have the opportunity to load up on new keywords every single day you post. So, keep a secondary list of keywords that can be productive in the search engines. Here are keywords that perform the best for me and that hold the highest value as an affiliate marketer: • Product Names – If you plan on reviewing products, the names of those products will need to be well represented on your review pages. A good keyword can be “PRODUCT NAME review” or “best PRODUCT CATEGORY”. Your goal will be to think of what your readers will search for when they’re this close to making a purchase. • Author Names – Author names for info products are great as they get searched for almost as often as the product names. In fact, one of the undiscovered gems of blogging is the author spotlight. So much content about eBook authors is biased in a big way. By writing a spotlight biography of a given author, you can draw anyone in who is trying to learn more about that author’s credibility. If you can land an interview with that author, even better. • Crisis Keywords – Imagine what someone would search for when they absolutely, onehundred percent must solve their problem right now. You now have a fantastic keyword. If someone’s dog just bit the mailman, they might search for “dog just bit someone” or “what to do about dog bite”. Those are fantastic crisis keywords. • Longtail Keywords – Longtails are specific keywords that will target an individual rather than a large group. These types of keywords only work well for a blog if you have the resources and ambition to target multiple sets of them.

For example, you could use “Shetland sheep dog training tips” as a long tail. However, unless you want to focus your entire blog on Shelties in particular, you would want to write a series of posts to supplement it such as “gold retriever dog training tips”, “pitbull training tips”, etc.
One other thing to keep in mind is that with any website, you will be doing a lot of link building later on. You might write guest posts at other sites, comment on blogs or forums, or submit articles to article directories to get links back to your blog. If you do this, you can use long tail keywords like the ones I listed above without skewing the focus of your blog away from the general topic you’re trying to cover.
A blog is a fine balancing act. You want to reach as wide an audience as possible, but you’re also trying to compete in the search results, which requires you to focus on particular keywords and reader needs. Most of your posts will need to find a way to stay between those two target goals. If you can maintain a firm grip on you core audience while also creating content that will make Google happy, you’ll get the traffic you want without sacrificing too much income.
Competitor Analysis
Keywords and the careful balance a blog must walk lead us right into the next topic – your competition. Competition is an issue that most bloggers avoid or ignore. After all, there are plenty of readers for everyone out there, right? To some degree, yes, but you’re not just a blogger – you’re a marketer and as a marketer, you need to know who you’re up against and how to compete with them.
Already, you have a good idea of what your competitors are using for keywords. That’s fantastic because it lets you target words that they are not targeting, or just do a better job of it. However, you also want to know how much traffic they’re getting, how many inbound links they have, and what kind of content they’re writing about.
That brings us back to Traffic Travis, which provides a fantastic set of competitor research tools. There are three ways you can analyse your competitors using Traffic Travis. 1. PPC Analysis – By running you keyword list through PPC analysis, you can see which sites are advertising for the keywords you plan on optimizing for. This is great, because you can then see how well they perform in that position.

To start, click on “Add Project” and paste in your list of keywords and give the project a name. Save the keywords and then run the “Start Update” button on the PPC analysis page.
2. You will now see a list of “ads found” for each keyword. We don’t necessarily care how many ads appear – just who is running them. For this, go to “Top Sites for Keywords” and choose “fetch sites”:
3. Now, you can see which sites are posting ads and how many they are posting for those keywords. If you have 200 keywords on a list and one advertiser is paying for 53 of those keywords in their PPC campaign, that’s a prime competitor. They clearly want the same audience as you.
The trick here is to ignore most of the sites that are selling products directly as you really want to see your blogging competition. Record any blogs you notice and take them to the next step. 4. Page Analysis – The Page Analysis tool will give you details about a single web page and how it performs in a number of categories. Paste all the site URLs into the spaces here and choose “Analyze Pages”. You can now view a grade next to each site between A-D. Click on the site and choose Report Summary to read more about why it got that score. Here are the things you want to look for in this report: a. Google Page Rank – It’s a somewhat arbitrary number, but it tends to represent the quality and age of a site well. If it’s above 2, the site has been around for some time and has done some SEO work. b. Alexa Traffic Rank – The Traffic rank represents how many people visit that site. Total traffic can tell you how much traffic you can hope to generate in this niche.

c. Top Keywords – Look at META keywords as well as the overall density and distribution to see which phrases and word are appearing in their content. d. Links – Internal links are less important than external links and inbound links. Look for how many people are pointing at that site.
5. SEO Analysis – For more specific SEO data about how a site is performing, click on the SEO Analysis tool on the left of the screen. Here, you will need to search for one keyword at a time, but the data you receive is incredibly valuable.
You will receive a ranking list from Google that displays the top 20 sites for that phrase, along with their age, backlinks, DMOZ and Yahoo! directory status, titles, descriptions, and H1 tags. In short, the more red x’s you see, the more chances you have to perform better than them. If you see high page ranks, lots of backlinks and lots of green checkmarks, expect those keywords to be very hard to rank for. 6. Technorati – Because you’re creating a blog, you should also analyse your competitors based on more blog-based ranking factors. For this, I turn to Technorati – a massive database of blogs and their overall ranking based on inbound links, age, and Google rankings. Technorati doesn’t represent even a portion of all the blogs out there, because for a blog to appear in its rankings, the owner needs to claim their blog and provide data to the site.
However, a lot of sites – especially old ones – have already done that and you can search for your keywords to see what shows up in the listings. Each site will provide an Authority rating which aggregates mostly inbound links, as well an overall ranking in the total listing of blogs for the entire database. I wouldn’t use the data here to determine if a blog is going to be competitive against yours, but you can see what type of content is ranking highly at a glance for specific keywords and tags.
Overall, your competition is going to be massive. There are blogs out there for everything. That’s why we’re researching keywords, topics, and potential products to promote. Most of your edge will come in your content creation (coming up soon), but the data we’ve been gathering will also help to provide a much needed edge over all the other would-be bloggers out there.
gettIng to know your toPIC So far, we’ve done a lot of preparation. You have a website, a domain name, a blog installation, a theme, plugins for that blog, and a whole big list of keywords and competitors to keep an eye on. But, eventually you need to learn some stuff and write about it. That’s where the actual blogging comes in and you’ll want to get started as quickly as possible.
The Myth About Blogging
There are a lot of blogging myths, but probably number one on the list is the misunderstanding that a blog doesn’t need to be as polished or as professional as another website. You’re writing whatever you want on the fly, right? So, why would you need to source your information or worry about grammar?
That’s the exact wrong perspective to take, though. Blogging may not be the same as writing for the New York Times, but then again, neither is your readership. People won’t read a blog that seems to be tossed together by an impatient, unpolished writer once or twice a week. They want interesting, original ideas that you didn’t copy and paste from another blog and that make them think.
So, as a blogger, you’ll need to do three things: 1. Read many other sources in your niche 2.Develop original, interesting ideas from those sources and your own mind 3. Write well-polished, unique content that will draw readers from multiple sources
Too many blogs are copy and paste jobs and too many marketing gurus tell you that it’s okay to create so-called auto-blogs or to copy and mildly rewrite other content to avoid duplication. But, it’s not – at least not if you want to create a true hub of valuable information.
Readers these days are fickle. With more than 150 billion pages of content online in the US alone, readers can easily decide they don’t like your content and go elsewhere, so you need to earn their interest. And to do that, you need to have original thoughts that will make them think. Plus, taking other people’s posts and rewriting them is plagiarism, which comes with its own ethic, moral, and legal issues.
You are absolutely allowed to source other sites, quote other bloggers, or even repost something from another site if it’s that valuable (as long as you give credit where it is due), but you shouldn’t expect people to read copy-pasted articles, 200 word summaries, or grammatical catastrophes you slapped together at 3am.
Okay, now that I have that mini-rant out of the way, let’s move on to the heart of blogging – learning your topic and deciding what to write about.
As a blogger, you should have a collection of blogs that you check each day. Like any good writer, you should have a slew of incoming information to draw from – both for ideas and for content. I like to use Google Reader because it updates easily on my phone and computer, but there are plenty of other RSS readers out there that will keep track of posts from your favourite blogs. Just make sure you use one that will provide at least the most recent 20 posts at a time so you have a solid baseline of information to draw from.
Because you’re an affiliate marketer and eventually you want to cut down how much time you spend on your blog to little or none so you can start other sites, it’s a good idea to keep a long list of potential posts. It can be a simple notepad or Word file with lists of titles and keywords that can be used in the future. This
can make it far easier and more efficient when you do sit down to write, or if you decide to outsource.
However, some topics are time sensitive and a good blog will always remind readers on occasion that you are a real human being with a sense of time who is writing these posts. So, keep an eye out for new developments in your niche that can be written about at any time. If a new dog training book comes out that you want to review, stay on top of it and have an early review – the traffic from early posts on hot topics is always good for your site’s performance.
Along those same lines, subscribe to the lists of any product creators that offer items in your niche. When they have new product launches or special sales, you can then write a blog post about it immediately – one of the hardest parts of being an affiliate marketer is getting the drop on your fellow marketers. If you are ready to write a post as soon as you hear about an opportunity, that extra day or two can have a huge impact on your sales.
tHe fIrst Posts At some point, you’ll need to sit down and write a post or two. I say just go for it. Don’t spend days preparing or researching. Just sit down, write something out and post it. Yeah, you’ll want to fine tune, optimize, and eventually boost your posts with heavy doses of fresh content, but for now, it’s all about motivation.
Those first few posts are designed to start building the content on your site and should be useful and timeless because the odds are that you have no readers yet and a time-sensitive post will be severely out of date by the time you actually do have readers. So, instead of writing about an upcoming convention for dog owners, write about the top 5 ways to potty train your new puppy.
The tone of your blog should remain casual and personal and eventually you’ll want to develop a rapport with your readers, but in early posts, building a baseline of expertise is even more important. In fact, I’ve seen some affiliate marketers who will outsource 10-20 articles to contractors on Elance and post all of those articles over the course of 10+ days to populate their blog with fresh content to start.
This makes it so your first visitors see a prepopulated blog, don’t assume you have no knowledge and will read multiple pages of content. Just be sure not to post too much of your content all at once. Google loves blogs, but when dozens of posts are put up at once, red lights start to go off in Central California and they assume there is something fishy going on. Make it natural and use the scheduled posting feature to choose future dates for your posts.
writing for a Blog All the technical details, research and formatting in the world is meaningless if you don’t have a solid background for how to actually write posts for your blog. That’s where we’re headed next and in my opinion, it’s the single most overlooked part of the process. Why though?
Content is vital to a good website – no one argues that point anymore. Google is seeing to that with each successive update.
And yet, blogs are still churned out with alarming frequency lacking original content or any sort of well balanced approach. They are loaded with rewrites, copy/paste jobs, or just plain poor writing and no one wants to read them.
I’m not pointing fingers here, just telling you what I see whenever I start researching a new site. It’s not pretty and as a result, a lot of people are missing some pretty major opportunities to make money.
So, consider this your crash course on writing. Even if you plan on outsourcing every scrap of text you have on your blog to a trained writer, it’s vital you understand exactly what that text should say and how it should be said.
How a Blog Post sHoulD sounD Blog posts are not informal journal entries that you jot down in your spare time to “get out of the way”. They are important pieces of text designed to entice readers to perform a certain action. In a number of ways, a well written blog post is very much like copywriting for sales and landing pages.
The goal may not be exactly the same. The sale isn’t imminent when you write a blog post about the Top 10 Ways to Craft Model Cars, but it is the same intention. Your goal is to convince your reader to perform a specific action – in most cases to comment, click on a link, or sign up for an email list or RSS feed. You’re building trust and capitalizing on that trust when the time comes to throw out your call to action.
So, your post needs to be polished, well written and most of all personable. It’s not a wiki. You’re not teaching your readers through an invisible shield. You need to create the feeling that everything is hands on – that you’re up there with them making changes and adjusting their perspective on the niche in general. Mostly, you’re making yourself look good by showing off how much you know in a helpful, funny way. Win-win for everyone.
For most people, this tone isn’t very hard. You talk to your friends all day like this. You tell someone you saw something interesting on TV last night without laying out a five paragraph essay. You describe a movie you just saw with jokes and your personal reactions to certain scenes. There is a direct connection between you and your readers and it only exists when you take the time to treat them like friends instead of a distant third party.
The only time I’ve seen writers really struggle with this is when they spend a lot of time writing more formal text. If you use article marketing or your day job was content writing, you may find it tough to loosen up your inner voice and have fun with things.
The easiest advice I can give is to pretend you’re describing the topic to your mother. Would you ever sit and talk to your mother like a 12 year old in a class room? Of course not. You’d tell her how the topic affects you and why she should be interested. Unless you have a very tense relationship, it should be pretty laid back.
The same should be true for your blog posts and with a little practice, shouldn’t be an issue after the initial handful of posts.
tyPes of Blog Posts This brings us to our next and maybe most important section – the types of posts you’ll be writing. So many blog writers get caught up in one form of content or another that they forget just how many opportunities there are.
For example, if you write only opinion pieces without interjecting enough content to help people actually understand what you’re trying to teach them, you look more like a ranter than an opinionated reviewer. Your site needs to provide value in those opinions – something you can do easily by interspersing value rich posts like news updates, articles, videos or images.
In general, if you can integrate a little bit of everything into your blog, you’ll draw a regular, interested audience to your site – one that can consist of a much wider range within your niche.
One of the most common blog posts for an affiliate marketer is a review – something that we use to convince readers to click on over to our affiliate offer so we can make a sale. They’re great, they work, and if you’re really quick with a new product you can nail a high Google position early on. But, there are some things a lot of review writers do wrong, including the following: • Too Many Reviews – A review is a good way to draw attention to a product that can make you money, but if you don’t frame them with trust building content, readers will assume all you have to offer is product recommendations so you make a few bucks. That’s not good.
You need to build trust and then capitalize on that trust when you write your reviews. Even on a heavy review site, it’s a good idea to minimize reviews to 1 review per 5 pieces of other content. The one exception is if you are writing a “review only” site that focuses entirely on providing advice on a set of products. In that case, read the following tips carefully.
• Imbalanced Reviews – A review is only useful if it appears to take an impartial view of a product. If you appear to have an agenda going into your recommendation, your readers may not trust you to know whether the product is best for them. There are a few ways to avoid this. First, tell the truth.
Don’t just say “this product is awesome” if it’s really not. Second, make sure you actually read or use the products you review. If you have not used them, you’ll need to disclose that, so it makes sense to give it a shot. Finally, be sure to offer both positive and negative points about the product. Even if it’s the best you’ve ever seen in the niche, frame your praise with some shortcomings. Nothing is perfect. • Copying the Sales Copy – I’ve seen a lot of reviews that simply copy and paste sales copy from the product website and make a few small changes. This doesn’t work a few reasons. Not only does that create duplicate content that will hurt your blog in the SEO race, it presents content that reads like a sales letter. No one wants to read sales copy on a blog. They come to your blog for your voice, which is supposed to be impartial and knowledgeable. If you supplant that with a strong salesy presence, it can undermine whatever level of trust you’ve built with past posts. • Too Short – A review should be more than 200 words. Most blogging gurus advise you to keep your posts short and to the point, but when it comes to a review, you need to offer a comprehensive look at the product – at least 400 words. People are still impatient, however, so use some simple tricks to make the review scannable. Bullet points of pros and cons, a star rating, and a “summary conclusion” can all be very effective in presenting your entire opinion in easily captured data sets without reducing your blog post to nothing. • No Context – Context is important. If your blog is about dog training and you write a review of a guide about raising lizards, you’re missing the very important context that goes with that review. You need to present knowledge and experience in the field you’re reviewing. Without that experience, your readers won’t know whether to trust you in the first place and then when the topics don’t match, they’ll wonder what you’re thinking.
A review on a blog can be extremely powerful – much more so than on a static site without any returning readers. However, you need to be careful of how you review the product, maintaining the trust you’ve developed and being completely honest throughout your reviews.
News Updates
Not every niche can facilitate this, but there are quite a few that can and it makes for easy blog fodder if you’re in a hurry. But, there are a few limitations that you need to take into consideration. First, it’s vital not to just take someone’s news posts and repost them on your site. Yes, it’s legal to quote them and repost a news story, but just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it helps you when it comes to your Google ranking.
The best course in my experience is to aim for comprehensive coverage of a news topic. For example, if you worked on a car blog and a new model was announced by Ford, you might post a sentence or two from their press release, but you could also post images of the new car, links to conversations about it, a video of
the car in action, and a short post of impressions that highlights your own thoughts on the car.
Personalize the news that you do post and you’ll be much more successful in generating repeated readers. If you think of it, it’s pretty simple. Those readers are interested not just in getting news from you. They’re interested in finding opinions and breakdowns of that news from an expert in the field.
By presenting those opinions, you create a position for yourself as the expert with their ear to the ground.
By far the most common and, in my opinion, valuable blog posts you’ll see on any site are the articles. This is content that provides direct value to your readers in a way that a review or news piece never could. I know you’ve read a few of these yourself (they appear on Affilorama all the time). Examples include:
• Top 7 Ways to X
• X Newest Tools for Your Y
• How to Do X
This kind of content is popular because it provides a specific set of valuable information to your readers in a format that is easy to read, easy to scan, and easy to repeat to other people. They feel like they are learning, and if you’re a good writer, they should actually learn something.
The goal of this type of post should be to provide valuable, informative content. It should be to the point, scannable, and interesting to as many people in your niche as possible. These posts often provide an opportunity to land some solid keyword associations as well. If you’re writing about dog training, having posts like “10 Ways to Potty Train Your Puppy “How to Stop Dog Barking in 5 Easy Steps” will load you up with backlinks and Google hits.
When I say opinions, I don’t mean reviews – I mean general opinions within the niche. This might fall into the category of an editorial or a rant on a given topic. For example, if you wrote an article asserting that you don’t believe in bark deterrents, that’s an opinion piece.
The reason opinion pieces are so high on the list is that they are generally very effective in eliciting comments from your readers. Notice how I put Controversial Pieces down a couple spots as a separate category? That’s because I like to think of my opinion as non-controversial most of the time.
There are situations when you’ll say something that others will honestly disagree with. But, most of the time, with a niche blog, if you write something based on a simple opinion, you won’t elicit that kind of dissent out of the box. Controversy for the sake of controversy is something else entirely.
If you do have a strong opinion, keep a few things in mind. First, not everyone might agree with you. So,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s