Want More People to Download Your Free Ebook? Follow These Steps.

Is it just me, or do most free ebooks really…well…suck?

On one hand, I’ve always said, “You get what you pay for,” but on the other hand, the entire point of adding a free ebook to your editorial calendar is to give away awesome information to convert a one-time reader into a rabid fan. If your ebook isn’t awesome, epic content, why should I want to read your blog posts, stay subscribed to your email list, or pay for premium content?

If you want to get more downloads for your free ebook, you need to be above average. The more above average you are, the more downloads you’ll get. Makes sense, right?

The general process for creating an ebook is this:

  1. Write the content.
  2. Edit and proofread.
  3. Design and convert into a pdf (or format of your choice).

You can create an epic ebook using these same three steps; you just have to alter the process a bit to create something that will stand out above the rest.

Step One: Write the content.

You’ll get more ebook downloads if your content is awesome. Why? Because people will share it! Social sharing is one of the best ways to increase your downloads, but it takes more than a snazzy title to get your readers to promote your ebook. Think about it: if you see a free ebook online, what’s the likelihood that you’ll take the time to download it? But what if a trusted friend of yours recommends the ebook? You’re probably going to grab that ish before it is no longer free! Word of mouth is still the best form of advertising, in my opinion.

So step one to getting more downloads for your free ebook is to write better content. Already have great content? Cool. Make it better. If you think your content can’t be improved, you’re wrong. Online, stagnation is death.

How do you create better ebook content:

  • Go into way more detail.

Most ebooks just skim over a topic, presumably because the author wants you to buy a product about the topic. Instead, give it away for free. You’ll blow people’s minds if your free content is just as good (or better) than the products most people charge for, and this starts with details. Whatever your topic is, create an ultimate resource, leaving no stone unturned. Give away your secrets and best tips. Trust me: there is always more for someone to learn in the future, so don’t worry about giving away content you could sell.

  • Get quotes from people in your niche.

Your ideas matter, but more and more, people are interested in knowing what the collective thinks. Reach out to the a-listers in your niche and ask them for a quote on the topic. It lends tons of credibility to your ebook, and as an added bonus, the people you quoted will often help promote the ebook when it is ready to download.

  • Add stats.

I don’t just want to know that “Lots of people like cupcakes.” I want to know the percentage of people who like cupcakes. I want to know whether people like cupcakes more in certain areas of the world. I want to know how many bakeries existed last year and how many cupcakes they typically sell on a given day. Stats add credibility to any argument, so adding them to your ebook can significantly improve your writing.

Step Two: Edit and proofread.

Last week, I was reading a new ebook from someone I admire…and then I saw a typo. And another one. And another one. Listen, we all make mistakes, and I can be the queen of typos in my blog posts, but an ebook is a little different. Too many typos can be so distracting to the reader that he or she simply gives up and moves on to the next shiny Internet object.

I highly recommend hiring someone to look over your book before you make it available for download. Not only will that person pick out typos, but he or she will also help you tighten your writing, making sure that your ideas don’t get lost in a sea of prose and that everything flows well.

If you are self-editing, the best tip I have is to try to cut our at least 50% of your words after you’re done with the first draft. It may feel like murdering your babies, but being brutal with the red pen can help you learn to keep only what is truly needed for the book.

Need an editor? I recommend Amber Avines, who has done a fantastic job of editing my work in the past and who has oodles of experience.

Step Three: Design and convert.

Just like it makes sense to hire an editor, it makes sense to hire a designer as well, unless you are exceptionally skilled in this area. It isn’t just about adding a few images here and there. If you really want your ebook to stand out above the rest, you need to have a truly beautifully-designed ebook.

Marketo is an example of a company that has beautifully-designed ebooks. Here’s where you can download one of their latest ebooks, The Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation. Even if you’re not interested in marketing automation, give it a gander to see how well-designed their ebooks are.

The good news? You can hire an ebook designer on Elance at a fairly inexpensive rate, especially for a shorter 20-30 page ebook. You can also have a designer make a template, which you can then use for all of your future ebooks, so you don’t have to pay a designer every time you want to release a new ebook.

If you do go the route of designing yourself, here are a few tips that will elevate your ebook:

  • Add a little color.

Color can break up the monotony of an ebook. Even if you have the best information in the world, text only can feel like a chore to read. Color can help you highlight important stats, add an aside to any chapter, or pull out an important quote that you want to ensure people read, even if they are skimming.

  • Keep the pages looking consistent.

Think of your ebook like a PowerPoint presentation. The best presentations use a template so even though not every slide is the same, they all fit together in a way that makes sense. If you use blue boxes to highlight quotes on one page, use them throughout the ebook, for example.

  • Remember that you’re designing for multiple devices.

What looks good on your laptop might look horrible on an iPad. What looks good on your iPad might look horrible on a smartphone. Test your design across multiple devices to make sure it works no matter how someone likes to consume your content.

Here are a few more great tips for designing ebooks, especially if your target market likes to read on tablets.

Some Final Thoughts…

The very best tip I have for creating an ebook that you need to create something that…

  1. …people really need.
  2. …people can’t get elsewhere.

If your ebooks is extremely helpful, you’ll get more downloads. Likewise, if you can offer something that most people don’t offer, you’ll get more downloads. Unless you’re famous, people don’t typically want to give away their email address for an ebook that is nothing but opinions (rather than practical tips), and if the topic you’re covering has been covered before by others, it will command the attention of fewer people.

Ebooks, when done right, take a long time to create. Do yourself a favor and spend your time creating content that people actually want.

Need help creating your ebook? Check out my ebook package!

Three Common Pinterest Mistakes Most Users Don’t Realize They Are Making

Pinterest is by far my favorite social site (so much so that I have an entire blog devoted to the recipes found on Pinterest), but I see a lot of bloggers and business owners making mistakes on this network. I’m starting to get a little twitchy about it.

Pinterest is not Twitter. It’s not Facebook. It’s not any of the other social or bookmarking sites you use. Pinterest is its own animal that you have to learn how to tame. If you don’t understand how to use Pinterest, it is, frankly, better to not have an account at all than to continue to muck things up over there.

Sadly, most users plow ahead, not even realizing the dreadful mistakes they’re making on Pinterest. Before you repin another image, check out the three most common mistakes I see on this network, and make sure you aren’t an offender:

1. Never Commenting

It’s called “social” media for a reason. We all seem to be quite content with the fact that Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and every other social network under the sun requires engagement in order to grow an audience and a create a community that will love you. But what about Pinterest? Most of us just do a daily drive-by-pinning and say “woo hoo, we’re using this cool new platform!”

If you actually want to use Pinterest in a way that matters, get out there and engage just like you would on other networks. Commenting is extremely under-utilized. Find out who is pinning your content and say thank you or open a dialogue. Comment on the pins of those you are following to add tips, answer questions, or just generally talk to people in your community.

2. Pinning Crap Images

You want more people to pin your blog posts? Create better images. I see a lot of bloggers – especially bloggers who don’t write in traditionally visual niches – complain that they don’t get much traffic from Pinterest. I think this is a really unfair assessment of the platform. You have an amazing opportunity to tap into this market. Someone on Pinterest who is pinning images of cakes and dresses is the same person on Twitter promoting your post about social media. They want your content.

But do you have a nice, pin-worthy image?

If you pin a stock photography image and put the title in the description, you’re not going to see much repin activity. Descriptions get deleted pretty easily. You need to create what I call a “title image.” You’ll notice that every single post on this blog includes a highly pin-able image, and none of them are of desserts or fashion. This is a great tutorial about creating title images and other great images for your blog, even if you blog in a niche that isn’t super visual.

3. Not Optimizing for Search

Pinterest’s search function is pretty heavily used, so if you aren’t pinning with this in mind, you’re blowing it. It’s really tempting to never change the description on a repin. I used to get sucked into this. But remember, unlike Twitters, which are pretty much gone within 24 hours of you posting them, pins have a much longer shelf life. When you optimize, you increase the change that someone will find your pin, which means they might follow you. So optimize every pin, even repins.

Optimization is pretty easy. Don’t write in the description “I love this blog post!” or “Great advice!” Write what the post is actually about and include some keywords.

You should also optimize your boards. Pinterest is constantly changing, but right now the title of the board is what is most important, so get your keyword in there. I also like to include my keywords in the board description. Right now, this doesn’t really matter when Pinterest ranks search results, but it could in the future, so you might as well get ’em in there.

If you’re still stumped when it comes to Pinterest, I would love to speak to you more about this platform and help you get started. Check out my hire me page to order the Pinterest Package or simply contact me for some one-on-one Pinterest training.

Content Marketing 101: Targeting Your Audience

One of the most important parts of content marketing is being able to target a specific audience. In fact, I would argue that this is the most important part of content marketing.

Once, I went into a store where I don’t normally shop to get my dad a gift. The sales rep barked up a very wrong tree, trying to sell me items that I didn’t want or need. I wasn’t a member of that store’s target audience, so the rep’s time talking to me was wasted; I simply purchased my gift and headed to the nearest Charming Charlie, where the sales rep can sell me pretty much anything in the store.

So, let’s go over everything you need to know about targeting your audience to make content marketing work for your business.

What is your content goal?

Before you even start to think about your target audience, it is first important to define your content goal. If you think your goal is traffic or email list subscribers, you’re wrong. Yes, those things are great, but you can’t pay for groceries with pageviews. (Click to tweet this.)

Your content marketing goal needs to be something that will put food on the table. If you’re a business owner, this probably means that your goal is to sell more products. If your blog is your business, this might mean:

  • To sell more sponsored posts or ad space
  • To sell more affiliate products
  • To make more money with PPC ads (i.e. to get your readers clicking ads more often)
  • To get booked for more paying speaking gigs
  • To book more consulting gigs (and get paid more per hour for those gigs)

Or you might have a slightly different goal. But whatever your goal is, it should come back to making money in some way.

Got your goal in mind? Great! Let’s start talking about your audience:

Who is your audience?

Targeting your audience starts with understanding two things:

  1. Who your audience currently is
  2. Who you want your audience to be

In a perfect world, those two things are one and the same! But let’s go through both of them in order to better target your audience.

First, who is your audience right now? Are they primarily male or female? Why do they consume your content? What is their income level like? Where do they live in the world? What kind of struggles do they have? How active are they on social media sites? How comfortable are they with technology? Do they read their email regularly? What kind of content do they most like?

How should you figure out these stats about your audience? Some you might be able to figure out by looking at your stats, but beware of assuming too much. When in doubt, poll or survey your audience. Companies like SurveyMonkey and SurveyGizmo make it really easy to connect with your audience to learn more about them.

The above questions – and more – are all important, but the most basic question you want to answer is this: how does your audience relate to your product or service?

For example, let’s say that you are a hair stylist and your goal is to find more clients. After polling your audience, you find that your blog readers and list subscribers are typically females between the ages of 15 and 25 who live in English-speaking countries and love your DIY blog posts on how to style hair.

Great, so if you write more DIY styling blog posts for young women, you should see more traffic, right? Well, yes, but that kind of traffic doesn’t really help you make more money. Someone who is looking for DIY styling tips (not to mention who may live halfway around the world from you) probably isn’t going to book an appointment at your salon.

Who do you want your audience to be?

In our example, your research showed that you could easily grow your current audience, but that this audience wouldn’t be comprised of people who would help you reach your goals. So, who do you want your audience to be?

In other words, who are the people likely to help you reach your goal? As a hair stylist, that profile might look like this:

  • Local to your neighborhood
  • Female
  • Caucasian
  • Average income of $50,000+ per year
  • Not interested in DIY styling
  • 18 – 50 years old

I encourage you to actually write out fictional profiles for a few people in your target market. This is a trick I learned from Darren Rowse at Problogger. When you write a post, you want to write to a specific person.

Once you have your target audience defined and a few profiles written out, it’s time to think about their struggles.

What are the pain points for your target audience?

In our example, the pain points for your current audience are that they don’t know how to do their own hair. However, helping them isn’t really conducive to your goal. Instead, think about the pain points for the people you want in your audience. As a hair stylist, here are a few examples of problems your audience might have:

  • Not understanding the different types of hair color options
  • Feeling like they don’t get good service for their money
  • Not being able to accurately describe to their stylist what they want
  • Spending too much time trying to find a good stylist
  • Hating their current stylist, but not knowing how to find a new one

Your could brainstorm this list to be much longer. From there, you can start to brainstorm blog post, ebook, podcasting, video, and other content ideas. For example, let’s take just the first point, not understanding the different types of hair color options. From this idea, you could create:

  • A blog post talking about the different hair color brands
  • A free ebook outlining permanent versus semi permanent color options
  • A podcast where you interview a fellow stylist about options for highlights
  • A video about why you should choose professional color instead of DIY home products
  • An infographics about corrective hair color

Why are these good options? Because they all promote the reader to come to your salon for a consultation, rather than doing it themselves at home. Even better, for our specific example, would be to target locals by adding in some keywords that make sense for your neighborhood and talking about your salon by name.

Tracking Your Results

After making changes to your editorial calendar to start targeting the specific audience who will help you reach your goals, it’s important to track how the changes are affecting your bottom line. A great way to do this is to ask your customers where they’ve found you.

Don’t panic if you see your stats drop at first (if you are significantly changing your content). That teen you liked your prom hairstyles blog post may never read your blog again, but that’s okay–she was never going to come into your salon anyway. Traffic does matter (sales is always a numbers game), but it’s okay to lose some traffic/subscribers if it means getting found with people more likely to help you reach your goals.

Make sure you check out my entire Content Marketing 101 series here. I add new posts regularly!