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Journey to Better Marketing: Online Marketing

Online Marketing

The purpose of online marketing is to drive people to your website to buy something. While the Internet is constantly changing as are the way search engines evaluate websites and their relevance to queries, one thing appears to remain true throughout the changes. In order for your online marketing to work, you need to provide meaningful content at your website.

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What Do I Need to Do Better? A History

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When I first started Penguinate.com in 2012, it was because I learned that people who were able to talk to classmates or others on the job were able to reinforce their learning. They retained more information and learned more than people who had to rely on themselves and their memory to learn. I was going to Disney World to be a part of their College Program, and I wanted to remember everything that I learned there. Not knowing if I would find people to talk to, I decided to start a website where I could keep my observations and put down what I learned, giving myself one more way to remember what I deemed as important and one more connection to tie the information to my brain.

I monetized the website, and as I went through school, I created movie and book reviews. When I started at examiner.com as a reporter, I posted videos on YouTube to support the news I was reporting. I monetized those as well. By the time I went to get my Master’s degree, I was making just enough to pay for my Internet usage, and all indications were that it would keep growing if I kept at it. Then everything changed.

When YouTube changed its policy about who could monetize their videos, I was on the outside looking in. I lost half of my web income. When my website hosting company decided to eliminate contact with Russia, I lost half of my income again. Then I made the drastic decision to move website hosting companies, and my income dropped to almost zero. I thought I had things moving in the right direction when I took another hit in August, my worst month at my website financially speaking, even though I was in the midst of a 251-day publishing streak. September responded in a “hold my beer” fashion, and I’m staring at two months of unexplained decline in income from my website – even while September was my best for “ads served.”

In the midst of all this, I turned to writing books as an additional source of income. My wife has made penguins to help supplement what we’re making. I’ve tried freelance editing with two paid jobs and one that didn’t pan out but kept me from working in September. I’ve started publishing at Medium, where I earn based on the number of views by members and their interaction with the articles I write. I’ve attempted to expand our Patreon base and failed with every offer that I’ve put out there. I have a small but mighty core of supporters. I tried starting an email list – my wife and I are the only ones on it, which makes it a lot less work. We’ve made two calendars – one of which we’ve offered for free to our Patreon members.

So, this is where we are – facing crickets with our web presence and our ability to get the word out about what we have available. I’ve gotten messages about how people love my books. Our penguins have gotten great reviews – in private, so it can’t be the products that are the problem. That leads me to believe my biggest issue is marketing. How do I inform people about what we have available and how they go about getting it?

I have read about marketing, watched videos about it, and participated in courses about it, but for some reason, there’s a block. Either I’m not using the things I have learned, or I am using them ineffectively. I’m not sure where the disconnect is, but it must be somewhere within me, or between me and the computer. Somehow, I’m not translating what I’ve read and thought about into something productive for me. It’s a lot of wheel spinning as I use social media and Google ads to little or no avail. How do I do it better?

If I am right, and marketing is the main problem, then it’s time for me to return the blog portion of the website back to what it was built for – to help me learn. It’s time for me to start going through the marketing materials I’ve already read once, and re-read it with an eye to distilling it down to the main points: Benefits marketing, tell-a-story marketing, and other marketing tactics. Whatever type of marketing I need to learn, it’s time to buckle down and do the research and figure out how to turn it into something usable.

And after all this talking, the one thing I probably need to learn most of all is to how to listen. People may have been telling me things that I have missed. Since I have missed them, I don’t know what they are.

If you have any ideas, please leave them in the comments.

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The Email List: Struggles and Reasons

I’ve been struggling with this idea of an email list for several reasons. It’s a lot of extra work. It’s an extra expense. I don’t really like the email lists I’ve joined, and I was hoping that people would migrate over to my Patreon where we can make beautiful words and penguins together. (You can still migrate to Patreon and get cool things for as little as a dollar a month.)

Extra Work

I already write at least one post a day for my blog; I surpassed 200 days of posting in a row on July 12, 2019. I plan on keeping that streak alive, but it isn’t easy to come up with something new every day. I try to write 3 posts a day for my SEO job when they have work available. I need to write posts for my Patreon – one or two a month. I edit books as a side job.

Adding one more thing to my list of things to do, which includes marketing, continued learning, reading, refilling the creative well, dishes, laundry and other housework, taxes, teaching English, searching for freelance jobs to supplement my income, keeping my social media accounts active and relevant, and spending time with my wife and family, is a little overwhelming, especially when I really have no idea what I’m doing. How can I keep an email list current and active while still finding time to write my next book?

Extra Expense

MailChimp offers free limited use email lists. If I get more than 2,000 subscribers or I want to do something cool like set up a series of future emails, I’m going to have to pay up for that. This extra expense may end up being worth it, but right now, it’s hard to justify. Automation would be great for an introduction to Penguinate.com and its creativity, books and penguins. For now, I have to live with what there is – the opportunity to follow up with an immediate discount email, a day later intro email, and an email on the first of the month that rounds up everything I posted on my blog. Then, I’ll hope people don’t forget who I was when the next email I send is more than a month away.

Other Email Lists

Russell Nohelty and some other people do these great list building contests. For a small fee, authors join the list builder. The money is pooled to come up with a prize package that people will really want based on a fandom, like Doctor Who, Firefly, or Marvel. I’ve signed up for a couple of these and ended up on email lists that were not what I was expecting. (Who knew Buffy the Vampire Slayer was related to the reverse harem genre of books?) Aside from that, I received 20 to 40 different emails or more during a two-day period after the sign up and those emails keep coming until I unsubscribe. They aren’t just from the authors, they’re from Amazon, Kickstarter, GoodReads, and other websites the authors had people sign up at to get more entries. (I did not win the Buffy swag, by the way.)

All the emails end up being the same. Hi, I’m author, here’s what I’ve been working on, here’s a free (short story, book), here’s a contest you haven’t entered, here are some other free books… I don’t want to inundate your email inbox with emails you aren’t going to read, and I haven’t figured out how to make an email that is any different. Why would I want to make an email list where people will get the same thing (minus the freebies) that other authors are already sending out? Do you really want pictures of my cat? (If so, I’ll send them, but she doesn’t like being photographed.)

On Patreon

I was really hoping to build my Patreon into a juggernaut. If I could get 600 people signed up at a dollar each, my financial situation would be much more stable. It wouldn’t give me the opportunity to quite everything, but it would reduce the amount of freelance and SEO work I had to do. Unfortunately, I still haven’t got a handle on how best to get fans to sign up for the Patreon. I’ve offered discounts at any level. I’ve created offers, like join at $30 for three months and get a penguin. I’ve posted about it on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I haven’t figured out how to grow any of my social networks beyond a certain number and Patreon is the same right now.

Why Am I Doing It?

I am starting an email list because it’s the best way to keep you in the loop about what Jenya and I are doing creatively. YouTube changed its criteria for creators to monetize videos. Facebook changed its algorithm, so that creators had to pay to get their fans to see what’s being posted on the fan page; it has also randomly marked my penguin8.com as spam without giving me a reason or checking the posts that I sent notices about. Weebly eliminated access to its website for anyone geographically listed in Russia and other countries. These changes have made it more difficult for creators to make a living off of random and organic growth. They have also shown that these companies control my eCommerce to a degree that is not only uncomfortable and unprofitable but also dangerously close to being able to remove my presence from my largest outlets with a small change in their algorithms. I can’t count on social media and search engines to drive organic views to my websites.

In addition to this, my SEO job ebbs and flows. There have been days when there just aren’t any articles to write. I need to find a better way to make money, and every other book and website I’ve read about being a creator in the Internet age says an email is the only way to go. When a website like examiner.com or MySpace shuts down or becomes less visited, the email list is still there to sustain the creator. In theory, I’m in control of the email list, and thus in control of my destiny. And isn’t that all anyone really wants? To control his or her direction?

So, please sign up for our email list. Like share, comment on our social media posts and sign up for our Patreon. I look forward to you becoming honorary Penguinators.

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