How I Fool People Into Thinking I’m a Good Pianist

This post contains affiliate links, which means I’ll make a little bit of pocket change to keep this blog up and running when you make a purchase through them.  Thanks as always for your support!

I started piano when I was only 5 years old, and that was over 33 years ago. People have always told me that I’m talented at the piano. I was even voted “Most Talented” in my senior class in high school.  I’ve played for countless weddings, church services, recitals, and competitions over the last 33 years. I can’t tell you how many people say, “You’re so good!” or “I don’t know how you do that!” It’s all B.S. I’ve been fooling you all. Yes, I do love the piano and music with a passion, but I’m nowhere near close to good.

Mom, are your eyes wide open yet? Are you thinking that you wasted thousands of dollars on my piano lessons over the years? Well, no, you didn’t, they helped, but my level of understanding of the piano I learned myself and by listening to professionals for decades.

You must be wondering how I fool people into thinking I’m a good piano player. You are in luck! Today, I’m going to give you all of my best kept secrets and tips that help me mask my musical inabilities. Ready to get started?

How I Fool People Into Thinking I'm a Good Piano Player

1. Throw away sheet music

Sheet music is for wimps. Throw it away. You really don’t need it. All it does is get in your way and distract you. To be anywhere near a descent piano player, you need to train your ears, feet and hands, not your eyes. Your eyes should be focused on your audience!  Besides, sheet music is rarely exactly like any artist plays it. The artist is not usually the one who captures the notes on the page. Most of the time, computer software does this today.

2. Practice how you perform

If you want to be good at anything, you need to spend time practicing. The same holds true for the piano. My number one goal during practicing? Practice the way I’d perform it in front of 20,000 people. My goal has never been 100% perfection. It’s impossible. No piano player will ever play a song without making some type of mistake. What separates good musicians from bad ones is that they mask their mistakes. I don’t stop if I mess up – ever. Would I stop in front of a stadium full of fans if I hit E sharp instead of E flat? No. Always keep going. I fool people by acting like it was intentional and move along in the performance.  I can guarantee most people would never know that I made a mistake. This is the goal. Trick them into thinking it was played correctly. *You can fool non-musicians pretty easily, but it’s easier for other musicians to pick up your mistakes because they are trained to listen closer than the average person.

Always practice at performance speed. Never, ever, ever, EVER slow down a song when practicing. My college-level piano teacher would turn over in her grave if she heard I do that. She always taught me differently.  Why do I do this? If I learn a song at a slower pace, I’m going to get comfortable performing it at that speed. When I go to speed it up, I’m going to have to get comfortable again. Learn it at performance speed right away. It’s one less thing you have to pick up later on in practicing.  By practicing at performance speed, I teach my hands where they need to go on the key bed, how fast or slow they need to get there, and what fingering I need to use to get there on time.

3. Learn all you can about scales and chord progressions

The people who think I can play anything by ear have been fooled. How do I do this after hearing a song once or twice? It’s simple. I learned my scales and chord progressions many, many years ago. I paid attention and studied music theory. 90% of every song out there has a very simple chord progression. Take, for example, “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett. The main chord progression in that song is: D G A D. That’s it! If you can play 4 chords, you can play “Margaritaville.” All you’ll have to do after that is improvise in between chords. This is simple to do if you know your scales. BASIC MUSIC THEORY, folks!

4. Be aware of your what your hands are doing

If you are playing a fast song, the natural tendency is to tighten up your wrists. While it may be natural, it’s not the way you want to teach yourself to play fast. You want your hands to be loose. If I stuck my hand under your arms while you are playing, I should be able to jerk them up from the keys with ease. If I feel resistance, you’ve tightened up. It takes practice training your mind to constantly monitor how your hands are arriving to the keys.

Your hands control more than the keys. They control dynamics. If I want to play softly, I want my fingers to arrive to the keys slowly. In contrast, my fingers should arrive to the keys much faster if I want to play loudly. The trick here is not to bang on the piano, nor should your fingers do all the work. Use your wrists to help achieve the dynamic you’re wanting. Your fingers should never be flat to any key. Always play with a curved hand position.

5. Listen to professionals

My music idol, Billy Joel, is a phenomenal piano player. He always argues that he’s not a singer, but a songwriter. I happen to disagree with his statement, but I digress. I can play many Billy Joel songs on the piano simply because I’ve made it a habit of listening to his greatest hits and trying to mimic them.  Billy does a lot of things not many other musicians can, but he’s a good example to follow if you want to learn piano.

If you are going to listen to a professional and try to repeat it on the piano, make sure you add your own style to the song. Billy Joel’s Piano Man is iconic, and only Billy can give it the magic it’s had for over 40 years. This doesn’t mean that you can’t perform it. I’ve performed it a few times before, but I’ve thrown in a little bit of Jeremy’s music style while trying to keep the spirit of the song Billy intended it to have.

Another piano player I’ve listened to over the years is Sir Elton John. It’s no coincidence he and Billy toured together. Elton has a style completely different from any other musician – Billy included. Listen to how Elton fills in between the chord progressions. It sounds difficult, but it’s not. He’s made it art form, but he’s really just applying basic improvisation.

6. Record your performance

Now that we are in the age of smart phones, making videos of ourselves is so easy. I don’t like watching myself on video, nor do I like hearing my recorded voice. But, if you’re looking to improve your performance, record yourself performing. Make one recording of just your face when you are singing. Are you closing your eyes too much? Are you singing with your nose instead of your diaphragm? Make a second recording of your hands as you perform. Your arms should not be limp during performance. Are your hands right over the keys, or are they too far away? Make a third recording from behind so that you can watch your posture. Don’t slouch when performing. Not only does it look lazy, but it makes it more difficult to reach all areas of the keyboard.

7. Share your recordings with family and friends

Facebook has made staying in touch with family and friends so easy. If I wanted to share a song with them 15 years ago, I had to either perform it live for them, record it on an old-school tape recorder (horrible recording device for a piano, by the way!), or I had to buy a portable mixer and record to a CD. Today, I can simply record it on my phone or tablet and upload it to Facebook. It’s a great way to solicit feedback. I do caution you on soliciting feedback from people you know. They usually will give you good feedback because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. These are the people you want to ignore. When you post your video, make sure you point out that you want detailed feedback vs “that was great” or “you sound good.” Those types of comments don’t help you improve. Ask for feedback about dynamics, tempo, vocals, etc. If you ask for specific feedback about certain aspects of your performance, you’ll get it.

8. Perform on Facebook live on a regular basis

One thing I’m getting ready to try is performing a few songs on Facebook live. If you are tight on time and don’t have anywhere to play a gig regularly, Facebook live is a great place to try a live performance and get feedback. A live performance is a live performance, whether or not you are face-to-face with a crowd, or virtually over the web.

9. Find your favorite keys and stick with them

I didn’t intend for the header to be a joke, but I actually have one of my E keys on the piano sticking right now, so it kinda worked itself into a joke. There are certain keys I don’t play in for one reason or another. I steer clear of keys like B major or D flat. While I can play in them, they just feel awkward to me. I remember telling my mom I hated playing in E flat, but now I play a lot of songs very well in E flat. E flat is one of those keys that’s easy for me to remember all of the progressions. I can’t necessarily say the same for B major.

There are some keys that I feel 100% comfortable playing in, while other keys just give me nightmares. I don’t know why it worked out that way, but it did. If I ever attempt to perform live in the key of B major, it means someone’s holding me hostage and forcing me to do it.

10. Learn some classical music

Yeah, you read that right. Learn some of the classics: Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin. This does violate my first rule of no sheet music, but you aren’t doing this to perform. Classical music is a musician’s dream for learning different fingering techniques, playing with various tempos, executing the perfect dynamics, etc. I HATED having to learn and memorize classical music in high school and college, but I still am able to apply what I learned back then to the music I play today.

11. Write your own song

Write a song. Even if it sucks, write it anyway. I don’t care if it’s a basic song with only 3 chords and cheesy lyrics. Every musician needs to write at least one song – even if they aren’t a songwriter. Writing your own music gives you the freedom to be creative. While I also love playing cover songs, there’s nothing like sitting on stage performing your own music. I’ve done it before and had a blast doing it. You want proof that I did it?  Check out my 2004 Album, “Walk With You” on CD Baby. LOL yeah it’s terrible. I mean, HORRIBLE. I recorded it myself and playing all the instruments on it. It’s awful, but I did it!

Are you convinced yet?

I hope I’ve convinced you that I’m not some musical genius, but I have gotten really good at hiding the bad and bringing out the good. If I can do it, so can you. So, the next time someone comes up and tells me I’m good, I’ll know that my secrets worked.

It’s really fun to play the piano, and I hope to one day take an open mic stage or perform a full concert on Facebook Live.

Do you play the piano? Tell me about your experiences in the comments section below. I would love to read them!


Enter to Win an iPhone X from Puls!

All of my blog posts may contain affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I’ll earn a commission.

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Snuggle-Pedic Kool Flow Pillow Review

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Snuggle-Pedic Kool Flow Pillow (Queen Size)

Snuggle-Pedic Kool Flow Pillow Review

Who doesn’t like to sleep? That’s why I was super excited when the great people at Relief Mart contacted me with an opportunity to try out the pillow for free.  I’ve been sleeping on this pillow for about 2 weeks now, and I am very pleased with the results. Before I got this pillow, I was sleeping on 3 old pillows.  My new Snuggle-Pedic takes the place of all 3 of these!

I’m really enjoying my pillow so much because it’s not only the perfect size for my big head, but it’s also really soft. I can also reduce the level of stuffing inside the pillow for my liking. How often do you get to say you can customize your pillow?

Today, I’m going to give you a brief overview of the pillow and its features, as well as my opinion on the quality of the product. Keep in mind this post contains affiliate links. All opinions are 100% my own.


  • Kool-Flow™ Soft and Luxurious, Extra Breathable Micro-Vented Cover Made In The U.S.A. with 43% Visose of Bamboo, 56.4 percent Polyester, .6 Percent Lycra keeps you cool all night long!
  • Shredded Style Combination Memory Foam Pillow That never goes flat! Fully Machine Washable
  • Made in USA Certified Bed Manufacturer Using Eco-Friendly Biogreen® , in addition to using CertiPUR-US® certified foam
  • Conforming Shape Orthopedically Supports the Neck For Side, Stomach, & Back Sleepers Hypoallergenic & Dust Mite Resistant. Rolled & Vacuum Sealed For Eco-Friendly Shipping
  • 90-Day, No Hassle refund guarantee & free customizations. Industry leading 20-Year Warranty!

My Opinion:

I don’t buy pillows much. In fact, the pillows on our bed today are the pillows we bought when we got married in 2004. I was delighted to try out the Snuggle-Pedic pillow, and it did not disappoint me. My wife tried it last night…and I don’t think I’m going to be able to snag it away from her haha! That’s ok, though, these pillows are affordable enough that we can replace our entire set of pillows!

I love our Snuggle-Pedic pillow and will definitely be buying more for the family. I rarely get enthusiastic about something like a pillow, but I actually get excited to put my head down on it every night. It truly has helped me sleep better without waking up to reposition my pillows.

One amazing feature is that you can remove or add stuffing to the pillow to create the perfect comfort level. Some people like a firm pillow, while others like it softer. With the Snuggle-Pedic, you don’t have to worry any more about waking up at night to reposition and refluff your pillow. This amazing pillow keeps it form which helps you stay asleep.

I was very surprised that it came tightly wrapped in plastic. When I opened it up, it quickly took it’s shape and was ready to sleep on in just a few minutes. No other pillow I’ve bought ever came wrapped up like that!

Snuggle-Pedic Kool Flow Pillow

I highly recommend the Snuggle-Pedic for all members of the family. I’ve slept better and woken up more refreshed than I ever did before with my older pillows. With their affordable price, 90-day guarantee, and 20 year warranty, now’s the best time to get your hands on one. They also make great holiday gifts!

Where to buy:

Snuggle-Pedic pillows can be bought through Amazon. I’ve included my affiliate links to purchase them below. If you are looking for a particular size, they come in king, queen, full-body, toddler and kids, and standard.

What To Do When You Can’t Come Up With Blog Post Ideas

All of my blog posts may contain affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I’ll earn a commission. Thank you for supporting me!

You really have the itch to write a new blog post and you are in front of your computer ready to go, but there’s one MAJOR problem. Nothing’s coming to mind. Have you ever experienced this? Believe it or not, there are things you can do to keep you completely busy even when you have writer’s block.

Your blog is like a house. It needs maintenance and tender-loving care every once and a while. When you are busy cranking out the blog posts, it’s easy to overlook other tasks necessary to keep your blog running and drawing in traffic. Let’s take a look at some of those things today!

What To Do When You Can't Come Up With Blog Post Ideas

1. Update old blog posts

Hey, some of the crap I wrote years ago is probably outdated. Those posts may still be drawing in some traffic, but the level of engagement has dropped tremendously. A good rule of thumb is to updated your blog posts every 6 months. Chances are, you’ll see increased engagement, and you’ll show your readers you want to keep the information you are sharing to them updated with the latest information.

2. Spend the day promoting across social media

Pick 3 posts you’ve written that 1) you really love and 2) get a lot of traffic. Share these posts across all of your social media accounts. If you participate in Facebook groups, spend time sharing these posts in your groups and engage with other bloggers.

3. Check for and repair broken links

Wait, what? I have good links on my site! No chance they are broken! WRONG! You’d be surprised, especially if you have been blogging for a while, how many links were good at the time you published a post, but have since broken. It happens. There are numerous free websites that will scan your site and report broken links. My favorite site is Dead Link Checker. Simply enter in your site’s URL and in a few minutes you’ll have a list of every broken link. Depending on the number of broken links, this will take some time to clean up, but it’s worth it!  Keep in mind that Dead Link’s free service only checks up to the first 2,000 links, so if you want to check more, you have to sign up for their auto-check service ($110/year)

Broken links not only damage your credibility and reputation as a blogger, but they also damage your site’s rankings in search engines. Trust me, this is a task you’ll want to complete regularly. Again, I shoot for every 6 months, but you can certainly do it on your own schedule.

4. Update your resources page

Please tell me you have a resources page. It’s one of the most critical pages on a blog – especially if you participate in affiliate marketing. I make it a habit to update my resource page every month, because I’m always coming across new products, websites, tools, and resources that I want to share right away.

5. Update your WordPress theme and plugins

New versions of WordPress themes and plugins are released all the time. Important security patches and enhancements can protect your site from vulnerability. Make it a habit to update these items as soon as the new versions are released. You can check for updates through your WordPress dashboard.

6. Backup your site

I hope you have a regular site backup installed on your blog. I can’t imagine what I’d do if nearly 2 years of blogging just disappeared. WordPress blogs can get hacked. It happened to me!  I use a free plugin called Updraft Plus Backup/Restore. There are premium options to this plugin, but the free options are sufficient for what I need. I save one daily backup of my files to Google Drive. Some plugins will save directly to your wp-content folder, but I advise against this in case the folder is unavailable, or is damaged – trust me, it happens!

7. Check your sidebar content

Take a few minutes periodically to check the content in your sidebar. If you have expired ads, remove them or replace them. Not sure what to put in your sidebar? Read my recent post: 8 Things You Should Include In Your Sidebar.

8. Check your comments queue

If you use WordPress, chances are you might have some comments pending your approval. This is a good opportunity to make sure there aren’t any legit comments sitting there. Be careful, as there is almost always going to be at least one spam comment. Delete the spam and approve the legit comments.

9. Update your media kit

By now, as an experienced blogger, you should have a solid media kit. If you have one, but haven’t touched it in months, now’s the perfect time. I strive to update my media kit monthly, but with everything going on at once, sometimes it goes a little longer. By keeping your media kit refreshed, potential customers and partners get your most accurate information.

10. Update your social media profiles

How long has it been since you updated your social media profiles? Bloggers depend on social media to connect with readers and fans, so to have an outdated profile is actually a step backwards towards building credibility. Whatever you put in your social media profiles, make them consistent. You can also take this time to disconnect from any social media accounts you don’t use. Spend time updating only those accounts you post to regularly (and maybe send out a post telling your readers to check out your new profile!).

11. Update your “About Me” page

One of the most important pages on your site is your “About Me” page. Make sure the information in your about me is up to date. Remember, your “About Me” page should be about how you can help your readers – and not your life story. Check out my “About Me” page (and feel free to provide any good or bad feedback….I can take it!).

12. Respond to feedback

Whether it’s an email, comment, social media post, etc., timely responses show your readers how engaged you are in your blog’s success. Take this time to monitor everything you need to respond to, and make sure your responses are valuable to your readers. Did a reader share a great idea with you? Give them credit through a tweet or a Facebook mention.

13. Update your posting schedule

If you don’t have a set schedule, and just post whenever, now’s a great time to create one for your blog and social media accounts. Planning ahead is one thing many of us don’t do very well, but could save us a lot of time in the long run. I know some bloggers who live by their schedules, and would be lost without them. I’m not quite there yet as I blog 2-3 times per week, maybe more, but could benefit from a set schedule. If you have a Pinterest account, there are free scheduling templates out there. Go grab one and put it to use!

14. Scour social media and news sites for ideas

If you’ve done all of the above, why not generate some ideas for new blog posts. One of the ways I do this is to see what’s new on social media and in the news. You’d be surprised as to how many ideas you can get just from one site. If you follow other bloggers, maybe check out what they’ve written about, and write a contradicting post about it, or write a spin-off of their topic. It’s easier to find topics to write about than you think. You just have to put a little effort into it!

15. Write an e-Book

By now, I think I have more than enough content to convert into an e-Book. The good thing about doing this is that you aren’t coming up with new ideas. You are taking your existing ideas and converting them into an easy-to-read eBook. If you have a lot of content, creating several eBooks on different topics can also keep you busy. Make sure to notify your readers on how they can purchase a copy whenever it’s ready. I recommend Blurb to help design your eBook!

Take that, Writer’s Block!

You don’t have to be less productive whenever you have writer’s block. With these 15 ideas, you are sure to stay busy, but at the same time, your blog will continue to stay refreshed, which only adds to its success!

Do you have any other ideas on how to be productive when your brain isn’t?  Share them in the comments!

The Scoop on Affiliate Marketing + 10 Easy Affiliate Programs for Bloggers

All of my blog posts may contain affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I’ll earn a commission. Thank you for supporting me!

Howdy guys and gals! I’m back again with another great post on affiliate marketing. Now, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I’m going to go ahead and assume that you know the basics of affiliate marketing and how it works. If not, check out my post on how I made my first sale with ShareASale to learn more about how it all works. Once you’re read about how I made my first sale, learn more about how to get more clicks on your affiliate links.

If you are brand spanking new to blogging, and need to know how to start a blog, check out my FREE 7 day email course guiding you through every step necessary to get a money-making blog up and running in no time! If you need a host for this brand new blog of yours, look no further than SiteGround. is running a special on domain names right now! Lock yours in now for as low as $.88!

The Scoop on Affiliate Marketing + 10 Easy Affiliate Programs for Bloggers

What are Affiliate Programs?

Simply put, affiliate programs are individual merchants offering a commission to participating bloggers for each sale he or she makes through the merchant’s affiliate links. Each program has its own terms, conditions, and commission amounts. Be sure to review all of the information for each merchant’s program you join so that when the first sale rolls in you aren’t surprised.

What are Affiliate Networks?

An affiliate network is a website, such as ShareASale or CJ, that brings together bloggers and merchants. The merchant creates their affiliate program through the network and uploads all of their promotional content (affiliate links, banners, etc.). Bloggers get to pick from the list of all affiliate programs the network offers, and once approved by the merchant, can begin including the merchant’s content on their blog or website. Whenever someone clicks on this content and makes a purchase, the blogger earns commission.

How do I join an affiliate program?

There are several ways to go about joining an affiliate program. The most common way is to join an affiliate network site like I mentioned above. Once you’ve joined the site, you can search for and register to participate in the affiliate programs you like.

Another way to join affiliate programs is to join directly through a merchant’s main website. For example, I joined the Target affiliate program by going to Target’s main website.  Most of the time, the affiliate program link is in the page footer.

Why spend time putting links on my website?

There’s a BIG difference between putting links on your website versus promoting products you believe in and use to your readers. If you are just trying to make a quick buck, throwing up a few banners or links and hoping someone clicks on them is one way to go, but it will decrease your readers’ trust in you. I hope this is NOT the route you’ve chosen to take.

Those who succeed in affiliate marketing understand the needs of their readers and only promote high quality products. I highly suggest writing regular product reviews of those products you use every day. You’d be surprised as to how many products you use that are affiliate links.

If you are going to spend a lot of time inserting affiliate links on your site, do it the right way the first time. By using the right keywords, creating valuable content, and being honest with your readers, you’ll see affiliate income start to creep up in the right direction.

Will I earn $50,000 in my first month?

Hell no. It’s not realistic unless you have dozens of blogs designed solely to earn affiliate income. I tell all of my readers that affiliate marketing takes time, just like anything else. Just because you are throwing up banners and links doesn’t mean your readers are going to click on them. It will be slow for a while. Don’t give up. Keep writing quality content and promoting great products. The income will eventually start rolling in. Do not expect high numbers in the beginning. It’s just not realistic.

I followed all of the steps but am not earning money. What gives?

It can be frustrating to do all of the work the right way only to not see the results start pouring in. Don’t worry. Many bloggers give up after a few months, but this is a mistake. You have to be in it for the long haul to really see results pay off. If you are only writing posts about affiliate products, try expanding your reach by promoting products through other mediums, such as face-to-face, social media, videos, and more.

Affiliate marketing is not something you’ll succeed at overnight. It takes time, experience, and perseverance. If you have all 3 of those things, there is no reason why the sales won’t start rolling in soon. Here are some quick tips:

Write consistently. Most bloggers who see increases in affiliate sales are writing 2-3 quality posts per week (more or less).

Write with your readers in mind. This goes without saying, but your blog posts shouldn’t be about you. You are writing for your readers. Write with their best interests in mind. Put it this way, would you recommend a car with flat tires, a burned out engine, and no windows to your mom? Probably not. The same holds true with your readers. Treat them like you treat a family member!

Your blog posts should be reader-centered at all times. I’m definitely not saying you should never write about yourself, though. If you are looking to make someone’s life easier, solve a problem, recommend a valuable product, or talk about how something works, these types of posts must be geared around your readers.

Choose the right products to promote. Don’t go to ShareASale and start applying for everything under the sun. Just because a product may have good commission rates doesn’t mean it’s the right product for your readers. Choose wisely and limit the programs you join.

Example: Don’t sign up for Tailwind’s affiliate program if you have never used it. Tailwind is one of those products that has a lot of great tools for bloggers looking to promote on Pinterest. If you use BoardBooster or other pinning products, don’t join the Tailwind affiliate program!

Focus on building your traffic. If you don’t have a lot of subscribers, and traffic just isn’t flowing to your site the way you’d like it to, chances are your affiliate sales aren’t going to be anything to write home about. Hopefully by now you have implemented a strategy on how to increase traffic to your site.

Continue to focus on building relationships, networking with other bloggers, and work to build traffic continuously. Your rate of return will be much higher with higher traffic volumes. If you are only getting 100-200 views per month, chances are less than 1% of those are clicking on affiliate links.

Be willing to try new things. Banner ads may work for some posts, but in others, text links may be better. In other situations, images with the affiliate link attached to them may work better. Find what works best for you and be willing to try new tactics if you aren’t having success.

Try taking one of your most-viewed blog posts and turn it into a video. You can include the affiliate link under the video, or tell your readers how to get to the product link on your site.

Learn from others. One of the best ways to learn tips and tricks for affiliate marketing is to research what other bloggers are doing. Every blogger does it differently, but there are tried and trusted strategies that you can learn and implement on your own blog. Interview others, ask questions, get to know how they operate.

What types of posts convert well with affiliate marketing?

  • Product reviews
  • List posts
  • Tutorials/how-to guides
  • Tools/resources page

Product Reviews

Remember when I was talking about how it’s better to promote products you believe in and actually use yourself? Share them with your readers through a detailed product review post. If you’d like to see an example of one of my product reviews, check out my Charbroil review I did a few months ago. This isn’t an affiliate link, but it’s a good example of what makes a good product review.

A quick tip on product reviews:  You’re not always going to have a positive review of a product, and don’t write one just to solicit clicks on your affiliate links. You’re not building trust with your readers this way. If a product isn’t a good one, write a negative review.  Sure, you probably won’t see a lot of sales convert from it, but you were honest and built trust with your readers (this is key!).

List Posts

Are you a food blogger?  Why not create a list of helpful products you use to cook every day? Each item can be an affiliate link, or you can include several affiliate links at the bottom of your post. Make sure to not only include a list, but a brief statement as to why it’s a must-have tool (after all, you put it in your list!)

Tutorials/How-to guides

Blogging about how to use a product is a great way to not only teach someone about how to use it, but you can teach them why the product is valuable. When readers see step-by-step instructions, they learn how easy/hard a product is to use.

Tools/Resources page

A tools or resources page is a critical page every blogger should have! It’s a great way to get the word out about the products you use every day. Not every product on this page needs to be an affiliate link, but do include them every chance you get. My blog has a “Tools I Use” page. Check it out if you want an idea of what this should look like.  This page should always be growing as you use more products. Make it a habit to update it at least once a month.

Ready for some of my favorite affiliate programs?  Here they are!

Affiliate Programs

Your turn!

Are you having success with affiliate marketing? I’d love to interview you!  Simply drop your contact information into the comments section and I’ll reach out to you!  I’d love to feature you on a future blog post about affiliate marketing!

Share your wins below!  I can’t wait to hear about your affiliate marketing success stories!

8 Things You Should Include In Your Blog’s Sidebar

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We all love our blog’s sidebar (hopefully!). It’s a place to stick additional information about ourselves, our content, our social media information, and more. Today’s post is all about those items we must include in our sidebar. I think I can say I’m guilty of throwing things into my sidebar that my readers really don’t need. Have you done the same?

I blog with WordPress, so I have access to thousands of really cool plugins and widgets. It can be very tempting to throw every widget under the sun into your blog’s sidebar, but that’s the last thing you should do.

So, in an effort to keep your blog’s sidebar looking snazzy and clean at the same time, here are some items you really should include. Do you have any of these? All of these? None….of….these?

8 Things You Should Include In Your Blog's Sidebar

1. Short Bio

Put a short bio at the very top of your sidebar. Make it a brief overview of who you are, what your blog is about, and how you can help them.  A nicely cropped image of yourself (professional) is also a nice addition to help your readers put a face to a name.

2. Subscribe Form

A must-have item in your sidebar is a form for your readers to subscribe to your newsletter. There are several WordPress widgets, but I opted to use MailChimp. With MailChimp, you can customize the look and feel of the form, and it’s easy to maintain your mailing list with a few clicks.

3. Social Media Links

Make it easy for your readers to connect with you on your social media accounts. Take a look to your right in my sidebar and you’ll see a good example of how this should look. I am not a supporter of including social media posts inside the sidebar. Personally, if I wanted to read your social media posts, I’d follow you on your social media account and go there to read it. I’m not visiting your blog so that I can see your Instagram or Facebook posts. My suggestion – only include links to the social media accounts you are present on and post to daily.

4. Popular Posts

There are several good WordPress widgets that allow you to share your most popular posts. I like having this in my sidebar because my readers can find the posts that are being read the most and check them out. I use a widget called Top Posts & Pages. It allows you share up to 10 posts that have received the most traffic in the last 48 hours. Take a look in my sidebar and check out how this widget works. It’s very simple to use. You can choose to display it as text links, or as image links as I have chosen to do.

5. Recent Posts

Aside from popular posts, you also should share your recent posts. I use WordPress’s default widget for this as it’s simple enough and does the job. I chose to share the last 5, but you can customize this to your liking. If you don’t already have your recent post list in your sidebar, consider adding this today. Readers who frequent your site don’t want to miss anything, so a recent post widget is perfect!

6. Categories

Another great widget to have in your sidebar is a Categories widget. It makes it easy for your readers to sort your blog’s content by the categories they want to see. For example, if you select “Blogging” in my Categories widget, you’ll be shown every blog post I’ve ever written about blogging.

One word of caution when using categories is to not go crazy with them. Try to use existing categories if you can, but if you write something you’ve never written about before, chances are you will need to create a new category.  Make sure to apply the usage of categories consistently across your blog. Doing so makes it so much easier for your readers to find what they are interested in.

7. Archives

Using an archives widget is a great idea because it groups all of your posts by month and year. While not completely necessary, it’s another easy way to point your readers to a certain group of posts. Remember, the goal of every widget in your sidebar is to make it easier for your readers to find information.

8. Search Box

A search box is another must-have item in your sidebar. Make it easy for your readers to find any content they may be searching for on your site. Many times, I want to find a post myself and I can’t remember when I posted it. By searching for the subject, 9 times out of 10 I find it. Make your search box simple and easy to find.

Let’s See YOUR Sidebar!

I would love to see how you have designed your sidebar! Drop your blog’s URL in the comments section and I’ll check it out (and comment on it as well!).