Advice For Zazzle Newbies

Zazzle Designs from My Store

I just finished giving my artist daughter some advice about Zazzle, and as it kept building into almost a “mini-course” I thought maybe it would be a good idea to write some of that advice down in one place.

Start Learning Success Tips For Zazzle

Start with this Post

This post has been UPDATED on Jan. 12, 2018.

Zazzle has much improved their setup. The design tools are quite robust and I rarely have any troubles with “hang-ups” or freezing, now. The auto-save features on the site are reliable.

The questions started with… What can I do about my created product “hanging up” when I try to post it for sale?

To this, and other difficulties like it, the answer is save your design and write down the title, description, and tags in a text file to copy-paste. Once saved, the design will show up in your “saved file” and you can usually proceed without a problem. The short answer is that sometimes the javascripts get jammed. It might be your browser, Zazzle’s site, or a slow internet connection. Who knows? Just save whereever the hangup is and then go from there.

This happens to me most often when I am trying to post for sale. That is why I use a text file to keep from losing the description and tags. It is useful as a temporary file for making more products with that same design. Copy and paste the description and tags saves time and typing, while tweaking them for individuality makes them a bit unique.

Designer Editor Improvements

  • Select images and text in a design you’ve made, look for the “edit” dropdown, and chose “copy”; then paste the creation onto another surface, even a whole new product design.
  • “Filters” can change colors of an image into several types of styles; “Patterns” create a number of repeat styles.
  • Many fonts are available, once text is typed the spacing can be tweaked via the “AV” dropdown.  A few text warps are available: arc, inverted arc, vertical.
  • Infinite color choices for background and for text.

Example

I used a filter setting to make the background look more like I wanted. On the reverse side of the design I used the arc and the character spacing tweaks for some of the text.

Making Multiple Products with a Design
You can still “Quick Create”, but it is no longer recommended, and takes a long time to “post”. With the copy and paste powers of whole designs including their text and settings, it is easy to make multiple products with your favorite creation.

Keep Track of Colors Via HexFiles

My next suggestion is to keep a copy-paste file of color hex file codes for certain designs along with description and tag words so that when making more products from that design these are accessible. Call it “Zazzlecode” or something similar.

My Best Choices for Hex Color Codes

The Zazzle color chooser itself gives you the hex codes for the color you have chosen- write it down to use again ( that source file, you are keeping).

Want to know the trendiest Pantone colors? This w3schools site is a great resource.

Or go directly to the Pantone site, but to the insider area where you type in a color name and the info (including hex number) comes up on its own page.

Pantone Color Finder

SEO Is Important for Zazzle Sales

The next bit of advice is how important it is to use some basic SEO, since an artist has to do her own marketing. Use descriptive relevant terms when titling both the design and product, when writing the descriptions, and especially when choosing tag words and phrases.

If you don’t know very much about SEO, there are scads of articles and sites online which explain this to bloggers. Artists can use that same information when working to get Google to find their products, too.

  • Zazzle prefers that you use around 10 important keywords, although you can use more.
  • Describe your design in terms you think people will search for.
  • Don’t inflate with irrelevant terms, there is a No-Spam policy in place.
  • Use places that can help your SEO, like descriptions and titles for images, as well as design descriptions and tags. Collections also have tags and descriptions.

Collections

These area ways to curate your designs, introducing less popular ones in ways that organize your site. They are useful for social media sharing, so learn how to make them (quite easy), then display in your store. It’s been recommended to have your collections near the top.

Example of My New Puppy Love Collection

This is also a ways to share more of your designs to potential customers. They get to see more of your work than trying to spend time in your stores (which is awkward and time consuming for most people).

The New Title

Duplicates are a problem in SEO results, so while it used to be okay to have multiple products that use a design titled and described all the same, this is now a problem. Customize the written labels and descriptions for each product.

Views

Products views are important. Even your own view of one of your designed products counts, but if you have created something that no one views over a certain length of time, it gets hidden from the general marketplace.

So include your creations in the collections, share them, and go to their pages if necessary, to increase the possibility of sales.

That sums up the latest of gleaned tips for gaining a foothold in Zazzle success. If you have tips add them, please.

Blogging: Tend Your Vineyard

Blogging Tips

I’ve been blogging for more than a decade. That seems hard to believe, but it is true. During that time I’ve cycled through a number of trends and “pro” advice, and one thing about internet writing that is ALWAYS true is that it will constantly change.

So how do we find “evergreenContent that keeps having value over time” advice?

Quality

Like any business certain things don’t change very much and one of those is quality. Quality lasts, and that is true of writing and photos.

This is a variation on the oft-repeated “Content is King”.  Besure you putting up content, because the online reader is voracious. I used to joke that that blog always wanted to be fed more content, “Feed me!”, but it isn’t a joke, so pace yourself. And post the best, constantly improving, content. that you can.

Consistency

This was my hardest lesson; and the most important.

You must develop consistency as a blogger.

It doesn’t have to be every day, or even week, but it must be regular and something your readers can count on.

Since it was always my biggest challenge in life to be regular about anything… I have suffered most in building my blog from shortcomings in this department. So here are some motivators for you:

  • Being a consistent writer will improve your writing.
  • It will help build your loyal “tribe” of fans.
  • It will keep the search engines happy with your blog, if you continually add content that is original and of good quality.
  • It will help you to develop good business work habits.

Writing with consistency helps you develop a rhythm that also creates something of a flow and is a generator of inspiration.

 

Pick Up The Pace

Aim for two posts a week if you can. I have several different blogs, and some of them only recently have congealed into their topic focus. They started as experiments or I had some loose idea of what I wanted to write, but now they are gelling into a true fix on subject and intent.

Now that I know what I want to focus writing about, I am posting. Choosing a subject that is large enough, but that I’m interested in, has helped to give me motivation to write.

Take this blog for example, it began as a revival of one single page that I had originally developed long ago in my first website. I remembered how I needed to compile my most helpful tips and links in making my website at that time. All the things that I was learning, although I was a newbie, could be helpful for other newbies!

Now that blogging has changed so much and the learning curve is steeper before we see results, I know these articles will serve a need.

Writing more often has become one of my main goals for these newly minted blogs.

Tend Your Own Vineyard

I spent a lot of time writing on free sites, most recently writing for Squidoo, and now Hubpages.

There were several reasons for this:

  • Squidoo ( now defunct) was promoted as a way to increase links to my website.
  • It was fun with an active community of new acquaintances. It taught me a great deal about marketing.
  • It earned me money.
  • Hubpages continues in the vein of earning money online, but all sources nowadays are diminishing.

Tending ones own vineyard is advice from the Bible. It means taking care of what you own and can harvest from. Everyone wants you to jump onto their wagon and work in their field of dreams. We do that for the kinds of reasons that I listed, but we ought to, first, grow and maintain our own blog.

Write for your own domain and sites, first. Be very judicious about the time you invest in others blogs and sites.

Why?

  • They own it, run it, and make decisions about it without you. Your interests come very low on the totem pole.
  • They can change it, close it ( witness Squidoo, and Geocities before that) and there is little you can do, but be ready to change gears.
  • You may lose work.
  • You will keep increasing your time and effort investment.

And those are not even all the possible “cons” in the equation.

So while I like to keep my hand in writing for such places, and they do pay me (which is often reinvested in these self-hosted blogs), my best advice is to mainly work on your own blog. Build it, improve it, keep consistently adding articles and creating a masterpiece of work.

 

In Sum

You know the drill by now:

Write.

Produce quality and keep adding to quantity.

Be a consistent writer and post regular articles.

Add to this (very important today):

Participation and growth of your social media.

You don’t have to be in everything, but you should be growing a presence in the communities that bring value to your blogs. Google Plus 1, Twitter, Facebook Pages, Pinterest (this one is huge for me), Instagram, and many others including their byways that help to collate the many social media avenues (Rebelmouse is one).

Write for yourself, your own domain and sites, first, and in a regular way.

Go ahead and participate as a content writer elsewhere, but remember your priorities.

Tend Your Vineyard

How To Write A (Good) Blog Post

Deconstruct a good blogpost:

  • Catchy Headline
  • Clear Photo (at least one, preferably Pinterest-worthy)
  • Strong introduction
  • Easy to scan information: headings and bullet lists help
  • Good word flow in well written content

These 5 points are the basics of a good blogpost.

No matter how much you write , one of these areas of the blogpost can always improve. I believe we should always strive to better our product, no matter what form it takes. I’m an information junkie and love to read great posts, and I’m always trying to improve by learning how to put together great advice from experts and make it my own.

  1. That first one, the catchy headline, always challenges me. I’ve read Copyblogger’s advice and even participated in his mentoring program to try to learn more.

  2. Photos were always a challenge, but with my iPhone and Camera+, as well as Instagram, I am starting to improve the process. I made nice  enough photos with my Sony digital camera and photo editing, but it was a very time and effort consuming process. Now it is easier.

  3. Remember basic rules of writing a good essay? Those apply to the first paragraph, the introduction. Make it controversial, or make it something generally agreed upon, then introduce your topic and what the reader can hope to find in your post.

  4. This has to do with the format of the page.  Break it up into easy to digest pieces, divide with heading, hand out bulleted lists. I am still working on this.

My run-on sentence mindset likes to forget the formatting.

Don’t make that mistake.

  1. Read through your content before posting. Make sure you have enough of the written word to give the necessary information and that your thought process is easy to follow.

Rearrange paragraphs and sentences if necessary. Keep learning to write better. Lots of advice is available.

The Next Most Important Points For Good Blogposts

  • Check Your Spelling
  • Check the Grammar and Punctuation
  • Edit Your Writing
  • Use White Space, Reduce Clutter

After you have written a post, it is time to edit, revise, spellcheck, and improve sentence structure making sure the punctuation is properly used to best advantage.

I do play fast and loose with this at times, but I used to go over my work repeatedly correcting mistakes, and still do when I have the time. It is far better to look twice before pushing the publish button.

People have given me helpful info on times that I have overlooked proper spelling or written in an obscure manner. I wish I had more input! If you have a friend or colleague who will help you edit, treasure that person.

Perhaps you would improve with the use of an editor app or program. I have used Scrivener and Evernote, although I’m slow to learn how to coordinate everything.  A successful blogger I know uses Scrivener and other helps, and I am trying to follow his lead in becoming more effective.

These are the important points to remember when creating a blogpost that is memorable, social media worthy, and useful to your readers.

In sum, although there may be an infinite number of tweaks and improvements we may make, these are the core components of good blogposts.

Make your blogpost interesting, entertaining, and/or useful

One Last Thing

I have been seeking to improve my blogs and one thing that keeps coming up:

Include a Call to Action

This is a “marketing term”, but it has become a widespread inclusion in the summary of a post. The idea is that the reader gets involved with either being asked to comment, “like”, or sign up for the newsletter (don’t have one? More on that in the future.)

I have started to do this. So, please sign up for my garden newsletter… it is more than gardening.

Subscribe to my mailing list

* indicates required



Email Format


My Favorite WordPress Plugins

wordpress

I have new favorites. I’ve been replacing some of the old favorites and adding new plugins that accomplish important tasks… here is the scoop.

Plugin Good For Ads

For Adsense I used to use Easy Adsense until it changed into something second rate, not to go into a rant or badmouth it. It served well for many years, but now I use Post Layout which gives much more control and doesn’t seem to try and siphon off earnings (of which there was never very much and is quite low at this point). Post Layout allows for other ad programs to be added, as well. So far, I like it.
Post Layout Plugin

Plugins Every Site Should Have

Some of my sites have been WordPress based for many years, and during that time went through changes including problems with permalinks, etc. I had lots of redirects and broken links to other sites, etc. So I am super excited about the plugin I tried, called “Broken Link Checker”.

It is very easy to use and I have gone through just about all the broken links to either unlink, or -more often- find the new links on site that dropped their pages or changed the location. I am looking forward to this plugin changing the speed and (possibly help) google rank. At least my site is updated and far better experience for readers!!!

(1.) I recommend every WordPress site to have the Broken Link Checker plugin.

For many years I used “All In One SEO”, and I have no complaint about it, but when I read about all that Yoast’s WP SEO plugin could do, I started using it. It is complex and I don’t have the learning curve completely mastered, but it is working well, and I think it will be a huge improvement for my site. It imports all of the settings and info from ‘All In One’.

(2.) Yoast SEO for WordPress

“Yet Another Related Posts Plugin” is one that I have used from very early on. It has been reliable and helps people find more posts, which is more important than ever on sites that have lots of content. I tweaked it to provide graphics, much like “LinkWithin” but without the nuisance keywords of the LinkWithin site coming up repeatedly. The new version of YARPP now has those thumbnails builtin.

I wouldn’t do without this plugin.

(3.) Yet Another Related Posts Plugin

Other New Additions

I started using the Jetpack because it was so highly recommended. Mostly the stats part of it interests me, I’m not sure about the rest of it (and it is extensive). The verdict will be in later in the year. But it is well worth trying, especially if your blog uses more of the features than mine would.
Jetpack.

Jetpack Plugin

Google XML Sitemaps isn’t perfect, but it helps provide a sitemap which is necessary and which I don’t understand well enough to provide for myself. I liked it much better when you could add pages, a feature which they have not restored as of this writing. Still, the plugin is a useful one.

Google XML Sitemap

WP-PageNavi is built-in to some templates, but if you don’t have it, this navigation tool is very worthwhile. It gives a logical and good looking way to navigate through the sites pages. Plus you can style it.

WP-PageNavi


I have used many plugins over the years, some of which I regret, some that I get more excited over the more I use them. If I wanted the essentials this list is one I would start with. It is not a definitive list by any means, but a great way to start your WordPress site.