Using PicMonkey to Create Halloween Graphics

A few months ago I wrote about how PicMonkey Solved My Graphics Problems. In that post I talked about my new obsession with PicMonkey. I showed in that post how I could make graphics using the Collage tool mainly. Little did I know just how much I would love the Design Tool!

In the past I have mainly used Fiverr to get quick basic graphics to use for holidays. Or I created them myself in Photoshop and they were passable but clearly not professional. When I saw that PicMonkey had added Halloween specific tools, I decided to give them a chance.

Using the Halloween Design Editor

After I click on the Design Editor, the first thing that I do is set the dimensions for my image. This is under “Basic Edits” (the symbol that looks like a crop tool) and then “Resize.” As I mentioned in my other post, I use 560×292 for images that I want to use in blog posts and appear nicely on Facebook or Google+. I also experimented with some standard banner sizes to use in my sidebars. Essentially you can make the images any size you want.

I then went down to the bottom of the Design Editor sidebar and chose the cute little pumpkin and then the theme “Trick or Treat.”

(There are other themes that will create really cool Halloween images as well including Zombies, Witches, Vampires, and Demons).

After you pick the theme, you can choose from Halloween Overlays, Frames, and Text. The Frames look like they are meant to sit on top of other images, but I actually used a Frame as the basis for my contest image below:

Next I tried using some of the labels:

That was really basic but only took 30 seconds. You could make just about any kind of button with it.

This was using the Grim Garlands and Classic Creepies

The one took about I made at the top of this post took about 2 minutes and used some of the Vampire theme (especially the Night Frights Textures). This one is just a quick modification of that image:

All of mine were done without bothering to watch any of their tutorials. I’m sure if I took the time to watch any of their tutorials, I could do even cooler stuff. They even have a whole series of Halloween blog posts to help you get creative.

Some of the themes, overlays, texts, etc. are free and some of them are part of their Royale package. At $4.99 for a month, it is definitely worth the upgrade!

If you are like me and just need simple graphics but need them frequently enough that you need to learn to make them yourself or spend a fortune, I wholeheartedly recommend giving PicMonkey a try. And I look forward to dazzling you with my increased PicMonkey knowledge over time.

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PicMonkey Solved My Graphics Problems

I’m good at research and writing but terrible at graphics. In the “old days” of blogging and affiliate marketing, that didn’t really matter because sites were all about content due mainly to download speeds. That has changed for a few reasons, including download speeds increasing and social media sites relying on the images included in posts. In addition to sites that focus completely on the images (like Pinterest and Instagram), other sites like Facebook and Twitter are increasingly become more graphic-oriented.

What’s a graphic-challenged girl to do?

I’ve tried a lot of different programs and still use a combination of them. I use Adobe Photoshop for some things and Snagit is one of the best software investments I have ever made. But I’m not a pro at either one, and I don’t have the time to spend creating perfect graphics.

On the flip side, I see the graphics that other bloggers are using and know that I have to keep up. Plus, if I don’t have the right graphics in the right dimensions in each post, it isn’t going to show up in the Facebook newsfeed the way that I want it to.

After hearing some other bloggers talking about PicMonkey, I decided to give it a shot. They have a free version and a paid version. After one day of using the free version, I decided to spring for the paid version of $33 for a year. (You can also pay monthly for $4.99 if you want to try it out short-term). The paid version (or “Royale” as they call it) doesn’t have ads and has a lot more effects, overlays, etc. I also just like supporting a company that I am going to be using to make money.

What Does PicMonkey Do?

A lot. So much that I know I am not even touching a small part of what you can do. But the basics are that you can Edit photos (crop, rotate, exposure, resize, sharpen, etc), Touch up (blemishes, airbrush, teeth whiten, etc), Design (banners, infographics, cards, invitations, etc), and Collage.

I spend most of my time using the Edit and Collage Tools. I find the Collage Tool in particular very helpful to create 560×292 graphics for my posts that look great on both Facebook and Google+. I spend no more than 10 minutes on each one and sometimes as little as 5.

Some Examples

Here are a few of the images that I created using PicMonkey that took me 5-10 minutes each.

The first one was for Sunshine Rewards for a sale on zulily. I quickly grabbed product images from the merchant site and made a collage out of them for purposes of appearing in the Facebook newsfeed.

This next one was from a trip that I took with my kids to the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum. Ripley’s gave us the tickets, so I wanted to be sure to post some great pictures of the fun that we had. This particular collage was done with Pinterest in mind.

This is an example of the Edit Tool used to simply grab a picture and add some text to it. Tommy Hilfiger sponsored the contest for us so I just used the image of the product that they gave me. I like using the “fade” tool on the background of the text to make sure that you can still see the whole image.

This last one is a collage of images that I took of The California Wine Club Pacific Northwest Series. It does triple duty as a nice post image, good for the Facebook newsfeed, and okay for Pinterest. In 5 minutes I was able to pull together the main elements of the wine club into one image plus give it a nice label. I also added our URL to the bottom.

As I said, I am not big on graphics. My goal 95% of the time is not to create graphics that become viral sensations. When you write as many posts as I do in a week, the graphics are just meant to support the posts. At less than 10 minutes each, I think these do the job. When I need something more “official,” I find someone I can pay to do it completely.

Oh! They also have really simple tutorial videos. You can actually check those out before you even sign up to see if they will teach you to do the things that you want to do.

Have you ever tried PicMonkey? Do you use the free version or the paid version? What aspects of it do you like the most?

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30 Affiliate Marketing Tips in 30 Days

I’m going to attempt to do something that I have never done before–keep my mouth shut (for a few days). I have a tendency to shout everything I know from the rooftops as soon as I know it. I tend to “overshare” what I know about affiliate marketing. I had a great idea to write a blog post about 30 of my favorite affiliate marketing tips.

After almost 10 years in the industry, I have a lot of insider information plus tried and true techniques. Why not put them all into one big blog post and give it to the world? But how would I know if anyone is actually reading and using the tips?

So I have decided instead to include them in my newsletter and space them out over a month. You won’t find the list anywhere on my site. You can only get it if you subscribe to my newsletter.

Am I Trying to Bribe You?

Sort of. I do want you do sign up for my newsletter. But more than that, I want to engage with you. Once you sign up, I want to connect with you on LinkedIn or G+. After you get the first set of tips, I want you to email me back and tell me whether I am a genius or a total faker.

I want us to be lifelong friends who eat chocolate together and paint each other’s nails!!!

Well…that may be taking it just a little too far. I’m actually not much of a nail painter. What I do want is for us to see how we can help each other. If you like my tips, give me one of your own. If you are reading my site, tell me about yours, too.

Why Am I Doing This?

Quite a few reasons. One is inspired by the back story as well as the actual post Story Time: All Cookies Are Not Equal. Everyone is at a different stage in the growth of their affiliate marketing businesses. I want to be a part of the solution in helping each other grow even when times are tough.

Another reason is that I have a lot of information in my head that I forget to share until you get me talking about it. Sit with me at Affiliate Summit and I may go on for 2 hours about the best ways to get higher commissions (see what I mean about how I can’t keep my mouth shut?). This is my way of informally formally putting those type of discussions into one place.

Selfishly, I want to grow my list. If I keep posting everything for the world to see, you don’t have any motivation to sign up and connect with me. Now you have a reason!

Take A Chance and Tell a Friend

What’s the worst thing that can happen? You sign up for my list and start getting the tips and find them useless and unsubscribe. That’s okay. You tried. I tried. What’s the best that can happen? You learn something new. I make some new friends and learn from you, too.

Head over to the right sidebar and sign up for my newsletter. Tell a friend if you think they would be interested. Expect a series of three emails in the next month, each with 10 tips.

And when you sign up and get that first email from me, please do respond and tell me a little about yourself. I’m anxious to hear from you!

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Cookies and Wine: Long-Term Benefits of Good Content

Most of the time when I write about cookies and affiliate marketing, I mean the digital cookies that result in our tracking. Not this time. This is a story about how actual cookies resulted in Facebook likes, Pinterest traffic, backlinks, and more… but not until almost a full year after a post was published. More importantly, it’s about the long-term benefits you can get out of good content.

If you want to read all about the technical aspects behind how our site was able to keep up with the traffic and the programming behind it all, check out Eric’s post: Be Ready for Viral Sharing. This is essential if you do not want your site to crash or to spend a fortune in hosting!

It Started with the Cookies

Todd Farmer, Eric Nagel, and I have a system for our Wine Club blog. We publish X number of “money posts” (highly monetized) and X number of “filler” posts. We call them “filler” for short, but they are really the content that makes up the site beyond just writing about our merchants. They can be evergreen posts related to our merchant (like How to Choose a Wine Club), Pinterest-worthy posts (like Red Wine Chocolate Cupcakes), or timely posts (like Fondue Day).

The Pairing Wine with Girl Scout Cookies post was meant to be both timely and Pinterest-worthy. Eric created an image that would clearly show both the Girl Scout cookies and the wine.

On February 7, 2013, we published it, Pinned it, posted it on Facebook and Twitter, etc. All our normal methods of sharing. In the first week, it had 319 pageviews. A couple of repins. A couple of likes. Nothing spectacular. In the time since then, it has gotten a little traffic here and there. But nothing like what happened starting January 11, 2014. [Read more…]

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Are You Throwing Away Your Affiliate Money?

Losing affiliate moneyAs an affiliate that promotes everything from clothes to surveys to video streaming, I see a lot of different offers and business models. Once upon a time I was happy to take $1 per sign up for an offer even if it meant sending my traffic away to a competitor. It was revenue! And I didn’t know any better.

Last week at ShareASale ThinkTank I had a number of conversations with bloggers about why they should not promote toolbars that will steal their commissions. Little did I know the big surprise I would receive from a merchant this morning.

SavingStar is a great way to save money using digital grocery coupons. I use them myself. I promote them to my members. I guess I should say “promoted.”

I received an email as a SavingStar affiliate announcing happily their new cash back shopping and toolbar. I’m sure that it is very exciting for them because it will bring in huge revenue for them. As an affiliate, huge warning bells went off in my head. Here are a few lines from the email that worried me most:

  • We also have a toolbar which makes it seamless and easy to save all the time you see a deal.
  • Through SavingStar’s Cashback Mall, you can save every time you shop at sites like Groupon, Travelocity, Proflowers,,,,, and hundreds of other online stores.
  • Enjoy promoting these amazing offers and I will be updating you more frequently about exclusive coupons, increased cash back and holiday shopping deals.

Unless I am misunderstanding something, SavingStar wants me to encourage my visitors to shop through SavingStar’s affiliate links. Those links include merchants that I myself promote. So if I am encouraging them to shop through SavingStar, I am basically flushing my own affiliate revenue down the toilet.

I may make $2 for convincing someone to sign up with SavingStar, but how much am I losing when I promote a Macy’s deal on my site but my visitors use their handy dandy SavingStar toolbar to get a deal and cash back? Even if the toolbar is not set to pop up when an affiliate link is used, are you willing to take the chance to encourage them to use a cash back site to get your $2 and then just hope that they do not ever use the cash back site?

I have nothing against the cash back business model. I own a cash back site. But I also tell bloggers not to promote cash back or coupon sites if they are going to use affiliate links themselves. If you aren’t going to use any other affiliate links, by all means take the CPA on referring your visitors to other deal sites.

SavingStar is just the most recent merchant-turned-affiliate to pull this. I’m calling them out only because 1) a lot of bloggers will not even catch that email, and 2) many will not understand the significance of the shift from just grocery coupons to online deals. Eric Nagel is working on a post you’ll want to read about some of the other ways you might be valuing short-term over long-term. I’ll link to that as soon as it is up.

Are you a blogger that has been promoting SavingStar? Will you continue to promote them? If you are a merchant or affiliate manager, how do you feel about participating with a “merchant/affiliate” like this?

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