Thursday, August 18, 2011

5 Great Ways to Promote Your Products on Your Blog (and 2 really bad ways)

Blogs can be a valuable promotion tool if you are smart about how you promote. Sadly, many TpT seller blogs have become a running billboard of products they have posted, with no valuable content for readers (really bad promotion technique #1). If you want to increase your followers and page views, you absolutely must provide value and endless promotions of your products do not do this. In fact, they do the opposite, they annoy people and then they don't come back.

The second thing you want to be careful about is running too many contests and promotions that require participants to like or follow a long list of your various stores, sites, fan pages etc. You can do this every now and again, but constantly pandering for followers can be a real turn off. Further, many of these followers are not your targeted audience and may never actually return to your sites. Personally, I would rather have one follower who is actually interested in the topics my blog covers and teaches the grades I sell for, than ten followers who will never return again.  Also, you will probably find you have far fewer participants if you require them to blog about your contest. I know I am pretty careful about what ends up on Minds in Bloom, and while I am happy to link to another seller's product that fits in with a specific post, I am certainly not going to fill it up with blurbs about other seller's promotions (This would be really bad promotion technique #2)

So, how should you promote your products? What works? Here are some ways to promote that will not only bring people to your products and store, but will make them happy to be there!

Give Stuff Away
How does giving your stuff away help you? First, you want to make sure that you have an ad with links back to your TpT store (and possibly your facebook and blog) on everything you sell. Teachers who like the free product may very well come back to your store for more. Second, everyone loves freebies. If you give away a lot of freebies, people will WANT to follow you. There are several great ways to give stuff away:
  • Create a free product, post a link on your blog and write a short blurb about it. Try to go beyond, "I just posted this and it is really great." Tell teachers how it can be used and maybe give them some extension ideas.
  • Write a really great post - something with real depth or lots of ideas and then include a free product that relates to the concept that you wrote about. Here is one I did about Student of the Week for Minds in Bloom. 
  • Create a collections of freebies that can be accessed from a tab or sidebar at anytime.
  • Have a giveaway. For a limited time, give away a product that would normally not be free.
Use Your Sidebars and Tabs
Your sidebars are valuable real estate! Use them to advertise your store or products. Personally, I think this is better than filling your sidebars with google ads. You can make your own ads look appealing and in line with the style of your blog. And you are promoting a product you really believe in instead of goodness knows what from google. I get quite a few clicks on my sidebar ads for my products on Minds in Bloom. Also, as long as you don't totally overdo it, readers don't mind (and even kind of expect) ads in the sidebars.

Link within Your Posts
One way to promote a for-sale product is to write a post related to the product you are selling and then include a link to your relevant product within the post. For example, you could do a book review of a great book for literature circles and then include a link to your literature guide for that book in the post. Here is one I did (except the link is actually for another teacher's resource).

Pull out content from your product to make your post.
This works will with a product that has a long list of tips or suggestions. For example, if you have a post of 200 Journal prompts, you could choose 20 of them to include in a post. Then at the end, you can note that the 20 prompts came from a larger product with a link to that product. Here is one from Minds in Bloom.

Review Someone Else's Product
If another seller has a product you truly love, you could write a review of it on your blog with a link to that product. How does that help you? In addition to generating some good karma by helping a fellow seller, it is likely that seller will want to return the favor somehow...who knows what good things might come your way?

Have you ever tried these? Have more ideas to add? Please share!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

TpT Keywords

Today, SoS on TpT is pleased to welcome guest blogger Derrick Brown. Derrick has analyzed the Top 100 keywords for Teachers Pay Teachers - valuable information for sellers! Here are some of his findings:


What Was Discovered?
What are the “strongest” keywords on TpT?

1.     free downloads
2.     sellers - deanna jump
3.     math
4.     sellers - kim adsit
5.     language arts - hunger games
6.     languages - spanish
7.     reading
8.     language arts - writing
9.     language arts - poetry
10.   language arts - reading comprehension
11.   science
12.   language arts - grammar
13.   math - fractions
14.   back to school
15.   language arts - vocabulary
16.   keyword
17.   weather
18.   smartboard
19.   language arts - main idea
20.   math - place value

Neither #1 nor #2 are surprises, but #3 (math) was certainly a surprise to me – because I do not see much math content being sold on TpT!

What Might The Discovery Mean?
Here's how I interpret "math" being the #3 category: I know that language arts products dominate TpT sales, so if "math" is such a prevalent search term, that may mean that TpT's community craves innovative math content – but may not be finding the type of math content that they seek.

This insight can motivate a math content provider to focus their publishing efforts on trying to fill that void!

How Was The Keyword Strength Index Developed?
I analyzed the top keywords list Paul Edelman distributed earlier this Summer by making an electronic list of all 1000 top TpT search terms, and by then consolidating related terms into categories. For example, the separate terms "free", "download", "downloads" and "Downloads"  were all placed in one category called "free downloads".

Once the consolidation was done, I used Microsoft Excel to count the number of times "free downloads" and other categories were ranked in the Top 100. The more times a category appeared in the rankings, the stronger that category is. Likewise, categories with rankings closer to #1 are stronger.

I then developed a math formula that measured the strength of each category relative to the number of times it was ranked (its frequency), and how highly it ranked (its position).

When "free downloads" ended up at #1 after all calculations, and "deanna jump" ended up at #2, I knew that the data I had generated was accurate, and that it might yield key information to other TpT sellers.

How Can I Get The Complete Index?
You can download the complete Excel spreadsheet of the 100 top keywords at here . This list contains many more surprising insights that can help you to generate more product sales!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

TpT Followers - What are They and Why do I Want Them?

Followers are a good thing for four main reasons.

First, when someone has decided to follow you, they will receive a notification email every time you post a new product. At this time, this is probably the biggest advantage to having a lot of followers.

Second, when the TpT site redesign is implemented (which should happen very, very soon), people who have followed you will see updates from you at the top of their screens when they log in. These will include recently posted products, sales you may be having, and if you have sent them a TpT email.

Third, once a month you can send a note to your followers that they will receive in their TpT email boxes. While this is a good thing, I am not sure how many buyers actually bother to read these notes since they do not go to their regular email accounts. However, the fact that a notification about these emails will soon show up on their TpT homepages may help. You can use the TpT email to link products you want to highlight, advertise a sale, contest, or special deal, and  talk about what you are developing. At this point, this is the only way to communicate with your buyers.

Fourth, it looks good to have a lot of followers. A large number of followers shouts, "This is a great seller who lots of other people like!" Who doesn't want that?

Buyers can follow you by clicking on the green follow me box on the left side of your TpT store. So, how can you get more followers? Here are some ideas:

  • Use your "personal quote" field on the store editing page to ask people to follow you.
  • Ask people to follow you in your product descriptions
  • Ask people to follow you in your product ads
  • Ask people to follow you on your facebook or blog
  • Create a contest (using Facebook) that requires people to follow you in order to enter.
  • Participate in someone else's contest that requires people to follow you in order to enter (seller's sometimes announce these in the seller forums.)
  • And most importantly, create really stunning products and people will follow you without even having to be asked!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ten TpT Milestones to Shoot for

Milestones are important. They help us to see how far we have come and give us a feeling of accomplishment. So celebrate yours!
  1. Your first sale
  2. Your first great comment/rating
  3. The first time you sell ten or more products in one day
  4. Your first $100 in sales
  5. Making it on to the Top 100 list
  6. Getting a paper check ($500+ in a quarter)
  7. Making the Top 10 list
  8. Crossing the 20K mark
  9. Making more from you sales on TpT than you do from your job
  10. Becoming a TpT millionaire
I wonder how many of us will someday make it to Number 10....

What milestones have you hit? What are you looking forward to?

    Saturday, June 18, 2011

    A Year of Sales on TpT

    This chart is a roughly shows my sales over the course of the last year (June 1, 2010 - June 11, 2011). I am posting it here for a few reasons.

    First, for those of you who haven't been around for a full year and are feeling discouraged by poor sales, here is proof of the sales slump that TpT sees every summer. Fortunately, when you look ahead to August and September, things pick up significantly. Sales dip again in December for the holidays and a bit in April because of spring break and testing.

    Second, sponsored slots in the weekly TpT newsletter are a good thing, as long as you choose your product carefully. That said, that first line is a bit of an anomaly because I was lucky enough to get to participate in the first set of sponsored slots - it was new, so lots of people clicked. The other taller lines are also from Newsletter slots and are more typical.

    Third, in mid February I raised prices on almost all my products, sometimes quite significantly. Sales did not decline. I tweaked them a little more in mid March. Don't be afraid to sell your products for what they are worth!

    Some other bits of interesting information:

    I sold well over twice as many products this year (June-June) as I did last year - TpT is growing rapidly!

    Last calendar year (Jan-Dec), I was #6 on TpT for products sold. However, I have lost some ground to the K-1 sellers since then and am probably closer to #18 now or possibly even further down the list.

    I have 81 products for sale on TpT (and a bunch of freebies). My sales seem to follow the 80/20 rule to some extent - about 80% of my sales come from about about 20% of my products (15 or so best sellers). Some of  those 81 products have less than ten sales. I have another chart that shows the sales of each product.

    If you are wondering how to make these handy-dandy charts, you start by exporting your data from the TpT sales page to an Excel document (there is a button to do this at the bottom of the page). Then, if you are me, you get your math-genius boyfriend to make cool charts for you. Another option is to contact TpT seller Derrick Brown, who will give you a customized report about your sales with all kinds of neat stuff for $25.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    TpT Top 100: Information and Inspiration

    Did you know that you can see the Top 100 best selling products and sellers on TpT?  Checking out these lists can give you some valuable information in terms of what is selling well on TpT. Of course, the best part of the Top 100 is when you see your own name or product on it!

    If you scroll down to the bottom of the TpT homepage, you will see the grey. By clicking on either of the red links at the bottom, you will have access to four Top 100 Lists:

    • Top 100 by Number Sold
    • Top 100 Highest Rated Products
    • Top 100 Sellers by Number of Products Sold
    • Top 100 Sellers by Total Earnings
    The default for the list is "All Time," but you can sort the list for the year, month and week. At this time, the all time list is in real time. The year and the month lists renew on the first day of each. The weekly list changes on Sunday night at Midnight central time.


    One thing to be aware of is that currently, the Top 100 is dominated by K-1 sellers and products. That can be a little discouraging for those of us who sell to the upper grades. However, it is worth noting that it has not always been that way. This is a relatively recent development. It is likely that the Top 100 will even out at least somewhat over the next year or so. It is also worth noting that the #1 all time best selling product on TpT is a unit for The Hunger Games - clearly a product for middle school and high school.

    Using the Top 100
    The Top 100 is a great resource for sellers. Study those sellers and products that make the list. What are they doing that you are not? How do they present their products? What kinds of products show up repeatedly on the Top 100? If you are also a buyer, the Top 100 is a great place to find those best sellers - which are likely to be quality products.

    Getting your store or product onto the Top 100 is also a great goal to have. Anywhere on the list is a good thing. Getting to the Top 10, especially the All Time Top Ten puts you on the homepage and that means more product views for you! It may look like the Top Ten All Time Best Selling Products list never seems to change, but I can promise you that it does. For quite awhile, I held the four of those top spots, including the number one spot. But since then, many newer sellers have moved up. You may just develop the next product to make it to the top!

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    Why isn't Anyone Buying my Product?

    You love this resource. You created for your own classroom and your students love it! You have been using it for years with great success. So why isn't anyone buying it? There are many possible reasons for this sad state of affairs. Here are some diagnostic questions to ask yourself about your product.

    Presentation
    Presentation on TpT is super important. Buyers cannot simply flip through the pages as they would in an educational bookstore. All they have to go on to decide whether or not to buy the product is what you give them. Here is a checklist for presentation:

    • Did I include thumbnails?
    • Does my primary thumbnail catch people's attention and make them want to see more?
    • Is my description detailed enough to tell the buyer what he or she is actually getting?
    • Did I include a free preview?
    • Is my preview helpful (a random page or two with no explanation may not be)
    • Did I give away so much in my preview that there is no reason to buy the actual product?
    • In my description or preview, or both, do I have a table of contents and/or a page/slide count?
    • Is it clear how this product would be used and purpose it serves?
    • Did I choose appropriate grade levels? If a kindergarten teacher sees a product for grades K-12, he or she may doubt that it can really cover all those grade ranges. Same for the high school teachers. 
    You may also want to look at the post Product Posting DOs and DON'Ts.

    The Market
    Your product may not be selling because of the present market conditions. It can help to look at other, similar products to see where you might be able to make a change for better sales. Here is a marketing checklist:

    • Is my product priced too high compared to other similar products (adjusting for the size of the product)?
    • Is my product priced too low? In many buyers' minds low prices = low quality.
    • Are there many other products already listed that are similar to mine that already have high ratings? If so, what makes mine different?
    • Is my product so obscure or niche-y that very few other teachers actually need it?
    • Is my product something that is widely available for free on the internet?
    • Is it summertime, winter break, or April? Sales naturally decrease during these times - especially June and July. You might just need to wait a few weeks. 
    The Product
    It could be the product itself is the problem. Many products on TpT (not yours, of course, but other people's) are of poor quality. The concept may be excellent, but it has been so badly executed that few teachers want to buy it. Here is a quick checklist, but you can learn more about creating quality products here.

    • Is my product visually appealing (consider layout, fonts, clipart, color)?
    • Is my product appropriate for the grade level it is specified for (consider font size, line spacing, clip art)?
    • Is my product complete? 
    • Is my product free of errors and typos?
    Sellers - got more to add? I'm sure I've missed a few!


    Sunday, June 5, 2011

    Free Products - Doorway to Your Store

    SoS on TpT is pleased to welcome guest blogger Margaret Whisnant. Margaret is one of TpT's top sellers and has been selling on TpT for years. She also author's a newsletter specifically for TpT sellers (another benefit of signing up to sell!). This post about the importance of creating free products comes directly from her last newsletter installment.  

    Stop selling. Start helping.
    Zig Ziglar

    Even in a cyber-world populated with blogs, Facebook, and other linking social media, the free downloads we offer on TeachersPayTeachers are still our best sales reps.  Nothing can match their ability to give potential customers such a clear view of our authorship skills and the quality of our products.  Our electronic sales staff leaves the site every day to speak for us in classrooms around the world. Each one represents an individual seller and, at the same time, mirrors the whole of TpT.  Super merchant Laura Candler summarized it well on a forum discussion chain:  “It hurts us all when people post poor quality items, even free ones. . . Does an ice cream shop give free samples of bad-tasting ice cream and say you have to pay if you want something better?"

    Great analogy!   A TpT newcomer on a fact-finding mission is not likely to return after downloading a “ bad-tasting” freebie or two.  Furthermore, no customer is going to hand over hard-earned cash for a seller’s products when the free item offers no assurance that quality will be part of the exchange.  Posting a mediocre sample of one’s work just doesn’t make sense. Right now, our collection runs the gamut from great freebies, to lackluster, to pugh!   With a few do’s and don’ts and some effort, we can eliminate the poor reps and build a stronger, “tastier” staff.

    Clearly, our free items should be constructed around the same framework of excellence as our commercial products.  They should be genuinely helpful in a classroom setting and carry enough pizzazz to leave no doubt as to what our full-sized products can do. 

    Use the following ideas to lay the groundwork and then add the unique flourishes that make your samples your own:

    ·   Avoid passive lists (vocabulary words, titles, resources, etc.) If, however, you can create a short, but complete lesson that puts the list to good use, then do it and offer the two as a working duo. Remember that adding action to a product is our specialty.  Our free items should certainly illustrate this quality.  
    ·   Offering a complimentary sample from a larger work is a great idea, but only if it can function independently as a complete activity.  Imagine a shopper downloading a free item for a topic of interest only to find a useless snippet and directions for purchasing the parent work. Someone just spooned out a glob of Laura’s aforementioned bad-tasting ice cream!  Additional writing and reformatting might be necessary to create your representative mini-lesson, but the extra effort will certainly spark a heightened interest in the priced item.
    ·     Expect scant, if any, results from a brief lesson idea coupled with an advertising blitz for your store and your products.  Let the free item do the selling.  It will always do a better job than a list of links.
    ·     What would you think if you found a single free item separated and posted as two downloads?  We actually have a collection of these TpT splits!  Get your ice cream sample here. Go elsewhere for the toppings.  This would lead a shopper to wonder how many purchases would be required to get a seller’s full product.  Let’s get rid of the splits right away!
    ·     Answer keys! Answer keys! Answer keys!  If your freebie has questions, puzzles, math problems, etc., provide answer keys.  Never skip this component. 
    ·     What’s wrong with this picture?  A free download about following directions with no directions.  We have one!   Making one’s product free does not negate one’s obligation to explain how to use it!  Like answer keys, instructions for use are a must for all products, and they should be attached to the item itself, rather than presented as part of the product description.
    ·     Dress up your free handout with its own colorful cover page that will, in turn, do double duty as an eye-catching thumbnail.
    ·     Give your free item as much general appeal as possible. Create a lesson that will be helpful to any teacher who needs materials for your freebie’s particular topic.
    ·     Remember that teachers are always on the lookout for sponge activities, puzzles, games, and classroom management materials.  Some of our most popular free downloads are these types of resources.
    ·     Mark your free items with appropriate grade-level(s) rather than presenting them as K-12 adaptable.    
    ·     Ask someone to proofread your free item.  Ask a second person to read it.  Then post it.

    What could be better than having a top-notch sales rep working for you 24/7?  A whole fleet of them, that’s what!  Why not create a variety of free downloads to reflect your particular skills and the assortment of products in your store? Send several of your favorites into the field via the weekly 10 Free Downloads.  If you have filled their sample cases with useful tidbits, the results will be sweet.  Guaranteed!

    Margaret's TpT Store

    Tuesday, May 31, 2011

    Tuesday Tip: Using Zip Files

    Many sellers use zip files to upload their products to TpT. Zip files are a way to group several documents together and they open automatically upon download. You may want to use a zip file if:

    • You want to include more than one file or formats (for example, a PDF document and a PowerPoint)
    • Your product is very large
    • You want to include a format not supported by TpT (for example, .pub)
    Creating a Zip File is easy:
    1. Select the files you wan to zip
    2. right click
    3. select send to on the pop-up menu 
    4. select compressed (zipped) file
    The docs in your zip file are all copies - you will still have your originals unzipped. 

    If you upload a zip file to TpT, you will need to make your own thumbnails as the thumbnail generator does not work with zip files. Another option is to choose your thumbnails from your preview as that will load into the generator as a default when the main product does not work. If you don't load any thumbnails, buyers will see the zip icon above instead of your thumbnail - not very attractive. 

    Also, in the product description, be sure to tell buyers what formats are in the zip file. You don't want someone buying a format that they do not have the program to open. 

    Friday, May 27, 2011

    Creating a Teachers Pay Teachers Store Ad

    First off, I need to preface this post by saying that not everyone thinks that store ads are a good idea and many, many products on TpT do not include them. I believe that this is a huge missed opportunity for those sellers. However, with that said, I must also admit that it took me a long time to decide to include an ad with my products. I felt that the self-promotion would turn buyers off and that they would resent finding an ad on something they paid for. I now feel that a one-page ad at the end of the product is acceptable. We are so used to seeing advertisements - on the internet, in magazines, on the bus, even before movies. I think the risk of offending is low - unless your ad is pages and pages long.

    So, how do you create an ad?
    First off, it should be attractive and appealing. Ideally, it shouldn't be too crowded, but (at least for me) that is challenging and I am fairly sure I have failed on that point. At the very least, your add should contain:
    • Your name/TpT store name and logo if you have one.
    • A short message to the buyer about your products and store.
    • A link to your TpT store.
    Other things you might want to include:
    • A thank you to the customer for buying or downloading your free product
    • A request that the buyer rate your product.
    • Links to other products the customer might be interested in
    • Links to your facebook, blog, website, twitter
    • A special offer if you have one. 
    • Positive buyer comments/testimonials
    As you can see, that is a lot for a single page. You will want to think carefully about what to include. To the right are several examples of sellers' ads, each one taking a different approach. You will need to decide what is right for you. 
    Links to Products and Pages
    Whatever you do, you will want to include links for your buyers to follow. There are several ways to do this:
    Embedding the link in the text  This means that the buyer clicks on the hyperlinked text to open the page. The buyer will not be able to see the url, just the text. 
    Pros: It looks much better. Compare:
    Rachel Lynette's TpT Store http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Rachel-Lynette
    It takes up less space.
    Cons: The link may not work. If you are using a Word doc, the user has to Ctrl-click to get the link to work and not everyone knows this. 
    If the document is printed out, the link is completely useless.  
     Including the entire link  This means that the buyer sees and clicks on the entire link URL.
    Pros: You can be sure the link will work.
    If the document is printed out, the URL is there for someone to type into a web browser.
    Cons: It doesn't look all that great
    It takes up a lot of space
    If the document is printed out, a buyer still may not want to bother to type out a long URL  
    Using a URL shortener such as bit.ly  This means that the buyer see and clicks on the shortened URL.
     Pros: You can be sure the link will work.
    If the document is printed out, the URL is there for someone to type into a web browser.
    The URL is short, so easy to type into a browser. Also easy to Twitter. 
    Bit.ly, tracks clicks so you can see how many clicks your link has received. This is actually a very cool feature. I can tell you from my own tracking that people do click on these links!
     Cons: People who are not familiar with URL shorteners may be confused or suspicious. 
    There is no guarantee that the companies behind these shortener websites will stay in business or keep your links - it is not necessarily forever. If yours should go belly up, get hacked, or whatever, your may not work.
    As you can see, there is a lot to consider. I used a mix on mine.

    Now that I have my Ad, where do I put it? 
    In my opinion, it is the last page of all of your products free and for-sale. However, some people put it at the start right after their cover page or intro page. Some people only put it on free products. You need to decide what you are comfortable with.

    Thursday, May 26, 2011

    Creating Thumbnails

    Like the Free Preview, including thumbnail images on your product listing page is super important. Here is why: 
    • Your primary thumbnail (the first one you load) will be visible when buyers are searching and browsing. If a buyer likes what she sees, she is likely to click on the image to go to the product page.
    • Thumbnails enhance your product listing page and give the buyer an idea of what is in the product. In fact, since most products do have thumbnails, if yours does not, the buyer may be suspicious of the product.
    • Thumbnails sometimes end up in google images searches - which means that someone may stumble on your product while searching images for something similar.
    • The site owner likes bright and colorful images for the newsletter - your free product will have a better chance of being chosen if the primary thumbnail is appealing.
    The easiest way to make thumbnails is to let TpT's thumbnail generator do the work.When you post your product, you can choose this option at the bottom of the page. However, your product may be in a format that does not work with the generator or the images may come out wrong - wonky and out of alignment. Or if your product is really long, you might want to use pages closer to the end. The thumbnail generator only lets you choose from the first 20. In this case, you may want to create your own thumbnails.


    Making Your Own Thumbnails
    There are several ways to make thumbnails. I think this is the easiest. Use the zoom function to zoom out enough so that you can see several complete pages on your screen at one time - 50% works well for me.
    1. Get your clipping tool. If you have Vista or Windows 7 it should be in your Accessories folder. If you have a Mac I don't know what you use (please comment on this post and share if you know!)
    2. Use the tool to select the page you want to make into a thumbnail. I think it looks nice to leave a thin border.
    3. Save your thumbnail using a relevant name. This is really important for google. So for the thumbnail above, instead of calling it "SH1", I called it "Scavenger Hunts 1" (BTW, if you use the TpT thumbnail generator, it assigns a relevant name). I would suggest number them so that you know in what order you want to load them onto TpT.
    4. Use the "Upload my Own" option at the bottom of the product listing page, then just load them up!
    A couple more tips
    • If your product is loaded in a format that the thumbnail generator does not recognize, it will use your free preview file. If you have written PREVIEW across these pages, that is what buyers will see on the thumbnail. Personally, I think that looks bad.
    • I have seen some people load their store ad as one of their thumbnail images. I think that is a really bad idea. Even if your product is short - only 3 pages, better to have only 3 thumbnails than to include an ad.

      You may also want to check out:
      Creating an Effective Product Preview
      Product Posting DOs and DON'Ts

    Wednesday, May 25, 2011

    Ratings and Feedback on Teachers Pay Teachers

    Ratings and feedback are super important on Teachers Pay Teachers. Here is why:

    • Buyers want to know they are buying quality products. When you have a product that has been rated several or even many times at 3.8 or above, buyers will know that the product is a good one. Of course the opposite is also true, poorly rated products will scare potential buyers away.
    • As TpT grows, there will be more competing products. For example, right now there are at least five, and possibly more products that feature spelling activities that can be used with any list. Why buy one that is rated at 2.6 when several are at 3.9 and 4.0? I compare it to looking for a recipe on Allrecipes.com. When I search the term, I get back 200 recipes. I don't even look at ones that don't have at least four stars. 
    • TpT will soon be undergoing a major redesign. The new format features ratings more prominently when buyers are searching and browsing. Ratings will be displayed in a graphic star format, making it really easy for buyers to spot the high (and low) rated products.
    • Oftentimes, products are organized by rating as the default when buyers are using the browse function. That means that they will see the higher rated products first and may not ever even get to the lower rated ones. Buyers alway have the option of sorting by rating. 
    • All your product ratings are combined to create a seller rating for you. Your seller rating is displayed with each product page and in your store. You want a rating you can be proud of. Also, when you have a new product that does not yet have a rating, sellers may look at your overall rating to get an idea about the quality of your work.
    • It is really fun to get positive comments! It feels good to know you have created a product that other's value enough to comment on. 
    As you can see, the TpT rating system is similar to a traditional grading system. Because buyers will be evaluating your work on these points, it is a good idea to keep them in mind while you are creating your products. 

    Get More Ratings
    Ratings are great when you can get them, but one of the frustrations of selling on TpT is that few buyers leave ratings. You may may have sold 200 downloads of a particular product and maybe 2 or 3 people will leave feedback. Here are some ways to encourage your buyers to leave more ratings:
    • Create free products. More people are likely to rate them because more people download them than products that are for sale. They also tend to rate higher since they haven't paid for the product. Once you have some positive ratings, you could choose to put a price on the product. Also, all those ratings you got become part of your overall seller rating. 
    • Ask for ratings. On seller information page in your product (your store ad) you can ask sellers to come back and rate the product. It helps if you include a link (this will mean you will have to edit the product once it is listed in order to get the product page link and then reload it onto TpT). You can also put the request in your product description, like Teachers Unleashed did on this excellent free product.
    • Offer a deal. You could, for example offer a free product to buyers who rate a certain number of your products or a specific product. Here is the deal that I run. It is posted on my facebook notes page, my TpT store and on my blog. Not many people have taken advantage of it, but it is nice when they do. Here is a much more successful approach from David. When you download this free product, there is a note that says that if you rate the product, you can have a product worth a dollar or less from the seller's store for free. 123, people have taken him up on his offer. That is 123 positive ratings that all get added into his total seller rating - and the free product that is up for rating is all of one page, so he clearly did not slave over it for weeks. This is a great example of how to get maximum benefit from a free product. 
    Of course, when you ask for ratings, you run the risk of receiving poor ones, but if your product is a good one, this shouldn't be a problem. 

    Dealing with Bad Ratings
    A bad rating can be heartbreaking, especially if it is a product that you worked hard on and are proud of. There are several things you can do when you receive a bad rating.
    • First off, evaluate the rating...does the rater have a point? Perhaps you need to revise your product and/or your description. 
    • One nice feature of the ratings page is that you can respond. If the person rating your product misunderstood what the product included or felt the price was too high or whatever, you can respond by politely defending your product. This doesn't get rid of the low number, but it does explain things for future buyers. 
    • If this is the very first rating, consider deleting the product and relisting it. When you delete a product, the ratings get deleted with it. Start again with a clean slate. 
    • Ask for help. If it is a free product, ask your buddies in the seller's forum to rate it. Here is a really nice example of how that can work. This is a free product that has been up for at least a year. Recently, someone rated it for the first time. At the bottom, you can see the original comment. I think the rating she left was like a 2.6. I actually didn't ask for help, just brought it up as a question in the forums - was she right, should I have included an answer key? Most people agreed with her, yes I should have, so I revised and reposted and responded to her comment. But the best part was that several other sellers rated the product, and now it is rated at a respectable 3.8!
    • If the rating is truly unfair, or just plain irrelevant, you can write to TpT and ask to have it deleted. 
    Spread the Ratings Love
    Helping each other out is one of the benefits of joining the TpT seller community. If you see a free product that you love, by all means, leave a rating. If you see one that is not so great, there is no reason to leave poor feedback - it is free after all. Just move on. 

    If you purchase a great product, again, leave feedback. If you purchase a product that turns out to be a disappointment, consider contacting the seller in his or her Q&A section instead of leaving a poor rating. This gives the seller an opportunity to address your concerns without harming his or her rating. In many cases, the seller is more than happy to make it up to you - perhaps even sending you a free product.


    Tuesday, May 24, 2011

    Pricing Products on Teachers Pay Teachers

    You have slaved over your product for days, maybe even weeks or months. It is a wonder to behold  - teaching gold for anyone who might be lucky enough to purchase it. And despite the fact that this amazing piece of work is truly priceless, you must do the impossible - you must in fact,  price it.

    There are many things to consider when pricing a product. Obviously, you don't want to over price or no one will buy. But under pricing is also not a good idea. When sellers drastically under price their products, many buyers just assume the product is garbage. Further, you really do sell yourself short when you under price - you worked hard, you deserve compensation. What bothers me the most about sellers who under price is that it hurts all of us. If everyone did it, TpT would turn into a giant dollar store and that is not going to help any of us.

    Here are some questions to ask yourself when setting a price:
    • How large is my product - how many pages/slides are included?
    • How much use will a buyer get from my product can it only be used once a year (a Halloween word search, for example) or can it be used again and again through out the year?
    • How much time and money did I put into this product? Did I pay for clip art?
    • What are similar products on TpT selling for?
    • Who am I marketing to? If you happen to be a K-1 seller, you can probably price a little higher than those who are selling for the older grades. 
    • Is it important that my product be featured in the $5.00 and under store?
    • What would a similar product cost if it were purchased at an educational book store?
    • How much, realistically, would a teacher be willing to pay?
    I create mostly worksheets for grades 3-6 and my personal rule of thumb is about .20 a page. This would mean that a 20 page product would sell for about $4.00. However, some of my best selling products are priced higher while some of my less popular products are less expensive. My products used to be less expensive, but I started raising my prices a few months ago and found that sales did not fall. Remember that the price of your product does not have to be static. If it isn't selling, you can lower it and if it seems like it is selling a lot, you could try increasing the price a little and see if your sales continue.

    Creating Quality Products for Teachers Pay Teachers

    Creating quality products incredibly important on TpT. Quality products will get you high ratings, return customers, and higher search placement. Further, high quality products keep people coming back to TpT and that helps all of us. High quality products are:

    • visually appealing
    • appropriate for the grade for which they are being marketed
    • complete - the buyer should have everything he or she needs to use the product
    • not specific to your particular school or classroom
    • free of errors and typos
    • not overloaded with ads and link to your store, facebook, blog etc.  
    One way to get an idea of what quality projects include is to look at some free ones on TpT

    Let's take a closer look at what most products contain:

    Cover Page
    Your cover page will most likely be your primary thumbnail for the product. This means that buyers will see it, along with the title when they are browsing and searching. That means you really want it to "pop" off the page and catch the reader's attention. A good cover page is colorful and not too crowded. Include the title in a large font, perhaps a picture, your name/store name, and maybe a sentence or a few bullet points to get the idea of your product across. Bordering the page with a box is also a nice touch. 

    Teacher Information Pages
    Your first page(s) should tell the buyer about the product - what is included (table of contents), how it can be used, materials needed, suggestions for differentiation and extensions and anything else the teacher should know. Consider creating a cover template that you always use - this will make your "brand" easily recognizable. You may also want to include your copyright information here.

    Content
    Everything the buyer will need to implement the product. These may include: student instructions, worksheets, handouts, answer keys, grading rubrics, PowerPoints, labels, game cards etc. These should be presented in a logical order. Other things to consider:
    • If you use color, make sure it will print out well in grayscale
    • Remember that it will be printed out - watch your margins so that everything prints
    • Some Word fonts do not work when they are downloaded onto another computer (the buyer may not have your fonts), formatting can also get messed up. Consider saving in PDF format.
    • Use space well. Pages should not be too crowded or have huge amounts of white space
    • Make sure your fonts are easily readable - yes your font is cute, but does it make your eyes hurt?
    Store Ad
    Buyers who like your product will want to know where to find more. Include a page (yes just one), with a link to your store and possibly links to some other related products. You could also include a thank you to the buyer (though many put that at the very beginning with the teacher information), information about you and/or your products, a request that the buyer rate the product, follow you on facebook or take a look at your blog.

    If you can get someone else to proofread, that is a great idea. Sometimes our eyes skip over our own mistakes. Once you are sure your product is as good as it can get, you are ready to post!

    You may also want to view Creating and Effective Preview.

    Creating an Effective Product Preview

    The purpose of your product preview is to give the buyer a good idea about what is in the product. However, if you give away too much, there is no reason for the buyer to actually purchase the product. It is a good idea to include your cover page and teacher information page/table of contents in your preview. Information about your products and a link to your store is also a good inclusion (at the end). As for the rest of the preview, there are several different approaches.

    Sample Pages
    Most sellers include sample pages in their previews. Many sellers intentionally  make their sample pages unusable by placing a large "PREVIEW" or other word across the page. You can see that this is what Laura Candler did here. One advantage of this approach is that you can include more pages since they are not usable. This is also a good approach if your product only has a few pages. Of course, you must save your preview in a PDF to make this work, but PDFs are actually preferred by many buyers.

    Many other sellers (me included) want buyers to be able to try the product, so we do not make them unusable. My own thoughts are that if they try it, they may come back to buy. I realize, of course, that many teachers will just use the free pages and never come back to buy but I like giving away a little bit for free.

    Thumb Nails
    Some sellers create thumbnails of either all or some of the pages in the product. This can be a really effective way to display your content without giving away usable pages. Take a look at how Caro Carroll did this hereThe easiest way to make thumbnails like these is to use your snipping tool (find it in Accessories). I made this thumbnail preview (before I knew about the snipping tool) by zooming out on my product so that all the pages were visible on the screen and then taking a screen shot and editing it Paint. Thumbnails can be very effective, but if you idea is really original and fairly easy to copy, you may not want to have the entire product out for everyone to see (and copy).  And yes, copying another person's product is illegal and unethical, but unfortunately,  people still do it.

    Part of the Page
    Some sellers include only part of a page in their preview. Here is an example from Teacher Tricks. I personally find this approach to be confusing. In many cases I don't know what the purpose of the page is since part of it is missing.

    The Combination Approach
    Some sellers combine samples with thumbnails, which can be extremely effective.

    Make sure that your preview is formatted properly - I have seen many previews with skewed margins, page breaks in the wrong places, or a blank page in the middle or at the end for no apparent reason. One way to think about previews is to imagine that you are the buyer. If you downloaded the preview, would you understand what the product was about? And further, would you buy it?

    Monday, May 23, 2011

    Product Posting DOs and DON'Ts for TpT

    Posting a product on Teachers Pay Teachers is easy, but it is also super important. Which boxes you check and how you fill in the description field can make a huge difference in sales.

    DO read the fine print
    This will keep you from posting file types that are not supported, give you valuable tips, and help you to understand the posting process

    DO include a Preview File
    If you don't include a preview, all the buyer has to go on is your description and the 4 thumbnails. People like to know what they are buying! Check out this post for more on creating an effective preview.

    DO include a descriptive title
    In some cases, your title may be the only thing a potential buyer sees when deciding whether to click or move on. It is also a big deal for google. Google looks at titles so make sure that you start with relevant key words.  Put keywords first:

    Bad Title:      Fun and challenging activities for learning about adjectives.
    Good Title:   Adjective Activities - Fun and Challenging, 20 pgs. Answer Keys Included

    Take your cue from ebay and make your title long and descriptive. If you have extra space in the title field, add extra words like "Common Core Correlated" "Fun and Challenging"

    DON'T use all caps  in your title (or anywhere else)
    ITS ANNOYING! I BET YOU ARE ALREADY ANNOYED! And, in internetspeak, it means you are yelling. And also, you are a teacher for goodness sake, use text appropriately. Please.

    DO write a thorough description
    You are writing for both potential buyers and google, and both like information. At the very least you should include an overview of the product, why it is useful, and how teachers might use it. Include relevant information like the number of pages (I know there is a field for this, but it is good to put it in the description too), if there are grading rubrics, answer keys, differentiation plans etc. Make sure your description is accurate and clear. If you mislead a buyer, he or she may be upset enough to leave negative feedback and you don't want that!You are writing first and foremost for people, but you should also make sure you have included relevant keywords for google.

    DON'T forget to proofread
    Since TpT does not have a spell checker, you might want to write your description in Word first and then copy and paste it into the description field. Since you are a teacher and you are marketing to teachers mistakes in speling are particularly noticeable (see?)

    DO choose three types of resources and three subject areas
    The more categories your product is listed under, the more it will be seen by buyers. If your product is very specific, you can always add in the "Other" category.

    DON'T exaggerate your grade range
    This is a big pet-peeve with many of us. It is highly unlikely that your product is appropriate for both kindergarten and high school students (and yes, some people do check all the boxes). Although there are a few resources that span the grades, most do not. Not only does this practice make it harder for buyers to find appropriate material for their grade level, it also reflects poorly on the seller. If I am a sixth grade teacher and I see a product with huge fonts and extremely cutesy clip art that is being sold to upper elementary, I know that this is a seller who is not being honest. Likewise, if I teach kindergarten and the product his teeny-tiny write on lines and really big words, then I know this seller is not for me. Clearly, students come at many different levels even within a grade, so you can add a grade or two, just be reasonable...please.

    DON'T under price
    I know it can be tempting to set your prices low in the beginning to attract buyers, and going a little low is probably a good idea, but drastically under pricing (selling 80 usable pages for $5 or 20 usable pages for $1) devalues your work. Often people assume that if it is cheap, it is junk. People will pay for quality.Further, if everyone priced cheap, TpT would turn into a giant dollar store and that isn't going to help any of us. Take look at similar product to get an idea of how you should price. My personal rule of thumb is .20-.25 a page, so a 20 page product would be $4.00 - $5.00 (higher if you are selling for K-1). But there are a lot of other factors to consider like how much work you put into it and how useful the product is. .

    DO include thumbnails
    Your primary thumbnail is usually your cover page. It will attract attention. The other three give the buyer an idea of what they are getting, and hopefully convince him or her to download the preview. If the thumbnail generator is clogged or makes your pages look weird, you can create your own thumbnails using your snipping tool.

    DO check your listing
    Once your listing is live check the page for mistakes and make sure everything looks hunky-dorey. Then, you are ready to market!

    Creating Your First Product for TpT

    The first product you post on Teachers Pay Teachers must be free. That may seem like a drag since you want to start making some money ASAP, but there are some very good reasons for this rule:

    • Your free product shows potential buyers what kind of work they can expect from you as a seller. It will be featured prominently in your TpT store 
    • Your free product can double as an ad for your TpT store, products, blog etc. 
    • Free products are more likely to get rated than for-sale products - and you need to build your ratings. 
    • Free products bring buyers to TpT, which is good for all of us. 
    • High Quality free products are eligible for the TpT Weekly Newsletter. 
    As you can see, your free product is important! So it is important that you make sure it is a quality product. You will also want to make sure that it represents your niche in both grade level and content. With that said, it is also a good idea to make your free product appeal to as many buyers as possible. So if you teach high school science, rather than posting a product focused on a specific content area, the Parts of a Cell, for example, you might want to spread your net wider and consider something like Safety Rules in the Lab. 

    Another thing to keep in mind is that quantity does not equal quality. There has been some concern over the last year or so about the large number of freebies  - especially big ones, available on TpT. The new rule for possible inclusion in the newsletter is ten pages or less, so don't go crazy with your freebie. It has to be good, but it does not have to be - and probably shouldn't be, long. 
    Your product should include the following elements:
    • A Cover Page 
    • Instructions for use and if applicable, a table of contents
    • copyright information (can go on your table of contents page)
    • The product itself
    • Answer keys if needed. 
    You may also want to include a one-page ad at the end with a link to your store, facebook, blog etc. 

    Unless you want to make your own thumbnail images, you are ready to post (When you are posting a product for sale, there is an additional step of creating a Preview document, but you don't need that for a free product). However, in my opinion, you should wait until you have at least a couple other products ready to post and then post them all at the same time. That way when buyers are thrilled with your free product (as they certainly will be) they will be able to immediately purchase from you as opposed to being disappointed that there is nothing from you except your one freebie. 

    Posting is easy, just follow the steps, but there are some things to be aware of so you will want to read Posting DOs and DONTs

    You may also want to take a peek at Creating Quality Products

    Saturday, May 21, 2011

    Creating Your Teachers Pay Teachers Profile

    Okay, now that you have TpT seller's account you are ready to create your profile! The form looks long, but remember, you don't have to fill out every field and you can always leave some for later or go back and change things later. Here are some tips and things to think about as you create your profile.

    Real Name or Alias
    The first decision you will have to make is the name you want to use for your store/profile. Many people use their real names (including me) and that is a fine way to go. However, there is also a large group of sellers who choose not to use their real names. A few examples include: Secondary Solutions,  Made for 1st Grade, Teachers Unleashed, and PowerPoint Maniac.  Some reasons for using an alias include:

    • You are worried that you will get in trouble with your administration/district for selling your materials online. It seems absurd to me, but there could be conflict of interests issues. 
    • You are worried about your students finding your materials, many of which include answer keys
    • You already have an established brand or business using another name.
    • You want to keep your business self separate from your personal self.
    • You are coming to TpT as a team, working with one or more other people. 
    Posting a Picture
    Ideally, this is a real picture of you. In discussions on the TpT seller's forums, several people have said that they like to buy from a person, not a cartoon, and certainly not the blue icon that shows up if you don't post anything at all. However, if you are choosing to sell under an alias you may want to go with the clip art option. I have seen all kinds of things - animals, school-related objects, clip art. Here is mine. I tried it for a few days but people said they liked the photo better. Whatever you choose, remember that buyers are going to associate that picture with you!

    The Rest of the Profile
    Not sure what to write? Looking at other sellers' profiles might give you some ideas. Here are some to start with:

    Margaret Whisnant ~ Margaret's profile is a nice example of the biographical approach. 
    Sunny Days ~ All those awards sure look impressive! If you earned them, don't be shy!
    Wise Guys ~ Wise Guys is more about marketing than giving a biographical sketch and that is fine too. It is your profile, you can do what you want with it.
    Rachel Lynette ~ Like Wise Guys, my profile is also a little heavy on the marketing, but I also managed to get some basics in there about my experience and background.
    Deanna Jump ~ Deanna, the superstar #1 seller on TpT has a pretty minimal profile, so no worries if you just want to write a few sentences. Just do write something!

    Hit Submit and Take a Look
    Congratulations, you have a TpT profile! In a few days google will pick it up and when people google your name (or alias), it will pop right up!

    You've probably noticed that your profile doesn't look like the other ones on TpT, or at least it doesn't yet. Once you add products and maybe some branding, you will be on your way! 

    Signing Up as a Seller on Teachers Pay Teachers


    The first thing you will notice is that you have two options. You can sign up for free or you can pay $60. Free might sound like a good way to start and if you are really unsure about selling on TpT or just flat broke, this might be a good option for you...but despite being free, it comes with a cost. When you sign up for free, TpT takes 40% commission plus .30 per sale. So if you sell something for $5.00, you only get to keep $2.70. Compare that to the Premium Account in which TpT only takes 15%. That same $5.00 product would net you $4.25. Big difference. Here is a chart with more comparisons.

    One thing to be aware of is that you will need a Paypal account to sell. That is how you get paid. Basically, TpT takes care of all the sales transactions and then pays you once a quarter through PayPal (unless you make over $500 in a quarter, then you get a paper check, a nice goal to shoot for). Paypal is free, easy and secure, so go ahead and get one.

    Next you get to fill in some basic information - don't worry about your user name, that is NOT your the name that will appear on your TpT profile or store, You get to choose that later. (you will also have an opportunity to opt out of using your real name on the site, so if you want to be the Batman of TpT and use an alias, you can totally do that, and in fact, many sellers do.)  Once you finish registering, you will get an email with some nifty suggestions about what to do next. They are in fact, quite nifty, and you should follow them.

    So, are you ready to sign up? You can do it right here or click on the pictures at the top of this post.

    Then come right back here and get some good tips for how to Set Up Your Profile.