Case Study master page

Carrd is a new, easy to use site building tool. By limiting options and features to those which are most useful, it allows noobs to build nice websites without the overwhelm of tools like WordPress.

Certainly there are places where more power will be needed, but frequently people get stuck because of complexity and end up with nothing.

Carrd will be a solution to that problem for many.

Case studies

Cases studies of Carrd in action seems like the best way to teach by example. Below is a list of Carrd sites I have built to

  • Act as example of how to build sites with Carrd
  • Show a simple drag & drop page builder in action
  • Show how the many templates can be customized as needed

Case study sites

When you click a link to these case study sites it will open in a new window. That allows you to compare them & explore the features.

  •   This is a more advanced Carrd site that makes use of sections to simulate multiple pages. This site also has embed code from my Shopify store. When clicked these buttons will take a buyer directly to a checkout page on OakCo, which is the name of my Shopify store. There are several advantage to this approach which I discuss HERE (Coming soon).

10 Reasons authors should write product reviews to build their platform


​If you add Amazon affiliate links to your product reviews, Amazon will pay you a commission for ANYTHING they purchase on Amazon within the next 24 hours! So a review for an inexpensive item may generate unexpectedly large profits.

Affiliate income like this is much like royalties from  book sales. It's passive income. You write the review once and you profit every time someone clicks the link. ​

Liberation from Platform Guilt & Shame

You are constantly told you must have a platform. You must develop a following. You must grow your email list. You must post on social media. You would need full-time staff to accomplish everything you MUST do. 

Even if correct, no aspiring author can do all that and still have time to write!

Unfortunately, much of the usual advice is silly. It is obviously written by people who have a staff and are good at copywriting. 

If you are unknown as an author no one is looking for you online. You can't write about your book ideas and expect to gain a following. So, what do you do?

Use product reviews to master short story

Does suggesting you do product reviews sound like being told to write ads? That's not the kind of product reviews I am suggesting. Study this article on writing good product reviews and you will see why I compare it to short story writing. ​

​Short story is a demanding genre. The more you practice, the better you get. With product reviews even your initial writing has the potential to earn income. As income begins to trickle in you will be motivated to keep writing.

Product reviews become your Platform!

It's your site. You get to choose what you publish. Write to your interests, not the requirements of a distant editor. Write your product reviews as short stories you are building your platform.

Use the About page and blog to market your writing services. Your pitch letters can direct buyers to your ​About page. Once on your website media buyers can look at your product reviews (Short stories) and see if your quality and style is something they will pay for.

Product reviews drive traffic to your platform

Your product reviews will include high traffic keywords and phrases from your niche. ​If your name is "Jane Doe" and you want to write historical fiction there isn't much you can write that will grow traffic. However, if you were to write reviews of the locations you have researched for your books, visitors to those sites might find you. If your book research took you to Stonehenge, writing reviews of the places you stayed & the restaurants you visited might attract traffic that would also buy your book. 

Polish your writing

Writing product reviews as if they are short stories will force you to polish your writing. The suggestions in this article are for short story writers, but I think they apply equally to the kind of product reviews I am suggesting you write.​ 

Use small blocks of time productively 

Aspiring authors have day jobs, kids, elderly parents, and a thousand other demands on their time. You can only take the stupid suggestion to "Sleep Less" so far.  Product reviews can be small enough projects to be completed in small blocks of time. 

Meal preparation becomes product research

If you write about food then your meals are an opportunity to try products on which you could write reviews. For example, I am developing I expect to write product reviews about the sausages I order from Amazon. The topics are endless. Quality, price, fulfillment, etc. The extra cost of buying products which are more expensive than you would usually consider are probably a tax deductible business expense. 🙂

Playing with your kids becomes research

Educational toys is a huge wasteland on Amazon. The fact is most toys touted as educational aren't! They break easily. They lack instructions. They are  not really educational. If you are looking for electronic toys it is especially bad.

Buy toys that look interesting and video your kids using them. Use their antics as the basis for a funny short story that points out the good and the bad. If your niche is child development, you just gave your platform a boost.​

Build authority in your niche or genre

Why should you believe anything I say here?

I know of people who earn a lot of money from their Amazon referrals. I have earned some occasionally. In retirement I have been looking around for ways to increase my passive income. I realized if I got serious about building product review sites it might work really well. Having a few successful product review websites would also do wonders for my credibility. If I can do it, so can you.

My review site development plans


Product review development plans

People are passionate about the thousands of sausage varieties. It fits both the gourmet food & life style niches. Product testing can involve the whole family. Lots of cookbook ideas. There is a significant group of DIY sausage makers.

Cameras are a high profit, high competition niche. No small business owner can hope to compete for rankings with companies like Canon or Nikon. I think I can write some product reviews about camera filters that will attract the same audience. The Amazon cookie lasts for 24 hours. If they buy an expensive camera after reading my filter review I will get a commission. 

Dried Stuff 

Dried foods that keep well are attractive to survivalists, Preparing dried foods from their own produce is popular with many gardeners. Testing purchased dried stuff and testing dried food creation products will both make good product review topics.

Electronic toys come with a lot of problems. Just read a few reviews. They break. They have no decent instructions. They don't work. They don't arrive on time. New ones become available constantly. I have nine grandchildren under 11. If I video them opening presents and learning to use the new toys I have all the material I could want for writing killer product reviews.

If I am feeling really brave I will start writing reviews in this category. I have a feeling I would do better to find someone who is already familiar with them. If you are a writer with a significant other who is a police officer or other professional who wears one of these to work, this would be a great domain. Contact me if that sounds interesting. 

Write about what you use yourself

Use Dragon to make your writing richer

Dragon encourages me to use words I can't spell

As a graduate of the Dick, Jane & Sally school of reading I never learned phonics. ​I can't sound out words. Spelling has always been a mystery to me. My reading vocabulary is much larger than my spelling vocabulary. Spell check helps but only if you can come close to the proper spelling. When you misspell so badly the spell checker can't make the correct suggestion you have a problem. 

I limit my word choices​

Constant spell checking  keeps me from getting into the flow of my writing. It slows my already pathetic typing speed. Over time I have learned to limit my vocabulary to words I can usually spell correctly.  ​English is a rich language. There is always a best word to use in a situation. By limiting my word choice my writing  has less depth. It may not convey the emotion I intend.  

I am a slow (25 WPM) typist​

I have to watch my fingers. Add that to the constant spell checking and my hourly word output is pathetic. ​I saw the articles about using speech recognition to speed the creation of text and thought it sounded great. So, I spent the $300 and  gave it a try. 

It didn't work​

I couldn't get enough volume through the mic. The word recognition was dreadful. I couldn't return it so I was out what was for me, A LOT OF MONEY.​ 

I tried again​

I had the same problems. I bought a Blue Yeti mic. I still couldn't get the volume I needed. I bought a new sound card for my computer. No joy there either. More time and money down the drain.

I found Scott Baker​

He wrote Training Your Dragon and is an active participant on the Facebook, Dragon Riders group. ​It turned out my previous problems were all settings and configuration problems. I set up my system the way he suggested and the accuracy is astonishing. I am just getting started but I can already double my output. I have serious hopes for additional improvements.

I immediately noticed

that words I don't normally use were being transcribed accurately. That encouraged me to expand my word choices as I dictate. I was rewarded with richer text. It will take me a while to banish my old habit of restricting the words I use but my writing will be improved.

Not mentioned elsewhere​

I have not seen this mentioned other places. Lots of people are forced to use Dragon by physical limitations. Repetitive motion injuries are common among writers. Back problems abound. Weight gains from sitting to much cause a variety of problems. These issues my keep people early their living. It can a serious business. Hopefully, this additional insight about the benefits of Dragon may encourage  you to go for a ride 🙂

Below is my affiliate link to the software version Scott Baker recommends. I will get a small cash thank you if you buy using that link. If that offends you, just go directly to Amazon and look it up for yourself. 

Mindmap of Writerville

Writerville is, in part, a test of Dragon Naturally Speaking. My typing skills are bad and getting worse as I age. I must find a faster way to enter my content if I am to have success online. Dragon seemed like a possible answer.

I am a recent convert to mindmapping. I didn’t see any use for it for years, but for some reason it made sense now. Below is the map I developed today showing my plans for building out It is early days and no doubt many things will change but this seems like a good start.

My plan is to dictate into Dragon using the mind map as an outline. I will use the Dragon text output as the script for making a Camtasia video that I can upload to Youtube. The text becomes SEO material I can place in the video description. My hope is that this entire process goes much faster than if I had to type everything by hand. Time will tell.

Update. To bad all that text is to small to read unless you have something like an iPad where you can expand the screen as much as necessary. I will have to figure out a better way to present this. mind map

Jetpack from WordPress

Jetpack 4.5 is now available

I have not used Jetpack in the past for several reasons:

  • There is a fee per domain. Since I have lots of little sites, it gets expensive fast
  • I had heard about code bloat and speed issues
  • Developers seem to hate it

I plan to test the $9/mo. business version

  • Current reviews show that Jetpack does not slow sites down or bloat the code
  • It has 33 features presently and is growing
  • 4.5 comes with video hosting and should let me avoid some other costs
  • It has an ad module for generating income

A lot of the people  I work with find WordPress hard. I find WordPress hard. There are hundreds of blogs and books that claim it is easy. That is only true if you have some coding skills. There is nothing simple about figuring out plugin conflicts.

With Jetpack all the features are included in a single plugin. Since the plugin comes from the creators of WordPress there are not going to be any conflicts.

Cheap, fast, good enough

There is an old joke that says Good, Fast, Cheap. Pick two. It applies to software and many other products. If you want something good and you need it immediately, it’s going to cost you. If you want cheap but good, you are going to have to wait for it.

From where I sit it looks to me like a website built with WordPress, using one of their default domains and Jetpack will be cheap and easy to publish. The Jetpack features will provide the functions needed to make a complete website. Many potential issues which would require developer help are avoided. Bad code is avoided. The environment is simple enough most writers will be able to make minor changes themselves.

If success arrives and a more powerful platform is needed it will be easy to find an experienced developer to take your platform to the next level.

Jetpack seems to be a neglected backwater on Amazon. A search of the Kindle library turned up only a single book on the topic. I think that needs to change.


Dragon Naturally Speaking

Dragon Naturally Speaking is a software tool for converting speech into text. 

It has been around for more than ten years but never really become mainstream. It promises to speed up content creation ​a lot. So why hasn't it taken the content creation world by Storm? In the early years I think the technology really lagged behind the marketing hype. The computers were not a powerful and the software was less mature. Lots of people tried it and found it did not work for them. 

Dragon has gotten stronger over time​

Computers are more powerful and the software has been improved. I recently found The Writer's Guide to Training Your Dragon and am motivated to give it a try. ​The author has been using Dragon for years and points out the improvements. He and many others got past the startup issues because of health issues that left them no choice. 

Even minimal research quickly shows that learning to use Dragon is hard. The actual technique is not that impossibly difficult, but effective application requires  significant shifts in how you approach your writing. Speaking is not the same as typing and it takes a while to make the shift. 

Listen to this podcast

Scott Baker, the author of the book linked to above, did a really good Podcast in January of 2017. He made two points that I found especially helpful. He recorded himself reading some text exactly as he would for recording it for Dragon. That means speaking that includes punctuation. I found it very useful to actually hear how that sounds, not just reading about it.

Want to save $225?​

Scott also pointed out that an older version of the software is just as good as the most recent release. That is the difference between $73 and $300. In my case that is the difference between affordable and completely out of reach.

Don't expect one pass perfection​

To read the Dragon marketing material  you would think a few minutes of training would have you dictating with 99% accuracy. That isn't going to happen. It's going to take more time than you expected. It is going to require more mental flexibility than you anticipated. It may never be a good fit with your workflow or how your mind works.

The people who stick with it all seem to love​ it. There are Facebook Groups of users who will provide advice and encouragement. So I think it is time for me to give it a try.

​The right use case

I think people get discouraged when they are hoping for near perfection and it doesn't happen for them. It is really discouraging to commit hours ​and have nothing to show for it. 

I am looking for use cases where perfection is not required to have product which still has value. I think video descriptions for YouTube videos might be a good one.

Search engines still rely mostly on text to index content. They are not good at working with images or videos. On the other hand no real person is going to actually read a long description of a video. So recognition errors shouldn't matter much. ​I think that means it would be a good place for practice Dragon output that I don't feel like editing. 

Developing video scripts​

For making screencasts of software in use I prefer to wing it. If  I am reading a script, it sounds like I am reading a script, I am going to try recording a video while I speak to render Dragon audio. ​Then I will see if I can sound "normal" reading the rendered text and syncing the new audio to the screencast. I can see that timing will be an issue but hope some simple editing tricks will let me keep audio and video together. 


Graph representing income growth over time

I am not really a writer!

I am a retired guy who would like to have fun and generate side income educating  visitors about subjects where I have developed expertise. I built my first website in 1998 and in 2005 I affiliated with the Google AdSense system. That worked really well for many years.  I loved it because the income was totally passive. As long as I wrote interesting content that would rank in the search engines visitors would find my writing and some would click on the ads. At the end of the month Google would wire me the money. 

All good things end

For a lot of reasons, AdSense doesn't work as well as it used to. The "easy" money resulted in millions of "Made For AdSense" websites with sketchy content that made for a bad user experience. Since Google hates that they tweaked their ranking algorithm and simple informational sites lost much of their power to create income.  

Advertisers have also gotten much smarter about ad targeting. They lock their campaigns down so  their budget is only spent on sites that meet their traffic & demographic profile. That means small sites with limited traffic like mine get the dregs. Ebay listings for example that are poorly targeted bulk purchases by  Ebay on behalf of sellers. They don't pay well and they are usually VERY poorly targeted for my visitors. 

Writers need an income if they want to keep writing.

I, like most writers, hate aggressive, in your face sales efforts. I  find the advice to spend 80% of my time marketing my work and 20% actually writing it repugnant. That's why passive AdSense income was so wonderful. 

Does it have to  be that way?

I hope not. 99% of the internet marketing offers which flood my mailbox want to teach me how to market with power. I am told I should hide the player controls on my videos so visitors have to wqtch them to the end.  I should have an abandoned cart system to retarget people who didn't complete a sale. One video player I have seen even lets me stop a video from playing after a length of time of my choosing. The video will not start again until the viewer has given me an email address.  This is not how I expect to be treated when I visit a new site, and I will not inflict it on my visitors either. 

However, I do need an income!

The promised land of income for writers is to have your own product to sell. That could be a book, a course, or something else which people want to buy. However, I don't have a product to sell. That leaves some kind of affiliate program that has the potential to replace AdSense. It also needs to be products & a business I can feel good about.

Amazon Affiliate program

I think the Amazon Affiliate program might make a good replacement. Amazon is already a trusted seller so people have no issues buying from them. Their affiliate commissions are on the low side and their cookie only lasts 24 hours. However, they have some nice tools to make adding Amazon affiliate links to my sites easy. That means I can start testing their program with minimal time and effort. 

Eight book marketing Mistakes – Review

I just found Reedsy via a Facebook link to this article. I set that link to open this article in a new window so you can read it for yourself.  I am posting it here because it will help visitors understand where and how Writerville can help them with their book marketing.

You're marketing to everyone​

Writerville, was my choice. I have further narrowed that to providing technical tips, tricks, and  advice for writers. Time will tell if that was a good choice.

Picking a domain is hard. Cost & availability being the two most difficult. I have some issues with the conventional domain selection advice. It is obvious many of the popular writing Gurus are technically weak and some of their suggestions are dreadful.

​You don't have a mailing list

That would be me. Although Writerville might change that. You will be able to tell I have gotten onboard the email list train if you get an opt in lightbox while you are reading this post. ​

​"That shouldn't be to hard!"

What a crock!

That statement is an example of how slippery concepts can be.  If by "Setting up"​ they mean open an account at MailChimp and create a list, then it is true. To bad that doesn't buy you much these days.

You need email management​

You need a mailing system that automatically handles the details of list management. Adds, edits, deletes, bounces, should not require you intervention. You need to save your precious time for writing!​ 

Do you write about unrelated topics or genres? Then you need an email management system that will let you subset your list and target your communications. Engagement will be much better if the folks who sign up for your list only receive communications about their specific interests.

This is why products like ActiveCampaign are growing so fast. They are built from the ground up to handle segmentation issues. Of course, no matter how hard they try to keep things simple, the complexity and the learning time increases.

You designed your own cover ​

I have mixed feelings about this one. I have a Kindle Unlimited subscription so I read a lot of books. My biggest frustration is book covers that look like an abstract painting when displayed at the tiny size of an Amazon thumbnail. I lack the artistic sense a designer needs to appreciate all the cover design nuances I am told are important. So cover design is not a topic on which I expect to have anything to say 🙂

Amazon categories and keywords are important​

I have listened to enough webinars about how to rank your books on Amazon to be convinced that understanding how books are given  Best Seller status and rank well is important. I know from some of the garbage that ranks well when I am searching that it must be there because the author has figured out how to game their ranking algorithm.  I have not yet been willing to pay to educate myself. I can see that time coming and it is a topic I expect to discuss on Writerville.

​Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads,  Pinterest, etc.

You can't do it all. Those "name" sites that seem to hire staff and virtual assistants to help them. If you are a one person show you can NOT keep up with it all. The platforms change quickly. Their audiences respond to different things. To get noticed you have to spend enough time on them you understand their culture and the information and presentation which works with a specific audience.

At Writerville I am working  Facebook & YouTube.

That is more than enough to fill the time I can allocate to marketing. I believe the advice to focus on one or two systems and work with them until you are confident they can not be made to work for your audience. I am trying to make the switch to video and both Facebook and YouTube fit into  my plans. 

Does free still work?​

The authors suggest that free still works if not as well as it used to. I have mixed feelings. I spent time today unsubscribing from a lots of lists. Ever had a day where you discovered you were registered for three webinars? Everyone is being told they should do webinars but there is a limit to how many work. They take a lot of time to listen to.

It's painful to spend an hour listening to a webinar and sales pitch and realize the actual content could have been contained on a single PowerPoint slide. While I will no doubt test the use of "Free" in my own marketing I doubt I will say much about it on Writerville.

You do everything yourself​

Guilty. I can accept the argument that to grow you need to delegate. Its hard. I have been collecting ideas about how to work with providers from places like Fivrr, and will probably try it at some point.

The key seems to be what kind of work you are hiring. Non technical people want to hire the technical expertise they lack. That means they can't tell when the programmer is lying to them. That's a bad position to be in.

What I think will work is to hire people to take over routine work you already know how to do. That way you can provide direction and evaluate the quality of their work. You know how long things should take and can immediately see if it has been done properly. That increases they chance both of you will be happy.

​I will be testing my own advice

There are a surprising number of chores required to maintain a website. One I did not anticipate was the nightly crop of spam comments. These people seem to have an unlimited number of domains from which to send their idiot comments.

I moderate all comments so every morning I have a list of them waiting for approval. For the topics I write about it is easy to spot the garbage. I make a list of the IP numbers and ban them. It slows them down a little. However, that is exactly the kind of task which could be assigned to a Virtual Assistant. ​

Is guest posting worth the effort

Guest Posting is often touted as a key to writer platform development .

You MUST have a platform and you must promote it to the world. If you don’t, your writing is doomed to vanish unread. So say the Gurus. They may even be correct. However, the average writer is doing well to find time and energy to write every day. Some of the lists of what writers should also be doing to build their Writer’s Platform would require a full-time commitment by the writer plus a support staff. It’s not going to happen.

What is Guest Posting?

Guest posting is when you write an article for a blog or article site and they publish it where their larger readership will see it. You normally get to include a photograph of yourself, a one or two sentence bio, and a link back to your site. The theory is this displays your work to a large group of potential readers who will follow the link to your Writer’s Platform website and become regular visitors and/or sign up for your mailing list.

Links are a vote of confidence.

Google uses links from other sites to decide how valuable your site is to others. The more links from other good sites the higher your site will rank. Getting your article published on a high ranking related site should help your own site rank. Unfortunately, so many people took advantage of this that the rules have been tightened and obtaining quality inbound links is more difficult than it used to be. Google is very aware of & works hard to discount the value of paid links, link trades, etc.

All links are not the same.

The person publishing your guest post can set your writer’s platform link to nofollow.  In fact, Google encourages/requires them to do that because they see your article as an exchange of value. In other words, a paid link, which is against their guidelines. Of course it also removes much of the value from your guess post.

Guest posting may still have value.

If your post is published on a site with readers who are interested in your topics some of them will follow the link to your site and see what you have to say. Some of them may sign up for your list and ask to be contacted when you publish new material. They in turn may mention your site to their friends/readers which may lead to good links from other sites.

You need good metrics.

The only way you will know if the effort of writing the guest post was worth it is if you have Google Analytics or some other tracking system installed on your writer’s platform website. That will let you see how many new visitors arrive after your article is published and give you some idea of the reward for the time you put into writing it.