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3 Simple ways You can get your Blog Engagement Rockin

A Guest Contribution by Shaun McCarthy from Twitter, or visit Training Outcomes

When was the last time you learned something new? It could have been anything, from customising your blog template or setting up your social media to fixing your leaky tap. I want you to think about how you were taught. Did you just sit down and read a manual?

I’m guessing you didn’t. I bet you did a whole combination of things in order to perfect your new skill. It might have included reading, but it probably also included watching how someone else does it, listening as they explained it to you and almost definitely trying it yourself.

Why is this important to you as a blogger and content creator? Because in order to get your audience to do what you want them to do, you first need them to fully comprehend your message.

In this post I’m going to show you three basic ways that people learn and what you can do to ensure your blog content gets them excited.

Three key learning types

Did you know that more than half of the population (around 65%) are visual learners? What that means is they need to be able to see a concept in order to process, remember and use it.

Everyone has a preferred way to consume information, a learning style. Visual learners want to see how to do something. Auditory learners like to hear an explanation and talk things through. Kinaesthetic people need to get their hands dirty and feel how something is done.

If you understand the way your audience likes to learn, then communicating with them becomes a whole lot easier.

1. Visual learners

Visual learners prefer to watch demonstration and will often get more out of video, rather than written instructions. Aside from the sheer entertainment value, this is one of the main reasons why YouTube works so well.

Video works well because it is very engaging, but you can also use simple visual alternatives such as diagrams and images that help to communicate, or better demonstrate the outcome you are trying to achieve. Photos, cartoons, tables and charts all work well as reinforcement tools for visual learners.

The good news is that you can create videos yourself using a decent camera with movie mode, or even with an iPhone if you are starting out. Practice makes perfect, but it is likely that your audience will value any effort you make to show them what you are talking about.

Well renowned blogger, Ramsay the Blog Tyrant, has used video to great effect in his article about Google authorship. Not only did he write a really detailed ‘how to’ and inject plenty of his own thoughts, he also included a video to show his audience exactly how it can be done using screen capture software.

Videos aren’t the only visual learning tools available. Infographics visually communicate ideas and sometimes, quite complex data. They are so popular because they resonate so well with visual learners.

2. Auditory learners

Hearing and speaking are closely related so you’ll often find auditory learners combining the two when they are introduced to new concepts. Maybe you have even found yourself repeating something out aloud in order to remember it.

Auditory learners remember complex information through song or rhyme; in fact we all do it from an early age – who doesn’t know the alphabet song?

A good way to engage people that like to learn by listening is through podcasts. Podcasts are a really popular way to deliver online interviews and once you are up and running, podcasts are pretty easy to offer to your audience. Check out Pat Flynn’s great resource about setting up podcasts for a great step by step (funnily enough it actually contains a lot of video).

Video can also be a good way to engage auditory learners. It can really help develop a stronger connection when your audience can see the person behind the voice. Someone that does this extremely well is Derek Halpern from Social Triggers. Derek has stacks of energy and gets right to the point, leaving you with a clear and actionable takeaway message every time.

As surprising as it might sound, you can also engage auditory learners through text by getting them to repeat something (like a desired action) aloud to themselves. Try suggesting to your reader that they read a word or sentence using a well-known voice (like a celebrity), or tell them how it should sound (sexy, angry, crazy). You will be amazed how well this works at getting someone to recall a certain piece of information.

3. Kinaesthetic learners

While kinaesthetic learners make up the smallest group, many of us use this type of learning at some point. This is the process of performing the intended action, which is naturally more suited to physical activities.

Although this can pose some challenges in an online setting, there are ways to incorporate this learning style into your blog. Try to be very descriptive about the way in which something should feel to the learner and ask them to action it out themselves.

You can also try setting specific homework related to your desired action. On your blog you could do this by:

  • For a photography blog, you could ask your reader to take a specific photo in a particular way and have them post a link to it in the comments;
  • For a personal development blog you could challenging readers to interact with a specific number of new people in a given amount of time, then ask them to report back;
  • For a marketing/writing blog you could offer subscribers a reward in the form of a link from your site, for a specific piece of content they create.

Aside from helping people put their learning into practice, another benefit in doing this is that it often promotes community interaction. Your audience will not only share and learn from you, but also with each other, which is really cool to see happen.

Adding the additional reward element through recognition makes it all the more enticing.

Combining learning styles

Research has show that combining different learning styles is the most effective way to engage learners, independent of the way they best learn.

The key is making your blog a hot house of interaction is to understand that most people use a mixture of learning styles. Some have one dominant style, and use small amounts of the other styles, while other people will use different styles in different situations.

What this all boils down to is that the best way to create a hot house of reader engagement on blog, is to incorporate all three learning styles whenever practical. Look for ways to inject this into your online content and experiment with different communication media like audio and video, I guarantee it will result in better engagement and greater success with your target audience.

Do you usually create one style of content over another? How could you tailor your content to better suit each of these learning styles?

Shaun McCarthy helps people create fantastic learning experiences that anyone can relate to. He also likes to make wild claims about guaranteed success using a training based approach. Feel free to take this up with him on Twitter, or visit Training Outcomes to see how a simple approach to online training can help you get more from your online business.

Heavyweight Help: The Ultimate Guide to Selling Your Blog

Did you know there’s a massive marketplace out there filled with people who want to buy your blog?

Yep, your blog!

Sale sign

Image courtesy stock.xchng user JMGRIFFIN

It’s really big business and you can make serious money if you know what you’re doing.

In fact, some clever people make a pretty decent living just from building up blogs and then flipping them for $10k, $50k or even $100k+. And while I haven’t been quite that successful I have sold several blogs for around $20,000—the first time all the way back when I was at Uni.

In this post I’m going to try and cover everything you’ll need to know to sell your blog for the best possible price with the fewest possible regrets. I’ll cover things like:

  • why you should think carefully about whether you sell or not
  • how to calculate your blog’s value and why that measure is controversial
  • how you should set up your blog so it’s easy (and possible) to sell
  • where you can sell your blog safely
  • how to write a good and trustworthy listing
  • steps to take to ensure you have a stress-free transaction
  • clever things to do with the sale money (and an embarrassing story).

This is going to be a long post so set your eyes to strained and get your scroll finger warmed up. Let’s do it!

Why you should think carefully about selling

How good does it sound?

You build up a blog, make a bit of consistent revenue, and then sell it for a handsome sum of money.

Great, right?

Well, actually, there are a few considerations that you need to take into account before you get selling. Broadly speaking, there are two categories of pre-sale issues to think about:

  1. Emotional factors: You might be keen to sell your blog now but are you sure you’re not going to miss it once it is all said and done? Remember, once that blog is sold you lose all rights to your logos, articles, design—it will all belong to the new owner.
  2. Financial factors: Having a big chunk of money in your bank account is really exciting but you need to figure out how long it’s going to last you, what you’re going to invest it in and whether the short-term payout amount is more valuable to you than keeping the blog for five or ten years.

If you are thinking about putting your blog up for sale I urge you to take a few weeks to carefully think things through.

Most importantly, if you rely on your blog for a good portion of your income you need to make sure that you have some other projects on the go that are already earning you some money. One of the key mistakes people make (myself included) is selling their blog before they really have another solid income to rely on.

What is your blog worth and what are buyers looking for?

The title of this section covers both what your blog is worth and what buyers are looking for because often those things are totally separate from each other.

What do I mean?

Well, as I wrote about in this post on valuing a blog, you’ll often find that what your blog is worth to you is totally different than what it is actually worth in monetary terms, or to an independent buyer. The cold calculation of a blog’s value is often not inclusive of all the things that it means for you and your career.

How to calculate a blog’s sale value

Some people are going to disagree with this but in my experience the safest way to calculate what your blog is worth is like this:

Monthly revenue x 12 to 24 months = sale price

This is by no means a hard and fast rule; some people get 36 months, 48 months, etc. But for the most part you’ll find that people who buy blogs usually only offer around one to two years’ revenue.

So, at the most basic level, if your blog makes $1000 a month you will probably be able to sell it for between $12,000 and $24,000.

You’ll often see people trying to sell a blog or website for a higher price because it it is under-monetized, inefficiently set up, or not fulfilling its “potential”.

These words and scenarios mean very little to buyers who are essentially trying to purchase a successful and stable business. It is rare (though not impossible) to find someone who is investing in developing blogs because they want to build them up.

How to calculate a blog’s real value

Something that I learned the hard way was the fact that your blog is worth a lot more than just the money that it brings in. It sounds crazy at first but you’ll often hear guys like Darren say that even though Problogger.net doesn’t make him huge amount of money it elevates his profile and gives him a hugely valuble marketing tool.

When thinking about selling you need to consider whether your blog:

  • Promotes other stuff: Do you use your blog to promote and expose other products or websites? Can it send traffic to other sites and give solid SEO links to new projects?
  • Helps you: Some people use blogging as a method of dealing with stress or anxiety, which is obviously hard to put a dollar value on.
  • Connects you: Does your blog help to connect you wither big players in the online world and therefore bring in new opportunities?
  • Utilizes its list: If you have a big mailing list but have never done any successful promotions you might be sitting on an asset worth a lot more than it would appear on paper. Remember, a good mailing list promotion can bring in large amounts of money in a single day.
  • Has a replaceable social media brand: The last point is that almost all of us have social media accounts that are connected with our blogs. For example, if Darren sold Problogger.net, would he also have to give up the hundreds of thousands of followers @problogger has on Twitter?

As I mentioned, a lot of these last items are things that are totally irrelevant to an independent buyer. They are, in some ways, unquantifiable considerations that will often hold great importance to you but very little to someone else.

What are buyers looking for?

Now that we’ve got the basic valuation types out of the way it’s a good idea to discuss exactly what buyers are looking for. I’m not going to go into too much detail here as there is a post coming up later in this series about buying a blog which will get you sorted.

However, having a basic understanding of what buyers are looking for will help you plan future sales:

  • Consistent earnings: Google updates and other internet changes often mean that blog earnings fluctuate in a way that is totally unacceptable to regular businesses. You need to make sure your earnings are stable if you want a good sale price.
  • Consistent statistics: Again, if buyers can see big fluctuations in your search engine rankings they will consider it a warning sign that you might be selling for a reason that you’re not disclosing.
  • An easy-to-adopt website: If your blog is totally wound up in your personality and has readers and content that apply to your life and experience it will probably be very difficult for someone else to take over and profit from.
  • Historical reports: I almost lost out on one big sale because I hadn’t installed Google Analytics on the blog in the early stages and thus the buyers was worried that the current trends and traffic levels weren’t truly representative of what was going on. Make sure you have stats installed early on and clear histories of traffic and earnings.

So, if you want to sell your blog, make sure you know how much it is worth to you (in the short and long term) and how much is worth to a buyer. These are different numbers.

How to set up your blog for an easy and comfortable sale

What a lot of people don’t realize is that selling a blog means that buyers are going to need access to a lot of stuff that you might never have intended to hand over to anyone else.

If you think you might want to sell somewhere down the line or you’re building a blog specifically for the purpose of a future sale, you want to make sure you have a few things covered.

1. Make sure you are on a separate, self-hosted set up

Although it does happen sometimes, you’ll find that most of the time people will want to buy sites that are fully owned and operated by the individual they are dealing with. With free blogs like Blogger and Tumblr the lines are less clear—who own the domain, the content, the theme, etc.?

The ideal situation is one where you have the domain name and WordPress blog host all in separate, individual places that aren’t mixed in with your other sites and domain names.

Of course, it isn’t all that hard to transfer a domain name or migrate a site to someone else. But it is much easier if you can just do one change of ownership transaction, which means the site doesn’t experience any downtime.

2. Try to have social networking accounts that you can sign over

As mentioned before, it can be a little bit tricky if your personal social networking accounts are also tied up in the brand name that you are selling. For example, my Twitter handle is @blogtyrant which means that if I ever sold www.BlogTyrant.com I would probably have to hand over that Twitter account as well.

I once spoke to Kristi Hines about this issue and she told me that it is much wiser to have a personal account that you use for yourself and a brand-name account that is just for the website and its followers. This is a lot harder than it used to be, however, with Google+ profiles and pages, YouTube, Facebook and accounts all over the place being linked together and muddled up.

If you can manage, find a way to separate your personal accounts from your brand-name accounts so you don’t lose it all or have headaches transferring them.

3. Be careful with linked email services

When you own a blog you often sign up for things like Google Analytics and other online services with your personal email. Much like the social networks, this can cause a huge pain in the future if you sell the site and need to give someone else access to this stuff.

Some services don’t let you remove the original email address that you signed up with but instead only allow you add new accounts. What this means is that you might always be linked to that old site in some way if you want to hold on to that email.

As far as I can tell, the best way to avoid these traps is to sign up for a separate Gmail account or create a Google account/other accounts with an [email protected] email address that you can hand over at the sale.

4. Make sure you know what you own

I’ve heard of blog sales getting into hot water when the seller doesn’t realize that some of the assets for sale actually belong to someone else.

It’s extremely important that you know whether you have the copyright all sorted for photos and images as well as whether your theme is original or something used by thousands of other people.

Where to sell your blog safely and simply

When it comes to selling your blog, the options are actually a lot more expansive than people usually think. That being said, I really only recommend going about it either of two ways, in order to keep your stress levels low and your chances of success high.

  1. Sell your blog on Flippa.com.
  2. Sell your blog in a private sale.

I’m going to go over each option in a little bit of detail so you get a good idea about how they work, and which one is best for your situation.

1. Sell your blog on Flippa

Flippa.com is the absolute go-to website for selling your blog. It is the largest marketplace of its kind and, even better, it is owned by Australians—a trustworthy and handsome lot.

A Flippa listing

All jokes aside, Flippa is the kind of site you rely on because their entire business model is wrapped up in the convenient and safe sale of blogs and websites. That’s all they do. What that means for us is that we get a good service because Flippa knows that their reputation is important for their continued success. In 2012 alone over 29,000 websites were sold there.

Flippa seller ratings

The great thing about this site is that you find a rare mix of highrollers and budget buyers here. This means that you can sell blogs that might only be worth a small amount as well as those $100k+ monsters.

How does Flippa work?

Selling a blog on Flippa is a lot like listing a product on eBay or any other selling site, except that Flippa only deals with websites and blogs.

The basic process goes like this:

  1. Create an account: You’ll need an account to list a site for sale as well as manage any messages that bidders send to you.
  2. Create your listing: This is a seven-step process where you list all your blog details, provide screenshots of traffic proof, explain your reasons for selling, etc. You’ll also be able to set a Reserve Price so that you don’t sell for less than you hoped for. More on this process below.
  3. Add upgrades: One of the ways Flippa makes money is by offering you certain upgrades to enhance the visibility of your sale. Some of these are a really good idea and you can see them all at Step 6 of the listing process.
  4. Manage your listing: Once your listing is up and live you can’t just leave it alone; you need to stick around and answer any questions that people have. Most serious bidders will ask questions and won’t be willing to move ahead until you’ve answered them properly.
  5. Proceed with the sale: Once someone has placed a winning bid or purchased your blog for the Buy It Now price, you proceed with the sale process. This is extremely safe and involves using Escrow.com which means that nobody gets any money or domain name access until both parties are happy.

Of course, the whole shebang is a lot more involved than that, but those steps should give you the basic idea of how Flippa works. I’ve gone into some more detailed Flippa listing tips below, but this video gives a quick overview of the auction listing process.

What are the advantages of using Flippa?

Some of the main reasons I think Flippa has gained so much popularity include:

  • Safety: The Escrow process and the increased transparency that comes from requiring buyers to be verified, etc. makes the whole process a lot safer for everyone.
  • Reach: To put it simply, there are a lot of buyers on Flippa looking to acquire your blog. I’m yet to find another marketplace that has such an active community.
  • Support: The support staff at Flippa are happy to jump on board and give you help when you need it with a transaction or a listing problem. I’ve found them to be quite responsive.
  • Simplicity: The listing process is extremely easy to follow. It’s no harder than composing an email and attaching a few images to prove your revenue, etc.
  • Feedback ratings: Although not always relevant, Flippa has buyer feedback ratings which means you can see how buyers have performed in previous transactions.

What are the disadvantages of using Flippa?

As always, not every web service is perfect. There are a few drawbacks that people often talk about when it comes to using Flippa as a blog seller.

  • It’s somewhat expensive: Flippa has listing fees and upgrade fees but, frustratingly, a fairly high success fee. What this means is that an established website will pay $29 to list the site (without upgrades) and then 5% of the final sale price. This is capped at $2,000 but for some people it is still too high considering other costs that go along with making a big sale, like local taxes.
  • There are still risks involved: Although a lot less risky than the alternatives, there still are risks involved in selling a site on Flippa. Admittedly the risks are higher for buyers than sellers but you still need to exercise a lot of care.
  • Publicity: I have heard some people express concerns that listing a site for sale on Flippa can have a negative impact on that site’s readers and even SEO rankings. Flippa does offer an option to hide your listing from Google, but you still need to consider any impact that can occur if people find out you’re selling, and then you don’t actually make the sale after all.

Overall Flippa is, without a doubt, the best place to sell an established blog that you really care about. The second optionis something that’s perhaps better suited to more experienced sellers with some trustworthy connections.

2. Sell your blog to a private buyer

The only other option that I really wanted to share as a method of selling your blog is to do so yourself, through a private buyer. This has a lot of advantages but also some pretty tummy-upsetting disadvantages.

How do you sell to a private buyer?

Unlike using Flippa, this process has many different variations depending on who you are selling to an how paranoid each party is. Generally, however, it will go something like this:

  1. You decide to sell: First of all you need to make the decision to sell your blog and package it up ready for the transaction. This means getting your accounts in order and having another project ready in the works.
  2. You find buyers: Perhaps the hardest part of all is finding buyers without actually listing your site anywhere. Of course, many people do list their site for sale in various places and then move the transaction to private method but this is both risky and against many of those flipping sites’ terms of service.
  3. You bang your head against the wall (or “negotiate”): The next step in a private sale is the process whereby both parties go back and forth for days, weeks, or even months until a price is agreed upon. This involves giving them access to revenue proof, stats, etc. as well as not caving in at the 12th offer simply because you are so exhausted.
  4. Arrange the terms: Because there is no site guiding you on the transaction, you need to come up with the terms of the trade yourselves. How is payment made? Which shadowy carpark will they meet you in with the contract? So on and so forth. This is the stage where a lot of inexperienced sellers get into trouble. You really want contracts and other protections in place.
  5. Make the trade: Selling your blog like this is better described as a trade. They give you money and you release the site files and, last of all the domain name. Once the buyer has that domain name, there is no going back, so you have to make sure you have the money and are totally happy before that happens. Again, it’s very wise to use a site like Escrow.com for this process, and not a site like Paypal where there is less protection.
  6. Assist with the transition: If you’ve made a good sale to a genuine buyer, they will probably want you to help with the transition period. It’s always a good sign when the buyer asks you to stay on board for six months so as to train them up and keep the site running well.

Again, each blog sale is a different process that can be done in different ways. It’s important to know how the basic process works and to make sure you know as much about the buyer as possible. This is a big asset that you are giving up so you want to make sure to take your time and get it right.

What are the advantages of a private sale?

Let’s have a quick look at some of the advantages of selling your blog to a private buyer:

  • No fees: Unless you use a payment site that charges a fee there are no fees involved in the process.
  • No restrictions: You aren’t restrained by any website terms or service and as such can often negotiate a better position for yourself or take more time to select the right buyer. It’s not a matter of “highest bidder wins”.
  • Better prices: It might seem strange, but I’ve heard people say that they’ve achieved slightly better prices with private sales because the buyers didn’t feel guided by “standard pricing” that often becomes commonplace in set markets. Of course this is a very case-by-case phenomenon and might be totally incorrect for your sale.

I have sold one five-figure blog in a private sale and it went extremely smoothly. The clinching factor, however, was that the guy lived in my town and I was able to meet him face-to-face to sign papers, have a chat, etc. That gave me a lot more confidence.

What are the disadvantages of a private sale?

By now you probably have a pretty clear idea about why you might not want to sell your blog privately:

  • It’s really risky: You have no idea who this person is or what their motivations are. Are they trying to scam you? Are the competitors trying to see your stats and methods? You need to exercise a lot of care during a private sale.
  • It’s not monitored: When you use a site like Flippa, you can often contact support if something fishy is going on. When you are doing things privately there are very few methods you can resort to if something weird happens.
  • It’s stressful: To be honest, I get a lot more stressed out than most people by this stuff so you might not find it as horribly nauseating as I do. All the negotiating, risk-taking—it just stresses me out too much and makes the Flippa fees seem worthwhile.

All in all Flippa is a really good place to start out and learn the ropes. The process is simple and extremely guided which means you’ll have less chance of running into trouble. Of course, you still need to use your brain and be careful when you are dealing with such an important asset, but by and large you should be happy with the process.

How to create a listing for trust and success

I couldn’t really talk about how to sell a blog without sharing a few tips for creating a listing that will help you promote your blog well while creating trust and increasing your chances of a successful sale.

Most of these tips will apply to Flippa sales but you can implement a lot of them in private sales emails and negotiations too.

1. Study successful listings

I’m really surprised at how badly some listings are put together. There’s a lack of clear information, unbelievable reasons for selling, etc.

Before you sell your blog it’s a good idea to check out some other Flippa listings that are doing well. Of course this has a large part to do with the quality of the site for sale, but you’ll also pick up some tips on how to write your listing so as to improve your trust.

2. Don’t skimp on the proof

As I pointed out before, most blog buyers are looking for established businesses that they can purchase and maintain. This means they need proof. They want to know that your traffic isn’t periodic or paid and that your SEO rankings aren’t going downhill.

Make sure you give good and transparent proof while still keeping in mind the various Terms of Service agreements that you have. For example, there are parts of your Adsense statistics that you aren’t allowed to reveal publicly.

3. Be personal

Some people might disagree with this but I’ve found that a lot of people want to buy not only a good site but a good site that comes from a good person. If someone is going to part with $10k+ they are probably going to want to know that the seller is trustworthy and cares about the site.

Of course, you don’t want to go on about your weekend in the sales pitch, and you don’t want to give away any information that puts you in an unsafe position, but you do want to create a sense of transparency and honesty that buyers feel comfortable with. Be open about how the site developed, why you like it, why you’re selling, any concerns you have, etc.

4. Stand your ground but don’t be rude

Especially in any private negotiations, it’s really important to know what you want out of the sale and to not back down because someone is a better negotiator than you. Quite often you’ll face savvy buyers finding very good reasons to get your price down even though they fully intend to pay what you’re asking for. Know what price you want to achieve (realistically) and be prepared to back yourself.

5. Never, ever be dishonest

Honest people don’t need to be told this, but it’s critically important that you leave any sleazy sales tactics at the door and forget about lying or exaggerating to get some money. Not only does this make for a bad listing, it can really ruin someone’s financial situation if you sell them a site that has “skeletons in the closet”.

Comments on a Flippa listing

One of the most common things you’ll see in this regard is people trying to sell a site that has just been penalized by Google for one reason or another and claiming that they are just bored with the niche or need the money for family reasons. Forget it! It’s dishonest and will come back to bite you. As you can see from the few honest users featured in the screenshot above, there are both buyer and seller ratings, so all of your dealings go on record.

6. Use headings and organized formatting

Wait a sec! Writing a sales listing is like writing a blog post? You got it!

It’s not uncommon to see listings that are pages of clumpy text with no real order. Try and keep it in a structured format that is easy to digest. Break it down into headings like Background to the Sale, Why I’m Selling, Traffic Details, Revenue Details, Expenses and Costs, Problems and Issues, and so on.

This is the largest ever sale completed on Flippa ($750,000) and while I don’t support gambling sites I think it is an interesting study in setting up a listing.

7. Emphasize your blog’s strong points and what buyers want

If you are asking for a decent amount of money for your site you’ll want to know its strong points and be able to communicate them convincingly. Now, I’m not talking about tricking anyone or being really pushy. I’m just saying that it’s wise to clearly communicate why your blog is a good buy.

For example, if you rank for a particularly competitive set of keywords you might want to share that. If your site has survived Panda updates that other sites in your niche haven’t, that is also a good thing to get across. If you have a high converting opt-in form or a great email open rate you should absolutely tell them about it!

Don’t assume that revenue details are all they care about (although it is a big deal). Some other factor might be the difference between them buying your blog or another one on the same page.

How to ensure you have a good transaction (and post-transaction!)

As soon as you sell a blog you’ll have one of those “wish I had thought of that…” moments which can leave you with a few regrets. With that in mind I thought I’d go over a few little things you can do that can make a big difference to your happiness before and after the sale.

  • Know the process: A lot of bad mistakes happen when people haven’t done their research. Find out about how the process works and what is expected of you before, during and after.
  • Know the financial details: Find out how much the transaction is going to cost you from every angle. You need to know the fees Flippa charges, if you’re using that site, as well as any other fees/costs like bank fees or taxes.
  • Know your limits: If you have a strange feeling in your gut about something or someone then just stop right there and wait for another buyer. It’s better to be safe than sorry. It’s a good idea to set up some limits that you won’t go past to keep you focused during the sale.
  • Control the post-sale climate: In some situations it is possible to specify what can and can’t be done with your site once you sell it. You might need the help of a lawyer in order to draft a contract but if you don’t want your site getting used for unethical purposes down the track, for example, try and make it a condition of the sale.
  • Stay on board: Again, if you care about the site it is sometimes wise to stay on board for a few weeks or months to help the new owner get used to the day-to-day activities involved in running it.
  • Protect yourself: Don’t give out personal information that you don’t need to and try to use every protection that is available in the selling situation.

A lot of this stuff comes with experience but if you are selling your “pride and joy” blog it’s a good idea to take your time to do the preparation.

Some clever things to do with the sale money

I thought I’d share a pretty embarrassing story at this point.

When I sold my first blog I was quite young and was living like a broke college kid. So when the money hit my account I was pretty excited. It felt like a million dollars to me!

A smart person would have stored that money away or re-invested it into new businesses or blogs.

Not me. I ate the money.

Not literally, but I spent most of the profits sitting around playing video games and eating footlong Subs. It was a great holiday but a huge waste of money.

So what should you do with the money?

Well, it seems to me that if you’ve just sold a blog for a good profit, then maybe you have a skillset that you can develop and grow. Making money online isn’t easy so it might be a good idea to see how far you can take the blog development/sale process and whether you can scale it up.

For example, if you sold one blog for $50,000 with two years’ work, I wonder whether you could repeat the process on a larger scale and aim for three or four sales a year by hiring writers, coders, assistants, etc. A post later this week will look at buying blogs so that might be a good place for you to begin.

Reinvesting the money is smart. Eating sandwiches isn’t.

Would you sell your blog?

Sometimes we bloggers spend a lot of time reading and not a lot of time doing (myself included) and so I thought I’d encourage you to develop your own guide to selling a blog by trying it for yourself.

Remember, selling your blog is forever, so make sure you really want to go ahead with it before jumping in.

I’d love to hear from the Problogger.net readers on this one. Would you sell your blog? How much would you hope to get? Are you worried about the risks associated with the transaction? Drop a comment and let me know.

Update: check out our followup posts on selling blogs at:

Contributing author The Blog Tyrant is a 26 year old Australian guy who plays video games at lunch time and sells blogs for $20,000 a pop.

Blogging in Brief: Engagement Tools, App Auctions, and Brutal Realism

This week has turned up some really interesting ideas for blog reader engagement using technology as well as creative content techniques…

Mini reader surveys … and more

On Eugen Oprea’s blog, we saw this handy little query form:

Query form

It’s made with LeadConverter, which you can use on a free subscription if you want to give it a try on your blog.

Eugen’s using it to survey readers about their interests, but the tool can actually be used for a range of purposes, including boosting conversions.

Taking a sponsored post one step further

The old-timey vibe on The Art of Manliness stretches even to their images. This post about equipping yourself for a whisky tasting is topped by a specially developed graphic that presents each contemporary item in an old visual style.

That’s a pretty great value-add for the sponsor—and really eye-catching for readers too. The Art of Manliness have a commissioned illustrator on the blog. What a great way to help build your brand.

Realism counts

Did you see Greg McFarlane’s recent post here on naming blog products? This is one example of a continuing trend I’m noticing around blog content, and that’s realism.

I’ve noticed realism taking over on quite a few blogs a media sites. It may be because we’re all well-trained to be skeptical of over-promising headlines these days. It may also be because brutal realism cuts through the chatter.

Here are a few examples of the kind of thing I’m talking about:

Are you using realism on your blog? If not, perhaps it’s time!

Showing off your best content

I spotted this great idea from Heather Solos this week: an attention-grabbing way to get readers to click through to your pillar content.

Here’s a screenshot from Heather’s home page:

The Home Ec 101 homepage

The Home Ec 101 homepage

I took this screencapture on a Thursday, and I have the feeling the chores list changes to reflect the day of the week. But in any case, who can resist clicking on that sticky note? It looks so real—like it’s been stuck to my fridge as a friendly reminder!

I thought the sticky would take me to a download, but it doesn’t—the content is a blog post, and it’s free, and you don’t need to sign up to get all the content. This is a great way to encourage users who hit your homepage to get right into your content, based on their needs. As a creative approach, it’s also perfectly in line with the purpose of Heather’s blog, and the needs of her readers. What a great idea.

Get appy

We’ve talked a bit about developing an app as a product for your blog. There’s an alternative, though: buy one.

Apptopia is a fairly new marketplace where developers sell their apps. While some of the prices are mind-boggling, some aren’t. Could this be a good way for you to add to your blog’s offering and help your readers? Maybe. As the Web Marketing Ninja hinted in this article, you’ll need to consider the maintenance and future development needs of the app before you buy (or develop) one.

What’s caught your eye in the blogosphere this week? Share any innovative ideas you’ve spotted with us in the comments.

Score Face Time with New People in Your Niche

This guest post is by Stanley Lee.

We all know the benefits of networking are obvious, so why are we neglecting it?

Are you scared about meeting new people in your industry? Do you spend a fortune to attend conferences and trade shows? Or do you waste a lot of time with travel and setting up your computer to work properly?

If you’re sick of making compromises, read on.

Get in touch using Airtime

Airtime allows you to talk to strangers and friends on Facebook via video chat without leaving your home office.

You can meet new people on the platform based on:

  1. where you live
  2. your interests
  3. their relationships with your friends.

The information is extracted from your Facebook profile.

The best part of all this is you don’t have to acquire strangers’ permission in advance to talk to them, which is typically common when you try accomplishing this feat with Skype or even on Google+ Hangouts. Also, you won’t find any random dudes doing weird stuff (remember Chatroulette?). I mean, who really wants to expose their Facebook identities while doing that?

If you’re concerned about Airtime’s credibility, let’s start with its leaders. Sean Parker was founding president of Facebook and co-founder of Napster, and Shawn Fanning, was co-founder of Napster. Celebrities such as Snoop Dogg, Alicia Keys, Jim Carey, and Martha Stewart checked Airtime out on its launch day.

If you aren’t familiar with any of those guys and girls, how about Gary Vaynerchuk? He loved using Airtime to connect with other social media fanatics.

Now that you’re excited, let’s learn how you can use Airtime to connect with readers and others in your blog’s niche.

The How-tos

Basic requirements

Before logging onto Airtime.com, you will need the following:

  • A compatible web browser: For simplicity, I suggest using Google Chrome.
  • A Facebook account: For obvious reasons.
  • A webcam that works with Airtime: Most laptop cameras should work without problems. Plug-in webcams may have problems. See the steps below to find out if yours does.

Step 1: Log into Airtime.com

A simple process—just visit Airtime.com and follow the launch process. You will need to press some buttons to authorize certain permission settings in Airtime’s login process. These are required in order for your camera to work properly.

authorization

Step 2: Choose your target

You will see this splash screen after successfully configuring your webcam.

Start screen

I blacked out my Facebook contacts to protect their privacy here. If you want to talk to your existing Facebook or Airtime contacts, you can click on a name on the right-hand panel and explore for yourself.

But since you’re most likely interested in discovering industry colleagues, let’s look at that. You have two ways to accomplish this goal.

The first way involves finding users with a common interest to talk to (as indicated by the blue rectangle). Then, click the Talk to Someone button.

Options

This is the easiest way because:

  • By checking the Near option, you can find people located close to you. If I live in Vancouver, Canada, I’m more likely to be connected to someone in, let’s say, New York City than New Delhi, India.
  • By checking the Common Interests option, you can specify multiple interests to find like-minded people. For example, if you read ProBlogger, your search won’t just be limited to this publication. You likely read Copyblogger, Think Traffic, Social Triggers, SEOmoz, and Blog Tyrant regularly. You may have even liked them on Facebook.
  • By checking the Friends of Friends option, you increase your chances of talking to a second-degree connection rather than the third, fourth, fifth, etc.

Let’s face it, life is already complex enough as it is. Enabling these options simplifies your Airtime experience and helps you home in on the right readers and industry contacts.

The second option involves finding users with a specific common interest. This is a great feature, but I do not recommend this method at the moment. Airtime does not have enough simultaneous users for you to find strangers with a specific common interest in a reasonable timeframe. Still, let’s take a look at how to do this just in case you want to play around.

Click on your profile, indicated here by the red box.

Interests

Move your cursor down to the Interests section, indicated by the blue box. You can click the More button at the bottom-right corner of the section to expand it.

Click on an interest

Click on an interest, then click the Find people who like this hyperlink, indicated by the blue box.

Find people who like this

Step 3: Start talking

In case if you’re a networking novice, here are some quick conversational basics before you begin talking.

Your goal should be to make new friends and make a great impression. How? By asking these simple questions in the following order, you will be able to spark deep conversations with your contacts:

  1. How did you find yourself trying out Airtime?
  2. What are you interested in these days?
  3. What challenges are you facing when you’re doing that?

Feel free to add one or two more questions specific to your industry or niche. The point is to break the ice, inquire about their hopes and challenges, and steer the conversation into the direction where you can provide—rather than extract—value. This is the key to keep the conversation going beyond this meeting.

After asking each of these questions, stop talking, and listen actively. After all, mutual exchange is a key ingredient to the art of networking.

If you really like talking to the person, you can add the contact into your Airtime list by pressing the blue button. You can also find other interests you may want to check off in your contact’s Interests panel on the right.

Adding interests

Step 4: Closing the loop

So you’ve met some new people and added the contacts you’ve bonded with particularly well. However, you’re just beginning the relationship. You’ll need to stay updated with what they’re up to, and close the loop by learning what you can help them with.

Here are some suggestions of what you can offer them:

  • Advice from your expertise: Act like a consultant giving them free advice on their problems related to your blog’s niche. Leave money off the table, as you want to keep the relationship social rather than transactional.
  • Be a connector: Doing so would not only help out your connections, but also build your reputation as a connector. Read this guide to get started if you don’t know how to be a connector.
  • Share relevant resources: This could be as simple as sending a quick email with actionable information you come across that’s helpful for them.

It takes several iterations of loop closing in order to build trust in those new relationships. If the first tries seem daunting, don’t worry. Networking is a learned skill, and you’ll improve with more practice. And Airtime is a great environment for you to practice quickly.

Let me know about your experience!

I hope you have enjoyed learning how Airtime can improve your life. Both in business and personal contexts, but particularly in terms of your blog.

Now you know how to use Airtime to build new relationships with other similar-minded people in a fail-safe manner. Or improve the quality of your relationships. Or even just conduct research for your blog that would otherwise be time-consuming and difficult to get without a large existing readership.

All within the comfort of your workspace, without the headaches of messing around with software packages.

Don’t you want to focus on big wins rather than being buried in the endless list of trivial tactics (e.g. spending all your resources tweaking SEO or honing a sales page when you don’t even know if it has its place in the marketplace)?

Have you used Airtime? How did it help you? What were the good points and bad points? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Stanley Lee blogs about systems building, marketing, and societal topics, providing in-depth commentary for the benefit of his readers.

5 Big Hosting Mistakes Bloggers Don’t Know They’re Making

This guest post is by the Blog Tyrant.

If you take your blogging seriously you’ll know that you have to wear a lot of different hats. We are content marketers, SEO students, social media savants, and sometimes web designers.

But what a lot of bloggers seem to forget is that our blog hosting setup is an extremely crucial piece in the puzzle. Yet it often gets overlooked because it is scary, boring or just too darn hard.

It is really complicated stuff. I certainly couldn’t cover everything in one post—some people spend their whole careers figuring it out!

What I am going to show you, however, is a few big mistakes that you need to make sure you avoid. If you know any others please leave a comment and let me know. It might really help someone.

1. Setting up on a free host instead of your own

I’ve talked about this a lot on my blog and so have writers here on ProBlogger but it is a mistake that many new bloggers continue to make.

Now don’t get me wrong, services like Tumblr are a really cool way to get your word out there and blog socially but if you want to take it to the next level and go pro, you need to get your own domain name, and install WordPress on your own host.

Here’s why I don’t like freely hosted blogs:

  • Lack of control: On a free blog, you don’t have total control over the theme, settings, back end, or hosting environment. You are essentially leasing a space from the owners.
  • You don’t own it: The big concern for me is that on a lot of free platforms you don’t own the blog! This is a really big problem if you are trying to go professional or if you ever want to sell the blog down the track.
  • Google doesn’t rank them as well: The last big clincher for me is that many SEOs will tell you that Google doesn’t rank these free domains as well in the search results. If you want to step up and compete in a very competitive niche, you’ll need your own domain name and a solid permalink structure.

And it’s important that you switch sooner rather than later if you are planning on doing it. You see, when you change from free to paid hosting, there’s a whole host of other issues to sort out, like a loss of current rankings if your link structure changes.

It’s very important that you weigh up the pros and cons of a migration like this as soon as possible.

2. Not choosing a host with live support

As I mentioned at the start, this stuff is really confusing. And things often go wrong. When they do, it is really important that you have live support staff that can help you out and get the problem fixed fast, without hassle.

Part of the reason I recommended Blue Host in my post on the best host for new WordPress bloggers was because they have live, 24/7 support staff that are incredibly helpful. I am no longer with Blue Host as I outgrew the service, but for the years that I was there, I had countless life-saving, middle-of-the-night, brilliant support sessions from staff who really know their stuff.

Live chat

A screenshot of the live support wait time at Blue Host recently

I have noticed that it is really common to get stressed and panicked when you don’t understand something fully. And because hosting is so complicated, it is really easy to lose your cool when something goes wrong. It is a massive advantage to know there are people there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in case something goes wrong.

3. Thinking that “unlimited domains” actually means unlimited domains

Something that I learned only recently is that when most hosts say that you get unlimited domains, unlimited hosting, and unlimited databases, they don’t actually mean it.

If you dig deeper into the terms of service you will find that most hosts (not all) have an excessive storage policy which basically says that if you abuse your “unlimited” space, your service will be affected.

Some of the things they might do include:

  • Throttling: This is where your site gets slowed down in order to help cope with the strain on the servers. This might happen if you have a bunch of sites that are taking up too much bandwidth for your hosting environment.
  • Stopped backups: Most good hosts perform a daily backup of your entire server to re-install if something goes wrong. But if you exceed the allowed file count by too much, you’ll find that those automatic daily backups stop pretty quickly.
  • Account suspension: If things get really bad and the host suspects that you are hosting files not related to any website activity, they will suspend your account. This is something that you really don’t want to happen.

My best tip here would be to know exactly what your host’s policies are on file storage, and to then make sure you know exactly what your server needs are.

If your blog is getting a lot of traffic and constantly growing it might be time to move to a more advanced environment like a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or a dedicated host.

4. Mixing your experimental stuff with your money sites

If you have a website or blog that is starting to make money that you rely on, it is really important to make sure it is on its own hosting account.

You see, what often happens is that we purchase one hosting package and then start experimenting with new blogs and websites. Eventually the whole situation gets cluttered, crowded, and very unprofessional.

Blogs that are starting to get some good traffic and have good rankings and loyal subscribers need to be protected and looked after. Make sure you keep them on their own host for security and up-time reasons, and leave your experimental sites to a different hosting package and location.

5. Failing to delete old blogs, websites, and files

The last thing I want to talk about is the fact that many bloggers leave abandoned or dead files, blogs, and websites in their host not knowing that they represent a security threat.

Without going in to all the details (I don’t really know all the details!), hackers can use insecure and old files to access your account in some situations. This is especially risky if you have been using WordPress and not keeping your plugins and installations up to date. It’s a threat.

If you’re not going to use a blog any more, just delete it. It’s not the easiest process, but it’s something that is worthwhile learning. So how do you do it?

Well, in some hosting environments you can just go to Addon Domains and then remove the domain that you want to stop using. That often removes the installation and the remaning database.

Other times, you will need to use PHPMyAdmin to locate the old site and delete the corresponding database. This can be a complicated process, so it’s best to ask your own host for advice on how to proceed. As mentioned, some environments and setups are different to others.

Are you making any mistakes?

I’d love to know if you are making any of these mistakes or whether you can think of any others that we can add to the list. Please leave a comment and let me know.

The Blog Tyrant is a 26 year old Australian guy who plays video games at lunch time and sells blogs for $20,000 a pop.

What to Put Above the Fold on Your Blog, And Why

This guest post is by the Blog Tyrant.

Above the fold

The Blog Tyrant is a 26 year old Australian guy who plays video games at lunch time and sells blogsfor $20,000 a pop.

4 Simple Growth Strategies Any Breakthrough Blog Can Learn From Pinterest

This guest post is by Mike Holmes of the Simple Strategies for Startups blog.

You don’t need me to tell you about Pinterest do you? I’m pretty sure you’ve heard all the media outlets singing its praise:

  • the fastest growing site
  • its user base is mostly female
  • its breakthrough rise from obscurity
  • how marketers are using it
  • how marketers CAN use it
  • how its a step forward in the evolution of social media
  • …and etc.

Pinterest LogoI mean we’ve talked about it over here too, haven’t we?

But what else can we as bloggers and businesspeople learn from this recent phenom? Namely:

1. Have a greater purpose

When CEO Ben Silbermann created Pinterest, he did so with the purpose of making something “timeless.” Like most great entrepreneurs, he created the company out of his own interests, passions, and purpose.

Throughout history, truly great companies answer these question: Who are we? And what are we about?

In fact, purpose is the catalyst for all great companies and organizations.

When Steve Jobs came back to Apple he came back to a mess: little to no market share, declining revenue, and a business almost on the verge of bankruptcy. He turned the company around simply by focusing on what the company had long overlooked: its core purpose.

According to Jobs:

“Apple was in serious trouble. Apple had to remember who Apple was because they’d forgotten who Apple was.”

We all know how that ended up!

Companies like Wal-Mart, Southwest Airlines, Charles Schwab, and BMW are all purpose-driven. In fact, John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, repeatedly stresses the importance of companies having a core purpose. These entrepreneurs make money (in fact, they make a ton) but they set out to “change the world” in some way or other.

I know this sounds like some touchy-feely-cry-me-a-river-nonsense! I understand that.

But purpose is anything but nonsense. It’s a viable business strategy—an immutable law. And those companies, entrepreneurs, and bloggers that practice it always rise above the crowd!

2. Have a great product

Not an okay, good, or not-too-bad product. But a great product!

From the very few interviews there are with Silbermann, you can feel his obsession with the quality of the site:

  • He and his team spent a lot of time agonizing over the site’s five-column layout, producing almost a dozen fully-coded versions before settling on the one that is live today.
  • According to him, he’d rather spend time working on the site than giving interviews. The site is incredibly addictive because he obsessed over every detail.

For the blogger, this boils down to writing epic content (thanks again, Corbett Barr!).

But maybe that’s not for you. I mean, you could just follow the crowd, make an okay product, and write ok content.

You could do that.  You won’t get noticed that way, but you could do it. It’s totally up to you!

3. Forget the mainstream: go after those who want it!

Pete Cashmore noted early on that Pinterest didn’t take the mainstream route to success:

“The web-based pinboard, which launched almost two years ago, barely got a mention on Silicon Valley news sites until six months ago, when early adopters suddenly realized that a site with millions of monthly users had sprung up almost unnoticed by the tech press. That’s because Pinterest didn’t take the usual route of Web-based startups: romancing early adopters and technology journalists before attempting to cross the chasm to mainstream adoption. Instead, Pinterest grew a devoted base of users—most of them female—who enjoy ‘pinning’ items they find around the Web.”

That was totally unheard of. And yet this strategy produced better results than a thousand press releases.

It was the strategy used by early hymn writers. While the majority of church attendees didn’t see the value of the songs, the hymn writers focused all their attention on those that did. Ultimately the majority came around.

It’s the strategy used by great salespeople, startups, and game changers. For instance:

  • When an unknown author named Tim Ferriss decided to promote his book, he focused his efforts. He called successful authors and asked them how they promoted their books. They gave him two answers: radios and bloggers. Since radio was losing its influence he decided to rely on bloggers. He went to a blogger event, met the ones he wanted to meet, established relationships, and then asked them to do a review. They did. And with the book becoming the #1 New York Times, the #1 Wall Street Journal, and the #1 Businessweek bestseller, the rest is history.
  • When Mel Gibson decided to market The Passion of the Christ, he focused his efforts. When he approached movie executives about producing the movie nobody wanted to go near it. So Gibson decided to fund it himself using $30 million of his own money. Not having much money left to marketing (it usually costs $40 million for marketing, he only had $15 million) he tried an unconventional approach: letting pastors see it for free.  They started small–showing only a few pastors, but it grew exponentially. One of the final screenings was at Willow Creek Church. After the showing, Bill Hybels took the stage and spoke for the 5,000 pastors in attendance: “All right, what do you need us to do?”  And with $611,899,420 in gross sales, the rest is history.
  • When a Baptist preacher named Rick Warren decided to market his book, Purpose-Driven Life, he focused his efforts. Years before he wrote his first book, Purpose Driven Church and followed it up with a website: Pastors.Com. The membership of the website grew to 85,000 pastors who saw Warren as trusted advisor. He enlisted their help with the PDL book–asking them to conduct the “40 day campaign” in their churches. And 1200 agreed to it. He gave away copies of the $20 book for $7 to churches and congregations that agreed. Within two months, those spokespeople pushed sales to $2 million, then to 30 million copies by 2007 … and the rest is history.
  • When an pop artist by the name of Lady Gaga found success it was through focus. She did everything she could to break through: schmoozed the music execs, performed wherever she could, had doors slammed in her face, begged to have her music played on the radio, was cut from a label, and was told she wouldn’t make it. But the turning point for her was her acceptance by the gay community. Once they accepted her, they championed for her, and she championed for them. And the rest is history.

Why do we spend the bulk of our time trying to get people who don’t like us to like? And in the meantime turn our backs to those that love us?

  • Rick Warren didn’t market to atheists.
  • Mel Gibson only showed screenings to conservative Christian and religious groups (even refusing to include those that initially criticized the film).
  • Timothy Ferriss didn’t go after those interested in a nine-to-five lifestyle.
  • Not once did Lady Gaga try to win over those who adamantly opposed her. She focused all her attention on her “monsters.”

It doesn’t make any sense does it?

Well, with 20 million users and a $1.5 billion valuation, it’s evident Silbermann understood the power of fans.

4. Remember: service is the best form of marketing

In the beginning, Silbermann said he personally wrote to the first 5,000 users, gave them his cell phone number, and even met many of them for coffee. He asked them questions, listened to their concerns, and went above and beyond for them.

Whoa!

Sometimes in the middle of our social media, SEO, and direct marketing efforts we forget that great service is still the best form of marketing.

There are six primary reasons people stop doing business with a company:

    1. 1% die.
    2. 3% move away.
    3. 5% develop other relationships.
    4. 9% leave for competitive reasons.
    5. 14% are dissatisfied with the product.
    6. 68% percent go elsewhere because of the poor way they were treated by employees of the company.

Case in point: when Patton Gleason went live with his online startup, the Natural Running Store, he outhustled his competitors in terms of service:

      • He created personalized videos that thanked customers for their purchase.
      • He created videos that told customers their shoes were on the way.
      • He put handwritten notes in the shoe boxes.
      • He sent follow-up emails asking about his or her training plans.
      • Instead of having an FAQ page, he sends out a two-minute video answering the customer’s questions.

naturalrunningstore.com

Because of this, Natural Running Store receives a ton of organic traffic, customer referrals, and endless praise.

And this is with Gleason admitting he doesn’t know how to sell.

You’ve all heard the story of how the Blog Tyrant became a true fan of Darren? You didn’t? For shame! “What happened?” you ask. Well, I’ll just let the Tyrant tell you:

“I once sent Darren Rowse an email telling him that I was having problems leaving a comment on his site. I told him not to worry about it too much as it was obviously working fine for everyone else. He replied in about ten minutes telling me that every single one of his readers were important to him and then tried to problem solve the issue with me. Instant fan for life.”

My friends, we’ve entered a new paradigm: marketing is the new selling and relationship building, engagement, and delivering new and innovative content is the new marketing.

High five for Silbermann!

What can we learn?

Right now we don’t know what’s in store for Pinterest. Right now, they’re flying as high as a Facebook IPO. They’re on top right now.

But if history has been any kind of teacher we’ll find more lessons in their story as the days go on. Good or bad.

What do you think? Are there any other lessons we can learn from Pinterest, or other startups like them?

Mike Holmes is an author, speaker, and serial entrepreneur who leads a small movement of world changing startups. You can find out more about him on The Simple Strategies for Startups Blog

Boost Conversions Step 2: Revisit Your Conversion Funnel

In this, the second part of our short series on boosting conversions on your blog, it’s time to look at your conversion funnel.

Yesterday, the Blog Tyrant showed us how to review our offer of a paid or free product or service. Through that analysis, you should be able to pull together some detailed and valuable information about your product. That’s great, but the other aspect that the Tyrant touched on was your conversion funnel.

I want to take those ideas a step further today.

Understanding your conversion funnel

We’re talking in this series about conversions for any product or offer—so that could be a product or service you’re selling, or it could be a free subscription you offer on your site.

Whether it’s free or sold for a price, your offer has a conversion funnel. The Web Marketing Ninja showed us this one in his article, How to Optimize Your Sales Funnel for Success:

Sales funnel

The key is that at each point in your conversion funnel, you’ll lose potential customers.

As the Blog Tyrant explained yesterday, you can use your blog stats package to review where, exactly, those losses are occurring.

And as the Web Marketing Ninja explains in How to Optimize Your Sales Funnel, the best thing to do is put measures on each point in the funnel so that you can understand what, exactly, is happening at each point in the conversion process. He says that looks at as much data on each point in the sales process as he can—and that includes bounce rates, time on page, entries and exits through the page, traffic sources, and so on.

So the conversion funnel review process might look something like this:

  1. Go through your site, and map each step in your conversion funnel.
  2. Look at your analytics work out what you’ll measure at each point in the funnel.
  3. Put numbers against the metrics you’ve decided to measure at each step.

Understanding the data

Once you work through this process, you’ll find yourself armed with a lot of data. How you interpret that data will go a long way toward boosting your conversions.

For example, finding that you have a high exit rate from a page in your funnel means people are leaving it—you’re losing potential conversions at this point. That’s good to know, but that information alone doesn’t tell you what you can do about it.

In working out implications of that information you may need to also look at bounce rates for the page, and where the traffic it receives is coming from, for example. This information can be a big help in making the right choices when it comes to tweaking the funnel.

For example, let’s imagine that we’re analysing the About page for ProBlogger the Book. Now this page is the second in my sales funnel—the default page is at http://probloggerbook.com/.

Most visitors go straight from that default page to Amazon or B&N. But let’s imagine that a significant percentage click through to the About page … and then exit without clicking on one of the Buy buttons, or subscribing.

If I look at the data, and all I see is that this page has a high bounce rate, I might be tempted to try a range of different strategies to fix that. But what if I look at the traffic sources and notice that a large percentage of users are arriving at the About the Book page through search engines?

The About page doesn’t have any Buy buttons above the fold, so if users are coming from a search engine, where they’ll likely also see an Amazon or B&N link in the results, they may immediately think, “Oh, this is just marketing information. I’ll click back and look at the details on Amazon—I know I can buy the book there.”

In this case, my strategy for tweaking the sales funnel will differ from the ideas I had when all I noticed was the high bounce rate. My efforts might also include improving the search rank of the default sales page for the book, if it’s appearing below the About page in the SERPs, but converting better.

As you can see, understanding the data as a whole is very important if you’re to make decisions that will have the best likelihood of positively affecting your conversion rates.

Focus on key points of loss

As you review your funnel, you’ll also need to consider where to focus your efforts to improve it.

While the data may reveal a number of areas for improvement, you’ll likely find that some will produce a much bigger bang for your buck—as the Ninja explained in this recent post. If your time is limited—and whose isn’t?—you’d be best to focus on these pages, if not exclusively, at least initially.

As you’re looking at those pages, don’t limit yourself to considering one or two factors. Often, we can become fixated on things like button size or placement, and forget about other considerations that might be negatively impacting conversions. These could include:

  • headlines, sub-heads, and scannability of the content
  • how we’re using images and where they’re placed
  • whether the language on the page resonates with users
  • the strength of your calls to action
  • links to other content, including navigation links
  • use of testimonials
  • offers of samples
  • the page’s purpose in the conversion process, and whether it meets that from a fundamental, usability standpoint.

These are just a few ideas, but consider them broadly. For example, reviewing the strength of your calls to action is on that list—but that doesn’t just mean the calls to action to buy your product.

The ProBlogger Book sales page includes subscription box. Should that remain on a low-performing page? Should it be removed? Is it likely to be diffusing the strength of my call to action or is it providing a valuable mechanism by which I’m capturing new subscribers who may not be ProBlogger regulars?

My analysis of the data, coupled with my strategy for the page and goals for the conversion funnel, should help me determine the answers here.

Match the changes to your users

A quick final point: you’re not in the dark when it comes to trying to work out what tweaks you’ll make. In a later part of this series, we’ll find out how to conduct split tests that will help you to test various incremental changes so that you can see which ones work best, and use those.

But even before you get that far, the audience research that the Blog Tyrant was talking about yesterday should give you some insight into how you can alter points in your conversion funnel to match the needs, characteristics, and expectations of the audience you’re seeking.

He mentioned, for example, that video can be useful for certain audiences—perhaps that’s something I should consider adding to my book’s About page? I know from my other data and reader feedback that my regulars love video content, so it seems like it could be a good idea…

Ready to act?

Once you’ve finished reviewing your sales funnel, you’ll have a pretty clear idea of the possibilities before you for boosting conversions. It’s time to act.

Tomorrow, Tommy Walker will step us through the changes he actually made to his own website in an effort to improve conversions, so that we can get a first-hand account of how all this research feeds into practical alterations to things like page layouts, calls to action, images, and more.

But in the meantime, I’d love to hear your tips or extra advice for reviewing conversion funnels—whether for a paid or free offer. Have you ever done it? What secrets can you share from your experiences? Let us know in the comments.

Boost Conversions Step 1: Review Your Offer

This guest post is by the Blog Tyrant.

A few weeks ago I was sitting down to dinner with my big sister, and talking about one of my web businesses.

“What’s your quotation success rate?” she asked me with a face full of pizza.

“Pretty good,” I replied, sounding—I admit—pretty stupid.

“Find out exactly what it is,” she came back.

My big sister, the psychologist-turned national-sales-leader for her real estate company, then went on to explain to me how she knows exactly how many quotes she has to send out in order to make a sale. She knows how many phone calls it takes on average, what delivery method is most successful, and when to follow up the client with a phone call or an email.

And she’s constantly trying to improve that quotation figure by getting feedback on her failures.

While she was telling me all of this a penny dropped: this quotation (or conversion) rate applies to blogging, too. Sure, knowing why people buy your product or sign up to your email list is important. But perhaps even more important than that, is this:

Find out why people don’t buy or sign up.

The first of five steps

If one of your blogging goals is to boost your conversion rates—for sales, subscriptions, downloads, or some other action—you don’t need to just consider your successes. You also need to look at your failures. Boosting conversions isn’t just about doing more of the good stuff. it’s about identifying the bad stuff, and doing less of that.

But this is just the first step in the process.

Over the next four days, ProBlogger will walk you through a process that will help you to boost conversions—for sales or signups—on your blog. In it, we’ll cover these steps:

  1. Review your offer.
  2. Revisit your conversion funnel.
  3. Revamp your communications.
  4. Run A/B tests, tweak, and refine.
  5. Reach all your audience segments using these techniques.

It’ll be quite a ride—so I hope you’ll join us for three posts that will follow this one! But now, let’s get started, and consider the question:

Why aren’t people converting through your sign up or sales page?

Getting started

Before you can really understand your audience, your product, and where things might be going wrong, you’re going to need a few tools in hand.

  • Google Analytics: If you haven’t done so already, go and install Google Analytics on your blog. It will take you all of two minutes, but it will provide you with essential data you’ll need to grow your business.
  • Email marketing software: Again, everyone who takes their blogging seriously will need some form of email marketing software that works better than Feedburner. I always recommend Aweber for bloggers, as it’s easy to set up and has amazing stats for you to play with.
  • A desire to understand some psychology: Yep, you read that correctly. I’ve always put an emphasis on studying psychology alongside other marketing techniques, because it really helps you to understand buyer behaviour and the psychology of desire, and to figure out what people do or don’t want.

Armed with these three things, we’re in a good position to help grow our conversions.

Conduct a conversion review

As I said, my sister knows exactly how many quotations she has to make to generate a sale. In blogging terms, she knows her conversion rate, and she’s always looking to improve it by seeking feedback from failed quotations.

So let’s look at three key questions that you can ask to better understand why your blog’s readers and visitors aren’t converting on a given offer (paid or free). Once you understand this, you’ll be in a much better position to dramatically boost your conversion rate.

Question 1: How well does my offer suit my audience?

The first thing you’ll need to do is make sure your product or free giveaway is well-matched to your audience. Pitch the wrong product to the wrong audience, and you’ll find it extremely difficult to boost conversions—that is, if you can generate any in the first place.

Let’s consider the Mercedes Benz brand as an example. This is a high-quality, luxury car brand with a higher price tag than the average motor vehicle. This means their marketing methods need to be tailored to the right audience. For example, you’ll never see and ad for Mercedes in a magazine aimed at the teen girls market. However, you might see one in a golfing magazine. Why? Because the latter is read by older men who have disposable income and a desire to communicate a certain status with their car. Obviously, teen girls don’t have either of those things.

This is fine for a offline brand, but how can you make sure your product is matched to your audience? Study your traffic stats.

Guest post stats

This image shows a few weeks of traffic from some old guest posts I did here at ProBlogger. As you can see, the red arrow shows a post that had a bad bounce rate, and the green arrow shows a post with a better (lower) bounce rate.

As you can see, even traffic coming from the same source can vary wildly in terms of expectations and satisfaction levels with what the users find on your site. Fortunately, we have other metrics to review.

A key metric is your users’ demographics—you’ll need to know how old your blog’s users are, whether they are male or female, where they live, and so on.

While this basic information may seem elementary, you’d be surprised how often bloggers find new data hidden in their user stats—data that can point to fairly obvious changes that can help to boost conversions.

For example, if many of your blog’s readers come from an area that’s suffering high unemployment at the moment (for example, Spain), you might need to consider changing your pitch for a product to make it either seem more relevant and valuable, or more affordable to your target audience. You might consider lowering the price—so that more people can afford your product—or increasing it, to create a stronger impression of value and ensure that you get a better margin on the sales you do make.

Don’t go making any decisions yet, though! We still have some more reviewing to do.

Question 2: Are customers happy with your current offering?

The next thing you’ll need to do is to ask for feedback from satisfied and unsatisfied customers. You absolutely need to find out whether your offering is hitting the mark. While conversion statistics are one thing, they don’t give you a clear idea of what the customers who did convert actually wound up thinking of the product or service once they used it.

If you don’t seek their feedback after the point of conversion, all the hard work you do with product creation and conversion optimization could be going to waste.

Here are just a handful of the steps you can take to tap that information from your customers:

  • Use Survey Monkey to survey them: It’s a good idea to occasionally send out a survey asking customers what they like and dislike about your offering (be it a free or paid offer), and inviting constructive feedback. Obviously you don’t want to keep surveying the same users, so you need to take care not to try to survey the same customers about the same offerings over and over.
  • Set up an automatic email in Aweber: Aweber allows you to send out an automatic email called a Follow Up. The idea here is that after a few days of their signing up to your list (either through your subscription form, or as a result of a purchase on your site), subscribers receive and email asking whether or not they enjoyed the subscription product. If you like, you can take this opportunity to encourage them to pass it on to their friends, but in any case, be sure to ask them to email you any feedback or ideas they have to improve the offering.
  • Email people who unsubscribe: Aweber also allows you to keep a list of all the people who unsubscribe from your list. It’s a really good idea to email them just once to tell them you’re sorry to see them go, and to ask why they’re leaving. Their feedback will often be a lot more honest than those who still like your stuff. While the criticism can be hard to take, this feedback can be a goldmine for understanding your offering’s shortcomings.

Now, this all sounds great, right? Well, here’s the problem: sometimes people don’t know what they’re talking about. More specifically, they say one thing, but mean another. For this reason you have to be very careful about the questions you ask readers through any kind of survey. For example, if you ask a generic question, you probably get a generic—and inaccurate—answer.

“Did you like my eBook?”
“Yes it was good.”

The words “good” and “yes” here tell us nothing. This feedback doesn’t mean that the user shared your offering with their friends. It doesn’t mean that it totally blew them away and they’ll be a loyal subscriber forever. It means nothing.

People have changed their careers after reading Pat Flynn’s free ebook. People share it around and talk about it constantly on his Facebook page. That’s the kind of feedback you want. And to get it, you’ll need to ask more specific questions, like these:

  • Did you share the product with your friends?
  • What was your favorite part of this product?
  • What was your least favorite part of the product?
  • What did you do differently after you read the product?

You could also considering surveying customers about the conversion funnel itself, with questions like these:

  • What was it that made you want to subscribe/buy this product?
  • Did you think the subscription/purchase process took a long time?
  • Was it a hassle to receive the product/subscription?
  • Did you have any trouble accessing the information, or using or sharing the product files?
  • What did you expect to get? Did you receive it?

At least with questions like these, you’re going to get some clear feedback on which aspects of your offer work, and which don’t.

Question 3: How might you use this information to tweak your offering?

The next step is to tweak your product or offering based on the lessons you’ve learned.

Now, I’m not talking simply about matching your offer to your audience here. Rather, you need to look at ways to improve the quality and presentation of your offer, based on what your target market is interested in, and what you know is and isn’t working for the members of your current audience.

Recently on my blog we talked about whether or not the free ebook giveaway is dead or not. Most people agree that it’s not, but we all agreed that the poor quality ebook is dead. People are looking for better and better quality all the time.

This is where the psychology of marketing comes in to play. Here are two examples in which we can look at the behavior of an audience and try to better shape our offer to suit them:

  • Mothers: Studies have shown that women who are mothers respond poorly to promotions and products that use hype to sell their benefits. These women are highly practical and intelligent, but they’re also tired and overworked. They just want honest, trustworthy products and landing pages that don’t “over-promote”. Women in general don’t like unrealistic marketing.
  • Male teenagers: Studies have shown that male teenagers, on the other hand, are more likely to be interested in quick fixes. A generation of boys raised with video games, mobile phones, and the web generally show less patience and a greater desire for instant gratification than other market segments.

As you can see, it’s not just about aligning your offer with your market: it’s also about making sure your product pitch, and presentation to your target market.

For example, your offer might be an ebook. Great. Now, let’s imagine you’re targeting the younger male audience segment mentioned above. Tweaks you might make to your product and its pitch include:

  • Using short chapter and section titles.
  • Using imagery to communicate quickly wherever possible.
  • Keeping the design and layout simple.
  • Making sure the product delivers instantly, and communicates that it does so both in its body content and through any marketing materials.
  • Using instant, easy-to-use marketing tools like video, which suits the instant-gratification needs of the target audience as well as the fact that they’ll be more likely to access the offer through a smart phone or tablet.

By this point, you should have a list of potential ideas that you can use to try to boots conversions by tweaking your offering.

Trial and continuous review

The most important thing that I learned from my sister is that we should be constantly assessing and changing our product and pitch. Trends change, competitors come along, and people’s interests shift.

You probably won’t make all the changes on your shortlist of ideas for improving your offer. That’s fine—you can test the ones you feel will give you the best impact, then check your results and consider the rest of your list (which you may have added to!) in light of those results.

How can you choose which elements to change? The feedback you obtained from existing customers, coupled with conversion and market data, should give you a push in the right direction, but often these decisions come down to your own intuition or “feel” for your target audience, and what they want, like, and need.

Don’t be afraid to change aspects of your offer, and don’t be afraid to ask people hard questions about your product. The best products in the world have all got there because of constant improvements.

Once you have your new product and offer prepared, you’ll need to tighten up your funnel to ensure you’re not leaking potential conversions. Tomorrow, Darren will take us through that process.

But for now, I’d be interested to hear what you’ve found out about why readers aren’t signing up for your product or service offering. And if you made tweaks to it, what did you change? Share your stories with us in the comments.

The Blog Tyrant is a 26 year old Australian guy who plays video games at lunch time and sells blogs for $20,000 a pop.