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Why This Blog Sells Tons of Ebooks (And How It Can Sell Even More)

For our first product blog review, let’s take a look at SEO Book, a blog by SEO expert Aaron Wall that ultimately revolves around the sale of a continually-updated book on search engine optimization techniques that bring more traffic to websites.

Like any successful product blog, it all starts with the product. Aaron’s book is excellent, and stands head and shoulders above a lot of the SEO dreck that gets peddled to unwary newbies.

The fact that Aaron uses a blog to sell his book is incredibly smart. Beyond the natural search engine benefits provided by publishing via blog and RSS, Aaron’s regular posting schedule and archives are critical tools for information product sales. They build his authority on the subject matter, help people take a liking to him, create relationships via a free subscription to the blog, and even put people in a position to feel indebted to him (via reciprocity) for all the great free information he provides.

When it comes down to the sales process for the book, Aaron actually promotes his consulting services a bit stronger first with a graphic on the right sidebar. At $500 for an hour of phone consultation, a comprehensive ebook for $79 starts looking really attractive to a lot of folks. Note that if Aaron had not first built up his authority and credibility with his blog, this strategy might backfire.

OK, on to the sales page for the book. Aaron starts off with a strong headline, which is the absolute most important element to anything you want people to actually read — whether a sales letter, article or blog post.

His states:

Webmasters: I Guarantee YOU Can Triple Your Traffic – in 90 Days – or You Don’t Pay A Single Penny!

All good headlines make a reader-focused beneficial promise, and Aaron accomplishes that by speaking to you (the webmaster) about how you can get something you want — more traffic. He then takes the promise a step forward by turning it into another crucial element; a money back guarantee that transfers risk away from the buyer and back to the seller.

Just below the headline, Aaron has a nice testimonial from Mario Sanchez of The Internet Digest. Later on down the page, Aaron has a string of other testimonials, all of which are crucial to building trust due to the power of social proof — the psychological mechanism by which we look to others to guide our own actions.

The problem with written testimonials (especially online) is that people may think they are fake. Aaron does something very smart with his — he gives a full name, website, and a live hyperlink. Many people are afraid to do this out of fear that the reader will click away.

The thing is, someone who is truly interested in what you have to offer most likely will not click away. But they will be reassured by the fact that they could… and then even email the person to verify the testimonial. It shows Aaron has nothing to hide.

Next, Aaron gives the price and has a “Buy Now” button. Most copywriters would advise against this, but in this case I think it works. The beauty of selling a product with a blog is the “pre-selling” that happens when people engage with your free content. A certain percentage of people might buy off of the headline and testimonial alone.

Not completely sold yet? Most people aren’t.

The page continues with a very nice tactic. Aaron creates a bond with readers by letting them know he’ll share with you the secrets that other SEO experts won’t, and that it’s much easier to achieve great ranking results than you think. This is a mild form of “creating a common enemy,” which hopes to shift the adversarial nature of the “seller vs. buyer” mindset into one where the reader is on Aaron’s side.

From there, Aaron goes into a “FAQ” mode to pose, and then answer, common questions. This is a great way to raise, and then knock down, common objections.

Then, Aaron goes deeper into the features of the book, sets forth his testimonials, reinforces his credentials, and closes with the 90-day money back guarantee, offers free bonuses to sweeten the deal, and asks for the purchase one last time.

What Could be Done Better?

Knowing what works is not a matter of personal opinion. The only way to know if Option “A” is better than “Option “B” is to test them both, and know for sure. This is called split testing, and it can be done with Google AdWords, autoresponders, and web scripts.

For example, although I like the gist of the headline, it’s possible that tweaking only a word or two could raise conversion rates hugely. Headlines are THAT important. Advertising legend (and testing fanatic) John Caples asserted that 75% of buying decisions are made at the headline alone (but, ironically, the rest of the copy still needs to be there to make the decision stick).

Likewise, an alternative to the initial testimonial and “buy now” button could be tested, just to see if it’s having the unintended effect of driving too many people off before they were fully engaged.

While Aaron’s use of the “creating a common enemy” tactic is smart, it might be more effective in story form. Illustrating how easy it can be in a personal narrative is much more powerful, and creating vivid mental imagery early on is crucial to keeping the reader engaged.

Another crucial element of copy that sells is a focus on the benefits of the product, not the features. As it’s been aptly said, “No one wants a drill, they want a hole. Sell the hole.”

Likewise, no one really wants to learn SEO. They want traffic. While the headline nails this, it needs to be elaborated on early and strongly in the copy. Examples of traffic growth that can result from using Aaron’s techniques would work nicely.

I might then lead directly into the list of testimonials after the benefits section. With that powerful combination in place, a follow-up section designed to raise and address common objections, plus illustrate the features of the book, would lead the reader on a slippery slope to the free bonuses, money-back guarantee, and the close of the sale.

Conclusion:

Aaron sells a lot of books already. The reasons why include having a great product, but the blog element cannot be underestimated. By pre-selling without selling, plus having a concept that attracts people via search engines looking for exactly what he offers, the SEO Book blog acts as an ideal platform for selling an information product. In this way, he’s capitalizing on the “low-hanging fruit” exceptionally well.

By making some adjustments to his sales page, Aaron could boost his conversion rates even higher, especially through other sales channels like his affiliate program. Not everyone is familiar with SEO or why they would want to learn it, but everyone with a website understands the need for traffic.

Telling a compelling story about big spikes in traffic (thanks to SEO tactics that work) can result in more sales for Aaron across the board.

Brian Clark teaches his readers how to blog (and sell) more effectively at Copyblogger.

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Comments

  1. Lee says:

    Visiting seobook.com, the initial impression I get is good – it makes me want to read into things a bit more and I gain an element of respect for the guy because the design looks professional, usable and generally pleasing.

    However, the ‘buy-now’ page is where he loses me – I immediately think spam. I don’t know whether this is a european thing, but I absolutely hate that style of page. It’s something you see with every spam link, ebay e-book advert etc. It’s a massive turn-off for me, and I personally would close the window immediately – regardless of my earlier impression.

    From my perspective, I would expect Aaron’s conversion rates would increase if he kept that page in line with the style of his blog. Keep it simple, and let me view everything without having to scroll.

  2. Mr SEO says:

    I have to agree. I do the same with my podcast. I teach SEO where others just report on it. I mentioned putting together a walkthrough on SEO and requests have already come in and I haven’t even begun on it yet.

    I think Aaron knows his market and people like me look to him and you for tips and insights. I hope to one day, be among the ranks of you guys setting the trends and not following them.

  3. Lowell says:

    Refreshing to see this review of someone who walks the walk. Most of them just talk it.

  4. Terry says:

    Selling ebooks with a blog is a great way to make money. The difficult task is finding quality products that REALLY deliver.

    I’m always leary of reviewing a “weak” ebook. Don’t want to look like a “snake oil salesman”

    -Terry

  5. Paul Drago says:

    “free subscription to the blog, and even put people in a position to feel indebted to him (via reciprocity) for all the great free information he provides.”
    That is the exact reason I bought his book.

  6. Thea says:

    I’ve purchased Aaron’s SEO Book late last year but I just finished reading it a couple of weeks ago (talk about procrastination). I truly enjoyed the book and believe that I got my money’s worth from it.

    This is a really good article. Thanks for posting this.

  7. Eitan says:

    I do like the way he gives away info but sells even more. Why would anyone want to purchase an ebook from someone who just makes claims on their website. This way we get to see he knows what he’s talking about. Too bad I’m not selling a product like that, it’s a great business model.

  8. Brian Clark says:

    Hey Lee. No, Aaron’s conversion rates would go down, not up, if he did what you in particular would prefer.

    Here’s why.

    People want as much information (and proof) as they can get when they make a purchase. And the “letter” format is the time-tested way to accomplish that with the largest percentage of people in a direct marketing environment. This is not my opinion… it’s been tested and proved and that’s why it continues to be done.

    Frankly, Aaron’s letter is no where near as hypey as a lot of the garbage that gets peddled online.

    But, you are not alone in your sentiments. There are other, very vocal people that feel the way you do, and they will likewise refuse to even read a sales letter. But the group you are in is a minority, and really, the only person who refuses to consider a great product simply based on the formatting of the marketing is that person, not the seller.

    I do object to your use of the word “spam.” That is a loaded word that doesn’t apply to the formatting of a webpage, and yet you use it in this context because it has power. And that’s what good copywriting is all about. :)

    Personally, when I write a sales letter, I tone down the appearence a bit, depending on the audience. But it’s ultimately still a sales letter, becasue it works.

    Even these well-respected guys know how powerful the format is:

    http://www.37signals.com/

  9. Renee says:

    IMHO, that sales page is very much tone down. For a person who buys e-product on a regular basis, this isn’t as “hyppie” as compare to many.

    If Aaron wants to build more hype, he jolly well could highlight his bonuses (#1, #2 and #4) into individual boxes and elaborate further benefits (emotional). Take #1 for example,

    “With the constant change of alogrithm in SEs, it’s no wonder many newbies couldn’t keep up with the know-how, let alone talk about building profitable websites. For a mere one time $79 investment on your part, not only you will get truck load of traffic once you start implement my techniques but you will always get cutting edge SE knowledge and stay ahead of your competitors. No more worries of using techniques that are so dated even your grandmother would know how to implement them.”

    Ok, I may have gone abit overboard here, but I wanted to point out is that if after reading the sales page which highlighted some benefits that hold my interest, I will buy it. And if it didn’t deliver what it promised, then ask for a refund. You will never know how good it is until you try it.

  10. Andy Merrett says:

    Yes, it’s not spam – spam is a method not a look. This can’t be spam because people have chosen to view the page (they may have got spam email to entice them to read it, but that’s a different issue)

    To me it’s a double-edged sword – I hate these types of letter (whether they come by snail mail, email, or in web page format) but I know they work. I would think very carefully before using them to sell a product, preferring instead to embed within the articles themselves (which I’m sure Aaron does, though I’ve not studied his blog)

    This method works – human nature just seems to lap it up whether or not the end product is any good or not. I expect in this case, the end product is good, thoiugh I’ve not read it personally. However, there are many more products (a handful of which I’ve fallen for) that entice visitors using this method and get them to buy. The money-back guarantee is great, but I think many marketers bank on many people forgetting, even if they’re not satisfied. That’s not underhand, it’s just how it works.

    One thing I’d be careful of is giving away so much free information that people don’t think it’s worth buying the product. I suppose that won’t happen on a wide niche, and often the sales method includes lines like ‘get all this info straight away by buying xyz’ – I think that’s why the instalment newsletter works as well. If a subscriber gets hooked on a newsletter that only comes out daily or weekly, but there’s an offer to buy the whole course immediately, often the ‘buy it now’ mentality will make the sale.

    Anyway, I’ve rambled enough. Product selling (whether my own or affiliate) is something I don’t have much experience of, but would love to improve upon in an organic way as my sites grow. Thanks for the article.

  11. mad4 says:

    I’m 25 and a web developer from the UK. Nobody I know would ever buy something from a sales letter page like the seobook page. Maybe (as was mentioned above) it is a European thing, I don’t know.

    I love seobook.com and read the blog daily. I have a huge amount of respect for Aaron but am amazed he is using this technique to sell a legitimate product. The layout of the page associates his product with the likes of blog spam and search engine submission software.

    Aaron if you must use this sales letter please start IP targetting as you are losing UK customers by the dozen.

  12. I’m American and I don’t buy anything from “long sales pages”. To me it’s the mark of a spammer. I also don’t believe I’d go over $19.99 for E-books in general.

    That said, Aaron has done a great job of integrating the book into his blog and integrating his “expert status” into the whole sales presentations.

    I assume me and the two European dudes are not his target market. I’m the type of person who would rather “do it yourself” than learn from others.

  13. Brian Clark says:

    Thanks for all the great feedback. Two points on the whole “sales letter” debate:

    1. I think the appearance of Aaron’s sales page could be toned down and made much more sophisticated looking, and it would help, thanks to the high quality of his blog. There is a disparity, and appearances do matter. A page that had the look and feel of the 37 Signals home page would be more appropriate for Aaron.

    2. The sales letter is the absolute number 1 method to sell an information product such as this. When you pour your heart and soul into creating an extremely useful ebook, you’ll want to sell as many of them as you can, and it’s been established over and over — by testing, not opinion — that this is the way to do it.

    The page does not have to look spammy, or contain cheesy text, to work. But don’t let the “consumer” opinions of some people interfere with the a “marketing” decision on how best to sell something… unless you don’t care about silly things like revenue and profits. :)

  14. John says:

    Being a marketer myself, I also feel that a sales letter can have varying effects depending on its appearance. If the sales letter is professional, and there are other benefits that surround the product (e.g. Aaron’s blog), it makes me want to buy, because there are so many valuable benefits that satisfy the buyers needs (what I am looking for). Yes, Aaron’s presentation is not the best, but he makes compelling claims, and he has proven his ability via his blog (trust).

    I bought Aaron’s book a couple of weeks back, and have read it from front to back. One word…excellent! I have also bought products from guys like IMC (when Corey Rudl) was running it, and that was also good, and the sales letter is extremely effective. I can’t remember how many times i’ve come across some whizz bang e-book and have read the copy from tip to toe, and almost triggered my mouse to click through and buy, even though I knew it could be schlock! Sales copy is tried and tested, and works extremely well. Why? It draws the reader in, plays on their emotions, compels them to act, Aaron does this extremely well.

    Hats off to Aaron, great ebook, with very good info!

  15. Personally, I never know what to make of those sales letter pitches. It seems like a majority of marketers are using them, which would certainly point to their efficacy. At the same time, however, that makes it hard for consumers to decide which products are legit and which ones are garbage just from the sales presentation. So even though I find that style to be a big turn off, I don’t automatically dismiss a product because of it.

  16. Peter says:

    Brian, I think that you hit the nail on the head when you said “They [blog posts] build his authority on the subject matter, help people take a liking to him, create relationships via a free subscription to the blog, and even put people in a position to feel indebted to him (via reciprocity) for all the great free information he provides.”
    When you are trying to sell it is very important to enter into a dialog with your customer to build up rapport and break down natural resistance to the sales message.
    On the whole, a blog is the perfect sales tool if developed correctly.
    I am looking forward to the next installment of “Product Blogging”.

    Peter

  17. Yaro says:

    Ahh the age old long sales letter debate. I often think of this the same way I think of late night infomercials. I watch them and wonder how anyone could possibly buy from them, but then I think – well, it’s not cheap to advertise on TV, even late at night, so clearly is a profitable format – and they keep doing it every night!

    Long sales copy has the same story – it works, however I think in rare occasions a shorter sales letter may perform better, but because a long letter is the de facto standard the short letter isn’t tested. Of course that’s just not smart marketing to not test, but I do wonder how many online marketers bother to test short sales letters anymore?

    Brian, do you usually test a short sales letter anymore or focus only on tweaking the variables in long sales letters?

  18. Aaron knows his topic and explains it in nice way. His site is full of useful information. I highly recommend his book. Thanks Darren for nice review.

  19. razib says:

    It is interesting that many users are now fed up with this style of selling. It’s time, we try to think of new ways of selling products. Of course, if we could have some kind of body to give us certificate that we are not spammers.

  20. I respectfully disagree with your entire analysis in your third paragraph.

    First, the difference in quality between the blog and the buy-now page actually detracts from his authority. The buy-now page is marginally different from many seo experts. Why should there be a completely different feel between the stylish blog and the boorish buy-now page?

    2. The commitment feature which is clever is the form which invites you to describe what more he can tell to get you to buy his book. It would have been super clever to put in a menu of faq questions, which would have then established his authority even more. Commitment is not gained by offering a “free subscription to the blog”. I think that this feature could be better utilized.

    3. I doubt that there is any reciprocity here. People expect good quality information or they turn off the rss feed. You don’t get much for offering good quality free information.

    4. Finally, there is no liking or similarity going on here, either. If there was an geoip selector which pitched relevant content at me when I visited the buy-now site, that might be different.

    Finally, there are no compelling examples which shows that he can do what he claims, without giving away the game. (His own very high ranking for “seo book” notwithstanding.)

  21. nlo0yb says:

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  2. [...] Why This Blog Sells Tons of Ebooks (And How It Can Sell Even More) [...]

  3. [...] As we wrap up this short series of posts on product blogging, let’s take a look at a strategy for those who may not have a product of their own to sell. We’ve looked at selling information and niche e-commerce, and you can obviously use those strategies with products that you sell on behalf of others. [...]

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