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How To Create Link Bait Content

This guest post is by Brandon Connell of BrandonConnell.com.

Throughout my blogging career, I’ve worked hard on my writing style. I’ve improved over time, and I’m at a point now where I believe I have perfected my ability to write link bait articles. A link bait article is an article that makes many readers want to reference it within their articles, or link to it as a general resource.

The thing I love about link baiting is that it allows your blog to build some quality backlinks and increase search rank over time. It also means additional targeted traffic is attracted to your blog, which can mean more subscribers. Let’s see how you can start writing such articles, and increasing your presence on the web.

Why do articles go viral?

The main reason why articles go viral is because they offer something that of value to a large portion of the population. This is usually something that people feel that they cannot be without, and with the way that social media works, everyone automatically shares links to that content which spreads it like a virus; hence the name “viral”.

Think about viral content as being like the latest craze during a holiday sale (e.g. Tickle Me Elmo).

Two common link bait post types

Some articles are just so good that they grab the attention of the reader immediately.

One example of such an article is a list post. These are posts that are easy to read, and usually provide solutions to problems or reasons why things are needed. Examples of list post titles are “Top 10 Must-Have WordPress Plugins”, or “5 Methods To Increase RSS Subscribers”. The titles of those articles are meant to get the attention of the person who has a need for those things. When they access the article, it is broken down into a list for easy consumption.

A controversial post is another example. Consider the blogger who refused the screening process by the TSA. He recorded the entire confrontation, and posted it on his blog. The next thing you know, not only was he on the news, but everyone was linking to his blog when they talked about negative reactions to the TSA backscatter xray machine and the aggressive pat-downs.

Making your article stand out

When I first guest posted on ProBlogger, I intended to write an article that I knew would be referenced in the future. I wrote about blogging styles, and I made sure to create an in-depth article. So link bait posts don’t have to be list items or controversial articles. They can simply be articles that cover a topic in depth, and which another blogger can reference within his or her own posts into the future. You see this all the time among bloggers and site owners who link to wikipedia articles.

In order to make your article stand out, it’s wise to write a detailed post and cover the key bases of the topic. Break your article into sub-sections and lists, and reference other materials where you need to. The most important part of standing out is to be original. If you write a me-too post, then you aren’t likely to get comments, let alone inbound links.

Using leverage while remaining original

Let me stress this. Go out of your way to be original. Once, I created free banner ads for some of my regular readers in order to show my appreciation for their loyalty. It only took five hours of my time to design those ads, but I knew that they would appreciate the effort for a long time. I had no intention for getting inbound links from the exercise—they were an unexpected bonus.

I love when I come across a massive article with links to a lot of useful tools. Once, I came across an article on traffic sources. That article listed hundreds of websites that we can leverage to get traffic to our blogs. I bookmarked that bad boy and referenced it in my own article.

Those kinds of articles really get my attention, and easily turn me into a regular reader. The person who compiled the article wasn’t lazy, and took their time to make a valuable resource for someone else. They didn’t do a quick article just to get some link bait. And if their intent was to get link bait, they did it the right way by taking their time to make a valuable resource.

Make an effort for style

When I talk about style, I’m not telling you to go out and make sure your socks match. When I speak of style, I’m talking about how you present your articles.

  • Do you break them up with pictures related to what you are writing about?
  • Do you use H1, H2, and H3 tags?
  • Do you change the color of your header tags to look different than the article text?
  • Do you throw a video or some audio in there to appear to be keeping up with the Jetsons?
  • Do you style your social media accounts to look like your blog?
  • Do you use an occasional list like this one to make your point?

There are many ways to go about creating style for your brand. The lesson here is: don’t be lazy. If you take your blog seriously, present it in a unique way, while at the same time completing the maintenance your readers expect.

Size does matter

You may have heard that phrase from an ex-girlfriend, but I am talking about the length of posts here. There’s a big debate that will remain a debate for years to come: whether or not to write long posts.

I wrote both long and short posts. Some of my articles are as small as 200 words and some of those are just personal update; others can get up to 5,000 words. The fact is that search engines love longer articles with original content. So do readers. They may not read the entire thing, but they will skim that article like tomorrow wasn’t coming. If you pack a longer article with many eye-catching subtitles, you can easily attract links to those articles.

Longer articles are more likely to attract backlinks. Let’s take, for example, a post titled “7 Ways to Come Up With Blog Post Ideas”. What if we were to take the same concept, but create a piece titled “100 Ways to Come Up With Blog Post Ideas”? Guess which one will attract more attention. 100 ways is better than 7 ways; that article is a sure-fire bookmark post.

I’m not saying that you can’t have a successful blog with 500-word articles. Many great blogs that I visit every day post short articles, and short articles are easy to read. What I am saying is that you are less likely to create link bait articles with shorter posts. It’s not impossible—I’ve done it myself. But if you want a consistent solution, then longer articles that are 1,000-5,000 words are best.

Contests aren’t just for traffic

Have you ever held a contest on your blog? They’re usually used to attract traffic, because everyone taking part in the contest will promote it. But contests also generate a lot of inbound links through that promotion. Take, for example, a guest post contest. You’re likely to get many links to various articles in this contest, rather than just one to the contest itself. Each guest poster will actively promote their article on as many social media sites as possible, as well as the sites and blogs they own or partner with.

You can really utilize contest by soliciting sponsors. To do so, post an article on your site that invites sponsorships for an upcoming contest. In addition, contact companies directly and let them know you have a contest coming up. Offer them major exposure if they contribute cash, tangible items, or software licenses, for example, as prizes. This is a great way to build up a link-baiting plan around your contest.

Is it broke? Report it!

I recently broke a story on my blog. At first I wasn’t going to, then I realized what I’d be passing up. The story announced a new web platform that was coming out for bloggers and readers alike, called Newsgrape. I gained some quick traffic by breaking this story before the mainstream media got hold of it.

More recently, I started getting some extra links to my story, because I was the first blogger to write about Newsgrape. An added bonus was that I gained a link to my article from the Newsgrape page. Aside from the backlink on a PR6 site, I started receiving traffic from that site, which keeps coming to this day!

If you can manage to get your hands on a big story before anyone else does, you can create some serious link bait. Some blogs actually focus on breaking news stories, and other bloggers only hope to come across a story occasionally. But the great thing is that you don’t have to be the very first in order to benefit. If you can manage to be just one of the first bloggers to write about it, then you’ll get in before the audience is saturated with the story. Your article is also likely to gain favor with Google for being one of the first t report that topic.

How can you can find breaking stories to report as “one of the originals”? Look at news sites and stories, like the Yahoo! homepage. Don’t hesitate: write about it, then publish it quickly. That would be one of the only times I actually advise writers not to take their time on a story. Make sure you are original when you write it, though: don’t be in such a hurry that you only report an article that’s already been written by another or news site. You can reference a sentence or two, but provide your own opinion and ensure that your thoughts are mentioned by others in the near future.

The art of link baiting

Writing link bait content is easy. It’s an artform, but any blogger can do it if they just apply the science and avoid laziness.

Make sure that you’re not being selfish by only seeking links. Rather, work hard to create a valuable resource that others can’t resist.

What tips can you share from your experience writing successful link bait content?

Brandon Connell is a full time blogger, and internet marketing expert. He can be found on his blog teaching you how to make money blogging, and you can follow him on Twitter.

How to Create More Content for Your Blog and Kill 2 Birds With 1 Stone

“Darren, do you have any tips for creating more content for my blog? I have grown my blog to become reasonably successful but as it grows find myself with more and more requests and questions from readers that take me away from writing content. What should I do?”—William

Hi William and thanks for the question. I do have one tip that comes to mind that I hope you find useful. It certainly helped me keep my inbox load light and create more content!

I certainly understand the pressure of managing a growing blog, and the demands that come with it. A few years ago, I would wake up in the morning to many reader questions and wonder how I’d ever get any actual posts written.

That was until I realized that the emails in my inbox were actually part of the answer—not the problem.

What I came to see was that many of the questions readers were asking me about the topics of my blog were things that others would be interested in hearing about also. If one person is asking a question, many others are probably thinking it.

I began to approach writing answers to emails differently, so that I could capture my responses and repurpose them as blog posts.

Of course I would normally take off the greeting at the start and farewell remarks at the end of the email—and I might change the opening paragraph to introduce the topic a little more. But I would write the bulk of the response in such a way that it could simply be copied and pasted into a blog post.

In doing so, I killed two birds with one stone:

  1. Individual readers were satisfied. Actually, they were ecstatic because they were getting such comprehensive answers.
  2. I was creating relevant and useful content simply by clearing my inbox!

The added bonus of this approach is that these posts were written in a much more personal style than normal. It’s amazing how writing something in response to a real person with a real problem or need (instead of covering a random topic for a nameless audience) changes your style of writing.

I hope that this approach is helpful for you. It took a little while for me to build it into my natural workflow, but once I began to think this way, I started to see more and more opportunities to do it. I’d estimate I added three to four posts to my output each week using this technique.

The other thing I’d add is that you can apply the same approach to answering questions from other sources.

For example, I often find myself doing the same thing as I answer questions in forums, on Twitter or Facebook, in the comments on my blog—even the questions I see other bloggers asking on their blogs. Pretty much anywhere you’re asked a question (or where you see someone asking a question) you can use this principle: answer it in such a way that you can repurpose the information for publication on your blog.

Hoping this has given some food for thought! Thanks for the question, William!

Darren

PS: Do you mind if I use this as a blog post?!?

Why Writing Every Day Isn’t Enough

This post is by Michelle of Wicked Whimsy.

One of the most common pieces of advice given to aspiring writers and, by extension, bloggers is to write every day. The idea of a daily writing practice is thrown around as though it’s a cure-all for any malady.

Don’t get me wrong, I try to write every day, but the advice as it’s given is missing an important component. And it can be downright harmful in its closely related form: “Write every day—it doesn’t matter what you write, so long as you’re writing”.

The problem

Recently, I had a stint of a week or two where I was writing almost constantly, and all of it was for the viewing of others: blog posts for my blog, guest posts for other blogs, client work.

When things slowed down a bit, I took a week long breather since I had a backlog of blog posts‚ I was still writing daily at 750words.com and my private journal, but that was it.

And, to my surprise, when I sat down to write again, I found it nigh impossible. The words simply refused to come. I couldn’t figure it out—I had found it so easy to write only a week before!

The new version: write for others every day

There’s a big difference between writing something that you know will be private, and writing something that others will see. I propose that if bloggers want to keep the ideas coming, keep writing, and most importantly, keep improving their writing, then writing every day isn’t enough.

Instead, you should be making it a point to write for others every day. Why?

There are two main reasons:

  • You hold your writing to a higher standard. If something is private, you have no pressing motivation to keep improving it aside from your own drive. Sometimes that’s enough, but sometimes it’s not. If you know that your writing will be in front of hundreds or thousands of people (or even just the one paying client), you definitely want to make sure it’s up to scratch.
  • It keeps you in a quality writing mindset. Writing for yourself is often an entirely different experience than writing for others. It gives you a moment to pause and reflect on your day, tease out thoughts you might not have known you had, and record your experiences. These are all totally fabulous things in their own right, and doing these on a regular basis might (eventually) make you a better writer. But they’re not the same thing that you need to be taking into consideration when you’re writing for other people. When writing for others, you need to think about headlines, subheadings, ease of reading, and how well you convey your message. If you’re not actively practicing writing for others and maintaining the mindset that comes with it, then chances are your improvement will be nonexistent or marginal.

It could also be argued that writing for others makes you more creative, but several other talented bloggers have recently addressed that idea here on ProBlogger, so I’ll just point you towards those posts for that debate.

You don’t have to write an entire, polished post every day. Depending on your schedule, that might not even be possible. But do try do something like writing a post draft or editing another post, just to keep you in the groove of writing for others. You could even make commenting a part of this practice—as has been proven in several ProBlogger posts, commenting is a vital part of growing your blog and your brand. A well-crafted comment makes both you and the blog you left the comment on look better.

Do I think a daily writing practice is vital? Definitely. I also think that bloggers are in the business of writing for other people—so that’s where our focus should be. I still write for myself every day, but now I know better than to fail to put the focus on writing for others every day.

Michelle Nickolaisen is a rainbow-haired writer, blogger, and all-around creative maven making her way in Austin, TX. She writes at Wicked Whimsy about saturating life with constructive creativity, among other topics.

Christmas Greetings

Thanks to everyone for a wonderful year in 2010. Wishing you peace and happiness in this holiday season and looking forward to connecting with you in the new year!

2010: The Social Media Year in Review for Bloggers

2010 will be remembered as the year that social media made a big splash in the lives of business owners.

If you’re someone who runs an online business, you’ll have realized that social media has joined the ranks of SEO as a must-do activity (and, for some, has started to rival the number of traffic referrals sent, too).

While many people made mistakes as they tried to cash in on the next phase of the Internet, it was those who embraced the social element of social media who forged alliances, and built audiences and sustainable businesses.

Are you participating?

If you’re not participating in social media, you’re missing out on a lot.

The New York Times reported that Americans are spending as much time online as they are in front of the television set.

People are watching 2 billion videos a day on YouTube and uploading hundreds of thousands of videos daily. In fact, every minute, 24 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube.

Facebook served over 500 million active users, and 50% of those users log on to Facebook in any given day. The average user has 130 friends and is connected to 80 pages, groups, and events. If Facebook was a country it would be the third-largest in the world. Do you have a presence there?

Let’s not forget about Twitter—the social networking platform is on track to serve 200 million users by year’s end. I’ve got to ask you the same question: do you have a presence there?

Of course, people aren’t just networking and connecting online, they’re publishing too. As of December, 2010 there are over 32 million WordPress publishers.

Personal influence and reach is easier to build than ever before, and it’s more powerful than you could imagine. People’s purchasing behaviors are changing, as are the ways they find and consume content.

An introvert who spends most of their time on a computer in a basement can influence a network of thousands. What if they visit your blog and like what they see? You’ve got ways for them to share your content with that network, don’t you?

The bottom line

The way we use the Internet has changed, and social media simply reflects this. If you aren’t taking part, you’re getting left behind.

Have you actively used and experimented with social media over the last year? How have you fared?

How to Increase Product Profitability After Launch

Many bloggers develop products as a way to monetize their blogging, but one problem that more bloggers are running into is that they become very dependent upon product launches.

A product launch can bring a lot of profitability to your blog, but what happens when things die down after that launch? For many bloggers, the income dries up after a launch, so they’re forced to start thinking about the next one. Once things die down after a spike of traffic from that next product, they’re again forced to starting thinking of another … and another…

Not only can this be an exhausting process (developing products takes a lot of energy), but it can actually give your readers launch fatigue:  they become frustrated with all your promotion and less responsive to your offers.
[Read more...]

Five Ways to Become a Better Writer and Take Your Blog to the Top

This guest post is by Ali Luke of Aliventures.

Does great writing matter in blogging?

It’s a debate that isn’t over—yet. But it’s one where more and more blogging experts are emphasizing that your writing does matter, and that readers are drawn in by a strong, engaging voice.

Great writing will:

  • encourage people to share your content
  • persuade readers to subscribe for more of the same
  • get a powerful response—like comments or sales
  • make you look like a big player in the blogosphere, even if you’re just starting out.

You might not think of yourself as a writer, but your writing skills will make or break your blogging career. Here are five ways to improve.

1. Blog regularly

If you talk to any writer, they’ll tell you that you need to write regularly. We bloggers, of course, have an advantage here; there are a bunch of good reasons to produce frequent posts (encouraging search engine traffic, and keeping readers engaged, for instance).

Blogging regularly doesn’t necessarily mean daily. In fact, you’ll almost certainly do better by writing slightly less often and putting more time and effort into your posts: after all, wouldn’t you rather your readers were eagerly looking forward to your next in-depth post, instead of skipping past yet another mediocre 300 word piece that you’ve churned out?

To get into a regular blogging habit, try setting up a blogging calendar. Once you’ve found a comfortable routine, it’s easy to keep going.

2. Learn actively

Just writing regularly won’t get you far. It’s also important to actively learn about writing—to look for areas where you want to improve.

You need to slow down when you write. You need to think about what you’re writing, and how it works to capture reader attention. You need to devote conscious attention to improving your work to make it more effective. More readable. More captivating and compelling.

—James Chartrand, Why You Shouldn’t Write Often, Men with Pens

So how do you give your writing that “conscious attention” which James is talking about?

  • Read writing blogs. Ideally, subscribe to them so you get daily tips and inspiration. I’d recommend Daily Writing Tips, Copyblogger, and Men with Pens, for starters.
  • Invest in great ebooks. The Copywriting Scorecard for Bloggers is a fantastic resource to have to hand. And if your grammar and spelling could use a bit of work, get 100 Writing Mistakes to Avoid (from Daily Writing Tips).
  • Read brilliantly-written blogs, and learn from them. All the writing blogs are great examples, but it’s also a good idea to find blogs in your own niche. If you come across a particularly engaging or well-written post, print it out and go through line-by-line to see how it works.
  • Go to a writing class or course. Try your local college, or look online—for instance, Darren and Chris run Creating Killer Content.
  • Form a writing circle with blogger friends. You might not be experts, but you’ll probably be able to point out the potential flaws or trouble spots in one another’s work.
  • Get one-to-one support from a writing coach. Although this isn’t cheap, it’s an incredibly effective way to get advice specific to you and your writing.

3. Read widely

How much reading do you do outside the blogosphere? When did you last read a book?

Although blogging is a particular form of writing, you can learn a lot from other mediums and styles. You might find a great technique in an advert in a newspaper, for instance, or you could use a brilliant headline that you took from a magazine.

Most books have been through a number of gatekeepers before being published—agents, editors, marketing boards, and so on. Not all books are well written, but many are, and they can give you a sense of what’s possible. Try out some novels (ask friends for recommendations)—novelists have the toughest job of all writers, because they have to convince us to care about imaginary people in made-up situations.

Look for good non-fiction books too—I particularly like the writing style of Richard Wiseman (Quirkology and 59 Seconds) and Chip and Dan Heath (Made to Stick and Switch).

4. Write creatively

As well as reading outside the blogosphere, try writing outside it. Okay, you may not have any ambitions to be the next J.K. Rowling, but by trying out different writing styles, you’ll find yourself becoming more comfortable and fluent in your blogging.

A great place to start is with the Creative Copy Challenge, run on Mondays and Thursdays. You’re given ten words or phrases as prompts, and you have to work them into one short piece of writing on any topic you like.

You could also try these ideas:

  • Write short pieces of fiction. These can work incredibly well on blogs, particularly when they offer a different way of looking at your usual topic. A couple of examples are How to Attract The Most Awesome People Into Your Life by Vlad Dolezal and What Hope Really Means by Alex Blackwell.
  • Write poetry. I’m really not a good poet (I wrote such awful poetry as a teen that I swore off it for life!), but occasionally I’ll try out poetry because it encourages me to focus on the full value of each word.
  • Write the same post or page in several different styles. This is a great exercise if you’re struggling with how best to write something. Your “About” page is a good one to try this with. How about:

5. Use feedback

I’ve touched on feedback above, suggesting that great ways to learn are by working with friends or by hiring a coach. But you’re probably already getting plenty of feedback on your writing.

This feedback might come through:

  • Tweets (either directly at you, about you, or retweets of what you’ve said): what gets a great response on Twitter? Look at the way you phrased things, and the content, and see if you can figure out why it engaged others.
  • Comments on your blog: which posts get the most comments? What do readers seem to particularly like? If you’re experimenting with different styles—maybe writing a short story with a point, like Alex and Vlad did in the examples above—then pay attention to the comments and see what’s resonating with your readers.
  • Emails that you receive: these may give you ideas of particular topics to write on (and choosing the right subject for your post is an important part of writing well). In some cases, they may also indicate when your writing has touched someone deeply.

Want to get more in-depth feedback on a particular post? You could ask on Twitter—making it clear that criticism is welcome—or ask on a forum. If I’m working on a high-impact piece of writing, like a sales page, I often ask in the Third Tribe for feedback and suggestions—and I’ve seen lots of other bloggers do the same.

How are you going to take your writing forwards, today?

Ali Luke blogs about writing and the writing life at Aliventures, covering topics like Finding Your Writing Voice. You can grab the Aliventures RSS feed here.

11 Wacky Things Bought via My Amazon Affiliate Links in 2010

41YV-RikOUL._SX385_.jpgIt is the end of the year, and time for a little fun.

What’s the funniest, weirdest, or most surprising thing someone has bought through one of your affiliate links on Amazon?

I was trawling through my Amazon Associates reports yesterday to see what items were selling, and here’s my list of the funniest things people have bought in 2010 (note: the following links are all affiliate links):

Warning: #1 is a little NSFW. Please look away if you’re easily offended. It certainly made me blush.

  1. Jimmyjane Little Platinum Eternity Vibrator with Diamonds (Update: no longer available on Amazon) – this one made me laugh out loud, both because of what it was, and because a little over 8% of $3250 is nothing to be sneezed at! Interestingly my tracking links show that the sale came after someone clicked a link here on ProBlogger. I don’t know who bought it but I hope you have a very merry Christmas.
  2. Lobster Pot Adult Costume (pictured here) – someone’s gearing up to surprise their family at Christmas lunch this year (this was bought in the last week).
  3. Perky Pet 209 “Our Best” 30 Ounce Hummingbird Feeder – who would have thought there were enough 30 Ounce Hummingbird Feeders to have to differentiate this one by saying it’s the “best” one?
  4. 41q4hIgSQQL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

  5. Dart 31112212 Race Series 9.025 – if you’re looking for one of these engine blocks for your Chevy, you better hurry—they only have 2 left in stock! And they’re only $4662.27!
  6. Vampire Bites – I can’t express how disappointed I am to find that these are out of stock!
  7. Santa’s Lump of Coal Christmas Soap – as I compile this list the Santa Coal Soap is in the top 100 beauty products being sold on Amazon. I think that I could be in the wrong niche.
  8. 21ICoG542BL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

  9. Muscled Foot Model Articulated Extremity – no home should be without one … or two!
  10. iRobot Roomba Pet Series 562 Vacuum Cleaning Robot – I should get one of these to permanently follow my kids around.
  11. Classic Rowing Machine in Black Walnut Wood Accessories: Heart Rate Receiver – I do prefer my rowing machines to be in Walnut Wood.
  12. CS88BN – COLD STEEL NADACHI SWORD – probably bought by a blogger wanting to deal with trolls.51Pu-A3NwIL._SL500_AA300_.jpg
  13. Stern Pinball Iron Man™ Arcade Pinball Machine – I want one!

If nothing else, this list should prove the power of getting people in the door at Amazon as a way to build your income from there.

What’s the funniest, wierdest or most surprising thing you saw bought on Amazon via your affiliate links in 2010?

Also – what was the largest sale you saw this year?

How to Optimize Your Sales Funnel for Success

This post was written by the Web Marketing Ninja — a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger. Curious? So are we!

As online marketers, we often devote a large amount of time to finding ways to attract eyeballs to our online assets. We put such effort into simply get the readers there that we allow the rest to take care of itself. Money will flow, Ferraris will be purchased, and we can all retire nice and young…

Then we discover the concept of sales funnels.

You may already know what a sales funnel is, but if you don’t, let me quickly describe it for you.

A sales funnel is a simple map of your lead-to-sale process.

  1. Let’s imagine you start with 1,000 leads (visitors to your web site).
  2. 100 might click on a sales page link for of one of your products.
  3. 50 might click your Order Now button and enter your shopping cart.
  4. Ten complete the checkout process and buy the product.

So your sales funnel starts and 1,000 and ends in ten sales—that’s a 1% conversion.

That’s a bare-bones view of a sales funnel, but as you can see it takes four steps, not one, to increase the amount of sales your site delivers. If we put all our attention on attracting new visitors, we’re essentially forgetting 75% of the puzzle—and we’ve all done that.

But that’s not where online marketers go wrong!

It’s not hard to sell people the idea of the sales funnel—it’s simple to understand and easy to quantify. It’s also been around for a long time. Offline sales professionals have been using it for decades.

The problem with the sales funnel is that in the offline world it’s a simple and straightforward methodology, but in the online world, it’s not.

The image below is a quick process map I prepared for a Managing Director of a large retail operation, who’s focusing heavily on online strategy.

As you can see, that organization’s sales funnel is a lot more complicated than the simple four-step process I mentioned above. There are some key points I want to highlight in this map:

  • Seven different types of traffic that visit the site.
  • There are multiple behaviors that we need to analyse: what pages visitors view, how long they stay, the navigational path, and their user profiles (locations, browsers, etc.).
  • There’s a connection outcome, as well as a buy outcome.
  • A visitor can become a customer in a range of ways.

Now my idea of a funnel resembles something I use to fill my car with oil, and this looks nothing like it. This depiction reminds me more of the tubes game I play on my iPhone. In even more bad news, I made this process map in five minutes. The reality is that this business’s online sales funnel is probably twice as complicated!

The key to sales funnel success

The key to creating a more successful sales funnel is: step away from the keyboard. While I work in an office, I actually have a whiteboard in my house. I actually use it, and it’s better than any online tool I’ve seen for laying out the bare bones of a real, live sales funnel.

I start by detailing every single way people can enter the funnel, identifying where they have come from, what their persona is, and where they’re at in the purchase cycle.

Then, I identify every activity that someone can undertake on the site: read some content, read some more content, subscribe to a newsletter, view a social media profile, buy something, or exit the site.

Finally I detail the measures I can put on each activity: time on page, entry path, exit path, and so on.

Then I start connecting the dots and putting together all the different pathways a visitor can take thought my funnel. The key here is not to change anything about your site yet.

Putting theory into practice

Once the funnel is mapped, and the measures are in place, I start collating reports at every step. What I’m trying to do here is understand how my funnel works in practice, not in theory.

Try this on your blog. Once you’ve collated enough information to start making decisions, I guarantee there will be obvious points of failure in your process, and they’re likely to arise in two main areas:

  1. a page that does a great job at encouraging a secondary behaviour (that is, rather than keeping someone in the sales funnel)
  2. a page that fundamentally fails to move a customer to the next step in the funnel.

Initially, you’ll probably feel like there is a lot to do, so you’ll need to prioritize the changes you want to make. Focus on the areas that are costing you the most sales (which might actually be at the bottom end of your funnel).
With time, effort, and focus, you could see huge improvements in the performance of your site, without your having to attract one new visitor to your site. Sounds good to me!

Have you tweaked your sales funnel recently? What changes have worked best for you?

Stay tuned from most posts by the secretive Web Marketing Ninja—a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger. Questions? Suggestions? Email him.