This guest post is by Joseph of Blog Tweaks.
I know a guy who went on a backpacking trip in Ghana.
One leg of his trip stood out—a five hour bus ride from Kumasi to Cape Coast. This particular ride started at 4:30 a.m.
Yes, that’s crazy early, but it wasn’t the worst part of the trip.
The worst part was the rolling bowel cramps that started from mile one and wouldn’t go away. They came back every ten minutes. One minute on, nine minutes off.
The blackness of the West African countryside lulled most of the passengers to sleep as the bus continued down the pock marked semblance of a highway, but not so for this guy. He could think of only one thing—this bus had to stop.
Looking out the window, all he saw were the pale outlines of mud huts and thatched roofs. Where would the bus stop? Did they have rest stops here?
Regardless, the bus had to stop. And it had to stop now.
Suddenly, out of the morning blackness, a small town appeared. As the bus rolled to a stop at an, my friend made his way to the front of the bus, explained the situation to the driver, and asked if he could get off to take care of the pain.
The driver obliged, pointing helpfully to the backside of a shed that was off the road and in front of a village home. It would have to do. It was the only option.
He quickly made his way behind the structure and … went about his business. Yes, out in the open, in the pre-dawn still of a beautiful African morning.
And then it happened.
As he was awkwardly crouched trying to get through the most surreal bathroom break of his life, the door of the home 25 feet directly in front of him opened. Out stepped a local Ghanaian who found himself face to face with my friend.
What a sight to behold—this man woke up in the home he had lived in for who knows how long, walked outside expecting to see the sunrise, and instead finds a white guy fifteen feet away with his pants around his ankles squatting down behind his shed.
As my friend helplessly looked up, the owner of the house began to yell, “What are you doing! What are you doing!”
How do you respond?
All he could say was, “My bad.” Over and over again.
As the owner continued to yell in disbelief, the helpless traveller finally finished, buttoned up, mumbled “my bad” a couple more times, and then quickly walked back to the bus which couldn’t leave fast enough.
To this day, I’m not sure who has the better story. The one I’m telling here or the one told in the village later that day: “It was 5:30 a.m., and there was an obroni (white man) squatting behind my shed saying, ‘my bad’…” He’s probably still getting mileage from the tale.
Hopefully you’ve been entertained by this story, but what does it have to do with blogging?
The answer is everything.
You don’t ever want your blog to get caught with its pants down.
Here’s what I mean.
The blogging equivalent
For your blog to get caught with its pants down is for you to not be ready for traffic before it arrives.
If Darren Rowse at ProBlogger tweeted one of your posts today, would your blog be ready? Is there enough quality content on your site to convert visitors into subscribers? Does your site have a professional design, or does it look more like kindergartner art than a digital storefront? Do you have any way to make money from the traffic?
If not, you might get caught with your pants down.
The day my blog was caught
It happened to my first blog—www.JosephWesley.Wordpress.com.
It was an ordinary Saturday morning, and as I finished reading an interview with Warren Buffett in Forbes magazine, I typed up the most salient quotes, which I then published as a post titled “7 Priceless Business Quotes from Warren Buffett.”
Little did I know what would happen next.
I expected this post to be the same as all of my other posts, meaning nobody would notice, so I left the house and went about my ordinary day.
Unknown to me, my blog was not having an ordinary day. Somehow, Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, found and tweeted the post. Let me repeat—Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, read and tweeted the post.
He also has 564,454 followers.
I had no idea.
Later that night, I came home and checked the stats. Then I did a double take. I thought my stat counter was broken.
There had been 3,000 visitors to a WordPress.com blog that I started three months earlier as an experiment. Until that time, the most visitors I’d in one day was twenty.
I had no idea what had happened, so I searched until I discovered Mr. Cuban’s tweet.
The end result was 7,000 people reading the post over the next month with over 400 re-tweeting. It’s still my most popular post of all time.
So what was the problem? Why wasn’t this an awesome day? How did my blog get caught with its pants down?
The problem was this—I wasn’t ready. I was as helpless the guy behind the shed.
Of the 7,000 people that visited, somewhere around ten subscribed by e-mail. I also didn’t have any kind of service or advertising, so there was no way to make money.
Yes, it was the biggest day in my blogging experience, but, unfortunately, I didn’t capitalize on the traffic.
What do do about it
So how do you get ready for traffic like that? How do you make sure your blog doesn’t get caught with its pants down?
- Write quality content: If you write high quality content, people are more likely to subscribe for future posts. Nobody wants average posts taking up space in their inbox.
- Pick one topic: Focusing on one topic will convert more readers into subscribers. A marketing guy won’t subscribe to a blog about ten different topics; he’ll subscribe to a blog about marketing. Write for one topic and you’ll automatically convince more readers to subscribe.
- Focus on subscribers: There are a lot of things you can focus on for conversions, but until you have a better reason not to focus on subscribers, don’t. Those are the people that will consistently come back to read and will eventually buy. Make subscribing insanely easy by putting the opt-in box at the top of the sidebar. Don’t make people search for the subscription box underneath calendar and archive. Do yourself a favor: put it at the top.
- Improve your design: Appearance matters. In a job interview, you dress for success; with a blog, you design for it. The good news is that premium themes from sites like Studiopress make getting a great design easy and affordable. It’s the best blog investment you’ll ever make.
- Make an offer: One of the best ways to make money from a blog is to offer something for sale. If you don’t give visitors something to purchase, you have zero chance of making a sale. People can’t buy what you don’t offer to sell them. So what you can offer to sell your blog readers? An ebook? Consulting? Design services? Whatever you decide, make sure to make a clear offer on your site. (An example of this can be seen on the “Hire Me” page at Blog Tweaks.)
So there you have it: a story from Ghana, reasons why you don’t want your blog to get caught with its pants down, and five ways to get prepared so it won’t happen to you.
What do you think? Are you ready to cinch up your blog so it doesn’t get caught with its pants down?
Joseph has a marketing degree from UT Austin. He’s currently looking for a select number of companies interested in hiring a paid blogger to write their posts. If you’re interested, visit Blog Tweaks to find out more.