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Blog Smarter: Invest in Your Own Success

This guest post is by Jeff Nickles of MySuperChargedLife.com.

My blog grew by leaps and bounds in 2011.  It was exciting! But it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t made a few smart investments in my blog—investments, you could say, in my success.

I’m a regular guy and a part-time blogger just like many of you.  I’ve learned how to grow my site through trial and error.  Over the last four years, I have probably made more mistakes than the average joe.  I’ve done a lot of the wrong things, but occasionally I get it right. I’ve benefited tremendously from the experience of others since I started, so I want to share with you the tactics behind my success, hoping they will help you.

The results I achieved

First, let’s look at the results I achieved. My blog’s experienced what I’d call explosive growth in the last year:

  • 353% increase in number of email subscribers.
  • 103% growth in number of pageviews (doubled in one year!).
  • 141% increase in AdSense earnings.

I want to assure you that these numbers are a reflection of consistent increases over the course of many months.  I’m not just comparing a freakishly bad month from a year ago to a freakishly good month now.

The investments I made

As you can see, I saw big boosts in the number of subscribers, pageviews, and earnings on my site.  These are the key measures of success that I’m always looking to improve.  I attribute the growth of my blog to some important investments that I made about a year ago.

1. I changed my WordPress theme

Not all themes are created equal.  This is especially true when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO).  I’ll admit that I don’t understand all the minutiae behind this art, but I don’t have to, and neither do you—assuming you’re running a self-hosted WordPress blog.

You can significantly increase your site’s ranking with search engines by using a theme that optimizes this for you.

A little knowledge of SEO will certainly help, but the more you get out of the box with your theme, the better.  Just over a year ago, I invested in a premium WordPress theme that had a strong commitment to search engine optimization.  Yes, I had to pay a little money for my theme, but boy has it been worth it.

Before I made this purchase, I ran a different premium theme and used a popular WordPress plugin to supposedly optimize my SEO.  I’m sure the plugin helped, but I can tell you that changing to a different theme—one that was already optimized—helped a lot more.

My traffic has doubled in the past year, and all of the extra traffic has come from search engines.  On top of that, my AdSense earnings have gone up almost 1.5 times on what they were just one short year ago, all because of this increase in traffic.  That’s a nice return on investment—and a clear justification for investing in a good theme.

Investment #1: Catalyst Theme
Cost: US$77.00.

2. I moved to a better email subscription management service

Previously, I used Feedburner to manage my email subscribers.  The thing I liked best about Feedburner was that it was free, but it lacked some key features.  As I learned more about blogging, I discovered what Darren and others say about the importance of building an email list.  Therefore, after three years of puny email subscriber growth, I decided it was time to get serious about how I handled this aspect of my blog.

I want all the new search engine visitors coming to my site to become email subscribers.  One powerful way to encourage this is to offer a first-time visitor an incentive to subscribe.  In my case, I put together a free ebook called The Super-Charged Guide to Smart Living.

The new email subscriber service gives me the ability to use autoresponders.  When someone subscribes, the service automatically sends them a specific Welcome email that I have set up.  I can include links in these emails.  Therefore, I can offer all these new search engine visitors a free copy of my ebook as an incentive to subscribe. This definitely works.

Furthermore, once they become subscribers, I can send them a series of auto-responder emails walking them through a complete sequence of strategic interactions with my blog.  By the way, I got this idea from Darren in What Process Do You Want to Lead Repeat Readers Through?  Excellent advice!

Again, I have to invest a little each month to get these features, but after just one year, I certainly see the advantages.   This new service allows me to engage strategically and proactively with my email subscribers.  It also gives me the ability to brand the emails so I look more professional, credible and consistent.  I believe all of this has contributed to my site’s growth.

Investment #2: FeedBlitz
Cost: US$13.95/month (when I signed up).

3. I implemented a pop-up lightbox

In my first three years of blogging, I had only accumulated about 800 email subscribers.  This is very puny, I know.  I now have over 3,600 valid email addresses on my opt-in list.  Here’s a chart that shows the phenomenal growth I’ve experienced.

Isn’t this amazing?!?  It is to me!

How did I achieve this kind of growth?  Well, I implemented a pop-up lightbox that offers visitors my free ebook in exchange for their subscription. That lightbox looks like this:

I configured this pop-up to appear to first-time visitors.  This really seems to work.  I’ve been averaging around 250 new email subscribers per month since I turned it on about a year ago; before I used this, I averaged around 20 per month.

Originally, I was hesitant to put something like this in place because I knew it could be a minor irritant to some.  However, the results speak for themselves.  I’m definitely glad that I did it.

I had to make a small investment in a premium plugin for WordPress to get the professional look I wanted, but this has more than paid off.  I’ve recouped this expense many times over already.

Investment #3: Popup Domination
Cost: US$77.00.

Make an investment to grow your blog

The growth I’ve seen in the last year has been awesome, although I haven’t had to work a whole lot harder to achieve these explosive results.

It just goes to show you that by investing in the right aspects of your blog, you can really make a big difference.  My total investment for my new theme and for Popup Domination was just a little over $150.  I would spend that money again in a heartbeat.

I started out only paying $13.95 per month for my FeedBlitz subscription, but now, because of my phenomenal email subscriber growth, I pay $49.95 per month.  I don’t mind it a bit—I can assure you that it has been well worth it.

Here’s my advice if you want to grow your blog: educate yourself on what works, and then don’t be afraid to make a few investments.  Not all of them will turn out exactly as you desire, but you’ve got to be willing to take the risk if you want the big payoff.  It worked for me.

Jeff Nickles is a regular guy on a quest to live life to its fullest. He began MySuperChargedLife.com in December of 2007 as a way to share his experiences and to learn more about life.  You can reach him by visiting his blog.

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Comments

  1. Hey Jeff (and Darren) I completely agree with the fact not all themes are equal at all. By changing mine not only could people peruse davidboozer.com better and davidjboozer.com , but because of the clear and clean navigation I think the search engines realized that as well. For the most part I believe it is all about navigation as far as a theme is concerned. I am not much for pop ups however and more of a fan of Aweber, but investing in how to create good content should not be ignored or underestimated! It was WELL WORTH IT!

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience Jeff, I always recommend a premium theme or framework to my clients, and if they are interested in growing their lists I recommend a premium service (usually aWeber, but I’ll definitely give FeedBlitz a look over now).

  3. I like the idea of offering an incentive to would-be e-mail subscribers (perhaps RSS, as well?) Someone can show up, love your content, love your style, love your whole blog, and then close the window and completely forget about you. Getting those types of people to *stick* is the challenge.

    You’ve given me a new goal for my task list next week.. incentive for subscribers. Thanks!

  4. Dwayne@TWC says:

    Great job, Jeff. Those investments seem to have definitely paid off for you. I’m working on some investments for my own blog and am really looking forward to how much it will grow this year. Keep up the great work.

  5. When it comes to blogging you really get out of it what you put into it. Especially if you are blogging for business, it’s important to spend some money on your blog. You want it to have a nice design and it should be have quality hosting. Investing in SEO for your blog will also help to grow visitors over time.

  6. Michael says:

    These are some amazing tips for us seeking to make this a more full time income from our particular blogs. I’ll definitely check out those links!

  7. Hi Jeff,

    How much of your improvement in profit would you attribute to that impressive growth in email subscribers vs the increase in organic traffic?

    I ask as I’ve always wondered if creating a list is worthwhile?

  8. Hi Jeff,

    Congrats on your super numbers!

    Test. Tweak. Improvise. Measure. Such a simple process, one I ignored for the longest time, until a few months back. I switched my theme up and put a massive emphasis on SEO, and aggressively promoting my blog. I went from about 120 views a day to 1000, quickly. All with a few simple steps, but the starting point was testing, measuring and then tweaking accordingly.

    To your continued success!

    Ryan

  9. Bryan says:

    A theme with built-in SEO is really nice because it’s one less that plugin that you have to worry about updating and how many resources it’s taking up.

    I have to admit that I’m totally adverse to lightboxes, but you’re definitely making me rethink that feeling. I wonder if they work better for established blogs that get a lot of traffic. My blog’s new enough that I’m afraid visitors would just laugh at the sight of a lightbox and then leave.

    Congrats on your success.

  10. Kenny Fabre says:

    Jeff

    you have just layed out such an effective blueprint, to making money online and increasing your income. The lightbox is very powerful I use pop up domination as well.

  11. Great information here. I am also thinking about switching to email subscription.

  12. Daniel says:

    I agree with your thoughts, on the need to invest back into a site, Jeff.

    How much an individual needs to fork out, will probably depend on many factors.

    In some circumstances, the amount of money required to plug up all the holes(fully optimize the site) may be much more than sites that are already functioning well.

  13. Alisa Bowman says:

    I’ve been using Feedburner out of laziness. This has convinced me to up my game. Great post!

  14. Jack Martin says:

    I dig the idea of investing in your blog. If you are committed to doing your best, then you should set yourself up to succeed. I’m in the process of tracking down the best premium wp theme for my personal blog, and I know the cost will easily be worth it.

    I’m not a huge fan of pop ups (who is?) but one that applies only to first time visitors is just fine with me, and the results from those always seem to be pretty great.

    Thanks for the insight.

  15. Hey, this is awesome, Jeff! It’s great to see a member of the A-List Blogger Club here on Problogger.

    I’m interested in your result with popups. I know a lot of people hate popups and other lightboxes. However, they really do work. And you can tweak the settings so that it doesn’t annoy your regular blog readers.

    As to SEO, using a theme that optimizes a blog for SEO isn’t enough. You need add a plugin like WP SEO plugin by Yoast in order to optimize each post for SEO. It makes your blog grow long-term because you get more and more traffic from search engines, like Google.

  16. Jeff,
    Congratulations on all of your success! Is this the year you will take the next step and partner with others? Let me know;)

  17. Hey Jeff,

    These are great ideas, and its great to see how some relatively small investments are really paying dividends for your business.

    I’m wondering, when choosing a WordPress Theme, how do you know which one is well optimised for SEO?

    I’m trying to pick a theme for my blog, but that’s one of the hardest things I’ve found (apart from which one actually looks nice)! All themes tend to claim they’re the best thing since sliced bread when it comes to SEO.

    So is there anything in particular that I can look for which will help me choose the best theme in for SEO purposes? Other than trial and error, which isn’t the best way to go about it!

  18. nitin says:

    Great tips to do best blogging…..

    Thanks for this post..

  19. yasir says:

    Hi this is very informatics for me as i m very new to bloging
    And seo i have just started like month ago thanks guys

  20. Sheyi says:

    Jeff, this is a great article and the tips there are lovely as well. The investments I am going to make on my blog are Pop-Up domination and Aweber E-mail (I guess I’ll go with them for now).

    Thanks for bringing this to the notice of people again.

    Sheyi

  21. Fran Sorin says:

    Jeff,

    Congratulations on a great article with lots of useful information. I’ve been hedging on a pop up but I see a lot of top bloggers using them….obviously with great success.

    You’ve got me as a new subscriber to your blog :) Fran

  22. Surminga says:

    It shows not a huge amount of money investment can grow your Blog, a lot more is down to physical investment into marketing online

  23. Ehsan says:

    Hi Jeff Thanks for your kind tips for us to grow blog bup I’m not satisfied with any other email subscribers management service because I like Feedburner and Darren is also using Feedburner on his blog (ProBlogger).

  24. JMS says:

    Useful informations, i think that we need spent time reading about SEO, and invest in your blog, nicew tips, for all probloggers follow.

  25. I’ve heard such great things about Pop Up Domination, but I avoided it, because I thought it would be annoying. Setting it to only appear for new visitors and the numbers you shared have inspired me to give it a try. Thanks.

  26. Technloleash says:

    Jeff, i am also on with your views but not everybody can invest such money. But those who can and want their blog to grow need to put money into it. Nice post jeff :)