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If Your Email Newsletter Isn’t Generating Cash, You’re Doing Something Wrong

This guest post is by Kelly Crawford of Generation Cedar.

The most important tool available to a blogger is his email subscriber list. It is the easiest and fastest way to increase sales. You probably already know that the readers who have voluntarily signed up to hear more of what you have to say are the ones who trust you the most, and the ones with whom it is easiest to keep building a relationship with. These are the people who will buy your stuff. Competing in today’s market demands that you build good relationships.

But a list by itself won’t sell your products. You must grow your list and make the most of it. Here’s how:

Grow your list

Obviously, the bigger the list, the more potential customers are getting your message. Here are three valuable ways to grow it:

Popover

A popover signup form will exponentially increase your sign-ups. A popover is the sign up box that “pops over” the screen a few seconds after they land on your site. Yes, it’s that annoying little box that I always click away from. But, statistically, far more people sign up from a popover form than a static form. I had to experience it to believe it (I had heard it was true but resisted), and found that my signups soared once I installed a popover. Aweber is one of the few companies that offer this feature.

Reminders

Make it easy to subscribe, and remind your readers to do so if they haven’t already. Include a static form on your About page, and periodically Facebook and Tweet about the benefits of signing up.

Benefits

The best incentive you can give your readers to subscribe is a series of some kind. Why? A series with several parts, sent periodically (and automatically) after they subscribe gives them repetitive exposure to you, which builds the kind of relationship that evokes trust, which will make them more likely to purchase your products.

If you’ve been writing for a while, you probably have plenty of posts you can turn into a series. What are your most popular topics? Put them in order and tell the reader what they will get: “Sign up now and receive my 5-Part Series, ‘How to Make the Most of Your Newsletter’.” Your newsletter company should easily allow you to set up automatic follow-up messages that mail at the designated time, to the subscriber’s inbox.

I also offer my readers a coupon code that’s given in the Welcome letter they receive as soon as they subscribe. This is not only an added purchasing incentive, but I tell readers they will receive it for signing up.

Make them want to open your newsletter

People get a lot of stuff in their inboxes. You have to compete and avoid being among the emails that get deleted without being opened. Here’s how to do it:

Make every newsletter count

Your subscribers are your prized customers. Reward them with good content. Except for the occasional sales announcement you might send by itself, if every newsletter has meat in it, readers will remember it and want to open the next one. Make it valuable enough that they are afraid of missing out if they don’t open.

Subject line is king

A 25% open rate versus an 80% open rate has huge implications for your bottom line. The subject line is all you get to convince readers to open. Be creative, and try to think like the recipient. What would make you open your email if you didn’t know what was inside? I’d caution you here not to deceive readers with your subject line. They won’t like it, and it will hurt your relationship—that thing you are working so hard to build.

Advertise Without Annoying

Remember how I said to put valuable information in your newsletters? Helpful articles, advice, and inspiration should make up the bulk of your content. Answer questions, solve problems, and readers will be back for more. But you can market at the same time, without being a nuisance. Here are some important points to remember:

Try affiliate marketing

Choose articles and subjects that support the natural use of affiliate products. Linking to them throughout your text lets the readers click if they’re interested, but doesn’t assume anything. Consider interviewing an author whose affiliate products you will consequently be advertising.

Use the sidebar

Use your sidebar. Routinely include pictures and links to your products (or those of your affiliates) in your sidebar. Offering a coupon code or limited-time offer is a useful incentive to push a potential buyer to act.

Add testimonials

Customer testimonials are your number one selling tools. Use them every chance you get. Instead of just listing your ebook, include a “What customers are saying” section.

The right formula

As it is with any platform, your newsletter will be the most successful when you implement the right formula. And what it that?

Persuade them of their problem, give them practical hints about solving it, then suggest a more thorough answer through your product offer, with, of course, a discount exclusively for them.

Let’s say you blog about weight loss. In your newsletter, you might write about five common foods that burn fat. Hopefully you have an ebook entitled “How to Lose Weight Eating What You Love,” or something like that. At the end of your article, you simply say, “Enter the coupon code ‘burnfat’ to get $1 off my ebook, ‘How to Lose Weight Eating What You Love’ now. Here’s what our customers are saying about it…” You get the picture!

Don’t forget to scan old but popular articles for newsletter fodder, tweaking them to implement all these strategies.

So, what are you waiting for? Go turn your newsletter into cash!

Kelly Crawford is a “mompreneur” and contributing author for five blogs, including her own, Generation Cedar. She also founded the membership site, Home Paid Blogger, a step-by-step guide for beginners to making money by blogging. You can follow Kelly on Twitter @generationcedar or on Facebook.

27 Awesome Ways to Get People to Listen to You

This guest post is by Nick Thacker of livehacked.com.

I’ve been creating stuff lately—blog posts, articles, tweets, videos, ebooks, etc.—and I realized something:

The biggest struggle I’ve had during it all was getting people to listen.

While blogging and submitting articles, leaving tons of comments, and submitting guest posts, can garner an initial positive result, it’s tough to keep at it. I wanted to share a few ways I’ve found to really get people to listen.

How to get people to care, listen, and take action

1. Ask

I can think of no better way, and no way that’s led to more open doors, than simply asking people to do something. Sure, it takes guts—but that’s why you’re different. You have the guts—go ask!

2. Advertise

If you want a measurable and controllable result, give advertising a shot. It may not be perfect for your niche, but chances are there’s at least something you can advertise in some way. Most pros say to give it at least six months, too, so if you don’t have the funds, this may not work. Check out Project Wonderful for dirt-cheap ads that have gotten me results in the past.

3. Guest post

We all know this one, so there’s no use recounting all of its benefits here. Suffice it to say there have been many successful blogs that have used this strategy almost exclusively to get attention.

4. Share

Almost anything can be shared—blog posts (as in guest posting), ideas, network leads, products, etc. Which leads me to:

5. Joint ventures

JVs are great for getting your message out to huge lists of people, for the price of sharing your profits with another marketer. Check out the Warrior Forum for an entire board dedicated to JV opportunities.

6. Create a video

ProBlogger.com has been writing a lot more on using video content lately, and I know I’ve done a few trailers for my own book as well—with much success.

7. Create an infographic

Neil Patel of QuickSprout has used infographics, sent to major blogs and news sites to use exclusively (for a backlink, of course!), and it’s gotten him plenty of great traffic—and lots of attention, as well. Take time to create a graphic that’s compelling and telling for your market, and see where it goes!

8. Write an ebook

Just about every blogger has, or aspires to create, an eBook. These days, having an ebook is almost expected—where’s yours?

9. Self-publish a book

Having a “real” book tends to lend credibility to our efforts—being able to have a print copy of someone’s work in hand really does “feel” different than an electronic copy. Check out Amazon’s KDP Select program, Lulu, and CreateSpace for more.

10. SEO

I like to think of SEO as one of those “slow-drip” strategies to get attention—it takes time to build, but it’s almost essential in competitive industries. I recommend Glen’s post over at ViperChill.com if you’re doing SEO on WordPress.

11. Use the 80/20 rule

Pareto’s law states, “…For many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.” To use this in your own marketing, try to promote other people 80% of the time, and your own work 20%. This establishes you as a connector and sharer of helpful content, not as a spammer.

12. Build a platform

Essentially, all of these tips can help you build a platform, but if you focus on actively building a brand, slowly but surely, chances are you’ll stick around longer—and people will pay more attention to you!

13. Leave more comments

Leaving more comments on blogs you read regularly does two major things: it gives you a link back to your site (no matter what your stance on “rel=nofollow” is), and it starts a conversation with the site owner or author of the post. Trust me when I say many blog owners will recognize their repeat commenters—be one of them!

14. Leave better comments

We’ve all heard the rule: leave lots of comments, and people will visit your site! Well, yes and no—they’ll see you quite often, but unless you really make a concerted effort (read: spend more than 30 seconds) on crafting and submitting a thoughtful, value-adding comment, people won’t care about you or your cool blog.

15. Write epic content

Corbett Barr, author of ThinkTraffic, says we need to write “more epic stuff” (I’ll let you click through to his exact words…). I’ve said we need to write “more epicly” (because I love epic, made-up adverbs, I guess), and it’s true. Gone are the days of 500-word-or-less posts giving generic and thoughtless advice. Take time to craft your work, edit it, and then expound on your thoughts some more. Add in images, pictures, infographics, and more. Then edit and do it again. Then you’re ready to hit Submit.

16. Article marketing

Article marketing seems to have fallen off a bit after the infamous Google updates, but sites like E-zine Articles and GoArticles certainly are not going anywhere. Use them to further promote your work—your off-site SEO can greatly benefit from some well-crafted, useful content. Don’t go overboard, and be sure to maintain your consistently great writing style—remember: the Internet is forever!

17. Write pillar posts

The first time I’d ever heard of a “Pillar” post was right here at ProBlogger. It makes perfect sense, too—if I visit your website, right now, what articles are going to serve as my “Start Here” roadmap through your muse/meme/world? Guide me like I’m a first-time visitor to your market, and tell me—through general, broad-form Pillar Posts what I can expect to find on your site. Here’s an example of one I wrote on social media for writers.

18. Start a newsletter

If you plan to be online for an extended period of time, you should really consider growing an email list of subscribers, and sending them an enewsletter regularly. Newsletters have been proven to bring in more authority traffic and ready buyers than most other marketing methods, because you’ve already qualified them as leads.

19. Start a podcast

I’ll admit—this is one area I haven’t tried out yet. But podcasting is not something that’s going to go away anytime soon, either, and if you’re a bit more technically inclined (or if you own a Mac), you can start podcasting almost immediately. Some of my favorite authors run very successful podcasts. And I hear that ProBlogger will be running a post on the topic in the next couple of weeks…

20. Write more

This one’s simple: let your writing be its own platform. The more saturation throughout your market you have, the more opportunity there is for people to find you.

21. Blog less

Maybe getting more attention needs less of your attention? Follow blogs like ZenHabits and Lifehack.org to get your head in the game. Minimalize, simplify, and relax: those of us working 80+ hour weeks probably don’t want to! Focus your energy on those things that really matter. Remember the Pareto principle.

22. Do something ridiculous

I like to think Tim Ferriss is so well-liked because of the fact that he does things not many of us do. If you set out to do something spectacular, you’d better believe we want to hear about it! Even better: do a video blog journaling your experience.

23. Be controversial

The idea that all press is good press may not be entirely true, but there’s something to be said for being staunchly defendant of a topic. Instead of posing neutral concepts, get on one side or the other. People may hate the post, but they’ll come back for more.

24. Send follow-up emails

This is something I’ve started doing more and more, recently—almost to the point of being annoying. Follow my blog, I’ll send an email. Say yes to my guest post idea, I’ll shoot you a thanks. Buy something from me—you got it! A “thank you” email is on its way. Doing this is just giving a little bit of personal attention to your network, and they will reciprocate.

25. Add value everywhere

Forget this tip at your peril. No one likes a conceited or arrogant person, and online it seems that anonymity has made this even easier. Figure out how to help one person, in one small way, every day. Then help them.

26. Sell something

When people have something to sell, I’m usually more apt to think of them in higher esteem. Even if the product looks terrible—hey, they went through all the trouble to create it, right? (I might not ever buy it, but they do carry more authority because of it…)

27. Do something for free

And the best one of all: even though we won’t always admit it, “free” is sometimes expected. This behavior isn’t justified, but it exists. Cater to the expectations of your market by offering something to them for free. Your blog doesn’t count.

Maybe you’ve tried every single one of these ideas—in that case, I’d love for you to comment and let us know how they went! But I’m sure there are many, many other things you all can think of to add to this list. So, let’s get to it: leave a comment with more ideas, and we’ll keep the list going. Maybe one day I’ll turn it into an awesome infographic!

Nick Thacker is a blogger, writer, and author of fiction thriller novels. He likes to hack his life to be more productive, live better, and write the best he can. You can check out his site at LiveHacked.com, or subscribe to the LiveHacked.com newsletter here.

How to Write a Great Paragraph

This guest post is by James Chartrand of Damn Fine Words.

There are eight million posts out there about how to write a great headline. Copyblogger’s written about half of them. I’ve written a few myself.

But you know what none of us tell you? What to do after the headline.

You know, the actual “content” part.

It’s not enough to create killer headlines or spectacular introductions. It’s not enough to write compelling content (and we don’t tell you how to do that either). It’s not enough to use storytelling. The only way to get your blog posts read, shared and revisited means writing great content.

Which really means you need to know how to write a stellar paragraph.

I know: paragraphs aren’t sexy

Catchy headlines sounds sexy. Storytelling sounds sexy. Paragraphs? They sound about as sexy as gramma’s underwear. They’re not a technique or a tool. They’re just plain old-fashioned grammar school stuff.

Here’s what you need to know about what a fantastic paragraph can do for you:

Your readers will take in every single word you write.

Not just the words in the bullet points. Not just the numbered lists. Not just the headlines or the sub-headers. They won’t skim looking for “the good stuff.”

It’s all good stuff. They’ll want every single word.

Here’s a thought: Online readers are notorious for skimming and scanning, running through the bullet points. But do you know why their eyes are wandering? Do you know why they skip through your posts?

It’s because they weren’t interested in the paragraphs.
The content in your paragraphs? Readers figure those are just filler. And in many cases for many, many bloggers… sadly, filler it is.

Readers read … if it’s worth their time

A lot of bloggers assume that skimming and scanning is just the way things are. Nothing they can do about it – people are lazy. Too busy. So they don’t bother putting effort into crafting carefully written paragraphs the way they do their headlines and bullet points, because no one’s going to read the content anyway.

But, as Georgina pointed out earlier today, not all readers scan the content—and that’s important to remember.

Everyone has a favorite blogger whose posts they read religiously. I’ve got one. You’ve got one. You get excited when you see a new post go live because you love the way this blogger writes. You share the posts. You read older posts from the archives. You link to these posts.

Good paragraphs make that happen.

You’re not reading your favorite blogger’s posts for the headline, the bullet points, or the nugget of brand-new secret insider knowledge. Who’s ever said, “Oooh, Darren just put up a new post – I gotta go read this; his bullet points are so hot!”

Come on.

You read for the words, and you would never consider any of the content to be “filler,” no matter how long that post ran.

That means your beloved blogger probably writes a killer paragraph.

Starting to sound a little sexier? You bet it is—who doesn’t want to be one of those bloggers whose readers hang on their every word?

No one, that’s who. So let’s get you started.

Good paragraphs leave no sentence behind

You’ve probably heard this adage: the purpose of the first sentence is to get the reader to read the second sentence. The second sentence is to get them to read the third sentence, and so on.

Most bloggers forget to pay attention after the fourth or fifth sentence, which means that by sentence 36, they aren’t doing a thing to keep their reader hooked and moving along.

So they leave sentence 36 in the post because they think it doesn’t matter that much. (And hey, it’s good filler.)

It matters. Every single sentence matters. If you have a sentence in your paragraph that isn’t actively getting people to read the next one, chop it out. It’s doing nothing for you—or for your paragraph.

Good paragraphs form a chain of thought

You could obey the above rule without actually creating a paragraph. You could just snag a handful of Problogger’s best headlines and stick ‘em in a post, and that would satisfy the “get the reader to read the next sentence” rule.

The problem comes when the second sentence has nothing to do with the first sentence. Watch as I display this technique: Is your tribe holding you down? You could increase your blog subscription rate by 254%. Eminem can teach you how to become a writing and marketing machine. Let’s talk 50 can’t-fail techniques for finding great blog topics.

Those are some of Copyblogger’s most popular headlines, and they’re undeniably compelling. But they don’t relate to one another, so midway through, the reader’s wondering about the follow-up. Eventually, he gets frustrated trying to figure out the point.
Frustrated isn’t good. Every sentence in a paragraph should refer back to the one before.

And if it’s a new paragraph, it should refer back to the last sentence of the previous one. Your very first paragraph should refer to your headline. Your headline introduces the post idea, which means everything you write afterward depends on that one idea—so you need to make a chain of thought to back it up.

How do you know when to end one paragraph and start the next? Well . . .

Good paragraphs know when to end

Every paragraph should last long enough to make one single point.

Some paragraphs—like the one before—only need one sentence to make the intended point. Others, like this one, need a few sentences to discuss the point fully and explain several ways of looking at it. You might need to expand upon your thoughts or give examples to drive the point home.

When your point is made, move on to the next point. Which, obeying the Rule #2, should relate back to the point that came before it, move on to make its own point, and end when that point is fully explained.

Nerdy, I know. But sexy? You bet. Sexy bloggers know sexy writing, and there’s nothing sexier than a well-crafted paragraph like that.

Now, a lot of people try to string together several points in a single paragraph. That’s never effective. Paragraphs help give readers visual cues on how to organize their thoughts. When they see a paragraph, they know it’s going to give them a certain amount of information on a certain point.

But if you give them three different (and often unrelated) points in a single paragraph, it forces readers to try and figure out where the distincts are between those points.

That’s work. And people hate it when reading content is work.

If you don’t want your readers just looking for the bullet points, keep your paragraphs easy to process and let them end when the point is concluded.

Don’t neglect your paragraphs

You’ve learned to write snappy headlines that get readers to come to your site and craft bullet points that draw their eye. Now it’s time to pay attention to the rest of your content.

Great paragraphs are the way to do it.

Got more ideas on what makes for a great paragraph? Shout out in the comments! And if you haven’t already, check out ProBlogger’s Anatomy of a Better Blog Post, for more specific post-writing techniques.

James Chartrand is the leading copywriter teaching people how to improve their writing skills at Damn Fine Words. It’s one of the best online writing courses for business owners and bloggers ready to boost their business success… through compelling words that get results.

Four Reader Myths You Can Safely Ignore

In blogging, we often talk about the reader or the visitor, and what our audiences like (or don’t!). A lot of blanket statements are made around the ways we approach and connect with our audiences. But many of these ideas are little more than myth.

Let’s look at four of the most common myths—and why you can safely ignore them.

Myth #1. Readers don’t like to read

This is one of the most common reader myths. It’s true that readers may have limited time and attention spans, and may feel a lot of pressure or be juggling distractions when they’re online. They may arrive at your content wanting to simply get answers and get out. But next time you’re on a train or bus, look around and count how many people are reading on their smartphones or tablets. (Some may even be reading printed material!)

Internet users read all day, every day. But different audiences—which really means people with a specific need that relates to your blog—read differently.

Take imaginary web user Todd. Todd’s main passions include cooking and hiking. When he’s looking for a recipe online, he scans images and ingredients lists before deciding whether to read the recipe right through.

If he likes the sound of the ingredients, and the image is good, then he’ll speed-read your catchy introductory paragraph and all of the procedural instructions you’ve included in the recipe. His main goal at this point is: get the meal on the table, so he skips from scanning to speed-reading, and may only read in detail as he’s preparing the food itself, using the recipe. That said, if your writing style speaks to him on some level, he may bookmark your site for future reference.

On the other hand, reading other peoples’ hiking adventures is something Todd does in his spare time, for pleasure. He’s a fan of a few blogs on the topic, as well as some special-interest sites, and he’ll easily read three or four 1500-word-plus articles on different hike locations and trails, hiking stories, and hiking gear each week.

Todd reads, but he reads differently for different purposes—and differently on different sites. Working out how your readers read on your site is a crucial first step in understanding your audience and producing content to suit them. And on that point, check out James Chartrand’s post, which explains how to produce paragraphs that readers will stay glued to … all the way through.

Myth #2. Reader’s won’t scroll

This is a hangover myth from the early days of the web. While it’s true that if readers don’t see a thing that captures their attention above the “fold” (in the first content view that appears on their screens) they may not bother scrolling, it’s erroneous to assume that readers don’t scroll.

Again, look at those smartphone users on your commuter service. If they didn’t scroll, their smartphones would be useless. Perhaps it’s the prevalence of smartphones that’s encouraged readers to “rediscover” scrolling; perhaps not.

Whatever the case, we can rest assured that readers do scroll—provided the content interests them, and they can see that it does. That comes down to things like headlines and subheads, intros, images and, of course, titles—the easily scannable components of the content. And, as we saw above, when Todd was in recipe-searching mode, scrolling is necessary for readers to see and assess those elements.

The tone and rapport your establish through those components will also influence some readers, so the more your images, image captions, subheadings and so on can be made to resonate with readers, the better.

Myth #3. Readers need to be hooked with a story

Sometimes, readers just want answers. They don’t want a lengthy story that gives context—they have their own context, understand their problem, and just want a solution.

Todd’s just finished reading a great, story-style post about a hike he’s planning with some friends in the Spring. He looks up from the screen, dreaming of the sensational view from a lookout they’ll reach on the journey. Then, he spots the clock: it’s nearly five. His sister and her partner are coming over for dinner at seven, and he bought a duck to roast. The only problem is he’s never roasted a duck before! He jumps onto a search engine and looks around for a decent-sounding duck recipe.

As you can imagine, he doesn’t want to wade through a lengthy story about the time you cooked this very special recipe to mark an anniversary with a loved one, or as a bracing salute to the end of duck season, or even that time you’d shot the thing yourself.

What he wants to know is:

  • what it’s meant to look like
  • what he needs to make it
  • how long it’ll take.

In this case, Todd doesn’t need a story. He needs answers, and he needs them now.

Myth #4. Readers don’t want to be sold to

Readers may not want a sleazy sales pitch, but if you’re expecting them to part with their money, you can expect that they’ll want to know what they’re buying. And while, yes, that does mean they want to know the product’s benefits, sometimes it also means features.

Todd’s found a cool-sounding croissant-making workshop that he’s thinking of attending. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to bake his own, professional-standard croissants? Yes it would!

He’s reading that sales material, and he’s considering each of the benefits of the course. It’ll give him skills that’ll wow his friends and family! It’ll give him a good reason to get up every morning! He’ll earn a croissant qualification from the International Institute of Croissanteurs! Great!

But he has questions related to the course features. Will he be able to transfer the skills he learns to other types of bread- and pastry-making? Does he need any existing skills or experience? How big will the class be and will he need to bring his own equipment? Is there a gluten-free option (this is particularly important because he’s dating a coeliac, and we all know that the way to a new love’s heart is through his or her stomach!)?

Many sites answer these feature-related questions in an FAQ page or something similar, but far too many leave these questions entirely unanswered, on the basis that the benefits—in this case, bakery prowess—are all that matter. Your readers need to understand why your offering is different from or better than your competitors’, and that depends on how it meets their specific needs.

Todd wants to buy your course, so long as it meets his specific needs. If you don’t sell it to him—if you try to ride on the cachet of the IIC and the incredible promise of a shower of accolades from breakfast-eating friends, you’ll likely lose him.

Write for your readers, and their needs

Every site has a different reader set, and those readers have different needs. Don’t simply accept the common mythology around reader behaviour. As we’ve seen here, each individual has varying information and entertainment needs, so if you take the common readership rules of thumb as gospel truths, you may be selling yourself, your blog, and your readers short.

Do your readers read? Scan? Scroll? Want to be sold to? Tell us what you’ve learned about your audience in the comments. And don’t forget to check out James’s post on perfect paragraphs!

And the Winners Are … #QldBlog

As promised earlier in the week, today I’ve got great pleasure in naming the winners of the Great Barrier Reef Queensland Blogger Correspondent competition.

106347-634.jpg767 bloggers entered the competition. They came from an amazing array of counties (52 in all)—from the US, UK, Germany, Australia, Spain, Malaysia, Belize, Netherlands, Canada, Singapore, Mexico, Italy, France, Brazil, South Africa, Israel, India, Romania, Argentina, Phillipines, Indonesia, Hawaii, Pakistan, Lithuania, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, Denmark, Nigeria, Kenya, Thailand, Belarus, Ireland, New Zealand, Portugal, Sweden, South Korea, Costa Rica, Moldova, Japan, Kuwait, Madagascar, Bangladesh, Chile, Mauritius, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Finland, UAE, Hong Kong, Ukraine, and Greece.

Interestingly the vast majority of entries were from those in the USA, and from women. This is reflected in the winners list.

Choosing the winners was no easy task. The entries were of a high quality, from some amazing people, and many of the submissions were very attractive to the judging panel who were seeking to find bloggers that they felt were a good “fit” in promoting the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland.

We saw some very creative submissions and I myself spent a whole day looking through them all—and loved the experience! But without further ado, here are the winners:

Thanks again to those who entered and to Tourism Queensland (connect with them on Twitter here or on Facebook here) for their sponsorship of the competition. This experience has been a lot of fun, and you’ll hear more about it in June when the above crew gather together in Queensland with me to have an amazing five days together.

UPDATE: sadly we recently heard the news that Elizabeth was not able to join us for this trip. The result was an opportunity for us to add another blogger.

We went to the next person on our short list and Australian Jess Van Den from Epheriell Designs was our next target. Luckily Jess was available at very short notice (just 5 days out) – being a local helped heaps!

Congrats to Jess and our best wishes to Elizabeth – hope to see you next time!!!

Unearthing Your Blog’s Money Pages

This guest post is by the Web Marketing Ninja.

Earlier today, Greg explored the question of pricing products that you’re creating for sale on your blog. Setting the right price for your products is extremely important, but I wanted to take that discussion one step further for those who are already offering products on their blogs and want to take their conversions to the next level.

When I approach conversion optimization on websites, which in most cases is simply cash optimization, I stick to a few golden rules:

  1. Think in people, not pageviews.
  2. People are looking for a reason not to buy—don’t give them one.
  3. Go for biggest bang for buck.
  4. Test everything!

I’ve already covered points 1 and 2, so in this post, I wanted to export number three, going biggest bang for buck.

If you’re trying to figure out how to turn some money into more money without creating new products, campaigns, or deals, you need to unearth the pages on your site that are going to give you the greatest return from an improvement in conversion.

…and for that, I have a three-point plan.

1. Understand where you money comes from, and find your influenceable end-point

Now, being the smart bloggers I know you are, you should know where your money comes from. Your income might be derived from ads, affiliate income, or product sales—among others. And I’m sure you’re able to identify your top-level driver of that income—the last point in the conversion process that you can influence. Here they are:

  • Product sales = successful checkouts
  • Affiliate sales  = clicks to affiliate site
  • Ads (CPC) = clicks on ads
  • Ads (CPM) = page views
  • Subscription = activated subscriptions
  • Service = contact form submissions

Whatever your strategy, knowing your influenceable end-point enables you to set some specific goals on key metrics for your blog (for example more sales, more clicks, more pageviews).

2. Set yourself up to track those end-points

Whilst it can be a bit of a challenge initially to set up measurements for your blog’s conversion goals, without them, you’ll never really know where your money comes from at a granular level. 

For most, a well configured Google Analytics setup is all that you need, as it has goal tracking built in.

If checkouts are one of your goals, then ecommerce tracking is what you need. If your ads are sold by CPM, then you’ve got it easy—you have the data already. If your goal is clicks, that presents a slightly bigger challenge. Let me explain.

In Analytics, a goal is measured by successfully reaching a page on your site that you’ve specified. When a click takes a visitor to another site, Google Analytics sees it as a visitor that exits to another site rather than a successfully reached goal. To solve this, you can use any of a few options.

  • If you’re using AdSense, you’re fine—that’s already integrated with Analytics.
  • Use a redirect page to collect goals. Instead of sending users straight through to the advertiser or affiliate, you can send them via a page that automatically redirects the user, but includes the analytics goal code to track.
  • Use a paid service like Kiss Metrics … but even that can be a bit tricky to set up.

I’m really hoping that at some point Google’s ad manager, Double Click, will integrate with Analytics so this issue is rectified. But even if it’s a little bit of a hassle for you to set up right now, it’s a hassle that’s worth going through in order to understand just how good—or bad—your conversion performance is.

So after a bit of research, action, and maybe fumbling, you’re now hopefully able to track the conversion rate of your commercial goals (whatever that are) and you’re ready to move forward.

3. Think in one-percents

The final step in identifying biggest bang for buck is to put a dollar conversion vale against all your pages. All this takes is a bit of simple math.

Page X

  • 10,000 page views
  • 100 sales
  • $4000

Those figures give us a conversion rate of 1% and an average income per sale of $40. If I increase the conversion rate itself by 1%, to 1.1%, my sales will total 101, and my income will be $4040. I’m up  $40.

Page Y

  • 100,000 page views
  • 50 sales
  • $1000

So this page has a conversion rate of 0.05% and an average income per sale of $20. If I increase this conversion rate by 1%, to 0.051%, my sales will total 51 and my income will hit $1020. I’m up  $20.

As you can see, there’s double the return for a 1% improvement on Page X, as compared to Page Y. So Page X the one I’m going to focus on. Not the one with all the page views: the one with the greatest return.

Obviously, on your blog, you’ll have far more than two pages to pick from, but this model will allow you to rank them in order.  Make sure you don’t forget to include your checkout process as pages in this analysis, as well. You might be surprised by how they stack up.

And just in case the figures of $20 and $40 don’t get you motivated to do any testing, remember that variances of over 100% are common across different variations of a page. So add a couple of zeros … feeling motivated now?

The three-point plan

So just to summarise, your three-point plan to unearthing those money pages is:

  1. Understand your last influenceable conversion metric.
  2. Start tracking those points in the sales process.
  3. Stack all your pages together and find the one that’s going to give you the biggest return for a 1% conversion increase.

…and that’s how you can unearth the pages that are going to give you the biggest bang for buck.

Stay tuned for more posts by the Web Marketing Ninja—author of The Blogger’s Guide to Online Marketing, and a professional online marketer for a major web brand. Follow the Web Marketing Ninja on Twitter.

Build Blog Products That Sell 4: Price Your Product

This guest series is by Greg McFarlane of Control Your Cash.

If you’re late to this particular party, we’ve been spending the last few weeks examining ways to monetize your blog in an era when readers are holding onto their wallets more tightly than ever.

Checkout

Image courtesy sotck.xchng user Dioptria

Sure, you can make money by selling ads if all you care about is revenue. Any link farm can do the same thing. But by extending one’s blog into different media, a diligent blogger can create and sell products that no one else can duplicate.

The process we’ve stepped through so far has been fairly straightforward. First, coldly assess what makes your blog distinctive. (If the answer is anything other than “Nothing” or “I don’t know”, proceed to the next step.)

Next, create something identifiable with your blog and your style—a video lecture series, ebooks, online classes, personal coaching, podcasts, whatever. Budget the requisite time to create your products, plan far enough in advance that your blog won’t be compromised in the short run, test-market your products, then make them available for sale. Couldn’t be easier, right?

This is precisely where many would-be entrepreneurs get smacked in the face with the harsh truth of the marketplace: putting a dollar figure on that product.

How much should you charge?

Not to turn this into a university-level economics lesson, but the tricky thing is to set a price that maximizes revenue. Sure, you can sell your ebook for 10¢ and theoretically reach the widest possible audience. But if you could charge three times the price, and still retain half your audience, wouldn’t that make more sense?

Ideally you’re doing this to turn a profit, which isn’t necessarily the same as generating as much revenue as possible. You also need to factor in your expenses. Otherwise, this is just a pastime or a vanity project. Creating products certainly requires time, and possibly requires materials.

That means that before you sell your first unit, you’ll already have spent money that you’ll need to recoup.

Say you’ve spent 30 hours writing a plan for a coaching program you plan to sell via your blog. Is $20 an hour a fair assessment of your worth? (That is, could you have earned that much doing something else?) Then you’ll need to sell a single copy for $600. Or two for $300 each. Or three for $200. Or…

You can see where this is going. It’s tempting to lower the price as much as possible, in the hopes that every reduction will attract more buyers. That’s largely true, but a) the relationship isn’t linear and b) there’s a limit—otherwise, you could give your product away and an infinite number of people would use it.

Finding the balance

How many unique visitors do you have? If you don’t know, Google Analytics can give you an idea. What proportion of those are invested in your blog and read it regularly? And what proportion of those will cough up a few minutes’ worth of wages in exchange for the promise of you enriching their lives somehow?

On the flip-side are blogging entrepreneurs who charge too much for their services. They’re like the commission salesman who wanted to get a job at Northrop Grumman, selling B-2 Spirit heavy bombers at $1 billion apiece. (“People have been slamming doors in my face all week, but I get 10% of each sale. And all it takes is one.”)

To avoid this, you need to find a comfortable medium between how much you’re willing to accept, and how much your product can realistically benefit its user. That sounds obvious, but most sellers don’t even bother weighing those variables. They just conjure up a price and hope for the best.

What does your product do … for whom?

Be honest with what your product can do. It won’t make the blind walk and the lame see. But will it show readers how to declutter their lives once and for all? Can it teach them how to change their car’s oil and tires themselves, instead of relying on costly technicians? Can it help readers travel to strange places inexpensively, and does it include an appendix that will teach those readers how to keep their cross-border hassles to a minimum?

Then say so. You don’t have to work miracles. You just have to make some aspect of your readers’ lives easier, less complicated and/or more fulfilling.

More to the point, remember who you’re selling to: your readers, not yourself. No one cares how much asbestos you inhaled in the mine, they just want the diamond. It’s a cardinal rule of civilization that results count, not effort.

One famous globetrotting blogger has recently diversified, and now sells a guide that ostensibly tells artists how they can throw off the shackles of poverty and start making money. He’s certainly appealing to his clientele’s emotions—what’s a more accurate stereotype than that of the starving artist?

Never mind that this blogger is not an artist, and that his background consists of little more than that educational punchline, a sociology degree. His blog’s sales pitch details how many painstaking hours he spent writing how many words and conducting how many minutes of interviews in the creation of his guide, as if any of that matters to an artist who just wants to know how to locate buyers for her decoupage and frescoes.

Keep scrolling down and you’ll find out that for just $39, you’ll receive “15,000 words of excellent content”. No one buys this kind of thing by volume. Xavier Herbert’s Poor Fellow My Country runs over 850,000 words. That’s 90 times longer than Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which sold far more copies and was far more influential.

Don’t hide your price!

That brings us to another thing not to do: treat the price as fine print. Which is to say, don’t build to a crescendo and make your readers sift through paragraph upon paragraph of hard sales copy before finally deigning to tell them how much your product is going to cost them. To do so is insulting. It’s the tactic of someone who has something to hide.

(There’s one exception to this rule. That’s when you’re using the late-night infomercial strategy, saving the price of your product until the very end because it’s so shockingly low. That almost certainly doesn’t apply in your case. You’re not an experienced marketer with a reputation, hawking indestructible knives and superabsorbent towels that suck up ten times their weight in liquid. You’re a blogger looking to turn your followers from loyal readers into paying customers.)

Getting back to the real blogger in our example, if you spend another $19 on the deluxe version, he’ll throw in three more audio interviews. There’s nothing quantifiable here, just a collection of messages that differ by media. (Incidentally, I asked this blogger how what kind of volume he does. I wasn’t expecting an answer and didn’t receive one, but it was important to make an effort to see if his methods worked.)

Given the choice, I’d rather take my chances giving my money to a blogger with authority and experience, who’s offering me something believable, and who’s not afraid to tell me how much it’ll cost me and how much it’ll benefit me. Is that you?

One more thing. If you’re creating a series of products in which each builds on the previous ones and no individual product can stand alone, you’re putting yourself in a fantastic position. You can give away the first and then start charging with the second. If you do, that’ll give you an accurate gauge of how many people are legitimately interested in your product, as opposed to just being curious.

Accounting for expenses

Once you make the decision to sell, and to price, you’ll have to account for expenses you’d never imagined. Maybe you’ll need to move from a shared host to a dedicated one. Or pay for a business license in your home jurisdiction. Or hire a graphic designer after concluding that your own Adobe Illustrator skills are wanting. A few hours of planning and estimation now can save you weeks of frustration down the road.

Speaking of quantifying, here’s a sample budget (in PDF) that you can adapt for your own use. Be conservative with your revenue estimates, liberal with your expense estimates, and you can get a better handle on how much you should charge when your products finally make it to market.

You might also find the formula presented in The Dark Art of Product Pricing useful. It integrates many of the considerations I’ve outlined here but, like this post, that one can’t definitively tell you what you should charge either. Ultimately, that’s up to you.

Key points

  • Cover your expenses. Don’t set your prices so low that you’re losing money on every sale.
  • Don’t set your prices so high that you need to camouflage them, either. Be direct.
  • Honestly assess what your product can do for your customers.
  • Explain to your customers what they’ll get for their money.
  • Like anything else, first plan, then execute.

Next week, we’ll discuss how to increase your potential clientele beyond its traditional bounds.

Greg McFarlane is an advertising copywriter who lives in Las Vegas. He recently wrote Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense, a financial primer for people in their 20s and 30s who know nothing about money. You can buy the book here (physical) or here (Kindle) and reach Greg at [email protected].

Come Help Me Celebrate My 40th Birthday with @CharityWater

Tomorrow is my birthday, and it’s one of those big ones: I’m turning 40!

Life’s been so busy lately—with blogging, three kids, my photographic obsession, and the other organizations I give time to—so I’ve not had a lot of time to ponder what being 40 years of age really means (or what shape my mid life crisis should take … I’m open to suggestions).

water

Image courtesy stock.xchng user kwod

However I do feel very fortunate on many levels and I’ve been wanting to use this little milestone to do something special.

So I’ve decided to give my birthday to Charity Water.

Our world is facing a crisis around the issue of water—something we all need, and which most of us living in developed countries take for granted.

Yet for around a billion people water is something that they’re constantly thinking about—in fact, their lives revolve around the logistics of getting it for their family.

Millions who are unable to access clean water simply don’t make it to their fifth birthday.

It’s a massive problem with many complexities that make my head spin, but my hope is that this birthday we can do something small to make a difference.

Screen Shot 2012-04-26 at 10.38.35 AM.png

If you’d like to join me in tackling the problem and/or you’d like to celebrate my birthday tomorrow I’ve set up a Charity Water page to do just that. I’d love to raise $5000 (although I’ve probably left promoting this a little late) but really anything we can raise would be fantastic.

I know not everyone is in a position to give as much as $40—or anything at all—but if you are, I’d greatly appreciate it. If not, please spread the word or consider pledging your own birthday to tackle the issue.

Introducing Blekko, the Self-curated Search Engine

This guest post is by Philip Rudy of ImageWorks Studio.

Have you used Blekko yet? It’s the search engine that prides itself on human curation. You as the user can actually tailor your own personal search results, which begs the question: does Blekko have some type of insight into blending “search & social?”

Potential is an ugly word, and I hate to use it here, but Blekko really has so much potential. Only time will tell if the team is able to get the combination of social and search perfectly right and stay in the game. After all, “human curation” sounds kind of hard.

Maybe not, though. Human curation has already helped Blekko completely block out the top 20 sites voted as spam by human users— these are all mainly content farms (sorry eHow). Anyone can join this cause by setting up a user site on Blekko and marking a site as spam.

The power behind slashtags

Blekko separates itself from other search engines by making use of the “/” tag—the slashtag as a search tool.

You can either create your own slashtag or used a built-in one like the /date slashtag (which also happens to be an extremely helpful slashtag).

All you have to do is type in a search query, like “sports /date” and your query results will automatically be sorted by date, from the most recent results.

Other slashtags do different things. One that’s extremely useful (especially now that Yahoo Site Explorer is down) is the “/seo” slashtag. This allows you to see your sites duplicate content, all of your inbound and outbound links, and much, much more. Try it right now. Enter your site domain name, add a space and “/seo” and you will get something like this:

Creating your own slashtags

All this being said, Google still beats Blekko—even with its awesome concept of human curation of the web and slashtag operators —mainly because, well, slashtags are kind of exhausting. First of all you have to familiarize yourself with all of them, then you have to remember them, and then you have to type them in, and so on. A simple Google search seems to be a better option at this point in time.

But creating your own personal slashtag is a whole other story. Using slashtags, you can basically create your own search engine for any topic you like.

For example, I recently created a “/guestpost” slashtag that returns all the websites I have ever written for. It’s very cool, and very useful. If you use the search field below, you will find websites’ “write for us” pages, which is very useful for guest posters and people looking to build their brand and audience.

The point is that this type of interface usability leaves the door open for a lot of innovation. Used wisely, creating slashtags (which can be done with the help of co-editors) could prove to be a valuable SEO and blogging tool. The ability to tailor and customize your own search engine results packs a lot of power, and if you spend a little time browsing your whole site and coming up with ideas, you can find yourself becoming very, very creative. Just ask the community over at stackoverflow.com, which helps Blekko tailor many of its “programming” slashtags.

Another cool thing about Blekko is that it provides the ability to create your profile, which will list any slashtags that you have created. You are also able to include your Twitter profile, your website, a little information about yourself, and a few other things. It’s the absolute bare minimum of the social package, but it is sort of intriguing. Here’s why.

The ability to basically sculpt your own search engines by creating slash tags, and the ability to post on the walls of the slashtags of other users, opens up some interesting social avenues that aren’t quite built up the “appropriate” way yet. I put the word “appropriate” in quotation marks because I am not quite sure that “social plus search” is the route that Blekko seems to want to take yet—or ever. Right now, their main focus seems to be human curation and the elimination of low-quality content from their SERPs, which is definitely a great cause, but I think there is room there to figure out how to do it socially.

Right now, on Blekko, there is a small, yet highly intriguing ability to search through users and the different slashtags that they’re editing. I’m guessing that not all the users that are on Blekko are listed there, but all you have to do to browse through different Blekko users is type “/users” into the search bar (there are multiple shortcut slashtags that you can check out).

What if Blekko were to leverage their slashtags in a way that connects users that were creating their own slashtags? A step toward this scenario is the creation of the “/likes” slashtag, which shows all of your Facebook likes and all of your friends’ Facebook likes (if you log in with Facebook).

By the same token, isn’t curating your slashtags pretty much almost doing the same thing, except compartmentalizing the different aspects of your life? For instance a slashtag could be created for work references, for going out, or for finding out about the world.

Blekko’s next big step could very well be figuring out the key to combining search with social. However that is also everyone else’s goal, and living in a world of what if’s is never a good idea. Right now, Blekko stands as a very unique search engine with a very bright future. Give it a try and let us know what you think of it—and whether you’ll keep using it—in the comments.

This article was written by Philip Rudy of ImageWorks Studio – a Custom Web Design company based in the Washington DC area founded in 1995.