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Build Authority by Sharing Trade Secrets

This guest post is by Rich Gorman of Direct Response.

The tipping point for me, as a serial internet entrepreneur, was when I took up blogging. Blogging has made me exponentially more successful in my business than I ever could have been otherwise—but I know that’s not how it turns out for everyone. For every truly successful, cash-generating blog, there are probably a dozen more than never really seem to take off.

So what’s the difference? In a nutshell, the difference is authority. The bottom line is that anyone can sign up for a blog these days; having a WordPress account and throwing up an occasional post hardly helps you stand out from the crowd.

When you establish authority as a blogger, though, people within your industry sit up and take notice of you. Once that happens, you’re already on the inside—you’re an industry leader on the fast track to success, and you’ve got your blog to thank for it.

How does a brand new blogger develop authority, and become known as a true mover and shaker in his or her given industry? The truth is, it doesn’t really matter what industry you’re in—whether it’s online marketing, reputation management, or something else altogether. The key to becoming known as a blogger of authority is showing a willingness to give away trade secrets.

Personally, I’ve given away hundreds of trade secrets on my own blog, and I’m much better off because of it. That’s because when people visit my blog, they find useful, practical, make-money-in-the-real-world-now tips and techniques that they can’t find anywhere else. Immediately, readers see that I know what I’m talking about. And when they put these trade secrets to use and start making money from them, they’re obviously going to keep coming back to my blog for more.

But what does giving away trade secrets really look like? Here are three essential tips that have served me well, along with some examples.

1. Share actual trade secrets

If someone can conduct a quick Google search, or go buy a book, and find the same “insider information” you’re sharing, then guess what? It’s hardly a trade secret! The effect you need to go for is to make your reader say, “Wow—I couldn’t buy a book on this subject! This is truly revealing, and truly valuable!”

The best way to do this is to share insider secrets that you’ve actually come across on your own, and used yourself. Base your blog writing in your own experience. I once wrote a post about vertical monopolizing, where I shared some real, step-by-step techniques that have worked wonders for me—right down to the very URLS readers can visit to follow my lead. This is my story of success, written in a way that it helps readers make it their own—and that’s why it’s effective!

2. Give something away

You’re not really revealing trade secrets if you give someone half a blog post, then tell them to sign up for your services to learn the rest. This is not about teasing and tantalizing. Building authority as a blogger means you actually have to provide some value, right here and now, through giving away your secrets of success.

I did a post on media buys that more than fits the bill, and shows you what I mean when I talk about giving something away. This isn’t a post that suggests possible actions, or gives the reader some good places to start from. This post will hold your hand and walk you through every step of the process.

And that’s really what you need to provide to your readers. You need to give them the whole thing, and leave them with the unmistakable impression that you’re someone who gets your industry on a higher level. That’s what will keep them coming back for more.

3. Get specific!

For an example of what I’m talking about, check the post I did here. In this post I give the specific names, phone numbers, and email addresses of vendors I trust. I tell my readers who to contact, what to ask for, and even how to secure a discount!

By contrast, consider if I had simply said, “find some good vendors,” then sent my readers off to Google for their own contacts. This would have been slightly helpful, perhaps, but really, it’s information they could have heard from anyone. It hardly establishes me as an industry insider, or as a blogger of authority.

That, of course, is what all this is about: showing those within your industry that you’re a leader, not a follower, and that you’ve got original ideas that lead to immediate value. Giving away these trade secrets reveals that you get it, and that you’re confident enough to share it with others—all of which is essential for setting yourself up as an authoritative blogger.

Do you give away trade secrets on your blog? Le us know how this tactic has worked for you in the comments.

Rich Gorman is a veteran of the direct response marketing industry and an expert in reputation management and direct response marketing for companies large and small. Rich also operates the official blog for the Direct Response industry, Direct Response, where he shares his thoughts on Direct Response Marketing.

How to Be a Guru: 6 Paths to Blogging Stardom

This guest post is by Neil Patel of Quick Sprout.

Do you want to leverage content marketing?

I’m not just talking about guest posts or sharing content on social media sites here. Instead, I’m talking about the overall strategy that you can use to structure and develop your site’s content and offerings.

And develop your authority as a guru in your blogging niche.

When it comes to content marketing strategy, the key strategic question is: how much information should you give away?

Some people will tell you to give it all away—including your best content. Others will tell you that is suicide, and you should limit your free content to special reports and a few blog posts.

So what’s the best approach?

Well, in a great SlideShare presentation called How Much Do You Open the Kimono?, Jay Baer outlined six ways that you can think about your content marketing and how much information you give away.

He describes six content approaches that a marketer can take to successfully drive leads, increase the right kind of attention, build sales—and, for a blogger, position yourself as a guru in your niche. These six strategies can work for any business—not just a blog—but of course they can and do work for blogs. Specifically, you’ll find the later ones particularly relevant to your blogging efforts.

Since your blog is unique, not every strategy will work for you. Let’s look at the six positions in depth and see which one’s right for you.

1. No online thought leadership

This is a position in which you’ve decided that you will not have any thought leadership influence online. You’ve made this decision because you know through research experience that your target customer doesn’t consume content online.

This won’t be applicable to many bloggers, but since it’s one of the six strategies Jay explained, let’s look at how it works.

MarketFace is a good example of a company that uses this strategy. It’s a leader in customer experience consultation, having clients like Virgin, Sketchers, and Toyota. They work directly with the C-level management and do not believe that their time would be well spent creating online content, since their target audiences don’t use the internet to find information.

Here’s what they need to do then:

  • Generate word-of-mouth business: Businesses like MarketFace can use their current clients as advocates to generate leads. Obviously your work should be exceptional if you want people to refer you, and you want to depend strictly on WOM for business.
  • Create case studies for private consumption: Companies that employ this position create content don;t just share it with the public. They share these case studies with potential clients.
  • Work in a vertical market: If your business is involved in a vertical where there are a number of similar businesses doing specific and specialized work with the same customers, it’s easier to generate WOM referrals, and easier to dominate without working at online thought leadership.

What are the advantages of this strategy?

  • Zero time investment: Unlike the other online content marketing positions, this one requires zero effort, and zero investment in resources like time and labor.
  • Focus on long-form, custom and detailed content: When you don’t have the pressure to create content on a daily or weekly basis, you can focus on the production of in-depth case studies, research, and analysis that will satisfy the number-crunching demands of executives.

There are some disadvantages to this approach, namely:

  • Limited search exposure: If you are not creating content for online consumption, potential customers who do consume and use search engines will not find you.
  • Can’t build online influence: Even though executives may not use the Internet to search and consume content, many of their assistants do. So, if you don’t have a presence, even a minimal one, you will miss out on those opportunities.

If WOM and your vertical domination is keeping you profitable, then you may not need to worry about online influence. However, business and markets change, so it’s good to keep your eye on the horizon and question your strategy constantly.

2. Though leadership on social media

Thought leaders who are in this position will use Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook Groups, and leave blog comments on other people’s blogs to influence clients and potential customers.

In this case, you prefer the one-to-one interaction that these platforms offer. You may write one long blog post a month as a guest for other blogs, remain active on Facebook, and curate tons of information on Twitter, which would be enough to keep you in the minds of your customers.

However, you will establish your influence and authority by speaking at industry conferences, giving input for market studies, and being involved in research.

What are the pros with this type of thought leadership position?

  • No original content: Since you are building your authority by being an expert on other people’s content, products, and services, you don’t have to invest the time to create your own content. Think of an analyst who becomes an expert in a certain industry.
  • Leverage years of experience: Your years of work wisdom and experience allow you to become a consultant. Word of mouth helps generate business for you, while the occasional long blog post keeps you in the search game.
  • Become a trusted community source: As you consultant companies and work on studies and research projects, your name will gain authority.

Let’s look at the disadvantages of this position:

  • Limited search exposure: With such a small amount of substantial content being created for online consumption, you won’t be able to compete in search engines.
  • Lack a place to drive leads: Without a website or blog, you don’t have an online source where leads can find you, or you can direct prospects to.
  • Lack of experience limits you: Building authority as a consultant or analyst without creating content takes years, where content creation online can get you into the spotlight in as little as six months.

3. Selling thought leadership

Here, you’re selling your information in books, ebooks, how-to packages, and email newsletters by building a list with limited content creation.

The financial newsletter Motley Fool is a good example of a company that uses this strategy. While the Motley Fool guys have a vibrant online presence, their real content is hidden behind a checkout process.

How do they attract people to buy their products? Their free content gives potential customers a clear idea of the possibilities of what they can achieve with the company’s products. In other words, the content sells the sizzle. You have to buy the steak if you want to know how to harness those possibilities.

Here are the advantages to this approach:

  • Re-purpose content: You can take some of your already published content and create a free report out of it. This adds another stage to your sales funnel. However, for this strategy to truly work you have to make these quality packages. You must include a high volume of pages, only the best content, and superior design.
  • Recurring revenue: Selling your best content will allow you to build an additional stream of income that bolsters your flagship service, such as consulting or speaking.
  • Passive income: In addition to being recurring, this income is also passive, meaning you do the work once and it makes money for you through the life of the product.

While this has been a successful strategy for companies like Motley Fool, it has its disadvantages:

  • Upgrading difficulties: It may not be easy to migrate people from consuming your content for free to paying for new content. You have to figure out how to give away just enough content that people become interested in spending money to get the real product. In other words, the sizzle has to be so good that they can’t live without the steak.
  • Test exhaustively: Because you won’t know right off the bat where that line between sizzle and steak is, you will have to measure and test these efforts, which has costs in time and tools.

4. Walled garden thought leadership

The next strategy in Jay’s presentation is to place free content behind a mandatory-lead generation form.

The simplest example of this is the email newsletter. In fact, lots of marketers run blogs in which they share content on a daily basis, but promise in-depth, specialized information for joining a email newsletter list.

For example, Copyblogger offers the Internet Marketing for Smart People email newsletter. This is content that is specialized toward helping online marketers generate leads and convert those leads.

Copywriter Drayton Bird created an email newsletter that he used to share practical information, selling the sizzle. But he also promoted his products, like books and speaking events, to the list, too.

Here are the advantages of this position:

  • Generate leads: Depending upon the amount of information that you request, you may be able to use that information to feed leads to your sales team.
  • Easy to track: When you are collecting personal information, you can easily know whether a landing page is effective or not, allowing you to test and tweak elements on the page to improve conversion.

And now the disadvantages:

  • Can’t control lead quality: If you make the exchange the bare minimum—say an email address—you’ll probably get a lot of leads, but they won’t be great leads.
  • Can’t raise exchange requirements without harming lead volume: Now you can demand more than an email address from a submission form, but the moment you do your lead volume will drop. In fact, for every element you add, your lead generation numbers will decline.
  • Can’t share: Information locked behind a submissions form is much harder to share. Your readers’ only option is really to forward it to friends, whereas if you had the information online you would have multiple options at your disposal.

5. Give away what you know—but not the process

In this strategy, you give away your knowledge, but you don’t give away the information about how you got that knowledge, or what you do with it. You often tell your readers how to do things … but not how.

Confused? Here’s an easy example of what I mean. Let’s say a mechanic tells you that from his experience car oil should be changed every 3,500 miles. That’s good information to know. And it’s coming from an authority. The only problem is you have no clue on how to change oil. So you hire the mechanic.

People like Chris Brogan and Gary Vaynerchuk have built business based upon this approach to developing their positions as thought leaders. There strategy was simple: produce a ton of blog posts, videos, and presentations, accept every interview they can, maintain a heavy presence on social media, and be insanely approachable and available.

Here are some of the advantages of this approach:

  • Extreme SEO benefits: With so much content being put online, you will dominate the rankings for lots of searches in your industry. Those who use this approach successfully are often seen everywhere.
  • Social share goes crazy: The more content you produce, the more content gets shared and goes viral.
  • Extreme PR benefits: This heavy production of content, and constant presence on social media, will also lead to a growing presence in the public relations world. Media companies will start to seek you out as an authority because it seems that everywhere they look, they see you.

As you can imagine, there are some cons to this strategy:

  • Work your tail off: Nobody who has achieved success using this strategy is lazy. In fact, they are tireless: they are usually the first ones up in the morning and the last ones to bed. Burnout is a real threat as the moment you take your foot off the gas pedal, just a little your influence starts to drop.
  • Decrease in content value: There is the potential that each piece of content you create will cannibalize the last. How many videos, interviews, and posts can you do on your industry that won’t sound the same as the last ones, or like something your competitor has done?

6. Give it all away

Finally, we arrive at the thought leader who gives it all away. They give you the possibilities, and they even explain the process you’ll need to follow to reach them.

SEOmoz has built a great blog doing this. Each article will tell you the wonderful benefits behind a certain SEO technique, and then tell you, step-by-step, how to do it.

Danny Sullivan’s Search Engine Land is another example. And I try to do the same thing on my blog.

This type of strategy attracts both the do-it-yourselfers, and those who want someone else to do it for them either because they don’t have the time or don’t want to learn how to do it.

This position shares the same benefits as strategy 5, but it includes one more benefit:

  • No barrier to customers: This position removes any boundaries—real or imagined—between you and the customer. When a customer wants to work with you it is very clear why they want your expertise.

This position also has the same disadvantages as the one above in that it involves some really serious effort. But it includes at least two others:

  • Others can steal your content: If you decide you want to use this content strategy, and you do it well, you will become a target for scrapers who will try to make a buck off your hard work.
  • Diverts attention from core attributes: While companies like HubSpot or Mint.com used this strategy effectively to generate leads, attention, SEO benefits and the like, it puts a huge burden on resources, and can get you off track.

Which path is for you?

As I’ve shown you above, there are people and companies who have successfully used all of the above content marketing strategies to attain thought leadership positions, so there really isn’t one that’s better than the other.

Instead, you must know your core strengths and weaknesses, your business goals and objectives, and how you want to achieve them. Only then can you figure out which strategy will work best for you.

As you read these ideas, one probably jumped out as the path you’re taking. Let us know which one it is in the comments. And keep your eyes on ProBlogger today for more tips to help you build authority with innovative blog content.

Neil Patel is an online marketing consultant and the co-founder of KISSmetrics. He also blogs at Quick Sprout.

Say Bye-bye to Blogger Body, and Hello to Better Health

This guest post is by Tania Dakka of TaniaDakka.com.

Awesome! You just finished that killer project you’ve been working so hard on all day! Congratulations!

But then you get up.

Ouch.

Your back’s killing you. Your body’s stiff. And you feel the pangs of a headache kicking in. That puffed chest is starting to deflate a little, isn’t it?

That’s Blogger Body.

Not managing the Achievement Addict disease that causes Blogger Body will eventually affect your production levels and quality. You’re wired to push yourself, so you push hard. Harder than you would push anyone else, because you think that’s the only way you can achieve your best.

That thinking isn’t flawed—it just needs a little tweaking.

You’re not alone

As bloggers, we love to get things done. We’re experts at hyper-focusing. And it feels good—really good—when we write master content we know rocks our readers’ worlds—even if it means hours on hours in the chair bent over our keyboards, drinking pots of coffee, and eating whatever we can get our hands on.

But, you’re bound to hit the wall sooner or later. The aching in your back that’s screaming louder than your three-year-old will become a relentless signal that can’t be ignored.

You have to take care of yourself—or your content will suffer.

You can do it

You can take breaks, and take care of yourself, and still produce great content—as a matter of fact, you’ll actually produce more of it! (Hey, look at that! A way to make more and greater stuff! Didn’t you just get goosebumps?)

Don’t think, “I can’t stop until I’ve finished.” Think, “These breaks are going to make this piece rock!”

A healthy body is your foundation for a clear and powerful mind that produces and creates. Here’s the deal. If you want them to give you more, you’ve got to give them more.

And with the right foods and an easy workout plan, you’ll be the unstoppable blogger you’ve always strived to be, writing posts that everyone wants to read.

5 Steps to your a better body and blog

1. Get back to nature

The optimal diet for a blogger’s brain/body boost is one rich in natural foods. What’s on the blogger’s “Yes” Foods List? Anything from the ground, or that has a mama—or any combo thereof.

Action: Start by adding in whole foods to each meal. The more you add, the less room you’ll have for “No” Foods.

2. Hydrate often

Waiting until you’re thirsty means your brain is already suffering. And, bloggers, what can a dry brain do for you? The rule used to be eight 8oz glasses of water a day, but it’s not enough. Guys: You need 13 cups a day. And girls: You need at least nine.

Action: Put a rubber band around your glass every time you finish a glass of water, to keep track of how much you’ve had to drink (um, this only works if you use the same glass all day). Strive to collect between nine and 13 rubber bands before bed.

3. Limit focus time to an hour and a half

Sitting for hours with no break leaves your eye glassy and thoughts befuddled. The maximum chunk of time you should lend to a project is an hour and a half. Then, take a five- to 15-minute break. You’ll refresh your mind and reinvigorate your drive.

Action: Set your timer and force yourself up when it goes off. If you’re worried about losing focus, write down your thoughts at the time of the bell and come back after step 4 to pick up exactly where you left off. This downloadable worksheet should help.

4. Work out

Yes, I said it. Don’t roll your eyes at me. It doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It just has to be done.

Action: When the timer rings, stand up and do ten to 15 Burpees. They’re a great whole-body move that, when done right, will pick up that heart rate. But if you find them too difficult, do the easier versions of the pushups for a while. When you can do the 15 of them (with correct form) in under two minutes, switch the challenge up and do three minutes of them at the end of each focus session.

Proper Burpee execution: From a standing position, drop into a push up position (don’t let your midsection droop when you go down—keep your back straight). Then, do your pushup and spring back to a standing position. End it with a jump with your hands raised overhead. Then, drop back into your next Burpee. Here’s a great video by Zuzana Light to show you visual learners how to Burpee the right way:

5. Sleep

This is so hard when you’re gears are turning 24/7 about your next big post, but without rest, you won’t power up so you can push through your blogging and your blog training. Spend five minutes doing a proper wind down before trying to sleep. Meditation or focused breathing are great relaxers for a blogger’s ever-running mind.

Action: Lying on your back in bed, close your eyes and take long, deep breaths. Inhale for a count of four and hold for four counts. Exhale for four counts. Do this until you feel the last of the stress of the day exhale with your breath. Then, let your mind drift off to dream.

Use these five steps to prime your body and mind to create the content your readers beg for and will want to share.

If you can’t do Burpees, what other exercise would you replace them with to get your heart pumping on your break?

Tania Dakka, Fit Freelancer, is dedicated to providing clients with copy that converts and writers the tools they need to survive (and even thrive) where life, fitness, and productivity collide. Sign up and get the help you need at TaniaDakka.com.

Boost Conversions Step 5: Reach All Your Audience Segments

This guest post is by Kate Swoboda of The Coaching Blueprint.

Go ahead—ask anyone, whether it’s a small business owner, a solopreneur consultant, or someone who’s determined to hit it big with their hand-made crafts:

What action would you like people to take, as a result of visiting your website?

(Note: this question may or may not make you a hit at parties, so proceed with caution).

Chances are, they’re going to all serve up the same answer: they hope that people will either buy something or book an appointment.

People have designed their business websites with one aim in mind, and that’s to get people to buy stuff—queue the series of squeeze pages and pitches and sales funnels.

It’s what we’ve been talking about here on ProBlogger all week. And it’s a worthy endeavor—I like making my rent payment each month, too.

There’s just one problem: not everyone who lands on your website is ready to buy. In fact, I’ll wager that most people aren’t, yet. What’s more? No matter what you do—no matter how much you “prime” someone to buy, or “remove objections” so that they’ll buy, a vast majority of the people who land on your site just ain’t buying, because they simply aren’t yet “buyers.”

A great many marketing sites out there will tell you to just ignore those people and move on to the person who’s ready to pull out their credit card.

Here’s an alternative idea: What about appealing to all of the different users that land on your site? How much more business would you get over the long haul if you took the approach that there’s something for everyone who comes to your website?

That’s what I want to finish up this series with today—to show you how to take what we’ve discussed about reviewing your offer, revisiting your conversion funnel, revamping your communications, and running A/B tests, and see how we can apply that advice to different user types, or segments, within your target audience.

What are those user types? I’m glad you asked.

Ideal Users, Resonant Users, and Careful Considerers

There are three basic categories of people who are landing on your website at any given time. When I work with people on website leveraging strategies, I refer to these types as the Ideal User, the Resonant User, and the Careful Considerer.

Most people are designing websites that focus solely on the Ideal User—the person who’s going to buy (now), while these same websites almost entirely ignore a call to action for the Resonant Users and Careful Considerers.

Since we know that sales conversions are notoriously low—that in some industries you’re lucky if you generate even a 2-3% conversion rate for your offering—why are we focusing so much on that 2-3%? It’s seen by some as a waste of time to focus on anything (or anyone) else.

But here’s the truth: this approach is leaving money on the table, particularly in service-based industries such as coaching and consulting, where trust is built over time. There’s another possibility that can not only increase revenue over time, it can create loyal clients and customers for life: design websites that offer something for each type of user, and over time, it’s entirely possible that they will become a Ideal User.

First things first: it’s important to know exactly what you want a user to do when they reach your website. Know these three:

  1. The action you’d like the user to take if they were your ideal user who “gets” you right away and loves everything you have to offer.
  2. The action you’d like the user to take if they resonated deeply with your message, perhaps even aligned with it and wanted to adopt it as a shared philosophy, but felt they didn’t have time/money/ability in that moment to respond to an offer you’re making.
  3. The action you’d like a user to take if they like what you have to say, but don’t feel super-connected—the people who fall in the “Hmmm, I’ll wait and see what I think” camp.

When you know these three objectives, you can create a website that provides something for each type of user.

Realistic is good

Let’s say I’m strategizing with a coach about leveraging her practice. If I ask her what action she’d like a user to take when landing on her site, she’s likely going to say: “I want the user to book a session.”

Problem? That’s what the “Ideal User,” is going to do. The Ideal User is the person who is ready to sign on the dotted line.

It’s good to be realistic. Consider your last three major purchases. Chances are, even you are not usually an Ideal User right from the get-go—you likely start as a Careful Considerer, a majority of the time.

Here’s an example of three actions a coach or consultant might desire each of their different users to take:

  1. The Ideal User would book an appointment.
  2. The Resonant User would like a blog post enough to share it with their followers, associating their name with your work.
  3. The Careful Considerers would sign up for the newsletter or follow on social media.

The people who book it from your website without taking action at all, even when you’ve provided multiple options? We’ll just say that those are “not your people” and leave it at that. (You already know there’s no point in fretting about the unsubscribes, the people who aren’t down for your message, etc., right?).

Where website design comes in

It’s website design that is a vehicle for appealing to each type of person.

Let’s continue with this example of a coach or consultant who wants new clients to book sessions. They have a blog. At the end of each blog post, they invite people to book a session. The buttons to sign up for sessions are big and bold. Sessions are open! Open! Open! Buttons are right here—book here! Click here!

Got it.

Problem: Their website design is only appealing to their Ideal User. Those big buttons are drawing all of the attention for “the next action to take,” without providing options for other types of users.

Let’s take the example from earlier, where the:

  1. Ideal User = signs up for a session
  2. Resonant User = shares a blog post
  3. Careful Considerer = follows on social media.

When I evaluate a coach’s website for a strategy session, I’m looking to see if they’re using the design to create ample opportunities for all types of users, since not everyone will be an Ideal User from the get-go.

For the Resonant Users: Is there more than one way that people can share blog posts? Are there hurdles such as signing up for a service that “allows” you to share blog posts? Is the coach directly asking people to share content, or just hoping the user will?

For the Careful Considerers, are there multiple places for someone to sign up for a newsletter? Is it clear what someone will get if they sign up for the newsletter? Do they know how often they’ll receive the newsletter? Is there a dedicated “welcome to the newsletter” auto-response?

Pulling it together

“Sometimes you don’t do one thing, 100% better. Sometimes you do 100 things, 1% better.”—unknown

This is just a piece of a much larger conversation. The best websites are those that have 100 different small, almost un-noticeable ways to engage users (the un-noticeable part usually happens when you hire a good graphic designer who can integrate elements without making them scream at your reader).

This isn’t about doing one big thing really well, or about cluttering up your website with endless ways for users to engage–this is about being clear on the specific, desired outcomes you’d like for the different people visiting your site, and then making it really, really easy for each type of user to engage.

Many people who land on your website will start as Careful Considerers. If you have great content on your site that provides value, they might become Resonant Users within a few minutes. It’s always possible that they’ll also convert to Dream Users pretty quickly, but realistically? They’ll probably hang out in the Careful Considerer/Resonant User zone for awhile.

That’s okay. That’s how I operate, and it’s probably how you operate, too, before you plunk down money or commit to time. Give those people plenty of clear options.

Your turn

Evaluate your website carefully—perhaps even ask some friends (only the ones who are willing to be honest!) to determine the top three actions for the three different types of users who visit your website.

Then ask: is your website making it easy for each type of person to take action?

And: How can you best meet the needs of the various people who come to your website?

That’s basically all this series has focused on:

There’s no sense in only appealing to a fraction of the people who are visiting your website—create your website as a space where there’s something for everyone to easily engage with, at different levels. When you create ways to engage beyond the small percentage of users who are immediately ready to spend money, that’s building a business for the long haul.

Kate Swoboda is a life coach, speaker and writer who helps other coaches to strategize with integrity and leverage their practices, beautifully. She’s the creator of The Coaching Blueprint, a downloadable e-program for new and emerging coaches who want to create a successful practice, and leader of the Blueprint Circles, small collaborative marketing Circles for coaches. She’s also looking forward to the upcoming 2012 World Domination Summit, where she’ll be leading a breakout session called “Entrepreneurs–Stop Letting Overwhelm Kick Your Ass!”

Boost Conversions Step 4: Run A/B Tests, Tweak, and Refine

This guest post is by the Web Marketing Ninja.

When it comes to conversion rate optimization, it’s easy to read about, and think about.

But when it comes to actually running a test, most people are at a loss.

It’s not that we don’t believe in testing; it’s that there’s barely enough time in the day to set up those key pages once, let alone set up variants, implement a test, measure, refine the pages, and test again. Trust me—I’ve been there!

But as we’re nearing the end of this series of posts about boosting conversions, I’m hoping you’re all fired up!

I’m going to use that motivation to push you to finally run that first test—a simple A/B test. In this post, I’ll run you , step by step, through a simple test that:

  • won’t cost you a cent
  • takes less than an hour of your time to set up
  • gives you that all-important glimpse of what testing can actually do for your blog.

I’ll bet once you’ve cracked that first A/B testing nut, you’ll become a testing junkie like me. And your conversion rates with never be the same—hopefully, they’ll be much better!

So let’s get testing.

1. Choosing a page

First things first—let’s pick a page to test.

In the second post in this series, Darren talked about reviewing your conversion funnel. That may have given you a few ideas about pages you could test—maybe they’re some of the pages you reworked after reading Tommy’s post yesterday.

My basic approach is, if you’ve got a sales or signup page that gets traffic, test that. (It’s likely to be on your list anyway.) If you don’t, pick your Contact page instead. Or, if you’re feeling brave you can go for the biggest bang for buck and test a “money page.”

2. Working out what to test

Our second step is to figure out what to test. When I’m looking at a page I want to test for the first time, I ask these six questions:

  1. Can everyone access it? We’re talking here about accessibility.
  2. Can everyone use it? Usability is the key for complex processes.
  3. Does it work? It should—on all browsers, mobile devices, non-javascript browsers, and so on. Don’t forget to consider page load speeds as well.
  4. How does it look? Does is communicate the mood you want it to?
  5. How well does is tell the story? Do the words engage users and drive the actions you want?

Ask these questions about any web page. and you’ll end up with a long list of stuff you can test, but for now, let’s start with a headline—a big part of telling the story, and probably a fairly strong element in any sales or signup conversion. It’s also something that Tommy was eager to test yesterday, in his third conversion goal, which was to get more high-quality leads.

As this is an A/B test, you need to come up with just one alternative to the page’s original headline. If one email can have over 500 different subject lines then I think we can probably come up with one.

Now we’ve got a page, we’ve got our original headline, and we’ve got an alternative headline. Let’s start our test!

3. Setting up the test

You can use a few different applications to run web page tests—some free, some not. To keep things simple, we’ll use Google Website Optimiser—one of the free options.

In order to use this tool, we first need to set up a couple of things.

  1. We need a publicly viewable version of your original page, and the one you want to test with the new headline. And you’ll need them at two separate URLS—it might be problogger.net/salespage.php and problogger.net/salespage1.php. These URLS will depend on the CMS or blog technology you’re using and your site structure, of course.
  2. We need access to a page that appears aftera user completes your goal action. So, in the case of a contact form, this page would be your “thanks, your message has been received” conformation page.If you’re testing a sales page, this can be a little more tricky. Ideally you’d have access to the page that confirms that the user’s purchase has been successful. If you can’t access that page, you might have to settle for the page that appears when someone clicks on of your Buy Now links.(Note that there are ways around this problem, however you might need some technical assistance to access them. In this case, I would recommend you look at a service like Optimizely/, but it’s not cheap. The upside is that once you set it up, creating tests is extremely easy.)

Once you’ve got all of that done, sign up to Website Optimiser. Once you’ve signed up you should see a page like the one below. Click the link to start your experiment.

Click the link

You’ll then be asked what type of test you want to run. Pick the A/B Test.

Select A/B testing

You’ll then be asked to get your test pages and your conversion page ready. We’ve already done that, so we can confirm and move to the next step.

Confimation

Next, you’ll need to enter a name.

Provide a name

Include the links to the original page, and the version you want to test.

Include URLs

Finally, paste in the link to your goal or conversion page.

Goal page URL

Once you’ve completed all the fields, click Continue.

The next step is the most technical. You need to put a special piece of code into your original page, your test page, and your conversion page. (You can read more about the code snippets themselves here.)

If you’re using WordPress, there’s a handy plugin that will allow you to do this pretty easily, called Google Website Optimizer for WordPress.

Once it’s activated you’ll see a spot under each page and post to enable testing—add your special code in there. If you’re confident with editing the tags on particular pages, great. If you’re not using WordPress, you’re not technically minded, and you can’t find a Website Optimizer plugin for your CMS, you might need to ask nicely for some help.

I’m going to move on, assuming that you’ve got the codes in place. Next, you’ll need to validate them:

Validate pages

If the validation’s all good, you’ll get a screen that looks like this:
Validation successful

Click OK, then click Next. You’ll arrive at the final conformation screen, where you can preview or start your experiment.

Preview the experiment

Once you hit Start, you can sit back and relax for a bit: you’re now testing! After a few hours some of your preliminary results will start to come through. When you log into Website Optimizer you should see your experiment listed. To see the results, click on the View Report link. The report shows you how the two pages are performing against each other.

Viewing the report

4. Deciding the winner

You can expect to see some wild fluctuations in the data initially, so it’s important not to decide on a winner to quickly—let the data smooth out over time. In the case shown above, the results came in pretty even—and this is a test I ran over four months!

Most testing platforms will have an algorithm to let you know how confident they are that one version is beating another. In the case of Website Optimizer, it’s called a “high-confidence winner.” In the case of slight changes, it can take a while for a call to be made. You can either wait, or pick your own moment and move on. It’s really up to you.

Personally, I’ve made calls on tests that have only run for three days, and waited for some that have run over months and months. As your experience in testing grows, so will your confidence in making calls.

What to expect from your test

Within your tests, you’ll probably experience one of three things:

  1. Your new headline wins.
  2. Your original headline wins.
  3. The result is too close to tell.

In the first case, you’ve hopefully got a great understanding of the progress you can make with testing.

If your original headline wins, you’ve actually also made a small step forward: you’ve proven that your current headline is better than at least one other option—but I’m sure there’s a bunch more to try!

If it’s a to close to tell results, then, as is the case if the original wins, it’s time to think up some new headlines.

So hopefully you’re all able to identify, set up, run, and report on a simple A/B test. Even better, I hope you’ve found it so easy that you’re ready and raring to start your next test. Because if you’re happy with good, then produce. But if you aspire to great, then produce, test, iterate, test again—and you just might get there.

And that’s the key point here: to continuously improve your blog’s conversion rates for paid or unpaid offers, you really need to have in place an ongoing system of refinement that’s based on trial and testing.

Once you’ve got a handle on that,  you’ll be able to go back and apply the four steps for boosting conversions—reviewing your offerrevisiting your conversion funnelrevamping your communications, and running A/B tests—more broadly, to every segment of your audience. That’s what we’ll be looking at later today, in the final part of this series. Don’t miss it!

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.

Boost Conversions Step 3: Revamp Your Communications

This guest post is by Tommy Walker of Tommy.ismy.name.

“How do I get more people to interact with my stuff?”

It’s a question I ask myself constantly. I could go on all day about traffic strategies, guest posting, or any number of online marketing topics. But the truth is, at the end of the day, shares, subscribes, and leads, are just another conversion.

I wish I realized that when I designed my existing website. I wish I realized a lot of things when I designed my website.

See, when I first started my site, I hadn’t thought about things like list building, or selling things (I had nothing to sell) or even the type of content I was going to publish. I thought I’d figure that stuff out as I went along, but, as my style changed, every new thing started to feel like it was tacked on.

Sadly, my site has become this clumsy Frankenstein creature that haphazardly attempts to do my bidding, but never quite executes. That’s no discredit to my developer, who did an excellent job at the time. It was my own misguided direction that turned what could have been a beautiful creation into something hideous.

Learn from your mistakes

If you’ve been following this series over the last couple of days, you’ll know that we’ve talked a lot about learning from your mistakes—as they affect your free or paid offer, and your conversion funnel.

I worked through these processes myself, so that as I go to work on version 3.0 of my website, I know exactly what I want my conversion goals to be. And they’ll be reflected in every facet of the new design.

The new design isn’t yet operational, but if you’ll allow me to let you peek under the sheet, I’ll show you:

  • my conversion goals
  • how I plan to attack them
  • screenshots of the current design and what isn’t working.
  • screens of the new design and why I think it’s an improvement
  • what I plan to test.

Expect this post to be on the longer side, as it is meant to be a conversion-oriented website playbook. For your convenience, here’s a table of contents:

As we go through each section, I’ll also point out things to look out for on your own site, and ways that you might be able to fix them.

A quick note before we continue: Conversion optimization is about constant testing. Everything from copy, to layouts and button placement, and color schemes.

While I might give you some suggestions along the way, there is no one “surefire” way. Often times what works best†is the thing we least expect and if sell yourself short on your testing, you may never know what actually works best for you.

The Web Marketing Ninja will be showing us the complete process of setting up and running A/B (or split) tests tomorrow, so if you want some expert advice on that topic, stay tuned.

Become really friendly with your analytics

Now, before I get to the design, I want to dive deep into my analytics.

As we’ve seen over the last couple of days, patterns in the data give a great starting point for the areas of your conversion funnel that can be improved, and even provide hints for how to improve them.

For instance:

  • Posts designed to drive conversation and high “time on site,” but which have few shares or interactions, may be lacking a clear sharing mechanism; alternatively, the comment call to action may be lacking.
  • Sidebar offers that receive traffic, but don’t convert, may need to be redesigned or scrapped entirely.
  • Landing pages with high time but few conversions require further testing to improve conversions.
  • Common click paths users take can determine pages that could be optimized for subscriptions or sales.

Your analytics tell the story of you and your users. When you fix your part, they’ll be able to give you more of what you want.

Define your conversion goals early

I imagine we’re a lot alike, you and I, in our goals. Mine are:

  • get more social shares
  • build a bigger subscriber base
  • attract more qualified leads that can be turned to sales.

What I didn’t realize on the first two iterations of my website was that each goal can be attacked very strategically within the design.

So instead of trying to get every page to do every thing, as I create version 3.0 of my website, I will be looking at each aspect with a different conversion goal in mind.

Goal #1: Get more social shares

The first goal, get more social shares, is pretty straightforward.

According to my analytics, my weekly blog articles get the most steady traffic and the highest time on site (four to seven minutes; I primarily video blog).

Knowing that, I want that traffic to turn into more traffic, because right now, the social sharing on the site is low.

With the time on site being so high, my best guess is the posts aren’t getting shared because the sharing functions are a little less than obvious.

Sharing options aren't obvious

The trick to getting more social shares is two-layered.

  1. Create engaging content.
  2. Make sharing as painless as possible.

According to my video analytics, just over 70% of people watch my videos through to the very end. Looking at the current design however, it’s incredibly clear that sharing is not painless.

To address this in the new design, on an individual post page, the video will be featured at the top, filling most of the screen, and the sharing icons will be featured on the bottom left, just before the fold.

Next to the share icons will be a short link that can be copied to the clipboard with a single click.

Next to that, I’ll show a Share Via Email button that, when clicked, will drop down an email form where users can email the page link without ever leaving the site.

New sharing layout

Key takeaway:

To improve shares on individual blog posts, create excellent content, and make sharing the primary call to action.

If the sidebars on your individual pages aren’t selling products, or bringing in email subscribers, get rid of those calls to action.

Something you can do right now is install the ShareThis hovering share bar and have it appear on all of your sharable content pages.

What I’ll be testing:

In order to get maximum shares, I’ll need make sure the sharing icons are in the most optimal positions on the page.

My tests will include:

  • the share icons being located on the left of the page (as pictured)
  • share icons on the right of the page
  • the “share bar” taking up the full width of the page below the video.

To do this, I’ll have my developer run a test using Google Website Optimizer, and track the results. (As I mentioned, the Ninja will show you how to do this yourself tomorrow). The layout with the most shares will win.

Goal #2: Increase email subscriber base

There are a few ways I plan to build my email list. Pay close attention here, because each and every one of these ideas is something you can do, too.

Email subscriber plan 1

The first tactic is persistent navigation throughout the site. This feature allows the top navigation bar on your site to remain in view as the user scrolls down the page. With persistent navigation, the fundamental action points are always in view, and available to users.

Persistent navigation seems to be where forward thinking websites are headed (Facebook, Google+, Lifehacker, WordPress). Using persistent navigation through my site allows me to create a subtle call to action that stays with the user.

On the above image, you may have noticed the word “subscribe” in the navigation bar.

Persistent navigation

I believe this will eliminate the need to create a big, obtrusive opt-in form to occupy the sidebar (but this will need to be tested, of course).

When the user hovers over the “subscribe” button, a dropdown with an opt-in form will appear:

Accessing the dropdown

In my opinion, this makes the website a little more “fun” to interact with, which leads me to believe this will increase actual engagement with the site, and, thereby, email subscriptions.

Key takeaway:
The web is evolving much faster than most people realize. Incorporating elements like persistent navigation and interactive elements gives your website more depth than text and images alone. The more you give your users to “play” with, the more likely they will want to hang around on your blog, and hear more from you.

If you’re code junkie, this tutorial will teach you how to create your own persistent navigation menu.

Or, if you’re afraid of code (like me), you could always install the Hello Bar. While it’s not as full-featured as custom navigation, it has been proven to increase clickthrough rates for many of its users, and can be very effective when you use the right messaging.

What I’ll be testing:
I’ll test the messaging within the dropdown itself: “New episodes every week + exclusive bonuses” with “Submit” or “Subscribe” as the call to action, vs. “Learn online marketing and get exclusive bonuses” with “Teach Me!” as the call to action.

Email subscriber plan 2

According to my analytics, my homepage is usually the second stop people make when visiting my site … makes sense.

Sadly, also according to my analytics, this is where my traffic goes to die. My homepage isn’t really optimized for anything.

My current homepage

Realistically, my conversion goals for this new homepage have to be two-fold:

  1. Capture users’ email addresses.
  2. Pull people deeper into the content.

To capture email addresses, I’ll be using a slightly modified approach to the ever popular Halpern Header on my homepage.

Instead of using a static image, however, there will be a welcome video that’ll introduce visitors to the site and talk about the exclusive bonuses that come from being an Inside The Mind subscriber.

Welcome video

I believe that combining the Halpern Header with video will make the email subscription call to action both unmissable and fun to interact with.

As long as I’m able to clearly communicate the benefits of being a subscriber, I think this will lift subscription conversions dramatically.

Key takeaway:

The homepage is often the second most visited page on your website. If you’re not maximizing your email efforts here, first time visitors may never return. This is why it’s important to clearly communicate the benefits of your site, and make your opt-in form highly visible, not banished to your sidebar.

The Halpern Header/feature box method has been proven as an effective way to increase email subscriptions, for some by as much as as 51.7%.

Adding a personal touch like video or an image of yourself can build trust with your potential subscriber, increasing your conversion rates even more.

What I’ll be testing:

While I have a hunch that a welcome video will work well, it’s also possible people might find it more distracting than welcoming.

For that reason I’ll be testing a welcome video vs a welcoming image. I’ll also be testing layout with the video/image orientation on the left vs. the right, the copy, and the call to action.

Homepage Subgoal: Bring visitors further down the rabbit hole

Sadly, after visiting my homepage, most people drop off the site.

To address this, I will feature a scroller of randomized content from season one of my video stream directly underneath the feature box.

The video scroller

The reason for randomization is that it’ll mean that deeper (or older) content can also get some play.

Copyblogger uses a similar approach with the “popular articles” list on their sidebar. Using randomization, a fun slider, and engaging thumbnails for the posts just takes that idea a step further.

Note: The bar will never show posts that are also displayed in the main feed below. Rather it will only show content from deeper pages. This way, I can avoid duplicate content issues—I won’t be trying to push the same article in a handful of different ways.

Below that, I’ll show a fairly standard format blog, with reverse chronological posts on one side, and an offer for my ebook on the other.

The feed of blog posts

You may notice that everything seems to get a little bigger once we get into the main feed. The reason for that is fairly simple. The top of the site will act like a built-in landing page, but once a visitor goes below the fold, the focus will be on content.

The sidebar will display only two items at any given time, and will also be a persistent part of the interface once a certain scroll threshold is reached.

At the top, I’ll include a lead generation piece/ethical bribe (more on this later). Underneath that, a randomly generated episode link will appear (again, only one that is not currently present on the page).

Key takeaway:

If your homepage isn’t working to drive people back into your content, switch things up using your analytics as a guide. Just be sure to talk about it before hand so your faithful visitors don’t think something bad happened to you!

What I’ll be testing:

Not much here actually, but I will be measuring pretty heavily what content, in what position, gets the most clicks.

As far as I know, this is nothing remotely close to a “standard” blog format, so it will be interesting to see how people respond to features like the scroller and persistent navigation.

Email subscriber plan 3

Taking another leaf out of Derek Halpern’s book, I will have email optins in three critical places:

  • the About page
  • the footer
  • at the end of the single post pages.

The redesigned footer

Normally, I would recommend placing an opt-in on the top of the sidebar. However, because I am using persistant navigation with  the Subscribe link in prime view at all times, I feel, for me, that this space is better used for lead generation.

The About page

I plan on doing something a little different by putting the link to my About (and other) pages in the footer. This is more like a news site, and less like other online marketing blogs.

Keeping that in mind, the people who come to the About page will need to do a little more digging to get there. So why don’t I try to capture an email address in the process, since we’re getting a little more personal?

This is what Derek says about the About page:

Prime people for your websiteís content and why it’s important

  1. Opt-in form
  2. Show social proof
  3. Opt-in form
  4. Show personal backstory
  5. Opt-in form

For backstory, I plan to share a bit of my background as an actor, how I was fired over a pair of pants, how that eventually lead to online marketing, and the ups and downs I’ve seen while working for myself (there have been many).

Key takeaway:

When you address your users’ search intent first, then make a personal connection by sharing more about yourself, you give visitors more than one reason to subscribe.

What I’ll be testing:

The copy is what’s going to make the difference here. While it might not be a part of my initial relaunch plan, I’d also like to test using a cinematic “trailer” video that prompts visitors to “Join the journey” by becoming an email subscriber.

The footer

There’s a very simple reason for revamping the footer to include a subscription CTA. If someone’s scrolling to the bottom of the page, you can assume one of two things:

  1. They’ve read through all of your content and are primed to want more.
  2. They just like scrolling.

Either way, the footer is a great place to capture email, because your reader has gone all the way to the bottom of the page (and there’s nothing left to do).

Currently, I have an opt-in form in my footer, and it converts pretty well.

The current footer form

What’s lacking in this footer, and on my current site as a whole, for that matter, is a page that is dedicated to explaining the benefits of becoming a subscriber.

That’s why, instead of including an opt-in form in the new site footer, I will instead include a link to a landing page called Why Subscribe?

The new footer

This again comes down to a matter of search intent. Where most of my content is going to be front-and-center in nearly aspect of the design, I can only suspect that the people who scroll to the bottom of the page are more “deep information” types.

I believe many blogs do not reward these types of people, and instead only go after those who are willing to hand over their information with little friction. However, the “deep information” types aren’t so trusting. They need to have all of the information before they give up any personal details. That’s ok with me, because they also do a good amount of homework before making purchases, and I’ve found to be the most-action oriented customers.

So instead of giving them nothing to do when they scroll to the bottom, I will give them a landing page that talks about all of the benefits of subscribing to the show. This page will include information on how frequently emails are sent, the types of bonus content they can expect, and an outline of what will be included. Doing this also gives me another page that can be linked to from internal content, which is a nice bonus!

Key takeaway:

Keep your users’ intent in mind, and create content that appeals to as many different types of readers as possible. If you don’t currently have some form of a “why subscribe” page on your site, you’re not addressing all of your readers’ concerns.

What I’ll be testing:

I’ll be interested to see the difference in conversion between the footer opt-in box and the Why Subscribe? link.

Giving users one extra click may decrease the overall conversions, however the link to the landing page is more in line with user intent on that particular section of the page.

Either way, I’ll have more data on footer and landing page subscribers, which will help me focus my follow-up messages even further.

End of single post pages
This is fairly straightforward. If someone has decided to take the time to read through the content, they’re probably a good candidate to become a subscriber. So I’ll create a subscription option at the end of every post.

The subscription form at the bottom of posts

Key takeaway:

We often clutter the end of our posts with all sorts of garbage, like related posts, share buttons, subscribe to my email list, read my bio, leave a comment, and more. Every single one of these commands is a call to action, and the more calls to action you have, the more diluted each one becomes. Find ways to incorporate all of these things—just don’t cram them all in at the end of your posts.

Using a WordPress plugin like Post Ender, you can keep your calls to action focused, and will likely see higher subscription rates from the ends of your posts.

What I’ll be testing:

Not much more than the language: “Subscribe,” for example, vs. “Keep Me Updated.” Because my content is primarily video, and it’s showcased at the top of the page, this form is one of the least of my concerns.

Email subscriber plan 4

This is it! The Dreaded Popup. I believe there’s a classy way to use popups, and an annoying way. You’re probably pretty familiar with the annoying way.

My plan with the popup, however, is to have it triggered after the viewer has been on the site for a given amount of time, or clicks within a set number of pages. That way, I’ll know they’re engaging with the site, and are more qualified than, say, a first time visitor.

Personally, I hate the pop-up, so if I’m finding that it’s not converting, even when I target mostly engaged users, I will not hesitate to yank it.

Key takeaway:

Popups can be extremely valuable, but are often seen as annoying. The longer people are on your site, the more likely they are to qualify as potential subscribers.

Although your conversion rates may go down the longer you wait to trigger the popup, your subscriber quality will increase, because they’ve already spent more time with you—they’re qualified subscribers.

What I’ll be testing:

Here, I’ll test headline copy, the optin orientation, click and time triggers, and a number of other things I exaplained in detail in this article.

Goal #3: Get more high-quality leads

Subscribers do not equal leads.

I repeat: subscribers do not equal leads. While subscribers may eventually become leads, signing up to be on your email list does not mean they have an interest in buying anything.

In order to gather more leads through the site, I intend to offer a free ebook titled Why Quality Matters, in which we’ll explore different statistics on the state of the internet, how high-quality content excels, what defines high-quality content, and so on/

The landing page to “sell” the book will follow this formula.

The book itself will follow a similar format, but remain informative throughout.

As it is ultimately a lead generation piece, the goal is to simultaneously attract the right people, and repel everyone else. Not everyone who reads the ebook will recognize themselves in it, but those who do will find a link to request a strategy session at the end of the book.

In the strategy request form, I ask questions of the reader, like how long they’ve been in business, their previous yearly income, target yearly income, and if there are any major roadblocks that prevent them from moving to the next level.

This process is designed to help a person really decide whether or not they need help. Having had my prospects step through a handful of filters also saves me a lot of trouble “pitching” my services to them. By the time we get on the strategy call, I can really focus on helping them. I do have an offer, but I’ll only make it if it seems like it’ll be a good fit.

Key takeaway:

Qualify your leads. So many bloggers and marketers assume that list subscribers = people who might be interested in buying something eventually. But every time a pitch comes around, a good chunk of people either unsubscribe or ignore you all together, causing this endless cycle of list rebuilding.

When you let people qualify themselves, and say “I need help,” they’re more likely to open your messages and take action on what you have to say.

What I’ll be testing:

I’ll test the landing page copy, without a doubt. Using Premise, I’ll be able to apply the Google Website Optimizer to test headline and copy variations. Also, I’ll be testing pure copy vs. video, to find out which will be the most effective “pitch” on the landing page. Even though the investment for users is “free”, I’ll still want to put my best foot forward, due to the subject matter and the eventual lead into the sale.

Note: This is not the only way I will be generating leads. Far from it actually. I’ll also use several paid and organic strategies to better target those exposed to my content.

I mention this because popular content marketing wisdom does not advocate paid advertising, but the truth is, there is no faster or more precise way to target the right people for your content.

Test, get feedback, iterate

The designs and tests above were all conceived to address gaps in my data. I cannot stress to you enough the importance of knowing what your analytics are telling you, and testing to make improvements.

One thing I’ve learned  is that intuition doesn’t convert well. Yet data only tells you so much. That’s why I’ll offer an incentive to my list to get real people to “test drive” the site. Their feedback will be vital in making the necessary tweaks before I push the site live and test it with a larger audience. And even when it’s fully live, there will always be testing taking place.

The name of the game is to always be improving, and iterating on what you’ve learned from previous tests. Only let your data and user feedback drive your design. The next post in this series will show you how to set up, run, and adjust your own A/B tests.

I’m sure that by now, this series has probably encouraged you to look at your offer, conversion funnel, and offer communications more critically. You’ve probably come up with a few ideas you’d like to try. Share them with us in the comments below!

Tommy Walker is an Online Marketing Strategist and host of “Inside the Mind” a fresh and entertaining video show about Online Marketing Strategy.