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5 Fatal Landing Page Mistakes—and How To Fix Them

This guest post is by Anshul Dayal of www.nichesense.com.

It is often said that lead generation is the lifeline of any online business big or small. Correct?

Wrong!

Allow me to explain this further. In a traditional business we often look at three or four key performance indicators when it comes to gauging success and profitability. They are leads, conversions, sales, and profits.

Brad Sugars, a very successful (and somewhat controversial) Australian entrepreneur, describes his “5 ways business chassis” as:

Number Of Leads X Conversion Rate = Customers X # of transactions X Avg. $$$ Sale = Revenue X Profit Margins = Profit

Where:

  • Number of leads = every person who is interested in purchasing from you
  • Coversion rate = percentage of leads that make purchase
  • Customers = every lead that makes a purchase
  • # of transactions = number of purchases made by every customer
  • Avg $$$ Sale = money spent every time a customer buys from you
  • Revenue = your total dollar value of sales
  • Profit margins = your “markup” percentage or simply the purchase price of your product minus the acquisition cost

Simple enough? Now let me ask you a question: which one of those variables should you be increasing to boost your profits quickly and efficiently?

Here is the key. Most people will tell you that it is the number of leads or customers. In reality, it is one humble little number many business owners often overlook, yet it is the easiest the way to boost profits without spending an extra cent on acquiring new leads.

Let’s see how.

Here is the equation again with some real numbers:

Equation

Now, lets simply double the “# of transactions” to 2 (easy enough?)

Equation revised

Suddenly our profits have doubled without acquiring a single extra customer! That’s exciting, right?

Let’s now apply this analogy to an online business.

I offer consulting services to a small group of private clients who seek me out to develop an online strategy, optimize conversions, and boost profits. More often than not I find them making one common mistake which often results in a major lost opportunity when it comes to making money for their offer or services.

The majority of people are wrongly fixated on traffic generation.

Traffic generation is only one part of the equation. Sure, you use a number of well-documented strategies to generate traffic, but what happens when that traffic arrives on your website? Do you have a clear plan for turning that traffic to potential customers you can sell to again and again?

For the majority of website owners, traffic generation is the end of their online strategy. In reality, it should really be the start.

So now the big question is, what is the easiest way to convert this traffic to customers? Simple: get them to subscribe to your email list!

The next big question? What is the most effective way to get visitors to convert to email subscribers? Well, we don’t need to look very far at all to find the answer to that. In fact, many of you have probably used this method of lead capture at some stage in your business.

A landing or a squeeze page is one of the easiest ways you can convert visitors to prospects and customers. A carefully crafted landing page can go a long way in converting that traffic to email-subscribed customers you can sell to over and over again.

So, is there really a science behind creating a high-converting landing page? The short answer is yes. In fact, it’s relatively simple, yet I find a number of business owners committing one or all of the five fatal mistakes I am about to reveal to you.

Fatal mistake #1: Poor headline

We often associate big, fat headlines with hyped up, bold-red text used by internet marketers, but in reality this is really your value proposition. More often than not, you may only get a few seconds of your visitors’ attention before they hit the Back button on the browser. This big, fat headline will go a long way towards grabbing your prospects’ attention and enticing them to take the next step.

Remember, the purpose of a headline is to skillfully answer one simple question: “What’s in it for me?”

An ideal headline should convey your value proposition in as few words as possible. Let’s look at some good and bad examples. The headline below is simply too long and does not offer a clear value proposition as to how using this business coaching service could help my business.

Headline example

On the other hand, this headline captures your attention straight away with a clear benefit and value proposition—a rewarding career:

Shorter headline example

Fatal mistake #2: Missing the call to action

Now that you have got the visitors’ attention, it’s absolutely imperative that you have a clear and easy-to-follow call to action to capture their details.

I see a number businesses wasting valuable advertising dollars only to have people land on confusing homepages that lack a call to action, or even a basic value proposition. Now, I don’t know about you, but as a prospect landing on such a page, I will probably be reaching for the Back button on my browser as soon as possible.

Here is a web design firm advertising on Facebook. Unfortunately, clicking on the ad goes straight to the default fanpage timeline—there’s no attempt to get me take any specific action. I seriously questions if this is a good use of your advertising dollars.

Facebook ad

Landing on the Timeline

Here’s a slightly better use of your paid traffic: visitors are directed to a fanpage squeeze page app designed to capture the prospects’ email addresses with a clear call to action:

Landing on a squeeze page

If you are an affiliate promoting offers, find offers with a clear call to action when you search for good affiliate offers to promote. Also, use them as good examples of landing pages that you can learn from.

As an affiliate marketer myself, one of the products that has done exceptionally well for me as an affiliate is a hair loss treatment which I currently promote using the Markethealth program.

A quick look at the product’s landing page indicates a clearly defined sales funnel for prospects, with key elements in place: the simple value proposition, benefits, and a very clear call to action.

My landing page

As an affiliate, I would be quite comfortable promoting such an offer. It is likely to convert extremely well given the quality of the landing page.

Fatal mistake #3: Placing your call to action below the fold

What is “above the fold”? It is essentially all the content that your visitors get to see before using the scroll bars on a web page. As a matter of fact, 80% of your visitors will simply never scroll to the bottom of the page if you fail to capture their attention in the first few minutes.

I regularly come across landing pages where I like the offer, but find myself searching for more information on how to take the next step.

How can I proceed?

An ideal layout for placing your headline and call to action is what I describe as the “double barrel” layout. This works best with a video, or at least bullet points that explain the key benefits of your offer.

Such a layout often includes your bold headline, a video (or bullet points) and a simple opt-in box stacked next to the video (similar to the hair-loss example above). Using such a layout, you can essentially include your headline, benefits and call to action above the fold.

Above the fold

If you are using a blog-style layout for your business website, then having an opt-in box on the sidebar widget above fold can also be highly effective.

Fatal mistake #4: Offering too many options

A well crafted landing page should be designed to do one thing and one thing only: capturing your prospects’ details as soon as possible. The best and easiest way to do this is to ensure that you are offering them as few options as possible so that they  reach for the opt-in box.

A well structured landing page will typically contain the big, fat headline (your value proposition), key benefits, and clear call to action. Yet we all see examples of websites offering too much information and too many links on their landing pages.

Too many clicks

Such a layout is guaranteed not to help your prospects take any action at all—they’ll simply wander away once they have had a quick scan of the landing page.

Fatal mistake #5: Not using a customized “thank you” page

One of the golden rules of a successful marketing funnel is to get your visitors to take the next step. A “thank you” page is often considered by many people as the last step in your marketing funnel where you have captured your visitors details and are now congratulating yourself on a job well done.

In reality, if you skimp on this, you are missing a golden opportunity to offer your visitors numerous other ways to engage with your content. Remember, at this point, your prospects are most interested in what you have to offer, as they have just given you their name and email address and are looking forward to receiving that information you promised on your landing page.

You can use the “thank you” page in many different ways. If you have a “premium” version of the product you are offering for free, then why not use a customized page to offer that premium product as a one-time offer for a low price?

If you have another free product, then a customized thank you page can also be highly effective for getting interested visitors to double opt-in to another offer. This way, you can promote a separate set of targeted offers relevant to another product you are offering.

This is a powerful yet badly underutilized strategy for making the most of your prospects’ eagerness to consume your products when they first offer you their name and email address.

Tools and tips for a better landing page

Now that you have had some insights into some of the mistakes to avoid when creating a well converting landing page, let’s look at some handy tools you can use to create high quality landing pages and opt-in boxes in a breeze. My favorites are:

If you find that even though your landing page structure is good, your conversions are poor, then I recommend split-testing your headline. Most of the premium themes mentioned above offer readymade functionality for split-testing headlines and page structures.

Last but not least, if you’re capturing leads through multiple landing pages, make sure to segment them using your autoresponder service. This will allow you to send relevant and targeted information and offers to prospects in specific categories, with specific interests.

How are your landing pages looking? And what tips can you add? Share your secrets to success with us in the comments.

Anshul Dayal is the owner at www.nichesense.com and helps his clients make more money online with cutting edge strategies. Sign up for his free niche marketing coachingon his niche marketing blog.

Taking a 5+ Figure Blog to the Next Level

This guest post is by the Web Marketing Ninja.

In my work, I get to speak with a lot of people who’ve done really well from the web. Some have done seven- and eight-digits “well,” others who have more modest, but still impressive, five- and six-digit success stories.

And one of the common challenges I encounter with the five- and six-digit bloggers is that they really struggle to take that next step. How do they go from $100,000 a month to $1 million?

This issue seems to be coming up more and more often, so I thought I’d share the feedback I typically give in this situation in case you’re in similar circumstances.

Taking stock

The web and its low barriers to entry for certain business models can be both a blessing and curse.

The blessing is that you can start a business—a good one—with the notes you already have in your wallet. There are not many industries that can lay claim to that.

Millions of these online businesses start every year and quite a few of them succeed, delivering senior-management or executive-level incomes to people working from home on something they love. 

Although it might be hard to see that there’s a downside to earning $100,000, $200,000, or $300,000 a year, when you grow to that level, you’ll generate a thirst for more. Trust me! And that’s usually when people come to me.

These conversations often start with the comment, “I’ve done really well, but growth is flattening off. I’ve got lots of ideas, but don’t know how to take them forward.”

Then I’ll see a model that looks something like this:

  • monthly revenue = $50k
  • admin costs = $1k
  • website costs = $2k
  • business costs = $2k

In general business terms, this is an operation running on mind-blowing profit margins. Spending $5k to deliver $50k?! Wow.

I’ll then hear statements like this from the blog owner:

  • “I want to create an app.”
  • “I want to build a private community just like…”
  • “My website’s slow and I want to fix it and update the design.”
  • “I think there’s an opportunity for me to offer XYZ service.”
  • “My traffic’s high, but flat, and I’m getting the same responses to my launches and campaigns.”
  • “I know I’m leaving money on the table by not doing ABC.”

Being a straight-down-the-line sort of person, my response to these comments isn’t always what the business owner wants to hear. For example, I used this analogy just today…

If this is you…

You need to get off the bike you’re on now—the one you built yourself from spare parts.  It’s served you well, but it’s worn and won’t go any faster than you’ve got it going today.  It’s already performing above its class.

What you need to do is to go and order yourself a new race bike that’s expertly designed to take things up a level. Unfortunately, you need to buy it before you can go fast.

In a nutshell, it’s time to invest back in your business if you want to enable it to continue its growth, and go beyond the limits of one person.

This is always a pretty bitter pill to swallow, and I can understand why. You built your blog and your business on blood, sweat, and tears. It has put food on the table and money in the bank, and now I’m telling you that you need to give some of that up to go any further!

Of course, it’s not the only choice.  You can live very comfortably on $45,000 a month, and you’re taking a risk spending your money on something new—after all, you might not get it back. But you need to understand that it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to continue to grow a blogging business at this level without spending any money on it.

Typically, the response from my client is one of four:

  • They decide they’ll just continue to pocket the profits from their current blog for as long as they can.
  • They’ll make the decision to invest their own money into their business.
  • They’ll find a partner to share equity with—someone whose skills complement theirs, and who can grow their current capability.
  • They’ll seek funding from investors to support growth.

There’s nothing wrong with any of those outcomes, as long as you make the decision based on your own desires.

Looking to grow

Let’s assume you’re in one of the last three categories, and look at how you might implement some of the growth tactics I mentioned above.

If you want to create an app…

Apps can be quite simple and cost-effective to produce, or their creation costs can run into the millions. While there are still a few nuggets out there, a lot of the low-hanging, simple-but-valuable apps have been gobbled up in the goldrush.

Also, simple doesn’t necessarily mean cheap. You’ve probably heard about the $750 million Facebook paid for Instagram, but let’s not forget the $50 million in funding the app’s creators received to build and manage it in the first place.

Now this isn’t meant to deter you. Just realise that unless you can build your own app, and you want to do something unique, you’re up for a minimum of $10K to produce a quality app in most instances.

If your website’s slow and you want to fix it and update the design…

Chances are you’re running WordPress, and you might have tweaked a template or got a theme designed for you. You’ve probably installed plugin after plugin, with a bunch you’ve totally forgotten about. Maybe you’re on shared hosting that’s not scalable.

The result is that your website is slowing down and can’t deal with your traffic.

In this instance, you’ve got two problems to solve. Your website is inefficient and you need more sophisticated hosting. To get it done right—by people who are experienced with high-traffic sites—you’re looking at spending $5-$10k, at a minimum.

That’s only going to solve your immediate problem, and that’ll be back again before you know it, unless you bring in developers and other experts to give your blog constant attention.

If you know you’re leaving money on the table by not doing ABC…

This one’s pretty open ended. “ABC” might be something simple, such as setting yourself up as a merchant so you can take credit card payments directly, rather than using PayPal. It might be breaking the limits of your basic checkout system, the creation of an ebook or other product—the list could go on an on

Simply by making that comment, though, you’re admitting that your To-do list is longer than you can handle, and that in itself is costing you money. It might be time to get some help.

Just a blogger? Or a business?

Are you “just a blogger?” Or are you “in businesses?” It’s an important question to answer.

The prospect of spending money on your business, when you have the means to do so, is often a telling moment. What you do will reflect just how serious you are about building a business, rather than “just” being a blogger.

Businesses hold the keys to greater financial gain, but unfortunately, along with that potential comes more pressure and risk—and that’s not for everyone.

But if you’re finding yourself in a similar scenario to those I’ve mentioned here, you need to come to terms with the fact that your dream run of growth will someday reach its peak, if you stick with your current capabilities.

It’s going to cost you to change that, but that cost could turn you into one of those eight-, nine-. or ten-digit superstars. We can all dream of never-ending growth with minimal investment. But in most cases, the real world doesn’t work like that.

How’s your blog’s growth going? Do you think it’s time to invest to build it further? I’d love to hear your plans below.

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.

We’re Spending the Week On Your Blog!

It’s Monday—the start of a new week on your blog—and I wonder what challenges you’re facing.

Woman_writing_in_the_agenda

Image courtesy stock.xchng user Jan Willem Geertsma

If you’ve neglected your RSS or social media feeds over the weekend, you’ll likely find plenty of good advice there—advice that you feel you really should try out if you want your blog to be its best.

But before you become overwhelmed by all the things on your weekly To-Do list, let me tell you what we have planned for the week ahead.

This week, we’re focusing not on promotion or social networking or reaching the right readers or affiliate programs or SEO.

We’re focusing on you and your blog. Entirely.

A week on your blog

Imagine if you could put aside all the other, external things you usually do to keep your blog humming along for a whole week.

Imagine if you could instead spend the next five days really honing your approach to blog design, content, and your own productivity.

If you’re anything like me, you rarely spend this much time focused exclusively on your own online presence. I know I normally slot the tasks of content and design around other things, mainly to do with product development, reader engagement, and promotion.

While I don’t think any of these elements exists in a vacuum—they all interplay thought our blogs and our lives as bloggers—I do feel that sometimes it’s good to take a break and really home in on our blogs themselves.

Stepping back

Blogs evolve over time. Each day we learn new ideas to try, and we want to see what the produce.

But ongoing blog tweaks can be a curse as well as an aid. If we never step back, the tweaks we make to our designs, our interfaces, our content, our structure, and our brands overall can slowly erode the sharp focus we began with. That can be more than unfortunate—that can undermine your ability to maintain and grow reader loyalty.

So if you’ve spent the past months in the trenches, head down, backside up, working hard at a tactical level, then this week’s posts will hopefully help you step back and look critically at some key elements of your blog.

We’ll have posts on landing pages and logos, on voice and audience, and on making the most of the time you dedicate to your blog. We’ll mix writing and design tips with productivity advice.

The aim? To help you focus on the thing that matters most—the thing that keeps you attracting readers, converting subscribers, and selling products: your blog itself. And to help you take stock of where you’re at, and where you can improve to make your brand more coherent and powerful.

We’ll kick off later today with a post by the Web Marketing Ninja which is designed to help those with bigger blogs whose growth has stalled. He’ll show you how to look closely at your online presence and face up to the tough questions: why has your blog stalled, and what do you need to do to get it going again?

Before we get to that post, I’d love to hear about the challenges you’re facing in building an online presence on your blog. Share them with us in the comments.

My First AdWords: How to Trial AdWords Promotion for Your Blog

This guest post is by Kole McRae of Chilled Soda.

Many of you probably have AdSense on your blog. It’s a great system for monetization, especially for those with smaller blogs but how many of you have been on the other side?

AdWords is the system Google uses for advertising. It’s how you place ads on it’s search engine and on the huge network of sites that use AdSense.

Right now Google is offering $75 free to anyone that wants to try out AdWords. That’s a good chunk of change but it can easily disappear in a day on AdWords and give you nothing to show for it.

So I’ve written this little guide to help you out a bit. I wrote this with a few assumptions in mind: that you know how AdWords works in terms of buying clicks and that you have full control over your site. If you have never heard of AdWords you should probably start here.

I have also assumed you have made an AdWords account. If not, use the link above and make one.

Step 1: Keyword research

The first step to a successful AdWords campaign is research. I know what I’m about to recommend sounds really boring, but not only will it help your AdWords campaign but will also help you understand your niche better.

I want you to take ten minutes and write down every combination of keywords you can think of for your blog. What words do you want people to type in to find your blog. For example:

  • cool tech blog
  • tech news
  • technology news
  • Canadian technology news.

Write them all down and keep going until you just can’t go anymore. You should be able to put together a pretty sizeable list. Next sign into your AdWords account and click on Keyword tool, which is under the Tools and analysis tab. Paste your list into that tool and hit Search. Next, click the Keyword ideas tab.

This will give you a much larger list of keywords (usually in the hundreds or thousands). It also tells you about how many people a month search for those terms and how much competition there is. This can be invaluable data.

Take this new list and download an Excel copy of it. Then take the time to divide the keywords into different groups, or “themes,” and choose which ones to focus on. I’d go over just how to do that but it would take far too long. So I’ll simply suggest using common sense and your own judgement.

Try to find keywords that have low competition, low CPC cost, but high monthly searches. These are called low-hanging fruit. They tend to be the juiciest! Remove any words that are too generic. Single-word keywords that have millions of searches will not be helpful to you.

Another quick tip is to look up your competitors and go to their pages. Then right-click and select View source. Though Google has said they no longer use the Keywords meta tag, some people still fill it up, which might give you even more keyword ideas.

There are many other ways to get even more keyword ideas, so get creative and see what you can find.

You should also look for keywords in your lists that are not relevant at all. These you will want to add to your negative terms list so that people who search those terms don’t see your ad or cost you any money.

The most important thing I can teach you about AdWords is that it is not about getting as many people as possible to your site. It is about getting the right kind of people to your site. So make sure you remove any and all keywords that are not relevant. People searching for Python programming tutorials do not want to learn more about snakes and will only cost you money with no added benefit.

Step 2: Ad copy

Once you have put together your keyword lists and organized them into categories (or “adgroups,” as Google calls them) you need to write ads for each one. I say ads, not ad, because the most important thing you can do with AdWords is rotate and test ads.

I suggest writing two ads for each category or adgroup. Google will automatically rotate these ads and give you stats for both so that you can choose the one that works best for you and test it against an even better one. This means your ads will get steadily better as you test them against each other.

Your ad copy needs to be simple and to the point. Tell people exactly what to expect when they land on your site. Some best practices: Start Each Word With a Capital Letter. It looks weird in an article but in an AdWords ad, it stands out and looks professional. End each line with a period. Don’t cut sentences off halfway through because of character limits.

I’m going to reiterate a point from above. AdWords is about getting quality traffic to your blog, not just getting as many people there as possible. You want people that will become part of your community. This means your ad should be written in a way that will build a community and invite people to join it.

Step 3: Landing page

The final thing I want to talk about is your landing page—the page people land on after they click your ad. The first instinct for a lot of people is to land folks on your home page. This can be a bad idea for two main reasons.

The first is that it can be confusing, especially if your home page is just a bunch of blog posts. People may not know where to begin or what to do.

Secondly, it’s very possible that Google’s AdWords quality algorithm may not understand that your site is relevant based on the page it lands on. It may be searching for instances of “Canadian Tech News” but only find it once on the main blog page, so it will lower your quality score and may not show your ad as many times.

The best practice is to send people to relevant posts and guiding pages for each adgroup. If you have an adgroup for Microsoft technology news, send people to a page specifically about Microsoft that has a bunch of news for it. Or maybe to an About page or a category page. The more specific, the better.

This is only the beginning

I’ve written over 1000 words here and it hardly scratches the surface of AdWords advertising. It fails to mention local searches, conversion tracking, match types and a million other things that go into a proper campaign. The best part? This is all for Google search, I didn’t even bring up the content network.

Which reminds me: I suggest going to your Campaign settings and setting it to Google search only, as this will give you a bit more control over where your site shows up. The content network requires an article all on its own and has a habit of eating up all your advertising money without giving you nearly the quality of traffic the search network gives you. That is, of course, unless you do a lot of research and use it correctly.

Hopefully, I’ve helped you get more out of that $75—and maybe even inspired you to start learning more about advertising on Google in general so you can fully leverage any money you spend on it.

Kole McRae is an Internet Marketer for web design Toronto. He also runs a blog called Chilled Soda, which is about tea, music and all the chill things in life.

Score Face Time with New People in Your Niche

This guest post is by Stanley Lee.

We all know the benefits of networking are obvious, so why are we neglecting it?

Are you scared about meeting new people in your industry? Do you spend a fortune to attend conferences and trade shows? Or do you waste a lot of time with travel and setting up your computer to work properly?

If you’re sick of making compromises, read on.

Get in touch using Airtime

Airtime allows you to talk to strangers and friends on Facebook via video chat without leaving your home office.

You can meet new people on the platform based on:

  1. where you live
  2. your interests
  3. their relationships with your friends.

The information is extracted from your Facebook profile.

The best part of all this is you don’t have to acquire strangers’ permission in advance to talk to them, which is typically common when you try accomplishing this feat with Skype or even on Google+ Hangouts. Also, you won’t find any random dudes doing weird stuff (remember Chatroulette?). I mean, who really wants to expose their Facebook identities while doing that?

If you’re concerned about Airtime’s credibility, let’s start with its leaders. Sean Parker was founding president of Facebook and co-founder of Napster, and Shawn Fanning, was co-founder of Napster. Celebrities such as Snoop Dogg, Alicia Keys, Jim Carey, and Martha Stewart checked Airtime out on its launch day.

If you aren’t familiar with any of those guys and girls, how about Gary Vaynerchuk? He loved using Airtime to connect with other social media fanatics.

Now that you’re excited, let’s learn how you can use Airtime to connect with readers and others in your blog’s niche.

The How-tos

Basic requirements

Before logging onto Airtime.com, you will need the following:

  • A compatible web browser: For simplicity, I suggest using Google Chrome.
  • A Facebook account: For obvious reasons.
  • A webcam that works with Airtime: Most laptop cameras should work without problems. Plug-in webcams may have problems. See the steps below to find out if yours does.

Step 1: Log into Airtime.com

A simple process—just visit Airtime.com and follow the launch process. You will need to press some buttons to authorize certain permission settings in Airtime’s login process. These are required in order for your camera to work properly.

authorization

Step 2: Choose your target

You will see this splash screen after successfully configuring your webcam.

Start screen

I blacked out my Facebook contacts to protect their privacy here. If you want to talk to your existing Facebook or Airtime contacts, you can click on a name on the right-hand panel and explore for yourself.

But since you’re most likely interested in discovering industry colleagues, let’s look at that. You have two ways to accomplish this goal.

The first way involves finding users with a common interest to talk to (as indicated by the blue rectangle). Then, click the Talk to Someone button.

Options

This is the easiest way because:

  • By checking the Near option, you can find people located close to you. If I live in Vancouver, Canada, I’m more likely to be connected to someone in, let’s say, New York City than New Delhi, India.
  • By checking the Common Interests option, you can specify multiple interests to find like-minded people. For example, if you read ProBlogger, your search won’t just be limited to this publication. You likely read Copyblogger, Think Traffic, Social Triggers, SEOmoz, and Blog Tyrant regularly. You may have even liked them on Facebook.
  • By checking the Friends of Friends option, you increase your chances of talking to a second-degree connection rather than the third, fourth, fifth, etc.

Let’s face it, life is already complex enough as it is. Enabling these options simplifies your Airtime experience and helps you home in on the right readers and industry contacts.

The second option involves finding users with a specific common interest. This is a great feature, but I do not recommend this method at the moment. Airtime does not have enough simultaneous users for you to find strangers with a specific common interest in a reasonable timeframe. Still, let’s take a look at how to do this just in case you want to play around.

Click on your profile, indicated here by the red box.

Interests

Move your cursor down to the Interests section, indicated by the blue box. You can click the More button at the bottom-right corner of the section to expand it.

Click on an interest

Click on an interest, then click the Find people who like this hyperlink, indicated by the blue box.

Find people who like this

Step 3: Start talking

In case if you’re a networking novice, here are some quick conversational basics before you begin talking.

Your goal should be to make new friends and make a great impression. How? By asking these simple questions in the following order, you will be able to spark deep conversations with your contacts:

  1. How did you find yourself trying out Airtime?
  2. What are you interested in these days?
  3. What challenges are you facing when you’re doing that?

Feel free to add one or two more questions specific to your industry or niche. The point is to break the ice, inquire about their hopes and challenges, and steer the conversation into the direction where you can provide—rather than extract—value. This is the key to keep the conversation going beyond this meeting.

After asking each of these questions, stop talking, and listen actively. After all, mutual exchange is a key ingredient to the art of networking.

If you really like talking to the person, you can add the contact into your Airtime list by pressing the blue button. You can also find other interests you may want to check off in your contact’s Interests panel on the right.

Adding interests

Step 4: Closing the loop

So you’ve met some new people and added the contacts you’ve bonded with particularly well. However, you’re just beginning the relationship. You’ll need to stay updated with what they’re up to, and close the loop by learning what you can help them with.

Here are some suggestions of what you can offer them:

  • Advice from your expertise: Act like a consultant giving them free advice on their problems related to your blog’s niche. Leave money off the table, as you want to keep the relationship social rather than transactional.
  • Be a connector: Doing so would not only help out your connections, but also build your reputation as a connector. Read this guide to get started if you don’t know how to be a connector.
  • Share relevant resources: This could be as simple as sending a quick email with actionable information you come across that’s helpful for them.

It takes several iterations of loop closing in order to build trust in those new relationships. If the first tries seem daunting, don’t worry. Networking is a learned skill, and you’ll improve with more practice. And Airtime is a great environment for you to practice quickly.

Let me know about your experience!

I hope you have enjoyed learning how Airtime can improve your life. Both in business and personal contexts, but particularly in terms of your blog.

Now you know how to use Airtime to build new relationships with other similar-minded people in a fail-safe manner. Or improve the quality of your relationships. Or even just conduct research for your blog that would otherwise be time-consuming and difficult to get without a large existing readership.

All within the comfort of your workspace, without the headaches of messing around with software packages.

Don’t you want to focus on big wins rather than being buried in the endless list of trivial tactics (e.g. spending all your resources tweaking SEO or honing a sales page when you don’t even know if it has its place in the marketplace)?

Have you used Airtime? How did it help you? What were the good points and bad points? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Stanley Lee blogs about systems building, marketing, and societal topics, providing in-depth commentary for the benefit of his readers.

The Undead Guide to Killing Your Blog

This guest post is by Clay Morgan of ClayWrites.com.

Are you unintentionally killing your blog?

When I started my first blog in early 2009, I knew absolutely nothing. I just thought a website might give me a place to write some stuff. And my complete lack of planning and strategy showed.

So a few months ago, I killed my old blog and started over.

It was a conscious decision and a good one at that. Lessons from past mistakes are so helpful. I’ve still got a ton to learn but I’m enjoying my new life as a blogger.

This post is about many of the mistakes we make that kill us in this medium. We can scare readers and potential subscribers off in a number of ways, most of which I am unfortunately familiar with.

Blogs with poor design and execution can turn ugly in a hurry—they’re more frightening than a horror movie, you could say. I actually like scary monsters, but I don’t want to come off as one on the internet.

I’ve been preoccupied with the undead for a while now because a) I’ve liked zombies ever since I saw Scooby-Doo and Michael Jackson’s Thriller as a kid and b) my new book called Undead just came out.

You may notice a bit of a theme in this list of six personalities to take on if you want to fail at blogging.

The vampire blogger

Vampire bloggers suck the life out of everyone they encounter. They take but rarely give, and offer little value—let alone anything free.

We all know self-promotion is part of the blogging game. As a new author I’m more painfully aware than ever of the struggle to balance the need for self-promotion with the importance of providing value for readers. But if you take a selfish, “me-first” attitude, then your online career will be in its twilight faster than Dracula can flap his cape.

The zombie blogger

The content of zombie bloggers is stale and rotting. In other words, nothing is ever updated or even really analyzed. Do you recognize your evergreen content and touch it up to maximize reader experience?

Some bloggers seem to crave 404 errors like the living dead crave brains. Don’t let your site fester! Get that thing checked out and always be tweaking and studying your results.

The ghost blogger

Ooh, those spooky ghost bloggers can hardly even be found anywhere on their own site. I’m not talking about ghost writers who write blogs under other names, but people who fail to maintain any real presence on their own sites.

New posts are residue that sometimes appears but traces of who made them are hard to find. Ghost bloggers don’t even seem to appear with substantive feedback of any kind in the comment sections. Not that a response to every comment is necessary, but communities eventually need a leader to rally around.

Visitors to your site shouldn’t feel like they’re walking around a haunted house calling out to see if anyone is there, but only hearing creaking sounds with every click. Stay on a consistent posting schedule, because if you vanish, so will your readers.

The mummy blogger

Mummy bloggers should not be confused with mom bloggers who are generally happier than the undead, and live much cleaner linens.

Ancient Egyptians removed most organs from the dead during the embalming process but they always left the heart, which they considered to be a person’s core, emotional seat, and mind.

Has the heart been ripped out of your blog? Does passion come through in what you do? The easiest way to be boring is to be bored. If you don’t care, then neither will readers.

The werewolf blogger

Aooowwwwoooo! Since we just mentioned passion and emotion, make sure that you don’t go to the other extreme, act like a werewolf, and surrender to a raw, unchecked appetite.

Werewolf bloggers hold nothing back, even when they really should. The web is filled with tales of meltdowns by bloggers, authors, customer service reps and more that buried their reputations this way. Baring your fangs and snapping at people is never good. If someone offends you or your beliefs it’s critical to react in the right way.

The Frankenstein blogger

Frankenstein bloggers just piece together content without any continuity. I was guilty of this for a long time myself.

These bloggers never think about branding. My current tagline of “pop culture, history, & the meaning of life” might still not seemed focused enough for some, but it’s exactly who I am, and describes what I will always write about whether in future blog posts or books.

Frankenstein bloggers are also responsible for those unsightly content-farm sites with keyword-bloated, rambling posts buried amidst a graveyard of useless and broken ads. In other words, it ain’t so pretty. Keep that up and readers will come after you with pitch forks and torches!

The last thing we want to do is run off visitors who take the time to read our work. Learn from the mistakes of undead bloggers and inject new life into your blog.

Can you see yourself in any of these descriptions? Let your skeletons out of the closet in the comments!

Clay Morgan (@UndeadClay) is a writer, teacher, and speaker from Pittsburgh, PA who blogs about pop culture, history, and the meaning of life at ClayWrites.com. He is the author of Undead: Revived, Resuscitated, and Reborn about zombies, God, and what it means to be truly alive.

The Blogger’s Dilemma: When Is it Time to Start Paying for Exposure?

This guest post is by Amanda DiSilvestro of Highervisibility.

When you’re a blogger, you want to gain as much visibility and authority as you can, and featuring your content on more established websites is one way to make this happen.

Guest posting is becoming more popular, and it works well for all parties involved: the editor gets a great piece of content and someone new promoting the site, and the writer gets to put his/her content in front of a well-established audience and reaps many SEO benefits.

So what’s the issue?

More and more blogs are beginning to ask writers to pay to post content on their pages. This typically occurs for a few different reasons:

  • The site is usually very authoritative, meaning it has a high PR and a good readership. This means that any link the owners put on their website is providing the guest poster with significantly better SEO and visibility benefits than links from lesser-known sites.
  • Sites that ask a writer to pay to post an article likely have a large influx of articles every day. Everyone wants a piece of the exposure, so asking writers to pay will weed out those who aren’t serious.
  • Asking writers to pay means more income for the website.

Being that there are still many websites across the Internet that are thrilled to meet with a guest contributor, a blogger has to stop and ask whether or not paying to publish a guest post on a particular site is worthwhile.

How to make sure paying for the spotlight is worth it

In some instances, paying to put your content on a very authoritative site is going to be worth it in the long run. Sites that ask you to pay to feature your content typically will promote your content to thousands, which will help you establish a name for your brand.

There are a few things you should do to make sure that payment is worth it in these situations:

  1. Ask the site owners what they can do for you: If a site is asking you to pay, make sure its owners are willing to help promote your article. Ask them if they will be sending your article to their subscribers, how and where they’ll share your article on social media, and if they are willing to continue to help you grow your brand in the future.
  2. Analyze the site on your own: Even if a site tells you they are going to do all of these great things, check up on them yourself. Make sure the site has a great PR, check to see the average number of tweets and comments that an article on the site receives, and talk with others who have contributed there.
  3. Decide whether or not you really need a quick fix: Getting your content on an authoritative site should, in theory, speed up your brand management process. However, it’s important to consider whether or not you really need this quick fix. There are many websites that have grown successful without paying to contribute their content, although it may have taken them longer (and in some cases, taken more work).

It’s also important to realize that, in Google’s eyes, paying to guest post isn’t quite the taboo that paying for other backlinks is. Google looks down upon sites that pay for links because the search engine likes to see backlinks generated organically. In the case of a paid guest post placement, the links are organic and they work in the same way that links in any other guest post would.

When to just say “No” to paying for exposure

Naturally, you should decide against paying to place your guest content if you find negative responses to any of the points discussed above.

However, the biggest thing to keep in mind is whether or not you have the power and resources to really get the same traction without paying for placement.

It is entirely possible to post your content on very authoritative websites that don’t charge you to submit, but it will take a lot of time and effort. Several bigwig sites have declined my writing, but eventually I got it right and was able to get a link back to my blog from those sites.

In my opinion, you should never have to pay to place your content on a blog if you have the time to really work hard to find other alternatives.

Have you ever paid to place your content on a blog? Did you feel the benefits were worth the money? Let us know your story in the comments below.

Amanda DiSilvestro is a graduate of Illinois State University. Although she graduated with an English Education degree, she found herself working as a full-time blogger at Highervisibility, nationally recognized as one of the best seo firms in the country. Connect with HigherVisibility on Twitter to learn more!

Kickstart Your Stalled Blog Content, Part 3: Let Your Publication Inspire Your Next Post

Over the last week, we’ve been kickstarting stalled blog content. We’ve worked through the process of planning, writing and editing a post, and I hope that by now some of you might have published that post.

At this point, I hope you’re thinking that kickstarting the content on your neglected or burdensome blog hasn’t been such a challenge after all. We’ve taken a pretty pragmatic approach to the challenge‚ and if you’re feeling inspired, you could certainly go ahead and refocus your content strategy now, for example.

But I’m going to assume that, while you’re feeling positive, you haven’t miraculously found more time to dedicate to your blog, nor have you rediscovered a hidden passion for it that makes you want to take the breaks off and hurl yourself into creating content for it.

Instead, I’m assuming that you want to keep the blog going, to see where it leads, and that after some time publishing quality content, you might reassess your priorities and see if it’s something you want to keep going with.

So what we need here is a process for keeping your blog content rolling in that time.

Our first post described a process for sparking ideas, and of course you can certainly repeat that now. But today I wanted to show you another way to build directly on the success of your most recent post—something you can do whether you’ve only ever published one post, or you’ve only published one recently.

Check the stats

As a first step, check the stats on that post.

Maybe you have barely any stats—maybe only a handful of people visited it. Okay. If you haven’t already, share it with your social networks and promote it any other way you have. This might give you a few more pageviews or shares to work with.

The aim here is to have some figures for the post, so you can compare it with past publications—however old—on your blog. Ideally, you’ll be able to see if it attracted many readers, and be able to gauge if the visits it attracted were engaged—so bounce rates for the post would be helpful.

This information leads directly into our next assessment: comments.

Review the comments

Did anyone leave a comment on your most recent post? I like to balance comment counts against visitor stats and shares, and also look at the quality of comments that are left, since that’s a good gauge of reader engagement.

If your post only received three visitors, and each of them left a comment or shared the post, that’s good news. If, on the other hand, your post attracted 100 pageviewss, but no comments or shares, you may have some work to do to reengage your readers.

So consider your post’s visitors and actions, and see how you feel about this information as a measure of the post’s “success.”

Consider the niche

Finally, look around in your niche. If you followed this series to the letter, you probably published this post because it filled a gap in the information available in the niche.

So now’s a good time to check the main sources of content in your niche and see if any of them have either followed your lead and responded to your post, or published something that covers the same topic in the same timeframe.

You might also do a few keyword searches for the topic of your post, and related topics, to get an idea of what’s been published on the topic beyond your niche. This, too, might spark ideas for posts that you hadn’t considered before.

Your next post

Whatever the answer to these questions, this quick analysis should present you with somewhere to go with your next post.

You either know that readers did or didn’t find your last post engaging. You know others in your niche either have or haven’t taken the topic up.

Perhaps that other coverage (or lack of coverage!) suggests that you should (or shouldn’t) write a follow-up piece. Perhaps the feedback or lack of interaction indicates that there is—or isn’t—more demand for content on this topic, or a related one. In that case, start researching, using the advice from the first post in this series to plan the post, if you like.

If the answers are all negative—no comments, few views, no coverage by others in your niche—then you might feel a bit lost for where to go next. In that case, you could also repeat the exercise from our first post in this series. Or you could instead look at past posts that did well with your readers, and have a think about why that was—was it the topic? Format? Timing?

If you can identify some elements that may have had a hand in making past posts popular, you can try to tap into a parallel concept or approach now, and see how that resonates with readers.

And if you’re really stuck, take a look at our posts on bloggers’ block.

Keeping committed

From this point forward, it’s up to you. But the first post in this series should give you a good template for planning, writing, and editing you posts, and making the time to get those tasks done.

And the second post provided some tips for fitting those tasks into a busy life.

So hopefully you’re in a good position to follow this process and keep your blog going a bit longer—long enough for you to see if you’ve still got the passion and push to revamp or reinvigorate the blog properly.

If you have any questions, or tips or ideas you can share, we’d love to hear them. Tell us in the comments.

Kodak’s Social Media Success—and What Bloggers Can Learn From It

This guest post is by Ricky of www.wickedleo.com.

With an active Facebook page, three corporate blogs, a couple of Twitter accounts, a YouTube channel, a Flickr profile and more, Kodak seems to be smiling pretty much all over the social media arena.

And no, it’s not just for the sake of social media presence alone. Kodak is, literally and figuratively, swimming and sailing in social media space—replying swiftly to users’ tweets, creating polls, seeking suggestions, organizing contests, uploading viral videos, and more.

The social media success of this company can be attributed to the fact that Kodak’s SMM is a well-thought strategy, and not a bunch of loosely tied tactics—something that anyone with a brand should seek to emulate.

As Jeffrey Hayzlett, Chief Media office and Vice President at Kodak puts it, the company has specially appointed energetic individuals all across to achieve “4 Es of Kodak”: Engage, Educate, Excite and Evangelize. I must say that I was quite surprised to read that the company has a professional Chief Listening Officer (CLO). The CLO, as Hayzlett disclosed in this interview, monitors all the social media outlets to hunt for conversations involving Kodak so that they can be addressed, assisted, and enriched by the media evangelists later on:

“In fact, we’ve just put in a chief listening officer who acts like an air traffic controller… who listens to the conversations that are going online because I can’t be online every second, every minute (although a lot of people think I am). But it gives us an opportunity to listen to the conversations and route those to sales people, route those to customer service or get them fixed or just say ‘thanks’.”

It seems that Kodak has plunged into the social sector with a no-nonsense approach. You might call Kodak’s earnest commitment to be all over the online space to be the company’s “secret to social media success.” Here’s what Tom Hoehn, Director of Interactive Marketing and Convergence Media, has to say about Kodak’s social media strategy:

“From the consumer side our products are all about enabling people’s self expression, telling the stories of their lives … On the commercial side it is about making connections to get people answers to questions they may have about our products and services. We have embraced social media for some time now. Our blog launched in September of 2006 and our Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube presences followed in early 2008. We love what social media is doing for our business.”

Kodak’s personal interactivity

Another thing that separates Kodak’s social media strategy from the rest is the fact that it lets the real Kodak people talk online. Obviously, the logo does not do the talking for other brands, but with Kodak, it’s explicitly the person talking.

As mentioned above, the company runs a couple of Twitter profiles: @KodakCB, @KodakChallenge. @JeffreyHayzlett, @KodakCL, @KodakCameras, and @TomHoehn.

Here’s an example of the kind of interaction these representatives encourage on social media:
kodak tweet 1 Kodak tweet 2

Kodak’s Chief Listener’s Twitter account features her actual photo and a small Kodak logo below that. And in all the conversations, she maintains a tone that’s light and personal. Jeffrey Hayzlett also uses a rather easy tone in his feeds. This strategy helps the company in two ways:

  • The customers are assured that they are not talking to the company’s logo.
  • Using a gentle tone can help to calm down upset customers if needed.

The Ripcurl strategy

Convergence Ripcurl is the winning social media strategy at Kodak. The driving forces behind this model this have been Tom Hoehn (Interactive Marketing director) and Jenny Cisney (Social Media Manager and Chief Blogger). The duo describes Ripcurl to be their “path to participation” in the social space. Here’s what Tom Hoehn has to say about the concept officially called Kodak Convergence Media Ripcurl [PDF]:

“You will note the words, Twitter, blog, Facebook, YouTube, etc. do not appear anywhere on this graphic. It isn’t about the tools it is about connecting with our customers. This helps people within Kodak understand the opportunity at hand without getting caught up in jargon … Our proactive (speaking) activities are influenced and informed by our reactive (listening) efforts. When we do it right we will see a variety of results. When we get it wrong, well, we try again and keep moving forward.”

How do Kodak’s blogs fit?

Kodak runs three corporate blogs:

  • A Thousand Words, a lively blog on how Kodak employees think about imaging and photography in their personal lives. The stories cover a rainbow of topics, but with photography as the focus.
  • Plugged in, an instructive resource on Kodak’s products and services, announcements, reviews etc.
  • Grow your Biz, an insightful place presenting the experiences of all those who have a passion for print and communication.

In Kodak’s Social Media Guide, Jeffrey Hayzlett explains how these three corporate blogs helped the company:

“The blogs start conversations as I mentioned before, and they also have a direct positive impact on Kodak’s search engine rankings. In addition, Kodak receives more than 11,000 mentions in other authors’ blogs every month in the form of product reviews, opinions on products, rants, fan mail and more. We directly participate in many of these conversations to ensure our customers know we’re listening and to share answers and additional insights.”

As with the other social media channels used by the company, Kodak’s blogs are kept brimming with energy and enthusiasm. For instance, back in 2009, they posted a contest on the official blog which asked people to email a snapshot (theirs or their family’s) to the company. On being selected (and with the person’s consent), the snapshot appeared six times on Kodak’s screen in TS from 31st December, 2009 to 31st January, 2010. Going by the comments that appeared on the Kodak blog, it seems to have been a successful move.

This strategy isn’t just about creating a couple of social media profiles—it’s about keeping the ball rolling, and Kodak is really smart at that! The company knows precisely how to trigger interest, how to maintain that level of interest, and how to keep it growing.

Kodak has also successfully used this strategy to generate worthy ideas from its end-users. For instance, Kodak found that its customers were fuming over its latest launch named “Zi8 Pocket Video Camcorder”. With a little more research, the company found that a majority of people liked the product per se, but they didn’t quite like the name. The company immediately responded by throwing open a virtual contest that required followers to suggest a good name for the next Kodak pocket camera, which was ultimately named the Kodak Playsport.

And as Jeffrey sums it up:

“It’s all about bringing people together around shared interests and reaching them in way that’s meaningful and memorable … I strongly believe that if you get involved in social media, it will grow your brand, strengthen the connection between you and your customers and keep you grounded and aware of what people really think about your company. It’s well worth the time invested.”

So, if you are ready to take the plunge and are on the look-out for a starters’ guide to social media, take a look at Kodak’s Social Media Guide. If it has worked for this massive brand, there is no reason why it won’t for you!

Ricky is a technophile & a zealous blogger & evangelist for www.wickedleo.com. He has a strong impulse to spread bits of web tech & Internet Marketing wisdom that he picks from his own personal experiences.