Close
Close

Better Buttons Part 1: Set the Right Expectations

This guest post is by the Web Marketing Ninja.

Almost everything I read, see, or hear about buttons (the web version) is all about color, size, location, and contrast. Do any research on this topic, and you’ll come across statements like these:

  • “Just make the button bigger.”
  • “Orange buttons always convert better.”
  • “Get your buttons above the fold.”
  • “You need to use contrast and responsive design with you buttons.”
  • “Make sure your button’s at the bottom of the page, too.”

To a degree, that’s all relevant (although I still can’t explain the orange button mystery!). But there’s one aspect of buttons that I never read about, and it’s something I think is just as important—maybe more important.

And that’s the text you use on your buttons.

Sure, design and location will get your button noticed, but it’s the text that drives that all-important user action.

Button breakdown

Let’s first fly a little left of center a look at what a button is … in the real world.

Excluding the really real button—the fashion button—a button is something you interact with (that is, press) in order to make something happen. And we usually have an expectation about what that “something” will be.

There are three key points here: interaction, expectation, and response.

A button’s color, size, and location might suggest to a users what’s going to happen (“Don’t press the red button!”) but it’s either a symbol or words that give users the greatest indication of what will happen when they press a button. And the same goes for buttons on the web.

So let’s look at each of these stages in a button-press.

  • Interaction: In the web world, interaction involves a mouse click, a tap (on a tablet or phone), or a key stroke. The interaction is the easiest part of the process to wrap your head around.
  • Expectation: You’ve asked your user to do something and yay they have…  but what have you set in the way of expectations?
  • Response: The interaction initiates a response. That response might be to show a page, enlarge an image, or something else.

Now, let’s look at a good web example. On your sales page, you have a nice, clear, above-the-fold, and—for the sake of it—orange button. The text on the button clearly reads Buy now.  A user clicks on the button, and the next page they see is the Checkout page.

  • Interaction = click
  • Expectation = to order
  • Response = checkout

Tick, tick, and tick! We have a happy customer, and a happy blogger.

Now, let’s look at a not-so-good example. On your sales page, you have a nice, clear, above-the-fold, and—for the sake of it—orange button. The text on the button clearly reads Download now. A user clicks on the button, and the next page they see is the Checkout page.

  • Interaction: click
  • Expectation: to download
  • Response: checkout

Here, the user is clicking a Download button and getting a “pay me” response. That’s bad.

What’s that? More people will click on a Download button? That’s true. I guarantee that if you put a Download button on your page, rather than an Order Now button, you’re going to get more clicks. But why stop there? Make it a Free Download button, and watch your clicks go through the roof!

But what happens next?  When the user’s expectation about their interaction with a button isn’t met by an appropriate response, fear will strike and they’ll bail.  After all, a lot of users are just looking for an excuse to leave.

But that’s not all. There’s a name for this kind of tactic: it’s called “bait and switch.” In many countries it’s actually illegal, but regardless of where you’re located, it undermines your sales process. You shouldn’t do it. But if you do do it, and you do it before you’ve got the cash from your customer, you’re only robbing yourself.

Button text in action

Let’s look at a real-world example: let’s see what Darren does.

Download buttons

Darren opts to include a double meaning in his sales page buttons. Because he’s selling ebooks, he wants to set the clear expectation that customers are going to need to download something (that is, they’re not buying a printed book), and that they’ll need to pay something to get the download.

Given the larger font used for the Download text on this button, I do wonder if he’s trying to toe the line between getting as many clicks as possible without misleading his customers—this is something I’d love to test on the site.

When I talk to people about buttons, in 99% of cases, they’re not trying to bait and switch customers—it’s just that many online marketers chase the click first, and worry about checkout abandonments later. Most of the time, they haven’t really through about the expectations that button text can drive, either.

I’ve focused here on just one type of button, but let’s look more subtle example.

Join vs. Sign Up buttons

When you click a button that says Join, you expect to be joined with the site’s community. On the other hand, button text that reads Sign Up suggests that something still needs to happen before I join—I need to sign something.

So Join is best used when it’s complimented by an input box that accepts the user’s email address—you have all the information you need by the time the user clicks on the button, and you can respond with a message that tells them they’ve joined your site. However, if it’s a standalone button, you might want to use text like “Sign-up to our newsletter” before taking users to you form.

These subtleties can make a significant difference.

Right text, right time

I’ve spoken about sales funnels before, and when you’re thinking about button text, there’s timing to be considered as well.

If you take on board the advice we’ve already discussed, you’ll meet users’ expectations of your buttons with an appropriate response, but now you’ve got to ask yourself, “Am I asking for the interaction at the right time?”

Continuing with our transactional (Buy Now) button text example, your sales funnel might move people through these stages:

  1. Google AdWords ad
  2. to a sales page
  3. to a checkout process
  4. to a sale.

This is pretty basic—you might include a free sample or email auto-responders as part of it—but for now, let’s keep it simple.

Now let’s think about what button text we’ll use, and where. On your AdWords ad, you could use button text like More information, Order now, Free download, or Free sample—to name a few options.

You might find Free download is your best-converting button text for clicks (but if you don’t offer a free download, you’ll be in trouble, as we saw earlier). To then meet users’ free download expectation, you take them to a free download landing page (mentioning a paid option if you want to).

However, your testing might show that a Buy Now button does the job with fewer clicks. You’re now in an interesting position.  As we mentioned at the beginning, the expectation around a Buy Now button is that it will let the user buy, so take them straight to the shopping cart, rather than a sales page. In my experience, the straight-to-cart option wins in terms of both conversion and dollars.

If your More Information button wins, that’s the easy one: you can take users straight to the sales page.

You’d repeated the same test on all the steps in your sales funnel—your ad, your landing page, and your cart—to make sure you’re showing the right text at the right time, and delivering on user expectations.

Here, I’ve talked about buttons from a customer satisfaction perspective, but later today, Georgina will look at button text from a branding perspective.

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.

The Brilliant Content Strategy Everyone Gets Wrong

This guest post is by James Chartrand of Men with Pens.

For a long while (and on the Internet, a “long while” means about six months), there were dozens of posts telling you how to reuse content.

Your content, other bloggers’ content, magazine content, brochures-from-that-stack-in-the-attic content. It didn’t matter. The point was that you didn’t need to come up with all the ideas on your own. You could jump-start your brain with interesting content from other sources than the bottomless depths of your own genius.

It was good advice. Reusing content was (and remains) a smart, valid strategy.

The problem is that no one does it right.

How they got reusing content wrong

The basics are simple: find someone else’s content (or your own content from long enough ago) and spot something interesting you can relate to your own work. Then all you need to do is write a good post.

It was a hard strategy to mess up, and no one really did. For the most part, reusing content netted interesting posts that featured interesting content from sources that wouldn’t otherwise have shown up in that industry.

And content reuse is a perfectly valid strategy for when you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel creativity-wise and you just need a jolt to get going again. It’s great, in fact. Go forth and use it with my blessing.

But that’s where everyone stops.

Sure, it was great that you applied that nuclear physics conclusion to brilliant copywriting, and it made for one hell of a post. By the next day, though, readers are looking for the next hot thing.

They’ve forgotten your brilliant post. They’ve forgotten how interesting they found it.

And because someone else has a new, interesting post, they’re all about that post now.

So that strategy won’t further your business. It’s just going to keep your blog alive for one more day. That’s not enough, is it?

Of course it’s not. You need to grow your business and your readership. You need to bring in clients, create products, or become an insightful and focused teacher.

Just recycling the same old content and the same old approach as everyone else in your niche means you’re going to fade into the background.

How to do it right

You’ve heard of Malcolm Gladwell, haven’t you? How about Seth Godin? How about the Heath brothers, Dan and Chip, authors of Made to Stick?

These authors reuse content from the word go. All their books (and in Seth’s case, pretty much his entire blog) rehash anecdotes and stories they’ve heard elsewhere. They’re simply applying those stories to the subjects that interest them most.

By sorting out all of the relevant stories to one particular aspect of their field and bringing it all together in a book, they did something revolutionary: they created a philosophy.

Seth Godin’s purple cow? That’s content reuse. Seth didn’t originate the story of the purple cow, nor any of the other twenty anecdotes that make up the content in his book. He simply saw what all that content had in common and brought it together cohesively.

Few people who read Seth Godin’s book are utterly amazed at what they find there. Really? To have people notice me I have to be remarkable?

The book isn’t fascinating because of its insight. The basic philosophy is what you’re pretty sure you knew all along.

But by stringing together a thousand examples, Seth managed to make a simple concept seem important enough to keep at the front of your mind all the time in your business.

Not just in branding, but when you email a client. Not just the product but the packaging. Not just the upper management but the mail room.

Bring the purple cow into every room of the business, Seth said, because it belongs everywhere.

He didn’t come up with that concept out of thin air. He came up with it by looking at twenty stories from twenty different sources that all put a purple cow in a different room of the business.

You got it: content reuse, done right.

What you can do with reused content

It’s clearly been established that reusing content just to fill your blog doesn’t work. Well, it does, if all you want is to keep your blog alive.

But it doesn’t work for your business, which means you need to find a way to reuse content when you’re ready to put some thought and energy into the next phase.

Start making a list of the stories you enjoy telling over and over again. The advice you keep repeating. Most of the time, you’ll enjoy reusing these stories and advice because they seem to exemplify what’s important.

That tells you something. You have useful knowledge you’re continually sharing because you know readers need it. So what can you do with it?

Mind map it. Connect the dots. Brainstorm. Let the content take you where it will.

Because one day you’re going to wake up and see the connection. You’re going to have a Big Idea. And it’s going to change your entire world.

It doesn’t have to be the formula that cures cancer. It just has to be valuable and true—and it’ll have a whole lot of content from your archives to back it up.

How reused content begins a revolution

When I started to look at my own content for the stories I liked to tell over and over and the advice I kept sharing with writers, I realized I didn’t need to write yet another post on how to not screw up writing.

If people could teach themselves, surely one of those posts would have hit home by now.

My sudden realization was that readers needed help—more than yet another blog post.

And every single one of the anecdotes in my reused content told me this. All my stories about successful writers involved someone getting a teacher, sitting down, and putting in the work.

It seemed like anyone could do this on their own, but the more I looked at all the content, the more I realized that readers could… but they don’t.

So I set out to give them a place where they didn’t have to work alone. I used my content and built an online writing course for business owners where there were teachers willing to help, lessons that were easy to understand, homework to make students accountable, and peers to empathize with and learn from.

I called it Damn Fine Words.

It was a simple idea, born of content I’d told and retold until it had worn thin at the seams. But it changed the lives of my students.

How can your repackaged ideas change the lives of your readers?

James Chartrand of Men with Pens teaches students at Damn Fine Words, the only online writing course that helps business owners succeed so they can stop keeping their blog alive for just one more day and start pulling in results with their content.

3 Blogging Rules You Should Break

This guest post is by Anish Majumdar of DashAmerican.com.

The most valuable piece of writing advice I ever got was from an editor at a print magazine after I’d handed in the first draft of an article. I’d spent hours poring over old issues to “get the tone right” and had fought my natural style every step of the way. The end result? A returned draft shot through with corrections and a one-line response: “Write from the inside and trust that we’ll get it.”

As a ProBlogger reader, you probably already know how rare it is to come across a site devoted to blogging that actually offers something besides the same old “rules” recycled in various forms. You know them: keep pieces short. Use bullets. Link to other articles, etc.

While it’s comforting, especially when you’re starting out, to find something—anything—to model posts after, it’s critical to understand that a reader will forgive a strong voice almost anything and a weak voice almost nothing.

Are the rules you’re following helping or hindering your voice? Here are the three biggest blogging “rules” I’ve broken … and the unexpected results I’ve enjoyed.

1. Make posts scannable

There’s a line of thinking behind blogging advice posts that insist pieces must be kept short and stuffed full of typographical tricks like boldfacing and bullets that assumes a typical reader has Attention Deficit Disorder. If you don’t hustle to offer value and get your point across at a glance, they’ll simply move on.

There is another way.

I was recently in the midst of writing a deeply personal account of growing up with a family member suffering from schizophrenia and realized there was no way to make the post scannable. The paragraphs were long. Themes wove in and out of each other without clear sections. And inserting bullets would wreck the overall flow. Anticipating a post that would sink without a trace, I hit “Publish” … and got the strongest reader response of any piece I’d ever written—as well as a Facebook recommendation from an influential literary magazine editor.

I challenge you to, in the words of Jim Carroll, “hustle like a cheetah instead of a chimp.” Don’t worry about gaining a reader’s interest. Don’t waste time with tricks we’ve all seen a thousand times before. Instead, write in a way that gets your heart racing—and locks in a reader from the first sentence.

2. Stay on topic

A blog that’s stuck in a rut is like a relationship where you do nothing but the same routine day in and day out: eventually, things will fall apart. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying you shouldn’t hold true to the underlying theme of your blog. You should. But endlessly recycling the same types of posts under the rationale of “that’s what my readers want” is not only shortsighted, it’s just plain wrong.

Sure, you may be receiving a steady stream of visitors now. But are they sticking around? Are they engaging in a satisfying way? Or are they dropping in to quickly scan the latest post or two and flitting off? Experimentation, planned for and consistent, is the lifeblood of blogging success, and can open up new vistas of personal expression.

I use the following strategy to keep things fresh: every third post has to be new. Not an idea based on an existing post. Not something I’ve pulled out of the “evergreen idea bag” which I assume every blogger has for those days when inspiration doesn’t come.

I’m talking about trying something you’re not sure you can pull off.

For me, that’s meant writing posts on current events, conducting interviews with people I admire, and opening the door to guest posts. Some of these gambits have worked. Others haven’t. But here’s the amazing thing: regardless of how far I stretch, the true fans, those who get it always stick around.

Dare to tinker with your formula. Your readers will respect you for it.

3. Be an authority

In the 10+ years that I’ve been earning a living writing, I’ve spent more time feeling insecure than an authority. I’ve pitched stories that haven’t gotten published. I’ve started projects that have stalled. There have been days when I’ve hated every word I’d committed to paper, and others where I’ve expected to make a huge impact … and haven’t. This comes with the territory, and yet we often feel the need to hide it, as if readers will flee at the first sign of vulnerability.

When I first started expressing my perceived shortcomings and fears on my blog, I felt hideously exposed. There went any claims to being an out-of-the-gate success. But what I received in return were readers who responded to who I was as a human being. They felt invested in my journey because it mirrored their own: what more can you ask more?

Which blogging “rules” have you broken? Let me know in the comments!

Anish Majumdar is the creator of DashAmerican.com, a blog devoted to the cross-cultural experience. If you’re interested in real-life stories detailing epiphanies, embarrassments, and all stops in between, please stop by!

NEW: 3rd Edition of the ProBlogger Book Available [Free Webinar for Early Birds]

problogger-book-3rd-edition.jpegIn May of 2008, ProBlogger the book (yep, the real hard-cover book) was released. It was a collaboration between myself and co-author Chris Garrett, and published by Wiley Publishing.

The goal of the book was to summarize much of the writing that Chris and I had been blogging on our blogs—to present bloggers, particularly those at the start of their journeys, with a logically ordered guide to blogging for profit.

The book did really well—it was in the top 100 books on Amazon for a while—and Wiley immediately began to talk with Chris and I about an updated edition.

In 2010 we released the second edition. There were a hundreds of small updates through the book but we also added a case study chapter that walked readers through how I built Digital Photography School up to be my biggest blog. There was also an added chapter on social media.

Today I’m pleased to announce a third edition has just been released. You can grab your copy today on Amazon here as a paperback for $16.32 and here for Kindle for just $9.99.

The third edition again has loads of small updates, including updates on the case study chapter to bring it right up to date on the last couple of years (particularly updates on how we’ve made a transition to selling ebooks as the major source of income).

There is also a new chapter on building community and deepening reader engagement on your blog.

Lastly we’ve added a chapter on going beyond your blog, which explores using your blog to open up other opportunities including book deals, consulting, speaking opportunities, landing a job, new businesses, membership sites, and more.

This new edition is now around the 300 page mark—loads of content, much of it new, particularly for those of you with the 2008 first edition.

Bonus webinar for early-bird buyers

If you pick up the Kindle version in the next week, we’re adding a special bonus: a webinar.

The webinar will take place on Tuesday March 20 at 7pm US Eastern Time, and will last an hour. It will feature myself and Chris Garrett, and the topic will be The Pillars of ProBlogging.

In the webinar Chris and I will walk through four key areas of successful, profitable blogging, and will give some practical tips. We’ll also open up for questions at the end.

The webinar will be recorded for anyone who can’t make the live webinar (or if those who register exceed 1000 in number) but it will only be available to those who buy the book.

To register for the webinar

Here’s what you need to do to register for the webinar:

  1. Purchase either the paperback or kindle version of the book (grab the paperback or kindle versions here).
  2. Email our publisher, Wiley, with proof of purchase. You can email them either a scanned receipt or a screenshot from your computer of the email confirmation if you buy online. These need to be sent to Wiley at [email protected] before midnight on Sunday 18 March.
  3. We will send you details of where to register for the webinar in the lead-up on 20 March.

Looking forward to seeing you at the webinar!

10 Types of Killer Filler Content for Your Blog

Last week I ran an impromptu Ustream chat session with my Twitter followers on the theme of Blogger Productivity (to celebrate the launch of Blog Wise). It was an informal and fun session (you can view the hour-long recording of it here) but one of the recurring questions that came up was around the topic of posting rhythm and how to keep up regular posting when you may not have the time to post daily.

It’s a question I hear quite a bit. The pressure of posting daily, coupled with keeping the quality and usefulness of posts high, tips some bloggers over the edge—particularly those who write longer, deeper articles that take a great deal of thought and research to prepare.

One of the answers I gave was to consider developing a posting rhythm that mixes up the types of posts that you deliver to readers.

If you can only sustain one or two longer, deeper, more researched posts a week, you might want to consider adding in some regular posts into your week that are of a different style. The key is to keep the posts of a high value to your readers without them taking a whole heap of your time to prepare.

What we’re talking about here isn’t “filler” content. It needs to be “killer” content … or perhaps “killer filler” content.

Let’s look at a few examples.

1. Reader discussions

A semi-regular post type that we run on dPS are posts that purely ask readers a question. There are a few ways to do this. One is to give readers a couple of alternatives to an issue and ask them to nominate which is their preferred approach (e.g. Are you a Binge Photographer or a Snack Photographer?).

Another alternative is to run a “community workshop” where you take a reader’s question and then give it to your community to answer (e.g. Help this Locationally Challenged Photographer Improve her Portraiture).

You could also set up a debate… ask for stories or examples on a topic… or just pose a question. These posts are easy to write but can add a lot of value in terms of reader engagement and community-building on your blog.

2. Polls

Similar to asking a question, a poll can be an easy post to get up, and can deepen reader engagement—and start a good discussion too (e.g. What Mode do You Shoot in Most?). Not only that, you can take the results of the poll and turn that into a second post a week or so later.

3. Homework and challenges

One of the most popular weekly posts that we do on dPS is a weekly photography challenge: I name a theme, and readers go away and take a photo on that theme before coming back to share their image. This little challenge has become a weekly assignment that some readers revolve their photographic week around—and it could be adapted to many other topics (e.g. Photographer in the Picture: Weekly Photography Challenge)

4. Link summaries

A few years back, this type of post was a regular thing on many blogs. Bloggers would freely link up to other posts in their niche, quite often sharing a list of links with a few added thoughts on each. These days much of this link sharing happens on social media but I still find readers love these posts. In fact when I’ve created these posts on dPS, they often become posts that others share on social media (e.g. 18 (+7) Great Photography Links from Around the Web).

You’ll see in that example that I not only link to 18 great posts on other photography blogs, but also link to seven dPS articles from the archives, driving traffic both externally and internally.

5. Link of the week

Another way to write link posts is to just feature one in a post. Identify a high-quality, useful post from another blog or site, link to it, and add a few of your own thoughts to preempt or build on what your readers will find when they visit the link.

In this way, your readers find some useful content but they also get your quick insights on the topic. You’re also potentially building a relationship with the blog you are linking to by publishing this kind of post.

6. Best of and archive posts

If your blog has been running for a number of years, you probably have hundreds, if not thousands, of useful posts in your archives that new readers have never seen. Why not throw some posts into your mix that link back to some of those older ones?

Perhaps you’ve written five posts on the same topic over the years. A “best of” post that links back to them can be useful to readers. Another way to do this is to do what blogs like Lifehacker used to do regularly: publish a regular “One Year Ago on Lifehacker” post that links to a variety of posts from 12 months ago.

7. Guest posts

Much has been written on the topic of guest posts, and they work better on some blogs than others, but it is certainly worth including posts written by others from time to time on your blog. You may not do them every day, but a number of blogs I know run “guest post Tuesday” (or another day of the week) where they feature either a reader’s submission.

8. Hire a columnist

Some people don’t like to publish guest posts because they add too many different voices to a blog. An alternative might be to hire someone to write a post or two a week. This way, you build consistency into your blog and can hopefully build some momentum into your posts.

9. Videos

Head to Youtube, type in some keywords related to your topic, and see what videos are available—you might just find a video that is of high value that would really help your readers.

Embed it into a post, add some of your own thoughts, and you’ve got a great post (e.g. How to Create Impossible Images). I don’t do this every week, but I do like to throw a video into the mix once or twice a month on dPS—and readers love them (they’ve also helped us build relationships with other sites who produce the videos).

10. Interviews

This idea does take more work than some of the others listed above, but interviewing someone in your niche can be a great way of creating content without a heap of work. The hardest part is finding someone with expertise in your area who has time to be interviewed, and then constructing some questions that will be interesting to your readers to hear the answers to. But once you have this, you just email the questions to your interview subject, and let them shoot back the replies for you to format and put into a blog post. The key is finding interesting people and asking questions that will help your readers in some way.

I’m just scratching the surface here of the types of posts that are a little less labor-intensive to create, but which can still serve a purpose for your readers. The key is to experiment, test what types of posts get positive reactions, and evolve them into something that you can add into a regular posting calendar for your blog.

An example posting schedule

How you do it will completely depend upon you, but you may even find it useful to assign a different type of post to each day of the week:

  • Monday: Guest post
  • Tuesday: Reader discussion
  • Wednesday: Your longer, more thoughtful post
  • Thursday: Video of the week
  • Friday: Your second longer, more thoughtful post
  • Saturday: Link roundup
  • Sunday: Challenge/homework post

How to Convert Visitors from Your About Page

This guest post is by AJ Kumar of Single Grain.

One of the most under-utilized pieces of website real estate out there is the About Us page.  While most webmasters treat it as a throw-away repository for a stock biography or company history, consider the mindset of the visitors who arrive on these pages. 

They’re interested enough in you and your brand to want to take the next step and learn more about you—indicating that they’re more receptive to sales or other conversions that those who have simply stumbled on to your Home page.

So why waste this valuable opportunity to engage visitors and increase conversions?!  Instead, use your “About” page as a springboard to increase engagement with your readers and the number of conversions that result from this valuable web content.

In general, there are three types of conversions that you can pursue from your About page: sales, leads and newsletter signups.  Let’s look at each of these in turn to determine when to implement each option and how to integrate each one effectively.

Conversion option #1: Newsletter signups

We’ll start with newsletter signups, as this is the easiest conversion type to feature on your About page.  As mentioned before, people arrive on this page because they want to know more about you.  From there, it’s easy to convince these readers that one way to get to know you and your business even better is to sign up to receive your email newsletter.

For proof that this strategy works, consider the case study featured by Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income, who added an opt-in form for his email newsletter to his About page on the recommendation of conversions expert Derek Halpern.  The result?  A 446% increase in signups from this page alone.  According to Pat:

“From the changes I made, adding an opt-in form to the About page has increased the number of subscribers the most (by far!) and this makes perfect sense.

The About page serves to describe who I am and what my site is about. It’s one of the most visited pages in my navigation menu and it doesn’t include links, resources, or any other calls to action, so having an option to learn more about what I do through a newsletter after reading (and hopefully being interested in) what my site is about, is perfect.”

To increase newsletter signups from your About page, create a separate opt-in form from within your email list management program to embed on the page.  Use language on your form that’s targeted specifically to your About page (for example, “To get to know more about us, subscribe to our newsletter below!”) in order to maximize newsletter signups.  Don’t forget to create a separate version of your form to split test on this important page to make your opt-in form as effective as possible!

Conversion option #2: Leads

If your online business model revolves around attracting qualified leads to either sell or use in an offline business, your About page is a great place to start converting new visitors!

Similar to the newsletter opt-in conversion process described above, adding a lead generation form to your About page works because the people who have arrived on this page have already demonstrated interest in learning more about your company.  With visitors already in this mindset, it’s an easy transition to encourage them to take the next step of giving you their contact info to receive more information.

For example, say you begin your About page with a brief history of your company and a description of the services you offer.  If visitors reading this page find your information interesting enough, they’re naturally going to want to learn more about your products and services.  So instead of hoping they’ll meander back to your homepage, where your lead generation form is installed, why not create a separate form here to capture these already-interested readers on the spot?

To make this area of your site even more effective in capturing new leads and increasing conversions, use language on the page that tells readers that filling in the lead generation form is simply the next stage in the process of getting to know your company—not the scary prospect of handing over personal information to a nameless, faceless website.  Doing so will help overcome your visitors’ natural hesitation to reveal personal information unless it’s absolutely necessary.

You could also use this opportunity to highlight a special bonus that you’re offering to visitors that complete your About page lead generation form.  This could be a free consultation, free ebook, or other giveaway that will help to overcome resistance and encourage visitors to this page to convert into leads.

Conversion option #3: Sales

Converting your About page visitors into buyers is the trickiest option in terms of increasing conversions, but when it’s done well, it can dramatically increase your website’s revenue and ROI.

Again, the key to increasing sales conversions on your About page lies in understanding the mindset of your readers.  The people who have reached this important page on your site want to know more about you, which means that they’re ready to invest time in your business and are likely open to taking further action on your website.

So instead of leaving them cold with a simple bio and company history, use this space to highlight a few products for them to start with.  To do this effectively, consider any of the following options:

  • Highlight your favorite products: If you sell multiple products on your site, use your About page as a place to recommend a few of the products that you feel best showcase your business.  Offer personal comments on why you love each of the products you recommend in order to make your About page product features more engaging to visitors.
  • Showcase your bestsellers: Your About page visitors may be looking for the next steps to take with your company, so if you offer an extensive variety of products for sale, consider using this space to feature the products that sell best on your website.  Doing so will give visitors an easy starting place to delve into all of your different product lines.
  • Feature your “most viewed” offerings: Use your Google Analytics data to determine which products on your site are viewed most often, as these popular products will likely be a good place for your About page visitors to jump into your product offerings.

To determine whether or not you’ve chosen the right products to feature on your About page, set up a Google Analytics “goal” that tracks how many sales result from visitors who land on a product page from your About page.  If you aren’t seeing high conversions from the products you initially feature, swap them out with others until you hit on a winning combination.

At the end of the day, the specific type of conversion you decide to pursue on your About page is less important than the fact that you take any action in order to make this digital real estate as effective as possible in the first place.  Track your results as you go and make improvements as needed in order to make your About page both useful for your visitors and lucrative for your company’s bottom line.

Are you gaining conversions through your About page? What kind, and how? Share your tips with us in the comments.

AJ Kumar is co-founder of Single Grain, a digital marketing agency< based in San Francisco. Single Grain specializes in helping startups and larger companies with search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media, and various other marketing strategies.

How to Awe Your Readers to Take Action

This guest post is by Jeevan Jacob John of Blog Networking 101.

You have traffic.

You have a great number of people reading your blog posts daily.

What do you want to do with these people?

Have them subscribe? Comment? Read?

Simply put, you want them to take action, right?

And how are we going to do that?

Yes, of course: through different strategies. In this blog post, we will take a look at some strategies to “awe” your readers to take action—to subscribe, to comment, or to do whatever.

Why should you “awe” your readers?

If you look up the definition of the word “awe”, you will get something like this:

Awe: A feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.

Notice that I highlighted the words, respect and wonder. These are the feelings that we need to take care of. In other words, you want to create a feeling or emotion of respect and wonder within your readers’ minds.

And how exactly can we do that?

How to create “awe” in your readers

Think about this from a normal-life perspective. Do you read fiction? How do fiction authors create a feeling of wonder within your mind? Through twists, dramas and wonders within the story.

In other words, they give you something unexpected.

The same thing goes for your blog. You can awe your readers by giving them something that they don’t expect from you. Now, the action you need to take depends upon you, your blog, and where your blog is in the popularity race.

What do your readers expect?

The best way to answer this question is to ask your readers through surveys and polls. But there’s something else you can do: analyze your competitors. Take a look at your competitors’ blogs. What do they have that’s different from your blog? Is it the quality of content, design, layout, writing style?

You can also analyze the blogs that you read outside your niche. What is it that makes you want to read those posts? Is it about the creativity used by the author? Identify what makes those blogs popular, and decide to do the same thing for your blog. But, when it comes to doing, do better.

In other words, aim for similar success, but strive for something bigger.

Action: Comment

We all know about the standard ways to get your readers to comment on your blog posts: write high-quality content, include calls to action, and conduct giveaways. The trick in doing this with success is to do it differently.

Conduct random giveaways

The first reason why I love surprise giveaways is because you can get more out of less. Here is how it works:

To encourage comments, tell your readers that for the next 5 months, you’ll offer two or three giveaways for the best comment.

Now, here comes the best part: you don’t have to conduct giveaways every month. Choose the months you’ll award your giveaways at random, but don’t tell your readers. You’ll encourage comments and you’ll surprise readers when you do award the giveaway.

The giveaway should inspire awe in itself—make it extremely generous and valuable to your readers. The comments themselves, and your responses to them, should also help to create a sense of awe if you approach them the right way.

Conduct surprise giveaways

This works similarly to random giveaways; the only difference is that you don’t tell your readers that you are going to conduct a giveaway at all—until you announce the winners of the first one.

When your readers see the announcement post, they will have a stronger motivation to leave “better” comments more frequently (compared to the random giveaways technique). Again, this helps to foster a sense of awe in your readership—and prompt them to act.

Action: Subscribe

Okay, admit it: you want subscribers. You want subscribers who are loyal and are willing to buy your products and those you recommend.

Here are several techniques that can help:

  • On your landing page, include beautiful screenshots that depict your subscription offer: Include the screenshot of the email’s design, the first page and Table Of Contents of your ebook, or screenshots of weekly tips emails and autoresponders—whatever your subscription provides, show images of it. The goal is to awe your readers so that they feel that they’ll be missing out great things if they don’t subscribe. Just don’t tell them, show them!
  • Conduct exclusive giveaways for existing and new subscribers: Here, you want to do two things: conduct giveaways for existing subscribers and for new subscribers, separately. This will be easier for you to do if you can sort out your subscribers by subscription date (Aweber is a great tool that you can use here). And if you do conduct giveaways, include screenshots of that in your landing page!
  • Make your landing page beautiful: On your landing page, you want to amaze your readers with design and words. Experiment, analyze, learn, and tweak your landing pages. Make them stand out from the rest of your blog.
  • Include testimonials and comments: These could be from your clients, subscribers, friends, and even the popular people from your niche. You want to showcase all these things—create awe by making your readers feel that you’re an authority.
  • Give something, even if they don’t subscribe: Don’t hate readers for not subscribing; instead, share and care. Here is something else you can do. All of us have seen exit pop-ups. Use those for your own good. Let’s imagine that one of your prospective subscribers wasn’t awed enough to click the Subscribe button. What can we do? Give them something useful. For instance, if you are offering your ebook to subscribers, then give a handful of chapters to prospective subscribers. Keep one thing in mind: you want your prospective subscriber to read it, be amazed by it, and then subscribe to your list. So, include the subscription link in that giveaway.

Inspire, awe, and encourage

Having great content is important. So is marketing and networking. But, that’s not all. You need to invest time in every little step. You want your blog and brand to stand out from others, in content, design, layout, and every possible elements. Play with it. Experimentation is the best possible way to find out how you can create a feeling of awe within your readers’ minds. And that’s what you want to do. Inspire, awe, encourage, and gain action.

Editor’s note: later today, we’ll showcase another approach to increasing conversions on your blog—this time, through your About page.

Jeevan Jacob John is a young blogger who blogs about everything that is related to building a better blog. If you like what you are reading here, then you should probably check out his Why You Should Give A Damn Page.
You can also find him at his blog – Blog Networking 101.

Better Email Results … Instantly!

This guest post is by Bamidele Onibalusi of YoungPrePro.com.

Let me be straightforward with you: I’m no email marketing expert and I don’t plan to be soon. But email marketing is just so important to my blogging that I can’t ignore these very important techniques.

If you’ve been following Darren for more than a few months now you will have noticed how much emphasis he places on email marketing for bloggers and how important it is for his business. The same is the case for most top bloggers I know.

Email marketing is also an integral part of my own blogging business and as a result, the moment I notice something wrong with my email marketing, I look for ways to fix it. Almost ever tips I’ll be giving in this article I discovered by accident; some I discovered by reading the results of others and testing them for myself.

Here are three practical ways bloggers can get more from their email marketing efforts—instantly!

1. Always use a linked call to action

The first step is to always use a call to action in your email. It took me a long time to discover this, but the moment I did there was a difference in my results.

I know you might have already read a lot of email marketing articles about calls to action, and are already thinking you’re getting it right. But before you skip this section you need to realize that there is a difference between a “call to action” and a “call to action“.

The basic idea of a call to action email is to focus your email on getting subscribers to take a particular action, and including text that encourages them to do so.

A mistake most people make, though, is to use a call to action and then paste the link below the call to action.

That was what I used to do, too, but I recently started linking my calls to action text to the specific link I want subscribers to click, and I saw an increase in clickthrough rates of over 50%.

In other words, instead of using a call to action like “Visit YoungPrePro to learn more at http://www.youngprepro.com“, I changed the text to something like “Visit YoungPrePro to learn more!” And that increased my clickthrough rate by over 50%.

One thing I used to worry about, though, is the fact that some of my subscribers will get the text version of my emails and won’t be able to click on the link. In my own experience, the number of such subscribers is very few and the results you will get from an active call to action will far outweigh those lost opportunities, so there’s no need to worry about that. If you want all your subscribers to get your messages, you can include a sentence asking people who receive the text version of your message to read it online in HTML.

Also, make sure your emails only contain one call to action. When it comes to email marketing, giving people too many options won’t be effective so make sure every email you send is only centered on one action you want the subscriber to take.

It’s okay to include two links in your emails as long as they’re focused on the same call to action. The more you’re able to remind subscribers about the action you want them to take, and the easier you make it for them to take that action without having to scroll down or up, the better.

In other words, it’s okay to include your linked call to action more than once in an email, as long as they lead to the same page.

2. Use a custom email template

I know, there has been a lot of debate about this online, and the majority are in support of sending a text-based email, mostly due to the fact that there are text-only subscribers on their lists. But in my own experience, switching to an HTML email template increased the results I’m getting. I’ll explain!

One major problem I recently started to notice with my email list were high unsubscribe rates—even if I sent an email packed with value. I started to wonder what was wrong.

The problem was that most people are unsubscribing because they’d forgotten who I am—and it doesn’t help if they don’t receive any email from me in almost a week. Even though I never intended for an HTML template to help, I was surprised by the results.

On average, with text-based email I get around eight to ten unsubscribes per email, but with a custom HTML template that figure has reduced to two unsubscribes.

Most people will think this is a fluke, and has something to do with my message, but let me explain the idea behind it.

Having an HTML template that is designed the same way as your blog template helps reinforce your brand to your subscribers. As a result, no matter how long it’s been since you sent your last message, they will remember you once they see that template. Text-based emails can also get boring—especially when you consider the fact that most people get dozens of them daily.

Having a custom HTML email template helps you stand out—it places your brand in your subscribers’ inbox and ensures no one else can copy your approach.

One important consideration, though, is that you should make sure your email template is a custom one, not the default one most ISPs provide you with. The main effect of the template is to remind subscribers of your brand—and their reason for subscribing—whenever they open your emails. So your email template must be exactly the same as your blog design.

3. Don’t use shortened links

Link shorteners like bit.ly and tinyurl.com are becoming increasingly popular, and why shouldn’t people use them—especially since they make links handy and easy to track?

The problem with link shorteners is that their advantage is their disadvantage. Instead of having to include one ugly long link in an email you can easily shorten it to a few letters and enjoy the ability to track clicks to it.

The problem is that email spammers also know this, and are now abusing link shorteners. They send spam emails to people who never subscribed to their lists, using shorteners to cloak their links and track results. As a result, most of the popular link shortening services have been blacklisted by email servers.

In other words, using one or more of the popular link shortening services will increase the chances of your email not getting delivered to subscribers’ inboxes.

AWeber recently published a list of the link shortening services that have been blacklisted, and where they were blacklisted, so make sure you check it out!

If you don’t want long links in your emails, you might want to create your own link shortener, or always link your calls to action to the actual links you want users to click.

Instant results

Email marketing is still the most effective way to get your message across to your readers, especially as a blogger. Here I’ve shared three tips that gave me an instant boost in my email marketing results.

What other email marketing tips do you think we should know? Share them with us below!

Bamidele Onibalusi is a young blogger and writer who helps people learn to write for traffic and money. Visit YoungPrePro.com to learn what he has in stock for you and also follow him on twitter @youngprepro.

5 Things to Email Your Subscribers About Today

I’m a big advocate for building a list around your blog, then making the most of it. A current list of email subscribers is an advantage to any blogger who wants to build their presence, whether you’re monetizing your blog or not.

Often, new bloggers tell me they want to find readers, and more experienced bloggers are always wanting to continue growing their blogs, rather than see readership plateau over time. Your email list can help you meet both these challenges.

Today I wanted to share some ideas for five different one-off emails you can send to the email list that you’ve established around your blog. No matter what stage of the blogging lifecycle you’re at, or how many subscribers you have, or how long it may have been since you emailed them last, hopefully these ideas will give you some food for thought—and maybe some action items for your To Do list.

1. Give them something

Rewarding your subscribers with a free giveaway is a good thing to do, no matter how long they’ve been subscribed. While many bloggers may give away a whitepaper or special download to encourage visitors to join the list in the first place, that’s no reason not to offer periodic giveaways to your subscribed members, too.

Beginning bloggers could create a special piece of content to give away—perhaps it’s a free PDF guide to some detailed aspect of your topic, or a link to a video in which you share some special secret that you think readers will want to know.

More experienced bloggers can give away samples of products—anything from a free chapter from your upcoming ebook, to a complimentary fifteen-minute personal consultation with your business.

Tip: Be generous with your giveaway, and be sure to point out that it’s a subscriber exclusive, so that your subscribers feel that you value them particularly.

2. Ask them something

When was the last time you surveyed your readers? When we think of surveys, most of us imagine questionnaires, but a “survey” doesn’t have to comprise multiple-choice questions—or even multiple questions.

For instance, you could send a more personal email to your subscriber list to get their feedback on a change you’ve made, or you’re thinking of making, to your bog:

  • a design change or update
  • a new product or service idea
  • a post that was particularly well-received, that you’re thinking of building into something bigger.

Don’t overlook other questions, though: you could ask for recommendations for service providers, for example, if you’re not sure who can help with some aspect of your blog or business.

Asking your subscribers for their opinions and assistance is a very powerful way to gain engagement. It can help you to deepen the bonds your subscribers feel with you, as it shows you respect their opinions, and need their support. It also shows that your email list isn’t just a marketing exercise.

3. Tell them something

This idea can easily be tied in with some of the others we’ve already looked at. Using your list to tell subscribers something important is an excellent way to underline the benefit to them not just of being on the list, but of actually taking the time to open and read your emails, too.

What can you tell them?

  • your plans for the blog, your offering, or a conference or event related to your niche
  • your thoughts or advice on a development within your niche (which you may also have addressed in a less-detailed blog post)
  • extra tips or information relating to a post that was particularly popular on your site, or about which readers had many questions.
  • You can probably come up with plenty of ideas for your own blog, depending on your niche.

    4. Alert them to something

    If there’s been news in your niche—a product launch, perhaps, or an announcement of some sort—why not email your subscribers with some kind of inside scoop you’ve put together especially for them? Alternatively, you could share with them a special insight that you’ve gained through your everyday research for your blog.

    Again, the information you send could be summarized in a blog post on your site, but make sure your subscribers get the full-length, in-depth version, or a special offer or different perspective. Be sure to make the value of being a subscriber clear through the quality of the information your send.

    Tip: Take care if you’re announcing a special offer or the launch of a product for which you’re an affiliate. If your subscribers weren’t expecting to receive sales material as part of their subscription to your site, they could well be taken aback. Treading softly as you start out is probably the best way to go. Over time, though, you’ll get an idea of what interests your readers, which will make it easier for you to target offers to them.

    5. Invite them to something

    A direct invitation is a great thing to extend to your subscribers. I’ve found that a personal invitation to my subscribers can do a lot to boost engagement and build rapport. It’s also a very clear way to provide value to your tribe.

    You could invite your subscribers to:

    • comment on a post that’s been something of an experiment or a break from the routine for you
    • get in touch with you via email or social media (especially handy if you have a particular question you’re asking, or you’ve just launched a presence on a new social media network)
    • take up places in a new service program you’re beta testing
    • take up a special offer that you’re making available only to them.

    Make sure your invitation is sincere and the event or offer that you’re inviting subscribers to be part of is something you, personally, stand behind. These people are the most loyal of your readers, and the goal here is to reinforce and deepen that loyalty, not undermine it.

    What about your subscribers?

    These ideas should help to get your creative juices flowing. I’m interested to hear how established your blog is, and what you’re doing to engage with your email list subscribers. Let me know in the comments.