Close
Close

How To Use Auto Responder Emails to Boost Your Blogging Efforts

This is a guest contribution by Asher Elran of Dynamic Search.

I thought emails were a waste of time and that they are ignored, but then I learned how to do it right and watched the numbers flip.

 

Blog distribution process 1-2-3

After you published a great post and pushed it through your social network, the third step is to leverage your email list too. This is where the auto-responders can help you gain new subscribers while you’re busy writing your next blog post.

The majority of email marketing services are the same. I prefer Constant Contact or Mobilizemail’s new email feature. Following the steps below you can use almost any email marketing service to set up an auto responder system in just three days.

Setting a Auto-Responder Campaign that Actually Works in 3 Days

Day 1 – Building Your Page Offer

If you want to bulk up your subscriber list, it can help to offer something in return. People online are impatient and can get irritated quickly if they feel that their time is wasted. Giveaways can spark interest, desire, and a sense of urgency.

You might consider a short eBook or report, or something like more adventurous like access to a web tool, a widget download, or access to a member’s only area with key features and valuable information. It’s really important to make sure your giveaway is relevant and valuable. During our auto-responder experiment, we chose to offer an eBook and built a landing page on our website to capture new subscribers.

On your landing you have the control to work on your CRO (conversion rate optimization) and here are some key factors that will help:

  1. Have a clear call to actionSubscriber landing page call to action
  2. Include a great offer with a visual element
  3. Include trust signals – testimonials are always great tool for this purpose

Also, the instructions to obtain your giveaway should be clear and relatively simple.

If you make your prospects leap through too many hoops, you’ll lose them. Use relatively simple language to ensure Simple is better if you’re really focused on good conversion rates. Here is how we did it:

Pay attention how we simplify the process and leverage the situation to gain likes on our Facebook page too.

Simple subscription process

Prominently display authority and trust signals to potential subscribers. This will not only show that your blog can be trusted, it will remind your potential subscriber of how good you are and why your appealing offer will help them with their problems.

Displaying authority and trust to subscribers

Day 2 – Increasing your list size

Now you have an offer in place, attracting people to reach your landing page is the next challenge. It can take some time and resources. There are a variety of options out there but I’ll speak only on the ones we applied during our auto responder experiment. Effective methods can change from one industry to another; the key is to be creative and think out of the box.

Some of the methods we applied include:

  1. Using Facebook apps to collect email subscribers – your Facebook page connects with the people that like you. It also connects you with greater pools of prospects such as friends of friends. If you explore the paid ads section you will find that you can reach even millions of people.
  2. Leveraging current blog traffic by promoting subscription incentive in key places – your blog is a goldmine and you should take advantage of your new traffic and persuade them to subscribe.
  3. Consistently sharing our posts through social media – your post should always be found on social networks, as mentioned in the three steps to gain post’s exposure above. Don’t be shy about sharing old blog posts with new readers.
  4. Connecting with decision makers on LinkedIn and offering our incentive – this is particularly relevant to B2B blogs as LinkedIn is one of your best resources to grow you audience.
  5. Placing a subscription opt-in on our website – that’s a no brainer which you have probably already done but if you haven’t, it’s really important. The key is to make it easy for potential subscribers to action once they’re on your blog.
  6. Asking existing contacts to share our incentive with their connections – Harness the power of word of mouth. You can simply add a line at the end of each post or email.
  7. Running a contest hosted directly on our blog – If you have enough traffic this can be a great way to get new subscribers. The contest could alternatively be hosted on Facebook.
  8. Reaching out through a rented email list – Only CAM SPAM approved! You have to be careful about using email addresses on rented lists but it is an opportunity to let the world know about your blog.

Day 3 – Auto-Responders

Now we get to the good part – using auto responders.

It’s not enough to simply get the email address of a new subscriber. You need to nurture them into loyalty and that means consistent and relevant contact from you. But nurturing a new subscriber can be time consuming. Imagine that you have hundreds of them! Auto responders let you automate email messages to new blog subscribers. 

Using auto responders, you can keep in contact with your subscribers for months if not years with almost zero effort on your side. You simply need to set it up and it will run for you until you turn it off.

You can see in the below table that we keep in contact with our prospect from day one, through the first 8 months. The auto responders are scheduled in advance and then put on auto pilot.

Auto responder scheduling pattern

The setup can be different from one system to another, but the important part is what to include in each email:

1st Email (after one day)

Thank your new subscriber. Don’t write about the history of your company or brag about your credentials, just say thank you to remind him or her of what you are thanking them for.

2nd Email (7th day)

Remind your subscriber that you are still around and talk briefly about what you do (not who you are – they don’t care) and give piece of valued content, for example a tip, trick, or link to a good resource you found.

3rd – 10th Emails

Keep offering your subscriber value with free content like tips, relevant resources, or a good piece of advice with an attractive offer. Remember, that it’s a bit like keeping in touch with an old friend so don’t make these emails salesy. Invite them to ask you questions, or leave their thoughts on your latest post. How many emails you send depends on your audience but it’s important to keep them engaged, not turn them off with lots of irrelevant emails.

The results

Email marketing services know the power of auto responders and offer it as an integral feature of their service. Other companies like fusionSoft and SalesForce are using it too and if the big guys are doing it, it must be something we should all do. This is especially true since the investment in the service is either free or costs very little.

We’ve put it for a test and experienced the following improvement:

Auto responder results

 

The percentage increase in just three months is substantial. Clicks are on the rise, more than doubling the previous amount, and opens are showing a drastic increase from 12.5% to 17.9%. I think that most of us will agree that having 640 visitors vs. 183 visitors is a great improvement, and it took only three days to implement.

Auto-responders are a powerful method to increase visitors’ interaction, gain new subscribers, and improve conversions. Are you using them? Do you have a subscriber nurturing process? Share your thoughts!

Asher Elran Practical software engineer and the founder of Dynamic Search™, enthusiastic about all things involving creative marketing, CRO, SEM, and killer content. Follow me on twitter at @DynamicSearch

 

How Much Content Should I Have Ready to Go When I Launch a Blog?

I recently had the opportunity to sit with a small group of Pre-Bloggers – people about to start their first blogs.

One of the questions I was about how much content should be written before launching a new blog.

My answer came in two parts:

  1. The Ideal Scenario
  2. What I actually have done

The reality is that what I ‘preach’ isn’t always what I ‘do’ – so let me tell you about both!

Note: we give a lot of teaching and some great exercises on this topic in ProBlogger’s Guide to Your First Week of Blogging.

The Ideal Scenario

OK – here’s what I’d do if I was creating a strategy to launch a new blog. Following this strategy would leave you with around a month of content and content ideas ready to go!

Dreaming goals

Mark Aplet – Fotolia.com

1. Have At Least 3-5 Posts Already Published

My ideal scenario for launching a new blog is to have at least a few posts already live on the blog.

The benefit of this approach is that when you launch the blog, people arrive and see more posts than just your ‘I started a blog’ post!

These early posts should cover a range of topics within your niche and give your first readers a taste of what is to come in terms of topics, a sense of who you are and an idea about the voice that you’re writing in.

2. Have 5-10 Posts Ready to Publish in Drafts

When launching a new blog, it’s also GREAT to have a few blog posts written and saved as drafts.

The reason for this is that often, when launching a blog, you can easily get distracted by other aspects of the launch. Design tweaks, getting a server set up right, promoting the blog, setting up social media accounts etc.

While you might have a lot of this done before launch, there’s a good chance something will go wrong (it’s Murphy’s Law). If you have at least a few blog posts already written and ready to go, you’ve got a great backup.

Having posts in reserve also takes a bit of pressure off and won’t leave you with that stressed ‘what am I going to write about today’ feeling!

3. Have 20 Blog Post Ideas Brainstormed

One of the hardest parts of creating regular blog posts – particularly in the early days – is coming up with ideas of topics to write about.

As a result I highly recommend doing some brainstorming before you launch, when the pressure is off. Put aside time to come up with as many blog post ideas as possible by what ever means suits you.

I personally like to use Mind Mapping to come up with blog post ideas (I’ve written about mind mapping here and here).

Keep your post ideas handy and add to them regularly, and you’ll find you are never stuck for something to write about!

What I’ve Actually Done

OK – so the ideal theory I’ve outlined above is all good and well – but the reality is that I don’t know a whole heap of bloggers who have always stuck to their launch strategy, including myself.

My own experience is that often, when starting a new blog, excitement and adrenaline kicks in. When you’re passionate about your new project, it’s easy to be more impulsive!

Here’s the brief launch story of my two main blogs:

ProBlogger – I launched ProBlogger in September 2004 after writing about blogging tips and making money blogging on my personal blog, in a category dedicated to the topic.

When I launched ProBlogger.net, I brought all of those posts that I’d previously written so when I launched there was already 60+ posts live.

I remember doing some brainstorming of post titles but I didn’t have any posts saved as drafts. Instead, I was so excited about starting ProBlogger that I published 40 posts in the first 10 or so days!

In hindsight – that was too many. I was naive, but I was so excited!

Digital Photography School – when I launched dPS back in April 2006, I set out with a year and a half of extra experience and so I decided to take things slower.

The dPS blog was something of an experiment and I didn’t know if it was going to be much more than a hobby. But I decided to create more content before launching and went through the brainstorming exercise, with mind maps that I linked to above.

I had 20 or so post ideas mapped out and even wrote a couple of posts that I’d published before launching – but didn’t have too many posts written as drafts on launch.

My plan at launch was to only post 3 posts per week while I got going but again I got a little excited and in the first week I published 6 posts and from then on it was pretty much daily!

Can you see a theme here? I tend to get very excited with new projects and holding back and being measured isn’t always easy for me!

How About You?

I’d love to hear about your blog launching strategies? Do you publish many posts before launching or have posts ready to go? Any other tips for new bloggers?

And if you are looking to launch a new blog – check out ProBlogger’s Guide to Your First Week of Blogging for more tips and exercises to help you get your blog launched with the right foundations!

Blog This! Sometimes Going Back to Basics Leads to the Best Posts

Today, I’m preparing some slides for a keynote I’m doing tomorrow. I included this diagram – something that Chris Garrett came up with years ago as a way to show new bloggers what they should blog about.

blog-this.png

The idea – obviously – is to find the connecting point between what YOU know (lessons you’ve learned, problems you’ve overcome, experiences that you’ve had etc) and what your readers (or potential readers) want (or need) to know.

The intersecting point is GOLD!

The problem with this diagram is when I show it to people they sometimes respond saying, ‘I don’t know anything‘!

I understand this feeling. However, I would encourage anyone thinking that to think again. In many cases, you simply overlook what you know because you think it is too basic to share!

As I was preparing for my keynote, I was reminded of a post that I wrote on dPS back in 2007 that illustrates this pretty well.

The post was How to Hold a Digital Camera.

This post came about when I was looking through submitted reader photos to select some to critique in our forum. Many of  the photos I was looking at were blurry and I realised that a common mistake was ‘camera shake’ (or the camera moving while the shot was being taken).

One of the most common and obvious reasons for camera shake is that the photographer is not holding their camera still.

There was an obvious need among some of our readers to learn how to hold their camera to keep it still while shooting.

I knew the theory of how to do this after being taught it in a school photography class but I remember thinking it was simply too basic to write a blog post about.

But I wrote the post anyway.

I hesitated for several days before publishing it, second guessing myself the whole time. I envisaged being laughed down.

The post was a hit. It got a lot of traffic early on, quite a few comments (in which many suggestions were made of other techniques) and it has been shared many hundreds of times around the web on social media.

Today, as I prepared for my keynote, I decided to check my Google Analytics to see how many times the post has been viewed since 2007.

The answer surprised me…

The post has had over 560,000 unique views!

Over half a million people have viewed that post over the last 6 years and still gets an average of 150 visitors per day to it (mainly search traffic).

Sometimes even the most basic advice – things you take for granted – is the advice your readers really need to hear.

Why Interlinking Your Blogs Posts is a Must (and Not Just For SEO)

This is a guest contribution by Daniel Vassiliou of Endurance SEO.

Everybody loves (LOVES) to talk about link building and find the latest and greatest technique for building backlinks to your blog. While this gets you more traffic and better rankings in the search engines, it can draw away from an equally important aspect of your blog – internal (or onsite) SEO.

Not only does a good internal SEO practice help boost your rankings by making it easier for Google’s crawlers to access your pages, but it also allows real people (yeah, they’re still on the internet) to navigate your site and hopefully stick around longer.

A major part of onsite SEO is the internal linking of your blogs pages, and this post will explore the intricacies of interlinking your blogs pages to one another.

Linked

Image copyright stock.xchng user lusi

Why Interlink Blog Posts?

The main goal of interlinking your blog posts is to have search engines be able to easily crawl and index all of your pages, as well as see the structure of your site. A clean structure makes it so all of your pages get indexed, which means it can match them to search queries.

Since Google strives to give the best experience as well as the best content for queries to its searchers, the quality of your site layout comes into play when rankings are determined.

Benefits Other Than SEO

There are plenty of blog posts that will tell you that interlinking is only important in regards to SEO, but this simply isn’t the case.

Internal links make it easier for your readers to navigate through your site and find more content. Imagine someone finding a post of yours through a Google search. They could read it, get the information they want, and exit or back out without a second thought. But if you incorporate anchor text links within the blog, leading readers to other relevant posts, of a sudden your readers are exploring your site for an extended period of time, rather than only a few minutes. And this greatly increases the chance of them subscribing or coming back another time.

Bounce Rate

Drawing visitors into your blog for longer periods of time will lower your bounce rate, which is important because Google uses your bounce rates as a metric to determine if your blog has good content or not. Google tracks if searchers jump into a post, look at a single page without exploring deeper, and bounce back out of the page. If this happens a lot on your site then Google can tell that people aren’t finding your site useful and you will experience lower rankings as a result.

This is a great Problogger post about reducing bounce rate. Pay special attention to the first Navigation Bar tip as it is a form of internal linking as well.

Ways of Internal Linking Effectively

There are two things to remember when internally linking your blogs: structure and common sense. For structure, focus on using a tiered linking system that uses a top down approach, starting with the home page. A good example of this can be seen with breadcrumbs.

Breadcrumbs

Hansel and Gretel may have been the first depiction of internet readers that we have to date. They were both so ADD that they couldn’t even remember how to get home on their jaunts in the woods. Readers on your blog are the same (in a way) but they can’t leave their own breadcrumbs to find a way back – so you have to help them out.

This is an example of online breadcrumbs taken from the Amazon query “blogging for dummies”.

Amazon breadcrumb example

Breadcrumbs show you the multiple levels and landing pages that took you to where you are. If you ended up going too deep down the rabbit hole a simple click and any crumb brings you to a broader page. There are plenty of plugins that allow you to incorporate breadcrumbs into your site, which in turn creates natural internal links on all of your pages. The best I’ve found is Yoast’s breadcrumb plugin for WordPress.

Link Naturally

Once you have a tiered system set up that internally links all of your main pages correctly you can begin to link between your blog posts. This helps to keep any one post from falling in the cracks and helps to keep everything indexed in the SERP.

There are tools that can help link naturally between blog posts – the best of which is yet another WordPress plugin known as SEO Smart Links that matches keywords to tags and titles and automatically makes links between the two.

SEO Smart links can be a great tool for larger blogs where you might forget about specific articles or if you post a lot of content. If you have a smaller blog however, it is relatively easy to link between your posts manually.

Make the anchor text relevant and keyword specific so crawlers and users know what kind of page the link is pointing to. This helps with click through rates and indexing, as well as SERP rankings.

Don’t Overdo It

It’s important not to overdo it when it comes to interlinking. Trying to manipulate the SERPs by creating thousands of exact match keyword anchor texts to your landing page looks, and is, spammy and your blog will be penalized for this abuse. Keep it natural and mix up your keywords to fit naturally within sentences, rather than trying to force your content around the keywords.

Keep it Under Control

It’s important to stay true to the tiered system of internal linking to keep things in order for users and for crawlers. Try following something close to the classic pyramid structure where the Home Page is on the top, and everything flows down from there. Linking randomly to and from landing pages, blog posts, the about page, contact pages, and whatever else you might have can quickly make a mess of things and you could be sending the crawlers on a wild goose chase as they attempt to make sense of your site.

Keep it simple for them and they will reward you with better rankings and quicker indexing, and your readers will reward you with more exploration and involvement.

It all starts with great content

Of course, the best internal linking structure is a moot point if you don’t have strong content in order to keep the readers around and interested. Any part of SEO should never take precedence over the quality of your content, but it can be used to boost strong content to the next level.

Daniel Vassiliou is CEO of Endurance SEO and has been involved in SEO and online promotions/marketing for about 13 years now. If you have any queries regarding this post or how to improve your websites internal linking strategy, then leave a comment or contact Daniel.

How Many Posts Should a Blogger Post? [Pros and Cons of Daily Posting]

Almost every time I do a Q&A at a conference I’m asked this question – How many posts should I post?

The frequency of blog posts is something that gets talked about a lot and there is no perfect answer for all blogs – but here are a few thoughts on the topic.

The Pros of Daily Posting

I’ve heard many people answer the ‘how many posts’ question with the suggestion that you should aim for a daily post.

While I will name some reasons why this may not be ideal below there are certainly some benefits of posting on a daily level including:

Daily Posts Can Help You Get into the Groove

I’ve had a variety of approaches to blogging frequency over the years and I have to say that getting into a daily blogging frequency has helped ME, as a blogger, make writing part of my daily workflow.

I find that if I post less often than ‘daily’, writing begins to slip off my radar as I fill my day with other tasks – and once I stop, I find it hard to get going again.

The more you practice as a writer the better you get (hopefully)!

Daily Posts Help with Reader Expectations and Engagement

It is amazing how readers will adapt to your posting frequency and will even look for your content to be published at certain times. I find that the less you post – the less engaged your readers will become.

Of course this also depends on how and where else you’re engaging with your readers. For example if you’re tweeting every day, answering comments every day and answering emails every day then this will certainly increase engagement.

I guess more regular content builds your brand also (if the content is good content).

More Posts mean More Doorways into Your Blog

I’ve spoken about this over the years many times on ProBlogger. The more posts you publish over time, the more doorways you present readers with to enter your blog.

1 post a week means you’ve got 52 doorways at the end of the year – daily posts means 365 doorways at the end of the year. This means people are more likely to see your content in RSS readers, in search engines, on social media etc. Over time this adds up. For example, here on ProBlogger today I’m publishing our 7001st post! That’s a lot of doorways!

The Negatives of Daily Posting

There are definitely some positives with daily (or at least a higher frequency of) posting. However there are also some costs including:

Blogger Burnout

Perhaps the biggest danger with setting your posting frequency levels too high is that you run the risk of burning out as a blogger.

Posting something new, engaging, compelling and helpful every day over several years can, over time, begin to feel like a chore – particularly if you have competing pressures of life (family, work, social life etc).

Reader Burnout

There is a fine line between giving your readers too little content to be engaged and overwhelming them with too much content to be able to digest it all.

I subscribed to a blog recently that I thought would be great to follow but they posted so many posts per week that it was too much and so I ended up reading none of it.

Some topics and styles of blog will sustain a higher frequency of posts than others. For example, some technology blogs have been posting 10-20 posts a day for several years – but their posts are usually short, sharp and easy to consume (and they are read by content hungry, tech savvy readers).

Decreases Reader Engagement

Related to this, I’ve noticed when I slow my posting frequency down that comment numbers often go up.

Fewer posts means that your most recent post sits on the front page of your blog longer which increases the chance of people seeing, engaging with and even sharing it.

Traffic might be lower overall to your blog – but hopefully each post will be read more!

Advice on Posting Frequency

Ultimately you need to decide what is right for you as a blogger. Your blog posting frequency should come out of a variety of factors including:

  • How much time and energy do you have for blogging? Remembering that there are other tasks that need to be done on top of writing
  • How much time do your readers have to read content? How thirsty are they for content?
  • How big is your topic/niche – how much is there actually to write about on that topic?
  • How long are the posts you write and how much time do they take to complete?
  • How old is your blog? (sometimes in the early days it can be good to have archives that are a little fuller so there’s more for new readers to explore)
  • How much do you have to say right now? Most bloggers go through bursts where they just naturally have more to write.
  • Is the quality of your posting suffering because you’re posting too often?

Keep in mind that over time your posting frequency may change. For example, here on ProBlogger I have been as high as 18 posts a week but these days we’ve slowed to 5-6 (with a change in the length and focus of the posts). Slowing our blogging frequency down has led to a higher engagement, higher quality of posts (at least that’s our intent) and steady (if not slightly higher) traffic.

Also remember that YOU as a blogger are probably a lot more worried about your posting frequency than your reader. We tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves as bloggers. Slowing down to increase quality of your posts and to look after yourself won’t be the end fo the world!

The last piece of advice I offer is to aim for regularity rather than daily. Readers will adapt to your posting rhythm and they will begin to expect that what you do one week is not too far different from what you do the next. So be consistent.

Here on ProBlogger we never switched from 18 posts in a week one week to 5 the next – it’s ebbed and flowed very gradually over time.

How often Do You Post?

I’m interested to hear how many posts you do per week on your blog?

Is that the same amount of posts each week or does it change?

Has that frequency changed over time?

What factors come into play for you in deciding how many posts per week is right for you?

Will Your Content Marketing Last The Distance?

This is a guest contribution by Ruchi Pardal of ResultFirst.

Some people believe that content marketing means multichannel, and seemingly mechanical, publishing of anything, anywhere. Their goal is to gain links and rank well (of course, momentarily) using thin content, spinned content, keyword-rich content or unnecessary press releases. That’s the kind of content marketing that brings very short lived benefits (if any). True content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What’s Content Marketing?

Content marketing creates valuable, sharable content published on multiple channels to attract readers and hopefully customers. Content marketing builds a community. Content marketing gains exposure. And, of course, content marketing markets your brand. But true content marketing taps into people’s desires and grabs their attention by wowing them. Bewitching them. Making them learn something they didn’t already know or were seeking. It hooks them in not just once, but time and time again.

Your Content Marketing Weapons

  • Blog posts
  • Infographics
  • Guest posts
  • Podcasts
  • Comics
  • Video content
  • Webinars
  • Ebooks
  • Open discussions
  • And counting…

Questions for Long Distance Content Marketing

Content marketing, if used smartly, can help you gain things you never even knew you could get your hands on. Kissmetrics skyrocketed its traffic and got 3500+ unique domain links using by creating 47 infographics. In fact, it’s one of the greatest examples of content marketing done right. Even Mashable believes that.

So, here are the questions you should (and must) ask yourself if you want your content marketing to work for you in the long term:

Is there any meaning to the content I’m creating? Content marketing with an ambiguous objective is the worst of them all. So, first off, think about what you want to achieve and how that impacts your different audiences. Then track back to how content marketing can bridge the gap. Choose the right content marketing weapons for your audience and your objectives and before jumping in feet first, work out how your content can stand out.

Is it relevant to what my audience wants? Anything that gives your audience, or their network, real value is relevant. Instead of wasting time thinking about how to convert them as a subscriber, think what they need to learn and what they’d love to learn.

Is it mostly about myself, my company, my team? That’s okay – but only sometimes and it’s important that content that’s just about you, with no value to your audience, is in the minority

Does it add any value to or challenge traditional wisdom? Nobody loves rehashed content but yes, if you can give an old topic a new angle or your take then it can feel like a brand new idea.

Does it sound robot-generated? Try to make your content interactive as hell. If it sounds robot-generated, it’s drab, irritating and repelling, your readers won’t read beyond the first paragraph.

Will my audience link to it and share it socially? One of the qualities of content marketing that lasts the distance is its ability to resonate with large audiences and that means making it sharable! Sharable content also helps you in your SEO efforts, too.

Am I just adding to the sea of crap content that’s already on the Web? Please don’t! It’s our Web and it’s up to us whether we make it all the more exciting or filled with full, lifeless, boring content

Have I chosen the right channel for publishing my content? The right channel leads to the right audience so it’s quite an important decision. If you’ve been doing content marketing just to get links, well, that won’t help you now. Google values not just hard-earned but relevant links from trusted sites. Moreover, this I-want-that-link behaviour is disturbing and somewhere undermines what we put into getting one. Time to get over this, right?

Last and the most important: Is my content marketing based on a content strategy? Solid content marketing needs a solid content strategy, one that must answer how you’ll take care of creating, marketing and governing content over time.

A footnote about SEO

“If your content is the best thing since sliced bread, you’re going to rank well. We are focused on what searchers are engaging and how we can deliver them better results.” Bing’s Duane Forrester

“Don’t think about link building, think about compelling content and marketing.” Google’s Matt Cutts

If you still think that SEO is all about rankings and traffic, don’t do content marketing for SEO, at all. However, if you understand that content marketing is about creating and sharing value that helps you build great communities, well the SEO benefits will come as a result.

In summary, I’d reiterate that you can’t win the marathon and gain loyal followers with short sprints of content. You need a content strategy and consistent effort.

So, how do you make sure that your content marketing lasts the distance? What is your favorite content marketing weapon and why? Shout out below.

Ruchi Pardal is Director of ResultFirst, a firm that works on pay-for-performance model, helping businesses get found across search engines and give an optimal experience to their audience. She’s been into digital marketing for well over 10 years. When she’s not busy with her work, Ruchi loves to spend every moment with her awesome family.

My April Blogging Income Breakdown

Yesterday I published a post telling my story of adding 12 income streams to my blogs over the last 10 years.

Screen Shot 2013 05 08 at 12 24 58 PM

One of the comments and tweets I had a number of times was a request to make the diagram I used shows how the 12 different streams of income go towards making the overall revenue on my blogs today.

It has been a over a couple of years since I did an income breakdown so I decided to put together the numbers today. The categories don’t completely coincide with the 12 income streams mentioned in yesterdays post (for example I no longer do consulting and I’ve combined all the affiliate income and all the ad network income – however you’ll get the picture.

Income streams breakdown

The above breakdown is for last month’s income (April 2013). It is worth noting that while I chose April as it was a pretty typical month for me that things can vary quite a bit from month to month depending what the monetization focus of my blogs is.

For example if I were to show you December last year you’d see Affiliate earnings and eBooks dominating the chart more as we do a 12 days of Christmas promotion on Digital Photography School that promotes a series of affiliate products and our own eBooks over a two week period.

Or if I created a chart for March this year you’d have seen ‘Events’ as a bit bigger as we launched our ProBlogger Event Early Bird Tickets that month.

I hope it helps to see a visual of the breakdown of what I was talking about yesterday.

What was your #1, #2 and #3 income stream last month?

12 Blogging Income Streams [And the Story of My 10 Year 'Overnight' Success]

Today I was speaking with a blogger (I’ll call her Alice for the sake of this post) who was feeling a little overwhelmed with the idea of monetizing her blog. She expressed that as she looked at other blogs in her niche, everyone seemed to be doing such amazing things. She said she felt she’d never be able to compete.

Other blogs in Alice’s niche were running online courses, selling out hundred people live events around the country, selling ads to fortune 500 companies, authoring best selling eBook and more. The thought of even beginning to monetize her blog in these ways was completely paralysing Alice!

It is so easy to be overwhelmed to the point of paralysis when you look at what other bloggers are doing. I know this from personal experience!

My advice to Alice was to keep in mind that all those other amazing blogs started in the same place that she was – without any income streams at all.

Often it is easy to forget this and see a successful blog as always being what it is today.

By way of illustration, I shared my own story

When I started blogging, I did it as a hobby. I had no intention of it ever being more than that and there were no examples of people directly monetizing blogs.

Over the coming year and a half, my blog grew in popularity and the hobby became something of a passion and obsession. It also began to cost me money to run for hosting, domain, design etc.

Phase 1

Blogging Income 6

I began to dabble in monetizing with the hope of simply covering my costs. My first experiments were with Google AdSense and the Amazon Affiliate Program. The results weren’t spectacular but they were encouraging enough for me to keep trying. A few dollars began to trickily in but more importantly – I was learning a lot!

Phase 2

Over the coming months I continued to experiment with AdSense and Amazon. I vastly improved how I was implementing the programs (better ad positioning, writing reviews for affiliate products). I also began to think about how to drive more traffic to my blog. I even started a second blog (and then more followed)!

The results were that my income began to grow. I began to see my blogging as a part-time job and even began to wonder if it could one day be full-time.

Over the coming year I also began to also look at other forms of monetization.

Blogging Income 6

During this time I started promoting affiliate programs with other online stores. I also did something that terrified me but which became a great income stream, I picked up the phone and began to sign up advertisers directly. This was a period where I had to bite the bullet and start to treat blogging not just as a hobby – but as a business.

Again – these new income streams started small and were experiments. My first ad sale was for $20 for a month long ad. It didn’t bring me overnight riches but securing the ad taught me a lot and contributed to my overall income.

It was around this time I realised that while none of my income streams were enough to sustain me alone, a blog could actually sustain multiple sources of small income that could add up to something significant.

My goal was to go full time as a blogger. To do that I knew I needed to grow multiple streams of income and my blog’s traffic.

Phase 3

It was around this time that other Advertising Networks began to appear. I experimented with quite a few but the one I had most success with was Chitika. At the time, AdSense was my #1 source of income but putting Chitika on my site almost doubled that income overnight and allowed me to go full time as a blogger!

Blogging Income 6

Of course it wasn’t just that Chitika worked well. I’d also been growing my traffic, building reader engagement/community etc – but the extra income stream helped a lot.

Phase 4

It was around this time that I’d started ProBlogger as a blog along with a whole new range of income streams. I did monetize ProBlogger in the early days, using all of the above income streams but I found that ProBlogger was actually better to monetize indirectly.

By ‘indirect monetization’ I mean that ProBlogger began to grow my own personal profile and authority on the topic of blogging and I began to be approached to provide products and services that I could sell. The blog itself didn’t necessarily make money – but it enabled ME to make money as a result of the blog.

Blogging Income 6

For example, it was through ProBlogger that I landed my first paid speaking opportunity. I was asked to fly to Washington DC to speak at a conference – (all expenses covered plus a small fee paid).

Around the same time, I was approached to write the ProBlogger Book (the hard cover one that is now in it’s 3rd edition). This only came off the back of the ProBlogger blog.

Similarly, around this time I began to offer my services as a consultant to help people with their blogging strategy (a service I don’t offer any more).

Once again, these income streams started small (in fact writing a Book isn’t generally a big income stream for most authors) but they each contributed to the overall revenue from my blogging, which was now adding up to be a lot more than I’d ever earned from any other job (keeping in mind that I’d been blogging now for 4-5 years).

Phase 5

Most of the above income streams have continued to grow but other opportunities have presented themselves as new technologies emerge. While I’d previously been approached to create a hard copy book, we began to see the emergence of eBooks. While people previously had asked me to speak at their live events we began to see people delivering content via virtual/online courses and conferences.

Blogging Income 6

I began to experiment with creating eBooks and membership areas to my sites. eBooks have gone on to become my main income stream (both with ProBlogger eBooks and Photography eBooks). The main income from eBooks tends to come in fits and starts, when we either launch a new eBook or run a sale/promotion on one but even when we don’t have these events happening they still steadily sell each day in small numbers. Again, contributing to the overall revenue.

I also added the Job board here at ProBlogger.

The job board is an interesting example of what I’m talking about today. It has never been a spectacularly huge income stream but it has actually been a pretty steady source of income over the years. We generally see 1-2 new blogger jobs advertised every day and that $50-$100 per day in income adds up over time. I’ve not got the exact figures but I’d estimate that over the last 5 years it has brought in over $100,000! I’m glad I started it!

By this stage my income was growing to the point where I was able to bring on others into my team. This started with some very part time outsourcing of small jobs but in more recent times has enabled me to hire a number of team members to help run different components of my business.

Phase 6

The final income stream has become a growing focus of my team and I (although I have to say it’s not a massive income stream at this point) has been running events and conferences.

Our annual ProBlogger Training Event here in Australia has grown in number each year and this year we think it’ll probably turn a small profit. Having said that, my intent with these events is not to make a lot of money. Rather, it is about giving something back to the Aussie Blogosphere (it is also great for branding and gives me a lot of personal satisfaction and fun).

We’ve also started to run some smaller more focused workshops (our Email Marketing workshop in Melbourne still has a handful of spots left).

Blogging Income 6

My suspicion is that events will be something we’ll see expand a little in the coming years.

Final Thoughts

Let me sum up with a few thoughts, disclaimers and words of encouragement:

Keep in mind that all of the above has happened over 10 years. While today there are obviously 12 or so income streams (although I’m sure I’m forgetting something) they all started quite small and as experiments.

There have been moments where it did seem like I had rushes of income, those rushes were usually the result of several years work and investment of time and money.

I also would say that in each case, I started each experiment not really knowing what I was doing (on at least some level) but really seeing the experiments as a chance to learn. For example, my first eBooks were taking previously published blog posts and updating, completing and adding to them to offer readers a more convenient way to access my content.

At the time I had no idea if that would work and the design and delivery of the eBooks was fairly basic. In time I learned what did and didn’t work and was able to grow the sophistication of my delivery systems, design, authoring and marketing to the point that it’s become a fairly well-oiled machine.

The key is to pick something to try and to see whether it connects with your readership and to learn as much as you can while you’re doing it. Often you end up evolving what you do to the point that it is a better fit for you and your blog – but you’ll never get to that point without starting.

Update: I’ve since published a followup to this post that gives a split of the different income streams.

Affiliate Marketing: Cult or Cash Cow?

This is a guest post from communications and marketing consultant Brook McCarthy.

Image courtesy of Federico Stevanin / FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

When I was a young hippie, I accidentally joined a cult. I was a student of religious studies at the time and believed I was merely observing, until one morning, when I found myself at 5am, chanting to a giant image of the guru in a group. Normally, nobody gets me up at 5am. As cults go, they were lovely people. There was the small matter of the group being accused of the 1978 Sydney Hilton bombing but, when all is said and done, I have very fond memories of my time in the cult.For some years now, I’ve been following a particular woman online. I wasn’t a committed devotee, just an observer. Last year, I considered doing her online business course but was overawed by the price. I moved on.

The buzz begins

A year later, the buzz began again. Three different online personalities, of whom I consider myself a card-carrying devotee, all began spruiking this course. They offered gifts of their own e-books and courses, one-to-one consultations and the promise of being ‘in the know’ to further encourage purchase. The price was the same, but a year had passed so I’d had time to get used to it.

Each affiliate promised this course would bring clarity, a well-trod path to business success, and digital kinship which, as an online marketing professional, is sacrosanct. All the video tutorials on the web cannot add up to the loving support of a well-informed, well-connected community eager to help a member out.

Digital kinship

And so deciding to take the course came down to choosing which affiliate offered the best bunch of incentive gifts. I chose to give my affiliate money to the person who offered more community – a small, private Facebook group with additional weekly teleseminars where my questions would have a chance of being answered.

I’m not a natural joiner. Apart from my brief cult phrase, I struggle to fit in with a sports team or mother’s group, a church group or political affiliation. But I am swayed by the opinions of those I respect.

And therein lies the power of affiliate marketing, the smartest evolution of marketing since Seth Godin coined ‘permission marketing’.

As businesses develop tribes whose leader they respect, these leaders introduce others to their tribe. The tribe gains another resource to learn from, the leader gains respect for having introduced another valuable leader, and the tribe of the introduced leader grows.

Watching their bank account swell, the business leader finally sees how their endless blog posts, emails, tweets, updates and promotions have paid off, the joiner taps into curated information, education and online kinship, and the affiliate needs only market to the networkers, not the network.

Power to the people

We need word-of-mouth to make sense of the world. Curating and interpreting information begins in infancy with our parents, and continues throughout school and college.

For all its algorithmic updates, Google cannot deliver quality information curated especially for us. Increasingly, we rely on tribe leaders to present, curate and interpret information for us. We no longer seek open access to more information, but leaders whose opinions we respect and closed, exclusive communities with a limited amount of quality information that is relevant, useful and valuable.

Hitching your reputation

Becoming involved in affiliate marketing means hitching our professional reputation to another’s. As a business owner with a tribe, our value is our relevance and usefulness to our tribe. Reputation is both our key asset and tradable commodity, should we choose it.

Reputation is slow to build and easy to destroy. A leader’s reputation and earning ability diminishes with each poorly-thought out email campaign or dodgy affiliate program they promote and they must rely on aggressive list-building strategies to keep growing their tribe as people demonstrate distrust by unsubscribing.

Cults with money

Crowd

Image by unknown photographer, licensed under Creative Commons

Whatever reservations you have against cults, you may transfer to affiliate marketing. Whether you deem the financial incentive of affiliate marketing clearer and cleaner or murky and self-interested depends on you.

Crowds have power. There’s no lonelier position than when you feel you’re the only person who doesn’t believe someone is wonderful. You begin to doubt your judgment when you’re the lone wolf apart from the pack.

But we have eyes, ears and wallets. We are all active participants in online cults when we subscribe to a business’s updates and eagerly read what they have to say. So keep your eyes and ears open and consider the following:

1.    Reputation is slow to build and quick to destroy

You’ve spent years carefully cultivating a tribe, forging relationships with other bloggers and business owners and growing your social media following, so don’t throw it away with one poorly-researched, hasty affiliate promotion.

2.    Personality is important

As bloggers whose success relies heavily on interacting with our followers, you know personality is important so always consider whether the personality you’ll be promoting will resonate with your tribe. Sometimes people’s personalities grow on you, something they grate you into shreds.

3.    Be wary if don’t need to buy or try beforehand

 You have integrity, right? So demand the same from the business owner who wants you to sell their stuff. You cannot recommend something if you haven’t tried it. You may point to others’ recommendations and testimonials, but be wary of whether these are paid for in cash or kind. Don’t gamble on this – you need to know what you’re recommending.

 4.    Expect resources 

Even those who write for a living need a boost from time to time in how they articulate the benefits of others. We coach clients in how to refer others to us and ask specific questions in order to secure a good testimonial, so you can expect that the business you’re an affiliate of gives you lots of copy you can use to send to your list. This should be well written. And no, exclamation marks don’t equal fabulousness.

5.    Keep it small

When we overwhelm people with resources, information and directives, they become overwhelmed and confused. And confused people don’t buy. Hopefully, you are working on your own products and so you want to pace your affiliate promotions so that they don’t conflict. Don’t become ‘that guy’ who only emails with affiliate links. Become known as the leader who only promotes a choice selection of quality products that sing to your tribe, while reinforcing your status for discernment.

6.    Consider upping the community ante

People don’t purchase e-courses and e-programs because they are looking for information. They purchase because they are looking for guidance, handholding, feedback and support from a community. Consider whether you can add extra value to your affiliate promotions by creating your own community to support people through the program. You don’t need to be a rah-rah cheer squad, but you do need to show you have your tribe’s best interests at heart.

How do you choose the right affiliate program for your reputation?

 

Brook McCarthy is a writer and online marketing strategist specialising in the health and wellbeing sector. Download her ‘Authentic Marketing Manifesto’ for us poor souls concerned with being natural, ethical, and inspirational, as well as effective.