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Case study: How I launched my first e-course and made over 5 grand – from a tiny list

This is a guest contribution from Marya Jan, blogging coach and trainer for small business owners.

Do you want to monetize your blog or start an online business?

Have you been blogging for a while and all you want to do is sell products or services and follow your passions?

If that’s the case, then what is stopping you?

If you are like most people, the one thing that is holding you back is the size of your list.

You might have heard this many times before, ‘money is in the list’. So you feel without having a decent sized list, you can’t launch your business, or monetize your blog.

You feel like you need thousands of people on your list before you can make an offer.

You have heard success stories from popular bloggers with 20K, 50K or even 100K plus lists and you think you too need to blog until you reach that stage.

Today, I am here to present a different perspective: The size of your list is important; there is no doubt about it. 5K list is surely better than a 200 people list.

However, there is one more thing that is even more important – list responsiveness.

How warm is your list?

What are your open rates like? How many people click through to view the content? How many people actually made it to the end and share it?

For example, 30% open rates of a 3K list mean 900 people are opening and reading your emails at any given time. That is way better than 3% open rate for a 15K list – 450. Now, I am not saying that the bigger the size of your list, the more useless it comes.

What I am saying is this: Would you be happy with 400 hot leads? 400 people who open your emails and are real prospects? If so, you could get a list of 1,000 subscribers and work really hard on nurturing your list so that your open rates are phenomenal – in the vicinity of 40%, rather than worry about growing your list and allowing it to go cold.

When you start thinking about having a warm list where people really like and trust you, and get huge value from you, then you don’t need to wait till you have thousands of people on your list before you launch your business. 

Don’t believe me? Then let me tell you my story.

Launch of an e-course

How to use your blog to build a highly responsive, super targeted list makes the premise of my brand new e-course that I recently launched – to my list only, aptly titled Get 500 Subscribers.

The target market for this course is new businesses who are relying on their blogs as a primary marketing tool for building their lists or want to start blogging. These people understandably don’t have huge marketing budgets so blogging makes the perfect lead generation tool for them.

This also targets those people who blog but they haven’t monetized because they don’t have the information.

But before that, some context as you might be wondering who am I to give you advice on this? I am a blogging coach. Formally, I hold a MBA-marketing, Bachelor at Law and Education degrees, and I started my own business last year. I offer coaching and review services and I also teach Blogging for Business courses in local adult education provides (that’s TAFE for people who are in Australia).

I, too, felt that I could not launch my services before I had a minimum of 2K subscribers. In fact, I waited for longer than that.

I did an internal launch to my list of 3K subscribers in July (by internal launch I mean that the course was released to my list ONLY).

There are a few reasons for that:

As a pilot version, I wanted to allow a specific number of people in to test out the material and organisation of info presented. I wanted to see what they thought of it and if they found it to be practical enough.

I figured if these people are blog subscribers, they are more likely to forgive the mistakes (like typos which I am notorious for) and other issues that I might have missed. I also wanted to get feedback on how to make it better.

Finally, I wanted to see how they went after going through the course. I wanted to see their results and write mini case-studies based on all the information made avaiable to me, for the main launch. This would also make great testimonials and tell others that the course really works.

Research phase

So, before I even started creating this course, I polled my list and asked them if this is something they might be interested in.

I said to them that there are number of blogging related courses on the market already and they boast of adding thousands of subscribers to your list. I had asked them what their numbers currently look like and what they thought is doable.

I was really surprised by the sheer number of responses I received. But the most surprising was the fact that my audience was clearly split between people who were thinking of monetizing or new business and people who did not even have blogs yet. This was certainly eye opening for me.

But people generally agreed that for anyone having less than 100 people on their list, 500 is a great number to shoot for. So that is what I decided to run with.

I also decided to do an e-course instead of an ebook because we all know how many times we buy an ebook, scan through it and never pick it up again. I also wanted it to be step by step process, logically organised and also not overwhelm them as there are so many moving parts to this process.

Needless to say, I did a thorough home work on the competitors to check out their products, price points and of course their sales copy.

Based on the demand, the information included (6 modules with multiple lessons) and accompanying worksheets, checklists, resources and templates, I decided that the price tag of about $300 seemed fair. For my list though, I gave them a hefty 50% discount as I wanted initial intake of members to feel like founding members of the course and help me tweak it along the way.

This gave the confidence to keep going every time I faced a setback.

Investment

For the set up, I purchased Premise from Copyblogger media ($165) and bought one hour of consulting to set it up. This had me hyperventilating at some points because I hadn’t thought I’d have such a hard time getting my head around it. ($100)

I bought ebooks on how to launch from Ittybiz ($200) and referred to all my resources and previously bought training on writing sales pages and email marketing.

I did not spend anything on packaging as I did not need cover design or any fancy elements. This meant I kept the costs low.

Sales sequence 

For my pre-launch content, I had been publishing related blog posts such as   Why You Don’t Need to Become a Popular Blogger prior to announcing the course.

I did the initial survey and kept my audience in the loop from the beginning. They knew that I was working on this product and expected it. I announced it via email a week before enrolment was to open.

I kept my launch period fairly short – 4 days.

I send 5 emails altogether. Here is a brief sequence in case you are wondering.

Email 1: Officially open for enrolment + bonus (Day 1)

Email 2: Reader questions answered (Day 3)

Email 3: Last day for enrolment (Last day)

Email 4: Few hours remain (Last day)

Launch mistakes + lessons 

Based on the survey I did earlier, it was clear that this course would appeal to 50% of my audience. 50% (of those who answered) don’t have even have a blog yet. This course is definitely NOT for them. (This also told me that I can also release a product aimed at beginner bloggers at some stage.)

I should have started an interest list.

I wasn’t confident enough to do that but would have been better because would have gotten the realistic numbers. I would have avoided some emotional stress. There were some unsubscribes which are to expected but I would have lost less people had I emailed to the people on my interest list only.

I could have built more context around the premise of my course (building a list of super targeted 500 subscribers) by doing more pre-lunch content pieces. I feel I rushed through this phase. I did a post or two but how many people read those?

I didn’t realise that it is a holiday in USA + July 4 long weekend when I was closing enrolment. I still can’t believe I didn’t pick up on that.

So many people launched in June-July. I am thinking early in 2014 for my main launch might be better next time

There was some initial confusion regarding the dates, I didn’t proofread launch emails properly and I am thinking this must have affected sales.

And this is what I did really well.

Because of the survey, I was able to choose a topic and create a product that my audience really wanted. I also ran this idea by trusted friends.

My friends (Henri Juntilla, Henneke D and Di Mace in particular) helped name the product. Initially, I was thinking of promoting it as School of Business Blogging but received concern that it might put people off as they might think it is too corporate or serious. Dodged that bullet – phew!

On my sales page, I got over 15% conversion rate which is HUGE. This is confirms that there is a demand for this course.

My goal was to make 5K and I exceeded that.

I need to bring this in front of the right (and bigger) audience next time.

I was told by my readers that my emails very convincing, despite the odd typo!

Unexpected findings

90% of people who joined became my blog subscribers this year (many in May 3013). This means that you don’t have to get people on your list for the longest time to sell to them. Sometimes people like what they see and buy soon enough

People who opened course notification emails (announcement, early access + official open) made up for 35% of my list, on average. Over 500 people never opened a single email of time. After the launch, I actually deleted and moved to an old people list. I wrote about this process on this post – Why I Deleted 400 Subscribers from My List.

I now realise that was probably attracting the wrong audience – meaning people who were just interested in blogging generally but not to use it for marketing and list building purposes. For this reason, I converted the ebook into a 10-part free e-course titled Blogging for Business. This has been converting really well and my open rates are up so I assume this was the right decision.

I could also use a re-brand. This is something I am working on.

Ration of women : men = 30:6. Well this wasn’t so unexpected. I seem to attract women who are in their late 30s and over as they know the reality of building a business and can see through the hype.

All in all, there were no major screw ups.

I learned a ton in the process, met expectations (yay!) and feel way more confident that ever in launching this course to public.

My next steps are to create more products, market more, grow list, re-brand and of course do the main launch of my e-course in 2014.

So back to you. Have I given you something to think about? Has my story changed your mind a bit?

When are you going to lunch your first product? Would you wait till you have thousands of people on your list or will a few hundred do?

Will you work on building the right list or focus on numbers?

What will it take for you to finally monetize?

Marya Jan is a blogging coach and trainer for small business owners. She is the creator of Get 500 Subscribers e-course and teaches Business Blogging short courses in real life. Don’t forget to grab her free 10-part Blogging for Business email course. Like her on Facebook, she is very friendly!

3 Questions to Ask When Facing Fear [And Why Wobbly Courage Is Enough]

FearA few weeks ago I asked readers of ProBlogger to tell us about the fears that they’ve faced and overcome as bloggers.

The response was fantastic with some honest sharing – thanks to those who commented – your comments not only helped me prepare for a talk I was giving on the topic at our event but also helped me to overcome a fear I was facing on that very day.

My Paralysing Fear

The day I published that post I did very little else because I almost let fear grind my activity to a halt.

We were just over 3 weeks out from our ProBlogger Training Event and I was letting fear get the better of me. While I normally am able to use Fear as a motivating factor (I wrote about that here) on this particular day I was feeling quite overwhelmed.

With the event 3 weeks away I was fearful of a number of things (some were rational and some were not) including:

  • that our international speakers might all be unable to fly in due to some unforeseen disaster that grounded flights out of the US
  • that last minute negotiations with sponsors might fall through leaving us financially in trouble
  • that a weather event would cause us to cancel our outside evening event
  • that I wouldn’t have anything useful to say in my keynotes
  • that we’d have some disaster with the venue or food or the staging or…. (this list went on quite long)

I actually had a much longer list than that – but I’m sure you get the picture!

I’ve felt all of these fears before in the lead up to other events – but on this particular day they all got a little too much for me and I paced around my office imagining the worst and letting my fears distract me from doing much at all.

3 Questions to Get You Moving When Fearful

Fear

Thankfully I didn’t let fear overwhelm me completely – not for too long anyway. After a day of it I decided I needed to find a way to get myself moving again.

To do so I asked myself 3 questions (questions that I actually spoke about in my opening keynote for PBEVENT):

  1. What is the worst thing that could happen to me?
  2. How would I recover if that happened?
  3. What is the best thing that could happen to me?

Note: these are not ‘my’ questions. I’ve heard many people speak about them (or variations of them) over the years.

By tackling each of these questions I think you put fear into perspective but also put yourself in a better position to face that fear in a better way.

What is the worst thing that could happen to me?

Question 1 is all about getting perspective. Sometimes simply by asking it you realise that the worst thing that could happen isn’t that bad at all.

How would I recover if that happened?

However sometimes the worst thing is pretty bad. This is where Question 2 is essential. It allows you to make a decision to either avoid the situation (sometimes fear is a signal that you’re about to do something stupid and you shouldn’t do it) or to come up with a contingency plan.

So in the case of our event by asking ‘how would I recover’ I suddenly realised that we needed to come up with some contingency plans. For example we decided to come up with some plans for if our international speakers were late or unable to get there. As a result we were better prepared and the fear melted away.

What is the best thing that could happen to me?

The Question 3 is all about focusing not only on the worst case scenario but also motivating yourself with the best case. The reality is that the worst case scenarios in my head on that day did not happen. While we had a few hiccups during the event the some amazing things did happen as a result of the event.

Even Wobbly Courage is Still Courage

I was going to title this post ‘how to smash fear’ or ‘how to eliminate fear’ but the reality is that I don’t think I’ve ever completely eliminated fear.

While I did get myself moving again in the example above I still felt a little fearful about the event and I’m not so sure that that is a bad thing.

Fear is a signal that something important is going to happen. It is a signal to pay attention and it can actually give you the shot of adrenaline you need to face that important situation.

The reality is that when we face important life changing things that we will almost always feel a little… or a lot… wobbly. But as a friend once said to my wife… ‘even wobbly courage is still courage’n (thanks Jessica for sharing that – it’s helped a lot of people).

Courage is courage – even if you only have a little bit of it.

How to Write a Professional E-mail that Gets a Reply

This is a guest contribution by Jackson Nwachukwu, freelance blogger and content writer.

email

Copyright Tommi – Fotolia.com

Who doesn’t know how to write an email? Everyone emails, don’t they? Well, let me start by telling you that there are emails and then there are professional emails.

As a freelance blogger, writer, content marketer and what have you; my best guess is that your emails are professionally intent and the primary concern each time you write an email is to get a reply on it?

It’s no-brainer e-mails are becoming the primary objects of online marketing.

Tell me one thing we do today online that does not involve writing an e-mail and you can stop reading this article right now!

Call it promotional emails, follow up emails, sells emails, update emails, mention them… they are all professional emails and factors in what we do today online. Hence, calling this a factoid is clearly an understatement; but a reality to reckon with.

Every single day that passes by bloggers, content marketers, freelance writers and so on write and send e-mails to their targeted audience but very few of these people have taken their time to look into the “how to” in e-mail writing.

In this article on USA Today, we can read about how the today’s tech savvy individuals and companies carry technology like an egg but often lose their professional touch and reputation because of one e-mail that went wrong. E-mails exchanges are going viral and have seen to be a much faster and efficient way to correspond to today’s business.

This simple mindset is critical to understanding what professional image or reputation you portray on the other side of the world each time you push that send button on your email composer.

Now I want you to do this right when you write your next email which is why I’ve listed some simple tips to writing a professional e-mail that gets replies and action plans to take. Let’s see them:

Email Writing Tip #1: Avoid the Robot Greeting

It shouldn’t be news to learn that the very first thing you should do, when writing an email, is to greet the recipient. You would be surprised how many folks get this wrong, all the time.

I’ve read a couple of emails that started off with robot greeting (a programmed and non-human greeting) and guess what, I never get to finish reading them. Emails that start off with the following greetings annoy me and it’s not just me…. They annoy every other person who may have discovered the importance of email writing:

  • Hey Webmaster,
  • Dear Admin,
  • Hi Blog Owner (one of recent greetings I received of lately),
  • Hello Admin and so on.

These are what I call the “robot greetings” and believe me they will never get you anywhere.

Action Plan: Start Off with Friendly Greetings

Study your to-be recipient and get to know what name he or she likes to be called. Start off the greeting with that name.

Greetings like “Dear Jackson” “Hello Kim” “Hi John” and so on are a much friendlier and more natural way to greet someone.

Email marketing companies like Aweber, Get Response and their likes have been huge fans of many freelance writers and internet marketers at large. A friendlier greeting is enough to get your attention reading the e-mail because you feel the e-mail is specifically meant for you.

Email Writing Tip #2: Don’t Rush into Writing

Now just because you’ve greeted the recipient does not mean you should rush into writing. Take some time to think before writing. Always remember that every e-mail sent out in your name counts and reflects the professional backbone of your business.

It’s always tempting to start writing how much you feel or care but all that may be crap so here is the thing…

Action Plan: A Proper Introduction is Sticky!

Before rushing into unveiling your objective for writing the email, take some time to think of how best to introduce yourself. If you’re writing for the first time to a client or recipient, then words like:

Hi Adam,

I am Jackson Nwachukwu, a freelance writer and professional blogger at the-name-of-your-blog or company, and then take it from there…

If you are writing to a repeat client or subscriber, pause and check the last mail you sent him. Check if there were things needed to be mentioned first before writing the new one. Chances are that, you get more attention when you follow up from the onset. Something like this can be handy:

Hello Jane,

The last mail I sent you was an intro to what you are reading today. I have just finished working on my first ebook which answers the problem we discussed and the blah blah blah …

Some people will start off by writing:

Hello John,

How are you today? Hope you are doing great in your business and then blah blah blah…

This last opening is rubbish!

When it comes to business matters treat it as one, you are not writing to your family members who need to know you care about their health or business. You’re writing to a professionally minded fellows, clients or subscribers who wants nothing but answers or solutions to their problems.

Email Writing Tip #3: Present the Meat of the E-mail

Now is the right time to present the meat of the email.

Remember you have greeted the recipient and have introduced yourself or have written a follow up line to your last email to the recipient, so go ahead and present the meat which you wish to offer. The meat is the primary purpose of writing the email.

Action Plan: Make it Clear and Concise, but not Precipitous

One thing you must always understand is that people have less time than you can imagine. It’s paramount that you make your email clear and concise because these people (including me) see time as no luxury.

Internet users are always in a hurry to read and get over it, so always have this mindset when writing an email. However, try not to be so concise or over-careful to the extent of sending emails that are broken, rough or rugged (precipitous).

If you must write an exhaustive email, then inform them at the beginning that the email will be a long one. However, to achieve results with this, you will have to make sure you offer them something meaty to keep reading.

Also be sure to use polite words like “Please” to drive home your point. A word like this means a lot and can make a huge difference.

Email Writing Tip #4: Use a Case Study or Testimonial Where Necessary

Smart bloggers, writers and marketers start marketing from the onset. There is no special time for this, after all the whole thing about writing professional emails is to solidify deals, drive sells, generate leads, build more audience and familiarity.

Case studies and testimonials have over the years proven to be driving forces that get people doing what you demand of them. It’s often said that “seeing is believing” and so use this to your advantage when writing an email that requires rapid response or reply from the recipient(s).

Action Plan: Make the Case Studies or Testimonials to Rhyme with the Tone of the Email

If you have a testimonial or case study that is subject to the email you are sending, incorporate it to rhyme with the tone of the email. This simple practice gets you results and naturally, an average reader would like to read to the end to be sure he or she learns how to benefit from the BIG picture.

Email Writing Tip #5: Close with Appealing and Polite Words

In tip #3, I mentioned “writing with polite words” to get results. You also need to do that when closing your emails.

I’ve read couple of emails where the sender closed his email on a point and blank note without considering the fact that someone took out time to read his email.

The last part of the email is always the part where you show how concerned you are about the time the reader invested in reading your email, and there is no other way to prove this other than closing the email with appealing and polite words.

This can also be your call to action if properly written…

Action Plan: Thank them for Reading

All these I’ve been saying may sound too common to some people, but believe me not everybody gets it (to their detriment)!

Always make sure to use a “Thank you” note to close your emails. This practice shows the recipient that you value the time he or she invested in reading what you sent them knowing too well they may not have asked you to send it at first. Their time is highly valuable, so thank them for it.

To add up to the “Thank you” note, you can use any of these professional and polite words to supercharge their emotions:

For Bloggers and average emails: Best regards, Sincerely, All the Best, To your Blogging Success

For freelance writers: To your Writing Success

For Content Marketers: To your Content Marketing Success

Email Writing Tip #6: Don’t Rush to Push the Send Button

Alright, you feel you’ve written a great email that will get you that anticipated replies! While you believe so much in your writing, there is still more to it.

Remember I mentioned that the emails you send out reflects your professional stand in niche where you operate, so why the rush to push the send button?

Each time you finish writing your email, let this saying come to your head “what is worth doing is worth doing well” so here is the thing…

Action Plan: Edit, Format and Proofread Before Sending

This is very important and it goes in that order.

Check for grammatical errors, wrong spellings, lines in the email that needs the reader’s eyes, links that needs to be added etc.

Also take a second look at the subject of your email to make sure it delivers at first hand the content of your email. Know that the best time to know if the subject of an email delivers on the content is when you are done with the writing.

Most times you make a promise of attaching a file but forget to do so. This is when you check all these to make sure you deliver. It’s unprofessional to send an email twice just because you forgot to attach a file or failed to proofread the email before sending.

Over to You!

Was this simple enough for you or did you learn something new today? I can’t claim to be an island of knowledge or a know-it-all which is why I gladly welcome your own tips to writing a professional email that gets reply…

Jackson Nwachukwu is an entrepreneur, a freelance writer and the founder of Content Practical Media. Are you looking for a creative web content writer or copywriter to help grow your business website/blog’s traffic and increase sales? Hire Jackson to write for you.

How I Increased Facebook Reach and Engagement by 200-300% This Week

Note: This post has been updated with fresh examples including our most seen post ever.

Over the last week I’ve been putting a renewed effort into working with Facebook after listening to a session by Amy Porterfield at our ProBlogger Training Event last week.

While our Digital Photography School Facebook Page is something that I update every day with new posts (and it does pretty decently with engagement and driving traffic). Based on some of Amy’s teaching (you can hear them in the virtual ticket) I decided to mix things up and this week I’ve experimented with a few new types of status updates on the page.

Aside: much of what I actioned I already knew I should be doing (or that I’d done once or twice before)… but wasn’t actually actioning regularly. Isn’t that always the way?!

Here are some of the things I’ve experimented with this week:

Image Posts

I’ve long known that images are GOLD on Facebook and have played around with status updates that are a great image from a blog post and a link in the image description. However, truth be told, I get lazy at times and fall into the trap of just adding a link into the status update area and let Facebook pull in an image automatically from the post.

This week I decided to pull my finger out and stop with the laziness and play with a couple of types of image updates. In doing so I realised that the ‘good’ results we’d been getting previously with Facebook pulling in small images from our post meant that we were well and truly under performing.

Single Image Updates

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 9.57.47 AM.png

Here’s an example of one of these. I chose a visually striking image from this blog post and uploaded the photo to Facebook. I then added a description of the image and a call to action to read the post.

The post got a higher than normal number of likes and shares and drove some really decent traffic to the site.

Collages

I’ve never done ‘collage’ based image updates on Facebook before so this was a very new experiment for me. I’m glad I did it. I used a free web based app called Pic Monkey to create these collages which were a collection of images from blog posts. Here are some examples:

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 10.01.30 AM.png
This status update was our most popular this week. It was a collage of 16 images that came from this blog post from our archives. This was a popular post that I knew had done well on Facebook last year so I thought it might be a good one to experiment with. You can see it received over 850 likes, 502 shares and had quite a few comments. It ‘reached’ over 80,000 people.

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 10 04 21 AM

I was a little surprised by the above collage update. It was a collection of images from this blog post but I almost didn’t publish it as it wasn’t the most visually appealing collage. The post was quite technical and contained diagrams but no stunning photos. However, you can see that the update also did quite well with loads of likes and shares and driving a lot of traffic.

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 10 09 00 AM

This collage was simply an image and a diagram that showed how the image was lit. In some ways the image actually was a ‘how to’ in and of itself and people didn’t need to click the link in the image description to put the tip into place – but they did click!

I experimented with a variety of other types of collages and they all did well. See a couple more examples here and here.

Albums

I’ve used this strategy in the past to great effect. Instead of uploading a single image or pulling multiple images from a post together into a collage, I upload multiple images into their own ‘album’.

You can see an example of one of these albums here (I literally uploaded this a few minutes ago but it’s already getting lots of likes) – it is just 6 images from a larger image collection post on my blog.

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 10 21 47 AM

Interestingly you not only get people liking, commenting and sharing the whole albumin, you also get engagement on the individual photos in the album.

See other examples of albums that I’ve created in the past here and here.

Interaction Updates

Another style of update that I’ve always done because it gets a lot of comments and engagement is where I ask a simple question.

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 10 45 25 AM

By asking followers what they took photos of we not only get lots of comments but many of those who respond actually upload photos for us to see too. That simple actions gets followers looking at each others photos and commenting/liking upon each others comments (true engagement).

Link Updates

While I’ve tried this week to use ‘image’ updates more than I had previously I am still sharing a few ‘link’ based updates as well.

Facebook have recently changed the way that they display these so that now if you have a large image in the post you’re linking to Facebook displays a larger wider version of that image in the update, making it more visually appealing. Here’s an example of one of these.

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 10 50 19 AM

While the engagement on this type of post isn’t as high I have noticed since Facebook made the change, we’re getting a bit more traffic from these updates as well as a higher number of ‘likes’.

The one tip I’d give on these types of updates is that rather than just pasting in your link and letting Facebook choose what text to display add in an introduction and call to action to read the post.

The Impact of this Weeks Experiments

It’s always a little tricky to tell exactly what impact these experiments have as Facebook made other changes in the last few weeks that will have had an impact too. However, we’ve definitely seen an upswing in engagement this past 10 days.

Here’s Facebook’s summary of our last week (click to enlarge):

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 11.17.01 AM.png

Page likes were up 17.7% on last week, total reach was up by over 200%, post reach up by over 300% and engagement up to just under 300%. Considering that the page was already travelling pretty well – I’m over the moon to see these initial results from these experiments.

Here’s a chart of our page’s ‘likes’ in the last few months:

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 11 05 13 AM

Where a few weeks ago we were seeing a steady 100-300 likes per day this past week we’ve seen that rise to 700-1000 per day.

Similarly the stats are pretty clearly on the rise in terms of likes, comments and shares on posts this past week:

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 11 07 47 AM

As has been ‘total reach’:

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 11 08 49 AM

And the traffic to my blog has seen some improvement (although not the same spikes as we see on the above charts).

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 11 14 42 AM

Lastly, here is a screenshot of the last few days stats on each status update that we’ve done (click to enlarge). You can see in it most of the examples I’ve given above to show you how well they did with ‘reach’ and ‘engagement’.

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 11.11.46 AM.png

UPDATE

Since publishing this post we’ve seen a result on a status update that has us shaking our head – our most seen update ever. It has been seen by over 135,000 people, liked 2100+ times, received 180+ comments and shared 805 times in the last 8 hours.

Here it is:

our hottest post on facebook

The update was based upon images in this post on the blog (which was a popular post that we published several years ago).

I think the update has been so successful for a few reasons:

  1. Collage Image – as outlined above – collages have been doing well for us. This one has the added benefit of being pretty much self contained and the image is a ‘how to’ by itself without anyone having to go view the post (although they’ve been visiting in great numbers). I do find that these kind of ‘how to’ or illustrative images do well not only on Facebook but also sites like Pinterest.
  2. Humour – the original post on the blog was quite funny with the author making fun of her bottom being shown in image #2. This has certainly been a feature of some of the comments left on the post. Humor works!
  3. Question – when I scheduled this status update I formatted the description of the image as a question. In fact I asked it twice. ‘Do You Know these 6 Techniques to Reduce Camera Shake?’ and ‘Which do you use?’ People are wired to answer questions – hence the high comment numbers. Effectively I’m combining the ‘image’ strategy’ and the ‘interaction’ strategies mentioned above.
  4. Engagement has been high on the page this past week. I suspect one underlying factor is that we’ve been seeing good engagement on the page this past week due to the above experiments. When you get engagement people are more likely to see your new posts – so anyone who has liked/commented/shared this past week is likely to have seen this post.

DISCUSS: Which Social Network Sends Your Blog the Most Traffic?

At PBEVENT last week I was having lunch with a group of 5 bloggers from quite different niches and for a few minutes the conversation centred around the topic of which social media sites send us the most traffic.

We went around the circle and shared the top sources of social media traffic for our blogs and it was fascinating to hear how for different blogs and niches the answer changed.

I thought it might make an interesting discussion post here on ProBlogger (and might help some of us to work out where to invest more time into social.

Social media traffic

While traffic isn’t the only benefit of engaging on social – I know for many bloggers it’s a big reason to be engaging in social.

So here are my 2 questions for discussion:

  1. what is your blog’s niche/topic?
  2. what social media site/s sends your blog the most traffic?

Let me quickly answer for my two main blogs:

For Digital Photography School

  1. the niche is obviously ‘photography tips’
  2. The top social media source of traffic last month was clearly Facebook with Pinterest coming in at number 2 (but not even close to what Facebook sent).

For ProBlogger

  1. the niche is ‘blogging tips’
  2. The top social media source of traffic last month was again Facebook – but Twitter came in as a closer 2nd.

Aside: I was actually a little surprised by the result for ProBlogger because last time I checked Twitter was the #1 and I do put more effort into building a presence on the ProBlogger Twitter account than on our Facebook Page (we also have a lot more engagement and larger following numbers on Twitter). It looks like I might need to rethink my focus a little!

Highlights from ProBlogger Event 2013 #PBEVENT

Images by Helen H and WonderWebby

Note: the Virtual Pass for PBEVENT 2013 is still available for purchase here.

It is hard to believe but this time last week, we were in the midst of our fourth annual Problogger Conference on the Gold Coast in Queensland Australia.

Darren and Tsh

It was an amazingly emotional, nerve-wracking and yet exhilarating couple of days – and by the end of the event we knew that we had created something pretty special.

People weren’t just talking about their plans for their blog. They were talking about how the event had inspired them to make bigger changes, and think on a much larger scale. It’s almost unthinkable that this is the same event I created in 2010 in a small hotel on the outskirts of Melbourne.
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When Affiliate Marketing Can Be a WIN/WIN/WIN Situation

Several years ago on my photography site I was approached by a company who sold a software product for photographers. They wanted to run a banner ad campaign on my site to promote a new product.

Their product was a quality one from a source I trusted and it was relevant to our readers so I sold them a banner ad that would run in the sidebar of my blog for the duration of a month for the cost of $2000.

The month ran it’s course and I emailed my contact at the company to see if they’d like to renew the ad. They didn’t.

It turns out that the banner ad had not driven enough sales for them to justify running the ad again (from what I know the sales generated from the ad made the company about $1000 – so given they paid $2000 it was a loss).

A year later noticed that they’d released a new product so I emailed them to ask if they’d like to try another ad campaign – potentially something in a different position on the site or even a competition/giveaway to give them a different type of exposure.

They said now but mentioned that they now had an affiliate program and would be willing to give me a review copy of the software for me to review. The commission on this $100 product was 30%.

I signed up for the affiliate program – wrote a post that gave a fair review of the product and posted it onto the blog. I pushed traffic to that post in our weekly newsletter and via social media and we ended up selling around 300 copies of the software over the coming weeks – making a total of $9000 in commission.

A Win/Win/Win for All Parties

While affiliate campaigns are not always going to have this result – I think this is a great example of how affiliate marketing can actually be a Win for everyone.

It was a Win for Me

Obviously I was happy with this affiliate campaign. While it took a little more work to review and write a post than to put a banner ad in our sidebar the increase in earnings from $2000 to $9000 was great for the bottom line of my business.

It was a Win for the Brand

The beauty of an affiliate program when you’re the manufacturing a product is that you only pay out when you generate a sale. The risk is pretty much non-existent for the company.

Rather than making a loss of $1000 they generated $30,000 in sales and took 70% of that. It also would have brought them new customers that they could promote to in future.

It was a Win for My Readers

The other party in any affiliate promotion is the reader. I like to think that they also won in this campaign because instead of seeing a banner ad that was all ‘marketing’ from the company they had the opportunity to read a fair review of the product.

I go out of my way in these kinds of reviews to show the pros and cons of products and help readers to make an informed decision.

In this case we had a number of readers email to say that they’d seen products from this company being advertised previously but seeing a review had helped them to make a decision if it was something that would help them.

When Affiliate Marketing Works Best

Of course affiliate marketing isn’t ‘easy’ money.

While the above story might seem rather ‘seamless’ and an easy it is important to note that the result was only possible after several years of building up:

  • Traffic to the site
  • Trust/relationship with readers
  • Credibility/authority

The other factors at play were:

  • A high quality product
  • A product from a reputable source
  • A relevant product that matched the needs of our readership

DISCUSS: What Was Your Most Popular Post in the Last Month and Why Did It Succeed?

At our ProBlogger Training Event last Friday I had a great conversation with 3 attendees during a lunch break where we each shared a post on our blogs over the last month that gained more visitors and/or comments than normal.

We had to say what the post was about and why we think it ‘worked’.

The exercise was fascinating and revealed a few similarities between the posts. I enjoyed doing it so much that I thought it might make an interesting group discussion here on ProBlogger.

In comments below – please share a link to a post in the last month on your blog that got more visitors and/or comments than normal and tell us why you think it worked with your readership.

Once you’ve shared – have a look at the links others share and the comments that they leave. I suspect that by doing so we’ll all probably learn a thing or two about creating successful blog posts.

PS: Here’s my answer. The most popular post on ProBlogger over the last month was ‘Don’t Fall Into This Trap That Could Destroy Your Blog‘.

I think it worked partly because the title makes you want to know what the trap is… but also partly because the post is based upon a story and is on a topic that most bloggers can relate to.

Over to you!

7 Simple Ways To Attract More People to Your Blog

This is a guest contribution from Ryan Currie at Spokeo.

Blogging is an art and it takes practice to really get right.

There are few things more frustrating than pouring your blood, sweat, and tears into a masterfully crafted blog post only to see the analytics at a standstill days after posting.

Here are a few tips for bringing more people to your blog, consistently.

1. Find out what people want to read

Social media is a blogger’s best friend. Not only can you use social to share your latest blog post, you can use it to source upcoming blog material too. Check out Twitter’s trending topics and take notes on common themes among your Facebook friends’ status updates.

Don’t pander to an audience, but keep in mind what people want to talk about.

2. Self-promote like you’d network for a job

Networking grid

Image thanks to digitalart on Freedigitaslphotos.net

There’s no shame in promoting your blog! Not only should you have social widgets at the bottom of each blog post, you should be posting your work on every site you’re active on.

Keep a link to your blog in your email signature and feel free to tell people about it in everyday conversation when appropriate.

3. Speak to a more specific audience

It sounds counterintuitive, but getting more specific with your blog posts is a surefire way to build a niche audience. For example, there are millions of food blogs out there, but exactly how many specialising in gluten-free baking?

Find a niche you can really invest in and you’ll naturally build a loyal audience that shares your content for you.

4. Score a guest post

Guest posts are a great way to bring new eyes to your site. Reach out to bloggers who make sense for your area of expertise and write a really awesome post for their site.

One link to your blog in the boilerplate of a terrific post can catapult your numbers.

5. Reform your titling strategy

Like it or not, good titles are important. Consider what you’d want to read online and how people typically interact with web content. Make your title concise, interesting, and sharable and you’ll be surprised how many clicks you can get. Numbers work well as do current topics in the news and never underestimate the power of a superlative like “best,” “most,” or “biggest.”

6. Post more regularly

Very, very regularly! Whether it’s twice a week or twice a month, people have to know when to expect new content on your blog. The more consistent you are with your posts the more of a loyal audience you can attract and the more plugged in you’ll seem.

Once people learn your blog is a resource for a certain topic that’s updated regularly they’ll keep coming back if they like what they read.

7. Write about things you truly feel passionate about

It really is that simple. Readers can tell when you’re phoning it in and when they think you’re baiting them with topical posts that you’re using to hit numbers. The more authentic you are when blogging the better response you’re going to get. Be thoughtful, use research, and know what’s going on in the blogosphere but above all else write about what you know.

Page views aren’t the end-all-be-all of blogging, but they’re important, particularly if you ever hope to monetize your blog. Keeping these seven tips in mind can get you a long way towards your goal of gaining a steady stream of visitors, one at a time.

Ryan Currie is a Product Manager at Spokeo, a leader in people search and reverse phone lookup services.  In addition to working on Spokeo, he also enjoys history, pop culture, and following the latest new in the movie industry.