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6 Ways to Sell a Website, and 4 Ways Not to Sell One

This guest post is by Mathew Carpenter of Sofa Moolah.

It’s gotten harder and harder to generate a stable income as an affiliate over the past two years. From Facebook’s decidedly anti-affiliate mindset, to the lengthy list of regulations that search engines such as Google have released, generating stable, consistent, and stress-free paid traffic isn’t as simple as it once was. For thousands of affiliates, it’s been a major frustration and a potential business killer.

But alongside the “Google slaps” advertisement disapprovals and the massive flock to second-tier ad networks is a change in the mindset of many affiliates. Instead of focusing on the hustle of direct-response advertising, many successful affiliates and product owners alike are looking to search or socially-powered websites as a source of traffic, a source of sales, and as a source of income.

I’ve been following this same formula—alongside some other online business models—for the past few years, and while it’s far from the cash cow that a giant advertising campaign can be, it’s a form of income that’s significantly more reliable and steady. Advertising and sales checks from blogs and search-powered websites tend to be quite constant—at least more so than the average ad campaign.

Six steps to a successful site sale

These six rules—and four anti-rules—can help you develop and sell your own web properties, to generate a strong and reliable sideline income in addition to your main online venture. Despite the comfort of steady and recurring passive income, it’s often the case that you need short-term cash to fund other websites or advertising projects. In that case, be sure to put these six tips for selling your website into action.

1. Understand your website’s long-term value in advance

The average sales price of a successful website tends to range from six to ten times its profit on a monthly basis. While this can sound fairly hefty—particularly for a website that generates several thousand dollars monthly—it’s really a fraction of the type of value assigned to offline businesses.

Think about Facebook’s current valuation—the ludicrously high $50 billion. Does this reflect the website’s current earnings? No. While the website is profitable by all accounts, it’s far from those levels of profitability. The valuation reflects the website’s long-term value—something that can be applied to your own websites too.

So instead of thinking in terms of short-term revenue for your website and monthly profit, think in terms of your website’s potential for revenue growth over time. If you’re trying to sell a site that’s a real social media hit, for example, or a website with a growing search presence, use this potential as an indicator of its value and price it accordingly.

2. Know your audience, and know how to sell them

The biggest mistake I see being applied to website sales is one that’s repeated in almost all aspects of online marketing: using the same tactics for very different audiences. Just as you’d use different sales tactics to sell a car than you would to sell a bag of candy, you need to use different tactics to sell different types of websites.

Know your audience, and understand how they’re going to respond to your website auction. On one of the bigger marketplaces like Flippa, it’s important to remember that people value revenue data or profit information above anything else. For an independent website investor, information about your website’s potential for growth may be more important.

3. Research successful website sales before listing your own

When asked about how he acquires new skills quickly, productivity guru (and now fitness author) Tim Ferriss explained that it’s best to look at people who have achieved massive success in a short amount of time. It’s a philosophy that can be applied to everything from online marketing to selling your own websites, and it always produces good results.

Instead of going with your gut when deciding on how to present your website for sale, look at other websites that have achieved high sales prices in the past. What information do they disclose? Which sales tactics and pitches do they use to frame the auction? By reverse-engineering sales information from successful website auctions, you can vastly improve the results of your own.

4. Take steps to optimize profits before making a listing.

There’s nothing worse than seeing a website for sale that’s barely been optimized. From blogs that lack even the most basic advertising to affiliate websites that reek of poor conversion testing, if an online property hasn’t been optimized, it’s never going to reach its true value at sale. If your site is on the market without any profit optimization, you’re making a huge (and potentially costly) error.

Test different advertising networks, different ad creatives, and different affiliate offers on your site before you put it up for auction. Test different ad placement, different monetization methods, and a lengthy list of different lead capture strategies. Unoptimized (or poorly optimized) websites can be great deals for buyers, but they’re never a good option for you as the seller.

I’ve optimized many of the websites I’ve sold to increase profits by as much as 415% before making a sale. Small changes, particularly to the wording surrounding your call-to-action text or ad placement, can make a huge difference in the amount of income that your website generates.

5. Use a popular outlet that attracts the right audience

There are hundreds of auction sites out there that allow you to list your website, but only a select few are worth your time. The most popular is Flippa, which, despite its reputation for occasional shady websites, is actually the best option out there. I’ve sold two websites on Flippa for mid four-figure sums recently, one of which achieved an ROI of over four hundred percent.

Don’t, however, confuse a large audience with a good audience. If you own a website in a specific niche, for example, it’s almost always better to appeal to others in your niche directly instead of an all-purpose outlet like Flippa. As I said in step two, it’s important to know the type of people you’re marketing to, not just the amount of potential buyers that you have access to.

6. Minimize “fluff” statistics, and focus on the substance

“Fluff” statistics are, to me, information that’s impressive when explained in an auction, yet utterly meaningless when it comes to your website’s ability to generate income or influence change. The types of statistics I’m talking about are total pageview information—generally information that has no tie to real profitability—or data about how much traffic your website generates in total.

Instead of offering this type of information to potential bidders, highlight your website’s strengths and offer real data to buyers. Talk about how many unique visitors your website gets, your biggest traffic sources, and the value of a visitor to your website. “Fluff” statistics are only worth mentioning in one situation: your website is overvalued and you’re desperate to complete the sale quickly.

How not to sell your website

I’ve mentioned what you should do when selling your website. Now, it’s time to cover some of the most common errors that are made by those auctioning websites. While some of these tactics can help you, particularly if your website isn’t valuable, most will push away the types of buyers you want to attract. Ignore them at your own peril, as they’re definitely techniques to be avoided.

1. Load your auction with worthless data and needless hype.

Nobody cares about your blog’s unique design, its flashy navigation system, and the level of praise it has received from others in your niche. They do care about its potential for generating revenue or, in rare circumstances, its level of influence in its niche. In most cases, it’s best to leave subjective data such as critical praise or “best blog in ___” type feedback off your website’s auction page.

On the same note, don’t load your auction page with fifty-point red headers and sales copy. Look at rule two again—you’re marketing your website to other marketers. Instead of pulling out every last direct response trick in the book, offer information that’s of value to people. It’s very hard to sell to marketers, and it only gets worse when you employ the same tactics that they use on a daily basis.

2. Capitalize on temporary fads, short-term events, and crazes

I see this type of mistake all the time on Flippa. Marketers—typically newbies—buy a domain that is loosely related to the latest celebrity death, put up a generic two-page WordPress site, and think it could be the next big thing. These auctions tend to be loaded with potential-driven sales copy and an overwhelming contempt for their potential customers, all in an effort to make a quick buck.

Here’s what they all have in common: they rarely, if ever, make a decent profit. While the owners of these websites may make a few dollars on the sale, it’s rarely enough to even consider. The best type of website for onward sales is one that’s loaded with long-term potential, not some hyped-up spur-of-the-moment domain name.

3. List your website but make little or no effort to monetize it

The only thing worse than overselling a website, as above, is underselling it by failing to spend any time on monetization. This mistake is constantly be made on Flippa, although unlike many of these errors, which are made by newbies, it’s the professionals that tend to make this one. Always short on time and challenged by other projects, they list websites without even trying to monetize them.

Any signs of profitability—even a Google Adsense block atop your page—are a good thing for lifting your sales price. While websites occasionally sell based on their unrealized potential alone, it’s not at all a common occurrence. Take the time to test your website’s profitability level, and even when it’s not a winner, let people know that it’s at least capable of generating income.

4. Defining your website’s potential without thinking long-term

Browse any auction website and you’ll see descriptions where the merchant has been, shall we say, a little too optimistic about their website’s future. No, it probably won’t become the next Facebook, and no, it probably won’t triple its revenue in two months. While these examples take long-term prediction to its extreme, they’re a good indicator of how a little long-term thinking can help with your sales.

Website aren’t bought to immediately be flipped—at least, not in most cases. For the most part, they are bought as a fairly long-term investment (by online standards). Be upfront and clear about how your website is performing now, but don’t forget to include a description—even quite a salesy description—of how it could perform in the future.

Have you successfully sold a website before? If so, how did it go? Did you break even, lose money, or make a profit on the sale?

Leave your own experiences in the comments and let me know if you’ve got any suggestions on how to sell websites more effectively. I’ve seen plenty of very different techniques do well in this field, and it’s always an interesting to experience how well people are doing with less orthodox tactics.

Mathew Carpenter is an 18-year-old-business owner and entrepreneur from Sydney, Australia. Mathew is currently working on Sofa Moolah, a website that teaches you how to make money online. Follow Mathew on Twitter: @matcarpenter. Follow Sofa Moolah on Twitter: @sofamoolah.

How Your About Page Can Make or Break Your Blog

This guest post is by Lea Woodward of www.DotNetConnector.com.

Did you know that the second place many new readers go after hitting the home page of your blog is your About page? Go and check your stats and you’ll probably see that if it’s not up there at #2, it’s probably still pretty high up on the list of “most viewed” links. Chris Brogan noticed this, so it must be true!

This isn’t really a surprise—most people are curious to find out more about who writes the blog they’ve just landed on. While they’re looking for this information, they’re probably thinking three things:

  • Who is this guy or girl telling me all about how to make money blogging?
  • Should I stick around and read more?
  • Is it worth me bookmarking or subscribing to this site and coming back again?

If you don’t lose readers at the home page (which you can avoid by compelling headlines and killer content to browse around), the second most common place to lose them is at your About page.

Here’s how to avoid that—and how to ensure your About page makes your blog, rather than breaks it.

Introduce yourself

Tell us what your name is, and include a photo. This sounds simple but I can’t tell you how many About pages I’ve read where the blogger frequently mentions “I” and “me”, or “we” and “us”, where the username is “admin” and there’s no mention of a name (or names) anywhere on the site—not even the About page.

The exception of course is if you’re blogging anonymously, but even so, it’s nice to give yourself (or your alter ego) a pen name. People like names and they like to put a face to a name, even if it’s cartoon one.

Remember the mantra: WIIFM?

Somewhere up near the top of your About page, it’s a good idea to tell readers what’s in it for them if they stick around on your site and even subscribe. They’ll be scanning your page thinking, “What’s in it for me? Should I stick around?” If you can answer that succinctly early on, you’ll save them time and attract the kind of audience you’re actually looking for.

About them

If your blog covers a wide range of topics and it’s not super-targeted, it can be useful to actually state who your blog is for. You can even be as obvious as to include a “Who this blog is for” section listing a few items describing your ideal readers. It’s a fast, simple way to help readers figure out whether they want to stick around or not.

Be personal, but not too personal

It depends upon the topic of your blog, but it’s usually a good idea to share your credentials or expertise in the topic you’re blogging about. If you don’t have any, and you’re writing more of a “share your journey” blog, then say this. It helps people figure out where you are on the path in relation to them, and whether they’ll get something from sticking around.

The depth and level of personal information you share will depend upon the type of blog you’re writing—whether it’s a topic-focused blog or more of a personality-based blog.

Determine the goal of your About page

As you’ve probably gathered by now, your About page isn’t just a place to tell people more about you: it can be so much more. You need to determine the goal(s) of your About page, and then make sure that your page achieves those goals. For example, your About page can:

  • be an ideal place to highlight your best content, allowing you to share links to deeper content within your site
  • encourage people to sign up to your newsletter—which works especially well for “behind the scenes” newsletters and those which are used to share more personal information from the blogger
  • give readers other ways to connect with you, by sharing links to your social media profiles and encouraging readers to connect with you there, too
  • provide readers with social proof and testimonials, helping to establish your credibility and authority from the start.

Always end with a call to action

Your About page is a great place to encourage those who’ve stuck with you until the end of the page, to keep going … but you do need to give them some direction. This goes hand in hand with the point above: once you’ve determined what you’d like your About page to do for your site and your readers, make sure you end strongly by giving readers pointers about the next steps to take, should they be interested.

The above advice can be summarized in the following three points. Your About page should, at the very least, achieve the following:

  • Introduce the person and personality behind the blog.
  • Help new readers easily identify whether your blog is for them.
  • Direct them to do something specific once they’ve read it (whatever it is you’d ideally like them to do next).

Take advantage of this golden opportunity to make another great impression on new readers and create an About page that helps your blog stand out from the others.

What does your About page say about you?

Lea Woodward helps bloggers and online entrepreneurs craft About pages that make stronger, deeper, longer-lasting connections with readers at www.DotNetConnector.com. You can connect with her on Twitter @leawoodward or on her personal blog, www.LeaWoodward.com.

Are We Having Fun Yet?

This guest post is by Justin P Lambert of Words That Begin With You .

Quick question: are you having fun?

I mean, you’re sitting here reading Problogger, so you’re likely a blogger, or at least thinking about jumping in. And you’re likely interested in making some money from your efforts. There’s nothing wrong with that at all.

But are you having fun?

He looks happy to be writing...
Courtesy
of Douglas R. Witt (flickr)

Maybe you’ve been at it for a while, or maybe, like me, you’re just a babe learning to crawl at this point. Either way, there’s a universal truth of blogging you’ve probably already figured out: it ain’t easy.

A tough gig

If you’ve done what you’re “supposed” to do blogging is tough. Editorial calendars, social media, building a list, seeking subscribers, tweaking the theme, ads or no ads… Wow.

Back in the ancient days of online journals, (you know, like 1996) most of the folks who “blogged” before “blogging” was even a word did it for fun. They had a particular interest, or just a desire to share their thoughts and activities with the world long before status updates and tweets were even on the horizon.

These folks probably didn’t think about making money from their online activities at all, or at least not seriously. Not long ago, Skelliewag wrote a really beautiful post about the transition that happened later on.

Darren also shared a quote from his wise-beyond-his-years son: “tell the world something important.”

Together, these two uber-experienced bloggers taught me a valuable lesson, grabbing my metaphorical wheel just before I hit the metaphorical guardrail, if that makes any sense.

You see, I started my blog just over six months ago, and I learned quickly that it was hard work. But good writing always is. The payoff, for most of us any way, is that we enjoy writing. Or, at least, we enjoy getting our thoughts out there for others to read/see/hear and interact with. This is something I lost track of, somewhere around post #13.

I started getting so wrapped up in my posting schedule and my analytics, actually writing the posts became an annoyance. “Man,” I’d think, “I wish I could get this over with so I can get back to Twitter!” It got to the point, only four months into my blogging, where I burnt out and suddenly went from posting daily to three posts in a month!

I spent most of that month kicking myself and desperately trying to figure out what happened. The answer blew me away when it finally arrived: I had sucked every ounce of enjoyment out of writing a blog because I had gotten too involved in “blogging”.

So, I ask you again: are you having fun?

How to have fun

Now I’m not going to sit here and try to preach to you about how to fix this issue. I’m still trying to figure it out myself. But since I realized how close I came to giving up, I’ve done a lot of thinking about why things changed. And I’ve come up with a few items that I know are going to help me.

I’d absolutely love to hear your thoughts in the comments too, because most of you are far more experienced than I am in struggling with this issue, so I know you’re going to have more ideas to share.

Relax

You know what? While consistency is important and your readers deserve to receive what they’ve come to expect, no one’s going to lynch you if your post is a day late every now and then.

I had a tough time figuring this out, and when life got in the way and I missed a post or sent it out late, I felt the need to fire off apologies to my subscribers and wallow in self-pity.

Give me a break. Do your best. Then relax. It’s just a blog.

Converse

I quickly morphed from sharing interesting information that I thought would be of real value to my readers to slicing off chunks of pre-made content and stringing it out over weeks in order to ensure that a post on a particular subject would go out every Monday for the next four weeks.

This approach is kind of like inviting people over for a turkey dinner and then serving them Spam. I was short-changing my readers and my conscience was nagging me like mad, which is no fun. I lost the conversational aspect of my blog in favor of a series of mini-lectures that (not surprisingly) got little if any comments.

Make sure you give your readers what they deserve: your best every time. Even if that means you can’t post as often. Make sure it stays a conversation, not a choppy lecture. Who has fun at a lecture?

Focus … or not

I struggled for a long time with the question of niches and specializing, and felt like a failure from the start because I just couldn’t narrow myself down to a niche.

I created my blog as a means of sharing my expertise and engaging an audience in connection to my work as a freelance writer. But I don’t specialize on a particular writing format or project group, so how could I blog on just one niche? Yet the experts say I should. Oh woe is me!

It took me a long time to realize that my generalist scope is who I am. Anything less would be boring to me and that would automatically become boring to my readers. So if you’re like me, having a tough time finding a niche that satisfies you,

Get over it!

Think about what you want to write, then think hard about how to connect it all in an understandable frame that your readers can latch onto. It’s better for everyone involved. Like I said, I’m still learning. But I’m finally having fun with my blog, like I was back in June when I first started. I hope you’re doing the same. Because if you’re not, it shows. Believe me.

Please, share in the comments your suggestions for having fun with your blog, how you overcame issues that were keeping you from having fun, or how you plan to do so starting now!

Justin P Lambert is a freelance writer who has been blogging for seven months and has enjoyed it for two. He’s working on it. Drop by Words That Begin With You to see how it goes. You can also follow him on Twitter.

10 Little-known Ways to Get Traffic to Your Blog

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

Getting traffic to a blog is the major challenge a blogger faces. Many have read about various traffic generation strategies, but they find it difficult to get traffic to their blogs because these tips are no longer as effective as they once were. For example, guest blogging used to be very effective, but now that a lot of people are doing it and talking about it, it’s no longer as effective as it used to be.

Here are ten little-known tips to get traffic that I’ve discovered from my own experience. Implementing all ten tactics at the same time isn’t that effective; the way to get the best from these tactics is to choose two or three tactics that you think you like, and focus all your efforts on them for a period of time. You will be amazed at the results you will get.

1. Secret blogging clubs

A major and underutilized way to get traffic to a blog is by joining secret blogging groups or clubs. Very few people are using this particular method, but it can be very effective if you focus your efforts on it.

Secret blogging clubs consists of a group of bloggers with one aim: to help each other spread the word about their blogs with a view to generating traffic for each others’ blogs. The concept is simple: you join a club with around 50 members, share each others’ post with your fans and followers (around once a week), and this will generate more traffic, since it exposes your blog to a wider audience.

You dont need to worry about spamming and the likes, because groups like these are heavily moderated. Also, it is not necessary to share every link that is posted to the group—you only need to share the links related to your niche, that you feel are valuable.

A great example of an effective secret blogging club is the DailyBlogTips Retweet Club by Daniel Scocco. A post of mine that went viral through a secret blogging club was my guest post on getting more blog comments—it presently has 97 comments and 87 retweets on a site that averages 15 retweets and 40 comments per post.

2. Social blogmarking sites

Another underutilized but effective way to get traffic to your blog is by making use of social blogmarking sites. Even though this concept looks similar to social bookmarking sites like Digg and Reddit, it operates differently.

A social blogmarking site can be useful irrespective of whom you are and your status on the network. All you need to do is write your best post and give it the best title. Submit it to your favorite social blogmarking site and, if it’s voted onto the site’s homepage, it will send a stream of traffic to your blog. The articles that make it to the front page are not determined by the authors who submit them, or dependent on the domain name of the author’s site. The quality and title of the article is all that matters.

I also respect social blogmarking because of the quality of traffic it sends. The visitors that come from the blogmarking site I’m involved with (Blokube) spend an average of ten minutes on my blog. Presently, this is one of my best traffic sources, as far as traffic quality is concerned.

3. Ning communities

Getting traffic to your blog through Ning communities is a great way to get traffic to your blog, yet few bloggers use this method. I learned this formula from Kim Roach and it keeps on sending me traffic, even months after I use it.

Like blogging, a lot of people have a version of themselves or their business on Ning.com. You can create a portal in the form of yourusername.ning.com, which can also be a great way to get traffic to your blog.

All you need to do is help community members with their questions, and reference your blog if necessary. There is also a place where you can submit your blog posts for the whole community to see—another great traffic source. If you plan on doing this, you don’t necessarily need to write new posts: you can submit some of your old posts with a link back to your blog.

Not all Ning communities bring results. Some communities will send you zero visitors, while some will send you hundreds, so it’s important to be wise when choosing a community you want to join. I have discovered that what works is to make sure you join a Ning community that’s related to your niche, and has over 5000 members.

4. Free, no-catch ebooks

This is another powerful but underutilized tactic to get more traffic to your blog. I didn’t use this strategy until recently, but when I did, I got awesome results.

To use this technique, write as many free reports as you can. A report is a simple, seven-to-ten-page ebook. Make sure you embed links to your blog in the ebook, and encourage readers to visit your blog. Then, distribute the ebook to free ebook directories, post it to your favorite forums, ask other bloggers to help you share it, and do as much as you can to spread the word about it.

What has worked best for me is sharing it on my favorite Internet marketing forums, like Digital Point Forums. After utilizing this particular strategy, I saw a spike in my traffic: I got an additional 60-80 visitors per day for some days, and over 100 new blog subscribers.

5. Content syndication

I’ve noticed that a lot of people are not using this particular strategy, but it can be highly effective to syndicate your blog content to big online portals in your niche. Most of these portals are visited by countless people every day, and syndicating with them will go a long way to give your blog a traffic boost.

Great examples of some of the best content syndication sites I’ve found are Alltop and The Daily Brainstorm.

6. Blogging collaboration

It pains me to see that this particular traffic strategy is not better utilized. In 2010 I collaborated with a lot of well-known and respected bloggers to give my readers some entrepreneurial advice.

I was able to work with 24 successful online entrepreneurs, who contributed to the post, and shared it with their Twitter followers and Facebook fans when it went live. This sent me double my usual number of daily visitors and, eventually, more subscribers and followers. It is also one of the most shared posts on my blog.

Collaboration is a great tool and every wise blogger will use it sometime. Try to get some of the top bloggers in your niche to contribute to your blog; once the contribution is live, encourage them to share it.

7. Online podcasts

This is another great and underutilized way to get traffic to your blog. Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income is very popular for his podcasts, and has been able to build a successful blog based on this and other methods.

While the podcasting technology is not new, very few people utilize it. Yet you can get more eyeballs to your content by creating a great and informative podcast relating to your blog. Submit it to the iTunes podcast directory and as more and more people search for podcasts relating to your topic area, they will end up discovering yours and, if it’s good, might end up visiting your blog.

8. Online groups

This particular approach is almost as old as some of the biggest websites on the Internet, so I’m amazed to see that very few people use it. I didn’t realize the power of this tactic until the day I woke up to see a spike in my website traffic generated by a LinkedIn group.

A lot of people still congregate and look for solutions to questions in online groups; many of these groups are also highly respected by Google, so they are indexed and ranked quickly. Thus, you have a great potential of getting traffic to your blog by utilizing good groups. The post I published to the LinkedIn group I mentioned attracted over 200 visitors from that group in the week it was published.

Two of the most popular online groups are Yahoo groups and LinkedIn groups—check them out.

9. Authority sites

I didn’t realize how powerful authority sites were until I interviewed successful entrepreneur Raymond Lei. He wrote a Wikipedia page in which a link to my interview with him was listed as one of the resources. This link sends me continuous traffic from Wikipedia even today.

You can use this strategy with some of the biggest websites on the Internet; since most of these sites find it easy to rank for competitive keywords in the search engines, you may find it easy to get traffic from them. For example, you can read and review some of the top books in your niche on Amazon while including a link back to your blog. Or interview the top bloggers in your niche, then include your link as a resource in their Wikipedia page.

10. Webrings

This is also a very effective traffic generation strategy that many people overlook.

A Webring is a collection of websites that are linked to each other. A major advantage of using a Webring is that it also helps you get high quality links which means both short term direct traffic and long term search engine traffic for you. Probably the most popular Webring is Webring.com.

These are my favorite little-known traffic tactics. What are yours? How have you got traffic to your blog? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Visit YoungPrePro.com to learn how Onibalusi makes over $3000 online monthly and how he gets over 10,000 visitors to his blog every month. Download his guest blogging guide to learn how to get thousands of visitors from guest blogging. Also, make sure you follow him on twitter @youngprepro.

Let a Launch Buddy Help Boost Your Blog

This post was written by the Web Marketing Ninja—a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger. Curious? So are we!

While I write blog posts, I don’t really refer to myself as a blogger. I’m just someone who likes sharing my experience to those who want to listen (or read), hoping it will help you in some way. My real passion is in sales and marketing, online and offline, and in all honest.y I’d prefer working with a designer to craft a set of optimized landing pages, or spending an entire morning massaging some email copy, than figuring out how to best communicate the result to the world.

I know that it’s a bit of a contradiction, but I write because I like helping people, and more than that, I like helping people I trust and respect. I don’t get paid for these posts; I post under a veil of secrecy so there’s no impact to my personal brand; and, most importantly, I don’t expect anything in return. And as a result of my willingness to help, I discovered something last week:

When it comes to launches, two heads are so much better than one.

Two heads…

A friend of mine—let’s call him Bob—was preparing to launch his first product of the year: an ebook. He’d reached out a couple of times to get my feedback on things like the title, cover, and interior design. A long time ago, I’d offered to help out where I could, to help him build a framework for his product launches. So as the launch loomed, we caught up one evening and went through the plans. We were able to cover a fair bit of ground in a short period, and we didn’t change the entire approach—just tweaked things here and there.

Instead of describing the what, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the why. Why did this collaboration help shape something good into something better?

  • I was able to take a first-impression viewpoint of the product and promotional messages.
  • I was able to read at the copy as someone who might buy the product, not someone who’s intimately involved in it.
  • I was able to add layers from my own experience to the launch, from a foundation that was already strong.
  • Collaboration on thoughts and ideas resulted in progressive, actionable outcomes.
  • We were able to validate or question each others’ unsubstantiated opinions.
  • We were accountable to actually put things into a documented plan.

I hope the launch goes well for Bob, and that in some way, my contributions will help him achieve his goals.

Break the isolation

One thing I’ve learned from being closer to bloggers than ever before is that while you’re a well-connected group, when it comes to launches, product development, and money, a lot of bloggers work in isolation. I’d like to see that change.

To me, launching a product is a critical step in your blogging journey—one that turns all your hard work into your reward. Having a buddy who not only brings objectivity to your approach, brings fresh ideas so something you’ve been probably obsessing over for months (or years)!

It doesn’t need to be a money thing—it’s a favor thing. You help them, they help you.

Finding a launch buddy

Finding your launch buddy is not about finding the most experienced marketer or product launch expert you can. It’s about finding someone you trust, and are happy to open up to.

All your challenges, your strengths, your weaknesses, all your commercial agreements, targets, traffic, audience, your ability to pay expenses—you need to be able to share them all. You also need to find someone who’ll respect that as the product owner, you get the final say, and someone who, when your opinions differ, will let you both move on quickly.

My anti-technology Mum, given the full picture, would be able to help you more than the best product launch expert in the world if you only gave them half the story.

So if you don’t have one already, for your next launch—or perhaps your first—consider adding a launch buddy to your team. Or have you already used a launch buddy to help perfect and finesse a product launch? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

Stay tuned for more posts by the secretive Web Marketing Ninja—a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger.

Niche Travel Blogging Demystified

This guest post is by Matthew Kepnes of Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site.

If you look at all the travel blogs out there, you’ll notice many common themes. People tend to write a blog that falls into an overarching category like cruises, backpacking, solo travel, or digital nomad travel. They don’t refine their offerings any further. What readers are left with is thousands of blogs about the same thing, and a crowded field where no one really dominates. There are no leaders, no experts, and the bloggers’ voices get lost in the crowd.

For some bloggers, that’s fine. They simply blog because they like blogging. They want to interact with others and have no intention of ever making their blog into a business. If they make three hundred dollars selling an ad, they’re probably ecstatic; if they never make any money, they’re probably not fussed.

Yet there are a lot of bloggers out there who do want to make money. Some of them want to make a living, and most would just love for their blog to pay for their travels. In a sea of sameness, though, it’s hard to get the traction you need to become an expert, distinguish yourself, and gain traffic. And as we all know, it’s only then that you can make money from your blog.

The worst mistake

A few weeks ago, a travel blogger I read said that we travel bloggers should look to companies like Lonely Planet and be like them. “Copy the big companies,” he said.

I think this is the worst mistake you can make. You can’t be Lonely Planet, Boots n All, Orbitz, or the like. These companies have decades of experience and money that you don’t have, as well as huge budgets that allow them to stay ahead of the game.

Moreover, there’s no way you’ll be able to get ahead of their brands. Google didn’t wake up saying they want to be Microsoft. They said, “we want to be a new tech company.” That’s what you should aim for. You should aim to be something new. Don’t follow. Lead.

Leading a niche

To be a leader, you need to be niche. That word is thrown around a lot, but what does it really mean?

In simple terms, being niche means that you focus on a narrow topic. For the purpose of this article, I am going to talk a lot about backpacking as a niche. If you look at most travel blogs, you’ll notice that they all focus on backpacking or long-term travel. It seems to be a trend. How do you make yourself different when everyone is writing about the same thing?

Recently, I gave some advice to another travel blogger. He had just come back from a long-term trip to Central and South America, and he wanted to make his website bigger and earn some money from it, so what did he do? He followed the conventional line of thinking and turned his site into a general backpacking blog, and in the process he made his blog just the same as all the other blogs out there. They offered the same tips, advice, and stories that everyone on the Internet does.

I asked him, “How many sites do you see about backpacking in Central and South America?” That made him stop and think. He couldn’t think of any blogs that covered these regions, and he had just spent two years living, learning, and traveling that region of the world.

I told him that he is an expert on that area, and I asked him why he’s trying to cover the whole world. “Cover the area you know about!” I said. “When people ask other travelers where they look for information on a specific region, you want your name to come up first. Be the backpacking site for your area of expertise.”

Your niche matters

One of the greatest things the Internet has done is that it has made all niches marketable. With millions of people on the ‘net at any second of the day, even the smallest hobby or niche has an audience. You may think you are the only one with a passion for photos of horses doing stupid things, but with the Internet, you’ll find that you aren’t. You can bring all sorts of people together with your niche site.

The same is true in travel. No niche is too small. There are blogs covering RV travel, consumer issues, cruises, seniors’ cruises, gay cruises, gay seniors’ cruises, backpacking, long term travel, couples travel, and Asia travel—you can always find interested followers within your area of expertise.

Look at the “top travel blogs.” Out of the top 20 blogs, the majority deal with backpacking, independent travel, or families. Everyone is talking about the same thing.

When you looked at the numbers of those sites, did you notice something? There are a few with really high numbers, but the most are simply in the same area. They are talking about the same general topic, and thus they all share the same traffic.

Now take a look at the site Travel Fish. This is a destination-based site. It’s not really a blog, but it focuses on one thing: Southeast Asia. What kind of traffic does it get? It has an Alexa rank of 33,000 and a Compete rank of 144,000, which averages 88,500. That puts the site at #5 on the list of blogs.

Why does being niche help?

By going super-niche, your blog gains a single purpose. Everything you do focuses around one central theme. It helps focus your content, your marketing, and your audience. Don’t be everything to everyone. Be the best at one thing to some people. You want people to reference your name when people ask where they need to go for help. Travelfish’s single-minded nature allows that site to be the expert, and dominate one field. The owner doesn’t compete with anyone. People compete with him.

There are many travel websites out there. If you don’t go niche, you won’t be able to create a name for yourself. If you really want to make a stellar travel blog, monetize it, and be successful, you must pick one small genre of travel or location in the world, and be the expert on that. Otherwise, you’ll never break out of the crowd.

Matthew Kepnes has been traveling around the world for the past four years. He runs the award winning budget travel site, Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site and has been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian UK, AOL’s Wallet Pop, and Yahoo! Finance. He currently writes for AOL Travel and The Huffington Post For more information, you can visit his Facebook page or sign up for his RSS feed.

Use YouTube to Build Your Blog’s Audience

This guest post s by David Edwards of Candy.

For most people who are in their first year of launching a blog, it seems like a headache just to reach 1,000 unique visitors. I would have been in the same boat if it wasn’t for You Tube. I put more effort into building connections on there than anywhere else, and now I’m enjoying the fruits of my labors!

I no longer have the dreaded problem of getting email subscribers as I have a steady flow of sign ups. Here’s how I did it.

Making friends

When people talk about making friends on-line you instantly think of Facebook, but Facebook’s geared more towards socializing rather than promoting videos, where as YouTubers love to get their hands on a good video and share it!. If you make a friend on YouTube they usually stick with you and will also check out your future videos.

The best way to find potential friends is use the search box to find channels that are similar to yours. I usually search: animation.

Remember to click Search Options underneath the Search box, and click on Upload Date.

This will filter the videos and channels to show you the most recent. By doing this, you can ensure that any friend requests you make are placed with active users.

After you make ten requests, a notice will pop up to notify you that you have contacted too many people.

As you can see, this isn’t a quick way of building up contacts, but after a month or two you should have a couple of hundred friends. And for some reason, once you have friends, you start to get friend requests from other “youtubers” (I have around 50 friend requests a day now, and it only takes one click to confirm them!).

Favorites are gold!

If you’ve watched some of the top channels, you’ll notice that the site places a big emphasis on subscribing to the channel. A YouTube partner receives a small commission for new subscribers, and that can add up to thousands of dollars a year for the top guys.

As a beginner, you’re going to want to get subscribers. In fact, the only thing you have control over is the number of friends you have, and the number of videos you own.

If you check out the Show Video Statistics button below one of my videos, you’ll see that the Favourites have almost hit 2,000. This is the equivalent of having 2,000 bloggers link to a post you have on your website (imagine the traffic!). With this video essentially posted on 2,000 channels, we have a steady stream of people discovering the video every day which has a knock-on effect on all the other metrics: traffic, email opt-ins, and so on.

There are a couple of things you can do to get favorited by YouTubers:

  1. Post your video in HD: this will future-proof your work, and if a video is well-lit it is more likely to be enjoyed.
  2. Use YouTube’s Annotations feature to ask people to add the video to their favorites.

“Your video will never go viral”

This is something that I heard a lot when I started making animations. The thing is that viral videos can sometimes just be embedded on a popular website, and be viewed but not interacted with.

The way my partner Luke Hyde and I have set up our videos involves a much slower way of going viral, but the foundations are much stronger, with a great network of friends and subscribers pushing our videos out to their friends.

This is something that you could replicate with your topic to access an additional stream of traffic to your blog. For us, it’s the main source of traffic, but for you it may just be an extra bonus!

How are you using YouTube to build your audience? What advice can you add?

David Edwards is the founder and executive producer of “Candy, and currently is the SEO Director at Webfactore Ltd. You can follow him on Twitter at @asittingduck and on YouTube.

Use Google Reading Level to Improve Your Blog Message

This guest post is by Rhys Wynne of the Winwar Media Blog.

Last month, Google launched its new Google Reading Level feature. What this does is algorithmically work out the reading level of the search results, to help users more easily decide which search results to click on.

How is it worked out?

Like everything with Google, I’m not entirely sure how Reading Level is calculated. I do know that teachers were paid to grade web pages, and an algorithm was worked out using that data.

There’s been a bit of debate in cases where examples of queries (such as the trashy UK talent show “X Factor” having an “Advanced” readership) don’t necessarily mix with the content, but I think that the following factors determine whether a piece of copy is basic:

  • short sentences and paragraphs
  • common, non techincal words, acronyms, and phrases (using the phrase “http” rather than “Hypertext Transfer Protocol”, for example)
  • possibly even page structure—the use of headers, bullet points, and so on.

Using more technical phrases, longer sentence structure, and creative writing techniques such as hyperbole may cause your writing to be ranked as more “Advanced.”

How can you access Google’s Reading Level for your blog?

To view your blog’s reading level, go to Google’s Advanced Search (the hyperlink is located next to the search box on Google’s home page). Type your search query in the first form box—the one annotated with “all these words”—and make sure that the Reading Level drop-down box shows “annotate results with reading levels”. You should see the results for my old blog’s home page below:

Reading Level is calculated on a page-by-page basis, so if I take the page for my WP Email Capture plugin (which caters to a more technical audience), its results show as follows:

Using Reading Level to improve your blog

The ways in which you can use Reading Level to improve your blog will depends on your blog itself. Generally speaking, you want to keep it as simple as possible to make it accessible as possible—be it creative writing, a how-to post, or a sales page. Having a high basic rating is generally a good thing, but obviously you don’t want to patronize your audience by speaking to them like they’re three years old.

Ironically, by maintaining a simple language form, you can actually end up complicating things. For example, if I was to explain my day job to the computer-illiterate in a way they would understand, I would describe it like this:

“My day job is that I’m somebody who spends time writing, sending emails, and working on websites in order to help push them up to the top of the first page of the search engines, hopefully leading to more people seeing the website.”

To you, I’d say this:

“I work as an SEO.”

Immediately you know what my day job is, as many bloggers know what an SEO does (or rather, should do). The previous education of your readers is important too, but how can you find that out? Well, you can find that out by using Google’s Reading Level feature again.

Attracting the right audience for your blog

Instead of searching for the reading level of your readers, instead search for the reading level of competing sites. Search for your competitors’ blogs and also for keywords that your blog’s associated with. Searching for the phrase “beginner blogging tips” shows this reading level as heavily basic. Problogger shows a more advanced reading level:

Therefore if Darren wanted to attract more new bloggers, he would write in a similar style to his Blogging Tips for Beginners page (which does rank in the top ten):

Ultimately, though, your readers are you best source of feedback. If you are constantly having to explain terms in post comments or over email, you should tone down the complexity of your writing, which will lower your Reading Level ranking. If, however, your readers respond with intelligent comments, you may be able to write in a more advanced style. Just ensure that not too many people are left scratching their heads when they visit your blog.

What’s your Reading Level? Are you happy with that, or do you think you need to tweak it?

Rhys Wynne is an eight-year blogger, four-year professional search engine optimizer, and occassional professional wrestler. He is the senior writer and editor on the Winwar Media Blog, where he shares his thoughts on SEO, social media, and WordPress tips. Subscribe to their free blogging newsletter today.

Understanding the Difference Between “Want” and “Want to Buy”

This guest post is by Ryan Barton of The Smart Marketing Blog.

As I was sitting at a café over breakfast, the couple nearby flipped through their Sunday paper. As I tend to do, I eavesdropped on their conversation.

“Will you look at that bedding? That’s wonderful!” “Oh my God, I’d die for those shoes.” “I love that movie, and it’s on sale!”

Aside from my habitual eavesdropping problem, the conversation’s simplification of the “want” impulse is vital to your online success.

Buying versus browsing

There’s a significant, actionable difference between admiration and buying intent.

The first is an attraction, a respect, a good feeling. “That car has beautiful lines.” “Wow, a front-facing camera and it supports Flash?” But regardless of all those positive thoughts, admiration lacks a fulfilled need.

The second says, “not only do I admire this service or product, but it’s exactly what I’m looking for.” “My New Year’s resolution was to focus on marketing, so this is perfect!” The product satisfies a real need—not a flighty want.

Earlier this year, Lemon and Raspberry subscribers said they’d absolutely love to win my ebook, Smart Marketing, during Amy‘s New Year’s blog party.

“Ooooh I’d LOVE to win this! I’m always up for some good marketing insight!!,” said one reader. Another agreed, “I would love to read this book. Maybe I can count it as one of the many books I resolve to read this year.”

That’s flattering; really, lots of kind words. Yet, after the contest ended and the book was awarded, some readers suddenly didn’t want the book; or, more accurately, they didn’t want to pay for it.

This is the “want” gap in action—the difference between liking a product and actually wanting to pay for it.

The “want” gap

Amy’s readers may have liked the idea of reading my book, but they didn’t realize a present need for it. It’s a great idea, and it’d be a nice addition to a library, but there wasn’t enough of an internal need to get them to pull out their wallets.

We see the same principle, but to a greater extent, with larger giveaways. Sure, I’ll take the car, the free cruise, the year’s supply of coffee—but I’m not going to pay for it.

Image by Austin Kleon

Friend and artist John T. Unger experienced something similar with a book of poetry he wrote; the “want” gap was later brilliantly illustrated by Austin Kleon.

John’s poems had a real, emotional impact on a reader; the reader admired the author. Yet all the admiration in the world couldn’t compete with the prospect’s lack of buying intent.

Asking the right question

Businesses tend to forecast and allocate advertising monies based on consumer feedback, which is unfortunately more “do you like?” than “will you buy?”

That’s what focus groups have become, haven’t they?

“Do you like this new and improved artisan sandwich? How ‘bout this car? Pretty isn’t it? Would you go on vacation with this airline?”

None of those questions ask, “would you buy?” And that’s the question that makes or breaks most launches.

Understanding this gap and how you can bridge it is your way to converting admiring prospects into paying, satisfied, and loyal customers.

How to bridge the “want” gap and boost sales

What you may not realize is that admiration is a big step forward in closing the sale. The prospect has already indicated they appreciate you and your product, but they don’t think they need it. That doesn’t mean you’re out of luck; you can fix this.

Here are five steps I use to effectively bridge the gap between admiration and convincing a prospect to buy.

1. Establish your authority

Chances are, before reading this article, you’d never heard my name. If you’re launching a product of your own, you may face the same challenge—obscurity.

If I had released my ebook under Darren’s name instead of my own, the sales would’ve been drastically different than my initial figures. Darren’s an established figure in the industry. Over 167,000 subscribers and 19,000 Facebook fans are testament to this. His community buys into his history of success. My own success isn’t global like Darren’s, but that doesn’t mean it’s not as relevant.

That’s why the endorsement of Hall of Fame speaker and bestselling author, Scott McKain, was so powerful. Scott had a lot ofkind words about my book—and his review told new prospects my book wasn’t a scam, it was real and unique, and they needed it.

That’s the power of word-of-mouth marketing. But it’s leveraging these words that helps you confirm legitimacy and close the sale.

2. Create value

It’s pompous to assume that because you have a product, it’ll be bought. Give prospects a reason to buy. What’s in it for them? Show them value and security in their purchase.

For my own book campaign, my value offering included free quarterly updates. Every quarter, I send my customers an updated digital file that highlights new industry trends and developments. This makes my ebook a living book—it doesn’t gather digital dust, it’s a constant resource.

Plus, it maintains my personal brand awareness among my clientele in a most personal manner.

I also went so far as to include a 100% results-and-satisfaction guarantee with every purchase. Yes, I’m that confident in my content. It works, so why wouldn’t I offer a guarantee?

And as for the prospect, why wouldn’t they buy? There’s absolutely zero risk in making the purchase. If they were apprehensive or worried they’d get burnt, this guarantee eliminates those fears. What’s more, I’ve never had a request for a refund—it’s a guarantee I’ve never been called on.

What type of value-added element can you include in your launch that convinces your prospect that they can’t afford to not buy from you? Can you offer a limited-time price reduction to create a sense of urgency? Or a creative incentive to reward multiple purchases?

3. Put their needs in lights

You launched your product for a reason: you recognized a demand, a need. So don’t be ashamed to tell your audience that you know it. Speak directly to them.

In my case, that meant telling small business owners and first-time entrepreneurs that I understand the daunting challenge they face in marketing themselves. What’s an effective strategy? What offers the greatest ROI? I know the thought of their business failing keeps them up at night. Moreover, I understand that heavy feeling—I’ve been there. And it’s difficult to navigate through new business decisions.

But simply telling prospects you understand their need isn’t enough. You also need to satisfy it. Which brings us to your solution. In my case, I hold the marketing road map to their success.

4. Spell out your solution

For my small business owner audience, it wasn’t enough to say, “Don’t worry about your business failing, I wrote a book on marketing.”

I needed to take a step back and detail the topics I’d covered—targeted marketing, brand differentiation, social media ethics, blogging, and so on—and explain how each topic plays into their success.

Andy Nulman uses the analogy of “virgin contact lenses” as a great way to remove yourself from something you’re deep into, to gain valuable perspective. You, yourself, are in-the-know. You understand what you offer, since you’re the product creator. But for the first-time prospect, you need to say exactly what you do. Assume nothing on their part. Look at your product the way a first-time prospect would, taking nothing for granted.

You’ve highlighted their need, and you’ve detailed exactly what you’re providing. Now, explicitly tell your prospects with confidence, “I am the solution. My product will fix your problem.”

5. Show them what others have

You’re at the mall; you’re hungry. You walk towards the food court, and as you get closer, you begin to smell the variety of foods. “What do I want? What am I in the mood for?” you ask yourself.

And as you arrive at the food court entrance, before you stand 15 different restaurant choices, people with trays of food rushing to and from tables. Your gaze moves across the large room, scanning the signs and lines of each of the restaurant choices. Asian food? Not bad. Pizza place: ghost town. Sandwiches … not really in the mood. But the burger joint is hoppin’.

Without saying a word, every person in each line is telling you their preference—the majority favored the burger over the pizza. And that makes you wonder, what is it about the burger that everybody loves so much? You don’t want to miss out on what the people in the burger line are enjoying. Now, your decision is made: burger it is.

In the digital food court, it’s similar; it’s the online equivalent of, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

Show prospects how much your customer base supports you. Show them you’re popular, show them what other customers are buying and how they’re benefiting from it, and force the inactive community to buy in and be part of the “next big thing.”

The hype, the tangible energy in your community, your popularity—they’re all extremely powerful selling tools.

What people want

Your blog, your business, your campaign, your new product—should be less about what you think people want, and more about what your prospects will actually act on. Want to be profitable? Then that’s your focus: what people want.

Save yourself time and money. Understanding this “want” gap and bridging it—conquering it—improves your conversion rate, it motivates you through your new-found success, and it takes your efforts to a competing level.

How have you experienced the “want” gap in your blogging efforts? And how have you bridged it?

Ryan Barton is the author of the “Smart Marketing” eBook and he writes at The Smart Marketing Blog for Small Business Success; you can follow him on Twitter, where he shares entirely too much information. He wrote “Smart Marketing” with the intent that small businesses would glean insightful information and tangible marketing strategies so they too, could compete competitively with industry giants.