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How I Got 180,000 Page Views in the First Month of Being Online

This is a guest post from M. Farouk Radwan of optimistnet.com.

In April 2014, I launched my social network www.optimistnet.com, and by the beginning of May we already had 180,000 page views and a few thousands registered users.

Our Alexa Rank jumped from 4 million in the beginning of May to 680K in a very short period of time, and we had more than 5,000 posts made on the network in the first month by our visitors.

It seems like a successful launch right?

Well in this article, I will tell you exactly what we did in order to reach those numbers in that extremely short period of time.

It was the third attempt

People always see successful projects then believe they were an overnight success, but in fact behind each success story are some failures you never knew about.

Even though our launch was successful in the first month, the reason we made it is that we failed twice before with two different social networks.

I launched my first social network in 2012, and only got 60 members in two months. I launched the second in early 2013, only to stop working on it due to serious troubles with the developing company. 

So the success that happened with optimistnet.com was due to the incremental learning process that we went through.

People want to feel special 

A few days before the launch, I said that a few people would be selected to be among the beta testers of optimistnet, and the response was impressive. 200 volunteers gave me their names and within 24 hours we had 250 registered users.

Remember when Google plus was an invitation-only site? Everyone was dying to join it because people want to feel special. 

People are extremely curious  

When you don’t make your marketing message clear (during the first few days of course), people become extremely curious to know more about your business. What is that yellow logo with a smiling face? What does your social network do? What can we find inside it?

In the first few days, the marketing team and me changed our profile pictures on Facebook to optimistnet’s logo (a yellow smiling face) and shortly everyone we knew was asking “what is that?”

Target an already existing need

No matter how great your marketing is, you will never get recurring visitors unless people really need your product. The reason we launched optimistnet is that we noticed that Facebook newsfeed had become extremely negative in a way that ruins the mood of so many people.

In other words, we discovered that people need to spend sometime on a positive social network in order to counter the negativity they come across in their lives.  As a result we had recurring visitors from day one. Almost 57% of the people who visited the site returned back again.

Always search for unmet needs people have, and you will be able to create amazing products.  

 Make the process of signing up extremely simple

With each text field you add to the registration process, you lose more potential visitors. Make the signup process as simple as possible so that you convert the largest number of users. What’s even better is to add the option to sign up through Facebook.

Earlier, people used to be scared to use that option, but these days more and more people are getting comfortable with it. More than half of those who registered at my network did it using Facebook sign up.

Design the site for the impatient person 

There are some patient people out there but most internet users are not patient and are not as computer savvy as you are. The extreme simplicity of the design we used made it so easy for people to write posts. 

Most of the people who signed up at optimistnet found it very easy to understand what the site does and to make their first post. In one of my previous social networks that didn’t make it, and assuming that users were extremely computer-literate was the main reason we failed. 

Don’t expect quick success

While we had a great launch, you should understand that each case might be different. Some sites start slow then take off fast, others take years before they become popular. So becoming popular fast is not the rule, but it’s the exception.

In short know that its possible to rise fast but don’t get disappointed if it doensn’t happen to you.

M.Farouk Radwan Is the founder of www.optimistnet.com, The Social Network For Positivity and Motivation.  

What You Need to Know About Your Stats if You Want to Work With Brands on Your Blog

This is a guest contribution from Louisa Claire of Brand Meets Blog, a blogger outreach agency marrying brands with the bloggers who want to work with them. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by last week’s Partnering with Brands theme week, this might give you just the inspiration you need…

When bloggers start working with brands they tend to be full of excitement about the opportunities that come with it. 

One of the biggest challenges for businesses is how to determine the ROI (return on investment) with bloggers. For every dollar they spend on marketing their business, they are looking for a corresponding return. Sometimes this comes in awareness and they will measure it based on reach only, other times they are tying it to sales. To work out the ROI they look at how many people they reached through blogging and compare that number and the cost involved with how many people they would have reached through traditional advertising or PR activity. We are also increasingly seeing agencies also compare potential blogger reach with how many people they could reach via targeted Facebook advertising. 

The whole way it works is complicated and, to be honest, a bit nonsensical because unlike with traditional media where you can know how many people bought the publication but not how many people actually read the bit about your business, you can measure exactly how many people clicked on a link about your post, how long they spent reading that post and what they did after they read it (comments, clicked away, clicked on a link to the business etc…). And of course, with bloggers brands are not just getting eyeballs on them, but a personal introduction through a trusted voice.

Unfortunately many bloggers have bought into this idea that what matters most is the number of hits your blog gets. The holy grail of blogging is more people looking at your site today, than yesterday and seeing that number going up and up and up.

What I would like to suggest is that bloggers who want to experience success working with brands and earn a solid income from it, need to focus not on having the most people visiting their site, but the most relevant and interested people reading. If you can begin to understand where your readers and visitors come from, what they do when they come to their site and what that means about their interests then you can ensure you work with brands that fit not only with your own interests, but with those of your readers. Of course, having this information isn’t just useful when working with brands, it actually gives you great insight into what is and isn’t resonating with your readership generally – golden!

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The impact of search

The amount of search traffic your blog gets from places like Google and Pinterest has the potential to significantly impact how you understand the nature of your blog readership and the influence your blog has. I think this is a big one given the recent rise of highly searchable industries like health and wellness, and of course, Pinterest. 

If you blog regularly about things such as a meal planning, recipes, birthday party ideas,  fitness, beauty etc… then you are most likely going to generate a solid amount of search traffic. Some bloggers might even find that a large percentage of their traffic is going to one specific post every day. 

Let’s look at some numbers to understand this: Let’s say your blog has 50,000 users per month but 25% of your traffic goes to the amazing recipe you wrote about pumpkin and lentil soup. A further 25% of your traffic is coming to other posts you’ve previously written meaning that though you have 50,000 users a month only 25,000 are truly likely to see the latest post that you have written – that post you wrote for a brand, for example.

Now let’s consider where those users are coming from – are they local to you or global? If you’re trying to appeal to brands and advertisers in your country then the geographic location of those users will be really important. 

Can you see how if you told a brand that you had 50,000 users that you might create a situation where the brand was disappointed by the results that came from working with you? If you had told them that you had 50,000 users overall but 20,000 that were relevant to them as a brand then they would have been able to go into the working relationship with you with appropriate expectations and likely have been delighted by the results.

There are a couple of other things you can take notice of that will give you the edge when working with brands.

Take the time to understand your Uniques vs Pageviews (or Users and Pageviews as they are now called in Google Analytics)

I think that bloggers are sometimes afraid of their stats – that they aren’t “good enough” or need to be presented in the best possible light in order to be appealing. It’s true that stats matter to brands, but it’s equally true that many brands understand that a bloggers true value is in the personal connection they have with their readers and they are open, even eager, to understand how working with bloggers can help them.

The key point to understand when looking at your stats is that if you look at your pageviews in isolation you will get a skewed (but probably attractive) picture of your blog traffic and if you look at the uniques you will get an equally skewed (and what might feel like a less exciting) picture. The truth is that these two numbers hold a lot of information in them when you look at them together.

I’ve previously written a more comprehensive overview on the issue of Unique Visitors vs Total Pageviews which will help anyone struggling to understand the significance of these two numbers being view together.

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Bounce Rates and Pages per Session

Bounces rates relate to how many people leave your site from the same page they landed on (ie they only look at the one post) and Pages per Session shows you the average number of pages that your readers look at when they visit your blog.

My experience tells me that bloggers with strong communities and influence have a high ratio of pageviews to users and sessions. That is people who visit their blog tend to look at a lot of posts while they are there – giving them a lower bounce rate and a higher page per sessions figure. If you’re not getting at least 2-3 pages per session on your blog right now then my suggestion would be to stop focussing on increasing your pageviews and start putting some energy into increasing this number – not just because you want to work with brands but because you want to form deeper relationships with your readers.

If you’ve spent the time getting a good understanding of how your uniques and total views per month work and what your bounce rate is then you’ll be able to give helpful information to brands that demonstrates your influence and value to them and I can tell you this, it will give you a great advantage when you start talking to potential brand partners. 

Partnering With Brands Theme Week: Ways to Collaborate and Earn an Income on Your Blog

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Today we welcome Nikki Parkinson, from Styling You, to chat about brand work on blogs. Nikki switched a 20-year journalism career for forging a path online with her fashion, beauty and lifestyle blog. One of Australia’s best, she’s won numerous awards, travelled the world, and created a business she loves, right from her kitchen table. She’s actively worked with brands right from the start, and has enormous knowledge to share.

So you’ve been blogging for a while and have built up a solid readership and community because you consistently deliver useful/inspirational/entertaining content?

There is a fair chance if you have included a contact email address on your blog that before long an email from a brand, a PR or digital marketing agency, will land in your inbox.

You will either be surprised and delighted, or offended, that your little blog has been noticed by said brand.

It’s the surprised and delighted among you that I’m keen to talk to, because that first email could be the start of a potential commercial relationship.

That first email signifies that as a blogger you need to get very clear on your publishing guidelines.

Maybe you already mention brands as a matter of fact in your content. Maybe you haven’t. Either way, that all changes when someone is potentially asking you to mention their brand.

Only you can decide how you respond, but having a brand-publishing checklist in place will help you to make the decision that is right for you.

Brand publishing checklist

1. Is this a brand you already know, love, and use?

2. Is this a brand that you are confident that your readers either already know, love, and use or would like to know, love, and use?

3. Is this a brand that you could work in to your regular blog content in a way that is seamless? Not in a non-disclosed kind of way, more in a way that would not be out of place to what your readers expect from your style of content.

4. Does aligning yourself with this brand conflict with brands you’ve previously aligned yourself with?

5. Do you feel excited at the prospect of potentially working with this brand or does it give you an icky feeling? I know icky is not a technical term and can’t really be defined, but intuition or gut feeling is a great thing to draw on in this situation.

Working with brands

The PR pitch

Most – but not all – approaches from a brand or its agency will be for “earned” mentions on your blog. This is the traditional way that brands and their PR agencies have worked with mainstream media.

The idea here is that the PR is pitching you an idea that has some kind of newsworthy content or relevance to your blog’s audience. They are simply pitching and you do not at all have to publish anything just because they have emailed you. You may, however, find that what they are pitching could work as a part of particular blog post you’re working on, or have planned for now or in the future.

This is not something the brand would pay you to do. It is your choice when and if you choose to include the pitch on your blog. The same applies if the brand has sent you a product – unsolicited – to consider using or mentioning on your blog or social media networks. You are in no way obligated to feature the product.

Relationships

Many of my now paid commercial brand alignments have come from building relationships with brands directly or through their PR agencies. I’ve incorporated their products into my posts and have built up a relationship with that brand. The brand trusts what I do on the blog and they can already see how my readers respond to their brand.

I didn’t go into those early earned PR relationships thinking that one day I would be able to get a sponsorship from that brand, but I did start my alignment with those brands based on the five things I listed above on the brand publishing checklist. This ensured that the relationship was one I felt comfortable with from the beginning.

More and more PR companies are also including budgets for paid blogger campaigns as part of their contract with the brands they represent, so how you respond from those early approaches is becoming more and more important.

Also know that a PR pitch cannot specify to you when and how you publish content about the brand. They can’t tell you to use a certain hashtag, they can’t tell you that you need to publish a certain number of social media posts, and they can’t tell you what day you need to publish. They would NEVER ask a journalist to do the same because the only content in mainstream media that can be guaranteed is paid for – and it’s called advertising.

I see this approach happening more and more. And as a former journalist it really disappoints me. It gives the good PRs a bad name and assumes that the blogger will happily do as they are instructed without any remuneration for exposure to that blogger’s audience.

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Events

One of the trends for ways in which brands engage with bloggers is through events. These events are either hosted by the brand and the brand’s PR invites selected bloggers to attend or the events are hosted by third party brand-blogger consultants who are contracted by brands to get bloggers along to the event in the hope of potential exposure.

Either way, a blogger’s decision to even accept an invite to an event can be seen as a brand alignment. Even if that blogger doesn’t publish any social media or blog posts, the blogger could be photographed by the brands or event organiser and therefore associated with the event and seen to be endorsing it.

Once again it comes back to the brand publishing checklist above. Consider if you are happy to be associated with the host brands or brands in any way before saying yes to attend.

And, like a PR pitch, a blogger should not be coerced or expected to post anything in return for attendance at the event. The should be free to do so if they want to, not because they’ve been invited. Just as a journalist would do.

Paid brand alignments

At some point in your blog’s growth you need to take stock and put a value on the time you put into your blog and the readership you have built. Once you’ve established a set value for your blog, I suggest you review this every six months or every quarter depending on the scale in growth of your readership.

Your readership is your currency when it comes to being appealing to brands. Brands mostly want to see the numbers. The number of unique visitors to your blog is the main number they’re looking at. Why? Because it’s the number that most equates to the numbers game of mainstream media. It’s the equivalent to circulation figures in print media and ratings numbers on TV and radio.

Clever brands and agencies will also look beyond the numbers to engagement and influence. They will also look at the demographics behind your numbers – particularly if they’re wanting to connect with readers in certain locations or of a particular age or sex.

When I talk to bloggers about valuing their time and their blog’s audience, it seems quite an arbitrary thing to suggest – and in many ways it is – but increasingly, bloggers are sharing what they are getting paid for brand alignments and this helps us all to establish that value.

I suggest that $150 should be the minimum payment for a sponsored post – and then bloggers should scale up according to their readership and influence.

Why $150? If you are working as a consultant then the minimum hourly rate is usually about $100 an hour. Most sponsored posts take longer than an hour and a half this to create and compile. For 5000-10,000 unique visits to your blog a month, you could charge $1550. For a blogger with 30,000-50,000 unique visits a month, $3000.

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Ways to earn money from brand alignments

Sponsored posts: This is the most common form of commercial alignment between bloggers and brands. It works most successfully when the blogger is given creative control to write the post in the same way they would write a non-paid post to their readers. Keeping the authenticity of your voice is key – as is being upfront to your readers and labelling it as a sponsored post at the top. This is not a legal requirement, but it is practice that is very much worth embracing. You want to keep your readers, not dupe them. Being upfront has seen me grow my blog readership since I started writing sponsored posts – not have it disappear.

Social media posts: Being paid by a brand to promote their product or message via social media can be part of a sponsored post campaign or separate to it. One blogger talent agency has been reported as charging out up to $750 per brand mention on an Instagram image. With the growth of Instagram, particularly for fashion bloggers, this has become an attractive alignment for brands looking to harness its power.

Ambassadorships: Ambassadorships are the strongest way in which a blogger can align with a brand. They usually represent a long-term commitment between the blogger and the brand – six, 12 months or longer. This is a win for the blogger in regards to steady income, but it’s an alignment that needs to be fully considered before making because of the longevity of the association. A word of warning: many brands will try and “buy” bloggers as ambassadors with product only. Be careful with this because once you’ve received the ambassador title, you’ve more than cemented your alliance with that brand and don’t leave the door open for a commercial arrangement.

Television commercials: Bloggers are being included as the “talent” in television commercials and infomercials, usually as part of a wider sponsored post and social media campaign. This has come because audiences are proving more responsive to “real” people as opposed to celebrities or actors.

Blogging for a brand on their site: All bloggers know that good, solid content builds a blog’s readership. Brands have also realised that they too need good solid, relatable content on their sites to increase readership, brand awareness and sales through their sites. Who do they turn to? Bloggers who can not only create that content but bring an audience with them to the brand’s site.

Reader events: a win-win for bloggers and brands is when a blogger can offer something of value to their reader either through valuable/useful content or a giveaway. When that giveaway includes a chance to meet the blogger and attend an event that will add value or entertainment to the winning blog readers, then it’s proving to be a successful way for a blogger to align with a brand.

Event appearances: As I mentioned above, a blogger’s attendance at an event is a sign that the blogger is endorsing the brand. So it’s little wonder that bloggers can now obtain an appearance fee to attend an event. Often a certain number of social posts using a specific hashtag may be attached to this commercial arrangement.

The bottom line

Your blog hasn’t just appeared from out of thin air with a solid, influenced, and engaged audience. It’s taken long hours at the keyboard, dedication to your blog’s topic, and an extreme passion to communicate and connect with your readership.

You need to remember that whenever there is an opportunity presented to you to work or align yourself with a brand. Make good choices, disclose those good choices, and create brand content that still represents who you are and what your blog is about.

Do all this and your blog will continue to grow, as will your blog-business income.

Partnering With Brands Theme Week: Advertising 101

We kick off this week’s theme with Juanita Nessinger of Vertical Online Media – a total guru when it comes to all things advertising!

You’ve started your blog, put in many long hours into nurturing it, growing it and building a following.  Congratulations!  Now you’re thinking, “Is it possible to actually generate revenue from this?”  

The answer is a resounding YES!

Let’s talk.

Choosing your ad unit sizes

I like to share with friends that are new to advertising to familiarize themselves with IAB.net. This is the Interactive Advertising Bureau website and the standard for all web advertising.  Once there, your new best friend on this site is going to be the “Guidelines and Best Practices” dropdown menu.  This area shows you all of the standard ad units and their creative guidelines.

I highly recommend utilizing the following ad sizes on your blog, as they are the most standard, and will benefit you in you the long run when starting to monetize your site:

  • 728×90 (Leaderboard)
  • 300×250 (Medium Rectangle)
  • 160×600 (Wide Skyscraper)
  • 300×100 (3:1 Rectangle) This unit is no longer as common, but is a very good size if you want to have multiple smaller partners on your site that you will sell yourself or put on a sales site such as BuySellAds.

728×90 Example:

728x90

300×250 Example:

300x250

160×600 Example:

160x600

300×100 Example:

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Deciding where to place your ads

Now that you’ve decided what ad sizes you will utilize on your site, now you need to decide where you want place them on the page.

As shown in the example above, the 728×90 performs best, and is most aesthetically pleasing, when situated at the top of the page, either centered over the content or flush left.   You can also utilize this Leaderboard unit in the middle or bottom of your blog posts. Do remember though, you don’t want to overload your pages with ads, so I don’t recommend having any more than two of any size ad on a page at a time…three if the ads are a smaller unit, such as the 300×100 unit.

The 300×250 unit is a versatile unit and can be used on the right hand side of your page, or within your content, with the edit wrapped around the ad.  

When making the decision on placement for the 300×250 unit, you should note that on average, this unit will perform best placed within the content.  This is a definite plus if you are monetizing on a Cost Per Click model (CPC).  Your readers will tend to click more often on ads when placed within the content.  Conversely, if your priority is the reader experience and not necessarily the revenue, it is recommended that you place these units on the right hand side of your page.

Your 160×600 and 300×100 units always work very nicely on the right hand side of your page.

Start Monetizing Your Ad Units

Now that you’ve decided where your ad units will be placed on your page/s, it’s time to decide HOW you’re going to monetize the traffic to your blog.

The most popular, and realistically, most simple way for you to start monetizing your Blog is to utilize Google AdSense.  AdSense is a very quick and simple way to get started making money from your blog.  It really is as easy as 1, 2, 3.  All you need is a Google login of some sort, you paste their code into your dedicated ad spaces, and provide them with a valid postal address so that you can get paid! It’s really that simple!  

Once you have this set-up, Google will place the highest-paying ads in your category on your site.  Depending on your blog’s content matter, you can expect to receive anywhere from $.50 per click to upwards of $3.00 per click.

Please know that there are also a multitude of advertising networks of whom would be very happy to work with you, but if you are just getting started, AdSense is truly going to be the easiest, and most reliable, for your needs.

Additional Monetization Options

If you have a highly-trafficked blog, or a highly-targeted niche blog, you may want to sell your ads directly, with the aid of an Advertising Marketplace such as BuySellAds or iSocket.

If you don’t want to be at the mercy of Google and want to sell your ads directly on a CPM (Cost Per Thousand Impressions) and/or a Flat Fee basis, then an Ad Marketplace may be just the thing for you.  

Utilizing a marketplace allows you to set the cost for your ad inventory as opposed to simply accepting what Google or an Ad Network is going to pay you for your inventory.  Please do note that Advertising Marketplaces do take a percentage of each sale made through their service. Regardless, in selling directly, you will want a backup for inventory that is not sold, so again, signing up for an AdSense account will only benefit you to back-fill any and all remaining inventory.

Selling Directly

Selling your ad inventory yourself isn’t always as easy at it may seem. You will need to be very adept at articulating your audience, all of your site statistics, traffic, unique users, pageviews, etc., as well as any and all demographic information that you have on your audience.  Please look for the post coming later this week on The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Media Kit.

Establishing relationships with larger brands, and their Ad Agencies, can be a very time-consuming venture and there is never a guarantee of being selected to be on their ad plan. Also, do note that you will usually be required to fill out a full RFP (Request for Proposal) from the ad agency.  These can be a little more than daunting if you are new to advertising, so you should take that into consideration before opting to sell your inventory yourself.

Advertise Link on your Blog

Regardless of how you decide to monetize your blog, once you start the process of monetizing your blog, you should have a link on your site that shares with potential partners their options for advertising on your site, how they can get a media kit, if you have one, and highlight your monthly traffic, unique users, and your best Top Line demographic information you have for your readers.

If you do not have demographic information on your readers, putting together a basic Reader Survey through SurveyMonkey is free and easy!

In Closing

Congratulations on being ready to make the leap into making money from your blog!  If you have a decent-sized audience, and/or a highly targeted audience, there is no reason you can’t start monetizing your traffic.

Again, if you are just getting started, and the advertising arena is new to you, I highly recommend utilizing AdSense.  Start with just a few ad units on each page, you can always add units as your traffic grows and your audience becomes more accustomed to seeing ads on your Blog. 

Don’t be afraid…getting started is easier than you think! 

I hope you’ve found this helpful and please know that I’m here to assist.  Please feel free to ask any additional questions within the comments section, or you can reach out directly by emailing me at [email protected]

 

Blogging Like a Shark: 10 Secrets to Bootstrapping Your Blog into a Business

This is a guest contribution from Matthew Capala of SearchDecoder.com.

Shark bloggers are experts in their field of choice. However, they rarely call themselves experts or gurus. Skilled blogging pros, such as James Altucher, establish their authority on social networks and search engines by creating immensely authentic and valuable content, establishing strong connections with their readers.

1 - James Altucher 2

James hardly resembles a shark, but make no mistake. Think more in terms of a “pool shark” versus a voracious eating machine. Shark marketers are at the top of the promotional food chain but not because they use force or deception.

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In today’s competitive times, bloggers need to bootstrap intelligently to stand out from the scores of new blogs and brands with million dollars content-marketing budgets. Your objective as a bootstrap blogger should not be praying all day for one kill. Your aim should be the top of the food chain.

3 - predotorty shark

Predatory Marketing Tactics Dont Work Anymore

Shark marketers rarely if ever address themselves as “experts.” This crowd is too busy helping and connecting to pat themselves on the back. Think of yourself as a center of distribution. As you disseminate more helpful content to a growing number of people an inflow of leads, opportunities and money flows in to you.

Contrary to popular belief, the idea of bootstrapping is not based on using free marketing to spread the word about your brilliant idea. According to dictionary.com, bootstrapping means “relying entirely on one’s own effort and resources”.

Play to your strengths by leveraging your time and talent. Growing your blog usually requires a minimum injection of capital to build momentum, combined with persistent, intelligent labor. For example, hiring a designer may be a good idea – online readers tend to judge the book by its over before they commit any attention to what you are saying.

5 - time money talent ven

Unlike the monstrous, ferocious predators which roam the infinite online seas, whale sharks don’t need to use predatory tactics to promote their businesses. They use great content marketing to attract the visitors to their blogs like a magnet.

Today’s intelligent buyer will be repulsed by hard-charging, competitive marketing tactics.  Operate on a creative plane of thought to attract people like a magnet. Shift from a competitive to a creative mindset and you will win big on the Internet.

Stop stalking. Start connecting. Turn your marketing into a conversation.

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Market with a Magnet

Web users are tuning out marketing noise. Click-through rates are dropping like a brick. Visualize marketing with a magnet instead of the old, worn out sledgehammer advertising approach. 

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Use pull marketing to employ the principle of attraction versus the old school push marketing tactics that turn off today’s sophisticated consumer. Create value to become valuable.

8 - Own your ZMOt

Own Your Zero Moment of Truth

80% of consumers search for a product or service before purchasing it. Ranking your blog on Google for quality keywords can turn your blogger status to a rockstar overnight. 

Place a heavy emphasis on nailing down one of the top positions on Google for your desired keywords or key phrases. Keep in mind that only 15% of search results are the old-school ’blue links.’ Estimated 85% of Google search results are social media, videos, images, maps, and the knowledge graph. Fish where the fish are.

Increase your click-through rates by designing attention-grabbing page titles and headlines. Include thought-provoking or funny images in your blog posts to stand out and boost engagement. 

Owning your zero moment of truth inspires you to increase organic search engine click throughs by improving your ad creative writing skills. It’s a win-win.

9 - personal branding

Personal Branding Is Branding

Beginner bloggers often ask me: How do you draw a line between your business name and your personal brand?

You don’t. It’s one and the same.

Steve Jobs built Apple, not the other way around. You have built your own company, You Inc. However, being a blogger is much different from being a CEO. The first is a hobby, the latter is a job.

Consider using SlideShare to tell your brand’s story, including the problems you are solving and why people should care about your brand. Readers like eye candy. Creating a visually appealing tale forms an emotional bond with your target audience.

 

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Every Business is a Media Company

Blogs serve as one-stop shopping for any website visitors. Post articles, reviews, podcasts and videos on your blog to brand your business. Companies that blog get 55% more website visitors and B2C companies that blog get 88% more leads per month, according to Hubspot. 

Yet many businesses fail to achieve desired results blogging. They fail and give up on content marketing because they don’t operate like a media company.

11 - optimize blog content

Frequency is key to success. Blogging regularly encourages your audience to know, like and trust you. Build your blog on WordPress for increased functionality. Use plugins to capture subscribers and improve your presentation. Position sharing button beside each blog post to leverage your presence. Sharing buttons like the Floating ShareBar can increase sharing by up to 30%. Details matter.

Open your blog to guest posting and build strong business relationships. Join blogging communities, such as Triberr, to build solid relationships with fellow niche bloggers.

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Win Your Battles Before the First Shots Are Fired

Understand the difference between content marketing and content strategy. Content marketing is the creation and promoting of content to attract a targeted audience. Content strategy is the creation of scalable and repeatable content for a built-in audience. Content marketing is like baking a cake while content strategy is similar to owning a bakery. 

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Developing a content strategy requires intensive planning. Create content based on researched user needs, deliver this content through various mediums such as video and podcasts and promote along channels which resonate with your target audience.

14 - healthy heartbeat

You Need a Healthy Heartbeat

A healthy, vibrant blog looks similar to a healthy heartbeat. Imagine the steady, predictable ticks on an EKG meter measuring your heartbeat. Engaging through social media channels like twitter and Facebook creates tiny ticks. Sharing Infographics, videos and blog posts creates a larger spike which creates a big impact with a small hit. PR and branded content creates massive spikes. The large hits which make big impacts target news outlets and other large audiences through macro content campaigns.

15 - Heartbeat

Build your inbound marketing campaign on being disciplined. Work your system on a daily basis. Set up a content calendar. Starting at a calendar can inspire you to create content even if you don’t feel like working. Use this motivational strategy to hold yourself accountable.

16 - lead genertion

Invest in Lead Generation at the Outset

Create in-depth, thorough content you could sell for a handsome profit and give it away for free. This approach might seem counterintuitive to bloggers looking to monetize every click, but karma ensures that the value you offer will return to you in some way, shape or form. Use your free giveaway as link bait. 

Build your email list through this exchange of value. In return for your helpful, free giveaway subscribers will gladly offer their name and email address. Use tools like “Pay with a Tweet” to increase social sharing. Users can access your free giveaway by tweeting your giveaway link. This expands your presence and gives visitors a quick and easy way to access your free product.

17 - be interesting

To Be Interesting, Be Interested

Successful shark bloggers follow the teachings of famous behaviorists, such as Dale Carnegie. They generate interest by expressing interest. 

Expressing genuine, heartfelt interest in other bloggers will result in similar reaction towards you. Focus on helping others who need help. Engage in genuine conversations, add value wherever you show up and answer questions to gain the trust of your target audience.

Use social media tools like Topsy to find your audience. Run searches to connect with interested parties through twitter, blog commenting, and everything in between.

18 - marathon

It’s a Marathon Not a Sprint

Take a big picture approach to blogging. Each seemingly tiny step taken leads to solid if not spectacular results in the long term. If only you don’t give up to see it.

Work your way through temporary frustrations by visualizing yourself achieving great things. Professional athletes employ this technique. Clearing your inner world can motivate you to succeed. 

Shark bloggers are a driven, dynamic, and focused bunch. However, they combine high-octane enthusiasm with a significant dose of planning, tools and preparation to stay focused and play a long-term game. 

It might not be easy to be positive every day when you grow a blog from its infancy but doing so can provide you with immense returns in the long run.

Good luck!

Matthew Capala is an inbound marketing strategist, personal branding coach, Internet entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and author. He is an Adj. Professor at NYU and Head of Search at Lowe Profero. His free personal branding e-book, Away with the Average, has been widely praised. A leading voice in the start-up community, Matthew founded SearchDecoder.com, a venue for SEO ideas for entrepreneurs. You can find him on Tiwtter at @SearchDecoder.

9 Powerful Tips To Help Freelancers and Bloggers Sell Digital Products

This is a guest contribution from freelance writer and inbound marketer, Jawad Khan.

Freelancing can be a liberating career choice. The number of freelancers all over the world has increased dramatically over the last few years, with more people choosing to work on their own terms. If you’re reading this with interest, chances are that you’re a freelancer yourself or someone who’s seriously considering this career path.

But, in order to create an income safety net and truly enjoy the benefits of freelancing, you need to combine freelance client work with your own digital and information based products (eBooks, training courses, guides, tools). This can significantly reduce the pressure of finding client work all the time, which can be difficult at the beginning.

With so many great online tools and services available, creating digital products is much easier than before. But as a result of that, there are a lot of mediocre and sub-standard products floating around the web as well. To ensure that your product stands out from the crowd, you need to do things differently.

Here are 9 tips to help you create better digital products and sell them more effectively.

Note: This post assumes that you know the importance of a mailing list and already have one. If you don’t, read this awesome post on list-building.

1. Create Your Buyer Personas

9 powerful tips

In order to create a product, you first need to identify the right target market and the people who would willingly buy your product. What are their needs and what solutions could persuade them to pay immediately? Begin with creating your buyer personas. Buyer personas are examples of the people who would, or could buy your product. It lists all the characteristics of your ideal buyer including demographic details, income bracket, interests, career level etc. Try to be specific about your buyer, it will help you create a better product. For example, for a freelance writer, the ideal buyer persona might be the owner of a small business between 30-50 years of age, with an annual marketing budget of 30 to 40 thousand dollars looking to generate new sales leads from within the USA using his website, blog and social media profiles.

2. Identify The Right Opportunity

Once you’ve developed your buyer persona, analyze the major problems and needs of your buyers. Match them with your skill set and see how you can address them. Take the same buyer persona and identify the different ways you can help this buyer achieve his goals. List down all the different possibilities and then go for the one that falls in your strongest area in terms of skill set and has comparatively less competition.

3. Create a High Quality Product

9 powerful tips 2

The quality of your product will play a key role in determining its success or failure. If you want repeat customer and referral sales, your product needs to be top-notch. For this, analyze your competitors – other freelancers and agencies – offering the same solutions with their products. Find their loopholes and make sure your product doesn’t have any of them. In simple terms, a high value product is something that exceeds customer expectations with tangible solutions and gives them immediate value.

But apart from the content of your product, its packaging is equally important. It’s just like the headline of a blog post. If the headline is attractive, people read the full blog post. The same goes for packaging. For this, you can also use the services of other freelancers on websites like Elance, 99designs, Freelancer etc.

4. Price Your Product Intelligently

Pricing is another critical part of product selling. If you get it wrong, your sales numbers can be depressingly low. Pricing depends on several factors including your brand image, the size of your mailing list, the level of engagement in your online community, your social media strength, your network and, of course, the quality of your product. You would also need to see the kind of pricing strategies your competitors use.

In general, there are two options for you when it comes to pricing. You can either go for a high priced product that a few people can buy, or you can go for volume based selling and keep a relatively low price. Another option is to create multiple packages with different prices, targeting different buyer personas. In my experience, multiple packages work better than the first two models. Here’s a snapshot from the landing page of Tom Ewer’s, a freelance blogger, PaidtoBlog course.

9 powerful tips 35. Create a Memorable Buying Experience

This is where many freelancers fail to make an impact. A poor buying experience can ruin all your hard work and cause buyers to go away without making a purchase. To be more specific, buying experience refers to your sales landing page, the product selling service you’re using, the payment modes you accept, the checkout process etc. All these are critical elements of the buying process.

To create landing pages, I’d recommend using LeadPages. Before the product launch, use your landing page to create anticipation.

9 powerful tips 4

After the launch, fill it with compelling content, repeated calls to action and testimonials.

9 powerful tips 5

For payment processing and product selling, you can use services like E-Junkie, Shopify or Selz. I personally prefer Selz because it also helps you create high quality audio, video and image previews for your products that are as good as full-fledge landing pages. It allows you to accept payments with Master Card, Visa and PayPal, and simultaneously builds your email list by integrating auto responders like MailChimp and AWeber. It’s really a complete package for digital selling.

6. Target The Right Marketing Channels

If you develop the right buyer persona, it’ll be easy for you to identify and focus on the right marketing channels for your product. For example, if your ideal buyers are business owners, higher management professionals and corporate managers, LinkedIn publishing platform, LinkedIn groups and websites like Quora would be great places to start the promotion of your product. Similarly, with a clear identification of your target buyers, you’ll be able to identify the right blogs where your target users can be found and approach them through guest blogging. Once you’ve launched your product, marketing should continue to consume the majority of your time. Here are a few ways you should continue to promote your resource.

  • Blogging – Mention your resource regularly in all your blog posts and link back to the sales page. Before the launch, create anticipation about your product by mentioning it in your posts and on your blog. After the launch, remind people about it through relevant references within your content.
  • Guest Blogging – Identify the most relevant blogs where your potential buyers can be found. Approach these blogs with high quality guest posts and link back to your product page in the author bio.

Note: Read this to learn more about guest blogging on popular blogs

  • Networking – Use your contacts and the strength of your network to spread the word. Connect with influencers in your niche and ask them for recommendations. Triberr and LinkedIn are great places to do that.
  • Social Networks – Posting and paid promotions on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest can all be very effective depending on your target market.
  • Email List – There’s nothing more effective than a healthy mailing list in helping you sell more products. Without becoming too annoying, regularly send special offers and product deals to your subscribers.

Note:Read this super post on Jon Morrow’s blog about list-building

7. Begin With a Soft Launch (with a deadline)

When it comes to the product launch, never dive into the deep waters immediately. Instead, go for a soft launch and share your product with a limited audience. You can even choose to go with a reduced version of your product initially. To further accelerate things, give your buyers a deadline after which the product you’d take the product down. The objective here is to get a feel of how your target audience responds to your product offer. The limited number of sales that you get, will tell you a lot about the weaknesses and potential improvement areas of your product.

8. Gather Data and Identify Loopholes

To take real benefit from your soft launch, make sure you have sufficient data gathering tools in place. Use live chat services like Olark on your landing page to directly get in touch with your buyers. When someone makes a purchase, send them an email or give them a call to ask about the reasons why they chose your product. Similarly, ask those who bounce back from the landing without making a purchase, about the reasons for their decision and what would they want to see in your product to change their decision. Use survey tools like Survey Monkey to run quick surveys to gather all this data. This can provide you valuable insights for your full scale launch.

9. Launch on Full Scale (with a deadline, again)

9 powerful tips 6

 

Once you’ve made the required adjustments to your product, launch it aggressively on full scale. Announce it to all your subscribers, social media and marketing channels. However, just like the soft launch, define a deadline after which the product will be taken down again. This is a great way to accelerate your sales (Neil Patel is a big advocate of this approach). When the deadline arrives, take the product down, gather more data, identify improvement areas, make more adjustments and then launch the product again after a few months with more value.

Conclusion

Successful product selling requires adequate preparation, a quality product, aggressive marketing and timely product enhancements.  When you get this combination right, there’s no better way of boosting your income and enjoying the real essence of online money making. As a freelancer your own product would not only give you breathing space in terms of monthly income, but also build your brand image and help you attract more high paying clients.

Jawad Khan is an experienced inbound marketer and a freelance blogger. He helps small businesses, tech startups and entrepreneurs strengthen their brand image with high quality blog content. Follow him on his blog, Writing My Destiny, Google+ and Twitter.

 

Six Simple Steps to Optimize your Blog’s Video Content on YouTube

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Image va Flickr user jonsson.

This is a guest contribution from Praveenkumar Mavi, of Just2clik Blog

YouTube is a widely-used search engine for videos its value shouldn’t be underestimated. There are millions of videos daily uploaded onto YouTube, so it is very important to optimize your videos at their top level to get more hits and even front page ranking. To do this, we need to keep in mind a few important points:

1. The first and most important thing is keyword setup. This, of course, depends on your video content. Let us assume 3-4 titles for your video and start searching on Google. If you find videos in the search results of your title, then go for one of the other titles until you’ve found no other (or nearly no other) videos with the same name. Then assign this title to your video.

2. The second step is to describe your video. Your video description should contain your video title, this helps to show in bold on search results. You should also be very clear in your description and try to include as much information as you can without turning it into a long-winded and confusing blurb. Attracting description results in more hits for your video.

3. Tags are the third step – assigning tags to your video is as simple as copy and paste. For example if your video title is ‘Simple steps to optimize your Facebook fan page’ then your tags should be Facebook, simple steps, optimization, Fan page, etc.

4. Upload high definition videos if you can. Don’t go for standard definition videos, because YouTube wants to provide best possible experience for end users, and will prioritize those in HD. This really plays an important role in ranking your videos.

5. The most killer tip for optimizing your video content is to generate a transcription for your video. Include subtitles for your video. Create a 300-400 word description in the transcription, and more importantly add your website URL at the top/bottom of your description. This will help the end user to understand what your video content is about.

6. Finally, promote your video by sending emails with a link to your video and to your channel subscription. Try to respond to comments.

Praveenkumar is the Founder and editor of Just2clik Blog, In this blog you’ll find a very simple yet more effective tutorials about blogging, Computers and Mobiles. You can find him on FacebookTwitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.

Why Bloggers Need to Do More Than Just Trademark Their Blog Name

TrademarkBlogs

This is a guest contribution from trademark attorney Xavier Morales.

Should you trademark your blog name? While the answer will vary from blogger to blogger, in general, modern bloggers will benefit from trademark registration. At the start, blogs were something of a personal communication medium. But today, they’ve evolved into businesses and brands. In other words, they have become entities worth trademarking.

Trademarking extends beyond merely filing an application. It starts with the brand itself. Only strong, unique brands will receive trademark registrations. Therefore, a company must search high and low for any existing mark that can be considered confusingly similar.

Even after receiving a federal trademark registration, owners must actively protect their rights. Only they can stop other entities who infringe on their rights. That is, no one else will tell an entity to stop using your trademark. You must go through the steps to protect your trademark rights, which can sometimes include litigation, (though no one wants matters to reach that level).

What Can Happen?

The following recent cases illustrate many pain points in the trademark process. These bloggers applied for, or own, federal trademark rights. But they’ve each encountered obstacles along the way. Bloggers thinking about registering their own trademarks will do well to learn from those who have come before them.

Against All Grain

Danielle Walker had every reason to file a trademark application. Her blog, Against All Grain, barely 18 months old, had acquired an intensely loyal readership. She had just released her first cookbook, of the same name. Anyone in her position should seek federal trademark protection.

In August 2013 she filed her federal trademark application. About two weeks later she received a cease-and-desist letter from Against The Grain, a gluten-free food company from Vermont. A lawsuit followed a month after that. Against The Grain owns several federal trademark registrations for the sale of gluten-free products. But those registrations are not necessarily what spurred this lawsuit.

In January 2013, Against The Grain filed a federal trademark application, “to identify cookbooks, kitchen utensils, chocolate, candy and other confections.” The key is the first in that series. Against The Grain had filed for a federal trademark involving cookbooks before Ms. Walker published hers. That would appear to give Against The Grain superior rights. While they currently have no published cookbooks, Against The Grain founder Nancy Cain plans to publish one in October of this year.

Indeed, the case settled recently, with Against The Grain getting the one thing it wanted: a name change for Against All Grain. Ms. Walker must now identify her blog and products as “Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain.” Additionally, Ms. Walker must abandon her trademark application. She still does, however, own the domain name againstallgrain.com.

Finding a lesson in such a case can be difficult. Is Against All Grain distinct enough from Against The Grain? Could Ms. Walker have done anything differently to better protect her brand? Or was she doomed from the moment she started using the Against All Grain mark?

The biggest takeaway for bloggers: conduct extensive research before you pursue trademark rights. Better yet, research trademarks early in the process. It’s easier to pivot as a young blogger than it is as an established one.

The Honest Toddler

Sometimes two entities can happily coexist – until trademarks come into play. Such is the case with The Honest Company, which sells family and home products, and Honest Toddler, a satirical blog from a child’s point-of-view. The two enjoyed a friendly relationship; The Honest Company blog once featured an interview with Honest Toddler.

But then Bunmi Laditan, the creator of Honest Toddler, filed a federal trademark application.

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published Laditan’s trademark in April 2013. At this stage existing trademark holders can file an opposition to the application. The Honest Company filed an opposition, which sparked a long and well-documented debate among bloggers and commenters.

This case is quite different from Against All Grain, in that no one issued a cease-and-desist or filed a lawsuit. The Honest Company merely objected to Ms. Laditan’s trademark application for Honest Toddler. The next step in that process is arguing your case in front of the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). Before that could happen, The Honest Company tried to negotiate with Ms. Laditan, offering her a free license to use Honest Toddler (reportedly for only one year).

Christopher Gavigan, co-founder of The Honest Company, repeatedly claimed that his company has “superior rights in a class that she is filing in.” Ms. Laditan repeatedly claimed that The Honest Company had no such superior rights. The argument appeared at a standstill after a deluge of commentary in late July 2013. Indeed, there is little, if any, mention of the case after early August.

The case, it appears, has been quietly settled. According to the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS), Ms. Laditan received her federal trademark registration on October 29, 2013. So what happened? It’s difficult to determine, given the lack of publicity. The USPTO’s Trademark Status and Document Retrieval system does make it a bit clearer. On September 3, 2013 The Honest Company withdrew its opposition. That cleared the way for Laditan’s final approval for federal trademark rights.

In this case, we see a blogger who stood up for her rights. She filed an application for a mark she was using in commerce, one which The Honest Company did not own. (Their opposition cited their trademark registration for “HONESTBABY”.) Instead of acquiescing to the demands of a larger company, Ms. Laditan stood her ground and won her case. There might be entities that can outspend you in court, but that should not diminish your rights if you have followed the proper trademarking procedure.

Food for Thought

Receiving federal trademark rights is only the beginning. To continue enjoying the rights and benefits of trademark ownership, you must take steps to protect your trademark. In some cases this might necessitate filing a lawsuit. While unappealing to some, failing to take protective measures can diminish your rights as a trademark owner.

So far, Timothy Young has declined to file litigation against The Huffington Post and Chipotle Mexican Grill, though he feels they have infringed on his trademark rights. Since 1998 he has held federal trademark rights to the name “FOOD FOR THOUGHT” on a range of food products. He maintains a website, including a blog, in addition to a wide presence on social media.

In 2013 he objected, frequently and vehemently, though not officially, to a collaboration between The Huffington Post and Chipotle Mexican Grill, also titled “Food for Thought”. It might seem odd that someone who holds the trademark for food classes would object to someone else using the phrase in an editorial sense. But Mr. Young claims he does have rights in this case.

Specifically, he claims common law trademark rights to use the phrase “Food For Thought” in an editorial manner. He started the blog on his site in 2007, long before Huffington Post launched its project. Since they both cover similar topics, just and sustainable food, Mr. Young might indeed have superior rights in this case.

Unfortunately, he’s doing nothing to protect them.

Instead of filing a lawsuit for trademark infringement, he launched a brief, but intense, blogging campaign to raise awareness. He has also gone on what he has termed the “Chipotle Accountability Tour,” where he pickets outside Chipotle restaurants. This might be effective for raising awareness, although mentions of the case have not increased since late 2013.

Mr. Young did file a new trademark application with the USPTO in January that covers a host of products, including: “On-line journals, namely, blogs featuring sustainable agriculture, green living, fair trade, activism and policy and politics related thereto.” Again, he believes that this is merely a formality, given that he started the blog in 2007.

If Mr. Young truly does believe that he has superior rights, he needs to protect them. Merely filing a new application does nothing. The Huffington Post and Chipotle will not abandon their project – or at least its name – unless forced to do so. Young can file more trademark applications and protest more restaurants. It won’t make a bit of difference if other entities continue using the trademark on which he claims to hold superior rights.

Trademark is a Process, Not an End

From these three cases we can learn about the different stages of the trademarking process.

Danielle Walker’s case illustrates the need to find a strong trademark before filing an application. In many ways “AGAINST ALL GRAIN” might appear distinct from “AGAINST THE GRAIN”. But given the similarities in the goods and services being offered under both names, it’s no wonder that Against The Grain decided to take action. The only way to avoid such litigation, and to receive a federal trademark registration, is to ensure that your mark is strong and unique.

Bunmi Laditan’s case illustrates the need to stand up for your trademark even when larger brands object. Given the outcome, it is clear that The Honest Company didn’t have firmly superior rights to Honest Toddler. Ms. Laditan stood her ground and won her case. Bloggers can take advantage of their large readerships in these cases, rallying support through social media and other channels.

Timothy Young’s case illustrates the need to protect your trademark rights. The Huffington Post and Chipotle will not change the name of their joint project unless forced to do so. Mr. Young has chosen to take the non-litigation route, which might prove detrimental to his case. If he does own superior rights, he needs to enforce and protect them. We will learn in time if his refusal to do so does indeed diminish his trademark rights.

The trademarking process does not end when you receive a federal trademark registration. It doesn’t end until you abandon your rights. From the start you must choose a strong mark. Then you must follow the USPTO’s process. Then, once registered, you must take all steps to prevent others from infringing on your mark and capitalizing on your hard work. For bloggers, many of whom have turned their blogs into businesses, this is more important than ever.

Xavier Morales is a trademark attorney who specializes in trademark search, registration, and protection. A 2005 graduate of Harvard Law School, he owns his own firm, The Law Offices of Xavier Morales, which can be found at SecureYourTrademark.com.

9 World-class Bloggers Share Their #1 Email List Building Tip

This is a guest post from Nate Desmond of SumoMe, plus half a dozen contributors you’ll encounter throughout the article.

Too many blogs are plagued by hit-and-run visitors.  These are people who come, read your article, and then melt back into the ether of the internet.

As much as we love to see spikes in our website visitor analytics, post views are actually useless.  Unless those visitors do something – buy your course, follow you on Twitter, join your email list – even a large traffic spike will leave you back in the same place a few days later.

So how can you transform one-time visitors into lifelong readers?

Simple: convince them to join your email list.

Next time you publish a new post, you won’t start over from zero – your new email subscribers will be glad to read your latest writing. Think of it as a great vicious cycle. More emails = more traffic = more sharing = more emails.

But how do you build your email list?

1sean_dsouzaI wondered the same thing, so I asked major bloggers for their advice.  Here’s what they said:

#1. Partner with other bloggers

“Strategic alliances help grow the email list. The clients already know and trust the partner and hence the trust is transferred to us as well.”

- Sean Dsouza writes at Psychotactics

Partnerships with other bloggers can help both blogs reach new audiences and build their reach.  When selecting potential alliances, look for two factors:

1. Size: While bigger blogs offer bigger rewards, they also are less likely to be interested.

2. Audience: The more similar your audiences are, the more benefit both blogs will see.

Keeping these criteria in mind, build a list of 10-20 blogs you’d potentially like to partner with.

1problogger

Here’s an example guest post on ProBlogger

Once you’ve selected a these potentials, decide what type of content you’d like to use:

  • Webinar
  • Guest post
  • Ebook
  • Podcast
  • Email
  • Physical events

Armed with these ideas, you’re ready to reach out to the bloggers you brainstormed earlier.  Particularly when you’re new and don’t know people, this step will often be discouraging as probably only one in 10 bloggers will express any interest.

Instead of becoming frustrated, expect initial failure, and use the results to steadily improve your emails.  As you start gaining momentum after your first partnership, landing the second and third will be easier.

#2. Prominently ask people to subscribe – then provide amazing value2neville_medhora

“A big-ass banner across the top of my blog helped a lot.  I also used CrazyEgg.com to make sure people were clicking on it.  I went through a couple of revisions based on the CrazyEgg stats.

At first I was afraid of asking for people’s emails because I thought it would annoy them.  Then I realized getting my posts via email were people’s favorite way of hearing from me!

Once someone joins my email list, I use Aweber to automatically send a series of epically valuable emails over the next couple of weeks.  This helps transform a new subscriber into a hardcore, engaged fan.”

- Neville Medhora writes at Neville’s Financial Blog

Rather than just sticking a form randomly on your site and hoping for the best, take the time to test the best placement, wording, and coloring like Neville did.

You should test many elements of your form:

  • Headline
  • Button text
  • Forms required (name and email or just email?)
  • Color
  • Incentive

The signup incentive is a particularly potent piece of your form.  Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Ebooks
  • Recordings
  • Cheatsheets
  • Videos
  • Email series

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One of the incentives Neville uses to build his email list

Optimizing form locations and incentives will help you get many times more email subscribers than you do right now.  Just remember, getting email signups is only the very beginning of a strong reader relationship.

This reader trusts you enough to share their email address – now it’s your turn to prove you’re worthy of it.  Work to consistently overdeliver on expectations, and you’ll soon have a thriving email following!

#3. Use a non-annoying popover

“When I first started my latest blog, I just slapped a basic subscription form somewhere on my sidebar.  Barely anyone noticed it, and even fewer subscribed.3nate_desmond

Then I tried SumoMe’s List Builder plugin.  Literally overnight, I saw a 10x increase in subscriber conversion, and my list has continued growing steadily ever since.

I actually liked it so much that I now work for the company!”

- Nate Desmond writes at NateDesmond.com and SumoMe

Building an email list is one of the fastest ways to compound your blog’s growth, so you’ll want to start optimizing your email forms as soon as you get the first trickle of traffic.

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This is the email popover I use on my blog

For me, SumoMe popovers have been the most successful effort thus far.  They’re pretty simple to setup (took me less than 5 minutes), but you should watch for a couple things:

  1. Timing – Mine loads after about 1 second, but you should experiment to see what works best for your website.
  2. Color – Make sure your form is colored similarly to your website – context matters.
  3. Wording – This is critical.  Brainstorm 25 ideas for headlines and test the three best.

Forms in your sidebar, footer, or even header can be out of your reader’s line-of-sight, so non-annoying popovers can be a highly effective way to get your reader’s attention.

4sean_work#4. Produce exceptional content

“Producing exceptional content that our readers can use to improve their craft.”

- Sean Work writes at KISSmetrics

Ultimately, the success of your blog relies on the quality of your writing.  A strong email list can help speed your growth, but everything ultimately relies on your posts and emails providing stunning content that solves real problems for your readers.

Quality content attracts potential readers to your website and inspires current subscribers to stick around and engage.

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This is part of an infographic KISSmetrics uses to engage

Here are a few things you can do to make your writing amazing:

Write articles that you would want to read and share with your friends, and you’ll probably be off to a strong start.

#5. Use Post-Specific Bonus Content

“Giveaway a bonus within your content that requires the readers email address.

Think of it like Facebook advertising.

My click-through-rate (ctr) on the newsfeed ads is 2.5% while my sidebar Facebook ads on a great day do .5% ctr.

That’s a 500% increase in clicks.

5noah_kaganPeople are engaged in the middle of the site, NOT on the fringes.

Think of this with email collection within your blog.

Make a benefit and give the reader a link / button to get a cheat-sheet or bonus document related to the content the person is reading.

Then ask them for an email to get that content.

If you are really lazy just do it for the top 3 posts you get traffic on.

I have seen this nearly increase my daily email growth by 30%!”

- Noah Kagan runs SumoMe and writes at Okdork

Advertising platforms like Facebook are working tirelessly to try to better understand visitor intent.  The more they can tailor advertisements to what a person actually wants; the more customers they will see.

You have a major advantage over advertisers though – since your visitor is reading a specific post, you already know that they have at least some interest in the post’s topic.

Based on this knowledge, you can create a targeted call-to-action offering exclusive content that builds on your post.

5email_incentive

This email bonus is from one of Noah’s recent posts

So what exactly can you offer?

  • Google spreadsheets with exact formulas
  • PDF “cheatsheets” with a quick review of your post
  • Video materials adding on to your post
  • Exact emails and scripts you’ve used in your case studies
  • Ebooks closely related to the post topic
  • “Inside tips” like the list of top giveaway sites in the above example

Whatever you choose, giveaway incredible value and you’ll not only get email subscribers – you’ll get lifelong readers!

#6. Use multiple signup forms

“The number one strategy that helped me grow my list was placing multiple sign up forms on high traffic pages on my site and offering a high value giveaway in return.

Today I have forms in my popup, in my sidebar, at the bottom of every post and on a slide in.”6steve_chou

- Steve Chou writes at MyWifeQuitHerJob.com

Different readers will be ready to subscribe at different times.  If you have a subscription form ready when they want to subscribe, your email list will grow quickly.

You should test email signup forms in all these locations:

6sidebar_form

Steve’s got a great sidebar form on his site

Over time, you’ll probably find two or three forms are dramatically more effective than the others.  At that point, you can remove the low performers and focus on optimizing the forms that do work to make them even better.

This is a principle that actually applies in all areas of blog growth – cut the strategies that don’t work and double-down on the areas that are showing results.

#7. Provide deep research that solves problems

“There has to be a steady stream of high quality content that actually solves the visitor’s problem.

There’s a lot of research that goes into the articles we publish, because too many of the marketing articles out there skate by passing opinion off as fact without any kind of qualification. The problem with that is that it creates a culture of “marketers” who blindly follow opinion without being willing to test that on their own.

By including the deep research, and really digging to find those “aha” moment, we try to create a “can’t miss” experience.7tommy_walker

The feeling is that if you don’t sign up for email, you might miss something valuable that increases your revenue. Nobody wants to miss out on revenue, especially if learning how to get more of it will be sent to your inbox for free.”

- Tommy Walker is the editor of ConversionXL

Most blogs today fall into one of two main categories: “churn and burn” websites that just publish frequent, basic posts and long-form websites that publish detailed, researched posts.  Both types of content can build popular blogs, but in today’s competitive blogosphere you’ll generally go farther and faster with long-form content.

How can you do this?

It’s actually not nearly as complicated as you might think.

First, litter your posts with fun, memorable stories.  Some authors actually go so far as keeping a “commonplace book” filled with stories waiting to be used.  Others simply write from memory.  Either way, adding examples and stories to your posts will make them easier to read and more helpful.

Second, use lots of statistics in your posts (and also in your headlines!).  Lots of posts can tell you that colorful images are more popular on Pinterest, but that’s not nearly as useful as knowing that colorful images get 300% more shares.

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One of many specific case studies shared on ConversionXL

As you write your blog posts and emails, look for opportunities to share unique, actionable information that will make your readers think “ah ha!”… and hopefully subscribe to your email list.

#8. Place a giant lead magnet on your blog homepage

“For the last six months or so we’ve been displaying a “lead magnet” on our blog homepage that offers four ecommerce case studies that 8mark_macdonalddrip out via autoresponder. After subscribers get the content they’re added to our main blog list.

Note: we aren’t currently using this on the blog as we plan to deploy it somewhere else soon.”

- Mark Macdonald writes at Shopify

What’s the most visited page on your website?

You guessed it… your homepage!

Unfortunately, your default homepage is also probably the least engaging page on your entire website.  You’ve probably got a random array of your most recent posts, maybe a few images, and some sort of a sidebar.

Adding a major email form with a high-value incentive can help you transform confused visitors into engaged readers.

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Shopify’s homepage subscription box

By filling most of the above-the-fold space on the blog homepage, this email box is almost as effective as a popover at drawing attention.  The images and growth graph both make the form visually engaging, and who wouldn’t want to get 4 free case studies?

Unless you have a coding background, this could seem difficult to build.  Never fear! You can simply use this plugin to make something very similar on your own website.

#9. Persistently continue writing – growth compounds9penelope_trunk

“The number one thing that helped me grow my email list was persistence. I have been writing a blog for ten years, and working really hard and teaching myself to write posts that people love. When you write good content, the email list is easy.”

- Penelope Trunk writes at PenelopeTrunk.com and Quistic

Here’s the fun thing about growing your blog: moving from 3,000 to 4,000 subscribers will be just about as hard as getting your first 100 subscribers.  Growth compounds.

One of the most important keys to blogging is actually quite simple: keep writing and keep improving.

I always love Babe Ruth’s quote: “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”

Generally, growth will be very slow for the first month or two; then it will start to accelerate for the next few months, and you’ll start to feel like you’re on fire after about seven months.

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Practice clicking this button frequently

Unfortunately, the vast majority of writers quit before they reach the tipping point.  If you just keep steadily writing, your email list will grow faster and faster.

What single thing has been most effective in building your email list?

Nate Desmond works at SumoMe helping fellow bloggers build their email lists, increase social shares, and build thriving blog communities though a suite of growth tools.