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4 Ways to Sell More Products Online

This is a guest contribution from Rosie Scott of The New Craft Society.

As we discussed recently in this post, making money via blogging is far more than fanciful thinking; for an increasing number of dedicated bloggers, it’s a rewarding reality. But there’s a difference between, “Hey mom! I made 30 cents this month using nothing but my typing fingers!” and, you know, actually making a living. Whether you generate sales through coaching, services, eBooks, physical products or any of the many other ways bloggers can pull a profit, selling more products online means thinking more like a business. Don’t worry – it’s not as intimidating as it might sound, and you won’t lose suddenly turn into a heartless corporate shill.

1. Optimize Your Website for Sales

It may sound obvious, but if you’re going to sell products through your blog, you’ve got to get it primed for sales. This is intuitively done on business websites, where the focus is all on the product and there’s all of one section devoted to a blog. It can be a little less natural, however, when blogs are the central focus. Here’s how to get it right.

Make a separate tab for your store. Each product or service you’re selling should have its own, dedicated page. If it’s a digital product, it should be downloadable in as few clicks as possible. If you’re using a shopping cart, that should also be easily accessible, with few to no barriers to purchase, like long contact or sign up forms.

Don’t fear the long-form sales page. When in doubt, it’s better to give more details than too few. Don’t skimp on shipping policies, product details, contact info, technical specs, product FAQs – anything you can think of that a customer might need to know. You can separate this easily with on page grids or columns. However, even a long form sales pitch can be highly effective, as long as it tells a great story (and as a blogger, isn’t that what you do?). Take a look how writer and writing coach Alexandra Franzen does it for her I <3 Email course. That is one long sales page, but it’s broken up well with catchy headlines, all the essential details about the course, bullets, testimonials, and at one point, an easy sign up, but it’s off the site now as the course has sold out. The point is, if you’ve got the details, make ‘em known.

Take excellent photos. Customers may like the convenience of online shopping, but there’s just nothing quite like holding a product in one’s hands to really get a sense of it. Photos go a long way towards mitigating that problem, allowing customers a much more in-depth look. As such, it makes sense to invest in a good photographer to take clear, high quality product photos, from just about every angle you can imagine.

Make sharing easy. These days, having a social bar on a sales page is essential, so that customers can easily share products or services they think are great on their favorite social networks. Whether it’s at the bottom, on the side, or several places throughout the page, you’ll do best when sharing is one-click easy.

Encourage feedback. Reviews are by and large one of the biggest deciding factors for potential customers. In this social age, they’re also a form of social proofing (i.e. if that personable looking guy thinks it’s good, it probably is). Three weeks after purchase, email your customers directly to ask for a review, and feature the good ones prominently on a testimonial page.

Consider a third-party selling platform. Managing shopping cart software on your own can be difficult, not to mention handling payments. It can be a lot easier to simply integrate a third-party platform like Shopify into your site, as you’ll get to retain the look and feel of your site while Shopify does all of the backend heavy lifting. Alternatively, for certain kinds of bloggers, sending followers to a different site altogether can be an even better option, especially if you want to keep your blog from getting to sales-centric, and it makes things much simpler from a design standpoint. A good guide to Etsy, for example, will get you quickly set up to sell on that particular site without any of the work you’d have to do to fit a store onto your personal blog. Doing so will also enter you into a wider pool of sellers that customers already trust, thereby broadening your reach and doubling your efforts.

2. Up Your Content Strategy

As a blogger, you’ve already got somewhat of a built-in strategy; content is, after all, kind of what you do. But if you really want to up your sales, you’ve got to get organized about just what you’re posting, when you’re posting it, who you’re promoting it to and how you’re doing so.

Do some sleuthing to determine what readers want. Maybe you’ve already furrowed down into a profitable niche, or maybe you’re still just sniffing the ground to figure out where the best scents lead. Either way, it’s always worth doing a little detective work to determine just what your readers (or potential readers) want to read – all the better if that just so happens to tie into a service or product you’ve got for sale. To do this, take a look at some of the keywords that are bringing people to your blog, and be on the hunt for any questions you have yet to answer. Comments on both your blog and on other blogs within your niche are also a great place to look for this, as are trending topics on places like Google+ or Twitter. Or, hey, here’s something novel: just get on social media and ask your readers all about their deepest questions within your niche. Boom: you’ve got a wealth of posts, ready to go.

Change up your format. Sure, how-to blogposts and scintillating written stories are great to read. But why not change it up a bit from time to time? Videos, infographics, and especially contests and giveaways are a great way to engage readers, and they each provide plenty of room for your unique personality. Launching a new doggy daycare service on your pup-centric blog? (See, I can’t stop with the dog thing!). Have your readers send in cute photos of their pups for a chance to win free services. The more varied and creative you get with it, the more readers you’ll get sharing your work, the more products you’ll ultimately sell.

Get serious about an editorial calendar. In the old days, you could get away with blogging about whatever interested in you from post to post. When you’re trying to sell products and services, getting organized with an editorial calendar is key. This way, you can better vary your content and spread out your product marketing, so it’s not all “buy, buy, buy!” one week and random blogposts the next. In fact, depending on your product, you’ll still want to plan so that you’re primarily focusing on your regular blogging, with your promotions more widely staggered.

Organize your audience into categories. Readers who follow you on Facebook aren’t necessarily drawn to you for the same reasons as Twitter followers, nor do they expect to engage with your blog or products in the same manner in each place. Take some time to research your followers on each social media platform, and to curate posts and shares, whether promotional or otherwise, that really make sense for each one. Even if the ultimate message is the same, it should be communicated differently on each platform. Taking the time to tailor your social media messages will make the much more shareable on each one.

3. Engage More With Your Followers

This may be something you already do, but if not, it’s time to start engaging at a much deeper level and more comprehensively with your potential and current followers. In one respect, it makes sense again to think of yourself like a business with need for customer service representatives; if someone comments on your blog or tweets a complaint about a product, they deserve a response, even if it’s just a “Thanks!” or a retweet. (Caveat: You still retain a blogger’s right to ignore trolls).

However, it’s important not to take the customer service representative idea too far and let yourself turn into an automaton. Big businesses, after all, are increasingly trying to sound just as personable as bloggers, so you’ve already got a real advantage in that department. Which is to say: respond in your characteristic tone of voice, using the full force of your personality. Just be polite and encouraging wherever you can.

And hey, if you’ve already got a loyal following, use it! As you promote your posts and products on different platforms, reach out to followers directly with @mentions, as long as you think they’d truly be interested in what you have to say. Pose discussion questions, or host a Google Hangout where you can talk issues of the day or simply, well, hangout. The greater the response your followers get from you, the more they’ll feel like they know you and that you’re on the same team, the more willing to buy they’ll be.

4. Cross Sell 

On the other end of the corporate vs. personable blogger spectrum, there’s the essential art of cross selling. Hey, if the big guys benefit from it everyday, why shouldn’t you? If it’s done right, cross selling is really just the process of giving your customers even more of what they need, not just randomly throwing more advertising at them. Think of what happens when you book a flight on Kayak. It’s not like when you check out, the site offers you low, low, LOW prices on used cars or trucks, for a limited time only! Rather, the deals they offer are on hotels or car rentals at your destination. You know, stuff you’re probably going to be booking anyway.

Just how you cross sell will depend entirely on the kind of product or service, and you will be the best person to determine just what matches well with what. Cross selling might be done, as we just saw in the Kayak example, at the moment of checkout. It can also happen in the form of a bundle, like when Amazon offers you a deal or sometimes just the convenience of packaging three similar items in one. It can come in the form of an incentive, or in the form of data, by suggesting similar products or service that other people bought in conjunction with the one the buyer added to their cart. It can also come in the form of expert recommendations, or in a 2-for-1 type of offer.

Don’t have anything to cross sell yet? That’s fine. You’ll still want to draw the purchaser further into your brand by suggesting they sign up for your newsletter or connect with you via social media as they check out. The goal here is to think beyond the single sale.

The Takeaway

Chances are, you came to blogging so that you could talk about your passions, and you dreamed, too, of that passion supporting you full-time. Well, in order for that to happen, you’ve got to sell products or services, and doing that requires a good dose of business savvy. With a little education and experimentation, I know it’s doable for you. So get going, and have fun!

Rosie Scott is a content strategist at a digital marketing company. An avid blogger, you can find her at The New Craft Society or on twitter @RosieScott22.

 

Life After Keywords (Not Provided): What’s Next For Bloggers?

This is a guest contribution from Jim Burch, a copywriter from St. Louis.

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When you use Google Analytics to track your blog’s traffic, you may see (not provided) on your list of keyword searches. Simply put, this is Google’s way of encrypting keyword searches in the name of privacy and security.

If you heavily rely on keyword analytics for the content you produce, you may be in a bit of a panic. What was once a quantitative measure to strengthen search engine rankings is now much more qualitative. As a blogger, you want to see every piece of analytics behind every keyword, but in 2013 that’s just no way to do business.

The Web is the only medium where people write for machines instead of people. You get so caught up in keyword density, you may forget actual humans are reading the content.

This Is Good

The first point to understand is this is an improvement for the Web. Adjustments and transitions will take time, but in the end, the general quality of content is about to increase. Imagine if off-Web content was written to fulfill SEO and keyword standards. What would an Ernest Hemingway novel look like if it needed to rank for “great American author” on Google? Hemingway didn’t write for Web crawlers and neither should you.

“Content is king” and all those wonderful cliches still apply, but there’s a little more work to be done now. Digital marketing agencies are looking ahead on this. The marketing blog at iAcquire recommends implementing a “content system” to create content that is both high-quality and consistent to get the jump start on life after (not provided).

Creating a Content System

A content system is an efficient way for bloggers to produce high-quality content while staying organized and consistent. The switch to (not provided) keywords is seen as a restriction by some, but really it’s an invitation to rock some of the best and most-effective content the Web has ever seen. You just have to add the layers to form one delicious cake. What does a content system look like? There are a few elements:

  • An editorial calendar that is both active and consistent. Follow it and use it to keep up with consistent social media and blog posts.
  • When you’re constructing blog posts and social media, keep the themes consistent. You can thoroughly cover a topic and keep readers engaged through all social media platforms.
  • Stop writing for keywords and start writing for people — your audience.

Authors with Authority

Gaining Google Authorship or collaborating with a writer with Google Authorship can be a big asset to your blog’s rankings. Google’s most recent update may give more power to authors who use Google+ and Google Authorship.

Who writes a post could be as important as the site on which it’s published, in the eyes of Google’s web crawlers. This makes the relationship between the author and the publisher mutually rewarding — the publisher will get stronger rankings from quality authors and the author will drive up his or her own authorship ranking with each post.

Not Everything Changes

Keep in mind, just because Google isn’t providing raw data on keywords doesn’t mean its algorithm doesn’t count them. So don’t throw the whole strategy out the window.

These changes are designed to refine existing strategies, not rewrite them. If your work help boost rankings in the past, keep doing them. The addition of better, more consistent content will help rankings in a more organic manner, even if you can’t see feedback from specific keywords.

Bloggers Have It Best

While marketers are scrambling to adjust methods for better rankings, bloggers are good to go. Chances are, you were always writing for an audience first and search rankings second. This method of organic content is going to pay off now that Google rewards both concepts and authorship more than ever before. It’s time for players who cut corners to step back in second place. Bloggers who do it the right way, have been doing it the right way, are about to take the lead.

What do you think? Will the new Google strategy help or hinder your blogging?

Jim Burch is a copywriter from St. Louis. Jim has spent the last 2 years specializing in writing for SEO and helping some of the worlds biggest brands build out their content marketing strategies. He specializes in advertising and marketing and also covers a variety of health and fitness topics. 

The Unexpected Way to Write Killer Content: Blog from Your Heart and Break All the Rules

This is a guest contribution from Tova Payne of TovaPayne.com

If you asked me two years ago about blogging, well let’s just say I must have been living in a cave, because I didn’t quite understand what blogging was all about or why people did it.

I’ve loved writing my whole life, but never realized how blogging was associated with business, or getting your message out to the world.

So I started off with writing a newsletter to an e-mail list I had, and slowly, as I was studying more about business, I recognized that my natural passion for writing could reach a wider audience through blogging.

This gave my writing a greater purpose—the ability to spread my message to a wider reach, to share what I love and hopefully help inspire others too.

Simple enough…Or so I thought.

The more I learned about business (and I bet you can relate), the more you start hearing about the “shoulds,” the rules, and the “right way” to blog and write in general.

You learn about techniques such as SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and how to craft the PERFECT headline so people will read the damn message. Let me be fair—these things contribute to the success of your blog. BUT, what I see and hear people tell me all the time is how they can’t write their blog because they are not sure if they are doing it the right way, or they can’t hit publish until they find that perfect headline.

What’s the problem with that?

Well, it’s an easy way to stay in fear-mode. Too scared you’re doing things wrong that you don’t send your message out to the world. Too scared you didn’t get the right SEO key terms that you never press “publish”. You keep waiting to have everything right until you hit that magic button.

Well, I’ll tell you—the fastest way to sabotage your blogging efforts is waiting to get things right.

Blogging, like anything in life, is a muscle. You need to work it to strengthen it. Through your dedication to blogging and through your consistent posting you will inevitably start crafting better headlines. You will receive feedback on what creates a more popular post and what works best.

And it’s not by spending 80% of your time reading about blogging and 20% of your time starting that blog you never post. The only way to really learn and get better is to get started: Write. And publish. You need to publish to learn.

Secondly, when you try so hard to fit into every blogging rule—you run the risk of seriously dulling down your message to fit the rules, which takes away from the feeling, the inspiration, and the heart of your message.

What posts go viral? It’s the messages that inspire people to share it with their friends. Not the ones that fit the perfect SEO-box.

And I know this from my own experience. Sometimes when I write for other publications I have to write SEO-driven content, and I’ll tell you it just doesn’t feel the same and it never brings me as many likes or new fans as the ones that come from pure heart and passion.

Now, like anything in life it’s a fine balance. I mean if the essence of your writing is to reach people, and if tweaking a few words here and there will help reach more people—then take a few minutes to tweak a few words. Certainly, take advantage of the tag words and writing a good excerpt if you can—but do NOT stress over it, and don’t waste more than a few minutes on this.

Like all rules, they are there as a framework to guide you. But the magic happens when you can chuck the framework and make up your own rules. To allow your intuitive guidance to help you in the decision processing that you make. And yes, this pertains to blogging and all areas of your work.

Certainly, SEO matters to some degree, but when you write from your heart and share your message from that place of passion, the right people will find you.

My vote is to spend more time creating from the heart and press “publish” more often (as you sweep the rules under the rug). So what are waiting for? People are waiting to hear your message. Get to work—Write. Publish. Repeat.

Tova Payne is a Published Author, Writer, Blogger, and Entrepreneur. She helps creative entrepreneurs take action on their dreams. Visit her online home to grab a free copy of 5 Keys to Starting + Finishing your Dream Projectwww.tovapayne.com

Connect with Tova on Facebook here.

Building a Magnetic Blog: How to Keep Your Readers Coming Back for More

This post is from Nick Amann, the founder of SpecificFeeds

As bloggers, we tend to be a little obsessed with numbers – we check our stats compulsively to see how many more hits we got today than yesterday and freak out if we lose a couple of followers on Twitter or Facebook.

However, most bloggers are focusing on the wrong numbers. Having a highly trafficked blog sounds great and it may well be, but what’s even more important that having lots of visitors to your site is ensuring that a high percentage of them are recurring visitors.

There’s a lot of advice out there on how to improve your blog’s SEO to bring in more search engine traffic, how to get more likes on Facebook and so on. All of this is great advice but a web visitor who clicks through to your site, stays for five minutes and leaves forever is probably not very valuable to you.

What we really should be concentrating on is encouraging our readers to come back to our site and read our content on a regular basis.

Why Recurring Readers Are More Valuable

Blogging is not so different from any other business – to be successful it’s important to gain a sufficient number of customers (readers). As with many other industries, selling to pre-existing customers is not only easier but is also likely to be more successful.

A high customer retention rate means that you don’t need to spend as much time and effort in trying to win new customers, as you can spend most of your energy focusing on your existing clientele.

Your regular readers don’t need any convincing to click through to your content. They are eager to read anything new you publish and they value your opinion and recommendations. A blog’s subscribed readers are its most valuable asset.

How to Encourage Subscriptions and Recurring Blog Visitors

Creating a blog that people want to come back to time and time again always comes back to the keystone of excellent content. If you’re not producing content that is helpful, entertaining, easy to read and interesting, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and start again.

That being said, there are a number of ways that you can encourage first-time visitors to your blog to become regular readers. Human beings tend towards laziness so you need to make things as simple and accessible for your readers as possible. If you don’t make it easy for people to access your content on a regular basis, the chances are they just won’t bother.

To encourage casual visitors to become regular readers, you should offer a number of different ways to follow your blog that are clearly visible within the design:

1. RSS Feeds – Still Alive and Kicking!

RSS is not dead, despite what the naysayers may claim. After Google Reader closed, the most popular alternative RSS reader, Feedly, gained an additional 3 million new users. If your blog doesn’t have a working RSS feed, you’re forcing your readers to come directly to your site to read your content and for many people, that is more effort than your blog is worth.

2. Email Opt-in Form – The Money is in The List!

In general, email subscribers are worth much more than RSS subscribers as there is a higher likelihood that they will read your posts. People tend to dip in and out of their RSS readers for entertainment and it’s easy for them to skip over posts when they’re busy. Emails have a higher perceived importance and are much more likely to be read.

Emails also feel a lot more personal than blog posts and allow you to customize your messages to each individual reader (e.g., by addressing them by their name). This can really help your followers to feel like you are talking directly to them and can help to increase your conversion rates.

3. Social Networking – The Future Present is Social!

Since Google Reader bowed out, its former users have had to hunt out alternative ways of keeping up with their favorite blogs and some have abandoned RSS readers altogether. Publishing links to your blog posts to Facebook, Twitter and Google+ provides an easy way for people to follow your blog, as well as encouraging reader interaction.

Like email, posting updates to social media has a more informal feel than using your RSS feed and people are more likely to read your posts when they’re mixed in with other updates from their friends and family.

Having social media accounts for your blog and making your posts easy to share is also an excellent way for growing your fan base. When someone likes your page on Facebook (or Google+ or whatever) it acts like a recommendation from one reader to all their friends and followers. This is a great way of getting new readers who are interested in what you have to say.

And if you’re a site where users can sign up as members, social media integration is a no-brainer anyway. Signing up through an existing social account takes much less time than filling out a form and avoids the problem of lost login credentials – that’s why the majority of social media users prefer this option.

4. New Emerging Technologies – Keep Your Finger on the Pulse!

Internet technologies go in and out of fashion extremely quickly and it’s not always possible to predict what will be the ‘next big thing’. However it’s never a bad idea to experiment with a couple of newer subscription technologies, particularly if they make life easier for your blog readers.

There are a couple of interesting options that are starting to make a name for themselves since the demise of Google Reader. One of these is SpecificFeeds which resolves many of the weaknesses with RSS by allowing users to customize feeds to their individual needs. Check out the Problogger specific feed to get an idea for how the service works.

The Pros and Cons of Pop-up Opt-in Forms

Pop-up windows went out of favor in the early 2000s but they are now back with a vengeance as technology has allowed them to be more user-friendly and they’ve been proven to improve conversion rates by an impressive amount.

There’s still a fair amount of controversy surrounding pop-ups – some people say that you should always use them in order to maximize your newsletter sign ups, while others claim they are an abomination that should be struck from the internet.

For a compelling argument of why you should use pop-ups, have a read through this article right here on Problogger, in which Darren illustrates how using a pop-up signup form caused his daily subscribes to shoot up by over 800%, overnight.

Pop-ups are of course intrusive by nature, and you do run the risk of annoying your readers and causing the opposite effect to what you intended. This article at Copyblogger discusses the downside of using pop-ups, ponders whether it is worth the risk, and offers some viable alternatives.

In the end It comes down to personal preference whether you use pop-ups or not, but there’s no denying that they are incredibly effective when it comes to increasing your email signups.

Perhaps an acceptable compromise is to make use of the sophisticated pop-up technology that is now available for blogs and show pop-ups only to first-time visitors or have the pop-up appear only when the user has read an entire article and scrolled to the bottom of the page.

Growing Your Subscribers is The No.1 Way to Grow Your Business.

The arguments for focusing on your existing readers are compelling. It’s said that a business needs only 1,000 true fans to be successful. What is a true fan? Someone who wants to consume everything you produce, whether you are an author, singer, artist or blogger.

Rather than focusing on trying to increase your blog traffic, instead shift your focus to converting your existing occasional readers into subscribers. If your blog can manage to obtain 1,000 truly engaged subscribers, you can safely call yourself a successful blogger, whatever niche you write in and whatever your method of monetization or business model you use.

Growing your subscribers is not something that happens overnight but with consistent effort and a well-thought out plan, it is possible.

To sum up:

Publish excellent content

Engage with your readers and be approachable and friendly

Offer a highly visible link to your RSS feed

Include an email subscription form

Add sharing buttons for the social networks you want to focus on

Look into new subscription technologies like SpecificFeeds

Consider a popup signup form.

Do you have any other tips for optimizing your blog subscribers? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the importance of site traffic versus RSS and email subscribers so join the discussion in the comments if you have any opinions or further points to add.

Nick Amann is the founder of SpecificFeeds, a free service aiming to send only relevant news to subscribers. On his blog, he’s writing on the topics of productivity and managing information overload.

5 Ways to Find Out What People Really Want From Your Blog

This is a guest contribution from Sabina Stoiciu, blogger, photographer and traveller. 

While it can be quite redundant to pose this question, here it goes: Why blog? Let’s have a look at a few key stats that’ll convince you to set up a blog in the next two seconds, if you haven’t already got one:

  • 77% of Internet users read blogs
  • nearly one quarter (23%) of the time spent on the Internet is directed towards blogs and social networks
  • small businesses that run blogs increase their leads number by 126%
  • offering valuable content is one of three reasons why people follow your brand on social networks
  • 81% of US customers give credit to recommendations coming from blogs they’re fond of

(see the full stats on socialmediatoday)

One thing that happens to many fresh bloggers is not knowing what to write about or what would best benefit their audience, in order to convince them to subscribe to that blog and to make them desperately wait for another post to be published.

Supposing this little problem of not knowing exactly what to blog about might occur to anyone, not only to blogging rookies, it’s a good idea to think about what people want from your blog.

By not knowing this, you make yourself a disservice because:

a) you can fail at attracting new readers if you’re not aware of what they seek and

b) you might lose some of your current readers if you don’t meet or keep up with their expectations.

When talking about blogs, it’s important to know how readers see them. Some people read blogs to live other people’s experiences. Others look for tips they can apply to themselves. Several people look for business information, while there are many others who seek entertainment material. As Darren wrote, a good question is also what your content is centred upon – information, inspiration or interaction.

Generally people find a blog, like it and become a reader because they value the content and the way in which it’s written, but wouldn’t it be great to actually know what your visitors want and to use this knowledge to attract them towards your blog for converting them into full-time readers?

Below you will find 5 ways that can help you in the quest of finding out what people really want from your blog.

1. Listen to them

You can do so by offering them a way to express their content related desires and by actually reading what they tell you.

Two places where readers can share what they would like to find are the comments section of every blog post and the “contact me” form you can embed into your blog. A form like this provides people a short and easy way to get in touch with you and to keep discussions private, in comparison to the comments section. 123ContactForm is an online form and survey builder that could help you in several ways. For example, it offers a free plugin for WordPress based blogs that can help you create a customisable contact form with almost no effort – you can access one here.

2. Ask them

You can also run a survey in which you kindly encourage them to tell you what they would most love to see on your blog.

The benefit of a survey is that it can help you in two ways: with your current readers and with potential readers. Why is that? Because you can publish it on your blog, where you’re addressing it to your current readers, but you can also publish it on other websites, partner blogs or social media channels, where you can reach a whole bunch of other people that aren’t necessarily your readers yet.

A free survey tool like the one from the already mentioned 123ContactForm can help you publish your survey on any of the above channels and personalise it as you wish, if you want people to recognise your brand.

While point 1 and 2 refer to the “ask the readers what they want” part, points 3 to 5 handle the more technical aspect of the user vs. content research, that is letting the data speak about what topics you should cover.

3. Keyword research

Get to know what is trending by doing some keyword research on Google, as well as on your blog. Both types of search can help you.

Here’s how: if you find out what people are looking for right now, you can start covering those topics (supposing you haven’t already) and drive organic traffic to your blog. On the other hand, knowing what people have been looking for on your blog can point you towards popular topics which you can afterwards choose to cover more in-depth.

As of the free tools that can help you do the research, you may want to try out Google Trends, the already popular Google Analytics and your blog’s stats. Again, this tool works for current and future visitors.

screenshot_Google_Trends

4. Check post traffic

Another indicator of what drives your visitor’s interest is the post traffic. Articles that readers find relevant and valuable will show an increased traffic volume compared to ones that are not so appealing.Thus, keeping an eye on your blog’s traffic data from Google Analytics or the blog stats is always a good idea that might also define or at least improve your content strategy.

One thing to bare in mind when talking about post traffic is also how well you optimise your posts for search engines. By using relevant and targeted keywords, clearly expressing your ideas, using a friendly, yet catchy headline, setting helpful tags and image descriptions, you allow visitors to find more easily what they’re looking for. And Google will love you for that.

You can also check out Darren’s post on how to optimise a blog post that performed well in terms of traffic.

5. Analyse engagement

The last point on our list (but definitely not one that should be neglected) is to analyse the engagement around your blog posts and around their reverberance in social media.

To be more specific, take a look at the number of likes, shares and comments a post received directly on your blog, as well as on the social media channels where you shared it. Naturally, posts that sum up a lot of engagement have always proved themselves to be a hot topic for those engaging with them. Hence, why not consider exploring more of these topics that your readers were so keen on?

These are some ideas on how to find out what your blog visitors are looking for. Remember, you can always test to see what works out best and let the results point you towards the direction worth following.

Sabina Stoiciu enjoys blogging, photography, traveling and finding ways of gathering and sharing relevant business knowledge. You can follow her on Twitter. She also writes for 123ContactForm, the online form and survey builder – try it for free.

The Power of Infographics on your blog

This is a guest contribution from Chelsea Varney, a Community manager at Brandwatch.

Infographics are extremely useful for numerous reasons when it comes to content marketing and blogging.

Although many writers may not have considered using an infographic for a blog post this can be an excellent way to present interesting information while linking to a topic that is of significance to yourself and your readers.

What an infographic offers is easily digestible data which is presented in a pleasing form to an audience. The genius of an infographic is that it can communicate multiple facts or stats in a quick format.

A reader may not have time to peruse a whole blog on the rise of digital technologies or stats on WordPress users but a quick synopsis of a useful infographic may be of interest to them.

Unsurprisingly, using an infographic for a post can draw attention to a blogging site due to its shareability.

Unlike some images used within blog posts, an infographic can give an overall summary of a blog which will entice readers into looking at their article in more depth.

It has been proven that visuality is an essential element in the sharing of posts on social media.

Take Twitter as an example, tweets with images received 150% more retweets than those who did not have them, 18% more click throughs and 89% more favourites by fellow users. These are substantial figures when you are trying to get people to share your hard work with others.

Find an Interesting Infographic

When you find an interesting and informative infographic that grabs your attention while teaching you some new facts, you know that you are on to a winner! However, there are some points that you must consider when choosing an image to use on your site.

Although a blog which uses an infographic may be a success, it could also isolate an established audience if it is not relevant to their topic of interest. Do not use an infographic on cooking if your other articles are on digital technologies.

2. When choosing an infographic, take a look at the date that it was released. Old facts and stats are not going to interest your readers as much as those that were created this year.

Also, competing blogs may have already used this as a topic for a previous post. Being up to date on this will put you ahead of other bloggers.

3. Make sure that you read the whole infographic before dedicating your time writing a post on it. The infographic may only possess a few pieces of information that are relevant to you.

This will not be enough to support an entire blog post dedicated to the infographic. Instead you could use it as a supporting piece for another topic.

4. Some people may wonder how you measure the quality of the infographic? Unfortunately, there are some poorly executed graphics that are circulating the internet which demonstrate what you do not want to place in your blog.

Poor research, over generalisation and ineffective imagery leads to a picture which does not capture the imagination of the audience.

For instance, take a look at this infographic which is on gender division in the workplace. It does not deliver on its promise of explaining the difference of gender in the workplace instead it simply states some opinions with no objective evidence. To be honest, it’s pretty pointless. gender

An infographic which is clear in its objectives and delivers them in a fun and informative way will certainly grab the attention. However, some of you may be wondering how you will create an entire blog post around one image.

Here are some tips to writing about infographics:

Take this infographic on the trends of budget travellers in 2012-2013:

Budget traveller trends It is a relatively modern image that is simple yet offers some interesting figures on global cities, traveling needs and wants. Using information from their website they have calculated emerging cities and those which have fallen in popularity since their previous survey.

Firstly, to write a blog about this infographic you would need to outline the topic area that is being addressed. You need to introduce your audience to what the blog will be about and why they should be interested. How could this affect them?

For instance, you could discuss why travel is important for both the cultural and economic development of society. You will need to conduct some more research into the area and to not simply rely on the infographic alone.

Discuss the key findings of the infographic and its implications. Tokyo is emerging as a new tourist area for 2013 according to the hostelbookers survey. Could this mean that people are traveling further afield for holidays.

Go through each stat on the infographic and pick out which fact is most useful to you. The whole image does not need to be discussed in a blog only the key points.

Including a conclusion to what the infographic has taught you will also provide a strong ending to a blog and could encourage comments from others who agree with you (or even those who have a different view).

In the travellers image we can see that Europe is where all the most popular cities are for budget travellers according to Hostel Bookers an interesting fact that a reader may not have been aware of.

An infographic can also be used purely to support a topic that you have a knowledge of. Simply by using an image that is easy to share, you can increase the amount of people heading over to view your blog.

Another added benefit of using an infographic as the basis of your blog is that quite a bit of the content is already prepackaged for you. The infographic is providing you with a lot of data that you can use without much need for researching.

There is a whole host of reasons for using infographics but, as always, the most important is the increase of followers to your blog through presenting interesting content. Why not give it a try?

Chelsea Varney is a Community manager at Brandwatch , a social media monitoring company. You can connect with Chelsea onTwitter or Linkedin

Is your blog design ready for 2014? Four ways to tell

This is a guest contribution from Laura Windisch of 99designs.

It’s that time of year again. Time to take a good long look at your blog and reflect on what’s worked well, learn from what hasn’t, and set goals for what will. After you’ve had a chance to sort through the numbers—total visits, average length of stay and the like—give your eyes a minute to focus on what your design is doing to showcase your content.

Whether you install one of your platform’s pre-made templates or find someone to create a custom design, your blog’s appearance is what visitors will notice first. A good design will communicate your message with personality and passion.

Here are four questions you can ask yourself to assess whether your design is ready for 2014.

1. Is your design as simple as it ought to be?

When it comes to blogging, the written word rules. Keep readers focused on your content with a clean design. Here’s how.

  • Ditch the clutter. Delete any distracting background images and dead links.

  • Embrace white space. Give your text room to breathe.

  • Limit your fonts. Choose no more than three fonts (for example, one each for your titles, body text and navigation) to keep the page from looking overloaded. Whatever font you choose, make sure it’s legible.

  • Use colour carefully. Is your background light and your text dark? That’s a good start. An explosion of colour can be overwhelming, but splashes of vibrant shades will help you draw attention to important areas like call to action. A subtle background will also help the photos and images within your post pop.

2. Is your content easy to scan?

Most readers will be scanning your posts rather than reading them word-for-word. Make your design easy to scour.

  • Break it up. Headlines, subheads, lists, images and bold text are your formatting friends. They’ll make your content easier to consume.

  • Be generous with images. Treat your readers to big photos, illustrations and charts that supplement a point you’re making in your post. Visual content attracts eyeballs.

3. Can people find what they are looking for?

If you started your blog with a passion—but without a clear idea of all the topics you’d be covering—it may be time to take a step back and give your design a solid structural backbone.

  • First, get organised. Establish a clear hierarchy and put everything in its place.

  • Create noticeable navigation. Visitors will land on your blog from Twitter, search engines, links and who knows where else. Show off what else you have to offer with clear links to categories, recent posts and popular posts.

  • Include strong CTAs. Be sure your design clearly tells your audience what to do (e.g. “Subscribe to our newsletter”). Don’t assume they’ll hunt for anything.

4. Is your design memorable?

New blogs are popping up daily. As of this posting, for example, there are 72,628,476 WordPress sites in the world. Find a way to stand out.

  • Brand your header. This is the area new visitors will likely notice first, so don’t miss the opportunity to create a strong first impression of your personal brand. Play off your logo to show your personality.

  • Create a custom design. Stand out from the plethora of popular free themes with a custom blog design. A unique look will inspire your readers and keep them coming back for more.

Did you answer no to any questions? Now’s the perfect time to step up your blog design and let your content shine. Here’s to a beautiful 2014!

Laura Windisch writes for 99designs — the world’s leading online graphic design marketplace. If you’re looking for a custom blog design, try launching a contest on their website. You’ll get dozens of creative options and pick the one you love most.      

7 Insider Tips To Help You Get Noticed On Blog Directories

This is a guest contribution from Andrea Martins, founder of Story Resumes. 

Okay, so the honeymoon of Aunt Gracie reading your blog posts is over and you’re now looking to accelerate your blogging career. You want to play in the big league but to do that you need to attract more traffic without the need to promise your first-born son.

One way to gain visitors is to get noticed on blog directories. Photography, cooking, gardening, cycling, travelling, meditating and more, there are thousands of directories out there each catering to specific niches and interests. If you look, you’re bound to find some just your size.

Now here’s where you have a choice.

Once you’ve found directories to list on, you can be one of the 99% of bloggers who press ‘submit’ without thinking too much about the potential of that listing.

Or you can choose to be in the 1% who are strategic about what they are about to do and how they are about to do it.

You see, a blog directory listing is not just a blog directory listing and there is more to listing on a blog directory than meets the eye. Your listing could be a unique opportunity for your blog to get noticed and receive a valuable shout out from the blog directory owner and/or successful peers on the directory whose high traffic blogs could skyrocket your visitor numbers. You may even luck out with a media request. It happens.

Having personally approved most of the 2,265 blogs on a global directory that’s been running for over six years, here are my top seven insider tips to boost the chances of your blog receiving valuable shout-outs and traffic spikes from blog directory listings.

1. Did You Have Me At Hello?

If you don’t have a strong, catchy title for your blog, how will you ever stand out in a long page of blogs listed on a directory, or grab the attention of the blog directory owner who sees hundreds if not thousands of submissions?

2. Do You Make Me Feel Good?

If you walked into a café that sold last week’s leftovers and was void of atmosphere, would you stay? Neither will your audience.

Content might be king over time, but no one will hang around to read your content unless your ‘look and feel’ instantly attracts. You don’t have to spend a fortune on design. Quality templates work just fine as long as there is something on your page that hooks possible influencers and inspires them to give you a big shout-out.

3. Did You Mean What You Said Last Night?

The most critical blog post is the one we see first. If you usually blog about entrepreneurship but you couldn’t resist blogging about baking your daughter’s birthday cake last night, we’ve already left before the candles are lit.

When you list on blog directories, make sure you have your best and most relevant blog post right at the top of your page before you submit.

4. Do You Inspire My Trust?

It makes no sense to bring people to your blog, get them excited and then lose their trust with broken links on your site. That’s akin to submitting a resume for your dream job without supplying the correct contact details for your referees.

You get just a few seconds to inspire trust and prove you know what you’re doing. Don’t blow it.

5. Can I Tell My Friends About You?

Online influencers are busy people. If they like what you offer, they usually want to quickly shout out about it and notify you of their good deed all in the same action. They can’t do this unless you’re on Twitter and your handle is easy to find on your home page. The same applies for their audiences who can ‘pay it forward’ for you if you make it easy for them.

Facebook and Google+ work well too, but nothing beats the ease and speed of 140 characters.

6. Is Your Love Genuine?

If the blog directory requests that you display their hyperlinked badge or text link on your blog, then display it loud and proud.

If you try to outsmart the blog directory owner and hide these on zero page rank URLs and/or on pages that no one will ever intuitively find, you destroy your goodwill immediately and risk not being accepted on the directory at all.

7. Will You Remain Faithful?

Finally, if you put a blog directory’s badge or link on your blog and then remove it after your listing has been approved, that’s just bad karma. It may not be noticed for a while, but it will be noticed. And you wouldn’t want to mess with karma, would you?

If you’ve never thought about the potential of gaining traffic by getting noticed on blog directories, today’s a great day to start. Somewhere out there is a directory owner or peer influencer who desperately wants to discover something new to shout out about. Put a bit of thought into your listing, brighten their day and they might just brighten yours!

Andrea Martins is the founder of Story Resumes: Visually Awesome Resumes That Tell Your Story and Get You Noticed. Prior to that, she co-founded Expat Women and its global blog directory. 

How to Regroup and Keep Going After a Disappointing Launch

This is a guest contribution from Ernest Dempsey, fiction author.

life-unexpected.jpg

The big day has come and gone. You did all the prep work, created as much buzz as you could, and promoted from every angle.

You blew up social media. Networked with peers and strangers. Met new people and helped them promote their stuff through your small, but growing channels.

You spent countless hours getting your product ready to launch to the world, painstakingly covering all the bases so it would be as good as it could be when the release day arrived.

Zero hour arrived and you waited patiently as the sales began to trickle in; a good sign at first. Or so you thought.

But as the day went by, the small flurry of sales never became the avalanche you’d hoped for, and by the end, you were left wondering what the hell just happened.

Does your product suck? Did you do something wrong with your marketing and promotional plan? Should you give up and try something else or should you regroup and push forward?

You’re not alone in this maelstrom of confusion. There have been several big names that have seen that road. And there are some key lessons we can take away from their experiences.

Big Ideas

Light bulb with a great idea

Here’s the problem with people and ideas. We get them in our heads and inside that imagination of ours, they seem like the best thing since sliced bread. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had ideas for books, movies, products, or services that took my excitement to the edge of the stratosphere.

Throw on top of that all the amazing success stories we see on blogs, Youtube videos, and online training courses. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.

We see the articles about the guy who wrote a guest post for someone and got 10,000 visits to their website the next day. Or the girl who sent out a Tweet with the right hash tag and sold 5,000 units within six hours. Or the lady who had 1,000 subscribers before her blog even went live.

We see all of that, and think it can be us too. Why not? They were normal people just like you and I. All we needed to do was have a good idea, take action, and execute the exact same strategies.

Right?

Not so fast. And I mean that literally, not so fast.

Great Expectations

Dreaming goals

Mark Aplet – Fotolia.com

Let’s go back to the point where you just released your product. It’s day two and sales are barely doing anything. Maybe you’re moving a product or two every twenty-four hours. Or maybe you aren’t selling a damn thing.

That’s not going to cut it. And at that rate, if you haven’t already, don’t quit your day job.

But what is the problem? You did everything exactly like you were supposed to, following the blueprint of those who have gone before to the letter. Why did your launch suck?

It could be any number of things. But the first thing you need to examine is the expectations you set before the launch.

If you go back and look at it, what were those other people selling? Was it a product with a bigger market, a hungrier market, a more viralistic market? (I think I just invented the word viralistic)

Let’s assume that you have already done that and you have a really strong market that can produce lots of traffic to your site, and a market that is desperate for the solution that you provide. Sounds like a perfect scenario. Even with all of that, it is not a good idea to assume that your launch is going to go bonkers with sales.

What has worked for someone else in the ways of marketing, promotion, and the resulting sales or subscribers may not happen for you. Every single person is different. Every scenario is different.

Then what kind of results should we expect?

Realistic Expectations

You know people will pay for your product or service because you have already done that part of the process. You tested out a few prospects in your target market and they loved what you’re providing.

So, why hasn’t it gone viral? Why didn’t your launch go better?

The truth is, most product launches don’t go that way. In the normal world, those occurrences are the outliers in the statistical universe. For you, it’s probably going to take a little more time, a little more effort, and a lot more patience.

After all, there is a ton of behind-the-scenes work that goes into an overnight success.

These things take time to build up for most businesses. In the offline world, it can be as slow as networking with one person at a time. On the Internet, we have the opportunity to meet and interact with multiple people in small amounts of time, but it can still be a long process to build up trust.

And trust is crucial.

Would it be cool if your launch went viral? Sure. But don’t expect it. What you should expect is to need to keep working hard and constantly making connections, interacting, and helping others.

Like I said before, you’re not alone. There are lots of people who have been in your shoes. But it took a bit of regrouping, and rethinking to get them to the level of success they desired.

People with failed launches who pushed through to succeed

Self-Published Author- Me

Yeah, I thought I would start with my personal experience in the matter. I write action/adventure fiction and science fiction. When I released my first novel, I expected lots of people to buy it. Don’t get me wrong; I didn’t believe I could quit my job right away. I just wanted to write stories on the side.

But I figured I had 700+ Facebook friends and most of them would buy a copy since I had helped most of them in some way at some point in time.

I sold less than fifty copies in a year.

It sucked. And I was crushed by the lack of support. Moreover, I was riddled with doubt. Was my book horrible? Was I a terrible writer? What did I do wrong?

Actually, it is pretty simple. I set huge expectations, relatively speaking, and did very little ground work to get my book noticed. I didn’t understand the first thing about traffic or promotion or marketing.

I just figured I could put something out there and the people I knew would buy it, and word would spread.

Compare that strategy with the one I employed in December of 2012 when I re-released my first book along with the sequel. This time, I gave away thousands of copies of the books. I did a lot more online networking.

As a result, my book sales took off. I didn’t sell millions of copies, but so far in 2013, I’ve sold around 4000 copies of my books and novellas. Pretty cool, right?

The lesson here is that for many of us, slow growth is how we will get to where we want to be. And that is okay. Slow and steady wins the race, after all.

App Designer- Nathan Barry

When Nathan was getting ready to launch his book about creating apps, he wrote a bunch of guest posts and submitted them to various blogs. His hope was that he could get several of them published and the resulting traffic would help propel the launch of his book.

In the end, he only had five posts published, which is still a good number. But the traffic that came as a result was moderate at best; each yielding about a hundred visits.

He could have thrown in the towel at that point and just waited to see what would happen. But he didn’t. Nathan continued to build up his subscriber base until it was close to 800 when he launched his book.

On the day his book went live, he brought in over $12,000 dollars. That is an amazing day. Not life changing money, but awesome nonetheless.

What is better is that Nathan kept on pushing, sending emails, writing posts, grinding it out. The result was over six figures worth of sales in a year. Nice.

I realise that is not a disappointing launch, but it was certainly discouraging before he went ahead with the release. Nathan could have waited around until he reached what he thought was critical mass before putting his book out there, but he didn’t. Rather, he persevered and kept pushing slowly forward.

Restauranteur- Colonel Sanders (Founder of KFC)

Yeah, surprise name right? I know. But in 1955 when an interstate bypassed Corbin, Kentucky where Sanders had been cooking up fried chicken for almost twenty years, he was left broke and uncertain about his future.

He knew his chicken was good. But he’d been forced to sell everything he’d worked so hard to build over the course of two decades.

Then Sanders rethought the way he’d been doing business. He decided that instead of doing all the work himself, he would franchise his chicken business. And Kentucky Fried Chicken was born.

Within five years there were 190 franchisees and over 400 restaurants serving up the Colonel’s eleven herbs and spices.

The lesson from this one: A great idea is nothing without a great execution strategy. There could also be a better way to do what you’re doing. If so, find it!

Visionary, Author, Blogger- Seth Godin

The master of seemingly all things business has not gotten there by being immediately successful every time he launches something.

One of his earliest ideas was a video tape that produced the visual of a fireplace or an aquarium on a television screen. He figured lonely or lazy people would be interested in buying such a thing because they could pop the tape in the VCR and just let it go.

No fire stoking. No fish feeding. Simple.

He went to American Airlines magazine and ran an ad for it, telling himself if he sold 30 units, he would pursue production of the item.

The first week he ended up selling 24, so he thanked everyone who’d ordered the tape, and sent them a gift.

Since he didn’t meet his goal, he bailed on the idea. However, the next week he received another eight orders, which would have put him over his goal of thirty. But Godin had already abandoned the idea and moved on to the next thing.

What’s the lesson here? Patience. That is the lesson.

Sometimes, we set these goals in our minds and tell ourselves if we don’t reach them by a certain time we will just give up. Godin’s idea with the video tape might not have been a successful venture in the long run, but we need to give our products and services a fair chance at success.

That means giving them time to sink in while we work behind the scenes to get more eyeballs on the product.

Another Self-Published Author- John Locke

No, not the guy from the Lost television series. He’s an author. Actually, he’s a best-selling author.

Early on, though, he wasn’t.

John had been a successful businessman, and had made his fortune long before he started writing books. No agents or publishers were interested in his stories so, he decided to self-publish his novel.

With loads of expendable money in his arsenal, he released the book and spent $25,000 over the course of a year trying to promote it. He hired one of the top publicists in the country to send out over 10,000 press releases, bought a kiosk in the mall just outside of Borders Books, advertised on billboards, and tried several other things to boost sales.

In the first twelve months after he released his book, all of those efforts netted him less than thirty sales. You read that right: thirty. Not a good return on investment for all that time and money.

John had written a few other books during that year-long process, and decided that he needed to take a step back and regroup. The marketer inside him told him to do things differently, the way he would if he was running his book business like a regular business.

He got on Twitter, built a simple WordPress blog, and began networking with the online community. At one point, after hundreds of hours interacting with people online, he wrote a blog post about two people he admired and sent out a tweet about it.

Because of all the work he put in behind the scenes, his tweet led to hundreds of retweets, and thousands of visits to his blog. Sales of his books went off the charts and within five months, John Locke had sold over a million ebooks on the Kindle platform.

He is one of only a handful of self-published authors to ever be on New York Times Best Seller list. And he is still one of the top best sellers on Amazon.

The lesson from John’s story is that you may have to take a step back from how you are doing things in your promotion and marketing strategy. It may even require a complete overhaul.

John will tell you up front that he is not the best writer in the world. I’ve read some of his stuff, and he’s right! Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun, edgy, witty, and a good read. But it will probably never win any awards. And that’s okay! He writes to his audience whether he’s writing a blog post or another chapter for a new book.

Because he has redesigned his marketing plan, he doesn’t have to be the best writer in the world. His product is good enough for the people it was created.

It’s On You

Do any of these stories fit into where you are or have been with a product launch? What did you do? And what are you going to do in the future?

Ernest Dempsey is a fiction author and writes about personal development and life observations on his blog.  He has also been a Master’s level counselor for the last decade.  Find out more about his books and check out his inspiring posts by visiting ernestdempsey.net or follow him on Twitter @ErnDempsey or Facebook.