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The Essential Ingredients for Building a Blog That Ranks in Alexa’s Top 10,000

This guest post is by Neil Patel of Quick Sprout.

Would you like to know how I grew Quick Sprout to have an Alexa ranking of 10,000 in under four years?

That’s not an easy feat. But the cool thing is I didn’t do anything that you can’t do now. My tactics will work for you, too.

Fortunately, late last year I did an interview with Michael Alexis over at WriterReviews about how I grew Quick Sprout. It’s a great interview to listen to. In the meantime I’ve summarized the content in this post.

Endure and sacrifice to get great content out

At this moment my ranking on Alexa stands at 10,060:

Let me tell you, I’ve had to sacrifice a lot to get there.

Because I’m so busy with KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg I have to use my holidays and weekends to write posts. When people think of Christmas Day or New Year’s Day and time spent with family, I look forward to a peaceful day of writing posts.

Saturdays and Sundays? Because the flow of work-related stuff is slow on these days I use these days to knock out four or five posts.

But listen: I don’t say this to brag or to make you feel guilty. I’m simply pointing out that you have to sacrifice if you want a great blog. You might have a family that will not appreciate you writing blog posts on holidays and weekends.

I totally understand that.

So ask yourself, where are there hours that you could better use your time? And here’s a hint: When you sit down to write during that time, give yourself a two-hour deadline. I’ve found if I focus intensely on a blog post like a surgeon at the operating table I can knock posts out quicker than if I allow myself to get distracted.

Use Digg

This is not the greatest tactic now, but I share it since it has been part of my success with Quick Sprout.

In the early days of Quick Sprout I worked hard to become a top user on Digg. I added lots of friends who had similar interests, submitted their content, commented and even gave them tons of diggs.

Eventually those influential people would friend me back and start to digg my stuff. And so the way it works…the more friends you have the more chances you have of getting stories to the homepage.

It really wasn’t very hard to become a top 100 Digg user as long as you added friends and submitted good stories from BBC, Forbes, Yahoo News, PCWorld, CNN, and the Washington Post. The quality of the posts is what really mattered, and you’ll eventually get in close with the top digg users.

The unfortunate part of being a great digg user is that it can take up a lot of time! It doesn’t have the same sort of impact as it did in the early days of Quick Sprout, but there might be some value if you can invest a minimal amount of time.

Build real relationships with people over time

Another part of my success in building up Quick Sprout is that I systematically built relationship with power bloggers over the years. That’s right: I said years.

See, you can’t expect to get any favors like free traffic from big players unless you invest the time in them. You have to always ask, “How can I help you?”

The way I would do it is travel to conferences and run into these bloggers. I would talk to them, ask them questions and invite them out for a drink or dinner, and always pick up the tab.

Some guys who have been instrumental in helping me grow Quick Sprout include:

I met these guys face to face and over time built a relationship with them. The conference that I recommend you definitely attend is Blog World.

But you should also attend other conferences that are related to your industry. The point is to meet people who share similar interests like you, then go out of your way to see how you can help them.

After a few months, you then have enough emotional equity built up with them to be able to email them and say, “Hey, would you mind blogging about me?”

Of course you need to offer something in return—that you’ll blog about them or something else. Ask them how you can help. Whatever it is, make sure you reciprocate.

The two sides to responding to comments that grow a blog

There are two parts to commenting that will drive traffic to your site—responding to comments on your blog and responding to comments on other blogs. Let’s deal with responding to comments on your blog first.

For me, responding to comments is one of the things that I enjoy the most. It is the time that I get to engage and learn about you, and how I can help.

This is not easy.

It takes time, but it’s worth the effort, even though it takes me anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes a day. But this is not me saying “Thank you.” It’s got to be more than that. Your comments must seem like they really care about the person who wrote the comment, and that you are listening to the questions they ask.

For example, you should acknowledge what they’ve said, point out an interesting point they made and then ask them a question. It could be as easy as “I’m curious, how did you come to that conclusion?”

Equally important about driving free traffic to your blog is commenting on other blogs. As I grew Quick Sprout I would try to be the first person to respond to an article on Mashable or TechCrunch. That first comment gets the most exposure, but you have to be quick on the draw.

How?

Set up an account with an RSS reader that sends you desktop notifications when a blog publishes new content. You can use an iPhone app like Push for these notifications. When you do comment never write “First comment” or “Thanks for this awesome post.” Those are useless comments, and might even get deleted.

Instead, you need to write a detailed comment—one that demonstrates you understand what the blogger wrote about. And you need to ask questions, too, that compel the author to engage and shows that you are interested in learning more.

And don’t be afraid to critique what the blogger wrote about. If you see a flaw in something they wrote, first tell them something you appreciate about the article, and then transition to the point you disagree with. Be kind. Respect goes a long way.

Keep in mind, you don’t have to comment on every single article. Select articles that are relevant to your blog and what you do and that will drive traffic to your site.

Write content people want to read

Finally, when it comes to building free traffic to your blog, you cannot get any better than providing great content. I’ve blogged about this extensively on my guide to blogging. You should read those posts again if you haven’t already and apply the principles behind each.

But perhaps you’re wondering how you find out what readers want. Here are the ways I would go about it:

  • Read hundreds of blogs and figure out three things: who are the top bloggers, what are the top posts, and why?
  • Next, try to put your finger on a topic that is not getting a lot of attention. You are looking for a need in the space that you can fill.
  • Crawl through the comments on busy blogger sites and see what people are saying. You’ll often find a person or two who are asking for something specific. Collect these ideas as possible blog topics.
  • Build your blog and start asking your readers and visitors what kind of content they would like to read. Use survey tools or devote entire posts to asking for topic ideas.

Don’t forget that when you write detailed, long-form posts, you will get better comments. And as the content grows, promote it across the social web.

Grow your Twitter account first

Another free strategy that you can use to build traffic to your blog is to build up your Twitter account before launching your blog. We did this with our KISSmetrics blog.

We invested a whole lot of time in building up our Twitter following by sharing great content across the web, responding to tweets, following influential Tweeters and thanking people for retweeting. When we reached a point where we felt was critical mass, we finally launched the blog.

The Twitter handle had paved the way for creating hard traffic to the blog, allowing us to grow the blog very quickly in a very short period of time.

Check out the 10 Ways to Get More ReTweets and How to Create a Jaw-Dropping Social Media Strategy in 5 Steps posts for more information on this topic.

Invest in ReTargeter

All of the tips I gave you above are based on free traffic. This last one is a paid traffic source, but it’s worth it!

With ReTargeter, you can serve up ads to people who’ve visited your site to encourage them to come back. This is great for first time visitors who may not have subscribed. I pay $500 a month for ads to be served up on various networks. Some of the networks that ReTargeter access include:

  • Audience Network
  • Right Media
  • Double Click
  • PubMatic
  • Glam Media
  • OpenX

As you can imagine, that huge network spreads a very big net. This means my ads are more likely to appear in front of a visitor, and drive them back to my site to sign up.

Two things you have to keep in mind when you create your ad:

  1. Rotate your ads: Create three or four different ads that appeal to the viewer. Tests have shown that you’ll get a higher click-through . Most people will see about three ads before they click.
  2. Create a compelling message: Cute or clever messages will not work nearly as well as a compelling message. Appeal to their pride, vanity, greed, or fear—some emotion that reflects your content but will get them to click.

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, growing a blog to be in the Alexa top 10,000 is really all about doing old-school stuff: writing great content, commenting, promoting and trying to help as many people as you can.

There are no shortcuts. No sensational ways that will get you tons of steady, quality traffic to your site. You can’t have a great blog if you’re not willing to work. So … are you?

What other questions do you have about creating a great blog that I didn’t answer in this post?

Neil Patel is an online marketing consultant and the co-founder of KISSmetrics. He also blogs at Quick Sprout.

Blog Smarter: Invest in Your Own Success

This guest post is by Jeff Nickles of MySuperChargedLife.com.

My blog grew by leaps and bounds in 2011.  It was exciting! But it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t made a few smart investments in my blog—investments, you could say, in my success.

I’m a regular guy and a part-time blogger just like many of you.  I’ve learned how to grow my site through trial and error.  Over the last four years, I have probably made more mistakes than the average joe.  I’ve done a lot of the wrong things, but occasionally I get it right. I’ve benefited tremendously from the experience of others since I started, so I want to share with you the tactics behind my success, hoping they will help you.

The results I achieved

First, let’s look at the results I achieved. My blog’s experienced what I’d call explosive growth in the last year:

  • 353% increase in number of email subscribers.
  • 103% growth in number of pageviews (doubled in one year!).
  • 141% increase in AdSense earnings.

I want to assure you that these numbers are a reflection of consistent increases over the course of many months.  I’m not just comparing a freakishly bad month from a year ago to a freakishly good month now.

The investments I made

As you can see, I saw big boosts in the number of subscribers, pageviews, and earnings on my site.  These are the key measures of success that I’m always looking to improve.  I attribute the growth of my blog to some important investments that I made about a year ago.

1. I changed my WordPress theme

Not all themes are created equal.  This is especially true when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO).  I’ll admit that I don’t understand all the minutiae behind this art, but I don’t have to, and neither do you—assuming you’re running a self-hosted WordPress blog.

You can significantly increase your site’s ranking with search engines by using a theme that optimizes this for you.

A little knowledge of SEO will certainly help, but the more you get out of the box with your theme, the better.  Just over a year ago, I invested in a premium WordPress theme that had a strong commitment to search engine optimization.  Yes, I had to pay a little money for my theme, but boy has it been worth it.

Before I made this purchase, I ran a different premium theme and used a popular WordPress plugin to supposedly optimize my SEO.  I’m sure the plugin helped, but I can tell you that changing to a different theme—one that was already optimized—helped a lot more.

My traffic has doubled in the past year, and all of the extra traffic has come from search engines.  On top of that, my AdSense earnings have gone up almost 1.5 times on what they were just one short year ago, all because of this increase in traffic.  That’s a nice return on investment—and a clear justification for investing in a good theme.

Investment #1: Catalyst Theme
Cost: US$77.00.

2. I moved to a better email subscription management service

Previously, I used Feedburner to manage my email subscribers.  The thing I liked best about Feedburner was that it was free, but it lacked some key features.  As I learned more about blogging, I discovered what Darren and others say about the importance of building an email list.  Therefore, after three years of puny email subscriber growth, I decided it was time to get serious about how I handled this aspect of my blog.

I want all the new search engine visitors coming to my site to become email subscribers.  One powerful way to encourage this is to offer a first-time visitor an incentive to subscribe.  In my case, I put together a free ebook called The Super-Charged Guide to Smart Living.

The new email subscriber service gives me the ability to use autoresponders.  When someone subscribes, the service automatically sends them a specific Welcome email that I have set up.  I can include links in these emails.  Therefore, I can offer all these new search engine visitors a free copy of my ebook as an incentive to subscribe. This definitely works.

Furthermore, once they become subscribers, I can send them a series of auto-responder emails walking them through a complete sequence of strategic interactions with my blog.  By the way, I got this idea from Darren in What Process Do You Want to Lead Repeat Readers Through?  Excellent advice!

Again, I have to invest a little each month to get these features, but after just one year, I certainly see the advantages.   This new service allows me to engage strategically and proactively with my email subscribers.  It also gives me the ability to brand the emails so I look more professional, credible and consistent.  I believe all of this has contributed to my site’s growth.

Investment #2: FeedBlitz
Cost: US$13.95/month (when I signed up).

3. I implemented a pop-up lightbox

In my first three years of blogging, I had only accumulated about 800 email subscribers.  This is very puny, I know.  I now have over 3,600 valid email addresses on my opt-in list.  Here’s a chart that shows the phenomenal growth I’ve experienced.

Isn’t this amazing?!?  It is to me!

How did I achieve this kind of growth?  Well, I implemented a pop-up lightbox that offers visitors my free ebook in exchange for their subscription. That lightbox looks like this:

I configured this pop-up to appear to first-time visitors.  This really seems to work.  I’ve been averaging around 250 new email subscribers per month since I turned it on about a year ago; before I used this, I averaged around 20 per month.

Originally, I was hesitant to put something like this in place because I knew it could be a minor irritant to some.  However, the results speak for themselves.  I’m definitely glad that I did it.

I had to make a small investment in a premium plugin for WordPress to get the professional look I wanted, but this has more than paid off.  I’ve recouped this expense many times over already.

Investment #3: Popup Domination
Cost: US$77.00.

Make an investment to grow your blog

The growth I’ve seen in the last year has been awesome, although I haven’t had to work a whole lot harder to achieve these explosive results.

It just goes to show you that by investing in the right aspects of your blog, you can really make a big difference.  My total investment for my new theme and for Popup Domination was just a little over $150.  I would spend that money again in a heartbeat.

I started out only paying $13.95 per month for my FeedBlitz subscription, but now, because of my phenomenal email subscriber growth, I pay $49.95 per month.  I don’t mind it a bit—I can assure you that it has been well worth it.

Here’s my advice if you want to grow your blog: educate yourself on what works, and then don’t be afraid to make a few investments.  Not all of them will turn out exactly as you desire, but you’ve got to be willing to take the risk if you want the big payoff.  It worked for me.

Jeff Nickles is a regular guy on a quest to live life to its fullest. He began MySuperChargedLife.com in December of 2007 as a way to share his experiences and to learn more about life.  You can reach him by visiting his blog.

Blog Smarter: 5 WordPress Plugins to Help You Make Money From Your Blog

This guest post is by Louise of MoneySupermarket.com.

Why do we blog? Perhaps you feel you have things to say which the world would be interested in, or maybe you’re very passionate about a topic and your friends are sick of hearing you talk about it! I have a blog like that; it’s simply a sounding board for me to jabber on about a particular hobby of mine which none of my friends take part in.

But the main reason for blogging, I think, is to make some money out of it. Let’s face it, we all enjoy blogging and we all enjoy making money, so why not combine the two? But as we all know, it’s not that easy to make money from blogging, at least at first. So I did some research and found some plugins which could make monetising a blog just that bit easier. Please note that I haven’t used every one myself yet, so I’d welcome your feedback in the comments if they’ve worked (or not) for you!

Amazon Associate

I use this one myself and it’s invaluable if you have an Amazon affiliate account. Once the plugin is installed and set up with your access keys (found on your Amazon affiliates profile) it’s really simple to add in affiliate links to your posts by way of a simple search box on the New Post screen.

Simply highlight the text you want as the link, enter the search term relevant to the post in the side widget, select the category and hit search. It will bring up a list of products from Amazon and you just click on one of the insert buttons to put it straight into the post you’re writing.

You can also enter sidebar widgets as easily as setting up any other widget; on your widget page you’ll see several available widgets that just need to be dragged and dropped into the relevant sidebar panel. You can set up product carousels, favourites, product clouds, MP3 clips and there’s also a search widget. Each one can be customised to match your site and is linked to your affiliate ID, generating revenue each time a user clicks and purchases.

The money you earn from this plugin can be sent to a bank account or as an Amazon gift certificate. Sadly there’s no PayPal support yet but this will hopefully be implemented in the future.

Ad Rotator

This is one I’ve recently been trialling and so far it’s working well. Once installed (in the usual way) it gives you a widget which looks like the default text widget box. You put your ad codes in here and use <!–more–> to separate each block. Each time your site is refreshed the ad will change.

You can have more than one Ad Rotator block in your sidebars so you could have static ads too. The widgets can go in sidebars and footers and work with any ad size.

As there’s no CPM system with this plugin you can charge for ads in whatever method you like. I personally charge more for a static placement than a rotating one but it’s whatever works for you. The best thing about this plugin in the flexibility it offers you.

Kontera

I installed this on a site I run which doesn’t use sidebars. As Kontera places contextual ads within the text of a page, the absence of sidebars didn’t matter. You need to register for a Kontera account first but that is quick and easy, and gives you your published ID which is then entered in the plugin setup. From there it’s simply a matter of choosing the colour of the links you want and adding the generated code into all the pages you want the ads to appear on.

It can take up to 24 hours for ads to appear within your site text, so don’t do what I did at first and deactivate in frustration because it didn’t appear to have worked!

Kontera works in multiple blog platforms, so if you’re a fan of Blogger or Drupal you can also use this nifty plugin. Payments can be made via PayPal for best security.

MediaPass

If you have content on your website which you’d rather keep behind a pay wall, then this plugin would seem to be an easy answer. I say “seem” only because I haven’t used it myself.

Once you’ve registered for a MediaPass account and the plugin is installed, it’s as simple as highlighting the content that you want to put behind the pay wall and choosing the subscription option to apply.

MediaPass take 35% of the revenue the plugin generates, which sounds like a lot, but you do get a lot of support and behind-the-scenes processes for that commission. Their technicians handle all the merchant fees, database management and all the other techy stuff so the blogger can just concentrate on the actual content.

Skimlinks

If you want to earn your money through affiliate marketing, Skimlinks looks to be the tool to go for. The plugin will convert any product links and references in your posts into affiliate links, which can be from any one of over 17,000 merchants on the Skimlinks database.

The advantage of using Skimlinks is that it allows the busy blogger to free up the time otherwise spent seeking out affiliate schemes, setting up tracking codes and maintaining the accounts. Skimlinks does all this for you, and you only need the one account with them to get access to all those different merchant programs.

Skimlinks takes a 25% commission from the merchant, but because of their standing with the merchants they can often negotiate a better rate so overall, you’d probably end up getting more money than if you’d set up all the links yourself. Plus, all the time it saves you means you have more time to write great content!.

Again, I haven’t yet used this one but I am thinking of trying it; has anyone has experience with this?

I’d love to hear feedback about all of these plugins, and if there are any which work especially well for you that you feel should be included. Please let me know your opinions in the comments!

All images taken at the WordPress Plugin Directory.

Louise is a financial writer for MoneySupermarket.com and a freelance copywriter/web designer. In her spare time she runs her wrestler husband’s website and blog. You can find her on Twitter: @louisetillotson.

Blog Smarter: 9 Ways to Make Money from WordPress … Without Having a Blog

This guest post is by Sean Platt of outstandingSETUP.

The Internet is flooded with too many blogs. It probably doesn’t need yours.

It’s not that you don’t have anything to say—you probably do. And it’s not that you couldn’t develop an audience, or eventually monetize that audience—you probably could. It’s definitely not that you’re not smart enough. There are plenty of people less intelligent than you already killing it online.

Unfortunately, it’s no longer 2007. There are now millions of blogs. Most of them fail, and few make any money.

Advertising rates are scraping so low, they’re now digging beneath the bottom. Monetizing your traffic is ridiculously hard, which is why you want to monetize your audience instead. Yet using a blog to monetize your audience through quality content marketing, audience engagement, and relationship building is a slow burn at best.

The market is saturated, and competition is fierce. Sure, the gurus know what they are talking about, but what worked for them probably won’t work for you.

The environment has changed and the strategies that helped the A-listers climb to the peak of the pyramid once upon a yesterday won’t be a fraction as effective for you.

But that doesn’t matter. You can still make a great living with WordPress. And the best part is, you don’t even have to have a blog. There are smarter ways to do it.

1. Themes

Every blog needs a theme—no exceptions!

Sure, WordPress comes with a couple of stock themes, but they are so basic, few bloggers choose to use them, and the number of serious bloggers or entrepreneurs who use them is approximately zero.

Even in a time when everyone is counting pennies, most serious bloggers don’t question the value of a quality theme. If you have the coding knowledge and drive to create a theme, along with the willingness to support it, a single theme could provide a full-time living, like it does for Eric Hamm from Catalyst themes.

Best of all, there are already marketplaces filled with buyers, meaning you have a place to sell your wares just seconds after they’re finished. ThemeForest and MojoThemes are just two examples.

2. Child themes

If you don’t want to get cracking on your own theme with crazy amounts of code, then you could take the lighter approach while still capitalizing on the massive customer bases (buyers) for existing themes.

Genesis has over 50,000 active users. Thesis has over 40,000. Other themes such as Catalyst and Headway have fiercely loyal audiences. Many talented designers and smart entrepreneurs have leveraged these large audiences to generate impressive profits.

A child theme is easier to build than a full theme because it piggybacks on the existing layout, options, and code from a parent theme. Relatively speaking, a child theme can be built in far less time, while still providing more profit to the designer.

In the time it takes to create a single fully developed theme, designers could create a handful of child themes instead. And while the profit is larger per individual purchase for a premium theme, child themes allow you to leverage an existing community, meaning you can easily make up the difference in volume.

3. Hosting services

This isn’t for everyone in the WordPress community, and may not be for you. But if it is, reselling hosting can be extremely lucrative.

WordPress users need support. Online entrepreneurs who are serious about their success, and are using blogs as one of the most powerful tools in their box, are smart enough to know they shouldn’t waste their time lost in the back end of their blog.

Servicing this community could be your fast track to success. WPEngine, ZippyKid and Page.ly are all examples of startups that have been extremely successful in this market.

Yes, you’re reselling hosting, putting your hosting on someone else’s servers and managing the network, but that’s not what you’re really selling at all.

Hosting is the steak, but you’re selling the sizzle. The sizzle in this instance is the safety, security, and comfort your potential customer will have knowing that someone highly qualified to work within the WordPress framework is there for them when they need it most.

Again, this isn’t for everyone. If you don’t have the technical knowledge to pull it off, you will be wasting your time, crash into a wall of certain frustration, and possibly irreparably damage your reputation if you leave behind scores of unhappy customers.

Yet there is a huge demand for this type of service. If you specialize—meaning aiming your services towards professionals who need hosting for their businesses (restaurants, realtors, dentists, lawyers, or any other market in need of hosting—that’s pretty much all of them!)—then reselling hosting might be one of the best ways for you to leverage WordPress for your personal profit.

4. Plugins

Most WordPress users would agree that plugins are a large part of the pixie dust behind the world’s best CMS. With a few clicks, plugins can change the behavior of your entire website.

A well-designed plugin can put money in your pocket. And the market is exploding. This makes sense, since a well-designed plugin can help your blog make money faster, which is appealing to anyone who’s using their blog to turn a dollar.

Plugins must do something specific, and do it especially well, if you expect to charge for them—especially considering there are already countless quality plugins available for free. Scribe and Gravity Forms are two excellent plugins that make their customers happy and developers rich.

Plugins can generate revenue through upfront purchases, or through donations and premium upgrades that improve upon the user experience from the base plugin. There are also plugins such as Wishlist (a plug-in that turns your WordPress blog into a membership site) that have added monthly continuity programs to their offerings.

5. Content creation services

You already know content is king or you wouldn’t be here. But what if you were the one supplying the crowns?

Populating a blog with quality content is the hardest part of growing a blog. Video, text, audio—everything adds to a blog’s growth, yet content creation is time-consuming, and one of the biggest reasons to find ways to make money from WordPress without having to run a blog.

There are countless online entrepreneurs and full-time bloggers knee-deep in their operations’ growth: they can’t afford to step away. They require content to fuel their continued growth, and you can be the provider to give it to them.

You have a specialty. Whether that’s video, copy, or voice, your specialty is what would have fueled the growth of your blog. Rather than creating that content and publishing it to your own site and waiting for it to quickly wither upon the WordPress vine, you could create the same content and sell it for top dollar to those who need it most.

6. Blog creation services

Professional blogs are started every day, and many of the professionals starting those blogs would be happy to pay someone else to put the pieces together for them.

Some bloggers like to tinker, but others see their blog as a serious tool in a serious business and don’t want to spend the time it takes to learn WordPress inside-out. Most online entrepreneurs would rather outsource the setup, paying someone else to install the framework, upload the themes and plugins, and get the blog otherwise ready for business.

The person they pay could, and perhaps should, be you.

You can make a blog setup service especially lucrative by making it your specialty. Whenever you do the same thing over and over, you can continuously improve the quality of your work while shaving minutes from your time. And whenever you can produce higher quality work in a shorter period of time, your growth and profits will both soar.

You can also sell content creation services as suggested in the tip above. This is a perfect upsell since a buyer who just paid to have a blog created will often be happy to pay an additional fee to populate that blog with content as well.

Of course, you must be comfortable creating content, and the decision to add the service to your business must be personally scalable for you. outstandingSETUP does an remarkable job with design, installation, setup and security, but we don’t offer content creation services since it doesn’t fit the model.

Your model must always fit your goals.

7. Support services

You know all those online entrepreneurs and bloggers who are paying for blog creation or content creation services? Well, most would be perfectly happy to pay for quality support as well. And if you’re already offering creation services, continual support is an easy add-on, as long as time and strategy allow.

There are two primary monetization models for this sort of service. The first is to charge by the hour. And while hourly rates for tech support are often high, hourly service isn’t scaleable unless your outsourcing the work, which is why you may want to go with the second monetization model—charging a monthly subscription for support.

8. Build an ad network

This is the most difficult one on the list, but if it matches your personal skill set, it can be extremely lucrative, much like the reselling hosting suggestion up above.

An ad network connects publishers and advertisers, in exchange for a cut of the money changing hands. There are countless blog owners with decent traffic who would be happy to sell ad space, and countless of advertisers looking for places to place their banners. If you can effectively put the two and two together, it could equal a whole lot more than four for the time that you spend online.

Building an ad network can be an especially good idea for entrepreneurs with existing, sizable networks with both publishers and advertisers. This usually means someone who’s been online for a while and dabbled in a lot of different enterprises.

But this isn’t the type of business you want to start from the ground up. You will be most successful if it naturally fits your existing skill set. If it does, you may want to give it a try. It might just be the best way for you to make money from WordPress websites.

9. Offer website reviews

Every author needs an editor. Every website should have one, too. It’s hard to see the forest through the trees, and you never know what other people are thinking when they land on your website.

All the traffic in the world means nothing if a website isn’t optimized to convert visitors into leads, fans, or paying customers. If an online business owner doesn’t know how to organize their site for maximum conversion, you can be the one to show them (so long as that is your specialty).

MenWithPens and Derek Halpern have both done this extremely well. It’s a win-win for the provider since they are advertising their skill set and steadily increasing their authority, while helping business owners maximize the value of their visitors.

Because you are directly helping a website owner generate a higher average profit per visitor, they will be willing to pay you well for your time. The more sites you optimize, the better your reputation will be, and the more you can charge per optimized site.

The above list is by no means exhaustive. There are countless ways to make money with WordPress, and they’re limited only by your imagination. But the message is indisputable.

There is a lot of money to be made in the world of WordPress, but due to massive competition, and depending on your skill set, running a blog might just be the worst way to try to get your share.

Sean Platt is a content marketer and cofounder of outstandingSETUP. Get his FREE report “9 Website Building Mistakes You Should Avoid”.

Blog Smarter: Turn Your Blogging Skills into Successful Affiliate Promotions

This guest post is by Regine Becher of Syndicated Partners.

Like most bloggers, you probably want to make some money from your blog. Chances are good you’ve tried things like writing product reviews or putting banners or links to affiliate products into your sidebar.

But while many bloggers have mastered the “Art of Blogging” (or at least the basic principles) successfully, earning money from your blog doesn’t seem to be that easy. So what could be better for you than to use your blogging experiences and skills to improve the results of your affiliate promotions?

In this post, I’ll show you how you can re-purpose three of the most successful blogging strategies to get more out of your affiliate promotions. As a nice extra, these tactics will also have a positive effect on your blog. But more importantly, you’ll learn how you can merge them into a combined and even more powerful strategy for your affiliate promotions.

While some of what I write may seem simple or self-evident to the more experienced affiliate bloggers, it’s this way of tying it all together into one strategy that will make the affiliate promotions on your blog really stand out.

Let’s look at the three important blogging strategies on their own first.

Write (and promote) for your audience

You know that well enough—if you want your stuff to be read, it has to match your audience’s interests. The same is true for your affiliate promotions, in particular for the products you choose to promote: they have to be relevant for your audience.

This sounds self-evident, but frankly I’m stumped at the number of bloggers who have an affiliate banner for a hosting company on their blog—even though their audience clearly isn’t thinking about computers or internet when visiting their blog.

So instead of promoting your hosting company on your garden blog, why not try it with an affiliate link for garden tools, or link to an ebook about gardening?

Publish (and promote) quality

You know the game… Quality content attracts real readers which are interested in the topic. An excited and engaged audience. (Just look around here on ProBlogger if you don’t believe me.) It also makes people stay on your site longer, come back for more, engage with you and others, and recommend you to friends.

Just the things you want for your blog.

The same holds true for any products you promote: choose quality. Again, this seems to be self-evident. But take a look around at some blogs and see what they promote. (Or take a close look at your own blog, just for good measure.)

A lot of times, I see just the same banners or “product reviews” for the same old products. It seems that a lot of affiliate bloggers don’t bother to pick a product by its quality. Nor do they care about the “quality” of the vendor, i.e. about his integrity, and about how much he cares about his customers.

In the long run, your readers will notice the difference. And they will trust your recommendations just because they know you watch out for them.

Even the quality of the affiliate program should matter to you as affiliate. After all, you can and should expect a fair treatment for your efforts. Affiliate promotions are a business deal between the vendor and you, the affiliate. If a vendor doesn’t care about the success of his affiliates, why should you bother to promote his products?

So, again, be picky. Choose the right kind of products to promote.

Establish expertise—not only for yourself

This powerful blogging strategy has several facets which can all play together:

  • You can establish yourself as expert on your own blog by posting the right kind of content.
  • You can establish yourself as expert to a wider audience by guest posting on other blogs.
  • You can establish other people as experts on your blog by publishing their guest posts.
  • And you can establish yourself as a “meta expert”, as the go-to guy/girl of the experts in your field, by publishing a selection of guest posts by recognized experts in your field and/or by interacting with them on your blog, e.g. through interviews.

Again, you can make use of the same strategy in your affiliate marketing. If you want your readers to buy the products you’ve selected for them, they need to do two things: trust your judgement, and trust the vendor to deliver quality. A big step towards the first is if your readers see you as the expert. That will make them much more likely to trust your recommendations.

But don’t forget about the second part, about trusting the vendor. Before somebody buys from a vendor you recommend, they have to be reasonably sure that this person will be honest, and that (s)he will deliver quality.

To some extent, you can establish that trust towards the vendor with your recommendation: if readers see you as trust-worthy, your recommendation carries some weight, too.

But you should also consider establishing expert status for the product creator on your blog. Then when a reader clicks on your affiliate link, he will already be prepared to trust the vendor whom he sees as expert.

Tie these strategies together for even more power

Just by using these three strategies, you can improve the results from your affiliate efforts a lot. But there’s a very simple, though rarely used way to combine these strategies into something even more powerful:

Publish guest posts by product vendors on your blog, and include your affiliate link in the byline.

Now, just to be clear about it: I’m not talking about promotional content or “product reviews”. I’m talking about guest articles with real, quality content. And about establishing the vendor as the expert (unlike a product review, where you are the “expert” who reviews). And, of course, about picking and promoting the right kind of products in the first place.

To fully understand the power of this strategy, put yourself in the shoes of your readers for a moment:

They come to your blog. They know you publish good stuff, and you’re an expert in the field—you’ve done your best to establish that status. On your blog, they read a guest article by another expert. It contains great content, is helpful, informative, and entertaining.

They like the style and want to read more of the same.

Do you think they’re likely to click on the link (your affiliate link) in the byline? And do you think they might be willing to spend money on a product by this expert?

To achieve this, you only need to re-purpose and tie together the three simple strategies you’re already following when you blog: write for your audience, publish quality, and establish expertise. Do this by choosing the right products, and then publishing informative guest posts by product vendors with your affiliate link included.

In return, you get more out of your affiliate promotions for everybody involved:

  • Your readers get to read great content.
  • You recommend a good product which will improve your readers’ lives in some way.
  • You make it easier for your audience to trust your recommendation, to buy the product and thus to improve their life.
  • The vendor has a chance to make more sales and get happy customers.
  • And you? You benefit from fresh quality content. You have a chance to enhance your reputation even further. And of course there’s the thing with the affiliate commissions…

In short, it’s a win-win-win. What I like most about this strategy is its simplicity. Despite being a really powerful strategy, it’s also about as simple and easy as it gets.

To show you just how easy it can be, I’ll give you the outline again in eight simple action steps. Why don’t you just give it a try and actually do the steps while you read along?

1. Choose a few good products to promote

By “good”, I mean quality products from trustworthy vendors with a quality affiliate program. And of course products which fit the interests and needs of your audience.

2. Sign up for the affiliate programs of the vendors

Make sure you read the terms of the affiliate programs, and are happy with them.

3. Check the existing promotional material

If the vendor offers promotional material for his affiliates, browse through it to check if there are any suitable articles you could use.

Don’t be disappointed if there aren’t any, though—usually vendors provide what is most asked-for by affiliates, and most affiliates don’t use this strategy… (bad for them, good for you!).

If you find ready-made articles by the vendor anywhere, make sure you’re allowed to enter your affiliate link. If in doubt, ask. If no suitable articles are readily available, go to step 4.

4. Get in touch with the vendors

Introduce yourself, and give them the URL of your blog. Be professional: you’re contacting a potential business partner.

Ask for suitable articles, and explain what you want to do with them (establish the vendor as expert on your blog, give your audience good content, and generate sales for both of you). It should be clear that you’re not looking for purely promotional material, but for actual content.

Make sure it’s absolutely clear that you will use your affiliate link in the resource box and/or the article content—you don’t want to risk any misunderstandings about this.

To increase your chances of getting suitable material, you can also point out that the articles could have been published elsewhere before. Most vendors, especially the more established and successful ones, won’t provide each affiliate with a different set of “unique” articles.

I’m not going into the depths of the “unique content” discussion here, but since this is not primarily an SEO strategy, it may not matter for you whether the guest articles on your blog have been published in other places, too. The quality of the articles is much more important! The internet is a huge place, and chances are very high your readers haven’t seen them before.

5. Read between the lines

Not every vendor will send you suitable articles. But regardless of that, their replies might tell you a lot about how they do business, and how they treat their customers and affiliates. Even if somebody can’t provide you with articles, he/she might be a great guy or girl, and there might be options for other business ventures in the future.

Just be open for ideas.

6. Check the material you get

Seriously. You want to feature the vendor as expert. So to make this strategy work, you have to stick to your standards. Make sure you only publish articles which:

  • are a good fit for your audience and topic
  • contain real content, are entertaining, informative, or helpful
  • aren’t promotional
  • meet your quality standards

A good test is to ask yourself if this article would be worth publishing without your affiliate link. If an article doesn’t match your requirements, don’t use it.

7. Insert your affiliate link

Insert your affiliate link for the vendor in the places you two agreed upon. Then double-check the link, just in case.

8. Publish

To add even more leverage, don’t just publish the article on your blog. We’re talking about serious, quality content here—about guest articles you could and should be proud to anounce to your audience and to the world.

Use social media to point people to the article. Link to it in your newsletter, or publish it in your ezine. Add it to an autoresponder sequence for your mailing list, so that any future subscribers can read it, too. Or link to it from your “thanks for opting in” page.

After all, if you’ve chosen the right kind of guest article, your audience will love you for the pointer to the post! Once you’re done with all the steps, go back to step 1 and start over.

The biggest enemy of success…

We’ve all been there: you read about a great new strategy that would move you forward quite a bit. You’re very excited about the idea, and make plans to implement it as soon as possible. Only “asap” usually turns out to be tomorrow. Then next week. Then next month. And then never.

Sound familiar? Why don’t you do it a bit different this time? I’ve given you eight action steps above. Take a piece of paper or open a file right now and start a list of suitable products and affiliate programs. If you’re already signed up for such affiliate programs, go straight to step 3. Check the available content for suitable pieces. And if you can’t find any, don’t pass go, proceed with step 4 and send a note to the vendor(s). Right now.

Worst case is you’ll spend the next hour getting in touch with potential business partners—not the worst thing that can happen to you today, is it?

Editor’s note: tomorrow, our final posts in this series look at blogging smarter (and more profitably) with WordPress.

Regine Becher is an affiliate manager and JV broker. To help affiliates and bloggers get more out of their affiliate promotions, Regine runs a service called Syndicated Partners, where affiliates can download quality articles and publish them with their affiliate link inside.

Blog Smarter: A Step-by-step Strategy to Boost Your AdSense Earnings

This guest post is by Daniel Scocco of DailyBlogTips.com.

Let’s start with a question: What’s the single most important factor when it comes to making money with Google AdSense?

It’s organic traffic (i.e. traffic from Google and other search engines).

Here’s a simple example to illustrate the point. Suppose you have an online forum which receives 500,000 unique visitors per month, but 100% of those are coming directly to the forum, either by a bookmark or by typing the URL on their browsers, because they are already regular members. The second website is a niche site that receives only 250,000 unique visitors per month, but 80% of those are coming from search engines, while the remaining 20% are coming from referring sites. Despite the huge different in traffic levels, if both sites started using Google AdSense the niche, one would earn a lot more (I wouldn’t be surprised if it would be five or even ten times more).

How come?

That’s because visitors coming from search engines are already looking for something in specific (i.e. they are looking whatever they searched on Google) and when they end up on your site they are very likely to click on your AdSense units should they see something that is related to what they’re looking for. Other types tend to click on ads much less often (the ones that visit your site regularly even stop seeing your ads—it’s called ad blindness).

The bottom line is that if you want to increase your AdSense earnings, one of the best things you can do is to increase your organic traffic. That’s easier said than done, I know, but it’s totally possible, and below I want to to share a strategy you can use for this.

The long tail

The central idea of this strategy is to use the long tail to increase your organic traffic.

If you are not familiar with the term, the long tail refers to the tail-shaped curve that is produced when you consider the distribution of certain things. For example, consider the books sold on Amazon.com. There are some books that end up selling millions of copies. Those are the best-sellers, and they are responsible for a big part of Amazon’s revenues. Nothing new here. What about the more obscure books that sell a much fewer number of copies (e.g., from 100 up to 1000). One could think they are negligible to Amazon’s business model, but quite the opposite! The sales volume from each of those books individually might be insignificant, but there are hundreds of thousands of such books, so if you combine their sales the result is quite significant (and some people argued that this is a key advantage for Amazon).

The same principle applies to many things online, including search queries on search engines. A small number of search queries (e.g. “money”, “health”, “business”) take the bulk of the resources on search engines. However, if you sum all the rare and obscure search queries (e.g. “how to make money selling pets”, “health therapy with dolphins”), their volume end up being significant. The image below illustrates this:

How can you use this principle to get more organic traffic? It’s simple: discover the long tail keywords related to your niche and create content to fill the needs of those users. Here’s a step-by-step guide for doing this:

Step 1: Use the double-filter process to find long tail keywords

You can do this step using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool

Before getting started, on the Filter options make sure to select the locations as “all countries” and the language as “all languages” (after all you are aiming from global traffic). Also, on the left sidebar, change the type of match from “Broad” to “Exact” (this is to ensure the data will be more reliable).

Let’s suppose you have a blog about PC games. You should start with the broadest possible keyword, “PC games”. Now scroll through the results looking for narrower keywords that have at least 50,000 monthly searches. For instance, “pc games download”, “free games for pc” and “pc game list.” Write those on notepad. This is the first filter.

To filter the keywords one more time, pick each of the narrower terms you selected on the previous step and put the on Google’s tool. For instance, I’ll use “pc games download”, as you can see with the screenshot below:

Now you need to scroll through the results one more time, looking for very narrow (i.e. long tail) keywords that have between 1000 and 15000 monthly searches. Some examples I found are: “old pc games download”, “full pc games downloads”, “free pc games downloads for windows 7″, and “games download free full version”.

The longer the keyword the better (as long as it has at least 1000 monthly searches) because ranking for it will be easier.

Step 2: Create a piece of content filling the needs of those users

Google’s main business is search. This means that it needs to deliver results that will completely satisfy its users, else it will start losing money. Knowing this, the starting point for any promotional effort to increase your organic traffic should be the needs of the users you want to attract.

In other words, if you want to receive traffic from the keyword “old pc games download” you must make sure that the page in your site that is supposed to rank well for that keyword has all the information, links and resources someone searching for that term could be looking for.

Now your goal is to create one page/blog post for each of the long tail keywords you found in the first step. You don’t need to do this all in the same day. Instead you could aim to publish a new one every week or so.

Just make sure that the content on that page will be complete and top notch (i.e., don’t be afraid to spend some hours researching and composing it).

Step 3: Promote those pages like you mean it

As you probably know, having great content is only part of the equation if you want to rank well in Google and receive organic traffic. The other part is promotion and backlinks.

Here are some methods you can use to promote each of your pages/posts once you publish them:

  • Email the URL of your page to bloggers in your niche saying they might find it interesting. And I don’t mean five or six of them. I mean email it to 100 bloggers and website owners. If you can’t find 100 in websites your niche, you aren’t trying hard enough.
  • Guest post on other blogs and, instead of linking to your homepage on the byline, link to the page you are trying to promote. Again, I am not talking about one or two guest posts, but ten or 20 for each page you publish targeting a long tail keyword.
  • Leverage social networks like Twitter and Facebook to promote the page, and perhaps create a contest to encourage people to share the page with their friends.
  • Post about your page on online forums, Q and A sites, social bookmarking sites, you name it.

Step 4: Wait and profit

That’s pretty much it. After you do all of the above, you’ll just need to wait while your pages go up in the search rankings. Usually this take between four and eight weeks to happen. At this point you should start seeing an increase in the organic traffic, and consequently on your AdSense earnings.

If it works as planned you can go back to Step 1 and repeat the process with other keywords or with other niches as well.

editor’s note: tomorrow, we look at blogging smarter with affiliate sales.

Daniel Scocco is the owner of DailyBlogTips.com, and today he’s launching his AdSense Profits Course. Check it out if you want to discover new strategies and methods you can use to boost your AdSense earnings.

Blog Smarter: Don’t Just End Up Trading Hours for Dollars

This guest post is by Sunil of extramoneyblog.com.

Many business owners leave or start their businesses thinking they can achieve more freedom only to find themselves toiling away in their businesses and thus having bought or created themselves another job. Blogging is no different for most bloggers.

Blog time

Image courtesy stock.xchng user colombweb

Many bloggers who enter the blogosphere with the intention of making money online and someday freeing themselves up from time commitments such as a 9 to 5 job often end up getting tied up to their blogs and don’t realize it until often it’s too late.

That is quite alright if your intention is simply to work online from home, but if your intention is to free yourself up so that you have more time, you must approach blogging from the lens of building a business that generates passive income for you.

See many people that want to break free from their jobs often have the illusion that they want to make more money online and that they can. What they don’t realize is that what their subconscious really wants is more freedom and flexibility. Money is secondary.

Think about it, how long can one continue to trade five days in exchange for only two (weekends)? This never made sense to me. Does it make sense to you? Why? Even if you love your job, you have to be there and show up even when you don’t feel like it some days. Why should you have to?

After an individual reaches a certain point in their career or profession, there comes a point when the incremental money gained from incremental time and effort invested is simply not worth it. At that stage, individuals start craving for time more so than money. Study after study has been conducted on this subject and the results are fairly consistent (watch out because after money, freedom and flexibility, the hunger for power is next).

If you haven’t yet caught on, this post is not meant for someone who wants to supplement their income by blogging, or someone who wants to quit their jobs to work online full time, but rather those who are interested in building a business online that generates passive income for them, thus giving them the balance of time and money.

I am not going to go into what passive income is and whether it exists. There are about 1,943 different schools of thought on that subject. For the purposes of this post, let’s say passive income is income that is at least the same or more from what you make at your job without having you put much effort into generating it on an ongoing basis. Simple and conservative enough?

Most bloggers produce content, guest post, market their blogs, find advertising partners, then rinse and repeat the cycle. Many take up writing gigs to supplement their incomes because the blog doesn’t generate enough. Others take up freelance gigs to help other bloggers out.

What ends up happening is the constant trade of hours for dollars. There is nothing wrong with that if that’s what you want. But if you want the freedom brought by passive income, then your approach to blogging must change. Most blogs would die overnight if the authors stopped posting to them. Like I said, it’s like buying yourself (or creating) another job. Ask yourself, what would happen to your blog if you stopped blogging today?

So how can bloggers move away from trading hours for dollars so they can focus on semi or fully automating their “online business”? Here are a handful of ideas for starters. Take them as a little food for thought.

    • Focus on search engine optimization: SEO is well and alive even today. If most of your traffic comes from other websites and blogs, your RSS readers, and the community you have built, you are compelled to create content periodically to keep your blog alive. Focusing on SEO will help you spread your traffic spider web by catching more free, organic search engine traffic when web surfers are looking for information you have on your blog. Effective SEO ensures you gain the long-term benefits of the traffic your blog generates whether you update it or not.
    • Publish evergreen pillar content: Hand in hand with SEO goes the creation of evergreen “pillar” content. This refers to content that was valid yesterday, is today, and will be tomorrow. Moreover, this content discusses a core topic or subtopic within your niche that people would be interested in reading about regardless of when they see it.
    • Focus on list-building: How many times have you heard the “money is in the list”? Enough times. Building a list ensures you have a business model to leverage and scale long after you stop posting content to your blog. An RSS readership is similar, but not the same. An email list allows you direct, personal contact with your subscribers. Moreover, it is not predicated on the success of your blog or the existence and use of RSS technology. Email, on the other hand, will follow us to our graves.
    • Collaborate: This seems to be the hottest trend in blogging today and the direction in which most popular blogs are going.  Think Huffington Post, ProBlogger and the likes—single individuals are no longer running and managing those entities.  Many believe the future of blogging lies in collaboration, and that those who do not collaborate will die over time.  Because this is such a recent trend, the long term impact is unknown.  There are cons to collaboration as well, such as loosing the blog’s identity and main voice which were behind building the massive readership to begin with.  So far it seems to be working alright, but time will tell how collaboration shapes up.
    • Leverage experience: Your journey as an online entrepreneur will teach you several invaluable lessons which you can leverage to build a more passive type of business the second time around. You will be wiser the second time around, which will help prevent you from building an online business that turns into a job. I made that mistake in 2005; luckily I was able to sell the site for $250,000 two years later after growing it faster than I could handle at the time. Ensure that your business is “scaleable” and sustainable with relatively low effort.
    • Build multiple streams of income: As your supplemental income increases, put some of it away and invest in establishing other passive streams of income such as a dividend portfolio, rental property, certificates of deposits, annuities, etc.  The beauty of an online business such as blogging is that you can do it while maintaining a 9 to 5 job, therefore you can take all the profits from that scaleable side business and invest it to establish other streams of passive income that require little to no effort.

While trading hours for dollars working online may give you the flexibility to work remotely from home or anywhere else (after all, you have the ability to travel), it does not necessarily mean that you have the freedom and flexibility to decide how much you want to work and when, which most likely was your underlying motive to begin with.

Keeping that critical distinction in mind from the outset helps develop a business strategy that supports a fairly passive and self-sustainable model if that’s what you want. Simply saying that you work online doesn’t convey the full story at all. A data entry person works online from home. We need to understand the broader picture, address what we truly desire, and then develop a strategy that will get us closer to our desire. I hope this article helps you reflect on your true desire behind blogging.

Editor’s note: We’ll be building on the idea of scalable blogging over the coming days in a series of posts on Blogging Smarter. This series will look more closely at particular aspects of blogging where you can get more value for the time you put in.

In the meantime, let us know if you’ve thought about your motivations for blogging, and whether you’ve wound up simply trading hours for dollars on your blog.

Sunil owns over two dozen profitable niche websites, over 20 successfully selling ebooks, and is the author of “How to Go from $0 to $1,000 a month in Passive and Residual Income in Under 180 Days All in Your Spare Time“, a FREE report you can download instantly from his blog, where he discusses expedited wealth creation through solid personal finance, entrepreneurship and internet marketing. You can read more about him and his work on his blog.

8 Blogging Lessons I Learned from Being Scammed by a Marketer

This guest post is by Chris The Traffic Blogger.

This past month my fiancé and I went to a wedding expo. No, I am not one of those guys who lets the girl run around and do everything for the wedding! So I was there getting sold on everything from limos to flowers, and watching marketing at its finest (and worst).

Most of the vendors practiced the art of scummy marketing—you know, making mediocre products look worth much more than they actually were. Even though I understood this, I fell for a marketing scam that ended up costing me initially $1600 and quite a few phone calls to my credit card company to get the transaction voided.

However, I’m not upset that I was scammed. The experience actually reinforced several things I have learned over the years about marketing, and I’m going to use the story of what happened to me to reinforce these core concepts with you. But before I get into the lessons I want to share, here’s exactly what happened to us:

We entered a raffle for a free honeymoon. When we were called and told that we were selected to win, my fiancé and I were ecstatic. We were told that we had to listen to a one hour seminar on pots and pans from the company and then we could collect our reward. That should have been red flag #1.

The seminar lasted two hours. Red flag #2. The pots looked amazing, but they cooked twice as long as they were advertised to cook when the saleswoman made chicken for us to try. Red flag #3. A quick internet search for the company in question came up with articles about how it was an expensive scam. That should have been the biggest red flag of them all!

Despite these red flags, my fiancé and I still bought the pots. Why? Because the saleswoman made the decision ours, and a no-brainer. It was only after we made the decision to buy that we found out she was lying to us, on everything from prices to quality of the pots.

So what did the saleswoman do that made us believe every word she said? What made us think that the all expenses paid vacation was really that, even though it would have cost us a couple hundred dollars in taxes and then enough fees to pay for a second vacation? I’ll show you in this post, but please keep in mind that the entire point is to use this marketing knowledge for good. You know: to promote great products and deliver on the promises you make, not rely on legal gimmicks and tricky documentation to confuse your buyers into buying mediocre products.

Every single day that you post on your blog, you are selling your audience on your blog’s value. Use the following information that I saw on display at the marketing seminar to improve the value of your website and your products.

1. Presentation matters

As you probably already know, the average person looks a fraction of a second at your site before deciding if they want to click away. Sometimes, they don’t even read a single word of your headline!

In this blink of an eye, your graphics are the only way to hold their attention. Having a really nice, eye catching graphic is essential to your blog’s success. Personally, I saw around a 30 second increase on the average time people spent on my first blog, once I had an eye catching graphic for the title.

2. Internet readers are a mix of skim and full readers

Some will just read your headlines and sub headlines before deciding if they actually want to read your paragraphs between them. Make an effort to create interesting headlines throughout your article, not just at the top. A mixture of bold and different sizes for your headings will also draw the eye to the information you want readers to focus on. Lists and numbers do this naturally and our brains want to read each and every bullet, especially if there’s an ounce of OCD in us!

The trick is to hit as many sense as possible in your audience. This is difficult to do online, as you are limited to just site and sound, but offline you can go for touch, taste and smell.

3. Relatability is huge!

I related quite a bit to the saleswoman who spoke to us at the seminar. She was from Jersey (I grew up going to the shore quite a bit) and had an awesome accent. She also grew up in a large family, played outside all the time as a child, and ate meals with her family every night. I related to this so much and this drew me into the experience by recalling memories of my past. I really felt like I had a lot in common with the presenter.

I don’t care if you talk about picking your nose as a child, do everything in your post to try to relate to your audience in any way possible.

4. Interesting facts really do make a difference

Saying something like, “X% of internet readers find facts interesting” goes a long way towards making people believe you are researching the information you present. If you actually do the research and come up with cool facts then readers will pay far more attention to your post.

Also, any fact about life that people ignore is going to have the same effect. For example, the lady at the seminar mentioned that ground meat in the supermarket appears to bleed red, but that’s dye because ground meat can’t bleed! In that moment, I actually admired the intelligence of the statement because I had never thought of that before. Do this to your audience as often as possible, as it greatly improves your credibility and will lock people into reading your entire article.

5. Laughter works

No matter how dry a personality you have, always attempt to incorporate humor into your posts. I don’t care if you have to steal cheesy lines from standup comedians, do as much as you can to make your audience laugh. It helps to hold their attention and keep them locked in throughout the experience of reading your blog.

What’s more, if your headline is funny, then people will pass your post around simply because of the headline! That will greatly improve the chances of someone new being exposed to your work.

6. Price points make decisions easier

In fact, having price points naturally makes people consider the consequences of buying, or rather, not buying your product. Here’s the strategy that the saleswoman used to sell her pots and pans to us.

  • Step #1: Pick a really expensive product that does work for what the audience needs.
  • Step #2: Explain why this product is way too expensive and unnecessary.
  • Step #3: Pick a really inexpensive product that is of low quality and can’t get the job done.
  • Step #4: Explain why this product is subpar for the job and will break, eventually costing you the same over time in repairs or repurchases as the expensive product.
  • Step #5: Show your product that is right between the two other price points.
  • Step #6: Explain why your product is perfect for the job and just the right price.

7. Selling is about never actually selling

By picking the right price points and products to showcase those price points, you create a decision for your audience. When done correctly, this decision is obvious and a no-brainer. Just as it was for us, buying pots for twice the price (or so we thought, it ended up being over four times) of a regular set of pots and getting a lifetime warranty on them seemed like a great deal. It made no sense for us as a young couple to pass up this opportunity!

You can create the same simple decisions for your audience and if you have a product to sell, I highly recommend that you make comparisons to cheaper/worse products and more expensive/equally useful ones. That way you can say that your product is of higher quality yet cheaper than what you would pay anywhere else for that same quality. If you do this, then your audience will not feel sold to; instead, they will feel like they are making a conscious choice.

8. Time limits create hype

By the end of the seminar we were on the fence about the pots, but being told that we only had ten minutes to decide if we wanted them made us buy them. Why? Because we had just been sold on the value of these pots for two hours, the presentation was wonderfully entertaining, and the price points made the decision a no brainer! Of course we bought them, and almost everyone else there did as well.

You can create hype with your blog, even if the purpose isn’t to make money. One great way to do this is to offer a special report by the next day that requires a subscription to your list to see it. In 24 hours I have increased my normal subscription growth by 50% doing this.

Each of these eight lessons rely on the previous one to work. As a blogger, these kinds of ideas create a template for your posts. If you start off with the first point and work your way down, you can create an awesome post that sells the audience by convincing them to make a decision. Most people want to skip all the way down to the deal, without taking the time to build a relationship with their audience. This could take months, weeks, days or even hours, but it rarely happens in a few minutes.

As an internet marketer and blogger, understand that people need to trust you before they will believe in your products and services. Even if you just want to get more subscribers, you need to first convince them that you are valuable. It’s no different than getting them to open their wallet!

If you have the opportunity, go to one of these scams and see how the salespeople target your emotions, sense and reason… just don’t bring your wallet!

Chris “The Traffic Blogger” writes to help bloggers learn how to drive traffic, build relationships and earn revenue through blogging. His most recent efforts have been on teaching others What to Tweet to get more followers and make money on Twitter.

Use Social Sharing’s True Motive For Better Traffic

This guest post is by Shakira Dawud of Deliberate Ink.

You’re getting regular traffic, but it’s flatlining. The regular crowd is still with you, but your subscriber base is fluctuating. And you’ve noticed you’re not being shared on social media very often.

If you were to ask, you’d hear all kinds of reasons why, but I guarantee you the basis of all of them is always personal.

There is no way around the adage, “People do business with people they know, like, and trust.” Your blog is serious business. So why is it we’re told not to take business personal (and business between friends is retold as the stuff of Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado“), when every single business decision comes from a personal place?

You need that personal place to get the following and response you want from your readers. Find it and put it to work building your blog’s traffic in the following three steps.

Step 1: Complete the picture of your existing following

I’ll use Twitter as an example. I seldom follow people with just the hope they’ll follow me back (although that’s a reason, too).

I want to take part in their Twitter banter, find likeminded people, siphon useful information from their posts, get them to visit my blog, and build relationships I deem important. I unfollow only after I’ve lost hope of getting those things. Sometimes I lose hope sooner, sometimes later. I know I’m not alone in this.

If we don’t follow our followers, we’re blind to too many quality people who’ve made it a point to follow us. So make the most of your social relationships by finding the real and active people connected to you on each platform and reciprocating, before they lose hope in you.

Step 2: Unravel a “thread of discontent”

Start listening to your crowd closely. Watch the comments they leave on posts and blogs, and note what they share most often. In a recent post, Derek Halpern introduces the concept of the thread of discontent. He encourages being the “pebble dropped in the pond” by creating “ripples” in the standard.

Derek’s point is well taken. But before you become a pebble, I advise that you pick up that thread and unravel it to its origin. I bet you’ll find it’s ultimately a personal one. Something based on their values, beliefs, or experiences. You may even find more than one thread. Once you find out what it’s made up of, hold onto it. Now it’s time for the final step.

Step 3: Provide content they want—but not like you have been

“That’s all you got?” you’re thinking. “Lady, I’ve been creating content out the wazoo, every day for months–and it ain’t too shabby, either!”

No, that’s not all. Let me explain with an example.

Listening in on a webinar for email marketers, I noticed the presenter played up the rivalry between marketing and sales departments. He dotted his discourse with pointed statements like: Salespeople are only interested in their numbers, not our strategy… They asked for all the hot leads we could get, and then let them go cold… So much of our hard marketing work is wasted on the sales end.

On the individual level, marketing employees who’d been frustrated by salesepeople were remembering those feelings of futlity, concern for their careers, and even a bit of self-righteousness. You can be sure he had our undivided attention when he explained how we could refine our strategies to build the credibility of our numbers, and waste less time and energy—in spite of those pesky salespeople. This was personal.

Superglue-strength loyalty

So you see, to be worth sharing, you can’t just deliver consistently high quality content. You don’t have to rock the boat (although it will give you quite a boost). You do need to produce content that provides the value readers can carry out with them in a package that confirms their personal reality.

Subscriber loyalty will grow to superglue strength, and what you write will demand to be shared with more and more likeminded people. Without any further ado, perfectly targeted, better traffic will pour in.

How have you used these ideas to your advantage? Can you share any examples?

Shakirah Dawud is the writer and editor behind Deliberate Ink. Based in Maryland with roots in New York, she’s been crafting effective marketing copy as a writer and polishing many forms of prose as an editor since 2002. Clients in many fun sizes, industries, and locations reach her through the Web.