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27 Awesome Ways to Get People to Listen to You

This guest post is by Nick Thacker of livehacked.com.

I’ve been creating stuff lately—blog posts, articles, tweets, videos, ebooks, etc.—and I realized something:

The biggest struggle I’ve had during it all was getting people to listen.

While blogging and submitting articles, leaving tons of comments, and submitting guest posts, can garner an initial positive result, it’s tough to keep at it. I wanted to share a few ways I’ve found to really get people to listen.

How to get people to care, listen, and take action

1. Ask

I can think of no better way, and no way that’s led to more open doors, than simply asking people to do something. Sure, it takes guts—but that’s why you’re different. You have the guts—go ask!

2. Advertise

If you want a measurable and controllable result, give advertising a shot. It may not be perfect for your niche, but chances are there’s at least something you can advertise in some way. Most pros say to give it at least six months, too, so if you don’t have the funds, this may not work. Check out Project Wonderful for dirt-cheap ads that have gotten me results in the past.

3. Guest post

We all know this one, so there’s no use recounting all of its benefits here. Suffice it to say there have been many successful blogs that have used this strategy almost exclusively to get attention.

4. Share

Almost anything can be shared—blog posts (as in guest posting), ideas, network leads, products, etc. Which leads me to:

5. Joint ventures

JVs are great for getting your message out to huge lists of people, for the price of sharing your profits with another marketer. Check out the Warrior Forum for an entire board dedicated to JV opportunities.

6. Create a video

ProBlogger.com has been writing a lot more on using video content lately, and I know I’ve done a few trailers for my own book as well—with much success.

7. Create an infographic

Neil Patel of QuickSprout has used infographics, sent to major blogs and news sites to use exclusively (for a backlink, of course!), and it’s gotten him plenty of great traffic—and lots of attention, as well. Take time to create a graphic that’s compelling and telling for your market, and see where it goes!

8. Write an ebook

Just about every blogger has, or aspires to create, an eBook. These days, having an ebook is almost expected—where’s yours?

9. Self-publish a book

Having a “real” book tends to lend credibility to our efforts—being able to have a print copy of someone’s work in hand really does “feel” different than an electronic copy. Check out Amazon’s KDP Select program, Lulu, and CreateSpace for more.

10. SEO

I like to think of SEO as one of those “slow-drip” strategies to get attention—it takes time to build, but it’s almost essential in competitive industries. I recommend Glen’s post over at ViperChill.com if you’re doing SEO on WordPress.

11. Use the 80/20 rule

Pareto’s law states, “…For many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.” To use this in your own marketing, try to promote other people 80% of the time, and your own work 20%. This establishes you as a connector and sharer of helpful content, not as a spammer.

12. Build a platform

Essentially, all of these tips can help you build a platform, but if you focus on actively building a brand, slowly but surely, chances are you’ll stick around longer—and people will pay more attention to you!

13. Leave more comments

Leaving more comments on blogs you read regularly does two major things: it gives you a link back to your site (no matter what your stance on “rel=nofollow” is), and it starts a conversation with the site owner or author of the post. Trust me when I say many blog owners will recognize their repeat commenters—be one of them!

14. Leave better comments

We’ve all heard the rule: leave lots of comments, and people will visit your site! Well, yes and no—they’ll see you quite often, but unless you really make a concerted effort (read: spend more than 30 seconds) on crafting and submitting a thoughtful, value-adding comment, people won’t care about you or your cool blog.

15. Write epic content

Corbett Barr, author of ThinkTraffic, says we need to write “more epic stuff” (I’ll let you click through to his exact words…). I’ve said we need to write “more epicly” (because I love epic, made-up adverbs, I guess), and it’s true. Gone are the days of 500-word-or-less posts giving generic and thoughtless advice. Take time to craft your work, edit it, and then expound on your thoughts some more. Add in images, pictures, infographics, and more. Then edit and do it again. Then you’re ready to hit Submit.

16. Article marketing

Article marketing seems to have fallen off a bit after the infamous Google updates, but sites like E-zine Articles and GoArticles certainly are not going anywhere. Use them to further promote your work—your off-site SEO can greatly benefit from some well-crafted, useful content. Don’t go overboard, and be sure to maintain your consistently great writing style—remember: the Internet is forever!

17. Write pillar posts

The first time I’d ever heard of a “Pillar” post was right here at ProBlogger. It makes perfect sense, too—if I visit your website, right now, what articles are going to serve as my “Start Here” roadmap through your muse/meme/world? Guide me like I’m a first-time visitor to your market, and tell me—through general, broad-form Pillar Posts what I can expect to find on your site. Here’s an example of one I wrote on social media for writers.

18. Start a newsletter

If you plan to be online for an extended period of time, you should really consider growing an email list of subscribers, and sending them an enewsletter regularly. Newsletters have been proven to bring in more authority traffic and ready buyers than most other marketing methods, because you’ve already qualified them as leads.

19. Start a podcast

I’ll admit—this is one area I haven’t tried out yet. But podcasting is not something that’s going to go away anytime soon, either, and if you’re a bit more technically inclined (or if you own a Mac), you can start podcasting almost immediately. Some of my favorite authors run very successful podcasts. And I hear that ProBlogger will be running a post on the topic in the next couple of weeks…

20. Write more

This one’s simple: let your writing be its own platform. The more saturation throughout your market you have, the more opportunity there is for people to find you.

21. Blog less

Maybe getting more attention needs less of your attention? Follow blogs like ZenHabits and Lifehack.org to get your head in the game. Minimalize, simplify, and relax: those of us working 80+ hour weeks probably don’t want to! Focus your energy on those things that really matter. Remember the Pareto principle.

22. Do something ridiculous

I like to think Tim Ferriss is so well-liked because of the fact that he does things not many of us do. If you set out to do something spectacular, you’d better believe we want to hear about it! Even better: do a video blog journaling your experience.

23. Be controversial

The idea that all press is good press may not be entirely true, but there’s something to be said for being staunchly defendant of a topic. Instead of posing neutral concepts, get on one side or the other. People may hate the post, but they’ll come back for more.

24. Send follow-up emails

This is something I’ve started doing more and more, recently—almost to the point of being annoying. Follow my blog, I’ll send an email. Say yes to my guest post idea, I’ll shoot you a thanks. Buy something from me—you got it! A “thank you” email is on its way. Doing this is just giving a little bit of personal attention to your network, and they will reciprocate.

25. Add value everywhere

Forget this tip at your peril. No one likes a conceited or arrogant person, and online it seems that anonymity has made this even easier. Figure out how to help one person, in one small way, every day. Then help them.

26. Sell something

When people have something to sell, I’m usually more apt to think of them in higher esteem. Even if the product looks terrible—hey, they went through all the trouble to create it, right? (I might not ever buy it, but they do carry more authority because of it…)

27. Do something for free

And the best one of all: even though we won’t always admit it, “free” is sometimes expected. This behavior isn’t justified, but it exists. Cater to the expectations of your market by offering something to them for free. Your blog doesn’t count.

Maybe you’ve tried every single one of these ideas—in that case, I’d love for you to comment and let us know how they went! But I’m sure there are many, many other things you all can think of to add to this list. So, let’s get to it: leave a comment with more ideas, and we’ll keep the list going. Maybe one day I’ll turn it into an awesome infographic!

Nick Thacker is a blogger, writer, and author of fiction thriller novels. He likes to hack his life to be more productive, live better, and write the best he can. You can check out his site at LiveHacked.com, or subscribe to the LiveHacked.com newsletter here.

How to Write a Great Paragraph

This guest post is by James Chartrand of Damn Fine Words.

There are eight million posts out there about how to write a great headline. Copyblogger’s written about half of them. I’ve written a few myself.

But you know what none of us tell you? What to do after the headline.

You know, the actual “content” part.

It’s not enough to create killer headlines or spectacular introductions. It’s not enough to write compelling content (and we don’t tell you how to do that either). It’s not enough to use storytelling. The only way to get your blog posts read, shared and revisited means writing great content.

Which really means you need to know how to write a stellar paragraph.

I know: paragraphs aren’t sexy

Catchy headlines sounds sexy. Storytelling sounds sexy. Paragraphs? They sound about as sexy as gramma’s underwear. They’re not a technique or a tool. They’re just plain old-fashioned grammar school stuff.

Here’s what you need to know about what a fantastic paragraph can do for you:

Your readers will take in every single word you write.

Not just the words in the bullet points. Not just the numbered lists. Not just the headlines or the sub-headers. They won’t skim looking for “the good stuff.”

It’s all good stuff. They’ll want every single word.

Here’s a thought: Online readers are notorious for skimming and scanning, running through the bullet points. But do you know why their eyes are wandering? Do you know why they skip through your posts?

It’s because they weren’t interested in the paragraphs.
The content in your paragraphs? Readers figure those are just filler. And in many cases for many, many bloggers… sadly, filler it is.

Readers read … if it’s worth their time

A lot of bloggers assume that skimming and scanning is just the way things are. Nothing they can do about it – people are lazy. Too busy. So they don’t bother putting effort into crafting carefully written paragraphs the way they do their headlines and bullet points, because no one’s going to read the content anyway.

But, as Georgina pointed out earlier today, not all readers scan the content—and that’s important to remember.

Everyone has a favorite blogger whose posts they read religiously. I’ve got one. You’ve got one. You get excited when you see a new post go live because you love the way this blogger writes. You share the posts. You read older posts from the archives. You link to these posts.

Good paragraphs make that happen.

You’re not reading your favorite blogger’s posts for the headline, the bullet points, or the nugget of brand-new secret insider knowledge. Who’s ever said, “Oooh, Darren just put up a new post – I gotta go read this; his bullet points are so hot!”

Come on.

You read for the words, and you would never consider any of the content to be “filler,” no matter how long that post ran.

That means your beloved blogger probably writes a killer paragraph.

Starting to sound a little sexier? You bet it is—who doesn’t want to be one of those bloggers whose readers hang on their every word?

No one, that’s who. So let’s get you started.

Good paragraphs leave no sentence behind

You’ve probably heard this adage: the purpose of the first sentence is to get the reader to read the second sentence. The second sentence is to get them to read the third sentence, and so on.

Most bloggers forget to pay attention after the fourth or fifth sentence, which means that by sentence 36, they aren’t doing a thing to keep their reader hooked and moving along.

So they leave sentence 36 in the post because they think it doesn’t matter that much. (And hey, it’s good filler.)

It matters. Every single sentence matters. If you have a sentence in your paragraph that isn’t actively getting people to read the next one, chop it out. It’s doing nothing for you—or for your paragraph.

Good paragraphs form a chain of thought

You could obey the above rule without actually creating a paragraph. You could just snag a handful of Problogger’s best headlines and stick ’em in a post, and that would satisfy the “get the reader to read the next sentence” rule.

The problem comes when the second sentence has nothing to do with the first sentence. Watch as I display this technique: Is your tribe holding you down? You could increase your blog subscription rate by 254%. Eminem can teach you how to become a writing and marketing machine. Let’s talk 50 can’t-fail techniques for finding great blog topics.

Those are some of Copyblogger’s most popular headlines, and they’re undeniably compelling. But they don’t relate to one another, so midway through, the reader’s wondering about the follow-up. Eventually, he gets frustrated trying to figure out the point.
Frustrated isn’t good. Every sentence in a paragraph should refer back to the one before.

And if it’s a new paragraph, it should refer back to the last sentence of the previous one. Your very first paragraph should refer to your headline. Your headline introduces the post idea, which means everything you write afterward depends on that one idea—so you need to make a chain of thought to back it up.

How do you know when to end one paragraph and start the next? Well . . .

Good paragraphs know when to end

Every paragraph should last long enough to make one single point.

Some paragraphs—like the one before—only need one sentence to make the intended point. Others, like this one, need a few sentences to discuss the point fully and explain several ways of looking at it. You might need to expand upon your thoughts or give examples to drive the point home.

When your point is made, move on to the next point. Which, obeying the Rule #2, should relate back to the point that came before it, move on to make its own point, and end when that point is fully explained.

Nerdy, I know. But sexy? You bet. Sexy bloggers know sexy writing, and there’s nothing sexier than a well-crafted paragraph like that.

Now, a lot of people try to string together several points in a single paragraph. That’s never effective. Paragraphs help give readers visual cues on how to organize their thoughts. When they see a paragraph, they know it’s going to give them a certain amount of information on a certain point.

But if you give them three different (and often unrelated) points in a single paragraph, it forces readers to try and figure out where the distincts are between those points.

That’s work. And people hate it when reading content is work.

If you don’t want your readers just looking for the bullet points, keep your paragraphs easy to process and let them end when the point is concluded.

Don’t neglect your paragraphs

You’ve learned to write snappy headlines that get readers to come to your site and craft bullet points that draw their eye. Now it’s time to pay attention to the rest of your content.

Great paragraphs are the way to do it.

Got more ideas on what makes for a great paragraph? Shout out in the comments! And if you haven’t already, check out ProBlogger’s Anatomy of a Better Blog Post, for more specific post-writing techniques.

James Chartrand is the leading copywriter teaching people how to improve their writing skills at Damn Fine Words. It’s one of the best online writing courses for business owners and bloggers ready to boost their business success… through compelling words that get results.

Unearthing Your Blog’s Money Pages

This guest post is by the Web Marketing Ninja.

Earlier today, Greg explored the question of pricing products that you’re creating for sale on your blog. Setting the right price for your products is extremely important, but I wanted to take that discussion one step further for those who are already offering products on their blogs and want to take their conversions to the next level.

When I approach conversion optimization on websites, which in most cases is simply cash optimization, I stick to a few golden rules:

  1. Think in people, not pageviews.
  2. People are looking for a reason not to buy—don’t give them one.
  3. Go for biggest bang for buck.
  4. Test everything!

I’ve already covered points 1 and 2, so in this post, I wanted to export number three, going biggest bang for buck.

If you’re trying to figure out how to turn some money into more money without creating new products, campaigns, or deals, you need to unearth the pages on your site that are going to give you the greatest return from an improvement in conversion.

…and for that, I have a three-point plan.

1. Understand where you money comes from, and find your influenceable end-point

Now, being the smart bloggers I know you are, you should know where your money comes from. Your income might be derived from ads, affiliate income, or product sales—among others. And I’m sure you’re able to identify your top-level driver of that income—the last point in the conversion process that you can influence. Here they are:

  • Product sales = successful checkouts
  • Affiliate sales  = clicks to affiliate site
  • Ads (CPC) = clicks on ads
  • Ads (CPM) = page views
  • Subscription = activated subscriptions
  • Service = contact form submissions

Whatever your strategy, knowing your influenceable end-point enables you to set some specific goals on key metrics for your blog (for example more sales, more clicks, more pageviews).

2. Set yourself up to track those end-points

Whilst it can be a bit of a challenge initially to set up measurements for your blog’s conversion goals, without them, you’ll never really know where your money comes from at a granular level. 

For most, a well configured Google Analytics setup is all that you need, as it has goal tracking built in.

If checkouts are one of your goals, then ecommerce tracking is what you need. If your ads are sold by CPM, then you’ve got it easy—you have the data already. If your goal is clicks, that presents a slightly bigger challenge. Let me explain.

In Analytics, a goal is measured by successfully reaching a page on your site that you’ve specified. When a click takes a visitor to another site, Google Analytics sees it as a visitor that exits to another site rather than a successfully reached goal. To solve this, you can use any of a few options.

  • If you’re using AdSense, you’re fine—that’s already integrated with Analytics.
  • Use a redirect page to collect goals. Instead of sending users straight through to the advertiser or affiliate, you can send them via a page that automatically redirects the user, but includes the analytics goal code to track.
  • Use a paid service like Kiss Metrics … but even that can be a bit tricky to set up.

I’m really hoping that at some point Google’s ad manager, Double Click, will integrate with Analytics so this issue is rectified. But even if it’s a little bit of a hassle for you to set up right now, it’s a hassle that’s worth going through in order to understand just how good—or bad—your conversion performance is.

So after a bit of research, action, and maybe fumbling, you’re now hopefully able to track the conversion rate of your commercial goals (whatever that are) and you’re ready to move forward.

3. Think in one-percents

The final step in identifying biggest bang for buck is to put a dollar conversion vale against all your pages. All this takes is a bit of simple math.

Page X

  • 10,000 page views
  • 100 sales
  • $4000

Those figures give us a conversion rate of 1% and an average income per sale of $40. If I increase the conversion rate itself by 1%, to 1.1%, my sales will total 101, and my income will be $4040. I’m up  $40.

Page Y

  • 100,000 page views
  • 50 sales
  • $1000

So this page has a conversion rate of 0.05% and an average income per sale of $20. If I increase this conversion rate by 1%, to 0.051%, my sales will total 51 and my income will hit $1020. I’m up  $20.

As you can see, there’s double the return for a 1% improvement on Page X, as compared to Page Y. So Page X the one I’m going to focus on. Not the one with all the page views: the one with the greatest return.

Obviously, on your blog, you’ll have far more than two pages to pick from, but this model will allow you to rank them in order.  Make sure you don’t forget to include your checkout process as pages in this analysis, as well. You might be surprised by how they stack up.

And just in case the figures of $20 and $40 don’t get you motivated to do any testing, remember that variances of over 100% are common across different variations of a page. So add a couple of zeros … feeling motivated now?

The three-point plan

So just to summarise, your three-point plan to unearthing those money pages is:

  1. Understand your last influenceable conversion metric.
  2. Start tracking those points in the sales process.
  3. Stack all your pages together and find the one that’s going to give you the biggest return for a 1% conversion increase.

…and that’s how you can unearth the pages that are going to give you the biggest bang for buck.

Stay tuned for more posts by the Web Marketing Ninja—author of The Blogger’s Guide to Online Marketing, and a professional online marketer for a major web brand. Follow the Web Marketing Ninja on Twitter.

Build Blog Products That Sell 4: Price Your Product

This guest series is by Greg McFarlane of Control Your Cash.

If you’re late to this particular party, we’ve been spending the last few weeks examining ways to monetize your blog in an era when readers are holding onto their wallets more tightly than ever.

Checkout

Image courtesy sotck.xchng user Dioptria

Sure, you can make money by selling ads if all you care about is revenue. Any link farm can do the same thing. But by extending one’s blog into different media, a diligent blogger can create and sell products that no one else can duplicate.

The process we’ve stepped through so far has been fairly straightforward. First, coldly assess what makes your blog distinctive. (If the answer is anything other than “Nothing” or “I don’t know”, proceed to the next step.)

Next, create something identifiable with your blog and your style—a video lecture series, ebooks, online classes, personal coaching, podcasts, whatever. Budget the requisite time to create your products, plan far enough in advance that your blog won’t be compromised in the short run, test-market your products, then make them available for sale. Couldn’t be easier, right?

This is precisely where many would-be entrepreneurs get smacked in the face with the harsh truth of the marketplace: putting a dollar figure on that product.

How much should you charge?

Not to turn this into a university-level economics lesson, but the tricky thing is to set a price that maximizes revenue. Sure, you can sell your ebook for 10¢ and theoretically reach the widest possible audience. But if you could charge three times the price, and still retain half your audience, wouldn’t that make more sense?

Ideally you’re doing this to turn a profit, which isn’t necessarily the same as generating as much revenue as possible. You also need to factor in your expenses. Otherwise, this is just a pastime or a vanity project. Creating products certainly requires time, and possibly requires materials.

That means that before you sell your first unit, you’ll already have spent money that you’ll need to recoup.

Say you’ve spent 30 hours writing a plan for a coaching program you plan to sell via your blog. Is $20 an hour a fair assessment of your worth? (That is, could you have earned that much doing something else?) Then you’ll need to sell a single copy for $600. Or two for $300 each. Or three for $200. Or…

You can see where this is going. It’s tempting to lower the price as much as possible, in the hopes that every reduction will attract more buyers. That’s largely true, but a) the relationship isn’t linear and b) there’s a limit—otherwise, you could give your product away and an infinite number of people would use it.

Finding the balance

How many unique visitors do you have? If you don’t know, Google Analytics can give you an idea. What proportion of those are invested in your blog and read it regularly? And what proportion of those will cough up a few minutes’ worth of wages in exchange for the promise of you enriching their lives somehow?

On the flip-side are blogging entrepreneurs who charge too much for their services. They’re like the commission salesman who wanted to get a job at Northrop Grumman, selling B-2 Spirit heavy bombers at $1 billion apiece. (“People have been slamming doors in my face all week, but I get 10% of each sale. And all it takes is one.”)

To avoid this, you need to find a comfortable medium between how much you’re willing to accept, and how much your product can realistically benefit its user. That sounds obvious, but most sellers don’t even bother weighing those variables. They just conjure up a price and hope for the best.

What does your product do … for whom?

Be honest with what your product can do. It won’t make the blind walk and the lame see. But will it show readers how to declutter their lives once and for all? Can it teach them how to change their car’s oil and tires themselves, instead of relying on costly technicians? Can it help readers travel to strange places inexpensively, and does it include an appendix that will teach those readers how to keep their cross-border hassles to a minimum?

Then say so. You don’t have to work miracles. You just have to make some aspect of your readers’ lives easier, less complicated and/or more fulfilling.

More to the point, remember who you’re selling to: your readers, not yourself. No one cares how much asbestos you inhaled in the mine, they just want the diamond. It’s a cardinal rule of civilization that results count, not effort.

One famous globetrotting blogger has recently diversified, and now sells a guide that ostensibly tells artists how they can throw off the shackles of poverty and start making money. He’s certainly appealing to his clientele’s emotions—what’s a more accurate stereotype than that of the starving artist?

Never mind that this blogger is not an artist, and that his background consists of little more than that educational punchline, a sociology degree. His blog’s sales pitch details how many painstaking hours he spent writing how many words and conducting how many minutes of interviews in the creation of his guide, as if any of that matters to an artist who just wants to know how to locate buyers for her decoupage and frescoes.

Keep scrolling down and you’ll find out that for just $39, you’ll receive “15,000 words of excellent content”. No one buys this kind of thing by volume. Xavier Herbert’s Poor Fellow My Country runs over 850,000 words. That’s 90 times longer than Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which sold far more copies and was far more influential.

Don’t hide your price!

That brings us to another thing not to do: treat the price as fine print. Which is to say, don’t build to a crescendo and make your readers sift through paragraph upon paragraph of hard sales copy before finally deigning to tell them how much your product is going to cost them. To do so is insulting. It’s the tactic of someone who has something to hide.

(There’s one exception to this rule. That’s when you’re using the late-night infomercial strategy, saving the price of your product until the very end because it’s so shockingly low. That almost certainly doesn’t apply in your case. You’re not an experienced marketer with a reputation, hawking indestructible knives and superabsorbent towels that suck up ten times their weight in liquid. You’re a blogger looking to turn your followers from loyal readers into paying customers.)

Getting back to the real blogger in our example, if you spend another $19 on the deluxe version, he’ll throw in three more audio interviews. There’s nothing quantifiable here, just a collection of messages that differ by media. (Incidentally, I asked this blogger how what kind of volume he does. I wasn’t expecting an answer and didn’t receive one, but it was important to make an effort to see if his methods worked.)

Given the choice, I’d rather take my chances giving my money to a blogger with authority and experience, who’s offering me something believable, and who’s not afraid to tell me how much it’ll cost me and how much it’ll benefit me. Is that you?

One more thing. If you’re creating a series of products in which each builds on the previous ones and no individual product can stand alone, you’re putting yourself in a fantastic position. You can give away the first and then start charging with the second. If you do, that’ll give you an accurate gauge of how many people are legitimately interested in your product, as opposed to just being curious.

Accounting for expenses

Once you make the decision to sell, and to price, you’ll have to account for expenses you’d never imagined. Maybe you’ll need to move from a shared host to a dedicated one. Or pay for a business license in your home jurisdiction. Or hire a graphic designer after concluding that your own Adobe Illustrator skills are wanting. A few hours of planning and estimation now can save you weeks of frustration down the road.

Speaking of quantifying, here’s a sample budget (in PDF) that you can adapt for your own use. Be conservative with your revenue estimates, liberal with your expense estimates, and you can get a better handle on how much you should charge when your products finally make it to market.

You might also find the formula presented in The Dark Art of Product Pricing useful. It integrates many of the considerations I’ve outlined here but, like this post, that one can’t definitively tell you what you should charge either. Ultimately, that’s up to you.

Key points

  • Cover your expenses. Don’t set your prices so low that you’re losing money on every sale.
  • Don’t set your prices so high that you need to camouflage them, either. Be direct.
  • Honestly assess what your product can do for your customers.
  • Explain to your customers what they’ll get for their money.
  • Like anything else, first plan, then execute.

Next week, we’ll discuss how to increase your potential clientele beyond its traditional bounds.

Greg McFarlane is an advertising copywriter who lives in Las Vegas. He recently wrote Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense, a financial primer for people in their 20s and 30s who know nothing about money. You can buy the book here (physical) or here (Kindle) and reach Greg at [email protected].

Introducing Blekko, the Self-curated Search Engine

This guest post is by Philip Rudy of ImageWorks Studio.

Have you used Blekko yet? It’s the search engine that prides itself on human curation. You as the user can actually tailor your own personal search results, which begs the question: does Blekko have some type of insight into blending “search & social?”

Potential is an ugly word, and I hate to use it here, but Blekko really has so much potential. Only time will tell if the team is able to get the combination of social and search perfectly right and stay in the game. After all, “human curation” sounds kind of hard.

Maybe not, though. Human curation has already helped Blekko completely block out the top 20 sites voted as spam by human users— these are all mainly content farms (sorry eHow). Anyone can join this cause by setting up a user site on Blekko and marking a site as spam.

The power behind slashtags

Blekko separates itself from other search engines by making use of the “/” tag—the slashtag as a search tool.

You can either create your own slashtag or used a built-in one like the /date slashtag (which also happens to be an extremely helpful slashtag).

All you have to do is type in a search query, like “sports /date” and your query results will automatically be sorted by date, from the most recent results.

Other slashtags do different things. One that’s extremely useful (especially now that Yahoo Site Explorer is down) is the “/seo” slashtag. This allows you to see your sites duplicate content, all of your inbound and outbound links, and much, much more. Try it right now. Enter your site domain name, add a space and “/seo” and you will get something like this:

Creating your own slashtags

All this being said, Google still beats Blekko—even with its awesome concept of human curation of the web and slashtag operators —mainly because, well, slashtags are kind of exhausting. First of all you have to familiarize yourself with all of them, then you have to remember them, and then you have to type them in, and so on. A simple Google search seems to be a better option at this point in time.

But creating your own personal slashtag is a whole other story. Using slashtags, you can basically create your own search engine for any topic you like.

For example, I recently created a “/guestpost” slashtag that returns all the websites I have ever written for. It’s very cool, and very useful. If you use the search field below, you will find websites’ “write for us” pages, which is very useful for guest posters and people looking to build their brand and audience.

The point is that this type of interface usability leaves the door open for a lot of innovation. Used wisely, creating slashtags (which can be done with the help of co-editors) could prove to be a valuable SEO and blogging tool. The ability to tailor and customize your own search engine results packs a lot of power, and if you spend a little time browsing your whole site and coming up with ideas, you can find yourself becoming very, very creative. Just ask the community over at stackoverflow.com, which helps Blekko tailor many of its “programming” slashtags.

Another cool thing about Blekko is that it provides the ability to create your profile, which will list any slashtags that you have created. You are also able to include your Twitter profile, your website, a little information about yourself, and a few other things. It’s the absolute bare minimum of the social package, but it is sort of intriguing. Here’s why.

The ability to basically sculpt your own search engines by creating slash tags, and the ability to post on the walls of the slashtags of other users, opens up some interesting social avenues that aren’t quite built up the “appropriate” way yet. I put the word “appropriate” in quotation marks because I am not quite sure that “social plus search” is the route that Blekko seems to want to take yet—or ever. Right now, their main focus seems to be human curation and the elimination of low-quality content from their SERPs, which is definitely a great cause, but I think there is room there to figure out how to do it socially.

Right now, on Blekko, there is a small, yet highly intriguing ability to search through users and the different slashtags that they’re editing. I’m guessing that not all the users that are on Blekko are listed there, but all you have to do to browse through different Blekko users is type “/users” into the search bar (there are multiple shortcut slashtags that you can check out).

What if Blekko were to leverage their slashtags in a way that connects users that were creating their own slashtags? A step toward this scenario is the creation of the “/likes” slashtag, which shows all of your Facebook likes and all of your friends’ Facebook likes (if you log in with Facebook).

By the same token, isn’t curating your slashtags pretty much almost doing the same thing, except compartmentalizing the different aspects of your life? For instance a slashtag could be created for work references, for going out, or for finding out about the world.

Blekko’s next big step could very well be figuring out the key to combining search with social. However that is also everyone else’s goal, and living in a world of what if’s is never a good idea. Right now, Blekko stands as a very unique search engine with a very bright future. Give it a try and let us know what you think of it—and whether you’ll keep using it—in the comments.

This article was written by Philip Rudy of ImageWorks Studio – a Custom Web Design company based in the Washington DC area founded in 1995.

Essential SEO Settings for Every New WordPress Blog

This guest post is by Karol K of ThemeFuse.

Some bloggers, designers, and WordPress developers have a kind of love-hate relationship with SEO. I know—some people tend to be overly focused on everything SEO-related, and they just keep blasting us with the next “crucial” SEO advice every day.

On the other hand, some people tend to completely overlook it, and act like there’s no such thing as SEO. The truth is that neither of these approaches is the right one.

Many SEO-centered people don’t put a strong focus on the content quality they’re creating. It’s an easy trap to fall into. There are only so many hours in a day, and if you spend most of them on, for example, link building then there’s not much time left to do some honest writing.

If you’re in the other camp then I’m sorry, but this isn’t good either. No matter if you’re a blogger managing your own site, or a developer creating sites for others, SEO is always an important element, though it may not be the most important one.

Let me agree with the SEO guys for a minute, and admit that SEO is the best way of getting a constant stream of new visitors every day. Of course, there are other methods too, but nothing is as predictable as SEO.

When you do some kind of promotion on social media, for example, and get 1,000 visitors in a day, then that’s great, but the next day you’re likely to see no one. If you work on your SEO, however, and get 1,000 visitors one day, 1,000 the next day, and 1,000 the next day, then there are good chances the fourth day will bring similar results.

Furthermore, everybody is affected by SEO. If you’re a blogger, then getting new visitors is in your best interests, obviously. But if you’re a developer and a scenario occurs in which your client is not able to attract any new visitors to their site on a consistent basis, then it’s probably your last gig with that client.

Now, there are only so many things we can do in terms of SEO when getting a WordPress blog ready to be launched. Of course, the most important factors are what gets done after the launch—the various SEO activities the webmaster takes—and Sophie Lee explained a number of them recently. But in order to provide you with some solid groundwork, the blog needs to be made SEO-friendly from day one. Here’s how.

Setting the site title and tagline

Where I usually start is by deciding on a good site title and tagline. And I’m talking only in terms of SEO.

A good title and tagline contain the main keywords for the site. Some proper research needs to be done first, and I’m not going to cover this here, but after that’s been done, one of the most important things you can do is include your keywords of choice in the title and the tagline of the site.

This is the first point at which the theme you’re using (or designing) might interfere with these settings. Different themes do different things with the site’s title and its tagline. Some simply display it in a visible place; others ignore it entirely.

A completely different approach is to choose not to use the site title or the tagline anywhere on the blog. I don’t see it as a wise choice, though. You can choose not to use the tagline—not every blog needs a tagline. But the title is a crucial element for many more reasons than just SEO. Make sure you choose one and use it.

Creating permalinks

In plan English, permalinks represent the structure of every URL on a blog. A single blog post can have one of many URL structures. Some of the more popular ones are:

  • domain.com/?p=POSTID
  • domain.com/2011/12/03/post-name/
  • domain.com/category/post-name/
  • domain.com/post-name/

These are not the only possibilities. WordPress provides you with a lot of tags, so you’re able to create literally tens of different URL structures. Only few, however, have any point to them.

Let me just quickly summarize the whole issue here (for more info feel free to visit my other post, Getting the Permalink Settings for WordPress Just Right). My favorite permalink structure is the last one presented on the list above, which is: domain.com/post-name/.

Why? It provides the webmaster with a possibility to include keywords into each post’s or page’s URL, which is one of the main on-page SEO factors for Google. Due to the limited space in a URL, Google knows that the most descriptive keywords are most likely to appear there.

I’m not saying that you have to use this exact structure, but if you set the permalinks to a setting that doesn’t enable including keywords then you’re shutting the door for whoever is going to be managing the site later on.

Building a sitemap

The definition I’m using for sitemap is: a file that provides a map of all the URLs that are a part of a website.

Search engines always look for such a file because it’s the easiest way for them to index all pages that need to be indexed. As a blogger, you have to make it possible for such sitemaps to be created automatically whenever a new page or post gets created.

Luckily, there are many plugins that can make it happen. Two of the more popular ones, which I’ve been using successfully(of course, don’t use both of them at the same time) are:

The plugin by Yoast actually offers a lot more than just sitemaps, and it’s the one I’m using right now on my blog.

These sitemap plugins can be a little tough to deal with at some times. I mean, they work just fine, but the amount of possible settings can be frightening. Thankfully, the default settings seem to be optimal.

Using an SEO-friendly theme

This is a big deal—the most important thing, in my opinion. No matter what settings you choose for your blog, your theme needs to support them.

First things first. Free themes are evil.

Theme frameworks or custom-made themes are great. The only problem is that you need to spend a lot of time working on tweaking the theme to fit your requirements perfectly. But the work often pays off, especially for those somewhat WordPress-savvy people who are not afraid to get their hands dirty. What I actually advise is to invest in a premium theme.

Now, let’s talk some SEO characteristics of a good theme. First of all, and this goes for everyone, no matter if you’re shopping for a theme or creating one from the ground up: a good theme needs to provide the possibility for assigning custom SEO titles and descriptions to individual posts, pages, categories, and tags.

By default, WordPress creates those automatically. What happens is the post’s or page’s title becomes the SEO title as well, and the excerpt becomes the SEO description.

This isn’t a perfect solution. Some post titles will inevitably be longer than SEO tells you is optimal (which is about 65 characters). Another thing is that post titles are always more conversational in nature and less SEO-optimized. A proper SEO title should therefore be a kind of a summary of the post title.

Anyway, I’m sure you see the value. Being able to set SEO titles and descriptions is a must. Period.

The HTML structure of a theme has much SEO weight to it too. For instance, HTML errors (you can discover them by installing a plugin for your browser; many of those are available for Firefox, for example). If your blog has a lot of HTML errors, then you’re making it significantly more difficult for a search engine to visit it and read the content.

HTML is not a complicated language, but truly mastering it to the point where you’re not making any structural errors takes a while. This is a skill developers learn over time.

Proper <H> heading usage is another point. Search engines look at every page in a search for fragments of text that have any kind of emphasis placed on them. For example, if you decide to bold something within a sentence, then it’s probably something important—something you want to attract additional attention to.

Google and other search engines see those phrases, too. For this matter, headings are some of the most important elements. A good theme needs to use them for post titles, page titles, and also provide a well formatted style for different headings when used within the content of the post or page itself.

We’re not done with the structure yet. Google doesn’t see every page the same way. For example, you can go to seo-browser.com and do a quick test on whatever site you want. What you’ll notice is that no matter what address you input, the site looks nothing like you’re used to seeing it. Put in a few page URLs and get a feel for how differently Google sees them.

Now, some hints! A well designed theme rearranges the HTML structure of the site. It does it in a way so the main content of the site is always close to the top of the HTML structure. This is a challenge that requires some CSS knowledge to implement, and can be difficult is some cases.

For example, if a site is using one sidebar on the left, one on the right, and the main content block is in the center, then the easiest way of creating such a structure is to first create the code for the left sidebar, then the content block, and then the right sidebar. Unfortunately, this is not the optimal solution. The main content block always needs to appear first in the HTML structure. This is something beginner CSS enthusiasts often find difficult to implement.

And that’s why you need a premium theme: to ensure that the structure of your site is as seo-friendly as possible.

Understanding indexation

No matter what site you’re working on, not every page deserves to be indexed by search engines.

WordPress as a platform creates a lot of duplicate content—category pages, tag pages, date archives, author archives—and for the most part they are all duplicates.

A blog that’s SEO-friendly should define what gets indexed and what doesn’t. One solution of doing this is to use the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast mentioned earlier.

Some areas you might consider not indexing:

  • category archives or tag archives
  • date-based archives
  • author archives.

Choosing what to index, and what not to index, is a way of speaking to the search engines. What you’re doing is simply helping them to identify what the most important areas of your blog are, by excluding some of the less-important ones.

Now, the first area on the list is “category or tag archives.” It’s for you to decide upon the best approach for your blog. The general rule, as Sophie explained the other day, is not to let duplicate content pages get indexed. If you’re using the same categories or tags for many posts then your category or tag archives are becoming just that: duplicate content. Setting everything up to prevent this from the get-go is a good practice.

Since we’re talking indexation it’s worth to mention nofollow settings. As many of you know, nofollow is an attribute you can give to a link so it remains unfollowed by the search engines. Some of the links that are good to be no-followed are comment links (whatever people commenting on the blog link to).

Your first steps

The topic of SEO for WordPress blogs is a really big one, and it always takes some time before one can get a good grasp on the whole issue. This post presents only the essential, initial steps you’ll want to take care of, and some of the most basic facts.

When you’re searching for additional information keep in mind to read only the latest posts and tutorials. The rules have a tendency to change quite often in the SEO world! For now, feel free to comment and tell me what your initial SEO settings for your new blog are. I’m curious to know.

Karol K. is a 20-something year old web 2.0 entrepreneur from Poland and a writer at ThemeFuse.com, where he shares various WordPress advice. Currently, he’s working on a new e-book titled “WordPress Startup Guide – little known things worth doing when creating a WordPress site.” The e-book launches soon, and now the best part … it’s free. Also, don’t forget to visit ThemeFuse to get your hands on some premium WordPress themes.

What’s the Best Type of Affiliate Site? [Case Study]

This guest post is by Anshul Dayal of Nichsense Niche Marketing.

Once upon a time, making money with affiliate marketing and AdSense was a question of following this step-by step recipe (circa 2009):

  1. Find a product to promote on Clickbank or other affiliate networks.
  2. Find a low-competition keyword.
  3. Register an exact or partial match domain.
  4. Write up a product review stuffed with keywords (which was of course always positive).
  5. Plaster the site with affiliate banners, links, and AdSense.
  6. Launch website or blog and wait for traffic.

Sound familiar? I can certainly relate to that, as I have built such sites during the early phases of my internet marketing endeavours. Fast-forward to 2012, and suddenly things don’t look as rosy for anyone looking to put up hundreds of these sites and quit their day jobs.

Before we start the actual comparisons between various affiliate models, I’d like to take a moment to explain the definition of an affiliate site for readers who may be new to affiliate marketing.

The idea here is that visitors may be looking for information on a product (eg “weight loss pills”) by means of organic search. A typical affiliate site will usually provide a review of such a product with affiliate links, and if a visitor makes a purchase or takes action through these links, the site owner earns a commission from the vendor for the referral. Such a site is usually based on the recipe I talked about above, which often provides very little in terms of genuine information and is purely designed for affiliate sales.

With constant changes in the search engine landscape (especially the Panda update from 2011, and more recently Panda 3.3) the above recipe is no longer enough to build what we would describe as a successful affiliate site. In fact, now you can safely say that Google is on a mission to weed out these thin affiliate and AdSense sites for good—it’s even de-indexing them completely from its search index.

Amongst other factors, Google is now making it difficult for established affiliate sites that are thin in content to rank in the search results. One of the other interesting and emerging trends associated with such affiliate sites is the user clickthrough rate (or CTR) in organic search results. Over the years, many marketers have realized the power that exact-match domains have held with search engines like Google, and were heavily exploited for affiliate-type sites.

This has somewhat impacted the way exact-match domains are now perceived by many people and they will be hesitant to click on such sites when they show up in the search results, as they are commonly regarded as low quality. To demonstrate this a little bit more, let’s take a look at a search term like “cheap office supplies”. Here is what typical search results may look like:

  • http://www.cheapofficesupplies.org
  • http://www.staples.com/office-supplies
  • http://www.officeworks.com.au/office-supplies

Which search result you are more likely to click on? My guess would be either staples or Officeworks (if you are from Australia).

Using that information, let’s compare two affiliate site models as case studies:

  1. An affiliate site based on the most common model: a micro-niche site. These sites typically contain four or five pages of content (most commonly articles and reviews) and are for most part focused on getting visitors to click on affiliate links or AdSense ads.
  2. An affiliate site you would be proud to show your family and friends, which I describe as an authority blog, where “real” people would turn to look for real and trustworthy information and is more likely to convert affiliate links to sales in 2012 and beyond.

Let me just add that examples discussed here are not my sites, but I do own just over 50 AdSense niche sites ranging from micro-niche sites like the first model (with around five pages of content) to authority sites based on the second model (with anywhere from 20-100 pages of content).

Without a doubt I am now a strong proponent of the second model, with clear emphasis on delivering content and value.

Case study 1: AfricanMangoScam.net

This is an affiliate site which fits nicely into the first model. It offers a “review” of the the popular African mango pills for weight loss. Interestingly, the domain also contains the word “scam”—a common tactic employed by many marketers who claim to provide visitors with information on the legitimacy of the African mango weight loss pills.

The site follows a layout common amongst the majority of micro-niche affiliate sites: a landing page with a product review claiming to inform visitors if the African mango pills are a scam, one or two weight loss images, a YouTube video, and lots of affiliate banners.

As expected, the product review dispels the African mango pills scam and gives it a thumbs up with an affiliate text link conveniently located below the article body. In terms of other content, there are links to two other articles which are somewhat related to weight loss.

A quick look at the SeoQuake toolbar reveals just six pages of indexed content, which is common amongst affiliate sites of this nature. As you can see, a site like this can be built in a day, but is it a sustainable model? Let’s look at the second case study for a comparison.

Case study 2: ShedYourWeight.com

This particular site is also focused on the weight loss niche, but it’s based around many pages of weight loss-related content and unlike a typical micro-niche site, you don’t land on two big blocks of AdSense ad units or multiple affiliate banners in the widget.

Instead, visitors are invited into the site with a sliding banner of pleasing images, and links to various articles as they scroll down. It is interesting to note that many of these articles are also optimized for several weight loss-related keywords (eg “Jenifer Hudson weight loss”).

So, where are the affiliate links? They are nicely positioned alongside many of the rating-based product reviews inside the weight loss products category. Additionally, the visitors only see AdSense ad units as they navigate to deeper and individual posts within the site—not on the landing page.

Another key attribute commonly associated with a high quality site is the use of relevant categories to carefully group similar posts and content. Categories make it easier for users to find related information, and encourage them to stay on the site longer. Shedyourweight.com follows this standard quite well with several relevant categories conveniently listed in the top navigation bar.

Visitors are also encouraged to sign up for a free weight loss tips guide, through a clean and well positioned opt-in box. Additionally, a Facebook Like box is also positioned on the sidebar, with a significant number of fans for a site of this nature. If I was to pick a negative, it would have to be the lack of social share buttons within the content, which is now used as one of the key signals of quality by search engines like Google and Bing.

In terms of statistics, SeoQuake reveals a whopping 1460 pages of indexed content for this site, and a closer look at the site’s traffic statistics through SEMRush reveals an estimate of 6500 monthly unique visitors from its top 20 organic search terms.

Based on these numbers, we can estimate a monthly revenue of at least $10-15k with a conservative conversion rate of 10% and possible AdSense revenues of $1500 with an average CTR of 5%. That said, the actual revenues are possibly a lot higher as we are not even considering any sales through email marketing and long-tail traffic.

As you can see, there is a lot more work involved with building such a site, but no doubt this particular site is likely to earn significantly more revenues in the long run. It’s something that has the potential to be a real sustainable business for marketer of any level.

I want to add that you don’t necessarily need thousands of pages of content to build a high quality affiliate site. Even ten to 20 pages can often be enough—as long as the information you provide comprehensively covers your chosen niche or topic, and is not just one or two biased articles with affiliate links.

So which model are you more likely to choose now for your next affiliate site? Please leave your thoughts and comments below.

Anshul Dayal is the author at Nichsense Niche Marketing blog offering cutting edge niche marketing strategies for starting a real, sustainable and profitable online business. You can download his step-by-step guide to launching your own profitable niche website on his blog http://www.nichesense.com

Google Publisher Toolbar—a Must-have for AdSense Publishers

This guest post is by Kevin Muldoon of WordPress Mods.

Google AdSense has been in the news a lot over the last month, for all the wrong reasons. Many top AdSense publishers such as Zac Johnson and Spencer Haws have had their accounts banned and their last month of earnings withheld. And Google won’t give a specific reason as to why any particular account—including either of these—has been banned.

Despite its critics, Google AdSense remains a reliable source of income for many bloggers and website owners across the world. Earlier this year, the developers released a tool that helps you check your earnings more easily and track the performance of your ad zones. The AdSense Publisher Toolbar is an official Google Chrome extension that adds a publisher toolbar to your Chrome browser. It also adds an overlay to your advertisements so that you can see exactly how they have been performing.

I’m surprised that Google hasn’t been promoting this extension more heavily as, in my opinion, it’s vital for anyone who makes money online using Google AdSense.

The Publisher Toolbar

Google publisher toolbar

Google publisher toolbar

Once you’ve installed the extension in your Chrome browser, you will see an AdSense icon at the top right-hand side of your browser (to the right of your address bar). Once you have authorised the extension to log in to your Google account on your behalf, clicking on the icon will display a menu that shows your AdSense earnings. (Note: I’m not 100% sure of Google’s policy of displaying earnings etc., so I’ve used its screenshot instead of taking one of my account.)

At the top of the box you can see today’s earnings, yesterday’s earnings, earnings this month, and earnings from last month. The bottom half of the box shows your top five performing custom channels and top Five performing URL channels. Your lifetime earnings via Google Adsense are also shown at the bottom of the box.

The Publisher Toolbar was obviously not developed as a replacement for checking your stats through the main Google AdSense website, however it’s perfect for anyone who wants to quickly check how their AdSense websites are performing without logging into the main site.

The in-site ad overlay

The second, and arguably its most useful, feature of the Google Publisher Toolbar is the in-site ad overlay. Once you’ve installed the toolbar and signed into your account, the extension will place an overlay over all Google Adsense and DoubleClick advertisements on your websites.

When you load one of your website pages, your Google Adsense advertisement will be displayed as it normally would.

The ad overlay

The ad overlay

Then, a second or so after the page has loaded, the ad overlay will be displayed. The overlay places a see-through black box over all of your AdSense advertisements. The name of the ad zone is displayed at the top of the overlay, and at the bottom you can see how much that particular zone has made today, yesterday, and over the last seven days.

Comparing performance between days

Comparing performance between days

What does this all mean?

In a nutshell, it means that when you are browsing your websites you can quickly see which ad zones are performing well today, yesterday, and over the last week. I’ve found this to be a really useful tool when optimizing the ad positions of my Google AdSense ads, as it highlights which zones are under-performing and which zones are making the most money.

The great thing about this feature is that you can see the performance of each ad zone while you are browsing your website—you don’t need to log in to some external location to view your performance.

If you make money online using Google Adsense, I encourage you to try Google Publisher Toolbar out as it makes checking stats a breeze. Unfortunately, the extension is currently only available for Google Chrome but hopefully in the future we will see this available for other browsers such as Opera, Fireox, Safari, and Internet Explorer.

Kevin Muldoon is a Scottish webmaster and blogger who currently lives in South America. His labour of love is WordPress Mods; a blog which focuses on WordPress Themes, Plugins, Tutorials, News, Modifications.

9 Facebook Marketing Tactics that’ll Triple Your Fans

This guest post is by Neil Patel of Quick Sprout.

Would you like to double, or even triple the number of fans you have on your Facebook business page? Are you looking to turn those fans into loyal and active fans?

Your Facebook business page can die on the vine without a loyal and active following.

But success will never come overnight. Instead it will require that you apply the marketing strategies you are about to read … plus a little bit of hustle.

Tactic #1: Crank out a lot of content

People like Facebook business pages for many reasons. They want to learn more about the brand, discover new products, and get educated.

So the very first Facebook marketing strategy you need to use is providing a lot of content in different media like photos, posts, videos, and surveys and you have to do it consistently.

The passionate community around eCycler was developed because the brand posted great content on recycling in the Notes sections on a consistent basis.

Ecycler

In addition, they posted fun videos and used Facebook to show its 10,000 plus fans how the inside of the company works. This transparency from the co-founders of this Illinois-based company has made it a great communication channel between the brand and the fans.

Meanwhile, the community over at the SmartPak Facebook page is very active, leaving hundreds of comments on the dozens of videos and 1,000 plus photos that SmartPak has posted.

Smartpak

The company uses Facebook to market new products on nutritional supplements and medications for horses, but it’s developed into something so much more over time. Over 110,000 fans talk, share ideas and like the consistent content that SmartPak shares. In turn Facebook has become the seventh highest source of traffic to their website.

SmartPak’s director of new media, however, says that it’s really become a place where they deliver great customer service, responding to complaints and trying to help users of their products to solve problems.

Tactic 2: Run weekly giveaways and discounts

One way to drive a loyal following to your Facebook page is to have weekly giveaways. The candle company Candles Off Main’s Facebook page not only provides weekly discounts on its products, but also shares great instructional videos and very detailed photos that help educate and entice potential buyers.

Candles off Main

The company has been around for five years but joined Facebook only in 2009. In that time they’ve grown their fans to over 3,500 with a blend of giveaways. But this is not just about tripling their following: it’s about a community they created where members are active on discussion boards and constantly giving responses to posts.

Their Facebook fan page isn’t a big driver of sales—it produces less than ten percent of sales, but it provides something way more valuable. The community they built with giveaways and then cultivated into a thriving community gives the company insight and suggestions on how to make better products that followers will buy.

Tactic #3: Train your staff

Stella & Dot is a direct-selling company that gives women who work from home an entrepreneurial business platform. And their Facebook fan page, with over 166,000 fans, is a hive of activity. There, fans rave about products, people share ideas on how to be stylish, and direct-sellers share testimonials about happy customers.

Stella and Dot

But the unique thing about Stella & Dot is that they use Facebook to train a staff team that’s spread across the country. For each product that the company creates, they also create a video demonstrating how the jewelry should be worn and what it should be worn with. Then they post it on Faceboook so their direct sellers can watch it.

The neat thing about this is everyone gets to see the content—each instructional video serves to entice potential customers as well as training the staff.

Tactic #4: Create a culture

Clothing company Threadless has turned the tables on the conventional business model by putting all the power in the customers’ hands. It’s more of a culture than it is a business, and its using its Facebook fan page to drive that culture.

Threadless

There, the business invite fans to share t-shirt designs and then vote on their favorites. Threadless will then make that product. You can also buy products straight from the Facebook site. Of course, the company shares interesting videos and photos on the stream, but it encourages face-to-face meetings through the page.

Thousands of people share their ideas via the company’s website, but it is on Facebook that the actual voting occurs. That voting, and the interaction between the designers and the fans, creates a powerful culture that continues to grow as Threadless advocates talk about the company across the social web.

Tactic #5: Make word-of-mouth advocacy easy

There is no denying it: you trust people you know more than you trust strangers. So when you see a product shared by a friend, you are more likely to consider using that product. It’s that word of mouth that really works on Facebook, which Brendan’s Irish Pub in Camarillo, CA used to grow its fan base before the business opened its doors.

Brendan's Irish Pub

It created a business fan page to generate buzz about parties, sell products, and get commitments from first-time customers about coming to the grand opening.

The Facebook page existed months before the pub did, and owner Tyler Rex used that time to create hype around the Camarillo area. In just those few months he gained over 3,500 fans in a city of 65,000 people.

Tactic #6: Encourage fan-to-fan conversations

Your Facebook business community will get much better if you have fans talking to each other, and the best way to do this is by putting the spotlight on those very fans.

One way you can do this is by creating a “Fan of the Week” post to recognize top contributors to the community. But if you have a Facebook fan base like Bare Escentuals you can take a hands-off marketing approach, and still get fans to talk to each other.

Bare Escentuals

Fans totally dominate the conversation here. Bare Escentuals has adopted a strategy in which they do not ask for testimonials, yet the 550,000+ fans leave hundreds of them, which in turn leads to traffic being driven to their resellers and shops.

But this fan-to-fan conversation has also given the company recommendations on how to improve the product. The chief marketing officer said that their new “Click, Lock, Go” container was created as a result of suggestions from fans.

Tactic #7: Focus on your brand

When it comes to how your Facebook page should look, you can go about it in two ways. One way you can brand it to look just like your website. The other way is to create a completely different experience so that fans have a feeling of exclusivity when they like your page.

Community Coffee chose to keep the brand consistent, using the same colors, style, and even images from their website to their Facebook page. But they deliver that feeling of exclusivity through the use of recipe posts, and inviting fans to post their own recipes, contests and trivia.

Community Coffee

Facebook has proven to be a great new media marketing tool for this company, which is over 90 years old. The active fan base is exposed to the brand, which in turn builds awareness of the business, generates more leads, and engages customers.

Tactic #8: Donate a dollar to quickly build a fan base

You can build a terrific following by pledging to donate $1 to a charity every time someone Likes your Facebook page. That’s exactly what Clarisonic did last year. They increased their fan base by over 80 percent and raised $30,000 to help women with cancer.

Clarisonic

But once you are a fan of Clarisonic, you’re treated to lots of activities that get you involved, such as contests that invite users to share pictures of themselves using the brand’s products. That’s the key to running this type of pledge: once you have fans, you need to keep them engaged using some of the tactics that I’ve shared above.

When you follow up with good user-interaction content like Calrisonic did (they’re doing pretty well, with over 118,000 fans) you can build on that momentum from the quick injection of fans as they spread the word about your company across the social web.

Tactic #9: Reward your social media users

If you have a brick-and-motor store like Fresh Brothers, a southern CA pizza chain, then you can use your Facebook business page as a place to reward your fans with discount codes for products.

Fresh Brothers

The company actually shares a weekly special to thank fans, and if you Like their page, you’ll get access to these weekly deals. This is applying the exclusivity trick to entice people to follow Fresh Brothers.

But Fresh Brothers also rewards fans with great stories about their family, as the company is run by three brothers, employee tales, and snippets of company history. This is a really great way to deliver that human touch that shows customers that this isn’t just another business who wants to get its hands on their money—it’s a company with personality that truly cares about customers.

What’s your favorite tactic?

One of the keys to running a successful business Facebook fan page is to create a very human feel to it. That can be done through great content like photos and videos, all the way to providing awesome deals to fans as a thank you for their following you.

You will be rewarded with an active community of fans sharing their own stories, creating conversations about your brand across the social web, and even driving traffic to your website.

What other Facebook marketing strategies have you found effective for building a fan base? Share them with us below.

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