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Case study: How I launched my first e-course and made over 5 grand – from a tiny list

This is a guest contribution from Marya Jan, blogging coach and trainer for small business owners.

Do you want to monetize your blog or start an online business?

Have you been blogging for a while and all you want to do is sell products or services and follow your passions?

If that’s the case, then what is stopping you?

If you are like most people, the one thing that is holding you back is the size of your list.

You might have heard this many times before, ‘money is in the list’. So you feel without having a decent sized list, you can’t launch your business, or monetize your blog.

You feel like you need thousands of people on your list before you can make an offer.

You have heard success stories from popular bloggers with 20K, 50K or even 100K plus lists and you think you too need to blog until you reach that stage.

Today, I am here to present a different perspective: The size of your list is important; there is no doubt about it. 5K list is surely better than a 200 people list.

However, there is one more thing that is even more important – list responsiveness.

How warm is your list?

What are your open rates like? How many people click through to view the content? How many people actually made it to the end and share it?

For example, 30% open rates of a 3K list mean 900 people are opening and reading your emails at any given time. That is way better than 3% open rate for a 15K list – 450. Now, I am not saying that the bigger the size of your list, the more useless it comes.

What I am saying is this: Would you be happy with 400 hot leads? 400 people who open your emails and are real prospects? If so, you could get a list of 1,000 subscribers and work really hard on nurturing your list so that your open rates are phenomenal – in the vicinity of 40%, rather than worry about growing your list and allowing it to go cold.

When you start thinking about having a warm list where people really like and trust you, and get huge value from you, then you don’t need to wait till you have thousands of people on your list before you launch your business. 

Don’t believe me? Then let me tell you my story.

Launch of an e-course

How to use your blog to build a highly responsive, super targeted list makes the premise of my brand new e-course that I recently launched – to my list only, aptly titled Get 500 Subscribers.

The target market for this course is new businesses who are relying on their blogs as a primary marketing tool for building their lists or want to start blogging. These people understandably don’t have huge marketing budgets so blogging makes the perfect lead generation tool for them.

This also targets those people who blog but they haven’t monetized because they don’t have the information.

But before that, some context as you might be wondering who am I to give you advice on this? I am a blogging coach. Formally, I hold a MBA-marketing, Bachelor at Law and Education degrees, and I started my own business last year. I offer coaching and review services and I also teach Blogging for Business courses in local adult education provides (that’s TAFE for people who are in Australia).

I, too, felt that I could not launch my services before I had a minimum of 2K subscribers. In fact, I waited for longer than that.

I did an internal launch to my list of 3K subscribers in July (by internal launch I mean that the course was released to my list ONLY).

There are a few reasons for that:

As a pilot version, I wanted to allow a specific number of people in to test out the material and organisation of info presented. I wanted to see what they thought of it and if they found it to be practical enough.

I figured if these people are blog subscribers, they are more likely to forgive the mistakes (like typos which I am notorious for) and other issues that I might have missed. I also wanted to get feedback on how to make it better.

Finally, I wanted to see how they went after going through the course. I wanted to see their results and write mini case-studies based on all the information made avaiable to me, for the main launch. This would also make great testimonials and tell others that the course really works.

Research phase

So, before I even started creating this course, I polled my list and asked them if this is something they might be interested in.

I said to them that there are number of blogging related courses on the market already and they boast of adding thousands of subscribers to your list. I had asked them what their numbers currently look like and what they thought is doable.

I was really surprised by the sheer number of responses I received. But the most surprising was the fact that my audience was clearly split between people who were thinking of monetizing or new business and people who did not even have blogs yet. This was certainly eye opening for me.

But people generally agreed that for anyone having less than 100 people on their list, 500 is a great number to shoot for. So that is what I decided to run with.

I also decided to do an e-course instead of an ebook because we all know how many times we buy an ebook, scan through it and never pick it up again. I also wanted it to be step by step process, logically organised and also not overwhelm them as there are so many moving parts to this process.

Needless to say, I did a thorough home work on the competitors to check out their products, price points and of course their sales copy.

Based on the demand, the information included (6 modules with multiple lessons) and accompanying worksheets, checklists, resources and templates, I decided that the price tag of about $300 seemed fair. For my list though, I gave them a hefty 50% discount as I wanted initial intake of members to feel like founding members of the course and help me tweak it along the way.

This gave the confidence to keep going every time I faced a setback.

Investment

For the set up, I purchased Premise from Copyblogger media ($165) and bought one hour of consulting to set it up. This had me hyperventilating at some points because I hadn’t thought I’d have such a hard time getting my head around it. ($100)

I bought ebooks on how to launch from Ittybiz ($200) and referred to all my resources and previously bought training on writing sales pages and email marketing.

I did not spend anything on packaging as I did not need cover design or any fancy elements. This meant I kept the costs low.

Sales sequence 

For my pre-launch content, I had been publishing related blog posts such as   Why You Don’t Need to Become a Popular Blogger prior to announcing the course.

I did the initial survey and kept my audience in the loop from the beginning. They knew that I was working on this product and expected it. I announced it via email a week before enrolment was to open.

I kept my launch period fairly short – 4 days.

I send 5 emails altogether. Here is a brief sequence in case you are wondering.

Email 1: Officially open for enrolment + bonus (Day 1)

Email 2: Reader questions answered (Day 3)

Email 3: Last day for enrolment (Last day)

Email 4: Few hours remain (Last day)

Launch mistakes + lessons 

Based on the survey I did earlier, it was clear that this course would appeal to 50% of my audience. 50% (of those who answered) don’t have even have a blog yet. This course is definitely NOT for them. (This also told me that I can also release a product aimed at beginner bloggers at some stage.)

I should have started an interest list.

I wasn’t confident enough to do that but would have been better because would have gotten the realistic numbers. I would have avoided some emotional stress. There were some unsubscribes which are to expected but I would have lost less people had I emailed to the people on my interest list only.

I could have built more context around the premise of my course (building a list of super targeted 500 subscribers) by doing more pre-lunch content pieces. I feel I rushed through this phase. I did a post or two but how many people read those?

I didn’t realise that it is a holiday in USA + July 4 long weekend when I was closing enrolment. I still can’t believe I didn’t pick up on that.

So many people launched in June-July. I am thinking early in 2014 for my main launch might be better next time

There was some initial confusion regarding the dates, I didn’t proofread launch emails properly and I am thinking this must have affected sales.

And this is what I did really well.

Because of the survey, I was able to choose a topic and create a product that my audience really wanted. I also ran this idea by trusted friends.

My friends (Henri Juntilla, Henneke D and Di Mace in particular) helped name the product. Initially, I was thinking of promoting it as School of Business Blogging but received concern that it might put people off as they might think it is too corporate or serious. Dodged that bullet – phew!

On my sales page, I got over 15% conversion rate which is HUGE. This is confirms that there is a demand for this course.

My goal was to make 5K and I exceeded that.

I need to bring this in front of the right (and bigger) audience next time.

I was told by my readers that my emails very convincing, despite the odd typo!

Unexpected findings

90% of people who joined became my blog subscribers this year (many in May 3013). This means that you don’t have to get people on your list for the longest time to sell to them. Sometimes people like what they see and buy soon enough

People who opened course notification emails (announcement, early access + official open) made up for 35% of my list, on average. Over 500 people never opened a single email of time. After the launch, I actually deleted and moved to an old people list. I wrote about this process on this post – Why I Deleted 400 Subscribers from My List.

I now realise that was probably attracting the wrong audience – meaning people who were just interested in blogging generally but not to use it for marketing and list building purposes. For this reason, I converted the ebook into a 10-part free e-course titled Blogging for Business. This has been converting really well and my open rates are up so I assume this was the right decision.

I could also use a re-brand. This is something I am working on.

Ration of women : men = 30:6. Well this wasn’t so unexpected. I seem to attract women who are in their late 30s and over as they know the reality of building a business and can see through the hype.

All in all, there were no major screw ups.

I learned a ton in the process, met expectations (yay!) and feel way more confident that ever in launching this course to public.

My next steps are to create more products, market more, grow list, re-brand and of course do the main launch of my e-course in 2014.

So back to you. Have I given you something to think about? Has my story changed your mind a bit?

When are you going to lunch your first product? Would you wait till you have thousands of people on your list or will a few hundred do?

Will you work on building the right list or focus on numbers?

What will it take for you to finally monetize?

Marya Jan is a blogging coach and trainer for small business owners. She is the creator of Get 500 Subscribers e-course and teaches Business Blogging short courses in real life. Don’t forget to grab her free 10-part Blogging for Business email course. Like her on Facebook, she is very friendly!

7 Simple Ways To Attract More People to Your Blog

This is a guest contribution from Ryan Currie at Spokeo.

Blogging is an art and it takes practice to really get right.

There are few things more frustrating than pouring your blood, sweat, and tears into a masterfully crafted blog post only to see the analytics at a standstill days after posting.

Here are a few tips for bringing more people to your blog, consistently.

1. Find out what people want to read

Social media is a blogger’s best friend. Not only can you use social to share your latest blog post, you can use it to source upcoming blog material too. Check out Twitter’s trending topics and take notes on common themes among your Facebook friends’ status updates.

Don’t pander to an audience, but keep in mind what people want to talk about.

2. Self-promote like you’d network for a job

Networking grid

Image thanks to digitalart on Freedigitaslphotos.net

There’s no shame in promoting your blog! Not only should you have social widgets at the bottom of each blog post, you should be posting your work on every site you’re active on.

Keep a link to your blog in your email signature and feel free to tell people about it in everyday conversation when appropriate.

3. Speak to a more specific audience

It sounds counterintuitive, but getting more specific with your blog posts is a surefire way to build a niche audience. For example, there are millions of food blogs out there, but exactly how many specialising in gluten-free baking?

Find a niche you can really invest in and you’ll naturally build a loyal audience that shares your content for you.

4. Score a guest post

Guest posts are a great way to bring new eyes to your site. Reach out to bloggers who make sense for your area of expertise and write a really awesome post for their site.

One link to your blog in the boilerplate of a terrific post can catapult your numbers.

5. Reform your titling strategy

Like it or not, good titles are important. Consider what you’d want to read online and how people typically interact with web content. Make your title concise, interesting, and sharable and you’ll be surprised how many clicks you can get. Numbers work well as do current topics in the news and never underestimate the power of a superlative like “best,” “most,” or “biggest.”

6. Post more regularly

Very, very regularly! Whether it’s twice a week or twice a month, people have to know when to expect new content on your blog. The more consistent you are with your posts the more of a loyal audience you can attract and the more plugged in you’ll seem.

Once people learn your blog is a resource for a certain topic that’s updated regularly they’ll keep coming back if they like what they read.

7. Write about things you truly feel passionate about

It really is that simple. Readers can tell when you’re phoning it in and when they think you’re baiting them with topical posts that you’re using to hit numbers. The more authentic you are when blogging the better response you’re going to get. Be thoughtful, use research, and know what’s going on in the blogosphere but above all else write about what you know.

Page views aren’t the end-all-be-all of blogging, but they’re important, particularly if you ever hope to monetize your blog. Keeping these seven tips in mind can get you a long way towards your goal of gaining a steady stream of visitors, one at a time.

Ryan Currie is a Product Manager at Spokeo, a leader in people search and reverse phone lookup services.  In addition to working on Spokeo, he also enjoys history, pop culture, and following the latest new in the movie industry.

6 Reasons to Link Away from your Blog

This is a guest contribution from Adam Grunwerg.

The world of SEO and blogging is kind of limited in that most people will tell you the same things: “build high quality content and do personal outreach in order to receive natural authority backlinks”.

For example, this awesome resource from PointBlankSEO.com is genuinely one of the best articles and tools I’ve ever read for link building strategies in 2013.  It offers hundreds of tips for building white hat links such as PR, competitions, tools, interviews and tests.

However, I still feel this misses the point.

It focuses entirely on link building tactics, rather than how you can increase the perceived value of your content to users – namely by linking away from your blog.

Why? Well here are 6 great reasons to link out.

1. Useful Resource for Readers

The best bloggers will routinely link out to content on a regular basis because it provides readers with more information about a particular subject. For instance, if someone is looking for charts or tools not hosted on your site then it makes sense to link out for your reader’s benefit.

You can even include a cloaked affiliate link if you’re interested in getting credit for the referral (although transparency about affiliate links is always recommended)

2. Creating a “Top List” of the Best Resources or Products

Creating lists such as “13 Tools and Services that I use Everyday” or the “Top 5 Affiliate Blogs” are extremely popular among readers. By linking out to the best resources, you can improve your relationships with other bloggers and websites. It’s a bit like re-tweeting some else’s status – it’s a way of supporting great content and becoming known to the author.

3. Give Credit to External Research and Statistics

Backing up your articles with research and statistics from external resources helps add credibility and value to your content. If you use someone else’s statistic or surveys in a piece then you should also ensure you quote or link to the original source.

4. Interviews and Quotes with Experts in the Industry

Many bloggers and newspapers will routinely look to interview industry experts in order to get better insight and quotes for their story. If you want to add value to your website this way then you need to build some solid contacts, engage in B2B relationships and use PR enquiry services such as HARO and Response Source (both of these services are free to use).

5. Publish Charts, Infographics and Aggregate Data on your Site

Using visual chart and infographics can make it much easier to get a point across to your readers. If you publish someone else’s infographic, you should give credit to the original source as they’ve taken the time and cost to research, produce and distribute it.

6. Improving your SEO, Usability and Panda Score

The best websites will link out to high quality sources for their articles and it’s great for SEO and website rankings. While incoming links are more important (from a ranking point of view) outbound links, to valuable content, is good for your readers and that’s what gets rewarded long term. Too many blogs are scared of linking out in order to preserve their own Page Rank but they’re actually missing out on the other rewards.

Remember…

Linking away from your blog can increase the value of your own content; help build real relationships with other bloggers; and in many cases it’s just the right thing to do (a bit like when you use someone else’s images).

If you’re scared of losing traffic to other websites through external links then you can always use the target=”_blank” HTML tag in order to force open the link in a new window, or you can use cloaked affiliate links to be compensated for the referral.

whiteboard

Image by Jeff Kubina, licensed under Creative Commons

Now it’s over to you. How much link love do you send away from your blog?

Adam Grunwerg is an Internet marketing specialist who runs his own consultancy at http://www.searchable.co.uk.  He writes extensively about marketing, PR, blogging and affiliate marketing.

Forget about Marketing: Concentrate on Blogging

This is a guest contribution by Nicholas Whitmore.

The title: What on earth does it mean?

Well, recently it seems like a lot of bloggers fancy themselves as marketers. You can’t read a post on a blog without seeing a load of other bloggers commenting at the bottom, with a link back to their own site. Of course other bloggers use black hat SEO tricks and other shady tactics in order to drive traffic to their blog. Each to their own you might say, but at the end of the day life can be much, much easier.

If you publish blog content that’s truly awesome, everyone else will market your blog for you.

If you seem to spend half your life trying to promote your blog with your efforts never coming to fruition, now’s the time to stop. There’s a reason why things aren’t working out – and you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s the actual content in your blog posts.

Sorry to have to break it to you, but your blog posts suck.

A man shocked at your lack of proofreading!

It’s time to go back to basics because if you’re guilty of trying to build links and force traffic to your blog, you’re trying too hard.

The art of blogging involves thinking up great topics and blog titles, performing research where required, then authoring great work.

Building links and driving traffic to your website does not fall under the blogging remit – that’s marketing, something different altogether.

Good things come to those who wait

Starting a successful blog is not something that you can do overnight. In fact, it can take months or even years before you start to see traction and those crazy traffic figures you’ve dreamt of. If you’ve got a short attention span or you’re incredibly impatient, the chances are that you won’t make it as a blogger.

Whilst some bloggers out there make a living from their sites, don’t go quitting your day job and blowing your life savings just yet – getting a blog to the point where it can be successfully and sustainably monetized takes a very, very long time.

Expedite success with more awesome blog posts 

The only way in which you can expedite the success of your blog is to publish more high quality content. Be careful not to inundate your visitors with too much content to digest though in your race to the top. Careful balances need to be struck between quality and quantity – a balance must also be struck between too many and too little blog posts.

Rarely will you see a sparsely populated blog that’s extremely popular. One of the core ingredients of a successful blog is frequent content – there’s no getting away from that fact. You don’t have to post 10 new blogs each week, but it would help in a lot of cases.

Hard work always pays off 

On my desk is a mug that my father used to drink out of. It says: “Hard work always pays off” – I find that little saying resonates around my head at least one million times each day. There are few things in life truer than this saying – and it can of course be applied to the world of blogging.

Be prepared to spend a good few months writing awesome posts that few people will read initially.

Keep plugging away – keep publishing great content and your blog will be recognized. The pay off comes when the recognition that your blog receives snowballs – links from other blogs start rolling in, and people recommend your posts on social media.

Recognition usually starts like a little trickle of water – gradually it will build up into a raging torrent. The more recognition your site receives, the more people will read it. As more people read your blog, it’ll receive further recognition. It’s an infinite loop of goodness for you as a blog owner!

In Summary 

When you write and publish awesome content on your blog, good things will come your way.

When you write and publish boring content then spend hours on end building links to it, trying to force people to your website, good things will never come.

Spend your time blogging – not marketing. The marketing side of things will be taken care of for you by your visitors if the blog posts that you publish are good enough to be recommended and shared across the internet.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sharing posts you publish via social media with friends and followers – it’s the ideal way in which to generate that initial buzz and interest about your blog. When the marketing of your posts takes longer than it does to actually write them however, you’ve almost certainly lost your way as a blogger.

 Nick is a freelance journalist and website content editor from http://www.contentwriting.org. He writes extensively about the art of blogging, as well as online marketing techniques such as SEO, PPC and SMM.

Discover The “Can’t Miss” Email Technique To Bring Attention To Your Blog

This is a guest contribution by Frank Angelone.

It’s safe to assume that you want your blog to succeed, right?

It’s easier said than done, but whenever you’re trying to market your blog to others, it can be a very discouraging process.  Not only that, as bloggers, we continually suffer from the inability to get in touch with those we aspire to be like.

It’s not that those individuals don’t want to connect with us, but their email inboxes are full to the max and the Internet is flooded with content.  Tough obstacles ahead of us to stand out from the crowd I’d say.

Obviously, email marketing is an effective way to communicate with our readers, but more often than not, a well known blogger is not signed up to your email list.  The thing is…being associated to these well known bloggers in some capacity can help build the authority your blog needs to get attention.

So how are you suppose to grab the attention of these people?

Keep It Simple, Stupid!

I’ve learned, from my experiences, the best way to grab the attention of others is to keep my enquiries simple and straight forward. 

Granted, in reality, I am marketing to them.

It’s true, whenever you email someone and you wish to market yourself to them, it’s never a good idea to just email them a link to your blog.  You can be sure you won’t be contacted at that point. You want the email to capture their attention from the subject line.

Since you only have a short period to grab their attention, what can you do?

The Subject Line Is The Magic Potion 

Before you start trying to think of creative headlines, let me stop you right there. That kind of advice you’ll see many people give for blog posts and email newsletters.

This doesn’t apply when you’re trying to encourage a well known blogger to open your email. 

In fact, it’s much simpler and easier than you may think. On top of that, you may have used this tactic before and never even realised what a POWERFUL strategy it is.

Tell Me What To Do Already!

This brings me to my personal sure fire way to grab a response…

The magic answer is…

Use the subject line – “Quick Question.”

Really?  That’s it?  Yes, that’s it.  It’s worked for me many times. It’s how I’ve published guest posts on sites like CopyBlogger and here on ProBlogger.

The goal is to create a relationship. Quick Question lets them know…”this won’t take long.” This is what I use all the time.

I can’t believe I’m giving this away because it’s my best kept secret, until now!

How Does This Apply To My Blog?

Interestingly enough, I’ve used this little subject line to build my blog’s credibility. 

I’ve been able to leverage my podcast to build authority for my blog. An authoritative blog is something all bloggers strive for.  By using that “Quick Question” subject line, I’ve brought guests onto my podcast like Gary Vaynerchuk, Chris Pirillo, Brian Clark, Seth Godin, and Robert Scoble to name a few. 

I can officially say that all these great people in some way are associated with my blog.

I’m not throwing these names at you to brag, but rather show you that by having these relationships, I’ve been able to connect with new readers / listeners and provide advice to others on how to go about podcasting.

This additional layer of my blog that started with a simple subject line also gave me the freedom to not have to rely on writing blog posts. Writing can be tiring, time consuming, and writers block can occur frequently. Doing audio interviews was my way of overcoming these obstacles and in the process I’ve developed relationships with well known bloggers.

You may not be able to build the readership that you want at this point. You may not be able to get a ton of comments on your posts. However, you can start finding other avenues to build that authority for your blog.

Don’t believe that just because it’s a blog that you’re restricted to only written content…you’re not!

Even though podcasting isn’t what I talk about on my blog, because of the well known bloggers I’ve connected with, I was able to talk to Chris Pirillo’s mastermind group in a webinar on bringing guests to your podcast and wrote a blog post about it too.

So, try this in your next email and let me know how this works out for you in the comments and if you’re able to build some new authority for your blog.

Frank Angelone teaches people how to use social media in business and how to adapt to technology.  He’s also coupled these teachings by interviewing well known entrepreneurs like Chris Pirillo, Robert Scoble, Brian Clark, and Leo Babauta to name a few, on the STZ Podcast.  Be sure to subscribe to be notified of new episodes!

Google Hangouts: Turning Bloggers into Broadcasters

This is a guest contribution by Sarah Hill, the Chief Digital Storyteller for Veterans United Network.

Blogging no longer has to be a text based conversation. Google+ has allowed bloggers to become broadcasters, adding a visual component to each blog post, and all you need to become a “Blogcaster” is a webcam, an internet connection, and Google+.

Understanding the Basics of Google+

Narrow-minded individuals have been quick to dismiss Google+, seeing another Facebook; however, the true functionality of Google+ goes beyond keeping up with friends. This platform offers a unique feature that allows you to live-stream face-to-face video chats to the masses through a feature known as Hangouts.

Google’s Hangout feature is unfolding into a product that is changing how people collaborate and learn, providing real users with the tools and information to accomplish real-world tasks, and the ability to display it for all to see via YouTube.

This free broadcast tower is deepening relationships between bloggers, businesses and personal users through face-to-face interaction, setting the social network apart from all others and creating a fresh way to experience the web.

Hangout Preparation

Starting a Hangout can be done in a few seconds, just by clicking the “Start a Hangout” button; however, before diving in head first, it is best to prepare.

When you start a Hangout for the first time, you will be prompted to install a quick plugin. All you need to do is download Google’s voice and video chat plugin, ensure you have a webcam with a microphone and a decent internet connection. Ethernet is preferred but I’ve done lots of Hangouts over Wifi and even 4G as well.

In addition, it is best to check your lighting and background beforehand to make sure people can clearly see your face.

Once you’re confident in the set up and have ran some practice Hangouts, it’s time to promote a live event.

Announce the hangout

First, create a Google+ public event announcement a few days to a couple weeks before your Hangout. You want to give users time and create awareness of the Hangout.

Set to stream the hangout

Also, when creating the Google+ Hangout, be sure to open a “Hangout on Air” as those Hangouts stream live on YouTube and are then automatically recorded to your YouTube channel after you hit “end broadcast”.

Promote your hangout

Next, build awareness by posting in related Google+ communities, as well as other social channels. Don’t stay only on Google+, but cross-pollinate your live event to all your social platforms. Also, consider using a specific hashtag for your event.

Over Memorial Day, Veterans United partnered with Google+, the 9/11 Memorial and Virtual Photo Walks for a live Hangout. We used #honortheheroes to promote it to the public. Search that hashtag for examples of how we promoted that event.

Becoming a Blogcaster

Hangouts fuel the possibility of bloggers to become blogcasters, allowing up to ten users to video chat at a time, with the ability to broadcast to the entire world through “Hangouts on Air.”

So what would you talk about when you host a Hangout?

What are you passionate about? Original ideas, quality content and social sharing are the goal, and if you are posting interesting, thought provoking content on a frequent basis, you have the ability to gain followers and grow your authority – and this is no different through Hangouts.

Common Hangout topics include education, interviews, product demonstration and, more recently, customer service. However, when blogging, consider taking your hottest blog post and invite other authorities in the space to join in on the Hangout panel, providing multiple angles on the topic.  This lengthens the life of your blog beyond just the initial post.

Preparation is a must. Put together a list of questions that you can ask members in the Hangout, know who is speaking, on what topic and how long. Also, be sure to keep the conversation flowing by having transition topics so that you don’t permit awkward downtime.

And, no matter what method is used when producing a Hangout, remember to monitor social channels, blog comments from people who couldn’t attend the Hangout. You should also point users toward a social feed that they can post questions, essentially making them a part of the Hangout as well.

As with blogging, when you engage with your users on a frequent basis, user interaction and discussion becomes much easier. With Hangouts, that interaction is deeper as it’s now face to face via webcam.

Claim Your Work

The larger your presence is on Google+, the more likely it is that Google will see you as an expert or authority in your personal niche. And, to ensure that you’re capturing all the authority given from your Hangouts – especially when you post the URL to another site – be sure to claim the content through Google+.

“Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman at Google, recently said that future rankings will be determined by verified author profiles,” said Matt Polsky, an organic search strategist. “If you haven’t realized it yet, authors are already verifying their content on Google+, which is more than enough of a reason to get started.”

As Matt said above, bloggers are already verifying their broadcasts and content, providing users with not only a picture snippet in search results, but with additional authority for your specialized niche – especially when you branch out and write for other authority publications.

To verify your content, you can add the rel=author tag to your Google+ link in your byline when you create and post content.

With some forethought, time, and effort, you can grow your online presence and authority so people can discover your content. Broadcasting isn’t just for TV stations anymore. If you have a blog, you too can become a Google+ blogcaster.

Have you already used a Hangout? What was your experience?

About the Author: Sarah Hill is the Chief Digital Storyteller for Veterans United Network – a leading hub of news and advice on veteran and military issues. Connect with Sarah on Google+ to start a Hangout, or chat with her on Twitter.

How I Turned a Guest Post into 3 Million Visitors and Over 150,000 Social Media Shares

Yesterday, I shared a practical exercise for diving deeper into your blog’s analytics to discover how you can use the last month of blog action to plan for the future.

Today, I’d like to show you an example of just how powerful this discipline can be when it comes to building traffic to your site. In fact, this simple exercise led to a series of events that generated:

  • 3 million unique visitors
  • 131,000 ‘pins’ on Pinterest
  • 25,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook
  • 19,000 RT’s on Twitter

It all started with a Guest Post Submission

This story all began in March of 2012 when I received an email through the contact form on dPS, outlining an idea for a guest post. The author wanted to write a post with some examples pictures of how to pose women for portraits.

I liked the idea and agreed that the author could write the post. He submitted it a couple of weeks later and I scheduled it to go live late on the 28th.

The post was titled Posing Guide: 21 Sample Poses to Get You started with Photographing Women (note: on the blog it says ‘Part 1′ but at the time of publishing it was a stand alone post).

Screen Shot 2013 06 04 at 1 20 59 PM

Initial Results

I thought the post would do well as it was on a topic we’ve had good responses to in the past i.e. posing techniques. It was also an image based post, which we’ve had quite a bit of success with.

Four days later (on the first of April), when I was doing my ‘deep dive’ into Google Analytics, I was excited to see that the post had done very well indeed.

The day it was published the post had over 17,000 visitors, which was higher than an average post on its first day. Around 30% of that traffic was coming in from Facebook, which was surprising as I didn’t promote it on our own Facebook page until the day after.

The second day after publishing, the post saw around 8,000 visitors but day 3 saw it reach over 42,000 visitors.

This spike was partly due to the post being featured in our newsletter, which normally spikes traffic to the site, but that day also saw some great traffic from social media including StumbleUpon, Facebook and Pinterest.

Over the following few days it continued to do really well so by the time I did my analyse it had already received around 150,000 visitors – considerably higher than other posts on the site in their first week.

Other than the raw traffic numbers I was interested to see that:

  1. The number of sharing events the post was getting on Facebook, StumbleUpon and Pinterest. The post had some great visuals that seemed to stimulate this.
  2. The number of comments and emails we were getting from readers asking how to pose men and kids.

Building Momentum

I saw an opportunity and immediately emailed the author to see if he’d be interested in similar followup posts on posing men and children.

He had also noticed a spike in traffic to his own site as a result of the post, was keen to do more and immediately began work.

Within a week we published Posing Guide: 21 Sample Poses to Get You Started with Photographing Men.

This second post did about 75% of the traffic of the first post but the patterns were very similar. The difference was that we didn’t see traffic from StumbleUpon but instead saw it from Reddit.com

10 days later we published a Posing Guide for Photographing Children with very similar results.

While traffic wasn’t quite as spectacular on posts #2 and #3 they were still well and truly out performing most other posts on the site. Naturally, I commissioned the author to write more!

Post #4 was a Posing Guide for Photographing Couples is an interesting case study in and of itself because while it spiked in traffic over the first week it didn’t drive as much initial traffic. However, since publishing it last May it has gone on to become our most popular post ever on Pinterest and continues to drive great traffic to the site ever since.

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To this day, that post has over 83,000 ‘pins’ and has been visited just under half a million times in the last 12 months!

Over the coming months we published more followups in this series:

Each post has not only gone on to drive its own traffic but every time we post another addition to the series we see a surge of traffic to previous posts (as we interlink them all). So now, because we’ve published six followup posts in the series, our original post has received around 850,000 visitors and they’ve had over 2.5 million visits between them all.

Take Home Lessons

The take home lesson for me is it’s not only important to create useful content, you need to take note of what works. You also need to attempt to find ways to build momentum on your site and followup with more of the same!

While the traffic levels may not be the same as what we do on dPS (we have the benefit of having build decent traffic to the site since 2006) the same principles can apply for a blog at any level.

The success of this series of posts has generated a lot of future ideas for dPS. We’ve commissioned the author to create another series of posts (the first of which went live on the blog in the last hour) which will also include ‘real photos’ based upon the poses previously covered. This was something we had requests for in the previous series of posts so I’m hoping it goes well.

How to Get Your First 1,000 Email Subscribers When Nobody Knows You

This is a guest contribution by Marya Jan, blogging coach from Writing Happiness.

What’s the biggest excuse you hear from people who are not getting the results they want from their blogging?

“I don’t know anyone online.”

Not ‘my content might not be good’. Not ‘I don’t a clear idea of what I am doing’. Not ‘I know it takes time and I am learning everything I can’.

None of that. It’s always because they don’t have any connections with the big shots.

Allow me to put up my hand and say this … I have over 1,000 subscribers (multiple times over actually) and I have done this under 18 months of blogging AND without having connections with any famous people.

I did meet Darren Rowse, Sonia Simone, Chris Garrett, Tim Ferris and Annabel Candy at the Problogger Conference in 2011 but I was so new that I was too scared to even introduce myself properly.

I am pretty sure this doesn’t count. So what does? So glad you asked.

If you are someone who has been blogging for a few months, you know how hard it is to attract readers. You spend insane amounts of time creating content but nobody takes you seriously. You hope to get a few shares, but all you hear is dead silence

You might be new-ish but you have quickly realized this reality: Blogging is hard work and sometimes it seems downright cruel..

You know honeymoon period is over

Creating quality content is getting you nowhere (assuming it is high quality) and you need a plan B. And you can’t come up with anything to save your life.

I have another suggestion. I propose that you go back and revisit your plan A. Identify loopholes, see if you could improve things so that you actually don’t need any other plans.

That’s how I did it.

Your first plan might look something like this:

  • Start a blog
  • Pick a topic
  • Identify your audience
  • Create useful content
  • Promote that content
  • Differentiate yourself from others (All of this within 2 weeks)
  • Form relationships with influencers
  • Grow your blog by leaps and bounds

So basically after about two weeks worth of work, you are relying on getting your blog off the ground by befriending people in high places.

Let me tell you, this is not a particularly smart strategy.

Through own my experience and by through coaching other clients (Yes, I am a blogging coach), I have found that most influencers won’t take you seriously unlessyou have some sort of proven record.

Your biggest fan

Image used with permission

Allow me to explain: Influencers are super busy people. They are very, very, very busy people. If you need to earn their attention, you need to prove you are worth it. So in my experience, you can have meaningful relationships with A-list bloggers but it doesn’t happen in the beginning. Not for most of us, anyway.

It takes time and lot of effort BEFORE they notice you. (And nobody will tell you this.)

If you trying to do this too early on, you are going about it in the wrong way. Instead, you should focus your time on your blog just so that you know what you are doing.

You need to do things right enough that you have a 1k subscribers worthy blog so you have the skill and confidence of approaching them properly.

So let’s have a look at the plan again, shall we?

After delivering hundreds of blog reviews and coaching many clients, I have found these to be the primary causes of why people don’t get their first 100 subscribers, let alone 1,000.

1. Poor first Impression 

Your blog looks amateurish, tacky or just plain spammy.

When someone new lands on it for the first time, they get no sense of what the blog is about, who is writing it and if it’s any good. There are too many flashy ads, or too many images, colours, links and tabs competing for attention.  The content doesn’t seem appealing. The headlines are boring, images are of poor quality, and everything is a big chunk of text.

Your blog title doesn’t tell them anything about who you are about and how you can help them. Your visitors are so confused that the only option that makes sense is to leave.

The easiest way to fix this is to make your site clutter free and get rid of all the unnecessary elements adding to the chaos. You want to make it as easy as you can for your readers to navigate.

Most people cram their sidebars with lots of information in order to look like they have been around for a while. That they know what they are doing. Please don’t. Things like tag clouds, categories, search boxes, links to other bloggers aren’t really helpful. Not really.

Don’t stuff your sidebar with ads either. I am guessing you don’t have enough traffic to make any decent money anyway.

2. Unspecified target audience

You are not making it clear who the blog is for. You are not saying to a particular group of people (maybe you aren’t sure who they are?) that this blog is for them.

For instance, let’s say you are a business coach. However this is a very general term. If you don’t make it absolutely clear that you are writing for start-ups, or small business owners, or mid sized business, or executives; you are just confusing your readers.

One great way to make it happen is to say that in your tag line or in a mini author bio that you display on the sidebar. You’ve got to have people saying, ‘Yes, this seems perfect for me.’

 3. Incomplete About page

People are really interested in person behind the blog. They want to know who that creative soul is. They want to like that person. They want to be that person.

A lot of people totally mess this up. Either they talk too much or too little.

Often they present the information in the wrong order. They start off with their story and why they write the blog and then barely touch upon how they can help you. People lose interest.

People want to know who writes this blog but more importantly they want to know why they should care.

Tell them why you are relevant to them, and follow it by your story and other details. And keep it brief.

4. Negative social proof 

One thing that will make the most difference to the number of readers you get is the display of social proof.

When people come to a place where they see others hanging out, they feel confident in making the same choice. For this reason, focus to create content that gets shared, liked and get commented on.

From day one, add credibility building elements to your site. The most popular of them all is the ‘As seen on’ testimonial. You want to land guest posts on popular blogs and then proudly display their logos on your site.

5. No point of difference

This is something that many new bloggers struggle to answer in their earlier days of blogging so I won’t say to worry too much about it. That being said, if you spend some time thinking about what makes you different from the rest, you will find it easier to create content and would be more focused in related tasks.

There are several ways to help make you stand out from the crowd.

Lady Pointing To You

Being you

This is the thing; you are the most unique thing about your blog. There is nobody else just like you, with your point of view, insights and experiences.

The more you accept that and highlight it, the more chances you will have to appeal to those who are truly the right people. So really hone in your voice and bring out that personality of yours for the world to see. People can’t get that anywhere else.

They love the snark in Ashley Ambridge’s voice. They love Danielle Laporte’s soul. They adore Darren Rowse for a kind, down to earth spirit. What’s your secret sauce?

Your purpose

Yes, you are providing solutions to somebody’s problems but why are you doing it, really? What is your big idea? What do you stand for?

Do you believe life is an adventure? Chris Guillebeau

Do you want to show people how work less and play more? Tim Ferris

Do you want people to focus on the essentials? Leo Babauta

Do you want to empower women in business and life? Marie Forleo

Do you want to offer personal development advice for smart people? Steve Palvina

If you believe in something, people will believe in you. Tell them now.

The way you dress

Your design, colours, logo, tag line, images – everything speaks volumes and appeal to a certain kind of person.

Want to attract go getters, how about choosing red or maroon in your theme? How about appealing to gentle, earth loving souls with the light green colour? Inspiration is your game then might soothing blue is what you need.

Your design needs to support your theme, mission and content and make you stronger. Marie Forleo is hip, Mars Dorian is bold, what are you?

Your offer

Your specific market, your content, the needs you solve and the exact solution you provide based on your expertise is often enough to differentiate you from others.

Derek Halpern teaches you marketing based on research findings. Corbett Barr teaches you how to get traffic because he has done it. What have you got on offer?

6. No incentive to sign up

Many new bloggers are finding it super hard to find new readers and to keep old ones also. One reason is because they don’t get them on their list. They don’t place a subscription box in a prominent position and  don’t give them any reason to subscribe.

Shouldn’t the blog itself be good enough reason? Yes, it is, but adding an incentive to your sign up box works really well.

Don’t listen to anyone who tells you to just put together some old posts and offer as a freebie. One, nobody cares and even if somebody did, they won’t take you seriously.

But you don’t have to spend days or months creating something. Jon Morrow says the best opt-in offers are those that offer some sort of short cut of doing a task. A cheat sheet of sorts (His Headline Hacks is a great example).

Teach people to do one thing and do it really well. People don’t find long freebies appealing that take too long to read and would take months to implement. A report, mini ebook, white paper or a short webinar works well.

7. Lack of self promotion

Finally people never sign up because they don’t know you exist. You have to actively go out and promote yourself.

Again, you might feel compelled to remind me that that’s why you need relationships with famous bloggers so they can promote you. Let me tell you that is not the only way you can drive traffic to your blog.

You can guest post on mid-sized blogs. Often they don’t publish many guest posts so their audience might be more inclined to follow you. You can create YouTube videos, Slideshare presentations, answer questions in forums such as yahoo answers and Quora.

And no, I am not snubbing social media. But social media does take a while to work, especially if you are new. By all means participate in social media but don’t make it the main focus of your traffic generation efforts.

The point is: you have to promote a lot. Spend 20% of your time creating content for your own blog and the rest on promoting it.

Being smart or talented is not enough to build a successful blog

Then what is? Creating super useful content. Being able to stand out from the rest. And for the right people too. And to be worthy of getting some attention from A-list bloggers. Then you can approach the bloggers you worship. There is a good chance you’ll hear back.

Marya Jan is on a mission to help bloggers get their 1,000 subscribers. She is a blogging coach at Writing Happiness. Grab her free ebook ‘9 New Rules of Blogging – Grow Your Business with Little Traffic, No Connections & Limited Hours. 

The Wave System: How to Get Your Facebook Page Updates Seen By More People

Did you just write a killer blog post? Or do you have an event/product to promote?

The Problem of Sharing Links on Facebook

If so, you probably rely, at least partially, on linking to your webpage through Facebook. But lately Facebook is showing outbound links to such a small percentage of your page followers, that it’s potentially detrimental to blogs and businesses alike.

Bloggers have it worst because even when people click on a link through a Facebook and decide to share a blog post, they don’t share or interact on the Facebook post–they do it directly from the blog. So the Facebook post gets no interaction and therefore Facebook views it as irrelevant. Before I developed the Wave System I’ll outline below, my outbound links were being seen by less than 10% of the followers on my page.

I’ve spent a lot of time and money to acquire the fans on my pages; but when I write a blog post or have a sale that my readers can benefit from, Facebook doesn’t allow me to tell anybody about it.

Sound familiar?

Within 20 minutes, any post with a link from your Facebook post falls so far down the feed, it’s rendered useless.

By this time, you should know that the more interaction you get on a post, the more people will see it. If you have figured out a way to get people to interact on your promotional posts, I’m all ears. I’ve tested on 10 different pages and still haven’t figured it out.

Since payment buttons, squeeze page, and blogs usually exist outside of Facebook, you need people to click a link—a link that Facebook doesn’t want to show them.

You’re then left with two bad options:

Bad Option #1 – You can continue to post sales material multiple times a day and preface it sheepishly with words like:

“hey guys,

In case you missed it earlier, just a reminder we’re having a big sale on our super premium widgets today.”

This way more people will see the ad, but it also means you’re no longer adding value to your followers and will probably get your page hidden.

Bad Option #2 – You can decide to pay for Facebook’s “pay to promote” feature. I like Facebook ads, but am I the only one who has noticed that it gets more and more expensive? It costs me $1,000 to promote a SINGLE POST to the followers on one of my pages.

I already run Facebook ads continuously, but $1,000 to promote a single post to my existing fans is almost never worth it–especially to promote a blog post and not product sale. And, for almost every Facebook page owner that runs a small business, it’s out of the question.

To put it bluntly, you’re screwed. All that time, money, and effort you spent building up a Facebook page has gone for naught. Facebook is evil right? Would you agree that they are greedy pigs that are systematically squashing small businesses?

I don’t…

Facebook is Forcing Marketers to Evolve

Facebook used to be a place where lazy marketers could get heard. All they had to do was put sales pitches in the feed and generated big email lists that turned into sales. But now I can’t log onto Facebook without seeing a marketer (or even the occasional social media expert) complaining that Facebook is evil and is making it impossible to succeed.

Make no mistake; Facebook is still the most powerful marketing medium on the planet. That is, of course, if you know how to use it.

I say this because, through a lot of experimentation, I’ve developed a system to select the posts I want Facebook to show to my audience for free. With a bit of planning, I’ve repeatedly gotten status updates with outbound links to my blog posts and event promotions to 50-75% of the users on my page. And no, I don’t do this by combining my links with cheap pictures, motivational quotes, or memes.

This article will teach you exactly how to trick Facebook into showing your blog posts and promotional status updates, which get little to no interaction themselves, to the majority of your users for free. In addition, I’ve included a bonus section at the bottom where I show you how to identify specific groups within your page and target them, also for free.

The First Step is Understanding EdgeRank

EdgeRank is the Facebook algorithm for determining relevance. While the specifics often change, the constant is that Facebook is trying to figure out who and what you want to listen to. It does this largely by tracking your interactions.

“Like” an update, click on a picture, watch a video, or share an article, and your affinity towards whoever shared that article goes up. (Note: This is obviously a very superficial overview about EdgeRank, but it’s enough to understand my system below.)

The Wave System – How to Manipulate EdgeRank and use it to Your Advantage

I’ve been experimenting on 10 different Facebook accounts for two years. Despite all of Facebooks changes, it has always worked and will always work in a predictable pattern.

I’ve used the Wave System to build multiple fan pages with 15,000+ members in a matter of months. Not only that, these are users who are avidly interested in my business and purchase my products.

I’ll be sharing one example of each different type of post I used in the example from the picture below. This was a promotion for a conference I’m holding. The result was that Facebook showed this post 78% of my fans for free. It did this because of the insane relevance I was able to build up in the days previous using my 4 step system below.

Ptdc seminar 1

It takes some planning on your part. Here are the 4 steps to the Wave System:

Step 1 - Collect what you predict will be a series of very viral photos. Whenever you come across something that you think will get a ton of interaction, put it in a special folder.

There are probably pages that already serve your demographic. Take a couple of hours and go through their archives. Download the viral memes or pictures that do the best on your competitors pages and put them in your folder—why start over when somebody else has already done the work for you? (Note, always give proper attribution to photos if you can. Most people don’t on Facebook, but don’t be a jerk like most people.)

Step 2 - The most viral pictures and status updates concern a controversial or often discussed subject pertaining to your industry or the perception of your industry.

Write the biggest public misconceptions about your industry. What is it that gets under your skin as a professional? Write that down.

Next, on that document, note the side of the controversy that your audience firmly sites on.

Below is a picture of an example I used to generate a lot of shares and likes leading up to my conference promotion. I know that trainers get frustrated when people say that they need to wait for everything to be perfect to start working out (because it never will be). So I posted a viral photo and added in a bit of a rant in the description for good measure.

Meme 1 pre launch

Step 3 - 2 days before you plan on putting out a promotional post start to publish 4-6 viral pictures or status updates that you expect get a ton of interaction. Pull them directly from your file in steps 1 and 2. Refer to my post called, “When is the Best Time to Post on Facebook?” to pinpoint, to the minute, the best times to publish these posts for your audience.

The more people that interact with these multiple posts the better. Continue to publish 4-6 times a day generating as many likes, comments, and shares as possible. The purpose is to generate as much relevancy from as many of your fans as possible towards your page.

The most effective status updates in terms of gaining relevancy are those that hit on a public misconception that affects your industry. It’s likely a source of common frustration and one that your audience will want to share to help education their friends and family by sharing the post. Below is an example I recently used.

Written statement

Step 4 - When it comes time to post your promotion, publish the post with your sale or call to action. For the next 2-3 days, wave in and out viral materials.

Your promotional post will not get much interaction. But, because you’ve build up so much relevancy the previous two days, Facebook will show automatically show your post to more people.

For the next 2-3 days, wave in and out promotional materials with viral posts. This way, Facebook will continue to show your promotional posts to a higher percentage of your page users.

How to Use Questions

One other option for increasing affinity to a large group of people is to ask questions that you expect to get a lot of interaction. I poll my audience for two distinct different reasons: information collection and relevance building. Allow me to give an overview of both.

Information Collection Questions – My Facebook page is my focus group. Often I’ll ask them questions like, “what topics do you want me to cover in the coming weeks?” or I might be doing one of my many experiments. For example, if you read my article linked above on the best time to post on Facebook, you’ll note that I did an experiment where I wanted to find out the most common times my following exercised. So I asked them, and hired administrative help to graph it for me.

Relevance Building - Getting a lot of comments on a status update is a fantastic way to increase relevancy to a number of followers on your page. Sometimes I’ll rile up my audience by choosing a controversial subject that affects them, arguing one side, and asking for their input. Below is an example (note that this was two days before I promoted my conference):

Question pre launch

Bonus Section – Using the Wave System to Pre-Select Your Audience

I was in a social media gathering last week and a good question came up. The question (paraphrased) was, “My Company offers different services that appeal to different types of people. Is it a problem to promote all of the services to my entire page or will that turn off the groups that aren’t interested in that one service?”

I’m in a similar situation here. My page for personal trainers promotes both nutrition and exercise products. I use the Wave System to manipulate EdgeRank to pre-select my audience.

The best way to illustrate this is with an example:

Let’s say I’m going to be promoting a nutrition program in 3 days time. I would start the wave system as per the steps above, but would only use viral photos that were nutrition based. This way, the people who were interested in nutrition would like and comment on those posts. The people who weren’t interested in nutrition would ignore them.

Then, when it comes time to put my first promotion up, the people who my content pre-selected would be shown the promotion and those who aren’t interested in nutrition wouldn’t.

It’s not perfect, but it works reasonably well.

Facebook is not evil, quite the opposite. Facebook is powerful and, if you understand how to use it, can be the most important marketing tool at your disposal.

Never forget though, the purpose of Facebook is not to collect fans; it’s to find your audience so that you can get them off of Facebook and onto an email list. Use the Wave System to get people to your squeeze pages and into your marketing funnel.

Jonathan Goodman is a 2X author and the creator of Viralnomics. He is currently offering free enrollment to his 20-day content creation course.