Quality Vs. Volume: The Traffic Spectrum, and How You as Bloggers Can Harness It

As web usage grows, and we all become more connected more of the time, it could seem like getting traffic to your blog should be getting easier.

But as connectedness increases, so does competition. There are only 24 hours in a day, and the blogger’s job is to convince readers to spend a few precious minutes with us.


Image courtesy stock.xchng user ansmedia

Attracting more readers to your blog

A lot of the time, it can seem like we have two options for attracting readers to our blogs:

  • entice them in, one at a time
  • “explode” your blog with “viral” content or promotions.

You can imagine these as two extremes on a spectrum; for most of us, traffic growth usually sits somewhere in between. Though for bloggers at the beginning of their careers, the one-at-a-time scenario is very real. And occasionally, any of us might hit on an “explosive growth” moment where our blogs get a massive volume of traffic for a brief moment (comparatively!) in time.

Of the traffic that comes once, only a portion will ever come back, and even fewer will subscribe. No wonder it can seem like an uphill battle to build a tribe around a blog!

I’ve found the best way to make the most of both kinds of readers is to cater to both.

Capturing attention—and holding it

If a blog has strong, targeted content that really gives value to readers, it’s off to a flying start. The design should also be easy to use, and attractive to the target group—that goes without saying.

So what is it that captures and holds the attention of individuals arriving at your site either as one-offs, or as part of a massive stream of traffic that you’ve generated through, say, some viral content, or great search positioning?

Let’s look at some of the tactics that suit each group.

The hard-won, single visitor

Perhaps this person’s found your site using a very specific search phrase, or they were having coffee with a friend who mentioned your blog. They might have seen the column you write for the local paper, and typed in your blog’s URKL out of curiosity, or had a contact share a link to a particular article on your blog that they thought would help this new visitor.

I think of these kinds of visitors as pre-engaged. When they arrive at your blog, they’re open-minded about what it has to offer, but they also have an expectation that it’ll solve a problem or answer a need that they have.

What can we do to capture the attention of these readers? Things like:

  • links to further reading on the same topic
  • signup forms/newsletter subscriptions
  • a contact form for questions they might want to ask
  • a free download targeting their need
  • an active community of commenters or forum members
  • links to social media/rss subscriptions.

The generic, viral visitor

By “viral visitors,” I’m talking about people who arrive at your site as part of a crowd sent by a viral piece of content you’ve published somewhere, or a big-name blog making mention of you.

We know that this traffic traditionally spikes and plummets soon after, and while the traffic can be strong for a short period, the majority of those visitors tends not to come back.

Every blogger wants to capture a larger slice of the viral traffic pie. How can we? I think that the answer here is a little more complicated. When I click a shared link on social media, I’m in either “entertainment” or “intrigue” mode. I’m wanting distraction, or a quick fix of new knowledge in an interest area. I’m not looking for a long-term relationship with a blog!

If I’m coming from a contextual link that’s on another site I’m reading, my motivation is usually a fairly specific kind of curiosity related to the topic in question, and my level of engagement will depend on how much I trust the site that linked to you, and the content I was reading when I came across the link. I’d guess that viral traffic that comes through contextual links is likely to have higher expectations of your blog than that coming through social media—I know this is true for me as a user.

So how can we capture viral readers with such different levels of engagement and motivation?

To be honest, I think that if the landing page for viral traffic convinces them to re-share the link, you’re probably doing a pretty good job. The fact is that a lot viral traffic coming through social media isn’t often strongly targeted.

If you can go one better and entice them to follow you on social media as well, you’re doing very well. To achieve this, you’ll need prominent social media buttons that allow them to follow you on every post. If they can also reshare the content direct from the page, so much the better.

To capture those coming through links from another site in your niche, you might consider extra tactics like:

  • making comments on posts prominent
  • offering a free download or subscription related to the content on the same page
  • following up with the linking site to see if they’ll accept a guest post, so you can further build your profile with the site’s readers
  • offering the linking site an exclusive piece of quality content (e.g. a whitepaper or report that links back to your blog) on the same topic, or one that’s related, that they can share with their readers.

How do you capture different kinds of new visitors?

These are just a few ideas that I’ve used to try to capture different kinds of new visitors to my blogs. Do you target different kinds of new visitors differently, or use specific tactics to try to grab their attention?

I’d love to hear how you’re handling things—and what’s working for you—in the comments.

Blogging in Brief: Looking Good, Saving Face, Tags and Lags

We all make mistakes, but making mistakes in the media can be costly—especially to your authority!

…Or can it? We all know readers appreciate honesty. And our first story this week is all about that.

Saving face online

Last week, I got my regular newsletter … and another a few hours later! The new subject line? “Our newsletter, now with functional links!”

Intrigued, I opened it to see this:

Way to save face after a blooper! If you’ve ever had to apologise for an error you’ve made publicly, online—perhaps even on your blog or with your valued subscribers—we’d love to hear how you handled it in the comments.

Big-block headers revisited

I mentioned last time the growing trend toward big-block header on blogs. This week, I found one that acts simply to pull you through to the latest content, on food blog Peas and Thankyou.

Content feature

This screencapture shows the header on rollover—the opening of each post appears as an overlay on the header. This is a great use of imagery I think, and an excellent way to catch the attention of readers, especially those who are arriving for the first time. On dPS, I use a similar carousel for featured content, but it’s not simply for the latest posts. It really brings attention to your current content.

What do you think of this idea? Could this work for your blog?

Name your own price

The battle to find the best price for a blog product—one that maximizes your profit—can be hard to do. So the approach of letting customers choose their own price is an interesting one. Tara Gentile uses it on her blog:

Set your own price

The product is designed to change customers’ relationship with money, so the tactic is in keeping with the concept.


It’s an interesting tactic, and not one I’ve tried. Have you? How did it work? I’d love to hear of your experiences in the comments.

Are your promotions slowing your site?

Many blogs show a popup on page load for first-time users—perhaps offering a download, subscription, or other goody.

But this week I’ve stumbled across a few that are really extremely slow to load as a result.

One of them flashed up the homepage before hiding it—so the screen was blank—for what felt like ages (but was probably 5-10 seconds) before displaying the popup. The popup itself didn’t have the usual close button in the right-top-corner, either, which meant that after the long wait, I had to spend more time trying to work out how to close it so I could access the site content. That finally appeared only once I’d found the Close window link.

Every time you add a new widget, plugin, or promotion to your blog, test the load times for different browsers to make sure your blog’s still accessible and usable for everyone who stops by.

Do tag clouds still matter?

Remember tag clouds? They were popular a few years ago, but they seem to have fallen out of favor now—though I notice the Blog World blog still has one:

Tag cloud

Tag clouds can help users drill down to specific content that isn’t represented in your basic blog navigation, and to reach content in your archives that spans topics. In fact, in some cases it’s a great way to provide users with access to your older material. That said, I don’t use tag clouds—basically because screen real estate is so precious, and a tag cloud never really makes the cut onto my sites.

Are you using a tag cloud? How’s it working for you? We’d love to get an idea of whether you think this mechanism is still relevant to the blogs of today.

The Value of Comments to a Profit-making Blog

We’ve talked about the issues of blog comments before on, but never from a point of view of profit-making.


Image courtesy stock.xchng user lusi

But as I was looking at the stats on dPS last week, I found that this short, helpful opinion post from 2010 was still attracting a steady stream of readers—and comments. I explained on Google+ why I think that post’s still so popular, but today I wanted to look a bit more closely at how comments can help a profit-making blogger.

So let’s step through some of the ways blog comments can—directly and indirectly—add to your bottom line.

Increased ad revenue

Posts that engage readers are more likely to be shared, which draws more traffic back to those posts. Commenting is a very strong kind of engagement. That lenses post really does stimulate discussion, and at the same time it’s very helpful to those trying to work out which lenses to buy.

So if someone comments on that post, they may also be more likely to share it, which would boost traffic and ad impressions. And if your blog has a “most commented” or “most popular” list in the sidebar, an ongoing comment stream could push the post into that as well, drawing more attention to it from users on other pages of your blog.

Ongoing affiliate revenue

Imagine if this post had included affiliate links to actual products. So long as I’d kept the links up to date, I could still be making affiliate revenue from a post we’d published nearly three years ago. Not bad!

Potential sponsorship

This post obviously draws strong attention from my readers. It’s been shared on Facebook nearly 1,000 times, and pinned to Pinterest more than 17,000 times.

This could give me good reason to approach brands that make the types of lenses covered in that post, or mentioned by users in the comments themselves. I could contact them to see if they’re interested in buying paid sponsorship either for that post, or an updated version of it.

Audience research for new products

The comments on the post are really insightful. Have a read and you’ll get a feel for the experience levels of the users, what brands they prefer, what they’re shooting, how they use their equipment, and so on. They’re also tagged by date, so they provide some insight into the way my audience has evolved over time.

By spending a little time going through these comments, I might easily come up with a couple of ideas for new products to try with my readers.

Encourage first-timers to engage

There’s nothing worse than clicking through from a search result to find the article you’ve chosen is old and outdated.

Comments really do keep your evergreen content fresh and alive. This is a short post, but the scroll bar indicates there’s a lot more on the page. Any new visitor who scrolled down would likely be surprised by the number of comments, and the fact that the discussion is ongoing.

They might be encouraged to comment themselves, or at least to look around the site a bit more. Best-case scenario? They subscribe to the RSS feed or mailing list, prompted by the strong evidence of a passionate readership, as indicated by these comments!

In short, comments:

  • attract attention
  • keep the discussion growing
  • are helpful to other users
  • can solicit on-site engagement in a range of ways
  • can excite users to share, driving more traffic to the post.

But there’s a catch: not all comments are good comments—especially for those with a profit focus. So let’s look at the characteristics of comments that will help you achieve the goals we’ve just talked about.

Good comment, bad comment

The kinds of comments I want to keep on my posts are those that:

  • add to the discussion, rather than just repeating the article’s main points
  • contribute insight or personal experience
  • are clearly written
  • have a username, email address, website or avatar attached.

These are the kinds of comments that potential post-sponsors will want to see, as will any advertisers or others who are considering investing marketing budget into your blog.

The kinds of comments I try to catch before they’re published are those which:

  • criticize without contribution: I love respectful disagreements in comments, because often they’re a great way to learn. But criticism that doesn’t add value is usually pretty unhelpful.
  • aren’t clear, or don’t take the post or author seriously: Again, this doesn’t really add value to the discussion. it certainly won’t inspire potential ad-space buyers about your readership.
  • simply promote their own products: Sometimes, this can be a fine line, but if a commenter simply suggests readers look at his or her own site, and doesn’t add to the discussion in any other way, I tend to send their post to the trash.

On that basis, I don’t necessarily delete comments that:

  • include offsite links
  • talk about other (or the commenter’s own) products
  • criticize or disagree with the author
  • are short or informal.

If I did that, the comments could end up feeling fairly stilted and contrived—and that’s not going to encourage further comments over time. But also, the presence of any of those things doesn’t mean the comment’s no good. Each comment really does need to be judged on its own merits, and in the context of the post and other comments that haven been made.

Taken with the post itself, the comments should ideally provide real value that encourages sharing, bookmarking, repeat visits, and more commenting—that’s where the greatest profit potential for comments lies.

Do you treat comments as adding to the overall monetization potential of your blog? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Prepare Your Blog For the Festive Season: a Step-by-step Guide

Over the weekend, we ran a short series of interviews with bloggers of different types, to get a feel for how they’re preparing for the festive season.


Image courtesy stock.xchng user danyba

We spoke to the owners of:

If that series made you realize how underprepared you are for the coming weeks, don’t worry. Today’s post is a checklist for getting ready.

1. Have you worked out when you’ll take a break?

The first thing to do is get out the calendar. Work out when you won’t want to be blogging, and block those days (or weeks!) out.

Now you know how much time you have to work with.

2. Do you know what you want to get out of this period?

The benefits of setting some goals up front are two-fold.

First, goals will help you set your priorities for the next few weeks. Second, they’ll help you assess your efforts when you come back to your blog in 2013. They might even help you improve on your work when the festive season rolls around again in a year’s time.

Set a few goals. They might be as simple as maintaining regular posting and social media schedules, or as detailed as setting expectations for sales and tracking the sources of traffic that converts.

3. Do you know what you need to do to get there?

List the tasks you’ll need to achieve your goals.

If you want to maintain a twice-a-week positing schedule, how much writing time will you need? How much editing time? Will you work any affiliate promotions into those posts? Which ones, and when will they run? When’s the best time to promote those posts?

Make a list of all the things you need to do. Then, schedule them. Think a long time in advance, and get right into the details. Don’t just make a note to curate ten tweets to autopublish over the festive period. Schedule the time you’ll need to find quality content to include in those tweets.

Without taking your plans to this level of granularity, you’ll run the risk of underestimating the time and energy you’ll need to do everything on your list. Which leads me to…

4. Have you prioritized your priorities?

This is an extra step, but one you may well end up doing. You may already have found that your eyes were bigger than your stomach, so to speak, when you set your goals for the period. If you can’t fit everything in, check your top priorities and consider whether you’d be happy if you just achieved those.

This should help you focus as the inevitable distractions and schedule-changes come up in the coming weeks … and you run out of time!

Tip: Consider making your own checklist for every one of the tasks you need to do, so that you can avoid waking up in a panic because you forgot to find images for a post, or to encode your affiliate links in that email you’re autosending.

5. Have you got things ready for your return in 2013?

Getting ready for the festive season isn’t just about getting through to January 1, 2013. It’s also about hitting the ground running when you get back to your desk.

The lead-up to the break, at a time when you’ve just set all these goals, is to write a to-do list for Day 1, 2013. Include:

  • checking emails, stats, and social listening to find out what you missed while you were offline (assuming you were offline!)
  • goal-setting for the new year (if you haven’t done that during the break)
  • reconnecting with others who you can help—and can be helped by—in the coming 12 months.

This is the basic checklist I use to make sure I’m on track through the festive season and beyond. What about you? Share your tips and advice for keeping your blog going through the silly season below.

Blogging the Festive Season

It’s that time of year: the silly season is upon us!

Festive spirit

Photo by Axel Bührmann on Flickr.

The bricks-and-mortar stores have had the Christmas trees and fake Santas up for months … but what’s the blogosphere doing to prepare?

The answer depends on who you talk to. Every blog and every audience is different, after all. Still, we can learn from each other’s ideas and get inspiration from niches outside our own.

Today and tomorrow, we’ll look at a few different blogs, and see how their owners are preparing for the festive season:

Some of the blogs have been around for years, while others are barely 12 months old. Some of the bloggers work full-time on their blogs, but others are part-timers fitting in blogging around their day jobs. We’ll find out:

  • how they’re planning to optimize festive season sales and promotions
  • how they’re fitting blogging in around all the other stuff that happens in the lead-up to the end of the year
  • how they’re planning to keep in touch with clients, followers, and fans over the New Year break
  • how much they’re expecting to work over this period, how much time they’re hoping to spend with family and friends—and what they’ve done to make that possible
  • what they’re doing to make sure they hit the ground running in 2013—and what they’ll focus on then.

I hope you’ll find this series inspiring. To kick off, let me give you a bit of a behind-the-scenes peek into what I’m doing on dPS, a product blog, for the festive season.

The product blog

It’s a busy time for dPS in the lead-up to the festive season. As well as maintaining our publishing schedule, we’re starting to prepare for our annual 12 days of christmas celebration. It’s always a lot of fun … and a lot of work.

Festive promotions, content, and visitors

For each of the 12 days leading up to Christmas, we offer a special price on either one of our own products, or that of a hand-picked partner. So there’s a lot of work getting those deals in place, and getting the pages and promotions ready to go ahead of time.

This sale is something that the dPS audience really loves, so we keep trying to improve, and we’re ramping things up again this year. Past experience has shown that the sale should create a lot of additional traffic to the blog, but not just to the sales pages themselves—we’ll start to see increases in the visitors coming to certain tutorials, too. Posts on portraits and family shots are always popular at this time of year, as are more specific topics like photographing fireworks.

And while we do promote the 12 days of Christmas deals as great gift ideas, we also encourage our regular readers to buy a special gift for themselves, too.

Time off

I always like to take some time off at Christmas to spend with family and friends, and preparation is the key. I’m fortunate that I can share some of the preparation with my team, but we also plan and schedule content well in advance so that everyone who works on the blog can enjoy the time off.

With all the activity happening in the lead-up to Christmas, I’m pretty busy. In the period between Christmas and New Year, I’ll do check-in from time to time but I do limit that to as little as I can.

Looking forward

Taking time off means I need to prepare for the time when I get back to work in 2013. That preparation’s been going on for a while now—we already have our first new product ready to launch in January, so that will take some of our focus early in the year.

I’ll also start plotting our roadmap for the rest of year in January, with my team, and of course the publishing schedule is an ongoing task.

A festive plan

Understanding seasonality is an important part of maximising the sales of products for those with a product or affiliate-product blog.

The products on dPS are well suited to festive events, so we ensure our campaigns are timed to maximise that potential. But even if you’re products aren’t really relevant to Christmastime, there will be other times during the year when demand will be at its highest.

For those of us who rely on product sales income, it’s important to have a plan in place so you can meet that demand.

At the end of the series, I’ll provide you with a five-point checklist to help you prepared your product—or other—blog for the festive season. But for now, I’m interested to hear your stories. What do you have planned on your blog for the coming weeks? Let me know in the comments.

Can You REALLY Make Money Blogging? [7 Things I Know About Making Money from Blogging]

Every now and again I am pulled aside at a conference or am emailed and/or tweeted by someone wanting to get the “real” scoop on whether it is possible to make money blogging.

  • Is it really possible to make a living from blogging?
  • Is it just a small number of people making money from blogging?
  • Is it only really possible to make money blogging if you write about the topic of making money blogging?

I completely understand the questions and would probably want to add one more:

  • If it is really possible to make money blogging, how likely is it that you’ll succeed?

I’ve written many times here on ProBlogger about this in the hope of giving a realistic picture of the topic, but I think it is worth touching on again because there is a lot of misinformation out there right now.

On one hand, we see hype on the topic. Periodically someone will claim to be able to make millions from blogging quickly. These claims are usually accompanied with the release of a product or service (i.e. they are marketing spin).

On the other hand, I periodically see people writing about how it is impossible to make money blogging (or that anyone claiming to be full time is either a scammer, a liar, or is selling something on the topic of making money online).

The reality is somewhere between these two extremes.

7 Things I know about making money from blogging

1. It is possible

I’ve been blogging for just under ten years and for nine of those I’ve been making money blogging. It started out as just a few dollars a day but in time it gradually grew to becoming the equivalent of a part-time job, then a full-time job, and more recently into a business that employs others.

I used to talk about the specific levels of my earnings when I started ProBlogger but felt increasingly uncomfortable about doing so (it felt a little voyeuristic and a little like a big-headed boasting exercise and I didn’t really see the point in continuing to do it)— but my income has continued to grow each year since I began.

On some levels I was at the right place at the right time—I got into blogging early (in 2002 … although I felt I was late to it at the time) and have been fortunate enough to have started blogs at opportune times on the topics I write about.

However I know of quite a few other bloggers who make a living from blogging, many of whom have not been blogging anywhere near as long as I have.

For some it is a hobby that keeps them in coffee; for others it is the equivalent of a part time job/supplementing other income from “real jobs” or helping their family out as they attend to other commitments (raising a family). For others it is a full-time thing.

I’ll give you some examples below.

2. There is no single way to monetize blogs

Recently at our Melbourne ProBlogger event I featured numerous Australian bloggers in our speaker lineup who fit somewhere in the part-time to full-time spectrum. They included:

The year before, we had others, including:

Most of these bloggers are full-time (or well on the way to being full-time bloggers). They come from a wide array of niches and all monetize quite differently—doing everything from selling advertising, to having membership areas, to selling ebooks, to running affiliate promotions, to promoting their offline businesses, to selling themselves as speakers, to having book deals, and so on. Many have a combination of different income streams.

They are all also Australian, and are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is happening here in Australia—the same thing is being replicated around the globe.

There are many ways to monetize a blog. To give you a quick sense of the many methods check out this “money map” I created a year or so back, which outlines just some that I brainstormed (click to enlarge).

Ways to Make Money Blogging.png

I also recorded this free hour-and-twenty-minute webinar giving an introduction to the topic.

3. There are no formulas

From time to time, people have released products that claim to be formulas for success when it comes to making money online. They outline steps to follow to “guarantee” you’ll make money.

In my experience there is no formula.

Each full-time blogger I’ve met in the last ten years has forged their own path and has a unique story to tell. They have often acted on hunches and made surprising discoveries along the way.

There are certainly similarities in many of the stories but each blogger has their own personality and style, each one is reaching a different audience, and each niche tends to monetize differently.

The key lesson is to be aware of what others are doing and to learn what you can from each other, but to also be willing to forge your own path as well!

4. Many niches monetize

One common critique of the topic of monetizing of blogs is that the only people making money from blogging are the ones writing about how to make money blogging.

This is simply not true.

In the above list of speakers from our Melbourne event you’ll notice I included topic/niche of each blogger. None sell products teaching others to make money blogging—all are on blogging on “normal,” every-day topics.

My own experience of having a blog about blogging (ProBlogger) and a blog about Photography is that it is my photography blog that is by far the most profitable blog (I’d estimate it’s ten times more profitable).

I’ve interviewed numerous full-time bloggers of late in a webinar series including:

Interestingly, none of them make money by teaching others to make money online. Sarah largely blogs about health and wellbeing, Tsh blogs about simple living, and Ana blogs about woodwork.

5. Most bloggers don’t make a full-time living from blogging

Every time I’ve surveyed readers of ProBlogger about their earnings, we’ve seen that those making money from blogging are in the minority.

In a recent survey of 1500 ProBlogger readers we asked about their monthly earnings. What you’re seeing below is the spread of earnings from readers who are attempting to make money blogging (note: not all ProBlogger readers attempt to make money, so not all are included in these results).

Keep in mind that ProBlogger readers are generally newish bloggers—about half of those who took this survey had been blogging for less than two years.

So of those trying to make money blogging, 10% don’t make anything and 28% are making less than 30 cents per day. A total of 63% make less than $3.50 per day.

Let’s be clear—most bloggers who are attempting to make money are not making a living from blogging.

Having said that, of the 1508 bloggers surveyed 65 (4%) are making over $10,000 per month (over six figures per year) and a further 9% were doing over $1000 per month (which is at least a part-time level of income).

My feeling, having been attending blogging conferences for six or so years now, is that the number of full-time bloggers is on the rise, and there are actually quite a few more people now at least making the equivalent of a couple of days’ work a week in income from their blogs.

However, most bloggers don’t make much.

6. It takes time to build

When I dig down into the stats from the survey on income levels above, and do some analysis of those who are in the top income bracket, it is fascinating to look at how long they’ve been blogging.

85% of those in that top income bracket have been blogging for four years or more. Almost all of the others had been blogging for three or four years.

This certainly was my own experience. I blogged for a year without making money and once I started monetizing it was around two years of gradual increases before I approached a full-time income level. It would have been four years before I joined that top bracket of income (over $10,000 per month).

Blogging for money is not a get-rich-quick thing. It takes time to build an audience, to build a brand, and to build trust and a good reputation.

And of course even with four or five years of blogging behind you, there’s no guarantee of a decent income.

7. It takes a lot of work

Longevity is not the only key to a profitable blog. The other common factor that I’ve noticed in most full-time bloggers is that they are people of action.

Passivity and blogging don’t tend to go hand in hand.

Blogging as “passive income stream” is another theme that we hear in many make-money-blogging products, however it is far from my own experience.

I’ve worked harder on my business over the last ten years than I’ve worked on anything in my life before this. It is often fun and gives me energy, but it takes considerable work to create content on a daily basis, to keep abreast of what’s going on in the community, to monitor the business side of things, to create products to sell, to build an audience, and so on.

The four main areas to focus upon in building profitable blogs are (click each for further reading):

  1. Creating Great Blog Content
  2. Finding Readers for Your Blog
  3. Building Community on Your Blog
  4. Making Money/Monetizing Your Blog

The key is to build blogs that matter to people, that are original, interesting, and helpful. But this doesn’t just happen—it takes a lot of work.


Yes, it is possible to make money blogging. There is an ever-increasing number of people making money from blogging at a part-time to full-time level —however they are still in the minority.

Those who do make a living from blogging come from a wide range of niches, however one of the most common factors between them is that they’ve been at it for a long while.

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Blogging in Brief: Targeting, Teasers, and Trends

The last few weeks have turned up some interesting new finds in the world of blogging. I’ve covered some of the more innovative ones here—let us know what cool ideas you’ve spotted in the comments.

…and then she called me “Cupcake”

I’m not in the target audience for Molly Maher’s Stratejoy website, and it’s clear as soon as I get to her homepage, which greets visitors with the words, “This site is for you, Cupcake.”

Molly's header

This is a simple, but effective way to target an audience. That single word (in the context of the page design) lets users work out immediately if this is the place for them. It’s a brave move, and it works—Molly’s subscriber base is 4,000-strong.

How closely are you targeting your readers? Are you this forward in your headlines and calls to action? Perhaps Molly’s example will inspire you to rethink some of them.

Australian Blogosphere Report released

Australian blog advertising network Nuffnang has released its 2012 Blogosphere Report, which provides interesting reading for anyone who’s in, or targeting, this space.

The results show a number of interesting aspects:

  • The Australian blogosphere is 92% female.
  • 73% of bloggers said personal and hobby blogs were their favourites.
  • 70% of readers say sponsored posts are useful, so long as they’re transparent and impartial.
  • 95% of respondents have considered purchasing a brand or service as a result of reading about it on a blog.

Check out the report—available for free download—for more.

Ninja engagement tactics on the Ninja’s new blog

Our own Web Marketing Ninja, Shayne Tilley, has relaunched his website. inspired by the PB Event in October, he’s done a great job with a cost-effective theme and a little basic coding—check it out at let us know what you think.

One aspect I think is particularly interesting is the large quote he’s placed just above the footer, along with a Read More CTA.


That’s a pretty clickable page element—it really inspires my curiosity. And it takes you direct to his blog. Do you provide alternative ways to entice readers through to your blog, other than simply saying “read my blog”? If not, maybe you could try this idea for yourself.

Content marketing coverage

If you’re looking for new content marketing ideas, this epic post on the value of long-form content in your content marketing efforts is one for you.

In the piece, Demian Farnworth uses The New Yorker as a benchmark for content marketing excellence. If you’re a solo blogger, keep in mind that The New Yorker probably ha a few more resources than you do to put into content marketing! That said, the post is information-packed and gives us plenty of ideas to use in our own content marketing efforts.

In the same vein, I was recently approached by Flippa for a post on using content marketing to add value to your blog. Have a look—I’d love to know what you think!

Big-block headers on blogs

A design trend that’s definitely becoming more commonplace is the big-block header, like the ones on the Fast Company subsites. Interestingly, Fast Company doesn’t use this style on its flagship blog—just on those sites that specifically target design-conscious users.

But this trend is becoming more mainstream. Some pro bloggers using it include Jaime Tardy at Eventual Millionaire … but there don’t seem to be many others.

Eventual millionaire

What do you think of this as a design trend for blogs? Have you seen others using it? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Blog Design for ROI, Rule 1: Prioritize the Opt-in Form

This guest post is by Gab Goldenberg, author of The Advanced SEO Book.

Are you writing phenomenal posts only to have your poor design fail you? Here’s how to fix that, with rules that will guide you whether you create a custom theme or just pick a theme and adapt it.

Today’s post is the first in a series on blog design for ROI.

Lots of articles give blog design rules or guidelines, but no one I’ve seen explains how these rules achieve your goals.

So let’s look at a business blogger’s possible ROI goals and how the design can help one achieve those goals:

  1. earning ad revenue
  2. earning revenue from selling your own products and services
  3. growing your email list, RSS + Facebook, or Twitter list (listed in decreasing order of value)
  4. building a community or audience—especially as reflected by comments, forum activity, etc.
  5. developing connections and networking.

Every blogger’s first goal should be developing repeat traffic from a loyal audience. Everything else—sales, links, social sharing, networking opportunities—is attainable from this.

In practical terms, the most direct way to achieve this is to blog regularly and to build an email list. Blog design can’t motivate you to write regularly, but it can maximize the number of people who subscribe to your newsletter.

Blog design for ROI rule #1: Prioritize the opt-in form above all

Q: How does your blog design help you build your list?

A: It makes the newsletter subscription call to action the most prominent element on any page, be it the homepage, an individual post page etc.

Sandra Niehaus of Closed-Loop-Marketing wrote an excellent guide to the factors of visual prominence (or “pop”), and I encourage you to read it.

Notably, Sandra highlights the following factors, which are within reach for every blogger to use.

  • location on the page
  • whitespace around an element
  • colour (saturation, hue and contrast).

Have a look at Derek Halpern’s Social Triggers. The design is brilliant with regards to building an email list. Here’s what an individual post page looks like:

Derek Halpern Home

Notice how besides the logo, the next most noticeable things are the email optin area and Derek’s face, followed by the title? Derek is making excellent use of both location, whitespace and color to draw attention to his opt-in box.

Even top marketers like Derek can improve, though.

If you look at the above screenshot, the email opt-in stands out—but it’s trying to shout over the logo and the further branding in the image box embedded in the post.

It’s easy to understand that Derek wants to brand himself and his blog as an expert source, but the large logo and face staring out are very distracting. Derek would likely increase his conversion rate by making the logo smaller and removing his face from the promotional box within his post.

What about branding? Branding is the result of relationships and getting your message out—two things which email does significantly better than a one-time view of a large logo and face.

So what lessons can we draw from Derek, on prioritizing our opt-in form in the blog design?

1. The ideal location to place your optin box is after the logo, before the content

This is the most prominent position you can place anything on the page, and since this is the call to action we care about, it fits here best. This is also why Google suggests placing AdSense ads there.

Failing this, you should still get it above the fold, and you can see that Derek did so at the very top of his sidebar. (Personally I’d love to see it integrated in the post’s upper right corner where his Insider box is, but that’s not always possible.)

2. Give the box plenty of breathing room

Note how it’s not squished between anything else? There’s also whitespace on the right and left margins, so this stands out even more.

3. Give it some colourThis way, it can contrast with the remainder of the page.

4. Make the rest of the page’s above-the-fold elements less prominent

Keep your logo small: look at Amazon’s for a good example of smart use of space. Also, avoid using a headshot above the fold, unless it’s integrated into your opt-in box.

Even this second point is debatable, as making the box too loud can make it physically hard for people to draw their eyes away from the opt-in to read your content. Or you could use a grayscale headshot in association with the author credits, or else resize the face image to be quite small.

The point is to be warily careful in using faces because they’re such a visually dominant element.

5. The spot before your comments is also a big draw visually, so put another opt-in form here

I attribute this prominence to people skipping down to the conclusion of a post to learn quickly what matters, as well as to being curious what others said and/or to see replies to their own comments.

Again, Derek does a good job with his placement, whitespace, and color contrast.

Derek's opt-in

So that was rule number 1: give the top spot in your visual hierarchy to your email list’s opt-in form.

I’d love if you could comment with other examples of bloggers whose designs do a very good job of persuading people to join their lists.

At this time over the next few weeks, I’ll share the other steps involved in designing your blog for ROI. To follow along, add ProbBlogger’s RSS feed to your reader!

Gab Goldenberg wrote The Advanced SEO Book – and you can get a free chapter here. Gab and Internet Marketing Ninjas, the folks behind the Blog Design for ROI series here on Problogger, are offering to mail you a free print copy of the Blog Design for ROI guide as a small book. Get your free copy from .

One Essential Characteristic of a Pro Blogger [Not Your Everyday Blog Writing Advice]

Each week, my Content manager Georgina turns away around 20 or so posts for publication at ProBlogger. She tells me that maybe 5-10% of those are of a publishable standard, but they just don’t fit our audience or purpose. The rest aren’t pro-level pieces.


Image courtesy stock.xchng user Valsilvae

Forget for a moment that these are guest posts—which are supposed to be bloggers’ best content.

Instead, I want to think about what that means for the average blogger, toiling away on their blog day in, day out, trying to reach and captivate their audience.

What is “pro blogging”?

Pro blogging isn’t just about making money through a blog. You don’t need to write a word to do that. But I think most of us would expect pro bloggers to be able to write reasonably well.


Because Pro bloggers need to be consummate communicators. Whether they hire others to write for their blogs, or use video, audio, or images rather than text, clear expression is a hallmark of any pro blogger.

Clarity doesn’t just mean error-free writing. It means:

  • content that touches readers, showing you empathize with them
  • relevant, helpful content
  • consistent information, in terms of frequency, tone, etc.
  • content that delivers what it promises, and has integrity.

A blogger might use writing for a range of purposes, too:

  • to attract readers, and keep them coming back
  • to promote their blog or sell something
  • to approach potential collaboraters
  • to build relationships and networks
  • to make money directly (e.g. through an information product).

There’s plenty of great quality advice about writing and content marketing online. Writing tips abound.

This week, we want to present a few different takes on writing for your blog. Over the next four days we’ll publish some posts that focus on some nitty-gritty aspects of writing—ideas that go a bit deeper than usual.

Writing to make money

Our first post will look at writing product reviews that deliver real value. Among other things, the post explores the challenges bloggers face in exposing the negative aspects of a product they’re reviewing and may want to encourage readers to buy (if they’re an affiliate for it).

Handling that tension is exactly the kind of thing that pro bloggers work to master. This post will show how showing the full picture supports authority, and can actually encourage more sales than a purely glowing review.

Writing to improve

One great thing about blogging is that everything we do is practice—each post we publish should be an improvement on the last one.

Looking to leaders for advice on writing is an excellent way to develop your skills. Our second post will reveal the thoughts of some of the world’s greatest writers, and provide starting points to help you apply that advice in your own posts.

Writing to build your profile

When bloggers think about content marketing, we often ponder the question of content reuse. If you do it right, it can be an efficient way to get the most out of the time you spend writing—it can boost your visibility, your publishing schedule, and your available time.

Our third post this week explains how freelance writers can best reuse their freelance content on their own blogs. This isn’t a straightforward topic, and this post highlights the potential advantages and pitfalls so that if you’re a freelancer, you know where to start looking into content reuse.

Writing to experiment

For many bloggers, after high-school or college essays, and workplace emails, blogging is the first focused writing they’ve done.

We’ve all heard the advice that if you want to be a great writer, you need to be a big reader. But the final post in our series shows that to be a better blog writer, you need to be a better writer, period. It prompts us to look beyond blog posts for opportunities to write, and topics to write on. It shows that through experimentation, we can learn skills out of context that we can bring back and apply to our blogs.

Are you up to the challenge?

The advice we’ll cover this week goes beyond the everyday. It assumes you’re already serious about being good writer, and are facing the challenges of becoming a great writer. There’s no hype in these posts, and no write-your-way-to-a-million-dollar-income-in-five-minutes advice. They’re posts that aim to provide a different perspective on post writing.

Where are you at as a writer? Are you ready to challenge yourself to become better? Or do you think you’ve reached your limits, either in terms of potential, or interest in writing? Share your perspective with us in the comments.