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How to Calculate the Value of Your Blog

This is a guest contribution from Tom Fanelli.

For most businesses, blogs are marketing tools. And while most take the time to measure their ROI from other marketing avenues, I’m surprised by how many don’t truly understand how their blog is (or is not) benefiting their bottom line.

Understanding your blog’s value can help you determine if you want to invest more on its development, adjust your blogging strategy to make it more effective, or simply cut back on your investment entirely.

Sound good? Here’s a guide on how to figure out your blog’s value.

Track the cost of content development.

This isn’t as easy of a task as it may initially seem. If you work with freelancers to create and upload content, their fees are the most obvious direct cost, but it’s likely that there’s still someone in-house who reviews the content – and their time is a cost to your business.

Be sure to account for time spent by all full-time employees who contribute to the blog as part of their responsibilities. Ask them to track how much time they spend working on blog-related tasks for a month.

Calculate your cost per visit. 

Okay, you know how much it costs to keep your blog going, but you want to consider that in the context of how much traffic your blog generates. If you spend money promoting your blog posts, through PPC, Outbrain, or outreach, factor this in. Don’t forget to include any associated labor costs.

Now add the cost of content development and promotion, and divide it by the number of visits over the same period. This is your blog’s “cost per visit”. It can also be valuable to determine the cost per unique visitor.

Determine the revenue of each visit. 

What direct returns do you get from your blog? You may earn money from advertising or affiliate sales. If that’s the case, calculate your total profits on a monthly basis and divide it by the number of visits during the same period.

However, many business blogs don’t have ads or support affiliate sales. Instead, your goal is likely to convert blog visitors into sales of your products or services. For product sales, you can use analytics to determine how many visitors on your blog ultimately completed a shopping transaction as well as the exact revenue from each transaction. But for most services (and some products), it may still take a phone call before they actually convert into a sale. Accounting for your blog’s influence on sales in this way is a little trickier but not impossible:

  • Track how many blog visitors end up on your “Contact” page. Figure out the average value of a new customer, and use this figure to assign a value to these “conversions”.
  • For a month, have your sales team ask new clients if they visited your blog. If the answer is yes, include that sale as part of the return you earn on your blog.
  • Use call tracking. Provide a unique phone number for those who visit your blog, so you’ll be able to say definitively that the customer was acquired in that manner.

There is also another business blogging goal that shouldn’t be overlooked, though it is not as easy to quantify: establishing your brand or expertise. The best way to account for this type of value is focus on the cost per visitor. From there, you can better determine if your investment is worth the reach you’re achieving.

Don’t forget the value of the content itself.

Many businesses reuse blog content in other ways, such as eBooks, marketing materials, social media updates, and newsletters. It’s worth calculating the cost and value of these other uses to get a more complete picture of how your blog fits into your marketing success.

If you find that your blog’s ROI isn’t bad but also isn’t where you’d like it, this is also one way that you can improve it without blowing up your entire strategy.

Now What?

So you’ve subtracted your cost per visit from your gross revenue per visit, and you now have the value of each visit. Armed with this data, you can evaluate your overall content strategy. Do you need to make adjustments? Should you double-down on your current success? Can you grow your business by driving more blog traffic through PPC ads? This figure is also important if you’re calculating the value of your domain name or website for sale.

Tom Fanelli is one of the nation’s leading experts on website development, SEO, SEM, and social media marketing. For nearly two decades, Tom has built both world-class marketing solutions and leading global marketing teams in corporate and small business environments across many industries. He has shared his insight on online customer acquisition, lead generation, and business optimization in both print and web publications, as a presenter of over 50 webinars, and as a featured speaker for companies like Intuit, Microsoft, Sage Software, and the Small Business Administration.

Follow Tom on Twitter at @tfanelli, purchase his ebook Infographics in Action, or learn more on TomFanelli.com.

Man Vs. Machine: Get Better Sales by Keeping Marketing Automation Human

Image via Flickr user Peyri Herrera

Image via Flickr user Peyri Herrera

This is a guest contribution from Veronica Taylor.

Marketing automation without a human element is just a robot on autopilot. Before, during and after each automated campaign it is essential for real people to plan, edit and review. When campaigns aren’t working, they need to be tested and updated. Most people think of marketing automation as efficient yet impersonal. When used correctly, however, most automated marketing solutions now provide the possibility for highly targeted messages based on each customer’s personal interests, preferences and history. Here are a few tips for making your automated campaigns efficient and dynamic while also building stronger connections with your customers.

Have a Specific Goal

For each campaign you create, it is essential to know what you are trying to accomplish. Are you seeking more new signups? Trying to get leads to download your whitepaper? Simply raising awareness about your business or an upcoming event? If you have automated messages going out to customers but you don’t have a clear idea of what results you are trying to measure, you will not know if the campaign was successful. You won’t know which messages were effective and which ones need to be changed. If you are not measuring the response to your messages, you are not listening to your customers. The automated campaign will continue to run robotically, with no edits or improvements. Know what you are trying to achieve. If it’s not working, update it.

Survey and Track Customers

The best way to give marketing automation a personal touch is to use it to its full potential. Marketing automation now has the capability to track and store each individual customer’s preferences, history, important dates, interests, personal information and much more. With this wealth of data, it is possible to automatically create highly personally targeted campaigns for each customer. This way, the customer receives information that is directly relevant to them, making the experience much more personal. You can send out automated appointment date reminders, bill payment notifications, birthday messages, personalized promotions and so on. This type of personalized messaging builds stronger connections and reduces customer churn. When you want to update your customer information in order to provide even better targeted messages, survey customers to learn more and keep information up to date.

Know When to Write a Personal Message

Sometimes automation just isn’t appropriate. There are many instances in business where it is essential to take the time to manually write a message or a response to a customer. In these cases, a prompt message sent by a real person has a much greater impact than an automated message ever could. These are just a few examples: when a customer makes a very large purchase and you want to thank them with a special discount or free product/service, when a customer has been with you for years and you want to show your appreciation, when a customer takes the time to write to you with feedback, questions or comments, when you make a mistake with a customer’s bill, purchase or account, when a customer has a complaint, and when you have time to make personal comments on social media (automated social media management saves oodles of time, but you absolutely need real posts or tweets thrown in).

Review and Analyze

As mentioned before, if you don’t keep track of how customers are responding to your automated messages you are simply letting a robot control your marketing, which is going to show in your sales. Real people are essential to a marketing strategy because they try different things when they see something isn’t working as well as they had hoped. One of the greatest advantages humans have over machines is that they take chances and make mistakes rather than doing the same thing over and over again. The best way to increase revenue, boost customer life span and attract new customers is to listen to what your customers want. Automated marketing solutions provide you with all the data you will ever want. Keep a close eye on your reports, open rates, unsubscribes and other data. Review your campaign data after each campaign you send. Learn what customers respond to, learn what they don’t want and learn how to react positively when you need to make a change.

To summarize:

Your marketing is ultimately in your hands. Marketing automation makes it possible for businesses to save time and money, reduce the daily effort their staff has to put in and connect more effectively with their customers. Marketing automation is a powerful tool, but like any other tool it needs a skilled operator to make it work.

Veronica Taylor, Assistant Marketing Manager at SimplyCastenjoys writing about small business marketing, improving communication strategies, social media trends and more.

5 Sources of Ideas for My Blog Posts

NewImage

On a recent webinar over at ProBlogger.com I was asked by John:

“Where do you get your ideas for blog posts?”

It’s a question we get a lot so I thought it might be a good one to write up here on the blog.

Discuss: I’m also keen to hear your experience on the question because I’m very aware that my approach is just one of many ways to go about generating blog post ideas.

1. Questions from Readers

Perhaps the #1 place I get inspiration for blog posts is the inspiration for this one – a question from a reader.

As I look back at the most popular posts here on ProBlogger I can see this pattern over and over again. While I might not always start with the actual question (as I’ve done above) questions often stimulate me writing a post.

If one person is asking a question you can bet that it is something that others are wondering about too.

Questions come from a variety of sources including:

  • Emails from readers
  • Comments on blog posts
  • Webinar Q&As
  • Real life events (both in conversations and in Q&As)
  • Social Media
  • Conversations
  • My own questions (both present and past ones)

Taking note of questions is something that you need to get in the habit of noticing, capturing and responding to – once you get into this mindset you’ll have a never ending supply of ideas.

Example: How to Convince Someone to Be Interviewed on Your Blog

2. Reader Surveys

One of the most powerful things I’ve ever done to collect reader questions and understand what topics I can write about that will solve readers needs is to set up surveys.

Over on Digital Photography School if you sign up for our email newsletter you get an invitation three months after joining to do a short survey.

The survey has a handful of demographic questions to help us get a picture of who is reading but also has an optional open ended question that asks readers if they have any questions, problems, challenges that they’d like us to write about.

Since setting up this survey we’ve had tens of thousands of people complete that question which gives us invaluable ideas.

Here’s a screen shot of the question we ask and some of the most recent responses.

Blog post ideas survey

This survey gets new responses every day and is ongoing but the other option is to do a one off survey. Here on ProBlogger we tend to do this as an annual ‘census’ where we invite readers to complete a similar survey all at the same time. This gives us a snapshot of the readership. It also enables us to compare where our readers are at today as compared to last year and the year before.

Updating Previous Topics

Once you’ve been blogging for a few years you’ll potentially have hundreds (if not thousands) of posts in your archives – some of which will become dated or even obsolete.

Going back through your archives to examine old posts that are out of date can serve as great inspiration for new posts.

Perhaps you’ve changed your opinion on the topic, or maybe there’s fresh information you can share, or maybe there is a new trend, technique or tool that you can write about.

In some cases you might want to delete the previous post (if its now completely wrong) or you might also want to update it or link to a new post on the topic.

Either way – your old dated posts will quite often give all kinds of inspiration for new ones so go hunting in your archives!

Related Reading: How to Repurpose your Content and Why You Should Do it

3. Stories/Experiences/Experiments/Learnings

Another source for many of my own most popular posts over the years have simply come from my own experience.

This has been especially the case here on ProBlogger where many of my posts have simply been me sharing what I’m learning.

Take for example some recent posts here I have shared:

How Our eBook Launches Have Evolved (after 235,000 eBook Sales) – reflections on what I’ve learned over the last 5-6 years
My Experiment with Starting a 2nd Facebook Page for My Blog – a case study on a little experimenting I was running
Tapping into Joy and Disappointment: Lessons from Our Biggest eBook Launch Ever – lessons learned in a recent launch
Spend 10 Minutes Doing This Every Day and You Could Transform Your Blogging – sharing an activity that I do that helps me
My Top 5 Mistakes as a Blogger – don’t just share the good experiences and successes!

4. Evolution of Previous Posts

Pay particular attention to previous posts that you’ve written and how people respond to them because this is often a source of great inspiration for future posts.

Let me give you an example.

Recently I noticed that an old post that we published on Digital Photography School was getting a surge in traffic from Facebook.

The post was titled How a Humble 85mm Lens Became my Favourite and was written by one of our regular paid writers.

Blog post ideas example

The post had been popular when we first posted in back in 2012 but after I’d shared it again on our Facebook page (I highlight 1-2 posts in our archives every day) it had been really well received by our Facebook community.

It struck me that perhaps we could get some of our other writers to write similar posts about their favourite lenses.

We have a private little ‘group’ on Facebook for our dPS writers so I posted the idea there.

Ideas blog posts

Our other writers liked the idea and began nominating the lenses that they’d write about and got to work on writing the posts. We’ve already published the first of these favorite lens posts and have got another 7-8 of them being written to be published over the coming months.

Want another example? Check out this post I wrote on ProBlogger last year on how I turned a simple guest post into a series of posts that generated over 3 million visitors to dPS.

This principle of watching how people react with your previous blog posts can be extended to see how people react to your previous social media updates.

A good example of this is a post I published earlier in the year here on ProBlogger titled 10 Quick Tips for Entrepreneurial Bloggers which was actually based upon some of my most popular Tweets. I looked back over the previous years of tweets from my ProBlogger twitter account to find the most retweeted and liked updates – which then became a blog post.

5. Talks/Presentations/Twitter Chats

Another source of numerous recent blog posts that I’ve written have been talks and presentations that I’ve given.

I invest many hours on preparing to speak at a conference or event so it makes sense to take that work and turn it into a blog post (or series of them) wherever possible.

An example of this would be my recent post – How to build a Blog that has Lasting Impact Upon its Readers in which I took a reader question (point #1 above) and shared my answer to it using some ideas from a recent talk I gave.

Creative control broken down

I also included some of the slides (like the one above) from my talk as graphic in the blog post to give it some visual punch.

Another example of this is a post I wrote here on ProBlogger recently titled – How to Build a Blog Worth Monetizing – in which I shared a series of tweets from a Twitter Chat that I’d co hosted (the #BlogChat twitter chat). In fact many of those tweets also had slides from a previous talk also!

Where Do You Get Ideas for Blog Posts?

I’m scratching the surface of this topic here and know there are many more ways to generate ideas – but I’m keen to hear your experience!

Where do you get your ideas for blog posts?

5 Quick Questions with Robert Scoble: What Makes a Great Tech Blog?

roberts scoble

Robert Scoble is the brains behind the blog Scobleizer (which he’s just abandoned in favour of solely microblogging on Facebook), and a well-respected authority on social media, tech, and blogging. He has worked for Microsoft, and is currently with Rackspace. We were super-fortunate to grab a few minutes of his time to answer five questions about how to make your tech blog a success.

What do you think are the essentials a tech blog should have in order to be successful?

Define success! For some, it might be just getting an industry discussion going. Others might want to build a media business to the place where they can quit their day job and do this full time.

In each, it really is simple: make content other people want to read, discuss, and share.

Of course, if that was so easy everyone would have a famous blog.

If I were starting out today I’d pick a niche that I could own that will get bigger over time. Today that might be Wearable Computers. Tomorrow? Brain interfaces or robots. These topics don’t yet have a blog that is dominant. It’s a lot easier to get going in a smaller niche that doesn’t yet have strong blogs.

What are the topics you’ve found really resonates with the readers? What seems to get the most engagement?

Drones. But, seriously, if you try writing about drones it’s too late. The trick is to find something that will be big tomorrow. If you had an exclusive insight into the Apple Watch, for instance (something that hasn’t yet been reported) that will do very well.

For newer bloggers, or those wanting to turn their tech blog into a business, what would you suggest focusing on first?

I would pick a small niche. Cover it to death. There’s no way you can really blow away Techcrunch, Verge, Re/code, in overall tech space unless you have millions of dollars. But, you can become the world’s leading drone (or brain interface, or robot, or wearable computer) expert and use that to edge your way into a business.

It really comes down to content. Do you have something that no one else has? Marques Brownlee, for instance, has a unique take on gadget reviews. Others focus on tech out of just a single country like China or Israel. Yet others, like Julien Blin, or Redg Snodgrass are trying to own the wearable space.

What is the hardest thing about being a tech blogger, and how have you worked to overcome that?

Sitting through all the pitches is the hardest thing. To find the next big thing you’ve probably got to see 150 so so companies. Maybe even more. I’ve been pitched in bathrooms (no no) and on the street at 2 a.m. at SXSW (also a no no). How do I overcome that? Always be nice, sit through a few minutes, and if you aren’t interested, say so and why. That said, most of the time now I only see things if referred by someone I trust.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given about blogging (or business in general?)

Be real. Don’t be corrupt, or better said, disclose conflicts. Dave Winer showed me the power of that more than a decade ago and it still serves me well today. It’s why I share so much of my private life. All you really have is your reputation. It’s why I work so hard on personal relationships with people across the industry.

What do you think? Have you experienced something that Robert has mentioned? I’d love to hear about it!

How Bloggers Can Make The Best Use Of Their 24 Hours

Image via Flickr user Thomas R Stegelmann

Image via Flickr user Thomas R Stegelmann

This is a guest contribution from entrepreneur Charles Crawford.

Whether your parents believe you or not, there are ways to make a living off of being a blogger. And with as many benefits that come with blogging, who wouldn’t want to at least check out this lifestyle? After all, you get to be your own boss for the most part, so you don’t have to worry about a lot of the hindrances that come with a typical 9-5.

However, being a blogger isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Instead, it’s a job where you’ll have to work hard if you expect to get paid. And if you don’t work, then you might want to give your old employer a call and see if they’ll hire you back.

Another obstacle that bloggers must overcome is being able to manage their time appropriately. Because you won’t have a boss breathing down your neck every day, you get to decide when you want to work and what clients you want to work for. Therefore, it’s important that you ensure that you make the most of your day, in order to be as productive as possible. Here is a look at how bloggers can make the best use of their 24 hours each day.

Have A Plan

The first thing that any blogger will want to do as they look to organize their day is make a planned schedule. If you quit your job and became a blogger with the hopes of ditching a scheduled lifestyle, you may want to rethink things. Sure, you won’t have to be at your desk from 9-5 each day, but having a schedule for your blogging will be imperative if you plan to be successful. Even if the schedule changes from day to day, knowing what you want to get done will help you organize your less-traditional lifestyle.

Not only should part of that plan include time for blogging, but you’ll also want to accommodate for your personal life as well. Unless you plan on sitting in front of a computer all day long and blogging, you’ll also want to account for time to hit the gym or even hang out with friends.

Knowing when you have to work and when you have time to yourself in a schedule will do wonders for your time management as a blogger throughout the day.

Stay Focused

One of the toughest parts of being a blogger is going to be staying focused. Lets face it; there is a lot of stuff on the internet. For some bloggers, they may be looking on a website for information, but next thing they know they’ll look at the clock and two hours has passed by. When you spend two hours look at talking animals on the internet, it can really cut into your blogging time. Therefore, be sure that you stay focused and take the necessary precautions to avoid being distracted.

Keep Networking

Part of your blogging efforts should include time that you spend networking with other people. The more people that you meet in the blogging world, the more likely it is that you’ll learn from their advice and have more success individually. However, if you fail to meet the right people, you may struggle when it comes to your ability to get recognition for your blogging efforts.

Adapt To Your Plan

That plan that was mentioned earlier is a great starting point, but keep in mind that things might change over time. For example, you might need to arrange time in your schedule to contact new people about blogging opportunities. You may also need to check your email or social media accounts to communicate with other writers. The more that you can crunch into your work day, which will be easier if you have a schedule, the more productive you will be. And if you can easily work in changes into the schedule, you’ll be even more efficient.

Stay Informed

Part of your time while adapting to your schedule should also include staying informed on new technology, programs, or applications that can make your life as a blogger much easier. There are always new options to consider learning, or new niches to capitalize on, and doing so will help you to be more productive. Keep in mind that bloggers who work smarter, rather than harder, will likely see more success.

Know When To Stop

When you work as a blogger, the internet is always going to be at your fingertips. With that mindset, you might have a hard time turning your computer off and taking time to yourself. However, it’s equally as important that you know when to rest during your 24-hour day. If you fail to get adequate sleep, then you may have a tough time with being as productive the following day.

Being a blogger has plenty of rewards and it’s certainly a vital option for making a good income. But if you really want to be able to have your efforts pay off, then you’ll have to put in the work for it and make the most of your 24 hours each day.

Charles Crawford is a high-level entrepreneur and co-founder of Invisume. Charles has been studying internet marketing, web design, and tech start-ups for years, and he has been successful with multiple business ventures such as affiliate marketing (where 98%+ of people never make money).

Blogging with Intention: Creating an Income from a Successful Blog with Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom

Crystal Paine is the founder of the amazingly successful MoneySavingMom.com, which sees 1.5 million visitors each month, and employs 13 full time staff. Born of a blog series that turned into an ebook, which then evolved into an e-course, Crystal realised her readers were hungry for a real-life guide to living frugally, but well; be it slashing their grocery bill, using coupons, or finding ways to run their home on less.

Crystal had been looking for ways to create an income while she was a stay at home mom, and realised she could make a healthy business meeting her readers’ need for such information. With forethought and intention, Crystal created and monetized the site, but was still surprised when it outdid their expectations – by a long shot.

In our interview, we chat about the plans she made before MoneySavingMom.com went live, the things she did to make it a success, and how they kept that ball rolling to create the main source of income for her family today. Crystal also shares her ideas on revenue streams, how long it actually took to make a consistent income, and tips that will help you be more intentional with your efforts to succeed.

Blogging with Intention: Creating an income from a successful blog with Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom

The Beginning: Blogging Goals and Direction

You started Money Saving Mom after a blog series turned into an ebook, which turned into an ecourse. What dreams did you have for the site, seeing as you’d already covered so much of the content elsewhere?

I realized that I had barely touched the tip of the iceberg with the ebook and e-course I wrote on cutting your grocery bill. My vision for MoneySavingMom.com was that I was going to be sharing specific deals you could find at your local drugstores and big box stores (such as Walmart and Target). I also planned to share deals I had gotten locally, as well as ways our family was living on a small budget. As there are new sales every week and I’m always finding great deals and bargains, I knew that it wouldn’t be too hard to come up with new material to blog about each week.

 

Step Two: Creating an Income

You were very intentional about monetizing the site from the start to help supplement your family’s income while you were a stay at home mom. Did you have an idea going into it how you would monetize? 

When I started MoneySavingMom.com in 2007, I had already dabbled into monetization on a mommy blog I had. I knew I could make money with sidebar ads, as well as sharing some affiliate links. Back then, the options were fairly limited, but I kept researching, watching what others were doing, and slowly started experimenting with new ideas. One of the best ways to monetize in the early days of the blog was by becoming an affiliate for coupon printing sites (such as Coupons.com). They would pay me per print session. So if I posted about a great deal on toothpaste at Walmart and shared a printable coupon on Coupons.com that could be paired with the sale to get an even better discount, I’d get paid for every person who printed that coupon. While it was only a small amount per coupon printed, since I posted quite a few coupons each week, it quickly added up! To this day, getting paid per print for sharing great printable coupons is one of our highest earning affiliate income sources!

Do you think creating a monetized blog from the get-go is much different to monetising an established blog? (I have heard some people say it is easier to start with monetizing in mind rather than then try and turn a personal or other type of blog into something that makes an income – I was wondering if that was your experience.)

Great question! I think it’s always wise to be strategic and to go into any venture with a long-term plan. That plan can always change as circumstances and opportunities change, but I think it’s important to have a destination in mind when you start out on any road. Otherwise, you may end up just going around in circles because you don’t have any clue where you’re headed.

That said, I still believe that Content Is King. You can have the best monetized blog in the world, but if your content isn’t helpful and relevant, all the monetization strategies aren’t going to make much of an impact. So I always encourage beginning bloggers to start by establishing yourself as a voice people want to listen to. Provide great content, write about topics that are relevant, format your posts in an organized manner, and share your posts on social media in a compelling manner. Focus on solving problems and meeting needs in what you write, build up your credibility, and slowly also work on creative ways to monetize your blog.

I am told a lot that some people really wrestle with the idea of monetizing, although they ultimately would like to. What advice would you have for them?

I know there are definitely camps who believe you should just write because you love it, not because you’re getting paid for it. I think you should do both. I’m of the opinion that if you’re going to spend so much time producing great content, you should also get paid for your time.   One of the best ways to monetize your site is to be a person of integrity. Write about things you are passionate about and be very particular in what products and affiliate links you promote. Never sacrifice your integrity in the name of a quick buck. When people trust you, they will put much more weight in what you promote.

For example, I rarely wholeheartedly endorse a product. I might talk about pros and cons, share what I liked about a product, but it’s rare that I’ll say that I LOVE something. Why? Because I want my words to have weight. If I “LOVE” everything, it becomes meaningless quickly. So honesty is paramount when you’re considering promoting a product. Always have your readers and their needs first and foremost. Analyze every opportunity in light of: will this benefit my readers? If it only benefits me or if just mostly benefits me, I always choose turn down the opportunity. By doing so, I can, in good conscience occasionally really wholeheartedly endorse a product, site, or service — and my readers will know that it is something really worth checking into.

What kind of mindframe do you need to be in to make a blog a financial success? Do you need to treat it like a business as early as possible? Or can that come later?

I think one of the greatest keys to be successful as a blogger — both in terms of building a readership and making an income from your blogging efforts — is consistency. If readers know they can count on you regularly posting great content, they are much more likely to regularly show up.   This doesn’t mean that you always have to post the same number of times every week, or always post at the same time each day, or that you can’t ever take a break from blogging, but it does mean that you treat your blogging seriously. If you are employed somewhere, you are expected to show up to work and complete your work in a timely manner. If you don’t, there will be fall out — you might miss out on that promotion, you might not get that coveted opportunity, or you might even lose your job.   It’s the same way with blogging. You need to do all you can to keep your commitments to your readers — or don’t make the commitments in the first place. You need to place priority on producing great content. And you need to show up regularly. When readers know they can count on you, they feel much more invested in you and connected to you.

Someone asked me not too long ago what the secret was to my success. My answer: “There are no secrets; just hard work.” I have blogged almost every single day but Sunday, every single week, every year since I began blogging in 2005.   That’s a LOT of blogging. And trust me, while I truly love blogging, there were days when I would have rather been doing something else. I have stayed up late at night, gotten up early in the morning, and worked on Saturdays and holidays. There have been grueling and exhausting seasons, but the commitment, drive, and consistency have paid off in big ways.

Related: Crystal’s extensive list of resources and information of how she makes money blogging.

The Elusive Blog/Life Balance

What advice would you give to moms or parents who were much like you in the early days – trying to get a blog off the ground while balancing that with the needs of your home and family?

My best advice would be to not follow in my footsteps and bite off way more than you can chew! Instead, I encourage you to write down your goals. Where do you want to be in six months from now? A year from now? 5 years from now?   In considering your six month goals, write down a list of everything that needs to happen in order to achieve those goals. Then, pick the top 3 most important to-do items on your list as your first priorities.

After you’ve chosen your top 3 action items, consider how much time you realistically have to invest each day. Maybe it’s just 30 minutes or an hour. That’s okay. Start there, but remember that if you don’t have much time to invest, you may need to scale back your expectations for how quickly you accomplish your goals.   Break those three items down into bite-sized steps and then make an appointment with yourself for your 30 minute or 1-hour time block (or however much time you’ve committed) and make it a priority. Set the timer. Start in on one of the steps and keep going until the timer goes off.   While you might not accomplish as much as you’d like as quickly as you’d like, you probably be surprised how much you can accomplish in 30 minute to 1 hour blocks of focused effort.

Strategy

You have said before that you and your husband just wanted to “see where this goes” in the early days of your blog – did you have a particular timeframe, or certain goals that would help you decide to continue?

My goal was to make a part-time income (I was aiming for around $1200 per month.) I knew that this amount would help not only supplement our income, but would allow us to be able to save and give more.   It took me around 2.5 years of hard, hard work, to hit that amount on a consistent monthly basis. And there were many months in the beginning when I wondered if I was just chasing after some really unrealistic dream. But eventually I started to not only hit that goal every month, but then to exceed it. Pretty soon, I was consistently doubling that initial goal, and then tripling it. It was so gratifying to realize that all those early months where I was doing well to make $2-$3 per hour paid off! I’m so glad I didn’t give up when it felt like my efforts weren’t really going anywhere.

When did you realise the blog was actually going to be successful?

When I started MoneySavingMom.com in 2007, I truly pictured that it was just going to be a little off-shoot of the mommy blog I had started in 2005. So, you can imagine my shock when, within a few months of starting it, I was getting 14,000 to 16,000 pageviews per day on it! It blew my mind!   And it just kept growing… until we finally got to the point that I was having find a hosting company that didn’t cost an arm and a leg and could sustain the traffic that the site was generating!

Support Networks

How important is your husband’s support in your work?

Honestly, I doubt I would be blogging if it weren’t for my husband. He is my best friend and biggest cheerleader. When I was initially considering starting my first mommy blog, he believed in me and encouraged me to do it. When I was considering starting, MoneySavingMom.com, he said, “Go for it!” I’m positive I never would have had the courage to hit “publish” on so many posts if it weren’t for him reading through them with me and saying, “Yes, you need to publish that. Someone needs to read it.”

In those moments when I’ve doubted myself, wondered what I was thinking, or even considered quitting, his voice has been there speaking words of motivation, reminding me of the why behind what I do: to inspire and impact people. He’s prodded me out of my comfort zone so many times. He takes care of the kids so I can write. He runs our household when I’m out of town on business trips. He serves as a sounding board when I have difficult situations come up.   He takes care of all the legal and financial aspects of the business. He’s always reading through contracts for me, helping my team with legal questions that come up, working with our accountant to make sure all the books and payroll are taken care of (spreadsheets give me hives!), and working with me to dream for the future and make sure we stay accountable to our business goals.

Branching Out: Evolving the Blog

You now employ 13 people – what’s the most difficult thing about being a boss rather than a sole blogger? What is the best thing?

I never would have envisioned that I’d someday be running a business with multiple people working for me, not just a blog that I write on! It’s been quite the adventure and I’m so very grateful for the wonderful folks who are on this road with me!   The hardest thing about managing a team has been trusting my gut and actually being the one to be leading the team. I’ve grown a lot as a person through running a business and have been blessed to have some really wise people mentoring me along the way.

One of the pieces of advice I’ve received was that I need to be the one who sets the course. I need to decide the direction we’re going and then encourage and inspire my team to help me be successful in heading in that direction. My tendency would be to be all, “Whatever you think is best.” Or to just not communicate a clear-cut vision for where we’re headed. I’m learning and growing in this… but I’m still very much a work in progress!

The best thing about having a team working with me is that it’s not only a lot more fun to be in this with such brilliant and wonderful people, but we get so much more done because my team members are much, much more talented in so many areas than me. Plus, my team is committed to helping me only do what I do best and to take all the other projects, details, and work off my shoulders. It’s a humbling thing to have such fantastic people working together with me to further the mission I have for MoneySavingMom.com. Often, when we’re working on a big project and brainstorming about it, I’ll step back and just look at the amazing brilliance represented in the room and think to myself, “I cannot believe that I have the honor of working with these incredible people!”

Related: You can read more of Crystal’s story in her post: This Crazy Journey I’ve Been on the Last 10 Years (and Yes, You can Make Money Blogging!). 

So what do you think? Are there strategies Crystal used that you can now take into your own blogging experience? I know personally I got a lot from her forward-thinking and intentional decisions to create a successful site. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net, and the gal behind Veggie Mama. A writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd, she can be found making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.

Six Secrets to Six-Figure Product Launches with Jeff Goins

goins11NOTE: We are running a free webinar with Jeff over at ProBlogger.com in two days (November 19), where he will talk about the Four Keys to Building a Powerful Audience Online. Normally the full webinars are only available to paid members of the site, but there will be a few big names in the next few months sharing their knowledge in our free sessions. You will need to create a free account.

Please head to the webinar page, and and click “Sign up here” to register for a free account and to register for the webinar. You will receive an email confirming your registration, and another reminder email as the webinar approaches.

Please note that our last public webinar was very popular and we can only take 1000 on the live call. We do record them though and send all who register a link to the recording.

Without further ado, here’s Jeff to explain how to totally nail any product launch with his six secrets. Thanks, Jeff

Six secrets to Six-Figure Product Launches with Jeff Goins

A few years ago, when I was just getting started with trying to monetize my blog, I met a successful online entrepreneur. When I asked her how I could start making money off my blog, she asked how big my email list was. I told her, and she said that was a six-figure business.

I laughed and explained to her that it was more like a three-figure business. I had run a couple of ads that had made me a total of about $400 in the past six months. I did not have a business.

“No,” she said. “You’ve got at least six figures there. You just need to leverage your influence and get your audience to buy from you.”

It turns out she was right. In fact, that advice didn’t just help me build a six-figure business in a year. It taught me how to start doing $100,000 product launches — not only for my own business but for other people’s businesses, as well.

I stumbled on to some secrets, thanks to the advice of that online entrepreneur and a handful of other mentors over the years, and I want to share them with you.

Secret #1: You Have to Want It

Okay, so I want to acknowledge the elephant in the room. I know this might sound out of reach to you. Pie in the sky sort of stuff. And I totally get that.

I remember reading Darren Rowse talk about his first year of blogging and how he “only made $30,000.” When I read that, I was working a job that was paying me a salary of that same amount, and making 30K online sounded like a dream.

So trust me when I tell you that nobody is more surprised to hear me talk about things like “six-figure product launches” than me.

But after doing this for a couple years now, I’ve realized an important truth about business: more income means more impact. Or as Walt Disney once said, “We don’t make movies to make money. We make money to make more movies.”

If you are like I was and tend to think of business and income-generating strategies as greedy or “evil,” I want you to reconsider your stance.

First, consider the income. What would $100,000 mean to you and your loved ones? Could it be a means to more freedom or a chance to travel the world or see your kids go to college? Maybe it would be a way for you give to all the charities and nonprofits you’d love to contribute to.

Then, consider the impact. If you sell a $100 product, $100,000 in revenue means you’ve just made an impact on 1000 people’s lives. I don’t know about you, but personally impacting 1000 people sounds like a lot of work. But a scalable product, especially an information product, allows you to do that.

It might sound hypey to talk about $100,000 launches, but I promise you: what I’m about to share with you is a series of practical principles I’ve seen proven over and over again. And they’ve allowed my friends and clients to not only live their dreams but to help a lot of people in the process.

The same could be true for you, but you’ve got to reconcile your relationship with revenue and get focused on the goal. This isn’t about just making more money. It’s about making a difference.

So let’s look now at what it takes to pull off a six-figure launch.

Secret #2: Having a Great Product Is Not Enough (But It’s a Start)

We can’t overlook this step as it is so important to creating a brand with integrity and building a loyal customer base. You’ve got to create what Michael Hyatt calls “wow” products and experiences.

Why? Because frankly, your customers deserve the best work you can possibly do. And because this is the kind of work that people talk about.

Apple is one of the the biggest brands and most successful companies in the world not because of their marketing (they spend a fraction of what their competitors do on advertising), but because of the experiences users have with their products. If ask a Mac fanatic why they love all their iGear, they will tell you, “It just works.”

That’s what wow looks like.

But having a great product is not enough. In fact, it is the basic requirement to even enter the market. Once you have something you are proud of, something the world needs, you have only just begun.

Secret #3: It’s Not About Having a Big List

A lot of people mistakenly believe having a big email list is necessary to monetizing your audience. They think they need something like 20,000 subscribers just to make a living.

Try telling that to Carol Tice, who launched her quarter of a million dollar business with only 1000 subscribers. Or Tim Grahl who has already started replacing his income running a successful book marketing company with digital products that he launches to his list of less than 10,000 people.

It doesn’t take a big list. It takes a willingness to sell.

My friend Stu McLaren, cofounder of Wishlist Member and Rhino Support, once told me that if you want to make more money, do one of the following:

  1. Increase your market size. If you have a smaller email list (less than 10,000 people), then you will want to either: a) rapidly grow the list, or b) partner with affiliates who can help you reach more people now (as opposed to spending the months or years it would take to organically grow your own audience. Firepole Marketing founder Danny Iny told me, “The key to the big launches is the groundwork that goes into building the relationships that make it happen.”
  2. Increase your price. This is often the easiest tweak to make and frankly the most common error I see bloggers and online entrepreneurs make. We are notoriously bad at valuing our own services and offerings and therefore tend to price ourselves lower than we should. The market will always sustain more than you think it can. Remember that, and when in doubt, raise the price. You’re worth more than you realize.
  3. Increase your sales frequency. Another problem people face is being unwilling to sell too hard. They don’t want to appear pushy or salesy, and end up unintentionally sabotaging their business. Look. You don’t have to be pushy or slimy or do anything unethical to sell. Selling is serving; it’s helping your audience connect with an offering that will truly help them (remember: you’re starting with a great product). So when it’s time to sell, sell hard. Make a case for why this is the very best thing out there, and let people know. And when you aren’t sure what to do, send another email.

A big email list is great, but having a lot of subscribers in and of itself won’t guarantee you a ton of sales. You need to understand the finer points of business: how to identify what a market wants, what they’re willing to pay, and how to get them to buy.

Which is what we’re going to cover in the next section.

Secret #4: Sell Like You Mean It

When you’re doing all of the above and people still aren’t buying, then you don’t have a strategy problem. You have a selling problem.

If you’re doing all the right things, and people still aren’t buying, it’s probably how you’re selling. You’re probably missing three important triggers, which author and entrepreneur Carrie Wilkerson talks about:

  • Scarcity.
  • Urgency.
  • Awareness.

If people aren’t buying, it’s often because they feel like they can buy at any time, or that there will always be enough, or they simply aren’t aware something is for sale.

So when you feel stuck, try the following:

  1. Only sell a certain number of units per launch. This feels scary, because you could be limiting your potential revenue, but really what you’re doing is creating a sense of exclusivity (which equals value in the customer’s mind). Warning: if you use this strategy, don’t create false scarcity. If you say you are only going to sell 200 seats to your online workshop, then close registration when you meet your quota. Otherwise, people will find you out for the snake oil sales person you are.
  2. Offer a time-sensitive deal. (i.e. “Save $100 when you buy this week!” of “Don’t miss these three bonuses — buy today!”).
  3. Talk about your launch — a lot. Send more than one email (best practice is to do one on launch day and two on the final day).

Secret #5: Give People Options

When Chris Guillebeau gave Nathan Barry (who incidentally doesn’t have a huge list and is killing it with online product launches) a simple piece of advice, it literally made him hundreds of thousands of dollars.

What was this simple piece of advice?

“Selling in multiple packages has worked really well for me.”

He said it in typical Guillebeau, off-handed humility. But in that statement was a ton of value that made Nathan more money than any other piece of advice he’s ever received.

Nathan estimates that having multiple price points for each product has allowed him to make two to three times as much money as he would have made, launching at just one price point.

Putting It All Together

The other day I was chatting with a friend who recently started an online business. He was telling me all about his next project, which was another online course he hoped to create, launch, and sell by the end of the year.

“Dude,” I said. “What are you doing?! How much money have you made off your course so far?” He admitted it wasn’t much. He thought, as many do, that the solution was to create the next thing. But he was wrong.

I then proceeded to walk my friend through the process I’ve shared with you, encouraging him to keep selling what he had already built. He planned his next launch and it ended up being bigger than any other launch he’s ever had.

He was made a believer. And I hope you are, too. The secret to a successful product launch isn’t just about the product. That’s a given. But good products, as Guy Kawasaki once told me, don’t sell themselves. You’ve got to launch them well.

When I was struggling to monetize my blog and figure out how to make a living off my email list, I decided to start listening to what all these smart people were telling me:

  • I reached out to people who could help my reach more people. Some became affiliates while others just helped spread the word.
  • I raised my prices, basically every time I did a new launch.
  • I leaned in and boldly promoted a product I was proud of.

And it all worked like a charm. Each launch, more people bought than the last time, and I made more money. But it wasn’t just the income (sure, it was nice to be making 10 times what I was making at my day job), but the satisfaction of knowing I was helping thousands of people was amazing.

It’s about the impact.

Taking the Next Step

So what does this look like for you? Here’s a recap of all of the above:

  1. Decide you want this.
  2. Commit to a plan and set a launch date.
  3. Build something awesome that you are proud to promote.
  4. Connect with people who will help extend your reach.
  5. Launch with scarcity, urgency, and awareness in mind, all the while building trust and delivering value along the way.

And watch the magic happen.

For more secrets to successful product launches, check out this page I put together just for Problogger readers.

Jeff Goins is an author, blogger, and entrepreneur who lives in Nashville. He loves helping writers and bloggers get the attention their messages deserve. Tweet at him @JeffGoins and get a free product launch resource here.

How to Master Visual Customer Service in the Social Age

This is a guest contribution from Jennifer Landry.

There’s a reason why the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” is still used today: 90 percent of information your brain absorbs is visual and you tend to retain 80 percent of what you see, versus the 20 percent of what you read. Marketers have already jumped on the visual content bandwagon, but ads and content aren’t the only places where you can take advantage of visuals. Forward thinking organizations have also incorporated visuals and social media with customer service.

Visual customer service might be difficult to envision, but there are plenty of ways you can incorporate it into your own strategy. Take a look at your current customer service process and see how you can improve upon it. Do your customers have a lot of questions on how to use a product or put it together? Create a video tutorial. Not only does this improve customer engagement, it can save you a lot of time answering questions. If you think outside-the-box, you can better understand how to deliver a customer service experience that engages and helps your customers. You should also research what your competitors are doing and see what will work for you and what won’t.

The infographic below provides examples of how brands are engaging customers through visual customer service and seven tips on how you can do the same.

VisualCustomerService

Jennifer Landry is a writer/journalist living in Malibu, California. 

Analytics for Content Marketers and Bloggers: What Do You Need to Track?

This is a guest contribution from Rizvan Ullah of Ranktactics.

The term “content marketing” refers to strategic marketing techniques where you create valuable and relevant content to attract a clearly defined audience. You’ll use this content to market a product and/or service in an attempt to generate profit through your blog or business. Since Google has changed the way they rank content, often giving higher rankings to that content which provides value, you can use this technique to dominate online. For example, imagine writing content on “link building” and mentioning a few products which streamlines your entire process. With an in-depth post, you can rank high enough and generate enormous commission through referrals. However, there’s a growing problem…

Many people are moving away from older marketing techniques because they are expensive, highly regulated (PPC) and provide little results, it’s becoming more important that you utilize content marketing more effectively. It’s no longer as simple as putting together 1500+ words hoping to generate sales because many bloggers are failing to analyze the long-term benefits. There’s NO point in writing 20 blog posts and none of them generating the desired results you want. It’s important to have the right tools in place and know what to look for so going forward your time equals money (T=M).

If your business relies on content to generate profit, then it’s important to analyze the right metrics and tweak them until you’ve achieved the desired results.

Let’s look at the five most important content marketing metrics to keep an eye on and how they can help double your conversions.

Desired Results

Before starting any type of campaign you need to determine what your trying to achieve. You need a “target” to compare your overall results making it easier for you to analyze how effective your campaign actually is. Through content marketing, you have many different types of desired results like profit, traffic, social media buzz, subscribers or even advertising conversions.

Once you determine what your trying to achieve, you can move into the next step which is production.

Before you continue, ask yourself this question…Through content marketing, am I trying to

  • Generate income through a product or service?
  • Increase traffic to my blog and/or website?
  • Increase user engagement (clicks, decrease bounce rate or forum interaction)?
  • Increase social buzz through shares and/or likes?
  • Double or triple email subscribers?
  • Generate income through advertising published within the content itself (banner ad, contextual, etc)?

Answering these questions will allow you to create a clear cut plan going forward. You can even tweak your content marketing to compliment your desired results. Once you determine your objective, it’s time to move to the next metric.  

Production

In order for you to generate a report, you need a trial group, in this case, a wide range of content to analyse. Without having a blog with content published you won’t be able to determine what’s working and/or what’s not. That’s why the “production” metric is so important because when you analyze the results, you’ll be able to see where most of the organic traffic is flowing or user engagement is occurring. The question is…

How much content do we need?

It’s no secret that Google loves a website which produces “high quality” content, and fresh content is great for brand awareness. However, if you’re not achieving the desired results then both high quality content and brand awareness doesn’t really matter. With that said, it’s important that you have enough content on your blog to provide results. For example, you need to ensure that you get a clear cut reading into what content, landing page, queries have been producing significant results. There are many FREE tools which will provide EXACTLY what you are looking for.

Google Analytics has been my tool of choice to analyze my data daily. It provides me with the information I need to tweak my content and landing pages. It’s a good idea to connect your Google Webmaster Tools with your Analytics so that you can get the entire reading under one platform. In the next step, you’ll learn how to correctly explore user engagement on your blog to pull out the information you need.

User Engagement

One of the best ways to analyze data is to view user engagement and how it’s increased or decrease over the weeks. These days you have many options available which will allow a reader to engage directly with your content. For example, you have: social shares, blog commenting, click through, bounce rate and even opt-ins. When you see an increase in engagement, it’s a great indication that your content resonates with your readers. The higher the engagement, the higher the chances you’ll achieve your desired results.

Once you find content which has high user engagement, you can tweak it to optimize conversions. For example, if I know that my “create a website from scratch” post has enormous shares and comments, I’ll strategically try different things to see what works well and if it achieves my desired results. If I want to increase email subscribers through content marketing, I’ll try placing opt-ins boxes in different places until I achieve optimal conversion.

Here are FREE user engagement insight tools to keep an eye on:

Facebook: When you publish content, look for the amount of Facebook “Likes” your content is receiving. If you notice that some content has much higher likes than others, then you can devote more effort into tweaking that content to increase your conversions. An indication of “Likes” will also provide you with a good idea of content which resonates with your readers.

Twitter: Add a “Tweet” button and analyze what content got shared on Twitter. Just like Facebook, the content shared several times is a good indication of where you should be focusing your attention. In the next section, you’ll learn how to make full use of engaging content.

Blog Commenting: I’ve been a big fan of blog comment because it increases interaction and provides content ideas. For example, many times people would often drop a question within the comment box which I can answer in-depth next time I publish content. Either way, analyzing the commenting between content on your blog will provide insight into what content works well with your audience.

Topsy: This is an awesome tool that many people don’t utilize to the full potential. It’s a great indication of the type of content which resonates with readers online.  Type in a keyword and Topsy.com will provide a breakdown of content which have the highest social shares, etc. How can you use this information?

If you plan on marketing a specific product or service, use Topsy.com to find what topic creates a massive buzz. Visit the 1st website on the list and create something better. You already know the content creates buzz so tweaking it into something more in-depth will work well for you.

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 12.27.33 pm

Bitly.com

A great way for you to track click-through rate and/or conversions is through Bitly.com. Bitly.com is a FREE URL shortener which you can embed into your contents external links. Every time someone clicks on an external link, it will be tracked within the Bitly backend. It’s a great way for you to find out which external links are being clicked and within what content. When you have enough data gathered you’ll be able to determine two very important metrcs:

First, you’ll be able to determine the content marketing strategy working through content creation. Next, what anchor text resonates with your reader, for example “buy now, “read more” or even interlinking structures.

The goal is to figure out where the conversions occur so time and effort can be focused around creating similar content with identical links.

Traffic

This metric still remains the most important of all providing you with information crucial to your content marketing strategy. For example, if you have traffic, your marketing strategy is working however if you don’t, you definitely need to do some damage control. The traditional traffic metrics include: organic, direct and referral. The good news is finding out this information is NOT difficult since all you need is a Google Analytics account.

Simply, log into Google Analytics, then click on Acquisition>All Traffic

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 12.28.14 pm

You have several metrics you can view under this dropdown which will provide you valuable information. It’s important to connect your GWT account to your GA so you get a breakdown of the queries & landing pages. Let’s see how you can use some of this information…

Organic Traffic: Acquisition through search queries and is FREE traffic. This means that content and corresponding keywords are ranking within the SERP’s. Depending on content marketing strategy an awesome way to build readership and/or get conversions.

Direct Traffic: A good indication of people who are loyal readers and know your URL. They regularly visit which means an awesome source providing user engagement via social shares, comments, etc

Referral: Many people don’t understand the power of referral traffic. This means that other platforms are sending traffic to your blog. For example, through social media, other blogs, social bookmarking, etc. The more referral traffic, the higher the user engagement however this can also mean that people are linking directly to your content which can build readership and your link profile.

When you connect your GWT to your GA, you can click on Search Engine Optimization under Acquisition and get a clear breakdown of the queries, landing pages and geographical structure. Now what?

Simple, I would analyze the highest performing pages, etc and optimize those with banner ads, email opt-in forms or even affiliate links to increase conversions.

Effect

All the metrics discussed are very important as they are solid indicators of a successful content marketing campaign, For example, “production” indicates how hard we are working while “user engagement” is a good indication of quality. “Traffic” can provide valuable information because it can shows progress overtime and what content should be the focus going forward. However, when analyzing the “effect” your content has had on your readership, nothing beats actual conversions. This is why it’s important to keep checking your statistics in affiliate networks, email platform or advertising network.

Content marketing is about achieving what we discussed in factor number #1 which is “desired results”. Personally, the effect of your content marketing is an easy metric to follow since the results depend on production, engagement and traffic. All that’s needed to track results is to log into your different platforms tracking sales, clicks, subscribers or anything else.

Wrapping Things Up…

Going forward, you’ll be surprised how important content marketing will be online. So far, over the past several months, we’ve seen Google implement changes to their algorithm focused on eliminating poor content pages. Let’s think for a minute…

If Google will be promoting high quality content especially which provides a complete resource to readers, it’s a great way to start marketing your products, services, etc. Obviously the focus should be on providing users with the best experience through your content however it’s a door which has just been opened to your marketing efforts. The only roadblock within content marketing is NOT finding out what works compared to what does. This is why having unique analytical tools in place is so essential. Start by using these metrics above and if you have more of a budget then others, you can purchase tools which will provide more in-depth analytics.

 

Rizvan Ullah is the founder of Ranktactics, which provides internet marketers with tutorials on traffic generation, social media marketing, product reviews and case studies. Learn how to create a profitable blog step-by-step from the ground up. Get started by reading his expert roundup post on effective link building techniques. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.