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Case Study: An Experiment with Short Form Content

Two days ago I wrote about the power of longer-form content on a blog, and gave a few examples of some posts that I’ve published this year that have been between 4000-7500 words that have done really well.

Today I’d like to talk about an experiment that I’ve been doing in the last week on Digital Photography School with short-form content.

The experiment started as an accident (as many of my better ideas do). I was surfing through some of my favourite Flickr photographers when I came across an image that grabbed my attention.

The image was of a portrait of little girl and it grabbed my attention partly because it was a beautiful shot, but also partly because it perfectly illustrated a post that I’d published on dPS recently on how sometimes NOT waiting for your subject to smile is the best time to photograph them.

The image was a creative commons licensed photo, and I toyed with the idea of adding the photo to the original post as an update – but as I pondered it, I wondered if maybe it was an opportunity to do something a little different.

On the spur of the moment I decided to set up a ‘page’ in the back end of WordPress to showcase the image. I added a link to the previously published article and then added a few more links to other portrait photography tips below the image.

Also because the content related to one of our eBooks, I put an ad for one of our eBooks in under the links too.

I also added a Facebook ‘like’ button to the page, and added a Pinterest ‘hover’ button to the image in the hope people might share it.

Here’s how the page looked:

Screen Shot 2013 12 19 at 2 53 04 pm

Why I Published it as a Page rather than a Post

You’ll notice that I mention above that I published this image not as a blog post but as a ‘page’ in WordPress.

I did this for a couple of reasons:

Firstly we had already published three posts for the day on the blog and I didn’t want to overwhelm my readers with too much content on the same day.

Secondly this was an experiment – a new type of post that I’ve not done before that was a simple image with a few links. I wanted to test it before rolling this type of post out onto the blog.

How the Content Was Received

I shared the post with our Facebook audience and tweeted the link to it to. As you can see in the screenshot – the post was fairly quickly ‘liked’ on Facebook over 400 times.

The post was liked on the Facebook share a further 300 or so times and was ‘shared’ there a further 36 times.

Traffic to the page was decent. The day I published it on our Facebook page, it received around 4000 visitors. Yesterday it had 250 more. Tonight it will be linked to in our weekly newsletter which should drive some decent traffic to it.

The above stats are pretty spot on average for a typical post on dPS – but what I did notice that was interesting about this piece was that visitors to it went on to view more pages on the site than a typical post.

Hence – the bounce rate on this post was pretty good. A typical post on dPS has a bounce rate of around 70% – but this particle piece of content had a bounce rate of 57%.

The shortness of the post and the fact that it was simply an image, a couple of sentences and some links for further reading meant a lot of people clicked those links and went on to read another 1, 2 or 3 posts on the site.

What I’d inadvertently done with this piece of content was to create a mini-sneeze page (a type of page that propels people deeper into the blog).

I found this fascinating and decided to keep experimenting with this type of post.

Evolving the Experiment

One of the things I immediately wanted to play around with was to change how the post looked.

You can see in the screenshot above that the image itself could only be shown at a relatively narrow size. The content area of our page template on dPS allows for a 600-pixel-wide image.

While this is big enough to illustrate an idea or show a picture in reasonable detail, it lacks punch. I also noticed that the content looks very short against the long sidebar that we had showing on that initial post.

Our sidebar was set up to show subscription options, a poll, ads, recent posts, etc, and while all this looked good on a typical post on the site – on this short piece of content it was two and a half times longer than the content!

Even as the post was going live on Facebook, I had already begun to talk to our developers to give them instruction on how I’d like to see a new ‘page template’ developed.

I wanted the sidebar removed and also wanted to add built in sharing buttons to replace the little Facebook button that I’d manually added.

Here’s the rough Skitch screenshot that I sent them:

Don t smile

You can see from this that I was already thinking about other possibilities for this type of content. Not only could I use these types of posts to showcase further reading and promote eBooks, but potentially they could be used as pages to get new subscribers to the blog.

While our developer got to work, I began to hunt for a few more ways to use this concept to see if we could test it further.

I rolled out my next test piece with a similar format of post – a great image that underneath had a strong call to read a single related post. Here’s how it looked:

Screen Shot 2013 12 19 at 3 00 22 pm

This one went up a notch in terms of reader response.

Facebook likes were quickly up over 1000 on the button on the page, the Facebook status update generated over 800 additional likes, 74 shares, and some great comments (including readers submitting their own images), and the page was visited by over 5500 people in the first 24 hours.

While the post only had one link in it to further reading, the bounce rate was down even further to under 50%.

It was around this point that my developers got the page template updated to remove the sidebars and add social sharing buttons.

The result of doing so was visually fantastic. Here are the two pages as they look now:

Screen Shot 2013 12 19 at 3 06 04 pm

Screen Shot 2013 12 19 at 3 05 43 pm

You can see them here and here.

The only pity in the change was that we lost the social sharing numbers that has already been counted with the old Facebook button – but in the scheme of things this was a small price to pay.

Since implementing these changes I’ve created three more of these pages:

It is too early to do proper analysis on these posts as tonight we send our weekly newsletter which drives a lot of traffic, but the initial results are promising and in the next couple of days I have a couple more experiments to try using this new approach.

To this point, my initial learnings are that this type of content is great for:

  • increasing page views per visit
  • showcasing older posts in your archives while still adding new content so that people who’ve seen the old stuff are not just being hit with the same old posts
  • creating shareable content (readers seem to be sharing these posts at pretty high rates)

I’ll update you on my next experiments with this type of content in the weeks ahead. To get updated when I do make sure you’re subscribed to our newsletter below:

Long Form Content vs Series of Blog Posts

long-form-contentLast week I was involved in a number of conversations with readers about blog post length and whether it was better to write long posts or short ones.

My short answer to the question was to write ‘useful’ posts, and to use as many words as were necessary to do so.

Having said that, I have been experimenting over the last few months with the two extremes of short and long posts.

If you’ve been paying attention here on ProBlogger this year, you’ll have seen some of what our team have called ‘mega posts’.

For example here on ProBlogger we’ve published:

Over on dPS we also experimented with longer posts including on a post titled The Ultimate Guide to Learning How to Use Your First DSLR (4202 words).

These posts have all performed well above average compared with other posts on my sites over the last 12 months (in fact they feature pretty heavily in the most-read new posts on my blogs in 2013).

What About Series of Posts?

When I recounted the above examples in conversation this week the question that came each time was whether the same content could have been delivered as series of posts.

Wouldn’t it make sense to break a 7000-word post down into 10 700-word posts?

The answer, of course, is that a series of posts is definitely an option.

I’ve certainly created my fair share of series over the years, and will continue to do so, but I also think there is a place for longer-form content. In fact, I think good long-form content has some distinct advantages over series of posts.

For me, I think the main advantage of long form content is that its just more useful and convenient for readers to get it all in one go.

A series of blog posts is great for page views and helping you to fill a week’s editorial calendar, however if you put yourself in a reader’s shoes, it can also be a little (or a lot) painful.

Readers following the blog have to wait for new posts to be published before getting the full information in the series.

Readers who come across the series later have to follow links between posts to get each installment.

Neither of these problems are enough to stop me writing a series of posts, however, there are a couple of good reasons why I think long-form content is attractive to readers.

The other thing I’ve noticed about good quality and useful long-form content is that it gets shared – a lot.

While I’ve had great search traffic to each of the above posts this year, they have each been shared at a higher rate than the average post on my blogs in the same timeframe.

While I do find my series of posts can get shared around too, I’ve never seen a series that I’ve written shared as much as some of the long-form content I’ve created (the only exception might have been when I first ran 31 Days to Build a Better Blog as a series many years ago).

Choose the Best Length for the Topic At Hand

Let me finish by saying that I am not suggesting creating longer-form content just for the sake of publishing longer-form content.

The key is to choose the appropriate length and style of posts for the topic you’re covering.

Long form, short form, series of posts or other formats can all work.

Have you tried longer-form content?

I’ve love to hear about your experience of longer-form content. Have you tried it? How was it received?

Please share a link in comments below – I’d love to see your longer posts.

10 Ways to Switch Your Brain to Writing Mode When Working From Home

Immigration, Assimilation and the American Dream
This post is from ProBlogger Team member Stacey Roberts

Finding it hard to make time to blog? Me too. In fact, that’s one of the biggest issues people tell me they have when trying to write. Often we’re blogging from home alongside other work and family commitments, and it can be hard to switch between them when we need to. If you’ve only got 90 minutes in which to write that day, all the good intentions in the world don’t necessarily mean you can use every single one of those 90 minutes to their capacity, churning out a brilliantly-crafted blog post and three witty tweets to wow your readers.

I write from home with two toddlers, and juggle my own blog in addition to freelance writing and my  work here at ProBlogger. When I sit down to the computer after a morning of LEGO fights and snack time, I’m not always inspired and motivated to be productive. I have to make myself use my time to its potential, which is a heady mix of prior organisation and brute force. I’ve come up with a couple of ways to get my head in the game, when the game could be called off at any minute.

1. Create a ritual

There’s nothing better than a physical distinction between one task and the next. For me, it is to make a cup of tea, which is leftover from my days as a journalist, and tells my head it’s writing time. You could make a cup of coffee, fill your water bottle, or put on the same playlist every day. Whatever helps your brain train get on a new track.

2. Walk around the block

If you work at home, it can be tempting to work from the couch in your pajamas. And while that’s definitely one of the perks of the business, it doesn’t really help your productivity. Get dressed, walk around the block and pretend you’re walking to “work”. Grab a cup of coffee on the way into your office, sit down and start your day.

3. Move to a new location

Sometimes a change of environment is just the kickstart you need to find your writing groove. Not feeling it at your desk? Get outside, sit at the kitchen table, go to a cafe – wipe the slate clean and start again. Don’t be afraid to move to find your groove!

4. Be prepared

Nothing blanks me out more than sitting down to an empty white screen. Where does one start? What if you can’t come up with a good headline, and then you can’t figure out what’s the most important thing to cover? Before you know it you’ve spent half an hour idling with nothing to show for it. I find I work best when I’ve taken a few minutes prior (even days prior) to roughly sketch out what I need to cover in my post. Then by the time I sit down, I’ve got anything from a couple of words to go on, to a whole skeleton outline I just need to flesh out. This helps enormously, as even when you type the first sentence, you can get into the flow.

5. Work solo

We like to think that we are multi-tasking ninjas, but research has shown you really don’t get as much done as you think. So in order to train your brain to work to its potential, you have to be tough and shut down any distractions. If this is hard, then tell yourself you can sneak a peek every 15 minutes, but you need to get stuff done in that time. So much of writing is self-discipline, and when you don’t have time to waste it’s even worse when you waste it.

6. Spend two minutes digging around in your brain

When you sit down to write, just take a few minutes to think about the tasks ahead. Don’t write anything down, don’t look at anything, just fill your mind with what you need to accomplish. This will help you stop thinking about distractions and get your mind in the groove of what lies ahead. It’s a great way of getting some demarcation between what you’ve been doing, and what you need to do, and also works as a bit of a brainstorm for today’s tasks.

7. Spend another two minutes sketching out ideas

Now spend a few minutes jotting down those thoughts. I often find it’s a mix of items for my to-do list, post ideas, something to share with my readers on Facebook, and points I want to cover in my posts. This also means I’m motivated and inspired to get to work on these items, and also ensures I’m not sitting down to the dreaded blinking cursor without anything to kickstart my creativity.

8. Don’t start from scratch

One of the best things I learned about writing novels is to stop when you’re inspired. It sounds counter-productive, but if you stop once your wave is over, you’re at a bit of a loss where to start when you pick it back up. This can mean you waste valuable time trying to come up with what to write about next. Picking up where you left off when you were in the groove means you can start with all cylinders firing, which does wonders for your productivity. There’s nothing better than starting off with a good chunk of work under your belt, it lessens the guilt you feel when you fritter your time reading eight Buzzfeed articles instead of getting stuck in. Or that might just be me.

9. Do the worst thing first

I know I’m tempted to leave the hardest thing for last as I “warm up” with easier tasks, but I also then find I’m still dreading the job while I’m doing other things. And often my time gets cut short and I’ve got to find another time to get it done. I find I work best if I sit down and get the big job out of the way first, almost like ripping off a Band-Aid. Everything you do after that is gravy.

10. Use recent notes

If you’re anything like me, you will look at some notes you wrote three days ago and they make little sense. “Mirfin? what’s a mirfin? It looked important, too…”. So while it’s useful to jot down notes when inspiration strikes, it’s even more useful if those are recent notes and you can still recall what you need to do and when. I often email myself notes, or use the notes function on my phone and laptop. Sometimes I even go beta and use pencil and paper, hence the mirfin. But the shorter the timeframe, the better for you.

I’d love to hear what helps you get your head on track when working from home. Any tips you’d like to share?

Stacey Roberts is the content ninja at ProBlogger.net, and the blogger behind Veggie Mama. 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.

The ONE thing your written content needs. (And it’s not what you think!)

This is a guest contribution from karen gunton is a blogger, teacher, and visual marketing specialist.

Bloggers hear a lot of advice about content marketing, email marketing, and social media marketing, but you may have noticed something new pop into the online landscape lately – visual marketing.

So yes, even though you are a blogger and your job is to create written content, I am here to tell you that you need some visual content too.

Visual marketing is simply using images to communicate a message about your blog or your business. The images you use can come in a number of formats (jpeg, video, PDF, slide, print etc.) and can contain a wide variety of content (text, photographs, diagrams, icons etc.) so the definition of visual marketing is actually a lot wider that in seems. You can create visual content that suits you, your blog, and your audience… the key is to get visual.

Here’s why:

social-media-update-frequency.png

1. Social is visual.

If you are using social media platforms to engage with your audience and market your blog then you need visual content.

Social media is visual: brands that share visual content on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ get more engagement than brands that do not; and visual platforms like Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram drive traffic back to blogs.

2. People are visual.

Visual content catches people attention: it often resonates in a way that words alone do not, and it is generally more memorable. The saying “A picture is worth one thousand words” came to be popular for a reason! People are visual, so it makes sense to incorporate visual content along with your written content as a way to engage with your audience.

3. Visual stands out.stand-out-from-crowd-blog.png

We are bloggers. Words come easy to us! But I am sure we all experience a similar problem in our respective niches: there are a number of bloggers blogging about the same topics we blog about. Visual marketing is your chance to stand out, particularly if it is not popular yet in your niche. And visual content is a great way to share your message in some new and engaging ways.

So how do you get started?

Number 1 imageStep one is to realise that any type of blog, in any niche can use visual content. You do not need to have “product photos” in order to do visual marketing. Think outside the box to come up with ideas for visual content that suits your blog, your brand, and your niche: before and after photos, behind the scenes photos, sketches, maps, flow charts, diagrams, humorous memes, inspirational quotes … there are many ways to get visual!

Number 2 imageStep two is to go beyond the typical blog “stock photo” and use blog images that double as social media images. Creating an image with your blog headline, a quote from your blog text, or a helpful tip from your blog content will give you something to post to Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, even your email… any place where your audience is hanging out!

When you post your image to social media, include the link back to your blog and a call to action to click for more. If your images resonate with your audience they will do they sharing for you – that’s why I call these types of images “shareables”!

Number 3 imageStep three is to look at content that you already have and think about how you can make it visual. Repurposing existing, popular content is a great way to engage with your audience in new ways, plus it doesn’t have to take a lot of extra time.

Consider creating a slide show and sharing it on Slideshare, adding your voice to the slide show and uploading it to YouTube, turning your content into a printable PDF guide or checklist, or creating an infographic.

Think back to when you were in school and you realised that kids learn in different ways – adults are the same. Sharing your written content in new ways will help you engage with your audience. Not to mention that these different formats give you the opportunity to share content on new platforms, and include your own visual branding to build brand recognition.

It is win-win-win.

I know that one of the big things that holds many bloggers back from creating visual content is the whole “But I am not very creative!” thing. We are into writing, and that sometimes means we aren’t as comfortable with images.

But I bet that there was a time when you didn’t feel like a writer either! You have probably heard the advice that the best way to learn how to write is to start writing. It is the same for visual content. The more you play with creating images the more comfortable you will feel with it, and the more you will learn what resonates with your audience.

And with so many amazing free tools and tutorials online, this is indeed something anyone can learn. To get started, try picmonkey. It is my favourite online tool: it’s free, it is very user friendly, and it is a fun way to create social media shareables that will help you promote your blog posts.

Go on, give it a try… give your audience something they can pin, share, tweet, and print – they are waiting for it!

karen gunton is a blogger, teacher, and visual marketing specialist. she is passionate about helping micro business owners SHINE online. take her FREE visual marketing class to learn how to create your own branded shareable images for social media – no photography or design skills necessary!

One Activity You Should Do On Your Blog Every Day

Every DayWhat’s the one thing that you should do on your blog every day (or at least regularly)?

“Create new content!”

Good answer! Without regular new content your blog isn’t really a blog is it?

Another Great Daily Exercise for Your Blog

But other than creating new content – what else should you be paying attention to every day?

I want to suggest a simple activity that I think can be almost as important as creating new content for your blog.

It’s still content related but it’s about paying some attention to OLD posts.

Lately, I’ve been paying as much attention to my archives as I have to writing new content. And it’s paying off driving more traffic to old posts, finding new readers and importantly, improving the quality of content on the blog as a whole.

Here’s what I do:

1. Select a Post

I choose a post each day that is at least a year old. I usually choose one that is 2-3 years old and one that could do with some attention.

My criteria for selection is that it is a post with one or more of the following criteria:

  • It has performed well in the past, in terms of traffic or comment numbers
  • It has dated and needs updating to make it relevant for today
  • It was a good post but for one reason or another didn’t perform to its potential

I usually am looking for a ‘tutorial’ rather than a ‘news’ or ‘review’ type post – because I find these posts don’t date as fast.

2. Update It

By updating the post I mean numerous things, depending upon the post itself. These might include:

Update Content

This can be anything from a proof read through to a larger ‘rewrite’ of the post (or sections of it). I might add updates to make the post relevant to today or even add images/diagrams etc. Ultimately, it is about improving the content to make it more useful for readers.

Search Engine Optimisation

I don’t spend a heap of time on SEO but as I read back through the post, I will tweak it to better optimise for search engines. I use Yoast’s plugin for this and it helps by suggesting areas the post can be improved (heading, titles, alt tags, meta descriptions etc).

I also add links to other relevant posts on the blog. This is not only good for SEO, it’s good for readers too.

Social Optimisation

Posts published 3 or more years ago were published into a very different internet. Since then we’ve seen people sharing different types of content through new social media sites like Pinterest and G+.

One update I like to make is to make posts more shareable. For example adding a good visual or a collage of images can make a post more shareable on Pinterest. Also adding calls to action to share can be beneficial.

Calls to Action

In the same way that the web has changed over the last 3 years, so too have my own blogging goals and monetisation model. As a result, I take a critical look at old posts and what ‘calls to action‘ I’m giving to readers.

For example, 3 years ago I didn’t have any eBooks to sell, today on dPS we have 14. If a post I’m updating is relevant to one of these eBooks I’ll add a call to action to buy it. Other new calls to action might be to share a post on social media, to subscribe to our newsletter, to read another post, to join our forum etc.

3. Share and/or Republish

With the post updated, I then consider how it might be appropriate to give it some more exposure.

Again – there are a range of options available here including:

Republish

I don’t republish every updated post but 1-2 times per week, I will. I usually choose posts that have a proven track record of being well received and the type of content that has been shared in the past on social.

These posts go up on the blog as new posts simply by changing the publishing date to a recent one (note: on dPS I can do this easily as our link structure does not have dates in it).

Social

I also share every updated post on social media, in some way or another. I will tweet links to it but also add it into our Facebook and Pinterest sharing schedule.

Newsletter

At times I’ll also link to these updated posts in our weekly newsletter. I don’t do this for every post but often will add them with a note saying that they’re a hot post in the archives.

New/Followup Posts

The last thing I occasionally do with updated posts is to write new followup posts. This usually happens when I’m doing an update of an old post and realise that there is now scope to extend the idea considerably with a second part to the series. This new post will link back to the old – driving traffic back into the archives.

The Benefits of Paying Attention to Your Archives

The archives of your blog are in many ways just as important as the new posts on your blog.

On dPS we have over 4000 posts in the archives and it’s on these posts that the majority of our readers land thanks to search engine referrals. Updating those posts, in the way I’ve described above, not only helps their search rankings but makes the posts more useful , which means you’re more likely to see the posts shared by readers and more likely to create a good first impression on the readers who find them.

The result is more traffic, more subscribers and followers and hopefully more revenue as a consequence.

Do you update old posts on your blog? What other ‘updates’ would you add to my list above?

Call-to-Action 101: Why they’re important and how to use them

This is guest contribution from Michael Kuhlmann.

Would you like to increase your readership? How about boosting downloads for your latest white paper or newly-launched digital product?

The secret to success sometimes lies in the obvious.

While you may have placed a sign-up field for your newsletter or added a new product to your e-commerce site, your job as a content marketer doesn’t end there. You need a CTA, a call-to-action!

The easiest way to start is by answering the “why” question. Why should somebody subscribe to your blog? Or, why should I buy this new product? The answer can be anything from “Buy 1, Get 2 Free!” to “Sign up today and never miss another post!”

A sleepy reader without a call to action

Finish the race

When you’re ramping up a marketing campaign through an email, landing page or any other asset, it’s easy to get lost in the offer and messaging. You’ll talk about all the amazing things your customers will want and maybe even include a bulleted list of why your goods and/or services are so awesome. You might even throw in the “time-limited offer” verbiage to incentivise your customers.

After you add your button that reads “click here” somewhere in your content, you might be inclined to call it day. Don’t! You’ll just have wasted a lot of time and effort on what’s, really, your first draft.

Let’s backtrack a little.

Every form of communication with your customer should begin and/or end with a call to action. While it’s easy to point out the importance this carries over your marketing efforts, it’s best explained through an example. Consider the following marketing copy for an email:

Scenario

Unilever announced it will sell a new body spray this December called Squirrel-Off, which is intended to repel food-begging squirrels.

Call to action: Example A

Ward off those pesky squirrels this holiday season with Squirrel-Off!

Call to action: Example B

Keep squirrels away this holiday season with Squirrel-Off, the amazing scented body spray that protects you from those unwanted critters.

Example A sounds abrupt, lacks any type of interaction with the reader and isn’t warm or fuzzy. Example B, on the other hand, is more descriptive and increases the click-through rate (CTR) by linking the bolded call to action in addition to the advertised product.

Split testing your call to action

Split test

To calculate the effectiveness of the marketing copy with and without a call to action, we can refer to what’s called an A/B split-test.

A lot of email service providers (ESPs) have a built-in functionality to measure this, but for the sake of keeping things simple, let’s assume we have a database of 200 contacts. If we also assume that our ESP is fairly basic without a simple or automated A/B split-testing functionality, then we can halve our contacts and send them the marketing copy with the contents from Example A and the other 100 people receive the contents from Example B. The CTR from the latter email should yield higher.

Calculating the effectiveness of CTAs doesn’t hinge solely on the email copy nor on the medium in which you use it, and it doesn’t have to be time-consuming or complicated.

For example, if you’re not too keen on fiddling with Google Analytics and have a fair marketing budget, you can use Optimize.ly or Visual Website Optimizer on your landing pages. You can perform split-tests on your hero shot and call to action buttons, as well.

Does a red pill button outperform a blue pill button? How about button with a chevron or triangle? The possibilities to what you can measure are endless, but the common denominator will always be your content, your call to action.

To hone down on your CTA, you’ll want to answer five questions.

1. Does your first sentence grab your attention enough to continue reading?

An easy way to figure this out is to think of your favourite product or service and substitute it for the actual product or service you’re promoting. If you’re thinking, “Sure, this sentence is still good enough” stop right there and revise it, because your first sentence needs to be excellent!

When it’s excellent, the road is paved for your customers to keep reading your content, which will increase the chances for them to perform an action – starting a trial, getting a discount, downloading a document, etc.

used-car-salesman.jpg

2. Do you have emphatic CTAs sprinkled throughout your content?

If you think your call to actions might be a bit weak and you’re worried about making them sound too “sales-y”, don’t worry. Make them sound “sales-y”.  Obviously, you don’t want every sentence to have a link pointing to your product or service, but your call to action should be noticeable throughout your content.

The worst thing you can do is have a boring call to act

ion that nobody cares enough to click on, which brings up the next question.

3. Have you linked your CTAs?

Sure, you can expect people to read your entire content and scroll down to click on your awesome call to action button, but let’s not be so lazy. Your customers need a bit of hand-holding and that requires you to give them more than one way to click on things. For example, if you’re prompting them to “discover new music”, then make sure to link your CTA to the appropriate page.

4. Are you tracking your CTAs?

Hopefully, the answer is always “Yes”. If you’re shrugging your shoulders, link-tracking simply means you’re counting how many times people have clicked on your linked call to action.

You can use tools like Google URL Builder or Bit.ly or any other tracking method for that matter. You’ll want to get into the habit of continuously measuring your marketing efforts, as that will help you promote your products and/or services more efficiently. It takes a bit more time, but you’ll make much more informed decisions for your next campaign.

5. Are you using a pill-shaped “Click Here” button?

Yes? Shame on you!

That type of marketing belongs next to the blinking text from the late 90s. If you want people to start a trial, your pill-shaped call to action button should read “Start Your Trial” … and, yes, make that title-case, because it stands out more. Don’t be vague! People should be able to look at your CTA button and figure out what happens before they click on it.

Once you’ve tweaked your content, give yourself a pat on the shoulder and a quick breather, because you’ve just scratched the surface on optimising your marketing effort starting from your call to action.

Michael Kuhlmann is a highly-caffeinated content creator at Quote Roller. When he’s not writing stuff, he spends time with his shutterbug wife, teeny toddler and West Highland White Terrier named Beary White who has a Napoleon complex. 

How to Beat Amazon eBook Competition

This is a guest contribution from The Blogger, Greg Narayan.

If you’ve tested your luck in the eBook industry you probably have noticed one thing: the scene is a total mess.

While it takes years to publish a hard cover novel, we can now whip off a PDF eBook in the time it takes to make a PBJ sandwich, then start selling it online.

This presents a real problem to both producers, and consumers as competition rises to the extremes.

Aside: If there ARE good eBooks out there, they are here at ProBlogger.net. I’ve bought a few and even at my current stage in blogging I’ll admit that even the beginner content has taught me a ton!

Back to the whole ebook mess… how do we know which eBooks to buy, which ones will sell, and what topics need coverage?

Well, let’s take a look.

Learning how Amazon works

market an ebook on Amazon

Source: Goodereader.com

This short story  begins with Amazon, who frequently sends me eBook suggestions which I often delete.

But the other morning I decided to give Amazon’s suggestions a shot. Maybe it was my refreshed feeling with the new fall season or the strong cup of coffee that sat in front of me.

Either way, I was ready to learn.

And what I saw in this email proved worth it.

Gregory J. Narayan,

Are you looking for something in our Business & Investing Books department? If so, you might be interested in these items.

Typical introduction…but I kept reading.

Side note 1: If you’re a blogger or anyone bent on learning online marketing, clicking Amazon emails, ads, and even Facebook ads can be really informative. It costs you nothing and you can then take notes on the persuasive copy and landing pages that others have invested money in.

At the top of the list was the new book called “Let Go by Pat Flynn” and below it were books that were also awesome, but just lacked the pop that Pat’s had.

Here are five things I noticed from observing Pat’s book, which to date has already sold thousands of copies and receives ways more reviews than other books in his niche.

Best Practice Tips from Published Amazon eBooks

kindling

Source: Alvaro Gonzalez http://www.alvarogonzalezalorda.com/

These are some tips I sort of “stole” from Pat’s eBook launch.

Tip #1: Create a title that resonates

Make your title brief and powerful with simple words. The idea is not to use fluffy words like “world class, expert, millionaire, unique, or empire” because that’s what everyone else is doing!

These words look great upfront but will only cloud your objectives.

Instead, pick a unique yet simple combination of words that people will remember. Ideally, you want the title to be both memorable and relatable – reflecting the kind of activities a lot of people want to pursue.

Activities? Yep, eBooks are about doing.

⇨ Best practice: Keep the title short and include your name (even though Amazon sometimes discourages this)

Tip #2: Pay for a respectable logo

Pay a starving logo-designer a couple hundred bucks to create something memorable, instead of using some played out image like an open road or top of a mountain. It will make their day and they’ll put good hours into your design which will be reflect for months or even years to come, depending on how your niche evolves.

A good, respectable image can dominate your whole cover (which is a good thing) and create a lasting impression in peoples’ mind. Again, think memorable and relatable.

⇨ Best practice: Think up a story to go along with the image.

Tip #3: Recruit other known authors for social proof

Bring in 2-4 other niche names and you’ll really add value to your end result. I know it’s nice to do everything on your own – I’ve been guilty of trying to write, design, and even code my entire blog – but honestly outsourcing some of the work is a really smart tactic.

Firstly, this shows folks you have a network of like-minded thinkers.

Second, this will instantly multiply the organic marketing base you have (with things like more personal Facebooks and Twitters to share from). Lastly, more authors means more people to critique your own work before you publish to Amazon!

The value of another set of eyes is overwhelmingly high, yet most of us take this for granted.

⇨ Best practice: Don’t email your contributors until you have the ball-rolling, a sales page drafted, an image, etc. Once you do, give folks a concrete assignment and deadlines (people are just too busy otherwise).

Tip #4: Don’t get greedy with your price

Don’t set your eBook to hardcover prices. Unless you’re already established, no one is going to pay your rate of $15-30. Common sense economics tell us it’s more valuable to get more sales even if it means at a lesser price, duh.

But common sense economics also tells us that we often overvalue things we create. This part might be less intuitive. So, maybe ask someone (like ehem, one of your awesome readers?) how much they would pay.

Do a survey or a poll, and tailor your price around the higher end of what people say they would pay.

⇨ Best practice: Research prices of other eBooks already dominating your niche, and price yours competitively. Watch “The Price is Right” for a shrewd strategy or two :)

Tip #5: Jockey for positioning

The order in which we see thing really matters. So if your new eBook does start to gain some popularity and rise the ranks on Amazon or wherever it’s listed, you should deliberately keep increasing it’s rankings.

You could achieve the ‘snowball effect’. Sometimes, more people noticing your book and noticing that others are noticing it can really launch it into the limelight. And your window for success in this department may be slim.

In the next section, I’ll show you what I mean.

Time to contact Mr. Flynn

PatFlynn

Source: PatFlynn http://patflynn.me/

In my excitement seeing Pat’s book blast apart the others (seriously, hundreds more reviews than the next guy) I instantly reached out to him. What ensued was a ridiculous fun Twitter conversation/forum that you may want to join in on if you have a moment.

What I learned from Pat, as I prepare my own eBook for it’s sale (on the to-do list after I finish this post), was priceless.

The main message? You can enter even the most saturated niche – just do it with style, confidence, and originality.

Bonus Tip: Create an offsite promotions page

Now, I don’t mean to bombard you with so much here that you wont’ be able to stammer out a comment (which you know I love) but I needed to include this too.

Sure, your blog is a good place to promote your new eBook or any product you come up with. But you could go the next step.

Domain names go for as cheap as $2 bucks a pop (Google Search for discounts!) nowadays, so why not setup a promotions site and nest your eBook download right in there?

Advantages of offsite promo:

⇨ More websites = more trafic potential = more clout

⇨ Your announcments won’t get burried by newer articles as they would on a blog format

⇨ Leverage new domain name to build PageRank around keywords closely related to your book

And if it’s building PageRank you’d like to do…well, let’s just say the topic of eBooks and PageRank will be like peanut butter to jelly soon!

Conclusion

If you want your new eBook to launch well you have to research your niche and find out how to be different. While this boils down to price, style, and content there are lots more criteria to take advantage of.

Get creative, click ads, and send pipe dream emails to those you admire. The biggest flaw would be assuming you’ll get rich (or make anything) just because you make it to Amazon.

I know this has gotten your ideas flowing. If you have any stories from your own eBooks or personal businesses, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

The Blogger runs a blogging answers community out of Manhattan but really considers his home online. He just finished the launch page for his new PageRank eBook, make sure to hop on that list and read up before the next update passes you! As usual, get more on .

The Do’s and Don’ts of Conducting Interviews For Your Blog

This is a guest contribution by Kelly Gregorio.

As an active blog owner, chances are you strive to produce content that is engaging, relevant and most important, fresh. Right?

Switching up your content’s style and delivery can keep readers’ interest and may even make the experience of producing content more exciting.

One way to engage your audience is with a stellar interview. Not only can a successful interview provide some great promotion to your brand and credibility within your field, but it also can get audiences more invested in your blog’s content.

Unfortunately not every blogger knows the keys to great interviewing.

Missteps and mistakes can turn your endeavour into a flop while running the risk of staining your online reputation. Follow these quality do’s and don’ts and make the process work for you, your interviewer and your blog audience.

Do Prepare

If there is one thing an interviewee hates it is a repetitive, unprepared interviewer. If you want stagnant answers and shallow insights, then by all means don’t do your homework. However if you want them to open up…

Get prepared. Know your subject’s biography and background better that he/she does. Read every interview about them that’s ever been published. Your interviewee will not only appreciate not needing to fill in the well-known blanks about their past, but they may even get invested in the interview itself.

By reading past interviews, you’ll know not to ask those same old questions that they’ve heard before. Take on the task of striving to ask something they’ve never publicly explored before; try to get them not just to answer, but also to reflect and really think.

Don’t Serve Your Own Curiosities

Of course you will come to the interview with your questions already prepared –this goes without saying. However pre-interview be sure to formulate each question with your eventual readers in mind. 

The formulated questions you collect should serve as a great skeleton for where you see the article going. The interviewee will either fill in the meat or break the mould completely; you have to be willing and open to things going either way.

Whatever you do be sure not to abuse your power and ask questions that solely serve your curiosity. Do not ask things that you have no intention of writing about but are instead, are just nosey; it’s so unprofessional. Everything you say and do should be in representation of your reader’s interest while being both polite and politically correct.

Do Set The Tone

It is your job to ease your interviewee’s mind. Despite their public persona, people get nervous during interviews. And a clammed up subject will make for some boring interactions.

This is why you should make the interview more of a conversation.

Be willing to work with your interviewee as they formulate his/her thoughts. If you rigidly plan to quote them verbatim you are going to find yourself with a tight lipped and hesitant participant. Instead, encourage them to just be themselves and go off and explore together. Get clarification before quoting anything, to make sure that their intended message gets across.

Don’t Forget To Show Thanks

Post-interview be sure to follow up with a formal thank you for their time. If you have an online following, promote your interviewee (and any upcoming projects they have going on) by providing teasers to your readers about the upcoming interview.

Be sure to let your interviewee know when their post will be live. Not only is informing them the polite thing to do, it might even open your interviewee up to participating and interacting with questions and comments from your readers.

Have you had any success conducting interviews for your blog? What tips can you add?

Kelly Gregorio is a journalist that reports on small business trends while working at Advantage Capital Funds, a company that provides businesses working capital. You can connect with her through the comments section of her daily business blog here.

 

30 Lessons from Selling $30 Million Worth of eBooks

This is a guest contribution from our very own Shayne Tilley.

class snapshots

Before you hit me up for a loan, let me preface this post. That number represents eBooks sold in for various masters and partners in the last decade. Yes there are a couple of mine in there, but it’s a tiny fraction of a % of the total.

Okay, with that out of the way, a big part of my digital life has revolved around eBooks. I’ve been trying to sell eBooks before anyone really knew what they were. I’ve tried just about every approach, channel, launch strategy there is, and made pretty much every mistake in the eBook. I’ll admit, a lot of the time I was making it up as I went along. There were no rules to this eBook game.

If you’re about to start your own journey with eBooks here are 30 lessons I learnt along the way…

1. Good eBooks sell eBooks

When it comes to selling eBooks, there are lots of techniques and tactics that will people motivated to buy, but there is none more powerful that a great eBook.

True word of mouth will sell more copies than your marketing copy ever will.

2. Page count doesn’t matter (when it comes to pricing)

People are happy to spend a $100 on an eBook that solves a problem they put a high value on. Higher than the eBook price anyway. The length of your eBook should be as long at it needs to be to deliver the value you promise.

Don’t pad for price.

3. Some people are great at explaining things, some are not

I read and listen to people like Darren and my friend Kevin Yank and I know they are better at explaining things than I am.  It’s the truth but it didn’t stop me writing two eBooks. It did teach me that I needed to focus on the skills I wanted to improve on.

4. Momentum early pays off immediately and in the long run

Every eBook I’ve launched that has gained great early momentum (and was evergreen) has always delivered the most over a long period of time.

Don’t think about what you’ll earn from great launch now; think of the impact momentum will carry over the life of the eBook.

5. You’re not actually selling content

I’m talking about practical eBooks here. You can read / listen / watch for free on the web a how-to on any topic.  EBooks organise things for us into a nice little bundle and often have a higher editorial standard. That convenience and quality is what we buy, not the content. There are exceptions to this I’ll admit, but it’s something to think about

6. The story matters

People care about why you wrote the eBook just as much as what’s inside. When you tell a story and share emotions, people will be a lot more inclined to listen to what you have to say.

7. Marketplaces find buyers but screw with your pricing

If you want to play in the sub $10 eBook market then getting your eBook into places like iEBookstore and Amazon are a no brainer.  But they’ll work against you if you want to aim higher than that.

Used well, these marketplaces can reach millions of readers but if you have your own audience you might not need to bend to their will.

8. Reviews matter

Bad reviews can kill eBooks – legitimate or not. Sometimes there’s not much you can do about a bad review but you should know what people are saying. Don’t just look at Amazon reviews, Google ‘[your eBook] review’ and see what comes up.

Chances are your potential customers already are.

9. Print is still prestige

Whilst this is perhaps fading, printed books carry more prestige than an eEBook. You might consider printing a small batch of books so you can give them to your clients (and your mom).  This is even more important if your eBook is the bait not the fish (we’ll talk about that later).

10. Evergreen lives longer, relevant launches bigger

If you want your eBook to live a long life then evergreen content is the way to go. If you want a big win now, a timely eBook is an option as long as you remember that the clock on the longevity of your sales is already ticking.

11. You’ll sell more than anyone else will

You just stick your eBook on Amazon and let Amazon work it’s magic, right?  Wrong. Don’t expect to create an eBook and just magically sell your way to retirement.

You’ve got to continue to sell you and the eBook at every moment, if you want it to pay the bills.

12. If there are 100 of the same eBooks on your topic, you need an audience

The amount of times people talk to me about their social media eBook does my head in. Honestly. There are so many eBooks on this topic already – why would someone buy yours?

If you’re going to plonk your eBook into an open marketplace with a bunch of similar eBooks that already have history, sales and reviews, you might be wasting your time. But if you already have your own audience and can launch it to them, you might just get some instant momentum.

13. Invest in an editor, and or a proofreader

People expect quality in eBooks. I don’t care how good a word nerd you think you are. Get a second opinion.

14. There’s not such thing as a perfect eBook

Don’t expect to create the perfect eBook. It doesn’t exist and probably never will.  For the perfectionists, call it done and ship!  You won’t make any money with it in draft.

15. Even the niche of a niche can be profitable

Don’t think you need to create the next 50 Shades of Grey to make good money.  Even the super niches are large enough to create a volume of buyers and well worth your while.

The wider the niche the more potential customers but the more competitive it will be, so it’s a balancing act.

16. Write your blog post / press release first

This is a technique I use to understand who my readers are and what they want.  Your sales page should be full of benefits and promises. Write those promises first, then make sure your eBook delivers on them as you create it.

17. You might have an eBook and you don’t even know it

Two of the most successful eBook publishers I’ve worked with created their first eBook as a collection of posts – with a few extra bits wrapped up in a nice design.

Remember what you’re selling, then look at what you’ve created already and you just might find an eBook in there.

18. Think in launch month, not launch day

I’m not going to talk much more about launches, as there’s another 30 lessons in there.  But if your launch plan is only one day – you really need to talk to me!

19. Get someone else to review or write your sales copy

Of the hundreds of eBooks I’ve launched, the only sales pages I didn’t write were for my own two eBooks. Why? Because I just couldn’t be objective.

You’re likely to focus on the hard parts to write, which probably are not the part your readers care about. You’ll infer and miss stuff — it’ll get messy. Get someone else to do it, or, at a minimum get someone else to pick it to pieces for you.

20. Sometimes you just can’t pick ‘em

I’ll guarantee you this, there’s no guarantee or sure fire success when it comes to eBooks. Sometimes you can pick ‘em and other times, they’ll come out of left field.

But you’ll never know if you don’t try.

21. You’ll be surprised who doesn’t help spread the word

When you launch you eBook, there will be a bunch of people who you’re convinced will help you spread the word. You’ll learn a lot about the people who do and who don’t.

22. Your perfect launch day was probably yesterday

I’ve spoken about this before, there is no one size fits all perfect launch day (or every single eBook would launch on the same day!). So just get it done and stop worrying about when.

23. Your eBook can be the bait, or the fish

You can write eBooks, charge money and that’s your income. You can write eBooks, charge money and open doors. Or you can give away eBooks to sell other products and services.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these plans however, you need to understand your objectives and focus on them – rather than trying to get the best of every world.

24. Lots of people will tell you it’s easy

Creating an eBook isn’t easy. There are lots of things to think about and anyone who tells you it is easy probably has a product to lead you to. That said, it’s hard work done once and can be extremely valuable. At a minimum, it’s something to be really proud of.

25. It’s not a forever investment

There is a time-limit on every eBook. Well, maybe not all eBooks – but most. Don’t expect that in a decade, you’ll still be selling the same eBook in the thousands.

If you want to keep the revenue flowing, think about new editions and new titles.

26. Procrastinators need a stick

My stick is my partner Justine, and Problogger’s stick is Jasmine, our eBook creator (she’s a wonderful person!). If you procrastinate, you need help. Find it in any way you can, or you’ll never ship.

27. Titles and cover images matter (even digitally)

Think about what your title means to a reader, now and tomorrow. Think about how they will remember your title and how they will describe it to others.

Coming up with a great eBook title is a bit of an art form like email subject lines and headlines but you don’t have as much chance of running A/B tests to get it right!

28. Split your selling and your writing

This is really a tip about your mindset. When you’re writing, you’re delivering a message to your reader and you need to focus on doing the best possible job. Immerse yourself and be narrow-minded.

When it comes to selling, you need to approach it as objectively as you can. Try to think like your selling someone else eBook not your own — or get some help

29. What worked for them, won’t always work for you

If enough people try something, eventually someone will get it right but that doesn’t mean it will work for you.

Someone else’s success is probably during a different time, on a different topic with different readers – and you’re a different writer.

Your perfect launch story is your own.

30. Just go with it

Of all the things that scare you about putting an eBook out on show, the reward (even if it’s just a personal one) will be worth it.  I’m a two-time author who got D’s in English.  If I can do it then you can!

So there you have it, 30 things I learned selling a crap load of eBooks.  I’m sure there are more so I’d love to hear about some in the comments!