Close
Close

Four New Ways to Monetize a Blog

The ad industry is dead.

Target will only buy remnant inventory. Federated Media, the darling of the online ad world, is just about vaporized. And media behemoth IAC is building a state-of-the-art ad sales system that will work like a trading floor where you don’t even know what content you’re buying—you only see the profiles of the people who are viewing the content right this second.

So how are people going to make money blogging? Here are four ways.

whiteboard

Image by Jeff Kubina, licensed under Creative Commons

1. Build a paywall

This was once seen as impossible. But after growing up online, generation Y reads and writes more than any other generation in history and is therefore more willing to than others to pay for online content.

This attitude has opened up lots of fee-based content models. Today The New York Times is successful in its paywall strategy, and it’s paved the way for bloggers to start looking at this as a viable option. Andrew Sullivan, for example, launched a paywall and raised $100K in a few days.

The problem is that a paywall is limiting rather than expanding in terms of the ways you can connect to the world as revenue options grow and change.

2. Turn your brand into a company and take in investors

As a serial entrepreneur, I saw this option coming early in the blogging game. So I named my blog something that was not attached to the domain name. Then I built up the brand name, sold the brand to investors, and spun off a company.

I don’t know why more people don’t do this. It’s a great way to leverage your community-building abilities, if you have them.

In this scenario, you hold onto your blog and your personal brand and you own stock in the spin-off brand. (And look: I recently gave up the CEO position and went back to blogging. But I held onto the founder’s stock. It’s like a big lottery ticket.)

3. Use your blog as an incubator

The best way to test new companies is to launch them. You could throw up a product offering on a web site, then announce it on the incubator blog. If it takes off, fine, if it doesn’t, then announce the next product.

In this scenario, the blogger is like a full-time marketing team for a range of startups within the incubator. Keep writing good content and you can send your audience to any beta site you need to. In this scenario, you’d get stock in each of the companies that you help launch.

4. Go after a talent acquisition

It’s common these days for companies to buy a startup to get the employees who would otherwise not be in the job market. You could create this same scenario with your blog.

Typically, a talent acquisition is for developers. But I can see it happening for someone who is amazing at PR, for example, and is essentially offering up her social media sauce and her high-powered media network in the talent acquisition of her blog.

Another way I can see this going is that someone uses the blog as a way to display thought leadership in the industry, so the acquisition’s purpose is to have the property attached to the larger brand, but also, to get the talented thought leader behind the blog.

What will you do?

Each of these four ideas takes planning, but with ad sales no longer being a viable option for blog revenue, we need to think more creatively.

Blogs are clearly becoming more and more prominent in the social and intellectual fabric of our lives. Those of us who can adjust in the most creative, big-thinking ways will benefit the most from our blogging talents.

Contributing author Penelope Trunk is a serial entrepreneur, and the author of the bestselling book Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success. She has written for a wide range of publications including Time, Business Week, and the Wall St. Journal, but she likes writing for her blog best: http://blog.penelopetrunk.com.

Would You Buy or Sell a Blog? [Discussion]

This week, we’ve looked at the blog sales market from all sides:

We also spent some time yesterday putting a value on your blog.

So today, I wanted to open the blog up to discussion.

  • Has a blog or site you loved ever changed hands? How did it feel for you as a visitor to that site?
  • Did yesterday’s challenge change how you felt about selling a blog? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
  • Have you ever bought or sold a blog? Share your tips and tales with us.
  • Many of you have mentioned over the course of the week that you’d like to see more on this topic: what kinds of information do you need?
  • …and if you’d like to see a series like this one on another topic, let me know below!

I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on blog buying and selling.

Behind the Scenes of a Successful Blog Acquisition [Case Study]

I really love the idea of buying and selling websites. Recently I listed one of my blogs on Flippa, a marketplace for buying and selling websites, and sold it successfully.

Then, I bought another blog outside of Flippa. Since we’ve already talked about selling blogs this week, I wanted to walk you through my buying experience today…

Fortune cookie

Image by Flickr user quinn.anya, licensed under Creative Commons

A couple of months ago while browsing the web I landed on a blog called WPBlogTips.com. Eventually, my eye got stuck on a banner that said, “This site is for sale”.

At that time I was thinking of starting a blog in the internet marketing niche, which is the niche that WPBlogTips.com covers.

To be honest, I personally hate to start a blog from the ground up. It’s a lot of work! Choosing the domain, crafting content, building traffic, waiting till the Google sandbox effects end before you can start link building, growing an active community … obviously there’s a lot to do, and in many cases the job is tedious. I would prefer to buy an established blog in a niche that has decent traffic, an engaged community, and quality content.

Long story short, I decided to buy that blog.

Doing due diligence

Before jumping in to buy that blog, I undertook some due diligence research on both the owner and the blog itself. Doing your homework before you purchase may help you to avoid disappointment down the track.

So before I made an offer on the blog, I researched a few things:

  • the owner of the blog
  • the site’s traffic stats
  • the blog’s monetization history.

Knowing more about the seller

Knowing more about the seller is really important task before you make an offer, or can even calculate how much the blog is worth. It’s especially important if you are not willing to use a third-party transaction site like Escrow.com to manage the transfer of payments and assets in the acquisition.

Here are the simple steps I took to research the seller of the blog.

  • Search the domain’s WhoIs information: Check if the domain is handled by the same person who runs the blog. In my case, the domain was not WhoIs guarded, so I was able to find the owner’s details and their address. If that information was protected, I would have ask him to remove the guard so I could see the data. This is an important first step in verifying site ownership.
  • Do a seller profile web search: A simple Google search should show you the profile of the seller. I also found some other blogs that this person owned, and I found that reassuring—it’s nice to deal with a person who has some kind of reputation online. That’s not something most people would achieve if they weren’t honest and trustworthy, nor is it something they’d throw away by behaving badly in a site sale.
  • Search on social media: A simple search on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ also told me a lot about the seller, and how he deals with others. Today everyone is social, especially bloggers. So this is a good way to research a site owner.

Analyzing blog traffic

Once I’d got the details of the blog’s owner, I contacted him and asked him to send me some stats for the site’s traffic and its monetization history.

If you’ve ever looked to buy a site on Flippa, you might have seen a section called Claim Traffic where sellers need to claim their traffic by uploading Google Analytics verified stats. The problem is that straight traffic stats say nothing about the site’s traffic sources, or what the most popular content is. These are important factors in the site’s current success and its potential, so it’s important to ask for more detailed stats before you buy.

Importantly, traffic screenshots can be faked easily. So always ask for verified Google Analytics reports when you’re asking for Analytics data. Then, start analyzing…

1. Determine what the Analytics stats really mean

You will get a bunch of details from Google Analytics, but those details are as good as junk if you can’t analyze what they really mean.

  • Unique visitors per month: This is one of the key factors that helps determine the blog’s value.
  • Bounce rate: I think the normal bounce rate of a blog should be around 60-70%, but in this case, the bounce rate was very high. By looking more closely at the blog, I found that the main reason for the high bounce rate was poor site navigation and a lack of user engagement. I felt that with a little effort, I could bring the bounce rate back to a normal level.
  • Average visit duration: Again, I wasn’t satisfied with this data, since it was lower than my other blogs’, so I had to look a little deeper to find out the reasons for it. The reason for the low visit duration was, again, a lack of reader engagement.

The key lesson here is to check the blog’s stats, not only to get some idea of what the blog is worth, but also to determine where you can improve the blog, and how. This will help you get an idea of how much time you’ll need to put in to improve things, which will help you to come to a decision about whether to buy or not.

2. Looking more closely at traffic sources

Believe me, getting traffic is not a big deal today. Just Google “buy traffic” and you’ll see tons of services that offer you 10,000 visitors to your site for just $20.

The only way to make sure that the traffic to the blog is original and of high quality is to look at the traffic source stats of the site’s Analytics reports.

My case

Before I bought it, WPBlogTips.com’s traffic was highly dependent upon Google and other organic sources. This is both good and bad.

The good thing is that we can say this blog has high targeted traffic.

The bad thing is that whenever Google updates it search algorithm, chances are high that the traffic will drop—if not almost disappear.

One of the things I discovered as I looked at this data was that Facebook and Twitter aren’t in the top ten traffic sources. The main reason was that the blog had almost no social presence. It did have a Facebook page and Twitter account, but there was no reader activity in these forums.

Another thing I found was that when I excluding Google from the mix, there was no strong referral traffic source. Likely reasons were a lack of networking and link building. So obviously I would need to focus on building these elements after the acquisition.

3. Uncovering the audience’s interests

The interests of a blogger may vary time to time. It is quite common for a blog to have many transitional stages before it reaches to its “present” state. For example, WPBlogTips.com was obviously in the “blogging tips/internet marketing” niche, but the previous owner had also published many articles that had to do nothing with that niche.

So before buying a blog, it’s important to find out what all of the popular pages of that blog are. Sometimes the blog you are about to buy may have high Google ranking on topics other than its main focus. Let me explain.

Imagine that you are buying a blog in the internet marketing niche. Your main goal in buying that site is to sell SEO services without paying a penny for advertisements or making any extra marketing effort.

Now, what if that site has a low rank for the specific keyword you are targeting—the traffic’s coming through comparatively off-topic posts? Or, what if most of the blog’s audience is actually interested in a topic that’s off the main topic of that blog? If you don’t intend to maintain that off-topic focus in your content, you may well lose a large chunk of the blog’s loyal readers.

So it’s important to understand the exact nature of the audience for the blog you’re researching.  Find out which are the popular pages on the blog, and ask for content keywords  lists from Webmaster tools. This information gives you a very precise idea about the interests of the blog’s audience, and on which keywords Google ranks the site well.

My case

Most of the readers of the blog I was researching came to the site through search engines. Because people were getting the exact thing they were looking for, they weren’t returning to the blog.

I could see that if I added related articles lists to every post, that may catch the eyes of readers without harming the user experience, and increase the blog’s time on site metric and repeat visit potential.

I also noticed that a few of the off-topic posts on the blog had received some Google juice, but I was planning to remove those, so that didn’t factor into my buying decision.

Another problem I found was that the blog wasn’t ranked well on Google for any relevant long-tail keywords. This was especially a problem on the Services page, so I couldn’t expect many client requests to buy those services. I thought this may because of a lack of effective link building, but it meant that, to begin with at least, I’d need to buy traffic from Adwords.

Reviewing monetization

A couple of months ago Flippa introduced a new feature called the Verified AdSense Report, which is similar to the Verified Analytics Report. This feature is hugely helpful for buyers, since it means they don’t need to rely more on screenshots of AdSense income provided by the seller.

However, there’s still no way to verify PayPal earnings like there is with AdSense. So while deciding how much a blog is worth, as the buyer, you still have to rely on screenshots provided by the seller, no matter whether you’re buying the site through Flippa or independently.

That said, I would always prefer to buy a blog that is under-monetized and has massive traffic rather than a blog that has decent traffic and makes a lot of money. There are two reasons for this.

1. You need to rely on the seller’s data

When you’re calculating how much a site is worth, it is common to give preference to earnings over traffic.

This means that the higher the earnings of a website, the more you will pay to acquire it. The problem is that as a buyer, I can’t be 100% sure that the data provided by the seller is true, unless he gives full access to verify the payments, which is almost impossible.

So the risk here is that the seller’s not being truthful about the earnings, and if you base your valuation of the blog on a false earnings figure, you’re going to lose out.

2. What if the traffic declines?

Recently I came across an article by Daniel Scocco entitled, Where there’s traffic, there is hope. In it, he explains his experience of buying two different blogs: Blog A, which had high traffic but was under-monetized, and Blog B, which had decent traffic and earned a lot of money. Due to fluctuations in search ranking, the second blog’s traffic dried out, and so did its earnings. Blog A, on the other hand, continues to make a profit.

So I repeat: where there’s traffic, there is hope!

My case

The blog’s owner had not tested any monetization methods on WPBlogTips.com. He tried to sell blog migration services from the site, but didn’t have a nice portfolio to support the work.

I felt that his offer was not unique. Hundreds of different blogs provide Blogger-to-WordPress migration services, and there was nothing to make his service stand out from the crowd.

Soon after the acquisition I started an AdWords campaign to promote those services. To make this offer unique I offered free Blogger to WordPress migration. The only catch is that the client must buy Hostgator hosting through my link, so I still gain income, in the form of affiliate commissions.

Currently, I’m also testing AdSense units on that blog. I will be testing how those units work and, if they’re a success, I’ll continue to use them on the blog. I am not a believer of quick money making schemes. Making money from a blog definitely takes time.

I also started an email newsletter subscription on the blog. Email lists will definitely help me monetize this site in the long run. In coming months I’ll also try selling direct ads. However, I’m not hurry. I’m currently focused on attracting more traffic and making readers more engaged with the blog.

Pricing the blog

Most first-time sellers won’t have any idea when it comes to deciding how to set the price for their blog. In fact, sellers frequently overestimate the value of their blog, since they have an emotional engagement with it and have spent so much time and energy building it up.

Many people suggest that setting a price using the monthly income of your blog is the way to go. But for a buyer, to be honest, this kind of equation doesn’t make much sense.

For example, imagine that Darren decided to sell Problogger.net. Do you think that he would be willing to sell it for 24 times the monthly income? No way. He’d want more than that, for sure. On the other hand, imagine you own a blog with no reputation, and you wanted to sell it for 24 times the monthly income. As a buyer I probably wouldn’t be interested in paying such a big price for a blog with no reputation.

In simple terms, buyers value the reputation of a blog—as that impacts reader loyalty—sometimes more than the history of earnings or traffic stats.

My case

As I mentioned, WPBlogTips.com hadn’t been monetized. Yet the seller wanted a very high price. After some negotiation, I bought it for 37% of the initial price he’d set.

All of the negotiation was done over email. However, after we agreed on the price, I made a phone call to the owner. Why? Because it is nice to establish a good relationship with the guy who you are dealing with—especially when you’re about to transfer large sums of money in exchange for an asset like this.

Managing the purchase transaction

The safest payment method for buying or selling digital assets online is to use a third-party service like Escrow.com—especially if both the buyer and seller don’t share a high level of trust.

The buyer can create an account on Escrow.com and transfer the money to this account. Escrow.com will hold the payment until the transaction of property is complete and both parties flag that they’re happy with the outcome.

My case

The seller of WPBlogTips.com is Indian, like me. This helped to make me confident about the transaction.

Even if a problem did arise, the law we would be dealing with would be our national law, not other international treaties that may not be consistent across nations. I felt pretty confident that no problem would arise because I knew the seller has good reputation as blogger, and he would continue to run other blogs after the sale, so he wouldn’t want to tarnish his reputation online. My due diligence had paid off here.

I told the seller that, as a first step, I’d pay half the price we’d agreed. After he received the money, he’d transfer the ownership of the blog to me, and after that I’d pay the balance. We didn’t use Escrow or similar services, and for us, everything went smoothly.

Content strategy

Even if you are buying a blog that has a lot of good content, nicely targeted traffic, and a massive community you might need to spend your time building content.

Sometimes the previous owner may have a personal approach to the content. In such cases, the challenge for you will be to write more content without boring the community, or losing them altogether.

How can you enhance your readership by helping readers, and thereby growing the community on your blog? To get clear idea, answer these questions.

  1. Will you have time to spend on your blog writing content?
  2. If not, is it profitable to hire a freelancer? Will accepting guest posts enhance your community?

My case

The old owner had accepted and published many guest posts on WP Blog Tips. But my strategy is different. I wanted to bring more visitor engagement to the blog, so I stopped accepting guest posts and started writing every post myself. This really helped. The comment counts increased and an interactive community started to grow up around the blog.

As I mentioned earlier, there were many off-topic posts on the blog. I won’t be deleting those posts, because I hate to be landed on 404 pages and expect the same goes for my readers. But I will be developing a more focused content approach going forward.

Blog acquisition success

Buying a blog is not a tedious task—at least, it is not as tedious as building a blog from scratch! If you do it correctly, buying is breeze.

WPBlogTips.com was not properly monetized before I acquired it. I am not looking to sell it in future, so this will be my main online project as of now. My goal is that within a year I can make the money I spent to buy it.

Here are a few other tips I learned in buying a blog that I believe will help you.

  • Respect the seller’s work: Yes, you’ll need to ask the seller for different stats, but make sure that you always respect the seller and their work. Understand that this has benefits for you both. The rule of thumb is to give respect first; only then can you expect to get it back.
  • Beware of “potential”: Don’t get obsessed with the supposed “potential” of the blog that the seller might be keen to show you. Most of the sellers have habit of claiming that their blog has huge potential, in an effort to make huge money. But the fact is that they would be unlikely to sell the blog if it had massive potential. So rely on the stats, and your assessment of how well the blog fits your skills—not on the “potential” the seller describes.
  • Analyze the performance: When I bought my blog, I found that its bounce rate was very high. I was sure I could improve it a lot with little effort. So it’s important to carefully analyze the blog. Learn how you can improve the overall performance of the blog and what strategy you can implement to monetize it further. This will help you to gauge the potential of the blog for you, specifically.
  • Start networking: A couple of months before I acquired the blog, I started networking with other bloggers in the same niche by commenting on their blogs. The result was that those bloggers who I interacted with have helped me out by spreading the word about the blog, and commenting on my blog. This not only increases my traffic but it also helps me to build an interactive tribe on the blog.
  • Remember, you can buying outside Flippa: Flippa is one of the best places to buy a site. But if you are serious about buying I’d suggest you look beyond Flippa. You can find tons of sites for sale—try searching on Google with keywords like “<your niche> website for sale”, “<your niche> site for sale” and “<your niche> blog for sale” using double quotes.

One final tip is to ask a blogger directly if they are ready to sell their blog. They may not consider selling until you ask! If you can’t find any recent posts or activity on a blog, chances are high that the blogger might be busy with some other work and would consider selling it. Believe me, this strategy works, and asking costs you nothing.

Have you ever bought a blog? I’d love to hear your story in the comments.

Contributing author Shahzad has recently bought a blog WPBlogTips.com where he writes about unconventional blogging tips. Find his free guide on buying and selling websites here.

Heavyweight Help: The Ultimate Guide to Selling Your Blog

Did you know there’s a massive marketplace out there filled with people who want to buy your blog?

Yep, your blog!

Sale sign

Image courtesy stock.xchng user JMGRIFFIN

It’s really big business and you can make serious money if you know what you’re doing.

In fact, some clever people make a pretty decent living just from building up blogs and then flipping them for $10k, $50k or even $100k+. And while I haven’t been quite that successful I have sold several blogs for around $20,000—the first time all the way back when I was at Uni.

In this post I’m going to try and cover everything you’ll need to know to sell your blog for the best possible price with the fewest possible regrets. I’ll cover things like:

  • why you should think carefully about whether you sell or not
  • how to calculate your blog’s value and why that measure is controversial
  • how you should set up your blog so it’s easy (and possible) to sell
  • where you can sell your blog safely
  • how to write a good and trustworthy listing
  • steps to take to ensure you have a stress-free transaction
  • clever things to do with the sale money (and an embarrassing story).

This is going to be a long post so set your eyes to strained and get your scroll finger warmed up. Let’s do it!

Why you should think carefully about selling

How good does it sound?

You build up a blog, make a bit of consistent revenue, and then sell it for a handsome sum of money.

Great, right?

Well, actually, there are a few considerations that you need to take into account before you get selling. Broadly speaking, there are two categories of pre-sale issues to think about:

  1. Emotional factors: You might be keen to sell your blog now but are you sure you’re not going to miss it once it is all said and done? Remember, once that blog is sold you lose all rights to your logos, articles, design—it will all belong to the new owner.
  2. Financial factors: Having a big chunk of money in your bank account is really exciting but you need to figure out how long it’s going to last you, what you’re going to invest it in and whether the short-term payout amount is more valuable to you than keeping the blog for five or ten years.

If you are thinking about putting your blog up for sale I urge you to take a few weeks to carefully think things through.

Most importantly, if you rely on your blog for a good portion of your income you need to make sure that you have some other projects on the go that are already earning you some money. One of the key mistakes people make (myself included) is selling their blog before they really have another solid income to rely on.

What is your blog worth and what are buyers looking for?

The title of this section covers both what your blog is worth and what buyers are looking for because often those things are totally separate from each other.

What do I mean?

Well, as I wrote about in this post on valuing a blog, you’ll often find that what your blog is worth to you is totally different than what it is actually worth in monetary terms, or to an independent buyer. The cold calculation of a blog’s value is often not inclusive of all the things that it means for you and your career.

How to calculate a blog’s sale value

Some people are going to disagree with this but in my experience the safest way to calculate what your blog is worth is like this:

Monthly revenue x 12 to 24 months = sale price

This is by no means a hard and fast rule; some people get 36 months, 48 months, etc. But for the most part you’ll find that people who buy blogs usually only offer around one to two years’ revenue.

So, at the most basic level, if your blog makes $1000 a month you will probably be able to sell it for between $12,000 and $24,000.

You’ll often see people trying to sell a blog or website for a higher price because it it is under-monetized, inefficiently set up, or not fulfilling its “potential”.

These words and scenarios mean very little to buyers who are essentially trying to purchase a successful and stable business. It is rare (though not impossible) to find someone who is investing in developing blogs because they want to build them up.

How to calculate a blog’s real value

Something that I learned the hard way was the fact that your blog is worth a lot more than just the money that it brings in. It sounds crazy at first but you’ll often hear guys like Darren say that even though Problogger.net doesn’t make him huge amount of money it elevates his profile and gives him a hugely valuble marketing tool.

When thinking about selling you need to consider whether your blog:

  • Promotes other stuff: Do you use your blog to promote and expose other products or websites? Can it send traffic to other sites and give solid SEO links to new projects?
  • Helps you: Some people use blogging as a method of dealing with stress or anxiety, which is obviously hard to put a dollar value on.
  • Connects you: Does your blog help to connect you wither big players in the online world and therefore bring in new opportunities?
  • Utilizes its list: If you have a big mailing list but have never done any successful promotions you might be sitting on an asset worth a lot more than it would appear on paper. Remember, a good mailing list promotion can bring in large amounts of money in a single day.
  • Has a replaceable social media brand: The last point is that almost all of us have social media accounts that are connected with our blogs. For example, if Darren sold Problogger.net, would he also have to give up the hundreds of thousands of followers @problogger has on Twitter?

As I mentioned, a lot of these last items are things that are totally irrelevant to an independent buyer. They are, in some ways, unquantifiable considerations that will often hold great importance to you but very little to someone else.

What are buyers looking for?

Now that we’ve got the basic valuation types out of the way it’s a good idea to discuss exactly what buyers are looking for. I’m not going to go into too much detail here as there is a post coming up later in this series about buying a blog which will get you sorted.

However, having a basic understanding of what buyers are looking for will help you plan future sales:

  • Consistent earnings: Google updates and other internet changes often mean that blog earnings fluctuate in a way that is totally unacceptable to regular businesses. You need to make sure your earnings are stable if you want a good sale price.
  • Consistent statistics: Again, if buyers can see big fluctuations in your search engine rankings they will consider it a warning sign that you might be selling for a reason that you’re not disclosing.
  • An easy-to-adopt website: If your blog is totally wound up in your personality and has readers and content that apply to your life and experience it will probably be very difficult for someone else to take over and profit from.
  • Historical reports: I almost lost out on one big sale because I hadn’t installed Google Analytics on the blog in the early stages and thus the buyers was worried that the current trends and traffic levels weren’t truly representative of what was going on. Make sure you have stats installed early on and clear histories of traffic and earnings.

So, if you want to sell your blog, make sure you know how much it is worth to you (in the short and long term) and how much is worth to a buyer. These are different numbers.

How to set up your blog for an easy and comfortable sale

What a lot of people don’t realize is that selling a blog means that buyers are going to need access to a lot of stuff that you might never have intended to hand over to anyone else.

If you think you might want to sell somewhere down the line or you’re building a blog specifically for the purpose of a future sale, you want to make sure you have a few things covered.

1. Make sure you are on a separate, self-hosted set up

Although it does happen sometimes, you’ll find that most of the time people will want to buy sites that are fully owned and operated by the individual they are dealing with. With free blogs like Blogger and Tumblr the lines are less clear—who own the domain, the content, the theme, etc.?

The ideal situation is one where you have the domain name and WordPress blog host all in separate, individual places that aren’t mixed in with your other sites and domain names.

Of course, it isn’t all that hard to transfer a domain name or migrate a site to someone else. But it is much easier if you can just do one change of ownership transaction, which means the site doesn’t experience any downtime.

2. Try to have social networking accounts that you can sign over

As mentioned before, it can be a little bit tricky if your personal social networking accounts are also tied up in the brand name that you are selling. For example, my Twitter handle is @blogtyrant which means that if I ever sold www.BlogTyrant.com I would probably have to hand over that Twitter account as well.

I once spoke to Kristi Hines about this issue and she told me that it is much wiser to have a personal account that you use for yourself and a brand-name account that is just for the website and its followers. This is a lot harder than it used to be, however, with Google+ profiles and pages, YouTube, Facebook and accounts all over the place being linked together and muddled up.

If you can manage, find a way to separate your personal accounts from your brand-name accounts so you don’t lose it all or have headaches transferring them.

3. Be careful with linked email services

When you own a blog you often sign up for things like Google Analytics and other online services with your personal email. Much like the social networks, this can cause a huge pain in the future if you sell the site and need to give someone else access to this stuff.

Some services don’t let you remove the original email address that you signed up with but instead only allow you add new accounts. What this means is that you might always be linked to that old site in some way if you want to hold on to that email.

As far as I can tell, the best way to avoid these traps is to sign up for a separate Gmail account or create a Google account/other accounts with an [email protected] email address that you can hand over at the sale.

4. Make sure you know what you own

I’ve heard of blog sales getting into hot water when the seller doesn’t realize that some of the assets for sale actually belong to someone else.

It’s extremely important that you know whether you have the copyright all sorted for photos and images as well as whether your theme is original or something used by thousands of other people.

Where to sell your blog safely and simply

When it comes to selling your blog, the options are actually a lot more expansive than people usually think. That being said, I really only recommend going about it either of two ways, in order to keep your stress levels low and your chances of success high.

  1. Sell your blog on Flippa.com.
  2. Sell your blog in a private sale.

I’m going to go over each option in a little bit of detail so you get a good idea about how they work, and which one is best for your situation.

1. Sell your blog on Flippa

Flippa.com is the absolute go-to website for selling your blog. It is the largest marketplace of its kind and, even better, it is owned by Australians—a trustworthy and handsome lot.

A Flippa listing

All jokes aside, Flippa is the kind of site you rely on because their entire business model is wrapped up in the convenient and safe sale of blogs and websites. That’s all they do. What that means for us is that we get a good service because Flippa knows that their reputation is important for their continued success. In 2012 alone over 29,000 websites were sold there.

Flippa seller ratings

The great thing about this site is that you find a rare mix of highrollers and budget buyers here. This means that you can sell blogs that might only be worth a small amount as well as those $100k+ monsters.

How does Flippa work?

Selling a blog on Flippa is a lot like listing a product on eBay or any other selling site, except that Flippa only deals with websites and blogs.

The basic process goes like this:

  1. Create an account: You’ll need an account to list a site for sale as well as manage any messages that bidders send to you.
  2. Create your listing: This is a seven-step process where you list all your blog details, provide screenshots of traffic proof, explain your reasons for selling, etc. You’ll also be able to set a Reserve Price so that you don’t sell for less than you hoped for. More on this process below.
  3. Add upgrades: One of the ways Flippa makes money is by offering you certain upgrades to enhance the visibility of your sale. Some of these are a really good idea and you can see them all at Step 6 of the listing process.
  4. Manage your listing: Once your listing is up and live you can’t just leave it alone; you need to stick around and answer any questions that people have. Most serious bidders will ask questions and won’t be willing to move ahead until you’ve answered them properly.
  5. Proceed with the sale: Once someone has placed a winning bid or purchased your blog for the Buy It Now price, you proceed with the sale process. This is extremely safe and involves using Escrow.com which means that nobody gets any money or domain name access until both parties are happy.

Of course, the whole shebang is a lot more involved than that, but those steps should give you the basic idea of how Flippa works. I’ve gone into some more detailed Flippa listing tips below, but this video gives a quick overview of the auction listing process.

What are the advantages of using Flippa?

Some of the main reasons I think Flippa has gained so much popularity include:

  • Safety: The Escrow process and the increased transparency that comes from requiring buyers to be verified, etc. makes the whole process a lot safer for everyone.
  • Reach: To put it simply, there are a lot of buyers on Flippa looking to acquire your blog. I’m yet to find another marketplace that has such an active community.
  • Support: The support staff at Flippa are happy to jump on board and give you help when you need it with a transaction or a listing problem. I’ve found them to be quite responsive.
  • Simplicity: The listing process is extremely easy to follow. It’s no harder than composing an email and attaching a few images to prove your revenue, etc.
  • Feedback ratings: Although not always relevant, Flippa has buyer feedback ratings which means you can see how buyers have performed in previous transactions.

What are the disadvantages of using Flippa?

As always, not every web service is perfect. There are a few drawbacks that people often talk about when it comes to using Flippa as a blog seller.

  • It’s somewhat expensive: Flippa has listing fees and upgrade fees but, frustratingly, a fairly high success fee. What this means is that an established website will pay $29 to list the site (without upgrades) and then 5% of the final sale price. This is capped at $2,000 but for some people it is still too high considering other costs that go along with making a big sale, like local taxes.
  • There are still risks involved: Although a lot less risky than the alternatives, there still are risks involved in selling a site on Flippa. Admittedly the risks are higher for buyers than sellers but you still need to exercise a lot of care.
  • Publicity: I have heard some people express concerns that listing a site for sale on Flippa can have a negative impact on that site’s readers and even SEO rankings. Flippa does offer an option to hide your listing from Google, but you still need to consider any impact that can occur if people find out you’re selling, and then you don’t actually make the sale after all.

Overall Flippa is, without a doubt, the best place to sell an established blog that you really care about. The second optionis something that’s perhaps better suited to more experienced sellers with some trustworthy connections.

2. Sell your blog to a private buyer

The only other option that I really wanted to share as a method of selling your blog is to do so yourself, through a private buyer. This has a lot of advantages but also some pretty tummy-upsetting disadvantages.

How do you sell to a private buyer?

Unlike using Flippa, this process has many different variations depending on who you are selling to an how paranoid each party is. Generally, however, it will go something like this:

  1. You decide to sell: First of all you need to make the decision to sell your blog and package it up ready for the transaction. This means getting your accounts in order and having another project ready in the works.
  2. You find buyers: Perhaps the hardest part of all is finding buyers without actually listing your site anywhere. Of course, many people do list their site for sale in various places and then move the transaction to private method but this is both risky and against many of those flipping sites’ terms of service.
  3. You bang your head against the wall (or “negotiate”): The next step in a private sale is the process whereby both parties go back and forth for days, weeks, or even months until a price is agreed upon. This involves giving them access to revenue proof, stats, etc. as well as not caving in at the 12th offer simply because you are so exhausted.
  4. Arrange the terms: Because there is no site guiding you on the transaction, you need to come up with the terms of the trade yourselves. How is payment made? Which shadowy carpark will they meet you in with the contract? So on and so forth. This is the stage where a lot of inexperienced sellers get into trouble. You really want contracts and other protections in place.
  5. Make the trade: Selling your blog like this is better described as a trade. They give you money and you release the site files and, last of all the domain name. Once the buyer has that domain name, there is no going back, so you have to make sure you have the money and are totally happy before that happens. Again, it’s very wise to use a site like Escrow.com for this process, and not a site like Paypal where there is less protection.
  6. Assist with the transition: If you’ve made a good sale to a genuine buyer, they will probably want you to help with the transition period. It’s always a good sign when the buyer asks you to stay on board for six months so as to train them up and keep the site running well.

Again, each blog sale is a different process that can be done in different ways. It’s important to know how the basic process works and to make sure you know as much about the buyer as possible. This is a big asset that you are giving up so you want to make sure to take your time and get it right.

What are the advantages of a private sale?

Let’s have a quick look at some of the advantages of selling your blog to a private buyer:

  • No fees: Unless you use a payment site that charges a fee there are no fees involved in the process.
  • No restrictions: You aren’t restrained by any website terms or service and as such can often negotiate a better position for yourself or take more time to select the right buyer. It’s not a matter of “highest bidder wins”.
  • Better prices: It might seem strange, but I’ve heard people say that they’ve achieved slightly better prices with private sales because the buyers didn’t feel guided by “standard pricing” that often becomes commonplace in set markets. Of course this is a very case-by-case phenomenon and might be totally incorrect for your sale.

I have sold one five-figure blog in a private sale and it went extremely smoothly. The clinching factor, however, was that the guy lived in my town and I was able to meet him face-to-face to sign papers, have a chat, etc. That gave me a lot more confidence.

What are the disadvantages of a private sale?

By now you probably have a pretty clear idea about why you might not want to sell your blog privately:

  • It’s really risky: You have no idea who this person is or what their motivations are. Are they trying to scam you? Are the competitors trying to see your stats and methods? You need to exercise a lot of care during a private sale.
  • It’s not monitored: When you use a site like Flippa, you can often contact support if something fishy is going on. When you are doing things privately there are very few methods you can resort to if something weird happens.
  • It’s stressful: To be honest, I get a lot more stressed out than most people by this stuff so you might not find it as horribly nauseating as I do. All the negotiating, risk-taking—it just stresses me out too much and makes the Flippa fees seem worthwhile.

All in all Flippa is a really good place to start out and learn the ropes. The process is simple and extremely guided which means you’ll have less chance of running into trouble. Of course, you still need to use your brain and be careful when you are dealing with such an important asset, but by and large you should be happy with the process.

How to create a listing for trust and success

I couldn’t really talk about how to sell a blog without sharing a few tips for creating a listing that will help you promote your blog well while creating trust and increasing your chances of a successful sale.

Most of these tips will apply to Flippa sales but you can implement a lot of them in private sales emails and negotiations too.

1. Study successful listings

I’m really surprised at how badly some listings are put together. There’s a lack of clear information, unbelievable reasons for selling, etc.

Before you sell your blog it’s a good idea to check out some other Flippa listings that are doing well. Of course this has a large part to do with the quality of the site for sale, but you’ll also pick up some tips on how to write your listing so as to improve your trust.

2. Don’t skimp on the proof

As I pointed out before, most blog buyers are looking for established businesses that they can purchase and maintain. This means they need proof. They want to know that your traffic isn’t periodic or paid and that your SEO rankings aren’t going downhill.

Make sure you give good and transparent proof while still keeping in mind the various Terms of Service agreements that you have. For example, there are parts of your Adsense statistics that you aren’t allowed to reveal publicly.

3. Be personal

Some people might disagree with this but I’ve found that a lot of people want to buy not only a good site but a good site that comes from a good person. If someone is going to part with $10k+ they are probably going to want to know that the seller is trustworthy and cares about the site.

Of course, you don’t want to go on about your weekend in the sales pitch, and you don’t want to give away any information that puts you in an unsafe position, but you do want to create a sense of transparency and honesty that buyers feel comfortable with. Be open about how the site developed, why you like it, why you’re selling, any concerns you have, etc.

4. Stand your ground but don’t be rude

Especially in any private negotiations, it’s really important to know what you want out of the sale and to not back down because someone is a better negotiator than you. Quite often you’ll face savvy buyers finding very good reasons to get your price down even though they fully intend to pay what you’re asking for. Know what price you want to achieve (realistically) and be prepared to back yourself.

5. Never, ever be dishonest

Honest people don’t need to be told this, but it’s critically important that you leave any sleazy sales tactics at the door and forget about lying or exaggerating to get some money. Not only does this make for a bad listing, it can really ruin someone’s financial situation if you sell them a site that has “skeletons in the closet”.

Comments on a Flippa listing

One of the most common things you’ll see in this regard is people trying to sell a site that has just been penalized by Google for one reason or another and claiming that they are just bored with the niche or need the money for family reasons. Forget it! It’s dishonest and will come back to bite you. As you can see from the few honest users featured in the screenshot above, there are both buyer and seller ratings, so all of your dealings go on record.

6. Use headings and organized formatting

Wait a sec! Writing a sales listing is like writing a blog post? You got it!

It’s not uncommon to see listings that are pages of clumpy text with no real order. Try and keep it in a structured format that is easy to digest. Break it down into headings like Background to the Sale, Why I’m Selling, Traffic Details, Revenue Details, Expenses and Costs, Problems and Issues, and so on.

This is the largest ever sale completed on Flippa ($750,000) and while I don’t support gambling sites I think it is an interesting study in setting up a listing.

7. Emphasize your blog’s strong points and what buyers want

If you are asking for a decent amount of money for your site you’ll want to know its strong points and be able to communicate them convincingly. Now, I’m not talking about tricking anyone or being really pushy. I’m just saying that it’s wise to clearly communicate why your blog is a good buy.

For example, if you rank for a particularly competitive set of keywords you might want to share that. If your site has survived Panda updates that other sites in your niche haven’t, that is also a good thing to get across. If you have a high converting opt-in form or a great email open rate you should absolutely tell them about it!

Don’t assume that revenue details are all they care about (although it is a big deal). Some other factor might be the difference between them buying your blog or another one on the same page.

How to ensure you have a good transaction (and post-transaction!)

As soon as you sell a blog you’ll have one of those “wish I had thought of that…” moments which can leave you with a few regrets. With that in mind I thought I’d go over a few little things you can do that can make a big difference to your happiness before and after the sale.

  • Know the process: A lot of bad mistakes happen when people haven’t done their research. Find out about how the process works and what is expected of you before, during and after.
  • Know the financial details: Find out how much the transaction is going to cost you from every angle. You need to know the fees Flippa charges, if you’re using that site, as well as any other fees/costs like bank fees or taxes.
  • Know your limits: If you have a strange feeling in your gut about something or someone then just stop right there and wait for another buyer. It’s better to be safe than sorry. It’s a good idea to set up some limits that you won’t go past to keep you focused during the sale.
  • Control the post-sale climate: In some situations it is possible to specify what can and can’t be done with your site once you sell it. You might need the help of a lawyer in order to draft a contract but if you don’t want your site getting used for unethical purposes down the track, for example, try and make it a condition of the sale.
  • Stay on board: Again, if you care about the site it is sometimes wise to stay on board for a few weeks or months to help the new owner get used to the day-to-day activities involved in running it.
  • Protect yourself: Don’t give out personal information that you don’t need to and try to use every protection that is available in the selling situation.

A lot of this stuff comes with experience but if you are selling your “pride and joy” blog it’s a good idea to take your time to do the preparation.

Some clever things to do with the sale money

I thought I’d share a pretty embarrassing story at this point.

When I sold my first blog I was quite young and was living like a broke college kid. So when the money hit my account I was pretty excited. It felt like a million dollars to me!

A smart person would have stored that money away or re-invested it into new businesses or blogs.

Not me. I ate the money.

Not literally, but I spent most of the profits sitting around playing video games and eating footlong Subs. It was a great holiday but a huge waste of money.

So what should you do with the money?

Well, it seems to me that if you’ve just sold a blog for a good profit, then maybe you have a skillset that you can develop and grow. Making money online isn’t easy so it might be a good idea to see how far you can take the blog development/sale process and whether you can scale it up.

For example, if you sold one blog for $50,000 with two years’ work, I wonder whether you could repeat the process on a larger scale and aim for three or four sales a year by hiring writers, coders, assistants, etc. A post later this week will look at buying blogs so that might be a good place for you to begin.

Reinvesting the money is smart. Eating sandwiches isn’t.

Would you sell your blog?

Sometimes we bloggers spend a lot of time reading and not a lot of time doing (myself included) and so I thought I’d encourage you to develop your own guide to selling a blog by trying it for yourself.

Remember, selling your blog is forever, so make sure you really want to go ahead with it before jumping in.

I’d love to hear from the Problogger.net readers on this one. Would you sell your blog? How much would you hope to get? Are you worried about the risks associated with the transaction? Drop a comment and let me know.

Update: check out our followup posts on selling blogs at:

Contributing author The Blog Tyrant is a 26 year old Australian guy who plays video games at lunch time and sells blogs for $20,000 a pop.

Internet Freedumb: Are You Falling Prey?

This guest post is by Chris The Traffic Blogger.

I can explain why you’re not making any money online in one word: Freedumb.

The irony of my writing a free post aimed at curtailing your misuse of free offers is not lost upon me. While your eyebrows fuse together and you determine whether reading this information is really worth your time, let me assure you that there is a valid reason for not charging any money for this work.

I absolutely believe that it’s worth quite a bit, but the people who need to read it (you’re in that group) would only purchase such knowledge if they already understood the concepts within it! Ironies abound, and you’ll realize just how ironic this entire volume is the further into it you get. In the end, I know my audience, and this article will target them, which is a skillset you need to learn to for yourself as well.

The greatest danger to entrepreneurs worldwide is the concept of Internet Freedumb. It is more lethal than the IRS, writer’s block, and months of poor sales figures combined. When you allow this cancerous notion to enter into your brain, it becomes the equivalent of quicksand beneath your feet. What’s really scary, and the reason it is remarkably deadly, is the fact that it sounds so damn appealing. Yet nobody seems to address it or feel the need to warn entrepreneurs of its affects.

I refuse to sit back and watch your internet dreams fly out the window. You owe to your business and yourself to read this entire document in a single sitting. Enough words of warning, let’s dive head-first into a word that you see every day but have never had access to the vernacular necessary to properly identify it.

What is Internet Freedumb?

Internet Freedumb is difficult to describe—much like the word “pornography.” I can tell you when I see it, but it’s a struggle for me to nail down an all-inclusive definition. Let’s focus on the result of Internet Freedumb in order to help define it.

The effect of Internet Freedumb on an entrepreneur, when you boil it down, is the entrepreneur thinking that making his or her content entirely free is the only way they can compete in the marketplace. It’s also the belief that creating 100% “free stuff” will lead to lots of traffic. This devolves into the use of advertising as the primary source of revenue, which is almost always done poorly, with little foresight.

Instead of building a business model, victims of Internet Freedumb literally set themselves up for bankruptcy.

The most confusing part about Internet Freedumb is the misconception that giving everything away for free makes people’s lives easier. No, it most certainly does not. How much garbage do you have downloaded onto your desktop? How many pdf’s, links, and videos? Probably far too many. We are bombarded day in and day out by the results of Internet Freedumb. Keep in mind, entrepreneurs ironically do this because they believe it will help them to stand out.

You know what does stand out? A paid product that removes the fluff and filler that makes up most Internet Freedumb giveaways. A $37 price tag sticks out. But even better, a $99 price tag really sticks out. As long as you deliver excellent content that both reduces Internet Freedumb inspired garbage down to manageable levels, and adds your own two cents, you will have a product that truly stands out.

By charging people money, you actually are helping them place a value on your work.

Think about when you want to ask the internet for help, and compare that with times when you want to purchase instructions. When you Google something, it’s usually a single question with a very basic answer. For example: “Dear Google, who invented electricity?” Conversely, you don’t go to the internet for a tutorial on how to learn AP Physics. Instead, you’ll spend your money on a concise, structured book about the subject or, even better, attend a course on it.

If you want to make money online, you need to focus on creating the manuals and video courses that teach people something. These must be objects of value, things that stand out above the wasteland of Internet Freedumb-inspired rubbish. It is only then that you will be able to make a living online.

You must not listen to the skeptics who believe that Internet Freedumb is the only way. Most importantly, you must build a new series of experiences that disprove the Internet Freedumb concept we all seem to initially believe in.

Let me clear up some initial confusion: this disease is not the same as the objects it spawns. Remember, we’re talking about entrepreneurs following a doomed-to-fail mindset, and it’s important to distinguish the cause from the result. The reason for this should be obvious: not all free stuff is dumb. There certainly is a time and a place for free pdf downloads and products. Problems arise when entrepreneurs take this too far, and usually they think that they will solve the puzzle of earning money from their free stuff later.

That “later” doesn’t ever come.

So Internet Freedumb really is just a mentality. It’s a losing mentality that makes you feel like a winner. You’ll think to yourself: “Yeah, I’m giving away lots of great stuff for free and everyone will love me for it!” Unfortunately, you’re just peddling more garbage amongst the gigantic pile of everyone else’s garbage online. You’re not building a business, and you’re certainly not making enough money to justify your hours worked.

Everything we do as human beings is aimed at helping someone (especially ourselves). In most cases, we make the wrong choice for the right reasons. Someone who succumbs to the Internet Freedumb mentality believes that they will help their readers. This is a great reason. Unfortunately, the choice of how to deliver that content (all free, all the time) does not lead to making that reason a reality. This someone also believes that giving everything away for free will get them traffic and money. Sorry, it just never works out that way.

Let’s say you have a really amazing product and are getting ready to price it. All too often, you will drop the price down to ridiculous levels, and eventually give it out for free, because you keep telling yourself that no one is going to pay for it. When someone sees the option to download your product for free or pay $50 for a well packaged tutorial on the subject, you instinctually believe that you’ve made their decision easy.

Unfortunately, our minds tend to consider paid products on a higher quality level than free ones. By giving your masterpiece away, you are devaluing it in the eyes of the reader to the point of possibly not even being worth glancing at.

If you find yourself making pennies from hours of hard work, then you have Internet Freedumb sickness. Don’t for a second believe that this only affects “losers.” In many ways, I myself have been bitten by this bug. Any time you cut corners and produce less than optimal quality content, you are falling for Internet Freedumb. It truly is a disease that destroys your work ethic and the ability to read what your customers want from you.

In the end, subscribing to Internet Freedumb means that you are truly selling out. At first you will think that I am lying to you. “No, selling out would be selling a product.” Actually, by giving away more free garbage, you are basically telling your audience that they aren’t worth creating a quality, paid product for.

The cure

How do we cure ourselves of this deadly disease?

The hardest part about defeating Internet Freedumb is the fact that our heart and brain tell us it’s the right way to go. You cannot defeat these forces without the will to experiment. By being willing to try something new and go outside of your comfort zone, you will have a shot at experiencing the opposite of what you thought had to be true.

Let’s say you ask your audience what kind of product they want you to create, and you actually make it beyond their expectations. If they spend money on your product and love you for it, then you will have a real experience to fall back on anytime someone tells you the Internet Freedumb lie, especially yourself.

Here are four actual steps you can take to experience truths that dispel the lies behind Internet Freedumb.

1. Start using a list

The money is in the list, but for technical or psychological reasons, you’ve been avoiding getting one started.

Let’s cut to the chase and actually get to work on the most important part of your online career. Get a list going!

I recommend Aweber for their “$1 for the first month” deal and easy-to-use tools. If you utilize my tactics outlined in the video course, So You Think You Can Blog, then you should be making a hundred to eight hundred dollars per month in no time.

2. Sell outside products

If you want to disprove the Internet Freedumb mentality sooner than later, you’ll need something to actually sell to your audience. Since creating a high quality product takes time, while you wait to implement one, you can sell someone else’s online product.

I would suggest finding anything above $10 and starting there.

I don’t just want you to disprove Internet Freedumb, I want you to remove it from your brain forever. It’s going to take a bunch of sales from your grateful audience to do that. Thinking along those lines, make sure that you pick a product you both use and love yourself before attempting to sell it.

Now, when you go to sell it, make sure that you don’t just slap a banner on the page and say “Buy this awesome product, I recommend it!” Give it some thought and dedicate your time to writing a review or presenting the product in a more colorful light.

3. Work on your own products

Use video software and a camera to produce at least some raw footage about your niche. Focus on featuring yourself because nobody else can be you. Yes, free has been done before, but a product that you create with your voice, and comprehensive thoughts within it, has definitely not been done before.

Be a new voice even if you’re sharing old information and you’ll be shocked at how much money you can make. At the very least, use a microphone like my Blue Snowball and record high quality podcasts. Just do something, even if it’s not the best presentation the first dozen attempts. But be sure to charge money for it.

4. Surround yourself with winners

Stop hanging out with just the crowd of people who believe in Internet Freedumb. Get out there and meet the entrepreneurs who actually are successful in selling products. Maybe you’ll even learn when it’s okay to use free stuff.

Follow my advice and you will quickly find yourself building experiences which contradict the Internet Freedumb mantra. After a short while, you’ll realize just how stupid it is to follow such a suicidal ideal.

What will it be? A real business based on value or a fake business built on free garbage? You decide.

Chris The Traffic Blogger. Creator of “So You Think You Can Blog” – A video course showing how to make $100,000 per year blogging.

Double Your Blog Profits in 2013?!

Recently, I asked a blogger what his goals were for 2013. He told me he wanted to double his blog’s income.

Piggy bank

Image courtesy 401(K)2013, licensed under Creative Commons

When I asked how he was going to do that he stared at me blankly and said, “That’s where I may need a little help. It seems such a big goal!”

We began to brainstorm some possibilities for creating that kind of increase in profit. We came up with quite a few ideas, but the main recurring themes seemed to be around three things:

  1. Increase traffic to his blog.
  2. Increase conversions of first-time visitors into subscribers of his email list.
  3. Increase sales conversions (he sells ebooks).

Now, these areas will vary from blog to blog. For example, those who monetize with advertising rather than with products might replace #3 in that list with increasing the performance of AdSense ads or landing extra sponsors.

But at the time, it struck me that to double his income, he could double any single one of the above areas—although 100% increases in any of these areas is a big ask.

However, smaller increases in each of them adds up—and it’s a lot more achievable. For example, a 30% increase in each of the above areas takes him well past a 100% income increase overall.

Of course even 30% increases in these areas can be daunting—but it’s a lot more achievable than 100% in any one!

As we talked this through, he became really energized and began to devise strategies for each of the three areas. In each, he came up with four or five small but important things he could do that would contribute to a 30% increase in that area.

Much of what he came up with was stuff he knew he should be doing but hadn’t gotten around to, or had put on the “one day” list. Most of it was low-hanging fruit that had potential to lead to significant rewards.

Let’s look at some examples.

Increase traffic

He decided to:

  • increase his posting rate from twice a week to three times a week
  • expand his use of social media—he had been focusing soley upon Twitter and decided to start engaging more on Facebook and to experiment with Pinterest
  • write and pitch two guest posts per month to other blogs in his niche
  • install an SEO plugin to help him optimize his blog for search engines.

Increase conversions in subscribers

In this case, the blogger came up with a series of tests that he wanted to run. These included split-testing his subscriber forms on his blog to see if he could increase the percentage of visitors who signed up.

He also wanted to test offering a free report for subscribers.

Increase sales conversions

In this case, the blogger:

  • realized that his sales pages could do with some updating and testing—some A/B testing to optimize them would almost certainly see an increase in the percentage of people buying his ebooks
  • recognized that he wasn’t doing any kind of upselling when a person bought an ebook—as a result he was probably missing out on some sales from people who would buy a second or third if they had opportunity to do so
  • admitted he hadn’t developed any kind of autoresponder sequence for his subscribers that offered them deals on his ebooks.

I’m pretty confident that if he did actually implement all of the above tactics, he’d see small but significant increases in profit over the year ahead—in fact there’s potential there for him to more than double his profit!

How could you double your profit in 2013?

All of us probably have items on our “one day” list. Could any of these help you move toward doubling your profit in 2013? Let us know your plans in the comments.

What Content Works Where? Smarter Traffic (and Revenue) Building Through Social Media

Every time we publish a post on social media here at ProBlogger, readers comment that social media takes so much time—how can they get smarter about it?

Girl using computer

Image courtesy pictureYouth, licensed under Creative Commons

Today I wanted to give you a quick way to get a better handle on your social media activities, in about five minutes, using nothing more than your site stats (I’m using Google Analytics).

You don’t need to get any software or be using a certain tool to share your content. This is just a short, quick technique that anyone can use—social media newbie or superstar.

Is your social media “working”?

First, let’s look at the question we’re trying to answer here. Most of us want to know that we’re getting some return on investment on social media, but we also want to improve our work within each network, so that our communications are more targeted, and our returns keep improving.

So the broad question, “Is social media really working for me?” or “Is it worth my time?” are probably better refined to:

  • How much traffic am I getting from social media?
  • What’s that doing for my bottom line?
  • How can I improve on those figures?

That first question is very easily answered; any stats package will tell you how many unique visitors and pageveiws your blog is getting through social channels. It’ll also tell you what percentage of your traffic overall comes from those sources.

You can easily extrapolate that to an actual (if approximate) ROI provided you have an idea of the value you get from, say, each ad impression on your blog. Divide that by the number of hours you spend each month or week on social media and you’ll know exactly how much money you’re making for your time right now. It’ll be harder to track the ongoing, growing value of that time expenditure in less tangible terms, like what it’s doing for authority-building within your niche. But this is a start.

Similarly, if you have a special promotion you’ve been plugging through social media, you should be able to track how much traffic it’s sending to your landing page. And if it’s a dedicated landing page for social media traffic, you’ll be able to clearly see how well that traffic’s converting.

But what about the last question: How can I improve those figures?

The answer lies in looking a little more closely at what, specifically, is pulling the traffic through from each network.

An analysis

If you’re not sure how your social networks are performing when it comes to generating traffic, you might be surprised to look at your stats. Here are the most popular URLs on ProBlogger for the last month, for Twitter:

  1. 40 Cool Things to Do with Your Posts After You Hit Publish
  2. Ramit Sethi Exposed: How He Earns Millions Blogging
  3. Neil Patel’s Guide to Writing Popular Blog Posts
  4. Grow Your Blog Business: The Earn Millions in Your Flip-flops Framework [Case Study]
  5. How to Make $30,000 a Year Blogging.

And here are the most popular for Facebook:

  1. 15 Bloggers to Watch in 2013
  2. 40 Cool Things to Do with Your Posts After You Hit Publish
  3. Are You Wasting Time Guest Posting?
  4. Can You REALLY Make Money Blogging? 7 Things I Know About Making Money from Blogging
  5. 20 Linkbaiting Techniques.

What stands out to me here, above all else, is the potential for older content (like that last post in the Facebook list, which was from 2006!) to get traffic through reshares.

Obviously, with all your stats at your fingertips, you can go much further than the top five, but this snapshot gives a fairly clear picture of the differences between the content that appeals to the users of different networks.

Even at a glance, we might make some hypotheses based on these results:

  • Twitter users in this space prefer case studies and personal advice that comes with a sense of authority.
  • Facebook users in this space like list posts.
  • The most popular topics on Twitter seem to be about making money blogging.
  • The most popular topics on Facebook are about blog promotion techniques.

So of course, the next step is to test those hypotheses. I could go back into the stats archive to see if those statements are true over, say, the last six months. And I could test those statements using articles I have queued up for the next week or month.

There seems to be a bit of a dichotomy between headlines that work well on each network, so I could try different headlines on different types of posts and see how that goes. But it’s also important to remember that reshares aren’t just about headlines—they’re also about content.

So rather than just coming up with some great direct, list-style headlines for list posts in an effort to boost traffic from Facebook, I could see try other types of headlines on some list posts, and see how they perform on that network. In this way I can narrow down how important the headline is on each social network, as well as which types of content are likely to do well.

What next?

As I mentioned, this kind of analysis doesn’t take long—a five-minute review once a week (or, more likely for me, once a month!) will give me the information I need.

This information can help me shape my content to attract more users from each network, but it can also help me to devise information products or offers that best suit each network’s users. This can, again, help me optimize clickthroughs and conversions from those sources.

The more I get to know the data over time, the more effectively I can communicate to users of each network about things that interest them, and in ways that impact them. This can help me to build broad rapport but also to do market research, make valuable relationships, and more.

Not bad for a five-minute review! Of course, there’s a lot more you can do around social media tracking and assessment. But as I explained at the outset of this post, I wanted to show all those bloggers who think social media takes too much time that getting quantitative answers about the return on that investment isn’t hard or time-consuming.

And neither is making use of that information to make your social networking even more productive.

What sorts of social media traffic and revenue tracking do you do? Let us know in the comments.

How Interview Blogs Work [Case Study]

This guest post is by Janelle Allen of The Grand Life.

In September 2012, I launched my latest online venture, The Grand Life, where I interview creative professionals and entrepreneurs, and quickly realized that I had a lot to learn about building a successful interview site.

Although there are a few resources on interviewing, what I really needed was to chat with other interviewers who were willing to share their strategies and thoughts on generating traffic, converting subscribers and attracting revenue.

Fortunately, I secured interviews with the founders of three different sites, each with varying levels of success: Shelia Butler of Successful Women Talk, Tim Jahn, co-founder of Entrepreneurs Unpluggd, and David Siteman Garland of The Rise to the Top.

Each of these individuals shared tons of insight and helpful tips, which I now share with you.

A little background

Can you give us a quick intro about your site and it’s mission?

SB: The premise behind Successful Women Talk is to interview successful women and share their stories. About two years ago I started following some of people like Andrew Warner, David Siteman Garland, and I thought, “You know what? I needed a mentor and I didn’t have one. What better mentor for a woman than to have another successful woman that’s walked that path before her?” I just wanted to give someone else the idea—to show them that you can do it.

TJ: At Entrepreneurs Unpluggd our goal is to help early stage entrepreneurs move forward with their business idea or whatever it is they’re working on. Entrepreneurs Unpluggd provides advice and resources to help solve the problems that new entrepreneurs, and those thinking about taking the leap, experience in the early stages.

DSG: We work with online entrepreneurs. I call them mediapreneurs. A lot of times they’re creating some kind of media related to their business: a web show, a blog, a book. Some kind of form like that. We deal with a lot of experts and people that have a passion that they’re looking to turn into an online business—that’s really the types of people that come hang out with us.

When did you launch your site?

SB: I started the show in March (2012), so it’s a relatively new site.

TJ: We launched the site portion in the Spring or Summer of 2011, but we started with events in the beginning of 2011.

DSG: I started in 2008. When I started it was a different approach from a lot of people because my site started out as a local website. So 2008 and 2009, it was really for local entrepreneurs in St. Louis, Missouri, where I’m from.

Strategies for growing your site

How much traffic do you currently generate per month?

SB: I’m at around 1000 unique visitors each month.

TJ: I don’t know the numbers offhand. Right now our numbers aren’t anything huge. So that’s a goal going forward.

DSG: Our onsite traffic is somewhere around 100,000 to 125,000 unique visitors a month.

What are your top traffic sources?

SB: Organic is still my number one, then Facebook and then probably Stumbleupon or Pinterest; but Facebook and organic traffic are the biggest ones.

TJ: Twitter is the highest.

DSG: Google is number one, Facebook is number two.

What strategies did you use to attract readers when you started out?

SB: I had previously built a website and I knew I wanted to optimize the site for SEO as much as possible. I wanted the site to be clean; I wanted an opt-in option and to do video because it’s another way to market yourself. So those strategies and also trying to be different by interviewing women. I’m slowly but organically putting myself out there. I have Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest. That’s been my strategy: putting it there and trying to be as SEO friendly as possible.

TJ: We focused on three things: Producing really good content. Everybody says that, but to us that means we produce videos for our events. We also have the interviews that I used to do.

And we also like to produce really good written content. So when it comes to a blog post, whether it’s one of our team members writing it or it’s a guest post, it needs to fit certain criteria and be useful in our eyes to be considered good, quality content.

Also, we’re constantly working on ways to promote our content in a higher way. We’ve been focusing on social media, in addition to constantly tweaking our email newsletter.

DSG: I’m one of those who likes to share everything transparently—everything that I’ve tried, attempted, worked, failed … whatever. When I started it was a different approach from a lot of people because my site started out as a local website. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have people elsewhere, but my focus was local interviews with interesting entrepreneurs. So I went on a local tirade to try to get people’s attention. Besides using social media channels and things like that, I made sure that I networked with all the major media sources in St. Louis at the time. St. Louis Business Journal and Small Business Monthly of St. Louis, St. Louis Magazine and Alive Magazine, radio, TV—anything local that would listen to me.

I was doing TV interviews and radio interviews. And honestly the way that I did it was no magic formula: I just emailed people or called them up [and said], “I’m 24. I’m starting this show. We’re interviewing entrepreneurs. Here’s the website. The mission is that I’m trying to encourage young entrepreneurship in the city.” And that led to a lot of early traffic. That was, believe it or not, one of the first of many, many strategies that I used to get it off the ground.

What have you learned from some of the strategies that you’ve used? Are there any unsuccessful strategies that you would advise people to avoid?

SB: I think the biggest thing is not to focus on the number of followers you have, but the quality with those followers and how much engagement you truly have with them.

At first I would beat myself up because I didn’t have ten thousand Twitter followers. But it doesn’t really matter because I’ve found that the people who love what I do continue to respond, continue to comment, continue to watch and continue to spread my stuff. I think that you need to put more value in the few quality people that you have and when you do that you gain traction.

I also started putting themes around my content each week, with the interviews I’d do. I think that helps because then I’d also link to articles that were related to my theme of the week or the person that I’m interviewing. Just trying to be more strategic about it.

TJ: What I’d recommend other people to work on is to figure out which channels apply to their audience. You mentioned things you shouldn’t do: a while back we were promoting to sites where our audience wasn’t hanging out, so it was pointless for us to take the time to share our content there. So take the time to figure out which sites are actually worth your time and have an audience that will actually be reading your content.

DSG: A thing that worked really well was we did live events. We did 85 live events in two years in St. Louis. Not big ones, but getting 30 entrepreneurs together for dinner and discussions or Rise Lunch, as we called it. These little branding opportunities were great because it gave people the touch and feel of the brand.

I think that if I were to start again from scratch, I don’t think I would focus as much on the local as I did in the beginning. I would focus on [building] critical relationships with other influencers in the space, which has always been a success strategy and that’s part of interviewing. I would do more book reviews on video and give credit to authors, for example. I would do more ways that you can connect with people. That’s really the best way anything spreads, not asking people, “Can you promote this for me?” It’s better to ask “How can I promote and help other people?”

Another thing that I want to emphasize is that I’ve always been obsessed with the design of the site. I love a high-end design. I’m not talking about spending millions of dollars here, but spending time and money and effort to really get that brand down. Everyone says content is king. I agree, but it’s really about what it looks like and how it makes people feel and your connection with a person and the audience.

How has your site evolved over time and how have the changes impacted your growth?

DSG: When I started, I didn’t know who it was for. I was going for young but I didn’t know the demographic that was going to happen. The way that I learned to evolve it was just from doing the interviews. I would interview people and think “That guy wasn’t that cool. I’m not feeling this.” So slowly, I would narrow and narrow [my target audience] down over time and I think that’s one of the keys to success. I’m not afraid to say “We’re going in this direction,” even though it may piss some people off.

Here’s the funny mistake that happened too: first [the focus] was entrepreneurship, then it naturally evolved to online entrepreneurship and where it’s at today is what I call mediapreneurship or lifestyle entrepreneurship. Between the shift from online to mediapreneurship, I knew something was missing. So a shift that I made very quickly was to go more broad and interview successful people in all types of industries. I did that—and honestly, I love those interviews—but it was off-brand. I knew something had to change but I should have gone narrow, not broad.

Then I figured it out and realized I was right about needing to change, but wrong on the direction. When I went narrow, that’s when I really started honing in on the topic and the types of people who were tuning in. That’s when it went to the next level in terms of everything: revenue, business model, traffic, community buyers–everything went in the right direction once we went that way.

Strategies for converting readers to subscribers

How many email subscribers do you currently have?

SB: I just looked and I have about 175 email subscribers right now. It’s a start. But it was more than what I thought, so I got really excited!

TJ: We have a little over 5000 or so. That’s something we’re always thinking about. We’ve found that people who are on the email newsletter are the most engaged and into what we’re doing.

DSG: One of my fun mistakes early on was to not focus solely on email. Now on my site you won’t find social media buttons or anything. We push everything through email. If I had done that when I started, we’d be doing this interview from my yacht.

Our email subscribers right now are somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000, and going up exponentially each month. By the end of next year, it could be close to 100k.

What strategies do you use to convert people to subscribers?

SB: I try to have a really clean site and focus on my opt-in box [locations]. At the bottom of every post, I have an opt-in. I also included a “free updates” page and I’ve gotten quite a bit of subscribers from that.

I’ve also started asking people to share, which is something that we as women have a hard time with: asking for things. I just launched my podcast on iTunes and Stitcher, so I put a Facebook post up asking people to subscribe. So, I’m going to ask and I think asking is really important.

TJ: We’ve played with different calls to action on our site. At the moment we have a welcome mat, which is a full page that you see when you first come to our site. If you’ve never been to our site before, you’ll see it and it will encourage you to sign up. It doesn’t force you (there’s a Skip this button), but it works very well.

There are some sites that implement that technique on only the home page, but we implement it on every page. We also have calls to action at the bottom of every post and at the top of every page.

DSG: First and foremost, you will notice if you go to my site—boom—right at the top there’s an email signup. I’m a big believer in using your real estate well. There’s also an email signup on every page and some of the hidden pages that people don’t use, but they should, like the About page. A couple other ways I do it: it’s always under every episode and I always verbally say it in each episode.

Another thing is that once you start putting things for sale and you start getting some really awesome customers, they start spreading the word. You end up with more word of mouth conversion when you start charging people for things. It’s a good thing.

Have there been changes or events that spiked your conversion rate or has it been slow growth?

SB: I think I’m too new to say. So far it’s been slow growth. But I have interviewed some well-known people lately and I get more followers from that. I’ve noticed that if I interview someone with a bigger following, if they share it, that makes a big difference.

TJ: The welcome mat definitely made a huge difference in terms of conversion rate.

DSG: Here’s a little lesson that definitely increased email subscribers: I used to say “Hey guys, you like this … you want more … blah, blah. Join The Rise VIP list and you’ll have more.” Now here’s where it gets interesting! I realized that’s annoying because people could be on another site, or they might be on iTunes or listening to it on Stitcher Radio. They’re going to look below and say, “What are you talking about?” So what I did was very simple: I just made a URL to therisetothetop.com/vip. The URL is just a sign up for the email list. So on episodes or anything that I’m doing where I’m talking or doing an interview, I just say go to rise/vip, where you’ll hear about new shows, etc. As long as they remember that URL, you don’t have to be as concerned about where people are watching or listening.

Another thing that helped was I changed from sending out a very generic automatic email when shows went up. It was an RSS autoresponder that went out whenever there was a new post. I completely changed that. Now I do a straight-up email like it’s coming from a friend. I send every single one myself and I get more emails back from people now. I include something funny about my day or weekend or whatever. That was a huge shift. It sounds small, but what ends up happening is people share that email. They’re like, “This is funny. Have you seen this? You should check it out.”

Strategies for building revenue

Are you currently able to fully support yourself financially from your site?

SB: I am not, but it is a goal. I do have another business, so I do a couple of things. I have gotten several consulting clients from the site.

TJ: It’s definitely something we want to make regular revenue from, and we are but we’re not making full-time revenue.

DSG: Absolutely. I just hired my dad who is a full-time employee.

How much annual revenue do you generate on your site?

DSG: We can’t release it fully but I can tell you that it’s over $300,000.

What revenue models did you use for your show when you started out and what lessons did you learn?

TJ: Sponsors and events. [In the future], we’re going to experiment with different ways of doing sponsors, maybe sponsored content or some sort of interactive content between the sponsor and our community, which only works if you have the right sponsors. The sponsors we seek and will continue to seek are those who have products and services for our community.

My co-founder and I are very data driven. We like to make decisions based on the data, so we pay close attention to which types of posts work and what kind of content works. When I say “work,” what it really boils down to is what your goals are. If your goal is to make money, there’s no point in doing anything that’s not going to make you money.

It only makes sense to do things that support your goals, right? So start experimenting with things. Try list posts. They traditionally work well in our industry, so try it and if it does well, try another one. If it doesn’t, try a different type of post until you start to build data on what works. We did videos for a long time. My interviews were about twenty minutes long. We’re going to experiment with cutting up the videos to see which lengths work. Will people respond to a five minute video versus a fifteen minute video? If so, then we’re going to make five minute videos.

DSG: When I was starting out it was all based on local ads and sponsorships and I learned that local ads and sponsorships suck. It kept me afloat, so I can’t rip it, but it’s not a sustainable model, because if you’re going to do advertisements and sponsorships, you’re now in the media mindset versus being an educator.

When you’re in the media mindset, it’s all about volume. You have to get more people in; you have to do more shows; you have to get more advertisements, but there’s a cap on how far you can go with that, especially if you’re in a niche. The more niche the better; however, you have a smaller potential audience. So, when you do sponsorships the challenge is that your revenue is controlled by someone else. If they wake up on the wrong side of the bed, if they’re going out of business, if they get bored and move on to something else–that could be a massive revenue hit to you if you don’t control it.

I still have sponsorships and advertising, but I can tell you that it’s not a sustainable business by itself. It just isn’t. You’re going to end up having pressure to grow more audience when that may not be the best way to go about it.

Let’s put it this way: I have made six figures from my first online product launch with an audience of less than 500 people who bought it. The reason is because I get all the revenue. I created it and it’s $495 dollars. If I went to a sponsor and said: “We’ve got 500 awesome people. Do you want to sponsor this?” They’d say no.

That was a huge shift because my goal at the beginning was that I was going to grow this and have sponsorships and that was the model. I can’t remember the moment when I had the awakening, but I think when I started learning more from other people I realized that my business model was flawed. Not in terms of revenue, but for long-term growth and potential. Now, I see us as a show and products and online events–which have been hugely successful—and we’re also going to move into having a membership component as well. It’s going to be a multi-faceted approach.

I think the number one takeaway is that people think that they’re just going to do a show and have these sponsors and advertising come in and sprinkle you with happiness. It just doesn’t happen. Once you get into that creation mindset and begin to charge people, I think that’s where it’s at.

Final thoughts

When it comes to hosting an internet radio show or having a site that focuses on interviewing people, what are two or three key lessons that people should absolutely do when starting out, in terms of successfully growing an audience?

SB: I think the best thing is that you’ve got to be authentic. I’ll give you a good example: I almost didn’t start a talk show because of my Southern (American) accent. I was really embarrassed by it and I thought that people would think I was uneducated or whatever the stereotype is, but I get the most positive compliments about my accent than anything. So be yourself and don’t be afraid to go out there and try something new.

Secondly, having a good look, design and brand is important.

Thirdly, be consistent. Sometimes it’s hard to post when you say you will. Even though I have a small following, they are a dedicated following and they expect something to happen on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I think being consistent is huge.

TJ: First, don’t do what doesn’t work. The argument there is that if I’m just starting out, I don’t know what doesn’t work. Well, that brings me to my second point: do it and iterate as quickly as possible.

We’re constantly iterating. It’s not always something big, sometimes it’s small tweaks. Go out there and just start doing it. You’re going to make mistakes and screw up and figure things out but that’s when you’re going to start building data to figure out what works and what doesn’t. That’s when you’ll be able to begin only doing things that work, because you’ll know what works and what doesn’t. You’re never going to get to that point if you don’t start.

My co-founder and I, when we want to do something, we just do it. We don’t sit down and think about it for a week and have a big meeting, we just do it. We get on chat and say “Should we do this? What’s the data?” If it doesn’t work, we learn that pretty quickly.

DSG: First thing: You have to spend some time and a little dough on the brand. One of the biggest secrets to getting people to say yes is that you actually look like you know what you’re doing.

Second, is not to start with the top of the mountain. Don’t try to reach out to A-lister type people because you’ll get pissed when they don’t respond. Start with people you know, people you can practice on. Build up your portfolio a little bit before you start reaching out to [A-list] people.

Third tip: When you start reaching out to people that are bigger, the best time to get someone is when they’re promoting something. A book is the best possible thing because the publishers pressure everyone to go promote their book. When people have something to promote, they become much more likely to be interviewed.

Bonus tip: I’ve done hundreds of interviews and I’ve never once asked someone to promote my interview. I know people that do it and they like to send a link and say “Please promote this,” but I like to come from a place that’s more about gratitude. When I interview someone, after the interview is up, I send a link, thank them and that’s it. Good things will happen from that.

Every time someone sends me a link and says “Can you promote this?” I don’t want to do it. Interestingly, anytime someone sends it to me and doesn’t tell me to promote it, I promote it. You don’t want to make people think that you only did the interview because you want them to send it out. You want to throw a party for the guest. It should be fun and easy.

What is one piece of advice that may be unconventional or that we just don’t usually hear that you would recommend people follow?

SB: I’ve been told and I’ve read that you can’t be too broad, but when I do interviews outside of my niche, they are sometimes my most popular ones—so try not to be too close-minded and think outside the box. Give people the benefit of the doubt and learn how to pull something out of the interview that speaks to your audience.

DSG: It’s not about bringing in as much traffic as you can. What it’s about is: At some point you’re going to start to get a little bit of love. You might have two fans, but you’re going to get a little bit of love. A comment. An email. A Facebook like; something like that. These early adopters become your superfans—take care of them. What do I mean? Respond to them. I respond to everything that I possibly can, even now. This engagement builds fans that spread the word for you.

Let me give you an example: a lady named Debbie. I didn’t know Debbie but she was having issues subscribing and she sent me an email saying “I want to subscribe but I can’t figure it out.” So, very simply, I went in and subscribed her and sent her an email saying “Hey, Debbie. I’m so excited to have you in and I want to apologize for the problems. It’s all set. You’re in!” I got the warmest, kindest email back, thanking me. I just did this because I wanted to help her, but you wouldn’t believe the amount of stuff that Debbie has spread for this show since then. She’s our number one fan. She spreads everything. She buys everything. She attends everything. When I hosted a live event one time, she couldn’t make it so she sent a bottle of wine. People often wonder how you create these kinds of super fans; it’s by treating them as individuals.

Conclusion

Building a successful interviewing site takes more than just finding interesting people. You have to combine savvy interviewing skills with technical know-how and strategic marketing. Hopefully the strategies shared in this article will help you build a successful site. If you’re new to interviewing or thinking about starting, there are a few resources you should check out, namely Andrew Warner’s How to Interview Your Heroes guide and David Siteman Garland’s Create Awesome Interviews training videos.

Beyond that, I can only suggest you follow the advice you’ve read here: set clear goals, don’t be afraid to change directions, honor your fans and, above all, just start.

Do you do interviews for your blog? Share your own tips and advice with us in the comments.

Janelle Allen is the founder and author of The Grand Life, where she interviews creative entrepreneurs about creativity, freedom and work, with a focus on telling stories about work that matters. Learn more about her here and connect with her via Twitter.

How to Get Paid to Double Your Blog Traffic: a Technique 99% of Bloggers Won’t Dare Try

This post is by Shane MeLaugh of imimpact.com.

Imagine if this traffic screenshot was yours:

Analytics

Of course, your traffic levels might be more or less depending on the size of your blog and how long you’ve been blogging, but the purpose of this post is to show you how to double your blog traffic—while getting paid to do it.

The above screenshot reflects traffic to my previous blog two years ago, at its infancy. Then I made a simple change and something significant happened.

Here’s exactly what happened:

  • I doubled my blog traffic almost overnight and it kept growing every month.
  • I was able to build a sizeable mailing list.
  • I made a total of over $100,000 in a two-year period because of this simple change.

Watch this short video to see what the change was, that caused this increase in traffic:

Yes, that’s it. One product resulted in big increase in traffic and a very healthy income, all at the same time.

You’ve probably read several articles on increasing blog traffic, but you’ll rarely hear people tell you to create a product to increase your blog traffic.

Creating a product is often seen as something that’s difficult to do, so many bloggers shy away from even trying.

By creating a product however, you’ll be able to:

  • grow your blog traffic
  • build your expertise
  • build a strong email list
  • make a lot of money.

I’ll be explaining more about how to do this later in this post.

I’m Shane Melaugh from imimpact.com and the result I’m sharing above was from two years ago. Does that mean it doesn’t work anymore? Absolutely not. Product creation continues to be my main method for increasing traffic to my websites and it works better than ever. The reason I’m sharing a case study from two years ago is because:

  • this was my first attempt, with no experience or leverage, so anybody can do it
  • I had a relatively new blog with no email list, few connections and little traffic
  • it works wonders, but it seems no one ever talks about this method.

Why creating a product is the best way to increase your blog traffic

Quote 1If you take a look at the screenshot above you’ll notice that my blog was receiving well below 200 visitors a day before my first product release.

Your blog is never too small to create a product. In fact, if I were to start again from scratch I’d create a product, even with no existing traffic at all.

Here’s why.

1. You give people an incentive to market your business

The best way to grow your blog is by getting support from other bloggers and marketers in your field and the best way to get this support is by creating a product.

No blogger will send an email promoting that awesome blog post you wrote to a list of 10,000 subscribers no matter how great your blog post is. However, many bloggers will happily send one or several emails to their list promoting your product if it’s a good enough product and they know they’ll get affiliate commissions.

Instead of just linking to you out of goodwill, they can promote you, knowing that it helps their audience, it helps you and it also helps them earn some money.

2. You establish your blog with the right readers

What’s better to have: a blog with 1,000 monthly visitors or a blog with 10,000 monthly visitors?

You bet it’s the blog with 10,000 visitors, right?

Wrong (sometimes, at least).

It’s not just about traffic quantity, but also about traffic quality. You can have thousands of visitors who don’t engage with your content, don’t share your content, don’t leave comments—they just eat up your bandwidth. Or you can have a small group of highly engaged fans who give you feedback and spread your message through social media.

The great thing about selling a product and getting affiliate promotions is that it adds customers to your mailing list and to your blog readership. Happy customers are some of the most engaged and helpful readers you’ll ever have.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take 1,000 happy customers over 10,000 anonymous browsers any day of the week.

3. You build a business, not a blog

These are two very different things that are easily confused.

There’s a huge difference between building a blog of 10,000 monthly visitors in two years before creating a product and building a blog with the same 10,000 visitors in the same two years’ time while making $100,000. The difference is that the first one is a blog while the latter is a business.

4. Most bloggers won’t dare to do this

This approach is unlike guest blogging, article marketing, or SEO. It isn’t something you can easily do. To succeed, you have to commit yourself and think long term and this is why most bloggers won’t even dare to create their own products.

Releasing a product was an effective way to grow your blog two years ago, it’s effective today and it will be, for a long time to come. You’re doing something that’s “difficult” and so you have less competition.

As Tim Ferriss said in his book The 4-Hour Work-Week:

“The fishing is best where the fewest go, and the collective insecurity of the world makes it easy for people to hit home runs while everyone else is aiming for base hits. There is just less competition for bigger goals.”

A 4-step plan to creating your own traffic-boosting product

I recently released a free comprehensive one-hour video and case study report that explains the process behind my six-figure launch, but here’s a summary of the steps I took to create my first product.

Step #1: Market and product research

Quote 2Research will make or break your product.

Creating a successful product isn’t about thinking and creating a product based on the first idea that pops into your head; you need to research who your audience is, what kind of product they want, where they hang out, the exact terms they use, and how much they’re willing to pay.

Creating a generic product in a popular niche won’t work. It’ll be more effective to create a solution to a very specific problem rather than trying to cater to all the problems your readers experience.

In my own case, I observed during my research that a major problem my audience face is getting traffic; after further research, I observed that most of them have problems with SEO and that the most challenging problem for them when it comes to SEO was building backlinks.

There was the idea for the product I needed to create!

How to research

Researching what your audience wants can be very complicated if you’re a newbie without a strong audience, but this doesn’t always have to be a problem. Here are a few ways you can research to find out what your audience want:

  1. Try gathering feedback on industry related forums where you’re already active.
  2. Conduct a survey with your existing audience, no matter how small, or get support from fellow bloggers to send the survey to their audience.
  3. Offer free products, in the form of an ebook or multimedia, to gauge response and feedback to see how people will respond to a similar paid offer.
  4. Help people one-on-one, via Skype or email, to find out what their major challenges are; this will also reveal exact terms and key words they use and this can be very powerful marketing material.

Step #2: Create your product

Your product doesn’t have to be high-end or massive for you to get results.

You can create a product in an afternoon, then sell it for a few bucks and grow your audience at the same time. A perfect example of this approach was implemented by Becker and documented in a recent guest post here. One example he cited was creating a $5 product and selling 6,000 copies, gaining 6,000 new subscribers as a result.

While that kind of thing can work, the approach I took was to create a high-end product.

This took me a few weeks of effort and research, but it was well worth it. I focused on making the product of very high quality, and constant updates were added in its lifetime. The focus with this product was to make it so valuable that buyers would become lifetime fans.

Step #3: Create an affiliate program

Getting affiliates to promote your product will be a huge part of making it successful.

Once your product is unique and of great quality, you’ll experience success by getting affiliates to help you sell it; you’ll be able to make money and grow your network at the same time.

Luckily, it’s very easy to set up an affiliate program for your product these days. You can simply list your product on an existing affiliate platform/marketplace and everything else is taken care of.

Step #4: Market your product

Quote 3I can’t emphasize enough that no matter how great your product is, it is bound to fail without marketing.

Creating a product is not a substitute for marketing.

There are various ways to go about marketing your product. Here are some ideas.

1. Viral marketing

The best kind of traffic you can get is viral traffic. In this context, I’m not talking about “going viral” in terms of getting a huge windfall of traffic, but the kind of traffic that self-perpetuates.

You can’t make something go viral, but you can create systems where traffic always leads to more traffic, even if it’s on a very small scale.

For example, I offered a discount on the price of my product. But customers could only access this discount by tweeting a link to my sales page or sharing it on Facebook. This didn’t lead to a massive flood of traffic, but it kept traffic coming in and it lead to extra sales and extra exposure. I explain more about this and another “mini-viral” traffic method in my case study report.

2. Solo ads

I purchased a few solo ads, which are just paid emails to other people’s mailing lists. This helped get some initial momentum for my product launch and contributed to the total sales made, as well.

3. Affiliate traffic

This will be the most powerful aspect of your marketing. The idea is to get other bloggers and marketers with a huge list and audience to promote your product. An affiliate doesn’t need to have a product to promote your product.

There are three very important steps to benefiting from affiliate traffic and they are:

  1. Sell a great product.
  2. Ensure your product is highly specific; very few people will promote generic products since these products are everywhere and they’ll have gotten a lot of offers to promote them but no one can resist promoting a specific, “new” kind of product.
  3. Try to get as many affiliates as possible on board; the more the merrier. You should expect a lot of affiliates not to take you up on your offer but the more people you contact the higher your chances of success. This isn’t about the numbers, though; make sure your affiliates don’t lack in quality and quantity.

Questions?

In almost 2,000 words, I believe this post contains all you need to know about getting paid to double your blog traffic. But if you still have questions, let me know in the comments.

Shane Melaugh is an Irish guy from Switzerland. He owns imimpact.com, a blog about increasing the bottom line for online business owners by creating unique and compelling offers, growing web site traffic and maximising conversions.