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How I Fast-tracked My Blog to 10k Subscribers and $15k Revenue in a Month

This guest post is by Alex Becker of Source Wave Marketing.

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Image courtesy stock.xchng user Thoursie

When I first got into blogging, gaining any sizable amount of engaged subscribers seemed like a slow, tedious task. As bloggers, I am sure you know the popular ways to get people to your site:

  • guest posting
  • participating on forums
  • SEO.

But when your blog is brand new, getting featured on a site with a ton of traffic is next to impossible. Creating a solid reputation on a forum takes time. SEO is a popular tactic but also takes a long time. To put it bluntly, if you are new to blogging, the deck is not stacked in your favor.

This is why I decided to use another method to grow my blog: product creation.

“Wait, what?!” you might be thinking. “Making products as a way to grow your blog/brand? Does that even work?”

Well, my blog is just over seven months old. It has an email list of just over 10,000 people and brings in a total of $15k+ in revenue monthly. So yes, product creation is a super-effective and underutilized method to grow your blog. But before you can put this method to use on your blog, you need to understand why it works so well.

Why blogging and making products is like pouring gasoline on a fire

Ironically, the easiest place to get traffic you can capture is not on other websites. It isn’t on Facebook or Twitter. It is the massive email lists people have in certain niches.

But I am not just talking about any big email list. Getting a monster blogger or magazine to feature you in their email list is pretty tough, and oddly enough, they do not even have the best traffic.

Blogger and news lists: the hard way

A huge blogger might have 10-30k emails. The funny thing is that many of these are worthless because these are what we call “freebie chasers.” These are people that joined an email list for free and are only interested in one thing—more free stuff. They are also commonly not committed to a niche.

Now this blogger is going to make you jump through hoop after hoop to get featured in his or her list. While you can traffic from the list, it’s going to be very hard unless you also have a big reputation (which 95% of bloggers do not).

We want to focus on one and only one type of list: the massive email lists that other product creators have. And here’s why.

Product creators’ lists: the easy way

Think about the owner of a successful Clickbank product or information products. Even small-time product creators routinely have email lists of 5-20k. Bigger names can easily have 20k-100k. That’s a lot of people, folks.

Here’s why their lists are so valuable: every single person on their lists has loaded up their PayPal accounts and paid for information in the niche they’re selling in. As they say, money talks. And when these people have put money down, they’re telling you a couple things:

  • They are very interested in the niche.
  • They participate in the niche.
  • They are comfortable spending money in the niche.

This is exactly the type of person you want coming to your site and joining your list.

The ironic thing is that product creators are far less stingy with their lists than many others. This is because they usually have their list for a much less honorable reason than most straight-up bloggers. Most product creators (not all of them) use their list to promote other products and make an affiliate income.

This means one thing to you: if you have a product that will make them money, they will throw a tidal wave of traffic your way.

This is why they are such a great resource. They have one simple button you need to press to get access to “buyer” traffic. In this post, I’ll show you exactly how to push that button.

My product creation blueprint for blogging

I understand your thoughts right now: “What if I’ve never made a product before?”

Don’t panic. You don’t need to create a mega-product, nor I am not telling you to put crummy material out on the market. However, my father always told me “Keep it simple, stupid.” Sometimes something small and simple works insanely well. In fact, for this method, we want small and simple.

For example, one of the first products I made with my partner was a list of the most reliable Fiverr sellers, which we sold for five bucks. This simple product has sold over 6,000 copies, earning us over 6,000 subscribers.

So just keep in mind that you are totally capable of doing this. With that being said, let me walk you through the steps I used to create a product and blow up my blog, and then how I used my blog to create sales.

Step 1. Find an idea for a short product and make it happen

The first thing you want to do is find places online where your targeted visitor hangs out. These will usually be forums or Yahoo Answers-type sites.

The sites are so valuable because there you will see your visitor tell you exactly what they want. Look at the questions and problems that are getting the most focus. Then, make a product to solve these problems. Simple, huh?

Step 2. Make a juicy offer for product list owners and their customers

One of the best ways to get product creators interested is to offer 100% commission on your product. Remember, we’re not trying to make money: we’re trying to get them to hand over their traffic. You have to remember your motives, first and foremost.

We also want to make a product that’s cheap enough to convert very highly with their list. If you make, say, a $50 product, not very many people will buy it. However, if you produce a $5 product, the interest will, naturally, skyrocket.

Step 3. Find big list owners

This is fairly simple. Look around your niche and find information products. I guarantee you the owners of those products had a way to collect the emails of their customers. Email these product creators and pitch them on your product. (Hint: Be sure to mention the 100% affiliate commission!)

Step 4. Collect the emails

Now that you have a product creator blasting your product with traffic, it is time to collect the traffic that converts. (Remember, keep your product cheap for maximum conversions. More conversions means more emails.)

You can easily collect and manage these emails through a server such as Mail Chimp. After a person purchases your product, redirect them to an opt-in form that they must fill out to get access to the file.

Step 5. Treat your new subscribers like gold

Now that you have the emails of these people, it is time to deliver value, and really wow them with your brand.

One thing you need to keep in mind is that most of these people are used to being abused with affiliate offers whenever they get forced onto a product email list. This your chance to step up and do something different. Differentiating yourself will be what makes you so successful. Treat them with respect and earn their trust.

Constantly link them to cool things that are happening on your blog. Bombard them with value.

I did this by providing free weekly webinars, sharing my most potent internet marketing secrets for free and taking every chance I get to make personal connections with my readers. I also never asked for anything in return. Remember these words: what can I do for you?

This is the secret to turning a list of people that randomly bought your product into a community of friends and colleagues that trust you and like you enough to invest in your business.

Step 6. Use that trust in you and your brand to grow a profitable business

The funny thing about this is that most people would assume the next step is, “spam them with affiliate offers!” No way! That’s very, very bad.

The simple truth is that you will now have a community of buyers who trust and respect you. If you maintain that trust, they will invest in offers your promote and be eager to be a part of any business you create. So why push them away with spam?

A great example of someone who’s used the trust he’s developed with an audience is Pat Flynn of the blog, Smart Passive Income. By always having his readers’ best interests in mind, Pat has become not only a very rich man, but an internet marketing icon. Do not ever underestimate the power of a trusting audience.

The results

My partner and I have used this traffic generation method on our blog, and, in under seven months, we’ve created a thriving community in an extremely competitive niche. On top of this, any business we launch is an instant success due to the trust we have built with the subscribers we gained from product launches.

In fact, the last premium service we launched from our blog sold completely in under one hour. That is the power of combining buyer traffic from product launches with the amount of trust quality blogging can generate.

You were meant to make products

As a blogger, you are undertaking a role as an authority on information in your niche.

To me, creating products and being an authority go hand and hand. When you create a good product (remember, simple can be good), the people that buy it will naturally be interested in your blog. This is because authority figures make products and authority figures blog. Period.

By making products, not only do you get access to hoards of traffic, but you also become an authority.

This is why I encourage every ambitious blogger to break out of the “strictly blogging” mindset and spread your message through as many formats as possible. Remember, it’s important to differentiate.

Of course, creating a product is not going to be an easy 6-step process, but niether is growing a massive brand. I do promise one thing, though: If you take the ideas presented in this article and run with them, your blog will become a red-hot source of awesome faster than you ever thought possible.

Alex Becker is the co-founder of the Source Wave Marketing and owner of multiple online SEO services.

Turn Twitter Followers into Blog Subscribers in 2 Steps

This guest post is by Momekh of LifeETC.

Too many interesting people out their are not using Twitter effectively. They may be using it to make solid connections, which is great, but they are not using it to directly build their own communities.

I propose a little experiment. It won’t take much of your time, as you’ll see. The benefits, on the other hand, can be significant.

Here are the assumptions:

  • You have your own blog (home base, as Michael Hyatt calls it) and a Twitter account. In all probabilities, your Twitter bio includes the web address of your site.
  • You understand that the purpose of both your blog and your Twitter account is to add to your platform and community. You are “community minded.”

Now for this experiment to work, I suggest that you make the following quick changes as you read them. The steps—two in total—are easy to do. And if you have any difficulties, you can always ask in the comments section.

Ready?

First, a reminder

Following people on Twitter is like voting. It’s almost a nudge, to tell the person that you find him or her interesting and relevant.

So take this idea a step further. Start following people who are following your person of interest.

Find someone interesting in your niche? Start following that person’s followers. These people are your prospects. They are the perfect candidates for your community.

Although there is plenty of great advice available on how to use Twitter, this post will help you convert the traffic coming from Twitter into subscribers for your community.

Now, it is time to make those quick changes we talked about.

Step 1: Update your Twitter bio

You are what you say you are. This is especially true if your bio is the first—and in many cases, the only—thing your prospects see before they come to your blog.

You want your Twitter bio to do two things, in this order:

  1. Make it truthful and relevant: You do not want to make it sound “cool” if what you include is untrue. Being honest has more benefits than the obvious ones. The prospect should be able to tell from your bio exactly what you do.

    Note that there is usually a difference between what you tweet about and what you do. The bio should be about what you do, so the prospect can see what your community and blog are all about. This helps them decide if you are relevant to them.

  2. Now, incorporate a call to action: Rephrase your message. Work on it. Test it out. It will be awesome if you can use it to introduce your website address. For example, see my Twitter bio—I ask users a question in the end, and then give them the website address as the answer to that question.

Step 2: Create a Twitter landing page

So far, your prospect has read your bio and your message resonates with her. The bio is clear, relevant, and even invites her to check out your site.

The prospect clicks … and sees your blog’s front page in all its glory.

That’s just wrong! I tested this out. I first changed just my bio, and sent interested Twitter followers to my blog’s homepage.

I saw an increase in traffic coming from Twitter. But there was no noticeable increase in my blog community (in terms of subscriber figures). I thought, “Well, people come and check out the blog, and don’t find it relevant, so they don’t subscribe.” And I’m cool with that—I don’t want people joining the community for the wrong reasons.

But then I thought that maybe I was looking at it the wrong way. The front page of my blog is, well, like a front page of a blog! It’s generic by design.

But someone coming from Twitter is already in a certain state of mind, a step into the “funnel” we could say. This means I can present the message of my blog to the prospect in a more meaningful way. Landing pages anyone!?

While writing your Twitter landing page, keep the following things in mind:

  • You are addressing your Twitter followers, so be as specific and personal as you can be. I start my page with “Heyya to my Twitter friends.” We already know the frame of reference for the people coming to that page, so use that information to better communicate with them.
  • As you present the central theme of your blog, make a call to action. I invite the prospect to further check out the blog content and to subscribe. There is ample research to show that a clear call to action works, so use it to your advantage.

There are tons of articles out there on how to write a landing page. That’s not necessarily a good thing. I knew I could easily fall prey to information overload, so I quickly wrote a new page, just keeping the two basic ideas above in mind, and deliberately forgetting everything else.

Writing a new page in WordPress is easier than stealing candy from a kid (not that I’d know). I gave it a page slug of “t”, and changed my blog address on my Twitter bio to reflect the change. My new Twitter landing page was live.

Now, that’s not a very elegant technical solution, as the coders amongst us would use a redirect to direct visitors from that link to the landing page. But I am no coder, nor elegant. So I just slapped the page together, put it on my Twitter bio and sat back.

I immediately started seeing an increase in signups.

Do you use any specific mechanisms to convert your Twitter followers into community members? Have any tips of your own that you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments.

Momekh is a “professional adventurer” and wants to help you attain financial freedom. He writes about creative self employment and wholesome living at his blog LifeETC. You can also follow @momekh on Twitter.

Boost Conversions Step 4: Run A/B Tests, Tweak, and Refine

This guest post is by the Web Marketing Ninja.

When it comes to conversion rate optimization, it’s easy to read about, and think about.

But when it comes to actually running a test, most people are at a loss.

It’s not that we don’t believe in testing; it’s that there’s barely enough time in the day to set up those key pages once, let alone set up variants, implement a test, measure, refine the pages, and test again. Trust me—I’ve been there!

But as we’re nearing the end of this series of posts about boosting conversions, I’m hoping you’re all fired up!

I’m going to use that motivation to push you to finally run that first test—a simple A/B test. In this post, I’ll run you , step by step, through a simple test that:

  • won’t cost you a cent
  • takes less than an hour of your time to set up
  • gives you that all-important glimpse of what testing can actually do for your blog.

I’ll bet once you’ve cracked that first A/B testing nut, you’ll become a testing junkie like me. And your conversion rates with never be the same—hopefully, they’ll be much better!

So let’s get testing.

1. Choosing a page

First things first—let’s pick a page to test.

In the second post in this series, Darren talked about reviewing your conversion funnel. That may have given you a few ideas about pages you could test—maybe they’re some of the pages you reworked after reading Tommy’s post yesterday.

My basic approach is, if you’ve got a sales or signup page that gets traffic, test that. (It’s likely to be on your list anyway.) If you don’t, pick your Contact page instead. Or, if you’re feeling brave you can go for the biggest bang for buck and test a “money page.”

2. Working out what to test

Our second step is to figure out what to test. When I’m looking at a page I want to test for the first time, I ask these six questions:

  1. Can everyone access it? We’re talking here about accessibility.
  2. Can everyone use it? Usability is the key for complex processes.
  3. Does it work? It should—on all browsers, mobile devices, non-javascript browsers, and so on. Don’t forget to consider page load speeds as well.
  4. How does it look? Does is communicate the mood you want it to?
  5. How well does is tell the story? Do the words engage users and drive the actions you want?

Ask these questions about any web page. and you’ll end up with a long list of stuff you can test, but for now, let’s start with a headline—a big part of telling the story, and probably a fairly strong element in any sales or signup conversion. It’s also something that Tommy was eager to test yesterday, in his third conversion goal, which was to get more high-quality leads.

As this is an A/B test, you need to come up with just one alternative to the page’s original headline. If one email can have over 500 different subject lines then I think we can probably come up with one.

Now we’ve got a page, we’ve got our original headline, and we’ve got an alternative headline. Let’s start our test!

3. Setting up the test

You can use a few different applications to run web page tests—some free, some not. To keep things simple, we’ll use Google Website Optimiser—one of the free options.

In order to use this tool, we first need to set up a couple of things.

  1. We need a publicly viewable version of your original page, and the one you want to test with the new headline. And you’ll need them at two separate URLS—it might be problogger.net/salespage.php and problogger.net/salespage1.php. These URLS will depend on the CMS or blog technology you’re using and your site structure, of course.
  2. We need access to a page that appears aftera user completes your goal action. So, in the case of a contact form, this page would be your “thanks, your message has been received” conformation page.If you’re testing a sales page, this can be a little more tricky. Ideally you’d have access to the page that confirms that the user’s purchase has been successful. If you can’t access that page, you might have to settle for the page that appears when someone clicks on of your Buy Now links.(Note that there are ways around this problem, however you might need some technical assistance to access them. In this case, I would recommend you look at a service like Optimizely/, but it’s not cheap. The upside is that once you set it up, creating tests is extremely easy.)

Once you’ve got all of that done, sign up to Website Optimiser. Once you’ve signed up you should see a page like the one below. Click the link to start your experiment.

Click the link

You’ll then be asked what type of test you want to run. Pick the A/B Test.

Select A/B testing

You’ll then be asked to get your test pages and your conversion page ready. We’ve already done that, so we can confirm and move to the next step.

Confimation

Next, you’ll need to enter a name.

Provide a name

Include the links to the original page, and the version you want to test.

Include URLs

Finally, paste in the link to your goal or conversion page.

Goal page URL

Once you’ve completed all the fields, click Continue.

The next step is the most technical. You need to put a special piece of code into your original page, your test page, and your conversion page. (You can read more about the code snippets themselves here.)

If you’re using WordPress, there’s a handy plugin that will allow you to do this pretty easily, called Google Website Optimizer for WordPress.

Once it’s activated you’ll see a spot under each page and post to enable testing—add your special code in there. If you’re confident with editing the tags on particular pages, great. If you’re not using WordPress, you’re not technically minded, and you can’t find a Website Optimizer plugin for your CMS, you might need to ask nicely for some help.

I’m going to move on, assuming that you’ve got the codes in place. Next, you’ll need to validate them:

Validate pages

If the validation’s all good, you’ll get a screen that looks like this:
Validation successful

Click OK, then click Next. You’ll arrive at the final conformation screen, where you can preview or start your experiment.

Preview the experiment

Once you hit Start, you can sit back and relax for a bit: you’re now testing! After a few hours some of your preliminary results will start to come through. When you log into Website Optimizer you should see your experiment listed. To see the results, click on the View Report link. The report shows you how the two pages are performing against each other.

Viewing the report

4. Deciding the winner

You can expect to see some wild fluctuations in the data initially, so it’s important not to decide on a winner to quickly—let the data smooth out over time. In the case shown above, the results came in pretty even—and this is a test I ran over four months!

Most testing platforms will have an algorithm to let you know how confident they are that one version is beating another. In the case of Website Optimizer, it’s called a “high-confidence winner.” In the case of slight changes, it can take a while for a call to be made. You can either wait, or pick your own moment and move on. It’s really up to you.

Personally, I’ve made calls on tests that have only run for three days, and waited for some that have run over months and months. As your experience in testing grows, so will your confidence in making calls.

What to expect from your test

Within your tests, you’ll probably experience one of three things:

  1. Your new headline wins.
  2. Your original headline wins.
  3. The result is too close to tell.

In the first case, you’ve hopefully got a great understanding of the progress you can make with testing.

If your original headline wins, you’ve actually also made a small step forward: you’ve proven that your current headline is better than at least one other option—but I’m sure there’s a bunch more to try!

If it’s a to close to tell results, then, as is the case if the original wins, it’s time to think up some new headlines.

So hopefully you’re all able to identify, set up, run, and report on a simple A/B test. Even better, I hope you’ve found it so easy that you’re ready and raring to start your next test. Because if you’re happy with good, then produce. But if you aspire to great, then produce, test, iterate, test again—and you just might get there.

And that’s the key point here: to continuously improve your blog’s conversion rates for paid or unpaid offers, you really need to have in place an ongoing system of refinement that’s based on trial and testing.

Once you’ve got a handle on that,  you’ll be able to go back and apply the four steps for boosting conversions—reviewing your offerrevisiting your conversion funnelrevamping your communications, and running A/B tests—more broadly, to every segment of your audience. That’s what we’ll be looking at later today, in the final part of this series. Don’t miss it!

Stay tuned for more posts by the Web Marketing Ninja—author of The Blogger’s Guide to Online Marketing, and a professional online marketer for a major web brand. Follow the Web Marketing Ninja on Twitter.

Boost Conversions Step 3: Revamp Your Communications

This guest post is by Tommy Walker of Tommy.ismy.name.

“How do I get more people to interact with my stuff?”

It’s a question I ask myself constantly. I could go on all day about traffic strategies, guest posting, or any number of online marketing topics. But the truth is, at the end of the day, shares, subscribes, and leads, are just another conversion.

I wish I realized that when I designed my existing website. I wish I realized a lot of things when I designed my website.

See, when I first started my site, I hadn’t thought about things like list building, or selling things (I had nothing to sell) or even the type of content I was going to publish. I thought I’d figure that stuff out as I went along, but, as my style changed, every new thing started to feel like it was tacked on.

Sadly, my site has become this clumsy Frankenstein creature that haphazardly attempts to do my bidding, but never quite executes. That’s no discredit to my developer, who did an excellent job at the time. It was my own misguided direction that turned what could have been a beautiful creation into something hideous.

Learn from your mistakes

If you’ve been following this series over the last couple of days, you’ll know that we’ve talked a lot about learning from your mistakes—as they affect your free or paid offer, and your conversion funnel.

I worked through these processes myself, so that as I go to work on version 3.0 of my website, I know exactly what I want my conversion goals to be. And they’ll be reflected in every facet of the new design.

The new design isn’t yet operational, but if you’ll allow me to let you peek under the sheet, I’ll show you:

  • my conversion goals
  • how I plan to attack them
  • screenshots of the current design and what isn’t working.
  • screens of the new design and why I think it’s an improvement
  • what I plan to test.

Expect this post to be on the longer side, as it is meant to be a conversion-oriented website playbook. For your convenience, here’s a table of contents:

As we go through each section, I’ll also point out things to look out for on your own site, and ways that you might be able to fix them.

A quick note before we continue: Conversion optimization is about constant testing. Everything from copy, to layouts and button placement, and color schemes.

While I might give you some suggestions along the way, there is no one “surefire” way. Often times what works best†is the thing we least expect and if sell yourself short on your testing, you may never know what actually works best for you.

The Web Marketing Ninja will be showing us the complete process of setting up and running A/B (or split) tests tomorrow, so if you want some expert advice on that topic, stay tuned.

Become really friendly with your analytics

Now, before I get to the design, I want to dive deep into my analytics.

As we’ve seen over the last couple of days, patterns in the data give a great starting point for the areas of your conversion funnel that can be improved, and even provide hints for how to improve them.

For instance:

  • Posts designed to drive conversation and high “time on site,” but which have few shares or interactions, may be lacking a clear sharing mechanism; alternatively, the comment call to action may be lacking.
  • Sidebar offers that receive traffic, but don’t convert, may need to be redesigned or scrapped entirely.
  • Landing pages with high time but few conversions require further testing to improve conversions.
  • Common click paths users take can determine pages that could be optimized for subscriptions or sales.

Your analytics tell the story of you and your users. When you fix your part, they’ll be able to give you more of what you want.

Define your conversion goals early

I imagine we’re a lot alike, you and I, in our goals. Mine are:

  • get more social shares
  • build a bigger subscriber base
  • attract more qualified leads that can be turned to sales.

What I didn’t realize on the first two iterations of my website was that each goal can be attacked very strategically within the design.

So instead of trying to get every page to do every thing, as I create version 3.0 of my website, I will be looking at each aspect with a different conversion goal in mind.

Goal #1: Get more social shares

The first goal, get more social shares, is pretty straightforward.

According to my analytics, my weekly blog articles get the most steady traffic and the highest time on site (four to seven minutes; I primarily video blog).

Knowing that, I want that traffic to turn into more traffic, because right now, the social sharing on the site is low.

With the time on site being so high, my best guess is the posts aren’t getting shared because the sharing functions are a little less than obvious.

Sharing options aren't obvious

The trick to getting more social shares is two-layered.

  1. Create engaging content.
  2. Make sharing as painless as possible.

According to my video analytics, just over 70% of people watch my videos through to the very end. Looking at the current design however, it’s incredibly clear that sharing is not painless.

To address this in the new design, on an individual post page, the video will be featured at the top, filling most of the screen, and the sharing icons will be featured on the bottom left, just before the fold.

Next to the share icons will be a short link that can be copied to the clipboard with a single click.

Next to that, I’ll show a Share Via Email button that, when clicked, will drop down an email form where users can email the page link without ever leaving the site.

New sharing layout

Key takeaway:

To improve shares on individual blog posts, create excellent content, and make sharing the primary call to action.

If the sidebars on your individual pages aren’t selling products, or bringing in email subscribers, get rid of those calls to action.

Something you can do right now is install the ShareThis hovering share bar and have it appear on all of your sharable content pages.

What I’ll be testing:

In order to get maximum shares, I’ll need make sure the sharing icons are in the most optimal positions on the page.

My tests will include:

  • the share icons being located on the left of the page (as pictured)
  • share icons on the right of the page
  • the “share bar” taking up the full width of the page below the video.

To do this, I’ll have my developer run a test using Google Website Optimizer, and track the results. (As I mentioned, the Ninja will show you how to do this yourself tomorrow). The layout with the most shares will win.

Goal #2: Increase email subscriber base

There are a few ways I plan to build my email list. Pay close attention here, because each and every one of these ideas is something you can do, too.

Email subscriber plan 1

The first tactic is persistent navigation throughout the site. This feature allows the top navigation bar on your site to remain in view as the user scrolls down the page. With persistent navigation, the fundamental action points are always in view, and available to users.

Persistent navigation seems to be where forward thinking websites are headed (Facebook, Google+, Lifehacker, WordPress). Using persistent navigation through my site allows me to create a subtle call to action that stays with the user.

On the above image, you may have noticed the word “subscribe” in the navigation bar.

Persistent navigation

I believe this will eliminate the need to create a big, obtrusive opt-in form to occupy the sidebar (but this will need to be tested, of course).

When the user hovers over the “subscribe” button, a dropdown with an opt-in form will appear:

Accessing the dropdown

In my opinion, this makes the website a little more “fun” to interact with, which leads me to believe this will increase actual engagement with the site, and, thereby, email subscriptions.

Key takeaway:
The web is evolving much faster than most people realize. Incorporating elements like persistent navigation and interactive elements gives your website more depth than text and images alone. The more you give your users to “play” with, the more likely they will want to hang around on your blog, and hear more from you.

If you’re code junkie, this tutorial will teach you how to create your own persistent navigation menu.

Or, if you’re afraid of code (like me), you could always install the Hello Bar. While it’s not as full-featured as custom navigation, it has been proven to increase clickthrough rates for many of its users, and can be very effective when you use the right messaging.

What I’ll be testing:
I’ll test the messaging within the dropdown itself: “New episodes every week + exclusive bonuses” with “Submit” or “Subscribe” as the call to action, vs. “Learn online marketing and get exclusive bonuses” with “Teach Me!” as the call to action.

Email subscriber plan 2

According to my analytics, my homepage is usually the second stop people make when visiting my site … makes sense.

Sadly, also according to my analytics, this is where my traffic goes to die. My homepage isn’t really optimized for anything.

My current homepage

Realistically, my conversion goals for this new homepage have to be two-fold:

  1. Capture users’ email addresses.
  2. Pull people deeper into the content.

To capture email addresses, I’ll be using a slightly modified approach to the ever popular Halpern Header on my homepage.

Instead of using a static image, however, there will be a welcome video that’ll introduce visitors to the site and talk about the exclusive bonuses that come from being an Inside The Mind subscriber.

Welcome video

I believe that combining the Halpern Header with video will make the email subscription call to action both unmissable and fun to interact with.

As long as I’m able to clearly communicate the benefits of being a subscriber, I think this will lift subscription conversions dramatically.

Key takeaway:

The homepage is often the second most visited page on your website. If you’re not maximizing your email efforts here, first time visitors may never return. This is why it’s important to clearly communicate the benefits of your site, and make your opt-in form highly visible, not banished to your sidebar.

The Halpern Header/feature box method has been proven as an effective way to increase email subscriptions, for some by as much as as 51.7%.

Adding a personal touch like video or an image of yourself can build trust with your potential subscriber, increasing your conversion rates even more.

What I’ll be testing:

While I have a hunch that a welcome video will work well, it’s also possible people might find it more distracting than welcoming.

For that reason I’ll be testing a welcome video vs a welcoming image. I’ll also be testing layout with the video/image orientation on the left vs. the right, the copy, and the call to action.

Homepage Subgoal: Bring visitors further down the rabbit hole

Sadly, after visiting my homepage, most people drop off the site.

To address this, I will feature a scroller of randomized content from season one of my video stream directly underneath the feature box.

The video scroller

The reason for randomization is that it’ll mean that deeper (or older) content can also get some play.

Copyblogger uses a similar approach with the “popular articles” list on their sidebar. Using randomization, a fun slider, and engaging thumbnails for the posts just takes that idea a step further.

Note: The bar will never show posts that are also displayed in the main feed below. Rather it will only show content from deeper pages. This way, I can avoid duplicate content issues—I won’t be trying to push the same article in a handful of different ways.

Below that, I’ll show a fairly standard format blog, with reverse chronological posts on one side, and an offer for my ebook on the other.

The feed of blog posts

You may notice that everything seems to get a little bigger once we get into the main feed. The reason for that is fairly simple. The top of the site will act like a built-in landing page, but once a visitor goes below the fold, the focus will be on content.

The sidebar will display only two items at any given time, and will also be a persistent part of the interface once a certain scroll threshold is reached.

At the top, I’ll include a lead generation piece/ethical bribe (more on this later). Underneath that, a randomly generated episode link will appear (again, only one that is not currently present on the page).

Key takeaway:

If your homepage isn’t working to drive people back into your content, switch things up using your analytics as a guide. Just be sure to talk about it before hand so your faithful visitors don’t think something bad happened to you!

What I’ll be testing:

Not much here actually, but I will be measuring pretty heavily what content, in what position, gets the most clicks.

As far as I know, this is nothing remotely close to a “standard” blog format, so it will be interesting to see how people respond to features like the scroller and persistent navigation.

Email subscriber plan 3

Taking another leaf out of Derek Halpern’s book, I will have email optins in three critical places:

  • the About page
  • the footer
  • at the end of the single post pages.

The redesigned footer

Normally, I would recommend placing an opt-in on the top of the sidebar. However, because I am using persistant navigation with  the Subscribe link in prime view at all times, I feel, for me, that this space is better used for lead generation.

The About page

I plan on doing something a little different by putting the link to my About (and other) pages in the footer. This is more like a news site, and less like other online marketing blogs.

Keeping that in mind, the people who come to the About page will need to do a little more digging to get there. So why don’t I try to capture an email address in the process, since we’re getting a little more personal?

This is what Derek says about the About page:

Prime people for your websiteís content and why it’s important

  1. Opt-in form
  2. Show social proof
  3. Opt-in form
  4. Show personal backstory
  5. Opt-in form

For backstory, I plan to share a bit of my background as an actor, how I was fired over a pair of pants, how that eventually lead to online marketing, and the ups and downs I’ve seen while working for myself (there have been many).

Key takeaway:

When you address your users’ search intent first, then make a personal connection by sharing more about yourself, you give visitors more than one reason to subscribe.

What I’ll be testing:

The copy is what’s going to make the difference here. While it might not be a part of my initial relaunch plan, I’d also like to test using a cinematic “trailer” video that prompts visitors to “Join the journey” by becoming an email subscriber.

The footer

There’s a very simple reason for revamping the footer to include a subscription CTA. If someone’s scrolling to the bottom of the page, you can assume one of two things:

  1. They’ve read through all of your content and are primed to want more.
  2. They just like scrolling.

Either way, the footer is a great place to capture email, because your reader has gone all the way to the bottom of the page (and there’s nothing left to do).

Currently, I have an opt-in form in my footer, and it converts pretty well.

The current footer form

What’s lacking in this footer, and on my current site as a whole, for that matter, is a page that is dedicated to explaining the benefits of becoming a subscriber.

That’s why, instead of including an opt-in form in the new site footer, I will instead include a link to a landing page called Why Subscribe?

The new footer

This again comes down to a matter of search intent. Where most of my content is going to be front-and-center in nearly aspect of the design, I can only suspect that the people who scroll to the bottom of the page are more “deep information” types.

I believe many blogs do not reward these types of people, and instead only go after those who are willing to hand over their information with little friction. However, the “deep information” types aren’t so trusting. They need to have all of the information before they give up any personal details. That’s ok with me, because they also do a good amount of homework before making purchases, and I’ve found to be the most-action oriented customers.

So instead of giving them nothing to do when they scroll to the bottom, I will give them a landing page that talks about all of the benefits of subscribing to the show. This page will include information on how frequently emails are sent, the types of bonus content they can expect, and an outline of what will be included. Doing this also gives me another page that can be linked to from internal content, which is a nice bonus!

Key takeaway:

Keep your users’ intent in mind, and create content that appeals to as many different types of readers as possible. If you don’t currently have some form of a “why subscribe” page on your site, you’re not addressing all of your readers’ concerns.

What I’ll be testing:

I’ll be interested to see the difference in conversion between the footer opt-in box and the Why Subscribe? link.

Giving users one extra click may decrease the overall conversions, however the link to the landing page is more in line with user intent on that particular section of the page.

Either way, I’ll have more data on footer and landing page subscribers, which will help me focus my follow-up messages even further.

End of single post pages
This is fairly straightforward. If someone has decided to take the time to read through the content, they’re probably a good candidate to become a subscriber. So I’ll create a subscription option at the end of every post.

The subscription form at the bottom of posts

Key takeaway:

We often clutter the end of our posts with all sorts of garbage, like related posts, share buttons, subscribe to my email list, read my bio, leave a comment, and more. Every single one of these commands is a call to action, and the more calls to action you have, the more diluted each one becomes. Find ways to incorporate all of these things—just don’t cram them all in at the end of your posts.

Using a WordPress plugin like Post Ender, you can keep your calls to action focused, and will likely see higher subscription rates from the ends of your posts.

What I’ll be testing:

Not much more than the language: “Subscribe,” for example, vs. “Keep Me Updated.” Because my content is primarily video, and it’s showcased at the top of the page, this form is one of the least of my concerns.

Email subscriber plan 4

This is it! The Dreaded Popup. I believe there’s a classy way to use popups, and an annoying way. You’re probably pretty familiar with the annoying way.

My plan with the popup, however, is to have it triggered after the viewer has been on the site for a given amount of time, or clicks within a set number of pages. That way, I’ll know they’re engaging with the site, and are more qualified than, say, a first time visitor.

Personally, I hate the pop-up, so if I’m finding that it’s not converting, even when I target mostly engaged users, I will not hesitate to yank it.

Key takeaway:

Popups can be extremely valuable, but are often seen as annoying. The longer people are on your site, the more likely they are to qualify as potential subscribers.

Although your conversion rates may go down the longer you wait to trigger the popup, your subscriber quality will increase, because they’ve already spent more time with you—they’re qualified subscribers.

What I’ll be testing:

Here, I’ll test headline copy, the optin orientation, click and time triggers, and a number of other things I exaplained in detail in this article.

Goal #3: Get more high-quality leads

Subscribers do not equal leads.

I repeat: subscribers do not equal leads. While subscribers may eventually become leads, signing up to be on your email list does not mean they have an interest in buying anything.

In order to gather more leads through the site, I intend to offer a free ebook titled Why Quality Matters, in which we’ll explore different statistics on the state of the internet, how high-quality content excels, what defines high-quality content, and so on/

The landing page to “sell” the book will follow this formula.

The book itself will follow a similar format, but remain informative throughout.

As it is ultimately a lead generation piece, the goal is to simultaneously attract the right people, and repel everyone else. Not everyone who reads the ebook will recognize themselves in it, but those who do will find a link to request a strategy session at the end of the book.

In the strategy request form, I ask questions of the reader, like how long they’ve been in business, their previous yearly income, target yearly income, and if there are any major roadblocks that prevent them from moving to the next level.

This process is designed to help a person really decide whether or not they need help. Having had my prospects step through a handful of filters also saves me a lot of trouble “pitching” my services to them. By the time we get on the strategy call, I can really focus on helping them. I do have an offer, but I’ll only make it if it seems like it’ll be a good fit.

Key takeaway:

Qualify your leads. So many bloggers and marketers assume that list subscribers = people who might be interested in buying something eventually. But every time a pitch comes around, a good chunk of people either unsubscribe or ignore you all together, causing this endless cycle of list rebuilding.

When you let people qualify themselves, and say “I need help,” they’re more likely to open your messages and take action on what you have to say.

What I’ll be testing:

I’ll test the landing page copy, without a doubt. Using Premise, I’ll be able to apply the Google Website Optimizer to test headline and copy variations. Also, I’ll be testing pure copy vs. video, to find out which will be the most effective “pitch” on the landing page. Even though the investment for users is “free”, I’ll still want to put my best foot forward, due to the subject matter and the eventual lead into the sale.

Note: This is not the only way I will be generating leads. Far from it actually. I’ll also use several paid and organic strategies to better target those exposed to my content.

I mention this because popular content marketing wisdom does not advocate paid advertising, but the truth is, there is no faster or more precise way to target the right people for your content.

Test, get feedback, iterate

The designs and tests above were all conceived to address gaps in my data. I cannot stress to you enough the importance of knowing what your analytics are telling you, and testing to make improvements.

One thing I’ve learned  is that intuition doesn’t convert well. Yet data only tells you so much. That’s why I’ll offer an incentive to my list to get real people to “test drive” the site. Their feedback will be vital in making the necessary tweaks before I push the site live and test it with a larger audience. And even when it’s fully live, there will always be testing taking place.

The name of the game is to always be improving, and iterating on what you’ve learned from previous tests. Only let your data and user feedback drive your design. The next post in this series will show you how to set up, run, and adjust your own A/B tests.

I’m sure that by now, this series has probably encouraged you to look at your offer, conversion funnel, and offer communications more critically. You’ve probably come up with a few ideas you’d like to try. Share them with us in the comments below!

Tommy Walker is an Online Marketing Strategist and host of “Inside the Mind” a fresh and entertaining video show about Online Marketing Strategy.

Boost Conversions Step 2: Revisit Your Conversion Funnel

In this, the second part of our short series on boosting conversions on your blog, it’s time to look at your conversion funnel.

Yesterday, the Blog Tyrant showed us how to review our offer of a paid or free product or service. Through that analysis, you should be able to pull together some detailed and valuable information about your product. That’s great, but the other aspect that the Tyrant touched on was your conversion funnel.

I want to take those ideas a step further today.

Understanding your conversion funnel

We’re talking in this series about conversions for any product or offer—so that could be a product or service you’re selling, or it could be a free subscription you offer on your site.

Whether it’s free or sold for a price, your offer has a conversion funnel. The Web Marketing Ninja showed us this one in his article, How to Optimize Your Sales Funnel for Success:

Sales funnel

The key is that at each point in your conversion funnel, you’ll lose potential customers.

As the Blog Tyrant explained yesterday, you can use your blog stats package to review where, exactly, those losses are occurring.

And as the Web Marketing Ninja explains in How to Optimize Your Sales Funnel, the best thing to do is put measures on each point in the funnel so that you can understand what, exactly, is happening at each point in the conversion process. He says that looks at as much data on each point in the sales process as he can—and that includes bounce rates, time on page, entries and exits through the page, traffic sources, and so on.

So the conversion funnel review process might look something like this:

  1. Go through your site, and map each step in your conversion funnel.
  2. Look at your analytics work out what you’ll measure at each point in the funnel.
  3. Put numbers against the metrics you’ve decided to measure at each step.

Understanding the data

Once you work through this process, you’ll find yourself armed with a lot of data. How you interpret that data will go a long way toward boosting your conversions.

For example, finding that you have a high exit rate from a page in your funnel means people are leaving it—you’re losing potential conversions at this point. That’s good to know, but that information alone doesn’t tell you what you can do about it.

In working out implications of that information you may need to also look at bounce rates for the page, and where the traffic it receives is coming from, for example. This information can be a big help in making the right choices when it comes to tweaking the funnel.

For example, let’s imagine that we’re analysing the About page for ProBlogger the Book. Now this page is the second in my sales funnel—the default page is at http://probloggerbook.com/.

Most visitors go straight from that default page to Amazon or B&N. But let’s imagine that a significant percentage click through to the About page … and then exit without clicking on one of the Buy buttons, or subscribing.

If I look at the data, and all I see is that this page has a high bounce rate, I might be tempted to try a range of different strategies to fix that. But what if I look at the traffic sources and notice that a large percentage of users are arriving at the About the Book page through search engines?

The About page doesn’t have any Buy buttons above the fold, so if users are coming from a search engine, where they’ll likely also see an Amazon or B&N link in the results, they may immediately think, “Oh, this is just marketing information. I’ll click back and look at the details on Amazon—I know I can buy the book there.”

In this case, my strategy for tweaking the sales funnel will differ from the ideas I had when all I noticed was the high bounce rate. My efforts might also include improving the search rank of the default sales page for the book, if it’s appearing below the About page in the SERPs, but converting better.

As you can see, understanding the data as a whole is very important if you’re to make decisions that will have the best likelihood of positively affecting your conversion rates.

Focus on key points of loss

As you review your funnel, you’ll also need to consider where to focus your efforts to improve it.

While the data may reveal a number of areas for improvement, you’ll likely find that some will produce a much bigger bang for your buck—as the Ninja explained in this recent post. If your time is limited—and whose isn’t?—you’d be best to focus on these pages, if not exclusively, at least initially.

As you’re looking at those pages, don’t limit yourself to considering one or two factors. Often, we can become fixated on things like button size or placement, and forget about other considerations that might be negatively impacting conversions. These could include:

  • headlines, sub-heads, and scannability of the content
  • how we’re using images and where they’re placed
  • whether the language on the page resonates with users
  • the strength of your calls to action
  • links to other content, including navigation links
  • use of testimonials
  • offers of samples
  • the page’s purpose in the conversion process, and whether it meets that from a fundamental, usability standpoint.

These are just a few ideas, but consider them broadly. For example, reviewing the strength of your calls to action is on that list—but that doesn’t just mean the calls to action to buy your product.

The ProBlogger Book sales page includes subscription box. Should that remain on a low-performing page? Should it be removed? Is it likely to be diffusing the strength of my call to action or is it providing a valuable mechanism by which I’m capturing new subscribers who may not be ProBlogger regulars?

My analysis of the data, coupled with my strategy for the page and goals for the conversion funnel, should help me determine the answers here.

Match the changes to your users

A quick final point: you’re not in the dark when it comes to trying to work out what tweaks you’ll make. In a later part of this series, we’ll find out how to conduct split tests that will help you to test various incremental changes so that you can see which ones work best, and use those.

But even before you get that far, the audience research that the Blog Tyrant was talking about yesterday should give you some insight into how you can alter points in your conversion funnel to match the needs, characteristics, and expectations of the audience you’re seeking.

He mentioned, for example, that video can be useful for certain audiences—perhaps that’s something I should consider adding to my book’s About page? I know from my other data and reader feedback that my regulars love video content, so it seems like it could be a good idea…

Ready to act?

Once you’ve finished reviewing your sales funnel, you’ll have a pretty clear idea of the possibilities before you for boosting conversions. It’s time to act.

Tomorrow, Tommy Walker will step us through the changes he actually made to his own website in an effort to improve conversions, so that we can get a first-hand account of how all this research feeds into practical alterations to things like page layouts, calls to action, images, and more.

But in the meantime, I’d love to hear your tips or extra advice for reviewing conversion funnels—whether for a paid or free offer. Have you ever done it? What secrets can you share from your experiences? Let us know in the comments.

Boost Conversions Step 1: Review Your Offer

This guest post is by the Blog Tyrant.

A few weeks ago I was sitting down to dinner with my big sister, and talking about one of my web businesses.

“What’s your quotation success rate?” she asked me with a face full of pizza.

“Pretty good,” I replied, sounding—I admit—pretty stupid.

“Find out exactly what it is,” she came back.

My big sister, the psychologist-turned national-sales-leader for her real estate company, then went on to explain to me how she knows exactly how many quotes she has to send out in order to make a sale. She knows how many phone calls it takes on average, what delivery method is most successful, and when to follow up the client with a phone call or an email.

And she’s constantly trying to improve that quotation figure by getting feedback on her failures.

While she was telling me all of this a penny dropped: this quotation (or conversion) rate applies to blogging, too. Sure, knowing why people buy your product or sign up to your email list is important. But perhaps even more important than that, is this:

Find out why people don’t buy or sign up.

The first of five steps

If one of your blogging goals is to boost your conversion rates—for sales, subscriptions, downloads, or some other action—you don’t need to just consider your successes. You also need to look at your failures. Boosting conversions isn’t just about doing more of the good stuff. it’s about identifying the bad stuff, and doing less of that.

But this is just the first step in the process.

Over the next four days, ProBlogger will walk you through a process that will help you to boost conversions—for sales or signups—on your blog. In it, we’ll cover these steps:

  1. Review your offer.
  2. Revisit your conversion funnel.
  3. Revamp your communications.
  4. Run A/B tests, tweak, and refine.
  5. Reach all your audience segments using these techniques.

It’ll be quite a ride—so I hope you’ll join us for three posts that will follow this one! But now, let’s get started, and consider the question:

Why aren’t people converting through your sign up or sales page?

Getting started

Before you can really understand your audience, your product, and where things might be going wrong, you’re going to need a few tools in hand.

  • Google Analytics: If you haven’t done so already, go and install Google Analytics on your blog. It will take you all of two minutes, but it will provide you with essential data you’ll need to grow your business.
  • Email marketing software: Again, everyone who takes their blogging seriously will need some form of email marketing software that works better than Feedburner. I always recommend Aweber for bloggers, as it’s easy to set up and has amazing stats for you to play with.
  • A desire to understand some psychology: Yep, you read that correctly. I’ve always put an emphasis on studying psychology alongside other marketing techniques, because it really helps you to understand buyer behaviour and the psychology of desire, and to figure out what people do or don’t want.

Armed with these three things, we’re in a good position to help grow our conversions.

Conduct a conversion review

As I said, my sister knows exactly how many quotations she has to make to generate a sale. In blogging terms, she knows her conversion rate, and she’s always looking to improve it by seeking feedback from failed quotations.

So let’s look at three key questions that you can ask to better understand why your blog’s readers and visitors aren’t converting on a given offer (paid or free). Once you understand this, you’ll be in a much better position to dramatically boost your conversion rate.

Question 1: How well does my offer suit my audience?

The first thing you’ll need to do is make sure your product or free giveaway is well-matched to your audience. Pitch the wrong product to the wrong audience, and you’ll find it extremely difficult to boost conversions—that is, if you can generate any in the first place.

Let’s consider the Mercedes Benz brand as an example. This is a high-quality, luxury car brand with a higher price tag than the average motor vehicle. This means their marketing methods need to be tailored to the right audience. For example, you’ll never see and ad for Mercedes in a magazine aimed at the teen girls market. However, you might see one in a golfing magazine. Why? Because the latter is read by older men who have disposable income and a desire to communicate a certain status with their car. Obviously, teen girls don’t have either of those things.

This is fine for a offline brand, but how can you make sure your product is matched to your audience? Study your traffic stats.

Guest post stats

This image shows a few weeks of traffic from some old guest posts I did here at ProBlogger. As you can see, the red arrow shows a post that had a bad bounce rate, and the green arrow shows a post with a better (lower) bounce rate.

As you can see, even traffic coming from the same source can vary wildly in terms of expectations and satisfaction levels with what the users find on your site. Fortunately, we have other metrics to review.

A key metric is your users’ demographics—you’ll need to know how old your blog’s users are, whether they are male or female, where they live, and so on.

While this basic information may seem elementary, you’d be surprised how often bloggers find new data hidden in their user stats—data that can point to fairly obvious changes that can help to boost conversions.

For example, if many of your blog’s readers come from an area that’s suffering high unemployment at the moment (for example, Spain), you might need to consider changing your pitch for a product to make it either seem more relevant and valuable, or more affordable to your target audience. You might consider lowering the price—so that more people can afford your product—or increasing it, to create a stronger impression of value and ensure that you get a better margin on the sales you do make.

Don’t go making any decisions yet, though! We still have some more reviewing to do.

Question 2: Are customers happy with your current offering?

The next thing you’ll need to do is to ask for feedback from satisfied and unsatisfied customers. You absolutely need to find out whether your offering is hitting the mark. While conversion statistics are one thing, they don’t give you a clear idea of what the customers who did convert actually wound up thinking of the product or service once they used it.

If you don’t seek their feedback after the point of conversion, all the hard work you do with product creation and conversion optimization could be going to waste.

Here are just a handful of the steps you can take to tap that information from your customers:

  • Use Survey Monkey to survey them: It’s a good idea to occasionally send out a survey asking customers what they like and dislike about your offering (be it a free or paid offer), and inviting constructive feedback. Obviously you don’t want to keep surveying the same users, so you need to take care not to try to survey the same customers about the same offerings over and over.
  • Set up an automatic email in Aweber: Aweber allows you to send out an automatic email called a Follow Up. The idea here is that after a few days of their signing up to your list (either through your subscription form, or as a result of a purchase on your site), subscribers receive and email asking whether or not they enjoyed the subscription product. If you like, you can take this opportunity to encourage them to pass it on to their friends, but in any case, be sure to ask them to email you any feedback or ideas they have to improve the offering.
  • Email people who unsubscribe: Aweber also allows you to keep a list of all the people who unsubscribe from your list. It’s a really good idea to email them just once to tell them you’re sorry to see them go, and to ask why they’re leaving. Their feedback will often be a lot more honest than those who still like your stuff. While the criticism can be hard to take, this feedback can be a goldmine for understanding your offering’s shortcomings.

Now, this all sounds great, right? Well, here’s the problem: sometimes people don’t know what they’re talking about. More specifically, they say one thing, but mean another. For this reason you have to be very careful about the questions you ask readers through any kind of survey. For example, if you ask a generic question, you probably get a generic—and inaccurate—answer.

“Did you like my eBook?”
“Yes it was good.”

The words “good” and “yes” here tell us nothing. This feedback doesn’t mean that the user shared your offering with their friends. It doesn’t mean that it totally blew them away and they’ll be a loyal subscriber forever. It means nothing.

People have changed their careers after reading Pat Flynn’s free ebook. People share it around and talk about it constantly on his Facebook page. That’s the kind of feedback you want. And to get it, you’ll need to ask more specific questions, like these:

  • Did you share the product with your friends?
  • What was your favorite part of this product?
  • What was your least favorite part of the product?
  • What did you do differently after you read the product?

You could also considering surveying customers about the conversion funnel itself, with questions like these:

  • What was it that made you want to subscribe/buy this product?
  • Did you think the subscription/purchase process took a long time?
  • Was it a hassle to receive the product/subscription?
  • Did you have any trouble accessing the information, or using or sharing the product files?
  • What did you expect to get? Did you receive it?

At least with questions like these, you’re going to get some clear feedback on which aspects of your offer work, and which don’t.

Question 3: How might you use this information to tweak your offering?

The next step is to tweak your product or offering based on the lessons you’ve learned.

Now, I’m not talking simply about matching your offer to your audience here. Rather, you need to look at ways to improve the quality and presentation of your offer, based on what your target market is interested in, and what you know is and isn’t working for the members of your current audience.

Recently on my blog we talked about whether or not the free ebook giveaway is dead or not. Most people agree that it’s not, but we all agreed that the poor quality ebook is dead. People are looking for better and better quality all the time.

This is where the psychology of marketing comes in to play. Here are two examples in which we can look at the behavior of an audience and try to better shape our offer to suit them:

  • Mothers: Studies have shown that women who are mothers respond poorly to promotions and products that use hype to sell their benefits. These women are highly practical and intelligent, but they’re also tired and overworked. They just want honest, trustworthy products and landing pages that don’t “over-promote”. Women in general don’t like unrealistic marketing.
  • Male teenagers: Studies have shown that male teenagers, on the other hand, are more likely to be interested in quick fixes. A generation of boys raised with video games, mobile phones, and the web generally show less patience and a greater desire for instant gratification than other market segments.

As you can see, it’s not just about aligning your offer with your market: it’s also about making sure your product pitch, and presentation to your target market.

For example, your offer might be an ebook. Great. Now, let’s imagine you’re targeting the younger male audience segment mentioned above. Tweaks you might make to your product and its pitch include:

  • Using short chapter and section titles.
  • Using imagery to communicate quickly wherever possible.
  • Keeping the design and layout simple.
  • Making sure the product delivers instantly, and communicates that it does so both in its body content and through any marketing materials.
  • Using instant, easy-to-use marketing tools like video, which suits the instant-gratification needs of the target audience as well as the fact that they’ll be more likely to access the offer through a smart phone or tablet.

By this point, you should have a list of potential ideas that you can use to try to boots conversions by tweaking your offering.

Trial and continuous review

The most important thing that I learned from my sister is that we should be constantly assessing and changing our product and pitch. Trends change, competitors come along, and people’s interests shift.

You probably won’t make all the changes on your shortlist of ideas for improving your offer. That’s fine—you can test the ones you feel will give you the best impact, then check your results and consider the rest of your list (which you may have added to!) in light of those results.

How can you choose which elements to change? The feedback you obtained from existing customers, coupled with conversion and market data, should give you a push in the right direction, but often these decisions come down to your own intuition or “feel” for your target audience, and what they want, like, and need.

Don’t be afraid to change aspects of your offer, and don’t be afraid to ask people hard questions about your product. The best products in the world have all got there because of constant improvements.

Once you have your new product and offer prepared, you’ll need to tighten up your funnel to ensure you’re not leaking potential conversions. Tomorrow, Darren will take us through that process.

But for now, I’d be interested to hear what you’ve found out about why readers aren’t signing up for your product or service offering. And if you made tweaks to it, what did you change? Share your stories with us in the comments.

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.

Conversion Optimization: Our New Series

Of all the topics that bloggers ask me about, conversion optimization is among those at the top of the list.

Sale sign in a shop

Image courtesy stock.xchng user linder6580

All of us have conversion goals of some sort. It doesn’t matter whether you’re aiming to make money blogging, or you’re in it purely for pleasure, you’ll probably want to grow a subscriber list at the very least! Some of the blogger’s most common conversion goals include:

  • grow signups to an email subscription list
  • attract Facebook fans and Twitter followers
  • boost downloads of free products, whitepapers, and samples
  • increase sales of products and services.

These days, competition within the blogosphere is only getting stronger, and readers are only getting more savvy. Most of us have  good data on our blog usage, but of course boosting conversions isn’t just a matter of statistics.

From your audience to your offer—and everything in between—there’s a lot to consider. So we’re dedicating ProBlogger to the challenge of boosting conversions, with a series that’s been put together by some of your favorite experts.

This series assumes that you have some kind of conversion goal, and some tools in place to make that happen—even something as simple as a Sign Up form in your sidebar. We’ll take you through five steps to improving those conversions, as we look at:

  1. Reviewing your offer.
  2. Revisiting your conversion funnel.
  3. Revamping your communications.
  4. Running A/B tests, then tweaking and refining your marketing.
  5. Reaching all of your audience segments using this process.

Before that, I’d like to hear from you. How are your conversions looking right now? What tactics have you used to improve them? What’s worked—and what hasn’t? Share your experiences with us in the comments.

If Your Email Newsletter Isn’t Generating Cash, You’re Doing Something Wrong

This guest post is by Kelly Crawford of Generation Cedar.

The most important tool available to a blogger is his email subscriber list. It is the easiest and fastest way to increase sales. You probably already know that the readers who have voluntarily signed up to hear more of what you have to say are the ones who trust you the most, and the ones with whom it is easiest to keep building a relationship with. These are the people who will buy your stuff. Competing in today’s market demands that you build good relationships.

But a list by itself won’t sell your products. You must grow your list and make the most of it. Here’s how:

Grow your list

Obviously, the bigger the list, the more potential customers are getting your message. Here are three valuable ways to grow it:

Popover

A popover signup form will exponentially increase your sign-ups. A popover is the sign up box that “pops over” the screen a few seconds after they land on your site. Yes, it’s that annoying little box that I always click away from. But, statistically, far more people sign up from a popover form than a static form. I had to experience it to believe it (I had heard it was true but resisted), and found that my signups soared once I installed a popover. Aweber is one of the few companies that offer this feature.

Reminders

Make it easy to subscribe, and remind your readers to do so if they haven’t already. Include a static form on your About page, and periodically Facebook and Tweet about the benefits of signing up.

Benefits

The best incentive you can give your readers to subscribe is a series of some kind. Why? A series with several parts, sent periodically (and automatically) after they subscribe gives them repetitive exposure to you, which builds the kind of relationship that evokes trust, which will make them more likely to purchase your products.

If you’ve been writing for a while, you probably have plenty of posts you can turn into a series. What are your most popular topics? Put them in order and tell the reader what they will get: “Sign up now and receive my 5-Part Series, ‘How to Make the Most of Your Newsletter’.” Your newsletter company should easily allow you to set up automatic follow-up messages that mail at the designated time, to the subscriber’s inbox.

I also offer my readers a coupon code that’s given in the Welcome letter they receive as soon as they subscribe. This is not only an added purchasing incentive, but I tell readers they will receive it for signing up.

Make them want to open your newsletter

People get a lot of stuff in their inboxes. You have to compete and avoid being among the emails that get deleted without being opened. Here’s how to do it:

Make every newsletter count

Your subscribers are your prized customers. Reward them with good content. Except for the occasional sales announcement you might send by itself, if every newsletter has meat in it, readers will remember it and want to open the next one. Make it valuable enough that they are afraid of missing out if they don’t open.

Subject line is king

A 25% open rate versus an 80% open rate has huge implications for your bottom line. The subject line is all you get to convince readers to open. Be creative, and try to think like the recipient. What would make you open your email if you didn’t know what was inside? I’d caution you here not to deceive readers with your subject line. They won’t like it, and it will hurt your relationship—that thing you are working so hard to build.

Advertise Without Annoying

Remember how I said to put valuable information in your newsletters? Helpful articles, advice, and inspiration should make up the bulk of your content. Answer questions, solve problems, and readers will be back for more. But you can market at the same time, without being a nuisance. Here are some important points to remember:

Try affiliate marketing

Choose articles and subjects that support the natural use of affiliate products. Linking to them throughout your text lets the readers click if they’re interested, but doesn’t assume anything. Consider interviewing an author whose affiliate products you will consequently be advertising.

Use the sidebar

Use your sidebar. Routinely include pictures and links to your products (or those of your affiliates) in your sidebar. Offering a coupon code or limited-time offer is a useful incentive to push a potential buyer to act.

Add testimonials

Customer testimonials are your number one selling tools. Use them every chance you get. Instead of just listing your ebook, include a “What customers are saying” section.

The right formula

As it is with any platform, your newsletter will be the most successful when you implement the right formula. And what it that?

Persuade them of their problem, give them practical hints about solving it, then suggest a more thorough answer through your product offer, with, of course, a discount exclusively for them.

Let’s say you blog about weight loss. In your newsletter, you might write about five common foods that burn fat. Hopefully you have an ebook entitled “How to Lose Weight Eating What You Love,” or something like that. At the end of your article, you simply say, “Enter the coupon code ‘burnfat’ to get $1 off my ebook, ‘How to Lose Weight Eating What You Love’ now. Here’s what our customers are saying about it…” You get the picture!

Don’t forget to scan old but popular articles for newsletter fodder, tweaking them to implement all these strategies.

So, what are you waiting for? Go turn your newsletter into cash!

Kelly Crawford is a “mompreneur” and contributing author for five blogs, including her own, Generation Cedar. She also founded the membership site, Home Paid Blogger, a step-by-step guide for beginners to making money by blogging. You can follow Kelly on Twitter @generationcedar or on Facebook.

How to Convert Visitors from Your About Page

This guest post is by AJ Kumar of Single Grain.

One of the most under-utilized pieces of website real estate out there is the About Us page.  While most webmasters treat it as a throw-away repository for a stock biography or company history, consider the mindset of the visitors who arrive on these pages. 

They’re interested enough in you and your brand to want to take the next step and learn more about you—indicating that they’re more receptive to sales or other conversions that those who have simply stumbled on to your Home page.

So why waste this valuable opportunity to engage visitors and increase conversions?!  Instead, use your “About” page as a springboard to increase engagement with your readers and the number of conversions that result from this valuable web content.

In general, there are three types of conversions that you can pursue from your About page: sales, leads and newsletter signups.  Let’s look at each of these in turn to determine when to implement each option and how to integrate each one effectively.

Conversion option #1: Newsletter signups

We’ll start with newsletter signups, as this is the easiest conversion type to feature on your About page.  As mentioned before, people arrive on this page because they want to know more about you.  From there, it’s easy to convince these readers that one way to get to know you and your business even better is to sign up to receive your email newsletter.

For proof that this strategy works, consider the case study featured by Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income, who added an opt-in form for his email newsletter to his About page on the recommendation of conversions expert Derek Halpern.  The result?  A 446% increase in signups from this page alone.  According to Pat:

“From the changes I made, adding an opt-in form to the About page has increased the number of subscribers the most (by far!) and this makes perfect sense.

The About page serves to describe who I am and what my site is about. It’s one of the most visited pages in my navigation menu and it doesn’t include links, resources, or any other calls to action, so having an option to learn more about what I do through a newsletter after reading (and hopefully being interested in) what my site is about, is perfect.”

To increase newsletter signups from your About page, create a separate opt-in form from within your email list management program to embed on the page.  Use language on your form that’s targeted specifically to your About page (for example, “To get to know more about us, subscribe to our newsletter below!”) in order to maximize newsletter signups.  Don’t forget to create a separate version of your form to split test on this important page to make your opt-in form as effective as possible!

Conversion option #2: Leads

If your online business model revolves around attracting qualified leads to either sell or use in an offline business, your About page is a great place to start converting new visitors!

Similar to the newsletter opt-in conversion process described above, adding a lead generation form to your About page works because the people who have arrived on this page have already demonstrated interest in learning more about your company.  With visitors already in this mindset, it’s an easy transition to encourage them to take the next step of giving you their contact info to receive more information.

For example, say you begin your About page with a brief history of your company and a description of the services you offer.  If visitors reading this page find your information interesting enough, they’re naturally going to want to learn more about your products and services.  So instead of hoping they’ll meander back to your homepage, where your lead generation form is installed, why not create a separate form here to capture these already-interested readers on the spot?

To make this area of your site even more effective in capturing new leads and increasing conversions, use language on the page that tells readers that filling in the lead generation form is simply the next stage in the process of getting to know your company—not the scary prospect of handing over personal information to a nameless, faceless website.  Doing so will help overcome your visitors’ natural hesitation to reveal personal information unless it’s absolutely necessary.

You could also use this opportunity to highlight a special bonus that you’re offering to visitors that complete your About page lead generation form.  This could be a free consultation, free ebook, or other giveaway that will help to overcome resistance and encourage visitors to this page to convert into leads.

Conversion option #3: Sales

Converting your About page visitors into buyers is the trickiest option in terms of increasing conversions, but when it’s done well, it can dramatically increase your website’s revenue and ROI.

Again, the key to increasing sales conversions on your About page lies in understanding the mindset of your readers.  The people who have reached this important page on your site want to know more about you, which means that they’re ready to invest time in your business and are likely open to taking further action on your website.

So instead of leaving them cold with a simple bio and company history, use this space to highlight a few products for them to start with.  To do this effectively, consider any of the following options:

  • Highlight your favorite products: If you sell multiple products on your site, use your About page as a place to recommend a few of the products that you feel best showcase your business.  Offer personal comments on why you love each of the products you recommend in order to make your About page product features more engaging to visitors.
  • Showcase your bestsellers: Your About page visitors may be looking for the next steps to take with your company, so if you offer an extensive variety of products for sale, consider using this space to feature the products that sell best on your website.  Doing so will give visitors an easy starting place to delve into all of your different product lines.
  • Feature your “most viewed” offerings: Use your Google Analytics data to determine which products on your site are viewed most often, as these popular products will likely be a good place for your About page visitors to jump into your product offerings.

To determine whether or not you’ve chosen the right products to feature on your About page, set up a Google Analytics “goal” that tracks how many sales result from visitors who land on a product page from your About page.  If you aren’t seeing high conversions from the products you initially feature, swap them out with others until you hit on a winning combination.

At the end of the day, the specific type of conversion you decide to pursue on your About page is less important than the fact that you take any action in order to make this digital real estate as effective as possible in the first place.  Track your results as you go and make improvements as needed in order to make your About page both useful for your visitors and lucrative for your company’s bottom line.

Are you gaining conversions through your About page? What kind, and how? Share your tips with us in the comments.

AJ Kumar is co-founder of Single Grain, a digital marketing agency< based in San Francisco. Single Grain specializes in helping startups and larger companies with search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media, and various other marketing strategies.