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How to Awe Your Readers to Take Action

This guest post is by Jeevan Jacob John of Blog Networking 101.

You have traffic.

You have a great number of people reading your blog posts daily.

What do you want to do with these people?

Have them subscribe? Comment? Read?

Simply put, you want them to take action, right?

And how are we going to do that?

Yes, of course: through different strategies. In this blog post, we will take a look at some strategies to “awe” your readers to take action—to subscribe, to comment, or to do whatever.

Why should you “awe” your readers?

If you look up the definition of the word “awe”, you will get something like this:

Awe: A feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.

Notice that I highlighted the words, respect and wonder. These are the feelings that we need to take care of. In other words, you want to create a feeling or emotion of respect and wonder within your readers’ minds.

And how exactly can we do that?

How to create “awe” in your readers

Think about this from a normal-life perspective. Do you read fiction? How do fiction authors create a feeling of wonder within your mind? Through twists, dramas and wonders within the story.

In other words, they give you something unexpected.

The same thing goes for your blog. You can awe your readers by giving them something that they don’t expect from you. Now, the action you need to take depends upon you, your blog, and where your blog is in the popularity race.

What do your readers expect?

The best way to answer this question is to ask your readers through surveys and polls. But there’s something else you can do: analyze your competitors. Take a look at your competitors’ blogs. What do they have that’s different from your blog? Is it the quality of content, design, layout, writing style?

You can also analyze the blogs that you read outside your niche. What is it that makes you want to read those posts? Is it about the creativity used by the author? Identify what makes those blogs popular, and decide to do the same thing for your blog. But, when it comes to doing, do better.

In other words, aim for similar success, but strive for something bigger.

Action: Comment

We all know about the standard ways to get your readers to comment on your blog posts: write high-quality content, include calls to action, and conduct giveaways. The trick in doing this with success is to do it differently.

Conduct random giveaways

The first reason why I love surprise giveaways is because you can get more out of less. Here is how it works:

To encourage comments, tell your readers that for the next 5 months, you’ll offer two or three giveaways for the best comment.

Now, here comes the best part: you don’t have to conduct giveaways every month. Choose the months you’ll award your giveaways at random, but don’t tell your readers. You’ll encourage comments and you’ll surprise readers when you do award the giveaway.

The giveaway should inspire awe in itself—make it extremely generous and valuable to your readers. The comments themselves, and your responses to them, should also help to create a sense of awe if you approach them the right way.

Conduct surprise giveaways

This works similarly to random giveaways; the only difference is that you don’t tell your readers that you are going to conduct a giveaway at all—until you announce the winners of the first one.

When your readers see the announcement post, they will have a stronger motivation to leave “better” comments more frequently (compared to the random giveaways technique). Again, this helps to foster a sense of awe in your readership—and prompt them to act.

Action: Subscribe

Okay, admit it: you want subscribers. You want subscribers who are loyal and are willing to buy your products and those you recommend.

Here are several techniques that can help:

  • On your landing page, include beautiful screenshots that depict your subscription offer: Include the screenshot of the email’s design, the first page and Table Of Contents of your ebook, or screenshots of weekly tips emails and autoresponders—whatever your subscription provides, show images of it. The goal is to awe your readers so that they feel that they’ll be missing out great things if they don’t subscribe. Just don’t tell them, show them!
  • Conduct exclusive giveaways for existing and new subscribers: Here, you want to do two things: conduct giveaways for existing subscribers and for new subscribers, separately. This will be easier for you to do if you can sort out your subscribers by subscription date (Aweber is a great tool that you can use here). And if you do conduct giveaways, include screenshots of that in your landing page!
  • Make your landing page beautiful: On your landing page, you want to amaze your readers with design and words. Experiment, analyze, learn, and tweak your landing pages. Make them stand out from the rest of your blog.
  • Include testimonials and comments: These could be from your clients, subscribers, friends, and even the popular people from your niche. You want to showcase all these things—create awe by making your readers feel that you’re an authority.
  • Give something, even if they don’t subscribe: Don’t hate readers for not subscribing; instead, share and care. Here is something else you can do. All of us have seen exit pop-ups. Use those for your own good. Let’s imagine that one of your prospective subscribers wasn’t awed enough to click the Subscribe button. What can we do? Give them something useful. For instance, if you are offering your ebook to subscribers, then give a handful of chapters to prospective subscribers. Keep one thing in mind: you want your prospective subscriber to read it, be amazed by it, and then subscribe to your list. So, include the subscription link in that giveaway.

Inspire, awe, and encourage

Having great content is important. So is marketing and networking. But, that’s not all. You need to invest time in every little step. You want your blog and brand to stand out from others, in content, design, layout, and every possible elements. Play with it. Experimentation is the best possible way to find out how you can create a feeling of awe within your readers’ minds. And that’s what you want to do. Inspire, awe, encourage, and gain action.

Editor’s note: later today, we’ll showcase another approach to increasing conversions on your blog—this time, through your About page.

Jeevan Jacob John is a young blogger who blogs about everything that is related to building a better blog. If you like what you are reading here, then you should probably check out his Why You Should Give A Damn Page.
You can also find him at his blog – Blog Networking 101.

5 Things to Email Your Subscribers About Today

I’m a big advocate for building a list around your blog, then making the most of it. A current list of email subscribers is an advantage to any blogger who wants to build their presence, whether you’re monetizing your blog or not.

Often, new bloggers tell me they want to find readers, and more experienced bloggers are always wanting to continue growing their blogs, rather than see readership plateau over time. Your email list can help you meet both these challenges.

Today I wanted to share some ideas for five different one-off emails you can send to the email list that you’ve established around your blog. No matter what stage of the blogging lifecycle you’re at, or how many subscribers you have, or how long it may have been since you emailed them last, hopefully these ideas will give you some food for thought—and maybe some action items for your To Do list.

1. Give them something

Rewarding your subscribers with a free giveaway is a good thing to do, no matter how long they’ve been subscribed. While many bloggers may give away a whitepaper or special download to encourage visitors to join the list in the first place, that’s no reason not to offer periodic giveaways to your subscribed members, too.

Beginning bloggers could create a special piece of content to give away—perhaps it’s a free PDF guide to some detailed aspect of your topic, or a link to a video in which you share some special secret that you think readers will want to know.

More experienced bloggers can give away samples of products—anything from a free chapter from your upcoming ebook, to a complimentary fifteen-minute personal consultation with your business.

Tip: Be generous with your giveaway, and be sure to point out that it’s a subscriber exclusive, so that your subscribers feel that you value them particularly.

2. Ask them something

When was the last time you surveyed your readers? When we think of surveys, most of us imagine questionnaires, but a “survey” doesn’t have to comprise multiple-choice questions—or even multiple questions.

For instance, you could send a more personal email to your subscriber list to get their feedback on a change you’ve made, or you’re thinking of making, to your bog:

  • a design change or update
  • a new product or service idea
  • a post that was particularly well-received, that you’re thinking of building into something bigger.

Don’t overlook other questions, though: you could ask for recommendations for service providers, for example, if you’re not sure who can help with some aspect of your blog or business.

Asking your subscribers for their opinions and assistance is a very powerful way to gain engagement. It can help you to deepen the bonds your subscribers feel with you, as it shows you respect their opinions, and need their support. It also shows that your email list isn’t just a marketing exercise.

3. Tell them something

This idea can easily be tied in with some of the others we’ve already looked at. Using your list to tell subscribers something important is an excellent way to underline the benefit to them not just of being on the list, but of actually taking the time to open and read your emails, too.

What can you tell them?

  • your plans for the blog, your offering, or a conference or event related to your niche
  • your thoughts or advice on a development within your niche (which you may also have addressed in a less-detailed blog post)
  • extra tips or information relating to a post that was particularly popular on your site, or about which readers had many questions.
  • You can probably come up with plenty of ideas for your own blog, depending on your niche.

    4. Alert them to something

    If there’s been news in your niche—a product launch, perhaps, or an announcement of some sort—why not email your subscribers with some kind of inside scoop you’ve put together especially for them? Alternatively, you could share with them a special insight that you’ve gained through your everyday research for your blog.

    Again, the information you send could be summarized in a blog post on your site, but make sure your subscribers get the full-length, in-depth version, or a special offer or different perspective. Be sure to make the value of being a subscriber clear through the quality of the information your send.

    Tip: Take care if you’re announcing a special offer or the launch of a product for which you’re an affiliate. If your subscribers weren’t expecting to receive sales material as part of their subscription to your site, they could well be taken aback. Treading softly as you start out is probably the best way to go. Over time, though, you’ll get an idea of what interests your readers, which will make it easier for you to target offers to them.

    5. Invite them to something

    A direct invitation is a great thing to extend to your subscribers. I’ve found that a personal invitation to my subscribers can do a lot to boost engagement and build rapport. It’s also a very clear way to provide value to your tribe.

    You could invite your subscribers to:

    • comment on a post that’s been something of an experiment or a break from the routine for you
    • get in touch with you via email or social media (especially handy if you have a particular question you’re asking, or you’ve just launched a presence on a new social media network)
    • take up places in a new service program you’re beta testing
    • take up a special offer that you’re making available only to them.

    Make sure your invitation is sincere and the event or offer that you’re inviting subscribers to be part of is something you, personally, stand behind. These people are the most loyal of your readers, and the goal here is to reinforce and deepen that loyalty, not undermine it.

    What about your subscribers?

    These ideas should help to get your creative juices flowing. I’m interested to hear how established your blog is, and what you’re doing to engage with your email list subscribers. Let me know in the comments.

Blog Smarter: Invest in Your Own Success

This guest post is by Jeff Nickles of MySuperChargedLife.com.

My blog grew by leaps and bounds in 2011.  It was exciting! But it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t made a few smart investments in my blog—investments, you could say, in my success.

I’m a regular guy and a part-time blogger just like many of you.  I’ve learned how to grow my site through trial and error.  Over the last four years, I have probably made more mistakes than the average joe.  I’ve done a lot of the wrong things, but occasionally I get it right. I’ve benefited tremendously from the experience of others since I started, so I want to share with you the tactics behind my success, hoping they will help you.

The results I achieved

First, let’s look at the results I achieved. My blog’s experienced what I’d call explosive growth in the last year:

  • 353% increase in number of email subscribers.
  • 103% growth in number of pageviews (doubled in one year!).
  • 141% increase in AdSense earnings.

I want to assure you that these numbers are a reflection of consistent increases over the course of many months.  I’m not just comparing a freakishly bad month from a year ago to a freakishly good month now.

The investments I made

As you can see, I saw big boosts in the number of subscribers, pageviews, and earnings on my site.  These are the key measures of success that I’m always looking to improve.  I attribute the growth of my blog to some important investments that I made about a year ago.

1. I changed my WordPress theme

Not all themes are created equal.  This is especially true when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO).  I’ll admit that I don’t understand all the minutiae behind this art, but I don’t have to, and neither do you—assuming you’re running a self-hosted WordPress blog.

You can significantly increase your site’s ranking with search engines by using a theme that optimizes this for you.

A little knowledge of SEO will certainly help, but the more you get out of the box with your theme, the better.  Just over a year ago, I invested in a premium WordPress theme that had a strong commitment to search engine optimization.  Yes, I had to pay a little money for my theme, but boy has it been worth it.

Before I made this purchase, I ran a different premium theme and used a popular WordPress plugin to supposedly optimize my SEO.  I’m sure the plugin helped, but I can tell you that changing to a different theme—one that was already optimized—helped a lot more.

My traffic has doubled in the past year, and all of the extra traffic has come from search engines.  On top of that, my AdSense earnings have gone up almost 1.5 times on what they were just one short year ago, all because of this increase in traffic.  That’s a nice return on investment—and a clear justification for investing in a good theme.

Investment #1: Catalyst Theme
Cost: US$77.00.

2. I moved to a better email subscription management service

Previously, I used Feedburner to manage my email subscribers.  The thing I liked best about Feedburner was that it was free, but it lacked some key features.  As I learned more about blogging, I discovered what Darren and others say about the importance of building an email list.  Therefore, after three years of puny email subscriber growth, I decided it was time to get serious about how I handled this aspect of my blog.

I want all the new search engine visitors coming to my site to become email subscribers.  One powerful way to encourage this is to offer a first-time visitor an incentive to subscribe.  In my case, I put together a free ebook called The Super-Charged Guide to Smart Living.

The new email subscriber service gives me the ability to use autoresponders.  When someone subscribes, the service automatically sends them a specific Welcome email that I have set up.  I can include links in these emails.  Therefore, I can offer all these new search engine visitors a free copy of my ebook as an incentive to subscribe. This definitely works.

Furthermore, once they become subscribers, I can send them a series of auto-responder emails walking them through a complete sequence of strategic interactions with my blog.  By the way, I got this idea from Darren in What Process Do You Want to Lead Repeat Readers Through?  Excellent advice!

Again, I have to invest a little each month to get these features, but after just one year, I certainly see the advantages.   This new service allows me to engage strategically and proactively with my email subscribers.  It also gives me the ability to brand the emails so I look more professional, credible and consistent.  I believe all of this has contributed to my site’s growth.

Investment #2: FeedBlitz
Cost: US$13.95/month (when I signed up).

3. I implemented a pop-up lightbox

In my first three years of blogging, I had only accumulated about 800 email subscribers.  This is very puny, I know.  I now have over 3,600 valid email addresses on my opt-in list.  Here’s a chart that shows the phenomenal growth I’ve experienced.

Isn’t this amazing?!?  It is to me!

How did I achieve this kind of growth?  Well, I implemented a pop-up lightbox that offers visitors my free ebook in exchange for their subscription. That lightbox looks like this:

I configured this pop-up to appear to first-time visitors.  This really seems to work.  I’ve been averaging around 250 new email subscribers per month since I turned it on about a year ago; before I used this, I averaged around 20 per month.

Originally, I was hesitant to put something like this in place because I knew it could be a minor irritant to some.  However, the results speak for themselves.  I’m definitely glad that I did it.

I had to make a small investment in a premium plugin for WordPress to get the professional look I wanted, but this has more than paid off.  I’ve recouped this expense many times over already.

Investment #3: Popup Domination
Cost: US$77.00.

Make an investment to grow your blog

The growth I’ve seen in the last year has been awesome, although I haven’t had to work a whole lot harder to achieve these explosive results.

It just goes to show you that by investing in the right aspects of your blog, you can really make a big difference.  My total investment for my new theme and for Popup Domination was just a little over $150.  I would spend that money again in a heartbeat.

I started out only paying $13.95 per month for my FeedBlitz subscription, but now, because of my phenomenal email subscriber growth, I pay $49.95 per month.  I don’t mind it a bit—I can assure you that it has been well worth it.

Here’s my advice if you want to grow your blog: educate yourself on what works, and then don’t be afraid to make a few investments.  Not all of them will turn out exactly as you desire, but you’ve got to be willing to take the risk if you want the big payoff.  It worked for me.

Jeff Nickles is a regular guy on a quest to live life to its fullest. He began MySuperChargedLife.com in December of 2007 as a way to share his experiences and to learn more about life.  You can reach him by visiting his blog.

Use Social Sharing’s True Motive For Better Traffic

This guest post is by Shakira Dawud of Deliberate Ink.

You’re getting regular traffic, but it’s flatlining. The regular crowd is still with you, but your subscriber base is fluctuating. And you’ve noticed you’re not being shared on social media very often.

If you were to ask, you’d hear all kinds of reasons why, but I guarantee you the basis of all of them is always personal.

There is no way around the adage, “People do business with people they know, like, and trust.” Your blog is serious business. So why is it we’re told not to take business personal (and business between friends is retold as the stuff of Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado“), when every single business decision comes from a personal place?

You need that personal place to get the following and response you want from your readers. Find it and put it to work building your blog’s traffic in the following three steps.

Step 1: Complete the picture of your existing following

I’ll use Twitter as an example. I seldom follow people with just the hope they’ll follow me back (although that’s a reason, too).

I want to take part in their Twitter banter, find likeminded people, siphon useful information from their posts, get them to visit my blog, and build relationships I deem important. I unfollow only after I’ve lost hope of getting those things. Sometimes I lose hope sooner, sometimes later. I know I’m not alone in this.

If we don’t follow our followers, we’re blind to too many quality people who’ve made it a point to follow us. So make the most of your social relationships by finding the real and active people connected to you on each platform and reciprocating, before they lose hope in you.

Step 2: Unravel a “thread of discontent”

Start listening to your crowd closely. Watch the comments they leave on posts and blogs, and note what they share most often. In a recent post, Derek Halpern introduces the concept of the thread of discontent. He encourages being the “pebble dropped in the pond” by creating “ripples” in the standard.

Derek’s point is well taken. But before you become a pebble, I advise that you pick up that thread and unravel it to its origin. I bet you’ll find it’s ultimately a personal one. Something based on their values, beliefs, or experiences. You may even find more than one thread. Once you find out what it’s made up of, hold onto it. Now it’s time for the final step.

Step 3: Provide content they want—but not like you have been

“That’s all you got?” you’re thinking. “Lady, I’ve been creating content out the wazoo, every day for months–and it ain’t too shabby, either!”

No, that’s not all. Let me explain with an example.

Listening in on a webinar for email marketers, I noticed the presenter played up the rivalry between marketing and sales departments. He dotted his discourse with pointed statements like: Salespeople are only interested in their numbers, not our strategy… They asked for all the hot leads we could get, and then let them go cold… So much of our hard marketing work is wasted on the sales end.

On the individual level, marketing employees who’d been frustrated by salesepeople were remembering those feelings of futlity, concern for their careers, and even a bit of self-righteousness. You can be sure he had our undivided attention when he explained how we could refine our strategies to build the credibility of our numbers, and waste less time and energy—in spite of those pesky salespeople. This was personal.

Superglue-strength loyalty

So you see, to be worth sharing, you can’t just deliver consistently high quality content. You don’t have to rock the boat (although it will give you quite a boost). You do need to produce content that provides the value readers can carry out with them in a package that confirms their personal reality.

Subscriber loyalty will grow to superglue strength, and what you write will demand to be shared with more and more likeminded people. Without any further ado, perfectly targeted, better traffic will pour in.

How have you used these ideas to your advantage? Can you share any examples?

Shakirah Dawud is the writer and editor behind Deliberate Ink. Based in Maryland with roots in New York, she’s been crafting effective marketing copy as a writer and polishing many forms of prose as an editor since 2002. Clients in many fun sizes, industries, and locations reach her through the Web.

An Easy Way to Decrease Your Unsubscribe Rate

This guest post is by Michael Alexis of WriterViews.

Frustrated with unsubscribes on your newsletter?

You aren’t alone. Most of the metrics associated with our newsletters are fun to watch.

  • Subscribe rate going up? Cool.
  • Open rate rising? Awesome.
  • Clickthrough rate skyrocketing? Yahoo!

Decrease your unsubscribes

Image by Bruce Berrien, licensed under Creative Commons

So, what is it about unsubscribe rates that is so darn frustrating? Maybe it’s the feeling of rejection that the reader no longer finds enough value in our work. Perhaps it’s the wondering whether they only ever signed up to get our download-bait. Or it could even just be the dissatisfaction of not knowing why all these people are unsubscribing.

Whatever the reason, wouldn’t it be nice if we could just put a stop to unsubscribes for good?

Ana Hoffman of Traffic Generation Cafe is pretty transparent about her blogging strategies. So, when earlier this year, I interviewed Ana, I wanted to find out how she builds and maintains her email list. This post is about the specific tactic Ana uses to drastically cut unsubscribe rates to her newsletter.

The problem isn’t what you are doing

Since you’re active in the world of blogging about blogging, you already know:

So you know all about how to get subscribers and engage your readers. And it’s a lot of work, right? But you are doing it. That’s why we have to look elsewhere for the underlying cause of email unsubscribes.

The problem isn’t what you are doing.

Read that again.

No. The problem is what you aren’t doing.

The problem is what you aren’t doing

The underlying cause of newsletter unsubscribes is that you aren’t building relationships with your readers. Sure, you’re writing content that is useful for them. Sure, you write with the voice you speak in. Sure, you share your strong opinions. Sure, you drop little snippets about your personal life. All of those things can help build relationships, but in the end they suffer from one fatal flaw: you’re broadcasting a message from one to many.

So, how often do you reach out to your subscribers, one by one?

Cut your unsubscribe rate

Hey, wow! Nobody ever did that, you are actually real and respond to your emails.
—Ana Hoffman

You will cut your newsletter unsubscribe rate by building relationships with your subscribers. You do that be reaching out to them one by one. By engaging subscribers in personal dialog, you show them you are a real person sitting behind a computer writing live emails. You show them that you aren’t just looking to flood their inbox with a series of canned autoresponses. And you show them that you actually care and appreciate having them around.

The key here is to change the perception of a one-to-many broadcast into a one-to-one conversation.

Sounds like the right approach doesn’t it?

How Ana does it

Ana uses a simple strategy to engage one-on-one with every subscriber to her newsletter.

She writes them an email.

Here’s her process. First, she sets aside 15 minutes at the end of the day to email her new subscribers.

Second, she opens up each of the “new subscriber notification” emails she gets from Aweber.

Third, she responds to that email (which goes to the subscriber) and changes the subject line to something like “good morning!” or “good afternoon!” Ana says this step gets her a lot of feedback like “Wow, either your responder is so good it knows the time, or you are actually there!”

Fourth, she writes the content of the email. Something like “Hello. Thanks for joining my list. Welcome. I’m here if you need help.”

Fifth, she customizes the email. If she notices someone’s email ends with “.au”, she’ll say “It’s evening my time, but afternoon in Australia, so good afternoon!” There is a free add-on to Gmail called Rapportive that shows you details of the person you are emailing, including their location.

Sixth, she presses send. And bam! With just a little bit of daily effort like this, you’ve built a relationship with every subscriber on your list!

How do you build relationships with your email subscribers?

Photo Credit: Bruce Berrien

Michael Alexis posts video interviews with the world’s top bloggers at WriterViews. The interviews cover strategy, tips and tactics for becoming a ProBlogger.

Ramit Sethi Exposed: How He Earns Millions Blogging

This guest post is by Michael Alexis of WriterViews.

In this post, I’m going to show you the exact steps one blogger used to earn over $1 million.

Not long ago, I interviewed Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich. If you’re serious about making money blogging, then you need to read this interview.

Ramit SethiBut a heads-up: this post is long and extremely detailed. It took me over 20 hours to write. It will take you about 15 minutes to read. If you like, you can download a PDF of the entire article here.

I know you may be skeptical about the $1 million, so let’s start by looking at the facts.

Ramit Sethi and I Will Teach You To Be Rich

Ramit’s advice on money has been featured on CNN, Wall Street Journal, ABC News, FOX Business, PBS, The New York Times, CNBC, Yahoo! Finance, npr, REUTERS, and most recently in a major feature in Fortune Magazine.

His personal finance book, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, is a New York Times bestseller, and a Wall Street Journal bestseller.

IWTYTBR is ranked 19,466 on Alexa. It hosts over 250,000 monthly readers, and has 100,000+ newsletter subscribers. Prices of IWTYTBR products range from $4.95 to $12,000. But most importantly, Ramit’s tactics get his readers results. See this post, where over 500 readers wrote 54,818 words that say so. That’s as long as a novel!

Impressive, right?

Now, let’s break down Ramit’s five-step system for creating and earning immense value.

  1. Do Research That Gets Inside Your Readers Head
    • Examples of research insights for IWTYTBR
    • Use surveys to uncover the words readers use
    • Collect words from your email subscribers
    • When to ignore your readers
    • Don’t refer to comments on other blogs
    • Collect all the testimonials you will ever need
    • It’s your birthday: ask for feedback
  2. Target your customers closely
  3. Write a sales page that makes your fortune
    • Naming your product
    • Answer objections before your customers even have them
    • Don’t waste time A/B testing: it’s about the offer
    • Understand the taxonomy of pricing
    • Write Super Specific Headlines
    • Give Your Product An Unbeatable Guarantee
  4. What to do right after the customer buys
  5. Using ethical persuasion

1. Do research that gets inside your reader’s head

When you can truly deeply understand people, even in fact better than they understand themselves, then your sales skyrocket.—Ramit Sethi

There are two reasons getting inside a readers head will skyrocket your sales.

First, you will use the information to create a product or service that matches their wants and needs.

Second, you can use their exact language in your copywriting to reach them at a deeper level.

A big part of selling a product is being able to understand your reader’s barriers. What’s holding them back from their goals? In terms of money, people already know they need to manage and invest it. In terms of weight loss, people already know they need to lose weight and eat better. And in blogging, you know it’s offering immense value to your readers that will make you a problogger.

But they aren’t doing it. There is something much deeper than this goal, which is the barrier to achieving it. You’ll only discover that by doing enough research.

Maybe you’ll find out that in finance, nobody wakes up in the morning and says, “I really need to study a compound interest chart and start investing!” Nobody. They say, “this year I am going to try harder,” or “yeah, I should probably do that, but first I need to figure it out.”

When you know that language, you are inside your reader’s head.

Imagine you are a weight loss blogger. I want you to write a headline for a coaching session on losing weight. Go!

Wait. You don’t have enough information to write an effective headline. The best you can do is generic stuff like, “Lose 10 pounds in 10 days with our experienced coach!”

“Weight loss” is too broad a topic. Maybe your reader wants to lose fat from a specific area. Or perhaps they want to lose weight for a specific reason. A 50-year-old mother of two will have different reasons than a 28-year-old guy living in Manhattan.

So, you do some research and find out your target customer is a single woman who wants to lose weight from her thighs. You could write a killer headline pretty quick, right?

Soon, you’ll be able to truly understand your reader’s hopes, fears and dreams—and articulate them even better than they can. That’s the power of research.

Examples of research insights for IWTYTBR

During our interview, I asked Ramit to share some of the specific insights he has applied from his research. Here’s a big one.

A couple of years ago Ramit was doing a book tour, and he’d ask readers what they really want to learn. Everywhere he went, people were telling him they want to earn more money. That’s why he decided to create his flagship course, Earn 1k On The Side.

But just like “I want to lose weight” is too generic, so is “I want to earn more money.” Here’s what Ramit thought: “I’m so smart. I know my audience so well! They want to live a better lifestyle—fly to Vegas for the weekend and drop a couple grand.”

Then he did his research.

It turned out the real reason his readers wanted to earn more money was so they’d have the option of quitting their jobs. Yeah, just the option. This insight profoundly changed how Ramit created and positioned his course.

By the way, take a look at the signup page for Earn 1k. How much do you want to bet “I can’t freelance … I don’t even have an idea” was one of the objections Ramit was hearing over and over?

So, how do you go about doing research that gets you inside your reader’s head?

Use surveys to uncover the words readers use

The beautiful part is that because so few people are doing this, if you do even a small amount—you completely stand out. You don’t need 25,000 data points. That’s ridiculous. It took me years to be able to get to that. If you have 20 qualitative responses to one survey question, that’s pretty informative.—Ramit Sethi

Before launching Earn1k, Ramit collected 25,000 data points, and then over 50,000 for version 2.0. He calls this his “secret sauce,” which allows him to be the “wife who knows her husband better than he knows himself.” Most of that data came from surveys.

He says that a lot of people don’t use surveys at all, so they come up with useless advice like “keep a budget.” So if you survey even a little bit, you’ll be way ahead of the competition.

Ramit starts with really broad surveys, and narrows the questions down over time. He asks the questions four or five times until he really gets at the truth. Sometimes it takes Ramit four months and 6,000 answers to get at a single nugget of truth. You don’t need that many responses, though: even 20 qualitative responses to one survey question can be extremely informative.

Preparing your survey

  1. Sign up for a free or $20 account at Survey Monkey.
  2. Ask open-ended essay-style questions. You aren’t aiming for statistical validity here.
  3. Ask five questions. Keep them short and specific.
  4. Include examples of the kinds of answers you want: really long, detailed responses, not one-liners.
  5. The two most important questions are “What is it you’ve tried and failed at?” and “What do you want?”

Here’s an example of a question from one of Ramit’s surveys:

“In your own words, what skill would you use to earn more $ on the side? (For example, “I’m good at writing, but I just don’t know how to earn $1,000 using my writing skills…”)”

Download copies of Ramit’s surveys—and an audio case study that walks through an example step by step—here.

Never do this on your survey

I asked Ramit if there was anything we shouldn’t ask on a survey. Here’s what he said.

Don’t ask them what they would be willing to pay. They don’t know. They will tell you an untruthful answer, and it’s pointless to ask them. Okay. People don’t know how to do pricing, so they get lazy and they are like “hey, what would you pay for this special mastermind ebook bootcamp” and you get the worst answers in the world. By the way they are total lies. People aren’t intentionally lying, they just don’t actually know what they would pay for something.—Ramit Sethi

Another thing you shouldn’t do is try to sell. You are doing research. How do these two research questions make you feel?

  1. If I told you I had an eight-week course that was guaranteed to make you 1k a month on the side, would that interest you?
  2. Have you ever tried earning money on the side? What happened?

Aim for the second option. It’s like my mom always said: “treat people how you want to be treated.”

Getting people to take your survey

You write great material, you are adding value for your readers. They love you. They wake up in the morning and see you in their reader, or come to your website or see you on Twitter. They like you.—Ramit Sethi

The key to getting readers to take your surveys is that they have to like you.

If you don’t have a good relationship with your readers, then none of this stuff matters. You can stop reading this post and go read How To Build The Relationship With Your Readers instead.

But if your readers like you, you are set. You don’t need thousands of them either.

Step two is to reach out to your readers via email and social media, saying something like this: “Hey guys, I’m looking for some help here. I’m trying to figure out how I can help you best. Would you mind taking like 5 minutes to give me your thoughts?”

That’s enough. You are set to start getting in your readers’ heads via surveys. But there’s another way you can do it.

Collect words from your email subscribers

You can also use email to better understand your readers.

Here’s what Ramit does.

  1. He writes a big, detailed email with a story about something that happened to himself or to a friend.
  2. He finishes it with a call to action, “Hey, I’d love to hear your story. Please email me back, I read every one.”
  3. He responds to some of the replies. The recipients of those personal responses think, “Wow, this dude actually reads his emails and he cares”.

That last point is pretty good for relationship building, too. These are the little things you can do that will bring you disproportionate results.

When to ignore your readers

Sometimes you’ll get reader feedback that you disagree with. Over time, you will develop a filter for what to listen to and what to discard.

Here’s a way to start developing your filter. When you get a good response, try to find out a little more about the person who wrote it. If everyone who buys from you is a 26-year-old man living in the USA, then listen to them. Ignore the 72-year-old grandma who’s complaining your font size is too small.

If you haven’t made sales yet, focus on getting to know your target audience. As Ramit advised in a previous interview, don’t write for everybody. For Ramit, IWTYTBR isn’t just another blog, so he isn’t interested in people reading just for intellectual entertainment. He wants people who will take action.

Don’t refer to comments on other blogs

You’ve probably heard this advice before: look at comments on other blogs in your niche, then blog about the questions they ask. Ramit says there is no value in this kind of research.

Why? Because audiences on different sites are so profoundly different.

Ramit recently wrote a post called The worst career advice in the world. It received over 200 long comments and was very well regarded. The article was syndicated by another site where the audience didn’t know him at all. On that site, the article got 24 comments, most of which were super-negative.

Your audience is unique and special—that’s why they are your audience.

Collect all the testimonials you will ever need

Another part of your research and development should involve collecting testimonials. We’ve all seen those generic testimonials that are totally contrived: “Oh wow, this is the best product I ever bought and it changed my life forever!”

You need real testimonials, and the best source is people that have bought your products. Send them an email that says, “Hey, hope things are going well. So happy to see how everyone is doing.” Then tell them to click the appropriate link: “If you accomplished x in 5 hours a week, click here. If you did y, but you were skeptical, click here.” This gives you testimonials for all those options.

Here’s another tip for getting rock-solid testimonials. As readers are going through you course, get them to fill out progress reports. That way, feedback is part of the funnel. Believe it or not, Ramit gets so much feedback this way he hired a guy whose sole job is to manage them.

And if you’re developing your first product, Ramit suggests two ways to get testimonials.

First, you may have some respondents you’ve never engaged with before. In your survey, include a comment like, “Hey, if you’ve used any of my free material for x/y/z, I’d love to hear your story. Please be specific”. All of a sudden you have 20 testimonials!

Another way is to offer free trials for your product. So, find five to ten friends or readers. Tell them “Guys, I’m planning to release this thing. It will be about $100. I’m looking for ten people to go through it and give me feedback. If you agree to fill out three surveys, you get this trial for free—and the final product as well.”

It’s your birthday: ask for feedback

During our interview, I asked Ramit about one other way I’ve seen him get people to leave feedback at IWTYTBR.

On his birthday this year, Ramit wrote a post and included this call to action at the bottom: “Nothing could be better than hearing how my material has helped you. Just leave a comment on this post. Or, upload a video to YouTube and tag it “iwillteachyoutoberich.”

“The more specific, the better Share a story. Tell us how IWT helped you hit a goal, pay off debt, earn more, get a better job — whatever. Provide specific, concrete #’s. Tell me what it meant to you. It would make my day.”

You know how many responses he got? Over 500. Check the post out at It’s my birthday today. Will you do me a favor?

The comments are people saying things like “I’m earning $70k more than I was before”, “I was able to quit my job and move across the country” and “I was earning $10 an hour, now I’m earning $40″.

These comments weren’t destined to be testimonials, but here’s one way Ramit uses them. When he makes a post about how he’s able to charge 100x what others do, and why his students are delighted to pay it, he includes the link. It proves that he’s not just providing information, but is also delivering actual results.

Target your customers closely

We saw earlier that Ramit targets his customers closely. He targets people who take action. He says it’s better to have a small core audience that takes action, respects what you have to say and gets results from your material, than a massive audience that doesn’t open your emails.

Here is a way to filter them out. Don’t sell via a squeeze page. Ramit sends subscribers through weeks of free material before giving them a chance to buy. If people complain, he unsubscribes them.

Then he tells the subscribers who can and can’t buy the course. For example, people with credit card debt are prohibited from buying his courses. If he finds out they bought it, he will ban them for life. Why? For one, Ramit doesn’t believe it’s right to take that money when he knows it will end up costing the customer twice as much. Second: it sends a message to the other readers.

Write a sales page that makes your fortune

We’ve had pages that convert at 68.7%, which in the online world is unheard of.—Ramit Sethi

Ramit spends months (or even years) doing research and development. He spends a lot of time crafting his product and offer, and he has converted as high as 68.7%. In our industry the average is 2-4%.

Realistically, you won’t get conversions that high. But could you improve your sales? Of course. If you don’t you are leaving a ton of value on the table—not just money—but value that users aren’t receiving because you aren’t messaging correctly.

Your blog doesn’t need as big a following as IWTYTBR to implement this. The basic patterns Ramit uses are modeled by people in businesses much larger and smaller. To succeed, you need to deeply understand your readers, then spend time on stuff that matters, and avoid what doesn’t.

Naming your product

Naming your product is some of the most important language on your sales page. If you want inspiration, check out Chris Guillebeau’s work at The Art of Non-Conformity. Chris names products like The Travel Hacking Cartel, Empire Building Kit and A Brief Guide To World Domination.

Let’s look more closely at how Ramit names his products. Why did he call his earning money course Earn 1k on the side? Because $1000 is an achievable figure. A lot of students go on to earn much more. But Ramit says if you tell them they will earn $10,000 they go “I don’t believe you, I’m not the kind of person”. Earning an extra $1,000 a month is life changing for most people. And it’s “on the side” because to become richer, people tend to think that they have to quit their job and start the next Google. The vast majority will not and cannot. But anyone can do five to ten hours a week on the side.

For Ramit’s new Find Your Dream Job course the naming process was similar. Even though the long-term goal is to help people find their dream career, he is using their language. If you are sitting around with your buddies, what you actually say is “I wish I could find a new…” What?

“Job”.

And “dream job” is what people are thinking.

Answer objections before customers even have them

Remember all those testimonials you collected? Now it is time to use them, and they are very strategic.

Imagine you find in your research that people don’t believe they have enough time to implement your advice. Great. Now you go to customers who are really happy and say “Hey, I’m looking for anyone who thought they wouldn’t have time to complete this program, but now you’ve achieved x results.”

Add that testimonial to your sales page, and when the reader’s there, they’ll find an answer to their objection before they even had it.

Don’t waste your time A/B testing: it’s about the offer

So few of us are even spending time on language. We are spending time on things that give us a shiny pop. You know you might be able to measure an increase in conversion by 1.6%. But when you do can things like this you can increase every other conceivable measure. Revenues up 500%. Engagement up 750%. Because you are actually speaking to people in the language that works with them, and not at them.—Ramit Sethi

Ramit really emphasizes how you should spend your time on the things that matter. “My point is, focus on the stuff that matters and is going to make the biggest most valuable gain for you… don’t get caught up in this microtesting world. It’s sexy. It’s fun. We see a 1.3% increase in open rates because we tweaked our subject lines. Or, you can get a 500% increase in revenue because you came up with a better offer,” he says.

Why all the hate? Two reasons. One is that even if you change the color of your button and improve opt-ins by 24%, it doesn’t mean you are going to convert any more sales. Second, even if you do increase the conversions to opt-in, they will eventually regress to the mean. You know who actually gets results from testing button color? Amazon.com.

Ramit says one area to test that can skyrocket your sales is your offers. Do your research and find out what people want. Do they want a standalone ebook? Maybe, and they’ll be happy to pay $97 for it. Or if someone doesn’t want a full video course, maybe they do want transcripts at a lower price. Others want accountability, like live calls every week or even a one-on-one call. Ramit warns that people might say they want an ebook but they may really need someone to check in.

One way to craft your offers is to study people you admire in both the online and offline worlds. What do they offer and how do they offer it?

McDonald’s created the kids’ meal. That’s an offer. They packaged up certain things in a certain way. Offered bonuses. Changed pricing. And the kids’ meal is one of the most successful packages ever created in the history of business.

When I interviewed Neil Patel of Quicksprout he told me about a $199 traffic generation system he offered. He also gave buyers a 30-minute phone call, and after hundreds of sales, is buried in scheduled calls. Ramit says Neil learned two things: that he will never do it again, and that people want his time. That’s very valuable.

Understand the taxonomy of pricing

There is a taxonomy of pricing that is well understood in the information product world.

It goes like this:

  • blog post: no one will pay for
  • PDF/ebook: $27-$97
  • audio/video course: $497-$997
  • must have video or live component: $997+
  • in person, one-on-one: the most

If you are putting out a book, and all the others in the store sell for $10 or $15, it’s going to be awfully difficult to roll in and get $200 for yours. Stick to the taxonomy.

Write super-specific headlines

There are plenty of great posts on writing headlines, so I won’t dwell on it here. Check out Copyblogger’s How to Write Headlines That Work instead.

I will note that Ramit says headlines matter profoundly. So spend 50% of your time on them and get super-specific. Doing this, you might decrease conversions, but the people that come through are worth so much more—not just in terms of money, but also in terms of the value you offer them.

Then you want to start thinking about your guarantee.

Give your product an unbeatable guarantee

Offering a money-back guarantee forces you to step up your game, because if your product isn’t good, you don’t get food on the table. I think all of us in this market need that, because there have been so many sleazy people that released substandard products. So I’d like all those people to go out of business, and I’d like the best people, the ones who say “look, my product is so good you try the entire thing and if you don’t like it I’ll send all your money back, even the credit card processing fees.” I want more people like that, because that is a product with integrity versus a fly by night product.—Ramit Sethi.

A big barrier for business people who want to offer guarantees is that they are afraid people will rip them off. Guess what? Some people probably will. But the ability to get a refund will drive more revenue and expose you to many more great people than the few bad apples acting illegitimately.

People expect the opportunity to get 100% of their money back. If your product is good enough, why not let people try the whole thing and get their money back? You have nothing to worry about.

But you should monitor your percentages. On a $97 product you can expect a return rate of about 10%. If you are getting 40% of sales returned, your product is not good. If you are getting 2% returned, that’s a problem too. Why? You probably aren’t selling to enough people. Generally the higher the price, the more refunds are requested.

Ramit offered some tips on creating an unbeatable guarantee. First, the more powerful you can make your guarantee, the better. In The Four Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss talks about offering a 110% money back guarantee.

Second, the best guarantees are very specific. So don’t just write, “if you are not satisfied for any reason, we’ll give your money back.” Instead try something like, “if you don’t get three paying clients within 60 days, then write me and I’ll send all your money back.”

Third, take as much risk as possible onto yourself. That means offering refunds greater than 100%, paying for shipping, whatever—as much as is economically feasible.

Neil Patel says you can reduce refunds by sending people free stuff you didn’t tell them about during the sale. Just before the refund period is up, send them an email that says, “Hey, next week I’ll be sending you a document that breaks all this down.” Or, “I’ve got a special bonus for you that I’ll be sending along next week,” for example.

So you’ve created a sales page that converts like crazy. But what do you do after your reader buys?

What to do right after the customer buys

When they buy, think through their experience. What are they feeling? Nervous. Don’t want to have gotten ripped off. Don’t want to have been taken advantage of. Don’t want their friends to think they bought a weird internet course.—Ramit Sethi

If you told your friends you bought a $2000 video course, they would probably say you got scammed. Normal people don’t buy stuff online, right?

So your newly acquired purchaser is nervous. And after you ease those nerves, they’ll be excited. They can’t wait. Where do they start?

Welcome your customers with a video—Ramit recorded his first one with his MacBook. Tell them something like, “You made a great decision. This is what you are going to get. If you ever have problems, contact us at…” Then give them the material.

It’s important to curate the material your customers see. If you ask people do they want all the information up front, they say “yes.” But if you give it all at once they will be overwhelmed and more likely to cancel or ask for a refund. So tell them, “Here’s why I’m not giving you everything—trust me, and take these action steps.”

I recently watched a Mixergy Master Class called Grow Your Recurring Revenue. It was about how to keep customers that signup for your membership site or courses.

Noah Fleming led the course and said there are three essential Cs: Character, Content, and Community.

In the case of IWTYTBR, the character is Ramit. He’s the personality that readers buy from. The content is what you offer—Noah also emphasized not dumping it all on new buyers all at once.

Community is the elements of your product that let buyers interact with each other. Noah says this is a great way to keep people around, and suggested the idea of forming small groups and giving them tasks: like creating a product together, or developing a landing page.

Ramit tried community by including a forum for Earn1K buyers. He took it down when he found people were spending more time on that than doing work. People still ask him for a forum. It’s what people want—but not what they need.

Using ethical persuasion

Life is not just about more conversions. You want to be classy. You want to be respectful. Yeah, you could make more money, but that’s not the goal—the goal is to help them make an informed decision.—Ramit Sethi

Why is ethical persuasion so important? Because now that you know Ramit’s techniques and frameworks for sales, you’d find it just as easy to implement them on the dark side. There are many ways you can use persuasion nefariously, like to convince people to buy things they don’t really need. Ramit says he knows of hucksters who find out how much money their leads have available on their credit cards, then charge that.

Here’s Ramit’s framework for knowing who to sell to.

rational (information + motivation) = decision?

  • Rational requires that the potential buyer is in a sound state of mind and able to make their decision. Someone in desperate financial circumstances might not be.
  • Information assumes the potential buyer has all the information in the world about Ramit’s product.
  • And motivation means it is something they want.

If those three criteria are met, and the lead would buy the product, then Ramit has the privilege to persuade them to buy.

For example, take someone who’s earning $60,000, has $25,000 in the bank and works 9-5 but really wants to earn more. The person has the time, energy, and no credit card debt. If they took the time to go through Ramit’s program, and they trust him, would they buy it? If the answer’s “yes,” it’s a sale.

If someone makes $30,000, has $20,000 in debt, and is looking for a magic bullet, Ramit won’t let the person make the decision to buy.

So, I asked Ramit about those guys who run sites like www.SuperInstantMoneyMakingMachine.com. You know the kind—the ones where they tell you about their life on the beach, drinking margaritas, and chasing women. And there’s a picture of the guy in front of a jet. There is always a jet shot.

Ramit says if that guy has a product that would genuinely change a customer’s life, and gives them an out in the form of a full refund period, then it’s ethical to aggressively pursue the sale. He warns that many pages of long copy, flashing icons, the jet shot, and highlights are scams. Those guys do it because it works, and there are deep psychological reasons for it.

Click here to listen to Ramit’s final thoughts from our interview. Thanks so much for reading through. I know this article was long and I hope you got a ton of value from it.

Can you do me a favor and leave a comment sharing the most important insight you got from hearing what Ramit has to say? Be specific—tell us a story, please.

I’m Michael Alexis and I interview the world’s top bloggers at WriterViews. Check out this ProBlogger article from the last time I interviewed Ramit.

10 Ways To Get More Email Subscribers For Your Blog

This guest post is by James Penn of AcceleratedNicheProfits.com.

I’m sure you’ve had it drummed into you by now that an email list is vitally important to your blog and your business.

Darren often discusses how vital it is to build your email list and he recently Tweeted this graphic to emphasize his point. He says:

“If there is one visual I can give as a reason to start an email newsletter—it is this.”

Once you have an engaged database of subscribers, you pretty much know every blog post you put out is going to be a hit.

You can send just one email to your list notifying them of the new blog post, and within 24 hours you’ll have had 100, 500, perhaps even over 1,000 eyeballs reading your content, clicking your ads, and buying through your affiliate links.

Plus, I’ve also found that readers who arrive at my blog from an email newsletter I’ve sent to them are also much more likely to share my content on Facebook and Twitter.

This enables my blog to grow at an exponential rate. I send an email out to my subscribers, and they share my content, which results in more people reading my blog and joining my email list, which increases the number of people who click through to my blog in the next newsletter, which means more people sharing, which means more traffic and more subscribers, and so on.

If you aren’t building an email list from your blog yet, start today.

If you are already building an email list, then try adopting some of these ten strategies to increase the number of people opting into your newsletter, and see your traffic and your profits soar.

1. Multiple opt-in forms

Try to have three or four opt-in forms in your blog template. The more you have, the greater the chance you’ll have of capturing your readers’ email addresses. I like to have one pop-up opt-in form that fades in after about 15 seconds of reading (I know these can be annoying, but they work), one form at the top of the sidebar, and an opt-in form at the end of each post.

2. Quality content

This goes without saying, and I hope it’s something you already do, but if you produce top-quality content that readers love, they’ll actively hunt out your opt-in form, join your email list and, most importantly, open your emails.

I’ve definitely noticed a correlation between quality of content and opt-in conversions on my two most popular blogs.

3. Freebies vs. updates

I’ve also found that offering a free product in exchange for an email address converts much better than simply encouraging readers to subscribe for updates.

On my health blog, my “Subscribe For Updates” opt-in form at the top of the sidebar converts at just 1.5%. On my internet marketing blog my opt-in form, which offers a free report and blog updates, converts at 6%.

4. Gentle persuasion

At the end of each blog post, encourage your reader to join your email list to receive a free report and blog updates. At this point, they may be thinking of leaving your blog and may never return again, but this gentle nudge towards your opt-in form will help turn them into subscribers and long-term readers and “sharers” of your content.

5. Make the most of popular posts

Sometimes, and often for reasons unknown, some blog posts take off. They might get an unusual number of Tweets and Likes, or Google might just decide to stick it on the first page for a highly searched keyphrase.

It doesn’t matter why that post is getting so much traffic, but it is important to capture as much of it as possible and turn those visitors into subscribers. You could do this by putting a welcome message to new readers at the top and encouraging them to opt-in for a special free report and to receive future updates.

One of my blog’s most popular posts, 50 Ways To Add More Subscribers To Your Email List, does just this and it gets me a number of subscribers every day.

6. Premium content

Occasionally, perhaps every month or so, create a special report, video, or audio file for your blog readers. Post a teaser of it as a regular blog post, but require readers to submit their email addresses to read/watch/listen to the rest of it.

As soon as they submit their email addresses, take them to a confirmation page (if you are using double opt-in) and instruct them that to access the full post they simply have to click the confirmation link.

They get to read the full post which is, hopefully, of incredible quality—and you get a new subscriber. Win-win!

Worried about annoying existing subscribers? Don’t be. Put a snippet of text above the opt-in form saying something like:

“Already subscribed? Simply enter the email address you are subscribed with and you will instantly be taken to the full post. You won’t be opted-in again.”

If you use Aweber (and I’m sure other email service providers have this feature), you can set an Already Subscribed Page when you create your opt-in form.

If you set the Already Subscribed Page to the full post, then existing subscribers won’t be taken to the confirmation page—they’ll go direct to the full post. It will essentially be more like them logging in rather than opting in.

7. Hold a competition

Holding competitions is one way to encourage more readers to subscribe. If you hold a competition, state that entrants should subscribe in order to be notified of the winner(s). A huge percentage of these entrants will do so. What’s the point of entering a competition if you aren’t going to be able to find out if you win?

If you can run a really successful competition that gets hundreds (even thousands) of entrants, you can easily recruit a huge number of new subscribers.

8. Auto opt-in blog commenters

One way some bloggers get more subscribers is to have everyone who leaves a comment auto-opted in. I believe there are a few plug-ins that can do this. It’s not a strategy I’ve tried, since I’m not sure those who comment would appreciate being automatically added to my email list.

Does anyone do this? Does it work? Have you had any (or many) complaints?

9. Create special reports on popular topics

On my health and beauty blog I noticed I was publishing a lot of posts with natural recipes for beautiful hair. I decided to compile the ten best recipes into a special report. I created a simple squeeze page that offered the report for free and requested an email address.

I went back through each blog post that discussed hair recipes and put a little snippet of text that suggested that if they wanted to find out my ten best natural hair care recipes then they could download my special report. I then linked to the squeeze page.

That squeeze page only gets about ten or 15 visitors per day, but the opt-in form is converting at over 60%, so it’s getting me an extra six to ten subscribers per day. Not bad for an hour’s work!

10. Get more traffic

If you implement the above nine methods, then you’ll be converting a significant proportion of your readers into subscribers.

Therefore, the only other way to increase the number of subscribers we get is to increase traffic.

That’s beyond the realms of this blog post, but it’s a topic that has been covered in great depth on Problogger and many other blogs. Take a look through the “Blog Promotion” category for help with increasing traffic.

Having your own engaged email list is one of the most important assets you can own as we approach 2012 and beyond. Make sure you are building one!

James Penn shares his internet marketing experiments, tips and secrets at AcceleratedNicheProfits.com. Take a read of one of his favorite posts: Daily Action Plan To Build Your List Fast

872 Subscribers in 24 Hours?!

This guest post is by Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing.

Could you get 872 new subscribers in just 24 hours?

Have 1,587 subscribers by the third day?

And 3,381 within three weeks?

I didn’t think I could do it either, but I did, and in this post, I’ll show you how you can do it too.

Those first 24 hours happened on November 29th…

November 29 was launch day

November 29 was the day that my new book Engagement from Scratch! officially launched to the public, in a massive, frenetic frenzy of launch promotion activities:

  • I had built relationships with all the major players that I could find…
  • Studied the successes (and failures) of the book launches of big name authors like Tim Ferriss, Guy Kawasaki, Jonathan Fields, and Seth Godin
  • Built a mini-site and two video trailers to promote the book…
  • Wrote 28 guest posts about anything and everything relating to the book (including one right here on Problogger called Why I Wrote the Kind of Book That I Hate)…
  • Ran a “nominate your engagement superstar” contest on the blog, that attracted dozens of nominations for the position (Adrienne Smith was the winner)…
  • Spent over $2,000 on postage to mail out hundreds of review copies of the book…
  • And then, to top it all off, I wrote the ultimate book marketing guide documenting everything that I had done for anyone who was interested.

The results were impressive; 872 people downloaded the book in the first 24 hours, 1,587 had downloaded it by the third day, and the book keeps getting downloaded (on days with zero special promotion, I’m averaging 30-50 new subscribers).

So, am I telling you that to get tons of subscribers you need to write a book and have a huge, fancy launch?

No, not necessarily.

You see, the truth is that it wasn’t really the launch itself that made it all happen…

It’s about doing it fully baked (and then some!)

The real lesson that I learned from the book, from my co-authors, and from the launch, is that it really doesn’t matter what your particular tactics are; whether it’s a book, or a launch, or a contest, or a round-up of expert opinions, or a video series, or whatever – what makes all the difference is whether you’re doing it all half-baked, or fully, beautifully baked to perfection.

Here’s what I mean—these are some examples of half-baked ways of doing things:

  • Releasing a book: Outlining and writing it over the course of a month, getting a cover designed, turning it into an ebook, putting it on your site, maybe making it available on Kindle, emailing your list about it, and maybe writing a handful of guest posts.
  • Doing a round-up post: Sending an email to a few dozen industry experts asking them for their number one tip on your subject area, pulling it all together into a post, and publishing it.
  • Running a contest: Writing a post with a question, and asking people to leave a comment answering it, with the best comment winning a prize.
  • Writing guest posts: Committing to write one guest post per week, and really writing two or three posts per month (about 30 posts per year).
  • Doing a survey: Outlining a survey, plugging it into SurveyMonkey, writing a blog post about it, emailing your list about it, sharing it on social media, and then writing a post about the results.
  • Creating a video series: Making a list of things that your audience would be interested in, turning on a flip camera and recording yourself answering the questions.

Do these descriptions sound like viable strategies to you? Well, they aren’t—not even close. Here’s the fully baked way of getting it done:

  • Releasing a book: Research exactly what angle will most interest your audience, then do the work to create the best possible book that you can (reaching out to 30 industry experts and soliciting chapters from them if necessary). Get the cover designed, do the typesetting, get the book edited, and have it produced in paperback, PDF, and for the Kindle. Do an elaborate book launch with a minisite, two trailers, a contest, and dozens of guest posts.
  • Doing a round-up post: Spend hours coming up with three questions that your audience would just love to have an answer to, and will really get the contributors thinking. Then reach out to the experts with personalized emails explaining why you picked them for the project, and why their answers will help your readers. Assembling the answers into a series of posts, releasing them with as much promotion as you can manage, and sending personalized thank you emails to all of the contributors when the posts go live.
  • Running a contest: Choose a premise for the contest that will be valuable to contestants and to your audience, and come up with prizes that will be attractive and appealing. Put out and publicize a call for contestants, and then correspond with contestants over the course of a month and a half to get the best entries you can ready for show-time. Then display the entrants to your audience over the course of a month, and let them vote on the winners.
  • Writing guest posts: Committing to write an average of five guest posts per month, sticking to it, and ramping up to as many as 20 or 30 posts per month when you’ve got something big to promote, or that you want to spread the word about (writing more than 80 posts in a year).
  • Doing a survey: Come up with a series of questions to which data-driven answers would be valuable to your audience, and then crafting a detailed survey to gather that information. Then find over a dozen partners to help you spread the word about the survey, collect the data over the course of a week, do the statistical analysis to extract the results (or hire someone to do it for you), and create a report sharing those results with everyone who participated.
  • Creating a video series: Spend a month mapping out a detailed curriculum for your video series, and then scripting each of the videos. Carefully record and edit the videos, add music and effects, and create worksheets and resources to go with each and every one. Then show them to people to get feedback, and make them better before releasing them to your audience.

Do you see the difference? It’s the difference between doing just the bare-boned necessities of the strategy, and going all out, above and beyond to make it as much of a success as it possibly can be.

Half-baked implementations rarely work (believe me, I’ve tried), but fully baked implementations often do. Which begs the question…

Why is there so much half-baked stuff out there?

Near as I can figure, there are four big reasons why there’s such a huge amount of half-baked garbage circling around the interwebs and blogosphere, and those four reasons are laziness, lack of passion, bad advice, and fear…

The first reason is laziness

This is the guy (or gal) who’s bought the “internet lifestyle” routine hook, line, and sinker. They want to make tons of money without doing any work, and cycle through one short-cut scheme after another that doesn’t create value for anybody (except, they hope, for themselves).

This is the only reason for half-baked implementation that I have no respect for, and I wish the people who fit into this category would get out of the game, because they give the rest of us a bad name.

The good news is that there aren’t a lot of people like this, though—most of the people who might seem to be lazy are actually suffering from either lack of passion, or bad advice…

Then there’s lack of passion

This is much more common than actual laziness, because a lot of people confuse passion for their outcome with passion for the path that will bring them there.

In other words, they’re passionate about the lifestyle that their online business will create, but they aren’t passionate about the actual business—it’s just a means to an end, and they’re following it because they’ve been sold on the idea that it’s incredibly easy (which it isn’t). Unfortunately, if you aren’t passionate about the work that you’re actually doing, then you aren’t going to go all-out to make it all spectacular.

The solution to this is to find something that you really are passionate, and make your work all about that—because if it isn’t, you won’t be motivated enough to do the work that needs to be done.

There’s just plain bad advice

Yes, let’s face it, the internet is full of bad advice, and the particular piece of bad advice that I’m talking about here is the “don’t worry about making it good, just get something out there” idea that is flung around in action-oriented productivity circles.

The logic driving this advice is that doing something is better than doing nothing, but the truth is that if you’re doing something mediocre, it isn’t all that much better than doing nothing at all.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying that you should do nothing—I’m saying that you should brace yourself, take the plunge, and do something truly awesome. At this point, there’s usually one reason why people still don’t do it, and that reason is fear…

And then there’s fear

There are all manners of fear that keep us in the world of half-bakedness (to coin a new word):

  • The fear of failure (“What if I blow it?”)
  • The fear of success (“If this actually works, will I be able to handle it?”)
  • The fear of being judged (“Who am I to take on something like that?”)
  • The fear of being accountable and overwhelmed (“What if I tell everyone that I’ll do this, and then blow it?”)

These are all legitimate, serious fears that keep people from achieving greatness (or even taking the chance that they might achieve it) every single day.

A lot of people aren’t going to like my solution to this particular problem, but here it is:

Suck it up, and do it anyway.

Yes, we all feel fear. A week before my book launched, I was terrified, thinking “What if it bombs? The book is about building engagement—I’ll have zero credibility left!”

Well, that’s just tough—without taking risks, nothing of significance is ever achieved. And taking risks means that every so often, life is going to kick you in the teeth. When that happens, we nurse our wounds, pick ourselves off the ground, dust ourselves off, and try again.

So are you afraid? Probably.

Was I afraid? Definitely.

But I sucked it up, and so can you.

What about time? Isn’t that a reason, too?

The other excuse that people sometimes hide behind is time.

You’re working a full-time job, and doing your business on the side. You have a spouse, kids, parents, in-laws, and friends who complain that they don’t see you anymore.

In light of all that, is it fair to say that half-baked may be the most you have time to do?

Sorry, but no.

In the last year, I released a book, ran two contests, wrote 80+ guest posts, did a survey campaign, and created several video series… in addition to running my business, and planning a wedding.

Do you have to do all that to be successful? No, you don’t.

But can you pick JUST ONE campaign and throw yourself into it?

Yes, you can.

What will you throw yourself into?

Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration—in other words, the ideas are easy, but then it’s the work that separates the successes from the wannabes.

It’s throwing myself into the work that got those 80+ guest posts written.

It’s throwing myself into the work that grew Firepole Marketing into a recognized brand in just a year.

And it’s throwing myself into the work that got me 872 subscribers in 24 hours.

So if you were looking for overnight success, as in 24 hours’ worth of work that would get you a giant number of subscribers, traction, and money, then I’m sorry to disappoint.

But if you’re looking for the real secret to true success in business, life, and everything else, that you’re willing to put the time and energy into applying for real over the course of the coming year, then there you have it.

So what are you going to throw yourself into this year? What project will you take on, plan, work at, and build into something truly spectacular, and truly awesome? How are you going to change the world?

Find and answer to that question, and then get started.

Good luck, and godspeed. I’ll see you at the finish line.

Leave a comment and answer this question: what will you throw yourself into?

Danny Iny (@DannyIny), a.k.a. the “Freddy Krueger of Blogging”, teaches marketing that works at Firepole Marketing. Together with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark and Mitch Joel, he wrote the book on building engaged audiences from scratch (available on Amazon, or as a free download).

How I Bumped My RSS Conversion Rate from 16% To 25%

This guest post is by Gab Goldenberg, of The Beginner’s Guide To Usability Testing.

Want to find out how to boost RSS subscriber conversion? I did, but I hardly found any information about it online!

Besides having an obvious call to action above the fold and getting to [social news site]‘s front page, the blogosphere doesn’t much discuss how to convert more readers to subscribers.

I’d been meaning to test my RSS subscription page for a while, and finally got around to it. Here’s what the old page looked like:

The newsletter top

The newsletter bottom

The RSS subscription page was way too busy!

Notice the loads of links on the page? There’s the sidebar navigation, the breadcrumbs, the main navigation…

Additionally, the benefits copy is above the calls to action, which pushes them below the fold.

The conversion rate theory and the execution

My hypothesis was that by eliminating the distractions I would increase conversions. In other words, I’d eliminate the links on the page and move the benefits below the calls-to-action.

The reasoning for moving the benefits copy was that if someone clicked to view the subscriptions page, they were probably already pretty convinced and should be shown the conversion form and button immediately.

People who were still hesitant once they got to the page would be able to scroll down and read the benefits copy. That’s also why I moved the reassurance text (“You can unsubscribe with a single click, anytime”) below the form.

Finally, I did one more thing, which wasn’t originally in the plan, but which my limited HTML/CSS/Photoshop skills forced: I added testimonials into the left-hand sidebar. I’d initially planned to get rid of the sidebar, but that broke the page’s alignment and looked bad.

(Since my site is powered by WordPress, I used this Google Website Optimizer-Wordpress workaround to be able to use GWO. That’s because I never had a successful experience using GWO with WordPress, partly because GWO isn’t designed for sites that use a content management system, because I have a custom theme, and because many of the plugins are bad quality.)

Here’s what the page looked like after I edited it:

The new signup page

And here are the results:

That’s right, the variation outperformed the original by 56.3%—I added nine points of conversion to my overall conversion rate!

Methodology

I want to mention how conversions were measured. The limits of Google Website Optimizer (GWO) forced me to only measure one goal, so I chose the email subscription instead of a click on the orange button.

What that means is that I don’t know the difference these changes made on conversions for people clicking on the RSS button. Or should I say, this test didn’t reveal the difference these changes made…

Initially, my goal was to measure results comprehensively. After a fair bit of struggling, I followed the instructions on GWO’s help site and altered their code and mine so that both email subscriptions and RSS button clicks would be counted.

I launched the test and was happy until I discovered that something was causing the pages to load very slowly. I’m talking about 30 seconds for a page with the main functionality and 60+ seconds for full load.

Despite that, it seems some people did wait (or didn’t have this problem?) and early results of the test looked like this:

Notice the 11/11 conversion rate for the variation? That’s right, a 100% conversion rate for the variation! And why not? If visitors clicked my sidebar link to go to the subscriptions page (i.e. this was highly motivated traffic), and they saw a simple page without distractions, and with a very easy conversion process, doesn’t it make sense that they’d then convert?

Sure, it’s probably just a lucky streak and with more traffic we would have likely seen the conversion rate drop to 90% or such, but the point is that the no-distractions page still kicks butt—and takes names.

Unfortunately, no matter what I tried, I couldn’t solve the load time problem, though. So I started a new test, only measuring a single goal: email subs. And that’s where the data above comes from.

Another very interesting finding is that, contrary to the common situation of email subs being more numerous than RSS subs, it seems my techie audience prefers RSS. If about 30% are converting by email, and the no-distractions page gets say 90-100% conversion rate, then potentially 60-70% of my visitors prefer RSS subscriptions.

Of course, I’ll need to test some more to find out!

Want to help other bloggers and email marketers increase RSS conversions? Share your own experiences with RSS conversions below!

This guest post is by Gab Goldenberg, author of the advanced SEO book and The Beginner’s Guide To Usability Testing.
If you liked this post, get Gab’s posts by email or RSS -free- plus enjoy the subscriber only downloads!