June was the first time in the history of this site where the blog gained over 1,000 subscribers in a month. To be specific, the final increase count was just over 1,300. Even though I’m posting as infrequently as I ever have, traffic levels are at their highest, and the blog is converting visitors into subscribers better than ever before.
I’m not saying this to brag, but to show that the changes I’ve slowly been implementing are having a big effect here, and I want to share them with you all today. If you haven’t been getting the results from blogging that you were hoping for, or you just want to fine-tune things a little, then this post is for you.
Very recently I talked about a huge flaw in blogging, which I’ll get to in a minute. Even though I self-referenced this, a few people emailed me to say it’s strange that I am promoting a blogging product and then talk about the downsides of the platform. I wasn’t sure about whether or not I should start this post off with a snippet of the things I love about blogging, so let those emails be a nudge to do exactly that.
Because, let’s be clear, I do love it. I owe so much of where I am and what I have done to this mode of publishing that I don’t even know where to start. I will say that two highlights of my blogging “career” include getting to work in South Africa with huge brands for 18 months and having my Dad phone me in Paris to say that he just heard someone talking about me on the radio when driving to work.
I could go on, but I’ll just add that blogging has changed my life in a vast number of ways, and I still love writing in public now as much as I did when I clicked ‘Publish’ on my first ever post in 2006. Did WordPress look ugly back then or what?
I will reiterate what I’ve said before which is that I don’t think blogging is the thing to focus on if you want to make money online quickly. Blogs take a long time to build, since they’re very much relationship focused, and just relying on RSS – like most bloggers do – sets you on a horrible path when it comes to converting readers into buyers.
I offered the alternative CloudBlueprint strategy, which has proven popular, and two women making $5K per month proved that you can implement it into a blog as well. I want to take my recommendations for this further than ever before, and focus on both plugging the “flaws” that your blog has as best as you can and making sure it’s converting for you better than ever before.
Though I’m sure you take this as a given for ViperChill content by now, the article below is very long and contains a lot of different recommendations. Since my aim with this post is to help you, the last thing I want to do is overwhelm you with too many ideas and things you have to implement.
If you’re one of these people who are new to this whole blogging thing, then just take my top three recommendations and put them into action, and come back to this post another day for the rest.
Over the last year I’ve experimented with the “Popular posts” section of this website quite a lot. In the old ViperChill design I had a gradient-yellow column showing my top 10 posts. But, it was static and I had to make the headline text really small for it to look good in the design.
When I updated to my new theme, the popular posts were now automated, and I could easily set how many I wanted to show. These headlines were originally accompanied by images, but now you will just see them as the blue links in the right sidebar here. I removed the images recently and found that doing so not only speeded up the site but also improved it aesthetically, in my opinion.
I’ve now put less focus on that element of the sidebar, and put a few hours into a page you’ll find in the navigation bar here under the guise of ‘Viral’. The resulting page reveals a list of the most popular ViperChill posts I’ve written in terms of the number of comments that they’ve received. Since it’s highlighting the posts that have already proven popular with readers, it’s likely that at least one of the headlines will entice visitors to click on them, as they have done for so many others before.
I added a visual element to the page for people who are more stimulated by graphics. Not everyone likes to read text on a page, with many opting to look at a cover of something out of habit. I turned my top three posts into small magazine style graphics for this very reason, as you can see above.
I’ve noticed a clear increase on the number of comments this page has generated on older posts, so already know it’s working well in terms of directing visitors around the site. Though I haven’t done this at the time of writing, I’m going to be adding a link to the bottom of all ViperChill posts that takes people to this page.
This will be useful for people who have already opted-in to my ViperChill offerings and just want to read more of my free content. There are 19 posts listed (odd number, I know) so far, but I’ll probably extend the list to the top 30 posts in total.
I’ll continue by looking at what is probably the most prominent change I’ve made to the site recently: The creation of a ‘Start Here’ page. I have Pat Flynn to thank for the inspiration, and his video critique with Derek also gave me the push I needed to finish some other changes I had planned to make for far too long.
Pat found that creating the page meant that people stayed on his site much longer (a 90% increase!), and his overall bounce rate was much lower. This makes sense, since people leaving the site quickly are usually first-time visitors. If they see a page that appeals to them “New Here?” then there’s a good chance you can get them to stick around.
There are some great tips in the video, so definitely check it out. I do want to say however that there are a couple of things that I disagree with. The first being on the way Pat should act on his About page. Derek suggests that Pat should change his wording to focus more on what he can offer the site visitor in terms of benefits, which I think is good advice in most cases.
However, I’ve personally found – especially in the niche that myself and Pat are in – that people are far more interested in hearing about the person behind the site, so they can quickly decide if that person is worth listening to or not. There are so many shady characters in this industry that will more than happily say what they can do for you, so I think his current page is perfect.
I also disagree with constant focus on getting an email address on a lot of pages. Sure it’s highly effective, but if you haven’t converted someone the first few times they see an opt-in box, then you’re missing some other key element. Perhaps what you’re giving away just isn’t enticing enough.
Pat’s “Getting Started” page was created in addition to his About page, where as I have replaced my About page with more information about me and the site. My reason is that I simply like to get to the point when I’m talking about myself, and the ‘philosophy’ of the site is very focused around me, so it made sense to combine them on one page.
The aim of my New? Start Here page is to really take new visitors to ViperChill by the hand, explain more about me and the site, and then offer more content. I am personal (read: cat pics) on the page as I always want my writing to feel as if I’m talking to you one-on-one. Note that I will be updating that video that’s on the page, but it’s a decent placeholder for now.
It was important for me to try and make the page appeal to a wide variety of audience types. For people who are really interested in ViperChill, they can watch a five minute video, find out about some of my top content, and even watch a 24 minute blogging video on that page if they want to. Other people might be enticed by the email subscription box, while some people mentally answer which “level” they are and click links to Beginner, Intermediate and more Advanced content.
I’m sure there are tweaks I’ll make to the page as time goes on so keep checking back, but even if there are possible improvements to be made, what I have now gives me a far more stable and efficient funnel than I had before.
One of my favourite books on business and marketing, Rework, also happens to come from one of my favourite companies to follow online, 37Signals. They’re the guys behind Basecamp and some other popular online tools. I’m going to use their book cover as an example of how powerful one testimonial from an outside source can be.
Though I’m a big fan of 37Signals originally and would have purchased their book anyway, seeing the one line quote from Seth Godin at the top of Rework has a huge effect on how people, who stumble across the book randomly, perceive it.
Testimonials work because anyone can hype up themselves, so having other people say nice things about you instantly makes you more credible. And, if you can get someone like Seth Godin to hold you in such high regard, then you’re going to get the attention of his fans and more.
Since testimonials work so well on sales page and squeeze pages, it only makes sense to put them on areas of my blog near where people have the option to subscribe to something. I’m fortunate to have had some well-known publications say some nice things about me, and that’s powerful. If you share too many then you definitely run the risk of showing off or alienating current readers, so sprinkle them in your current design if you have some to share.
A few people on Twitter noticed my sidebar testimonials / quotes have been up for a few weeks now and asked me how they were converting. It’s hard to tell since I’ve added more opt-in boxes to the ViperChill and don’t have split-testing in place for my sidebar yet but I can see a clear difference when I look at my ‘Daily New Subscribers’ chart in Aweber. I went from getting 30 opt-ins per day on average to over 60 on weekdays now and hundreds on post days.
What, those three weren’t enough for you? It’s a good thing I have a lot more to share…
If you do have a lead magnet in place, which links to something like Aweber, then it’s very easy to see which emails you’re sending out result in people unsubscribing from your updates. If you know you’re sending something that people don’t like, then you can tweak that message in order to keep more subscribers on your list in future.
I have 28 unsubscribed people on my list at the moment. By going to Subscribers then selecting the Unsubscribed drop-down in Aweber, I can see exactly which emails people read before unsubscribing. You can see this data for various emails below…
Nobody unsubscribed from emails 7,8 and 9, so obviously people enjoy the content found inside them. Email one gets a lot of unsubscribes as people often just sign-up for a freebie (such as my 10K eBook) and cancel their subscription straight away.
When I looked at email six, I actually think the content is excellent, so that wasn’t a concern. The only difference between email six and my other emails is that it is set to send out 7 days after the previous one, instead of every 3 days like my other emails.
I did this to give people a little break from all of the information they were getting, but instead I think people are confused by the delay, and unsubscribe. I put this back to being the same delay as other emails, and there has only been one unsubscribe from this message since.
Email 10 is actually the last email in my queue, and I haven’t followed up to it for at least two weeks. My thinking is that people still see the email in their inbox, with no follow-ups, and then unsubscribe. Any other theories on this are welcome in the comments below.
Since I’m getting dozen of opt-ins per day on this list, and sometimes over 100, my email unsubcribe rate is pleasantly low. That being said, any little tweaks – like I made to email six – can still have a positive long-term effect for me, and hopefully for you as well.
I’ve recently taken advantage of the ability to have multiple sidebars throughout your WordPress website, and I really think that the result is optimal for my current situation. When people are reading your blog posts, they’re getting value, so you want to take that opportunity to either get them to buy something, opt-in to something or read more of your content.
When people are on my About page, they want to know more about me. This shows me that the visitor is engaged. Because of this, I don’t want to still be in their face with an opt-in form which they’ve already seen on my blog posts. So, the sidebar used for posts and static (contact, about, etc) is now totally different. It also has an interactive element where I ask what level the visitor thinks they are in terms of marketing skill.
Each link then takes them to a section of links that are most useful for their level. Finally, I also have a separate sidebar for people following CloudBlueprint as I need to be able to show different information to those people. Ideally I want “CloudBlueprinters” to either share the course around, download the videos, or opt-in to get more information from me.
I put a lot of hard work into CloudBlueprint so it’s important to be clear about what I want people to do after they’ve watched it (if they enjoyed it, of course).
For those of you who don’t have multiple sidebars built into your theme, I have sadly failed to find a good updated guide online that shows you how to do this. However, thanks to the ViperChill forums, I recently learned of ‘Widget Context‘, a plugin that lets you specify which sidebar widgets show on which types of pages on your blog. You can specify them by a number of factors, which should help some of you easily replicate the type of thing I’m doing here if you see value in it.
I can’t say that this has had a huge effect on my conversions, since I’m not yet tracking it perfectly (it gets quite complex since I’m working on yet more sidebar pages). Logic and first impressions tell me that it’s going to have a far better impact than having the same sidebar all over my site, but I’ll let the results tell you all in a few weeks.
A big problem I’ve spoken about when it comes to blogging is that when a new visitor lands on your site, you’re often sending them away in order to monetise them. If someone comes to your site for the first time and clicks on an affiliate link or goes to your product page, and doesn’t buy anything, then there’s a chance you’ve lost them for good.
This is why I spoke about squeeze pages being such a huge benefit over regular blogs for collecting subscribers in CloudBlueprint. The $5K Case Study I also shared looked at taking this approach and applying it to blogs by adopting a “squeeze header”.
One way to fix this is to put more emphasis on creating a lead magnet. A lead magnet is something you use to entice people to give you their email address. I’ve talked time and time again about how email subscribers (in my experience and for thousands of other marketers) tend to buy more products and stay more engaged than any other type of audience.
I tend to go above and beyond for email subscribers, since I love the closed off yet personal nature of the whole system. The three most common types of lead magnet, which I unconvered in my pro blogging video tend to be:
If you don’t know how to create any of these then definitely go and check out the video above. You can create them all for free and they’re all effective freebies to giveaway online. I’ve recently heard of people having success with more obscure items, such as a “million dollar business card” with an idea on it, and having those work well.
If you have the time, then definitely be creative.
In my own split-testing I’ve found that adding a graphical element to your giveaway can give you a huge boost in conversions. Not only does it work on squeeze pages, but it works on sales pages as well. You can see I’ve already started adding graphics for the first few modules on the CloudBlogging sales page.
Not only do I have a lead magnet in the sidebar for all blog and post pages, but there’s an eBook graphic in the site footer here which takes you to my 10K subscribers page. My lead magnet is a 30+ page eBook on how I grew VieprChill to over 10,000 subscribers. Since this is a real case-study it’s quite rare to see, and I’ve been told by hundreds of people that they were blown away by how much work I put into it.
As I revealed on this post, I have tested a ton of titles on the page, and found the current header to be the best wording for conversions. Since the page is static (also talked about on that linked to post) I can easily tweak certain design aspects to help conversions even further. You’ll see that page has a very minimalist header and footer, as my main aim is to get people to fill in the opt-in box to receive the eBook.
Even if they just download it and unsubscribe straight away, there’s a chance they will come back to ViperChill in the future if they just open the PDF I sent them as it contains so much value-giving information.
As I stated earlier, not everybody is attracted to text and would be happy to read your content. New visitors are especially likely to skim your page and look for anything that catches their eye. Using a graphic next to an opt-in form or other call to action gives that CTA more chance of being seen.
What I like to do when I think I have my whole lead generation funnel in place is to test my site in full, as if I’m a brand new visitor. I like to turn off any toolbars (even the address bar) in my browser, so you really just get to see your site and nothing else on the screen. The funnel that visitors typically go through is as follows:
If you don’t have pages on your site for steps two and three then set them up right now. Just a few minutes work can ensure that you don’t lose subscribers unnecessarily.
One benefit of blogging over a strategy like email marketing is that you constantly receive a trickle, if not a flood of visitors still looking at your old content. There are dozen of posts on this site which get 50+ views every single day because of links pointed here from other sites, search traffic, and people exploring ViperChill.
It’s important to focus on the fact that people coming from search and referring sites are highly likely to be brand new visitors to your website. This means that your blog post is possibly your only chance to give a good first impression and capture their attention. Below I’ll highlight a few common ways to tweak your old posts to get the most out of them…
Get Their Email & More with Shortcodes
With the help of my friend Joost, I recently created a simple WordPress plugin so that I could easily show certain style elements in any blog posts of my choice. I can do this by utilising shortcodes – little codes you use to call the contents of a file – so that if I want the same message on a lot of posts, all I have to do is type a short code, such as [SEOeBook] and an SEO eBook opt-in form would display. If I ever want to tweak this opt-in form in the future, then I just edit the plugin, and don’t have to tweak every individual post.
The great thing about shortcodes is that they can be used for tons of things. For example, they have the ability to easily show an RSS box or a category specific opt-in form which can convert readers much better. You could even create a list of links to your top posts in each category that shows on relevant posts.
At the moment all my plugin does by it output a date. It’s currently being used on my Viral page in order to show how frequently the comment counts on that page are updating. They aren’t automated yet, but I’m working with a programmer on it, so they should be very shortly. Hence the timestamp.
You can download my plugin here, and install it like any other WordPress plugin. At the moment all you have to do is type [year] on any post or page text, and it will always show yesterday’s date on that post. I won’t go into detail about programming or editing pages, but those of you with a little tech skill should be able to see how you can duplicate the plugin and create different shortcodes e.g. [SEOeBook] to show opt-in forms and more.
Change Your Ending Paragraph
When you first launch a post, your aims with it are usually different to its purpose a few months down the line. For example, you may be advertising a product you no longer have for sale, or asking for comments when you’re not actually looking for them anymore. Since people will still be reading your old posts, tweak your ending paragraph and ask them to do something else next.
Your best option is to send them to a page that is as relevant as possible to the topic they’re currently reading about and offers an enticing freebie.
Show Related Articles
Though I don’t do this personally, it’s a popular choice around the blogosphere so that’s why I’m covering it. Various plugins allow you to easily show articles that are related to the one you’ve just written. These plugins are considered good for SEO and they can help you to generate more pageviews.
The reason I don’t do this is because I ultimately want to take visitors through a different funnel. I would rather send them to a page which offers a ton of value (like a video course or free 30+ page eBook) and then entice them to subscribe or just send them to a page which highlights my best content in all categories.
If you don’t want to use a related posts plugin, then another way to improve your internal SEO and keep people on your website longer is to interlink your articles. If you’re anything like me then every post you’ve published in the past can probably be tweaked to include more links to your other blog posts on the same topic.
This task is a little time consuming but if you’re willing to put the effort in then it can definitely be worth it. At least do this for your highest trafficked pages to start with. A few people out there use plugins for this kind of thing but the result isn’t always great. Tweaking things manually would be easier for me since I write less, so do try out the plugins out there and see if any are for you if post by post editing seems too much.
Link to a Product
If you’re not as focused on collecting emails as me and just want to go for the sale, then that’s definitely an option as well. When people take the time to read about a topic online, they’re in an engaged state where they’re happy to read more information on that subject. This is especially true if your blog post didn’t quite cover everything that they wanted to know.
Putting your own products on these posts can result in more sales for you, or you can even promote affiliate products here from the likes of Clickbank as well. If you are going to do this then I recommend that the product offering is highly relevant to the post, and not something you should add to all posts en masse.
You’re going to reach a stage in your marketing career where there is very little for blogs to teach you. The best course of action you can take at this point is simply any form of action. There are a lot more people who know how to make money online (at least in theory) than people who actually do anything with their knowledge. Since you’re a ViperChill reader, and I’m here to help you, then I don’t want you to become one of those people.
Mostly out of personal curiosity, I decided to record myself writing during a Pomodoro. A pomodoro is simply 25-minute time slot where you take productive action. In this case, I wrote an article. I speeded up the typing and you can see how I wrote over 1,000 words very easily in the video below…
My apologies in advance for the cheesy editing. I needed something to make all of that writing a little more watchable ;]. The point I want to make is that you can get a lot done in a short period of time. All that’s needed is for you to just…start (!).
I very rarely (if ever these days) find myself subscribing to new blogs, so I always take note when I stumble across a new site and end up adding it to my feed reader. In most cases I’ll enjoy that sites latest posts, but often also see that thousands of other people are regular readers, which shows me there must be more good stuff to come.
If I removed any evidence of social proof from ViperChill – such as my feed subscriber and comment count – then I would still have the exact same content on the website, but people would be less inclined to subscribe.
I believe that your content is everything, first and foremost, and you all seem to do a pretty good job on that front, but if you have social proof that you can show off, then do so. My own WordPress plugin ViperProof (demo in the bottom right corner of ViperChill) is free and allows you to do this with ease.
It’s not so easy to show social proof when you start your blog, but if you’ve been running it for at least a few months then there should be some things that you can share with the world.
I’ve talked about Heatmap tools on this blog a few times. Right now I have heatmap tools built in to other services I use like Google Analytics and Visual Website Optimizer. Even so, I still opt to pay $9/m for Crazy Egg (no affiliate link) as it’s interface and analytics data is far more advanced than the ‘add ons’ mentioned for two prior services.
An example of something I changed after using CrazyEgg is the word ‘Glen’ in my site footer. According to my heatmap tracking results, that word would get clicked on more than most other links on my page. Yet, it wasn’t a link. Just some bold text.
So, I changed that word to a link (even though it looks the same) and now people can learn more about me when they do so. Though this was a little change, it can have a big difference when thousands of people are visiting my site, so it’s always worth trying to improve usability.
Something a lot of bloggers could benefit from – but don’t implement – is a feed footer. A feed footer basically allows you to add HTML to the end of your blog posts that people receive via RSS. This may be in the likes of Google Reader, or in their inbox for people who subscribe that way.
I tweak my feed footer fairly often, and even created a plugin for free to help you tweak your own. I prefer to direct people to areas of my site whether they can either get something for free, or get more content from me.
I’ve noticed other bloggers pitching products at the bottom of their feed – which is fine – but it’s not something I have any plans (or need) to do personally.
One thing I know a number of bloggers get caught up in when they first start out is in trying to be everywhere, as often as they can. I’m personally a much bigger fan of narrowing where your spend your time and focusing on creating stronger connections. If you’re someone who really has given everything a try, look at your top referring traffic sources for the last year, to see which actions were the most helpful.
Commit to spending more time on the things that actually worked well for you. It may be that Tweeting is a good use of your time, commenting on a certain blog sends you a lot of visitors, or that you have a few keywords which are bringing in a good amount of search traffic and they could use a search boost.
You will get to a stage where you need to stop looking to others to see what to work on and start using your own real-world results to give you an indication of what is working in your niche. No marketer has operated in every industry out there, so there’s a good chance you’ll discover secrets about your industry we just couldn’t have told you about yet.
A good tool to give you an indication of which files are taking the longest to load on your site is this one, from Pingdom. My theme by default (before I massively tweaked it) had no less than 7 CSS files and about 12 Javscript files, which were massively slowing down my pageloads.
You are charged based on how much bandwidth you use, and my biggest bill so far has been just $2.17 for one month.
I wanted to leave you all with the final recommendation on what I’m going to next, and if you like the idea, then it may be something you want to do as well. I already my homepage optimised for a keyphrase I want search traffic for – viral marketing – so now it’s time to start branching out on the phrases that I want to try and rank for.
I’m going to replace the ‘Topics’ in the sidebar with links to flagship content, rather than category pages. I’ll create a great guide on various subjects, and then do some smart interlinking from relevant post pages. Since I’ll be sending traffic to these pages, they’ll also be optimised to convert new visitors into subscribers.
For people who are already subscribers and want more content, I’ll still be pulling in each category’s RSS feed so the pages are constantly updated with relevant links to my latest posts. This is something I’ve only ever seen done on a couple of websites and definitely has the potential to be another powerful page idea, just like the “Getting Started” page recommendation.
If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below as always. Are you going to be making any changes to your site now? I would love to hear what you have to say…