Let me begin this post by saying that for the first time ever, ViperChill has crept under the 10,000 Alexa mark (!). The number doesn’t really mean that much, but it is nice for a site owner to see. What’s even more surprising is that I didn’t write a blog post for weeks. I guess my ideas have merit *wink*.
Today I’m going to reveal exactly what I’ve discovered about making money with blogs over the last four years. Your fellow blogger does not want you to see this because these simple tactics are guaranteed to help you make more money from blogging, and (possibly) reduce the potential income they can make themselves.
When I started my first blog ViperChill four years ago, it was a total failure in the normal blogging sense. I didn’t receive any comments, I didn’t gain more than 50 subscribers and nobody really linked to me. Yet financially, the blog was quite successful. It frequently attracted clients who were happy to pay thousands of dollars each month for my services.
Thankfully, these people were not looking for advice on growing their blogs, but on SEO, where I had attracted a lot of success in multiple industries.
I came back to this site on and off over the years. At times I made a respectable income from it, but overall, the effort that went into writing was just not worth the money I was making. If truth be told, my writing was awful, so I can’t complain. I spent a lot of time away from blogging and focused on affiliate marketing and other tactics, having fleeting (but more consistent) success in the process.
It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I decided to give blogging one last try. I built a site in the personal development niche called PluginID. Most of you know the story of that website, so I’m not going to go into it here. What I haven’t talked about however, is the monetisation strategies I would regularly observe in that niche.
It just so happens that now would be a good time to do exactly that.
I have a lot of friends in this industry, after being involved in it for so long, so I’m not going to talk down or anyone or point out anyone in specific. I’m also not going to be harsh, but just point out exactly what I observed.
Before I do that, I need to say something very important…
People follow what other people claim to make them money.
For this reason, many of the strategies in place today when it comes to making money, are from people who talk about making money. And to find the people talking about making money, you just need to take one peak at the internet marketing niche.
In the personal development industry – and pretty much all others – the main way that people make money is by creating their own products. At least that’s how it goes for blogs that aren’t reliant on Adsense or banner ads.
We see internet marketers creating products and making money. Then they talk about making money by creating products. And then bloggers look at how they can make money with products as well. The result is an internet literally flooded with information products (eBooks, online membership sites, video courses, podcasts) on every topic you can imagine.
Since we’ve followed internet marketers on how to make money in terms of product creation, we then need to look at them for how to sell those products as well. So, we create landing pages like they do and create affiliate programs like they do.
It works, so we continue to use their tips. The problem is that none of these big gurus in the IM niche started out by building blogs first. Instead, the majority rely on email marketing. Their strategies work well for how they build traffic, but who’s to say they’re really the best example to follow for your blog?
Surely there are other blog specifics ways to increase the income you make by selling products?
The method I’m personally going to use when selling information products is a little different to most. Instead of focusing on the big landing page and worrying about affiliates, I want to take the personal approach. Don’t get me wrong, those things work well and I’ll continue to use them, but I also think it’s time for something a little different.
When I discovered writing guest posts was a valuable traffic strategy, just writing 20 or 30 could guarantee thousands of subscribers. Now you have to write many, many more. Because everyone is guest blogging, the value of the tactic has gone down substantially. Though I didn’t discover guest blogging, I was one of the first (if not the first) to talk about it so openly as a viable way to grow your blog.
The key lesson from my guest blogging experiences is this: It was only because I tried something different, that results started to happen.
Based on that, I believe it’s necessary (critical, perhaps?) that we evolve. Especially when it comes to making money from our websites, which many of us are trying to do. I’ve been implementing the following strategies recently with a lot of success and I strongly believe that now is the time to put them into action.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
When I launched Cloud Living here in December 2010, I received over 500 sign-ups in the first 72 hours of the product going live. If you do the maths, that’s quite the launch. During the launch period the product converted like crazy, and I also get a lot of sales whenever I write about it in a post.
When I barely got any sales at all, is when traffic came from a link in the navigation bar here at ViperChill. This link sent the sales page a ton of traffic. Now, I know my landing page is actually pretty awful, and needs a lot of work, but the conversion rate was just abysmal compared to whenever I mentioned the product in a blog post.
The main reason I think the conversions differ so much is because people land on ViperChill, click on the link out of curiosity (the phrase “Cloud Living” doesn’t really reveal much) and then land suddenly find themselves on a product page. Some people probably wonder if they clicked on an ad.
That’s a problem, and it showed in the sales figures.
I thought about how I could change this for a while, and decided to try something different. Instead of that link instantly taking people to a product page, I would take them to a page on my site that would explain the product to them, and then tell them to click on the product site.
This does add a step between any potential sale – which most marketers tell you to avoid – but it massively cuts down on any confusion about what the page is.
Still though, the approach was fairly cold. Sales generated from links in posts or my initial launch process converted so well because people were warmed up to getting information from me. They may have been a subscriber for 6 months or they may just be 500 words into your first article by me. Either way, they were more open to my offerings in some way.
That’s when I decided to try something new.
Cloud Living is something that has helped countless people make thousands of dollars online. I know because I get emails from people telling me so, and also because people are happy to share that information in testimonials. The simple fact is that as long as people follow the information in the course, they will make money. Thankfully, a lot of people are following it.
Since I have this awesome feedback from buyers, I wanted new potential customers to see that. So, I added the Facebook commenting system to the page. Then, I emailed all members of Cloud Living and asked if they would stop by the page and leave an honest testimonial.
The comments add a genuine layer of social proof to your offering and excite you about the product before even knowing what it is. Thanks to this, I’m seeing a huge boost in sales already.
Another great aspect of Facebook comments is that you can use the same comments in multiple places. For example, on the Cloud Living back-end I can ask people to leave a testimonial of the product, and then all of those testimonials can appear on my page here at ViperChill.
Of course, let someone know that the comment will appear in other places.
Being able to transfer and display real feedback from your other customers is very powerful.
The second part of my strategy is something I actually haven’t implemented on a large scale…yet. Since people are going to know the plan I have in place now for the future, I’m going to lose a lot of money by telling you all about it. Since I care more about you making money than me at this moment in time, I’ll give you this information to use successfully in your own niche.
This method simply involves creating a free product that is similar to a product you do/could actually charge for. The freebie can just be shorter or less valuable in other ways. For example, my plan is to clean up a free blogging eBook I have, and give it away on an independent website. In time, I’ll then ask people if they’re interested in my paid product on the same subject (Cloud Blogging).
I like this method because you’re giving value to your site visitors and not losing any credibility in the process. Even if they don’t like your sales pitch, they will appreciate the freebie and any other valuable information you send their way.
The aim is to make money from this of course, so the free information will also help people come to trust you as an expert on your topic. This tactic works so well that some people will literally feel obliged to purchase something from you.
If you want to implement this method, then you’ll need to start by creating a free product you’re happy to give away, and then place it on a website with an email opt-in box for people to get it. I personally use Aweber for the whole process, as they’re by far the most reliable email provider.
Your email list should be set-up to automatically deliver your free product as soon as someone opt’s-in for your list. Keep your message short, and the product links clear. You main aim is to ensure they download the freebie and get value from it. If they don’t download your free giveaway, the chances of converting them through follow-up messages diminishes greatly.
Subject Line: Revealed: 10 More [Freebie Name] Secrets
Delay after First Email: 4 Days
In this email you answer the most common questions you may have received about the freebie. If you don’t have any questions, you can simply add more tips which weren’t included in the initial giveaway. This helps you to be seen as the expert in your niche and provides more value to your list subscribers.
The four day delay before this message gives people enough time to go through the original freebie. This mail will also prompt a few people to download or view the product who hadn’t yet done so. At this point, people are now looking forward to receiving emails from you.
Subject Line: How [Customer Name] Used [Freebie Name] to Achieve [Achievement]
Delay after Second Email: 2 Days
People like to see other people having success with something – other than you – to give them more belief that what you’re saying, works. If you know what you’re talking about then you should know at least one person who has followed the advice you’re giving, in whatever industry, and been better off for doing so.
If you pick up a copy of my “10,000 Subscribers” eBook then you’ll see a great case study in there which really shows whether my method works. The more people you see succeeding at something, the more you believe it’s possible for you to do the same. It really is that simple.
At the bottom of this email mention that people have been requesting that you go into more detail on this topic, and possibly create a product (if true).
Subject Line: [Recipient First Name], I Went Ahead and Did It…
Delay after Third Email: 5-7 Days
In this fourth email it’s time to let people know about your paid product. Remember, this should be a large extension to the information you’re already offering. If you had a freebie about gardening, for example, then create a product around that. Though a product on something like “How to Install Your Own Solar Panels” might be somewhat relevant, it’s not as targeted an offer as it could be.
Introduce the product by continuing with your personal style of writing, and make it clear that due to seeing a need for this, you decided to create a product. If you can, offer some kind of discount to thank them for their support.
INTERVENING STEP: List Change
Because of the nature of the next email, we want to ensure that whoever buys the product doesn’t keep getting asked to purchase it. For that reason, you first of all need to setup an email opt-in when people purchase your product.
If you’re using something like Wishlist for WordPress (which we use) then you can do this automatically. Afterwards, you simply go to the list Automation rules in Aweber and say that if someone subscribes to the product list, take them off the freebie list.
This isn’t crucial, but I do recommend it. Otherwise, you’re just going to annoy people who have already handed over their cash. That’s not something I propose you do.
Subject Line: Do You Want the Good News or Bad News First?
Delay after Fourth Email: 2 Days
The final email in your sequence should be an update just after the product launch. While many people will buy from your previous email, other people take either another reminder, or just a little more convincing.
The subject line here is catchy and gets their attention. If you can get them to answer a subject line in their head, they’re more likely to open the email to see what it contains. The good news, in most cases, should just be you talking about how sales have been and sharing any positive customer feedback you may have.
The bad news, can be whatever you want. A common example of bad news could be that you only have a limited number of copies left, or you will be increasing the price shortly. This hint of scarcity persuades a lot of people to buy your product. Especially people who were previously sitting on the fence about purchasing. Just make sure the bad news is true, or it will damage your reputation.
There will be, without a doubt, people on your list who didn’t buy your product, even after the two promotion emails. It may be because your product sales page converts poorly, so always continue to work on that. It may also be because you have what I like to call “Freebie seekers” on your list, who never really intend to buy anything online.
Follow-up emails to this list shouldn’t mention your product any time soon. Instead, continue to focus on your topic, but offer other things instead. You could for instance create another short eBook or audio file, and give it away to the list. Put the giveaway on the page where they have to Tweet or Facebook share your link in order to get it. You can use Cloud Flood to achieve this.
That way, even if they don’t buy anything, they are helping you to grow your list, and you’re more likely to elevate your “expert” status.
Remember: The information above is to be used as a guideline. Please test your own subject lines and sequences to see what works best for you. You may be able to go for the product pitch sooner, or it may work better to go for it later. Don’t be afraid to test your own ideas. The advice in that previous sentence is probably the key to my financial success at the moment.
One thing I’ve noticed with product launches – especially the Cloud Blogging launch – is that a lot of people will click on our Buy Now button, but not actually purchase the item. There is a measure for this called the “Cart Abandonment Rate” and our CAR was as high as 90% on some occasions.
I spoke with a few people on this topic, and watched some relevant marketing material, and was told that I should add a step between the sale and the Add to Cart screen. The reason people are more likely to click on an Add to Cart button in the first place is because it doesn’t imply commitment compared to words like Buy Now!.
Therefore, if you’re sending that traffic to an instant payment page, they often back out of the deal. The step, they told me, was a good place to insert product testimonials so further convince people that your offering is good.
Instead of adding an entirely new page, I took advantage of a little known feature in Paypal. The ability to add your own header to the Paypal payment pages. In this header I used a testimonial from one of our customers. Thanks to this, our cart abandonment rate has decreased dramatically.
Our testimonial in action on Paypal can be seen below:
I’ll continue to test which type of phrases work best, but I’m very happy with the results so far.
To implement this, you’ll first need to create a 750px x 90px graphic to use in that space. If you know how to create graphics then this should be easy for you. If not, get someone on Fiverr to do it for…erm…$5. (This is a joke at Diggy, since I like to tease him for the fact that he wrote “You can get a logo for $10 at Fiverr” in the unedited version of Cloud Blogging)
The picture also needs to be hosted on a secure server to prevent people getting encryption warnings when checking out. You can use a free service from e-Junkie called SSLPic to upload your graphic.
Then in Paypal simply head to Profile > Custom Page Design and enter your graphic URL in the header image field. May more sales start coming your way.
I can’t tell you how well this works, since I’ve implemented it in a number of different ways. Going by my own experience and general logic though, I think this is something that every product creator should look into doing. One of the biggest benefits of Cloud Living, without question, is that members can communicate with each other freely.
At the bottom of every video in the course there is a comments section where people can ask questions and discuss things with each other. Just four months into the product, there are now 1,700 comments on the site. This not only adds a huge amount of value to the product, but shows new customers that this is a real product, that real people are using, and they can join this productive community as well.
On Cloud Blogging, I did things a little differently. First of all, the ‘Start the Course’ link in the members area takes you straight to an introductions page. This allows every member to share a little bit of information about themselves and really helps to build a solid community around the product, which I believe helps more people to take action with the advice we give.
Right now around 15% of our members have left an introduction (55 at the time of writing this) and myself and Diggy have personally replied to every single one. Whenever we reply to someone, they get a notification in Facebook, which I think helps take the community aspect of the product even further.
Facebook has sent 150+ visitors to the site thanks to this implementation
What would you rather purchase: An eBook on a topic, or that same information on a site which also allows you to ask questions and interact with other product buyers? I don’t think the choice is hard to make.
Even if you don’t run a membership site, you can still incorporate more community aspects into your offering. If you sell an eBook for example, you could simply send an email to all buyers asking them to introduce themselves on a private page of your site. Use something like Disqus or Facebook comments on the page and watch the discussions begin.
If you can put all of these strategies into play, then the result is going to be more sales, fewer refunds, and better feedback on your product offerings. To simplify the benefits of each:
It took me weeks of testing and multiple product launches to figure out these strategies, but I can personally guarantee that they work well. Of course, I also tested a number of ideas which didn’t work so well, but I’ll save those for another blog post.
Now, just send me 10% of your extra sales and I’ll say we’re even ;).