Making money from your blog is always a very popular topic. Everyone has seen and heard stories about people making living online and is tempted by the same idea of working for yourself and having the freedom and flexibility to run your own business the way you want. One of the best option for monetizing is to invest your time in creating something that will provide enduring value and bring you continuous revenue. Create the content once, put it in a permanent form and sell it over and over again. This article will also show you how to create a blog and a landing page that converts and how to a store to sell your own product in.
Becoming a strategic content marketer
In the early days I focused on creating great content and attracting visitors. I published insightful posts three times a week. I promoted them in social media and forums. I was excited by each new comment and spent a lot of time checking my Google Analytics. All this helped me grow my reach but there was no big picture and strategic plan behind my efforts. It was only when I started to think strategically that I saw the real growth and benefits of running a site. These days I spend most of my time optimizing and tuning the existing site and content.
What does it mean to be thinking strategically? It means that I identified my site’s purpose and started working smart with a plan and a goal in mind. I simplified the look and feel, focused the navigation, front page, sidebars, and the way I categorize content towards achieving my goals. I stopped creating content that didn’t get me closer to my targets and started creating purposeful content that converts.
More on this whole process of finding your blog positioning and branding is here.
How to build a high conversion blog
First time visitors take less than a few seconds to decide if your site is worth exploring. You have to get their attention and get it fast. One way of doing this is to make it easy on the eyes and clutter free and make it easy for your readers to find stuff that interests them. With an effective site the purpose will become clear and immediately evident to your first-time visitors. Your call-to-action will stand out. Your best converting content will be the essential focus and will not get lost in the archives. Knowing the main goal makes it easier to identify essential and non-essential site elements. Removing elements that don’t contribute towards your goals will help your visitors orient themselves and will have a surprising impact on your conversion rate. Review the following elements in order to build an effective site:
- It’s not all about the home page. Remember that at least 50% of your new visitors come directly to your posts, so prettying up your front page is useless if your post doesn’t invite them to find it in the first place. Bloggers tend to focus on their home page too much, but don’t realize that every URL is a potential starting point to a visitor. This is especially thanks to the spread in social media and traffic from search engines which tend to drive people deeper into your site. Your home page should be optimize but don’t neglect the rest of your site.
- Start with the minimum viable product. Don’t spend too much time on the planning stages. Get your site and your product out live. Refrain from adding what is not necessary in the first place. “Keep it simple, stupid” is the rule to follow. It is the real world data from real people that check out your site that will lead you towards making bigger and better decisions in future.
- Ignore and remove inessentials. Eliminate elements that don’t matter to make room for those that do. Remove buttons, widgets, ads, pop-ups and other distractions. Just because every other site has them, it doesn’t mean that you need to have them too. Think about what purpose these elements have? You don’t need features that nobody has asked for and that nobody is using.
- Focus on quality and not on quantity. General rule is to always remember that less is more. If it helps you publish better content do stop having a strict content calendar and schedule. Change your thinking to focus on maintaining high quality in everything that you do. Implement checklists of things to do before posting in order to keep the quality standards high.
- Make your posts purposeful. Think about the purpose and about what are you trying to achieve with the new post before publishing. Purposeful content helps you reach your goals. Some of the posts I have created since I started being more strategic are designed to get the visitors to take a certain action i.e. “follow” on Twitter, sign-up to the mailing list or check out the affiliate product recommended.
- Do a user experience walkthrough and rework the existing content. Go through your posts like a visitor would do. Review them, think about actions a visitor would need to take and pay attention to the ways you can improve them. Is there something that can be confusing to a visitor? Can you reduce the word count by saying things in fewer words? What about removing parts that are not necessary and that don’t add value? What about integrating it better with your product? Can an image, a graph or other visuals be used to get the point across faster?
- Clean code: Steve Jobs was famous for saying that even the small details and the things that a user cannot see matter in design. On your site this means the code. Visitors might not see the code but it is what makes your site run efficiently. Use a theme that is created with a clean and simple coding.
- Domain name: Too many sites use URL’s that are either yourname.blogspot.com or that don’t even match the actual name of the site. That gives off a messy and unfocused feeling from the start. Register your domain name – it’s not expensive and you’ll come off more professional and attractive.
- Header and branding: Stop frequently changing your header and branding. It’s what makes you stand out and be recognizable in the endless pool of bloggers. Make sure your header looks professional and showcases your personality and what your site is about (it’s completely possible to make a professional-looking header yourself). I always tell bloggers that even though they themselves see their branding several times a day and find that it has lost the freshness, for their visitors it is something new and fresh. No reason to change it too frequently.
- Continuous deployments: Your design shouldn’t be updated and changed too frequently either. It will confuse your loyal visitors. Instead your should continuously deploy smaller tweaks and improvements. Do not make it too fancy or too decorative and lose the focus. It’s not all only about the aesthetics though. It’s also about the experience of visiting your site and enjoying your content.
- Have you provided all the relevant info? This may include contact info, social media pages, about page, a page for advertisers, privacy/disclaimer. Figure out which of these are the must-haves for you and find a way to present them in an optimal way. The footer is usually a nice place for some of the links in order not to overcrowd the navigation.
- About me page. Read your About Me page again. When was the last time you updated it? Look at it from the point of view of your audience. Is it doing a good job of convincing them to stay and explore more. Answer three questions: Who you are, what you do for your audience and why should they care. Meaning; what makes you qualified to post about a certain topic? In a way, your About Me page isn’t about you at all, it is about them – your audience. Think about it.
- How can you put better spotlight on the best converting posts? Your key content should be organized to help the visitors discover it easier. Use “Sticky” option to put spotlight on the best converting posts towards top of your front page. Use pages to create static landing pages for the important content and put them in the navigation. Use sidebars to direct people to important pages and sections of your site.
- Are your topics easy to find and recognize? Use “Menu” feature to create a customized navigation menu and easily show what your site is all about – especially for new users and especially if you cover several topics. For instance, if you write about food and fashion your menu could consist of recipes, outfits, fashion advice and beauty. This will help lead more of your visitors to deeper explore your content.
- Do you actually need all those social media share and follow buttons? Do they actually get any clicks or do they just distract people? Use your analytics tool to analyze the data and act accordingly. If you really want buttons is there a way for you to present them in a nicer and simpler layout?
- What’s in your sidebar? Sidebars tend to be very cluttered with things like social media buttons, search buttons, archives, ads and even word clouds. Review your sidebar. Do you really need everything that’s in your sidebar? Do you have anything that could be placed in there? How can you make it more focused so it leads your visitor to discover your content deeper and access your key posts?
- Do you need a sidebar at all? If the sidebar doesn’t help you put more focus on your main goals is there a reason for it to be there and distract people in the first place? Most modern themes allow you to easily remove the sidebar from specific posts and pages so use this option strategically.
- Make it easy to find your content. If you want people to stick around, make it easy for them to find your content – but more importantly, make your content logical! If you have 657 categories and every post is listed in 346 of them, chances are no matter how easy you make the navigation, I’m going to get cranky with the apparent randomness of the posts that I will leave – never to return.
- Related posts and other suggested content. How effective are these in getting people to discover more of your site? Could something more focused be put in this prime spot at the end of articles?
- Are you placing the banner ads in the best converting areas? Have you tested out different placing? Are you aware which generate the biggest income for you? Do they generate income at all? How are the ads performing compared to other sources of revenue? Knowing this will help you decide if you do need ads at all.
- Create for the web. How do you structure your text? Is your site full of big chunks of text or are your posts organized? This is the evergreen piece of advice for creating online content. Present the content in immersive ways. Use bullet points, subheadings, white space and short paragraphs.
The elements of a landing page
A landing page is a page on your site that you send traffic to with a specific goal and target in mind. The aim of a landing page is to convince a visitor to signup for a mailing list for example or to buy a product. Generating leads and customers is usually the biggest challenge for any blogger or content marketer and landing pages serve this purpose well as they are stripped down, simplified and focused on one objective.
It is difficult to convert someone straight off your traditional looking home page on their first visit. They still don’t know you, don’t know your product or services and have no connection and trust built with you. This means that a conversion rate on a standard homepage is very low. Landing pages on the other hand grab the attention of a visitor and build the trust and connection that is necessary for someone to convert into a subscribers or a customer. Landing pages can replace your home page or they can be a page deeper into your site that you direct to from social media and your other marketing channels.
Do you want more people to visit your site and convert? Stop distracting them and making them click away from your main goal. Simplicity is not only beautiful and elegant but it is also effective. It helps you tweak and perfect the user experience. It leads to decluttering of your site, makes it faster to load and more focused on your targets. Every element on an effective landing page works together to tell a story of the product and gets the visitor to convert. So what are the elements and the features of great landing pages that work and convert? Let’s take a look at some of them.
- Landing pages are simple. Usually all the unnecessary elements are removed from a landing page. This means there is no navigation menu that can lead the visitor to another page. This means there is no sidebar that again takes the attention from the main objective. There is no large header image, there is no footer. All the elements that don’t aid the visitor into taking the action that you want him or her to do are removed.
- The objectives are simple and clear with a very strong and prominent call to action. Tell visitors what they need to know and tell it to them right away. Tell them how you will fill their needs or they will click on the “Back” button and leave. Call to action is on many landing pages repeated several times throughout the page. Call to action is focused on information capture. Call to actions are normally buttons that want people to subscribe for a mailing list, buy a service or buy a product.
- Unique selling proposition is a brief description of what you are offering. The USP is very clear and in focus. The focus is on the value that this offer will bring to your life, to your business. It explains you the benefits of the product and what you will miss out on if you don’t go for it. Curiously this is normally all about benefits and not much about facts and features of the product or a service. Features and facts come second to the benefit. Say what your product is, what people will get and how this is better than offers of your competitors.
- You can’t make a visitor buy the product in the first sentence, but you can lose him or her right away. Landing pages are the playground of copywriters. The copy of the page is what your offer depends on so the copy must be amazing. The language is usually simple, clear and specific. There are attractive headlines and sub-headings. First thing a visitor should see is a strong headline that explains why the visitor should stick around and explore further. Being concise in your writing is a big part of a successful landing page.
- There are also elements that build trust and credibility. You might see a picture of the creator of the product – human face enhances credibility and trust. You might see a list of testimonials which includes pictures, names and positive reviews from past customers and people that have purchased the product. You might see some of those security badges. You might see a list of sites where the product has been featured. There is normally also a guarantee – for example if you don’t like the product or if you don’t get any results from using the product you can claim money back within next 30, 60, 90 days. Some even go for longer and even lifetime periods.
- Social proof is another element of a landing page that is there to build credibility and trust. If you have many sales do tell people about it. Do embed social media buttons and do show how many shares and likes you have in social media.
- On many landing pages you might see a video where the product creator tells you the benefits of his product or you have guide through the product and what it offers. Make sure your video is great and that it helps add value and converts your visitor. If it doesn’t do that it might not be necessary to embed a video. Making people watch a video makes them stop reading the rest of your copy so test and see which way works best for you. Which leads me to the next element…
- A sneak peek preview is another important element in order to show the quality of the product you are offering. You could for example allow people to download one chapter of your book or watch a shorter version of a training course.
- For better conversion rate try asking for an email address first. Getting a smaller commitment from your lead is a great first step towards creating a great relationship with a future customer.
- Testing, testing. Many landing pages would be tested many times over a long period of time and improved in terms of everything from design,the way the call to action buttons look like, how the copy is written, where the different elements are positioned and so on. The idea is to collect the data and improve the structure and elements of the page in order to get a better conversion rate.
Landing page WordPress plugins
As always WordPress plugins are your best friend when it comes to introducing new features to your site without needing to spend too much time. There are several landing page plugins that you can try and work with in order to figure out the one that fits your needs best. Here are couple of them:
- Parallax Gravity – Landing Page Builder – This plugin allows you to add multiple sections within your landing page. For each section you can set a background, add any type of content more.
- WordPress Landing Pages – This is a quiet advanced option that is definitely worth a look. It gives you the ability to monitor and track conversion rates, run a/b and multivariate split tests and much more.
Creating your own product
Putting your work into a permanent form is very important as it will allow you not to need to keep recreating your value over and over again. The best way of putting your content into a permanent form is to create your own product. Your product will provide value even when you are not physically present and it will allow you to take a break from posting new content once in a while. It will basically let you stop trading your hours for dollars. Your product can come in many formats. A simple eBook works in many cases. There can be instructional guides and videos. You could even run a membership site.
People are busy. Time is money. People don’t have the time or the patience to find and organize all the free information on the Internet. Discovering and structuring all the free information into a consistent format that you can learn from is very hard work. This is where an eBook comes into play. Instead of surfing around looking for bits of information on the different blogs, people can save a lot of time by getting it all in one place – in an eBook. A simple eBook, in a consistent format, with tips in a logical order is a very valuable product, that is very convenient and can save a lot of time for anyone new to the topic.
The product that you publish should be related to what you stand for and what you site about. You are after all seen as the expert and the authoritative figure in that field. You have built the audience of people that trust you and follow you. The best way of seeing if there is a demand for a specific topic is to look at what works best on your own site. What type of articles did get the most buzz, the most page views and comments? About what do people contact you with questions the most? This will give you an idea of what people like from your content, and what people see you as someone with authority and knowledge about. If you try to cater to everyone, you won’t sell anything. You’ll be debating on both sides. Instead, pick an audience and cater to them. Dig in, and really focus on meeting their needs and answering their questions. Instead of trying to sell a guitar to a painter, sell it to a guitarist.
One of the most important parts of selling anything is having a team of affiliates or promoters on your side. Had we relied purely on our own audiences to launch to, the buzz wouldn’t have been nearly as powerful as it became. Simply put… you need affiliates to promote your products. The problem though, is that it’s hard to get anyone excited about a $10 commission. If I’m a pro blogger and my own stuff pays me thousands per month, why would I want to work hard for a few hundred dollars? I wouldn’t. But a $23 commission… that’s not nearly as bad, which is why, when you price your products, you need to consider affiliates into the equation. Make it worth their while to promote for you.
Create an e-commerce shop – Step-by-Step
A fully functioning online store is the cornerstone of any business trying to sell products on a website. To create an Internet shop is usually very expensive as you need to hire designers to work on the site, the functionality and the custom design. Building an online store with WordPress is much more cost efficient. With it as your platform you can create a very successful e-shop for a fraction of normal cost. It is free and open-source. It features a wide range of plugins, most of them free, including several e-store plugins. Using e-commerce plugin with WordPress allows you to add catalog, cart and billing functionality to your web store, building a fully-functional shop that can drive your brick and mortar product sales, or sales of online services and digital downloads.
With WordPress you can sell anything online without needing a third-party to take a part of your profits. WordPress allows you to create a shopping area where you can upload products for sale, visitors can add those products to their shopping carts, and pay directly via their PayPal account or their credit card. Building your store within WordPress means that both your website and your store have the same design, usability and user-friendliness. Unlike some e-commerce solutions that look and feel totally different than the main website, in WordPress your visitors experience the same design from your main page to the checkout. Here is the step-by-step process of creating your online store with WordPress:
- Install WordPress. See my guide here.
- Install WP e-Commerce plugin. There is a wide variety of e-commerce plugins in WordPress, ranging from simple to very advanced, from free to commercial. WP e-Commerce is the most popular WordPress store plugin and has been downloaded by more than 1.9 million business owners. In Plugins of your WordPress Admin area, download and activate WP e-Commerce.
- Customize your store settings. Activating the plugin will add “Store” in your “Settings” WordPress admin navigation tab. This area allows you to customize your store. Everything from your target markets, currency settings, and store presentation, to checkout, shipping and payments is customizable via a simple interface.
- Add products to your store. “Products” section has been added to your WordPress admin navigation as well. This is where you add the products into your store. Again everything is customizable via a familiar WordPress interface: product name, image, description and price. In case your are selling physical products there are options from shipping weight and charges to stock control.
- Add widgets for better shopping experience
In “Appearance” in your WordPress admin click on “Widgets”. You will notice several shopping related widgets have been added to your options: Latest Products, Product Categories etc. Shopping Cart widget is the one you should activate to help your customers. This widgets allows you to display information such as products in shopping cart, prices and quantities. Just like Amazon.com or any other online store. Simply drag and drop the Shopping Cart into your sidebar. When you optimize all the Store settings and add your products, your actual store will be on yourdomain.com/products-page/. That’s it, your store is ready.
Let us assume that you have competitive pricing within your niche and that you have decent conversion rates on the traffic you currently receive. That is great to hear, but the problem is your site is out-ranked by the big retailers and other competitors in your niche. All of these brands focus on providing solutions to their customers above all else. While you might not have the advertising budgets as these companies’, you certainly can budget for the development of a web page, your online window to your niche and its customers. Discover what your audience will consider “awesome” and then waste no time in fulfilling that demand. Then the sales will be coming.
Measure the effect of the changes
After making changes keep an eye on your site data and analyze what difference the changes have made. Are these changes effective? Did they actually make a difference? How can you optimize and improve even more? Act on the data learnings.
Although your site will look simpler, it does take a lot of effort and refinement to reach such a state. Decluttering may take some time but it will get you closer to your goals. You will start seeing lower bounce rates and people actually spending longer time on your content. Most importantly your main goals will be achieving maximum effect through minimum means. Your blog will start converting better. Who doesn’t like the sound of that?