"You're doing it wrong."
I was too, not very long ago.
(I guess I still am. But it's working for me.)
And it's all okay.
Because isn't the beauty of blogs the uniqueness?
That we're all different and have something special to provide our audiences?
But the thing is, I think you're sipping poison on a daily basis.
A little content arsenic here and there, laced in your morning coffee. (Or tea, if that's how you roll.)
But you seem to like it. I guess you do because you keep drinking it.
And at this point, it's seeping through the pores of your content.
Because you're getting your advice from so many different people, you're losing your way.
You know you need your audience to trust you. You know you need to keep visitors on your blog.
You know you need those visitors to subscribe to your emails. And you know you need them to buy something sooner or later.
(Even just to keep your blog afloat for an extended period of time.)
But much of what you've read or heard isn't working for you.
And since you're still reading this intro, I'm going to say why I think that is:
It's because you're betraying yourself. You're betraying who you are and what you stand for.
You stumbled onto an incredible, proven method to build authority online or grow a massive audience fast.
But the methods or strategies go against your morals or values. Or maybe they just don't fit into your lifestyle or situation.
I get it. I went through it.
So, in lieu of all the solopreneurs out there who need a sip of purified sanity, this is for you.
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Here's my take on the 6 things your blog strategy needs to build authority and reduce your bounce rate.
1. Add in some social proof
I know. With a small social media audience, it's hard to get proof of your legitimacy.
But social proof doesn't always have to stem from social media.
Sometimes, all you have to do is ask your customers or clients for their thoughts on your product, blog, or service.
As you grow, you'll receive praise in emails and social media posts.
But you can't rely on just that to get quality testimonials from people.
I didn't use social proof until recently.
I relied on word-of-mouth, content shares, and the idea that my content was "so good" that it'd catch on all on it's own.
Sure, it did, eventually. But it took a year and a half to start gaining traction.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Ask and tell.
Ask your email subscribers or customers for their opinion on your product, service, and / or blog content.
If someone emails you to ask a question about a product they bought:
ask them how they're liking it.
ask them how they're using the product.
ask for a photo or screenshot of the item in use.
ask for feedback.
EXAMPLE: "How have you been liking the [product]?" or "How's the [service] working for you?"
You don't have to do or implement every piece of feedback.
(If you did, you'd never be able create anything new again if you have a popular product...)
The suggestions, complaints, and feedback can help you to better the second or third edition.
Next, tell your customer or email subscriber what to do next.
Something I've found as I go is that when you phrase things passively, like:
Would you like to...
If you want...
These types of passive requests won't get you far.
Instead, tell your reader or customer what to do. It's the call-to-action (CTA) that makes a difference in your strategy.
[Please] share this... (polite, but actionable)
Follow me on...
Click through to...
Buy [this] now...
Get this now...
It's not aggressive. It's a confident action request.
2. Link to reliable sources
Let's say you're reading a blog post on how to write posts in 30 minutes or less.
You're so into this post that you're clicking every link in it to get more tips to make your content awe-inspiring.
But there's a problem.
3 out of the 7 links you clicked don't exist anymore. And 2 out of the remaining 4 lead to spammy-looking websites.
The original post was good. But these bad links are telling you:
this post / blog / website is outdated
this author doesn't check their content [after publishing]
this author doesn't care
this author is lazy and / or not keeping up with their site
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Create a list of trusted sources.
I added my list of sources into my content style guide.
What, exactly, is a trusted source?
To me, it's someone who:
consistently delivers high-quality blog content
is thorough, personable, and interesting to read from
uses lots of examples, screenshots, facts, sources, and / or additional content (like audio or video)
cares more about their audience's takeaways from their content than their own personal gain
By having a list of go-to people, I have a constant reminder that easy-to-quote and link to sources are all at my fingertips.
Sure, you can (and should) double / triple -check your sources and the sources they link to. But, again, having a list of go-to references makes finding reliable, link-able information easier to find.
EXAMPLE: Let's say you're writing a post about helping your audience overcome self doubt.
It's something that you were working through at the time.
You're no expert on it, but you want to help your audience overcome the rampant problem while you're tackling it, too.
You've done lots of research and made lots of changes in attempts to help yourself. And you've found the changes so valuable that you want to share the steps taken to be and feel more confident.
So since you didn't create the method (you used others' work and just put them together in a way that made sense to you), it's important to the integrity of your work and the attrition of theirs to credit them.
So, to add direct links, sources, quotes—or whatever else you need to make your post more valuable and legitimate—you'd hop on Google Search with something like:
defeat / overcome self doubt marie forleo
defeat / overcome self doubt james clear
defeat / overcome self doubt leo babauta
You may have to play around a bit to see what content of theirs will work best for yours.
SIDE NOTE: Yes, you'll be sending traffic to your referenced sources. But what you're also doing is creating trust with the readers that matter.
And you're creating loyalty with your email subscribers. Because you care more about them than you do yourself.
(That's why they'll keep coming back to you, again and again.)
3. Add valid and helpful internal links
Unless it's your first blog post, you have content that's related to what you've just written.
(If not, you'll want to better define your niche or focus.)
Internal links are links to your own content under the same domain name.
EXAMPLE: All my blog posts are under "goffcreative.com/our-blog/".
The tail end of that URL (the URL slug) is customized to each post.
When you weave in valid and reader-focused URL slugs throughout your content, you're creating a web of interconnected posts.
Each internal link helps a reader get down to exactly what they're looking for.
And the more helpful a link is, the more likely your reader is to stay on your website. Navigating through, page after page, of content.
Subscribing, sharing, and later (or immediately after) buying.
4. Focus on your reader, not yourself
Because it's not about you. (Well, not always.)
It's about your reader.
Your niche, specialties, and experiences that develop your business from are about you. But what you produce won't take you far unless it's geared to your audience's wants, desires, needs, or solutions.
Imagine a conversation with someone new.
She has a great smile, kind eyes, and she's cute as a button.
She asks what you do for a living.
About 10 seconds in, she's interrupting you to make a statement about herself.
Okay, that's forgivable, you think. I'm sure she's excited, too.
She's probably just looking for common ground with me. (Or she has ADHD...)
About 20 minutes into the meet, she's still going on and on about herself.
Has she heard a word I've said? Does she care? I don't think this is going to work out...
But the thing is, when this type of introduction happens through your content, it's much easier for your reader to bail on you than it is in "real life".
In person, there's that awkward, "Yeah... We can exchange numbers, I guess..." (But I'll never call you.)
Or (my approach): "Have a good day!" and make an exit.
(I don't like to bullshit people. But I also don't believe in purposeful confrontation, either.)
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Know your reader like the back of your hand.
S/he has questions.
S/he has a life and a story. You just have to find it.
But if you write and connect with one person (or unit of people, if you prefer), you'll invite a more developed relationship with them.
Because you're speaking to them. Not standing in front of a podium and talking at a million people.
You're connecting with them on an intellectual and emotional level. And that's social gold, no matter if you're introverted or extroverted.
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5. Include relatable stories (for everything)
You've got a plethora of stories. I'm sure of it.
Between life experiences and observations, you've got so much to offer your audience.
Because it's likely that they've been there. Or, they can learn from your experience and knowledge.
Isn't that what makes blogs so enjoyable?
It may not be 100% journalistic reporting. And that's why your readers come to you and not solely the Washington Post.
They want a real life human with a heartbeat and a story to tell.
I recently finished a book, "Don't Sell Me. Tell Me." by Greg Koorhan who wrote:
Story relates to a brand in every type of business.
Most people buy from professional service companies because they trust the principals.
People follow entertainers because they love the celebrity and what they stand for. Witness how quickly the public turns, however, when that individual does something distasteful.
People find it hard to separate the entertainment from the entertainer.
For example, I went through a cleanse a few months ago.
Not the physical health kind (although I could totally stand to do that), but the mental one.
I was following lots of top bloggers. Each with paychecks ranging over $30,000 a month (per their published income reports).
After attending webinar after webinar, and getting pitch after pitch, I realized something pivotal:
I don't want to be that person.
SIDE NOTE: I'm not saying there's anything wrong with their approach or goals. But it's not who I am, what I want, nor the direction I want to go in with my own audience.
Because I don't give a crap about making $30k a month.
Because I unsubscribe from almost every email pitch I get (especially ones that hit you as soon as you subscribe).
Why would I want to do those things? Why would I want to do the strategies they did to obtain their level of success?
So, just like I cut the power to Facebook, I could do it with these bloggers, too.
(And I haven't looked back since.)
The point is:
Don't lose touch with your goals. But, remember, if it's more about you than it is about your audience, they'll ditch you. (Especially when you're not spewing social proof of your awesomeness.)
The quality, loyal audience that will carry you and follow you till the ends of the earth will love you forever. Through thick and thin.
Because of you. Your story. Your life. You.
Don't lose them.
[ANOTHER] SIDE NOTE: I wasn't those bloggers' target audience member. Again, it doesn't mean they're wrong. I just don't agree with their tactics.
A part of keeping your reader connection whole, is remembering your stories and examples.
Success doesn't have to poison you with greed, envy, and self-obsessed growth.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Stock up your story [idea] bank.
Keep a rolling list of blog post ideas.
But you can also keep an organized "safety deposit box" of experiences, observations, and lessons.
6. Give freely (but Don't Create A Free-Seeking Audience)
And last but absolutely not least is the reigning power of free.
But before I introduce this poetically with a spree on "give, give, give", I want to start by saying this:
You train your audience from the moment they hand you their email address.
Let me put it this way:
If you offer free, free, free more often than not, when the time comes that you "ask" for a purchase, your audience won't feel the need to buy from you. No matter how great your sales copy might be.
Because you trained your audience to be free seekers.
Why buy when, one day, she might give it away for free? She gives everything else away!, your audience thinks.
They'll go buy something similar from someone else who actively presents opportunities to buy.
I know. I've been there.
SIDE NOTE: I'm not going against my disdain for pitching here. Bear with me, an explanation is coming.
As a proponent for the individually customized content upgrade [prior], I realized I was going about it all wrong.
When you provide loads of pay-worthy value in your blog content, consider whether that new blog post needs a custom-cut bonus freebie just to earn the email subscriber.
Recently I removed 46 content upgrades from all my blog posts.
Instead, I focused on the one, introductory course as the main opt-in.
There were some posts that deserved specific upgrades (like the Productivity Resource List for organization and time management posts. And the #4DayGoals chapter for goal related ones, among a couple others).
But all in all, I want subscribers to go through the one course.
Because I decided to focus on building a communication and exclusive info channel for my audience. (I'll write about this soon, promise.)
And so far, things have been doing well.
Since the change, I can focus more on making the blog and email content better instead of thinking about what kind of "content bribe" I need to create to earn more email subscribers and customers.
Doesn't mean I won't ever create custom freebies for specific posts. But I won't create them for each one.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Focus on building credibility, trust, and loyalty through your high-quality blog content.
The best of subscribers (your target audience) don't need a freebie.
They need great content.
Call me a "content hippie" all you want, but after removing those 46 content upgrades and now, only having a hand full of opt-in offers across all my posts, things are better.
How is that possible?
I saw a significant dip in email subscribers when the change was first put in place (3 weeks into July 2016).
I went from an average of 20-40 email subscribers daily, to anywhere from 6-20.
At first I questioned whether that decision was a smart one or not.
I stopped using stock images behind my blog images, changed my branding quite a bit, then on top of all that, I changed the display of opt-ins and what's offered.
Is she crazy?
But the thing is, great things started happening.
Sure, my conversion rate of email subscriptions dropped initially. But my conversion rate of email subscribers to customers went up by leaps and bounds.
(More info on this coming soon.)
So, what's the point?
You're someone with a voice and something to say worth listening to.
But if you don't build up your authority through you own valuable content, you're screaming into a ear-less forest and waiting for someone to come find you.
Authority breeds trust, traffic, and stability.
But the type of authority you want to possess is what matters to your online future and to your audience, too.
Today, start by asking.
Send out a survey to your email list.
Ask a hand full or two of your customers for specific feedback on your products or services.
Ask an active social media acquaintance for their feedback on what you share or your blog content, specifically.
Start by subtly yet actively collecting your social proof.
Then, move on down the line.
You've got this.
Now get started.
P.S. Comments, emails, running a business and being a mom of 3 were just too much for me to handle all together, apparently. But the lack of a comment box doesn't mean I don't want to hear what you think! Share your thoughts with me via @GoffCreative on Twitter or directly via email.
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