What's she doing?
A thought that's crossed your mind a time or two.
(Okay, mine too...)
It seems like blogging just clicks for some people.
You've thought: "Is someone helping them?" or "They've probably been doing the whole content marketing and email list thing since before it was a 'thing', anyways."
And sometimes that's true.
Sometimes a blogger will say they've "only been blogging for a year" and grew a list of 10,000 email subscribers and a half-million dollar blog in less than 12 months.
Then your hopes and dreams of skyrocketing your own business like that are dashed when you Google them to find that they've been planting digital seeds for years and years prior to launching their mega-successful blog.
Disheartening, I know.
But, who ever said that doing anything fast was a good thing.
Although I'm no social media and blogging super-genius, I can tell you that as an active mom of 3, I'm very proud of my 100% organic (don't pay for ads) growth online.
And in this steady and controlled (I'll explain what I mean by that soon) growth, I've made some substantial changes to the Goff Creative blog in the past 3 to 6 months.
And these changes—6 specifically—have helped me to triple my email opt-in rate in less than 4 weeks. Twice.
If you're feeling like your blog is showing minimal to no growth or you're just starting out and want to skip the bullshit, these next 6 points are for you:
1. Add Content Upgrades To Every Blog Post [That Has The Goal To Gain Email Subscribers]
Simply put, a content upgrade is a bonus piece of content (like a worksheet, resource list, checklist, bonus video, slides, etc.) that's available to your visitor in exchange for their email address.
But, a common misconception is that you need a custom content upgrade for every single piece of content.
Well, that's just not true.
Attempting to "bribe" people with some worthless worksheet, just to encourage an email address doesn't work. At least it won't work for you in the end.
So my rule is:
Create a hand full of niche-specific content upgrades—like one mini-eBook, a resource list with exclusive tips, a detailed, instructive worksheet—that's good enough that people would pay for it. But you give it away for free in exchange for their email address.
With just a hand full of stellar content upgrades, applicable to most all of the content in your arsenal—you're set.
But, the big issue I ran into personally, and I see across the web often is this:
Make sure your blog post has one main goal. And stick to it.
So, if your goal is to promote a new eBook you just released, your "content upgrade" could be a free chapter of that book. Not a worksheet you just so happen to have that's barely related to it.
If the main goal of a blog post is to earn more email subscribers, then create or use an email opt-in with your content upgrade the prominent focus.
That doesn't mean you can't include links to your products. But it does mean you shouldn't include an opt-in freebie at the top and middle, then a sales pitch with a link to buy at the end.
See where I'm going with this?
Pick one main focus with your blog content, and stick to it.
BONUS TIP: Don't overcomplicate the process. Ask for no more than their first name and email address. Save surveys and more for larger upgrades, like eBooks, etc.
Depending on what email service provider you use, you can automatically segment people into tags or categories per what they're interested in—from whatever type of content they opted in on.
That way, you're able to send specific, segmented emails to people you know are interested in that particular category.
EXAMPLE: Let's say you snagged my content upgrade in this post.
ConvertKit (my email automation system) would segment you into the tags I've set up under Automation. Meaning, you're now tagged with "Online Growth".
Now I can send you specific emails geared toward your interests instead of stuff you don't care about.
This is especially important if you discuss a few different topics within your blog, but we'll get into that some other day.
2. Remove The Sidebar [And Header] From Your Blog
Okay, this is a touchy topic, I know.
There are so many big-time bloggers out there who'd try to slap me over this one. But hear me out.
Outside of how ridiculous, distracting, and overly aggressive pop-ups are, having a header opt-in strip and a sidebar wasn't doing my site any favors.
Let me explain:
Why I Removed The Sidebar
This was something I did because:
Minor Reason: I was annoyed by trying to keep up with multiple areas on my site that needed manual changes of the same content (like segmenting the top-shared or read content).
Major Reason: I found sidebars to be incredibly distracting on other people's blogs. If there was too much going on in the sidebar, my eyes would veer over constantly, and I'd never read the post that got me to their site in the first place. So, I'd end up just backing out—no email given. No content read. Nothing.
(Good luck winning subscribers on that "Exit Attempt" pop-up when they're annoyed with your blog already.)
So, to remove the potential complication from my own website, I removed the sidebar.
Simple enough, right?
Well, you might be wondering how the heck people subscribe or find other content on your blog when there's no sidebar.
That's where the content upgrades part comes in.
Plus, there's internal links (links within your text linking to other, relevant posts in your website) and points number 3 and 6 in this post.
Oh, and having a little section at the bottom of your blog posts encouraging people to "Keep Reading" or whatever else you want them to do with more content on your website.
Seriously, read that post on content upgrades. It's all in there.
But to briefly summarize:
I give readers at least 2 opportunities to subscribe in every blog post. If they don't take the offer, it either wasn't the right post for them, or we're not a good fit in the first place.
Why I Removed The Header Opt-In
Previously I had a "Header Opt-In Bar" across the top of my blog.
I had it there for about 3 months before I realized that it wasn't encouraging new subscribers.
Not one bit...
It was discouraging them.
My bounce rate went from 28.6% to 43.1% when switching from a "straight into the blog post" format to having a header opt-in bar strapped across the top of every blog post.
Unknowing of the cause then, I changed from the Five template to Pacific (for the transitional index pages) on my Squarespace website and no longer had the "easier" option of a custom header and footer on the blog without having to code a sticky opt-in header myself.
I didn't care that much about it, so I just moved on.
This was an accidental discovery that:
Revealed the cause of the higher bounce rate problem that had me stumped.
Removed temptation to over-code and over-design my blog and website (again).
WHAT YOU CAN DO: As I've mentioned in another post on growth, "always be testing".
Check your Google Analytics account and take screenshots or "Export" the records at the end of every month.
Then, do some changes where needed.
Give any changes at least 4 to 12 weeks to settle, otherwise your results won't be valid.
When you review your analytics reports, see if there was any improvement, no change, or a negative effect.
If no change, go with the adjustment that you prefer.
If a negative change, go back to the way you had it, or see what else you can tweak if you, personally, liked the change.
If positive, well, you know to leave it as it is.
It all depends on your niche and your audience.
3. Add More Images, Examples, Stories, And Links (In- And Outbound)
Pinterest has been my highest-performing social channel.
I put most all of my efforts into Pinterest and Twitter (the main two places my target audience likes to hang out online). So when you find that your efforts and testing and researching pan out—it's blissful.
In taking my Pinterest level up a notch (okay, 10 notches...), I've added much more value to my blog posts by including visual and textual examples, plus stories to help clarify points.
And they help clarify some hard-to-understand (or straight-up boring) topics commonly tripped over in business-related content.
Another point that I'm sure some may disagree with, is:
Own the fact that you don't know everything.
You can't be the grocery store of the Internet with all the bins of discounted crap in the aisles and product orders available at request.
You're a specialist.
So, contrary to those whom say you should only "promote your own website, products, and services online"—you'd either not be crediting your sources, or your content is redundant, plain, or narcissistic.
Promote, connect, and triumph. (Apply that logic to your own content, and to others' worth sharing, connecting with, and helping.)
WHAT YOU CAN DO: When including more examples in your content, note your sources' names, Twitter or primary social accounts, and then direct link to their content.
(If you're not able to link to a specific piece of their content, that is.)
Besides giving credit where is due, you can connect with the person you included in your content with a simple reach-out via the social channel linked to.
Let him or her know that you mentioned them in your post and that you'd appreciate a share with the [shortened] link you added.
You can directly email them, if available, or reach out to them publicly via your primary social channel.
Be confident, but be polite. They're a human being, just like you are.
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4. Focus On Pin-able Images
I'm this serious about Pinterest to include it twice.
Pinterest's vast plethora of niches and genres (plus the fact that it's an image search engine that's indexed by Google search) makes it an optimal social platform to include in your sharing strategy.
Whether or not you use images in your content, I highly recommend starting.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Start with the blog post lead-in image optimized for Pinterest.
The ideal Pinterest Image size is 736w x 1128h (or taller).
In an article on Canva by Peg Fitzpatrick, she wrote:
Portrait—or tall—images get more engagement: The Pinterest layout is restricted by width but less so by height. Taller images appear larger, have more impact than wider images, and get more engagement.
You can also try using the free Canva web app to create your Pin-friendly images, too.
5. Narrow The Focus Of Blog Posts
This is a toughy if you're anything like me.
I love to write. And write. And write...
And although longer posts (1,500+ words) are shared more and preferred by Google SERP (Search Engine Rank Page)—according to Neil Patel via Quicksprout—it doesn't mean you need to try to tackle a million-and-one features or topics within each post.
With that, I'd like to introduce the Blog Post Series.
Preferred by my readers in a survey from November 2015, blog post series break large subjects down into digestible posts that all tie together to make one strong series.
Meaning: Instead of cranking out a 12,000-word blog post covering this "Grow Your Blog" 2-month series, I decided to have two introductory posts that stood on their own. But also break the topic points within those posts into more detailed pieces throughout the rest of the series period (1 to 2 months, typically).
I've found that this form of writing not only keeps my readers more interested in what's to come, but it also lays out what they can expect next (like the must-include snippet of email marketing) for me.
Blog post series or themes keep target readers coming back again and again.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Instead of cranking out a surplus of topic points within one blog post (sorry to throw you under the bus...) like Buffer sometimes does, try one of two methods:
Have an introductory post at the first of the month (like I started doing recently), tickling the topics that will be explored deeper over the next few weeks. You can also do a round up post at the end of the month, briefly summarizing the series.
Simply break extensive blog posts up into segmented, standalone topics.
For example, here's that (image-featured) Blog Post Series:
FIRST POINT: 6 No-Frill Ways To Prove Your Expertise Online
6. Add "Related" And "Suggested" Links Throughout Posts
A strategy I picked up from Entrepreneur.com and Forbes, adding blatant "Related" and "Suggested" links to blog posts where relevant increased my page views from an average of 2.27 pages per visitor to 3.86.
That means more visitors on my blog and website began clicking through to other "Related" or "Suggested" pages.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Depending on how many blog posts you have in your archive right now, you should schedule time each week to backlink blog posts.
What does this mean?
Older relevant-to-your-audience, evergreen (content that will stand the test of time) blog posts are recyclable.
Not in the disposable sense, but in the re-cycling one.
I talked about my social sharing strategy a bit in an earlier post—which includes some discussion on re-cycling posts.
But don't miss these two, either:
So, what will you implement today to progress your latest blog post?
Again, always be testing.
What works well for others may not be so stellar for you.
But, you'll never know if you don't try it out.
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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