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October 2013

Pinspiration Saturday: Focusing with Cynthia Sanchez

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It’s Pinspiration Saturday here on the NMX blog! Every week, we feature a quote from one of our amazing speakers – and if it is something that speaks to you, we hope you’ll take a minute to pin it to inspire your Pinterest followers as well! (Of course, you can also share via Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or any of your favorite social networks.)

Focus on the needs of the people you're trying to reach

Today is our first every Pinspiration Saturday, and who better to feature than Cynthia Sanchez from Oh So Pinteresting? On one of her recent podcasts with Lisa Irby, she made a comment that resonated with me about focusing on the needs of your target market.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in sharing cool stuff, but you’re often better served by focusing on your niche as much as possible.

Whether you’re a content creator or social business leader, this applies to you! Are you serving the people you’re trying to reach with the content you’re sharing? If you become a content curation powerhouse in a certain field, you’ll more easily gain the status of “expert,” which leads to more sales, more traffic, and more social shares!

Thanks, Cynthia, for the Pinspiration! And remember, you can see Cynthia live on stage from NMX 2014! If you’re not registered yet, click here to join the revolution.

Top SEO “Services” That Are Actually Spam

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lotus823-integrated You could spend a few years of your life sorting through all of the blogs, whitepapers, and videos online offering advice on search engine optimization. Yet, so many users get convinced that certain SEO strategies are worth their time and money when these companies are really just touting spam services hidden behind smoke and mirrors.

For SEO specialists like myself (I never like to use the word expert, because Google is constantly changing), these spam services put a bad taste in people’s mouth about the industry.

Specialists do educate on what SEO should be and how it is constantly evolving to a focus on social media and content marketing, but it is still easy to get trapped by outdated methods when you have someone speak to you in technical terms that are hard to understand.

Don’t fall for these SEO services that are actually spam:

Excessive, Behind-the-Scenes Link Building

Due to the changes in Google, content creators tend to move in one extreme or the other in terms of link building. Link-building can help you, but it has to be in moderation. Think of links as the paths that both users and the search engine will travel to find your content.

If you outsource this, be aware of the types of link building done outside of content such as directory link building. It should seem natural and not done all at once with a flip of a switch. If you’re concerned, ask how many directories your site is being added to each month and ask to have the Page Rank pulled for each of those sites. No link building at all (remember, social shares are link building) doesn’t allow Google to connect the dots as quickly to what your website is about. It is still a robot, after all. But you have to be smart about it.

Landing Pages for the Sake of Content

Now that you’ve sprinkled in a few links here and a few links there, you’re doing SEO, right? Not really. Circle back to the previous mention that SEO is about user and the content. This means that a link should be relevant and the page the user lands on should also be relevant. If you link on the phrase “iPhone case” it should land on a page about iPhone cases. That is how Google begins to connect all of your content and ranks it in search for a particular phrase.

Focus on strengthening the landing pages you have now, instead of adding 100 new pages every month, and make them relevant through quality content and natural link building. If you outsource this, the vendor should be more concerned with unique content that engages users rather than a report stating how many pages of content was added to the site in a given month. Beware of any company focusing on quantity instead of quality.

Also, unique and relevant content means it was written for your brand, not repurposed content from elsewhere. That type of service should be a supplement to your content strategy, not your only means of content building. Which brings us to…

Cheap Content

I’ve had many bosses, clients, and co-workers who loved the idea of cheap content. Every time someone forwards me an email that talks about x amount of words for x cents, I furiously press the delete button and then have to talk a walk around the building to cool off. Content isn’t cheap and no, not everyone can write great content. Look up how much a seasoned freelance blogger charges for a blog post and set that as your new standard for content. It’s not $10.

When outsourcing content, read everything! Many times I’ve sent content to a client for review and it was never even reviewed by them. If you’re going to outsource content, ask for writing samples from the specific writer who will be creating content for you, and read everything before it goes live. Set your standards not only by price but by quality.

Someone Else Taking Complete Control

“We’ll build you that blog, create those videos, and completely run your social networks!”

“…but if you leave us they all come down.”

Anything built on your dime should be yours. In some cases, it is industry standard for a “secret sauce” to be proprietary information (such as with paid advertising), so always read your contract carefully with any type of vendor to see what you own at the end of its terms. This goes for agreements even outside of SEO companies – when was the last time you read the terms for Instagram or Facebook posts? Stay in control of your content and understand what is yours, what is for the public to use, and what is owned by a third party vendor you just hired.

Reports That Don’t Make Sense

Many times when a client would come on board, they would send me their SEO reports or they would send over emails from a salesperson from another company. I’ve seen quite a few examples of great reports and not so great reports. The not so great report never makes much sense.

“Congratulations, client, you are ranking number 1 for a search time that we made up to make the ranking results look fantastic!”

Reports should be focused on building awareness within your target market, and that takes time. Confused? Send it to an unbiased third party to review.

Hopefully, highlighting these common “spam” services sheds some light on SEO strategies that make sense for your business and for yourself. Listen to your gut above all, you know what is right for your brand better than any “guru” out there!

Looking to do more? Stay on top of these tips and tricks each week!

The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide to Selling Digital Products on Your Blog (Step Four)

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Step Four Plan Your Launch

You’ve build awesome relationships. You’ve chosen the perfect product topic. You’ve created a digital product that would make your mama proud.

Now what?

“If you build it, they will come” doesn’t work when you create a blog, so why would it work when you create a digital product? If you want to sell more than a handful of copies, you need to plan a product launch to get the word out about how awesome your product is.

Step Five: Plan a Digital Product Launch to Promote Your New Product

The best product launches combine the following pieces:

  • Promotion to your networks
  • Extended network “favors”
  • Affiliate promotions

But before we talk about those things, however, we have to talk about what is perhaps the most important part of your product launch: timing.

Timing Your Product Launch

Someone once told me that if you have a good product, you can launch it any day of the year and be successful. While I do think this is true, if your timing is crap, you aren’t going to maximize your success. If I launch a digital product on Christmas, I might sell 100 copies and deem it a success, but if I had launched another day with the same product, I might have sold 1000 copies…so how successful was I, really?

It isn’t just about avoiding holidays, though.

First, I recommend doing some research to see which day your community is most active. Your list is a great way to do this kind of research. Split test your next few emails by sending to different groups on different days to see if one day has a higher open rate than others. Remember to test weekends as well. Although product launches are typically during the work week, some communities are just online more over the weekend.

Timing your product launch well also means that you don’t start selling your product the day it is done. Yes that new car smell might be enticing, but if you set yourself up for success first, you’ll sell more units!

Something else to consider: People respond well when there’s a sense of urgency. So, make sure you build this into the timing of your product launch. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Make it available early, for a limited time, to a certain group of people, like your email subscribers.
  • Make it available at a lower price point during your “launch” period.
  • Combine it with other products or offers for a limited time.

Promotion to Your Networks

During the creation phase of your product, you should start “hinting” to your community that you have something coming. People love to be in-the-know, so this is a great way to generate sign-ups for your mailing list. Be a little secretive, but release enough details that you’re giving people a juicy tidbit to whet their appetite.

At this point, you should also begin planning how you’re going to promote the full product to your community. This includes:

  • Writing and scheduling tweets, Facebook updates, and shares on other social networks for launch day.
  • Writing and scheduling email blasts to go out to your network.
  • Writing and scheduling a blog post about the product.

Don’t wait for the night before to do these things. Get them written and scheduled so the day of your launch you can focus instead on customer support.

Extended Network “Favors”

Hopefully, you’ve already been working to build relationships with others in you niche and in related niches. Now’s the time to call in some favors. Two to four weeks before your launch day, it’s time to start working with your online friends to get ready for launch day. Here are a few things you can ask for:

  • Guest Posts: Ask your friends if you can publish a guest post with them about the topic of your product. Link to the product at the end of the guest post, in your bio or as allowed by the other blogger.
  • Social Shares: Ask your friends to tweet about or otherwise share the link to your new product or the blog post about the launch. Make it easy by creating a few pre-written tweets they can use.
  • Emails: Ask your friends to mention your new product in their email newsletter or even send a dedicated email to their list.
  • Bonus Items: Ask your friends to provide a “bonus” item (like a short guide or video) that can be given away during your product launch to help entice people to make a purchase.
  • Testimonials: Ask your friends to write a short testimonial about you or (if they’ve seen it) your product.

Remember, to have a friend, you have to be a friend…and beyond that, be careful not to use people. If your primary reason for building a relationship with someone is so they can help you, you’re doing it wrong!

When asking for favors to go with your product launch, be respectful of others’ time and always make it as easy as possible for people to help you.

Affiliate Promotions

Two to four weeks before your product launch is also when you can start working on your affiliate program. You can invite your friends to be part of this, and you can also reach out to your broader community to invite them to take part.

You need a program to manage your affiliates so they get paid and can easily share your content. Here are some of the top affiliate management programs out there for digital product sales:

  • E-junkie
  • Share-a-Sale
  • Commission Junction
  • Has Offers
  • Infusionsoft

Another great option is to work with an affiliate management consultant. This person works on your behalf to increase your affiliate sales, but they take a percentage of the cut. Affiliate managers usually have a specific program they like to use, and they’ll set it up for you from start to finish. Make sure you’re on board with whatever service they’re using though, as the monthly fee or percentage of sale you’ll pay varies from company to company.

For more on affiliate programs, I really like this post: The Ultimate Guide to Creating an Affiliate Program.

Guess What? No Product Launch is Perfect!

No matter how well you plan and how many connections you have, no product launch is without your problems. So, be ready to provide support, and get ready to take notes on what to do differently next time!

See Other Posts in This Series:

  1. Step One: Building Relationships
  2. Step Two: Choosing the Perfect Product
  3. Step Three: Creating Your Product
  4. Step Four: Planning Your Launch (this post)
  5. Step Five: Customers Service

Image credit (altered): Bigstock

How to Make More Money by Creating a Sense of Urgency with Email

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Imagine for a moment that you’re trying on jeans (everyone’s favorite task, right?) and you find a pair that fit you well, but don’t blow you away. You might think to yourself, “Well, maybe I’ll keep looking, and if I don’t find anything better, I’ll come back later this week and purchase them.”

But what if, as you’re exiting the fitting room, you see a large sign that reads, “TODAY ONLY: All Jeans 50% Off!” Even though you’re still on the fence about how good they make your bottom look, you’d rather purchase the jeans now than miss on such a good sale.

If buying jeans isn’t your thing, imagine this scenario: You’re at your favorite outdoor supply store and you see they have tents on display. You know your tent at home has a hole in it, so you decide to check them out. One tent in particular stands out to you, but it is a budget-buster, so you decide to put off the purchase. What’s the likelihood that you’ll ever return to that store to buy that tent?

However, imagine that as you’re getting ready to leave without the tent, your spouse calls and says that your neighbors invited you to go camping this weekend. Even though it means pulling out the credit card, you need a tent in just a few days, so you make the purchase.

One more scenario to image! Let’s say that you’re shopping for a new car. You test drive a certain make and model and enjoy the ride, but are hesitant to pull the trigger on making the purchase. Then the car salesman mentions to you that this is the last one they have in stock, and its unlikely that they’ll get any others in for several months, and as you’re discussing the potential deal, another family walks up to the car and begins looking at it.

Hey! That’s my car! BACK OFF!

What do all of these scenarios have in common? They create a sense of urgency for the customer. And lucky for you, email is a great way to relay this information to your potential target market. Let’s take a look at how to create a sense of urgency for your customers using your email list:

jeans Buying Blue Jeans: Expiring Price/Benefit

First, think of our jeans example. What created the sense of urgency in this scenario is the one-day sale. In other words, a lower price would be expiring quickly. This can take on many forms:

  • Limited time discount (like the 50% off sale)
  • Normal price changing soon (for example, the clothing company is manufacturing jeans differently, so starting with the next batch, the price will be higher)
  • Extra benefit expiring (for today only, the jeans come with a free pair of shoes)

Email is a great way to relay this kind of information to your potential customers because it is a quick way to reach people. Don’t just send one email though. People typically respond more readily when they see the information at least three times. So, send an initial email to announce that a price or benefit is expiring, a follow-up reminder, and a final reminder right before the expiration time/date.

You can boost the response in the follow-up reminder by including some social proof. For example, you could say, “500 people already took advantage of today’s limited time discount. Don’t get left behind!”

Remember to set up your email campaign so that people who purchase your product after the first email do not receive the second two emails further reminding them of the discount. People get crabby when they receive emails about products they’ve already purchased.

tent Buying Tents: Immediate Need

Next, think of our tent scenario. In this case, there was no pricing benefit, but rather, the person really needed the product immediately. Without a tent, you and your spouse would not be able to go camping with friends over the weekend.

There are certain times of year when everyone on your email list could have an immediate need for your product. For example, if you’re selling tents, the week before a holiday weekend in the summer is a time when a lot of people go camping. Many people have an immediate need.

When this is the case, send at least one email that outlines the specific benefits of your product, which creates awareness, and at least one follow-up that plays on the sense of urgency. In our tent example, my first email might talk about when my tent is better than every other tent out there, while my second email would play to the fact that customers could use the tent right away.

Another option is to identify a specific group of people from among your email list who could use your product right now. For example, are you tracking everyone who purchases a tent? If so, those people probably also need other camping supplies?

Going camping this weekend with your new tent? Don’t let chilly nights ruin your experience: check out our heated sleeping bags!

Just because people got to the end of your sales funnel by purchasing a product doesn’t mean you can’t convert them into a repeat customer.

car Buying Cars: Limited Quantities

Lastly, use the threat of limited quantities to make people feel a sense of urgency. That’s exactly what the car salesman did in our example. We all have this knee-jerk reaction to claim something when it is the last one available. We don’t want to miss out!

Keep in mind that for digital products, the time is what you could make limited. It doesn’t make sense to say “We only have 100 copies of this ebook left” because when a product is digital, you don’t run out. But you could say, “In one week, we will no longer be offering this product for sale.” Disney is a great example of a company who does this. They put their films in a vault, so they are only available for sale for a limited amount of time. You can also say, “We’re only selling 100 more copies; then this product will no longer be available.” People often do this with webinars, consulting sessions, and so forth by saying that seats are limited.

As soon as quantities become limited, send out an email to relay this information. Even if you have thousands left, some people will buy simply because they know that the product won’t be available forever.

You can and should also send email updates as quantities start to sell. Typically, it makes sense to note when they’re half gone. So if your initial emails says that you’re only selling 100 more items, you should send an email update when there are only 50 left. Then, send further emails as the numbers continue to dwindle.

Again, make sure that people who already purchased the product don’t get the follow-up emails.

Why Email Works

You can also use other outlets to create a sense of urgency. I recommend that you tell people about price expiration, need, and limited quantities using social media, mailings, etc. as well. But email works because you’re making sure that people see every message. That repetition is how you can get people to pull out their credit cards. While someone might miss your tweet in an ever-moving stream or toss out your postcard with the junk mail without even glancing at it, with email, they will at least see the subject line.

So make that subject line count. Make people feel a sense of urgency. Pound it into their heads that they need to be NOW or they’ll miss out on your fantastic product.

Should You Create Content for Beginners?

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classroom

Sometimes, I forget that the whole world hasn’t been blogging for years like I have.

I know that sounds incredibly arrogant, but I think we all get wrapped up in our own worlds at times. We forget that others haven’t had the same experiences that we’ve had. And, we forget that others might not understand some of the things we take for granted.

Last week, I wrote a post about how to incorporate content for all education levels on your blog. But maybe “how can I please everyone?” isn’t the right question to ask. Instead, maybe we should be asking is “should I be trying to please everyone?”, which is a question that would normally get a resounding, “NO!” from me. When talking about niche, the advice I’ve heard time and time again is that it makes sense to focus. It’s advice that resonates with me, advice that I’ve seen work (and others have too). I’ve even written about choosing a great niche.

Focusing on one niche, however, means that you write about a single topic, rather than writing about kite-surfing and your kids and fashion and tech news and politics all on one blog, which rarely works. What I’m wondering, is should you focus on one education level?

In some niches, this isn’t a question that needs to be asked. For example, on my food blog, education level isn’t a huge deal. Some beginners want to challenges themselves in the kitchen. And even the most experience chef can appreciate a quick and easy meal as long as it is tasty. But here on the NMX blog, there’s a bigger divide between the beginner and the pro. While I can create content for people at all experience levels, should I?

What about on your blog? Would you better serve a specific audience if you stop creating content for beginners? Or vice versa, if you stopped creating content for more advanced readers and instead focused just on beginners.

The Advantages of Reaching All Experience Levels

Here at the NMX blog, we do write for all experience levels, and there are several reasons we will be continuing to do this:

  • Reaching a Wide Customer Base: Our end game is to promote an event, where the target market is comprised of everyone from people who just started a blog yesterday to people who have been doing this for over a decade. So, our blog need to reflect this. Who is your target market?
  • Hooking the Newbies: Writing for all levels allows us to pull in people who are just getting started. They’ll find the beginner content helpful and know that they can grow with our blog by bookmarking the more advanced posts to read later.
  • Keeping People Interested: Speaking of growth, because we have content for all levels, people don’t outgrow our blog and move on to other blogs.
  • Enjoying Flexibility: Writing for all educational levels also allows us to have more flexibility to write about topics that inspire us. We also publish lots of guest posts from our speakers and community members, so covering a broad spectrum allows up to work more easily with people who are interested in contributing.
  • Teaching New Skills to “Experts”: It’s no secret that I don’t love the term “expert” – and while my disdain for this word comes mostly from people who call themselves experts when they’re not, I also don’t often use that term because in this new media world, everyone has something to learn. Someone who has been blogging for ten years might know NOTHING about Pinterest and learn something by one of my beginner posts on the topic.

I like that our blog and our conference has such a wide appeal, though it does pose a few challenges as I manage the schedule here on the NMX blog.

The Advantages of Creating Content for One Experience Level

Let’s take a look at a few reasons why you might want to specialize by creating content for a specific experience level:

  • Defining Your Market: It’s easier to define exactly whom your blog is for when you specify an education level, and once you define your target market, you can more easily promote your content to those people.
  • Optimizing for Search Engines: If you’re creating content just for beginners (or pros), you can optimize your posts to be found by these people via search engines. That’s a bit harder to do when you’re creating content for a wider range of people.
  • Focusing: Sometimes, I feel scattered and unfocused when I’m creating content. When you’re blogging for a specific education level, it’s a little easier to stay organized.
  • Leading to Affiliate Products: Just because you only create content for one experience level doesn’t mean you can’t sell to everyone else. If a beginner lands on your advanced post, point them to a product perfect for beginners (or vice versa). You can make a lot of money with affiliate products if you’re smart about it!
  • Building a Community: Word spreads when your content is exactly what someone needs, so by specializing, you can often more easily build a community around your content. Even if people outgrow it, they’ll still promote you to others who could learn from your content.

So which choice is right for your blog? I think there’s a valid argument for both “for” and “against” in this case. It really depends on your specific goals and your niche.

Do you create content all experience levels on your blog? Or do you focus your content?

What is a Sales Funnel and Why Should Content Creators Care?

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“What the heck is a sales funnel?”

I remember that thought going through my mind when I first started to get serious about my blogging. I forget where I first saw the term, but I certainly didn’t know the definition of sales funnel or why it mattered to me as a blogger.

More and more, I saw it, though. And not just for bloggers. It seemed like everyone was talking about it – podcasters, business owners, video producers – pretty much everyone creating content online.

So I decided to get to the bottom of it. What is a sales funnel? And since understanding this concept, I’ve been able to take my online content to another level. So today, I wanted to do a little 101 lesson for anyone out there who doesn’t know what a sales funnel is or doesn’t think it applies to them. I assure you, it matters, even if you don’t think you work in sales!

A sales funnel can be illustrated with this simple graphic:

sales funnel So let’s say you’re working in a traditional sales setting. The first level, the wide pool, might be 1,000 names and numbers you’re given to cold call. Of that wide pool, most people hang up on your or say they aren’t interested, but maybe 10% or 100 people show some interest. They’re in that second level. Once you explain your product more, maybe 10% of those, or 10 people, are willing to come into your office to discuss more – they move to the “very interested” level. And over those 10 people, maybe 1 person actually takes action and buys the product.

The theory is that the more people you put into the top of the funnel, the more people who will come out the other side having taken action. If 1,000 cold calls = 1 sale, I need to call 10,000 people every month to make a quota of 10 sales.

The reason to look at a sales funnel is so you can make improvements. 10,000 people might be WAY too many people for me to call every month. So, to meet my quota, maybe I need to improve my pitch so that instead of 10 people being interested in coming into my office, 50 people are interested. If I still make sales to 10% of them, that means 1,000 cold calls is worth 5 sales instead of 1, so I only have to call 2,000 people every month to meet my quota.

Or, looking at the sales funnel, I might determine that I need another step or level. Maybe instead of inviting people to the office as the next step, I ask if I can send them more info in the mail as the next step, and from there I follow up with the ask to come into the office to hear about the service or product.

But Why Should You Care?

As a content creator, you may or may not be selling a product/service. But you do have an end goal, an action you want your audience members to take. When someone lands on your website, what is it that you most want them to do.

Let’s say that you have an ebook to sell. Someone who comes to your site for the first time probably isn’t going to buy it right off the bat, unless they had a strong word-of-moth recommendation. Instead, you have to move them down that sales funnel. This is what it might look like for you:

sales funnel 2 Your funnel might have more steps. But think about what moves a person from level one, where they’re visiting your site for the first time, to the final level, where they’re buying your ebook. Then look at the conversation rate of each step. How can you boost the percentage of people who move down the funnel, so more people are making it to the end of the line? (This is an awesome guest post on proven techniques for boosting your conversation rate.) Or what can you do to add more steps? If you’re jumping right from reading posts to trying to sell your ebook, people might not respond as well because that’s a big action to take. But if you’re asking for something smaller, like signing up for a mailing list, more people might be inclined to move to the next level.

Like I said, this works even if you don’t have a product to sell. For example, let’s say that your goal is to get as much traffic as possible because you make money through sponsored posts, and the more traffic you have, the more sponsors will be willing to pay for these posts. In this case, your end goal might be for people to share your posts on social networks. So, your funnel might look like this:

sales funnel 3 The more people you get to each level, the more people who will come out the other end of the funnel sharing your content. So maybe you need to start at the top can think about ways to get more people to see you links. Or maybe you need to work on your headlines so that more people who see the links move to the next level and click.

You can create a sales funnel for ANY goal you might have. Just think about the action you’d most like new visitors to take, then write out the steps someone would take to get there. Go back and analyze your conversion for each step to see where you can improve.

Now that you understand what a sales funnel is, will you start using it? Leave a comment to tell us your plans (or what you’re already doing to funnel people to your final goal)!

How to Improve Your Site Conversion: 10 Data Proven Tips

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“Conversion” – it sounds like such a mysterious thing to newer website owners. You want more of your site visitors to buy your product. Those who are already buying, you want them to come back, buy again, and spend more while they are at your site.

However, the sheer number of elements that go into creating good conversion rates can seem overwhelming at first. Should you look at your call-to-action buttons? Do you need a better product description? Fortunately, there are companies that have big marketing budgets, or sometimes small ones but a lot of time to experiment, who have studied what works best to improve site conversion. By studying the techniques these companies have used successfully, you can gain some insider tips that will help improve conversion on your site.

NMX testimonials 1. Include Customer Testimonials

Adding customer testimonials tells your site visitors that you can be trusted because others have been happy with your product. WikiJob, a graduate jobs website in the UK and one of the largest, was able to increase sales by 34% simply by adding an optimized customer testimonial. You will want to take three steps to not only add testimonials, but ones that will increase your conversion rates.

  1. Collect customer testimonials. The easiest way to do this is to provide a link the customer can click on, e-mail current customers, and simply ask for testimonials.
  2. Use the testimonials on your site. Have a separate page, sprinkle them throughout your text, put them in an image box and include on your landing page, etc.
  3. A/B test the statements by optimizing them for SEO, increasing the size of the text, trying different placements, etc. and see which combination works best to increase your income.

The  co-founder of WikiJob, Chris Muktar, shared with Visual Website Optimizer how they tested their theory. They had two main goals. First, they wanted to get people to click through to PayPal, but their final goal was to convert that click into the customer purchasing the product. They tried their theory on a single landing page at first. They even experimented with placement, but the only thing that made a difference was upfront, sincere testimonials on the landing page.

2. Offer Trust Signals

Imagine for a moment that you are a visitor to a website for the first time. The product looks interesting, but you don’t know the person running it or anything about the company. Can you even trust them to deliver what you pay for? How do you know they will offer good customer service if you’re not happy with your purchase?

You can allay a lot of fears your customers have by offering trust signals. Offer a 30-day full refund, returns without questions, double money back guarantee (careful with this one), or even free shipping to help entice those new customers to trust you. Even the USPS offers a money-back guarantee on their Express Mail services.

3. Create Closed Checkouts

When you study your website statistics, do you notice that a lot of your customers go to the ordering page but don’t follow through with the order? Perhaps the customer is getting distracted. People are crazy busy these days. There are dozens of distractions for the average person. From children needing help with homework, to television, to a text message coming through to other websites and even, at times, your own website’s sidebars.

Closed checkouts remove all distractions in the checkout process. Amazon is a perfect example of a closed checkout that has translated into a massive sales machine. Once you arrive at your shopping cart, it is not easy to suddenly browse elsewhere. Instead, Amazon funnels the customer through the system, gathering payment information, shipping and suggesting additional products others have purchased. To model Amazon’s method:

  • Remove links that will take the customer away from the checkout process
  • Try to stick with simple pages without a lot of clutter, such as multimedia or even a lot of images
  • Create a clear process where the customer confirms the order, adds payment info, adds shipping and sees one clear button to click to complete the sale.

4. Add Special Effects

Let’s go back to your landing page for a minute. Special effects can drive the traffic that hits your site to the page you want it on, such as the ordering page, or a special offer. The goal is to make it easy for the site visitor to navigate to the page you want him on.

  • Hello Bar is a neat little tool which allows you to place a bar on your page that has text and is clickable. You can make it a bright red, for example, so it stands out and the customer will see the bar and may click on it. Be clear in the text as far as where the customer will go. For example, put the words “more information on plans and pricing” in your bar.
  • nRelate Flyout is a plugin that works with WordPress to insert a flyout box on your page similar to what is used at New York Times or Huffington Post. This catches the reader’s eye. Offer a tidbit, such as “save 34% on heating costs this winter with our energy efficiency plan” and your visitors may just go to your product page to learn more.

5. Watch Industry Trends

Check trends in your industry, watch what is trending on Google and Twitter, keep an eye on your friend’s Facebook pages and even tune in to the national news. A perfect example of how a company went with trending news and revamped their site to increase conversion happened when Michael Jackson passed away. According to Andrew Girdwood, it was within two hours if the King of Pop’s death that Amazon edited their MP3 homepage to feature Michael Jackson songs.

Editor’s note: of course, always be sensitive to current events, especially tragedies. There’s nothing worse than a company trying to profit off of sad news, like a shooting.

6. Check Site Usability

All the site traffic on the Internet won’t do you a bit of good if your site is hard to use. Bad navigation, home page clutter, lengthy pages, or poor layout will all hurt you with site visitors. If your site is slow to load, visitors will leave and move on to the next site that loads more quickly. Here are some things you can do today to ensure your home page and landing pages are easier to read in digital format:

  • audible Create a page layout that is balanced. If you’re not sure, ask a graphic designer or web designer friend to help. Artists usually have a natural eye for balance as well.
  • Use headers, subheaders and bullet points to break up the text and make it easy to skim.
  • Make sure there is white space between paragraphs and make your paragraphs shorter.
  • Make sure important navigation links are easy to find.

Audible.com is a good example of a usable site. The layout is easy to read and the text stands out against the white background. The top of the home landing page states two options very clearly: “How It Works” and “About Membership”. This is the information a visitor needs to decide whether or not Audible is right for him. Audible very effectively funnels the first-time visitor to one of these two pages and then offers a free book so you can try it out.

7. Have Separate Landing Pages

Nearly every business out there has more than one type of customer. If you sell pet rocks, for example, you might have a very young audience made up of children ordering pet rocks with their birthday money and an older audience ordering pet rocks as gifts. You may also sell different types of pet rocks, such as mini pet rocks and boulders. It is important to have different landing pages for different targeted audiences. You can more easily track how successful a particular site conversion tactic is with that product or audience.

Voices.com was able to improve their conversion rate by more than 200%. Through customer surveys and analytics, they determined that they had two main types of customers. Their customers were either voice over artists or companies seeking such artists. They created two separate funnels, one for each customer type.

8. Improve Headlines

The headline is the first impression the reader has of your website. Perhaps it is while she is browsing on a search engine, or maybe it is when a friend shares an article on a social media site. Whatever the case, you have a chance to make her want to read more or to yawn and walk away.

You can easily keep her on your site and through your content convert her into a customer by:

  • Improving your hook
  • Creating a set of templates that are proven effective formulas for headlines

There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Read the Headlines Writing Guides at Web Hosting Secrets Revealed for 35 sample headlines and how to create your own.

# 9: Add Videos

Would your product be presented better with a video? In one case study, jewelry sales rose by an impressive 247% when videos of the product were added. A few things to keep in mind based on this case study:

  • Feature one product at a time so you can easily enable A/B testing for how successful that video is for that product.
  • Keep in mind that some visitors will have slower load times and cover the information in text in case they have multimedia disabled.

10. Keep It Short

The average Internet browser spends around 4 seconds looking over a page before deciding to move on. This could be due to the increased use of smart phones and tablets to access the Internet, but whatever the cause, you have a very short amount of time to hook that reader and get her interested in your product.

Remember that less is more. Let’s look at AssessmentDay’s success with cutting some of the elements on a landing page. The company had a landing page with a call-to-action button, a FAQs section about what type of assessment tests they offer, screenshots of their software in action and some headlines to tie it all together. They simply removed the screenshots, a very easy change, and their A/B test results showed a 62% change. Shorter landing pages are better for conversion rates.

Convert Visitors into Customers

If anything, these case studies prove that small changes can make a big difference. Removing a few graphics, adding a guarantee, showing customers that others love your product call all work to increase conversion. Smart conversion tactics equals success.

The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide to Selling Digital Products on Your Blog (Step Three)

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Step Three Create Your Product

So far in this guide, we’ve talked about building relationships to help you sell your product and about choosing the right product format and topic. Today, it’s time to get down to the meat of selling a digital product: we’re talking about how to go about creating the product itself.

It can seem like a daunting task. This is where a lot of bloggers get hung up and their digital product never happens. How many of us have half-finished products just sitting on our computers? Yes, I’m in this boat as well! But I’ve also finished products that have gone on to be very successful. So, today, I’m going to share with you the difference between creating a great product and losing steam half way through the product creation step.

Step Three: Get Organized for Perfect Product Creation

Creating a digital product falls into five main parts:

  1. Planning
  2. First Draft
  3. Polishing
  4. Editing
  5. Packaging

Some people only do step two and maybe three. This is a recipe for disaster! Let’s walk through each step from start to finish.

Planning for Product Creation

You might think that determining the type of product you’re going to create is all the planning you need, but if you don’t spend some time outlining and collecting your thoughts, your end product will suffer. Here are the steps I suggest you take before you start writing or recording:

  1. Brainstorm or mindmap your topic: Allow yourself to freely think about all of the ideas you have related to your topic that you could potentially cover.
  2. Edit your ideas: Not everything about the topic needs to make it into your product. You want to cover the topic adequately, but keep in mind that your product needs to be focused. If you have to many ides, your topic might be too broad. Focus for a single product or make plans to create several products.
  3. Organize the ideas: Once you’ve crossed off sub-topics that aren’t going to make the cut, organize the remaining ideas into an outline that makes sense for your type of product. For example, if you’re writing an ebook, organize by chapter. Or if you’re creating a video series, organize ideas by which video you’ll use to cover them.

Then, start to flesh out your outline. The more details you can add, the better.

Let’s say, for example, that I’m writing an ebook about Twitter, and one of my chapters is going to be on creating Twitter lists. I wouldn’t just leave it at that and start writing, though. I would break down the outline farther:

  • What is a Twitter list?
  • What kinds of Twitter lists should you create?
  • How to find people to add to your Twitter lists
  • Promoting your Twitter lists

But I wouldn’t stop there. I would break down this topic even further:

  • What is a Twitter list?
    • Definition
    • Explain how to create them
    • Why you should create them
  • What kinds of Twitter lists should you create?
    • Private versus public
    • Naming your lists
  • How to find people to add to your Twitter lists
    • Manually adding people to your lists
    • Tools to help you automate the process
    • Who NOT to include
  • Promoting your Twitter lists
    • Should you promote your lists
    • Methods for promotion

Now, if i were really going to write an ebook on this topic, I might break down these topics even farther. That way, when I start writing, I just go down the list and make sure that every topic makes it into the book in the write order.

First Draft and Polishing

Once you’ve planned, it’s time to start creating your product. I’m going this the “first draft,” which typically refers to written content, but your videos, membership site, course material, etc. can all be “first drafts” of sorts. Basically, we’ll talking about the first attempt at creating the content.

This step is where a lot of projects go to die! 🙂

Here are my best tips for getting it done, even if you don’t have tons of free time (who does?):

  • Have content creation goals. For example, when I’m writing an ebook, I set a goal to write a certain number of words every night before I go to bed. Or I might have a deadline to finish each chapter Stick to these small milestones. The first time you give yourself permission not to complete your daily tasks is the beginning of the end.
  • Use content you already own. Blog posts, older video scripts, etc. can be reformatted and used to create new content. This takes a lot less time.
  • Give yourself a work time and space. Every night from 10 PM to 11 PM you sit in your home office and write. Or every Monday during your noontime lunch break you record one video in your dining room area. Having a set schedule and location for doing your work can help you meet your goals.
  • Set a firm deadline. These are a little different from goals. A deadline is a time for the entire first draft to be done. The best way to make your deadline real is to tell someone (like an editor) when the draft will be available. That way, you’ll hold yourself more accountable. If you work with a mastermind group, you can also work with others to hold one another accountable for meeting goals and hitting deadlines.

Part-way through the product creation process, a weird things sometimes happens: you figure out that you’re doing things in the wrong format. That’s okay! Now is the time to change your idea a bit to better play to your skill set and make sure that you’re giving your future customers the best possible product.

Once you have a complete first draft, it’s time to polish it. This is the self-editing process can be difficult, but try to be liberal with your red pen. Cut unnecessary words and even unnecessary sentences or full sections if you’re producing written content. For other content, be just as liberal with cutting sections. You want to present your customers with the best, most focused product possible.

Editing

So if you’ve already self-edited to polish your work, why am I calling this section “editing”? Because self-editing and proofreading isn’t the same as having someone else look at your work to give you feedback. I know a lot of people cut costs in this area, but if you work with an editor, your final product will be much stronger.

And if you don’t have a great final product, customers will disappointed and less likely to recommend it to their friends.

If you don’t have a big budget, here’s how you can still get a great editor for your product:

  • Trade services with a friend: You edit their new ebook, they edit yours. It’s easier to see mistakes in others’ work. This is a great way to get free feedback and even proofreading services.
  • Offer a free “sneak peak” to your top community members: Give them free access in exchange for providing feedback on your product. This isn’t good for proofreading, but it is good to get general comments on how to make your product better.
  • Work with a VA: Virtual assistants (VAs) are often available at a very low cost, and they do great work. Find someone who specializes in editing and proofreading, preferably in your niche/industry.

Don’t skip this step. Trust me, you’ll thank me later!

Packaging

Lastly, once the content of your product is created, you have to package it. You need to design the ebook and create the pdf. Or you need to upload your videos and create a page to host them. Or you need to design your membership site. Or…well, you get the picture.

In the food blogging world, the saying is that people “eat with their eyes first.” In other words, you have to make it pretty if you want to sell it. So don’t skimp on this part either. Hire a designer if you can’t do the work yourself.

Along with packaging, you need a distribution method. Here are a few options:

  • Put the content behind a pay wall on your site. People will need to log in to view and/or download this content. The easiest option for this is a service like Wishlist Member.
  • Use a service like E-Junkie for easy distribution when someone purchases the product. You can also do this through PayPal, though other services allow you to have an affiliate program as well.
  • Manually distribute the product whenever someone buys it. This requires virtual no set-up, but can be too hard to manage depending on your sales. If you go this route, you may need to hire a VA to help with this process.
  • Set up an email sequence to distribute the product. For this option, you’ll need an advanced email management program, like Infusionsoft, where payment processing is also an option.

I can’t give you advice on which mention you should use. That depends on your specific product, the skill level of your customers, your budget, and your projected sales. Look into all of the options and try to stick to just one for all of your products if possible (this is the easiest option!).

Now…go out and create your digital product! Next up, we’ll talk about preparing for launch day. If you missed any of the posts in this series, you can view them below!

See Other Posts in This Series:

  1. Step One: Building Relationships
  2. Step Two: Choosing the Perfect Product
  3. Step Three: Creating Your Product (this post)
  4. Step Four: Planning Your Launch
  5. Step Five: Customers Service

Image credit (altered): Bigstock

How to Edit Your Podcast Like a Pro

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Podcasters, you’re in for a treat! Today, we have several top podcasters weighing in about a task that can be both time-consuming and frustrating: editing! The below advice comes from some of our NMX 2014 speakers who will be sharing their knowledge in the Podcasting Track and other NMX tracks.

Here are their best tips for editing your podcast:

jeremy frandsen “Hire a editor!  I used to waste 4 or more hours editing my show each week, because I was such a perfectionist.  Now, I send it to an editor.  It’s very inexpensive and you are much better off using that time to promote your podcast, schedule influential interviews, or plan future podcasts that will draw massive traffic.  There are many places you can hire an editor, but you can start by checking out elance.com” – Jeremy Frandsen, Internet Business Mastery
gary bembridge “Cut all the rambling and set up at the start of the podcast that you say when the microphone goes live. Start then from where you get into the meat of your topic. Think about radio shows and TV shows. They get into the plot or story from the start. We tend to share too much about ourselves, notices and off topic content before we start. Move that to the end. Even better, write a tight introduction or record it after you done the show.” – Gary Bembridge, Tips for Travellers and Marketing Mix Man
Chris Ducker “I record the podcast episode or video clip, dump it into Dropbox in all it’s raw, un-cut glory, and my VA’s handle the rest for me. They even upload the podcasts to my server, and the video clips to my YouTube channel, including a description, keywords, etc.” – Chris Ducker, ChrisDucker.com
john dumas “Adobe Audition is my best friend on editing days. You can assign hot keys, and my favorite hot key to assign is the marker. It allows me to press ‘m’ during the interview when I say something stupid, and go back and edit it out. I don’t have to listen to the WHOLE interview to find that one spot..I just go to the marker, edit, and move to the next one.” – John Lee Dumas, Entrepreneur on Fire
mike russell “When editing audio for your podcast, such as an interview, if the speaker repeats a word or stumbles over a phrase it’s often better to make edits in the middle of a word than it is to edit from the start or end of a sentence. Here’s a video showing exactly what I mean and how to put my tip into practice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNPclgelLB4” – Mike Russell, Music Radio Creative
kenn blanchard “My best editing tip for a podcaster or blogger is to cultivate and listen to an inner circle of “super fans” that consume all of your content as soon as you put it out and will “quickly” tell you if there is a type-o, glitch or shortcoming in your content so you can fix it.  Unlike those that just like to find fault, these fans are easy on your ego, and seek to make you better.  It is like having your mother review your blog or podcast.  That is the kind of “love” you get when you identify your niche.  One of the benefits of identifying your niche is that you can grow this garden of super fans that help you succeed.” – Rev. Kenn Blanchard, Blanchard Media Group and Black Man with a Gun
Erik Fisher “As far as editing goes, if you can help it, don’t. If you must, don’t spend too much time on it and definitely don’t break up the rhythm of the conversation or your natural speaking voice.” – Erik Fisher, Beyond the To-Do List
david jackson “Best audio editing tip is if you make a mistake, pause 10 seconds and then continue. This makes it super easy to spot in the recording and will decrease your editing time.

Also some software titles (I use Sony Sound forge) let you play the file at a faster speed. I have found I can listen at 1.78 (almost double speed) and still catch the subtle things that may need edited.” – Dave Jackson, School of Podcasting

CC Chapman “I’d say not to edit at all. Hearing your authentic voice even with the background noise and interruptions makes it more authentic. People will come to appreciate it.” – C.C. Chapman, CC-Chapman.com

What is your best podcast editing tip? Leave a comment below!

How a Blog Can Turn You into an Industry Authority

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blog When done well, a long-term blogging strategy can build your authority on a given topic. But when done really well, blogging can make you THE authority on your industry.

No matter how much content you publish, you’ll never be viewed as an authority if you keep your industry knowledge to yourself and only use your blog to promote your brand. Authority bloggers know that blogging is about so much more than trying to sell. Here are 4 ways you can use your blog to establish yourself as an industry authority.

1. Prove Your Knowledge

Without evidence of your expertise, your blog will automatically feel less authoritative. Just about every blog niche on the Internet is full of “gurus” and “ninjas” who claim to be experts in a given topic but don’t have the real world experience to justify their claims. Don’t let this turn you off from calling yourself an expert — by being the real deal, you’re already heads and shoulders above many other blogs.

But don’t shove your credentials down people’s throats. Do make sure to detail your experience and accolades in your About page. You’ll also want to weave your experiences and success stories throughout your blog content. Share case studies, anecdotes and testimonials whenever they’re relevant to the content you’re writing.

Being an expert also means knowing when you don’t have all of the answers. Be sure to back up your content with sources other than yourself. Strengthen your content’s credibility by linking to articles, quoting experts and referencing studies.

2. Become a Curation Machine

This may seem counter-intuitive, but the thought leadership on your blog doesn’t always need to come from you. In addition to creating original content, curating content relevant to your business can help you become a one-stop destination for industry news and insights. Curating content will force you to read more about your industry, which will in turn help build up your knowledge base.

Here are a few ways to get other people’s content working for you:

  • Feature a weekly link round up of the best articles you’ve read about the industry. For example, online marketing blogger Kristi Hines does a post every Friday with links to the best marketing content she has found that week.
  • Create “best of” resource lists that are collections of other people’s content.
  • Piggy back off of opinion pieces. Write blog posts in response to what other industry influencers are saying.

Just be sure to always give credit where credit is due — never rip off someone’s idea or content without properly linking back to them.

3. Build Relationships with Influential Blogs

In the offline world, who you know is often more important than what you know. This is also somewhat true online.

Forming relationships with other bloggers is key for getting your blog in front of the right audiences and establishing yourself as part of your industry’s “in crowd.” As such, investing the time into giving back to other bloggers should be a prominent part of your blog strategy.

Here are just a couple of ways to connect with other bloggers in your niche:

  • Comment on other industry blogs. Leave valuable comments that add more to the discussion (not just another “great post!” comment). This is often how blogger relationships begin. You can also expect to see some traffic come from the sites you leave comments on.
  • Invite influencers in your niche to write for your blog. Not only does this let you take a break from posting, but they’ll most likely urge their readers to read their post on your blog.
  • Start writing for other blogs. Pick a handful of blogs that have your target audience, and reach out about guest posting (just make sure to do this and not this when you’re reaching out to other blogs!).
  • Link to other blogs in your posts. When you mention another blog or industry personality in your content, reach out to them via social media or email with a link to the published content. They’ll appreciate the mention/link and most likely share the post.

Many of these tactics are mutually beneficial, too. Once a blog’s audience sees they have a relationship with you, they’ll be likely to check out your blog and potentially become new readers.

4. Get Noticed by the Press

Whether you are looking to get in front of a national or local audience, blogging can position you as a reliable go-to source on all things related to your niche. Press mentions can not only bring in a huge number of leads, but also quickly position you as a leading authority on a topic.

Many times, press mentions have a snowball effect. You will find the same reporters coming back to you again and you’ll also have other reporters approach you once they see your name in a newspaper, magazine or on the news.

When a current event happens related to your field, reporters scout out sources within the industry. Not only does an industry blog help reporters find you through search, but it also builds your credibility in their eyes. It’s possible journalists will find you just through search, but you’ll also want to make it easy for reporters to find you:

  • Join Help A Reporter Out (HARO), where you can connect with reporters looking for sources in your industry.
  • Make your LinkedIn profile visible to the public and keep your credentials updated.
  • Use Twitter to track journalists looking for sources using the #urgharo hashtag.

Keep in mind blog content can also act as resource material, since reporters can easily reference or link back to relevant posts you have published. You’ll want to be sure to regularly update your content so it can remain an evergreen resource.

Of course, the last way to build authority is to always keep your audience at the front of your mind. Being extremely generous with your knowledge is the #1 way to establish trust with your audience, so never worry about “giving away too much” for free.

What are some ways you’ve built your blog’s authority? Let us know in the comments below.

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