Sometimes, the difference between a profitable blog and a blog that doesn’t make any money isn’t major. In fact, it can boil down to just a few simple mistakes. Of course, every blog is going to be different, with different goals and meeting different reader needs, so not every tip is right for every person. But in general, here are ten really simple mistakes to fix that could be the difference between financial success and failure:
1) Filling Prime Real Estate with Other People’s Ads
In my high school graphic design class, I learned something that I still carry with me – a person’s eye naturally moves like a giant “S” across a page. That means that you’re prime real estate is at the top right. Online, anything “above the fold” (aka, the space you can see without scrolling) is also good. What do you have filling these spaces? I see a lot of people with ads in this space. Unless the most important thing for you is to get clicks on your ads (like if your main monetization strategy is a PPC program), why are you just giving this real estate away? Fill the top right with ads for your own products or affiliate products. Sales will jump. Or, use it for mailing list sign-ups, which you can use to drive sales in the future.
Another high-value place? The very end of your posts. When people are done reading, give them something valuable to do, like sign up for your mailing list or check out your product.
2) Not Including a Search Option
If there’s no search option on your blog, people can find stuff on Google instead, right? Right…but will you be #1 in the search results? Let’s say that I remember you reviewing a product but can’t easily find the post. I can search on Google, but what might pop up is someone else’s product review or someone else mentioning that you reviewed that product.
Even for your own products, you might not come up first on Google. One of your affiliates with awesome SEO can easily beat you out, simply by optimizing their posts. While this will still sell your products, you’ll have to pay an affiliate fee whereas on your own site, it’s pure profit. Don’t risk it. Just include a search bar on your blog and you don’t have to worry about it.
3) Avoiding Affiliate Links
If you talk about products often, why would you not sign up to be an affiliate? You don’t have to link everything you mention, but Amazon affiliate links can be easily added when you mention something in a post. Share a Sale and Commission Junction are also two great places where you can find product affiliate links – I’ve used both with success, and usually these affiliate programs give a better commission than Amazon. People are taking your recommendations when purchasing a product. Why shouldn’t you earn a bit of a commission.
When someone approaches you to ask for a review, this is definitely something you should ask as well. Most people have affiliate programs for their products, and if you’re doing them the favor of reviewing their product, the least they can do is allow you to earn a commission for anything you sell.
4) Underestimating the Eagerness of Your Readers to Buy
A few months ago, I was reading a blog that I really enjoyed, so I signed up for the blogger’s mailing list. I got several emails per week from this blogger, and while they were all interesting, not a single one tried to sell me anything. So I asked the blogger…why? His response was that he didn’t want to turn off readers with sales. Now, I definitely think that some people overdo it, but your readers are your fans – they want to buy the things you recommend or products from you. It’s silly to never sell, in my opinion.
The blogger took my advice and added in a sales email about once a month (so, one every 10 – 15 emails) and is now making a boatload of money that way. To date, he’s had no one complain and sees no greater unsubscribe numbers than with non-sales emails.
5) Paying Too Much for Hosting
Shop around. Are you getting the best deal? You want to avoid a shoddy hosting plan to save money, but some companies are waaaay overpriced. Ask your connections on Twitter or Facebook. People can recommend some great hosts that might be better AND cheaper than the host you chose at random.
Even look at the hosting plans offered by your company – do you need the plan they sold you or is their a cheaper plan that would serve your needs? Companies love to upsell you, and you might be paying for stuff you don’t use. It takes about ten minutes to check out the hosting plans available and you could save a lot of money every year that way, especially if you have multiple sites.
6) Not Including Clear Contact Information
If I want to purchase an ad on your site, how do I get in touch? If I can’t find your email address or a contact form in about 20 seconds, I’m gone. Make a contact page and put it somewhere very easy to see on your site. Don’t hide it on your about page. Don’t put it half-way down your sidebar in a small font that’s lost between ads and navigation tools. I don’t understand why bloggers don’t make it easy to be contacted…unless, I guess, they don’t want to be contacted? The best blogs, in my opinion, make it idiot-proof, listing contact information in multiple easy-to-see places.
Personally, I like it even more when I see an actual advertising page for potential sponsors to learn more. Creating an advertising page on your site that’s clearly listed in the top navigation bar or footer (the two places advertisers typically check first) will tell them that you’re open to selling ad space, that you’ve actually thought about your prices (so you’re a professional), and that they’re likely to hear back quickly.
7) Being Too Humble About Your Products
Dude. You’re awesome! Your readers won’t be reading your posts or following your tweets or subscribed to your emails if they didn’t like you. Don’t be afraid to tell people about your products.
In fact, your products should be front and center! Not only that, but when you talk about your products, don’t be humble. Talk about the advantages of your product and, although you should be clear and honest if there are people who won’t benefit from the purchase, make sure you sell it. If you’re not comfortable with sales, let your fans speak for you by posting testimonials. I’m always willing to give away a free copy of my book if someone (especially someone known in my industry) is willing to write a testimonial.
8 ) Crazy Long Sales Letters with No Buy Button until the End
Long sales letters drive me nuts. I understand that they work, otherwise people wouldn’t use them. But just because they work in their current long form doesn’t mean they couldn’t be better. Don’t confuse the fact that you’re making sales with success. If you sell 1000 products on launch day, you might be jumping for joy…but what if I told you that you had the potential to make 10,000 sales? Not so exciting anymore, is it?
I’ll be one of those people who hits the back button, in many cases, if you don’t have a “buy” button near the top. I certainly want to read a little about your product, but I’m there for a blurb, not a book report, and other readers probably feel the same way. So keep your long sales letter with the buy button at the end, but put one closer to the top too for those of us who are sold already.
9) Lack of Formats
This one is specifically for those who create informational products, which is a lot of readers. If I could do one thing differently with my last product launch, it would be to offer not just a downloadable PDF file, but also multiple other formats. Some people still like print. Others will jump on board if you offer a kindle version. Heck, some people even want content broken up and sent via email over time.
If your products are expensive, I think it also make sense to offer different payment structures. Give a discount for those who can afford to buy your product outright, but make it possible to pay in small chunks for readers on a budget. You don’t want to offer so many options that things are overwhelming, but a few choices will help get your product in the hands of more readers, and it doesn’t take much effort to offer multiple options.
10) No Affiliate Program for Your Products
If you’re selling stuff, are you offering an affiliate program? If not…why not? You’ll have a virtual sales team that are only paid when they sell something if you set up even a low-payout affiliate program! I have to love beyond love a product to write a review if I’m not getting a commission. Even then, if it’s a busy week, I might not make time for it. If you have a great affiliate program, though, you’ll see a major boost in your sales, and most of those buyers will be people you never would have reached otherwise, so it’s not like you’re losing money by paying affiliates, at least most of the time. The benefits greatly outweigh the disadvantages, and best of all, it only takes a few seconds to set up an affiliate program through a company like E-junkie.
It’s your turn – what changes have you made on your blog that resulted in big jumps in profit?