About this category:
If your business relies on writing, this category will help you become a better writer. Writing, and communicating as a whole, can be challenging and the only way to get better is through practice and hard work.
Last year at FINCON, I gave a well-received talk about how I split tested a page on Bargaineering.
It was the #1 money making page on the site and generated hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
It was so successful for a variety of reasons but the number one reason it did well is an idea that is ingrained my brain forever.
One post, one goal.
When someone visited that page, I had one goal.
Get them to apply for a credit card.
Nothing else mattered. I didn’t want them to subscribe to the email list (I killed the popup), I didn’t want them to comment (I turned off comments), and I didn’t want them to go to another page on the side (I removed the sidebar).
All my testing was focused on one goal – Get. The. Click.
When I started, about 10% of visitors would click on the Apply button. When I was “done,” about 35% of visitors would click on the Apply button. All because I had one goal and I played with the page until I maximized the one goal.
The key was understanding that my blog post had one goal. Not two. Not three.
You can’t test against three goals or even two goals. It’s like trying to herd cats, one cat goes this way, another goes that way, and before you know it the group of loosely associated felines has scattered and you’ve wasted your time.
Have you ever written an email to ask three questions and the person replied with an answer to just the first one? It happens waaaay too much. ISN’T IT INFURIATING!?!?!?!
If so, then you know the perils of having more than one goal in an email. One email, one goal.
The first mistake people make is to try to do too much. You think you’re being efficient but you’re being inefficient. The key to winning is simplifying.
The second mistake people make is to not have a goal in the first place. Why does that post exist? What do you want out of it?
(if the answer is – because I always post on Mondays… well that’s a terrible reason)
What’s the point of this post?
Please tell me what you think. 🙂
I received an email over the weekend from reader Matt, who heard me on an awesome podcast Listen Money Matters (this episode), and it’s a question I get asked a lot:
I’m struggling with getting a topic together my interests are varied – DIY, Gardening, Running, Mountain Biking, Music, Beer, Design, Computers, etc. What are some tips to narrow down the list to something manageable in a blog. I had given some thought to a Renaissance man type blog touching on lots of subjects but I thought nobody can spell Renaissance and was it too broad a topic to get viewers.
My goal is to earn some extra cash and have an outlet to let out some creativity.
This is a common question and if you ask a hundred bloggers you’ll get a hundred answers… here’s mine. 🙂
First, you’re right about Renaissance – it is tough to spell (Bargaineering wasn’t easy either AND it was a portmanteau… so who am I to say). Next, having a blog with a million topics might be fun but in terms of effectiveness ($$$) it’s tough. It’s doable but you’re better off focuses on one thing.
Now, as for the one thing…
Order Your Topics
I would list out the topics in the order of your interest, from highest to lowest. If you had to pick one thing that you were going to do, and only one thing, for the next four or five years – which one would it be. Order the topics in that order.
Do Some Basic Research
Next, do a little research to see what kind of community exists for what you want to write. The bigger the community, the better.
Doesn’t bigger mean more competition? Yes, but it also represents more opportunity. It means a market exists, advertisers are participating, and if you can differentiate yourself and succeed then there is money to be made. If you pick a very niche subject with few advertisers, you run the risk of being successful but not being able to cash in at all.
I have a blog about scotch whisky. There is a decently sized, but not huge, spirits blogging industry but it’s not nearly as big as many many others. There aren’t a lot of advertisers playing in that space because of wine and liquor shipping laws, which are the high dollar items in the space. It’s by no means small but it’s not big where winning at it changes your life and career.
How Do You Stand out?
If you find a large community, start studying what they’re doing. Learn the history of that niche. Who was big 10 years ago, are they still big? What has happened to them? How has the community evolved? These are all questions you need to answer because that’s how you’ll figure out how to differentiate yourself.
For example, the personal finance blogging world was different ten years ago. Ten years ago the key to winning was search traffic, getting a ton of it, and converting it. Five years ago, with social media exploding, the key was building a community around your blog and leveraging that community through social media and email for monetization.
Ten years ago, you stood out if you shared your income and your budget (that’s how I got into the New York Times in 2005 and even again in 2008). Five years ago, that was boring and bland… to stand out you had to show that your lifestyle was different. Early retirement or extreme couponing or whatever made it unique – “exposing” your financial life was not enough.
Ten years ago, blog posts were enough. Today, you can gain a huge advantage if you have a podcast or start using video.
What is that like in the niche you want to enter? How can you stand out and garner attention?
Can You Write 100 Blog Posts?
Finally, before you start … write down the titles to at least 100 blog posts.
If you wrote a blog post each week, that’s two years worth of blog posts.
If you can come up with 100 topics right now, then you have fuel to keep on blogging. One of the biggest challenges people run into is writer’s blog, especially if you feel the pressure to continuously write when you didn’t have that pressure before. When you start writing, you won’t write those 100 topics in that order each and every week, but having them in your back pocket as ideas is a huge benefit.
Now start writing. 🙂
Guest blogging is dead.
Matt Cutts doesn’t mince any words: “Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.”
I understand where he’s coming from but I disagree.
The reality is that guest blogging as a way of linkbuilding has been a risky practice for quite some time and it’s all because of execution.
We’ve all gotten those guest post emails from complete strangers. They always love our stuff, they are long time readers, and they want to contribute unique content to the site. Oh and they want backlinks. Or they skip all the puffery and just offer to pay money.
This happens because building links is still important and this is just the latest way to get them. (is it really any worse than searching the web for broken links and suggesting your site as a replacement? I’m not sure)
Unfortunately, building a lot of links for targeted keywords, especially valuable ones, looks manipulative. Big companies can more easily get away with it because they might add a thousand links a month and a dozen are for a targeted keyword. As a blogger, most of us can only add a dozen in a month and even three targeted keywords will look suspicious.
So is guest blogging dead? Hardly. It’s all about execution.
I’ve been reading a lot about how to write better titles for my posts.
(click to continue reading…)
You might have seen me play around with such titles as “Obey This One Weird Rule to Lower Bounce Rates” and “Please Don’t Make These Critical Commenting Mistakes!”
The first title was actually a play on those “obey this one weird trick” ads (not a test on my part) you see everywhere and the second one was a riff on the classic “Do you make these X mistakes” copywriting title by Max Sackheim, I would use the classic on social media when I shared it. The title of this post is actually another play on a classic copywriting line by Sackheim.
With the days of easy long tail search dominance behind us, titles now serve a different purpose – they need to draw people into the post.
I’ll show you how with just 15 minutes a day will improve your headline writing skills.
(click to continue reading…)
Getting over first post anxiety is tough. Nearly every blogger has felt the anxiety right before clicking Publish for the very first time. Looking back, years later, I sometimes wonder if I could’ve made my first Bargaineering post better. Thankfully with blogs, you can always go back and change it but I never did. It wasn’t out of some misplaced sense of continuity (it’s history and it cannot be revised!), I just didn’t think about doing it.
With Microblogger, especially with it being so young, I’ve turned the “hello world” post into more of a “welcome” post and I plan on going back every so often to update it. It’ll still be a “Welcome to Microblogger” post and it won’t take on the role of “Where to Start” (that’s coming, once I get more content!), but I’ll look to add more resources to it to make it more useful. One of the benefits of blogging is that you are able to go back and make things better. As Martin said earlier this week, “you see best sellers come out with a revised edition.” — it’s the clunkers that never get revised because no one cares!
So I’d like to know – what was your first post (link to it!) and if you had to do it over again what would you change, if anything? Have you gone back and updated it since you first posted it? Has it taken on a new role? Or is it indistinguishable from the others?
To turn the question on me, I wouldn’t have done anything differently with the first post on Bargaineering. To give you some context, the site was called Bargaineering but the blog part was called Blueprint for Financial Prosperity. The main page (bargaineering.com) would have “hot deals” and the blog (bargaineering.com/articles/)would have more complicated deals, as the post explained, but I didn’t venture into personal finance for a little while. I would make minor edits, linking in a few articles, but nothing significant.
If I were doing it again, I wouldn’t call it a “Launch” and I’d make it more like the Welcome page here at Microblogger – who am I, what am I doing here, and why you should join me. My approach to blogging hasn’t changed, I think my ability to communicate has improved dramatically.
Now your turn!