When I first started blogging I was COMPLETELY LOST. I had no idea what to do, how to begin or how to make people WANT to be a part of the little community I was forming.
Yeah, yeah, yeah…having great content is key. If I had dollar for every time I heard that one…
And yeah, yeah, yeah…you need to be guest posting on other relevant blogs to drive traffic back. I get it.
But how do you get visitors to actually come BACK to your blog more than once?
How do you get them to opt-in to your emails?
I’m going to let the giant (not so secret) secret out of the bag here.
Here’s how most bloggers make money: they create valuable products from information that people need. Then they build an email list and offer it to that list. Then they sell it.
Boom. Mind blown, right?
So the first part to that is actually getting people to sign up for your list. All this writing, stressing and traffic generation is useless if you don’t have a concrete strategy for talking to your audience once they leave your site.
As cute as your little theme is, they’re not going to make you their homepage.
How do you construct a blog with a clear message to “sign up” without being completely obnoxious and making readers hate you?
Is there a subtle way to make subscribing to your blog seem natural and intuitive?
YEP. There is.
You want a reader to say “oh yeah, I’m here…of course I’ll sign up”.
Once that’s take care of, you can spend valuable time teaching rather than stressing over whether anybody is even listening to you.
Now, Like I said…I had no idea how to do this at first. So rather than fumble around with hit and miss strategies, I took the time to actively seek out blogs in areas similar to mine that were doing huge numbers. I picked 3 (you may have heard of them before):
- Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich
- Derek Halpern’s Social Triggers
- James Clear’s Passive Panda
(by the way, I did a deep dive interview with James where he discusses his whole process. Click here to listen)
Why these three? Because these guys are absolutely CRUSHING it in terms of building a dedicated community, creating value for that community and ultimately, generating sales. I don’t have exact stats, but I know Ramit has between 100,000 and 200,000 subscribers. Derek has upwards of 70,000 and James has 20,000 – 30,000.
That’s a ton of people. That’s a lot of listeners. That’s a butt load of potential customers.
So I went to work COMPLETELY TEARING DOWN each one of these blogs so that I could COPY THESE PEOPLE.
There’s no shame in emulating formulas that WORK as long as you keep your own original flare/style.
Umm….question: If I learn my jump shot from Michael Jordan and hit every shot I take…who the hell cares if I copied his mechanics? I’m still me and I’m still winning. Tiger blood.
I was looking for 2 main things:
- similarities in design/user experience
- unique factors that make each blog stand out in their niche rather than blend in.
I’ve taken screenshots and annotated all the features. Some of the stuff you’ll see is pretty obvious.
Some of it is so subtle and effective it provokes an instant forehead slap.
After you look at these guys, go back and study my homepage so you can see how I implemented some of their ideas.
Leave a comment on this post and tell me if I did a good job. If I didn’t, don’t tell me. I’m too fragile.
Aaaaand….if you just feel the overwhelming urge to genuflect after reading this, you don’t have to.
You can thank me by trying out my free course. I teach how to do all this stuff in deep detail.
See what just happened there? Let’s keep moving.
Top of the page: AKA landing screen or “above the fold”
This part of the site is probably THE most important element to get right. It’s the first thing any user will see when they go to your website. “Above the fold” refers to what can be seen without having to scroll down. The fact is, most of us are VERY lazy and we aren’t willing to dig to find what we want. If a site doesn’t clearly communicate what it’s about before we even have to scroll down…we may never even give it a second glance. All three sites do a great job of pulling the reader in and setting the stage for conversion immediately.
All of these screenshots/my notes can be magnified by rolling over them, or you can look at the full screen version by double clicking.
Check out the I Will Teach You To Be Rich home page above the fold:
[magny image=”http://www.rich20something.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/IWT-home-1.png” title=”” description=”” align=”center” click=”0″ link_url=”http://www.rich20something.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/IWT-home-1.png” small_image=”” canvas_mode=”1″ maxwidth=”500px” zoom=”1″ dia=”200px” skin=”new-im-frame-photo,new-title-below,new-description-off,new-slider-below,new-im-magnifier-light” ]
Here’s the Passive Panda home page:
[magny image=”http://www.rich20something.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Passive-Panda-home-1.png” title=”” description=”” align=”center” click=”0″ link_url=”http://www.rich20something.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Passive-Panda-home-1.png” small_image=”” canvas_mode=”1″ maxwidth=”500px” zoom=”1″ dia=”200px” skin=”new-im-frame-photo,new-title-below,new-description-off,new-slider-below,new-im-magnifier-light” ]
and Social Triggers:
[magny image=”http://www.rich20something.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Social-Triggers-home-1.png” title=”” description=”” align=”center” click=”0″ link_url=”http://www.rich20something.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Social-Triggers-home-1.png” small_image=”” canvas_mode=”1″ maxwidth=”500px” zoom=”1″ dia=”200px” skin=”new-im-frame-photo,new-title-below,new-description-off,new-slider-below,new-im-magnifier-light” ]
Interesting take homes:
(think about these when designing your own site)
- sites immediately promotes benefit-driven incentive for the user rather than bragging about the author or the site itself
- all sites show some type of expert credentials or testimonial
- all sites have catchy headlines that make you think
- you don’t have to guess what the site is about…it’s spelled out for you. Often in digestible bullet points.
- 2 of 3 sites have an opt-in as the first thing that you see (Ramit’s sign up form is one click away)
Now, as we progress down the front page (if we haven’t already subscribed) there are plenty more opportunities to do so. However, mixed in with these opportunities is high quality content mixed with social proof. Let’s keep digging.
Middle of the page: content begins
If you’ve made it this far and haven’t bounced (that’s a technical term, homie) then it’s now the author’s job to keep you engaged with relevant, quality content and guide you towards taking the necessary step to join the community. All signs point to SUBSCRIBE.
The middle of the IWT homepage looks like this:
[magny image=”http://www.rich20something.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/IWT-home-2.png” title=”” description=”” align=”center” click=”0″ link_url=”http://www.rich20something.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/IWT-home-2.png” small_image=”” canvas_mode=”1″ maxwidth=”500px” zoom=”1″ dia=”200px” skin=”new-im-frame-photo,new-title-below,new-description-off,new-slider-below,new-im-magnifier-light” ]
Here’s Passive Panda:
[magny image=”http://www.rich20something.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Passive-panda-home-2.png” title=”” description=”” align=”center” click=”0″ link_url=”http://www.rich20something.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Passive-panda-home-2.png” small_image=”” canvas_mode=”1″ maxwidth=”500px” zoom=”1″ dia=”200px” skin=”new-im-frame-photo,new-title-below,new-description-off,new-slider-below,new-im-magnifier-light” ]
And of course ST:
[magny image=”http://www.rich20something.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Social-triggers-home-2.png” title=”” description=”” align=”center” click=”0″ link_url=”http://www.rich20something.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Social-triggers-home-2.png” small_image=”” canvas_mode=”1″ maxwidth=”500px” zoom=”1″ dia=”200px” skin=”new-im-frame-photo,new-title-below,new-description-off,new-slider-below,new-im-magnifier-light” ]
Interesting take homes:
- This is where the sites get into content. Whether it’s the actual blog (ST or PP), or the free stuff (IWT).
- Ramit’s blog is accessible from the top of the page, one click away
- Check out the sidebar of Social Triggers and Passive Panda. You’ll see they have three things in common: some type of free resource or product placement, another opt-in box and __________ (can you name the third?)
- All the sites continue to assert authority and credibility – Passive Panda and IWT use customer testimonial and ST uses another expert’s testimonial. The testimonials are located near or directly ON the opt-in box.
- Derek’s use of pictures and coining his concepts with names helps him to stand out. He’s not trying to look too guru-ish. Regular guy swag.
The end of the page: last chance to subscribe
At this point, you know whether you want to continue reading or not…and it’s been made clear that some of the best content can only be accessed through the free subscription…so this part of the page drives it home.
- The bottom of the page mirror the top of the page: more places to opt-in or sign up for something ( the power of gentle reminders)
- Much like mega blog Copyblogger, Passive Panda doesn’t use dates on it’s posts. Any idea why?
- Pictures on IWT testimonials are meant to increase identification with the reader
Translating it all into your own work:
I almost feel a little bad breaking these landing pages down. There’s something magical about an awesome blog that just seems to run off it’s own steam. Remember how anti-climatic it was when we found out the Wizard was just a midget in green suspenders with a Napoleon complex? All of the sudden, it wasn’t such a big deal.
Well, these blogs ARE a big deal in that they’ve implemented killer strategies and successully created massive followings. However, the point is this:
Creating a blog that fuels a business is a knowable, doable, repeatable, model-able (just made that word up) process.
Now, a few caveats here before the nay-sayers come and kill me with the “yeah buts”…
- Of course this isn’t the definitive formula that you MUST follow in order to generate traffic, leads and sales. There are probably thousands of blogs out there that look different than this and are still crushing it. However, on the whole, I think you’ll find that most blogs that drive a BUSINESS will have some or all of these elements mixed in.
- This tear down really only covers the landing page – which is of course the first page anyone will see, and therefore the most important. However, inside these blogs each author has also made little tweaks and adjustments to increase conversion (for some examples…look around you in this post itself and see if you can spot them). These little tweaks help for people that are coming from an outside site to a specific article on your site (perhaps via a link on Facebook, Twitter, etc). If you understand the basic concepts of the homepages, you’ll understand what to do within the article.
- Second to last, it’s pretty much been statistically proven that in most instances, a blog page will not convert as well as a pure landing page. That’s because on a blog there are just more distractions and more decisions to make. The only purpose of a landing page is to encourage the reader to take a specific action. So either they do, or they don’t. There’s no getting lost in the content. However, you still need content to establish presence…and your content better compel people to want more of you.
- Last, and speaking of getting lost in content…there’s no substitute for useful, killer material. All the optimization in the world will have a limited effect if the people who sign up hate what you have to say or don’t value your contribution to their already busy lives. So don’t write a bunch of crappy posts, try some of this stuff, then complain to me it doesn’t work.
I just opened up a special email for those types of stories. Feel free to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the Aweber opt-in forms in the world won’t save you if you just plain suck.
So there you are, my friends. Optimize away. Don’t be ashamed to copy what works and adapt tested formulas to your unique flava.
Yep. Said flava.
Leave a comment and tell me what elements from this post you’re going to adapt to your site.