At the beginning of the month, I released a free report called Authority Rules: The 10 Rock Solid Elements of Effective Online Marketing. People seemed to really appreciate it, especially since:
- No email address is required
- You can read via PDF or the web
- There are no affiliate links
- There’s no pitch (other than subscribe to Copyblogger)
This led to a lot of speculation. Why did I do it this way? What was the strategy behind this approach? Has Brian finally lost it?
While that last point is debatable, there was indeed a plan. This post will share what I was thinking, because you may find that my motivations combined with the information in the report itself can help you build your own authority site.
I’d wanted to write this report for quite a while, simply to help tie together a lot of the stuff we talk about on Copyblogger. I started in early spring, and then dropped it for a bit.
Surprisingly, I started writing again at a beachside bar in Puerto Rico while sipping tequila (remember Hemingway’s advice on this… write drunk, edit sober). After pausing again for a month or so, I finished the report mid-summer in Durango, and handed it over to Chris Pearson for design goodness.
That’s when things got interesting.
I had originally intended to make the report your normal “ethical bribe” for people who subscribed to Copyblogger. That’s a tried and true method for increasing your subscription numbers.
I checked back in with Chris on a Saturday morning, and discovered he had just started building a website at authorityrules.com on Thesis. This led to a change in approach that Chris completed that weekend.
We decided to offer the report without requiring an opt-in. Better yet, we created a web version for those who didn’t want to read a PDF, while still keeping the printable option.
Long-time Copyblogger readers know we like to teach by demonstration. In other words, many of our posts are doing what we’re telling you to do.
Authority Rules followed the same approach. It told you how to build an authority website, while demonstrating how to launch one.
Think about it: you build authority websites by creating exceptional content that gets you noticed, promotes social media sharing, and attracts links that builds your authority with Google.
By making the report into a website, we did all of that. Maybe you should too.
Now, the obvious objection is “Sure Brian, that’s easy for you. You have an authority site to launch off of and powerful friends.” Fair enough, but consider this.
I then worked to get the word out. I emailed every relevant blogger around, and it worked. (I accidently annoyed Steve Rubel in the process, but we made up later).
The point is, that approach worked for me as an unknown back then. If I were in the same position today, I’d launch my site just like I launched Authority Rules… because things change and this latest approach seems to work well.
With this approach, the report is the cornerstone content, and for a time, the entire website. You then start adding content and growing your subscriber base even further from there.
This ties in to the previous point, but it’s a major consideration. I broke from conventional wisdom back when I released Viral Copy without asking for an email address, and it was the right move for the 2006 blogosphere.
I almost second-guessed that success with Authority Rules, but realized how important Twitter had become to our marketing mix. People share openly-available content much more than “gated” content.
I went with open to encourage maximum sharing.
Having a bunch of subscribers is great for the ego. Having any amount of quality subscribers is great for the wallet.
It’s tough sometimes, but the smarter choice is to focus on attracting quality subscribers. That means people who really want to hear from you on a regular basis.
So, if people are given the Authority Rules report without restriction and don’t bother reading it, they’re probably not a good fit. And if they do read the report and don’t feel compelled to subscribe to Copyblogger, they’re definitely not a good fit.
Stick with the quality people. They’re the ones who become part of your fan club.
So let’s go ahead and challenge conventional “internet marketing wisdom” head on. Is it really smart to require an email address before you deliver the promised content?
Turns out studies show that twice as many people will take the action you desire if you ask after the promised content has been delivered. Let me explain that a bit.
The whole idea of promising content in exchange for an email address or RSS reader addition is based on reward – essentially I’ll give you this stuff if you do what I want.
Reciprocity is a much stronger psychological motivator. If you deliver great content and then ask for the subscription, the research shows that twice as many people will go ahead and subscribe at that point.
I don’t know how much better it worked in this case because I didn’t split test it. But I’ve never been let down by following the results of actual psychological research rather than “conventional wisdom.”
5. Teaching Sells
As far as free reports go, I haven’t written one better than the Teaching Sells Report. I think that’s because I wrote it for myself as much as for you.
It was mainly a happy accident, because Authority Rules should have been completed months earlier. But due to my procrastination, the report became a valuable indicator that helped with the pending reopening of Teaching Sells.
Essentially, if you were previously unfamiliar with my work, Authority Rules demonstrates that I give away valuable free content. Since our entire approach to “selling” Teaching Sells is also by giving away valuable free content, perhaps that explains why we’ve never had so many people interested in finding out more.
“Wait a minute,” you may be saying. “Why do you require an email address to get the Teaching Sells report?”
Here are two distinctions:
- The new Teaching Sells video is designed to be informative and entertaining. Essentially, the idea is to invoke reciprocity while promising reward all at once.
- Teaching Sells is a paid program tied to Copyblogger. So we actually give you hundreds of free articles in advance of ever asking you to opt-in for anything… which is another major benefit of building an authority site.
But who knows? Maybe after a year of updating and expanding Teaching Sells for our members (everyone has a lifetime membership and gets all the new stuff free), I’ll take a different approach. I’ve already got some ideas.
The point is to keep learning, testing, and experimenting. What worked previously might not work as well now.
What’s Next for Authority Rules?
This is the part I have no clue about. At the moment, the report is doing what I intended — organizing many of the topics we write about and introducing new people to Copyblogger.
Due to the way we launched, it’s nicely positioned for something else. Or maybe not… we’ll see.
Anyway, I hope this helped clear up the speculation and confusion. So now I’ll shut up and let you get back to building your own authority site.