Sure, you want comments.
And subscribers, and shares, and likes.
But you don’t really care about any of these things. You want what they will eventually lead to …
Yes, traffic is good, and so is reader engagement. But if you’re reading this, chances are you’re running a blog with the intention of marketing a business and making some money.
Now, that could be a bit distressing, because most bloggers are broke.
Some bloggers don’t have traffic or reader engagement, and some bloggers have lots of both. But most bloggers aren’t making any money.
Here’s why …
The chain of conversion is everything
We tend to think of conversion as a single event, but it’s really more like a chain of events.
If you market a business online, several conversions need to take place:
- A stranger has to convert into a lead by being exposed to your message for the first time (in the online world, we call this traffic)
- A lead has to convert into a prospect by liking what you have to say (this is often done by opting in to your email subscriber list)
- A prospect has to convert into a customer by buying something from you
- A customer has to convert into a repeat customer by turning a single purchase into an ongoing buying relationship
This entire process is called the chain of conversion.
Does that sound like a tall order?
It should, because it is — for your blog to make money, you need not one, but many people to smoothly move through this entire process.
And if your blog is like most, then that probably isn’t happening.
Let’s explore all the reasons why that might be, and what you can do to fix it.
Problem #1: You’re a billboard in the desert
The most common problem that bloggers face is that strangers aren’t converting into leads.
In other words, there’s no traffic.
And if there’s no traffic, then it doesn’t matter how well-optimized the rest of your funnel is, because nobody is feeding through it.
So the first order of business is to get traffic flowing to your site. Here are some of the reasons why that might not be happening, and how you can fix it:
- Build it and they will come. Yes, content is king, but without an army of marketers, the king can get pretty lonely! The truth is that while epic content is critical, it won’t go viral all by itself without an existing audience to start the ball rolling by seeing and sharing. If you don’t have traffic, you have to go and get the word out about your content.
- You just tweet to your followers. If you’re Guy Kawasaki, then your marketing can consist of tweeting to your followers, and calling it a day. But for the rest of us (who don’t have 400,000 followers), you’ve got to get out there and promote. Build relationships with other bloggers, write guest posts, put viral campaigns together, and apply any other strategy for blog growth that you can think of — just get out there and do something!
- Marketing in the wrong place. We love to fall for the promises of magic strategies that will get us tons of traffic — the kind that showcase the success that somebody else had. The problem is that you aren’t going after their audience, and your audience may not hang out where theirs does. If you’re marketing in the wrong place, then your audience will never find you! Of course, to market in the right place, you have to know who your audience is …
- No clearly defined audience. Obviously, you can’t market to your audience if you don’t know who your audience is. It isn’t enough for you to have a general idea that you’re marketing to “bloggers” or “writers” or “stay at home moms” — you’ve got to get way more specific, to the point that you’ve created a profile of the ONE person that you’re targeting.
- Asking for the wrong action. If they haven’t heard of you, then don’t start by asking them to buy — it isn’t likely to happen. Remember that your goal with each piece of messaging is to get the audience to take the single next action. When you’re talking to strangers, the goal is for them to become leads (visit your site) and then prospects (opt in to your list). So don’t even mention whatever it is that you’ve got for sale.
- You don’t hook their interest. Yes, I’m talking about headlines. For your blog posts, for your ads, and for the teaser links to your content. They all need to hook your audience’s interest. And you happen to be reading the world’s best blog about copywriting. So go read all about headlines!
Problem #2: Selling ice to Inuits
The second problem is that you get traffic, but they all bounce — no subscribers, no customers, and you’re on a constant treadmill to generate more traffic.
In other words, leads aren’t converting into prospects.
Here’s why that might be happening, and what you can do about it:
- It’s all about you. Yes, that’s right — all of your posts are about your news, your products, your company. And you wonder why nobody signs up for more? Forget about your subject area, and think about your customers. What are their problems? What matters to them? That’s what you need to be writing about.
- Your content is “me too” content. If you’re just writing generic, bland content of the “6 tips everyone already knows about productivity” variety, or (gasp!) going so far as to actually spin articles, then the truth is that there’s no reason for people to come back to your site, because you haven’t impressed them yet. So pull out the stops and write some truly compelling content!
- You don’t draw them in. You get them to start reading your stuff, but their attention wanders, and pretty soon they’re gone forever. You need to draw them in and keep them going, section to section, until they reach the action that you want them to: subscribing!
- You don’t make it explicit. Yes, that’s right. If you want your visitors to opt in to your mailing list, then you have to say so, in so many words: “Sign up for my list to get all sorts of goodies. Do it now. Click here.” Put those words, or words like them, near your opt-in box, and make sure to include a call to action in your posts, too.
- You don’t optimize. No matter how good you are, and how well you’ve done everything else, there’s always room for improvement — and improvement is had by split-testing, split-testing, and then split-testing some more.
Problem #3: “Just the free sample, thanks”
Sometimes you’ve got traffic, and you’ve got subscribers — but you still aren’t making any money.
In chain of conversion terminology, prospects aren’t converting into customers.
This might not sound so bad (“at least they have the traffic and subscribers”), but without the money, you’re just sinking more and more work into what might be a dead-end project.
The good news is that when you’ve got an audience, you can usually find a way to make some money — let’s explore why they might not be buying, and what we can do to fix it:
- You’re selling what they need instead of what they want. As an expert in your field, you know exactly what the customer’s problem is. I don’t mean the symptoms, or the issue that they want to fix right now — I mean the real problem that lies deep down at the root of it all. The trouble is that they don’t know that, and so they aren’t looking for that solution. Start by selling what they want, and then you can deliver what they need along with it.
- It’s in the wrong format. Maybe they love what you’re offering, but they just don’t like the format. I mean, really, how many more e-books can someone buy? Try a different format — like audio, video, a virtual conference, live workshops, infographics — or something else entirely.
- The price isn’t right. Maybe your product is great, but the price doesn’t fit. You could be asking for way too much money, or you could be asking for way too little. Remember that not only does the price have to fit with the buyer’s budget, but it also has to communicate the right thing about how valuable your offering really is. So test different prices, and find the price that works best.
- You don’t ask for the sale. Yes, this comes back to being explicit. Don’t just have an “Add to Cart” link on your site — you’ve also got to tell people that you want them to buy your stuff. Tell them why they should do it, and what they’re going to get. And tell them when they should do it (right now!), which leads us to the matter of urgency …
- There’s no urgency. Why buy today when I can buy tomorrow, right? You need to give your audience a reason to take action now. Make sure the constraint is real — maybe you’re raising the price after a certain date. Maybe the first 50 people to sign up get a special bonus. Or maybe you’re closing your program on September 1 (hypothetically speaking, of course …).
- No social proof. Nobody wants to be the first one to arrive at a party — you want to know that other people are there, and having a good time. So who’s already bought your product or service? What was their experience like? Were they happy? Were they a lot like the person who is thinking about buying today?
- No guarantee. There’s something comforting about a money-back guarantee. It provides a safety net, and shows how much confidence the seller has in whatever is being offered. Most companies offer guarantees, to the point that it looks sketchy if you don’t. So you have to offer a guarantee. But don’t just offer a simple “if you’re not satisfied we’ll give you your money back” guarantee — go over the top. Give them 110% of their money back. Donate $100 to charity. Set it up so that it’s not just about satisfaction, but about results (we guarantee that you’ll add $1,000 to your bottom line in six months, or your money back).
- You don’t optimize (again). Yes, it applies here, too. If you want to make more sales, then there are a lot of things for you to split-test: your headlines, the placement, text and colors of your opt-in boxes, the style of your introduction, your product imagery, your trust seals and their placement on the site … and the list goes on.
Problem #4: Once is (apparently) enough
Okay, if you’ve made it to this point in the chain, then you’re probably doing all right — you’ve got traffic, you’ve got subscribers, and you’re even making sales.
But customers aren’t converting into repeat customers.
Which means that you’re always scrambling to find new customers, and to keep that wheel in motion. Wouldn’t you rather have the wheel sustain itself?
Here’s why your customers may not be buying from you again, and what you can do to change that:
- You don’t deliver. This is a HUGE problem; if you promise something, your customers sign up, and then you don’t deliver, then you are doing irreparable damage to your reputation and business. In the words of my marketing professor, “marketing is a promise that the organization has to keep” — and you should never, ever break a promise. This probably doesn’t apply to you, but if it does, stop reading this article, and fix it immediately!
- There’s nothing else to sell. This is a more common problem: you’ve worked so hard to build and sell your product, that by the time they’ve bought it, there’s nothing left to sell. This is worth taking the time to fix; think about what else they might benefit from — an easy add-on is some consulting to help them get the most out of what they’ve already bought. Remember that a customer who’s already spent money with you is 8 times more likely to buy from you again, and you’ve already spent the time and money to convert them the first time!
- You don’t communicate. This is sad to see, but easy to fix; you’ve got happy customers and more great stuff to sell to them, but you don’t communicate with them after that first purchase. This is terrible — you should be communicating with your customers on a regular basis, both to collect feedback about their experience, and to keep the lines of communication open so that you can sell to them again. An easy way to do this is to build follow-up directly into your product, for example with automated follow-up emails and surveys.
- You don’t ask for the sale (again). Yes, you’ve got to ask for the repeat sale, too — periodically reach out to your existing customers to see if there’s more that you can do for them, and have a specific offer ready if they do have a need.
Fixing your blog, one link at a time
Every blog has holes in its chain of conversion — and most have lots of them!
So where should you start making repairs?
The answer depends on whether you’ve already got a functioning funnel:
If you’ve already got traffic, opt-ins, and customers: Start at the end, and work your way backwards. First get more customers to buy again, then get more subscribers to buy from you, then get more website visitors to subscribe, and only then get more people to visit your website.
If you don’t have any of that stuff: Then start at the beginning — start by getting traffic to your site, and once you have traffic, work on getting them to opt-in, and then buy from you, and then buy from you again.
Now, a question: how long are you willing to wait before your blog starts delivering dollars to your bank account?
Having realistic expectations is important. If you try to run a marathon as though it were a sprint, you’ll end up exhausted on the side of the road. And if you try to run a sprint as though it were a marathon, you’ll finish dead last.
So what kind of race do you want your blog to be running?
If you’re willing for it to take 2-3 years to get your blog to where you want it to be, then a good strategy is to read business books for bloggers, along with the best blogs in the industry.
But if you want to see results sooner, then get some help. For example, you could click the link in my bio and read about our marketing training program, that just happens to be closing to the public on September 1.