Why you need an email list
When I’m coaching a client and I find out they don’t have an email list, I want to cry. I literally want to say, “Oh, bless your heart… you’ve screwed yourself out of thousands of dollars.”
Think I’m exaggerating? Think again.
There are several reasons you should have an email list.
The money is in the list
You may have heard that phrase thrown around before.
It’s funny because we’re so conditioned to focus our time and energy on social media as a primary way to reach and market to our customers, but email outperforms social media by a landslide.
Email campaigns also offer one of the highest conversion rates (an average of 40X more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined, according to a 2014 study by McKinsey and Company).
Email is more personal
Think of it like this. Email is like having a one-on-one conversation with your reader, whereas social is like having a group conversation. It’s direct communication and it won’t get lost in someone’s newsfeed.
It allows you to give your readers an inside peek, and helps you develop a relationship with your audience. And when readers know, trust, and like you, they will keep reading. They will share your material with their friends. And, most importantly, they will buy from you.
You OWN your email list — it’s an asset
No one can take it away from you. If people stopped using Facebook (Think it can’t happen? See: Myspace), you’d have no audience. Same with Twitter.
Plus, only a small percentage of your audience on Facebook or Twitter (roughly 2%) actually sees anything you post in their newsfeed anyway (unless you’re paying to promote your content).
You’ve already worked hard to earn those followers… why should you have to pay for them to see your posts? No thank you.
But with email lists, it’s a whole different ballgame. Even better, email marketing is a form of advertising that is virtually free. Yet so many people still don’t do it!
Today, we’re going to figure out why you’re not taking full advantage of an email list, and then we’re going to flip it around and show you how you can make the most out of yours, starting today.
Why you don’t have an email list (or aren’t using yours effectively)
I’m gonna take a guess and say that most of you fall into one of the following categories:
- You don’t have an email list because you want to respect your readers’ inboxes. You don’t want to bombard them with emails
- You’re afraid to put a popup (ohmygodshesaidpopup!) or ask for emails because you don’t want your readers to think you’re being too sales-ey
- You signed up for MailChimp (or some other email service provider), but you have yet to actually put an opt-in form on your website
- You’ve got opt-in forms on your site and an email list, but you’ve never actually sent an email out to your subscribers
- You’ve tried to send out a few emails, but the whole process was confusing, took too long, and what the hell are you going to write about anyway?
- It’s so easy to get discouraged because you hear other bloggers talking about their thousands of subscribers (often like it’s not a big deal), while you’re struggling just to get a couple hundred
Trust me. I get it. I was there once, too.
If you don’t have a list, you’re losing money (like I did)
Many years ago, I had a small organic t-shirt company, and I knew I needed a way to reach out to past customers to let them know about upcoming sales, new designs, etc.
I sent out maybe 2-3 emails a year. I was so scared to bug them — I wanted to respect their inbox, and I felt like if I emailed them too much, I’d seem desperate. In fact, when I would collect email addresses, I’d even tell them, “Don’t worry — I’ll only email you a few times a year at most.”
Ugh! I think about that now, and I want to crawl under a rock because of how insecure that sounds. That attitude and insecurity is probably one of the reasons that t-shirt business ultimately didn’t take off… (alongside the fact that a major t-shirt company ripped off 2 of our designs and essentially sealed our fate, but that’s another story).
But I noticed that every time I sent out an email to my uber-small subscriber list (less than 100), we got sales. Like lots of them. I wasn’t sophisticated enough business-wise to think about keeping track of conversion rates and all that, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was around 10%. So with an email list of 100, we’d get probably sell 10 t-shirts. 10 x $25 = $250. Those single emails would sometimes sell more t-shirts in one day than we had sold in 3 months!
I wonder what would have happened had I sent more emails?
Choosing an email service provider (ESP)
First things first. If you don’t yet have an email list set up, stop what you’re doing right now and set up an account with an email service provider. There are several, but there are only 2 that I recommend.
- MailChimp – they have a free plan that’s great for beginners. However, you can’t set up autoresponders with the free plan. You can upgrade to the business plan which starts at $10/month and increases as your subscriber count increases.
- Convertkit (affiliate link) – This is what I use and it’s amazing. If you plan on automating your emails, creating landing pages, and creating launches to sell to your list (which you should), you might want to make the leap to Convertkit now rather than trying to make the switch later. Their plans start at $29/month, but the ease of use, the design of the emails, and the automation makes it worth every penny.
Ok, now that you’ve got your account set up with an email service provider, it’s time to start collecting emails and growing your email list.
Maybe you have zero subscribers. Maybe you have 100. Perhaps you even have 10,000. Doesn’t matter. We want to up that.
CLICK HERE TO GET THIS GUIDE AS A PDF
How to start list building
To collect email addresses, you’ll need to put opt-in forms on your blog so people have a place to sign up. You can create opt-in forms via your email service provider, or via 3rd party apps or plugins. My favorite 3rd party plugin is SumoMe.
Once you create your opt-in forms, you’ll need to put them in various places on your site. Here are the 6 places I recommend putting an opt-in form.
Note: You don’t have to put opt-ins in ALL of these places. Think about your readers and put them where it makes the most sense for them.
1. Get subscribers using a landing page
One way to collect email subscribers is with a landing page. A landing page is simply a single page whose entire purpose in life is to collect an email address. That’s it.
You’ve seen hundreds of them. You’ve probably put your email address on dozens of them. They are usually big and bold and simple. Many have larger than life images that grab your attention, while others get your attention with their stark simplicity — maybe just a few words set up in gorgeous typography, and an eye-catching subscribe button.
Landing pages are designed to be unignorable. That’s why they are so effective.
Landing pages are a great option for many reasons. First, let’s say your blog is brand new, and you haven’t finished your website. You might not even have your blog niche totally nailed down yet… maybe just an idea that you’re trying to validate.
You can throw up a landing page without too much effort while you’re building your site, so when visitors land on your page (hence the name landing page), they at least have an opportunity to interact with you or your brand.
They get a feel for what you’re about, or what your business does, and if it resonates with them, they give you their email address.
And if you’re in the idea validation stage of your business, you’ll know you have a winning business idea on your hands if if people are subscribing from your landing page. Congrats.
Another clever list building strategy is to turn the home page into a landing page. The page gives the reader 2 choices: Subscribe, or click another button that takes you to the rest of the site. For instance, one button might call for you to subscribe, and the other button might say, “No thanks. Take me to the blog.” like in this example from Brie Beeks of Blissful Bosses.
If someone hits the button to join her free course, a form pops up with an opt-in. Otherwise, they can continue on to her blog.
Sometimes, people get really clever with these two buttons, and use psychological tactics to all but ensure you click the subscribe button, by making the other button something you’d totally disagree with.
For instance, if I were a dog trainer, I might have a landing page that looks like this:
Even though we KNOW it’s just a marketing ploy, we still don’t want to click the undesirable button.
And if you want to take it even further, once they click the button and subscribe to your list, you can set up a “Thank You” page that encourages them to share the page with their friends. You can see a great example Tim Ferriss wrote on how Harry’s razors collected 100,000 emails in one week via a great landing page.
2. Use a lightbox popup form for list building
“OMG she said popup! No — I hate popups! I’d never have one on my site!”
I know, I know. We’ve been trained that popups are terrible, evil things, but I’m not talking about the scammy popups that come with flashing text and warning messages that you can’t X out of.
I’m talking about the kind of popup that looks really classy or cool. It fits the theme of your site, and comes with a great offering, such as a discount offer, or a killer lead magnet (more on that later).
Something like this:
Yes, I’m cracking myself up for using a men’s underwear site when talking about popups.
This popup on Lewis Howes’s site is nicely done
You can set these popups to appear right when someone lands on your page, once someone has scrolled a certain percentage of the way down, or after a certain amount of time has passed. You can even set up an “exit intent” popup, which only pops up when someone goes to exit your page.
The thing is, like ’em or not, popup opt-ins work. They outperform other opt-in forms which is why so many websites use them. And if you do it right, people won’t hate them. In fact, they’ll GLADLY give you their email because you’ll be giving them something valuable in return for their email address.
Warning: If you use a popup, don’t set it to appear immediately. Use common sense and put yourself in the mind of your reader.
Let’s say they landed on your blog from a Pinterest pinned post. When they land on your post, if the first thing they see is a popup, (when what they wanted to see was your post), then you disrupted that experience.That chance of a good first impression.
You want to GIVE your reader something before you ASK something of them. It’s that simple.
On the flip side, let’s say they land on your page, they’re reading along, and at this point, they are really interested in what you’re saying (because duh!). Then around the 50% mark of your article, a well-designed lightbox appears with a great opt-in offer that’s related to your topic.
At this point, you’ve already engaged them. So when a well-designed popup appears with a valuable lead magnet, they are much more likely to give you their email address.
3. Put an opt-in form at the bottom of each blog post
I love this one because if someone makes it to the bottom of your post, you already have their attention. They read all the way through, which is exactly what you want.
So why not reward them with something valuable while they are still basking in the glow of excitement that was your blog post? Ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but you get my drift. Strike while the iron is hot, so to speak.
Offer them a valuable lead magnet that is congruent with the blog post they just read. (More on that later.)
An example of an opt-in form at the bottom of one of my blog posts.
4. Install an opt-in bar at the top of your page
I’m not sure what the technical term is, but I just call it an opt-in bar. You’ve probably seen these before. Usually these are set to stay at the top, even when the user scrolls. (They can also be at the bottom of the page).
These are simple and unintrusive, but they work well because even if your reader doesn’t subscribe right away, when they are ready, they don’t have to hunt down a subscribe button. Easy peasy.
You can get a free opt-in bar from Hello Bar. They also have a pro version which gives you the option to remove their logo and add other features, but I’ve seen the free version on even some of the most sophisticated sites.
5. Put a subscribe form on your sidebar
This is probably one of the most popular places to put an email subscription form. It’s unobtrusive, it’s inoffensive, and it’s probably the least effective place to put a subscribe button besides the footer.
I’m not saying not to put one on the sidebar, but you need to think strategically about it. First, if you have one, put it at the top of your sidebar so your reader sees it first.
Next, you need to spice up the copy, and add an incentive. Don’t just say, “Sign up for my newsletter!”
Which brings me to the next place to put an opt-in form.
6. Put an opt-in in your footer
An opt-in form in the footer of your page is very similar to the sidebar, except it’s probably going to be the least effective option, simply because most people won’t make it to the bottom of your page before signing up. Again, it’s not a bad thing to put one there, but I would also have an opt-in in at least 1 or 2 other places on your page.
Use effective lead magnets in your list building strategy
It’s not enough just to put opt-in forms on your site. You need to give your readers something worth opting in for.
You see, most people just throw up a generic form that says something like, “Sign up for my newsletter to get news and updates.” This is not a good approach because it makes it about you, and not about your reader.
“Hey, over here! Don’t you want updates on me?” No. I don’t even want news and updates on Bradley Cooper. Even the word “news” is depressing, and why should I want updates on you just because I landed on your webpage? What’s in it for me?
So the key is to give them something that they want.
Let’s say you have a fashion blog, and you just wrote a post on upcoming fall fashion. You might offer a video or a guide that shows 10 simple (yet gorgeous) ways to wear a scarf.
If you have a mommy blog, your readers might appreciate a list of your top 10 productivity hacks (since moms are always juggling a gazillion things at once).
Checklists are great. If you write a travel blog, a checklist of “10 things to always have on hand in your carry-on bag” is handy.
Don’t get intimidated by this step. It doesn’t have to be super fancy. It just has to be valuable. In fact, the best lead magnets are often ones that are short and tactical. Things that the reader can implement right away.
If you don’t have a lead magnet that pertains to your blog post, you can always convert your blog post to a PDF in Google Drive, and make that your lead magnet. Just say something like, “Want a copy of this post to print and read on the go? Sign up and I’ll send you a PDF right away!
It’s that simple!
Beyond the opt-in form: other ways to get more subscribers
There are other ways you can get more subscribers outside of just your opt-in forms.
- Encourage sharing – ask your readers to share your content, both in your posts and in your emails. If they signed up, chances are they’ll know someone who would also be interested in your blog
- Online contest/giveaway – host a contest or giveaway that requires someone to opt-in to enter (I recommend KingSumo)
- Create a free online tool or product and require email to get it – I saw this recently done by a graphic designer. She created a really cool font and gave it away for free, but you had to give your email address to get it. I saw another example of someone who had a free online tool to help track your Amazon book sales, but to get access to the free page, you had to subscribe.
- Integrate social media and email
- Promote your lead magnet on social (link to a special landing page for your lead magnet instead of linking to your homepage)
- Use the call to action button on Facebook to get your Facebook fans to sign up
- Use Twitter Lead Generation cards. Followers can subscribe with the single click of a button without ever having to leave Twitter)
- Use share links in your emails so others can share your actual email
- Do you use video? Add a call to action to your videos to encourage subscribers
- Put a CTA to subscribe on every page of your site
- Guest blogging – this is one of the best methods for list building. Write a kick ass guest post on a site that has a bigger audience than you. Instead of just linking to your homepage in your byline, create a specific landing page or page on your site with a lead magnet that goes perfectly with your guest post. At the bottom of the post, give them a teaser for your lead magnet and link to the page where they can get it.
- Co-promotions / JVs – Team up with another blogger in your space and combine your resources! You create one lead magnet, she creates another, and you both promote them both as a package deal (and get new subscribers to each of your lists!)
- Webinar – Host a webinar and get emails during registration
List building challenge
Ok, now you know why you need an email list. You have some recommendations on email service providers. You know 6 places you can put opt-in forms on your site. I gave you some examples of lead magnets to use to help maximize your list building efforts. And lastly, I gave you 10+ other ways you can build your email list.
CLICK HERE TO GET THIS GUIDE AS A PDF
My challenge to you: post a comment below with:
- How many subscribers you currently have right now, at this moment (if it’s zero, that’s fine!)
- What method(s) you read here that you haven’t tried (but you’re going to implement)
Bonus points if you check in later and let us know how much your list has grown.
You know what sucks? That feeling of knowing you need to write a blog post, but you’re all out of blog post ideas and your mind is drawing a big fat blank.
You’re looking in the notebook on your desk where you jot random ideas (some of which make absolutely no sense to you later… like literally, what do those words even mean?), and you’re still not coming up with anything interesting to write about.
Everything you come up with is lame, and you’re desperate because you’ve vowed not to let another week go by without getting a new post up. You’ve been scouring other blogs for inspiration — but they all seem to have their shit together, and you wonder if this whole blog thing is just a big waste of time.
I get it.
Sometimes just coming up with a good topic to write about can be overwhelming, but luckily, there are several places you can look to for ideas and inspiration on those days when you’re just not feeling very creative. And once you have a couple of ideas on what to write about, you can actually turn those into several posts.
Where to find blog post ideas
Comments on your blog — Remember the scene at the end of the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy realizes that she’s safe at home, and she says, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard.” Well, sometimes if you’re looking for a blog post idea, sometimes you don’t have to go looking any further than your own comments section.
Go take a look at the posts that drew the most comments and re-read them. Comments are a great way to get inside the head of your readers and find out what they really like, don’t like, or are dying to know. Pay particular attention to the questions your readers ask. Chances are if one person wants to know more about something, others do, too.
Comments on other blogs — Just like the comments on your own blog can be useful, comments on other bloggers’ sites can be a wealth of information, too. Find bloggers in your niche and
stalk poke around their comments.
I like to scour the comments of blogs that are super popular and have dozens and dozens of comments. I can often find inspiration for a blog topic idea in just a couple of minutes with this technique.
Amazon reviews — This is a great place to get blog post ideas. Find a book that’s in your niche that has a lot of reviews (bad or good). Go check them out.
For example, to keep with the theme of this post, I typed “content creation ideas” into Amazon’s search and came across a book called Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight, and Content. I chose this book because it currently has 56 reviews, mostly positive.
A quick read of the first several reviews is somewhat revealing. Almost every reviewer had very positive comments on the author’s suggestion of freewriting — writing a first draft without any internal editing. Just getting words down on the page.
Since almost every reviewer mentioned how helpful it was to implement the freewriting technique into their writing practice, then that’s a potential topic idea.
Obviously you don’t want to just regurgitate the same information that the author wrote, but you can certainly do your own research and put your own spin on how to use freewriting to help conquer writer’s block.
Table of Contents sections in books — While you’re there poking around in Amazon, you can also glean a ton of information from the table of contents of books in your niche.
Generally a TOC will have a main topic broken down into several smaller ones. Look for things that would make interesting topics.
Google related searches — When you have a broad topic idea, but you want to nail it down to something more niche specific, Google suggest is a great way to find blog topic ideas.
Just type your topic into Google. You may see some ideas in the dropdown as you’re typing, but what I like to do is hit enter, then scroll all the way to the bottom of the results page and look at the “Searches related to” results.
Let’s say for instance, I had a knitting blog (I have no idea why I thought of that… I’ve never knitted in my life). If I type knitting into Google and scroll down, this is what I get.
I started with the hugely broad topic of knitting and I have 6 solid blog post ideas from this (I disregarded the knitting blogs and knitting videos results). Pretty simple!
Google keyword tool — Another good place to find things to write about on your blog. (Thanks, Google!) To access it, you’ll need to set up a Google Adwords account, but you don’t have to actually buy an ad.
Once you set up your account, just go in to your Adwords account, and click on “Search for new keywords…” then type in your keyword and click “Find ideas.”
The results page is jam packed with similar keywords that can be turned into blog topic ideas. For instance, again, with the knitting theme (seriously though, if you ever see me with knitting needles, just take them away before I poke my eye out), we see lots of potential things to write about.
These ad groups can spark ideas, and if you want to get even more ideas, click on one of them and look at all of the keyword strings inside. I see circular knitting needles (you could write a post on what types of needles should be used for which projects), or knitting wool (so you could write about the different kinds of wool, etc).
Generate a month’s worth of blog topics in 5 minutes
If you want more ideas, just change your keyword up a little in any of the above methods, and get even more ideas for what you can write about. I’ve used these techniques to come up with 3-4 blog post ideas (about a month’s worth if you write once a week) in just 5 minutes.
I like to keep a running list of all the ideas (even ones I don’t use) so I can refer back to them in case I’m ever stuck for blog post ideas later.
When I first started blogging, I fell victim to a lot of blogging lies that people told me. People who didn’t know any better, who were probably just regurgitating the same myths that some other misinformed blogger had told them. It’s a vicious cycle.
But I’m gonna call out those lies and set the record straight, in an attempt to help save you from discouragement as well as from making some mistakes that I’ve made in the past.
Blogging Lie #1: It’s easy
Whoa! What planet did the person who said that fly in from?
It’s funny because people who have never blogged before tend to think that blogging is just some hobby people have where they write about whatever they feel like at the moment.
Most people have no idea just how much work goes into blogging.
Bloggers wear many hats, most of which we didn’t have any prior knowledge about until we started blogging. On any given day, a blogger is:
- Web designer
- Graphic designer
- Writer (creative writer, technical writer, fiction, non-fiction, copywriter, etc.)
- Photo editor
- Social media manager
- Email analyst
- Project manager
- ALL OF THE ABOVE
Is that not CRAZY when you think about it? No wonder so many blogs fizzle out. It really can be exhausting work at times.
But then you get a comment from a reader thanking you for getting inside their heads and writing exactly what they needed to read at that moment. Or someone who was able to grow her business as a direct result of something you taught about in a post.
Those days make it worth every single bit of hard work you put into each post. Comments like these serve as a reminder that we’re actually helping people, and what’s not to love about that?
Blogging definitely isn’t for everyone, but the fact that it takes a lot of work shouldn’t hinder you from starting a blog if you want to.
Blogging Lie #2: If you build it, they will come
Yeah, not gonna happen.
This is not the Field of Dreams — sorry to any Kevin Costner fans. (And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, then you’re too young to be here. KIDDING!)
The fact is, there are more blogs and websites than ever out there competing for readers. In order to get people on your page, you have to make sure they know you exist.
Luckily there are a ton of ways you can let people know your blog is alive and kicking:
- Sharing on your own page
- Sharing on Facebook group pages
- Buying ads on social platforms
- Inviting your friends to your blog’s FB page
- Learn how to optimize your blog to be more SEO-friendly. This isn’t as hard as some SEO pros might lead you to believe, and once you learn how, you’ll be able to optimize your posts as you write them.
- Get “backlinks” from other reputable site through guest posts and mentions.
- If you have an email list already… let them know about your new blog (if the audience is relevant).
- If you don’t have an email list, drop what you’re doing and start one now! Seriously.
- Find forums in similar niches and join the conversations. Don’t just start spamming with your blog link. Instead, put the link to your blog in your profile, and comment on threads where you can add massive insights or value. People will notice and check out your profile and voila! New potential follower.
Commenting on other blogs
- Same as above — find blogs in your niche and comment with really useful insights or knowledge. Be sure you’re putting your blog URL in the URL field when you comment. People will take notice and want to know more about you and your blog.
Link to your blog in your personal email signature
- So many people don’t do this, but think about how many emails some of us send a day. By having a non-intrusive link in our email signature, it’s like a nice, casual invitation.
Blogging Lie #3: There’s no point in starting a blog because there’s too much competition
Yes, there are more blogs out there than ever before, but that does not mean you shouldn’t start one, and the reason why might surprise you.
Competition is a GOOD thing.
Because if there’s a shit ton of competition out there, it means that there’s an audience for it. And no matter how many bloggers are already serving your audience, I guarantee you have something unique to offer.
- have a counterintuitive insight on a topic
- have first-hand experience with something that no one else in your niche is talking about
- are really good at explaining how to do something
The thing is, you’re the only YOU, and there is an audience of people out there who will resonate best with the way YOU write. The things YOU write about. In other words, and I hate to use this word because it’s so over-used right now, but your tribe is out there.
Not to mention, if someone is interested in a topic, chances are, they will devour any and all information they can find on it.
Blogging Lie #4: You have to write every day (and ain’t nobody got time for that)
I get it. You go to other blogs, and you see that they have a TON of content, so you think you need to step up your game and start writing every day (or every other day, or whatever unrealistic expectation you put on yourself).
In fact, in most cases, if you’re writing every day, I’d say that’s probably not a good thing.
Why? Because if you’re writing every day for any length of time, chances are:
- Your writing isn’t as good as it could be because you’re cranking them out so fast, so you’re likely underserving your readers
- You’ll burn out and you’ll end up taking a break from writing for awhile, and your audience may forget about you
I see so many bloggers who come out of the gate full of energy, knowledge, and dozens of awesome topic ideas. Fueled on ambition, excitement, and loads of caffeine, they crank out post after post, publishing them immediately after writing. Promoting on social media… writing more… promoting more…
And after several months, or even several weeks, they crash, because — well — blogging isn’t easy (see Lie #1).
I know that feeling of being so excited and full of information that you want to share with the masses. It’s an awesome feeling. And you know what? You should totally ride that adrenaline wave and crank out some killer content when you have that momentum.
But rather than publish it as soon as it’s finished, here’s what you do instead:
- Determine a realistic and consistent publishing schedule (once or twice a week is usually good)
- Create an editorial calendar and schedule your posts per the publishing schedule you came up with
If you do this, you’ll be ahead of most other bloggers out there. Say you crank out 10 posts in your initial blog-writing frenzy, and that using my advice above, you decide to post every Tuesday and Friday. You schedule your posts accordingly — ahead of time, but the beauty of it is, as these posts are pre-written and scheduled, you’re still writing at a pace of 2 posts per week, after the initial 10 posts.
Here’s what that scenario would look like:
||WRITTEN & SCHEDULED
|Week 6 posts
(Posts 11 & 12)
|Week 7 posts
(Posts 13 & 14)
|Week 8 posts
(Posts 15 & 16)
|Week 9 posts
(Posts 17 & 18)
|Week 10 posts
(Posts 19 & 20)
If you do it this way, instead of publishing 10 posts right away, you end up publishing 2 per week, scheduled ahead of time, and writing new posts at a rate of 2 per week (avoiding burnout), and you end up being 5 weeks ahead in your content schedule.
And if for some reason, something comes up and you’re not able to write one week, it’s ok, because you’re still way ahead of schedule on your writing calendar.
That’s the beauty of setting up a blogging system like that. It takes some work up front, but ends up taking a lot of pressure off the back-end, giving you some breathing room to write quality content at a more comfortable pace while still serving your readers on a consistent basis.
Blogging Lie #5: You can make tons of money through blogging
Let’s all have an honesty moment, shall we?
At some point, most (if not all) of us have been swayed by the whole “you can start a blog and put ads on it and make tons of passive income” lie.
And maybe at one time that was true(ish). Way back in the day, you could start a blog or niche site, throw 10-15 posts up about a particular topic, pepper it with keywords to get SEO juice (and therefore make it to the front page of Google), stick a bunch of ads on your page, and boom. You’d make some money. Sometimes a lot of money.
In fact, a lot of bloggers made money this way. Until Google wised up, and in an effort to ensure that they were delivering quality search results to their users, they changed their algorithms, weeding out the sub-par sites and blogs, and now they try to only show the best quality content in their results.
This creates a better user experience, and was a smart move on their part. Except a lot of sites got hit, including some legit sites and blogs. Suddenly, people’s blogs weren’t showing up on the front page — or even 20 pages of Google, and their ad revenue took a nose dive because they were no longer getting the traffic they were before.
I still see a lot of new bloggers make the mistake of putting ads on their site thinking it will make them money. The fact is, you need a ton of traffic in order to make any money with Google Adsense. More realistically, you’ll make pennies per day with ads when you’re starting out. Plus, they don’t pay you until you’ve hit at least $100 in revenue, so how does a check once or twice a year sound?
Which leads me to the next lie…
Blogging Lie #6: You can’t make any money blogging
I know I just said not to believe the people who tell you that you can make a ton of money blogging, and now I’m telling you not to believe the people who say you can’t make any money blogging.
Here’s the thing — you can make money blogging, but you’re not going to make it the way people who say, “you can make a ton of money blogging” lead you to believe you can make it.
There are some seriously legitimate ways you can make money blogging without Adense. Each of these can potentially earn you a decent amount of income, but it’s not just easy, automatic money, and there are pros and cons to each.
This is where you promote products on your blog, using an affiliate link that’s unique to you, and if someone purchases a product through your link, you essentially get a “commission” from the sale — sometimes up to 40% or more of the product price.
PROS: You can offer value to your readers by promoting really good products that you use and believe in, while getting paid to do so. When done the right way, you’ll build trust with your readers, and they’ll thank you for the recommendation. Depending on the affiliate, and how well you’re able to promote their product(s), there is potential to make a LOT of money in this space.
CONS: When you promote other people’s products, you’re sending your readers away from your page.
Hosting Ads Directly
This is where brands that pay you directly to host an ad on your site — usually a set fee per month.
PROS: You get to choose the companies you work with, unlike Adsense, where you have no say in the specific ads being shown on your blog. This allows you to align with brands that you love and believe in.
CONS: When you promote other people’s products, you’re sending your readers away from your page. You also have to keep track of the ads, billing, analytics for the ad, etc.
This is where a company (typically a SEO company) pays you to let them write a post for your site, with the post having a few backlinks to a few of their clients’ sites. These can sometimes pay up to $200 or more per post, depending on your blog’s popularity, traffic, etc.
PROS: You can make a decent amount off a single post that you don’t even have to write. I’ve been paid up to $200 for a post on one of my other blogs that I didn’t have to do anything for except load and publish it.
CONS: Sometimes these posts don’t exactly align with your brand, and they end up feeling kind of sleazy. I’ve done a couple of these on other blogs I’ve had, and while the money wasn’t bad, I just felt kind of dirty about the whole thing. The posts felt contrived, and I felt like I was doing a disservice to my audience because literally there was nothing in it for them. Even with affiliate links, at least they’re getting my recommendation on a good product. These posts are usually just icky and leave me wanting to take a shower afterward.
Create and Sell Your Own Digital Products
This is by far my favorite way to make money with my blog. This can include:
- Online courses
- eBooks (sold through Amazon or directly through your site)
- Workbooks or Templates (I’ve paid money online from bloggers just to get a spreadsheet or template of something that will make my life easier)
- Video tutorials
PROS: This can be a game-changer. Because you’re creating your own digital product, you can make it once, then sell it an unlimited number of times, generating a truly passive income stream. Sales can come in while you sleep!
CONS: There can be a lot of up front work and research involved. You also have to market your online product, which can involve sales funnels, email automation, etc.
Of course, there are other ways you can make money blogging, but these are the main ones. There’s still work involved, and it’s not just some easy peasy way to make a bunch of money, but the potential is there.
Blogging Lie #7: You need to be an extrovert to put yourself out there
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Take it from an introvert (yep!).
In fact, your introverted tendencies may even give you an advantage. By nature, many of us tend to express ourselves better through writing, when the pain of meaningless small-talk is stripped away and we’re left with the opportunity to reflect and gather our thoughts before putting them out there.
And contrary to popular belief, introverts aren’t necessarily shy, although many of us are. We simply crave more meaningful connections that go beyond small talk and acquaintances.
Blogging can provide that connection because even though it’s virtual, there’s value there, on both sides. You’re providing value to your readers by teaching or entertaining them, and you draw energy from the gratitude, and sometimes even the comments or conversations that come up as a result of something you wrote.
It’s a very interesting thing to me, because I’ve made some connections with other bloggers or readers that I cherish more than some people I’ve known non-virtually.
The point is, extrovert or not, you can still offer something to the world, so find the method of delivery that’s comfortable for you, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
Blogging Lie #8: You should jump on every opportunity that comes your way
No, no, no.
I explained in Lie #6 about how I felt icky once after letting a company pay me a couple hunzies (aka couple hundred dollars) to post their content on my site.
Just because the money may seem good at the time, when you accept opportunities that don’t align with your brand, or that just aren’t a good fit for your audience, you’re doing them a disservice.
In fact, you’re actually devaluing and cheapening your blog, and your readers won’t trust you because it will be obvious that you’re doing it more for the money, and less to actually be helpful.
So be discriminating. Only accept opportunities that you and your readers both can benefit from.
Blogging Lie #9: You need a huge audience to be a successful blogger
This is one of the more common blogging lies I’ve heard.
The truth is, you don’t need a huge audience. You need the right audience.
I’ve known bloggers who have a small following, but the readers they have are fiercely loyal.
To me, a loyal audience — one that opens every email you send, reads every post, shares it with their friends, or even comments regularly — is gold to a blogger. A small, devout audience will buy whatever you sell. They’ll click on affiliate links, they’ll buy your eBooks and online courses. You’ll get way more mileage out of them than someone with a huge audience of ho-hum readers.
Give me the small, devout audience any day.
Blogging Lie #10: It has to be perfect
Get this thinking out of your head right now.
There is no such thing as perfect, and if you wait to publish that post, or release that course until everything is perfect — if you’re waiting until it’s “juuuuuuuuuust right” — you’ll never get it done. I call it the Goldilocks Syndrome.
Of course it needs to be good — you don’t want to publish crappy content, but if you can’t find the perfect stock photo, or you’re in your 3rd re-write, or you’re a terrible speller (but seriously, spellcheck, ladies), make sure it’s good enough and hit the publish button.
It’s always a good idea to keep your end goal in mind, which should be to provide resources, inspiration, knowledge, or entertainment to your readers. And if you’re holding out because it’s not absolutely perfect, then everybody loses.
Done is better than perfect.
What blogging lies have you believed?
I think all of us have been guilty of believing at least one of these blogging lies. I know for me, I’ve been guilty of believing every single one of them at some point in my blogging experience. Even today, I struggle with #10 at times.
Yes, it’s going to be work, but it doesn’t need to be perfect. Yes, you can make money, but understand it’s not as simple as putting up some shitty looking ads and waiting for traffic.
Blogging can be extremely rewarding to those who get started, and more importantly, those who stick with it.
One thing that helps me stick to a blogging schedule is a Blog Editorial Calendar. Want a free copy of my blog editorial calendar template? Just enter your email below and I’ll send it right over! ↓
Get my FREE blog editorial calendar template!
Make blogging a breeze with an editorial calendar to help keep you on track. Just put your email below and I'll send it right over!
Let’s face it. Blogging is hard work, and as bloggers, we wear many hats. Writer, web designer, SEO specialist, social media manager, etc. I see so many bloggers who work tirelessly on their blogs, only to fall short when it comes to writing good headlines, because they don’t know how to use good headline strategies.
It’s been said that Americans are exposed to over 3000 ads and marketing messages per day. While that number is often debated, it’s safe to say that there are a lot of people clamoring to be seen and heard. You need to be able to capture your reader’s attention right away, or your message becomes white noise and ends up in your their mental dumpster. Having good headline strategies in place can help you write attention-getting headlines that get clicked.
A good headline is important because:
- It allows you to convey the gist of your message quickly
- It arouses curiosity and gets them to click to find out more
Keys to a good headline
There are several things going on behind the scenes of a well-crafted headline.
At first glance, it might just seem like a few words to describe what an article is about, but when you peel back the layers of a well-written headline, you’ll see that there’s a lot more to it than just a description.
This is why some major publications like The Huffington Post have a team of copywriters whose only job is to create headlines. That’s how important headlines are.
- Create curiosity
- Offer benefits to the reader, whether it’s educational, informative, or entertaining
- Are specific — for example, “The exact steps I took to grow my email list to 5,482 subscribers in 6 months” or something along those lines. Exact numbers work well in headlines — they come across as more trustworthy than rounded figures or vagueness
- Contain no unnecessary words, and focus on ONE concept
- Are conversational and are written like you speak
- Create a sense of urgency
Steps to creating great headlines
Believe it or not, writing the headline can sometimes be the hardest part about writing a blog post, but there are some steps you can take to make the process easier.
If you do this when creating your content, you’ll be ahead of probably 80% of the bloggers out there. This will be especially helpful when you’re writing guest posts or articles for major publications.
Step 1: Determine your audience — who are you writing to?
Sometimes your blog post or article will be for a specific part of your audience. For instance, my post on 5 costly mistakes you might be making when you launch a new product makes it clear who within my audience I’m writing to: people who have launched or are planning to launch a product.
The headline is skimmable, so that anyone who does not create online products can pass up on the article (although I hope everyone reads it!) since it may not apply to them.
In other words, you don’t want to just shotgun blast your headlines. You want to make a reader connection. You want to build trust, and for the reader to feel like you wrote this just for them.
Having a clear demographic in mind for your post allows you to use their language. Are they male? Female? Educated? Who or what else is competing for their attention, and how can you stand out?
Knowing your audience allows you to tap into their hopes, fears, aspirations, and desires so you canpaint a vivid picture for them in just a few words.
Step 2: Focus on benefits (not features)
People make decisions based on emotions, whether it’s what to read, or what to buy.
You may have heard others talk about the difference between features and benefits. Features are just the tools, whereas benefits are how these tools actually help you. Another way to think of it is that the benefit is the result of the feature.
Let’s pretend we’re writing a headline about Google Analytics. Which of the below is more compelling?
- Get detailed statistical tracking reports with Google Analytics (statistical tracking reports = feature)
- This must-have tool reveals what readers are really doing on your site (knowing what readers are really doing on your site = benefit)
Or an article on blueberries:
- Blueberries help boost your metabolism (boost your metabolism = feature)
- This popular pancake topping is proven to speed up weight loss (speed up weight loss = benefit)
See what I mean? The benefits are much more compelling.
Step 3: Grab the reader’s attention
Writing a headline that catches their eye and grab their attention is crucial to getting more clicks through to your article.
Once you nail down your benefit, find a way to position it so they have to read. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it sure drives more clicks to your article.
You can do this by using elements of surprise, or contradictions in your headline. I call them disruptions. Something that stops them in their tracks and makes them say, “wait, whaaa?”
In fact, in the blueberry example above:
This popular pancake topping is proven to speed up weight loss
When we think of pancakes, we think of butter and sugary, warm syrup. It doesn’t usually stir up thoughts of weight loss, so the association in the headline is a disruption and instantly makes you curious (and hungry).
The key to remember is to entice them, but make sure that when they do click on your article, that the article itself provides value. The last thing you want to do is mislead your reader, and be written off as a blog that relies on click-bait and scammy tactics, without providing good content.
Step 4: Write multiple headlines
Some people like to write the headline first, then write the article around that. Others like to write the article first, then come up with the headline after. Either way is fine, but don’t just write one headline and call it done.
I like to come up with a basic headline, just to give me a frame of reference for my article first. Then, once I’m finished with the article, I come up with at least 5 headline ideas, all containing the keyword I’m targeting in my article (for SEO purposes), and narrow it down from there.
Some copywriters recommend coming up with at least 20 headlines! The more headlines you write, the better you’ll get at it, but you want to come up with no less than 5.
Since we know that people tend to make decisions based on emotion over intellect, there’s a handy free tool I like to use called the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer.
The EMV analyzer measures the emotional impact of your headline and grades it based on how Intellectual, Spiritual, or Empathetic your headline is. Most professional copywriters see a 30-40% EMV score, while the most gifted writers will score in the 50-75% range for their headlines. It’s rare to see 100%.
Here are some of the headline ideas I came up with for this post, along with their EMV score:
- The secret to writing headlines and blog post titles that get clicked – 16.67% (Intellectual/Spiritual)
- The secret to writing headlines that create curiosity and get clicked – 45.45% (Intellectual)
- The secret to writing headlines that spark curiosity and get clicked – 45.45% (Intellectual/Empathetic)
- The secret to writing headlines that people can’t scroll past – 30% (Intellectual)
- The secret to writing headlines that create curiosity – 62.50% (Intellectual)
- Create curiosity with these proven strategies for writing click-worthy headlines – 60% (Intellectual)
- Proven headline strategies to attract more readers – 57.14% (Spiritual)
Ding ding ding! Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
As you can see, my first headline above, which I wrote before writing this post, was not much of a zinger. But that’s ok, because I knew it wasn’t. It was just a baseline to give me something to create content around.
I had several other good scores, as you can see, and although I got two that were at least 60%, both of them had a more “intellectual” value, so I wanted to keep digging.
Even though my winning headline has a slightly lower score than a couple of the others, it had purely “spiritual” value according to the EMV, and since I know that people make decisions based more on emotions, I liked that one better.
It also highlights a benefit (“attract more readers”), while the one with the higher score highlights a feature (“create curiosity”). Remember that benefits are a result of features, so I asked myself, “What benefit does a reader get by creating curiosity?” The answer? They get more readers.
I played around with individual words, too. Instead of “get more readers,” I said “attract more readers,” which has a higher emotional impact.
Step 5: Edit ruthlessly
When writing a headline, every word must count. Don’t have fluff words in there, just for the sake of having them. As you can see in my winning headline, there are no extra words. It tells the reader exactly what to expect, no more, no less.
Writing click-worthy headlines is an art, and, with practice, you’ll learn which words are stronger, and you’ll get better at it.
Get my checklist of headline strategies
Wanna start writing bomb-ass headlines today? Fill out the form below to get my FREE Headline Checklist so you can get a jumpstart and craft headlines that get clicked. ↓