Creating a popular blog isn’t hard. If you follow this guide you’ll be covered on the content end, and the rest just involves social media promotions. The hardest part about blogging is generating a positive ROI from it.
Over the last 7 years I’ve created 4 blogs: Pronet Advertising (I don’t own this blog anymore), Quick Sprout, KISSmetrics, and Crazy Egg. Each of those blogs not only exceeds 100,000 monthly visitors, but more importantly they drive customers to each of my businesses.
What I learned the hard way is that monetizing blogs is much more difficult than building traffic, but I feel that I know have a formula that works well. Here is the formula I use to monetize my blogs:
If you have a product or service, you should consider doing a weekly webinar. The webinar shouldn’t just be about your product or service, but instead it should be around something that benefits your potential customers.
For example, although we sell a customer analytics solution at KISSmetrics, we continually create webinars on marketing related topics as our ideal customer is a marketer.
By giving them useful information for about marketing, it builds trust within our brand and that drives signups. Plus, whenever we see a fit, we can always plug our analytics solution within our webinars.
Now to the tricky part about webinars is that you have to you to convince people who are watching them to signup for your product or service. Here are the two ways we do it:
- Ask them to signup – you can tell people who are watching your webinar to signup for your product or service. But I’ve found that if you get 10% of the people to convert you are doing really well, especially if you are driving them to a paid product. Realistically less than 5% of the viewers will actually signup for your paid product if you ask them to do so within the webinar.
- Offer a free trial – when people are signing up to watch your webinar, include a “check box” that gives them an option to signup for a free trial of product. We typically can get 41% of the people who signup for our webinars to optin for our free trial from this approach.
It’s much easier to drive traffic to your blog compared to your main site. The reason being is content marketing can drive millions of visitors through the use of infographics, content guides, and plain old blog posts.
Once you have a large audience reading your blog, you want to remarket them. Through services like Retargeter and Perfect Audience you can pixel all of your blog readers, so that when they browse random sites like TMZ, they’ll see a banner ad for your company.
What we’ve found is when you remarket to your blog readers, you will get a click through rate .2%. And out of all of those visitors, 3.58% will convert into a customer.
As for the cost of remarketing you shouldn’t be paying more than $2 a CPM for web based remarketing and you shouldn’t pay more than 50 cents a CPM for Facebook based remarketing.
Call to actions
There are a ton of ways you can drive traffic from your blog to your main website. The easiest ways to do is by through call to actions. There are 4 effective call to actions that you can easily use:
- Hellobar – through the use of Hellobar you can place a simple little orange bar (or whatever color your want) at the top of your blog posts. In that bar you can put whatever text and call to action button you want. On Quick Sprout my Hellobar message is: Learn how TechCrunch increased their traffic by 30% in 60 days. When people click on it, it drives traffic to a landing page that collects leads for me. 3.53% of all Quick Sprout readers click on the Hellobar.
- Navigation link – within your navigation bar, you can include a link back to your corporate website. On Quick Sprout, the navigation item I added to one of my corporate websites is the “consulting” link. That link gets clicked on 1.21 % of the time.
- Static ad – within my sidebar is an ad of “Ben Huh” that states “Neil helped us grow to 500 million pageviews a month”. That ad gets clicked on .94% of the time.
- Scrolling ad – at the bottom of my sidebar is an ad of Michael Arrington. As you scroll down to read the rest of this post, the ad scrolls down with you. That ad gets clicked on 2.58% of the time.
Although the call to actions don’t seem like they get clicked on a lot, when you combine them, I am able to divert 8.26% of all the traffic from Quick Sprout to one of my corporate sites. In the end all of those visitors drive over 6 figures in new revenue each month when you look at the lifetime value of each customer.
If you are targeting businesses as your primary customer type, case studies are another great way to drive customers to your business. There are a few ways you can do this:
- Give away the farm – case studies that tend to convert well in my experience are detailed ones. Think Harvard Business Review type of case studies… Go so deep within each one that you are giving away your secrets so people know exactly what you did. And make sure you include a picture of the customer as well as a testimonial from them. And most importantly, sell your product or service within the case study.
- Promote your case studies – The easiest way to promote your case studies is to turn each one into a blog post. Just make sure it benefits your readers by teaching them something new. In addition to that you can link to your case studies within your sidebar like I do on Quick Sprout, or highlight them on the homepage of your blog like I do as well. Because of I showcase my case studies in these two areas case studies make up 3.73% of all of my traffic and 4.19% of all the people that read those case studies turn into leads.
One of the easiest ways to convert readers into customers is to offer them special promotions. From doing a blog post that offers readers a special discount, or a bundled deal like Appsumo tends to offer, you can get really creative in driving signups.
What we’ve found to convert the best is doing bundled deals. For example if you are a software as a service company, you can team up with 4 other companies and offer everyone’s product together at a super discount price. The best part about doing this is you can also get the 4 other companies to blog about the bundle so you won’t just be promoting this to your user base; you will be gaining access to the other companies’ audience.
The conversion rates on these types of offers range a lot as it depends largely on your offer and price. But to give you a sense of rough conversion numbers, you should be able to convert at least 100 of your readers assuming your blog gets over 100,000 unique visitors a month. If you can’t achieve those numbers, it means your offer isn’t good enough.
My favorite way to monetize a blog is through emails. It’s a much longer process than the above methods, but the conversion rates tend to be higher.
Now lets start with a the ways you can collect emails on your blog:
- Popup – by leveraging tools like PopUp Domination, 1% to 3% of your readers should be giving you their email address.
- Sidebar – by adding an email optin form within your sidebar, you should be able to convert .5% to 2% of your readers into an email subscriber.
- Blog posts – at then end of each of your blog posts you can add an email collection box. Typically .75 to 2% of your readers shall convert into an email subscriber with this option.
I know the percentages above vary a lot, but it depends on how many of these optin methods you use. The more you use, the more cannibalization there will be, so your percentages across the board will decrease. But if you offer something for free in exchange for someone’s email, such as an eBook, your percentages can potentially be on the higher end.
Once you have the emails you want to create an email drip system. Typically the email drip consists of at least 7 emails and it is sent to people automatically over time. With services like MailChimp, Aweber, or SendGrid you can easily create a drip. Within those emails you need to educate your customer base and sell them over time.
A good email drip should convert at around 5%. So if you collect 100 emails, 5 of them should turn into customers. And if you suck at writing drips, you can always hire consultants to write them for you.
The key to email copywriting is to educate first, build trust second, and then sell. And you can’t do this by just writing a few emails, which is why the rule of thumb is to sell on the 7th email as it is hard to accomplish all of that in less than 7 emails.
Blogging can be very profitable, you just have to focus on converting your readers into customers. Just don’t focus on monetizing your blog until you have at least 20,000 monthly readers.
I typically wait till I have at least 50,000 readers as the numbers haven’t panned out for me under that. In which the cost to maintain the blog costs more than the revenue I generate from it until I have at least 50,000 readers.
Do you know of any other creative ways to monetize a blog?