Creating a popular blog isn’t hard. If you follow this guide, you’ll be covered on the content end. The rest just involves social media promotions. The hardest part about blogging is generating a positive ROI from it.
Over the last seven years, I’ve created four 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’ve learned the hard way is that monetizing blogs is much more difficult than building traffic, but I feel that I now 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.
Giving them useful information about marketing 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, the tricky part about webinars is that you have to convince people who are watching them to sign up for your product or service. Here are the two ways we do it:
- Ask them to sign up – you can tell people who are watching your webinar to sign up for your product or service. 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 sign up 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 sign up for a free trial of product. We typically can get 41% of the people who sign up for our webinars to opt-in for our free trial using this approach.
It’s much easier to drive traffic to your blog than to your main site because 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 to 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.
We’ve found that when you remarket to your blog readers, you will get a click-through rate .2%. Out of all of those visitors, 3.58% will convert into customers.
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.
Calls to action
There are a ton of ways you can drive traffic from your blog to your main website. The easiest ways to do it is by through calls to action. There are 4 effective calls to action 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 calls to action don’t seem like they get clicked on a lot, they do add up: 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 six figures in new revenue each month when I 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 and letting people know exactly what you did. 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 and teaches 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 you blog like I do. Because I showcase my case studies in these two areas, they make up 3.73% 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 is that doing bundled deals converts the best. For example, if you are a software as a service company, you can team up with four other companies and offer everyone’s product together at a super discounted price. The best part about doing this is you can also get these partner 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. 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.
Let’s start with 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 opt-in form within your sidebar, you should be able to convert .5% to 2% of your readers into an email subscriber.
- Blog posts – at the end of each blog post, you can add an email collection box. Typically .75 to 2% of your readers will convert into an email subscriber with this option.
I know the percentages above vary a lot, but it depends on how many of these opt-in 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 seven 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 to 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 simply 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 because lesser numbers haven’t panned out for me. 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?