Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Blogger Wolf?

I have a confession to make: when I was a child, the story of Little Red Riding Hood terrified me.

It’s not really that I’m afraid of wolves. There’s just something ultra creepy to me about someone pretending to be something they’re not. The wolf in the story pretends to be the girl’s grandmother, and though her instincts tell her that something is wrong, the big bad wolf still gobbles her up (or at least attempts to, depending on which version of the story you’re reading).

That level of deception is scary to me.

I’m still afraid of the big bad wolf, and unfortunately, he’s lurking around every corner online, it seems. Wolves are hiding everywhere, pretending to be something they’re not: financially successful.

Recently, I’ve seen many of my blogging friends talking about this issue: “top” bloggers who are spewing advice left and right about how to be financially successful as a blogger, even though they barely make ends meet themselves.

We need to stop equating popularity to financial success. Those to things do not always work hand in hand for bloggers. You can have millions of readers and an empty bank account.

And that’s okay. What makes me really sad about this entire problem is that it is okay to not have all your ducks in a row financially yet. It doesn’t take away the fact that you’re creating damn fine content or building an amazing community or doing whatever you do well. You don’t have to hide in someone else’s skin, pretending that you’re a success on all levels. Your successes, whatever they may be, cannot be taken away from you, even if you aren’t financially successful.

I don’t feel ashamed at all to tell you all that I do not make six figures as a blogger. I’ve never sold a product that did better than “okay” and I’ve never had a quarter where I didn’t have to supplement my blogging with client work (which thankfully, I enjoy probably even more than blogging for myself). I do okay when it comes to blogging income, better than most if Technorati’s latest report is a true reflection of the blogosphere, but I don’t have some kind of spectacular story of how I became a bajillionaire with my blog.

My financial success as a blogger is mediocre, but I think I’m successful in other ways, especially with my content creation. I’m extremely proud of my body of work online. My lack of a six-figure income does not negate that success.

Who’s afraid of the big, bad blogger wolf? I am. Because if you’re a wolf hiding behind a mask of financial success even though your bank account reads zero, you’re focusing on the wrong thing. You’re forgetting the ways you are successful, when you should be celebrating them, and people are probably looking to you as a financial role model when you’re the last person qualified to give advice in such matters, rather than looking to you for advice on topics where you’re an expert.

If you’re a wolf, be a fucking wolf. Howl at the moon, you majestic creature, and stop pretending to be something you’re not. Grandmothers are great, but you don’t have to be one to be successful.

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How to Turn Traffic into Sales

Traffic. Traffic. Traffic. I’ve read (and written) so many posts about traffic that I sometimes forget that all of this blog traffic doesn’t really matter. You want to focus on traffic numbers? Great. You’re really lucky that your landlord accepts hits and pageviews as rent payments every month. Mine…well she prefers a check, so it’s up to me to make sure that check doesn’t bounce. And I can’t do that with an awesome bounce rate.

Blog zombies focus on traffic, but survivors focus on the bottom line. I really like advice on how to get more traffic, but you have to be able to convert those readers to buyers if you actually want to make money as a blogger. You need quality traffic.*

The Emotional Call to Action

You may have heard that you need a call to action if you want to convert your blog readers to buyers. I do agree with this idea somewhat, though I’ll take it a step farther and say that you need an emotional call to action.

The call to action (or CTA) is basically what you want people to do when they’re done reading your blog post. Maybe you want them to purchase a product right now. Maybe you want them to share your post, so you reach a larger audience that you can convert. Maybe you want them to sign up for your mailing list, which puts them into the sales funnel. Maybe you want them to leave a comment, making them feel like a part of your community (and be more likely to buy something from you). Whatever it is, you need to make it easy for readers to see your call to action – the next step they need to take on your blog. It can be as simple as adding share buttons at the end.

The more emotional your CTA, the better. This comes down to one thing: good writing. Can you make your readers cry? Laugh? Nod their heads in agreement? Feel frustrated toward the villain of your post? Feel relieved that they can do something? Feel…well…anything? Bring out emotions and they’ll be more likely to listen to whatever your CTA may be.

 Where’s your mailing list?

Well? Where is it? I can’t tell you the number of bloggers I know who, when asked about their mailing lists, sheepishly hang their heads and say they’ve been meaning to get around to creating one of those.

What is wrong with you people?

Seriously, stop reading this and go do it RIGHT NOw. Use Aweber, use Mail Chimp, use Constant Contact, use whatever the hell program you think is best. You don’t even have to have a plan for it…just set it up so people can subscribe for you upcoming emails. Those are the people who really care about anything you’re selling. That’s how you can measure convert-able traffic. You don’t have to give away free shit or have a newsletter or anything. Just set it up so you can use it someday when you’re ready for it.

When people subscribe to your mailing list, there is a shift in their mind. Something clicks and they begin to trust you. If you don’t have a sign-up on your site, that mental turn-over never happens. They’re less likely to buy anything you’re promoting. Being on your mailing list can actually turn someone into a buyer when they weren’t before even without you saying a word because they make that change in their own mind. They start to consider themselves a fan of yours, someone who is devoted.

I can’t stress enough the importance of a mailing list. You can set them up for free and in under 15 minutes, so there’s no reason to continue putting it off.

Stop Focusing on Traffic Spikes

I love sites like StumbleUpon and Digg, but I have to be honest…I only really love them as a reader. As a blogger, they don’t make much sense to me. I’ve had some really popular hits on StumbleUpon, for example, but that traffic doesn’t convert for shit. It’s a spike in traffic for a few days and maybe even over a longer period of time, but who cares? Those readers are staying on my site for literally three seconds. It certainly doesn’t hurt your blog to have a social bookmarking hit, because one in ten thousands might stick around, but if you’re focusing your time on these traffic spike sites, you’re doing it wrong.

Spend your time wisely.

Okay, now it’s your turn. I’d like to hear your thoughts on traffic and how you turn your readers into buyers…so leave a comment!

*The exception to this rule, perhaps, is if you make money by selling ads on your sidebar and are able to charge more if you get more traffic. If that’s your game, it doesn’t much matter whether or not your traffic is “quality.” It only matters that you have the big numbers.

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I’m Calling BS on Guest Posts

This past weekend, I went to BlogWorld Expo and devoured every bit of knowledge I could about new media. I look forward to checking out even more sessions with my virtual ticket. Of course, one of the topics that came up from time to time was guest posting. Now, I love guest posts…if they make sense. But as a traffic strategy? I’m calling BS on guest posts.

Later, after BlogWorld, I was talking about guest posting with Jordan Cooper, who has guest-posted on some pretty popular blogs, including Problogger and Copyblogger. What you won’t see him do is guest post willy-nilly on every blog out there. Why?

Because guest posting doesn’t lead to tons of monetizable traffic.

Sorry to burst your bubble, because I know a lot of “experts” out there encourage people to publish guest posts. And it can be beneficial. It’s just important to understand exactly what a guest post can do for you:

  • A guest post can give you a backlink.

Having links coming into your own site is one way to increase your value in the eyes of Google and other searching engines. Guest posts help you achieve this linking without spamming other bloggers. BUT…it really only makes sense to put in the work if the guest post is published on a site with a fairly higher page rank. For Jordan, it makes sense to guest post on Copyblogger, for example, because that blog has a page rank of 6/10 (which is fairly high). If you’re posting on a site that has a page rank of one or two, it doesn’t make a lot of sense in terms of a backlink.

  • A guest post can help you say “thank you.”

I regularly guest post on my friends’ blogs when they ask me to do so. In fact, if we’re friends, it is unlikely that I’ll say no as long as I have time. At the risk of sounding like Bea Arthur, it’s my way of saying thank you for being a friend. I’ve posted on Kirsten Wright’s blog. I have an upcoming guest post on Chris Ducker’s blog. I would love to guest post for you as well – if we already have a working relationship. Don’t come out of the woodwork and request that I write a guest post for you like it’s some kind of sacrifice that you are making to help me.

  • A guest post can help with name recognition.

If your blog gets a lot of traffic or (even more importantly) reaches the exact crowd that I’m hoping to reach, it might not bring me much traffic in return, but it will help to put my name in front of your readers. This can be important if I’m applying for speaking gigs, hoping to sell products, and more. It legitimizes what I’m doing in my career. But really, you have to have the traffic numbers for this to be a benefit. If you don’t, writing a guest post for you simply isn’t worth my time. UNLESS…well, the other reason to write a guest post for name recognition is to get on the radar of the blogger him/herself. I may not notice your tweets or remember your name after just a brief meeting just because there is so much noise in my life. But if you submit a guest post? I’m much more inclined to check out your blog and follow what you’re doing.

The bottom line? Stop looking at guest posts as a monetization strategy. I sincerely used to think that guest posts were great for blog traffic, but I’ve since been disillusioned. You might get a little traffic through the link, but a very small percentage of that traffic will actually buy anything from you or subscribe. I think there are better ways to spend your time if you’re hoping to drive traffic that really will convert.

Please don’t read this post and think that I’m saying you shouldn’t guest post at all. Guest posts have value if you think about them the right way. Personally, I will definitely guest post more in the future – it just has to make sense for me and my blog.

So what do you think? Have you guest-posted with success? What made it successful?

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Why I Don’t Give Away a Free Ebook

You can’t go two virtual steps in the blogging world without something trying to throw a free ebook or report in your face, typically in exchange for signing up for their mailing list. It’s a solid strategy. Although it gets a little zombie-ish when you have a million pop ups all over your site punching people in the face with your free ebook, I can hands down admit that this is a great way to get people signing up for your mailing list or promoting your content or doing whatever the hell you want them to do.

People love free.

But if you notice, I don’t give away a free ebook on my sidebar. I would almost certainly entice more people to sign up for my mailing list or follow me on Twitter or whatever if I did. It’s not laziness. I’ve made the conscious decision not to give away a free anything in exchange for anything. And here’s why:

  • My focus right now is quality.

If I have to entice you with something free, you’re probably not that interested in what I’m doing. Let’s say that if I added something free in exchange for being on my mailing list, I’d get ten new sign ups per day. Of those sign-ups, one would have signed up anyway (hooray) because he likes what I’m doing and one, although was convinced to sign up because of the ebook, actually also grows to really like what I’m doing. The other eight are just there for the free shit. They either unsubscribe really quickly or stay subscribed but never open my emails.

Now, by giving away a free ebook, I’m getting two new quality sign ups every day. Without the free ebook, I would have only gotten one. So I am definitely growing my list. But now I’ve also let the riff raff in – people who are just there for free shit. One additional sign up per day is not good enough for me to justify giving away something cool that could be content on my site or a paid product. Notice I said “for me.” Your stats could be different and it could make sense for you. Right now, I’m just instead focusing on that one guy who would have signed up anyway, the true blue fan of my work.

  • I do give away free stuff.

The fact of the matter is that I do give away tons of free stuff. You just don’t have to do anything to get it. This entire blog is free content that will hopefully convince you to want more from me. I also have a free preview section of my membership site – and you don’t have to do anything to gain access. You just get free shit. Woo!

You also get freebies for being on my FRONT LINES mailing list (sign up is available here). You just have to actually be a member. When you join, you don’t automatically get free downloads and such. If you stick around, though, you get stuff like free access to parts of my website that are usually pay-only, free sneak previews of stuff I’m working on, discounts, etc. Like I said, though – you have to actually stick around, because you’re also going to get emails about other stuff too.

  • If I’m going to give something away, it’s going to be awesome.

Right now, I’ve got laser vision. I’m putting every waking moment into making sure that the Blog Zombies membership site and this blog are awesome. I don’t have time to create a free giveaway as well. Sure, I could churn out some kind of free report or something in a few hours, but I don’t want to do that. I think that everyone I write, be it a blog post or a free product or a full-length book, is a reflection of me. I don’t want you to get some flimsy three-page glorified blog post as your “free gift” because frankly, it’s going to disappoint a lot of people. That’s not a good way to convince you to buy stuff from me later. So if I ever do give away something for free, you can be sure it’s going to be super high quality. I want it to represent me well.

  • I don’t want to condition my readers to get free stuff.

Online, people are pretty demanding. We’re used to getting stuff for free, so we get offended when people ask us to pay for things. The more stuff you give away fro free, the more free stuff people demand. I don’t want to condition my readers – you guys – to always get stuff for free. Frankly, I believe that my courses and tutorials and other content are worth paying for! This blog will always be free to read, but I think giving away tons of other free stuff left and right might hurt my overall brand…because I want you to actually consider some of my paid products in the future. I know there have been times where I’ve seen bloggers trying to sell something and I think “Nah. They’ll give away some free stuff next week.”

I’m not saying that I’ll never give away something in exchange for mailing list subscriptions (or whatever I want to achieve). I’m just saying that right now, it doesn’t make sense for me. I think too many bloggers are giving away free stuff without first evaluating whether or not it makes sense for them. I know it’s trendy to have a free gift, but it might not be right for you – and that’s okay.

I’ve love to hear from you about your experience giving away free products. Why do you do it (or not do it)?

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How Zombies Look at Blog Stats (and Why This is a Costly Mistake)

Zombie or not, bloggers who want to make money have to monitor their stats at least a little. I personally love stats, but you don’t have to obsessively check them every hour if you want to be successful. What you do have to do is understand that stats you’re seeing. Success is relative…and so are stats.

When you look at your states, try to see more than just a dip or rise. Try to actually understand the potential and how your blog is doing in comparison. I believe that one of the mistakes blog zombies makes is relying solely on numbers with no frame of reference. This mistake could be costing you thousands in profits every year – and you don’t even realize it!

Let me give you an example.

Let’s say that you decide to sell a new ebook on your site. Ebooks are an awesome way to make money with a blog. In preparation for selling your ebook, you decide to follow a launch plan endorsed by one of your favorite a-list bloggers. You follow every step exactly, and when you launch your new ebook, you sell 1,000 copies for $10 a pop. That’s pretty freaking good, especially when you look at your sales stats from your last product launch – a measly 50 sales on launch day. So, the a-lister formula was totally a success! Right?

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What is a Blog Zombie?

Kick open the door and aim your shotgun in the corner. Sleep with a machete by your bed. Keep a rifle slung over your shoulder.

You have to…there are zombies everywhere.

Of course, if you peak out your window, the world isn’t on fire and their aren’t brain-craving creatures hunting down the living (yet? yet!) – but online, it’s a different story. You know how in horror movies no one seems to realize that the zombie apocalypse is happening until it’s too late? I feel like that’s what’s going on in the world of blogging right now. That’s why I was inspired to create Blog Zombies. This isn’t a site about zombie movie reviews or where you can participate in a zombie walk or anything like that. This is a site for serious bloggers who are truly excited about their they’re doing – and who want to make some money online without losing passion or selling out.

So how can you spot a blog zombie?

Just as zombies in pop culture take on multiple forms, like the slow, shuffling Romero zombie or the quick-moving, rabid, super-human zombie, blog zombies take on multiple forms as well. You can read about all of the different kinds of zombies in the membership area (coming October 31, 2011), but there’s one thing they all have uncommon: they aren’t passionately devoted to their blog.

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