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Science

6 Neuromarketing Hacks for Maximum Content Impact

What do humans and lab rats have in common?

We both have predictable behavior patterns and react similarly to the same psychological stimuli.

And while we humans are certainly more complex and sophisticated than lab rats, you can still pull the right levers and hit the right buttons with your content marketing to elicit the response you’re looking for.

I would by no means consider myself an expert in psychology, but over the years, I’ve learned a lot about how the human mind works.

I’ve found out that nearly everyone is predictable to some degree.

By understanding a few key psychological insights, I’m able to better understand my audience and deliver content that clicks with them and maximizes my results.

What’s the secret?

Neuromarketing.

What exactly is neuromarketing?

TechTarget defines this term as

“the study of how people’s brains respond to advertising and other brand-related messages by scientifically monitoring brainwave activity, eye-tracking and skin response.”

It’s basically a sexy word that you get by combining neuroscience (the branch of psychology that deals with the nervous system/brain) and marketing.

The idea is that using cognitive research findings allows marketers to do their jobs with greater efficiency and ultimately boost conversions and sales while providing an optimal user experience.

Although neuromarketing is a fairly new phenomenon (it began in the 1990s), it’s gained a lot of momentum in the past 20+ years.

There are even academic institutions and publications that are devoting massive amounts of time and money to this type of research.

Of course, some people are skeptical because neuromarketing often goes against conventional wisdom.

Apply these 6 Neuromarketing hacks for maximum content impact.

But I’ve found it to be incredibly powerful once I started using it in my marketing.

Here are some specific neuromarketing hacks I recommend.

1. Appeal to your audience’s emotions

As hard as we try to be logical and rational, we’re all emotional beings to some extent.

There’s just no getting around it.

If you can form an emotional connection with your audience, I can guarantee that your content will have a significant impact.

There’s a particular quote I love from an article titled “The Feelings Economy.”

It goes like this:

In an oversupplied economy, customer feelings drive purchase decisions and profitability.

I think this really nails it. The brands that tend to thrive are the ones that are able to elicit the right emotions and hit the sweet spot.

How exactly do you appeal to your audience’s emotions?

Well, you start by understanding which specific emotions on average generate the biggest response:

According to research from OkDork and Buzzsumo, your best bet is to create content that evokes:

Awe
Laughter
Amusement
Joy

More specifically, I recommend using images and stories in your content to trigger these types of emotional responses.

That’s because they’re great at targeting the limbic system, which controls basic emotions.

2. Incorporate images of faces

You might have noticed that I use a lot of images of people’s faces in my content.

Case in point:

I also place an image of my own mug on my website:

Why?

Because, as it turns out, there is power in facial expressions. It’s basically the universal language.

Allow me to explain.

Say you’re trying to interact with someone from a foreign country who speaks an entirely different language. Communicating with words is likely to be pointless.

What they’re saying sounds like gibberish to you and vice versa.

But you can always understand facial cues.

In fact, that’s how babies largely understand the world. Before they develop language, they primarily rely upon their parents’ facial expressions and tone of voice to extract meaning.

The point I’m trying to make here is that the human brain has an innate ability to process facial cues, which makes images of people’s faces ideal for conveying emotion.

Images can also help you establish trust.

Notice how Tim Ferriss’s photo gives off the vibe that he knows his stuff and that signing up for his course should prove helpful:

You can do yourself a big favor by weaving images of people into your content. Doing so can make your audience feel a certain emotion as well as perform a specific action.

3. Use colors to elicit emotion

What’s another way to get your audience to feel a particular way?

Using the right colors.

Each color has a certain meaning, so using the color that matches the emotion you’re looking to target can be highly advantageous.

Here are some examples of the meanings of color in the western world:

The key is to identify the particular emotion, feeling, vibe you’re going for and incorporate the relevant color(s) in your content.

I don’t have enough time to adequately explain this topic to do it justice here. But I’ve covered it in depth before, and you can learn all about it via this resource.

4. Focus on relieving pain points

Conventional marketing wisdom says that showcasing the benefits of a product/service and ways it will improve your customer’s life is the best way to go.

By explaining the positives, you can target the intrinsic pleasure-seeking part of the human brain.

But in my opinion, this isn’t the best approach to take.

In one of my posts on Inc.com, I mention the fact that “neuromarketing experts say that the brain’s pain avoidance response is almost three times stronger than the brain’s pleasure seeking response.”

I also point out that neuromarketing expert Christophe Morin states that

…humans are pain-avoiding machines.

The bottom line here is that you’re usually better off explaining how you can relieve a pain point than discussing the pleasures of using a product/service.

In other words, focusing on how you can eliminate a negative should have a bigger impact.

5. Capitalize on the law of reciprocity

Have you ever had someone do something really nice for you, even when they didn’t have to, without asking for anything in return?

How did you feel toward them afterward?

The odds are good that you felt a sense of gratitude and probably wanted to consciously (or subconsciously) return the favor in some way.

This is the law of reciprocity at work.

At its core, the law of reciprocity explains why we feel indebted to someone when they do something for us.

This could be something as big as saving one’s life or as small as giving away a copy of an e-book.

Much research has actually been performed on this topic.

In fact, a study back in 2002 explored how patrons tipped in restaurants. The researchers examined how people tipped under three types of scenarios:

Scenario 1 – Patrons received a small piece of candy with their check
Scenario 2 – They received a larger quantity of candy
Scenario 3 – They received no candy at all

The researchers found that “the gift of candy increased the average tip from 15 percent to just under 18 percent.”

Although this wasn’t a dramatic increase, it definitely proves the law of reciprocity and that people feel indebted when you do something nice for them when you don’t have to.

By offering your visitors something like a free trial, a free e-book, a free online course, etc., you can expect more conversions in the long run.

6. Use scarcity as leverage

We humans have some interesting tendencies and preferences.

If there’s less of something, our desire for it increases. If there’s more of something, our desire for it diminishes.

This phenomenon is known as the scarcity effect.

A now-classic psychological study from 1975 conducted by Worchel, Lee and Adewole examined the effect of scarcity on people.

It was a very simple study involving cookies, but it was very telling nonetheless.

The researchers “put 10 cookies in one jar and two of the same cookies in another jar. The cookies from the two-cookie jar received higher ratings—even though the cookies were exactly the same!”

What does this mean from a marketing standpoint?

It means that you’re far more likely to maximize your impact by leveraging scarcity. For instance, you might say that there’s a limited time offer on a product/service, or you may have a sale that only lasts 24 hours, etc.

That, right there, can increase a person’s urge to buy significantly.

Conclusion

Neuromarketing is legit and something I’ve found to be incredibly powerful in regards to content marketing.

Besides making it easier to build trust and rapport and generally connect better with your audience, neuromarketing is often the catalyst for increased leads and conversions.

And the hacks I covered here are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s ongoing research being conducted to better understand the psychology behind marketing and what resonates with consumers.

By putting these tips to practice, you can make your content marketing more potent and get more bang for your buck.

Can you think of any other psychological principles that can help you level up your content marketing?

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Offbeat

How We’ve Made Over $750,000 on Amazon Selling Unique Products

Going back to the beginning, Spencer’s Amazon business has now eclipsed $800,000 in total revenue. While we’ve done some private label products, the vast majority of that revenue has come from creating our own unique products and selling them through Amazon’s FBA program.

Today I want to share some insight into how we come up with product ideas and hopefully help you take the leap towards creating your own product.

What Do You Mean By “Unique?”

I’m really glad I asked myself this question.

For the purposes of this article, I just mean that the product is unique to Amazon. So that technically could be a product that is sold other places and probably would sell on Amazon, but nobody is selling it there currently. More commonly, our approach is to find products that already do sell well on Amazon and then add/change things that give us at least one unique selling feature so our product isn’t just a carbon copy of other things out there.

Ideally, we want to find some evidence that people would actually want to buy our unique version of the product. In this article I’ll be sharing details of how we do that.

Why Unique Products?

There’s no doubt about it, coming up with a brand new product that has unique features takes much longer than simply private labeling a product that already exists.

Besides the time it takes to come up with the idea, you then have to find a manufacturer that can actually make the product. (Hint: every manufacturer will say they can make your product).

You’ll then get samples of the product, likely want some revisions and then get an updated sample before ordering.

In my experience, this process takes at least several months from idea to having a product ready to sell on Amazon.

So with all the extra work and hassle, why mess with doing a unique product?

The answer for us is that it’s where the money is.

Amazon is so saturated with products that your best chance to stand out from the crowd is by having a widget that does something different.

Maybe it’s a feature no one else has, maybe it’s the biggest of its kind, maybe it’s the smallest of its kind – you get the idea…

We’ve found that we can often rank for long tail searches much easier, and ultimately carve out a little niche inside of a product category by offering something your competitors do not.

But Don’t You Need a Patent?

I don’t really coach people on Amazon, but I do have casual conversations with friends and family who are interested in the business. One of the first questions I hear is “Yeah, but don’t you need a patent to do that?”

(I’ll stop here for my disclaimer that I’m not an attorney and this shouldn’t be a substitute for legal advice.)

To many people, this whole concept is a bit intimidating and overwhelming and ultimately prevents them from ever taking action.

Here’s what I’ve learned: 

The answer is usually “no” you don’t need a patent to create a new product and sell it.

Patents in the US are generally a way for someone to protect a unique function (utility) of a product, or in some cases a particular design (which is harder to defend).

For us, our primary concern isn’t acquiring a patent for our own product, but rather making sure we aren’t violating the patent of someone else.

There are many ‘generic’ products you can create and not really worry about violating a patent. For instance, anybody can make a baseball bat. That’s why there are tons of very similar bats out there in every size, color, material, etc. So if you wanted to create a new brand of baseball bat – have at it.

Although the baseball bat has been around forever, some people have made specific innovations and types of bats that are patented. One I’m familiar with is the Axe Bat which has a handle that is shaped like an axe, and not round like virtually every other bat out there. A quick Google patent search shows the patent they have on this design.

So while you could make your own brand of bat, you wouldn’t be allowed to make your bat with a handle shaped like an axe.

If you’re thinking about making a product that also uses a somewhat unique function you’ve seen elsewhere, I’d suggest doing a little Google Patent search of your own and if it’s not crystal clear, getting a patent attorney to check into it and advise you if it’s safe to move forward.

It’s better to spend $100 upfront and have peace of mind than to purchase thousands of dollars in inventory and then find out you’ve got a problem.

Here’s an example:

One product I was looking at making a unique variation of is this collapsible popcorn bowl. Before we went too far down the road of working on our own version of it, I noticed there weren’t many other bowls out there that could collapse flat like this – which made me wonder if they had a patent on that particular functionality.

I went to Upwork and hired the services of an experienced patent attorney (for about $100) and he did a search and provided the document to show that the parent company did in fact have a patent on the utility of a bowl that would collapse flat – which was the key feature of this bowl.

Notice the distinction that this patent didn’t mean we couldn’t make our own popcorn bowl, we just couldn’t make a collapsible one or we’d be violating their patent.

So, we simply moved onto the next idea.

(Here is a link to the patent attorney we used on Upwork, he was very fast and thorough for us.)

How To Come Up With Product Ideas

As the old saying goes, there is no reason to re-invent the wheel. But that doesn’t mean you can’t and shouldn’t make a wheel that looks better, lasts longer, or meets a demand that is currently underserved.

When it comes to creating products to sell on Amazon, we don’t really think of ourselves as “inventors.” We’re mostly looking for simple modifications to uncomplicated products that we can launch, market and sell.

One of the best ways to get the ideas flowing is to start reading reviews online.

Listen to Buyer Feedback

Many times, you’ll find some absolute gold inside of negative customer reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. Even in some cases when people like the product, they’ll throw in suggestions like:

“it would be even better if it could…”

“The only thing I would change/add…”

“I would have given 5 stars if it…”

One way to do this quickly is to scroll down to product reviews on Amazon and click the link to view all reviews. From there, you have a search box where you can look for keywords in the reviews that might go along with this kind of feedback.

Below, I was looking at a grill cover and searched the hundreds of reviews for the word “wish” and found some useful ideas about how I might make a better grill cover:

Other searchable words could be “Suggestion”, “Better”, “Improvement”, and anything else you can think of.

Stack Your Ideas

Once you start finding some ideas based on buyer feedback, start making a list of possible features/improvements your product.

Personally, I like to “stack” several ideas together to give my product a number of advantages and perhaps unique features compared to the competition.

So for the grill cover above, I might find a better solution for straps that can clip on the legs but I’m going to keep looking through reviews of other top selling grill covers and hear what else customers are looking for.

Find Ideas Off of Amazon

We use a tool called Jungle Scout Pro that helps us estimate how well products are selling on Amazon, so we get a sense for what our ceiling might be if we created that product ourselves.

Below is a look at Jungle Scout data for meat claws:

While starting by looking at what’s selling on Amazon isn’t a bad idea, I’ve also found that looking for ideas elsewhere can be super helpful.

By searching Google for a solution to the problem your product will solve, I’ve found product ideas in 2 different ways:

  1. DIY Solutions

DIY videos and “hacks” are everywhere. Buzzfeed is full of lists of hacks for just about every purpose, and generally you can expect to see people who have cleverly repurposed one product to make it solve an unrelated problem.

Here’s an example from a Buzzfeed list of kitchen cleaning hacks where the folks at OneCrazyHouse.com used a pair of tongs and microfiber towels to clean their blinds:

If hacks like this work well, it could be a launching point to go create and brand the best blind cleaner out there.

2. Not Sold on Amazon

Another thing I’ve found when just googling different solutions is products that exist, but just aren’t sold on Amazon. In fact, one of our more recent successful products is based off of something I saw being sold on a sporting goods site in the UK.

While there were other products selling well on Amazon that addressed the same problem as this product, I couldn’t find any products on Amazon or any US retailer that were similar to this product I found being sold in Europe.

So the market/need definitely existed in the US, and we were able to work with a manufacturer to create something similar to what we’d found selling overseas and then we became the first to launch that kind of product on Amazon US.

Amazon Suggested Searches

If you’ve searched products on Amazon, you’ve likely noticed that like Google, they try to complete your thought for you by providing suggested searches.

These suggestions have led to some useful product ideas for us. Here is what the suggestions look like if I type “waterproof” searching all categories:

By simply looking at these suggestions I’ve got some product ideas that I know people are searching for.

Since “All” is the default category when you search on Amazon.com, you may not have noticed that if you change the search category the auto-complete suggestions will change to reflect that category.

Here’s what “waterproof” looks like when I change the category to Home & Garden:

Obviously you could continue this process for different categories and start searching different words to see what comes up.

My next step is to start clicking on some of the results that sound interesting and then use Jungle Scout to see what sales look like for those products.

Let’s say that “waterproof apron” seemed like a promising idea, you can then take this whole thing a step further and see suggestions for that specific product:

Maybe there are tons of waterproof aprons for women, but there aren’t many good “extra long” waterproof aprons. That’s when you’d start doing what we talked about earlier and see what reviewers are saying about the extra long aprons and see if you can figure out ways to make yours stand out from the crowd.

Maybe the other ones aren’t long enough…

Maybe all the extra long aprons are focused on men and you could make a more feminine version…

Make sense?

Scratch Your Own Itch

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. That is, when you’ve got a problem you’ll work hard to find a solution – even if it’s a solution you have to create yourself.

Though I’m listing this idea last, maybe it should be the first place you start when brainstorming unique product ideas.

Who knows, maybe you will come up with something truly unique and patentable.

The very first product that Spencer launched on Amazon came from his own personal preferences about a common household product. He had trouble finding one that was designed to his liking, so he basically started contacting manufacturers on Alibaba who made these kinds of products already and said “I want one that looks like this ________.”

Ultimately, that lead to samples being sent, revisions being made, and a very successful product being launched a few months later.

Unless your “itch” is really weird and obscure, the odds are that other people are out there having the same problem or frustration you are – so if you can create product that works, you’ll likely find others who want to buy it too.

Wrap Up

What I’ve shared with you isn’t by any means an exhaustive list of ideas. However, we’ve had a measure of success launching products on Amazon and these are some of the exact methods we’ve used to come up with new ideas.

My best advice is to get out there on Alibaba or even talking to a local manufacturing company where you live and at least have a conversation about what it would take to bring your sample to life.

For my last product, I literally sketched a certain kind of bag design on a piece of paper, took a picture with my iPhone, and sent it over to a bag manufacturer I had a relationship with from Alibaba. A few weeks and $120 later I had the bag I had drawn sitting in my living room.

Maybe your unique product idea won’t be a homerun, but if you strike out – at least strike out swinging.

The post How We’ve Made Over $750,000 on Amazon Selling Unique Products appeared first on Niche Pursuits.

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Technology

What Are Interstitials, and Are They Hurting Your SEO?

A lot of people seem to think SEO is dead.

People have been saying “SEO is dead” every since SEO started. But this time, could it be different?

Look at what’s happened recently. Google unleashed RankBrain, a machine learning algorithm shift. Keyword research seems to be going the way of the Model T. Artificial intelligence is overtaking the world of SEO.

And yet, SEO is not dead. But it is changing in dramatic ways.

In Google’s never-ending quest to provide its users with the best possible search results, it will be executing yet another algorithm update in the near future.

According to the Google Webmaster Central Blog, “to improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.”

If you’re not an SEO nerd, this basically means that sites with mobile popups—or what Google calls “interstitials”—may be penalized.

Any sort of potential penalty obviously doesn’t bode well for your website, so it’s important to understand the details of this impending update and whether you’re likely to be affected.

Here is what you need to know to make sure you’re not adversely impacted.

What are interstitials?

First things first. Just what is Google talking about when it refers to interstitials?

The formal definition from Tech Target is this:

“An interstitial (something ‘in between’) is a page that is inserted in the normal flow of editorial content structure on a website for the purpose of advertising or promotion.”

You’ve seen these before, right? You’re tap-tapping along, and then boom!—a popup.

Unlike other types of ads, e.g., banner ads, interstitials require the user to manually click/tap on the ad or click/tap on the “x” (close) button.

You’re basically prevented from exploring a website until you comply and click on a link or “x.”

This is obviously disruptive, and many people (including Google) feel that it detracts from the overall user experience.

Here are three different examples Google specifically mentions that make content less accessible:

Google also provides some examples of techniques that make content less accessible to a user:

“Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.”
“Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.”
“Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.”

Not everything that seems like an interstitial is actually an interstitial. Cookie permissions, age verification, and small banners are all okay in Google’s eyes.

A mixed reaction

I think it’s fair to say most of search engine users will be happy about this update. They’ll encounter fewer annoyances when they access content.

But as can be expected, not everyone is thrilled.

Have you heard about interstitials before? Get this handy cheat sheet to learn whether interstitials are hurting your SEO or not.

As you might imagine, there are plenty of publishers who feel that this will negatively impact their conversion rates on products/services/offers.

Here’s a tweet from Skift CEO, Rafat Ali, voicing his dismay:

But regardless of what public opinion may be, this update will happen on January 10, 2017.

Love it or hate it, you’ll need to be aware of the potential repercussions of having interstitials on your website.

Google’s logic behind this move

As you probably already know, Google has been placing an emphasis on mobile friendliness for some time.

And it’s easy to see why.

With 80 percent of Internet users owning smartphones and 47 percent owning tablets, Google most definitely needs to cater to these users if it wants to remain the global juggernaut it is today.

It’s got to stay ahead of the game.

Because mobile use actually surpassed desktop use in 2015, Google has been putting an increasing priority on optimizing the mobile experience.

Google’s first major mobile-friendly update (also known as “Mobilegeddon”) occurred on April 21, 2015, and there’s been no looking back.

They even created the mobile-friendly test, where you can determine whether your pages conform to the new standard and where you can receive input on how you can improve in this area.

Since then, they’ve steadily cracked down on websites that fail to provide a favorable experience to mobile users, and this next update is just another part of this progression.

And I get it.

How many times have you attempted to explore a site on your smartphone only to be interrupted by intrusive popups?

It happens to me a lot. They take up most or all of the screen and are really annoying.

What might be only a slight inconvenience on a desktop or laptop is a monumental distraction on a smartphone.

That’s why I definitely understand Google’s decision.

Are interstitials hurting your SEO?

Here’s the deal.

Up until January 10, 2017, having interstitials on your website shouldn’t have any impact on your rankings.

It’s business as usual for the time being.

But once that day rolls around, all bets are off.

While it remains to be seen just how big of an impact this update will be, it’s safe to say it’s not going to do your SEO any favors if you’re still using interstitials.

I think this update is somewhat of a wake-up call, telling us we need to focus more on the user and find ways to promote our offers without being disruptive.

What do I need to do to prevent penalties?

In my opinion, it’s best to err on the side of caution in situations like these.

The last thing you want is for your rankings to take a major hit because of interstitials.

I would recommend removing any popups or intrusive ads at least for the time being until the dust settles.

If using interstitials has been a key piece of your revenue model, I would suggest considering alternative options.

What are the alternatives?

Your best bet would be replacing a popup with a banner ad.

According to Google, one technique that won’t be affected by the new signal is “banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible. For example, the app install banners provided by Safari and Chrome are examples of banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.”

Usually, the ideal positioning for a banner ad is at the top of the screen, where it’s very noticeable but doesn’t detract from the user experience.

You can still use a considerable amount of screen space to grab the attention of visitors as long as it’s not overly intrusive.

When done correctly, a well-placed banner ad should still generate a good number of clicks and ensure that visitors are aware of your offers.

Another possibility is a stationary sidebar ad. These tend to work well because they’re still noticeable even after a visitor scrolls down your site.

Even when it’s below the fold, a sidebar ad will continue to appear, increasing your chances of getting clicks.

But what if I absolutely have to use popups?

If you feel like skipping popups altogether is going to kill your conversions, there is a third option: the time-driven popup.

Such a popup ad will only appear after a visitor has been on your site for a certain amount of time and explored your content to some extent.

Unlike a regular popup, where a visitor is hit instantaneously after arriving on your site, this delayed popup ensures they have at least some level of interest and be more open to an offer.

However, I would still exercise caution with this technique because there is the potential for penalties.

A final note

It’s important to note that there are certain legal-centric interstitials that won’t be adversely affected.

For example, an age verification popup won’t be impacted:

Google also makes one important point in relation to the new algorithm update:

“Remember, this new signal is just one of hundreds of signals that are used in ranking. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.”

Translation: if you’ve got epic content that’s highly relevant to what the user is searching for, you probably won’t take that big of a hit even if your site has interstitials.

Conclusion

This upcoming update from Google is a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, it should create a better overall user experience (UX) so that search engine users can explore a site’s content without being barraged with intrusive popup ads. A better UX is always a good thing.

On the other hand, this can really hurt conversion rates of some businesses.

If one of your primary ways of getting clicks and driving revenue has been through interstitials, this can put you in a difficult position.

In this case, you’ll need to come up with another strategy for funneling traffic to the desired location.

Let me level with you here. I love using popups. I get a lot of flak for this, but here’s the truth: popups work.

When I use popups, my conversion rates increase, readership soars, and revenue goes up. Besides, in my user research, I consistently hear people say “I’m glad I filled out my email address on that popup because ____.” I see that I’m giving value, and that’s fulfilling to me.

Yes, I’m a fan of popups. Honestly, I’m not too sure what to think about the interstitial algorithm. I guess we’ll have to see what happens.

As I’ve learned time and time again, adaptability is one of the most important traits of a savvy marketer. You need to be able to roll with the punches and adapt on the fly in order to achieve sustained success.

By making the appropriate changes and striving to create a streamlined, distraction-free user experience, you can avoid penalties and keep the leads coming in.

That’s what I plan to do.

Are you a fan of this Google update or not?

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Blogger

9 Ways to Generate Sales from Your Last Blog Post (Without Being Salesy)

These days, “sales” is perceived as a negative five-letter word.

Sales has gotten a bad rep. When you hear the word “sales,” you probably think of pushy salespeople or telemarketing calls.

The stigma of sales affects bloggers too. Lots of bloggers are afraid to sell to their readers. They don’t want to lose the audience they worked so hard to build.

Well, I’m here to tell you that you can successfully use your blog posts to sell without being salesy.

And no, I’m not going to recommend ads. (Surprise!)

You might be wondering how blog posts can increase your revenue.

The answer is simple: reciprocity.

Most of you have probably heard about reciprocity from Dr. Robert Cialdini’s renowned book Influence. It talks about psychological triggers that make people respond in certain ways.

Reciprocity happens when you give immense value to your audience. In return, they feel compelled to help you out. In our case, that happens when they buy from you.

It’s a simple formula. If your blog posts are top-notch, your readers will be open to buying from you. But they’re not just “buying.” They’re supporting a resource they love.

And when you pair reciprocity with blogging, the results are powerful. You’ll sell, but your readers will never think you’re selling to them. It’s a friendly offer.

I know, it sounds too good to be true. Let me prove it to you with these 9 ways of using your latest blog post to generate sales.

1. Provide a ton of value

Value should be your number one priority as a blogger. I’ll even go a step further and say that it’s impossible to run a truly great blog without providing a crap ton of real value.

But can you sell based on value alone?

It’s a good question. So let’s look at what happens when you take price out of the equation.

Tom Morkes had a blog that people really liked, but he realized it wasn’t profitable. So he wrote an e-book and released it to a whopping 166 subscribers. Don’t laugh yet—the results will astound you.

Tom chose a pay-what-you-want method so his readers would have a choice. And lots of his readers chose a price of $0.

But Tom’s readers contributed an average of $15 per e-book. And he made an impressive $493.50 in the first month by offering something free.

See the numbers for yourself:

This is a fantastic case study to show just how well value can sell. If you have immensely valuable content, you can sell like crazy even if you offer it free.

Download this cheat sheet of 9 ways to generate sales from your last blog post.

2. Link to a relevant product

Linking to one of your products is a simple but effective strategy for getting eyeballs to your storefront.

But here’s the catch: you have to share a relevant product.

If your blog post is about making the best pumpkin pie and you include a link to your guide to wine tasting, the conversion rate won’t be very high. That’s because your readers are there for the pumpkin pie.

But if you share a link to your guide to pumpkin-pie-making with those same readers, you’ll see much better results.

Here’s Carol Tice from Make A Living Writing using this strategy:

To give you some context, Carol’s post is about a freelancing scam. By sharing this product at the end of the blog post, she’s letting readers in on a surefire method of revenue.

Solve your readers’ problems by sharing relevant products with them, and you’ll make their day.

3. Describe an insanely valuable use of your product

It makes sense why no one would want to buy your product unless they saw its benefits.

So don’t beat around the bush—show off your products’ benefits.

But it’s important that you’re not just praising your product as the best thing since sliced bread. You have to give readers specific, detailed reasons why your product is great.

MailChimp does this excellently. Their post “Why Clients Render Email Differently” mentions their Inbox Preview feature, but it doesn’t read like an advertisement for that feature.

Instead, it talks about the similarities and differences in email clients that readers should be aware of.

This part is crucial: You can get value from this article even if you don’t buy their product.

Your blog post should still be value-packed. You’re simply letting your readers know that your product provides a shortcut to the results they want.

In other words, don’t dangle your product in front of your readers’ faces and say, “You have to buy this to get anything good.” Give them the good stuff in the post itself.

4. Blog about your customers

Sharing your customers’ experiences with your product can work wonders. Your readers get to see how your product is benefiting real people, and they’ll become more interested without feeling pressured.

TOMS does this with its “Locals Who Give Back” blog post series. Each post profiles a TOMS customer who is making a difference in their local community.

Don’t worry—you don’t have to be TOMS to do this effectively.

All you have to do is make heroes out of your customers. Listen to ordinary people’s stories, and broadcast them to your audience. Your readers will instantly connect with these stories, and that means they’ll connect more with your brand.

5. Do affiliate marketing (the right way)

There’s a reason why tried-and-true methods are tried-and-true. Affiliate marketing is no exception.

But you know what I can’t stand? When bloggers try to hide the fact that they’re using affiliate links.

If your readers really love your blog, they’ll be more than happy to help you out by buying something they were already interested in anyway.

Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income has two great rules for affiliate marketing:

Don’t be an intrusive salesperson who hawks products to their readers. Be your readers’ friend, and recommend products that will improve their lives.

6. Fix a problem

People will always have problems, and they will always want to fix those problems. That’s where you come in.

By fixing your readers’ problems with your blog posts, you’re earning their trust. Eventually, they’ll want to check out what you have to offer.

SumoMe does this by regularly posting monster guides that cover a subject exhaustively. And if you look at their articles (like this guide on content upgrades), you’ll see they go over everything. They leave no stone unturned.

But you don’t have to write thousands of words to fix problems—shorter can work too. No matter the approach you choose, make sure you’re thorough when fixing your readers’ problems. Don’t give them a temporary duct tape fix—give them a long-term remedy.

7. Give away a preview

You know what the trouble with a lot of products is? They’re all talk. Any product can sound great with a well-written description.

But if you know you’ve got something good, give your readers a free preview. Let them in on the action so they can see for themselves just how great your product is.

If you have a subscription service, give your readers a free trial. If you have an e-book, give away the first chapter.

Here’s my challenge to you: Give away more than you think you should.

When Seth Godin released his book Permission Marketing, instead of just giving away one chapter, he offered the first four chapters free. (And the offer still stands!) That free preview didn’t stop the book from creating a legacy with marketers all over the world.

And make sure your free preview is packed with good stuff. Don’t give away a limited free trial or an introduction. Give your readers the good stuff, and when there’s no more free content, they’ll likely pay for more.

8. Hold a contest

No one can resist the offer of something free. You can leverage this by holding a contest on your blog.

You’re probably thinking, “How can I generate sales if I’m giving something free?”

This is how. Contests help you grow your audience and build interest in your brand. After a successful contest, you’ll have a lot more people to share your products with.

To get the best results with your contest, go social. For example, use Rafflecopter to give extra entries to people who perform certain social actions, such as liking and sharing your page:

(Bonus tip: You can also use contests to get tons of user-generated content.)

9. Give your readers an exclusive deal

Every time your readers make the choice to check out your latest post, they’re investing their time in your work. By giving your audience an exclusive deal, you’re thanking them and giving back.

Don’t make the offer public anywhere else. Make it a readers-only deal, and say so. You want your readers to feel special.

Conclusion

Selling doesn’t have to leave you feeling slimy.

When you do it right, selling equals helping your readers. Only promote products you know will improve your readers’ lives.

After you’ve been blogging and interacting with readers for a while, you’ll realize it’s a small community. These people aren’t facts and figures. They’re humans with problems that need to be solved, and you can help.

It’s all about helping. If you’re focused on providing value, the selling part becomes a lot easier.

Your readers want to support you. All you have to do is ask.

How do you use your blog to generate sales?

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Blogger

The 100 Most Useful Websites For (Almost) Anyone And Everyone

Google search, Bing search, or Yahoo search. But have you ever tried the DuckDuckGo search? It’s a search engine that doesn’t track you and has everything (like suggestions, image search, video search, etc.) you expect from a search engine.

There’s a very good chance that we end up using only the most popular websites on the web because they are just everywhere. However, it doesn’t really mean that they’re the best websites on the Internet.

Needless to say, “popular” isn’t necessarily the best. And that’s how I decided to come up with a list of extremely useful (and probably less-known) websites on the web.

Don’t Miss: The Fantastic Ten Tools (Free) To Skyrocket Your Productivity

The Fantastic Hundred Websites

Whether you’re a student, a professional, or a homemaker, I have hand-picked one hundred most useful websites for you — to get things done, or to spend time with, or to find something interesting. And no, it doesn’t include the Facebooks and Amazons of the world.

  1. About.me — Create your free, one-page website in just a few minutes.
  2. Airbnb — Rent unique accommodations from local hosts in 191+ countries.
  3. Alexa — See the top 500 websites on the web.
  4. Allrecipes — Find and share everyday cooking inspiration on Allrecipes.
  5. AlternativeTo —  AlternativeTo lets you find apps and software by recommending alternatives to apps you already know.
  6. Awesome Screenshot — Screen capture for all or part of any web page. Add annotations, comments, blur sensitive info, and share with one-click uploads.
  7. Bitly — A URL shortener and link management service.
  8. BlaBlaCar — BlaBlaCar is the world’s leading long distance carpooling service, connecting drivers with empty seats to people travelling the same way.
  9. Calm — Relax with Calm, a simple mindfulness meditation app that brings clarity and peace of mind into your life.
  10. Canva — Create designs for Web or print: blog graphics, presentations, Facebook covers, flyers, posters, invitations and so much more.
  11. Clarity — Clarity is a service that helps you find, schedule and pay for expert advice over the phone to help you be more productive and grow your business.
  12. Clip Converter — Clip Converter is a free online media conversion application, which allows you to reocord, convert and download nearly any audio or video URL (from YouTube, Vimeo, etc.) to common formats.
  13. CopyPasteCharacter — Copy paste characters (emojis, graphic shapes, numerals, symbols, currencies, arrows, etc.).
  14. Couchsurfing — Couchsurfers share their homes, cities and lives in profound in meaningful ways, making travel anywhere in the world a truly social experience.
  15. Dailymotion — Dailymotion is a video-sharing website where you can upload, watch, and share videos.
  16. Diigo — Diigo is a powerful research tool and a knowledge-sharing community.
  17. Down For Everyone Or Just Me — Check if a website is down or up.
  18. Dropbox Paper — Dropbox Paper is the best way for teams to collaborate — share ideas, give feedback on your files, and track tasks all in the same doc.
  19. DuckDuckGo — A superior search experience with smarter answers, less clutter and real privacy.
  20. E.gg Timer — E.ggTimer.com is a simple countdown timer, or egg timer.
  21. Evernote — Collect, nurture, and share ideas across desktop and mobile platforms with Evernote.
  22. Fake Name Generator — Generate a random name with full address and personal details.
  23. Fax Zero — Send faxes for free to anywhere in the U.S. and Canada.
  24. Feedly — A single place to easily read all the news you rely on to think, learn, and keep ahead.
  25. FFFFOUND! — Find, bookmark and share your favorite images.
  26. Fiverr — Fiverr is the world’s largest marketplace for digital services — buy & sell small services starting at $5.
  27. FollowUpThen — Free + easy email reminders.
  28. The Freecycle Network — The Freecycle Network is a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns.
  29. Ge.tt — Ge.tt is an instant, real-time file publishing and sharing service.
  30. Goodreads — Discover and share books you love on Goodreads, the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations.
  31. Grammarly — Online proofreading tool that checks text for grammar, punctuation, and style, and features a contextual spelling checker and plagiarism detector.
  32. Groupon — Discover and save on 1000s of great deals at nearby restaurants, spas, things to do, shopping, travel and more.
  33. Guerrilla Mail — Guerrilla Mail gives you a disposable email address. Also try, 10 Minute Mail.
  34. Hide My Ass — Try Hide My Ass free proxy to surf anonymously and protect your online identity.
  35. Hulu — Hulu brings you instant access to all of your favorite TV shows, the hottest new series and great films, all in one place.
  36. IFTTT — IFTTT lets you connect the apps and devices you use every day, such as Amazon Alexa, Facebook, Twitter, Fitbit, Slack, and more. Also try, Zapier.
  37. IMDb —  IMD is the world’s most popular and authoritative source for movie, TV and celebrity content.
  38. Imgur — Imgur is the best place to share and enjoy the most awesome images on the Internet.
  39. InstaCalc — Get answers as you type numbers using natural language.
  40. Investing.com — Investing.com offers free real time quotes, portfolio, streaming charts, financial news, live stock market data and more.
  41. Join.me — Collaborate instantly with free screen sharing, unlimited audio, and simple video conferencing.
  42. Kaspersky Secure Password Checker — Test your password.
  43. Khan Academy — Khan Academy is a nonprofit with the mission of providing a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.
  44. Last.fm — Online music catalog with free music streaming, videos, photos, lyrics, charts, artist biographies, concerts and internet radio.
  45. LastPass — LastPass remembers your passwords so that you can focus on the more important things in life. Also try, LastPass Password Generator.
  46. Listly — Make cool lists and fun listicles on Listly, share them on Facebook and Twitter, and embed them on your blog or website.
  47. LiveJournal — A service for journals and blogs, that also offers privacy controls, photo storage, publishing tools, style templates, and online communities for many interests.
  48. Lyft — Request a ride with the tap of a button, and get picked up by a nearby community driver who’ll take you to your destination within minutes. Also try, Uber.
  49. Medium — Medium is a publishing platform to read, write, and interact with the stories that matter most to you.
  50. Meetup — Meetup brings people together in thousands of cities to do more of what they want to do in life.
  51. Mint — Manage your money, pay your bills and track your credit score with Mint.
  52. Namechk — Use Namechk to search for an available username or domain and secure your brand across the web.
  53. Netflix — Watch Netflix movies & TV shows online or stream right to your smart TV, game console, PC, Mac, mobile, tablet and more.
  54. Office.com — Collaborate for free with an online version of Microsoft Office suite.
  55. Pablo — Design engaging images for your social media posts in under 30 seconds.
  56. Pandora — Pandora is free, personalized radio that plays music you’ll love.
  57. Pastebin — Pastebin lets you store text online for a set period of time.
  58. PayPal — PayPal is the faster, safer way to send money, make an online payment, receive money or set up a merchant account.
  59. Peek by UserTesting — See and hear a 5 minute video of a real person using your website or blog or app with Peek.
  60. Photosynth — Capture your world in 3D.
  61. PicMonkey — Add filters, frames, text, and effects to images with PicMonkey’s free online photo editing tool and collage maker.
  62. Periscope — Periscope lets you broadcast and explore the world through live video.
  63. Pocket — Pocket is your place to quickly save, discover, and recommend the stories that interest you.
  64. Popurls — Popurls encapsulates headlines from the most popular websites on a single page.
  65. Print Friendly & PDF — Make a Printer Friendly & PDF version of any webpage. Also try, PrintWhatYouLike.
  66. Quora — Quora is a place where you can ask questions you care about and get answers that are amazing.
  67. Rainy Mood — Rainy Mood is the world’s most popular rain simulator.
  68. Random — Generate true random numbers.
  69. Reddit — Reddit is a social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion website where your votes shape what the world is talking about.
  70. Robinhood — Robinhood is a stock brokerage that allows customers to buy and sell U.S. listed stocks and ETFs with $0 commission.
  71. Screenfly — Test a website on any screen size including desktops, tablets, televisions, and mobile phones.
  72. Scribd — A digital documents library that allows users to publish, discover and discuss original writings and documents in various languages.
  73. Shazam — Identify music that’s playing and see what others are discovering.
  74. SlideShare — Offers users the ability to upload and share publicly or privately PowerPoint presentations, Word documents and Adobe PDF Portfolios.
  75. Similar Sites — Similar Sites helps you find related sites and topics similar to the ones you love.
  76. SoundCloud — SoundCloud is an audio platform that lets you listen to what you love and share the sounds you create.
  77. Speedtest — An interactive broadband speed test.
  78. Spotify — Spotify is a digital music service that gives you access to millions of songs.
  79. Stack Exchange — Stack Exchange is a network of 100+ question and answer communities on everything from software programming to cooking, photography, and gaming.
  80. StumbleUpon — StumbleUpon is the easiest way to discover new and interesting web pages, photos and videos across the Web.
  81. Supercook — Supercook is a recipe search engine that lets you search by ingredients you have at home.
  82. Techmeme — Techmeme is a one-page technology news aggregator.
  83. TED — TED Talks are influential videos from expert speakers on education, business, science, tech and creativity, with subtitles in 100+ languages.
  84. Time And Date —Like, Countdown, Calculate Duration Between Two Dates, and more.
  85. TuneFind — TuneFind contains an index of music and songs appearing in popular television shows and movies.
  86. TwoFoods — TwoFoods is an online food comparison tool that helps you choose healthy foods.
  87. Trading Economics — Get free economic indicators, Historical Data, Charts, News and Forecasts for 196 countries.
  88. Trello — Trello gives you perspective over all your projects, at work and at home.
  89. Truecaller — Truecaller helps identify unknown incoming calls, warns against unwanted calls through a community based spam list.
  90. Tumblr — Post anything (from anywhere!), customize everything, and find and follow what you love.
  91. TypeRacer — Test your typing speed and learn to type faster.
  92. Udemy — Udemy is an online learning and teaching marketplace with over 40000 courses and 12 million students.
  93. Unsplash — Free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos.
  94. Upwork — Find freelancers and freelance jobs.
  95. Vimeo — Watch, upload and share HD and 4k videos with no ads.
  96. Wayback Machine — Explore more than 273 billion web pages saved over time.
  97. WeTransfer — WeTransfer is a free service to send big or small files from A to B.
  98. Wolfram|Alpha — Wolfram|Alpha gives you access to the world’s facts and data and calculates answers across a range of topics, including science, nutrition, history, geography, engineering, mathematics, linguistics, sports, finance, music, etc.
  99. Wunderlist — Wunderlist is a simple to-do list and task manager app that helps you get stuff done.
  100. Yelp — Yelp connects people with great local businesses.

Don’t Miss: Over 101 Blogging Resources (Tools & Apps) I Can’t Live Without

Closing Thoughts

It’s very well possible that you already know a lot of websites that are listed here. However, I shortlisted the above websites as those are the ones that I often visit and I want others to explore these too.

Additionally, you can probe into:

Blogging Tools 101 
Productivity Tools 101
Social Media Tools 101

…for a ton of useful websites on the Internet — organized by categories and subcategories.

If you know any other (less known) useful websites that’s missing in this list then do let me know as a comment below and I will add it to the list. Also, let me know if you think I must replace a website with its better alternative.

Happy Web Browsing! 🙂

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The 100 Most Useful Websites For (Almost) Anyone And Everyone is a post by Minterest

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Blogger

How to Start Blogging if You Fell off the Wagon a Long Time Ago

People always ask me how I’ve built up such a huge audience for my blogs.

Part of my secret sauce? I’ve been blogging for well over a decade now.

But not everyone has been blogging for years, and I get that. Some of you may have started a blog years ago but abandoned it.

I can relate. There were several times when I almost quit blogging. I was scared it wouldn’t pan out for me. And it does take time. But I stuck with it, and I’m so happy I did.

And here’s the best part: It’s not too late for you to start blogging.

I know what you’re thinking: “There are a million blogs in my niche. Why should I even try to compete with them?”

There are two main reasons. First, you bring something unique to the table. No one else has experienced everything you have. And besides, your blog should be different from your competition’s, not a carbon copy.

Second, start seeing competition as a good thing. Competition means the niche is popular and profitable. You can actually leverage that competition to get more views on your blog.

If you fell off the blogging wagon a while back, you can (and should!) jump back on. Here’s how to get (re)started.

1. Pick up where you left off

Here’s something that will relieve you: You don’t have to start from scratch.

If your old blog is still up, pay it a visit. It’s probably a barren wasteland, but you can salvage some useful scraps from it.

If you want to blog in the same niche you did before, I highly recommend repurposing content. It’s one of the easiest and most efficient ways to get extra mileage out of existing material.

If you still have access to any old material, pull it out and dust it off. Chances are it’s still relevant to your niche. Or maybe it just needs a few edits to make it shine again.

Assuming you remember (or can retrieve) your login information, you can use this blog to restart if you want. If you still own the domain name (and if you want to blog in the same niche), there’s no reason not to reuse your old blog. Edit your content, give it a redesign, and you’ll be off to the races.

But if you do opt for a shiny new blog, you can simply transfer your content over.

Either way, you’ll take advantage of what you did in the past to make the future easier.

2. Make a big comeback

You want to re-enter the blogosphere with a bang.

There are two ways you can do this.

The first approach is to jump right back into the game and start blogging regularly. If you’ve got a lot of motivation and ideas, this could be a good approach for you.

For example, you could follow in Seth Godin’s footsteps and start blogging every day.

Of course, your posts should be longer. But as an example of consistency, Seth’s blog stands head and shoulders above the rest.

But you don’t have to blog every day—you just have to blog consistently. Otherwise, there’s no point.

Decide how many posts you’ll publish per week, and get to it. You absolutely have to stick to your schedule if you want to come back on a strong note.

The second approach—and the one I wished I’d taken when I started blogging—is to stockpile your ideas before you blog. This takes a little more time, but it gives you a little more flexibility.

If you choose this, you’ll need to do two things:

First, get to writing! You’ll want to have as much content as possible when you officially start up your blog again. There’s no hard-and-fast guideline here, but about 3-4 weeks of content will give you a huge advantage.

Second, create an editorial calendar to schedule your posts. I recommend reading this post from HubSpot that shows how you can use Google Calendar to set up your editorial calendar.

Like I said, I wish I had taken this approach when I started blogging. There were many days when I was racking my brain for ideas, and a lot of them turned out to be crap.

But if you have the motivation to get out there and start right now, do it! The most important thing is to make a plan and stick to it.

3. Build (or rebuild) your audience

You may have heard this line repurposed from the movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.”

But that’s not true for blogging.

You have to build your blog and your audience.

You might have built an audience in the past. If you have, don’t be shy about leveraging that. If you know who read your blog, drop them a line about your return. You can also go through your old blog’s comments to see who was checking out your content.

And if you have an email list, that’s even better. Send out an email saying “I’m back!” More than likely, those subscribers will be glad to flock to your new blog.

In fact, getting your audience involved is one of the best things you can do at this point. Ask for feedback, and use that to improve your new blog.

The blog team at Unbounce did exactly this. They took a 2-week hiatus and asked readers to send in their thoughts:

Even a simple offer like this goes a long way in your readers’ minds. So, if you’ve still got a list floating around, use it!

But what happens if you have no audience at all?

It’s time to build one.

I’ll describe a couple of my favorite methods here, but I highly recommend you check out Quick Sprout’s Complete Guide to Building Your Blog Audience.

First, get a social media game plan. Lots of bloggers start out by relying on SEO, but the truth is that good SEO takes years to develop. Driving traffic through social media will help you out in the short run.

You can either buy ads or build your social profiles from the ground up. If you have the resources, I recommend a combination of both. Don’t rely 100% on ads—get involved with the community and share value with others. That’s how you’ll get people to visit your site in droves.

Second, use outreach. Outreach happens when you contact people asking them to share, promote, or look at your posts.

Reach out to your own network initially. Since you have personal connections, you can be somewhat informal here.

Next, reach out to the big names in your field—the influencers. But here’s the catch: In order to catch the attention of influencers, you’ll need top-notch content.

One of my favorite techniques for creating top-notch content is the Skyscraper Technique. Basically, you take an existing blog post, improve upon it, and send it to influencers. (You can read more about this on Brian Dean’s blog Backlinko.)

When you’re contacting influencers, you’ll need a solid email script. Here’s a good one to use:

Personalize this, and send it to your target influencers. If you’ve put some hard work into your post to make it an ultimate resource, you’ll likely get some responses.

4. Do your research (again)

You might have done lots of research when you started blogging. Now, you need to do more research.

You want to be at the forefront of your niche. You need to know the latest trends and ideas so you don’t fall behind.

Most importantly, take some time to size up your competition. What’s changed over the years? What types of content are your competitors posting and why?

Use this information to find your angle. You have a few options here:

Make an existing angle better
Add your personal experience/opinion/stories
Combine two angles to make something new (e.g., 7 Valuable Marketing Lessons Pokémon Go Has Taught Us)

Whatever you decide, make sure your angle stands out in some way. You either need to be a super high-quality or a super unique resource (ideally, you should aim to be both).

5. Build your email list

There’s a ton of truth behind the statement “it’s all in the list.”

That’s because an email list is hands-down the best way to grow and promote your blog.

Earlier, I mentioned that if you still have an email list from an old blog, you should use it. But you can’t stop there. You have to build your list every day.

List building is a long-term process, so don’t get discouraged early on. If you keep at it, you will see the results.

The best way to start is to optimize your site for capturing emails. Yes, that means popups! You might hate them, but they work.

You can have a full-screen popup like the one Ramit Sethi from I Will Teach You To Be Rich uses:

Or you can have a scrollbox like the one we use on Crazy Egg:

Or you can use one of my favorite tools, Hello Bar:

There are a lot of options, so look around and choose carefully.

You should also consider creating a fantastic lead magnet to get more subscribers.

But I have to emphasize something here: a good lead magnet isn’t enough. It should be so good that your subscribers would be shocked to see you giving it away.

Conclusion

Even if you gave up all hopes of creating a successful blog, it’s not too late.

In fact, blogging is easier than ever. You’ll still need to invest some serious time and money, but there are more resources available now than ever before.

If you make a plan and stick to it, you can build a huge audience like I did.

You want to know one of my secrets? I’m nobody special.

You’re probably thinking, “Yeah, right, Mr. Huge Blogger.” But it’s true. All I did was follow some simple rules that anyone can follow and use to succeed, and that includes you.

Now, it took me years to really succeed with blogging. But I didn’t do everything right when I started out. In fact, I spent years recovering from some rookie mistakes I made.

But you don’t have to fall into the same trap. You can get off to a strong start, do things the right way, and find blogging success a lot sooner.

So, if your blog is lying around collecting dust, pick it up and brush it off. You might be surprised at the results.

Are you going to start blogging again? Or for the first time?

Blogger

17 Unexpected SEO Lessons I Learned After Publishing My First Listicle

It’s been ten years since I started blogging. It began as a fun thing (and it still is!). Also, blogging was just another random stuff that I used to do at that time. But today my blog is much more than a random thing for me, and that’s the only difference.

I don’t know if I’m one of the so-called professional blogger or a hobby blogger or yet another nerd. It’s something that I’m trying to figure out. But I just know for sure that it’s been a long amazing journey so far. 🙂

And it didn’t happen in one day and it didn’t happen in a couple of years time. It happened over time and is something that’s still happening.

I don’t know if you have read this blog post of mine:

Over 201 Google Products & Services You Probably Don’t Know

Well, you should. You know why? Because that’s my first (original) evergreen blog post and apparently that’s my first (real) listicle too. It eventually became one of my first pillar blog post and taught me a lot of things that I never thought of.

Don’t Miss: What Does It Take To Generate 1,000,000 Pageviews & $3,000 Per Month

First things first.

I didn’t write Over 60 Google Products & Services You Probably Don’t Know (the original blog post — thanks to Wayback Machine) for SEO. And I didn’t write it for traffic either.

I did it as I was using (or tried) almost all of Google’s web products and services. So I just wanted to show my gratitude plus create a useful list as it wasn’t there on any other blogs.

Moreover, it was also just another random blog post that I did which happened to became the foundation of my blog’s SEO. You know why? Because it taught me a lot of things about Google SEO that I couldn’t find anywhere else.

Oh yes, that post was published way back in 2009 when there was no Google Pandas or Penguins. Also, I didn’t know any Neil Patels or Rand Fishkins of the SEO world. Back then I gathered most of my internet marketing knowledge from the Digital Point forum.

Coming back…

Here are the things that I learned about blogging and SEO from my favorite blog post — let’s call it “Google 101“. Okay? So yeah, they are all more or less related to SEO Google SEO. 🙂

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1. It’s all About Quality, Not Quantity!

I must had at least 250 blog posts back then but the majority of the traffic was contributed by a handful of blog posts. “Google Products” being the primary one.

I realized that I don’t have to publish a blog post daily and that it’s all about quality. One single blog post that’s useful and perfectly optimized has more worth than 100 mediocre blog posts.

2. Scannable Blog Posts

People do not read your blog posts. They scan it.

“Google 101” was one such blog post. It didn’t have much paragraphs to read though it was over 1,500 words. You know why? It was a listicle. It did not make the content boring or make it lengthy (even if it had more than a thousand words in it).

That’s how I started spending many, many, hours formatting a blog post by customizing its images, heading tags, paragraphs, lists, etc. to make it as much organized as possible. And now it’s something that I love to do.

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3. Listicles = More Social Sharing

Whenever I shared “Google 101” on Twitter, it used to immediately attract hundreds of visits and that’s how I realized the power of listicles and viral titles (though I didn’t mean to make it a viral post like the BuzzFeeds and HuffingtonPosts of the world are doing).

4. Don’t Write For Google

The best SEO happens when you do not do any SEO. You don’t believe it? Let me explain. As mentioned earlier, I listed all the Google products for fun.

After few quarters I noticed that it’s sending me a lot of organic traffic. So, when I checked my traffic stats I was surprised to see that my blog post was ranking on top for the keyword “Google Products”.

I was totally surprised as it was a top keyword (and that too a short tail keyword). Also, my primary competitor was Wikipedia and Google’s own “About” pages. Plus, there was already a service named “Google Product Search”.

So, I started researching about how it went on top and then I got my answer.

It was the most comprehensive blog post for that particular keyword.
It’s got less competitors though the keyword was super-competitive (in terms of number of results).
It was a blog post and not a static HTML web page (that was the time Google started loving blogs).

What did I do after that? I started creating more blog posts thinking like an “algorithm”. Every single time I asked myself what makes it stand out. Or, why should Google rank it on top? Of course, I have also published a lot of “for fun” blog posts as well.

5. Use Compelling Titles

I didn’t choose the title “Over 60 Google Products & Services You Probably Don’t Know” with the idea to make it a compelling story or to make it a linkbait article. Instead, when I wrote it I actually meant it.

Because the top 3 Google products was Search, Mail, Images. Even today, it must be less than 50 and never 200.

Now how do I know that it was indeed a compelling title? Well, someone told me. So, I started writing titles in a similar fashion for more blog posts (when I think is relevant).

And that’s why you won’t see a blog post titled “Over 101 Google Products & Services That Will Absolutely Blow Your Mind” on Minterest. Ever.

6. Use Sub-heading (H2-H6) Tags

When I started updating Google Products I also tried to optimize it by placing optimized images, and meta tags, and headings.

However, I can’t say in a definite way whether it’s going to help or not (actually no one can say except the folks at Google).

Anyway, now I try to add sub-headings whenever I can — by following a hierarchy that makes sense.

7. Use Personalized Images/Screenshots

I was using images and screenshots ever since I started blogging but “Google 101” was one of the first few blog posts in which I started placing personalized screenshots (from my own accounts).

So, how is it useful? Well, it adds more clarity (or at least I think so) and it makes the blog posts more casual and friendly. Since then, I started placing customized screenshots rather than placing press images or cliparts.

8. Use Timeless URLs

As I have already mentioned, when I first published “Google 101”, it was a list of just 60 Google Products & Services. Because Google had only around sixty products at that time.

And the original URL was: http://www.minterest.com/60-google-products-services-you-probably-dont-know/.

When I updated the blog post to include more Google products the original URL looked boring and outdated (because of number ’60’). So when I updated the blog post, I published it as a fresh blog post in order to change its URL, images, etc.

As you can see, now the URL is timeless and I won’t lose its SEO advantage or don’t have to care about future 404 errors. I now try to make sure that my URLs are all timeless.

9. Use Effective Natural Keywords

I was already on top for the primary keyword “Google Products”. So what I did was I modified the article over time to include related long tail keywords as well.

And it worked too! That said, I never over-optimized that page and everything was done naturally and organically.

10. Link Out Generously

The SEO community believed that having more than 100 links on a single web page is a bad idea. Because Google once said so. But I didn’t care. I was linking to whatever blog post or web page that I thought was relevant without caring the number of external links.

My idea was pretty simple and it’s something like Wikipedia Citation. When I was linking out to another web page I was actually bookmarking it (for my own personal use) and I thought it would be useful for users as they can get deeper insights about what I have written.

11. Comprehensiveness Counts

Let me repeat. “Google 101” was the most comprehensive blog post for the search query “Google Products”. Because that was listing almost all the products Google ever launched in an easy to scan way.

It basically means that, if a blog post is the most comprehensive (or rather most useful) web page for a specific keyword then it eventually ranks on top (without any SEO expertise). And that’s why they say, write as if Google doesn’t exist. 😉

12. Do Competitor Analysis

Oh yeah, it taught me about competitor analysis as well. My primary competitors were Wikipedia and Google.com. So, did I beat them? Well, yes and no.

It doesn’t make sense for Google to rank my domain #1 for obvious reasons. But I was able to beat all the other competitors and it includes several high profile blogs. How? Simple. I made it more useful and more comprehensive and more optimized. And it worked!

13. Show Post/Comment Dates

I have expressed my anger over bloggers who hide the published dates of their blog posts on 30 Things I Absolutely Hate About Your Blog. And most of them hide the dates of the comments as well.

I know why they are doing it but I strongly believe that it’s not a good practise to follow. Because I still remember the first person who pointed out the published date problem on my blog though I never hid the blog post or comment dates on Minterest.

See, readers notice everything.

14. The Wikipedia Way

You know what inspired me to update my archived blog posts? It’s Wikipedia. I’m pretty sure that you have noticed that Wikipedia ranks on top for almost all the keywords for which there’s a Wiki page.

So why is Google rewarding Wikipedia in a big way? The answer is simple. Wikipedia is always fresh and its domain name has high authority.

And I tried to replicate it on my own blog. I started updating Google products list as Google launched more products and then I noticed that it became one of the most popular posts on my blog retaining its organic rankings.

15. Duplicate Content Is Okay

Google penalize duplicate content, right? Well, I would say it depends. Because it depends upon how you define duplicate content.

If you copy-paste this entire blog post and publish it on your own blog (as you own content) then it’s duplicate content + plagiarism.

But if you have used only a few excerpts and is even giving me credits for the same then it neither becomes duplicate content nor becomes plagiarism.

“Google 101” showed me that duplicate content can be effective. Because if you check out that blog post then you can see that almost all the product descriptions are actually copied from its source page itself.

My job was only to list all the products in a useful way. And it’s not just “Google 101”. If you check out inspirational quotes then you can sense the same thing. So, it’s all about how you are doing it and why you are doing it.

16. Fill Content Gaps

When I published “60 Google Products”, Wikipedia already had a dedicated web page listing all the Google products and yet I did it. Why? Because the Wikipedia list was less useful than mine as it lacked external links (links to actual product pages on google.com).

I wanted to list products and add links in ways that I wanted. And what I did was I filled a content gap. Because at least some people expect the links on Wikipedia to redirect to actual product pages and not to another Wiki page.

17. Update Evergreen Content

Freshness is rewarded. I used to update “Google 101” every once in a while and then I noticed that whenever I updated that blog post it started sending more organic traffic (and referral traffic too).

So, I started updating it more often and it had a positive impact on that blog post’s organic rankings. And then I did the same for almost all the evergreen blog posts on my blog. And it worked like magic.

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Closing Thoughts

Whenever I think of my blogging journey on Minterest, I see three levels. Level 1.0 was the beginning phase (2006-2012) and was apparently my learning phase.

And then I started to get very obsessed with writing and spent many, many hours to compose a single blog post and that was Level 2.0 which lasted until mid-2016. Like I said,  “Google 101” was the base of my blog’s Level 2.0. 🙂

What about Level 3.0? Well, I can’t exactly say anything simply because I haven’t yet figured it out totally. All I know is that it’s time to change the way I’m blogging (unless I don’t want to scale up my blog).

So have you ever composed a blog post that changed the way you blog? If so, do let me know as a comment below and don’t forget to include its link.

Happy Blogging! 🙂

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A brief update

Over the last couple years, I’ve seen more and more people in technology trying to make government work better. They’re idealists who are also making a large impact. These are people that I respect–some of them worked to fix healthcare.gov, for example. From talking to many of them, I can tell you that their energy is contagious and they’re trying to improve things in all kinds of ways.

I want to see whether I can help too. So for the next few months, I’ll be taking a leave from Google. I’m joining the US Digital Service family, specifically the Defense Digital Service at the Pentagon. I’ll be moving out to Washington, D.C., as part of the change. If you’re in the area, please say hello! And if you’re interested in the US Digital Service, you can find more information at usds.gov.