There are a TON of new sites that are created each and every day. With all of that competition, how are you supposed to compete? The key is to make your site stand out from the crowd. Your site needs to be unique, memorable, and one that adds value to the reader. You only have a few seconds to make an impression on your visitor, so how are you supposed to get them to take notice?
Unique Header Design - One of the first things a visitor will notice is the top of your site. You want to have a memorable site logo along with your site's name and tagline. I also recommend having your customer service phone number if applicable, and the different ways for visitors to connect with you (like Twitter, Facebook, Email). I also like to have a general menu so users can drill down to what they are looking for, and a search box so they can enter keywords they want to find. Of course, advertising spots here are pretty valuable and can generate some extra revenue if they fit into your layout.
Footer - This is the last chance you have to make an impression on the visitor, so don't just waste this space. Most sites simply put their copyright information and repeat the name of the site. This is a nice spot that can be used for partner links (or exchanging home page links) and a sitemap to carve page rank to the pages that you want users to land on.
Sidebars - You want to design your menu for the user, allowing them to easily navigate to the sections they might want to read. You also want to make sure the search engine spiders have access to all of your previous posts, so I almost always include my categories and date archive links in the menu. This allows the spider to crawl deep into my site.
Of course after these simple design tips you need to create dynamite content to keep the readers interested. That's the most important part. Hopefully these few simple tips will help your site stand out from the others in your niche.
If you have have already read my article on the importance of building up a list then you know how much I love email marketing for making money online. If you are using free traffic from the search engines, then you are probably using the different ways to capture leads like a hover box and a signup page. However, paid advertising can also give you a boost in profits if you can make more money off of each lead than it costs you to acquire them. The place to start with online advertising is the most popular pay-per-click platform around, Google Adwords.
The key here is to send these visitors to a squeeze page. If you are paying for clicks it is because you want the visitors to take some sort of action, in this case it's sign up for your newsletter. If you send them to your site's homepage then you take the risk that the visitor will become distracted by reading a few articles and will leave your site before signing up for your newsletter. Instead, create a squeeze page that focuses all of the users attention solely on signing up.
How do you create a squeeze page that works? The easy way to do it is to sign up for the Squeeze Theme. This is powered by WordPress and will allow you to create custom squeeze pages in no time at all. It's so easy to use, all you have to do is choose the theme you want to run, add the text, photos, or videos, then enter your Aweber email codes in and let the Squeeze Theme do the rest. Take a look at some of their examples and I don't think it will be hard for you to see the value in their product.
I run several different affiliate sites, and one program that I think is a must have is MBP Ninja Affiliate. This program allows you to easily change your affiliate links to something more friendly. In fact, it doesn't even have to be an affiliate link at all as it can convert anything to something else of your choosing. Instead of having my twitter link be twitter.com/jamiefaidley, I can make it jamiefaidley.com/twitter.
While the twitter address isn't tough to remember, if you are a Commission Junction affiliate you know that the links are random letters thrown together. There is no way that I can remember what my Godaddy affiliate link is, but I know that sending people to jamiefaidley.com/godaddy is simple and maintains tracking.
MBP Ninja Affiliate does more than just help you with friendly links, it can also find keywords associated with that link and convert them. So let's say you are promoting hosting companies. In each of your posts that have the text "cheap hosting" you can convert that to a link to HostGator (and see, it's my nice and pretty jamiefaidley.com/hostgator link that it sends you to!)
Friendly affiliate links also help if you have additional writers. If they are supposed to be including text link ads in their work, having them us something simpler will lower the risk of mistakes being made. Any mistakes in the URL would lead to your visitor not being tracked to you and you would miss the chance to make any money off of the sales that you generated.
We briefly touched on the topic of setting goals in Google Analytics with the how much do you make from your traffic article, but today we are going to go a little bit more in depth because it's important to study your analytics in order to increase conversions. Our example is going to be nice and simple, how to get more of your visitors to sign up for your newsletter.
The first step will be to create a goal in your Google Analytics account that recognizes when a new subscriber has signed up. I make this the thank you page on my site. Once a new Aweber subscriber confirms his account, the user is taken to my thank you page which might have a free offer or an ebook available for download (you are building your list with free incentives right?). This way I can track what page the user came from when deciding to sign up for the account or which PPC campaign if one was used.
Now, how can I use this information to increase conversions? I do it with split testing. Try testing out a couple of different signup boxes, with different text for the free offer that you are providing. After reaching 1,000 visitors or so on each, which one had the higher conversion rate? If you have a clear winner then that is your answer, but don't stop there. Create another offer and run it, comparing it to your original winner. Maybe the original still has the higher conversion rate, but after testing enough offers you might find that you can come up with something even more appealing to your visitors.
What about the hover box that has your newsletter signup in it? Again, you can test the text inside the box to see which converts the most visitors to subscribers, or you can test the time it takes to appear. Maybe 15 seconds works best for your niche, others it could be 20-30 seconds. You simply are not going to know unless you test.
Of course you don't have to only set goals and test for your newsletter signups. If you run an ecommerce site then more than likely you have a confirmation or receipt page after the buyer pays. Test different offers for your products to see if one has a higher conversion rate to that page.
Basically I want to stress two points: you should be using analytics and goals to track your visitors, and you should always be testing to see how you can increase your conversion rates.
There are a couple of questions that every business owner who is trying to make money online should ask. One is how much money do I make from each visitor to my site and the other is how much money do I make from each lead that I generate. While these figures are not all that difficult to come up with, not knowing what they are can cause you to spend either too much or not enough money on advertising.
Revenue per Lead - In order to figure out revenue per lead you have to have actually made some money off of your site. Your Aweber autoreponders and newsletter should have been operating for at least a month and your readers should have taken some action on the offers that you have promoted. Then all you have to do is total up how much money you have made from the offers sent to your subscribers and divide it by the number of leads that you have. That is the average amount of money that you make from each lead that you acquire. Your goal should be to get as many leads as possible, as long as the acquisition cost is less than your revenue per lead. This will allow you to make more money off of more leads.
Revenue per Visitor - Not every visitor to your site is going to sign up for your newsletter, but they still can buy products from you, click on your advertising, or generate money from you in another fashion. If you are using Google Analytics or have another way of generating site statistics, you just need to divide your total revenue by visitors to your site to figure out your revenue per visitor. When looking into PPC advertising or any other method of driving traffic to your site, the cost per vistior needs to be less than this revenue per visitor.
If you are tracking your affiliate revenue by clicks from the newsletter and by clicks on the site you will have a better idea of your revenue per lead v. revenue per visitor. The more accurate your numbers the better picture you are going to have of your online business.
Other Goals to Track - How many of your visitors sign up for the newsletter? How many end up purchasing one of your products? If you use Google Analytics you can set goals for different areas of you site, and track just how the visitor got to that page, what PPC campaign is converting, and more.
What I call the sales funnel starts when a visitor comes to your site and it is completed when the purchase of a product. That product can either come directly from you or one that you recommend and get a commission off of on another site. From start to finish the No. 1 goal of your sales funnel should be to build trust with the reader. If they do not have faith that you are acting in their best interest, they are not going to pay attention to what you offer them and won't act on your pitch.
The last step of the sales funnel is when the reader actually decides to buy something that you offer. You should already have built up some trust with your readers by providing them excellent information and shown them that you are an authority in your niche. The key to finishing things off and closing successfully is to find targeted products to promote to your list. Solve the readers' problems and they will come back to you again.
Do not just promote a product because it has the highest commission. Too many times people get bogged down in recommending the products that are going to make the most money for them. That might be a better solution in the short term, but if you are looking for long term profits you want to offer the best solution to your readers, so that they trust you when it comes to recommending additional offers later down the line.
What works best with your readers? You won't know unless you test. Make changes to your copy. Try hard selling versus soft selling to see if anything makes a big difference. Constantly be reviewing and updating your information. If readers respond to any of your newsletters, make sure you learn from what they have to say and incorporate that into your sales funnel. If one user has a question, there is a good chance that others are asking the same ones in their heads as well.
If you are going to make money in any niche then you have to be able to build a relationship with your readers. It is going to be a whole lot easier for you to do that if you pick a topic that is of interest to you. If you don't like the topic then how are you going to be enthusiastic about it? If you aren't enthusiastic about writing or promoting that topic, then how are you going to attract enthusiastic followers? The answer is you won't and you will be stuck writing about something that isn't of interest to you.
With that enthusiasm for the subject you will need knowledge and experience. It's OK if you don't know everything about your topic right now, you are enthusiastic to learn right? As you learn new things, tell your readers about them. If you share your knowledge with your readers, then you will appear to be an expert. If they ask questions, do your research and answer them. It's not like you need to know everything on the spot.
A great way to build up your relationship with new subscribers is through an auto-responder. Aweber is very easy to use when it comes to auto-responders. As soon as the visitor signs up for your newsletter you will want to set up a series of follow up letters that will go out to them. Start out simple, don't promote anything. Just explain yourself a little more and list the places that the reader can find you online (Facebook, Twitter, etc..). As you build up trust then you can start being more aggressive and sending them offers, but it's important that the offers be tailored to their needs. You are trying to solve the problems your readers have, not offer solutions to problems they didn't even know they had. The more that you help your readers, the more that they will trust the offers that you send them. That will mean a higher conversion for the products and services that you promote, and more money for you.
Once site owners have realized the importance of building up an email list, there are still some mistakes that they can make which will cause them to not make as much money as they possibly could be. We have already covered how a site owner can capture more leads by using free incentives, but another way to maximize the number of subscribers is to make sure there are several different ways for the visitors to signup. If you want to have as high of a conversion rate as possible for capturing leads then you need to use every chance you can get to put your free incentive in front of your readers to entice them into signing up.
Having a signup box has become a standard on any site serious about capturing leads. You want to put this signup box in a highly visible spot on your site, above the fold. You also want to make sure the signup box details your free incentive offer in an enticing way and lets the user know just what they have to do in order to receive your offer.
I've said in the past that Aweber has the best delivery rate of any email service that I have used in the past, and I love their auto-responder system. My favorite feature of the site though might be their hover box. You design a signup box and then set a timer in the Aweber backend. After a user has been on your site for that period of time, the box drops down. It's great because it doesn't annoy them immediately upon entering your site, but once they are engaged and have shown interest in what you have to offer the box pops up and the reader can't simply ignore it. They are drawn to it and will read your offer. This is a great tool for increasing signups and since you can set it to only show up the first time a visitor comes to your site, it isn't too intrusive to the repeat visitors.
The key to both of these methods is to test, test, and test some more. See what has the highest conversion rate and works best for your site design and your visitor.
We have already talked about the importance of an email list, so by now I hope that you at least have a sign-up form on your site or some other way to generate leads. Now the question turns to "what is the best way to encourage visitors to subscribe to your list?" Something that has worked very well for me in the past with my sites is offering a free incentive. Basically you give the visitor something of value in exchange for their email address. By giving the reader something in exchange for their information you are going to see a higher conversion rate of visitors who end up subscribing. This gives them an additional reason to sign-up other than just to receive your special offers or latest updates.
The question then becomes "what can I offer?" If you have a membership site then maybe it's some kind of a free trial or if you own an ecommerce/affiliate site then you could offer an ebook of the industry or product, detailing your knowledge and informing the user of answers to questions they may have. Blogs and information sites can create an ebook that lists the "best of" their site so users don't have to scroll through the archives to see what your best posts are.
The real key to making this work is to give the reader something that will see as having value. The incentive needs to be related to your site or it isn't going to convert. However, if you give them something of value that is closely tied in to what your site is about it will not only increase the likelihood that they will sign up for your newsletter, but it will also move you up faster in terms of trusting the offers that you send them. This will only increase the amount of money that you can make off of the list that you build.
If you work in internet marketing or run any kind of ecommerce site than you are probably working from home so you already know about the benefits and problems that can arise from the situation. My biggest problem is that working from home seems like a license for some people to bother me at any time they want. I'll be working away when someone will drop by to chat for a few minutes, something they definitely wouldn't be doing if I was working in an office. During the summer if someone has the day off they'll call me up to go golfing, so I have to keep a pretty strike schedule of silencing the phone during my working hours and keeping the door shut to the room in my house I use as the office.
At least the stigma of working from home seems to be going away. Back in 2002 when I started my online business it seemed that everyone thought I was just goofing off all day, and some even asked if I was ever going to get a real job. Of course I thought I was working a real job, I just happened to love sleeping in, staying up late, and taking an afternoon nap. I wasn't working any less than any of my 9-to-5 friends, in fact I was probably putting in close to double the hours they were, but just at different times of the day.
Here are a few tips I have for those of you who either work at home or are thinking abou it:
1. Know Your Style - If you have problems staying motivated on your own, then why do you think it's a good idea to work from home? You have to be self-motivated since nobody will be monitoring you.
2. Create a Work Space - Don't work in your bedroom or at the kitchen table. You need to have a room set aside in your home that you use specifically for work, one in which you can close the door to the outside world as a signal to everyone else that you can't be bothered.
3. Find Your Daily Schedule - I rarely get up before 7 AM and I like to get in a morning workout and shower before starting my day. This means you'll frequently find me on the computer around 8:30. I'll work for about three hours and then take a lunch at 11:30, come back and work for an hour or two before taking a short nap. Then I'll get after it again for a few hours before dinner and some social time with the wife. Most nights I'll log a few extra hours in late at night before hitting the sack after midnight. This is what works for me and I don't think I could function in an 8-to-5 environment (I tried, it didn't go so well).
4. Interact - One problem I have with working at home is the lack of human interaction some days. I'm just working away at home with nobody else around and it can get kind of lonely and boring. I tend to go out to eat more than I probably should and go out with friends for quite awhile on the weekends. You should probably try to find people to go to lunch with or do activities with to fill up your evenings, otherwise you'll turn into a hermit.