This guest post is by Jeff Nickles of MySuperChargedLife.com.
My blog grew by leaps and bounds in 2011. It was exciting! But it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t made a few smart investments in my blog—investments, you could say, in my success.
I’m a regular guy and a part-time blogger just like many of you. I’ve learned how to grow my site through trial and error. Over the last four years, I have probably made more mistakes than the average joe. I’ve done a lot of the wrong things, but occasionally I get it right. I’ve benefited tremendously from the experience of others since I started, so I want to share with you the tactics behind my success, hoping they will help you.
The results I achieved
First, let’s look at the results I achieved. My blog’s experienced what I’d call explosive growth in the last year:
- 353% increase in number of email subscribers.
- 103% growth in number of pageviews (doubled in one year!).
- 141% increase in AdSense earnings.
I want to assure you that these numbers are a reflection of consistent increases over the course of many months. I’m not just comparing a freakishly bad month from a year ago to a freakishly good month now.
The investments I made
As you can see, I saw big boosts in the number of subscribers, pageviews, and earnings on my site. These are the key measures of success that I’m always looking to improve. I attribute the growth of my blog to some important investments that I made about a year ago.
1. I changed my WordPress theme
Not all themes are created equal. This is especially true when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). I’ll admit that I don’t understand all the minutiae behind this art, but I don’t have to, and neither do you—assuming you’re running a self-hosted WordPress blog.
You can significantly increase your site’s ranking with search engines by using a theme that optimizes this for you.
A little knowledge of SEO will certainly help, but the more you get out of the box with your theme, the better. Just over a year ago, I invested in a premium WordPress theme that had a strong commitment to search engine optimization. Yes, I had to pay a little money for my theme, but boy has it been worth it.
Before I made this purchase, I ran a different premium theme and used a popular WordPress plugin to supposedly optimize my SEO. I’m sure the plugin helped, but I can tell you that changing to a different theme—one that was already optimized—helped a lot more.
My traffic has doubled in the past year, and all of the extra traffic has come from search engines. On top of that, my AdSense earnings have gone up almost 1.5 times on what they were just one short year ago, all because of this increase in traffic. That’s a nice return on investment—and a clear justification for investing in a good theme.
Investment #1: Catalyst Theme
2. I moved to a better email subscription management service
Previously, I used Feedburner to manage my email subscribers. The thing I liked best about Feedburner was that it was free, but it lacked some key features. As I learned more about blogging, I discovered what Darren and others say about the importance of building an email list. Therefore, after three years of puny email subscriber growth, I decided it was time to get serious about how I handled this aspect of my blog.
I want all the new search engine visitors coming to my site to become email subscribers. One powerful way to encourage this is to offer a first-time visitor an incentive to subscribe. In my case, I put together a free ebook called The Super-Charged Guide to Smart Living.
The new email subscriber service gives me the ability to use autoresponders. When someone subscribes, the service automatically sends them a specific Welcome email that I have set up. I can include links in these emails. Therefore, I can offer all these new search engine visitors a free copy of my ebook as an incentive to subscribe. This definitely works.
Furthermore, once they become subscribers, I can send them a series of auto-responder emails walking them through a complete sequence of strategic interactions with my blog. By the way, I got this idea from Darren in What Process Do You Want to Lead Repeat Readers Through? Excellent advice!
Again, I have to invest a little each month to get these features, but after just one year, I certainly see the advantages. This new service allows me to engage strategically and proactively with my email subscribers. It also gives me the ability to brand the emails so I look more professional, credible and consistent. I believe all of this has contributed to my site’s growth.
Investment #2: FeedBlitz
Cost: US$13.95/month (when I signed up).
3. I implemented a pop-up lightbox
In my first three years of blogging, I had only accumulated about 800 email subscribers. This is very puny, I know. I now have over 3,600 valid email addresses on my opt-in list. Here’s a chart that shows the phenomenal growth I’ve experienced.
Isn’t this amazing?!? It is to me!
How did I achieve this kind of growth? Well, I implemented a pop-up lightbox that offers visitors my free ebook in exchange for their subscription. That lightbox looks like this:
I configured this pop-up to appear to first-time visitors. This really seems to work. I’ve been averaging around 250 new email subscribers per month since I turned it on about a year ago; before I used this, I averaged around 20 per month.
Originally, I was hesitant to put something like this in place because I knew it could be a minor irritant to some. However, the results speak for themselves. I’m definitely glad that I did it.
I had to make a small investment in a premium plugin for WordPress to get the professional look I wanted, but this has more than paid off. I’ve recouped this expense many times over already.
Investment #3: Popup Domination
Make an investment to grow your blog
The growth I’ve seen in the last year has been awesome, although I haven’t had to work a whole lot harder to achieve these explosive results.
It just goes to show you that by investing in the right aspects of your blog, you can really make a big difference. My total investment for my new theme and for Popup Domination was just a little over $150. I would spend that money again in a heartbeat.
I started out only paying $13.95 per month for my FeedBlitz subscription, but now, because of my phenomenal email subscriber growth, I pay $49.95 per month. I don’t mind it a bit—I can assure you that it has been well worth it.
Here’s my advice if you want to grow your blog: educate yourself on what works, and then don’t be afraid to make a few investments. Not all of them will turn out exactly as you desire, but you’ve got to be willing to take the risk if you want the big payoff. It worked for me.
Jeff Nickles is a regular guy on a quest to live life to its fullest. He began MySuperChargedLife.com in December of 2007 as a way to share his experiences and to learn more about life. You can reach him by visiting his blog.