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The 9 Conversion Habits of the World’s Most Successful Bloggers

Posted By Guest Blogger 27th of April 2017 Blogging for Dollars 0 Comments

The 9 Conversion Habits of the World's Most Successful Bloggers

This is a guest contribution from John Stevens.

Just how do they do it?

From influencing millions to making millions, the world’s most successful bloggers manage to turn visitors into readers, readers into customers, and customers into fans without breaking a sweat.

But is it all accidental, or is there any science behind their success? Are there any habits successful bloggers follow? And if they do, what are they and why do they work?

In this post, I’ll give you answers to these questions, and more.

1. They use multiple opt-in boxes

According to research by ExactTarget:

“77% of consumers prefer to receive permission-based marketing communications through email”.

With email being such an effective method of conversion, top bloggers make sure they don’t leave any stone unturned in order to get visitors’ emails.

Using more than one opt-in box increases the chances of users signing up with you. But there is also a fine line before it gets annoying.

For example, Smartblogger keeps it very subtle. Jon Morrow asks for your email on the homepage and a popup when you’re about to leave the website.

This treads the fine line between “effective” and “annoying”. Since SmartBlogger is a writing-focused blog, the reduced visual clutter also fits its audience and brand image perfectly.

Neil Patel uses multiple opt-in boxes at QuickSprout – on the homepage, sidebar, as a popup and at the end of every blogpost. Some may argue he goes a little overboard but since Neil writes about marketing, his audience is likely forgiving of aggressive marketing tactics.

While you can debate merits and demerits of an aggressive opt-in box strategy, one thing is clear: they work.

Doing it too aggressively in a non-commercial niche might not be the best option, but at the very least, you should have 1-2 opt-in boxes throughout your site.

What you can learn from this:

Use more than one opt-in box on your site. Take advantage of pop-ups and above the fold area (see below) to maximize visibility for your opt-in boxes.

2. They make good use of “above the fold” area

“Above the fold” is the first half of a webpage that is visible without scrolling.

Whatever content you place above the fold is the first thing your visitors will see when they land on that page. If it is irrelevant, there is good chance they will leave the site before exploring further.

As Peep Laja of ConversionXL writes, “Content placed above the fold grabs our 80% of attention”.

Plenty of studies back this claim. According to an eye-tracking study by the Jakob Nielsen group, viewer attention drops dramatically beyond the fold.

Top bloggers understand this, which is why they use their above the fold area to introduce themselves to their audience, collect emails and put forth evidence of their success (such as reviews from other sites).

Tim Ferriss’ site Four-Hour-Workweek is a great example of this.

There’s lots of good stuff happening here.

Let’s drill down:

  1. “About” the blog: This single statement – “If you could 10x your per hour output…” – tells readers everything they need to know about the blog.
  2. Social proof/Proof from authority: By showing off quotes from authoritative publications, Tim leverages the principle of authority and social proof to show that his advice is valuable.
  3. Opt-in box: Tim doesn’t just throw together an opt-in box; he shows readers exactly what they’ll get if they opt-in to this email list.
  4. More proof from authority: Tim adds his NYT and WSJ bestseller tags for good measure to further attest to his expertise.

Also note how Tim uses his own face rather than a generic brand image.

Here’s another example from Noah Kagan, founder of OkDork:

Though not as busy as Tim’s homepage, it still follows the same principles:

  1. Opt-in box: The opt-in box is easy enough to understand, but also note the headline: 85% of my best business hacks. Why not say “all of my hacks”? Because studies show that users fixate on numbers in headlines, not words.
  2. “About” section: Noah uses the opt-in box section to quickly tell readers about himself and his past successes. Again, this is a form of persuasion through authority.
  3. Social proof: “What others are saying” adds further social proof to Noah’s offer.

What you can learn from this:

Two things:

  • Use the above the fold area to tell readers about yourself and your blog while pushing a lead magnet.
  • Increase opt-in rates by using social proof and proof from authority via testimonials and quotes.

3. They make it easy to share content

Sharing might sound intuitive to us marketers and bloggers, but your average reader might never share your content unless you make it seamlessly easy to do so.

This is partly due to laziness – your readers don’t want to put in the effort to copy-paste URLs or think of tweets.

Partly, this is because your readers don’t even know how to share content.

In fact, a recent survey of computer users across 33 rich countries showed that only 5% of the population could do complex computer tasks, while 14% are “below level 1”.

Successful bloggers understand this very well. That is why they provide multiple easy options for readers to share content anytime they want.

For example, GrowthEverywhere uses multiple social sharing options on the side bar:

This allows readers to pick their favorite social media channel and share the article with one click.

Another tactic is to use plugins such as Click to tweet to get more shares from Twitter. This takes all the effort out of sharing on Twitter – readers can, well, click to tweet the highlighted text.

Here’s how Tim Soulo uses it on BloggerJet:

But simply flooding your posts with share buttons isn’t enough. Hick’s Law dictates that after a certain point, more choices simply confuses your users and discourages action.

To solve this problem, limit your sharing buttons to your top 2-4 networks. If you don’t have a lot of visual content, it doesn’t make sense to throw in Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr sharing buttons.

For example, Neil Patel uses just two social networks – Facebook and Twitter – on Quicksprout.

What you can learn from this:

  • Give users multiple sharing options but don’t flood them with too many choices.
  • Use plugins such as “Click to Tweet” to make sharing easier.

4. They use overlays to capture additional emails

Email is the foundation of blogging success.

Which is why bloggers keep coming up with innovative ways to capture more and more emails.

One such technique is called ‘welcome mats’.

Welcome mat displays a full-screen call to action that shows when visitors land on your website.

For example, this is how the welcome mat looks like when you visit Zac Johnson’s site.

As you scroll down, the welcome mat goes up and you are presented with the landing page.

SumoMe takes this a step further and uses custom welcome mats for each blog posts. A post about writing better headlines, for instance, shows this welcome mat:

Another popular overlay is to use a Slide-in CTA. This CTA enters the screen below your sidebar content so it doesn’t cover your main content:

Here is how Hubspot uses it:

What you can learn from this

  • Strategic use of overlays can get you additional conversions. However, make sure that they don’t hinder your user-experience. If someone has already signed up for your email list, hide all overlays from them.
  • Try using post-specific overlays to push content upgrades and highly targeted lead magnets.

5. They use static home pages to funnel additional leads

If you went back in time and visited ProBlogger.net back in 2013, this is what you’d see:

In contrast, ProBlogger’s homepage today looks very different.

What changed?

For one, ProBlogger’s new homepage doesn’t just show the latest posts. Instead, it pushes PB’s latest content, directs users to relevant categories (“I need help with…”) and also includes a prominent email capture form.

This is a tactic a growing number of bloggers are adopting. Instead of directing users straight to the blog, they direct them to a homepage instead.

Here, they can introduce themselves to their readers, direct them to their best content and capture emails.

For example, here’s Videofruit:

This also gives bloggers an opportunity to do some personalization.

For example, on ProBlogger, returning users are greeted with a “Welcome Back!” message while first-time visitors get links to introductory content.

What you can learn from this

Create a homepage instead of directing users straight to your latest blog posts. This gives you an opportunity to do so much more than just make them read your latest content.

6. They use social proof to build trust and authority

As per wikipedia:

“Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behaviour for a given situation.”

In a nutshell, we look at other’s opinions and signals to evaluate our own potential action.

Consider that:

Top bloggers take advantage of social proof in a number of ways:

By showing testimonials

This is perhaps the most common use of social proof that most (if not all) bloggers use.

According to the research done by Nielsen, “92% people trust a recommendation from a peer and 70% people will trust the recommendation from someone they don’t even know”.

For example, Copy Blogger shows testimonials from real people on their homepage.

By showing authority endorsement

Brian Dean from Backlinko uses testimonials from the big names in the marketing industry.

This is an example of the principle of authority where you leverage the authority of successful people to make yourself appear more trustworthy.

By showing the number of subscribers

For example, on Problogger’s homepage you’ll see this:

300,000 bloggers can’t be wrong, right? By showing that so many people have joined the community, ProBlogger shows that it is trusted by your peers.

By showing media mentions

This is another example of the principle of authority in practice. By showing that you’ve been featured in authoritative publications, you increase your own perceived authority as an expert.

For example, consider Growtheverywhere’s media mentions:

What you can learn from this:

Social proof can be hard to use if you don’t already have it. Showing off your subscriber count when you have just 300 subscribers isn’t very comforting.

To get around this problem, try to get featured in prominent publications or get interviewed by other bloggers.

You can then use the logos from these publications or quotes from others about you as social proof.

7. They use a “Start Here” page.

SmartBlogger does it.

SmartPassiveIncome does it.

Even ProBlogger does it.

I’m talking about a “Start Here” page.

As you can imagine, this is the “start” page for your blog, a page that tells readers who you are, what you blog about, and what they should read.

ProBlogger’s start here page, for instance, tells Darren’s story and shares a list of resources with readers.

Readers will often turn to the “Start Here” page when they land on your site for the first time. While you might have a detailed homepage, it can’t tell your story quite as effectively as a compelling “start” page.

It’s also a fantastic opportunity to collect emails and increase conversions.

What you can learn from this

Easy: create a start page for your blog. This page should:

  • Tell the reader who you are
  • Tell them what your blog is about
  • Direct them to appropriate resources
  • Set the tone for the rest of your content.

Once you’ve created this page, make it the first link in your navigation menu.

8. They make better use of the footer area

The footer area is often overlooked when designing blogs for conversion. We’re so fixated on the above the fold area that we completely forget about users who scroll all the way to the bottom (who, ironically, are also among your most engaged users).

The truth is that the footer matters even more than your middle ‘body’ content.

I’ll refer back to Nielsen group’s scrolling behavior study:

Notice how attention spikes right at the end of the page?

Successful bloggers understand this, which is why they use their footers to increase engagement and conversions.

For example, ProBlogger directs its readers to different resources on its site:

On Hosting Facts, you’ll see a three-column layout (like above) highlighting:

  1. Top-performing content (in terms of revenue/conversions)
  2. “Helpful links” directing users to “best-of” content
  3. Contact us page with email and address
  4. “Social proof” in the form of an established brand (Pingdom’s) logo.

You can also use the footer area to show users all your content and product offerings.

On Entrepreneur On Fire, for instance, John Lee Dumas shows all of EOFire’s offerings (trainings, podcasts and communities) in the footer of his blog content:

Since anyone who has reached the footer is likely already familiar with your content, directing them to high converting pages is a smart move. This is where you can make some additional conversions.

What you can learn from this

Take a close look at your footer and ask yourself: are you making the best possible use of this screen real estate?

If the answer is no, think of the links you can add here. Your best content (in terms of engagement and/or revenue) should get prime space in the footer, as well as your lead-gen forms, earnings disclaimer, and contact details.

9. They use prominent CTAs

What color CTAs do you use?

I know this might sound like a minor design quibble, but your CTAs have a big impact on your conversion rates.

For example, in one case study, changing the color from green to red increased conversion rates by 21%.

This might not sound a lot, but if you get 100 customers each month for a $100 product, you’ll make an extra $2,100 – with no extra work.

In the above example, the red button worked because it contrasted against the green of the logo. The green button, on the other hand, seemed to merge with the text.

Most successful bloggers follow this practice and make their CTAs very prominent.

For example, on Chris Ducker’s site, you’ll see a green CTA standing out against the orange text.

It’s the same on James Clear’s homepage – you see a green button standing out against a grey-white background.

There is actually a scientific reason why contrasting colors work so well in CTAs – the Von Restorff effect.

Also called the “isolation effect”, this principle states that when confronted with multiple stimuli (in our case, CTAs), the stimuli that stand out the most wins our attention.

 

What you can learn from this

Since your CTAs lead visitors to subscribe to your newsletter, download your eBooks or buy your courses, it makes sense to optimize it for higher CTR.

Try testing colors that stand out against your site background in your CTAs. The more prominent, the better.

Over to You

Building a high-converting blog isn’t a matter of chance; it is deliberately planned. While your content creation and distribution strategy will largely define your success, you can increase conversions dramatically by following the same tactics as the world’s best bloggers.

Start off with the 9 habits highlighted above. Once you’ve used them, share your results with me in the comments below!

John Stevens is the CEO of Hosting Facts, a startup that helps consumers make data-backed decisions when choosing web hosts. He is also a frequent contributor to WebsiteSetup where he helps businesses set up their website.

About Guest Blogger

This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above.

  • Wow, that’s a really comprehensive and super useful post. I feel like I need to go and do a course on CTA’s now! Thanks for sharing

  • Great advice John! Currently I am working on sales funnel and calls to action, this post came at the perfect time.

  • John this is a sensational post.

    I show off my As Seen At spots on my sidebar prominently. Easy peasy way to draw in more folks, to increase conversions and to establish that sense of familiarity that we all dig to further buy in to a brand.

    As for the email list stuff I added a pop up form to my blog recently, did some guest posting and blog commenting and also moved my form up above the fold – ok that was just now LOL – and spotted a big time rise in subscriber numbers. Confluence effect of all changes of course but….pop ups work. Being clear on what you have to offer bloggers works. Having confidence in your offering works. So do no hesitate to share your opt in form. It helps you build your email list which increases conversions at a rapid rate.

    Throw your form out there. Here’s the challenge; do not fear annoying readers. This fear killed aspects of my blogging career – especially on the monetizing size of things – for many many years. I had a helluva time trying to build my list and even stopped list building for years because I carried a deep fear of criticism, and loss, in regards to list building. It was crazy, really, because like all fears it was illusory and also, folks wanted to read what I had to offer.

    If you are going to build a list, be clear and transparent about it. Be bold. Add opt in forms to the end of your posts. Add an opt in form to the top of your sidebar. Use a pop up, or maybe, one of those new-fangled scrolls that folks seem to be really into these days.

    In any case, share the forms so you can better capture emails and build bonds with your readers.

    I saw a spike in eBook sales last week by doing 2 things; build my email list and then, sending a second, follow up email to connect with my readers, and to follow up on the sell. The follow up email day netted me more eBook sales than my initial email. That’s the power of follow up. Lesson learned. And that is the power of list building too. Really awesome stuff if you share helpful content and capture email addresses like crazy.

    As for Tim’s smiling headshot it is gold. I use this idea on my blog too with lots of selfies, along with my social proof of being on Forbes and Virgin and Entrepreneur and Fox News. Gotta share your grille and where you’ve been to make a deeper connection because folks are buying into you as the creator of the content, the source of the advice, more than they buy into anything else on your blog.

    If they dig you, and they clearly see what they are getting with your emails, they will gladly sign up for the emails. It is really that simple,and that easy. Easy peasy peasy, but you must get clear to make the impact that goads folks to sign up. For me, it took a while to embrace my fears and get clear but when I did so, everything came together more smoothly on the list building and conversion fronts.

    Fabulous share.

    Ryan

  • Well, just when I thought my site was perfect… Just kidding, I know I will always have something to work on.

    With that said, 7 and 8 are the two I am going to concentrate on. I really need to create a start here page. I know this from experience when I get to a new site I usually start there if they have one.

    TO be honest, I completely forgot about my footer. I just finished my sites design and kinda just put up a general footer, nothing special. I honestly didn’t know that the footer got so much attention.

    Thanks for the tips and pointing me in the right direction.

    Chris

  • Great post! On #5 how are you identifying whether the user is new versus return to show the static or return page?

    I like the idea of a “Start Here” page any examples of how you could use this for eCommerce – each product category would have their own? And the same question with the using the optin email for eCommerce products.

  • Such useful information, but the biggest takeaway for me was the footer. WOW! Thanks so much.

  • Hey John,
    Nice to listen to you, I loved everything but I am a new Blogger although I have worked on tech site before but now I have stepped into the Blogging Niche.
    I also want to be a ProBlogger but the biggest problem for me is the social signals, other than Social signs I am new to WordPress I don’t know how to create a static page.
    My site’s load time is also not good, how can I improve it dramatically.

    Looking for your kind response

  • Hey,

    This was amazing!

    And, Yes ! Start Here is very important for a site. More Specific and Goal Oriented for a beginner without Wandering.

  • Hie John,

    This is one of the topic on which I have spent lots of time in last 2 month.

    Thanks for explaining this topic or technique to get attention of our future audience &
    Keep them returning to our website.

    “Pop up box” is must for any blog. But we have to customize it according to our website theme and what we are trying to give our user back if they give us there email.

    Thanks for Sharing :)

  • Hi John,
    You have shared an amazing post, i think these are the secrets which leads successful conversions. somewhere i have also overlooked it, now thinking to do the same.

    Thanks this excellent post !!!

  • Thanks so much for sharing this! I’m new to blogging and never realized how much work and research goes into designing it, writing content, and attracting an audience. This was incredibly helpful!

  • Hey John,

    Building a successful business needs some great habits. Just like every reputed blog, people should use their social proof to interact and build trust with their readers.

    Making your content shareable is the first thing to do. Social signals matter a lot and how would anyone share if you can’t let them.

    Adding multiple opt-ins maybe controversial. Not everyone likes to see those popups and boxes everywhere.

    ~Ravi

  • Hi John,

    These are some great tips and I love reading John Morrow’s blog. His opt-in doesn’t bother me and actually got me to join his email list. I’ve been testing out different types of opt-in forms for my blog.

    While I haven’t used the welcome mat, I’ve seen a lot of bloggers using them on their blog. I guess the reason I haven’t used it is because I’m not a fan of it.

    I hate it when I visit a site and jump to a new page and the welcome mat keeps scrolling down. To me, it’s annoying to have to keep clicking out of the welcome mat each and every time.

    I know that our goal should be to turn readers into subscribers. However, I don’t like to be pushy with my opt-ins.

    I’ve heard that the welcome mat has great conversion rates. So I am really not sure why I don’t use it. I guess it’s just a personal preference. If so many successful bloggers use it, that means that it works.

    Right now I am using a pop-up that comes up when someone is exiting my site. That’s actually the opt-in that has the highest conversion rate on my blog at the moment.

    I love testing new opt-in placements on my site to see if I can improve my conversions. I’ll have to test some of these other methods out. All these bloggers can teach us something about improving our conversions on our own sites.

    Thanks for sharing and I hope you have a great day :)

    Susan

  • I agree 100% to those 9 habits. I, for example, found out so late that my blog was missing a start-here page and the social buttons sharing a post were not that prominent to readers so despite the content was engaging and of high quality I wasn’t getting much conversions out of it. Great article – thank you

  • Nice tips, I will follow them up while SEO Blogging for my site. As we know content is king so we have to use only high quality unique content for Blogging, guest posting & social media marketing.

  • Optimizely and VWO, sure. But you really think Quick Sprout, WhichTestWon and Nick Kolenda are the best CRO blogs…?

  • This is the best post I read so far about conversions!

    So engaging

    Recently I have been searching for ways to increase the conversion rate of my website, I came across some articles but they were super fluffy and never get to the point

    I have learned a lot from this post and from the top internet marketers mentioned as well.

    One thing I have been doing wrong is having a user extent pop up box only, I wasn’t making use of the sidebar and other high converting places like the homepage, ( what a rookie LOL)

    Thanks for this piece!
    Have a great day!
    Anis

    • This is one of the best posts I’ve seen. I agree with you 100%. By far though I have found this blog site better then all the others I’ve ran into when it comes this subject. I await with excitement on future posts.

  • Hey John,

    One thing I focused on is how to increase more targeted opt ins on my site. I’m creating a home page now and this was a lot of help to see what others are doing.

    Also I’ve been hesitant in using the welcome mat since the google update back in January. But I still see people using it so I may give a go on some posts.

    Thanks for the share! Have a good one!

  • Thanks for such a great article! Talking about CTA’s I have noticed more sites are choosing orange probably because of better conversion rates. Thanks Neil Patel! But it does make them all look very similar.

    • color schemes definitely have an impact on conversions. I’ve heard warm colors are best when trying to convert site hits to sales. Warm colors are more inviting :)

  • This was incredibly helpful to me. I am experimenting with the way I am capturing subscribers and never knew how important my footer area was… Must use this real estate more! Thank you!

  • What an amazing post! So accurate! This doesn’t just relate to blogs. it relates to all websites that provide product and services. All businesses should use this for their websites.

  • Wow this post is amazingly helpful. Thanks so much. I’ll definitely be implementing all of these into my site in the coming weeks.

  • Good to know about secrets of being a successful blogger. Good examples should be followed. I stepped in the bloggers’ world recently. Problogger definitely helps for improving myself.

  • We lack such information, keep on posting useful content.

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