This post is based on episode 192 of the ProBlogger podcast.
A couple of years ago we published a fantastic guest post from John Stevens on the nine conversion habits of the world’s most successful bloggers.
To build a business around your blog you probably need to work on certain things. And John’s post highlights some great habits to build.
But in this post I want to pull out three things John talks about that can make a real difference to your blog. And once we’ve gone through them I’ll share some fundamentals that are even more crucial.
#1: Use Multiple Email Opt-In Boxes
Email is so important. It can help you sell to your audience, build traffic, and build a sense of community.
As John says in his post, you shouldn’t have just the one opportunity for people to opt in to your email list on your blog (or even a page of your blog). The most successful bloggers have multiple calls to action on every page of their blog to opt in.
Readers are becoming increasingly blind to our opt-in invites. It’s like the “ad blindness” that came after banner ads were first introduced in 2004–05. At first they got lots of clicks, but now we’re so used to them that we barely notice them (and ignore them if we do).
Opt-in blindness is similar. People see so many invitations to sign up for freebies that they’ll often just ignore them.
I don’t believe we should stop using email opt-ins. But we should get smarter about how we use them. Having multiple opt-ins is one way to do it, although as John says in his article it’s important to find a balance. You don’t want to annoy your readers by bombarding them with pop-ups that interrupt their reading.
But you can certainly have more than one call to action. For example, you could have:
- a “welcome mat” that slides down from the top when someone comes to your site for the first time
- a call to action at the bottom of your blog posts
- an “exit pop-up” that appears as someone leaves your site.
Track whether sign-ups increase (or decrease) based on the options you have in place. For instance, back in 2017 on Digital Photography School we found that adding an exit pop-up boosted our sign-ups by 30–40%.
#2: Use the Space Above the Fold Effectively
“Above the fold” means the area of a page that appears before you need to scroll (on a desktop). Everything that you can’t see until you scroll is “below the fold”.
The area above the fold on your front page is really important because people are more likely to notice and take action on the things you place here. Here are some of the key things you can include:
- Benefit statements – what someone will get from reading your site
- Social profile – such as how many social media followers or email list subscribers you have
- Opt-in calls – where you ask someone to enter their email address
- Proof of authority – maybe showing the logos of sites you’ve been featured on.
As well as the space above the fold on your front page, think about what’s happening on your posts themselves. Most new readers will come straight to a blog post, not the front page.
A potential problem is having so much stuff above the fold on your blog posts that readers can’t actually see the content of the post without subscribing. For instance, there may be a huge email opt-in at the top.
While a few people may willingly give you their email address before reading your post, it’s smarter to show them the post first and then ask for it. You want to start delivering value to them straight away.
#3: Use a Static Homepage to Gather Email Addresses
This has shifted a lot over the past few years of blogging. When I started my first blog in 2002, it looked like 99% of the blogs on the internet. If you went to the front page you’d see the 5 to 10 most recent posts in their entirety, with the most recent at the top.
That’s just how things were.
A couple of years later people started showing excerpts rather than full articles. While readers then had to click to read each article, it made for a better user experience because the front page didn’t take so long to load.
Later, we started seeing front pages that were more like magazines, with a grid-like layout. Some would have just the title and image for a post, while others would have a short excerpt.
But recently we’ve seen front pages that don’t look like blogs at all. They’re more like landing pages that funnel readers toward taking specific actions. And as John picks up on in his article, many of those pages focus on getting people to subscribe to their email list.
There’s no right or wrong when it comes to designing your home page. But if you look at John’s post you’ll see a lot of blogs no longer look like blogs in the traditional sense.
Think about your number one goal and focus on that above the fold on your homepage. Then add some really strong calls to action. You can certainly include your latest content there, but you can include other things as well.
For instance, on the ProBlogger front page we have prominent calls to subscribe to our email list at the top and at the bottom. In between we highlight our most recent blog posts and podcasts, and have information about our courses (plus another link to our email opt-in as ProBlogger PLUS).
So these three things can all make a big difference:
- having multiple opt-ins
- using the space above the fold effectively on your home page while ensuring your blog posts deliver value straight away
- having a static home page that lists more than just content.
But many successful bloggers don’t do them all. They make a great income, but their sites look a little dated and they aren’t doing anything innovative with their design.
So why do they succeed?
I think it comes down to three key factors:
- They create lots of great content on a regular basis that answers questions and solves problems. They’re delivering real value to readers.
- They engage with their audience through social media, answering questions but also simply getting to know them.
- They promote what they do consistently and prolifically. They network, guest post, attend events and conferences, and get to know other key influencers.
While the design of your blog and how people use it is important and can make a real difference, it’s not the whole picture. In fact, the key to your success will be relentlessly creating great content, being highly engaging, and promoting yourself.
So by all means add more opt-ins to your site, check what you’re including above the fold, and have a clear goal for your homepage. But don’t do it at the expense of your content, your audience, and your promotion.
I’d love to hear what you think about this. What do you believe makes the biggest difference? What are you personally drawn to? Do you prefer tweaking the design of your blog or writing more posts? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.
Image credit: Tony Hand