How to grow your email list
(Even if you don’t have an audience yet)
Taught by Jon Morrow of Boost Blog Traffic
Master Class: Grow Your Email List
Andrew: This session is about how to use blogging to grow your email list. It’s led by Jon Morrow. He is the founder of Boost Blog Traffic, a blog that helps smart writers get more readers. I’ll help facilitate. My name is Andrew Warner. I am the founder of Mixergy where proven founders like Jon teach.Jon, before we started you said that it took you a while to recognize the value of emails and, in fact, about two to three years after you were blogging you told me you had how many email addresses?Jon: It was like ten email addresses.Andrew: Ten email addresses.Jon: Yeah. It was terrible. I mean when I first started I didn’t even know you were supposed to have any sort of subscription box. I thought if people liked your content that they would come back, and that was a huge mistake.Andrew: In a moment we’re going to talk about the powerful thing that happened when you did learn that. But, going back in time a few years, this is 2007. You get on Penelope Trunk’s site. You do this post. What happens there? Oh, look at that, 277 comments. What happens with this guest blog post because you didn’t know what we’re about to talk about?
Jon: Yeah. That was actually my first viral post. It’s one of the most popular posts in the history of Penelope’s Blog. It got something like 100,000 visitors on the first day, and it sent about 15,000 visitors to my blog. But, because I didn’t even know about building an email list, I didn’t get a single email subscriber from that. So, you know, I wasted a huge opportunity there.
Andrew: Unbelievable. I always assume that everyone understands the power of it, especially you. Here, let me show you what I found going online, D folder. Here, this is an Internet archive. This is what your site looked like back then, 2007.
Andrew: I did click on the subscribe. I think some of the design is missing from this, but when I click on the subscribe what’s very clearly here is Feedburner RSS, and the closest you had to an email list was well if you want to get my RSS you can get it via email here through Feedburner.
Andrew: Oh, how far you’ve come since then. As a result of what you’re about to teach us you actually could today do a webinar. Do you have a sense of how many people would show up if you just said hey, I’m going to do a webinar, I’d like you guys to come out?
Jon: These days we usually max it out. I mean we usually get about 2500 registrants, and GoToWebinar has a maximum of 1000 attendees, which is the software we use. So we usually go right up to it and max it out these days.
Andrew: And it’s more than just about the fun aspect of having a big audience and a big crowd when you want to teach something, when you want to sell something through a webinar, when you want to get together with people. It’s also practically helpful for you.
You went to Mexico. Why did you end up in Mexico by the way?
Jon: Yeah. This was, what, 2010. I was having some success online. I was getting a lot of traffic. I was the associate editor of Copyblogger at the time. I was in a situation where I have about $180,000 a year in medical expenses.
Andrew: Wait. Let’s just be clear about that. How much?
Jon: $180,000 a year.
Andrew: 180, okay. From what?
Jon: Mostly I need round the clock attendant care. I have a type of muscular dystrophy called spinal muscular atrophy, and I can’t move from the neck down. What that means is I basically need somebody around me all the time. I mean if I want a drink of water, somebody has to give it to me. If I have an itch on my nose, somebody has to scratch it for me.
Because of that just around the clock attendant care expenses, that’s about 100 grand a year all by itself. Then, on top of that I need the doctor’s visits and everything that I used to do and still do. It came to about 180 grand a year.
Jon: The only way I could pay for it at the time, because I mean I was making… I didn’t start off making a ton of money doing this. I think I was making 40 or 50 grand. I ran into this huge problem where the only way I could afford all of those medical expenses was to be on Medicaid, and Medicaid…
Jon: And Medicaid has restrictions on how much money you can make before you have to start paying the money back. Their restriction is, they allow you, at least in North Carolina, this changes by state, and this is at that time. I don’t know if it has changed since then. But it was $800 a month…
Andrew: Oh, wow.
Jon: …Is what I was allowed to make. And then beyond that, anything beyond that, I had to write a check to Medicaid. So I remember one month I made $5000, and I had to write a check to Medicaid for $4200. I started to feel trapped because I knew that I could build a business. I knew that I was developing some really powerful skills, but I also knew that it was going to be hard for me to be able to pay 180 grand a year medical expenses as a start-up or even in the United States.
So I started looking around and a friend of mine had retired down in Mexico. He kept telling me about how great it was, how inexpensive it was. So I went down there for a week and fell in love with Mazatlan, Mexico. I moved down there because down there, an RN, a nurse with a four-year degree at a good top-of-the-line hospital, makes about $4 an hour.
Andrew: So you went to Mexico to cut your expenses while you figured everything out and saw how you could make a business out of this blogging thing.
Jon: Exactly. So, what I did by doing that, I cut my expenses from 180 grand a year to about 40 grand a year.
Andrew: I see.
Jon: And I was living in a condo on the ocean.
Andrew: Is this it, by the way? I found this photo online. Actually the team here found it online. Is this…
Jon: Yes it is.
Andrew: …Your time there?
Jon: Yes it is.
Jon: So that was the first day that I was there. I went out on the balcony. I took a photo, and posted that. That was from my balcony. The condo I was staying in was $1500 a month.
Jon: If you had a condo like that… Like right now I live in southern Florida, and a condo like that here, you are looking at probably $6000 a month plus, to rent some place like that. And I had around-the-clock nurses, and I paid for everything myself down in Mexico.
Andrew: From blogging.
Jon: From blogging.
Andrew: Blogging, building your email list, and selling what?
Jon: What I did was, at first, I was still working for Copyblogger, so I was making a little bit of money from that. Copyblogger is one of the big content marketing blogs, run by Brian Clark, or founded by Brian Clark. And I was also working for Neil Patel.
Jon: Which I think was a recent guest of yours.
Jon: Yes. Neil was great. I helped him launch the KISSmetrics blog.
Jon: So I was doing both of those jobs and then I also launched my own online course about guest blogging, which, at the time, was an unheard of concept. Nobody knew what it was. And it was so unheard of, I bought the domain name, Guestblogging.com, from GoDaddy for $7.99.
Andrew: Oh, wow. And what year was this?
Jon: This was in 2010.
Andrew: Two thousand ten.
Jon: Two thousand ten.
Andrew: Now, I want to get into the tactics that will help our audience do what you did, but I know that they are curious about how with this lack of understanding about email lists, when you started, and with the heavy expenses that you had, after you started to learn what you are about to teach us, how big did this business get for you? How much revenue are you doing today using what you are about to teach us?
Jon: So, while I was working for Copyblogger and for Neil, I launched my course, and in the first week, it was somewhere around 25 to 30 thousand dollars in sales that it made.
Jon: I made so much money so fast, that I had never made that amount of money before, that PayPal got suspicious and locked my account down. Because, you know, it was a huge influx of money, all in the span of just a few days. And when I finally got all of that straightened out, I went into Neil, and I very politely turned in my notice.
Jon: And said, you know, you’ve been great to me. Thank you so much, but I’ve got something really big going here and I got to pursue it.
Andrew: I see the revenue…
Andrew: …that you have today up on the screen, your annual revenue. Do you feel comfortable sharing your annual revenue?
Jon: Sure, sure.
Andrew: What is it?
Jon: It’s $100,000 a year.
Andrew: $100,000 a year.
Jon: Or a month, $100,000 a month.
Andrew: $100,000 a month, okay, I thought so.
Jon: $100,000 a month.
Andrew: $100,000 a month, and this is from building using many of the ideas that we’re going to be talking about today. Here are the ideas that you and our team went through that we thought would be most useful for the audience. The first one is to have the right kind of Coming Soon page.
John, you won’t believe it. I remember when you did that post, and I followed the link.
Andrew: I saw that page, and, frankly, I have to be honest with you. I completely, completely dismissed it. I said this is never going to work. Because I didn’t know what was on there. Can you first, before I show a way back machine screen shot of what I saw all the way back then, tell me what I missed. What is the right kind of Coming Soon page?
I feel like such a… I think I know who’s got it, and I was so off with you at the time. What goes into the right kind of Coming Soon page?
Jon: The right kind of Coming Soon page really gets people excited about your upcoming project. But, most importantly, it has an email capture box. After working with Brian at Copyblogger I learned a ton of stuff about email, and about attention, and about marketing and selling. I saw that even our engagement numbers on email subscribers were far, far beyond what they were for RSS.
Because of that I said all right, what I want to do, I’m going to create a simple little trailer. I got a few people in social media space like Brian, and Darren Rowse, and Chris Garrett, three respected guys, to give me some quotes about who I was. I put it up with a little note down below it, if you want to join the pre-launch list type in your email address here. Yeah, it worked great.
Andrew: John, it wasn’t this. Did it look like this? I could’ve sworn this was the site.
Jon: It was.
Andrew: It was?
Jon: The way this worked, in the box up there at the top there was a video.
Andrew: Yeah, and it was your voice, and if I remember right… I can’t find this on archive.com, so I can’t confirm, but if I remember right it was your voice and text up on the screen.
Jon: Yeah, it was text with quotes from Brian and Darren. It was basically a credibility and a proof piece to prove to people that I knew what I was talking about about blog traffic.
You know, I don’t think the video was that significant. Now with a lot of my students we just do a simple text page telling people that it’s coming soon and give them an opt in box. It gets very similar opt in rates.
I mean the video was nice, but if you’re looking at this thinking I can’t get the biggest people in my industry to give me quotes, I don’t think that kind of video… It was nice. It got attention. It got some links because it was a new sort of novel thing to do. But, I don’t really think it’s essential.
Andrew: Okay. The most essential thing, of course, is that you put something on there that collects email addresses, and what? Make a point about what people get if they give the email address?
Jon: Yeah. When I was launching Boost Blog Traffic I wanted to make a point, and that was… One of the things that I noticed at Copyblogger was I was doing a lot of consulting with beginning bloggers. I noticed that people were starting blogs, and they were writing and writing and writing, but no one was really paying them any attention.
It was almost like some of them were really good, and this analogy came to mind. Let’s take a magnificent speech, the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech by Martin Luther King. What if there were no television cameras there? What if he had given that speech to an empty room? What if there was no radio, no nothing?
Jon: It wouldn’t have had an impact on anyone. I think that’s what happens to a lot of beginning bloggers. They’re writing this great stuff, but there’s nobody there.
So, I had this idea. What if we gathered the audience before we started publishing? In the beginning that page, if I remember correctly, got about a 30% opt in rate, of which…
Andrew: Total number of emails, do you remember?
Jon: It was a few thousand. I switched out of that a few weeks into the launch, and I did start offering an incentive called Headline Hacks.
Andrew: And we’re going to get to that in a moment, I think.
Jon: Yup, but I got several thousand emails on for that and the whole idea was…I wanted to get ten thousand email subscribers before I wrote the first post.
Andrew: There is a shift in thinking. Most people would say, I want to bank ten emails or ten…excuse me ten blog posts so that I can keep on publishing. You’re saying, no, don’t start by writing your ten blog posts. Start by getting email addresses and then start writing the ten blog posts. Am I reading you right?
Jon: Exactly! Exactly!
Andrew: Ok, so, we see the landing page, I just thought that it was overly simplistic. I thought that was not even a site here. And that’s the part that I was wrong. You were right, in retrospect of course I understand, to just collect email addresses first. Now here is the problem that a lot of people who see this are going to have.
They are going to say, great, I have this landing page that can collect email addresses. Jon and Andrew told me that I don’t need to do a video, so I didn’t. I kept it simple, terrific…no one’s coming. And so that’s where the next part of our conversation comes up, which is to write guest posts at the slowest possible times. And you did that…where…can I even find this? Yes, look at this.
Jon: Yup, I did it
Andrew: Right here, how did you do it. What’s the slow time, and how did you get to do a guest blog post on copy…Copyblogger at the time.
Jon: So Copyblogger…I was an associate, I did it there too, but I still didn’t have enough influence to like, for them help me launch my blog. You know, they weren’t going to take an entire week and give it to me to help me launch. So I thought about it and on the week between…the week before Christmas, I think it was, they always took the week off and never published any content.
Andrew: Because I know from my experience it’s a fairly weak week, fairly slow week in publishing.
Jon: It is, and the traffic usually goes down by 30-40 percent. But I noticed that there was nothing on the calendar, for that week. and I said, why don’t you allow me to write an entire series of posts about headlines. And take the whole week, and so I wrote a post every day during that week and entirely monopolized the attention of a blog with over a hundred thousand subscribers at the time. And I did the same sorts of things on Portblogger and on other sites, where I find the time.
If you go to a blog and they don’t accept guest posts especially, try to find a time where, with Darren, if I remember what I did with him, when I wrote my first guest post for him. I noticed that he was going on vacation, and he said that he needed to collect a certain number of guest posts on Twitter before he went on vacation. So I emailed him, and I said why don’t I write you three guest posts. You can take off an extra three days off on me. And so you got to look for those opportunities where other big sites may need content, and then jump in there throughout the week and make sure that you do a really do a good job so they’ll invite you back.
Andrew: So, John, you were able to contact Brian because you were essentially on the staff. You were inside their system Darren happened to tweet. But what if we don’t have those types of connections or if Darren doesn’t happen to tweet. How do we find contact information for sites so we can pitch our guest posts at them.
Jon: The good thing is, now guest blogging is much more established than it used to be. So most of the big sites that accept guest posts. They have guest post or writer guidelines. They’ll tell you exactly what they are looking for. So the first place to start is to just go to Google and type the name of the site and then guidelines, and usually they’ll come up.
Andrew: Let’s try right now.
Andrew: What makes a great Copyblogger guest post…?
Jon: Yup…there you go.
Andrew: And then use the contact form here. Okay .
Jon: Yup. And the other way, if you like, I actually have a list of the 100 best blogs to guest post for. I’ll be happy to give that to you and your audience and you can post it that or whatever.
Andrew: I would love that.
Jon: So you can just go directly to that, and it even has links to all the guideline pages and that makes it really easy.
Andrew: Oh, that’s fantastic, how do I get that?
Jon: I’ll email it to you.
Jon: And you can post it then.
Andrew: Yeah. I know it for me it helped out tremendously in the beginning of Mixergy to publish excerpts of my interviews on Mashable, but I happen to know Pete because I was organizing events with him. I didn’t know many more people than that. I didn’t know O. Malik [sp]. I didn’t know Brian Clark. I didn’t get to meet Brian Clark until about this year.
Jon: But that does really key into one of the most important things.
Jon: And that in my opinion relationships and connections precede content. So before you really start getting a lot of traffic to your content, usually you have to know somebody that will link to it for you. So in the beginning of your career if you’re really doing these things, taking a lot of time to do these things like interviews or guest posts is really essential and networking, going to conferences. If you don’t do those types of things, it’s much, much harder to get any traffic to your content.
Andrew: Were you going to conferences too?
Jon: I wasn’t. At the time I couldn’t.
Andrew: That’s what I thought.
Jon: Because it’s very difficult for me to travel. But what I did was a lot of online events. So whenever somebody would do an online event, like a . . At the time it was like tele-seminars, and it was just starting to get into webinars. So I started doing a lot of the tele-seminars and webinars. And . . .
Andrew: All right. I want to get into how you did that.
Jon: Yeah, yeah.
Andrew: Here’s another aspect. I keep wanting to break down what you did because I feel like you grew in front of my eyes here. The next thing is do a webinar for someone else’s audience. How does that work?
Jon: Yeah, so this is probably where I got the majority of the email addresses during my launch.
Jon: My big launch piece was talking about headlines and teaching people how to write better headlines for the [??] press. And what I did was I put together a webinar on that topic that went down through the most popular headlines, and I gave them different tests that they could use to decide whether or not they had a good headline. And then at the end of it I developed a headline show where I’d stay on at the end of the webinar and write people’s headlines for half an hour. And people just loved it. It was like a magic trick.
Jon: Because when I started working there, Brian told me how important headlines were. And he told me, “I want you to write a hundred headlines every day.
Jon: That’s what he told me. And what I didn’t know is he told that to everyone that started there.
Jon: I was the only one that actually did it and took him seriously. And so over a year I wrote 35,000 headlines. And I got so good just because of how much practice I had at writing headlines that now somebody can give me a topic, and I can spit out a really good headline pretty quick.
Andrew: What headline would you give this conversation?
Jon: So it could be something like “11 Secrets of a Blogging Genius.”
Jon: Or it could be “11 Warning Signs You’re Starting to Go the Wrong Way.” All different. You can take negative angles, positive angles, for some people whatever, and, yeah, I got good at redoing those really quick. And because of that, after I started to launch Headline Acts which is a 50 page document teaching people about headlines and giving people different headline templates, AWeber invited me to do one for them. Copy Blogger wanted me to do one for them.
Andrew: A webinar for their audience.
Jon: For their audience.
Andrew: So the idea is here, I’ve seen it on different sites here. This is one, optimizing web content webinar by Jon Morrow, How to Create Irresistible Titles. This is one of the webinars that you did. As I was Googling around, I found it. So this person, this site, SkyWord.com does a webinar with you. They get their members to come and watch and participate. Here’s the registration button right there, right? You end up with people’s attention, but I guess what happens when they click here to register they give you their email address to, right?
Jon: That was the deal. So instead of trying to sell something on the webinar, the deal was, I would provide them outstanding content but that I would be able to put anyone to join the webinar on my e-mail list. And what I did to be fair, because you never want to surprise people by putting them on an e-mail list they don’t want to be on, is I would always email after the webinar was over and say, “by the way, I am going to start e-mailing you some more tips once a week. If you’d like to get those tips, stay on the e-mail list, if you don’t want to get those tips, click the unsubscribe link to opt out.”
Andrew: I see.
Jon: I usually kept 80-90% of the people who registered for the webinar, because they loved the content. On the average webinar, for the one on Copyblogger, I got, I think about fifteen hundred e-mail addresses.
Jon: For AWeber, I got over a thousand. For some of the other blogs I can’t remember, but even some of the smaller blogs, I was getting 200, 300 mail addresses. When you start looking at it, I started measuring, what are the things that I do that get the highest number of e-mail subscribers per hour?
Jon: Webinars beat everything because I could get 300, 500, 1,000 subscribers in a one-hour webinar.
Andrew: So if we’re going to do this, we find something that we do especially well. In your case, headline writing. For me, it’s how to interview for someone else. It might be how to install all the perfect plug- ins on a site, or how to use a certain kind of CRM. We have our topic, it’s time to go to bloggers and say “will you do this with us”? What’s in it for them? I see how you get e-mail addresses, what’s in it for them if they promote you and help you grow your list?
Jon: Great content. It has to be a really, really great piece of content.
Andrew: But they don’t get the e-mail addresses too? There is no check box that says it’s going to the site, Copyblogger and to the person John?
Jon: Nobody ever asked me for that, but if they had, I would have said “yes”. I wouldn’t have had a problem with that.
Andrew: I think I’ve seen that happen at other sites, where the incentive for the other website is great content and a way for them to grow their mailing list.
Jon: Yup. Part of it was, number one it was a killer presentation, so when I did it for AWeber, at the end of every webinar they do a survey to see how much people liked the webinar, and it was the highest rated webinar they had ever given at their company. So, part of it starts with really, really great content. It has to be a presentation that knocks people’s socks off. Once you do that, every blog that I wanted to do another webinar for I would just send them one of the ones that I already did, and they would watch it and they would say “wow, that was amazing! Sure I’d love you to do this for me.”
It all comes down to the great content, and if I were a beginner, there are some things that are different. If I was starting over and nobody knew who I was, I probably wouldn’t be able to get those top sources. I probably wouldn’t have been giving webinars on Copyblogger or Aweber, but I could have done smaller sites, and even if you get a hundred or two-hundred e- mail subscribers in an hour, it’s unlikely you’re going to get 13,000 e- mail subscribers in 60 days like I did. But, even if you get a thousand, fifteen hundred, that’s still a lot better than most bloggers do.
Andrew: I saw that Derek Halpern was doing that when he got started.
Jon: Site reviews of some…
Jon: He would do a site review and tell them all of the convergent things that were wrong with their site. Derek is a great presenter.
Andrew: Do you have any advice on how we can become better presenters or better at webinars? Is there a book or a resource where we could go to learn the framework that will allow us to create these kinds of webinars?
Jon: What helped me the most, believe it or not, was watching Ted Talks, because those are some of the best presentations of some of the best speakers ever. I would just watch them and try to dissect what they were doing.
Andrew: What’s one thing you learned by dissecting them?
Jon: I learned that most speakers, it’s almost impossible to be too concrete, to offer people enough examples of what you’re talking about and most webinars are far too theoretical and they’re talking about strategies, but they’re not actually giving people something that they can see. So what you’re doing now, the way we’re dissecting everything, that’s dramatically more valuable to people, so that was one of the biggest things.
Andrew: Yeah, most guests who come on here don’t understand why I’d want to show this, for example, why it would be important for me to do a search and find how Copyblogger finds guest posts, but as an audience member, I’m curious about that. I want to actually see the example. I don’t just want to hear that I should be doing events with other bloggers. I want to see the actual webinar, and I want to see that this is how you’re collecting the email address, and I want to see the reactions to the blog post – where was that? There it is, Penelope Trunk. I don’t just want to hear that you say it’s massive. It’s kind of cool for me to see 277 people even commented. By the way I didn’t show this thing. This is the landing page you used on the post we talked about earlier, right?
Jon: For headline hacks?
Andrew: For headline hacks, right. So Copyblogger did . . .
Jon: So yeah, I launched that on Copyblogger.
Andrew: This was Copyblogger, then this is the landing page you led people to if they liked your content on Copyblogger enough.
Andrew: And it’s changed over time, but essentially, this is it.
Jon: This is it. It’s very similar, and this gets about a 56% opt-in rate, which is pretty good.
Andrew: And that’s because it uses . . . I can tell; that’s a lead page. Leadpages.net page, right?
Jon: It is.
Andrew: Yeah, they do over 50%.
Jon: Great piece of software. So yeah, I use that. It makes it very easy to set up a page like that. And also I found the magic thing that my audience wanted, which was a cheat sheet for writing about [??]. Notice I didn’t say anything about headlines and the title.
Andrew: “The Cheat Sheet for Writing Blog Posts that Go Viral.”
Jon: So I talked about the benefit of the thing rather than what the thing is, which is a big mistake a lot of the others make. But that little guide I put together, I still use that to this day, and it’s responsible for probably 95% of my email list.
Andrew: Wow. The tool there is leadpages.net, but there are other ways to do it. Unbounce is a really good tool for creating pages like this. What else? OptimizePress I see a lot of. All right, on to the big board. The next big point is: you’ve got to prove yourself, prove your results, and build a network of influencers. Give first to prove yourself, and you did that, speaking of examples, with Darren Rowse, you did a post called “How to Quit Your Job and Move to Paradise.” Here is the post. This is ProBlogger. There is your name right there. So, how does this help you prove yourself to him and to other influencers.
Jon: This is maybe the best article I’ve ever written, which is another mistake that a lot of the others make. They try to hold back their best stuff for their own site. My opinion is in the beginning, when your blog is new, you need to be giving your best content away to other big sites where it can get the biggest audience possible, and then link back to your site and build a relationship with that blogger. So this post, I was pitching myself as a traffic expert. To do that, I need to be able to write posts that get lots of traffic. So this post got . . . it’s up over a million visitors now that have come to this, over a million page views. It’s the most popular post in the history of ProBlogger, so over seven or eight years, there’s never been a post more popular than this.
Andrew: Unbelievable. It’s about your accident.
Jon: It is. It is basically my story.
Andrew: This is the accident.
Jon: Yup. So that’s what started off my whole blogging career, was that accident, and I have a picture of my view from my balcony.
Andrew: Your office.
Jon: Yeah, my office. And then I didn’t reveal until the very end that I’m in a wheelchair. And the post went viral – incredibly viral – and because of that, to this day I have a relationship with Darren. And it was maybe a month after we published that post that I went to Darren and I wrote a quote for him, for my coming soon page that I wanted, and it’s that I am one of the top writers on the web. It is what I wanted him to say.
Andrew: Ah. I heard that you’re supposed to do that. Write for the person who you’re asking for the testimonial from. So you’re not handing them a homework assignment without any direction. You say, “If you believe this, this is what I’d like you to say, and you can rewrite any way you want or change it.”
Jon: Yeah, so I gave them to him. I think he did change a few words around, and I just read the most popular post on this site. How was he going to say no to that?
Jon: How was he going to say no?
Andrew: Right. After doing that?
Jon: After doing that. So whatever you’re trying to teach people, be genuinely good at it and don’t do a public demonstration. I call it a public demonstration of your magic powers. So whatever you’re doing by getting traffic is utilizing your magic powers. So I wanted to go publicly demonstrate that. I think I spent more than 50 hours on that post.
Andrew: Fifty hours on that one post.
Jon: Just tweaking every aspect of it. I wrote it with the intention of going viral, knowing that it would probably go viral. And crafting it until I was absolutely certain every word of it was as good as it could be. And, I mean, the result was over a million pages.
Andrew: Neil Patel did something similar to that. He told me in his first Mixergy interview he went to TechCrunch and said, “Can I help you get more traffic?”
Andrew: And they said, “Well, that’s interesting.” He said, “Look, I’m a SEO expert, and I can do some things to your site to help you get more traffic.” And at the time no one knew SEO, so he was able to make small adjustments, and I remember asking him, “So that’s all you did?” “Pretty much, people don’t know what to do.” Today we’re more sophisticated. Back then we weren’t. And as a result, that’s how, I think, I know that’s how he got the quote from Mike Arrington, the Founder of TechCrunch.
Andrew: I see a few different ways to do that, and this is what you mean. Prove yourself to the person first.
Jon: I mean, you mentioned Derek Halpern, what he did with the site reviews.
Andrew: Mm-hmm, yes.
Jon: That was a public demonstration of his magic powers. So, yeah, it works.
Andrew: This is the other thing that I noticed. I’m going over to my second computer here. Let me show the screen. This is the post that we talked about earlier.
Andrew: Where is that? Yeah, so you’re listed as the person from Copy Blogger, but the link is check out his free videos on guest blogging. When I click on that, I end up here. So, again, unlike most guest bloggers you’re not linking to your blog. You’re not linking to your home page. You’re linking to a page where people can give you their email address.
Jon: Yeah, and this was one of the key ways that I made money back in the early days by linking to an opt-in page and then that opt-in page leads to an auto responder sequence. I was making an average of $7,000 per guest post.
Andrew: Seven thousand dollars per guest post. Were you selling just your own course on blogging . . .
Jon: Just mine, of course.
Andrew: . . . or were you doing not even affiliate programs.
Jon: Not even affiliate programs. So the course is $600. That opt-in sequence gets about 6% of all email subscribers to convert. So, you know, if I drove a hundred subscribers, for example, to that I could get six sales. That was $3600. On average I got about 200 email subscribers per post so that’s over 7,000 bucks in sales.
Andrew: That’s amazing, and that’s something that it doesn’t look like it, it looks so simple. I think a lot of times when people see this . . . I’m not even zooming in. I’m going to zoom in now. This is what it looks on the page.
Andrew: It just looks so simple. It’s like you’re almost not ready, you don’t have it. But you do. You have the cheat sheet that people who are in your demographic your target audience want and the simple way of getting their email address. I love this. I try to advocate this as much as possible. No one wants to go to a blog post and have to fish out what post they should be reading or happen to read the latest post and judge based on that.
It’s your email that I think is more important.
Jon: Yeah, and it . . .
Andrew: You do this way better than I do. I’m just in admiration of how you’re doing it, but I believe in the same thing here for Mixergy.
Jon: Yeah, I got a lot better at this when I was down in Mexico when I had to survive. I had to make enough money to pay for everything on my own down there. But, yeah, that post from Poor Blogger it made . . . When I stopped counting it was at $32,000 in sales. Just from that little link. That’s all. So, yeah, it’s a way you do have a product that converts. That is one of the requirements, but, yeah, you can make a fantastic amount of money per guest post. And I’ve learned that, by the way, from Neil Patel who I will give credit that used that strategy before I did to promote KISSmetrics.
Andrew: He used to go and guest post on other sites. Well, have other people guest post on other sites put a link back to the a landing page where he collected email addresses and then do his sales.
Jon: Yeah, what he was doing at the time when I was working with him at KISSmetrics was he’d guest post on the marketing site and then he would, he would give away free trials to KISSmetrics and then if you stayed past 30 days it was $99.00 a month so I mean you know let’s say he got a hundred people to sign up and let’s say fifty of them stayed that’s fifty people at $100 a month that’s what five grand a month off of one guest post.
Andrew: $500 a month.
Jon: Ten or fifty people at $100.
Andrew: Oh it’s $100. I thought you said $9 a month which just didn’t seem right to me.
Jon: No, it’s $100.
Andrew: Yeah, it’s $100 right, that’s an expensive product.
Jon: Yeah, 99 dollars. So, yeah five grand a month off of a guest post.
Andrew: As I understand it, he had other people guest or ghost write his guest posts.
Andrew: Yeah he’s a (??), that guy.
Jon: He is, he’s good at.
Andrew: Were you one of his ghost writers?
Jon: I never was, I never was. I served as the editor and chief of KISSmetrics for the first three months, that was up until I resigned with all of my guest blogging stuff but, but yeah that’s what I was doing. By the way Neil never told me to do that, I just noticed him doing it and I said you know that’s a really good idea, I ought to do that. That’s the way you learn most of the best stuff is by watching smart people.
Andrew: And now we’re all watching you and learning from you. Here’s one other thing that I learned from you say use a feature box at the top of your site, that’s the one that converts highly for you. What is a feature box?
Jon: I got to give Derek Halpern the credit for this one
Jon: I didn’t of this idea, I have evolved it a little bit but the idea is at the top of your site you usually have a logo and a menu, down below that most people start giving away their blog posts what you need to do is in between your menu up at the top and your content you need to have a box all the way across the top where you ask for people’s email address. It’s the best real estate on the screen, it’s where if you look at tracking studies it gets the most attention so put your request for an email address right there front and center on the best real estate.
Andrew: Here it is on your site, it’s this gray box and I’m going to zoom in so people can just see that. This is it, again your offering the chi chi (sp) for writing blog posts that go viral.
Jon: Yep, so it gets about 9% of new visitors to the site.
Jon: Subscribed to that which is a fantastic percentage and so that means if we round it up to 10% if I get a thousand new visitors in a day then I pick up a hundred new subscribers in a day.
Andrew: 1 in 10, that’s really high. What is this that I see in my notes that I should be asking you about an un-pop which is in beta?
Jon: So, we have a product called Unpop, that is in Beta that actually allows, makes it really easy to collect email addresses and it’s at unpop.com. It is in Beta, we’re not currently selling it at the moment, so all you can do is sign up to (??)
Andrew: Of course. How does it work?
Jon: What it does is, it actually slides up in the bottom right hand corner of the screen which it will eventually show here on the video.
Andrew: I’m looking to see if it’s in there.
Jon: Instead of covering your entire screen like a pop-up does all it does is slide up and animate up into the bottom right hand corner, kind of like a little sticky note.
Andrew: Got it.
Jon: In the bottom right hand corner of your screen and it asks for your email address and we’re also working on allowing it to work with the feature(sp) box on blogs as well.
Andrew: I see. The main idea is people are coming to the site, capture their email addresses and you’re trying a bunch of different tactics for doing it, one of the best ones for you is the feature box right along the top and you’re working on creating a way to make it easy for people to do that another way is the unpop up box and I actually asked you before the interview started, I said is there a plug-in that you recommend for putting a feature box up? You said, “That just doesn’t exist. We’re going to have to teach the course without it.” We had to code something like that for us. It looks like it’s something that you’re thinking about creating. No firm date for when it’s going to come out, but people can check it out at GetUnPop.com.
Jon: It’s being planned. Just to give a point of comparison, we did a survey of a lot of my beginning blogging students in my guest blogging program. We had them check what their opt-in subscription numbers were when they had that little box in the sidebar.
Andrew: That’s the box that everyone has, the sidebar box asking for an email address. Webber includes a bunch of those with every membership.
Jon: The average was .5%.
Andrew: .5%. Less than one percent.
Jon: Less than one percent. Amongst my students…I don’t know if that goes out to everyone else, but for amongst my students, that’s what it was. Compare that to 9% in percent. If you get 10%, you’re getting 20 times increase in your email list growth. When you have that half a percent opt- in rate, people don’t realize. They say, “I need more traffic.” Not necessarily, because if you put more traffic into a site and they don’t subscribe, it’s like pouring gasoline into a gas tank with a hole in it and then trying to go somewhere.
Yes, you can pour in more, but you’re just going to lose it again. Try to start collecting the traffic you do get, and building a relationship with them, and then getting them to come back. After that, you can start building your traffic.
Andrew: When you have .5% of people who hit your site giving you their email address and sticking around and building a relationship with you, it doesn’t really pay to go out there and get more traffic for the site. But when you get 9%, then every 100 people you bring over equal nine new subscribers, meaning you just keep getting to grow and grow. Let’s take a look at the next big point here, which is to incentivize people to promote you with affiliate relationships for your product. How do you do that?
Jon: This is the other big place I’ve gotten a lot of subscribers. A lot of people feel they have to wait until their blog is really big to launch a product. Again, I did things in reverse, and it ended up being more successful that way. I launched my guest blogging program before I launched the blog. One of the reasons why was…
Now, I still to this day give webinars for my guest blogging program. And people are incentivized to let me do that webinar because they get a 50% commission on all of the sales. With the webinars, on average, it converts ten percent, so on average they end up getting… I forget what the numbers end up being, like $24 per registrant that they send in.
Andrew: $24 per person who just registers, not even for viewers?
Jon: Mm-hm. Yep.
Andrew: I see. Now, you don’t just say, “I will do a webinar for you, I’ll get you great content.” You say, “I’m going to do a webinar for you. I’ll get you great content, and I will sell some of these people on my course, and we’ll split the revenue.”
Jon: Yep. Sometimes… When I first started, I didn’t even tell them. They’d say, “There’s no way you convert that well.” I’d say, “I’ll write you a check, after you promote it, for the exact amount.” We don’t even have to see what the sales numbers were. I had several affiliates who would drive 1,000 people, and I’d get 1,000 registrations. I’d write them a check for 24 grand. That was it.
Andrew: Unbelievable. What do you say that’s so magical? Where do I go see these webinars?
Jon: You have to attend one.
Andrew: How do I go to attend one? What website are you doing one with now?
Jon: Here’s the thing. Here’s another thing I do. I only do webinars to people on my email address, who are core affiliates on my email list. So about once a week, sometimes every other week, we do a webinar. If you’re on my email list, it boosts blog traffic. The ones we’re doing now, we average about $50,000 in sales per webinar that we’re doing now. They convert really well. Like anything, it’s about practice. I’ve done hundreds of webinars now. I study other people’s webinars. I study great speakers. When I started, my webinars sucked. I didn’t make anywhere close to that amount of money, but as I’ve gotten better at it, now it’s fine-tuned and it works really well.
Andrew: What do you do to keep track of how much money you get and how much money your affiliate gets?
Jon: We use InfusionSoft right now which is really advanced, CRM, email, shopping cart sort of program, sort of a do everything program.
Andrew: So with Infusion Soft when someone registers their email address in a form you can tag them with the affiliate, and then at the end they’ll do the math and tell you, “This tagged affiliate brought in that much money.”
Jon: Yep, so it will calculate it for you, but we also double check it after the webinar. We have someone manually go through all of the customers and check their tags just to make sure everyone got their commissions.
Andrew: I see.
Jon: So it works well and, you know, it’s an advanced program if you’re a beginner and you don’t have anybody for that. There are other affiliate programs that you can use that are much cheaper. I mean, [??] has a cheap one. OneShoppingCart is . . . I started with OneShoppingCart, UltraCart. There are lots of others out there that you can use too.
Andrew: This is one of those pages that you’re using today. This is what it looks like.
Jon: Yep, and that one was . . .
Andrew: Oh, actually, this one is from 2011.
Jon: Yep, this is a while ago. This is with Derek Halpern’s webinar bridge product which I don’t even know if he’s offering that one any more. Nowadays I do it with LeadPages, [??] those webinar pages.
Andrew: LeadPage for it and LeadPage keeps track of everything.
Jon: Yep, so LeadPages integrates with GoToWebinar. So when people sign up for the webinar it, adds them to my email list, puts them on an auto responder sequence, and it registers for the webinar all at the same time.
Andrew: That means every time . . . I’ve been playing around with InfusionSoft. That means every time you want to do another webinar for someone you have to create another form in InfusionSoft. Let me bring my camera up.
Andrew: Another form in InfusionSoft, add the tag to that form, and then create a copy essentially the LeadPage you’ve used before, make some changes, and connect that to the form you created.
Jon: It’s a process. We have a check list that my staff goes through now to be able to do it all.
Andrew: You must.
Jon: It’s like a hundred steps or something to get it set up. It takes an hour or two to get it set up, but, yeah, if you get it all set up right, it is an advanced thing. You do have to be really good at public speaking. But if you get good at it, it can virtually do well.
Andrew: All right. On to the next. Oh, wait. If you don’t sell in that webinar, do you then give . . . If you sell to them in the future, a year in the future, half a year in the future does the person that sent you that email address still get a commission?
Jon: Yes, it’s forever.
Jon: So my philosophy about affiliates is I want to send them as much money as possible, and the reason why is I want them to provide multiple times. So now I have multiple webinars. So even if I do a webinar once and someone doesn’t convert, I have another webinar and another month that they get invited to that sells the same product from a different angle.
So the number of people that convert is enormous over time because I keep coming back to them with more content. I’m not coming back to them with more and more blatant sales pitches but just more and more content with different angles and different ways that will help them. And, yep, so that’s how we do it and, yeah, I mean, we send a nice little mass pay every month to everyone.
Andrew: That’s nice to have all these people do well because they’re affiliated with you.
Andrew: It really does incentivize them. On to the next big point, the final one which is to go to blogs that publish resource lists and email three to five influential people for each of your posts. How does this work?
Jon: The way that I look at this just to get another dramatic metaphor is what a lot of the bloggers do is they write a post, and then they just leave it.
Jon: And they go on to the next post. Well, in my opinion that’s an enormous mistake. What I do and what I tell my students to do is think of your purse like children. When you have a new child, you don’t just say, “Well, that was fun and set them down on the ground” and walk away. You take care of them. You help them grow. You guide them until they build a life for themselves, and that’s the way I look at my blog posts. I want to create a really good piece of content, and then on average at least, what I do is I’ll look for five sites that have resource lists…
Jon: …like five best resources on Google+, or whatever. Whatever the topic is. If you do a search on Google for the topic, and then resources, it almost always brings up at least two pages.
Andrew: Here, so let’s do that right now. I’m going to zoom in again, and I’ll read this out just in case because I know that it’s hard to see Google searches on a screen. So it’s just resources, you said Google+?
Jon: Yep. It’ll find some. That other search parameter is another way to find it that works even better, but yeah this works too.
Andrew: So this one I think because we did Google+ it doesn’t work especially well, why don’t we do resources, pod casting?
Jon: OK. That’ll work.
Andrew: Got to spell it right first, there it is. Pod casting tool box, 70 pod casting tools and resources. So, I see this on Mashable, I see this on a couple of other sites. What do I do with this now? 25 pod casting tools and resources from PracticleEcommerce.com is another search result. What do I do with them?
Jon: I would email either the author or editor of the site, and say “I found your resource list. It’s fantastic. I have another resource for you that gives everyone up-to-date information on podcasting. Would you like to see it?” And usually 20% of them, so if you pitch five sites, probably 1 of them is going to come back and say yes they’re interested. And then you send it to them, and if they say yes usually you get the link. When I was a beginner, I didn’t just do five, in my opinion the bare minimum, I’d do 50, 100 different sites for every single post. And that’s where all the traffic came from in the beginning.
Andrew: So if you do a post on how to write headlines that go viral, you will look for resource pages on headline writing and you’ll email the author of them, or the editor of the site and say “Here is a great post that… I love your resource list and here is an addition that I think might make it even better” and then you send them a link to yours.
Jon: Mm-hmm! So that’s just one way, I mean the other way is think about who are the great experts on this topic. For that, I may go on Twitter too and hit up some of the top SEO people. Because Google+ is a big part of SEO. So you’ve got to think about who are the influencers related to this topic. And number one, let them know in a friendly, non-pushy way about the content. But the other thing is build a relationship with them too. Now, fast forward six or seven years from when I got started, now I know a lot of the top people. I added it up, somebody asked me the other day about how I was promoting, my closest friends on Twitter have over 2 million followers combined.
Jon: So that means if ever I want to push a post, I can ask any of those people for a link and if it’s relative to their audience, they’ll give it. So that makes it extremely easy to get traffic. So building those relationships, it took me six or seven years. But once you do build it, it stays a resource forever.
Andrew: Now I want to ask about this in URL parameter, but first, when you say that you did 100, you can’t type, right? You’re not moving your fingers, how are you doing it?
Jon: I use voice dictation software.
Andrew: Oh my goodness! That means it takes you even longer than it would me to do it!
Jon: Well I’ve gotten pretty good at it…
Jon: ..so I might be able to do it even faster than you do it now.
Andrew: I see.
Jon: But I do that. I also have a custom built lip operated mouse…
Jon: …that I use that a guy built in his garage for me. So yeah, I can do everything on the computer pretty much just as well as anyone else. What I do with the post, when I was a beginner, I would take whatever amount of time I spent on the post, and I would multiply it times 10, and that was how much time I spent promoting the post. So if I spent five hours writing a post, I spent 50 hours promoting the post. Now that my blog is big, it’s the opposite ratio. But in the beginning, when you’re just trying to get your tribe started, I really think people don’t put nearly enough effort into promoting the good content that they’re publishing.
Andrew: I think you’re right. I know that I need to be spending more time on that, and you’re really selling me on it. Here’s the thing that I started typing in before, what is inurl resources, no spaces, then I would put in, let’s say, podcasting at this point. No need for the word search. Just like that.
Jon: Yeah. What that does is that searches for URLs where there’s the word resources in the URL.
Andrew: Right, I see.
Jon: Another one is in-title, so if you do in-title resources it’ll show pages where resources is in the title of the page.
Andrew: Yeah, so in-title brings up Mashable’s podcasting toolbox, 70-plus podcasting tools and resources. A lot of this we saw earlier. What else is it? If it’s inresources, how about audio recording? Recording and music production resources, got it. Audio recording center. All right, and then I just keep looking. Useful links, resources related to audio and video recording, got it. Wow.
Jon: That’s by far the easiest place to get links. Brian Dean taught me that. He’s a brilliant SEO guy. The reason why is those are people that are looking for links. You feel like a lot of times when you ask for a link that you’re bothering somebody. Well, these are people that you’re helping them keep their guide up to date, so you’re doing them a favor by emailing them your content. It makes the whole relationship much better.
Andrew: All right, we’ve got a bunch of great ideas here. I’m going to follow up with you to get the list of places where we can get guest blogging opportunities.
Of all of these ideas that we’ve gone with, if someone were to start with one and say you know, I just want to see what works, I want to just get a little bit of a bump, which of these would you recommend they start off with? I guess Coming Soon page, if you haven’t started you’ve got to do that.
Jon: Yeah, yeah, you’ve got to start with an opt-in page of some sort whether it’s a Coming Soon page, or if you have an incentive to offer people to join your email list, that’s great. But, at the very least start with the Coming Soon page. Then, I would drive traffic to it with guest posts.
Andrew: And guest posts.
Andrew: Can they go to… I bet to get a feature box they could probably go to elto.com. Until you create the plugin, they could go to elto.com and just pay someone there to add it to their theme.
Jon: Yeah. I mean it’s pretty cheap. If somebody charges you more than $50 to do it you’re probably paying too much.
Andrew: More than $50, so $50 or less is what we should be paying a developer to do it.
Jon: Yeah, probably so.
Andrew: All right. By the way, I do talk to a lot of people who I give advice to on how to do interviews, and I see this over and over. They say I want to bank ten interviews, I want to bank 20 interviews, and then I’ll roll them out. That way I know I could be consistent with it.
I know from my experience that they should publish the first, get some feedback, get some traction, then do the second. I have all kinds of reasons why they should do that, but I hear so much of it that I’m thinking maybe I’m wrong, maybe they’re not listening to me for a reason. What do you think I should say to someone who says I want to bank ten interviews before publishing my first?
Jon: I think that instead of trying to be perfect in the beginning it’s better to iterate and get feedback. I mean in some ways that’s why the Coming Soon page works, because it’s something that you could set up in a few hours and you can start driving traffic to it and getting subscribers.
Then, as they come in, the other thing that happens with a lot of bloggers is they start getting feedback from people that come to their Coming Soon page and subscribe, and they completely change what they thought they were going to blog about just based on what people were saying.
Jon: So, I think giving yourself permission and even expecting to course correct once you start to build that audience and once you start to find out what they want, that’s iterating based on learning what your customer wants. It’s very similar to building a company.
Jon: You hear about the lean methodology. Following a lean methodology with your content is a really smart thing to do.
Andrew: All right. I think a lot of people in my audience are going to be cyberstalking you and just trying to figure out what you’re doing and deconstruct it. The best place for them to start after having gone through this conversation, I can say for sure, is to boostblogtraffic.com and enter their email address right here.
If they do, I don’t think it’s going to make a dent in the number of email addresses that you have. You’re already sitting on a really big pile. But, what it’ll do for my audience is it’ll allow them to see how you engage your audience, how you follow up with someone who submits an email address. They’ll see your writing and they’ll see what you do, what’s that magic that gets people into a webinar and gets them to buy from a webinar. I really hope people will go and do that.
Thank you so much for doing this.
Jon: Thank you. It’s been an honor.
Andrew: This is fantastic. It’s great to meet you. Thank you all for being a part of it. If you got anything of value from this interview, please find a way to tell Jon. I’m going to do it right now. Jon, thank you, I got a lot out of this interview.
Jon: Thank you.
Andrew: Thank you. Thanks for teaching my audience in this course. Thank you all for being a part of it. Bye guys.