Sunday, 15 June 2014

11 Common Blogging Mistakes That Are Wasting Your Audience’s Time

So avoid the 11 common blogging mistakes below at all costs. They waste the time of your readers by contributing to information overload without offering value in return …

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Introduction to Advertising Optimization – High Paying Ads

There are many different advertising programs out there for bloggers – but most fall into three camps in terms of revenue. Firstly there is Cost Per Click (CPC) advertising, secondly Cost Per Impression (CPM – the M stands for the Roman numeral for one thousand and these ads are calculated on what you’re paid per one thousand impressions rather than per click) and thirdly there are programs that allow you to choose your own rates per time period (like BlogAds, Adbrite and private sponsorships).

CPM Ads – When it comes to CPM advertising programs it is pretty difficult to have much impact upon the ad value being paid. A program like Fastclick (aff) does let you specify which ads run on your site (or rather it lets you block some of the campaigns that it offers) and thereby you do have some impact on the level of income on your blog – but the process is reasonably messy and in my experience not really worth messing with (the tailoring of campaigns that is).

On the other hand the other two types of ads give you much more control over your ad values.

Time Related Ads - Obviously the ads you set the price on yourself is a matter of finding a price in the demand and supply spectrum that advertisers are willing to pay. This is not always easy and from my experience it can take a little time to hone in on the right figure to charge.

 For BlogAds and Adbrite ads for instance I usually just come up with a price that is similar to what others seem to be charging in my niche (BlogAds lets you look at what others charge) and then adjust it up or down over time depending upon how many people buy ads. If no one is buying I reduce the price, if people are buying lots I increase it.

When it comes to private ads it gets more tricky. I always struggle to know what an ad is worth and generally try to enter into a conversation with the advertiser to sound out their budget before coming up with a price. Again it’s about negotiating and seeing what others are paying. Over time you’ll get more of an idea on how to set your prices.

CPC Ads – These ads are usually more of an art form in systems like AdSense, YPN and Chitika. Different ads pay different amounts – largely dependent upon the keywords that triggers that advertisement. For instance in an ad program like AdSense if you have a blog about financial related products, the ads that appear on it are likely to pay more than a blog that is on the topic of pencils.

The reasons are pretty obvious really – advertisers are going to be less likely to pay big dollars for ‘pencil ads’ than they are for ones advertising financial products.

What follows are some tips on how to maximize the amount that AdSense and Chitika ads will pay per click (I suspect that YPN will be similar to AdSense).

Finding High Paying Ads in AdSense

I’m often asked (weekly) by readers what keywords they should target on AdSense to maximize their income. My answer is always the same – target keywords that you’re writing about – relevant ads will always pay much better than irrelevant high paying ads (simply because people won’t click irrelevant ads).

Having said this – it can be worth doing some investigating around keyword value in AdSense because there can be significant differences in payouts on very similar words.

Finding high paying AdSense words isn’t always an easy thing though. Do a search for Google on High Paying Adsense Ads and you won’t find too many sites listing the best keywords for Adsense. The top Adsense users in Adsense discussion forums tend to be pretty secretive about not only what keywords they focus on, but also what sites they run. I don’t blame them either – its good business sense really.

Having said this there are a number of strategies and tools that you might like to employ to help find high paying keywords.
  • Buy them – Finding high paying keywords for your blog is possible by yourself for free – but as with everything a few entrepreneurial types are willing to do the leg work for you to save you some time and give you a comprehensive result. One service that you might like to try to find good keywords is Top Paying Keywords (aff). I know of a number of ProBlogger readers who use it although have never felt the need to use it myself. I’m much more into the next method.
  • Trial and Error – I know this will frustrate some of you who want a nice and easy quick fix but overall it is one of the best pieces of advice I can give. Try writing on a topic – track the results – if it pays off do it again….lots. Adsense allows you to track specific pages or sections of your blog using its ‘channels’ feature – if you’re smart you’ll watch which sections of your blog are generating the highest ads by dividing your overall earnings by the number of clicks and comparing it to other channels. Keep trying new topics until you strike gold and then dig in like crazy!
  • 7 Search has a list of the 100 of the top paying keywords (in their advertising program – not Adsense) at the moment. Its a bit depressing actually to see a list like this because you’d have to sell your soul somewhat in order to go with many of them. Its an interesting site to check out though.
  • Also from 7 Search (and more useful) is their Keyword Suggestion Tool which gives you an idea of what people are paying per click on different tools (again this is not specifically for Adsense but it will give you an idea of what the going rates are).
  • Overture offers a service where you can enter your keywords and they will not only tell you how much advertisers are paying for the words but also how many people are searching for the term. This is a very useful tool that I use a lot to check keyword values. You do need to remember that the results you get with them are not for AdSense but another ad system and that they are what advertisers are willing to pay for words – and not what publishers get (ie the middle man always takes a cut). I do find it useful to compare keywords though.
  • Sign up for Adwords - One way of getting a feel for how much people are willing to pay per click is to sign up with Google as an advertiser yourself. It doesn’t cost much to start a mini campaign and do some research this way. You’ll get a feel for what people are bidding on different words very quickly this way.
  • Word Tracker is a good tool to help find keywords that people are searching for in the major search engines. The excellent thing about Word Tracker is that they also tell you how many other sites out there are targeting the same words. This is very handy as it will stop you targeting ‘Britney Spears’ as a Keyword phrase even though its one of the most searched for keywords on the web because literally hundreds of thousands of other sites have beaten you to the punch. Word Tracker has a free version to trial it.

Finding High Paying Ads for Chitika eMiniMalls

Probably the best advice that I can give with choosing the right keywords for your Chitika eMiniMall ads is to use trial and error and to track your experiments.

Ideally you’ll want to target keywords that are relevant to your content as much as possible (relevancy is crucial with these ads) but having said that if you want to go after higher paying ads I’d suggest setting up a channel for your test and to choose a keyword to test over a day or two and to run it exclusively on that channel (ie don’t rotate words).

You’ll see very quickly (in that days statistics) by monitoring that channel what the keyword is paying. The next day try another word and see how it goes.

In this way you can not only track how much words are paying but also what kind of Click Through Rate the ads are getting.

I’ve also heard a number of bloggers say that if you search the ‘best selling buys’ in the different categories of these online stores that you will find higher paying ads. I’m not sure if this is the case – but there is some sense in this. In any case with the coming of channels we’ll soon know what type of keywords trigger what level of click values.

Ad Value isn’t everything

I want to finish by re-emphasising that with CPC ads that high paying ads are not everything. In fact you can have VERY high paying ads and not earn a cent if your ads are irrelevant and are poorly positioned and designed.

To maximise your ad performance you need to bring together all of the elements covered in this series – Traffic, Ad Position, Ad Design, Ad Relevancy and High Paying Ads. Become obsessed by any one of them and your overall earnings will suffer.

6 Proven Ways to Boost the Conversion Rates of Your Call-to-Action Buttons

Visitors who don’t click don’t convert.

As marketers, we know this to be true.

Your visitors can’t get through your checkout process or signup form without clicking at least one button. And that one button — like all of your buttons — can be improved on.

But we fail to optimize calls to action for pretty simple reasons, all of which are complete BS.

We need to stop ignoring the so-called “small things,” especially when conversions depend on them.

Instead, apply a few of the following click-boosting techniques in this post, which A/B tests have proven can generate conversion boosts ranging from 20 to 95 percent.

No more excuses

See if you can relate to any of these excuses for failing to optimize calls to action:
  • It’s hard to get creative when you’ve only got room for two or three words on a button
  • Everything seems best summarized as “Learn More,” “Sign Up,” or “Buy Now”
  • If people really want my stuff, the button isn’t going to make or break a conversion
  • Buttons are small — we’ve got bigger fish to fry than that!
Those excuses are like a ceiling blocking your conversion rate from lifting. Your call to action isn’t supposed to summarize … it’s supposed to get people to act.

You shouldn’t limit your button copy to a three-word maximum. A button that fits the standards of every one-percent-converting site should not be the button you expose to your hard-won visitors.

You’re not writing copy for visitors who would walk over hot coals to get your stuff. You are most often writing for people who are on the fence and who can be pulled over to your patch of grass with great messages.

So let’s cut the excuses and start using techniques we know will work, like the six data-backed methods for improving conversions explained below.

1. Entertain the lizard brain

Here, here and in the must-read Neuromarketing: Understanding the Buy Buttons in Your Customer’s Brain, we learn that the amygdala — aka our “lizard brain” — is the part of our brain that has been around for 450 million years and still powers our actions:
The old brain is a primitive organ, a direct result of the basic evolutionary process. It is our ‘fight or flight’ brain — our survival brain — and is also called the reptilian brain because it is still present in reptiles today.
~ Renvoise & Morin, 2007
Part of our survival instinct is the tendency to notice differences in our environment. We’re hard-wired to.
Valid reasoning and the written word haven’t had even a fraction of the time necessary to be part of an ‘instinctive’ response in us. For this reason, we need to rely on more than “If X, then Y” reasoning and written messages to make a sale or get a signup.

Consider these buttons, which were, until recently, on the Plans & Pricing page for


Of those three buttons, which one stands out the most ?

The different one does — the third and final one in the row. It uses different copy than the first two, and it’s the only button supported by a second line of copy.

Because the third one here stands out, our lizard brain is most entertained by it. So we’re most likely to zero in on it and make a decision that considers it. For Acuity Scheduling, that meant the third button, which is for their $0 plan, was getting the most clicks.

Not great for paid conversions.

So we tested two different button treatments against it.

Variation B, shown below, incorporated a second line of copy below each button. It also used a different color on the button of the middle-of-the-road plan.


Variation C, shown below, repeats what we did in Variation B, but the new button color is orange.


Importantly, in both treatments the button copy for the two paid plans was identical and, at first glance, only the button color seemed different. This is by design.

It leverages the insights of Dan Ariely’s “Ugly Tom / Ugly Jerry” experiment (Auto-Play Video), where subjects were first asked to choose who was more attractive, Tom or Jerry. Here’s what they saw:


Ariely also presented the following sets of options to groups of subjects:


Ariely found that, for those who saw Form A, attractive Jerry was most popular; for those who saw Form B, attractive Tom was most popular. This illustrates how people tend to compare the two most similar options in a set — eliminating the radically different option — and from the two similar options choose the more attractive one.

This Acuity Scheduling button test isn’t an identical duplication of Ariely’s test. But it does force similarities between the first two options and then make one of those two more attractive to the lizard brain by making it a standout color.

Let’s see the treatments again:

Variation B
Variation C

These very minor changes resulted in big improvements in account starts. Variation B (the green button) saw an 81 percent lift over the control, and Variation C (the orange button) saw a 95 percent lift over the control.

Beyond the Ugly Tom / Ugly Jerry effect, this test also highlights a reptilian tendency to look for color: the orange button was outside the green-grey-black color scheme of the page, drawing more eyes than the green.

It’s human nature to appreciate contrast. Bet you didn’t know that the greater the contrast between a flower and its background, the more likely a bee is to prefer it.

2. Focus visitors on simple calls to action

You’ve read about the paradox of choice and analysis paralysis. So you know that people generally (but not always) have a hard time making a decision — and feeling good about that decision — when they are presented with a lot of options.

Can adding more buttons to a busy page help reduce the crippling effects of choice overload? And is choice overload a real thing?

In this popular Jam Experiment, Columbia’s Sheena Iyengar presented some patrons of a high-end grocery store with six jams to sample and other patrons of that same store with 24 jams to sample.

The 24-jam display attracted more people than the six-jam display, but it converted far fewer into paying customers.

The takeaway? People think they want a lot, but having fewer options makes it easier to arrive at a choice confidently.

Additionally, fewer choices can improve how satisfied we are with our decisions.

In another study by Iyengar, participants who were given six chocolates from which to choose one were happier with their selection than those who selected one chocolate out of 30 possibilities.


Fewer choices may make your visitor feel happier. And happiness is an extraordinarily powerful emotion for converting people, getting them to talk about you, and keeping them loyal to your brand.

Think about your home page — how many options do you give your visitors?

We tested simplifying options on the homepage, which presents visitors with loads of information and options largely because they have so many SKUs.

Many ecommerce sites experience the same problem when trying to figure out what goes on the home page — they end up throwing everything on there, like TG did:


This is a page filled with visual stimuli: images of men, images of women, landscape shots, bicycles blurred in motion, runners running, water beading on fabric. And nearly every image on the page has copy overlaid on it or positioned just below it.

With so much info and so many distractions, could visitors be burdened by too much choice when landing here, and could that be negatively impacting clicks deeper into the site?

To find out, our treatment presented half of TG Store’s visitors with a home page that looked like this (above the fold):

Can you spot what we did? We added in four new calls to action. Yep, in a page filled with places to go and things to do, we gave people four more things to do.


So how might offering more choices help minimize choice overload? Answer: by focusing visitors on clear, unmistakable calls to action that simplify their decisions.

For the part we added in, we kept the background neutral to eliminate visual distractions and simplified options into manageable sets of decisions a visitor can painlessly make:
  • Decision 1: Identify yourself as a man or woman
  • Decision 2: Choose between cycling or running (the two most popular category pages on the site)
The buttons are the same on both the men’s and the women’s — same coloring, same copy — to avoid competition and distraction.

With these new calls to action, TG Store saw 96.6 percent more visitors go to Shop Cycling (Men) and 104.5 percent more go to Shop Running (Men), both with 100 percent confidence. The women’s buttons also trended above the control but didn’t reach confidence.

Now, this might feel like one of those tests where you think, “Well, that goes without saying. When you give people new options that weren’t there before, you’re going to get more clicks to those pages.” But that’s our job as online marketers.

We’re supposed to see where visitors most like to go on our sites — by using analytics and keywords — and help them get to those destinations without interruption.

3. Make buttons look like buttons

The subject of signifiers (sometimes called affordances) is a big one in the user experience (UX) world, and in conversion.

When we’re talking about signifiers in web design, we’re generally talking about making elements on a page look like what they’re meant to be used for.

In other words: A button needs to look like a button.

Users need to identify it quickly as an element to click in order to initiate an act.

So, would a first time visitor coming to your page absolutely know which elements are clickable? Or would they be like Ariel when she found a fork, naively guessing at what to do:


Buttons are easier to click when we know they’re clickable.

This is why grey buttons are generally poor for conversion — they look disabled, so a lot of visitors won’t know they’re even allowed to click them.

The home page of is filled with calls to action to join various debates in progress. And above their fold, they were burdening visitors with what appeared to be even more calls to action in the form of four huge buttons:


In fact, the largest blue ‘button’ isn’t a button at all. But it sure looks like one, doesn’t it? All those buttons weren’t helping visitors understand what they should click on.

We tested a single, obvious call to action – one that had all the signifiers of a button, including the image of a cursor on it — against the control.

The following treatment created a 45% boost in account starts:


While you may not have body copy in something that appears like a button, you may have the inverse on your site: buttons that do not signify “Click Me.”

Can people easily identify the primary call to action on each page of your site? Is that call to action easy to acquire (e.g., large enough)? Does it bear signs suggesting clickability?

Consider the following:
  • A 3D effect
  • A contrasting, non-grey color
  • Feedback on hover (e.g., different color)
  • Whitespace around it
  • An arrow pointing to it with instructional copy
Your designer might really want a flat-design button. But before you hop on the flat-design trend … test.

4. Write button copy in the first person

A great rule of thumb when writing a call to action is to make your button copy complete this sentence:

I want to ________________
That little trick is how we get buttons like Find Out How to Ride a Bike and Make Sense of My Finances Fast. It’s also how we avoid buttons like Register to Learn More … because no one wants to register to learn more.

That formula leads us down the path of writing calls to action in the first person.

Writing this way feels pretty uncomfortable when you first start doing it. But time and again we see it work in split-tests, which reinforces — at least for me — that the more uncomfortable your copy makes you, the more likely you’re doing it right.

Michael Aagard of Content Verve shared two tests in which he saw a 25 percent increase and a 90 percent increase in clicks on buttons that were written in the first person. Note that in both cases the control was in the second person, by which I mean it used the word “your” instead of “my.”

Here’s the one that brought in 90 percent more clicks:


The only difference between this high-converting button and the lower-converting button was whom it seemed the button was built for.

Taking this idea, we tested the following two buttons on a landing page:


Treatment B, which is in the first person, generated a lift of 24 percent with 98 percent confidence. Of course, Treatment B also eliminated the phone number (without negative impact on the business) and introduced more benefits-focused language.

If you’re unsure if the first person approach here really worked, see how it helped in the next button test …

5. Boost your buttons with “click triggers”

In this book, I introduce the term “click triggers”, which are essentially the extra boosts you put around a button to convince more people to click it.

The way I see it, there is a wall standing between your prospect and a conversion. Our job as marketers and copywriters is to get people over the wall by:
  1. Knocking bricks down, virtually eliminating the wall
  2. Sliding boosters under our prospects’ feet until they are high enough to step down from the wall
To knock bricks down, we overcome objections and reduce anxieties. To slide boosters underfoot, we delight.

Click triggers do this work at the point of conversion and can include:
  • A testimonial, review, or tweet
  • A data point
  • Star ratings
  • Low-price messaging
  • Guarantees
  • Free or two-way shipping messaging
  • Payment-option messaging and/or icons
  • Security messaging and/or icons
  • Privacy messaging
  • Risk-minimizing messaging (e.g., a snippet about what happens after clicking)
  • Your value proposition
The challenge is not simply using a click trigger near a button — most of us are already doing that. The challenge is to use the right click-trigger near a button.

On the signup page of, this is the call to action to submit a three-field form:


It has no click triggers around it. Here’s how it looks in the context of the page:


We tested two variations against this, both of which incorporated a click trigger.
Variation B used a testimonial:


Variation C used two objection-reducing bullets:


Which one won? Variation C beat the control by 34 percent with 99 percent confidence.

Simply by adding two click triggers — one an anxiety-reducer about credit cards, the other a key benefit of the solution — FriendBuy now sees 134 signups for every 100 it used to see.

Variation B didn’t reach confidence, but it did trend above the control by approximately 15% throughout the test.

Moral of the story? Click triggers are good. And you should test to find the right ones for the right points in your conversion funnel.

A click trigger that will get someone to click from a home page is very different from the one that will boost conversions on a checkout page.

6. When visitors are ready, unleash the awesome

Your calls to action in your checkout process — whether you’ve got an ecommerce or SaaS business — are definitely not the time to start hesitating or playing it cool.

It is in your checkout that you most need to pull out all the stops to get that button clicked and transform a visitor into a customer.

If you’re only going to run one A/B test this year, make it a test of your Cart call to action.

Among the checkout and signup button tests I’ve run or studied in recent years, the best wins have come from:
  • Increasing the size of the primary button
  • Using a higher-contrast color for the primary button
  • Greying out or visually ‘cooling’ secondary calls to action (e.g., “Update cart”)
  • Moving the position of the primary button above the fold
  • Removing competing calls to action, like email opt-ins
  • Removing the global navigation
  • Adding influential testimonials
  • Adding risk-reducing messaging near the button (e.g., “Next, you’ll review your order”)
  • Offering multiple payment options, including adding PayPal
Security icons can often help too, but that’s especially tricky and worth a test. The reason is that, for some visitors, security icons can introduce anxiety where none existed. To be sure you’re doing right by your visitors, test it.

In this test for, we got a paid lift of 20 percent by, above all, focusing visitors’ attention as much as possible on the button instead of on distractions.

Here’s the control:


And here’s the treatment that generated 20% more paid conversions, with the changed area highlighted for you (i.e., within the orange box):


Using nearly everything covered earlier in this article, we did the following in the winning treatment:
  • Drew the eye away from the bright coloring of Coupon Code (which can increase cart abandonment) and Estimate Shipping by adding a thicker green-and-glowing box around the primary call to action. (Note that we couldn’t change that bright red font color for this test.)
  • Changed the button copy to the first person: “I’m Ready to Check Out”
  • Made the button slightly bigger
  • Used testimonial click triggers to boost clicks while separating the primary call to action from the distraction of the opt-in call to action
We also replaced the instructional “Estimate Shipping” copy with the benefits-focused “Fast, Affordable Shipping.”

With just a few simple tests …

These are quick, simple changes that are insanely easy to test. And they resulted in a statistically significant increase that effectively grew the business by 20 percent.

Now imagine if you optimized your checkout button as well as the other buttons on your site, thus driving more people into your cart only to get more of them to convert.

How much could your web business grow with just a few tweaks to a few tiny, insignificant buttons?

13 Timeless Lessons from the Father of Advertising

In 1962, Time magazine called David Ogilvy “the most sought-after wizard in today’s advertising industry.”

In his years as an advertising executive and copywriter, Ogilvy created some of the world’s most successful and iconic marketing campaigns, including the legendary Man in the Hathaway Shirt, plus notable efforts for Schwepps, Rolls Royce, and the island of Puerto Rico among many others.

As content marketers, we can learn a lot from the legendary Mr. Ogilvy. He was, after all, one of the pioneers of information-rich, “soft sell” ads that didn’t insult the intelligence of the prospect. For example, consider The Guinness Guide to Oysters, an early form of what the kids are now calling native advertising — from 1950.

We can study Ogilvy’s successful advertising campaigns to learn how to persuade prospects, influence readers, and create memorable, evergreen content. But “The Father of Advertising” also has plenty to teach us about productivity, branding, research, and ambition.

Let’s look at some things David Ogilvy had to say, and see what we can learn from each of them.

On creativity and creative process

In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.
Cleverness doesn’t sell products and services. Original thinking in marketing is great, but not just for the sake of being witty or clever. If you aren’t thinking about connecting with your audience, building trust and selling your products or services when you sit down to write marketing copy, you need to reexamine your motivations.

Don’t just create content to get credit for being clever — create content that will be helpful, insightful, or interesting for your target audience.
Big ideas come from the unconscious. This is true in art, in science, and in advertising. But your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process.
You can help this process by going for a long walk, or taking a hot bath, or drinking half a pint of claret. Suddenly, if the telephone line from your unconscious is open, a big idea wells up within you.
I like the idea of “stuffing your conscious mind with information” in this quote. Ogilvy wholeheartedly believed in research, and he was always prepared before sitting down to write.

Learn everything you can possibly know about your topic (and your audience) before you write — then unleash your unconscious mind, and see what bubbles up.
If you have all the research, all the ground rules, all the directives, all the data — it doesn’t mean the ad is written. Then you’ve got to close the door and write something — that is the moment of truth which we all try to postpone as long as possible.
Bottom line — inspiration comes to those who keep butts in chairs. We all avoid the “moment of truth” to some degree, and dealing with resistance and procrastination is part of the writer’s life.

Ogilvy’s contemporary, Eugene Schwartz, had a simple technique for eliminating distraction — he worked in blocks of 33 minutes, using a timer to structure his writing time. Don’t be afraid to use techniques like this to get to that moment of truth.
Talent, I believe, is most likely to be found among nonconformists, dissenters, and rebels.
Think different — the best thinkers often do.

On research and testing

If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular.
It is vitally important that we research and understand how our prospect think, speak, and search, so that we can use that language in our headlines, blog posts, sales letters, and ebooks. The better we understand how our readers think, the better we’ll be able to connect with them (and persuade them).
Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.
If you’ve done the research to understand what your audience needs (and the language they use when they’re speaking about your topic), you’d be a fool to ignore that information. Use it and every way you can, and let your research shape your decisions about your content, sales letters, products, emails, and social networking campaigns.
Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.
Our online world gives us hundreds of ways to test the effectiveness of our copy and messages. Make sure you’re making use of those testing methods on a regular basis, and always remember that the more you test, the better your writing will be.

On why we write

Do not … address your readers as though they were gathered together in a stadium. When people read your copy, they are alone. Pretend you are writing to each of them a letter on behalf of your client.
Sometimes as writers, the idea of trying to connect with a large audience is troubling. Just like public speaking is often more intimidating than talking to someone one-on-one, writing for a group can be tough.

But Ogilvy’s advice — remembering that when each person reads your post, they are alone with your words — can help you get past the overwhelm and allow you to really connect with your reader on a personal level.

On standing out

There isn’t any significant difference between the various brands of whiskey, or cigarettes or beer. They are all about the same. And so are the cake mixes and the detergents, and the margarines… The manufacturer who dedicates his advertising to building the most sharply defined personality for his brand will get the largest share of the market at the highest profit.
You want your produce or service to have a unique selling proposition — a public personality that defines who you are and what you do. And as Ogilvy and other advertising executives remind us, the more sharply defined that personality is, the more successful you will be as a content marketer.

Ogilvy on headlines

On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.
Here at Copyblogger, we continually stress the importance of writing great headlines, and this statistic from Ogilvy just reminds us of of how critical headlines really are. Make sure to continually hone your headline writing skills to lift your blog posts and sales letters to the next level.
Never use tricky or irrelevant headlines… People read too fast to figure out what you are trying to say.
Simple headlines are better. Always remember that on average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest of the piece. If your headline is confusing, tricky, or awkward, they won’t continue reading.

On greatness

Play to win, but enjoy the fun.
Remember to keep things in perspective — even on our worst day as content marketing professionals, we’ve still got one of the best jobs in the world. We get to do something amazing every day — create killer content for audiences who really need it and want to share it. Let’s make sure that ambition doesn’t crowd out true enjoyment of our craft.
Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of immortals.
This is my favorite Ogilvy quotation. What we do in our day-to-day lives might occasionally seem mundane, but remember this — every day, we are giving the opportunity to make a difference. To teach, to stimulate conversation, to persuade.

That’s pretty extraordinary.

So aim high. Make sure you’re always thinking, how can I make more of a difference? How can I think bigger?

David Ogilvy’s legacy

Ogilvy’s work continues to inspire us, and his world-famous marketing campaigns live on. But some of Ogilvy’s best lessons are about how he approached his creative life, and how he aimed for greatness instead of settling for second best.

Who are your marketing heroes? Who inspires you to work harder, dream bigger and aim out of the ball park?

11 Common Blogging Mistakes That Are Wasting Your Audience’s Time

Quick question: Do you know anyone who doesn’t suffer from information overload?

We live in a world full of cheap information. At the push of a button we can get our eyes on far more ideas, blog posts, and news stories than we could ever possibly consume.

It’s hard to remember — or imagine, if you’re a lot younger than me — when information was a scarce resource. But time is a scarce resource. It always will be. And with information everywhere, it is imperative that you treat your readers’ time with respect when they give it to you.

Especially if you want to build trust with your audience so they give you more of their time in the future.

Nowadays, words can seem cheap. It doesn’t really cost anything to publish more blog posts, send more emails, share our life with even more social media updates.

But the idea that pixels don’t cost much is flawed.

Occupying more pixels means taking up more time from potential readers. If you’re not adding value with those pixels, you could be wasting the time of your readers.

And time is an irreplaceable resource. Time is precious. We all know it.

So avoid the 11 common blogging mistakes below at all costs. They waste the time of your readers by contributing to information overload without offering value in return …

Blogging Mistake #1: You love complexity

It’s often thought that complexity is a sign of academic achievement, intelligence, or sophistication.
But the opposite is actually true.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
~ Leonardo da Vinci
A sophisticated blogger uses metaphors to illustrate abstract ideas. She tells simple stories to explain complex concepts. She appreciates the time of her readers.

Next time you write, see how you can simplify your message. There’s no need to dumb down your ideas. Just help your readers process your post and be inspired by you in less reading time.

Blogging Mistake #2: You’re self-indulgent

Let’s not pussyfoot around it.

The harsh truth is this: Your readers aren’t interested in you, your life, or your stories.

As a blogger and content marketer it’s your job to help your readers, to guide them, and inspire them. Talking about your experiences is fine — it can add color and personality to your posts — but only if it helps your readers become healthier, happier, or more productive.

When you want to write a story about your life, ask yourself this: What’s in it for my readers? How can my experience help them?

Blogging Mistake #3: You think you need to publish daily

Are you clogging up people’s inboxes with your announcement of yet another post? Or are your readers excited to see another email of yours arrive?

When you publish blog posts without adding any value to conversations, you end up wasting space. You waste precious pixels.

Don’t waste people’s time with an endless stream of blog posts. Only write when you have something to say. Your audience would rather read one post that inspires them than 20 crappy posts with recycled content.

Blogging Mistake #4: You write purely for SEO

Writing exclusively for Google will bore the boots off your readers. If you’re only writing for robots, then you might be wasting human time. Your readers aren’t interested in regurgitated keywords that exist for crawling robots.

Don’t allow Google to turn you into a keyword-processing machine. Don’t allow Google to kill your creativity.

Always write for your audience first, then optimize for search engines later.

Blogging Mistake #5: You focus on word count

Does this sound familiar …

You’re staring at your computer monitor. At the bottom left hand corner you see you’ve written 537 words. You wonder what else you can write.
The idea that more content is always better has been heavily promoted by some, but this is wrong. The task of a writer is not to write more “text”. The task of a writer is to communicate a message in the length it takes to fully communicate that message.

Got your message across in 537 words? Well done. Now, try to do it in less than 400.

Blogging Mistake #6: You don’t write in plain English

Jargon, gobbledygook, and bombast slow your readers down.

Jargon requires your readers to stop and think about the meaning of your words. Gobbledygook takes up their time without adding meaning. Bombastic sentences slow them down because they’re full of unnecessary words.

When you cut excess words from your sentences, you’re doing your readers a favor. When you replace long words with simpler words, you’re delighting your readers.

Make your posts as easy to read as possible. Write as if you’re writing for a 12-year old. Show your readers you value their time by writing in plain English.

Blogging Mistake #7: Your conclusions are stale

It’s an easy mistake to make.

You’ve poured all your energy into writing your post. Now you’ve gotten to the end, and you wiz through writing your conclusion so all is done.

But serving up an uninspiring conclusion is like presenting the cheapest supermarket ice-cream after a lavish home-cooked meal. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

Don’t disappoint your readers with a bland conclusion. Try writing your conclusion first. Or write it the day after you’ve written your post.

Put all of your enthusiasm into a conclusion that inspires, motivates, and energizes your readers.

Blogging Mistake #8: You don’t know who you’re writing for

The idea that you’re writing for hundreds (or thousands) of readers may sound great, but it can kill your writing voice … fast.

When you don’t know who your audience is, your blog posts become generic. They end up speaking to no one and just taking up space.

Instead of addressing a crowd, write as if you’re having a conversation with your favorite reader. If you’re not sure who that is, make up an imaginary friend :
  • Write down what she’s dreaming of and what keeps her up at night
  • Consider what you can do to help her realize her dreams and take away her worries
  • Write down at least 20 ideas for how you can help in your blog posts
Having lots of people read your posts is great (of course!). But when you write your next blog post, just think of one person. Your post will instantly become more personal, more conversational, and more engaging.

Blogging Mistake #9: You don’t care about your topic (anymore)

If you don’t care, why would your readers care?

Boring text slaughters people’s appetites for reading. A good blog post is written with passion. When your enthusiasm shines through, you invigorate your readers.

But how can you get excited when you’ve grown bored with your topic?
  • Talk to clients and understand how you can make their lives better
  • Find a good salesman and ask how he or she would sell your ideas
  • Look for an expert and learn about fascinating details
  • Explore other topics and see how they can be related to yours
  • Challenge yourself to write your most inspirational post ever
  • Take up a writing challenge—come up with a new metaphor, write an ultra-short post, or write a poetic post
Write when you feel enthusiastic. Get blissfully happy and share your excitement. Get angry and passionately argue your case.

You can’t make a dull draft exciting, but you can improve the structure and polish a text dripping with your enthusiasm.

Blogging Mistake #10: You edit your posts in less than five minutes

Are you a super-writer who writes almost impeccable posts in one go?

Most of us can’t even edit in one go. Consider at least four rounds of editing:
  • Review the flow of the post. Can you remove any paragraphs without impacting your story or argument? Does each paragraph naturally follow the paragraph before it?
  • Take out the funny asides that aren’t funny or aren’t relevant.
  • Polish each sentence. Cut overly long sentences in two; replace difficult words with simple ones; and cross out redundant words.
  • Correct any grammar or spelling mistakes
The more effort you put into editing, the easier your post becomes to read. Your message becomes clearer, and your readers will be grateful.

Blogging Mistake #11: You don’t show your personality

Let’s be honest.

Hundreds — maybe thousands — of bloggers write about exactly the same topic as you. What makes you different? What makes you stand out?

When you share useful tips without letting your personality shine through, you become interchangeable with any other blogger in your niche. You become a “me-too” blog, a commodity.

How can you let your personality shine through and increase the value of your blog posts?
  • View topics from a fresh perspective
  • Present arguments to suggest an opposite approach to what most people believe is right
  • Share your personal experiences to guide your readers
  • Entertain with your unique sense of humor
  • Develop your own blogging voice that speaks strongly to your tribe
  • Share a glimpse of who you are to bond with your audience
Your personality, your experiences, and your voice make your posts unique. Your readers don’t just come back for more useful tips. They engage with you because of who you are.

10 Tips for Using Affiliate Programs on your Blog

Here are a few tips that should help bloggers get the best results out of any affiliate program that they choose to run with.

1. Consider your Audience

It almost goes without saying – but it’s worth putting yourself in your readers shoes and consider what they might be looking for as they surf by your blog.

Are they shopping for specific products? Might they be looking for related products or accessories? What would trigger them to purchase?

Start with your reader in mind rather than the product. If you take this approach you could end up doing your reader a favor as well as making a few dollars on the side.

2. Genuine Recommendations and personal endorsements always work best

There are literally hundreds of thousands of products and services for you to choose from to recommend to your blog’s readers but making money from them is not as simple as randomly adding links to them from your blog.

Your blog’s readers come back to your blog day after day because something about you resonates with them – they have at least some level of trust and respect for you and perhaps the quickest way to destroy this is to recommend that they buy something that you don’t fully believe will benefit them.

3. Link to Quality Products

We all like to make sure we’re buying the best products money can buy – your readers are no different to this and are more likely to make a purchase if you’ve found them the best product for them. Choose products and companies with good reputations and quality sales pages.

There is nothing worse than giving a glowing review of a product only to send your reader to a page that looks cheap and nasty.

4. Contextual Deep Links work Best

When I started using the Amazon Associate Program I naively thought that all I had to do was put an Amazon banner ad (that linked to Amazon’s front page) at the top of my blog. I thought that my readers would see it and surf over to Amazon and buy up big – thereby making me a rich man. Nothing could have been further from reality – I was deluding myself.

I always says to bloggers that I’m consulting with that they should learn something from contextual advertising when it comes to affiliate programs. The secret of contextual ads like Adsense is that a reader is reading a post on a particular topic on your blog and when they see an advertisement for that same product they are more likely to click it than if they saw an ad for something else.

 The same is true for affiliate programs. A banner to a general page on every page on your site won’t be anywhere near as effective as multiple links throughout your blog that advertiser products that are relevant for readers reading particular parts of your blog.

So if you’re writing a blog about MP3 players and have a review for a particular product – the most effectively affiliate program that you could link to from within the content of that page would be one that links directly to a page selling that specific model of MP3 player.

 This is how I use the Amazon program today. It is more work than contextual advertising because you’re not just putting one piece of code into a template but rather need to place individual links on many pages – but I find that it’s been worth the effort.

5. Consider positioning of links

One of the things I go on and on about with Adsense optimization is the positioning of ads. I tell bloggers to position their ads in the hotspots on pages (like the top of a left hand side bar – or inside content – or at the end of posts above comments etc). The same principles are true for affiliate advertising.

6. Traffic levels are Important

While it’s not the only factor – traffic levels are obviously key when it comes to making money from almost any online activity. The more people that see your well placed, relevant and well designed affiliate links the more likely it is that one of them will make a purchase.

So don’t just work on your links – work on building a readership. Not only this, consider how you might direct traffic on your blog toward pages where they are more likely to see your affiliate links.

7. Diversify without Clutter

Don’t put all your affiliate efforts into one basket. There are plenty of products out there to link to so there is no need to just work on one. At the same time you shouldn’t clutter your blog up with too many affiliate program links. If you do so you run the risk of diluting the effectiveness of your links and could disillusion your readership.

8. Be Transparent

Don’t try to fool your readers into clicking links that could make you money. While it may not always feasible to label all affiliate links I think some attempt should be made to let people know what type of link they are clicking on. I also think consistency is important with this so readers of your blog know what to expect. 

9. Combine with other Revenue Streams

Affiliate programs and advertising programs are not mutually exclusive things. I’ve come across a few people recently who have said they don’t want to do affiliate linking because it will take the focus off their Adsense ads.

While there is potential for one to take the focus off the other – there is also real potential for both to work hand in hand as different readers will respond to different approaches.

You should consider the impact that your affiliate links have on other revenue streams – but don’t let one stop the other.

10. Track results

Most affiliate programs have at least some type of tracking or statistics package which will allow you to watch which links are effective. Some of these packages are better than others but most will at least allow you to see what is selling and what isn’t.

Watching your results can help you plan future affiliate efforts. Keep track of what positions for links work well, which products sell, what wording around links works well etc and use the information that you collect as you work plan future affiliate strategies.

7 Ways To Get An Extra Sale Today

How to generate an extra sale today! 

In order to make sales at will, it’s important to understand who your target audience is. And if you don’t understand your prospect, you won’t sell him anything. 

Get to know what motivates them and truly listen. Keep in mind people don’t particularly care about you online. This is why you need to show them you truly care to form a lasting (profitable) relationship.
Once you do, you’ll be able to utilize the following methods over and over for a lifetime of sales.

If you had to get an extra sale today, how would you get it?

Email Your List


I would email my list. Simple as that. 

It’s the easiest way to sell products.

If you don’t have a list, I would focus on creating one. It’s the only way you can control your own destiny as a marketer.

Paid Ads

 I’m 100% behind creating a holistic traffic strategy that leverages all of the different channels we have available to us as digital marketers (social, email, affiliates, etc.) but paid ads will always be the quickest way to make a sale.

In under an hour I can design my ads, write my copy, build and launch an ad campaign for as little as $5/day.
Within a few hours (depending on the ad network) my ads will be live and pushing targeted traffic to my website.

No other digital marketing channel has that type of on/off switch with such a small barrier to entry. If you’re just getting started with paid ads make sure that you’re testing everything from your creative & copy to your landing pages to your ad targeting.

I’ve never worked in a niche or vertical that I can’t make paid ads profitable in after some fine tuning and testing.

Email Your List

Aweber Screenshot

If I had to get an extra sale today I would definitely use my email list and send an email out. It’s the easiest way to make money instantly.
Even better, I would approach some past advertisers and offer to send out a promotional email to my list if I was really in need of money. But generally I like writing affiliate articles, while providing huge value and passively making extra income throughout the month.

Contact An Existing Client

meeting clients

Most of my work to this point has been freelancing as a WordPress designer and developer. For me, I would contact an existing client and recommend that I do or fix something on their site.

I’d give them an hourly estimate and they’d give me the go-ahead. I’ve been fortunate to never have a marketing problem for that side of my business. For three years I’ve had as much work as I can handle.
The challenge is finding the best clients and working on projects that I’m passionate about.
One of the principles that Ben Jesson, from Conversion Rate Experts, taught me was that if you can’t sell something to someone on the street, you can’t sell to them online. CRE’s process starts with interviewing past customers to figure out why they bought, what benefits sold the product, and what it would take for them to buy again.
Then they use that information as the basis for every conversion decision that they make. When we’re online we tend to lose sight of the fact that a sale is still a person-to-person transaction.

Email Your List

Josh email

Well you can always email your list, but that will inevitably burn them if all you’re doing is selling.

If I wanted to sustain my list, while making sales, I’d turn to Facebook Ads. I have a pretty well converting sequence set up, so I’d try and spend a couple hundred dollars in ads during the day, and make it back plus a little extra within 24 hours.
I usually see my money back pretty quickly, then the profit comes from the people I sell to later on in the sequence.

Publish An Article & Set Google Alerts

Google Alerts

If I needed to get an extra sale today and assuming my list has already been emailed, I’d write an article with a plug to whatever it is I’m selling.

After publishing the post containing links to the product I need to sell, I’d set up Google alerts. These Google Alerts will notify me when anybody enters a keyphrase relating to my article topic.

Then I’ll leave a comment answering whatever question the user had, while subtly inserting a link to the article in my signature. You can also immediately jump on Yahoo Answers and search open questions relating to the problem you, your product, or article is solving.

After each question you genuinely answer, leave the link to the “money page” in your resource box. In the past, this has instantly driven multiple sales and hundreds of extra unique visitors to my sites.

Make sure you’re not being “spammy” and actually offering value. If you’re primary focus is only on the sale and not delivery of valuable insight, your prospect will sense this and not purchase.

Use Somebody Else’s List

Clickbank Marketplace

If I had to make a sale today and I was desperate to make it?? and I couldn’t use an already existing list?
Then I would use someone else’s list. Here’s an example of how I would see it going down:

I have a health ebook that I sell. To find affiliates, the simplest thing you can do is to head over to Clickbank.
Clickbank is a shoppingcart/merchant. It has a marketplace where it displays all it’s users in categories, in order of most successful.

So I would go to the health area, find other people who have products and I would email every single person there till I got the yes I needed.

Don’t just ask for someone to promote you. Do something to stand out:
  • Customise your sales page to mention the affiliate to increase conversions.
  • Do a guest post for their blog.
  • Be interviewed for their site.
  • Offer them a decent cut of the sale. Info products don’t really cost the vendor much, it’s nearly all profit. So offer them 50% – 75% of the sale. You wouldn’t have the sale without them. You could also include scarcity here, for example, 75% affiliate commissions, today only!
  • Offer to reciprocate the promotion. Later on you agree to promote them. This is only cool if they have a decent product. Most people just agree to do this not caring what they have to promote, just so that they can make a sale. Don’t be this person.
  • Come up with a reason for the late notice promotion. For example… Late notice 24 hour fire sale, buy quick!!! Big discounts! I see people freak on tax day and do 24 hour sales to pay what they owe in tax and they use this reason for the sale and it works!
Everyone is always looking for something to sell. Just remember that. 

7 Things to do right now to make an extra sale.

  1. Open an Aweber account, set up your first squeeze page and send your first email sequence.
  2. Head over to Clickbank’s marketplace, find products in the same category as you and reach out to respective owners for a jv.
  3. Set up PopUp Domination and increase your optins by overs 500% overnight. In order to gain opt-ins, you’ll need to give something of value away – video, app, audio, eBook, eCourse, etc.
  4. Write an awesome, valued filled article/blog post and recommend a product or service within. Set up google alerts relating to the problem your article solves. Respond to the google alerts with more value and leave the link to your post in the signature or resource box.
  5. Reach out to an existing client and create  a sale. Figure out why they bought before, what benefits sold the product, and what it would take for them to buy again.
  6. Set up a paid advertising campaign as this is often one of the easiest and fastest ways to make a sale online.
  7.  Write an article of huge value and insert affiliate links cleverly within. Then email your list about the article. Simple.

16 Top eCommerce Business Sales – Sell Your Ecommerce Business for Millions

When most people think of ecommerce, they tend to think of retail websites. In reality, ecommerce consists of everything that has to do with trading products or services electronically. This means all of the payment processing, ecommerce software, third party processing, and everything else that has to do with buy and selling electronically. The reason why we are going over this basic information is to give you an idea on how many ecommerce business opportunities there are and then to show you how much those opportunities can be worth in the long run.

In this article we will be going over some of the biggest ecommerce sales and looking at how much you could potentially make with a company that is directly involved with doing business over the internet.

#1 – – Sold for $1.5 Billion

Year founded: 1998
Year sold: 2002
PayPal is a e-commerce business that processes payments and money transfers throughout the internet. It is used internationally and is the biggest alternative to using traditional transfer methods. On October 3rd, 2002 eBay bought PayPal for 1.5 billion dollars. Throughout the years PayPal has grown into a company that has a revenue (2002) of 5.6 billion dollars and continues to see a rise in growth. What once was just a payment processor for small transactions turned into a multi-billion dollar powerhouse.

#2 – - Sold for $1.2 Billion

Year founded: 2000
Year sold: 2008
Bill Me Later is a proprietary payment option that has been offered on a lot of well-known websites. It offers customers a line of revolving credit which allows them to make purchases online without using a credit card. PayPal purchased Bill Me Later on November 7, 2008 for 1.2 billion dollars. While the concept took a little while to get popular, the company has become more and more popular.

#3 – – Sold for $1.5 Billion

Year founded: 1999
Year sold: 2009
Zappos is an online retail website that sells shoes and clothing. Based in Las Vegas, Nevada, the company was founded by Nick Swinmurn and his company was seeing over 8 million dollars in revenue within just 2 years. The company is now seeing over 1 billion dollars in revenue per year and was purchased by Amazon in July of 2009. They purchased the company for about 1.2 billion dollars. When nick first had come up with the idea to sell shoes online, his investors almost declined saying it wasn’t profitable enough. Now the online retail store has become one of the biggest show retailers in the world. That goes to show, never underestimate an idea you may think be profitable.

#4 – – Sold for $1.075 Billion

Year founded: 1999
Year sold: 2011
Endeca was sold for 1.075 billion dollars on October 18, 2011 to the Oracle Corporation. Endeca sells ecommerce search, enterprise search, business intelligence, and customer experience management applications. This international company has thrived over the years by providing ecommerce and other intelligence to their clients and were recognized as a pioneer in their industry.

#5 – – Sold for $620 Million

Year founded: 1998
Year sold: 2005 is a price comparison service that uses websites in 5 countries. Originally, the company was and founded in Israel in 1998 by D. Nuhum Sharfman and Amir Ashkenazi. Originally it was a model to make a downloadable client that can monitor changes in price for certain products. Then it would notify the customer with price drops. That idea was then evolved and they were bought by eBay for 620 Million dollars.

#6 – – Sold for $1.5 Billion

Year founded: 1999
Year sold: 2004
Kelkoo is a European price comparison server that was founded in France, 1999 by Pierre Chappaz and Mauicio Lopez. It allowed customers to find information about products that they were interested in by including information about different prices and sellers. It was purchased by Yahoo! Inc in April 2004 for 579 million dollars and then was later sold to a private equity firm in 2008.

#7 – – Sold for $318 Million

Year founded: 1999
Year sold: 2000 allows sellers to offer items that usually have a ISBN, UPC, or other types of SKU. There are only a limited amount of categories that they allow on their but that hasn’t stopped their site from gaining massive popularity in such a short time.  It was bought by eBay on June 13, 2000 for 318 million and continues to thrive.

#8 – – Sold for $310 Million

Year founded: 2000
Year sold: 2007
StubHub  is a marketplace that provides services for buyers as well as sellers of tickers for concerts, sports, theater, and other live events. It is now the largest ticket marketplace in the world. The company refuses to reveal its financial information, but they did say that they process a ticket it order every single second and had over 15 million unique visitors per month in the year of 2012. The company was acquired by eBay on January 10, 2007 for 310 Million dollars.

#9 – – Sold for $270 Million

Year founded: 2007
Year sold: 2011
HauteLook is a flash sales business, which was acquired by Nordstrom for 270 million dollars in 2011. The business got popular due to its exclusivity of members only and online sample sales. High end retailers place their excess inventory on sale for a large percentage discount over a limited amount of time. They offer products for women, men, and even children.

#10 – – Sold for $250 Million

Year founded: 1997
Year sold: 2010 has seen many ups and downs throughout the years but ultimately grew into a massive online retail store owned by Japan’s biggest ecommerce company. Rakuten, Inc purchased in May 2010 for 250 Million dollars. originally sold computers and electronics, but has since expanded into many other categories. In its first year of business it sold over 110 million dollars worth of goods and services, which beat many of their tenured competitors.

#11 – Sold for $225 Million

Year founded: 2008
Year sold: 2010
Magento is a open source ecommerce application that acted as a content management system for web hosting services. eBay bought the whole program for 225 million dollars in February 2010 making them 100% owners. In April 2014, it is estimated that Magento is used by 1% of all websites. Magento is among the top 20 most popular ecommerce platforms for businesses to use.

#12 – – Sold for $217.5 Million

Year founded: 2001
Year sold: 2007
Gitti Gidiyor is a Turkish e-shopping mall that eBay bought on May 3, 2007 for 217.5 million dollars. Consumers have access to all types of different products and are also able to sell whatever they want. It has evolved to replicate the main eBay website ever since it was purchased. eBay has been trying to expand their presence over the world which made this an important acquisition for them.

#13 – – Sold for $150 Million

Year founded: 1999
Year sold: 2003
EachNet provides a similar service as eBay which is why it became a subsidiary of eBay inc on July 16, 2003 for 150 million dollars. It is an ecommerce company that provides auction services to consumers and businesses in China. The community is able to buy and sell a large range of items in different price formats.

#14 – - Sold for $75 Million

Year founded: 1998
Year sold: 2004 started out as a IT information service and download website prior to the year 2000. Shortly after, the company decided to become an online book store. One the company started to grow, Amazon took notice and decided to buy them for 75 million dollars on August 19, 2004. The name then changed in 2007 to Amazon China, making it the 7th regional website of Joyo only had 5 employees in 1999 but a year and a half later, became the 33rd largest Chinese website.

#15 – – Sold for $75 Million

Year founded: 2004
Year sold: 2010
Milo lists real time product inventory for more than 50,000 stores around the country. There are over 3 million products from many large companies and it is continuing to grow. eBay bought Milo for 75 million dollars in 2010 in an another attempt to get into the 917 billion dollar market of online research. eBay brought their inventories to Milo and also integrated local product feeds to its online market place and mobile applications.

#16 – – Sold for $35 Million

Year founded: 2009
Year Sold: 2013
Lexity provides ecommerce services and even has their own app store that provides marketing applications that are made to help online merchants drive sales. It was purchased by Yahoo! for 35 million dollars on July 31, 2013. The company currently focuses on creating mobile applications for ecommerce purposes. Founder Amit Kumar has been successful with similar projects in the past and was allowed to stay with Lexity after it was purchased by Yahoo!.

Which Social Media Accounts Really Matter and Why

I think social media is really important. I doubt anyone would argue with me about that. But social media is also misunderstood in some ways. One of those misunderstandings is which social media sites a business or individual should be on.

If you read this article, you're going to understand which social media sites are best for your brand or business. You won't have to waste your time messing around on social media sites that have no ROI, and you even might do better at gaining leads on the social media sites that are perfect for your business.

A Quick Look at the Social Media Landscape

Social media isn't a fad or trend. It's an enduring reality of online existence. For marketers, it's indispensable. But when you approach social media as a marketing channel, things may get a bit confusing.

Here's why. Social media marketing includes a myriad of potential social media sites, a vast array of ways to engage, and a medley of styles for each platform. It's more than just Facebook. You need to figure out which of the legion networks to join. Then, you need to determine optimal messages, posting frequency, cost of social media management, integration with other marketing channels, and how to make the most of the billions of people who are purportedly hanging out on social media.

To slice through the confusion, here are four questions that you should answer.

1. Where is my audience?

The primary question to ask about social media is where your audience is actually spending time. What social media outlets are they on?

A caveat is in order. Simply because you have followers doesn't mean that you have an audience. The Next Web, reported that anywhere between 67.65 and 137.76 million Facebook accounts are fake.

 Simply having a bunch of followers doesn't guarantee that you have a human audience. If you buy followers, you are almost assuredly buying fake accounts. While these fake accounts might be great for follower numbers, they don't do much for your actual marketing.

2. Where is my audience active?

Big social media numbers doesn't mean big activity. For example, there are over 1 billion Google users, but only 35% percent of those users were active in the past month. Twitter, too, has a lot of members with a relatively low number of active members. Of the site's 645,750,000 signups, only a portion of those are active each month.

A social media user needs to be active on a social media site in order for them to be of any use to you.
In an infographic from Search Engine Journal, here's how many social media users are active on their respective sites:
(Other sites were not part of SEJ's reporting.)
There's a disparity between overall members on a site, and number of active members on the site.

3. Where is my audience searching?

As I've discussed before, people use social media for searching, not only socializing.
Every minute, people are conducting millions of queries on Google, Twitter, and Facebook. If you are active on these social media platforms, then you have a chance at appearing in social media search results.

4. What niche social media sites are right for me?

Some businesses are missing out on a deluge of warm leads, because they are absent from niche social media sites.

Someone might tell you, "OMG! You have to join this social media site! We get allour leads from it!" Okay, that's great. But that doesn't mean that your businessneeds to be there. What kind of business do they have?

If they are a boutique silk scarf seller, and found a social media site for silk scarf aficionados, then they've obviously find the right social media site. But if you're a SaaS business, chances are you won't gain as many warm leads from silk scarf social media sites.

I've provided these four questions as a framework for determining your social media strategy. Don't join randomly. Instead, choose intentionally, by answering the four questions.
  • Where is my audience?
  • Where is my audience active?
  • Where is my audience searching?
  • What niche social media sites are right for me?
With that in mind, let me explain the social media accounts that truly matter.

Join the Big Four

At this stage in social media, there are four sites that reign supreme. These sites are crucial, regardless of your audience, your business model, and your strategy. Join them.


Facebook has over 1.3 billion users, the largest of any social network. In its ten-year history, it has become a fixture of the daily online experience. Nearly half of all Facebook users are active each day. When they visit Facebook, they spend an average of 18 minutes per visit!

These users aren't only browsing profile updates or viewing photos. Each Facebook user is connected to an average of 80 pages, groups, or events. That's where you come in -- your marketing efforts and Facebook presence.


Twitter is a happening place. The average user, with their 208 average followers, 307 average Tweets, and average of 170 minutes on Twitter each day, is a market segment full of potential. About half of Twitter users use it daily, and at least 29% of Twitter users are active several times a day.

Twitter isn't as much a lead generation platform as much as it is a brand loyalty platform. For example. 85% of Twitter users "feel more connected" to a business after they follow them on Twitter. Great content from a brand on Twitter can elicit follows and retweets, but usually an existing customer will decide to follow a favorite brand.


Every second, two new people join LinkedIn. Now, with more than 270 million users, LinkedIn is a force to be reckoned with.

According to Search Engine Journal, marketers love Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. They leave out LinkedIn. But here's the deal. LinkedIn is the platform for B2B marketing not B2C marketing.

LinkedIn proudly touts their user base of professionalsMany of those professionals are connected with companies. These companies could benefit from the extra marketing love. Don't neglect LinkedIn, especially if you're in B2C.


Savvy marketers labelled 2014 "The year of Google+." At the beginning of the year, writers prophesied, "Google+ will become a major factor in social media." Turns out, they're right. Google+ is a game changer in the social media landscape.

When you combine Google Authorship with the world's dominant search engine, and create a social media platform that integrates them, it's no wonder that Google+ is turning up as a dominant form of online social interaction. Google+ has also found a sweet spot in social collaboration through Hangouts.

Clearly, Google+ is not a social network to be forgotten or summarily dismissed as "just another social network." It's a powerful algorithmic factor as well as a large audience forum.

Unfortunately, many companies have been slow to adopt Google+. I've seen dozens of companies who lament "no ROI!" from social media, and I look at their Google+ profile. It looks like this:


Their problem isn't lack of audience or zero ROI, but lack of the company's own activity on Google+. The above profile features default images, incomplete information, and no network curation.

Those are the big four. Whatever you're selling, doing, being, or saying, these are the four social media accounts you need to keep active.

Consider the Lesser Three

These are called "the lesser three" (my term) only because they're not part of the big four. These social media sites are huge, and I strongly encourage you to be present on them as well as the big four.


According to a study earlier this year, Pinterest officially became a more popular sharing platform than email. Pinterest has the highest revenue per click of any other social sharing network.

Early in its life, Pinterest got labelled as a social platform for women. At first, that was true. But now, women account for about half of Pinterest pinners, which isn't much different from the gender slant on other social media sites. Pinterest is a place to be for any gender, any company, and any brand.


I've found that Instagram is a powerful way for promoting both one's personal brand and a business, too. In spite of my not-so-often posting, I discovered that liking and commenting on other photos is a powerful way to grow a massive following.


Instagram is a visual platform. We already know that pictures get 5x higher engagement on Twitter, and photos make up 93% of the most engaging Facebook posts. With Instagram, it's all photos and video. That kind of visceral appeal is one of the reasons for Instagram's massive popularity. Throw video into the mix, and you've got a social media channel that is basically addicting. Visual content in social media is electric.

Some social media marketers have argued that Instagram only serves the purposes of image-heavy brand content for companies like National Geographic. Sure, National Geographic's Instagram channel is killer, and they have a strong 4.8 million followers.


However, I would argue that Instagram is effective for nearly any type of business. I've seen successful fitness coaches, book sellers, conference speakers, coders, video game designers, SEO companies, and accountants make a dent in the Instagram universe.


YouTube has the distinguished position of being the second largest search engine in the world. That's no small feat, considering that Bing and Yahoo have been vying (unsuccessfully) for that position. YouTube did it without even trying.

But, despite their modest pretensions to massive search, YouTube is a hit when it comes to video watching. Obviously. In fact, YouTube reaches more U.S. adults than any cable network.

Some brands lend themselves to video virality more than others, but any brand can post videos. A video doesn't have to be expensive or fancy in order to be effective in brand promotion. It needs to be on YouTube.

Check out Two of the Little Ones

My word "little" needs a bit of a disclaimer. These social media sites are massive. However, as social media marketing platforms, their benefit comes in their niche sub communities for people of a shared interest. On Facebook, you might socialize with people whom you went to school with -- friends from past and present.

On Tumblr, however, you might interact with people who share your interest in, say, aerial photography drones. In that sense, your audience might be smaller, but more focused.

Even though it's technically a "blogging platform," Tumblr has enjoyed meteoric growth in its young life.


Last year, Tumblr was raking in monthly pageviews that soared over 5 billion. With smart posting (i.e., great content), and consistency, many marketers have discovered that Tumblr is an ideal place to make an impact within one's niche. Some marketers actually host their company blog on Tumblr. (This is something which I don't recommend for SEO purposes).


For champions of content marketing, StumbleUpon is a winner. SocialMediaExaminer calls StumbleUpon a "content discovery engine." But, like any content, it has to be good in order to get discovered and given the thumbs-up. StumbleUpon delivers personalized content to each user based on that individual's unique series of thumbs-up and thumbs-down.

With their ever-growing index of websites, and their ever-expanding user base of, StumbleUpon is a smart social media move.

Reddit is a news site, basically. But as a social media news site, it has an appeal that goes beyond mere "headlines." These headlines are voted up and virally shared.


So maybe a dog saying "Hiiiii!" isn't quite as meaningful as business news or government decision-making. But still, Reddit is a marketing channel that might work for some companies. Of all the social media sites, Reddit is with the highest percentage of news-readers -- 62% according to Pew researchers.

To use Reddit effectively, the secret is creating engagement on subreddits, communities that are packed with people who are passionate about what you are. This is your target community. Then, you create relevant headlines and promotions to create an uptick in your stories.

Find One Niche Site

Last, you should explore the niche social media landscape. You might discover that it's an absolute waste of time and there is zero ROI. Or, on the other hand, you might find a world of untapped potential and dozens of warm leads. It's worth doing some exploring.

Here's are a few sorta-popular niche sites. Forget the millions of followers and fans. Here, it's all about a targeted audience:
The best way to find your niche social site is to google it. You will find something.


The social media scene can be bewildering. But if you follow this plan, you're going to experience an ROI:
  • Must: Join the Big Four: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+
  • Should: Consider the Lesser Three: Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube
  • Could: Check out Two of the Little Ones: Tumblr, StumbleUpon, Reddit
  • Possibly: Find One Niche Site
As you engage social media, you'll discover the social nuances of your own niche. It will look different for every business, region, target audience, and personal style.
What social media sites have you discovered to be useful for your business?