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8 “Minimalist Blog Tricks” to Build a Massive Email List [Traffic and Conversion #8]

by Steve Scott | Join Him On Facebook

How to Increase Blog TrafficWelcome to the eight edition of the Traffic and Conversion series!  This monthly post chronicles the specific actions I take to expand the reach of this site.

Today’s post will talk about eight different ways a simple blog layout (ie: “minimalist”) can quickly build an email list.

Before we get to that, let’s go over the numbers from last month:

April 2012 Statistics

First lets recap the stats from March:

  • 46,413 Visits
  • 77.45% Bounce Rate
  • 0:57 Average Visitor Duration

So what happened in April?

Here is a screenshot from last month:

April Blog Traffic

Click to Enlarge

In the past, I’ve used three metrics to measure the “success” of  my traffic generation efforts.  Here’s how they did in April:

  • 23,720 Visits (48.89% Decrease)
  • 78.39% Bounce Rate (1.21% Increase)
  • 1:22 Average Visitor Duration (42.87% Increase)

Let’s start by talking about the obvious…  My traffic numbers are down.  Way down!  Part of the problem is I no longer get the flood of seasonal traffic that I complained about in this post.  The other problem is I’ve been hit with a minor penalty from the recent Google Penguin update.

The good news is my average visitor duration is going back up.  This is due to the fact that I get less low quality, “junk” traffic.

Next, I like measure “Time on Page” for blog posts in the last  month.  This stat lets me know if people are consuming my content:

  1. The #1 Mistake for Converting Blog Traffic [Traffic and Conversion #7] (Time on Page – 4:24)
  2. Find Affiliate Products to Promote? (YOUR Suggestions) (Time on Page – 3:07)
  3. Niche Income Report #1 (Jan to March 2012) (Time on Page – 3:53)
  4. How I Would Start Over with Affiliate Marketing (Time on Page – 6:22)
  5. 7 Questions for Finding a Profitable Niche Market (Time on Page – 5:50)
  6. How Often Should You Send Email to an Affiliate List? (Time on Page – 4:09)

Finally, the focus of this site has completely changed.  I’m no longer blogging about the Internet Lifestyle.  Instead I’m concentrating on what I consider to be my #1 area of expertise:

Teach people how to build a full-time income from a single affiliate marketing niche.

In the short run, I’ll lose some visitors because they’re not interested in this topic.  But eventually I hope to attract a larger audience who believe in my “one niche to rule them all” philosophy.

To that end, I have a become a fanatic about two stats:  I. Returning Visitors (Am I building an audience?)  II. Email Subscriptions (Am I converting traffic?)

Honestly, I think traffic and conversion is all about building an audience and converting readers into subscribers. (Tweet This!)

So here is how I  did I did last month:

  • 4,560 Returning Visitors
  • 247 Email Subscribers

Both numbers are pretty low.  But they *should* grow exponentially as I roll out a number of additional traffic strategies.

And that’s what we’ll discuss in today’s post…

8 Ways a “Minimalist Blog Design” Builds a Massive Email List

Most affiliate marketers understand the importance of building an email list.  And most affiliate marketers have a content site like a blog.  What’s strange is they often don’t take the time to structure their site in a way that captures email addresses.

That’s why I made a major overhaul to this site in the last few months.   My goal was simple:

Get more email subscribers.

I started by researching a number of blogs to see how they use blog design to build an email list.  I got inspiration from a number of sources.  So I’d like to “thank” these people for inspiring my new look:

  1. Ian Belanger of IM Graphic Designs (he’s the man behind the simple blog layout.)
  2. Derek Halpern of Social Triggers (love his minimalist design for capturing emails.)
  3. Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income (his Archive page is a great example of how to help visitors navigate through content.)
  4. Glen Allsopp of Viper Chill (Optin Skin totally rules!)
  5. Brankica of Online Income Star  & Lisa Irby of 2 Create a Website (they provided great examples of how to use ‘landing pages’)
  6. Ana Hoffman of Traffic Generation Cafe (I learned a number of small “tricks” from her site)

So, my site has been re-designed.  Now let’s talk about eight different ways YOU can use a simple blog layout to build a massive email list…

#1 – Know Your Most Wanted Response (MWR)

I’ve always believed in the idea of having a MWR (Most Wanted Response).  This is where you choose the one action you want web visitors to take and design a site/page around that response.  Then you eliminate anything that doesn’t move people closer to this action.

How does this apply to using a blog to build an email list?

It all comes down to a “more is less” philosophy.  One of the best ways to build an email list is to use a “minimalist” blog design.  You don’t cram your site full of advertisements or widgets.  These distract the visitor away from subscribing to a list.  Instead your blog layout should focus on three things:

  1. Help people read LOTS of your content
  2. Get them to join an email list
  3. (Maybe) check out one or two affiliate offers.  {optional}

Think carefully about your blog design.  Look at every button/link on your blog and ask yourself: “Does this increase my content readership OR help people join my email list?”  If the answer is “NO,” then get rid of it!

#2 – Use a Landing Page

Landing pages are great because they immediately orient new readers on how you can help them.  Now more than ever, it’s important to have a clear marketing message to visitors.  A landing page details your specialty and provides an instant way visitors can get more information on this subject (ie: join your email list.)

Example: You can see how my home page gives an introduction to my “viewpoint” on affiliate marketing and provides people with a chance to join my email list.  Then I have a link to an opt-in form if someone wants more information on my free report.  

Landing pages are a great way to turn casual visitors into subscribers.  So you might want to use a similar concept on your content site.

#3 – Capture Email Addresses After Blog Posts

One of the best places to capture an email address is at the end of a blog post.  Most readers look for “something to do” after checking out a great piece of content.  So placing an offer for your email list gives them a place to go.

The tool I use on my site is the Opt In Skin plugin.  This helps you design a slick looking opt-in form that can be placed at any spot on your blog.  Plus it has an awesome split-testing feature that makes it easy to maximize your conversions.  Here’s how it looks at the end of my blog posts:

Opt In Skin Plugin

The end of your blog posts is prime “real estate.”  You can take advantage of this by giving readers a chance to join your email list!

#4 – Create a Sidebar Widget

The biggest *mistake* I see bloggers make is they load up their sidebar with dozens of options.  Doing this will KILL your email conversion rates.  Instead, I recommend you only include widgets that do one of two things:

  1. Increase Readership
  2. Increase Email Subscribers

If you look at the top of my sidebar, you’d see there is an offer to join my email list.  Then there are two “chalkboard images” which provide additional content.  Finally I provide a section for categories and a section for recent entries.

That’s it!

I don’t load up my sidebar with too many options.  I want readers to either read more content or join my email list.  So I only include the stuff that helps with these two actions and then I removed the rest!

#5 – Use “Minimalist” Blog Tabs

Your “Blog Tabs” are another place where you can overwhelm visitors with too many options.  Again…it’s important to only include items that help people read more content or join an email list.

You can see what I mean here:

Minimalist Blog Tabs

I’ve only included four things:

  1. Blog Home (to help people navigate to the newest posts)
  2. About (to show my expertise in affiliate marketing and increase email subscriptions)
  3. Archives (to provide readers with a directory for my content)
  4. Free Affiliate Marketing Report (to increase email subscriptions)

The last one is really important.  In addition to providing an email form on your blog, you should ALSO direct traffic to what’s known as a “squeeze page.”  This is where you “sell” the value of  your free offer.

I love love LOVE squeeze pages because they’re the best way to quickly build an email list.  You can use them on your blog.  But they’re especially effective when you’re driving traffic from:

  • Articles
  • YouTube videos
  • Social media sites (Google+, Facebook, and Twitter)
  • Guest Posts
  • Podcasts

The tool I use for squeeze pages is the Optimize Press WordPress Theme.  It’s the perfect solution for a techno-dunce like myself because it’s super easy to install (on a sub-directory) and build optimized squeeze pages.

#6 – Maximize Your “About Me” Page

Your ‘About Me’ page is one of the most visited spot on your site.  So it makes sense to optimize this area for building an email list.  This is a trick I learned from Pat Flynn’s conversion strategies with Derek Halpern.

Think about it…

Most people come to this page with a few questions in mind:

  1. Who are you?
  2. Are you an expert?
  3. How can you help them?

My advice is to immediately answer these questions!  For instance, here is what I’ve included on my ‘About Me’ page:

  1. How I can help people earn six-figures with affiliate marketing
  2. Proof (ie: earnings screenshots) that back up my claims
  3. A brief bio and how I live the “Internet Lifestyle.”

This page is optimized because I have an opt-in form after the 1st and 2nd sections.  That way; anyone interested in affiliate marketing will have a way to get more information.

#7 – Place in Content

The biggest benefit to a simple blog layout is your content stands out.  Readers aren’t distracted by dozens of flashy, whirly buttons.  Instead they’re able to get value from your blog posts.

So one thing you can try is to link to your squeeze page within blog content.  Obviously, you shouldn’t turn every single blog post into an email list advertisement.  But it’s okay to occasionally provide a link whenever you’re talking about a subject that’s related to your free report.

#8 – Keep Testing and Tweaking

No blog design is perfect!

That’s why it’s important to keep testing and tweaking your site.  The key here is to track which areas convert readers into subscribers.  Here are some tools that can help you do this:

All three tools are great for maximizing email conversions on your blog.  I use them on a daily basis and I suggest you do the same!

Final Thoughts on a Minimalist Blog Design

List building is the key to success as an affiliate marketer and a blogger.  So it’s super important to optimize your design for email marketing.  I think many bloggers spend too much time trying to monetize their web traffic and not enough time on list building.

So today, I have a simple homework assignment:

  1. Identify the MWR for your blog (hopefully it’s list building)
  2. Eliminate the advertisements that move people away from this MWR
  3. Include multiple places where people can join your email list
  4. Start testing and tracking these spots to optimize your blog space

These four action steps will dramatically increase your number of email subscribers.

Thoughts? Comments?

Response below…

Take Action. Get Results.




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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Marius

Nice tips, Steve :)

I totally agree that you must your “About Me” page. This is where you can get lots of blog subscribers. I see from my experience that gaining email from your commentators is also very trick, when they can join your list, when they are commenting on your blog and they just need to tick a box that they want to join your mailing list.

Reply

Steve Scott

Marius,

Yeah, About me is a great way to add people. It is surely true that it can be tricky to get some people to subscribe. Many people have been burned by poeple who just SELL SELL SELL to their email lists and are hesitant to give out info regardless of the offer. But hopefully with time you can wear those people down after constantly providing quality information.

Reply

Ian Belanger@IM Graphic Designs

Hey Steve,

Thanks for the mention in this post. I really enjoyed working with you.

I couldn’t agree more with what you said in this post. The days of flashy and busy websites is over. Minimalist is king!

These days people are almost always in a hurry and if you can get their attention you need to be specific in what you want them to do. Your site is a perfect example.

In my opinion, your landing page is the MOST important page on your site. When a new visitor shows up at your website, they almost always land on your landing page, (hence the name) and if they don’t, you need to fix that.

I am currently re-designing my landing page on IM Graphic Designs to incorporate some of the things you mentioned, so if you visit IM Graphic Designs, the landing page may not look right, but it will soon.

Thanks again Steve for the mention and have a good one!

Ian

Reply

Steve Scott

Ian,

Thanks again for the great job you did with the design here. I love it! Have a great week!

Reply

Sean King

I like the change in focus Steve. I’m much more interested in the way you conduct your affiliate marketing rather than reaching the lifestyle anyways.

Great tips on the minimalist approach and directing all your intention on specific call to actions. This is a massive post, how long do you usually spend preparing and writing your content?

Reply

Steve Scott

Sean,

It takes me a while to knock out my posts. I am trying to make most of them packed with information rather than more frequent posts that just rehash obvious stuff. I am glad you appreciate it! :)

Reply

Morgan

Hi Steve!

Love the new design. :)

Do you have any recommendations or tips about building landing pages? I’d like to find a service or something that offers a template or something in which I can just put in the content and then copy & paste the HTML into my website, if that even exists. So far all I’ve found is places that let you create the landing page on their site and then forces you to keep it on their server and forward your domain to them for a monthly fee. So any suggestions? I need to build a landing page or two here shortly for my redesign.

I feel like I have so much to offer and I need to get all of my services and such across in the menu as effectively as possible, so your tips are really helpful. To use the widgets, the menu and info at the end of blog posts can be really helpful for getting as much info out there as possible.

Thanks for the tips, Steve! :)

Reply

Steve Scott

Thanks Morgan! Glad you like the new design…

To answer your question about landing pages; the solution I recommend is Ian Belanger who did my landing page: http://imgraphicdesigns.com/

Obviously it’s not a software program. But I found he provided great service and was able to incorporate all the ideas I had for my blog.

Hope this helps!

Reply

Cristina Ansbjerg

Hi Steve,

I like the new design.
The concept of the Most Wanted Response is for sure my favorite. Maybe because I’ve always found very difficult to focus on many things at the same time. In that sense, a blog can suck all your time if you don’t know very well what you want.

Cristina

Reply

Steve Scott

Cristina,

Time is surely an issue too. When you flail around between topics it is harder to get that focus. But more importantly I think is the effect on the readers. It is important to give them clear cut decision trees. Too many options do not really create more decision choices, they just create paralysis and often no decision at all.

Glad you like the new design! :)

Steve

Reply

Ben

Great tips Steve, I’m doing a couple of these but have already implemented a couple of the others and will check out the rest soon. :)

Reply

Steve Scott

Good to hear Ben! Let me know how it goes.

Good Luck!

Steve

Reply

Jens P. Berget

Hi Steve,

Great tips.

I haven’t been focused on the MWR. That’s my problem. I keep testing things all the time, and I’m having progress, but I’m not true to the MWR.

I’ve been thinking about list building lately, and about whether or not I should be upgrading to the AWeber Analytics (I have the “default” AWeber account). Are you using AWeber Analytics (I’m not sure if the name is right, but you get my point).

Reply

Steve Scott

Jens,

I think you should be fine with the default aweber for now. It is pretty thorough. I do have the advanced account, but I also have a ton of emails in my main list. I don’t know if I would get it until you get a lot more people on your list.

Testing things are fine, I think a big part of making things work online are experimenting. Even the failures teach you what NOT to do. But as i pointed out, it is important to figure out that MWR and steer people to it.

Reply

Ramy Khuffash

I really think the new found focus will really take this blog to the next level Steve! I’m sure working on this site will be more enjoyable for you now you’ve found the focus too!

Reply

Jeevanjacobjohn

Awesome tips, Steve!

I have been working with the Minimalistic design for a while now (I am getting good results). As far as optin boxes go, I have one for the sidebar, one after the post (I don’t have sidebars for post pages), and another one as footer (just for the main page). I do have a question, how did you move all the main content to /blog (without changing any URLs of the posts?); I do want to experiment with main page as my landing page.

Reply

TrafficColeman

Yo Steve

You hit this one exactly where it hurts bro. People need to understand the power of email marketing and the things it take to gather readers.

Like you I got hit with this new update which I talked about on my blog the other day. Due to that people should realize you must spread the wealth of traffic generation if you always want to stay on top..

“Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

Reply

James Pruitt

One thing that suprises me that many people don’t do is direct people through their post to take the action that they want. You do this for affiliate links, so why not do it in your content. I have noticed you doing this more and more yourself.

I have found that by recommending people to sign up in my articles, videos and podcasts, I am gettting higher opt in rates than before, and those people are actually reading my emails.

Been working on changing my autoresponder sequences for my follow ups based on your previous post too, and getting great results from that. keep it coming Steve. love the Affiliate marketing focus myself, since that is primarily how I monetize my sites.

Reply

Steve Scott

Thanks james! Glad you are digging the affiliate marketing focus. I really don’t know why it has taken me long to narrow down my focus. I have narrowed it before (this blog was all over the place in the very beginning) bit it is high time i did this focus again.

Reply

Fred Jumayao

Thanks Steve, you always have great, practical and very useful posts. I’m a fan.

Reply

Dennis

Great post Steve. My question is: how do you “transform” your blog design so when people enter your home page, they see that landing page?

Maybe its a newby question but I dont know how to turn my “usual” blog design (with a home page showing last 8 posts + a sidebar) into that clean landing page

Thanks!

Reply

Cristina Ansbjerg

Dennis,
I know you’re asking Steve, but please let me answer to you.
Changing your default home page is very easy to do. Just create the landing page and then go to WordPress Settings > Reading.

There you can change the Front page displays from Latest Posts (the default one) to a Static Page (select in the dropdown menu your landing page).

I hope it helps.

Cristina

Reply

Dennis

Thanks Christina! That was my primary guessing, but to be honest I’ve never tried it, probably because of being afraid of messing things up. Should I also hide the bars (side, top, footer) myself or that would be automatically done?

cheers!

Reply

Cristina Ansbjerg

No, it won’t be automatically done.
You have to design your landing page and create it. How to do it depends on what theme you’re using etc.

Reply

Steve Scott

Thanks Cristina, for answering this!

Hope that answered your question Dennis. I would add… make a backup of everything and just play around with it. That way if you really do “break” something and don’t know how to get it back, you can revert.

Reply

Dennis

Thanks Steve (And Cristina)

btw, I guess you meant backup right? :)

cheers!

Reply

Dennis

haha, well, in my comment notification it was said “makeup”, you surely corrected it ;)

Reply

Steve Scott

Dennis, Yeah, I noticed that as soon as I hit the comment. I thought I corrected it before anyone would notice how fumble fingered I was. ;)

Reply

Ithamar Fenerson

I wondered about this too.

In my case I was fortunate. When I was just buying everything for the wrong reasons, one of the things I did do right was to purchase the Genesis Premium Framework for Wordpress. Now that I know what I am doing (a little bit, lol!), this is an amazing piece of software, I just love it!

I found that one of the benefits is the ability to create landing pages. You can create a blog page and simply select ‘landing page’ from the list of page types.

I hope this meets comment quallifications because I am not trying to spam. I just believe that as you make money and invest back in your business, you should invest in some type of premium theme framework like Genesis or Thesis because it makes issues like creating landing pages a non-issue.

Reply

TheInfoPreneur

Hey SS! How is life treating you bud? Hope all is well.
Hey…I think you need to figure out a way to capitalize on the Punxsatawney Phil niche when spring rolls around. ;) Maybe offer hats and t-shirts on that “spring” post. Hah.
Making me think some things here on my end as a get back in the groove.

Take care,
Brandon

Reply

Steve Scott

T-shirts and hats! Great idea! Lol. I have tried a whole bunch of things to convert that very non-specific traffic stream. It just doesn’t work. If people are coming for a picture..all they want is a picture. I know the feeling of getting back into the groove. I have been a little slack on this site with all other projects and have to get that groove on myself. As always, good luck bro!

Reply

Ithamar Fenerson

Hi Steve,

I wanted to personally thank you for this article. Words cannot express what you have done for me. For the past five years, I have been achieving minimal success in internet marketing. I have spent thousands of dollars on software and training courses, money I did not have.

The mistake I was making was that I thought the software would make me money. If it didn’t work, I just assumed I bought the wrong software and bought the next one that was pitched to me. For all of ‘my’ efforts over the past five years, I’ve only built a list of two people.

Your blog helped me to see that I needed to put in the work myself if I wanted to achieve success and that it takes commitment, focus, and dedication if I wanted to achieve real results.

I read this particular post about two weeks ago and in the last two weeks, I have been revamping my site using all the tips you gave me and I am happy to report that I now have over 100 people on my list – yes in just two weeks! I am now perfecting my article marketing techniques and revamping my email campaigns to focus on the two main goals – traffic and conversion. All because of your advice on this blog and your reports.

Please don’t slack up on this site, I am sure that there are hundreds of people just like me who are reading and implementing these tips. I just wanted to be one to let you know that you are very much appreciated.

Still thanking you,

Ithamar Fenerson

Reply

Toddjir

Steve,

Another awesome article. You are a thinker just like me. That’s why I like ya so much. Anyhow, I love your part about the loss of traffic. I see so many other affiliate marketers screaming “get rid of Google analytic’s, it’s tearing up my site”.

And you point out bounce rate and junk traffic. Exactly, Did anyone one ever teach these people about targeted traffic? Sure, it’s a lot of extra traffic, but if the bounce rate is high, what good does it do?

My suggestion, read Analytic’s Conversion University and learn a little about web stats, bounce rates etc. And learn what you can do to convert more and attract quality traffic. And stop being afraid of Google and instead learn more about them and start working with them.

Plus add other traffic sources, so you don’t depend on them. :-)

Great article Steve, your articles get better all the time.

Reply

Donya27

thanks for posting this awesome article steve :)

Reply

Rama

Hi Steve,

Awesome post as always. Do you still use Optin-Skin plugin after your blog post? I want to implement that but I am not sure if you are still using.. I love the pop-up when I click the link after your post..

Reply

Steve Scott

Hey Rama — I’ve changed things up since this post was published. Now I use the Lead Boxes tool that’s part of Lead Pages. Great, handy little tool for growing an email list.

Reply

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