Getting an outside opinion on your blog is always a good idea, but especially at the beginning, and especially when you have a great deal of expertise in comparison to your average target audience member.
Why is this?
A little thing called “The Beginner’s Mind”.
When we start learning a topic there are all these questions that we need to answer. Once we have moved forward in our understanding we forget these questions, or even worry if we should cover such things for fear of being patronising.
We don’t always want to appeal to beginners, but we MUST cater to people who have not seen our site before and make them feel welcome. First time beginners are even more important to make feel welcome.
lifeonthebuyside.com, the subject of today’s critique, is a perfect example.
“John Q” (a pen name) has done a great deal very well:
- A good choice of niche with a interested audience and a clear ROI – ROI, or Return On Investment, is not essential to have a successful blog but it sure does help. If people can perceive a clear benefit from reading then they are more likely to invest their time, or even money, with you and companies will be more willing to invest advertising dollars if that is how you want to monetize. When selling a product or consulting then it is even more important that people will imagine the investment being worthwhile. Identifying an eager audience makes attracting attention easier, providing you can put forward a unique hook or take on that niche.
- Memorable name with good tagline – Once you have identified an audience with a clear need, then you need to think up a memorable name and provide a clearly beneficial tagline. Having “Guide to a Career in Investing” tells the reader that they are going to be helped on their way to their big dream mission. Here’s how to create catchy blog names if that is something you are struggling with.
- Premium blog theme with good legibility – If you want your site to be usable, attractive, stable, secure, work well with search engines and look credible, then I recommend always going with a premium theme or custom design from a good designer. Even more so if you want to attract a “professional” (or wannabe professional) audience.
- Signs of credibility – In the about, even though there is not much to go on, some creds are dropped in the form of qualifications. Even a Sitelock button to give the impression of security and trustworthiness. With a pen name, obviously those things could be made up, but we will give benefit of the doubt right now!
- Promoting with Community – Right now the main promotion has been from engaging the community in discussion forums and some guest posting – that has clearly worked but can be taken further.
Now obviously this is a critique so I need to share what should or could be improved, right?
- Increase engagement – There is little to suggest that the audience is engaged, so that needs to be worked on.
- Attract beginner readers – The products are guides that would appeal to anyone who wants to become a financial analyst or has interest in the industry, therefore the strategy needs to be to appeal to those people and deliver them the relevant offers when appropriate.
- Welcome new visitors – At present a new visitor is dropped into the site and expected to know where they are, what they can do, and where to go next. Far better to orient new readers.
Let’s take a look at what I mean …
What are your first impressions?
The site isn’t unattractive but there are certainly things that can be done to make it more welcoming.
- Graphical header? – Images in the header to show rather than tell would be good, both to suggest the topic and make it more visually inviting. Perhaps some iconic “Wallstreet” photography?
- More images in posts – Following the imagery line, a better graphics to text balance?
- What Would Seth Godin Do – Perhaps use the WWSGD plugin to welcome new readers?
- Boost Your About – I realise hiding your true identity might feel important, but other pseudonym authors might have approaches that could work for you. Take Johnny Truant for example, who has a fake name but presents a “real” persona. What is your story? How can people connect more to you as a human being? You can still build relationships and connections even without using your own identity, it is just harder.
Those are small, easy to make tweaks. Now for the big stuff.
Bring Readers Into the Fold with Orientation Content
Your “About” information is a key piece of Orientation Content, but you can do more.
What is Orientation Content? It is content that welcomes a brand new visitor, explains key concepts, and gives the reader a starting point.
- What will they want to know right now? – The about page is an example of something people might want right now, but also it could be a burning question that is on their minds, such as if your site is about Widgets, you might have a piece of content that answers “What is a widget?”. In this case, do you need to have “What is Financial Modelling?”
- What will they need to come back to reference later? – Don’t just think of beginner content as something people consume and discard, good in depth resources and reference material such as glossaries and jargon-busters can become useful years after the visitor firsts discovers them AND get linked and bookmarked over and over. This is one of the reasons Wikipedia does so well in search rankings!
- Where should they start? – What is the first step? Could you have a “Start Here” piece of content?
- Where are they going? – What is the big dream, the end goal, the destination? In my case good portion of my readers want to build a business around their knowledge, ideas and expertise. The dream is around freedom, being helpful, a well-known, liked and trusted expert or advisor. How can you share your vision, or your reader’s vision? What is it really like to work in the money industry?
The key point is you want to grab the visitors attention so they will be drawn into the site rather than click away, and be incentivised to want to stick around.
Promote Engagement to Gain Insights
Interacting in community forums is a brilliant way to understand the prospect you are trying to serve. Don’t stop there though, once you have a group of people who regularly read then you should be able to gain insights there too. Why? Because these are the people you attracted to your site. For whatever reason they connected with you when others didn’t.
- Cross-promote between your community, blog and social media – Drive people from Twitter to your blog, from the forums to your blog and twitter, and from your blog to your social media accounts. This isn’t just about having buttons but about mentioning it as a call to action in posts and your emails (which will be mentioned in a moment).
- Ask for comments – At the end of a post give an open-ended call for comments. If you ask for comments and don’t get them, invite people from the forum and your social media accounts to comment. Email people and ask.
- Get interactive – Starting with comments, move to polls, surveys, maybe a teleseminar or webinar? Show that you want to help and that you have answers to share. (Great for traffic and list building too). You can start putting on Teleseminars and Q&A calls for free using Freeconferencecall.com and other related services.
Build Your Email List
I just mentioned that you could build an email list by putting on expert telephone conference calls, as Q&A, seminars or interview authorities. You can also use a list to build engagement, promote your products, get insights, and so on.
Most important for this discussion though is it might be a great way to deliver orientation content that naturally leads to your paid products.
Consider a sequential email delivered beginners course that gently leads the reader by the hand from absolute zero to being ready to take the next step and book your products? That would mean getting more sales would be a case of getting people onto your list.
Right now the email subscription is a tiny feedburner button. Instead build a prominent email signup box using an autoresponder service such as Aweber.
Bringing it All Together
Here is how it all comes together, from first-time visitor through to helping your prospect or customer in achieving the big goal:
At the bottom we have where the prospect is right now. Due to your community engagement you are already showing empathy and being helpful – that is fantastic, but as you have identified that is difficult to scale. I would not give up hanging out in forums but you might scale back if you need to. Rather than pull back, instead increase your guest posting and partner up with people who have large audiences that match your target market.
Be clear that you understand, have been where they are now, and that you have experience and knowledge that can help. Lead people to sign up to your email list and autoresponder sequence.
This free content will give more clarity, a path to follow, and early results. It pre-sells the next-steps that they have to pay for, but brings them closer to their goal.
All the while you need to remind people of the goal, why they want it, the difference it will make, how their life might look when they achieve it. This is because people need motivation to stay on course and not get discouraged. These things are not easy – we all know how many people give up before they achieve what they set out to do.
Final Thoughts and a Valuable Prize
Lifeonthebuyside.com is a great blog with a lot of potential. I am looking forward to seeing where you go with it. In my view it needs some minor theme tweaks – such as interactive elements and promoting your best stuff (even just putting a best of or most popular in the sidebar) – content that takes the reader on a journey, and actively promoting email subscriptions.
Got some feedback? Here is an incentive 🙂
One random commenter with feedback, suggestions or thoughts about lifeonthebuyside.com will win a 30min critique call on the telephone, skype or gotomeeting.
If you want me to give you advice about YOUR site or blog, then leave something in the comments right now to help John Q with his 🙂
(Competition over, sorry if you missed out!)
Random.org served up the result, all that is left to do is announce …
We had so many entries I decided to give away two calls, so ….
Congratulations to Thomas Kristensen and Matthew Bailey!