We're a week in to Project 10K, my public quest to get 10,000 engaged email subscribers by the end of the year. My focus so far has been on identifying how I'm going to get more of the right sort of website visitors to hit my 10K target.
Here's the way I've looked at things: you may find it helpful yourself:
Firstly, let's think about how we're going to get more email subscribers (optins). Clearly the number of optins is dependent on the number of website visitors we get and the percentage that opt in to our emails.
In this post we're going to look primarily at ways of increasing the first of those variables: traffic. We'll cover increasing conversions in the next post.
Before we dive in to details though, we should remember that the two variables aren't completely independent.
Some sources of traffic are more likely to result in subscribers than others. When we're looking at traffic sources we've not only got to find the ones that we'll be able to use to get more website visitors, but also the ones that are more likely to get us optins.
We can analyse our website and email statistics to identify which sources have been the most effective for us historically. And for traffic sources we've not used ourselves, we can use what data we can find from others as clues to what might work.
But we've got to take the word of others with a pinch of salt. If we can see their data, great. But often people telling you about a great traffic source have an axe to grind themselves (most likely a product to sell about using that great traffic source).
So make sure there's data to back up any recommendations you follow. And most importantly, test any recommendations before fully adopting them.
My recommended plan of action is simple:
- Step 1: Brainstorm different sources of traffic
- Step 2: Review current effectiveness of each source – both for traffic and optins
- Step 3: Decide what to: Do more of, Do less of, Test
Let's have a look how that worked out for me.
Firstly, I used a mindmap to do my brainstorming (I normally just draw mindmaps on a large sheet of paper with coloured pens – but in this case I used iMindmapHD on the iPad).
Here's an excerpt of the mindmap focusing on the traffic sources section:
My mindmap isn't completely comprehensive, but it does include the main sources of traffic for blogs like mine:
- Search Engine Traffic/SEO – still my #1 source of traffic, though I used to get a lot more. SEO is much trickier and potentially risky these days after recent google changes. For this project I've decided not to do a lot of SEO but instead to see it as a side benefit of other work I do.
- Pay Per Click – I've used Google Adwords search ads before primarily to test landing pages and offers. But optin rates have been decent (up to 20%) and so it's an option. I've not tried Adwords display ads but know others who've has success with them. Linkedin and Facebook pay per click have never been super effective for me – with costs per optin usually double or more the cost on adwords.
- Banner Ads – private ads on targeted website that my potential clients visit, or “solo ads” – inclusions in newsletters that my potential clients are subscribed to. Not something I've done much of but worth investigating if I can find relevant sites/newsletters willing to allow ads.
- Social Media – a mixed bag for me. I get a decent amount of traffic from Twitter via automated tweeting of my old blog posts randomly. But I only get a little traffic from Linkedin and Facebook. When I tried being active on Linkedin groups to generate traffic it had limited effect. Nor did being active on my Facebook page work. “Low cost” traffic that comes from people sharing my blog posts themselves via social media buttons seem to have decent optin rates (see later) but being active on social media isn't a big winner for me optin-wise.
- Direct Traffic – varies a lot. I get good (5%+) optin rates from traffic to my blog posts from other sites that mention me or where I've done a guest blog post. But I get very little traffic from article sites like Ezinearticles these days. I also get very little traffic from “traditional” stuff like commenting on other people's blogs or from social bookmarking sites like Digg.
- Webinars – a big winner for me. I've always found that webinars have got a decent number of optins – even when I just promoted them myself via my blog and social media. For some reason some people who don't want to opt in to get a free report will do so to register for a webinar. In December last year I ran two “joint venture” webinars where my webinar was promoted to the email list of a couple of partners in related fields. The two webinars combined got me over 1,100 new subscribers. In both cases the webinars also promoted one of my products and I shared the revenues with the webinar promoters. I'll be doing more this year for sure.
Using Google Analytics to identify the best sources of traffic.
As I've described each traffic source above I've talked about which ones have led to more traffic and optins for me. But how do you figure this out?
The easiest method is to set goals on Google Analytics for optins. You can do this by setting a goal to be achieved whenever one of your “thank you for subscribing” pages is visited. In other words when a website visitor ends up on the page that they get sent to after subscribing by your email system. You can get detailed instructions on how to do this here.
Then you can get reports from Google Analytics showing you the conversion rates for different traffic sources, landing pages, etc.
Here's a look at the conversion rates for my top traffic sources over the last month.
You can see that my biggest single traffic source is google – and that in terms of optins, the conversion rate from google traffic is 2.32%.
Conversion from Twitter is 3.38% vs 8.14% for Linkedin and 5.72% for Facebook – but I get 10x the traffic from twitter, and so more optins overall.
Optin rates from other sites vary significantly. From www.valuablecontent.co.uk it's 40% (so chances are I'll see if I can do a guest blog post for them to get more of the same) whereas for other sites like aceofsales.com its 0% – probably not worth doing anything with them.
With search engine traffic we can drill deeper into which keywords generate the most optins, and do more work optimising for those keywords by perhaps writing more articles on those topics. but that analysis is for another day.
All I'm looking for at this stage is a broad brush view of:
- What I'm going to do more of (webinars, guest blog posts, passive social media)
- What I'm going to do less of (activity on Facebook/Linkedin)
- What I'm going to test out (pay-per-click)
If you do a similar round of brainstorming and analysis, you should be able to come up with a similar plan for yourself.
Your numbers will be different, of course. You may get a much higher optin %, or a lower one. Your traffic sources will be different. It's all dependent on the sort of business you're in and how you've configured it. But by doing the analysis for yourself you'll absolutely be able to find ways of improving.
Next post: getting more optins.