Using Opt In Lists To Boost Conversion Rates

So you have a website where you hope to make money off visitors. Unless you’re making money with advertising, this usually means that your visitor is going to have to buy something. Your conversion rate is the ratio of people who actually buy versus the number of total visitors you have.

At a minimum, you should know what your conversion rate is. If you don’t, then you’re missing out on a lot of data your website can give you, including priceless information on which keywords your visitors are using to find you. Use some form of web analytics to track this information, which will include the total number of unique visitors. Your sales software should be able to tell you the number who bought.

An average conversion rate is 3%. This means that if you get 100 visitors, on average only 3 will buy something. When you’re paying for advertising to get visitors, a low conversion rate means you’re not getting much return on your advertising investment.

There are three classes of people who will visit your website. Those who are ready to buy, those who have no intention of buying, and those who want to buy but are undecided. You can’t do much to affect the first two classes, but the last class, the fence sitters, can be converted. On a normal website, though, they’ll look at all the available information and then leave, intending to make up their mind later. Maybe they forget, or buy from someone else later. Either way, you’ve lost a sale.

The primary problem online is that you can’t have a conversation with the fence sitters. In a retail store, a salesperson could talk with them and get an idea of what might be keeping them from buying, and provide information to help them decide. Online, where do they get that type of interaction?

From opt in lists. They allow the fence sitters to start a conversation with you. Autoresponders take the role of the salesperson, giving the standard information most customers want to know.

Here’s how it works: you put a form on your site where customers can ask for more information about a product. They fill out just their name and email address. No billing info is sent, and they’re not asked to make a commitment of any kind. A fence sitter is more likely to do this than to jump into buying. Once they click submit, the autoresponder goes to work.

You would have had to have previously written a series of email letters about the product, with common questions and links to answers on your website. Each letter is personalized, so appears to be a conversation with the customer. Well written letters make the customer feel like they’re having a personal contact with you. The autoresponder sends each email in the sequence you specify, at whatever intervals you specify.

A typical series of automated letters will start out with the information the customer requested, and then a day later check back with them to see if they have more questions, and then a day or so after that offer them a special price if they haven’t bought yet.

At any point, the customer can reply to the email and contact you directly, breaking out of the automated sequence of emails.

Stay on Topic

With today’s spam regulations, it’s easy to get into trouble with an opt-in list. The key is that users have signed up for more information about a specific product or service, so you’re allowed to send them a nearly unlimited series of emails, about that product or service. You don’t have a license to send them emails about different products or services (that comes once they’re a customer and they agree to receive your “special deals newsletter”).

Getting blacklisted by spam lists is a Bad Thing for your business, so stay on topic.

See It Work

To see an autoresponder in action, put your name and email into this form and click Submit. You’ll get a three day series of emails I setup just for this post. Note that this series will not try to sell you anything, it’s just an example so you can see how the autoresponders work, in case you’re one of the few on the Internet who have never signed up for these before.

Request Your FREE Report: More Information From Online Opportunity
Your First Name:
Your Email:

These days, any website that doesn’t use opt in lists is missing out on converting fence sitters into customers. Getting visitors is only half the battle. Converting them into customers is the other half.

The undisputed king of autoresponders is Aweber Communications. The chances are good that you’ve signed up for at least one series of mailings from someone using Aweber’s autoresponders.

I also quite like Traffic Wave, which is the company I use for autoresponders. Both companies offer much the same services at much the same price. Both also use their own autoresponders to provide you with more information on their own services.

You can sign up for Traffic Wave’s demo emails using the following form (note that while the letters are personalized to appear to be from me, they’re the standard Traffic Wave demo letters):

Request Your FREE Report:
How Autoresponders Can Make You More Money

Your Name:
Your Email:

And this one for the Aweber demo series:

AWeber Demo

Safelist Advertising

I’d heard the term “safelist” used in conjunction with email advertisements, and finally had time to hunt up a couple of safelist sites to see what it was all about.

A safelist is basically where you send email out to a list of people. But unlike typical lists of email addresses you might buy, where the email has been harvested from web pages and newsgroups, and the people probably don’t want to receive your email, a safelist is an opt-in list. This means that every member of the list has agreed to receive emails from the list.

So it’s safe to email to the list, and won’t be considered spamming.

As part of my research, I ran across people saying that safelists don’t work. Never one to take someone else’s word for anything, I joined up with Herculist to see how it all worked. I created a new gmail address to put onto the list, since I expected I’d be receiving a lot of emails (I was right).

And then I sent out an ad myself.

Over the next day or so, I received dozens of ads to my Herculist specific email address. The first few I read, then I got into the habit of simply deleting them as they came in. And when I received no hits on my ad, I realized that everyone else was doing the same. There was simply no motivation for me to pay any attention to the ads.

I began to see why people say safelist advertising doesn’t work.

Over at Apsense.com, someone referred me to GotSafeList.com, and seemed to be genuinely enthusiastic about it. So I went to check it out, and signed up for their free level of service. Again I created a new gmail address for the safelist. Upon confirming both my safelist email and my main contact email, I was given 5,000 credits for signing up. A credit is basically an email sent to a single person.

So I could send an email to 5,000 people on the list (there were just over 5,000 on the list). There was also something called a hotlink site I could setup. Meanwhile, the ads started arriving in my inbox.

Again, I read the first couple. At the bottom of each there was a link to earn credits from having read the email. So I clicked on the link, figuring that earning credits was a good thing. The website specified by the person who sent the ad (their hotlink site) was shown in my web browser and I had to leave it there for 10 seconds to get the credits. So I looked at the site. At the end of 10 seconds I closed the browser, having earned a few credits.

The next ad earned me cash when I clicked the link ($0.0001). Turns out that GotSafeList can give you credits or cash when you click on the link, more or less randomly. The cash won’t make you rich, but if you accumulate enough of it you can turn it in for extra features at GotSafeList.

I began to see why the person who referred me was so enthusiastic about GotSafeList. Unlike the other safelist site I’d tried, here members had an incentive to click through to your site, and to look at it for at least 10 seconds. And it was kind of fun to wait and see if I’d get credits or cash (once I got banner credits…I’m not sure what they’re used for, but I’ll have to find out).

It’s too early for me to know if GotSafeList is more effective than other safelists, but I at least feel like my ad and website is going to be seen, and that’s far better than having the ad deleted with a dozen others.

I’d love to hear your experiences with safelists!

Apsense.com Review

Apsense.com is a social networking site for people looking to do business online. This includes network marketers, or just people looking to promote an online store.

The purpose of the site is not to market your opportunity to the other members, although it’s inevitable that some members will spam others with hyped up opportunities. The real purpose of the site is to build a network of contacts that can support you in your own efforts.

Let’s say that you are having trouble keeping up with sending emails out to a list of subscribers. You go to Apsense.com and ask for help. People who’ve been there before make suggestions (perhaps setting up an autoresponder so you can write ten emails when you have the time, and have them sent on a regular schedule). Or maybe you’re having trouble getting people to your web site, so you go and ask for advice from people who’ve been through the process.

Building a network of contacts for support is essential to any business success, including making money online. Apsense.com is one way of doing this.

The site functions a bit like MyBlogLog. You can create groups (like MyBlogLog’s communities) that others can join, and each group has a discussion board. You can ask other group members for help, and the group can take on collaborative projects if they want. Apsense.com also offers free advertisements that display on their site, so if you have a service that might help others succeed online you can get exposure for it without spamming the groups. The advertising is credit based, and I think you earn credits by participating in the site.

So far, the site’s community seems very helpful and friendly. There are some of them that just spam the groups with their own opportunities, but most seem to want to network and help in the way the site intends.

As a bonus, to try and build the community during the pre-launch phase, Apsense.com is giving away a year’s VIP membership to the first 2,500 (now 5,000) members. I’m not sure how far along they are in giving these away, but I signed up earlier today and was able to upgrade. The upgrade link says it’ll cost money, but if you click it and there are still free upgrades left you will not have to enter any payment information. I haven’t figured out yet what the VIP membership gives you over the free membership, but it’s worth upgrading if you’re one of the first to get there.

So, all told this seems like one of the better social networking sites for online businesses. I’d tried AdlandPro without too much success (the ratio of spam to advice was quite high).

If you’d like to try Apsense.com, click here to join. Don’t forget to join the Online Opportunity group there and say Hi!

Squidoo Lens of the Day Tips

These are not tips on how to get your lens to be lens of the day, but rather tips on how to make the most of the lens of the day traffic if one of your lenses is chosen.

Monetize Every Lens

Every lens you write should have some way to make you money, beyond the normal Adsense profit sharing that Squidoo provides. Squidoo makes this easy to do.

Adding an Amazon module to your lens and find books on your topic to recommend is very easy in Squidoo. There are also other modules where you can find nearly any product imaginable to recommend.

Your conversion rate on those modules won’t be very high, though, because the lens of the day traffic is not targeted. They’re viewing your lens because it’s the lens of the day, not because they’re looking for information on your topic. Few of them, if any, will actually buy anything while they’re there.

Consider instead signing up for a pay-per-lead program. These programs pay you when someone signs up for a free report. A free report is an easier sell than paid products, especially for casual visitors.

If I had it to do over again, I’d have put the Squidoo Secrets ebook on the lens. I’ll review Squidoo Secrets in a later post, but you can get paid a bit for giving out the free ebook. That’s the closest you’ll come to targeted traffic in a lens of the day. The visitors are mostly lensmasters coming to see what your lens is like, and giving them a link to a resource that can help them to improve their own lenses might convert well.

The monetization on a lens should be a small portion of the lens. The majority of the lens should provide quality content and links.

Create Lens Topic Groups

Any topic, even a niche topic, is broad enough to write several lenses on it, each covering a different aspect of the topic. This lets you keep each lens focused on its subtopic.

Lens of the day visitors like to see other lenses you’ve made on similar topics, so creating topic groups from the very start will ensure you’ll get some spillover traffic onto the related lenses.

A great way to make it easy for them to find these other lenses is to use the lensroll feature in Squidoo to add each lens in the topic group to every other lens’ lensroll. When a user views one of the lenses, the others will appear in a “More Great Lenses” section.

I’d had only one other related lens, and hadn’t thought to link to it from my lens of the day lens. Despite this, about a third of the visitors found their way to it. Given a couple more related lenses linked together with a lensroll, I’d expect the spillover traffic to be higher.

Link Internally Between Lenses

If you only have a few related lenses, you can link directly between them in a text module. I had too many and too varied of lenses for this, so I created a Who Is Jay Shaffstall? lens that links to most all of my lenses, and then linked to it from every lens.

That way, every lens is close (click-wise) to every other lens.

This works better for the general public than for other lensmasters, though. During my lens of the day traffic, I saw only a handful of clicks through to my Who Is Jay Shaffstall? page, while the one related lens I had received a much higher amount of spillover traffic (see the lens of the day analysis post for traffic charts).

And that’s about it. I have a list of opportunities waiting for reviews in future posts, so for a while we’ll get back to the main topic of the blog, making money online.

Have a great weekend!

Squidoo Lens of the Day Effect Analysis

Okay, I think things have died down enough to do some analysis on the effect of having a Squidoo lens chosen as lens of the day.

A couple of factors complicate this analysis: first, as a result of being chosen lens of the day, my lens was pushed into the top 100 lenses. This may have brought additional traffic. And the lens was also placed into the Explore section on Squidoo’s front page, which may have also brought other traffic. The first couple of days were all lens of the day effect, though.

Rather than show results for all my lenses, I’ve picked three to highlight. The Roleplaying with Kids lens is the one that was chosen as lens of the day. The Computer Game Making for Kids lens was on a similar topic. And the Who Is Jay Shaffstall? lens is directly linked to from all my lenses.

The Effect on Lens Traffic

This is the traffic chart for the Roleplaying with Kids lens. As a niche lens in a niche without much search engine traffic, it normally received two to four visitors a day. The spike to 229 was the day it was announced as lens of the day. This represents everyone on the Squidoo mailing list who checked their email that day and decided to look at the lens. The 119 visits are the people who don’t check their email daily (and my Mom, thanks Mom!).

The third day is when the extra factors come into play, but it seems as if the traffic is dying down naturally, so perhaps the extra factors didn’t affect traffic significantly. By the fourth day traffic is back to a normal level.

In terms of high traffic sites, this amount of traffic is a drop in the bucket. But for anyone doing niche marketing, this is a great opportunity to get a lot of people who might not otherwise see your page to look at it. Not targeted traffic, certainly, but exposure.

This is the traffic chart for the Computer Game Making for Kids lens. This one receives about half a dozen visitors on a normal day. The spike to 69 is the day of the lens of the day announcement, so represents spillover traffic from the Roleplaying with Kids lens.

My other lenses, on different topics, did not experience this same level of spillover traffic. So visitors who were interested by the Roleplaying with Kids lens went looking for other lenses I’d made on similar topics. In fact, they had to go looking, because this lens is not linked to from the Roleplaying with Kids lens.

This is the traffic for my Who Is Jay Shaffstall? lens. I had just created this and linked all my lenses to it a couple days before the lens of the day announcement, so I can’t judge what its normal traffic would be. I suspect it would be next to nothing, since the only keyword it targets is my name. The purpose of this lens is not to attract search engine traffic, but to provide an easy way for a visitor to one of my lenses to find the others.

The day of the lens of the day announcment, the number of visitors was 5, with 14 page views. This tells me that 5 people clicked from Roleplaying with Kids through to this lens. While here those 5 people visited other lenses, and each time returned here to visit more, for an average of three other lenses per person.

So this lens did what I wanted it to do, serving as a way for visitors to discover my other lenses.

Interestingly enough, the number of visits to my Who Is Jay Shaffstall? lens cannot account for even a portion of the spillover traffic to the Computer Game Making for Kids lens. So most people, when looking for other lenses I’d made, used the “More Lenses By” link Squidoo puts onto each of your lenses, rather than clicking through to my personal page.

Note that the analytics provided by Squidoo are nearly nonexistent. The above traffic charts were provided by StatCounter.com by embedding their tracking code into a text module in each lens.

The Effect on Lens Rank

Before the lens of the day announcement, my Roleplaying With Kids lens was ranked #2,184 out of over 100,000 lenses. This isn’t as impressive as it sounds, since most lenses are what Squidoo considers to be “unimproved”, which basically means the authors have put as little work into them as possible. Any lens that has had some loving attention put into its creation will automatically be in the top 10,000.

The traffic the day of the lens of the day anouncement pushed the lens to #105. I fully expected it to drop in lens rank after this, since it was clear the traffic was short-lived. However, the next day, when traffic dropped, it went up to #57. Traffic over the past 7 days, as reported by Squidoo, was 365.

The lens rank on the Computer Game Making for Kids lens started at #537, jumped to #237 on the day of the announcement from spillover traffic, and then down to #250. Traffic over the past 7 days was 92.

The Who Is Jay Shaffstall? lens started at #21,308 (its default rating from just having been created), then went to #3,423, then to #1863. Its 7 day traffic was at 13.

My conclusion from this is that lens rank depends highly on traffic over the past 7 days. I’ll expect to see the Roleplaying with Kids lens drop in lens rank as the traffic spike ages, unless being in the top 100 creates enough traffic on its own to keep it there.

Ratings from other Squidoo users also affects lens rank. Roleplaying with Kids has 23 ratings, Computer Game Making for Kids has 9, and Who Is Jay Shaffstall has 4.

Lessons Learned

This has gone on a bit long, so I’ll save for tomorrow a list of tips I’ve developed to get the most out of having a lens named lens of the day.

If you have any thoughts or insights on the analysis, please leave a comment.

Squidoo Lens of the Day Effect

I’ve written about Squidoo in other posts, so it should be no surprise that I have a growing list of pages (lenses) I’ve created on Squidoo.

What was a surprise was the first lens I’d done, about the benefits of roleplaying with kids, being chosen as the lens of the day. The lens of the day is featured in an email sent out to around 10,000 subscribers, and is also featured in the Hot Stuff menu on Squidoo’s home page.

Needless to say, the lens of the day gets a traffic spike.

My kids roleplaying lens was getting a handful of visitors each day. The day that the lens of the day email went out, it received over two hundred visitors. Those visitors also stuck around long enough to look at some of my other lenses, so there was some spillover traffic. A couple even found their way here, which required clicking through a couple of Squidoo pages before getting to the link here.

Okay, the Digg effect this isn’t. But extra traffic is extra traffic, and the boost in lensrank might get your lens into the top 100, which will generate more traffic.

I’m still analyzing all of this, and will put together a post looking at the results of the lens of the day traffic spike, and what I should have done before having a lens picked as lens of the day to take better advantage of the traffic. I want to see how the traffic tapers off in the next day or two, so I should have the complete analysis later this week.

Note that you can’t really know if a lens if going to be picked as lens of the day. The first I heard about it was when I received the lens of the day email along with everyone else. But by positioning your lenses properly to start with, you can be prepared to take advantage if it happens.

I don’t want to leave you empty handed today, though, so I want to give you an ebook that gives a good introduction to Squidoo and describes some of the advantages of using it. Despite the name, there are no real secrets revealed here. The ebook does provide the opportunity to get free access to an interesting audio interview with the author.

Click the cover up above to download the free book, or click here.

To get started making Squidoo pages, sign up here. If you get over to Squidoo and want any advice, feel free to contact me. While I won’t claim to be an expert, having a lens picked as lens of the day means I’m doing something right.

Have fun!

Article Marketing for Traffic Generation

Getting people to visit your web page is a big deal.

After all, if people don’t visit, they can’t read what you’re written or buy what you’re selling. One way to get people to visit your web site is to write an article on a related topic and then have other websites publish that article. If people like what you say in the article, they’ll probably visit your website to hear more.

There are lots of article distribution sites online. I’ll talk about two.

EzineArticles.com is a well respected article directory, especially by Google. EzineArticles.com also places your article on their website, so you can start getting some search engine traffic even before other websites pick up the article. Since Google respects EzineArticles.com, your articles will rank highly in Google’s search results.

ArticleMarketer.com is a submission service. They do not host your article themselves, but will submit it to websites and mailing lists that have signed up to receive articles on your article’s topic. Those websites and mailing lists will then use your article if it interests them. ArticleMarketer.com’s main selling point is that they provide a human review of your article prior to sending it out, and will make suggestions for improving it.

Regardless of where you put your article, there are a couple of key points to remember.

First, pick a good keyword to center your article around. Part of your traffic will come from search engine results, so you want to make sure that the title of your article contains a relevant keyword people will use for searching.

Second, do not try to sell anything in the body of the article. Every article will also have an “about the author” section where you can do your selling. In the article itself, provide genuinely useful or interesting information for your target audience. That will motivate them to come to your website to see what else you have to say.

Good luck, and let me know what success you have writing articles!

Ethical Internet Marketing

I wanted to talk a little more about what I see this blog being, and it has to do with my views on what Internet Marketing should be.

There’s a lot of hype about Internet Marketing, and an enormous number of ebooks and courses you can buy that purport to teach you how to do it. My opinion is that marketing products to people who want to make money online is a pyramid scheme. We’re expecting the newcomers to spend money to support us. And like all pyramid schemes, it’s doomed to failure (see my Squidoo page, How Does MLM Work? for more info on why pyramid schemes don’t work).

Instead, I prefer the model where everyone who wants to make money online is enabled to do it. Even if the amount of money they’re making is small, I want them to make something.

So, I refuse to market to Internet Marketers in this blog. Yes, I’ll have links to affiliate programs now and then because I’ve reviewed an ebook or Internet Marketing site. But I’ll be honest about whether the techniques covered by the book worked for me or not. If I say the techniques didn’t work for me, and you choose to buy the book through my link anyway, I’ll consider my commission from the sale as a donation to the maintenance costs of the blog.

My primary goal is to collect information that will help a complete newcomer to making money online get started. That’s why there are a number of background posts that don’t review specific opportunities. That’s why you’ll see case studies as time goes on where I lay out exactly what I did and what happened as a result.

This blog isn’t really for the experienced Internet Marketer, although you’re more than welcome to leave comments with helpful advice for the rest of us. Primarily, though, this is for the newcomers.

Good luck, and may we all make money!

Making Money With Squidoo

Squidoo is a website that allows anyone to easily write web pages.

Squidoo pages can be about anything: gardening, rock climbing, the ten best web sites, etc. Squidoo sells advertising on their pages (including yours, if you write a web page there) and collects money from advertisers. Squidoo then gives you a portion of the money, based on how popular your web pages are.

You can also recommend books or movies on your web page, and provide links to purchase those books and movies online (e.g. an affiliate link, if you remember from the last post). If someone purchases the product through your link at Squidoo, you get the commission from it.

Making money with Squidoo requires a large investment of effort. Unless you write a phenomenally popular web page, you must write a lot of web pages to make any amount of money. As an example, with about four web pages written, I made less than a dollar my first month.

The key to success with Squidoo is getting traffic to your web pages. Indeed, this is the key to any online success, so we’ll talk about traffic generation in a later post.

If you want to see examples of Squidoo pages, you can take a look at a couple of mine:

Roleplaying with Kids
Computer Game Making for Kids

To get started on your own pages, sign up at Squidoo.