Have you noticed something?
It seems as though there are a dozen really powerful bloggers who control the Internet.
This group decides who becomes famous and who does not. They set the standard for what a well-designed blog should look like. They write the best copy and win the most subscribers.
And everyone knows it.
This group gets more attention in an hour than you do in a month of Mondays.
Whenever they check email, they have fresh messages. Imagine that.
Have you noticed how these rockstars are constantly manipulating their blogs? They seem in perfect control of each move they make. Whenever they publish something, their links work. Their email broadcast shows up on time. Their brand experience is otherworldly.
How do they do that?
You already know how to build a popular blog. You write guest posts. It is not that difficult to capture 89 subscribers from a single guest post and build relationships with celebrity blog owners – the inner circle.
But just because you are getting to know the inner circle does not mean you are one of them.
Guest posting is not enough. The CEO of a prestigious company was recently rejected at Pebble Beach Golf Links – not because he lacked the resources, but because he lacked the style.
How can you enter the inner circle with style?
1. Create a custom opt-in experience
Did you know that you control what page readers visit when they enter their email address and hit submit? The default page is invariably hosted by your email marketing service, but you can use your own page.
Why should you use your own page? Because double opt-in subscriptions can be confusing and you need to make it as easy as possible. The more you keep visitors on your site, the more comfortable they feel because they are seamlessly flipping through pages on your site – and not going to third party domains.
Is this a subtle change? You bet it is, but it enhances your brand experience. When visitors subscribe to Two Hour Blogger, they are greeted with a page at Two Hour Blogger. See how that makes you feel more “in” than a generic third party page?
You control the “success” page too – the page linked in the confirmation email. Make this as personal and fuzzy as possible.
Pro tip: Since access to these pages is highly specific, block these pages from search engines.
2. Hook brand-new commenters into subscribers
Persuading readers to comment on your prose is not easy. When they do speak their mind, you want to take advantage of their mood.
Invite them into your tribe. Since they are into you enough to comment, they will likely subscribe as well.
Never be bashful when asking for a subscription.
3. Match your affiliate links with your site URLs
This is a tweak for the geeks, but it brings us closer to the cool kids and the inner circle.
Affiliate advertising is a great way to monetize your blog. With sites like ClickBank, Share a Sale, and Amazon, you can direct users to a product and earn a commission from the sale. The only problem is that it spits a fairly ugly URL. When folks hover over your link to see where it is taking them, it looks like a scrambled eggs mess – and does not inspire the trust you need.
Once again, this increases brand awareness. Here is an example of a simple URL: http://twohourblogger.com/go/studiopress/.
(Be sure to click that link and buy some stuff.)
4. Change the default avatar in your comments
You probably already have a Gravatar so your picture appears each time you comment. But what about your readers with no avatar?
In your WordPress dashboard in Settings > Discussion, you can control the default avatar for those with no avatar. None of the options are exciting because all of them appear either generic or cartoony.
This is why you should use the Add New Default Avatar plugin. It allows you to use any graphic you want for your less-than-savvy commenters. Preferably, you want to use your logo (or something similar). To see this in action, check out the comments section in Two Hour Blogger’s recent book giveaway.
Nifty, is it not?
5. Use teasers on your home page, but do them the right way
You want to show off as many articles as possible on your home page. Teasers are a great way to do it, but you do not need special plugins or theme features to pull it off successfully.
<--more--> in your post, you can remove all the proceeding content from your home page while preserving it in the single post page. This keeps the HTML formatting intact (paragraph breaks, italics, pictures, etc.) and makes a killer teaser.
The problem is, just pasting
<--more--> will make your “read more” link look like this:
You can do better. By adding
<!--more Read the rest… --> you will change the text to “Read the rest…”, or anything else you wish. My friend Derek Halpern likes to say “Click to Continue.”
Where should you insert this
<--more--> element? On the same line as the paragraph you want to hide. This gives the “Read the rest…” text its own line on the home page while preserving the formatting on the post page.
This tiny change will make you look like a genius. Not very many bloggers know how to do this.
6. Sneak ahead of the SEO game
Google your high-ranking posts and observe what your meta description looks like. You may not like what you see.
As a friend recently pointed out, the meta description for our guest post mistake article (which gets over 130 hits/month) looked like this:
Mar 23, 2011 – The Guest Post Mistake You Can’t Afford. by Martyn Chamberlin 12 Comments. image of rope tied in a knot. Mistakes, mistakes. …
Not exactly showcase, huh?
From now on, you need to write a custom meta description for everything you publish. This is a cinch in the Genesis Framework.
7. If you have social proof, get dynamic about it
When people visit your blog, they like to know just how big you really are. There is nothing wrong with admitting your size.
Grab the Subscribers Text Counter which shows your Feedburner, Twitter, and Facebook numbers. This plugin is a ton of fun to play with and it increases your community atmosphere.
8. Turn your sidebar into a seductive magnet
Newcomers simply love perusing your content. It is similar to window shopping; they like to snoop around and decide if they should walk through the door or not.
You want to keep them around as long as possible. You want to put your best work before their eyes. You need a popular articles widget in your sidebar. Chris Pearson has the best tutorial I have seen on this subject.
Read about it there, and apply it to your blog today.
9. Protect your merchandise from greedy shoplifters
Do you have pages on your site that you only want certain people to access? Are you giving away an eBook that requires an opt-in? Do some of your pages contain premium content and downloads?
If so, make the pages password protected.
Between the “preview” and “publish” buttons you will see “visibility: public.” Edit this setting and give yourself a password. This keeps you from giving important pages crazy URLs so nobody can pirate them.
You will even see A list bloggers do crazy URLs to get around this. Password protection makes a lot more sense. It makes you look like a genius.
10. Edit the publish date to squeeze bucks and subscriptions simultaneously
This last trick is the geekiest and sneakiest of all.
Imagine you publish a rock solid article one day, and the next day you write why everyone should buy a certain product. When newbies visit your home page, your above-the-fold fodder will be promotional instead of informative – not exactly stuff that inspires subscriptions.
Suddenly, a power user tweets your content and your traffic goes out the door. Help! What are you going to do?
You change the publish date.
Convince WordPress that your latest article was actually published before your previous article, and it will believe you. It will switch the position of the articles.
Are you confused?
This article is WAY too long and I may have confused you a bit.
Open a dialogue in comments, and let’s talk about how to implement these tricks to your blog today.
After all, life is too short to not be a genius.