Two Hour Blogger

On Marketing and Writing

Has Your Shrewd Optimizing Ruined Your Real Conversion Rate?

image of checkmate

When a blogger first blogs, he expects the world to listen.

It takes him 7 months to realize the Internet is vaster than he dreamed. By the end of the year, he drools for a hundred readers. Unless he’s intrinsically motivated, he won’t pass 300.

If he’s serious about growing his audience, he’ll pay attention to what works.

He’ll learn all the cool tricks to boosting his email subscribers. He’ll have signup forms and social proof all over his site. For those who want to optimize their lists, that’s the proven way. It works.

But what are professional Marketers doing?

I’m keeping tabs on agencies that make REAL money – companies like Digital Scientists, Twist Image, and PINT. These aren’t one-man guru shops or fly-by-night pony shows. They’re not practicing group therapy sessions. They’re brilliant Marketers in the digital revolution. They charge tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars and they get results. They know what works, and it’s clear they’re not interested in email addresses. Judging by their portfolio, their clients aren’t either.

This doesn’t just apply to elite Marketing agencies, either. Most WordPress developers aren’t that interested in optimizing conversion rates. This explains why so many readers have difficulty adding featured boxes and end-of-post signup forms: most themes aren’t made for it. This explains why Blog Tyrant is creating a theme focused on capturing email addresses: he’s doing it because such a theme doesn’t currently exist.

Why aren’t professional Marketers optimizing?

It’s not because they haven’t heard about it. It’s not because they’re scared. It’s not because they lack the resources and developers.

It’s because it’s perceived as shady marketing. In business circles it smacks of the snake oil salesman begging for a sale on a cracked sidewalk. It’s the hand-painted advertisement for the 8-hour flea market. It the cheaper-by-the-dozen, everything’s-always-50%-off business model.

Twist Image has an engaged audience. But if they hired a “shrewd optimizer” to maximize their subscription results, they’d be reminded there isn’t a prominent opt-in form anywhere on their blog. Everyone agrees Twist Image is leaving email addresses on the table. And you know what? They don’t care because they’re booked solid with 130 employees making good money.

And that’s the whole point.

It’s not how many emails you have, it’s how well your business is doing – the bottom line. If you have 12 employees and your business is making seven figures … who cares about your Feedburner stats? Blogs are only as effective as their contribution to your business’s Marketing, PR, and the bottom line. In this day of saturated content, let’s not loose focus of the big picture. Blogs are overrated.

Sure, if your business model is the McDonald’s $7 widget, you’ll need a huge following to scale. If you’re sneaking across some affiliate deal, you’ll need 5,001 eyeballs to make real money. But as you know, we’re in a revolution. The stakes are high. Don’t be part of a ponzi scheme. Do something worthwhile, something that creates value.

What does this mean for you?

If you’re blogging just for fun and want to make a few dollars along the way, more power to you. There’s nothing illegal about flea markets. But as for me, my brand is changing. I’m going to push my education and build an agency that Starbucks would be proud to hire. I’m going to succeed or die trying, and I invite you to join me. In?

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33 Replies

  1. Awesome and inspiring post Martyn. I can’t wait to see how Email assault looks like, though I tried my best to add email opt ins everywhere necessary, I still have a lot to learn.

    1. Martyn Chamberlin

      Blog Tyrant has an interesting thing going, no doubt about it. We’ll see what his theme’s reception is like.

  2. I am interested in what you are saying about moving past the email capture model. I also want to be the “Starbucks” of my industry.

    In a revolution, it’s hard to see how to get where you want to be. You only see where you don’t want to be or where you’ve already been.

    You still have your “free updates” box. So you must think that is still relevant.

    Watching where you’re going with this with interest.

    1. Martyn Chamberlin

      You’ve brought up a pivotal point, Judi. A business can’t make money without customers, and email addresses are a great way to get customers. But I’m convinced there’s a wide disconnect between most bloggers and real businesses.

      Yes, I’ve still got all my email signup forms, but things are going to change around here. 😉

  3. I am personally more interested in marketing strategies than in learning about web design.

  4. I’m with you, my primary goal is to sell my book. I also want the blog to at least pay for itself, then I’ll be happy!

    1. Martyn Chamberlin

      Well so far NOBODY has stated an interest in learning Web design. Guess I’ll focus on the marketing.

  5. Hello Martyn:
    I am new to your blog, but have found the blog post interesting. Your bottom line thought of “business” emphasis in this blog is great. I think your going to increase your revenue.

    1. Martyn Chamberlin

      Thanks Gary! This is a somewhat self-centered article … I’ll get back to the regular routine next week.

      1. I see my hand in this article. I’m glad to see it shape your thinking.

        1. Martyn Chamberlin

          Your fingerprints are all over this. Mentor. :)

  6. Not sure I totally understand this one.

    If you want to make a difference and create something really beneficial, don’t you need an audience to do so?

    I would say the revolution is the end of affiliate marketing and banner ads, and the rise of growing a vibrant and engages community, which includes a large email list (still the king of a successful website, IMO).

    1. Martyn Chamberlin

      Gregory, if you need a large email list, you’re still talking about the $7 McDonald’s widget.

      I’m talking about having half a dozen clients who pay 5-6 figures. Those clients won’t take you seriously if you’ve got opt-in forms all over your site. It’s snake-oily.

      1. I think there’s some truth to both perspectives.

        IMHO the so-called “revolution” or the direction marketing is heading “in this day and age” is going to become heavily involved with and increasingly dependent upon Social Media Marketing, i.e. Social Media platforms and Blogs.

        I have clients in businesses of all kinds (and sizes) who had zero connection to Social Media or Blogs as recent as last year. Yet they’re now diving head first into both mediums. And I think this type of shift is only going to increase, because most businesses (whether it’s true or not) are looking at their customer-base as synonyms with their “audience.”

        The returns from (and effectiveness of) most traditional advertising mediums have sharply declined, and many marketers are looking to Social Media and Blogging to fill that void. Again, whether or not this will be effective in the long run obviously remains to be seen. In the short run, however, “growing your list” and all of the other methods of increasing influences currently associated with Social Media and Blogging are going to be of paramount importance to many businesses, regardless of how “used car salesman” these methods appear.

        As far as selling widgets goes, everyone’s got to start somewhere. It’s not as though Sachi and Sachi or BBDO sprang out of the box, fully formed, representing Nissan and Oracle.

        And to your question, web design is an incredibly valuable skill (that’s only going to increase), but you’re limited to one arena. As a marketing consultant, you hire and direct the web designer, the copywriter, the graphic designer and the PR specialist – coordinating the whole show, and earning a lot more than you would from simply designing the web site.

        1. Martyn Chamberlin

          Thanks for weighing in man. Super appreciate it.

          I agree that email addresses are still important. So here’s my question: why aren’t the large agencies addressing this issue? Or are they doing it in a way that I’m simply not identifying?

          1. You’re correct, traditional ad agencies do not address issues like email data collection (at least not in the sense that Blogger do), because it’s not part of their model, and they would consider it somehow beneath them. The problem is, however, their model is crumbling.

            Only a very thin sliver of businesses can afford the full throttle media and PR campaigns that made Mad Men style advertising so notable.

            A single full page ad in the Wall Street Journal runs upwards of $10,000+, and national news and business magazines are not far behind. The cost to produce national TV spots is astronomical, not to mention the ridiculous ad buys costs. Radio spots are significantly less expensive to produce, but prime time (drive time) spots on nationally syndicated shows (think Rush Limbaugh) are incredibly expensive. And this represents the primary arsenal of traditional ad agencies. They’ve certainly made some adjustments, but the days of Mad Men style domination are over.

            Once upon a time, an effective ad for a worthwhile product run once or twice in the Wall Street Journal was money in the bank. Direct marketing kingpin Joseph Sugarman build a entire career selling in this manner. But those days are over, and only that upper echelon of conglomerate time companies can justify the costs.

            The strong appeal of online marketing is the level playing field. Consider Copoyblogger; they’ve built an influential, profitable business with zero advertising (other than shilling to subscribers that willing agreed to be shilled to).

            If you’re looking to reconstitute your client base, you corrected in assuming (at least for the time being) that Blogging is not the way to engage and ultimately be hired by medium to large size businesses. It certainly doesn’t hurt you, and can be a part of your portfolio, as in: “hey, look what I can do.” But it’s not they way you’ll make contact.

            When it comes to marketing, larger scale businesses are still looking for MBA educated types (like your Kelly Goss alter-ego). Just look at employment ads on Monster and you’ll see what I’m talking about. You might get hired by a marketing manager from a larger company, but probably not from your blog.

          2. Martyn Chamberlin

            I’m grateful for you experience here, Ryan. You’ve definitely explored these waters deeper than I have. Interesting.

            My goal isn’t to “get hired,” it’s to “land clients.” I’m finding that clients don’t care about degrees so much as your ability to do good work and get results.

            Man, there’s a lot to think about. I shall think on this.

          3. The distinction between “getting hired” and “landing clients” is quite subtle, I’m not sure how I would characterize the difference, but I think a grasp you intent.

            You’re totally right about the degree, however, the type of companies that contract with ad agencies are looking for credentials in addition to expertise.

  7. I couldn’t agree more with the disconnect most bloggers have regarding social proof numbers versus the “bottom line.” Great post! For me blogging is fun, but really I’m doing it because 1) I like seeing change take place in people’s lives as a result of my work, and 2) I want to make money from it some day.

  8. So are you saying, Martyn, that your blog is becoming irrelevant to your business? What is your business, then? Are you talking about making your blog a more transparent vehicle for increasing clients who pay for your services?

    I’m confused!


    1. Martyn Chamberlin

      My business is designing Web sites. I started this blog without a clue how I was going to make money, and since then my direction has become much clearer.

      So, I’ll continue to write about Marketing, it’s just going to be a bit more upscale.

      1. Okee dokee. I think I’ll just have to wait to see how it turns out, then. :)


  9. Martyn, I’m interested in where you’re going with this, but I’d like to bring up one point…

    This is exactly why I read blogs with a VERY opened mind. You are obviously intelligent and have an interest in helping people succeed. You’re willing to change direction if necessary…. However, the reader needs to trust themselves.

    I can read a post about how my opt-in form is SO insanely important to my blog and then the next week read that it isn’t. Both posts contain value. I’m not criticizing you at all… I enjoy your blog. I share your content…

    but, I think the best thing we can all do is absorb the very best knowledge of what everyone has to share and then do what works best for ourselves and our business.

    I’m all for change and growth, so I’m very interested in seeing what changes come about on your blog and I think it’s great that you’re sharing that with your readers.

    1. Martyn Chamberlin

      Dude. You’re right. I’ve been contradicting myself, big time. I still think dudes like Derek Halpern are cool and all, I’m just changing my client demographic. And meanwhile, the Two Hour Blogger readers suffer …

      Thanks for the feedback. There are so many unanswered questions at this point.

      But the opt-in form is still insanely important if you’re trying to build a list. :)

      1. Everybody contradicts themselves sometimes, but you’re moving forward and I’m sure it’s in the right direction.

        Looking forward to reading more about whatever changes you make. I always learn something from your posts. :)

  10. I’m loving this post. When can we talk? :)

    1. Martyn Chamberlin

      How about in California, around a nice cup of joe?

      You’ve got my phone number. 😛

  11. I HATE trying to learn how to design a blog to create a web presence – but I also feel like it’s the best (only) way to create a business for myself that I can take anywhere.

    1. Martyn Chamberlin

      That’s how I started out, JoAnna. And who knows? You might actually start enjoying it. :)

  12. Will be watching your ascend. Wish you well

  13. Hey Martyn, I love that you’re so open with your thinking.

    My website’s focus is on my business’s services. But my business partner and I included a blog because we believe it’s crucial for selling our expertise. The opt-in form is only on our blog and contact pages, and only in one place on the pages.

    One thing about our opt-in form: we ask for name and area of interest, too. We did this because of research which found, through split testing, that more people opted in when these were included. (I can’t remember who’s research; I don’t have it here at home.)

    We’re getting great feedback about the site (which has been live for 7 weeks), so we’re happy. Based on the reaction from business owners, executives and senior managers, management consulting peers, prospects and clients, no-one thinks we’re ‘snake-oily’. And that’s even though we’ve taken a very different approach to our content than others in our field.

  14. In. Simple as that.

  15. Hey Martyn,

    I’m sold! Erh… I mean… IN!

    Really looking forward to see what you bring to the table. 😉