My First Subscriber

I got my first email subscriber today!

I never thought I’d make a page purely to convince someone to sign up for my email list. Never! This is the least prominent page on my entire site and is only linked to in one small area – right under the sidebar opt-in form.

What prompted me to do this?

Mailchimp can give you a URL that will create an opt-in form in a new window. However, it’s very impersonalized and it’s not on my site. Why would I want someone to opt in if they never even laid a foot on my domain? Right?

Yea, that’s my idea anyways.

So I created a page purely to link elsewhere (such as Facebook – which was my original reason). However, I’m sure I’ll find other places to link this page.

So if you think you’re going to do this, my formula goes like this:

Headline is something about signing up.

Intro blurb should be about how if they want to get free email updates, they should sign up. Basically reiterating what this page is for.

[I contemplated on inserting an opt-in form here but my page was too short to really justify it.]

Next: headline about what’s in it for them if they sign up

Next: List of reasons (I came up with 6)

Opt in form

Then, social media links.

This squeeze page thing isn’t something I thought I would be doing but more and more, I’m finding uses for them. I’m just happy that they’re not the first page visitors see. Instead, they see, I do have content. I do have free downloads. I do have regular posts.

I also started writing tomorrow’s blog post. I’m super good at multitasking (which studies show is actually bad for you)!

This week in review

It’s that time of week again.

This week was mostly focusing on eliminating cluttered on the blog. Eliminate distractions. Focus on content. Focus on opt-ins. It is somewhat your more minimalistic approach to blogging.

You really can’t go wrong with narrowing the things someone can do on your website. If you look at my music blog, you see the follow:

  1. You can look at my content pages (currently only have 1 content page and my about page). More is going to be added.
  2. You can read my latest post.
  3. Or you can opt in.
  4. Or read my most popular posts (which is actually static but probably some stuff my targeted audience would want to look at).

So content pages are my way of linking to my categories but really highlighting my best content. This is better for pulling out all the posts a new person on your site WANTS to see. I’ve learned that the problem with blogs is that it’s not always easy to find someone’s BEST posts. This also gives another method of getting people to opt in. In general, content pages will follow this following format:

  1. Give a small intro
  2. List my best posts (or in the existing example, my downloads).
  3. Offer an opt-in form
  4. List more ways to learn about ___________
  5. And then another opt-in form

Notice also, that I don’t have a sidebar on my content pages or my about page. This is the whole part of eliminating distraction. Content pages are meant to be “Hey see my best content in this category here and then sign up for my email list”

My about page is suppose to say “Hey, here is what this site is all about and you should opt-in to my email list.”

To the point, you want people to subscribe and while you don’t want to be too “in your face” with email forms, you want it to be obvious that “hey, we have a mailing list where you can get updates”

At least that was my thinking.

With very little technical work left to do on my blog, I have nothing left aside from writing content and creating more pages. Promotion and all that will always continue, of course.

 

New Strategy

The more I work on my blog, the more my motivations change. Originally, it was to find a way to pick a topic I enjoy and monetize it. Now it’s grown to where “Shoot, I just wanna be awesome in my niche.”

I think that making money is still the ultimate end goal even though I feel like it’s dropped in my priorities quite a bit. However, I’ve been reading a lot about how to create quality content. I still have no definitive method of doing this. I have also been reading a lot about writing headlines. It’s a very interesting topic indeed.

I used to think a good writer needed to be good with words but with all the reading I’ve done today, I’ve come to the conclusion that a good writer needs to understand people. I know this is true but I can’t elaborate much further than this until I spend more time learning about it.

So if you take a look at the music blog, you can see I’m using a free theme now. I couldn’t stand my own theme much more and it wasn’t doing it for me. This is the first and most obvious change. The other changes will be more subtle as it has a lot to do with how I write.

I have my post for Monday done and in WordPress. I want to spend some time improving upon it and I think I’m going to link some videos of awesome things.

I got my tripod in yesterday but I’m not quite ready to make videos quite yet. I’m waiting until Thursday when I have my house to myself to see if I have it in me. I’m a really shy person off the internet. It’ll be hard to inject enough personality without sounding like “Oh my gosh, I don’t wanna be here” which from experience, is how I usually sound in videos.

If I could manage making videos though, that would be awesome.

Updates

Here is what I’ve done this week:

- I wanted to hash out a blog design that I could be happy with. I’ve pretty much got it figured out. The only thing in question is the header image but that’s easily changed.

- created a wordpress widget for my opt in form. It was causing some CSS conflicts having it just sit in a text widget.

- added a Facebook button. I’m trying to utilize this as a free resource of other tutorials on the internet instead of a glorified RSS feed.

- started my rank building in google. This is just going to be an on-going process so this is probably the last time (not!) that I’ll talk about it.

This week, here is what I want to complete:

- start mindmapping a product idea.

- start experimenting using different sidebar per post/page to display more relevant content.

- figure out a tagging system for WordPress. Tags often get messy so I think I’m going to research a set list, add those into WordPress, and pick my tags out of those.

- make at least one video post. I’m thinking Mondays would be a good time for video posts since I’d have the weekend to film it and edit it.

Other notes:

Having a blogging schedule has been working wonders for me. I don’t feel like I have to be constantly writing blog posts. I feel like I spend more time and give more thoughts on blog posts because I give myself 2 days to write it. I feel like I’m not ignoring other aspects such as promotion and things. It’s just really nice having a day/time for everything.

Finally did it!

The past few days, I’ve been working on article directories and building backlinks to try and rank in Google for my primary keyword “how to read music”.

I finally did it!

Granted, it might jump around by the time anyone reads this but hence the screenshot!

After I build some solid backlinks, I’ll zone in on communities like forums and such. But for now, this is definitely encouraging.

Cultivating Habits

I still have a day job. I work for a big dotcom corporation that most people who haven’t been living under a rock probably knows about. However, because I’m paranoid, I refuse to tell you my company’s name. So you’re just going to have trust me that I do in fact work for a dotcom.

So our website at work just it 6.14 billion pageviews. BILLIONS even. Like holy moly… Imagine having 6.14 BILLION pageviews. On a site you own?! See, I personally don’t have any personal attachment to my company’s website. I work on it everyday and produce content and do development work when needed and all that. But I feel (and realistically, I am) a small part of a huge effort. However, I think it really comes down to the fact that it’s my job.

I remember this one day, my boss and I were having a chat about how we need to update things more on the regular to keep people coming back. This proposed updating schedule was Monday, Wednesday, Friday. He said something along the lines of “cultivating a habit” hence the title of this post.

In essence, the point was to get regular updates out in a timely manner so that our readers can start to expect new content instead of thinking that channel (section of a website) was dead.

How can a website have 6.14 billion pageviews if something isn’t being updated? You ask.

Because we’re like a bad butter sandwich. We spread our stuff too thin and due to the economy and the nature of our business, we’ve had layoffs which means less bandwidth to continually update certain parts of the site. The 80-20 rule doesn’t exist within my company. We never delete anything. NEVER.

Back to cultivating habits… So I start updating regularly and my boss signed me up for regular analytics updates that’s emailed to me every week. There used to be a joke about how only 5 people look at the channel I’m updating. Well, golly gee, after a few months of consistent updates and all that, traffic actually increased! I’ll be damned!

It’s not that we had constant content coming in. I mean, we only posted about 10-15 pieces a week on average over 5 subsections of the site. It was just the few new pieces that did it. The change. The “hey you came here for a reason” pull. The reason why we still look through google searches.

Because shit’s new.

I’m sorry, I swear a lot.

So in the short of it, I made a schedule for my blog. What I’m doing on which days doesn’t matter. I really just wanted to tell about how it had an impact to where maybe one person might just come up with a schedule.

I need to stop at this point

Tonight, I spent a lot of time re-working my blog layout.

Lets face it, when you becoming a web developer/design/coder for a living, you just don’t really want to do that shit when you come home.

For this project, I was going to make a whole custom design. Well, it somewhat fell through. I am using Thesis. While a lot of people use it, I actually find it harder to customize than trying to figure out a theme on my own. I could have built a custom theme from scratch but I didn’t want to. It’s too much coding for me. I’m lazy.

So yesterday, I really screwed up the mediocre design I had going for me. It wasn’t that good. But it was something. Anyways, I messed it up at some point and then went to bed shortly afterward.

Then today, I got this design going. It was from a premade Thesis skin (free ones are few and far).

I liked the coloring. Anytime I pick up a free theme or in this case, skin, it’s because of color and not the actual design. So this is the gist of what I had to work with pre modifications (click to enlarge):

And while talking to some people working on similar projects on Skype, I quietly mumbled swear words while modifying this. Here is everything wrong I saw in this current layout:

  • No header image which just makes it very boring.
  • Header text is also… eh. Boring. I love text when text is there but just… hm. Not enough for me.
  • The sidebar kind dangles out on it’s own There’s no definition to it and no way to highlight what’s there. It’s like meant to be ignored.
  • Sidebar items were somewhat out of order too. After widgets were developed a couple years ago, I just through widgets I want to use and ignore the order until the design is done.
  • The “Learn More” buttons didn’t work for me. It blended in with the content and lacked the “hey, I have more to say” pull.
  • Not enough images in my post which you’ll probably have to go to the actual blog and check it out. I’m working on filling out my posts a bit more.
  • I didn’t like the amount of white on the page. This goes back to not having a header image.
  • I didn’t like the links in the sidebar. They look so plain. They really had the feeling of “a bunch of links on this page” instead of “hey, you should click over here because this is worth your while”
  • The headers of the sidebar were so plain also. You get that I don’t like plan too much.
  • Overall, it just needed a boost in color, more definition, and less “clean” because music notes are generally black and white. And if most of my layout is black and white, I might as well go write for the newspaper.

Here is my after picture:

Why I changed things and how they made it better:

  • Header image. I know there’s not much color to it but it does break up the wall of text feeling.
  • Colored navigation bar. I tried to make this not look like Thesis anymore. I colored it up. I bolded it.
  • Added the borders in. I tried to do without the default Thesis borders but I really just like the way they looked.
  • You don’t see it in this image but I changed to “Learn More” link to break off from the content and also the text to “Click here to continue learning more”
  • I also started filling out some of my posts by adding some images and breaking up the wall of text. You probably need to go to the actual blog to see how much better a wall of text post compares to a post filled with images and such. This is a music note reading blog. I SHOULD have images. I’m just LAZY.
  • I also got rid of the brackets.
  • And made it float right.
  • Notice the not so boring links in the sidebar. They can use more work but at least they sort of look like they serve a purpose instead of the “bunch of links on a page” feeling.

Overall, the site just feel a bit more filled out but still relatively organized. There’s a lot of CSS I still need to modify but I’m getting closer. I need to finish customizing widgets and finish adding little details here and there. Overall, I think this is close to the look and feel I want to go with.

Including all the technical difficulties, this took me about 4 hours to get to this point. Not too bad. Not all of it was making the changes above. I was having some technical difficulties for a while. And I ate dinner too. So maybe realistically, 2-3 hours.

I will finish the other aspects of the overhaul probably on the weekend!