This is a guest post by Zach Atreiu – photographer at Gold Hat Photography and Content Manager at Shotkit.
After 10 years working in online marketing in an extremely competitive industry, I’ve had a decent amount of experience in generating revenue using the Internet.
That said, there’s always a lot still to be learned. There’s a ton of useful information available for free out there, and with a bit of experimenting and lateral thinking, you can come up with an endless stream of ideas that can help boost your bottom line.
Here are 4 strategies that have worked for us over the past 6 months. Hopefully, you can implement them too.
1. Give away something of value… for free
When you’re trying to make money from your website, it may seem a little counter-intuitive to give something away for free, especially when you know you could quite easily charge for it.
However, sometimes selling a product for a quick buck can be a little short-sighted. If you’re able to provide something to your audience that you know there’s a demand for and do it for free… well, you’re playing a much longer-term game that will keep reaping dividends.
As an example from my industry of photography, recently there’s been a huge growth in the popularity of photography presets. For those that don’t know, a ‘preset’ is a way to apply certain edits to a photo to improve its appearance, using just one click – obviously a huge time saver for those who want to achieve a certain look with their photos.
Most popular photographers have their own set of presets for sale, and there are several companies whose whole existence is based around the sale of presets.
There’s obviously a demand for presets and people are willing to pay for them… so what would happen if we could offer them for free?
This is exactly what we did, by paying an image editor to create a set of photography presets and hand over the license, so that we could offer them entirely free of charge for anyone who shared a post on our website and signed up to our free newsletter.
You can probably guess the result. To date, that one post has generated over 3,000 social shares, as well as a similar number of sign-ups to the newsletter. It’s also attracted backlinks (naturally), and if we decided to do an outreach campaign, I’m confident we could obtain more quite easily.
So long story short… see if you have the resources to create something of value, then give it to your readers for free. If you provide something useful, you can grow your traffic and your list, enabling you to generate revenue over the long term.
2. Segment your users… the smart way
Most savvy Internet marketers should know by now how to segment their site’s audience via their mailing list. Whether you ask a question during the initial opt-in stage or from within your email series, the goal is for a user to provide a little bit of information about themselves that helps you tailor the subsequent content they receive.
Segmenting via email is still relevant in 2018, but did you know there’s another, much smarter way to segment your audience? What if I told you that the user doesn’t even need to provide any of their details to be segmented…?!
If you’re a GeniusLink user, you may have experimented already with Intelligent Links. Perhaps you’re using them to track when and where your users click the various links on your website, or to redirect users based on their location.
I recently came across a great article on using these Intelligent Links with retargeting pixels here on the GeniusLink Blog. The long and short of it is that you can pixel a user when they click a certain link, then show them your ads when they visit certain sites.
This is an immensely powerful technique and offers many new possibilities to target your customer that simply weren’t available before.
This got us thinking – what if you could segment your site’s audience based on the links they clicked, then show them ads that are directly related to their interests?
Rather than asking visitors to ‘self-segment’ via a series of questions during the on-boarding process, what if we could get them to segment themselves just by clicking through your site?
So here’s what we did, and what you can experiment with immediately too…
If your site has categories in the menu, change those links to Intelligent Links. So instead of a link in your site’s navigation that takes users to www.yoursite.com/category1, you create a GeniusLink Intelligent Link containing your retargeting pixel which redirects to the category link instead.
Whenever a user clicks on that category link on your website, GeniusLink will work its magic and pixel the user, adding them to a custom audience for you to retarget at a later stage.
Whilst segmenting users in this way may not be as good as asking a user to segment themselves via a question, it’s a great way to get a general idea of what your user may be interested in, without them actually opting into anything.
You can take the same approach by adding the Intelligent Links elsewhere on your site, where users’ clicks will provide valuable hints about their interests.
Bonus Tip: You can even add an Intelligent Link to your opt-in form’s submit button, to retarget the users who opted into your list, but didn’t confirm their email address for whatever reason – remember to set up a custom audience that ignores users who reached your confirmation page.
Being able to segment your users and show them ads specific to their interests is an extremely powerful way to promote your products, drive relevant traffic to your site, or simply get a message to your users based on actions they’ve taken.
3. Optimize your best-performing pages
As bloggers, we’re usually striving to create as much new content as possible. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s sometimes important to focus more on things that are already working.
Take a look at your analytics and find out your top performing pages – this might be the pages that attract the highest traffic or those that generate the best revenue.
These are the pages which are already working, so you should be concentrating your efforts on improving them, to squeeze every last drop out of their potential.
Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) isn’t a new technique, and it isn’t all that complicated either. In a nutshell, you perform various split tests on various elements on a webpage to find what performs best.
At the most basic level, you can test whether a green button attracts more clicks than a red one, but CRO runs much deeper than this, and I strongly believe that it’s an area that you should entrust to an expert.
As business owners, it’s tempting to try and do everything ourselves, especially when on a budget. CRO seems simple, and there’s plenty of software you can use to manage all your tests… but that doesn’t mean you should be doing it yourself.
Earlier this year we were approached by this company based out of Thailand to handle our CRO. It all sounded rather fishy, but after a face-to-face Skype call and a few bold promises that their team could dramatically increase our revenue, we decided to give it a shot.
6 months on and we’re now sure that this was the best investment we’ve ever made. The CRO service has paid for itself several times over, and the best thing is that the changes they have made to our site will deliver results that should compound over time.
At the end of the day, all we see are tiny tweaks to wording, colors, and location of elements, and I must admit, I did kick myself for not having tested these things earlier… but for the increase in revenue, it’s all been worth it.
Whether you use a paid service or not, the key takeaway is that you should be optimizing your site. Track, test, change, optimize – then rinse and repeat for all your other best-performing pages.
4. Facebook Ad hacks
It’s no surprise that organic posts on Facebook receive terrible reach. No matter how big your audience, you’re probably no stranger to seeing less than 5% reach on your daily posts.
In times like this, I find it helpful to think of Facebook not as a free site, but rather as Mark Zuckerberg’s site. In order to use it to benefit our businesses, we need to pay to play 😉
Spending money on Facebook advertising is an essential tactic for all online businesses. No matter how small your revenue, any business should be able to afford at least $1/day to spend on Facebook ads.
We use Facebook ads to drive traffic to our informational posts like this one, which in turn helps generate affiliate income passively when users make purchases via our links.
Creating an ad to drive traffic using Facebook is pretty simple, but there are a few ‘hacks’ that we’ve been using recently that have helped to increase performance.
First off, it’s good to make your ad look less like an ad. We’ve experimented with using short copy vs long copy in the ad’s description, and the results were quite surprising.
Surely short ad copy would work better for the average Facebook user with a short attention span, who are bombarded with information in their feed?
Wrong, at least in our testing anyway. We found that writing longer form content in the ad yields much better engagement and click-throughs than using short, one or two line content.
I’m not telling you to write an essay here, but rather experiment with writing a few paragraphs, then tweak from there.
I’m not 100% sure why having more text on your ad would perform better. Perhaps long-form ad copy seems less salesy? Or maybe it sticks out more in a sea of one-liners. Who knows, but it seems to be working better for us, and you may well see similar results.
As for the text itself, try and avoid using the words ‘Share’, ‘Like’, or ‘Comment’ – words which are thought to trigger some form of reach-throttling by Facebook’s bots. It’s good to be trying to increase interaction on your post to boost Engagement, but instead of using the ‘bad words’, experiment with using wording that implies the same thing – “know a friend who….?” = tag. “Do you agree that….?” = like, etc.
Another tip for increasing engagement on your Facebook ad is to remove the button. We’ve experimented with almost all the buttons available when creating an ad, and it’s hard to notice any discernable difference in CTRs.
Next time, try removing the button altogether. This’ll make your ad look much more like a post from a friend (it helps if your profile picture is your face rather than a company logo), and you should see better engagement.
I also like to ask questions in my Facebook ads. Clicking a link is usually implicit, so it may not always be necessary to write ‘click here to learn more’ in your ad copy. Asking a question to encourage comments is a great way to boost engagement, which increases the reach of your Ad organically.
If the question you ask is a little controversial, you should also see much better engagement. The more social proof you can get on your ad, be it through Likes, Comments or Shares, the better.
On the topic of social proof, another smart hack to increase CTRs on your Facebook ad is to tailor your ad’s objectives based on the audience.
What I mean by this is to create your ad as normal and choose ‘Engagement’ as the Objective, then choose ‘Page Likes’. When it comes to Audience selection, choose locations where traffic is traditionally very cheap – India, the Philippines, etc.
When you run your ad to these locations, you’ll pay far less for engagement (predominantly Likes) than you would if you were to target first world countries, for example.
Once you’ve built sufficient social proof on your ad, it’s time to change the ad’s Objective to ‘Traffic’, or ‘Conversions’, or whatever your primary objective is. Then select the countries that are most likely to be interested in your content (or to purchase your products), and run the ad to them.
‘Warming up’ your ad like this with a cheaper audience can be a great way to get a head start on your primary objective. People are way more likely to engage with a post that has a hundred Likes than one that has none.
Have you had success with any of the online marketing techniques described above? Let us know in the comments what’s working for you.