Why Was OKCupid’s Blog So Successful?


okcupid

I’ve repeatedly touted how important blogging is for companies. In my last post, I outlined 7 stats that your boss needs to know about blogging. It’s easy to point to company blogs like Kissmetrics, Hubspot, and Moz as catalysts for blogging success. But these companies are in the online marketing field. Their audiences understands the value of blog content and actively seek it out. But what about a company that isn’t catering to marketing professionals?

OKCupid is one of the world’s most popular online dating sites. It was founded in 2003 and acquired by IAC (parent company of Match.com) for $50 million in 2011. An important component to OKCupid’s success was its widely popular blog.

OKCupid’s blog was different than many other company blogs. Instead of shorter, more frequent posts, OKCupid spent considerable time on one post. But these posts generated millions of views to the site. OKCupid’s blog posts fast became a tentpole to its top-funnel marketing strategy and eventual new user acquisition.

via Wired. (Coynes on left)

via Wired. (Coyne on left)

Chris Coyne, OKCupid co-founder, offered Quora users a unique look as to why was the OKCupid’s blog so successful.

How Important was Blogging to OKCupid’s Success?

Very important. We think. OkCupid’s most popular blogs posts were read by millions of people, and that was excluding existing OkCupid users.  Still, we don’t really have any way of measuring the effects, since direct signups from the blog posts were just a few thousand people each.

But over the long run, we just kept hearing how everyone *loved* the posts so much, and that it was one of the big reasons they loved the site.

All that said, I get this question a lot from startups who are hoping to fill in the “how do we grow?” blank by saying “Well, we’ll just write a blog, like OkCupid did.”  Maybe hire a “data scientist.”  And unfortunately, I have to advise against it in almost all cases. Some bullets:

  • OkCupid’s blog worked because we had sexy data. If you’re doing a real estate startup, or a housing thing, or an ad network, or even some social/photo/sharing tool, odds are you don’t have the wealth of personal information to produce lots of great posts. Maybe 1 or 2 posts. In contrast, on a whim at OkCupid, if we wanted to know whether our users had ever done thing X with a Y on hand while thinking about Z, we could get a few hundred thousand answers in a couple days.  Further, we had pretty deep demo data.
  • We had Christian Rudder writing the blog.  Yes, he studied math at Harvard, but the math on OkTrends was high school level. And with a lot of statistical hand-waving and over-simplification. His posts were great because he’s such an amazing writer, not because he’s awesome at math. (He’s certainly the best writer I know.)
  • The posts each took 4-8 weeks of full-time work for him to write. Plus another 2-4 weeks of dedicated programming time from someone else on the team.  It’s easy to look at an OkTrends post, with all its simple graphs and casual writing style and think someone just threw it together, but it probably had 50 serious revisions. And we threw out a lot of research that didn’t turn into good posts.  Your startup probably can’t afford to do this. It shouldn’t waste like 10 man weeks of effort/focus/money on writing a blog post. 

Three Key Takeaways

via OKCupid Trends

Sample Graphic via OKCupid Trends

There are three major lessons that I think bloggers should take from Coyne’s answer. The first is that they had in-depth, proprietary data. OKCupid had numbers that no one else had access to. These were the cornerstone to the blog posts. Had they used data that was publicly known, like from a Harvard study, there would have been dozens (if not more) of other blogs that would have written about the data in some variation. This gave them a distinct advantage.

The second takeaway is great storytelling. Data is only part of the battle. A million different stories and blog posts could have been made with the data OKCupid had access to. But OKCupid knew who its audience was, what problems/fears/thoughts they had when it came to online dating. That enabled Christian Rudder, the co-founder/author of the blog posts, to draft compelling stories.

OKCupid posts ranged from “The Best Questions for a First Date” to “The Mathematics of Beauty.” The titles alone are compelling enough to get someone who is actively dating or struggling with dating. But once the reader clicked to the actual article, they were greeted with colorful images, charts, and graphs that broke up long posts. Christian Rudder’s greatest strengths was deconstructing the data into simple parts that everyone could understand.

The last key takeaway is the most important one in my eyes. It’s time. These posts were not created overnight. Let me just reiterate how much time OKCupid spent on a SINGLE blog post.

The posts each took 4-8 weeks of full-time work for him (Christian Rudder) to write. Plus another 2-4 weeks of dedicated programming time from someone else on the team.

That’s a tremendous amount of time. It takes real dedication to put that much time and resources into a single post. Not many teams have the resources to do this. My point being, if you want to try and emulate OKCupid’s blogging success, remember how much time they actually spent on it.

How Can You Emulate OKCupid’s Blogging Success?

Even if you don’t have the time and resources to completely replicate OKCupid’s blog, you can learn from its content framework. OKCupid leveraged a strategy from Jim Collins’ book, “Good to Great,” called the Hedgehog Concept.

You can read about the Hedgehog Concept in-depth on the Buffer blog. But the basic gist of the concept is this; hedgehogs know how to do one thing and do it exceptionally well. According to Collins, “Hedgehogs see what is essential and ignore the rest.” That’s exactly what OKCupid took advantage of.

via Buffer Blog

via Buffer Blog

OKCupid took what they’re passionate about (dating), what they’re the best in the world at (in-depth dating data), and what drove their growth (increased account sign ups) to create content that drove millions of views.

OKCupid was one of the best business blogging stories I can think of. The only weakness I can think of is that they were too reliant on Christian Rudder to write the content. Post-acquisition, his duties expanded and he did not have time to dedicate to the blog. Subsequently, the blog essentially died. Learn from OKCupid’s successful blogging strategy and help your company blog stand out from the rest.

7 Blogging Stats Your Boss Needs to Know


via Giphy

via Giphy

Blogging is ubiquitous when it comes to inbound marketing. It’s easy to get started and can be a staple of your overall strategy. But blogging is hard. It’s time consuming and when done improperly, it can yield few results. It’s easy for decision makers to reject blogging for other tactics. But you know how valuable blogging is…don’t you? You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t. The only problem here is convincing your boss how valuable blogging is. Let’s fix that.

Your boss is going to want to see numbers. Numbers always get people excited and more comfortable with a decision. So let’s give her what she needs to approve resources for your company’s blog. Here are 7 blogging stats you can use to demonstrate why your company needs to be dedicating time and energy into building your company’s blog.

1. 46% of People Read Blogs More Than Once a Day

Go where your audience is. People love to read and discover new content. That’s why curated newsletters like Jason Hirschhorn’s MediaREDEF is so popular. People want to read good content so give them something good to read.

2. 70% of People Learn About a Company From Blog Posts, Not Ads

This point piggy backs off #2. People don’t trust ads. They hate them. They’re annoying and pushed on you. Blog posts discovered through your social network (i.e. Twitter feed) have more meaning to you. It’s already qualified. If you want more people to come to the top of your sales funnel, a blog will help.

3. Companies With Active Blogs Generate 97% More Links to its Website

If your website is an island, out in the middle of the internet, with no attachment to anyone else, it’s going to be a pretty lonely existence. You need links! Links are what bring traffic to your site and indicates to search engines that this site is important!

4. Companies with Active Blogs Generate 55% More Site Visits

Your boss doesn’t want big traffic numbers for vanity sake. More visits to the top of the funnel will result in more leads later one. Companies that blog on a regular basis have 55% more website visits than companies who don’t.

5. Blogs Are the 4th Most Trustworthy Source For Information on the Internet

Trust between company and a potential customer is HUGE! Unknown companies aren’t going to get the sale. But an unknown company that has a blog, giving the potential customer more information about the company can close the deal.

6. B2B Companies That Blog Regularly Generate 67% More Leads Every Month

Do you want qualified traffic? Well, a blog is a great way to do that. Especially with evergreen content that uses long-tail keywords. Optimize your blog posts with the right keywords with the intent and it won’t just be your traffic numbers that go up. Regular blogging results in more leads for your business.

7. 82% of Marketers Who Blog Daily Acquired a Customer Through the Blog

Bottomline, blogging will generate in sales. 82% of marketers who blog daily have acquired a customer from the company blog. That’s 25% more than marketers who blog monthly (which is still really good!). A successful blog can not only bring awareness to your company, generate leads, but it can also be the reason why you made the sale.

Don’t let anyone tell you that a blog is a waste of time. Companies that neglect their blog or use it for company updates/press releases are doing themselves a disservice. There is no reason your company shouldn’t be taking advantage of a blog’s benefits. If your boss is on the fence, present these seven facts to back up your pitch to blog more.

35 Amazing Resources To Improve Your Blog


via Business2Community and nclurbandesign.org

via Business2Community and nclurbandesign.org

If you ever follow Prepare.io on Twitter, we tend to share lots of articles about blogging. Writing a successful and valuable blog doesn’t just happen. The Prepare.io software is meant to help your team with the blogging process, but there are still many different skills, tactics, and frameworks that marketers need to be aware of to be effective bloggers.

With so much content out there, sometimes it’s hard to parse through it all and find the best resources. To help you out, here’s a list of 35 curated resources to improve your blog.

1. How to Use Gmail to Grow Your Blog Traffic

2. 13 Warnings Your Blog Design Stinks

3. Segment Your Blog Content to Drive More Leads and Sales

4. Fix Your Blog’s Conversion Rate, Starting with Low Hanging Fruit

5. Lessons Learned From Scaling Your Blog

6. 5 Ways to Extend Your Blog’s Reach and Grow Your Audience

7. 11 Things To Do After You Publish a Blog Post

8. 8 Ways to Improve Social Shares For Your Blog

9. 15 Pro Blogging Tips Every Marketer Needs to Know

10. 11 Tips to Breaking Bloggers Blog Through Solving Reader Problems

11. 20 Quick Tips on Writing Great Blog Posts

12. What To Do When You Have a Hot Post on Your Blog

13. One Trap That Could Destroy Your Blog

14. 7 Ways to Stay Inspired and Avoid Bloggers Burn Out

15. 6 Tips for Hosting an Interview Series on Your Blog

16. Using Neuroscience to Design a Better Blog

17. An In-Depth Look at The Science of Blog Timing

18. Your Company Blog is Floundering: Now What?

19. 6 Tips for Wooing Customers with an Enchanting Business Blog

20. 11 Words That Enhance Trust in a Blog Post

21. Blog Editor’s Cheat Sheet: What To Do Before, During, and After Your Post Goes Live

22. Blog Post Volume Experiment

23. How to Generate Content Ideas Using Buzzsumo (and APIs)

24. Quality vs. Quantity: 6-Month Analysis of Age-Old Blogging Debate

25. 4 Simple Ways to Choose the Best Blog Topics for Your Audience

26. How to Use Excel to Run a Blog Content Analysis

27. How to Blog Consistently Without Burning Out

28. 36 Tried and True Way to Promote Your Blog Posts

29. 13 Types of Blog Headlines That Will Get You More Traffic

30. How to Write a Blog Post: A Simple Formula

31. How Much Does it Cost to Run a Successful Blog

32. How to Eliminate The Passive Voice

33. Pitch the Perfect Guest Blog Post Part I

34. Pitch the Perfect Guest Blog Post Part II

35. 6 Stats You Should Know About Business Blogging in 2015

 

51 Distrosnacks by 500 Startups


Image via Coindesk

Image via Coindesk

Distrosnacks are “daily bite-sized” tips on distribution and growth from the 500 Startups Distribution Team. I’ve been subscribed to this newsletter for a few months now. I decided to round up all the tips I’ve been sent during this time. I’m sure there are more, but this is what I have.

Subscribe to 500 Startups’ Distrosnacks Email Here

(Note, all unusual spelling/slang come directly from 500 Startups, not me.)

1. Product Vs. Growth
Use a Smoke Test to validate “new ideas” & prove them out BEFORE building moar product — because that way u don’t stunt growth.
Don’t let product roadmap hi-jack growth — use growth 2 drive ur product roadmap.

2. One Metric That Matters
While measuring overall conversion or close rate is important, it alone won’t help u drill down on drop-offs in ur funnel.
Watch CTR on each specific call to action in ur funnel 2 see whether weaknesses in your close rate are coming from content & marketing, or from ur sales process.

3. Press Hack
Big press outlets on the web are BUSY and rely HEAVILY on other sources 4 credible content to syndicate.
Contacting ppl from best-known news sites can be a long-shot.
Instead, track who they’re linking out to / sourcing from (or scrape external links), pitch those outlets, and get featured thru syndication.

4. Slack Use Cases
OBVIOUS
– Team communications
– Freelancer workflow
LESS OBVIOUS

– Customer support (Step 1: get THEM to add YOU to their Slack)
– Customer insights / research / OUTREACH (Step 2: ping them on their Slack)
Don’t be boring / spammy, you’ll get deleted in 1 click :)

5. Call to Action Button
A great rule of thumb when determining a call to action is to make your button text complete this sentence:
“I want to ___.”
Your CTA in your customers’ words, not yours.

6. Facebook Lead Collector
Facebook Lead Ads (a NEW thing) lets people subscribe to you in 2 clicks / taps.
FB auto-fills key info:
their full name
email
street address
phone
zip
city
state
country
country
company
job title
Streamlined leadgen + many targeting possibilities = TEST NOW.

7. Traffic Leaks
Outbound links help SEO by signaling to Google what sites you’re associated with — ie, link to sites of brands whose products you’re selling or to media you’re mentioned in.
Contrary to being a traffic ‘leak’, relevant / high quality external links makes ur site more useful & authoritative.
Join the party, link OUT!

8. Untapped Channel
SMS is instant, short, direct.
– Average SMS response time is less than 5 min
– Average open rate >95%
– Only 160 characters to think about / optimize
– Other personal channels for outreach: FB Messenger, WeChat, Line, WhatsApp, MOAR

Be personalized & high touch, don’t blast.

9. Don’t Retarget This
Reverse-retarget to EXCLUDE people who’ve already signed up:
1. FB or Twitter Custom Audience of registered emails
2. EXCLUDE that audience
Don’t waste acquisition $ on people who are already your users — onboard them with an engagement campaign instead.

10. User Reviews 4 SEO
User reviews help ur SEO b/c comments = content, and reviews’ unique wording + long tail phrases are better than a bunch of pages with the same product or service descriptions.
1. Ask for reviews & make it easy
2. Respond
3. Filter

11. Buy On the Backend
Nobody gets married after the first date, and most customers don’t buy from your landing page.
Nurture ur leads:
– free or $1 trial
– email drip campaign
– bake into their routine / lifecycle / habits

12. Conversion Rate Levers
If u kill ur low quality traffic sources, conversion rate will go up.
If u go after bigger / new / emerging channels or leads, conversion rate will go down.
1. If you need to show off a higher CR (investor deck?), cull the low grade leads
2. If you’re focused on filling the top of your funnel, be ready for lower CR till u optimize further

13. Content Penalty
Syndication can be good 4 expanding your reach and authority,
BUT know that Google gives the higher authority site technical / SEO credit, even if you publish first.
Solutions:
– ask them to use rel=canonical
– ask them to use no index tag
– do it anyway if it’s high visibility + new audience

14. Pricing Strategy
Pricing = positioning, and can be ur competitive advantage in the market.
Use pricing to communicate to the market whether your product is a premium, mid-market or low cost alternative.
To be effective, a startup’s pricing strategy must align with its marketing case studies, website messaging, PR releases and sales pitches.
If all the arrows point in the same direction, then pricing becomes an asset to reinforce the company’s position in the market.

15. Facebook Scraping
Facebook scraping?
Facebook now checks whether you really have permission to target user IDs you upload, by requiring App ID.
Don’t get banned. Get leads the legit way: ebook, webinar, tool, freebie

16. Ad Leaderboard
Amazon books, Upworthy, Digg, and Reddit are headline & copy leaderboards.
1. Look at what’s winning
2. Test as ads

17. Scraped List
Mailing a cold / bought / scraped list?
Warm it up with email pre-targeting BEFORE u send:
1. Make re-targeting campaigns on FB / Twitter / Google
2. Focus campaigns on brand awareness; no “hard sell”
3. Mail to list, with CTA
4. Also retarget un-opens

18. Competitor Tracking
1. Google Alerts — monitor mentions of ur competitor’s name / branded keywords
2. Moz for your competitor’s site / keywords
3. http://sitealerts.com/
4. https://monitorbacklinks.com/

19. Own vs. Rent
OWN = ur site, ur app
RENT = ur FB, YouTube, Twitter etc
Use OWN 4 ur DO and THINK audiences. Use RENT b/c it’s where ur See and Care audiences already are (YouTube & Facebook each have over a billion actives).
But, if u only have money for one — own first, rent next, then rock both.

20. Flat Traffic
Traffic is all around you.
Give ppl a reason to click ur ad / subscribe 2 ur list / open ur welcome:
data map
toolkit / resource list
research report
white paper
survey results
video how-to
“steal-able” template
numbered guide
cheat sheet
blueprint
free product trial
quiz results

21. Reddit Keywords
Instead of / in addition to Google Keyword Tool, try Reddit:
1. search main keyword
2. scan threads
3. select highest frequency / recurring longtail phrases
4. check volume in GKT
5. GET MOAR TRAFFIC

22. Secret Account
Your public account = your brand marketing.
Set up secret social media accounts 2 follow competitors / peers / whoever you want to observe or monitor without your audience or customers knowing or judging.

23. Top Users
Top users can market your product better than any marketing campaign.
1. Sustain their enthusiasm
2. Take them to the next level of engagement w/in your product
3. Make an ask to amplify your brand

24. Google Relevance
There’s more to SEO than SERP position.
Higher organic CTR brings in more traffic and actually boosts your ranking for keywords b/c Google prioritizes RELEVANCE.
Optimize:
– page title
– description
– content-keyword relevance
– value prop / offer
– brand recognition
– how ur result looks compared to others on the same results page

25. Influencers
Good content marketing influences not just ur customer, but those who influence ur customer.
Influence the influencers:
Review them / list them / mention them / INTERVIEW them
And always link out.

26. Blog Traffic
Option #1: Grind away at ur blog, publish on a set schedule, and HOPE u get traffic (“Publish and Pray”)
Option #2: Create & promote a few pieces of irresistible, shareable content that higher authority bloggers want 2 share and ask 4 a link back to ur site. (Tip: INFOGRAPHICS)

27. BuzzSumo
BuzzSumo is good 4 more than just content marketing.
Use it to research keywords, topics, and demo / psychographics for paid acquisition, landing pages, email onboarding / user activation and MOAR.

28. Before U Retarget
Before u get fancy w/ email marketing or retargeting, you have to have a list.
Are you collecting user emails:
1. In your personal email footers — yours + all the people on your team
2. On your home page
3. On all your social profiles: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube channel
4. At all offline events & promotions
5. On your company / team About pages
6. Persistently throughout your site in the header AND/or footer
7. As part of content you publish on a blog, slideshare, infographic, YouTube descriptions and annotations, downloadable white paper or report
8. Via a Qualaroo widget (insights poll doubles as email collector)

29. Founder Press Kit
In most cases, ur professional image still matters. Doesn’t matter ur specific style, just keep it consistent:
– Professional (looking) headshot that’s uniform across channels (LinkedIn, Angelist, Crunchbase, Twitter, FB)
– Bio boilerplate — short, med, long
– Universal username
– Motto u can get known for (example: AARRR!)

30. Competitor’s Marketing
Ghostery lets u see what technologies ur competitors are using for their marketing campaigns so u can copy what is working for them.
It’s also useful when I size up a company. If they are big talkers and I go to their site and it’s not pixeled up, I know they’re not ponied up.

31. Big Spenders
Women are everywhere:
– Ur customers: 70% of consumer spending worldwide
– Ur potential hires: 51% of workforce (in US)
If ur going to be gender-specific (ads, emails, landing pgs etc) BE SURE.
Otherwise, be inclusive.

32. Slack Hack
Decisions are being made in Slack. Measure the signal:
1. Go to Google Analytics
2. Acquisition > Referrals from side menu
3. Search for “slack”
4. See “whichcompanies.slack.com” are talking about your product
Bonus: even includes usernames (click on referring subdomain)

33. MOAR Mobile Downloads
Have a great product.

  1. Incentivize installs. Vendor list here.
  2. User reviews averaging 4+ stars – ask at the right time.
  3. WOM, press, partnerships
  4. Optimize ur app name, keywords, icon, description, tracking, and updates. App cheatsheet here.

34. Core Users

Core users can help u acquire new users better than any campaign.

  1. Sustain their enthusiasm: reward program.
  2. Level up their engagement: multi channel engagement / reactivation campaigns.
  3. INCENT THEM TO PROMOTE: referral program, social share via contests, sweepstakes

ENGAGE + MULTIPLY

35. Subdomains and SEO
Using a subdomain is not great for SEO…BUT, a lot of big co’s (good/big ones) still have blog.domain.com for content marketing purposes.

That said, a newer site – esp if SEO is part of acquisition – can’t afford to split their link juice to different subdomains:

Ecommerce.com/clothes > clothes.ecommerce.com

NOTE: If u want domain.com/blog, and are using WordPress, y need to install WP on ur server (use wordpress.org not .com), meaning build more from scratch.

36. Enable Domain Keys Now
Enabling domain keys authenticates the DNS of u as an email sender, verifies that ur message is good, and can increase open rates dramatically (more than 20x if u start out really bad :)

HOW depends on what tools ur using, so Google “Enable domain keys + [ur email tool here]” to get exact how-to.

37. Activation Rate Metrics
Activation rate matter at every size / type of business.

AR = # of ppl who complete ur 1 single activation event / # of visitors or prospects.

Some basic metrics to pay attention to around activation:

  • Activation by channel
  • Time-to-activation
  • Retention on activation users

38. Lifetime Value Calculator

Understanding customer lifetime value helps u understand:

  • Marketing: How much should I spend to acquire a customer?
  • Product: How can I offer products and services tailored for my best customers?
  • Customer Support: How much should I spend to service and retain a customer?
  • Sales: What types of customers should sales reps spend the most time on trying to acquire?

LTV Calculator: http://customerlifetimevalue.co

39. Reduce Involuntary Churn

Subscription billing?

In addition to voluntary churn i.e., users canceling the service, fix ur INVOLUNTARY churn (re-billing failure).

  1. Look into vendors/services that do re-billing optimization.
  2. Encourage users to switch away from pre-paid/debit.
  3. Use segmentation analysis to understand which acquisition channels are over-indexing for pre-paid/debit card users.

40. Instagram + Email
There’s more u can do in email besides social buttons that no one clicks:

  • Instagram content in email (drive traffic/engagement 2 Instagram – 300 MILLION USERS)
  • Show interesting / social proof tweets
  • Promote social contests and/or showcase results.

41. 3 Retargeting Ideas

Retargeting works for B2B too – IF u segment & target by funnel stage:

  1. Top of the funnel: Blog visitors -> retarget with ebook or webinar to capture lead.
  2. Mid-Funnel: Product info page visitors -> retarget to consideration materials like case studies & white papers.
  3. Bottom of funnel: Pricing page visitors -> retarget to demo page

42. 80 Percent of Your Revenue

80% of your $$ will come from previous customers.

  • REACTIVATE – look 4 key dropoffs, reactivate w/campaigns and/or promotions, don’t be afraid to go long.
  • RETAIN – keep ur users happy & paying attn with engagement campaigns, product improvements, community
  • REMARKET – upsells, new products
  • REFER – ask and incent

43. When 2 Discount

Discounting works in RETAIL b/c brands can limit supply and create impression of scarcity/urgency.

With software, supply is practically unlimited & non-physical, and we’re inundated with so many promotions and discounts every day that we know more are coming, even if you say “for 2 days only!!!”

DON’T DISCOUNT, instead:

  1. Create an entry-level tier
  2. Add value
  3. Improve ur segmentation

44. Moar Features, Moar Traffic

Moar features ≠moar customers, moar content ≠ more traffic.

Focus on distribution of what you already have:

  • authority + backlinks + influenctial shares (CONTENT)
  • paid acquisition + core users + referrals (PRODUCT)

45. Micro Optimizations

Increasing conversion rates from 0.9% to 1.1% doesn’t matter if only 100 people come to ur site every day.

Much more important is getting 1,000 people (OR TEN THOUSAND PEOPLE) in the top of ur funnel every day.

If ur early, aim to 3x ur One Metric That Matters. U can always micro-optimize later.

46. Ad Metrics

In FB Ads, “FREQUENCY” tells u how many times ur ad was viewed, on avg, by an individual.

If ur running a branding campaign, higher frequency (10+) = better recall.

If ur running a lead-gen campaign, research shows that a frequency of 9 increase the cost per click by up to 160%…

i.e. by the time someone sees ur ad 9 times they’ll either have clicked, or they definitely DON’T WANT TO.

Instead: improve ur targeting or creative at frequency = 5 to keep it fresh, & increase likelihood that ur target audience will clickthru on something new.

47. Push Notifications Working?

Basic response tracking (open rates, click-throughs) DOESN’T tell u if push notifications are working.

Instead, make sure PN metrics tie directly to onboarding goals.

Did the push notification drive users to take actions that matter:

Sign in, share, add 2 cart, purchase, REVENUE.

48. Subscriber Segments

U know more about ur subscribers than u think.

Even if u don’t have demographics or behavior targeting, u can always segment based on what channel / offer brought them in.

The better ur targeting, the HIGHER THE FREQUENCY of emails u can send, and the lower ur unsub rate will be.

49. Too Late 4 Marketing

The final stage just before ppl make a big purchase decision is when most companies amp up marketing 2 try to influence purchase.

But by then they’ve pretty much already decided & it’s too late.

Instead: market at the research stage, which is increasingly happening on MOBILE FIRST.

50. 3 Pinterest Optimizations 

72.8 MILLION users, 85% female.

  1. Don’t compare Pinterest CTRs to other platforms. Impressions are high, CTR may seem low, BUT clicks may be more qualified.
  2. Pick a CPA ur happy with, optimize pins & keywords for that CPA.
  3. Refresh your promoted pins every 2-5 months. Ads get stale, CTRs decrease, change it up.

51. Make YouTube Ads Work

YouTube ads WORK. But to be able to reach people (again) outside of YouTube, u gotta get’em to ur website.

4 destinations for in-stream / True View ads:

  • lead magnet / free gift / free download to drive opt-in
  • send them addnl content
  • surveys (work really well)
  • another youtube video to get new subscribers to ur channel

and way MOAR.

 

Treat Your Blog Like a TV Show


friends

Storytelling. Marketers preach the importance of brand storytelling from every possible soap box. I agree, but sometimes it falls on deaf ears. What does story telling for your brand mean? How can you create content that really resonates with readers?

Well, it’s not easy. If you scroll through this blog, it’s filled with posts that are fine. They’re informative and can help you with your career. But does anyone love them? My guess is no. This is a problem that so many bloggers deal with (probably silently out of shame). There’s no reason to get down. Your blog content can get better.

Now you’ll probably take this advice with a grain of salt, but moving forward, I’m going to follow this same advice with this blog. We’ll see how it works out!

Treat Your Blog Like a TV Show

Television continues to grow in popularity. Audiences love their “stories.” I know it’s uncouth to admit, but I love television. Some television is crap and is best used for background noise. But other shows transcend time. The characters are loved by millions for years, long after the show has been removed from the regular broadcast schedule. The stories keep us coming back week-to-week, but it’s the characters that we love forever.

How can we re-create that same love for your blog? How can we write a blog that’s more like Seinfeld, Friends, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad and less like Cavemen or Kath and Kim?

1. Let it Evolve

Remember her on Psych?  Probably not.

Remember her on Psych? Probably not. She was only in the pilot.

Have you ever watched the pilot episode of your favorite TV show? Chances are, it’s much different than the show today (or how it ended). In many cases, the original cast isn’t even the same. Your first blog posts don’t have to dictate your entire blog’s future.

The reason why shows change lead characters is usually because the overall theme of the show worked, but something wasn’t quite right. The on-camera chemistry, the audience feedback, whatever it may be, a change had to be made in order for the show to improve.

This blog has been constantly changing. It’s gone from writing tips, to client relations, to growth hacking…it’s always changing. Six months from now, it might change again. Start with what you know and what works. Listen to your audience and make adjustments to improve and evolve your blog’s content.

2. Find Something People Can Connect With

Unlike movies, people watch TV shows because they connect with the characters. People connect with different characters for different reasons. Perhaps it’s because the protagonist is a reflection of the person they wish they were. Or they connect with a main character’s personality/storylines. Regardless, every person has their favorite character for their own reasons.

Your blog’s content can connect with readers several different ways. Problogger, Darren Rowse, recently tweeted a graphic with fourteen potential voices bloggers can assume. These voices are methods a blogger can use to connect with their desire reader.

via Problogger

via Problogger

3. Be Real

If you bleed, they read. I was taught that early in my blogging career. Many shows incorporate an emotional hook from time-to-time. Scrubs is one of my favorite sitcoms, but even Scrubs has moments where the storylines get real. They get emotional and cause everyone to think/feel.

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Blogging and television is all about storytelling. If you want to improve your blog, think of your favorite television shows. Think about these three points. How does your favorite show incorporate them and how can you translate that to your blog? Like everything in life, it’s not easy. But remember point one, let your blog evolve. You don’t have to get all of it right, right away. You just have to get some of it to get started.

What Weight Loss Can Teach Us About Growth Hacking


sauna belt

In our last post about growth hacking, I compared it to Wisconsin basketball. Today I compare it to losing weight.

Losing weight is something most everyone has tried at some point in their life. The diet and fitness industry is a multi-billion dollar industry because it’s something people struggle with all the time. Losing weight is not easy. While there are genuinely helpful programs out there, everyone wants the silver bullet. They want the magic pill that will help them lose the desired amount of weight almost instantly. The same logic applies to growth hacking. What’s the magic bullet tactic that will get me the desired growth?

The short, sad answer to both questions: there is no such thing as a silver-bullet solution.

We live in an on-demand economy. We can have cars, groceries, alcohol, massages all sent to our door on-demand. We crave the immediate satisfaction. Yet when it comes to things like weight-loss and growth hacking, we have to be patient. We have to work hard, stay consistent, and find what works for us.

Uber-App

Lesson 1: Successful Tactics Are Not Universal

There are tons of blogs and forums that are teaching people how to be better growth hackers. Most of them are great. I’m on them everyday, learning just like everyone else. But if I’ve learned anything from these blogs, it’s that what works for Company X doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for me. Same with my fitness routine.

Individuals and companies are different. We are unique and respond to different tactics differently. Don’t assume that because you read that Company Y increased sign ups by 3,000% by adding a green call to action button on the home screen, it will work for you.

There are a myriad of reasons why tactics won’t work for everyone. Different products, different markets, different demographics. If you’re counting on a new tactic that you just read about to be your saving grace, you’re going to be disappointed. Which brings us to lesson two.

Lesson 2: Always Be Testing

Since you can’t assume that a new tactic will work for you, you must always be testing. Even if you have your growth channels established, you shouldn’t rest on your laurels. Keep testing!

If you read the numerous growth hacking case studies, you’ll start to realize that these companies weren’t necessarily copying other companies. They were testing to see what works for them, based on the data they have.

Growth marketing is constantly evolving. As is your product and customer. Make sure your growth hacking tactics are improving. You don’t want to be caught in a situation where what worked today doesn’t tomorrow and you’re now left with no viable growth channels. Keep the pipeline fresh.

pour-gas

Lesson 3: Pour On The Gas

When you do find the growth channels that work for you. Pour on the gas! You should continue to test, but when you know something works, put as much energy in it as possible.

I had a client a little over a year ago. After a few months, I discovered that the best channel for mobile downloads was mobile Facebook advertising. I took my limited budget and put it all in Facebook. Then I would continue to refine the ads and found out that my money would go even further by advertising to Android only users. Cost per acquisition went from $4 to $1.50 once I went Facebook only. I took that CPA down to around $1.15 once I stopped iOS user ads altogether.

Each of these three lessons apply to your weight-loss battle. Remember that just because a fitness blogger lost 40 pounds in a month on a diet/exercise plan, it doesn’t mean it will work for you. You should constantly test out new exercises. At the very least it will keep things from getting boring. But it you might also find a new exercise that’s really successful for you. Most importantly, when you do find what works for you, pour on the gas. If you discover running is your best weight-loss exercise, run! Add in a yoga/pilates class to see how those work, but most of your time should be spent running.

If you are looking to lose weight and grow your business, these three lessons will help you in both endeavors. Just keep in mind there is no silver-bullet. It takes hard work and persistence to lose weight and grow your company. Short cuts will ultimately waste your time.

Should I Dumb Down My Writing?


via giphy

via giphy

In my opinion, communication is the greatest skill anyone can have. Communication is how ideas spread and change is made. Nothing happens without communication. But we are largely ineffective communicators. This causes a ton of problems, all of which can be avoided with better communication.

We live in an age where attention is at an all-time low. Our eyeballs dart from one headline to another, interrupted by a two-minute video. With everyone’s self-diagnosed ADHD and the rise of terrible TV and media companies centered around listicles, it’s easy to state that in order to be successful, you must dumb everything down. Appeal to the lowest, common denominator. To this, I say bullshit. Do not dumb down your writing.

via giphy

via giphy

Being an effective communicator and writer doesn’t mean you need to necessarily “dumb down your writing,” it means you have to find a better way to explain yourself. You have to know how to strip out all the unessential words/ideas and focus on your core idea. You need to know how to frame your message in a way people can understand. Be concise.

I’ve spoken to a lot of bloggers, journalists, and amateur writers. All of them worry that they’re too “wordy.” It’s a fear everyone has. Our natural inclination is to think people won’t understand and more words will make it easier to understand. Not the case. Like I said the other week, writing never gets easier, but it can get better.

To help you combat your excessive word counts and confusing content, here’s three tips to help you be a better writer, without having to dumb down your writing.

State Your Thesis 

Before you start to write, outline what takeaway you want readers to walk away with. What’s the one idea they need to know after reading your piece? How quickly do you make this point in your writing? If it takes you too long to know what you’re reading, you’re just wasting words. This exercise will help make the rest of your writing more concise.

Benchmark Your Ideas

Establishing benchmarks is a great way to connect with readers about different topics. Your piece of writing might be about a very complex topic that very few people understand, which does no one any good. But if you explain your ideas with well-known scenarios, it gives the reader a benchmark to relate to.

This use of similes and metaphors is why sports are such a common analogy. Sports are general knowledge, and while you might not know the nuances of the game, most people understand the basic rules.

Ask Yourself, Can a 5-Year Old Understand It?

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Lastly, ask yourself, can a 5-five year old can understand what you’re writing about? Think about how you speak to a child if you had to explain a death in the family. You try to frame it in a way they can understand. You don’t make assumptions (because unlike adults, children will ask you why) when they don’t understand something. You figure out the best way to break it down to a child. That’s how you should approach your writing.

Easy reading is hard writing. When you approach your next writing project, don’t think about dumbing it down so everyone can understand it. Rather, simplify it, so everyone who should understand it can. Don’t worry about trying to sound smart. Trying to sound smart is transparent and often leads to the opposite reaction. Just focus on making your point clear. There is nothing worse than having your target reader finishing a post and wondering, “What did I just read?”

How Do I Convert Blog Readers Into Customers?


via Giphy

via Giphy

ROI. Return on investment. Three magic letters that every executive has muttered. “What’s the ROI?” While they might not understand what it is you’re doing (Viral video?) they do understand black numbers on the balance sheet. So if you’re trying to get your boss to let you blog more (which we know can be a pain to justify), here are a few tactics you can use to convert blog readers into customers.

When I first started to really use a blog as a marketing tool (as opposed to a personal blog) I thought the funnel would go something like, Blog > Homepage > Sign Up. NOPE!

Wow. So naive. It is really rare for someone to land on your blog, navigate to your main marketing site, and ultimately sign up/download whatever it is your are selling. If that is the direct path someone takes, I’m sure they had several other pre-existing touch points with your company beforehand. Either way, turning a blog reader into a customer isn’t that easy. Your amazing blog post isn’t going to magically push a reader into a customer. If it did, I’d be a lot richer.

Blogging takes time, as does converting a blog reader into a customer takes time. Step back for a moment and think about the last five things you purchased (not food/drink). Can you remember how you learned about them? What kind of research did you do? How many times did you interact with the company before purchase? This quick exercise will give you a insight how a person makes a decision.

boombeach

For example, I just downloaded the game Boom Beach (don’t download this game if you have a lot on your to-do list). Why did I download this game? I’m not particularly into gaming, but the seed was planted months ago by a friend. We were at lunch and he was playing Boom Beach while we waited for our food. Then I was watching TV and saw a commercial for the game. Still no action. Then I watched a video ad from an app and I saw the ad for Boom Beach again. After seeing that ad three times, I decided to download it.

While this isn’t a perfect example, it does reinforce the notion that a potential customer has to go through multiple touch points before ultimately taking action. This idea has to be the foundation for all your efforts to converting a blog reader into a customer.

My experience has taught me that content (including your blog posts) + email = a winning combination. There are different types of content and different ways to use email marketing to convert a reader, but those two components will be extremely valuable to you in the long-run.

Great Content

via Infinite Web Designs

via Infinite Web Designs

Content is the centerpiece of this strategy. You’re looking to add value to readers through different types of content. Content can be any number of things. It starts with your consistent blog posts, that’s what brings people to your site regularly. But in addition to your blog posts, you can offer different content, like a guide, an eBook, case studies, or stock images to your readers. You don’t necessarily have to create every type of content, but whatever it is, it has to be something valuable enough that readers are willing to exchange their email address for the content.

I’m oversimplifying this right now, since content is so broad. But the point is, you need to be creating excellent and relevant content on a consistent basis. I’ll get into this more at a later date, with a separate blog post. eBooks and guides are more along the lines of content marketing, while case studies are more sales focused. Each type of content drives a different intent from the reader, so your following email marketing will be different.

Build an Email List 

This tactic is now ubiquitous among blogs. At some point, every blog will ask you to subscribe to a blog’s RSS and get the blog post in your inbox. As a reader, I love it. I only subscribe to a few blogs, but the ones I do get in my inbox, I read. Religiously. If you’re providing quality content that people want to read, they will trust you with their email address. Each time you email them with a new blog post, that’s another touch point, another chance to build on the trust you already have with the reader.

There are plenty of tools you can use to collect emails. You can see on this blog alone, we use three different options. At the top we have a HelloBar. On the side is a simple MailChimp widget. And you’ve probably encountered our SumoMe pop-up at some point. There are dozens of other tools out there that do the same thing. Exit Monitor, Bounce Exchange are two others that come to mind. A simple search will give you what you need.

Retargeting

retargeting

Retargeting or remarketing is a great tactic for your blogging purposes. I’ve found that many blog readers come from outside known channels. Known channels being things like RSS and social media. Organic search and forums are great ways to generate traffic. But users often don’t know about your company beforehand. Your content answers a question they have (or piques their interest). That’s what brings them to your blog. Then they forget about you, after they have the information they need.

If you’re unfamiliar with retargeting, it serves ads to a visitor of your website, AFTER they’ve visited. These ads can be on a search engine like Google, or social media like Facebook. So if you visit this blog, afterwards you might be searching for mac and cheese recipes online. When you visit Auntie May’s recipe blog, you might see a banner ad for Prepare.io. We didn’t pay Auntie May to advertise on her blog, that’s retargeting. It’s like a company following you on the internet (for better or for worse).

Retargeting is useful because it reminds you of the company whose website you just visited. Maybe you got distracted and just left. Or maybe it didn’t resonate what company wrote that blog post you just read. Either way, retargeting can get readers back to your site, giving you an other opportunity to turn them into a subscriber.

If you want a primer on how to get started with retargeting, read this article I wrote for Examiner.com on retargeting.

Drip Marketing

via Salesforce Pardot

via Salesforce Pardot

Drip marketing is really what nurtures your leads. Drip marketing is a series of emails that are sent to subscribers, intended to eventually get the reader to take action. Most every email service, like Mailchimp offers some sort of automation for a drip marketing campaign. Or you can use a specialized service like Drip that automates the process for you.  Guys like Patrick McKenzie can really teach you a lot about what you need to know. But what you’re doing is taking all the emails you’ve collected from your blog and guiding them to the sale.

Drip marketing is a pretty complicated process, one that will take time to refine. You can’t just set up a series of emails as a catch all. What type of content the reader downloaded plays a role. Did they open the first email? What if they didn’t? How many emails does it take for your reader to make a purchase? All these variables (and more) play a role in your drip marketing. I’ll go into more details at a later date, since this post is already 1200 words long. But here are two resources (along with Patrick McKenzie) that can help you get set up.

Zapier – What is Drip Marketing?

Pardot – Drip Marketing Infographic

As you can tell, converting a blog reader into a customer is not an easy task. It takes more than one blog post. Often it takes more than two or three. I read Kissmetrics blog for more than two years before I paid to use them. But when I was ready, it was an easy sell. Don’t get discouraged. Blogging is valuable to your bottomline, it just takes some time.

Writing Never Gets Easier


“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”  – Stephen King

Prepare.io‘s mission is to make blogging easier. But one thing we can’t actually do it making writing itself easier. Yes, we can improve your communication and planning, but the actual writing never gets any easier.

writing is hard

GIF courtesy of Iced-Gif

Why does writing never get easier? Surely it has to after the magical 10,000 hours rule? If you write long enough, eventually you’ll develop your skills to the point where it’s easier to write than when you first time attempted?

Getting words on paper gets easier. Writing does not.

Writing is a process. Everyone has their own process. Some map out an outline and fill in the blanks, others just write. Maybe you’re like Hemingway and you write drunk, edit sober. There is no right way to write. But writing isn’t merely getting words on paper.

“I hate writing, I love having written.”  – Dorothy Parker

Writing is expression. How you express yourself is unique. So while there are proper grammar rule to abide by, writing is an individual journey that must be discovered solely by the author. It’s the author’s unique voice that draws us to the writing. Individually the words are the same. They have the same meaning. But how an author paints the canvas with words, eliciting meaning and emotion from words, is the real art. And that never gets easier.

new-girl-writing

GIF Courtesy of Tumblr

Ask any writer and they’ll tell you the same thing. There is always something they would change with what they’ve written. Writing is a never-ending process. Writing will improve, become more refined…distinct to an individual writer, but it never gets easier.

Remember this as you write your blog. You may struggle with an entire post, a section, or just a sentence, but the struggle is real. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer, it just means you’re writing. Fight through it, because I’m sure you have something amazing to say.

What Wisconsin Basketball Teaches Us About Growth Hacking


via UW Badgers Instagram

via UW Badgers Instagram

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s mens basketball team just advanced to its second Final Four in the past two years (Go Badgers!). They have been a model of success in college basketball since Bo Ryan took over 13 years ago. So how can a basketball program teach us about growth hacking?

Growth hacking is about using different marketing techniques, creativity, analytics, and technical skills to create a repeatable process to fuel growth. It’s the repeatable process that’s the most important part of that sentence and that’s what Bo Ryan and Wisconsin basketball can teach us about growth hacking.

If you examine the Badger basketball program, you’re going to see an anomaly within the greater college basketball landscape. Wisconsin is a program that has had sustained success, not just at the Big Ten level, but at the national level. All while bucking the trend of “one and dones” and by recruiting student-athletes that buy into the program and stay for four years.

Wisconsin players are usually less athletic players, who aren’t blue-chip recruits. You won’t see a John Wall, Derrick Rose, or Jabari Parker-type player come to Madison for one season and then bolt for the NBA. Even though Wisconsin has become a nationally recognized program, our success is predicated on the players that fit within the system, not the next Lebron James.

via UW Badgers Instagram

via UW Badgers Instagram

Wisconsin has built a process of repeatable success by having a distinct style. Badgers play tough defense. They play a controlled offense. They don’t turn the ball over and they don’t foul their opponents. Badgers don’t win because of their athleticism, they win because they’re smarter and more disciplined than their opponents. That’s the Wisconsin way.

It’s hard to argue with the results. Since Bo Ryan took over the Badger’s program in 2001, the Badgers have won 342 games (.742 winning percentage). They’ve won four Big Ten season championships, and three tournament championships. Include the back-to-back Final Four appearances, it’s a resume that few can match.

Growth hacking is like the wild west. There is no ONE right way to do anything. Growth marketers are always trying new experiments, with new tools, trying to find a new method of growth. Go visit GrowthHackers.com and you’ll see a community of growth hackers discussing the latest techniques they’ve learned. But one constant in the discussion is the pursuit to find a repeatable process. A spike of a thousand new customers today is great, but five hundred new customers everyday is even more exciting. Once you find your process, stick with it and turn on the gas.

Any basketball team can catch lightening in a bottle and have a Cinderella season. But sustaining that level of success over a decade is not easy. The Wisconsin Badgers have largely ignored the greater trends and focused on the fundamentals. They recruit the right players that fit the program and plug them in. That’s why the Badgers have had repeated success and that’s what the Badgers can teach you about growth hacking. Find what works for you, be consistent, and ignore anything that can take away from your one goal: success.