The quicksand principle: 12 on-site strategies to draw people deeper into your blog

Quicksand! In cheezy action shows, it was the vilest of naturally occurring killers, slowly drawing people deeper and deeper to their own demise.

In the online world, YouTube is excellent brilliantly devious at applying the principle of quicksand. I’ll start watching one video and an hour later I’ll find myself watching crazy cat videos plumbing the weirdest depths of YouTube.

YouTube has perfected the art of quicksand: Of offering viewers quick and easy ways to access even more content that they might like.

If you own a blog, you should apply the same quicksand principle to your blog. After all, you worked hard to get readers to your website and you don’t want them to click away… you want to draw them deeper into your blog, encouraging them to read more posts. How do you do that?

I’m not talking about putting people onto your site (such as with marketing) or getting previous readers back to your site (such as with autoresponders)… I’m talking only about keeping eyeballs on your site when they land there.

TOOLS AND STRATEGIES TO DRAW PEOPLE IN

Quicksand strategy #1: Back/Forward buttons: Perhaps the most useful default quicksand method is to add a “previous post” and “next post” link on your site, especially if it displays the title of the blog post too. It’s interesting to me how I use this button: When I’m reading a post and get to the bottom, I can always tell how much I liked the post by whether I hit the “previous” button. There are a small handful of blogs that I do that almost always.

Quicksand strategy #2: Search: Adding a search bar on your blog is one way to get people deeper into your site. The assumption is that they go to your site and search for something they’re looking for. In my experience (based on the types of blogs I write for), this isn’t used very often because people usually get to a site for a reason and stay there for a reason… and searching seems to be something they’d likely go back to Google to do. But if someone really loves your content and wants to see what you’ve written about it, they may use your search line.

Quicksand strategy #3: Displaying more posts: This is another simple strategy that is usually cooked as a default into blog platforms: Quite simply, how many blog posts do you display on your blog? On the current version of AaronHoos.com, people see five post excerpts. Depending on the design of your blog, you might display 2-5 full blog posts or as many as a dozen excerpts (and some themes do a great job of encouraging this strategy with how they display blog posts and post excerpts).

Quicksand strategy #4: Categories: These are the high level key ideas in your blog. Mine, for example, are built around business, finance, and real estate — the three topics I write most about — plus a couple of other categories. Whatever you do, AVOID an uncategorized category because that kind of sucks.

Quicksand strategy #5: Tags/Topics/Labels: Tags are another way to label your blog posts (and, in fact, I think they’re sometimes called labels on some blogs). Categories are pretty important and I think WordPress requires all posts to be categories as something, tags are optional. But I like tags a lot. I think people have stopped using them as much but the use of hashtags in social media has a lot of similarity so maybe we’re using tags again. You can present your tags in a few ways — usually at the top or bottom of a post, embedded in your blog copy, and in a tag list or cloud. I’m a big fan of tag clouds — especially the ones that increase the size of the tag text based on the number of posts tagged with that word. Until recently, I used a tag cloud and would probably go back to one again except that I’m blogging a lot with a few tags that are disrupting the user-friendliness of the tag cloud.

Quicksand strategy #6: Date-based organization: You see this on some blogs. This is where the dates are listed down a blog’s sidebar and when you click on the date, it expands to reveals the blog posts for that date. On some blogs this is appropriate if you’ve been blogging for a while because it adds a layer of credibility to demonstrate how consistent you are. But I’m not convinced of its usefulness otherwise. In most cases, what are users there to do? Rarely will someone look for dated information; I think most readers are on your blog for topical information. Unless you write news or very date-centric content, this certainly is a way to draw people in but I’m not sure how effective it is.

Quicksand strategy #7: Recently posted/most popular/most commented: This is a power strategy that is really several strategies but I’m lumping them together because the functionality is the same and the user-experience is the same: These lists are derived from data gathered from the blog post (such as the date or how often it’s clicked) and displays it in a widget, usually on a sidebar list. I’ve listed three but there are way more… most shared and most mentioned are two more I’ve seen.

Quicksand strategy #8: See also: This often appears at the bottom of a blog post and lists similar articles (usually based on information drawn from categories or tags). I like using this tool when I’m on other people’s blogs, except I don’t like that this functionality is now often being co-opted for click-through advertising, which I think diminishes the value of the blog.

Quicksand strategy #9: In-text links: This is where you write a blog post and then link to previous blog posts whenever you mention something relevant in the copy (as I did earlier when I talked about avoiding the miscellaneous category and then I linked to a previous post about that topic). This needs to be done intentionally and it can be quite effective.

Quicksand strategy #10: View all posts by: This is usually used when you have a blog that hosts numerous authors, so each author’s name is clickable, giving readers the ability to view all posts by a specific author.

Quicksand strategy #11: Your own groupings: This is a strategy I need to do more with. I really like it and I think it’s effectively. Basically, you group together similar blog posts and link to each of them from a single landing page. Then this landing page gets a link in different places (such as your sidebar or your menus or whatever). Think of it as a table of contents built around a series of blog posts that may or may not have been intentionally related when you first wrote them. It’s a great way to quickly pull together content that might not immediately seem related, or to pull together content into a strategic topic. For example, I might do that about sales funnels on my website. (I fully intend to, just haven’t got around to it yet). I like this strategy because it creates so much control over what you present (plus you can add more text on the landing page, which can add further context for the links). And as an added bonus, this method can become a powerful tool in search engines to help attract readers.

Quicksand strategy #12: Link lists in popular posts: In some ways, this is a mash-up of two of the strategies above — see also strategy plus the your own groupings strategy. Start with some of your most popular blog posts and then add a list of related content to the bottom of that post. That way, people who land on that post will see the list and may be drawn deeper into your site.

HOW TO USE THESE STRATEGIES TO PULL PEOPLE DEEPER

These are tools and strategies to add some eyeball glue to your website. Although they won’t all work in every situation, the more you use, the better. People will have different experiences on your blog and they’ll pay attention to different things. One person might click through a link embedded in a sentence, another person might click through a “See more” link, and another person might click a tag. Each user users these tools/strategies because they want something specific from your site.

And one more key point: I wish it goes without saying but I’m going to say it anyway: you need to make sure you post great content on your site! As you build a library of great content, link back to it regularly from your future content to encourage people to read more.

Case study: Fixing $5 haircuts

There’s a humorous business story about two competing barber shops that were next door to each other. One barber shop cut their prices so ridiculously low that they were sure the other shop wouldn’t stay in business much longer: They put up a sign that said “$5 hair cuts”. Not to be outdone, but not interested in competing on price, the other barber shop put up a sign that said, “We fix $5 hair cuts. $20.00”.

When businesses choose the cheapest alternative, there is a price you pay. Sure, sometimes the cheapest choice works out but many times (I would even venture to say “often”) the cheapest choice is the cheapest for a reason.

On several occasions, new clients have got in touch with me because the cheapest option didn’t work out. The most prominent examples were from back in the day when search engine optimization was based on keyword content (it’s much smarter now) and they had hired $2.00/article English-as-a-second-language writers to jam keywords into articles.

Maybe that worked in some industries, I don’t know, but I work in the financial and real estate industries and you don’t position yourself authoritatively when search engine results return nonsensical keyword-stuffed garbage.

Two clients in particular stand out as case study examples of how I helped fix their $5 content-related haircuts:

One client was a tax attorney and the first thing we did was determine that his website was in desperate need of some authoritative content. He was using low quality search engine copy to send low quality leads to a low quality website. Although we would go on to improve his offsite marketing, we started with his onsite content by creating a high quality resource site of useful, interesting, entertaining copy.

Another client was a debt collection company and the low cost content creator they had initially hired not only created low quality keyword stuffed copy, but it was completely nonsensical. It simply didn’t make a lick of sense. So we started creating offsite copy for them. We built up a bank of good copy and, combined with time (plus some active attempts to remove or replace their bad copy), we turned the tide and took control of their search results.

If this is your idea of marketing, you’re doing it wrong

Blog comment spam. Totally hate it. You hate it too. We all hate it.

Except for the loser that wrote this…

This gigantic piece of crap is basically a template that a blog-comment-spammer will use to write slightly different from one blog to another — basically saying nothing but saying it differently enough.

The fact that THIS showed up in my blog comments betrays 3 things about the person:

1. They are stupid enough to think that this type of commenting actually works
2. They are stupid enough to post this incorrectly — perhaps they couldn’t work the software that is supposed to automatically piss bloggers off post it for them.

It warms my heart to think that they put in some effort but won’t get the results they were looking for.

I’ve only posted an excerpt but it was originally 2000 words longer.

{I havе|I’νe} bеen {suгfing|browsing} onlіne mоrе
than {three|3|2|4} hours today, yеt I nеνег found аnу іnteresting articlе like уours.
{It’s|It is} prettу ωoгth еnough for me.
{In mу opіnion|Рeгsonаllу|In mу
viеw}, if all {webmastегs|sitе ownеrs|website oωnегs|web owners} and
blоggers madе good contеnt as you diԁ,
thе {intегnet|net|ωeb} wіll be {muсh
more|a lοt more} useful than еver befоre.|
I {сouldn’t|could not} {reѕist|refraіn from} commеnting.

{Vеry wеll|Perfectlу|Well|Exсeptionally well} written!|
{Ι wіll|I’ll} {гight aωay|immеdiately} {taκе
hοld оf|grab|clutch|grasp|seize|snatch} your {rss|rsѕ feeԁ} as I {саn
nοt|саn’t} {in finԁing|find|to find}
уour {email|е-mail} subѕcription {linκ|hyperlink} οr {newsletter|e-nеwslettеr} ѕеrviсe.

Do {you have|yοu’ve} any? {Pleаse|Kіndlу} {allow|ρermіt|lеt} me {reаlіze|reсognizе|unԁeгstanԁ|recοgnіse|know} {so that|іn οrder thаt} I {may just|mаy|coulԁ} subscrіbe.
Thankѕ.|
{Ιt is|It’s} {apргopriаte|perfеct|the bеѕt} time to makе some рlаns for the future and {іt is|it’s} time to be
happy. {I hаvе|Ι’ѵe} гead this pοst and
if I сoulԁ Ι {wаnt to|wiѕh to|desіre to} ѕuggest yоu {fеw|some} interеѕting things οr {advіcе|suggestions|tіps}.
{Ρегhaрs|Μaybе} yοu {сoulԁ|can} write neхt
artiсles refеrrіng to this аrtiсle.

I {wаnt tο|wish to|desiгe tο} гeаd
{moге|even morе} things about it!|
{ӏt is|It’s} {aрρroprіate|ρerfect|the bеst} time to mаκe {a
fеw|sοme} plans foг {the futurе|the longer term|the long гun} and
{it is|it’ѕ} time tο be happу. {ӏ haѵe|I’vе} {rеad|leaгn}
thiѕ {рoѕt|submit|ρubliѕh|put up} аnԁ if I {may
ϳust|maу|сοuld} I {want tο|wіsh
tо|ԁesire tο} {suggest|reсommend|counsel} you {fеw|sоme}
{іnteresting|fаѕcinatіng|attеntion-grabbing}
{things|іssuеs} or {aԁvice|suggestiοns|tips}.
{Perhaps|Mаybe} уou {could|саn} ωrite {neхt|subsеquent} articles
{геlatіng to|гeferring to|regarԁing} thіs article.

Brutal.

5 laws of marketing ROI

The marketing you do for your business is an investment. You put in some combination of money, time, and effort and ideally you get back a return of some kind. A good marketing investment is one where the benefits you get in return far outweigh the costs (of money, time, and effort) that “spent” to deploy that marketing in the first place. Your return on investment (ROI) needs to be positive for your marketing to be worthwhile.

Here are 5 laws of marketing to help you improve your marketing ROI.

1. You need to have an accurate measure of what you are spending. Too often, business owners focus on the money they spend on their marketing but ignore the cost of the time and effort they spend. An entrepreneur might unwisely think they are benefiting because they are using a free marketing method when, in fact, they are simply not valuing the amount of time that the free marketing method requires of them.

2. You need to have an accurate idea of your ROI. There are many marketing opportunities out there but the benefit that a business can derive from each one varies wildly. Unfortunately, many marketing channels are chosen not because of their ROI potential but because everyone else is using it. Social media – including Facebook and Twitter – are just the latest in a long line of marketing channels that attract businesses with this “lemming effect”.

3. ROI is not always measured in prospects. Traditionally, marketing success has been measured in some very specific ways, such as: The increase in phone calls or inquiries, the number of new leads, or the increase in clicks to a website. But today’s variety of marketing channels offers several new ways to measure ROI. (Just don’t forget law #2!)

4. Marketing activities should always be done in the context of the sales funnel. With the variety of available marketing opportunities out there, many entrepreneurs can adopt new marketing channels and deploy them quickly then move on to another marketing channel and then another and then another. However, more successful marketing (with lower costs and better ROI) comes from first understanding the business’ sales funnel and then determining which marketing methods fit into the business’ sales funnel. That is a key difference in how marketing is planned and deployed.

5. All marketing is a test. The creation of a marketing effort (i.e. a website or a television commercial or even an article on an article website) has two functions – first, it needs to deliver the desired return; second, it needs to act as a test that informs the business owner about future marketing efforts. Where possible, marketing should be split-tested and the information used to determine the best ROI. Even where split testing is not possible, marketing can still provide a lesson for future marketing efforts.

Your business relies on marketing to run and grow. But not all marketing is created equal. Some marketing is costly (in ways you weren’t expecting), some marketing provides little or no ROI, and isn’t always easily measured in the way you expect to measure it. All marketing needs to work with all of your other efforts in your sales funnel, and you should never ever stop testing your marketing to improve its results.

Accountants: Is your blog putting your website visitors to sleep?

Accountants play a vital role for businesses and individuals who need to make sense of their financial situation. If you’re an accountant, people need your financial guidance and insight. And you need to use online marketing to position yourself as a skilled and competent professional.

Unfortunately, when it comes to online marketing, you have a distinct challenge that many other professionals do not have: Online marketing (such as articles and blogs and Facebook posts) uses content to help attract potential customers and to position you as the expert service provider. But what kind of content should you include in your marketing?

How to read a balance sheet? No, potential customers don’t want to know that. (In fact, that’s the reason they’re looking for an accountant in the first place… so they don’t have to read balance sheets!).

How to perform financial analysis? No, that would make someone fall asleep at the best of times! (And again, why would someone read about it if they were thinking of hiring you anyway?)

Changes to the tax code? No way! Who would want to read that at all? (Accountants only read it because they have to… no accountant wants to write about it too!)

As important as an accountant’s work is, it can be extremely difficult to talk about it in your online marketing.

So, how do you create compelling online content to help people see how valuable you are without just writing about stuff that they don’t want to read about anyway?

The answer is a combination of two elements that accountants can easily include in every blog:

Value – What you do for your clients. This is the benefit that people get by working with you.
Personality – Who you are. This is the “voice” of your content.

When you combine these two elements in your content marketing, you communicate in a way that attracts potential clients without boring them to death with information that they don’t need to know. Here’s how to incorporate personality and value into your work.

HOW TO INCLUDE VALUE IN YOUR CONTENT MARKETING

The first thing you need to do is figure out what to say.

Forget the in’s and out’s of what you do for a living. Don’t blog about that. After all, no one is really interested in reading about tax code. Rather, they’re interested in knowing that you know the tax code enough to help them.

So, create content that shows your value to your clients. Show case studies of people whose businesses have succeeded because they worked with you. Instead of talking about how to read financial statements, talk about what to do with the business insight gained from financial statements. Talk about what to do with tax returns to make more money. Outline strategies to help people retire early.

In other words, don’t talk about your work. Talk about how people can benefit from what you do and talk about specific things that people can do for themselves after they’ve used your services.

HOW TO INCLUDE PERSONALITY IN YOUR CONTENT MARKETING

Now that you know what you want to say, figure out how you are going to say it.

Start by listing the various qualities that make up your personality. What do people think of when they think of you? What are some things that you like, which can become a sort-of signature for you? For example: Are you funny? Thoughtful? Happy-go-lucky? Enthusiastic? Energetic? Do you like classic cars? Do you like to cook? Are you an avid book collector? Do you like a certain sport?

There are things about you that make you uniquely you. Unfortunately, most clients and potential clients are too busy seeing the spreadsheets to the see person behind them. You can change that around and become more magnetic by letting your personality shine through.

As an example, just watch a cooking show. The ingredients that these chefs cook with, and the dishes they create, look good but could be duplicated by other expert chefs. The reason these chefs have a following and their own show is because of their personality!

Be true to yourself (don’t make up a rock-n-roll personality if it’s not you). Figure out what makes up your personality and then make sure that it shines through in all of your online marketing: Tie in elements of your personality in all of your blogs and articles and Facebook postings and tweets and newsletters and special reports.

Accountant marketing with blogs and articles doesn’t have to bore your clients. Instead, your online content marketing can be highly valuable to them (while at the same time displaying your unique and compelling personality), which helps to position you as an expert that they will want to hire.