Note About The Author
Ludvig Sunström is rising through the blogging world fast. It's no accident. The guy executes on everything you know you should do but don't. The scary thing - he executes the stuff you don't know about with the same tenacity. It's absurd. And it's inspiring.
The first time he reached out (you'll see the email below) he struck a perfect balance of professionalism and being human. Anyway - he knows what he's doing.
Will and I have used a lot the techniques he's mentioned in building StartupBros. They work. You'll want to bookmark this.
Here's What We're Covering:
Are you an entrepreneur struggling with getting traction in the online world?
Are you a person who has something important to say to the world, but don’t yet know how to reach out with that message?
Fear not, friend.
It’s possible for you to blast out of online obscurity quicker than you might expect.
This is a lengthy, but practical article. I know that I would have benefited greatly if I’d read it when I first started.
Here’s a summary of what you’ll learn:
- Two very harmful mistakes that most people do online.
- How to get clear on exactly what you’ll do.
- A practical strategy for building your lists.
- How to network online the simple way.
- How to do basic email pitching.
- How to grow your blog by getting traffic and exposure.
- The “viral mindset”.
- How to speed up the process of doing these things with a couple of helpful programs and websites
Knowing these things in advance will save you much time and help you focus your effort on the few most important things that generate the most results.
Why should you listen to me?
Because I’ve grown my niche blog about practical self-development from a few visits per day, to 1000+ visits/day in less than six months. And I have done this while being a full-time master’s student, reading a book a week, hitting the gym four times a week, and being on the board of Toastmasters.
Point being, I’ve had to find ways of leveraging the very limited amount of time that I’ve had at my disposal for working on my blog and learning online entrepreneurship.
And if I can this, so can you.
However, to do this:
- You need to be motivated and feel strongly about your idea and message.
- You need to be patient and understand that this is a long-term learning process.
- You need to understand what the 80/20-activities behind growing your site are. And you need to be consistent in executing them.
I know that you fulfill these prerequisites seeing as how you are a reader of StartupBros.
Before I get into how to blast out of online obscurity, I must first tell you about two things that you must not do. These two things are a waste of your time and an incompetent way of doing things.
1. Using novice blogging platforms.
You need to get it right from the get-go and go for WordPress.org.
It doesn’t cost you more than $20-$100 buying a .com-domain, hosting your site, and buying a theme. If you are the least bit serious you will do this without hesitation.
If you don’t, the credibility of your site goes out the window – and you won’t be taken seriously.
For example, in terms of online networking purposes, I don’t consider people who don’t have their own sites to be worth spending my time on. I filter these people out immediately.
The reason I do this is because it signals to me that these people are:
a) Uninformed or incompetent at the “online game”.
b) Not serious enough to pay for their own site, hosting, etc.
And both of these things leave an equally bad first impression. I’m not going to waste precious time networking with deadbeats. Most of the serious people that I know online would say the same thing.
The second thing you must not do is to…
2. Waste time promoting yourself unintelligently.
A year ago when I was just blogging for fun on WordPress.com, I saw a ton of people like myself who didn’t understand rule #1.
But these people still considered themselves to be serious bloggers/entrepreneurs/marketers.
When I say serious, what I mean is that these people clearly showed ambition one way or another. Some of them were trying to grow their blogs and others were trying to sell products. But the way they did this was haphazard.
Many of them used a promotion strategy that relied almost completely on leaving unintelligent comments that added zero value, and on liking other people’s posts/pages in hopes of getting a like back.
This is one of the most stupid and inefficient ways of accumulating social proof I have seen. Many suckers on Wordpress.com do this.
The reason why this is a sucker-strategy is because it doesn’t bring any sustained increase in traffic to the site.
I kid you not when I tell you that I saw people who had thousands of likes and comments on their about pages. All the comments said:
“Hey, thanks for liking my post. Great blog. Bye.”
Can you even imagine how much time they must have wasted in racking up all those likes and comments?
So, these people were obviously consistent in what they were doing – but they were doing the wrong things!
Now, let’s get into the correct way of blasting out of obscurity and establishing your presence online.
Get Clear about What You Will Accomplish
Success consists of 10 % planning and 90 % execution.
You will be going out on a limb if you don’t know exactly what it is that you’re aiming for. That’s why the planning comes first.
There are two reasons why you must get clear on exactly what it is you’re setting out to do:
- If you set a specific target to reach, your brain will start filtering all incoming information and make you conscious of information that’s relevant for you to reach the target.
- It’s highly unlikely that you will ever have more success than the amount you set out to achieve. Human beings are inherently lazy and the brain will try to save energy any way it can. By setting a specific target you will override this laziness of the brain.
Compile a List.
This is very important. And it is a part of the planning that never stops.
No matter what your online aspirations are, you’re going to need the help of others to blast out of obscurity. You’ll need shares, comments, referrals, and any kind of social proof you can get.
To get this, the first thing you need to do is to create a list.
A list of what?
You will include these three things in your list:
- Websites and blogs you’d like to be featured on.
- Peers to contact and network with.
- Influencers you need to pitch.
In the image above you see one of the lists inside of my digital commonplace. This list contains websites that I want to contact for pitching guest posts. The program I’m using is Windows OneNote. If you are a Windows user there’s a high likelihood that you already have this program on your computer. I really recommend using it.
And how do you grow the list?
Simple. Whenever you see an interesting site you will locate the relevant section – usually the contact page –and copy paste the URL to your list.
The list will get big if you add a few items every day while browsing the web.
And this is excellent, because it means you will never run out of leads. When you take action every day by contacting a few people from this list, your results will become staggering over time.
Grow the Skill Set: Online Marketing
There are a bunch of things you need to learn in order to reach out to people and get your message out there. But you need to learn these things one by one.
The conscious mind can process only 5-9 bits of information per second, and short-term memory is limited to about 30 seconds. Point being: you can’t do too many things at once.
When you’re learning these things, know that it is online marketing you’re learning. It’s a useful skill set and it is worth the hassle.
Here’s the first thing you need to do:
- Define a target audience and figure out exactly who you are in a conversation with.
A practical tip for doing this is to picture your ideal reader/customer/viewer, and speak as if you are speaking only to this person.
Never speak to many people – only one person. Always use “you” over “we” when speaking to your target audience.
When you write your blog posts, sales copy, or online ads, you need to make it all about the reader. Keep it benefit-oriented.
Here’s a tool to help you with this. It’ll measure the use of “you” versus “we” versus “I” in a text document.
- Wewe Calculator.
Become Patient: Learning a Skill is a Long-Term Process
It’s easy to get a domain and to start a blog or a website – you can do that overnight. But to make the site popular, to spread your message, or to build your brand – those things take longer.
The difference between the people who succeed online and those who don’t is usually not that the latter lack persistence and motivation.
There are a lot of motivated people out there.
The guys I told you about over at Wordpress.com are motivated, but their approach sucks. And as I am writing this post, I have revisited some of those blogs – and they show no signs of growth. They are still doing the same damn thing.
So, what is the difference between those who succeed online and those who don’t?
It’s the mindset.
The guys who aren’t succeeding – like those on novice blogger platforms – don’t see blogging or online entrepreneurship as a long-term process. They aren’t putting any effort into learning how to generate traffic or how to make their website look better.
–And yes, the design aspect does matter!
People do judge the book by its cover. The packaging matters. Just ask any Apple employee.
The only people who can get away with having a really ugly website and still get traffic are celebrities.
And you’re not a celebrity, are you?
Quick Tip on Web Design
Learning all of this stuff can get frustrating at times. Trust me, I know.
If you decide to do web design yourself I would really recommend that you start using the free software Firebug. It lets you inspect the CSS and HTML code of any website. This makes it easy for you to replicate elegant design features of other people’s sites.
In the image below I’ve highlighted a paragraph from StartupBros and I’m looking at the HTML code. On the right side you have the CSS code.
Grow the Site and Get Traffic
With your list finished you are good to go. Now it’s time to start the process of gaining traffic and exposure.
After creating great content, the two most important things you need to do consistently are networking and guest posting.
The simplest and most common way of networking is by reaching out to people and commenting on sites in your niche.
It’s all about building relationships, and you’d be surprised at how quickly you can enter into relationships and bond with people online – in particular people in your niche.
Here are two great examples of how you can take the first step and start an interaction that will quickly turn into a relationship:
In this email I have attached a plugin that sets up a favicon (tiny browser icon).
This is a very easy way of providing value and it is much appreciated by the other person. Who doesn’t like a person that comes out of nowhere and does you a small favor without asking for anything in return?
Here’s another example of what you can do:
I’m Neal Anderson and I run the personal sales site Always Be Closing. I saw your contribution to Sales Magazine and thought it was a great piece. What you said about brokers having to wear green ties to boost their success rate really got me thinking. What is your opinion on wearing black ties? Do you think it could work?
I look forward to hearing from you.
Your messages need to be friendly and provide some sort of value. Try to start a conversation and keep it going. And always follow-up. Every. Single. Time.
If you send 3 of these emails and leave comments every day you will quickly create a network of friends.
(In the end of the post I’ll show you two softwares that dominate list-building and following up on contacts.)
And what about guest posting – is it necessary?
— You don’t “have to” do guest posts, but you need to get featured on other sites somehow to get attention. It’s a good idea to become a regular contributor to a big site in your niche – at least in the beginning when you are establishing your presence online. It helps build credibility and social proof.
And you need to start small when you build social proof or referrals.
You do this by first pitching smaller sites and building your track record. You will then use this as leverage to pitch bigger sites.
This is not something that you do once or twice. This is an ongoing process that exponentially adds to your exposure, traffic, and social proof. You should always use the things you’ve done to leverage yourself into a higher position.
And how do you do a guest post pitch?
Take a look at the intro of the email I sent to Kyle and Will for this post.
How to Decide Where to Guest Post
Do you know how Tim Ferriss, Ryan Holiday, and many other successful online authors and entrepreneurs have promoted their books/products?
–By doing guest posts on popular niche sites.
How did they decide which sites to posts on?
–By limiting the selection of sites. They did it by setting a limit for traffic and website ranking required to do the guest post.
You can do this too.
To find out which sites are worth your time to pitch, use the Alexa Toolbar. It’s free.
StartupBros currently has a Global Alexa ranking of 64864 and an American ranking of 29523. That’s pretty good for a blog. Normal – personal – blogs are either not ranked at all, or they are ranked in the high millions.
This number doesn’t give you any specific details about the traffic or your possible conversion rate, but it still says a lot about the popularity of the site. The ranking is mostly based on traffic and backlinks.
Can You Predict Virality?
You will blast out of online obscurity if you are consistent in following the tips in this article. But you will probably not be able to predict in advance which specific actions are going to be the most efficient for you in terms of generating traffic and conversions – at least in the beginning.
For example, most of the posts I’ve published on LifeHack have not generated much traffic to my own blog, with the exception of 1-2 posts that got popular.
However, those posts have been good in boosting Alexa rank – making it easier for my blog to pop up in the search engines. In the long-term that will bring me a lot of organic traffic.
But what is the fastest and most powerful way of getting traffic?
–Having one of your posts go viral.
The problem is that it’s very hard to predict what content is going to go viral.
Your best bet is to create great content and hope that people will share it. But you can also take a more proactive approach.
There are a couple of things you can do to improve your chances of going viral. Here’s the basic psychology behind virality:
- Create content that provokes a reaction. Be polarizing. Your content should be shocking. It should make people angry enough to tell their friends what a dick you are. (I don’t do this nearly enough.)
There are plenty of smart people on the web who create great content, but still get zero attention. Are you one of them?
If so, chances are that you’re not being polarizing enough – and that you’re not appealing to the emotions of the reader.
I’m guilty of doing the same thing myself.
I appeal way too much to people’s logic. But, I’m lucky in having gathered an intelligent readership –proving that it can be done. It’s just harder.
- Your content must be remarkable in some way. This comes close to “provoking a reaction”. This means that your content must make people want to talk about it to friends or strangers. It must be worth remarking on.
- If you write about things that are politically incorrect, it’s going to be more challenging to go viral. Most people aren’t comfortable sharing such content, even if they secretly would like to. Remember, when people share content on social media they are risking their social status.
Anyway, you can never know in advance if your content will go viral.
Do you think that Tim Ferris expected his video about BOILING A GODDAMN EGG to become his most shared and popular piece of content ever produced?
However, you can make an educated guess whether or not your content is going to go viral. A while back I wrote an article about useful programs and websites over at LifeHack that got shared 1100+ times. I wrote it because:
a) I wanted to share some good tips.
b) I wanted to mimic a similar post that had gone viral one month previously to see what happened.
My post didn’t go viral, but it was still a success.
What I learned from that post is that people like sharing easy-to-read and actionable technology-based content. (This post is not going viral, it’s technology-based, but it’s way too long).
Then recently I wrote an article about the wisdom hidden beneath the debauchery of the Wolf of Wall Street. It got shared 3500+ times in its first two days. I believe there were two reasons why that article went well:
a) It was timely. And I was the first to do it as far as I know of. At least at that specific site.
b) There’d been a ton of content about the Wolf of Wall Street — but it was all the same, it was bland. This one was different, and without clichés.
Case Studies of Virality
You should study the following YouTube videos and see if you can find a pattern:
- Gangnam Style.
- What does the fox say?
- Harlem Shake
What do they have in common?
–These videos all have their own special dances that are easy for people to imitate. Plus they are entertaining and remarkable.
That pattern wasn’t very tricky to find, was it?
But what about awful YouTube “comedy” video makers – like Ray William Johnson? What has he done to go viral?
What did I do just now?
Think about it…
I just remarked on him – I didn’t share a link though. (Sorry RWJ, I am not supporting you online).
I don’t like that guy, but he is remarkable – in a negative way. And that gets people to talk about him and share his stuff, even if it’s just for laughing at him.
A Blog post that went viral:
As of writing this, the post has been shared 733k times.
The woman who wrote that post was a completely normal (mediocre) blogger. Then for some reason, this very bland post went massively viral.
Why do you think this is? Please let me know in the comment section.
–What you can learn from studying that post is that if you want to achieve massive virality you must appeal to the masses and you must provoke a reaction.
But it’s highly unlikely that you will ever succeed in doing this.
Massive virality is mostly about luck.
The better strategy is to aim for “mini-virality”.
Your best bet is to create content for your target audience, gauge their interest, interact with them, get feedback, and keep learning interesting things to share with them.
You could look at it this way:
- Massive virality = playing the lottery
- Mini-virality = long-term investing
The thing here is that Amy Morin, who wrote the post about mentally strong people, is one of those lottery winners.
This is one of those cases where the availability bias is playing tricks on you. You only see the “winners”, but never the losers. Thousands of posts go completely unnoticed. You only see the massively viral content, and this is giving you an inaccurate understanding about the probabilities of going viral.
Don’t make the mistake in thinking that:
Just because she could do it, so can I. She’s a terrible writer with shitty content, whereas I have talent!
What happened there was completely outside of her control. It had very little to do with her talent. It was in the hands of the unthinking masses.
Never leave your fate in the hands of anyone else – especially not the unthinking masses.
Don’t rely on luck. Take matters into your own hands. Take responsibility for your own success and do whatever is within your power to ensure victory.
Your best strategy to blast out of online obscurity is not in trying to please the masses. The masses are large and unpredictable. Your target audience is easier to figure out.
Online success is achieved by consistently sticking to a set of principles:
- Creating interesting content.
- Building your list and automatize the process.
- Doing guest posts or getting yourself featured on relevant sites for social proof and traffic.
- Leaving comments and networking with other people.
- Designing a beautiful site.
- Striving for consistent “mini-virality”.
Wrapping This Up...
You can follow the advice I’ve given you in this post and have a lot of success – if you’re consistent. Or you can take a shortcut.
What do I mean by this?
All of the advice I’ve given you above work, I am living proof of that. But there is a time-efficient way of accomplishing the same results. Instead of doing these things manually, you can use a smart combination of two softwares to save you time by automatically giving you leads and then easily following up on them.
I have set up a gift for StartupBros readers:
- 30 days extra free trial of InkyBee – which is a powerful online outreach program for finding and contacting websites, bloggers and influencers. Use this tool to speed up the process of building your list. It’ll automatically give you their social media contacts.
- Exclusive Invite-only beta-testing of Polite Persistence – which is like the program Boomerang for gmail, but on steroids. Use this program to flawlessly follow up on the contacts via email. It comes with numerous useful functions for contacting people online.
Just check out this page of Start Gaining Momentum for more info and sign up for free.
But there’s more:
- As a bonus you will also get my 136-page eBook containing loads of practical advice that you can immediately apply to improve your brain and body.
This set of resources is currently unique and I have set it up specifically for StartupBros readers. Head over to Start Gaining Momentum and check out the resources.