There’s one moment – one ingredient – I believe that is the most important indication you need to see to determine if your blog will be a success.
It’s not traffic or followers. It’s not making your first affiliate sale, or signing up your first sponsor. It’s not about making your first dollar in any way.
See if you can guess the ingredient from my story…
One Very Important Email
The day I knew what I was doing with my blog was right and I would eventually have all things I wanted – like traffic and money – was the day I received an email from a person who had read my blog.
The email wasn’t anything unusual but it was critical proof that I had what it takes to be a success.
The email began by saying that they had read my blog post from start to finish (or close to it). They had came across my blog via a link to one article and were compelled to keep reading. They dug through my archives and loved everything so much that they had to email me.
But that wasn’t it.
Not only did they spend a few hours just at my blog (how’s that for a bounce rate!) they also asked me a question. A serious question, not just “how do I make money” or “how do I set up a blog”. They spent the time to tell me a bit about themselves, explain what they were trying to do and felt that I was someone they could trust, that I knew how to do something they wanted to do and wanted my help.
That was all I needed to know that my blog would make it.
What Is The Magic Ingredient?
That email from one of my early readers demonstrated something to me that I believe is the number one ingredient for any successful blog.
I call it ENGAGEMENT.
Engagement means that people who read your blog are not only entertained and informed, they come away truly benefiting from your output. Their life has been enhanced in some way and they want more.
This is about more than just attention. This is prolonged focus leading to action. It’s not easy to cut through all the information on the web and grab attention and it’s even rarer for people to be so compelled that they take an action just as a result of reading your words.
But it goes even further than that.
Not only do you elicit an action, but that action is a cry for more. You’ve managed to convince this person through the content on your blog, that you are someone they can respect, who has authority about a topic and has done something that they want to emulate.
This is key, because it tells you that you have something of significant value. Value can be sold, it is the heart of a sustainable business, and while most bloggers give away everything for free, when you create engagement, you have all you need to establish a thriving online business – you just have to work your way there (and start selling something for more than free!).
Do Your Readers Ask You Questions?
Early on she decided to buy a webcam and try video as a method for marketing her blog. She discovered that she loved doing video and diligently pumped out great video content both to her blog and her YouTube channel.
Fran already knew a lot about her subject, having immersed herself in skin care and health for many years. As a result she had a huge store of knowledge in her head that she is slowly published to her blog.
During her early days, Fran told me a story that to me signaled she was gaining engagement. She explained how was in a popular forum for her niche and someone referenced her and her blog as reputable sources of information about her topic. Around the same time she also started to receive emails and comments to her videos in YouTube asking for help and thanking her for her work. These are genuine comments filled with long background stories from people who look to her as an authoritative source of information.
Do You Have Engagement?
While traffic is obviously an important metric, I would suggest looking at the level of engagement you have with your audience as a better assessment of potential success early on. This is especially true for people just getting started because your traffic numbers won’t be that impressive, however if you have just 10 people who have thoroughly engaged with your work, then you know the key ingredient is there – you just need more exposure to engage a larger audience.
The great thing about engagement is that it is a powerful force for viral events and word of mouth. People who are engaged with your work remember you, they talk about you and refer others to you if the subject matter comes up in day-to-day life. You become part of their consciousness in relation to a certain topic and when that topic arises, you are a common reference point.
Engagement is also a good indication of potential profitability, because only people who are engaged with your offer will make a purchase. We know people buy from other people they trust, respect and consider reputable. Engagement is all these things and thus the perfect environment for a sale.
Getting traffic is easy enough, but engaging with people requires you deliver something of real substance. It’s much better to have 100 people engaged with your blog than 1,000 casual readers who may read your words every day but don’t truly listen to what you say. This of course hearkens back to the discussion of quality versus quantity when it comes to readership, especially in business and marketing terms – and we all know quality wins.
How To Assess Engagement
If there is one drawback with engagement it is the difficulty you may have assessing its presence. For some people they just know when it is there and are very familiar with how to elicit it in others. It’s very much an intuitive thing that people with experience, who understand communication and social dynamics, come to know well.
A good example is Jeff Walker and the subject of Internet product launches. Jeff has been involved in so many of them he knows during a launch how well it is going to do long before the sales page goes live.
Jeff’s accumulated breadth of experience gives him an intuitive understanding and a feel for the rhythm and flow of a good launch. He knows what to look for, what’s working and what needs to be adjusted on the fly. It’s a very organic process for him.
As bloggers and Internet marketers we do have some practical signs to look out for that indicate engagement, such as –
- Any emails sent in response to a blog post or email newsletter broadcast
- Comments left through social media, to your blog or YouTube video
- People referencing you in forums or any publication
- Responses to a survey request
- Testimonials sent to you without asking for them
- People asking you very specific questions that are more than one-line long (this can be in person)
- Purchases made upon your recommendation of an affiliate product or your own product
It’s important that you don’t look just at raw numbers when it comes to engagement. The way a person interacts with you, the language they use and the respect they demonstrate, indicates engagement.
With Engagement Comes Opportunity
Any person who plans to become an information marketer (that’s anyone who wants to make money selling information), who manage to foster engagement with enough people, have a platform for a very profitable business. A small tribe of followers is enough to make you wealthy.
The typical process is to start a website, deliver value, add an email list and deliver more value, establish engagement and trust, and then start leveraging that engagement for money (offering your audience something to buy!).
Affiliate marketing is one way to make money from the attention you have from your audience, as is direct advertising revenue from sponsors, but in this case rather than furthering your relationship with your engaged readers, you use your influence to introduce them to others.
Selling your own product to an engaged audience is THE recipe for financial success on the Internet today, in my humble opinion. I didn’t truly understand this until I started selling my own products – and this was after growing an engaged audience. In fact, I believe I wasted a lot of the early effort I put in by not selling my own product because I didn’t have the confidence to do so.
To put it simply, I had people who wanted more from me but I did not make the offer of more. As they say – I left money on the table.
The Engagement Toolkit
In my opinion the best methods to build engagement online today and to own your audience, are blogging and email marketing. Platforms like YouTube and Instagram are also great places to reach and engage an audience, but remember you don’t own those platforms. This is why you should always use external platforms to bring people on to your email list. You want to be the one in control of how and when you reach your audience.
There’s no guarantee of success even with the best tools, the top strategies and a good work ethic, but provided you leverage something unique about you and apply what has proven to work in your unique situation, the results will come.
If nothing else, stick to what is currently working for you and do more of it. If you haven’t found ways to engage your audience, then keep testing new methods and when something works, keep doing it.
That’s all most bloggers and Internet marketers do: We follow the advice and example of those we want to emulate and keep testing until something works for us too.
If you are true to your motivation and cause, engagement will come, it’s the natural result when humans interact with other humans in an authentic way.