Generating Revenue With An Ezine Tested

Section 2 (Analysis)

In SECTION 1 of this issue, we reported that ZINE 1 helped its companion website increase traffic from 12,000 to more than 70,000 page views per month.

We also reported that (immediately following the delivery of an issue) traffic from ZINE 1 achieved a spike of 183%, while ZINE 2 achieved as much as 435%.

What was the difference?

How can you increase the number of readers who visit your website as a result of reading your ezine?

Here are some simple observations. In each issue of your ezine:

  1. Always reference your current article’s permanent address at your website. It is important to remember that your ezine will be copied and likely “passed around”… If you post your current issue on your home page, and then later move it, readers may be unable to find the article online. (*4)
  2. Reference key data mentioned in previous articles and provide a link to their permanent location. Here is an example:

    __________________QUOTE

    In the March 20th, edition of the Journal, we posed a simple challenge: “So how many subscribers can you win with a 30 day blitz in 36 directories, lists, and review sites? What if you were featured on the popular List-A-Day web? What if you hired one of the web’s leading authorities on ezine promotion to coordinate the campaign?”

    __________________END QUOTE

    This simple “mention” resulted in a 300% increase in traffic to this article.

  3. Reference supporting data that is best displayed (because of HTML formatting or bandwidth issues) at your web site. This can be photographs, charts, images, etc. These elements offer a legitimate incentive for your readers to “click through”.
  4. Reference, if possible, discussion threads, events, or other data listed on your website.

    The current issue of ZINE 1 lists 7 discussion threads. Here is an example.

    __________________QUOTE

    If our featured article triggers a few thoughts, you can talk about them on the discussion boards on Bhuz.com.

    http://www.bhuz.com/discussion.asp

    “..help me find the meaning of my stage name: Abdianna…I actually got the name from a furniture store in Kansas City, Missouri, lol !!…I just hope it doesn’t mean “old worn-out couch” Arabic board:

    http://www.bhuz.com/message.asp?disc_id=1445…

    __________________END QUOTE

    It also lists 17 events. Here is an example:

    __________________QUOTE

    You can list your event in this ezine FREE, by posting it on Bhuz.com. To search over 4,000 events in the USA and internationally, go to http://Bhuz.com

    (new events posted since June 1, 2001)

    * Beginning Middle Eastern Dance Monday, 11/5/2001 – DALLAS TEXAS Weekly Locally-based class

    __________________END QUOTE

    Referencing these events and discussion threads is a powerful way to drive a constant stream of traffic to your site. If you can somehow provide date-sensitive information, readers will constantly come back to your site to check for changes.

    Each issue of your ezine should have not less than 3 links back to your website. This can help you to win more traffic.

Still, it is not enough just to “win traffic”; somehow you must convert this activity into revenue. So as part of our test, we created an online store…

Items featured in our ezine outsold every other item in the store by at least 850%.

How can you sell more retail product with each issue of your ezine?

Once again, here are some (humble) observations:

  1. Make certain that the product is truly relevant to your reader’s needs or desires.
  2. Provide a specific incentive for purchasing the product. You often need to give the reader an extra “push”… they are busy, and they will “put off” the decision unless you create an appeal with (genuine) urgency.

    Here is an example from ZINE 1:

    __________________QUOTE

    Advertise your event on Bhuz.com! Get an extra two weeks if you purchase by May 21, 2001! For more information, Go to: http://www.discover…

    __________________END QUOTE

    Notice the two week incentive and the deadline of May 21. It is an effective tactic… BUT ONLY if it is honest.

  3. Use (quality) images of the product on your ezine’s website. Here is an example:
     Change is good! Choose a new hip scarf. 10 different styles and 7 colors to choose from. Starts at US$25
  4. Add a keyword for the product in the metatags of your HTML version of the article. This will help you to glean potential subscribers, and future sales, as the search engines index the page. (*5)
  5. Place the ad in a prominent position on your site. Test data indicates that the top position receives the most attention.
  6. Consider referencing the item in your ezine’s editorial. The closer you associate the product with the personality who writes your ezine, the more attention it will receive. But be careful – speak honestly, and purge out any hype. For more on this read our article, “Transparent Marketing”. The URL is listed in the resources below.
  7. Limit the number of products you promote within any issue of your ezine. Less is more… You will get stronger results if you focus the scope of your reader’s attention.
  8. Beware of transference. Readers will associate the quality of your product with the quality of your ezine. Be very, very careful as to what you recommend.
  9. If your product’s link sends your reader to a store (as opposed to an order page), make certain that the product is in close proximity to other items that could appeal to an impulse purchase.
  10. If the product is expensive or concept driven (as in digital information) consider creating a separate page to present the offer. This page should be customized for your readers. Specificity – that is specifically tailoring your presentation for your market – is a key to a high conversion ratio.
  11. Send a “Thank You” email to each buyer, and offer a (discounted) ancillary product to compliment the recent purchase. This could be an accessory, or software “plug-in”, etc.

There is much more that can be written on this subject, and perhaps we will address it again, in another issue, but for now, we must turn our attention to the next part of our experiment.

Related:  The behind-the-scenes story of how we optimized outdoor advertising that was featured in a USA Today article

As reported earlier, we tested the conversion ratios for a premium subscription offer, but many publishers fear that the promotion of paid content will have a negative impact on their free subscriber base.

Free subscribers have an intrinsic value – they represent more advertising dollars and more sales opportunities.

The question remains…

How does the inclusion of an offer for paid content effect the cancellation rate of your free subscribers?

In two consecutive issues of ZINE 2 we offered a premium subscription. Here is what we discovered:

  • Over a 60-day period, approximately 1% of the subscriber base cancelled.

This number was negligible, especially when you consider, the industry average for cancellation rates. The net gain in revenue clearly offset the minimal losses in potential advertising dollars.

But the experiment, itself, raises a critical question.

How can you minimize the impact of a premium subscription offering on your free subscriber’s cancellation rate?

Our experience suggests 3 cautionaries:

  1. Do not devalue your free offering by dramatically reducing the AMOUNT or QUALITY of content you are providing. (*6)

    Your free subscribers deserve more than a teaser. Make certain that you are delivering solid value. Remember, they are buying their subscription with (at the least) their ATTENTION, which is their very limited supply of time, and with their PREFERENCE, which is their choice to read your publication instead of a competitors.

  2. Make certain that the presentation of your PAID offering does not interfere with a subscriber’s enjoyment of the free offering. Be careful as to how you use popups, redirects, etc.
  3. Avoid inferring that your free subscribers are “second class” customers. Let them sense your respect and your gratitude. These subscribers represent significant value, and they should be treated as such. Let them know that you appreciate them EVEN IF THEY DON’T respond to your paid offering.

The third component of our test was an ebook offering. To plan this experiment we had to answer a number of questions.

Here was the first.

Which ebook compilation software was most effective?

We tested three:

We avoided Adobe’s solution, because we perceived that many readers are frustrated with its performance – although Adobe probably is a viable option.

Of the three we tested, we found that:

  • “Activ E – book” was the most economical (and perhaps robust), but it was also the most difficult to learn.
  • “eBook Edit Pro” was easy to use, and it was also very functional.
  • “eBook Gold” had the most persuasive ad copy, but it initially seemed overpriced. We could not see where it offered any more functionality than the others. However, as we prepared this report, we discovered that the price has been significantly lowered. It is a good package.

In the end, we created our own format. We delivered the ebook, live, online, so that we could instantly update its links and information.

We have thus far had a very positive response to this approach. You can obtain a copy of this book, and study it’s format here (sorry, no longer available) .

In the meantime, we must address the seminal question for this report…

Which offering will generate the highest yield: a premium subscription, a specialized ebook, or a tangible product line?

The most significant benefit of a successful ezine is often misunderstood. An ezine’s value should not be limited to content fees or retail sales.

Its true financial impact should be appraised in terms of one key concept. That is INFLUENCE.

A well produced publication will win the respect and confidence of its readers. The editor must do everything possible to guard this vital trust factor.

If you can influence a readers belief system, you can effect his decisions and thus his behavior.

A publication that demonstrates integrity and genuine utility, will win influence.

This influence can then be carefully translated into revenue. If a publisher views his ezine, as just a promotional tool – a prelude to a sale – he is COMPLETELY missing the opportunity.

All three methods outlined in this report can be used in combination. Indeed, each approach will support the other.

But it is important to note that test ZINE 2 in this experiment has developed a 4th approach. ZINE 2 has achieved significant credibility (read “influence”) in it’s industry.

Today for every $1 generated in content sales, it generates another $30 in consulting services.

Note: These links were accurate as of the publish date for this report, but their accuracy will naturally decay as time passes.

(*1) The story has been featured in several major articles, including a recent interview in Ezine-Tips.

For the work done with the group mentioned in this report, and for several other projects, the Team at MarketingExperiments.Com was recently selected by the prestigious MacDonalds Council as the “Best of the Best Consulting Firms In America”. We were very grateful (and surprised).

(*2) We also studied the patterns preceding this period to look for any aberrations that might skew our numbers.

(*3) We enhanced the impact of these marketing efforts by sending traffic through Google’s Adword Program, and through a key link on a major portal.

(*4) We learned this point from an article written by Brian Alt at EmailPossibilities.com.

(*5) You may want to reword dated offers, so that they are still accurate once the article is archived.

(*6) This point assumes that you are already offering a free subscription to quality content. If you are starting a new ezine, you have the chance to define your value proposition from the beginning, and thus, the decision to offer “teasers” etc., does not disappoint the expectations of an existing subscribers base.

::Back to Section 1::

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