How to Choose Colors That Will Make Your Brand Stand Out | Do you love creating mood boards and collecting colors, but then find yourself a bit stumped with how to apply them to your brand? This post will help! It includes tips for entrepreneurs and biz owners to help you select and apply your brand colors with purpose and intention. Click through to see all the color tips!!Color is such a huge part of how we experience the world. Everything we experience is made up of different colors. Some inspire and excite us and others can make us feel a bit down.

So what does this mean for your website and brand?

I think one of the hardest things with color is knowing how to apply it so that your brand stands out without being a freak show of colors. There are so many sites where you can get ideas for color palettes, but then what do you do with them?

I put together a quick guide and free printable color scheme kit that will help you choose your brand colors with intention and purpose.

Choose a primary color

The first thing to do if you want to build an epic brand (and of course you do!) is to identify your brand tone. This really means deciding how you want your brand to look, feel, and sound to people.

Once you’ve done that, simply assign a color that matches your brand’s tone. Whichever color you choose will become your brand’s primary color. To help you decide, here’s a list of some colors and the moods they evoke:

  • Red: strong, powerful, fun, youthful, confident, exciting, loud, vibrant
  • Orange: friendly, energetic, unique, positive, upbeat, spirited
  • Yellow: happy, sunny, enthusiastic, positive, cheery, warm
  • Green: calm, refreshing, healthy, green, abundant, natural, motivated
  • Blue: open, airy, calm, credible, reliable, safe, serene, trusting, modern
  • Purple: creative, lush, luxurious, mysterious, regal, romantic, seductive, sumptuous, wise, powerful, strong, safe, timeless, edgy
  • Gray: neutral, boring, depressing
  • Beige: neutral, picks up traits of surrounding colors
  • Ivory: neutral, clean, simple, easy

Red gets more clicks

You know how a red top makes your shoulders look bigger and a pair of black pants makes your hips look smaller? Color has a lot to do with our visual perceptions of size.

If you play with color like this you can make certain elements stand out and grab people’s attention, even when they’re smaller.

Red and orange are like this – they get noticed online. They’re “action” colors. They look bigger than they are and grab your attention pretty quickly. People want to click on red and orange.

Just look at your Pinterest feed. Which color stands out to you the most?

Turn your primary color into an action color

Got it, red stands out more. Buut, what if red or orange doesn’t match your brand personality?

Great question! Let’s say your primary color is blue. You can still make it stand out so people notice and click it. You just have to be more careful with how you apply it.

When you look at this shopping list, which word do you remember?

  • Apple
  • Orange
  • Banana
  • Pineapple
  • Lemon
  • Blueberry
  • Strawberry
  • Melon
  • Kiwi

Pineapple, right? This sounds pretty obvious, but when you have the same colors on a page and then one that’s different, that element is going to stand out more. This is called the “isolation effect”. You’re isolating that one color so it stands out more.

You can use the isolation effect to turn your primary color into your action color. This is just another way of saying that it’s the color you want people to click on. If you choose your color scheme with intention, which I’ll get into next, you can train people on your action color. Basically, your action color needs to stand out from your other colors.

Compare color palettes

I love creating different color combinations. So much fun! Before you choose your brand’s color scheme, play around with some different color palettes for inspiration. Here are a few sites that I like:

  • Kuler  – Want to know what colors go with purple? Use the Kuler color wheel and select a rule (complimentary, shades, compound) to create different color schemes. It will give you the Hex code and RGB values for each color. You can also explore their library for ideas.
  • COLOURlovers – A community of creatives from around the world who share their color palettes. What I love about this site is that you don’t have to know a color’s Hex code to start getting ideas. If you want an orange color scheme, just search for “orange” and you’ll see tons of different orange color palettes.
  • Coolors – This one is probably my favorite.  It’s a color scheme generator that gives you an entirely new set of colors every time you press the space bar. Once you see a palette that includes your primary color, you can tweak the hue and saturation or even choose a different shade to see how that new color looks paired with the others.
  • Pictaculous – Super cool and tons of fun! Want to create a color scheme based on a photo or an image? Upload it to Pictaculous and it will generate a color scheme from it, plus additional color combos from Kuler and ColourLovers. Here’s the palette it generated from my image:

Pictaculous - color palette generator from an image

Create your own color scheme

Now that you’ve got some ideas for colors to pair with your action color, the next step is to create your brand’s color scheme.

First, a note. It’s fun to experiment with different colors and that’s perfectly okay. At some point, you’ll want to narrow it down to 3-4 colors so your brand doesn’t look all over the place. The most successful brands are strategic and cohesive with their brand elements, and you want to be successful too! So when you think color, think strategy.

Some more thoughts on color schemes:

  • Every color should have a specific purpose. Don’t just choose colors because you think they look pretty together. Of course you want that, but what’s even more important is how you apply colors to your brand elements, e.g. headings, titles, text, icons, buttons, and links.
  • As I mentioned before, your action (primary) color is the one you really want to pop. Save this color for your links and buttons.
  • Choose 1-2 neutral tones for backgrounds. Neutral tones aren’t necessarily exciting, which is exactly what you want. Neutral colors make your action color stand out. They’re similar to white space in the way they open up your page and break up contrasting colors.
  • Choose a contrasting (and darker) color for backgrounds, headings, and text.
  • Ideally, your heading color should be different than your action color. This can be tricky depending on your color scheme but is definitely something to keep in mind. If you use the action color only on buttons and links, your readers won’t be confused about what to click on.

If you want, you can download this as a printable kit to help you choose your brand colors. Click on the image below to download the color scheme kit.

Download the free color scheme kit to help you choose and apply colors to your brand!

Psst…Colors are just ONE of the many brand elements we cover in The Build My Brand Toolkit. With this kit you will create an entire branding system that includes all your visual elements (logo, colors, fonts, social media templates, style guide) PLUS brand copy (About page, Home page, messaging, blog tone and style) so you can build a brand that makes you smile. Click on the image below to learn more!
The Build My Brand Tool Kit gives you everything you need to brand yourself like a pro! Click here to learn more.

Was this post helpful? What’s your brand’s color scheme? I’m happy to take a look and provide some guidance if you need!


Ready to turn your to-do list into a Get-It-Done Action Plan? This post will help! It’s a simple guide for entrepreneurs and business owners to help you prioritize goals and identify specific tasks to achieve them. It also includes my secret “increase productivity” weapon – the Time Blocking Template. Use it to create a visual calendar so you know exactly what to do to each week. Click through to see the whole guide!I used to think I was super productive every day in my business until I realized that no…not so much.

If that sounds confusing, hang in there with me.

I was getting stuff done for sure, just not the right stuff.

I’d start writing a post and get briefly distracted by an email. Then I’d get up, go get a drink, come back, log in to Pinterest, check my feeds, log in to Skype, check my junk mail…

…and back to writing again.

Then a text would come through and I’d get sidetracked. Again.

Sound familiar?

Being an entrepreneur is tricky business. It’s easy to feel flustered and even a bit scattered. There’s so much we have to do, so many reasons to procrastinate, and tons of shiny bright things to take our attention away from the one thing we should be doing.

Oh, and by the way, how do we even know what that one thing is? How can we tell if what we’re working on right now is a must-do or if we’re just spinning our wheels?

I’ve been spending a lot of time on this and think I finally nailed it…

Here’s a short list of things that have helped me stay laser-focused and finally (finally!) get tons of the right stuff done. I hope they help you increase productivity and rock your To-do list too.

With me? Let’s dig in.

1) Get serious about your biz

I know this for sure. It’s super easy to put something down on paper, up on a wall, in Asana, Evernote, or whatever your project management tool is… then let it slide until the next day.

No big deal if you don’t get to it, right? You just start a new list. At least you’re doing something. 

Be honest, how many times have you started to write a post but didn’t finish it? Or it was on your list but somehow you didn’t get to it?

Me too…

It feels good to see a whole mess of things you have to do…makes you feel proud and accomplished. Look at how busy I am! Kinda reminds me of the way I hang out in my workout gear all day and think about going for a run. 🙂

At some point along your entrepreneurial journey, though, you’ve got to buckle down and start taking your business (and yourself) more seriously.

I know this is true. It happened to me. Just a few months ago, something shifted and I got serious about my business. I stopped making lists, at least for a while. I stopped checking my junk email 10x a day and spending hours on Pinterest.

The only thing I wanted to do was get things done. And I knew exactly what those things were, even without my list!

When your business really, really matters to you, you know what you have to do. It’s crystal freakin’ clear, friend.

When your business really, really matters to you, that's when you start getting things done.Click To Tweet

So my question for you is: What’s stopping you from taking your business seriously? In my case, it was lack of confidence. If this is the same for you, please know that you got this. I’ve got your back. Let’s do it together…

Let’s get super serious. Let’s trust our instincts.

This post is set to publish on Friday. I wanted to put it off because well, it’s been a crazy week and I’m beat. But I’m all serious business over here, what about you? Got a post due tomorrow? Shut down your email, stop surfing, conquer your FOMO, and block off the time to do it. We’ve got work to do! Let’s get it done…

2) Set the right priorities

You know I love my phases of business. We’ve got the early phase, the growth phase, and the blow-up phase.

Knowing what to do starts with looking at which phase you’re in, and then working back from that. This is because your goals will be different for each phase.

Let’s take a look.

In the early stage, your goal is to set a foundation and create a platform for your business. If this is you, your priorities are:

  • Brand development
  • Website, social profiles
  • Blogging
  • Building a following
  • Growing your email list

In the growth phase, you’re getting traction in your business and making some money. Your goal in this phase is to start shifting your business model from one-to-one, to one-to-many. Your priorities here look like:

  • Course creation
  • Webinars
  • Influencer marketing
  • Outsourcing non-core tasks

In the blow up phase, everything’s clicking. You’ve found your sweet spot, your courses are hugely profitable, and your webinars are converting off the charts. Your goal at this phase is to scale your business, so your priorities are:

  • On-demand webinars
  • Building a team
  • Advanced tools + automation

After that, the sky’s the limit! Now that you know your priorities, you can break them down even more and start taking action, which leads me to…

3) Turn your priorities into an action plan

There are a few ways you can do it.

1) Use the Eisenhower method

Named after former President Eisenhower, of course!

If you’re curious, this is just a simple box Eisenhower created to organize his own enormous to-do list. It’s become hugely popular because it works, and maybe it’ll work for you too. I actually prefer another method which I’ll share next, but I do like the way the box shifts my thinking.

Here’s what it looks like:

Use the Eisenhower box method to increase productivityHere are my big takeaways from the box:

  • Only do what you need to do right now – nothing more or less
  • Stop watching TV and wasting time
  • Always be thinking about what you can delegate

To be honest though, just about everything in between the Dos and Don’ts is where I get tripped up with this. I’m the kind of girl who has to know exactly what my week looks like. I’m always thinking After today, then what? And what about this HUGE list I have here:

Turning a scattered list into a To-do list on steroids will drastically increase productivity.

Here’s why I prefer this second way…

2) Use my Time Block Method

If your list looks anything like mine, it kinda sorta makes you want to take a nap. The problem with this list is that everything is a priority. How do you know what to do first?

Enter confusion and procrastination.

Let’s not get caught in that trap, k? Let’s break things down into manageable blocks of time.

The Time Block Method uses a simple Excel template that turns my scratchy list into this:

Increase productivity with my Time Block Template and guide.

Related: What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do Next

See how I’ve included even more things on the spreadsheet? That’s because I’m keepin’ it real, yo. Nothing derails my day faster than things that come up out of the blue.

It’s usually the stuff I know I need to do but pretend I don’t, until of course Wednesday comes and yep, I do have to run to the bank! So now I make it a point to include both personal and business tasks on the spreadsheet.

If you’re curious about the parentheses, all it means is the number of times a task needs to be performed. For instance, let’s say you estimate 4 hours to pitch a guest post, but you don’t want to do it all at once. Instead you want to work in smaller blocks of time. You’d put a (2) next to the task, which means do it twice. In this case, each time block would be 2 hours, for a total of 4.

Want to grab a copy of the template? You can download it here.

We’re almost there, just one more step to go…

On a separate spreadsheet, you transfer your time block onto a visual calendar so you can see your entire week at a glance.

Here’s what that looks like:

One of the best ways to increase productivity is to create a visual calendar with all of your week's tasks on there.

In this example, I bit off more than I can chew with my scratchy list. Some things are going to spill over to the next week. But the difference between a scratchy list and my Time Block Template is that things gets very specific. You know exactly what you plan to accomplish and how much time it will take. You also get a feel for your work habits this way and start to plan your time according to the way you like to work. Plus, you can re-prioritize tasks based on your must-do’s and how much time you really have each day.

Tip: I added Asana to my toolkit a few months ago and absolutely love the way I can assign tasks and track everything. What I do is enter the tasks/time-blocks from my calendar and then assign them to either myself or my assistant, with deadlines for each task. Asana even sends me reminders, which helps me increase productivity even more by keeping me focused and on track with projects. I highly recommend checking it out!

If you’d like to use my Time Block Template to be more productive than you already are, you can download it below.

Download my Time Block Template to help you increase productivity and get even more stuff done each week!

I hope these tips help you get a massive amount of stuff done! What productivity tools do you use?


4 Focus Areas to Build Your List Fast | Ready to get serious about getting more email subscribers? This post will help! It includes the exact 4 strategies I used to 10x my email list. Click through to get started growing your listYou know you need to grow your list, but what if you’re putting a lot of energy into it already and still only seeing 2-3 signups per day?

To that I say I feel your pain, friend. I was there not too long ago, and today, I’m growing my list at about 600-900 per month. Let me help you do the same…

Here are 4 focus areas for building your list and hitting your $$ goal:

1) Narrow down your niche

Why is this even important?

Because if you’re not growing your list as fast as you’d like, it could be that people don’t know how to digest what you’re writing.

People have a limited amount of space in their minds and need to be able to put you in a box. Give you a label, type thing. A girlfriend is different than a wife, a boy is different than a girl, a chair is different than a table. You get the gist. A travel blog is different than a cooking blog.

This doesn’t mean you can’t write about multiple things, but it does mean that people need to know what they are getting from you (and that niche is not a four-letter word!)

Plus, if YOU don’t even have an understanding of your own category, how can you expect others to? I’ve had so many clients come to me wondering why their content isn’t sticking, but then they stammer and stall when I ask them what they do and who they do it for.

To be fair, I’m at fault here too. When I first started blogging, I thought I was writing for my person but I was missing the mark entirely. Once I got my focus on, my list literally doubled, tripled and quadrupled.

#MORALOFTHESTORY Defining your one person and your one thing should be at the core of your list-building strategy.

2) Step up your social media game

Hopefully you’re optimizing your posts for SEO so people can find you through Google and Yahoo. But search traffic can take some time to build up. You have to be posting regularly and for some time before Google takes notice. In the meantime, start creating your own traffic source via social media.

Wanna know what that looks like?

Something like this:

  • You are everywhere, but then you pick 2-3 channels to become a ninja master of…You start building your audience, your business and your list at the same time.
  • You follow people who follow others in your niche. You follow people with relevant hashtags or keywords in their profile. You follow people who follow and comment on your posts.
  • Every time you publish a new post, share it everywhere. And then share it again a few days later. And then a week after that. And then one month later. I’m not saying you stalk people with your content, but the truth is you can’t be bashful about it. Feeds move quickly and your post can virtually disappear the minute you share it, so share it again and again to give it the best chance of people finding it. This blog promo plan will help you get started.

3) Create click-worthy freebies

Adding freebies (content upgrades) to my posts is the #1 thing that’s skyrocketed my list.

Ideally you’ll include a freebie in every blog post. Yes, that’s a lot to tackle but just so you know, it’s something to work toward. You can kick it off by adding a freebie to 5 of your most popular posts. If you’re curious, head over to Google Analytics (Behavior>Content>Landing Pages) to see which of your posts have the most page views.

What types of freebies to create?

The sky’s the limit. Cheat sheets, a PDF of the post, templates, swipe files, blueprints, checklists, Ebooks. Anything that will help your audience progress along their journey in a meaningful way. You don’t have to go crazy with it. Up to 10 pages is fine. It can even be a single page as long as it’s helpful. You don’t even need a fancy design. I know many successful bloggers copy their posts into Word, save as a pdf, and that’s it.

How to create your freebie?

My favorite tool is InDesign. There’s also Canva, Powerpoint, Keynote, Google Docs, Google Slides, and others.

Note: Not all freebies are created equal. Sign up rates depend largely on how relevant your post is to begin with, and how much your audience has a need for your freebie. Which, my friend, takes you back to tip #1.

4) Crank up the visual volume

This is a biggie. Such a biggie, and it’s still sinking in even for me. How your images look makes a huge difference in how much traffic your posts get.

You may know this already…over 75% of my traffic is from Pinterest, so it’s a no-brainer that I focus most of my efforts there.

HOLD UP – 75%?

Yep. Pinterest is huge for traffic. You definitely wanna get in on it. I literally spend hours tweaking, testing, refining, editing, chopping up my pins like some neurotic warrior princess.

And here’s how I know what visual content can do for your list:

A few months ago, I shared a pin that I knew would help my audience in a big way, and I wanted to share it in a BIG way too. So I saved my pin and kept checking in every day to see how many saves it got. After 2 weeks, it only got 400 saves and drove a tiny bit of traffic to my site. That bugged me, because a lot of people were missing out on my ridiculously helpful tip 🙂

So I created a second pin. This time I was more graphic, more descriptive. I made sure people knew what was behind the click and why they should take action. I even highlighted important points from my post. I went all out – there was no way people weren’t going to click, I thought.

And then poof! Just like that…

4 hours after I shared this new pin, it had more saves than the first one. PLUS, 15 people signed up within the first hour I shared it. Now get this. I was paying to promote my first pin, something like $200 a month. This new pin got more saves and shares than the pin I was paying for. That’s the power of visual content. I didn’t need to spend money to promote my pin anymore, because now I was getting crazy traffic.

#TIPOFTHEDAY Play around, look at other popular images, try different things, ABT (always be testing) and all that. If you know your post is what your audience needs, don’t settle for mediocre visuals. Make sure you shout it out loud and strong so it grabs people’s attention. Sometimes you have to shake things up a bit, right?



6 Marketing Tools for Your Blog + Business | Struggling with how to get started building your email list? This post was created with you in mind and shows you six essential tools to automate your list building. Click through for all the tools!You know you need an email list. I know it. We all know it.

But the thing is, where do you start? How are you going to get those subscribers?

Hopefully when you started your website design, you thought about how to optimize it beyond just a newsletter sign up form. What you really need is a complete opt-in sales process to turn web traffic into leads and paying customers.

The good news is there are some really simple marketing tools you can use to boost your website with an irresistible opt-in that builds your email list quickly and effectively.

This article will cover tools to create a killer opt-in and sales process:

  • Getting ideas for your opt-in
  • Designing your opt-in
  • Creating a landing page
  • Creating opt-in forms
  • Social sharing
  • Automate following up
  • Automate social posts



1. BuzzSumo: Content ideas for your opt-in


You might know what content your ideal customers need for their business to flourish, but sometimes the key to getting more leads and sales is shaping that same content into something they want.

And that can be tricky if you don’t know what people want to read. It makes sense to do a little research before you spend time creating your freebie.

One way to research popular themes in your niche is to use BuzzSumo. A content research and monitoring tool, BuzzSumo lets you see what content and blog posts are shared the most so you can see what’s trending right now for your specific topic.

BuzzSumo can help you answer these questions:

  • What topics resonate most with my audience?
  • What social networks should I focus on distributing my content?
  • What headlines are working and on which networks?
  • Which influencers are sharing and amplifying content related to my topic?
  • What other content are these influencers sharing?

Once you find popular content related to your opt-in idea, all you have to do is improve upon it with an epic piece of content and then  turn that epic content into a PDF.

Here’s a bit more information on the features and how BuzzSumo can help you create an irresistible lead magnet that grows your list:

  • Research Content: You can research any topic to see what posts get the most shares. All you have to do is input a topic or keyword and BuzzSumo will give you a list of posts ranked by the amount of social shares each receives! This is a great way to look for popular posts and then see how you can improve upon them and make them even more usable (like an epic blog post and then convert it into a lead magnet format!)
  • Research Headlines: Need headline ideas? With BuzzSumo you can see which headlines work the best and on what social networks, so you know how to position your opt-in headline.
  • Social networks: BuzzSumo monitors the most shared content across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest. This is a great way to gauge where to promote your freebie and which social networks to focus on.
  • View sharers: You’ll need to upgrade to the Pro version to see everyone who shared each post, as well as their Twitter followers and other content they’ve shared. This is how you would outreach to people who you mentioned in your content or people who shared the post so they can share yours too.
  • Filtering: There are so many filtering options! You can narrow your search results by, say Facebook or Pinterest, to see what content that is most popular on each network. You can also filter by date, domain (great way to spy on the most shared content for your competitors!) and by the type of content to find out which infographics or videos are most popular.
  • Content alerts: This is a great way to monitor when blog posts mention you, as well as when new blog posts are created by your competitors or around your keyword. You can even create a custom dashboard to monitor your alerts.
  • Twitter influencers: You need the Pro version for this, but is helpful if Twitter is your go-to social network. Just run a search for your keyword to find the top influencers, view the links they’re sharing and view their followers. A great way to build a target list to reach out to as part of your overall content strategy.
  • Trending Now: This dashboard will show you the most trending content for set categories such as fashion and marketing, but you can also create your own custom dashboards for topics or domains. You can even create RSS feeds to bring the content into Feedly.
  • Export data: With the pro version you can export any dashboard results to an Excel spreadsheet


  • Individual account (with limited features): Free
  • Pro – Starter plan for entrepreneurs & small teams. $99/month or $79/month with annual contract
  • Agency – all Pro features plus the Facebook Analyzer. $299/month or $239 with annual contract
  • Enterprise – Unlimited everything with advanced functionality: $999/month

Alternative: If budget is a concern, you can use Google’s Keyword Planner and Google search (both are free) to do your research.


2. Canva: Drag & drop design

Canva makes designing easy

Now that you’ve done your research and created your opt-in, how do you go about designing it, especially if you’re not a designer and need to get it done quickly?

That’s where Canva comes in.

Canva is a free design tool that makes designing anything fun and easy. You can easily turn your content into a stunning design with the drag and drop platform. It’s as easy as selecting a template and then dragging shapes, text boxes, images and icons from the library onto your template. You can even share your design and get feedback while you’re working on it.

Here’s some more info on Canva features:

  • Drag-and-drop template: Love, love, love the templates they have! Over 100 layouts to choose from – for everything from social media posts (Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr), presentations, ads, blog graphics, PLUS they just added an eBook template. They’re constantly adding new templates too or you can create a custom one.
  • Design elements: You have so many design elements to choose from… images, fonts, icons, shapes and images. The design possibilities are limitless! Some are premium and others are free, but even the premium ones are only $1. And you can upload your own images if you can’t find something from their library.
  • Design options: So many fonts, so many colors to really get creative. It’s pretty easy to crop photos and add filters to image, like for when you want to darken a background image with overlaying text. You can also adjust the transparency of shapes to add some dimension.
  • Pages: This is what makes this so simple for creating ebooks, where you need multiple pages. It’s super easy to add more pages, copy pages, and delete them.
  • Download, share & make public: You can download your file as a png, pdf or jpg or  post it directly to Facebook and Twitter. You can also email it as an editable graphic if you’re collaborating with a team.
  • Subscription service: If you need more design flexibility and consistency, you can upgrade for more features like customizable templates, magically resizable designs for difference social media channels, and creating your own branded theme with colors and fonts.


  • Free – The Canva library gives you access to a whole stack of free images, graphics and fonts.
  • Premium image – $1 from the premium library. You can try the elements in your design before purchasing them.
  • Canva for Work – For teams of designers and content creators. $12.95 monthly per team member or $9.90 per member billed annually.


3. Leadpages: Landing pages

Leadpages is top landing page builder

When you want people to opt-in for your freebie, you need a dedicated page where you can collect contact information.

The best way to do that is to create a landing page for it.

Landing pages are pages with the specific goal of capturing contact information in exchange for your freebie. They generally have nothing else on the page except for some information about your download, your logo and the form (no other navigation or links to distract people).

Using Leadpages is the easiest way to create high-converting landing pages.

A landing page builder, Leadpages lets you quickly and easily create landing pages using pre-designed templates that you can customize and integrate with your subscriber lists.

They put a lot of research into what prompts visitors to take action, so when you publish your landing page you know it’s already designed for conversions. All you have to do is add some great copy and tweak the design to fit your brand and then track how it’s performing.

Here’s what else you need to know about Leadpages to kick-start your lead generating system:

  • Templates: Here’s the best thing about them, you can pick from templates for any freebie you have, whether it’a a webinar, ebooks, PPC campaign, sales page and so on. All you have to do is add your copy, upload your logo and images, and change the colors to match your brand. And you can sort by highest converting pages.
  • Responsive + mobile friendly: Shows up just as perfect on any device!
  • Analytics: This is such a simple feature, which is what makes it so great. Right on your dashboard you can see how your page is converting so you know if you need to tweak and test another version to increase conversions.
  • Drop-in Pixel Tracking: It’s super easy to paste your Google Analytics code or Facebook pixel to keep track of campaigns.
  • Leadboxes: You don’t even need another sign-up plug in! Right from Leadpages you can build a sign up form and add it to any page on your site.   … a real time saver when you don’t want to deal with learning another tool.
  • Publishing: You can publish your landing page on Leadpages, WordPress or right on your Facebook page as a custom tab.
  • Email + CRM: Integrations include iContact, ShoppingCart, Aweber, Constant Contact, ActiveCampaign, Infusionsoft, ConvertKit, Drip, Emma, GetResponse, MadMimi, MailChimp, SendReach, Ontraport, Zoho, and Infusionsoft. With the advanced plan you can integrate Hubspot, Marketo, and Salesforce.


  • Standard – for entrepreneurs. $25 per month.
  • Pro – for small businesses. $49 per month. More advanced features like custom landing pages, priority support + live chat, A/B split testing, and more
  • Advanced – For teams and agencies. $199 per month. Enterprise-level features like integration with Hubspot, Marketo, and Salesforce, coaching programs, etc


4. ThriveLeads: Opt-in forms


Thrive Leads for opt-in forms

According to Thrive Leads, about 50-80% of website visitors will leave and never return. I don’t know where they got this stat from, but it sounds about right.

If you think about it, when was the last time you visited a website twice? It’s one thing to check out a fashion brand like Brandy Melville to see their new styles. But let’s face it, most of us entrepreneurs don’t have the bandwidth to create new products fast enough to make visitors crave coming back.

That’s why you need opt-in forms and sign up boxes on your site so you can capture contact information from every visitor. This is the quickest way to turn your website into a lead generating machine.

There are tons of WordPress plugins you can use to build your list, but my latest favorite is Thrive Leads.

I love how easy to create a great looking form, and the fact that they have tons of location options like header, sidebar, popup box, ribbon, footer, in the content and more.

Plus it’s full of features that go way beyond standard functionality. It also integrates with just about every email service provider and autoresponder out there, which makes it an ideal solution for both entrepreneurs and enterprise businesses.

Check out how easy it is to create opt-ins with Thrive  Leads:

  • Templates: No technical skill required! Just select a form template and start tweaking, designing, and adding your content. The pre-designed templates look great and are so simple to use. You can choose your brand colors and even select a Google font for your forms.
  • Integrations: Mailchimp,AWeber,GetResponse, MailPoet, Onraport, iContact, ConvertKit, ActiveCampaign, Infusionsoft, SendReach, KlickTipp, Sendy, ArpReach, Drip, Madmimi, Hubspot, SendinBlue, WebinarJam, GoToWebinar,Mandrill, Postmark, Mailbgun, Amazon SES, SendinBlue Email.
  • Form options: Slide-In, popups, exit intent trigger, smart exit, header, ribbons, widget forms, in-content, footer.
  • Visual Editor + Interface: Love the simple dashboard! I can select my form or add another form type without having to figure out where I am like some other plugins. It’s also easy to see your edits in real time, so you know exactly what your form will look like as you’re tweaking it.
  • Responsive + Mobile-friendly: …no mater what device!
  • Tutorials: I love their tutorials and webinars. I was able to create my first opt-in after about 20 minutes scraping through their materials, which are pretty comprehensive. Even if you’re not that techy in under 45 minutes you’ll know enough to create a high-converting opt-in.
  • A/B Testing: You can test your designs, triggers, offers, and form types. This is great when you want to compare offers or which placement gives you the most conversions!
  • Technical support: Free support for one year, which is really helpful. I’ve used the support forums pretty extensively and they’ve always been able to solve my problem. They respond generally within 24 hours and once the year is up you can purchase another year for only $40, or become a Thrive Themes member and get it free.
  • Upgrade: If you start out with a single site license and then need more, you can upgrade to an unlimited personal site license and pay only the $30 difference.
  • List building strategies: The plugin authors are big on helping you build your mailing list as fast as possible, not just the functionality of the plugin itself. They share list building strategies to help you get the most out of it.


  • Single site – for one site. $67.
  • Unlimited sites – Use on all of your own websites. $97
  • Agency License – $49 per month. For client sites

Alternatives: If this seems pricey, try Optin Forms or Magic Action Box Pro (I haven’t used Magic Action Box Pro but have heard great things). Optin Forms has fewer integrations and is still super easy to set up and use.

5. AWeber: Email marketing & auto responders

Aweber email marketing management


Syncing your opt-ins to an email service provider like AWeber will help you build relationships with people who have shown an interest in your business.

Sending out regular emails to your subscribers is a brilliant way to connect with your target audience on a deeper level, and also a proven method for converting clients.

Aweber is a popular email platform for your campaigns because it’s easy to use, affordable and very professional.

It’s got a ton of features, with gorgeous plug-and-play designs that will impress your subscribers, grab their attention and pull them back to your site.

Here’s how Aweber will help amplify your opt-in and your business:

  • Easy to use: Aweber is very simple to use and doesn’t require coding. Even if you’re not techy, you can build a beautiful email in no time at all and the monitor conversion. You can also use one account for lists across multiple sites, which is a huge advantage if you’re dealing with several brands.
  • Stock Images: If you need images for your emails, they’ve got more than 6,000 to choose from.
  • Templates: They’ve got over 700 design templates to use that are really visually appealing for a wide range of marketing purposes. The designs are responsive so they’ll look great on mobile devices too.
  • Auto responder: Successful email campaigns are built with auto-responders, which means that you plan your emails ahead of time and then schedule them at predefined intervals once they opt-in. This is a huge time saver because by automating you emails like this, you can be reaching more and more people in less time and with less effort. You create your emails once, and then queue them up to send out on the back end. It’s also a great way to filer out discounts and offers over a period of time, as well as delivering courses and tutorials for new subscribers.
  • Reporting: Reporting and tracking are really great. You can easily see the number of emails sent, how many opens, clicks, undelivered emails and more.
  • Split Testing: You can send out different versions of your emails on a few contacts and then take the best performing one and send it out to the rest of your contacts. It’s a great way to test headlines and intros to know which ones really grab people’s attention.


  • Up to 500 subscribers: $19 a month
  • 501 to 2,500 subscribers: $29 a month
  • 2,501 to 5,000 subscribers: $49 a month
  • 5,001 to 10,000 subscribers: $69 a month
  • 10,001 to 25,000 subscribers: $149 a month

Alternatives: MailChimp and MadMimi are both great tools for mailing lists that are super easy to use and really visually appealing.

6. SumoMe: Social sharing buttons + shareable images

Sumome image sharer buttons

This tool is more about having strong social media and getting more traffic to your site and your opt-in. It’s a simple way to amplify your social presence even more.

The SumoMe plugin is one of the best tools on the market for increasing social shares and driving traffic through social networks. It’s quick and easy and bursting with features.

When people hover over an image, they can share it. How cool is that?

SumoMe is free and if you want even more functionality like A/B testing, premium templates, more customization, tracking and more you’ll want to upgrade.

Here’s what you can do with SumoMe:

  • Design: SumoMe has incredibly attractive sharing buttons. And you can easily change the colors, sizing, style, and number of buttons, and more!
  • Shareable images: This is a great thing about this plugin. I think Shareaholic has this feature too, when you hover on images you can have multiple share buttons come up Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest so people can share your images.
  • Ease of use: Simple sharing to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and more. And it’s easy to set up and integrate with most email marketing services, like AWeber, Mailchimp, GetResponse, MadMimi, Constant Contact, Infusionsoft and more.
  • Flexible placement: And you can place the buttons on the top and/or bottom of your posts, or have them float on the side of your content. Place them above or below your posts.
  • Text Highlighter: This one is pretty cool, when people highlight a phrase on your site, a box will appear asking them if they want to tweet it. Pretty awesome, right?
  • Analytics: You can see the top pages, number of clicks and shares right from your WordPress dashboard. You can also see how much of your posts are being read so you can optimize them.


  • Free – just install the plugin and get free access
  • Upgrade: SumoMe Pro includes all their apps (List builder Pro, Sharing Pro, Heat Maps Pro and more); varies from $20 – $119+ per month depending on your site’s traffic
  • Visit SumoMe

Alternative: Shareaholic is another free sharing plugin that works with WordPress. I had some problems getting the image sharer to work correctly, but didn’t do much testing and have heard it works well for others.







What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do Next (For Your Blog or Business) | When you’re starting your blog or business, there’s so much to do and only you to do it all. And even though there are plenty of experts who can help, one person will tell you to do this and another person will tell you to do that. Don’t worry, help is here! This post gives you a simple 3-step action plan so you know exactly what to do and in which order. Click through for each step!Knowing what to do next for your blog or business can be hard. There’s so much to do and only you or your team of two to do it.

Yes, there are plenty of experts who can help.

The problem is that Expert #1 will tell you to do this, and Expert #2 will tell you to do that. When you search Google for guides and tutorials to help, somehow you wind up feeling even more overwhelmed than you were before.

One thing’s for sure:

There’s no way you can do it all at once.

And that’s your answer right there.

When I started my design business a few years ago, one of the first things I did was to create a list of everything I wanted to achieve over a 6-month period. Then, I transferred my list onto a spreadsheet.

Here’s what it looked like:


  • Get one $20K client
  • Write 4 blog posts
  • Launch a webinar
  • Create an Ebook
  • Create an online course
  • Contact organizations for speaking engagements
  • Create a presentation
  • Create a newsletter
  • And more

I don’t need to show you the other months because they all looked the same. 🙂

Can you see the problem here? Putting pen to paper got me moving in the right direction, but my goals were unrealistic. I was just starting out and had never written a blog post, didn’t have a topic for a webinar (forget about knowing how to create one!) and had absolutely no idea how I was going to land a big client.

Plus, I was clueless when it came to Ebooks and guides.

It was too much. I actually stopped referring to my spreadsheet because February, March, and April were mirror images of January. By trying to accomplish everything at once, I wound up not being able to achieve most of the items on my list.

More importantly, I didn’t know HOW to achieve them.

I kept staring at my list thinking:

Okay, I want to land a big client, start a blog, do a webinar, create an Ebook. Now what? Where’s the big client coming from? How’s the webinar coming together? Where do I even start with the Ebook?

Absofreakinlutely no idea. Until one day it hit me:

I’d been tracking the wrong goals.

Sure, writing down “Get one big client” looked great on paper. Problem was, I had no idea how to do it. Believe me, I worked at getting that client every day. I sent emails, reached out to subscribers, called friends and family, sent connection requests.

I knew I was getting close, but something was off.

I decided to create an action plan and break my goals down into smaller steps.

Here’s what finally worked

First, I picked 2 goals (get a big client and start a blog) and created milestones for them. Then, I broke them down into bite-sized tasks.

For the client goal, I decided to focus on how many connections, contacts, and emails I would send each month. For the blog goal, I decided to start by picking a topic and writing my first blog post.

(Which seems pretty straightforward now, but I was stumped with the whole blog thing at the time).

My list started to look like this:

  • Post in 2-3 Facebook groups
  • Post in 2-3 LinkedIn groups
  • Send LinkedIn invitations to 500 people
  • Pick 3 target industries
  • Create a prospect list for first industry
  • Create an email sequence to send to prospects
  • Sign up for a free trial
  • Write a 700-word blog post about web strategies

Now we’re talkin’. Finally, I had measurable and attainable goals.

The 3-Step Action Plan

What helped me narrow down my goals is a simple 3-step action plan.

Here’s how it works:

You take your high-level goals and break them down into months, weeks, and days using my Time Block Template. For instance, a 6-month plan would become:

  • Monthly goals
  • Weekly tasks
  • A daily to-do list

With the action plan, you can drill down on specific tasks related to your monthly goals, PLUS any personal things you need to do (working out, errands, breakfast, and so on). Throw everything in there and estimate how long each task will take.

By including both personal and professional tasks on the list, you’ll have a crystal clear view of the week and fewer surprises that come up.

You’ll start to get a sense for how long things really take to get done. For instance, there are times when I’m overly ambitious and estimate 4 hours for an 8-hour task. When that happens, I do my best to forecast it better the next time.

Sandra Clayton 3-Step Action Plan - weekly tasks

Next up, place your list of tasks onto a visual calendar. Block out hours for everything on your list. I can’t tell you how much this step has helped me. It’s like turning your to-do list into an infographic where you see exactly what you need to do and when you need to do it.

No more questions. No more scratching your head. No more wasting time.


Sandra Clayton 3-Step Action Plan-weekly calendar

Every Sunday night, create a new calendar so that you’re full-steam ahead come Monday morning.

At the end of each day, make sure you tweak your calendar according to what your got done – or didn’t get done. No matter how much we plan, there are things that will come up and that’s okay. That’s why the action plan is there. You can shift tasks around until you get it all in there.

The best part?  You won’t feel overwhelmed anymore. There’s only so much time in a week…when your time blocks are filled, your week will be too. Push back everything else on your list to the next week.

Tip: I recommend jotting down 6 months worth of goals as a starting point. For instance, what things must you absolutely do today (get clients), and which ones can wait until next week or even next month (tweak website, update social profiles)? If you decide that you need clients immediately, make sure you put it on the top of your list.

To grab a copy of my Time Block Template, download it below:

Download my Time Block Template to help you increase productivity and get even more stuff done each week!
100+ Ways to Market Your Online Business On a Small Budget | Ready to market your business like a boss? I've got over 100 ways to do it! Just pick one or two to start, test them out and tweak as you go. With so many to choose from, you'll find marketing tips that work for you. Click through to see the full guide. Woo!

100+ Ways to Market Your Online Business, Even On a Small Budget | Looking for new ways to market your small business? Whether you’re just getting started or have been in business for a while, these tips are for you! I’ve grouped them in 2 sections: for when you’re starting out and when you’re ready to take it to the next level. Either way, there’s something in here for every entrepreneur and business owner to help build your brand and get more customers. Some are new, some you’ve tried, and others may not feel right for you and that’s okay. With so many ways to market your business, just pick one or two, test them out and tweak as you go. Click through for all the ways!
There’s no question about it. Whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for a while, marketing can be intimidating.

What do you do first? How do you know what will work for your business? What steps should you take? I hear questions like these all the time, and I get it.

Marketing can seem like a moving target, especially when the way you approach it today is much different than yesterday and probably won’t look the same tomorrow. Just keeping up with the changes can seem like a full-time job.

And yet, what matters even more than HOW you get the word out about your business is your mindset when it comes to marketing.

Here’s how to think about it:

  • Pick one technique and follow through with it. Don’t try to do everything at once.
  • Use a tiny budget and test things out one at a time, then create a larger campaign around what works.
  • Don’t try to be all things to all people. Focus on finding the one perfect customer out there you were born to serve.

Now that you have the right marketing mindset, I want to share with you some ways to market your online business. These ideas work for any business type, just keep in mind that the best techniques for a start-up may look different from those for an established business.

Use these 100+ marketing ideas as inspiration for your business. I’ve tried to group them so you can pick what makes sense based on where you’re at in your business. Some of these you may have tried, some may be new, and others may not feel right for you and that’s okay. There are plenty of ideas to choose from, so pick a few, test them out and tweak as you see fit.


Start with these ways to market your online business when you're starting out.


  1. Create a website. A simple one-page site or even a landing page will do the trick. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or take months to build. You just need a hub to drive traffic to. Tip: Use Wix or Squarespace if you don’t have the budget for a designer.
  1. Create a Facebook page. Keep fans engaged and get a bump in engagement with helpful and inspiring posts around your business.
  1. Create a LinkedIn profile. Treat it like your own personal website page so that people know exactly what you do and how it can benefit them. Add in keywords so that you show up during searches. Need some help? Check out this post for how to supercharge your profile.
  1. Create a Twitter account. Include a link to your website right in the description and use hashtags so people can find you.
  1. Create an Instagram account and start building your following. Use your amazing visuals and images to build your brand. Instagram is great if you have a graphic product or if you’re a photographer, designer or fashion stylist.
  1. Create a Pinterest profile and pin videos and images of your products and your business.
  1. List your business and URL on your personal Facebook and Google+ profiles.
  1. Create a Google My Business page. Select appropriate categories and upload photos of your business and include keywords in both your descriptions and in your images. Add a link to your website in your description.
  1. List your business on Yelp, with some photos of your business and a call to action. Send a friendly email to customers with a link and ask them to leave a review. Do this after you complete a project and your customers are thrilled!
  1. List your business on Yahoo Local, Manta, and other local directories to give you a leg up on local search.
  1. Communicate the same benefit-rich message everywhere…on your website, email, social media, business cards and more… so that people connect with your brand and understand the value of what you provide, online and offline. If you’re struggling with your core message, here’s a template that will help.
  1. Get creative with your business card so when you give it to people at networking events, they remember you. Don’t just list your name and phone number like other people do. Add a benefit-rich message with images and graphics and a free consultation or coupon on the back.
  1. Go to book stores and slip your new business cards into books that talk about your niche.
  1. Get in the habit of telling everyone what you do and what you’re working on. It helps reinforce it for you, plus you never know who might bump into at Starbucks or the grocery store.
  1. Call or email your family and friends and let them know about your business and ask them if there’s anyone they know who could use your services.
  1. Make cold calls. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call people. Marketing is a numbers game and the more people you call, the faster you get to yes, plus it’s great way to get comfortable telling people what you do.
  1. Send a personal email to 20 people you know, including friends and acquaintances, and tell them how excited you are about your new business and offer them a special discount or package just for the opportunity to work with them.
  1. Send handwritten letters to a special list of people that you crave working with and include a flash drive or a link to a promo video where you introduce yourself and your services.
  1. Send thank you cards with your personal signature to show people how much you appreciate their business and give them that personal touch so you stand out from the crowd.
  1. Over-deliver on everything that you do. People will remember it and tell their friends. 
    Idea #20: Over-deliver on everything you do for customers. They'll remember and tell people about it.Click To Tweet
  1. Start a business blog and remember to include keywords for SEO so that people can find you.
  1. Volunteer your services or products to a cause you really care about in exchange for a testimonial, then feature it on your website, blog, Facebook and email. Ask the charity or non-profit organization to include your link on their website too for extra traffic.
  1. Join groups and organizations around your interests and the hobbies you love. I personally like Women in Music and there are many others you can get involved with that reflect your interests.
  1. Give away a special gift or incentive to those people who were you very first clients to thank them for their business and to let them know how much you appreciate them.
  1. Ask happy customers for testimonials and then put them on your website so others can see the results they would get working with you. Social proof like that is so powerful!
  1. Give special deals to customers you absolutely love working with. You’ve worked hard to get them, now keep them! Let them know about new programs you’re running and offer loyalty discounts on their next purchase.
  1. Send a personal email to customers and ask them for referrals. As soon as you wrap up a project and your customer is thrilled, ask if there is someone they know who might benefit from working with you. You can even create a referral program, where you offer discounts.
  1. Offer free consultation calls. This is a great way for people to try your product out at no risk. Put it in your email signature, business card and on your website.
  1. Contact a shared work space near you and offer an educational workshop. Let them help boost attendance by including it in their newsletter.
  1. Have a grand opening party. Or a grand-reopening party. Or a one-year anniversary party. Or a 10th fabulous customer party! You get the idea, be creative with how you can engage your local community. You can even turn it into an online event.
  1. Partner with other businesses. Referral partners can be a great way to build your business. Try to find non-competing partners who sell to the same customers you do.
  1. Give a testimonial to a company you’ve worked with on their site or create a LinkedIn recommendation for an someone who has provided you value. Just make sure you can actually say something authentic, even if it’s to comment on how their great content has helped you.
  1. Be active on Google+. Join Communities and answer questions. Be engaging and ask questions too. It’s a great way to get your blog posts and content in front of others.
  1. Attend trade shows and conferences around your niche or interests. Walk the floor, introduce yourself and hand out your business cards. Bonus if you can find conferences that include time for open networking and socializing.
  1. Exhibit at industry trade shows. These can be expensive, so you may want to share booth space with another non-competing company. Create a press release around it and reach out to media with your booth number and info about the show.
  1. Organize a Meetup group and invite people in your city to join. Also reach out to other similar Meetups to let them know about your new group and ask if they’d like to join.
  1. Join industry organizations and networking groups in your area. They’re a great way to practice your elevator pitch and get comfortable talking about yourself. Be ready with business cards but let it be organic. Networking is just like content marketing – give first and then make the ask. Engage people in conversation before you go on about yourself.
  1. Join a local Chambers of Commerce. These can be great when you’re first starting out. Meet other professionals, participate in committees, and even offer to give presentations.
  1. Sponsor local charities and events to get super visible within your own community.
  1. Donate to local or national charities and get listed on their donor’s page with a link back to your website.
  1. Print some flyers and mail them to people in your area or put them up in local cafes and coffee shops.
  1. Go to strip malls and shopping centers and put the flyers on cars. You can even put them on cars parked in the street if you’re in a city. Tip: people will only pay attention if it really speaks to them, so play around with your message a bit.
  1. Give away branded promotional items, like t-shirts, mugs, hats, pens and key chains.
  1. Contact a niche publication and see if you can purchase a partial list. Filter it by region to keep your costs down. You already know they speak to your audience! Then send a personal email introducing yourself. Just make sure you nail down your message before you do this.
  1. Advertise your products and services on Craigslist.
  1. Create a shop page on Etsy where you sell your products and then create Pinterest pins to drive traffic to your store.


Next, use these ways to market your online business and double sales!

  1. Create a Gravatar so that when you guest post and comment on blogs and forums, people see your picture next to your author bio instead of an anonymous pic.
  1. Grow your Twitter followers. Look at what your competitors are tweeting and who their followers are, then post similar tweets and follow their followers. Many of them will follow you back once they see your tweets. For the exact steps I used to grow my following, check out this post.
  1. Hold a high value, information-packed webinar where you give people a ton of value and show them how to do something. This will help you build your list and showcase your authority. Bonus: Create a Facebook ad and drive signups to a landing page for your webinar.
  1. Build a mailing list. Email lists are one of the most powerful and cost-effective ways to grow your business and increase your revenue at the same time.
  1. Subscribe to HARO (help a reporter out) and get alerts when media are looking for ideas in your niche, then pitch a story around what they’re looking for. This tip works well for online businesses with a national or global audience.
  1. Use Twitter to find journalists and editors. Follow them, retweet their tweets, and then pitch them your story! Look for handles of big-name and local publications. Bonus: Use Followerwonk to do your research.
  1. Create a freebie. It can be a checklist, cheetsheat, blueprint, ebook or video series. Just make sure it’s got loads of valuable content that people would pay for.  Let people download it in exchange for their email address.
  1. Turn your Pinterest profile into a business account. Add branded watermarks to your images and use rich pins so people recognize your business and your brand.
  1. Find pins to share related to your business and then use Tailwind to schedule them so you can scatter your pins throughout the day.
  1. Hold your own local event or host an event with a non-competing business and then promote the event to your subscribers and on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.
  1. Use your mailing list. Stay top of mind and build deeper relationships with your subscribers by reaching out to them at least twice a month.
  1. Get busy on LinkedIn. Use it, especially if you’re B2B. Make connections and start conversations with people you want to work with on LinkedIn. Since people keep their profiles current, you’ve got a huge database right there! This post gives you some power tips on LinkedIn prospecting.
  1. Participate in 2-3 Facebook groups every day and give away as much value for free as you can so people start to see you as the expert. Check the group policy before posting anything too promotional or salesy.
  1. Join LinkedIn groups. Look for ones in your industry or topic-related that are active and have real conversations happening, not all promotional.
  1. Publish your own book with loads of great value and mail it to businesses in your community. This way they’ll always have it around and will start to think of you when they need the services you provide.
  1. Use Leadpages to create a landing page for your freebie and let people know what they’re going to receive by downloading, with your form right up top so they can see it right away.
  1. Use Facebook ads to drive traffic to your freebie landing page and use the same bullet points for consistency. Start with a small budget until you get the conversions you want. This post will help you get started with Facebook ads.
  1. Create your own Facebook group. Participating in Facebook groups is a great way to boost your visibility, and creating your own group will skyrocket both your engagement and your business over time.
  1. Create your own LinkedIn group. Members automatically view group managers as experts, so groups are a great platform to share, network and promote your business.
  1. Guest post on other people’s blogs. Reach out to popular bloggers in your industry who have a lot of traffic. Tip: a lot of comments usually means high traffic.
  1. Hold Facebook contests. Contests are a great way to build your list. Pick a prize that your fans will go crazy for and make it really easy to join. Check out this post on how to create a Facebook contest.
  1. Optimize your site for search engines. Overlook this step and you’re missing out on a big opportunity to get traffic to your site. The right tweaks to things like page titles, tags, keywords and content can magically boost your rankings and even get you on the first page of Google! I go into more detail about SEO here.
  1. Create a promo video and upload it directly to Facebook for a boost in organic reach.
  1. Create a promo or content video and upload it to YouTube and Facebook. Use search keywords and your branded keywords in your title, tags and description to make it easy to find and share.
  1. Turn a post into an infographic on your website and add social sharing buttons to encourage sharing. Then promote it on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, and Flickr, and submit it to infographic directories like Submit Infographics.
  1. Comment on popular blogs and include your website so when people read your comment they can find out more about you. Bonus tip: include a link to relevant content, like an ebook or a cheat sheet and enjoy an increase in subscribers.
  1. Create a Quora profile and answer questions that pop up around topics you know. This way you can showcase your expertise without being pushy, and as you impress people with how much you know, they will naturally want to take the next step and find out more about you.
  1. Create an epic piece of content. Use BuzzSumo to research the most popular content in your niche. You’ll see the number of shares for each social media site. Then create your own post on the same topic, only make yours better…longer, use more pics, more descriptive… things like that. This is a fast way to put yourself on the first page of Google!
  1. Promote your blog everywhere, even on sites like Reddit, Digg, Delicious,, BizSugar – you’d be surprised how much of a bump you can get in traffic.
  1. Use Periscope to broadcast a live video to your potential customers and let them get to know you personally, as if you were in the same room. Make sure your video is packed with content. Think of challenges and tutorials you can stream.
  1. Create a Q&A post where you interview other people in your industry with a link back to their website. Then let them know about the post and encourage them to share it. Tip: Look for bloggers with a decent following if you can (and do it anyway, even if you can’t!).
  1. Allow comments on your blog and then take the time to read them and respond to them. If you see common questions or themes, you can always use that as inspiration for your next blog post.
  1. Create a speaker demo reel and offer to speak at conferences and associations in your niche. If you’re new to speaking, try joining a local Rotary Club and offer to speak there first before branching out to a wider audience. Bonus – bring a friend to your first talk and ask them to record you.
  1. Turn your content into a Powerpoint or Keynote presentation and upload it to Slideshare, then include it in your LinkedIn profile so members can see it.
  1. Hold a telesummit. Showcase your expertise, build your fan base and grow your mailing list at the same time!
  1. Offer a free email course and promote it on your website and social media, then feature it in your newsletter and include share buttons so people can share it with their friends.
  1. Feature your newsletter sign up where visitors can see it right away. Try putting it at the top of your site and throughout your content, or use a popup or welcome gate so that people can’t miss it.
  1. Upload promo videos onto your Facebook page for a boost in organic reach, especially if it’s already active with a good fan base.
  1. Join affiliate programs. If there are online tools or products you love and use every day, sign up for affiliate programs and talk about them on your website, with a link back to the product’s site. When someone clicks on the link, you get a commission.
  1. Offer a content upgrade. Turn a blog post into a checklist or cheat sheet and add it as a download in the middle and at the end of your posts. This is one of the most powerful ways to grow your mailing list, especially when people love all the value you provided. Leverage it! 
    Idea #86: Need another way to grow your list? Create a content upgrade.Click To Tweet
  1. Use your Facebook timeline cover photo to promote your new blog post, webinar or freebie and enjoy the boost in engagement and newsletter signups. You’ve got prime real estate here (it’s the first thing people see on your page), so no sense wasting it! Include a call to action so people know where to click.
  1. Add live chat to your website so that visitors can ask questions and get them answered live. This makes it super convenient for them and at the same time you keep them engaged longer so they don’t leave.
  1. Start a podcast. Interview experts, authors, bloggers and influencers and also feature your own content.
  1. Invite others to post on your blog. Guest blogging like this can be great for you and other bloggers too. Build out your blogosphere and enjoy the boost in traffic!
  1. Create a weekly Q&A video series. Use the videos to answer common themes and questions around your niche, then upload them to your website, YouTube and Facebook.
  1. Add social sharing buttons on your blog or website. The more shares you have, the more people will want to share too because they will see you as an authority. Tip: Use Shareaholic or SumoMe.
  1. Add share buttons to your blog images. This way when people hover over them, they can easily share to Facebook or Pinterest. This works great for infographics too.
  1. Create an industry round-up. Make a note of your favorite new tools, tips or content you come across each month, then feature them in a Round Up series in your newsletter.
  1. Create press releases and send to local media. Pay attention to the editorial calendar for local magazines and newspapers, then pitch your story around special segments or trending topics.
  1. Give bloggers in your niche a free sample of your product and ask them to review it. The more mentions and links back to your site, the more traffic and exposure you have!
  1. Use Feedly to collect other people’s content. Pull in your favorite blogs and online sources so you have them all in one place. When you find articles your audience would find interesting, share it right from here.
  1. Use Buffer to schedule content. Instead of sharing your Feedly posts immediately, schedule them to go out with Buffer so you can spread your posts out.
  1. Use Hootsuite to keep track of mentions and schedule original content you want to send each month.
  1. Create IFTT recipes for Feedly, Buffer and Twitter so that when a new article is added to your Feedly, it immediately goes into your Buffer queue for Twitter.
  1. Upload an exclusive, information-packed video to a private page on your site and then send a link to your subscribers. Make sure your video has some extra valuable tips they can’t find anywhere else on your site!
  1. Create a 5-day challenge that helps people achieve something they want to do but have been putting off. Make it simple and actionable, so they really feel like they’re getting closer to their goal just by completing the challenge. Then promote your challenge in Facebook groups, on Periscope and on your site. Let your subscribers know about it.

I could keep going… but I think I’ll cut it here.

With all these ways to market your business, there’s definitely a few that will work for you, whether you’re a startup or have been in business for a while. Just pick some that seem like they may work and try them out. I recommend a minimum of 3 months to test each one. This will give you enough time to experiment, edit, tweak, revise and update so you can measure how well each technique works for your business.


Download the cheatsheet: 100+ ways to market your business




List Building Tips for Entrepreneurs & Bloggers | If you’re ready to build a mailing list, you’re in the right place! Here are 11 tips for newbie bloggers and business owners to help you step up your game and get more subscribers who can’t wait to read your posts and content. Click through to check out all the tips! Every year, your list will drop by about 20-25%.  That’s okay, because what you really want is a list of highly engaged readers who love your content.

So if you update your lists every now and then, you’ll have room to add new people, the ones who really want to hear from you.

If you need a good place to start with list building, here are 11 easy ways to grow your email list.

Here’s how to grow a quality email list

Segment your mailing lists

Knowing your audiences will help determine the best types of email lists to build and maintain. For prospects, create a list and build campaigns around content to engage them. You can use a separate list for existing customers to keep them up-to-date on company news, products and events.

Launch a blog

Create a business blog and start creating useful, search-friendly, content. This is the best way to encourage people to subscribe to your blog. As you publish articles, you can combine excerpts into monthly newsletters and encourage people to forward your emails to their friends, family, and colleagues that aren’t already on your email list. Make sure your content is amazing so people stay subscribed.

Collect email addresses at in-person events

Add any business cards you collect from trade shows and networking events to your databases. Make a note of your conversations and any topics that seemed of interest and send a personalized email to each prospect. Being thoughtful about your communications will help keep people engaged and interested after the event.

Create partnerships

Co-promote through an affiliate’s email list or website, guest post on a blog, and use social media to generate interest in your product or service. Offer a way to stay in touch by signing up for the email list. There are plenty of creative ways you can collect email addresses online, although it can get technical on the back end. If you need help setting up these functions, consider an online marketing agency.

Offer new content

Write a free ebook or create an online resource or template that you give in exchange for someone’s contact information. This can be effective because you’re providing valuable information about your product/service while in exchange for someone’s information.

Make sure your Subscribe box is visible

If you’re creating good content, your blog and website will become a magnet for potential subscribers. Make sure that readers can easily find your subscribe box. Headers, sidebars, at the bottom of your blog, at the top of your website — these are all viable locations to add a sign-up box. It’s worth A/B testing the placement of the subscriber box. You can start by placing it in the sidebar of your site and at the end of each blog article.

Host a webinar

Host a webinar and promote it in your emails, through social media, and on your website. Create powerful sales copy that lets people know how they can benefit by participating in your webinar. By encouraging participants to opt-in, you can substantially grow your mailing list, even if only a handful of people actually attend.

Hold a contest on social media

A great way to generate some buzz while gathering email addresses and leads is to hold a social media contest and offer a prize such as a gift card, event, or other product or service related to your business. Put up an eye-catching photo or tasteful graphic that stands out in newsfeeds so that people will particpate and share your contest.

Promote your content on your Facebook page

Create an image for your offer to use as your cover photo with a call-to-action button. Link the button to a landing page and request email addresses for access. Promote the same opt-in offer on your timeline. Make sure your landing page includes social sharing buttons to encourage prospects to share your offer with others.

Tell people what to expect in their inbox

One of the biggest mistakes marketers make is not informing new subscribers about what they’ll be receiving. If you mainly will be sending out coupons, let people know. If you push content to your email list before it comes out anywhere else, make sure your subscribers know that they are receiving freshly minted content first, before anyone else. Honesty and transparency breed loyalty, and the email list is the place to start.

Use autoresponders to confirm subscriptions

Overall, sending confirmations in a timely fashion lets people know that they successfully subscribed. Now is a good time to remind them when to expect their first email from you, how frequently to expect emails from you, and what the emails will be about. You may even want to include a small 3 to 5 question survey to find out what subscribers want to receive. This way you can tailor your emails to their needs. If you do include a survey in your confirmation, keep them short with simple answer options.

Don’t be discouraged if your numbers aren’t skyrocketing immediately. List building takes time, planning and hard work. It will take some time to find and connect with people who consider your products and services a “must-have”. The rewards will come down the road as you increase your ROI through cross-promotion and up-selling. Apply the steps shown here to point the needle in the right direction and start growing your numbers.


How To Create Irresistible Call To Action Buttons That Get Clicked | If you're ready to convert more readers into customers, this post is for you! It includes 11 tips for entrepreneurs and bloggers that will help you write persuasive call to action buttons that readers can’t wait to click. Check out all the tips here! When was the last time you spent more than 5 minutes reading a subject line? How about a navigation link? What about a form title?

In the world of marketing, short copy rules. People love it. It’s inviting and unintimidating. People read a short title and think, “Good, I won’t have to spend a lot of time on this.”

But that same short copy can be really hard to write. You have to grab people’s attention. You have to encourage them to take action. When you have less copy to play with, every word counts that much more.

Copy that can be easily overlooked is on those little buttons we use everywhere. It’s easy to treat them as an afterthought. But after spending months brainstorming your campaign, you shouldn’t settle for a simple “read more” or “submit” button, because that’s not going to have the big impact you need.

Those little call to action buttons and links actually have a big job to do. They have to convince people to click through and take the next step.

Follow along with the checklist below so you don’t miss any crucial components.

Elements of a Call to Action That Works

1) Use actionable language

One of the reasons why people may not click your CTA is that it doesn’t really push people to act. If you use static messages like “free trial” or “demo”, you’re not telling them what to do. It’s all too easy for people to glaze over buttons like these.

Effective copy boils down to action-oriented, second-person verbs (talking to “you”). Try some of these verbs for your next CTA:

  • “Get more info”
  • “Discover”
  • “See full article”
  • “Tell me more”
  • “Get my (book, guide, template)”
  • “See what happens next”
  • “Count me in”

Buttons like these empower and excite readers to click on your button. Keeping your CTA copy short and sweet also helps make it stand out from the rest of your copy and design elements.

2) Avoid friction verbs

“Read more” is a pretty common call to action. We see it everywhere. Compared to buttons like “free trial”, you’d think it has a leg up. For starters, it’s a verb. Theoretically it should push people to act.

Not all CTAs work the same today.

Verbs like “read more” are friction verbs that cause uneasiness and apprehension with some people. They can easily turn them off by seemingly inconveniencing people who don’t have a lot of time to spare.

Friction verbs imply work that needs to be done, something lost, or time that needs to be given up in exchange for the click. The more you imply work with CTAs, the less likely you are to get a click. For people who are busy and don’t have a lot of time on their hands, friction verbs can actually discourage them from taking action.

Ultimately, you want your conversion path to be as easy and painless as possible.

3) Speak directly to your customers

The difference between average conversion rates and rockstar conversion rates is related to how well your messaging aligns with what your target audience needs.

Use your buyer personas to get a window into the motivations, behaviors, and goals of your ideal customer.

For example, if you know your customers don’t have time for heavy reading, instead of saying “read more” you can say “view more” or “discover what happens next”. These buttons highlight benefits and create intrigue, and at the same time downplay the reading that’s behind the click.

4) Make the actions clear

Too often we just put buttons on a page because we think they need to be there. If you plan your campaign ahead of time, you know what action you want people to take. What should they do once they read your copy? Is this some kind of offer, a new product, or something they can download? Maybe you just want them to click to the next page. Knowing what action you expect people to take will help frame the copy that leads up to your CTA so you can get the conversion.

5) Create copy that engages

Buttons are only going to get a click if your copy sparks action. When you’re creating button copy, you want to make it work in conjunction with your landing page or blog content to convince visitors to take the next step.

One way to do that is to avoid using any internal links in your copy so you can keep the focus on your button. Another thing that will help you create engaging copy is to understand where your target audience is in terms of purchasing. Are they new prospects just getting to know you, or are they middle of the funnel and researching trial options?

When it comes to button copy, pay attention to the small details. If your page is promoting a new guide, make sure you call it a guide in your button or link rather than an ebook or whitepaper. These details make a big difference because readers know exactly what they’re getting.

6) Create a sense of urgency

People are busy. While they’re browsing your website or blog, they’re also scheduling meetings, interacting with emails or taking calls. Anything they can put off until later has a good chance of being shelved.

The best way to keep them away from these distractions and focused on your button is to create some sense of urgency.

Help people to perceive your button as an urgent call that needs to be acted upon right now by adding words like “now” or “today”. This way you’ll remind them to do something right now, before their phone rings again.

7) Be clear with your value proposition

People need to know why they should take action at this specific moment. They could be skeptical or have questions. They may not know if they need to or if they’ve already seen something like this on another site.

Your job is to make your offer really unique and make the benefits of clicking on your button super clear. You want to assure them of the value you’re going to bring to them in exchange for the time and email.

If you’re offering a guide, give readers multiple reasons to download it. Talk about the benefits that people can expect. Will they save time? How about increase sales? Help them trust you by explaining what they will get and how they’ll be able to use it. It should be very clear what is going to happen when people click.

(NOTE: Getting clear with your value proposition is about getting clear on what your ideal customers really want around your brand. Check out my FREE Customer Avatar Worksheet to help you understand who you’re selling to.)

Download the Customer Avatar Worksheet to get clear on who you're selling to.

8) Make it stand out from the crowd

Don’t do what everyone else is doing with their buttons and links. Your readers will just glaze over generic and vague buttons like “download”, “click here”.

Give your button the best chance to convert by using personalized text that sets you apart and grabs their attention. Make them want to click that button.

You can add a personal touch by using “me”, “you” and “yours”. Instead of “download”, try “get my copy now”.

9) Use design to draw attention to the button

Another way to attract people’s attention is with the actual design of your button. The button should match your branding in terms of fonts and colors, but the way you put it together should clearly make it pop on the page.

One way to draw attention to it is by designating certain colors for buttons in your style guide, such as blue or gray. That way when your designer uses gray or blue throughout rest of the page they’ll know to use them only sparingly as accent colors.

Another thing to remember is that if you want people to click on your button, you have to make it look clickable. Use contrasting elements like borders, background, depth and dimension to make it look like an actual button you could press in real life. Really push the envelope so that visitors notice it.

10) Make sure your button is prominent

By prominent, I mean make it big, bold and easy to find. You want to make sure people notice it. Place it above the fold before people start to scroll will generally get you more clicks. But, on the other hand, placing it below the fold will give you a higher quality of leads from those clicks. So you have to test different placement to know where to place it

Wherever you decide to place it, make sure people can see it. What about putting it high up above the fold, and then repeating it further down the page? As people read on and become more and more convinced to take action, the ones who didn’t click on it the first time will be more likely to click on it if you repeat it.

The thing to remember here is that the more prominent your button is and the more times people see it, the more likely they are to click.

11) A/B Test Your Buttons

Don’t settle for the first button you create. This is your chance to get the click, so it pays to test a few out to discover the best performers. Keep trying different sizes, copy, designs, and placement until you find the magic combination that converts the best.

And don’t stop there. If even your best button performer is getting lots of low quality lead conversions, take a look at your landing page copy and make sure it’s speaking to the right customer. If both your landing page and button are high performers and getting clicks and conversions, but you still get few signups, you may need to create a stronger offer or update your overall value proposition.

(NOTE: Getting clear with your value proposition is about getting clear on what your ideal customers really want around your brand. Check out my FREE Customer Avatar Worksheet to help you understand who you’re selling to.)

Download the Customer Avatar Worksheet to get clear on who you're selling to.

Check out these website features that will help you turn your blogging, web copy, and offers into a cohesive marketing system that works for your business.Implementing an effective small business marketing system is like putting a puzzle together. From blogging and SEO to social media and premium offers, the pieces are so intertwined and crucial in their own right that it can be hard to prioritize what to do and in which order. Each piece of the puzzle must link together perfectly, and no piece can be left out.

That’s why you want to avoid implementing random tactics, such as blogging before a conversion funnel is in place or posting on social media without a content strategy.

Having said that, your website should always be a priority. It’s where your traffic lands and a crucial factor in your ability to convert visitors into qualified leads and ultimately, into customers.

Given that your website is the hub of most of your marketing activity, here are six crucial features to make it highly converting and highly engaging.

1) Unique value proposition

The first thing to do if you want a high converting website is make sure visitors know why they should do business with you.

When visitors land on your website, they need to see right away what it is you do and why they should do business with you.

A great example of this is Wix.

Wix Homepage

There are many website builders in the market today, so how does Wix stand out from the pack? They focus on how easy it is to create a beautiful website.

If you think about it, many people looking to build their own website are entrepreneurs who have a million things on their to-do list. Chances are their background isn’t in marketing or technology. So being able to easily build a website is super important to them.

Do you know what’s super important to your customers? Make sure they see that message right away. Nine times out of 10, when clients come to me asking why their marketing isn’t working, a quick look at their website reveals the answer.

If you’re saying too many things, or you’re saying them in ways that confuse people, it means that you’re unclear about your unique value. And if your value proposition is unclear to you, it’s definitely going to be unclear to your readers.

2) The homepage

Most of your traffic will pass through your home page, so it’s very important it makes a good impression. In some cases, it’s the only chance you have to make a lasting impression on a potential customer. If your homepage looks great, functions well and loads quickly, there’s a good chance visitors will navigate to other pages of your site and continue to engage and move through their journey. Get any one of these things wrong, and visitors will probably leave and visit another competitor entirely.

Make sure visitors can easily find what they’re looking for on your website. If there are any interruptions at all that make it hard for people to navigate the site easily, people will be more likely to give up and go elsewhere. Give them what they want right away and don’t leave any gaps between what they want to do and a clear, easy way to do it.

3) Landing pages

When a visitor encounters an ad or offer that makes them want to click through to your site, they have a strong expectation that what they’ll see next will match that hook exactly. By creating compelling, laser-targeted landing pages, you can make sure your site won’t frustrate their expectations. A good set of landing pages will help your site seem as if it is speaking directly to your prospects no matter how they got there or what motivated them.

4) The user journey

Whether your visitor arrives on a landing page or your home page, there has to be a clear path for them to navigate. That path should lead through the fewest number of other pages and clicks possible – and it should go straight to your website conversion goal. In the early stages of designing a site, you should define the actions you want users to take and then streamline the path to those actions as much as possible. With a landing page, website conversion could take as little as a single click: Ideally, your home page adds only one new click to the equation.

Navigation should be intuitive and make sense. Anything that causes confusion will make it unclear what you do and why people should care. Your navigation should be labeled clearly and lead people to pages where the content supports what the page is about. When you can, avoid drop down navigation.

5) Content

Sooner or later, whether it’s after their first conversion or while contemplating their first buy, visitors will break away and go off the beaten path. As they explore your site, they’re on the lookout for signs that you’re an expert and an authority in your space. Those signals comes from your web content. It should be helpful, informative, and directly related to the big questions that occupy prospects’ minds. If you have strong ideas about who your ideal customers are, it will be easy to uncover the challenges they have relating to your products, and give them the solutions they need through articles, videos, podcasts and more.

6) Offers

Once a visitor leaves your website, odds are good that you won’t see them again unless they have a good reason to come back. This means you may be leaving money on the table. By offering premium content that provides real value to your target audience, you can drive engagement and develop lasting relationships with visitors long after they leave your website. Make sure your premium offers provide real value to your target audience and use compelling titles to capture their attention.

Key Takeaways

Optimizing your site for conversions is about making sure potential customers have the information they need to make decisions and take action. The path to their journey should be clear and straightforward, with minimal distractions to prevent them from taking the action you expect. Over time, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of what motivates your potential customers to purchase your products and can modify your website accordingly for even higher conversion rates.


One of the biggest things that affects open rates isn’t your subject line - it’s whether or not your newsletter ever makes it to subscribers. Here are 6 tips to help entrepreneurs and business owners craft emails that land in the inbox instead of junk folder or Gmail promotions folder. Click through to see all the tips!You know that if you want more subscribers to read your emails, you have to become a bit of an expert at writing persuasive copy. So you spend hours comparing subject lines and preheaders before you publish. Then you track the number of subscribers who opened each one, because you know that those open rates are the holy grail of email marketing.

But what happens when your email doesn’t make it to the inbox? Both you and your readers miss out. It’s hard to track open rates accurately when your emails go straight to spam, so how will you really know what you need to improve? Your subscribers miss out too. They lose an opportunity to learn and grow from your communications.

I ran into this issue with a newsletter campaign recently. I use Constant Contact for my health & fitness business. Not because it’s my email marketing tool of choice, but because it integrates well with a member portal we use and I can automate communications with new member sign-ups.

I ran a slew of tests on our newsletter and noticed that emails were landing in Gmail’s promotion tab more than a few times. This is basically Google’s way of marking your email as junk mail. So if you’re noticing a significant decrease in open rate, it may be directly related to the way this filtering works. And it isn’t limited to Google – some emails were going straight to Outlook’s junk folder also.

After hunting down answers and doing some A/B testing, I finally got them out of the promotions folder and into Gmail’s primary folder. Here’s what one email looked like initially:



We had an image in the top to capture people’s attention right away. And further down, I added a link to the post, my brother’s image and bio with more links, and prominent buttons going to our website:



It turns out that we had to ditch those creative elements and calls to action in order to make it to the primary inbox. Here’s what it looked liked after editing, reshaping, tweaking, and testing:



That’s it. A plain text email and bingo – it was in the inbox on both Gmail and Outlook. When I stripped away everything else but text and one simple link, the email had a much better chance of landing in the primary folder.

Two other things seemed to make a difference:

It goes without saying that you can’t remove the Unsubscribe link because email marketing tools must conform to spam laws. But there’s a difference between using one simple unsubscribe link at the end of your email, and a whole slew of links that Constant Contact includes. Here’s an example:


That adds a total of five links to my email instead of just one. In Google’s eyes, multiple links are an indication that your email is promotional. How many links would you really send to a friend, right? At the same time, you need to include a link to your post or product in your email. Bottom line, your emails will have two links when they’re published: your link and the unsubscribe link.

What you don’t want is your email marketing platform to include more than just that one unsubscribe button (without giving you control to edit and remove them). I think the five links in this case are unique to Constant Contact because it’s not the case with MailChimp or Infusionsoft. Both of these marketing platforms will allow you to include one simple unsubscribe link and that’s it.

The other thing that seemed to make a difference was the subject line itself. All things being equal, changing the subject line from “Here’s a Delicious Way to End Your Summer” to “Checking in to see how you’re doing” increased the likelihood of it making its way the primary folder. This was a quick subject line I used to test, and it’s interesting to note that the first one seems more formal with the initial caps. The second one seems more like something you’d say to a friend and uses the sentence case.

This shows you the influence subject lines have on:

  1. open rates from email recipients
  2. landing in the primary inbox of subscribers

It’s just one more reason to A/B test your subject lines. Not only is your ability to persuade readers key if you want them to open them, but it looks like it’s a factor in whether or not your emails are seen at all. Check out this post for tips on writing killer subject lines.

Based on this test, here are my quick tips for getting your email read and opened (aka stay out of the junk folder):

Personalize your email

This is pretty straightforward. Use the mail merge tool in your platform to add the contact’s first name so that it seems like you’re already a connection. After all, you’re a person talking to another person and not a business. When you address someone by name they’re more likely to pay attention. And it makes Google happy.

Use the standard letter format

Keep your emails looking personal, as if they came from a friend. Make the reader feel like you’re talking directly to them. This will gets you higher open rates, plus you stand a better chance of converting readers when your email doesn’t come across as being a sales pitch or deal.

Don’t use images

Images make your email look pretty, but Gmail sees them as a sign of a promotion. It makes sense, because you really wouldn’t be inserting a photo into an email you shoot off to a friend or colleague. You’ll definitely increase readership by dropping pictures. The old ways of using email newsletters go against Gmail’s policies, so keep that in mind if you want to stay out of the promotions tab.

No more than one link

The point of the email is usually to drive traffic to your website, right? So, the prudent thing to do is write an exclusive email and give the reader reasons why they should click that link. Make it all natural and smooth of course. Now don’t get me wrong, you can get away with more than 1 link, but it’s not guaranteed you will survive the Google filter.

Watch for links in your preheader and signature too. The more links you have the more chance you have of winding up in the spam or promotions folder.

Shorter is better

Keep the email short and to the point. The longer it is, the less likely it is to make it to the primary folder.

Don’t sound salesy

If you want the email to go to the inbox, stay away from anything that sounds salesy. Terms like these are a red flag to Google that you’re promoting something:

  • Free
  • Help
  • % off
  • Reminder
  • Weight loss
  • Make $
  • Explode your business
  • Deals
  • More like this…

These types of buzz words will definitely increase the likelihood of the email landing in the promotions or junk folder.

How important is all this, really?

This is a trade-off between readership and conversions in my opinion. Ultimately, you need to decide based on your content and your business goals. You may prefer to stick with their branded newsletter format. If your business is highly visual and images will have a big impact on your readers, it probably makes sense. On the other hand, if you’re sending links to your blog posts, you may not need anything more than a commentary and a link.

After all of this testing, I’ve decided for now to toss the dice on some (not all) of our emails. There are times when using the standard newsletter format works best and we have to cross our fingers that Gmail recipients will open the promotions tab. When I’m promoting a new blog post, I’m fine with the all text format. Since they’re content driven, all I need is a commentary and a link to the article.

Keep in mind that you may not see a difference in open rates at all, or you may find that the branded format actually performs better. Some of it will depend on what percentage of your subscribers are Gmail users and the platform they’re using to read their emails. They may use an email reader to access their email rather than the Gmail interface, in which case the promotions tab isn’t an issue.

Just another reason you need to test. And test. And test again. That’s really the only way to determine whether  branded or faux plain text emails perform better.