Adam Connell is a content strategist with a background in SEO and email marketing. Before leaving his agency role to focus on his own projects, Adam was responsible for new websites and managing the content & growth for international brands.
He started experimenting with different types of content to test out what works best for lead generation. He is also a great person to talk to if you need to use content marketing tactics for selling your products or services.
Let’s start the interview
Cloudways: Hello Adam. Thank you for joining us today. Please tell us a bit about how it all started? Why is blogging so important to you?
Adam Connell: Hey! Thanks for inviting me. Much appreciated.
My story isn’t typical. I never intended to become a blogger at first.
I started building websites in Dreamweaver when I was 12 (they were terrible, lol).
Then, when I was studying Music Technology at college I got the crazy idea to start an online record label. I opened Dreamweaver and started developing a website for the label. I got together with a few friends who had finished music we could release.
We launched the website and started promoting it (it was back in the days of MySpace) – we sold one album. The business was a failure and I had no clue what I was doing.
So, we made the decision to release all of our music for free under the “netlabel” model and we had some success but the maintenance of the website was problematic. Updating HTML websites built with Dreamweaver was slow.
I needed something easier. I’d built forums in the past with phpBB so I knew there would be some content management system out there.
I installed WordPress on my server. I moved all of our content across and it saved a load of time updating the site.
Since WordPress was mainly focused around blogging back then, I used the new blogging functionality to announce our releases.
Together with a few online communities and some social promotion, our releases were being downloaded. And while we closed the label several years ago, we’ve had close to 3 million downloads across 60 releases from artists all over the world.
This experience taught me just how powerful blogging could be and it set me on a path that got me to where I am today.
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Cloudways: How does Blogging Wizard help new and seasoned bloggers optimize their blogs for lead conversion?
Adam Connell: Most people think that optimizing for conversions involves a series of quick hacks or tactics but the truth is that the process starts far earlier. In fact, at the very beginning before the blog is built.
For example, some of the typical things you’d do when starting your blog like choosing a niche, identifying your target audience and figuring out your content strategy – they all impact your ability to convert.
Creating a profitable blog isn’t easy. It takes time, effort and a solid plan. But later down the line, if you’ve built your blog on a solid foundation, those quick hacks or tactics can prove useful. Although, they work best when they’re part of a cohesive and clear process.
To give the full 360-degree assistance that bloggers need, we cover everything from the basics of choosing a niche and a blog name, developing audience personas and getting the technical stuff sorted like hosting.
But we go far beyond the basics. We cover tactics that bloggers can weave into their own processes such as this article that explains how to reverse engineer successful content.
And we review and compare tools that will help bloggers save time, implement new tactics or improve conversions. Like this article on WordPress landing page plugins.
More recently we’ve started publishing regular monthly roundups of news that bloggers and entrepreneurs need to know – covering everything from policy changes at YouTube to WordPress updates. It’s called The Entrepreneur Monthly and the feedback from our readers has been excellent.
Cloudways: How important is affiliate marketing for you?
Adam Connell: Pretty important, I’d say.
What I love about affiliate marketing is that it enables us to publish a load of in-depth content without charging our readers to consume it, or ruining user experience with loads of ads.
Cloudways: In your point of view, what tools and channels affiliate marketers should use to create and market content?
Adam Connell: In terms of tools, two of the essentials in my toolbox are ThirstyAffiliates and Google Analytics.
With ThirstyAffiliates, I can create clean links instead of huge unsightly affiliate links to share with my readers, and I can track clicks, etc. With Google Analytics I can track clicks as events, etc.
Now, when it comes to channels – a lot of people tend to share a bunch of affiliate links on social media, publish a few articles and hope for the best.
Search engines like Google are where it’s at for affiliate marketing – understanding what people are searching for and going for more long-tail keywords is critical.
If you’re going to go down the social media route, promoting something like a review isn’t always the best way to go. If you can, create a useful tutorial involving a product you promote as an affiliate.
It should go without saying but it’s worth mentioning – the quality of the products you promote will have a significant impact on your success.
Cloudways: What are the main ingredients of successful lead-generating content? What is the role of distribution in lead generation?
Adam Connell: There are a few different ways you can approach lead generation, but in general if you’re investing in a single piece of content that you want to generate leads from – specifically, building an email list you can market to later, you’ll need to consider:
- How you approach the content – The topic doesn’t need to be unique but the angle you take with your content has to make sense.
- Does the topic align with your target audience? –
- Do people care about the topic? – You can invest huge amounts of money into content creation but if it’s not a topic people care about, you won’t get results.
- Your headline needs to be compelling – This is what gets people onto your website but be careful not to go down the route of clickbait.
- Your intro needs to be compelling – This is what encourages people to read through to the end.
- Don’t forget to format your content for better user experience – If your content is a mess and difficult to read – your content won’t generate leads.
- You’ll need a content upgrade – This is a type of lead magnet that is created specifically for a single piece of content. It ties in directly with the content. Usually as a checklist version or a PDF version that contains bonus tips not included in the article. You’ll need a targeted landing page that’s integrated with your email provider. You can then create an image-based CTA and add it within your content after the intro and before the conclusion. Possibly adding a popover or slide-in too.
- Your content must be useful even if people don’t opt-in – Help someone and they’ll be more likely to help you. Your content has to deliver value otherwise it will fail to generate leads.
Cloudways: What content types work great for lead generation in affiliate marketing?
Adam Connell: There are typically four different content types that work well for promoting affiliate products:
- Tutorials – These types of articles are great for introducing people to products they don’t know they need. They’ll have an objective in mind and tutorials will show them a product they can use.
- Reviews – These articles can be difficult to rank if you’re reviewing a popular product and typically drive little traffic but they have the potential for high conversion rates. They tend to attract those who want to take more time over their purchase.
- Side-by-side comparisons (versus) – These articles are usually easy to rank than reviews and sometimes drive more traffic, but conversions aren’t as high.
- List posts – The best content for overall traffic. Conversion rates usually aren’t as high as the likes of reviews but they make up for it with their ability to drive more traffic. These work especially well when you have individual reviews for each product.
Cloudways: Creating content is the first step. What’s next in the context of affiliate marketing?
Adam Connell: Usually the next logical step is content promotion but it often works best when you consider promotion as you’re planning content.
For example, if I wanted to give my content an extra boost once it’s launched, I’d add figure out how to involve other influencers or industry experts in the creation of the content.
This won’t work for all content types but when you involve people in the creation of content, you give them a stake in the success of that content. This makes them far more likely to share it.
A quick example of this would be asking an industry expert for a quote that backs up a point you make in the article.
Cloudways: How one should measure the effectiveness of content in affiliate marketing campaigns?
Adam Connell: There are various metrics that could be important here. How important they are depends on what matters to you.
Metrics such as # of leads, conversion to leads, conversion to sales, total revenue generated, etc. They can all be useful.
In an ideal world, I’d go for a Northstar metric like total revenue generated but this is where things get complicated.
Depending on the affiliate network or platform you’re using, you may just not have access to that data – at least not in any meaningful way such as tracking conversions per post.
Some providers will give you the ability to add tracking parameters but you’d have to create huge numbers of affiliate links in order to track them effectively for each piece of content.
In terms of what you have control over on your site – you can set up tracking to the point at which someone exits your site but that’ll give you click data at most. Setting up event tracking with Google Analytics can be very useful here.
Tracking incoming URL’s is an area that I hope more affiliate platforms focus on in the future.
As a side note, if you have a strong relationship with any affiliate managers, you may be able to get them to share some data showing the top referring pages from your website + number of conversions, etc. This is the type of data that is the most useful but it’s tricky to get.
Cloudways: How can affiliate marketers create and maintain content based funnels?
Adam Connell: Regardless of the type of funnel you want to create – the process is easier than ever with all of the tools on the market.
For an affiliate funnel, at the bare minimum, I would recommend having the following:
- A tool for building landing pages and funnel pages – I usually use Leadpages but Thrive Architect and OptimizePress are cost-effective options for WordPress websites.
- An email marketing tool with strong automation functionality – ConvertKit is great for simplicity and Mailerlite has a great free plan. For deeper automation, something like ActiveCampaign or Drip would work well.
- A tool for running A/B testing – You’ll need to split-test your landing pages and funnel pages. Leadpages has this functionality built-in and Thrive Architect has an add-on available. Alternatively, you could use Google Optimize – it’s free but not as easy to set up.
- Additional testing tools – It’s worth using other tools beyond A/B testing. For example a tool like Hotjar will allow you to see where people click on a page. It will also allow you to see funnel analytics so you’ll know which parts of your funnel are “leaking.” And it probably goes without saying that you should have a general-purpose analytics platform such as Google Analytics setup on your site.
- Content creation & management tools – If you’re offering a simple PDF, you can easily create one using Google Docs and then design images using Canva. These tools won’t cost you anything. If you’re offering a free course, you could upload videos to YouTube as unlisted videos, then embed them with the content on a page and add password protection (this is fairly easy with WordPress) but user experience would be better if a dedicated course creation platform like Podia was used.
Cloudways: After Blogging Wizard, Funnel Overload, Velocity6 Media, what’s your next milestone?
Adam Connell: I’ve got a few projects in the works that I can’t talk about yet and I have a few projects on the back burner, like my guitar blog, Tone Island.
But, right now, my main focus is on growing/improving my current sites. Mainly Blogging Wizard.
We already broke 2 million yearly visits so my next goal is to reach 3 million yearly visits.
Cloudways: Let’s step away from work. What do you do to relax and unwind?
Adam Connell: I still find it challenging to take time out from my business but finding more time to relax and unwind is one of my goals this year.
One of the best ways for me to relax is meditation. I don’t do this as regularly as I have done in the past, but it still works great.
Outside of that, when I do find some free time, I like to watch retro sci-fi movies, play real-time strategy PC games and play guitar.
Cloudways: Can we have a look at your workstation?
Adam Connell: Sure. I’m working from my home office at the moment. Here’s a photo:
Cloudways: Last question. Who would you recommend we interview next?
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Usman is a Digital Marketer at Cloudways- A Managed Cloud Hosting Platform, where he looks after affiliate partnerships and helps digital nomads in generating passive income. He is a foodie by heart, who loves to explore new eateries around his vicinity.