How to Build Your Blog Subscriber Base

Derek HalpernDerek Halpern knows what makes people tick online. He’s here to share that insight with you.

Rich Brooks: I’m here today with Derek Halpern who is the brains behind and we’re going to be talking a lot about what Derek has done with his website and blog. Derek, thank you for talking with me today.

Derek Halpern: Thanks for having me; really happy to be doing this.

Rich Brooks: Excellent. I don’t remember how I found your blog but I remember when I got there that I was immediately struck by a number of things that you were doing that were different than what other people seem to be doing. It definitely had a different look and feel, and I’m talking beyond just the fact that you have a lot of white space going on, which is always a refreshing change for any blog.

One of the biggest differences that I immediately noticed is what you call your feature box, which is the big box at the top of the homepage on your blog. Can you tell me a little bit about what you’re trying to accomplish by using that feature box?

Derek Halpern: Yes, so as you said, you noticed the white space, you noticed the different design elements, and a lot of those decisions were made originally as a way to make my site look remarkably different than my competitor’s websites. Not really competitors but competing blogs. I wanted to make sure that my site looked drastically different. As you know, most marketing blogs were running a magazine layout so I went back to the traditional blog layout. Other marketing blogs are focused on the color red as their main color; I chose the color purple. Other blogs have really fancy designs; I chose a minimalist design. Other blogs did not use this feature box.

Now what’s the point of this feature box? One, it looks different, but two, more importantly; it kind of orients every new visitor and tells them exactly what they should expect from my site within two seconds of loading my webpage up. There’s no reason why when you go to a blogs site you see the latest post but you don’t necessarily know what the blog is all about. That feature box kind of prepares all your new visitors and tells them exactly what they should expect from your site. And then they can choose to either subscribe to my mailing list or choose to read the articles that are on the first page.

Social Triggers Feature Box

Rich Brooks: Fantastic. And have you found that you are getting a lot of sign-ups from the feature box?

Derek Halpern: Yes, the feature box is one of the main ways I generate signups on Social Triggers.

Right now, I believe, in November, that feature box is averaging something like 33.6% conversion rate. Now I don’t think that everyone will have that same exact conversion rate as me but 33.6% for is quite amazing. I’m really happy with it.

Rich Brooks: Absolutely. I love those numbers. Now I noticed in your feature box you’ve got a picture of a head. Now did you purposely choose the image where the eye and the nose seem to be pointing to the ‘get updates’ or was that just by chance?

Derek Halpern: No that was completely on purpose. I’ve done a lot of research about images on the web and how people react to them. I actually wrote an article about it called “how images improve or destroy conversion rates”.

One of the main features of images on the web–there’s lots of eye tracking that is done and research has discovered–that people can’t resist to follow the gaze of other people or the line of sight of other people. I mean you kind of look at it as if you were walking down the street and you see four people looking up in the sky; chances are you’re going to stop and look up in the sky, too.

And it’s almost like reptilian brain mode where you see other people looking at something you can’t help but want to look to make sure you’re not missing out on anything. The same applies online. When you see eyes looking towards an options box or eyes looking at something, people will follow the gaze of those eyes towards where those eyes are looking.

Rich Brooks: Excellent. Now I also noticed that you’ve gotten rid of archives, categories, even a search box, which to me are what traditionally have made up a blog, even though on my own blog I have deemphasized some of that stuff. You’ve completely gotten rid of it. What’s the logic behind that?

Derek Halpern: Well I’ve had a lot of highly popular sites. I had one site in 2007; with something like 30 million hits or so. This was back in 2007. Now in all of my experience on a blog I never saw that many people using my search. I just didn’t see people using it. I couldn’t justify to myself to waste that space on my site for a search box when I knew that almost no one was using it. It didn’t make sense to me so I axed it.

Now archives are the same way. When people want to go find content on your site they’re not going to click on your date archives. They might click on a category page, but that’s not really the best way for them to find your best content. When you have a website or when you have a blog, you don’t necessarily want people to click around and only see your new stuff first. You want people to be able to click around on your blog and find your best stuff. And the way you can really spoon feed visitors your best stuff is by not using the archives pages but instead creating what I call resource pages.

Resource pages are essentially category pages where you hand pick articles to highlight and they’re not necessarily presented in a date base format. You could pick 5 articles; one article might have been written two years ago, another article may have been written 3 days ago. Let’s use social triggers as an example. I don’t have archives, I have these resource pages. An example is my List Building page. Where you can click on my list building page and you’ll see 3 or 4 articles about list building where I’m spoon feeding people my best content instead of letting them discover the content that they want to find.

Resource Pages

Rich Brooks: Cool. I noticed at the bottom of those pages that you also have the call to action to join your list.

Derek Halpern: If you’re running a blog, the whole point [is list building], especially if you’re running a blog for a business.

There are two scenarios. You could run a blog as a business or you could run a blog for a business. And if you’re doing either of these things, you’ve got to gather the leads, gather names. The more names on your list the more sales you make, the more hits you can get.

You’ve always got to add calls to action. Ask if people are feeling really good about who you are and what you stand for. The resource page is because chances are the people that find that resource page are happy with the content. Alright, let me keep in touch and that’s why they have the option below my articles.

Rich Brooks: You mentioned that you can blog as a business or for a business and that’s fascinating. I haven’t heard that before. What do you mean by that?

Derek Halpern: When you blog for a business that means your blog is not your business, your blog is used to generate leads, or generate sales, or maybe make your existing customers happy. Right? That’s for a business. When you’re blogging as a business you’re really going the traditional medium model where you’re going to be creating content and you’re not necessarily going to be selling something but you’re going to be selling advertising where your blog is your business. Whereas a blog for a business where you might be selling a piece of software and that’s blogging for the business.

Rich Brooks: I see. One of the things that I’ve noticed is you spend a lot of time building your own lists but you don’t seem to be selling anything at your blog. And obviously you’re not doing this out of the goodness of your heart, even though you seem like a good guy. What’s the model that you’re using to actually build your business to ultimately generate revenue?

Derek Halpern: Social Triggers is where I educate people on how to improve their marketing and how to actually generate leads online and how to blog for a business.

But in the end Social Triggers is my business, too. I have released software: one software is called Webinar Bridge and that is a $97 WordPress plugin that’s sold through Social Triggers.

I occasionally sell education products, but you’ll never necessarily see that on my blog. You’ll see those types of sales pitches after you subscribe to my mailing list.

I’m not saying that I only sell things through my mailing list. I’m saying that if I write an article and I teach you about the power of landing pages, and you click to read that article, chances are you’ll get a follow up email offering a landing page software product or something like that.

The reason why I have sales on the backend–not on the frontend–is because it allows me to really target my sales pitches to the people who want to hear them. If you don’t want to hear them you’ll probably never see a sales pitch, but if you’re clicking around and you’re opening articles and your reading stuff about specific things, that’s when the targeted sales pitch come.

To answer your question, I don’t sell on the frontend of my website, but I might do something on the backend. You might get an email pitch. I might run a webinar where I’ll do 45 minutes of content and 15 minutes of sales pitch. I might do a follow-up email to people who click to read one specific article and only they’ll get a small sales pitch.

Rich Brooks: Is that happening through AWeber? What kind of tools are you using to track people and send them really targeted like you are.

Derek Halpern: I use AWeber right now exclusively.

Rich Brooks: Good to know. You talked a lot about ‘About’ pages. You’ve got a very specific strategy for bloggers, for their ‘About’ pages. What’s your philosophy on ‘About’ pages?

Derek Halpern: About pages are one of the most heavily pages on any blog.

People go to a blog. They’ll read a piece of content. They’re either going to click to your homepage or About page next. Since the About page is one of your hottest pages on your site, you’ve got to turn that into a lead generation page. Your About page really isn’t about you, it’s about what you can do for your visitor.

I have a simple About page formula. The first few paragraphs should be all about what your site offers your visitors. Then an opt-in form. If you tell them what you have to offer, you might as well ask them for their email.

Then you could talk about some testimonials or social proof that really shows you can satisfy these needs for your visitors. And then you could have other opt-in form.

Then finally that’s when you could tell your personal story. You could tell people all about you. But when you’re telling people all about you, you want to make sure that each thing you tell them will help reinforce the point that your site can help them solve their problems, and then you put in another opt-in form.

To break that down, first you address about your site and how you can help people, opt-in form. Next you address all about social proof and testimonials then opt-in form. Third all about how you can help your visitors or what makes you qualified to help your visitors. Then another opt-in form.

Rich Brooks: Fantastic. I know you do a lot of research and that’s really been one of the things that separate you from a lot of the other marketers out there. I also understand that you have a new service coming out. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?

Derek Halpern: When I launched Social Triggers earlier this year I started a blog about marketing.

As you know, marketing blogs, they’re not few and far in between. There are thousands of them. One of the ways I wanted to stand out was actually based off the complaints of other people. People kept complaining that blogs talk about tips and tricks but very rarely have data and research to back it up. I decided to take that to a new level where I was always providing data and research to back up all of my claims; that way I wouldn’t have those people complaining about the whole data and research thing.

Now I’ve got something new coming out which is really going to further hit home, where I’m going to be launching a podcast. I’m going to be featuring researchers on this podcast, and will be able to talk about the type of research their doing and how that might work on the Internet.

Rich Brooks: Are you ready to release any of the names of the researchers you’re going to be talking to or is that very hush-hush until you launch?

Derek Halpern: It’s very hush-hush until the launch date but I’ve got to say that we’ve got professors from prestigious business schools and some New York Times best-selling authors; we’ve got a lot of cool people lined up for this podcast. So it’s definitely something to take a look at.

Rich Brooks: That sounds great. Derek I want to thank you for your time today. Where can we find you on the web?

Derek Halpern: You can find me at and that’s the main way if anyone wants to reach out to me. There’s the contact form on and don’t hesitate to use that. I know a lot of people are scared to use contact forms but I read every email that comes through that contact form. Go to if you want to send me an email. If you don’t want to send me an email definitely subscribe to the mailing list.

Rich Brooks: Thanks for sharing your time and expertise.

Derek Halpern: Thank you for having me.

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