SPI 011: 5 Questions You Need to Ask Yourself to Improve Your Online Business, Blog, or Website

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In this session of the Smart Passive Income Podcast, I give you 5 questions that you absolutely need to be asking yourself in order to improve your online business, blog or website.

When we look for ways to improve, we often ask for outside help, but in this podcast I ask you to look inward to help yourself, and after listening you should have a greater understanding of what you can do better, and why.

So what are the 5 questions you need to be asking yourself? You’ll need to listen to find out (or read the transcript, hehe).

There’s a ton of content and information jam packed into this session, including:

  • The one tip that someone once told me that has changed exactly how I approach all of my online properties, especially my blogs.
  • Why you should keep your visitors from thinking too much.
  • The things you can do in any niche, no matter how competitive it is, to stand out from the crowd.
  • Why getting to number 1 in Google may not be the best thing to do.
  • How campfires and fishing can help our businesses or blogs.
  • Exactly how to get people to want more of your content.

Please, let me know what you think, or if you have anything you’d like to add and share with the SPI community.

Thanks for your support!


Right click here to download the MP3

Items Mentioned in this Session:


Right click here to download a PDF of this transcript

  • http://networkingexamacademy.com Blake Erickson

    Hey Pat!

    I’m going to bed now cause its 12:15 AM but just thought I’d let you know that I’m super excited for this podcast. I’m downloading it now to my ipod so that I can listen to it before falling asleep.

    Thanks again for all your great content. November was my largest month ever in sales (2x) and I owe a lot of it to you.

    Have a good night!


  • http://www.HectorJCuevas.com Hector Cuevas

    Another great podcast Pat.

    Those are some really good questions to ask ourselves, and you gave some killer tips on how to improve our blogs. Thanks for sharing this bro

    talk soon

  • http://www.akilbrown.com Akil

    Hi Pat,
    Great Pod cast, I actually created a post about what is RSS? along with a video showing people how to sign up to my RSS feed or any feed. I used to tell people about RSS and they didnt understand or know exactly what is or what it mean. I decided to create a video showing and explaining exactly how RSS benefits the reader on my website. I have the option on my site for both RSS feed and RSS email sign up along with Aweber email list. I guess I am head in the right direction.

    Five amazing question to think about and it came at the right time.

    Thanks again for the tips on my websites.

  • http://www.dumblittleblogger.com Vishal Sanjay @ Dumb Little Blogger

    Awesome podcast Pat!! I think this episode as covered many mental needs for building a successful business, but changing ones way of thinking cannot be done with a podcast of few minutes :( Anyhow I wanted to know a bit more about starting and running a podcast for traffic as well as monetizing it, hope you can provide some good tips for that.

  • http://www.youngprepro.com Onibalusi Bamidele

    Awesome Pat,

    This is really inspiring and highly informative and I will give it a reread.

    Giving your visitors a first good impression is really very important. The no popup option is going to cause some sort of debate though – I stopped using it for some months and I didn’t see a difference. What’s your thoughts on this?

    Thanks so much for the awesome info,

  • http://www.artofwoodshopdesign.com Bobby

    I’m up late working on my opt-in incentive and I’m adding your tips to my checklist o’ things to do as I’m listening. But it’s one useful thing after another so I’ll take a break from the editing and just listen. Really awesome session again!

  • http://suitej.com Jay Piecha (Suite J)

    Awesome podcast, Pat!

    Yeah! Boo On Pop Ups! 😉

    I’m definitely with you on the pop ups debate! What bugs me is that the popular defense for using them is “well it increases subscribers”. Really? But, what’s your open rate like? What’s your actual relationship with your subscribers like? What percentage is actually interested and/or buying your stuff?

    People focus way to much on just the “total number of subscribers”. Personally, I’d prefer to have 1,000 “real subscribers” that I have a connection with as opposed to 10,000 people that don’t even remember why they’re on my list or how they got there in the first place.

    Great tips on sharing your content too! I was recently wondering if I’m annoying my subscribers by sending them an email (through newsletter optin) every time I post. I like the idea of separating post updates and newsletter content, and maybe I will use the Aweber blog broadcast once per week or bi-weekly. (?)

    I also really need to implement a custom share/subscribe box like you have at the bottom of your articles (haven’t gotten to it on my new blog yet). Yours has so many options, but still very clean and easy on the eyes. I love it.

    Keep up the great stuff, Pat. This blog has quickly risen to my must-read list. Lovin’ it! :)


    • http://legalofficeguru.com Deborah

      [QUOTE]I’m definitely with you on the pop ups debate! What bugs me is that the popular defense for using them is “well it increases subscribers”. Really? But, what’s your open rate like?[/QUOTE]

      I think there’s actually a middle way available here. There’s been some (relatively) recent debate on a related forum about timing the pop-ups so new visitors actually have a chance to read the content first. One guy set his to pop up after *ten* minutes and (if I remember right) said his subscribe rate actually went up.

      I’m still looking for the solution that’s similar to what the nytimes.com site does – when you finish an article, a pop-up (sort of – it rises from the bottom of the screen) comes up with related content. Instead of the related content, I’d want to re-direct them to the subscription page/box.

      (My open rate is actually pretty healthy, thanks. And my readers are sufficiently engaged that they feel free to email me questions and suggestions for future content.)

  • http://jeffbeer.net jeffbeer

    ‘It’s okay to be a little personable on your site.’
    Hiding online identity = hiding something else.

    I think this might be the best point in the podcast. Being your true-self is important as an entrepreneur, as well for life in general.

    However, there isn’t a 100% certainty that you are who you are you are online. Not saying that you, Pat, are lying, rather just wanted to say you just never can be certain, which is why the internet will always have skeptics, doubters, etc.

  • http://findmyblogway.com Lye Kuek Hin

    Hi Pat,

    I am listening to your podcast as well as reading the transcript which the content printed inside my heart deeper. Just 5 questions but it is essential and important to determine a blog’s success or failure. I will bookmark this for reference as i believe we always have to come back and question ourselves time to time.

    Thanks for sharing.


  • http://www.wasimismail.com wasim ismail

    Great podcast
    With some great points on how we look at our blogs and ways to improve it. As you mentioned first impression counts, We have to get our visitors to fall in love at first sight.

    Been taking notes.

  • TrafficColeman

    Whatever niche I’m in..I take pride in the work I do. I’m passionate about learning. Learning is the key to anything in life, if you want to really stand out..then educate yourself.

    “TrafficColeman “Signing Off”

  • http://www.contrarianism.net Contrarian

    Pat –

    If I showed up at your front door of your family home, would you let me in? If I come over would you allow me to rifle through all your stuff and look around? If not, then why not? Are you hiding something?

    Just because someone uses their name (assuming it’s a real name?), shows pics of their family, and provides xerox copies of their financial statements (are they real?) does NOT “always” verify authenticity, nor does it prove truthfulness or honesty. Some of the greatest scams in all human history were perpetrated by such a tactic… as a matter of fact, this is exactly what most of crooks do to gain your trust!

    That said, I am in no way impugning your character, as a matter of fact, Pat – I think you are one of the good guys and very much appreciate your blog.

    Your home being just as your website/blog is a great metaphor, and no doubt is a good “best practice” for subscriber building – which of course lies at the core of what you teach.

    My point is … on the internet, nobody really knows who they are following and listing to, so when someone gets overly familiar, rolls out the welcome mat, and invites you in, we all should be careful … and a red flag should go up!

    • Pat

      Contrarian – I absolutely agree with what you’re saying: in no way does using a name and throwing up pictures on a website constitute 100% authenticity, but if we think about this anaology and treat our blogs like we would our homes, then we’re giving the best chance of building a relationship with our visitors and traffic. I mean, the reason scam artists use this tactic, like you mentioned, is because it works. I’m obviously hoping people will be truthful in their intentions and statements on their websites, which again I feel gives us the best chance to succeed.

      We should all definitely be careful online, but if we hide stuff and don’t make people feel welcome, then absolutely we’re going to drive people away because lean towards thinking most things online are not authentic.

      • http://www.contrarianism.net Contrarian

        Agreed, and appreciate the thoughtful response, Pat.

        No doubt, trust builds a following, and a following builds income, which of course is the point of your article (and website), so in this regard there is no disagreement whatsoever.

        My contention is… we shouldn’t assume that a fella who puts his whole life on display is honest, anymore than we should assume the discrete guy has something to hide.

        Bernard Madoff was a very public figure. He sat on the Board of Directors of the Securities Industry Association. Everyone knew him, they trusted him, so they handed over their money. We all know how that story ended ….

        – the Contrarian (aka: mystery-man) 😉

  • http://www.devinelder.com Devin Elder

    Hey Pat, thanks for another excellent Podcast!

    I don’t want to ignite a war here, but I’ll respectfully disagree on the popup issue. I do agree with Suite J that your subscriber quality could suffer, but I work hard to have great content on all my lists, and I want every opportunity for people to check it out!

    Also, the cost of having a massive list is so low that I say the more the merrier. Also, we’re blogging about marketing, so using marketing is ok in my eyes. That said, I’m not about to get all John Chow with my blog… everyone’s threshold is different.

    I remember a comment about Popup Domination on Yaro’s post about PuD that went something like this:

    “I don’t like pop-ups”… lol…

    Marketers who hate marketing. Gotta love it.

    I wrestled with the idea of using Popup Domination on my own blog, but ultimately opted to have it show every 30 days because I want my readers to expect it now while my blog is relatively small. If I had 5,000 RSS subscribers and THEN implemented a popup it would turn a lot of people off.

    Interestingly enough, Popup Domination converts 3 to 9% across my niche sites, but on my own blog, the sidebar opt in is the one everybody signs up on.

    Keep up the great work, looking forward to the unveiling of your WP Plugins!

    – Devin

    • Pat

      Hey Devin, thanks for your comment and I definitely see what you mean and in no way think you are “wrong” – I just personally think that getting subscribers through a popup, although effective, is kind of like earning “dirty money”. Like I said in the podcast, I’m getting about 45-60 subscribers every day from non-evasive tactics where people make a decision and choice to fill in their name and email “on their own” (yes people still have this choice in a popup, but i think you know what I mean).

      In a place like SPI where I’m trying to build a community and develop meaningful relationships with my readers, followers and subscribers, I think a popup would be a terrible idea to implement – however on a niche site where I’m not really connecting with the traffic in a similar way, I would use it.

      This topic, I’m sure, could be talked about for hours on end :)

      • http://www.devinelder.com Devin Elder

        Great points Pat, and I know your readers really appreciate you not having a popup! To each his own.

        Kudos again for creating a fantastic community here at SPI – I think I’ve been a reader for more than a year now and I’ve learned a TON – much thanks.

        • http://www.onespoonatatime.com Paul Wolfe

          I think Yaro uses Popup Domination too – but the reason I decided not to use it is because I’ve started going to Yaro’s blog less BECAUSE of the popup. I’m already subscribed to Yaro, and yet everytime I visit his sit eI get this annoying popup saying: Subscribe.

          Although it only takes a few seconds to dismiss the popup and then look at the content, that few seconds is enough to annoy me. And sometimes cause me to scan through the content and just go elsewhere.

          All because of a Pop Up.

          I can’t be the only one who feels that way….hence I don’t use it. Maybe there’s a way of combining it with the What Would Seth Godin Do? plug in so it only appears once, I don’t know.

          But I don’t use it for that reason.

  • KimP

    Another great podcast, Pat!

    All great questions every blog owner should ask themselves. I especially love the bit about having a great story. For every idea I come up with for a new niche site, the question I ask myself is what’s the story, how can I relate to my readers.

    Also, can’t wait for you to unveil your now TWO wordpress plug-ins, truly amazing. I’m realizing more and more, the further along you go with working online, the ideas and future opportunities just springboard off of each other.

  • http://onlineincomelab.com Trent Dyrsmid

    Hey Pat,

    Yet another great post, mate. Well done.

    Like many of the folks on here, I read a lot material from other IMs and yours is always one that I look forward to. The level of detail you provide is excellent and is really what keeps me coming back.

    Speaking of detail, what plugin/app do you use to display the photos in the sidebar?


  • http://www.rodolforodarte.com Rudy Rodarte

    Hey Pat. Any plans for putting together a website check list with timelines, plugins and such? A new eBook perhaps (hint hint) I know you have one for individual posts, and that is great. But maybe it is time for something a little more comprehensive? Have a good one!

  • http://simplylearnbusiness.com Nick

    Awesome! This just made my terrible week, way better. I love listening to podcasts about Internet Business as I fall asleep. Yours is definitely the best I’ve found. Yours actually led me to find more. But still yours still remains the best.

  • http://unlockthedoor.net Stuart

    Lovely questions Pat, I’ll write these down and start to use them for my blog. I particularly like Q3 about making content sharable – I feel this is most important to connecting with your readers and showing how much their custom actually matters to you. If I went to a house and didn’t feel wanted, then I’d leave without looking back. It’s how you present yourself to others that will shape the impression they get.

    Thanks Pat :-)

  • http://www.megabizflakes.com Samuel

    Awesome post Pat! The 5 questions is a must read. After reading it, i was like WOW! mehn that’s the fact. Thanks a lot for sharing. Have fun.

  • http://cashcampfire.com Christina Crowe

    Hey Pat,

    I’m the same way about pop ups. Usually when I see a pop up, I immediately click away to another tab. Sometimes though, if the content is especially good, I’ll stay. However, I absolutely hate pop ups and think that having an automated pop up on your blog is one of the most annoying tactics a blogger can do to get your attention (besides having lots of flashy ads).

    I mean, if I like what you have to say first, _then_ I’ll subscribe to your newsletter or blog – not the other way around. So why ask readers to subscribe to something if they have yet to read your content? It doesn’t make sense to me.

    In the podcast, you also mentioned that you shouldn’t hide your identity. However, I noticed (and you told us in one of your blog posts) that you use a different name (pen name) for your niche site that you’re working on, which is a little like hiding your identity. But, even more, you also use another picture of someone else to go along with your pen name. Isn’t this hiding your identity as well? Or, in a way, isn’t it like you’re deceiving your readers into believing that you’re someone else when you aren’t? Or are niche sites an exception?

    Now, I’m not saying that using a pen name (or pen picture?) is wrong if you’re providing quality content and recommending quality products. But I just wanted to get your view of the matter – since you do mention not to hide your identity so that readers can get to know the real you, which then leads to trust and then permission, or how you put it.

    As always, loved the podcast!


    • Pat

      Hey Christina – great points regarding the pen name situation. I see where the disconnect is. I am, however, treating my niche site a little differently because it is a niche site that I’m not really trying to build a community like I am here on SPI. Because of my own particular situation and the fact that I’m talking about my security guard site here on this blog and I’m trying to do my best to keep the two separate, hence the pen name.

      I’m not using a pen picture – there’s just a picture of a random security guard on the homepage and no way say that is me. If I wanted to really create an identity (instead of hide “Pat” from the side), I would have selected a normal, less “stock photo” type of picture and say that is me. Anyways, getting a little off topic here…

      I think in certain situations, a pen name is appropriate. Many successful bloggers and authors use a pen name for a number of reasons (some to make sure their current employer doesn’t make the connection, hehe), which I think is fine. As long as you don’t claim to be someone you’re not and adding credentials that you don’t have, I think it’s okay.

      If I revealed that I was Pat Flynn on that site, an entrepreneur who created the site for a challenge and earn revenue from, that would definitely turn people off (for obvious reasons), and keep people from reading the valuable content that I do provide on that site that could potentially help them.

      • http://cashcampfire.com Christina Crowe

        Thanks for the quick reply.

        I think what you’re doing on your security guard site is awesome, so definitely keep it up. I just wanted to get your view on the two different situations. It makes a lot of sense, and I absolutely see where you’re coming from. Thanks for clearing it up!

        As for me, I would probably just get too overwhelmed if I used a pen name for certain sites. At the moment, I’m still unsure which route I want to take. I’m probably just going to stick with my own name, though I don’t know.

        Anyway, best of luck. :)


  • http://www.debtfreestartups.com Nate Ezell

    Hi Pat! Great post!

    I have a question for you and anyone else reading this. I just started my blog in November. I have an About Me page, give my real name and mention my family, but I don’t plan to put their names or their pics on the blog for their safety. Do you think that is being too closed off?

    • http://cashcampfire.com Christina Crowe

      I most certainly don’t. A lot of bloggers don’t mention the names of their family. They just say “wife” or “daughter.” That’s perfectly fine. You’re not being deceiving or anything. And just by knowing _you_ readers can feel connected.

  • Steve

    Another great Podcast, Pat. Just a few things:

    1. I agree on Pop-ups. To me, they seem so…”2005″. I think they make websites look less professional, and more sales-y. For certain purposes that might be fine, but on a “relationship” site I would not use them.

    2. Your point about “having a story” can’t be emphasized enough. People are emotional creatures, and the best way to connect with them on a website is to have a story that causes them to relate to you. My own homepage contains my own true, very detailed hardship story, and I know that when visitors read it, they say, “Hey, that’s the exact same situation I’m in!” It creates an immediate emotional connection with and attachment to readers, and they then trust what I say because they know I’ve already “been there, done that.” If you don’t have a good story that people can relate to, those people won’t stick around long.

    3. Pen names are absolutely fine, so long as the purpose of using one is related more to anonimity than it is to dishonestly representing oneself. My own site revolves around a medical issue, and I use a pen name for legitimate reasons of medical privacy. This particular medical condition can be somewhat embarrassing, and I really don’t need my friends, family and work colleagues knowing that I’m an “authority” on this issue. I have never felt that using a pen name for this purpose is inappropriate. And as you pointed out Pat, many, many highly successful people use (or have used) pen names. Just like a guy named Samuel Clemens…better known as “Mark Twain”.

  • http://www.Sensophy.com Jacob Sokol

    Thought you might be interested to know you took a ride with me today from Queens to Times Square to Uptown Manhattan. You get around bro! Solid stuff and i LOVE the introspection!

  • http://ninetowhat.com Fernando

    Nice Stuff Pat! I’m downloading at the moment.

  • http://joukokarvonen.com/ Jouko Karvonen

    Thanks for another excellent podcast, one of the best ones so far.

    Like many others here, I also agree about the pop-up issue. I’ve seen them become more and more frequent lately, to the point of annoying (probably because of the popup domination since they all look kind of same). Especially when it pops up before you’ve started to read anything OR when you already are a subscriber.

    All important questions to ask though, included some points I’ve been struggling with lately.

  • http://www.outdoor-shed-plans.org Steve

    Hi Pat – Loved the latest podcast!

    It’s great to see someone promoting pure white-hat methods (no pop-ups, don’t spam your subscribers with affiliate links etc.) and making a success of it.

    There’s so many snake-oil IM ‘gurus’ out there that your genuine and honest approach has to be a winner.


  • http://www.SalseroMusic.com Ryan Mitchell

    Hey Pat,

    As a fan of the podcast I just wanted to let you know I think the artwork is missing from this episode. :)

    Thanks for everything you do!

  • http://www.ptmarketingunleashed.com Samuel

    Enjoyed the podcast Pat. I’m struggling also with the pop-up opt-in box. I think it is a great way to build your list however it does feel intrusive to the visitor. But I sometimes hear a lot of online marketers say you want to be intrusive or “Get in their face” because visitors will likely not remember to sign up for your newsletter. Or the other thing is that they can leave your blog via an external link and might not come back. So I see what your saying about not having it but I wonder if it will affect the amount of opt-ins you could get with it there. Maybe setting it to show once a month or every other month maybe less intrusive as to everytime they visit.

  • http://emaxglobal.com Fiona

    The content of this article was really informative.
    It did provided emphasis on the Internet marketing techniques and realtive concept.

  • http://fastandeasyonlinemarketing.com Chris Gustafson

    I agree with most of the comments here about pop-ups on blogs, and I personally do find them annoying. However, since I started using pop-ups on a couple of my sites my opt-in rate has gone through the roof. Also, there are a LOT of influential bloggers that are now using them and reporting the same results. For example:

    Yaro Starak
    Michael Dunlop
    Chris Guthrie

    All the bloggers above run high page rank, high traffic blogs, and all of them use pop-ups. There is something to be said for that….isn’t there?

  • http://www.rhythm-hub.com Steve

    Hey Pat..great P-Cast !! As usual on the money !! It’s helping me clean up my game plan for my new site and it’s helping me modify my old (Change is Good !)

  • ade

    he y pat loads of great stuff here, came across your blog only recently but i really like what i see and hear . picking up lots of stuff and will definitely stick around .keep up the good work . cheers

  • http://www.crunchbase.com/person/tej-kohli Tej Kohli

    You are right Pat We have to check out first with our own eyes how its looks and feels before going to post some thing

  • http://financiallyeliteblog.com Dwight

    Thanks for the podcast, look for forward to the listen.

    Dwight Anthony
    Financially Elite Blog dot Com

  • Pingback: January 2011 Round-Up | Creating My Empire()

  • http://www.enetflixreviews.com Kenneth Ashley

    Hello Pat,

    One thing we must do (in all aspects of life) is analyze “where we are, and where we want to be”. If” where we are” has no correlation to “where we want to be” we must correct ourselves.


    Kenneth Ashley

  • Tommy Hardin

    Hey Pat,

    I must say I despise popups. If I see them I immediately leave a site. However, if people are getting conversions with them I cannot argue with that.

    I have a question about the Sharebar Plugin. Should I ditch the Sexy Bookmarks plugin and go with Sharebar? Also, does this slow down a website like I have heard some of the other sharing plugins can? For instance I was warned by a couple bloggers that the wibiya toolbar can slow a site down. Thoughts?

  • Tommy Hardin

    I have to say that in reply to my other comment that I really like the video pop up by Tyrone Shum. There is something about the video that makes it better and more personable. I would be more willing to give my info in something like that.

  • Christine Cunningham

    I listen to you for content that works, something I can do right now, and as an example of what I want to add to the world web. Thank you for what you do! It truly matters!

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