Or, the highs and lows of my free SEO opt-in challenge
Let me start by saying I’ve never been a particularly considered creature.
I’m a leap before I look, zero planning, seat of my pants kind of gal.
So the following guide to running a 10-Day Challenge is less a polished plan and more a raw, honest tale of all the fluff ups I made along the way.
What is an opt-in challenge?
An opt-in is a marketing tactic, which encourages people to sign up to your email list.
There are heaps of different ways to style your opt-in; you can:
- Give away a downloadable thing – like a checklist or an ebook (or this site I give away an SEO checklist)
- Offer a free, short phone call or Skype consultation
- Give access to a series of video tutorials
- Offer a free webinar on your chosen subject
The idea is that people like the look of your opt-in offer enough to give you their email address – and you can then use the email address to build loyalty and send out offers.
Another powerful opt-in tactic is to create a challenge.
At Problogger this year, there was much talk of challenge and so, like many others, when Darren Rowse asked us to decide one thing we’d aim to action after the event, mine was a challenge.
After bit of consulting in various Facebook forums I decided:
- My challenge would focus on beginner level Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) as a way of building my list for The Recipe for SEO Success eCourse
- I would run the challenge for 10 days (as 31 seemed rather too many to handle, both for me and my readers)
- Each day, I’d provide people with some educational information and a simple SEO task that could be completed in 30 minutes
In terms of the structure and delivery of the challenge I did the following:
- I created a page on my existing Divi website with some simple information (rather than a special Leadpages style sales landing page)
- I used the Bloom WP plugin to collect email addresses both on the page in a time-delayed pop up on the Home page, and in the footer
- I used my existing free Mailchimp to send the daily emails
- I republished the content on my blog as daily posts open to everyone
- I created a private Facebook group to support the challenge (more on this later)
Some extra challenge bits and bobs
As well as the standard challenge content:
- Video: I created a short video for the first day and uploaded it to YouTube and then embedded into my blog.
- Live chats: I scheduled four Periscopes at set times to answer questions as well as well as two Blabs with Perry Bernard and Bill Slawski for group SEO chats (thanks guys!)
- Memes: I designed a meme for each day of the challenge using Canva.
- Printable: I had a free downloadable created by LissLetters as an end of challenge giveaway.
- Survey: I built an end of challenge survey using the free Survey Monkey app.
- ok: I turned the entire challenge into an ebook (adding extra information) and included a free SEO-friendly blog copywriting template. At the end of the challenge this was available to buy for $20 using the Easy Digital Downloads plugin.
Writing the challenges was, well, challenging. Essentially, I had to create 12 pieces of content in a very short space of
- An intro email
- 10 Challenge emails and blog posts
- A ‘Thank you’ email
So, I got some help from:
- An editor: I enlisted Bill Harper to edit and finesse the challenges after I’d written them. While using an editor certainly added to my budget, it gave me huge piece of mind to know that the content was being carefully reviewed for consistency and ease of understanding.
- A proofreader: I used a proofreader to recheck the content after I’d made Bill’s amends.
- A virtual assistant: Although I chose to code all the blogs and emails myself, I used my wonderful assistant Chauntelle Rakebrandt to check over everything once I was done.
- A designer: I used the services of Kate Buckland to create promotional graphics and layout the ebook.
With my course launch date looming I had to work fast as I wanted the challenge to end just before my Early Bird Course pricing offer ended.
All in all, I produced everything in just over a week.
As I used a number of third parties I did incur a fair bit of cost:
- Editing: $1000
- Proofreader: $200
- Virtual Assistant: $600
- Designer: $750
I stopped tracking my time (it was too depressing), but all in all, to write, amend and code everything as well as creating graphics etc., I probably invested 40-60 hours of my time.
In addition to this, during the course I probably spent around 1-2 hours a day in the Facebook group.
I promoted the challenges via my existing email lists as well as on social media and in a few Facebook communities.
I also ran one short Facebook advertising campaign, which cost $42.
I managed to get just under 800 email sign ups in the run up of around two weeks.
The negatives and positives
The challenge experience was, challenging, partially due to my stupid self-imposed deadline and my already very full workload.
I feared I’d be inundated with questions in the Facebook group, but I was fairly strict with my rules and it was all good.
A few survey respondents complained that:
- The book wasn’t free
- That I didn’t include certain elements in the Challenge
- That the Challenges were too hard / too easy
- That I shouldn’t have mentioned the full ecourse, and that, because I did, the ‘whole thing felt really ‘ungenuine’ and ‘salesy’
Of course, one shouldn’t take negative comments to heart, but when you’ve flogged your guts out to get something set up and it’s all FREE, you do feel like finding these survey respondents and poking them in the eye.
Here’s a snapshot of results from the challenge:
- Emails collected: 800
- Email open rate: Average around 51%
- Unsubscribes throughout life of the Challenge: 29
- Social shares: Not counted, but around 20 or 30 a day
- Facebook community sign-ups: Currently 271
- Books sold: Currently 45
- Google reviews: 10
Of course, the most important goal was to encourage sign-ups to the Recipe for SEO Success eCourse.
- Approximately of sign ups 20% were from people who never heard of the ecourse before the 10-Day Challenge.
Kate Hall-Dover told me:
“I hadn’t heard of it before. I was mentioning on a business site (the artful business community) I’d like SEO advice, and the 10 day course was recommended. Had I not have done that, I don’t think I would’ve heard of/signed up for the main course. The 10 day course was what drove me to sign up for the full course, without question.”
- Approximately 30% of sign ups had heard of the course, but were convinced to purchase by the completing the 10-Day Challenge
Angela Denly explained:
“I’ve been interested since beginning of the year. Missed the May round as I had just come back from holiday. The 10 day challenge just confirmed for me that the course would be a worthwhile investment.”
So, with the value of books sold and the sign ups generated I have most likely covered the cost of creating the Challenge creation.
With all the negative feedback (of course it blotted out the positive) I felt a bit miffed after the challenge.
I was also disappointed that more people hadn’t opted to buy the book as it wasn’t that exy and included some good extra bits.
I began to question the value of ‘FREE’.
It seemed that no matter now much free content I gave away some people just wanted more, and more.
I felt that, perhaps, I should have charged for the content and set about changing things to charge a set fee for signing up.
After a little break I realised that this was daft and decided to make the course forever free.
I have now made the 10-Day SEO Challenge evergreen – so that now it runs all the time rather than on a set date.
All the emails are automated, people can join the group at any time, and Periscopes and Blabs will be adhoc and a bonus rather than expected and at a fixed time.
What the results don’t show
I think that running a challenge like this may not result in an immediate Return On Investment (ROI)– it’s more of a long-term thing, a slow burner.
Some less obvious benefits included:
Increased brand awareness
As Helen Fletcher commented in the group:
“Don’t underestimate the reach that your course has had! I’ve passed it onto 3 people who hadn’t heard of you or SEO before, and now they think you’re flipping awesome.”
Or, as Sue White added:
“ I really enjoyed the course. What it’s done for me is link your name and SEO expertise firmly in my mind. So, whether I book or not for paid things (which I might in future – but that’s more to do with timing of me being ready than anything else), it has meant yours is a name I’ll come back to/recommend.”
Potential future sales
As Erin O’Loughlin said:
“I really enjoyed the course, and without it, I don’t think I would genuinely have considered your full course. It’s a lot of money, and going in “cold” would have been a hard decision.
Right now, I haven’t signed up for the full course because I can’t afford it, and I feel like I don’t have the time available to do it justice.
But improving my SEO is one of my career goals for the year, and when I do have the funds, your course will be my course of choice because of the 10-day challenge.”
The fuzzy-wuzzy factor
Pretty Love told me:
“What you are doing is fabulous! The service that you are providing to small business, freelancers, new comers etc… Its truly invaluable and those who genuinely appreciate your generosity will provide feedback hopefully of the constructive/good variety, compliments then possibly pay it forward in their own way.”
What would I have done differently?
Now it’s all done and dusted, I think it’s a good idea to review and rethink. There’s actually not much I would have changed other than:
- Taking more time: Although I prefer working to a deadline, it was kinda stressful.
- Not bothering with the book: The book was expensive to produce and didn’t sell as well as I’d hoped.
- Less live chat: I’d opt for one live interactive session a week or one for the whole challenge.
So all in all I’m happy with the content I produced and the results. Hurrah.
Over to you
Have you run a challenge to increase email sign ups? What was your experience?
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