7000 Newsletter Subscribers from 1 YouTube Video (Traffic Strategies with Incredible ROI)

Article by Gregory Ciotti.

Never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing.”

Ron Swanson

Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the importance of Being Everywhere and I’m not knocking that advice, but I will warn you that spreading yourself too thin (especially during your blog’s early stages) is your one-way ticket to failure.

Take Twitter for example. I use the service and it sends me some decent traffic, but I could really give a damn about my Twitter account. I have no desire to share 20 things a day like most people recommend, because I’ve seen the numbers: it’s not worth my time.

In fact, in all of my time doing content strategy (for startups, for personal projects, even for local clients), I’ve yet to come across any ‘tactic’ that actually works that doesn’t somehow involve creating epic shit or doing some sort of promotion on another big blog/website.

In short, to maximize the ROI of your blogging efforts, spending most of your time researching how to create outstanding, unique content will give you far better results than learning that “one simple YouTube trick” that will end up doing jack squat for your bottom line.

As for that title up there? I’m going to show you how it went down, along with 2 other traffic tactics that are actually worth your time.

Let’s do this!

1.) Pouring Tons of Effort into Collaborations

If there is one sad truth about traffic generation that I hate to acknowledge, it’s that in the beginning, it matters just as much what you do off your site as what you do on it.

The content you publish on-site should be your best stuff, no doubt. It needs to be the kind of epic shit that people can qualify as soon as they hit your blog: “Yeah, this is definitely what I’m looking for!”

The problem is that the hardest part about building an audience is starting from scratch.

You might have heard that it’s good to be drowning in competition, because that means there are plenty of people interested in your topic. Since that really is the case, the best way to jump start your ghost-town of a blog is to get involved with folks who already have your ideal audience.

It took me a while to learn this, but when I did, I never looked back! Recently, I was able to acquire over 7000 newsletter subscribers in a 30-day period with one unique video collaboration.

It was called the ‘Science of Productivity‘ and it was an animated video with the ASAPscience team:

Pretty cool right?

Check out the first week results, directly from my AWeber account…

It was released late afternoon on the 13th, so the first 36 hours sent nearly 1,000 new leads!

While it was obviously a pretty unique example (and far more successful than any other collaboration I’ve done), I’ve found a few simple rules that apply to every big collaboration project:

  1. You need to talk about how they benefit: Sure, the collaboration will likely end up being great for you, but you must recognize that nobody BUT you will care. When I first emailed ASAPscience, I mentioned that I would use my contacts to heavily promote the video everywhere it would be a fit. We ended it up landing on places like Gizmodo and Lifehacker, so this turned out well.
  2. The agreement needs to be crystal clear: If they are bringing the larger audience to the table, you need to be flexible with what you get out of the deal. Since the ASAPscience YouTube channel had 150,000 subscribers, I gladly gave them full rights to the video (and it’s ad profits) in exchange for a mention in the video and a link in the description.
  3. You better be willing to do the legwork: The newer your blog is, the more you are getting out of a collaboration, so you better be ready to work. Even though Sparring Mind already had a 5-digit newsletter, I was glad to do all of the research for this post and write up the entire script.

The honest truth is that these sorts of collaborations don’t necessarily have a set ‘how-to’ and they will depend on your ability to recognize creative opportunities and your willingness to make first contact and put something amazing together.

The benefits, however, are well worth the effort! :)

2.) Creating Content that Causes Controversy

If there is one thing that can help your content stand out in a saturated industry, it’s controversy.

Here’s the problem: how can you create controversial content WITHOUT making people hate your guts, or putting your business’ reputation in jeopardy?

This important question has seemingly been answered by a Wharton Business School study titled When, Why, and How Controversy Causes Conversation. The lead researchers examined multiple examples of controversial content and how popular the conversations around these pieces of content became.

They concluded the following…

“[Data] shows that controversy increases likelihood of discussion at low levels, but beyond a moderate level of controversy, additional controversy actually decreases likelihood of discussion.”

What does that mean exactly?

In a nutshell: Topics that are too controversial (politics, religion, national tragedies) can end up being bad things to discuss (outside of the news) because people won’t want to talk about them for fear of offending someone. Also, it can make you look bad if you try to address these topics and end up coming off as uncaring.

So what’s the answer?

I love pointing towards this image as a perfect example of the “low-level” of controversy mentioned in the research:

Basically, any topic that people love to argue about, but that won’t actually hurt anyone’s feelings. A topic that stirs up debate, but not hate, spite, and bad vibes.

I recently acted on this research in a post entitled Why Steve Jobs Never Listened to His Customers.

It examined “customer feedback vs. internal innovation” and played off of Steve Job’s famous quote that it is “really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

This is a topic that is really controversial in the startup community, because tech startups sometimes feel like their engineers should be the only people stirring innovation.

Not surprisingly, the post hit the front page of HackerNews and had about 9,000 people visit within the first 12 hours:

But don’t take it from me, I’m not the only person who has used this strategy effectively…

Have you stirred up some controversy on your blog?

3.) Publish Less Articles & More Resources

If you’ve ever heard blogging ninja Derek Halpern speak on traffic generation, you know he recommends a harsh shift in the “content creation balance” recommending that you spend nearly 80% of your time promoting your content and only 20% creating it.

I agree, and I’ve taken it a step further: I’ve started spending more of my allotted content creation time creating resources that are far easier to promote than regular blog posts.

Corbett himself has shown you how well this works with his downloadable guides and manifestos, but let me break down some insider tips from my software startup Help Scout:

  • Resources count for over 2/3 of newsletter sign-ups: Seems crazy right? This is likely because it’s a software business and not just a blog, but a huge majority of our active (and very engaged) newsletter subscribers join the list through one of our free resources, and I’ve seen incredible returns by spending the extra time to write these over more blog posts.
  • A “toolbox” works better than a single freebie: I’m sure Corbett and Caleb can back me up here given the Traffic Toolbox’s success, but creating a treasure chest of resources that people can get their hands on (as opposed to yet another measly PDF) has been incredibly effective for conversions from where I’m standing.
  • Resources can pick up some incredible features: Since we’ve created a variety of guides, they’ve been featured in round-ups on places like Unbounce (#1 of the year), and have been entered (by our audience, not us!) into e-Book competitions and the like. Great articles will obviously get links too, but it is so much easier to reach out and promote free guides on your own.

When I first released my guide on 10 Ways to Convert More Customers (with Psychology), it was downloaded nearly 1,000+ times, and that was only during the first few weeks and without off-site promotion.

For those of you keeping score at home, that added a boatload of new subscribers to my email list, and since it was a resource and not just some crummy blog post, I was able to successfully promote it with a number of successful off-site appearances, including this post on Copyblogger that got over 3,000+ tweets.

You’ll notice I’m not the only content marketer doing this, check out Copyblogger’s page for the Scribe Content Library, chock full of resources made to help promote the software.

When’s the last time you created something worth promoting?

What Say You?

(Any Lord of the Rings fans?)

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so fire away below!

Tell me: What’s the single thing that you’ve done that has helped your blog grow the most?

Thanks for reading!

Gregory Ciotti is the content strategist at Help Scout, the invisible email management software for solopreneurs and small-business owners. Get more data-driven content from Greg by downloading one of our free resources (no charge).

26 thoughts on “7000 Newsletter Subscribers from 1 YouTube Video (Traffic Strategies with Incredible ROI)”

  1. I’m currently working on a free guide for my email subscribers, but so far the best thing I’ve done to help grow my blog is guest posting. My page views fluctuate when a post is published, but the overall views per day have increased and are more constant than before.

    The posts here are extremely well-written and useful—keep’em coming! :)

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Brent.

      Guest posting is definitely a great way to get the ball rolling and I still enjoy doing it to this day (as can be seen here, heh).

      I will say that it works best when combined with other activities that scale well: guest posting takes a lot of time and requires original ideas be spent on other sites, so while I still love it, it shouldn’t be your only off-site strategy.

  2. Great Post Gregory. and a Wonderful Video.

    Thanks for sharing this. love the idea of controversy. It always help to get more attention and more shares.

    Thanks again for sharing this. Shall look at your blog as well.

  3. Excellent post. To play off of the Steve Jobs idea: sometimes your readers don’t know what they want either until you give it to them. Both in blog content and killer resources. But creating something they didn’t even know they needed/wanted can really skyrocket conversion.

  4. Creating epic shit has finally begun working for me, so I have to stick with that. I just released an article yesterday that doubled my highest traffic total for one day. Now, I haven’t converted those people into regulars yet, but it’s definitely a start!

  5. of course, what a fantastic collaboration with those video producers, their videos are awesome!
    Building relationships and networks for sure is very important.
    As a newbie blogger I can’ t tell right now what helped my blog most, I try not to get overwhelmed by all the stuff that is to do and just keep going, make small steps but constantly,
    Cheers Chris

  6. Awesome post Gregory, and perfect timing.

    Lately, I’ve been focusing a lot of my energy on articles and blog posts. Your point about resources being easier to promote really resonated with me, and I’m going to start putting more effort into creating resources for my visitors.

    Again, thanks for the post, and keep up the great work!

    Jake Johnson

  7. Lots of great points in this post! I recently interviewed a fellow on my blog who creates a ton of controversy within his blog. He skyrocketed his Alexa rank to around the 200k mark within 8 weeks of starting a brand new blog due to his extreme controversial blog posts and rants. He actually now generates 25-50 leads a day from a brand new blog probably strongly in relation to this alone!

  8. Great post here, Greg! I don’t know if I actually liked the post itself or the productivity video better haha

    Where we’ve seen the most blog traffic increase is contradictory to epic shit and blogging less frequently stand point. We see far more traffic spikes when posting regularly (daily or more) and overtime, a twice a week blogging schedule. These posts are usually between 500 and 850 words.

    It gives more content to share and drive traffic regularly as well as the exponential growth of being found on Google for more keywords and ranking more quickly for them.

    Knowing where to share your new content is the key to getting more visitors from the articles and obviously higher quality traffic.

  9. Awesome post! What say you? So, the #1 thing (that literally doubled my subscribers) was focusing on ONE thing to direct people to when they hit my site… instead of a hundred things like other sites (including my old one). Instead of driving people to purchase one of my programs or books, I focus on what I so with my offline clients, which is CREATING A RELATIONSHIP.

    What a concept, huh? I feels so much better this way, and the results are speaking for themselves. We focus on inviting people to subscribe to my emails and give them so much valuable content that is blows their socks off :-) …Don’t worry about buying stuff… let me take care of you.

    I get tons of messages every-single-day now from people responding to my auto-responder and thanking me for giving them so much in a totally free email. I love it. Wish I would have “got” this sooner, but it’s been a valuable lesson learned.

  10. Great post Gregory,

    It’s very useful to get such solid advice and the results you are getting from them.

    I have had some success with guest posting, but like you said it needs to be complimented with other initiatives to get the best results. I will definitely try out your advice.


  11. “Creating Content that causes Controversy” is what worked for me. But you don’t have it applicable most times, but it just works.

    Great article here, learned some more few things I didn’t knew.

  12. Excellent post Gregory,

    To answer your question the one thing that’s helped my blog grow the most is collaboration.

    When I started my interview series this year I noticed a big jump in traffic and social media activity.

  13. The single thing I have done to generate more blog traffic so far is join the Ultimate Blogging Challenge. It got me writing every day once I found my voice. It gave me an audience which energized my engagement and meeting the challenge. None of my connections were in this challenge so it introduced me to a whole new network of people. I will do the challenge again! This upcoming month is a collaboration effort freebie with several contributors…many of whom are new to me as well. I am spearheading this one. (Whew! Lots of work!) but hope it also builds my list as well as readership!

  14. Gregory! YOU KILLED IT, SIR! Phenomenal work here and elsewhere!

    Once we focused on creating massive resources we saw both our traffic and engagement skyrocket. When everybody is blogging, the guy who puts 10 hours (and his soul) into creating something sticks out.

    It’s important to make a resource out of a post AND of course the toolkit.

    It’s funny what we find controversial. I made a post about making friends instead of networking like a business card ninja and people got all up in arms. I think one of the most interesting sources of controversy is the ones we have inside ourselves. Things that we do or believe that we don’t feel comfortable with.

  15. Hi Greg,

    Great to read your post here! I grow my blog the most by responding to my readers’ requests and often solicit feedback both on and off the site. When a reader reaches out to me to ask for advice, I can often safely assume that all others would be interested in the topic. As a result, I often write articles that specifically address my readers’ requests.

  16. I don’t like the approach of controversy for the sake of controversy to generate links, shares or fame.

    Gay VS straight? such debate will never be neutral. if you believe in God you’ll oppose. If you have an issue with God you’ll welcome.

    the Ideology of the writer controls and influences how he accumulate Data to make his words “proven”.

    doing charity and telling people about it. Where is people’s ethics and morals?

  17. The thing that worked for me was sharing my success and posting it on LinkedIn and forums. My blog is on investing in real estate and I think many people are skeptical of all the so called gurus who never actually invest them self. By posting that I have bought many rentals and fix and flips with details it gives me more credit.
    I also like to be a little controversial by telling people paying off your mortgage early is not a good investment.

  18. Great examples and inspiring insights. The same counts in culture – if you’re noone, attention of people already liking art similar to yours is the most effective way to get the initial group of fans who can eventually transform into full-scale audience.

  19. Great methods, man! Of course it did take a little bit of luck with the YouTube video, but that is what this is all about. You put your heart and soul into everything and put yourself in a position to get lucky.

    I had a “re-launch” where I de-cluttered my site, added a new theme, and created a 32-page freebie. It’s no Toolkit, but I’ll be brainstorming and working on that here real soon. Thanks a lot for the post and keep up the good work. Creating content that hundreds of people WANT to share is not an easy task.

  20. Aaaah… Amazing and i really loved reading your post it is indeed very interesting….
    But you know i never am that much lucky to get so much of a great conversion rate from any of my youtube videos.
    My youtube videos are watched many times but people mostly dont like to come and buy the products…:(

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