What would you do if you woke up one day and realised you were leaving $195,000 on the table every month?
(Photo Credit: Earth Porm)
I was browsing MTGGoldfish.com the other day and it dawned on me: That is exactly what’s happening to them.
At this point you might be wondering: $195,000 extra revenue per month?
What the heck does this site do?
Are they a drug cartel?
MTGGoldfish is a gaming website which focuses on the collectible card game, Magic the Gathering (“MTG”).
You see, MTGGoldfish is a triumph of content marketing.
In less than 2 years, they went from 0 to 3.9 million monthly traffic by publishing great content (that their audience actually wants to read).
However, they are leaving a lot of money on the table.
In this series, we are going to explore how they can optimise their marketing to add an extra $195,000 per month to their bottom line.
In one sentence: It’s the world’s most popular collectible card game.
You assemble a deck of cards and battle against an opponent’s deck. If you like strategy, playing mind games to force your opponent’s hand, and finding synergies between seemingly unconnected things, it’s worth checking out.
Oh, it also happens to be an $880 million industry with over 20 million players. (That’s the entire population of New York City.)
According to Forbes, Magic the Gathering is one of Hasbro’s most lucrative franchises, beat only by Star Wars. In fact, Hasbro’s financial statements credit Magic as the primary reason its games division is profitable while the majority of its other games are losing money.
Some players love the art, some love the story behind the cards, some love the strategy aspect and some play purely to win. And, of course, like any other hobby, there are the collectors.
But all of them are passionate about the game.
And they are not afraid to invest in their hobby:
A tournament deck costs anywhere between $300-1500.
Indeed, the game is so popular (and so lucrative) that it has spawned its own brand of criminals.
Remember that news story about the guy in Austin, Texas who stole $75,000 in Magic cards in Austin, Texas earlier this year?
In this series, we are going to take an in-depth look at how a gaming site can use digital marketing to exponentially grow their business. And, as you might have guessed already, we’ll be using Mtggoldfish.com as our case study.
In today’s article, we’ll explore three tweaks MTGGoldfish (and you) can make to get the most out of the traffic landing on your site.
Next week, we shall investigate nine other methods MTGGoldfish can use to gain subscribers faster than popcorn can pop.
Then in Part III, we will examine how they can monetise their email list.
If our goal is to get MTGGoldfish more subscribers…
Where should we start?
Do we put a feature box on their home page?
Start A/B testing opt-in copy?
Re-design their website?
Create new content?
Before we jump into tactics, we need to take a 30,000 feet birds-eye view look at their business.
Where is their traffic coming from? How are visitors finding their site? (i.e. traffic sources)
Where is that traffic landing?
Because you see...
Here is a counterintuitive fact:
No matter what type of website you run, most of your traffic lands on very few of your pages.
In my experience working with clients, the top 10 pages of a website get 70-80% of the total traffic.
The top 5 pages usually get 40-60% of the total traffic.
This seems to be the case EVEN for sites which have been around for years, with hundreds of articles in their archives.
Talk about 80/20....
(CAVEAT EMPTOR: The percentages are lower for multi-author sites which publish daily content across a lot of different categories. But not as much as you’d expect… Even these sites have one or two “viral” articles which vastly outperform the rest of their extensive archive. The only true exceptions I’ve seen are pure “news” and “gossip" sites which don’t really have evergreen content.)
Therefore, your most popular pages should have one goal: turning random visitors into loyal visitors.
You need to make each of those pages a salesman for your company.
And as I get older mature, I get lazier.
Before I lift a finger, I want to know which 20% of my effort is going to give me 80% of my results.
The same principle applies to conversion optimisation.
Before we do anything else, we first want to identify the 20% of our content that will give us 80% of our subscribers, if optimised correctly.
In other words, we want to know what our most valuable pages are.
Go to Google Analytics -> Then on the left hand side, go to Behaviour -> Site Content -> All Pages.
This will show you a list of your most popular content.
On the top right hand side, set the date range to cover the last year.
Click on the pie graph icon to see a visual breakdown.
These are your most valuable pages.
They are the pages that get the most visitors. If you optimise them to convert, your email list (and revenue) will grow like a bamboo shoot.
Let’s take a second to do the math:If your Top 5 pages get 50% of your visitors, and you 4x the conversion rate of those pages, you've doubled your business.
Just by tweaking five pages, you put your business on steroids.
Minimum effort, maximum impact.
Since I don’t have access their Google Analytics data, I’m going to do some digging and extrapolate from publicly available data.
According to SimilarWeb, half of MTGGoldfish’s visitors are direct traffic:
Direct traffic doesn’t always mean that someone typed your domain name into their browser, but, in this case, that might actually be what’s happening.
There are two reasons I say this:
First, when you look at their search traffic, most of the search terms are some variation of the website name “mtggoldfish”:
And when people type “mtggolfish” into Google, the first result that comes up is their homepage.
Second, if you think about the conversation that is already going on in their visitors' heads, this assumption makes perfect sense.
You’re a new player. You download Magic Online. In one of your matches, you run across an opponent who plays a really cool deck.
The conversation runs something like this:
You: Love your deck, mate! I bet it was really expensive though...
Opponent: Nah, not really.
You: Did you brew it yourself?
Opponent: Oh it’s one Saffron’s decks. You should check out mtggoldfish.com - they have a lot of cool budget decks.
You then go away and Google ‘mtggoldfish’.
So, these visitors are coming to the site by typing the website directly into the address bar or by Googling the website’s name. In either case, they are landing on the home page, which makes it prime real estate for the company.
Based on SimilarWeb data, if I were a betting man I’d wager that the Mtggoldfish homepage is one of their top 3 pages.
Therefore, they would get the most bang for their money if they start by optimising that.
Take a look at their popular content from the past year:
Do you see a pattern here?
The pattern I see is this:
“News” articles were the most shared articles.
These are articles where MTGGoldfish reported or commented on some game-changing announcement from Wizards of the Coast (the game’s publisher, a subsidiary of Hasbro).
I say this with one caveat.
In this case, the Buzzsumo results might be misleading.
First of all, only 11% of their traffic comes from social media. So even if these articles got the most social shares, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they rank among the website’s top articles.
Second, most of their social traffic comes from Reddit, which Buzzsumo doesn’t track. According to SimilarWeb, here is the breakdown of their social traffic:
Putting these two observations together, I get the sense that Buzzsumo only analysed articles constituting 4.5% of the website’s traffic:
Facebook and Twitter account for 36 + 4 = 40% of their social traffic. Social only accounts for 11 % of the website’s overall traffic.
40% of 11% is roughly 4.5%.
Like a litigator building a case, I want to make sure that I’m not building my case on misleading evidence. So I need another witness to corroborate the story.
Time to put MTGGoldfish on the witness stand.
According to the testimony of their popular posts widget, here are some of their top posts:
I spot an interesting pattern here:
(“Eldritch Moon” is the name of the game’s new expansion set, coming out on July 22nd.)
Magic releases about 4 expansion sets a year. (They gotta sell cards, right?)
Each time a new expansion (or its associated Pro Tournament) comes around, it drives a surge of traffic to the game’s “satellite” sites, like MTGGoldfish.
Hasbro has some of the smartest content marketing campaigns I’ve seen anywhere. (More on that in a future article.)
In the weeks leading up to an expansion, they start releasing “spoilers” of the new cards, generating buzz, whetting the players’ appetites and often causing card prices to spike.
Each time a card is showcased, it leads to intense discussion in the community.
Facebook and Reddit groups light up. Pro players write article after article analysing the card’s strengths and weaknesses, how to build decks around it, its art, its lore...
By the time the expansion is released, players are like “Take my credit card already!"
This is what a “release weekend” looks like:
Considering that each tournament deck costs between $300 - 1500, can you imagine the amount of money locked into cards in that room?
Now multiply that scene by a gazillion and imagine this happening in game stores all over the world.
Even on Magic Online (the digital version of the game), the servers crash from overload.
If you ever want tips on how to do a product launch for your business, take a page from Hasbro’s book.
Whenever I analyse their marketing campaigns, for some odd reason I’m reminded of those weird high school documentaries on “how to get someone hooked on drugs”.
It’s marketing mastered to an art form.
Let’s take stock:
The majority of your visitors land on a handful of your pages.
For Mtggoldfish, their top 10 pages are likely to be some combination of:
In the next section, we’re going to explore how Mtggoldfish can turn these pages into lead generation machines.
But first, I want to briefly discuss how you can apply this analysis to your business.
What I wanted to show was that, even if you don’t have Google Analytics installed, you can still get a sense of where your traffic is coming from and what pages it hits.
However, such analysis is rather complicated and sometimes a bit misleading.
For the love of God, please install Google Analytics if you haven’t already.
The verification process is a pain in the neck but it’s definitely worth it if you want to start making strategic decisions about your online business.
End of rant.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned from my mentor Bryan Harris was this:
I should start thinking about every article I write like being a new salesman for my company.
If constructed properly, it will consistently bring new leads and customers.
So how can MTGGoldfish do the same?
Let’s examine each of the five categories we identified in turn.
Right now, their home page is trying to do too many things at once.
As a result, it’s a bit overwhelming.
And overwhelmed visitors leave before they take the action you want them to take.
Oddly enough, the more choices you give a person, the less likely they are to choose any.
(Chapter 1 of Made to Stick features a fascinating psychological study on this, under the section entitled “Decision Paralysis”. For the root study, see: Donald A Redelmeier and Eldar Shafir, “Medical Decision Making in Situations That Offer Multiple Alternatives,” Journal of the American Medical Association 273 (1995): 302-6)
But we can’t just jump in and make a bunch of suggestions.
We first need to understand what their #1 business goal is right now and then adapt the homepage to that. As that goal changes, so will the look and design of the site.
Form follows function.
Is their #1 goal to grow their audience? Or is it to maximise revenue? Do they want ad revenue or do they want to sell more of their own products? What kind of players do they want to attract?
Each of these goals pulls the design in a different direction.
For now, let’s assume that their #1 goal is to get more subscribers.
What simple tweaks can they do to turn their home page into a lead generation machine?
Most websites give their visitors too many things to do:
Navigation bar at the top, blog posts, categories, services, opt in widgets all over the place.
When you turn your homepage upside down and push all the distracting stuff to the bottom, it becomes a whirlpool.
A whirlpool that grabs fleeting visitors, inexorably pulls them down the page and sucks them into your email list.
One way to create this whirlpool effect is to make your homepage the “pilot episode” of your website.
The pilot episode of a TV show hooks viewers with a compelling story and gets them to watch the next episode.
Instead of cluttering the homepage with other calls to action, you use what’s been proven to work:
Your best story.
You use the best content on your website to hook your new visitors and then give them a call to action to subscribe to your email list to learn more.
When Bryan Harris discovered the Upside-Down Homepage, it increased the number of new subscribes to his site by 35%.
When other bloggers tested the concept, they got equally impressive results:
Jeff Goins got 2,500 new subscribers from the page.
Andrew Warner of Mixergy got 1,200 new subscribers from the page.
So how exactly do you design an Upside-Down Homepage (aka a Welcome Gate)?
As Bryan Harris explains, there are six main sections of the Upside-Down Homepage:
The Feature Box, popularised by Derek Halpern of Social Triggers, is a large opt-in form that sits on top of your blog.
When you install a Feature Box to your blog, you are relocating your sign-up form from your sidebar to the header of your site.
Here’s an example from Jon Morrow's site Smart Blogger:
Isn’t the feature box going to take up the most valuable real estate on their website?
And isn’t it be invasive and pushy to ask for an email address the moment a visitor gets to their homepage?
I would argue that they’d actually do their readers a service by installing a feature box. It will also help them grow their business roughly 10 times faster than they are now.
Here is why:
Reason #1: When someone randomly visits their site, he will know exactly what their website is all about.If he is into it, he can sign up for updates (which builds their email list).
If he's not ready to subscribe, he can continue to browse their content by scrolling down.
This is inherently respectful towards their visitors because it saves them time.
Reason #2: The Feature Box will qualify their traffic as soon as it hits their homepage. If it’s the right visitors, you get the email.
If it’s the wrong visitors, they either browse your website for more information or leave.
Reason #3: Their business will grow 10 times faster.
A subscription form on the sidebar typically converts at an op-in rate of 0.5% (source). That means you need 200 visitors to add 1 subscriber to your list.
The feature box, on the other hand, has an opt-in rate of 5% (source) . That means if you send the same 200 visitors to your site, you gain 10 subscribers.
Let’s do the math:
Your email list grows 10 times faster when you use a feature box at the top of every page on your site than it does when you put your subscription form in your blog’s sidebar.
PRO TIP: Display your Feature Box on every page of your site, not just the home page.
The logic is very simple. If the copy resonates, visitors enter their email right away because they know exactly what they’re signing up for.
And they don’t have to “look” for it. It’s right there, front and centre.
According to most experts (here and here, you can expect to earn $1 per subscriber per month in sales. In other words, an email list of 1,000 subscribers should result in at least $1,000 per month in sales.
So if MTGGoldfish wants to add an extra $195,000 to their monthly revenue, they need to add 195,000 new subscribers to their email list.
The problem is...
Subscribing to their website feels like playing a game of “Where’s Waldo?"
Not only do they have a crowded homepage, but their opt-in boxes are exiled to an obscure corner of the sidebar and the footer:
Let’s run the numbers:
With 3.9M monthly visitors and a feature box converting at 5%, it would take them exactly 1 month to gain 195,000 new subscribers.
In contrast, if they don’t include a feature box and decide to keep the sign up form in their sidebar (converting at 0.5%), it would take them 10 months to get those same subscribers.
That’s 9 months of revenue leaking out of their site.
9 months x $195,000 = $1,755,000 of missed income
The question is, “Are you willing to lose 9 months of your life (and $1.7m) because you neglected to put a feature box on your site?"
Despite these numbers why do we balk at the idea of inserting a feature box?
More to the point, why do we think “in your face” opt-in forms are inherently icky and sales-y?
Let's explore the psychology behind this objection.
Pam Neely of GetResponse puts forward a very persuasive argument:
“If it feels like you’re being too pushy to ask for an email address in this space, take a look at what you’re offering in exchange for that email address. Take a look at your lead magnet.
If you’ve got hesitations about adding a feature box, the real underlying problem may be that you don’t feel like your lead magnet is good enough. So really, what you’ve got hesitations about is your lead magnet.
Remember – the world needs what you’re offering. What you’re offering is going to help people, and make their lives better and easier. If you don’t believe that, you’ve got bigger problems than what to do with the space on your home page."
So let’s root out the real objection:
We’re not mind-readers.
So how do we actually find out what our readers want?
What I like to do with clients is to create opt in gifts for each of their top posts, see which one converts better and then reverse-engineer their main “feature box” lead magnet.
I think the best way to explain this is to walk you through the process with a concrete example.
So here is how I would do this for MTGGoldfish.com.
We saw that MTGGoldfish’s top pages were likely to be a combination of:
Now let’s explore how they can turn these articles into salesmen that turn random visitors into loyal fans and customers.
The easiest way to increase the conversation rates of these high traffic pages is to offer a bonus resource readers can download in exchange for their email address.
(Also known as a “lead magnet”, “opt-in bribe”, “opt-in gift” or “content upgrade”. Marketers love jargon.)
To figure out what that “gift” should be, you need to understand what’s going on in your reader’s head.
Why did he come to that page?
For example, why would someone visit this page:
First of all, what the heck IS that page?
It’s a deck building article, which shows players how to build a particular “budget” deck and play with it.
Every time someone wins a match with one of MTGGoldfish’s decks, that’s free advertising for the website.
Let’s see how content marketing has turned readers into evangelists who market the company:
The “content” in this case is a “deck list” (the list of cards to put in your deck) and how to play it. It’s something that is cool, shareable, and immediately useful for their audience. Passing it along to a friend makes you look good.
This goes to show that content marketing doesn’t have to be about writing the same old “how to” articles everyone else is writing.
To my mind, content marketing is more about knowing your audience and giving them something they actually want. Ideally, something that is immediately useable.
What Should MTGGoldfish Offer as a Lead Magnet?
They should offer what they readers actually want.
To figure that out, we need to understand what brought the visitor to that page and what they were hoping to get from it.
So we’re back to our original question: Why would someone visit this page?
I’m going to try to put myself into the visitor’s shoes:
I’m new Magic. I want to play against my buddies.
Unfortunately, they all have these crazy expensive decks they’ve spent months assembling. They keep wiping the floor with me. After a couple of matches, it’s just not fun anymore.
So I google one of mtggoldfish’s competitive budget decks to have a fighting chance.
Lo and behold, this cheap deck is knocking the living daylight out of those $400 tournament decks.
I feel like Mickey Mouse going against Godzilla.
Bwahahaa. Revenge of the Mighty Mouse.
Now let’s put on our marketer hat.
How can we use this insight into player psychology to design our opt-in bribe?
Here is an idea for a lead magnet they could offer:
A 1-page “cheatsheet” you carry in your pocket when you go into matches. It would offer a bird's-eye-view of your deck to reorient yourself between matches.
As a marketing principle, we know that opt in bribes which are relevant and immediately usable convert best.
Now let’s check if our lead magnet idea passes the “relevancy” and “immediate usability” tests.
Relevancy: The article is about the “GB Value Leap” deck. As the opt in bonus, we can offer a cheatsheet that shows you how to win with the deck.
Immediately usable: A cheat sheet is something I can carry in my pocket to matches. Contrast that with a 100 page e-book I need to plough through. Instant gratification wins 3-0.
Now let’s flesh it out.
What could we include in this cheat sheet that would be so useful it absolutely astonishes our readers?
We can astonish readers by solving their very specific problems.
Problem 1: “I have a lot of decks. It’s been weeks since I played this particular deck. I don’t remember what it does."
Solution: Put a one-line summary of the deck’s strategy at the top of the cheatsheet. Something like this:
Problem 2: “When should I use this deck? How does it fare against popular decks other players might be using?"
Solution: After the one-line summary, explain the deck’s strengths and weaknesses - i.e. add a “This deck is great against xyz” type reminder.
Maybe something like this:
(Note for non-gamers: Don't read the match up notes. If you're not an MTG player, they won't make any sense. Just skip to my next note for you.)
(Follow-up note for non-gamers: Welcome back! So here's an analogy from online marketing to explain what that 'match up notes' thingy was all about:
Let's say I write an article about a new traffic strategy. That article is the counterpart to MTGGoldfish's "GB Value Leap" deck-building article. The "match up notes" in this case would be a list of situations where this particular traffic strategy works and doesn't work. Something like: "This traffic strategy is perfect for bloggers with big personalities who are in the fitness, fashion or personal development niches. It's a bit of a hit and miss for career bloggers. Note that this method has a terrible match-up for relationship bloggers, so if you give dating advice please don't use it.")
Anyway, let's move on.
Matches are typically determined by a "best two-out-of-three" set of games.
For the first game, both players play with their main deck — the primary 60 cards that will be the same for the start of every match. After Game 1, the players can swap in any number of the 15 cards from their sideboard to make their deck better suited to winning the next game.
So you use the sideboard to customise your deck’s strategy based on whatever your opponent played in Game 1.
The problem is…
You only have 2 minutes to make those incredibly complex choices.
That brings us to the next problem:
Problem 3: “I’m new to the game. I can’t analyse my opponent’s entire strategy in 2 minutes and build a new deck on the spot!? I always run out of time before I can finish customising my deck. Or I put in all the wrong cards and lose."
Solution: Include “sideboarding” tips which tell new players exactly what they should do: “If your opponent is playing this archetype, takes these cards out and put these in."
Represent those choices visually, so a player can whip out his cheatsheet and see at a glance exactly what he should do before the 2 minutes run out:
I like to ask myself this question to guide my brainstorming:
“What’s the most uncomfortable part of this process? Ok, let me focus my lead magnet on that."
Let’s break this down into a three-step process.
Action item: Choose a problem to solve (that is relevant to the article for which you’re designing the lead magnet).
Problem: “I can’t compete against these crazy expensive decks.”
Solution (your article): “Here is a competitive deck that costs less than $20.”
Lead Magnet: Here is a cheat sheet that will help you win matches with that deck. You can even carry it in your pocket to matches.
What’s the equivalent of giving your audience a “decklist” in your industry?
For example, in the online marketing niche a “decklist” could be a “sales funnel”.
See this call to action on Ramit Sethi’s Growthlab:
Bryan Harris does something similar:
In the “make money online” space, the equivalent of giving your readers a “deck list” could be giving them a list of profitable online business ideas, like Ramit Sethi offers here:
Action Item: Put yourself in the shoes of someone who experiences that problem. Play that entire process like a movie in your head. What’s the most emotionally uncomfortable 5 seconds of that movie?
Let’s step into the exact moment in time and space where side-boarding becomes a problem.
It’s tournament day.
You lost the first round, but it was a close call. If you side-board correctly, you can come out on top.
You only get [2 minutes] between games to adjust your deck.
There is an annoying clock that keeps flashing red as it counts down. You frenetically try to read walls of text on 75 different cards and figure out what to do.
Remember those multiple choice tests where you had to rush against the clock?
The teacher says “All right, pens down everyone” while you madly struggle to get that last answer down.
As a new player:
What if you could cheat and get someone with insane deckbuilding skills to make those choices for you?
Mini-Mentor in your pocket.
It’s like having a world champion whispering tips in your ear as you play poker.
I would PAY for a cheatsheet like that.
And now I’m getting it for free. OF COURSE I’d opt in.
PRO TIP: “Stress points” like this are perfect for lead magnets. If a problem causes a lot of emotional discomfort and you happen to offer a solution that relieves that discomfort, people will opt in.
If you watch masters of copywriting like Ramit Sethi at work, you realise that they don’t hit you with everything they’ve got when they write opt-in copy and design lead magnets.
They do surgical strikes.
As you analyse his work, pay special attention to these three things:
To continue the example from the previous steps, let’s assume we decide to focus on side-boarding - those emotionally intense 120 seconds between rounds.
Once you “see” that movie in your head, the opt-in copy writes itself:
"Keep running out of time? Download this Sideboarding Cheatsheet which will tell you exactly which cards to take out and which to put in at-a-glance."
In the coming weeks, we’ll explore nine other tactics MTGGoldfish can use to turn their website into a lead generation machine.
We will discuss:
(Hey, lawyer-turned-marketer here. Nobody said I was an angel.
Oh, and I also happen to be a Gemini:
More importantly, we’ll discuss how you can do all this for YOUR blog (even if you’re not in the gaming or marketing niches).
Before we wrap up the article, I want to summarise the recommendations we discussed. I also want to show the order in which I would tackle these changes if I were MTGGoldfish.
The first thing I’d do is to map out a strategic overview of their business.
The goal would be to create a “Marketing Playbook” which will act as a litmus test for all of their campaigns going forward.
This requires clarity on questions like:
To do this, they need to explore their data, identify patterns and use those patterns to paint the bigger picture.
Then, I would identify which 5-10 pages (or categories) get the most of their traffic. Focusing our optimisation effort on these pages would yield disproportionate results.
Assuming their #1 business goal is to get more subscribers, here is what I would do next:
The easiest way to increase the opt-in rates of these pages is to offer a bonus resource which is tailor-made for that article (i.e. a ‘content upgrade’ or ‘lead magnet’).
To do this, they need to understand what the right offer would be, create a lead magnet offering that, and write opt-in copy that mirrors the conversation in their readers’ heads.
They can run a traffic test to see which of these content upgrades converts best. They can then use those results to figure out what their main offer should be.
The goal is to create a whirlpool that draws fleeting visitors in and funnels them into their email list. This will help them make the most of the traffic they worked so hard to build.
Once the visitor goes through the “welcome gate” (either by opting in or closing it), they will arrive on the blog — i.e. their current homepage.
The quickest way to optimise this page for conversion would be to add a “Feature Box”, which features the opt-in gift from Step 4.
Now let’s explore how you can use everything we discussed today to grow YOUR business like a bamboo shoot.
Want to find out exactly how much money your blog is leaving on the table each month?
You can download our free “Low Hanging Fruit Audit” which will show you how much revenue your site is leaking out and how to fix that.
The Audit will walk you step-by-step through all of the 80/20 tweaks we discussed in this article and show you how to quickly implement them in your business.
Here’s what I suggest you do right now (this should take no more than 60 minutes):
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to do 5-10 Skype consultations. I’ll get on the phone with you for 30 minutes, and we’ll go over your Low Hanging Fruit Audit together. I’ll then give you advice specific to your situation.
Oh, and did I mention that I’m going to do it absolutely for free?
No sales pages. No opt-ins. No surveys.
All you have to do is to leave a comment on this blog post. Once we randomly select 5 commenters, I’ll contact you by email, take a brief look at your blog and then we’ll schedule a time to chat.
Good then. Together, we’ll get that low hanging fruit off your site and into your pocket in no time. So start writing that comment! 🙂