Shortcoder WordPress Plugin

Shortcoder: Try this Useful WordPress Plugin (Create Shortcodes for Anything)

Today, I’m going to show you a WordPress plugin that I think you should try.

It took me a long time to find this.

When I got it, it blew me away.

Watch the video and/or read the article below to find out more information.

What This Plugin Does

In short, Shortcoder allows you to create shortcodes for anything.

Think of anything that you constantly use on your WordPress site. Instead of going back to a post and copying and pasting something, you can simply add in a shortcode.

Here’s what this looks like:

Shortcoder backend

What I Use this Plugin For and How to Use It

As you can see, I have three shortcodes at the moment.

All of these are opt-ins for my email marketing lists. I use LeadPages to create my popups.

This is what it looks like on a page:

The grey box at the bottom is created simply by entering the following shortcode:

entering the shortcode

When you enter that shortcode, whatever you have put into the backend will show up on your website (as you saw before with the opt-in).

Here is what the coding looks like:

blurred out

Moving forward, I’m going to enter different shortcodes depending on what type of post I’m writing.

At the moment, I have one email funnel.

But I might want to create one for posts that focus on YouTube, one for posts that focus on Instagram etc.

Additionally, on my other website, I have gone back and forth with sometimes my ebook opt-in and information about my course.

As I mentioned in the video, I don’t like the look of this opt-in box right now. But luckily, I’ve been using Shortcoder so I can change the design once and this will populate on all my posts.

I hope you found this useful. If you did, please share!

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Landing Page LeadPages

How to Build a Landing Page Using LeadPages Step-by-Step (+ Conversion Hacks)

Note: some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, that at no extra cost to you, I may receive a commission if you use my link to sign up to one of the services.

In this post, I’m going to show you how to build a high-converting landing page using my favorite software:

LeadPages!

This is the same software that I used to generate over 200,000 downloads for my book.

Here is the landing page:

landing page example

Here is how this landing page is converting over the past 30 days (of writing this post):

landing page conversion rate

Almost 50%!

Originally, the conversion rate was 19%. I have run many split tests to arrive at this rate. This is something you can do with the software.

Let’s now go through, step-by-step, how you can create something similar.

WHAT YOU NEED:

Landing page software: get LeadPages here

Email Marketing Software: get Active Campaign here

Your Own Website: get hosting here

Want to learn more? Get my free course below!

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Once you have signed up (free trials available), let’s move on…

1. Choose a Landing Page Template

The good news is this:

LeadPages has done most of the hard work for you.

They have done so much testing that all you have to do is choose a high-converting template and edit it.

Here’s what this looks like:

As you can see, you can sort by conversion rate.

I chose the blue one as it was the highest converting opt-in page.

For this, you’ll need a free resource. Something like an ebook or mini-course.

After clicking your template, you’ll come to this page:

Give your new landing page a name and click the button.

2. Editing Your New Landing Page

This is where I like to keep things simple.

Because the templates have been tested to create high-converting versions, I don’t mess around too much with the editing.

Simply, use the copy provided but make it relevant to you.

Here’s what it looks like inside the editor:

I changed: “You can Design a Website” to “You Can Speak English Too”

As you can see from the template, the landing page is simple. From my experience, simple is better.

You want the user to take action. Not to browse.

Once you edit the text, it’s now time to change the picture.

Use something like Canva to design your ebook image. I recommend Google Drive to write your ebook. And then, be sure to upload this somewhere. I go through this process in-depth inside my free course.

Here’s what it looks like changing the image:

change leadpages image

From there, upload your new image.

3. Connecting Your Landing Page to Your Email List

First, in your LeadPages settings, be sure to connect your account to your email marketing software.

Once you have that set up, there are a few more things to do like creating a list and a form. This is out of the scope of this article, but again, my course goes through this.

Let’s assume you have done that. The next thing to do is to connect your landing page to your email list (in our case, a form).

connect leadpages to active campaign

Choose edit integrations and be sure to choose the correct form.

Edit the fields and then, it’s done.

4. Publish the Landing Page to Your Wesbite

You can use the URL provided to host your new landing page.

However, most want this on their own website.

To do this, download and upload the free LeadPages plugin. Go to the plugin and you will see this:

the WordPress plugin for LeadPages

Choose your custom slug (URL) and select the relevant landing page. Click publish and then preview the link. You will see your landing page live on your website.

5. Extra Tips

After publishing your page, test to see if the code works fine.

Then, start running some A/B tests to improve your conversion rate. This is how I took my landing page from a 19% conversion rate to a 50% conversion rate.

After someone opts in, send them to a thank you page where they can take further action. For example, offering them to your YouTube channel.

Finally, be sure that you’re sending enough of the right people to your new page. For that, watch this video:


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Update: Online Courses, New Sofa, Dogs, and Making Videos

The following was recorded live on my Facebook page. Enjoy!

Check out my course here.

If you don’t have it already, get my free guide here.

Thanks for watching. Let me know if you have any questions!

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3-Step Writing Process Image

My 3-Step Writing Process: Blogging for Online Teachers

According to my writing app, I write between 12 – 15,000 words per week.

This number includes words from articles, emails, social media posting, and other areas.

I have introduced something new into my writing process that helps improve my articles and reduce the amount of mistakes I make.

In the video below, I go through the different stages of publishing something and share my new trick.

Watch in HD!

My Writing Process

Step One

Get your first draft done. Write down all your ideas and don’t worry about crafting the perfect article right now.

This is all about getting your ideas onto paper (or, onto WordPress!).

I like to do this in one sitting.

Step Two

Go through your first draft and make changes. Take out things that don’t work, move paragraphs around, and add in anything that makes the article flow better.

Don’t worry too much about grammar and little mistakes right now. If you see something, change it – but don’t go looking for them.

Step Three

I then read the article out loud like I am doing a presentation. It helps me notice whether the article flows and helps me spot mistakes I make.

(Note: I noticed some mistakes in the video after publishing it – fewer mistakes not less – but you don’t have the luxury of editing your video in this way unless you re-record it.)

You could get someone to proofread your articles. However, for me at least, this will add up and I need a very quick turnaround.

Over to You

Do you have any tips about writing?

Let me know in the comment section below.

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How to Build First Website

Creating Your First Website: The Tools to Use and What to Include

The first website I put up there for English learners was ugly. The colors didn’t work. The icons were generic. And the copy didn’t excite.

But it worked.

And over time, my website evolved into what it is now. I’ve made lots of small and big changes along the way. It will never be ‘finished’.

I see some teachers get put off getting started because they want perfection right from the start.

But the smarter move is to get something up there as soon as possible. Make it as good as you can make it now – but know that you can always improve it over time.

In this video, I talk about three tools you can use to design your site. Below, I have resources for you and some extra advice about what to include in your first design.

WordPress (The All-in-One solution)

My first recommendation is WordPress.

This gives you the greatest customization moving forward. The good news is that there are so many themes that you can use for your website, including one-page designs (perfect for throwing something up there quickly).

This has the steepest learning curve out of the three. But following my guide and choosing a simple template (you can change this later) will make things easier.

Here is a free tutorial on how to get started with WordPress.

LeadPages (The Easiest Way to Get Started)

Click here to check out LeadPages (affiliate link)

I use LeadPages on this site and for To Fluency. Mainly, I utilize it for landing pages, thank you pages, webinar pages etc.

However, you can use it to have your first online presence. You don’t need to buy hosting for this (although, you could host it on your site) as you can put it on LeadPage’s server. It will look like this: yourname.leadpages.net.

Once your main website is ready, you can redirect traffic from LeadPages to your site.

This is for those who want a good-looking site with minimal effort.

A Website Builder (The Middle Option)

I created my first site using Yola.

This is a website builder that is really easy to use.

Other options include Weebly (aff link), Wix (aff link), and SquareSpace.

The upside of using one of these services is that you don’t need to worry about the technical side of things.

The downside is that you give up some control and it usually ends up being more expensive.

You could always start with this option or LeadPages, and then move over to WordPress when you’re ready.

What to Include on Your First Website

In the video, I talked about having a one-page site that will give you an online presence straight away. You don’t need to worry about having a blog, a contact us page, a pricing page etc. at this stage.

You want people landing on this site to do one thing. This might be to contact you, sign up for your email list, or request a trial lesson.

Once you have your site ready, you can go through your contacts, advertise, and post in the relevant places to drive people to your new site.

This won’t take long at all.

It’s all about getting something up there, getting learners into your lessons, and then taking things from there.

(Note: I go through this process in-depth inside The Teach English Online Course)

Over to You

Do you have any questions about this process? If so, leave them in the comment section below.

If you already have a website, share your experience with getting started.

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Useful WordPress Plugins

Three Useful WordPress Plugins for Your Teaching Website

Useful WordPress Plugins

It’s easy to go plugin-crazy after installing WordPress.

Plugins add functionality to your site and a lot of them do really cool things.

But my criteria for a plugin is that it has to be useful and it has to be secure.

If it doesn’t help your site do what you want it to do, don’t add it. And be sure to only download plugins from trusted developers. Look at the reviews and ensure that the plugin you’re getting is up to date.

The bottom line is: think quality, not quantity.

And with that in mind, I want to share three plugins that I love, starting with one that will help your site be found in the search engines.

WordPress SEO

(Click here to check out SEO WordPress)

I wrote a post a few months back on how I suggest online teachers approach SEO.

In a nutshell: write articles that are valuable for those in your niche and customize your site for the search engines without going overboard.

Write for humans, not for Google.

The easiest way to customize your site (onsite SEO) is to use this plugin.

I use it to modify the title, description, and keywords of a page or post. There is so much more that you can use it for and things can get technical very quickly. Luckily, the kind folks over at Yoast have written a getting started guide to make things easier.

One feature that I particularly like about the plugin is you can change the way your posts look on social media. Here is a screenshot of what you can change:

Facebook Social Share

This means that you can create click bait headlines inside Facebook – “You will not believe the plugins that this English teacher is using! Number 3 changed my life!” – while keeping your original headline on your website!

Just kidding.

I use this to change the description on some posts and ensure that the picture is optimized for the Facebook news feed. This optimal size keeps changing (right now it is 470 x 246 – I usually double it) but it’s worth keeping up with this to make your images look great on Facebook.

SkimLinks

(Click here to learn more about Skimlinks)

Let’s see if you can follow along with this…

This link is an affiliate link that will take you to a site where you can add affiliate links on your site – just like this link. If you decide to start using this plugin and make money from it, I will get a small commission.

Let’s start from the beginning.

Affiliate marketing is where you promote products or services that you haven’t created yourself. If someone makes a purchase through your link, you receive a commission.

I have affiliate links throughout this site. For example, in my tutorial on WordPress, there are affiliate links for hosting, themes, and domain name purchases.

One problem you’ll face if you promote multiple products on your site is that you’ll have to go through the process of signing up with each merchant. Sometimes, the payment thresholds for these merchants are quite high meaning that it might take you a while to get paid. And it can be a pain to go into your account to find your affiliate link every time you need to add it.

Skimlinks has solved these problems.

It works like this: you get an account, install the plugin, and then all you need to do is type the merchant link directly onto your site. Skimlinks automatically turns the links on your blog into affiliate links.

Another benefit is that because they are dealing with high sales numbers, the company often negotiates higher commissions. And they allow those who can’t sign up to Amazon Affiliates due to geographical restrictions the ability to market Amazon products.

It’s difficult to make a living from affiliate marketing, but I certainly don’t complain about the extra income it brings in. And Skimlinks simplifies this for you.

Disqus

This picture below – taken from this article – made me laugh.

blog comments

Source: priconomics.com

I haven’t found this to be the case on my sites; I’m actually quite surprised at how many thoughtful comments are left (thank you!).

A part of this is down to me using Disqus. With most other commenting systems, you leave your name, email, and URL. Your name links to the URL you left. This gets spammers excited.

With Disqus, you can sign in with a native Disqus account (when you click someone’s name, it pops up with a bio), through your social accounts, or as a guest (just your name and email).

This reduces the amount of spam you get.

It looks a lot better than the native WordPress commenting system and there is a really cool thing about it too…

When someone leaves a comment on your blog, you are sent an email notification. Hit reply, type in your response, and your comment will show up on your blog. This saves you from having to go to the blog post each time you reply.

Over to You

Are you going to start using one of the above plugins? Already doing so? Please leave your thoughts below.

And please share any plugins that you find useful.

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Build Trust English Learners

Six Ways to Build Trust with English Learners Online

Build Trust English Learners

Let’s say you have a website, you know your lessons are valuable, and you have a marketing plan that will bring English learners onto your site and social media channels.

It all sounds great, but….

You won’t get paying learners/customers if you don’t gain the trust of your audience.

As teachers, it’s vital that we make our potential clients confident that we are going to deliver for them. And working online makes this more challenging.

Luckily, there are many things that we can do to build trust online, and that is what I’m going to explore in this post, starting with first-impressions.

Make a Good First Impression

First impressions matter.

When learners land on your homepage, click play on YouTube or see your promoted post on Facebook, they instantly form an opinion about you.

If they get a bad impression, they leave/stop watching/ignore your stuff. Therefore, your website should be visually appealing and look professional.

This is because when a learner lands on your site, your design is crucial for getting him/her to stick around and learn more about what you do. People can judge a website in milliseconds.

Now, it’s important to point out at this stage that you may not get this perfect first time. But you should always be taking stock and looking at ways to improve upon what you have.

In addition to your getting the look right, you have to engage your audience with content that is going to impress them.

If you solve a problem that your learner has, then they will want to learn more from you. Having content that is useful will help you build a teacher/student relationship, and this will result in more sign-ups for your lessons. This goes for content on your site and elsewhere.

I have also learned that the way in which you present your content helps too…

Make a Connection through Video

So, now that we know a good-looking website with useful content, let’s move on to the best way to get your message across.

From my experience and research, there are two important factors here: personality and video. Learners want to know the person behind the content and they want to see that person in action.

When I advertised my one-to-one lessons more prominently on my site, my conversions increased once I included a video on my booking page. And since I started focusing on YouTube for my new brand, I’ve received many more requests for lessons without plugging them in any way.

What I recommend is having video across your site. This is easy to do these days and, if your first videos aren’t perfect, you can always replace them at a later date. Again, this is striking a balance between perfection and getting started.

And don’t be scared about sharing small details of your personal life here and there. This shows that you are a real person and it will help you make a better connection.

Be Consistent

Consistency plays a big role in gaining trust, especially if you are building an audience over the long-term.

As I revealed in this post, I lost a little momentum last year. I wasn’t consistent with new videos, posts, and emails, and I know that I lost the interest and trust of some of my learners because of this.

When you’re consistent with your online lessons, email responses, blog posts, YouTube videos, social media posting etc., your learners and potential students see you as someone who is trustworthy and committed to what you do.

And when it comes time to advertise your lessons or launch a new course, people will know that you’re going to deliver on your promises.

Communicate

As I expand my online business, I am looking to outsource my work more and more.

One area that I want to keep under my control as long as possible is email communication. This plays a crucial role in building trust and, ultimately, getting more sign ups.

I use TextExpander to help me with this, but I spend about an hour a day responding to emails and comments.

Giving a response within 24 hours shows that you care and that you are someone who takes customer service seriously. And we all know that when buying something, customer service plays an important role in our decision.

In addition to building trust, reading comments and emails helps you better understand your audience. In my series of automated emails that go out after someone signs up, I ask a variety of different questions. These answers have given me great insight and they have helped me build better products and courses.

Give, Give, Give

No one likes to be taken for a ride.

And, unfortunately, there are many learners out there who like to take advantage of teachers who offer things for free.

An example of this is the trial lesson. Learners have been known to request a free trial lesson even though they have no desire to pay for future classes.

A potential problem with this – in addition to giving free lessons all the time! – is that you can start to feel exploited, making you less likely to give your time to help others.

However, there are two types of people that matter to us online teachers: those who will potentially pay for your lessons and courses (the potentials); and those who will never pay for anything (the nevers).

Don’t let the second group put you off, and instead, make it a win-win-win situation by giving as much as possible.

You win because you build trust with the potentials and also feel good about helping others. The potentials win because they receive great content, trust you, and then go on to take lessons. And the nevers win because they get really good content.

That doesn’t mean that you have to give lots of trial lessons – over time you will learn to filter free trial lessons, for example – but you do need to give in order to build trust and to receive in return.

My favorite way to give is through my blog posts, videos, and social media posts. Interacting with learners, as discussed before, is another way that you can give to receive.

Use Testimonials and Add Social Proof

There is only so much that you can say about yourself to build trust. That is why getting others to do this for you is crucial.

The most common way to do this is through testimonials and/or case-studies. With my online courses, I have never directly asked for testimonials. But if I receive an email from a happy customer, I ask them if I could use their email as a testimonial on my site.

With one-to-one lessons, asking is much easier. The best time to do this is at the end of a good lesson.

Going back to a point I made earlier, a video testimonial is much more powerful than a written one. However, they are harder to get.

In addition to testimonials, you can also build trust by showing off your numbers. If you have a substantial amount of Facebook fans, Youtube or Twitter followers, put something on your site so that people can see this.

Over to You

Please leave your experience of building trust in the comment section below and, if you have further tips, please share them!

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Starting a New Brand

Building a New Brand for English Learners (and Why I Started Again)

Last autumn, I stopped posting content for English learners on the website I started back in 2010.

The reason?

I was going in a different direction with my teaching and wanted to build a new brand that matched this.

I created my first site, JDA English, to promote my online lessons. When a learner landed on JDA English, the one thing I wanted them to do was to sign up for a trial lesson.

However, 2014 was the year I made the transition away from one-to-one lessons into selling online courses and group lessons.

And this is where To Fluency was born.

In this post, I’m going to talk about how things have progressed but, firstly, I want to go through the naming process.

Naming the New Website

One of the biggest reasons why I started a new brand was because I wanted a name that better fit my vision.

The name of my original site came from my initials. Although I wasn’t thrilled about it, I went with JDA English because I wanted to put focus on me as a teacher.

But with the change of direction, I felt I needed something new to get excited about, and that is why I made a fresh start.

There is a history behind the name To Fluency that I haven’t talked about before. In 2008, my wife and I started work on a website where language teachers and learners could meet, and we called it To Fluency. Teachers would be able to post a profile, set their prices, and have learners sign up with them. The lessons would take place in a virtual classroom hosted on the site.

The website never got completed – although, it came pretty close – and I let the domain name go, only to buy it again last year.

I feel the name helps get the message across that learning English is about the journey, and that there are certain things that learners should do on this journey to fluency (more on this later).

One thing to note is that it doesn’t have English in the domain. Having this would have been preferable but it wasn’t a big enough issue for me.

Making the Transition

In many ways, creating this new website was like starting all over again.

For example, I had to create new social media pages and a new YouTube channel. For anyone who has tried to build these profiles, you will know that it takes a bit of time and consistency.

If I had over 10,000 subscribers on YouTube, I would have thought twice about making the change. But when I started the new site, I had 1,000, and although I knew it would be a lot of work, I decided to go for it.

There were many things that made this transition easier. This includes:

– having my old social media profiles to share posts from To Fluency
– having over 5,000 learners subscribed to my email list
– having good traffic to my old site that I could redirect to my new one

Looking back, I made a couple of mistakes when making the transition.

Firstly, I lost a bit of momentum in the months leading up to the launch of the new site. There were times when I didn’t send out an email to those on my list for a few weeks. And secondly, I didn’t build up any excitement before launching.

Because of this, my email open rates dropped, and it has taken a few months to build them back up again.

But having an email list has allowed me to bring over followers from my old site to my new one, and this is another reason why prioritizing email is important.

My Goals for To Fluency and a Quick Update

To Fluency is all about helping English learners make fast progress to fluency in a way that is fun and sustainable over the long-term. I talk about learning methods, motivation, goal setting, and getting into the habit of learning English.

Over the past seven years of teaching, I have learned that lessons can only get a learner so far, and more needs to be done outside of the classroom. Those who make progress are the ones who use English on a daily basis and make English part of their lives.

The feedback I have received from my videos has been really positive, and I’m excited about seeing how far I can take it.

From a business standpoint, income comes from the To Fluency Program (an online course) and although not substantial right now, YouTube advertising.

In my yearly review post, I talked more about my goals and what I want to achieve with this brand, including:

– building my audience
– selling more courses
– posting on a consistent basis

Things have started strongly in all three of the above areas.

I’ve put a lot of focus on YouTube and videos in general. Video marketing is getting more important and powerful each year, and I have a structure so that I can crank out videos on a consistent basis.

I’ve just hit 650 subscribers on YouTube, with 90 coming in the last week alone. I’m really pleased with this, especially because I only started posting videos on a consistent basis in January of this year. My new goal is to hit 10,000 by the end of the year.

At first, it can feel like you’re doing a lot of work (new videos, social media posting etc.) without gaining any momentum. But if you stick at it, things start to click, and that is what I’m seeing now.

Additionally, I’m putting my efforts into areas that are working (80/20 principle). Therefore, I’m concentrating on three social networks while keeping the others ticking over, going all in on video, and spending time communicating with my audience through email and elsewhere.

Over to You

Having a substantial email list gave me a head start with this new adventure, but as I mentioned, it was like starting again with YouTube and social media.

I’m starting to see everything come together, and momentum is building. The ride has been enjoyable so far, and I’m looking forward to building my brand over the coming months and years.

Are you building a brand at the moment? If so, share your experiences in the comment section below.

And if you haven’t done already, click here to get your free guide to the tools and resources you need to teach English online.

Thanks for reading!

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SEO for Teachers

SEO for Teachers: How to Get Your Website Ranked Highly in the Search Engines

SEO for Teachers

It takes less work than you think

Wednesday, 25th April was a strange day for me. And for countless other people too. When I checked my website analytics I thought there was a mistake. I was used to getting 500+ visits a day to my website, the vast majority of these coming through Google search. But only 98 visited. What was going on?

I immediately went to an SEO (search engine optimization) forum to see if this had happened to others. General chaos. It seemed like everyone had lost traffic to their site. There was anger and frustration, and people didn’t really know what was happening.

I checked my analytics the next day and the traffic hadn’t come back. I went back onto the forum and people were talking about a big nasty penguin (the update that Google made to their algorithm was called, “The Penguin Update”).

The search traffic that (I thought) I relied on to get new students, they told me on the forum, wasn’t going to come back any time soon. I was feeling lost and wasn’t sure what to do. I was reading comment after comment from people who had their income slashed overnight due to this one update. I was feeling their pain and nodding along to the posts full of anger. But out of nowhere there was a comment that changed everything.

The comment went something like, “If you base your entire business model on one form of lead generation, especially when this is something as volatile as SEO, then you only have yourself to blame.”

I was firstly in denial, but after a couple of days of comment repeating in my head, it started to really resonate. And it was then when I used different methods to get learners to sign up to lessons with me.

What I Was Doing Wrong

SEO for teachers

Steadily building and then.. DROP!

Once I got some composure back after the initial shock, I took a little time to think about what to do next. I also thought about whether all the SEO work that I did was worth it.

Although I was bringing in 500 learners a day to my site, the percentage of those converting into paying students, quite frankly, terrible. I was getting massive traffic, but I wasn’t getting them to do what I wanted them to do. Why was my conversion rate so low?

– Was what they were reading not good enough?
– Were they coming for the wrong reasons?
– Was I doing a bad job of converting them?

Yes, yes, and yes. I was writing content that was written for the search engines (to make it come higher up in the rankings); I was targeting search terms that weren’t really connected with what I was offering, but instead for terms that were easy to rank; and my conversion tactics were very basic at this stage too.

But what did I learn from this? And should teachers use SEO as a tactic for getting students?

SEO for Teachers

Bringing learners onto your site through the search engines can be incredibly profitable. That is why I spent so much of my time and energy into making this happen for me at the start. But what I was doing to get higher rankings was what caused my sudden drop in rankings.

The good thing about SEO these days is that, on the whole, the things that you should be doing for your website anyway are the same things you should be doing to increase your rankings. There are just a few extra things that you need to put in place first.

Here are some guidelines on what you should do to if you want your website to rank highly (note: I have used these exact tactics to get 2,500 visitors a month to this site through search engines like Google).

Use the Right Search Terms

One of the search terms that brought in the most traffic for my English learning site was “Present perfect simple.” I saw that I could rank highly for this if I did the right (which are now the wrong) things. My hope that it when English learners came to my site that they would see that I offered lessons and want to take them.

But the search term wasn’t exactly targeted. And also my method of converting students at that time was pretty uninspiring. So, it all starts with the right search terms for your niche. And to get this right you have to write about things that are relevant to your audience and what you’re offering.

When I looked at my analytics, my paying customers were coming through search terms like, “Learn English Skype.” Which was exactly what I was offering. This is an example of using the right search terms.

Think about what keywords are relevant to your site and then create content based on this.

Optimize Your Website

To ensure that your site ranks highly you need to optimize it for the search engines. Some people go too far with this and their website looks like it has been written for robots. There are ways to achieve readable and engaging copy while at the same time including what you need to include to optimize your site.

There are certain things that you can do that are quite easy to implement; this includes: having a quick site, the right plugins, a clear menu, and having keywords (the search terms people use) in your title and text. This is much easier to do now when using WordPress, as the themes that I recommend have all of this already built in.

Write Great Content

This is a must for anyone with a website, and not just for SEO. Google’s job is to have the best content at the top of the search results, and they have some pretty smart ways to calculate what is good content and what isn’t (note: they are getting better at this all the time.)

It is your job to write really engaging content on your site. Assuming that you are targeting the right keywords, then this is the area I recommend spending your most time and creative energy on.

If your content is excellent, people will share it, spend more time reading it, and will link to it. When people do this, they are telling Google that your content is worth showing in their search results. And your website will climb up the rankings.

If it Feels Wrong, Don’t Do It

My initial thought back in 2010, when I read that having links pointing back to your site is the most important factor when it comes to ranking, was, “Well, let’s get some links!”

I quickly found ways to automate this process and have hundreds of links pointing to my site. That is why I got the infamous Google Slap. What I was doing didn’t feel right, and I ignored anyone who said that it was going to come back and haunt me.

Now, I just concentrate on having my website optimized, write the best content I can, and share what I write in the right ways. If you build it and share it, links will follow.

The 80/20 Rule

What it comes down to is this: being high in the rankings can do amazing things for our teaching business. Getting targeted visitors through Google and other search engines means that you can expand your teaching business by hiring other teachers and/or offering different courses and products.

But it takes time to get to this stage, and if you try to force it, you will most likely get penalized in the long-term. The amount of time I spend doing or thinking about SEO is very limited now, and what brings me results is what I should be doing anyway (writing my best stuff, sharing it, connecting with others etc.).

It makes me cringe thinking about what I used to do, and the drop in rankings was a blessing in disguise as it helped me realize that I was focusing on the wrong things.

So, take a long-term view and relax knowing that if you do the right things that your site will climb up the rankings, bringing in targeted organic traffic. And more clients/sales along with it.

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Teaching Update 2014

My 2014 Goal Update + 80/20, Batching, and Focus

Teaching Update 2014

In January, I wrote a post looking back on 2013 and also talked about my English teaching goals for 2014. Writing down this helped me process what I wanted to achieve and created some accountability. I also hoped that it would inspire others to get into the world of online teaching.

In the post, I stated that I wanted to focus my creative efforts on podcasting, videos, and building my email list. In addition, I talked about starting group lessons and creating a teaching guide. Here is my progress with this so far:

2014 Goal Updates

Please note that all but one of my goals below are related to English teaching.

Building My Email List

I’ve made a big effort to increase my email list numbers this year. The results have been incredible (a 1000% increase in subscribers). The main reason for this increase was because I started giving things away for free.

I wrote a 16 page book/guide called, “The Five Keys to Becoming Fluent in English.” This turned out to be really popular and was shared extensively by those who read it. In addition to this book, I’ve also given webinars that have proven to be really popular too, and when someone signs up, they get added to my list. I love the excitement of a live event with 200/300+ people watching, and it is great to help so many people at the same time.

Having this list has meant that I can directly reach my followers (and potential students), and this way of communication is much more effective than social media.

(Note: Subscriber numbers are not the be all and end all. A community needs to be served, and to do this you have to continually send quality content. This is true for your emails and what you have on your website.)

(Here is a guide on how to start your own email list)

Group Lessons and Courses

I started group conversational lessons in March and love these types of lessons. I have 2-4 students in a group and we discuss a video/article that I send to them before the class. It works well for students who want structured speaking practice but can’t afford the one-to-one lessons.

Getting students for group lessons has proved more challenging than one-to-one. The main reason for this is that people want to learn at different times. But as my community grows, I will be able to do more of these lessons.

I also started another course in May on WizIQ. There were a total of five live presentations along with other learning materials and assignments. The course went really well: I managed to get 28 learners to sign up and the feedback I got was very encouraging.

I’m doing the same course again this week, and then maybe a couple more times this year. The biggest problem with getting learners to sign up is the timing of the lessons; even though the lessons are recorded, most students want to be able to take them live and interact with me and fellow learners.

I plan on taking the content of this course and putting it into a video course. This will also make it easier for me, as once I have got the content recorded, my only role in this is to market the course, interact with the learners, and keep things ticking along.

Other Products

I’ve also experimented with different products and services. I created a guide for IELTS learners that helps them with their writing and ran an advertising experiment using Facebook Ads. I managed to get five sales, with four out of those five going on to buy another product or service.

The next step is to improve the product (adding a premium package) and go through the sales page and marketing plan to improve it. Once I have done that I’m going to start promoting it again. I’ve got ideas for other products too and will most likely release these in a few months.

Podcast and Videos

I enjoy making videos but they take a lot of energy and time to produce. I was making long videos that were quite creative and I found it quite draining. I decided to take a break from video production to focus on other areas, and I will look at doing them again in the future once I have a system in place and a specific type of video format in mind.

I want to be able to fire out as many quality videos as possible without taking too much time. Therefore, I’m going to brainstorm ideas and start producing again once I have a good system in place.

As for the podcast, I am getting closer and closer to the recording stage. I’ve thought long and hard about what I want my podcast to be about and how it can fit into the overall picture. I was initially going to include my wife in the podcast and create conversational audio. However, we are currently finding it hard to get an hour or so to sit down and record (the nine-month old is the main barrier to this!).

So I have decided to go ahead and make a podcast that focuses on the mentality and methods for English learners who want to reach a high level. I’ve written the plan and a list of episodes, and I’m going to throw myself into this project in this fall (after 3 1/2 years of living in America, I’ve started saying fall instead of autumn. And although I thought it would never happen, I find myself saying soccer instead of football!).

A Teaching Online Guide

My guide on how to teach English (or any language) online will be ready in July/August/September. It is going to be a video course that comes with other learning materials and will cover all aspects of online teaching (focusing on one-to-one lessons, but also including group lessons and course creation), including: setting up, website design, platforms, finding niches, marketing, branding, and much more.

(if you’re not already in my community, click here to join my mail list and to receive updates about this course.)

Things I’ve Learned

During the first part of this year I have also invested a lot of time and energy into my own development. I’ve taken various marketing courses, read many self-development and teaching books, and I have become very commitment to what I want to achieve long-term.

One thing that I noticed was that earlier this year I was spreading myself too thin. I was taking on all types of projects, starting new ones all the time, and didn’t have a clear plan of action.

To overcome this I decided to leave a few projects aside and concentrate on only one or two at one time while setting up systems for everything else. The course that I gave on WizIQ is a good example of that: I put a lot of time and effort into it in April and May, and now I have the course written and I have a marketing plan in place, I can now spend most of my energy on other projects.

I’m also batching my work. Batching is when you dedicate blocks of time to work on similar tasks. For example, I generally reply to emails during a 20 minute window in the morning, create the plans for my lessons on a Friday/Monday, and take my one-to-one lessons at one part of the day (between 12 and four). I’ve found this helped me focus, and made me more productive and creative.

And finally, I now do a 80/20 analysis once every two months. The 80/20 rule (or Pareto principle) states that 80% of effects come from 20% of the causes. Relating this to marketing, for example, we can say that 80% of sales come from 20% of marketing efforts. This is one of the reasons why I slowed down my video production and put my focus on building my email list. I also explain this rule to English learners in my courses and lessons so that they understand how important it is to concentrate on doing things that actually make a difference to their progress.

Over to You

If you are doing your own thing too, let me know what you’re working on at the moment. And if you are someone who would like to teach online, tell me what you are currently doing to get started.

Thanks for reading!

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