Pareto Principle in Blogging – More Time, Less Frustration

One of the books that has significantly impacted my way of thinking is The 80/20 Principle.

The name Pareto came from an Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who studied about patterns of wealth and income around 1897. He found that the distribution of income was predictably unbalanced.

Turns out this principle not only applies to income distribution but also to almost everything in life. Every time I read — and reread it — I find something new that is as if not there when the first time I read it. It is like a never ending epiphany. Just when I think I know it all, there will be a surge of new stuff discovered.

Usually I find ways on how to optimize my business, but at other times I also discover ideas to apply it to other part of my life.

James & Jo Wedding

What Pareto Principle Means to Blogging

You’ll see it in your blog. Only a few posts are going to be read by most visitors. That’s because out of hundreds of keywords your blog ranks in search engines, only top 10 or 20 drive you most traffic. Further you also notice that only a small percentage of those keywords actually rank well.

High value customers contribute to a large portion of your bottom line. Only a small number of inbound links send you significant traffic.

If you are running any type of online business, the fact that your revenue and profit usually are the average of the result you drive by your business and marketing activities. You can think about it as the average salary of people in an industry.

An average of $120,000 doesn’t mean a thing. There will always be people who earn less than $50,000, lots more than those who earn $5,000,000. But don’t you want to be way to the right instead of just the average?

By focusing on certain blogging activities, you can boost your outcome tremendously — be it traffic, relationship, or revenue.

How Much of Increase is Possible?

Here’s something surprising about Pareto principle. If you are able to focus your whole activities on the 20 percent, you will be able to get 80 percent of the result. That means four times the result with as much as one fourth of the effort.

If you attempt to work hard by using 80 percent of your time but fill it with activities in the 20 percent, you will gain sixteen (that’s 16!) times of the original 80 percent effort.

You haven’t seen anything yet…

You’ll be stunned to know that it is possible to stack them on top of each other. Imagine that after getting 16 times, you optimize your blog pages further for even better conversion.

What if you want to work less? The same principle applies as well. The top 20 percent of the 20 percent is 4 percent. But the top 20 percent generates 80 percent, so the 4 percent of the top 20 percent is still going to produce 64 percent of the result.

In other words, working as hard as 4 percent of what you do right now will give you 64 percent.

Of course, it is not possible to be on the 20 percent all the time. There will always be administrative and other less productive, yet urgent and important, activities. The point is that, you can significantly grow your business if you just work smartly.

The Long Tail Distribution of Blogging

Take a look at the long tail chart / graph below:

Long Tail Graph

I purposefully leave the label for the X and Y axes, so everyone should be able to relate to different things. Some bloggers may think the X axis represents keywords while others would like to think about it as promotions or campaigns, for example.

Of course, you can get into specifics. The distribution of pageviews of your blog posts may also be 80/20, and the graph may look very similar to above. If guest blogging is part of your blog promotion strategy, this graph may show you the distribution of traffic generated from all of the blogs you contribute to.

As you can now see, Pareto principle and long tail distribution help you think about and represent this effectively. There are probably other ways to do it, but in this scenario, it is more than enough to convey what I mean.

If Y axis is traffic level and X is keywords, that means you are able to get into the red area of traffic (80 percent) with only small amount of keywords (20 percent). That probably is not how you want to start your strategy with, but you could use the 20 percent keywords as the main categories or silos of your blog.

Another example. X is various blog promotion strategies and Y is again traffic. Which promotional activities will bring you most traffic? And how does these traffic sources perform in the graph to produce sales (another long tail chart)?

Now it’s your turn to think about certain area you want to improve on.

James & Jo Wedding

Get Rid of Your Business Problems

As much as you like to think about growth, Pareto principle also applies to business problems.

How does it make a difference to your strategy if you know that 80 percent of your problems come from 20 percent of your customers?

How about the fact that 20 percent of your salespeople are going to create 80 percent of your sales problems?

Eighty percent of the conversion issues come from 20 percent of ineffective marketing channels, or 20 percent of different elements on the landing page.

Perhaps it is time to let go of the marketing strategies that introduce more frustration to your business.

The fact that you get rid of the 80 percent conversion issues leaves you with a more hassle-free business to run, not to mention that you now have rooms for a new marketing strategy or two. Or perhaps better, do more of what works.

If you further pick the 20 percent that produce 80 percent, you will again multiply your business.

Picking the Right 20 Percent

It’s not that you have to do it 100 percent right all the time. In fact, it is impossible to write a blog post that gets into the front page of Digg or rank the first on Google every time.

Even if you are able to achieve that through some magic, out of those posts, you still have the best 20 percent.

You could increase your odds by learning how to promote your blog posts, use social media, network with other bloggers, or if you target search engines, research for the right keywords to target.

If you are in the information business, an e-book that costs $27 may contribute 20 percent to your bottom line. But the effort is about the same as producing home study courses. The latter, priced higher, generates 80 percent of your revenue. (It’s oversimplification of the business but for the sake of example, let it be simple.)

Before you are confused, let me make it clear that it doesn’t mean you have to stop writing e-books.

After all, the front-end product is going to convert more prospects into customers. Very likely, you will also need freebie to turn strangers into subscribers or prospects. Without it, you will not have more prospects to market to.

By converting more prospects into e-book buyers, you also increase the chance of them liking your content and purchase more from you.

The key is in finding the balance. You want enough customers to follow up to buy home study courses or become a member of your membership program, but still have time to approach joint venture partners or get involve with other promotion methods to actually sell the course.

Here’s another way to see it. An e-book may take a month to write. A home study course may carry a price tag that is 10 times more, but that doesn’t mean it takes 10 months to produce, nor it is 10 times as good.

Hotel de Ville

A More “Tangible” Example

A more tangible example would be a Google AdWords campaign. If a better headline can convert 20 percent more traffic to subscribers than what you have right now, you get 12 subscribers instead of 10 out of 100.

That may not sound a lot, but you have just add 20 percent to your sales just by testing headlines (or AdWords ad title).

Suppose you also optimize your sales page in a way that it increases sales conversion from 1 percent to just 1.5 percent.

With the old system, out of 1000 prospects you get 10 customers. But with the new headline and sales page, you get 1200 prospects and 18 customers. A 80 percent increase just by optimizing two moving parts of your sales funnel.

If you ask me, without a doubt, I will spend my time on those parts than tweaking the e-book or product itself. Consider that as a reminder to myself.

What if you optimize the conversion of the backend product? Assuming that you have a constant stream of new e-book customers, you will generate even more gain in revenue because of the higher pricing. This is in addition to the growth in course buyers due to the availability of more e-book customers in the first optimization process.

Better Plan, Better Execution

The situation is more or less the same with blogging. Bloggers have to choose between answering comments or not, leaving a longer and more comprehensive comments or writing another post.

Or is it befriending a new blogger in Facebook?

Perhaps interact with people in Twitter?

The list of activities will just grow, and you have to protect your schedule aggressively by continually saying “no” to new stuff that is not that important, but may seem urgent.

First you must choose which activities to get involved in. Based on your skills, perhaps guest blogging is more feasible than other blog promotion strategies. That’s not the end of decision making though.

Guest blogging in a few top blogs in the industry drives more visitors. But blogs with less subscribers may worth even more if the readers are responsive in terms of interaction and buying habit. As if that is not complicated enough, you need to network with the bloggers and know which time to publish to get the most out of your post.

It’s true that you don’t always have control about post schedules, but in some niches, trends determine traffic and topics so you also need to pay attention to timing.

For most bloggers, the hardest thing to do is to drive traffic, but you need it. However, if you spend all your time on it, you are doing the least profitable thing. Only when you engage with your readers, make them come back to you generating more page views, sell ad spots to advertisers or sell and recommend products to your visitors that you are in business.

When you start having customers or clients, you would want to spend as much time with your 100,000 visitors as with the 5 highest paying clients.

Know when enough is enough. Finding balance is the art. It takes time and practice.

With a better plan and better execution, you are going to get faster and greater result. You will get off track once in a while, but knowing that you’ve made progresses and picked the 20 percent means you still are going to produce several times more traffic, deeper engagement with your audience, and/or more sales.

I’m the first one to admit that you can’t measure relationship. It is an important part of your blogging business. At the end of the day, it is still your decision to decide if it is worth your time to spend 2 hours per day to talk with other bloggers, or just 30 minutes.

Your choice. But no matter what it is, know that Pareto principle is always in effect.

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