The one key to generating traffic that nobody talks about

New to blogging? Been doing this for two months now and still nothing? Only a trickle of traffic coming in?

Hardly surprising. Most bloggers give up during the first few months of blogging because they’re not seeing results, so you’re not alone if you feel like throwing in the towel.

Don’t give up just yet. There’s one thing that your blog is missing: The right amount of content. The good news is that as you keep blogging, things should improve significantly!

The key to generating web traffic

Let’s say you wrote a really good blog post. It’s engaging and fun to read. It’s relevant to your audience. It’s well-SEO’ed for your keywords. You promoted your post on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Let’s say you’ve been doing that twice a week. Religiously.

Two months after you start your blog, you have a total of 16-18 excellent blog posts.

That’s simply is not enough.

How much content do you need?

As much as possible, obviously. The number depends on your niche and what the competition is like.

I have one website which gets millions of pageviews a month. It has 293,000 pages indexed in Google. A smaller website (a blog, this time) gets 15K pageviews a month. It has 5,220 pages indexed in Google.

This blog you’re reading right now – Yeys.com – is a new blog. One of the six blogs in the Blog Revival Project. It has 888 pageviews a month. Which makes sense, considering Google only indexed 41 pages here.

See the pattern?

Your traffic is directly related to the number of pages available for consumption on your site. In more ways than one, as I’m about to show you.

Casting your fishing lines

Let’s say you’re going fishing. You get your hook and cast your line in the water. Hey, you may even catch a fish!

Fishing with one hook

If all you want to get out of fishing is some peace and quiet by the lake, good for you!

Our metaphoric fish here are the users – or web traffic. The hook is your web page, most likely a blog post. You may catch a few people with it everyday, but probably not enough to feed you with sufficient revenue.

Now, if you were to throw in seven more hooks, your chances of catching fish are so much higher!

fishinglines

The more hooks you have in the water, the better your odds for catching fish! Lots of fish!

lotsofhooks

How does having more posts increase your traffic?

In more ways than one!

1. It increases your odds of hitting the jackpot.

Just like with a roulette, the more chips you have on the table, the better your odds of winning.

In our case the jackpot is a ranking high for a desirable key phrase. Another possible jackpot is having one of your posts go insanely viral.

No matter how well you research for keywords, you can never know which way the Google gods will play the search results. After all, a lot of it depends on the competition and you don’t really know how many backlinks they generate for their competing post.

With social media, unless you’re already an established blogger with a large following, you’re going to need some (a lot!) of luck for your post to go viral. That’s just basic epidemiology. 

The most posts you have – the better your chances of hitting one of these jackpots. Each one of your hooks has a chance of X to win you one of the jackpots. As you cast more lines into the water, those odds add up and you have an overall better chance of catching a big fish.

2. You have more to offer visitors, so they stick around and generate more pageviews.

We all want our blogs to be sticky, right? Quality content is like super glue. Entice your visitor with more on-topic content and they’re likely to stay and read that as well.

Of course, you should present that sticky content in strategic places. Related-posts plugins are a good way for keeping visitors glued to your blog. Placing “ads” for your best posts in the sidebar is another. Just linking to other posts from within your post is great too. The point is you have to have something of value to link to.

3. It turns you into an authority site.

Visitors will see a post on your blog then move on to read something else. A couple of days later, searching for something else in your niche, they come across another one of your posts. And then a third. Hey, you’re all over the place!

This has an accumulative effect. They realize you’re an authority in the field and will be more likely to bookmark your site, sign up for your mailing list or spread the news about your site.

Reaching “Critical Mass”

Every blog and website has a “critical mass” point. Once you reach that point, you begin to feel the accumulative effect of becoming an authority site.

At that point, people will be far more likely to follow you. These followers will then be more likely to share your content and link to it. See where this is going? Your traffic begins to perpetuate more traffic.

In my opinion – and I don’t have any research to back this on, only my 18 years of experience – Google picks up on these signals. I’m not sure how they factor into the algorithm and I don’t think it’s something you can manipulate. It does mean that on top of everything else, you stand a better chance at ranking high in the search results.

So, should you just create more posts?

Should you perhaps increase your posting rate to 14 new posts a week instead of 2? Well, yes and no.

Don’t start spamming people (or search engines) with trash posts just to crank out new content on your site more quickly. More hooks is important but just like in fishing, you should invest in quality ones. And not all hooks are made the same.

Invest in quality hooks

What constitutes quality content changes according to your niche and audience. Whatever that elusive component may be – stick to it. Don’t lower your standards just so you can publish more often.

And just like with hooks, offer some variation. Don’t stick to the same kind of posts at all times. Some posts can be lists, others can be stories, and then some may be quizzes or photo posts.

Don’t give up!

 

I like to read success stories by other bloggers. Most of them say that there have been blogging for months on end before they started generating a significant amount of revenue. Many mention how close they were to giving up.

In my exprience, it takes a solo web publisher or blogger an average of 1-2 years before they get to a semi-decent level of income. Sure, if you invest in buying content and hiring people to promote your blog or if you’re very lucky, you can reach that point sooner. For most of us, a year makes more sense. Possibly two.

It’s taken me three years before I made enough money for it to be considered a respectable “salary”. My mother-in-law kept suggesting that I give up this “Internet nonesense” and become a school teacher. Fortunately, her son backed me up and provided for both of us (and a couple of babies later on) while I was shoveling more plutonium into my web publishing engine. Once I reached critical mass, I never looked back.

Do not despair. If you enjoy blogging as much as I do, stick to it. Your own critical mass point may come sooner than mine, or it may come later, but it will come. Just keep on producing quality posts and doing everything you can to have the best blog you possibly can.

So, how about you?

Where are you in your journey? Have you reached critical mass, or not yet? Leave me a comment to let me know. And if you found this post encouraging (I hope you did!) help me push towards the critical mass for this blog and share it around! Thanks!

What makes a blog post really great?

Everyone knows that great content is crucial for the success of a blog. By creating awesome quality posts, you’re far more likely to get social shares and organic incoming links. Sounds like an easy-to-follow formula?

Ahh, but only if you can identify what makes a blog post really great for your readers. And trust me, that is not easy.

What makes a blog post truly great?

Why great content matters

Whether you are trying to get your traffic through social media channels or via Google SEO, there’s one rule that always holds true:

~ Offer great content ~

Great content pretty much markets itself. All you need to do is jump start viral sharing. If you have enough of a following, that will pretty much happen by itself. Once great content starts “making the rounds” it becomes viral because people want to share the awesomeness with their friends.

Great content is also the cornerstone of SEO. Ideally, other bloggers will link to your post just because it’s so absolutely and irresistible awesome. All of these organic links will eventually make Google realize what a gem your post is, pushing it up in the search results. Bingo!

What makes a blog post really awesome?

How can you tell if a post is really awesome?

Lots of recipes for writing great blog posts out there. I’m going to briefly cover the most commonly discussed aspects and then tell you why they’re not necessarily important. They mean absolutely nothing when it comes to determining how great your post is, and I’m going to show you why.

First, the attributes which people often mention as important. These aren’t meaningless on their own. It’s just that following these rules won’t necessarily help you.

1. Post title

We’ve all been told that a great post title can make or break a post. People have short attention spans, so you have to carve out a title that will be compelling enough for them to click. There are tons of tutorials out there on how to craft the perfect post title. Here’s one of my favorites, an oldie but goodie!

2. The length of your post

The Yoast SEO plugin recommends 300 words as the minimum length for a blog post. I’ve seen successful posts that were shorter. I’ve also seen many which were much much longer.

I think the current trend is to write extremely long blog posts. I guess there are SEO experts out there who think a lot of verbiage might convince Google that your post is truly awesome.

3. Readability & voice

There are ways to determine how easy it is to read your post. I’ll mention Yoast SEO again because its free version comes with a built-in readability checker. Which is kinda cool, really. It means you can instantly see how your text measures up to commonly accepted standards of readability.

Your style also reflects your  writing “voice” though that is a more intricate concept. Finding your voice goes beyond issues of grammar or the average number of words in a sentence.

4. On-page SEO

On page SEO is basically a question of having the right amount of keywords and key phrases in your text. Finding that goldilocks zone of not too little and not too much. It’s also about where these keywords are placed in your text and in the page code.

5.  The Visuals

A picture is worth a thousands words. And an infographic has those thousands words in the picture. Surely having such great visuals in a post will make it go rival, right?

It’s all about providing value

The bottom line of these parameters? They all try to gauge the amount of value a blog post provides for the readers.

Because in the end that’s all that really matters: Was the post valuable to the reader? Precious minutes were spent reading it so were they time well-spent?

We tend to equate value with money. Hardly the case here. Yes, an awesome post can help your readers get more money. For example, it can teach them how to place ads in the way that gets them more revenue. Or it can offer a list of the best-converting affiliate programs in their niche. These types of posts certainly can have monetary value attached to them.

However, posts can offer other kinds of value.

A blog post can warn you about something. For example, it can tell you about the latest recall of baby food or warn you about a disease in a travel destination you were considering.

A blog post can offer you just cool trivial information which you can then tell your friends about and look really smart about it.

A blog post can simply make you laugh and help you pass the time while you’re waiting in line for something.

These are all valuable posts for those reading them. At least they can be. It depends on who’s reading them and when.

Which brings me to my main point –

Who determines what really makes a great blog post?

Who’s to say what makes a post awesome? Your audience.

They – and only they – are judge and jury to this question. Not your colleagues, not your friends, not our Mom and definitely not you.

Find what’s valuable for your readers.

One of the things I’ve learned is that what I see as valuable in terms of content can be very different from what the blog’s niche audience sees as great content.

Let me give you a few examples.

Example #1

Posts that try to scare you about something, especially those with an emotional title, can be great for some audiences.

“Just One Bite Of One Of These 17 Foods Can Give You Cancer” is a post that can be great for some audiences. Some people crave this kind of information and will gladly pass on to their friends any post that explains how lemons are 1000 times better than chemotherapy.

Now, if you ask me – or any one of my skeptic friends – these posts belong in the trash bin. A very literal trash bin. They should never see the light of day. They are nothing but stupid clickbaity scaremongering.

But hey, who am I to judge? For the right audience they are super quality posts. The kind that gets shared and linked to.

(I would never write them myself, mind. I’m just saying many people find value in them).

Example #2:

I really don’t like LOL pictures. I mean, I like some of them but I think most are garbage. When LOLCats started out, I was appalled. Surely everyone will see these are low-quality images with terrible typography and horrible texts?

Turns out, most people love them. They couldn’t care less about the images being low-quality. They love catspeak. They even love the use of the Impact font. For the right audience, LOLcat pictures rock. They make awesome content.

It’s not just the images. Turns out people are ok with texts that are barely legible if you pretend they were written by a cat. There are successful bloggers out there who write blogs from their cat’s point of view. And these cats aren’t really good at grammar or spelling either. So much for readability.

These posts get shared like hotcakes in social media (assuming you’re the kind of person who loves sharing his hotcakes!) There is obviously a wide audience who finds great entertainment value in them.

Know Your Niche & Your Audience

That’s really the bottom line.

Don’t try to measure up to what blogging tutorials tell you are the golden standards.

There are no golden standards. You can have a post that has –

  • The worst OnPage SEO
  • A title that doesn’t meet any of the criteria for writing catchy titles
  • No visuals.
  • The wrong length of text (or none at all, if you’re going with visuals only).
  • Terrible grammar and spelling.

It would still get shares and incoming links and land you tons of targeted traffic.

In that sense, it would a GREAT blog post! Your audience loves it – even if it doesn’t meet the strict criteria placed by other bloggers.

And in the end, that’s what matters.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying you should start producing posts which you feel are junk. More likely than not, your audience will think they’re junk too and you can kiss your returning visitors goodbye.

What I’m saying is that you shouldn’t stick to blogging standards someone else tells you about while ignoring your audience’s preferences. Experiment with types of posts that seem popular in your niche. See what people actually like and try to provide them with that they feel is valuable.

 

Asking the right question: How to get your expert roundup topics in focus

There are many excellent blog posts about how to put together an expert roundup post. They cover all aspects of the project but seem to focus on marketing and promotion. After reading dozens of these posts, I’ve tried to distill the essence of one particular aspect: Asking the right question.

After all, it’s always important to get the foundations of the post right and only then worry about promotion. In the case of expert roundup posts, the cornerstone of your foundation is that brilliant question that readers crave reading the answers to and experts can’t resist answering.

Asking The Right Question

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know what an expert roundup is. In fact, with this being a blog about blogging, I think I can safely assume you’re probably sick and tired of expert roundup posts by now. Fair enough. There have been way too many of them in the blogging and SEO niches. If that’s your niche, you may as well stop reading here and go find something more interesting to do. Maybe go read my post about the blog revival project and leave me a comment there?

So why would I be doing an expert roundup post now?

Expert roundup posts can still be very valuable.

I believe it all comes down to the value you’re providing for your audience. People are always looking for authoritative answers to their problems. Basing the answers on the opinions of actual experts in the field is a good way to lend authority to whatever it is your post or article are saying. Believe it or not, it’s not been done to death in other niches. Readers are still interested and experts are eager to participate.

With that in mind, I’ve read a couple of dozens of posts and guides about how to create the perfect expert roundup post. I’ve sifted through a lot of advice and come up with the golden nuggets of guidelines for asking the right question.

What an expert roundup post is truly all about

An expert roundup post is a transaction.

The product is solutions to problems. The potential sellers are the experts. The buyers are your readers. You’re the mediator. The real estate agent that’s taking your readers to view various possible homes in the hope that one of them would be just the perfect fit for their need.

As the mediator, you are the expert on finding experts in your niche. That means you have to know your market and know which assets (experts) are best fitted for your home seeker’s needs. In the end, it’s why you get paid for your efforts in that precious currency of blog traffic.

That metaphor oversimplifies things a little but the principle is true. And just like a real estate agent, the key for putting together a good deal is by understanding the needs of both parties – buyer and seller – and creating the best possible real estate tour in a single blog post. No need to go anywhere else but to your blog because all possible quality solutions are there for your reader to look at. No need for experts to list their solutions elsewhere because your blog is where things are happening and where their potential buyers will be!

Asking the right question gets you two things –

  1. It entices the experts in your niche to participate and show their goods on your blog.
  2. It promises (and delivers) real solutions for your readers.

When you’re asking the right question, readers feel they must keep on reading and find out the answer and experts feel they can easily provide that answer based on their experience and expertise. It’s all about transferring information from expert to layman. Make your article the vehicle for a successful transfer and your post will become invaluable to your readers and have the potential to go viral.

11 guidelines that guarantee asking the right question

1. Cover a problem that your readers are actually struggling with and the solution can save them time, money or aggravation.

2. Target a problem where professional authority matters and expert knowledge is needed for the solution.

3. Address a problem that can actually have answers in the form of general advice. If they need individually tailored advice to solve a problem then you’re not asking the right question.

4. Ask about something the answer to isn’t too obvious.

5. Find a question with diverse possible answers. If there are only three possible answers to the question, it could get dull after the 5th expert’s answer.

6. Choose a topic that’s not too controversial. If experts end up providing conflicting answers, you’ll end up frustrating your readers. Ideally, your readers should come out with a clear conclusion and a solution to their problem.

7. Where applicable, consider a question where experts reveal their own personal way of handling the problem. “Monkey see, monkey do” is a legitimate – and highly attractive – decision making tool for all of us.

8. Formulate a specific and concrete question. Avoid questions that are too vague or general. Asking for their favorite tool for task X or a list of top three items helps focus the question.

9. Find a question that an expert can answer almost effortlessly. It should be something they can answer from their own experience and expertise without having to look up data.

10. Look for a topic that’s original and interesting for the expert to write about.

11. Pinpoint your topic to a question that can actually be answered within a specific length. Something that they can elaborate about for no more than a paragraph or two and still get the message across to your audience.

Putting it all together

You know your niche and your audience. If you’re blogging about it, you are very likely somewhat of an expert yourself. Which means no one is better situated than you to come up with topics.

Find your topic – that problem that your readers are always asking about – and write down at least 10 different questions about it. Now, go over your questions and review them in light of these 11 guidelines.

Good? Bad? Awesome? Just horrible? No question will ever be 100% perfect but some will shine out like beacons of quality roundup questions while others will very clearly not answer most of the criteria and can be crossed from your list.

Once you hit that sweet spot where your expert can provide a concrete question about a topic in a couple of paragraphs on a topic your audience really needs a solution for, then you’re asking the right question. That’s the question that can help get you the best answers to your expert roundup, creating a resource so invaluable in your niche that it has the potential to go viral.

The Blog Revival Project: Setting Goals & Strategy

It’s time to reveal my current project in all its glory and provide the framework of what I’m trying to do: Revive six dormant (practically dead) blogs and turn them into successful revenue-generating blogs. In this post, I’m going to introduce the participating blogs and present my goals and the strategy I plan to use.

The Blogs Revival Project: Goals & Strategy

I started this project about a month ago. At first, I was hesitant about revealing the names of these blogs. Why? Good question. I think I was just used to the “old-times” when webmasters-turned-bloggers used to work in stealth mode. I’ve decided to change my ways and embrace the new approach of openness and  transparency. In fact, as soon as I have the final data from Google Analytics and Adsense, I will post my first painfully honest revenue and traffic report!

So, with that in mind, it’s time to reveal the six blogs and share my goals as well as the strategy I’ve come up with for this project.

Drumroll…

The Blogs!

Six blogs are included in this project. First, I’d like to present them and explain where they stand now.

#1 CatPicsBlog.com

This blog is all about beautiful cat pictures. I buy the pictures to avoid any copyright issues. I know quite a bit about cats and cat care, so I try to add some additional information and useful tips.

This blog was launched almost 7 years ago. According to the Google Search Console it currently has 1,428 incoming links.

I stopped working on CatPicsBlog five years ago. Since then traffic and revenue pretty much died out. I started posting again in March 2016 and have picked up steam and moved to daily posts in June 2016.

#2 CatsGoShopping.com

Yup! Another cat blog! This one focuses on shopping for cat products and services.

It was launched almost 8 years ago with posts promoting Amazon products. It too was abandoned about five years ago. I took up posting again in March 2016.

According to Google Search Console this blog currently has 315 incoming links.

#3 Gifts4Kids.net

Another shopping blog, this time about choosing the right gifts for children. Every post offers one product or more, all with Amazon affiliate links.

It’s not a very good domain name but it is almost 11 years old and has 41 inbound links. I posted on this blog sporadically over the years, up to 2012. I picked it up again in March 2016.

#4 Home-Decor-Hub.com

This blog is a mix of posts about principles of home design and posts about specific products on Amazon you can use for home decor (mostly the latter).

The domain is hyphenated and isn’t one I would choose today. Still, it’s one of my older domains – almost 12 years old – and has no fewer than 1524 incoming links. I’ve been adding posts intermittently since 2008.

It gets the most traffic of the six blogs in the project but revenue has dropped dramatically to pretty much zero over the past couple of years.

#5 TripMemos.com

A fairly new domain, for a change. I decided to get into the traveling niche because we love traveling and have made two very long road trips with the kids. The domain is 3 years old and I only got around to developing the blog last year, so it has very few old posts and most of the posts were made after May 2016.

#6 Yeys.com

This blog you’re reading right now! An ancient domain name bought 11 years ago just because it was a 4-letter.com with a positive sound to it. I’ve used it for various projects over the years. It has 186 incoming links but its current incarnation is very young.

I launched Yeys.com as a blog for me to post about my projects in May 2016. At first it was just to have a place on the web where I can keep my “notes” and rant away. I’ve been inspired by other bloggers to take this one step further and the result is what you’re reading right now.

Setting The Goals

So, now that you know what we’re working with, on to the goals.

These six blogs currently make a total of close to zero revenue. You can take a look at the stats in the June 2016 Revenue & Traffic Report. Trust me, it’s not even worth clicking through for the numbers themselves: Each of the six blogs has 300-500 pageviews a month.

In that respect, they are brand new blogs and I need to start from point zero.

What I have is 18 years of experience developing websites and blogs. You can read here about my personal life, why I stopped developing my blogs five years ago and why I’m embarking on this project at this point.

My experience makes me 100% positive you can make money from blogging. I also know it can take awhile to get to that point with any new (or renewed) site. It’s taken me three years of hard work to start making money online when I started out back in 1998.

With that in mind, I’m trying to set realistic goals for this project.

My goal is to get the six blogs to make at least $200 in December 2016.

That’s for all of them put together. Too much? Too little? I’d love to get your opinion in the comments section!

Plotting A Strategy

Managing six blogs takes some coordination. I can’t do everything for every site everyday so I need a good plan that will help me focus my efforts. Each blog has a different niche or angle. They therefore should be promoted and monetized in different ways.

I took pen to paper and wrote down my current stats and my goals for each month in 2016. I also wrote down what I think would be the best strategy for each blog in terms of content creation, marketing and monetization.

Next, I wrote down a “Grand Scheme” plan for the next six months. I intend to focus my efforts on a single blog each month. During that month, that blog will receive the TLC it needs to “take off”. This could mean a new logo, promoting social media accounts, guest blogging, creating freebie products to promote the mailing list with, etc. It may include new monetization methods if by that time it will have significant traffic. The order I’ve set up is this –

July: Cats Go Shopping

August: Gifts For Kids

September: Trip Memos

October: Cat Pics Blog

November: Home Decor Hub

December: Yeys!

This does not mean I’m going to put the other blogs on hold while focusing on just one. All of the blogs will be getting the same kind of attention in terms of content creation, basic promotion and possibly even monetization. It’s the more time-consuming major processes that will be dealt with one blog at a time.

Stay tuned for my next post where I’m going to detail the items that will make the actual Action Plans for each blog and for the Revenue & Traffic report!

If you’re reading this (and I realize not too many people do), I’d love to get your feedback on my project! Do leave me a comment – I may be “old and wise” but I could still use some encouragement!

Why I REALLY don’t like Disqus

I really don’t like the Disqus commenting system.

If you use Disqus as your comments plug-in, not only will you not be getting any comments from me, I’ll also avoid reading your posts. I use BlogLovin’ to follow my favorite blogs and I absolutely refuse to follow any blog that uses Disqus.

Why I really don't like Disqus

Here’s why.

1. It wants me to register an account with them.

I have plenty of accounts in so many services. I see no benefit in registering for one more just so I can comment on your blog.

2. It won’t let commenters add a link back to their website.

No, I don’t comment on blogs for SEO benefits. I know very well that WordPress comments have a “nofollow” attribute and that’s just fine. I hate comment spam as much as anyone.

When I see an interesting comment by someone, I want to follow through to their blog. It’s very frustrating not having a link to go to other than their very boring Disqus profile. Why should I care about their Disqus profile and why should you generate traffic for Disqus which does not benefit your readers in any way?

These two reasons make Disqus very frustrating for me as a blog reader, whether I want to comment on your post or even if I don’t.

I don’t understand why bloggers use Disqus in the first place. Yes, I have read about their “advantages” but I see more disadvantages there.

1. They store the comments on their server.

I want to contribute content to your blog. Not to Disqus. I would never use that plugin on any of my blogs because I want full control over content, comments included. Now and in the future too. Even if down the road they decided to charge for the service.

2. It deters some users from participating in the conversation.

Those without an account, like myself, are far less likely to add a comment.

Why would anyone choose Disqus in the first place?

I do wonder.

WordPress has a perfectly ok system for commenting.

  • It allows users to add their email address without publishing it, so you can contact them while keeping their privacy.
  • It allows fellow bloggers to present their blog in a non-obtrusive way, helping develop a community around your topic.
  • It lends itself beautifully to various template designs.
  • It handles spam very well once you activate Akismet.
    I don’t see how Disqus is any better in that respect. I have seen blogs where spammers filled the Disqus comments section with links to their sites. Left open to links and unmonitored, there’s little Disqus can do to stop spammers.
  • It’s there already. No need for additional plugins.

With such an effective and useful system already in place, why use a plugin? The only motivation I can see is that Disqus pays bloggers a small fee when they activate the built-in ads. Is it really worth it though?

Why won’t I even follow your blog if you use Disqus?

I’m the kind of person who likes to engage others in conversation. I’m the one who can’t help but respond to people’s Facebook posts, or tweet back when something catches my eye on Twitter.

I do the same with blogs. When I read an interesting blog post, I like to leave my paw mark and reply with my own insights and thoughts. I also appreciate the opportunity to present myself to the blogger and to other commenters by adding a link to my blog. I want this process to be simple and I don’t want to have to create an account with a third-party just so I can comment.

If your blog uses Disqus, you’re in effect shutting me out of the conversation. Even if I have something that’s very useful and interesting, or if I want to ask something. That’s not nice and it means I won’t go back to your blog. There are TONS of great blogs out there where I can speak my mind, so why waste my time on the ones who don’t let me do so?

Why should you care?

I’m just a grumpy old web publisher (not really! I’m awesome!) and your blog will do just fine without my comments or my readership (not really! You want to hear what I have to say!)

I’m not the only commenter you’re losing though. People who engage with a website tend to return and to stay for longer. Commenting adds stickiness. To get them to engage with your blog, you need to keep things simple. Disqus complicates them.

When you use Disqus you may be losing commenters and readers. I doubt I’m the only one.

What makes blogs so successful (and how to make yours so too)

Everybody blogsBlogging has taken the world of web publishing by storm over the past decade. In this post, I want to review the reasons that made blogs evolve into the leading form of online publishing.

The core aspects that made blogs into the absolute rulers of the industry are the ones you should be focusing on, in order to make your own blog a success as well.

Once Upon A Time…

About a decade ago, online publishing was about mostly about creating static websites. These beasts were coded in HTML and PHP, or published using a content management system such as Joomla or Drupal.

They looked something like this website which I created back in 2004. It took me a weekend to create it. That’s it. Coded by hand without using themes or plugins and with almost no need for updates. It’s made just over $2,500 over the years. Not bad for a weekend’s worth of work.

Like many webmasters, I used to create dozens of these websites. Some I sold, others died out, a few are still here, making a nice drizzle of entirely passive income. At the height of my empire of websites I had more than 400 domain names, about half of them developed and the other half awaiting development.

In my previous post I reviewed the 5 things that have changed in web publishing over the past decade. Quite a lot has changed but the most notable change is that blogs took over the place of “regular” websites as the preferred platform for web publishing.

There are a few good reasons for why this has happened. I think each one of them is incredibly important to understand, especially for those new to blogging. These are the key reasons for the success of blogs as a “genre”. Understanding – and following – these lessons are also key to the success of your own blog.

First things, first –

What is a blog?

I checked Wikipedia and I think their definition for a blog is – at best – lacking.

A blog (a truncation of the expression weblog) is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first).

Hmmm. Here’s what I think most people mean when they use the word “blog” in 2016 –

A website that offers a unique personal perspective (by one or more individuals) through constant updates in the form of posts.

A blog is a form of a website. A unique form, that has gone through a process of gradual evolution over the past two decades. People have been publishing personal websites since the beginning of the internet but about a decade ago, blogs gained an evolutionary advantage over other types of websites which gained them unprecedented dominance, especially in the unique ecological niche of independent web publishers.

Understanding the four key aspects that brought on this evolutionary “jump” is crucial to the success of your blog. With that in mind, here what I think they are and along with the key industry players that brought them on.

1.The Right Platform: WordPress

WordPress is so much more than a piece of software. It’s a vibrant online community of developers who collaborate to constantly improve the infrastructure of blogs. It triggered nothing short of a revolution. The ability to instantly create a professional-looking website has opened the gates to a flood of new web publishing initiatives.

WordPress was released back in 2003 and caught like wildfire. It offered a clean and easy-to-use interface – far easier than that of other content management systems – and took away the need for advanced coding skills. Now, anyone can be a web publisher.

Lesson #1:

Stick to wordpress. In 2016, WordPress is definitely the platform to use if you’re an independent web publisher looking to start your own website.

2. Fresh Content And Constant Updates

Back in 2004 when I published Goldfish Care and hundreds of websites like it, Google loved them. Throw in some link building and on-page SEO and you could fairly easily score a good place in the SERP’s.

I’m not sure if it was the shift in people’s surfing habits that has made Google alter their algorithms, or the other way around, but things have definitely changed. Google now clearly prefers fresh content. A website that offers constant updates will be getting more search engine traffic. It will also get more returning traffic simply because it offers something new to the same readers.

Guess what kind of website is easiest to update with fresh content? And guess which platform lends itself so naturally to always having that fresh content displayed on the main page of your site?

Lesson #2:

Keep your blog updated. Constantly. Set up a schedule which includes at least one new post every week and stick to it.

3. Real People Coming To The Front

I blame Facebook for this one.

A decade ago, most people were afraid of having their identity out there “on the internet”. Many web publishers felt far more comfortable creating websites that never mentioned their name. If you wanted to contact the owners, there would be a contact form or a generic email such as webmaster@website.com. Communication between webmasters was mainly through forums where each one would have their own “handle” or “nick”.

Then Facebook exploded into the world and social media came to be. Facebook offered a huge amount of gratification for users but also demanded authenticity. The whole point was about connecting real people who actually knew each other. Using their real names and sharing their very real photos and stories. Bye bye anonymity.

This had a crucial effect on web publishing (which by now was fast becoming blogging thanks to WordPress and Google’s preference for fresh content). Suddenly, bloggers who presented their real selves, wrote in the first person and – lo and behold – shared their image, gained a huge advantage. Perez Hilton blogged about celebrities, Ariana Huffington took over the news world and Brian Clark began showing newbies how to create a successful blog. Today their projects are online empires but they all started as blogs with one identifiable blogger clearly and visibly at the helm.

Lesson #3:

Authenticity is key. People want to know who you are, so bring forward the real you.

4. Monetizing Through Affiliations

Yes, affiliate marketing has been around the block for ages. Many non-blog websites have effectively utilized both affiliations and other forms of advertising. Landing pages were the mark of affiliation-oriented websites long before blogs became popular.

However, once bloggers came to the front, the rules of the game changed. With the advent of authentic voices, showing their real self and putting forward their personal reputation, affiliation marketing took on a whole new direction.

Selling products no longer depended on sending a mass of traffic to shady landing pages with cloaked links. Instead, it became a matter of leveraging people’s trust in the blogger to generate sales.

Lesson #4:

Create quality content that offers real value to your readers. Aim at gaining followers who respect and trust you and promote products and services you feel will genuinely help them.

There you have it.

I believe these are the four key elements that made blogs win over the individual web publishing industry. A combination of an awesome platform and changes in search engines and social media – along with a financial reward for the people who supplied the new demand for authentic voices that keep constantly in touch with fresh reliable content.

 

If you want to join Team Success of web publishing in 2016, a quality blog with fresh content that brings forward the real you is definitely the way to go.

5 Things That Profoundly Changed in Web Publishing

There’s a science fiction theme where they freeze someone for 500 years and he then wakes up in an a totally different world. Something similar happened to me. Instead of 500 years, it was 7-8 years and I wasn’t actually frozen, just busy with a different kind of web project. I’m back now! And it is a different world out there! From this – rather unique – point of view, I can identify 5 major changes in web publishing.

First, a quick recap –

As you may already know, I started my career as a webmaster back in 1998. I created and owned more than 400 websites since then.

I took a break from independent web publishing back in 2011. In some ways, even earlier. For more than five years I focused on a joint venture where I was in charge of content creation and community management of my flagship website, letting others take care of marketing and monetization.

Now I’m back, launching or re-launching six blogs with the aim of creating an additional and separate stream of revenue. My main site is doing extremely well, thanks for asking. It’s just that with my kids growing up, I have more time on my hands and I think it’s time to lay a few new eggs and put them in a different basket.

Quite a lot has changed in the past decade!

back-in-my-day
I’m old enough to say “Back In My Day”!

I think I’m in a unique position to notice these changes because I sort of “wasn’t around” as they evolved in the gradual way that such things usually do.

My framework for comparison is roughly 2006-2008 vs. today. These are just my own impressions based on two things –

  1. My experience as a full-time web publisher back in that time period.
  2. Google Trends. I checked a few terms to see if my hunches correlated with actual search trends. You’ll see quite a few screenshots of my findings in this post.

Blogs vs. Websites

No, blogs are not that new. What’s new is the way they took over the world of self-made independent web publishers.

Let’s say you’re a beginner and want to make money online.

2006 advice: Create content websites!

Find your niche, publish good content, promote and monetize. You can code your website in HTML or PHP, or you can use one of the content management systems out there, such as Joomla or Drupal. They’re the future, man!

2016 advice: Start your own blog!

And yes, find your niche, publish quality content, promote and monetize. It’s a blog though, not a website and the one and only software you should be using is WordPress.

Here’s what Google Trends has to say on this –

blogvswebsite

Somewhere in 2005 there’s a dramatic shift in trends. Search volume for the word “blog” skyrocket while the ones for the term “website” go down. It’s interesting to note that searches for the term “blog” are on the decline as well since 2010.

When I compared searches for names of content management systems, the trend was even more impressive –

Comparison of content management systems in Google Trends

Bye bye Joomla and Drupal. WordPress is the undisputed king of content management systems for self-published content sites.

Just as websites turned into blogs, so did webmasters turn into bloggers. I confess, I still find it difficult to define myself as a blogger. I mean, I am a blogger too – obviously, this is a blog post – but I am first and foremost a web publisher. In my case, the title still applies because my flagship website is a community website and not a blog.

There’s a multitude of implications to this massive shift. For example, it looks like web hosting companies now offer packages specifically designed for wordpress blogs. It’s nothing more than a marketing trick, as far as I can see, and it certainly demonstrates the change I’m talking about here.

I think there are several reasons for this shift and I’ll be discussing them in more detail in a future post. Right now, I want to talk about the changes in the two main challenges webmasters bloggers face: promotion and monetization.

Promotion Techniques

Who moved my SEO?

SEO is still here but it’s oh, so different.

Let’s press that purple button in our time machine again and take a look at an average blog back in 2006. The one thing every blog had back then? A Blogroll.

Blogs as well as other types of websites focused their SEO on link building and the easiest legitimate method of link building was the simple – yet effective – link exchange.

Again, Google trends to the rescue, just to make sure I’m not imagining it all.

link exchanged died!

Oh, no! Link exchanged died! You might even think that active link building is pretty much dead. Not really. It has fancier names now, like “guest blogging” but people still work hard on building incoming links.

So, where’s SEO at now? It’s mostly about onsite optimization and a little bit of active link building by guest posting etc. Oh, and Yoast. Everyone uses Yoast (I do as well in this blog).

Mailing Lists

Visit a blog without a pop-up blocker and whoa.

Have you just arrived? “Subscribe to my mailing list and I’ll send you my top 117 tips on how to turn your blog into a money-printing machine!”

Scrolling down? “Join my list and I’ll send you my secret list of affiliate programs that paid me over $10,000 last month! Each!”

Leaving? “Oh no! You just have to join my list right now or you’ll miss out on my awesome e-book on how to make $234,000 on your first month of blogging!”

Back in the day, you could subscribe to a blog via your RSS reader or – if you insisted – you could get notifications about new posts by email and that was pretty much it. Web pages that offered you free ebooks and what not in return for your email? Those were shady spammy sites with landing pages waiting to trap the suckers who didn’t know any better.

From the web publisher’s point of view, mailing lists were a real pain to manage. Most webmasters – myself included – managed their lists using a script installed on their server. Sending out a newsletter was a huge deal. You had to use increments so that your server won’t be overwhelmed and your IP won’t be blacklisted as a spam generator. It would still happen occasionally with various ISP’s.

There were paid services for sending out newsletters but they were fairly expensive and not nearly as sophisticated as those available today. Basically, you would invest in one if you had a lucrative landing page and a product that made you enough money to justify the cost.

So what’s changed about mailing lists?

I think Mailchimp happened. You now have a top notch freemium service with so many bells and whistles, allowing you to utilize emails without the headache of sending them out yourself.

Here, I checked trends for MailChimp and two of the more popular mailing list scripts back in the day. I think the graph says it all.

mailchimp

Social Media

Some would say this is the most important change of all. I actually think that in terms of blog promotion, it’s not as dramatic as it appears to be at first glance. Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are important to some niche-specific  but I have yet to see stats where social media is what drives most of a blog’s traffic. The exception would be sites like Buzzfeed where their entire model is based around viral marketing.

There, I said the V word.

Which is where I can actually see a significant change. Social Media has affected the way people consume their online content. In order to get the reader’s attention, you have to play by the same rules that make content viral. After all, that virality is based on immediate and intense plea for attention.

And so, competing with social media on the reader’s’ attention, bloggers now produce content that’s shorter and more user-oriented, i.e. lists, how-to’s and short pieces with sensational headlines.

Monetization

Quite a few bloggers are generous enough to post detailed reports of their monthly income and expenses. I have been reading quite a few of those lately, trying to see where the money is coming from in 2016. And yes, things have changed.

Affiliate Programs vs. Google Adsense

A decade ago, Google Adsense was the leader of site monetization. You could have had a very lucrative website based solely on Adsense revenue. That was the finest hour of MFA’s – Made For Adsense scraper sites with no original content. Fortunately that hour passed quickly.

These days, it seems like Adsense is no longer the #1 revenue source for bloggers. I think it correlates, once again, with the picture Google Trends shows us –

adsense

I’m not sure affiliate marketing replaced that entirely. Google trends show a decline between 2009 and 2013 for the term “affiliate marketing” as well.

affiliatemarketing

Judging from the reports I read, quite a few bloggers focus their efforts on creating and selling their own digital products, be them e-books or online courses.

Also, formerly major players in the affiliate marketing arena seem to have gone down in popularity. Commision Junction, Clickbank and Shareasale are names that I checked on Google trends. They have all declined in search volume since 2009. “Amazon’s affiliate program” has not though.

Judging by the revenue reports that some bloggers shared online, my hunch is that more companies now operate their own in-house affiliate programs and bloggers choose to market these products now.

Some things stayed the same!

I’m happy to see that some things stayed the same! Quality content still rules. That trend started before 2006 and it got stronger only the years. Not really surprising, considering Google’s constant improvement of their algorithm, along with more content being curated and shared by actual people via social media.

And domain names! A few years ago it looked like there may be a change coming, when registrars began to offer a slew of new domain extensions. Apparently, that was not a huge success and the world is still ruled by .com’s!

It’s been an interesting day for me, writing this post.

6 WordPress Plugins That Will Actually Benefit My Blogs

First, A quick recap:

I have recently decided to rejoin the blogging community which means I’m taking a fresh look at everything – from blog software through content writing to marketing – while at the same time using my own insights, generated over 18 years of web publishing. You can read more about that here.

This week I’m looking into plugins. I’m not too keen about using too many plugins and you can read here why. That said, I’m entirely open to using the ones that –

  1. Are secure.
  2. Seem to have enough of a community around them to offer support in the long run.
  3. Actually benefit a blog.
  4. Are easy to remove.

I’m happy to say that I found them. Here’s how I did it.

6 WP plugins that will benefit my blogs

I began by asking the Mighty Google which WordPress plugins does she think are relevant in 2016. As expected, over 17 million search results were generated, with quite a few bloggers competing over the first spots with their beautifully-written, helpful, expert-curated, handpicked and absolutely must-have lists.

Almost all lists had more than 10 items in them, some over 20. Hmmm… did I mention I have reservations about using too many plugins? Time to narrow down the recommendations. I’m a firm believe in the Wisdom Of Crowds, so I figured I’d check and see which plugins everyone seems to recommend.

Rounding up lists of recommended plugins for 2016… here we go!

Step 1 – The Lists

First, I’m just going to go through every search result on the first two pages, check to see that it’s indeed a list of plugins for 2016 and copy their list. Just the names of the plugins. Nothing more. I’m not even going to check what the plugins are or what they do.

Source: WPBeginner.com (24 Plugins)

1. OptinMonster
2. WPForms
3. Google Analytics
4. MailChimp
5. Sucuri
6. BackupBuddy
7. Yoast SEO
8. W3 Total Cache
9. MaxCDN
10. Envira Gallery
11. Soliloquy
12. Buffer
13. IFTTT
14. Quick and Easy FAQs
15. Insert Headers and Footers
16. CSS Hero
17. Beaver Builder
18. Google Apps for Work
19. Freshbooks
20. SEMRush
21. All in One Schema.org Rich Snippets
22. BirchPress
23. Testimonials Widget
24. Slack

Source: ThemeTrust.com (27 Plugins)

1. Page Builder by SiteOrigin
2. Shortcodes Ultimate
3. Disqus Comment System
4. Easy Content Types
5. TablePress
6. Envira Gallery
7. Max Mega Menu
8. Rapidology
9. Leadin
10. W3 Total Cache
11. WP Smush
12. P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler)
13. WP-Sweep
14. Wordfence Security
15. Sucuri Security – Auditing, Malware Scanner
16. WordPress Backup to Dropbox
17. Yoast SEO
18. Linker
19. Simple 301 Redirects
20. Broken Link Checker
21. All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets
22. Revive Old Post
23. Social Metrics Tracker
24. SumoMe
25. WPtouch Mobile Plugin
26. WP Slimstat
27. Jetpack

Source: SourceWP.com (20 Plugins)

1. WordPress SEO by Yoast
2. W3 Total Cache
3. Jetpack
4. Monarch
5. Google XML Sitemaps
6. iThemes Security
7. WP-Optimize
8. Contact Form 7
9. WP Smush.it
10. Bloom
11. WP Notification Bar Pro
12. BJ Lazy Load
13. Broken Link Checker
14. My WP Backup Pro
15. WordPress Subscribe Pro
16. BuddyPress
17. PubSubHubbub
18. Redirection
19. P3 Profiler
20. I couldn’t find his #20. The post title says 20 but I counted only 19 (twice).

Source: WarfarePlugins.com (12 Plugins)

1. W3 Total Cache
2. Yoast SEO
3. Ninjas Forms
4. WooCommerce
5. Redirection
6. Co-Schedule
7. Updraft Plus
8. Wordfence Security
9. Social Warfare
10. OptinMonster
11. Advanced Custom Fields
12. Google Analytics by Yoast

Source: MakeTechEasier.com (9 Plugins)

1. SEO by Yoast
2. Floating Social Bar
3. Contact Form 7
4. Updraft Plus
5. Sucuri Security
6. Page Builder by SiteOrigin
7. WP Smush
8. Yuzo – Related Posts
9. W3 Total Cache

Source: MyTipsHub.com (16 Plugins)

1. BackupBuddy
2. Yoast SEO
3. Gravity Forms
4. Disqus Plugin
5. OptinMonster
6. ShortPixel
7. Sucuri Plugin
8. AdSanity Plugin
9. Display Widgets
10. Envira Gallery
11. ThirstyAffiliates
12. Limit Login
13. Soliloquy
14. Edit Flow
15. Term Management Tools
16. Compact Archives

Source: 85Ideas.com (17 plugins)

1. WordPress SEO Yoast
2. Akismet
3. Intergeo Maps Lite
4. Editorial Calendar
5. Floating Social Bar
6. UpDraftPlus
7. Sucuri Security
8. WooCommerce
9. W3 Total Cache
10. Yet Another Related Post Plugin(YARPP)
11. Google Analytics Dashboard for WP
12. Redirection
13. WP-Optimize
14. MailChimp
15. WP Smush
16. PolyLang
17. AdSanity

Source: WPDailyThemes.com (14 plugins)

1. Akismet
2. Jetpack
3. Wordfence Security
4. UpdraftPlus Backup and Restoration
5. Breadcrumb NavXT
6. WooCommerce
7. Yoast SEO
8. Google Analytics Dashboard for WP
9. YouTube Embed
10. BuddyPress
11. W3 Total Cache
12. Polylang
13. Floating Social Bar
14. SumoMe

Source: ColorLib.com (7 Plugins)

1. Wordfence
2. UpdraftPlus
3. WordPress SEO by Yoast
4. Simple Share Buttons Adder
5. WP Super Cache
6. Contact Form 7
7. Akismet

Source: WPFreeSetup.com (11 Plugins)

1. Jetpack
2. SEO by Yoast
3. YARPP: Yet Another related post plugin
4. SEO friendly Images
5. WPTouch Mobile
6. W3 Total cache
7. WPForms
8. WP Db manager
9. WP Optimize plugin
10. Digg Digg WordPress plugin
11. WP Smush.it

Source: AuthorityLab.com (14 Plugins)

1. WordPress SEO by Yoast
2. W3 Total Cache
3. Disqus
4. Google XML Sitemaps
5. EWWW Image Optimizer
6. Google Analytics by Yoast
7. Mailchimp Newsletter Signup
8. Optin Forms
9. BackWPup
10. BackupBuddy
11. WordPress Backup for Dropbox
12. Wordfence
13. Sucuri Security
14. Brute Force Login Protection

Source: 80proofdigital.com (25 Plugins)

1. WP Super Cache
2. W3 Total Cache
3. WP Optimize Speed By xTraffic
4. Use Google Libraries
5. P3 Plugin Performance Profiler
6. EWWW Image Optimizer
7. Yoast SEO
8. All in one SEO
9. Google XML Sitemaps
10. XML Sitemap & Google News feeds
11. Better WordPress Google XML Sitemaps
12. Google Video Sitemap Feed
13. YouTube Video Sitemap generator
14. Udinra All Image Sitemap
15. Image Sitemap
16. SEO Smart Link
17. WP Optimize By xTraffic
18. 404 To 301 Re-direct
19. Broken Link Checker
20. Jetpack
21. Sucuri Security
22. Wordfence Security
23. SumoMe
24. Shareaholic
25. AddToAny Share Buttons

Source: LionsShareDigital.com (20 Plugins)

1. WooCommerce – Excelling eCommerce
2. Memberships for WooCommerce
3. Stripe
4. Duplicate Post
5. HTML SEO Sitemap
6. Google Analytics Yoast
7. WP Smush.it
8. Redirection
9. Manage WP
10. Gravity Forms
11. Imsanity
12. Bloom
13. Monarch
14. Business Profile
15. Google Places Reviews
16. Yelp Widget Pro
17. Event Calendar Pro
18. Cue Music Player
19. WP Rocket
20. Foo Gallery

Source: BloggingWizard.com (22 Plugins)

1. W3 Total Cache
2. WP Super Cache
3. iThemes Security
4. Wordfence
5. BackupBuddy
6. BackWPup
7. Redirection
8. All in One SEO Pack
9. Yoast SEO
10. Google Analyticator
11. Clicky by Yoast
12. Edit Flow
13. Editorial Calendar
14. Thrive Leads
15. SumoMe
16. LeadPages
17. OptimizePress
18. Thrive Content Builder
19. Social Warfare
20. Share by SumoMe
21. Akismet
22. Disqus

Source: OnBlastBlog.com (20 Plugins)

1. Scroll Triggered Box
2. W3 Total Cache
3. WordPress SEO by Yoast
4. Disqus Comments
5. The Hello Bar
6. WP Super Cache
7. 404 Redirection
8. Buffer
9. Jetpack
10. BackupBuddy
11. Edit Flow
12. LeadPages
13. Thrive Content Builder
14. Share by Sumo Me
15. Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin (G.A.S.P)
16. Wordfence
17. WP Rocket
18. GetResponse
19. Hybrid Connect
20. iThemes Security

Source: TipsAndTricks-hq.com (34 Plugins)

* I ignored the section for e-commerce. Too specific for my need.

1. Akismet
2. BackUpWordPress
3. All in One SEO Pack
4. WordPress SEO by Yoast
5. Google XML Sitemaps
6. All In One WP Security & Firewall
7. BulletProof Security
8. Wordfence Security
9. Google Analytics Dashboard for WP
10. Google Analytics
11. WP Statistics
12. W3 Total Cache
13. FeedBurner FeedSmith
14. Add to Any: Subscribe Button
15. Category Specific RSS Menu
16. Contact Form 7
17. Contact Form
18. Gravity Forms
19. Social Media and Share Icons
20. Share This
21. Fat Free WordPress Social Share Buttons Plugin
22. Simple Google Adsense insertion
23. Google Adsense Plugin
24. Google Adsense
25. NextGen Gallery
26. Simple Photo Gallery
27. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin
28. Download Monitor
29. Executable PHP Widget
30. Crayon Syntax Highlighter
31. Mailpoet Newsletters
32. WP-Polls
33. EWWW Image Optimizer
34. WP Video Lightbox

Step 2 – Crunching The Numbers

Whew!

That was a total of 16 sources, based on the top Google search results which should hopefully reflect a decent mix of relevance and authority. There were a few results I chose not to use because they were too niche-specific or overly self-promotional.

Total votes counted: 291

Total number of plugins mentioned: 149

And The Top Recommended Plugins for 2016 Are…

1. Yoast SEO – 15 Votes

2. W3 Total Cache – 13 Votes

3. Wordfence – 7 votes

4. Sucuri – 7 votes

Places 5 through 8:
Jetpack, SumoMe, Smush & BackupBuddy – 6 votes each.

Places 9 through 14:
Akismet, Disqus, OptimizeSpeed, Redirection, Updraft Plus, XML Sitemap – 5 votes each

Step 3 – Considering The Top Choices

Googling and counting is relatively easy. Now for some actual thinking.

My criteria for plugins were security, a strong community of users, significant benefit to my blogs and ease of removal (in case there are any issues with them in the future).

All of these plugins seem to have a fairly large number of users. Which means it’s unlikely they will be discontinued in the coming years. Fingers crossed, if the original developers decide to move on, there will be others taking their place.

I’m not a security expert so I can’t check the code of any of these plugins for security loopholes. That’s ok though. They are used by so many bloggers that we can assume there are actual coders and security experts among them. Security issues will hopefully be addressed with quick patches, should they arise.

The actual benefit to the blog is an interesting point. I think the full list brings up a few aspects that appear to be lacking in the original WordPress installation. Looks like most bloggers think there’s a real need for the following –

1. Tighter security – Wordfence and Sucuri appear to be the leaders. All in all, almost every list included a security plugin. Jetpack offers security features as well.

2. Improved SEO – Yoast, yoast, yoast… everyone wants it, apparently. A few other SEO plugins have been mentioned as well.

3. Faster loading times – W3 Cache is the hands-down winner but other plugins have been mentioned abundantly, so this seems to be a very real issue.

4. Automatic backups – WordPress has a built-in backup option of sorts. It generates an XML file which you can download to your own computer. Backups are important and I know it’s something I’m not too good about. I think a backup plugin may be a good idea for me.

5. Social Sharing – Can’t have a post without those social share buttons, now can we. SumoMe seems to be the popular choice. Jetpack offers social shares too.

Step 4 – Decision Time

And the winners are…

1. Jetpack –
It’s a semi-official plugin, designed and maintained by the same people that maintain WordPress. This means it’s here to stay for the very long run and shouldn’t have any compatibility issues during software upgrades. It offers so many features, there’s going to be a learning curve but hopefully it’s worth it.

2. Yoast –
Because 15 out of 16 bloggers can’t be all wrong. Am I giving in to peer pressure? Maybe. And maybe that’s not a bad idea.

3. W3 Total Cache –

There is always a need for speed. Always. Looks like everyone agrees WordPress needs a cache plugin to do that and this one got the most votes.

4. Wordfence –

I’ve had plenty of blogs hacked in the past (unmaintained ones), so I can appreciate the need. There was a tie between Sucuri and Wordfence in the voting stage, so I checked their stats in the WordPress Plugin Directory.

Sucuri:
Compatible up to: 4.4.3
Last Updated: 5 months ago
Active Installs: 200,000+

Wordfence:
Compatible up to: 4.5.2
Last Updated: 3 weeks ago
Active Installs: 1+ million

That pretty much sealed the deal. If I’m going to install a security plugin, I want it to be kept up-to-date and at the very least updated with the latest WP version. Wordfence it is.

5. BackupBuddy –

I need some help with backups. This one had six votes and came in first out of several backup plugins, so I’ll give it a try. Backups are completely “behind the scenes” and should not affect the way users experience my blogs so if I ever want to stop using BackupBuddy, it wouldn’t be a problem.

6. Akismet –

Yes. Good old Akismet. I know what happens when you don’t use it. I’m not seeing any other anti-spam plugin so I can only assume that the bloggers who didn’t mention just take it for granted. After all, you don’t actually have to install Akismet. It’s the one plug-in important enough to be pre-installed for you.

So, that’s it. These will be my five plugins of choice for the new and renewed projects. All’s that left to do is actually install them, tweak and see how they do. In fact, I’m going to turn this into a little experiment.

Step 5 – Testing

Right now I have 7 wordpress blogs in various niches. All of them with aged domains and 100% original content. For the past couple of months I’ve been updating all of them with 4-10 posts a month but I’ve done zero promotion. As in zero. They get hardly any traffic as a result.

Akismet is already installed on all of them and it’s staying there. Wordfence shouldn’t have any affect on traffic, so why not install it on all blogs. The same goes for BackupBuddy.

The other three plugins: Yoast SEO, Jetpack and W3 Total Cache are supposed to have at least some effect on traffic, so I’m going to install them only on three of my blogs. The other three will remain yoast-less, jetpack-less and W3TC-less.

I’m not ready to reveal my portfolio at this point so I’ll just say what my blogs are about, along with their current stats for the past 30 days. That’s May 14th, 2016-June 12th 2016.

#1 A blog sharing photos of cats along with some cat care tips.
Uniques: 118 Pageviews: 165

#2 A shopping blog about cat-related products.
Uniques: 147 Pageviews: 212

#3 A shopping blog about gifts for kids.
Uniques: 33 Pageviews: 44

#4 A shopping & advice blog about home decor.
Uniques: 345 Pageviews: 519.

#5 A travel blog with trip reports, tips and destination guides.
Uniques: 144 Pageviews: 144 (weird, I know. I suspect there may have been reporting issues with this one for a few days).

#6 A blog about my current web publishing projects. Oh, wait, I can actually reveal the domain name in this case. It’s Yeys.com.
Uniques: 181 Pageviews: 263

I’m going to install the plugins on blogs #2, #4 and #6. In one month from now, we’ll see if these three benefit in terms of traffic.

My task for July 13th is to review the plugins I chose and check whether there’s a significant effect to adding the three additional plugins: Yoast SEO, Jetpack and W3 Total Cache.

Why And How I Make Content Plans For All My Blogs (Except For This One!)

“If you are failing to plan, you are planning to fail.”

I spent a couple of hours today planning future posts for three of my blogs. The plans runs for 1-2 months (depending on the blog).

why and how to create a blog content plan

Why create a content plan for a blog?

The answer isn’t just a simple, “Why not?”

After all, creating a content plan is time-consuming. I’ll share my method in a minute, but for now suffice to say it takes me about an hour to prepare a solid content plan for one month. That’s an hour I could have been spending on actually writing content and promoting it.

There are several reasons why I choose to lay out my content plan in advance –

1. Applying my content strategy: Balancing types of content. 

Depending on the topic of the blog, I have various types of content items. They can be recipe posts, inspirational quotes, blog links roundups or photo posts.

A content plan helps me put turn these into action items, spacing them out as needed and making sure the overall balance is what I wanted to have on that particular blog.

2. Applying my content strategy: Staying on theme.

With some of my websites I have monthly themes. A content plan helps me focus on that month’s theme, making sure I have enough on-theme content items of different types.

3. Avoiding Writer’s Block.

Writer’s block is rarely a problem for me. However, most days it’s just easier to get my next writing topic from a pre-made task list. It allows me to start hitting the keyboard right away.

4. Getting my research done in time.

If I know I need to research a topic in advance, I can schedule the research as a separate task for the previous week or even longer. If it’s a difficult topic requiring reaching out to experts or surveying my readers, planning ahead is key.

5. Buying illustration photos in bulk.

I like to get the bulk discount when buying stock photos. Knowing in advance what I might be needing on several websites helps me do that.

Jotting down ideas.

When I get an idea for a post, however vague it may be, I put it down in writing. I keep a document for each one of my websites/blogs where I just type in all of these ideas. Good, bad, stupid, awesome, it doesn’t matter. I just write them down and then forget about them.

Ideas for posts can show up at odd times and strange places, so if I’m not by my desk, I use my phone to enter them. If I don’t even have my phone by me, well, in that case, it must be the apocalypse. Forget about blogging, I need to focus on zombie-smashing techniques instead.

Planning to plan: Setting up a content planning task

I try to plan my content for at least 2 months in advance. For some websites, it’s a quarterly plan. Whatever the time span, I have a task scheduled every two or three months, respectively, to start working on the next content plan ahead of time.

The spreadsheet.

I use a Google Docs spreadsheet for my content plans. I don’t think the medium is that important and I guess you could even use a notebook. I like the digital format because it allows me to easily shift things around as I work. I use the same spreadsheet for all content plans, one tab per website. I hide rows of past months so they don’t distract me.

Each item on my plan takes up one row in the spreadsheet. There are 3 columns: Title, Date and Post Type.

A sample content plan spreadsheet

The Title

I deliberately use a temporary title. It’s short and descriptive and not yet optimized for readers or search engines. It’s just there to provide me with the general scope of the piece.

The Date

I have different publication frequencies for each website/blog.  Usually it’s 2-3 times a week. For one blog it’s currently a daily post schedule and for another it’s weekly posts.

Post Type

These are often niche-specific. They can be things like product reviews, trip reports, recipes or special reports. They can be recurrent weekly or monthly features, or maybe a type of content I want to have occasionally and not on a specific schedule.

Populating the spreadsheet

The first column to be populated is the date column. I may mark special dates there (holidays etc.) Otherwise, I simply insert publication dates, as per the blog’s updating frequency.

Next, it’s the “post type” column. If there are weekly features that are supposed to be attached to specific dates, I enter them. Next, I fill in the remaining cells in the column with the types of posts I want to have on the blog. My focus in this stage is on balancing various types of posts. I tend to throw in more “easy” posts and fewer posts that need a lot of research, always keeping what the readers want and need in mind.

Only then do I start filling in the actual items, or title drafts. First, I use my notes where I have stored my post ideas. When I run out of these (it certainly can happen), I focus on the type of content I want and that helps me come up with more ideas. If I use content-themes for the site, I draw on these and beef up the plan with on-theme pieces, sorted out by the different post types.

I continue the process until the table if all filled up.

A good plan forms the basis for changes.

“It’s not the plan that’s important, it’s the planning.”

My content plans are anything but perfect. That’s one reason why I blurred the actual titles in the image above. These temporary title drafts are not meant for public consumption. They’re a tool I use and as long as I understand myself, they work 😉

I write my content plans knowing they’re flexible.

I do mostly stick to the plans. I use them to create my monthly, weekly and daily task lists. I’d be lost without them.

That said, I will sometimes add, change, swap, mix and delete items. If a topic comes up which I need to address in a timely manner (like a news item), one of the existing items will be re-shuffled to the following available slot. And if I start writing about a topic and absolutely hate the result, then the post gets trashed and I pull up the next one from the list, again reshuffling things around a little.  After all, that’s one huge benefit independent bloggers have: We don’t have to report back to anyone and we’ll only be held accountable by ourselves and our readers.

My content plans achieve their goals, even if I implement them in a somewhat flexible way. They help me create a good balance of content on my blogs and churn out quality content quickly and efficiently.

So far, I haven’t made a content plan for this blog. I’m sure it shows too. I basically use Yeys.com as an outlet for my own notes and thougths about work processes, so for now, I just blog on whatever comes to mind. I hope you’ll still find this post helpful!

Recipes for blogging success: Do they really work?

Do you want my own recipe for generating a monthly five-figure income from a blog? Maybe add that to your growing book of recipes for blogging success?

My recipes for blogging success

I’m not giving it away. Sorry.

For one thing, I’m not making that much money.  My sites make as much, as it happens, but my actual profits only hit the 5-figure range (upper, I’m happy to say) on an annual basis.

Also, I don’t have a recipe to share. The thing is, I don’t think anyone has. If anyone had a foolproof recipe, they would hire 10 people and replicate everything to make 10 times as much. At least, that’s what I would have done.

I guess there are such people and they have done that. And that’s how they eventually got to making five-figures a month from blogging. I don’t think that’s what you were looking for when looking into recipes for blogging success, were you?

Here’s what I can share though, based on my own experience.

  1. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication and the ability to do this for the long haul. And by long haul, I mean years. Blogging about what you love can help achieve that.
  2. You have to absolutely love web publishing. This includes every aspect of it: from deciding on a project, buying domain names, dealing with hosting, writing top-notch content and marketing. If any of these daunt (or bore) you, this isn’t for you.
    You absolutely can outsource some of these functions but  you need to have a good grasp of them to know what works and what doesn’t.Which brings me to my next point –
  3. You need to be able to write with a passion. I don’t believe you absolutely have to be an expert on the field. Being an expert helps in cutting down on research time and gives your writing an authoritative tone.  That said, there’s nothing wrong with investing some time to research a topic and with using a more hesitant, explorative tone. Either way, unless you care about what you write about, it’s going to be so much harder to keep writing for years on end.
  4. There are no formulas for successful web publishing. There are ideas, tips and techniques. However, it will always take some amount of creativity on your part to implement them in a way that works for you, your niche, your style and personality.

Don’t get me wrong, “How I made/make money” kind of posts are fun to read. They can be anything from educational to inspirational. Just read them with the understanding that what worked for that particular blogger, in his or her niche, with their own interests and abilities, may not necessarily work for you.

I suggest you read these posts skeptically, not because I think that  these bloggers  are lying. I never just assume people are lying (though obviously, some may be). I just don’t think their own way of making things happen will necessarily work for you. And that’s totally fine, of course.

My own “Dos and Don’ts” for reading this type of posts are –

Do –

  • Let their enthusiasm motivate you. Motivation is always a good thing!
  • Assess how close that blogger is to what you’re trying to do. Is he or she blogging in the same niche or vertical? Does their style of blogging resemble yours? The closer the affinity, there’s a better chance you can actually learn from them.
  • Scan their techniques and tips for those golden nuggets which may be pertinent to your own style of blogging, even if it’s a different niche altogether.
  • Engage in a positive dialogue with the blogger. Networking is always good, and leaving your paw mark in the comment link (if such a field is available) never hurts either. This isn’t SEO per se (the links are nofollow) but just a nice friendly way to get yourself known in the community.

Don’t –

  • Ignore the date. Found an inspirational blog post? Check the date. That magic-bullet SEO trick mentioned may no longer be relevant and in fact could hurt your blog.
  • Copy their techniques or blindly follow any step-by-step recipes. Web publishing simply doesn’t work like that.
  • Spam. Don’t just leave them a comment that says “Great blog post, thank you!”. You’ll look like a bot. If you have something to say, say it. Otherwise, move along.
  • Be rude or objectionable in your comments. Constructive criticism is fine but if you do leave a comment keep it polite.

I hope you find this blog post helpful even though it doesn’t provide you with a recipe. I do believe recipes are for cooking and baking – not blogging – sorry! And honestly, even when I use a recipe for baking, you can count on some tweaking on my part 😉