So, how to promote a new blog on Pinterest?

Pinterest can be an excellent source of traffic for blogs. I know because I’m getting a nice amount of Pinterest traffic to a couple of my websites without even trying! Or at least without trying too hard.

This month my focus in the Blog Revival Project is on promoting my travel blog. Traveling is a great topic for visuals. They’re prime Pinterest material. The conclusion almost begs itself: Pinterest should be at the core of my social media strategy for this blog.

The challenge: How to promote a new blog on Pinterest?

My travel blog is a new(ish) blog with a new Pinterest account. If you have an established account with thousands of followers, Pinterest is easier. Post lots of awesome pins and let your followers spread the love around. With any luck, at least some of these pins will become at least somewhat viral.

So, what about a new blog promoted through a new Pinterest account? How do you jumpstart your Pinterest traffic with that? I gave this question a lot of thought and done quite a bit of research. Let me share the key points of what I came up with.

How to promote a new blog on Pinterest

Pinterest traffic comes through pins that link back to your content. For your blog to get traffic, two things need to happen –

  1. A user needs to see a nice image that was pinned from your blog.
  2. Said user should be intrigued enough to click through to your content.

Virality happens when your pin is awesome enough to be re-pinned and get even more eyeballs seeing it and hopefully clicking through. But first, you have to reach those initial users who can – hopefully – ignite the magic of social sharing.

First things first, you need to get people to see your pin.

If you’re an established pinner with thousands (or more) followers, you can just pin your image and it will show up in their Pinterest feed. If you don’t have a good-sized following yet, you have two other ways to get people to see your pin –

  • Join a large group board on your topic.
    If you manage to do that, you’ll be able to pin your content and get it in front of all of the board’s followers right away.
  • Get your pins to show up on Pinterest searches.
    It’s a bit like Google SEO. You want to craft your pins in ways that will increase their chances of coming up when people look for specific keywords or key phrases within Pinterest.

Joining group boards on Pinterest

These are Pinterest boards where the owner gives other Pinners permission to pin directly to the board. If you find established group boards with a large following, you could potentially get a lot of exposure at once.

Of course, nothing is ever that easy. You can’t expect someone else to do the hard work of growing a quality board for you to just waltz in and essentially spam the board with your pins. If this is a quality group board with real human (not fake) followers then the owners are probably quite discriminate as to who they let in as a pinner.

Which is why I don’t consider Pinterest group boards to be “easy traffic”. It’s going to take time and effort to establish a presence in quality group boards by commenting and interacting first, and then pinning quality content from various sources, not just my own blog. I still think it’s a channel that’s worth pursuing for a new blog with a new pinterest account. I’m just saying it’s not a source for instant traffic.

“SEO’ing” for Pinterest

Pinterest isn’t just a visual bookmarking service. It’s also a visual search engine. Many people turn to Pinterest when they’re looking for a recipe, or inspiration for their latest crafts project. When your pin that comes up in the first row of images in the search results, that could mean traffic to your blog.

Pinterest keeps changing its algorithm but that should not deter you. As long as you’re not trying to manipulate search engines (be them Google or Pinterest’s internal search engine), you should be ok. The general idea is to provide Pinterest with the right amount of textual information about each pin. I’ll elaborate on the techniques in a minute, when I get to the actual list of tips and ideas.

Don’t forget to have awesome pins!

Awesome content always comes before promotion.

Pinning on group boards and optimizing your pins are simply ways to gain some initial exposure.

In the end, everything needs to come together. The harmony of promoting on Pinterest is made of excellent graphics, optimized pins and good pinning channels. Mix well, season with a bit of luck and use regularly.

And now, it’s time to wrap everything up into a list of actionable items.

Promoting a new blog on Pinterest: Action Items

1. Get a “Pinterest for Business” account

Anyone can do that and it’s even free. A business account adds Pinterest Analytics to your account so you can track your pins and see how they perform.

2. Set up Pinterest templates

Each one of your blog posts should include at least one “very pinnable” image. Getting a good pinnable image is crucial. Everyone knows that it should be vertical (and it should) but there are other elements you have to consider. I’m going to blog about that in a separate future post.

3. Add descriptions to pins

 

Every pin can come with its own description. Most experts agree these description play a large role in pin optimization for internal Pinterest searches, so it’s important to include your target key phrase in there. Pinterest shows users the first 10 words or so of the description so you can use that to get people curious enough to click through.

4. Use appropriate image file names and ALT tags for all images

You never know which one of the images in your post will get pinned. When pinned using the Pinterest browser extension to pin, that image’s ALT text will show up as the description. The text for your ALT tags should aim at three targets: Pinterest user experience, Pinterest algorithm rankings and your overall onpage SEO.

If there is no ALT description, Pinterest will try and grab your page’s description or even the first few lines of text in the article. That may or may not work for your needs so usually, optimizing the ALT tag is best.

Image file names should also be optimized as Pinterest seems to be drawing on that for its search results as well.

Overall, do your SEO and keep Pinterest in mind too. User experience is key for Pinterest as much as it is for Google. Abide by the 11th commandment of ‘Thou shalt not spam’ and optimize your page and each one of your images and you should be fine.

 

5. Experiment with a variety of pins

There are many graphic formats you can use. Yes, visuals are key here but there’s so much you can do with those. Off the top of my head, I’ve had success with the following as pins –

  • A single image with no text
  • An image with overlaying text
  • Collages of images
  • Infographics

A lot depends on what you’re trying to achieve too. Infographics can help with brand awareness but won’t necessarily get people to click through as you’re already giving them the information in the pin. Collages may work for some types of images, such as long product lists, but not for others. You should really experiment to find out what works best for your niche and for your type of posts.

Applying this strategy

Going back to promoting my travel blog on Pinterest this month. Here’s the short version of my plan –

  • Prepare Pinterest templates.
  • Optimize existing blog posts for Pinterest.
  • Join 4 group boards this month.

What do you think? Have I left out anything crucial?

How’s your Pinterest traffic doing? I’d love to hear more tips and ideas about what works for other bloggers, so do share in the comments!

August 2016 Traffic & Revenue Report

August is over which means I’m officially halfway through to the first milestone the Blog Revival Project. Time to look at the stats and see what traffic and revenue were like during the month of August.

August Traffic & Revenue Report

What’s the Blog Revival Project? That’s just me trying to bring six blogs back to life by doing what bloggers do: create quality content, promote and monetize. I started in June, exactly three months ago, and my aim is to generate at least $200 in profit from all six blogs combined during the month December 2016.

You can read more about the project’s goals and strategies here.

So, let’s take a look at the numbers. I’ll then offer my own insights as to what’s going on and why.

Expenses in August 2016

Almost no expenses in August. I only paid for hosting, a total of $20.

As far as I can tell, I didn’t have any other expenses on the blog revival project this month.

Total expenses: $20

Traffic & Revenue Per Blog

Let’s dive into the specifics for each blog with the following metrics: number of blog posts made during August, traffic stats and revenue stats. In gray, you’ll find the traffic and revenue stats for the past three months so you’ll be able to see the progress made (or lack of, in some cases).

Blog #1 – CatPicsBlog.com

Posts made during August: 6

August traffic: unique visitors: 107 pageviews: 164
July unique visitors: 184 pageviews: 262
June unique visitors: 52 pageviews: 106
May unique visitors: 126 May pageviews: 215

Revenue:

August Adsense Revenue: $0.87
July Adsense revenue: $0.03
June Adsense revenue $0.30
May Adsense revenue $0.51

August Clickbank revenue: $0
July Clickbank revenue: $0

Blog #2 – CatsGoShopping.com

Posts made during August: 6

Traffic: 

August traffic: unique visitors: 686 pageviews: 1271
July unique visitors: 635  pageviews: 1,442
June unique visitors: 124  pageviews: 415
May unique visitors: 161 pageviews: 323

Revenue:
August adsense revenue: $0.43
July Adsense revenue: $0.38
June Adsense revenue: $0.16
May Adsense revenue: $0 (blog had no ads)

August Amazon revenue: $1.20
July Amazon revenue: $0
June Amazon revenue: $0.47
May Amazon revenue: $0

Blog #3 – Gifts4Kids.net

Posts made during August: 4

Traffic:
August traffic: unique visitors: 47 pageviews: 92
July unique visitors: 68 pageviews: 107
June unique visitors: 56 pageviews: 120
May unique visitors: 36 pageviews: 167

Revenue:
August Adsense revenue: $0.18
July Adsense revenue: $0.02
June Adsense revenue: $0.01
May Adsense revenue: $0.01

August Amazon revenue: $0
July Amazon revenue: $0
June Amazon revenue: $0 
May Amazon revenue: $0

Blog #4 – Home-decor-hub.com

Posts made during August: 4

Traffic:

August traffic: unique visitors: 353 pageviews: 565
July unique visitors: 276 pageviews: 450
June unique visitors: 351 pageviews: 580
May unique visitors: 402 pageviews: 754

Revenue:
August Adsense revenue: $1.18
July Adsense revenue: $0.24
June Adsense revenue: $3.79
May Adsense revenue: $2.66

August Amazon revenue: $18.54
July Amazon revenue: $17.11
June Amazon revenue: $3.48
May Amazon revenue: $17.51

Blog #5 TripMemos.com

Posts made during August: 6

August traffic: unique visitors: 212 pageviews: 452
July unique visitors: 152 pageviews: 318
June unique visitors: 72 pageviews: 339
May unique visitors: 151 pageviews: 151

Revenue:
August Adsense revenue: $0.56
July Adsense revenue: $0.04
June Adsense revenue: $0
May Adsense revenue: $0

Blog #6 Yeys.com (this one!)

Posts made during August: 6

Traffic: 
August unique visitors: 255  pageviews: 663
July unique visitors: 403  pageviews: 795
June unique visitors: 168  pageviews: 377
May unique visitors: 136 pageviews: 151

Revenue:
July Adsense revenue: $0.15
July Adsense revenue: $0.92
June Adsense revenue: $0.02
May Adsense revenue: $0

Total August Revenue & Profit

Expenses: $20
Revenue: $23.11

Profit: $3.11

So, is this good? Bad? Maybe ugly?

Looking at the bottom line, you could say it’s a positive trend. In fact, this is the first month with an actual (positive) profit. The total is only three dollars and eleven cents but hey, that’s better than a total of -$291 in July and -$563.73 in June.

August's profits

If you look at revenue alone, the picture isn’t very rosy. Revenue hasn’t gone down but growth is painfully slow and let’s face it, at this scale, it’s pretty random too.

Revenue growth

As anticipated, fewer posts meant less traffic –

Traffic trend

In fact, this is actually better than what I had expected, considering that I only published a total of 32 posts across the project blogs in August. Compare that to a total of 54 posts in July – a decrease of more than a third – and the traffic looks surprisingly good.

Losing steam comes at a cost

August was a difficult month for me. I was overwhelmed with work and was getting too close to the dreaded burnout point. To avoid that, I deliberately slowed down and the Blog Revival Project paid the price.

I’m worried, to be honest. I wonder if maybe I have bitten on more than I can chew. Maybe six blogs is too much and I should have focused on three, two, or maybe even just one?

At this point, I’m sticking with all six blogs

Yes, I can see some blogs are doing better than others. I can also tell by now which blogs I enjoy more (which is just as important because I do believe that blogging about what you love is the key to long-term success). However, I still think blogging is a marathon and not a sprint. Three months is just way way too short a time to tell much about anything. So, I’m going to keep at it. I’m going to take it one month at a time and we’ll see how that goes.

You can read here about my plans for September. I’m going to keep the cycle of posting and promoting on all blogs, paying special attention to TripMemos.com this month (my travel blog). This basically means more posts there as well as developing a stronger Pinterest presence and a more robust mailing list.

Overall August was a mixed bag in terms of results: a slight decrease in traffic due to slowing down but a (very) slight increase in revenue. Let’s hope September will blow away the summer fatigue and I’ll be able to push forwards on all fronts.

Here’s to a fresh, crisp and fruitful fall!

Have a great fall!

I’d love to hear from you in the comments section!

Do you think six blogs is too ambitious for a side project? Should I stick with all six until December or maybe I should lose the excess baggage sooner rather than later? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think. Don’t forget to tell me what your August was like too!

September Plans for the Blog Revival Project

Wow, it’s been three months since I started the Blog Revival Project. Time sure flies when you’re having fun. It flies when you’re not having fun as well. Generally speaking, it just flies faster the older you get.

The older you get, you also tend to digress more. Sorry about that!September plans

What’s the Blog Revival Project?

In a nutshell, the project involves taking six nearly-dead blogs, with hardly any traffic or sales, and trying to get them back on track. My goal is to get a total of $200 a month from all six blogs put together by December 2016. That would be six months into the project.

I have nearly two decades of experience in web content publishing under my proverbial belt but in the past six years I focused on a single (albeit successful) project where I am in charge of content creation and editing. I discovered that there’s a learning curve attached to getting back to my old position as a jack-of-all-trades blogger.

I’m keeping track of project progress in this blog by posting monthly traffic and revenue reports and blogging about various aspects of the project.

Whew, I think that I’ve filled the nutshell to the brim! If you want to know more you can browse through posts relating to the Blog Revival Project.

Today I want to talk about my plans for September.

I had neglected to do that in time for August and I think that contributed to me feeling a bit overwhelmed during the past few weeks. Time to get the old train back on its track, shovel in some coal and get things chugging away nicely once again.

Time to give my travel blog some TLC!

If remembering other people’s posts happens to be your superpower – and if you’ve bothered reading that post – you probably know that September is going to be dedicated to developing and promoting this blog: TripMemos.com.

Which makes me very happy. This happens to be my favorite blog of the six!

You see, I LOVE traveling. We’ve traveled quite a bit in the past seven years. Our list includes 44 US states, three Canadian provinces, the UK, France, Switzerland and Italy. The list of places we want to visit in the coming decade is even longer!

Our family, exploring the Athabasca Glacier in Canada
Our family, exploring the Athabasca Glacier in Canada

I also dread traveling. My inner neurotic hobbit wants nothing to do with travel. It just wants to dig deeper into its safe burrow and never ever leave the shire.

This constant inner struggle means I tend to put a lot of time and effort into planning our family trips. Researching destinations is something I enjoy doing and have become fairly good at.

I think I have a fairly good grasp of the joys and challenges of traveling and that’s something I can share with people. I get so many people asking me about destinations that we visited. I also put a lot of work into planning our future trips. Why not just blog about that?

Using my own blog – can you beat that?

We’re planning a long road trip next summer. It’s going to take us from California to Alaska and back. While researching routes and options, I already created these three blog posts:

Alaska Bucket List: 13 destinations you must visit (Including a map)

What to see and do along the Alaska Highway

What to do and see along the Stewart-Cassiar Highway Route To Alaska

This week it suddenly dawned on me that it’s time to start booking motels for August 2017. Alaska is very expensive and by booking a year in advance you can get more affordable accommodation. Browsing through hotel booking sites I realized some places were filling up as soon as they opened for registration. Panic ensued!

How do I put together an itinerary fast enough to start booking? At the very least, I needed to create an itinerary for August which would cover the first leg of our road trip, up the Stewart-Cassiar Highway.

Fortunately, there’s this really awesome blog that covers just that. It’s called TripMemos.com and has this oh-so-practical post about What to do and see along the Stewart-Cassiar Highway Route To Alaska.

stewart-cassiar-highway

And since I happened to be the one who wrote that post – insert smug smile here – I knew I could trust the content! Whew! I went back to that post and used it to quickly create our itinerary for August. I then moved ahead to booking the hotels.

The TripMemos Travel blog: September Action Plan

So, what will I be doing to improve TripMemos in September?

As you may (or may not) recall, I have previously made a list of possible action items for blog promotion. When focusing on a specific blog for a month, I go over that list and decide which items to implement.

At least, that was the original plan.

Three months into this project, I have a better sense of what works and what not so much. More on that in future posts but for now, let’s just say that while I have moved forward with some item s across the blogs, I also know that I’m not going to rush into implementing others.

All in all, here’s my task list for Trip Memos this month –

1. Write at least 8 quality blog posts

I want to create a good balance of destination guides based on our own experience and posts exploring potential destinations that we want to travel to.

2. Focus on Pinterest as the main social media promotion channel

I have already set up a Pinterest channel for the blog. I need to figure out the best strategies to promote this channel, as well as ways to join travel group boards.

3. Look for niche-specific forums for travel bloggers (not travelers)

There are many great travel bloggers out there. I want to connect with them to learn more about what they do and how they promote and monetize their blogs.

4. Continue to comment on travel blogs (as I have been doing for the past 3 months)

This one is easy. I read a lot of travel blogs, sometimes as part of my research when writing a post. Leaving a comment is common courtesy.

5. Set up a magnet lead for the mailing list.

I have already bought the Thrive Leads plug-in. I’m going tolook into installing it on this blog too. My expectations aren’t very high though. In fact, I may even just forego installing the plug-in and just use Mailchimp’s solutions for setting up the magnet lead. Either way, I need to figure out what I’m going to put in the magnet lead first…

So much for the travel blog.

I also have five other blogs in the Blog Revival Project.

And remember, I have my flagship site to run as well (which in fact is where most of my work time gets sucked into).

It’s ok though. No panic. And no more animated GIF’s in this post either. I promise!

For the other five project blog, the plan consists of –

1. Posting 4-6 posts in September in each blog.

2. Promoting each post by commenting on blogs that offer commentluv links.

An aside: I’m going to blog about commentluv. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a WordPress plugin that allows blog commenters to get one extra link back to their latest blog post (in addition to the link to their blog). Give it a try by commenting on this post.

Voila, there you have it.

It’s going to be another intensive month with a total of 30-40 posts in the blog revival project. If that sounds like a lot, keep in mind that I wrote no fewer than 54 posts in July (we’ll see what the count for August ends up being like).

Time to flex and crack my fingers!

What are your plans for September? How are you coming along with your own projects? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Blogging towards your early retirement

I’m back! Last week I blogged about almost reaching burnout and how I am deliberately losing steam. Still decompressing here but I am still blogging and pushing forward on my online projects. Just at a slower pace.

I also mentioned how one of the things that kept me busy from blogging was investing. Or rather, learning about investing and more specifically real estate investing. I said I will be blogging about that as well, so here goes!

This post won’t be about real estate investing per se. I want to set out the general framework and explain why we even invest. I think younger bloggers can benefit from these guidelines.

Thinking Ahead – What’s Your Financial Plan?

If you’re a blogger who reads blogs about blogging (tongue twister!) I assume you’re in this to generate a solid stream of revenue. But what’s your long-term plan? Do you want to reach a certain level of revenue and then just stick to that for a couple of years? Five years? A decade? Forever?

Making money by publishing content online is fun. I’ve been running my own online business for almost 20 years now. Blogging, or web publishing as we used to call it back at the day, is a fun way to make a living. You’re your own boss, working from home in casual wear and on your own terms. It’s easy to forget that this is actually a kind of a job. Yes, it’s your own business and you’re self-employed but in the end you are trading in time for money. If you were to stop right now – by choice or not – your revenue stream will dwindle and eventually disappear.

It may feel like blogging can continue forever, but if you’re counting on anything that requires your time to pay your bills, you have to start thinking about your exit plan. In other words, about your retirement.

What’s a retired blogger?

Why should you ever quit blogging?

I’m not saying you should. I honestly don’t plan to do that myself either. I’ll be more than happy to keep blogging to the grave. And may that day be in many many happy and fulfilled decades of blogging to come!

Happily blogging to the grave!

 

 

 

I’ll be happy to keep blogging as a centenarian! Arthritis and cataract providing, of course.

I just prefer not to have to. I want to get to the point where I only work if I absolutely want to.

For this to happen, I need to get someone – or something – else to work for me. That something is going to be my money. I want my money to work hard enough for me so I can choose whether or not I work too.

Your money can work for you and eventually instead of you

Money begets more money. It used to be simple interest rates and these days it’s investments. You don’t have to be a financial wiz to reach a constant average annual growth of 5%. A simple long-term investment in US index funds should achieve that.

Annual returns that get re-invested mean you can achieve exponential growth. The money you invest today is going to be worth a whole lot more in a couple of decades. As you keep adding to your stash every year, your money can eventually make more money than you do by work!

Once saved and invested, your money begins to work. The earlier you start, the more years your money gets to work for you. It becomes exponential growth as you re-invest your money’s “salary” back into your savings so that the new money can start generating money too.

Many financial bloggers have written about this, so I won’t bore you with the numbers.  This post by Mr. Money Mustache provides you with a simple outline of what exponential money growth looks like.

Start early!

You know how they say it’s never too early to start planning for your retirement? I used to think that’s a very boring topic. When you’re in your twenties, the last thing you want to think about is yourself at the age of 65. The very concept simply does not compute.

Retirement traditionally looked like this –

Traditional retirement

Here’s the thing though. With the right kind of planning, your retirement does not have to be that late in life. Early retirement can look more like this –

Early retirement

If you’re a blogger, you’re perfectly positioned for early retirement. Why? Because you are a self-employed entrepreneur. You can work hard now, save and invest and if you do that the right way, there is no reason for you not to reach financial independence at the age of 40. At the very least, you’ll be able to go into semi-retirement. That means you’ll still generate some income but a “part time” gig should be enough.

Are we there yet?

For my own family, I’d say my partner and I are semi-retired. He is 46 years old and I’m 44. We both still work but we do that in a “Mr. Mustache” kind of way, having left the rat race many moons ago.

We are both self-employed and do what we want to do. We travel. A lot. And we raise our family and enjoy working just as many hours as we choose to. It can be 60 hours one week or it can be five months of zero work, on a long road trip.

In many ways, we have already retired. In other ways, we have not. Making this a semi-retirement phase.

Our egg nest is working and generating more money for us every year. That sum is still not large enough for us to quit working and still enjoy the lifestyle we want to have. We could stop working right now and manage on what we have but that would mean switching to a very frugal lifestyle, including very little traveling. Since we both enjoy what we do anyway and we live a semi-retired lifestyle, we see no reason to stop working at this point.

So, what’s this about the real estate investment? It’s something we’re looking into these days, as a way to diversify our investments. And that’s a topic for an entirely separate blog post, so stay tuned!

How about you?

Do you have a plan set for early retirement or have you not thought about this just yet? Or maybe you’re on your way there already?

I’d love to hear more in the comments!

Mid-August Report: Losing Steam To Avoid Burnout

If you’ve been following the Blog Revival Project you know that my strategy basically looks like this –

  1. Post on the six project blogs.
  2. Regularly promote via social media, blog comments etc.
  3. Focus on one blog each month and push that blog forward.

By “push forward”, I mean invest time (and funds, as may be necessary) to improve on infrastructure. This could mean setting up social media accounts, creating a lead magnet for the mailing list or improving the way the blog looks.

July was dedicated to working on blog #1 and things went according to plan. I worked hard on implementing all of the planned action items during July and the monthly report showed a nice increase in traffic and revenue.

By “working hard” I also mean posting a total of 54 blog posts in the six Blog Revival Project blogs. Keep in mind that this project is not my core business. I also manage a fairly large website in a different niche which gets well over a million unique monthly visitors. I kept churning out quality content for that site as well. If that’s not enough, I also have one more online project that’s not covered in this blog.

All in all, I wrote more than 80 pieces of content in July. Then I promoted them. I also did infrastructure work on blog #1, remember? And let’s not forget life itself. You know, living with a loving partner, two wonderful kids and now a cat too (yes, we adopted a cat!)

Losing steam… to avoid burnout

One of the challenges of the Blog Revival Project was burnout. When I started the project in June, I found myself working for 70+ hours a week. I knew this would be hard to keep up with for the long run but I was having too much fun to stop.

I am fully aware of the danger of burnout.

It has happened to me before. Almost twenty years ago while working on my very first web publishing project, I reached the burnout point. It was nasty. From working on my project around the clock I moved to the point of not being able to take another single look at it. It took me months to recover.

I don’t want this to happen again. Ever. So, this time I kept looking for the telltale signs of burnout approaching. I could see them early this month. Too many tasks, too little time, too much pressure. Working is no longer fun. Not good.

Burnout

Instead of reaching burnout I decided to lose steam. Deliberately.

Losing steam isn’t the same as burning out.

Losing steam means slowing down.

I believe the metaphor originally relates to locomotives – losing steam means the train slows down. However, in this case, I like to think of it more in terms of a pressure cooker.

Losing steam to avoid burnoutThe higher the temperature the more effective your cooking. The problem? If you cook for too long at too high a temperature, your pressure cooker could explode. You have to deliberately (and carefully!) use the safety valve to lost some of the steam and depressurize the cooker.

Losing steam and slowing down is crucial in the long run.

Which is what I’ve been doing in the past two weeks.

I’m still working. Have worked almost every day this month but for fewer hours. I prioritized my tasks and focused on my flagship site.

I also –

  • Traveled with my husband and kids to watch the meteor shower in the desert
  • Spent time with extended family
  • Worked on our investment portfolio (which I may blog about at some point)
  • Helped our new cat adjust to his new home
  • Prepared our travel plans for 2017

Time to regroup

This post is the fifth content item that I’m writing today. Playing catch up with all of the blogs isn’t easy! They now all have fresh content, I’m happy to say.

Whew!

Now it’s time to regroup and plan ahead. Time to gradually pick up steam again.

Back when I started the Blog Revival Project I had wondered if maybe I’m biting more than I can chew. The jury is still out on that question.

Maybe six blogs is too much for a “side gig”. Should I cut down to three blogs? Or perhaps slow down the pace but keep all six blogs going?

For now, I’m going with the second option, keeping all six blogs in the project but slowing down the pace of posting to once a week. If and when I find that I have the time and inclination to push the publication schedule back to two posts a week, I will.

My plan for picking up steam looks like this –

  1. Fill up on fresh posts on all blogs (done today).
  2. Re-adjust content plans on all blogs for one post per week.
  3. Schedule posts in advance for one week ahead – one per blog.
  4. Add a second blog post for the same week on some of the blogs.
  5. Still have time? Find a blog to focus on and give it the TLC treatment.

That’s it for now. No deadlines either. It’ll happen when it happens. It’s summertime and I’m trying to relax!

Summertime relaxation

As  always, I’d love to get your feedback! Have you ever reached burnout? How do you regulate your work flow to avoid that?

Should you schedule WordPress posts?

I recently read a post by a blogger who mentioned he had posts ready for publication and scheduled on his blog for several months ahead. The comments to this statement were mostly appreciative but is that really such a good idea? Should you really schedule WordPress posts?Should you schedule wordpress posts

I can see the appeal. After all, content plans are important. This blogger was so organized, he made the plan and followed through right away. Now he has all the time in the world to work on site promotion without worrying about content. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

There are pros and cons to writing your posts in advance and using WordPress to schedule publication. It’s a great feature to have but one that can be overused to the point of becoming counterproductive. Let me explain.

The benefits of writing posts in advance

Writing your posts in advance and setting them to publish on certain dates certainly has its advantages.

1. Generate content at regular intervals

Consistent posting in regular intervals is good for a blog. Your audience learns to expect a certain frequency of updates be it a daily, weekly or monthly installments. Providing that helps establish your blog as a dependable presence in their online lives.

Preparing your content in advance can help you provide that level of consistency. It won’t matter if you’re busy working on another project, have to travel or if you’re experiencing a temporary writers’ block. Your content is there and gets published on the day, according to your content plan.

2. Take a break from writing and focus on other projects

Some people like to work in “batches” that last several days or weeks. They dedicate one week for writing, filling up their post schedule for the coming weeks. Then they can take a break from writing and focus on design, promotion or writing their e-course. The blog still keeps on churning new content.

3. Go on vacation!

This is my favorite reason for using scheduled posts! If you’re away for several days or weeks that does not mean your blog should suffer. Schedule posts can keep your readers engaged while you’re away, sipping cocktails on the beach.

A couple of bloggers on a typical day
A couple of bloggers on a typical day

(Wait, isn’t that what all bloggers do all day anyway while their blogs keep making them money? No? Whew, so it’s not just me working here).

4. Just relax.

Writing can be stressful. If you blog, you probably enjoy writing but if you have to write on a deadline, the pressure can make it less fun. If you’re a prolific writer, you can prepare several posts in advance and always have something ready for the days the muse fail you.

The drawbacks of writing posts in advance

Writing posts in advance isn’t a bad thing in itself but it does have its drawbacks.

1. Content can get stale

This really depends on the topic of your post and on your niche. If you write about SEO, your content needs to be fresh and up-to-date. If you schedule a post for one month from today, you could have a Google update two weeks later which affect the accuracy of your post.

Sure, this can happen even if you post as soon as you write. Your post can become less relevant two weeks later. However, your readers assess your content based on its publication date. It’s not ok to post information that’s old and irrelevant to begin with.

In other niches, content may be more evergreen. You should still watch out for things like links which may change between the time you wrote the post and the date of publication.

2. You’re not around to promote each post

Once you post, you should promote that post. Sure, some of that can be automated but a hands-on approach is often more effective. Even if you auto-tweet, you should be around to reply and interact with your followers once the post is published.

When you schedule posts for future publication, it becomes much easier to forget about promoting each and every post.

3. Your content’s just lying there, doing nothing

I think this is the most important argument against scheduling posts for future publication.

You’ve already gathered your information and crafted your post. It’s there, all tingling and ready go get out into the world. Why let it wait?

It could be doing something today: Helping a reader, making a sale, getting linked to by other bloggers. If you wait, you’re missing out on something that could happen today, and possibly only today.

In a previous post I used the fishing lines analogy. It’s appropriate here too. You have your fishing rod ready and your bait is wriggling at the end of your hook (poor worm…) Why not throw it in the water? The longer you wait, the more fish pass you by and swim away never to return.

Finding your balance

I’m not saying you should not schedule WordPress posts. I think it’s a powerful tool that should be used in moderation. You shouldn’t let it take over your blog and you shouldn’t become a hoarder of unpublished posts.

I think it’s up to every blogger to find the right balance for his/her blog. It could mean scheduling posts for two months ahead, or it could mean never scheduling anything. It depends on your niche and your own work style.

As for myself, that point of balance keeps changing these days. I currently manage eight content websites, six of them are the blogs I report on in the Blog Revival Project. They have different publishing frequencies but in total I need to produce 12 new articles every week.

I used to have content lined up for up to a month in advance but now I try to avoid scheduling posts for more than one week ahead. For me, this is a good balance between not getting stuck with zero updates and hoarding unpublished posts.

To be honest, this past month just keeping all of the blogs in-line with their planned posting frequencies is proving to be a challenge. It’s the combination of summertime and needing to improve my time management.

I know I’m going to use scheduled posts a lot more next summer. We have a big road trip planned and when that happens, I won’t be around to blog. That’s when WordPress’ ability to schedule posts in advance will become most useful.

How about you?

Do you schedule WordPress posts at all? How far ahead do you usually schedule your posts? I’d love to hear from you in a comment!

July 2016 Traffic & Revenue Report

Oh, wow, it’s been a month since I published my last revenue report! Which was also the very first revenue & traffic report for the Blog Revival Project! Time sure does fly when you’re having fun and now it’s time for the July review!

July 2016 Revenue Report

So, what was July like?

Nothing to write home about but at least that’s something to write a blog post about (always look at the bright side of life, I say!). I really this hope this helps some of you to see what the early days of a blog look like.

I monitor six different blogs in this review and my goal is to get to $200 in profit by December 2016, so let’s see if we’re getting there.

Not familiar with my project? You can read more about the project and the reasons for it right here.

Let’s start with a quick(ish) review of what happened in July.

How I implemented my plans for Blog #1

Managing a total of six blogs can get overwhelming and confusing. So I decided to set a strategy where I would take one blog at a time and give that blog a lot of TLC for one month. July was dedicated to the CatsGoShopping blog.

You can read here about how I formulated the action plan for July for that blog. Here are the action items I had on the list and what I ended doing with them.

1. Post 3 times a week: Quality, engaging posts, SEO’ed and with catchy titles.
yesA total of 14 posts this month and I’m happy with all of them.

2. Pin 2 images, three times a week.

yes I pinned at least six images a week across my three Pinterest accounts.

3. Add three comments a day on related blogs.

yes I really enjoy seeing what others write about and I enjoy leaving comments so that was easy enough to achieve. I think I managed an average of three comments a day going back to this specific blog.

4. Decide on a color palette and a font for the blog.

yes I went with the Carme font and a blue and red palette with some gray thrown in.

palette577a525d1221f

It’s simple and it stands out in this niche. I don’t know any other cat blogs that use a similar color scheme.

It is similar to the colors of leading online pet stores. In fact, it’s amazing to see just how many of them use a blue & red palette. I think choosing a similar color scheme for my blog is good for creating a more harmonious experience for anyone clicking the affiliate links.

5. Get a logo.

yes This is what I got on Fiverr for $5 –
Cats Go Shopping Logo
Is it the best logo ever? Probably not but it’s better than just having the site name in text format. I confess I am not a designer nor can I tell what makes a good logo and what doesn’t. Ideally, some A/B testing of logos would be good and I plan on doing that at some point.

6. Create templates for images people can share on social media. 

yes Done but I’m not thrilled with the result. Here’s what they look like –

Example of sharable image for blog

I also hope people share the actual images in the articles themselves. Hopefully, this will be good enough.

7. Set up Twitter account and put that on auto-pilot. 

yes  The account only has 7 followers and it does nothing more than auto-tweet every post. It’s not much but it’s there and there’s a place for me to link the Twitter icon to. I won’t have time to do more than that. In my experience, social media accounts grow very slowly this way. Hardly surprising, I know. My point is that they still grow, so it’s better than nothing.

8. Apply colors, logo, picture and “about me” write-up to Twitter account, Facebook page and mailing list.

yes All done!

9. Experiment with other types of subscription forms for the mailing list and

with creating a lead magnet for the mailing list.

yes I did some reading and decided to go with a simple lead magnet. It’s a list of safety tips for cat owners. Helpful stuff which I think people would want to have.

I then shelled out $97 and bought ThriveLeads, a WordPress plugin (yup, another one!) that lets you run all kinds of mailing list subscription forms. It has tons of features, great templates and A/B testing. Check it out here (This is not an affiliate link. They don’t have an affiliate program. This is just me being the generous and transparent blogger that I am!)

I set up two registration boxes. One is a sidebar widget and the other is a pop-up that shows up when you’re trying to leave the page. Hey, I even created A/B testing for both!

I just checked and the entire operation generated only one sign-up. Ack. So, I checked the stats and Houston, we have a problem. Here goes:

I installed ThriveLeads on July 20th. Google Analytics says the blog has had 1219 pageviews since then. I double checked with Adsnese and they counted 1159 pageviews through their ads, so we have a ballpark figure of 1200 pageviews. The ThriveLeads dashboard is showing me this –

ThriveLeads dashboard

That’s about 10% of the pageviews reported by Google Analytics and Adsense. I opened a ticket with ThriveLeads’ about this and will update on the next revenue report.

10. Create giveaways and raffles with appropriate prizes.

I gave this one a lot of thought. I checked Rafflecopter, ViralSweep and Woobox and read up on raffles as a promotion technique. Interesting stuff. However, I feel that it’s way too soon to try and implement this in any of the six blogs. Simply put, there’s not enough traffic to justify a significant prize and a small prize won’t be attractive enough. So, I’m putting this on hold for now.

A Boost Of Redirected Traffic

There was one more thing which happened this month. It was entirely unplanned and it drove quite a bit of traffic to the blog.

For various unrelated reasons, I had to kill a website this month. It was a merciful euthanasia for a dying old directory.

Long story short, I placed a 301 redirect on the domain and diverted the traffic to CatsGoShopping. Since the sites was on the same topic, I think Google would be ok with that. This is what the result looked like –

Stats

As expected, there was a spike of traffic for a couple of days and then things started gradually returning to normal. That’s just Google finding out that specific indexed pages no longer exist. Eventually, the site should disappear from the index and only referral (or type-in) traffic will remain.

I’m over 1500 words into this post and we need to get to the juicy stuff. Let’s move on to a detailed (yet short!) account of expenses and then to the traffic and revenue details for each of the six blogs.

Expenses in July 2016

Last month there were a couple of general “project expenses” such as setting up new yearly hosting accounts for two of the blogs, purchasing a package of templates and getting Longtail Pro to use for keyword research. The total of expenses in June was $571.96. Let’s see what July looked like.

Stock Photos

I buy stock photos from Fotolia.com. I decided to to upgrade Fotolia’s 100 pictures a month package. The price is $100 a month but I got the six-month plan, so overall I paid $540 (a 10% discount). That’s a lot of money upfront but it means I won’t have to pay for photos for the next six months.

I don’t use 100 pictures a month for six blogs. Most of the photos are used for my flagship site. I’m listing $180 (a third of the overall cost) here as expenses for the six project blogs.

Cost: $180

Logo Design

I jumped the gun with a logo for another one of the six blogs, so overall it was $10 for two designs.

Cost: $10

Web Hosting

Last month I mentioned that most of the blogs were hosted on a virtual server account which had been pre-paid. I then found out that a year goes by really fast. Who knew?

It was time to renew my plan with the host. I’m going with a monthly plan for now, costing me $45 a month. Again, not all of that is for the blogs in this project, so I’m going to put $20 for hosting.

Cost: $20

ThriveLeads Plugin

See above.

Cost: $97

Facebook Campaigns

I tried pushing two posts with Facebook campaigns.

Cost: $10

So, that’s a total of $310 in expenses. 

Let’s move on to the other side of the equation. Time to reveal this month’s traffic and revenue stats!

Traffic & Revenue Per Blog

Blog #1 – CatPicsBlog.com

Posts made during July: 13

July unique visitors: 184 pageviews: 262
June unique visitors: 52 pageviews: 106
May unique visitors: 126 May pageviews: 215

Revenue:
July Adsense revenue: $0.03
June Adsense revenue $0.30
May Adsense revenue $0.51

July Clickbank revenue: $0

Blog #2 – CatsGoShopping.com

Posts made during July: 14

Traffic: 

July unique visitors: 635  pageviews: 1,442
June unique visitors: 124  pageviews: 415
May unique visitors: 161 pageviews: 323

Revenue:
July Adsense revenue: $0.38
June Adsense revenue: $0.16
May Adsense revenue: $0 (blog had no ads)

July Amazon revenue: $0
June Amazon revenue: $0.47
May Amazon revenue: $0

 

Blog #3 – Gifts4Kids.net

Posts made during July: 7

Traffic:
July unique visitors: 68 June pageviews: 107
June unique visitors: 56 June pageviews: 120
May unique visitors: 36 May pageviews: 167

Revenue:
July Adsense revenue: $0.02 (woohoo!)
June Adsense revenue: $0.01
May Adsense revenue: $0.01

July Amazon revenue: $0
June Amazon revenue: $0
May Amazon revenue: $0

Blog #4 – Home-decor-hub.com

Posts made during July: 5

Traffic:
July unique visitors: 276 pageviews: 450
June unique visitors: 351 pageviews: 580
May unique visitors: 402 pageviews: 754

Revenue:
July Adsense revenue: $0.24
June Adsense revenue: $3.79
May Adsense revenue: $2.66

July Amazon revenue: $17.11
June Amazon revenue: $3.48
May Amazon revenue: $17.51

Blog #5 TripMemos.com

Posts made during July: 5

Traffic: 
July unique visitors: 152 pageviews: 318
June unique visitors: 72 pageviews: 339
May unique visitors: 151 pageviews: 151

Revenue:
July Adsense revenue: $0.04
June Adsense revenue: $0
May Adsense revenue: $0

Blog #6 Yeys.com (this one!)

Posts made during July: 10

Traffic: 
July unique visitors: 403  pageviews: 795
June unique visitors: 168  pageviews: 377
May unique visitors: 136 pageviews: 151

Revenue:
July Adsense revenue: $0.92
June Adsense revenue: $0.02
May Adsense revenue: $0

July Revenue Summary

Expenses: $310
Revenue: $18.74

Profit: -$291.26

By comparison, for June it was:

Expenses: $571.96
Revenue: $8.23

Profit: -$563.73

Final thoughts on this month’s report

1. I’m still in the red, which is just what I expected.

Here’s the full half of the glass though: Technically, you could say that revenue nearly doubled during July. Fingers crossed for continued exponential growth!

2. Some blogs had an increase in traffic, while others experienced a decrease.

The blog that showed the most growth was CatsGoShopping. I’m not entirely sure if that’s a result of –

  • The extra TLC (new logo and more blog comments than usual)
  • Having the most posts published.
  • The combination of the Facebook campaigns and the redirect traffic
  • None of the above, or all of the above or any other combination!

Overall, the “blog portfolio” showed an increase from 1,937 pageviews in June to 3,374 in July. 

Traffic Growth By Month

The numbers are still too small to make much of the correlation between traffic and revenue but the trend is positive on both fronts, so I’m happy with that.

My Plans for August

I’m going to change my strategy a bit. Rather than focus on one blog at the time, I’m going to push on all fronts.

The extra work associated with branding (adding a logo, creating a color scheme and templates for social media images) isn’t too much. I’d rather just go through all of the blogs and do that for all of them, so I can get the branding benefits rolling. This is what I’m going to focus on this month.

Once I’m done with that (probably only by the end of the month), I’m going to work on creating magnet leads to help build up each blog’s mailing list. That’s going to take a bit more work and probably won’t happen before September but it is the next item on the agenda.

Most importantly, I plan on doing more of the same: Create awesome blog posts on all blogs, and as many of them as I can!

I wrote two posts about this “strategy” this month. The first deals with what a quality post even means (hint, it’s not necessarily a 5,000 long tutorial for bloggers!) and the other one talks about the importance of having as many lines in the water as you can and other fishing advice.

If you made it this far, thanks for sticking around and reading through! I’d love to hear your insights on this, so do leave me a comment.

Have an awesomely productive month, everyone!

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.

 

How to find the best lead magnet for a blog

Part of my blog revival project includes building a mailing list for each blog. Time to work on mailing list growth and utilize lead magnets. Most online advice on lead magnets is geared towards product marketing. I need something a little different, so it’s time to sieve through the tips and ideas and find out what makes the best lead magnet for a blog.

Best lead magnet for a blog

This post covers the basic definition of a lead magnet and the adjustments needed for blog promotion. It also includes a list of 10 lead magnets formats and how they can be applied by bloggers.

What are lead magnets anyway?

The “lead” is a basic concept in marketing theory (and practice).

Salespersons crave access to potential clients. A “lead” is simply a way to gain access to a client. Traditional leads include phone numbers, physical mailing addresses and even ways to meet people in person to pitch them your offer.

In the digital realm, leads are usually ways to contact a potential client via email. Working en masse, the tool for connecting with these potential clients is often an automated mailing list.

How does that relate to blogging?

We all work hard on getting blog traffic. The problem? Once visitors arrive, read the post and – hopefully – get what they came for, they may disappear forever.

Oh, no! Gone forever?

Ahh, but what if during that brief visit you somehow managed to convince them to give you their email address? You have a way to get them back again! Woohoo!

You can communicate with them again in the future, offer new content and maybe even sell them a product or service. You have your lead!

The question remains: How do you get a visitor to sign up? What can convince a visitor to let you into their inbox?

Which is where the magnet comes in…

If you want to get your visitor’s email address and turn him or her into a lead, you need to offer something in return.

For some people and some blogs, getting updates about new posts can be enough. However, if you aim at getting more visitors to subscribe, you need to offer more than that. You should create something which will attract people to your mailing list like flies to honey! Like iron chips to a magnet! Hence, the term “lead magnet“.

Lead magnets exist all over the place in traditional marketing. They are items or services given for free, or almost for free, in return for getting a person one step closer to becoming a profit-generating client.

So, what makes the best lead magnet for a blog?

Unlike some forms of traditional marketing, in blogging we focus on building a relationship with our audience. For many of us – myself included – the mailing list is first and foremost a way to get return visitors and augment a long-term relationship with our readers.

A blog’s lead magnet doesn’t have to be geared towards selling a particular product.

A lead magnet for a blog should ideally –
  • Build trust between the blogger and the reader.
  • Establish the blogger’s expertise the field.
  • Engage the reader and encourage him or her to reach out again to the blog when they need more advice.

To do that, the lead magnet should provide readers with added value. Something that relates to your blog’s theme and expands on what your posts provide.

How much value should a lead magnet for a blog provide?

My impression is that this is niche-specific. In the blogging niche, the competition is harsh. With so many free offers jumping at readers from every direction, you have to fight for their attention and for their email address. You want your lead magnet to stand out by providing even more value than the competition.

A lead magnet for a blog: Which format to use?

Ok, so now we know what a lead magnet is and that it needs to provide a visitor with enough perceived value so that they are willing to give you their email address in exchange.

The topic should relate to your blog. In fact, some lead magnets can even be post-specific (which means lots of smaller lead magnets, spread across your blog).

But what about the format? Lots of ideas bouncing around, so I created a list, with my own observations about whether or not these would make a good lead magnet for a blog. They may be awesome as lead magnets for a company that wants to sell you life insurance but will they work for augmenting your blog’s mailing list?

1. A PDF version of a post

This is probably the easiest lead magnet of all to create. It simply means wrapping up your post and saving it as a PDF. However, its added value is limited. All of the information is there on the page, why “pay” with an email address just to download it again?

2. A tip list/checklist

Relatively easy to come up with (assuming you’re an expert). Short and concise which saves your readers’ time, enhancing its value. It may be too little in competitive niches but could work well in others.

3. A “recipe”

By that I mean, a list of instructions for creating something which relates to your niche. It can be an actual recipe in a cooking site. It can be a design plan, a gaming walkthrough or a cross-stitch pattern. Depending on the value tag of the recipe, this could be a good magnet in some niches.

4. A template

This is a great lead magnet for a blog that deals with design or publishing. It’s a bit like a recipe, only set up for a simple customization by your readers to fit their own needs.

5. An E-book

A short helpful e-book could make a good lead magnet. It’s important to let the reader know in advance what the ebook covers and how long it would take them to go through it. You don’t want them overwhelmed by an e-book that’s too long or disappointed by one that is too short.

6. A webinar or workshop

Giving readers access to a past webinar can work for some niches. I’m not sure access to an actual live webinar makes a good lead magnet. It’s too much value for this stage. However, access to recordings of past webinars may work.

7. An online course

Joining a course can work only if you have no added costs for bringing on new students, or if you established a clear way of monetizing the course. Otherwise, this seems to be too much of an investment for a lead magnet.

8. Giveaways/raffles

This is a very interesting type of lead magnet. With giveaways/raffles you give one expensive product and your readers give you their email address for a chance to win. Choosing a prize that relates to your niche and has enough perceived value is critical here.

A raffle/giveaway is always limited in duration. Which means you need to be sure you will actually be getting enough traffic to generate enough signups. otherwise, you could end up giving away a prize worth $500 for 50 new emails.

There is also a cost to setting this up. Rafflecopter and similar services offer a very limited free service. If you really want to make the most of a raffle/giveaway, you will probably need to upgrade. And then of course, there is also the cost of the prize which needs to be much more valuable than a usual lead magnet.

9. Quizzes

With quizzes, your lead magnet is usually the end result. A quiz usually takes your reader through the process of answering all the questions and then asks for their email address. With some quizzes, the results are blocked until the email address is provided. That’s not a good approach in a blog as it can frustrate your readers and alienate them.

However, a quick quiz that generates a positive outcome has other benefits for a blog. It’s a tool for viral sharing, for example. So, as an added lead magnet, it can work to enhance your mailing list. I wouldn’t use it as the main lead magnet in the signup form.

10. Coupons and discounts and real-world freebies

Offering a coupon or a discount is not a classic lead magnet for a blog. A coupon usually relates to a product or service. Your readers need to actually be interested in that product in order to sign up.

It may work for bloggers who blog solely to promote a certain service or product but otherwise, it is too far removed from the idea of providing a lead that focuses on creating trust in your brand as a blogger.

Choosing the best lead magnet for my blogs

I started this process because I wanted to experiment with a lead magnet for one of my blogs. It’s even in my task list and you can read all about that here.

I am going to use a simple tip list as a lead magnet for that blog. I think it should make a good lead magnet for a blog, being relatively quick to put together and hopefully providing my readers with just the needed amount of added value.

Next, I will be looking at signup forms to see how to make sure visitors to the blog do not miss out on my awesome free offer. Stay tuned for more, I will very likely blog about that as well 😉

Thanks for following through with the post. As always, your comments are welcome!