Best WordPress Plugins To Install On My Blogs

A month ago I asked which WordPress plugins I really needed to have on my blogs. I decided on six plugins which I then installed on half of my blogs. A month later, having tried them out, it’s time to decide which to keep and install on the other blogs, and which to uninstall. As promised, I’m blogging about it to share my conclusions.

A quick recap, in case you’re just joining me: This is all part of the Blog Revival Project, where I’m trying to bring six blogs from the brink of death, back into the land of the living. You can read more about it here.

Choosing just six plugins to use on my blogs

I don’t like the added liability that comes with plugins, so I want to keep their number to the minimum. You can read more on why plugins can hurt your blog in this post.

In order to decide which plugins to use, I did something fairly simple. I looked up every list of “top wordpress plugins” posted by bloggers in 2016. I wrote them all down and tallied up the votes. That’s how I came up with the final list of 6 most recommended wordpress plugins for 2016. The finalists were: Jetpack, Yoast SEO, W3 Total Cache, Wordfence, BackupBuddy and Akismet.

I then decided to test them for one month on three of my blogs, leaving the other three plugin-less. Akismet was the exception here. I’ve been using it forever and there was no need to test it.

So, were these plugins worth it?

1. Yoast SEO

This plugin really helped re-focus my attention back to onpage SEO. I love its interface. Tiny traffic light icons light up in red, orange or green and give you instant feedback on two parameters: SEO and readability. Yoast SEO measures your score on these criteria, literally as you type. Scroll down the page and there’s a box under your editor where it tells you exactly what needs improving. This is what the readability tab looks like –

yoast screenshot

 

And there’s a similar one for onpage SEO –

yoastseo

At first, I found myself trying to make Yoast SEO happy. I really wanted to turn all of the little lights green! I may have over optimized a few blog posts that way. I don’t do that anymore. I just work at things until I reach a green light.

The bottom line is: Yes. It’s a great plugin which I’m going to install on all of my blogs.

2. W3 Total Cache

It’s hard for me to evaluate W3 Total Cache at this point. All of my blogs are relatively small and don’t get a lot of traffic (yet!), so server loads just aren’t high enough to see any significant difference with caching.

I’m going to deactivate this one for now. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with it, it’s just not necessary at this point.

3. Wordfence

Another plugin which is difficult for me to evaluate. It delivers what it says on the package. Fortunately, with no attacks on any of my blogs, all it does at this point is let me know when I need to update plugins or templates. That’s something that WordPress does just as well on its own by displaying little red circles in the dashboard.

Web security is important but at this point, I’m not sure Wordfence adds much in that respect.

4. BackupBuddy

I actually couldn’t get BackupBuddy to work on the first blog I tried it on. I never bothered with trying too hard. Instead, I just moved on to another recommended backup plugin: BackWPup.

BackWPup works as advertised. I now have weekly backups on the blogs where it’s installed. Complete backups of database and files are regularly placed in my Dropbox. No complaints. Backup is important, so this is one plugin I’m keeping and installing on the other blogs as well.

5. Jetpack

Hmmm. Still not sure how I feel about Jetpack. It does have a lot of features but the only one I actually use is social sharing. Now, that’s something that can be done using other – much smaller – plugins.

Its other features are nice-to-have but not something I rely on. So, the jury is still out on this one. I think I’ll keep it where I installed it. If nothing else, it provides an element of site protection and an extra stats counter.

So, to sum this up.

BackWPup and Yoast SEO stay and get installed on all of my blogs. I may even invest in the premium version at some point.

Wordfence and W3 Total Cache get uninstalled.

Jetpack stays for now on the blogs where it’s been installed. Still thinking about whether or not I need it on the other blogs. It’s a “Wait and see” with this one.

So, only three plugins?

I wish! Other needs have come up over the past month which made me install a couple of other plugins.

Affiliate redirects –

I’m trying Pretty Link on this blog and Easy Affiliate Links on another. I need them to streamline those ugly affiliate links. They also add with tracking clicks, so that’s a nice bonus.

CommentLuv –

It’s always been a favorite of mine. I comment on a lot of blogs and I really like instantly seeing what another commenter’s blog is all about. CommentLuv provides that and I want to offer it on my own blogs.

I hope this post helps others figure out which plugins they should be using on their blog. I’m always happy to hear what others use, so please leave me a comment! With CommentLuv installed, you even get to show off your latest blog post!

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.

Time To Give Blog #1 Some TLC

The recap: I’m on a mission to revive six different blogs. All of them withered away over the past few years because I was busy with a separate project.Time to bring them back to life!

You can read more about the goals and the strategy here.

I’ve put together a generic list of actionable blog promotion items. They cover content creation, branding, social media and additional promotion strategies. As per the master plan to take over the world revive the blogs one by one, I’m going to start in July with CatsGoShopping.com.

What's in store for CatsGoShopping?
What’s in store for CatsGoShopping?

Today, I’ll go over the list of blog promotion ideas, analyze which to apply to CatsGoShopping and how.

I’m going to bold in green the items that make it into my to-do list and in red the ones I decide not to deal with this month. Bolded in gray are the items that I’ve already accomplished or that I already do on a regular basis, so there’s no need to add them to my to-do list.

Content creation

  • Create a content strategy and a content plan
    Check. All of my blogs currently have a content strategy and content plans. For CatsGoShopping, the plan includes a weekly post about a cat-related product, a weekly “eye candy” post and a weekly “something else” post which could be a blog round-up or a post on something else related to shopping for cats (I have lists of ideas to choose from).
  • Come up with ideas for SEO-worthy posts using a tool like LongTail Pro.
    Since I already have a content plan in place, I’ll use LongTail Pro mostly to fine-tune titles and key phrases targeting within the chosen themes.
  • Keep posting at a constant frequency.
    Check. Three posts a week it is.
  • Write engaging posts with a good readability score.
    Check. Using Yoast SEO for instant feedback on readability.
  • Write appealing titles (and check with a tool like this one).
    Check.
  • SEO content with a plugin like Yoast SEO.
    Check. I need to be careful not to over-optimize though.
  • Optional: Create repetitive features (such as weekly picture or quote).
    Check. Weekly cat picture post + weekly product review.

Branding

  • Decide on a color palette and a font (or two fonts) for the blog.
    I’ll be looking up palettes and deciding on a final one today.
  • Get a logo.
    I’m going to look up a designer on Fiverr and buy a logo for $20-$50.
  • Create photoshop templates for featured images.
  • This is something I can do once I have the logo.
  • Use an appealing “about me” write up, including a good picture.
    Check. Already done.
  • Apply colors, logo, picture and write-up across social media platforms and directories and in mailing list.
    Will be done following logo design.

Social Media

  • Formulate a social media strategy.
    I need to tread lightly here as I can’t spend too long on social media, so strategy focuses on some amount of automation. It includes:
    Pinterest – Using my existing account which already has 1K+ followers and pinning three times a week, two images at a time.
    Twitter – I’m going to set up an account for the blog and then have it auto-tweet new posts. I will follow other niche bloggers on that account but won’t have time for a more personal form of interaction. Will follow up on mentions etc but not much else.
    Facebook – The blog already has a Facebook page. Automated posts only there too.
  • Set up social media accounts as per the strategy and use tools such as Hootsuite to put it into place.
    Adding the following to my to-do list:
    Create Twitter account and automate posting.
    Pinning task 3 times a week.
  • Join forums and online communities relating to the blog’s niche.
    Nope. Not at this stage. This is one of the most time consuming ways to promote a blog. With the exception of webmaster forums, online communities are highly sensitive to spam. This form of promotion only works if you’re already an established and contributing member.

More Promotion

  • Comment on other blogs in the same niche. 
    Already doing that and will continue to this month. I have a recurrent task of commenting on least 5 blogs a day.
  • Mailing list: Set up a content strategy (automated RSS vs. newsletters).
    At this point, I’m going to stick with the existing RSS-generated mailings for blog updates. I won’t have time to manage an actual newsletter.
  • Mailing list: Set up a promotion strategy (type of blog ads, pop-ups and lead magnets).
    Major item here. I do want to experiment with different types of subscription forms, including pop-ups. I also want to experiment with a lead magnet. These are all aspects I don’t have prior experience with, so there’s a learning curve ahead.
  • Create giveaways/raffles with appropriate prizes.
    Another major item which I’d like to experiment with. I’m going to set a lower priority to this task because I’m not sure I’ll have time left to properly organize a raffle/giveaway.
  • Set up a guest blogging strategy. Who to approach and how to approach them, depending on your niche.
    I don’t think guest blogging is necessarily a bad way to promote a blog but it is time-consuming. I also have a hunch that it may not be the right time for this specific blog and in this niche. I think I’d like to network some more before asking people if I can guest blog for them. If I get an offer, I’ll take it. However, I’m not going to actively promote this at this point.

The Final To-Do List

Looks like I’m doing well on content creation. I just need to consistently keep at it.

As for actual promotion, the focus this month will be first on branding and a bit of social media. Then I’ll tackle a couple of big tasks: the mailing list and (if I have time) giveaways/raffles.

So, my new tasks for July are –

  1. Decide on a color palette and a font (or two fonts) for the blog. (7/5)
  2. Get a logo. (7/10)
  3. Create templates for featured images. (7/12)
  4. Set up Twitter account and put that on auto-pilot. (7/12)
  5. Apply colors, logo, picture and “about me” write-up to Twitter account, Facebook page and mailing list. (7/12)
  6. Experiment with other types of subscription forms for the mailing list. (7/15)
  7. Experiment with lead magnet for the mailing list. (7/20)
  8. Create giveaways and raffles with appropriate prizes. (7/25)

This in addition to the repetitive tasks for this blog –

  1. Post 3 times a week. Quality, engaging posts, SEO’ed and with catchy titles.
  2. Pin 2 images, three times a week.
  3. Keep commenting on niche blogs. Three comments a day linking back to CatsGoShopping seem like a good target.

Is this doable within 10 hours a week or have I bitten more than I can chew? I guess time will tell. I’m going to report back by the end of the month, along with the monthly traffic and revenue report. Stay tuned and if you have any tips, ideas, thoughts of commiserations to offer, please do so in a comment!

How To Resuscitate A Blog: The Complete Action Plan

A recap: My current project is to revive six blogs and turn them from dormant – semi-dead – blogs into active profitable blogs. You can read more about this project here where I outlined the overall goals and strategy. Now is the time to delve into the actual tactics. This post sums up a list of actionable items that will help me bring these blogs back to life.

Blog revival action plan

The original title of this post was “How to resurrect a blog”. However, my blogs aren’t entirely dead. They are only in a coma 😉 What they need is methodical CPR from a dedicated paramedic (that would be me!).

Each blog is different. They are in different niches and target different audiences. They will therefore need slightly different action plans. Each plan would be geared towards getting the blog that elixir of web life: content & traffic. The one area which won’t be covered here is monetization. I don’t think it’s a good idea to focus on monetization of a comatose blog. I want to get a significant amount of traffic coming in first.

This post will therefore be a generic checklist for all the possible steps which could help in the resuscitation process. If you’re struggling to jump start your own blog, by all means, feel free to use the list!

Content creation

  • Create a content strategy and a content plan. Write them down.
  • Come up with ideas for SEO-worthy posts using a tool like LongTail Pro.
  • Keep posting at a constant frequency.
  • Write engaging posts with a good readability score.
  • Write appealing titles (and check with a tool like this one).
  • SEO content with a plugin like Yoast SEO.
  • Optional: Create repetitive features (such as weekly picture or quote).

Branding

  • Decide on a color palette and a font (or two fonts) for the blog.
  • Get a site logo designed.
  • Create photoshop templates for featured images.
  • Use an appealing “about me” write up, including a good picture.
  • Use colors, logo, picture and write-up across social media platforms and directories and in mailing list.

Social Media

  • Formulate a social media strategy.
  • Set up social media accounts as per your strategy and use tools such as Hootsuite to put it into place.
  • Join forums and online communities relating to your niche, especially any that are for bloggers in your niche.

More Promotion

  • Comment on other blogs in the same niche. Making a genuine contribution and focus on interacting with the blogger as well as with other commenters.
  • Mailing list: Set up a content strategy (automated RSS vs. newsletters).
  • Mailing list: Set up a promotion strategy (type of blog ads, pop-ups and lead magnets).
  • Create giveaways and raffles with appropriate prizes for your niche. Find sponsors if possible.
  • Set up a guest blogging strategy. Who to approach and how to approach them, depending on your niche.

These are the items I came up while brainstorming. Since only one brain was involved in the storm (my own!) I’d love to get some feedback. If you have other ideas which you think can help me resuscitate a blog, please do add them in the comments. If you come up with something that’s a good fit for my blogs, I’ll work them into the list and give you credit (including a link back).

So, what comes next?

If you’ve read my post about the project strategy, you may remember that I’m going to focus on one blog every month from now until December. I will still be posting on all of them, generating quality posts in line with the content plan devised. However, in terms of branding, marketing and promotion, I’ll be focusing on one blog at a time.

The first blog to receive the full CPR is CatsGoShopping.com. I am going to take this checklist and go over each action item to see if and how it can be applied to that blog. The result will be a plan, broken into tasks with the appropriate schedule to follow up on each one. That is the only way to deal with a strategy: break it down into manageable tasks and set up a timetable for them.

And guess what, I’m going to post that plan here as well!

The challenge: Set feasible & realistic tasks

Sure, the best thing would be to have Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook accounts for each blog, all with fresh interactive constant updates. Unfortunately, there are only 24 hours in the day. There is no way I can effectively manage so many active social media accounts for so many blogs. Remember, I have another huge website to take care of! Not to mention an actual life which includes a husband and two kids!

Social media is just one aspect. The same goes for every other parameter. At this point, the blog revival project is a one-person show, so there is a very real issue of potential burnout too. While more may be better for any blog in the short term, less would be better for the long run.

Again, I’d love to get more ideas! If you have any leave me a comment, will ya?

June 2016 Blog Traffic and Revenue Report

Woohoo! Time for the first ever, here’s the Yeys.com traffic and revenue report!

blogsrevivalrevenuejune16

This blog is where I document the progress of my current project: Resurrecting six dormant blogs and bringing them back to life. You can read more about the project and the reasons for it right here.

The “woohoo!” part is purely excitement over the fact that I’m actually writing my first stats report. There was no significant revenue, nor was I expecting any. It took me two years to get my flagship site to make a significant profit. I don’t expect things to go a whole lot much faster with this project. I hope they will. I just don’t expect them to.

A note about traffic stats

The traffic figures are provided for general assessment. They are too small to indicate much so I won’t bother with displaying traffic sources at this point.

At least three of the six blogs had some reporting issues during June where the Google Analytics code went AWOL. This was my fault for not using a GA plugin and changing templates without updating the code in the footer. All blogs now have a GA plugin and a few of them also have JetPack which also monitors traffic. I can always check server stats but as I said, at this point, the numbers are too small to worry about missing a couple of days of tracking.

As you can see, all of these sites have had a trickle of traffic coming in. This report merely establishes a baseline from which – hopefully – traffic will grow in the future.

So, what have I been doing this month?

It’s been a busy month! I’ve been working an average of 60-70 hours a week! About half of that time was invested in my flagship website (not covered here) and the rest went into the blogs project. I also spent a bit of cash on hosting, templates and SEO tools. Let’s go over what I’ve done and how much it cost me.

1. I’ve put together a strategy plan

This month, I finally set down the guidelines for this project. I hope this will help me focus my efforts over the coming six months. You can read more about my goals and strategy and how they were formulated.

2. I’ve created new hosting accounts

As part as my “getting back into the swing of things” and “finding a fresh point of view” I decided to check out two leading hosting companies.

I moved two blogs to new hosts that came recommended by fellow bloggers. Yes, they are heavily promoted through affiliation. And yes, I’ve become an affiliate as well. I plan on adding a detailed review for each one soon, for now they get their first mention here: HostGator and Bluehost.

I also still have my reseller account with my original host. Four of the blogs are hosted on that server.

So, this is what I paid for hosting this month –

Bluehost: $59.4 for 12 months of hosting 

Hostgator: $52.56 for 12 months of hosting

My regular host: Nothing. I paid an annual sum which covers my current hosting for  a few more months.

New premium templates

At least for a few of the blogs, I wanted templates with a magazine-style homepage. After trying several free ones – as well as a premium template which didn’t work for me – I finally found templates that I’m happy with for now.

I chose to buy the premium bundle by ThemeZee (Look Ma! No affiliate link!) It’s a small company, basically a one-man show. So far, Thomas – founder, coder, marketer and tech supporter – does a good job answering my requests in a timely and efficient manner.

I paid 79,00€ (Thomas is in Germany) which translates into $88. That gives me access to using the pro versions of all ThemeZee templates.

Templates cost: $88

New WordPress Plugins

After much deliberation, I installed six WordPress plugins on three of the blogs. Two weeks later, it’s a mixed bag of things that need to be tweaked and things that have really helped already.

I will post a proper follow up report in mid-July and based on the conclusions, I’m going to decide which plugins stay and get installed on the other blogs and which get deleted or replaced.

New tools and services – both paid and free

Blogglovin’

I discovered this awesome tool for following blogs. I now follow about 200 blogs in the same niches as my own. I’m going to write more about why I do that but for now just wanted to give BlogLovin‘ a shoutout.

Stock Photos

I buy stock photos for use on my blogs. I currently use Fotolia.com and I paid $75 for a monthly package of 50 photos.

Stock photos cost: $75

Longtail Pro

It’s been awhile since I tried my hand at keyword targeting. I needed a tool to help me so I went back to an old favorite. I probably drove them a little bit crazy with all my questions during the 10 days trial period but they were always quick to reply, friendly and helpful. So, I’m paying to keep it going. I signed up for the discounted Platinum program and paid a total of $297 for an annual subscription. Click here if you want to check it out and start your own trial for only $1.

SEO software cost: $297

And now, finally let’s get to business. It’s time for the actual traffic and revenue reports (one per blog)! Drumroll, please!

Traffic and Revenue Reports

Blog #1 – CatPicsBlog.com

Total number of posts: 173

Posts made during June: 30

June unique visitors: 52 pageviews: 106
May unique visitors: 126 May pageviews: 215

Revenue:
The site is currently monetized using 2 Google Adsense units, one in the header and one in the sidebar.
June Adsense revenue $0.30
May Adsense revenue $0.51

What I’ve done in June

  • Daily posts
  • RSS feed auto-campaign mailing list that also posts to the blog’s Facebook page.
  • Commenting on cat-related blogs.

Any changes planned for July?

I’ve been posting on a daily basis with relatively short posts. The results are less than stellar. I plan on posting every other day in July while making sure posts are better SEO’ed and are at least 300 words long.

Blog #2 – CatsGoShopping.com

Total number of posts: 44

Posts made during June: 12

Traffic: 
June unique visitors: 124  pageviews: 415
May unique visitors: 161 pageviews: 323

Revenue:
The site is currently monetized using 2 Google Adsense units – one in the header area and one in the sidebar – and Amazon affiliate links in posts.

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

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

What I’ve done in June

  • Template change
  • Hosting move (to Hostgator)
  • Content pruning – this one is important. I went over very old posts which were not up to par with the current blog standards and deleted most of them. The ones that were getting any amount of Google traffic I kept and updated.
  • Commenting on cat-related blogs
  • Pinning images on my Pinterest boards
  • RSS feed auto-campaign mailing list that also posts to the blog’s Facebook page.

What’s going to change in July?

This blog is the one I’ll be focusing on in July. I’m going to continue with everything I’ve been doing so far and plan on adding the following –

  • Guest blogging
  • Mailing list revamp including a lead magnet
  • Setting up Pinterest & Twitter (more on that in a future post)
  • Adding a raffle, possibly through rafflecopter or a similar service.

Blog #3 – Gifts4Kids.net

Total number of posts: 111

Posts made during June: 7

Traffic: 
June unique visitors: 56 June pageviews: 120
May unique visitors: 36 May pageviews: 167

Revenue:
The site is currently  monetized using 3 Google Adsense units -one in the header area and 2 in the sidebar – and Amazon affiliate links in posts.
June Adsense revenue: $0.01
May Adsense revenue: $0.01

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

What I’ve done in June

  • Template change
  • Content pruning – Same as above!
  • Commenting on parenting and shopping blogs
  • Pinning images on my Pinterest boards

Blog #4 – home-decor-hub.com

Total number of posts: 366

Posts made during June: 7

Traffic: 
June unique visitors: 351 pageviews: 580
May unique visitors: 402 pageviews: 754

Revenue:
The site is currently monetized using a single Google Adsense unit placed in the header area and Amazon affiliate links in posts.
June Adsense revenue: $3.79
May Adsense revenue: $2.66

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

What I’ve done in June

  • Template change
  • Content pruning – Same as above.
  • Commenting on related blogs
  • Pinning images on my Pinterest boards
  • RSS feed auto-campaign mailing list that also posts to the blog’s Facebook page.

Blog #5 TripMemos.com

Topic: Travel

Number of incoming links: 12 (according to the Google Search Console).

Total number of posts: 19

Posts made during June: 8

Traffic: 
June unique visitors: 72 pageviews: 339
May unique visitors: 151 pageviews: 151

Revenue:
The site is currently  monetized using a single Google Adsense unit in the header area. It’s only been there for a week.
June Adsense revenue: $0
May Adsense revenue: $0

What I’ve done in June

  • Template change
  • Commenting on related blogs
  • Pinning images to my Pinterest boards
  • RSS feed auto-campaign mailing list

Blog #6 Yeys.com (this one!)

Number of incoming links: 186 (according to the Google Search Console).

Total number of posts: 44

Posts made during June: 12

Traffic: 
June unique visitors: 168  pageviews: 377
May unique visitors: 136 pageviews: 151

Revenue:
The site is currently  monetized using 2 Google Adsense unit, one in the header and one in the sidebar.
June Adsense revenue: $0.02
May Adsense revenue: $0

What I’ve done in June

  • Template change
  • Hosting move to Bluehost.
  • Content pruning – Nothing was deleted in this case but I did go back to some of the first posts and edited them a bit. I started this blog as a personal notebook. Now I want others to read it too, so I need to polish up a few posts.
  • Commenting on related blogs

June Revenue Summary

Expenses: $571.96

Revenue: $8.23

Profit: -$563.73

Which is perfectly ok.

In fact, I’m thrilled with how June went! I worked hard and I enjoyed every minute of it! It felt great getting back to tweaking blogs and playing around with code! I learned a lot and I got to virtually “meet” other bloggers too!

I have so much to talk about and I have this blog where I can do that. If you’re reading this – thank you for dropping by and allowing me to share this new adventure with you! Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!

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.