What are the best website/blog tips that don't immediately come to mind?
August 19, 2011 12:31 PM   Subscribe

What are the best website/blog tips that don't immediately come to mind? I'm relaunching a website and want to make sure I do it right both technically and financially... (more details inside)

TL;DR: I want to increase the number of readers to my site and increase the money I make from it when I relaunch.

Here is the deal, I run a small website that is somewhat popular (200-300 unique visitors a day). When I first launched it I took everything I wanted it to have and added it on. This meant that I had a Flickr photo gallery (that I thought readers would contribute to... they didn't), a forum (that eventually became overrun with porn spam) and a horrible organization system for posting stuff to various places, so the site was incredibly disorganized and lacked a general flow. Still though, people came and enjoyed the content (which is almost entirely original). Additionally, through Amazon links and adsense I eventually reached a threshold of making around $100/month with little to no work involved.

So I let the website slip, and it went to hell. After months of not touching it (and yet somehow still making a little bit of money each month) I realize that I owe it to my readers to fix everything up and get back on the saddle, so to speak.

So right now I'm in the process of redoing the entire website and focusing on the key things first (ie, no forum or other nonsense) and making all new content. My issue is this... I want to increase the number of people that read the site and I also want to bring in more money (I don't plan on retiring from it, but to make 300 to 500 a month would be good).

Considering I'm a relative nobody, I can't get advertisers that could actually benefit from advertising on my site to do so. I've signed up for various advertising programs, but keep getting declined from the good ones. And google adsense, which works, puts crap ads on my site and I don't really want to subject my readers to random stuff that they don't care about. This is the money side of things.

On the usability side of things, what are some things that are helpful to getting the word out that WORK? For example, does adding a Facebook "Like" button to your blog actually help? What turns people on to reading and sharing and what doesn't. Etc etc?
posted by darkgroove to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
My issue is this... I want to increase the number of people that read the site and I also want to bring in more money (I don't plan on retiring from it, but to make 300 to 500 a month would be good).

here's the thing: 300 uniques a day is not popular, and very very very few people make $300+ a month on advertising. you probably won't—and the likelihood decreases if your first concern upon relaunch is $$$ instead of content. most people i know who make money on ads never thought about them when starting their sites; even the people i know who thought about ads when launching their now-successful sites, became successful because creating content and getting the word out about it was what what they spent more time on.
posted by lia at 1:42 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

If I had to pick only two things to tell you they'd be (a) twitter and (b) continuous production of new content. Both of these may not apply depending on your subject area but I'd be surprised if they didn't.

The new content thing is easy to explain and hard to do. If you're not putting up something new for people to see every day you're failing. I can look back on three years of We Love DC (where all my personal experience on "brand building" and "traffic creating" (barf) come from) and see very clearly that when there's a direct correlation between the quantity of new posts we put up and our traffic. A few items a day good, more better, 7+ great.

We're a team operation so that's easier to achieve (but sadly never easy *teeth gritting here*) but as a one-man shop like I think you are that's harder. But I'll confidently say that if you don't put one new thing a day up you're asking to be ignored. There's a ton of things for people to look at and you want folks to make coming to you a habit.

The twitter thing is more subtle but very demonstrable. We average in the thousands of uniques every day but when something seriously catches people's attention on twitter we can see it rise three-fold. Sometimes that's one-off but usually we retain some quantity of readers.

The thing that makes it difficult is that you cannot simply throw links up there. You need to engage with people and be a participant for it to be a successful as a way of growing an audience. In many ways it's no different than enlarging a circle of friends. You do it by engaging with people and the people they engage with. Just like making new friends you do not do it by simply glomming onto people and being a pest or demanding they insert themselves in your life. You engage and click with some but not with others.

I don't know that you're ever going to pull in that amount via ads, though who the hell knows w/o knowing what your subject matter is. You might be better served trying to leverage affiliate programs if you discuss things that people can buy. We made a bunch of money on people buying snow shovels last year, of all the damned things. But even that wasn't gratuitous - with a big snowstorm coming in and all the local stores being sold out, we posted that Amazon had em for overnight delivery - only $4 if you had Prime.

That wasn't huckstering, it was engagement and targeting audience need. And it's always a game of "what have you done for me lately." Remember that it's only going to work as long as you keep plugging at it - both making content and engagement.
posted by phearlez at 1:57 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Facebook shares drive huge amounts of traffic. So yes, you want social sharing. Note that what you are contemplating is a solved problem. The big blogs generating revenue - say, Dooce, Gigaom, TechCrunch for random examples - all follow very similar formats in terms of ad positioning, Twitter use, social sharing widgets, etc. That's because the way it is done is what the metrics say works.

300 uniques is not enough to attract any advertisier except Google AdWords unless you are very niche, so go with that and don't worry about it. If the ad is not of interest, nobody clicks it. You are not annoying your readers with ads they do not want; they are not paying that much attention.

Affiliate ads outside of Amazon may be a good way to go. My lovely friend with the very specific travel blog makes a very nice income from a local car hire firm's affiliate links.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:10 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wifey and I have a small network of blogs, and the biggest thing that affects the number of visitors and our Adsense check is the regularity of content. It doesn't need to be five times a day, or once a week, or twice a month -- it just needs to be what you're comfortable with, and something sustainable. What we've seen is that, pretty much as soon as you get off schedule, you begin to show up less in search-engine results, your RSS fans will check your feed less, and the people who 'mine' your content for their own blogs will stop checking back. The good news is, once you get back on track, things pick up again rather quickly, but you've lost the traffic during the downtime. So, just getting back in the saddle will be a big improvement. How high you show up in Google is a big traffic influencer; how 'stale' your site is affects Google rankings greatly.

Adding bells and whistles isn't a big improvement for traffic. Wifey likes those multi-site "digg this - reddit this - upvote at facebook" button-walls for all of her blogposts, but I don't necessarily see the benefit of those; Facebook is probably the most beneficial, but still not a huge visitor draw. Content, content, content, with a consistent quality and consistent frequency is what gets you places.

I don't have a lot of good data for this, but it seems to me to be true: blog posts with images get more traffic across the board. I think that's why so many superblogs have a "post header" image which may just be made up of clipart and is otherwise irrelevant to the article.

Also, I hate to say it, but the reason everybody does "top x things that are like each other" posts is because they're easy and they drive traffic. I'm not a fan, but the readers like it.

Wifey builds traffic through things called "blog carnivals" -- they're sort of a cooperative "blog on a topic and link to everybody else" network. She seems to have had success; her pageranks are higher for ones she's done carnivals at than others.

As for numbers: between all our blogs that have adsense on them, we have a very high multiple of the number of visitors you're predicting (much larger than 10x), and we only make a largish fraction of the $300ish you're wanting to get. Ad prices are way down wherever you go. Amazon affiliate and eBay affiliate links do well for us, when appropriately used. The "crap" ads from Adsense disappear once you actually start showing up in Google search results - which will happen once you start getting content and visitors. It all goes back to getting content first, then the rest comes later.

The big ad networks, as you've noticed, require huge amounts of traffic. I stopped even looking at them. I am signed up at both Project Wonderful and Blogads, which both allow direct purchases of ads, which can be a good revenue source if you can get the advertisers. We've made about as much thorugh Blogads as through Adsense; Project Wonderful hasn't paid out much.
posted by AzraelBrown at 2:28 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you for all of the excellent feedback. Without disclosing the site (if you are curious PM me and I'll send it to you) I will say that yes, I am indeed a one man show. As far as the subject matter, it is more niche than one might think. For example, there is stuff all over the internet that mentions things you will find on my site. But my site is an epic tome of information where everything is incredibly detailed. It's basically a one stop shop, and the (few) readers that I have keep coming back.

Money is not the goal, but it certainly is a perk. I was just wondering if there was a particular trick out there that helped people increase their website income that I didn't know about (like using adsense at all since, in essence, it's free ads no matter what you have on your site).

It sounds like the most important thing that you have told me is that including new content and engaging with my readers is key. I'll let you know that yes, I do have a twitter account for the site. I haven't exactly been using it like a mad man though as I'm not too acquainted with twitter in the first place. I was mainly having stuff I post to the site show up on the twitter feed and then having the little quips I post to twitter show up on the site. A few times I've had people mention me or message me on twitter and I've engaged them, but I certainly need to get to understand it better.

As far as content goes, it is almost entirely original content. And even the content that isn't necessarily original is redone in a way that it is original. (IE. Taking a concept that is difficult, and simplifying it in a step by step way so that people that would otherwise not attempt it would at the very least give it a try.)

With the relaunch there are going to be at least 3-5 seriously original articles that are a pretty big deal in the scheme of things. Additionally, I've been receiving a lot of positive feedback from my readers (emails, etc) and I'm going to send a mass mail to them letting them know the site is relaunched which should 1) generate an increase in traffic and 2) maybe have them spread the word.

The only thing that I don't think I can do is update it daily. For one, I don't have the time. And two, there really isn't new stuff to mention... every. single. day. When there is a news item, I'll post it, but the only new stuff would be news from various sources. The other stuff would be original content. I'll do my best to keep it fresh though with a few posts a week.
posted by darkgroove at 4:09 PM on August 19, 2011

« Older IQ testing in Columbus   |   Can you tell me how a website with sidenotes was... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.