Over the past couple of days, I've invested a substantial amount of time in my blog to turn it into a website. The majority of the investment was time, along with a couple dollars here and there to secure logos and headers. Here's what I learned about spending your time wisely, investing money in your blog, and making money from your blog. Hopefully fellow bloggers will find these tips useful, and pass them on.
Time: Set the Foundation
Write high quality content
You've probably heard this for the millionth time, but that's because good content never gets old. Lately, I've tried to write content that's original, timeless, thought provoking, and highly useful. It's all about creating value for your readers. If you constantly provide value, your readers will return the favor by frequenting your site often.
Develop a comfortable posting pace
When I first started out blogging, I would post 3-4 times a day to get my blog noticed quickly. Although my traffic was getting stronger every day, the quality of my content suffered. Remembering #1, quality is more important than quantity, at least in the blogosphere. Don't worry about keeping pace with TechCrunch or other mega sites. I subscribed to their feed for a total of 2 days because their updates kept clogging Google Reader. I prefer giving readers 1-2 posts a day, instead of overloading my readers with several mini posts. Can I get an amen?
Customize your theme
Theme customization will set your blog apart from the masses. When I picked out my WordPress theme, I knew I had to build upon it. So I bought a header for $5, designed a site logo, and went from there. It took me a while to customize my blog to perfection, but what's important is that I made the necessary changes.
Tip: Design your blog as an extension of your own personality and tastes. My favorite color is blue, could you guess?
Read Other people's Blogs
Reading other people's blogs via Google Reader has really opened my eyes to blogging. Back in October, I was a clueless blogging newbie who had no idea what a track back, ping back, or blog roll was. I credit my progression as a blogger to the following sites:
- ProBlogger – Tons of great tips on blogging in general
- John Chow dot Com – Help with advertising, blogging, and marketing
- Steve Pavlina – Great read on all personal development topics
- JohnTP.com – Resourceful tech and blogging news
- Get Rich Slowly – Money management tips
- CopyBlogger – Tips on writing effective copy and articles
I pull up these feeds on a daily basis because these guys are all experts in their fields. If you're going to learn about blogging and other related topics, you might as well learn from the best.
Communicate With Other Bloggers and Your Readers
Start reaching out to other bloggers via e-mail, forums, message boards, blog comments, AIM, Yahoo! messenger, or even by phone. Considering that more than 55 million blogs exist, there are plenty of people that you can connect with. Forming relationships can lead to guest posting opportunities, tips on advertising, blogging advice, and other valuable resources.
I think forums provide unlimited opportunities for networking and communication. There's usually someone surfing the forums no matter what time it is. Here are the forums that I like the spend time in:
- Digital Point Forums – A large webmaster's network.
- Money Blog Network Forums – Forum for financial bloggers.
- MSN Message Board Community – Tons of financial information, plus bonus participation from lead MSN writers.
- Search Guild Forums – SEO tips and info. They provide great tips on my Google indexing problem.
I enjoy forums so much that I decided to host a forum here on Investor Trip. I know everyone has a lot to say regarding investing and general personal finance, so here's your chance to connect with global investors all over the world.
Read Newspapers, Newsletter, Books, and Magazines
Lately, I haven't done a great job of reading printed resources, but I am committed to reading the newspaper daily in 2007. There are so many great articles and opinions floating around in printed resources that everyone should get there hands on at least 1 or 2 resources a day. Don't have time to read the paper? This is where the internet works in your favor. The best thing about the internet is that many of these resources can be read online. We no longer have to pay newsstands for literature. So bookmark your favorite printed resources, and read them often.
Validate Your X-HTML Markup
When the Apple iPhone (?) releases, do you want your blog to show up on the internet browser? Of course, you do. So make sure your HTML is correct, or your blog will be look terrible on most browsers. Don't rely on Firefox to correct all those mark-up errors. I use a combination to XHTML markup services to catch any and all errors. Try W3C Markup, and download the WordPress XHTML validator. Don't use WordPress? Try W3 Schools as an alternative.
Optimize Your Images
Slow loading images are a huge bummer. You can prevent this by using PhotoShop's Save to the Web feature, but I have no interest in having Adobe programs clog up my hard drive. I use Dynamic Drive's Image Optimizer Tool. It's simple to use, and you can upload images from your computer or from the web. Once you upload the images, the tool gives you 10 different image options, based on quality, to choose from. I often choose quality: 70 because it cuts the image size in half without reducing eye appeal.
Optimize Your Permalinks for SEO
When I first started out blogging, I adopted the conventional /%year%/%monthnum%/%day%/%postname%/ permalink structure, and thought nothing more of it. After reading a ton on SEO, I realized this move was a huge error. The numbers prevent search engine crawlers from reading your permalinks effectively, so lose those numbers. The /%category%/%postname%/ is more search engine friendly. If you use WordPress, I recommend installing this permalinks migration plug-in.
I don't know much about migrating permalinks for other blogging platforms, so I suggest either consulting with your host or seeking help in a web forum. I recommend Digital points forums because you'll receive help almost instantly.
Speed Up your loading times
Studies show visitors exit pages that take more than 10 seconds to load. If your blog takes more than 10 seconds to load, you're losing a large number of readers, potential feed subscribers, and maybe even long-term visitors. I use this Web optimization tool to calculate how long my home page will load on average, depending on a visitor's connection speed.
Currently, it takes 15 seconds for my pages to load for 56k speed surfers, so I need to work on a bit more.
What's your Site Report Card?
I came across this fun tool that calculates your Site Report Card using links, HTML checks, page load times, mega tags, spell check, and keyword analysis as grades. My report card score is 8.33/10 at the moment. Do you score a perfect 10?
Money: Invest a little to earn more money
Translate your blog into different languages
Over 65% of internet users reside outside of the U.S., and many have troubles reading english-only blogs. I suggest translating your blog into multiple languages. After experiencing a bit of success and frustration withTranslator Pro, I have decided to go the normal Google translator route. But there should be an update of Translator Pro available for release very soon, so I am impatiently waiting for the newest update. It costs around $30, which is a one-time fee. After that, you gain access to all future updates. It's a pretty good deal in my opinion. But if you want to save the $30, you can use Google's translating power to your advantage.
Translating your blog makes your writing available to the whole world. Think about that for a second, your voice can be heard around the world with the click of a country flag. Pretty cool, huh?
Pay a designer to make structural changes within your blog
I am in the process of moving my blog from www.investortrip.com to www.investortrip.com/blog/ because I want to build upon my top level domain. The easiest way to make changes without breaking anything is to contract out the work. Why should I risk ruining 4 months of work because I'm cheap? I'm willing to pay whatever it takes to make these changes as harmless as possible. So when you're faced with design issues, it's best to hand the work over to a professional.
A good way to bring new visitors to your blog is to use PPC advertising systems like Google Adwords. My blog hasn't generated enough revenue yet, but I plan to participate in a few campaigns in February. Right now, I'm reading up on Adwords tutorials to make the most money out of PPC campaigns. It's possible to generate say 50 cents for every 25 cents you spend. That's a 100% return on investment that I'd love to pocket. Of course, Adwords isn't the only option. As the competition for internet advertising market share intensifies, new competitors are beginning to emerge. Here's a list of Google advertising alternatives.
Consider growing your blog into a website if you're experiencing success with your efforts. You already get good traffic, so why not expand upon that? Many of your readers have lots to say, but are limited to posting relevant comments about your blog posts. You may consider adding a forum to your site. For every person that posts in your forum, it's a link back to your blog/website because you added a link in the footer of your forum. Now, I know a lot of you are thinking, “lots of bloggers fail at adding forums, so why even try?” I'll give you one reason: you aren't those bloggers. See yourself as an individual that's capable of achieving whatever you set your mind to. If a forum doesn't fit well with your blog, consider adding a resourceful directory, and encourage people to add their sites. There are tons of ways to add value to your blog by expanding your internet footprint.
Market Your Blog
Set aside a pre-specified amount of time per day to market yourself and your blog. Your marketing efforts may consist of responding to comments, buying PPC campaigns, or interacting with Digg users. Whatever you choose to do, work hard at it, and use your time effectively. I currently reserve 1 hour a day to marketing my site. Sometimes I fall short of my target, but the important thing is to reserve time for marketing. Marketing is an ongoing process that never ends.
Making Money from your Blog: Put your income on Auto-Pilot
Primary Blog Income Sources
These programs are your big money makers. Mine are:
- Google Adsense
- Commission Junction
You should take the time to decide which program will become your primary sources of revenue. Once you have that list, start optimizing your ad placement. Here are a few tips for Adsense:
Adsense Optimization Tips
1. Blend the ad background with your template background. Ads that contrast are nothing but eyesores.
2. Make the ad title slightly darker than your normal links. This will make your ads stand out, yet blend with your template as well.
3. Make the text and URL of the ad the same color. For example, view my 300×250 ad at the bottom of this post.
4. Place your ads where your visitor can see them. This might be directly after a post on your blog, at the top of your sidebar, or just below your header. Wherever you end up placing the ads, use Adsense channels to track ad performance.
5. Use Section targeting to send highly relevant ads to your blog.
6. Always consider your visitors first. I try to be sensitive to how my readers will react to ad placement. It's never a good idea to clutter your site with ads. In the long term, you'll lose traffic, so be very careful.
Recommended Adsense Reads:
- Problogger's Adsense Tutorial
- John TP's Adsense positioning tips
- Digital Point's Adsense Forum
- Google Adsense Blog
- Best of 2006 – From the Adsense Blog
Affiliate Marketing Tips
1. Provide your honest review on affiliate products. If the product sucks, let people know. Nobody wants to buy junk.
2. Make it easy for visitors to purchase the item. I try to point all my affiliate links straight to the product.
3. Make it easy for visitors to contact you. If you're easy to contact, more people will trust your word.
4. Cross-promote affiliate products. For example, I could just point visitors to brokerages, but I have extended upon this by selling investing books, investing software, and computer products as well. You must have a computer to check stock quotes. 🙂
Additional Affiliate Info:
Secondary Blog Income Sources
I put less emphasis on these revenue sources, but they still have the potential to become primary sources one day.
It's important to add different revenue sources to the mix. You'll find out that Google Adsense has its limits once you experiment with other programs. Currently, Adsense only accounts for 40% of my revenue. I expect this number to decrease as my blog gets older because secondary sources should pick up and add a nice chunk to my revenue mix.
The best part about my 5 revenue sources is that they are all on auto-pilot. They make money 24/7. That's the level you want to reach – when your blog makes money while you catch some ZZZs.
If you take anything from my revenue model, take this: experiment with different sources and choose the best ones for your blog.
To wrap things up, you'll learn a lot if you read lots of information, ask questions, and interact with people. That's what the International Network (Internet) is about – connecting with people, sharing information, and passing it on just like I'm doing in this blog post.