Category Archives: Current and Future

Part #5 How to start a successful (or failing) Blog in 2013-14

It’s now going on one year since I had the idea of starting the Droneflyers.com blog and web site. This post will bring readers up to date on the effort and also offer some additional tips and advice.

Statistics of Traffic (Readership)

First, a quick update on readership – a metric webmasters call “traffic”. I use two measurement services to study the traffic – one is google analytics and the other is quantcast. Both are free. In order to get the most accurate measurements, you need to place a piece of code which they give you onto your pages.

Our quantcast stats are public and can be found at:
https://www.quantcast.com/droneflyers.com

If you hit the “month” tab, you will see that we are up to as many as 100,000 pages being read per month. The growth has been fairly slow and steady – expect for a very strong uptick during the holiday season. This was due to interest in quadcopters for gifts AND the amazing amount of free publicity given to drones when Amazon ran their story about using them for future deliveries. Our site traffic doubled during the week following that story. I expect our traffic to settle down somewhat now that the holiday season is over, so rather than compare it to the previous month, I will be comparing (internally) to the same month the year before.

Google Analytics chart - click to enlarge

Google Analytics chart – click to enlarge

The basics of the chart are shown in the upward angle of the chart. We had about 10,000 page views in the month of Feb, 2013 – the first month I started this blog. In December, we had about 10X that many, and in the previous months 4-6X as many. Once again this reaffirms the wisdom of purchasing an existing (but, in this case, abandoned) blog which had some traffic – as opposed to starting from scratch. I don’t think Droneflyers would be doing nearly as well if we hadn’t spent a few bucks to get a baseline of traffic and articles.

Current Setup of Site

The original site was a blog with articles posted by one author. The current site is still following this basic format, however I added a forum section which allows others to login and post their reviews, comments and questions. The forum part of the site has not been really busy – but that’s OK – in many ways it serves our purpose of not being complicated. In terms of keeping the site going, here are some of the important points which contribute to it’s success:

1. A very focused and clear mission and subject – We are a site geared toward beginners, those getting started in the hobby. More experienced hobbyists have plenty of other sites to visit – there is almost unlimited technical material on drones online! However, there is not much for those getting started – so we are focusing on those who are in their first couple years of R/C (radio controlled) quadcopter experience.

I should note that one of the biggest mistakes I see made on the internet is the tendency to claim too much “real estate”. In my opinion, you will be much better off to be narrowly focused and do a good job on that piece.

2. A mature attitude and member “vibe” – since the site is about quadcopters for beginners, we don’t allow off-topic conversations, arguments and all the stuff which seems to ruin much of the internet these days.

3. A subject which is growing or underserved – this is an “either/or” proposition. Let me explain. My other site, hearth.com, is focused on a very tiny niche subject – mostly people who heat their homes with woodstoves and firewood. Yet it has millions of page views per month – because the subject is underserved (not a lot of independent info) on the internet.
The quadcopter (drone) site covers a quickly growing subject. These consumer drones are really quite new – the last two years has brought the real explosion in their use. Also, to repeat, by focusing on beginners we are chasing a bit of that underserved market.

4. Consistency – although I don’t spend a lot of time on new articles and content for the site, I do make sure that it does not appear or become abandoned. Maybe I’ll post some good pictures, links, a couple comments, etc – and a few other forum members do also. Maybe I will update an existing articles and/or some links. It’s important to not let a week or two go by without adding something to your ongoing blog or forum…

5. Not forcing the issue – I don’t suggest putting a bunch of new features on a blog or forum unless there is a clear use for them. KISS is the word (keep it simple)….better to have fewer features which are used more than to have too many and have them languish. Watch the statistics and only offer new features, forums, subjects and articles based on what people actually want and need.

Promoting and Advertising Updates

In the former installments of this series, I mentioned the use of google adwords and similar programs as a low-cost way to spread the word. In this update, I’ll review most of the ways you need to promote your blog – both free and low-cost….

Cost per click advertising – These are programs such as google adwords – Bing has an equivalent as do some other large sites (Yahoo!, etc.). – My blog, Droneflyers.com, is currently spending about $50-$60 per month in google adwords. This amount sends about 400 extra visitors to the site per month.

Twitter – I have to admit it. I have never been a big fan of Twitter as a consumer. There is just TMI (too much information) to follow! However, Twitter does create a decent platform for you to promote your new site and articles. It also establishes you as a “player” in the particular sector which you blog about. In fact, one company contact me via Twitter and sent me an expensive sports camera (free) to review! It is also a good way for you to find decent links, stories and happenings which relate to your subject – and perhaps post them or blog about them.

Facebook – Many internet sites would benefit from having a page on Facebook. However, most of your real content should be on your site (blog, forum, etc.) NOT on Facebook. Facebook also allows low-cost advertising – called “boosting your post”, while allows your page to quickly become popular. Our Facebook page has only been active for a month (as of this writing), but as you can see we have a lot of exposure and “likes”
https://www.facebook.com/droneflyers

Other Forums and Sites – can provide traffic to your new site for no cost. Take part in valid discussions elsewhere on the net. Some sites allow you to post links to your site (reviews, for instance). Even Amazon product reviews can steer people to your site!

Of course, the original advice always applies – that is “Content Is King”. Adding quality articles, posts, pictures, videos, link and other content to your site is the best way for the search engines to “bless” you….meaning more readership at little or no cost.

Show me the $$$

In some of the former posts I mentioned the potential revenue sources for your blog/site. However, there is little need to concern yourself with these until you have decent traffic on your site – realistically, until you have a couple thousand pages read per week you are unlikely to be able to “monetize” your site if you are a publisher. However, some of you may be in the business of E-commerce, that is…selling things directly from your web site. Your content may be a way of educating and informing the customer. In such a case, it’s possible that $$ can be gleamed from a smaller readership…assuming the readers are targeted. As an example, if you sell consulting services, it may be that one out of every 500 visitors to your site contacts you for paid advice.

My experience is mostly with web publishing – that is, sites which provide information as opposed to products and services. In my case, income can be made in these ways:

1. Ad programs such as google adsense allow you to make money from ads served by google.

2. Sponsors you obtain – in this case you have to find sponsors who are willing to pay you for banners, text links or other promotion on your site.

3. Affiliate links – these are the Amazon (and similar) programs where you can place product links on your site and get paid a small commission if your readers click on them and make a purchase.

4. Book sales, etc – I used my blog writings as the basis for a book – called “Getting Started with Hobby Quadcopters and Drones”. This is an e-book (paperback available also) which I self-published at a very low cost. The book is selling well.

Currently, I am making 70% + of my site income from Amazon affiliates, 20% from book sales (which may be unrelated to the site – they find the book on Amazon) and 5% from Google Adsense.

While the site is not making enough for a full-time living, it is doing very well and is more than paying for my pursuit of this hobby and my investment of time and money. If I was able to invest more time into the effort it’s likely that it could provide 2X or 3X the current income, which would bring it up close to being a “full time job” in terms of $$.

In closing, I hope these posts provide some hints for YOU to succeed on the web.

Craig

Part #4 How to start a successful (or failing) Blog in 2013!

Part #3 is here – and other others are linked from there!

Ok, so enough time has gone by now that a basic judgement can be made as to whether the new blog/forum is (or could be!) a successful venture. As you may remember, I purchased an abandoned blog appox 4 months ago, in late January, 2013.

I have spent some money and quite a bit of time adding content and doing various forms of promotion – in fact, the official Grand Opening is NOW, during which we are giving away various prizes along with copies of a free quadcopter ebook which I am working on.

I’m pleased to note that our traffic (visitors to the site) is WAY up – in addition, the site is actually making some money, although this is not the current intention. It was curiosity, they say, which killed the cat and I couldn’t help but throw some ads and other tests onto the site to see if it would be possible to someday “monetize” it.

Visitors for Droneflyers.com by week in 2013 - Click to Enlarge

Visitors for Droneflyers.com by week in 2013 – Click to Enlarge

Some comments on the chart:
The basics show an increase in page views from less than 1,000 per week to over 7,000. The actual statistics are even better, since I have added a forum to the site which does not have it’s statistics measured in this chart.

Your mileage may vary, but in a very general sense, crossing over the 1,000 page views per day seems to where a site can be economically feasible. Of course, monetary income is only one possible reason (and often one of the lesser) for having a blog or a web site, but it’s nice to get some of the costs covered and make a bit of side income. In my case – since I am investing a couple grand in this venture – it will be satisfying to see a bit of payback eventually come in.

Income vs. Expenses

Based on the current traffic, a site such as this could easily make $2-300 per month in income…and possibly more if the owner spent some time acquiring sponsors and tuning the site. Such a site would pay off the initial monetary investment within the first year or so, and then could provide a positive cash flow. The ongoing costs once all my giveaways, etc. are done with will be less than $40 per month. This includes a decent web host (server) and the costs associated with the forum software, add-ons an upgrades.

Of course, good blogs and web sites require a substantial investment in time and talent also. If I billed myself by the hour, I’d have been broke long ago!

Where the Money comes from?

Most of my previous experience has been with two common forms of selling ads:
1. Private sponsors – this means signing up vendors who might want to put their products or message in front of your sites’ readers.
2. Google Adsense – this involves putting a small piece of code on your site and becoming a partner with google in serving ads (from googles clients).

A third option which I have tried before with poor results involves referring blog visitors to Amazon.com for purchases, and receiving a small fee from Amazon for doing so. In contrast to my former experience, the Amazon links I have on the droneflyers blog are doing quite well.

Yet another option would be to open some kind of a web store and sell related products yourself – something which would probably bring in the largest revenue of any of these options. However, running a physical business requires more time and has additional responsibilities tied to it.

In the case of my new hobby site, it’s my guess that referrals to Amazon along with some adsense will be the best way to create income with little hassle. However, independent (directly contacted and sold) sponsors may be willing to pay higher rates…just that I am not that ambitious at the moment!

I’m going to consider this the final installment to this series – as the site and blog are officially underway. Thanks for reading and I hope you were able to pick up some tidbits of information to make your new blog successful.

Craig

Part #2 How to start a successful (or failing) Blog in 2013!

As you may remember from Part #1, I decided to go ahead and start the Blog on Quadcopters (consumer drones) and started looking for domain names and/or possibly an existing site I could purchase and expand.

My list of possible (available) domain names is shown below….

dronerise.com
clubdrone.com
dronecamp.com
astrodrone.com
dronemeet.com
dronebooth.com
dronecafe.com
dronedeal.com
dronenuts.com
dronetopia.com
dronecrazy.com
dronehut.com
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Part #1 How to start a successful (or failing) Blog in 2013!

As some may know, I have run a successful web site (hearth.com) since 1995. We have a very active forum community and many other features, but most importantly a good community of helpful members who spend their time helping others. This has resulted in MILLIONS of pages being read each month as well as a community which mostly takes care of itself.

When I started Hearth.com the internet was like the wild west – very little “land” had been claimed, and a decent site on ANY subject had a very good chance of success if the basics were in place. However, now that anyone can – and millions do – start web sites, I think it would be a LOT harder to succeed when starting from scratch.

As an experiment, I am doing just that…and I will blog here on the effort so that others can learn from my failures and successes.
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How I become familiar with computers and then a Webmaster!

How I become a Webmaster and started Hearth.com

For those who are unfamiliar, I am the founder and publisher of Hearth.com, a popular web site about wood stoves and related appliances which has been active since 1995.

When I first decided to start this informational hearth site, it was my goal to have 10,000 readers per month…now we have more than that number in ONE DAY. Stats for Fall, 2011, show 460,000 visitors in November alone, reading over 3 MILLION pages!

In fact, Hearth.com is the most read stove and fireplace publication in the world and perhaps the only independent source of hearth information on the internet or in print!

Let’s turn on the wayback machine and discover how Hearth.com came to be.
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More about Craig – childhood

I was born in Philadelphia in November of 1953 – a baby boomer, for certain, albeit on the younger end of that generation. Although many periods in history are full of upheaval and change, there is something unique about the speed and severity of the changes which started to occur as I entered primary school. The sequence of events are fairly well known, but to see them close at hand as a growing child was quite alarming. Continue reading

Steve Jobs, Apple and the Singularity

I’m sorry to hear of Steve Jobs leaving Apple, although very few human beings have had as good a run as he.

His illness and eventual passing brings to mind the question of the Singularity, that being the idea that computing power is now close to being able to contain consciousness offloaded from the human brain. Those not familiar with the topic should check out these links –
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singularitarianism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Singularity_Is_Near
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Steve Jobs on Life and Death

I’m a big fan of Apple Computer and Steve Jobs since I purchased my first mac in 1984. There is something special about people who follow their dreams – at seemingly any cost! Despite the pundits, his company has now grown to be the worlds largest (market cap) and most valuable brand – a serious accomplishment!

I think all of us would be wise to read the following passage from a commencement speech he gave in 2005. It regards deaths – but, actually, refers more to life – specifically how to live it.

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“My third story is about death. Continue reading

Take it Easy, you’ll be ahead of the game.

(note – written MANY years ago – approx 1992)

Take it from me–the original type “A” personality. It pays to keep yourself rested and healthy. I worked 60 to 70 hours a week for many years while I started my businesses. Yes, I enjoyed it, but this stress took it’s toll.

At around age 35, my doctor told me he’d be putting me on medicine for high blood pressure. I casually asked him how long I would have to take it and he answered “the rest of your life”. Well, that got me thinking ! It’s easy to pretend that we are invincible, but you can’t fool Mother Nature. If you are far out of balance, something will go wrong! In my own case, it’s a long story that’s not over yet.
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