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

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