Release the hounds!
As I mentioned in my previous post, I bought a blog. Now that I purchased it, what’s next? I’ll dive into my plans to double the revenue in 12 months.
Let me first highlight what areas I think need improvement:
- Email list
I am summarizing my plan here and will create future follow-up blog posts that will document each step in much detail.
Most affiliate blogs generate traffic from organic search. This blog is no different. The previous blogger dabbled in some paid traffic but SEO is the blog’s bread and butter.
As I mentioned in my previous article, the blog lost a lot of its rankings from a few years ago, but it has stabilized. My goal is to incrementally make improvements to the blog. SEO is a long game. Unlike other forms of traffic, it takes approximately 6-12 months before your actions see major improvements. Think of it like a bank account that you make monthly deposits to. You’ll be able to live off the interest from that SEO work you do today.
It’s interesting with the many other bloggers I’ve worked with in the past. Their content typically contains non-relevant articles in the niche they are pursuing. It is a very common mistake, even for what I consider some experts.
Fortunately, the previous owner created almost all of the content is on topic. He did not veer too much off of the niches he was pursuing. This makes it a much easier task for me to improve the blog.
The blog has a Domain Rating of 71 and over 2,000 unique domains pointing to the blog. This isn’t something you can quickly replicate in a few months. Especially in today’s world where many bloggers don’t give out ‘do follow’ backlinks.
Many of the backlinks are legit and relevant to the niche. But with Google today, having backlinks isn’t enough.
I’ve proven this repeatedly with the previous blog I owned Investor Junkie. It’s possible to rank for low to medium competitive keywords with zero backlinks. The reason I was able to do this was because of other factors than backlinks. First and foremost are you an authority in that niche?
If you’ve established E-A-T, you are much more likely to rank for an article on that topic.
It’s a given you must have good content, but graphic design and user experience count a lot. You need to present to visitors (and Google) you are adding value so they can make an intelligent decision in picking the products you review.
With SEO, I focus on what I can control first. Unless I outright pay for backlinks, it’s hard to control who points to your blog. So I clean up my own house (internal linking, content, user experience, etc.) to make it as presentable as possible first.
Some great backlinks will come naturally if you create and present content in a helpful way. You want to create such a great user experience that people want to link to your content.
The first order of business is helping visitors better find what they are looking for.
The current menu structure is horrible and confusing. There were sections nested 4 layers deep. There’s a lot of content (almost 400 articles) but it is very hard to find what you were looking for.
As part of the update will better categorize and dramatically improve the menu structure.
I prefer top-heavy menu navigation to bubble up content that previously was hidden deep within the site and rarely found. It not only helps with a better user experience but Google typically rewards this type of site with better SEO rankings as well.
Web hosting typically is broken into these types of hosting services:
- VPS and Cloud
- Domain Registration
- Website Builders
- eCommerce Platforms
The new menu structure now looks like this:
I haven’t completely sorted things out with the menu organization yet. The problem is some services like Bluehost not only have shared hosting, but offer WordPress, and VPS hosting. At some point, I’ll have to work out companies with multiple product offerings and reviews.
There is also content, like VPNs, I’ll more likely remove from the site. It doesn’t fit my long terms branding of the site.
Fixing SEO Intent
Getting SEO intent is critical. In my research so far, I’ve found review articles with longer-tailed keywords. Nothing wrong with this in itself, but Ahrefs showed a shorter version of the keyword has the same exact intent.
Let me show you one example: ‘bluehost hosting review‘ compared to ‘bluehost review‘.
If I pull up my handy-dandy Ahrefs tool, you’ll see the keyword difficulty is about the same yet, the volume for ‘bluehost review‘ is much greater.
I suspected the intent for the two keywords is in fact the same. But how do you prove this? You can manually check Google’s SERP, but there’s a faster way.
I used Ahrefs’ Traffic Share by Page feature to prove if this was true.
Sure enough, the search results contain the exact same web pages (though the exact ranking order might be different).
Previously the article written used as the URL, <h1> title and <title> tag ‘Bluehost Hosting Review’. Context certainly matters, especially after Google’s BERT update.
“Dog bites man” has the same words as “man bites dog” but the context is obviously much different. BERT understands much more about what a sentence is trying to convey. So it’s not enough just to have the keywords in your URL, <h1> and <title> tags but in the right order.
The proximity of other words and the order of words count with BERT.
So ‘hosting‘ ‘web hosting‘, or ‘web hosting‘ keywords can help with relevancy for a review about Bluehost, but it shouldn’t disrupt the fact that the most common search will be ‘bluehost review‘ sans ‘hosting‘. You can place the secondary keywords further down in the title. Perhaps the new title should be ‘Bluehost Review – Are They A Good Web Host?’
As a side note, the site’s Bluehost review didn’t rank well for either keyword. This is for other reasons that have nothing to do with intent but the content itself.
What Improvements Do I Plan On Making?
- Technical SEO audit
- Internal redirections
- External redirections
- Removing redirections
- Fixing 404 errors
- Site categeorization
- Better menu structure
- Site schema
- Headlines and SERP
- URL structure
- Internal linking
I’ve purposely left out building more backlinks in the list. But will cover this later. There are many backlinking strategy options.
The content, while good, still needs a lot of improvement.
The first focus is improving the existing content.
I plan on following the basics in my product review blog template. There are content gaps in the reviews, that if improved, will make the reviews more comprehensive.
Yes, reviews need to follow a specific format, but repeating the content itself for each review is a bad idea. Not only for SEO reasons but also for poor user experience. As a reader of a blog, how would you feel when you see the exact same content on each page with only a few words changed?.
Another beef of mine is external links or affiliate links.
My general rule is: if the link is external, open it up in a new browser tab. If you open to a new tab, it keeps your site still seen where they don’t forget about your brand.
Finally, I have hired my former editor at Investor Junkie and she’ll be helping me with a lot of this work. She’s very familiar with my style and works quickly on making improvements.
What Improvements Do I Plan On Making?
- Updating outdated content with features and pricing that are no long accurate
- Replacing Images are of screenshots with a outdated logo or page layout.
- Fix grammar and spelling mistakes on many pages.
- Make sure external and affiliate links open up to a new web browser tab.
- Replace some external linking with some new internal articles.
- Update some repeated content on various review and comparisions pages
- Create new articles to fill in content gaps
- Delete content no longer relaveant to the niches I’m targeting.
I’m very much a fan of good branding and creating a good user experience. You have only 5 seconds to create a good impression. So you must put your best foot forward in your presentation.
The blog is using Genesis framework for WordPress. I’m very much a fan of this theme and recommend using it.
The theme is easy to work with, very SEO friendly and many designers work with it. Unfortunately, the theme used for the blog is the most generic Genesis theme you could possibly find.
I do plan on replacing the theme with this blog’s theme. If my goal is to merge the content with this blog, I’ll use a version of this theme. If not, then I’ll have a custom-developed theme for the site.
For now, I’m just making minor usability improvements to the existing theme. Since the force first is about improving the content and SEO. The design will be improved later in the project.
What Improvements Do I Plan On Making?
- As a stop-gap, make the existing theme easier to read
- Replace existing Genesis theme with their this theme or a new custom design
- Change text logo with a graphic one
The blog currently has a mailing list with MailChimp. It has around 1,000 subscribers. There are two email automations.
Personally, I’m not a fan of MailChimp for a bunch of reasons. At some point will move the mailing list to ActiveCampaign.
In my opinion with most affiliate blogs, email marketing is an underutilized marketing method. I’ve found most affiliates focus just on SEO traffic and do little to nothing with paid traffic and an email list.
An email list, besides the blog itself, is one of the few channels you have control over. You don’t own social media and while you should be using it, you shouldn’t rely on it as your sole source of traffic.
I’ll need to work on the email list and create some other method to attract repeat visitors back to the site. This is something I plan on working on but don’t have all of the details sorted out yet.
What Improvements Do I Plan On Making?
- Replace MailChimp with ActiveCampaign
- Create better lead-gen forms and offers
- Create new automations to replace the existing automations
Most affiliate marketers are horrible with this part of blogging. I’ve found most bloggers focus on just the writing part, after all, it’s a blog, right? In my opinion, that’s a big mistake.
Content is a commodity.
It’s something that’s easily replicable. Competing blogs can easily perform competitive research because it’s something everyone has access to. They can copy your content or even worse improve on what you’ve written.
Blog content is an arms race to the bottom.
Don’t get me wrong, creating good content is still important. But when your competitors are literally one click away, I feel it’s critical to creating a business moat by using technology.
In my previous blog Investor Junkie, we had all sorts of tech for tracking conversions and populating data throughout the site. My focus was on creating functionality on the blog that facilities a better user experience.
Like with a ride at Disney World, the tech is hidden from public view. All they saw was the magic.
Our tech made it much harder for competing bloggers to replicate what we built. From this, we yielded much higher conversion rates and had a skeleton staff than competing blogs.
The net result, for the amount of traffic that came in, we blew the doors off of other blogs. I can’t disclose my revenue per visitor (because of my NDA) for Investor Junkie, but I can say it was significantly higher than many competing blogs.
It was commented by the merchants, the quality of the customers we sent their way was much superior. This allowed us to increase our CPA compared to other bloggers.
Unlike ad banners that focus on more traffic to generate more revenue, in affiliate marketing, you get paid only if a person signs up.
We made everyone very happy with the transaction — The visitor, the merchant, and most importantly us the blogger.
You can’t improve what you don’t measure.
For most bloggers, the affiliate marketing tech stack is almost always using Pretty Links and calling it a day. This blog was no different.
This makes it almost impossible to track conversions.
Yes it’s great you got a conversion, but you don’t know from where. Most affiliate marketers are happy enough to get a commission check for 5 conversions in one month.
But not me.
My goal, when I entered affiliate marketing, was to have the same analytic data available when selling your own products online. If attribution is key with an online store, why should it be no different with affiliate marketing?
With Investor Junkie, this lead me down a path of using the affiliate link management tool ClickMeter. While ClickMeter is good, I found it (and all competing products) didn’t have all of the functionality I needed. Which lead me to extend their software. I wanted to make it easy to track conversions and the source of those conversions.
When I sold my previous blog, the new owners didn’t value this tech I created. I, therefore, wanted to make sure it was excluded from this sale. I wanted to reuse this technology and eventually sell it to others.
I have now turned it into a product I sell called: Affiliate Marketing Automated.
The very first thing I’ll do on this blog is to remove the existing affiliate WordPress plugin and add my tracking software.
In addition, I’ll add the analytics software Woopra as well. To put it simply, Google Analytics is a toy in comparison.
Woopra is a core component of my tech stack. While Google Analytics is the gold standard in analytics, it frankly sucks. My complaints are many but the primary one is it’s a silo of analytic data.
This means you have analytics for your web traffic, analytics for your email list, analytics for affiliate conversions, but none of them talk to each other. It doesn’t show the full picture or multiple touchpoints that lead to an affiliate conversion. Woopra can do this and much more!
Out of the box, Woopra has some integrations but all of the reporting must be created once the data is in their system:
I’ll be able to track and create reports such as:
- Centralized place for net affiliate revenue. No need to visit every affiliate system
- The pages that generate the most revenue (what I call the “money” pages for the blog)
- Conversion rates per merchant on a specific page
- Overall conversion rates per merchant and compare to other merchants in that vertical
- Paid traffic conversion reports
Most bloggers, when a product change occurs they must manually update their blog posts. This usually means not just one bog post but typically many. Often, many other posts are missed.
This can be an affiliate compliance nightmare, but more importantly, looks bad for your brand.
To me, it looks bad when visiting a blog and seeing outdated content. Worse yet, reading one article on a blog stating one thing and another post on that very same blog see them state something else.
Unlike many website builders, WordPress can be customized to your heart’s content. This means you can create all sorts of custom functionality for your WordPress blog.
A core way to extend WordPress is using the invaluable plugin Advanced Custom Fields.
It’s a plugin that allows you to attach metadata to each blog post.
With custom WordPress development, you can display this information anywhere on your blog. This is also what I used on the previous blog and will do the same for this new blog.
It will allow me to create product reviews, comparisons charts, and summary boxes throughout the blog and update content with just one click. This will require a few months of development but long term it will pay off in spades.
What Improvements Do I Plan On Making?
I plan on improving two aspects of the tech:
- Swap links to use ClickMeter
- Install Woopra
- Track conversions using my software Affiliate Marketing Automated
- Store and display product data from WordPress’ metadata
- Create custom widgets to display the information in various parts of the blog
I’m not a fan of the existing domain name used for the brand. If my goal is to be a premier web hosting review and comparison service this is something I’ll need to improve.
Right now, my plan is to merge the content onto this very blog and my personal brand. Though I want to make sure I run through all of the changes I’ve previously mentioned first. This means at least 6 months to maybe a year out before I make this change.
Not only for testing purposes but not 100% sure yet on this idea.
I’m not completely settled I want to expand my personal brand. Obviously, I have over 20 years of experience in web hosting, so it is a good fit for me. Though that means I need to speak on this topic and pretty much write (or ghostwrite) every review on the site.
I may change my mind to lean more towards a brand separate from myself. I have a decent domain name HostASite.com that may be a perfect fit for this niche. I’m also scouting for other possible domains to squat on as well.
The biggest opportunity for improvement is with the SEO and the content itself. Only just a few years ago, the blog generated almost $300k in a year. The income in this niche is there, the problem with the blog is the loss of traffic. This makes my target of doubling the blog’s income in 12 months a very real possibility.
As of this writing, I have full control of the blog and is hosted by me. I’ve made quite a few structural changes outlined here already and resubmitted the blog to Google Search Console.
Now the fun begins. Next up are the SEO improvements I plan on making.