Trying Old Style Traffic Generation

Whilst most of the ideas I’m experimenting with on this blog are “new”, there are a few traffic ideas from when I used to blog that I’ll be digging up and here’s one.

Expired domains
This is when a website owner for whatever reason does not renew their domain name. This can be because they simply forget and the domain name ‘elapses’, or because they have lost interest in the domain and decide to not bother with the renewal.

However, if that domain name has previously had a large volume of traffic that traffic might still be trying to find the site. Whether that’s search engine listings, links in forums and blog comments or whatever, people will still be accessing the domain.

And where traffic is arriving to an old site it can be redirected to a new site. I suppose it could be looked at as traffic recycling – where traffic is no longer needed moving it to where it can be reused!

The Skills Involved Can Be Beyond Most Of Us

However, buying expired domains requires skill and experience. It’s not something that everyone can easily try and if you buy an exceptional domain the traffic could be huge – not that many blogs would complain at that.

Instead, it is possible to go to websites such as GrowTraffic.com, who can buy these domain names and then direct the visitors that are still trying to find the websites at your site instead.

Genuine Traffic Or Not?

Does it work? Well it’s an idea that has been around for man years.I did resell such traffic myself many years ago (probably about 8 years ago), so it’s not a new idea and if it has kept going that long then there must be a demand for the service.

So I’m giving it a go with the GrowTraffic.com service. With a promise of thousands of visitors over the next month I’ll keep an eye on what happens with not just the hit count, but also looking at what happens with regards Adsense and newsletter subscribers. Either or both of these increasing with the traffic would indicate that the quality of traffic is good and the service is sending genuine visitors who might be interested in the site.

Call back in December to see more – follow on Twitter or the newsletter to remember. If you have experience with  GrowTraffic.com or any other similar service then please do drop me a comment below.

Is StumbleUpon Traffic Work The Effort?

Recently I’ve been reading a lot about how using StumbleUpon can really help your blog traffic. But, is it worth it? Should you get excited when a post gets “Stumbled” a lot or just forget about it?

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How StumbleUpon Works

It took me a while before I investigated StumbleUpon and then it was after reading various headlines about how it can really increase traffic. But there’s a big problem about using it for traffic – people aren’t sure that you can.

There’s a line of thought that says you can’t submit your own content, another that says you can, just not a lot and then another that doesn’t really care. And after a quick look through their Terms, I can’t see anything wrong in submitting your own content.

However, is there a point? StumbleUpon works by the more people that like a certain post the more people that it is shown to. That’s great once you start to “go viral” and get lots of views, but do many posts?

My Hours Of Stumbling…

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 00.12.26I’ve spent a lot of time recently browsing through other posts on their app. I sit there and quickly go through dozens of posts. A quick glance and I decide whether or not I want to read the page. Mostly it falls into the “not” category.

However, it’s a good way of passing a few minutes. And then one day I realised the problem as I sat there, swiping new posts across in time to the ticking of the clock behind me.

My average view time per page was 1 second. Exactly one second probably as I’d fallen into time with the clock. However every one of these views were counting towards my total “Stumbles”. I sat there for 5 minutes, spent up to 30 seconds on each of 2 sites and in the rest of the time I’d stumbled over 200 sites.

That means that 200 blog owners are seeing 1 more visitor to their site. But was it worth it?

What This Means To Your Website Stats

analyticsI started to look at my own website and cross check the stats. The number of times my previous post was “Stumbled” was about 50% higher than the figure I was seeing for visitors on Google Analytics. So I’m guessing that about a third of the people “Stumbling” the post didn’t wait longer than it took for the title to load.

Looking into it further, out of those that visited the site, how long were they there for? The first few seemed to be on the site for a few seconds, but by day 2 of people Stumbling the site (and this was when the figures really grew) the average time on site from Google Analytics was 0:01. Looking at the raw server logs I even found the same person (IP Address) had viewed the post twice in 2 seconds. Probably missed something that was interesting and swiped back through my post. Or maybe swiped back to my post!

The post didn’t go viral and so didn’t produce huge amounts of traffic, but how many posts do?

What else can we measure success by? Google Adsense actually reported even lower page views than Google Analytics with no clicks on an advert at all from that post. This post was unusual in that it has an affiliate link (only the second post to have such links in this blog) to a book about free stock image libraries. That link showed 3 clicks on  Friday, so when traffic went wild on the second Saturday I was hopeful.

So I eagerly checked the statistics on Sunday morning – zero clicks. Looking back through the raw logs again the clicks had come from direct and other visitors, not those arriving through StumbleUpon. Likewise, even though StumbleUpon created the blog’s 2 busiest traffic days ever (and 54% of the traffic for those 2 days), no new subscribers.

It Probably Works, But Not Every Time

Maybe it’s a tool that you can use to support a successful blog where there are loads of people already sharing on social media so a popular post might get liked by many readers and read by millions, but for a start up blog and one without that necessary core of sharing readers I think that the volumes of traffic that might be produced are so low that they really aren’t going to produce that many genuine readers.

Put a Stumble button on your blog to let people like your post, but I don’t think it’s anything that a site owner should be stressed over.

If you have any better experiences than mine or know of a trick or two I’m missing leave a comment. Or, read the previous post and Stumble it and see if it can be revived!

Over the next week I still have a few ideas that I’ve yet to try out on this blog for new traffic so do take the time to follow the blog – Twitter or the newsletter, whichever you find easiest. Hopefully we’ll be back soon with a method that generates huge volumes of traffic!

Image Copyright And Why You Could Be Next To Be Sued

I have worked as a web developer since 2004 and in that time I have come across the same story many times. Just this week 2 clients have tried to land themselves in the same trap and it continues. And it’s an expensive mistake when you are caught out, potentially landing you with a court summons and a bill for thousands of pounds or dollars.

imagetheftThe issue is images. Photographs, drawings or whatever. Choose a good few images and you can really make your site work well for you. Choose bad ones and it looks dreadful. What do you do?

Many people then resort to Google Images. A quick look for  their keyword in Google Images usually turns up dozens of images. Open one and it is easily saved. Bingo, job done these people think.

What exactly is wrong with Google Images for website images?

But stop there. Where did those images come from originally? If that site took the image themselves then they own the copyright for the image. However, if that site, designer or owner paid for the image from a stock photo library then it is likely that someone else owns the copyright and that stock photo library will be on the case, making sure that all uses of their images are licensed.

You can’t get around it. Simply resizing the image, adding a colour fade, merging it in with another image or whatever doesn’t make it your original copyright. If you use an image that someone else has produced it is their copyright. It is then up to them if they allow you to use the image for free.

The safest option is the honest option

The safest way to get around it is to always use stock libraries. There are loads about and with these they keep a record of what you have downloaded and if there’s a problem with the images in the future (for example someone has uploaded copyrighted content) then they deal with it for you.

However, this can be extremely expensive. Some paid stock libraries start off from a couple of dollars per download whilst some can start off at $50. If you need a lot of images, maybe on a daily basis, then this becomes prohibitive.

There are also the free options

There are a lot of free stock libraries out there too. These can be great to use but you must be careful on how you use them. Some are free only to certain types of uses or sites. e.g. if you are a hobby blogger the images are free, but if you are a commercial blogger then they are not.

Also, there’s the issue of ‘attribution’. Here you have to link back to the library in return for the free access to the image. Again it varies from library to library and usage to usage.

Royalty free Verses Free

You have to be very careful searching for ‘free’ images. For example, I’ve just tried ‘free stock photos’ and the 4th result is iStockPhoto – which is a paid directory. What they are offering is not free images but royalty free images. You pay to download them but then don’t have to pay every time that you use them.

It’s a small but subtle difference in the phrase that can mean the difference between a genuinely free image and a costly mistake. And “I didn’t realise” is not a defence. This is something that you are expected to know in the eyes of the libraries. Use their images by mistake and you are in trouble. And I know of people who have received these costly letters.

Finding free libraries

But these free libraries can be very useful, especially to new bloggers. How do you find them? There are directories and lists out there, but there is also a book available by Lysa Wylds (link to her website, not the book) which is called The Ultimate Guide To Free Stock Photos (affiliate link). If you are stuck looking for photos then this 58 page should have some ideas of libraries to look in!

Don’t risk it, just don’t risk it!

But don’t risk downloading images from Google Images. Someone somewhere owns the copyright and if, or probably when, they catch up with you there will be a nasty letter arriving addressed to you with a demand for a lot of cash. It’s not worth the risk.

For the record!

Images on this page sourced from iStockPhoto.com & freevector.com

Why SEO Is Not Going To Work For Your New Blog

Let’s face it. If you are starting a new blog then Search Engine Optimisation is never going to work for you. Never. If you try it you’re going to spend a lot of time getting frustrated and going nowhere and wrecking your blog. You are better off forgetting the search engines and just looking after your target audience. And here’s why!

problemswithseoHow can I say that? Well several years ago I had a site that was well positioned for some keywords and earned me over £2,000 / month in Google Adsense income, plus a lot in affiliate revenue. However, it was a static site. If I spent an hour per week working on that site to add a new affiliate link or two I’d done a lot of work on it. I spent longer browsing the Adsense reports than I spent developing the site.

I was lucky. I’d flucked two keywords – Compare Mortgage Rates (1st on Google) and Mortgage Rates (3rd on Google). It was a breeze. I had a good income whilst I built the rest of my business.

All Good Things Come To An End

adsensecrashThen one day I was hit by a Google penalty. I’ve no idea what, probably poor links or a manual penalty because the site was not full of relevant content, but the best I could then do was page 7. This meant no traffic and as you can see from the graph a complete crash in income.

And that’s a huge problem with SEO. It’s a risk. You put loads of effort into getting it “right” and are then at risk of being dropped.

But, how do you get it right?

Be honest. What keywords are you hoping to perform well with? You have a couple of choices.

shortvslongtail

You our could choose ‘long tail’ keywords that no-one else is optimising for. But there’s a reason that they aren’t competitive – there’s not that many people search for them.

So instead you could look at high volume keywords. The sort that everyone in your niche is hoping to be top for. Those that get thousands of daily hits. But these require loads of work to rank well now and as much work going forward to maintain the ranking.

If you do decide on some keywords then you are going to obsess. You are going to write posts about the keywords and maybe stuff them with too many repeats if the words. You aren’t writing for an audience, you are writing for a search engine’s robot.

SEO Causes You To Focus On Keywords, Not Quality

seoupqualitydown

Post quality can take a dive as you target what you think search engines want to see. Reader satisfaction goes out of the window. All you are interested in is where is that post ramked.

You start to write other posts that link to your ‘optimised’ post just to include the search terms in the link. You start blog commenting and article writing not for traffic, but just for links.

You reduce the quality of your blog just to do what you think the search engines want you to do. Yet they want you writing for your readers, not optimising your site.

Then there’s the act of optimising the core code of a website for search  engines  some will try to truck the robots by stuffing titles, headers, alt tags and more with keywords. Google is watching for this.

Others trying to affect the structure of the site for artificial reasons. But search engines are looking for sites that work well on any browser, whether it be mibile or desktop, and no matter how you are accessing it. whether you are fully fit or disabled you should be able to enjoy the site

What search engines want is for us to pretend they are not there and to produce the best unique cintent we are able to produce and make it available to everyone. They want us looking after the real world, not optimising our sites.

Should by fluke you stumble upon the magic formula for the page then it’s a great feeling. But, for how long? Will it be a day, a week or a month before everything changes and you are left languishing on page 7, where there is absolutely no traffic?

I know the feeling all to well. Been there, done it and suffered. Concentrate on building long term traffic plans so that you don’t rely in a source that you have no control over.

If SEO does happen to work for you then feel proud that it’s happ by natural methods and the likely payback is longevity.

But don’t give into your doubts. SEO won’t work. Build a quality site and watch the traffic reward you.

What Is The Best Blogging Platform?

The best blog platform...If you are wanting to set up a brand new blog then what is the best blogging platform to get started with? In most cases there is only one answer and almost 75,000,000 sites agree!

Look At The Statistics

With almost 75,000,000 users around the world WordPress certainly has a lot of users. And because of the way that it works these sites aren’t all just basic blogs.

Whilst that is a lot, other sites are also prolific. You could try Tumblr or even Twitter, but these are micro blogging rather than full blogging. Google’s Blogger does have a lot of users, however they don’t reveal any statistics.

Hosted or Self Hosted?

Here are two words that you will come across when setting up a blog and they are important to understand. Both are quite different.

Hosted – this is the simplest for of blogging, where the blog provider “hosts” the site for you. Usually they provide a domain name, although there is also the ability to use your own, along with all of the storage space that you will require. Software updates to the core of the blog are also usually handled by them.

Self Hosted – this is where you are responsible for providing the hosting. You will buy space and a domain name and install the blog. A lot of providers make this a lot easier than it once was with “one click” installs, thus avoiding the need for you to get into the realms of databases and FTP.

Which Is The Best Hosting Type?

So, out of these 2 options, which is the best? In my view Self Hosted is best. I like to be in control and to have a domain name that matches what I am blogging about.

However, if you are new to blogging the maybe the Hosted version is easier for you to set up with. However, how about a platform that allows you to move from one method to the other?

How Does WordPress Fit Into This?

To me, and about 75 million blogs, WordPress is undoubtedly the best blogging platform.you can select. You can use it either as Hosted or Self Hosted, with a roughly even split between the 2 for WordPress sites.

Both versions are totally free and there are thousands of add ons that you can employ, which is what adds loads of value to the system. Excellent free designs, which are also mobile friendly, can be installed with just a few clicks and extras, called Plugins, are available for almost any extra features you might need.

The Exception That Makes The Rule

Any good rule has its exceptions and this is true here. In a few circumstances there are specialist platforms that are even better. For example, if you are a runner training for an event, then networks such as Real Buzz have the huge advantage of sharing your blog with other runners. Instant built in readers!

And for many other specialist niches there are also relevant tools to use there.But at the end of the day I think that the self hosted version of WordPress wins the day for me.

 

WordPress Blog Security Best Practices

Whilst WordPress is a brilliant tool for blogging, it’s success is also one of it’s greatest weaknesses. It is used in so many sites that it is a big target for hackers, so if you are using WordPress you must take additional steps to make your site more secure. Here’s a good few security best practices to get you started!

1) Always update to the latest version of WordPress and Plugins

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WordPress frequently release security updates – whenever there’s a problem found they will try to patch it as soon as practical. Likewise, plugins and themes that you use can be found to be vulnerable to hackers and these will be updated when needed.

So if you see that little red box there warning you of updates in need of installation, don take a few minutes to check what needs updating and do the update. It could just be the update that gives you a bit more protection.

2) Delete unused plugins

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If plugins and themes can be vulnerable to attack then don’t leave them hanging around! If you are not using them then delete them. This applies to any plugins that might be installed that are deactivated and also to any that are active but are there just because you haven’t thought about them.

If they once did a job and are not really needed now, get rid of them. Doing so might also speed up your blog a bit!

3) Review what plugins and themes you install

Any developer can distribute plugins and themes and you don’t really know who they are nor if they have any other intentions. Why are so many plugins and themes released for free?

In nearly all cases it’s because there’s an upgrade to a paid version and with some themes they are hoping for a few useful links back to their own sites (not so useful with recent Google updates). But there will always be that minority of people who want something else.

So before downloading a plugin or theme it is good practice to make sure that you read a few reviews, check the download figures and convince yourself it really is a safe product to use. After all, you are potentially allowing the developer access to your entire blog!

4) Protect your login form

If a hacker takes an interest in your blog, and you don’t need to be a popular blog for this to happen (aged just 5 weeks old and with 1 or 2 visitors a day a hacker took a strong interest in this blog) they might try brute force attempts to gain access to your admin system.

This involves them using a robot (computer) to try to login using a variety of passwords. They can try an unbelievable number of passwords in a very short time. However, there is a flaw in this process in that they (usually) always use the same IP address for these attempts.

So I like to protect my logon form with Limit Login Attempts by Johan Eefeldt. If it detects a number of failed attempts in a short time it blocks the IP address. And if after the block there are more attempts it will block the IP address for longer. You can see how many times it has protected my site recently!

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5) Don’t use Admin or Administrator

WordPress used to use the default user of Admin all of the time, but has tightened up it’s security by not doing so. If you have been using WordPress for years, or are just feeling a little short on imagination, do not use with of these user names on your blog.

You can see from the small part of the screen grab above that all of the attempts to get into my blog have used one or the other of these 2 user names. So by using something different you are ensuring that any hackers don’t just need to guess your password, they also need to guess your user name.

If you are using an obvious User name then sign on now, go to Users and create a new administrator id that’s more secret (see the tip first though). Then within users select the Admin user and then change its role to subscriber. Better still, if you can delete the Admin id and move the posts to your new user, but downgrading Admin to a subscriber should prevent many problems.

6) Don’t display your login name as post author

Do you display your author name after posts? Do you know if you do? If you are avoiding using ‘Admin’ then don’t give away your real username by displaying it at the end of posts! Click on Users and then your username and you see the screen below.

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The Username is the one you sign on as. Set something different in the Nickname and then set Display name publicly as the Nickname.

7) Make backups of the database

And if it all goes wrong then you are going to need backups. There are plenty of plugins to choose from that can regularly backup your blog for you. I use one that stores the backups on the server and also emails me a copy of the backup files.

To prevent this from cluttering up my email I’ve created a large standalone email box just to receive the backups. But if you do this keep an eye on the box to ensure backups are arriving and that it’s not become full!

 

How Often Should I Be Posting To My Blog?

How often should you be posting to your blog? The advice varies widely from one extreme to the other. Recently I looked at how often some bloggers are posting so here I put the facts before you so you can decide for yourself.

Some writers posting to their blogs 5 days per week claim that they have then seen massive traffic jumps by increasing to posting 6 days per week. Some say that they have taken this further and are posting a couple of times per day and seeing best results off that.

Then you can find very popular blogs that post maybe once per week. These blogs provide a different style of post and are sure that 1 or 2 posts per week are what readers really want.

So, what’s the thinking behind either extreme? Assuming you aren’t a news site (which by definition needs to be posting regularly) how often should you post on a site such as this one?

postingfrequencyMore Posts = More Content = More Chances of Search Engine Traffic

It stands to reason that if you post once per week then you only have 1 new post for the search engines to spider and list in the results. If you post 5 or 6 times, or even 10 times per week, you therefore have that many more posts and that many times the pages that might hit a keyword or two.

Actually, That’s Not Always True

Those posting daily will (on the whole) have lower word counts in their posts than those posting weekly. Many bloggers will work on a minimum word count of 400 words, maybe even 300 words, when posting frequently.

On the other hand those posting weekly have that much longer to work on each post. A lot of that time will be spent on research and creating graphics, but there is also a lot more scope for writing longer, more authoritative, pieces. Many weekly bloggers will typically hit 1,500 words or more per post and many can exceed double that.

It then stands to reason that if each post has 4 – 5 times the content then it also has that many times the possibility of turning up in search results.

An Empty Blog Is Uninteresting

Indeed and who can argue with this? Turn up at a new site, expecting an authority in the subject and find only 4 posts and the next one isn’t due for a week. This doesn’t inspire search engines to list the blog nor visitors to subscribe.

So there’s a lot to be said for publishing more in the early days of the blog. Whether you do this by frequent writing or by preparing the posts months before starting the blog is your choice.

Quick Posts Don’t Carry Weight

As a daily blogger it is very easy to put together a 300-400 word post, but does that post really tell your readers anything? Is it going to support you as a site that people will want to come back and read again in the future?

If you spend the time to write, rewrite and rewrite again, adding in suitable graphics when you can, you can make the posts far more interesting and more likely to be shared by readers.

More Posts = Regular Readers Coming Back More

Maybe… If you have a good readership and you post every day then yes, those readers might come back every day and that’s good for your stats.

Quality Of Posts Drives Subscribers

However, we go back to an earlier point. Are these quick and ready posts carrying the weight they need? Does a 400 word piece entice people to want to come back, to want to subscribe to your blog and read more?

Too Many Posts = Unsubscribe

How often does a reader actually want to visit your site? Daily, weekly, monthly? It is how often they are happy to visit your site that’s important, not how often you want to drag them in.

If your typical reader just wants to spend a few hours learning the latest tricks on a Sunday evening then a drip feed of your updates twice per day the rest of the week is more than likely to make them feel their inbox is full of your notifications and hit the unsubscribe button instead.

What’s Best?

I think there’s a need in the early days of a blog to get established, plant the seedlings of a blog idea and let it start to grow. But unless you are in a specialist niche that requires frequent posting work on a few really high quality posts each week.

Make sure each post has, where possible, interesting graphics. Graphics that could be shared by you and by readers on Pinterest and other sites. Make sure that the posts are interesting, give the reader something to think about and answer a question they are looking for.

You can look back into the archives of this blog to see exactly that taking place. And it was a lesson learned, rather than a plan put into action. Short, snappy posts at first to establish the blog on Google and then changing to more lengthy, in depth posts after a few weeks.

Once there was enough content so that if someone started to dig into the blog they could find more that’s when I decided that quality was more important that quantity of posts. And making sure that there’s always such a post on the home page to show what the blog is about is one of those aims.

Week 6 Weekly Roundup

As we approach the half way point through this experiment suddenly I seem to have found a foucs, and more importantly  traffic is starting to arrive (slowly).

Finally, A Traffic Peak!

Suddenly I’ve seen a peak in traffic from a certain source and what’s more – it was planned. I prepared the work, submitted it and sat back and waited. Within a few hours I’d seen almost as many new visitors hit these pages as I’ve seen hit these pages in the last week.

And best of all – it wasn’t accidental. I worked for it, planned it and was ready for it. What’s more, there’s 2 more ready in the pipeline and one of those should have even more impact. It’s something that I don’t want to name just yet – let me get the next two pieces out one per week in the next two weeks.

Blog Commenting Worked

Two visitors have arrived from blog commenting! Hooray… I’ve submitted loads of comments to different blogs and one has paid off. Which is more than many of the articles that I submitted did. As luck would have it that very same blog has just published a new post that I found very useful. So I’ve been able to leave another comment.

New Targets.

That same blog has also given me a few ideas / targets for further possible ways of trying to drive in traffic. So at least 2 new experiments / tests over the next few weeks. I’ve also got some much higher quality posts just about ready to go live, so keep your eye out for drastic improvements on these pages and some exciting developments!

How Often Do People Post To Their Blogs? [Infographic]

In reality, how often do other bloggers post to their blogs and is it really working for them?

commentbyposts

I produced the above Infographic after a big of digging on other people’s blog. I went to a well known blog and looked at one of their recent posts. Now the blog that I looked at is posting once or twice per week and so I was able to look at a fairly new post with 100 comments on it. I then clicked on every one of the comments links to go back to their own site, including the link to the guest blogger who had written the post.

What I Looked At

This rather well known blog is about blogging and about getting the most out of blogging. The post itself was also about blogging traffic. Most people leaving comments on that site do so because they think that the blog has a similar theme and that either the traffic is similar and might send over some interested readers. So it makes sense that if people are leaving comments with links to their own blogs then they are probably after a bit of traffic that is related to blogging and blog traffic.

Or more simply, I would expect the people leaving comments to be running blogs and know what they are doing.

How Often Have These Sites Posted In The Last Week?

So, I went through to all of the blogs and looked back over the last 7 days to see how many times each blogger had posted. Almost immediately I thought it was going to be a long task as one blog had about 20 posts in the last week!

However, this was quickly followed by a blog that simply said “coming soon” and a message that until there were 1000 followers on Facebook the posts wouldn’t start. It optimistically expected to hit that figure by last June. Maybe they could do with earning a reputation rather than leaving comments!

What I was surprised at was that almost half of these blogs had not been posted to in the last week – and in many instances the latest post was months ago. Yet these people were actively commenting in the hope of driving in traffic.

The Active Bloggers Are Posting At Least A Few Times Per Week

Many of the remaining blogs had posted once in the last week. I didn’t have any objective measures worked out to decide if these people had put up a quick post or were spending all week working on a quality post. However, in the end it turned out that over half of those posting in the last week were very active, having posted at least 3 times.

I am going to come back to these figures shortly with a full head to head on how often you should post to a blog. My experiences over the last few weeks and where I want to take this blog long term have made me realise that I need to tweak my blogging frequency slightly. But, I think what I’ve done in the early days was correct for a new blog.

Watch this space for more details!