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Should We All Stop Guest Blogging?

guest blogging

Some important figures say that we should stop guest blogging.

It all goes back to an announcement from Google’s Matt Cutts about how the links that you acquire through guest blogging will no longer be all that useful and could, in some cases, actually do some harm to your blog’s SEO practices.

Since then we’ve seen guest blogging change to the point where a lot of new bloggers feel like it’s too risky to do any guest posts at all.

I myself have opted out of things like “expert roundups” where a bunch of quotes are collected to make a big post about a certain topic, each person with a link back to her or his site (I’ll talk about that more below).

Let’s take a look at whether or not guest posting is still a valuable strategy, and how bloggers should approach it without getting stung.

What is guest blogging?

If you’re new to blogging it might be good to do a little introduction to the idea of guest blogging or guest posting and how the whole things works.

Basically this is where you ask or are invited to write a blog post on another blog, usually in the same niche/industry as your own.

As you can see in the little graphic below, you write a bunch of posts that link to your blog which then take readers to a landing page that sells a product or promotes a mailing list.

guest blogging

Initially guest posting sprung up as a way to get new content on your site; you’d invite an expert to write about a topic that you didn’t fully understand and as such your readers would get new perspective.

This was a very organic and honest set up and, along with great new content, you, as the blogger, would often acquire a new audience as your guest author shared the post that they did on your site with their own followers.

So where did guest blogging all go wrong?

My own feeling is that guest blogging all started to go wrong when bloggers figured out that they could get backlinks from these posts and, as such, cause their Google rankings to become artificially inflated.

For a little while it was as simple as landing a guest post on a relevant site, including a link with rich anchor text in the article and then, after a while, you’d start ranking for the keywords in that anchor text.

It was rife with manipulation.

And the problem really became obvious when entire industries popped up around the idea of paying for links in posts. I remember back in college my friend and I would stay up late on a site called PayPerPost (I don’t want to link to it) and dig around for opportunities where some company would pay you $10-$100 for a 500-word article on your site that contained at least one (and often more) backlink to a site that was only barely relevant to yours.

Google then went and absolutely crushed that industry back in 2007 by removing page rank for a lot of pay per post bloggers and, since then, everyone has been making more and more algorithm changes to determine whether or not guest posts are allowable, valuable, or even ethical.

Here is the video with Matt Cutts mentioned at the top of this post:

Of course bloggers didn’t stop guest posting. In fact, if you look at statistics about the number of blog posts in the world I am confident that it would be bigger and bigger every year as more people start blogging and more people look for promotional methods.

So what’s the situation now?

Should we stop guest blogging altogether?

Guest blogging is not even close to dead.

In the last couple of months I’ve done a guest post on Bluehost and one over on the Jeff Goins blog about how Artificial Intelligence might change our online careers over the next few years.

But there is one qualification: it’s not about building links anymore.

When I think about a guest blogging opportunity I am always thinking about tapping in to a new audience that I think might benefit from encountering the content on Blog Tyrant.

So, really, what guest blogging is about now is getting more quality email subscribers on your mailing list.

While there are some very smart bloggers who like to call Google’s bluff on the whole links issue, even they are being very clever and careful about how the acquire those links and, generally speaking, a guest post is a pretty obvious flag to a search engine robot.

Of course link building is still important, but the old way of landing guest posts (or paying for them…) and then adding some rich anchor text is probably a little bit too dangerous to be useful from an SEO point of view.

How to successfully guest blog in to the future

I encourage everyone reading this post to continue to try and land as many relevant guest blogging opportunities as possible as they are a fantastic way to find new, relevant traffic. Here are a few tips on how to approach guest posting in the future:

  • Keep it relevant
    As Google’s algorithms get more and more sophisticated I think one of the things we’ll see is more frequent penalties for things that aren’t relevant. When you really consider it, it’s irrelevant materials that looks like spam. So, if you’re a finance blog doing guest posts on dog training websites I think you’ll expect that those links will be useless at some point.
  • Make sure it’s all unique
    Another major signal for Google is that guest posts are unique and useful. The idea here is that you should really be only writing about a topic on a guest site if you can offer some sort of unique perspective that the owner cannot. This helps to show that it’s not at all a paid arrangement, which is part of where I think the expert roundups start to look a bit suspect.
  • Consider using nofollow links
    If you are really concerned about some links in your guest posts you can always ask the site owner to make sure the nofollow tag is included on them. This is a pretty safe signal to Google that you aren’t doing the posts for SEO purposes but they will still, of course, send through all the traffic.
  • Have a wide variety of platforms
    It’s also a good idea to not just do guest posts to other blogs in your industry. You can also get featured on things like podcasts, videos, slide shares, Facebook posts, and so on. Some of these are “safer” from an SEO point of view and also teach you valuable marketing lessons about finding traffic from new sources and how those relationships work.
  • Link to different properties
    Another important concept to experiment with is the idea of linking to more than just a few posts on your blog. Of course, you can link to your root domain, but why not also link to your own podcast and social pages, or directly to a tool or video that you’ve made and see if you can send that viral.
  • Monitor results closely
    Lastly, you want to make sure you track all of these results in Webmaster Tools and elsewhere to ensure that they are having the right effect and traffic is going up over time. There are also dozens of tools that you can use to see whether you might be doing some SEO damage.

The main thing with all of this type of activity is to keep reading and then testing to see whether the information you have is working for your blog.

Sometimes there is a really big lag on these types of things and as such you have to be quite careful about how you monitor it. Sites like Moz and Ahrefs and Backlinko are all good places to start.

How is your guest blogging going?

Do you spend a lot of time and energy on your guest blogging efforts? I’d really love to know how it’s going for you and whether any of these concerns have been popping up on your radar. Feel free to leave a comment below and we can all have a big chat about it.

Top photo © Intararit

What Even is a Blog?

what is a blog

Blogging is just so 2005. Why bother…?

Every now and then someone stumbles upon Blog Tyrant and leaves some feedback a little bit like that. What is perhaps interesting is that I don’t entirely disagree with them.

And that got me really thinking about what blogging is and whether or not it has passed it’s use-by date as a concept in the age of video, podcasting and perhaps even virtual reality.

Don’t worry, this is not another Blogging is Dead post but rather a bit of an examination of what blogging should do in today’s modern world, and how we should think about our industry.

Let’s take a look.

A little bit of blogging history

Something that we need to do at this point is take a little bit of a look back at the history of blog sites in general and, perhaps more importantly, the history of the term “blogging”.

This is because, somewhere along the line, blogging has become associated with teenage Tumblr blogs and that is generally why people seem to be offended by the concept.

A lot of the denigrating remarks I see about blogging are usually aimed at people who are regularly updating the general public about their day-to-day lives, what they’re eating (often on Instagram), wearing, etc. without adding anything particularly new or exciting.

In a way that is pretty accurate, the term “blog” originally came from the two words “web” and “log” and was really a kind of online journal space where people would write and post it for others as a new form of remembering, sharing and connecting with others, etc.

Eventually blogging changed to become something that encompassed all sorts of news sites, updates within existing websites, and so on, where the latest content was posted at the top of the designated page. This stood in contrast to a standard website where the content and structure was largely static.

What is a blog these days?

Blogging is evolving quickly.

In fact, if you look at statistics you will see that blogging is rising faster than ever before, largely due to countries like China and India where the Internet is really taking off, and the fact that almost everyone now has a smartphone or laptop and can connect to the Internet.

These days blogging has become quite sophisticated and those that make a full time living with it (either directly or indirectly) generally use it as a way to drive traffic. And it’s is usually one of many ways.

For example, if you look at any successful blogger you will notice that they usually have a business set up that is part written content, part video, maybe a podcast and a whole lot of graphics.

And that is a really important point: blogging should only be part of the picture if you want to drive traffic to a product, existing business, course, etc.

It’s good to let that point sink in – the blog is not the end result, it’s one of the methods you use to find customers.

Of course, not every blog is about money. And in that sense your “customer” might be someone who donates to your charity or takes up your cause as we can see in the case of some very important and presently relevant blogs like Wikileaks.

But this really goes back to the idea that a good blogging strategy should not just be about traffic for the sake of getting traffic to a blog. It should be about helping people and then having a product or an outcome that helps them further and that they will often pay for.

photography blog

For example, if you have a look at a site like Digital Photography School you can see how well this concept can be put into action. Once just an ordinary photography blog, Darren has built it out to now includes courses, guides, eBooks, tutorials, forums and so much more. The blog’s content is still the main feature, but the site itself now does so much more.

I think all of this is also happening because readers now expect a lot more from blogs and content-based websites. There is just so much good content out there these days that you have to go to really exceptional levels to please readers, and often that means more than just short written updates.

For example, in this post on how to make your website carbon neutral we went to some pretty big lengths like creating this infographic:

carbon neutral blog

That post also entailed researching carbon offset options for months, spending money to offset our own carbon (check the badge in the footer!), talking to many different organizations, obtaining certificates, and so on.

This type of deeper research and presentation is something that is now common to blogging as a whole and there is definitely a new standard of expectation.

What is a blog to you?

There are a lot of really experienced bloggers who read this stuff and I’d love to know your thoughts on the definition of blogging and how the medium and perception of the medium has changed over time. Has it affected the way you go about running your own blog? And where do you see it going in the future?

Please leave a comment below and let us know.

Top image: © Daniel Villeneuve

What Can We Learn From a Boosted Facebook Post with 545 Shares?

facebook ads lessonsI’ve always been a little skeptical of Facebook ads and boosts.

Partly this is because I’ve never been very good at running them, and partly because I’ve never felt like the traffic on Facebook was as “buy ready” as Google’s.

So what happened when a boosted post of Blog Tyrant’s received over 500 shares?

Well, the results were quite mixed and, as you’ll see below, there are quite a few lessons and ideas that I wanted to write about here because I’m sure someone out there is going to be able to do something useful with the information.

I’m not sharing the number to brag, but just to show you the kind of results that can be achieved (or not achieved!) with a simple paid promotion.

Shall we?

The boosted Facebook post in question

Let’s start by taking a look at the actual Facebook post that I did which then turned into a paid boost run straight from the Facebook page and not the ads area (that’s a different thing, if this is all new to you).

Please keep in mind that Facebook is not something I’m very good at and have never focused on it too much. Here it is:

Something I’ve been focusing on a bit more lately is the idea that blogging and online business is something that more and more people are turning to as traditional job roles change and artificial intelligence and robotics make whole cities redundant. I even wrote about it over on the Jeff Goins blog.

Blogging might not be the “coolest” things anymore, but it is still extremely effective and it is a fantastic way to increase your chances of making money on the Internet and it can provide a bunch of new opportunities for businesses and families that are struggling.

With all that in mind, I’ve been trying to talk about how to start a blog properly a bit more so as to introduce people to the idea that your traditional “bricks and mortar” business isn’t the only option out there. I genuinely hope this stuff helps someone out there, and I try really hard to just write about effective strategies that could work for people.

Some lessons I learned from this Facebook boost

Now I’d like to get into some of the interesting lessons that I learned while boosting this post. Some of the things that happened were really interesting to me, and I’d love to know your thoughts.

1. A higher total budget seemed to get better results

Something that surprised me was how much better this promotion performed right away, and I think it had something to do with the higher total budget.

I’ve boosted quite a few Facebook posts before for smaller sums like $20-$50 but this one I gave $1000 or so and set it to drip out over a week. Instantly it started getting a larger reach.

Now, this is entirely a conspiracy theory and I have nothing to base it on, but I wonder whether Facebook favors promotions that have a higher budget so as to encourage you to keep doing similar promotions?

This might not be at all nefarious either, it might just be that Facebook considers boosts/ads with higher budgets to be more legitimate in the same way that Google likes older domain names.

2. I’m not sure all the shares are legitimate

The next thing I noticed was that this post was getting a lot of shares. For me, even two or three shares is pretty good as it’s not a topic that lends itself to that activity (as opposed to cats or motivational posts). But if you scroll through all of those shares you start to wonder whether all of them are legitimate. Take a look:

A lot of the accounts doing the sharing are pretty “thin” in that they don’t have a lot of other posts or information. And hardly any of those shares get any further likes or comments.

I’m sure a lot of you remember Derek Muller’s video about his experience with fake Facebook likes:

Having 500 shares on the post is good for social proof in that it shows other people that the article is not complete rubbish, but I do wonder about the origin of these sharers. Perhaps they are just secondary accounts used by people to run other campaigns?

I am not someone who thinks that Facebook does this deliberately, but I also don’t fully believe that all of those shares are legitimate either.

3. The traffic acquired was decent

One of the surprising things I learned was that the traffic acquired through the promotion was pretty decent once they had clicked through to the blog. Have a look.

facebook traffic

For example, the average time on site of over three minutes is quite good and probably means that the targeted audience matches up quite well to the content. You can also see that the bounce rate is slightly better than the average of the site.

4. Targeting audiences that are already interested works well

One thing I did was target audiences that I know are already interested in the idea of starting a blog or a website as I thought it might make it a little less difficult to convert them to the idea of subscribing or reading a long-form piece of content.

For example, one thing I tried was targeting the audiences of NPR podcasts as I know that Squarespace and other blogging platforms do a bit of advertising there. I had hoped that meant that their level of blogging education and knowledge was already quite high.

Don’t just direct target your exact keywords, think about other places on and offline where people might be encountering your topic or might be at least open to it down the track. This can lead to some better targeted promotions.

5. Managing comments rapidly is very important

Something I learned pretty quickly is that there are a lot of people out there who love to comment on paid promotions and be as critical as possible. It might be that they object to the advert, or to the content itself, but the result is some comments that you really don’t want to leave up.

These type of hateful comments used to bother me quite a lot, but these days I just err on the side of kindness and patience and try to educate the person if I can. For example, if someone expresses an opinion that blogging is a waste of time I try to show them some statistics about how it’s growing, the different forms it can take, and the new opportunities it presents different groups of people in the community.

Most of the time these types of friendly replies (feel free to be too friendly!) end up creating a new dialogue with the person or, alternatively, they just end up deleting the comment they made because the reply is so comprehensive.

Can we take Facebook ads to the next level?

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be be spending a bit more time and money running different Facebook promotions to see if I can improve the results more consistently.

Glen wrote a post on using Facebook ads a few years ago and it’s still a pretty good starting point which I’ll be using as a basis.

Specifically I’m going to be look at:

  • Split testing multiple photos/images
    Do photos of actual people convert better than images and graphics of people (like our Blog Tyrant character)?
  • Comparing colors
    Does a red image like the one above perform better than a black one? I’m curious to know how much color impacts on clicks and then conversions.
  • Lowering and increasing CPC dramatically
    How low can we get the cost per click down to before the traffic starts to be poor or the campaign just stops running? And does higher CPC always result in better traffic?
  • Budget size and effectiveness
    Does a lower budget have a less successful campaign even if the daily spend limit is the same?
  • Changing the timing of promotions
    For example, I was thinking about running an ad set right when an episode of This American Life comes out and targeting just their listeners (assuming they have a relevant sponsor).
  • Use different forms of tracking
    One of the things I want to really get in to is some different methods of tracking pixels and conversions using Facebook’s software but also some other programs that give you some very interesting data about what is working.

Please let me know if there is anything else you would like me to test and I will do my best to write it up in a post that will hopefully be relevant to bloggers in any niche.

Have you experimented with Facebook boosts?

Have you ever had any luck boosting posts or using Facebook ads more specifically? I’d really love to know what has worked for you or, alternatively, if you’ve ever had any strange experiences that you couldn’t figure out.

Leave a comment and let us know.

6 Ways to Make Your Blog More Beautiful (and Effective)

beautiful blog

Even the best content runs into trouble when the blog it’s on is so ugly that readers leave before giving it a chance.

The good news is that there are lots of ways we can spruce up our blogs in order to make them more appealing, effective and engaging by taking advantage of plugins, tools and some little tricks of the trade.

It’s amazing what a few cosmetic changes can do for your blog’s performance and your readers’ satisfaction.

Oh, and make sure you read to the end if you’re feeling really brave!

How to make your blog more beautiful

If your blog is hosted on WordPress you’ll probably find this list is a bit more tailored to you.

That being said, I’ve tried to include some other more general tips that apply to any blog, regardless of where it is hosted.

1. Change your font to a deliberate typographical style

I’m always a little bit surprised at how many bloggers use ugly fonts that are difficult to read. After all, the point of a blog is its content and, as such, we should make sure at least that looks good.

While I regularly fluctuate between loving and hating the font here on Blog Tyrant, I do try to listen to feedback and observe trends about the size and style of the text to ensure that it is something readers enjoy and find easy to look at.

Typography is more than just the font – it’s the way you match it to other colors and styles on your site, and how all of those things relate to your brand as a whole.

font pairing

My friends over at Reliable PSD put together an amazing collection of Google Font pairings that let you look at how certain fonts match with each other to create a different look and vibe.

I highly recommend spending some time scrolling through them and seeing whether your font needs to be change in order to make your content more readable, and to make your brand more memorable. This is a very basic but often overlook part of a beautiful blog.

2. Find or make consistent images and photos

If you’ve been reading Blog Tyrant for a while you’ll know that we’ve been transitioning to a little character that finds himself in certain situations.

blog imagesWhile the evolution of that style hasn’t been 100% deliberate, the goal was to move away from the “couch photo” that used to be on the homepage – it was effective as a branding tool but difficult to incorporate into the graphics of each week’s post.

The images that you use on your blog are so important – using the wrong style or type can have bad consequences for readership and, in some cases, even cause you legal issues if you use a photo that you’re not supposed to.

As we talked about in our guide on finding images for your blog a few times, the best thing to do is create your own images or take your own photos because it is original content that is appreciated by Google from an SEO point of view, and readers from an engagement point of view.

It’s important that your images and photos all have a consistent feel to them – it’s not just about having great quality ones. The idea is that it enhances your text, but also helps people to recognize your brand as soon as they see it.

Head over to a site like 99Designs and hold a contest to see if you can find a visual artists or graphic designer that might be able to help you come up with something that you use again and again.

Or, if you’re a D-I-Y kind of a person, consider learning a bit of Photoshop or at least get an app like Word Swag that lets you do something interesting things with text and images.

3. Hire a designer to bring it all together

If you want to take the second point a little bit further, you can hire a designer to help you create a look and brand that brings all of your goals together.

One of my favorite stories about this process was written up by Pat Flynn when he redesigned his already very popular blog – always a nerve-wracking event because you don’t want to ruin anything.

smart passive redesign

I really love this post because it shows you how much time and care he and his designer put into figuring out what would work. It was clear he didn’t just want a nice design, he wanted something that looked good and also functioned effectively as a marketing tool, hence the heat map image above.

This process would not have been cheap. That being said, the potential money your blog could make by having a more effective design could make the costs worthwhile in no time at all. As always, weigh it up with your accountant (or spouse!) and make a plan.

4. Embed content to make it more interactive

Another simple tip to make your blog more beautiful and effective is to find ways to embed content into your posts as opposed to just taking screen shots or using some other lower quality solution.

For example, Twitter allows you to embed Tweets so as to have it appear in your post but also still function as it would on Twitter in terms of getting likes, retweets, etc.

This is often a good idea because it makes your blog more interactive and engaging, and also is usually optimized by the original site for all different devices.

You’ll find this type of function on Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and many more sites, and often you can change the size and a lot of the settings that you blog uses. You can also use plugins like Code Embed which allows you to put different snippets of code in your WordPress posts.

5. Remove as much stuff as is possible and effective

We talk about this quite a lot, but so many bloggers clog up their sidebars and footers and headers with stuff that doesn’t need to be there and only detracts from the main event – the content.

For example, in this post on building a user friendly blog and this one on not using ads on your blog we talk about how too much clutter can actually prevent people from taking an action. Too much choice can be paralyzing.

This all comes back to your blogging strategy and the goals you have for your blog. There really is no need to have more than one or two things in your sidebar and footer. That is, your blog should really only have a single call to action.

free video

Here on Blog Tyrant I’ve tried to keep it ultra-simple by having one call to action at the bottom of each post and on the homepage. While it’s not the most beautiful design in the world, it seems to work well partly because it is a single offer and the process is very simple to follow and it also helps with load time.

6. Take an honest look at your theme

While this may seem obvious for some, it’s really important that you choose the right theme for your blog.

In fact, if you take a look at the majority of new blogs on the market you’ll notice that they have very out of date templates. This is a real shame because it sets you off on a very bad foot.

So how do you know if your theme is probably not the best choice? Well, to understand better I did something really embarrassing and looked up the Blog Tyrant theme from 2011…

old blog tyrant

We can see something that is present on a lot of blogs, space that is blank but not deliberately. For example, the image is not as wide as the content, the sidebar has no real function, and there are a multitude of borders around things that serve no real purpose.

You’ll also note the exceedingly small font (make yours at least 16px) and font pairing that doesn’t really match or have anything to do with the branding at the time. It’s all a bit grim.

mobile friendly

You’ll also want to look at things like Google’s mobile friendly test and other sites that let you see how your blog looks on mobile devices. Sometimes there’s only so much you can do by yourself, which leads us nicely on to the conclusion of this article.

So, what can we do about it?

Instead of going over all the aspects that can go wrong with a blog’s theme or template, I thought it might be useful to open up the blog comments to a good old community critique session!

If you’re brave, leave a comment below and let us know your concerns about your theme and let’s see if anyone out there (myself included) can give you some helpful feedback. We’ve done this before and it resulted in some really productive conversations.

So, please leave a comment below if you’d like to ask a question or get someone from the community to potentially take a look at your blog’s design and give feedback.

Top image © Daniel Villeneuve.

Is it Time to Change What We Put in Our Website Menus?

menu

Your menu is still one of the primary ways that traffic navigates around your site. Deciding what to put in it, however, may be a little more complicated than first thought.

In the old days, a website would have four main links: About, Blog, Contact, and a Home button. But as technology improves and changes, it’s now possible to do a lot more with the humble menu.

Today I’m going to show you a few things I’ve been testing in my own menus as well as some interesting examples from around the web. Hopefully they help you build a menu that’s a little bit more effective.

What is the real purpose of a menu?

It might seem obvious to some, but when I really sat down to think about what I needed in my menu I found that the question was a little bit more difficult than anticipated.

For example, all of the posts that I write are filled with in-post links that send people off to relevant articles that will (hopefully) help them as they’re related to search terms they are reading about.

So, if all of the important links are there in any given post, what do I need the menu for?

This got me thinking that maybe it was less about getting people to move around the site, and more about sending them in a specific direction that helped them achieve certain outcomes based on my blog’s goals.

And that leads us to the next point.

Coming up with some goals for your menu

Before you decide what to add to your menu it’s really important to come up with some goals.

And the goals you have for your menu will closely align with the goals you have for your blog and your blogging strategy as a whole.

If you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve on your site as a whole, there is no way your menu will be effective.

So what outcomes are we looking for in the menu?

  • Getting people to make contact
    If you’re a physical business like a physiotherapist or a mechanic, then one of your menu’s primary functions will be to make it easy for people to ring and make an appointment. We’ll look at ways to do this below.
  • Encouraging sign ups
    A blog will likely be focusing on mailing list sign ups and, as such, some of your menu real estate should be devoted to making it easy for people to subscribe.
  • Making people aware of announcements
    If you’ve just spent months developing a new tool or creating a conference then you want to make sure that is present in a menu, especially if you’ve been advertising it around the web.
  • Clarifying their place on site
    If you have an ultra-complicated website (think Amazon.com) then the menu should be devoted in parts to helping people understand where they are so that they don’t abandon. This might also work for a checkout process or some sort of timeline.
  • Making a direct or indirect sale
    Making a sale will be a primary purpose of many menus and can be done by either directly promoting a product, or leading people to a landing page or additional content that will make the pitch.

When we decide on a goal for the menu based on our blog’s overall strategy, it will be much easier to create something that makes sense and converts well.

What do other sites put in their menus?

What I’d like to do now is show you a few examples of all of these different goals in action in the hope that it gives you some ideas for how to structure your own menu effectively.

1. Making quick contact

The first example comes from friends of mine over at Reliable PSD who have a stunning menu that has a big emphasis on getting a free quote for your project.

free quote

The “free quote” option appears three times in the menu, and is accompanied by an email address in case people want to make contact directly without going through the quote form itself. This is a really clever thing to do in a business where people want quotes and prices quickly.

2. Encouraging quick sign ups

A service like Slack is so simple and elegant that one of their best sales tactics is just to get people to try it out without wasting too much time.

slack

As you can see, their menu is simple and has a big emphasis on one goal – creating a new team. Essentially they’re asking people to try it out and get their friends or colleagues to do it as well.

From that link, you just enter your email and you’re pretty much ready to go. It’s a brilliant way to quickly get people using the service before too many bounces can occur through multiple navigations or explanations.

3. Making announcements

One good example of a complicated website with a good menu is ASOS which, at present, has an announcement for a sale that is happening on the online store.

asos

As you can see, the menu divides the store into Women and Men quite clearly, and uses a very distinctive color to show that a sale is on. It’s impossible to miss. This is a good idea to keep in mind for our own menus – sometimes you need a contrast of color to bring attention to something.

I’ve tried to do something similar in the top right corner of Blog Tyrant as the color changes when you scroll from the very top position.

Another really clever example of an announcement is over on Popular Mechanics right now.

eclipse menu

They’ve transformed their whole header into a Solar Eclipse animation and added a big link below it which goes to a massive guide about this year’s eclipse.

Integrating a big piece of content with a current event is a really clever way to get back links and create a lot of buzz around your site.

4. Making quick sales

One of the best menus that I keep coming back to is Smart Passive Income by Pat Flynn who has an incredible moving graph of his earnings, as well as clever links to important products and content areas.

pat flynn

Pat was one of the first to test and pioneer the “New? Start here” link in the menu and it has been working really well for him. He also now has an extended selection of products that you can buy right there without any digging.

One thing that impresses me about this menu is how you can almost decipher Pat’s whole brand by just what appears in the top navigation area. Everything you need to know or do is in that one place.

Remember, there’s more than one menu

It’s good to remember that there are often more than one menu on any given blog or website and, thanks to mobile technology, there is often a separate menu for mobile devices.

This is important to think about because often you will find that the feature you want to add to your desktop main menu could be entirely different for something that people will do on mobiles.

For example, if you have some software or product that only works on a desktop computer then it is probably not ideal to devote a large menu promotion towards it. Instead, it might be better to promote your mailing list, build interest, and take a more long term approach to the sale.

Also, many of the examples that I looked at had sub-menu items, and even some hidden “Easter eggs” that can make the whole thing a little bit more exciting. You might decide that you need more than one menu at different places on a page, or on different pages.

How to make your menu better

Once you’ve figured out what you want to put in your menu, you might need a little bit of help to integrate some new features and really bring it to life.

If you’re on a self-hosted WordPress setup then there’s lots of things you can do with a menu, besides WordPress’s ability to create and edit menus for any theme that you use.

For example, a plugin like UberMenu will allow you to create massive mega menus with slide outs, integrated codes and maps, buttons, etc. which can be really handy if you have a plan for something different.

uber

But if you don’t want to go that complicated route, you could always just simplify your navigation down to one specific goal and remove all the clutter. That is something that I’ve been testing on and off for a while and I really think it’s worked.

Whatever you end up doing, make sure you do test it for yourself to make sure that it is getting actual positive results instead of just a nice design and feeling.

Have you ever done anything different with your menu? I’d love to know about it in the comments below.

How to Hire a Freelancer and Grow Your Blogging Empire

hire a freelancer for your blogIf you want to build a successful blog you might just need to hire a freelancer.

In fact, if you look at almost any blog or website that is making six-figures or more they all have one thing in common: a team of awesome people helping them out.

Hiring a full time staff member, however, can be a bit daunting and, as such, many people opt for freelancers to help outsource tasks like editing, writing, maintenance, and more.

In today’s post we’re going to cover:

  • Discovering what tasks you need help with
    This is the first stage where you narrow down exactly what tasks you want to outsource and why they are important.
  • Finding the right freelancer
    We’ll look at where you can find them and some tips on choosing the best person for the job.
  • Creating a test job and developing the relationship
    We’ll learn how to create the first freelance task and then some strategies to make sure you both get the most out of it.

Oh, and if you’re looking to do freelance work then you might want to check out this guide to paid content writing and this article on making money online when you blog is brand new.

Why do you need to hire a freelancer?

So let’s start by taking a look at why you might want need to hire a freelancer to help grow your blog and take it to the next, professional level.

hire a freelancer graphic

As a blogger there are so many tasks that we need to do each day. As you can see in the graphic above, on any given day you might do some SEO work, writing, editing, graphic design, website design, networking advertising, etc.

It is honestly more than one person can (or should!) be doing and it’s important to recognize our limitations in this area.

There’s no need to do it all alone. A successful business isn’t a one-person show.Click To Tweet

One of the keys to a successful blogging is freeing yourself up to focus on the tasks that you’re best at, or that tasks that make the most impact on your blog.

For example, if you’re an excellent writer and that is what grows your blog the most, then why not pay someone to do your book work and give you back those 2-3 hours a week?

Outsourcing in this way frees up time but it also reduces a huge amount of stress because you’re not learning dozens of different things that you never wanted to learn, and instead you get to focus on your passions and the results that they bring.

As a side note, a lot of people are now relying on freelance work as the economy changes, and I think it’s wonderful that the Internet allows us to exchange services with incredible people that we might otherwise have never encountered.

How to hire the right freelancer for your blog

If you have decided that you’d like some help, the first thing that you’ll be hit with is the overwhelming variety of options and how difficult it can be to find someone trustworthy with the right skills and work ethic.

Let’s go through it all, step by step, and in the end you’ll hopefully have a good starting place.

1. Decide what specific tasks you need help with

The first step is to think about exactly what you need some help with. This is vital because a lot of failed freelance relationships happen when the employer is too vague with what they actually want from the new team member.

This stage can actually take a little more time than you might think and it’s worth sitting down with a pen and paper and really mapping out where you need the help, and where the limits to those tasks are.

For example, I have one or two freelancers that I semi-regularly engage for writing tasks. This might sound simple but when you break it down it can get a little complicated with question like:

  • Who decides on the keywords, titles, and paragraph titles?
  • Do they do a draft first or just write the whole piece?
  • What happens if they take way longer to complete it than expected?
  • Do they write it straight in WordPress or just on a Google Doc file?
  • Who should research/choose images and photos?
  • How do you ensure the content is all original?
  • Do you pay on a per word, per article, or per hour basis?
  • And so on

All of these types of issues can have a big impact on the type of tasks that you get help with, and can really impact on the way you structure the setup and relationship over time.

Something I’ve found really useful to help overcome some of these issues is to create a document that outlines the process and the tasks involved and then laying it all out for a “test job” that you give the freelancer. We’ll discuss this in detail at a later stage.

BONUS TIP ABOUT TASKS
It’s important to have a clear vision about your blog’s long term goals. If you aren’t sure what you are trying to achieve within 6-12 months then you run the risk of creating stuff with a freelancer that never gets used. Check out our suggestions about developing a strategy for your blog to give you a start point on what to consider when making a plan.

At this point you really just want to try and come up with a list of tasks that you need help with, or tasks that you really don’t want to do anymore due to a lack of experience or confidence. This will give a good framework for the next steps.

2. Decide on your budget and timeline

Budget is a really important factor to consider here because many services will be unobtainable due to the cost factor. For example, hiring an agency to manage your SEO properly could cost $10,000+ a year.

But it’s also a trap to think that you shouldn’t hire someone because you don’t think you can afford it. A lot of small business owners fall into this mindset and end up burning themselves out because they think they have to do everything themselves.

We need to strike a balance between affordability/realism and our goals for expansion. This also entails an element of risk (all business does) because you need to weigh up how much you want to back yourself and your blog as a profit-making entity that will incur costs in the process.

There are a few things you might want to consider when working out your budget for freelancers:

  • What is your blog’s current profit?
    You need to have an idea of how much profit you are making, and then take a detailed look at whether you can increase your expenses for a time in order to bring about future growth.
  • Do you need to pay superannuation, insurance, etc.?
    Take a look at your local laws and determine whether or not you are required to pay anything other than an hourly rate for freelancers that you hire on the Internet. Every where is slightly different in this regard.
  • Research the going rate for that task
    Spend a bit of time looking at how much people normally charge for certain tasks. This will help you decide whether you want to hire a SEO agency (expensive) or someone to do occasional graphics (slightly less expensive).

At this point you want to sit down and try and figure out how much you want to spend over a fixed period, and then break that period down into tasks and figure out how much each of those is going to cost.

You can also do this based on certain goals that you have for your blog. For example, if you want someone to write 100 x 2,000-word articles and they charge $100 per article then that is going to cost you $10,000.

You might decide that this is too much and so you can reduce the number of articles that you want to produce, or sacrifice quality and find a cheaper writer. By mapping out the whole budget process like this you can get a good picture about what is affordable.

The best thing you can do at this stage is go and talk to your accountant and, if you don’t have one, take the plunge and get one.

A good accountant doesn’t just do your taxes, they also help you plan your future financial moves. For example, in this case the can help you determine how much you can afford to risk on a freelancer, how long you can hire them, and what sort of financial reward it might lead to.

3. Create a “test task” to practice the freelancing process

The first thing we want to do is create a small test task that can help us find out how the whole process works.

This is a really valuable step because it allows you to refine your goals for the freelancer as well as helps you to learn any issues that might arise on a smaller level as opposed to finding them out after you’ve committed a lot of time or money to the project.

So what should be included in such a task?

  • Summary of project
    Summarize the whole project that you are carrying out, of which their freelance task might make up one small component.
  • Detailed description of individual task
    Describe in detail what you’d like them to do and include examples and screenshots or videos to explain it if possible.
  • Budget and payment method
    Describe the budget that you have for their task in particular and how you intend to pay them.
  • Due date
    Have a few options for the due date and encourage rewards for faster/on-time completion.
  • Method of delivery
    Describe how you’d like the task delivered. For example, should they create it in a WordPress format and then upload it to Google Docs, or will you give them a login?
  • Method of queries/feedback
    How can they ask you questions and what times are you available for Skype or email conversations?

Now, many of the websites that allow you to hire freelancers will have all of this sorted out for you and you’ll just be required to fill in a bunch of different fields. But it’s a good idea to think about it beforehand so as to get it refined.

At this point you might need some tools to help you explain the job in as much detail as possible. For example, sometimes you will need to take a screenshot and then add some arrows and so on to explain the task like this this example:

arrows

On a Mac you can do that by taking a screenshot by clicking COMMAND SHIFT 4 and then opening up the graphic in Preview and using the markup tool (the green arrows!).

As a side note, I clicked the image instead of the actual tool about three times when making this screenshot! So meta. On a PC you can use the Snipping Tool and then edit the image in an editor like Photoshop.

Alternatively, you can get a browser extension like Awesome Screenshots that will do it all in one go plus much more.

This one also allows you to take scrolling videos of your screen and blur and mark them up, which can be very handy if you want to explain a portion of your screen without revealing everything due to privacy or some other reason.

As you can see, the goal here is to create a job that is clearly explained and defined both in written text and with images so as to ensure that the freelancer you hire has all the information she or he needs.

4. Hire the right freelancer for the job

This is the stage where we actually go out into the web and look for the right freelancer for the task that we have created. There are lots of ways to do this, so let’s take a look at the best options.

The first option is to look on one of the major sites like 99Designs, Guru or Upwork. These have several advantages:

  • Bidding process
    While not always fair on the freelancers, the bidding process means you get to list a job and then choose the “best” freelancer for the task out of several thousand options.
  • Funds in escrow
    Quite often you pay your funds in advance to the site but the worker doesn’t get them until you’ve chosen to release them by stating that the job is complete.
  • Mediation options
    If a dispute arises, many of these sites will mediate the issue to try and get a good outcome for both parties. This is especially useful when a large project has been partially completed.
  • On-site security
    By dealing with someone exclusively within one platform you’re often protected by their own in-built security mechanisms and so forth and you’re never swapping financial details, etc.

If you go back an look at our guide on how to find images for your blog you’ll see that we’ve used 99Designs to come up with a lot of our Blog Tyrant graphics and designs. The process literally takes two or three minutes with their super-clean interface.

99 designs process

You can start a contest where freelancers bid on a new job, or you can invite a specific worker to the task and request a quote. I really enjoy this process and am yet to be disappointed by the quality of work that is available.

So, what should you look for when trying to hire the right freelancer?

  • Relevant experience
    How much experience do they have in their field and can you verify this with reviews and testimonials and so on? Make sure you check out the sample work to ensure the reviews are real.
  • Skill set
    Do the skills closely match the task that you are getting them to carry out? For example, someone who can make a logo might not be able to make an illustration even though they’re both graphics.
  • Communication style
    Communication is really important and sometimes it can be a little hard if you are from different countries and speak different languages. Make sure you have a conversation or two so as to ensure you can get on the same page.

To give you an example, we can head over to this audio technician on Fiverr who is an excellent example of someone who ticks all the right boxes.

fiverr review

As you can see, he has a 5-star rating which is made up of over 2,000 reviews from happy customers. This is very difficult to fake, and given that he has a “top rated seller” badge from Fiverr it’s likely that he is pretty safe.

5. Figure out how to communicate, share files and review progress

The last stage is to figure out how you will communicate and how you will review each others progress. Of course, if you’re using a site like 99Designs then most of it will happen on-site.

For external projects and freelancing staff, I like to use a site like Trello that allows you to manage projects and communicate with staff and colleagues in a very methodical and clear way.

trello

This is a screenshot of one of my Trello boards – I have different ones for different companies and projects, and within each project we break them down in to things like General Chat, Future Topics, etc.

It’s a really great way to share files and manage it all as it doesn’t all get lost in your email inbox such that you end up digging around for files or threads or messages for hours a week.

This approach really saves time but also keeps a record of the whole process which can be valuable if anything ever needs to be reviewed, or you want to look back and figure out how to replicate a successful freelancing project.

BONUS COMMUNICATION TIP
Try to be as patient and empathetic as possible when you are working with a new freelancer. Often we know our own blogs so well that we forget that simple tasks might actually require a lot of training and explanation for someone else. Try to find someone you communicate well with, even if they’re not technically perfect.

Have you ever hired a freelancer?

If you’ve ever worked with a freelancer on your blog I’d love to hear about it. What worked well and where did you find them? Is there anything you would do differently in the future? Please leave a comment below and let us know as it might really help someone who is just starting out.

13 of the Best WordPress Plugins to Make Your Blog More Professional

One beautiful thing about a WordPress blog is the never-ending ability to add plugins that completely change the way your blog looks and functions. It’s absolutely essential for successful blogging.

best wordpress plugins

(Please hit that Pin button if you enjoy this post! We really appreciate it.)

A lot of these plugins would cost thousands (or even tens of thousands) if you wanted to pay someone to build those features in to your blog individually.

For example, before e-commerce plugins came about, you’d need a team of developers constantly working on your online store. These days you can do it with a few clicks.

Here are some of the best WordPress plugins that you can install to make your blog instantly more professional. It’s not the biggest list in the world, but we’ve only selected the very best.

NOTE: There are two affiliate links in this post. I’ll let you know which ones they are. I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase through that link. Thank you for the support.

The best WordPress plugins for a professional blog

Let’s dive in now and have a look at some of the plugins we’ve chosen that will help you to build a more professional blog in just a few clicks. As always, let us know what we’ve missed in the comments below.

1. Boxzilla
Slide out boxes and pop ups done very simply.

boxzilla

Boxzila is the successor to the very popular plugin, Scroll Triggered Boxes, and is an improved version that allows you to create a variety of scroll and pop up boxes for your blog. For example, you can see on in action on this post. You can set it to open when people exit the blog, after a certain amount of time, and you can build boxes that only appear on certain pages.

VIEW PLUGIN

 
2. WooCommerce
A comprehensive e-commerce platform built in to your blog.

WooCommerce recently celebrated its ninth birthday and has grown to be one of the best loved and most trusted plugins for building an online store with your WordPress installation. While it’s not the most simple plugin to use, the list of features are absolutely phenomenal and the support and community makes it a great choice for anyone looking for a way to get started selling physical products online.

VIEW PLUGIN

 
3. Pretty Link
Better looking URLs for affiliates and less confusing linking.

Pretty Link is a plugin that allows you to change the way your URLs look. For example, if you’re directing people to an affiliate product that has a horrible looking address that might put some people off, you can use Pretty Link to set up a URL that incorporates your own address (like www.blogtyrant.com/blue-host/) so that it looks a bit more friendly to users. Also gives stats on how many people click the link and so on.

VIEW PLUGIN

 
4. Social Warfare
Beautiful social media icons for your blog.

Social Warfare is the plugin that I use here on Blog Tyrant to add scrolling social media buttons in the sidebar, and to manage social buttons on the site as a whole. It has good options for setting your style and colors, and allows you to make a lot of optimizations. For example, you can have different settings for mobile vs desktop social buttons.

VIEW PLUGIN (aff)

 
5. Smart Podcast Player
Gorgeous podcast player that integrates with your existing set up.

If you have a podcast on your blog I highly recommend Smart Podcast Player as a plugin that allows you to quickly build a beautiful player that integrates perfectly with your podcast hosting. It’s clean, simple to use and the player is mobile responsive. I’ve used this plugin on some other sites and can attest to the support staff being extremely patient and friendly with all the setup questions that I had.

VIEW PLUGIN

 
6. Shortcodes Ultimate
Use little codes to make buttons and more.

Shortcodes Ultimate is a very lightweight but valuable plugin that allows you to use little snippets of code to add some great features that would otherwise probably have required a designer and coder. For example, you can add little buttons with icons, or upgrade and get testimonial boxes, pricing tables, etc. All of these things can make your blog look more professional by adding formats that are slightly more involved than plain text.

VIEW PLUGIN

 
7. Better Click to Tweet
Perfectly designed options to encourage others to tweet your quotes.

This is a very cool plugin that allows you to add a click to tweet quote box within your posts. It styles the box according to the format of your choice, and lets you set things like the tweet text itself, the display text, and the Twitter handle that gets mentioned.

This is a really simple yet beautiful plugin that can add some nice extra functionality to your blog without having to use an external site like the old days.

VIEW PLUGIN

 
8. To Top
Simple buttons allowing people to scroll up.

to top

This is a very simple plugin that allows you to add a little arrow on your blog so people can scroll back up to the top with one click. This is quite a useful feature if you have a lot of long form content or a list post (like this one) where people might need to go up and down frequently. You can style the look and feel to make it fit with your design.

VIEW PLUGIN

 
9. WishList Member
Build a membership site from your blog.

This is a very comprehensive plugin that allows you to lock content on your blog in order to create a membership site, school, or paid training course without needing to send visitors to a separate site or company.

It has over 80,000 active customers and has been used by some really popular bloggers to extend their content into a paid arena – a very good way to make some extra money from your blog if you have a unique offering. Allows you to drip content to students, password protect different areas, sneak peak content, and much more.

VIEW PLUGIN

 
10. bbPress
Forums and bulletin boards from your blog without hassle.

This is a beautifully simple forum-building plugin in its setup and technology, while still having so many levels of comprehensive features that it impresses everyone who tries it.

If you’ve ever wanted to add a forum or bulletin board element to your blog then this is the place to start. It’s had over 300,000 installs and is used by some of the biggest forums in the world. A great way to add extra community to your blog without needing to develop a whole forum from scratch somewhere else.

VIEW PLUGIN

 
11. SiteOrigin Widgets Bundle
Huge amount of widgets and icons to create yourself.

This is a really clever idea that can save you a lot of time. SiteOrigin Widgets Bundle basically gives you a huge selection of widgets that you can customize for your own needs. It includes icons, colors, etc. so that you can create things like map widgets, buttons, call to action links, headlines, etc. It’s a very simple way to update your blog and brand without needing to change your whole theme.

VIEW PLUGIN

 
12. Visual Composer
Totally change the way your blog looks with a drag-and-drop editor.

This plugin really is a game changer when it comes to how the back end of WordPress works. I’ve been using it for a few months now on a few side projects, and it’s safe to say it has totally transformed the way I use WordPress.

With a simple drag and drop editor, you can now change how WordPress looks and is structured without needing a new theme. You can build landing pages or buttons or full screen photo banners without any coding. Absolutely wonderful plugin and worth the fees simply in the amount you save by no longer needing a coder.

VIEW PLUGIN (aff)

 
13. Yoast Comment Hacks
Redirect comments to a thank you page and much more.

If you’ve ever left a comment on Blog Tyrant you’ll see that you get redirected to a little thank you page that encourages you to sign up. That is done with this plugin, which has now been expanded to include other features like emailing people who leave a comment, disallowing comments if they are too short or too long, etc.

If it’s by the team at Yoast you know it is trustworthy. We’ve been using this for years and highly recommend it for some really cool and necessary comment features.

VIEW PLUGIN
 

How to install a WordPress plugin

If you’re new to WordPress then you might not know about the absolutely wonderful world of plugins yet. Basically they are bits of code that developers have written that allow you to change the way your blog works.

They cover all sorts of features from photo galleries and security to social media buttons and design changes. Here’s a beginner-level video on how to install a WordPress plugin quickly:

Before installing any plugin on your blog you should do a few basic checks. Make sure it is compatible with your version of WordPress, make sure it has good reviews from users, and make sure it has been recently updated.

What’s your site’s best WordPress plugin?

I’d really love to know whether you think there are any awesome plugins that absolutely must be included on this list. Do you use anything that really transforms your blog and makes it feel or look more professional?

Please leave a comment below and let us know.

The Complete List of Blog Sites

blog sitesWelcome to the complete list of all the blog sites on the web (that we could find!) where you might consider starting a blog for the first time.

The goal is to give you a list of all the options out there so you can start researching to determine what is the best for your budget, goals, technical requirements, etc. We’re going to keep adding to it and updating it each week.

Oh, and this whole page doesn’t contain a single affiliate link, but it does have a cool scrolly graphic to watch over and over!

How to choose the right blog site for your needs

Choosing the right blog site to use can be a really confusing process if you are new to the whole thing. You have to consider pricing, features, upgrades, etc. and all of this can get a bit overwhelming.

Let’s start this post by having a quick look at some things to keep in mind when determining what blog site is best for you. These factors could go on forever so don’t take too much time thinking about it – just keep it in the back of your mind as you research.

Note: Here at Blog Tyrant we have our own blog hosting recommendations if you want to get started with WordPress on your own server as quickly as possible. We still think it’s the most comprehensive blogging option.

blog site infographic

If you like this graphic I’d really appreciate a share on Pinterest as it helps get the word out about the article. This one took a really long time to put together so any support would make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

The complete list of blog sites

Please keep in mind that these blog sites are not all created equal. Some are simple website builders while others are open-source, comprehensively featured mammoths. Thus, we are not recommending/reviewing each and every one, but rather are creating a comprehensive list so you can see the options and research further.

If any of the information below is incorrect please let us know. We researched all of these by examining the list of features on the sites themselves (as well as some external reviews), but sometimes this information is a little bit vague and it changes regularly. Ideally we would have signed up to each one and tried it out but it would have taken months and tens of thousands of dollars.

We’d be very happy to change or add things if anyone, including the sites themselves, would like a revision or correction, and we’ll do our best to keep adding sites and updating information.

1&1 Website Builder // Go

Is essentially a small web hosting company in its design and operation, but offers some other features for bloggers like 24-hour support, nice clear interface, and a bunch of design templates to choose from on the top plan.

Pricing: 99 cents per month for the first year and $9.99 per month thereafter. At this level, you get a choice of 10,000 industry-specific design templates, 20 million stock images, and a custom domain name.

Angelfire // Go

Angelfire has been around for a really, really long time and was where I had a website with flaming text back in school. I still have a big soft spot for it.

angelfire

Has a free plan but shows ads. It’s a little bit outdated by today’s design standards, unfortunately, but still has a very fun and friendly style.

Pricing: Free with ads.

Blog.com // Go

It’s such a shame that this site isn’t dominating with that great domain name, but we couldn’t even get it to load. Don’t bother.

Blogger.com // Go

Blogger is now owned by Google and has been one of the most successful blogging platforms in history.

blogger

All Blogger blogs are included in Google’s AdSense program by default, which means that the users can immediately start advertising on their blog. It lacks many features such as advanced plug-ins and tools but has all the basics like commenting, theme editing options, built-in analytics, and so on.

The platform supports up to 100 authors on a single blog and offers a free mobile application. Good option for new bloggers and has been the choice of many popular bloggers as it is easy to learn, but may be too limiting for a few advanced uses.

Pricing: Free. Charges for other additional services such as custom domain or premium themes.

Bravenet.com // Go

This is a drag and drop style website hosting with options for bloggers as well. Has over 15 million members and options for email lists and some other email marketing with responsive design options.

Pricing: Blogging is free and paid options for further features.

Breezi.com // Go

Credits itself with being the world’s fastest website builder and has a pretty cool drag and drop live interface that a lot of people will enjoy. That being said, here’s what its CEO said on Quora: “It’s not a good platform for heavy bloggers.”

Pricing: $9/month.

Cargo Collective // Go

Cargo Collective is a personal publishing platform that enables its users to create accessible tools within a networked context – to enhance their exposure on the Internet. They have a lot of new releases about to happen and so the difference between the options is a little bit complicated, but some of the new functions and features seem pretty awesome. Keep an eye on this one.

Pricing: Cloud hosting, 12 Projects, 3 Pages, 100MB Storage, Edit CSS, 5 Membership Invites with upgrades for $66/year or $9/month: Unlimited Projects and Pages, Unlimited Bandwidth, Advanced Editing, All Templates (30+).

Codepen.io // Go

Great for coding enthusiasts and those who want to show of coding and front end development. It offers some unique features. Some of them include a collaboration mode which allow users to works together, professor mode which lets the user share his/her code with other students, live and interactively and send to phone via SMS. Most basic plan is the starter plan which allows two users, 10 projects, 10 people for professor mode, 1GB storage and unlimited bandwidth.

Pricing: Ads will be shown on your site in the starter mode, so you’ll have to go for the developer mode which costs $14.25 to avoid them. There are also team plans available.

CityMax // Go

Founded in 1999 and has launched over 500,000 websites. It’s a pretty simple and old-school design that doesn’t really sell its features very well. That being said, has things like an integrated store option, backups, integrated email marketing, support, etc. Some excellent specs but possibly not the up-to-date solution for new bloggers given it’s a bit on the expensive side.

Pricing: $24.98 per month. Free 10 day trial available.

Duda // Go

Duda is mainly aimed at agencies who need to build a lot of responsive sites for clients and has some really cool features like a library of millions of free images and drag-and-drop site builders.

You can sell 10 products on the free plan. Mobile-only sites available as well. But it seems as if you cannot migrate your site else where which could be an issue down the track. Strong focus on website speed and is used by some pretty big brands.

Price: Free plans and paid plans starting at $14.25/month.

DoodleKit // Go

Doodlekit markets itself as a website builder with a lot of code-free template building tools and lots of things like icons, fonts, backgrounds, etc. Most basic features like shopping cart, forums, form builders and image galleries are available. Free plan is available and offers 100 GB Bandwidth and 100MB storage.

Pricing: From $10/month with a custom domain, five extra users, unlimited bandwidth and 3GB storage.

Edublogs.com // Go

Powered by WordPress, Edublogs is widely used blogging platform for education services, Universities, colleges and schools.

edublogs

It offers 250+ themes and no ads in the free plan. Edublogs lets you easily create and manage student and teacher blogs, quickly customize designs and include videos, photos and podcasts – it’s safe, easy and secure. Founded back in 2005, Edublogs Powers over four millions blogs. Even Stanford University, Cornell University, and City University make use of this service for their educational purposes.

Emyspot // Go

Emyspot aims to give beginners and easy website or blog building service that is responsive, free to use, etc. Free hosting, unlimited assistance, and other basic features are all available.

Pricing: Free option available with some limitations, but there are some more expensive options for showcase sites or online stores, etc.

Ghost // Go

Ghost is one of the more beautiful blogging sites out there, and I suspect it will keep growing. It is very simple and flexible to use for beginners. There is a separate screen for your content creation and preview, which means whatever you type on the content creation page that will reflect on the preview page of your blog.

ghost

The Ghost dashboard is really stunning and easy to use, and you have the option to sign up for a preview and test it out live before you sign up. It’s missing a lot of features like plugins and so on, but it really does well for what it is for – a minimal blogging service.

Pricing: $29 billed monthly – 1 blog, 50,000 views / month, unlimited transfer and storage. Ghost does not offer a free hosted plan (has 14-day trial). However, you are not limited in the hosted version in any manner. Then there are advanced, team and business plans.

HubPages // Go

Squidoo, once owned by Seth Godin, was sold to HubPages. The idea is that you write about your passions and can earn experience points and even an actual – the more page views you get the more they pay you. It’s a really clever idea and, although not really suited for many uses, it could be a fantastic place to practice and get used to how networks of people who are focused on one topic or niche work and interact.

Pricing: Free.

IM Creator // Go

This is a really simple but visually attractive website builder where you choose a theme and customize it and then get going. Unlimited hosting, connect your own domain, access to all themes. There’s more features on the higher plan and reseller options are available.

Pricing: There’s free options but then the reseller accounts start at $350 and go all the way up to $25,000.

Jimdo // Go

Jimdo is a really cool looking website and blog hosting platform that has some very funky templates and theme options. They’ve put a lot of emphasis on making it as clean and practical to use as possible.

alt

Has a template builder and seems to have a focus on blogs that want to showcase a bunch of photos as there is a big focus on images and galleries. Has a separate App for editing your blog on the go, which is something a lot of platforms lack.

Pricing: Starts at $7.50 a month.

Joomla.com // Go

Joomla.com is the free blogging version of Joomla.org and has all of the basics that you’d expect from a large blog site. It is an open-source platform where the .com version is hosted for you and the .org version lets you download it for yourself so you can tinker away. Has millions of users and a very large community which is good if you run into trouble or need some support.

Pricing: Free.

Joomla.org // Go

This is the paid version of Joomla.com and is one of the world’s biggest blogging and website hosting services. It’s fully open source and has an incredible community that is constantly updating and working together to build something that they enjoy. Over 3% of the entire web is powered by Joomla and, as you’d expect, has a huge host of features that you’d need.

joomla

It’s worth exploring all the core features as there is a lot to go through. I spent about a week using a Joomla website once and, although it did everything we needed it to, I found it a lot harder to customize and tweak and expand than a similar WordPress installation. The back end feels somewhat dated, but I know many people prefer it.

Highly recommend you jump in and look at the features and try their live demo and see if it is a fit for you.

LinkedIn Pulse // Go

All you need is a LinkedIn account to get started. However, just like other platforms, there’s no guarantee that it’ll exist forever if the site itself becomes unpopular and therefore your content may be at risk as compared to when it’s published on a self-hosted blog. Has the potential for a lot of reach but also mainly only read by people on LinkedIn and about topics related to work and those niches.

LiveJournal.com // Go

Template-customization options. An active social-networking community. Mobile and voice-posting options. LiveJournal isn’t as user-friendly as the competition, but an extremely active community and a good amount of customization options for Web-savvy users make this blogging service worth a look.

Pricing: Free. Some paid services and themes through the LiveJournal shop. Shows ads within dashboard.

Medium // Go

Medium is a free platform which is specifically content-focused and suits writers. It’s made a lot of waves in the blogging community lately and is easy to use and very beautiful in terms of it’s simple layout and white space.

medium

I’ve chosen it as one of the recommended free options as it is a really good way to learn to blog and, although it won’t be the right choice for a full website/blog option, it connects and integrates with Twitter nicely and as such can help you get your stuff noticed easily.

Has nice features like the ability to highlight and share certain paragraphs of text, bookmark articles, etc.

Pricing: Free

Moonfruit // Go

Moonfruit has been around since 1999 and seems to be a quick and easy option if you want to get a website up as fast as possible, but after that it seems like the template might be pretty locked in once you’ve built it. Has great support options and is always mobile responsive. While it has some cool features I don’t think it is robust enough for a long term blogging solution. They do seem to have new features on the radar so maybe keep checking back and see what’s new.

Pricing: Lite plan starts at $6.75 and offers one site, up to five pages, 10GB Bandwidth, 500MB storage.

Onepagerapp.com // Go

This is a pretty cool looking website builder that could be quite useful for agencies. However, we discounted it immediately from our recommendation list as the starter plan only allows you to send one newsletter per month, which is really insufficient for bloggers. That being said, there are a lot of good testimonials for this site so it may be worth investigating if you want a really easy way for building a quick website and the specs are quite good.

Pricing: Starter plan is $8.

Pen.io // Go

This is actually a pretty cool site that, while not a blogging platform as such, is a super fast way to get a piece of content online. All that it asks for is a name for your page and a password – you’re done!

penio

No email required either. Others can access your content through the initial password. Might be useful for those who wish to share something with their circle confidentially.

Pricing: Free.

Penzu // Go

This one is an interesting option that is focused on those who wish to have an online journal. You can use three types of journals using Penzu blogging platform: DailyDiary (public can read your content), Expressive Journal (private), and Travel Journal (especially designed for travelers).

Pricing: Free plan is available. Pro plan available at $19.99 per year. Pro+ plan available as well.

Postach.io // Go

Only one of its kind. The whole premise of Postach.io is to negate the need for users to use a separate blogging tool, working instead with the popular note management system, Evernote.

evernote

Postach.io essentially turns Evernote into a content management system, which allows users to sync notes directly to their Postach.io blog. Very cool idea and worth taking a look at if blogging is new to you.

Pricing: Free.

Postagon.com // Go

This is a pretty cool minimal option that lets you do some unique things like posting from your email. While it is marketed as a “no fluff” option, there are also some basic features that are quite useful like being able to view all your subscribers, make images retina friendly and so on. There’s a free demo which I would try before committing to the platform too much.

Pricing: Free.

Posthaven // Go

Posthaven’s main point of difference seems to be the strong statements that they make regarding their pledge to keep your content online forever. The promise not to get shut down or acquired and, as such, your posts will always be safe with them. They have their own themes or you can build your own, and you can post by email if you like.

Pricing: $5/month

Scriptogr.am // Go

Hasn’t been launched yet but we’ve included it here because it looks like it could be cool.

Sett // Go

Sett is a blogging platform that lets you tap in to an audience right away by syndicating blog posts to other Sett users in similar interest groups. They claim that people who use Sett experience almost a 98% increase in comment counts, which is pretty impressive. There are quite a few examples on the homepage of posts that have gone somewhat viral, but the platform itself is missing some flexibility that you might need for professional blogging. Still worth a look.

Pricing: Free plan available. Paid plan with additional features starts at $12.

Silvrback // Go

Another minimalist platform with most of the essential features included that works as a subscription service. Several themes available and there are two UI options to choose from. One unique feature is its Github support to directly upload Github articles and they offer a 14 day trial for you to explore. The typography they chose on the site is a little unfortunate and I don’t think it enhances the minimal branding they are going for.

Pricing: $3.99/month.

SITE123 // Go

SITE123 is a multilingual website building platform that offers 69 different languages to build your website. Responsive design, free image library, 24/7 support, and lots of other useful features such as restaurant menus and online store integration for those who need it. Looks like a good basic option but it’s uncertain about how advanced it can go in terms of integrations that you need to grow a blog.

Pricing: Starts at a free 500MB storage 1GB bandwidth option and then pricing goes up.

Sitey // Go

Sitey is yet another website builder that is difficult to tell how it really differentiates from the other options despite having some nice features for beginners. There’s 24 hour support, shop options available, a drag-and-drop editor and hundreds of responsive templates.

Pricing: Starts at a free option for 50MB storage (which is barely anything) and then moves up.

Strikingly // Go

Strikingly is a very beautiful looking blog site and website builder that has a very simple model for building sites that will appeal to a lot of beginners. It has been used by some pretty big entrepreneurs and has some nice endorsements.

Has scrolling single-page design with sections to which you can navigate. Free accounts get a yoursitename.strikingly.com address, show a Powered by Strikingly badge at the bottom, let you sell one product, and limit you to 5GB throughput per month. Could be good for simpler needs.

Pricing: For $8 per month, you add a custom domain, increase the monthly bandwidth to 50GB, and raise the number of products to five.

Squarespace // Go

If you’ve ever listened to a podcast you’ll know about Squarespace as they are prolific sponsors and have done an excellent job of encouraging people around the world to start a website or blog on their platform. It’s popular, beautiful and it’s easy to see why people love it.

squarespace

Responsive design for mobile screens. Lots of website-building tools and options. Deep selling capabilities, including digital downloads. Free SSL certificate. Good help and analytics tools. Less straightforward than competing site builders. Fewer and more-restrictive templates than the competition. No free level. Lacks third-party widget marketplace. Little customization for mobile sites.

Squarespace has a real focus on design and as such it is the choice of a lot of brands that want to showcase their work, products, or art in a very stylish and modern way. Although you don’t have the same level of customization as a blogging site like WordPress, a lot of the stuff you want is already built-in and ready to go. Worth a look for many bloggers.

Pricing: Free 14 day trial available. Personal plan starts at $16.

12. Svbtle // Go

Really cool concept that claims that you blog will remain online forever. It is set up to help you come up with concepts and ideas as you blog, and so might be slightly different than just a blog hositng platform or regular site builder.

svbtle

Very minimal and beautiful feel to the site and clears out all clutter as you write which is an idea that really appeals to me on the days I just need to write.

Pricing: $6 monthly membership.

Tumblr // Go

Tumblr took the blogging world by storm and is now one of the most popular services on the planet. It has a very distinctive feel and set of features that seems to appeal to younger audiences and fast-paced content like memes and so on.

tumblr

It’s generally a micro-blogging and social networking website owned by Oath Inc. (Verizon and Yahoo!) that allows users to post multimedia and other content to a short-form blog. It’s somewhere in between Twitter and Medium.

Users can follow other users and blogs. You can use a custom domain but don’t expect a lot of plugins like WordPress. It has a mobile app. Tumblr’s biggest advantage is the community of users that share content with one another that often go viral

Pricing: Free. Tumblr sells premium themes for prices ranging from $9 to $49 each.

Typepad.com // Go

Typepad offers robust tools for site management, SEO and controlling how your blog is promoted. Designing capabilities are limited without HTML coding, so this would be a service best suited to bloggers experienced in web design, but they do promise excellent support. TypePad requires a premium subscription, and its preset templates and themes aren’t as varied as other services, even free blog platforms. Seth Godin uses this.

Pricing: TypePad Basic service, for one individual, starts at a reasonable $8.95 per month, while TypePad Pro service, allowing multiple authors, costs $49.95 per month.

Ucoz // Go

Ucoz is a website template builder that comes with some good features but it seems as if you have to pay for one of the higher monthly plans to access things like a true responsive mobile design that, we think, should be default by now. Has some strange features like image watermarks added on your photos unless you choose one of the higher plans. There may be a reason for doing this but, to us, it really seems like it would scare off users.

Pricing: Free plan shows ads, storage up to 400MB, mobile version is a basic PDA.

Ukit // Go

Another website template builder with some extra features added along the way that seems to be aimed at small businesses instead of individuals. Live chat support. Automatic and manual backups. 200+ designs to choose from. You need the Pro plan in order to be able to edit HTML.

Pricing: Plans start at $4 per month.

Quora // Go

Quora’s aim is to make knowledge more available to the masses and it has done a really good job of doing what it was designed to do. It is based around a question and answer format and isn’t really a blogging platform as such but a place you can share the things you know, answer people’s questions, and so on.

quora

You regularly see Quora posts on question-based SEO results like the one above, which is pretty cool. Your domain will have “quora” in it. Perhaps a good optional extra to have alongside your blog, but possibly not the best for your main base.

Pricing: Free.

Virb // Go

Essentially a website builder but with unlimited space, large collection of themes, mobile responsive and widgets. Can be connected to an external Tumblr blog.

Pricing: Single plan is $10/month. One year free virb student program.

Voog // Go

Voog is a stripped-down, beautiful yet simple website builder with a particular focus on the easy creation of multilingual responsive websites. It supports contact forms, online store and other basic features like mobile responsiveness.

Pricing: Plans start at $8.71/month which includes 2 GB storage, 3 users, 30 pages, 3 languages, custom domain password protected pages, fully customizable design, API access, etc.

Webnode // Go

Webnode is a really simple website builder that has some visually stunning themes to work with as well as features like an online store option, mobile ready, and no ads on site. Over 27 million people use this service which is an excellent endorsement.

webnode

A little bit confusing as home page says it can be free but the pricing page only lists paid options, and the templates on the personal/free blogging section look a little dated. Would be good to explore this before starting.

Pricing: Basic plan has 100MB storage, 1GB Bandwidth and starts at $3.95/month.

Webs // Go

Simple drag and drop interface makes building websites easy. Has a free option, but displays ads on your site. A custom domain name comes free with all paid plans. Need to pay extra for things like advanced stats and the ability to integrate a store.

Pricing: Starter plan is available for creating a basic site for $5.99/month.

Webstarts // Go

Webstarts claims to be the number one website builder of 2017 and hosts around 3.8 million websites, which is pretty amazing although I couldn’t find any criteria for the rating.

Online store option available, automatic domain setup and online store and CDN. Free plan available and offers 1GB storage but appears to show ads.

Pricing: Pro plans starts at $4.89/month and offers storage up to 5GB, bandwidth of 25GB, and removes ads, along with providing some additional features.

Websitebuilder // Go

Another website builder with all of the expected features including over 10,000 theme combinations, custom domain names, mobile responsive templates, support, etc. Has a free plan but it is extremely restrictive with things like no option for mobile responsive sites or email.

Pricing: Premium plan starts from $5.99/month and provide free domain, free hosting, free ad credits, seo and marketing help, mobile sites. Higher plans include free email, priority support and ecommerce.

Web Start Today // Go

Web Start Today is a premium DIY website builder that helps you create professional websites for free. Has a widgetized site builder, but it seems as if you have to pay extra to have a mobile responsive design which is a bit of a shame.

Pricing: Has free options but uses their domain name. $4.99 p/m standard plan with 10 Pages, limited storage and bandwidth, ad-free, 2 email accounts.

WebyDo // Go

Weby Do is a really beautiful looking platform that focuses on being able to craft nice designs without using code and is really meant for web designers building sites for clients. Might be a little on the expensive side for beginners, but could really suit some custom situations. Really like that you can suggest and then vote on the next features you want added to the platform.

Pricing: $75.00/month (monthly plan) with email support for up to 10 sites.

Weebly.com // Go

Weebly has become a pretty recognizable brand name among small businesses and people who are just starting out on the web. They’re marketing has been very good in that sense. It’s a simple, reliable free option that now powers over 12 million websites.

weebly

The place a lot of emphasis on helping you do your own marketing and email list management which is really nice if you need a blog site that will help you build a blog for the purposes of growing, for example, a physical store or business.

Pricing: Free plan available but you’ll want to go up to at least the third plan tier to get all the things you’ll need over your blogging career.

Wix // Go

Wix is another blog site and website builder that has made huge inroads in the booming small business website market – you see it almost every day for local businesses around your town. It has some good and some not so good features.

They offer over 510 professional templates, and have a drag and drop website builder and features that is focused around industries like Art, Music, etc. There’s a mobile editor that allows you to edit the mobile version of your site separately. With Wix app market, you can add functions to your website, such as live chat (for customer service), newsletter, testimonials, reservation/booking tools, contests, pricing tables, etc.

One of the drawbacks is that it seems as though once you’ve picked a template to use you can’t switch to another template without re-inserting your content. If you are using Wix’s free website builder, it includes advertisement logos. To remove the advertisements, you will need to upgrade to at least their “Combo” premium package. It’s not designed to manage complex e-commerce needs.

Pricing: Free and then paid plans start at $4.50/month.

WordPress.com // Go

WordPress.com is the free version of WordPress.org where you essential use their blog site for your blog instead of installing it on your own server. It is extraordinarily popular and has some (but definitely not all…) of the features we love about WordPress.org for professional blogging.

Users can upgrade to a custom domain name. The solutions to user’s problems are found within the active forums and the site’s in-depth tutorials. It can be used for building a site, blogging, or an eCommerce site but lacks a lot of the themes and plugins and customization options that you get with the self-hosted version unless you upgrade to the Business Plan.

We often recommend this as a good free starting point as it is then quite easy to migrate to a WordPress.org setup as opposed to if you started your free blog on a totally different platform. Read the next one to see why it’s a step up.

Pricing: Free. Charges for other additional features such as custom domain or third-party themes and plugins.

WordPress.org // Go

WordPress.org is the open-source free platform that you install on your own server. It has been the most popular blogging and website building software for a long time now, and it has been the basis for all of our online businesses, including Blog Tyrant.

wordpressorg

We have some more details about how the WordPress.org and self-hosting setup works here if you’re interested, but the main thing to know is that you need your own server and domain name, and then you install WordPress on that server and use it as your blogging platform/dashboard. It sounds simple but it only takes a few minutes and the process is automated on most hosts. Here’s a guide on how to do it.

WordPress’s main advantages is that it is open for programmers and designers to design themes and plugins and as such there are literally hundreds of thousands of ways you can change your whole blog by just installing a simple plugin or theme that behaves differently.

Xanga // Go

There seems to be a re-launch of this blog site happening soon but the website is a little bit confusing at the moment. We’ve left it on the list and will update it should they launch the new thing.

Yola // Go

You only get a three page website on the free option and have to upgrade to the top platform to get most of the necessary features. Has a 30-day money back guarantee which should be essential for all blog site and website builders.

Pricing: Free and upgrades available.

Zoho // Go

Zoho is more than just a website or blog builder in that it encompasses and entire cloud software suite that businesses can use to run a lot of their operations from finance to marketing and promotion and sales.

A lot of bloggers will find these features unnecessary as they are intended for bigger companies, but it’s interesting to find a place where they are all integrated nicely, and it’s been around since 1996 so has a very solid reputation.

Pricing: Basic plan available for $5/month. Most requisites for a well working blog are only fulfilled by the Standard plan available at $10 and beyond.

What blog sites or features are missing?

We’d really like to make this resource as accurate and comprehensive as possible so that people can easily browse a list of blog sites and then dive deeper into their own exploration. What blog sites are missing, and is there anything you’d like us to change with the format or features listed?

Please leave a comment and let us know.

What Will You Sell if You Give Away Your Best Blog Content for Free?

free content give away

If you give away your best blogging content then what’s left to sell?

It’s a very interesting question that a lot of bloggers worry about when it comes to deciding how they are going to make money from their blog in the short and long term.

Many of us get concerned that if they post all of their best stuff there will be nothing left to say when it comes time to creating a paid product.

So, what’s the solution? Let’s take a look.

The question on free vs paid content

First, here’s the question I received in my inbox from Shruti (used with permission and edited for length):

While I myself a firm believer of the fact that the number one strategy for positioning oneself as authority, to get readers to love you, and for building a connection with them is to write heroic, epic, blockbuster insanely valuable post.. But don’t you think if I, as a blogger, would give away all my best contents for free, then I would face problems at a later date regarding what contents to include in my info product when it is already being presented as a blog post by me earlier…

Why would anyone pay me for something they can get for free? Even if someone agrees to pay me then will my info product be worthy enough to be exchanged for money? Hope you would pay heed to my dilemma..

Looking forward to your response. Thanks for your time.

It is a legitimate question and is something that almost every blogger will think about at one point in their career. So let’s dive in a see what solutions we can find.

The free content strategy

Let’s step back a little bit and look at the “free content” strategy that we are talking about here.

It all centers around the idea that one of the best ways to succeed in blogging is to create incredibly helpful content that solves problems and then give it away for free.

Some of the options look like this:

  • Write extraordinary long form content
    One of the main options is just to create incredibly useful long form content that goes into extraordinary depth and provides a lot of value. If you do this the thinking is that people will be more likely to subscribe. Sites like ViperChill has operated like this for a very long time now.
  • Do that and then offer more on the email list
    The more common strategy is to start a mailing list, and couple brilliant blog posts with a mailing list that offers a free giveaway download in exchange for a subscriber’s email address. This is the tactic I try to do here on Blog Tyrant, although my blog posts are far from brilliant.
  • Upgrade your content in exchange for email addresses
    A new strategy that we have been seeing a lot lately is where bloggers offer content upgrades. This is where you add an extra download to individual pieces of content. Where the content is site-wide in the option above, this option relates to individual posts and can include charts, worksheets, lists, etc.

All of this involves a lot of work and, more to the point, a lot of information. It takes time to research and put together and is no small feat. So, at the end, is there really anything valuable left to sell?

Putting it all together at the making money stage

make money blogging

It’s really important to remember here that there are a lot of ways to make money from blogging and creating paid products is just one of them. But let’s take a look at some scenarios that might give you some idea.

Example scenario stage #1: combining old with new

Let’s say you have a blog about eating vegetarian food when you have IBS. It’s a very niche topic that can provide wonderful benefits for those that are struggling to live with the condition and also want to avoid eating meat.

So, your vegetarian blog (…we need more vegetarian food bloggers, by the way…) would be a wonderful collection of recipes, photos that you take yourself, information about how you came up with the recipes and then also you own stories and research about dealing with the condition.

Next, you could think about releasing your own hard copy version of a cookbook. This is a great example of using a mixture of old content and new content in a new format and charging money for it. Lots of people prefer to cook from a book, and people also like to have them on coffee tables which they can’t do with a digital version. So this is old content in a new format.

Example scenario stage #2: combing income streams

Following on with the example of the vegetarian cooking blog for people with IBS, the next thing you want to look at is diversification.

When it comes to making money with the blog you could/should have a mixture of income streams that, over time, add up to a good source of revenue. This could include affiliate products like cookbooks and implements from Amazon and maybe even different supplements that you’ve tried (if that’s even legal in your country).

When you mix this with your cookbook sales you might find that you can make a tidy income of people paying for products that are new things you create, re-formatted old content, and content/products created by other people.

Example scenario stage #3: expanding in to different verticals

By now you cooking blog and book is ticking along nicely. You’ve got a bunch of fans who like your thinking and have had some nice results with your recipes and solutions for IBS. It’s at this point that you might think about exploring verticals.

For example, you’ve been relying on the cookbook sales for a little while now so why not expand out and organize live cooking shows in the areas with the biggest subscribers? You might even create an annual meet-up or camp where people get together and do fun IBS stuff like not drinking and taking it easy. 😉

You could launch your own line of aprons with a funny joke from your blog, you could create a podcast that is donation-per-listen that goes over other cooking ideas, interviews with interesting people in the niche, etc. The possibilities are quite literally endless.

It’s a lot like a band

Thinking about making money from a blog is a lot like how a band goes about building a career.

First they come up with some songs and launch an EP or an album. They then start touring the country, playing music, and building up a fan base. While they are touring they might even sell some merch.

Over time that fan base gets big enough that they start getting some big views on YouTube or Spotify and there’s enough money in the bank to maybe think about an overseas tour.

You then drop your next album and do it all over again. Except now you’re selling out theaters instead of dirty pubs. But you have to keep in mind that you’re still playing those first songs that people first heard on a crappy old EP.

It’s a mix of new and old content, and a bunch of sideways formats.

So how do you do it?

The first step is to do your research. Take a look at others in your niche and see what they are doing.

The next step is to start experimenting. The more experiments you run the more data you have. And it’s usually at this stage that you start to find things that people might be willing to pay to understand. This is such an important part of the process that a lot of bloggers overlook. I wrote about it on Jeff’s blog and I can’t emphasize it enough.

Next you can look at the most popular content on your blog and see what is missing. How can you improve on what is already there and could you charge for it? Has someone ever asked you a question that you could possibly answer in greater depth? Once you’ve figured that out – can you then answer it in a different format? (Think: video course, podcast, coaching session, member’s forum, etc.)

You can even do a big old survey and ask people directly what they are struggling with and if there are any opportunities in there. It’s a simple method to get some very honest feedback.

Have you ever paid for content?

I’d love to know whether you’ve ever paid for content on a blog that also offers a lot of its material for free. What made you open up your wallet and were you satisfied? If you have any good examples I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

Hope this helps, Shruti!