Like many bloggers today, Jerry Low got his start sharing about his life in Yokohama, Japan with friends and family, posting photos, travelogues, inside jokes and the like.
Then he quit his engineering job and began launching affiliate sites for income. He found that blogs made it easier to interact with site visitors (Twitter and Facebook weren’t as popular at the time) and keep his site content fresh for Google rankings.
He’s worked with a variety of hosting services to launch more a dozen affiliate sites; today he shares his deep knowledge of web hosting, blogging and marketing through Web Hosting Secrets Revealed. Jerry recently caught up with us to offer some best practices for blogging in a super-saturated, hyper-competitive web environment.
What considerations should individuals or brands wanting to start a blog make before jumping in?
Here are three of the most important:
Objective – What do you want to achieve with your blog? You should have a goal in mind before you start a blog.
Purpose – Will your blog fill the needs of others? People will only come to your blog if you are offering something they need.
Audience – Who is your target audience? Is your audience market size big enough? What interests your target audience? The audience persona will help determine your blog content style and marketing strategy.
What should we be doing early on in the process to help ensure the success of the blog?
Whatever decision you make in blogging, always have your audience in mind.
How important is finding a good web host to the success of a site?
Very. A good host guarantees three things, which are vital to any site’s existence: Uptime, server speed and security.
Yes, we are talking about existence. When your site goes down – it means the site disappears from WWW. How can you be successful when you do not exist?
- Your site availability will affects Google’s search rankings. Google bots can’t index your site if it’s down; and your site will start being pushed out of SERPs if it’s down often or malware-infected.
- Nearly half of the Internet users expect your site to load in less than two seconds; 40 percent will leave if it takes longer than three. Server load time = money.
How should we go about evaluating what hosting service to use?
Some key questions to ask:
- Reliability – How often does the host go down?
- Server speed – How fast/slow is your site loading? Slow server often means your site is hosted on a rushed server.
- Security – What are the security measures and back-up protocols? Is your site safe (from malware, hackers, and scammers) with the host? Does the host scan for malware on regular basis?
- Room to grow – What is the web host’s policy if you need to upgrade your plan mid-contract? For example, if you start out in a shared server and need to move to a dedicated or VPS environment during your contract term, what will happen?
- Free trial – Does the provider offer a free trial? Almost every provider offers at least a 30-day trial, but some offer longer terms. Keep your eyes and ears open and take advantage of the no-commitment period to test every facet of the service.
- What are the renewal terms and fees? First-time subscribers will likely sign up at a discounted rate that changes upon renewal of your contract. Make sure that you know all of the ramifications.
- Types of technical support – Is online chat available 24/7? What are the phone support hours?
What are some best practices for maintaining a blog?
- Treat your blog like a real business.
- Pick a well-designed theme – it’s more important than you think.
- Track your web host.
- Be proactive and network with other bloggers.
- Take notes – on your phone, tablet, notepad or dining napkin.
Spend time to master the art in SEO and SMM (or at least understand the basics).
What are your favorite tools for promoting a site?
I use plenty of tools to maintain my daily marketing activities at WHSR. Some of the vital ones include:
- Get Response – for email marketing.
- Rank Ranger – to monitor search rankings.
- Revive Old Post – a handy WordPress plugin to auto tweet my old content.
- Bitcatcha – to measure and benchmark site speed in various locations (important when you are marketing your site in foreign countries).
- Optin Monster – for leads collection and A/B testing
- Commun.it – to manage my Twitter profiles.
- Adespresso – to manage and A/B test Facebook ads.
What do you think are the most common misconceptions we have about blogging?
That maintaining a profitable blog is something easy. Don’t get me wrong – starting a blog is dead easy. The tricky part is growing it and maintaining profit for the long term.
I am sad to see people being misled by those get-rich-quick blogging courses and paying hundreds of dollars for nothing.
What do you think is the future of blogs? How have they evolved since they started?
I don’t have a magic crystal ball, but I’ll give it a shot anyway.
1. Rough competition: One thing is for sure, the blogsphere is getting more and more crowded. In August of 2015, more than 54 million posts were published on WordPress.com (up from 43 million one year ago). In other words, there are 1.8 million new posts published on WordPress.com alone every day. In my opinion, the growth rate is not going to slow down anytime soon. As web publishing in general is getting easier (and cheaper) these days, I expect to see even more new blogs in various niches in the coming years.
To win this race, bloggers will need to do more than just enough.
Unlike 10 years ago, where bloggers were usually more focused on creating content; bloggers today need to be jack-of-all-trades. We need to be well informed in (almost) all things Internet – web creative writing, UX designs, site performance optimization, SEO, SMM, email marketing, web analytics, market research, etc.
2. Better decisions with free data: With the help of freemium tools and big data like Buzz Sumo, Kiss Metrics, Content Gems, Auto Send, Lucky Orange and (not to forget) Google Analytics getting more powerful than ever; blog content and marketing strategy will be more data-driven.
I expect to see more logical groupings of products and content. And blog owners will start to focus more on the data they provide to the consumer as they realize this impacts their blog traffic and their conversion rates.
Connect with Jerry on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.