Category Archives: Pursuits

Part #5 How to start a successful (or failing) Blog in 2013-14

It’s now going on one year since I had the idea of starting the Droneflyers.com blog and web site. This post will bring readers up to date on the effort and also offer some additional tips and advice.

Statistics of Traffic (Readership)

First, a quick update on readership – a metric webmasters call “traffic”. I use two measurement services to study the traffic – one is google analytics and the other is quantcast. Both are free. In order to get the most accurate measurements, you need to place a piece of code which they give you onto your pages.

Our quantcast stats are public and can be found at:
https://www.quantcast.com/droneflyers.com

If you hit the “month” tab, you will see that we are up to as many as 100,000 pages being read per month. The growth has been fairly slow and steady – expect for a very strong uptick during the holiday season. This was due to interest in quadcopters for gifts AND the amazing amount of free publicity given to drones when Amazon ran their story about using them for future deliveries. Our site traffic doubled during the week following that story. I expect our traffic to settle down somewhat now that the holiday season is over, so rather than compare it to the previous month, I will be comparing (internally) to the same month the year before.

Google Analytics chart - click to enlarge

Google Analytics chart – click to enlarge

The basics of the chart are shown in the upward angle of the chart. We had about 10,000 page views in the month of Feb, 2013 – the first month I started this blog. In December, we had about 10X that many, and in the previous months 4-6X as many. Once again this reaffirms the wisdom of purchasing an existing (but, in this case, abandoned) blog which had some traffic – as opposed to starting from scratch. I don’t think Droneflyers would be doing nearly as well if we hadn’t spent a few bucks to get a baseline of traffic and articles.

Current Setup of Site

The original site was a blog with articles posted by one author. The current site is still following this basic format, however I added a forum section which allows others to login and post their reviews, comments and questions. The forum part of the site has not been really busy – but that’s OK – in many ways it serves our purpose of not being complicated. In terms of keeping the site going, here are some of the important points which contribute to it’s success:

1. A very focused and clear mission and subject – We are a site geared toward beginners, those getting started in the hobby. More experienced hobbyists have plenty of other sites to visit – there is almost unlimited technical material on drones online! However, there is not much for those getting started – so we are focusing on those who are in their first couple years of R/C (radio controlled) quadcopter experience.

I should note that one of the biggest mistakes I see made on the internet is the tendency to claim too much “real estate”. In my opinion, you will be much better off to be narrowly focused and do a good job on that piece.

2. A mature attitude and member “vibe” – since the site is about quadcopters for beginners, we don’t allow off-topic conversations, arguments and all the stuff which seems to ruin much of the internet these days.

3. A subject which is growing or underserved – this is an “either/or” proposition. Let me explain. My other site, hearth.com, is focused on a very tiny niche subject – mostly people who heat their homes with woodstoves and firewood. Yet it has millions of page views per month – because the subject is underserved (not a lot of independent info) on the internet.
The quadcopter (drone) site covers a quickly growing subject. These consumer drones are really quite new – the last two years has brought the real explosion in their use. Also, to repeat, by focusing on beginners we are chasing a bit of that underserved market.

4. Consistency – although I don’t spend a lot of time on new articles and content for the site, I do make sure that it does not appear or become abandoned. Maybe I’ll post some good pictures, links, a couple comments, etc – and a few other forum members do also. Maybe I will update an existing articles and/or some links. It’s important to not let a week or two go by without adding something to your ongoing blog or forum…

5. Not forcing the issue – I don’t suggest putting a bunch of new features on a blog or forum unless there is a clear use for them. KISS is the word (keep it simple)….better to have fewer features which are used more than to have too many and have them languish. Watch the statistics and only offer new features, forums, subjects and articles based on what people actually want and need.

Promoting and Advertising Updates

In the former installments of this series, I mentioned the use of google adwords and similar programs as a low-cost way to spread the word. In this update, I’ll review most of the ways you need to promote your blog – both free and low-cost….

Cost per click advertising – These are programs such as google adwords – Bing has an equivalent as do some other large sites (Yahoo!, etc.). – My blog, Droneflyers.com, is currently spending about $50-$60 per month in google adwords. This amount sends about 400 extra visitors to the site per month.

Twitter – I have to admit it. I have never been a big fan of Twitter as a consumer. There is just TMI (too much information) to follow! However, Twitter does create a decent platform for you to promote your new site and articles. It also establishes you as a “player” in the particular sector which you blog about. In fact, one company contact me via Twitter and sent me an expensive sports camera (free) to review! It is also a good way for you to find decent links, stories and happenings which relate to your subject – and perhaps post them or blog about them.

Facebook – Many internet sites would benefit from having a page on Facebook. However, most of your real content should be on your site (blog, forum, etc.) NOT on Facebook. Facebook also allows low-cost advertising – called “boosting your post”, while allows your page to quickly become popular. Our Facebook page has only been active for a month (as of this writing), but as you can see we have a lot of exposure and “likes”
https://www.facebook.com/droneflyers

Other Forums and Sites – can provide traffic to your new site for no cost. Take part in valid discussions elsewhere on the net. Some sites allow you to post links to your site (reviews, for instance). Even Amazon product reviews can steer people to your site!

Of course, the original advice always applies – that is “Content Is King”. Adding quality articles, posts, pictures, videos, link and other content to your site is the best way for the search engines to “bless” you….meaning more readership at little or no cost.

Show me the $$$

In some of the former posts I mentioned the potential revenue sources for your blog/site. However, there is little need to concern yourself with these until you have decent traffic on your site – realistically, until you have a couple thousand pages read per week you are unlikely to be able to “monetize” your site if you are a publisher. However, some of you may be in the business of E-commerce, that is…selling things directly from your web site. Your content may be a way of educating and informing the customer. In such a case, it’s possible that $$ can be gleamed from a smaller readership…assuming the readers are targeted. As an example, if you sell consulting services, it may be that one out of every 500 visitors to your site contacts you for paid advice.

My experience is mostly with web publishing – that is, sites which provide information as opposed to products and services. In my case, income can be made in these ways:

1. Ad programs such as google adsense allow you to make money from ads served by google.

2. Sponsors you obtain – in this case you have to find sponsors who are willing to pay you for banners, text links or other promotion on your site.

3. Affiliate links – these are the Amazon (and similar) programs where you can place product links on your site and get paid a small commission if your readers click on them and make a purchase.

4. Book sales, etc – I used my blog writings as the basis for a book – called “Getting Started with Hobby Quadcopters and Drones”. This is an e-book (paperback available also) which I self-published at a very low cost. The book is selling well.

Currently, I am making 70% + of my site income from Amazon affiliates, 20% from book sales (which may be unrelated to the site – they find the book on Amazon) and 5% from Google Adsense.

While the site is not making enough for a full-time living, it is doing very well and is more than paying for my pursuit of this hobby and my investment of time and money. If I was able to invest more time into the effort it’s likely that it could provide 2X or 3X the current income, which would bring it up close to being a “full time job” in terms of $$.

In closing, I hope these posts provide some hints for YOU to succeed on the web.

Craig

Part #4 How to start a successful (or failing) Blog in 2013!

Part #3 is here – and other others are linked from there!

Ok, so enough time has gone by now that a basic judgement can be made as to whether the new blog/forum is (or could be!) a successful venture. As you may remember, I purchased an abandoned blog appox 4 months ago, in late January, 2013.

I have spent some money and quite a bit of time adding content and doing various forms of promotion – in fact, the official Grand Opening is NOW, during which we are giving away various prizes along with copies of a free quadcopter ebook which I am working on.

I’m pleased to note that our traffic (visitors to the site) is WAY up – in addition, the site is actually making some money, although this is not the current intention. It was curiosity, they say, which killed the cat and I couldn’t help but throw some ads and other tests onto the site to see if it would be possible to someday “monetize” it.

Visitors for Droneflyers.com by week in 2013 - Click to Enlarge

Visitors for Droneflyers.com by week in 2013 – Click to Enlarge

Some comments on the chart:
The basics show an increase in page views from less than 1,000 per week to over 7,000. The actual statistics are even better, since I have added a forum to the site which does not have it’s statistics measured in this chart.

Your mileage may vary, but in a very general sense, crossing over the 1,000 page views per day seems to where a site can be economically feasible. Of course, monetary income is only one possible reason (and often one of the lesser) for having a blog or a web site, but it’s nice to get some of the costs covered and make a bit of side income. In my case – since I am investing a couple grand in this venture – it will be satisfying to see a bit of payback eventually come in.

Income vs. Expenses

Based on the current traffic, a site such as this could easily make $2-300 per month in income…and possibly more if the owner spent some time acquiring sponsors and tuning the site. Such a site would pay off the initial monetary investment within the first year or so, and then could provide a positive cash flow. The ongoing costs once all my giveaways, etc. are done with will be less than $40 per month. This includes a decent web host (server) and the costs associated with the forum software, add-ons an upgrades.

Of course, good blogs and web sites require a substantial investment in time and talent also. If I billed myself by the hour, I’d have been broke long ago!

Where the Money comes from?

Most of my previous experience has been with two common forms of selling ads:
1. Private sponsors – this means signing up vendors who might want to put their products or message in front of your sites’ readers.
2. Google Adsense – this involves putting a small piece of code on your site and becoming a partner with google in serving ads (from googles clients).

A third option which I have tried before with poor results involves referring blog visitors to Amazon.com for purchases, and receiving a small fee from Amazon for doing so. In contrast to my former experience, the Amazon links I have on the droneflyers blog are doing quite well.

Yet another option would be to open some kind of a web store and sell related products yourself – something which would probably bring in the largest revenue of any of these options. However, running a physical business requires more time and has additional responsibilities tied to it.

In the case of my new hobby site, it’s my guess that referrals to Amazon along with some adsense will be the best way to create income with little hassle. However, independent (directly contacted and sold) sponsors may be willing to pay higher rates…just that I am not that ambitious at the moment!

I’m going to consider this the final installment to this series – as the site and blog are officially underway. Thanks for reading and I hope you were able to pick up some tidbits of information to make your new blog successful.

Craig

Part #3 How to start a successful (or failing) Blog in 2013!

Part #1 is here
Part #2 is here
This (below) is Part #3

Ok, I know y’all are waiting with baited breath as to the report forthcoming after 3 weeks of taking over the Droneflyers blog – so I will start with the fun stuff (the charts!) and then detail how I got there and also what my predictions are for the next couple of months.

So, without further ado, here are our WordPress stats – click on the pic for the larger version!

Chart shows growth in 3 weeks since purchase

Chart shows growth in 3 weeks since purchase

I’m very pleased. Based on these statistics, the decision to purchase an existing blog (with some visitors) seems valid, as I doubt I would have ever been able to build things up this quickly. The stats are self-explanatory – more people came and read more pages and stayed longer! So, let’s get into some details so that YOU can figure out what may be best for your efforts……

One question which you may be asking yourself is “Well, I don’t know shit….so how the heck am I gonna be able to find and buy a blog or domain which get’s some visitors….you know, like Craig did?”.

A valid question. However, there are many sites where people are selling domains and chances are that you can find one to buy for a very reasonable price which may be related to your subject. Here are some places you can buy existing web sites:

https://flippa.com/
https://marketplace.digitalpoint.com/
and eBay!

There are various ways of confirming the statistics given by the domain sellers. You are welcome to email me for more details on this, but the basics are that any serious webmaster can give you direct access to their google stats so that you can see the figures without them having manipulated them. Some larger sites may have enough traffic to be verified by Quantcast – you can go to http://www.quantcast.com and type in the domain name (try it with hearth.com, etc.).

You could also check in the basic common sense ways! See if you can find the site by searching in google for the terms which are related to it! Notice whether article or forum posts on the site were written recently – or has it languished for years?

So what should you pay for a site? Obviously, as little as possible! For those starting “hobby” sites, you have to have a total budget and work within it. Because I am already in the web space…that is, I have income from existing properties, I can probably afford a bit more for my startup effort. I intend to spend approx $3K total in the first year for everything, from buying the site to advertising to giveaways, but it could be done with much less. Still, a total budget at or over $1,000 for the first year is probably an advantage in terms of quicker growth.

Let’s move on to how I was able to double the traffic within 2-3 weeks. Firstly, as I keep repeating, starting with SOME visitors is key to being able to do this. I cannot stress that enough – you are probably already sick of hearing it!

The next move is to make sure there is some newer content on the site. This may involve a couple hours of you adding and editing existing articles, changing the “about” section and contact info, etc.
There is no use spending time and money promoting a site which visitors will be disappointed with! As will be covered in later posts, Content is King. In fact, you should paste that phrase as a desktop background or print out a piece of paper and tape it to your wall! Content is King. Content is King. Content is King. Content is King.

Along with your initial remodeling, you should start a google account (if you don’t already have one) and install the google analytics tracking code on your site. This will allow precise measurement of your stats.

Your next step is to spend a small amount of money advertising. Don’t skip this step – it will cost you dearly. Come up with a budget…even if it’s $1 a day, to promote your site. Open up two accounts – one on Google Adwords and one on Bing Advertising and place your ads using keyword selection. These systems allow you to bid on relevant words and show your ads (text or graphic) to visitors who type them into a search engine. You only get charged when a visitor is actually sent to your site.

I set up google adwords with a small budget, around $2. daily, for the Droneflyers site. I bid very low for the visitors – maybe a maximum of 15 cents per. The graphic below shows my 3 week history with adwords:

Adwords Stats for Droneflyers

Adwords Stats for Droneflyers

To translate this – google showed my ad over 45,000 times (impressions) and sent 332 visitors to the Droneflyers.com web site – for a total expenditure of $37.02, or about $2 per day.

Why do I suggest you pay for advertising – even if your Blog or site is a hobby site with no income? My theory is that google and bing add some “weighting” to advertisers who appear on their site – not because they sell out for the $$$, but because the willingness to advertise a product shows that your site is a bit more serious and respectable (better for search results).

My prediction for the next couple of weeks? The growth will slow – I don’t expect traffic to double, but rather (hopefully) to maintain at the current level and rise slowly. I plan to officially launch the site and new forum on Apri 1 or thereabouts – at that point I will do some giveaways, PR and other efforts!

Well, it may be time to wrap up this post as I don’t want things to drone (pun intended) on for too long nor to present too much information and have some of it exit your ears after your brain fills up. Although my first intention was to finish up at Post#3, I will continue for at least another post. The next post will detail the free ways I used to build up traffic as well as some of my dilemas and predictions for the future of this failure…or successful….blog.

Quick Update – as of May, 2013 we are still experiencing rapid growth. The chart below shows the record upward growth – to well over 5,000 page views per week. Furthermore, the site has started to bring in some small revenues…more on that later!

Chart of Growth

Chart of Growth

Happy Blogging!

Craig

P.S. A fellow author and friend asked me WHY it was very important to increase traffic. My answer is as follows:

The key to the benefit in traffic is that it means you are not writing or forming a community for nothing. Being general here, but most people write or blog for one of two reasons – either to get “read” (the old author thing) or to get read and eventually make a buck. You cannot make ad or sponsorship money from a web site without having a ton of visitors. And, if you are an author, you are gonna feel bad if only 4 people read that tome you spent a couple years writing. So traffic=value. In a broader internet sense, you may want to check out the meaning of Metcafes Law – that is, the power of the network increases with the square of the user numbers (traffic!) or something like that: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metcalfe’s_law

Part #2 How to start a successful (or failing) Blog in 2013!

As you may remember from Part #1, I decided to go ahead and start the Blog on Quadcopters (consumer drones) and started looking for domain names and/or possibly an existing site I could purchase and expand.

My list of possible (available) domain names is shown below….

dronerise.com
clubdrone.com
dronecamp.com
astrodrone.com
dronemeet.com
dronebooth.com
dronecafe.com
dronedeal.com
dronenuts.com
dronetopia.com
dronecrazy.com
dronehut.com
Continue reading

Part #1 How to start a successful (or failing) Blog in 2013!

As some may know, I have run a successful web site (hearth.com) since 1995. We have a very active forum community and many other features, but most importantly a good community of helpful members who spend their time helping others. This has resulted in MILLIONS of pages being read each month as well as a community which mostly takes care of itself.

When I started Hearth.com the internet was like the wild west – very little “land” had been claimed, and a decent site on ANY subject had a very good chance of success if the basics were in place. However, now that anyone can – and millions do – start web sites, I think it would be a LOT harder to succeed when starting from scratch.

As an experiment, I am doing just that…and I will blog here on the effort so that others can learn from my failures and successes.
Continue reading

The Mind of a Mechanic

Mechanic’s Mind - a term I have not heard before – and yet one that would seem to be obvious. I have never read “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, yet the title brings to mind a definition possibly close to Mechanics Mind.

For the uninitiated, the closest thing might be the 1963 Movie Classic “The Man with the X-Ray Eyes“. This is the story of a normal man who started to see through things. At first, he only saw through the first layer…such as clothes or a wall. But as his powers increased, he started to see the breakdown of EVERYTHING to the extent that it all eventually became molecular! Continue reading

My Picture Galleries in Various Places

I do love taking pictures, but as a lifelong jack of all trades (and master of only one or two), I am certainly not a advanced photog. Still, I have an eye for beauty and sometimes get it right……

Here are my pics on Panaramio – these are also visible on Google Earth and Google Maps!

Here are a bunch of various shots on Google Photos…the Fox ones are neat….

I took most of these in the Hearth.com chimney gallery.

Some of my business and endeavor History in Pictures

This gallery, which I put together for a recent inventors club speaking engagement I did, has some pics from over the decades of products and ventures I have been involved in.

This page on Hearth.com mentions some of my other background.

This wiki entry fills in some other work and play history…….much of what is missing will be filled in as we merrily roll along.