Niche Site U Episode #16: 10 Secrets For Increasing Engagement On Your Niche Site

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The Niche Site U Podcast

Today I want to talk to everybody about the importance of your niche websites blog and 10 secrets you can use for increase engagement of that blog by over 300%.  More engagement leads to more customers and more traffic.

Let’s be quite honest to start with,  the blog on your niche site probably stinks. Your blog probably stinks because you don’t have time to do it right.  I hate to be brutally honest like that but let’s be realistic, most niche sites do stink.

The good news is, yours won’t after you implement these 10 secrets!

1.  Use shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs.

The first secret is to use shorter paragraphs.  Unfortunately most people think that it’s important to use long long paragraphs and that it will keep people stuck on the page, but the reality is, your paragraphs should be short and should only be anywhere from 1 to 5 sentences.

short-sentences

 

 

Spacing out your paragraphs into small chunks also makes it easier for your readers to view.  Don’t overwhelm people with too much text or they will leave your site within the first 5 seconds.

 

2.  Make sure you link to your own content.

The second secret is using an internal linking structure.  Not only is this really  important for SEO purposes to link to old posts and other pages but it’s also a great way to keep people on your website by having them click on your other articles.

Internal-linking-example

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is also helpful to link to related blog posts using good quality anchor text that’s relevant to that blog post.  This will help to keep people engaged for example when you talk about web hosting like I just did, you want to link to a search engine optimization page.

That’s a great example of using internal linking.  You can also take it a step further by adding a related posts link either in the middle of your post or at the end of your post to keep people reading.

3.  Speed up your website.

The next secret that you want to implement is minimizing page load speed. I experience this issue all the time.  When I visit a website and it takes about 20 seconds just to load, I quickly decide that the page isn’t worth viewing.   If it’s going to take 20 seconds just to load a page, you certainly won’t click any deeper into that site.

Now Google looks at page load speed and decides how you’re going to rank.  Google loves fast loading pages because it will affect your bounce rate. (How often people leave your site without going deeper)

I believe your website should take 1 to 2 seconds to load, and to put that that into perspective, Google.com takes 816 milliseconds to load, which is less than one second.

speed-test

 

 

 

 

 

A good free tool to use to measure your page load speed is pingdom.com which is a website speed testing page.

You can use browser caching plugins to reduce load.  If you’re ready to commit some cash into reducing your page load speed, then you can also consider using a content delivery network or CDN.

A CDN duplicates your website content across a number of different servers world wide.  It then serves your visitors the content from whichever server is closest to their location.  The increased productivity actually reduces page load time.

4.  Converse with your audience, don’t just speak to them.

The next important secret is to use a writing style appropriate to your audience.  I just can’t stress enough how important it is to use a writing style that your audience is going to understand.  When writing for the web, there are basically two types of writing styles.

The first is friendly, warm, down to earth, conversational tone which is what I’ve tried to write with and the other is a more professional, more formal tone.  More formal which would be when writing for doctors and lawyers, but not their clients.

Nearly all blogs are going to want to use the down to earth style.  It’s a perfect fit for information oriented blogs, personal blogs, and just about everything in between.   That’s the best part about this style, the conversational tone it takes on will encourage more engagement.

Use personal pronouns, short sentences, and sentence fragments when appropriate.   The formal tone for serious writing will be void of jokes, have longer sentences, bigger words and will be more likely lose the audience quicker.

5.  Make your site clean.

The next secret is to avoid a busy look on your website.  Busy websites are really bad.  If your website is jammed with 36 sidebar widgets and has about 135 different plug-ins or has a hideous theme, it could be disastrous for your blog.

busy-site-bad

 

 

 

 

 

 

You should be using no more than one font throughout all your text on your site.  Don’t go overboard with widgets either.  I personally recommend having a subscription form on your website and some social sharing buttons, but not much else.

You should really try to avoid images in the sidebar whenever possible.  They can really distract readers from what they should be doing, which is reading your content.

6.  Grow your list!

This is no secret to many, but it is critical. You should have a subscription form at the end of every post.  This is a perfect way to recycle your traffic and keep it coming back.  When you email your list about new updates, they are much more likely to come to your site than just returning for no reason.

grow-your-list

Growing your email list is the next step towards growing your revenue!  All you need to do is insert form code at the end of every post with a clear a call to action to get your visitors to subscribe. A good idea to have a free subscriber-only report, video or something of value for signing up.  Don’t have an email list yet, check my resources page.

7.  Integrate “related” content into your posts.

The seventh secret to building engagement is displaying related content at the end of every post.  This ties in with the 2nd secret about internal linking structure that I mentioned earlier.   This can posted automatically using a plugin.  YAARP is a great plugin for this… it displays related posts and pages and you can see either a thumbnail or text.

Here are a few more articles you might enjoy.

You see what I did there? 🙂

8.  Social Sharing

Ok, so this isn’t much of a secret either, but you need to get social.  This is pretty obvious, it’s very important especially after all the recent Google updates about social marketing integration.  When the Google spiders crawl through your website they look for social signals that indicate your site is popular.

If they see social signals, they will reward you with higher rankings. There’s no easier way to get content shared then to have a social sharingplugin on your site.   My favorite is AddThis and I like to use it on the majority of my websites.

It takes no more than a minute to set it up.   It looks great and its used by quite a few popular blogs.  It’s also a floating plugin which means that as you scroll down the page,  it will allow you to keep the social share buttons in front of your readers.

Another important thing to consider is updating and maintaining your social profiles for your business.  I’m going to suggest you focus on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to start with.

9.  Clear Navigation

Having clear navigation menus is critical.  A navigation menu is the bar across the top of the website that displays the important pages, categories and links for your website.   Make sure that you use appropriate  sub pages when necessary.   Avoid creating menus with too many different items.

10.  Color schemes.

Be sure to choose a color scheme that doesn’t reek havoc on the readers eyes.

Black on white is what human eyes are used to and you don’t want to mess up with routine.

Summary

1.  Short paragraphs that are three to five sentences max.

2. Use an internal linking structure that includes relevant blog posts and anchor text.

3.  Speed up your page loading time.

4. Use a writing style appropriate to your audience.

5.  Use a clean site.  Busy sites cause people to leave.

6.  Have an opt in form at the end of every post to grow your email list.

7.  Show related articles at the end of each post.

8.  Use a social sharing plugin and maintain dedicated social profiles for your website.

9.  Use clear navigation.

10.  Using appropriate color scheme that displays black text on a white background.

11.  Bonus Tip – Thanks for reading all the way down.  Use lots of pictures and videos.  This alone can increase engagement significantly.

Niche Site Guide Part 4 – Choosing Themes and Plugins

Intellitheme WordPress Theme

Step #1 – Finding an Awesome WordPress Theme for your Niche Site

I want all of you to do 30 minutes of recon work on finding that winning theme for your site. Go ahead and open up your own text document where you can jot down your notes and findings (namely URLs of themes you like). This is an important step in the process, and I can only guide you to your final destination. Search Google for things like “Premium WordPress Themes” and check out the footers of blogs you like to see where they got their themes. You aren’t going to be buying anything during research, but you need to cut out a solid 30 minutes to look into your future theme. A theme can really drive your traffic, so make sure you are getting what you want.

Remember, we will be customizing these later. Because of this, the true order of your preferences when browsing for themes should be the following IN THIS ORDER:

  1. Layout (e.g. where things are on the page)
  2. Advertising Locations (ads should be plentiful, but not detract from the look)
  3. Aesthetics (how new and professional the actual design appears)

Notice how aesthetics are really the third qualifier of a good theme. Because we can change any awkward color combination to our liking, we need to focus more deeply on where things are, rather than what things are.

Places to Consider for Free and Premium Themes

First of all, let me state that I am only going to fully back premium WordPress themes for your use. Simply put, having a free template… even if you modify the heck out of it… may detract from your reputation. So definitely be careful that you aren’t using one that thousands of others already are! If I’ve seen your theme before, I automatically register you in my head as an amateur! While you need to do your own detective work, I will give you a few resources on both accounts to get you started.

Free WordPress Theme Resources:

Premium WordPress Theme Resources: (Affiliate Links)

Other Paid Themes Include (Not affiliate links)

Make that list of potential themes and you’ll be well on your way. Be sure to look thoroughly through your options, reminding yourself what you will put where in each template as you browse. Remember: it’s not the way it looks, but the way it could look.

Hopefully you’ve done your homework, and have been checking out WordPress themes left and right.  Finalize your decision on which theme you are going to buy… and let’s put some money down!

Adam’s Secret Tip:

Adam Roseland

First things first, if you went with a free premium theme (which is perfectly fine), you can skip past this paragraph. If, however, you are going to pay for it out of pocket to own your own license… here is a quick tip: be your own affiliate! Most theme resellers nowadays have links around their website to encourage affiliates to broker their themes so that they get more exposure. Usually, you will get anywhere from 30% to 65% of the proceeds… which may be a considerable amount of money depending on how pricey the theme is. While I won’t flat out promote you doing this, as many affiliates would rather have you pay sticker price for their theme, you can knock off a good amount of your bill ($10-$40) buy selling the theme to yourself, effectively, through your own affiliate link. Remember to always search for the best deal!

Step #2 –  Installing a WordPress Theme

We’ve spoken to the FTP uploading technique on the day that we installed WordPress, so check out that tutorial if you are a bit fuzzy on the details. For a WordPress theme, this process is very simple. All you need to do is upload the entire folder containing your theme to /wp-content/themes/ in your website. If you have any problems with doing it, check out this great tutorial for a more in-depth look.

Once the folder is uploaded, WordPress will begin to recognize it in your system. Log into your WordPress backend (e.g. “/wp-admin/”), and go to the “Appearance” tab. It is very self-explanitory from here, and you just need to get to the “Themes” section and activate the theme that you like best.

Step #3 – Adding & Installing Plugins

Let’s first discuss how to install new plugins into our WordPress blog. We’ve talked through the system of using FTP to upload files to our website. With this in mind, adding new functionality to your blog is really a matter of downloading new plugins, unzipping the files on your computer, and uploading them to the “/wp-content/plugins/” folder on your blog. Once the files are in there, WordPress will automatically recognize it, and allow you to configure your options right in your Admin panel… easy!   If you need a hand, check out the guide posted on WordPress.org.

Your First Batch of Plugins: Necessary Additions

Now that we know our way around installing plugins, I am going to recommend a few to you to try out. Tomorrow, we will cover plugins that improve the looks and function of your website to your visitors. Today, we will be going over add-ons that I consider essentials for any blog or any type.

Plugins you simply need to have:

Akismet: The top-dog spam blocker for your blog… plus it’s free!

AdSense Privacy Policy: Critical to making sure that you are playing properly in Google’s network.

Google XML Sitemaps: Let Google pick up your website quicker than ever before to increase the amount of traffic to your blog

ShareThis / Sociable: Use one of the following plugins to add an easy link to social networking websites that can blast your traffic to the heavens.  I also like Digg Digg.

Ultimate Google Analytics: Many options here, but this is my personal favorite.  Adds Google Analytics JavaScript to each page on your niche site.

WordPress Automatic Udater: Download this plugin to automatically get upgrades for your plugins and WordPress installation… makes life even easier!

W3 Total Cache: Allow your visitor’s browsers to save some information about your site to have things load faster than ever before

WordPress DB Manager: Everyone needs to back up their site! Create database backups with the click of a button.  Larry Deane, a buddy on Google+ recommends Backup Buddy as a much better solution… which I will be trying out in the future myself.  Please note that Backup Buddy is a paid solution.

WordPress SEO by Yoast: My personal favorite SEO tool for WordPress. Optimize your blog for Google better than ever before.

This batch of plugins should be on every niche site that you ever make, as they add new functionality to your website and will increase the amount of views that you get overall.

Your Second Batch of Plugins: Aesthetics & Enhancements

Now that we have seen a few of the niche-specific plugins, here is a listing of what I feel are must-have add-ons to your WordPress niche sites.  What makes these different from those mentioned in the previous paragraph is that, these plugins focus on aesthetics and enhancing the experience for others.

Top Blog Plugins (That Aren’t Absolutely Essential!):

Comment Luv: Perhaps one of the best community-based plugins for your site. This will encourage people to drop comments, and reward them in a way that won’t hurt you!

Brian’s Threaded Comments: The default commenting system in WordPress is not very efficient, allow your guests to reply to other posts in an easy embedded structure!

Photo Dropper: This makes adding photos to your sites ridiculously easy, and makes sure you give credit where it is due.

Subscribe Remind: Place a convenient and non-distracting reminder at the end of each of your blog posts to get users to subscribe to your RSS feed — an essential conversion tool to boost your RSS figures

Subscribe to Comments: Let your users keep track of discussion on a particular article — another way to have your users checking back constantly!

Top Commentators: Want to boost commenting? Why not create a top-ten listing of the commentators on your blog! Give your guests a link to their own websites and a reason to talk about your work.

Yet Another Related Posts Plugin:  Displays a list of related posts on your site and feeds based on a unique algorithm.  Good way to keep people on your site consuming your content.

With these plugins in your arsenal, you will have yourself a more efficient way to reach users, boost traffic, increase discussion and more! All you need to start your successful blogging career is available at the click of a button.

 

And there you have it… a great start to getting your niche site up and running.  You have now bought a domain, setup hostinginstalled wordpress, and now have chosen a theme and installed your plugins.  Next time, we will discuss monetization strategies and adding your content.

Please let me know your thoughts below.  Do you have other plugins you love to use?  Any themes you think make your site look great?  Lets discuss in the comments below.

Today’s Resources:

Niche Site Guide Part 3 – Setting Up Your Niche Site With WordPress

Wordpress InstallationOur servers are all set up and ready to work for us. Hopefully you should have found that your  domain names now connect to your servers after setting up your hosting in Part 2. Now that we are ready to go, let’s bring our niche site to life! 

The Anatomy of a Niche Site

When you look at a niche site on the internet, chances are what you are seeing is based on a script to run the service. Essentially, niche site builders need a convenient control panel online where they can enter their articles and posts on the fly, usually using a blog platform. The top blogging services include: WordPress, MovableType and Drupal. All of these services are basically packaged scripts that you upload to your server and run completely online. This means that you can run everything online form anywhere in the world… convenient, eh?

Why WordPress?

The one thing that WordPress used to take a lot of heat for was its utter lack of search engine optimization. However, Matt Cutts actually came out and said that WordPress takes care of 80-90% of the SEO factors for you. I would argue that WordPress is the best platform simply because it is one of the most used and it is more flexible and easy to understand than the other systems. Because WordPress has become the industry standard, we are going to be using this script to manage our niche site efficiently.

Step #1 – Downloading the WordPress Platform

Luckily for us, the leading blogging script is also completely free to use. It is available in zipped format on their website at WordPress.org, and the newest version 3.51 is really an awesome package. Go ahead and get on over to the WordPress.org Download section and grab your copy. Then, unzip it somewhere that you can find it on your computer.

NOTE: If You Are Hosted With A Company With cPanel, You Must Ignore These Installation Notes And Use Your Hosting Company’s Directions To Auto-Install WordPress in CPanel!  

Step #2 – Uploading the Script to Your Website

To do any type of transactions to and from your website (e.g. uploading or downloading), you will need what is called an FTP client. FTP stands for “file transfer protocol”, but just think of it as an alternative way to access the files stored on your server. To use this, you will need a few things which your web host will provide to you:

  • Host: The location of your files, mine is simply “jimvesting.com” (which in actuality means “ftp.jimvesting.com”)
  • Username: The username you use to access your admin section of your hosting. In cPanel, mine is “jregan”
  • Password: The password you use to access your admin section of your hosting. I’m not giving THAT away!
  • Port: Most likely 21, you can simply assume this to be true in almost every case

Download an FTP client (a free one!) online and plug in those values. Then, you will be connected to your server and will see all of your files just like you were browsing your own computer files! I recommend FileZilla (what I use) or CuteFTP for this service. Please note that in many cases, if you have a root access to your files, you won’t see them until you click into a folder called “public html” or something close to this.

Find whatever is the root of your files (where you will typically see a cgi-bin folder and/or an .htaccess file), and simply upload all of the wordpress files right there! You want to do this so that you are uploading the actual files within the wordpress folder, not uploading the entire folder to your root. Otherwise, you will only be able to access your blog from yoursite.com/wordpress!

Step # 3 – Installing WordPress

Once the files are uploaded, it should be quite easy to set this thing up. You now need to simply need to set up a MySQL database through your hosting admin account, and then follow the directions in the online built-in installer for WordPress. I can help out if you post a question below, but otherwise I would recommend following along with the official WordPress installation guide.

If you do this correctly, you should now see a nice default niche site theme when you enter your domain name.  We’ll work out the kinks and get you customized soon… so stay tuned!

Today’s Resources: