So many people talk about starting a blog but very few take action on it. Of those that do, very few actually build something long term and ever “make it” with their blog.
Now I’m not going to claim to be some blogging guru by any means, just someone who has been on the battlefield long enough to have stacked some knowledge on this grind and how to do shit right. This guide is going to walk you through nearly everything I’ve done, also showing “under the hood” of my blog so you can attempt to replicate my exact setup.
Before you write a single word, you better put in some serious research and make a plan for the actual direction of your blog. You see, with mine I never did that and my head is still hurting trying to figure that out. Hammer down your main focus areas and your angle/voice before you get rolling, seriously, don’t half ass this. Ask all those boring “who is your audience?” type questions, put in the research grind, and get ready for war.
Another important question, is your strategy sustainable? A problem I ran into here with my blog was setting the bar for always publishing really big guides on advanced SEO. I’d love to keep publishing this type of content regularly but it’s just not sustainable. For one it really hurts the brain trying write really long guides and two, it isn’t exactly a good business model from the SEO side to be giving out all the secret sauce ;-)
To summarize, you better have a Shark Tank caliber answer ready for each one of these areas:
- What the fuck are you going to write about (content strategy)?
- Who gives a shit (your audience)?
- Can you keep this shit going for the long haul (sustainability) ?
Got those bases covered?
Your answers should make Mark go like this:
Not like this:
And for the diehard SEOs, let’s get another thing through your thick algorithm filled skulls. If you’re taking this route, worry about content and building something cool first, keywords second. This is a critical shift you need to make at first, eventually once you get some traction you can throw your weight around and start intentionally targeting some specific keywords, but for now just worry about crushing it by creating.
But, but, but Jacob?! You’re getting all whitehat on us!!!
Shut up, this is business, it’s not about hanging out with the cool kids. Don’t make me punch you in the throat.
How do you crush it?
Ha, easier said than done. This guide is assuming you already have the ability to crush it and just want to build the best vehicle and strategy possible to achieve your goals. If you suck, no matter how good your site looks you’re still not getting traffic, because you suck. Harsh reality my friends, I’m sorry. Let’s listen to these wise words from Gary Vaynerchuk before moving forward.
Gary you’re a f**king beast dude!
Now let’s look at the actual traffic numbers my blog has received to date. I’ve done alright, not the 0-100k story you’re used to hearing about, but it’s a realistic picture of what can be attained with some hustle.
Traffic: 15k monthly visitors
Subscribers: 4,500 growing at ~20 per day
Earning: $2-$3k per month affiliate earnings
Here is a screen shot from Google analytics of my lifetime traffic, as you can see my first ever posting was in July of 2012, so about 3 years ago.
You see that period of time for about a year where hardly anyone visited the blog? Yeah that’s because it was a piece of shit, seriously. Things didn’t really start happening until I put my foot on the gas in 2013 and dropped the SEO assholes stunt, then started putting up some decent posts over time.
Fun story actually, this is how I met my good friend Robert Neu who created that and built this custom theme for me. We bumped into each other somehow on Twitter and wanted to chat about some SEO related stuff on Skype. After candidly discussing some things for about 15 minutes, I can’t remember exactly how it came out but Robert said something along the lines of “Thanks for the advice Jacob, you’re not like most of those SEO assholes out there.”
Then my joke idea light bulb went off and I replied, “dude you know what would be really funny, if I had a page where you could vote for all the top SEO people who are the biggest assholes.”
Robert fires back, “yeah that would be hilarious actually, I could build something like that pretty easy.”
Me: No shit? Umm well if you’re feeling up to it lol.
Robert: Well it just so happens I built a voting plugin for a another project recently, it should work perfect.
The rest is history, I watched 150+ people hit the site real time and several thousand over a few days. Also annoyed the shit out of some popular SEO people, it was pretty fun. I still am actually, #seoassholes lives on.
And it’s beating up the SERPs pretty good too. Irony?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not too proud of those graphs honestly, I wish I was killing it hitting 50-100k uniques per month, but I feel like it’s a fairly realistic representation of what can be accomplished minus the edge cases and click bait bullshit we see all the time. Alright, so those are my results, take it for what it is. One of my goals this year was to get the blog growth trending up again, so here I am ;-)
Let’s continue and now dive into the actual blog itself and its functions.
Don’t Use a Shitty Theme
I’m running the Genesis framework which is pretty popular for WordPress snobs like myself. It’s a quick SEO friendly framework to work with, then you use a child theme which runs on top of it. I was fortunate enough to have my boy Robert Nue who is a straight tank when it comes to WP development build me a custom theme. I got lucky there, but you should try to get a solid theme for your blog and not use some candy ass shit. You can have the best content in the world but if your blog looks like something your grandma would make it’s not going to get the recognition it deserves.
Don’t Use Shitty Plugins
Below is an exact list of ALL the plugins I use here. I separated the free and paid plugins. Most of them anybody can figure out how to configure, for the more involved plugins I created a quick video of my setup.
Akismet – Standard spam protection for forms.
Floating Social bar – This is one of my favorite social button plugins, you can float it or stick it, above or below post.
Limit login attempts – Might as well toss this on your prized site.
Q2w3 Fixed Widget – See that borderline annoying floating widget? This is how I make that happen.
Safe Redirect Manager – Occasionally you might have the need to create a redirect and don’t feel like pulling up FTP to modify your htaccess. You also might have a few affiliate links to put up, if you don’t have a ton this guide shows how to setup your links proper.
Simple Image Widget – If you have some resource you push or even a banner, nice widget to present the image clean.
Subscribe to Comments Reloaded – Pretty self explanatory, best solution I’ve found for notifying people of comment replies.
Table of Contents Plus – This plugin helps make a clean table of contents at the top of your post with a short code. It works based on header tags.
WordPress SEO – Ah good ole Yoast SEO, let’s take a look at how I have things setup. It’s video time, figured that would be better than a shitload of screenshots with arrows:
Gravity Forms – This is probably my favorite plugin next to Yoast, I’ve use it to create every form on the blog. Even the contact page is using G forms. Here is a quick video so you can take a peak at the actual setup:
Gravity Forms zero spam – This is helpful if your blog gets comment spammed a lot like mine.
Leadpages connector – In the email capture section I talk a bit more about leadpages, it’s a great tool for marketers like myself who want to create landing pages on the fly and don’t have the skills or time to build things by hand. This page for example I whipped up in about 10 minutes. Then you install this WordPress plugin and it allows you to host the page on your own URL like I have. The plugin is free of course but Leadpages is a paid monthly service.
Thirsty affiliates – I use this tool to manage all of my affiliate links. If you run a small blog then you can just use safe redirect manager or redirection plugin like I mentioned above in free plugins. But if you have a lot of links then this is a great plugin for managing them. Basically it creates a new post type and allows you to categorize all your links. Also add one on the fly while writing a post.
WP Rocket – Using a caching plugin is important to improve the speed of your site, this one is premium but came highly recommended from my WordPress geek friends. The free alternative is W3 Total cache.
Don’t Use Shitty Hosting
Hosting is such a scammy ass confusing industry, holy shit. I’ve tried so many different hosts it’s insane, and as someone who builds lots of sites and builds PBNs I’ve dealt with probably over 100 different companies. After all these hosts, I’ve landed on a Cloud VPS from Servint. This is the ultimate solution I’ve found for someone with my needs. For a while I was hosting on WPengine but this began to really piss me off when I started to get nailed with overage fees at 20k monthly visitors. $99 per month was already pretty nuts for one single IP shared hosting, then it bumped up to ~$130 including the overage fees. Which fun fact wound up largely being due to spam comment attempts on my blog hitting the .com/wp-comments.php page 1000s of times. I asked support about it and they basically told me to install a captcha which would make absolutely no difference in bot traffic received. Anyway, I’m not a fan of this company.
Generally speaking, it’s also a pain in the ass to migrate sites, and the more established and complex the site becomes only compounds things. So if you’re serious about growing your blog for the long haul, don’t be tossing it up on a $1 cpanel and thinking you’ll move it later. Start yourself somewhere right with room to grow, but make sure you’re not paying $100s for a new blog that isn’t making anything back. That’s why I like Servint, for ~$69 per month you can host multiple sites, have 4 IP addresses, and get a ton of control.
Don’t Use Shitty Email Capture
You hear it all the time, “it’s all in the list!” Well, that’s because the dudes who figured it out can’t keep their mouthes shut. Yes, it’s that true. The amount of $$ and traffic that comes from good email capture is hugeeeeeeeeee and then you compare that to the ROI from noisy social traffic which might even cost money to hit (i.e. FB advertising to hit your audience you worked your balls off to get). Email is the bread and butter in so many industries, but we get lazy with it all the time. Trust me, if you like money, email capture is not the area you want to get lazy with.
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To add this to your site, you need to add some code to your CSS stylesheet. Here is the code I used here:
/* Leadbox CTA
background: none repeat scroll 0 0 #F6F6B4;
border: 1px solid #e5e597;
After you add that to your style sheet (change the colors as needed), just drop the p class tag wherever you want:
With the fixed widget ticked:
One area I have completely neglected is split testing, so if you’re thinking man Jacob must have split tested a ton to come up with all this genius copy you’re wrong. I’ve actually just changed it a shitload and have absolutely no idea which version worked the best. This is on my to-do list to set something up like this with split testing Gravity forms fields. You already have some good stats in the G forms backend, what you can do is add some code and have it randomly display the two fields you are split testing. If you’re a conversion geek, which anyone who likes money should be, this is very useful.
Now here is a recent hilarious addition, a popup that is completely ridiculous. The idea started from some good old fashioned Twitter banter, then once again Rob Neu comes through and handles business like a boss. See how much it helps to have friends?
It’s been up for about 3 weeks now, here are the results with G forms data.
Again, if I split tested it, could probably do even better. Not bad for a few weeks and I’m still cracking up when I see the thing.
The combo of Aweber, Gravity forms, and leadpages is the ultimate tool set for creating the best quality email captures across all your content and pages, hands down. And everything is fairly idiot proof which I also love, gravity forms makes you really look like you know what you’re doing.
Rules of Email Capture
Rule 1. ABC – Always Be Capturing, from day one. Don’t wait until your blog hits the front page of reddit and you’re telling all your friends about how cool it was to put up your email captures. Remember above when I showed the traffic SEO assholes brought? Yeah I think we put up an optin like the next day and got like 10 emails total, which brings us to rule 2.
Rule 2. Use generic shit, expect generic results. You need a compelling offer otherwise people aren’t going to fork over their email, simple.
Example a: Sign up for my email newsletter for updates!
Example b: Subscribe and Get my Free Guide on Pulling More Ladies with SEO
See the difference? Extreme yes, but hopefully hammers the point home. We see this shit all day long everyday, make your offer stand out and just maybe someone will actually cough up their email. Make it generic, and don’t come crying to me when you’re capturing 1 email per week and it’s a bot.
Rule 3. Use a Followup Series– Creating some sort of followup series is the icing on the cake for all your hard work. Traffic and sales on autopilot if you do it right. Recently I added a followup series here and it’s been going well. I created four small guides that I send one day apart after people subscribe, it accomplishes a few goals but mainly sends traffic back to the blog on autopilot, can’t beat that.
Don’t Write Shitty Content
Seriously, if you’re going to do all this work then back it up with the actual product, your blog content. Just like Rule #2 of email capture, if you write some bullshit don’t be surprised when nobody shows up to smear it in their eyes.
This is why I’m always so passionate about going full blackhat with your SEO vs walking the middle ground on something you’re not totally passionate about. “Make money hat SEO” as I like to call it. This guide is aimed at people trying to start that passion focused blog and crush it, because if you don’t have that it doesn’t matter what plugins or host you use, nobody is showing up for the party and nobody is talking about it.
Here is a screenshot of my top performing posts to date:
Shocker, the 10k word massively badass Scrapebox guide I made got the most traffic, go figure. Now behind an optin, why the hell not?
Next is my tools page, which is mostly because it’s always been linked in the top nav, people really like that page.
Then my post on tiered link building which is very revealing and a bit controversial. Surprise, surprise, it gets a lot of traffic.
The problem is it takes so much focus and patience to create a truly good post. Sometimes you might get lucky, but to get the real bangers (in my niche at least) requires a multi-day process which really hurts the brain. This is why most people don’t do it because they’re lazy as shit, but when you realize this you just put your head down and crush it. And it’s cliche time; Rome wasn’t built overnight and a blog is the same way, set yourself up with the proper framework and start filling in the walls one day at a time.
Now Crush It
Be different, go the extra mile, be controversial, challenge the status quo, disrupt, blah bah blah. I might make myself puke here but this where the key is to figuring out how to make people pay attention to you. You can not be just another brick in the wall if you want to win the attention game but this requires effort and hustle, it doesn’t happen by accident. Now if you’ve been saying you’re going to start that __ blog forever but haven’t found the time, get off your ass an execute on that shit. If my experience motivates just one person to take that path and do it right I’ll be happy. Good luck on your journey!