Today I have a special post, Quinn from CubicleFree.com and myself have both been building authority websites and sharing all the details of the process on our sites. We have been emailing back and forth some suggestions on how to improve each other’s site and learning a lot.
The information we were emailing each other we thought would have a lot of value and learning’s for other people building authority niche sites so decided to do a detailed review of each other’s site and post it for all to see!
You can see his review of my authority website here:
This post grew into a pretty long post and so here is a breakdown of the post…
- Who Is Quinn
- Benefit of a Cold Eyes Review and Publicly Sharing it
- Monetization Review
- Action Step #1
- Action Step #2
- Content Review
- Action Step #3
- Action Step #4
- Web Design / Engagement
- Action Step #5
- Action Step #6
- Action Step #7
- Action Step #8
- On Page SEO
- Action Step #9
- Action Step #10
- Off Page SEO
- Action Step #11
- Action Step #12
Who Is Quinn @ CubicleFree.com?
Quinn has been making all his living full time online for the last 10 years. What I like about his approach is he is solving real problems and adding real value with the sites he builds. He has been able to make six figures per year and is continuing to build his online empire. I believe I have a lot to learn from him and am looking forward to seeing his thoughts on how I can improve my website!
In fact one of his websites made almost $400k in one year!
His review of my authority site is located on his blog – here
The Benefit of a Cold Eyes Review and Sharing it Publicly
When I launched my authority website in September I created this site to showcase my progress and keep me on track! However, one aspect of sharing my site I did not anticipate was the benefit of making contacts with other people at all different stages of growth in their online businesses. These contacts and discussions that have resulted from me publicly sharing my case study have been enjoyable and definitely rewarding.
- Publicly Sharing For Others To Learn From – By sharing the review of each others site publicly other people will be able to learn how we think about improving sites and apply what they think is beneficial to their own website.
- Cold Eyes Review – In my day job I work essentially as a project manager and one requirement is for a cold eyes review at several gates in the lifecycle of a project. The benefit of a knowledgeable set of eyes reviewing the status of your project/website/business is that they bring a different perspective and can add some suggestions I may have completely overlooked.
Review of Authority Website
In this section I will go through 5 aspects of his site and provide what I believe are his key strengths and what I believe are areas for improvement.
- Web Design/Engagement
- On Page SEO
- Off Page SEO
Review Module 1 of 5 – Monetization
Results To Date – $80 as of the end of November
How RSACoursesOnline Makes Money
RSA Courses Online makes money by providing useful content answering questions about RSA courses online which results in visitors from search engines finding the site. Once on the site they are directed to the money pages which are in depth reviews of online RSA courses. If a visitor goes to one of the RSA online courses website and purchases the course Quinn makes affiliate income from the sale.
Website to Offer Match – There is very tight alignment between the topic of the website and the main affiliate offer.
RSA Courses Online is doing a great job of Website Topic to Affiliate Offer Overlap!
Monetization Improvement – Improve Conversion from Blog Posts to Money Pages
Improve conversion from the blog posts on the website to the money pages. There is one tool that can do this effectively…
ACTION STEP #1– Install the plugin QuickAdsense (free) and create 2 ads for all blog posts, one to go top left alignment and one to go bottom middle both of which are to direct people from blog posts to your money pages.
- Ads1 – Top Left Alignment:
- Ads3 – Bottom Middle Alignment
Monetization Improvement – Improve Conversion from Money Pages to Affiliate Sales Page
I believe this improvement will have the biggest impact by improving click through rate from money pages to the affiliate offer. The basis for my recommendation here comes from standard conversion advice shared by people like Derek Halpern from SocialTriggers and Peep Laja from ConversionXL.
“Remove all extra clutter – links, menus, buttons – that have nothing to do with the particular ad/campaign. The point is that the visitor cannot ignore your message by navigating away, and therefore focuses on only that page.”
From Peep Raja – “How To Build High Conveting Landing Pages
Right now there is too much clutter on the money pages resulting in people that have made it to the money page leaving the site and going to other posts instead of converting into a sale.
Current Money Page:
Recommended Money Page:
I believe this change will result in the biggest improvement for your site!
ACTION STEP #2 – Turn your money posts into landing pages – Since the site RSA Courses Online is built using Genesis/StudioPress theme this step will be easy…
- Create a new page using the template “Landing Page”
- Copy the HTML from the old post into the new landing page
- 301 redirect the old post URL to the new page URL using plugin “redirection”
Review Module 2 of 5 – Content
A lot of the content at RSACoursesOnline is truly helpful and provides valuable information about how to get your RSA certification.
Content Improvement –Add More Content
Right now there are 12 pages indexed in Google for RSACoursesOnline. Although the topic of RSA courses online doesn’t allow for a daily posting schedule due to the topic not being deep enough there are opportunities for creating more content to increase the number of daily visitors.
Action Step #3 – Add 1 to 2 Posts Per Week
Continue creating good quality content but increase the rate of posting to 1-2 posts per week. One option to get quality content created for a low cost is this strategy.
Review Module 3 of 5 – Web Design / Engagement
With the Web Design/Engagement module I will be looking at the current layout of the website to provide the user with a good experience and how well the site is set up to achieve the goals of the site.
Strength – The website is built using WordPress and Genesis/Studiopress which results in a very user friendly and attractive site.
Web Design/Engagement Improvements
Below are a list of all the action steps in the Web Design/Engagement module that I believe would improve the user experience on the RSA Courses Online website
Action Step #5 – Change Slogan
When someone comes to a website you have 6 seconds to have them understand what the website is about. When I first went to the website I did not understand “what is an RSA course” although most people that get there would understand what it is I believe modifying the slogan to be more clear would provide value.
Try one of these which more clearly lays out what an RSA course is and the benefit of it…
- Best way to become a bartender in Australia
- How to be a certified bartender in Australia
- Fastest way to become a licensed server in Australia
- Make more money by becoming licensed to serve liquor in Australia
Action Step #6 – Logo Modifications
Currently the logo doesn’t clearly indicate what the RSA Courses Online website is about. A logo that includes an aspect of Australia, Online and Liquor would help immediately convey the purpose and benefit of the website.
Current vs Suggested
The suggested logo is just an example of a more tightly focused logo (even though its very ugly and not recommended).
Action Step #7 – Modify Embedded Video to Fill Entire Area
Currently the video is the default embed code size and doesn’t eat up the entire area. By modifying the embed code to a custom size it will take up the space and look more “finished”.
Either center the video or create a custom embed code size to fill the entire space.
Action Step #8 – Modifications To “Welcome” Section
Based on many heat map studies the welcome section of the RSA Courses Online website is likely the most looked at section of the site.
Improving this area should result in lower bounce rates and improved click through rates from the homepage to the money pages.
Photo from jelloneck
Review Module 4 of 5 – SEO On Page
The Genesis framework takes care of most on page SEO issues and there is very few improvements that would be resuired.
11 Point On Page SEO Audit Checklist:
- Site Struycture (using WordPress) – Good
- Premium Theme with built in SEO or SEO Plugin – Good
- Title Tags – Good
- URLs – Good
- Meta Tags – Good
- Image Names – Bad
- Image Alt Tags – Bad
- On Page Content – long enough, original, quality – Good
- Site Navigation Easy to navigate – Good
- Webpage Speed test (Google Insights) – Good (one medium priority)
- Local Targeting – Bad (as Quinn shows here)
Action Step #9 – Improve Image SEO
Improve both the alt tags and the image URL/Title for the screenshots.
This would be a lot of work to go back and do on all existing pages, either outsource this activity or just make the changes on all future posts.
Here is a great article talking about image SEO: Top Rank – 6 Tips for Image SEO
Action Step #10 – Locally Target Your Website
The problem Google is having is determining what region your website is built for. Since you live in Canada and server is located in the US Google would have a hard time of telling what market your website is for. To correct this add relevant Australia keywords on the website. Currently on the homepage there is no mention of Australia.
- Add “Australia” keyword naturally to the homepage (not there now)
- Link to relevant Australia Bar/RSA links in the sidebar on posts
Review Module 5 of 5 – SEO Off Page
This is interesting since Quinn has clearly made a decision to not build backlinks…
“I will not be doing anything that is potentially harmful including fancy backlink strategies”
From Quinn’s case study introduction – here
However, from my point of view the benefit of working to build some high quality relevant white hat backlinks outweighs the risk.
Current Link Profile:
From Majestic SEO the link profile for RSACoursesOnline is showing high trust flow due to a quality link from an existing website Quinn owns. Typically most sites have a higher citation flow than trust flow so to improve off page SEO Quinn could do well to increase the number of backlinks.
There is one simple strategy that can help build valuable white hat links and that is Blog Commenting + Guest Posting on relevant websites
Action Step #11 – Blog Comment on Relevant Sites
Using blog commenting to reach out to other relevant websites in your potential market is a great way to start building relationships and links.
- Make a list on a Google document or hire a VA to make a list of all bar, server, nighlife forums and blogs for the Australia
- Visit each or on a weekly basis to leave a value added comment
Action Step #12 – Guest Post on Relevant Sites
Once you have built a relationship with some of the request the opportunity to guest post on their site and receive a backlink from them
- Identify websites from the list in the action step above that you may be able to guest post on
- Build a relationship with the webmaster by emailing them and leaving comments
- Approach them about potentially guest posting their website
This guest posting strategy goes into more details on how I have been doing this for my authority website.
See These Results on Jan 7 2013
Over the next month we will implement the changes…I will make the changes Quinn recommends on my site and he will do the same on the recommendation above. On Jan 7 we will share the results of what changes we can confirm worked and which ones failed or we couldn’t get enough data to measure.
Did I Miss Anything Obvious?
What Improvements Would You Recommend?
If there are any improvements to his site http://www.rsacoursesonline.com/ I didn’t include but should have please put them in the comments section below and I will update this post with the recommendation and who recommended it…
Action Step #13 – to be added from readers’ comments below…
Want me to review your site? – Contact Me
When my site was exactly 2 months old on Oct 8 a Google Page Rank(PR) update occurred and my the PR became a PR2 – Is this good, bad or does it even matter? PR used to be a key metric that websmasters talked about but most people have now come to realize that PR on its own means nothing. But what about my site, it’s 2 months old and is already a PR 2 – do I care? (more…)
One of the most critical blogging tasks is performing routine backups of your blog. Maintaining frequent backups will keep you from losing all of those articles and custom theme changes that you’ve worked so hard to make. From personal experience, losing a week or more worth of articles and losing 3-4 months worth of theme changes hurts. Unfortunately, I’ve been there.
Generally, most hosting companies provide backups of your WordPress blog, but they generally combine all of your files and the underlying database into one very large file that is tedious to work with. In order to do a full-restore, you will often need to engage your hosts support staff, which can take time. Most hosting companies also only provide backups as a courtesy, meaning it’s probably not best to depend on them.
With all of these factors in mind, I’ve found it best to do blog backups myself. There are a number of different options you can use. I’ll cover my initial method and the option I currently use which is a fully automatic solution with Backup Buddy – I don’t even think about it.
WP Database Backup Plugin
I first started doing blog backups using the plugin WP Database Backup. This is actually a really great plugin that gets the basic job of backing up your WordPress blog done for free. I configured WP Database Backup to do daily backups and then email them to a special Gmail account I set-up. The big drawback with WP Database Backup is that it only backups up your WordPress database and not the rest of your blogs files.
To get a full WordPress backup, you not only have to backup your WordPress database, but also your blog’s files as well. Backing up your files isn’t automated with WP Database Backup. In order to get your files backed up, you’ll need to use FTP to download them. In a nutshell, this is manual, tedious and timely, especially if you have a big site. Blogging with Amy has a good write-up on this process.
I actually used this process for a few years. The big problem I ran into was that I had constant and automated backups of my WordPress database, but would always forget to backup my theme files. Unfortunately this bit me a few times. Also, being a manual process for the most part, doing blog backups is time taken that could be better spent doing other things on your blog. I prefer to spend my time doing activities on my blog that help it grow, like writing content. This is even more true for me currently, as I have about 10 different sites I maintain and have to manage backups for.
An often overlooked and critical aspect of backing up your blog is offsite storage. Many new bloggers make the mistake of running backups and storing them on the same server as the blog. As a result, if your hosting company has an issue, or if you accidentally delete your backup directory, you’re toast. After your backups are complete, you should always copy your backups to offsite storage. As I mentioned above, my blog database backups were going to GMail as the offsite backup, and I stored my theme backups locally on a USB drive. Again, tedious and time consuming.
Backup Buddy – fully automated backups
Last year, I ran across a plugin called Backup Buddy. Backup Buddy is a commercial plugin that completely automates backing up your blog. The plugin not only backs up your WordPress database, but your WordPress files as well. I read over the feature list and concluded this was the solution I had been looking for. Then I saw the cost and hesitated.
Backup Buddy isn’t all that expensive really, I’m just pretty frugal when it comes to my side business. I generally don’t spend money on plugins or software. In the case of Backup Buddy, I made an exception and ended up purchasing their Developer license so I could run the plugin on all of my sites. Here’s why:
Backup Buddy is fully automated
Again, Backup Buddy is fully automated. You spend about 10 minutes setting it up, and that’s it. I configured Backup Buddy to send me an email each time it performs a backup. The email just gives me peace of mind and confirms my backups ran (or failed if there was a problem). That’s it. I don’t spend any time at all and know for sure that all of my sites are backed up. No manual downloading, no zipping, no copying files around. While estimating time saved is a bit difficult, I would expect the automation has saved me 1-2 hours a week at least.
Backup Buddy uses offsite storage
Backup Buddy will send your backups, immediately after they occur, to an offsite storage location of your choice. I personally use Amazon S3. The size of my backups for about 10 different sites is small enough to where my S3 storage costs are literally less than $1 a month.
Backup Buddy supports storage to Amazon S3, Dropbox, Rackspace Cloud, email and will even FTP your backups to another server for you. They even recently announced Backup Buddy Stash, which gives you 256MBs of free offsite backup storage. I’ll continue to use Amazon S3 for now, as I prefer to keep my services separate and Amazon S3 is a highly reputable storage provider.
Easy restores with Backup Buddy
In the event you ever need to restore a backup, doing so is incredibly easy. You download the Backup Buddy import file and save it to your blog’s root directory along with the backup file you want to restore. Access the import file via a web browser, and follow the restore wizard. You can literally have your site restored in minutes.
Not only does the restore process work for restoring backups, but it also works just as well for site moves. If you need to move to a different host, you literally take a backup of your current site, copy the import file and backup file to your new host, run the import file and your site is now up and running on your new host. No need to install WordPress, Backup Buddy does this for you. I’ve also used this same feature to make test sites that are copies of my production site. This allows me to play around with various theme changes or plugins prior to installing them on my main sites.
To see a full walkthrough of a Backup Buddy backup restore, read my article: Backup Buddy – How to restore your backups.
You won’t find me promoting many products or services here on Side Income Blogging because I only promote products and services I actually use. Given I’m a bit frugal, I don’t use that many. Backup Buddy is actually the only commercial plugin I currently use. I’ve found the cost to be very well justified in time savings and peace of mind alone.