Authority Website Content Creation and First Income

by | Apr 7, 2015 | 0 comments

Note: This post is part of the “How to Build an Authority Niche Site and Make Money Online” series, in which we are creating an authority site and walking through each step of the process on this blog for you. If you are interested in starting at the begin, start here.

In the last post, we had finally started putting the pieces together on the website.  Over the past week, we’ve focused a lot on tweaking the layout, adding content and getting early feedback.  The below photo essentially sums up the past week and a half…

authority-website-redbull

This website has taken a lot more work than I initially expected, hence the Red Bull.  Part of it is that I ended up adding more content.  The other piece is that I kept coming up with more tweaks and suggestions as I started getting feedback on it.  Below is a detailed list of all the work and tweaks that have been done.

Additionally, we have made our first $7+ from the site, and we haven’t even officially launched yet!  That’s a good sign.

Authority Website Google Adsense First Dollars

 

Authority Site Amazon Affiliate Earnings

As a quick note, the website has changed a lot in the past week and continues to change, so you may see different layouts and changes in the many screenshots below.

Switching From Pre-Launch to Live

So our original plan for the website was to have a pre-launch phase, gather e-mails and do a formal launch.  We decided to abandon this approach for a few reasons:

  • There is a lot of work involved in doing a formal launch.  Given that we were not selling a product, it seemed like it might be not worth the effort to put all of the work in to do a “proper” pre-launch.  This work consists of marketing, driving people to the page to capture email, sending out a series of emails, etc.
  • If we did a pre-launch, then the entire site would need to be located somewhere else while we built it, then we would need to move it.  This again was extra work that we didn’t see as being worth it.
  • In terms of search engine optimization (SEO), we figured the sooner the pages were live on our actual site, the sooner Google would begin finding them and including them in search results.
  • We wanted to get early feedback from people, so it was easier to have the site live for that.
  • In order to sign up for some programs, such as Google Adsense, your site has to be live so they can review it and approve it.

For all of these reasons, we decided to just launch the website and continue adding content to it as we went.  Thus far it has worked out pretty well.  Over the past 11 days, we’ve had 559 page views, with our highest day being 91.

initial-website-traffic

Given that we didn’t have all of the pages filled with content yet, we put a “coming soon” page up and directed people to download the free spreadsheet that we were giving away (and join our email list – more on this below).

coming-soon-page

Homepage Layout in Divi

If you remember from the last post, I initially create a mockup in MS Paint for how I wanted the layout on the main page to be.

website-mockup

Well, this is what it looks like when I mocked it up in WordPress behind the scenes with the Divi theme that we will be using for the website.  What is great about this theme is that you can literally drag and drop the pieces of the website to get it to look just how you want it.

authority-website-wordpress-divi-layout

Basically, we were able to mimic what we came up with in MS Paint in WordPress.  And below is the final result.

authority-website-initial-homepage

Pretty amazing, huh?  Here are a few key important aspects of the homepage.

  • We came up with a great design for the “role buttons”, which is where most people will click.  We used the popular “Hello I am a” name tag, which worked out well.  Since websites visitors will be looking for certifications based on their role, this will make a great starting point for them to find certifications  relevant to them.

hello-i-am-an-agile-coach-250

  • We also added a lead magnet to the right side of the page so that we can collect people’s email addresses.  We did this using AWeber, which we will describe in more detail below.original-email-optin-form

AWeber Followup Series Setup

aweber-logo
As just about every online marketer says, “the money is in the list”.  Getting visitors to your website is important, but getting them on an e-mail list is the next most important step so that you can continue to connect with them.  As you begin to build an e-mail list, you can then communicate with your audience and eventually promote products to them.
Note: Since the writing of this article we have actually switched from AWeber to ConvertKit for our e-mail marketing.  ConvertKit is about the same price but is much more powerful than AWeber.  If you want to learn more, check out the post “Why We Switched to ConvertKit from AWeber for Our Email Marketing”.
We use AWeber for this website and love it, so we decided to use it for our authority site as well.  There are 3 basic steps involved with the email list and auto-responder, outlined below.
aweber-auto-responder-flow

Step 1 – The Visitor Subscribes to Your Email (Red Steps Above)

The first step of an email campaign is to collect the e-mail address of your visitor.  To do this, you typical have to often something enticing enough to have them give up their email for.  For our website, we created a spreadsheet that compares the different certifications by various criteria, given that people are coming to the website for that very reason.  Here is a screenshot of a portion of it.

which-agile-certification-screenshot

To make it a little more enticing, we made it a little fancier by using a website called MyECoverMaker.  It allows you to make a cover for a book, ebook and a variety of other items.  In our case, we showed the spreadsheet being view on a laptop.

which-agile-certification-matrix

Step 2 – They Receive Your Automated Series of Emails (Green Steps Above)

Now once you get someone on your email list, you don’t want to have to spend all of your time creating and sending emails.  Luckily, AWeber has a fantastic feature called their follow-up series.  This feature allows you to create a series of emails and schedule when these should be sent to people.  As you can see below, we have 3 emails setup at this point, each going out 7 days after the previous.  This means that each time someone signs up, they will automatically get emails from us for the next 2 weeks without us doing anything.  We plan to add several more emails to this series as time goes on.

aweber-follow-up-responder

And this is an example of the first e-mail that people get from us when they sign up and confirm.

aweber-follow-up-series-first-email

Step 3 – You Can Send Out an Individual Email (Yellow Steps Above)

The third piece with the e-mail list is that we still have the ability to email the entire email list whenever we want.  In AWeber, this is known as a Broadcast.  This will allow us to send out emails to everyone if we have new news or a promotion.

Google Adsense Setup & Placement

One of our monetization strategies was placing Google Adsense ads on the website in strategic locations.  We went out and registered for our AdSense account and it took a few days to get approved.  Once approved, we had to add a test ad to our website and wait another few days.  Be aware that your ads may show blank these first few days.  Once approved and ads are showing, it’s important to try and place them on your website in places where they seem natural and don’t stick out.
 The first location that we are testing in right below the main graphic and above the “Hello I am a …” images.  We chose this location and format as it doesn’t stand out a ton and kind of looks like a navigation menu, which people are used to seeing.
google-adsense-below-logo
We placed another one right below our e-mail optin form.  This is a common place for ads and supporting information for the website.
ad-placement
We also placed a banner at at the top of each blog article and agile interview page.
ad-placement-2
We are also working on a few other placements but we do not have them finalized yet.  Even so, we have already had a few clicks, which is great to see.
Authority Website Google Adsense First Dollars

Amazon Affiliate Setup & Placement

Our second strategy for monetization is by suggesting items, specifically books that will help people learn and prepare to get their certification, from Amazon.  So we setup and affiliate account with Amazon and a tracking code.  Then we began placing them on pages and in locations where they would be useful to people and they would likely buy.

The first place that we suggested books was at the bottom of every role page.  Each role page described the role, recommended certifications and ended with books that were beneficial to the role on that page.  Our logic is whether or not people decide to get a certification, they will likely be interested in books related to their role.

auhority-website-amazon-book-placement

We also placed books on each “methodology” page.  At the end of the page, we recommend books that will help people understand that methodology.

auhority-website-amazon-book-placement2

Another strategy that we are using is related to the interviews that we are doing.  We are interviewing people who have certifications to get their thoughts and perspectives about certifications, which ones they have and why.  We ask them 7 questions, one of which is what their favorite book is.  This means that each time we do an interview, we will have at least on book affiliate link on the page.

auhority-website-amazon-book-placement3

Our final place where we recommend books is on a dedicated page titled “Best Agile Books”.  This pages all of the books that are listed on the rest of the website.  Right now these are all text links, which we might keep, or we might swap them out for covers of each book.

best-agile-books-page

 

Thus far we have sold 4 books and made $1.42 from Amazon.

 

Authority Site Amazon Affiliate Earnings

Graphics

We recently published a post titled How to Create Amazing Images For Your Blog or Website.  On this website, given that we want to create a somewhat “hands off” website, we decided that we would not go crazy with custom graphics, but we did want to use graphics where it made sense.

Blog Images

 For the blogs (articles) that we post, we are just taking a stock image from one of the sites mentioned in How to Create Amazing Images For Your Blog or Website.  Below is an example of the image that we used for the Do You Need an Agile Certification?Thinking young woman with yes or no choice on grey background

Agile Interview Images

 We also purchased a stock image for the basis of our Agile Interview Series image.  We started with a tag cloud for agile, gave it a blue tint then just pasted the profile image and added some text in MS Paint.  We will do this for each interview that we do.agile-interview-series-tom-sylvester

Header/Features Pages Images

 For each of the pages, we also purchased stock photo and modified it.  In this case, we found banners that had our site colors (blue and orange) and jut added the title to them.
scaled-agile-framework-safe-banner-blue
professional-scrum-master-i-orange-banner

Google Analytics

It’s important to understand how many people visit your website and as much information as you can about them.  Google Analytics allows you to place a code on your website, then it will provide you with a wealth of information about your visitors.  So we have a installed this and will provide some detailed information about our traffic and how to use it in a future post.

Plugins

Plugins add functionality to your WordPress site.  We didn’t want to slow the pages down by adding too many plugins, but here are a few of the core ones that we did install.

Reaching Out to People for Interviews

One of the ideas that we came up with for the website was to create an “Interview Series”.  Essentially we would come up with a few questions about agile and certifications and send them out to various people in the roles on our website that certifications are offered for.  These people would then answer the questions and we could feature them on our website.  We came up with the following questions:
1. How did you get into the agile space?
2. What is your focus area/area of expertise related to agile?
3. What is your view on certifications? Should people get them or not?
4. What certifications do you have and why?
5. What is your favorite agile related book?
6. Any final thoughts for other agile practitioners?
7. How can people contact you if they have specific questions?
We then created a list of anyone that we knew who may be interested in answering these questions, which we initially came up with a couple hundred.  Given that there are tens if not hundreds of thousands of people with one of these certifications, there is a giant sea of people to tap into at some point.  We are now in the processing of sending a personal email to a few of these people each day and collecting the interviews.
There are several benefits to this strategy:
  • It is unique and will set our website apart.
  • It allows various perspectives from different people around certifications, which will help visitors make a decision.
  • It allows new content for the website and we do not have to create it.
  • When people are interviewed and the interview goes live, the person interviewed will most likely share it with their network and link from their website.  This will increase traffic and help with SEO.

Adjustments Made Based on Feedback

One premise of Agile (which is the niche that this website is in) is to get early feedback from users and make adjusts based on that.  Before the site is fully ready to launch, I reached out to several people that would be potential consumers of the website to get their feedback.  Below is some of their feedback and adjusts that I made based on it.

Switch Email Optin Form

The first several people that viewed the site seemed to miss one of the best features, which is the free download that I offer to compare all of the certifications.  When I questioned them, they said that the opt-in form looked like a advertisement so they glossed over it.  This first opt-in form was created directly in AWeber, and I really didn’t find a form that I really liked.  After doing some research online, I decided to go with Optin Skin.  Not only did I like the look of the form, it also made it very easy to add opt in on the rest of the website.

Below is a comparison of the before and after.  In the old form, the visitor’s eye was drawn to the orange top and not to the image of the form.  In the new form, the visitor’s eye is drawn to the image (because it is larger and goes outside of the box to create some contrast) as well as the much large and contrasting orange button to download the free giveaway.

email-optin-before-after

Adding an Additional Affiliate Program

 One of the key monetiziation strategies was around recommending books related to a specific role or certification.  One of the people that initially took a look at the website referred us to another website (SafariBooksOnline.com) with an affiliate programs that offer books, so we are researching and potentially going to use that website for some of the books.

Calling Attention to the Roles

 Another piece of feedback that we received was around the 8 roles on the main page not being intuitive for visitors.

I also noticed on the main page that it is not intuitive to click the name tags. Might want to add something to pull the readers attention to it.

To test and see if this was the case, we are using a tool called CrazyEgg.

crazy-egg-logo

What is CrazyEgg?  It’s pretty cool.  It tracks the movements of your visitors on your website and shows you where they click.  This is very useful when designing a website and understanding how your visitors are actually using your website.  We will report back on what this looks like on our website in a future post and make adjustments based on what we see.

crazy-egg-feature_big_screenshot

Make Articles/Interviews More Intuitive

Another piece of feedback was around the “Agile Articles” and “Agile Interviews” sections.

 There wasn’t any instructions on where to find the interview it thought it was just 3 sentences then I clicked on the picture. I would make it more intuitive how to read the interview.

blog-articles-read-more

There were a few issues here:

  1. In the Agile Articles section, I did not use an excerpt, so it was just showing the first words of the article, which looks less professional and doesn’t truly show what the entire article is about, but I did have a link to “read more”.
  2. In the Agile Interviews section, I did use the except functionality, but I did not have a “read more” option.
  3. There was not a clear CTA (Call to Action) to entice people to read these articles.

So we made sure each article/interview was setup to use excerpts and we made sure each one had them.  We also made sure both were setup with a “read more” link.  To make sure it was obvious to the visitor, we made them into bright orange buttons as well.

blog-articles-read-more-after

Summary

Launching an authority website takes a lot of work!  This has pretty much been the only thing that I have worked on over the past few weeks, but the end is near for the initial launch.  I anticipate finishing all of the main pages this week.  After that, then I’ll focus more on marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) and getting more traffic to the website.