How to take your blog to the next level

In june 2008, I founded Cats Who Code. Less than two years later, I felt that I had to take this website to a new level, a transform a good blog into a great blog. In this article, I’ll let you know what I’ve done, what I’m doing and what I plan to do to take my blog to the next level.

It all starts with a goal

[tweet] Cats Who Code have been here for a little less than 2 years and I realized that since summer 2009 it started to get a lot of traffic. (ie. 5000 to 8000 unique visitors per day) This blog have always been full of potential, but this potential had to be unleashed. At the end of 2009, Cats Who Code was admitted in the Smashing Network, which is good for both the traffic and the image of quality of the blog.

Why blogs like SixRevisions.com receive so many traffic? The answer is pretty simple. They produce lots of good content, and work a lot. Cats Who Code had good content, but this wasn’t enought. In January 2010, I decided to take it to the next level and make it one of the most popular web development blogs of the world. The first step will be to get 10000 RSS readers before the 2nd birthday in June.
Yes, this is very ambitious. But without ambitions, you’re going to stay where you are.

First step: remove things that sucks

Cats WHo Code was my first “pro” blog, so I made lots of mistakes on that one. Novice bloggers wants to make money quick, and often look for the most possible ways to get some cash. In the past years, I have made lots of crappy sponsored reviews on Cats Who Code. It made me earn $200 or $300, but it also made my blog look amateur.
This is why, I removed most sponsored reviews. No one ever told me about it, which just shown how useless those posts where to my readers.

I was also a Text Links Ads user. As most of you know, Google don’t want you to sell text links (they prefer you to use Adsense, no comments) and they noticied that I was doing it. They punished me for not obeying: Cats Who Code pagerank dropped down to zero in January.
I definitely hate how Google is trying to get control over what you can and can’t do on your own website. In my opinion, this is clearly a dictatorial method. But you haven’t the choice, you can’t fight against them. So I did what they want, I removed text links to keep my credibility.

Step 2: Polish you blog

Although I wrote a post about speeding up your blog, due to the high traffic Cats Who Code was desperatly slow. At the time, I was hosted at WpWebHost, which is a great host (This blog is hosted by them) but when you receive so much traffic, shared hosting is not enought. I decided to make the move to a virtual private server, and chose vpsnet because they allow you to allocate more resources to your server when needed. For example, if you receive more traffic on mondays because you publish your posts that day, you can add more memory to your server for a day only. This is very a cool thing in my opinion.

Along with migrating to a VPS server, I created a new theme for the blog, which is more clean and more optimized for high traffic (less images, few scripts). I also replaced the horrible header banner by a second “above content” banner. This new spot, currently priced $100, sold on the first day. This is motivating.

Step 3: Content, content, content!

Having a beautiful and fast blog is good, but the only thing that make people come and visit your blog is content. It is clear that if I want to make Cats Who Code one of the most popular web development blogs of the world, I have to produce a lot of quality content.
Currently, I can only produce one quality post per week, which is not enought. In my opinion, publishing 2/3 posts per week is the right thing. This is why I decided to hire guest bloggers, paid up to $75 for a cool web development post.

Conclusion

Two weeks after migrating cats Who Code to his new VPS server, I’m pretty happy by the encouraging results I got, both in terms of traffic and community feedback.
Since two weeks, Cats Who Code RSS readers have slighty increased, peaking at 8300+ on Friday 19, 2010, which for the first time, was higher than the amount of WpRecipes readers (8100+).

An important thing to note is that this move to the new level is costing me a lot of money : The VPS server is priced $80/month and as I previously said, guest writers will be paid up to $75 per post. As I stopped selling text ads and sponsored reviews, the site income slighty lowered as well.
So why am I doing it? This is simple: This is an investment on quality. Right now, the blog is not providing me as much money as it should because I have to pay the guest writers and the server, but it is a sure thing that with more quality articles, traffic will increase and ads price will be increased as well.

Published on February 23rd, 2010 by Jean-Baptiste Jung

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