On top of the plugins I’ve recommended, there are also some services I use which will help you get the most out of your blogging experience. The first thing you need to make sure you have is some form of analytics tracking so you can see how visitors are finding your website (search traffic? twitter links? direct?) and which countries they’re coming from.

You can not only use this to track your performance as a whole but to find out which traffic generation strategies – which we’ll look into in a future update – are working the best for you. Two services I recommend are Clicky and Google Analytics. I’m a big fan of both though I have been using Clicky the most over the past couple of years due to being able to watch visitors in realtime (which GA is now implementing).

Both services have free options and will simply require that you add a few lines of code to your website for the tracking to begin. I would put this in either your header.php or footer.php file (/wp-admin/ > Appearance > Editor > Footer.php) before the </head> tag (header.php) or wherever you see some “normal text” in footer.php.

The Importance of Emails

Not only do you want to track how many people are coming to your website and how they’re finding it, but you should be tracking how many people are subscribing to your blogs RSS feed for your content updates as well. For this I like to use Feedburner, a Google-operated service which shows you how many readers you have and which sources they’re using to find your content.

Feedburner, amongst other features, also allows people to subscribe to your content via email so that they can get updates in their email inbox. Though I have opted to do this on all of my blogs, these days I would most likely lean towards Aweber (non-affiliate link) for this functionality. Aweber is an email marketing service – though it does come with a price tag – that allows you to not only send your blog posts to people’s inbox but also:

  • Instantly take people through a confirmation series when they sign-up. This means you can give them freebies like eBooks or videos (if you’ve created them) and increase opt-in conversions
  • See which people didn’t open your email(s) and contact them again
  • Test different email subject lines to see which one gets more people to open your message
  • View detailed stats like daily subscribers while tracking which form on your site (and its location) enticed them to subscribe

There are many more features of Aweber but those are some of the most popular to active users. If you’re just starting out and don’t have a budget for this service (it starts at $19/m) then I would stick with Feedburners email solution. It makes it trickier to give away freebies but at least your post content can be sent to your readers’ inbox. Do note though that down the line, if your blog does start to reach some level of success, it’s likely that you’ll want to use a service like Aweber for the many benefits such a service offers.

Andrea is using an Aweber opt-in form to collect visitor email addresses’ at the top of her homepage, at the bottom of blog posts and in her sidebar. Her email subscription options are prominent due to me stressing how valuable email subscribers are compared to other type of site visitors. For those who want to subscribe to her standard RSS feed she provides a clear sidebar link to her Feedburner URL.

To activate Feedburner email subscriptions first log into your Feedburner account and click on the ‘Publicize ‘ tab on the top menu bar. From there select ‘Email Subscriptions’ on the left. You’ll then be presented with the option to activate the Feedburner email service and you’ll be given code which you can add anywhere on your blog so people can subscribe to your feed.

Make sure that you call to action for your RSS feed now links to your new Feedburner RSS URL and if you’re using the FD Feedburner plugin mentioned on the last page then change your settings there as well.

Another free service I recommend that you use is Gravatar. Gravatar basically gives you an ‘avatar’ (picture) next to any comments you leave on most blogs around the web. Simply sign-up with the email address you will use when leaving comments and upload a relevant picture of yourself. You may opt for a website logo if you want just as I do with comments I leave on behalf of ViperChill, but a face picture is definitely more personal.

Adding the Necessary Site Pages

If you’re using Aweber and or the comment redirect plugin then you’ll also need to add between one and three pages to your website. If you don’t know how to add pages to WordPress and want to know more about their purpose then this official WordPress guide will help you. For Aweber you’ll need to add a page which reminds people to check their inbox to confirm their subscription to your updates. You can see an example of me doing this on Blogging Case Study by going to http://bloggingcasestudy.com/confirm/

You’ll also need to create a page to thank people for subscribing after they’ve clicked the confirmation link in their inbox. An example of this can be found at http://bloggingcasestudy.com/woo/. Once you’ve created the pages you can then tell Aweber where to send people for the respective steps. If you need help you can use this video as an instruction guide.

And finally, if you’re using Yoast’s Comment Redirect plugin (which I recommend you do) then don’t forget to create a page which thanks people for commenting and encourages them to subscribe / share your content / do whatever you want people to do. Then change the settings for the plugin to take people to this new page.

A Couple of Final Tasks

Once you’ve done all of that (phew!) there are just two things left to do. Don’t worry, they’re very quick and painless.

The first thing is to change your ‘permalink’ structure to improve your on site optimisation (to help you get more search engine traffic). When you publish a blog post on the default installation of WordPress the URL of that post will be something like http://yourdomain.com/?p=2343. This is neither descriptive nor easy to remember.

Under Settings > Permalinks in your WordPress backend we can make these URL’s more like: http://yourdomain.com/blog-post-headline/ which not only looks better, but is memorable and gives people (and search engine spiders) an idea of what the page is about. To do this click on the Custom Structure button and type /%postname%/ in the related field.

If you have reasons for wanting to use a different structure here then feel free, that’s just my preferred option. You’ll then be able to edit the URL’s of specific blog posts when you’re creating them, as shown below:

My final recommendation is a change made at ‘Media’, under the same ‘Settings’ menu bar. This again is a change to URL’s and not only tidies up how WordPress handles images but gives you a slightly better chance at getting more image-related search traffic.

Under the Uploading Files heading change the stored image folder from ‘wp-content/uploads’ to something like ‘images’ or ‘pictures’ (without the quotes). Then, unless you have other reasons for not doing so, untick the ‘Organize my uploads into month- and year-based folders’ option. This keeps their URL’s shorter.

You can now sit back and relax because that’s it for this update. In the next point on our blogging map I’ll be showing you how to finalise your niche research and differentiate yourself from the competition before we start posting.