Update: 2014 – I no longer recommend Site Build It!.
If you’re feeling discouraged about the lack of success with your website, there’s nothing like gaining a bit of inspiration from someone else’s story.
And it’s even more inspiring when the person triumphs after nearly quitting due to frustration with the slow rate of success.
If you didn’t get a chance to watch Carl’s Google Hangout last Thursday, you missed a treat.
The video is fairly long, and many of you told me you didn’t have time to watch, so I wanted to summarize some of the lessons you can utilize to help improve your own site.
Who is Carl?
Carl is an air traffic controller by day and Webmaster of DadsGuidetoWDW.com by night, who is looking to retire soon.
With 200,000 visits per month, he is confident that by the end of next year, his site will be earning enough for him to retire comfortably (in addition to his job’s retirement income.)
So what can you learn from Carl?
Below I’ll summarize some of the best nuggets from his interview…
He Uses a Tiered Structure to Help Engage Visitors
Carl’s site is not a blog. It’s a traditional information website where the content is organized by tiers.
He mentioned that one of his category pages has an incredibly good bounce rate, and he credits it to his site structure.
A bounce is the percentage of people who leave your site after viewing the page they entered on. Reporting tools like Google Analytics reveal this statistic in your reports. The lower your bounce rate, the better.
So what the heck does all that mean?
If your site is more informational/educational, it’s often a good idea to arrange at least some of your content using the silo method. And to illustrate this concept better, I’ve created a diagram in Photoshop…
The menu items are links to your Tier 2 landing pages that contain additional information that support the menu item categories. And the articles would be your Tier 3 pages that link from the Tier 2 (landing) pages.
If your site is more informational/educational and you don’t want a blog-like content structure (posts sorted by date and category), this an ideal way to organize your content to help guide people through your site and encourage them to read more content.
If you are creating a static site, this is typically the default way of arranging your pages. (Carl uses Site Build It! so this is what they teach when it comes to building informational sites.)
He studies his stats and noticed people often return to his landing pages to reference the links there. So not only do these pages yield a lower bounce rate, but they generate repeat visits due to the fact people often reference such pages.
If you use WordPress, you’ll need to tweak a few things to achieve this organization, but it’s very simple to setup.
Link your main navigation to landing pages instead of Categories. The landing page should provide additional content and links that support the menu links.
To change your menu in WordPress, simply create your own custom menu by going to Appearance >> Menu. Now link to the Tier 2 landing pages you’ve created to help establish a better content funnel.
The great thing about WordPress is you can make use of both the static and dynamic content organization when appropriate.
Take Home: Static pages and a logical content structure are useful for helping your visitors find important content that could improve your bounce rate and overall conversions.
This setup may not be ideal for every kind of site, but it certainly makes sense in certain cases — even if that means using the silo structure only on parts of your site.
You Can’t Compare Apples to Oranges
During the live Hangout, someone asked how long before Carl received a certain amount of traffic.
Sensing the person was trying to use his traffic numbers as a benchmark for their own, Carl didn’t hesitate to point out that traffic varies greatly due to the niche, site, etc.
Take Home: You can’t use someone else’s numbers to estimate your site’s potential success. Every niche is different and there are just too many different variables involved to compare.
I was glad he pointed that out, because I get that question a lot as well.
Go For The Longtail
Carl knew he could never compete with any of the competitive Disney keywords because Google now heavily favors brands more than ever. He would need a ton of high quality backlinks to compete on that level.
So he was very smart to go for the longtail keywords that are less competitive. That’s where the majority of his search engine traffic comes from.
He may not ever rank well for Disney World Hotels (this search phrase is heavily dominated by big brands), but as you can see, he ranks very well for best time to visit Disney World.
Take Home: Longtail keywords don’t get as many searches, but they are easier to rank for. And even though you may not get as much traffic, it adds up when you start getting found for numerous longtail phrases.
This is a strategy newbies often miss when starting their sites and trying to build search engine traffic.
Gather Content Inspiration From Your Keyword Referral Reports
Carl discovered he was getting traffic from some keywords related to the Disney crowds. So he used that information to build more content around those phrases.
I use this strategy all the time. If you notice you’re getting traffic from a particular keyword you may not have been necessarily targeting, look for opportunities to create more content around that phrase, variations and related keywords.
Take Home: Studying your keyword referral reports can provide a lot of content inspiration.
Awesome Facebook Engagement
I really like one of Carl’s engagement strategies.
He invites his fans to send him pictures and then uploads them as his Cover photo on a daily basis.
You can check out his page here. Notice how great his overall interaction is.
Carl also made a solid point about using Facebook to support your site, instead of using it as your main hub.
Many people neglect their sites for social media instead of using it to drive people back to content they truly own. And some people don’t even have websites. They rely completely on social media.
Remember, you don’t technically own your Facebook page. So if you were to ever lose it due to some Facebook violation for example, what would happen to your business? Would it survive?
Take Home: Take advantage of the accessibility and popularity of social media, but also use it to drive people back to your site and convert sales.
Twitter Isn’t For Everyone
This is not an anti-Twitter tip, but I want to take the opportunity to emphasize something.
A lot of people feel obligated to master Twitter because it’s so popular today.
If you can find a way to utilize it for your business, then go for it because it can be very useful for generating traffic, leads, etc. But if you aren’t getting anything from it, focus on what works and don’t waste time on something that doesn’t.
In Carl’s case, he found that Facebook yields better results, so that’s where he focuses his social media marketing efforts.
Take Home: Test, test, re-test and learn to prioritize your time based on what you know works best for your business.
Never Give Up
Carl admitted that his first year (2008) was tough. By the start of his second year, he was earning roughly $30 per month.
He became quite frustrated, and even put his site up for sale because he felt it should have been making much more by that time.
How many of you can relate to that feeling?
It’s easy to get sidetracked by comparing your site to others, or maybe you assumed the money would come a lot faster. If you’re finding yourself in that place, Carl’s been there too.
Nevertheless, he decided to keep building in 2009 and it paid off as time went on. January, 2013 was a record month in terms of traffic for his site.
Take Home: When the going gets tough, keep working hard. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are successful websites.
Way to go, Carl! Keep up the great work. 🙂
Learn more about Site Build It! (not an affiliate link) — the system Carl uses to create and maintain his site.