There are millions of blogs and websites out there, and starting one is a piece of cake. However, growing one into something valuable with vast readership and promising advertising revenue is a whole lot harder. But what if you get the dream successfully? Can you sustain success? That’s really a hard question.
For one, as traffic grows and you get more readers, you’ll have to spend more time on your site – what was previously a hobby now becomes a serious responsibility, and if your site grows, even more, that hobby can quickly turn into a full-time job. When that happens, you become dependent on your site, not just your income, but also your reputation. Here are a few things you should be aware of if/when your site makes it.
1. Prepare to be spending more time updating
You’ve hit jackpot, you now got a great site with tons of readers. Guess what? The “1 post per week” now usually is no longer enough to satisfy your readers. You must be prepared to not only produce more content, but to keep the quality up to the standards that got your site popular in the first place.
A lot of new owners get blindsided when they suddenly see a spike of traffic from readers, and not knowing how to sustain the traffic, they resort to cheap methods of writing short articles and link roundups, when they should be focusing on creating the kind of content that got them the success in the first place – only more of it.
Not only do you have to make sure you have enough ideas for original articles and posts, but you also have to set the time aside to write them and update the site more frequently. Don’t resort to cheap posts like roundups of news from other sites or a quick post linking to another article. That’s a sure way of losing new readers.
2. Gear up hosting and bandwidth
Most web hosts offer a cheap, shared hosting service that’s more than adequate for most sites, but once your site or blog starts attracting lots of visitors and traffic, your site will grind to a halt, and in some cases, the host will disable it in order to protect the other customers whom you are sharing the server with.
In this case, the quickest thing to do is to fork up and upgrade your hosting to a VPS or something similar, which usually costs a lot more than shared hosting. Worse, the new increase in your hosting bill might not be matched by the advertising income from your site.
Try to optimize your site as much as possible. If you’re running WordPress or other CMS software, you should always use a method of caching your pages. Look to optimize your images and code, and if all else fails, you can try and look into a content delivery network (CDN).
Particularly if your site is image heavy (a gallery perhaps), you can often keep your shared hosting plan while you host the images on a CDN like Amazon S3. This type of setup usually comes out cheaper than upgrading to a new hosting plan.
3. More traffic ≠ More revenue
While your costs increase with more traffic, e.g. bigger, better hosting plans, your advertising revenue usually will not match the traffic – if your traffic doubles, your advertising revenue will at best to see a 50% increment, depending on what ad provider you use.
However, you can manage to grow your site to a position where you are considered influential; it does open the doors for special and lucrative advertising deals. Don’t be disappointed when your traffic increases (which is great), but your advertising revenue doesn’t follow suit. Now is the time to experiment with ad placements, rotations, and ad providers.
Experiment with your ad layout and banner placement. What worked before may not necessarily work as well with the increased traffic. Also, if you previously used AdSense or other click-based advertising solutions, you might try out CPM-based ads, since you should be seeing an increased amount of page views now.
However, advertising is always a tricky thing since it varies from site to site. What you shouldn’t do is to overload your site with banners, in-text link ads – and whatever you do, don’t use pop-ups or pop-unders. Bloating your site with ads will make it harder to turn new visitors into regular readers.
4. More server and site maintenance
As your traffic increases, the possibility of going wrong increases as well. From simple database errors to hosting issues to CMS (e.g. WordPress) errors – you’ll have plenty of maintenance to look out for. All the little things add up can ultimately hurt your site. It might be a table crash in your database or a WordPress plugin that failed – expect these kinds of errors, and know what to do when they occur.
In case you get an error or find a bug, (no matter how small it will be) it’s important to fix it as soon as possible but not leave it hanging. Two reasons for this: the small error might be a symptom of bigger things to come, and it’s a turn-off for readers when they see any forms of error messages on the site. A PHP error for a WordPress plug-in may not affect the usability of the site, but readers will notice it, and it will undermine your site as a whole.
5. Popularity comes with reputation control
As the old saying goes, “with great power comes great responsibility”. Running a popular site means that you have to maintain not only the great content that made it popular, but also to remain respectable – you now have a reputation to uphold, and that does not just keep posting great articles, it’s also to remain professional and civil.
Never use your new “fame” and influence to launch attacks on fellow blogs and generally behave unprofessionally. It all reflects back to you. Even if another blog launches an attack, do your best to respond in a professional manner – better yet, ignore the attacks, as those who launch unprovoked attacks are usually only looking for attention.
Another important thing to pay attention to is credibility. If you’re wrong about something and are called out on it, it’s important to own up to it. Update your article with a statement that you were wrong however tiny the error may have been. These kinds of actions add a lot more credibility to your site than if you had just deleted the error.
Don’t cop out, be a professional. You always see the big news organizations post a correction or an update, confessing their errors. They do it because that’s the professional way of doing things.
6. more prone to hackers
This goes without saying: the more popular your site is, the bigger the chance of someone attempting to hack it. Hackers rarely waste their time on small sites, but tend to target the larger and more established ones – Google and other online giants see thousands of daily hacking attempts.
Luckily, today’s software like WordPress is pretty secure, with security updates released on a regular basis. But it still doesn’t protect you against Denial of Service attacks (DoS) and similar methods, which can bring your server to its knees (and probably anger your web host as well).
Always keep your website up to date. If you are using CMS, pay notice to the plugins you use, as not-so-trusted WordPress plugins have lately been used to insert malicious code into sites. And never forget the tried and tested basics: use strong passwords, keep all files up to date, remove unnecessary files, and use .htaccess to secure sensitive areas.