Blogging

Blog Reboot #5: PaulTan.org

Site: Paul Tan’s Auto Blog
Owner: Paul Tan

Paul says:

I would like to nominate my site – paultan.org

It’s mostly about the automotive industry for both the South East Asian region and international news. There’s some test drive reports now and then. I previously switched to a three column layout but that only lasted 2 days because ad CTR dropped drastically. So it’s back to the old 2-column layout. Used to be PR6, but dropped to PR5 about 2-3 updates ago.

Paul’s site is a different beast from the blog reboots we’ve done so far – it’s a well-established blog with high traffic (regularly in the top 3 pMetrics premium blogs – see the list in the sidebar on the right) and has widespread media recognition.

PaulTan.org is an established brand, and as such we’re dealing with different problems than those that we encounter with newer blogs.

Paul’s talked about upgrading the site design (to make it more flexible and ad-friendly) but there are a couple of things that I think paultan.org can improve on, such as:

  • How to leverage his authority status to drive more traffic to his site
  • How to use his site to generate more revenue
  • Setting long-term goals and looking at different ways that Paul can expand his site

But before we get started on this list, Paul deserves a mention for hitting a few key aspects of pro blogging right on the head:

One, look at how focused his blog is – he has picked a lucrative niche (cars) in a market where there’s space to grow (South East Asia). In all of my previous reboots I’ve talked about establishing blog focus, and Paul has that down perfectly. It’s one of the main reasons why his site is such a success.

Two, he’s put in a lot of time into his work – Paul’s been blogging for 3 years on paultan.org. From personal experience, it takes anywhere from 6 months to an year to establish your site in your niche and another year (or two) to breakthrough as a market leader. It differs from case to case, but another thing to learn from Paul’s site is that in blogging, like in any other business, you have to put in a lot of time and effort.

Three, he uses images regularly in his posts – one of the most frequently ignored tips in blogging is the usage of images. You might find it hard in some niches to find the right image for each post, but trust me, it pays off in the long run. Visual cues set the tone for your post and the right images have an indirect impact on retaining regular readers.

Four, he’s considered an expert and a media-recognised authority in his field – and this comes from a combination of his passion for cars and his dedication to his blog.

Overall, I think Paul’s done a fantastic job with his blog and hopefully we can help him increase his traffic and revenue numbers.

Site Design

Paul says:

The site has been using the same layout for ages. I’d like to be able to switch to a layout that can fit more ads without being obtrusive. I tried once, but CTR on Adsense dropped like crazy. I did the theme change myself. I also adjusted the width, but not perfect. Sometimes the sidebar drops below the left content!

First, I’d suggest a width of atleast 900px (or 950px) to give your site breathing room. You can still use a 2-col theme in this resolution (Perf is a good example) but you can also use a 3-col theme. Out of personal preference I’d suggest sticking with a 2-col theme.

To make it work on your current theme, you have to edit your style.css file of your current theme. I looked through it and if you want to do it yourself, you’ll have to change the ‘width’ values for these elements: wrapper, content and sidebar. Exact values will depend on padding between the content and sidebar elements, but here are some test values you can use:

wrapper: 900px (currently 750 px)
content: 600px (currently 480 px)
sidebar: 220px (currently 190px)

This configuration gives you a bigger content area to work with. You can also push the sidebar to 270 and the content to 550 and use the extra space in the sidebar for double-panel blog ads like the ones SEJ and MarketingPilgrim use.

This should work, and won’t send your sidebar south either. Just make sure you edit ALL ‘width’ values for the content / sidebar elements appropriately.

The thing is that your sidebar has plenty of styles, so you’ll have to adjust them appropriately as well. As a rule of thumb, just added x pixels to the previous width (where x is the number of pixels you’re adding to the main sidebar width) will work.

And if you have any troubles, let me know here.

Apart from site width, there were a few other suggestions I had in mind:

  • Use horizontal navigation at the top of your site – makes it easier for users and also helps with SEO (in helping Google identify distinct sections of your site, so they can point searchers to them – see this search and then the navigation menu of the site in question)
  • Promote your feed as high up the sidebar as possible – see how I’ve done it at SL – maybe put it right below the search box? This should definitely help boost your feed subscriptions.
  • Re-jig your sidebar / site layout to make important content / ads as prominent as possible and above the fold where possible. Don’t sacrifice something as key as search / feeds for this though. Moving navigation from the sidebar to the top menu will give you more space.
  • The gauge in your site banner – on the right – if you make the needle point to the right instead of the left, it looks better, more ‘revved up’. Just a gut feeling there, you’ll know better if you had both versions in front of you.

Traffic

Paul’s already got a handle on the search engines, and he’s done well with building a regular readership. However, according to him he rarely gets his site on digg, and I think that’s one avenue that he can / should explore. It will probably require Paul to move outside the South East Asian niche and tackle broader topics, but cars, images, stats and lists make a dynamite combination and it’s hard NOT to get such posts dugg.

My suggestions – Paul should read up on the linkbaiting material referenced here, here and here (the last 3 blog reboots) and then work on 1 linkbait per week (or 2, if he has the time for it). Link baiting, like blogging, takes time and a series of link baits spread over a period of several weeks will help increase backlinks, regular traffic and as a knock-on effect, media exposure.

What else? Since Paul’s an authority himself, I’d suggest that he targets authority sites from other niches. Some examples:

  • web design blogs (a list of the best designed car blogs?)
  • business / finance bloggers
  • political bloggers (how is the car industry related to politics in south east asia?)
  • marketing bloggers (best car ads)

This will get him high-trust links from outside his niche, which will build up his overall site authority and increase his search engine rankings.

And at this stage, some old school SEO targeting niche keyword research and writing targeted posts for those terms will help as well – with an established site getting first page rankings in Google for most 3-word search terms is relatively easy.

Revenue

Paul makes more money from his blog in 1 month than most people do from blogging in 1 year – however most of that income is from AdSense and as a result there are still plenty of opportunities for Paul to make more money from his site.

First, I suggest experimenting with more AdSense options and placement. For single posts, I’d recommend adding a rectangle ad (300×250 or the bigger version) at the top of the post, right-aligned (look at SL for how I’ve done this). This method requires you to have a wide content area, especially if you use images in every post, but it can easily be managed. With that in place you could remove the single ad mid-post, keep the left-aligned block at the end of posts and add a skyscraper in the sidebar (in place of the navigation, perhaps).

Apart from AdSense, I see that you’ve also implemented Kontera – it would be interesting to know how well it’s doing for you.

Right now PaulTan.org is at a par (in terms of traffic) with sites like SEJ and Performancing – and as a result I think you can attract paid sponsors / advertising, something that we talked about earlier in the site redesign section.

How to make this work?

Prepare a document (.pdf) that gives site traffic stats, audience demographics, potential ad placements (images work best) and ad costs.

For an example of such a page, check out SEJ’s advertising page (thanks Loren, for your hard work 😛 )

Once you have this page ready, you will need to scope out potential advertisers and approach them yourself – alternatively you can work through a proxy.

I wouldn’t recommend selling TLA ads or the sort – it’s a nice bump in earnings but is nothing compared to what you can get with direct advertising deals.

Products / Reports

Paul does test drive reports from time to time (here’s the latest) and the value provided in these reports is extraordinary.

I would suggest that Paul look at ways to create paid-for resources where he provides more detailed reviews and perhaps offer the test drive reports for a fee? At a nominal fee of $7, readers would not feel that they are overpaying and at the same time will get something valuable. With proper promotion of your test drive reports, you can easily add substantially to your site’s revenues.

I would also look into syndicating the test drive reports (including images) to car magazines / media – online and offline.

General Thoughts

There are a few ideas that I didn’t have time to discuss above – I’ve listed them below:

  • Invest in a new theme – you can afford it and more importantly, it will help your site fit in more into its authority role.
  • Hire someone to work with you on doing a detailed, hands-on blog reboot for paultan.org. Your site and niche have a lot of potential and guided, personalised professional advice will go a long way towards helping you achieve it.
  • Start a weekly newsletter – see how Darren Rowse does it. The idea is that a) some people are still more comfortable with weekly email digests and b) a list of subscribers can be used for email marketing later on.
  • Hire people to write for you – especially for those articles that you’ll be writing for SE purposes (the keyword-specific posts I talked about earlier).
  • Write on authority blogs and relate that industry to cars – for example, you can easily share blogging tips here at Perf and how your niche responds to advertising in posts, what type of search type-in traffic you get, etc. This will not only gain you a new audience but also get you good links 😉 You can similar things at other niche blogs.
  • Think of expanding to new sites – for example, how about a site that caters to bikers? I’m sure you have had ideas for spinning off sections of your site into independent blogs – if not, it’s time to start thinking.

    However, don’t hamstring your current site by splitting your time between two sites – if you have the extra time put that into your main site and hire someone to manage / write for the new site (you can write their occasionally).

  • More topics – such as car safety – can also be explored (and they will help you for bringing in links as well as new readers).
  • Instead of putting your monthly archives in the sidebar, put your category list instead. Those areas are a more relevant fit for search engines and for readers. You can create a separate archives page that lists monthly archives for simplicity.
  • Think of ways you can leverage your status as ‘the’ authority in Malaysia on buying cars and how you can use that to sell leads, create products, etc.

That’s it for today – I hope this helps you Paul, and if you need more help, let me know.

Author: ahmedb

2 thoughts on “Blog Reboot #5: PaulTan.org

  1. Great Reboot, this has inspired me to look at my own blogs to see how I can improve.

  2. I look forward to these reboot posts, as they always have value for all of us. There are some great points in here that anyone can consider, even a noob like myself.

    Thanks for the great write-up.

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