Caroline Middlebrook recently released her first free eBook, How To Develop Money-Making Niche Sites with WordPress, and, since I have an interest in niche blogs, I decided to do an OpTempo review treatment on it. Here’s what I found…
Who’s It For?
The book is clearly written for someone who is at a novice level with WordPress and, to some extent, working with Internet content period. Most of the book deals with the bare bones basics of installing WordPress and getting it up and running along with some good optimization hints. In this capacity as a basic WordPress tutorial it works well. Caroline’s friendly, accessible, writing style seems to indicate that she has some experience in writing user documentation for beginners.
One minor quibble. The recommendation to use Fantastico might be questionable since it can cause problems that a novice might be hard pressed to fix. But, to keep it more accessible to novices, it might be OK to leave this in as long as a few cautions are described as well.
If you’re not a beginner, you’ll probably find a lot of the WordPress setup information too elementary.
What I Didn’t Like
The problem with the book is that while it is a very good WordPress “How To” tutorial it isn’t very informative when it comes to making money with niche blogs. This flaw is most evident in Chapter 6 - Creating Your Site Content.
While she dances around various SEO topics, she misses the key point of a niche blog — it will need to depend entirely on getting Google traffic to be a successful moneymaking venture. Social referral visitors, such as you would get from StumbleUpon or other blogs, simply do not convert well. Even worse, this poor converting traffic can cause your Adsense account to become smart priced, thus cutting your income by up to 90%.
A key to developing Google search traffic is selecting the right keywords to focus upon. If one were to create a niche blog on a broad or highly competitive topic, for example, auto insurance, it wouldn’t get enough search traffic to make money. If one were to create a niche blog on certain topics it may not get relevant or money making ads from Adsense. Unfortunately, Caroline doesn’t explain how important niche selection is if one wants to make money with a niche blog.
Next, instead of using standard WordPress posts to create content, she advocates using WordPress pages. This approach works against several advantages of using WordPress to create a niche site, including using RSS feeds. When it comes to pages though, she also should have given greater emphasis to the importance of About and Contact pages.
She also does not seem to understand that unlike a social blog, a niche blog does not need to be updated regularly, if at all, once it’s reached a good position in search results for its keyword and associated long tail terms. People who arrive at the site via Google are generally interested in finding the answer to a question. They aren’t concerned about the publication date, only the answer to their question. If the site doesn’t answer the it, they move on. If you’ve done it right, at least 10-20% of them will move on via an ad and you make money.
Lastly, her thoughts on closing comments aren’t on target either. While eliminating trackbacks is a good idea, closing comments is a bad idea. Having comments enabled allows the content of the page to be updated with no additional writing effort from you. It’s then seen as fresh content by Googlebot. Having this feature disabled displays the user unfriendly line “Comments are closed.” and makes the site look spammy and/or defensive. Moderation options are easy enough to configure to prevent unwanted comments while allowing good ones through.
Some Good Stuff
One good idea that she did mention in the book was blending in links to affiliate offers with regular article lists and navigation. I’ve found this technique to be effective as well.
The suggestion to use the Database Backup Plugin is also good.
Another good point is the advice on the permalink structure, particularly when applied to a niche blog.
And, as mentioned earlier, the book is a good, basic, getting started with WordPress tutorial.
eBook as a Marketing Tool
Caroline has included several affiliate links in the eBook plus several links back to her blog. This is an effective way to publicize a blog plus it can result in ongoing affiliate sales. Getting the eBook in to the hands of eager WordPress novices will be important to the success of this marketing effort since much of her blog audience is already quite familiar with this information.
She is documenting her free eBook marketing efforts on her blog as a learning experience if you want to follow along with her.
The Bottom Line
How To Develop Money-Making Niche Sites with WordPress is a very good basic tutorial on creating a WordPress site. However, when it comes to making money with a niche blog, some of the information is very superficial and occasionally inaccurate.