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Discussion Starter #1
Hey guys, I wanted to get some feedback from you guys about 4P.

I'd like to make some changes to my blog in order to increase the popularity. At the moment we do 3 'regular' posts per week and sometimes 1 link post.

We get some comments but not a lot, traffic is ok, a few links, but one of the big indicators is RSS numbers which show practically no growth over the past year.

When I look at at another Canuck blog (Million Dollar Journey), he has always grown at a fast rate, has 10k subs and can write a post about going to the bathroom and get 20 comments on it. :)

I would like to be more like MDJ - while I don't expect to grow as fast as that blog I do want to see some RSS growth.

What I would like from you guys is some feedback on:

1) What we are doing wrong.
2) What we could do better.
3) If you have checked out the blog and don't read it then let me know why not? What would you rather read?

ie Are the posts too specific or non-useful? Should we write about more "common" or "everyday" stuff a bit more? Are there too many non-PF posts? Should I get more writers?

Any other ideas?

Feel free to be completely honest - private message me or email me if you wish (qffpillars at gmail dot com).
 

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I'll preface this by saying: I don't generally read blogs. I am probably not your target audience. Given time constraints, I tend to read StingyInvestor, peruse this forum, and perhaps also the FWF ... and that's about all I have time for. Other than time, the main reason that I don't read blogs is that I already know most of the stuff that people write about, so I find that I don't usually learn enough for the time spent reading.

My general feeling is that the interwebz is over-saturated with blogs from people who are all roughly the same age, with roughly the same assets, investing in roughly similar ways, and talking about similar things. I'm not sure that I have any good advice on how to improve your "subscription count" (which I presume you want to do both out of interest and also out of increasing ad revenue), but in general, I would suggest trying to find and corner a niche that perhaps other people have not adequately covered.

(For example, I would personally be really interested in a blog that discusses stock picking which aligns with my defensive, Graham-esque approach, though I understand that this might not a niche for you. This was just an example.)

Regarding publishing count: I think that it's more important to have 1 really good, well-research article put out every 1-2 weeks, rather than more frequent contributions -- something with hard numbers, researched statistics, and insight. (Perhaps you do this already; I don't know.) If I were trying to do this myself, I'd try to model my blog along the lines of something like a "Rothery Report" or "Contra The Heard Newsletter" -- i.e., fewer publications, but loaded with very interesting commentary, analysis, and details juicy enough that people would actually want to subscribe (and one day, if I were successful enough, pay money for).


K.
 

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Hey Mike, flattered that you mentioned MDJ.

Question is, is that the goal for FP? To build RSS readers? My understanding is that FP does pretty darn well without a huge subscriber base!
 

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in general, I would suggest trying to find and corner a niche that perhaps other people have not adequately covered.
I agree 100% with this. There are many good finance blogs out there, including several useful Canadian-centric ones. I think specializing in a particular niche could make your blog more of a "must read," although obviously it would be useful to a narrower population of potential readers.

I also agree that an approach of having fewer well-researched posts is more desirable (to me) than daily posts. I have about 21 newsfeeds in my feed reader, about half of which are blogs, and one of those blogs only gets updated once a month or so. But I enjoy that blog author's writing style and he always has interesting things to say, so whenever he posts I click through to read the post.

I'm pretty busy and don't have a lot of time to read; I whittled all my magazine subscriptions down to one (Granta, which only comes out four times a year -- perfect for me), and when I was getting weekly magazines like The New Yorker, The Economist, Science, and New Scientist I found it stressful (and impossible) to try to keep up with all of them.

We are all bombarded with information, so to become the wheat instead of the chaff you have to distinguish yourself somehow by either being better written or more useful than the others. The "more useful" probably entails narrowing your focus so you can fill in any gaps that other blogs might not be paying attention to.

In my view, the most useful new Canadian finance blog in the past year or so is the Canadian Couch Potato -- not only is it well written (by a professional journalist), but every article is useful, well researched and documented, and entailed real work. I haven't seen anything like it anywhere else, and it really does fill a niche (and fills it very well, in my opinion).
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the great feedback everyone.

@DR V - you are right that there are a ton of blogs out there and not as much diversity as one would assume.

FT - great question. One goal of 4P is to make money. This aspect has been extremely successful mainly due to search engine traffic from posts which are not shown to the regular readers.

I do like having regular readers though and getting comments etc even if that doesn't really provide any revenue. That's why I started blogging and would like to continue this.

I guess the problem is that sometimes I feel like nobody is reading the regular posts which of course leads to the question of why bother writing it in the first place?


@Brad

being better written

I'd need to hire new writers to accomplish that! :)

I agree about the couch potato blog - very good. The problem with a niche blog however is that it can get boring to write after a while. This is why I mentioned MDJ as a role model rather than Cdn Cap since CC mostly writes about investing. I love investing but I want to write about more varied topics which is more in line with MDJ.
 

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T
being better written

I'd need to hire new writers to accomplish that! :)
I hope I didn't imply that your blog isn't well written -- I read a few posts and liked what I saw. I just meant that writing style is one of the things that can distinguish a blog from others and drive traffic to it.

J.D. Roth's blog, "Get Rich Slowly" became very popular mainly because of his writing style, which is clear and conversational, approachable and honest. He earns enough from his blog that he was able to quit his job and blog fulltime, and he now has a stable of staff writers to boot. He covers many of the same topics that other personal finance blogs cover, but he covers them in a very approachable way (plus he spends a lot of time on research).

As for the niche, I do wonder whether things would go stale after awhile, but even if Canadian Couch Potato ran out of new things to say in a few months I'd still be a regular visitor to that blog because it's such a great reference tool. I've read several of his posts more than once, and bookmarked individual posts for later reference.

I'm the worst kind of reader you'd want for a blog, though, because I have never in my life intentionally clicked on an ad (in a blog or any other website). I clicked on one once by mistake and that's it!

Edited to add one other point: The title of your blog might work against you. I know you like Berenstein's book, but I found it tedious and heavy going. I think a blog entitled "Four Pillars" might be a little too esoteric and academic-sounding to be widely popular. Most of the readers of this forum have heard of the Four Pillars book, but we're an elite minority ;-)
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I hope I didn't imply that your blog isn't well written -- I read a few posts and liked what I saw. I just meant that writing style is one of the things that can distinguish a blog from others and drive traffic to it.
I agree with this thought. And yes, JD does have a great writing style.

Edited to add one other point: The title of your blog might work against you. I know you like Berenstein's book, but I found it tedious and heavy going. I think a blog entitled "Four Pillars" might be a little too esoteric and academic-sounding to be widely popular. Most of the readers of this forum have heard of the Four Pillars book, but we're an elite minority ;-)
Funny, you should mention the name. This weekend we will be switching to a new domain at MoneySmartsBlog.com so "Four Pillars" will exist no longer.
 

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Because you asked, I will tell you. :)

I don't read financial blogs, except very very infrequently. I come across them while googling, but there is no one financial blog that I read regularly. Why not? Because I work in the (financial services) industry, I truly spend my entire day immersed in financial services information, and while I read a LOT of blogs, I only read ones that provide something I'm not already getting in my professional life.

What do I mean? I mean I only read blogs that provide information I'm not already getting; or a viewpoint I'm not already holding. I also read blogs to learn things. And I look at cooking blogs (I don't really "read" them; just look at the pictures).

As has already been pointed out upthread, most of the Canadian financial blogs are "pitched" at a similar audience, and most of them have a similar kind of tone and perspective. I'm not the right audience for those posts.

In addition, I will only read blogs that provide well-researched and well-modelled backups for their assertions. I like links to lots of studies and varying points of view. If you make a financial assertion, I want to see the CRA reference or the financial model that proves your point. I'm not that interested in posts that provide assertions or opinion without references. I don't need any more opinions, I have enough of my own. Many of the blog posts I've read seem to have been composed in a few short minutes and provide the author's "take" on some situation. That isn't enough for me.

Penelope Trunk (a blogger who I consistently read; because her posts make me THINK. I have actually overturned long-held opinions based on posts from her! which is amazing to me) has a series on "how to start a blog." One of her assertions in that guide is that A well-executed blog sets you apart as an expert in your field.

If I had *one* piece of advice to share, it would be to carefully define what your "field" is. Your "about" section says you "specialize in investing, real estate, personal finance and even some frugal posts too." But what about those topics sets you apart? Of course I am interested in investing, real estate, personal finance and frugality. But why would I read YOUR blog instead of relying on the information channels I already have?

I truly hope you see these comments as a contribution, not as criticism. Like Brad, I am never going to make a blogger money, because I rigorously do not click on ad links. So perhaps my comments are not that useful from that POV. But they are freely offered if they are of any use to you.
 

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IMO the key is to attract/satisfy new readers searching for content from Google and keep them coming back for the personal aspects/character of the blog

I follow MDJ because it kept coming up on my Google searches. At first it just answered what I was looking for but after awhile I started to follow the character of the blog and now I come back for that

If you search for personal finance topics, a lot of times MDJ, CC, redflagdeals come up in the top results. Not sure how Google tallies their results (I think it's a company secret?) but I think links to the site have a lot of weight

I just checked out your blog and I'm a big fan of the internet as an entertainment medium and things like The Guild (even though I've never played Warcraft, the lead actress is just cute). That's hip enough for me I'll add a tally to your RSS
 

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Discussion Starter #11
@MoneyGal - thanks for the feedback - very useful. I also just look at photos on cooking blogs. :)

@mode - good point about Google rankings. Thanks for subscribing!
 

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I just thought I'd add that I just subscribed to your RSS feed. For me I do more RSS reading then anything as most things are blocked at work, and given that I spend all day on the computer at work, I like my downtime.

One of the most frustrating things for me about some blogs, and I'm not saying 4P in specific, is that they don't really apply to me. I get lots of great ideas and links to follow, but often I realize that my situation is different enough that I don't get much out of it. This clearly goes back to the niche comment earlier.

Let me do some reading via RSS and I'll come back and provide you some more concrete feedback.
 

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Well, since 4P asked I'll comment briefly. I struggle with some financial concepts, especially those dealing with investing. So far the only thing that has worked for me is this forum, to be able to come here and ask very basic and specific questions and have them answered accordingly. (see my thread 'what's a dividend?') I appreciate everyone's help here thus far including 4P but the interactive nature of CMF is what allows me to learn, a little at a time at my own pace. I know there are comments on websites available but I personally find the forum format much better. That's just my opinion though.

I too run a website (totally ad-free, not about financial topics) and wish there would be more feedback and interaction with visitors. It's hard sometimes and most people don't want to come across as too critical when they realize you're supplying good content.

By all means carry on, but maybe I'm not your target audience. I don't even read the paperwork that comes with my quarterly statements, it just never makes sense to me.
 

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It's hard sometimes and most people don't want to come across as too critical when they realize you're supplying good content.
I don't mind being too critical of you Mike every once and a while.

Not sure I can give you any suggestions here, I like your blog and visit often. To be honest, yours MDJ and CC are certainly my top 3. Just looking/comparing the 3, all are well written, witty, but each of your has a unique voice, in both the types of topics covered and how your views are expressed.

MDJ's blog has incredible diversity, CC's are often quite in depth, fairly advanced topics, and well researched, and you (& Mr. Cheap) are the funniest of the bunch. (not that CC and you don't have diversity, FT & you also have in depth analyses, and they are funny at times also - cover my a$$ yet? :eek:)

I suppose ultimately it comes down to whether the 'general mass' likes that voice. I for one wouldn't want to see any changes.
 

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It's a terrible site Mike, you should sell it to me before you make it any worse! ;)

Seriously though, I prefer the variety in posts. While there are many great sites in niches on investment, frugality or passive income, I find that I visit the all-inclusive "personal finance" sites the most.

Million Dollar Journey and Four Pillars are two sites that I not only read often, but have also inspired my site. While I may not be interested in every post, I love finding a new post that covers something a little different!
 

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Actually I learned something myself this week. I have written a few articles for MDG and got some complimentary posts about my topics. This weeks article got several investors to email FT and contact me about my services and 3 people also wanted my lease and application.

Now to me this week's post was a bit of fluff written about a pretty basic subject to me renting apartments. Simple and took me about 2 hours to write

http://www.milliondollarjourney.com/the-art-of-tenant-selection.htm#comments

Now contrast this to the previous post I wrote about the Competition Commissioner & CREA. For that one I read the entire case... about 100 pages, then tweeked and fiddled with it for several weeks, wrote it about 4 times before ending up with a palatable version.

http://www.milliondollarjourney.com/canadian-real-estate-board-vs-competition-commissioner.htm#comments

So my take for all this is that to reach my target audience I should try to educate very simply. One was very personal about my experience and the other an information piece.

Now your stuff is informative but it reads like a textbook.

You might personalize it a bit and even talk about much simpler concepts but in greater detail... Right now even though you don't realize it, you are speaking to the already informed because you already know your stuff.

eg. Last week I was looking at XYZ stock trying to figure out why it didn't go up... why did I buy this crap anyways? Then go into your analysis.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone very knowledgeable about their work or subject matter? And then they leave you in the dust? And you have to say.... hey dude you lost me a few minutes ago? That's what reading your blog is like.

So my entirely inexpert advice is stop taking yourself so damn seriously, personalize it and make it simple. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #18
@michika - thanks for checking it out.

@royal - I agree that active forums are the best place for interactive learning.

@sampson - I think I have something in my eye... :) Thanks - you are definitely one of our favourite readers and commenters.

It's a terrible site Mike, you should sell it to me before you make it any worse!
Finally some honest feedback!! :)

@Berubeland - great advice. Others have also mentioned personalizing a bit (or a lot) more. If you have a moment can you give me an example of where you think the post is too "text book"? I actually thought I was personalizing most of the posts but obviously that is not the case.

Part of the problem is that I'll often write about topics that I don't have personal experience in - for example a while back I wrote about the Quebec extra RESP grants (QESI) which I thought would be of use for Quebecors. The post is boring as hell but it contains good info. Maybe I should have gotten it translated first? :)

Some of my boring 'info' posts I need to remove from the feed and front page and just have them available for search engine visitors since they tend to want "just the facts".

As for your awesome posts - yes, the more specific the post is then the smaller the audience will be. The great thing about being an "expert" in a field, is that you can often come up with a lot of useful, interesting topics without doing much, if any research which of course takes a lot of time.

You have great writing ability and should use that to sell your services. You might want to consider expanding your services to regular retail real estate - ie offer your services to help someone buy an investment property or even a personal home. You wouldn't have to be an agent - just help them with the search.

On that note - why don't you become a realtor? You have more experience than 95% of the realtors out there plus you have a great marketing tool in your blog posts and even forum posts in here.
 

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4 maybe try taking a news piece, explaining the positions and stating your opinion. Your articles are very informative and accurate.

You also say you a lot which refers to the other person. To personalize figure out how to say I in the same sentence rather than you.

One of the key steps to investing is deciding on your asset allocation. What is an asset allocation you ask? It’s the relative amounts of different asset classes in your portfolio which will determine how much risk your portfolio has.

One of the key steps in my investments is deciding on asset allocation.What is an asset allocation? It’s the relative amounts of different asset classes in my portfolio which determines how much risk my portfolio has.

I also subscribed to your RSS feed as well.

Thanks for complimenting my writing... that is very kind of you ;)

I am trying to figure out a way to get into the building flipping business without any cash. If I keep working in property management I will be pretty broke my entire life. Real estate agents seem to make some good coin but there are too many splits and fees and costs. It's like paying for a job.
 

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I also am not a regular reader of blogs. However, I would say that your blog is very well done. Probably what you face is what others have alluded to, limited time and so much competition in the financial information field - BNN, financial magazines, this and other forums, etc. Therefore to increase traffic you probably have to find some sort of niche; in other words present something that isn't commonly presented in other media forms. A very steep hill, I know.

A possible suggestion would be something along the lines of an "investment letter recommendation of the day (or week)", where you would review various investment letters and post what you felt was the top suggestion/recommendation. I'm not sure if such a feature would violate copyright.
 
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