Just a few short years ago we watched as the publishing industry moved from print to online. It was a rough couple years for everyone involved. Publishing shops went out of business and few writers made the successful transition online.
Meet Dave Taylor, the brains behind AskDaveTaylor.com, one of the most well-respected general technology sites on the web. With over 2 million monthly page views, Dave Taylor is a one-man shop who calls his office “anything with café on the door.”
Read on to find out how Dave made the transition from print to online, and how he turned his Q&A site into a super successful, sustainable business.
What prompted you to start AskDaveTaylor.com?
I have a tech writing background and have written 20 books over the course of my career. People would email me tech questions but the same questions kept popping up. I was spending too much time answering email so in 2003 I built an online forum where I would post an article and people could respond with questions and comments. The process was much more fun, interactive and rewarding.
At that time I was also consulting to help pay the bills. My 2006 New Year’s resolution was to change my business model and start selling my knowledge instead of my time. I spent a year going to Internet conferences and soaking up as much information as I could. From there things just took off.
I began posting more and more introductory level tech stuff and the site turned into a resource for people to learn about the basics – what’s out there, how to use it, and how to troubleshoot.
You’ve built AskDaveTaylor.com into quite a business. How did you grow your readership to over 50,000 people a day?
SEO is a huge focus for me. I’ve read the entire Google Webmaster Toolkit and spend a lot of time on keywords – writing keyword-rich copy, using keyword-rich titles, and including keywords in images and photos. I take referring keyword data and use those words in article titles so that people can find what they’re looking for. Keyword density is also important so I use proper nouns whenever possible (e.g. “iPad”) instead of general terms (e.g. “it”). I try to coincide my articles with tech news so, for example, I’ll write an article on the hot new iPad app when it’s announced in the app store. I built the readership and then learned how to monetize my site. I’m extremely happy with the progress I’ve made these last few years.
With so much experience in online publishing, what advice do you have for other publishers who are trying to build their site into a business?
When you’re in online publishing, there’s so much data about your site but the analytics are only as useful as the time you spend looking at them. Take, for instance, one of my favorite stats: what are people searching for and not finding on your site? I use that information to develop content that my readers want.
Something else I’ve learned is the importance of staying focused. Develop specific, targeted content on a topic or two versus broad content covering a lot of topics. People will come back once you become their trusted source for information.
Also, stick to a regular publishing schedule and produce the best content you can. I often queue up articles in advance and stagger them to ensure a constant stream of information. Write the way you speak and weave everything into stories to better engage your audience. I even read out loud to see if my articles sound conversational enough!
Lastly, don’t sell yourself. People don’t want to hear a sales pitch, they want to learn about people and interesting topics that relate to them. Be as transparent as you can because that’s how you gain trust and keep readers coming back for more.
How has Lijit helped you in the world of online publishing?
I’ve been using the Lijit search tool for over 3 years and I love that it’s the one thing I never have to pay attention to. Because I’m a one-man shop, I’m constantly trying new things to optimize my site. I’m lucky to have a large enough readership where I can test something and know if it’s working or not within 48 hours.
Lijit gives me the information I need to craft the content that people want. I know what articles people are clicking on and can write follow up articles to keep people on-site and reduce bounce rates…data like that is pure gold.