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Critique – is a Canadian website all about the banking industry. This is an interesting critique for me having recently moved to Canada and have a whole raft of banking type stuff to set up.

As you might see from the screengrab above, the site is about everything banking and aims to monetize mainly with advertising.

Now, advertising is the go-to monetization method for bloggers – as with traditional media – but it does mean you have a high traffic bar to reach. That bar is set higher than some other monetization methods. Unsurprisingly, the main thing the site owners want to do is boost their traffic.

So looking at this site critique we need to look at:

  1. How can the site generate more traffic (to sell to advertisers)
  2. How can the site fund itself

Those are immediate and obvious conclusions, but look deeper. There is a hidden “Step 2” … can you guess what it is?

Well, anyone who has been through my Authority Blogger program or who has hung around here long enough will know there are three major steps (more, but let’s not get distracted):

  1. Attraction – Gaining attention
  2. Retention – Holding that attention for the long term and getting people to come back
  3. Conversion – Getting the audience to take actions, and important point, spend money

Obviously the site owners want traffic, and they want to monetize, which is step three, but we have to deal with step 2. If you don’t retain your audience then you will knock yourself out trying to attract people all the time while leaking people away.

When the owner contacted me for the critique they mentioned they had reached a growth plateau and traffic had levelled off for a while. This is likely the cause.

What to do when blog traffic plateaus

If your traffic is not growing then you are doing some things well but need work in a couple of areas:

  1. Retain your existing audience – It is likely you are replacing people while you are losing them. Build loyalty, stop the leaks. It can appear that your audience is not growing when in fact you are losing people. That loss is hidden by new folks discovering you. It is a strange situation, if your traffic was declining then people feel more urgently about fixing things and come to the conclusion of what to do quickly, with a plateau it often causes analysis paralysis.
  2. Go out and grab a new audience – Don’t get me wrong, don’t abandon what has been working, just reach out to new groups. It is likely you have tapped your current traffic sources and need to reach new people who will also think you are awesome. Can you find new communities to hang out it, new blogs to guest post for, people to refer readers and social media followers? Are there twitter chats and offline events to show up at? Search will be a primary driver of traffic for this site but building your own visibility will attract links, and links mean search. More on this later.

Engaging and Retaining Your Existing Blog Audience

Keeping people sticking around is essentially down to creating …

  • Perception of value
  • Anticipation of future value
  • Relationship

All of these things tie into the email sign up forms. You need to hit all three points, but mainly the first two:


Can you show that you have valuable stuff that is relevant to the audience needs and interests? Can you boost the perceived value with an incentive? (video, interviews, exclusive content, a report?).

What are they going to get in the future? Can you spell that out so they know there is cool stuff coming?

A lot of the time when people take an action it is because of an existing relationship that has built trust and a need for reciprocation (a “thank you”). Remind people of all the awesome stuff they already got, remind people of their relationship with you.

Which brings us back to engagement and relationship … you might want to appear more obviously as you on your blog.

It is a lot more difficult to build a connection around a fictitious figure. Not impossible, just harder. Interact and give people a sense of the “you” behind the names.

Personality Means Connections, Connections Mean Traffic

Also, we were talking about traffic from fresh sources – being a named author will help you get more guest posting gigs, which will lead to more traffic, links and authority.

If you can start being a bit more you then the traffic opportunities open up. You can be interviewed, do YouTube videos, interview other experts, reach out to traditional media, do public speaking, and so on. At the very least, it will be easier to generate links.

On the topic of links, make sure your site can only be loaded with the www. or without, not both. Redirect one to the other. Also, you might want to remove dates from your site (visually and in URLs) so that your evergreen content keeps looking evergreen (anything time specific you can manually add a reference to that). It’s strange but even content a couple months old will be dismissed by an audience even if it is still 100% relevant.

Making Money without Advertising

Doing these things will help you reach a new audience and grow your existing audience. All good.

But you have an opportunity to make money right now.

When this blog was launched there were already a bunch of sites out there feeding this audience. I used to work for one of them and I guest posted on the others. There was no way I was going to compete directly so this is a reason why I wanted a smaller, more engaged audience. The other reason is a smaller, more engaged audience is easier to profit from right away. I didn’t have the luxury of waiting until I had 100k visitors!

The way you profit from an engaged audience is you build your authority with them by offering lots of valuable, actionable advice, then you make offers that are relevant to their needs.

Banking and personal finance are ideal for this.

Rather than sell advertising (or in addition), turn the site into a branded affiliate site.

  1. Turn category pages into landing pages – Look at the top level navigation on Copyblogger and you will see the content organised into long landing pages with either an opt-in form or offer at the end. These attract links, build relevance, and get people to take action. Very useful for SEO but also very easy to refer people to.
  2. Review products with clear, compelling call to actions – Review individual products but also do product round ups. For example “the best canadian credit cards for travel/business/students”. Make it very obvious what people should do next when they get to your reviews. Big, bold buttons work. Show people how to buy through your links! Loan, card, etc affiliates tend to be good payouts – much better than a low traffic site can attract in ads.
  3. Attract search traffic to those reviews and landing pages – Guest post and build awareness of your content to get great, deep, specific links. If you rank for key terms then these are highly likely to turn into affiliate commissions.
  4. Send offers to your email list – So far we have been talking about affiliate offers, which are great and you are likely making some money with now. If you find an offer that is working, put it in your auto responder. Also, ask what else your audience are buying – maybe you can create something that serves the same need, an information product, consulting?
  5. Partner with service providers – Start looking at webinars or teleseminars. Know someone with a killer product or service? Get them on a webinar, grill them for 45 minutes about their expertise, then make a pitch for their product at the end. Another great source of traffic, and profit, AND relationship building!


Build your authority, relationships and connections and people will be more attracted and more likely to stick around. Also look outside of banner advertising. Your list is a huge asset, it makes your blog sticky and automates sending offers, so get people on your list!

Got any more feedback for Please share in the comments …


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  1. Awesome review as always Chris. Well I’ll start this off by adding in a few things too.

    I think the topic is great. That said, when I went to the site, the title tag up in the browser did not tell me what the site was about. It looked nearly close to having a bunch of keywords in there and did not read like a sentence. As this is the absolute most important part of your SEO when Googlebot crawls the site, it might want to be a little more human friendly. For example:

    An Authority in Canadian Banking Information (that is your tagline on the site but it also makes for a great title tag as well).

    Another thing. Less is more. Now over on the sidebars, there is a lot going on. If the goal of the site is to have subscribers then reduce as much as you can from the sidebars and focus on your opt-in. As Chris said, use Copyblogger as an example and instead of having that information over on your sidebar, move it up into keyword-rich menus.

    Ideally, all you really need over there is: opt-in, popular articles.

    Also, I am a big fan of Archive pages. Take a look at Problogger or Copyblogger. These are value-rich pages that allow you to keep people on your site and not miss any good content. Instead of having a bunch of stuff in the sidebar, create a nice ad or image or button and direct people to your archives. They stay longer, google loves you even more, and it’s a win/win.

    One last thing. If you are doing any sort of ads or affiliate stuff, then you should have a privacy statement which can be done pretty automatically using a plugin called “easy privacy policy” 🙂

    Awesome site and such a great topic too!

  2. Maybe a bit “nitpicky” but there’s one little thing that strikes me right off: a few places where “Canadian” is not capitalized. Maybe it’s the sort of thing that only troubles an editor, but I really don’t think that’s the case. Even if readers are only subconsciously aware of the lowercase letter where a capital should be, it’s a very important word! This is the kind of blog that really needs to nail the grammar and spelling. A typo that’s repeated several times stops being a typo and becomes an error, doesn’t it? And to me, it says something about attention to detail, and that feeds into credibility important for any blog, of course, but doubly so when the topic is handling money. 🙂

  3. I’m reading this from the POV of, “How can I use this information on my site?”

    That being said, the biggest thing that caught my attention was the line:

    “On the topic of links, make sure your site can only be loaded with the www. or without, not both. Redirect one to the other.”

    I have not been able to figure out how to even search for this. I will be dropping the line on my hosting services technical staff and hoping they can tell me how to do this.

    In the mean time, how would I google this topic?

  4. “It’s strange but even content a couple months old will be dismissed by an audience even if it is still 100% relevant”. So true. I believe that whoever applies your tested principles will find a way to defeat the competition. There are many others looking to succeed online, but, let’s face it, the goal is to be in the top 20% that makes 80% of the income.