Paul Franklin is a full-time writer and owner of sidegains.com, a blog where you can find precise advice on blogging, WordPress, and SEO topics.
Paul and I have been like blogging-buddies over a year connected through Twitter and I thought of presenting Paul here to learn some of his growth hacks. Let’s begin.
#1. Hi Paul, tell us what made you trust blogging and online business world?
Hi Mudassir. My interest in the online world began way back in 1997 when I started university. I studied modern languages and IT and one of my first projects was to build a website that pulled information from a database. I even wrote a paper about Google at that time since it had not long started up and was a very different alternative to many of the established search engines of the day.
In terms of blogging, and making an income from it, a work colleague introduced me to affiliate marketing in 2005. We built a few WordPress blogs together and monetized them with Google AdSense and links to affiliate products. Within a few months we were making money and we couldn’t believe our luck!
Since that time I’ve done a number of things: Full time Affiliate Marketer, Director of Search Engine Marketing for a European retail eCommerce business, freelance WordPress developer / online marketer and now I’m blogging again trying to add a different income stream to my freelance work.
#2. OK 200 has caught my attention recently. Please talk about it.
OK 200 is my freelancing business. I started it over 5 years ago when the business I worked in was acquired and restructuring resulted in the redundancy of practically the entire UK team. None of us were given very much notice, so I had to move quickly. I decided to try to find freelance work while I looked for something more permanent.
Fortunately for me, I found a client quickly through a previous work relationship, which resulted in management of the paid advertising campaigns in Google and Bing for another ecommerce retailer.
I still provide PPC management (especially Google Ads) and WordPress development through OK 200 to this day.
#3. Prior to blogging, who was Paul Franklin?
After University, but before I came across blogging, I worked in the telecoms industry in the UK, where I had technical roles that often had a web and new media flavor. Among other experiences, I provided support for a company web portal and also helped look after the search engine of a corporate intranet. This gave me lots of experience of UNIX web servers and databases (Oracle). These skills have definitely helped me do what I do today.
My real passion outside of web stuff is travel. I’ve been lucky to travel all over the world and many years ago took a sabbatical, backpacked my way through South East Asia and worked in Australia for a year and a half. I also spent the better part of a year living in Spain as a part of my university study. Spain and the Spanish language still have a special pull for me.
#4. Who is Paul Franklin now?
Today I have a wife and two daughters. I’m based in the southwest of the UK and I feel quite blessed. I think of myself primarily as a blogger, but the truth is I’m still dependent on my freelance work. In time I hope for this to change!
#5. Your favorite 5 tools for blogging?
In no particular order…
- Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
#6. According to you, how can a new blogger get seen and rewarded?
Try to develop relationships with other bloggers. Don’t ask them for anything but instead comment thoughtfully on their blog posts, engage with their content in social media and help people out wherever you can.
In terms of social media, pick one platform. Choose one social media platform, learn as much as you can about it and give it your all. Don’t spread yourself too thin trying to take on all of them at once.
By all means create accounts for different platforms to try to register the names you want, but don’t try to engage everywhere, because you’ll probably burn out. Blogging is tough enough without biting off more than you can chew right at the start.
Finally I’d recommend trying to build links back to your blog. This is probably the thing most new bloggers struggle with… because although it’s a simple concept, it’s not easy to begin with.
#7. It seems to me that high quality content and backlinks is still an unbeatable combination for blogging success. What do you think?
Absolutely. Your content has to be great to stand up to what your competitors produce. Search engines too demand quality from your content and will penalize you in the search results for anything thin or sub-standard.
Above all though, backlinks are perhaps more important. Medium-quality content with a good backlink profile can and does beat supremely high-quality content that no-one links to.
As I mentioned above, building backlinks won’t be easy when you start out. Building relationships with other bloggers will definitely help, but it’s unlikely that anyone will link to your posts when you’re the new kid on the block..
You have to show value in the content you produce and it takes a while to build credibility. There’s no way around this for most new bloggers… it simply takes time.
Perhaps as important as links and content is commitment. Blogging is not the get-rich-quick type of deal that many people might imagine.
You’ll need to commit to your blog, build relationships and grow a high-quality content portfolio over time to see your blog move in the direction you’d like. This might mean years depending upon your niche, so be prepared for the long haul.
#8. How frequently do you produce fresh content on your blog?
Up until around June 2020 I’d say I was publishing around 10 – 15 posts each month. Since then I’ve scaled back to focus more on amplifying my content. Right now I’m publishing 2 to 4 posts a month.
I have around 180 posts on the SideGains blog, so I feel the most important thing now is to amplify my blog posts.
When I started SideGains, my main impetus was to try to be helpful and credible, which to me meant publishing a substantial portfolio of high-quality content. Having done this to a degree, I’m happy to add to it on a weekly rather than a daily basis. That said I really enjoy the writing process so I will increase my output again in 2021.
However, there’s no point in writing anything if no-one ever reads what you put live on your blog. Hence I say again that building relationships and ultimately backlinks is absolutely vital if you want traffic.
#9. How do you promote your blog content usually?
For many months I worked hard to unlock the potential that Pinterest offers bloggers, so I invested a good deal of time trying to growth hack there.
Pinterest didn’t work out for me in the way it has for some bloggers, but I have made connections with other bloggers through my pinning activities and I do get traffic from Pinterest… just not as much as I feel is worth the time it requires from me.
I feel that Twitter offers more potential to promote blogs through engaging with other bloggers. Twitter may not have the potential to drive traffic that Pinterest does for some, but it’s an invaluable place to connect with other people and build a name for myself.
Guest posting too is another avenue that pays dividends. It’s not easy to pitch guest posts successfully, but a good placement on the right blog can make a huge difference to how visible you are. Guest posts can get eyes on your content and help to develop search engine authority.
One final idea is to build up credibility through blog commenting. This doesn’t mean spamming blog posts with “Great post brother”! It means reading blog posts properly and engaging with them if you have something valuable to add to the discussion. I get visits everyday from comments I’ve left on people’s blogs because I read posts properly and leave thoughtful comments I feel add value.
#10. Do you run out of post ideas? How do you come up with content ideas usually?
I’ve never run out of blog post ideas to be honest. Since I write about blogging, there are so many avenues to explore: too many perhaps.
One of my regrets is that I didn’t start out as niche as I should have. The broader you decide to go with your niche, the longer it will take to be seen as an authority.
I get inspiration for blog posts from many places.
I’m always tinkering with my blogs and whenever I solve a particular problem, I have an idea right there for a post that will likely help someone else. A problem I’m having with WordPress for example, will more than likely be a problem for someone else. If I figure it out, I have something useful to tell others.
I also get inspiration from seeing what other bloggers are doing, listening to what people are having problems with on social media… and through daydreaming! Honestly, taking my dog for a walk can lead to ideas about things to write.
Finally, I get a lot of ideas from keyword research. I take a seed keyword and research all the keywords in that silo. This helps me to identify keywords that I may be able to use to appear in meaningful positions in search results relatively quickly. I will say though, I don’t just write anything based on keywords alone. I have to feel inspired to write something about the keywords I find.
I started SideGains with a list of around 200 blog post ideas… while I’ve written posts for many of those ideas, my current list has around 300 ideas for blog post I have yet to write!
#11. What would you do in a different way if you were starting blogging now?
While this means I had a great portfolio behind me and some authority, it has taken longer to see benefits from search engines. Since I actively started working on growing backlinks, this has changed dramatically.
If you only have a handful of blog posts under your belt, you may find it difficult to build backlinks. However at the 30 posts mark, assuming your content offers value, there’s no reason to hide your light under a bushel… start trying to grow links to your posts at that point if you don’t feel comfortable to do so before that.
#12. What does a typical day in your calendar look like?
I wake up around 7am. The first part of the day revolves around getting my daughters to school. My wife has a 9 to 5 job, so I do the school run. I normally get back home around 8:30 and check the performance of my blogs, and then hit social media for maybe 30 minutes.
Most of what I’m doing in the day is work to promote my blog. So… I’m working a lot of the time trying to build relationships with other bloggers, preparing guest posts and looking for link building opportunities.
I still write, but as I mentioned earlier, I’ve scaled back on writing content for my blog somewhat, however I still try to write at least 300 words a day. Sometimes I write more, but I always hit that 300 word target, even if it means working into the evening to make sure I get it done.
I spoke earlier about Pinterest. Up until mid-December 2020, I was probably spending around 2 hours a day working on my Pinterest strategy: preparing Pins, scheduling them, engaging with other Pinners. I’ve put that to one side now, and my intention is to invest that into writing more content for SideGains.
A sensible balance for me right now is to focus on promotion more than writing, but writing is still important. The more content you have, the better chance you have of appearing for random long-tail searches in Google and Bing.
As with many things in life, successful blogging takes time. It takes time to write content and time to promote it. It also requires elapsed time to see the fruits of your labors.
For example, in May 2020 I did a 30 day blogging challenge. This was a huge undertaking and it completely burned me out. The work I did in May only started paying off in November, which is when I began to see visitors coming for the content I’d published during the challenge. This shows that content requires elapsed time before it starts delivering visitors.
My typical day for next year will be publishing 2 posts a week, guest posting as often as I can and building out as many quality backlinks as possible!
I pick up my daughters from school at 3:00pm and do a little more work up until 5:00pm. In the evenings I tend to spend time looking at other blogs, researching and checking out what’s happening on social media.
My days are quite long as I still have client work too!
#13. Most rewarding moment throughout your blogging journey?
A difficult one for me to answer because I’ve had some incredible moments… and some not so great ones too!
I guess I’d have to say the most significant moment was a few months after my friend and I had started blogging in 2005. We began working on an affiliate site, which was a relatively new thing back then. There was far less competition in every niche as you might imagine!
I’ll never forget the first time we earned $1,000 in a month running our blog part time around our day jobs. I felt that I had seen the future!
That moment changed my ideas about employed work and the possibilities that existed outside of it.
#14. Your favorite blogs? Name up to 3 if you want to!
There are so many that it’s difficult to single out a few! But since I’ve referenced others before in posts like this, I’ll reference 3 I’ve been reading recently that are all quite different.
Rhys Keller (https://rhyskeller.com/) has a fantastic and inspirational blog… and he writes beautifully. We’re not even remotely in the same niche, but I’d be lying if I said don’t envy his writing style!
Mikke who runs Blogging Explorer (https://bloggingexplorer.com/) also has a lovely blog in terms of design and content. Blogging Explorer is a great example for anyone interested in understanding what a well executed model for earning money from blogging looks like.
Finally, I recently found Elise Dopson’s blog (https://www.elisedopson.co.uk/). Elise is a freelance B2B writer with an agency background, who I think is a beautiful writer. She has excellent content on her blog: informative, thought provoking and written in a clear and consistent style.
Over to my audience…
So that was about Paul Franklin and his journey to being an online entrepreneur. I really loved having him here today, If you have any thoughts or questions for Paul, please use comments section.