Transparency Report #16 – We Have a New Blog, and a New Awesome Theme

Welcome to the 16th edition of our transparency report (for May 2016). This series is meant to show you into everything that’s been going on at CodeinWP and ThemeIsle. Each month, I cover the most interesting goings-on, share our strategies, opinions, and plans for the foreseeable future. Click here to see the previous reports.

The ThemeIsle blog has officially been launched!

You might have noticed – I hope – that we’ve launched ourselves a new blog. You can see it over at ThemeIsle.com/blog:

themeisle-blog

In short, the main idea behind it is to publish content that beginner WordPress users will find beneficial. This includes things like a lot of entry-level tutorials, how to interact with the platform, and basically how to make the most out of your WordPress experience in general. We also want it to be a resource for our clients and/or anyone who’s just launched their first WordPress site and got their first theme installed.

The blog started small and quietly a couple of months ago, with just a couple of posts getting published every other week. Recently, however, we’ve decided to ramp things up and switched to a daily (or nearly daily) publishing schedule, while also making sure that the content quality doesn’t go down.

And let me tell you … the content game isn’t an easy one to play.

There’s a number of problems (for everybody who wants to run a blog about WordPress these days):

1) Many of the valuable and interesting topics have already been written about, and on multiple sites. So what it basically comes down to is that it’s very difficult to be original and not publish things that have been already pretty beaten down.

2) If you really hope to build a brand around the blog, and make it a mainstay in the niche, what you need is not just content, but great content. And hold up, please! I know that the topic of, “create quality content” is the most cliche thing in all of blogging advice. It’s thrown around literally all the time by bloggers who think they’re actually giving good advice. But I digress.

So the problem with content is that in the WordPress space, we’re basically competing for somewhat the same reader. I mean, if someone needs a given problem solved, for example, “how to move WordPress to a new host,” then they can very well go to our own post, or to WPExplorer’s, or to WPBeginner’s, or even to the Codex, or to probably tens of other blogs that might not be any worse in quality, but just with not as much SEO presence.

Although each of these pieces of content caters to a bit different user, and tackles some slightly different angle, the potential reader has no way of knowing whether a given piece is going to be right for them until they click the link and read it.

And, what’s worse, even if someone goes through 3 or 4 posts on the same topic, and neither of them delivers the right answers, they probably won’t keep searching, but will get frustrated and just call it quits.

So what this all means is that regardless of your sub-niche or angle, to really succeed, you actually need to be in the top 3 on Google for your topic/headline.

And to achieve this … you need your content to be great. And we’re back at square one.

Jeez! … I guess I’m as cliche as everyone else.

Now, back on topic … how it all relates to our new ThemeIsle blog?

Well, to even hope to be able to publish great content constantly every day, you need to invest sufficient time in each piece.

If you read posts by the guys from Buffer, for example, one time they shared that an average piece of content takes them 3-12 hours to create from start to finish.

And the bad news is that there’s no way around it. To create something truly awesome, you need time. Or you need to be a genius.

Long story short, we’ve realized that we’re simply not able to create content for the new blog all on our own, so we reached out for help.

We ended up inviting 4 new writers. Which together with Karol and Adelina makes 6.

Here’s our recent content:

Plus, we have some occasional contributions from a handful more people. Here’s Daniel Pataki’s latest post on How to Fix the Internal Server Error in WordPress.

Our content creation process

Here’s our current content creation process and the important steps along the way.

Some core details:

Every article starts off similarly: (1) It all starts from an idea submitted by a writer. (2) Me and Karol discuss the idea with the writer, share tips, etc., and then the article gets a green light. From this point on, the writer takes care of all the necessary research, writing, SEO, images, etc. (3) The article gets edited by Karol and published.

We use Trello for managing the whole process. Every content idea goes through different Trello lists, and gets various labels/statuses assigned to it. The cool thing about the Trello setup is that everything is really easy to grasp, works with drag-and-drop, and is public across the whole board – so any writer can see the discussions under any other writer’s cards. We use 8 Trello lists to handle everything. They are:

  • Guidelines and Q&As, Ideas to Claim, IDEAS, Considering, In Progress, Ready for Publication, PUBLISHED (archive) and No, thank you.

Here’s the main card explaining how the process works (click to enlarge):

trello-card

And here’s the whole Trello board just to give you an overview:

trello-board

Although I’m enjoying how Trello is performing for us, my only worry is that things might become difficult to comprehend when there’s 2x or 3x as many cards in those lists. Trello doesn’t seem like a platform particularly optimized to handle massive numbers of cards in a visually clear way. (Or is it just me?)

Our results with the blog

The blog is growing slowly, and I’m happy to see it that way. After all, there’s hardly been any direct marketing done.

themeisle-stats

Here are some more stats from Google Search Console (organic impressions and clicks for the last 90 days):

themeisle-stats2

We started with 0 visitors (naturally) in Feb 2016, and now we’ve got to around 450-500 visits a day. We hope to be profitable with this blog within 1.5 or 2 years. At the moment, though, we’re spending between $0.15-$0.20 per word on content, which adds up to around $4,000-$5,000 per month. In 3 months or so, we’ll do a review and evaluate how the investment is paying off.

While I’m at it, speaking of content, I’m still not 100% content (pun intended). 🙂

Sorry, let me rephrase. I don’t mean to say that the quality isn’t up to the market standard, but I feel that we need to be doing more.

If you want to launch a blog in whatever niche, you need to question everything that’s been done in that niche so far.

For instance, if publishing plugin or theme lists in a certain way is the standard, then we should perhaps abandon that standard and try delivering value in an entirely different manner. This is the only way to stand out. There’s just no point in having yet another “me-too” blog, even if there’s room for one.

Even looking at the CodeinWP blog, it’s the posts that are the most original compared to everything else out there that have gotten the most recognition:

In other words, if you’re thinking of launching a blog that’s only meant to do what everybody else has been doing already … don’t. Repeating other people’s work can only take you so far.

As Seth Godin once said, “you can’t out-amazon Amazon.”

Some key plugins we use on the blog

Setting apart some of the uber popular plugins like Yoast SEO or Akismet, we also use some other interesting solutions that might not be that well-known. I want to just mention a couple of them briefly and give the developers my props:

To see what this plugin does, just look at the listing above. In short, it takes the plugin/theme data from WordPress.org and displays it inside a nice box. The best thing is that the data remains up-to-date (downloads, etc.).

A great plugin for multi-author blogs, but not only. Basically, it enables you to create a public preview link and then share it with someone. The person previewing your content doesn’t need a user account on your site.

At last, some cool HTML table functionality in WordPress! You can see this plugin in action in one of our recent posts here at CodeinWP.

Zillah – our most exciting free blogging theme is here

We have a new theme. It’s called Zillah, and I dare say it, it’s our best free theme to date.

So what’s cool about it and what sets it apart from everything else that’s out there on the market?

  • The theme is free, and it will remain free for life.
  • It’s a premium-quality theme.
  • There are no upsells (and won’t be any).
  • There’s no “pro” version (and won’t be any).
  • There are no paid add-ons (and won’t be any).
  • There are no strings attached. You can just go to the theme’s page, and click the download button.

The clean design, the layout and styling make it perfect for bloggers and writers, but it’s also going to work for other purposes (including business, personal, and in between).

zillah

We’ve already decided to use it on the ThemeIsle blog, and I’ve switched my personal blog to Zillah too. In short, I really believe in this theme.

Some of our friends have also given it a try and eventually ended up staying with it for good. You can find Zillah in use at InspiredMAlyonaTravels, and MadalinM.

Here’s the official launch post, along with some early results of the theme (downloads, CTR), plus the backstory behind it.

The last time we did something similar – releasing a premium-quality theme for free – was ParallaxOne, which brings me to:

ParallaxOne – where are we 1 year after the launch

You can read all about the ParallaxOne‘s launch in Transparency Report #6. And I do mean “all about.” That report goes through all the elements of the launch, such as our main traffic sources, paid promotion results, community marketing, individual marketing methods, etc.

It’s been almost a year since ParallaxOne saw the light of day, which makes it a great time to give you a quick update on the theme’s overall results, plus how it’s doing right now.

Effectively, the experience we got from ParallaxOne has been invaluable when working on our new Zillah theme.

Just to remind you, ParallaxOne was our first theme that got released on our site exclusively, without submitting it to WordPress.org (initially). It was an experiment to see how far we can go relying just on independent acquisition channels and our own grit, without going to various marketplaces.

So in total, at the time of writing this, ParallaxOne has been downloaded almost 100,000 times. We also got around 400 sales for the pro version, which has been around since November.

parallaxone-plus-sales

We’ve invested somewhere in the neighborhood of $15,000 to promote the theme so far. I believe that ParallaxOne is worth more than the success that it got, but the whole experience has more than paid off for the reasons I already mentioned – it helped us launch Zillah.

Expanding the team

We hired 3 new people to join our support team: Uriahs, Basilis, and Suyogya (whom we are paying to volunteer part time in the WordPress.org support forums). It’s part of our broader goal to give back to the community in various ways, so having someone participate in the support forums seems like a good idea.

Also, we have almost the whole team volunteering at #WCEU, so you will probably come across some of us more than once. Don’t hesitate to say hi, by the way!

When it comes to hiring in general, we’ve been testing a couple of methods recently, and the one thing that seems to be a good idea is retargeting job ads to our past visitors. We plan to focus more on this going forward. Basically, the idea is to hire people who already know who we are, and are motivated to work with us specifically.

Oh, and we’re expanding to actual pirate islands at this point … Uriahs – our newest support team member – is from St. Lucia, which is right in the middle of the Caribbean … “a true Pirate of the Caribbean” – as he said himself. 🙂

Over to you

As always, thanks for reading and for supporting CodeinWP! Stay updated and get new reports delivered to you by subscribing here:

All edits and witty rewrites by Karol K.