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Improving Retire By 40 To Increase Online Income

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thesis improve traffic

Thesis installed during the 2011 Christmas break

One of my 2012 financial goals is to increase and stabilize the online income from Retire By 40. The best way to achieve this is to improve user experience. You, the reader, are #1 in my book and I will do everything I can to make your experience here a great few minutes out of your day.

Revamp website

You may have noticed the changes on Retire By 40 since Christmas. I purchased Thesis, a premium theme, to improve the readability of this blog. The Thesis Theme for WordPress has great typography out of the box and I love the improved readability over the previous theme. It is a lot easier on the eyes and I am very happy with it. I hope you feel the same way too.

Thesis Theme for WordPress:  Options Galore and a Helpful Support Community

Another reason I updated to Thesis is to increase speed. The previous theme (Atahualpa) was great, but it’s Achilles heel is the slow load time. Many reviewers said Thesis is a fast theme and it definitely sped up the site a little bit as soon as I changed over.

In an effort to improve the speed further, I reconfigured the home page. The home page now shows the most recent post and then 4 teasers with thumbnails below that. Previously, I had 3 full posts showing and it took a bit longer to load 3 full posts and pictures.

Thesis is quite complicated and I am still learning how to use it. As I learn, I will remove more plugins to improve the speed further.

Targeted Advertising

If you’ve been following Retire By 40 last year, you probably noticed some ads before the main post. I removed these ads for returning readers and you shouldn’t see it on the most recent posts. The advertising should only display to readers from the search engine. The ads will also show up on posts older than 2 weeks.

I joined a couple of affiliate programs (Commission Junction and ShareASale) in an effort to increase income from older posts. I can pick a relevant ad such as banksΒ or stock broker for each post and this should blend in a bit better. The plan is to use Google Analytic to find our popular posts and the place banner ads in those posts. For example, I placed a Groupon banner advertising on the Groupon VS Google Offers post. If someone purchased something from Groupon, then I would get a referral fee.

I’ll generally add these affiliate ads to older posts and leave the recent posts alone. This post is an exception though and there is a huge banner link for Thesis up on top. πŸ˜‰ I think this is probably a good time to buy Thesis if you are thinking about it. I have a feeling they will change the pricing model to an annual subscription basis soon. Right now, you only pay once and get free upgrade for life.

Of course, I haven’t made a cent yet from affiliate advertising so if you have any tips, please share with us.

WIP – These following items are still in the work. If you have any suggestions, please leave me a comment.

Revamp Nav Bar – Clean up the Nav bar by combining privacy and disclosure pages. I should separate the contact/advertise into 2 pages as well. I’ll work on making it more distinctive at some point also.

Revamp pages – Update those pages with current info especially the “about” page. That page is the 2nd most visited page on the site after the home page and it really needs some attention.

Make an archive/start here page – A little road map for new readers to follow instead of jumping randomly all over the place.

What do you think? Improving user experience should help bring back visitors and increase traffic in the long run. Eventually more traffic will mean more advertising dollars. Do you like the new and improved look?

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{ 62 comments… add one }

  • Moneycone January 13, 2012, 3:31 am

    The site definitely looks nicer on the eyes Joe! Can’t say the previous theme was terribly slow – I never felt it if it was, but this is a nice change!

    • retirebyforty January 13, 2012, 8:21 am

      Google Webmaster was always saying we were slower than 90% of the websites out there. Now we are in the 50%. πŸ™‚ The various speed test sites also shows some improvement. If you are a regular visitor, then it will load a bit quicker because of the cache. I’m a bit more concern about brand new visitors.

    • Jon -- Free Money Wisdom January 13, 2012, 2:20 pm

      I agree. I never noticed the slowness, but I do like the cleaner feel of your site. Keep up the great work and I hope your visitors have increased since the change!

      • retirebyforty January 14, 2012, 10:05 pm

        The loading must be related to distance too. My server is in Chicago so I think East coast is probably ok? I don’t know much about these things.

  • Jeffrey January 13, 2012, 6:42 am

    The site looks great! Again – glad to hear you moved to a premium theme. It’s so much easier to use, but the technical support is amazing if you’re having site issues.

    Do you use a certain plugin to have the ads only show up from search engine visitors and on old posts? Just curious how you manage that.

    • retirebyforty January 13, 2012, 8:19 am

      Thank you! I use the Ozh’ Who Sees Ads plugin to limit the ads. I think there are ways to do it in Thesis as well, but I haven’t got that far yet. The tech. support is very helpful for customization.

  • Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter January 13, 2012, 8:51 am

    I think you have been making some great improvements. I really like the clean you look you have now.

    • retirebyforty January 13, 2012, 12:52 pm

      Thanks Miss T! That’s what make all the work worth it.

  • Juan January 13, 2012, 9:08 am

    It defiantly seems alot smoother to me. I think thesis really does help to give the site a more professional look.

    • retirebyforty January 13, 2012, 12:52 pm

      The font is a lot more modern and it gives the whole site a more professional look.

  • Roshawn @ Watson Inc January 13, 2012, 9:32 am

    I think the site looks so nice. I did not have a problem with the speed of the previous site either. Still, this theme is definitely an improvement!

    • retirebyforty January 13, 2012, 12:53 pm

      You know what they say – 3 seconds is a lifetime on the internet. I think we shaved off about 2 seconds and that makes a big difference to new readers.

  • Marissa @Thirty six months January 13, 2012, 10:44 am

    I really like Thesis and it looks like you are using it. The site looks clean and clutter free.

    • retirebyforty January 13, 2012, 12:53 pm

      That’s what I’m going for. πŸ™‚

  • Aloysa @My Broken Coin January 13, 2012, 10:46 am

    I love the new look and most of all I love how you are planning to streamline and increase your blog income. Way to go, Joe! I did notice the faster loading time. Great move! πŸ™‚

    • retirebyforty January 13, 2012, 12:54 pm

      That’s great. Loading time is key in our business. πŸ˜‰

  • Fiscal Phoenix January 13, 2012, 11:52 am

    I like the new look. πŸ™‚ However, the reason I keep coming back to your blog is for the content. However, if the changes make more people come and your blog even more successful, I would say they are good changes.

    • retirebyforty January 13, 2012, 12:55 pm

      Thank you for coming back! I think the design, readability, as well as the text are all content and I’ll keep working to improve all these aspects.

  • Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog January 13, 2012, 12:24 pm

    the new theme looks great joe! glad to hear you’re trying to stabilize revenue for the year. Could go a long way to help you retire early.

    • retirebyforty January 13, 2012, 12:55 pm

      It would be great to have a stable online income. πŸ™‚

  • krantcents January 13, 2012, 12:41 pm

    This seems like the year to increase income. I still think content is king. One of my articles called 20 Interview Questions to Ask Employers still gets a lot of traffic! Are you trying to get a downpayment for another property? Go for it!

    • retirebyforty January 13, 2012, 12:51 pm

      I also believe content is king, but content to me means what you see on the screen.
      The whole design, readability, as well as the actual text are all content. πŸ˜‰

  • Jackie January 13, 2012, 4:03 pm

    I think you’ve got a good plan πŸ™‚

    I like the new look too!

    • retirebyforty January 14, 2012, 10:05 pm

      Thank you!

  • Forest January 13, 2012, 5:19 pm

    Nice work, the site is looking slick and running fast, I am sure these are positive changes.

    • retirebyforty January 14, 2012, 10:05 pm

      Thanks Forest. I’m pretty happy with the update so far.

  • 101 Centavos January 13, 2012, 6:59 pm

    I like the idea of putting ads on older posts which still get search hits. I have a couple that get consistent traffic, day in, day out. Good move to a premium thing. That might be something I look into once income gets more consistent.

    • retirebyforty January 14, 2012, 10:06 pm

      You should go ahead and put some adsense on old posts. It doesn’t hurt right?

  • Robert @ The College Investor January 14, 2012, 8:12 am

    Love the new theme – your site is going much faster!

    • retirebyforty January 14, 2012, 10:06 pm

      Great! Thank you for your input.

  • Invest It Wisely January 14, 2012, 5:26 pm

    I think you’ve been doing a great job with the site so far, Joe Maybe you can teach me a thing or two. I’ve been with a free theme since the beginning; maybe now it’s time for an upgrade?

    • retirebyforty January 14, 2012, 10:10 pm

      Thanks Kevin. You should definitely try one of the premium theme. It’s better to do it sooner rather than later if you’re thinking about it at all. From what I understand, Google doesn’t like these kind of changes. Our page view and visits increased a bit since we changed though so I’m pretty with the move. PR might come down a bit, we’ll see in the next update.

  • Lisa @ Cents To Save January 14, 2012, 9:24 pm

    Love the new look. It is sleek, and easy to read. Very nice, very nice…

    • retirebyforty January 14, 2012, 10:12 pm

      Thank you! Readability is a must. My eyes are getting worse and worse and I need to be able to easily read web sites. I’m sure people my age are all in the same boat.

  • SB @ One Cent At A Time January 14, 2012, 10:02 pm

    Got inspired and made a few changes like on front page I no longer am showing the full contents rather, showing the excerpts. Load time definitely increased. Let’s see if it helps Google search result improvement.
    Still not decided on Thesis, but contemplating on a CDN I have too many images by now to go for a CDN.

    • retirebyforty January 14, 2012, 10:13 pm

      You mean decrease? We really need to optimize the home page because that’s the page with the most traffic. If the home page is slow, new readers won’t stick around to see other pages. You should try CDN. Amazon has very good price. You can also put your images on Picasa or Flicker. I think they are pretty fast.

  • Looking really good Joe. Loads quick too.

  • youngandthrifty January 15, 2012, 9:40 am

    I like the look and the feel of the theme! It looks great, RB40!

    I’m having my website redone in a week or two too! It will be completely different yet still have the same apples and the green πŸ™‚ I’m quite excited to reveal it.

    • retirebyforty January 15, 2012, 7:50 pm

      Thank YT! I’m looking forward to your new look! πŸ˜‰

  • Hunter - Financially Consumed January 15, 2012, 5:33 pm

    The new look is a winner Joe. The three columns are a necessity considering all the widgets and other bits that make up an active blog. I also have a narrower left sidebar, works well and looks sharp.

    • retirebyforty January 15, 2012, 7:51 pm

      Thanks Hunter. I like the narrow left sidebar. It’s not as obtrusive as the standard size left bar.

  • charles January 15, 2012, 8:20 pm

    great improvement ideas. i’ve purchased thesis also last year, but haven’t been able to maximize its usefulness and effectiveness. It’s so much to learn! I think I’m going to try to learn one new thing about it every week and hopefully by the end of the year, i’ll at least be able to fix something right away if something goes wrong.

    • retirebyforty January 17, 2012, 12:34 pm

      It took me about 3 weeks on a test site before I was comfortable to go live here. There are so much to learn and who knows when 2.0 is going to come out…

  • lifeoverwork January 16, 2012, 12:06 pm

    I’m admittedly new to the blogging game, but your site is one of my inspirations (especially given that we share some general goals of achieving financial independence). Just curious – why not pursue Google Adsense as a source of revenue? I may come to find on my own that this does more harm than good, but I would have thought using this would be a given.

    • retirebyforty January 16, 2012, 1:01 pm

      I got banned from Adsense. πŸ™
      My advice is to avoid Adsense until you have substantial SE traffic. Once I finished revamping the site, I’ll send in another petition to remove the ban.

      • lifeoverwork January 16, 2012, 1:30 pm

        Wow, good to know. I knew they were strict about clicking on your own links, but had no idea that even a site with as much traffic as yours could get hit. Go figure.

  • Jen @ Master the Art of Saving January 16, 2012, 12:26 pm

    I think the site looks great! Good move going with Thesis, I’m a huge fan. I’ve actually been using Thesis since I started my blog in 2010 and have loved it every single day. I’m still learning (I pretty much suck) but it gets easier along the way. Good luck. πŸ™‚

    • retirebyforty January 16, 2012, 1:43 pm

      Thanks! It took me a long time to get the site up to speed, but now that it is stable, I’ve gotten lazy. πŸ™
      I need to keep improving it and learn more!

  • Financial Samurai January 16, 2012, 2:15 pm

    I like the way the website looks Joe! I’m probably going to be revamping this year as well for my 3 year anniversary.

    who would have though that our websites would provide so much online income that we don’t have to save as much now.

    • retirebyforty January 17, 2012, 9:55 am

      Thanks! I’ll look forward to your update as well.
      It is amazing that my website is making money. I didn’t know regular people can do this and it’s eye opening. πŸ™‚

  • Squirrelers January 16, 2012, 3:43 pm

    Site does look really good. Did you do it yourself, or did you hire out?

    • retirebyforty January 17, 2012, 9:56 am

      I did it myself, but it took a while to figure out. There are still a ton of stuff left to learn, but I think the basic structure is done.

  • Darwin's Money January 16, 2012, 8:02 pm

    Great stuff; I love thesis and shamefully I’ve done very little to customize my sites. I just get so psyched to write articles, network with other bloggers and admittedly, procrastinate, that I don’t end up pimping out my site. Maybe 2012 is the year!

    • retirebyforty January 17, 2012, 9:57 am

      Thesis is a lot of work to learn. Now that I have the basic structure up, I’m procrastinating a bit too. There are just too many things to do…

  • Christa January 17, 2012, 12:17 pm

    I definitely like the new look. It’s very streamlined and modern. I might have to check out Thesis for my niche blog.

  • The Passive Income Earner January 17, 2012, 1:59 pm

    For the speed alone, I may just buy it and send you an affiliate πŸ™‚ Congrats on the switch. I have Athahualpa as well, was the change simple?

    • retirebyforty January 18, 2012, 10:01 am

      The change was NOT simple. It took me about 3 weeks on a test subdomain before I was comfortable to go live.
      That would be great, it’ll be the first affiliate $ I make. πŸ™‚

  • Sigfrid Danswagger February 10, 2012, 5:36 pm

    You can have the best web content, sales copy, or product deals available online but without steady targeted traffic you’re dead in the water.

  • The Financial Blogger February 15, 2012, 7:10 am

    how about doing a newsletter? I’ve discovered that this can be quite profitable πŸ˜‰

    • retirebyforty February 15, 2012, 9:18 am

      I will follow up on this with you. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • Dee@ Small House Life March 21, 2012, 9:02 am

    I have Thesis installed on all my sites. I initially went with Headway, but it had so many bugs (several years ago) that I switched to the Thesis. It is hands down the best WP platform.

    Couple of things:
    1) Do you have the ‘WP Super Cache’ plugin? That helps tremendously speed up load time.
    2) Since you’re sprucing up your site, I vote (at the risk of offending..yikes) for a new Header!

    dee

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