Is it OK to use wordpress.com (instead of self-hosted WordPress)?

There are two “versions” of WordPress:

  • wordpress.com-powered websites
  • “self-hosted” WordPress sites, powered by wordpress.org and hosted on a popular web hosting provider such as WPEngine, Hostgator, etc.

If you’ve already set up your website or blog using wordpress.com, then there are a few things you should know.

Generally speaking, for Audience Ops clients, we don’t recommend using wordpress.com to power your site for these reasons:

  • WordPress.com doesn’t fully support installing 3rd-party plugins, unless you’re on their top tier, and even then not all plugins are confirmed to work on this platform.
  • WordPress.com often lacks custom design capabilities (you’d have to rely on their built-in themes).
  • Considering you’d need to upgrade to WordPress.com’s top pricing plan to unlock the capability to install plugins, that would make your price the same, if not more, than going with a self-hosted WordPress site.

Installing Plugins

For more information on the set of WordPress plugins that Audience Ops recommends we use and install on your site, and how we use them, see this page.

If you’re on wordpress.com, then in order for us to be able to install plugins, you will need to upgrade to their “Business” plan ($25/month as of this writing).

This is particularly important when it comes to us using Content Upgrades and the Content Upgrades WordPress plugin (for more information about this, see this page).

Your options if you’re on wordpress.com:

We recommend you go with one of these two options:

Option 1:  Stay on wordpress.com and upgrade to their “Business” plan.

Option 2:  Move to a self-hosted WordPress site, hosted on a popular web hosting provider such as WPEngine.com.  For more information about this, see this page.

WordPress Access

In order for us to schedule and publish blog content for you, you’ll need to provide us with access to your WordPress account—which you take care of when filling out our “Getting Started” form after your kickoff call.

There are two different options for the level of access you can give us:

Administrator Access — Recommended

Making us an administrator gives us the ability to not only create blog posts, but also install and update plugins. If you want to be hands-off with the process, we recommend you give us administrator access. This means we can install the plugins we’ll need, without requiring anything from you.

If you prefer, you can give us temporary administrator access to your WordPress account to have us install those plugins, and then move us to “Author” access once that’s complete.

Author Access

This allows us to publish posts for you, without the ability to install any plugins. This means you’ll need to take care of installing the plugins yourself.

This is definitely doable, but makes for more work on your end. So, again, we recommend giving us administrator access—even if it’s just temporary.

Blog Categories

Before we begin drafting an articles for your blog, you’ll receive a document from us. This document details your target customer, the first batch of blog post titles we plan to publish, and the general themes and categories we plan to cover on your blog. As you might expect, these categories will group similar posts together, and will eventually become large resource collections on their own.

How many categories should you have on your blog?

One question we get pretty frequently is about how many categories is too many. In our document, we’ll share anywhere between 4-7 categories of topics we want to cover. If you have categories of your own that you want to keep (such as product announcements and company news), these can start to add up.

There’s no hard and fast rule about how many blog categories you should have. The important part is to ensure that each category brings something different to the table for your target audience.

It’s possible that some or many of your existing categories can be combined with ours to avoid any overlap. If you have questions or would like further direction with your existing categories to identify any overlap or redundancy, feel free to let us know!

WordPress Plugins to Install

As we get started, once you give us ‘administrator’ access to your WordPress site, we will install and configure a few plugins.  These are the plugins we’ll install:


All clients of Audience Ops will receive free licenses for these plugins, and we will install, configure, and use them to deliver our service.

Content Upgrades

We use the Content Upgrades plugin to create unique email opt-in call-to-actions embedded in your posts.  For more information about how we use Content Upgrades, click here.

Landing Pages

If we’re creating a lead magnet for you, such as an email course or eBook, then as part of this project, we can create a landing page to be used to promote it.  We use the Landing Pages plugin to create an optimized Landing Page used to promote your email course lead magnet.  This is useful if you’re driving targeted traffic to your course, perhaps from PPC campaigns, Retargeting campaigns, guest article links, or other incoming traffic sources.

Better Click to Tweet

We use this popular plugin, which enables us to embed a “Click to Tweet” quote, allowing your readers to easily Tweet a compelling quote from your blog posts.

Buffer for WordPress

We use this plugin to connect with your Buffer.com account.  This enables us to pre-schedule multiple social media posts to your Buffer account, while ensuring these posts don’t actually get queued up for publishing until the article that they are linked to has published from your WordPress blog.


We Recommend:

We will not install this for you (unless you ask us to).  We don’t require you to use them, but we recommend:

Yoast SEO

This plugin adds some SEO optimization tools.  If you are using this plugin, then we will fill in the optimization fields when setting up your blog posts.

Content Upgrades: What are they & how do they work?

Content upgrades are a key part of our service here at Audience Ops—and a key tool for constantly growing your email list. So, what exactly are these content upgrades, and how do they work? Here’s what you need to know:

What are content upgrades?

Content upgrades are a piece of bonus content that complements your blog post (think a checklist, worksheet, or list of additional tools and resources). Readers need to subscribe to receive that bonus—which will be delivered directly to their inbox. This bonus content incentivizes your readers to join your email list, as they receive a helpful and relevant freebie if they do.

How do we setup Content Upgrades (in WordPress)?

We use our a WordPress plugin called, appropriately, “Content Upgrades”.  It is designed specifically for the purpose of delivering content upgrades to your subscribers. As an Audience Ops client, we issue you a complimentary lifetime license and we’ll install the Content Upgrades plugin in your WordPress site for you.

If you’re not using WordPress, then  see this guide on how we setup Content Upgrades in non-WordPress sites.

How do Content Upgrades work?

A Content Upgrade consists of the following elements:

  • The bonus downloadable piece of content (PDF)
  • The call-to-action box/button, which we place midway through the blog article content, which looks like this:
  • The popup form, specific to the Content Upgrade associated with this particular blog article, which looks like this:
  • The delivery of the bonus download PDF, after the user has filled in their email address form.  They’ll see their download link immediately and receive an immediate response email containing that download link.  They’ll see this:
  • The passing of the user’s name/email address into your email marketing tool (Drip, Mailchimp, etc.), and automatically tagged accordingly.  Here’s how it looks in Drip:

We create a unique Content Upgrade with a unique call-to-action / form / response for each individual blog article that we produce for you.  The Content Upgrades WordPress plugin streamlines the process of setting up all the pieces that go into each Content Upgrade.

What email platforms does our plugin integrate with?

As of this writing, the Content Upgrades WordPress plugin integrates directly with Mailchimp, Drip, ConvertKit as well as Zapier.  If you don’t use Mailchimp, Drip or ConvertKit, then you can use the Zapier.com integration to connect  seamlessly with just about any other email platform, such as ActiveCampaign, Infusionsoft, HubSpot, and many others.  We can handle this setup for you.

Should I use Medium (exclusively) for my blog?

We get asked this question fairly often:  Should you use Medium.com to host and publish your blog, instead of a self-hosted blog using something like WordPress?

Our recommendation, short:   No

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t use Medium.com as one channel to promote your content.  You certainly can, and we’ve seen this work well in some cases.

First, here are some practical reasons why we recommend hosting your own blog content on your site:

  • You own it. 3rd party social platforms like Medium.com can change their terms of service and how/where they use your content at any time. It’s best that your content assets which you own, live on your own site.
  • From an SEO standpoint, it’s better if your own site and domain is the one that ranks highly in Google, not a 3rd party site like Medium.  Content posted to Medium should link to your own site, in order to help your own site rank highly in search engines.
  • You can’t embed email opt-in forms if your content lives solely on Medium.
  • As part of our service, we create unique “Content Upgrade” bonus content, with email opt-ins where readers can join your email list.  We do this for every single blog post.  However, these email optins can’t be setup on Medium blogs.
  • The same goes for your global lead magnets / popups / slide-ups / landing pages, which may promote things like your email course, ebook, etc.  These can all be implemented on your own site and blog, but not on Medium.com.
  • There are a variety of WordPress plugins that we use and recommend, which, obviously, require WordPress in order to use.  Content Upgrades is one.  Yoast SEO plugin is another.

How we recommend using Medium

While we don’t recommend using Medium as the sole place to host and publish your blog content, it can be used as a place to syndicate (re-publish) your content after it has already published on your own site.  This gives it the potential to reach a wider audience through the Medium network, while still retaining the benefits of that content living on your own site (SEO benefits, email list-building benefits).

In order to avoid the “duplicate content” penalty (which can happen when the exact same content is published at 2+ different URLs), here are some best practices:

  • Re-publish your article to Medium at least 3 weeks after the original has published on your blog.  Google should have indexed the original by this point, and should pick up on the fact that your own site’s version came first.
  • At the very top and bottom of the article on Medium, write a sentence with a link that says “The original version of the article was published on the ___COMPANY___ company here” (link).  This link also gives Google, as well as readers, an easy signal of which version should be indexed as the original.
  • Wherever you had email opt-ins in the article, for example, embedded Content Upgrades, since these can’t be implemented on Medium, replace them with sentences that call attention to the email opt-in, but link the reader to the same article over on your own site, where they can opt-in for the bonus content.

Does Audience Ops work with Medium?

If you still choose to use Medium for your blog, instead of hosting it on your own site, then we can set up and publish your articles to your Medium account for you.  However, again, we wouldn’t be able to create and embed the Content Upgrade bonus content, since these can’t be implemented on the Medium platform.

We don’t manage republishing your blog articles from your main site to Medium, but you’re certainly welcome to do that using the best practices outlined above.

Setting up Content Upgrades if you’re not using WordPress

To learn about what a Content Upgrade is and how it works,  read our guide here.

If you use WordPress, then we’ll the Content Upgrades WordPress plugin, which is specifically designed for the purpose of setting up unique Content Upgrades on each and every blog article.

But what if you’re not using WordPress? For example, what if you’re using SquareSpace, HubSpot, Ghost, or some other CMS?

No problem!  We’ll still do Content Upgrades for you.  However, setting them up will require a different workflow and toolset (since we can’t use our WordPress plugin).

We ask that you purchase an  OptinMonster account on their Starter Plan (as of this writing: $19/month or $108/year). We found that this tool enables us to set up all of the pieces necessary to execute Content Upgrades on each individual blog article.

Why is OptinMonster required?

It’s only required if you do not use WordPress for your blog, and if you want us to set up Content Upgrades for you.

The reason we use OptinMonster is that it provides the most seamless workflow for setting up call-to-actions, popup forms, delivery of unique bonus content for each popup form, and integration to your email list.  Our team has been trained on using OptinMonster for Content Upgrades in cases where WordPress isn’t being used.

How will it integrate with my email marketing tool?

OptinMonster has built-in integrations with all of the most popular email marketing tools, such as Mailchimp, HubSpot, ActiveCampaign, Infusionsoft and many more.  See their integrations page here.

In the rare cases, if you’re using a lesser-known email tool that OptinMonster doesn’t integrate directly with, then there’s a good chance your tool is connect-able using Zapier.com.  In this case, we’ll ask you to set up a Zapier account, which we’ll then use to connect OptinMonster to your email tool.

Can I setup Content Upgrades myself instead?

Of course!

If you prefer to handle the setup of each individual Content Upgrade yourself (using whatever tool you prefer), that’s totally fine too! We’ll provide you with the bonus content PDF that we create for each article. You’ll just need to set up the Content Upgrade.

This entails:

  • Creating a call-to-action box midway through the article content
  • Creating a popup form, triggered when the call-to-action is clicked.
  • Configuring the auto-response after the form is filled out, to deliver the unique bonus content (PDF) attached to this form / this article.
  • Integrating with your email marketing tool to pass along the subscriber’s info and tag them accordingly.

Keep in mind—You’ll need to do this separately for each individual blog article, and on schedule with your publishing calendar. This is why we recommend letting us handle this recurring setup process for you 🙂

Can’t we just use Drip or Mailchimp to create the Content Upgrades?

Not really. These are great at creating global email opt-in forms.  For example, Drip’s slide-up form is typically seen across many pages on your site, and is set up to respond with a single, global piece of content (like an Email Course).

Content Upgrades, on the other hand, are unique to each and every blog article.

It’s true, that you can create many unique forms in a tool like Drip or Mailchimp. But that only covers one piece of the Content Upgrade. You’ll still need:

  • An embeddable call-to-action box to visually call attention to the Content Upgrade midway through the blog article article content.  Drip/Mailchimp don’t provide this, so this would need to be designed custom.
  • The auto-response with a link to download the unique bonus content (PDF). You’ll need to set up a unique automation workflow for each and every Content Upgrade form in Drip or Mailchimp to accomplish this.  This becomes unmanageable and very time consuming to setup.

Can we opt to not have Content Upgrades at all?

Sure, that’s no problem. If you prefer, we can omit Content Upgrades from our process for you.

However, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to capture visitor’s email addresses when they read your articles. You can still attract subscribers using your global lead magnet, such as an Email Course (which would be seen across many pages on your site).

But what makes Content Upgrades convert so well is that they’re unique and highly relevant to the particular topic of the article they came with. This is why we recommend doing them in addition to having your global lead magnet in place, and it’s why we include this as part of our service.

Which platform should I use for my blog? (and how to set it up)

Haven’t set up your blog yet?  Thinking about switching to a new blog platform?

As an Audience Ops client, this is our recommendation for which blogging platform to use, and how to set it up.

Our Recommendation:  Self-Hosted WordPress

We always recommend you set up a self-hosted installation of WordPress (i.e. not wordpress.com… More on this later).  WordPress should at least be used to power the blog section of your site (but plenty of sites, including ours, use WordPress to power their entire marketing site).

Why we recommend WordPress:

  • It has become the standard, most widely-used blogging platform on the Internet (WordPress now accounts for over 20% of all CMS!)
  • It has all of the necessary features and enhancements to enable best-practices for SEO.
  • There is a massive pool of developer talent, and 3rd party plugins and themes, available to support your WordPress site.
  • Our recommended plugins are all designed for WordPress (though we have alternative solutions if you’re not on WordPress).

Self-Hosted WordPress vs. WordPress.com

Self-Hosted WordPress (wordpress.org) and the WordPress.com service are 2 different things.

We generally don’t recommend using WordPress.com, since it doesn’t allow for installing 3rd-party plugins, unless you’re on their highest tier.

If you already have your site on wordpress.com, then please read our information about this and our recommendations.

In short:  Go with a self-hosted installation of WordPress instead.  This is very easy to set up using a WordPress-friendly web host…

Our recommended Web Hosting Provider

The web host that we use and recommend is  WPEngine.

They specialize in hosting WordPress sites, they’re fast, highly reliable and they offer great customer support.

What if I’m not using WordPress?

Not using WordPress?  No problem.  We can still work together 🙂 And we can still set up and schedule your blog content in your blog for you.

We’ve worked with clients on SquareSpace, HubSpot, Ghost, Wix, and other platforms.  Again, if you’re getting started or open to switching, we still recommend WordPress, but if you’re already set up on something else, we can work with that!

One thing to note:  We’ll need to set up Content Upgrades differently if you’re not using WordPress.   See our guide about this here.

Can you design my blog?

We don’t offer blog design service. But if you need a referral to a great WordPress designer, we can hook you up! Just let us know.

Most WordPress designers can match the look and feel of your marketing site.  It shouldn’t take more than 2-3 weeks to complete this job.

Many clients choose to go with one of many high-quality, off-the-shelf WordPress themes.  Even the default theme that comes with WordPress is a great start!  You can always switch your theme later without impacting the content we’ll be loading into your site.

These are some of our favorite, high quality theme design vendors:

http://organicthemes.com
https://arraythemes.com
http://themezilla.com
http://themeforest.net
http://press75.com

All About SEO

What do we do in terms of SEO?

One question we get asked fairly frequently is what sort of keyword research and SEO work we put into each blog post that we create.

After coming up with topics to cover on your blog, we typically do some keyword research to find relevant search terms to include for each post. That said, if you have specific keywords you want us to target, we can certainly plan for those in upcoming content (and adjust our drafts accordingly). You just need to let us know!

On average, our clients see a 30-60% increase in organic search traffic after three to six months of consistent content publishing. However, ranking for specific keywords always depends on the competition in your particular niche or market.

Our SEO Process

Want some specifics? Here are some steps we take specifically related to keywords and SEO:

  • We always try and start with your target customer’s problems and plan topics aimed at those.
  • We’ll do light keyword research based on the topic we’ve planned.
  • When we send you upcoming topics or the brief outlines for the next article to enter production, if there are particular keywords or phrases you want us to target, please let us know.
  • We try to avoid “keyword stuffing” in favor of including the keyword phrases naturally in the content, as this is the best practice in recent years.
  • If you’re on WordPress, we recommend you install the Yoast SEO plugin. We will write and fill in your title and meta description tags there.
  • We aim to include approximately two internal links and two external links to relevant resources per post.  This is good practice for SEO.
  • Our typical article length, 1,200-1,500 words, is ideal as it provides enough space to flesh out a topic deeply—making it a valuable resource for Google to rank.