Portrait of Jeff Bilbrey

This year 2018 we continue with our interviews with companies that use WordPress and some of our plugins. This month’s guest is Jeff Bilbrey, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Detroit Sports Nation, a sports news magazine primarily focused on local teams. Jeff is also a designer, coder, and guru of social networks. He manages day-to-day operations including all areas of content marketing, advertising sales, search engine optimization, and social media management. Let’s welcome Jeff Bilbrey from Detroit Sports Nation!

Thanks for joining us to share your experience, Jeff. It’s a pleasure to have you here! For those who might not know you, tell us a little bit about yourself.

I own DetroitSportsNation.com, an all inclusive sports blog driven by fan writers that has one of the largest social followings in the Detroit Market. We have been at it since May 2010 and it has been a pleasure creating this place where the everyday fan can truly have a strong platform to represent what is important to them in sports.

Jeff, regarding Detroit Sports Nation, what are the biggest challenges that you face with your customers?

It has always been important to us to represent the fans in a way that they feel is honest and reflective of how they feel about their favorite teams at any given moment. 24 hours a day, a staff of writers and editors are scouring news sites, social media, and video for content that we feel our readers will want to know about. We also are hard at work coming up with unique lists and editorials, or going live on our Facebook page to try to keep our fans engaged.

Engagement and staying relevant without straying too far into the land of clickbait is a challenge when you think about the fact that we publish between 60 and 100 articles per week.

As you know, at Nelio we specialize in WordPress and we often write about it on our blog. Your business uses WordPress on your site. Could you tell us why you chose WordPress among the different CMSs available in the market?

I have tried many different Content Management Systems and WordPress by far is the easiest and most versatile CMS for managing an editorial based website. I use it for many different types of websites, but the workflow built into WordPress and the ability to seamlessly add plugins or different themes to enhance my business makes it irreplaceable.

Many of our readers are plugin developers like us. One of the problems we all have is reaching our target audience, as the plugin marketplace is huge. What process do you follow to find the plugins you’re looking for? Any recommendations on how to help developers reach potential customers?

I always say that if you can dream it up, someone somewhere has built a plugin or the frame work for it already. That speaks volumes to the versatility of WordPress, but I also see how that can be a challenge for a developer to get their name out there. I discovered Nelio by chance after leaving another Editorial Calendar. I searched Google for alternatives to that plugin and your name popped up. Having a website, a social presence and mindful Search Engine Optimization is essential. Don’t just put your plugin in the WordPress repository and expect it to be downloaded thousands of times. You have to get out and educate your audience through blogs, guest posts, social media outreach… and once you get a customer, or someone downloads your plugin – make supporting it to the best of your ability your top priority. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful things in marketing – it can make or break you.

Speaking of how to reach your target audience… You’d probably agree with us that, first and foremost, you must offer a product or service that deals with a pain your customers have. So, let’s help our readers here: what problem(s) do you have right now with WordPress? Is there anything you’d like someone to improve (or even create from scratch)?

I would love to see a better way to categorize the media library. I know there are some plugins that do this, but I have found them lacking. This is something that if designed to be user friendly, could provide a great service to someone like myself that has tens of thousands of images in the library.

Thanks Jeff, I’m sure our readers will appreciate that! In Nelio we aim to help our customers succeed with their marketing goals. To do so, we offer two services: Nelio A/B Testing and Nelio Content. You’re currently using Nelio Content on your own website, but that’s only one part of the equation. How does our plugin help you? What other marketing actions do you take to increase the effectiveness of your campaigns?

Nelio Content is essential to my business being successful. It is used every day to manage my editorial work flow and ensure that all my editors are on the same page. I have recently upgraded to include the automatic social messages – I was skeptical at first because anything automatic is usually a waste of time and garbage results, but after trying it out, this will greatly improve the way we market on Twitter and other platforms. The way it pulls sentences out of the article and writes unique socials and includes hashtags is amazing. I am excited to see the results.

You learn more from failure than from success. There’s plenty we might be doing wrong with our marketing campaigns and it’s quite common to carry out marketing actions that are less effective than what we’d expect. Could you share one of your worst experiences on this subject with us?

We have been pretty lucky to not have any major disasters, but there was a time when feeling out different headlines lead to our fanbase being less than happy with us. This year especially with the focus on “Fake News”, any headline that can be associated with “Click Bait” was cause for dissension and anger in our comments. While we NEVER intended to have clickbait, in an effort to continue to evolve with social algorithms that endlessly seek to challenge how we reach our audience, we would be as careful with our headlines as possible so that a simple social view did not give away the content. We have since found a good balance with this and the complaints have all but vanished.

Another lesson was that keeping a good eye on the advertising networks that you run on your site is essential. Pop up ads and malicious advertising can kill a website. We had an advertiser that was supposed to be one of the best – yet it fed us ads that took our users off our site to app downloads. We saw a huge drop in traffic because of this. Now we only use ads that we can guarantee the best user experience possible.

Finally, did we miss something you’d like to point out? Any final words of advice?

Be honest. Be open and own your failures. Integrity will always win out over short cuts. Be in love with what you do and show passion – the people you market to will see that, and they will support anything you do.

Wow! Thanks, Jeff, for answering our questions and your great contribution. And thank you all for following us and reading these interviews. Stay tuned for the next one!

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