Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six Figure Income BD

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ProBlogger 46672ffirs.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page i

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ProBlogger Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six- Figure Income Darren Rowse Chris Garrett John Wiley and Sons 46672ffirs.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page iii

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ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income Executive Editor: Chris Webb Development Editor: Kenyon Brown Production Editor: Elizabeth Ginns Britten Copy Editor: Kim Cofer Editorial Manager: Mary Beth Wakefield Production Manager: Tim Tate Vice President and Executive Group Publisher: Richard Swadley Vice President and Executive Publisher: Joseph B. Wikert Project Coordinator Cover: Lynsey Osborn Compositor: Maureen Forys Happenstance T ype-O-Rama Proofreader: Candace English Indexer: Jack Lewis Published by Wiley Publishing Inc. 10475 Crosspoint Boulevard Indianapolis IN 46256 Copyright © 2008 by Wiley Publishing Inc. Indianapolis Indiana Published simultaneously in Canada ISBN: 978-0-470-24667-2 Manufactured in the United States of America 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available from the publisher. No part of this publication may be reproduced stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic mechanical photocopying recording scanning or otherwise except as permitted under Sections 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act without either the prior written permission of the Publisher or authorization through payment of the appropriate per-copy fee to the Copyright Clearance Center 222 Rosewood Drive Danvers MA 01923 978 750-8400 fax 978 646-8600. Requests to the Publisher for permission should be addressed to the Legal Department Wiley Publishing Inc. 10475 Crosspoint Blvd. Indianapolis IN 46256 317 572-3447 fax 317 572-4355 or online at http://www.wiley .com/go/permissions. Limit of Liability/Disclaimer of Warranty: The publisher and the author make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this work and specifically disclaim all warranties including without limitation warranties of fitness for a particular purpose. No warranty may be created or extended by sales or promotional materials. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for every situation. This work is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal accounting or other professional services. If professional assistance is required the services of a competent professional person should be sought. Neither the publisher nor the author shall be liable for damages arising herefrom. The fact that an organization or Website is referred to in this work as a citation and/or a potential source of further information does not mean that the author or the publisher endorses the information the organization or Website may provide or recommendations it may make. Further readers should be aware that Internet Websites listed in this work may have changed or disappeared between when this work was written and when it is read. For general information on our other products and services please contact our Customer Care Department within the United States at 800 762-2974 outside the United States at 317 572-3993 or fax 317 572-4002. Trademarks: Wiley the Wiley logo Wrox the Wrox logo Wrox Programmer to Programmer and related trade dress are trademarks or registered trademarks of John Wiley Sons Inc. and/or its affiliates in the United States and other countries and may not be used without written permission. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Wiley Publishing Inc. is not associated with any product or vendor mentioned in this book. Wiley also publishes its books in a variety of electronic formats. Some content that appears in print may not be available in electronic books. 46672ffirs.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page iv

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Dedicated to our families friends and the bloggers we have yet to meet. 46672ffirs.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page v

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About the Authors Darren Rowse is the guy behind which has become one of the leading places on the Web for information about making money from blogs. He is a full-time blogger himself making a six-figure income from blogging now since 2005. In addition to his blogging at ProBlogger Darren also edits the popular Digital Photography School http://digital-photography- as well as numerous other blogs. Darren is one of the founders of b5media a blog network with hundreds of blogs across numerous different verticals including business sport entertainment style and beauty and tech- nology. Darren’s role at b5media is VP of Blogger Training. Darren lives in Melbourne Australia with his wife Vanessa son Xavier and soon-to-be-born baby . In his spare time he’s a mad photographer and has an interest in emerg- ing forms of church and spirituality. Chris Garrett is a writer Internet marketing consultant and of course pro- fessional blogger. As well as his own blog he writes for many sites including the Blog Herald FreelanceSwitch CopyBlogger and even occasionally ProBlogger. He lives in the U.K. with his wife Clare his daughter Amy his brand-new puppy Benji and his two overweight cats Casper and Tigger though would very much like to move to Vancouver Canada if any readers happen to carry a magic wand. When he is not at the computer rare you can bet he is out taking mediocre pictures with his digital camera. 46672ffirs.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page vi

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Acknowledgments From Darren Rowse—A blogger is only ever as good as those around them. I dedicate this book to those in my life who make me better at what I do and who I am. To my family especially Vanessa who encouraged me to pursue this “crazy blogging thing” to my partners and fellow team members at b5media and to the readers of ProBlogger who have taught me so much about blogging. From Chris Garrett—Thanks to my family for supporting me with love and cake and to Chris Webb and Kenyon Brown for helping us get to the end with most of our sanity intact. 46672ffirs.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page vii

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Contents Introduction................................xi 1 Blogging for Money ............................1 2 Niche Blogging ..............................23 3 Setting Up Your Blog...........................45 4 Blog Writing................................77 5 Blog Income and Earning Strategies ..................105 6 Buying and Selling Blogs.........................131 7 Blog Networks ..............................151 8 Blog Promotion and Marketing.....................165 9 Secrets of Successful Blogs .......................189 10 Creating Something Worthwhile ...................203 Index ...................................213 46672ftoc.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page ix

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Introduction Becoming a ProBlogger: Darren’s Story of Blogging During the first year of my blogging career I worked three jobs simultane- ously studied part-time and blogged on the side. A common misconception that first-time readers arriving at have is that the six-figure income I’ve earned from blogging was something that I achieved overnight. It wasn’t. Though blogging has enabled a growing number of people to earn an income the process is rarely a quick one. For this reason I’d like to share my own story of blogging—from hobbyist to full-time blogger. So grab a coffee make yourself comfortable and relax—this could take a little while. Once Upon a Time... In November 2002 when I first hit “Publish” on my original and short- lived blog I did so believing that this “blogging thing” which I’d only just heard of that day would be nothing more than a bit of fun. I started this blog for a number of reasons but it was largely out of curios- ity the idea of having a new hobby and the hope that perhaps I might meet some new people with similar interests to mine. At the time I was working three jobs. My Three Jobs My main job at the time was as a minister of a church three days per week. It was a part-time job I was not “the” minister but one of four working in a team and my responsibility was to work with young people. 46672flast.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:44 AM Page xi

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I was engaged to be married to Vanessa or “V ” as I call her and trying to save for a wedding and pay off a car loan and college fees so I had also taken on a number of part-time jobs minister’s wages are not fantastic at the best of times but part-time they are even less spectacular. My second job was working for an online department store. Although that might sound interesting and useful for what was to come in blogging it was not. I was the warehouse “dog’s-body ” and my job consisted largely of sweep- ing cleaning lifting boxes packing orders and other menial and boring tasks. Still it helped pay the rent. My third job was as a casual laborer. I was on-call with an employment agency and did all kinds of temping work ranging from mind-numbing production-line work on a conveyor belt to helping to assemble circuses don’t ask. Alongside these jobs I was finishing off my theology degree part-time— a long-term endeavor which took 10 years to complete. This was my life that fateful day when I first got the taste for blogging. Hobby Blogger I’d like to say that at the moment I hit “Publish” on my first blog that the earth shook and a light from heaven came down and I was suddenly transformed into a full-time blogger—but as we all know it usually doesn’t happen that way and it didn’t for me. In fact for the first 12 or so months of my blogging very little changed. If anything I became busier as a result of taking on an extra subject at college and leaving my job as a minister to lead a team starting a new “emerging church.” Blogging at this time was a hobby and a way to connect with others who were thinking through issues of the “emerging church.” My blog LivingRoom became reasonably popular in emerging-church circles that year and my site-hosting and ISP costs I was still on dial-up began to escalate. It was after about a year of blogging that I accidentally started Digital Photo - graphy Blog it was originally a photoblog but no one looked at my images and the review that I wrote of my camera got a lot of traffic. In an attempt to help cover my hosting costs I decided to add some AdSense ads and the Amazon Affiliate program to this blog. I just wanted to cover expenses. I quickly discovered that my hope of covering my costs was realistic not simply because of AdSense but also because I put it on an established blog ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income xii 46672flast.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:44 AM Page xii

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that was getting several thousand readers per day this is important to keep in mind. Even with established traffic the earnings in the early days were not high. In my first month October 2003 I averaged about 1.40 per day and that was with lots of curiosity clicks from my readers by November Id hit 3 a day. The money was minimal but it covered my costs and I began to wonder if with the extra few dollars a month I might be able to save up for a new computer up to this point I was blogging on dial-up from a six-year-old PC that worked most days. My other lofty goal was to save for a professional blog design. December saw daily earnings hit 6 per day January 9 February 10 and March 15—hardly big dollars but I began to wonder what would happen if I saw the same sorts of increases in income over a longer period of time. By that I don’t mean adding 2 to 3 to the daily average per month but what would happen if I could sustain 30- 40- or even 50-percent growth each month I began to think in terms of exponential growth. Part-Time Blogger Around this time I had a little more time on my hands and was in need of another part-time job. My study was winding down I finally graduated and other jobs ended. “V” my wife by now began to hint that maybe I should start looking for another part-time job rightfully so and we decided that when I finished my degree at the end of June I’d need to get serious about finding another two days of work per week. All this time I was secretly doing the calculations in my mind to see how much I’d need to earn per day to be able to call blogging my part-time job. April’s earnings came in and averaged around 20 per day and I realized that I just might have myself a part-time job already . The beauty of blogging income is that it earns you money seven days per week so I totaled 140 per week. I began to work harder largely after hours and late into the night with the hope of getting earnings up high enough to convince “V” to let me pass on getting a “real” part-time job and to concentrate on blogging. Introduction xiii 46672flast.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:44 AM Page xiii

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The work paid off: In May earnings hit 32 per day and by the end of June I’d broken 1000 in a month for the first time and was bringing in 48 per day. It was crunch-time and “V” and I had to consider our next move. I could probably keep growing things each month by working after hours on blogging and go find another job—or I could put the two free days that had been taken up by study into blogging and see if I could make a go of it. I decided to put six more months of effort into blogging to see where it would end up. At the end of the six months “V” and I would assess the situ- ation again—the threat of getting a “real job” still loomed. I also got my new computer and the professional blog design that I’d been eyeing. I’ll pause here in my story to say that this was a bit of a freaky moment for both “V” and me. Neither of us had started a small business and though I’ve always had something of an entrepreneurial spirit we are both fairly conser- vative people in many ways. Although the figures indicated that there was potential on many other levels it just seemed plain weird. I mean who makes their income blogging Needless to say we didn’t tell many people of our decision and when we did tell a few family and friends there were plenty of raised eyebrows and lots of comments like “That’s nice but are you going to get a real job” and “How’s your little hobby business going” I’ll stop going into the monthly earnings at this point except to say that investing the two days per week into blogging proved to be one of the best decisions we made. I will stress that this decision came after I’d already been blogging for 19 months and after establishing a number of blogs that were earning reasonable money. Quitting jobs is not something I recommend people just do off-the-cuff in their early days of blogging. Work up over time because though it worked out for me there are plenty of others for whom it has taken a lot longer and some for whom it just hasn’t worked at all. Throughout the second half of 2004 I continued to put two days per week into blogging while maintaining another three days a week of other work some church work and some warehousing. It was more than two days per week in practice because I continued to work long hours in the evenings to keep things moving forward and at times worked literally around the clock like during the Olympics when I partnered with another blogger to run a blog on the games. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income xiv 46672flast.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:44 AM Page xiv

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This was a time when I began numerous blogs I had 20 at one point and experimented with many different income streams and advertising systems. It was during this time that I also started blogging seriously about blogging and had an active blog-tips section on my LivingRoom blog. This didn’t go down too well with some of my readers there and so I decided to move all of those tips to a new blog called It launched on September 23 2004. Full-Time Blogger—Eventually By mid December of 2004 we had pretty much decided that 2005 would see me go full-time as a blogger. I’d already ditched most of my warehousing work because the earnings from blogging had continued to rise and my paid church work had ended as we transitioned the church to a voluntary leader- ship model. All was going well with some amazing figures in terms of earnings in November and December until what felt a little like disaster happened in mid December. Google did one of its notorious updates where some bloggers go way up in search results and others go way down—I was in the latter group and most of my blogs virtually disappeared from Google taking with them almost three-quarters of my traffic and earnings. Ouch Things looked a little uncertain for the first time in more than six months and I wondered if the next Google update would see things back to where they were or get worse. The Google update in mid December left us at a level where we could still get by but it was time for a contingency plan. I even went out and got another part-time job for a while. The next Google update brought things back to a level just under what they were before. The experience did teach me many lessons including the importance of diversifying your interests not relying only on search-engine traffic and expecting the unexpected when working online. 2005 was a massive year. I worked the part-time job that I’d got during the “Google crash” and worked full-time on my blogging a juggling act but both were worthwhile. I continued to diversify my efforts which resulted in new blogs and partnerships including developing a course called Six Figure Blogging with another blogger Andy Wibbels. The name for the course came as I realized that I’d in fact grown my blogging to a point where I earned more than 100000 per year from the medium—a staggering realization. Introduction xv 46672flast.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:44 AM Page xv

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Since that time things have continued to grow with new blogs and partner- ships. The biggest development was the starting of a blog network— b5media—with a small group of other bloggers. The idea behind the network was to see what we could achieve if we put our experiences and skills together. We started out small with just a handful of blogs but quickly grew it into a network of hundreds of blogs employing hundreds of bloggers from around the world. The business took on 2 million of venture-capital investment in late 2006 and has continued to grow into a multimillion-dollar business. Lessons from My Journey So why am I telling this story Is it just a self-gratification thing I have enjoyed reminiscing but there’s more to it than that. The main reason I wanted to tell the story is because I think it’s important to keep emphasizing a number of points: 1. Blogging for an income takes time. Although there are stories of people making good money from blogs faster than I have I’ve been at it since 2002 remember there are many others whose growth has been slower. I’ve had my share of luck have worked insane hours and I started out at a time when blogging was a lot less competitive than it is now. All of these things have contributed to my success. It took me more than 1.5 years to be able to call blogging a part-time job and another year before I went full-time. Building up to going pro as a blogger takes time. 2. Take it one step at a time. Unless you have a massive pile of cash somewhere or a sugar daddy or mommy to cover your expenses you need to approach blogging professionally one step at a time. My approach was to always have a backup plan and to increase the time I dedicated to blogging only gradually as it started to show me earn- ings that justified it. My wife and I decided what level of income I needed to earn and agreed that as long as blogging was bringing in less than that I would need other work. We put a time limit on it. If income hadn’t reached the level we wanted within that time frame I would have been looking for work. Though this might sound a little rigid or a bit of a downer I didn’t want to run off ahead of “V” in my own direction without our decisions being joint ones that we were ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income xvi 46672flast.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:44 AM Page xvi

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both comfortable with. “V” has been incredibly supportive in all this and has allowed me to follow my dreams even when they seemed quite bizarre—but there have also been times when she’s rightly been the voice of reason and pulled me back to earth. 3. It takes hard work and discipline. As I mentioned a number of times in this story there have been countless nights when I’ve worked into the wee hours of the morning blogging. Though I have better boundaries these days it wasn’t unusual for me to post 50 times per day over 12 hours in front of the screen. I love blogging so this isn’t a chore all of the time but I’d be lying if I said there weren’t days and weeks that I didn’t want to slack off and ignore my busi- ness. Friends talking about starting a home-based business often say to me that they’d never be able to do it because they’d be too tempted to never work. I always thought I’d be like this too but I’ve worked hard at being disciplined and working hard and I credit a lot of my success to that discipline. 4. Follow your dreams. The main point of this story was to communi- cate the preceding three points and to give a realistic view of the process of becoming a pro blogger. I never want to be accused of giv- ing an unbalanced view of blogging or hyping it up as a get-rich- quick thing. Having said all this it would also be irresponsible of me not to say that it is possible to make money blogging—and for some but not all it is possible to make very good money doing it. There is a growing number of bloggers earning a full-time living from blog- ging we employ a few at b5media and even more that supplement their income on a part-time basis while spending other time doing other work rais- ing a family or studying. My hope is that this book will help the number of people making a living from blogging increase even further. Chris Garrett’s Blogging Story My blogging story is quite different than Darren’s and in fact Darren plays quite a pivotal role in it. Introduction xvii 46672flast.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:44 AM Page xvii

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The early part of my career consisted of various IT and programming roles until I discovered the Internet or more accurately the Internet found me I was working for a college in the U.K. when the management decided we should have Internet infrastructure and a website. The task for setting all this up fell to me. Although I had experienced the Internet in a limited way and had been online for a while first through “bulletin boards” then later using Usenet dis- cussion groups it was my first experience of the Mosaic web browser that switched me on to the Internet in a real way and this project meant learning everything and in detail. I was hooked from that moment. As well as the college website I built my own one after another. I had a science-fiction news site I built sites around my favorite Usenet newsgroups and of course I had a personal homepage. Then I started doing sites on the side for local companies. After that I took various Web and marketing-agency roles and looked for ways to increase my connections and job marketability. This combined with a naturally helpful nature and also being a complete geek meant that I was active on discussion lists and forums. Getting known in those geek commu- nities led to writing work which led to co-authoring a couple of program- ming books which led to even more of a geek profile. Around this time I started trying to supplement my meager salary with building affiliate marketing websites. Though I had some successes hawking magazine subscriptions lawyer leads and loans my heart really wasn’t in it. My programming websites still did very well bringing in leads for my pro- grammer-training sideline and freelance writing. It was Darren and Google AdSense that switched me on to professional blogging. Though I had hand-developed a blog as a journal in 1999 in fact before they were called “blogs” and routinely blogged and wrote articles about pro- gramming it was the knowledge that you could make money off blogs without selling products you don’t necessarily have interest in that made me a true believer. I fell out with AdSense almost as quickly as I fell in but thanks to Darren I knew this blogging thing was a perfect fit for me. My biggest blogging achievement to date is probably having worked on before it was sold to Splashpress Media. I was one of the founding bloggers on the site. In the space of a year we took it from nothing ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income xviii 46672flast.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:44 AM Page xviii

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to number 15 on the Technorati 100 list had our software downloaded hun- dreds of thousands of times and had more than 30000 registered users. Fast-forward a few years to today I now make 100 percent of my income directly or indirectly from blogging. As well as my own blog I write for several other blogs as a guest or paid writer and I do consulting with leads all coming from my blog or past-client referrals. Introduction xix 46672flast.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:44 AM Page xix

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I t is hard to miss the word “blog” today. We hear blogs mentioned in the media see them all over the World Wide Web and we even hear them dis- cussed now in business and social situations. In many cases the term “blog- ger” is used not just to describe a person who writes a blog but also someone who earns money doing it. In this chapter we examine what blogging actually is and what it involves the different types of blogger and the truth about making money blogging. Before we get into earning money from a blog we had better define what exactly a blog is. What Is a Blog So what exactly is a blog Because we are at the beginning of a blogging book this is definitely an issue we need to be clear on There are a number of ways we can answer this question ranging from the broad to the highly technical. To put it as clearly as possible a blog is a par- ticular type of website. You can see an example in Figure 1-1. Studies have shown that although awareness of blogs is increasing there are still many people who frequent blogs without realizing it. This is fine the key thing is that readers get value out of it. Anyone who has been reading blogs for a while though will know there is more to blogging than just pub- lishing any old website. Though blogs started out as informal lists of links and personal journals they have evolved into a far more varied medium. In addition to diary blogs and link blogs there are now CEO blogs educational blogs marketing blogs—you name it 1 Blogging for Money 46672c01.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page 1

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Figure 1-1: A typical blog. Even blogs on a seemingly similar topic can be approached very differently . Just compare and the blogs belonging to the authors of this book. You can see that though blogs have a lot of features in common they can also be implemented with your own individual style. What Makes Blogs Different If blogs are just websites what makes them so different In my opinion there are three main areas that differentiate a blog from any other type of site: 1. Content—Blogs are usually updated more often than a traditional website many of them even multiple times a day and this keeps visi- ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 2 46672c01.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page 2

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tors coming back more often. The content is also normally arranged in reverse-chronological order with the most recent “post” article at the top of the main page and the older entries toward the bottom. 2. Syndication—As well as being able to read a blog in a web browser just like any other website a blog will almost certainly provide the content in the form of a “feed.” This is all the recent articles posted to the site provided in a machine-readable format allowing people with the appropriate software to read the blog posts as they are pub- lished without actually visiting. 3. Conversation—The style of a blog is quite different from other types of websites there is more of a conversational and community feel. Unlike a more purely informational site or a traditional news site blogs are written with the bloggers communicating directly to their audience and replies are expected in the form of comments. As well as conversation happening on each blog conversation also happens between blogs with one blog post attracting replies and responses on others. You can see responses to my blog displayed by the Technorati service in Figure 1-2. EXERCISE The best way to really get a feel for what makes blogs so special is to go out and read a few. Find as many interesting blogs as you can and note the following: 1. What appeals to you 2. What does not appeal to you 3. What sort of content they provide 4. How often they update 5. What sort of reader reaction they get When you find a couple of blogs that you enjoy reading regularly you will begin to appreciate the subtle differences in style and approach to other forms of web publishing. Hopefully too you will appreciate the pleasure blogs provide over and above just the potential for financial gain Blogging for Money 3 46672c01.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page 3

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Figure 1-2: Technorati allows you to see who is referencing your blog. The Added Benefits of Blogging Yes blogging has many benefits. Although many bloggers get pleasure just from the process of writing and of course we cannot overlook the bloggers who make money you could be looking at blogs with other goals in mind: 1. Fame—A successful blog has the potential to get you noticed and build you a more visible profile in your business market pastime or community . 2. Contacts—Blogs are an excellent way to get to know people and net- work. With blogs naturally leading to conversation a well-read blog will put you in contact with a wide variety of people. 3. Traffic—Attracting highly targeted visitors alone could be a big draw especially if you have products or services to sell. Website owners are ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 4 46672c01.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page 4

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always looking for new sources of traffic and blogs are a proven way to generate more visits and increased loyalty. 4. Sales—In addition to gaining more attention over time through your articles you can generate trust and build credibility critical to making sales. I love blogging. It is great to be able to work from home on my own sched- ule while helping and meeting so many people. I can’t imagine a better way to earn a living Making Money with Blogs You have seen blogs making money mentioned a couple of times already but so far I have offered no explanation of how that is the case. This section takes a look at how bloggers make money. While you read this you may want to think about tactics that appeal to you. Introduction to Professional Blogging Over the past few years blogging has changed a great deal and evolved in many ways. What was once an activity limited to a very small number of peo- ple has now exploded into a mini-industry. As the number of bloggers has exploded so has the number of tools and services available for bloggers. What once involved a good deal of perseverance and a lot of technical pro- ficiency can now be quickly and easily performed by anyone with a few clicks and some typing. Web publishing has arrived for the masses. With these developments and a growing awareness there have been indi- viduals who have succeeded in profiting from their blogs. In the beginning it was almost unheard of for someone to earn money from their blog in fact for many it was seen as counter to blogging culture. This soon changed. As the first pioneers have shared their income achievements there has been an increase in focus upon making money from blogging to a point now where although it might not be expected it is certainly much more accepted. In recent years the term “professional blogger” arrived to describe anyone who approaches blogging not as simply a hobby but as a professional money- earning activity. Blogging for Money 5 46672c01.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page 5

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How Much Could You Earn It should be stressed before we go any further that bloggers need to enter into an examination of this topic with realistic expectations. While millions of bloggers are experimenting with professional blogging most bloggers are not getting rich and are only supplementing their income by blogging. Although some bloggers like Darren and I do make a full-time living from blogging and there are bloggers who make way more than either of us do there are many more bloggers who use their income to subsidize gadget pur- chases or as a way to offset some Internet costs. Just like in most walks of life those who succeed are the few who put in the effort to make a go of it over the long haul whereas most others fall by the wayside before they really get going. Pro Blogging Is Not a Get-Rich-Quick Tactic It sometimes disappoints people when I tell them to look elsewhere if they want instant riches. Unfortunately for the impatient it takes time to build a profitable blog. You do not just become a professional blogger overnight any more than you just instantly become a professional golfer. If only this was the case Though it does involve making a decision that you are going to earn money from blogging it is also something you have to work toward over time. Yes you could make a lot of money from blogging. Read the stories that are going around on blogs of people making decent full-time incomes from blog- ging and you will get an idea of the sort of earning potential that exists. Take care also to read about and investigate the hard work and investment of time that it has taken them. Remember that for every well-publicized success story you do read about there are plenty of others around who have tried and failed that you do not read about. There are a lot more people who struggle to make any more than a few dollars from their blogs than who earn those headline- making five-figures-a-month totals. Don’t get me wrong I am not saying this to dampen the excitement and dreams of pro bloggers The whole point of this book is to help you achieve exactly those dreams but I think it is the responsibility of those of us who are “talking up” blogging to also keep giving reality checks. There are no magic wands no hidden tricks and no secret handshakes that can bring you imme- diate success but with time energy and determination you will get there. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 6 46672c01.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page 6

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Direct and Indirect Earning Methods We go into more detail about exactly how you can earn money from a blog later in this book but making money from blogging is achieved with two broad categories of tactics: direct and indirect monetization. Most blogs and bloggers tend to fall into one or the other of these methods but there is nothing to stop bloggers experimenting with elements of both. Direct Monetization Direct methods are where bloggers earn an income directly from their blog. Examples include the following: Advertising Sponsorships Affiliate commissions Paid reviews As you can see in Figure 1-3 Darren creates revenue directly through dis- playing advertising. Figure 1-3: Sponsor advertisements on Blogging for Money 7 46672c01.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page 7

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Indirect Monetization Indirect methods are where bloggers earn an income because of their blog. This could be taking your blog-derived authority credibility and expertise and using it for any of the following: Freelance writing contracts Book deals Speaking engagements Consultancy opportunities Service contracts When you visit my blog you will not see any adverts but you will see ref- erences to my indirect monetization as you can see in Figure 1-4. Figure 1-4: Using a blog to sell services. Passive and Active Income A big appeal for making money out of blogs or in fact web publishing in gen- eral is that it is seen by many as a passive income. This is income that is earned even when you are not actively working. EXERCISE Look over the list of blogs you found in the previous exercise. How do the bloggers earn money if at all Look for the obvious signs such as advertising and the not-so-obvious elements such as references to their own services. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 8 46672c01.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page 8

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Though there are aspects to blogging that can be seen as allowing a passive income—for example advertising can earn you money while you are asleep you can take days off and so on—in actual fact you do need to keep working at it to make a steady or increasing income. Blogs that stay still do not get cared for or are obviously built with auto- mated or ripped-off content ultimately decline and disappear. When a blog attracts no visitors the blogger will not earn income. Is Pro Blogging Right for You Darren and I speak to bloggers every day who have heard the stories of blogs that make big money and who want to try to make an income from blogging also. One of the pieces of advice that we attempt to convey knowing full well that it doesn’t always get through is that it is worth taking time out to ask yourself whether making money with a blog is right for you. Though this might seem to be a silly or even insulting question to some it is meant to help you actually examine your intentions. Not every blogger is suited to blogging for money. What many new bloggers find is that at first the enthusiasm and ideas come easily but after the first flush of energy has passed it becomes harder and harder to write every day let alone keep up with all the other factors of maintaining a blog. When your income depends on keeping it up you might find some of the feelings of excitement and enjoyment have turned to resent- ment and blogging has become a chore. Which Monetization Method Is Right for You It is not always obvious which style of monetization you might want to follow . Each monetization tactic will be appropriate to a different style of blog and blogger. Consider the following approaches to blogging and see if they fit you. I have noted which category I feel they primarily fall under. Indirect “I blog to help me promote my business.” “I blog because I want to promote my writing.” “I blog because I want to make myself known.” Blogging for Money 9 46672c01.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page 9

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Direct “I blog for recreational purposes about my interests and hobbies.” “I blog to make money in my spare time.” “I blog about products and write reviews.” Now there is nothing wrong with blogging for more than one reason and a mix of strategies is certainly possible but bloggers considering adding income streams to their blogs need to consider the possibility that there are implications of going in that direction that might impact their other goals. Let me share some scenarios of real cases that Darren and I have come across where putting ads on a blog wasn’t a good idea. Although they might seem specific I am sure they represent the story of many bloggers and that you can imagine many more scenarios. Business Blogs Advertising for Competitors Many entrepreneurs hate the thought of “leaving money on the table” so when they hear about blog advertising they think they have found a way to make money of “wasted traffic.” In fact what tends to happen is they find that the ads that are served up by their blogs are for other competing businesses in their field. Though they could block some of the ads they find that often more ads just come in to replace them. If you are promoting your own prod- ucts or services be extremely careful about displaying banners or any other offer but your own. In many cases the space you give over to advertising could be more profitably used to sell your own offering. Reader Uproar A blogger who Darren spoke to told him about the day she added graphical banner ads to her blog that sparked a mutiny among her readers. There was outrage from her previously loyal readers who were angry that she’d gone that route. Whereas on some blogs the readers’ sense of ownership is not very high there are other blogs where for one reason or another readers take great offense to bloggers who change the rules midstream especially when it comes to intrusive or animated banner ads. Depending upon the community levels and the way you introduce the ads you can end up losing readership and you need to consider whether the benefits of the income will outweigh the costs of fewer readers. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 10 46672c01.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page 10

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Money Obsession Perhaps one of the saddest examples is of a blogger who had been running a really interesting and reasonably successful blog. Though you wouldn’t call him an A-lister he had a growing and loyal following. Seeing this growth he got bitten by the “money from blogging” bug so badly that it ended up killing his blog. He deleted from his archive any content that had no income-earning potential and introduced so many ads onto his blog that it was hard to find the actual content. Eventually he ended up writing only on topics that he thought would be proven earners. In doing so he lost the vast majority of his readership and ended up with a pretty uninteresting and garish blog. Distractions and Clutter A number of bloggers try some advertising and then later pull the ads largely because the payoff has not been worth giving over the space to the ads. Ads do contribute another element of clutter to your blog and if the conversion isn’t sufficient they can seem quite pointless. This varies from blogger to blog- ger and sometimes comes down to the type of ad chosen and the topic that they are writing about but it’s one of the main reasons we see for bloggers to remove advertising. Loss of Reputation Reputations are increasingly important and very hard to build. It does not take much to lose any trust you have built up. My last example is those blog- gers who manage to build their reputation gather an audience and wash what they had built down the drain. After advertising many bloggers look to affiliate commissions and paid reviews for their next source of income. The problems start when they consider only the commission value and start pro- moting affiliate products that they have no knowledge of. Inevitably some of those products will be subpar or even actually rip people off. In promoting defective products or writing inaccurate reviews those bloggers betray their audience something it is very hard to recover from. How to Make Blog Advertising Work for You Here are the key tips for considering blog advertising: Put your reader and content first. Don’t let ads dominate. Blogging for Money 11 46672c01.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page 11

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Ensure only relevant and appropriate ads are displayed. Write reviews only for products that you have actually experienced. Promote affiliate offers only when you are sure they are good value. Stick to these tips and you should be fine in most cases. Blog Strategies Many people when they think of earning money from blogging think of only one model: 1. Set up a blog. 2. Make it popular. 3. Earn from advertising. In fact there are other models to consider. Multiple Blogs First of all there is no reason why you should have only one blog. Both Darren and I each have several blogs. Although your earnings on an individual blog might not set the world alight if you have multiple blogs and earn a couple of hundred dollars per blog it could make for quite a nice salary. Freelance Blogging As well as owning my own blogs I also make a percentage of my income writ- ing for other people. It is enjoyable can be lucrative and is actually great mar- keting for my own blog and me. Obviously I think it is a good deal for the blogger but what about the per- son hiring the blogger There are a number of reasons people hire a freelance blogger to blog for them. Ability There is the writing itself and then all the other things a blogger needs to do such as traffic building and promotion design tweaks technical stuff like installing plugins and programming and so on. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 12 46672c01.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page 12

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Time If you are busy running your business but you know you would benefit from a blog then you might hire someone else to do the actual writing. I know many bloggers who have built up mini-networks of blogs this way without doing much of the actual blogging. Network As you will see later in this book success can be as dependent on other people as on your own efforts. Sometimes people hire other bloggers who they know are well-connected to gain access to people and communities otherwise out of reach for them. Knowledge At times you might need a subject-matter expert to write on certain topics. Rather than learning it all yourself you can outsource those articles. Credibility Hiring an already-popular blogger is also an advantage because you can lever- age his or her credibility and traffic to boost your own. There’s nothing like having a well-known big-name blogger to drive people to your site. Build and Flip A concept familiar in the real-world real-estate market building and flipping has transferred over to the virtual world of property development. Essentially it is possible to grow a blog’s value and then sell it. You could build from scratch or find an under-developed property buy it give it a makeover and then sell it for a profit. In Figure 1-5 you can see a popular website marketplace at work. EXERCISE After reading the preceding sections you will have a good idea of the sort of revenue options that are out there. Take some time to think which appeal to you and why . Most monetization techniques take a good amount of testing but knowing in advance where your motivations lie will give you an idea of which strategies you are going to have the energy to persist with. Blogging for Money 13 46672c01.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page 13

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Figure 1-5: Sitepoint marketplace showing sites for sale. Measuring a Blog’s Success If you are building a blog to earn money directly or if you are hoping to make sales from your blog then money is your obvious metric to determine how well you are doing toward your goal. What if direct income or sales leads are not part of your plan—how can you measure the success of your blog then Every blogger you speak to seems to have a unique preference for what determines a successful blog. For some it could be about traffic others will prioritize subscribers and there are bloggers who count comments as the best measure. Each metric means different things to different people. Here are a few measures of success that different bloggers use to evaluate how their blogs are going. Some will be more or less relevant for different blogs and will depend upon the goals and objectives of the blogger. Traffic The most common ways that bloggers seem to evaluate a blog are the different measures of traffic. Different bloggers seem to have their own preferences for ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 14 46672c01.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page 14

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different aspects of traffic plus each tool you use to measure traffic will give a different result due to the differing methodology. It is very rare to find two different tools that agree on any one result so when measuring traffic it is best to stick to your favorite service and use it to show progress rather than obsess- ing over the actual numbers. Figure 1-6 shows an example traffic graph for Figure 1-6: Alexa graph for Unique Visitors The idea of unique visitors is to count the number of people who visit your blog. The problem in determining this accurately is there is no way to actually know who is visiting with any confidence unless you get each person to log in every time they read. To get a rough guide of how many unique people visit a blog techniques such as counting each unique IP address a number given to each device con- nected to the Internet or recording “cookies” small text entries saved by your web browser for later retrieval can be used. All methods have propo- nents and problems. For example your IP address today might be different tomorrow or many different computers could be simultaneously surfing under one number due to differences in how networks can be organized. Cookies have a lot of fans but increasingly they can not be relied upon because so many people delete them manually or automatically via security and privacy software. Blogging for Money 15 46672c01.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page 15

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A further complication is that if you have readers who choose to take your content in feed form rather than view your blog in their web browser your audience is actually larger than this statistic represents. Advertisers especially like to know how many unique visitors your blog attracts in a given month and if you are ever going to sell your blog this met- ric will be extremely important also. Visits An individual visitor could make several visits to a blog. Visits are more reli- ably measured than unique visitors but to compare results you have to agree on what constitutes a visit. Visits are also sometimes termed “visitor sessions.” Depending on who you listen to and which software you use to measure a session could be calculated in several ways. One popular way to determine a session is an unbroken stream of page views after a certain period of inactivity. If someone visits two pages ten minutes apart is that two page views in one session or two visits Many website owners take note of average session length as a way to deter- mine how long people spend on their site. As websites become less about downloading pages and more interactivity within a page session length is gaining attraction. The longer visitors spend looking at your content the bet- ter because it means they were more engaged and according to media-types gaining more affinity with your brand. Page Views Page views are the total number of pages read in a web browser. Most bloggers like to know how many page views they attract both on a daily and a monthly basis. As well as the total page views you also should monitor ratio of pages viewed per visitor. It is best to have both a high number of pages viewed and for the average visitor to read more than one page. Each article you write will receive its own page views and by comparing indi- vidual page counts you can work out which articles are gaining the most atten- tion giving you an idea what content your audience finds most interesting. Hits Hits count the number of requests sent for a file to the server. This is a dated and largely unhelpful metric because every request for any file is counted. Though it sounds useful in actual fact it gives you little ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 16 46672c01.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page 16

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information that is actionable. If you have a page containing four images one request for that page is counted as five hits. To increase your hits you could just add an image to the page Due to the misleading nature of the metric few people use it seriously and the phrase “hits” is often erroneously used in conversation and the media when what they actually mean is to describe traffic in general or specifically visits or page views. Subscribers Bloggers can vary from indifferent about subscriber counts through to subscriber-obsessed. Why are subscribers so important Counting a blog’s subscribers gives a good indication of how popular it really is because these are the people who want to read your content long- term and have signed up to receive updates so they never miss one. These are your loyal readers the people you can hopefully count on to come back again and again. Whereas the metrics mentioned before are important and they are tradi- tional measures for any website subscribers are critical to blogs. A visit could be a person arriving not finding what they need and going away never to return. A subscriber has made a small commitment to you and demonstrates you are providing something a little more useful and compelling. Subscribers are usually split into RSS subscribers and email subscribers though as I will explain the lines are blurring. RSS Subscribers RSS subscribers are the people who use your feed to read articles. They use a feed reader service or software application to pull down updates to your feed and might never actually visit your blog at all. The most popular feed-measurement service is and because of this most bloggers rely on that service to compare progress against each other. Both Bloglines and Google provide a count of readers using their feed-reader services but only FeedBurner provides a count across all of them. Even though nearly all bloggers rely on FeedBurner even the company would admit that counting feed readers is not an exact science. Numbers fluc- tuate every day and glitches can make it seem like you have lost or gained readers almost randomly . The best idea is to use the count as a progress guide and not an exact count of individuals. Blogging for Money 17 46672c01.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page 17

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Email Subscribers In addition to RSS readers many bloggers publish their content over email. There are services available to allow you to take your RSS feed and deliver email updates automatically and then there are specialist email-newsletter- publishing services such as that allow you to create messages or import your content. An advantage that email lists have over RSS is that when a visitor sub- scribes you get his email address. Valuable on its own a list of email addresses is also a far more reliable indicator of how many individuals you have subscribed. Comments Feedback and Interaction Much as we all want readers when a blog is truly engaging you will hopefully attract comments. Comments show that your visitors want to interact with you. They allow you to build a sense of community further encouraging read- ers to return time and again. You can see an example comment form in Figure 1-7. Figure 1-7: Writing a comment. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 18 46672c01.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page 18

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Comments You can begin by counting the number of comments you receive after remov- ing junk and spam comments. If on average each article attracts ten com- ments you know you have made an improvement over when your blog gained only one or two. There are two types of posts you might particularly want to receive: good feedback and considered posts. If the only comment you ever receive is “You suck” you might not be quite as happy about those ten comments as back when you received two “nice post” comments per article Many bloggers also judge quality equally as important as quantity because it is so easy to just post any old rubbish into the comment area and people do just to get a mention of their own website but when someone takes time and care to craft a thoughtful comment it can be much more satisfying. Feedback Obviously as well as comments people will use your contact form and email to get in touch with you. Many of my best articles have been inspired by reader questions and it is important to all of us to receive feedback good and bad so we know where we are going wrong and what we are doing right. Interaction There are many ways that readers can participate on a blog that go beyond comments and emails. Taking part in your blog might include responses to polls competition entries and other calls to action. In general if people do in large numbers what you ask then you have an engaged audience Links Links are the currency of the World Wide Web. The levels of incoming links to your blog can be an indicator of how well you are engaging other bloggers. Incoming links are good for a blog in most cases because of the incoming traf- fic that follows them but also because they are a major factor in climbing the rankings in search engines. They can be monitored in a number of ways. Blogging for Money 19 46672c01.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page 19

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Trackbacks If another blogger links to your article you can be notified using a special comment called a Trackback which appears linking back to the original blog- ger with a small quote of the text used. Though some bloggers hate them due to spammers taking advantage of the free link back blogs utilize them to fur- ther conversations and as notification of what others are writing about you. Search Engines To find out who is linking to you type link:domainname into Google. You can get a good quick picture of the incoming links that that search engine has indexed for your blog. There are also browser plugins and easy-to-use web services that will show you the same thing. Technorati Another popular service that has become a bit of a competition among blog- gers is the Technorati ranking. Technorati counts how many references to your blog have been made by other bloggers currently they call this “author- ity.” The more authority you get in any six-month period the higher your ranking. Technorati’s Top 100 List has become the defacto A-list the holy grail of blogging for many. Referral Stats Most statistics packages offer the ability to track where your readers come from to get to your blog. This shows you the things they are searching search engines for but also the sites that are linking up. Search-Engine Results Getting to the top of a search-engine result for a certain phrase can be the ticket to a flood of traffic and admiration from your peers. Some people take this to the level of a sport seeing it as a game or competition whereas other people make an entire career out of it because some search results are worth a great deal of money if you have something valuable to sell. Take a look at Figure 1-8 to see an example search result where Darren ranks top. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 20 46672c01.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page 20

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Figure 1-8: ProBlogger coming in at the top in an example Google search. EXERCISE Go back over your list of blogs to read one more time. Do your favorite blogs show any signs of success under the preceding criteria Do the best have more RSS subscribers more comments Can you find them on and PROBLOGGER BLOG TIP: USEFUL WEBSITES The following websites and tools are useful for keeping track of your own progress or comparing one blog to another: Blogging for Money 21 46672c01.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page 21

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Summary In this chapter we examined what a blog is and some of the ways you can use blogging to make money. Though we do not want you to be pessimistic I cautioned that it is not something that you will make a ton of money doing overnight so better hold on to that day job At the same time it is a great way of earning income both in terms of the amount of money you can make and the fun you can have doing it. Over the remainder of this book we go into detail and show exactly how to choose a topic for your blog what you need to do to build your blog and how to make it a success. PROBLOGGER BLOG TIP: STAT ADDICTION Although monitoring all the statistics mentioned in this chapter can be useful some bloggers fall into the track of becoming quite addicted to checking these types of statistics which can become a pretty competitive and unproductive exercise. Remember that unlike a lot of endeavors a blogger doesn’t really have competition as such—your fellow bloggers are more normally a source of help friendship and traffic rather than adversaries. Plus it is worth grow- ing a thick skin and keeping your ego in check sometimes “conversation” can become heated so keeping a balanced head can be critical I personally take note of all of these varying degrees of measurements but it’s best not to give them undue attention. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 22 46672c01.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:36 AM Page 22

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O ne of the most important decisions that bloggers wanting to build a profitable blog need to make is what their blog will be about. In this chapter we introduce you to the concept of niche blogging and give you some questions to ask yourself when considering what topic to focus your blog upon. The majority of bloggers starting out in blogging do so by creating a personal blog. These blogs are in many ways an extension of the life of the blogger and will usually cover a wide array of interests ranging from life experiences to observations on work hobbies relationships and passions. Personal blogs can be a lot of fun and are a great place to learn about the basics of blogging—however having a blog focus upon such a variety of top- ics and delving into your personal life doesn’t always make good business sense. I started out with a personal blog that covered everything from spirituality and church to photography to blogging and more and though the blog did become quite popular after 18 months of running it I began to notice a num- ber of things that made me consider a new approach: Some readers became disillusioned with the blog. My blog had a number of main themes and different readers resonated differently with each one. A few readers shared all of my diverse interests how- ever most came to my blog to read about just one aspect of my life. When I focused on a topic they were not interested in they either ignored the post or at times even pushed back. In the end a number 2 Niche Blogging 46672c02.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:45 AM Page 23

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of regular loyal readers became disillusioned with my eclectic approach to blogging and gave up reading me altogether. I began to feel guilty about blogging on certain topics. Knowing that many of my readers were disillusioned by my scattered approach to blogging I began to feel more and more guilty about posting on certain topics and began to dread the pushback that I knew I would get when posting on things that I was interested in but that some readers were sick of reading about. As a result I posted on topics that I was less interested in to appease readers and ignored other topics that I’d rather have covered. I found myself in a rather frustrating position—I was the author of a blog whose readers were increasingly complaining and which I enjoyed writing less and less. Something had to change. After a lot of consideration I decided to splinter my blog into a number of niche blogs that focused upon specific topics. This allowed my readers to get the specific information that they wanted and for me to write as much or as little on each of those topics as I wanted— knowing that I was writing to people with similar specific interests to mine. The result was a more natural blogging experience for me and a more use- ful blog for readers. 10 Reasons Why Niche Blogs Are Successful Though it is not impossible to build a successful blog by blogging on a wide array of topics the majority of profitable blogs that I’ve observed target a defined niche. Look at the top 100 blogs as tracked by Figure 2-1 and you’ll find that the majority of them have a defined niche. Some niches are wider than others—but in nearly all cases they’ve carved out a niche for themselves. There are many reasons why choosing a niche is important to building a successful blog. Let’s explore a few of them: Loyal readers—Niche blogs tend to develop a loyal readership because readers know that when they log in to a blog they’ll get rele- vant information on topics that they have an interest in rather than random posts on topics that they have no desire to read. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 24 46672c02.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:45 AM Page 24

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Figure 2-1: The Technorati Top 100. Community—People like to gather with others like them. Many times when you develop a blog focusing on a single topic you find that a group of like-minded people will gather around it not just to read what you have to say but to interact with others who share their passions and interests. Specialist authors—Authors of niche blogs have the freedom to really focus upon a topic and don’t feel guilty about doing so. This can lead to an increase in the quantity quality and depth of articles. Brand credibility and profile—Blogging consistently on one single topic increases the chances of that blog and its blogger being seen as a credible trusted source of information in that area. Work this correctly and you can become the “go-to” person in your niche and become known as a specialist or expert in your field. The flow on benefits of this is huge if you have a product or service of your own to sell. Instead of you needing to go and look for customers you’ll find that people start to seek you out due to your expertise. Contextual advertising—Contextual ad networks like AdSense tend to work best on sites that are tightly focused. They serve more tar- geted and relevant ads when a whole site is on a defined topic— which in turn increases the likelihood of those ads being clicked by readers. Niche Blogging 25 46672c02.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:45 AM Page 25

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Direct advertising sales—Niche blogs are more attractive to private advertisers or sponsors who are looking for content to place their ads on that is relevant and closely aligned to their product or service. Search engine optimization—Google and other search engines tend to favor sites with a well-defined topic with pages that relate to one another. More posts—I find that I post more if I have five blogs on five topics rather than one blog on five topics. There is only so much you can write on a blog each day without overwhelming your readership. Leverage to expand into neighboring niches—One benefit of becoming well-known in a highly focused niche is that you can posi- tion yourself to springboard into a neighboring or overarching one. One example of this is blogger Wendy Piersall of eMoms at Figure 2-2 who took her home business blog for moms and expanded it into a small network of blogs that related to parents working at home. Wendy leveraged the profile that her first niche PROBLOGGER BLOG TIP: SPOTTING NICHES While you are looking around at blogs try to identify the niche the blogger is working in and unique qualities of that niche. You will find from topic to topic that there will be variations in approach and conventions typical to just that niche: Overall subject Target audience Advertiser market Related niches Successful content types Design style Tone of voice News versus tutorial By thinking about blog niches this way your awareness will grow which will help you develop an eye for potential niches in which you could happily work. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 26 46672c02.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:45 AM Page 26

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blog gave her and used it to launch numerous other blogs in a wider but related field. Higher conversion—If your blog’s business model is to sell some- thing to your readers it is to your advantage to have a blog that has a readership with interests that are highly aligned with your own focus. Trying to be all things to all people is a trap that some bloggers fall into. For fear of losing readers they allow their content to become unfocused and off topic. Though this might help build readership when it comes to selling a product your conversion rate will be sig- nificantly reduced because a lower percentage of readers will be truly interested in your more targeted product. Niche blogging brings in more qualified prospects. Choosing a niche for your blog enables you your bloggers and your read- ers to become more focused and will enable you to grow a readership and monetize it more effectively. Figure 2-2: Niche Blogging 27 46672c02.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:45 AM Page 27

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How to Choose a Profitable Niche Topic for Your Blog Defining your niche is important if you want to build a successful blog—but how do you choose one Following is a series of questions that we recommend you ask yourself as you make this important decision. We’ve included some practical exercises with each question to help you tackle them more effectively. Are You Interested in the Topic A friend of mine recently explained it this way: “Probably the best place to start thinking about what your blog should be about is to consider what you are about.” In other words start by identifying your own interests passions and energy levels for topics. Though it might be tempting to start blogs based on what other people are interested in or what makes commercial sense there is little logic in starting a blog on a topic that you have no interest in yourself. There are two main reasons for this. First if you want to grow a popular and well-respected blog it can take con- siderable time and you’ll need to take a long-term approach to building it up. The average age of the top 100 blogs listed at Technorati is 33.8 months. Successful blogs don’t happen overnight—as a result it’s well worth asking yourself “Can I see myself still writing on this topic in a year or two” If you can’t you might need to reconsider your topic. The second reason is that your readers will quickly discern whether or not you are passionate about your topic. Blogs that are dry and passionless don’t tend to grow. Nobody wants to read something that the author doesn’t really believe in. EXERCISE Take some time to brainstorm possible topics based solely upon your own passions and interests. What do you know about What do you do in your spare time What do you spend your money on What topic do your con- versations with friends always turn to What ideas or topics keep you awake at night What books magazines TV shows and websites do you spend time following Rate each topic in terms of your passion and interest. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 28 46672c02.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:45 AM Page 28

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Do You Have Experience or Expertise in the Topic This is an important question to consider before you start a blog. Not because you can’t start a blog on a topic that you don’t have “expert” status in—but because your own experience in the area will determine how you approach the topic. Take the “make money blogging” niche as an example. I regularly see blog- gers starting blogs that claim to teach people how to make money blogging. They present themselves as experts—but the problem is that many of those behind these blogs have never blogged before and don’t have any experience to draw upon when it comes to teaching others how to do what they claim to teach. The result is that these bloggers often run out of things to write about. Their readers quickly see through the claims of the bloggers and the reputa- tion of the blogger is damaged. A better approach for someone just starting out in a niche with little expe- rience of it would be to start up a blog on the topic that is open about what they do and don’t know and that will document their own learning experience on the topic rather than claiming to know it all and be able to teach others. These blogs can be quite successful because others at a similar stage will often gather around them to share the journey of learning with the blogger. Over time these blogs can actually transition into “expert blogs” as the blog- gers and their readership grow and become more proficient and experienced in their topic. Is the Topic Popular Although the blogger’s interest is important it’s not enough to build a popu- lar blog. EXERCISE List the topics that you know something about. What have you had train- ing in What have you had experience in What topics do people always come to you to find information on What are you currently learning about or wanting to learn more about Once you have a list give each topic a rat- ing in terms of your level of “expertise.” Niche Blogging 29 46672c02.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:45 AM Page 29

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Another crucial ingredient is that others want to read information on the topic you’re writing on. The law of supply and demand comes into play at this point. You might be interested in your topic and be able to supply great content on it but unless others are interested in it also and are showing their demand for it by search- ing for it you’ll always have an uphill battle in building a well-read blog. Keep in mind that you are writing in a medium with a global audience of many millions and as a result you don’t need a topic that everyone is searching just one that some people are searching. Is the Niche Growing or Shrinking The popularity of different topics rises and falls over time. Ideally you would want to choose a topic when it is on the rise rather than when it is in decline. This is not easy to do of course but predict the next big thing that people will be searching for and you could be onto a winner. Get in the habit of being on the lookout for what people are into. I con- stantly ask myself “What will people be searching the Web for in 6 to 12 months and how can I position myself to be the site that they find when they do” Keep an eye on what people are into what the latest trends are what events are coming up and what product launches are on the horizon. Do this online but also keep an eye on TV magazines the papers and even the conversations you have with friends. Although it isn’t essential to be first to start a blog on a topic it certainly helps to be early. EXERCISE Head to a newsagent newsstand and take a few minutes to do a little analysis of the array of magazines that you see on display there. What are people into at the moment Which topics are most prolific when it comes to what people are reading about ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 30 46672c02.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:45 AM Page 30

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What’s the Competition One of the traps that some bloggers get sucked into when choosing a topic is to go for the most popular topics with no regard for the competition they might face in those markets. PROBLOGGER BLOG TIP: NICHE ANALYSIS When selecting a niche you want to determine the audience size the level of competitiveness whether there is any money to be made and how well you can populate your blog with content over the long term. Though many bloggers say there is no such thing as competition in blogging and that we are all friends it could be too much of an uphill struggle to try to break into an over-crowded niche when other just-as- effective niches are available. How much competition is too much You might be surprised to learn that in some cases you actually want competition. There are two reasons why you cannot find many competitors for a particular niche: 1. You are a genius and nobody else has thought of writing about your topic. 2. There just isn’t enough interest to sustain a blog long-term. In most cases it will be the second option but you can test a niche by creating a new category on your personal blog and seeing what kind of reaction you get. EXERCISE Go to Google Trends and type in some of the key- words from niches that you are considering blogging about. Google Trends charts search volume for different search terms. It tracks only some words generally popular ones but it gives a great trend analysis of whether a niche might be growing or shrinking. Compare two or more niches by sep- arating terms with a comma. Niche Blogging 31 46672c02.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:45 AM Page 31

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In fact many bloggers see successful blogs already operating in a niche and decide that if someone else can do it they should choose exactly the same topic and attempt to emulate them. A prime example of this is in the gadget blog space where some of the most successful blogs operate like Gizmodo and Engadget. The problem with starting a blog on gadgets is that there are thousands of other blogs already targeting this niche with some very entrenched and well-established blogs already taking the lion’s share of the market. Though it is not impossible to start a successful blog on gadgets picking a niche with fewer and less- established competitors might be a wise move. The chances are that if you have identified a niche that you think is “hot” at the moment someone else will have also. It’s demand and supply coming into play again—for any level of demand for information on a topic only a certain number of sources of information will be needed on that topic. The Web is becoming a more and more cluttered place and sometimes it feels that there are no niches left to blog about. Though this is true in some of the more popular topics remember that you don’t have to go for the topic that absolutely everyone is searching for. In fact sometimes it’s some of the less pop- ular topics that have little or no competition that are the best earners. I have one friend who after years of attempting to do well writing about gadgets swapped to writing about ride-on lawnmowers a topic he’d been researching for a purchase he was making. He was amazed to find that after just a couple of months of writing on his new topic it was doing significantly more traffic and making quite a bit more than his gadget websites ever had. Sometimes it is better to be a big fish in a small pond rather than a small fish in a big pond. What’s the Competition Neglecting This question attempts to find “gaps” that are not yet filled in the market- place. Though your competition might have the advantage of an established EXERCISE Head to and search for blogs on your potential niche. Technorati is a blog search engine and will show you who has been blog- ging on certain topics. How many other blogs can you find on your poten- tial niche Make a note of them for the next stage of this process. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 32 46672c02.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:45 AM Page 32

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audience you have the advantage of flexibility and can position your blog very quickly to fill a gap in the niche that you might observe. In doing so you create a sub-niche within the larger topic. For example Chris spotted a gap in the photography blogging space some time ago when he realized that there were few blogs specifically focusing upon the dig- ital SLR space. He promptly started Similarly when I started I did so because although there were bloggers blogging about blog- ging there was no dedicated blog on how to make money from blogging. EXERCISE When analyzing your potential competitors you might like to ask some of the following questions: What do they do well What are the boundaries of the topics that they focus upon What don’t they write about How often do they post How long are their posts At what level are they pitching their blog beginners intermediate advanced What questions are their readers asking in comments What style or voice do they write in How do they monetize themselves What types of posts seem to get the most attention comments Trackbacks incoming links What is their design like What do they do well and what do they do poorly What are other blogs writing about them Use T echnorati to check this. If they have an open or unlocked stats package what can you learn from their stats What pages are popular Where does their incoming traffic come from Doing this type of analysis of your competitors will not only help you to work out if there are any gaps that you might fill with your blog but how you might do it. The key objective in thinking this way is to develop a blog that is unique and differentiates itself from other blogs. Niche Blogging 33 46672c02.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:45 AM Page 33

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Will You Have Enough Content One of the key features of successful blogs is that they have the ability to con- tinue to come up with fresh content on their topic for long periods of time. Conversely one of the things that kills many blogs is that their authors run out of things to say. Answering the question regarding whether there is enough content should be done on two levels: 1. Do you have enough content within you as an author This really comes back to the question we asked earlier about your passion interests and energy for the topic so I’ll leave it at that. 2. Do you have access to enough other sources of content and inspira- tion There are many Web-based tools around these days that can help you in coming up with content. Some places to check out your topic to see what news is about include Google News Digg Popurls Topix Yahoo News Bloglines Google Blog Search Technorati and Blog Pulse Figure 2-3. Do a search for words in your proposed niche and you will quickly see how much is being written about them in mainstream media and on other blogs. Figure 2-3: Popurls links to sources of information. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 34 46672c02.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:45 AM Page 34

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Is the Niche Able to Be Monetized If you are interested in earning an income from blogging you will need to fac- tor in some investigation of whether the topic you’ve chosen has any obvious potential income streams. There are many ways of earning money from blogs we introduce you to many of them later however the problem is that not every topic is going to be suitable for every potential income stream. For example contextual ad programs like AdSense and Chitika work really well for some topics but earn hardly anything from others. Similarly some blogs do fantastically out of affiliate programs some are better suited to sell- ing advertising directly to advertisers and others are better suited to impres- sion-based ads. It can be difficult to know how well different income streams will work on a blog before you actually start it and begin to experiment. However the more digging around and research that you do before starting out the better equipped you’ll be to make a decision on which niche topic to choose. EXERCISES Look at your competition—Check out how other blogs and websites in the niche are monetizing their sites. What ad networks are they using Are they promoting affiliate programs If the competition has advertiser pages how much are they charging for them Search for affiliate programs—Head to your favorite search engine and type in your potential topic and “affiliate programs.” You’ll be sur- prised what will come up when you do this—quite often this will reveal some potential products that you could make some commission on. Try it with a variety of keywords in your search. EXERCISE Set aside an hour to list as many ideas as possible for posts. If you get three minutes into this exercise and have run out of ideas it could be an indicator that there’s not enough content to sustain a blog for the long haul. Niche Blogging 35 Continued 46672c02.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:45 AM Page 35

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How Wide Should a Niche Be Blogs come in all shapes and sizes. Take a quick look at some popular blogs and you’ll find that some have wide niches. For example Gizmodo Figure 2-4 covers news on all kinds of consumer electronics and gadgets—it covers every- thing from MP3 players to digital cameras through to GPS devices. Figure 2-4: EXERCISES CONTINUED Search Google—Do a simple search on Google for the main keywords of your potential niche and see how many ads come up above and down the right-hand side of the search results page. This is an indica- tor that advertisers are using Google’s AdWords advertising program for these keywords. This indicates likelihood that there will be adver- tisers if you use the Google AdSense program to monetize your blog. Check out Amazon—Search on Amazon to see if there are related products there that you might be able to link to and make a commis- sion on via their affiliate program. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 36 46672c02.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:45 AM Page 36

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Others get more specific with their niche—for example Photography - BLOG Figure 2-5 just focuses upon all kinds of digital imaging products including DLSRs point-and-shoot cameras software and memory cards. Figure 2-5: Some blogs narrow their niche even further and focus upon just one class of product or even in extreme cases one brand or model. For example Chris’s DSLRBlog Figure 2-6 focuses solely upon photography for DSLR users. Both wide and narrow niches can work—however while some analysis of the most popular blogs shows that they quite often have a wide focus it is also worth knowing that they usually are in quite crowded niches lots of competition and take a lot of work to maintain many of the top blogs have numerous bloggers churning out content for them. On the flipside don’t choose a niche that is too narrow. I once saw a blog start up on a single model of printer. Though this blog had a well-defined niche its blogger ran out of things to write about after just a week or two. The take-home lesson is to choose a niche that you can find enough to write about but that won’t overwhelm you. Niche Blogging 37 46672c02.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:45 AM Page 37

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Figure 2-6: Niche Demographic or Niche Topic So far we’ve talked about choosing a niche topic for your blog—something that most successful blogs do. However there is another type of niche blog that we’re starting to see some bloggers develop—one that doesn’t focus upon a niche topic so much as a niche demographic. These blogs identify an audience that they want to target and then develop content on a variety of topics that would relate strongly to that group of people. Let me illustrate with a short case study. When I first met Gala Darling at a blogger meetup in Melbourne she described her blog to me as a fashion blog that documented her own tastes and decisions in fashion as well as covering fashion news. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 38 46672c02.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:45 AM Page 38

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A few months after first meeting Gala we caught up over a coffee to talk blogging and she described her blog see Figure 2-7 in a slightly different way . Figure 2-7: Instead of describing it as a “fashion blog” she spoke about it as a “blog for youthful alternative unconventional individual eccentric women.” The way she talked about her blog changed from being one that revolved around a single topic to one that revolved around a certain type of reader or audience. Fashion still made up a significant proportion of her posts but so did other aspects of the life of her loyal and growing readership including travel rela- tionships shopping and music. In a sense Gala is moving toward providing a one-stop shop for her readers rather than just a smaller destination that focuses upon one aspect of their lives. Niche Blogging 39 46672c02.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:46 AM Page 39

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Choose a Niche At this point it’s time to choose a topic for your blog. It is highly unlikely that you’ll find the perfect topic on all of the fronts discussed earlier. Although it’d be great to find a topic that you’re passionate about that just happens to have massive demand no competition and lots of lucrative income streams the reality is that most topics that you come up with will have at least one weakness to them. Don’t let this get you down—there comes a time when you just need to make a decision and start blogging because the best way to get the answers to many of the questions in this chapter is to start a blog and see what you learn. The key is being aware of what the weakness is so that you can work to overcome it. PROBLOGGER BLOG TIP: THE RIGHT NICHE FOR YOU There are two approaches to deciding on your niche: the analytical and the emotional. In most cases our final decision is based on a little of both. What type of blog are you drawn to Do you feel excited about working on one topic more than others Are there subjects you just can’t stop talking about Do people know you as a “insert topic here geek” Many of my more successful blogging friends state that if they won the lottery they would still blog they love their topics so much. Can you think of a subject you could feel that way about Remember that professional blogging is hard takes time and espe- cially needs lots of valuable and unique content. This is so much easier when blogging a topic you are motivated about. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 40 46672c02.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:46 AM Page 40

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Tools for Helping You to Choose a Niche for Your Blog Many tools have been developed that are helpful for bloggers in the process of selecting a niche topic for their blog. The following tools are ones that we use in this research phase: AdWords Keyword Tool—Sign up as an advertiser with Google AdWords and you get access to a number of useful tools that you can use without actually needing to use AdWords to advertise. One par- ticularly useful tool is the “Keyword Tool” .com/select/KeywordTool which you need to be logged in to use. This allows you to type in a keyword or phrase and will give you an indication of how many people searched for that word in the past month as well as tell you how many advertisers are competing for that word in AdWords. This gives you an indication both of the pop- ularity of the niche as well as whether there is potential income in it. This tool will also give you other keywords that relate to the ones you enter which is also useful to know. Google Trends—Google has a Trends tool at Figure 2-8 that is useful for looking at search volume on Google for different search terms. Though it won’t give you specific search num- bers and doesn’t produce results for every term it tracks just the most popular ones it is useful for working out whether a niche is growing or shrinking and it allows you to compare two different terms to show you how big one is in comparison to another. Technorati—A blog search engine that gives you the ability to see what others are writing about on your chosen niche topic Figure 2-9. It also has “popular” tools that show what’s hot around the blogosphere at any given point of time. Google Blog Search—Google’s Blog Search will help you to get a pic- ture of who else is blogging on a given topic. Wordtracker—Wordtracker Figure 2-10 is a popular keyword- research tool with a free trial that helps you to ascertain how many people are searching for different words and how many other sites are competing in those niches. Niche Blogging 41 46672c02.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:46 AM Page 41

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Yahoo Buzz—Yahoo Buzz is a summary of information on what people are searching for at the Yahoo search engine. Aaron Wall has also outlined a great list of keyword-researching tools at Check it out. Figure 2-8: Google Trends Figure 2-9: ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 42 46672c02.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:46 AM Page 42

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Figure 2-10: Summary Although the majority of bloggers choose to go with a personal blog when they first start we hope we have shown that for professional bloggers a well- selected niche that you are happy writing for can make all the difference to your earning potential. In this chapter we looked at the concept of blog niches and gave you an overview of the sorts of considerations that need to be taken into account before selecting your blog topic. What you will write about is a much more important factor than many bloggers realize. The subject of your blog the audience you aim to attract and therefore the market you go into could well be the deciding factor for whether your blog succeeds or fails. Niche Blogging 43 46672c02.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:46 AM Page 43

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S o far we have looked at what blogging is and what it means to be a pro- fessional blogger and you have investigated what you might want to write about. We are off to a good start. Before you actually start blogging though you will need to set up your blog In this chapter we look at what choices you have when deciding which blog package to go with what you need to think about when deciding and what the most popular combinations are. Once you have decided on what approach you think might suit you best you need to actually go ahead and set up your blog so it both works and looks great. With these goals in mind we go step-by-step through setting up both a hosted blog and a self-hosted blog. Choosing the Right Blog for You “Which blog platform should I use” “Should I use a free hosted blog or get my own domain” “What are the pros and cons of going with one vendor over another” “Could I start out on a free blogging service and upgrade later” These are just some of the typical questions that we get asked each day from beginner bloggers trying to decide which blogging platform or tool they should choose. I’m not going to tell you which blog platform you should use because as you will see there are good reasons for choosing most of the available platforms depending upon the goals of your blog and your own technical resources. 3 Setting Up Your Blog 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 45

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Over the years the choices available to bloggers have grown while the technicalities involved in blogging have shrunk. This means now more than ever there really are options to suit every potential blogger. It’s now so easy that anyone can have a blog working in five minutes flat. Don’t believe it Just keep reading Blog Platform Choices As with making any important decision it is worthwhile to take your time with this decision before jumping in. There are many competing blog plat- forms on the market all varying in capability complexity price and popular- ity. Blogger is one of the most popular platforms as shown in Figure 3-1. Figure 3-1: Blogger is one of the popular blogging platforms for beginners. Although you can change your blog platform at a later time and many of them do provide ways to move your content there are usually tricky technical challenges involved and potentially some costs. Which platform suits you is an individual choice but there are some ques- tions you can answer that make deciding easier. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 46 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 46

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What Are Your Goals Probably the most important thing to do when starting the process of choos- ing a blog platform is to consider your aspirations for your blog. Of course complete first-timers might struggle a little with seeing the future of their blogging but to the best of your ability attempt to answer some of these questions: Is blogging a passing interest or something you will do long-term What will be the main purpose of your blog Is it for business or just for personal enjoyment Might you want to show advertisements Of course there are many other questions you’ll want to ask but the answers to these sorts of questions are worth keeping in mind as you research blog platforms. Some services are much more suited to the hobby blogger and others to more professional blogging applications. What Is Your Budget As with most things in life blog platforms come with a variety of price points. All hosted platforms offer varying levels of service and self-installed software varies in price from free to expensive see Figure 3-2. Figure 3-2: TypePad service levels. Setting Up Your Blog 47 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 47

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There are three main things that you might pay for: 1. The blog software itself or level of service one-off or ongoing 2. Monthly hosting for your blog 3. Your domain name annual renewal fee There is also potentially a further cost of custom design and programming depending on your budget and how serious you are. Most people start out with freely available designs and tweak them to suit their own tastes and needs. Some services like Blogger and WordPress offer an all-inclusive service comprising the platform a unique web address in the format myblog. and hosting for free. TypePad offers a similar all-encompassing online service with a monthly fee but more customization options. Others are downloadable software that you have to install and host your- self. So although they offer the platform for free you then need to find and pay for your own hosting and domain name and support it yourself. Others still might charge for a license for the platform depending on how many blogs you have and whether they will have a commercial personal educa- tional or not-for-profit use and then you need to arrange and pay for your own domain name and hosting on top. How Technical Are You This is a crucial factor to consider when choosing a blog platform. If you’ve never had any experience in creating a blog or website before and are not a technologically minded person there are some blog platforms and setups that will be much more suited to your needs than if you know a few of the basics or at least are willing to learn them. The other option of course is to find someone who is a techie to help you out either paid or as a friend. One of the great things about blogging and most of the platforms is that there is a wonderful communal knowledge out there and many forums dedi- cated to helping people get the most out of their chosen platforms see Figure 3-3. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 48 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 48

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Figure 3-3: There are many helpful forums for bloggers. What Blog Platforms Are Others Using Though your blog is your own individual choice and should fit with your own style it is worth looking around you to see what others are using in particular people you know well. Over the past few years different platforms have come and gone and you have to suspect this will continue to happen in the future. You can see in Figure 3-4 the results of a survey. Figure 3-4: A 2006 survey. Setting Up Your Blog 49 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 49

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By far the most popular platforms right now for pro bloggers are WordPress both self-hosted and the online service Blogger T ypePad and Movable T ype. Both of the authors have tried other platforms but now mainly use WordPress. Hosted versus Self-Hosted As I have already mentioned there are two main types of blogging platforms: software you install and host yourself and online services that handle every- thing for you. These are often referred to as self-hosted blogs and hosted blogs. Hosted Blog Platforms This is the type of blog that many bloggers start out with simply because they are quick easy and can be free. Probably the most popular of these systems with professional bloggers are TypePad WordPress and Blogger with only TypePad having a monthly fee. These systems are “hosted” blog platforms because they “host” your blog on their own domain. After what is usually a pretty easy setup process they will give you a web address URL that will usually be some combination of their own URL and the name of your blog. For example a popular blog is AtariBoy—whose web address is Though this is what you get as a default you are now often given the choice of paying a fee to use your own domain. This is something well worth considering if you are serious about blogging. EXERCISE Take a look at your favorite blogs can you tell which platform they are using Sometimes bloggers will leave a link to the software they use in the footer or sidebar and sometimes you can tell by the URL for example or Does this software seem to offer you what you need ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 50 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 50

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Advantages of Hosted Blog Platforms Using a hosted platform has many advantages. Some of the most immediate are listed here: Cheap or free to run—Most hosted options are free. Quick and easy to set up—Most of these types of blogs can be set up with a basic default template within minutes. The setup is usually just a matter of filling in a few fields with your options and choosing a template design. They are ideal if you know nothing or very little about the technological side of blogging. You’ll see more on this later. Simple to run—Once you’re through the easy setup process hosted blogs are usually pretty simple to run. You will obviously need to learn some basics but these days most blog platforms come with very user-friendly features. Posting is as simple as filling in a few text boxes and clicking Publish. Updated automatically—If the blog platform changes it will auto- matically upgrade for you. Instead of having to upload new software onto a server these updates happen much more seamlessly. Search engines and traffic—One of the advantages of many hosted blog platforms is that they are hosted and linked from sites that already attract search engine attention and traffic. Some of this “rubs off” on your blog giving it a little boost. Disadvantages of Hosted Blog Platforms Although there are several benefits to having a hosted blog there are always downsides: Less configurable—With an online service the only configuration options you have available are those the service allows you. This may or may not be a problem for you but in most cases you have fewer choices with a hosted service. Default design limitations—This can be true for standalone blogging systems but also I find that many hosted blogs end up looking very similar to one another. This is because the default templates get used over and over again and hosted platforms do not give you complete control over your look and feel. Setting Up Your Blog 51 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 51

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Less ownership—Another complaint I hear regularly from hosted- blog owners is that they are frustrated by not having ultimate control and ownership over their blog. Though they do own the content the URL is not technically their own and they are somewhat at the mercy of their platform in terms of whether or not their blog is working. Generic URL—There are some very successful blogs on hosted plat- forms but most bloggers believe that having your own URL is much more professional if you are using your blog in a professional way. Upgrading or moving challenges—One of the issues of starting out with a hosted platform is that if there comes a day when you want to move you have some work cut out for you in retaining your audi- ence and traffic. Who Might Use Hosted Blog Platforms If you just want a blog and don’t care much about having your own unique domain and you are not too interested in tweaking your blog or getting all the latest and greatest features hosted options are a completely valid choice. In fact it’s worth keeping in mind that though some may scoff at hosted blog platforms and say that serious bloggers don’t use them there are some popular bloggers who use them very successfully. For example three of my favorite blogs are on hosted services: Scott Adams Robert Scoble and Seth Godin. Standalone Blog Platforms The other type of blog platform is where you download install and host the software yourself. This is what Darren and I do with all of our blogs these days. You will notice our blogs have their own domains and and as I said before we both use WordPress on our own server spaces. Though we are fully in favor of people going the hosted route you do get more control when you host your blog yourself. Of course this is a double- edged sword ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 52 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 52

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Benefits of Self-Hosted Blog Platforms As mentioned before both hosted and self-installed platforms have their own advantages and disadvantages. Here are the benefits of self-hosted blogs: Full control—Depending upon your ability with the technology and web design standalone blogs generally are very adaptable. Though I am completely happy with the geekier aspects of blogs I am not the best designer so I tend to lean on others for aesthetics. There are designers out there who manage to create incredibly diverse and clever designs for blogs and provide for download both free and paid themes so it should be possible to make your blog look fantastic. Adaptability—One of the things I enjoy about WordPress is the vast array of developers who are coming up with all manner of “plugins” which extend the ability of the basic WordPress installation. Many of the other standalone platforms have communities of developers pro- ducing similar add-ons. Free platforms—Though you end up paying for your domain name and hosting systems like these are usually free to run. Some do have license fees but most of the popular ones are free to use. URL—Having your own domain name is great for many reasons. For one it’s easier to remember second its more professional and third it is more easily brandable. Disadvantages of Self-Hosted Blog Platforms Although both Darren and I have our blogs set up this way it could be the wrong choice for you for the following reasons: Complicated setup—Again this depends upon your technical abili- ties but when you move into standalone platforms the complexity of setup tends to increase. At the very least it involves arranging hosting and a domain name. There is a wealth of community support avail- able but for many it is still a daunting prospect. One way to simplify the process is to find a web host that provides “one-click installs” of popular packages. See how much easier this makes things later in this chapter. Setting Up Your Blog 53 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 53

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Cost—Though the blog platform itself might be free you need to factor in the ongoing costs of having your own domain name a yearly fee plus a one-off registration fee and hosting fees monthly or yearly. There are many great deals out on these so it need not cost the world but if your blog gets a lot of traffic the costs can go up and you might want to consider going onto a more professional and therefore more expensive plan. Updates—Most blog platforms go through changes and versions over time. Updating from one to another can be complicated if you don’t know what you’re doing. Hosting issues—I mentioned in the cons of the hosted platforms that you have “less control” over your blog and are at the whim of your platform’s hosting being up or down. Of course this is also true for any hosting because from time to time any hosting solution can have problems. Whether you use a hosted solution or a standalone solution it’s important to back up and be aware that from time to time things do go wrong. Choose a reputable company to ensure maximum reliability. Who Would Use Standalone Blog Platforms Standalone blog platforms are ideal if you want a little more control or flexibility with your blogging. They can be configured to look and run very professionally and to be adapted into configurations that are limited only by your imagination. If you host and control the blog yourself you truly own it with all that entails including being able to sell your blog at some point for a profit. Of course just because you go with a standalone blog doesn’t ensure you will have the perfect blog. In fact if you don’t have the ability to set up these blogs correctly or know someone who can standalone blogs can be messy and unprofessional. This type of blog is what most people regard as the true professional option and the majority of the Technorati Top 100 blogs are self-hosted. Hosted or Self-Hosted Which to Choose To sum it all up I generally advise people go with self-hosted just because once it is set up the hard part is over and you have more potential to earn money directly with your blog. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 54 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 54

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If you want to develop a serious blog and have aspirations for it to be used on a professional sort of level whether as a business or corporate blog as a blog to build your own profile or a blog to earn income from advertising I’d always recommend you go in the direction of a standalone blog. Even if you are not highly skilled in this area it’s worth spending a little time or money to get it set up right. You do not need to achieve perfection right away and with a self-hosted option the blog can grow with you. Use a hosting company that features a one-click install of WordPress to make the initial setup far easier and then you only have to contend with tweaking things to how you would like them. If you want a blog only for fun as an online diary for your friends and fam- ily or you don’t have the time money or patience to put into anything com- plex a hosted option might work well for you. They are instant it’ll take 5 to 10 minutes to set up and though they might not have quite the same level of features and they restrict your income potential the features they do have may well suit your needs. Choosing a Domain Name Having your own domain name is desirable for professional bloggers for sev- eral reasons. For a start if you want to build credibility and a sense of profes- sionalism around your blog a domain can help. Similarly a carefully selected domain name has the ability to enhance the branding and memorability of a product service business or even person. Domain purchases give the added bonus of email addresses with the same domain adding to both professional- ism and branding and can to an extent enhance your search-engine ranking. PROBLOGGER BLOG TIP: GET A FREE BLOG Regardless of which software you end up using eventually it might be a good idea to have a play with some hosted services. It will help you get a clear idea in your head of which features and styles you like and any ele- ments you find difficult to understand. Most online services are either completely free or have free trial periods that should give you plenty of time to work out what your chosen platform needs to work like. Setting Up Your Blog 55 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 55

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Factors to Consider When Choosing a Domain Name Just as there are many factors to consider in choosing the name of your child business or pet there are many implications of choosing names for a website. What follows is a list of factors to keep in mind as you make the decision. Keep in mind that there are many theories about what is right and wrong in this area and that despite all the rules that people have there are some very successful sites that ignore them all Also worth remembering is that personal taste comes into decisions like this what seems a good name to you will often mean different things to dif- ferent people. With those disclaimers in mind take a look at a few areas to consider: Goals and objectives—We often come back to this point because where you are headed is such an important part of thinking about the long-term vision that you have for your blog. Might you want to eventually sell it What is the topic of the blog—An obvious starting point perhaps but worth considering. Names can reflect the blog’s topic or niche. Why are you blogging—For you is blogging about having a hobby is it about building your profile/expertise is it about earning an income via ads is it to support an existing business … What style will it be—Will you be blogging alone or will there be many authors What length of posts will it have What tone and voice will it be written in—Will it be conversa- tional newsy rants professional or humorous Who is the intended audience—Do you want to appeal to busi- nesses young people cool people Moms locals geeks … Source of traffic—Domains can generate “type in” traffic this is when people guess at or remember a domain name and type it in to the URL bar rather than search for it. This is why domains like busi- and sell for millions. On the other hand domains can have an influence on search engines if the keywords are present in the name. Branding—Many discussions on domain name decisions talk about a choice between choosing a domain name with keywords in it to domain names that are more brandable or generic. It’s worth stating up front that it is possible to achieve both but I would prioritize ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 56 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 56

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memorability and branding over keywords. One example that comes to mind is which has become a memorable and well- branded name that also manages to incorporate the keyword “gadget.” Future directions—Another factor to consider that is related to my first point of goals and objectives is to consider what your blog might look like in the future. I’ve seen bloggers change their interests over time and be stuck with narrowly focused domains or want to expand from having a blog to a larger community. Of course you can get a new domain but it is less confusing and easier to market if you get it right from the word “go.” Another “future factor” to consider is how many blogs you’re think- ing of starting on your domain. Take a look at for an example of how it’s possible to have one domain with many blogs running off it. Lastly on the “future front”—don’t pick a name that you suspect might date quickly. Picking a name that is time-specific in any way might find you searching for a new domain when it is no longer rele- vant at some future time. Name length and spellings—There is a range of opinions on what the ideal length of a domain name is. Technically you can have really long names and still be valid but it is generally accepted that short ones are better. You want your audience to be able to quickly and easily say spell and remember your domain. The longer and harder it is to pro- nounce or spell the less likely you will get good word of mouth. Domain endings—Along with the debates over domain name length come many different opinions over what is best to have at the end of your domain after the “dot.” These letters that is .com .net .org and so on are technically called the Top Level Domains TLDs and are divided into two types. First there are country code TLDs and second there are “generic” TLDs that signify different types of organi- zations in theory at least. There is a variety of approaches to selecting which TLD to go for but unless you are targeting a specific country for example .fr for France or have a particular legal or organizational structure to work within for example .edu for education in general you ought to try for .com first then try for the others such as .org or .net. Setting Up Your Blog 57 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 57

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Hyphens—Another ongoing debate about domain names is over the value of hyphenated names. For example a hyphenated version of Darren’s blog might be There are two main reasons that some people prefer hyphenated names: Availability—One of the main reasons for going with hyphens is that “all the good names are taken” or at least it can seem this way. Adding hyphens to names gives more options. SEO—Hyphens are said by some to identify keywords to search engines more clearly. However I have doubts as to how effective this is in the wider scheme of things. Of course for every positive there is a negative and the arguments against hyphens include the following: Memorability—Adding hyphens can make it tricky for readers to remember your name. Difficult to communicate—Have you ever tried to tell someone a domain name with a hyphen between each word It can be quite an annoying process. Increased margin for error—The more characters in your domain name the more chance of a mistaken keystroke. Cheap and nasty factor—There is a perception that hyphens are spammy. I personally don’t mind a domain with one or maybe two hyphens maximum but domains-that-have-lots-of-hyphens-turn- me-off. There are many bloggers who have been turned down when requesting links due to their spammy looking domains so my advice is to avoid them. Numbers—Another option to consider when choosing a domain on a topic that is quite crowded is to include a number in it. Once again this increases your chances of finding a domain with your keyword in it but could add to confusion do you spell out the number or not. Keeping it legal—Think seriously about the legal implications of the words you use in your domain name and avoid trademarked names especially. I know of a couple of instances where bloggers were forced into making changes months into new blogs because of legal threats. The “blog” word—One temptation for many bloggers is to use the word “blog” in the name and URL of their blog. I did this with the ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 58 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 58

slide 81: domain. This has the advantage of opening up new options for domain names but restricts the domain to being forever used as a blog and nothing else. Secure multiple domains—One piece of advice that many experi- enced webmasters recommend is making sure that you secure other similar domain names to the one you eventually choose. For exam- ple if you choose a .com domain name it might be worth getting the .net and .org ones if you can or perhaps even getting plurals or other logical similar ones. This is not essential but might help you protect your niche in some circumstances. Opinions of others—Before you buy that domain you’ve been eyeing it might be worthwhile running it by one or two trusted friends who won’t run off and buy it for themselves. It’s amazing how focused you can become on finding the right name and how that can cloud your judgment. It’s also interesting to see how a name might sound to a person of a different culture. Words mean different things in dif- ferent parts of the world and it could help you avoid an embarrass- ing mistake or just a dorky blog name. Previously used domain names—It’s worth checking to see if a domain has been previously registered. Spammers often buy domain names and then abandon them later once they’ve used them. This can leave these domains banned by Google which might get you off to a pretty poor start. On the other hand people abandon perfectly legitimate sites all the time and an expired domain could be a bar- gain when you consider there might already be links pointing to it or existing traffic. Registering a Domain Registering a domain is much easier than choosing one As you will see when you order your hosting you can register a domain at the same time. This has the advantage of having your new blog all set up with the new domain with- out having to do any complicated technical stuff. You can order additional domains from your hosting company too for the same benefit although you might find a better deal elsewhere with popular domain companies like or Figure 3-5 shows one such service. Setting Up Your Blog 59 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 59

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If you do register a domain with a different company than your hosting one you will need to have the new domain pointed to your web host so you can take advantage of it. Check with your hosting company for details that you will need to supply to the domain company to do this or get a technically minded friend to help you out. Figure 3-5: Registering a domain independent of hosting. EXERCISE Brainstorm a list of potential blog names and associated domains and then go through your list with a domain service such as to see how many are available. When you find a domain that is available to buy put a tick mark next to the entry. For any domains that are taken go have a look to see what the owner has done with your chosen domain. Once you have a list of potential domains rank them in order of prefer- ence and get feedback from friends and colleagues about which they prefer. If you hit on a great domain snap it up ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 60 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 60

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Creating Your Blog We have looked at the different options for building your blog and also some things to consider when selecting a domain name. I bet right now you just want to get on and create a blog already First let’s take a look at how easy it is to create a hosted blog at the online service. Four Steps to Setting up a Hosted Blog at The easiest type of blog to set up is the hosted type and by following these instructions you will see just how easy it really is. If you can create a Hotmail or Gmail email account you can build a blog 1. Go to shown in Figure 3-6. Figure 3-6: Setting Up Your Blog 61 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 61

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2. Enter a username and a password choice. This username will be the name you use to log in but can also be the first part of your blog’s web address—for example When you have filled out the form click Next. 3. Next you will be asked to choose or confirm a blog domain the title for your blog your language and if you want your blog to be discov- erable by search engines see Figure 3-7. If you are happy with your selections click Signup. Figure 3-7: Enter your details. 4. Now you need to choose a new look for your blog. Click Change Your Template. You will be able to choose from a variety of different themes see Figure 3-8. Happy blogging EXERCISE Set up a blog as described and use it to record a diary of your blogging progress and day-to-day thoughts. It will be good practice and will help you get into a “blogging mindset.” ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 62 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 62

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Figure 3-8: Select a theme. Setting Up a Custom Standalone Blog Using 1-Click-Install The main advantage of a hosted blog is the ease of setup. As you have just seen you can have a new blog in less than five minutes. For a pro blogger though a hosted blog will quickly show limitations and the pain of moving is far greater than setting up a custom blog in the first place. In this section I show you how easy it can be to set up a custom blog providing you use the right hosting company. What you are looking for is a hosting company that features a “1-click-install” of WordPress or sometimes advertised as featuring the “Fantastico” system. Before you sign up you might already have a friend currently paying for hosting. Most of these services provide much more capacity than a single blog- ger ordinarily needs. Perhaps you can get a contact to host your blog for you Once you have generated some income though you would be wise to move to your own account. Setting Up Your Blog 63 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 63

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Creating Your Blog To create your blog follow these steps: 1. First you will need to sign up with a hosting service for example DreamHost see Figure 3-9 and decide if you want to pay annually or monthly. Also at this point you will need to choose a domain name see the earlier section for things to think about. This will be a proper domain in the form so choose carefully. It’s quite a long form but it looks more complicated than it really is. Just take it slowly. Figure 3-9: DreamHost’s signup page. 2. You will be asked for your payment details. How long this process takes will depend on a number of factors but eventually an email receipt will arrive followed by an email confirming your new account. Other emails may arrive informing you of various other services that are ready to use. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 64 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 64

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3. At this point you will have a hosting account and a domain registra- tion. Your domain might not be visible for up to 24 to 48 hours but that will not stop you from setting up your blog and most people find it doesn’t take that long. 4. When you log in to your account you should see a list of options normally down the left side. Under something like “Software” or “Goodies” you will find the “One-Click-Installs” option we are look- ing for see Figure 3-10. Figure 3-10: One-click installs. 5. Select “WordPress” see Figure 3-11 and the domain you want to install it on. It will also ask you for database and database host details this is the database the system needs to create in order to store your blog posts. Don’t worry about getting this “wrong” just put in the name of your blog and “mysql” for the new hostname. Your screen will appear sim- ilar to Figure 3-12. Setting Up Your Blog 65 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 65

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Within about 5 to 10 minutes you will receive an email telling you your new blog has been set up. Simply go to the web address you requested. Figure 3-11: Select WordPress. Figure 3-12: The database details. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 66 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 66

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6. When you visit your domain you will see a message from your new blog. Click the “install.php” link. 7. You will be asked for a blog title and your email address in a screen like that shown in Figure 3-13. Figure 3-13: The blog details. 8. The next screen will let you know if the setup was successful and will show your temporary password it will also be emailed to you. You only need this password to get in the first time it can be changed to something more memorable later. When successful your screen will appear like Figure 3-14. Figure 3-14: Success Setting Up Your Blog 67 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 67

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9. After logging in you will be shown your dashboard just like with the setup see Figure 3-15. Figure 3-15: The WordPress dashboard. Just like before you will be able to select a new theme. Go to “Presentation” and “Themes.” Switch templates by clicking the one you like. 10. While your blog is now all set up you might want to take a look through the “Options” menu items in order to configure your blog exactly how you want it. Pay particular attention to “General” where you will want to set your tagline and date/time settings and “Permalinks” where you can set WordPress to use a friendlier URL structure for example rather than EXERCISE If you have a hosting-company account already check to see if they provide a one-click install of WordPress. Failing that ask around for recommenda- tions of hosting companies you might want to use. If your friends are no help you could always ask your favorite bloggers who they use most would be happy to recommend their choice of hosting company. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 68 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 68

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Enhancing Your Blog Once your blog is set up you will want to customize it to your specifications. WordPress makes this easier using themes and plugins. Both themes and plugins are simply collections of files that you upload to your WordPress installation. Themes make your blog look different and plugins add features or functionality not found in the basic WordPress. The method of doing this is broadly the same for both: 1. Download a zip file containing your new theme or plugin. 2. Uncompress to get the actual files the zip file contains. 3. Upload to the appropriate directory of your blog using FTP . 4. Activate plugins using the “Plugins” menu item. Themes are selected exactly as they were using the bundled themes previously. Plugins are uploaded to the wp-content/plugins directory of your blog themes go into wp-content/themes. You can find new themes at and a list of plu- gin locations at One of the first plugins I always install is a contact form. This allows site visitors to get in touch via a simple form that will send an email to you on submission. As well as making you easier to contact it saves you from expos- ing your email address to the world. Unlike a lot of plugins there is an addi- tional step required to implement it which makes it a good example to demonstrate. Let’s go through the process step-by-step now. Adding a Contact Form to Your Custom WordPress Blog The following steps show you how to add a contact form to your self-hosted WordPress blog: 1. Download the contact-form plugin. The one I use is by Ryan Duff but I spotted an updated version coded by Douglas Karr that also pre- vents automated spam. It is available at 2. Uncompress the zip file on your machine and copy the extracted contents to your blog’s wp-content/plugins directory . 3. Activate the plugin by going to the Plugins menu option and select- ing “Activate” on the “wp-contactform” entry. On activation it will turn green. Setting Up Your Blog 69 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 69

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4. You will need to configure the contact form in Options ➝ Contact Form. Ordinarily this would have activated the plugin and that would be all you would need to do. Your contact form though needs to live in a contact page a page that you have to set up. 5. Go to Write ➝ Write Page and enter a title something like “Contact Me” will do. You can enter any page content you like but you will need to enter a special piece of HTML text for the form to show up. Enter the following exactly as shown in code view if you are using a friendly HTML editor the only space is between “contact” and “form.” --contact form-- 6. On the right of the screen you will find “Post Slug” the page file- name after publishing. Set this to “contact”—something short mean- ingful and memorable. Click “Publish.” 7. Your page is created but nobody will be able to find it yet. Go to Presentation ➝ Theme Editor and edit your “Header” or “Sidebar” depending on where you want show the link. 8. Look for other page links such as “About” that are already there and add your new one after it. In most cases links are kept in lists so make sure you add your new link before the closing /ul tag as here: lia href”/contact/“Contact/a/li /ul 9. Click “Update File” then take another look at your blog with the “View Site” link. All being well your new contact form should show up in your navigation ready to try Blog Design Considerations A lot of your blog’s initial impact will be from your design. In the preceding section we just chose a template off the shelf but you will have much more success if you spend a little thought and effort on providing your blog with the perfect look. Many people are put off by bad design before reading even a single word of content. A good design can really set off your content make your blog appear more cared-for and professional and help you get those valuable subscribers. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 70 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 70

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Before selecting a design for a blog you need to decide some things: What is your blog goal Are you aiming for AdSense profit to sell products fame AdSense templates tend to free up more space for advertising whereas if fame is your goal you will want a nice big sidebar area for your “About Me” box. Who is your audience Funky Straight-laced Cutting-edge If your target audience is the boardroom you will need a more conventional design than if your audience is mostly made up of designers. This will influence your graphic and color choices. What specific functions does the site need Certain templates have more abilities than others. Some are created to fulfill a certain pur- pose such as templates for photo bloggers. Do you need header tabs Randomized masthead images Flexible block quotes Here are some standard features you need to consider and allow space for: Contact details About or bio details/photo Advertising Archives by categories Archives by date Logo Subscription buttons Newsletter signup Search feature Blog roll Recent posts list Links to older key posts A Word on Color As everybody knows color affects mood. What do you want the mood of your blog to be You will certainly get a different result with a pink blog than a grey one. Colors mean something as well as look nice. You know the classics: Red passion blood anger Blue conservative business Green nature go Grey formal staid Setting Up Your Blog 71 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 71

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Carefully consider what ambience you want to project and what possible meanings your color scheme should be associated with. Customizing a Blog Template In most cases you will need to make your chosen template look unique. Your blog has to stand out and be unequivocally yours. A nice template to use as a starting point is Cutline by Chris Pearson as shown in Figure 3-16. You can get it from Although major template surgery is beyond the scope of this book and my abilities the main two things people need to change are quite simple: header image and colors. Changing the Header Image Unlike most themes Cutline has multiple header images depending on what sort of page you are on. Let’s change that to just use one header image. The images are stored under the Cutline images directory in wp- content/themes. They are 770-pixels-wide by 140-pixels-tall JPEG images. I am going to create a new header image of the same size in Photoshop. After saving my image out I upload it to the images directory . Just upload- ing my new image though will not make it appear I need to alter the code that displays the header. To do this I need to use the theme editor. This is in the Presentation menu ➝ Themes ➝ Theme Editor. The file to edit is Header at this point. In EXERCISE Look around at blogs in your chosen niche. Find blogs outside your niche. What design styles do you like Do any provide links to the theme or theme designer in their footers Also browse online theme galleries and search Google for “WordPress theme.” The more examples you expose yourself to the more sure you’ll be in your tastes and the better prepared you will be when it comes to building your blog how you like it. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 72 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 72

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Cutline the entire end of the Header file is all code to make different header images display . Figure 3-16: The Cutline theme. Replace the code between: div id”header_img” … /div with: img src”php bloginfo‘template_url’ /images/header.jpg” width”770” height”140” alt”php bloginfo‘name’ header image 1” title”php bloginfo‘name’ ” / This will make your new header appear all the time. Setting Up Your Blog 73 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 73

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Changing Colors The other tweak you might want to make is to alter the color scheme some- what. This is a little trickier because it means finding the correct part of the code to change and being careful with your edits so you do not break it. In the Cutline theme you are provided a special Custom.CSS file to allow you to make your own changes without altering the original style sheet. HTML colors use the hex numbering format with six digits representing the red green and blue values. I am going to change some of the elements to be red which is represented as a00 lots of red but no green or blue. First I want to change the top menu link’s “current” status from green to red: .custom ulnav li a.current ulnav li a.current:visited ulnav li a.current:hover color: 900 text-decoration: underline This code looks a nightmare to anyone not used to it. We are only con- cerned with the “color” part though where I have changed the number to 900 a dark red. Next I want to change the colors in the sidebar to match: .custom li.widget h2 li.linkcat h2 font-weight: bold font-size: 1.077em text-transform: uppercase letter-spacing: normal margin: 0 0 0.8em 0 padding: 0.4em 2px border-top: 3px solid a00 background: ddd url‘images/hr_dot_black.gif’ 0 100 repeat-x Now the thick black lines are changed to red and the background of the headlines is a light grey color ddd. PROBLOGGER BLOG TIP: OUTSOURCING DESIGN You might struggle to do your own design—this is fine so do I Though top-end design can be expensive one of the great things about blogging is the community. It is possible to find excellent blog designers for far less than you might expect especially when it comes to specific items such as header graphics. Ask around forums for recommendations plus there are freelance communities like RentACoder and do not overlook putting out a request on Craigslist ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 74 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 74

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Further Customization While you are editing the custom styles you might want to make a multi- functional masthead. Right now Cutline shows an image separate from your blog name the following code makes them one and the same. You will need to remove the image we entered earlier in Header to make this work without showing two mastheads: .custom masthead width: 770px height: 100px background: ddd url‘images/header.jpg’ no-repeat .custom masthead h3 margin: 0 0 0.75em 0 font-weight: normal font-size: 1.8em text-transform: none color: a00 text-align: center Summary We covered a lot of ground in a short chapter so hopefully you were not over- whelmed The main point we hoped to make with this chapter is that setting up your blog need not be as difficult as it would first seem. Approach it with a feeling of fun and exploration especially your first blog. It is worth reiterating that the blog world is full of helpful people on forums and email lists. If any of the information we covered in this chapter confused you at all the authors and the blogging community as a whole will surely be able to help you out. Setting Up Your Blog 75 46672c03.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 75

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M uch has been written on what makes a blog successful but all experts agree that central to all great blogs is one element: great content. The cry “Content is king” has echoed through the blogosphere for years although I think the term ignores other aspects of what makes a blog success- ful content is a key ingredient of a successful blog. What Is Good Content Defining “good content” is a subjective exercise perhaps in a similar way to defining a “good book” or a “good movie”. Good content will vary from per- son to person depending upon their needs the topic they are talking about and perhaps even a person’s ethics. Not only will bloggers themselves each have a different view on what is “good” content but readers tend to also. I know that every time I ask for feedback about what I write about on ProBlogger I get a real spectrum of responses. Having said this there are some things that can be said about good content and in this chapter we attempt to unpack some of them. At most points along the way there will be debate but hopefully out of it readers will be able to mix and match the elements and identify what works for them. So without any more introductory remarks let’s get into it with the first element of writing quality content. 4 Blog Writing 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 77

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Usefulness and Uniqueness Let me start our exploration of good content with a fairly obvious but impor- tant statement: For a blog to be successful your content needs to be useful and unique to your readers. It isn’t rocket science but two questions that bloggers need to continually ask themselves are “Is my blog useful” and “How is it different from other bogs” Back in the days when I studied marketing I remember sitting in lecture after lecture getting more and more frustrated as I listened to my lecturers drum into us the same thing time after time. Although they said it in different ways the lesson that they communicated was largely the same in every instance and boiled down to this: “Start with the customer—find out what they want and give it to them.” This is a good lesson for bloggers also. I would also recommend that you start with yourself as a blogger and blog out of your own passions experiences and knowledge but it is essential that you be aware of your reader and that you create content that will add some- thing to their lives. Give them something useful and unique. What Is Useful Content “Useful content” to me is different from what it is to you but could be any of the following: Entertainment—Increasingly blogs are being used as entertainment. People are going to them for laughs gossip and fun conversation. Education—Some blog readers are primarily interested in learning something about a given topic. Information—Many successful blogs are built on the thirst that some have to be informed on an issue product or topic. Debate—Some blog readers want a place that they can have a good old-fashioned dialogue debate or even a fight over an issue. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 78 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 78

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News—Many blog readers just want to be kept up-to-date with the latest news on a topic. Community—People have a desire to belong. Many successful blogs tap into this and are all about connecting people interested in explor- ing a topic. Quite often the topic is secondary to the actual relation- ship built on the blog. Each blog has the potential to be “useful” in a different way and it would probably be unwise to start a blog that tried to be all of these things at once although many blogs do a variety of these things at once. Research Your Readership The best advice that I could give on developing useful content is to research your readership or potential readership. If you already have a blog do this by surveying your readers either formally or informally or by asking for feedback. I regularly ask my readers for questions and much of what I write emerges directly from these queries. Another quick tip for finding what questions your readers are asking is to check the referral statistics of your blog to see what words people are typing into search engines SEs to find your blog. A great little tool for this is Figure 4-1 which tracks how people arrive at your blog and identifies questions being asked by your readers in search engines. If you don’t have a blog already you’ll need to work a little harder to research your potential readers. Survey friends follow the comments sections of other blogs on your topic to see what readers are asking there and look in forums and online discussion groups that cover your topics where there is usually a lot of question asking going on. As you do this you’ll begin to put your finger on what people are wanting and what you might be able to provide to meet these needs. EXERCISE Who are your favorite blogs attracting Why is that Spend some time to think about who you want to attract to your blog and the kind of work lifestyle and needs they have. Blog Writing 79 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 79

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Figure 4-1: Unique Content Another factor to consider when thinking about good content is its “uniqueness.” Technorati tells us that a blog is being created every second and that there are ten of millions of blogs in existence today . This presents bloggers with the challenge of building a blog that stands out from the crowd. I see blogs every day that provide “useful” content but that have no readers simply because people are finding that information in other places. Distinguish Yourself New bloggers trying to break into a niche where others are already blogging should surf through the other blogs and websites in that niche and do some analysis on what sort of content those blogs and websites are producing. In most niches you’ll find that sites are all presenting very similar informa- tion in pretty much the same voice tone and style. As a new blogger on the topic you have a choice: You can either replicate what they are doing and try to do it better difficult because they will already have loyal readers and unless you’re brilliant at it you’re unlikely to convert these readers over to you or you can distinguish yourself in some way from what others are doing. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 80 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 80

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This might mean focusing on a slightly different topic perhaps a sub- niche but could also mean writing in a distinct voice take a look at Manolo’s Shoe Blog for an example of a blogger who has grown a cult audience by writ- ing about an odd combination of topics as an anonymous blogger writing in the third person. It might also mean writing in a different genre of posts that is if everyone else is writing “newsy” posts you might like to write more “opinion”-type posts. Bring together the elements of both useful and unique content and you will be one step closer to a successful blog. Writing Tips for Bloggers Writing for the Web—and more particularly on blogs—is very different than writing in other mediums. In this section we explore some practical tips for writing effectively as a blogger. Scannable Content Web users are known for not staying on web pages long and for skimming through content rather than reading it word for word. This is even more the case when readers read through their RSS feeds. Rather than reading each word on a web page web users “scan” pages for information looking for key- words phrases and visual cues. As a result it is very important to learn how to write content that is scannable. Here are a few tips and techniques you can use for working with your scan- ning readers instead of against them: Lists—This will be no surprise to ProBlogger readers—I’m pretty big on lists and my stats show me it’s my posts with bulleted or numbered lists in them that get linked to and read a lot more than similar-length posts written in an essay style. You can see an example in Figure 4-2. Formatting—Use bold CAPITALS italics underlining and other for- matting techniques to emphasize points. Don’t go overboard because you run the risk of frustrating your reader. Do be careful with under- lining because it is also commonly used to indicate that text is a link. Also consider changing font size color and style to draw your read- ers’ eyes to your main points. Blog Writing 81 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 81

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Headings and subheadings—Using headings midway through posts helps with post structure but headings also are great for drawing your readers’ eyes down the page and helping them find important points and the elements of your article that will most interest them. Pictures—Clever use of pictures in your posts can grab attention emphasize points and draw people down into your post. In a largely text-driven medium images will give your post visual points of inter- est. I’ve tested how readers react to pictures in posts and pictures are particularly effective at the top of posts to get people reading and also worthwhile to break up the text in longer posts and to draw the eye to action items. Borders/block quotes—Boxes around quotes and key points can sim- ilarly get the attention of readers. Space—Don’t feel you have to fill up every inch of your screen rather create spaces because they help readers not to feel over- whelmed and again tend to draw readers’ eyes to what is inside such spaces. Short paragraphs—Web users tend to get lost in large blocks of text—break it into smaller bites and you’ll find people will continue to read a post longer. Don’t bury your points—Make your main points as clear as you can and get your main point across in the first few sentences rather than burying it in your conclusion. Work hard at producing content that can easily be scanned and you’ll find that your readers will stick with you even through the longest of blog posts. PROBLOGGER BLOG TIP: MAKE IT EASY There are no points awarded for making your content complex and your readers will not respect you any more if you use longer words. In fact the reverse is probably true. Remember your reader might have poor eyesight be distracted or be in a rush. The easier you make your blog to read the more readers you will attract. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 82 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 82

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Figure 4-2: Lists make it easier for readers to scan content. Using Titles Effectively on Blogs My mom drilled into me at a young age that first impressions are important. Outside of the design of your blog perhaps the best way of creating that good first impression is through your post’s title. Well-written titles are important on many fronts including the following: Grabbing attention in search engines—Go to Google and type in vir- tually any word you can think of and you’ll often find millions of results. The interesting thing is that for most search results in Google and other search engines there is very little for readers to go by in deciding which result to click on. There is a title a short excerpt and a URL. The most highlighted of these is the title and I believe it is a key to getting search-engine-referral visitors. Getting RSS readers’ attention—In a very similar way titles have the ability to grab the attention of those following your blog via RSS feeds in news aggregators. News-aggregator readers tend to scan the titles of posts for things of interest rather than reading full text stopping to read and visiting the posts that pique their interest. See Figure 4-3. Blog Writing 83 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 83

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Getting attention in social bookmarking sites—The same principle is true in social bookmarking sites like and which have the potential to send your site many thousands of visitors based almost solely upon the title of your post. Loyal readers—Good titles also impact the way your loyal readers interact with your blog. As I’ve already mentioned web users scan pages and one of the best ways to make them pause as they roll their eyes down your site is to capture their attention with a good title that intrigues them enough to slow down their frantic web surf- ing and actually read some of the content that you’ve poured time and energy into. Search engine optimization—Though there are many factors that contribute to how search engines rank a page of your blog one of the most powerful onsite factors is the words that you use in the title of that page. By default most blogging platforms will include your title in the title tags of your post’s page and the URL structure of that page—both of these factors contribute to that page’s search-engine ranking. Add to this that other bloggers often use your title to link to you a very powerful thing and your titles become a very important factor in ranking well and generating traffic in search engines. Figure 4-3: Skimming a feed reader. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 84 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 84

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The title of a post is like an advertisement for it and it can mean the differ- ence between it being read and not—so learning to create great titles is a skill we highly recommend you learn. How to Use Titles Successfully There are many strategies that successful bloggers use to draw attention to their posts with titles. There is no real right or wrong and as with many aspects of blogging what is a “good title” is subjective. Ultimately the goal of your title is to get people to read the first line of your post. To do this consider some of these techniques: Keep it simple—Most research that I’ve seen about titles argues that the most effective titles are short simple and easy to understand. Though breaking these rules can help grab attention see the next item they can also confuse frustrate and put a glazed look in the eyes of potential readers. Shorter titles are also good for search engines—keep it under 40 or so characters and you’ll ensure the whole title appears in search results in Google. Grab attention—Good titles set your posts apart from the clutter around them and draw readers into your post. Attention might be achieved using tactics of shock big claims controversy or even confusion. Though these tactics do work at getting people in it should also be said that they can do more damage than good if the rest of your post doesn’t live up to the promises your title makes. By all means try to grab attention—just don’t trick your readers into thinking you’ll provide them with something you can’t give them. Meet a need—An effective title draws people into reading more because they feel you’ve got something to say that they need to hear. Indexes like illustrate just how effective this is. Quite often the articles that get to the top of the list are “how to...” or “tutorial”-type articles that show readers how to solve a problem or need that they might have. Describe—Some readers will be drawn into a post by a cryptic title that doesn’t tell them much about what they’ll be reading but the majority of readers need to know something about what they’ll find if they read further. Titles should describe what readers will get in the Blog Writing 85 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 85

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main post. They don’t need to give away everything in the post but being descriptive will definitely help. Use keywords—As I mentioned earlier titles are a powerful part of SEO. If you want to maximize their power you need to consider using the keywords that you want your post to be found with in your title in some way. This of course is challenging when you are attempting to keep it simple and to also grab attention and intrigue— but it can be done. Words at the start of titles are thought to be more powerful than words at the end when it comes to SEO. Take your time with the writing of post titles. Many bloggers pour a lot of effort into writing engaging and interesting posts but then just slap any old title onto it without realizing that in doing so they might be ensuring that their post is never read. Treat your title as a mini advertisement for your work. Take at least a few minutes before hitting Publish to not only make sure your post is in order but that your title is going to do everything it can to maximize the chances that people will engage with what you have to say. A great place to learn more about crafting your titles is Figure 4-4 which has a wealth of information on writing good copy for blogs. Figure 4-4: ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 86 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 86

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Opening Lines Matter The purpose of a post title is to get readers to read the first line of your post. However to get people to read your full post your opening lines are aslo crucial. Readers will make a judgment as to whether your full post is worth reading based upon how it starts and they will continue reading if you succeed in connecting with them on one of a number of levels. Opening links should pique interest and curiosity highlight a need that your reader has to give them a reason to read more show a benefit of reading on and/or make some sort of promise to entertain inform teach or offer something of value. You don’t need to do all of these things in the opening sentence of each post you write—but if you want your readers to reach the bottom of your posts and to be persuaded by what you write you’ll need to work hard early on at hooking them on some level. Post Length—How Long Should a Blog Post Be The optimal length of a blog post has been hotly debated by bloggers for years and there are a number of factors to consider when thinking about it such as the following: Reader attention span—It is pretty well documented that the typical web reader has a short attention span when it comes to reading con- tent online. My own investigation into length of stay on blogs found that average blog readers stay 96 seconds. That’s a minute and a half to communicate to your readers. As a result many webmasters pur- posely keep their content length down to a level that is readable in short grabs. PROBLOGGER BLOG TIP: STEAL IDEAS Copywriters have a sneaky strategy for learning from the best writers. They steal ideas No this is not about plagiarism but using what they call a “swipe file.” Whenever they come across a particularly effective headline introduction or turn of phrase they take note of it for future inspiration. Blog Writing 87 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 87

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SEO—There is a fairly strong opinion among those considered experts in search engine optimization that both extremely short and extremely long web pages are not ranked as highly as pages that are of a reasonable length. Of course no one really knows how many words are ideal in the eyes of Google and its fellow search engines— but the general opinion seems to be that a page of at least 250 words is probably a reasonable length. Similarly many advise keeping pages less than 1000 words. Quantity of posts—One theory that goes around is that shorter posts allow you to write more posts and that more posts are better for gen- erating readership with RSS and in search engines. Though I don’t know their strategy personally some believe this is what sites like Engadget and Gizmodo do with the high quantity of short posts that make up the majority of their content. Topic/genre—The type of post that you’re writing will often deter- mine its length. For example when writing a review of a product you’ll generally write a longer post than when you write a news- related post where you link to something someone else has written. Comprehensive coverage of the topic—Ultimately this has to be the main criterion that bloggers go with. Write enough to comprehen- sively cover your topic and then stop. Long posts for the sake of them are not a wise move—but neither are short ones that don’t cover the topic well. My personal preference is to mix up my post length from post to post. I try to write one long post per day to give readers something meaty to chew on but I also mix in short newsy posts most days. Post Frequency—How Often Should a Blogger Post One of the common pieces of advice that I see given to new bloggers is that they should write frequent posts on their blog. This is good advice but in my experience it’s not quite as simple as that. I think posting frequency is a question that bloggers need to consider care- fully on a number of fronts: Writer burnout—Every year I do a 24-hour blogathon to raise money for a charity. Though I enjoy the process a lot I find that it ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 88 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 88

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generally leaves me quite burned out—both physically as well as in my ability to write. This is an extreme example but it happens if your posting frequency is too high over a sustained period. The con- stant drive for high quality and relevant content is something that takes its toll on a blogger. Post too often and the quality of your writing could suffer. Reader burnout—Too many posts can also leave your readers burned out. I recently asked ProBlogger readers for the reasons that they unsubscribe to blogs and “too many posts” was among the top reasons. I know from personal experience of reading blogs that if my news aggregator shows that there are more than 20 unread posts on a blog I’m less likely to read each post in full and will unsubscribe from it if I can’t keep up. Reader participation—Post too often and you’ll not give your read- ers enough space to have good conversations in the comments of your posts. Each time you post you push recent articles further down the front page of your blog making them less likely to be seen and responded to by readers. Also there are only so many conversations that your readers can have at once. Post too many times per day and they’ll feel overwhelmed and give up attempting to participate. Search engine and RSS referrals—One of the reasons to consider increasing your posting frequency is that the larger the quantities of quality content that you produce the more open doors you have into your blog via both search engines and your RSS feed. Though you do risk frustrating readers with high post levels it does generally lead to higher traffic. Blog topic—I’m a firm believer that there is no “one size fits all” approach to posting frequency on blogs. One of the main reasons for this is that different topics tend to lend themselves to different styles of blogging. For instance a blog like Engadget has a very wide topic consumer electronics/gadgets. This topic covers a lot of subcate- gories and to do it justice it needs to post a high number of posts 20 or more per day. Its readership knows this and I suspect a lot of them want it as they are attempting to keep up with a wider indus- try. Gadget lovers are also quite often information junkies who are usually tech-savvy and able to consume larger amounts of informa- tion. Other blogs with tighter topics would not be able to sustain Blog Writing 89 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 89

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such a large number of posts because there is only so much to write about on any given day. Visitor type—I’ve already touched on this a little in saying gadget fans are often information junkies but another way that your visitor type can impact posting frequency is the source of the visitor. For example at I have a much higher readership that comes via RSS subscribers and bookmarks than on my digital-camera blog which is largely visited by search-engine users and those com- ing from my email newsletter. As a result it is not as crucial that I keep my posting level down to a reasonable level on my photography blog because it’s not likely to impact many people. In fact having more posts can be helpful because it means there are more landing points for SE traffic. Post length—Another observation that many people make about some of the most highly visited blogs is that while they post a lot more frequently than other blogs their post length is shorter—mak- ing the high number of daily posts less annoying. Momentum—Posting too much can burn out your readers but not posting enough can be just as frustrating. If readers subscribe to your RSS feed or newsletter or bookmark you they are actively inviting you to communicate with them. When you don’t it can be quite annoying. On weekdays I have a once-per-day blogging minimum for my own blogs. Other bloggers establish a weekly rhythm and find that it works for them—but I like to produce something daily which builds an anticipation and momentum with readers that helps to grow the blog. Rhythm and consistency—When it comes to post frequency it is important to find your blogging rhythm and stick to it. Though read- ers don’t want you to be monotonous in terms of what you write I’ve found they do quite often want it in terms of how you write—and more specifically in how often you write. People want to know what to expect—they buy into things that they know fit in with their own rhythm of life so if you start out writing daily but then increase the frequency to hourly you’ll probably find people reacting against it and the same goes the other way around. Posting frequency will vary from blog to blog and you should experiment with different ways of doing it as your blog develops. If you are just starting ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 90 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 90

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out attempt to post to your blog four or five times a week while you’re find- ing your feet over time you’ll find a rhythm develops that suits you and your readers. Keep Posts Granular One topic per post—we’ve already spoken in this book about choosing a niche topic for your blog but another strategy of many successful blogs is that in addition to having an overarching niche topic they tend to have each post focus upon a more tightly targeted topic. On some levels this is a fairly natural and logical thing that most bloggers do—but occasionally I come across a blog post that seems to want to answer every question known to humankind in a single post. The result can be a long unfocused rambling post that doesn’t really go anywhere. Instead of feeling you need to stuff everything into one post a strategy that often works better is to be more granular in the way you post that is break it down into grains. In effect you end up with a blog that can be shown visually like Figure 4-5. Figure 4-5: Blog granularity. EXERCISE Take a moment to think as a reader. How often do you like your most vis- ited blogs to update Do you visit each blog every day Have you ever found a blog you liked that posted too often Not often enough Blog Writing 91 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 91

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These categories are important for many reasons including these: Niche topic—Your overall blog has a niche topic or focus—some- thing we talked about earlier. Categories—Within the niche you have categories that break the overall topic into smaller parts for example at I have a category for blog design writing content and blog tools. Readability—Some of your readers will not be interested in the whole niche that you are writing about but instead will want to look only at part of it one or two of your categories. Category pages become in effect like a mini blog within your whole blog which can help read- ers find and follow the elements of the topic they are interested in. SEO—Search engines like information that is clustered together and linked to other information like it. This is one of the reasons why niche blogs work well in search engines. Categories help this further with category pages often ranking well in SEs. They also help the SE bots that come to scan your site to get around easily important for getting your whole site indexed. Posts—Your categories will then be broken down even further into posts. Each post will not cover the whole category unless your categories are very small but will cover an element of it. Tightly focusing your posts on dif- ferent elements of your category will help you to round out your whole niche topic. This structure is quite similar to that of a book which has an overall topic chapters and then sections. Benefits of Granular Posts Writing in a granular style has numerous benefits: Ease of use—We’ve already talked in this book a number of times about how people don’t stay long on websites and that blog readers have short attention spans. Granular posts help with this. They are shorter and punchy and go directly to the point. SEO—Pages with single topics help search engines to work out what your post is about. This helps them to rank you accurately for the topic you’re writing about. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 92 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 92

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Contextual ad relevancy—Similarly having only one topic helps contextual ad systems like AdSense determine what you’re writing about and serve relevant ads for that topic. Ease of writing—This is more of a personal reflection than any- thing—but for me I find it easier to concentrate on one topic at a time. I’m much more productive in this way. Granular does not equal short—One of the criticisms I’ve seen of the idea of granular posting is that some people like longer posts. I would argue that granular posts need not be short at all. Some of my most popular posts are tightly focused upon a single topic but are quite long. Utilizing a series of posts—One option for those bloggers who find it difficult to write in a granular style is to break their longer general posts down into a series of posts. In fact I quite often start out writ- ing a post on a topic and find that it’d be much too long and diverse to be read all at once. We cover how to write a series of granular posts later in this chapter. 20 Types of Blog Posts One of the traps that I see some bloggers fall into is that their blogs often become quite one-dimensional in terms of the type of posts they write. Mixing up the types of post that you write can add interest and character to your blog which will help to keep readers over the long haul. There are many types of posts that you might like to use—here are 20 to start experimenting with: Instructional—Instructional posts tell people how to do something. I find that posts that contain tips or that are tutorials generally are the PROBLOGGER BLOG TIP: KEEP IT SIMPLE Granularity is just one way that keeping your blog simple can benefit you and your reader. So many bloggers try to overcomplicate things when sim- ple and easy can be just as effective and it keeps your stress level down Blog Writing 93 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 93

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ones that are among my most popular. One of the main things that people search the Web for is to find help in overcoming a problem. Position yourself to answer these problems and you can build a nice source of traffic over the long term. Informational—This is one of the more common blog post types where a blogger simply gives information on a topic. It could be a definition post or a longer explanation of some aspect of the niche that you’re writing on. This is the crux of successful sites like Wikipedia. Reviews—Another highly searched-for term on the Web is “review.” Every time I’m considering buying a new product I head to Google and search for a review on it first—I know that I’m not alone. Reviews come in all shapes and sizes and on virtually every product or service you can think of. Give your fair and insightful opinion and ask readers for their opinion—reviews can be highly powerful posts that have a great longevity. Lists—One of the easiest ways to write a post is to make a list. Posts with content like “The Top Ten ways to...” “7 Reasons why...” “5 Favorite...” or “53 mistakes that bloggers make when...” are not only easy to write but are usually very popular with readers and can be successful at getting links from other bloggers. Interviews—Sometimes when you’ve run out of insightful things to say it might be a good idea to let someone else do the talking in an interview. This is a great way to not only give your readers a relevant expert’s opinion but to perhaps even learn something about the topic you’re writing yourself. One tip if you’re approaching people for an interview on your blog is don’t overwhelm them with questions. One or two good questions are more likely to get you a response than a long list of poorly thought-out ones. Case studies—Another popular type of post is the case study where you walk readers through an example of something that you’re writ- ing about. These are useful posts for readers because they are real-life situations and often have practical tips associated with them. Profiles—Profile posts are similar to case studies but focus in on a particular person. Pick an interesting personality in your niche and do a little research on them to present to your readers. Point out how they’ve reached the position they are in and write about the ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 94 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 94

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characteristics that they have that others in your niche might like to develop to be successful. Link posts—The “link post” is a favorite form of blogging for many bloggers and is simply a matter of finding a quality post on another site or blog and linking up to it. You would usually also include an explanation of why you’re linking up a comment of your own take on the topic and/or a quote from the post. Adding your own com- ments makes these posts more original and useful to your readers. The more original content the better but don’t be afraid to bounce off others in this way. These link posts are powerful because they not only give your readers something good to read but they can get you noticed and help you build relationships with other bloggers. “Problem” posts—Another term that is often searched for in Google in conjunction with product names is the word “problem” or “prob- lems”—that is where people are searching for help on a problem that they might have with something that they own or are trying to do. Problem posts are similar to review posts but focus more upon the negatives of a product or service. Don’t write these pieces just for the sake of them but if you find a genuine problem with something a problem post can work for you. Comparison posts—Life is full of decisions between two or more options. Write a post contrasting two products services or approaches that outlines the positives and negatives of each choice. In a sense these are review posts but are a little wider in focus. I find that these posts do very well on some of my product blogs where people actually search for “X Product comparison to Y Product” or “X vs. Y” in search engines. Rants—Get passionate stir yourself up say what’s on your mind and tell it like it is. Rants are great for starting discussion and causing a little controversy—they can also be quite fun if you do them in the right spirit. Just be aware when you write passionately about a con- troversial topic that others are likely to comment in a similar way. Rant posts lead to “flaming” in comment threads and to people say- ing things in the heat of the moment that they later regret and which can impact their reputation. Proceed with caution. Inspirational—On the flip side of the angry rant and not all rants have to be angry are inspirational and motivational posts. Tell a Blog Writing 95 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 95

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story of success or paint a picture of “what could be.” People like to hear good-news stories in their niche because it motivates them to persist with what they are doing. Find examples of success in your own experience or that of others and spread the word. Research—In the early days of ProBlogger I wrote quite a few research-oriented posts where I’d carry out surveys or gather statistics on different aspects of blogging. Research posts can take a lot of time but they can also be well worth it if you come up with interesting conclusions. Present your findings with a nice chart and with useful statistics and you’ll often find other bloggers in your niche will link up to you. Collation posts—These are a strange combination of research and link posts. In them you pick a topic that you think your readers will find helpful and then research what others have said about it. Once you’ve found their opinion you bring together everyone’s ideas often with short quotes and tie them together with a few of your own comments to draw out the common themes that you see. These posts are often quite interesting to readers but can help you build relationships with others blogs who you quote and link up to. Prediction and review posts—We see a lot of these at the end and start of the year when people do their “year in review” posts and look at the year ahead and predict what developments might happen in their niche in the coming months. Prediction posts will often cause interesting debate. Critique posts—Numerous bloggers have made a name for them- selves by writing strong critiques of other people products or com- panies. Though sometimes these border on being “attack posts” and have rant-like qualities a good constructive critique can be an effec- tive way of making an impression upon others. People like to hear opinions and though they might not always agree with them if they are insightful constructive and respectfully written posts they can lead to you growing your reputation in a niche. Debate—I used to love a good debate in high school—there was something that I quite enjoyed about preparing a case either for or against something. Debates do well on blogs and can be done in an organized fashion between two people between a blogger and “all ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 96 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 96

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comers” or even between a blogger and… themselves try it—argue both for and against a topic in one post—you can end up with a pretty balanced post. Probably the easiest way to do this is simply to ask your readers a question with two or more alternatives and see what they’ve got to say. Be willing to share your own opinion to get things going. Hypothetical posts—“What if” or hypothetical posts can be quite fun. Pick something that could happen down the track in your industry and begin to unpack what the implications of it would be. “What if Google and Yahoo merged” “What if Canon released an update to xyz camera” These posts can actually position you well in search engines if the hypothetical situation actually happens. Satirical posts—Well-written satire parody or humor can be incredi- bly powerful and is brilliant for generating links for your blog. Keep in mind that sometimes these types of posts will be misinterpreted and cause people to react strongly. Memes and projects—A meme is an idea that spreads an “idea virus” as Seth Godin would describe it. In blogging this can be seen as an article or topic that gets copied from one blog to another usu- ally with a link back to the originator. Write a post that somehow involves your readers and gets them to replicate it in someway. Start a poll an award a competition or ask your readers to submit a post/link or run a survey or quiz. These types of posts add an ele- ment of interactivity to your blog and sometimes can go viral through the blogosphere. This is not an exhaustive list but rather just some of the types of posts that you might like to throw into your blog’s mix. Not every one will be suitable for all blogs or bloggers but using more than one format can definitely add a little spice and color to a blog. EXERCISE Next time you read a blog post try to identify which category from our list the article comes under. How has the author added her own unique spin Are there any tips you can take away Blog Writing 97 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 97

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10 Steps to Writing a Successful Series on Your Blog One effective way of building momentum on a blog is to write a series of posts that build upon one another and explore a topic over a number of days. Writing a series will give readers a reason to come back to your blog over a period of time but it will also enable you as a blogger to create multiple bite- sized posts on a larger topic—making the writing process easier and yet still comprehensively covering the topic. Though writing a series can seem like an overwhelming task at first it needn’t be. Here’s the workflow that I use to create one: 1. Identify a topic. This is of course key when it comes to developing a successful series as it is with single posts. As I reflect upon most of the series of posts I’ve written at over the past year it’s interesting to see that in virtually every case the series has started in my mind as a single post that grew into something bigger. The key is to make sure you choose a topic that is large enough to warrant multiple posts you don’t want to write a series just for the sake of it but manageable enough not to overwhelm you. Some topics are so large that they could almost be a blog in and of themselves. 2. Write a list. When I make the decision that a topic is big enough for a series I start with a brainstorming session and compile a list of the main points that I want to make. These lists generally start out as bullet-point lists of keywords and phrases written up either in a text document or a notebook. Once I’ve got a list of main points I then go back and add a few descriptive sentences to each one to describe what I want to say. It’s amazing how many of these sentences make it into eventual posts. I find that once I’m on a roll a lot of it just flows and I can end up with a list of 10 or so ideas pretty quickly. The list is rarely the final list of points that I end up publishing some don’t make it and others are added but it does form the basis for my series with each point usually ending up as a post of its own— remember we’re aiming for granular posts. 3. Set targets. At this point I set myself some goals for the series and establish boundaries for it. Looking at the list I can generally tell how many posts I’ll need to complete it which in turn helps me decide for how long it will run. I usually try to run them for a one-week ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 98 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 98

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period starting on a Monday and ending on a Friday but have been known to run them over longer and shorter time frames. 4. Set up draft posts. With these details settled I then take the list I’ve created and take whatever I’ve written for each post so far often just a few keywords and a sentence or two and copy and paste them into some draft posts on my blog. I give each one a draft title often changed later and just leave them each there as drafts for me to work on in the coming days. 5. Pick a series title. The name that you give your series is a very important factor in its success and I would recommend that it be something you give serious consideration to. The title of your series is an advertisement to readers and will draw them into it. Readers decide on first impressions whether they will read a post and they do the same with a series. If you don’t capture their imagination with the first post of your series they are unlikely to read those that follow. Picking the title for a series is pretty similar to the process of choos- ing one for individual posts and is often a combination of choosing something that is catchy as well as choosing something with some good keywords in it for SEO purposes. 6. Announce the series. Up to this point all my work is in private but I put the pressure on myself now by announcing the series with an introductory post. This serves a number of purposes including let- ting your readers know what to expect it creates some anticipation but also making me accountable for finishing what I’ve started. There’s nothing like telling your readers that you’ll be writing X num- ber of posts on a topic to keep you motivated and accountable for the task. Encourage readers to subscribe to your feed at this point in order to follow your post. 7. Write an introduction to the series. The announcement post will also include an introduction to the topic. It includes where you’ll be headed over the coming days you may want to name the actual top- ics you’ll be covering. The other thing that this post will do is to help highlight the “need” that the series will help to address. I’m a firm believer that the most successful series of posts that I’ve written have been popular because they meet some sort of need that people have so help readers to see why tuning into your blog in the coming days will be important. Blog Writing 99 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 99

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8. Write a post per day. My workflow is to write posts in a series on a daily basis. Some bloggers prefer to write them all in advance but I like to keep them fresh and to not only build upon what I’ve written the previous day but what readers have written in the comments on those posts. I also find that writing a lot of posts all at once can be a little too overwhelming—breaking it down into bite-sized pieces is much more manageable for me. 9. Interlink your posts. I see a lot of bloggers attempting to write blog posts as a series but not joining their posts with links. Though your current regular readers will be able to follow your post by logging on each day or reading it in RSS future readers of your blog might not have as much luck. They often come in via a search engine to a mid- dle post in the series and if you haven’t linked to the rest they will have to go searching for it. You can interlink your posts easily enough by linking to them all on the introductory post to your series and by linking back to that introduction at the beginning and end of each post telling readers that they’ll find the full series there. Alternatively you can link to the preceding and next post in the series in each post—making it like a chain from one to the next. 10. Finish your series well. Though it might sound obvious to “finish your series” I think it’s important to do this well. If you don’t have a definite end a series can fizzle toward the end and some readers will feel that they’ve been left hanging. Summarize the series and the main points and invite readers to add their own points—sharing what they think you might have missed. Learning the art of creating a good series is something that can bring a lot of life to your blog. I try to do one at least once a month and I find that read- ers generally respond to it very well. They work particularly well if they are teaching-oriented practical and connected with a real need that your readers have. At ProBlogger my most effective series have included the following: Blogging for Beginners 31 Days to Building a Better Blog Battling Bloggers Block 7 Days to Rediscovering Your Blogging Groove ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 100 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 100

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In each case the series was very practical and connected to a need felt by my target audience—bloggers. Building an Interactive Blog by Encouraging Comments The beauty of blogging is that it is conversational in nature. You as a blogger start the conversation and others respond in comments on your blog or in posts on their own. Work with this and write in a way that invites others to participate and you’ll grow a more dynamic blog. Here are a few quick tips on getting more comments for your blog: Invite comments—It sounds too easy to be true but people are more likely to comment when you ask them to. Give a call to action to comment and people will. Ask questions—Including specific questions in posts definitely helps get higher numbers of comments. This is particularly the case when the question is asked in the title of the post. Be open-ended—If you say everything there is to say on a topic you’re less likely to get others adding their opinions because you’ll have covered what they might have added. Interact with comments left—If you’re not willing to use your own comments section why would your readers If someone leaves a comment interact with them. Doing so shows your readers that their comments are valued it creates a culture of interactivity and it gives the impression to other readers that your comments section is an active place that you as the blogger value. EXERCISE Brainstorm some potential series topics for your blog. Which subject areas can you write consistently about over a number of days Now take the most promising ideas and sketch out the contents in bullet points. Before embarking on any series it is a good idea to have a roadmap of the key points you will cover. Blog Writing 101 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 101

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Be humble—I find that readers respond very well to posts that show your own weaknesses failings and the gaps in your own knowledge rather than those posts where you come across as knowing every- thing there is to know on a topic. Be controversial—There’s nothing like controversy to get people commenting on your blog. Of course with controversy comes risk and the potential for being attacked so use with caution. Reward comments—Reward good comments by highlighting them on your blog. Drawing attention to your readers who use comments well affirms them but also draws attention of other readers to good use of your comments section. Establish boundaries—Occasionally the comments section on a blog can descend into something of a squabble. Establish boundaries up front on what is and isn’t acceptable in comments. You even might like to post this as a comment policy. Ultimately it is your blog and the rules you set are up to you to decide. Having boundaries will help your readers to know what is and isn’t acceptable and can help you in your comment moderating. Shape your blog’s culture—I am increasingly aware that bloggers set the tone for their blog’s “culture.” It is important to note that readers will usually take your lead when it comes to the tone they use in comments. If you write posts in an angry and personal attacking style expect to see this reflected in your comments section. If you model a more inclusive and friendly style the majority of your read- ers will follow your lead in this also. Don’t get too down if people don’t comment on your blog with great fre- quency. Even the most popular blogs tend to attract only about a 1 percent commenting rate on them Persist with the preceding techniques and you’ll build a blog that not only grows in traffic but one that truly engages with people and develops a culture of community. EXERCISE Make a note of blogs you frequent that manage to create a vibrant commu- nity feel and those that barely manage to generate any comments at all. Can you see anything in common between them Which ways do the bloggers draw you in ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 102 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 102

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Summary There is no doubt about it: Blogs are all about content. Without great content you will not attract an audience and you will never achieve your blogging goals. The topic you write about is only the start you need great headlines format- ting an appropriate type of post for the subject and to bring your readers into the community you are building and keep them engaged. Hopefully after read- ing this chapter you have ideas about how to make this happen in your blog. Blog Writing 103 46672c04.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 103

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T here is no single right way or wrong way to earn money from blogging. If you compare the approach Darren uses with the one I use you will see quite a distinct difference. Cast your net wider and you will be hard- pressed to find two bloggers who make money identically. This is a good thing The opportunity is there for any blogger to make some money and to do it in a style that works for them. Each blog and every blogger is different. The opportunities vary depending on your own abilities the opportunities pre- sented by the niche and even your own specific audience. Though not every blogger will achieve the huge paydays that some blog- gers achieve there are many bloggers doing quite nicely through the tactics I describe in this chapter. Time to Make Money The first decision you have to make is obviously whether you even want to try making money. There are many bloggers who swear off any sort of com- mercialization of blogs and then there are others who try and do not like it. I’m going to assume you do want to make money off your blog. The two questions then become: When and: How 5 Blog Income and Earning Strategies 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 105

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When to monetize is a discussion with no correct answer. Ask around and you will get many forthright answers none of which helps very much. There are two dominant camps of opinion on this question both of which have their own merits: Run ads from day one—The idea here is if you’re thinking of run- ning ads eventually you might as well integrate them from the start. The reasons you might want to do this include the following: Reader expectations—Starting a blog with no ads and then adding them later means running the risk of disillusioning readers whose expectations are that the blog is and always will be “ad free.” Some readers feel very strongly about this and changing the rules mid- stream can cause problems. Start with ads from the beginning and you set the expectations from the start and don’t cause any upset later. Consistent design—Running ads from the beginning of your blog keeps everything consistent which is good from a reader-comfort and branding point of view and also means that you don’t need the hassle or expense of a redesign later on to accommodate ads. Earnings—Darren’s blogs were ad-free for months until he imple- mented AdSense he regretted his delay later after seeing what he could have earned. Put ads on your blog from the start and you’ll begin to see some money from the early days. Of course it might not amount to a lot but you could be pleasantly surprised. Ad-optimization experience—Tweaking ads takes time to learn. Most of us learn best through personal experience rather than by just reading about it. The great thing about starting early with advertising is that you can experiment and try different techniques without too many people seeing the mistakes that you make a long the way . This means that by the time the traffic does start to come in you can have your ads optimized to take advantage of it. Establish readerships and then run ads—Rather than put ads in right from the start there is an equally valid argument to keep them off until you have built an audience. This argument is basically that if you put ads on your blog too soon you could potentially turn people off your blog because it will look too commercial or like too much of a money grab. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 106 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 106

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The thought is that you can gradually add advertisements later once you’ve established some trust gathered a sizeable readership and you have built up lots of good-quality links that serve to enhance your search-engine visibility. As mentioned earlier Darren launched this way initially and his most recent blog Digital Photography School http://digital-photography- see Figure 5-1 was only lightly monetized at launch which I am sure helped him gather his huge audience. I have personally used both approaches as I will explain later. Ultimately the decision to add advertising to a blog is a personal one and neither approach will work for everyone. Figure 5-1: Darren launched his most-recent blog with little monetization. Factors to Consider How do you know whether to hold off with the ads or put them in place right now When deciding which approach to use consider the following: How commercial is your niche Some niches are incredibly commer- cial making ads almost a valuable part of the content. As I men- tioned earlier I have taken both the no-ads and ads-from-the-start approaches and this was the primary factor in favor of going with ads right from launch on my Digital Photography blog. My photography blog is all about a type of camera called a DSLR hence the name DSLRBlog. People who follow the topic tend to be heavily into equip- ment and therefore ads are not just tolerated they are practically Blog Income and Earning Strategies 107 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 107

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encouraged. Other niches will be very anti-commercialism and there- fore a lighter touch will be needed. Is it worth it You might find the only advertising you can show from the start is poorly paying untargeted AdSense. If you are getting only one or two clicks a day at some tiny amount per click you might find there is not much point in adding advertising until you have an audience and the content to allow you to earn from it. In most cases you can use your advertising spots to show affiliate ads or advertising for friends to make your blog more attractive to potential paid advertisers but it is worth considering as part of your decision. Will ads detract If your primary monetization strategy is to use indirect methods or sell your own product you might want to con- centrate on using your blog real estate for those channels. Also you have to consider how tacky the advertisements tend to be in your niche. People are much more likely to overlook ugly advertising in an established blog than a new one. You don’t want to damage any fledgling trust you are building with off-putting ads. Again choosing whether to show ads is a personal decision that’s driven as much by financial pressures as personal taste. Luckily there is no right or wrong answer and the presence of ads is no longer held in as much suspicion as years ago. Monetizing Directly with Advertising Advertising is by far the most popular monetization method that bloggers use. After deciding whether to show ads the next decision is which type. The most popular advertising system with bloggers is Google’s AdSense but there are several other advertising system options including: AdGenta Blogads CrispAds IntelliTXT. DoubleClick Kanoodle Text Link Ads ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 108 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 108

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In fact there are many types and varieties of advertising from banners links and textual ads to pop-ups. It is easy to be overwhelmed and not know which to try first. The best idea is to focus your efforts on one or two at a time and take the advice of other bloggers as to what is working for them. Although there is a great variety of advertising types in general they fall under the following headers: Banner advertising—These are the traditional graphical ads showing text and pictures. These can be bought and served up by an advertis- ing system or can be bought as a private deal between the advertiser and blogger. Banners have been around for a long time in Internet years so are very familiar to web users. You can see some examples of banner ads in Figure 5-2. Figure 5-2: Some example banners. Textual advertising—Textual ads do not have graphics just text and a link. They are extremely popular with advertisers especially when served up “contextually” that is when the ad is automatically matched to the content it sits next to. This makes them ultra-targeted for exam- ple someone searching for “red widgets” would see ads for “red widg- ets” in the page. Programs like AdSense and YPN are very popular with bloggers mostly because they are simple to use. Implementing this type of advertising just involves pasting some code into your templates. Everything else from finding advertisers to showing ads is done for you. Contextual ads best suit blogs that have some sort of commercial angle with many associated products and services being advertised. Blog Income and Earning Strategies 109 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 109

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They are not so good with “general” multi-topic blogs or opinion- based subject areas. See Figure 5-3 for some example text ads. Figure 5-3: Example textual ads. Product-based advertising—A recent type of ad system has arrived that aims to promote specific products from retailers or auctions. The best known of these is Chitika’s eMiniMalls product. These systems either contextually or based on the blogger’s tweaking target readers with product selections showing thumbnail images and pricing. For product-heavy niches these systems can work well but as with all of these ad types testing and tweaking is required. Figure 5-4 shows what these ads look like. Figure 5-4: Chitika eMiniMalls. Text-link ads—For a while selling links was an increasingly popular way to sell ads. The beauty of these is that they don’t take up much room and that depending upon the system you choose to run them ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 110 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 110

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you can have control over which advertisers you accept and reject. Advertisers loved the system because the links influenced Google and improved search-engine results. Many bloggers were using links as their main income generator. Unfortunately Google made a big pub- lic fuss about its disapproval of text links giving out penalties and driving the sales underground and scaring off many bloggers. RSS ads—An increasingly popular way for people to read blogs is via RSS. As a result publishers and ad providers have been keen to find ways to place ads in feeds. These attempts have been met with a vari- ety of success levels. Though you do not hear of too many people making big dollars with RSS ads as yet they are an area to keep aware of. Appearing as they do in the feed makes them complemen- tary to any onsite advertising plus it allows you to make money off the people who never visit the blog itself. Sponsorships—Another form of advertising that a smaller number of bloggers are using is sponsorship. The nature of the sponsorship can vary from deal to deal but in most cases it consists of showing ban- ners for a certain amount of time showing logos in the header or sidebar or being mentioned in competitions or reviews as being a supplier of a product. Ad Payment Types Ads can pay for being present for a certain amount of time regardless of any other metric such as x per month. Then there are ads that are paid according to more strict criteria. There are three popular performance-based payment types currently in use: CPC—CPC stands for “cost per click.” Payment is on a “per-click” basis so for each click of an ad the publisher gets paid a certain amount. EXERCISE Make a note of the blogs you know that run advertising which type and how many ads they display. Do you find yourself distracted or put off by these ads Which from your list do it well and which blogs go too far Blog Income and Earning Strategies 111 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 111

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CPM—CPM stands for “cost per thousand” views and means the publisher gets paid a certain amount for the number of times an ad is displayed. Each display is regarded as an “impression.” CPA—CPA stands for “cost per acquisition” meaning the publisher gets paid a commission if the ad makes a sale signup or generates a lead. Finding Advertisers The advantage of automated systems is in theory that they bring advertisers to you but this is not always necessarily the case plus some of the best deals will be those you arrange yourself. For a start there will be no middleman taking a cut. The key to getting advertisers is to make your blog attractive and then approach likely prospects with a good pitch. Preparing for Advertisers Step one in getting advertising to put your house in order. Have an “Advertise Here” Button and an Advertising Page This is fundamental. If advertisers are going to know they can advertise on your blog you need to show them plus you need to have all the required information available at hand. Have an easy way to contact you for more information and your rates if they are not already visible. Make an attractive image and put it where it can be seen. Clearly explain who you are what your site is about and why you are an authority on your topic. The key is to answer why anyone should care enough to purchase an ad. Answer “What’s in it for me” Darren’s advertising page is shown in Figure 5-5. Show Them What They Will Be Buying If you currently have no paid placements on your site put up “house ads” house ads are banners for products or sites from your own company or part- ner ads in the same spot you would run a paid spot should it sell. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 112 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 112

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Figure 5-5: A sample “advertise here” page. Give a Freebie Create a free advertisement on your site to get attention from the target com- pany or their competitors. Politely ask for how well the ad works out for example total clicks any purchases and so on. You might find that once you start delivering traffic the company is willing to pay for the spot to maintain the stream of new visitors. Show off Your Stats You need to show at least the basic information such as monthly unique visitors and page views. To many advertisers traffic numbers are key. Keep working to keep these stats updated as you build traffic. Be ready to share your numbers and back them up with graphs from multiple stats packages as evidence. Any other information that might be useful to advertisers is also well worth displaying such as gender and age demographic information. Demonstrate that you know your audience well and appeal to their market. If you do not have this information at hand put together a survey or pay to get more detailed stats from comScore or Quantcast. Darren often tells potential advertisers the keywords and phrases he ranks for in Google. Compile a list of words that you rank for that you can pull out next time you’re talking to an advertiser. If people search the Web for infor- mation on products that they sell and they end up on your site you have a valuable and unique selling point. Blog Income and Earning Strategies 113 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 113

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Keep Your Blog on Topic and Professional If you are not writing on topics that attract a specific audience advertisers won’t know if they are a good fit for your site. Talking about random topics ranting about your drive to work swearing bashing every product you can think of and other unpredictable behavior will scare away advertisers. Put Together an Advertiser Pack Not all advertisers will want to read your advertising page plus it looks more professional to have comprehensive information available rather than a brief overview page. Compile your stats rates advertising options that is what you offer reader demographics and any other relevant figures into a professional-looking document that you can email to interested advertisers. Include your contact details references and testimonials from other advertis- ers if you can get them. Niches Sell Most of us will never directly compete with the broad mainstream publica- tions that are out there. Don’t try to fool advertisers into thinking that you’re bigger than you are use your niche status as a positive and sell the fact that you can speak persuasively to a narrow and highly targeted group of people. This makes the money an advertiser spends much more effective: “Spend 1 on a big site and you might reach a lot of people who are mildly interested in your topic sell 1 on our site and you’ll reach people who are obsessed with your topic…” Getting Advertisers Once you know your angle the next step is to find and approach potential advertisers. Finding Advertisers Start closest to home. Have a look at your own blog are there people adver- tising on it already If you have Google AdSense running on your blog then Google is already serving up advertisers for you. Why not contact them and do a deal ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 114 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 114

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Next check out who is advertising on blogs similar to yours. Click on a few and find the contact details. Send a polite and brief email asking if they’d be interested in advertising on your blog as well. Include brief information to get them interested along with a link to your advertise page and mention your advertiser pack without sending it to them right away. Companies that already advertise on blogs are going to be a lot more open to advertising on yours than companies who have not yet tried this kind of advertising. But by the same logic those who are already advertising online will be more likely to try advertising on blogs than those who do not yet do any web advertising. Look to see who is buying Google AdWords for your common niche searches. You will know the products and companies in your niche. Make a wish list of every company you would love to see advertising on your blog and start contacting them. In the end selling advertising is a numbers game and the more frogs you kiss the better chances you have of turning up a prince. Approaching Advertisers Whereas some advertisers will contact you after reading your “advertise here” page you’ll need to directly approach the rest of them so it is a good idea to create a standard letter to contact the advertisers. There is no “one size fits all” solution here but you can follow these general guidelines: 1. Introduce yourself and quickly explain why you are emailing them. 2. Explain why you chose to contact them with an emphasis on what they have to gain. 3. Give brief details about your blog traffic subscribers topic audience. 4. Tell them about the advertising options location on the site max number of advertisers monthly price. Do not overdo it. Potential advertisers should be able to decide pretty quickly if they are interested or not. If they reply then you can fill in all the fine details. Keep in mind that all the information I mentioned should be con- tained in two or three paragraphs tops. If you send an essay to potential advertisers they will just trash it as spam. Blog Income and Earning Strategies 115 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 115

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Taking Payments You might have everything else in place but if you are not able to take pay- ments or more importantly if advertisers are not able to pay easily you will end up losing deals. PayPal is generally the best option because it allows you to accept cash transfers and credit card payments however PayPal is not currently available in all countries. How Much to Charge How much you should charge depends on what an advertiser would expect to pay and how much value you provide. Advertisers of course will want to see a return for their investment. This might be in the form of sales increase or increased exposure. Make sure there- fore that you do everything in your power to ensure your blog demonstrably delivers. Remember that there are some pretty cheap advertising options out there and you will need to be competitive. Provided you reserved a good spot for the sponsors sidebar or header preferably you could start by charging 0.50 CPM 50 cents per 1000 page views. With this pricing a blog generating 100000 monthly page views would earn around 50 a month for that one advert. Start low to attract early sales and then build your prices steadily upward. Super-popular blogs such as TechCrunch have earned a higher CPM some- times as high as 10 but it takes time and great deal of credibility to get there. You can easily check whether you are charging a suitable rate by using AdSense units on the places where you will sell direct advertising. Analyze EXERCISE Brainstorm potential advertisers who might be interested in your blog. As you go around reading blogs also take a note of who is advertising and from the “advertise here” pages what they might be paying. Are there any “likely suspects” who tend to advertise a lot What are the going rates in your niche ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 116 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 116

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how much you would gain with AdSense and adjust your rates accordingly. Secondly you can also check similar sites’ “advertise here” pages. Be flexible regarding the terms perhaps even offering free test periods. Make advertising agreements on a month-to-month basis. People don’t like to commit to something they are not completely confident in. Encourage longer- term deals with a discount. Ad Formats Which ad formats to show is probably mostly a question of what advertisers are willing to pay for If you look around though most bloggers are using the small square 125-pixel banner size like Darren’s seen in Figure 5-2 earlier in this chapter. Over the past year or so the 125-by-125-pixel advertisement has emerged as the most common size for advertisements. Some of the more prominent blogs using these small square ads include TechCrunch ReadWriteWeb Copyblogger John Chow dot Com as well as many others. The 125-by-125-pixel ads are an attractive option for bloggers and adver- tisers for the following reasons: Blog designers like the way they fit nicely into sidebars in a square or vertical line. They give the option to sell multiple ad units in a space often reserved for one larger ad four 125-by-125 ads fit nicely into either the position of a skyscraper or large rectangle ad. This provides options and also potentially more revenue. Advertisers like the fact that they are often cheaper than a larger ad so they can have their ad appear on multiple blogs for the same price as one larger one on a single blog. Affiliate programs are more and more offering publishers 125-by-125- pixel ads to promote their products. We look at affiliate programs in detail later. Bloggers can use these in their unsold ad spots making good use of their space and making their ads look more popular. Some ad formats work better in some industries than others each niche and industry will have its own preferences for ad unit sizes. Many larger advertisers will have ad agencies on their payroll that might prefer more tra- ditional ad sizes and some are not set up to sell anything else. Blog Income and Earning Strategies 117 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 117

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The best idea is to look around to see what ad types sell well in your niche before deciding which types you should offer. How Many Ads to Display Before filling your blog with ads consider the effect having too many ads can cause. T oo many ads is bad for readers because having too many ads can crowd out the content and put off new visitors to your blog. Some blogs have so many ads that their content is pushed way down the page and effectively hidden. From an advertiser’s point of view too many ads on a page dilutes the con- version that advertisers get. If an ad is one of 4 they have a much higher chance of being noticed and clicked on than if the ad is one of 10. Look around your niche to see where blogs place ads and how many. Take particular note of any that seem “overdone.” In most cases you will see an ad in the header and maybe four or so small ads in a sidebar. Much more than that and your blog risks looking more like a racing car than a content site. Optimizing Advertising To get the best performance out of your advertising you need to have adver- tising where it can be seen without causing annoyance and distracting from the content. This means balancing highly visible placements and ad formats against your regular readers’ comfort. In general this means putting ads “above the fold” that is above the bot- tom of the browser window where you wouldn’t need to scroll to see it. Ads tend to get more clicks if they are embedded in content but make sure they do not obstruct legibility. With services like Google AdSense you can test color variations and it is well worth experimenting. Some bloggers do well with ads that are blended into the color scheme of their blog and others say they get better results when ads stand out and contrast with the rest of their content. Ideally though you might get more clicks camouflaging ads as navigation is a pretty crummy trick to play on your readers and might even get you into trouble with the ad service. Monitor any changes you make to see if you improve performance or reduce it and get advice from other bloggers about what works for them. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 118 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 118

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Other Direct Forms of Income In addition to advertising there are a few other ways to make direct income. Let’s take a look at some now. Affiliate Programs Affiliate programs are where you take a commission for referring a customer of a product. Probably the most common of these for bloggers is the Amazon Associates program that now has tens of thousands of products that you can link to. Darren uses it to great effect on his photography blog see Figure 5-6. Other affiliate programs that represent many different companies and products include LinkShare Commission Junction and ClickBank. Figure 5-6: Darren uses Amazon links on his photography blog. Tips for Using Affiliate Programs on Your Blog Affiliate programs take some work if you want to get the most out of them but can be lucrative if you match the right program with the right blog/topic. EXERCISE List good-quality products that you have bought recently that match your niche. Sign up to Amazon Associates so you can provide links to them. Search the top blogs in your subject and related areas for reviews to get an idea of the products you could feature on your blog. Blog Income and Earning Strategies 119 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 119

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You must be careful when using affiliate links because in effect you are rec- ommending a product. Suggest your readers purchase a lousy or disreputable product and expect to lose your good reputation very quickly. Here are some tips for getting the most out of affiliate marketing on your blog. Consider Your Audience Put yourself in your readers’ shoes and consider what they might be looking for as they surf by your blog. Are they shopping for specific products Might they be looking for related products or accessories What would trigger them to purchase Start with your reader in mind rather than the product. If you take this approach you could end up doing your reader a favor as well as mak- ing a few dollars on the side. Authenticity There are literally hundreds of thousands of products and services for you to choose from to recommend to your readers but making money from them is not as simple as randomly adding links to them from your blog. Readers come back to your blog day after day because something about you resonates with them. Don’t recommend products you don’t fully believe will benefit them. If you have doubts say so. The best results I’ve had from affiliate programs are where I give an open and honest appraisal of the product including both its strengths and weak- nesses. You might think that this isn’t a wise move and that to make maxi- mum sales you should give every product a glowing review however sales consistently prove otherwise. People want to know what they are buying. Consider your own experience of shopping at Amazon or anywhere else that displays reviews. Wherever possible choose products and companies with a good reputation and quality sales pages. Link Deep We always say to bloggers that we’re consulting with that they should learn something from contextual advertising when it comes to affiliate programs. The secret of contextual ads like AdSense is that the advertisements match the content. The same is true for affiliate programs. A banner to a general page on every page on your site won’t be anywhere near as effective as multiple links throughout your blog that advertise products that are relevant. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 120 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 120

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So if you’re writing an MP3 player review link directly to a page selling that particular product. Traffic Is Important Although it’s not the only factor traffic levels are key when it comes to making money from affiliate marketing. The more people who see your affiliate links the more likely you will make a sale. Consider how you might direct traffic on your blog toward pages where they are more likely to see your affiliate links. Track Results Most affiliate programs have at least some type of tracking. See what is selling and what isn’t. Watching your results can help you plan future affiliate efforts. Keep track of what positions for links work well which products sell what wording around links works well and so on and use the information that you collect as you plan future affiliate strategies. Donations Rather than sell something via ads or affiliates you can ask for small dona- tions. A very small number of blogs have a history of making good money with donations—Jason Kottke and Leo Laporte come to mind. To be successful with asking for money from readers you’ll want to have a large and loyal readership that gets a lot of value from your work. Most blog- gers just don’t have the critical mass or the cult following to make it work very well but you could make a few dollars. PROBLOGGER BLOG TIP: AFFILIATE LINKS There has been a lot of debate over the years about affiliate links but in general if you link to a product you genuinely would recommend regard- less of any commission I don’t think you will go far wrong. In reviews now people expect to be pointed to a place where a product can be bought. Where your audience is particularly sensitive you might want to mention in the post that your links go through your affiliate link or provide a gen- eral disclaimer in your footer. Blog Income and Earning Strategies 121 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 121

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One of the most popular new approaches recently has been the “Buy Me a Beer” plugin. This is a new way to present a PayPal Donation button. I used it on my own blog as a test for a few weeks showing it as a ”Buy Me a Coffee” button. Though I never disclose my earnings out of principle I did get a bunch of donations through the plugin. It averaged out to a few donations every couple of days after the initial spike. Providing you write posts that people like to reward I can see donations competing income-wise with AdSense. Although I did not take the donations route for long here are my findings: People are willing to reward bloggers when they see value in your writing. There seemed to be some pent-up demand for a concrete way my readers could thank me. For this reason alone it might have been worth keeping it or finding some other outlet for gratitude. A lot of the notice it was given might be due to novelty there was a big batch at the beginning but that trailed off. My most rewarded posts were the motivational kind. There seems to be a correlation between donations and “feeling good” which makes sense to me. On the other hand the messages I received imply it was people who had been reading for a while who donated so the blog as a whole matters as much as the single post they clicked through from. People have judged it as “begging.” I don’t see it that way but your readers might. The majority of people who sent me money were gen- uinely grateful for what they had read. You can’t get better encouragement than someone sending you money out of their own pocket If somebody gives you cash you know you are on the right track somewhere. It’s useful to have a PayPal button around your blog—a couple of people used it to send me unrelated payments. Sounds good right So why did I not leave it up For me it was just a matter of taste. I would encourage anyone who is inter- ested to try it but for my own blog I don’t think donations work because in addition to 1 donations I also try to draw attention to my professional serv- ices which can run to several hundred dollars ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 122 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 122

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Classifieds Some blogs do very well out of classifieds such as Darren’s ProBlogger Job Board see Figure 5-7. If you have a sizable audi- ence that needs to advertise jobs personals sales or want ads then it might be worth a try. Figure 5-7: The ProBlogger Job Board. Merchandise This will not work for every blog but there are services out there such as that allow you to create merchandise like T-shirts mugs and so on with your own logos and designs. With the right topic and/or audience you might sell well with the added benefit of each customer acting like a walking billboard for your blog. Subscriptions One of my favorite monetization strategies is anything that allows you to charge a subscription rather than a one-off payment. Make a sale once but get paid over and over. It’s the gym membership model. Some blogs do this with private forums others with online training courses. It’s well worth investigating. The problem that most bloggers who have tried it have run into is that most topics that you could think to start a blog about already have free sites available. To make it succeed you would need to have some sort of premium/exclusive content and/or real expertise on a topic. Blog Income and Earning Strategies 123 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 123

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Indirect Income-Earning Strategies Rather than work to make money from advertising and other direct means another profitable blogging route is to make money indirectly. Indirect mon- etization tactics rely on you demonstrating your experience expertise and personality through your blog. Let’s take a look at the popular indirect mon- etization options. Freelance Blogging Freelance blogging is a great way to earn money from blogs. Rather than working on your own blog in order to make money from advertising people are willing to pay to have someone blog on their behalf. Though it isn’t a passive income it does earn reasonably well predictably and is itself a form of marketing so doing a good job often leads to more work. When starting out you might have to start at the lower end of the pay scale—10 a post is quite common—but as you build a reputation you can earn more than 10 times that amount. It’s not just about the money it is also a lot of fun especially if you enjoy writing and variety . I started out very much in the technical and geeky topics but now I find myself writing about all sorts of things from clients as diverse as a micro stock photography company to a software developer. I am in a lucky position that these jobs now come to me in the past that was not always the case. The first place to start looking for writing jobs is with your own blog and your own audience. Put up a page saying you are available for hire and refer to it in your sidebar and posts. Those people who read your writing regularly are the most likely to want to hire you because they already know and like your work and there is some trust built up. You are a known quantity. By extension any guest posting to do has the same potential. Though read- ers will not see you as often putting a small reference to your freelance avail- ability in your attribution line could garner some leads. See if you can get some guest-post spots on likely blogs and try. Next ask around. Work outward from your blog to people who know you. Put the word out that you are looking for writing work. This isn’t begging— you can really help someone else with your writing skills or just by saving them time. Friends of friends and word of mouth is where I get half my work ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 124 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 124

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so this is a really effective method. When you are down it is hard to sell your- self so it really helps if someone is doing it for you. Work the forums. Your writing doesn’t have to appear only on blogs to get noticed blogging forums are also a good place to get your name out there. Good forum posts and a friendly helpful nature could be all you need to get either paid work or guest spots that lead to paid work. As before mention in your profile your availability. Apply to online job ads. There are lots of online job boards you can start at the following locations: Once you get word out and really start looking you will see there are writ- ing opportunities all over for a hard-working blogger. What Blog Owners Look For There are many reasons someone might hire a blogger but the most com- mon are listed here: To increase traffic visibility and search-engine rankings To build credibility and authority To supply constant content to keep visitors returning To increase sales leads and repeat customers When site owners are looking for a blogger to write for them they have the following criteria in mind: Can they write original and interesting articles for the topic Does their style suit the property and audience Are they able to write all required types of content Will I get more value back than what I pay out The first three points all cover the craft of writing. If you can show ability in your writing samples the job of getting the gig is half done. Usually though Blog Income and Earning Strategies 125 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 125

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there are several other writers in the running so the last point is where the choice is really made. If you are looking to get paid blog-writing gigs you have to have a good archive of posts that you can point to plus evidence of value over and above just the writing. Here are some tips: Create your own blog demonstrate you can do the job that needs filling. Vary your standard posts to show off your capabilities. Have a collec- tion of newsy posts review posts opinion posts essays and tutori- als. If there is a certain blog you want to write for try to match exactly the sort of content they like their style and tone of voice. Show you have high-value skills such as basic SEO and promotional experience. Get known in forums. With intelligent blog comments people are more likely to hire you if they know who you are. The question to ask is “Why me Why would someone select me over some other blogger” If you can answer that convincingly you will have no trouble getting paid blogging gigs. Why Freelance Blogging For the blogger the benefits come down to increased exposure and pay. Payment can be per-post word-count-based or on a retainer. Obviously all fees come down to negotiation expectations article length complexity and blogger experience. If you are just starting out do not expect to get more than 20 a post but for a proven blogger in a competitive niche with lots of research required you can earn 10 or 20 times that amount. The arrangement can work very well for both the blogger and the client providing everything is clear from the start and the responsibility for making sure this happens is on the blogger. Some example questions you might need to agree on beforehand are as follows: Who is in charge and what is their goal How will the goals be measured Will your performance affect the contract Which topics should be covered Are there verboten topics ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 126 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 126

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What is the schedule Will you email copy or post it live yourself How will you be paid and when Will it be a fixed-term or rolling contract Who owns the content Are you being paid just to write or will there be other tasks Do they have a stock photography account or will you have to supply images Normally all this can be cleared up with a single conversation but it’s always best to get these things in writing. Magazines and Books Once you make a bit of a name for yourself online you can use this experi- ence and reputation to get jobs and contracts writing for print. It’s about being seen as an expert in your field and having something original to say. You will find publishers are more receptive to having an idea pitched to them by someone who has already managed to gather an audience and they might even seek you out. This book you are reading right now came about because of one particular popular blog Many blogs already have large amounts of content ready to be pulled together into a book. It isn’t only publishers who are looking out for writers sometimes already-signed authors get bogged down trying to complete their own book or need a gap in their expertise filled. After Chris’s technical articles became popular he was approached on several occasions to join authors to collaborate on books that wouldn’t have been completed otherwise. Although books obviously provide more prestige magazines and newspa- pers work on a faster schedule and can be just as lucrative or on occasion more so. To land these gigs email editors for their submission guidelines. Again like books sometimes the work comes to you. Manolo from Manolo’s Shoe Blog landed a writing gig in The Washington Post Express after he was dis- covered via his blog. Speaking Once again this is dependent upon the topic you’re writing about but some bloggers end up with all kinds of opportunities to speak at conferences Blog Income and Earning Strategies 127 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 127

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workshops and seminars on their topic of choice. Sometimes they are free- bies other times the conference will cover costs and on other occasions there are speakers’ fees. If you are lucky you might even have an opportunity to hear both Darren and me at various conferences Consulting When you are perceived as an expert on a topic you will find that people nat- urally come to you for advice and some of them are willing to pay for it. A good deal of my income is from consulting work and I am fortunate that this work comes to me rather than having to go out and sell it. Some niches are probably better positioned than others for their bloggers to get into paid consultancy work of course. The key is to demonstrate expertise and experience every day in your blog and to build trust. If you show that you are reliable and can help you have won half the battle. Potential customers will not know you have services to offer unless you tell them. I have a banner in my sidebar that leads to a services page showing example offerings along with pricing. You can see this in Figure 5-8. A partic- ularly nice bonus for me is anyone buying say an hour phone consultancy will pay in advance through a PayPal button meaning I get far fewer non-pay- ing customers now. Figure 5-8: Chris’s services banner. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 128 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 128

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Employment Opportunities Even if you are not a freelancer blogging can be an excellent addition to your resume. If you can demonstrate expertise and experience you could get hired by your dream employer. PR blogger Steve Rubel was hired by a bigger PR firm. We have to believe the job was offered because of the profile he’d built from blogging. Bloggers are increasingly being targeted by companies because of their demonstrated abilities in their field of expertise. Of course bloggers have also lost their jobs because of what they had written Selling e-Resources I wasn’t sure whether to classify this as direct or indirect and depending upon how you do it you could probably go either way but some bloggers are leveraging the expertise they have in an area by putting together their own “e- products” such as e-books online courses and videos. Networking and Business Partnerships One of the benefits of blogging about a niche topic that interests you is that you will begin to connect with others who have similar interests and expert- ise. As you interact with them it’s amazing to see the opportunities that arise for working together. PROBLOGGER BLOG TIP: SELL YOUR SERVICES Could you make some money selling your own services Many people overlook marketable skills and experience they have developed. It’s not just writers designers and programmers who can benefit from providing work this way . Things you do every day might be just the solution someone is looking for. In fact once you have your own blog up and running you might find people want to know if you can help them do the same thing Take some time to think of possible services you can offer. Blog Income and Earning Strategies 129 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 129

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Summary Both Darren and I make money from blogging in our own ways. We are living examples that it is possible to not only make a good living but also have fun doing it Whichever way you choose—direct indirect or a mixture—I hope this chapter offers an approach to making money by blogging that is right for you. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 130 46672c05.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 130

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O ver the past couple of years we have seen some high-profile blogs changing hands for some tidy sums of money—upwards of five fig- ures for well-known properties. It started with domains and traditional websites but now blogs are carving a market unique to website sales. The most publicized sale probably was that of Blog Herald Figure 6-1 which has been bought and sold a couple of times. One of the blogs I helped found Performancing also attracted a lot of attention and speculation when it changed hands in early 2007. Figure 6-1: Blog Herald created buzz when it sold. 6 Buying and Selling Blogs 46672c06.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 131

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Though the sums involved often surprise a lot of people outside of blog- ging once you start thinking of blogs as a business asset it is easy to under- stand how they will start to become traded as such. As more people hear about the money being made of course they are piling in to see if they can get their share too. This chapter is all about how you too can buy and sell blogs for profit. Introduction to Buying and Selling Blogs Buying and selling blogs is like any form of property trading. You have buyers sellers brokers and even people who buy to sell flip online properties. Just like buying and selling physical property there are risks scams and fraud- sters too so do your research before getting involved. Why Sell The first question we have to address is why someone would sell a blog they have put so much effort into building up. As you might expect the most common reason is profit. People are willing to pay good money for a well-developed blog. In fact you can get fair money for a not-so-well-developed blog as a fixer-upper There are a growing num- ber of people using blog sales as their primary source of professional blogging income. A lot of the private sales I’ve been privy to have been where an owner has been made an offer too good to turn down but there are also many cases where the owner needed cash and needed it fast. What about cases where money was not the primary motivation Well there’s a percentage of bloggers who try it for a while until they decide one day it is all just too hard. Some just give up others try to recoup some com- pensation for the time and money they have sunk and some don’t want to see the blog go to waste. When you set out to start a blog you think it will go on forever but as we all know life has a habit of changing. What with families careers businesses and so on all it takes is one event to change your mind and priorities. It doesn’t have to particularly be a catastrophe it could be a job offer or a new baby . Not many people would choose to continue to blog over such commitments Bragging rights also come into it. What would you prefer as a story: “I tried and failed” or “I built it and sold it” ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 132 46672c06.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 132

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Whatever your reason selling your blog is probably the more financially prudent exit strategy compared to not renewing your hosting fees and letting the blog fade away. Why Buy We can understand someone selling a blog—it seems perfectly reasonable. There are two parties to a transaction though. Why would someone buy a blog rather than start a new blog of their own Advantages of Buying a Blog There are many advantages to buying a blog rather than building one. The main advantage is time. Starting a blog and building up traffic and an audi- ence takes a lot of time and effort a purchase is probably the only practical shortcut available. Buying gives you a head start especially if you are entering a market with a lot of tough competition. Though there are instances of blogs gaining trac- tion very quickly none can compete with the immediate effect of taking own- ership of a mature property. Traffic even with the best techniques takes time and skill to grow and attract. You can buy traffic through advertising and paying consultants but you can find that an existing blog might have ideal traffic already and at a more affordable price. When you are buying a mature blog in addition to the obvious assets such as design programming and subscribers what you are also buying is a proven concept. Research has been done for you and you already have an indication of how successful the blog will be. What you also might be buying is potential. Just like in housing deals peo- ple buy blogs in order to refurbish them and sell them at a profit. Having said all that much like when looking at offline franchises you might want to buy a blog that turns a predictable profit where everything has already been worked out and you just want to keep it running and reap the benefits. Disadvantages of Buying a Blog Although there are many benefits buying an existing blog is not always entirely free of problems. First of all of course there is the cost. Starting a blog is cheap and buying a blog can be expensive. If you look at just dollar value there would be no Buying and Selling Blogs 133 46672c06.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 133

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competition you have to look at it as an investment. Like all investments value can go up or down and history is not always a reliable indicator of future performance. Even with the best deal you might be starting over with an existing audi- ence. How this goes depends on your approach and how open-minded the readers are. Blog subscribers do not always take to new writers after all the new guy is not who they signed on to read. Loyalty here is both a boon and a bane it is hard-won and easily lost. In many cases it is a good idea to keep the old writers on long enough to tran- sition or longer if you can work out a deal all parties are happy with. It helps everyone not just the audience adjust and settle in. In most financial deals there is an element of risk. Will it all go wrong What happens if you buy something broken or misrepresented Could the seller run off with your money All you can do is try to mitigate any risks you identify and these worries put a lot of people off trying. Research is key—look into both the seller and the site. Just like a car a blog has many interdependent moving parts. Knowing how they work is essential or at least knowing an expert who will help you. On the surface everything could look nice and shiny while under the hood there could be problems. Getting third and fourth opinions could pay dividends but you never truly know what you have bought until it is yours. Deciding to Build or Buy Whether you build or buy usually comes down to a combination of three things: 1. Resources—How much time and money do you have at your dis- posal If you have all the time in the world you can save your money and do things yourself. On the other hand if you are up against a deadline you will have to spend money to save time. 2. Expertise—Do you have the experience and expertise on hand to make a successful blog Can you take the risk of getting it wrong The only proven blog is an old blog and the only way to get an old blog for most people is to buy one. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 134 46672c06.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 134

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3. Control—This might seem a strange thought but it does have a big impact on people in quite surprising ways. When you buy any site you are inheriting a lot more than bits and bytes. Your only chance to make something entirely your own is to build it yourself. If you buy a blog you buy its baggage too. Buyers just like when buying a pre- owned home have to be prepared to do some work to make it feel like theirs and also be prepared to be routinely compared against the old owner. Buying to Sell Flipping As already mentioned a growing number of professional bloggers are looking to blog sales as a way to earn a profit. The income can be very good plus many bloggers are more enthusiastic at launch than they are when in maintenance mode so they can be continually working on new or refurbished blogs with full enjoyment and then offload them when they begin running out of steam. The key to making money from buying blogs to sell is simple: Have a mar- ket of likely buyers before you buy a blog to flip. At first this might not make sense but think of the alternative. Do you want to put the time money and effort into a purchase only to find there are no buyers That is a surefire way to lose on any deal. No you need to know that if you can do a good job you are certain to find a buyer. Before getting into the buying-to-sell game routinely review the buying and selling sites to see what types of blogs tend to do well and which find fewer bids. What characteristics stand out to bidders in your niche How are the sales publicized and where Your niche will have its own trends and habits so get to know the winning formula for your favorite topics. Who are the likely candidates for a blog purchase Competitors Companies in your niche that are looking for traffic or growth Bloggers looking to expand their audience Losing bidders at a similar auction Taxes are a potential minefield so definitely get advice. In fact even if there were no risk of getting into any financial trouble you would find it use- ful to get an accountant’s take because you might find they can help. Buying and Selling Blogs 135 46672c06.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 135

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Always deal with the decision maker when buying or selling to make a profit usually the CEO or owner. When buying and selling blogs as a busi- ness you can’t afford to be messed around by people who are just testing the waters or who have no authority to make a deal. Time is very much money. Blog Sales Basics The basic theories behind buying or selling a blog are a lot like buying or sell- ing any property but blogs probably have most in common with business sales or investing because there is the value in the property itself and then there is the revenue potential. Both buyer and seller need to make an analysis of the value they perceive in the blog. What inherent value does it hold right now What value could it hold Value can be found in the money it generates the content that has been created the traffic it attracts any resale value and the potential it holds. In general the older the blog is the more attractive it will be not only because older sites are more favored in SEO circles but also because an older blog shows history. You would hope that a blog that has been around a while has hit on a good formula and will have lower risk going forward. With all the ups and downs in search engines and blog reputations any blog that has stood the test of time and grown an audience is a premium over blogs that are new and have unknown quantities. When looking at an older blog the main things to check out are stability and trends. In general you want to see steady audience content and traffic growth. Be wary of random spikes and dips these point to risky or erratic PROBLOGGER BLOG TIP: BUILD A BUSINESS MINDSET The skills in evaluating blog values are useful regardless of whether you want to actually get into buying and selling. Those bloggers who train up their business brain tend to do better overall because they have the ability to see their efforts both in terms of building an asset and creating an audi- ence and content. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 136 46672c06.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 136

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behavior. Also be aware that just like with cars a blog that has had one care- ful owner is a better gamble than a blog that has changed hands a lot. Young blogs under say six months old can be bargains but their lack of track record makes them much more of a risk. They are easier to pump up to look like a good buy when in fact they have little substance or value. In a new blog you are better off looking at the value purely in the assets such as design domain and technology. The rest is too easy to game. Go into any deal knowing your overall game plan. Will you buy to hold or buy to flip Are you looking for monthly income an income you can improve or just to make money on the sale itself Each variation will have differing tactics for example if you are looking to flip you need to be more aggressive in gaining a lower purchase price and be absolutely sure you can add value. As the saying goes “You profit when you buy not when you sell.” In any case don’t buy at the height of a blog’s value you sell at the peak. Work out how much more you could make by adding value both when buy- ing and selling but do not allow this to cloud your mind when it comes to gaining a discount. When you are looking at large amounts consider using escrow. Much as you want to keep things friendly do you really want to risk a lot of money on someone you don’t know The first step when buying or selling is to work out how much the blog in question is worth. Valuations How you arrive at a valuation is very important. You can count on it that the other party or parties will value the same blog very differently . This is not just because they will take a different approach but because valuations are subjec- tive and also largely depend on what you are in the deal to achieve. The same blog being bought for monthly income will attract a different price too if it is being bought just for the domain or as a refurb and so on. There is no single standard way to value any site. Just like when valuing a business the most common valuation method is based on a multiple of monthly income while taking other factors into account. Even if you don’t want to sell right away you should still value your blog. Bloggers often want to know value for ego purposes too—it is a way to score yourself and compare against other blogs in your niche for sport Buying and Selling Blogs 137 46672c06.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 137

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Audience Audiences and niches are important to a valuation. If your audience is super- targeted and high-value full of rich people who spend a lot your blog will garner a higher price than if you have a small unidentifiable audience of free- bie hunters. Registered users email subscribers well-frequented forums and RSS counts have high value. In fact email lists can be sold off separately. Loyal engaged users are extremely sought-after. Even related niche audiences still vary in value. For example “make money” and “blogging” niches might be overlapping but you can make more profit from people who are looking to make money than from the general “blogging” audience. Knowing which niches will return higher revenue is important in deciding which blogs are a good buy. Content Every blog needs good content that is a given. It is hardly worth buying an empty blog unless you particularly like the domain template or some special technology. If that is the case you might be better off hiring a freelancer. When purchasing a blog you need to look at the whole package when sell- ing you need to make that package as attractive as possible. Great content is expensive no matter how you look at it in terms of talent ideas time or money. Therefore content should have value. Pinning down a dollar value though is very hard to do. My approach is to consider how much effort it would be to create and what results the content is currently achieving for example a simple “me-too” article versus something remark- able that gains hundreds of links and visitors. Due to the fact there are many freelancers willing to work for pennies con- tent is often seen by some as a commodity . This is simply not true great con- tent is worth a premium because it is what your visitors will be coming to see. If you have to choose between quantity and quality go for the latter. It always makes me wonder why sites containing millions of “computer-gener- ated” pages that is spam still sell 1000000 x 0 0 Where the content was acquired is as important as the quality . You need to know you have ownership of what you are buying. Do not even consider buy- ing a blog if you even suspect there are plagiarized automated or free or pri- vate-label articles. A blog full of stolen or duplicate content is too much of a liability to be worth it. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 138 46672c06.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 138

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Often overlooked in the excitement of buying a blog is where the new con- tent will come from. Can you write well on the topic Will the existing blog- gers stay on How much will you need to pay them Can you find replacement bloggers All these questions and more need to be answered. Search Rankings Companies will often buy blogs that rank for phrases that are important to them. It is often more cost-effective than other solutions. How can a blog at several thousand dollars be more cost-effective than ranking their own site Well for a start you get instant and guaranteed results but secondly a red-hot SEO expert would probably pay me several thousand dollars in consultancy fees and more than likely a large amount on an ongoing basis. If a company buys a blog that ranks on the same page as its own site the company will then get two search results thereby doubling the chances of a click. Although a top ranking on Google is often listed as a selling point you do have to consider whether that result is worth anything to you. In SEO circles there are search results and then there are valuable search results. Valuable rankings are often called search rankings for “money terms”—that is phrases worth money . A result that never gathers any clicks is not worth considering. Never buy a blog because it “ranks for many phrases.” This is meaningless unless those keywords are much sought-after. Bottom line a search phrase is useful only if A people actually search using those keywords and B you can do something valuable with the traffic. Traffic A blog that attracts thousands of visitors month after month is extremely valuable. You want long-term verifiable traffic diversified from a reliable source. Ideally you want a lot of traffic from many sources and spread over several places on your blog. A single source or a single hero article increases the risk that your traffic might dry up or be fake. Note I did not say you want just “traffic.” Sellers will inflate their traffic fig- ures. Sometimes traffic is misleading because of the way the stats are gathered or because they have been pumping the traffic artificially. You need to see reliable stats not their log analysis. If the only stats avail- able are from logs get a copy of the logs and analyze them yourself. When in Buying and Selling Blogs 139 46672c06.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 139

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serious negotiation ask if you can put your Google Analytics code into the blog so you can watch traffic yourself. Digg spikes see Figure 6-2 should be separated out from your calculations. Very often you will see blogs listed with “20000 unique visitors a month” only to find 19990 of those unique visitors came directly from Digg and will never visit again and will not subscribe or take any other action. Digg hits are worth having in the future and when done right but past spikes should not be taken into account in your valuation. If visitors are blog nourishment Digg spikes are empty calories In addition to sustained and diverse traffic you want to look for blogs with targeted traffic. Non-targeted traffic has fewer monetization options in fact the main choice is impression-based ads whereas there is a world of oppor- tunity when the traffic is targeted. Paid traffic though not as attractive as free is not a bad thing provided the blog still turns a profit and you get all the required details deals and permis- sions for it to continue. If you are on the selling side keep this in mind. High traffic levels are a selling point but only if your buyer can believe you. Figure 6-2: Traffic spikes can make blogs look more popular. Inbound Links Many blogs that are bought for SEO benefits are purchased simply for the inbound links they have attracted. A good spread of quality natural links fea- turing no link-farmed fake or bought links is a valuable prospect. Aim for both deep links and links pointed at the homepage with varied and well- targeted anchor text. Essentially find blogs that search engines would favor. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 140 46672c06.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 140

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Brand Branding can work both in your favor and against you. A respected and famous brand can be worth a lot of money but readers might also be loyal to the old owner or the brand might have peaked with no room for improvement. Is the blog a draw because of the archive of useful content or because of the blogger’s personality If you are selling carefully cultivate the brand awareness and long before you put it up for sale recruit fellow bloggers and depersonalize. That way the changeover will not be such an audience shock. Profit If the blog shows a profit this will get the most attention. Profit is both directly and obviously valuable but it is also a proxy metric for other signs of quality after all a blog with zero visitors or content is not going to make a great profit Under no circumstances should you take revenue figures you need to split the profit out to know that you are not taking on a liability . Only profit makes sense unless you are happy to buy a blog laden with debt advertising costs and no way of paying you back After determining the level of profit you need to determine the following: How hard is that profit to earn Can you earn that Where does the profit come from How have profits changed over time Get a monthly breakdown. How easy would it be to grow that profit What other potential products and revenue sources are there Just like with traffic you want the income to be diversified easy to work and not reliant on any “special deals” that would be lost with change of own- ership. Given a choice between a blog that makes money with various adver- tising channels and only one or two hours’ work a week and an ecommerce site with low-margin physical products shipped out of a warehouse I would choose the former. Design Is the design off-the-shelf or custom Does it look good A free design or bad design is worth nothing whereas a brilliant custom theme has resale value Buying and Selling Blogs 141 46672c06.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 141

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entirely separate from the blog. Many designers make reasonable cash selling good blog themes. Domain Factors We talk about domains elsewhere but specifically when looking at valuing a domain you just have to be aware of how domain sales have gone over the years to know what to look for. Domains can sell for millions but usually do not. First a .com is better than any other extension without exception. After the extension is the name itself its snappiness brandability and pronounce- ability. Is it small snappy easy to say and easy to recall Smaller names are also more rare. I believe all the three-letter .coms are taken and most of the four-letter ones too. I was lucky to get my four-letter company name Many SEOs like to have the keyword in the domain and the world’s most expensive domains tend toward dictionary words such as busi- and This is because these domains have a potential for type-in traffic and instant recall rather than having to do a great amount of promotion. Calculating a Blog’s Value Blog sale prices are impossible to predict accurately . Ask 10 different bloggers to value the same site and you will get 10 different answers. A blog’s value depends entirely on the buyer. Valuations can be affected by all sorts of vari- ables from why and by whom it is being bought to today’s economic head- lines the parties’ moods and how drunk they are Blogs are worth what someone is willing to pay that is all we can tell with certainty . My approach is to look mainly at profit. A multiple of profits is a fair approach and easy to work out: Annual Profits 12× Monthly Repeatable Profit For your own purposes you also can work out additional asset value for things like the design subscribers and any interesting technologies you would be gaining ownership of. If they are worth more than the asking price ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 142 46672c06.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 142

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you might buy just to get access to them or if the blog doesn’t work out you might still recoup some money through sales: Assets Design Value + Subscriber Value + Technology Value Is the blog worth a premium because of its content or traffic Some blogs are bought on traffic alone valuing each individual unique monthly visitor at so many cents to come to a total value: Premium Flagship Content Value + 12× Monthly Free Traffic Value So for your own use you might bid up to a maximum of Profit + Assets + Premium. As I say it is all subjective and you should never make a high first offer consider this calculation as your maxium Buying a Blog Shop around and watch some auctions see Figure 6-3 from the sidelines before diving in. Always remember if you are buying a blog that the listing details are not a replacement for due diligence Never take the owners at their word. There is nothing there to enforce the truth on the part of the seller so be extremely cautious and suspicious of anything claimed. Find out as much as you can. Why are they selling Do a background check on the seller using Google and domain tools such as and look to see if they are selling in multiple locations. PROBLOGGER BLOG TIP: LEARN THE MARKET In real-estate investing the advice is to learn your market. The same is true with virtual real estate too. Where with houses you would get to know an area type of property and some of the people involved with blog sales it is good to hang out at the popular blog sales sites and see what prices they go for which sell and which languish with zero bids. This helps you develop a “sixth sense” for blog valuations before you spend time looking at the numbers. Buying and Selling Blogs 143 46672c06.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 143

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Don’t get caught up in the excitement of an auction. The “winner” doesn’t win anything an auction is still a purchase not a competition. Some auctions happen very fast whereas others take their time. The only way to guarantee a purchase is to pay the “Buy It Now” BIN price which of course poten- tially means paying a higher price. Don’t be afraid to contact the seller with questions. Do not be embarrassed or shy—there is no such thing as a stupid question where your money is concerned. In general it is believed that the first to mention a figure usually loses but of course sellers are not going to low-ball their own price. It is possible they are willing to take less if offered. Only raise your bids slowly and in small increments. A common beginner’s mistake is to unnecessarily raise bids too high too fast. When the sale goes through ensure that everything has your name on it everything is backed up and that you have all logins passwords URLs licenses and so on including the following: Domain transfer Business name Hosting Database software licenses and code Subscriptions Feedburner Newsletter subscribers Never join an auction unless you have a plan. What will you do with it if you win Have your top price in mind and don’t go over it. Always be pre- pared to back out if things don’t feel right. EXERCISE Find some blog-for-sale listings and see which excite or interest you and which do not. Try to determine the aspects that draw or repel you. This is useful knowledge for when you come to take the plunge yourself. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 144 46672c06.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 144

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Figure 6-3: An example list of auctions. Selling Blogs When you are selling your blog you need to get the highest fair price you can achieve while not giving away too much insider information which could be used to just rip off your ideas. It is a delicate line to follow and is best informed by watching other successful blog sales. In general you want to be open polite and cooperative. Anything else will make buyers smell a rat. Any evasiveness will be taken as a danger signal and a risk which at best lowers your price and at worst ruins the sale entirely. Maximize value ethically by giving the blog a makeover in every depart- ment just like if you were putting your home up for sale. Non-competes can be popular a lot of buyers do not want to purchase your blog only to see you a week later try to poach back your audience. If a buyer demands a non-compete you might be able to use it in the negotiations but just be sure of what you are signing on for. Be warned: these things can be spe- cific and short-term or so vague you might find your blogging days are over When the price is significant consider getting legal advice. A short book or some-guy-on-the-Internet is no replacement for a good lawyer. Buying and Selling Blogs 145 46672c06.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 145

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If you do not like the idea of sales or negotiations ask around on the blog forums for an experienced-broker recommendation. In many cases this can work out well for all parties. Where to Sell Your Blog The popular ways to sell small to medium-size sites is through auction at SitePoint and Digital Point Fig ure 6-4. These venues are popular and respected. Suprisingly eBay while being the world’s best-known auction mar- ketplace is a bad place to get a good price for a blog as a seller and is rife with dodgy deals. has a free sales forum for smaller deals as do many other popular blogs. Direct private deals are where the big money is made. Word-of-mouth net- works allow sales to be made without the time pressure of an auction but on the other hand they can be protracted and complicated negotiations. Contacting a potential buyer directly is always an option as is getting an offer to buy out of the blue. If you want to sell and are open to casual offers consider telling your friends and readers that your blog is on the market. An option many people do not consider is to approach blog networks. Blog networks grow by acquisition mostly and might even want to hire you to maintain them. Figure 6-4: Digital Point marketplace. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 146 46672c06.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 146

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How to Sell Your Blog Once you know you want to sell and have an idea how much you would accept the next step is to do a listing. Some of the Blog Herald auction details are shown in Figure 6-5. The basic details you need to include in addition to any graphics are as follows: Blog name + URL Date started Description Hosting and software details Average monthly unique visitors page views Inbound links according to Yahoo and Google Monthly profits Posting frequency Auction end date Payment method Support offered Determine a “Buy It Now” price to allow a buyer to end the auction with a purchase immediately. Something like a 4× annual profit multiple is not out of the question. You do not necessarily have to post a BIN right away . Starting bids are usually something like a 1× multiple. EXERCISE Imagine you have 50000 to spend on buying a set of blogs. Go to the sites listed below and create a virtual portfolio. List the blog name and the price you would be willing to go up to. Revisit when the auctions are over to see how well your estimates compare. Would you be happy with your purchases Buying and Selling Blogs 147 46672c06.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 147

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Like many online-community interactions blog auctions attract the trolls and abusive idiots. Get ready to catch some heat as people use your listing for their own amusement and as an excuse to knock and insult from the safety of their anonymity. Figure 6-5: Blog Herald auction details showing revenue and traffic. EXERCISE Create a listing for your blog as if you are about to sell it. Can you put to hand all the necessary information If you were to sell your blog now would any of your bullet points raise a red flag in the mind of a potential purchaser ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 148 46672c06.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 148

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Summary We have covered a lot of ground in this chapter and blog sales can be both exciting and nerve-rattling but the basics are in fact simple sales. Just keep in mind that a blog is worth only what someone is willing to pay for it. Both the buyer and seller should keep that in mind that way neither will feel cheated. Income is the most reliable valuation method but not every blog makes a profit so other factors come into play and people are willing to buy blogs for more than just revenue alone. Being successful at blog selling takes good sales and negotiation skills but most of all if buying or selling be careful and look out for potential scams. PROBLOGGER BLOG TIP: RAISE YOUR VALUE Valuing a blog does not necessarily need to be performed only when you are ready to sell. It is a worthwhile habit to get into every few months. Seeing the growth in your blog value can be incredibly motivating Is your blog growing in value How can you improve the value of your blog What aspects are holding you back and what do you need to work on Buying and Selling Blogs 149 46672c06.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 149

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T o this point we have largely looked at making a living from blogging from a fairly individualistic point of view. It is worth noting however that an increasing number of bloggers are now making money not only sitting alone in their living rooms developing their own blogs but also in blog networks. Blog networks come in a range of shapes and sizes and have been designed with different purposes in mind but if you strip them all back they are sim- ply clusters of blogs that are in some way linked together under a common name or banner. Most blog networks have emerged as individual bloggers see the potential for blogging and begin to experiment with the idea of bringing bloggers together to see what can be achieved collectively. The results have been significant with a number of large blog networks emerging that not only have built successful blogs but that have also had commercial success for both their owners and bloggers. The most prominent and long-running of the current range of blog networks are Gawker Media and Weblogs Inc.—both of which have numerous blogs with massive traffic and business models that make them large and profitable business ventures. For example Weblogs Inc. sold to AOL for a reported 25 million in 2005—an event that caused many new blog networks to start up in the following years. No one really knows how many blog networks there are and there is some debate about what is and isn’t a network. The challenge in counting them is that they range from large companies through to smaller clusters of blogs between friends. Some like b5media Figure 7-1 a company that I Darren co-founded in 2005 have hundreds of blogs across a wide spread of topics whereas others 7 Blog Networks 46672c07.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 151

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focus in on more specific niches for example KnowMoreMedia which focuses upon the business sector. Figure 7-1: I’m not going to talk here about the pros and cons of specific networks but I would like to take a general look at some of the benefits and costs of joining a blog network and give some suggestions on how to do it. Please note that I’m not writing about the benefits of starting or owning a blog network but looking at the positives of joining an existing one as a blogger. Of course the following factors will apply more to some networks than others because each network has its own structures and forms and will have corresponding strengths and weaknesses. EXERCISE Take a look around for any blog networks you can find. Look at the blogs you like—which are affiliated with networks and which work solo Search Google News and Technorati for “blog network”—which networks are talked about Does membership of a network affect your opinion of blogs Do they have any features in common ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 152 46672c07.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 152

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Why You Should Join a Blog Network There are several good reasons why you should join a blog network. Relationships In researching this chapter I surveyed a small group of bloggers from a variety of blog networks and asked them for the benefits of joining one. The most common response was that they enjoyed being a part of something larger than themselves and it was the relationships that a network brought them that made the experience most worthwhile. There’s something special about working on a common project with others and blog networks have the potential to build some of this. Most blog networks have internal communication systems forums wikis email lists blogs and chat sessions all of which can take blogging out of a space that can be a little lonely and into one that is much more relational. Traffic When I started my first blog I did so as a complete newcomer to the blogo - sphere. I had no connections to other bloggers and no existing sources of traf- fic beyond my immediate family and friends. The result was that finding a readership was a long slow process. In contrast to this many new network blogs gather a readership much more quickly . This of course varies from network to network a Gawker blog can debut with tens of thousands of visitors on the first day whereas smaller networks might start with hundreds of visitors. This traffic comes as a result of incoming links from announcement posts just from the prestige of being in the network and from other blogs in the network. Many networks also have ways of cross-promoting blogs via high- lighting top posts of the week or clustering related blogs together into chan- nels that cross-link within posts. You still need to work hard at growing your readership—but being involved in a network can give you a jump-start. Expertise Networks can offer a large range of skills and expertise to help grow a blog. Blog Networks 153 46672c07.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 153

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Though few individual bloggers would have all of the skills to build a suc- cessful blog most blog networks will handle all of the behind-the-scenes aspects of getting a blog up and running including design SEO optimization domains and hosting finding advertisers choosing a blog platform and administering upgrades and plugins optimizing ads marketing and so on. This leaves bloggers to simply write and promote their content. Similarly when you’re in a network with many other bloggers and you come across a problem with your blog it’s amazing how quickly it can be solved either by those managing the network or others in it. Administration In a similar way a blog network often handles a lot of the administrative tasks associated with blogging such as the management of advertisers bookkeeping and the management of legal issues. I even know of two blog networks that have people to handle the moderation of comment spam for their bloggers. Revenue This is perhaps one of the more obvious reasons that some bloggers choose to join networks—although when I asked bloggers what they enjoyed most about being involved in blog networks the money was generally not their first response. As I’ll mention later a downside is that in most networks you split the rev- enue your blog earns with the network there are many methods of determin- ing this. However on the upside due to the increased traffic search-engine ranking prominence and expertise that a network brings the overall earnings can end up being more than if you blogged independently a generalization but true in most cases. SEO One of the big upsides of being involved in most blog networks is that on the day your blog launches you are guaranteed to be linked to from the other blogs in the network. Networks do this in their own individual ways but it usually happens in a sidebar or footer. The benefits of this are twofold. First there is an element of cross-promotion going on and some traffic will follow the links. Second ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 154 46672c07.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 154

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being linked to by other blogs can help significantly with gaining search- engine ranking—which in turn brings more traffic and higher earnings. Prestige Of course this will vary considerably from network to network. However if you are able to land a position writing for one of the top blog networks you will find that you can use it to your advantage in building your own profile. Learning One last answer that I heard in talking to network bloggers was that a number of them joined blog networks with the goal of learning how to blog on a more professional level so that they could take the new skills and put them into practice in their own blogging ventures. One of the best ways of learning is to watch someone else do something and then to imitate them. Being in a network can expose you to all kinds of learning opportunities. Some bloggers even have their own blogger-training programs. Why You Shouldn’t Join a Blog Network Having looked at some of the advantages of joining a blog network it is only fair that we look at the flip side. Blog networks will not suit every blogger’s personality style or goals and you should take into account the following “costs” of getting involved before signing up for one. Revenue Split Whereas I argued previously that a positive of joining a network is that it can potentially bring in a higher revenue to your blog the downside is that with most blog networks you will be sharing this revenue with the owners of the network. The rates of pay and the method of sharing revenue vary considerably from one network to another. They could range from being paid a flat fee per month with incentives for reaching certain targets through to a straight per- centage split based upon the revenue that the blog earns in a given month. Blog Networks 155 46672c07.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 155

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The methods of determining revenue share are varied but at the heart of all of them is that you don’t get every cent your blog owns. If you’re not will- ing to share your blog’s income a blog network might not be for you. Ownership/Rights Once again there are variations between networks when it comes to who retains ownership of content and the blog itself but a key question that you’ll want to explore before signing up with the network is the issue of ownership. In many networks the blog its domain and all content that you produce as a blogger are fully owned by the blog network and in a sense you are just contracted to write for them. This means that if you leave the network you leave with nothing but the money you earned during your stay. Other networks allow you to retain ownership of content but will but ask for some sort of exclusive rights to use your content in different forums. Some other networks use a joint ownership system where both you and the network own the content. There is no wrong or right way for content owner- ship to be viewed in my opinion but it’s definitely something to think through before you join a network. Questions to ask a network might include the following: Who owns the content Who owns the URL and the blog itself What happens to the blog and content if or when I leave Reputation One of the plusses of joining a network is that they have the potential to bring a certain level of prestige or credibility to you as a blogger just by being involved. On the flip side of this is the fact that a network also has the potential to impact your reputation and that of your blog in a negative way. This is par- ticularly true in relation to the decisions and actions of the network owners. Some blog networks have high-profile and outspoken people heading them up and although this can be advantageous to your blog in terms of the buzz it can create it can also hurt you to be tied to these people if they fall from grace in the eyes of the wider blogging community . It can be well worth your while to do a little digging into with whom you will be working. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 156 46672c07.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 156

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Loss of Control One of the reasons that many bloggers have decided to stay out of blog net- works is that they do not want to lose control of their blog on a number of levels including design branding advertising promotion and so on. Some networks are more flexible than others and allow bloggers to have input in these areas if they want but others are quite structured and take on making all of these decisions. Of course this is the very thing that attracts some bloggers who don’t feel able or willing to run these aspects of a blog. But if you’re the type who wants complete control of your blog you might want to stay independent. Legalities and Responsibilities Though I’m not privy to most blog networks’ agreements with bloggers I do know that most are legal entities and use contracts in their interactions with bloggers. In signing one of these you’re entering into a legal agreement that governs a variety of aspects of your blogging activities. These might include certain levels of posting keeping certain information confidential not blogging on similar topics outside of the network’s blog not participating in other net- works participating in network activities and so on. The consequences of entering into such an agreement and not holding up your end of the bargain are worth considering before signing. Should You Join a Blog Network My own experience of blog networks has been worthwhile. I’ve enjoyed the relationships I’ve found in them and have found them to be increasingly prof- itable for many of those who involve themselves in them. As with any blogging the traffic and revenue doesn’t just appear overnight and blogging in a network needs to be a long-term commitment. One suggestion that I make to bloggers working at b5media is that they not only blog for us as a network but have an independent blog also. In this way they gain some of the benefits of network blogging but also have the experi- ence of being a solo blogger something with its own set of benefits and costs. Blog Networks 157 46672c07.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 157

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Blog networks are not the answer to every blogger’s goals and objectives. They can enhance your blogging in many ways but they still require careful consideration. Joining a Blog Network Hopefully the preceding sections will have helped you to make a decision on whether blogging for a network is for you. The following section is for those of you wanting to take it further and explore blogging for a network. Where to Find a Blog Network Job Joining a network can be as simple as being invited. If you are motivated to join a network and an invitation is not yet forthcoming you will need to do some virtual legwork. Blog Networks The best place to start if you’re looking for an opportunity to blog for an established blog network is to take some time to familiarize yourself with the different blog networks that are in operation. Most networks will have a dedicated page that advises bloggers how to apply for a blogging job with them. Read these pages carefully and if you do apply for a job be sure to follow any processes outlined. As a blog network owner I am always surprised by how many job applicants fail to follow even simple instructions. This doesn’t go over well if you’re hoping to land a job. EXERCISE Would a blog network work for you How do you feel now about joining a network Write a list of pros and cons. Does your list change your mind Think which elements and factors are important to you—can you achieve those outside of a network ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 158 46672c07.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 158

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Job Boards A number of blog job boards have emerged over the past few years. I run one at Figure 7-2 which attracts a lot of advertisers looking for bloggers in different categories—including blog networks. Figure 7-2: The ProBlogger Job Board. Do keep in mind that hundreds of other bloggers are watching these job boards also so you need to be quick in responding to ads. How to Sell Yourself to a Blog Network If you want to land yourself a blogging job it is very important to take the application process seriously and to give it due consideration. EXERCISE Take a look at the various opportunities listed at the ProBlogger Job Board. Do any of the jobs interest you Which jobs stand out and which are unat- tractive Are there any factors in common Do these jobs give you a better idea of the sorts of gigs that would appeal to you Blog Networks 159 46672c07.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 159

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Having seen many such applications I’d make the following suggestions to those applying to blog networks. Act Quickly Most blog jobs that I see advertised get filled quickly. Don’t rush the process to the point of coming across poorly but do act quickly. Follow the Instructions Many networks ask for specific things to be included in job applications. Some ask for examples of writing others ask for links to your blogs others ask you to answer a question and all ask you to apply in a certain way gen- erally via email to a certain email address. Failing to show that you can fol- low steps outlined in a job advertisement isn’t a good first impression to a prospective employer. Sell Yourself Be confident about your ability and see each interaction that you have during the process as an opportunity to sell yourself. Give concise reasons why you would be good for the blog in question. Talk about your experience your knowledge of the topic your passion for communication the way you work with others and so on. This is like applying for any job—the blog network is looking to hire quality people so work hard to show that you fit the bill. Write Well Blogging is a written medium and your written application gives your prospective employer a hint as to how well you will perform. See your appli- cation as an audition in and of itself and put together a well-written well- structured application that demonstrates your grasp of grammar spelling and the written language and you’ll be a step closer to securing the position. Provide Examples of Your Work Most job ads ask for examples of your work so you should be prepared to give them because they can make or break your chances. There are a number ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 160 46672c07.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 160

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of things to consider in the choices you make about what to give as examples: Unless you’re asked for full written examples include links to your work on your own blog. If you do need to include full examples put them at the end of your application where they won’t disrupt the flow of your application letter. Pick examples of your work that relate to the blog you’re applying for not only topic but style as well. Pick a number of posts that show your versatility and the diversity of your writing styles. If you don’t have a suitable example already write one specifically for the application. Be Concise Many networks get a lot of applications for jobs. Don’t submit long applica- tions unless asked to but stand out with well-written useful and concise applications. Demonstrate a Knowledge of Blogging Showing that you understand the medium of blogging can help sell you to a network. Do this by showing your own blog with a link if you have one and ensuring that when your potential employer goes to look at it that it’s updated professional and working. Give examples of how you’ve built your blog over time. If you don’t already have a blog I’d highly recommend starting one. In my experience most blog employers are looking for someone with at least some experience in blogging and even a basic personal blog that you can show as an example of how you can maintain a blog over the long term can help your application. Demonstrate a Knowledge of the Topic This is vital. People don’t generally employ or contract people to write a blog for them on a topic that they have no knowledge of or passion for. Show that you have a good grasp of the topic by talking about your experience in it and Blog Networks 161 46672c07.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 161

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how you’d tackle the blog. The examples of your writing can be a great place to do this. Don’t Apply for Every Job Some bloggers apply for every blog job advertised regardless of the topic even though they have little or no understanding of the subject in many cases. I know it can be frustrating to see jobs advertised for which you’re not suitable but it doesn’t do your reputation much good if you apply for them anyway . Be selective and apply for jobs that you are qualified for and in which you are genuinely interested. Demonstrate That You Can Do More than Write Well Over the past few months I’ve noticed a change in how blog networks are advertising for bloggers. While previously they seemed to be just looking for writers these days they are also looking for people who will go beyond the basics of adding content and for people who will demonstrate an ability to build a blog in other ways. So if you feel you have expertise in another area than just writing demonstrate this also. It might be blog promotion and mar- keting it could be building community on a blog it might be SEO or it could be blog design. Stand Out from the Crowd There are more bloggers looking for jobs than networks looking for bloggers at present. When applying for a job you should assume that your application will be just one of many and you should consider how you’ll stand out. This doesn’t mean you need do something crazy like getting a gorilla-gram to deliver your application but grab attention by showing your creativity entrepreneurial spirit and initiative and you might just get an edge over your competition. EXERCISE What have you got to offer a potential network What could you do today to increase your salability Think about your blogging package and what you can do to round it out and polish it. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 162 46672c07.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 162

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A Few Words on Starting Your Own Blog Network With the sale of Weblogs Inc. to AOL in 2005 there was a rush by many to start blog networks. Hundreds were started in the following year—however many were short-lived as a result of their owners underestimating the hard work needed for a blog network to be successful. Having said this there are a some who have stuck with it and who have built profitable businesses. It should be said that in most cases these net- works were built on top of the success of at least one already successful blog—or at least on the profile of one already successful blogger. As a result my advice to aspiring blog network owners would be to con- centrate at first on building up one great blog and then leveraging the profile and traffic that brings to add another in a related field. Though it is possible to build a blog network with a very wide array of top- ics being covered I think it would make more sense to narrow down your focus upon one vertical and develop numerous blogs that relate to one another see the Soccerlens network in Figure 7-3. This way you can more easily cross-promote and leverage past successes to launch new blogs. Figure 7-3: features network links in the sidebar. Blog Networks 163 46672c07.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 163

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One recent example of this is the expansion of Wendy Piersall’s eMoms at Home blog into a mini-network of blogs she calls it a magazine on different topics related to being a parent working at home. Summary Sometimes it is easier to do something in a group rather than go it alone. The support and camaraderie that blog networks provide can be a compelling enough reason to join up without taking into account any other factors. As we have seen in this chapter networks come in a variety of shapes and sizes from the smallest to multimillion-dollar enterprises but they are all simply clusters of blogs that are in some way linked together. The choice of whether to join a network or in fact start a network is a per- sonal one. Hopefully this chapter has given you some food for thought both for and against so you can make up your own mind. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 164 46672c07.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 164

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G oing from zero to a decent-size audience is one of the hardest parts of blogging. Although some people seem to hit their stride effortlessly and instantly getting an audience is something most of us have to work on. Content is critical it is the foundation of a good blog but you still need more than that. Some people will tell you all you need is good content unfor- tunately reality is a little more complex and I wouldn’t suggest trying the “build it and they will come” formula. As I like to say content might be king but without posh clothes and an army to back him up what is a king but an arrogant bloke in a funny shiny hat Success in blogging means having great content backed by solid promotion—at least until your audience is big enough that your readers’ word of mouth does the promotion for you. A blog is not going to make you much money if nobody reads it. After writ- ing content promotion is probably the second most important activity of a blogger. This chapter takes you through how you can attract readers and equally important how to keep them. Building Readership As I said in the introduction content is critical. After all that is what people will come to your blog looking for. There is daily run-of-the-mill content there is foundation or pillar content and then there is flagship content. 8 Blog Promotion and Marketing 46672c08.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:48 AM Page 165

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Building a Content Magnet Anyone who has visited my blog and downloaded my free e-book is familiar with the term flagship content. Essentially it goes above and beyond mere blog posts and works as a draw to your blog. It attracts people in as a resource a reference something remarkable that is worth talking about. When launching your blog in addition to flagship “attraction” content you need a good foundation of solid evergreen content. Darren calls this content “pil- lar” articles. A pillar article is usually a tutorial-style article that aims to teach your audience something useful. Generally they are longer than 500 words and have lots of practical tips or advice. This evergreen type of article has long-term appeal stays current it isn’t news- or time-dependent and offers real value and insight. The more pillars you have on your blog the better. Do not rush this part all the other traffic techniques depend on you having something useful to visit. If you think about it what use is driving tons of vis- itors to something that is incomplete or not valuable While promoting try to keep your blog fresh with useful posts. The impor- tant thing here is to demonstrate to first-time visitors that your blog is up - dated reasonably often so they feel that if they come back they will likely find something new and worthwhile. If they think they have exhausted your blog’s usefulness on the first visit they will not bookmark or subscribe to it. You don’t have to produce one post per day all the time but it is important that you do keep updating while your blog is brand-new. Once you get trac- tion you still need to keep the fresh content coming but your loyal audience will be more forgiving if you slow down to a few posts per week instead. The first few months are critical so the more content you can produce at this time the better. PROBLOGGER BLOG TIP: NOTICE POSTS YOU NOTICE Half the battle of getting a blog off the ground is to have not just “good” content but compelling content. So next time you stop to read an article ask yourself why . What was it about this particular article that caught your eye How had the author presented it Analyze the headline where you found it and most importantly how you can integrate these lessons into your own blogging. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 166 46672c08.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:48 AM Page 166

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Blog Relations Word of mouth is critical in promoting blogs. You need your blog to be mem- orable and spreadable. The first thing to sort out is your blog name. Use a proper domain name if you can because the easier your URL is to remember the more likely it will be recalled. Try to get a .com if you can because that is the most widely understood domain and focus on small easy-to-remember catchy domains rather than fuss about having the correct keywords. Consider some of the blogs you know and love—ProBlogger CopyBlogger BoingBoing Figure 8-1 and so on. These blogs have memorable names rather than being stuffed with search phrases like make-money-online- Figure 8-1: Comment and Link Generously As soon as you have five to ten pillar articles start commenting on other blogs. You should aim to comment on blogs focused on a niche topic similar to yours because the readers there will more likely be interested in your blog. Most blog commenting systems allow you to have your name linked to your blog when you leave a comment. This is how people find your blog. If you are a prolific commenter and always have something valuable to say Blog Promotion and Marketing 167 46672c08.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:48 AM Page 167

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people will be interested in reading more of your work and hence click through to visit your blog. Do not place links in the comments unless they are highly relevant to the discussion. If in doubt leave it out. This is not the time to be labeled as a spammer. Once you are better known people may give you the benefit of the doubt but as a newcomer people will be highly suspicious of your motives. Link generously and in context to other blogs in your posts. On some blogs if you link to them they will link back automatically using “Trackbacks.” What this does is leave a truncated summary of your blog post on their blog entry—it’s sort of like your software telling someone else’s blog that you wrote an article mentioning them. Trackbacks often appear like com- ments. Not all bloggers support Trackbacks due to the number of spammy Trackbacks being received. Though linking out might not always earn you an automatic link back it does often get the attention of the other bloggers. They will likely come and read your post eager to see what you wrote about them. They may then become loyal readers of yours or at least monitor you. If you are lucky some time down the road they may do a post linking to your blog bringing in more new readers. Links from other bloggers are your very best source of new subscribers. Encourage comments on your own blog as much as you can especially in the early days when each comment is precious. One of the most powerful ways to convince someone to become a loyal reader is to show that there are other loyal readers already following your work. If they see people comment- ing intelligently and warmly on your blog they infer that your content must be good because you have nice readers so they should stick around and see what all the fuss is about. To encourage comments simply pose a question in a blog post or ask friends to drop by and comment. But be sure to always respond to comments to keep the conversation going. EXERCISE Do the blogs you frequent link often or do they tend to hoard their audi- ence How often do you see familiar bloggers’ names in blog comments Make an effort to comment on a new blog every day and see if you notice any positive effects. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 168 46672c08.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:48 AM Page 168

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Network and Communicate Popular blogs often run projects and blog carnivals that can bring you some visibility. A blog carnival is a post in a blog that summarizes a collection of articles from many different blogs on a specific topic. The idea is to collect the best content on a topic in a given week. Often many other blogs link back to a carnival host and as such the people who have articles featured in the car- nival often enjoy a spike in new readers. Networking is critical so join forums email lists and newsgroups within your niche. Don’t comment just for the sake of it try to add value to conver- sations. When readers reach out to you with a comment email or link from their blog and follow up and interact with them. For starters it’s good man- ners and it’s also a good way to increase the chances that they’ll return. Interact with those visitors who do try out your blog and make it the best experience you can for them and you’ll find that they spread the word for you. If you can make friends with fellow bloggers through commenting and par- ticipating in forums you can ask for links. Do not be a pain carefully con- sider the other bloggers’ needs. Be smart genuine helpful and polite. Rather than petitioning bloggers in a selfish way put forward your link in a beneficial way that makes sense for them and their audience. Add a signature to your outgoing email. This is an oldie but a goodie. Many bloggers do this. Simply add the domain name to your outgoing email. Most email programs will allow you to do this automatically via a signature option. However be careful with automatic signatures if you don’t want your blog to be read by everyone that you email. Promote subscription options to encourage first-time visitors to come back put it in the sight of your readers by placing your RSS button in the most prominent position you can. There are a variety of different buttons that you can make available to readers to help them to subscribe to your blog via their news aggregators with one click that might also be worth investigating. Also provide the option to subscribe via email for those without RSS-reading accounts or software. EXERCISE If you are not a member of a blogging community now is the time to get involved. Blogging forums are a source of a great deal of support and tech- nical advice and are also excellent places to network. Blog Promotion and Marketing 169 46672c08.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:48 AM Page 169

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Requesting Links from Bloggers Emailing bloggers for links can work if you do it delicately and respectfully. Get it wrong and at best your email will be ignored. Bloggers get hundreds of these types of emails the more popular your blog the more of them you get. Sheer quantity and poor quality add up to such messages getting a poor reputation. Now I make it clear that I respond to very few and I rarely reply to them. Never ever have a link request email as your first conversation with a blog- ger. Get to know them first. Do not be surprised either if a blogger that you think you know well ignores your link requests. You have a much better chance of success if you follow this advice: Be human. Talk to bloggers as human beings the more automated the email feels the more likely it is to be deleted. Be truthful. Don’t lie and say you have loved a site for a long time that you only just discovered. If you do actually like it tell them why. Even better tell them how you would improve it without being insulting. I laugh every time people say they have been reading one of my brand-new blogs for years. Deceit no matter how well inten- tioned is a bad way to start a conversation. Be specific. The more vague you are the more likely I am to not believe you. Do your research and stay away from generalities. Be polite. Demands do not wash. The other blogger does not owe you anything. All the cost is theirs and the majority of the gain is yours. You are sending a humble request make it read that way. Be interesting. You have to sell your proposition. People are not going to link to you just because you ask. There is a high probability your email will not be read past the first few lines so make them count. Be deserving. Harsh but true. Would you write about something nobody will ever find interesting or useful just because someone begged you to What about your article will the blogger and their audience find interesting useful valuable or entertaining The key point is to be interesting. What about this proposition ought the other blogger find interesting “Because I asked” doesn’t work. Picture what you are giving the other blogger to work with. You need to have an interesting story to write about and be able to spell out how that is the case. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 170 46672c08.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:48 AM Page 170

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Would you approach a potential date you just met by saying “Let’s go back for coffee” You wouldn’t pitch a story to a newspaper or magazine editor with “Please write about me I already wrote about you” would you Keep it real be specific keep it brief without being rude and state the hook idea angle or benefit. I guarantee you will get a much better reaction. Emailing link requests is not the only way to get links fortunately a pop- ular technique is to write a link bait post. Gaining Attention through “Link Baiting” The term “link baiting” also seen as one word “linkbait” is used by web- masters to describe a variety of practices all of which seek to generate incom- ing links to a website or blog from other sites. It is actually a difficult term to be definitive about because it covers a lot of different practices ranging from running awards or competitions writing snarky attack posts on high-profile bloggers in the hope of them biting back and linking to you through to providing other bloggers or site owners with useful tools. In reality the term “link baiting” is a new term for something old. On the Web links are currency therefore webmasters did all they could to get links from the earliest days of the Web. Is Link Baiting Ethical Link baiting is often written about in negative terms. I regularly see people writing off a post that others have written or a comment others have left as “just another link bait.” I personally don’t like the term “link baiting” on some levels because of these negative connotations. “Baiting” gives a sense of trying to trick or trap an unsuspecting person into doing something that they don’t really want to EXERCISE Put together a link-request email send it to a few bloggers and see what reaction you get. You never know what might happen unless you try Blog Promotion and Marketing 171 46672c08.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:48 AM Page 171

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do. Although this is accurate with some forms of link baiting it is not true with others. There is a lot of debate around both the term “link baiting” and some of the practices that people talk about it incorporating. Some argue strongly that it is just a by-product of quality content others argue that many link-baiting strategies border on spam and others seem to talk about link bait as being the answer to all Web promotional problems increasingly SEO companies are offering link-baiting services. My opinion on whether link bait is good or bad is that it depends upon the type of link baiting that you’re talking about. I think some techniques that people use are good standard blogging techniques whereas other things that people do in the pursuit of links are destructive to the blogging community and I’d argue against them. Like almost anything online people use link-baiting strategies for good and useful purposes but also for dubious and unethical ones. I guess in part we each need to think about our priorities values and even intentions as we go about our blogging and explore this topic. Successful Link-Bait Ideas It is impossible to come up with a definitive list of what these practices are because they are limited only by your imagination In general each tactic uses a “hook” or some type of novelty . Use the following list of ideas for inspiration: Tools—Create a useful fun newsworthy or cool tool. Quizzes—Quizzes surveys and personality tests such as “Which Star Wars character are you” have long been popular with web users. Competitions—Organize a contest or drawing with a valuable prize. Scoops—Be first with the news or to try something new. Awards—Create an award for your niche. Lists—List the 10 best blogs in your niche or the top products and so on. Look to glossy magazines for inspiration they are full of lists See Figure 8-2 to see how lists continue to work despite some backlash. Statistics—Do a survey and release the results. One of my clients used to do a global survey relatively inexpensively that got them massive attention. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 172 46672c08.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:48 AM Page 172

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Freebies—Give away something of value. Interviews—Interview a celebrity or someone popular in your niche. Resources—Create the ultimate resource or reference for a topic. Figure 8-2: Lists continue to do well. Why did I not list items that commonly appear in link-bait advice such as “controversy” and “attack” I have found that though you might garner some short-term attention the long-term damage you would do to your reputation is simply not worth it. The best link bait gathers links over time and grows with age. Next time you bookmark something consider why you did so and then use that knowl- edge to improve your next link bait. Let’s investigate one technique in depth: competitions. EXERCISE Scan through Digg Reddit and other social bookmarking sites and note the headlines and introductions. Count how many “Top X” lists you can find. See if you can find ideas that would work in your niche. Which head- lines beg to be clicked and which leave you cold Blog Promotion and Marketing 173 46672c08.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:48 AM Page 173

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Running Competitions An increasing number of bloggers have been using competitions to create a buzz on their blogs. Figure 8.3 shows a recent ProBlogger competition. Figure 8-3: A recent ProBlogger competition. Two benefits of running competitions on your blog are: New readers—Competitions are potentially good for drawing new readers to your blog if you have a way to get the message out. Reader stickiness—Knowing there is a competition result to come prevents people from leaving otherwise they will not see if they won. The risks with competitions are: Distraction from usual content—Your regular visitors do not come to see competition content so they might become disenfranchised. Few winners many losers—You cannot supply a prize for every par- ticipant so many people will be disappointed. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 174 46672c08.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:48 AM Page 174

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My own experience with competitions is that if you design your competi- tion well you can get the benefits without the downsides hurting too much. Here are some tips: Build an audience. Although competitions can generate traffic you need to have a critical mass of readers before launching in order to build participation. Identify goals. Before you design your competition you need to work out why you’re having it. What is your aim How will you measure the competition’s success Once you have your goals you can then make better decisions about the competition format prizes promo- tion and so on. Offer prizes. A number of thoughts come to mind when choosing prizes for a competition. Prizes should be: Relevant—Match the prizes that you offer to your blog. Worthwhile—The better your prizes the more buzz you will potentially create. Affordable—Don’t spend so much that you won’t recoup the value. Use sponsors. One way to share the load with a competition is to have a sponsor for it. If you have a decent-size readership you might be able to find a sponsor simply by asking. Use affiliate links. To help cover the cost of prizes choose prizes that you can promote using affiliate programs. Make requirements achievable for participants. Don’t make partici- pants jump through too many hoops. Make requirements achievable for you. Competitions can be hard work and people expect fair play. Don’t make things more difficult than necessary. Make just entering valuable. An added incentive could be a free link to all participants or just being something they get fun out of in addition to a chance at winning. Set a reasonable competition length. You don’t want it to drag on for so long that your readers become sick of it but on the other hand you want it to be long enough for readers to enter for the word to spread about it and for sponsors to get their money’s worth. Blog Promotion and Marketing 175 46672c08.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:48 AM Page 175

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Promote your competition. Unless you promote it no one will know your competition is happening. Start your promotional efforts with your own readers via your blog and also let your blogging friends know in advance. The best competitions have a mechanism for those participating to spread the word in some way for example if they refer a friend they get additional entries in a draw. Introduction to Social Media The most recent buzz phrase in the world of blog promotion is “social media.” At its most general social media encompasses every sort of social or commu- nity site but in terms of promotion the main draws are social bookmarking sites such as StumbleUpon and Each of these sites has the potential to send you thousands of visitors and they all work by members submitting content and allowing others to judge it or vote for it in some way. Getting popular on these services has turned into an obsession for many bloggers which can be dangerous when it distracts you from looking after your regular readers. T o get traffic from a social bookmarking site your article must be submitted and get a lot of votes. How this works is different for each service. Traffic from StumbleUpon comes via a special toolbar that you can download from its site. On the others you have to log in find the appropriate article and then hit the bookmark or vote button. Because there are so many services it is best to focus on just a few . I mainly focus on StumbleUpon because with just a few votes you can get a nice flow of traffic. I have friends who focus on Digg because although it is far harder to get visible when your content gets to the front page you get a huge traffic spike. Figure 8-4 shows an example of a traffic graph from one of my blogs. Figure 8-4: An example graph showing a traffic spike. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 176 46672c08.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:48 AM Page 176

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Writing for Social-Media Success In general social media users are surfing. They are not keen on investing much time to discover if something is worthy of attention so you have to pull out all the stops featured in Chapter 4 “Blog Writing.” Write attention-grabbing headlines. Paragraphs should be short and punchy. Use bullets images and subheads to aid skimming. Pull out interesting quotes and key points. Make it something people will want to talk about share or come back to. Social Media as Popularity Contest What works on social media sites in general is very similar to what bloggers will link to so the tried and tested link-bait tactics work. Just take care to monitor the target service to see what tends to get popular and what attracts few votes. Also make lots of friends you will need their votes to get your con- tent seen. Most of these bookmarking sites allow you to send a link to your friends for their voting consideration. In addition you can put buttons on the article itself and of course email your friends to get them to vote for it. Becoming successful with social media is a lot like high school really. Being “nice” is great but being popular and having lots of friends is far more important. To even get a story seen you need votes. Hardly anyone looks in the dark and hidden corners of social media sites where new and unnoticed stories live. The popular pages get all the attention followed by the “about to become popular with a little push” pages. You need a bunch of friends to give you a kick start. You can see how this works on Digg and StumbleUpon in Figures 8-5 and 8-6 respectively. The more the better but do not spam people or you will suffer the consequences. It’s even better if some of your friends are already popular and successful if you hang out with the cool crowd your stuff will get far more attention. This is because Digg and such rank a user based on usage history. If they have a pattern of supporting successful articles their votes gain more weight. Blog Promotion and Marketing 177 46672c08.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:48 AM Page 177

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Figure 8-5: Digg shouts Figure 8-6: StumbleUpon’s share feature. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 178 46672c08.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:48 AM Page 178

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So through your friends and adoring fans you get your stuff noticed. Most of the work then is done. In fact that can be all that is required. Sometimes though people see your content and “bury” it yes as well as positive votes you can also get voted down. The thing is we really shouldn’t be at all surprised when that happens if the article really doesn’t have any substance. Unfortunately just like high school there is a ruling-class clique with their own likes dislikes and preju- dices. Being popular is not enough if you break the unwritten rules. When you are looking to use social media hang out and observe. Look at what gets popular what hangs around long-term and what gets to the front page then disappears just as fast. Most people will tell you what works on Digg traditionally had to have some relationship with more geeky topics. Though this is still somewhat true the demographics are changing to be more inclusive. You will still see a strong showing for articles featuring Apple Linux Xbox and so on. Things that probably won’t do well are anything that seems to be duplicate overly com- mercial or overly self-promotional. Basically unlike in high school it is the young male geeks who rule the roost. The same old advice applies here as much as anywhere else: consider the audience. What will they enjoy and get value from How best to deliver it What do you need to do to appeal to them Search Engine Optimization for Blogs The Web is full of great content that will never be seen outside of the author’s screen. This is because the writer has failed to understand that just a few sim- ple tweaks in the blogging process can increase search-engine visibility. EXERCISE The best way to understand social networking is to get involved Join the main social bookmarking sites and make some friends. Follow Chris and Darren on Twitter: Blog Promotion and Marketing 179 46672c08.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:48 AM Page 179

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Many people try to paint search engine optimization as a nasty spammer tactic: “gaming” search-engine results for their own evil ends. This is simply not always the case. Like any powerful tool it can be used for good or evil. Search engines are all about providing users the most relevant results. Good SEO helps that bad fills the engine with spam. People often ask me how to get ranked number one for a particular search result. Unfortunately the only people with definitive answers work for the search engines themselves and they are not talking. Darren and I read a lot of the best search people’s advice on the topic but virtually every article is a “best guess” of some kind. The best advice for people wanting to optimize their blogs for search engines is to start with quality content on a specific topic and then tweak it using the current best practice. Though SEO can seem complicated and mysterious and can become some- thing of an obsession for blog owners you should know that more often than not blogs are not quite well set up for SEO right off the bat. Search engine optimization techniques fall into two broad categories: off- site and on-site techniques. Off-Site SEO Off-site techniques are as the name suggests factors from outside the site that impact the blog’s ranking in search engines. Many of these factors are outside the blogger’s control however they are useful to know about. The most obvi- ous and probably most powerful off-site factor is inbound links. It is generally agreed that the links that point to a web site are one of the most influential ways of climbing search-engine results. T o put it most simply every link to your site is seen by the search engines as being a vote of confi- dence in your site. The best inbound links: Are from highly ranked sites. Are relevant to your topic. Use relevant and searched-for keywords. Of course you do not always have control over who links to you but when you do have an influence in how you are linked these are the types of links that you should be aiming for. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 180 46672c08.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:48 AM Page 180

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How to Generate Quality Inbound Links So how do you get such sought-after links Now you know why we spent so much book space on discussing flagship content and link bait Here are some more thoughts on how to attract quality links: Offer valuable content. The best way to get links to your blog is to write quality content that people will want to read. You can solicit links with others sign up for different link-building programs or even buy text links on other sites but the cheapest and probably safest approach is to build inbound links in a natural organic way as others link to your quality content. Notify relevant bloggers of your content. Though I don’t advocate spamming other bloggers and asking for links I do recommend that if you write a quality post on a topic that you know will interest another blogger it might be worth shooting them a short and polite email letting them know of your post see the previous section on blogger relations. Use directories. An old way to generate inbound links was to submit your links to directories. I know of webmasters who still swear by the results of such a strategy but I think the benefits are usually small at best. Inter-link your blogs. It is worth noting that you should be careful with this approach—if all your sites are hosted on one server many think that search engines will work out what you’re doing and the impact will be lessened. Buy links. Many professional webmasters have a budget to purchase links from other highly ranked and relevant sites. This is an expen- sive and high-risk strategy. Swap links. An older technique is to exchange links in a “you link to me and I will link to you” way. Be careful with this the technique has a poor reputation due to spammers mass-mailing link-begging messages and other bad practices. On-Site SEO Techniques On-site techniques are things that you do on your own blog that help build a higher ranking. As with all SEO techniques there are many tactics and a lot of speculation around each of them. Blog Promotion and Marketing 181 46672c08.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:48 AM Page 181

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Identify a few keywords for your article that you would like to be found in the search engines. What will visitors type into Google if they want informa- tion on the topic you’re writing about The answer to this question will give you a hint as to what words you’ll want to see repeated throughout your arti- cle a number of times. These keywords will need to be sprinkled throughout your article. You can feature keywords in the following ways with varying levels of influence on search results: In the URL Titles Links in and out Bold text Heading tags H1 H2 and so on Image alt tags Throughout the text of your post especially early on in the first few sentences Of course if you go over the top with keywords it will ruin your article. Don’t sacrifice your readers’ experience of your site just for the sake of SEO. Yes keywords can be important in improving search-engine rankings but more important is to ensure your content and design are user-friendly and helpful to readers. A site that is stuffed with keywords will appear spammy so don’t fall for the temptation. Use internal linking to increase the visibility of other articles in your blog and use good keywords in the anchor text. Also make sure every page links back to your main page and any other important pages on your site. If you’re writing on a topic you’ve previously written about consider linking to what you’ve written before or use a “relevant posts” feature at the base of your arti- cle. You’ll see that both Darren and I link key categories and articles from our sidebars and menus. One of the impacts of having them highlighted in this way is that because they are being linked from every page they have become some of the most highly ranked articles. In general you want each article to be focused on one topic. The more tightly focused the theme of a page the better where search engines are concerned. Sometimes you might find yourself writing long posts that end up covering a number of different topics. They might relate loosely but if search-engine ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 182 46672c08.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:48 AM Page 182

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ranking is what you’re after it could be better to break up your post into smaller more focused pieces. Avoid duplicate content as much as possible. Google warns publishers in its guidelines about having the same content on more than one page. This goes for both multiple pages that you own and also pages outside your site. This is because a tactic of spammers is often to reproduce content on many pages or to steal content from other sites. There is some debate over what duplicate content does and doesn’t include but the best advice is to be very careful about how many places your content appears. Use the Google Webmaster Tools Figure 8-7 to check if there are any problems that are causing your site not to be indexed properly. You can also see the phrases for which you are currently ranked. The website is Figure 8-7: Google’s Webmaster Tools. EXERCISE Put some searches into Google for phrases that apply to your niche. Who comes out on top Take a look at the pages listed in the results. Can you work out why they rank higher than the rest Blog Promotion and Marketing 183 46672c08.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:48 AM Page 183

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Increase Page Views on Your Blog As well as getting new visitors it is important to keep visitors interested. Keeping your readers engaged and coming back is just as important as finding new ones. Statistics have revealed that the average blog reader views around one and a half pages every time they visit a blog. The more pages a typical visitor reads the better job you are doing. What can we do to get readers to view more pages Let’s explore a few possibilities: Highlight related posts. One of the more common practices of blog- gers to encourage readers to read multiple pages on their blogs is to highlight related posts at the end of your article. Interlink within posts. A similar but perhaps more effective tech- nique is to highlight relevant posts within the content of your posts. If you’re writing a post that mentions something similar to what you’ve written before simply link to your previous post from within your article. For example I’ve written about this technique previ- ously in a post on increasing the longevity of key posts. Highlight key posts and categories in your sidebar. Highlighting your category pages is another useful technique to encourage your readers to find more posts on the same topic. To explicitly name what your category is can also be useful. That is rather than just having the category name at the end of the post try something like “read more posts like this in our XYZ category.” Create compilation pages. Darren has a page at ProBlogger that lists his top 20 posts and we have a “best of” list at also. Many first-time readers use these pages to discover content to read. Every post a visitor reads increases the chances that they will become loyal readers. Write a series. You need to be careful with writing series of posts over periods of time but they are a great way to keep readers coming back and once they are complete to have them surf through multiple pages on your blog. Don’t create series just for the sake of increasing page views of course—this can really frustrate readers—but use them on longer posts or when you genuinely want to cover a larger topic over time. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 184 46672c08.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:48 AM Page 184

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Use excerpts. There is always debate over this topic. Should you show the full article on your homepage and feed or snippets If you only have partial content visible the reader has to click through to see the full thing. Though this is certainly a benefit of partial feeds doing so will cause some readers to unsubscribe to your blog com- pletely. This is a cost/benefit scenario that individual bloggers need to weigh. Be interactive. An effective way to get readers coming back to your blog many times over a day is to have a blog that people want to interact with. Liz Strauss has “open mike” events in her comment area at and this has made the blog less of a pub- lication and more of a party Build Community and Get More Comments Jakob Nielsen’s usability study found that 90 percent of online-community users are lurkers read or observe without contributing with only 9 percent of users contributing “a little” and 1 percent actively contributing. So 1 percent of your blog’s users are actively engaging with your blog and the rest are at best occasional contributors. The study isn’t just on blogging so the actual numbers could be more or less than these and would no doubt vary from site to site anyway but the prin- ciple holds true. The vast majority of readers leave a blog without leaving a comment or contributing to it in any way. To some extent this is just the way it is and we probably need to just get used to it—however when it comes to comments there are some ways to encourage more interactivity on your blog: Invite comments. Regular readers of my blog will see I often invite people to comment with a phrase such as “What do you think Please share your thoughts in the comments.” When I specifically invite comments people leave them in higher numbers than when I don’t. Keep in mind that new readers that are unfamiliar with blog- ging don’t always know about comments or how to use them and sometimes people almost need to be given permission. Ask questions. Including specific questions in posts definitely helps get higher numbers of comments. I find that when I include ques- tions in my headings it is a particularly effective way of getting a Blog Promotion and Marketing 185 46672c08.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:48 AM Page 185

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response from readers because you set a question in their mind from the first moments of your post. Be incomplete. If you say everything there is to say on a topic you’re less likely to get others adding their opinions because you’ll have covered what they might have added. Though you don’t want to pur- posely leave too many things unsaid there is an art to writing open- ended posts that leave room for your readers to be experts also. Be interactive. If you’re not willing to use your own comments sec- tion why would your readers If someone leaves a comment then reply. This gets harder as your blog grows but it’s particularly impor- tant in the early days of your blog because it shows your readers that their comments are valued it creates a culture of interactivity and it gives the impression to other readers that your comments section is an active place that you as the blogger value. As the activity in your comments section grows you may find you need to be slightly less active in it because readers will start to take over on answering ques- tions and creating community—however don’t completely ignore your comment threads. Be humble. I find that readers respond very well to posts that show your own weaknesses failings and the gaps in your own knowledge rather than those posts where you come across as knowing every- thing there is to know on a topic. People are attracted to humility and are more likely to respond to it than to a post written in a tone of someone who might harshly respond to their comments. Be gracious. Related to humility is grace. There are times where you as the blogger will get something wrong in your posts. It might be spelling or grammar it could be the crux of your argument or some other aspect of your blogging. When someone leaves a comment that shows your failing it’s very easy to respond harshly in a defensive manner. We’ve all seen the flaming that can ensue. Though it’s not easy a graceful approach to comments where you admit where you are wrong can bring out the lurkers and make them feel a little safer in leaving comments. Reward comments. There are many ways of acknowledging and “rewarding” good comments that range from “reader appreciation” posts through to highlighting particularly good comments in other posts that you write. Drawing attention to your readers who use ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 186 46672c08.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:48 AM Page 186

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comments well affirms them and also draws the attention of other readers to make good use of your comments section. Make it easy to comment. I leave a lot of comments on a lot of blogs each week but there is one situation where I rarely leave a comment even if the post deserves it—blogs that require me to log in before making a comment. Maybe I’m lazy actually—there’s no maybe about it or maybe there’s something inside me that worries about giving out my personal details but when I see a comments section that requires registration I almost always 95 percent or more of the time leave the blog without leaving the comment that I want to make. Though I totally understand the temptation to require registra- tion for comments combating spam in most cases something inside me resists participating in such comments sections. Registration is a hurdle you put in front of your readers that some will be willing to leap but that others will balk at the same is often said about other comments-section requirements that go beyond the basics. Keep your comments section as simple and as easy to use as possible. Summary Gaining and keeping readers comes down to having brilliant content and let- ting people know about it. This is a big job and should not be underestimated. Thankfully although it is especially tough at the start it gets easier as you build momentum. PROBLOGGER BLOG TIP: IT’S ALL IN THE ENGAGEMENT Page views are a consequence of reader engagement. How interested you keep your visitors over a period of time will translate into repeat visits and increased page views. What factors keep you returning to a particular blog When have you found yourself reading page after page and when have you taken one look and never returned Blog Promotion and Marketing 187 46672c08.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:48 AM Page 187

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I f you have read this far it is safe to assume you would like to be successful in your blogging. As well as reading and researching as much as you can about the techniques and tactics involved in creating a popular and profitable blog a great way to do well in any endeavor is to learn from the best examples. You have an advantage today that the pioneers did not. The bloggers who have come before you have made many of the mistakes and learned what works saving you the trouble This chapter takes a look at some example blogs and bloggers to see how they have achieved success in blogging in their own ways. About Success in Blogging What do we mean by “success” For each blogger it will be something differ- ent. It could be fame income sales size of audience and so on. Even though Darren and I consider ourselves professional bloggers we both arrived at it through our own routes and tactics. We earn money in different ways and have different goals. When you look at the other bloggers in this chapter you can see how diverse professional blogging really is. Before embarking on a blogging project it is worth discovering what suc- cess would mean to you. 9 Secrets of Successful Blogs 46672c09.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:49 AM Page 189

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Analysis of the Technorati Top 100 Blogs T echnorati is a blog indexing and search service. It currently tracks more than 70 million blogs with 120000 blogs being launched every day. It is best known though for producing its “Top 100” list of the most popular blogs. Let’s take a look to see if there are any trends in common between them. It is worth noting that although people consider Technorati’s Top 100 the “A-list” its scheme is just one way of ranking blogs. In the majority of cases it is broadly accurate—no matter how you rank them most of these blogs would appear in any top-blogs list—but there has been considerable debate and controversy even about whether there should be such a list in the first place Blog Age Darren did some research on the T op 100 list a while back and discovered that the average age of those 100 blogs was 33.8 months. In the most-recent “state of the blogosphere” report from Technorati a good deal of the top blogs were as old or older than the service tracking them Only a tiny percentage would be considered “new” blogs. The fact that there were Top 100 blogs that were new though gives hope to anyone starting out today it is not only the veter- ans from blogging’s early days that make it big The first lesson to take away is that blogging is a long-term thing but it is possible to have success much faster with luck and a lot of hard work. Posting Frequency In most analyses of top blogs a noted trend is that the most successful blog- gers post more than the rest. Usually they post many short posts a day. There seems a definite correlation between success and posting frequency. EXERCISE Do you have a clear idea about what you want to achieve with your blog- ging Take a moment to analyze your motivations knowing what you hope to get out of blogging will help you focus your efforts on the things that will make it happen. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 190 46672c09.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:49 AM Page 190

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It does make sense the more posts you publish the more chance for links and for readers to notice you. Search engines also like to see lots of fresh con- tent feeding as they do on text. This can cause dismay for bloggers who struggle to keep pace. What you have to keep in mind is that most of the top blogs are written by multiple authors. Team blogs can easily keep up a high post rate and often need to if they are in rapidly changing news niches such as Lately though there has been a backlash against too high a posting fre- quency with bloggers and readers both expressing a preference for fewer better-written and well-thought-out articles. In many surveys on the question of why readers unsubscribe “posting too often” usually ranks high. Social Media Factor Glen from worked out that the Top 100 blogs achieved front- page stories on 8000 times between them. Most surprising was that the top five blogs did so 3600 times between them—45 percent of the total for the whole list. Clearly the top blogs do well in social media. It’s impossible without fur- ther analysis to know if this is correlation or causation but it is an interesting statistic nevertheless. Personally I think it works both ways—Digg and other social media sites’ popularity is both a contributor and a consequence of blog success and is a tactic I encourage in all the blogs for which I write. Revenue The vast majority of Top 100 blogs show advertising with less than a quarter using Google AdSense. EXERCISE How often do your favorite blogs update Are any of them updating a little too often Do you find yourself skipping or missing posts Do you look forward to the next post from a certain blog Secrets of Successful Blogs 191 46672c09.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:49 AM Page 191

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It is worth noting that when blogs get to this sort of scale they have the traffic and audience to demand excellent deals even from Google. Many of the top blogs now hire ad salespeople use the services of specialist ad companies such as Federated Media or are part of blog networks. At a cer- tain size a blog becomes a business by any definition so they tend to work that way with chief executives editors and writers. Blog Language You might expect English to dominate blogging overall but in terms of volume Japanese takes the top spot with 37 percent and English is second with 36 per- cent. When it comes to the T op 100 though 80 percent are written in English. Learning from Niche Blogs We have already recommended in this book that you at least start out blogging in a niche. The bloggers in this section have made their blogs so highly focused and so identified with their topic that they are the leaders and standard-bearers for their chosen topic.—A photography blog that rather than focus on the whole topic of photography went super-niche and wrote about using small inexpensive flashes. Now David Hobby has been able to take a leave of absence from his job as a photo journalist and is earning money through running workshops and developing his own range of training products.—Lots of bloggers write about blogging Brian Clark decided to start a blog about the art and techniques of writing. Initially writing on his own and then bringing on guest writers Chris included CopyBlogger is now the most-popular blog on the PROBLOGGER BLOG TIP: NON-ENGLISH GROWTH Expect to see a lot of growth of non-English blogs in coming years. Blog - ging is becoming increasingly popular around the world. If you can afford it or can find a linguist partner it would be well worth having your articles translated. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 192 46672c09.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:49 AM Page 192

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subject and has been used as a platform to launch Brian’s Teaching Sells online course.—Productivity is a massive subject online and Lifehacker is probably the best known. Rather than just write about productivity in general Lifehacker approaches the subject with a techie slant which the audience really enjoys.—Many bloggers have written about fash- ion. Kathryn Finney took the niche and decided to write a blog for real women on real incomes in a warm and friendly style. It has really worked the blog is successful has spawned a spin-off book and has put Kathryn in the spotlight with media and TV appear- ances on NBC CNN and Fox. Lessons from Niche Bloggers 1. Identify an underserved niche. It is very difficult to get a photogra- phy blog noticed in today’s blogosphere. David Hobby chose a micro- niche a niche of a niche and served it comprehensively with his Strobist blog. Make it easy on yourself and choose a niche where you can make a difference. 2. Define your blog’s mission and articulate it in a benefits-led way. If a reader sees your blog’s mission and thinks “so what” you have failed. Be sure your blog’s mission helps the reader. 3. Own your mission and stay focused. It would be so easy for any of these blogs to see their growing audience as permission to cover any- thing they like. Once in a while they can get away with it kind of like a pop star deciding to release a swing album. Too much though and the valuable and unique quality that attracted readers could go away . PROBLOGGER BLOG TIP: SPOT AND ANALYZE SUCCESS Watching out for the lessons that are all around you is a great habit to get into. You can learn from the success of others in some surprising ways. It is not just about looking at fellow bloggers—read biographies or analyze your favorite celebrity or television show. Knowing how people got where they are helps you develop a success mindset. Secrets of Successful Blogs 193 46672c09.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:49 AM Page 193

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Learning from Top Blogs Although it can be interesting looking at the Top 100 blogs as a whole or cat- egories of blogs there are actually few similarities between them once you get past the factors detailed previously. To learn more we need to look at some blogs individually. ProBlogger It’s only appropriate to start with ProBlogger seeing as pro blogging is what this book is all about We have already covered the history of Darren’s blog in this book so no need to repeat it here. Suffice to say that ProBlogger is the blog people think of when they think about making money from blogging. How did Darren make his blog the first choice among bloggers Lessons from ProBlogger 1. Be first—There was a time when it was easy to have first-mover advantage. Of course that was when hardly anyone had the foresight to start anything other than a personal diary blog. There are thou- sands of blogs now on every subject how can you be first Be different. Find a gap and fill it. Demonstrate the benefit of your unique take. 2. Staying power—It is tempting to hear of six-figure incomes and become despondent at your own meager Google check. Darren didn’t get there overnight either. Some of my biggest mistakes in blogging have been quitting chopping and changing. Don’t make my mis- takes learn from Darren. Stick with it 3. Show off your best stuff—Put your popular stuff right up front where people can see it. When you visit this blog you are not lost for EXERCISE Out of all the blogs you know of which would you categorize as niche and which would have more general appeal Do these blogs change approach depending on their category ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 194 46672c09.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:49 AM Page 194

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things to read. After people read your post do your readers know where they can go next 4. Community counts—Great content is important but when it is com- bined with a vibrant community that is when your blog will really take off. 5. Test and research—Blogging is a moving target. Working out what works and which tactics do not takes research experimentation test- ing and discussion. Over the years Darren experimented with new developments from to Make sure you keep up with the times. 6. Privacy—Don’t reveal too much personal information. Decide what you are going to keep private and make it stay that way. 7. Stay positive—I don’t think I have ever seen Darren go off on a rant. This builds up a tremendous amount of goodwill. You will never hear a bad word said about him. Blogging success is as much about net- working as it is good writing. What are people thinking and saying about you TechCrunch TechCrunch Figure 9-1 is the most popular tech news site. Mike Arrington has taken the blog from nowhere to being the site that can make or break tech startups. He employs a staff of writers spread around the globe so there is almost 24-hour coverage. Figure 9-1: Secrets of Successful Blogs 195 46672c09.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:49 AM Page 195

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According to Wikipedia TechCrunch was launched in 2005 and between the affiliated sites in the TechCrunch network it makes 200000 a month in revenue. Ads are normally placed for 10000 per month. Advertisers benefit from both the massive amount of traffic the blog generates and awareness from the specific target audience. Scoops made TechCrunch the draw that it is now. Having a direct line to insider gossip means they break the news and everyone else has to follow. This is vital for a news site in terms of building authority and credibility. Opinions are great but people universally sit up and take notice of big news that affects their industry. You could say TechCrunch can base its success on getting to the news first but it also benefits from a self-fulfilling cycle everyone reads TechCrunch so people come to them with stories which get lots of coverage which means everyone reads TechCrunch In addition to the blogs TechCrunch also launched TechCrunch20 a con- ference that showcases startups and their products and services—yet another way they build awareness credibility and revenue. Lessons from TechCrunch 1. Break news—Get news early and post it fast. 2. Network—Get to know all the movers and shakers in your niche. 3. Get big—Scale matters in news the more people with their ears to the ground the more news you can dish out. 4. Know your worth—As you grow do not be shy to ask for more money from advertisers. Scobleizer Robert Scoble is one of the most well-known veteran bloggers and probably the best example I can give of an employee blogger. Although he has his own popular Scobleizer blog Figure 9-2 his earnings mainly come from the peo- ple who employ him as a blogging personality. Most people first heard of Robert when he worked for Microsoft as an evan- gelist. His most recent gig was working as a video podcaster for ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 196 46672c09.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:49 AM Page 196

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Figure 9-2: His claim to fame is his connections he seems to know all the big names personally. This powerful address book has been at the core of his blogging career especially with his videos in which he goes out and interviews inter- esting people from the industry. While obviously he makes most use of his high-profile connections he is a massive networker online too having around 7000 followers on Twitter at the time of writing and almost as many Facebook friends. Lessons from Robert Scoble 1. Network—Be a hub and a connector. Robert seems to spend as much time having lunches with movers and shakers as he does blogging and speaking. Blogging is as much about relationships as it is writing. To succeed you need great content of course but it also helps to be well connected. 2. Links should be unique and interesting—Link to great stuff that others haven’t noticed. One of the great things about Robert’s link blog is that it doesn’t just replicate the popular Digg and stories—he has his own sources. If you are linking out to the same old stuff people won’t need your feed cluttering up their reader. Find fresh and exciting new stuff though and your readers will reward you. Secrets of Successful Blogs 197 46672c09.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:49 AM Page 197

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3. Nobody is perfect—Many bloggers try to project an image of perfec- tion. Admit when you are wrong there is no harm in it. In fact it could do you a world of good. I believe part of Robert’s success in helping Microsoft repair its relationship with the public was Robert’s willingness to admit when mistakes had been made personally or by the company. This builds trust. 4. Little and often—Some days Scoble posts a lot. Darren has com- mented a couple of times about the dangers of misjudging posting frequency. Some readers are put off by too much content too fast. I believe why it works for Robert is he posts little and often. Small bite-sized 15-second posts work well. Four-Hour Work Week Tim Ferriss exploded onto the scene in 2007 seemingly from nowhere. His impact was due to a killer blog Figure 9-3 and book-launch combination. Both the blog and book mutually fueled the buzz meaning at the time there were few bloggers who hadn’t at least heard about him. Lessons from Tim Ferriss 1. Craft your posts—Unlike many of the blogs listed here Tim does not post several times a day. In fact there can be several days between posts. He explained in a ProBlogger interview that this allows him to more carefully craft his articles and tweak his head- lines it also allows time for comments to accumulate. 2. Say what you mean—Some of his posts are intentionally controver- sial. He says top stories almost always polarize people so he tries to take a strong stand on one side or the other of an issue. 3. Cover topics that anyone can comment on—Tim suggests consider- ing subjects that he can imagine allowing his parents siblings or friends having advice to share. EXERCISE Robert Scoble owes a large part of his success to his huge network of con- tacts. Make a plan for how you are going to grow your network starting today . ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 198 46672c09.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:49 AM Page 198

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Figure 9-3: PopCrunch No relation to TechCrunch PopCrunch Figure 9-4 is a blog in the super- competitive celebrity niche bringing all the celebrity gossip like an online version of the celebrity magazines you see in the supermarket newsstands. Figure 9-4: Secrets of Successful Blogs 199 46672c09.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:49 AM Page 199

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The key to PopCrunch just like TechCrunch is getting the story out first. Revenue for the blog all comes from leveraging its traffic with advertising. Whereas other blogs use traffic as a draw for advertisers along with branding and reputation benefits PopCrunch in the main sells impression-based CPM ads meaning the more page views it gets the more money it makes. It pays off because it clears a good five-figure income each and every month and much more when it manages to scoop a big story. As you can imagine PopCrunch uses every traffic trick in the book from SEO through to really working the social media sites. Recently it has been experimenting with video creating PopCrunch TV . Learning the scale lessons of TechCrunch Ryan Caldwell PopCrunch’s founder prides himself on putting every cent of revenue back into the blog in order to grow. Lessons from PopCrunch 1. Learn and implement—Do your research find out what works use what you learn from other niches in your own. 2. Mix media—Try video try audio see what your audience reacts to. 3. Promote—Yes content is king but who will notice without the traf- fic Push the traffic any way you can. Only when you really reach the top can you stop promoting completely. Summary Looking at the various writing styles promotion tactics and ways people approach earning from their blogging you can tell there is an approach out there to suit anybody . We have seen a famous employee blogger bloggers who write books people who earn from advertising and those who make money EXERCISE Look around your niche and your favorite blogs. Can you do the same exercise and learn something from each of them ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 200 46672c09.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:49 AM Page 200

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from courses. It is clear there is no single “right way” success is limited only by your imagination. Though you can derive a great deal of pleasure from the activity of blog- ging for most people blogging is a means to an end. As you have seen in this chapter how you approach it can be as diverse as the people who take part. We hope you can find some ideas and inspiration from these successful blog- gers’ stories. Secrets of Successful Blogs 201 46672c09.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:49 AM Page 201

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S o you have started a blog. You want to make money or you have some other goal in mind. You are in it for yourself. This is all well and good but to actually achieve those goals you will have to gather readers build traffic net- work and build links. Basically to achieve your goals you are going to have to serve an audience. What does “serving an audience” mean Rather than prioritize your adver- tising affiliates and sales you have to give readers what they want. It means making something useful something that people will want to talk about favorably. This is the real trick the difference between winning and losing and the subject of this chapter. Know Your Audience Before you can serve an audience you need to know who they are You need to really understand your readers both through research and planning before you launch and after you launch through talking to them. If you are already a member of the community in which you are working you will have an advantage here however you still need to consider who your target readers will be and what they would like to see. Consider the following: What are they called Who do they think they are Who are they really Who do they want to be Who do they like 10 Creating Something Worthwhile 46672c10.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:51 AM Page 203

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Who don’t they like Who is their peer group Who do they not identify with What are their beliefs Where do they live Where do they work Where do they learn Where do they want to be What are their needs How old are they How youthful do they act How conservative are they What are their driving ambitions What are their wants and needs What are their pleasures What are their pains What do they love What do they hate To really appeal to an audience you have to go beyond “nice” “ok” and “good enough.” Ask yourself how you can take your blog to the next level to be not just merely adequate but must-have. Not just interesting but compelling. Being Remarkable Thanks to Seth Godin and his books in particular Purple Cow many bloggers know and understand the need to be “remarkable.” Remarkable is what EXERCISE Create pen portraits for your reader group. Write down everything you know about them. Once you have a good idea of who you are targeting try to brainstorm content ideas that they would absolutely love. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 204 46672c10.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:51 AM Page 204

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makes ideas spread. The problem is that being aware of the need is not the same as putting it into practice. Take these points for example: Attention is not compelling. Stripping naked or shouting “fire” gets you noticed but is not valuable. Forget attention seeking and create value. Be radical. Half-measures won’t do. People only remember the biggest fastest richest easiest hardest most expensive cheapest and whatever superlative you can think of. It’s not fashion. Fashion is fleeting. It is following a bandwagon if it is already being talked about you are already too late. It’s not about you. This is about your reader leave your ego out of it. One of the biggest mistakes bloggers make is being all me-me-me. People should care. If people do not love it or hate it then you need to push harder. “Like” is not remarkable it should cause passion. If you manage to make something remarkable your task of spreading your message and promoting your blog will be so much easier. A successful blog is all about having your brand spread far and wide. What Causes Ideas to Spread If you think about the last time you told someone something you heard it will likely have been the following: Different/New—People do not talk about things that are usual and ordinary. People take notice of things that are new or different. English Cut Figure 10-1 was the first blog about men’s suits anyone had heard of start a blog like that today and nobody would take notice. EXERCISE Seth Godin tells us to look out for “Purple Cows.” Think of things in your life that are remarkable. What lifts them above being “average” “normal” or “nice” Create Something Worthwhile 205 46672c10.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:51 AM Page 205

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Figure 10-1: Newsworthy—News is probably the biggest type of information to spread but that doesn’t always mean it is new or different. In some cases it is the nature of the story that helps it spread. Sometimes ordi- nary things can become news if they happen to someone important. Easy to understand—If you have to puzzle over something before you get it it will in most cases seem like too much effort even if you think it is important in some way. Simplify your message and it will spread more effectively. Easy to remember—How will people spread your ideas if they can’t remember them It’s just like jokes—some of us have a talent for remembering and telling them but even though I love to listen to comedians tell complex stories I can recall and retell only the most basic. Easy to communicate—There is a good reason why politicians use sound bites they are easy to remember and communicate. Make it easy to get the point across. Provide “send to friend” and bookmark- ing features. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 206 46672c10.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:51 AM Page 206

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Beneficial—Will your story help someone Will it make them laugh What will the sender and recipient gain The more beneficial the more it will spread self-interest almost always comes into play. Making Your Blog Useful Useful blogs can be difficult to define but we can all spot one. Spend any mean- ingful time in the company of a blog-reading tool and we become masters at it. We decide the fate of a feed in an instant sometimes like cruel judges on some reality-TV talent contest. But the question is: What defines those blogs that make it Why are some blogs useful and others a waste of time Ask yourself what your favorite blogs have in common. Think of your absolute number-one favorite blog in the world. For Darren it is Lifehacker. For me it is Scott Adams’ Dilbert blog. Why do you like the blog that you’ve identified What keeps you going back so often Scott Adams is an incredibly witty guy but he also makes me think. I go to his blog as escape to think about something other than work. With Lifehacker there are a few things Darren enjoys but the main factor is that it’s a blog that regularly provides life-enhancing tips. Useful-Blog Properties We will all have different answers but if we gathered the properties of those favorite blogs together I expect we could group the answers into one or more of the following categories: Entertaining—Blogs are increasingly being used as entertainment. People are going to them for laughs for gossip and for fun conversation. EXERCISE For a week make a mental note of every piece of news and gossip you come across. Try to determine how the piece of information was transmitted to you and which you take note of or share and which “wither on the vine.” Create Something Worthwhile 207 46672c10.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:51 AM Page 207

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Educational—Some blog readers are primarily interested in learning something new about a given topic. Informative—Many successful blogs are built on the thirst that some have to be informed on an issue product or topic. Thoughtful—Some blog readers want a place where they can have their minds open to viewpoints and have a good old-fashioned dia- logue debate or even a fight over an issue. Breaking news—Many blog readers just want to be kept up-to-date in a field. Community—Some very successful blogs tap into the need that peo- ple have to connect and belong. Quite often the topic is secondary to these connections. Each blog has the potential to be “useful” and each successful blog will approach it in its own way perhaps using a combination of the preceding factors. Now think about your current or planned blog which of the previous properties can you provide Creating Useful Content Today Whether you have an existing blog or want to get started today read through the following tips and implement them right away. Add Value Don’t just report the same news that everyone else is reporting add value to it by expressing your opinion analyzing it helping readers interpret it and so on. If your blog is a “newsy”-type blog the next time you write a post take a moment before hitting “Publish” to ask yourself if you’ve added anything to the story. Tell your readers what you think make a comment about how it PROBLOGGER BLOG TIP: THE ULTIMATE GOAL Creating a blog that people absolutely cannot live without is a rare thing indeed but should be your goal. If you do not strive to make your blog the best it can be it will be easy to slip into “good enough” and then on toward mediocrity. Always be thinking “How can I make this better” ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 208 46672c10.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:51 AM Page 208

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applies to you or might apply to others look back and identify patterns in the story or look forward and make a prediction about where things might be headed. Though some people do want to hear the latest news they’ll become loyal to you as a news source if you help them make sense of it. Ask Questions Asking questions brings you closer to your readers and gives you insight into how they think. This works better on some blogs than others the topic and reader numbers come into play but a real question for readers is a great start- ing place for useful content. I love to ask questions on my blog and I try to do it regularly see Figure 10-2. Figure 10-2: An example poll. Mine Your Feedback Your comments and inbox are rich sources of relevant material and burning questions. If readers take time to ask you a question you know it matters to them—and more than likely to many of your other readers also. Create Something Worthwhile 209 46672c10.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:51 AM Page 209

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Tell Your Story Telling your stories can be very powerful. Put yourself into your posts talk about how you learned what you are talking about. Give examples be humor- ous and express emotion. Readers want to connect with you and telling a story rather than “just the facts” helps bring alive the topic. Entertain Be humorous intriguing irreverent fun push boundaries surprise your read- ers include a little spice. Use entertaining pictures video audio and so on. Be playful. Inform Produce “how to” or “tips” posts. You might also want to do “introduction to…”-type posts. Ask readers what they want to learn about and then answer their questions. Build Community Write inspirational posts with heart. Pay a lot of attention to the readers you have ask lots of questions answer their questions empower people to con- tribute as much as they can. Include everyone do not fall into the trap of “in” jokes and shorthand. Warmth welcoming and discussion are the keys to a great community. PROBLOGGER BLOG TIP: STEAL FEEDBACK Read blog comments and forum messages in your niche and take a note of good questions and suggestions Using feedback doesn’t have to be restricted to messages sent to you directly . EXERCISE What stories do you have to tell What are the lessons you learned Next time you are relating a story that you think is interesting make a note of it for use in your blog. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 210 46672c10.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:51 AM Page 210

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Each blog will have a different mix of goals and objectives. You might like to attempt to achieve more than one of the above but the key is to know what exactly you’re aiming for Summary The most critical aspect of all this is to put your audience first and do it in a new and original way . As time goes on standing out among the crowd is going to get harder and harder. You need to find a way to better serve readers while covering new ground. Aim to be unique remarkable compelling and most of all useful and your blog will have success long after many other bloggers have given up. EXERCISE When was the last time you felt welcomed into a community When did you feel unwelcome or even hostility What did the community members do differently in each case Can you implement any of those positive fac- tors into your blog Create Something Worthwhile 211 46672c10.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/31/08 12:51 AM Page 211

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A active income 8–9 Adams Scott 207 administration of blog networks 154 AdSense 35 108 Advertise Here button 112 115 advertiser packs 114 115 advertising direct monetization through 7 in granular posts 93 making decision to add 106–108 in niche blogs 25–26 35 tips for 11–12 what does not work 10–11 advertising strategies 108–118 ad formats 117–118 banner ads 109 deciding how many to display 118 finding advertisers 112–116 how much to charge 116–117 optimization 118 overview of 108–109 payment types 111–112 product-based ads 110 RSS ads 111 taking payments 116 text-link ads 110–111 textual ads 109–110 Advertising page 112 affiliate programs direct monetization through 7 getting competition prizes from 175 niche blogs and 35–36 tips for using 119–121 Amazon 35 Amazon Associates program 119 Arrington Mike 195–196 assets calculating value 142–143 auctions buying blogs via 143–145 selling blogs via 146 unwanted characters attracted to 148 audience. See readers authenticity affiliate program 120 awards 172 175 B 151–152 banner advertising 10–11 109 BIN Buy It Now price 144 147 block quotes 82 blog carnivals 169 blog networks 151–164 advantages of 153–158 disadvantages of 155–157 finding jobs in 158–162 joining 157–158 overview of 151–153 selling 146–147 starting your own 163–164 “blog” word in domain names 58–59 Blogger 46 48 50–52 131 147–148 blogs added benefits of 4–5 defining 1 websites vs. 2–4 bookmarking sites 84 176–179 books writing 127 borders scannable content 82 Index 46672bindex.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 213

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boundaries comments 102 bragging rights 132 brainstorming 28 branding 56–57 141 breaking news 207 budget. See cost considerations build and flip 13–14 bulleted lists 81 83 business partnerships 129 Buy It Now BIN price 144 147 Buy Me a Beer plugin 122 buying and selling blogs 131–149 building and flipping 13–14 buying how to buy 143–145 buying reasons for 132–135 buying links 181 buying to sell flipping 135–136 sales basics calculating blog’s value 142–143 sales basics overview of 136–137 sales basics valuations 137–142 selling how to sell 147–149 selling reasons for 132–135 selling where to sell 146–147 C Caldwell Ryan 200 case study posts 94 categories highlighting in sidebar 184 Chitika 35 classifieds income earning 123 clutter and advertisements 11 collation posts 96 color 71–72 74 comments encouraging 101–102 measuring success 18–19 promoting readership 167–168 185– 186 community building 210–211 niche blogs developing 25 successful blogs and 208 comparison posts 95 competition analyzing your 31–33 competitions building readership 172 174–176 compilation pages 184 consistency post 90 consultancy work 128–129 contact forms 69–70 content ownership issues in blog networks 156 useful blogs 207–211 valuating blog sales 138–139 writing. See writing blogs contests 172 174–176 contextual advertising niche blogs using 25 35 writing in granular style for 93 control blog networks and 157 building own blog and 53–54 buying blogs and 135 controversy encouraging 102 cookies recording 15 cost considerations blog platforms 47 buying existing blog 133 self-hosted blog 54 CPA cost per acquisition payment type 112 CPC cost per click payment type 111 CPM cost per thousand payment type 112 116–117 Craigslist 74 credibility and niche blogs 25 critique posts 96 culture setting tone for blog’s 102 Cutline template 72–75 D database self-hosted blog set-up 64–65 debate posts 96–97 176 design considerations ad formats 117–118 color 71–72 74 creating multifunctional masthead 75 customizing template 72–74 disadvantage of hosted blogs 51 outsourcing 74 overview of 70–71 valuating blog sales 141–142 ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 214 46672bindex.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 214

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Digg spikes 140 176–178 Digital Photography School blog 107 Digital Point marketplace 146 direct monetization advertising on niche blogs 26 choosing 10–11 overview of 7 directories generating inbound links 181 distraction advertisement 11 domain names choosing 55–59 memorable 167 registering 59–60 valuating blog sales 142 donations 121–122 draft posts 99 64 DSLRBlog 37 E eBay 146 educational blogs 207 email lists 138 169 email subscribers 18 169 emailing advertiser packs 114–115 link requests 170–171 eMoms at 26 164 employee bloggers 196 employment opportunities 129 Engadget 32 entertainment blogs for 207 210 eResources selling 129 escrow blog sales 137 ethics of link baiting 171–172 experience and niche blogs 29 expertise advantages of blog networks 153–154 building vs. buying based on 134 niche blog requirement 29 F fame 4 feedback 18–19 209 17 feed-reader services RSS 17 Ferris Tim 198–199 flagship content 165–166 flaming 95 flipping blogs 13–14 135–136 formats 81 117–118 forums helpfulness of 48–49 looking for freelance blogging through 125 networking through 169 Four-Hour Work Week 198–199 free advertisements 113 freebies as link bait 173 freelance blogging 12–13 124–127 frequency posting 88–91 future factors and domain names 57 G gadget blog space 32 38–40 Gawker Media 151 get-rich-quick tactics 6 Gizmodo 32 36 GoDaddy .com 59–60 Google 35 Google AdWords 115 Google Analytics 140 Google Trends 29–31 Google Webmaster Tools 183 granular posts 91–93 H header image changing 72–73 headings scannable content with 82 hex numbering format 74 highlighting related posts 184 hits traffic 16–17 hosted blog platforms advantages of 51 choosing 52 defined 50 disadvantages of 51–52 setting up at 61–63 standalone vs. 54–55 starting out with free 55 hosting issues self-hosted blogs 54 64–65 Index 215 46672bindex.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 215

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house ads 112–113 humility 102 198 hyphenated domain names 58 hypothetical posts 97 I ideas spreading 205–207 images creating scannable content 82 header 72–73 inbound links generating 181 off-site SEO with 180 valuating for blog sales 140 income. See money blogging for money earning strategies indirect monetization 8 9 informational posts 94 207 210 inspirational posts 95–96 instructional posts 93–94 interactivity measuring success 18–19 promoting readership through 185 with readers’ comments 101 186 inter-linked blogs 181 interlinking between posts 184 interview posts 94 interviews as link bait 173 J jobs finding for blog networks 158–162 K keywords for on-site SEO 182 using in titles 86 KnowMoreMedia 152 L legalities of blog networks 157 of selling blogs 145 of words in domain names 58 length of blog post 87–88 90 LifeHacker 207 link baiting 171–173 link posts 95 98–101 links. See also inbound links affiliate 120–121 building readership with 167–168 developing on-site SEO with 182 monitoring 19–20 requesting from bloggers 170–171 secrets of success 197 text-link ads 110–111 list posts 81 83 94 listing creating for blog sale 146–147 lists developing series with 98 using as link bait 172 lurkers 185 M magazines writing for 127 marketing. See promotion mastheads multifunctional 75 Meme posts 97 merchandise selling 123 money blogging for 105–130 advertising tips 11–12 amount you can earn 6 asking if this is right for you 9 build and flip 13–14 direct monetization 7 direct monetization choosing 10–11 factors to consider 107–108 freelance blogging 12–13 indirect monetization 8 indirect monetization choosing 9 measuring success. See success measuring niche blogging and 35 not get-rich-quick tactic 6 overview of 5 passive and active income 8–9 using multiple blogs 12 when to monetize 105–107 money earning strategies. See also advertising buying and selling blogs affiliate programs 119–121 blog networks 154–156 build and flip 13–14 classifieds 123 ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 216 46672bindex.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 216

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consulting 128–129 donations 121–122 employment opportunities 129 freelance blogging 12–13 124–127 merchandise 123 networking and business partnerships 129 selling eResources 129 speaking 127–128 subscriptions 123 writing in magazines and books 127 money obsession 11 Moveable T ype 50 multiple blogs 12 N networking getting well connected for success 169 197 partnerships 129 newsgroups networking through 169 niche blogs 23–43 attracting advertisers 114 choosing domain name 56 choosing niche 40–43 decision to add advertising 107 expanding into neighboring niches 26– 27 keeping posts granular 91–93 niche demographic 38–40 overview of 23–24 success of 24–27 192–194 wideness of 36–38 niche blogs choosing profitable topic 28– 36 ability to produce fresh content 34–35 competition 31–33 experience or expertise 29 own interest 28 popularity of topic 29–31 potential income streams 35 research 35–36 niche demographic blogs 38–40 non-competes 145 numbers domain names with 58 O off-site SEO 180–181 1-click-install 63–68 59 online job ads 125 on-site SEO 181–183 opening lines 87 outsourcing design 74 ownership 52 155–156 P page views increasing 184–187 paid reviews 7 paragraphs creating scannable content 82 passion for topic 28 40 passive income 8–9 passwords blog set-up 62 67 payments advertising 116–117 PayPal 116 PayPay Donation button 122 146 Photography-BLOG 37 pictures. See images Piersall Wendy 26 pillar articles 166 platforms blog 46–55 budget requirements 47–48 choosing most popular 49–50 goals 47 hosted 50–52 hosted vs. self-hosted 54–55 level of technical expertise 48–49 overview of 46 self-hosted 52–54 plug-ins 69 PopCrunch 199–200 popularity niche 29–31 posts frequency of 88–91 198 getting readers to view more pages 184–185 granular 91–93 optimal length of 87–88 types of 93–97 updating 166 utilizing series of 93 98–101 Index 217 46672bindex.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 217

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prediction posts 96 prestige 155 156 privacy retaining 195 problem posts 95 ProBlogger frequency of posts 90 Job Board 123 159 lessons from 194–195 survey on platforms 49–50 product-based advertising 110 professional bloggers addiction to checking statistics 22 is it right for you 9 not get-rich-quick tactic 6 overview of 5 platforms used by 49–50 54–55 useful websites 21 profile posts 94–95 profit 141–143 project posts 97 promotion 165–187 comments 167–168 competitions 174–176 flagship content and pillar articles 165– 166 increasing page views 184–187 link baiting 171–173 links 167–168 memorable domain names 167 networking and communications 169 requesting links from bloggers 170–171 search engine optimization 179–183 secrets of 200 social media 176–179 Purple Cow Godin 204 Q quality content 138 questions 101 209 quizzes as link bait 172 R rant posts 95 reader burnout 88–89 reader stickiness 174 readers. See also promotion blog networks and 153 domain names and 56 donations from 121–122 evaluating for blog sales 138 knowing your 203–204 need to be remarkable for 203–207 niche blogs and 24–27 offended by advertising 10 post length 87 posting frequency 88–91 researching 79 setting tone for blog’s culture 102 titles 83–87 useful blogs for 207–211 using affiliate programs 120 working with scanning 81–83 referral stats 20 registering domains 59–60 relationships 153. See also networking remarkable need to be 204–205 Rentacoder 74 reputation 11 156 research 134 195 research-oriented posts 96 resources 134 173 review posts 94 96 rewards for comments 102 186–187 rhythm posting 90 RSS ads 111 RSS subscribers email subscribers vs. 18 frequency of posts and 89 overview of 17 titles grabbing attention of 83–84 S satirical posts 97 scannable content 81–83 Scoble Robert 196–198 Scobleizer 196–198 scoops 172 search engine optimization. See SEO search engine optimization self-hosted blog platforms adding contact form 69–70 advantages of 53 choosing 54 defined 52 disadvantages of 53–54 ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 218 46672bindex.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 218

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hosted vs. 54–55 setting up with 1-Click-install 63–68 selling blogs. See buying and selling blogs SEO search engine optimization 179 blog networks 154–155 effective titles for readers 83–84 granular posts 92 hosted blogs 51 hyphenated domain names 58 monitoring results 20–22 niche blogs 26 off-site 180–181 on-site 181–183 overview of 179–180 own domain name 55 post frequency 89 post length 88 valuating blog sales 139 series 98–101 184 service contracts 8 setting up blog 45–75 adding themes 69 choosing domain name 55–59 choosing platform 46–50 design considerations 70–75 hosted at 61–63 hosted vs. self-hosted 50–55 registering domain 59–60 self-hosted adding contact form 69–70 self-hosted using 1-Click-install 63–68 Sitepoint marketplace 146 163 social bookmarking sites 84 176–179 social media 176–179 speaking income earning strategies 127–128 specialist authors 25 spikes traffic 140 sponsorship advertising and 111 of competitions 175 direct monetization through 7 standalone blogs. See self-hosted blog platforms statistics addiction to 22 using as link bait 172 stories telling your 210 176–178 subscriptions email subscribers 18 income earning strategy 123 measuring success by 17 promoting 169 RSS 17 success measuring 14–22 comments feedback and interaction 18–19 links 19–20 search-engine results 20–22 subscribers 17–18 traffic 14–17 successful blogs 189–201 analysis of Technorati top 100 blogs 189–192 Four-Hour Work Week 198–199 learning from niche blogs 192–194 PopCrunch 199–200 ProBlogger 194–195 Scobleizer 196–198 TechCrunch 195–196 swap links 181 swipe files 87 syndication blogs vs. websites 3 T targets 98–99 TechCrunch 195–196 technical expertise 48 53 analysis of top 100 blogs 189–192 average age of top 100 blogs 28 monitoring links using 20 niche blog success 24 showing blogs on your potential niche 32 templates customizing 72–74 hosted blog set-up 62 self-hosted blog set-up 68 text-link advertising 110–111 textual advertising 109–110 Theme Editor 72–73 themes adding 69 enhancing blog with 69 Index 219 46672bindex.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 219

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hosted blog setup 62–63 self-hosted blog set-up 68 titles 83–87 choosing for series 99 importance of 83–85 stealing ideas for 87 using successfully 85–86 TLDs Top Level Domains 57 tools as link bait 172 topics. See also niche blogs attracting advertisers with 113–114 developing for series 98 frequency of posts and 89–90 optimal length of posts 88 Trackbacks 20 168 traffic advantages of blog networks 153 blogging benefits 4–5 directing to affiliate links 121 traffic measuring buying existing blogs 133 hits 16–17 overview of 14–15 stats useful to potential advertisers 113 unique visitors 15–16 valuating blog sales 139–140 visits 16 T 179 T ypePad 48 50–52 U unique visitors measuring 15–16 updates 51 54 upgrades and hosted blogs 52 URL hosted blogs 50 52 ownership issues in blog networks 156 self-hosted blogs 53 useful blogs 207–211 V valuation of blog audience 138 calculating value 142–143 content 138–139 design 141–142 domain factors 142 inbound links 140 learn your market 143 overview of 136–137 performing every few months 149 profit 141 search rankings 139 traffic 139–140 visitor sessions 16 visitors. See also traffic measuring frequency of posts based on type of 90 importance of titles in search engines to 83 W Weblogs Inc. 151 websites blog vs. 2–4 blogs as 1 for sale 13–14 useful for probloggers 21 WordPress adding themes and plug-ins 69–71 features 48 as hosted blog platform 50–52 self-hosted blog set-up 63–68 writer burnout 88–89 writing blogs creating series of posts 98–101 distinguishing yourself 80–81 effective titles 83–87 encouraging comments 101–102 freelance blogging 124–127 generating inbound links 181 granular posts 91–93 niche blogs 25 opening lines 87 overview of 77 post frequency 88–91 post length 87–88 researching readership 79 for scanning readers 81–83 for social media 177 types of posts 93–97 with unique content 80 with useful content 78–79 vs. websites 2–3 ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income 220 46672bindex.qxd:Naked Conversations 3/26/08 1:37 AM Page 220

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