Leverage Your Strengths

published on July 16, 2007

Each person has different interests, passions, strengths, and weaknesses. While that’s a very obvious statement, many people seem to forget that when it comes to their blog. Especially their blogs that they want to make money from. When you think about it, it’s a very natural reaction. We see someone who’s had a large amount of success doing things one way so we instinctively follow their lead. The only problem is, we don’t have the same strengths that successful person does. For example, when you think of making money online, chances are you’ll think of John Chow (whom I’ve referenced several times) or perhaps Shoemoney (an online marketing god) or maybe even someone like the Rich Jerk (whom is rumored to be selling the business to avoid bankruptcy). While all those guys have undoubtedly made small fortunes online, I’m not going to be able to emulate their success 100%. Why? Because I don’t have the same strengths or personality. John Chow loves being known as the root of all evil, the Rich Jerk is just that, a jerk, and Shoemoney works from a position of knowledge knowing what works and what doesn’t. If I were to try to be the second coming of these guys, this site would undoubtedly fail. I’m not evil and I don’t have the persona of John Chow. While I can often times be a jerk, I simply can’t view myself as better than everyone else. That just doesn’t sit right with me. While I’d love to be able to duplicate Shoemoney’s success, I don’t have multiple financially successful sites or the connections to be able to pull off what he does.

So, what’s my point? My point is this: You’ve got to leverage your strengths for your blog. Personally, I’m pretty good at putting ideas down on paper (or in this case, on the screen). As I’ve mentioned previously, I have a background of search engine optimization (SEO) and some experience with social media as well. So, throughout this experiment I’ll likely rely heavily on those strengths. I’m not going to tell you what affiliate promotions to do or try and explain to you why I’m better than you because of the money I’ve earned. I have no idea which affiliate offers will work best for your blog and I certainly don’t think I’m better than you. I WILL, however let you know which monetization methods I use and which marketing methods work for me. In fact, that’s the whole point of this experiment. I am just a regular guy. Sure I have a few strengths that I’ll be leveraging, but the point of this post is, so do you! While I want this experiment to be as easy to replicate as possible, the fact is, you’ll still need to rely on your strengths. Whether it’s a knowledge of certain topics (whether you’re a pet lover, a single mother, a father of 8, a sports guru, or an amazing cook), a personality trait (lazy, passionate, driven, focused, funny etc), or a talent (designing, photography, cartooning, marketing, inspirational etc) you can use that to make your blog successful. When you deal from your strengths you provide your readers value, and in the end, that’s what makes a great blog.

How to Cure Blogger’s Block

published on July 13, 2007

If you’ve ever had to write for a deadline, chances are, you’ve experienced writers block. And, since blogging is essentially the same as writing a column in a newspaper or magazine, we’re just as susceptible to what I call “blogger’s block.” You know you need to write a post and yet, your mind is painfully blank. The blank screen seems to be taunting you, mocking your inability to fill it with words. As if that weren’t enough, it seems like every other blog in your niche has been a posting spree lately and you’re falling further and further behind.

In truth, that’s probably not the case at all, but blogger’s block tends to feed on itself. The longer you go without posting, the more pressure you put on yourself. In the end you just psych yourself OUT of posting. So, how do you cure this brutal case of blogger’s block, or better yet, avoid catching it all together? It’s actually a lot easier than you think.

Change the way you think about blogging – Many bloggers feel like they have to create original and interesting content all on their own. They think their posts have to be 100% original or they’re somehow selling out. The truth is, most of the successful blogs out there are simply giving their opinion on current events or topics in their niche. Sure your blog might not be the first one to cover a breaking news story, but it will be the first one to have YOUR opinion on it and when it comes down to it, that’s what your readers are looking for. I mean think about it. How many times has Rush Limbaugh broken a news story? I’d venture to say it’s a rare occurrence. Does that keep people from tuning in? Of course not! His listeners tune in to hear what he has to say about the topics and events of the day. For an online example of this just look at JohnChow.com. Readers flock to his site to find out what he thinks of different affiliate programs or monetization methods etc. Granted, you’re not going to be the net’s version of Rush Limbaugh over night, but the point remains, people want to hear your opinion. So give it to them!

Turn Comments into Posts – One of the best sources for post topics is also one of the most ignored. The great thing about blogs is the ability for readers to comment and interact with the content they’re reading. There’s a saying that for every question asked, there’s four other people that had the question but never asked. So, unless it’s a simple yes or no question, write a post to answer the question. In fact, you can expand the practice out to blogs you read as well. Not only can you answer any questions posed on other blogs, but often if you’ve got something to say in a comment, it won’t take much to expand it out into a full fledged post.

Compile Links – One of the best ways to provide value to your readers while suffering from a case of blogger’s block is to compile a list of links you found interesting. Whether it’s a weekly roundup, a daily roundup, or a sporadic “hey, check out these posts/sites” type post, this method allows you to both share quality information with your readers as well as build up some good will with other sites in your niche. It’s been proven time and time again that the more often you link to other sites, the better the chances are that they’ll link to you. You don’t want to do this too often or your readers will simply start visiting those sites instead of yours, but in the rare occasion you are under the gun and can’t come up with a post, why not kill two birds with one stone?

Signing up for AuctionAds

published on July 12, 2007

As you’ve probably noticed, AuctionAds are now appearing on the right side of this blog. I’ve never used the system before but I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. The system was developed by ShoeMoney in cooperation with eBay and has taken the blogosphere by storm. I’ve heard a few mixed reviews but I figure if it’s good enough for 21,000 other publishers, it’s good enough for me to give a shot.

The sign up process was pretty stinkin easy. You enter your pertinent information and as far as I can tell, you’re approved immediately. Creating the actual ad should be a breeze for anyone that’s ever set up AdWords or something similar. However, unlike AdWords, AuctionAds is NOT a contextual ad system. It serves eBay auction items based on the keywords you enter in that fairly self explanatory field you see to the left. After adding the keywords you then choose from 11 different ad formats (banners, skyscrapers, etc.). The final step is to choose the colors for your ads in much the same way you do for AdSense etc.

I debated for a while whether to make the ads stand out or keep the color scheme pretty consistent with the rest of the site. I think it probably depends on both your tastes and your purpose. If the ads are your primary call to action or the desired action visitors will take when entering your site, you’d probably want the ads to stand out and draw eyes towards it. However for this site, the ads are more of a last resort options. I’d rather you subscribe to the blog or comment but if you either aren’t going to do those things, or you’ve already done them, then I wouldn’t mind earning some money from the site as well. After all, the goal is to have this site generating a full time income by Independence Day next year.

I’ve gone with the 160 x 240 Wide Skyscraper and decided to place it just under the Archive section. I wanted to at least keep the ads above the fold but didn’t want to push down any of the Subscription information. I’m still not quite sure whether the ads make things a bit too cluttered or not but I think it’s good for now. Of course I’ll keep everyone up-to-date on the AuctionAds’ performance and any other testing or tweaks I make.

Think the AuctionAds make things too cluttered? Think I should go with a different ad system? Let your opinion be heard by leaving a comment below!

Stumbling Into Traffic

published on July 12, 2007

StumbleUpon LogoAs I’ve mentioned over the past few days, most of my time is being evenly split right now between writing new content and trying to market the site. While some marketing methods definitely take time to implement and more time before they bear fruit, one of the quickest and easiest methods of marketing a site is to use the social bookmarking sites. Sites like Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Netscape, Delicious, etc can all produce massive amounts of traffic and exposure for your website. Each has a different user base and thus different dynamics in terms of what types of content perform best, however, my favorite lately has been StumbleUpon.

A mere two hours ago I submitted the blog to SU using simply the title and this description “A blogger tries to get his brand new blog to earn a full time income in a year’s time and writes about what he does to get there.” Moments ago when I logged into MyBloLog I was shocked to see nearly 400 referrals from StumbleUpon! Now I’ve had articles make the front page of Digg and get thousands of hits per hour, however, stories usually take quite a while to gain enough votes to go popular and submitting your own content is often frowned upon. In this case, I submitted the site through the quick form that popped up when I gave myself a thumbs up, and almost instantly began to see traffic rolling in! Granted, a few hundred visitors in an hour is not going to earn me a spot on the evening news, but for a site that’s only been in existence for a little more than a week and has only been promoted for the past three days, that’s not too shabby. 2 minutes of work resulting in hundreds of new visitors and hopefully some new subscribers… I’ll take that any day!

If you’re already a StumbleUpon user, I’d be very grateful if you’d pop over to the home page and give it the ole’ blue thumbs up. Thanks!

Ways To Make Money Blogging

published on July 12, 2007

Stack of MoneyOne of the fastest growing forms of blog monetization is the paid review or sponsored post. Basically, advertisers pay you to check out their site, product, or service, and write about it on your blog. There are several different companies that bring willing advertisers and publishers together for a cut of the fee, and frankly, you should probably join every one you can find. After all, the more programs you’re a part of, the more opportunities you’ll have to make money posting to your blog. Here’s a quick breakdown of all the major programs I’m aware of. If I miss one, let me know and I’ll join up and include it on the list.

Requirements: Blog must be at least 90 days old and have 20 posts within the last 90 days. Must have no gaps of 30 days or more between posts
Average Price per Post: Varies depending on blog’s PageRank and Alexa rank, and number of “tacks”
Their Share: Not disclosed
Comments: I’ve previously not had much success with PayPerPost but I’ll be giving it another go with this site. Also, their “review my post” feature is an interesting twist on the standard review program and I look forward to using it.

Requirements: “a minimum number of citations, subscribers, and traffic”
Average Price per Post: blogger sets price – usually between $40 – $500
Their Share:
ReviewMe has quickly become one of the leading paid review services. A market place was recently opened providing more opportunities to newer and less popular blogs.

Requirements: None posted
Average Price per Post:
Between $10 – 1000. Users submit bids for each individual post and the bid is either accepted or declined by the advertiser.
Their Share:
The small share kept by SponsoredReviews as well as their bid system has made this program my favorite to date. It’s also been my biggest money maker on other sites.

Requirements: WordPress blog must be 90 days old, average 3 posts per week, and be indexed in Google.
Average Price per Post:
An average of $5.00 per post.
Their Share:
Not disclosed.
Blogitive also currently pays $2.00 per blogger you recruit to their directory.

Requirements: Blogs that are new (less then 30 days), have little or no content, may be rejected or put on Probation status at a reduced payout rates.
Average Price per Post:
Between $4 – 25. Most fall between $5 and $15.
Their Share:
Not disclosed
Blogsvertise certainly offers bloggers lots of opportunities, however, they are not always all that related to the blog.

Other Paid Blogging Services:

As I try more of these programs I’ll update this list with more details and my experiences so be sure to check back from time to time.

WordPress Permalinks

published on July 11, 2007

Just a quick update to keep everyone in the loop. I’ve modified the Permalink structure of the blog. There are a few reasons to do this but the biggest is the SEO value it provides. Rather than the URL of a post looking like www.bloggingexperiment.com/?p=5 it will now have the post name included in the URL www.bloggingexperiment.com/archives/permalinks-wordpress-options.php for example.

On other blogs in the past I’ve used the category name in the URL as well to get even more keywords and phrases in the URL, however, I’ve noticed that I occasionally need to switch category names or reorganized my blogs. If the category name is in the URL, every post in the changing category will now have a new URL. While that might not seem like a big deal to some, that’s pretty much an SEO’s worst nightmare. Not only would you have to get the new pages indexed, but you’d effectively lose any and all links to those posts. Of course you could do 301 redirects to point the spiders and visitors in the right direction, but is it really worth it just to include the category in your URL? In my opinion it’s not worth the potential hassle.

Expose Yourself!

published on July 11, 2007

Get your mind out of the gutter… I don’t mean like THAT. What I’m talking about is putting yourself out there, making yourself a bit vulnerable, and allowing your readers a glimpse into who you are. Whether you’re handing out advice, discussing your favorite hobby, or simply sharing your latest personal escapade, who you are is important. If I sat here and tried to tell you how to make a million dollars online, you’d probably only listen to me if I’d actually made a million bucks online right? Now hold on, hold on, I can already hear you saying “But I’m not a well known expert yet.” While that might be true, if you’re successful with your blog, you will be eventually right? Not to mention the first thing people set out to do with their blog is to “create a name for themselves.”

So how do you go about exposing yourself? The easiest way is of course the “About” page. Most WordPress templates come with an About page already created. Customizing it only takes a few minutes and it is time well spent. Not only will the about page give your blog a personal touch, but it will also make your site seem more legitimate. With the number of spam blogs (splogs) constantly increasing, people are more and more hesitant to trust new blogs, much less link to them. Time and consistency will eventually eliminate that problem but putting your name and reputation behind your site can speed up that time frame. As if that weren’t enough, you’ll also be creating a brand (both your URL and your name) as you work on your site. For example, do you know who Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble, John Chow, or Jeremy Shoemaker are? All have extremely popular blogs and all could start a new project and have instant exposure for it by simply tying their name to it. In fact, Guy Kawasaki recently did just that, and has talked about the benefits his new Trumors project gained because of his personal fame.

Basically, there’s no good reason NOT to expose yourself because in this day and age of nearly infinite online information, it’s going to happen one way or the other. You might as well get some benefit from it right?

For more information on exposing yourself erm I mean branding your blog check out these resources:

Promoting a Brand New Blog

published on July 10, 2007

One of the toughest parts about this blog so far has been making sure I update and let you all know what I’m doing. I’m used to a “grip it and rip it” mentality where I crank out posts, do some promotion, crank out some more posts, and on and on. For this blog, I have to go back and explain the promotion I did.

Anyway, as you’ve probably noticed, I’ve made a few changes to the site since first launching it. I’ve signed up for Feedburner and provided visitors two different methods to subscribe to the blog. If you haven’t done so already, please consider doing so. As you can see I made the RSS button quite large, mostly because it works well with the blue and orange theme of the site but also because I want the call to action to be clear. I want everyone that visits this blog to know I’d love for them to subscribe.

Also, I’ve provided an email option as well. Personally I LOVE RSS feeds and would always go with that option. However, you’ve always got to consider your audience and make it as easy as possible for them to consume your content. I had forgotten one of the golden rules until Chris Garrett reminded me of it.

That conveniently brings me to the next step I took. I signed up for the brand spanking new Authority Blogger Forum. I put this site’s URL in my signature, and I posted asking the bloggers there to “pimp my blog” which for those of you not down with the hip hop generation, means I asked them to critique it. That simple step brought in several visitors and many of them subscribed to the feed. One of the biggest mistakes bloggers make, in my opinion, is not participating in their industry. If you’re writing a blog about blogging (like I am) what could be better than spending time making connections with other bloggers in a forum? If your blog is about training dogs, spend time commenting on other dog blogs, and maybe attend live events as well. Networking is not just something that happens in the offline world.

The third step I took yesterday was also in the networking vein. I joined MyBlogLog and added this site as one I author. I then joined several of the larger blogging communities such as Problogger, JohnChow, and the parody site JohnCow among others. I uploaded a logo (the bright orange RSS button) and left a few of the more prominent bloggers comments. That quick and simple task sent about 20 visitors my way and prompted 9 people to join the Blogging Experiment Community.

While these numbers are hardly earth shattering, it’s not a bad start for a young blog. Feedburner is currently showing that I have 11 subscribers and the 3 day trial of MyBlogLog stats tells me I’ve already had 2 more subscribers today as well as 2 email subscriptions. Believe it or not I made a few other changes to the site as well to help gain some exposure but I think I’ll leave you wanting just a bit more.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss a post, please consider subscribing to the Blogging Experiment either via RSS or by way of email.

Yeah, But Where Do I Start? Choosing a Blog Topic

published on July 10, 2007

One of the best aspects of blogging is being able to get immediate feedback from your readers. One of the first comments I received on the content on this site so far was “Yeah, that’s great, but where do I start?” and to be quite honest, I realized this site didn’t have the answer. Another great thing about blogging… I can fix that in a hurry.

The most important aspect of starting your blog is choosing your topic. Much has been written about this and there seem to be two major schools of thought. Some people suggest choosing your topic based on profitability and ease of monetization. Others will tell you to pick a subject you’re passionate about and worry about making money later. As far as I’m concerned, it depends on your personality. I’ve known copywriters that can crank out copy on any given subject and seem like experts while doing it. I’ve also known people that are practically idiot savants when you get them rolling on the right subject. Blogging is not an easy task. It takes hard work and a lot of dedication. If you post once a day, Monday through Friday that’s 260 posts a year. Before you jump headlong into a blog on any subject, you need to realize the level of commitment required and choose your topic accordingly.

As I said, there’s been a lot written about the subject. If you’d like more information on the subject, check out these sources: