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blogging as a business

Six Things You Can Focus On Today to Increase Your Blogging Results

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Last week I shared a little of my blogging story with you, by giving you a look into how I make money by blogging and selling blogs. As I mentioned, I’ve been at this since 2006. I’ve been through the ups and downs of both blogging for a company, as well as blogging for myself.

I have people ask me just about every week, “How can I do what you do?” My first answer for them is to get ready to work their butt off. If that statement doesn’t scare them off, then I know they’re ready to hear the rest of what I have to say – the nuts and bolts of what goes into becoming a successful blogger.

(Side note: Not all successful blogging stories are identical. What I am about to share with you has worked for me, but it’s not in any way the only road to success.)

I won’t get into choosing a topic for your blog, setting up your blog, or choosing a design. Let’s just assume you already have those pieces in place and are ready to hit the ground running with your topic.

1. Email, Email, Email

For several of the topics I write about, my contacts are the bread and butter of my business. They help me build my content with the emails they send with topic ideas, the products they want me to review or the person they would like me to interview. I have one incredibly large and amazing list of contacts, both PR firms and direct with business owners. How did I build this list? I pounded the keyboard.

The first thing I recommend you do as a new blogger is set up Google alerts with keywords related to your topic. I also suggest you search Google news for press releases related to your topic. Both of these will help keep you on top of the news, as well as build up your contact list. At the bottom of every press release is (usually) a name, email and/or phone number of the main contact person.

For months, I emailed people every single day introducing myself, telling them a little about my blog and letting them know I would love to work with them and be added to their press list. It took only a few months to build a solid list of people. My inbox was flooded with post ideas, product review submissions and interview requests. I still email companies and PR firms, but very rarely. I’m now at the stage of turning people away, and you can be there as well if you follow this approach.

2. Post Quality Content Every Day

I definitely will have some people disagree with me on this one and that’s okay. Like I said, this is what worked for me in the beginning. I truly believe that staying committed to having fresh content available every day was a key piece that got me where I am today.

If you don’t have the time to devote to your blog every day, then set aside one chunk of time a week where you write 5 to 7 articles to drip throughout the course of your week. The scheduled post feature is your friend. Use it!

Your readership and numbers will grow because they’ll keep coming back for more every day and your business contacts will grow because they’ll know you’re the type of blogger they want to work with.

3. Build Your Email List Yesterday

When I have a new blogger ask me, “When should I start building my email list?”, I always say “Yesterday”. Meaning, you need to be collecting those emails from your readers on day one. I wish I could say I followed this piece of advice, but I didn’t. I honestly thought people would prefer to receive information about my site from little blurbs on Facebook or Twitter. That is not the case!

Did you know you have readers who are not on either of those sites? (Gasp!) And, did you know there are people who are on Facebook and/or Twitter but they don’t check it every day? (Gasp again!) But guess what? They do check email every day and you’ll reach a lot more people through email, instead of hoping they see it on your Facebook page. So go build that email list…yesterday!

4. Don’t Be a Blog Hermit

One definition of a hermit is “any person living in seclusion; recluse”. In order to have a successful blog, you need to step away from your own blog for a minute and go make friends. Don’t be a hermit! Find blogs within your topic and start commenting on them. And I’m not talking about leaving a “Nice post!” comment or some lengthy one which makes you sound extremely intelligent. Just join the conversation like you would at a get together with your friends. Socialize. Interact. Reach out.

I know there are many bloggers who will agree with the fact that you’ll make friends within the blogging community who will become your friends for life. You’ll start bunking together at events, helping each other’s blogs succeed and maybe even go into business together. If you stay in your own little blogging bubble, you’ll regret it in the end. I promise.

5. Treat Your Blog as a Business

Yes, I know. You’re thinking, “Thank you for the obvious cliché advice, Julie Bonner”. But me telling you to treat your blog as a business is THE most important piece of advice I could give you. You hear successful bloggers say, “If you treat this as a hobby, it will pay you as a hobby. If you treat this as a business, it will pay you as a business” for a reason. The reason is it’s true. I don’t care if you’re a mom blogger, a dad blogger or someone blogging about under water basket weaving – this is a piece of advice for everyone.

Type A Founder Kelby Carr conducted a session at BlogWorld LA 2011 where she talked about this very subject. The session was titled “Parent Bloggers Mean Business”. She gave some very valuable tips and advice on being taken seriously as a blogger. In order to be successful in the blogosphere, it’s important to be respected by both your blogging peers as well as companies. Kelby said to have confidence, don’t obsess over your competition, and behave like a professional. I couldn’t agree more.

6. Hold on Tight. It’s Going to be a Fun and Bumpy Ride

Last but not least, realize blogging is a journey just like anything else in life. You’ll have your days someone leaves a really rude comment on your blog, or makes fun of your video, or insults you in some way. It will happen, especially the more successful you get. Shake it off, call it what it is – someone being terribly stupid, jealous and immature – and realize tomorrow is a new day. (This is where those great blogging friends you’ve made can help save the day with an encouraging word.)

Keep creating good content, keep reaching out to the blogging community and keep being professional. I can tell you first hand – blogging is one heck of a fun ride. So hold on.

Your Readers Matter

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Earlier this year, when I talked about what bloggers can learn from magazines, I touched on this topic a bit, but I wanted to devote a full post to the subject today because it’s one that really matters to me. There’s a trend I’ve been seeing among bloggers that has me a little alarmed: complete disregard for the reader. More and more often, I’m seeing bloggers say that they blog for themselves, and that the reader is secondary – or not important at all. That mindset scares me a little.

Personal versus Professional

First, let’s make a distinction between the type of blogs you could run and what exactly I’m talking about with the issue of disregard for the reader. People commonly split the world of blogging into two groups – personal bloggers and professional bloggers. You can analyze content to determine the difference between the two if you want, but I’ve also made the distinction this way: With a professional blog, I’m trying or hoping to make money from the content in some way. With a personal blog, I am not attempting to make money, nor do I have plans to make money in the future.

If you’re running a personal blog – i.e., you use the blog as a place to rant and rave and don’t care about traffic or revenue or brand building or anything like that, you just want a place to write – then do whatever you want. Don’t care about your readers. Do care about your readers. It doesn’t matter, because it is your personal space on the Internet.

But if you’re running a professional blog? Yes, your readers matter. This entire post is an argument for people running professional blogs.

Reader Respect

The main issue I have with people who say that they don’t care what their readers want is that these same people are relying on readers to make money. Blogs make money in a variety of ways. Maybe your readers purchase products directly from you or from your affiliate links. Maybe you sell advertising space, which means that you can charge more if you have higher traffic numbers. Maybe people who read your blog hire you as a consultant or otherwise pay for your professional services. No matter what, if you want to make money with your blog, you need someone to hand you those dollar bills. If you don’t have readers, you won’t make money.

So, how disrespectful is it to say, “I don’t care about you at all” to that person opening his or her wallet?

No one is forcing a reader to be on your site, and more importantly, no one is forcing a reader to make any kind of purchase. But, I find it horribly pretentious to have the mindset that you don’t need to care about the people who are, essentially, your customers. If they want to buy, they’ll buy. If they don’t, screw them.

It’s just not a good way to run a business. It shows a lot of disrespect to the people who are keeping you in business.

The Reader Doesn’t Know What He Wants

I’m not a fan of the phrase, “The customer is always right.” because frankly, the customer is often not right. There’s something to be said for customer service, even when the customer is clearly incorrect, but I’m not suggesting that you need to let your readers walk all over you.

After all, the reader doesn’t always know what he (or she) wants.

When you run a blog, the reader comes to your site to be informed or entertained (usually both), and it is your job to dictate the content they receive. But it is also your job to listen and analyze how your readers get value for what you offer. Surprise your readers by doing something unexpected or even post something that might cause a stir – but in the back of your mind, ask yourself, “Am I doing thing because it is what my readers need? Or am I doing this because I want my readers to need it?” Keep in mind that what you want to write isn’t always what your readers need to read.

As a writer, I don’t want to tell people not to write about something if they feel passionate about it.  I guess, I’m just recommending that you consider the right time and place for off-topic rants, opinions that don’t always fit your brand, and other things that you really want to write, but that might not be the best for your readers. Start a personal blog, have a special section of your site for such posts, etc. You don’t have to give up your passion for your readers!

I guess all I’m really arguing here is to be a smart business person. Your readers are your customers; even if they don’t buy anything directly for you, they are giving you their time. If this is your business, care about it, remembering that your customers readers are a big part of it.

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