2011 Financial Blogger Conference Roundup

by Mike Holman

Last weekend I attended the first ever Financial Blogger Conference.  All I can say is that it was a truly amazing event – thanks PT!

My wife and I got to Chicago around noon on Friday and went downtown to do some tourist stuff.  While it was fun, if I could do it again I would have gone straight to the conference and started mingling.  I underestimated how incredible this event would be.

Chicago-Tribune building as seen from boat tour.

Unfortunately, I missed the Friday night social and arrived just in time for the “speed networking” event. Talk about starting out in high gear.

I actually didn’t plan on doing the speed networking and thought it was kind of a dumb idea.  Luckily Ryan G forced me to participate and I really enjoyed it.  It served as kind of an icebreaker and knocked you out of whatever social comfort zone you are normally in. This worked out well as the whole weekend was very social and you had to be able to meet people to get the most out of the event.

Walking along the river.

All the presentations were quite excellent.

Why We Write by JD Roth - This was a good presentation about using stories in blogging.  I don’t completely agree with JD, since stories are only applicable for certain types of blogs/posts/audiences – not everyone will benefit from this.  However, most of us could put at least a little more “person” in our personal finance posts.

Getting to 1 million pageviews on a small budget by Will Chen from Wisebread was a very interesting segment which shows how well WB is run as a business.  Many bloggers run their sites as a labor of love and don’t treat it enough like a business. He also made the interesting point that at least 50% of your efforts should go towards marketing. I agree – If you spend all your time writing, nobody will notice you, you won’t make any money and then you will stop blogging.

The affiliate panel had some good information on affiliate marketing. Unfortunately, some of the examples they used were not popular ones with the crowd. I didn’t like this reaction because I thought the panel was doing a good job sharing their info. Just because they might use payday loans as an example doesn’t mean you can’t use that info and apply it to other products you might be selling. I’m not a fan of payday loans, but they are better than loan sharks!

Ramit’s show keynote presentation was very entertaining. One thing I got out of his presentation is that he figured out something he was good at [developing and marketing courses] and that’s what he does.  He doesn’t worry about SEO or any number of other things because that’s not part of his business model. Figure out something profitable that you are good at and enjoy – and then run with it.

At the “ask the experts” table – I chatted mainly with Mike & Pete about their business model of buying and running multiple sites which is a model I have considered in the past.

Amanda Steinberg from Daily Worth talked about her email model which has been incredibly successful for her. Not unlike JD’s advice about using stories – I think the “email list” advice has to be considered in the context of your blog.  I wrote more details on this on “Do you need a newsletter for your blog“. I enjoyed this presentation. The important thing is to try different monetization methods and figure out which works out best.

68 ways to monetize your blog by Julia Scott was a good presentation, although it would have been more useful for someone who doesn’t have much experience with monetizing their blog.

Actionable SEO by Greg Go of Wisebread – Another interesting presentation about how WB applies SEO to their material. It was interesting to hear that they don’t do keyword research (ie picking topics based on potential earnings), but rather they focus on apply SEO to whatever posts get published – formatting for SEO, getting links etc. They also try to keep the length of their posts to a magazine length of 800-1000 words. Given that their search engine numbers went up after the Panda update, clearly any SEO advice from WB is good.  I really wish I had made the effort to talk to the WB guys (and gal), but I really don’t know them at all and it didn’t happen. (maybe next year?).

WordPress behind the scenes by Ryan Guina – I know Ryan fairly well and didn’t expect to learn much from this presentation since we’ve already discussed this topic at length in other venues.  However, the presentation was excellent and I learned some very important things which will be shared in a future post.

From blog to book by Kylie Ofiu – I enjoyed this presentation since I’m an author myself. I didn’t really learn much, but I think most bloggers would have gained an appreciation for the various publishing models.

Write like a pro by Donna Freedman – Unfortunately, I skipped this presentation since I was getting a bit burned out and went for a walk with my wife. I heard it was excellent and if anyone has a review of this talk – please let me know and I’ll add it in.

After the Ally happy hour a bunch of us went to Big Bowl for dinner, which is a Chinese/Thai restaurant.  Yum!

Afterwords, I went to the after hours party. The downstairs level of the bar was good, but the main event was upstairs in this incredibly loud nightclub.  It seems like everyone else there had a good time, but I left early because it was just too f***ing loud.  Or maybe I’m just too f***ing old?  ;)  I got back to the hotel around midnight and saw a fair number of bloggers in major chat mode.  I didn’t want to stay up too late, so I just went to bed. In retrospect, I think I might have been better off skipping the after hours party and just hanging out at the hotel lobby.

Designing and Launching a Product of your own by Adam Baker -  This talk was excellent, Baker is a very good speaker and it was fun to watch. Having written a book of my own, I could certainly relate to the project management tasks which are necessary to complete a big project.  Well done Adam.

Get in Print – Connect with Traditional Media panel – All I can say is that this presentation was hot, hot, hot!!  ;)  The panel gave a ton of excellent advice about how to develop media contacts and how to deal with media opportunities.

Advanced Monetization Strategies by Lynn Truong of Wisebread.  Again, another funny, excellent presentation by a WB member. She had a ton of great ideas along with strategies that didn’t work so well. Fantastic talk.

Beyond Blogging – How to use your blog as a platform for other opportunities by Kelly Whalen.  This was a very good presentation by someone who didn’t have a lot of success with their blog, but turned the blog into a platform to get freelance writing opportunities and community manager jobs to name a few. Great information.

Proven strategies to stand out from the crowd by Pat Flynn – This was another enjoyable presentation by another first time speaker.

Closing remarks by Phil Taylor – Nice job finishing up the conference and thank you Phil for running a perfect conference.

I was going to try to link to everyone I met, but I just don’t have the time.  Thank you for everyone I talked to for being so nice and I hope to see you all there next year.

Here is a list of other conference recaps:

{ 7 comments }

1 Canadian Personal Finance

All the recaps sound great. I would like to go next year – only been to Chicago once before and it was freezing!

Would be nice to get more financial sponsors on board.

2 Hunter @ Financially Consumed

Glad you had a great time Mike. FINCON11 is now folklore!

3 Kris @ Everyday Tips

Isn’t it amazing how not one person I have come across has had a bad thing to say about FINCON? It was a fantastic event.

Donna Freedman was great. She is a true journalist, and much better at using the English language than I am. I learned that I frequently ‘do’ some of the ‘donts’ she listed. Guess that is what you get for loving math and hating English in school.

Review overview of the conference. I am so old that I didn’t even go to the after hours party, so that must make me older than you!

4 Peter

I agree about the Saturday night party – it just isn’t my thing anymore – i suppose I’m getting old too.. When i got there and it was just so loud/etc – i just jumped a cab and went back to the hotel where i got to sit and chat with the likes of JD Roth, Bob Lotich, Matt Jabs and a bunch of others. I would say my time was better spent!

It was nice meeting you – next time we’ll have to do lunch or something!

5 Mike Holman

@CPF – The weather wasn’t bad.

@Hunter – Yes, it is!

@Kris – I agree.

@Pete – You did the right thing. Yes, lunch next year.

6 Glen Craig

I feel robbed!

I forgive you but only because it was cool to meet you and your wife and have dinner with you and some other great publishers.

Now I wish I got back to the lobby sooner Saturday night. It sounds like it was a real cool hangout without all of the hearing loss I sustained.

Again, it was great meeting you!

7 Mike Holman

@Glen – You were robbed. :)

It was great to meet you as well.

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