Posts Tagged ‘content’

Leveraging your Blog with Paid Content

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

Most personal finance bloggers make money from their sites through advertising. The current next big thing in making money online is to develop paid content and/or consulting income. For personal finance bloggers like me, paid consulting about personal finance is almost impossible. There is already an industry that consults on finance issues — financial planners and independent financial advisors — it quite rightly requires serious study, qualifications and liability insurance. Very few financial advisors are personal finance bloggers (or very few personal finance bloggers are financial advisors), most like me are providing information for entertainment purposes only.

More Than Advertising?

All the above means that if you are a personal finance blogger who wants to extract more income from your site or brand than you can get from advertising, you need to develop paid content. To my mind, there’s nothing wrong with this. Think about the news. I can and do read the news online for free, but not all the content of my favourite newspaper (The Independent) is there. If I want everything I have to pay for it.

Some personal finance bloggers are starting to go down this route. Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar has written and published a book — what’s in the book is generally along the same lines as some posts in his blog but it isn’t a duplication of blog content. Trent has also collected together some of his blog post series as e-books and charges $2 for them to be downloaded. With the sort of traffic that he gets (approx 40k subs), that’s likely to be a nice little earner since $2 is fairly nominal for a visitor, but the work involved in setting it up is a one off cost.

Paid Content: A Case Study

Ramit Sethi is always looking for a way to do something different with his blog I Will Teach You To Be Rich, and preferably make a little money whilst doing so. His latest idea is a paid subscription to a money saving email. From the description it sounds like you pay $8 a month, and in return you get an email with detailed ideas that will save you large amounts of money. It’s worth stating that Ramit’s audience is typically young and high earning with a high disposable income — I’m sure that the cost of the subscription is pitched at the level that most of his readers wouldn’t even notice.

Ways to Make it Work

Personally, I think one of the key selling points of blogging is that it produces free content. Free content ranks highly in search engines, and is a great stand alone advertising technique. Writing free and focused content as part of your blog should be the core of your blogging strategy — if you’re trying to market content about widgets, people are going to be looking for blog posts about widgets, not blog posts about marketing widgets.

It’s also going to help to deliver your paid-for and free content separately, and differently if you can. This distinguishes the two offerings more easily, and means that you won’t be caught by having information similar to your paid content on other free blogs. Just something as simple as packaging it for easy reading on a kindle, or maybe podcasting, or producing content designed for emailing rather than web display can give your readers and visitors a reason to buy.

Content And Usability Before Blog Promotion

Monday, September 8th, 2008

I occasionally come across new bloggers who are eager to generate traffic to their blog.  They become focused on blog promotion and SEO before their blog is ready. I applaud their efforts, but I think it’s a mistake to promote your blog to prematurely.

Photo by Kelly Asmodee via Flickr

A good web site should serves a purpose.  For instance, a commercial site’s purpose might be selling some sort of products.  Without a well designed site, catalog of products, easy-to-use navigation, and secure eCommerce system, there’s no point in promoting the site because all the effort will be for naught.  Likewise, your blog serves a purpose — may be you want it to tell your story, share your interest or your expertise.  The commonality is that all blogs need some kind of content; as such, you should have at least a few good posts on your blog before you even attempt to promote it. And don’t even worry about SEO until you have sizable number of posts.

In addition to content, you should also design the blog for usability.  In general, blogs are well designed out of the box, but there are a few things you could do to improve it further:

  • Choose a professional looking theme
  • Navigation is clear and consistent
  • Feed subscription button is clearly visible, preferably above the fold
  • Search box is available and easy to find
  • Archive is easily accessible (I prefer a simple link in the navigation bar that links to a full archive page)
  • There is no unfinished posts
  • All links are working

By focusing on your content and usability first, you are giving your visitors good reasons to become readers, and hopefully, they’ll come back in the future.

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How To Grow A New Blog Efficiently

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

This article contains some information and ideas that I have about how to grow a small or new blog efficiently. Unfortunately writing good content is not enough — there are so many blogs out there that you have to do some extra work in order to get noticed. These ideas are more effective on smaller blogs so as your blog grows then you can modify or omit items.

promote new blog
Photo by Mtchm via Flickr

Content

It’s been said before and I’ll say it again: without reasonably good regular content then your traffic growth will be sluggish at best. Write about topics that interest you and hopefully you know something about.

A few ideas about content:

  • Focussed or not? — Some people say that blogs with a narrow range of topics are more successful. Personally I don’t worry about it — if something interests you then write about it.
  • Length — When I started on a blog and was posting five times a week I decided to try to do posts that were 300-500 words in length. I didn’t want them too short and I didn’t want them too long. Because if they were, I’d rather split them up and post them over two days. Now that I’m sharing a blog I don’t worry about the length as much, but I do think that posts that are too long might be detrimental to growing traffic since most readers don’t really want to read a book when they are browsing their reader. On the other hand it can be a bit annoying when you check out a new post on a blog and they have written a two sentence reminder to themselves or something equally silly which I’ve seen many times.
  • Think up ideas in advance — It amazes me when I hear about bloggers who regularly sit down in the evening and think up an idea and then write a post on it. I suppose this has to do with individual style but I like to think up most of my ideas in advance and I hate writing last minute posts.
  • Avoid burnout – If you post twice a week for a year then you will have a much larger following then if you post seven days a week for three months. If you want to be a blogger for the long term then you have to pace yourself. Even taking a week off now and again (maybe not right in the beginning however) is not a bad idea.

Posting schedule

This is an interesting topic since not everyone agrees about how often a blogger should post. My blog posts five days a week which is facilitated by the fact that there are two writers so we only write every second day. My feeling on this topic is that you don’t have to post five times a week to grow your audience — two or three times a week should be sufficient.

I would however suggest that you follow a schedule — i.e., for twice a week then post the same two days each week. Avoiding burnout is a key goal of a beginning blogger so if posting three times a week feels comfortable then do three times a week. There is nothing gained if you struggle to post five times a week (or more) and then end up quitting the blog after a frustrating few months.

RSS Icon

See that orange square in the upper right side of the screen? That’s a FeedBurner icon and it allows readers to easily subscribe to your feed. This is very important because making it easier for readers to read your posts when they are published will increase your readership. Get one!

Carnivals

Carnivals are one of the best ways for a new blog to get new readers. I’ve found the Carnival of Personal Finance to be the best for my personal finance blog but Festival of Frugality is also quite good. Other PF carnivals to consider are Carnival of Money Stories, Carnival of Financial Goals, and Money Hacks Carnival.

Whatever your blog is about — there are probably carnivals covering that topic. If not then start one of your own at Blog Carnival!

Some suggestions regarding carnivals:

  • Don’t wait — I don’t care if you only have two posts up — start submitting now!
  • Submit often — Especially in the beginning you should be submitting every week.
  • Concentrate on bigger blogs if you don’t submit regularly — The most traffic the blog gets, the better your chances for some referrals.
  • Submit early — Putting in a late submission means the host may not read your post and will probably “bury” it at the bottom of the list. The higher up the page your submission is, the more referrals you will get.
  • Appropriate topic — Try to pick the best posts for the right carnival. If you are really keen you can even try to write posts with a particular carnival in mind but this is not something I do.
  • Match your post to the host — Take a look at the host blog and see what kind of material they are into. If a host looks like they are not into your favorite topic then try to find something else to submit. If you don’t submit regularly then try to submit a post when the host blog has similar topics to yours. If the host really likes your submission then they will often use it in their “editor’s picks” which will be (hopefully) featured at the top of the page where you will get the most referrals.

Hosting carnivals

This is a lot of work but it can really raise the profile of your blog because:

  • You will get a lot of traffic and will get noticed
  • Getting links to your blog raises your profile with Google which will help you in the long run

Try to pick carnivals that are appropriate to your subject manner and look for smaller carnivals in the beginning because the more popular ones tend to choose more established bloggers to be their hosts. I have yet to host a carnival but I’ve signed up to do three in the next few months so I shall see how it goes.

Comments on other blogs

This is a great way to market your blog. Some suggestions for leaving comments:

  • Correct info — Make sure you fill in the name of your blog and the correct URL.
  • Usefulness — Write a meaningful comment on the post. Things like “great post” are not going to get you any traffic.
  • Relevancy — The more relevant the post is to your blog then the more likely it is that a good comment will get some referrals. Someone who is reading the comments is definitely interested in the topic so if you look like you are interested in that topic as well then they might check out your blog. On the same idea — focus on blogs that are similar to your own.
  • Blog size — Comment on medium sized blogs. Commenting on large blogs is often a waste of time since there are too many comments and it seems like nobody reads any of them! By the same token, a small blog will not have enough traffic to make it worthwhile commenting if it’s traffic that you want. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t comment on very small or very big blogs if you want to but the traffic potential will be less.

Link to other blogs

This is a key tool and is part of networking with other bloggers. Bloggers love to get recognized and praised (at least I do) so if you write a post and include a link to one of their posts then they will often come and check out your blog. Ideally if they like your blog and hopefully start reading it, then they will put some links to your blog in one of their posts which can be an excellent source of traffic. As I mentioned with the comments, medium sized blogs will probably provide the best results for this strategy.

Read other blogs

If you want to comment on, link to and network other bloggers then you have to know what they write about so make sure you read at least a few blogs regularly.

Network with other bloggers

This usually takes the form of emailing other bloggers — you can comment on a post, tell them you like their blog, ask for advice etc. This won’t work with every blogger but it can serve as a great learning tool and can also lead to more links — and you might even make some good friends.

Guest posts

This is another area where I will be venturing for the first time in the next few weeks. From discussions with other bloggers this can be a good source of new readers. Guest posts take time so this shouldn’t be done at the expense of your own content. Again, try to match the subject content of the blog you will be guest posting on to your own for maximum benefit.

Here too I would say try to go for medium sized blogs — they are likely to be receptive to a guest post and if their content is similar to your own then this strategy could be quite beneficial.

Advertisement on your blog

I would suggest that you not bother with any advertising when you start a blog for the following reasons:

  • No money — You need traffic to make money with advertisement on your blog, so until your blog has a chance to grow there is no benefit to having advertising.
  • Aesthetics — Advertisement on your blog almost always has a detrimental effect on the way a blog looks. This is an acceptable trade off for an established blog but for a new blog you are better off without ads. It’s kind of like a first date — you want to look as good as possible!

SEO

Search Engine Optimization is a fascinating subject but for a new blog I would completely ignore it. You will have plenty of time later on to get into this topic. Time spent on SEO is time not spent on content or marketing which is a mistake for a new blog.

Social Networks

Social networks are a great way to generate traffic and new readers. StumbleUpon in particular has been pretty effective for me. I would say that this might not be the best route for a brand new blog but keep it in mind and maybe after a few months, start looking into it.

Summary

If you try to do all of the above items in a big way then that would take a lot of time which doesn’t fit with the “efficient” theme of the post. I would concentrate on the following items for maximum benefit:

  • Content — This has to be the top priority.
  • Carnivals — These don’t take much time to enter so this will help grow your blog efficiently.
  • RSS icon — This doesn’t take long to set up.
  • Link to and comment on other bigger blogs.
  • Networking – It’s hard to go wrong with getting know other bloggers.

None of these suggestions are “all or none” propositions. If you want to enter three carnivals a week then go ahead. If you only want to enter one carnival every three weeks then that is fine too. Whether it’s entering a carnival, adding an extra link to to a post or emailing another blogger — every little bit counts.