Added On: Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why Blog?

Darren Prowse Darren Rowse is the guy who writes ProBlogger.net. Many people consider his site the best source of information about making money from blogs. For most small businesees, making money directly from the blog is unrealistic, but you can still learn a lot from his tips. If you're just starting to blog, be sure to read his list of tips for beginners and follow blogging news at Blogging.alltop.com Darren also has a new book out called ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income.
  1. Question: How much can a blogger, assuming she is working hard and creating good content, really make?

    Answer: The vast majority of those who blog don't even consider the idea of making money from their blogs. They blog for fun, to keep in touch with family and friends, as a hobby and as a result making money doesn't enter their minds (and in most cases it shouldn't because making money from personal blogs is an uphill battle).

    When it comes to bloggers who are in it for the money, the sad reality is that most don't make a lot. Last time I surveyed my readers at ProBlogger about their monthly earnings the majority were earning very little (49% said that they earned under $100 a month). Many of these are new bloggers (ProBlogger has a very large percentage of it's readers in their first months of blogging) but unfortunately even many mare experienced bloggers don't earn much despite working hard and writing good content.

    It is very difficult to put a figure on it because bloggers earnings vary so much. For example:

    • This morning I had an email in my inbox from one blogger who was earning $3 a day after two years of blogging every single day

    • Yesterday I had a skype chat with a blogger who launched 3 blogs 11 months ago and is about to transition into full time blogging as his earnings have risen above what he was earning in his previous employment

    • Last week I had coffee with a teenage blogger who last year managed to build and sell a blog in 2-3 weeks for a $3000 profit - not bad money for a young guy (that blog then sold a year later for around $60,000)


    The money is out there but it's not guaranteed by any means. Hard work and good content are two of many factors that you need in order to build a profitable blog. Other factors include savvy choice of topic, the ability to network and leverage contacts, good branding, a touch or two of luck, a lot of creativity, the ability to build community.... and more.

  2. Question: For most bloggers, what's the most likely scenario for making a few bucks with their blogs?

    Answer: While we hear a lot of stories about the big bucks that some bloggers are able to earn from their blogging what I find is that a more likely scenario for many bloggers is that they are able to build up their blogs over a year or two of constant posting to a point where they're able to supplement their income or even enable themselves to work in their 'real job' part time.

    This is what I encourage those starting out to aim for as their first goal. Rather than aiming for their first million dollars from blogging it's more helpful to aim for a series of smaller goals. My own story of blogging--this is a mega paraphrased version was that I started out blogging purely as a hobby.

    After a year or so I accidentally started my first commercial blog (a whole other story) and began to earn enough money to buy myself a coffee every second morning. I then set myself the goal to pay for my internet access costs--dial up at the time! Once I achieved this I set the goal of buying a new laptop (an iBook).

    Once I passed that goal I began to think about the idea of giving up one of my part time jobs (I had a number of them) and work on blogging a day a week. I gradually began to increase the time I worked on blogging as I decreased the time I worked in my other work until I went full time as a blogger.

    Yes, some bloggers go full time and make big dollars but often their stories are often a lot less glamorous than it might sound.

  3. Question: What do you think of Seth Godin not having comments on his blog?

    Answer: I think that it works well for Seth (as does many things he turns his attention to). While the common convention is to give your readers a space to interact with you in the comments directly below your posts Seth's chosen to let his readers interact with what he has to say on their own blogs (or with him via email).

    From what I can tell, one of his main reasons for this was to cut down the work that he needs to put into comment moderation. I understand the temptation to do this - I've just hired someone to help me with this very task on ProBlogger.

    However another stroke of genius (I'm not sure if it's intended) with this approach is that Seth has made his blog a little more viral by not having comments. What happens when he writes something that people want to respond to? In many cases they blog about it - 'sneezing' his post further than his current readership.

    Check out the number of blogs that link to his posts in Technorati. Most of them are just writing things that you'd normally expect to see being left as comments on a blog. It's no wonder that he's currently the 13th most linked to blog in the blogosphere (according to the Top 100 list)!

    This wouldn't work with everyone - Seth has an established profile that drives traffic to his blog so he perhaps didn't need to work quite so hard as the average blogger does to kick start things. As a result a normal blogger starting with no comments might not see this viral impact.

  4. Question: How about Valleywag's requirement to be "approved" to leave comments?

    Answer: The Gawker network's blogs (including Valleywag, Lifehacker etc) require those leaving comments to be registered with the site in order to do this.

    I'm not privy to their reasoning for this but presume it's an attempt to cut back on comment spam. High profile blogs like these attract a lot of comment spam (as I write this the comment spam filter that I use, Akismet, has stopped 3,838,453 spam comments on ProBlogger).

    So I can totally understand their reasoning for requiring users to register to comment.

    I wouldn't have taken this approach myself because it's obviously cut down the interaction on their blog. As I write this the most commented post on their front page has 20 comments. You'd think a blog that ranks in the 4000's on Alexa would have more comments than that and perhaps that's partly a result of requiring users to register.

    A result of having less comments is less page views for the blog - every comment left means that the visitor to your blog takes their page view from 1 to 2 - when you're running the CPM based ads that Gawker runs I would have thought that this would have been an obvious way to make a few extra dollars.

    Having said all that - I understand the nightmares that the comment sections of larger blogs can create and I suspect that on a blog like Valleywag it'd be a bigger nightmare than normal given it's topics. And ultimately it doesn't seem to have impacted the blog's growth that much - it's got a massive presence. Having that profile enables them to get away with the approach - something I suspect smaller blogs would suffer more from doing.

  5. Question: How many blog feeds do you subscribe to?

    Answer: Around 650 - but I'm in a stage of trying to cull some of these. I got rid of 50 in the last week and plan to halve it in the coming month.

  6. Question: What are your favorite three of these and why?

    Answer: Just three? Wow, that's a challenge.

    • Chris Brogan. Another positive and useful blog on a topic that I'm fascinated with - Social Media. What I like about Chris is that he doesn't present himself as the expert on his topic but rather comes across as a guy on a journey who is discovering more and more each day. I find this very relatable, inspiring and motivating.

    • ZenHabits. Leo who is the blogger behind this blog is relatively new (it's been around since January 2007) yet it's managed to amass over 50,000 subscribers and an avid readership (check out how many comments it gets). I like it because it's about topics that are relevant to my busy life (productivity) and because I feel like I'm a part of a community there that is vibrant and going places. There's something about the energy of a blog like this that is exciting to watch and be a part of.

    • Lifehacker. Not a day goes buy that I don't find something that enhances my life in some way. I also appreciate it's positive style that it's written in. There's no snark on the blog and this translates into a pretty positive vibe in the comments area too.



  7. Question: How much should a company care about what the blogosphere thinks of its products or services?

    Answer: My advice to companies is that they should at the very least be aware of what is being said about them in the blogosphere. There are so many wonderful free tools available for them to monitor what is being said that I wonder why a company wouldn't utilize them.

    The question then is how active to be in responding to what is said about them as a company. There's a real skill to know when you should take what is said about you on blogs with a grain of salt (and to remain silent) and when (and how) to respond. There are some wonderful opportunities out their for companies who are willing to engage with, be transparent to, learn from, apologize to bloggers. However there are also times when responding badly can do you more harm than good.

  8. Question: What is the Darren Rowse recommended starter kit for a blogger?

    Answer: I'm a Mac user so some of the following will reflect this.

    • Host: At b5media (the blog network that I cofounded and have my blogs hosted with) all of our blogs are hosted on a cluster of servers with LogicWorks. I should say however that our tech team keep me well away from anything to do with the back end of our blogs, including servers so I'm probably not the guy to ask about this!

    • Blog Editor: I use Ecto (the Mac version). I've used it for a year or two now and have been testing their 3.0 version (beta). It's still a bit buggy but their 2nd version is great and fits perfectly with my own blogging workflow. I also have tried MarsEdit and like what they've done.


    Other Tools That I Use Daily:

    • ImageWell: a great little image editing tool. It's light and easy to use and saves me getting out Adobe's heavier products to resize, reshape and edit images.

    • Twhirl: my Twitter client. I use this more than any other application these days.

    • Skype: b5media's team is all over the world so this saves us thousands of dollars in calls each month.

    • Google Reader: My RSS reader of choice.

    • Gmail: I only just switched from Apple's Mail.app, and it's heaven.



  9. Question: What percentage of the 46,694 Feedburner's readers of your blog do you think actually read your postings?

    Answer: It's a good question and one that I'd love to see someone develop better metrics to discover.

    To answer your question though - I guess it partly depends upon how you define "read." If my readers are anything like me in the way that they subscribe to feeds the majority of them are scanning their feeds every day or three to see what leaps out of them to read in more depth. So most are "lightly reading"--I'm an eternal optimist--but only a smaller number are actually reading word for word.

    When I log into Feedburner I see that they say that my "reach" varies between 6,000 and 10,000. This "reach" statistic is the number of people taking some action on the content on my feed on any given day--that ios, they click or "view," whatever that means. So I'd say somewhere between 10,000 and 46,694 "read" the posts - but really it's anyones guess what people do with content via RSS!

  10. Question: How many bloggers in the world do you think can make $100,000/year, best case?

    Answer: Let me answer this with a few disconnected thoughts as it's one of those 'best guess' type questions:

    Last time I surveyed ProBlogger readers on what they were earning around 9% (of 3054 responses) said that they earned over $15,000 a month. While this is obviously a skewed result (partly because it was taken on a blog about blogging for money and partly because people do tend to click the most extreme option in polls for 'fun' from time to time) it's interesting to me that every time I've done this type of poll I almost always get a result of 7-9% in this upper category. Again - this is nowhere near the truth when applied to all bloggers but in my mind it at least shows that there are some bloggers out there making some decent money from the medium.

    The same poll showed that 26% of my readers were earning under $10 a month with 49% earning under $100 a month. You can see the results here.

    It's clear to me that the vast majority of bloggers are making very little from blogs and that this isn't likely to change. Having said that, there's a growing group of bloggers who are making a substantial part of their income from blogging. For many it's taking the place of part time work and for others it's becoming a full time thing.

    I would hazard a guess that the number of full time bloggers would now be in the thousands. But this is just a guess - I've only come across 100 or so personally. Of those who are making six figures a year.... it's anybody's guess.

  11. Question: Then why blog at all?

    Answer: I guess I could ask the same question about many activities that people engage in. Take sport for example - there are a small group of people making a mind boggling money from professional sports, a slightly larger group who are able to make a full time living from it, a bigger group who might supplement their income from it but the vast majority of us do it for other reasons (health and fitness, social reasons, personal challenge etc).

    The same is true for blogging.

    The bloggers I interact with every day blog for many reasons. For some it's partly about money but for others it's about many other factors including fun, building profile, finding a girlfriend, networking, as a record keeping exercise, to learn from others, finding others with common passions and interests etc

    Last time I surveyed ProBlogger readers on their motivations for blogging "Money" came in first but remember it's a blog about making money so this is to be expected. However, "Fun" was almost equal to "Money" and was a long way ahead of any other reason given. You can see the results of this poll here.

    For me blogging is about many things. The thing that excites me most about it is that it gives people a voice that they may not have had previously. It's also a wonderful tool for building community - something I'm pretty passionate about. These are the two things that attracted me to blogging and were the reasons I did it daily for a year or more before I even considered the idea of making money from it - I suspect I'm not alone.

  12. Question: After all the controversy settles, what would happen if someone like me stopped providing a RSS-feed subscription to my blog?

    Answer: If you stopped offering RSS feed subscription I suspect you'd have a significant segment of your readers up in arms about it because RSS is a fairly important way for many tech savvy web readers consume content online. The reaction would vary from blog to blog, partly depending upon the niche/topic that it was reaching out to. In some niches it'd be a more significant reaction than others.

    You would lose quite a few of these as readers completely because they just don't read content any other way. But your core loyal readers would find other ways to follow what you blog. If you were to give up RSS you'd need to provide readers with some other way to follow what you were doing. Whether this was email alerts, Twitter or some other means, but I suspect your total readership would suffer as a result.

  13. Question: What's your reaction when a reader threatens to stop reading your free blog?

    Answer: I've never really considered this one before. In the five years I've been blogging I can only think of two or three times when someone has told me that they are not going to read me any more. I'm sure it's happened a lot more than this but it's never really been something I've heard verbalized to me.

    If someone did threaten to stop reading I guess I'd respond in a number of ways:

    • I'd be interested to hear why and would probably try to find out their reasons

    • I'd want to respond with either an apology if I've offended or an explanation on why I've decided to blog like I do

    • I'd then wish them well in their search for what they're looking for - perhaps even with a recommendation on a blog that might suit them better.


    That sounds all very reasoned doesn't it! Of course this is if I was having a good day and the interaction wasn't an angry one.

    Ultimately, I'd rather not have a reader that isn't happy with the content that I produce. There's plenty of alternatives out there so if someone doesn't connect with me or find my blog helpful then it's not really any skin off my back. I do listen to the feedback I get but if it's unreasonable or doesn't fit with my goals I'm not likely to change the course of my blog for one person.

  14. Question: Other than advertisers, does anyone care about Google Page Rank anymore?

    Answer: Judging from the email that I receive from bloggers every time there is a change in Google's page rank indexing I'd say that there are a lot of people who do care about it--unhealthily so. My response has been to get on with blogging and build a better blog.

    Most of us as bloggers like to know that what we do matters. We like to track and compare our progress and as a result different measures of 'success' have emerged. For some of us it's about Technorati's Authority Ranking, for others it's Alexa, for others it's our RSS subscriber counter, for others it is Page Rank.

    The problem is that none of these measures is perfect,and Page Rank is no exception. Even Google seems to have pulled back on it's emphasis of Page Rank over the last year or so (at least it's public expression of it). However many bloggers still obsess about it. Some focus on it because it used to be an important measure and they've not realized that things have changed and others because they're selling text links and can charge more for them with a higher Page Rank.

  15. Question: Are these advertisers deluding themselves about the significance of Page Rank scores?

    Answer: I'm probably not the guy to ask about this topic - there are a lot better SEO experts than me. But I do think we'll continue to see less and less emphasis put upon Google's Page Rank. Most of the serious advertisers that we deal with at b5media are more interested in other measures like comscore or other traffic measures.

  16. Question: What would you do if you were Yahoo!?

    Answer: If I were Yahoo! I'd sell and retire to the Bahamas to the highest bidder.

    Seriously though - I don't pretend to be an expert in the dealings of big business but my philosophy in business has always been to find ways to enhance the lives of my customers. I preach this to bloggers by saying to make their blogs useful and unique.

    When I look at what Google is doing I see a company who is doing just this. Every day I use Gmail, Google Reader, Google Search, AdSense and other Google products because they make me more productive, efficient and effective in what I do. The last time that Yahoo did something that enhanced my life was.... well I'm not sure when it was. They bought a few companies that enhance my life (Flickr, Delicious etc) but that's about it.

  17. Question: What would you do if you were Technorati?

    Answer: I used to use Technorati a lot more than I currently do. The reason I used them was that they offered me things that no one else did that made my life as a blogger better. These days I see other options and some of them just work better.

    One thing that Technorati does have in its favor is that it has existing relationships with many thousands of bloggers. The relationships might be a little tenuous (I know a lot of bloggers who are frustrated with Technorati) but there's amazing potential here if it can build up these relationships.

    I've always found it a little odd that as a blogger in their Top 100 lists that I've never had an email from Technorati except for a few that I had in response to complaints and problems. Perhaps rather than providing "services" to bloggers they need to think about how they can "partner with" bloggers for mutual benefits. So if I were Technorati I'd put a lot of effort into interacting with bloggers (of all sizes), finding out what they want and need and working from there.

  18. Question: How can a small business use blogs to achieve greater success?

    Answer: Blogging isn't only about selling advertising. There are many strategic reasons to do it to. I asked my followers on Twitter this question and together we came up this list:

    1. Establish brand and expertise. Blogging consistently and in a way that adds value to the lives of readers for a long period of time can have a profound impact upon the way people perceive you. Many bloggers have become perceived as "experts" in their field through their blogging and I can't see why this wouldn't apply to a small business wanting to establish itself as an innovator in it's industry. Blogging consistently over time similarly can significantly build the brand of businesses and their products.

    2. Give your business and employees a voice. What attracted me to blogging was that it is a medium that amplifies the "voice" of those who use it. Before I started blogging my influence extended only as far as my friendship, professional, and family networks. With a blog this voice is amplified many times over to the point that on any given day hundreds of thousands of people come into contact with something I've said or written. For a business, that's a valuable thing and for a small business it's priceless.

    3. Extend your marketing beyond a local area. In a similar way, many small businesses struggle to have a presence outside their local area. While for some businesses staying locally focused is important for many there are opportunities to build a customer base nationally and even internationally. Blogging knows no borders and can open up conversations with potential international customers and partners.

    4. Create loyalty and conversation with customers. Some businesses see more traffic on their blogs than company pages. It's no wonder that this is the case because the standard company page is fairly static, and there is little reason to visit more than once. A blog by its very nature draws people back to it time and time again. It also is an interactive space that not only presents readers with information to consume but gives them opportunity to react. While this interaction might seem a little threatening to some--I think it's an opportunity for a business because with every visit to the blog and every comment a reader has the brand of the business reinforced in their mind and can be brought a step closer to being a customer.

    5. Establish trust and build relationship. Blogs are brilliant at building relationships and creating trust. The people who read my blogs get a personal message every day from me which over the years becomes very powerful.

    6. Level the search-engine playing field. Blogs tend to rank well in search engines once they've become established and enable small players to compete with larger ones to drive traffic via Google and Yahoo.

    7. Provide market research. One of the things I love the most about blogging is that the almost immediate feedback and interaction that is possible with the medium opens up some wonderful possibilities for group learning and research. Within ten minutes of my asking my "followers" on Twitter why blogging is good for small businesses, I had thirty responses--including some that I'd not considered myself. Engaging with readers on a blog is similar. It's not all about what you can convince them to buy, but it becomes a relationship where your customer or potential customer is given an opportunity to help shape the products and services that your company makes.

    8. Provide low-cost PR. Public relations is important to businesses large and small, but many small business owners that I speak with don't have the budget to engage experts or hire internal PR managers. A blog is an incredibly low cost way of getting important messages out to the public. They can be effective tools for managing a problem or crisis impacting a business but also a great way to get out news of a new product or achievement.

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