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Making a Living Blogging

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Today’s question comes from Joe Tao who asks:

“Is it a truth, based on your experience, that anyone can make a living blogging if they understand how SEO works”

OK it’s a bit of a big question, but the short answer is yes. However you will need to have a game plan, and here’s how I’d approach the problem.

The first thing you really need to consider is your subject matter. Rand did a much better job covering that than I could so check out “Blogging in an Oversaturated Market is Usually a Poor Decision“. When deciding what to write about there are two schools of thought “write about what you like” or “write about what’s profitable”. It’s something of a catch-22, it’s much easier to write about something you like, but there’s not always money in it, and let’s be honest how many of us are really interested in the intricacies of reverse mortgages. My advice try to find something that interests you and step up to a slightly wider focus where the money is. For example maybe you really enjoy raising African cichlids in your aquarium, I’d step up and cover freshwater aquariums as whole and focus (maybe 10-25% of total posts) ever so slightly on your specific topic of interest.

Once you’ve got your topic down, work on your writing. You don’t need to be a Pulitzer prize winning author, but you do have to be interesting. Don’t think you can use your mad SEO SKILLZ to compensate for lack of quality content. You used to be able work around it, but those days are drawing to a close, and at this stage it’s not a long term solution, or something I’d advise starting today. What if you can’t write, take a community college writing course, read and learn from people who can write online. Hiring someone is an option, but that can get expensive, and not really viable if you’re boot strapping, if all else fails try to take advantage of family members whenever possible.

Next up I’d say come up with a realistic posting schedule. IMHO the bare minimum you need to update your blog is at least once a week. I’d recommend 3-5 times a week if possible, and if the subject is right daily is ideal. It doesn’t matter to some people, but I’m a big advocate of publishing on a schedule as much as possible. For some readers knowing you publish something new every Wednesday is important. If the leading bloggers in your space are updating daily and you can only get the time to blog once a week you’re going to have a hard time competing. Try to take advantage of pre-blogging or remote posting whenever possible. I’m not going to recommend you post from your job … but I can tell you I did it and lots of businesses got their start on some one elses time … not that I’m recommending that … nope … not me

One of the hardest things many bloggers face is keeping on target, people get lured into thinking they can be the next dooce and blog about their lives. Remember the link to Rand’s post a few paragraphs ago, the first question he asks is are you a top writer, unless you really are that good a writer, advertisers won’t be interested in buying space on your lifestyle blog. Your friends may read it, but you’ll never attract hundreds or thousands of readers writing Aunt Millie’s Christmas letter and you won’t make a living blogging. Until you have at least 1000 subscriber stay 100% on target, after that you can deviate ever so slightly, anything more than 10% scares me professionally.

I’m a big fan of using wordpress because it’s well supposed has lots of plugin’s you can use, and it’s written in PHP and cheap and easy to do yourself or find someone to do it for you. That said out of the box it’s not search engine friendly, here are some tips to help you fix that. Next realize many of the templates are wonka-doodle. Find a good clean one and work from there, take out the crap, add in only what you need, and for heaven sakes use CSS dammit. Don’t add any more widgets or other nonsense if you can avoid it, those things usually don’t help. I like liquid layout but check out Fluid, Fixed, and 1024 Resolutions and Maximizing Profits With Website Design and Layout: Part I for more discussion. Once things are rolling if you have the skills or budget to create a distinctive web design that builds your brand.

Next come the discussion of how many blogs can/should you run. If you’ve never run a blog/website before stick with one until you are really really confident. If you have I’d say three is my recommendation and if you go beyond five you’re crazy unless you really know what you are doing or are paying high quality writers. IMHO it’s better to have one or two exceptional blogs instead of five to ten mediocre blogs. Mix things up a bit with the subject matter, you don’t want to have the ‘South American Knitting Blog’ and the ‘South American Crochet Blog’, it just looks funny.

Next you’re going to want to start promoting your blog. Do the usual stuff, like adding your blog address to your email signature, link begging from your friends, and so on. Most blog directories require you have at least 6 months posting history to get listed, so put that on hold for now. Cover whatever is hot in your industry and try to get the attention of A-Listers in your space with comments or trackbacks. Use things like Google trends and Yahoo Buzz Log to spot tie in’s and blog like there’s no tomorrow. Try to take advantage of events in real life, especially TV, don’t be afraid to shell out a $100 on some PPC for a few days, to gain some readers, lots and lots of people totally miss that as an opportunity, and don’t forget predictive SEO. Go to an industry event do some live blogging, meet up with people and build some connections, try to get interviewed on the radio or podcasts. The press release is not dead and try to put out a few year and make it as enticing and exciting as possible.

Develop a flexible social media strategy. For a new blog social is by far the quickest way to jump start the process of getting readers. Make it easy for people to bookmark/submit your website using these services. Write stories that are directly targeted to each of these services regularly/monthly. Prime the pump by submitting yourself or asking friends but don’t be a spammer/beger. Only submit the good stuff. Clueless where to start here is a guide to using Digg and Delicious. Plan social bookmark targeted stories and follow them up with good content to keep the readers/subscribers coming back. Monitor trends, adapt, react and grow.

There you have it my quick, down and dirty 10 mile up plan for making a living blogging. If you want me to go into more detail on something drop a comment or question in the comments section, and I’ll see if I can answer it or elaborate it into a full post.

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