Few people are more highly regarded in the blogging-for-business world than Darren Rowse of ProBlogger.net. He has essentially set the blueprint for how to turn a blog into a business, and is one of the go-to sources for tips on how to do as much. He had a chat with WebProNews at BlogWorld last week, after speaking in one of the more popular keynotes at the event.
Rowse discussed with us how people can get started blogging, and eventually turn their blogs into moneymakers. "You need a blog to start with, then really my first priority would be getting some useful content on there - some content that's actually going to solve some problems for people," he said. "So if you're blog's a how-to type blog, you want to start thinking 'what's a beginner in this topic need to know?' and start writing that type of content that you can be referring back to later, so that when you start promoting it, you've got content there that they'll find, that is engaging for them. So that is probably the first step, and then, it's about putting yourself out there, and trying to find some readers."
Have you been able to turn your blog into a business? Let us know.
If the how-to path is the one you're interested in traveling, I'd reccommend reading this article, discussing ways to create effective how-to articles, with tips provided by John Hewitt, who has written technical manuals for companies like IBM, Intuit, and Motorola.
Either way, "First you want to know who you want to attract, because it's kind of easy to get noticed on the Internet, but if you do it in the wrong way, you could actually 1. take yourself further away from your goals, but 2. find the wrong readers," noted Rowse. "You could get..readers from a place like Digg or StumbleUpon...some of these social bookmarking sites, but they may not actually be the type of person that you want to journey with for the whole long term. So define who you want to reach, and ask the question, 'where can I find them online?'"
"Answering that question, for me, on my photography site led me to Flickr. Flickr's a place where people have cameras, and not everyone takes great photos, so it was a place for me to develop a presence. For other blogs, it may lead you to Twitter or Facebook or another blog or a forum that is related to your particular niche."
Forums can actually be great for your brand (in some cases, maybe even more so than Facebook or Twitter). Forums are a good source of relevant discussion to your niche, provided you engage in the right places. They can help you establish yourself as an expert (not unlike Q&A sites), and they can be particularly good for building a search presence. Forum threads do really well in Google for certain queries, particularly when someone is looking for help with something.
"I think a lot of bloggers treat their blog as a hobby, and I mean, that certainly is the way I started out," Rowse told us. "I didn't realize you could make money from blogging when I started. But my wife kind of gave me an ultimatum after a while. I'd began to dream about my blog becoming a business, and certainly was moving in that direction...one day, she kind of said, 'you need to do it'. Then she gave me six months to get it done."
"Once I had that ultimatum, and that deadline in mind, it just switched in my mind and started making me thinking of it as a business now, and really that was the turning point for me, because I began to think more strategically about who was reading my blog, what they needed, and products that I could launch to them," he continued. "But also, I got on the phone for the fist time and started ringing advertisers to create a direct relationship with them."
Rowse recently discussed using temporary blogs as stepping stones for your broader goals:
"A temporary blog is a blog that I suggest some new users would start," Rowse told WebProNews. "A lot of people say you have to choose a niche, and get a domain name and that, but a lot of bloggers find that so overwhelming that they don't know what they want to write about yet, they don't know what their voice is, they don't know what to name their blog as...so perhaps for some people, it's more appropriate just to start up any blog - just to start learning about blogging, and start getting into the rhythm of writing, and to find what they actually enjoy about blogging and what topics they enjoy. Get some reader feedback on that."
"That's kind of how I started," he added. "My first blog, I don't actually write on anymore, but it helped me to build a bit of an audience, but also refine what I wanted to write about, and learn the tools as well. So, just jump on a WordPress.com blog or a Blogger blog. It doesn't matter what the platform is if you're not gonna be there for the long term, and just start blogging for a while, and then you'll begin to find your ideas are refined."
On the biggest problems Rowse sees from others that are blogging, he said, "I find a lot of bloggers is, their biggest problem is they don't start. They're convinced that they should have a blog, but they don't actually do it. And they can do that because they feel overwhelmed by the choices in setting it up, or they can feel nervous and not worthy to really write, but you can't let that hold you back. You've got to actually start. And then another thing - a lot of bloggers just regurgitate what everyone else is writing, and they don't actually have anything unique or useful to say to people."
"So really, it's about identifying human need, and problems that people really have, and build something that matters to people," he concluded. "Even if it's basic stuff that you think is too basic, a lot of people out there need to know that stuff. They're asking those questions."
What are the biggest issues you face in your blogging efforts? Share your thoughts in the comments.