Example

I got an email in from a reader this week that is a common occurrence in the blogging world. You hit the ground running and start to see some success. With time, you start to shift your focus elsewhere, leaving behind your primary source of revenue only to find that traffic and profits decrease on the project that is the source of getting you online success. Or…all of your current methods have hit a plateau in traffic and earnings and you have no clue on how to get off it and back to sustainable growth! And what are you left with? A stale blog starring you in the face. You need to win back old readers and find ways to attract new readers to your corner of the web to bring back up profits and encourage growth. The big problem…where to start?

The Story of Tweaks For Geeks

I figured the best way to tackle this common occurrence in the blogging world was hit it head on with a real world example, so here is the email I received this week. I hope Kevin doesn’t mind!

Kevin’s Email To Me:

Hello Robb,

We’ve corresponded a few times in the past, perhaps you remember me. Anyway, my query is as follows:

This particular question may actually make for a good article for you; as I’m sure there are others out there like me that have started up their sites and have seen some success, but have either stalled in their progress or simply want to take their online business to a whole new level.

I’ve owned a site about computers/technology (primarily focusing on how to fix various computer issues) for a little over five years now. While I am one of the few that can say that he has made over $1,000 a month from his sites, I am simultaniously one of the many that has fallen prey to the “do nothing” bug and have let my main earner fall into stagnation (and sadly seen my revenue plummet as a result). It still brings in ad money, but needs a new updated look to it (which I almost have done), and fresh consistently updated content.

So – with that in mind:

  1. What steps would you take in order to give an established but a bit “dusty” site a jumpstart?
  2. In your professional opinion, how long do you think it would take in order to make a site like that a contender again that regains its old readers and acquires new ones?

Currently I am in an excellent position where I can dedicate most of my time to revamping and regrowing my online ventures; and with my technical background I am fortunate enough to be able to do all of the programming work myself in order to add new and innovative features to it.

Really I just want to know what the most effective course of action would be to take this from a publication that gets approximately 55,000 unique monthly viewers that are all one-time visits and turning it into a destination where people visit and then want to not only stay, but return regularly. Of course, I would also love some tips for explosive growth.

Again, I think that this would be an excellent article for your readers; so perhaps you’ll want to do a full writeup on it. If not, then some friendly pointers would be greatly appreciated. If you do decide to make an article of it you can feel free to post parts of this email, or all of it in its entirety as part of your content.

Also, thank you for providing such a concise and informative site about the blogging industry. RobbSutton.com is one of the best resources out there that I’ve come across.

Keep up the good work!

Thank you,

-Kevin Souter
Owner, TweaksForGeeks.com | Rent A Geek Computer Services

Breathing Life Back Into Your Stale Blog

Ok…before we even jump into this…my biggest recommendation to any blogger is “do not ignore your primary income generator“. Yes…blogging is exciting and new projects are always more of a rush than old, but by jumping around starting and stopping new projects, you are just crippling yourself for the future by not giving anything ample time to grow. I am not sure if that is what happened in this case, but that is the most common mistake I see in new bloggers. Try to fight the urge to start “the next great idea” every week and focus on projects that you can tackle without leaving what has brought you success behind.

When you look to breathe life into a stale blog or bring new growth to an existing blog, your efforts are going to fall into 3 basic categories.

  1. Content
  2. Blog Design
  3. Promotion

These are the three core elements to blogging that will bring you new growth and make existing readers happy every time. When you start to jump on each of these aspects of your blogging individually, you need to do so with a plan and ask yourself the right questions.

Content: Shaking Things Up

No…I am not going to sit here and give you the same, old, tired out line of “write pillar articles and content is king”. Hopefully, you have already been doing that or you wouldn’t have seen any success to begin with. When you are looking to attract new readers and bring life back to old readers, you need to ask yourself a couple of questions.

  • Who do I want to attract? – You need to specifically lay out exactly who you want to attract with your content. Who are you not reaching now that you want to? Are you generating content for that specific target audience? You need to start bringing in high quality, targeted content into your blog to pull in new readers that you are specifically targeting. However, this content needs to be relevant to current readers as well, so do not step too far outside the scope of your niche as you can start to alienate your die hards while trying to attract new.
  • Where can I expand? – When I start working with new bloggers, I tell them to find a niche that is manageable. Do not take on TechCrunch right off the bat…you will loose. When you find a sub-niche in your industry, you can really drive it home and start to see success because you are reaching a very targeted audience in a smaller competition market. When you take this theory, you can start to run out of content over time, so now is the time to look into your expansion opportunities in related subject matters.
  • How can I be more useful? – How you write your content and the types of articles you publish are incredibly important. Are there certain articles that seem to perform better than others on your blog and in search engines? In my experience, tutorials and other “helpful” articles tend to perform the best, so look into areas that you can continue to hit a home run and start to product more of those types of articles as you look for new growth.

Your content is the core of your blog. Without it…you are left with an empty design that doesn’t do too much of anything. When you are looking to expand or revive, it is where you need to start as the rest of this isn’t going to mean a thing without your content.

Blog Design: Time To Shift Focus To Action

How your readers interact with your content is completely based on your blog design. Where there eyes go…where they click…the actions they take (rss feed subscribing, newsletter opt-in, social media spreading) are all dependent upon how you present your words through the design. When you are looking to ramp things back up a bit, it is time to look at how your readers are interacting with your content.

Note: I would highly recommend paying close attention to your bounce rate and reader trends in Google Analytics as that gives you an insiders look at what is going on with your blog.

  • What do I want my readers to do when they finish reading? – You have to put yourself in the shoes of a reader in your niche (not a blogger looking at a blog article). In non-tech/blogging niches, your readers will have no clue about blogging and social media other than their own personal experience. It is your job to step inside of their head as they land on your pages. Do you want them to share it on Facebook? Do you want them to check out another article? These are important questions that you need to answer as they directly affect what you put at the end of each article.
  • What is my blog design not accomplishing? – Are you not increasing your opt-in rates? Are your pageviews low? You need to start looking at what your design is not doing for you currently. The outward appearance of your blog is not just a visual mechanism, it is how your readers interact and move through your site. When you are looking to get readers to dive deeper into old content, click on advertising or feel like they are on a quality site, you lean heavily on your design. To get things rolling, start to look at things like logo design, navigation and design elements while keeping in mind where you want your readers to go. As a general rule, bloggers tend to add too many elements to their blogs so only put it up if 70% of your readers are going to use it. Anything else will just be wasted space and clutter. You want to draw your readers eyes to your most important elements that promote growth and conversions.

What you should have created at this point is a site that is accomplishing your goals while also looking professional. One key thing to keep in mind is that you are building your site for your readers and what they will interact with…not what you are going to interact with. Keep your personal touch…but back it up with function.

Promotion: Time To Take It To The New Masses

The order of this process is intentional. With an end goal of attracting new readers, you have to create an atmosphere that they want to land on before you go out and find them. This does not meant that everything has to be perfect before you move forward (it never is…blogging is an evolving process), so don’t get locked down with “it has to be perfect” panic. When you feel like you have accomplished enough of the goals you have set out with content and design, you need to start pulling new readers into your revisions. Hopefully, you already know who you want to attract through the first content step…so let’s go get them.

  • Where do my new/potential readers hang out online? – It is your job as the blogger to pull in new readers. Where does your new “perfect target reader” hang out online? By visiting these places and building up a solid reputation (online forums, other blogs, meetup groups, Facebook fan pages, etc.), you can pull them back to your content and create another subscriber.
  • How do my new and existing readers spread content? – Not all niches spread content the same. While Twitter might be a great viral spreader for one niche, it could be horrible in another. It is your job to figure out which ones work the best in your subject matter and start building up a profile in these areas. The easiest (and hardest) way to get new reader’s eyes on your content is through viral spreading, but you want to make sure your time is not going wasted by doing some research before you jump in head first.
  • How do my new readers like to subscribe to content? – As part of your promotion techniques, you are trying to attract new, long term subscribers to your blog. How do these readers want to subscribe to online content? In the biking world, more than half (probably even less) know what an RSS reader is or even care. It is still a world of email, so I put a lot of emphasis on my RSS email subscription and newsletter subscription. When you promote your new content and pull new readers into your blog, you need to feature a method of subscription that is the most widely used in your niche. Do not force feed what some other blogger says you need to do. It is up to you and what your readers want.
  • Who can I collaborate with? – Guest posting is a fantastic way to pull in new readers to your blog, but it isn’t always an option in some niches. Try to think up of unique ways that you can work with both online and offline resources to bring more content/promotion to their medium while also promoting your corner of the web. In the past, I have worked with forum site owners, industry magazines and special interest groups to help them accomplish their goals while at the same time promoting my website. It brings you credibility and new readers at the same time.
  • What can I give away? – Contests and giveaways can grow a blog faster than just about anything else online. People love free stuff and they will promote you to no end to get it. Before you start sweating about the money you are going to have to spend…keep one thing in mind. Even the giveaways with inexpensive products…when targeted correctly…perform incredibly well. You can also have companies and other blogs donate prizes in exchange for promotion within the contest and you will not have to spend a dime. Just be sure you structure the giveaway or contest in a manner that you get some needed asset (newsletter subscriber, rss reader, etc) and that contest is virally promoted (stumbled, Tweeted, shared on Facebook, etc.).

Rinse, Repeat and Evolve

That is really the nuts and bolts of breathing life back into a stale blog (or starting up a new one for that matter). When you are looking to rejuvenate your blog, take a look at these three core areas of blogging to see what you are doing wrong and how to improve it. By taking a systematic and planned attack, you can not only bring a blog back to its former glory, but you can lift it above and to a success you never thought was possible.

When you create an atmosphere that is based around the premis of helping others, they will in turn want to help you. Ideally, you want to create a “cultish” following online where your readers want to tell other people that they hangout in your online space. When you focus on that idea of helping…you can make huge strides in creating an online community that breads repeat visitors.

So how long does it take if you are on the right path?

Honestly…success is often a byproduct of the effort put forth. While it can differ depending on competition and market saturation, I have found that the hardest working (when it is a planned, thought out attack) get ahead the fastest.

Image by R’eyes

Example

Blogging is a wonderful thing. This same medium that can be used as an online diary can also be the source of a lucrative online business. Personally, I can not think of any other medium in the world with that kind of flexibility. However, this same flexibility creates some interesting gray area when you start talking about generating income as a business and just having a couple of extra bucks to throw around for another meal out during the month. The story about the city of Philadelphia requiring any blogger making over $50.00 per year to pick up a $300.00 business license should have some beginning bloggers thinking. At what point do you bridge the gap between a hobby and creating a business?

First…Is Becoming A Business Even Your Goal?

Let’s just get one thing straight. If you really want to generate a profit and create a business with a blog, you are going to have to take that mindset from the very start. There are very few “I started this hobby that just took off like crazy” bloggers out there that were hit with a business out of the blue. 99% of bloggers that generate enough income to quantify it as a sustainable business started day 1 with the premis that their corner of the web was going to achieve that end goal. It’s a mindset thing and without it…you are just spinning your wheels with a hobby.

Ok…off the soap box…let’s get at it…

When you are planning for the future with your blog, you need to have an idea of where you want to head. As mentioned before, blogging is a beautiful online medium in which you can release your creativity in any way you see fit. There is no right or wrong way to do things…it is all just a product of your goals. The vast majority of blogs online make next to nothing, but they allow the blogger to release their words on the web. For some bloggers, that is worth its weight in gold.

For others…we need something more. We want the freedom that having an online business provides. However, we need to be ready for the responsibilities that come along with business ownership at the same time…a part that many beginning (and experienced) bloggers are not ready for…

Bridging The Gap: Blogging As A Business

When you make the decision to make more than just a nice evening out with your blog, you are making a decision to run a business and not a hobby. You are changing you mindset from that of a hobbyist to a business owner and that can be trying for some bloggers looking to keep the fun in blogging and making money at the same time.

So what differentiates blogging as a business?

There are several things you are going to have to start doing as you start to build your business online.

  • You will have to come up with an actual name for your business (I am oneninety8, LLC)
  • You will have to file taxes and apply for a business license with your local and federal governments.
  • You will have to start keeping track of earnings, expenses and other necessary record keeping.
  • You will have to start watching statistics and look for new and unique ways to promote growth in those areas.
  • You will have to look into producing your own products and diversify income streams.
  • You will have to listen to the needs of your customers (readers and subscribers) to start filling their wants and needs through products and services you create or promote.
  • You will have to create goals and steps to achieve those goals.
  • You will have to be accountable to other bloggers and businesses in your niche.
  • You will have to figure out how to generate income outside of just publishing content (newsletter through Aweber, your own products, offline promotions)
  • You will have to be able to hire out work to freelancers and employees (the days of doing everything yourself are gone).

Long story short…you are going to have to start treating your blog like a brick and mortar business to be successful. There are a lot of bloggers that want the monetary success, but want it without the work of actually owning a business. Did you know that most successful bloggers have their own accountant, virtual assistants and designers? Did you also know that most of these successful bloggers started spending money in these areas way before they hit it big?!

This brings me to my next point…and probably the most important.

If you are not willing to reinvest back into your blog, you are making the decision to stay small time.

The #1 thing that allows you to bridge the gap between an hobby and a business is the willingness to take your own money and earnings from your blog to reinvest back in and promote faster growth. Blogging…like any business…can not grow quickly without capital reinvestment. The low barriers to entry in blogging create a mass entrance of eager bloggers looking to make it big, but the bloggers that are willing to look past the low cost of entry and start infusing money back into their blogs (design, new products, advertising, etc.) are the ones who make it big. The hard part…you as the reader never see that reinvestment but you are a product of that action.

Reinvesting Without Capital

Now…I know what you are probably thinking. I don’t have any money to put back into my blog and things are tight around the house right now so I need anything I can get to stay afloat. Guess what?! You are not alone and their is one way you can reinvest into your blog and create a business that will not cost you any money at all…just time.

GIVE AWAY THE FARM!

Some of the most successful bloggers online took one solid idea to heart as they grew their businesses. If you do not have monetary capital to throw at your aspiring online business, give away everything you can possibly get your hands on.

When you see bloggers holding contests for free stuff, giving away free eBooks and throwing other objects to the wind, they are doing that because giving stuff away for free is the #1 way to grow your blog without a huge capital investment. All you need…time to get it done.

Here are some examples.

  • Give away product you got in to review (can grow things exponentially).
  • Give away informational products.
  • Give away services (consulting, reviews, etc.)
  • Give away your paid products in a contest.
  • Have other companies and blogs sponsor a contest.

As you can see…there are plenty of things that you can give away and grow your business…but the key here is to actually grow your business online. Everyday…I see bloggers take the “give the farm away” mentality to heart, but the execution is terrible. When you give things away on your blog, there has to be some action taken on the part of the reader that not only provides you with an asset (newsletter subscriber, twitter follower, etc.), but they also provide you with free promotion (tweet, Facebook share, etc).

The trick with great giveaways is to create incredible value and getting that giveaway to spread like crazy with minimal effort on your part. The solution to that trick? You need to figure out how your readers communicate and tap into that medium of communication. If you do that successfully, you will see enormous growth in a short period of time.

Then…you can use capital to reinvest back in.

Bringing It All Home: Business and Blogging

This article bridged a gap on its own. From talking about setting up your online business to growing your online business, there are many aspects that all play into together that you need to consider before you make your first dime online.

The good news…just like anything else…your plans can adapt and change as you see fit. It is really all up to you and your decisions. Hopefully…I just got you thinking about where you want to end up at the end of the day and gave you some ideas on how to get there.

Bridge Image by esmtll

Example

Everyone has a dream. For those of us in the online world…it is to see our little corner of the web grow. For others around the world, it might be professional achievement in corporate, a healthy set of two kids or even that car they drooled over as a kid. Each of these dreams are achievable, but many people run throughout life talking about their dreams only to find out later they were just words hitting air. Time goes on…things come up…and somewhere down the road…action was not taken. Every day of the week you can walk down the street and hear people talking about their dreams and what they want to accomplish, so what separates those that achieve their goals from those who just pay them lip service over time? Is there a secret? Is there something you can do today to change the outcomes of tomorrow?

Dream Lock: The Action Of Doing Nothing

It does not matter what your dream is. It can be a personal goal or a professional achievement. If you focus on the dream solely hoping that one day it will come true, you are going to be constantly waiting. I like to think of this as dream lock. The dreamer has an idea of where they want to head, but by focusing on the last step 24 hours a day, 7 days a week…they forget that there are steps 1 through 285 that need to be carried out before the dream can be realized.

By focusing on the dream and not how to get there…the dream becomes another “I wish I could have” in the life of the dreamer. Why does this happen? It’s simple. It is a lot more fun to talk about the dream ahead than it is to sit in reality about the boring steps it takes to get there. Instant gratification of the thought of a dream can often times be more satisfying to the human psyche than the accomplishment of a small task that adds up to that dream.

Dreams Are Made Reality One Step At A Time

Like most things in life, it is the small steps that matter. The small steps add up over time to bring you to the big reward. When you have a dream, it is important to have that focus to know where you want to end up down the road, but…during that process…the focus on step 1 and then step 2 and then step 3. By focusing on each step and checking them off the list, each step will add up to your dream.

Set the goal but focus on the steps.

By following that simple theory and keeping your focus on action, your dreams become a reality before you know it.

Too Much Future Thinking Is Overwhelming

Right now, my wife and I are going through some issues at home that are hard to deal with. Starting a family is proving to be a little bit more involved than we had hoped for, so there are certain things we are having to do that are outside of the normal way to do things. If we continue to sit back and wonder “what if” or just focus on the end result instead of the action we need to take to get there, we will end up overwhelming ourselves and getting into a situation where we freeze.

This theory of taking it one step at a time holds even more true for toughest situations in our lives. To truly be successful or tackle elements out of our control, we have to focus on each step and not lockup. It’s hard, but no one promised that life would be easy. Who we are is defined by the actions we take and by choosing inaction…you are making the conscious decision to be just another number. By choosing action…you are making the decision to be extraordinary.

Our success as human beings in life is the addition of small steps taken over time. Which step forward are you taking today?

Image by Michelle Brea

Example

Internet marketing can be a jungle. Everyone is fighting to be the first to release products while at the same time relying on others to help promote them. While everyone is watching out for #1, there is an unwritten truth throughout the industry that you need the help of others to get ahead, so you better not burn too many bridges. Typically, this keeps everyone on their best behavior and everything rolls along smoothly, but…every now and then…something happens that you attach your name to that either isn’t on the up and up or is dancing around that sleezy line that you would rather not be involved with. Before we get specific…let’s talk about credibility, trust and their rolls in your blogging.

Your Online Credibility Is Built One Reader At A Time

Online street cred is not an easy thing to come by. By building up trust with your readers, fellow bloggers and companies that want to deal with your blog over time, you are able to establish a strong, positive credibility online. This takes time and sometimes lots of it. With each action, you are adding to your point total and this happens progressively through consistent effort and results.

This is nothing new to the business world. Just like with brick and mortar businesses, you have to watch who you associate with in blogging because your name and your brand get attached to everything you touch. At the drop of a hat, several wrong decisions (or sometimes even one) can strip you of your positive trust and you are back to square one clawing and scraping for anything you can get.

So your job as the blogger is to protect that credibility by watching who you associate with, how you treat your readers, the quality of the products you release and controlling the quality of the products you promote. It is a constant balancing act all with the same goal…to build our business.

A Recent Situation: Fake Scarcity

Recently, I was caught in a situation that I had attached my name to that made me uneasy. Fake scarcity was attached to a product I was promoting but I didn’t know it was happening. Let me preface by saying a couple of things off the bat…

Scarcity When Followed Through With Is Not A Bad Thing

Yes, especially in the blogging/mmo niche, we deal with scarcity on digital products. Many of you might say…”there is no way you can only have 150 eBooks…that is dumb and sleazy.” However, scarcity with digital products can serve two functions.

  1. It Can Control The Amount Of Work – If you are releasing a product that is going to require a lot of follow up time and support, only releasing a certain amount of copies, spots, etc. can keep your work level manageable on the backend. Can you imagine trying to converse and support thousands of people? I can’t…so sometimes putting a limit on things is a good idea from a quality standpoint.
  2. Scarcity Gets The Tire Kickers Off The Couch – By only allowing purchase of the product for a specific period of time or raising the price after a prelaunch, you are able to get people to take action. The key…follow through with whatever you are planning on doing after the allotted time period or quantity.
Where Scarcity Goes Wrong

When scarcity goes wrong, it is usually an attempt to scare visitors into taking action when the scare tactic is not ever going to be followed through on. So what happens? The potential client/customer takes the action thinking they only have a little bit of time left. Then, at a later date, hits the same sales page only to find that nothing has changed.

At this point…the product means nothing as the customer feels cheated.

To make matters worse, if you were the one promoting that product…your name is attached to it just as much (sometimes more) as the marketer who released it. Except…you have zero control or ability to change it.

The Personal Experience: Lessons In Affiliate Marketing

The recent experience involved a marketer I have dealt with in the past and a product that I actually use and believe in. I promoted the product. I was told the product was going to go up in price…so I promoted under that premiss…and the product didn’t go up when the time hit. At that point, was was emailed by readers who were pissed. I can’t blame them because I was too.

To make matters worse…emails and attempts at rectifying small bugs and the situation went ignored. On the outside…it seemed like this kind of attitude was taking place…

You made me my money…now I’m done with it.

Ego blogging at its finest. Use it up and move on to the next…

One of the hard parts about affilate marketing is attaching your credibility to a product and marketer that you have zero control over. Like this circumstance, there are even situations when you think you can trust what is hitting the screen only to be blindsided when things go wrong. It is dissappointing to say the least and I do take those situations personally.

On the flip side…when you create products and services and you need another bloggers help to keep the ball rolling, keep this story in mind as I will never promote for this blogger/marketer again because of the anger that came out of my readers and my personal views on using those kinds of marketing tactics (I hate them if you can’t already tell). You will need the help of others during your blogging career and burning bridges like this is not a good idea.

If you take anything from my situation, let it be these two things…

  1. Your credibility and the ability to be trusted as a blogger is everything. Do not waste that in an attempt to make a couple of bucks…you will lose a lot more in the long run.
  2. You are never bigger than one of your readers. If anything…you are a servent to you subscribers…not the other way around.

Image by ShivF1