Example

So I was needlessly wasting time on Facebook the other day when a great friend of mine linked up this video on Ted that is a talk from Nigel Marsh on the work/life balance. Ironically, this is a topic that has been at the forefront of my brain for some time.

I am an all or nothing kind of person. I hit everything in my life 110% or nothing which leaves very little room for balance. As I continue to get older and start looking at starting a family with my wife, I am coming to the gripping realization that I can not keep burning both ends of the match for forever. If I really want to have a successful, happy and full life, I have to start to learn how to not only balance work and life, but delegate tasks and give up some of my control.

The process of making work not run your life is not an easy one and it can not be done all at once. Currently, I am looking into using VA’s for a lot of my business tasks to free up time to focus on growth and planning. The future is in efficiency…not longer hours.

What Marsh goes on to illustrate in this video…that I suggest everyone listens to (not long…only about 10 minutes)…is that we are caught in a race that we can not win. We constantly put off living until a later date by stretching ourselves too thin in the present. Part of this is the structure of our workplaces, but a large sum of it boils down to our want and desire for someone to swoop in from the heavens and fix it for us.

We have to start looking within ourselves to fix the issues of our lives. The work/life balance is something only we can fix through changing our attitudes and actions. In the end…this is our one and only shot at living life to the fullest and the little moments can matter the most.

And most of all, people need to stop “working long, hard hours, at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like. ”

Example

There is one fundamental reason why 99% of bloggers never make enough money from their blogs to live off of…and it is incredibly simple.

This past week has been an interesting one filled with conversation. After a post about paid subscription models in blogging and how that could change in the future, there was a ton of conversation around paid content online and whether or not it would work within current audiences. Honestly, it created a great conversation that got me thinking about how I want to structure my blogging in the future.

But…it also brought out one very sore thumb in the blogging world that is the reason most bloggers will never make the big time. So where do they go wrong? Like a horse with blinders on…

They are too busy thinking like a blogger instead of like a business owner.

Blogging in itself was built on the foundation of online journaling. There wasn’t any true monetary platform until these online journals started getting traffic that was rising above corporate websites. Through some growing pains, the art of blogging and the world of capitalism figured out how to leverage this traffic into dollars through various forms of advertising and promotion. But…at its heart…most bloggers still think like the bloggers of old. The only difference now is that some of them are at least covering their costs and putting a little bit extra in their pocket at the end of the month.

When I brought up the idea of paid content in blogging, one of the biggest excuses that it wouldn’t work is because big media (magazines, newspapers, etc.) has a lot more resources to hire writers, photographers and other assets to create more value that the individual blogger can not accomplish. While they are true in that on a low level…they are forgetting one key thing that will keep them broke.

What if the paid model opened up the resources to accomplish those things?

I am not saying this is the answer or the only way to do things, but it illustrates a great point within the blogging world. When you take the money you make online and reinvest it into growth of your business, you are no longer the sole blogger trying to make it. You are applying fundamental business models to your online empire to insure future growth and more money. However, if you are not able to think outside the “blogging box”, you will never get past just being able to pay for your hosting and a night out to dinner a week.

When you look at your blogging, you have to start thinking about growth and future income outside of just affiliate promotions and banner ads. You have to start developing areas of your blog with future growth in mind and not just how you can make an extra 5 bucks today. You have to be open to new ideas and willing to test these ideas.

If you keep thinking like a blogger…you will never be more than a blogger.

Example

An interesting article by David Risley titled, “Is Blogging Broken? Is The Future Of Blogging Paid Access?” stirred up some ideas I have had for a long time and generated some conversation sparked by DR and I on Twitter and Facebook. The reality is that this is not a new idea by any means. Several large bloggers including Gary Vaynerchuk have already said it is coming and there are premium, paid sections of many popular sites that produce exclusive content for a price.

The question becomes…can the blogger use this same model and apply it to blog content?

The Blurred Line: Magazines and Blogs

As we move forward with online publishing, the line between blog and online magazine is continuing to get blurred even more than in the past. Magazines are starting to look towards digital delivery and online publishing as their only way to expand business and bloggers are looking outside of traditional blogging to add more value for their readers. I wouldn’t consider Bike198 a blog in the truest definition of the word…it has really become a free online magazine.

Even my favorite magazine, Bike, is delivered to my iPad via Zinio…so where does the line cross between magazines and blogs these days anyway? One side is getting a fee for their content while the other is giving away everything for free.

Bloggers And The Free Concept

Bloggers learned a long time ago that by giving away the farm for free, you are able to grow your audience faster. With more traffic, pageviews and subscribers…you were able to command more money via direct advertising and generate more money with affiliate sales. It is the simple law of numbers…with more targeted eyes you get more money.

However, this has created one big problem within blogging…everything is free.

With the over saturation of bloggers all trying to compete for the same eyes and the readers looking for quality content but hit with an extreme amount of free content, eBooks and other free online hooks…readers have very little in the way of distinction between quality and quantity in their search for online content. In my opinion, bloggers take the “give away the farm” mentality a little bit too much to heart, so with more bloggers entering the market on a daily basis…there is a massive over saturation of content.

What does this do to the blogger?

You become a hamster in a wheel generating massive amount of content and products for free without seeing any real return. You are told it takes a lot of work and to be patient, but the competition out there is so much harder these days that you could literally spend years giving away everything for nothing. Eventually, you give up and look to other forms of income generation as that one obviously didn’t pan out.

So when do you draw the line and jump ship to a paid content model?

Reactions In and Outside of Blogging

Before we jump straight into what I think…lets take a look at a couple of reactions on the web yesterday when I posted the question to Facebook and David and I hit up Twitter.

My Facebook Comment to People Outside of Blogging:

“There have been some interesting rumblings around the blogging world about going to more “magazine style” formats. ie. subscription models. What do you think about monthly, paid subscription models to online content?”

Some of the better responses:

I’ve been wondering when blogs are going to take on a more magazine look/feel as well. I’d be more than happy to pay for content, if its good and does one of two things. Entertains me or makes me some money! Just my two cents.

Nothing personal, but I don’t think I’d pay for blog content. While many (including yours) are very informative for some things, a lot of the content may not apply to me. I think blogs are less viable as a subscription service, as now they are competing with magazines, books, etc, that have a lot more resources to provide content.

Of course, that’s just my opinion, and I’m not a huge blog reader (only 5-10 that I routinely read).

I’ve never been able to get into blogs- either reading or following. This is just a random thought, but I wonder if that applies to a great percentage of people who went through most of their formative years without internet/email. I was a senior in college before I had an email acct, and it was infrequently used at best. (Maybe we were behind the times, but we’re talking early 90’s.) I still prefer a hard copy, old-school magazine for lots of things. Okay, I’m definitely old. 🙂 More randomness: I subscribe to two photography websites that have everything from forums to mini-blogs. I use them mostly for the interaction with other photogs from all over the world. I doubt I’d continue to pay for them if they went to a strictly blog format with no forums and classifieds and stuff. Maybe future generations will pay for blogs without giving it a second thought…?

if they incorporated rich media and it was well organized and flashy like the magazines I would pay for specific ones

I think there’s already a ton of this out there that is similar. For example ESPN has the Insider and many newspapers have online content that is subscriber only. Almost all major magazines deliver substantial free content and many of them put their printed content online for free after awhile.

I think for it to work, the user would have to feel like they are getting some very exclusive, well developed content. It would have to go far beyond the “expert with an opinion” content that most blogs deliver. Even then, I am skeptical that it would work well. I know that I wouldn’t do it. There is too much free content to choose from and that’s not going to change any time soon.

The magazines don’t seem to be doing a terribly good job at it with falling subscriptions and struggles with finding an online model that works. I don’t see loan bloggers who typically put out less than a magazines worth of content a month can take a broken model and find success with it. Where there is a will there is a way I suppose.

Mine and David’s line on Twitter (inside the blogging world):

“Question: What would your reaction be to a high quality blog that switched from free to paid content? (2 to 3 bucks a month)”

@gracejudson: It completely depend on the *relevance* of the content – not just the quality. If I was consistently using the content – maybe.

@ericabiz: You’re way undervaluing it at $2-3/month. I wouldn’t subscribe because I would assume the info isn’t valuable…(when asked if 9-10 dollars would be enough) At least. I pay $30/mo for Doberman Dan’s. And he stopped blogging to do that, too 🙂

@Murlu: I think when people quite literally tell you they’d pay for what you just publish – you’re on to something 😀

@nhangen: they would be a goner.

@christiantjr: my initial question would be “can I get the same quality elsewhere for free?”

As you can see by the responses, they vary all over the map from basically a “hell no” to you are not even charging enough.

The Law of Numbers and Blogging Income

For a long time, the law of numbers has played a drastic affect on blog income. The more numbers you have, the more money you made. However, what if I were to tell you that you could cut your traffic and subscribers down to a 1/4 of what they are now and you will make 5 times the income? My bet…99% of you would not do it because you are conditioned to the free/high traffic model.

When you are looking at going to a paid subscription model, you are basically doing just that. As much as you would like to think that all of your readers are grasping onto your words like the gospel…that just isn’t the truth. If you were to hit the switch to a paid content model today, my guess is that 10 – 25% of your readership would participate and you would lose the rest, but if your income went up 5 fold…it would be worth it. That is when bloggers think like bloggers and not business owners. They would rather keep the large numbers at lower income than lower numbers at higher income.

The scary part…you have to hit the switch on the whole idea before you will know if it will work or not. It takes that leap of faith and testing.

Your Readers Are Already Paying For Content…Why Not Your Blog?

The reality of your situation when you are looking at moving to a paid subscription format is that you are going to have to compete with bloggers that are still giving away quality content for free. That is not going to change, so how do you battle this fierce competition?

It all comes down to the perceived value of the deliverable.

Readers are already paying for content on a daily basis. From eBooks to members only sections of websites, readers are not only paying for content…but they are paying more than you would charge as a subscription! Why is this? The perceived value of eBook content is higher than that of a blog. Every day, I sell eBooks that contain content not found on my blog that helps my readers achieve their goals. Whether it is becoming a better mountain biker or getting in free stuff to review on your blog, that content sells consistently and provides value to my customers.

Switching to a paid subscription model would be no different…except…you would have to change the delivery method. I do not think…at this time…just access to your blog can be a paid for commodity. You would have to change the deliverable of your content to something that is email driven or a PDF magazine that contains your content plus a better design that online publishing can not provide. This way you are giving more value to your customers outside of just hitting the publish button several times a week.

Just like with ESPN and other newspaper websites, you would still need to provide regular, free content on your blog to attract new readers, but the meat and potatoes would be delivered off site to your paid subscribers.

Blogging for free…even if you enjoy the hell out of it…can not live for forever. Eventually life gets in the way and you will have to cut down on your online time unless it is providing a specific value (in this case…money). As blogging continues to grow and adapt, it will have to find a way to generate income outside of the law of numbers game.

Paid subscription models might be the answer, but we will not know until the switch is hit. At that time, will the paid models be able to withstand the competition of free? My personal opinion is that question really comes down to the quality of branding, content and perceived value.

What do you think?

Example

This article is really a follow up to last week’s SEO article on how to get your article on the first page of Google. While that tutorial went through the process I go through to rank well on search engines at a blog level, I felt there was a need to dive a little bit deeper into content generation and planning to show how this affect the routines you go through on a weekly basis with your blog.

Let me preface by saying something very important.

I write blog articles for my readers, not for search engines.

While I know this is a line that has been beat to death over the years, it is an important one to remember as I do not do this every time I hit the publish button. There are topics and conversations that I have written about on my blogs that generate a lot of social or direct traffic that have little to no search engine benefit.

I cover topics, reviews and editorials that my readers want to read first. If I am able to tie in some optimized SEO to compliment those articles to make them perform well in search engine results, that is a bonus not a requirement. Far too often, I see blogs that focus on SEO with every single article…and quite frankly…they are boring.

My SEO Blog Article Cycle

As I was sitting down enjoying a cup of coffee the other day, I started to actually map out my process on the iPad. Here are my notes…

Blog Keyword ResearchTechnology is awesome…I love my paperless life.

Anyways, above is the cycle I go through when looking to generate articles that rocket to the top of search engine results…so let’s take a deeper look at the process.

Step 1: Target Keywords For Your Article

I personally have a list of high traffic keywords I have generated over the years that are all article worthy. If you are starting from scratch, there are two ways you can go about this.

  • The Free Way – If you have a Google account, you have access to the Google Adwords keyword tool. This tool is actually used by Adwords advertisers to help them decide on which search keyword strings they want to target for the link ads. This is a huge asset for you as you can put in a keyword string (an example of mine would be “mountain biking”) and Google will pop out a list of related keywords and how often they are searched within a month. You then use the list of the higher volume searches as your article ideas.
  • The Paid Way – I used to use the Google Adwords keyword tool until I picked up Market Samurai. While the Adwords tool is great, it was missing some information that I felt was necessary to carry out a really planned attack. When I put “mountain biking” Market Samurai, I am able to really narrow things down and find the best solution for my blog by weighing more factors than just search (how many people are paying for links in monthly volume is great for Adsense revenue) and I am able to track specific url performance on a daily basis.

Step 2: Is The Keyword Relevant?

As I mentioned before, I write articles for readers, so while there may be a ton of traffic available for “Schwinn Mountain Bikes”, the reality is that Schwinn is a brand that is carried in Wal-Mart and that is not relevant content for my blog (maybe a humorous article someday).

Once you have your list of possibles, you really need to ask yourself how relevant those keywords are to your audience. A lot of search engine traffic is great…but you want targeted traffic that increases your bottom line. A bunch of Wal-Mart bike purchasers are going to have zero interest in a review of a suspension fork that costs 5 times more than they paid for their bike.

Step 3: No or No Go Point: Traffic vs. Competition

Especially if you have a new blog, you will want to target keywords strings that have viable traffic with low competition. Market Samurai makes that an easy process by actually showing you those stats side by side, but you can also search on Google and take a look at the first page of results. Are you competing against the biggest in your niche or is there room for improvement?

When competition is low and traffic is pretty high, it really is a no brainer…get to writing. When traffic is high and competition is high, it doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t cover that topic (could be really relevant and interesting for your readers) but you need to keep your expectations at a reasonable level until your site has established itself as a authority in your niche before you see high rankings.

At this point in the process, I make a decision whether to go with the article idea based off the previous data or to hit up something else.

Step 4: Article Composition and Writing

Now it is time to write the article. For this part of the process, I completely forget about SEO.

Your readers visit your blog to connect with your voice and style. They do not want another bland and boring rendition of popular keywords as you attempt to whore yourself out for search engine traffic. Write your article just as you normally would any other article on your blog. The uniqueness you bring to your content is the most important and you can always go back and adjust the content for search engines.

It is much harder to give life to a boring article than it is to give search engine optimization to an interesting one.

Step 5: The Tech Side Of SEO For Blog Articles

After you are completely happy with your blog article, it is time to go back and make sure everything is in line to perform its best on search engines.

  • Content SEO – I use Scribe on my blogs to make sure my content is properly optimized for search engines. It tells me exactly which keywords I am targeting, how many times I should mention them in the article, how many links I need to have in the article and the best performing tags for that article. It basically takes all of research out for me and makes things a quick and easy process (that has shown results). By keeping keyword density at around 5.5% and under for primary keywords and linking about every 120 words, you are on the right track.
  • Meta Titles and Descriptions – I custom write all of my meta titles and descriptions to insure search engines use my text instead of auto generated ones and to entice clicks on my links on the results list. It really is the only way to see success.

Step 6: Rescan – Writing for Readers and Sharing

As a general rule, search engine topics can be rather bland. To overcome this and create articles my existing readers want to read as well, I inject as much personal opinion on the subject matter as I can to keep things interesting. At this part in the process, I read back over my article to make sure it is still interesting and that I have a defined opinion on the subject. If I do not have an opinion, I usually start over or pick another topic to write on.

If all looks good, I hit the publish button and we are off to the races. At that point, I make sure it hits Twitter, Facebook and my newsletter list to get as many eyes on the article as possible. If I have made it interesting enough, it is shared through social media outlets and linked to in other articles further increasing its weight in search engines.

Step 7: Tracking Progress Over Time

After the dust has settled, I load that specific URL into Market Samurai‘s Rank Tracking Tool to see how progress goes over the coming months. I use this information to tweak the process to get the best results I can for the next article that follows the cycle. If you do not track your results over time, how do you even know you are doing the right thing? You don’t…and you are just flying blind.

Step 8: Repeat The Process

The last thing you really need to do in the process is use the information from the last article to build on the next. Repeat the process by building on the success that you can measure through your tools and feedback from your readers. Comments, emails and other reader interaction is the best litmus test on how your article was received by your audience. You can combine that with the metrics you are gathering on the articles progress in search engines to refine and tune your process for the best success rate.

Above all…remember that you are writing your articles to connect with readers. If you are not accomplishing that…the rest of the process is worthless.

Tools Mentioned In This Article: Market Samurai and Scribe.