Each week I will be publishing an interview from the book Blog Blazers (in alphabetical order) which can be purchased on Amazon here. The interviews were all done in 2008 and the full list of bloggers interviewed can be found by clicking here.
So let’s start this week with Aaron Wall of SEOBook
Aaron Wall is a well known blogger who primarily focuses on search engines, internet marketing, and why ideas spread. He is also the author of the eBook entitled “SEO Book” which has sold innumerable copies and is referenced throughout the internet.
Although Aaron is successful now, it has not always been easy for him. Early in his youth he was nearly legally blind, at least until half-way through high school without knowing it. Even through this adversity he still had a strong disposition towards entrepreneurship, most notably buying and selling baseball cards.
After graduating high school, Aaron joined the military as a nuclear reactor operator on a special operation fast attack submarine. However this was not the lifestyle for him for several reasons and he soon left the military. Upon leaving the military Aaron went through some rougher times and almost went bankrupt. This is when he took a job as a middle level manager.
He continued to work as a middle-level manager for almost a year while simultaneously learning everything he could about the web. He finally quit to focus on his web initiatives when he had reduced his debt to $10,000 and was making at least some money on the internet, which at the time was about $100/month. It didn’t take him long to go from there to making $10,000 a month. Within a year (the end of 2004) he had achieved success! Since then he has only been growing his success.
Steph: What makes a blog successful according to you? Is it traffic, reach, revenue, etc.?
Aaron: It depends on the goals of the site. I have some blogs that make no money and have a low readership but help people, and to me those are successful. Other blogs are just about personal expression while my business ones are more income oriented. It is easy to get stuck on traffic stats, but you still have to pay your way.
Steph: When did you decide you finally reached success with your blog?
Aaron: I started my blog in December of 2003, started selling my eBook on it in February of 2004, and was fairly successful by April of 2004. I got started on the web in January of 2003.
Steph: How long does it take to become a successful blogger?
Aaron: I had a little known blog on my other site for about 3 months prior to creating SEO Book, so I guess it took about 7 months total. Though you don’t really become successful overnight or at any set point in time. I think of being successful as being self funding and having the confidence necessary to keep learning and keep trying new things.
Steph: Who do you think are the most successful bloggers on the internet today?
Steph: Which five blogs do you regularly read?
Aaron: I read every post Frank Schilling writes on his Seven Mile blog. I am a regular reader of SearchEngineLand.com. And while it is not updated as frequently as those two, I love TropicalSEO.com by Andy Hagans. CopyBlogger.com and Paul Kedrosky are equally refreshing.
Steph: Which websites would you recommend for any new bloggers starting to blog?
Aaron: Brian Clark’s Copyblogger is a must read if you want to understand how to write compelling conversion oriented copy. Daren Rowse’s ProBlogger.com is a must read if you want to get into understanding the mechanics of blogging. I also think you should read at least a dozen blogs about a topic you are interested in to learn how and why ideas spread amongst bloggers. Use iGoogle or Google Reader to make it easy to subscribe to a wide array of blogs.
Steph: Which book(s) would you recommend for new bloggers (these can range from marketing books, blogging books, etc.)?
Aaron: The Cluetrain Manifesto teaches you why the web is different than monolithic marketplaces of the past. Steven Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think teaches you about how to create a usable website. If you make a site that is usable and market demand oriented people are going to use it. Seth Godin’s Purple Cow teaches you how to be remarkable. Links are nothing but citations or remarks. If you know how to be remarkable then marketing is easy.
Steph: What is your most successful blog post ever?
Aaron: As far as spreading on the web, I would have to say that posting about getting sued for blog comments went far. I also launched an SEO tool called SEO for Firefox. Beyond those, I don’t think I have had any signature posts that I could easily point out as examples of successful posts. I actually had one article that did well before I became a popular blogger, but I think many of my posts are pretty good and I was lucky enough to enter a growing market early with a unique voice.
Steph: What’s your biggest tip on writing a successful blog post?
Aaron: If you are new to blogging and want an idea to spread make sure you get community feedback early on such that market leaders in your industry have a vested interest in talking about your blog post.
Steph: What’s your best advice in regards to content and writing for bloggers?
Aaron: It is easy to think that if you had one hit post that would get lots of readers, but people are fickle and competition is fierce. Doing well with blogging is not about writing one key post, it is about performing day after day and helping a few people at a time. Eventually big success comes out of all the smaller successes. Sometimes it arrives via an accident or mistake.
Steph: How important do you think are the headlines of your blog articles?
Aaron: Headlines are critical. They set the tone for the piece and a strong one can even change the mood of the reader before they even get to the content. Some social media sites will vote up a story based on the headline, without even bothering to read the story.
Steph: Do you spend any money and time on marketing?
Aaron: I have spent over $100,000 and over 3 years marketing my blog.
Steph: What are your main methods of marketing your blog?
Aaron: I have an affiliate program, I buy AdWords and AdSense ads, and I pay for a lot of custom programs that I give away. In turn, people link at my site and tools and talk about my site, which leads to more sales.
Steph: Which marketing tactic has surprised you the most in terms of its effectiveness?
Aaron: Just performing day in and day out. Making oneself available via email, blog comments, etc. allows you to make connections and build brand loyalists one person at a time.
Steph: What are your quick and short five best tips for blogging?
Link out to other interesting pages. Linking out is a form of free marketing, plus it prevents you from wasting time trying to create the web again from scratch.
Read and write everyday.
Write a second personal blog for family, political, and off topic posts.
Consume information in a variety of formats, including books, DVDs, magazines, and blogs.
Mix up your format. Use pictures, headers, and sub headers.
Steph: What is the most common pitfall new bloggers generally fall into?
Aaron: Many bloggers get burned out because they try to be too rigid following someone else’s advice, and thus take the fun out of blogging or feel everything has already been said before.
Steph: If you knew what you know now when you first started, what’s the one biggest tip you’d give yourself today?
Aaron: Re-invest more aggressively sooner.
Steph: What repels you the most from a blog (animations, in your face advertising, etc.)?
Aaron: AdSense ads plastered above the content on a blog with a default WordPress design. It basically says I don’t care for you.
Steph: Do you make any direct money from your blog through advertising, product placements, etc.?
Aaron: I sell a bunch of eBooks. As an indirect revenue stream I sell consulting services.
Steph: What is your best monetization method (Ads, affiliate marketing, etc.)?
Aaron: Selling my own product far exceeds the profit potential for selling ads in my market. In the search marketing community most people are quite ad blind in nature, and there are only a few scalable business models that are willing to spend heavily on advertising across blogs.
Steph: Do you find you get more from direct monetization of your blog or from opportunities that come because of the existence of your blog?
Aaron: Right now I would say direct monetization is ahead, but I have lots of opportunities I am still building on. I just don’t like to count checks until they are cashed.
Steph: What’s your most interesting story related to your blog and blogging experience?
Aaron: My wife met me through buying my eBook. If I did not start my blog so she could find me I will still be a hollow lonely man.
Steph: What’s the one biggest opportunity that came to you because of your blog?
Aaron: Getting married to my wonderful wife. I don’t deserve to be with someone so wonderful. I need to work hard to become the person she deserves.
Steph: Any other comments or thoughts you’d like to share?
Aaron: Thanks for the interview Steph.
Like I said I will start posting an interview a week from the book I published called Blog Blazers (seen above). However I decided to first have an introductory post today to give you a list of the bloggers that were interviewed (in alphabetical order as they are presented in the book). As well I thought it would be good form to add a link back to the introduction on every post for people who join later on as way for them to quickly catch up. This way they can have a starting point.
First the details for anyone interested in purchasing the printed book, you can buy it on Amazon here as well as a digital copy from the website here. The main difference is that you can click on the links in the digital book where as the printed book you have to type them in. Other than that the printed book and digital books are identical. In any case, I will be publishing all the interviews here so you can also just read them here and click on the links here. The printed book is really more for people like myself who prefer printed books, or the digital book for people who want everything together in one nice file for their iPad, Nexus, Kindle, and so on. Also please note that you can also subscribe to receive emails of the interviews by entering your email in the form in the top right corner or entering your email in the form on this page.
That being said, the book was published about 5 years ago, back in 2008. So over time some things have changed, but the interview questions were intentionally selected to be as timeless as was possible and while making it interesting and offering the reader a lot of actionable items. I also tried to ask everyone the same interview questions so that the book would make it easy to study how different people succeeding at blogging. You want to know the secret to blogging success, there is NO ONE SECRET! Different bloggers succeeded in very different ways. The biggest hurdles to blogging success are number one starting and number two stopping. There is no one single way to succeed or a single secret recipe for success. Different bloggers have succeeding in different ways using different techniques.
Back to the book, and before I go ahead and list the bloggers interview, if anyone wants to peek ahead and read the individual blogger’s bios, you can read their bios here. Warning of shameless plug: Also if you’re interested, you can find the reviews about the book here.
Now, as I was about to say before, deciding who to include in the book was very very hard. I wanted to not only include successful bloggers, but also up and coming bloggers, bloggers that weren’t mainstream yet. I wanted to include bloggers for different subjects and niches. There seems to be more technology related blogs than other niches. I also tried to include bloggers that I believed would be around for some time, at least 5-10 years. When it comes to blogging, most people are notorious for only blogging a short time, from a few months to maybe a year, so I wanted to avoid bloggers that were going to be gone shortly.
So without further ado, here is the list of bloggers interviewed in alphabetical order:
- Aaron Wall of SEOBook
- Abdylas Tynyshov of AdesBlog.com
- Al Carlton of Coolest Gadgets
- Alex Papadimoulis of The Daily WTF
- Andy Brice of Successful Software
- Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends
- Asha Dornfest of Parent Hacks
- Ben Casnocha of The Startup of You
- Benjamin Yoskovitz of Instigator Blog
- Bob Walsh of 47 Hats
- Dan Lyons of The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs
- Dane Carlso of Business Opportunities Weblog
- David Armano of Logic + Emotion
- David Seah of DavidSeah.com
- Dekek Semmler of Derek Semmler
- Dharmesh Shah of On Startups
- Erik Sink of Eric.Weblog()
- Ian Landsman of Ian Landsman
- James and Alex Turnbull of Google Sightings
- JD Roth of Get Rich Slowly
- Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror
- Jeff Clavier of Jeff Clavier’s Software Only
- Jennette Fulda of Pasta Queen
- Jennifer Perry of 101 Reasons I Hate Being Fat
- Jessamyn West of Librarian.net
- Joel Cheesman of Cheezhead
- Jonathan Snook of Snook.ca
- Manolo Blahnik of Manolo’s Shoe Blog
- Neil Patel of Quick Sprout
- Pamela Slim of Escape from Cubicle Nation
- Patrick McKenzie of Kalzumeus
- Penelop Trunk of Brazen Careerist
- Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich
- Rob Walling of Software by Rob
- Rohit Bhargava from Influential Marketing Blog
- Seth Godin of Seth’s Blog
- Stephane Grenier (me) of FollowSteph
- Steve Rubel of Micro Persuasion
- Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar
- Yaro Starak of Entrepreneur’s Journey
As you can see the list of bloggers interviewed is quite large and substantial. At the time some were just starting out and have now reached new heights of success!
I’ll be posting an interview a week for almost a year, for 40 weeks in all! It will be called Blog Blazer Friday.
Thankfully the vast majority of the bloggers I invited to be interviewed in the book have lasted the test of time, at least in blogging time (5-10 years). Almost all of the blogs are still alive, all but just 2 blogs!! The ones without the links are the two that are no longer online. A few more do have their blogs online but aren’t actively posting anymore. But overall the vast majority are still very active bloggers and have only grown more since the book was published! Overall I have to admit I’m pretty happy with the results 5 years later.
There’s definitely a lot of good information and details in the interviews and I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed compiling them.
As most of you realize, about two weeks ago I made the hard decision to move the email subscription list for this blog from Feedburner over to Aweber. I basically had come to the realization that Feedburner is coming to an end sooner than later, most likely sometime later this year to at most sometime next year. The signs are pretty obvious in my opinion. So as a result, rather than continue to build up the email subscriptions only to lose them later, I decided to take the hit and move to Aweber now.
I knew it was going to painful and I would lose many subscribers over in the transition based on what I read from many other bloggers. It was pretty clear the subscription count would drop significantly. There was no if, the only question was by how much?
Firstly, and this is the hardest to swallow, everyone you import over to Aweber basically has to re-subscribe (re-opt in but it’s really the same thing). To prevent spam, and thus to prevent people from importing random email addresses and email lists and causing harm to their service, Aweber require that every single person you import re-opt in. That is they will send out an email saying that if you wish to continue receiving emails, you have to once again click on the link to confirm your subscription. Not a big deal, but this does require an action from all your subscribers.
The problem here is twofold. Firstly many people are afraid of clicking on links they receive. When it comes to subscribing, they usually get it within a minute or so, so it’s very fresh in their minds. It’s an expected email and they’re ready to respond. However when it comes out of the blue, even if you announce it in a previous communication, it’s still not as expected, so a lot of people will be reluctant and just not click. It’s unfortunate but that’s reality.
Also, and this is again another reality of our world today, asking people to perform any additional steps is enough to lose a certain percentage. Yes they may still be interested in your articles, but any additional work will cause a drop of some people. Just like adding an extra field in your purchase is likely to lower your sales conversions, asking to re-opt in will unfortunately drop some people.
And of course, and this is probably a good thing, over time some email addresses will no longer be valid. For example I still had many hotmail.com email addresses which Microsoft have since converted over to outlook.com. So for some people they may just have re-subscribed with another email address. Others just missed the opportunity. Similarly others may have used their work email address and are no longer employed at the same place so the email address is still in the list but is no longer active. Basically a bunch of little reasons for why some subscribers are no longer valid. So all list naturally need some pruning over time. It’s just psychologically tougher to do at the same time as everything else even if you know why.
With that in mind, the last blog post I wrote here was to let people know what I was doing, so that they weren’t as big a surprise when they received the email to re-opt in. Basically a friendly notice. And since then I decided to wait at least a week to give as many people as possible a chance to re-opt in before posting again so they wouldn’t miss anything. So yes although I was planning on writing more often, I held back to give the transition a little bit of additional time.
So what was the end result? Well firstly I’m happy and relieved it’s done. I’ve been wanting to do this for at least the last 2-3 years. I don’t know why I held off so long, probably it just didn’t seem as important. That and I didn’t want to lose any subscribers along the way. In any case it’s now done and as a result I can breathe more freely. And most importantly I can feel more comfortable that any efforts I spend on growing the list are not going to be lost in the future.
And now for some metrics. Well right off the bat 26.6% of the emails bounced when sending out the re-opt in email. So yes although that stung, that’s actually a good thing. It’s the pruning I just talked about. S4o basically 26.6% of the email subscribers over the years are no longer active. So this is a good purge. No point in sending out emails to people whose email addresses are no longer valid.
After that, in terms of re-opt ins, well let’s just say that quite a good number of subscribers were lost. I expected it, and it was definitely within the norm from what I read online from other bloggers who did the same thing. Everywhere you read about it, people say do it sooner than later because the cost of transitioning is painful. After this experience I completely agree. Do it sooner than later. It’s not fun so if you’re going to do it, do it sooner rather than later. It’s better to keep the number of lost subscribers in absolute numbers lower because the percentage will most likely be about the same. In other say losing 10% of 10 is much better than losing 10% of 1 billion in absolute numbers. That being said, I’m finding a week later previous subscribers are still in the process of re-opting in, so I don’t yet know what the final percentages will be.
On a positive note I’ve absorbed the cost so that’s now done. And although I lost some subscribers, quite a lot did transition over which is great! Above that, all the RSS feed subscribers are still there, they haven’t changed in numbers at all according to Feedburner (I left Feedburner for the RSS feed for now since there’s no reason not to – there’s no penalty if they go away and I transition that later).
What’s also good is that I already have quite a large blog with almost 500 posts written over 8 years so that will definitely help me re-grow it back to the same level of subscribers pretty quickly. My guess is that I’ll be back to this same levels within 3-6 months, so that’s about the cost for moving if you’re curious. Which like I said before, if you research it, that’s actually pretty good.
I believe this is also the very first time ever that FollowSteph has had less email newsletter subscribers than my company LandlordMax Property Management Software email newsletter! By the way the company email newsletter is also managed by Aweber and has been for at least a year now. In any case I don’t expect that to last very long, usually blogs get more subscribers than company newsletters, regardless of how good they are. What’s nice though is to see both of them growing on a daily basis!!
And on that note, I welcome back everyone who has transitioned! I also look forward to posting quite a lot starting now. And later this week, I will start to post one interview a week from my book Blog Blazers which you can find on Amazon here. The list of bloggers I interviewed can be found here (and I will be posting in the order of the book). So it should be quite a lot of fun. There’s lots of great interviews in the book.
Until then, here’s goes to the first post using Aweber!
Today’s post is more for the people who follow this blog by email, those who have subscribed to the email newsletter to receive emails of the posts. Basically the recent closing of Google Reader has made me realize I can’t hold off moving away from Feedburner any longer. It’s pretty clear that Feedburner is on it’s last leg and that Google will drop it shortly. Another example of some of the risks of hosted services.
In any case, as a result I’ve decide to transition over to Aweber (affiliate link). I’m going to import the email list into Aweber, but the downside is that Aweber requires that everyone re-opt in to get the email newsletter. In other words they will not send you any new blog posts by email unless you confirm your subscription. They do this as a policy to prevent spam on their system. Otherwise anyone could just import any list of emails they wanted and Aweber’s email service quality would go down. The downside is that you’re almost guaranteed to lose some subscribers along the way, and as unfortunate as that is, I don’t think I have a choice.
Therefore please accept my apologies for this inconvenience, and please do go ahead and re-opt your email newsletter subscription when you receive the invite. I look forward to continuing to post many articles in the future. Also starting next week I plan to post one chapter of my book Blog Blazers each week (an interview a week). You can find the list of people interviewed for the book here. If you can’t wait, or you want a hard copy, you can order the book on Amazon here.
In any case, I do appreciate your patience, help, and understanding in transitionning to Aweber. And if you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to contact me. In the meantime expect to see an invitation email to the new email newsletter service later this week.
And thank you for following FollowSteph.com!!