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Archive for September, 2013

Blog Blazer Friday – Benjamin Yoskovitz of Instigator Blog

Each week I am 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.

This week the interview is with Benjamin Yoskovitz of Instigator Blog

Ben Yoskovitz

InstigatorBlog

Benjamin Yoskovitz
Instigator Blog
http://www.InstigatorBlog.com

Biography:

Benjamin Yoskovitz is a 10-year veteran of startups and entrepreneurship. He started his first company in 1996 while studying Psychology at McGill University. His focus has always been on technology and Web-related companies. His expertise is in building successful businesses from the ground up, as well as helping others to do the same.

Benjamin started his blog, Instigator Blog in 2006 and continues to blog regularly about startups, entrepreneurship, business, marketing and technology.

He is now also CEO & co-Founder of a startup in the recruiting space called Standout Jobs.

Interview:

Steph: What makes a blog successful according to you? Is it traffic, reach, revenue, etc.?

Benjamin: It depends on what goals you set out for your blog in the first place. The most common goal is to make money. A lot of people see blogging as a “get rich quick” scheme, and that’s certainly not the case. But, lots of people are making money from blogging, although very few, comparatively, are earning a living.

My preference, in terms of defining success, is based on the reach and influence you can have through your blog, as well as the opportunities your blog brings you as an authority (in whatever space you’re in.)

Steph: When did you decide you finally reached success with your blog?

Benjamin: My blog feels like a success each and every time it brings me a new opportunity that I otherwise would not have gotten. That might be as “small” an opportunity as meeting someone new (that otherwise would have been much more difficult to reach), or as “big” as generating significant consulting and speaking opportunities.

Steph: How long does it take to become a successful blogger?

Benjamin: It takes forever. Blogging successfully – like being successful in business – is not an end goal, it’s a process.

Steph: Who do you think are the most successful bloggers on the internet today?

Benjamin: There are too many to name. Certainly, there are a number of bloggers that make big money, and as much as making money from blogging fascinates me, it’s not my own goal (at least with Instigator Blog.)

So, I’d say:

  • Darren Rowse from ProBlogger – He remains a leader in the “blogging about blogging” world. Lots of people have followed, but no one comes close to his success.
  • Brian Clark from CopyBlogger – He’s been my writing guru. One of my “secrets” to success has been following his series of posts on writing great headlines. That’s not exactly a secret, of course, but surprisingly few people really follow what he writes.
  • Liz Strauss from Successful Blog – She’s a force to be reckoned with when it comes to building relationships through blogging. Heck, there’s an entire conference (SOBCon) named after and dedicated to her.
  • Fred Wilson from AVC – He’s setting the mark for venture capitalists that blog, and as an entrepreneur with a startup, this is great for me. And I bet Fred would tell you that his blogging has led to many interesting opportunities.
  • Maki from Dosh Dosh – He’s had one of the most meteoric rises as a blogger in the social media/blogging/online marketing worlds. Every post is detailed and thought provoking. I wish I could write like that.

Steph: Which five blogs do you regularly read?

Benjamin: I read over 100 blogs regularly, but here are 5 choices:

  • TechCrunch – It’s still one of the top resources for news on Web 2.0 startups and Internet technology companies. I also track: VentureBeat, Mashable, BlogNation and CenterNetworks which are all in the same vein.
  • JobMatchBox – This is an incredible blog on the recruiting and HR space, which is of particular interest to me because of my startup, Standout Jobs.
  • eMomsAtHome – Wendy is an amazing person and blogger. And don’t let the title of her blog dissuade you; she’s a master of Internet marketing, blogging, social media and much, much more. Wendy provides me insight and inspiration. Plus, she’s a friend.
  • Daily Blog Tips – A great blog about blogging by Daniel Scocco.
  • Cheezhead – Another killer blog about recruiting, and specifically the online recruiting world.

Steph: Which websites would you recommend for any new bloggers starting to blog?

Benjamin: I’ve already mentioned some, but here’s a list:

Steph: What is your most successful blog post ever?

Benjamin: Depends on how you define success. If you’re basing it on traffic, there are a few that stand out:

One of my favorites is – How-To Start a Company and Family at the Same Time. For starters, it’s quite personal, and it also uses a different format than most blog posts, relying heavily on images.

Steph: What’s your biggest tip on writing a successful blog post?

Benjamin: Write a great headline.

Steph: What’s your best advice in regards to content and writing for bloggers?

Benjamin: This is basic advice on how to write a good blog post. But even though it’s basic, people still don’t follow it well. I try and follow these tips religiously (even if I don’t succeed all the time!)

  • Stick to your niche (you’ve picked a niche, right?)
  • Write a great headline
  • Format posts well – use images, use sub-headlines, use bold & italics and other font treatments
  • Edit content vigorously before publishing it
  • Link to other bloggers often

Steph: Do you spend any money and time on marketing?

Benjamin: I don’t spend any money, but I do spend lots of time marketing. Of course, we need to define marketing:

  • Building relationships with other bloggers (start by linking to others and commenting on other blogs)
  • Using social media and social bookmarking sites (i.e. Digg, StumbleUpon, etc.)
  • Writing guest posts on other blogs (which I’ve done on Pronet Advertising and Copyblogger)

I don’t have any issues with spending money on marketing, but generally I think it’s hard to buy an audience.

I do think you should spend money on your blog design if you can’t design a great blog on your own.

Steph: Which marketing tactic has surprised you the most in terms of its effectiveness?

Benjamin: I’m still surprised, from time to time, by the eagerness and willingness of the blogging community to help other people (including me.) The concept of “reciprocity” is still strong within the blogosphere.

Steph: What are your quick and short five best tips for blogging?

Benjamin:

  • Write great content (Ha! That’s a huge tip…)
  • Interact with others – You can’t blog by yourself and expect people to find you
  • Link to others frequently
  • Learn about social media / social bookmarking and how to take advantage of those
  • Build one on one relationships with authorities in the blogging world (and in your niche) before you focus on building lots and lots of traffic.
  • Make sure you have a good blog design (Yes; design matters.)
  • Register a domain name

Steph: What is the most common pitfall new bloggers generally fall into?

Benjamin: There are a few:

  • Obsessing over traffic. It’s hard to not study your traffic numbers on a minute-by-minute basis, but try not to get overwhelmed by the lack of traffic your blog might get initially.
  • Thinking that blogging is easy. It’s not. It takes lots of effort, planning, networking, etc.
  • Not linking to other blogs in an effort to keep visitors from leaving.
  • Writing poor headlines.
  • Focusing on monetization too quickly.

Steph: If you knew what you know now when you first started, what’s the one biggest tip you’d give yourself today?

Benjamin: There are two:

  • Know what you want to talk about. I started blogging without knowing what niche I’d focus on. In fact, I still don’t focus on a specific niche, but I’ve learned to live with that. It’s just the way my blog works; but I know it could be more successful from a traffic perspective if it was more focused. I write about multiple niches because I have multiple interests and my blog is designed to increase my own reach and improve my personal brand in those subjects.
  • Write better headlines.

Steph: What repels you the most from a blog (animations, in your face advertising, etc.)?

Benjamin:

  • Too much advertising.
  • A crappy design
  • Lousy writing (including dull headlines)

Steph: Do you make any direct money from your blog through advertising, product placements, etc.?

Benjamin: Yes, but very little. I don’t focus on monetization since it’s not the point of the blog.

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?

Benjamin: I make more money from opportunities that come because of the existence of the blog, without a doubt. That’s because my blog is designed to bring me opportunities beyond blog monetization.

Steph: What’s the one biggest opportunity that came to you because of your blog?

Benjamin: My startup, Standout Jobs, can be traced back to blogging. I started my blog in an effort to build some name recognition and personal brand in the spheres of entrepreneurship and business. As a result of blogging, I went out to some local blogger meetings and other tech meetups in Montreal. I met my co-Founders in Standout Jobs at those meetings. So, by virtue of starting a blog, I ended up with more opportunities to network locally, and was able to meet the people I started Standout Jobs with. If that doesn’t show you the power of blogging, nothing will.

Steph: Any other comments or thoughts you’d like to share?

Benjamin: Blogging isn’t for everyone. But it’s one of the most effective ways for people and businesses of building authority, name recognition and personal brand. It’s one of the most effective ways at building up opportunities for yourself – locally and from all over the world.






Blog Blazer Friday – Ben Casnocha of My Startup Life

Each week I am 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.

This week the interview is with Ben Casnocha of My Startup Life (now called The Start-Up of You)

BenCasnocha

TheStartupOfYou

Ben Casnocha
My Startup Life
http://www.thestartupofyou.com/blog/

Biography:

Ben is one of the younger bloggers in this book, being only 20 years of age. However don’t think his age has anything do to with lack of world experience. By the age of 14 he had already founded his second company, Comcate.

Unlike most other high school students who skip school to have fun, Ben was sneaking away from school for early morning flights to visit prospective clients. This is all the while captaining his high school basketball team and editing the school newspaper!

He has also been featured on CNN Headline News, TechTV, and profiled in the SF Weekly . He has spoken at Stanford University and many other business forums.

Above this, Ben has also written the book “My Start-up Life” which is full of specific and actionable advice for any and all entrepreneurs.

Interview:

Steph: What makes a blog successful according to you? Is it traffic, reach, revenue, etc.?

Ben: For me, it’s influence. I want my ideas to spread.

Steph: When did you decide you finally reached success with your blog?

Ben: When people told me I changed their opinion on something. That’s influence.

Steph: How long does it take to become a successful blogger?

Ben: Depends. It takes several months to get in the groove and attract an audience.

Steph: Who do you think are the most successful bloggers on the internet today?

Ben: I look up to Jeff Jarvis, Brad Feld, Tyler Cowen, and others.

Steph: Which five blogs do you regularly read?

Ben:

Steph: What is your most successful blog post ever?

Ben: I wrote a popular post on “What Society Overcomplicates” – I argued that parenting and writing are two examples of things which are really really hard – but simple. And that society tends to overcomplicate both these tasks.

Steph: What’s your biggest tip on writing a successful blog post?

Ben: Be brief, be interesting, be personal.

Steph: How important do you think are the headlines of your blog articles?

Ben: Imported but overrated. Actual content is more important.

Steph: Do you spend any money and time on marketing?

Ben: Not really.

Steph: What are your main methods of marketing your blog?

Ben: Word of mouth, commenting on other blogs.

Steph: Which marketing tactic has surprised you the most in terms of its effectiveness?

Ben: How powerful a link from a popular blog can be.

Steph: What are your quick and short five best tips for blogging?

Ben:

  • Be it on for the long term
  • Write for yourself as much as for others
  • Be personal
  • Write well
  • Have fun

Steph: What is the most common pitfall new bloggers generally fall into?

Ben: Give up after a couple weeks since they feel no one is reading it. It takes time!

Steph: What repels you the most from a blog (animations, in your face advertising, etc.)?

Ben: Posts which say, “I haven’t posted in 10 minutes and received 20 emails about whether I was still alive. Yes, I’m still alive, just really busy!” If you’re too busy to post, then don’t post. Just don’t talk about how busy you are.

Steph: Do you make any direct money from your blog through advertising, product placements, etc.?

Ben: Some off advertising.

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?

Ben: Definitely related opportunities. By a HUGE factor. Most of the monetization is indirect.

Steph: What’s your most interesting story related to your blog and blogging experience?

Ben: I traveled through 20 countries overseas and in many big cities stayed with readers of my blog. Stayed in their house, that is. A wonderful experience.

Steph: What’s the one biggest opportunity that came to you because of your blog?

Ben: The platform I have because of my blog probably helped convince a publisher to offer me a contract to write my book My Start-Up Life.

Steph: Thank you Ben for your time in taking this interview.

 






Blog Blazer Friday – Asha Dornfest of Parent Hacks

Each week I am 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.

This week the interview is with Asha Dornfest of Parent Hacks

Asha Dornfest

parentHackLogo

Asha Dornfest
Parent Hack
http://www.ParentHacks.com

Biography:

Asha Dornfest is the founder and publisher of Parent Hacks, a site devoted to parents’ scrappy, real-world tips and product recommendations.

Starting a blog was a natural outgrowth of Asha’s background in writing and technology. Before the Web was in popular use and well before kids, she and her husband Rael started a “Web design” business. In the early 90s, if you knew HTML, you were practically a Web designer by default. From there, Asha went on to write several computer how-to manuals, including “For Dummies” titles about Web publishing.

After her kids were born, her interest and writing inspiration turned to parenting, not because she felt a sense of expertise – in fact, just the opposite. Parenting was the first endeavor Asha undertook in which “reading the manual” had no effect, and, in some cases, made things harder. She started Parent Hacks as a place where parents could find those priceless tidbits of “worked for me” parenting advice one usually stumbled upon by chance – stuff that rarely showed up in the “expert” parenting manuals lining her bookshelves. Along the way, she discovered a generous and smart community of parents all of whom understand that when enough of us throw a bit of wisdom into the pot, it gets easier for all of us.

Asha is the mother of two children (an eight year-old son and a four year-old daughter), and the wife of a charming and brilliant geek. They live in Portland, Oregon.

Interview:

Steph: What makes a blog successful according to you? Is it traffic, reach, revenue, etc.?

Asha: Traffic, reach, and revenue are all metrics that can be measured so they get a disproportionate amount of attention. They’re important numbers. Absolutely. But even though I’m working on ways to make those numbers grow, I don’t actually think they are the most important indicators of success. Nothing like leading with a cliché, but I’ll do it anyway: a successful blog (or publication or business) improves the lives of its readers. That may mean supplying a time-saving tip, saving readers money, or making them laugh. Whatever…if a blog improves the lives of its readers, they’ll keep coming back, and when they do, the traffic, reach and revenue will follow.

Steph: When did you decide you finally reached success with your blog?

Asha: Reached success? Hmmm, I don’t think success is an end point, really. That said, I’m thrilled with my readers’ level of enthusiasm and involvement. I’ve always enjoyed the role of community facilitator, and I feel like that’s what I’ve become at Parent Hacks. It’s more than a one-way blog…it’s a conversation.

Steph: How long does it take to become a successful blogger?

Asha: There’s no way to quantify the time it takes, although folks in it for the long haul certainly have an advantage. Parent Hacks is one of those unusual cases of a site taking off almost as soon as it launched (disgusting, I know.). I wish I could take all the credit and say that it was my brilliant forethought and subtle design, but serendipity played a big part.

Steph: Who do you think are the most successful bloggers on the internet today?

Asha: My role models are Leo Babauta, J. D. Roth (Getting Rich Slowly) and Merlin Mann (43 Folders). Each writes a highly-engaging blog with a distinctive voice. Each built authoritative blogs because they wanted to improve an aspect of their own lives, and then share what they learned with the world. That generosity comes across in every page. None of these writers rests on the laurels of a “successful site;” they’re always looking for ways to give readers useful, well-written content. While each of these writers earns revenue from their sites, and is open about it, money never feels like the purpose of the blog. The bottom line is almost too simple: I like each of these people a lot.

Steph: Which five blogs do you regularly read?

Asha:

Steph: Which websites would you recommend for any new bloggers starting to blog?

Asha:

Steph: Which book(s) would you recommend for new bloggers (these can range from marketing books, blogging books, etc.)?

Asha: I find that books on blogging generally lag too far behind the info available online. On the other hand, marketing books, with Seth Godin’s books standing out in particular, are good reminders that our blogs are, indeed, worthy of great content AND good promotion.

Steph: What is your most successful blog post ever?

Asha: Hard to judge, really. The post I’m most proud of is the one in which I shared the story of an American grandmother stationed in Iraq who collected toys and distributed them to children she met there. I encouraged Parent Hacks readers, along with all the bloggers I knew, to spread the word and donate toys, and we managed to create an incredible toy drive. People were so happy to be able to do something positive in the face of a terrible situation.

Steph: What’s your biggest tip on writing a successful blog post?

Asha: Economical writing. Follow those journalism rules — lead with a strong hook, and only write as much as you need to. But don’t make it so sparse that it feels impersonal. Readers should never wonder if there’s a person behind the blog. Bonus tip: if you’re funny, use humor. If you’re not (be honest), stick to useful.

Steph: What’s your best advice in regards to content and writing for bloggers?

Asha: Good writing counts. Connect with your readers.

Steph: How important do you think are the headlines of your blog articles?

Asha: Exceedingly important, both for time-challenged RSS subscribers and for a good showing in search engines.

Steph: Do you spend any money and time on marketing?

Asha: No money (except a few hundred bucks on business cards and a great logo), but I should spend more time. I’ve really focused on community-building rather than on expanding the audience.

Steph: What are your main methods of marketing your blog?

Asha: These would be my main methods if I spent the time I should on marketing: reaching out to print pubs, swapping posts with other sites, and just reaching out to people whose work I admire — that’s something I do naturally because I’m so interested in how people do things. I toy with working the Diggs and Facebooks of the world, but I never stick with it.

Steph: Which marketing tactic has surprised you the most in terms of its effectiveness?

Asha: One thing I’m terrible at is analyzing my stats and testing my site improvements. As soon as people start asking me these sorts of questions I start stuttering. The quality that has likely made Parent Hacks as successful as it is — my focus on content and community — may bite me down the road, because I don’t do anything with the pile of Google Analytics data I’ve got right in front of me.

Steph: What are your quick and short five best tips for blogging?

Asha:

  • Read Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style.”
  • Open your eyes to the world…soon you’ll be following every observation with “I’ve got to blog about this.”
  • Email your readers. If you don’t have any, email writers you admire (briefly, they’re busy). Jump in!
  • Don’t neglect your life offline.
  • Get your own domain name.

Steph: What is the most common pitfall new bloggers generally fall into?

Asha: Trying to affect a cynical, snarky blog persona. I can’t STAND authors who throw around the negativity in an effort to appear intelligent or edgy. Come to think of it, I don’t like people who do that in real life, either.

Steph: If you knew what you know now when you first started, what’s the one biggest tip you’d give yourself today?

Asha: Get help.

Steph: What repels you the most from a blog (animations, in your face advertising, etc.)?

Asha: Bad writing.

Steph: Do you make any direct money from your blog through advertising, product placements, etc.?

Asha: Yep. Advertising (through Federated Media, Google AdSense and Feedburner) and Amazon Associates affiliate fees.

Steph: What is your best monetization method (Ads, affiliate marketing, etc.)?

Asha: Depends on the time of year, but my Amazon earnings have had the biggest growth curve.

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?

Asha: I’ve gotten lots of offers (paid blogging jobs, book projects, etc.) as a result of my blogging, but I’ve turned almost all of them down in order to focus on my site.

Steph: What’s your most interesting story related to your blog and blogging experience?

Asha: Once again, the Iraq toy drive that happened as a result of a Parent Hacks post. It is so humbling to think that there are little children in Iraq, many of whom are orphans, that have toys, clothes and supplies as a result of my spending a couple of hours writing a post and emailing people from the comfort of my dining room. I don’t relate this story to pump up my self-importance, but to point out the amazing connective power blogs can have.

Steph: What’s the one biggest opportunity that came to you because of your blog?

Asha: The chance to collaborate on a book with one of the most well-respected pediatricians in the country.

Steph: Any other comments or thoughts you’d like to share?

Asha: I just want to thank you for including me in this fascinating project! I can’t wait to hear what your other interviewees have to say. I still have so much to learn.

Oh — one last rah-rah. I just want to encourage folks who want to write anything to start blogging. For us extroverted writers, the isolation that comes with writing is often the most difficult part. While blogging still happens behind a computer, it thrusts you into a fascinating community of people, many of whom may even become friends.






Andy Brice Offering ISV Training Course

Andy Brice of Successful Software and PerfectTablePlan is offering a course for ISV’ers over the weekend of Nov 23-24, 2013. I don’t normally post endorsements like this on my blog here but Andy is a great guy and I know his course will be very excellent. What’s really good is that he’s limiting the classroom size to only 10 people for the session so that he can give the attendees more individual attention and focus. It’s much better than a larger session with dozens of people, you’ll be able to meet and talk to Andy directly. His experiences and success as an ISV’er is very valuable.

It will be held in Alexandra House which is located in Swindon, England. I understand that this will most likely make it more difficult for most of my readers as the majority are located in North America, but for those of you over on the across the pond, I do recommend it.

The course is for ISV’ers, so if you don’t know what ISV means then it’s probably not for you. However if you’re familiar with the term then you really should attend it. It includes 2 days of classes. He includes lunches and snacks, parking, wifi, etc. And best of all he includes a 1 hour follow-up phone consultation per student. For me personally the last part, the phone consultation, is probably the most valuable part of the course. Andy really knows his stuff when it comes to everything ISV related, so I strongly recommend anyone taking the course to absolutely take advantage of the follow-up call. I have no doubt it will be worthwhile.

I’ve known Andy for some years and I can tell you he really knows his stuff. I don’t normally do recommendations here, but I know Andy will do an amazing job of the course so I’m making an exception today and recommending his course. For example although I founded LandlordMax over 10 years ago and know Adwords very well (I even wrote an ebook that is almost a third about Adwords) yet I still engaged Andy for assistance in our Adwords campaign because I trusted his knowledge (and we’re no lightweights when it comes to Adwords). I reached out to him, not the other way around. I’ve also interviewed Andy in 2008 for my book called Blog Blazers to which you can read Andy’s interview here. Basically I can tell you he knows what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur successful.

One last comment, I’ve noticed a lot of programmers/developers out there who think that starting a software company is mainly about programming, but it’s not. In most cases, more of your time is spent in other activities outside of programming. You need to understand about a lot of other things for a business to succeed. A great programmer does not make a successful business. Probably the most under appreciated aspect of business by programmers is the value of marketing and advertising. It’s very important! Along with a number of other business related items most programmers tend to ignore, it can make the difference between success and failure. And this is one of the reasons I think a course like Andy’s will be so worthwhile to ISV’ers. Andy is going to show important tools that are needed for success that go beyond just programming!

You can find the details and information for the course here. Enjoy!






Blog Blazer Friday – Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends

Each week I am 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.

This week the interview is with Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends

AnitaCampbell

smallBusinessTrendsLogo

Anita Campbell
Small Business Trends
http://www.SmallBizTrends.com

Biography:

Anita Campbell is the CEO of Small Business Trends, providing information and intelligence about the small business market and business trends affecting that market.

Her flagship website is the award-winning Small Business Trends, named a Forbes Best of the Web, a CODIE 2007 finalist, and noted and written about in the Wall Street Journal and MSNBC television.

Anita is a prolific writer with articles and columns published at Inc Technology, BNET.com, Work.com, Online Merchant Network, and a variety of other sites and print publications. She is the host of Small Business Trends Radio, broadcasted over the Internet.

Before starting her own business, Anita held a variety of senior executive positions, culminating in the role of CEO of an information technology subsidiary of Bell & Howell. Anita holds a B.A. from Duquesne University and a J.D. from the University of Akron Law School.

Interview:

Steph: What makes a blog successful according to you? Is it traffic, reach, revenue, etc.?                                                                   

Anita: Three factors, in this order:

Influence and community—in blogs you have the luxury to cover subjects that large mainstream publications can’t really cover—and you can cover them in a more personal style. This tends to increase the influence of a blog over mainstream pubs, because people identify with the style and the people behind the blog, and become members of a community. Once you achieve a community it can have a powerful influence.

Revenue—a business blog should lead to revenue, although it can be indirect. A blog can help with lead generation and in that indirect way can drive revenue.

Reach to niche audience—reach is important, but with blogs it’s reach to a niche audience. So it’s not just pure numbers, but rather whether you’re reaching particular niche audience in sufficient numbers. Plus you have to consider the size of the niche market and the type of market. A blog could be extremely influential at 10,000 visitors a week—if it’s the right 10,000.

Steph: When did you decide you finally reached success with your blog?          

Anita: Success is a never ending journey, so I’m not finished yet! However, when I started receiving far more emails than I could comfortably handle, I knew I was making an impact. Success is a reflection of the demand for one’s time and involvement.

Steph: How long does it take to become a successful blogger?                    

Anita: Unless you’re backed by a substantial financial stake and can hire researchers, writers and marketers, it really takes a good two years to get established today. Blogs are an example of the network economy and the “law of increasing returns.” At first the gains seem small, but as the network effect increases, it increases exponentially. So once a blog starts growing, the growth rate seems to accelerate.

Steph: Who do you think are the most successful bloggers on the internet today?                                                                          

Anita: That depends on the markets they serve and the types of blogs they have. As a category, I’ve found blogs by entrepreneurs and small businesses to be successful compared to the size of the business—because a blog acts like a megaphone for the business.

Steph: Which five blogs do you regularly read?                                  

Anita:

Steph: Which websites would you recommend for any new bloggers starting to blog?                                                                        

Anita:

Read and study some blogs in your industry or covering the same or related topics
Sign up for a good RSS feed aggregator, such as Bloglines.com and subscribe to 20 or 30 different feeds
Then find your own style and just get out there and start doing

Steph: Which book(s) would you recommend for new bloggers (these can range from marketing books, blogging books, etc.)?                                

Anita: Get some good, regularly updated eBooks:

For SEO, either get SEOBook or Search Marketing for Small Businesses (by SearchEngineGuide.com).

For blogging as a business endeavor (i.e., to directly generate revenue) try Yaro Starak’s Blog Mastermind course. Subscribe to MarketingSherpa.com for great marketing insights.

As far as other blogging-related topics, my feeling is that if you are dedicated and spend time each week reading other blogs, you will learn the craft. Some of the most helpful, most specific and up-to-date information about blogging can be found online at other blogs. Print books on the topic tend to be either too general or may quickly be outdated.

Steph: What is your most successful blog post ever?                               

Anita: I’ve written a couple of thousand posts, so it’s hard to point to just one. I’d say the most successful either have given very specific advice that is hard to find, or they’ve covered situations where I’ve provided some personal experiences.

Steph: What’s your biggest tip on writing a successful blog post?                 

Anita: Choose the right title and you’re at lest halfway there. Include a keyword (for search purposes) in a title, too. Think of how someone might search in a search engine to answer a question or research a purchase or solve a problem—mirror that in your title. This is not only good for getting the post listed in the search engines, but it tracks what is likely to appeal to readers.

Steph: What’s your best advice in regards to content and writing for bloggers?    

Anita: Write about what you know, and write original content as much as possible. Don’t waste too much time quoting other articles, unless you also have something to add. And don’t try to be like everyone else or a copycat. March to a different drummer.

Steph: How important do you think are the headlines of your blog articles?               

Anita: Crucial—see above. They can make or break an article. If you only have time to learn one blogging technique, I’d say focus on learning how to write great titles that speak to your audience and their pain points or desires.

Steph: Do you spend any money and time on marketing?                                     

Anita: I spend lots of time on marketing—wish I could spend more time. You can’t expect to just write and have visitors come to you—that’s too passive. I have spent small amounts of money on marketing, running small Google AdWords campaigns and other techniques off and on. But my expenditures have not been large. But the hours I’ve invested are huge over the past four years.

Steph: What are your main methods of marketing your blog?                                

Anita: Commenting on other blogs; guest posting in a select few other blogs; writing guest articles for business newsletters; occasional emailing of posts to other bloggers (not more than once a month); participating in blog carnivals; inviting guest posts on my blog; treating PR people with respect and giving them interviews for their clients or radio show appearances for their clients and thanking them afterwards; practicing good SEO copywriting techniques when writing blog posts; some social media optimization.

Steph: Which marketing tactic has surprised you the most in terms of its effectiveness?                                                                           

Anita: Treating PR people with respect and interviewing their clients—wish I had time and resources to do conduct and write up interviews twice a day—I’d do it in a New York minute. What happens is that companies who get interviewed often will link to your post from their press section, blog, newsletter or sometimes even their home page—or all of the above. So the investment of time (sometimes it takes 2 to 4 hours to do an interview, review a product and write an article) can pay off. Of course, this tip only works if your blog is in effect a magazine—if your blog is there primarily to generate leads for your business then this technique does not translate well.

Steph: What are your quick and short five best tips for blogging?                        

Anita: If your goal is for your blog to be highly trafficked and an 800-lb gorilla in your niche, then you must post once or twice a day—Technorati.com stats show that the most popular and influential blogs average two posts a day.

Hone your own style. I read style tips from other bloggers laid down as if they are hard and fast rules. But in reality, they amount to style preferences. One blogger may like posts that are quick, 200- to 300-word posts that are highlyopinionated. Another blogger might like to write objective data-rich essays of 750 to 1000 words. There’s no right or wrong—just make it fit your purpose and your audience. Example: if you’re writing a celebrity blog, readers probably do not want long essays filled with statistics. On the other hand, if you’re writing an economics blog, you’ll have more credibility with that audience if you write essays with detailed charts.

Chunk your content for the Web: Keep the chunks small visually, so that the eye can take them in. (Note: this is not the same as style—this is for readability on the Web where there is not as much contrast as the printed page.) Sentences between 10 and 25 words. Paragraphs between 3 and 5 sentences max. Liberal use of bullet points. Use of an image to break up large expanses of text and grab the eye’s attention.

SEO your posts. This means you must use a keyword in your posts. Generally you should use a keyword in the title; 2 or 3 times minimum in the post body; in tags in your post; and in alt tags for the accompanying image.

Try to post early in the day, by 7:00 am EST if you can. This ensures that the widest English-speaking audience across time zones will view your content as “fresh.” It can make as much as 10% difference in traffic.

Steph: What is the most common pitfall new bloggers generally fall into?       

Anita: Wanting instant gratification and getting discouraged after 30 days. Building an audience and standing out from the crowd take time and hard work.

Steph:If you knew what you know now when you first started, what’s the one biggest tip you’d give yourself today?                                         

Anita: Don’t stay on a free or hosted service longer than 90 days. For instance, don’t stay on Blogger, WordPress.com, or TypePad for long. If you really plan on blogging in a serious way, you need to host the blog with your own arrangements at your own domain URL. If you wait too long you end up starting all over again when you finally move—moving disrupts everything: your existing inbound links; PageRank; Technorati rank, RSS subscribers; and similar metrics.

Steph: What repels you the most from a blog (animations, in your face advertising, etc.)?                                                            

Anita: Finding something I didn’t expect to find on a blog, such as a business blog that makes political statements. If I want business, I’ll go to a business blog. If I want politics, I’ll go to a political blog. But don’t mix the two.

Steph: Do you make any direct money from your blog through advertising, product placements, etc.?                                                      

Anita: Yes.

Steph: What is your best monetization method (Ads, affiliate marketing, etc.)?

Anita: In this order:

  • Flat fee sponsorships (i.e. $xx per month for sponsorship rights)
  • Banner ads
  • Text link ads (with no follow tags, of course)
  • Selected affiliate programs
  • Google AdSense—I’ve never made much from AdSense, and consider them filler ads when I don’t have other ads filling the ad slots.

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?             

Anita: Opportunities that come from existence of the blog. But interestingly, that was not my goal. I was hoping that the blog would get me out of selling “time” and help me avoid doing consulting. I wanted to make money while I slept. But I find that the more popular the blog becomes, the more companies want to hire my services for consulting and speaking. I don’t even prospect for services work—it comes to me. But all due to the visibility and reputation established on the blog.

Steph: What’s your most interesting story related to your blog and blogging experience?                                                                     

Anita: I put up a SitePal avatar which looks like me because it was designed from my photograph. A former colleague from my corporate days ten years ago was so taken by the avatar that he emailed me. Turns out, he had been a regular reader of my blog but I hadn’t known it. It took the avatar to break the ice and get him to touch base with me. Now his company is a client of mine.

Steph: What’s the one biggest opportunity that came to you because of your blog?                                                                           

Anita: The opportunity to work with companies like American Express OPEN and Intuit. As a small business owner, I can’t imagine figuring out how to break into companies like those, were it not for my visibility established from the blog.

Steph: Thank you Anita for taking this interview.






 
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