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
Small Business Trends
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.
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?
Steph: Which websites would you recommend for any new bloggers starting to blog?
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:
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.?
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.