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 Derek Semmler of DerekSemmler.com
Derek is an average person in his early 30’s working as a Senior Software Engineer that’s doing his best to provide for his family and enjoy life along the way His family is number one in his life, although there are times when his wife might argue that blogging has taken over that spot. Outside of spending time with his family and working on his blogs you’ll likely find him on his Harley enjoying the open road.
There are three blogs where you will find Derek sharing his thoughts and opinions:
- Dad Balance is where you will find him writing about work life balance from a dad’s perspective
- My New Choice is where he blogs about personal finance, eliminating debt, and money management
- Derek Semmler.com is where he blogs about life, blogging, motorcycles and just about everything else
Steph: What makes a blog successful according to you? Is it traffic, reach, revenue, etc.?
Derek: Ultimately, I believe that a blog is successful when the author has a passion for the topic of the blog and has demonstrated the ability to regularly publish content for more than six months.
It is possible, maybe even feasible, to define success by traffic, revenue, or any other measurable metric. But when you consider the number of blogs that are started each day and the fact that many of them are abandoned before they are sixty days old, I believe anyone that loves to blog and does so consistently is a success.
Steph: When did you decide you finally reached success with your blog?
Derek: I’ll let you know when I get there. Personally, I would have to say that I reached success on the day that I published my very first post. Too many people sit and talk about starting a blog or making money from a blog, yet they never take action. There are many goals that I have yet to accomplish but none of them would even be possible had I not made that first post.
Steph: How long does it take to become a successful blogger?
Derek: That really depends on how you define success. If you want to be a blogger that can make thousands of dollars each month, you should be prepared for it to take a considerable amount of time. If you want to share your passion for a given topic with other people, you can become successful in a much shorter period of time. The important thing is to define what success means to you and then measure yourself against that definition.
Steph: Who do you think are the most successful bloggers on the internet today?
Derek: When thinking of the most successful bloggers, I tend to narrow my focus to those that I read regularly such as Darren Rowse, Shoemoney, John Chow, and Brian Clark. But there are so many bloggers that have done a masterful job of building their brand and achieving success that I could likely give you a list of 100+ names and still leave out a considerable number of successful bloggers.
Steph: Which five blogs do you regularly read?
Derek: While I could easily include a list of very well known blogs such as Problogger, DoshDosh, or Shoemoney, I want to mention a handful of blogs that I enjoy reading regularly but may be a little less mainstream.
Steph: Which websites would you recommend for any new bloggers starting to blog?
Derek: There are so many great sites that I could recommend but the one site that is a must read for any blogger is Problogger. Darren has a feature titled Best of Problogger that will teach a new blogger many valuable lessons and the archives contain many more nuggets of wisdom. Just be careful not to spend so much time reading that you forget to work on your blog.
Steph: Which book(s) would you recommend for new bloggers (these can range from marketing books, blogging books, etc.)?
Derek: There is so much information available on the Interweb that I am not sure new bloggers need to rush out and buy (or get from the library) books to get started. If I had to recommend a book to new bloggers, I would probably point them in the direction of the SEO Book by Aaron Wall as it is an outstanding resource to help you learn how to build a more successful blog.
Steph: What is your most successful blog post ever?
Derek: In terms of pure traffic, I would have to say that my post about the exploding CD is the most successful with over 28,000 page views. That would be followed closely by a recent post about a rather humorous typo on Yahoo! News with over 14,000 page views. But one of the posts that I feel is my most successful in terms of the message and what it has meant to me was my post about being a better husband.
Steph: What’s your biggest tip on writing a successful blog post?
Derek: I’m not sure that it can be boiled down to one biggest tip but I would certainly stress the importance to write with opinion and personality. There are so many blogs out there that you need to do something to set yourself apart. Readers come to your blog for more than just the cold, hard facts – they want to know what you think and feel as well.
Steph: What’s your best advice in regards to content and writing for bloggers?
Derek: Be yourself and let your voice be heard. It is tempting to try and blog about topics that you think will bring in the money or score big on the social media sites. However, when you are not blogging about something that is of interest to you and that you are passionate about, you will struggle to write quality posts that other people can connect to in some way.
Steph: How important do you think are the headlines of your blog articles?
Derek: Some might say that the headlines are the most important aspect of your blog articles, as that is what likely determines whether someone stops to read your article or not. In terms of social media, I would agree that the quality of the headline is critical. But if you put a killer headline on a garbage article, you will bring in a bunch of readers but they will likely only visit your blog that one time. So while the headline is very important, don’t sacrifice on the quality of the blog post itself just to get a great headline.
Steph: Do you spend any money and time on marketing?
Derek: I’ve spent much more time than money on marketing my blog. The one area that I have spent money is on a monthly membership to a personal finance news aggregrator, which rewards members with highlighted entries in their feed as well as a premium listing on their blogroll.
The time that I spend on marketing is primarily spent on doing my best to become an active member of other blog communities, including other personal blogs as well as popular social media sites. For the blogger on a budget, this can be a great way to market your own blogs. As you demonstrate your value to the community on other blogs, people will naturally be interested in what you have to say and follow your links over to your blog.
Steph: What are your main methods of marketing your blog?
Derek: As I just mentioned, I would say that my main method of marketing my blog is active participation on other blogs. The easiest way to participate on other blogs is via the comments. Try to engage the author, as well as the other readers, with quality comments and you will begin to build a rapport that will likely translate to new readers at your own blog.
Other methods of marketing your blog can include writing guest posts for other blogs, publishing guest posts from other authors, including a signature line on all of your emails and/or forum posts, or being active on social media sites. The possibilities are nearly endless so just try to get out there and plant the seeds for future growth.
Steph: Which marketing tactic has surprised you the most in terms of its effectiveness?
Derek: For a new blog, I really think that one of the most effective things that you can do is to respond to the comments that readers leave on your site and return the favor by commenting on the blogs that you read. People enjoy it when they know that their comments are appreciated and it will make them feel more a part of the community.
Steph: What are your quick and short five best tips for blogging?
- Listen to your readers, there is a wealth of knowledge in their comments and it will help build a true sense of community.
- Don’t obsess about your blog stats, I know it is fun to check how you are doing but limit it to once or twice per week instead of once every five minutes.
- When you see that someone has visited your blog, take the time to check out their blog and share a few comments.
- Do not force a post, some bloggers feel that they must maintain a set schedule of posts per day or week and will force a lackluster post just to meet that quota – post when you have something to say.
- Be genuine, write from the heart, and always stand behind your word as nothing will ruin you as a blogger quicker than a reputation as a fake or cheat.
Steph: What is the most common pitfall new bloggers generally fall into?
Derek: The most common pitfall seems to be a combination of burnout and unrealistic expectations. Many new bloggers think they can start publishing a few posts and they will be on their way to earning money from their blog. In the beginning, they may be posting multiple times per day as the excitement about their blog is fresh. As the days become weeks and the blogger has only earned $0.42 from AdSense, they begin to question what they are doing and they realize that they cannot maintain their current pace of posts. Eventually they lose steam and the blog falls into the pile of abandoned blogs, never to be heard from again.
Steph: If you knew what you know now when you first started, what’s the one biggest tip you’d give yourself today?
Derek: I’m going to take a slogan from one of the most well known companies in our time, just do it. Don’t spend so much time worrying that everything about your blog has to be perfect before you get started. Let your blog be a living creature that you build and nurture over time. The important thing is to start writing great content and building a sense of community.
Steph: What repels you the most from a blog (animations, in your face advertising, etc.)?
Derek: General websites that repel me are the ones that are entirely built using Flash. But with blogs, I really don’t think anything repels me more than just a lack of updated content and/or content that does not interest me.
Steph: Do you make any direct money from your blog through advertising, product placements, etc.?
Derek: Yes, I do make money from my blogs. When I started blogging, I was guilty of the trap that many new bloggers fall into and that was thinking that using Google AdSense was the one and only source of income. As I have learned more about making money with my blogs, I have experimented with a variety of tools and resources to help me earn money. Do your best to avoid relying on only one source of income and never stop experimenting to see what works well for your blogs.
Steph: What is your best monetization method (Ads, affiliate marketing, etc.)?
Derek: The best monetization method that I have been using would have to be private ad sales, although that was not the case from day one. As your blog grows, you will likely find that the best monetization method will change as well.
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?
Derek: At this point, I would have to say that direct monetization has brought me more.
Steph: What’s your most interesting story related to your blog and blogging experience?
Derek: On my personal blog, I published a post that included pictures of what happens when a CD explodes inside your DVD drive. This post brought my first experience with making the front page of Digg and the volume of traffic was very exciting.
Not only that but I got a taste of how far a simple blog post can reach, as I was contacted by a representative of Dell who wanted to send me a free replacement DVD drive.
Steph: What’s the one biggest opportunity that came to you because of your blog?
Derek: Within the last few months, I was presented with an opportunity to become an author at Wendy Piersall’s eMoms at Home blog writing about work life balance from a dad’s perspective. This has been such an exciting opportunity for me to write about a topic that is very close to my heart and it would not have been possible had I never started blogging.
Steph: Any other comments or thoughts you’d like to share?
Derek: Work hard, be honest, and have fun.