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
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.
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:
- Daily Blog Tips
- Dosh Dosh
- Chris Brogan
- Andy Beard
- Lorelle on WordPress– not just about WordPress, great for beginner bloggers
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:
- 9 Signs the Online Job Market is Broken
- 10 Essential Business Leadership Skills
- Top 10 Reasons Why Proposals Fail
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?
- 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.)?
- 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.