There are some great websites to read, that maintain interest with insightful content or otherwise have a formula that works for the reader and blogger. In addition there will be an element of trust; we hope and expect to learn some new insight that comes from a genuine desire on behalf of the author to tell us something we don't know, personally or professionally, perhaps with the lines a touch blurred. That all boils down to integrity.
Every blog has its angle, so we hope and trust that this is made clear. Advertising, for instance is a public ‘declaration of interest’ with an implicit understand that that potential influence is the price paid for free content.
It’s very rare for advertising to be a lucrative source of income for bloggers, unless the blog has a significant audience.
If you’re a great writer you’ll find a way. If, as is more likely, you have a business to promote there’s really a better way to make money from blogs - and not taking advertising makes that easier.
More generally, to make your blog work for you need to be clever and focused on the marketing objectives of your business.
My personal favourite blogs of choice wax and wane. I return to Dave Winer’s scripting.com for an experienced and often contrarian view on technology; John Gruber’s Daring Fireball for insightful Apple commentary; and BoingBoing for general weirdness and a laugh.
These sites have largish audiences and exist for reasons unique to their founders. In the case of Gruber initially to promote a software product but evolved to be industry commentary site, supported by advertising. Boing Boing was a magazine that evolved to a web site supported by advertisers. Scripting.com promotes certain technologies, and sometimes covers politics. It's policy is not to take advertising (with the view that this would be like including someone else’s advertising on your valuable billboard).
This sample of successful blogs has gained a following through having interesting things to say, from an identifiable viewpoint - and promoting it through the tools available. Their success also results from telling an insider story.
My reason for writing this blog post is that I was approached to develop an Oxford based blog that had found something of a following, and its author wanted to re-organise it to attract advertisers.
This Wordpress blog site was intends to promote a ‘lifestyle’ business but in a somewhat random manner and from an non identifiable viewpoint. That might be understandable but makes it somewhat difficult to discern the personality and source of expertise of the content that readers would need to trust for the business to be effectively promoted.
The example site that this blogger wanted to follow was http://galadarling.com - the writer and public speaker, showing a colourful personality (take a look) that reveals enough to intrigue an audience. “Hello” (the about page welcomes you. “I’m Gala Darling. (Yes, that is my real name!) I am 28 years old. I was born in Wellington, New Zealand & lived in Auckland, New Zealand, & Melbourne, Australia before moving to the United States, so I have a fun hybrid accent. I own two passports. I am an only child.”
Presumably Gala is canny enough to market her speaking engagements and books to audience. So I’d be prepared to make a bet that Gala makes more money from that than advertising. I expect some of her material from her blog ends up in her speeches and books too, and vice versa.
Blogging clearly works in some cases, so what’s the ‘secret’?
One would be not to learn the wrong lessons. Each business is unique. Copying someone else's methods that isn't relevant to you would clearly be a lesson ill-learned.
In the past, I successfully, in my terms, used a blog to promote the sales of a magazine (and earned some advertising income). There wasn’t a straightforward measurable return on investment, but I’m absolutely sure it was worth doing the blog - and would have been better to forget about chasing the advertising. The real gain - with an immediate connection with readers and by generating content by itself improved the magazine as a product overall.
That’s my lesson from one business - yours will definitely be different but there's a underlying thinking there that could be apply in an appropriate way for your business.
My point is to monetise a blog you need a holistic approach. The more focused the better. You should want to expose yourself to the consequences, so long as it will be in line with your planned objectives, but most likely in ways not foreseeable.
In my next blog post I’ll propose some methods for how organise a blog to match these objectives, but in case anyone feels I’m being negative about blogging I personally feel the reverse.
A large portion of the planet is doing it anyway; on Facebook and Twitter. So why not do it for your own ends and, if the feeling takes you, demonstrate a passion that you have in public. I’m passionate about self-expression which is why I love bloggers and blogging. If you share that passion you will enjoy it too. So I say just go and do it, and only worry about making money from it indirectly, as that would be worth more.
If you’re really focussed on using a blog for your business, the SEO content might attract some attention but it’s the lessons you will learn for exposing and improving your business as a whole that should be more valuable.
Use your blog to advertise your passion, and by extension your brand!
About Retrofit for the Future: The Climate Change Act (2008) requires that by 2050, the UK’s annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions should be reduced by 80% compared to 1990 levels. Home energy use is responsible for over a quarter of UK CO2 emissions which contribute to climate change. We must therefore aim to reduce CO2 emissions from all dwellings by an average of 80% to help meet the UK’s long term goal.
At the event, hosted by Merton Chamber of Commerce, Julie did a fine job in presenting the benefits to a cross section of local businesses in Wimbledon, who at least think thy should be blogging and want to know more. A tough task considering the diversity of expertise and business types.
According to Julie, small businesses should blog at least one to three times per week to:
- Become the expert in your field
- Build your personal Brand
- Become the thought leader
- Create conversations
- Provide fresh content
- Build presence online
- Keep people coming back
- Lead the pack
- Enhance search engine optimisation
Or, maybe more so in a depression when other businesses maybe cutting down on promotion, and the cost advantages of the web over other means weighs even more favour of blogging (dread word). Thinking about it, last week I attended a drink product launch where the PR entirely revolved around giving away lots of drink and other freebies to hundreds of self-selected people with an eye for... freebies!
I'd hope the nuggets Julie has passed on maybe of longer term value, and only slightly less intoxicating. Er, note to self, take this foray back on the blogging saddle easy now...
OK - my point is it pays to be smart with budgets and blogging must be a cost-effective tool, and more thoughtful. My personal feeling from talking with other attendees is that sometimes it takes something of a cultural shift to implement, and maybe could be better started not by bolting it on but using it as part of an existing workflow. Julie suggested an easy way in could be by signing up as an anonymous blogger to get the writing bug, advice I'm not so sure about, but she's a writer so one can see her keenness in encouraging a softer launch for those out of practice with the written word.
There were plenty of other business owners and employees in attendance keen to implement blogs or know more - some perhaps feeling overwhelmed by the jargon and culture shift involved. But I found it was refreshing to re-think something I'm so interested in, and spent so many hours getting immersed in and become knowledgeable about, now becoming more mainstream.
Let's hope so since Julie's advice, although perhaps only partially suited to some is well worth paying attention to for businesses and brands to promote themselves profitably. But then as a promoter Julie looks like she has the ability to effectively communicate her enthusiasm for whatever she is enthused about. Strangely, however, Julie hasn’t linked to her blog from her business website ;-)
So, I feel renewed with some fresh arguments for promoting blogging as a tool for small business, and have hopefully renewed the habit myself
Hey, I've got plenty to write about and promote.... I'm due to have an article published tomorrow, I'm off the Spain at the end of the week to visit the Nou Camp, Lloret de Mar and photograph the Challenge in Calella, plus the art and other meterials I’m selling to raise funds for Nightingale House Trust. Perhaps of more important and long term interest I should mention Peter Winters of Haddock Research has started a blog on Global warming issues.
Yes, that wasn’t so hard...
Julie did a great job in dusting off my jadedness and encouraged me to think of ideas to promote my business. This space could do with a springclean, so with Julie from Springmedia's help hopefully I'll post here more often from now onwards.