(Editor's Note: Shawn Hessinger of Postranger.com interviews Bonnie Boots of "The Internet Wizards Blog" on blog writing and marketing tips. For more on our professional blogging services see this post.)
1.First of all, Bonnie, how many blogs do you run and on what topics?
Asking how many blogs I “run” makes it sound like I’m running cattle. I don’t have herds of blogs grazing on the internet—just two primary blogs for my personal use. But come to think of it, they are “branded”!
The first is "The Internet Wizards Blog", which promotes my core business as a digital publisher and internet marketing coach/consultant.
The second is Pain Health News, which provides information and motivation to people living with chronic pain. Some years ago I recovered from disabling chronic pain. Pain Health News is my platform for helping other people get back to a life worth living.
Those two blogs represent both my vocation and my avocation and their content and promotion are fully in my hands. But in addition, I always have a number of blogs in various stages of construction that I build for clients and for sale.
I love the creative challenge of designing a blog, giving it a personality, creating content. But in some regards, it’s like sculpting statues. I give them shape and form and bring them to life, but I have limited room in my own collection so some are passed on to new owners.
2. How do you choose a topic when creating a new blog and how do you decide whether a new blog might have an audience?
I just finished an ebook on that subject. It’s titled “Tapping Into Trends To Create An Endless Stream Of High-Profit Products.” It explains, step by step, exactly what I do to research trends and topics and determine which ones to take advantage of.
I spent decades writing for magazines and newspapers, and also designing products for corporations. There’s no better education for learning to predict what topics will find a receptive audience.
Shawn, you come from the same kind of background –writing for newspapers and magazines–so I know you have that sixth sense that’s always buzzing away, processing what topics and ideas are growing in popularity and will find an avid audience. Because if you can’t predict what topics will be popular, you don’t survive as a writer for print media. That’s just as true on the web.
Before the internet, a took a lot of work and expense for me to research trends and know for certain what the public would want. But now, thanks to some great free sites, anyone can use my system to keep their finger on the public pulse and create blogs, ebooks and more, that will attract a hungry audience.
3. How do you go about marketing your blogs and building traffic? Do you monetize your blogs and if so what's your strategy?
I use standard techniques for marketing my blogs including social networking, commenting on other blogs and forums, using giveaways and so on. Anyone that Google's "how to promote your blog" will find list after list of the standard techniques.
The one thing I do that's different, and really makes a difference in my results, is that I keep a monthly schedule of my promotional activities.
Long ago, as a business reporter, I noticed that the entrepreneurs I interviewed who were most successful were the ones that scheduled their marketing. They didn't say, "I'll do it when I have time." They recognized that self-promotion was a vital part of their business and kept to a schedule of key promotional tasks.
I adopted that habit for myself and it really propelled my career as a writer and designer. Now, keeping a marketing schedule is an ingrained habit.
My schedule is on a spreadsheet that lists the promotional tasks and assigns days and the amount of time I’ll work on them. I have links inserted that take me right to wherever I need to go to complete each task. I use the same schedule every month.
The reason it works for me is this: it demands follow-through.
Most people, when they read about a good marketing strategy, will make note of it but never follow through. They'll say, "I should do that when I have time!" But time has a funny way of slipping away if you don't nail it down to a schedule.
Scheduling my promotional activities means I've made a commitment to following through with them. And I have that schedule nagging me to do so.
Mary Kay Ash, the businesswoman who founded the very successful Mary Kay Cosmetics Company, said, ""Those who are blessed with the most talent don't necessarily outperform everyone else. It's the people with follow-through who excel."
Now, Shawn, you asked if I monetize my blogs and if so, what's my strategy. That's such an important question. So many people don’t realize you need a strategy. They just plug in contextual advertising without asking themselves, "What's my main purpose? And will this enhance or detract from it?
My primary business strategy, overall, is to sell my own products and services to my subscribers. That's why you won't see Google AdSense or any other form of contextual advertising on The Internet Wizards Blog. That blog has one function– to motivate people to join my subscriber list.
When people visit The Internet Wizards Blog, I don't want them distracted by advertising from anyone else. I especially don't want them clicking away from my blog to go see how they can get a flat stomach in just 5 minutes a day. I want them to focus on one thing: my wildly entertaining and informative content. I want them to be so entertained that they'll be compelled to subscribe, because my subscriber list is where I get my clients. It's where I make my money.
I do use affiliate sales on my blogs, especially the blogs I build for clients, but only when they're very tightly aligned with the overall main purpose and vision.
This is key–you must know what the purpose of your blog is, what you want it to accomplish for you, and then you must develop a strategy for monetizing that fits in with your overall plan.
4. How much time do you spend blogging on average? How often would you recommend bloggers post to keep readers interested?
I'm not a fill-time blogger. I'm a full-time digital publisher and coach/consultant, so blogging gets just a portion of my time. I probably give my own blogs three hours a week. I spend far more time working with clients on their blogs.
I only have time to post once a week on each of my primary blogs, so I work hard to make each post compelling. I frequently get letters from subscribers saying, "I ignore most of the emails I get that say, "Go read my new post!" But when I get one from you, I always go, because you are always worth reading."
So you see, in terms of capturing and bonding with an audience, how often you post is not as important as what you post.
If I wanted to be a full-time blogger, which is a goal for many people, I would absolutely spend most of my workday blogging. I'd be writing at least four hours and marketing at least four hours every workday.
Did you notice I said workday and not work-ten minutes? So many people are lead astray by all those marketers claiming you can make millions by hardly working at all. That’s blather. I have clients that do make millions and if they're awake, they're working.
People have many, many choices on where to spend their time and money. If you don't work to be entertaining and informative, they won't see any incentive to spending it with you.
5. What general suggestions or advice would you have for beginning bloggers, those thinking about starting a blog or those interested in trying to take their blog to the next level as a business or job, whether part-time or full-time.
While I'm wildly enthusiastic about the internet and blogging in particular, it's important to remember that the internet is not Aladdin’s magic lamp. It's just one avenue of marketing, just as magazines are one avenue of marketing and direct mail is one avenue of marketing. And like any avenue of marketing, a blog will work for you in proportion to how you work it.
Blogs do have a magical aspect, though. When I added a blog to The Internet Wizards Magazine, the impact was so immediate and amazing that it did seem like I'd released a genie.
The blog attracted new subscribers faster than anything else I'd done. And because blogging is more casual and conversational than a website, it set me free to be more playful and have more fun with my readers. That, in turn, led to more subscribers wanting to work with me as clients. So in every sense, blogging really energized my business and instantly expanded my income.
The best advice I can give anyone is this–if you don't yet have a blog, start one. There's power in new beginnings, power you'll never invoke if you don't take that first step and get started.
If you don't yet have a clear vision of what you'd like to do as a blogger, start a free blog at Blogger or WordPress and start writing about whatever you think about most often. If you don't promote your blog, few people will see it, so you'll be free to stumble around, make mistakes and get over your fears of "public speaking.”
At the same time, you'll be learning the technical aspects of building a blog. It's popular to say it only takes 5 minutes to set up a blog. And yes, it really does take just 5 minutes. But after the set-up, it can take months to learn how to personalize a theme, how plug-ins and widgets work, how php scripting works, how the dashboard works and on and on.
If you're a business professional, you already have a focus and you recognize that you need a business blog, then my best advice to you is this–hire someone to design a blog for you and teach you how to use it.
If your business goal were to get to California, you wouldn't waste valuable time buying a bunch of sheet metal and auto parts and set about learning to make a vehicle. You'd go to a car dealer, buy a car and instantly start your journey to California.
By the same token, you can save a lot of frustration, energy and valuable time by hiring someone to design a custom blog, teach you how to use the technology and help you develop a focus for your writing. Then you can step into that shiny new vehicle and instantly begin your journey towards greater recognition and profits for your business–while your competition is still trying to figure out what a widget is.
Once you have a blog, make a commitment to writing at the same time every day, or every week, for whatever time you can allow. Then religiously keep that appointment with yourself. After a while, your mind will be trained to produce ideas at that appointed time.
Despite all the video and audio on the internet, writing is still the chief means of communicating. And you only develop your skills and your unique voice as a writer by writing. So set aside an appointed time to write. Then give yourself permission to play and experiment and discover what you have to say.
When you do this, you will be amazed to discover how much creativity, personality and even passion has been hiding inside you all this time.
Most people sleepwalk through their lives, content to do everything exactly the way everyone else does, never really discovering their passion or deeper purpose.
The minute you give yourself permission to play, permission to explore, permission to invent, permission to be uniquely yourself, you will unlock levels of energy, enthusiasm, excitement and ideas that were just waiting to be invited out.
Unlocking your real personality and unleashing your innate creativity is the key to taking your business and even your life to the next level.
(Bonnie Boots is an award-winning digital publisher and internet marketing coach/consultant for small business owners, self-employed professionals and entrepreneurs. Her focus is on teaching people to maximize their creativity, make their own products and market on the internet. Keep in touch with her by subscribing at http://www.theinternetwizards.com/ or http://theinternetwizardsblog.com/ or Twitter her at http://twitter.com/bonnieboots)
Category: Expert Tips