BILL BELEW IS A CONTENT MARKETING EXPERT BASED IN THE BAY AREA OF SILICON VALLEY. YOU FOUND HIM; HE CAN TEACH YOU AND YOUR BUSINESS HOW TO BE FOUND. CONTACT HIM BY USING THE COMMENT FORM BELOW.
I started blogging professionally (making money in small amounts that it was) on March 1, 2006. Simple math. I am now in my 8th year of paying the bills through money generated from my blogs.
I started off earning lunch money, then buying a tank of gas, then paying my cell phone bill, then making car payments, mortgage payments and finally it became our family of three’s primary source of income. Until about a year ago or so. Now my wife out earns me. Thanks, honey!
I didn’t know nothing about nothing in the beginning. My basic approach or mind set was the more I wrote and the more often I hit the publish button for something worth reading, the better chance I had of getting visitors and page views and making more money at it. That’s about it.
Looking back on my blogging career, short as it is (8 years is actually a very very long time online), I now have questions that I wish I had answers to BEFORE I started blogging.
Question 1 – Just how hard is it to make a living from blogging?
Answer. It’s a job. If you want to make a living blogging you have to work. Blogging works. Done right you can make legitimate money at it. But you have to work at blogging. And it is work. It is terribly naive for someone to think they can spend an hour a day pounding out a well written blog post and think, “Well, that should make me enough money to pay some bills.”
Ask a writer, a journalist if writing is a high paying job. “Uh, no. It’s not.”
The simple truth is you generally get out of something what you put into it….over time.
Example – If you get paid $15/hr to write you might expect to make $15/post if the post took you an hour to write. In the beginning you might make nothing or pennies at most. But stay with it and it will eventually even out and then you might make more. At my network of sites we have around 30,000 posts and 120 million page views. Simple math = 4,000 page views per post… on average. Not all page views get the same ecpm. But then I could write more than 1 post per hour.
What I want to say in this answer is that writing is not a high paying job unless you do it for a long time = long enough to build findability, loyal readership and earn residual income from your writing.
I spent a minimum of 4 hours of intense writing daily while I continued to teach at a university and online. As my readership grew, I took on less classes till finally I didn’t have to teach anymore. I could just write.
Question 2 – Is there a style of writing that works better online than in books or magazines?
Search Engine Optimization is content that has appeal to real people AND to search engines. If you write only for real people, chances are the Search Engines will not find you. If you write stuff that only appeals to Search Engines, chances are that real people will not enjoy or continue to read your stuff.
We have all clicked on links and wondered out loud, “What is this nonsense? Why is it on top of search results?!”
The opposite of this is really good writing that nobody can find. You may as well leave it on your desktop.
There is a style of writing that real people can enjoy and search engines can find.
If I had known this in the beginning I would have been a LOT more successful and written in a different style.
Find the balance or become a member of BillBelew.com/subsribe and I will tell you what it is.
Question 3 – How hard is hard?*
I am not afraid of hard work. I started a school in Japan from zero students and no curriculum. I wrote a textbook while teaching classes and grew the school to 5 locations on two islands and 1,000s of students taught weekly.
I have done full Iron Man Triathlons.
I have run 100 miles in one day, several times.
I knew intuitively that I needed to write a lot in order to make a living at blogging. But I had no idea how much was much? How many was many? Just how many articles did I need to publish in order to start seeing traffic.
Answer*: I know how many words, how many posts, how many times I hit my keyboard to get the first 1,000,000 unique visitors which in turn resulted in 1,600,000 page views. The second million was much quicker and the snowball effect took over. I have done 1,000,00o visitors in less than a week.
Question 4 – How often is often?*
It makes sense that every time a web site is updated with new content the searchbots will come to see what the update was all about. Is the content on topic? Was it just a comment? Or a significant change to a preexisting post or ???
Suppose I were to update my website 5 or even 10 or 15 times daily. Is that too much for my ‘readers?’ Is that enough to ‘please’ the search engines? Is there a balance between what is appealing to real people and what works in the search engines = good Search Engine Optimization – pace?
Though to be perfectly honest, I still wrestle with this, I have a pretty good idea. But, I still lack a definitive answer.
Question 5 – How good is good?*
I had no idea that there were some simple elements that could/should be added to each and every post that would make it more search engine friendly AND people friendly. Here’s a freebie – add images to all your posts and your traffic will/can grow by 10-20% over time. I wrote several thousand posts that had NO images in the beginning. I didn’t know I should!
Answer: There are about 220 things you can do to each blog post to make it optimal for readers and search engines. I have learned that there are less than 20 things you can do that will give you 90-95% of the results you want. I wish I knew those 20 from the get go. I would have been able to accomplish much more.
Question within a question – is there an optimal length for a blog post? Can a blog post be too short? Too long? I am still looking for a definitive answer to this question. But I think I know.
Question 6 – How long is long?*
I knew it would take a long time but I didn’t know it would take months of intensive writing (90,000 words/month) or even years to get to the point where I could fully depend on income from blogging.
I wish I had known how long it was going to take before I saw real growth in my traffic. I could have paced myself accordingly. I could have balanced my life differently. There’s nothing fun about working 12-15 hours/day for months on end with no end in sight. Wait! Isn’t that what start ups do? And isn’t creating blog or a network of sites to be your primary source of income similar to starting up a company?
Question 7 – What doors open up to me when I am a successful blogger?
It never occurred to me that some day people would ask me how did I get so many people to come to my sites? Would I teach them how to do it? Can they pay me to consult with their business on doing the same for them in their marketing? Could I teach them how to get readers for a book they have written? Could I create a content marketing program for them? Would I teach a class for them at their university? Can I come to Vegas? LA? KL? Manila? Mexico? NYC? to teach them, too?
It never dawned on me in the beginning that I would be asked to do all of these things. I might have prepared myself better, kept better records.
Question 8 – How much do I charge?
All those questions I got asked in question number 7 … What do I charge people to do those things? I am still looking for definitive answers.
Okay…this article got long. And I am still not done. But I will be for now.
Point – there are some things I wish I knew before starting off and there are some things I still do not know.
How about you? Got questions? Got answers? I can still learn. And I can teach.
* I answer these questions in my book – Marketing with Social Media.