Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Setting Goals

Darren Rowse has a very handy post that explains in an entertaining way that it is important to have written goals. Well I have written my goals on this blog, i.e., to create 20 blogs on Blogger to find out which ones have the best potential to build traffic. I intend to create dedicated hosting for any that look promising and kill off any that don't cut it. The ultimate aim was to generate income equivalant to 25% of my full time earnings. I thought it was time to add some clarity to those goals. My personal approach is to start with some goals and then review progress to see whether my original ideas make sense. This comes from my training as a scientist where a pilot study is often undertaken to 'prove a concept.' So far I have earned about $15 on per month pro rata basis. I am getting traffic on my main blog of about 40 per day and getting sporadic hits on my other blogs. I think this tells me that my income goal is achievable and my sub goal of 20 blogs still sounds about right. I have just set up my sixth blog. I have so far managed to come up with blog ideas that are all very different to each other. This is quite encouraging. I haven't had to force them at all. On this basis I think that coming up with 5 blog ideas a month is within my capability so my quota of 20 should be achieved by the end of September. After that I will have to come up with criteria for which ones will fly and which will be killed off. I have already decided that this blog has a special status. It will never make any money or attract any serious traffic, but it is a good place to keep abreast of my goals and my progress. Thanks again to Darren for the hint.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Future of Blogging

I still find it amazing that by signing up for a free Google account I can publish a blog on Blogger.com for no cost at all, and by putting adverts on it I can theoretically turn it into a way to make money online. Of course this is theoretical. I first have to come up with content compelling enough to make people want to read it. and I have to promote it in some way so that people are aware of its existence. Neither of these things are that easy. But not impossible. I started my original blog more as an intellectual exercise than anything else. Almost by chance I have achieved a small but regular traffic which nets me some cash most days. I received over a dollar yesterday. This isn't life changing but I have noticed that now I have the attention of some people they do come back to see what I have added. I also get more search engine traffic and the trend is upwards. I have no idea how far it will go but is obviously not yet anywhere near its full potential. I don't think a blog is going to be my route to riches though - and I don't think it will for many people either. I would say that the situation in the Blogosphere at the moment resembles that in the pop industry in the fifties. It was possible back then to release a single for a relatively small amount of money. From this came a few thousand stars. The Presleys and the Beatles and a few other top rankers made a fortune. Many other artists had successful careers, some more lucrative than others. But most never made it. I think there will be a few headline bloggers who will as the blogging phenomenon spreads become household names and possibly very very rich. Some people will turn blogging about their specialist subjects into full time jobs, much like most industries and hobbies currently have a professional press. It will become normal for someone interested in say horse riding or accountancy to follow a couple of blogs covering their interest. It will also be possible to have a blog on a subject as arcane as mine and for it to represent a reasonable second income. That at any rate is the background to my blogging ambitions. It will be interesting to reread this blog in 5 years time and see how prescient I was. (I have it in my calender.)

Monday, 16 June 2008

Sources of Inspiration for blogging

I am beginning to get into my stride on blogging now. I would love to be able to post on all of my blogs every day but as I am aiming to have 20 of them and I also have a full time job this is not possible. I am struck however by the fact that the biggest single problem is coming up with inspiring subjects for blog posts. It is easy enough to sit at the keyboard and knock out something, but the trick is to knock out something worthwhile. I have given myself permission in this one blog to be as self indulgent as I like. I don't think that there is room for another blog about blogging to make it big, or even to make it much beyond random traffic. But I am not knocking blogs about blogging. I find that they are a source of useful information, which is good. And the best ones are sources of inspiration which is brilliant. I have been following Caroline Middlebrook's blog for a while. Caroline has given up her job and is relying on her on-line activities to make a living. It has to be said that after 9 months she isn't. Her blog is well worth a read. You get to know her as a person - perhaps more than she intends. And you end up hoping she will make it, though I do sometimes almost hold my hand over my eyes to avoid looking as she engages on yet another hair brained scheme. The blogger that many other bloggers seem to rate is Darren Rowse. In fact he was the first one I heard referred to by name. I have just subscribed to his Problogger blog and my initial dippings into his stream of consciousness are quite impressive. He has a very clear writing style. Steve Pavlina is hardly a blogger about blogging, he covers a much wider scope than that. But his really is the blog success story to end them all. His frankly quirky interface is quickly overlooked when you find some truly great content. He has been steadily building traffic since he started and now generates a very comfortable income from his thousands and thousands of visitors. My aims are much more modest than these titans of the blogging world. I have decided to keep my derisory earnings for May to myself, but I hope to get into double figures by the end of June. Time will tell......

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Blogging: Quick Update on where I am and how the 15 minute burst is working

I now have 4 blogs up and running: my original hobby blog Colins Beauty Pages, a cut down blogger version of the same, a blog for essays about the links between the fiction of J.R.R.Tolkien and history. I have also started writing for a blog about the town I live in, i.e., Petworth. Traffic to the Beauty Pages is still healthy but doesn't seem to be growing very much. The others are new and have virtually no content so not surprsingly aren't generating any traffic at all yet. I have had two hits on theTolkien one, but they were probably just random servings up from the blogger platform. Basically it is much too early to tell whether any of these are going to be remotely successful yet. What have I learnt so far? The thing I am really pleased with is that the 15 minute burst approach to writing articles works really well. I find that I can generate enough ideas in 15 minutes to come up with a reasonable sized post. The unexpected side effect is that I find it makes my writing style a lot choppier and punchy than normal. I think this works well for the web. I have just been reading an essay by Nicholas Carr Is Google Making Me Stupid? where he complains that Google is making him stupid. He has lost the ability to concentrate on large bodies of text and whole books as a result of using the internet a lot. His attention span has diminished. Actually I don't not what conclusion he came to because it is quite a long essay and I gave up before I got to the end of it. But he makes a good point. Browsers don't stay on a web page for very long so you don't have long to make your point. It is also very satisfying to get to the end of the 15 minutes and know that this a task you have completed and is not going on the to do list. It gives a great sense of completeness. And as my last minute approaches, there I must end.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Adding Blogs

I have now got three blogs on the go on blogger. I have adsense and traffic tracking set up and I have started adding the content. I am concentrating on getting text up at first. I can add pictures and other media later. The text is what people will be reading and what will give the blogs their purpose for now. I will see how they get on and may think about non-text content a bit later. I have a blog based on my interest in Tolkien and history, which aims to blend the two. I am basically going to write what I find interesting myself in the hope that other people may find it interesting too. I have set up a cut down version of my existing blog. This is basically an experiment to see if I can drive a bit of extra traffic from the blogger.com sphere back to my main site. I have no idea if this will work. I have started writing stuff for a blog based on the small town where I live too which I will set up shortly. So far I have learnt that it is very easy to get blogs set up on Blogger.com. It seems to have quite a few useful features that I must explore further. What I don't know yet is how well these blogs will work to attract search engines. This really is the key question. If you don't get any search traffic then they are never going to work. In the meantime I have started using these blog web addresses when commenting on other people's blogs. This isn't in my opinion a cost effective way of driving traffic but it does give some market research about what kinds of topics prompt people to click. The 15 minute per post rule is working at the moment, though I think I will need to allow myself double sessions for some topics.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Blogging - My strategy

How do I turn blogging into a respectable second income big enough to make a material difference to my lifestyle, i.e., of the order of about 25% of my main earned income. I have drawn up my blogging strategy by following a couple of assumptions. Any seriously valuable opportunities on the web will be rapidly occupied by professionals. The only effective way to generate traffic is via search engines. The only way to keep the attention of people who find your blog is by offering them compelling content. These assumptions are based on my experience of doing a blog as a hobby and then simply seeing what kind of adsense revenue it generated. A couple of pages seem to attract a fairly regular stream of visits who find the site by entering keywords that don't throw up a huge amount of competition. Some of those visitors go on to explore the rest of the blog. The click rate on adverts is quite respectable. I am reasonably confident that I can continue to increase the size and the appeal of that blog and this is something that I can do gradually. It is also apparent that there is going to be a natural limit to what this blog can achieve, so I need to create some more blogs that address other niches. I don't think this strategy will work without compelling content and I want to create the content myself. I have read other people's blogs where they get content from elsewhere and either use it as is or customise it. I don't want to go down that route because you are intstantly creating the opportunity for someone else to come in and outcompete you. I also think that one of the features of a successful blog is a continual stream of new content. So I intend to create a regular stream of blogs. I will start them on blogger.com as that offers a free start up. I will monitor them and kill them off if they don't seem to work. If they generate traffic then I will set them up with a new domain. The challenge is going to be generating enough content out of my own head to give each idea a fair crack at becoming a success. This is going to take iron discipline combined with a fluid imagination.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Blogging -Tactics: the 15 minute blog post

I think the prospects for a blogger to make money are not very high. If there is serious money to be made the lone individual writing on his laptop somewhere is at a real disadvantage against the professional journalist. The pro knows how to get the copy together, has the support of colleagues and the infrastructure of his organisation and is able to devote the time to get the job done properly. I think it is a bit like musicians. There will always be the odd talented amateur who can break into show business. But these are few and far between and most of the income generated by music goes firmly into the pockets of the music industry and its trained members. We are already seeing the emergence of totally professional blogs like Gawker.com where the whole show is run with ruthless efficiency by ex print journalists who know just what they are doing. So if I am going to make any headway in my quest to generate a substantial second income from blogging I need an inspiring overall strategy and effective techniques. The key is to be able to generate compelling content to compete with the pros. The tactics first. I need to be able to throw up a readable post in a very short period of time and I need plenty of them. I don't yet know what is possible so to find out I am starting with a target. I want to be able to produce a post every day, and I want to be able to produce that post in exactly 15 minutes. I will try this regime for a few days. I might need to extend it a bit - it is vital that the posts I produce are readable and either entertaining or carry some value. So plan A comprises - - choose a subject - set the clock for 15 minutes - write up to the deadline - allow a minute or two to review for obvious spelling howlers or grammar obscenities - post onto the blog And if you are wondering, yes this post did take exactly the 15 minutes I allocated. Next post will be about strategy.

Post 1 - What I am trying to do

Everyone and his dog now has a blog. I have had one for a couple of years devoted to one of my interests. It has been a pretty low key labour of love. I have been paying a modest sum for hosting but apart from that it has been all my own work. I was quite pleased with it and I have enjoyed tinkering with it. One of the things I did with it was try out Wordpress, and as part of that I started using a theme that I had downloaded from an Internet Marketing website. This was a theme designed for use with Adsense and as soon as I set it up the adverts started appearing. My initial reaction was to take them off but they made the blog appear a bit more professional so I left them where they were. Months rolled by and my traffic started to nudge up. I became curious as to whether the benificiary of the adverts (presumably the person whose website I got it from) was making any money out of my website. With a bit of fiddling around I set up my own Adsense account and started redirecting the revenue to me. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was getting a few clicks a day and now had a new income stream. It has built up a little since I started and I find that I have now added an extra 0.25% to what I earn as a full time employee. Well it is unlikely to change my life, but I couldn't help thinking: what if I could create another similar blogs? That might make a big difference. I did a few back of the envelope calculations and quickly came to the conclusion that it was very unlikely that simply doing the same again would even generate the same level of income as a paper round. But the thought wouldn't go away that there might be a way of making some money from blogging. I haven't fully formulated my ideas yet, but I thought the best way to start was to blog about it. So here I am. If you are interested in my journey, this is the day it all started. (I have started writing this on the 9th of June 2008. As I type it I haven't yet actually set up the blog, so the post date might be a bit later.)