The First Steps in Turning Your Hobby Blog into a Business

Inevitably, most hobby or amateur bloggers wake up one day and realize that they could turn their hobby blog into a business.  Yeah, you might not be able to quit your day job, but you might be able to earn yourself enough money to take a vacation or by yourself a new iPad.

Mr. Hobby blogger does some quick Google research and realizes all they have to do is throw some Adsense code on their blog template, and the checks will start rolling in!

Fail.

Do not pass go.  Do not collect new iPad.

What the heck happened?  Mr. Hobby blogger actually has a pretty sizable following for his site all about Legos.  Sure, it is a hyper specific niche, but there’s an audience for this stuff.  He has even received invitations to attend major toy conventions.

Mr. Hobby blogger has actually talked to marketing folks from the Lego Group Inc. about his site, yet they do not seem interested in sponsoring his website. What’s the problem here?

No one is taking you seriously because your site does not look like a serious business.

Yes, we’re talking about kids toys here so of course it does not have to look like the Dow Jones homepage.  But here is what’s making you look amateur:

  • Your website URL is:  http://legofreak.blogspot.com.
  • Your email address is:  [email protected]
  • Your “About” page talks about where you grew up and has a picture of your dog on it.
  • Your blog template is the same template used by 2.4 million other bloggers.
  • You are secretly obsessed with funny animated gif files.
  • You steal photos from other websites.  You loooove Google image search.
  • Privacy policy?  What’s a privacy policy?
  • You don’t have or use a web analytics program.

There are probably a few more issues, but these are the most common.

You’re content is probably some of the best Lego related content on the Internet.  Unfortunately, it is hard for legitimate advertisers to take your site seriously.

You get an A+ for content, and a D+ for execution.

Here is your homework assignment:

Run out and register a Lego related domain name.  Maybe don’t use the word Lego in the domain since it is a registered trademark, but pick something in the “building block” arena.

Once you’ve got that domain name locked down, set up a real email address.  [email protected] would be lovely.

Write out a better About page.  Talk about the site and the type of content you hope to deliver to your audience.  If you happen to know some data about your readers, here’s your chance to highlight it.  Think of this as a soft sell for why an advertiser might be interested in doing business with you.

Move your blog to a self hosted system such as WordPress.org.  There’s plenty of cheap (like $6 per month) hosting out there.  Sign yourself up, and get WordPress installed.  It is not hard and you can get it all done in under an hour.

Pick a better template that fits your blog’s theme.  If you are really committed to this, hire someone to build a custom template for you.  You should be able to get this done for a less than a couple hundred bucks for something basic, but classy.

Stop stealing photos.  Yes, it is easy to do a Google image search and rip pics from someone else.  Unfortunately, that’s kind of illegal.  However, hope is not lost!  Solicit photos from your readers.  I’m sure there are Lego fans out there that would love to share their creations with you.

If you find pictures on another site, ask the owner if you can use them.  Often times, they’d be happy to let you use a photo in exchange for a link back to their site from the post.

Google what a “Privacy Policy” is.  There are stock templates out there.  Get your hands on one and get it up on your site.  Many ad networks and direct advertisers require that you have a privacy policy on your site.  Plus, it make it look like you know what you are doing with this whole “business” thing.

If you haven’t already, sign up for Google Analytics.  Run, don’t walk.  Sign up right away and start measuring your traffic.  Your advertisers are going to want to know how much traffic your site gets.  This is how you will know.

Get out there and make us proud.

Your Blog Traffic Blueprint – Part One

Generating traffic to your blog is something a lot of bloggers have trouble with.  But if you use the traffic blueprint I have outlined below then you will have swarms of traffic hitting your site every time you write a new post.

Setting the Groundwork

Getting prepared for traffic to your site is something that you should be thinking off from the moment you install WordPress on your new domain.  Before you start generating traffic you want to make sure that you have installed all of the plug-ins outlined in our previous post here [Link to 5 Essential Plug-ins You Blog Must have].  To keep Google happy your site will need to have a Privacy Policy page, a Terms and Conditions Page and a Contact page at the very least.  You should also make sure that you have a minimum of three blog posts on your blog, with more scheduled or planned before you put this traffic plan into place.  Ideally you should aim for one new blog post for your blog daily for about a month, and then at least three times a week thereafter so that your blog always has good fresh content coming in.

Setting Up Backlinks

If you are not familiar with SEO then it is unlikely that you have come across the term “Backlinks” before but these are a vital part of your blogging success.  In a nutshell backlinks are links on other sites that point back to your blog, or a specific blog post.  The more backlinks your blog has the more valuable it is considered by Google and other search engines.  So you need to set up a system to start generating backlinks as quickly as you can.

Warning: There are a lot of companies online that claim they can get you hundreds or even thousands of backlinks for the price of a cup of coffee – Do not use these methods.  They are considered spam and can get your blog banned from Google permanently if you use these “Black Hat” methods.

Your pinging will already be creating backlinks for you but you can go a lot further with this.   Just some of the methods you can use include

  • Putting articles on article directory sites like Ezinearticles and GoArticles
  • Putting up videos on YouTube and other video sites (TubeMogul is good for this)
  • Creating audio files and placing them on sites like iTunes
  • Blog commenting on other blogs in your niche
  • Forum posting on relevant forums in your niche
  • Posting an ebook of your content on free ebook sites like Free-ebooks.net
  • Setting up related pages on Squidoo.com and HubPages
  • RSS feeds
  • Social Media sites like Twitter, Facebook and StumbleUpon

Now before you go thinking that this could be a lot of work, remember that you can outsource a lot of these tasks and as we will show you in the next blog post – a lot of these ideas come from recycling and repackaging content you have already created.  See you on the next post.

Read Part Two

How Personal Should You Get in Your Blog Posts?

One of the questions that I get asked quite often is about how personal should you get in your blog posts and honestly my only answer is “that depends on what your blog is about”. 

For example if you are writing a review on a product or service then your point of view is important.  If you are writing a site on relationship problems and how to solve them, then your own personal experience might be relevant and helpful.  If you write about politics you can be opinionated but if you are updating your workplace blog then third person anecdotes and factual information might be more appropriate.

Personally I share as much of myself as is necessary to get my point across.  If I am writing about “make money tips’ then some of the things I have done and tried would be good examples to use in a post. 

When I write book reviews I give my opinion and the reasons for it.  There are times, like in the relationship niche for example, where I have used life experience to illustrate certain points but personally I don’t think that topics like what I had for breakfast, what I watched on TV last night, or what my mates and I got up to at the beach last summer is really important – because none of my blog topics are based on television programs, food or hijinks. [Read more...]

How to Start a Great WordPress Blog

cravingcourse wide How to Start a Great Wordpress Blog

So let’s dispense with the formalities.  I know you are probably thinking, “This must be some sort of a scam.”

I promise you, it is not.  This is free information, nothing more.  You will never be asked for a credit card number, address, phone number, etc.  Nothing.  Just you’re name and email address so we can email you each lesson.

Even your email address is safe, we hate SPAM as much as you do.  We despise it!  So you will never get any unwanted spam from us, and you’re information will never be sold.  If that still makes you nervous, you can unsubscribe at anytime…no questions asked.

BlogCraving uses Aweber to send our emails, an industry leader.  They have a zero-tolerance policy for spam.  BlogCraving would quickly get banned if we started sending you spam or unwanted emails.

Feel better now?

Here’s what you’ll get in this course:

Part 1 – Your plan of attack. How to pick your killer category, and crush it.  INSTANT!
Part 2 – Designing your blog brand. How to design your site to match your voice.
Part 3 – Site hosting. How to pick the best web host that can grow with you (cheap).
Part 4 – Getting noticed. How to get the first eyeballs on your site, plus your next 10,000.
Part 5 – Show me the money. How to generate advertising money without doing any work.
Part 6 – Tracking your growth. How to track how fast you are growing, and keep it going.

So give it a try.  You will get Lesson 1 sent to you instantly.  If you discover it isn’t something you’re interested in, you can unsubscribe with the click of a button.  You’ve got nothing to lose!  Enjoy.

Where should I host my blog?

wordpress hosting Where should I host my blog?

Picking which site to use when you are just starting a blog can be difficult when you have never blogged before. At the end of the day, the most important criteria in the beginning is ease of use. You want to be able to focus on the real task at hand: posting blogs.

Rather than talking about every blog site under the sun, lets focus on the top 2 most used blog sites: Word Press and Blogger. I should start by saying I have used both of these platforms and would recommend both. However, there are some subtle differences that will help you decide between the two.

If you consider yourself a “computer rookie” (great at checking email and surfing the net), I would definitely recommend Blogger. This platform is very basic, easy to navigate and provides plenty of flexibility for the “rookie”. In addition, the themes, or format of the actual blog have a very useful right hand column. You have the ability to add 19 different “gadgets”. This system of gadgets make it simple to add pictures, videos, RSS feed, subscription links, news reels, blog lists, polls, video bars, html, java scrip, Ad sense, and more. This area is like your own personal billboard, allowing you to add creativity, personality, and potentially monetize affiliates.

If you consider yourself more technical, and understand words like html coding, themes, widgets, plug-ins, and domain hosting you will likely be happier with WordPress. Many of the “Professional” bloggers use Word Press. Many people want to follow in the footsteps of the “successful” bloggers, and that is okay, just be ready to do a little extra learning and troubleshooting. Word Press will provide more depth, flexibility, customization, and have an overall cleaner look.

With WordPress, you can have a free account hosted at WordPress.com.  In that regard, it is very similar to Blogger. However, your advertising opportunities are very limited on WordPress.com.  Also, your design options are somewhat restricted.

Luckily, (and more importantly) you can install a fully functioning version of  WordPress on your own server.  Millions of people choose this method to create their blog.  It allows you limitless publishing capabilites.

The catch.  You need to get a host.  But don’t worry, there’s plenty of them out there.  Here’s a list of the best blog hosts:

You really can’t go wrong with any of these hosts.  Each one is a little different in terms of what they offer and how much they charge.  It changes quite often so it is a hard to keep up with the current offers!  So check out each one and pick the one that you think works best for you.

Either way you go, both Blogger and Word Press will allow you to get started blogging in 5 minutes. If you have never created a blog a few words of advice:

1) Check out other blogs in your niche, write down what you like

2) Stop putting it off, create your blog

3) Once you have created your blog, write your first blog post ASAP

Blogging is a great way to express your personality, share business ideas, develop a branded online presence. Take advantage of this free medium and you’ll be surprised as just how fun and addicting blogging will become.

If you are thinking about hosting your blog with Word Press or Blogger, be sure to check out these two examples:

Word Press Blog: http://www.moneyballmarketing.com/

Blogger Blog: http://www.bkhorwitz.blogspot.com/

Making the Web LIVE

Well, the web is approaching another one of those tipping points, and it seems that “LIVE” is the next big thing.

Through sites such as qik.com and mogulus.com, users can stream video live to the world.  They also capture this live video and turn it around into ondemand video content after the live event is over.  So you can go back and watch the recording.

The real groundbreaker is the live video comes straight off your cellphone.  A live streaming video gets pumped wirelessly up into the cloud and back down onto these sites.

So you could be sitting in your company board meeting, pull out your cell phone, and stream the meeting to your offices around the world in real time. 

Click Start…do your song and dance…then click stop.  It’s that easy.

It can take the concept of live blogging to a whole new level.

Right now, the streaming tech is available on certain Nokia phones and some other models.  The good news is that Qik is releasing an iPhone version of their system very soon (if they haven’t already).  I’d imagine it will be out with the AppStore.

Have you thought about video blogging?

Gary Vaynerchuk, from WineLibraryTv.com sure did. Back when his family owned a small liquor store, he had the thought to not only grow his business, but draw it a cult following. Here he is in his own words.

0 Have you thought about video blogging?

Watch, enjoy, and learn.

Boost Your Site Traffic in 30 Days

I stumbled upon a an old post on ProBlogger about increasing your traffic in just 30 days. At first, I didn’t notice the date it was published, but I really believed in what it was saying. Then I noticed the date, and it made me laugh because the tips still hold true today.

Tip 3 was worth highlighting:

Finally, I made effective use of trackback links to popular sites. If I commented on a post on another site I would make sure that I set up the appropriate trackback for it. The results from this are varied depending on the site and post that you are linking to but since I liked to comment and interact with the wider blogosphere anyway, it was free traffic!

Even though this is from 2005, it is still true today. If you want to gain respect in the blogosphere, you have to earn it. Just writing your posts and sitting around waiting for the readers to flock in doesn’t work. You need to proactively get out there and make your name known.

However, I caution you against belatedly plugging yourself where ever you go. Don’t just comment on someone else’s post because you are looking to get clicks back to your site. And don’t make your comments into a big advertisement for yourself.

Instead, actually contribute something worthwhile to the conversation. That will gain you more blogging street cred