Starting tomorrow, Jan. 1, 2014, I’m starting an experiment. I’m going to attempt to blog every business day in the month of January.
Aggressive? For me, yes. Every post will come from me–no guest posts. No submitted posts. All content written or curated by me.
Why the experiment? I’m curious to see how blogging more will impact:
* Unique visitors (will I see a spike in January or will readership stay flat?)
* New vs. returning visitors (right now, I get a ton of traffic from search–mostly new visitors; will that change?)
* Number of e-newsletter signups (will this spike, too?)
* And a number of other blog metrics I track on a monthly basis.
If you’re a regular reader, I hope you’ll please hold me accountable to this goal. With client work, family needs and other demands on my time, this is going to be tough for me.
I typically resolve to post 2-3 times a week–and have for the better part of the last five years. But, five posts a week? That’s going to be hard.
But, I promise to give it my best shot. I can’t promise the quality of the posts will all be A+. There’s bound to be a few snoozers in the roster for January. But, I’ll do my best to write about topics and ideas I think are interesting to you–which is always my primary goal.
We’ll see how I do. I hope you’ll consider reading and following along. And, please, let me know how I’m doing throughout the course of the month.
And I’ll do my part by sharing the results of my experiment with you all in early February. It should prove to be pretty interesting.
Any particular topics you’d like to hear more about in January?
When I started blogging in 2008, there were a number of PR folks who blogged that I followed religiously. They were the voices of our industry on the web (for me, at least). They blogged regularly. And they inspired me to be better–both as a blogger and as a PR counselor. Among my regular reads were:
* David Mullen
* Dave Fleet
* Peter Shankman
* Shel Holtz
* Danny Brown
* Shonali Burke
* Jason Falls
* Jay Baer
* Journalistics (Jeremy Porter)
* PR Squared (Todd Defren)
* Adam Singer
Now a number of those blogs definitely still exist–and I still read them. But, a number of those blogs don’t. And a number of others have changed significantly.
The reality seemed pretty simple: Work picked up. Life got busy. Blogging took a back seat.
And that’s fine. But, I miss the really good PR blogs that featured just one opinionated voice.
What am I talking about?
Take a look at this recent list of the top 60 PR blogs from Inkybee (one of the more recent top PR blog lists I found). Of the top 10:
* 3 are run by organizations that serve the PR industry (vendors)
* 3 are run by agencies
* 1 I hadn’t heard of before
* Leaving just three that are written by individuals in the field.
Look at the next 10:
* 3 more written by agencies
* 1 written by a professional organization (PRSA)
* 1 written by an organization that serves the PR industry (Cision)
* My blog
* 2 group blogs (PR Breakfast Club and NYC PR Girls)
* Leaving just two more blogs that are written by individuals in the field.
So, by my math, that’s just 5 of the top 20 PR blogs (25%) that are written by individuals working in PR.
Now, you might wonder what’s wrong with vendor blogs?
Nothing. But, they’re essentially corporate blogs. They’re trying to sell you something and often talk about their own products/services. You know the drill (we all work in this area).
What about the agency blogs?
Again, nothing wrong with a good agency blog. But they too, are trying to sell you something–and it usually shows. Plus, they’re typically written by multiple people–which can be good (varying perspectives) or bad (too many “weak” voices just adding content for the sake of search/content).
What about group blogs? What could you possibly have against those?
Nothing, again. I’ve written for a few in my day (including the PRBC crew–shout out!). But, group blogs can become diluted. Many authors can translate into washed out content (not always, but as a rule, this is what I see).
And so we’re left with just a small number of individual PR bloggers who are still sharing their thoughts, ideas and insights on a regular basis.
I guess I shouldn’t be so disappointed about this trend. It means many of the people I “grew up” reading became successful.
They had to stop blogging because they got a great job.
Or, they had to go the group blog model because they simply couldn’t keep up with all the other responsibilities. Whatever the case, it’s usually a good reason–and a great thing for these people!
But, I can’t help but wish some of those folks were still blogging–or, at least blogging more. The web was a better place with them sharing regular opinions. It was more diverse. More educational. And definitely more entertaining.
Do you agree? Have we really lost most of the good individual PR blogs?
I started blogging in December 2008. At the time I was working for Fairview, the second-largest health care system in Minnesota. At the time, I wasn’t working in digital marketing–I was in a more traditional corporate communications role. But, I was experimenting with blogging. And, I loved to write. Blogging was a natural fit for me.
At first, views and followers were tough to come by. I remember those first few posts. Very few eyeballs. For anyone who’s blogged, this should sound familiar. We all start at zero.
But, as time went on, I learned a few things. I learned what people wanted to read about. I learned a few strategies for attracting new readers. And, I was consistent in my blogging (2-3 posts a week–probably the most important recipe for long-term success). In about a year, I had built up a bit of a readership. See below–almost 3,000 visits as of April 2010 (about a year-and-change into my blogging journey).
But something changed in 2009–I started my business. So suddenly, my blog took on a whole new meaning. It was now my de facto web presence. I wasn’t going to create a web site–why would I? I already had this blog. So, I started to think about my blog a bit differently. It became a new business tool (and I started to invest even more time there). And, as a result, readership grew again. This time, hopping up to nearly 11,000 visitors.
For the next year, things plateued a bit. But, I still gained a few new visitors in the following year.
And then things really began to take off. Between April 2012 and April 2013, I almost doubled the number of visitors to my blog (from almost 12,000 visits per month in 2012 to almost 22,000 visits per month in 2013).
That’s a whopping 659 percent growth in just three years of blogging. If you read this blog with any regularity, you know I don’t toot my horn all that often, but this is one of those accomplishments I’m very proud of.
Blogging is hard work. Ask anyone. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to make this blog a success. But, it’s paid off for me time and time again. In terms of business leads, meeting new people, speaking opportunities. You name it. Blogging has been invaluable to my business–and my life.
So, how did I do it?
I’m not sure I have all the answers–I’m no @ProBlogger, after all. But I can share with you some of what I believe have been some of the key factors in my blog’s rise to 22,000-plus visitors per month.
What would I want to read about?
To a large extent, my target market for my blog is, well, me. So, as I brainstorm many posts I put myself through the “what would I want to read about?” paces. This forces me to think more critically in terms of topics. And it forces me outside the typical “digital churn” that so many bloggers turn out day after day. For example, I wasn’t seeing a lot about the recent Facebook changes earlier this year–and wanted to know more about them. And out came the following post:
Tip: Simply ask yourself “What would I want to read about?” if you were a target reader of your blog. Asking yourself that question will lead to many productive posts.
Focus on posts people will bookmark (and link to)
One of my most popular posts for the last six months has been my “Instagram cheat sheet” post I made on Dec. 11, 2012. My original goal with this post: To create a resource for the community that would get links–and get bookmarked. All of which would help drive search traffic, which has proven to be true. In April, this post had 2,318 page views (my top post). In March, it had 3,493 page views (my second most popular). And in February it had 4,098 (again, my most popular). It continues to drive search traffic every day to my blog–while I do nothing at all. Beautiful.
Tip: Think about content you can contribute that could be a resource for your readers–then think about how to organize it in a blog post.
Spotlight the community (but find the right members)
Early on in my blogging I started a series I’ve continued to this day: The PR Rock Stars series. The goal? To shine the spotlight on some of the true pros pros in our business. My secondary goal? To build a community around this blog that will attract more readers over time. Over the years, I’ve featured 30-plus rock stars as part of this blog. That’s led to an increase in readership since every time I share one of these posts, the rock star inevitably shares it, as do many other people who know the person. And, I typically open up a door to either cement an existing relationship with the rock star–or build a new one, if I don’t know the person all that well (it’s even led to a couple client engagements). And, the best part? It takes less of my time since their answers provide most of the content. But the real trick is to highlight the right people. Sure, I wanted to shine the spotlight on people doing great work. But I also wanted to shine the spotlight on those doing great work who were also active online. There is a difference.
Tip: Don’t just profile any community member–target the ones with larger social followings (or least a sizable following–you don’t have to target the A-listers in your industry).
Write about topics no one else is writing about
In 2010, I wrote a post about how to create knock-your-socks-off presentations using Prezi, a then-new tool in the mix. At that time, few people were blogging about Prezi. I knew that because I did a few simple searches–and anecdotally, I didn’t see many PR/marketing bloggers talking about it. Plus, I was actively using the tool so I had some experience with it. I thought a post on Prezi would be an easy way to rank for a key search term many in my industry might use. I was right. From Jan. 1-May 10, the Prezi post was still my fifth most popular post in 2013–a post I had written THREE years before. That’s the power of writing about a topic no one else is writing about.
Topic: Do searches for keywords around topics you think no one else is writing about to confirm your suspicions.
Utilize list posts (that you haven’t seen before)
List posts. They’re a dime a dozen on the Web. Literally. People say they’re tired of list posts. Yet, the good list posts still work. Case in point: This post I wrote about 15 up-and-coming PR pros to watch in March of 2012. Check out the share numbers–97 retweets, 62 likes and 52 LinkedIn shares. Those are pretty solid sharing numbers for a post on my blog. And, I saw that traction because it wasn’t your garden-variety list post. It wasn’t a list of the “top 20 social media gurus” (which has been done to death by now). It was a list of up-and-coming pros. I didn’t see too many lists like that when I did my research. Plus, the other upside: These were people who don’t usually receive a lot of online accolades, so I had a hunch they’d be more apt to share (unlike the “gurus” like Solis, Brogan, etc. who are recognized day-in and day-out). No, these folks would help drive traffic to the blog. And so would their friends, colleagues and family members.
Tip: Don’t shy away from list posts–but write list posts that you haven’t seen before.
Write about what’s on your mind
One of the smartest decisions I’ve made about how I use my blog has been not to overthink it. Ever since my blog became my de facto business site, there has been a perceived need to use it purely as a new business tool. I remember one friend who once told me: “If you’re blogging about anything other than services and tools you offer as a business, you’re doing it wrong.” I listened to that advice, but promptly dismissed it. Why? Because I believe when people hire me, they hire ME as much as they hire me for my skills. Sure, I post plenty about topics I have services around (social audits, content strategy, marketing strategy, etc.). But, I also post a lot about topics that merely interest me. Or, items I read about in the paper (I recently blogged about the Target CMO, who was featured in a Star Tribune piece recently). Or, just things my family and I are dealing with (like how we cut the cable cord last year–which, incidentally led to a piece on KARE-11 featuring our family; see below). So, I try to post a couple times a month about things that may not even relate to digital marketing, but posts that tell readers a little more about me as a person.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to get personal on your blog. Remember, blogging is a way humans connect with one another. Even if you’re working for a large company.
I’ve been blogging for five years (here’s my first post). That’s a long time. Ask anyone who’s started a blog. It’s a lot tougher than you might think to start a blog–and keep one going.
In those five years, I haven’t made one dime from my blog. Well, I mean, I’ve started a business that’s partly predicated on blogging and online marketing, so I guess you could say I have earned money indirectly from my blog.
But in terms of advertising directly on my blog–not a cent. No affiliate links. No ads.
Nothing. Nada. Not a penny.
And that’s been completely by design. Advertising on my blog has always felt off to me. I didn’t start my blog to make money. I started it to share my opinions–and to facilitate discussions around issues I thought others like me were thinking about or having.
But lately, I’ve been thinking differently about my blog.
Each week, I probably get in the neighborhood of 10-15 “pitches.” Some of those pitches are legit. Just got one last week from a PR person for an influencer engagement platform–and, as a result, I had a conversation over the phone with the company’s CMO this week.
But, for the most part, many of those pitches are either: 1) Complete garbage and I don’t even both responding, or 2) “guest post” ideas from folks looking for linkbacks to their site/blog.
It’s that second camp I’ve been thinking more about lately.
To date, I’ve been turning each and every one of these requests away. Now, I’m starting to noodle on a different idea.
When I started this blog, I was working for a company named Fairview. My blog was not part of my business. And again, I made no money from it.
Now, my blog is the centerpiece of my business. The place where I drive all traffic. The one place where people can find more information about me–my credentials, my thoughts/opinions and how to work with me.
As a result, my blog is now a business tool. And, as a business tool, I started thinking about ways I could potentially make money directly from my blog.
One of those ideas: Sponsored posts.
Those pitches I get each week? I would give those folks the opportunity for a “sponsored post” at a certain cost with certain parameters.
I certainly wouldn’t get rich off this–but it would provide me with some passive income. And it would give me a way to move some of these pitches I get into a dedicated spot on my blog.
But, as I think about this, my mind goes to you, the readers of this blog. I’m not going to pretend I have a legion of fans out there who read my blog each and every day. But, I also know there are a number of folks who subscribe and my little PR blog does get upwards of 20,000 unique visitors a month. So, someone’s reading 😉
So, my question to you: How would you feel about sponsored posts on my blog? Would that make you less inclined to follow my blog? Would it decrease your trust in me? How would you feel about it?
I would not accept any sponsored posts that weren’t on topic with the premise and mission of my blog. That’s kind of a given. So, the idea would be that they have to add value.
But again, how would you feel about sponsored posts on my blog? I’m a bit conflicted about this, so I’m very interested in your thoughts. Please share below.
Photo courtesy of imfti via FlickR Creative Commons.