Read an Excerpt
Get Rich Blogging
By Zoe Griffin
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2013 Zoe Griffin
All rights reserved.
BLOGS – THE WHAT, WHEN, WHO AND MORE
WHAT I WISH I'D KNOWN BEFORE I STARTED
Do you know what a blog is? Are you sure? Do you know what you're meant to put on a blog? These are not trick questions. Before you can expect to earn an income from any business, you need to know the fundamentals.
I've learned from experience that making money from a blog requires a strategic approach. I have a celebrity news and gossip blog called Live Like A VIP (livelikeavip.com). It's entertaining, it's gossipy and we sometimes talk about superficial subjects like fit men and cupcakes, but I didn't wake up one morning to discover a website wizard had waved his magic wand and granted me high levels of traffic. There's no fairy dust and there's no quick fix. I worked my way up and made mistakes on the way. I may not blog about the most intellectually stimulating subject in the world – but it sells!
You, too, could make a living from what you love writing about, as long as you take a businesslike approach to your blog. Growing a blog is a step-by-step process and if you set one up in haste and try to run before you can walk, it's guaranteed to end in tears.
Right now, I am smiling. In fact, I am grinning like I have just won the jackpot on the EuroMillions lottery. I am lucky. After three years of full-time blogging, I am able to set my own hours. I can work from wherever I want in the world, and I can write about what I want to write about. I've won awards that are proudly displayed on my mantelpiece such as a Cosmopolitan Magazine Blog Award for Best Celebrity Blog and a London Lifestyle Award for London Personality Of The Year. I can talk about my favourite subjects all day long with like-minded people, and I make excellent money. Sometimes I get paid to write about events for which many people fight for invites, such as the London 2012 Olympics, where British Airways picked me as an influential ambassador, gave me tickets and asked me to blog about it. Sometimes I get to try revolutionary hair and beauty treatments before anyone else. I was one of the first to try the world's most popular hair dye remover, Colour B4, and I was one of a few brave bloggers involved in testing the UK's first Garra Rufa fish pedicure treatment – where fish eat the soles of your feet – before it became a nationwide phenomenon. I am delighted with how it has all turned out because I made some stupid mistakes along the way.
I decided to set up an independent celebrity news and gossip website three years ago, at a time when there was nothing quite like it in the UK. Many people thought I was crazy because I had a good job at a national newspaper. The Sunday Mirror sent me around the world to interview celebrities and write about lavish showbiz events, and my face appeared at the top of a double-page column. But it was while I was on an assignment in LA that I found out more about the world of blogging. In Los Angeles, bloggers are treated like kings and queens. Publicists realise these bloggers have the power to send albums to Number One and conversely, the power to destroy entire careers with one push of the publish button. I'm talking about the likes of TMZ (tmz.com), The Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com), Gawker (gawker.com), Deadline Hollywood (deadlinehollywood.com) and Perez Hilton (perezhilton.com).
These bloggers are their own bosses, with no screaming editors ordering what to cover or telling them their writing isn't good enough. They're able to pick and choose what events they attend without justifying their decisions to a line manager. If they want to take a day off, they simply schedule a blog post to go up and head for the beach. There's no need to put in a holiday request form or arrange cover. How amazing is that?
I set up a blog as soon as I got back to the UK. Initially I tried to run it at the same time as working for the Sunday Mirror and ended up surviving on four hours' sleep a night. While I loved contributing to a national newspaper, I was working long hours and I was often trying to write my blog at 3am. The blogging suffered as I was writing when I was tired and it soon became clear that I would have to make a decision – column or blog? And so I resigned.
With the benefit of hindsight, I acted in haste. I didn't know what it truly meant to be a blogger and therefore traffic growth was slow. Ultimately, I didn't have a strategy. I truly expected that if I wrote some posts about celebrity-related subjects, then readers would miraculously find me. They didn't and I'd quit my job! What on earth was I going to do? If I wanted to continue blogging, I'd need to learn how to do it better. If I didn't improve, I wouldn't be able to pay my mortgage, I wouldn't be able to afford cupcakes, and I certainly wouldn't be able to buy new clothes and shoes. Trauma! I needed a plan.
If you want to make money in any field, then a plan is vital. When a new company prepares to launch, they tend to draw up a five-year business plan. The company directors work out where they want the company to be in five years' time and set long-term goals. With that vision in mind, they work backwards and set goals for year one and year two. If the goal after five years is a profit of £10 million, then they might plan to achieve £1 million in year one, £2 million in year two, £5 million in year three and so on. They might also jot down ways to raise that money – will they achieve a revenue of £10 million through selling a product or a service, or both? How much do they need to sell to make £10 million?
If you hope to make money from your blog, you need a plan. You need to know the ways blogs generate revenue and the conditions that must be in place to generate the most money possible. Then you can set yourself targets, and work through a step-by-step process to lay down the foundations for a blog that will make you money.
This book is divided into two parts. In Part I, I talk you through the steps needed to ensure your blog becomes a profit-making business. Most chapters end with a checklist, and every time you tick off the targets on these lists, you are one step closer to getting rich from your blog. In Part II, I delve deeper into popular blogging subject areas, from fashion and beauty to business and technology, and give you some industry-specific points for your checklists. When a business starts out, often its directors will consult similar business models to copy the success stories. What they learn depends on what type of industry they're in, so each blogging subject area gets its own chapter. Fashion bloggers will be taking a different route to tech bloggers – simply pick the chapter that's most relevant to you.
Now I'm business-like and methodical about it, I'm earning more than I ever thought possible and it's all because I have a plan. I wish I'd known this before I quit my job. So, there is no better place to start than with the basics!
WHAT IS A BLOG?
If you want your blog to make you rich, you need to know what a blog is. Businesses that make money do so because they meet their customers' expectations. If a fashion store didn't know what customers expected and started stocking TVs or cakes then people entering the store hoping to find clothing would be disappointed and would not return. To avoid disappointing prospective readers, you need to know what they expect from a blog. You need to know what elements make up a blog so that when people search the Internet looking for a blog they're not surprised by what they see on yours.
To understand what a blog is, we must first understand the difference between a blog and a website. The dictionary definition of 'website' is that it's a set of web pages containing content that is hosted on a web server and accessible via the Internet. Surely the so-called 'blogs' TMZ, Gawker and Perez Hilton fall into that category? Indeed they do, but they also fall into a sub-category of that term. There are features Perez Hilton and TMZ have in common that other static websites don't have, which I'll explain in more detail below. On a basic level, they have common traits like regular updates, RSS (really simple syndication) feeds and date-based archives and they are regularly updated with fresh content, but not all websites have these features.
To put it simply, a blog is a type of website and all blogs have common characteristics. Whether you're looking at a blog about food and drink, a blog about fashion or a blog about technology, you'll always find it's updated often and the freshest content is at the top. In contrast, the design features of most websites never change.
For example, if I go to the website of my favourite online retailer and look for shoes (something I spend far too much time doing), then I'll probably see it hasn't changed much in the past year. New stock may have come in, but the overall design will have stayed consistent. Products will always be displayed with thumbnail images and the retailer's logo is always at the top of the site. But if I look at my favourite fashion blogs, I will see they're constantly changing and evolving. Each day, a new post is published and the top area of the blog completely changes.
Blogs are dynamic and constantly changing, whereas other websites tend to be fixed and solid.
To make sure you get it exactly right, here are all the key features of blogs:
Remember that 'blog' is short for 'web log' and that's the whole point: most people update their blog a few times a week, some update a few times a day. It all depends on how much a blogger feels moved to comment about a particular subject. And remember, if one blogger doesn't update regularly, you'll always be able to find one who does.
When a blogger writes a new blog post, that blog post appears at the top of the blog's homepage. Other recent posts move down the page to make room for the newest content at the top. This makes it easy for people to join in with the newest part of the conversation.
A lot of blogs contain an archive section in their sidebar, allowing readers to see all the information that was written in a particular month. We want to be able to find information easily so we can engage with a subject. If bloggers didn't archive their subjects, then searching for a particular post would be almost impossible. Who has time to scroll through pages and pages of a blog to find something that was written months ago?
Some bloggers choose to label their content with keywords that describe what an article is about. For example, a celebrity blogger might categorise their blog by subjects like music, film, fashion and TV, and some others go even further and categorise with celebrity names and list this on their sidebar in an A to Z format. At the time of posting a blogger will include some information as to what categories a post is relevant to. This allows readers to navigate the blog by category as opposed to the usual chronological way. For example, if readers are specifically interested in music they can click on the music category and all the posts that have been labelled 'music' will show up. This makes life a lot easier for readers than scrolling down through all the posts to find the music ones.
Each time someone writes a blog post, it comes up at the top of the blog's homepage. In addition to this, the blog software automatically creates a separate page of your blog containing nothing else but that article and your sidebar links and any comments that people make under the post. The URL (uniform resource locator) at the top of that page is your permalink, short for 'permanent link'. This adds another page to your website and it's a brilliant way to get a blog noticed. Each new page is another chance a blog will be picked up by search engines so new people discover you and join in the conversation. Thankfully bloggers don't need to do anything or have any knowledge to create a permalink. If the blog is designed in the right way, it just happens.
Most blogs differentiate themselves from others with a logo or an image alongside the title of the blog in the top bar. (The words Live Like A VIP are in the header of my blog and there's an image of me.) This header is visible on every page of the blog, even the individual posts, so readers can identify the blogger at all times. It's particularly useful if they visit the blog through a permalink without going through your homepage. If the header wasn't on every page then permalinks would be floating through cyberspace at random without a clear way of tracing what websites they belong to.
COMMENTS AND FEEDBACK
Most blogs allow readers to leave comments underneath blog posts. A lot of websites don't want people to spoil the design by commenting and interacting on top of a carefully designed page. Imagine if the shops Asos or Very.co.uk allowed readers to write what they thought all over the thumbnail images on the homepage. There would be so many comments that you wouldn't be able to see the clothes. Websites, in general, don't allow people to give their feedback, whereas blogs actively encourage this.
DATE AND AUTHOR INFORMATION
Often – but not always – a blogger will display information such as who wrote the post, as some blogs have multiple authors. They normally display the date and time so you can see how relevant it is.
The aim of a blog is to encourage conversation; so many bloggers have introduced buttons at the end of posts like 'Send to a friend' or 'Post this blog to Facebook'. It's all part of a blog's design so that whenever a blogger writes a new post, these buttons come up automatically.
If a blogger lists other blogs they find interesting or useful, then readers are grateful that they have another relevant place to visit if they're looking for a certain piece of information. By admitting you don't have all the answers, people pay attention to what you do have to offer. Also, the blogs you link to may repay the favour and link to your blog, thus giving you new traffic.
Readers can use RSS to subscribe to your blog. They can link this to a newsletter or embed it in their own site so they can read the latest updates without visiting your blog. If another blog is using your RSS feed, then it's massively increasing your profile.
If you design your blog with all these elements in mind, you'll fit right into the blogging community. Your blog will be easy to use and people will keep coming back. I'll explain the design process in more detail in Chapter 3. For now, we still need to work on the general plan.
HOW CAN YOU MAKE MONEY BLOGGING?
You can't put together a five-year plan and set yourself financial goals without having an idea of how to achieve these targets. Imagine I said I wanted to make £1 million in year one, sat back, did nothing and then wondered why I hadn't got anywhere!
When a business formulates a plan, it will know what it can sell or provide to bring in money. The sportswear brand Nike makes a large proportion of its profits by selling trainers. However, the company also sells sports clothing with tracksuits and jogging vests and yoga gear as well as accessories, including watches, sunglasses and hats. There's even a Nike training app on the iPhone for sports enthusiasts around the world to download workouts formulated by fitness instructors sponsored by Nike. All of those revenue streams mean Nike can realistically set a multi-million target because the company has identified several different ways it can generate funds. So, how can a blog make you money?
Excerpted from Get Rich Blogging by Zoe Griffin. Copyright © 2013 Zoe Griffin. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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