(Not that BlogHer attendees were "prisoners!!" Man, I suck at metaphors.)
On Day 2 of BlogHer, I spoke on the subject of professional blogging along with a panel of folks, all of whom have calculated strategies on making money with their blogs. In other words, women who were nothing like me.
That's not a diss, by the way, so please don't take it as one. The women were lovely and so poised and professional, especially Chloe Spencer, 16-year-old with the NeoPets blogs. I just thought I'd be able to talk more about my own area of expertise: what I look for when hiring bloggers and how to get noticed. Instead, everyone wanted to know, "How do I monetize my blog?" (Or "monotonize" as the case may be.)
Since I didn't get a chance to convey that during the session (an hour and 15 minutes seems like enough time, but it's not), I'll do it here.
I am not one of those bloggers that started a blog to capitalize on Google key words. I check Google Ad Words or the Yahoo Buzz index to see what people are searching for when I'm trying to optimize posts for my job (we do sell advertising, after all), but it's not the same case with my personal sites. CityMama, Family Food, and Kimchi Mamas are for me. Writing them is fun and if people read them that's icing on the cake. Spending all of my time trying to make sure my keywords are correctly placed (but not overused!!) and my titles are search-engine-optimized would suck the life out of me.
What I wanted to convey, but probably didn't do a very good job of it, is that before even thinking about making money, you need to give your readers a reason to visit your blog. That reason could be that you have the #1 Lindsay Lohan blog on the interwebs, but for me, even if I'm looking to hire a celebrity blogger, that's not reason enough. In fact, I've seen that very same strategy backfire badly. At one of my previous jobs, a blogger with lots of traffic cred was hired and turned out to be complete dud because the mad writing skillz weren't being "broughten" on a day-to-day basis.
As a hiring editor, I look for compelling writing first and foremost. Maybe I'm naive, but I still believe that readers want to read great writing, not posts full of boldly highlighted keywords.
If you want to make money with your blog you first need to increase your traffic. There are two approaches: teaching yourself to be an SEO expert/statistician or working on improving your writing and outreach.
You have to learn to market yourself. As I mentioned in my session, one way is to comment on the blogs that are hiring. If you want a job writing for a parenting site, comment on those blogs. I know of several commenters that turned into professional bloggers simply because their comments were so insightful and on-point.
Other things you can do to market yourself are:
- Let the media in your town know about you. Contact press and tell them about your blog and your area of expertise. Let them know your available whenever they'd like a quote on the subject. When you start to build cred, expand that media circle
- Check to see if your newspaper has "citizen bloggers." The Oregonian did and I contacted them to see if I could I blog about my Portland nabe. They said, "Sure!" so I did.
- Attend blogging conferences. Meet people. Make connections.
- Start a collaborative blog with other like-minded bloggers. If you have a niche focus, all the better.
- Comment on blogs that lots of people read.
- Let blog editors/hiring managers know that you'd like to write for their blogs. Send samples. Keep at it.
- Let blog editors know that you'd like to guest write on their
blog (for no pay). If readers love it, blog editors will sit up and
And the most important of all, in my opinion: keep writing. Remember that your blog is an extension of you, and if you take it seriously and treat it with respect in that regard (even if it's a hobby), it'll reflect in your writing. Readers are savvy enough to separate out the passionate, meaningful blogs from those that are SEO money makers.
Keep up that writing and someone will read it, love it, and tell all their friends, "Hey you've got to read this great blog!" and you never know who those friends might be. One of them might be someone who hires bloggers.
I also forgot to say in my session that if people had other questions I'm happy to answer them. If you have a question, post it in the comments and I will respond.