Archive for November, 2010

The Effect of Making Money Blogging

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Blogging is absolutely fantastic. It has opened up so many doors for me to do cool things. Not to mention, it’s liberated me from working for someone else. I can’t tell you how fantastic that’s been for me and for my family. I love my life.

With that said, it’s important for people to realize how blogging changes over time. Most people start blogging just for fun. That’s how I started. I was just playing around with the blogging software. I had no clue what to publish and I definitely didn’t intend to become a full time blogger.

What makes blogging so much fun? There are a ton of reasons. One of the best is that it’s therapeutic and incredibly satisfying to produce some content. Not to mention, it’s pretty cool to think that you could make some money blogging. Whether you actually make much or not doesn’t change the fact that the dream of making money is awesome too.

Blogging is also a great way to show your knowledge and expertise. Plus, you get a great chance to learn from other people. If you get involved with one of the various community of bloggers, it’s amazing how cool it is to be apart of a community. It’s incredibly satisfying.

Once you start getting some readers of the content you created, the blogging satisfaction REALLY kicks in. Seeing a spike in traffic to your blog is an absolutely fantastic sensation. In fact, 5 years into blogging and it’s still satisfying. It’s like an adrenaline rush. Don’t ask me why it is this way. It just is.

At some point if your blog becomes popular, you’re going to have opportunities to make money blogging. In my case, I had people emailing me about advertising on the site. I hadn’t really considered the idea, and so I just pulled some number out of my hat and told them I’d be happy to have them advertise. I must admit that’s pretty cool. Think about it. You’re now getting paid to do something you were already doing for free. That’s not half bad.

The challenge comes when you continue to grow your blogs and start making a bunch of money. I’m talking about when you start relying on that income for all or part of your livelihood. Once this happens, your outlook on blogging changes. I think that Brad Feld described it well in his blog post about his Paid Content Experiment.

His first point really hit home for me, “Strange Pressure to Produce”

It’s hard to describe why this happens, but I tell you it does. My situation is a bit different from his. He had readers pay for content. In my case, it’s my advertisers that expect me to produce a great product. My product is the great content on my blogs. Not to mention that they likely expect consistent great content.

The difference from those first advertisers is that if they advertisers chose not to renew, it didn’t matter because I wasn’t necessarily relying on that income. Even my PPC ads aren’t as big a deal. If I don’t do as much I don’t make as much from my PPC ads (although even that has some pressure if I start relying on it too much). However, with advertisers paying you each month there’s a self imposed expectation that your blogs will continue to deliver what they’re paying you for.

Honestly, I might be making it sound like more than it is. I have confidence in my ability to deliver great content consistently. Plus, it’s pretty satisfying when traffic and what you provide advertisers continues to grow. Not to mention the incredible satisfaction you get when an advertiser on your site continues to renew month after month.

The only problem when this happens is that then you’ll slowly get more and more advertisers. Yes, the more advertisers you get, the more pressure there is to deliver a great product and thus the cycle goes. I guess this is why it’s so important to try and diversify your revenue streams as much as possible. That helps at least partially alleviate the pressure. My other goal is to reach 150% of our “family burn rate.” Having that extra 50% I imagine will really provide that extra leeway in case something happens with your blog revenue. Not to mention then we can start saving more and more for those rainy days as well.

I’m not writing this as a sort of “pity me.” Like I said at the beginning blogging full time is GREAT! I love it and I can’t imagine not blogging. I’m just hoping to share how blogging changes as you start to make and rely on the money your blog makes.

I think that’s also why I blog on this site. I’m not trying to make money on this blog. So, I can enjoy blogging the same way I did when I first started.

Can Blogging Be Entrepreneurship?

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

I debated for quite a while how I would describe myself on my LinkedIn profile. I have a hard time describing what I do and who I am since I just do so many different things.

I finally ended up with the description of “Full time internet entrepreneur and blogger.” I think that kind of describes the two sides of what I do. Certainly there’s a lot of nuances in each of those things and I have some really specific niches, but that kind of describes what I do for a living.

Recently I’ve been thinking about the idea of whether blogging could really become entrepreneurship. I should first clarify that I think there’s a difference between a entrepreneurship and small business. Entreprenuership is about building a business that can scale. Small business is about doing a job that will provide for your family. With this definition of terms in place, I must admit that I’m stuck wondering if blogging can really become entrepreneurship or if it’s generally destined to just be a small business (ie. Can’t scale. Feeds the family, but you have to keep doing it forever).

The first question that I think must be asked is whether blogging can really be scaled. There are certainly examples where blogs have been scaled up nicely. Techcrunch scaled nicely and had what I’m guessing was a lucrative exit to AOL. I think it’s fair enough to say that blogs like Huffington Post have been able to scale in amazing ways.

I guess the question is whether there are smaller blogs that can scale beyond small business. For every Techcrunch and Huffington Post, there are a dozen Scoble’s and Dooce’s that are both incredibly successful bloggers and I’m sure they make a good living blogging. However, they have such unique voices that without them their blogs really don’t exist. So, they’ll have to keep doing it for a long time it seems. That’s small business and not entrepreneurship (from what I can tell).

Of course, I’m guessing that Scoble and others would argue that it really doesn’t need to scale. If he wanted to scale it, he’d choose to do something different to make it scale. He loves blogging and if he chose to scale it up it would take all the fun out of what he does on his blog. Plus, the end goal isn’t always about money. He makes good (probably even great) money doing something he loves. Why would he ever want to scale it?

Although, I think that deep down most people want to see more traffic to their site and find more ways to monetize the site.

One simple example for me. When I started my EMR and HIPAA blog, I worked really hard to drive as much traffic as possible to the site. After about 6 months and quite a bit of effort, I reached what I thought was the max traffic I could reasonably obtain for that blog: about 1000 pageviews per day. I reasoned that maybe that’s all of the people that were interested in such a narrow niche.

Long story short, Obama announced something called the ARRA EMR Stimulus money (Translation: $18+ billion for EMR). I read about it early and blogged about it early. That’s now paid off in spades as I’ve been able to grow my traffic to 5-7k pageviews a day.

Point being that I was able to scale that blog even though I originally thought that I couldn’t scale it anymore. It did take some outside circumstances to help the situation. Although, it’s also taken quite a bit of effort to maintain and even increase the traffic now that I have it.

The question I’m asking myself now is what else can be done to really take my blogs to the next level? Is it possible to scale blogs into true entrepeneurship?

I’ve also just started some talks with a company that is possibly interested in acquiring one of my blogs. The results of those discussions will hopefully shed some interesting light on that aspect of blogs and entrepreneurship as well. Certainly it’s nice to have a cash cow blog/website that just generates cash for you. That’s small business (a really nice small business, but still small business). Entrepeneurship requires an exit of some sort. I’m not sure what exits are available for a blog.

New Google Adsense Interface

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Today when I logged into Google Adsense, I was prompted about a new Google Adsense interface. Since I probably log into Google Adsense as much as any other website I use (except my email) I definitely wanted to try out the new Google Adsense interface. I love the data around ads as much as views to my site. I am a stats addict after all.

Let’s just say that I was pretty disappointed by the new Google Adsense interface. It had a couple nice features like graphs of your earning over time. However, they took out some of the most useful features from the old interface. What a mistake!!

I did report them as bugs and asked them to replace them.

The two biggest problems for me was:

1. They got rid of all the channel data reports from the main page of Google Adsense. This probably doesn’t matter if you have one website with one channel (which should never happen). I have my Google Ads spread across a dozen or more sites. So, the total for the day is interesting, but it’s more interesting to see which channels are earning the most money.

2. It defaults to my earnings to the last seven days. A few years ago I remember the Google Adsense blog talking about how often people logged in. I can’t remember the exact stat, but it was multiple times per day. If that’s the case (and I attest to you that it is), then why would you default to 7 days? I want to see what happened today. That’s why I log in 5 times a day (or something like that). If they had an IV where I could just automatically pump that information into me, I’d use that. Seeing the number is like a drug. Even if some people want 7 days, they could still let me change my preference to have it just show today.

As such I decided to return back to the old Google Adsense interface. I might go back to the new one on occasion. Now if they could just get the tie in with my Google Analytics account to work with multiple analytics accounts within the same Google Account (or a way to merge analytics accounts) I’d be much happier.

When I browsed the new interface I saw that I first started using Google Adsense back 7 years ago. It’s kind of crazy to think that I’ve been using it that long. I recently saw that Google is planning to give $1000 holiday bonuses and 10% raises to its employees. How about Google give us a 10% raise on our Google Adsense earnings? Or a $1000 holiday bonus? I’m not an employee of Google, but sometimes I kind of feel like one.

WordPress Contact Form 7 Plugin – Special Mail Tags

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

I’m a big fan of the Contact Form 7 Plugin for WordPress. I’ve used some of the other form plugins for WordPress including the behemoth CForms, but I quickly turned back to the Contact Form 7 plugin. There’s something about just being a Contact Form that I like. I don’t usually need all the bells and whistles. I just want a contact form that will send me info.

Plus, I’ve been finding out that Contact Form 7 can actually do more than I even realized. One example of this is the Special Mail Tags. Basically, it’s a bunch of extra information you can include in the email you receive from your contact form.

I personally use the [_url] which sends me the “This tag will be replaced by the URL of the contact form.” This way I can track my landing pages based on the URL that someone used to fill out the form. It’s a great way for me to know which of my various ad campaigns is working the best.

I love small little tweaks like this that are very powerful. Plus, it’s what I love about the simple, but flexible WordPress plugins like Contact Form 7.