How I kicked off my professional blogging career

darren-rowseDarren Rowse started blogging in 2002 and has never looked back. Once working a variety of part-time jobs, Rowse now runs a number of blogs from Melbourne including Digital Photography School and ProBlogger, a blog teaching others how to blog professionally.

This venture isn’t a hobby for Rowse – it’s a full-time business, bringing in close to $1 million a year.

As businesses start using blogs more and more on their own sites, Rowse warns that consistency and quality is key to getting your blog noticed.

What made you aware of the whole concept of blogging?

Back in November of 2002, I was working a variety of part-time jobs and basically a friend emailed me a link to a blog, and he thought I might be interested in reading it. I was sort of hooked right away, firstly into the blog and secondly the medium. I was always interested in building communities and communicating and I thought this was a good way to do it. I started a blog that day.

What was your blog about?

That was more of a personal blog, it was about things like spirituality and culture, movies, sharing photos, and so on. It was probably about a year to 18 months later that it started to cost me money and I was looking for things to offset it.

Why did it start costing you money?

It was starting to get quite a few readers, and I thought that I had better design it properly. That cost money, the domain name cost money, and there were lots of little bits and pieces that went into it all. So I wanted to move my blogging to a higher level and began experimenting with things like Google’s Adwords and the Amazon affiliate program.

What was your strategy for moving to that next level?

It happened pretty naturally, but looking back it was definitely a strategy and it’s one I still use. I broke my blog down into multiple blogs that each had a narrow focus. I had a photography blog, which started as a place to share photos, and I posted a review of the camera I had. That was actually more popular than the photos I had posted.

The entrepreneurial light started to go on, and I figured I could drive traffic there. And so after experimenting with AdSense and Amazon, I had some very niche focused blogs and was getting some good traffic. I also experimented with very niche-focused blogs, so I wrote about topical news areas like the Michael Jackson trial, all sorts of bizarre stuff like that.

At the time it was getting a lot of Australian traffic because it was on an Australian domain, and then I relaunched that and got more traffic.

Were you saving money to go full-time?

I was saving up for a new computer because I was working on an old PC, and dial-up, and wanted to start working on broadband. My early goal was to get to a day-per-week income, and then it was two, etc. And then I started thinking about maybe going full-time.

What made you finally give it a chance?

My wife humoured me for a long time, but eventually gave me an ultimatum, saying that I had been talking about this as a business but hadn’t been treating it as one. So I put more time into it, and then set myself a six-month goal. I was either going to be full-time by that point, or I would get a real job. And that’s what kicked things off, like me approaching advertisers directly and that sort of thing.

Plenty of businesses are now using blogs to promote their site, or complement it. What do these businesses need to know about professional blogging?

The first important thing in the early days is increasing the traffic. I was using platforms like AdSense that are dependent on traffic, but I wasn’t getting too much. You need to build a relationship with your readers, and find a way to hook them in and keep them there. So I started using forums and being more interactive with the types of posts I was writing.

I began to think strategically about monetising my products, so eBooks, and so on. You want people to come to your site, look at those products, and then make the move to actually buy them. You want them to stay around as long as possible.

What do these blogs need to be about?

It will depend on business to business, but it’s all about regularity. If some tracked my blog for a year, they will have read hundreds of entries from me and feel like they know me. So regularity is useful in creating that sense of trust. You need to be able to give your readers some sort of resource, some sort of solution. Identify challenges they might be having and then give them resources to overcome them.

I think if you’re helping people, or seen as an authority, then that is definitely going to help you.

Are there any specific tactics they can use?

I think telling stories is a good thing. I find people respond really well when I tell a story or at least highlight someone else’s. It humanises the company, and using video, pictures, or whatever, can emphasise that. If you let your employees appear on the blog, it helps build a connection and creates a relationship between you and your customers.

Is consistency something they should strive for?

Regular updating is also mandatory. It’s such an important thing. I look at every post you do as a doorway into your site, and if you only post one or two a year, you’re limiting yourself. But if you post 365 times a year, you’re greatly increasing your chances of getting found.


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