There are a lot of ways to measure success, but sometimes success is as simple as survival and longevity.
Shane Ede has been a blogger for over 9 years, which undoubtedly makes him one of the more experienced bloggers in existence today. Although many were blogging back when he started, I’d venture to guess that most of them don’t blog today (aside from the successful ones, who probably make up a very small percentage).
In this interview, Shane and I discuss some basic areas of blogging, given that he’s seen it all. We talk about monetization, growing traffic, and how someone can actually compete in a really competitive niche. There really are no secret ingredients as you’ll find – sometimes it’s just a matter of learning from mistakes, being persistent, and being yourself.
Shane, I’ve read a bit through two of your blogs, Beating Broke and Thatedeguy.com, so I’m very interested in chatting about some general blogging topics today and tap into some of the experience you’ve had running multiple blogs. Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey. What’s your background like, and how did you get started with both Beating Broke and Thatedeguy? Are you focused on any other online projects?
Since my family got an Apple IIe way back in the day, I’ve been attracted to computers. I taught myself BASIC programming on that old Apple, and eventually attained a degree in Computer Science.
While at college, each student was given a little it of space (I think it was something like 100mb) of hosting to have a personal website. At the time, it was all hard coded HTML, but I began keeping a sort of journal there. This was well before that was called a blog. On my way to graduation from college, this software, called WordPress, came out that made blogging really easy. It was shortly after that that I started Thatedeguy.com.
It started off as a personal blog that was all over the board as far as topics went, but leaned pretty heavily towards tech and blogging. Since then, I’ve started several other blogs. I’ve sold some, and let others die off. In 2008, I started Beating Broke and it’s quickly become my most popular blog. Personal finance is a pretty popular topic, since we all make and spend money and most of us need to know how to best handle both of those aspects of finance.
Are there any other online projects? There’s always other projects. 😉 At the moment, there’s nothing else active, but I’m working on a few ideas and if I can figure out how to make them fit into the schedule, I’ll let them fly.
What do you consider to be your greatest success (or successes) so far with your blogs?
I’ve had a lot of things happen over the years (Thatedeguy started in 2005, so it’s been a few) that I count as successes. Articles that I’ve written have been linked to from Wikipedia, Slashdot, and a number of other “big fish” sites. I’ve been quoted in several national publications as well.
But, when it comes to blogging, I think my real success is my longevity. I haven’t sold for millions, or made tens of thousands each month, but I’ve stuck around for almost 9 years so far. Call it stubbornness if you like, but I like to call it a success.
I can see that you’ve experimented with several different forms of monetization with your blogs, so I have to ask: What’s been the most effective? The least? (I’m interested in your thoughts on how the average blogger could/should go about monetizing their blog, understanding that every niche may be different.)
I think every blogger goes through a sort of evolution of monetization. Likely starting with Adsense, which is the easiest to implement and make money from when you’re a small blog. Depending on the niche, Adsense might be something that continues to earn you money as you grow. I still use it pretty extensively on most of my sites.
At some point, it makes sense to start implementing other means. Stuff like banner ads and affiliate links. The amount you make on those is very dependent on the traffic a blog is receiving though, so usually it isn’t even worth the time until you start hitting several thousand visitors a month. Even then, it may not make as much as Adsense until you hit 10,000+ a month. The key really is to never stop experimenting. Play with placement, providers, and methods, and see what really works for your site. Your niche and readership will really determine what is best.
What has been your primary strategy for growing your blog traffic and subscriber base? Are there a few tips you can share for someone who is currently in the early stages of their own site?
Networking. I’ve learned the hard way that depending on search engines for a majority of your traffic can be pretty detrimental to your livelihood if you aren’t careful. Remember that building a site isn’t a one day affair.
You’ll hear about people who started a site and built it up to millions of page views in a very short amount of time. Those are outliers. The majority of blogs that are big got that way by the slow route. They wrote excellent content, shared excellent content written by others, and steadily grew.
In growing my blogs, the first thing I’ve done is to establish a network of other sites that I like in the same niche. I usually will spend as much time reading and commenting on those sites as I will writing on my own. When I do write on my own site, I’ll try and find ways to drop a link to one or two of those sites as well. Guest posting is still a really good way to draw traffic from the site you are guesting on.
One of your blogs, Beating Broke, is obviously in the “personal finance” niche. I’ve said it in many interviews before, but this is definitely a highly competitive niche. What have you done (or what do you think one should do) to stand out in such a competitive space?
In any competitive niche, I think that the best way to really stand out is to put your full personality into your writing. Don’t try and sterilize the article thinking that people want something that is super journalistic. If they want that, they’ll just go to their favorite news site.
What will draw them to your site, and keep them coming back to your site, is your voice. Find it, develop it, and use it in everything you write. People should be able to read one of your guest posts without seeing the byline and know that you wrote it.
What are your favorite online resources for blogging?
When I first started out in blogging, I probably had a longer list of resources directly for blogging, but as I’ve grown, I’ve developed lists of people I consider experts in certain niches. I don’t get a lot of time for reading blogs anymore, so I tend to add them to Facebook, Twitter, etc so that I can pick up when there’s a growing theme of news, or if there’s an article of particular interest.
Certainly, for new bloggers, Problogger.net is a huge one. Copyblogger.com is another good one that deals a lot with the process of writing more than the blogging side. There are a ton of other ones as well.